Philosopher, heal thyself!
Karl Popper has always been one of my heroes. New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik was similarly awestruck by this great liberal thinker — so much so that he once made a pilgrimage to Popper’s home in deepest Buckinghamshire to interview the sage. In a fascinating article he reveals that the man who elevated the welcoming of criticism and the celebration of falsification to a philosophy of life found it virtually impossible to take criticism himself!
Gopnik’s analysis of this contradiction is brilliantly insightful.
“What really underlay the contradiction between what he thought and what he was, I now think, after a quarter-century’s reflection, is a perversity of human nature so deep that it is almost a law — the Law of the Mental Mirror Image. We write what we are not. It is not merely that we fail to live up to our best ideas but that our best ideas, and the tone that goes with them, tend to be the opposite of our natural temperament. Rousseau wrote of the feelings of the heart and the beauties of nature while stewing and seething in a little room. Dr. Johnson pleaded for Christian stoicism in desperate fear of damnation. The masters of the wry middle style, Lionel Trilling and Randall Jarrell, were mired in sadness and confusion. The angry and competitive man (James Thurber) writes tender and rueful humor because his own condition is what he seeks to escape. The apostles of calm reason are hypersensitive and neurotic; William James arrived at a pose of genial universal cheerfulness in the face of constant panic. Art critics are often visually insensitive[~]look at their living rooms![~]and literary critics are often slow and puzzled readers, searching for the meaning, and cooks are seldom trenchermen, being more fascinated by recipes than greedy for food.”