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Re: Wood: Conventional Framing opinions needed from otherstates -Reply

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On 12/2/97 was posted:
>>>Thoreau said, "consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds".  It's been
>suggested, perhaps somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that engineers are models of
>consistency.  If the present conventional framing provides provide adequate
>safety, why raise them for the sake of consistency?<<
>Actually I think it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said that.
>Kate O'Brien

Indeed it was Emerson, in his 1841 essay "Self-Reliance", and he used a very
significant qualifier to the word "consistency" that makes this often
misquoted aphorism even more relevant to engineers: "foolish".

        "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by
little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

Consistency was identified by Emerson as a "terror that scares us from
self-trust"; "a reverence for our past act or word". Refusal to be open to a
doubting look at old practices would be a foolish consistency, as would be
refusal to look for what's good or necessary in old ways that aren't totally
perfect... like conventional framing. 

Another hobgoblin that Emerson identified and which increasingly bedevils
engineering practice is "conformity":
        " will always find those who think they know what is your duty
better than you know it.
        "For non-conformity the world whips you with its displeasure."  

Expert testimony furnished in support of negligence charges tends to focus
on the accused person's non-conformity to what the "expert" self-righteously
declares to be "standard practice", rather than rise above foolish
consistency and actually examine what would be a reasonable range of
self-reliant professional due care under the laws and circumstances that

Emerson gives powerful arguments for enlightened individuality in his old
essay, and much of the inhibiting, confining, controlling and punishing
mentality he rails against is stubbornly well-entrenched in the structural
engineering and professional licensing worlds.

Charles O. Greenlaw, SE    Sacramento, CA