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What are the main points in "On National Prejudices" by Oliver Goldsmith, and how can it be critically analyzed?

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In "On National Prejudices," Oliver Goldsmith argues that people should strive to be global citizens while maintaining patriotism for their own countries. He introduces his essay with a narrative about a conversation where national stereotypes were praised or condemned, emphasizing the irrationality of such prejudices. Goldsmith advocates for understanding and recognizing the virtues of various nationalities, critiquing the narrow-mindedness of educated individuals who still hold prejudiced views. He concludes by differentiating true patriotism from blind nationalism, encouraging a more open and inclusive perspective.

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In his essay “On National Prejudices,” Oliver Goldsmith makes the point that people can be citizens of the world even while they remain patriotic toward their own countries. Let's look more closely at how he expresses this idea.

The essay begins with a story. Goldsmith was in the company of some other gentlemen, and in the course of the conversation, one of them made a statement that characterized the Dutch, French, Germans, and Spaniards as veritable scoundrels. The English, however, according to the gentleman, were the most perfect people on earth in every virtue.

Goldsmith remarks that he was not about to agree with such a proposition, but he tried to avoid responding at all, for he realized the uselessness of argument with such a man. When the issue was forced, though, he remarked that to really know what people of other nationalities are like, one must tour Europe, speak with people, and learn their good qualities. He also noted that the English, while certainly admirable in many ways, were far from perfect. The other gentleman denounced Goldsmith for his lack of patriotism and suggested that he should leave England if he did not fully love it.

This story effectively sets the stage for Goldsmith's argument, and it draws us into the essay in a way we can relate to, for most of us have met people like Goldsmith's fellows.

Goldsmith then goes on to talk about how people should strive above all to be citizens of the world and to eliminate national prejudices, which are irrational and most often completely untrue. He remarks that he can understand such prejudices in uneducated people who have had no opportunity to read or travel or converse with a variety of people, but there is no excuse for such ideas in those who claim to be gentlemen. His line of reasoning is clear and easy to follow, and it is also persuasive as he simply makes good sense.

Goldsmith ends his essay with a reflection on true patriotism. It certainly involves the love of what is good about one's country, but it does not require one to affirm that everything is good about one's country. Nor does it require hating or disparaging people of other countries. This is a logical distinction, and Goldsmith concludes with some rhetorical questions to get us to examine our own ideas and another call to be citizens of the world.

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