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Of course that’s the more straightforward reading. An even more straightforward reading is the literal one. Different readers choose different levels of indirection.



More realistically it was written by someone who once as a bored undergraduate (apparently at Princeton) sat through a philosophy course where he read Bentham and Mill (and also Hegel and Kant), thought that the differences between Bentham and Mill were a bit blown out of proportion, and had an amusing idea about how to write a satirical letter where this got taken to an extreme.


So you choose the totally literal reading. Not what I’d choose, but also an understandable choice given that this is a technology and programming-oriented website.

I won’t say that the allegorical reading is more “correct,” but if you’d like some clues leading to it, look for the breadcrumbs like this: “And, even though Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill are ideologically similar, I refuse to let my son believe in Bentham’s very-slightly-different version of ethics.”


Yes, the whole thing is obviously a joke.

My point is, don’t take it too seriously.


The totally literal reading would be that someone actually got chewed out by their father for being a Benthamite.


LOL, good point.


That's a very postmodern take! I personally think that most people will read this as a criticism of religious schisms, particularly considering the obvious implication that it's a parent talking to a child, rather than peers within an ideology. Also interesting it'd supposedly be taken as a criticism of a particular political ideology when all ideologies have schisms.


> considering the obvious implication that it's a parent talking to a child

This made me wonder how many kids are switching to a different branch of religion. I've seen a bit of moving to a completely different faith / no religion, but almost changes of denomination.


I would expect it depends on personal experience. All ideologies have schisms, as you say.

The first thing that came to my mind was the local liberal and "materialist" (that is, Marxist) contingents fighting over definitions. (And that does involve a few parents!) But it's equally reminiscent of childhood Catholic versus Protestant conflicts. I only have more recent experience of one to privilege it over the other.


Sure, but the idea that texts have different readings depending on perspective is a pretty postmodern one. I was criticizing the claim that the text was likely specifically directed at American liberals.




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