13 January 2012

A Classical Disposition

In an essay published by the New English Review, British psychiatrist Anthony Daniels (alias Theodore Dalrymple) explains why this blog's comment feature has been disabled -- not everyone has a classical disposition.
The putting of pen to paper, to say nothing of the act of posting the resultant letter, requires more deliberation than sitting at a computer and firing off an angry e-mail or posting on a website. By their very physical nature, then, letters are likely to be less intemperate than e-mails. 
The question now arises as to whether it is a good thing that people should be able now so easily to express their rage, irritation, frustration and hatred. Here, I think, we come to a disagreement between those of classical, and those of romantic, disposition. 
According to the latter, self-expression is a good in itself, irrespective of what is expressed. Indeed, such people are likely to believe that any sentiment that does not find its outward expression will turn inward and poison the person who has not been able to express it. Better to strangle a new-born babe and all that. 
The person of more classical disposition does not believe this. On the contrary, he believes that there are some things that are much better not expressed at all. He counterbalances his belief in the value of freedom of opinion with that in the value of freedom from opinion. He believes that rage will not decrease with its habitual expression, but rather increase with it.
The bit about strangling babies is a reference to a line in William Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires."