📚🤔 Justin’s Comments on William Godwin’s The Enquirer, Part I, Essay XI 📖📝

Godwin has us imagine a parent who recently became convinced that their kids are rational beings. As a result of this, the parent tries to be less authoritarian, and encourages their kids to have rational discussions when there’s a disagreement as to what the kid should do.

If this mode of proceeding can ever be salutary, it must be to a real discussion that they are invited, and not to the humiliating scene of a mock discussion.

J’s Comment: The “humiliating scene of a mock discussion” is a thing that has come up with people trying to implement TCS and “common preference finding,” due to various misunderstandings. Like people sometimes think “common preference finding” means the process whereby you argue your child into exhaustion so that they’ll go along with what you want to do. So Godwin is sort of anticipating a problem from advanced parenting philosophy, though interestingly he frames the chapter as discussing “vice, frequently occurring in our treatment of those who depend upon us.”

A “real discussion”, according to Godwin, involves things like being impartial.

Godwin says that sometimes you’ll resolve the disagreement right away, and there’s no problem. But sometimes you won’t, even though both people are discussing in good faith.

J’s Comment: this is an important recognition of the fact that disagreements won’t always immediately get resolved. Sometimes people expect disagreements to get resolved very quickly, and when they don’t, they attribute this result to the ignorance/stupidity/bad faith of the person they are discussing with.

Godwin says that in that case, the child should be free to take the action he wants to take. But what commonly happens is that parents impose their will on the child. Godwin says that, looking at it from the child’s perspective, it’d be much better to just know you have to obey from the start than to have a whole fake rational discussion where you still have to obey at the end. He also says that the parent comes to the discussion with a pre-formed judgment that the child won’t have much chance of changing.

The terms of the debate therefore are, first, If you do not convince me, you must act as if I had convinced you. Secondly, I enter the lists with all the weight of long practice and all the pride of added years, and there is scarcely the shadow of a hope that you will convince me.

The result of such a system of proceeding will be extreme unhappiness.

Godwin says that if you’re not gonna treat someone as an equal, don’t pretend. Better to be an honest and mild slavemaster than a fake equal. People can endure being a slave, especially if the master isn’t too harsh. But having pretend-freedom while really being a slave is like torture.

J’s Comment: it can really bias people against better approaches too. If you think you have first hand experience of what more “liberal parenting” consists of — being given fake opportunities to argue for control over your own life which never go anywhere — why bother listening to its advocates or trying it?

Godwin seems to say that the way to avoid this issue is to figure out what your non-negotiable points are as a parent and make those clear. Godwin says this doesn’t necessarily take away from young people’s independence.

It is not necessary that in so doing we should really subtract any thing from the independence of youth. They should no doubt have a large portion of independence; it should be restricted only in cases of extraordinary emergency; but its boundaries should be clear, evident and unequivocal.

J’s Comment: if there’s any non-negotiable things, then independence is being encroached. And if the extraordinary situations are so important, isn’t it important to have good arguments to persuade your child about them? Is this like very contingent advice which assumes that the parent is already gonna be authoritarian anyways?

Godwin says parents shouldn’t cling to their past decisions; they should admit they are fallible. But they should be honest about what’s gonna be decided by authority from the get-go.

He concludes:

It were to be wished that no human creature were obliged to do any thing but from the dictates of his own understanding. But this seems to be, for the present at least, impracticable in the education of youth. If we cannot avoid some exercise of empire and despotism, all that remains for us is, that we take care that it be not exercised with asperity, and that we do not add an insulting familiarity or unnecessary contention, to the indispensible assertion of superiority.

J’s Comment: What precisely he means by impracticable is kinda unclear to me, but he does seem to want to maximize the liberty of children to the extent he thinks is possible, so that’s good.

Toohey Is Pretty Honest But People Can’t Think

(This was adapted from a post on the Fallible Ideas list)

Someone on FI list said that they thought Rand treated socialism as a conspiracy theory in The Fountainhead. The commenter focused on Toohey specifically in arguing their “conspiracy” claim.

But Toohey doesn’t really lie or try to hide what he’s after. And he does public writing! In which he puts his bad ideas out there, except that people don’t have the philosophical skill to see how bad they are.

BTW I think Toohey’s bad ideas are not just “socialist.” I don’t think that’s quite the right framing. Toohey isn’t just an economist or something. He comments on a range of issues, and has a pretty comprehensive worldview that’s thoroughly collectivist.

In the dialogue between Keating and Toohey near the end of the book, Toohey’s not really ranting about the means of production or anything like that. He’s talking about wanting to destroy individuality as such and replace it with his control.

So I think individualist vs collectivist is the better frame for understanding the conflict between Toohey and Roark’s ideas.

In a single selection from a newspaper article in The Fountainhead, Toohey says or implies that:

  1. egotism is evil
  2. originality is bad
  3. collectivism is good, and those who oppose collectivism should be restrained and held in check (implication is by force)
  4. nobody should strive for better than what can be immediately appreciated by the man on the street
  5. being humble and subordinating yourself is good
  6. conformity to tradition is good for its own sake
  7. monotony is good in art
  8. dogma is good
  9. obeying dogma makes originality possible (?!)

I’ll go through the Toohey article from The Fountainhead to show what I mean:

Keating read from an article entitled “Marble and Mortar,” by Ellsworth M. Toohey:
“… And now we come to another notable achievement of the metropolitan skyline.

Note Toohey here leads with his conclusion (that it’s a “notable achievement”, which is actually kinda flat praise). He’s helping the second-handed reader, who can now cite Toohey’s overall opinion at a dinner party conversation without even having to read much further:

A: “Did you see the latest Toohey article?”
B: “Ah yes, the one about the Melton Building! A ‘notable achievement” indeed!”
A: “Quite so, quite so!”

We call the attention of the discriminating

flattering reader.

to the new Melton Building by Francon & Heyer. It stands in white serenity as an eloquent witness to the triumph of Classical purity and common sense.

People like common sense and think its accessible. It’s not something they have to struggle to understand. Toohey’s trying to say you can appreciate the building without having to try too hard or get out of your comfort zone or learn something new.

The discipline of an immortal tradition

Toohey doesn’t like people who do new stuff (like Roark) and wants them to obey tradition.

has served here as a cohesive factor in evolving a structure

Notice that the “tradition … served … in evolving a structure.” Where’s the architect in this story?? Toohey thinks individuals like architects don’t really matter.

whose beauty can reach, simply and lucidly, the heart of every man in the street.

We go from common sense to the common man on the street.

There is no freak exhibitionism here, no perverted striving for novelty,

Notice how negatively Toohey frames originality!

no orgy of unbridled egotism.

I think this bit is pretty clear…

Guy Francon, its designer, has known how to subordinate himself

see? Toohey hates the individual, likes submission and obedience.

to the mandatory canons

mandatory?! why?

which generations of craftsmen behind him have proved inviolate,

How did they prove these canons inviolate? What counts as proof of inviolateness? What’s the craftmen’s answer to Roark?

Toohey’s not starting a conversation and asking for criticism here. He’s offering solemn pronouncements as an authoritah. He doesn’t want people to ask or think about such questions. He just wants them to nod their heads and obey.

and at the same time how to display his own creative originality, not in spite of, but precisely because of the classical dogma he has accepted with the humility of a true artist.

How do u display originality by obediently and humbly accepting mandatory dogma?

It may be worth mentioning, in passing, that dogmatic discipline is the only thing which makes true originality possible….

Toohey’s passing off straight contradictions in his writing and people read it and feel flattered instead of insulted. Odd case!

“More important, however, is the symbolic significance of a building such as this rising in our imperial city. As one stands before its southern façade, one is stricken with the realization that the stringcourses, repeated with deliberate and gracious monotony

lol @ a “praise” article calling something monotonous….

from the third to the eighteenth story, these long, straight, horizontal lines are the moderating, leveling principle, the lines of equality. They seem to bring the towering structure down to the humble level of the observer.

As he indicated earlier, Toohey wants to bring greatness down. He doesn’t want anything challenging or threatening to the lowest common denominator. He doesn’t want people to be reminded of what greatness could be like or what men might be able to achieve.

They are the lines of the earth, of the people, of the great masses. They seem to tell us that none may rise too high above the restraint of the common human level, that all is held and shall be checked, even as this proud edifice, by the stringcourses of men’s brotherhood….”

read that last part again:

none may rise too high above the restraint of the common human level, that all is held and shall be checked, even as this proud edifice, by the stringcourses of men’s brotherhood…

“restraint” and “all is held and shall be checked” are of particular note here imho.

this is pure naked evil. this is an ode to a mob using force to tear down great people and keep them down.

So yeah, Toohey’s bragging about what his values are, in print, in a major paper, in an article with his byline, which is read by top people in the society.

Toohey’s public writings are about as clear regarding his ideas about individualism vs collectivism as Hitler was about his anti-semitism in Mein Kampf, and people are just too bad at thinking to notice.

There was more. Keating read it all, then raised his head. “Gee!” he said, awed.
Francon smiled happily.


Don’t Beg for Soros Money

Here’s a Facebook post from a philosopher, Joseph Agassi. Agassi studied under Karl Popper. Agassi wants money from George Soros to support a translation of one of Popper’s works into Hebrew.

Soros is too busy trying to destroy the world to support good projects like translation’s of Popper’s works into foreign languages:

Left-wing billionaire George Soros has transferred $18 billion to his Open Society Foundations, the primary vehicle for his global political activism and philanthropy.

Though Soros’s foundation was originally aimed at fostering “open societies” as opposed to authoritarian systems, in recent years the foundation’s work has supported dogmatic, aggressive left-wing groups that disrupt liberal democracy and stifle opposing voices. Soros has funded the Black Lives Matter movement and is considering bankrolling the so-called “resistance” to President Donald Trump. He also backs Media Matters, a so-called “watchdog” group that spends most of its energy trying to eliminate conservatives from the media.

Agassi should find better people to ask for money.