The Power of Opposition

December 11, 2010
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How could we know joy without sorrow? How could we know faith without doubt? How could we know love without hate? William Hazlitt insightfully perceived that the human mind can only comprehend emotion when there is an opposition.

Everything in this world has a counterpart. The human mind understands concepts better when there is an opposition. For example, in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” the prisoners never know they are in darkness until one prisoner experiences the sunlight. That prisoner is the only one who knows what darkness is because he has been enlightened. Sometimes people do not understand or appreciate what they have until they experience something of the opposite nature.

William Hazlitt believed that hate was “the very spring of thought or action” or a passion to drive. Hazlitt was known for a radical opinion, political involvement, and a bent for arguing with his friends. He strongly opposed England’s war with France because it brought a heavy tax on the English people. I believe that the deeper reason for his opposition was because he understood peace and freedom. It was a love for these concepts that he hated England’s political decisions.

Another one of William Hazlitt’s ideas was that by repetition good things become mundane. Although true that life falls into a cycle and every day can be like the last, this is the lazy way of trudging through life. For example, in a volleyball game every play is a bump, set, hit over and over again. Each point can become a routine unless the players play passionately and make each point more exciting than the previous. Making this effort is where the fun begins and a love is kindled. Celebrate every point or every day, good or bad, and learn something from the experience.

William Hazlitt’s statement was insightful because it is feelings that create thoughts and thoughts that drive actions. Hazlitt was short of being prophetic since he based his philosophy on a superficial feeling, hate, and not the true conquering feeling, love.

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