Kids Say the Most Epistemological Thing in ‘Bad, Brutal, and Short’


The title of his book comes from the resounding phrase used in “Leviathan” by the 17th-century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes (referring to a life without government; Hershovitz alludes to the inferiority of children). But it also brought me back to the humorist and playwright of the 20th century. Jean Kerr“Please Don’t Eat Daisies” (1957), which regularly quotes her husband, drama critic Walter Kerr, and her six-person brood, including what was once a bestseller. Steaming with irony, he noted that “children with linear minds and incapable of grasping the great intangibles spend most of their energy babbling about unimportant things”—just to show that adults are the same.

Credit…Rex and Hank Hershovitz

Although Hershovitz’s book is structured like a popular lecture rather than scribbled trials in the family car, it has a similar inner chirp: it suspends belief in the tooth fairy; She has a mini gold doodle named Bailey (“What’s it like to be a Bailey?” she wonders, recounts Thomas Nagel’s influential 1974 article).What’s It Like to Be a Bat?); and is married to his high school sweetheart Julie, a social worker. “I don’t have an ex anywhere in the universe,” he brags in a footnote about eternity, “though Julie likes to point out that I can have one quickly.” She jokes repeatedly about how much Rex and Hank prefer their mother over her. Hershovitz, a Rhodes researcher, probably read Freud about the stages of psychosexual development?

But while psychology gives so much advice on raising children, Hershovitz argues that philosophy can be just as helpful, perhaps even more so. Calling thinkers from Aristotle to Zeno – interestingly Jean-Jacques Rousseau, author of “Émile,” a famous treatise on education. To make up for it, there are loads of Locke (John) and so that you don’t get this flip-flop, know that Hershovitz recommends reading Locke’s treatises “aloud with a British accent” and mocks the 17th century style of accentuation. that a writer would “capitalize letters like a crazy person”. If your world-class Ethical Reasoning class is oatmeal, this is a bowl of Quisp.

Although Hershovitz only mentions Socrates a few times, he seems to be a big fan of the Socratic method. Simply “Why?” to ask. “One of my favorite parenting tricks,” she writes, is a word kids use “like a gun,” and it can be reversed to encourage discussion. Indeed, “why” rings like a bell throughout “Nasty, Brutish and Short.” (As the great philosopher Kerr said: “If children’s and adults’ maturing speeches differ in volume and pace, their substance is also different”; children of a certain age speak with questions like philosophers.) “Why? Do the days keep coming?” A little girl asks a maternal friend of Hershovitz. “Why do laundry when the world is not what it seems?” Hershovitz conjectures. (Perhaps so Julie can take a break?) Why do we seek revenge, as does Hank being called a “sycophant punk” by a classmate? Why are some words considered “bad” at a much worse level than “bad”? (Hershovitz is a huge fan of profanity and devotes an entire chapter to defending and using it in a rather playful way.)



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