There is scarce any folly or vice more epidemical among the sons of men than that ridiculous and hurtful vanity by which the people of each country are apt to prefer themselves to those of every other; and to make their own customs, and manners, and opinions, the standards of right and wrong, of true and false. The Chinese mandarins were strongly surprised, and almost incredulous, when the Jesuits showed them how small a figure their empire made in the general map of the world.
Many of our men of speculation, instead of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them. If they find what they seek (and they seldom fail), they think it more wise to continue the prejudice, with the reason involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice and to leave nothing but the naked reason; because prejudice, with its reason, has a motive to give action to that reason, and an affection which will give it permanence. Prejudice is of ready application in the emergency; it previously engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and virtue, and does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision, sceptical, puzzled, and unresolved. Prejudice renders a mans virtue his habit, and not a series of unconnected acts. Through just prejudice, his duty becomes a part of his nature.
A soul clear from prejudice has a marvellous advance towards tranquility and repose. Men that judge and controul their judges, do never duly submit to them. How much more docile and easie to be governd, both in the laws of religion and civil polity, are simple and incurious minds, than those over-vigilant wits that will still be prating of divine and human causes? There is nothing in human invention that carries so great a shew of likelyhood and utility as this.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., ch. lxix.
In forming a judgment, lay your hearts void of fore-taken opinions; else, whatsoever is done or said will be measured by a wrong rule; like them who have the jaundice, to whom everything appeareth yellow.
This word of itself means plainly no more than a judgment formed beforehand, without affirming anything as to whether that judgment be favourable or unfavourable about whom it is formed. Yet so predominantly do we form harsh, unfavourable judgments of others before knowledge and experience, that a prejudice, or judgment before knowledge, and not grounded on evidence, is almost always taken to signify an unfavourable anticipation about one.