In his book “On Tranquility of Mind,” Seneca presents us with a challenging perspective: that we should not hesitate to quote a good phrase, even if it comes from a bad writer. This audacious statement goes beyond mere literary evaluation and leads us on a reflective journey about the intrinsic value of ideas, the diversity of sources, and our capacity to overcome biases.
I recall having delved into a voluminous book, notably poorly written, with over 500 pages. However, amidst its pages with poor construction, I came across a brief paragraph, not exceeding six lines, that proved to be enriching. It is for this reason that I attribute significant importance to this book in my journey. This incident highlights the intrinsic essence of ideas, untethered from the limitations imposed by the author who conceived them. The impact that a single passage can have on us demonstrates that the value of words transcends the reputation of the author.
It is surprising to observe how often we fall into the error of judging authors based on their political, religious, or philosophical affiliations, without even having read their works. This attitude not only restricts our own understanding but also perpetuates the cycle of intellectual intolerance. Every author, regardless of their beliefs, can offer unique and insightful perspectives that challenge our thinking, contributing to a more comprehensive and inclusive dialogue.
Unfortunately, throughout history and in modern times, we have witnessed censorship and the destruction of works due to ideological disagreements. These acts, beyond being violations of freedom of expression and cultural heritage, reflect a fear of the unknown. Those who seek to restrict access to certain thinkers or worldviews fear that such ideas may challenge their own convictions. However, it is through healthy confrontation and the exchange of divergent ideas that we achieve intellectual growth and broaden our horizons.
Genuine intellectual openness requires that we allow ourselves to explore the thinking of authors with whom we initially disagree. In doing so, we may discover that the boundaries between “us” and “them” are more permeable than we imagine. Ideas do not have a single dwelling; they populate the vast and free territory of the human mind. Instead of automatically rejecting what is different, we should question, analyze, and contextualize. Only then can we truly assess the merit of ideas and avoid falling into the trap of selective ignorance.