In this age the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, chapter 3. Hat tip to Emma Pursey

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Now there's a philosophy to live by.

Agreed! Starting tomorrow, I'm going to start calling everyone Clive, insist that at dinner everyone must circle the table three times before eating and own at least two hats that involve the themes "Turks" and "feathers".

By Aaron Clausen (not verified) on 13 Mar 2009 #permalink

Seems like 1859 was a good year for books.

By Ian H Spedding FCD (not verified) on 13 Mar 2009 #permalink

Not really. The first self-help book was published (coincidentally by the same publisher of the Origin) in that year, causing untold misery to millions.

Ah but if we all consider ourselves people of strength of character, moral courage, mental vigour and a reasonable amount of genius, and I think any fair survey of the human species will find the majority of people do consider themselves to be so, then how can such things be considered eccentric? We need some measure of eccentricity, as well as an objective measure (to some degree) of moral courage, strength of character, genius etc. Being unappreciated, even laughed at, in one's own time doesn't cut it (Galileo, Newton....Bozo the clown).

Oh bugger...I was just trying to be eccentrically contrarian. Difficult when one agrees with the postulate isn't it?



P.S. Monty Python, as ever, said it best:

Brian: "You are all individuals!"
Onlooker: "I'm not."