Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative?

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sky753

Senior Member
Chinese
Hello Everyone,

I would like to know here why the author use Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative in the following paragraph?

WASHINGTON — Political flip-flops are in fashion these days, in red and in blue, from the White House to the Congress to the 2012 campaigns for both.

[...]

"Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative," the British humorist Oscar Wilde once wrote.

But President Barack Obama's explanation of why he opposed a 2006 debt limit increase while in the Senate may be closer to the mark. He chalks it up to politics.
[...]

Thanks and Regards

Sky
 
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  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hi Sky,

    I couldn't find a link to your source in your post, though I didn't click all the links - here is one, just in case.

    The article points out how political considerations can cause people to be inconsistent. Wilde's quote is satirizing the sort of excuse people give for disreputable behaviour, suggesting, as he does playfully, that it's better to appear imaginative than to be consistent.

    The author is suggesting that these senators and judges might give a similarly vapid excuse for their politically-motivated behaviour.
     

    Merrit

    Senior Member
    English
    Wilde's quote is satirizing the sort of excuse people give for disreputable behaviour, suggesting, as he does playfully, that it's better to appear imaginative than to be consistent.
    An interesting interpretation.

    I've always understood it to mean that 'always doing something in the same way' is claimed as a virtue only by those who lack the imagination to find ways of doing it better. :)

    m
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Always doing something the same way is quite a negative view of consistency, I'd say. I suspect that Wilde produced those de Rochfoucault-like aphorisms largely to make people laugh at the way he turned logic on its head. I'm glad you've pointed out the potentially serious possible meaning, Merrit, because it's that which gives these aphorisms their bite.

    Don't you think the writer of the article is suggesting that the politicians might give this tawdry excuse for their politically-motivated policy inconsistencies? After all, it's this sort of behaviour which gets politicians a bad name.
     
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    sky753

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Always doing something the same way is quite a negative view of consistency, I'd say. I suspect that Wilde produced those de Rochfoucault-like aphorisms largely to make people laugh at the way he turned logic on its head. I'm glad you've pointed out the potentially serious possible meaning, Merrit, because it's that which gives these aphorisms their bite.

    Don't you think the writer of the article is suggesting that the politicians might give this tawdry excuse for their politically-motivated policy inconsistencies? After all, it's this sort of behaviour which gets politicians a bad name.
    What does" he turned logic on its head." mean here?
     

    Merrit

    Senior Member
    English
    Always doing something the same way is quite a negative view of consistency, I'd say.

    I'm glad you found it negative. That was my intention, and Wilde's, too, I believe.


    Don't you think the writer of the article is suggesting that the politicians might give this tawdry excuse for their politically-motivated policy inconsistencies? After all, it's this sort of behaviour which gets politicians a bad name.

    I don't know what the writer is suggesting -- I don't waste my time reading the Huffington Post.

    m
     
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    djmc

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    The phrase of Wilde sounds to me like a reference to the quotation by Dr Johnson (I think) "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel".
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    A search for "is the last refuge of" the threw up the following from amongst many:

    Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. Oscar Wilde.
    Seriousness is the last refuge of the shallow. - Oscar Wilde.
    Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative. - Oscar Wilde

    Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel - the original by Dr Johnson

    Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. - Asimov
    the epithet “isolationist” is the last refuge of the warmonger.
    Spin is the last refuge for the MoD
    Sarcasm is the last refuge of the imaginatively bankrupt.

    The formula "X "is the last refuge of the" Y" invariably shows Y to be a bad thing and X a poor excuse.
     
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