Name this philosophy
August 5, 2008 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Be conservative in your own behavior and liberal in the behavior that you accept from others. Is there a name for this concept?

I think that a variation on this statement was originally applied to computer language...does anyone know what I'm talking about?
posted by LittleMissCranky to Religion & Philosophy (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: For computer stuff, it's <>Postel's Law.
posted by jenkinsEar at 9:36 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Rats, misformatted that:
posted by jenkinsEar at 9:36 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Counter-intuitively, Postel's robustness principle ("be conservative in what you send, liberal in what you accept") often leads to deployment problems. Why? When a new implementation is initially fielded, it is likely that it will encounter only a subset of existing implementations. If those implementations follow the robustness principle, then errors in the new implementation will likely go undetected. The new implementation then sees some, but not widespread deployment. This process repeats for several new implementations. Eventually, the not-quite-correct implementations run into other implementations that are less liberal than the initial set of implementations. The reader should be able to figure out what happens next. Accordingly, explicit consistency checks in a protocol are very useful, even if they impose implementation overhead. [emphasis added]

Ha, this is an interesting thought to extend to people.
posted by phrontist at 9:57 AM on August 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:05 AM on August 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

Old school, gentle-person behavior.
posted by Goofyy at 10:20 AM on August 5, 2008

posted by Meatbomb at 10:41 AM on August 5, 2008

I think that a variation on this statement was originally applied to computer language.

Then JenkinsEar got it in one and what you specifically want is Postel's Law.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:30 AM on August 5, 2008

Postel's Law was just mentioned in the NY Times article this weekend on trolls.
posted by queseyo at 11:54 AM on August 5, 2008

phrontist's comment is a great way to think about why web design / Javascript coding is _so impossible_ to do well across browsers. Browser coders were being too _nice_, and now we all have to suffer.
posted by amtho at 12:26 PM on August 5, 2008

posted by BirdD0g at 12:29 PM on August 5, 2008

Some people would call this Christian behavior. Although they might describe it in moral terms, rather than liberal/conservative (i.e. "be virtuous, but forgiving of others' sins").
posted by equalpants at 12:39 PM on August 5, 2008

Response by poster: Perfect! That's what I was looking for. I love the idea of applying this principle to interpersonal ethics, and it's so succinct as Postel states it.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 12:45 PM on August 5, 2008

In an older time, this probably would have been called Stoicism.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:22 PM on August 5, 2008

Response by poster: Just to clarify, I was really looking for a name for this specific idea, rather than belief systems that may (or may not) incorporate it. Thanks, though, to everyone.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 2:47 PM on August 5, 2008

A more ethically oriented formulation of this idea was around long before Postel. I have in mind a specific quote, but can't for the life of me remember it in enough detail to even Google it. I thought it was Montaigne, but scanning lists of Montaigne quotes has brought no joy. The gist of the saying was that a noble person is one who is strict with herself and lenient with others.
posted by bricoleur at 6:51 AM on August 6, 2008

The late great Isiah Berlin's concept value pluralism would also probably cover what you're asking.

Its the idea that there are lots of conceptions of the good life, and a man may subscribe to any of these to lead a 'fully human' life. It is inevitable that we privilege a particular point of view, but that should not lead us to discard the members of other ideologies. Berlin explained the world's problems as a consequence of myopic adherence to a particular point of view. Instead, we should seek to empathise with different points of views rather than condemning them outright.

So your position is a type of value pluralism, in that, you privilege a particular set of conservative values and simultaneously accept the validity of more liberal value systems.

I suppose the key difference with the computer analogy would appear when you have to make a choice that favours one belief system over the other. This is a problem of priory. But Berlin would say that its the recognition of this problem and the pain associated with it that is what it is to be human. I'm not sure what a computer would make of that.

Here's a podcast with Henry Hardy discussing these ideas.
posted by verisimilitude at 1:47 PM on August 10, 2008

The gist of the saying was that a noble person is one who is strict with herself and lenient with others.

Perhaps Mozi? Third paragraph.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:51 PM on August 24, 2008

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