Disciplined thinking

August 19, 2005

David Packham (Letters, August 12) quotes the Dearing report that universities should "sustain a culture that demands disciplined thinking". Part of that discipline should be to curb wilfully literal interpretation, emotionalism and uncritical relativism. His letter exhibits all three.

First, he reads Jerusalem as advocating violence, when it is obvious from the "arrows of desire" image that Blake's "sword" is reserved for "mental fight". Second, "one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter" only where the analysis hasn't gone far enough. Third, we could do with a little less "impassioned" debate and more quiet reason.

It is an indictment of current discourse that the declaration "I passionately believe" is taken to illuminate the rightness or truth of a matter, as though passion is the trump card for every argument. A university education should confront the emotionalism of "I feel, therefore I am and I'm right", because by its feat he who is angriest has carte blanche to go forth with an all-too-literal sword in hand.

Rikky Rooksby
Oxford

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