Was George Bernard Shaw wrong?

by Mark on November 22, 2014

George Bernard Shaw has a very famous quote that is often repeated and shared, but there is something that has always bothered me about it.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
Maxims for Revolutionists

Why is it unreasonable to adapt the world to yourself? Is it unreasonable to build a house to provide shelter? Is it unreasonable to grow crops? To build roads?

If the weather becomes extremely cold, is it reasonable to adapt yourself to the cold? How would you even do that?

In my opinion, the reasonable man chooses his response based on what is reasonable for the situation. Sometimes it is reasonable to adapt yourself to the world, and other times it is reasonable to adapt the world to yourself.

My specialty is being right when other people are wrong.
You Never Can Tell

Sorry, George, you are wrong. But I still enjoy many of your quotes.

Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it.
The World

You’ll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race.
O’Flaherty V.C.

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
Everybody’s Political What’s What

It is difficult, if not impossible, for most people to think otherwise than in the fashion of their own period.
Preface to Saint Joan: A Chronicle Play In Six Scenes And An Epilogue

People are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.

When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.
Caesar and Cleopatra

The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.
Man and Superman

Do not do unto others as you would expect they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.
Maxims for Revolutionists

Where equality is undisputed, so also is subordination.
Maxims for Revolutionists

Every fool believes what his teachers tell him, and calls his credulity science or morality as confidently as his father called it divine revelation.
Maxims for Revolutionists

When will we realize that the fact that we can become accustomed to anything, however disgusting at first, makes it necessary to examine carefully everything we have become accustomed to.
A Treatise on Parents and Children

The secret of being miserable is to have leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not. The cure for it is occupation, because occupation means pre-occupation; and the pre-occupied person is neither happy nor unhappy, but simply alive and active, which is pleasanter than any happiness until you are tired of it.
A Treatise on Parents and Children

Attention and activity lead to mistakes as well as to successes; but a life spent in making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
The Doctor’s Dilemma

I hear you say “Why?” Always “Why?” You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”
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