A dabble in philosophy

I have a confession to make: I’m an avid podcast listener.  As much as I hate all the time I spend mowing grass (3-4 hours a week) and driving to work (2 hours each day I actually muster the energy to come in) I really enjoy that those tasks give me the time to listen to podcasts.  I’ve been adding a large number and a wide variety of different ‘casts to my iTunes subscription list.  One recent addition was Free Domain Radio which is the work of Stefan Molyneux and is called “the largest philosophy conversation int he world”.  I ran across Mr. Molyneux’s cast after hearing him interviewed on a few other casts, usually speaking on the topics of education or the ethics of parenting.
A few disclaimers before I go on with this post:

  • Other than the interviews, I have only listened to a few of the FDR podcasts so this is not intended to be a “add this to your subscription list” post.  What I’ve heard so far will make me listen more, but I’m haven’t experienced enough yet to give a recommendation one way or the other.
  • FDR is all about philosophy, something that I know absolutely zero about.  So the comments that follow may be completely off base because I didn’t understand what was being discussed…or am just jumping to wild conclusions.  Caveat Emptor.
  • There is some negative chatter about Stefan and his work out there on the interwebs.  I’m not going to be too specific or link to it right now since my gut tells me its as unfortunate, but seemingly “normal” part of being successful – you get your share of people that snipe.  But I want you to know its there – if you are so inclined I think you can find it pretty easily (google autofill can be helpful I suppose) and then you can be the judge if any of it is valid.
  • If you decide to go ahead and see what FDR is all about for yourself, be forewarned that there is a massive amount of content out there.  More than 2000 podcast episodes – some being hours long.  Hundreds of youtube videos.  Even some free ebooks.

OK, with that out of the way,  on to the main point.  As I mentioned in the point above, there is a lot of content.  So much so, in fact, that it was actually a little overwhelming to me at first, making it hard to decide where to start.  I ended up going with the “dive on in” approach and just listened to a few of his most recent episodes and on the way to work this morning, I listened to the recording of his most recent regular Sunday call in show. (direct link to MP3 since I can’t seem to find “show pages” for his casts but maybe I didn’t look hard enough).
Early on in the show he is answering a question of a caller and made a statement that really stuck with me.  Not quoting exactly, but I believe summarizing correctly, he said that  there is a cycle of adults being treated like children, whom in turn treat their children like adults.  Besides the symmetry of that idea (I’ve never quite figured out if my obsession with symmetry is just a normal part of the “engineer’s brain” geared towards pattern recognition…or is a sign of Aspergers…) what struck me was that I had never really considered the second half of it.
I’ve observed more than a few times the numerous examples I’ve seen of adults being treated like children: by the government, by their employers, by their community, etc.  The results of this treatment of the individual is usually the same: although they may resist at first, they eventually give in an accept, or perhaps just stop resisting, the “care”.  Once that wall is breached, then the dependence that the “provider” was looking for is established.  Then the real fun begins.  To me this pattern is (too) well established.
What I haven’t really considered before is the impact that the treatment of adults as children has on the children of those adults (read it again…I’ll wait…it’ll make sense the second time).  Mr. Molyneux suggests that adults treated like children will refuse to take responsibilities for their own actions, and since someone has to be responsible, they transfer an adult size portion of the responsibility for a child’s actions to the child.  I don’t think he is saying that children are completely irresponsible for their actions, after all it would be a pretty hard transition to go from 100% in the clear of responsibility to 100% responsible on the morning of your 18th birthday (substitute whenever you think adulthood begins).  Rather, I think the point is that children need to be held appropriately responsible for their stage in life, understanding of their surroundings, means, etc.  Again, just getting started going through a rather large set of material, so I may have that wrong – but I think that’s the point.
Beyond the impact downstream, even more interesting is the cycle it sets up.  By extending childhood, we create adults that hold their kids to adult levels of responsibility, which makes the adults those kids grow up to be look for what they missed in their childhood: someone to take responsibility and so the cycle repeats.
While this all may seem like a huge downer, it’s actually been quite motivating for me.  Motivating to continue to take responsibility for my own actions.  Motivating for me to make sure I am not assigning too much responsibility to my kids.  The cycle has to break somewhere so I’ll do what I can and let the rest take care of itself.






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