Mr. Trump Has Done One Good Thing for Us Already

The Keynes CentreBusiness & Economy, How We Think, Reading for Change, Words Matter

Share this Post


‘Opinions’ is one of the hot-button topics of today due in large measure to the impact of President Trump’s behaviour as presidential candidate and president of the United States.The combination of Mr Trump and social media has created the ‘perfect opinion storm’ which continuously engulfs the news media and claims attention from all of us. There has been no U.S. president like Mr Trump for the daily impact he has had on us in the way he has changed the ‘climate of opinion’ about opinions.

Photograph Source:

A major effect of ‘Storm Trump’ is that his behaviour has single-handily legitimated the expression of any ‘opinion’ and his example has validated the sense of entitlement to ‘my opinion’ no matter how outrageous, discriminatory, or ill-founded. He has brought confusion to political discourse and provoked the normally restrained news media into calling him a liar, describing his statements as lies, and characterising his behaviour in the strongest personality terms.

Trump-as-role-model challenges us to think about how we form, hold and use opinions – an unintended benefit perhaps, but one we should not (cannot?) forego. The crisis he has unleashed has also gifted us an opportunity (or forced the necessity?) to bring some clarity to the confusing field of opinion-making.

A Case Example

We can use Mr Trump himself as a case study for us to think about shaping our opinions and, specifically, whether we form the opinion that he lies.

Keeping a grip on truth in the midst of ‘Storm Trump’ demands much effort and diligence, more than most of us can sustain. In time, we can expect that even the rolling audits which various news media and political websites are compiling on the truthfulness of his words and deeds will become demanding.

Many people will have an opinion about Mr Trump’s behaviour such is his impact worldwide and this poses the question as to how this opinion was formed or acquired. And, if we do not have an opinion already about the status of his endless flow of claims we decide, one way or another, where we stand on Mr Trump relationship to truth in a way that we have not had to do about most U.S. presidents.

We have two options: opt out or engage our minds.

For many, even at this early stage of Mr Trump’s presidency, his behaviour is too much and it is already a question of ‘tuning it out’ to preserve peace of mind. Alternatively, his opinions behaviour requires economizing on our attention – coming to a sustainable assessment of it so that we need not think about his every turn.

The Keynes CentreMr. Trump Has Done One Good Thing for Us Already

Happy Birthday, George Bernard Shaw!

The Keynes CentreKeynes Centre

Share this Post


George Bernard Shaw was born on this day, 26 July 1856. In this letter exchange, John Maynard Keynes shares with him his hopes for his (now) masterpiece ‘The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’ (1936):

Do know that we are one of the few universities in the world, and the first in Ireland, to house his Collected Papers on Microfilm?

This collection has letters from and to more than 4,000 correspondents which offer a unique insight into the development of Keynes’s thinking. We also hold the 30-Volume digital collection of Keynes’s Collected Writings.

 Both collections are available for consultation. Access is by appointment. More info, click here.

The Keynes CentreHappy Birthday, George Bernard Shaw!

How Do We Hold to a Stock of Old Opinions?

The Keynes CentreHow We Think

Share this Post



American philosopher and psychologist William James describes the ‘observable processes’ of how people settle into new opinions by starting with the fact that any individual has a “stock of old opinions” (p.23-4).

A person’s current stock of opinions is put under strain when she or he meets a ‘new experience’, such as

somebody contradicting their opinions
finding that their opinions contradict each other
becoming aware of facts with which their current opinions are incompatible, or
new desires arising which the current stock of opinions does not satisfy.

James suggests that these types of confrontations with the existing stock of opinions give rise to an ‘inward trouble’ to which, until then, the person’s mind had been ‘a stranger’. Consequently, the person seeks to escape from this unease by modifying her or his ‘previous mass of opinions’. People do this, according to James, in the following way: a person saves as much of the stock of opinions as she or he can – “for in this matter of belief we are all extreme conservatives” – so that a person

“…tries to change first this opinion, and then that (for they resist change very variously), until at last some idea comes up which he can graft upon the ancient stock with a minimum of disturbance of the latter

that is, some idea is found that

“…mediates between the stock [of old opinions] and the new experience [challenging the existing stock] and runs them into one another most felicitously and expediently.” (p.24)

In other words, the new idea facilitates accommodating the new experience into the existing stock of opinions with the least discomfort as possible. This new idea, as James puts it, is taken on as the true one, since it

“…preserves the older stock of truth with a minimum of modifications, stretching them just enough to make them admit their novelty, but conceiving that in ways as familiar as the case leaves possible.”

The result is little change in that the “…most violent revolutions in an individual’s beliefs leave most of his old order standing” and fundamental ideas, such as, “[t]ime and space, cause and effect, nature and history, and one’s own biography remain untouched.” (p.24; emphases added)

James continues to explain, first, that the role of the new idea (truth) is to limit disruption and maintain the current position as it is

“… always a go-between, a smoother-over of transitions…”


Since, in its role, it

“…marries old opinions to new fact so as ever to show a minimum jolt, a maximum of continuity. We hold a theory true just in proportion to its success in solving this ‘problem of maxima and minima’…”

He points out to ‘success in solving the problem of minimizing jolt and maximizing continuity as being a ‘matter of approximation’ because

“[w]e say that this theory solves [the ‘problem of maxima and minima’] on the whole more satisfactorily than that theory; but that means more satisfactorily to ourselves, and individuals will emphasise their points of satisfaction differently.” (p.24; emphases added)

He then addresses, second, the role played by the older truths (current stock of opinions) whose influence he sees as ‘absolutely controlling’. This is because ‘loyalty to them is the first principle’ and, as far as James is concerned, ‘in most cases it is the only principle’ since

“…by far the usual way of handling phenomena so novel that they would make for a serious rearrangement of our preconceptions is to ignore them altogether, or to abuse those who bear witness for them.”(p.24; emphases added)


“Increasingly, we are snugly wrapped in our worldviews. Conservatives see everything in blue, progressives in red. The internet seems designed to back up our opinions, because when we’re online we make a habit of seeking out the like-minded. We gang up on those we disagree with, rather than listening carefully to contrary opinions.”

David Mikics, What Crime and Punishment can teach you that the internet can’t, New Statesman, 25 November 2013.

The overall outcome of the interaction of the two aspects identified by James is that:

“A new opinion counts a ‘true’ just in proportion as it gratifies the individual’s desire to assimilate the novel in his experience to his beliefs in stock. It must both lean on old truth and grasp new fact; and its success…in doing this, is a matter for the individual’s appreciation. When old truth grows, then, by new truth’s addition, it is for subjective reasons.” (p.25; emphases added)

Therefore, pointing out that “[w]e are in the process and obey its reasons”, James states that the “truest idea” is the one that “performs most felicitously its function of satisfying our double urgency”. First, this idea

i. “makes itself true, gets itself classed as true, by the way it works”

and, second,

ii. “grafting itself then upon the ancient body of truth, which thus grows much as a tree grows by the activity of a new layer of cambium.” (p.25)

In this way, according to James, we revise slowly our opinions and only under strong pressures for change. Incrementally we add thin layers of the new to the bulk of the old. We lean towards the closed feeling for holding to certainty rather than open feeling of searching for truth.

Slowly, reluctantly and with a sense of loss we may move from the past to the future. Otherwise, as Robert Pirsig famously said, in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, we are in ‘stuckness’.

The Keynes CentreHow Do We Hold to a Stock of Old Opinions?

Capsule: Instant Opinions

The Keynes CentreFacts Change

Share this Post

Andrew Marr and Diane Abbott

As the 2017 UK Election campaigns intensified, and within a week of the bombing atrocity at the Manchester Arena, the Shadow Home Secretary Ms Diane Abbott (Labour) made a statement on the Andrew Marr Show (BBC1 TV, Sunday 28 May 2017) in response to questioning about her change of views on terrorism. She said:

“…what I’m saying to you is this. It was 34 years ago, I had a rather splendid afro at the time. I don’t have the same hairstyle and I don’t have the same views. It is 34 years on. The hairstyle has gone and some of the views have gone.”

Repeatedly questioned by the interviewer, Abbott did what politicians like to do, she repeated as follows:

  • “It was 34 years ago and I’ve moved on and the hairstyle is gone, the views have gone. We’ve all moved on, haven’t you Andrew?”
  • “It was 34 years ago. I’ve moved on.”
  • “It was 34 years ago and I’ve moved on.”

Following on the Abbott interview, Marr interviewed the Home Secretary, Ms Amber Rudd, who commented on the Abbott segment as follows:

“What I would say to Diane Abbott is that I’ve changed my hairstyle a few times in 34 years as well. But I’ve not changed my view about how we keep the British public safe.”

Press response was generally negative to Ms Abbott’s comments and, in particular, to her reference to her hairstyle changes. Social media participants, as always, reached for the usual instant opinions and tirades which are a feature of that medium.

For example, The ‘Steerpike’ column of The Spectator Website, which carried the relevant interview segments, and (inaccurately) quoting both interviewees, interjected that:

“Happily, Amber Rudd was on hand to put Abbott’s hair comments into perspective;”

before quoting the comment above.

Two related questions arise as to whether Ms Rudd’s ‘response’ really put Abbott’s hair comments “into perspective” and whether the general condemnation on grounds of trivialising a serious matter by reference to changing hairstyles was valid. The presumed answers should be tested.

There is another way of looking at this interchange in which Rudd’s position, generally accounted the ‘winner’, as these things are presented in the media, is less clear and, indeed, may come out on the wrong side.

John Maynard Keynes. © MIKE O’DONNELL

If we start with a statement and question attributed to John Maynard Keynes:

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

then Rudd’s position does not look so tenable and Abbott’s position looks less untenable.

The facts of terrorism have changed, and changed very dramatically over three decades. The nature of terrorism threats to the UK – from the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – is fundamentally different now. Indeed, in themselves, the use of ordinary vans to murder people by running them down, suicide killers and no warning bombings, are obvious indicators of the change.

Despite the great changes, Ms Rudd is saying that she has not changed her view about how to keep the British public safe over 34 years. This is hardly encouraging. Without being an expert in terrorism or counter-terrorism, it is not believable that the same methods as were used thirty years ago would work to protect against today’s entirely different threats.

On the other hand, Ms Abbott, implicitly acknowledged that situations changed over three decades – the facts changed – and, accordingly, she changed her views, presumably to correspond to the new facts (threats), just as Keynes held was required (Her unfortunate use of ‘changing hairstyles’, metaphor, although giving the press and social media something with which to whip her, is neither here nor there so far as the issue of terrorism threats is concerned).

In so far as the important matter of how to hold opinions is concerned, the Abbott position is correct and the Rudd position is wrong.

The Keynes CentreCapsule: Instant Opinions

Insightful Reading: Benefits of Reading with Goodwill in a Hurried Age

The Keynes CentreReading for Change

Share this Post



We’ve just returned from a great one-day symposium about Close Reading, organised by Billy Clark and Paul Cobley of Middlesex University. Here are some of our thoughts on its benefits for Personal and Professional Development:

Repeatedly we are reminded about the importance of reading. There has been much research pointing to the benefits to physical and psychological health. Sue Wilkinson, CEO of The Reading Agencynotes that reading can help prevent conditions such as stress, depression:

“people who read for pleasure regularly report fewer feelings of stress and depression than non-readers. Large scale studies in the U.S. show that being more engaged with reading, along with other hobbies, is associated with a lower subsequent risk of incidents of dementia.”

A recent survey of 1,500 adult readers found that 76% of them said that reading improves their life and helps them feel good. Josie Billington, at the Centre for Research Into Reading at the University of Liverpool, adds that it has also been shown to improve empathy and increase social support:

“In addition to enhancing willingness and ability to communicate with others, reading helps promote respect for and tolerance of others’ views. “

“Readers find it easier to make decisions, plan, and prioritize, and this may be because they are more able to recognize that difficulty and setback are unavoidable aspects of human life.”

The benefits of reading go beyond health and social issues. These benefits can also be a powerful tool for Leadership Development. Top entrepreneurs and key political figures make reading a major part of their daily lifestyle: Warren Buffett, for instance, devotes about 80% of each day to reading. Bill Gates reads a book a week while Elon Musk, when asked how he learned to build rockets, he said “I read books”.

Barrack Obama is also an avid reader and recalled in a recent interview that his interest in public service and politics merged with the idea of storytelling as it enabled him to “learn how to listen to people’s stories” and “find what’s sacred in other people’s stories, then you’ll be able to forge a relationship that lasts”.

These intelligent readers are not just isolated examples. A study of 1,200 wealthy people found that they all have a dedication to reading in common. They do not just read anything. They are highly selective about what they read and prefer to be educated to being entertained or reading for killing time. They see books as a powerful gateway to learning and knowledge. 

Indeed, when surveying what scholars and practitioners have to say about the benefits of reading for Leadership Development, we found that it can serve two functions. At a personal level, books can expand awareness of world around us and enhance our understanding of our own life. At a society level, they may help us in questioning the roles of our institutions and of those people who administer them and how we, individually and collectively, should find and create meaning for ourselves and our fellow humans. These are questions any worker, in any sector, face today. In summary, reading can:

  • Sharpen intelligence and broaden perspectives
  • Allow us to examine how people think, judge and act.
  • Make people better communicators or conversationalists
  • Improve emotional intelligence
  • Expand mind and create a new path for self
  • Enhance our thoughts and actions
  • Build and deepen relationships through shared learning
  • Give us (and our organisations) a sense of place in the expanse of human history
  • Offer a lifelong learning toolbox to think about ourselves and the world

You are how you read

As important as acquiring a healthy habit of reading carefully selected books is attending to how we read them. This is particularly key in times when ‘power-reading’ is highly promoted across the web (think about the many articles with tips on how-to-read-so-many-books-a-day-or-week-or-year) and when there is a growing attention-deficit disorder, making us more susceptible to information overload (often of fake news and half-truths).

So we may start to read more, but how well are we reading? And what is the reading doing for us?

Is it purportedly providing a list of quick-fix formulas or is it helping us think about our own thinking and the thinking of others?

At The Keynes Centre we work with a type of reading – and we actually extend the term ‘reading’ to other types of ‘texts’, including films – that is both ‘slow’ and ‘close’. We call it Reading with Goodwill, following John Maynard Keynes who believed that:


“A reader should acquire a wide general acquaintance with books as such, so to speak. He should approach them with all his senses; he should know their touch and their smell. He should learn how to take them in his hands, rustle their pages and reach in a few seconds a first intuitive impression of what they contain. He should, in the course of time, have touched many thousands, at least ten times as many as he really reads. He should cast an eye over books as a shepherd over sheep, and judge them with the rapid, searching glance with which a cattle-dealer eyes cattle. He should live with more books than he reads, with a penumbra of unread pages, of which he knows the general character and content, fluttering round him…”
(‘On Reading Books’, broadcast on the BBC Radio on 1 June 1936)

How to Read with Goodwill?


Reading with Goodwill requires entering in two types of dialogue: one with yourself and one with the author. A third type of dialogue, with peers, may come in when you are reading as part of a Reading circle or even a Book Club.

There are many ways of engaging in these two types of dialogue and one particular method we like is Close Reading.

Also called ‘Close Analysis‘ and ‘Explication de texte‘, this method is commonly associated with New Criticism within Literary Studies. It experienced great popularity in the period between 1930s and 1970s. For us, it should never go out of fashion.

Since then, there have been various debates ranging from its efficacy in meticulously analysing elementary features of a text to its failure in taking into account historical context. We will not get into these debates, but you can get a sense of these here and here. Suffice it to say how we have been using Close Reading in our Personal Professional Development programmes:

For us, Close Reading is more than a literary technique – it is an etiquette of reading, an (ethical) attitude for engaging in a dialogue with yourself and with authors. It is a tool of genuine dialogue which has the below features:

  • Taking responsibility for the reading encounter – understanding that both yourself and the author are ‘meaning-making systems’, i.e. you are both trying to make sense of the world
  • Slowing down the mind while reading – read with a pen/pencil in hand, annotate, “break down the book”
  • Observing your reactions to the ideas as you engage with the thinking of the author – use the power of journaling to capture and record these observations and the subsequent reflections and evaluations
  • Posing questions and working out answers – this is a crucial way to read to understand (not read to ‘critically’ react to) an author’s point of view or argument – he/she might be working out their ideas – stay with him/her, be patient!
  • Practicing using the author’s ideas – Once the author’s main ideas are really understood, you can decide whether you want to make them your own and use them for better thinking, judging and relating to other people

Ultimately, Close Reading is about attending to your own reading and thinking and discovering what happens when you think and engage with another ‘thinking’ being. You will then see that the learnings from your reading encounter translate to ‘the business of life’ as Virginia Woolf noted in her great book A Room of One’s Own:

“since a novel has this correspondence to real life, its values are to some extent those of real life”.

There is a truthfulness involved in reading with goodwill, or close/slow reading – a relationship of agreement, if only temporary for the duration of the reading experience , between the reader and the book– as we attend to both our reading and the author’s writing.

For this reason, in all our programmes, we think of our approach to Close Reading in terms of a metaphor taken from the book of a friend, Garrett Barden, called Towards Self-Meaning (1969):

“If you are trying to teach someone how to drive a car there comes a point when you have to vacate the driving the seat and let the learner take your place. Eventually the learner has to teach himself. Certainly he can profit from the hints that the experienced driver gives him, but in the end he must drive himself.”

Our approach to Close Reading, then, is something like the hints the experienced driver can give.

Off you go driving…

The Keynes CentreInsightful Reading: Benefits of Reading with Goodwill in a Hurried Age

Happy 134th Birthday John Maynard Keynes!

The Keynes CentreKeynes Centre

Share this Post

john maynard keynes, lydia lopokova

© Mike O’Donnell

John Maynard Keynes was born on this day, 5 June 1883. He went on to become one of the most influential thinkers and international statesmen of the 20th century.

Keynes was a firm believer of the power of theories in guiding how we think and relate to people.

His life was an exemplary journey of transformation as he escaped from powerful (old) ways of thinking about problems and worked out a new way of thinking which revolutionized how we think about major issues.

The journey of this real ‘Thought Leader’ illustrates what our Transformative Thinking approach stands for and underpins all the work we do here at The Keynes Centre:

To change our world we must move from thinking through the minds of others into thinking for ourselves and taking responsibility for creating our own Leadership Minds.

Visit our award-nominee Interactive E-book John Maynard Keynes: The Lives of a Mind to explore the many facets of John Maynard Keynes’s life:

The Keynes CentreHappy 134th Birthday John Maynard Keynes!

Congrats to our Reading for Change 2016/17 Group!

The Keynes CentreKeynes Centre

Share this Post

Best wishes to our Book Club group who finished their Reading for Change programme last night! For eight months
participants read six mind-stimulating books, engaged in thought-provoking facilitated dialogues, and journaled about their experience. We hope you found the learning as insightful as we did!

Congratulations to Fergus, Martha, Gerard, Evan, Clare, Con, Kevin, Niamh, Garret and Daniel! We look forward to working with you again.

Dr Assumpta O’Kane and participants discuss Leadership Growth through Adult Mental Development.

Many thanks to The Keynes Centre Team for their dedication and hard work and to Tim Clarke, from Waterstones Cork, for the great partnership for a second year.

Interested in Growing your Leadership Mind in a unique way?

The next Book Club series begins in September 2017. Expressions of interest are now being taken and early booking is advised as limited spaces available.

To secure your place, click here. For more details on this unique Leadership Programme, click here.

We are also running a shorter reading programme this Summer called The Assumptive Dive. Explore with Professor Connell Fanning the sources of opinions and beliefs which silently shape our thinking and behaviour about key matters in human affairs. Programme starts in 20 June.

For more details, click here. To book your place, click here.

The Keynes CentreCongrats to our Reading for Change 2016/17 Group!

The Power of Metaphors for Communicating

The Keynes CentreWords Matter

Share this Post

Metaphors are essential for conveying the intangibles of life – feelings, ideas, beauty. Great leaders understand this and it is part of their effect on people – how they affect people and induce them to share their vision.

David Brooks

© Mike O’Donnell

Most of the metaphors we use in our daily lives are dead. We hardly ever notice them. They have become clichés and we treat them (unconsciously) as literal.Hence the deadness of most communications.

So, when a fresh metaphor comes along, we sit up. It helps us understand something in a new way and think about it differently thereafter. Many today are looking to understand President Trump – how he thinks, how his mind works – and to convey that idea to others.  Few do well at it.

And David Brooks, Op-Ed Columnist of the New York Times, has now given us one of the best so far about Trump’s thinking.

When he says that Trump’s thoughts are “often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar” we see President Trump in a different light.

Could we do better to convey the feeling of that mystery of mysteries?

The Keynes CentreThe Power of Metaphors for Communicating

When We Don’t Listen

The Keynes CentreWords Matter

Share this Post

The novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie made a positive impact with her call in the TED Talk We Should All Be Feminists and in her pamphlet of the same title that for all our sakes we should all work towards gender equal cultures.

Recently, after she gave an interview to Kathy Newman on Channel 4 News (10 March 2017), a barrage of condemnation broke loose around her. The interviewer asked her if it mattered how one arrived at being a woman and, particularly, whether a trans-woman who grew up enjoying the privileges of being a man is any less a woman.

Here’s her response:

“When people talk about, “Are trans women women?” my feeling is trans women are trans women. I think the whole problem of gender in the world is about our experiences. It’s not about how we wear our hair or whether we have a vagina or a penis.

It’s about the way the world treats us, and I think if you’ve lived in the world as a man with the privileges that the world accords to men and then sort of change gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that then we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning as a woman and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are.

I don’t think it’s a good thing to talk about women’s issues being exactly the same as the issues of trans women because I don’t think that’s true.”

In an overall interview about a number of topics lasting only 4.5 minutes, this was reasonably clear, one might have thought, especially as she had been critical of the wrongful use of binary categories.

Her core point was about “the whole problem of gender” being about experiences – “the way the world treats us”. From that premise she explained that she did not see the experience of a (non-trans) woman as being the same as a man who has “been accorded those privileges that men” enjoy and then transition to becoming a woman.


How could the life experiences be the same? There is too much variability for that without crude aggregation of people. That is not much different from saying that the life experiences of everyone are different – no two people are exactly alike – a daily reality, one would think. It was sufficiently clear what she meant in the interview context, although it might have been clearer – and better for avoiding argy-bargy – had she qualified her statement about ‘us’ with the parenthetical adjective above, i.e., referred to ‘non-trans women’, rather tjan ‘women’.

Nevertheless, people rounded on her on the basis of the implication which they drew that her position was that trans-women aren’t ‘real women’ and she was called transphobic.

Adichie posted an elaboration on her Facebook:

“I see how my saying that we should not conflate the gender experiences of trans women with that of women born female could appear as if I was suggesting that one experience is more important than the other. Or that the experiences of trans women are less valid than those of women born female. I do not think so at all — I know that trans women can be vulnerable in ways that women born female are not. This, again, is a reason to not deny the differences.

Why does this even matter?

Because at issue is gender.

Gender is a problem not because of how we look or how we identify or how we feel but because of how the world treats us.

Girls are socialized in ways that are harmful to their sense of self – to reduce themselves, to cater to the egos of men, to think of their bodies as repositories of shame. As adult women, many struggle to overcome, to unlearn, much of that social conditioning.


A trans woman is a person born male and a person who, before transitioning, was treated as male by the world. Which means that they experienced the privileges that the world accords men. This does not dismiss the pain of gender confusion or the difficult complexities of how they felt living in bodies not their own” (emphases added).

The point Adichie was making in the short interview does not require getting into debates over gender categories and classifications or the biological dimension of people diversity. Finally, Adichie’s goal, whether one agrees with it or not, was clear to anyone listening to her interview: gender equal cultures.

The hostility, which is now a feature of public ‘debate’ and does no good for anyone, certainly precludes any thoughtful engagement with the real issue at the core of her distinction: the different gendered life experiences people have, how they arise, how we process them, and their consequences for people.

The critics were not listening to Adichie who was making the simple, and obvious, observation that the life experiences of ‘trans women’ were different from the life experiences of ‘non-trans women’ even in today’s world. The critics were addressing the different question about who should be considered as a ‘women – a matter of categorisation about which Adichie did not say anything in the interview. Nevertheless they drew the inference that she said something she did not say and then proceeded to castigate her for their own statement.

The critics were operating, in the metaphor of Virginia Woolf In a Room of One’s Own (1929), from the red heat of emotion rather than the white light of truth in relation to Adichie’s broadcast interview. They seemed to be listening to react, not to understand her points and engage in a genuine dialogue with her.

How often does this happen in conversations every day, not just in direct conversation with some person, but also during indirect conversation with an author we are reading or in correspondence with someone?

There was no dialogue with Adichie in the case above. Dialogue involves listening, first of all, and inquiring of the other with an attitude of being open to a change of mind on the basis of the interchange.

A dialogue would surely have been more enlightening for the rest of us if less immediately gratifying of some immediate needs for the critics.

The Keynes CentreWhen We Don’t Listen

Reflections on Writing

The Keynes CentreHow We Think

Share this Post

“Almost all good writing begins with a need in the author to explain something to himself – a strong emotion, a childhood terror – a line of reasoning that needs testing on paper or the re-examination of circumstance to be sure that it justifies a general statement. This last kind of need produces the nuts and bolts group …”

John Kenneth Galbraith (emphasis added)


“If you want to know whether you are thinking rightly, put your thoughts into words. In the very attempt to do this you will find yourselves, consciously or unconsciously, using logical forms. Logic compels us to throw our meaning into distinct propositions, and our reasonings into distinct steps.

It makes us conscious of all the implied assumptions on which we are proceeding, and which, if not true, vitiate the entire process.

It makes us aware what extent of doctrine we commit ourselves to by any course of reasoning, and obliges us to look the implied premises in the face, and make up our minds whether we can stand to them.

It makes our opinions consistent with themselves and with one another, and forces us to think clearly, even when it cannot make us think correctly. It is true that error may be consistent and systematic as well as truth; but this is not the common case.

It is no small advantage to see clearly the principles and consequences involved in our opinions, and which we must either accept, or else abandon those opinions. We are much nearer to finding truth when we search for it in broad daylight. Error, pursued rigorously to all that is implied in it, seldom fails to get detected by coming into collision with some known and admitted fact.”

John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address, University of St. Andrews, 1867

“Writing a story or novel is one way of discovering sequence in the experience, of stumbling upon cause and effect in the happenings of a writers life. This has been the case with me. Connections slowly emerge. Like distant landmarks you are approaching, cause and effect begin to align themselves, draw closer together. Experiences too indefinite of outline in themselves to be recognized for themselves to connect and are identified as a larger shape. And suddenly a light is thrown back, as when your train maker curve, slowing that there has been a mountain of meaning rising behind you on the way you’ve come, is rising there still, proven now through retrospect”.

Eudora Welty, One Writers Beginnings, Faber, London, 1985

“I am just now beginning to discover the difficulty of expressing one idea’s on paper. As long as it consists solely of description it is pretty easy; but where reasoning comes into play, to make a proper connection, a clearness and a moderate fluency, is to me, as I have said, a difficulty of which I had no idea”.

Charles Darwin, from Desmond & Moore, Darwin; 183

The Keynes CentreReflections on Writing