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Thomas Mann, "Against Thickheadedness and Retrograde Behavior: A Wish Made to Humanity" (1927)

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It seems that never before has the discrepancy between matter and mind, the tension between what is considered possible in reality and humanity’s “true” intellectual level of insight been so scandalous, dangerous, morbid, and fatal as today – and while the large majority of humankind is not even remotely aware of it. They believe themselves to be recovering and in a state of “restoration” from the embarrassing incidents which apparently affected them entirely by accident, and they indulge in fatuities that would make an intelligent dog weep without imagining in their wildest dreams the disasters guaranteed to happen if, instead of their insipid skylarking, they do not seriously make haste to catch up with the mind and reasonably adjust the circumstances of their reality to its insights and demands. This is what I meant by “intelligence” and a willingness of the mind in a spirit of conservation earlier. Only a preventive intellectualism concerned with adaptation and timely accommodation is capable of saving civilization from its demise, and every conservatively minded person, that is everyone who does not want catastrophe but reason, progression, and progress – far from encouraging the refractoriness of stupidity – must absorb a good deal of revolutionary will these days, he must in large part refuse the existing yet outdated and be willing to bear the accusation of radicalism rather than contribute to a deepening of the portentous rift between reality and mind.

Source: Thomas Mann, “Gegen Dickfelligkeit und Rückfälligkeit: Wunsch an die Menschheit“ (1927), in Thomas Mann, Essays, Vol. 3: Ein Appell an die Vernunft 1926-1933, ed. Hermann Kurzke and Stephan Stachorski, Frankfurt a/M: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1994, 75-77. Translation by Insa Kummer.

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