Plato said that the artist was a threat to society. He was right; artist challenge the existing status quo. It is their job to bring in new realitities. This is because the artist in touch with his indivual essence, at least in the act of his creatity. He is not ruled by herd-like thinking as is implied in LeBon's essay below. The artist seeks new patterns in seeing the world, because they know that truth must be ever persued to finer and finer degrees of percpetion and is not a certain thing. -AS, founder of NR
Gustave LeBon (French social psychologist and sociologist, 1841-1931)
People can easily live without truth but cannot live without certitude.
"From the confusion between truth and certitude the greatest conflicts of history have been born. People can easily live without truth but they cannot live without certitude. The simple certitude is a belief, truth is knowledge. Unfortunately the fact is that the man deprived of certitude would be like a boat without a rudder, a machine without an engine. Truth for the great majority of people being what they believe, it is above all with beliefs that one must govern the people.
Not able to live without certitude, man always prefers the less defensible beliefs to the most justified negations. One rarely finds some one ready to expose his life for a rational truth, but there are thousands ready to be killed for a belief. Belief, being neither rational nor voluntary, none of the absurdities it teaches would be able to do harm to its propagation. The absurd and the impossible have never prevented a sufficiently strong belief to provoke action.
Contrary to democratic ideas, psychology teaches us that the collective entity, called the crowd, is much inferior to the individual person. All illusions are easily accepted by the crowd and from the fact that they become collective illusions they acquire the force of truth. Illusion creates quickly certitude. Illusory or real, certitudes produce action. Once they reach a certain degree, mystical, religious and political beliefs become irreversibly destructive. In politics and in religion, the dream of the convinced has always been to massacre without pity those who do not think as they do.
One of the strength of the convinced believer is not to discuss the rational value of his beliefs. Scientific truths are universal truths. Religious and political certitudes taken for truths are usually transitory convictions issued from passions and feelings that have nothing rational in support of them. In scientific matters, to be believed one must give proofs. In politics, the speech of a skillful orator is enough to create imaginary certitudes.
When a question raises violently opposed opinions, one can be sure that it belongs to the domain of belief and not of knowledge. Intolerance is the necessary companion of strong convictions."
* Le Bon Gustave, La psychologie des foules. 1895;
English translation The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, 1896