We often (almost never?) make a conscious decision about the small things we take as given.
This is true in an argument, a discussion, or a simple statement.
Want an example?
Here we go. How about this sentence?
Theft is evil.
It seems harmless enough, right?
I mean, few would disagree.
And the few that did might make some argument about Robin Hood and stealing back what was stolen before.
But what about that word “evil.”
Saying something is evil implies that evil exists. And if evil exists, then that must mean that good exists too. If some things are good things and somethings are evil things, then how should we be a able to tell the difference between the two? Is it a feeling? Does it change over time? Is it different for everyone?
(Of course I have answers to all of these.)
But simply stating “theft is evil” presupposes a lot of fundamental philosophy that we merely tiptoe around everyday, dontchathink?
I am not concerned with what they desired but with the effect their book will certainly have on the schoolboy’s mind. In the same way, they have not said that judgements of value are unimportant. Their words are that we ‘appear to be saying something very important’ when in reality we are ‘only saying something about our own feelings’. No schoolboy will be able to resist the suggestion brought to bear upon him by that word only. I do not mean, of course, that he will make any conscious inference from what he reads to a general philosophical theory that all values are subjective and trivial. The very power of Gaius and Titius depends on the fact that they are dealing with a boy: a boy who thinks he is ‘doing’ his ‘English prep’ and has no notion that ethics, theology, and politics are all at stake. It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all. The authors themselves, I suspect, hardly know what they are doing to the boy, and he cannot know what is being done to him.