The Liberal Fallacy

The world is colored by our feelings and vice versa. We feel happier when the sun shines and the skies are blue than when it is overcast and cloudy. We speak of bitter weather, of the cruel sea. John Ruskin called this habit of attributing human characteristics to nature “the pathetic fallacy,” and literature would be very much impoverished without it.

There is another kind of fallacy, less literary, but much more pervasive. An example is when we say something like the following: “This is the best book you can read on (name your subject),” or “Go see (name your film); it is the best movie this year.” We make such statements constantly, as do the reviewers of books and movies. If, however, we follow their advice—take the recommended book into our hands and start reading, or pay $15.00 to see the movie—don’t we often find ourselves disappointed? The book may have been good, the movie, too, but really, excellent, the best?

No way.