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“The presumption of wisdom and/or virtue causes intellectuals to personalize situations where contending ideas are involved.”

Mark Tuttle writes:

A friend recommended the book Intellectuals and Society, by Thomas Sowell. The book is from 2010, but before this recommendation I hadn’t heard of it.

Note the last paragraph, below, in the Wikipedia entry:

Ego-involvement and personalization

The presumption of wisdom and/or virtue causes intellectuals to personalize situations where contending ideas are involved. This often results in: (a) the demonization of opponents, and (b) personal fulfillment serving as a substitute for debate and evidence. Sowell does not make it clear if intellectuals acquired these traits from politicians, or the other way around.

It reminded me of some of your observations.

My reply: I hadn’t heard of this book either. I’ve read a few op-eds by Sowell over the years but not a whole book. Based on the wikipedia description, this one looks interesting.

The above-quoted paragraph reminds me of the defensive attitudes that have led leading academics to label their critics as Stasi, terrorists, second-stringers, data thugs, etc. Or you could say the description applies to me, when I make fun of Gremlin Man, Albedo Boy, Pizzagate, Weggy, himmicanes, and all the rest.

I think my name-calling is more legitimate than theirs, though.

When they call us Stasi, terrorists, second-stringers, data thugs, they offer no evidence, no reason for these labels. For example, none of these name-callers has ever given an actual example of Stasi-like behavior, terrorism, second-string work, or thuggery that any of us have done. When I laugh at their claims on albedo, or their misclassified data points, or their ridiculous claims from the statistical equivalent of reading tea leaves, or their disappearing data, or their unwillingness to correct or even admit their errors, I give clear evidence. Yes, I’m mocking them, but (a) I don’t think I’m “demonizing” them (I’m just pointing out what they did and expressing my frustration and annoyance), and (b) whatever personalizing is done is not “a substitute for debate and evidence,” it’s a dramatization of existing debate and evidence.

In summary: Not all mocking/criticism/name-calling is the same. Name-calling as a substitute for debate and evidence is not the same as name-calling that dramatizes debate and evidence.

It’s possible that name-calling is a bad idea, even when it is legitimate, as it can lower the discourse, induce defensiveness, etc. On the other hand, a bit of name-calling can make a dry scientific debate a bit more entertaining. And don’t forget the Javert paradox.

I’m not quite sure what to say about “personalization.” I think that intellectual discussion should be about ideas and evidence, not personalities; but ideas come from and are presented by people. Sometimes both the ideas and the people are relevant. When David Brooks, say, refuses to correct an error, part of the problem is the error and part of the problem is that he is given a platform to make authoritative-sounding pronouncements to an audience of millions without any duty to check his facts. He gets to do this in part because of his status as David Brooks, New York Times columnist.

But, yeah, the personalities can be distracting, and sometimes we can do without them. For example, in our recent discussion of the criminology journal scandal, I used some humor, but I focused on the events, not the personalities involved. So it can be done.

OK, we’ve gone through this issue before on the blog.

But what about Sowell’s more general point, that the presumption of wisdom or virtue causes intellectuals to personalize situations where contending ideas are involved?

I’ll say two things here.

First, I think he’s right, I think it’s a real issue that pollutes intellectual discourse. People hold on to a position and just don’t let go. A bit of stickiness is fine—we need have a diversity of intellectual views, so it’s good that people have different thresholds for being swayed by any particular bit of evidence—but a lot of people take it too far, holding on to theories long after they’ve been deprived of whatever evidence was originally taken to support them.

Second, it’s not just intellectuals. In my experience, everybody personalizes situations where contending ideas are involved. No “presumption of wisdom or virtue” is required. Just consider any political debate at a prototypical bar or country club. Lots of over-certainty.

From this perspective, the problem with intellectuals is not that they’re worse than everyone else. The problem is that they’re not enough better than everyone else. It’s frustrating when tenured professors, with all their education, job security, and avowed ethos of openness, shut their ears to criticism and personalize disagreements as a way to avoid intellectual discussion and debate.

I guess I’ll actually have to read the book to see Sowell’s full take on this one. At this point I’m just engaging with the general ideas as summarized on that Wikipedia page; I’ll be interested to see the full argument.

P.S. Zad sent in the above picture of two adorable baby cats who would never demonize their opponents. They just want to play!

42 Comments

  1. Michael Weissman says:

    “Ego-involvement and personalization
    … personalize situations … (a) the demonization of opponents, and (b) personal fulfillment serving as a substitute for debate and evidence. Sowell does not make it clear if intellectuals acquired these traits from politicians, or the other way around.”

    Or just maybe they (we) both acquired them from the same little bands of ancestors that have been roaming around and having conflicts for the last few million years.

    • morris39 says:

      Agree, this is our human condition which is extremely hard to modulate. We could try to control our inclination to mock/criticize depending on our aim. If the aim is to denigrate someone then mock away however this will not improve their behaviour or the world. Bystanders may well react as Mark Twain has said.
      In practice mocking is almost irresistible, in principle we should try to avoid depending on our self confidence and self control.
      As a test would you mock someone to their face as you would hidden behind protection. Would you test this in a Walmart parking lot? How craven are you?
      I do not see how mocking can be advocated in principle without laying out the benefits (vs costs) in detail.

  2. jim says:

    “People hold on to a position and just don’t let go”

    It’s an evolutionary mechanism that deals with the problem of prevailing opinion in groups, which often turns out to be wrong; and the human inability to distinguish opinion from fact, which is surprisingly common. And lots of things that are widely accepted – even things that people are berated and marginalized for not accepting – turn out to be wrong. Without the people who refuse to stop believing, social groups could lose accurate perceptions of their environment and be harmed.

    Didn’t we just supposedly learn that Dunning-Kruger is actually just random noise? A 20-yr lynch pin of social science belief is toast.

    • Lukasz says:

      With regard to the Dunning-Kruger: Perhaps you’ll find one recent meta-analysis interesting
      Zell, E., Strickhouser, J. E., Sedikides, C., & Alicke, M. D. (2020). The better-than-average effect in comparative self-evaluation: A comprehensive review and meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 146(2), 118–149. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000218

  3. rafferty says:

    perhaps “the problem with intellectuals” is the vague nature of the term intellectual and its casual use.

    same applies to the term “expert”.

  4. Eric B Rasmusen says:

    “In summary: Not all mocking/criticism/name-calling is the same. Name-calling as a substitute for debate and evidence is not the same as name-calling that dramatizes debate and evidence.”

    Very good. Mockery is different from Abuse. I don’t know that anybody ever deserves to be abused, but many people deserve to be mocked. We will differ as to who, to be sure, but that’s substance, and we’re talking about style here.

    Here are two ways to distinguish mockery from name-calling:

    1. Is the term used special to the individual, or general? Saying someone “has more degrees than discretion” is better than saying someone “is a dumb racist”. It is okay to use a term for more than one person, but it should have some application to the particular situation and it should advance the argument, not replace argument.

    This is similar to the old advice in writing about the difference between color and cliche. The first twenty times somebody uses a phrase it’s color, and conveys meaning. Two hundred years later, it’s cliche, and is a sbustitute for meaning.

    2. Can the term elicit admiration for its aptness from neutrals and enemies? Trump was pretty good at coming up with derogatory terms for his rivals and enemies, often hitting them squarely even if sometimes falling flat. “Low energy Jeb” was a hit; “Lyin’ Ted Cruz” was a miss. Note that ordinarily the term stings a lot more if it’s apt than if it’s a cliche or over-general.

  5. Joshua says:

    I’m quite befuddled by this:

    > “In summary: Not all mocking/criticism/name-calling is the same. Name-calling as a substitute for debate and evidence is not the same as name-calling that dramatizes debate and evidence.”

    This looks like essentialism to me – effectively: “Our name-calling is different than their name-calling based on where we subjectively determine we each fall on a subjectively defined scale.”

    • Andrew says:

      Joshua:

      No, it’s not about “our” name-calling vs. “their” name-calling. It’s based on whether the name-calling is backed up by debate and evidence. When that law professor called people Stasi and that psychology professor called people terrorists, they offered no evidence. In contrast, suppose someone who doesn’t like calls me “a loser, consumed by envy” and says that the only reason I criticized the book Freakonomics is that it was a big success and, in contrast, when I tried to write a popular book it did not sell very well. I’d be annoyed at that name-calling—but I’d have to admit that the name calling was dramatizing an actual argument, rather than being offered as a substitute for argument. Or suppose someone calls me a “leech,” based on the true fact that over the years I’ve consumed millions of dollars of government research funds. Again, I’d be annoyed, but it would be name calling that dramatizes debate and evidence.

      • Joshua says:

        Andrew –

        But I wonder whether what you’re describing is a largely subjective difference in assessment of how the name-calling is “backed up.”

        Everyone thinks their name-calling is backed up by evidence. I don’t know what you’re referencing with the Stasi and terrorist name-calling examples, but I’d be willing to bet that the name-callers think that their name-calling was based on clear evidence, even if they didn’t elaborate on that the evidence was. So then would your difference boil down to how far a person went in spelling out their evidentiary support, but not the actual evidence in itself?

        Or would it be based on an evaluation of the quality of the evidence being offered – which, it seems to me, almost inevitably will be a function of whose bias is getting confirmed.

        • Joshua says:

          I dunno,

          I tend to think that name-calling is name-calling, because the intent is inevitably about labeling, essentializing, using a pejorative to differentiate the other, more than to illuminate. It goest to intent and I can’t really think of name-calling where the intent wasn’t to say “He/She/They are inferior because of ….X”. Even the distinction of “criticize the behavior not the actor” doesn’t work for me because it’s almost always a false dichotomy. You are inevitably labeling the actor when you’re labeling the behavior.

          Playing the man and playing the ball are fundamentally different. There may be some overlap and their are relative scale of difference, but at sone point they are fundamentally different.

        • Joshua says:

          My follow on comment disappeared. I’m going to try to post again

          I have a hard time getting past a view that name-calling is name calling.

          At some level, you’re either playing the ball or your playing the woman. There’s some overlap and the comparisons are on a scale, but there’s also a difference of kind.

          I think it’s mostly boiled down to intent. Name-calling is about essentializing, it’s about distinguishing between us and the other, its about labeling. Sure, some people say “criticize the behavior, not the person” and then argue that labeling behavior is distinguished from name-calling, but I’ve rarely seen labeling behavior does’t ultimately boil down to essentializing the actor.

        • Joe says:

          I’m sure it’s Susan Fiske (at least for the terrorist partt)

          Yeah, I don’t know, maybe you’re right that there’s an argument. I could see someone saying that a ”methodogical terrorist” is someone who critique methodology outside presumably accepted academic norms of behaviour (contact the author directly, write to the journal editors) and instead writes critiques on blogs? Stasi means someone who adopts extreme and measures to ”spy” on a researcher’s data collection and analysis? I guess they have what they see as a model of behaviour, and the metaphors are dramatizing what they see as unprogfessional behaviour? There isn’t any evidence there, but I guess they assume the status quo is so obvious they don’t need it?

          • Joshua says:

            Joe –

            > There isn’t any evidence there, but I guess they assume the status quo is so obvious they don’t need it?

            I think most name-calling takes place in a context where there’s an intended audience that thinks the evidence is obvious. IMO, the point of name-calling isn’t usually really to make an argument; it’s to label someone, to essentialize them in a pejorative manner.

          • Martha (Smith) says:

            Joe said,
            “the metaphors are dramatizing what they see as unprogfessional behaviour?”

            “unprogfessional” is a really nice-sounding word — can anyone suggest a definition for it?

        • Andrew says:

          Joshua:

          When I say “backed up by evidence,” I am assuming that some evidence is offered. It doesn’t count if someone thinks they have evidence but don’t offer the evidence.

          • Joshua says:

            Andrew –

            So for me, there’s really not much to choose between name-calling where someone presents evidence (but the evidence they present makes a shitty argument) and where someone name-calls but doesn’t present evidence (where they might actually be thinking of evidence that’s pretty obvious although not presented, and that I think makes a strong supporting argument).

  6. Dogen says:

    “ Second, it’s not just intellectuals. In my experience, everybody personalizes situations where contending ideas are involved. No “presumption of wisdom or virtue” is required. Just consider any political debate at a prototypical bar or country club. Lots of over-certainty.”

  7. Jonathan (another one) says:

    This was my least favorite part of academia in my tiny period spent there. You’re correct, Andrew, that everyone does this, and that academics are not immune. But there are several things that make it worse when academics do it: (a) the condescension, which from a certain type of academic (though not all) is palpable; (b) the unjustified leveraging of their authority (and I agree completely that when no evidence is provided, the leveraging of authority is totally unjustified); (c) the “entre nous” implication that the criticism is not really directed at the person being criticized, but is merely performative preening for your peer group; (d) the notion that personality clashes somehow humanize the dry-as-dust academic, which they do, but not in a good way.

    See also, Freud (1917) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissism_of_small_differences

  8. paul alper says:

    A Wikipedia entry was mentioned at the beginning of today’s blog. I suggest another Wikipedia entry:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Sowell

    He is a “senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution” and thus, it is not surprising to learn where his opinions are published:

    “Sowell had a nationally syndicated column distributed by Creators Syndicate that was published in Forbes magazine, National Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, The New York Post, and other major newspapers, as well as online on websites such as RealClearPolitics, Townhall, WorldNetDaily, and the Jewish World Review.”

    Well, maybe the WorldNetDaily might be a tip off as to his thought processes.

    • Jonathan (another one) says:

      What a fabulous example of trying to smear someone without actually engaging with his thought. Well done, paul.

      • paul alper says:

        Jonathon (another one)somehow feels it is a smear to cite Wikipedia. The Hoover Institution has graced this blog many times and it is only natural to refer to it again. Wikipedia listed the publications in which Sowell’s columns have appeared and it chose to do the ordering from conventional right wing to kooky, as in the WorldNetDaily and its obcession that Obama was born in Kenya.
        And, remember that Sowell himself said, it is wrong to engage in “the demonization of opponents.”

    • James says:

      It’s funny that paul alper couldn’t find a substantive point to make, so he had to resort to a low-quality ad-hominem. It’s a rather sad attempt, too: “Look, he published something at this place! No, no, ignore all the other ones—they’re inconvenient for my narrative! This one, this one right here! This one tells us how he thinks!”

  9. Jonathan Falk says:

    1. I didn’t say it was a smear. I said it was an attempted smear. And it was not citing Wikipedia that was the attempt. Characterizing someone indirectly by the places they publish and the institutions with which they are affiliated is not an engagement with their ideas. To think that WorldNetDaily’s kooky opinions have anything to do with Sowell’s is, umm… McCarthyism. (OK… now THAT’S a smear…. but one with data behind it.)
    2. Sowell is correct that it is wrong to demonise opponents, which was pretty much the point of my comment… I come not to demonise paul alter, but to point out that creating guilt by association without reference to Sowell’s substantial body of work is exactly what Andrew is criticising, rightly. But you aren’t a demon paul…. At least I have no evidence that you are. I hope that makes you feel better.

    • Jonathan Falk says:

      Apologies for misspelling your name, paul.

      • paul alper says:

        Yes indeed, I feel better knowing that you have no evidence that I am a demon. But let us return to whence we started, namely words in Wikipedia:

        “Sowell thinks that systemic racism is an untested, questionable hypothesis that is a piece of propaganda pushed on the American people.”

        “In March 2019, Sowell commented on the public’s response to mainstream media’s allegations that Trump is a racist: “What’s tragic is that there’s so many people out there who simply respond to words rather than ask themselves ‘Is what this person says true? How can I check it?’ And so on.”[60] A month later, Sowell again defended Trump against media charges of racism, stating: “I’ve seen no hard evidence [!!].”

        “In 2020, Sowell wrote that if the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, it could signal a point of no return for the United States, a tipping point akin to the fall of the Roman Empire.”

        For the record, as it happens, Sowell and I attended the same high school but I, like most people who contribute to this blog, have never had anything published in the WorldNetDaily.

        • Jonathan (another one) says:

          Much better, Paul. At least you’re now stating some positions, positions that I assume (without evidence) that you disagree with. I do not precisely understand your disagreement. I have not read Sowell recently, but his earlier work explores in great detail, and with substantial data, his rejection of what has now come to be known as systemic racism. But this is not the place for that in any case. I simply wanted to highlight the fact that in a post focused on attacks without engagement, you chose to attack without engaging. I found it ironic. But Sowell needs no defense from me, and the WorldNetDaily won’t get one.

    • Joshua says:

      >… Sowell is correct that it is wrong to demonise opponents,…

      >> “In 2020, Sowell wrote that if the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, it could signal a point of no return for the United States, a tipping point akin to the fall of the Roman Empire.”

      That is all.

      • Jonathan (another one) says:

        I’m not sure how it fell to me to defend Thomas Sowell, but that quote does not necessarily demonise Biden. The election of Biden says, I suspect, a lot less about Biden than it does about the country. (Frankly, it says more about Trump than it says about either, but that’s just my opinion.) You may want to take that quote as intending to say something bad about Biden, but it can instead be taken to mean just what historian Edwin Watts said in Vox https://www.vox.com/2019/1/1/18139787/rome-decline-america-edward-watts-mortal-republic and I bet he voted for Biden. Or what James Fallows said in The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/10/in-the-fall-of-rome-good-news-for-america/596638/ “Historians in a thousand years will know for sure whether the American empire in this moment was nearing its own late antiquity.” Or Tim Elliott in Politico: “Nevertheless, regardless of who wins, avoiding the fate of the Roman Republic will require an enormous shift across society, and a frank reappraisal of the weaknesses of an 18th-century pluralistic political system.” https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/11/03/donald-trump-julius-caesar-433956

        And indeed, Sowell’s full quote is only indirectly about Biden at all: “If the election goes to Biden,” Mr. Sowell told Fox News, “there’s a good chance that the Democrats will then control the two branches of Congress and the White House. And considering the kinds of things that they’re proposing, that could well be the point of no return for this country.”

        I think this all hyperbolic, but again it’s just my opinion.

        • Joshu says:

          Another Jonathan –

          > but that quote does not necessarily demonise Biden

          Sure, he wasn’t demonizing Biden. He was demonizing some 1/2 the American voting public.

          And Watts and Fallows or Elliot weren’t sayimg that the fall of the American empire would be conditional on Democrats winning the election.

          And sure it’s hyperbole – but that’s not mutually exclusive with demonizing, is it?

          • Joshua says:

            I mean look here:

            > Anyone who studies the history of ideas should notice how much more often people on the political left, more so than others, denigrate and demonize those who disagree with them — instead of answering their arguments.

            The irony is off the charts. You’d have a harder time finding comments that DON’T demonize than comments that do.

            https://www.aei.org/carpe-diem/thomas-sowell-quotations-on-the-political-left/

            • Jonathan (another one) says:

              Nonsense. He’s making a quantitative statement here, albeit one which probably needs to be adjusted for a fair amount of availability bias. Even so, I suspect it’s quantitatively correct as well, but it’s not a question of whether he’s right or wrong. He has consistently engaged the arguments of his critics for 50 years. He denigrates them as well, sure. But not without argument. That’s the whole point of Andrew’s post; there’s no sin in ridiculing your enemies as the ridicule is couched in a substantive argument. No amount of single-pithy-sentence quotations can assess whether he’s doing so or not.

              • Joshua says:

                Jonathan –

                > Nonsense.

                I always find it amusing when someone online tells me that my opinion is “nonsense.” Not “I disagree.” Or “I have a different view and here’s why….” But “nonsense.” Now by Sowell’s logic, we can probably deduce that you’re on “the left” (and I believe that you are) since you characterized a different view as “nonsense.”…

                > He’s making a quantitative statement here, albeit one which probably needs to be adjusted for a fair amount of availability bias. Even so, I suspect it’s quantitatively correct as well,

                Hmmm. I don’t see anything that I’d consider a meaningfully “quantitative statement,” but anyway, I’ve looked at a fair amount of literature that discusses how political identity associates with attributes such as style of engagement, and I don’t recall seeing much evidence in support of his views that the left is differentially more likely to demonize opponents. I don’t think such a characteristic is likely distributed along with political orientation (and certainly, I think that the in-group differences in that regard are far more significant than the cross-group differences), but given that we just had arguably the most name-callingest and most denigrating and demonizing president in our history as the standard bearer on “the right” it’s a particularly interesting time to assess his claim about “the left”, but…

                > but it’s not a question of whether he’s right or wrong.

                Right, that’s pretty much a side issue.

                > He has consistently engaged the arguments of his critics for 50 years. He denigrates them as well, sure. But not without argument.

                But that’s not actually relevant either. I mean yeah, availability bias. Many people on “the left” think that people on “the right” are more likely to denigrate and demonize also. Stands to reason, right? And certainly what we know about identity-associated confirmation bias would predict such a pattern.

                But I wasn’t intending to essentialize him as a name-caller. I have no doubt that he engages in debate. But he also demonizes and denigrates and it’s particularly funny to me that he demonizes in the very statements in which he criticizes “the left” as being particularly inclined to demonize. Just because he denigrates and demonizes doesn’t mean that he doesn’t also engage meaningfully.

                And I don’t see some kind of scale of acceptability depending on whether someone attaches a shitty argument to their demonizing. I think that name-calling is pretty much name-calling, and a good/shitty argument is pretty much a good/shitty argument and I don’t really see a meaningful connection between those two domains of categorization.

                > That’s the whole point of Andrew’s post; there’s no sin in ridiculing your enemies as the ridicule is couched in a substantive argument.

                So maybe you and I differ on how we define “demonize” and I think we also may differ on what we consider a substantive argument (if you think his statement about “the left” was substantive), but I don’t think it’s a “sin” to ridicule your enemies either. I make no moral pronouncement here.

                > No amount of single-pithy-sentence quotations can assess whether he’s doing so or not.

                The “single-pithy-sentence quotations” weren’t a general characterization of his style of engagement – it was a list of instances where he demonizes and denigrates a whole lotta people, with an appreciation of the irony of him doing so amidst an argument about how folks on “the left” are uniquely likely to demonize and denigrate.

              • drew says:

                @Joshua It is well-documented that conservatives understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives. For example, from page 334 of Haidt’s The Righteous Mind:

                “In a study I did with Jesse Graham and Brian Nosek, we tested how well liberals and conservatives could understand each other. We asked more than two thousand American visitors to fill out the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out normally, answering as themselves. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as they think a “typical liberal” would respond. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as a “typical conservative” would respond. This design allowed us to examine the stereotypes that each side held about the other. More important, it allowed us to assess how accurate they were by comparing people’s expectations about “typical” partisans to the actual responses from partisans on the left and the right)’ Who was best able to pretend to be the other?

                The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who described themselves as “very liberal.” The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the Care and Fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives. When faced with questions such as “One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal” or ”Justice is the most important requirement for a society,” liberals assumed that conservatives would disagree. […] You might even go as far as Michael Feingold, a theater critic for the liberal newspaper the Village Voice, when he wrote:

                “Republicans don’t believe in the imagination, partly because so few of them have one, but mostly because it gets in the way of their chosen work, which is to destroy the human race and the planet. Human beings, who have imaginations, can see a recipe for disaster in the making; Republicans, whose goal in life is to profit from disaster and who don’t give a hoot about human beings, either can’t or won’t. Which is why I personally think they should be exterminated before they cause any more harm.”

                One of the many ironies in this quotation is that it shows the inability of a theater critic-who skillfully enters fantastical imaginary worlds for a living-to imagine that Republicans act within a moral matrix that differs from his own. Morality binds and blinds.”

  10. Anonymous says:

    In the car today I ran across another example of Abuse versus Mockery, in King Lear. In both, Kent is talking about the smarmy steward Oswald. The first is pure abuse; the second is more specific to Oswald, and legitimate criticism:

    OSWALD
    What dost thou know me for?
    .
    KENT
    A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking knave, a whoreson, glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd, in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch: one whom I will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition.

    Versus later:

    CORNWALL
    Why art thou angry?
    .
    KENT
    That such a slave as this should wear a sword,
    Who wears no honesty. Such smiling rogues as these,
    Like rats, oft bite the holy cords a-twain
    Which are too intrinse t’ unloose; smooth every passion
    That in the natures of their lords rebel;
    Bring oil to fire, snow to their colder moods;
    Renege, affirm, and turn their halcyon beaks
    With every gale and vary of their masters,
    Knowing nought, like dogs, but following.

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