How to make a democrat

“The essence of democracy resides in its attitude towards law as a product of the collective will, and not as something emanating from a transcendent will or from the authority established by divine right. It is therefore the essence of democracy to replace the unilateral respect of authority by the mutual respect of autonomous wills. So that the problem is to know what will best prepare the child for its future task of citizenship. Is it the habit of external discipline gained under the influence of unilateral respect and of adult constraint, or is it the habit of internal discipline, of mutual respect and of ‘self-government’? It may be, of course, that only those who have gone through the external discipline imposed by a master will be capable later on of any inner discipline. This is the commonly accepted view, but it requires to be verified. The proof, however, would not be an easy one to establish, for considering the large number of people who reject all discipline as soon as they have escaped from school and home ties, or who for the rest of their lives are capable only of external discipline and legal morality, it may very well be that it is in spite of adult authority, or in spite of certain kinds of adult authority, that the best of our young people sooner or later adopt a disciplined way of living.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

Daddy sky-god boss man

“Social constraint—and by this we mean any social relation into which there enters an element of authority and which is not, like cooperation, the result of an interchange between equal individuals—has on the individual results that are analogous to those exercised by adult constraint on the mind of the child. The two phenomena, moreover, are really one and the same thing, and the adult who is under the dominion of unilateral respect for the ‘Elders’ and for tradition is really behaving like a child. It may even be maintained that the realism of primitive conceptions of crime and punishment is, in certain respects, an infantile reaction. To primitive man, the moral and the physical universe are one and the same thing, and a rule is both a law of nature and a principle of conduct. For this reason, crime threatens the very existence of the universe and must be mystically set at naught by a suitable expiation. But this idea of a law that is both physical and moral is the very core of the child’s conception of the world; for under the effect of adult constraint the child cannot conceive the laws of the physical universe except in the guise of a certain obedience rendered by things to rules. As to ideas of punishment and expiation, how could they have become so widespread in the adult community if men had not all first been children, and if the child had not been from the very beginning of his mental development respectful towards the decisions of the adult who reprimands him and punishes him? Under the effects of social differentiation and cooperation, on the contrary, the individual is less and less dominated by the cult of the past and by the forced conformity which accompanies it. He then becomes really adult, and the infantile traits that mark the conformist spirit make place for the features that are the outcome of cooperation. Thus autonomy of conscience takes the place of heteronomy.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

Someone will have to pay

“Every society consists primarily in a collection of beliefs and feelings forming a whole which must be defended. The kernel of these beliefs is the feeling of the sacred, the source of all morality and religion. Whatever offends against these powerful and well-defined feelings is crime, and all crime is sacrilege. A crime that breaks down the social bond takes on, by the mere fact of doing so, a mystical significance. It is a source of impurity and contamination, and its repercussions, visible and invisible, are incalculable. It must therefore be suppressed, its disastrous consequences must be suppressed, and things must be put right. Punishment is the mystical procedure that will effect this restitution. Consequently it matters very little on whom the punishments fall. The great thing is that they should be inflicted and that they should be proportionate to the crime. Thus there is an ‘institution of responsibility’. Moreover, it is easy to understand how the choice of the responsible subject comes to be made. The process takes place in virtue of a mechanism of transference which obeys the usual laws of psychological transference. First, there is an affective transference: the emotions aroused by the crime are carried over to everything that touches it from near or far. Then there is a judgment: the community decides that a given individual is responsible, and this judgment is dominated by relations of contiguity and resemblance. It follows, naturally, that the culprit himself, when he can be found, is held to represent the maximum of relationship with the crime. But failing this, anything that touches the crime must be punished. Thus responsibility descends from outside upon the culprit or any of his substitutes, and transforms them into scapegoats or instruments of social purification.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

The shining

“It happened late Friday night. That morning no one suspected anything. I sent my son to school, my husband went to the barber’s. I was preparing lunch when my husband came back. ‘There’s some sort of fire at the atomic station. They’re saying we are not to turn off the radio.’ This wasn’t any ordinary fire, it was some kind of shining. It was pretty. I’d never seen anything like it in the movies. That evening everyone spilled out onto their balconies, and those who didn’t have balconies went to friends’ houses. We were on the ninth floor, we had a great view. People brought their kids out, picked them up, said: ‘Look! Remember!’ And these were people who worked at the reactor—engineers, laborers, physics instructors. They stood in the black dust, talking, breathing, wondering at it. People came from all around in their cars and on their bikes to have a look. We didn’t know that death could be so beautiful.” – Nadezhda Petrovna Vygovskaya (from Voices from Chernobyl, by Svetlana Alexievich, trans. Keith Gessen)

Say we’ll meet again

“We have everything here—graves. Graves everywhere. The dump trucks are working, and the bulldozers. The houses are falling. The grave diggers are toiling away. They buried the school, the headquarters, the baths. It’s the same world, but the people are different. One thing I don’t know is, do people have souls? What kind? And how do they all fit in the next world? My grandpa died for two days. I was hiding behind the stove and waiting: How’s it going to fly out of his body? I went to milk the cow—I came back in, called him, he was lying there with his eyes open. His soul fled already. Or did nothing happen? And then how will we meet?” – “Settlers’ Chorus: Those Who Returned” (from Voices from Chernobyl, by Svetlana Alexievich, trans. Keith Gessen)

It’s logical

“Just as in logic, we can see a sort of reaction of the form of the proposition upon its content when the principle of contradiction leads to a simplification and purification of the initial definitions, so in ethics, reciprocity implies a purification of the deeper trend of conduct, guiding it by gradual stages to universality itself. Without leaving the sphere of reciprocity, generosity the characteristic of our third stage allies itself to justice pure and simple, and between the more refined forms of justice, such as equity and love properly so called, there is no longer any real conflict.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

Reciprocity failure is another matter entirely

“Like all spiritual realities which are the result, not of external constraint but of autonomous development, reciprocity has two aspects: reciprocity as a fact, and reciprocity as an ideal, as something which ought to be. The child begins by simply practising reciprocity, in itself not so easy a thing as one might think. Then, once he has grown accustomed to this form of equilibrium in his actions, his behaviour is altered from within, its form reacting, as it were, upon its content. What is regarded as just is no longer merely reciprocal action, but primarily behaviour that admits of indefinitely sustained reciprocity. The motto ‘Do as you would be done by’, thus comes to replace the conception of crude equality.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

As it often does

“Very early in life, even before the infant can speak, its conduct is constantly being subjected to approval or censure. According to circumstances people are pleased with baby and smile at it, or else frown and leave it to cry, and the very inflections in the voices of those that surround it are alone sufficient to constitute an incessant retribution. During the years that follow, the child is watched over continuously, everything he does and says is controlled, gives rise to encouragement or reproof, and the vast majority of adults still look upon punishment, corporal or otherwise, as perfectly legitimate. It is obviously these reactions on the part of the adult, due generally to fatigue or impatience, but often, too, coldly thought out on his part, it is obviously these adult reactions, we repeat, that are the psychological starting point of the idea of expiatory punishment. If the child felt nothing but fear or mistrust, as may happen in extreme cases, this would simply lead to open war.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

You call that equitable

“Distributive justice can be reduced to the ideas of equality or equity. From the point of view of epistemology such notions cannot but be regarded as a priori, if by a priori we mean, not of course an innate idea, but a norm, towards which reason cannot help but tend as it is gradually refined and purified. For reciprocity imposes itself on practical reason as logical principles impose themselves morally on theoretical reason. But from the psychological point of view, which is that of what is, not of what should be, an a priori norm has no existence except as a form of equilibrium. It constitutes the ideal equilibrium towards which the phenomena tend, and the whole question is still to know why, the facts being what they are, their form of equilibrium is such and no other. This last problem, which is of a causal order, must not be confused with the first, which can be solved only by abstract reflection. The two will coincide only when mind and reality become coextensive.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

Diogenes as a child

“Cheating is a defensive reaction which our educational systems seem to have wantonly called forth in the pupil. Instead of taking into account the child’s deeper psychological tendencies which urge him to work with others—emulation being in no way opposed to cooperation—our schools condemn the pupil to work in isolation and only make use of emulation to set one individual against another. This purely individualistic system of work, excellent no doubt if the aim of education be to give good marks and prepare the young for examinations, is nothing but a handicap to the formation of reasonable beings and good citizens.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

Every hour is amateur hour

“It might perhaps be possible to set afoot an enquiry into the mentality of the ‘average parent’ and to accumulate observations made in certain homogeneous and comparable situations, such for example as those in trains, especially on Sunday evenings after a day’s outing. How can one fail to be struck on such occasions by the psychological inanity of what goes on: the efforts which the parents make to catch their children in wrong-doing instead of anticipating catastrophes and preventing the child by some little artifice or other from taking up a line of conduct which his pride is sure to make him stick to; the multiplicity of orders that are given (the ‘average parent’ is like an unintelligent government that is content to accumulate laws in spite of the contradictions and the ever-increasing mental confusion which this accumulation leads to); the pleasure taken in inflicting punishments; the pleasure taken in using authority, and the sort of sadism which one sees so often in perfectly respectable folk, whose motto is that ‘the child’s will must be broken’, or that he must be ‘made to feel a stronger will than his’. Such a form of education leads to that perpetual state of tension which is the appanage of so many families, and which the parents responsible for it attribute, needless to say, to the inborn wickedness of the child and to original sin. But frequent and legitimate in many respects as is the child’s revolt against such methods, he is nevertheless inwardly defeated in the majority of cases. Unable to distinguish precisely between what is good in his parents and what is open to criticism, incapable, owing to the ‘ambivalence’ of his feelings towards them, of criticizing his parents objectively, the child ends in moments of attachment by inwardly admitting their right to the authority they wield over him. Even when grown up, he will be unable, except in very rare cases, to break loose from the affective schemas acquired in this way, and will be as stupid with his own children as his parents were with him.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

Immoral majority rules

“The majority of parents are poor psychologists and give their children the most questionable of moral trainings. It is perhaps in this domain that one realizes most keenly how immoral it can be to believe too much in morality, and how much more precious is a little humanity than all the rules in the world.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

A living world

“Until the age of 7-8 there does not exist for the child a single purely mechanical law of nature. If clouds move swiftly when the wind is blowing, this is not only because of a necessary connection between the movement of the wind and that of the clouds; it is also and primarily because the clouds ‘must’ hurry along to bring us rain, or night, etc. If the moon shines only by night and the sun only by day, it is not merely because of the material arrangements ensuring this regularity; it is primarily because the sun ‘is not allowed’ to walk about at night, because the heavenly bodies are not masters of their destiny but are subject like all living beings to rules binding upon their wills. If boats remain afloat on the water while stones sink to the bottom, this does not happen merely for reasons relating to their weight; it is because things have to be so in virtue of the World-Order. In short, the universe is permeated with moral rules; physical regularity is not dissociated from moral obligation and social rule.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

All the players are on the field

“There is an adult in every child and a child in every adult. The difference in nature reduces itself to this. There exist in the child certain attitudes and beliefs which intellectual development will more and more tend to eliminate: there are others which will acquire more and more importance. The latter are not simply derived from the former but are partly antagonistic to them. The two sets of phenomena are to be met both in the child and in the adult, but one set predominates in the one, the other in the other. It is, we may say, simply a question of the proportions in which they are mixed; so long as we remember that every difference of proportion is also a difference of general quality, for the spirit is one and undivided.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

Don’t look twice, it’s all right

“The most superficial observation is sufficient to show that in the main the legal sense is far less developed in little girls than in boys. We did not succeed in finding a single collective game played by girls in which there were as many rules and, above all, as fine and consistent an organization and codification of these rules as in the game of marbles. A significant example in this connection is the game of ‘Marelle’ (Engl., Hop-scotch) (also called ‘la Semaine’ or ‘le Ciel’) which consists in hopping on one leg and kicking a stone through various sections drawn on the ground representing the days of the week or anything else one likes. The few rules embodied in this game (not to put the other foot down, to make the pebble go into the right square with one kick, not to let the pebble stop on a boundary line, permission to rest in a special section called Heaven, etc.) show well enough how possible it would have been to complicate the game by constructing new rules on these initial data. Instead of which girls, though they are very fond of this game and play it much oftener than boys, have applied all their ingenuity in inventing new figures. For the game of Marelle exists in a multitude of forms; the sections drawn in chalk on the pavement succeed one another in a straight line, in parallel lines, in the shape of a spiral, a circle, an oval, of the pipe of a stove, etc. But each game in itself is very simple and never presents the splendid codification and complicated jurisprudence of the game of marbles. As to the game of marbles itself, the few little girls who take any interest in it seem more concerned with achieving dexterity at the game than with the legal structure of this social institution.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

Kenneth, what’s the frequency

“A fundamental principle of statistical physics is that Nature seeks low-energy configurations. The random organization of molecules in a room is governed by this principle. Rarely observed configurations (e.g., all of the molecules gathering in a corner of the room) have high energies and hence very low probabilities. Common configurations (e.g., molecules isotropically distributed throughout the room) have low energies and much higher probabilities, high enough so that they are essentially the only configurations ever observed.” – Matthew Richey, “The Evolution of Markov Chain Monte Carlo Methods”