Saturday, September 19, 2009

In praise of mistakes

Philosopher Julian Baggini last month published a guest essay for the British think-tank Demos on the virtues of mistakes. Mistakes are the result of risks. But without risk innovation is impossible. Baggini argues that we need to be more embracing of mistakes and calls for a "mistake-tolerant political culture".

We are so mistake-averse as a society that politicians routinely get involved in increasingly spectacular rhetorical contortions designed to avoid making a mistake. But, as Baggini says, it is impossible to be an effective politician without making mistakes. In the words of Einstein, "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."

My last blog argued that our affluence had made us more conservative in our musical tastes. It also plays a role in our aversion to mistakes. We have become very self-satisfied. Our pioneering spirit has largely disappointed. Our public life seems to have shifted to a defensive mode aimed at conserving what we have, even if it means doing without the things we might achieve and acquire.

In his conclusion Baggini writes that 'the status quo is not working so well that messing with it is not a risk worth taking.' That is the crux of the matter; how do we assess how well the status quo is working? It seems that at present too many are too complacent about the status quo for them to risk embracing mistakes and more innovation.

No comments:

Post a Comment