Contrasts in Living
Wanting to participate in the Great Conversation vs. wanting to be heard in the general chatter. Philosopher vs. professor, teacher vs. lecturer, epistolist or essayist vs. professional writer.
Everything we do for pay or personal advancement is done with primary attention on the expressed wishes of our audience. Everything we do for the sake of the true, the good, and the beautiful is done with no attention to any wishes but those of nature and being, to the extent we can discern these.
This is a truth felt by every craftsman, cook, or architect who knows there is a better way, a more fascinating possibility, a more perfect design, but who chooses to act on the absolutely false, but economically reasonable, principle, “The customer knows best.” This is the inevitable compromise required of practical survival through mutual exchange, and therefore perfectly beyond blame, as long as one confines such compromise to those areas in which nothing essential is sacrificed to material gain. To the extent, however, that one’s craft is souls (including one’s own), one’s cookery ideas, and one’s architecture civilizational, this conflict of motives defines the distinction between philosophy and sophistry, teaching and peddling, thinking and wealth-getting, wisdom and charlatanry.
“The customer knows best” is a pragmatic rule of engagement, not a truth. Where truth rather than pragmatism is the proper aim, the appropriate maxim is, “Sorry, we are closed.”