August 14, 1946
Mrs. John F. Austin
Dear Mrs. Austin:
I was glad to hear that you seem to be sincere and serious about intellectual arguments.
No, I didn’t mean that to test the logic of an idea by questions is to be intellectually dishonest. You must really be careful not to confuse issues like that. The first sign of intellectual honesty is precisely to ask as many questions as one needs, until one has reached a complete logical understanding. I have written to you at such great length, because I respect the questioning mind.
Intellectual dishonesty comes, when one begins to muddle the premises of one’s questions and to attempt to reconcile a blatant contradiction, a procedure which is best expressed by a question such as: “Why can’t I have my cake and eat it, too?”
It is not dishonest if one is unable to see a point at first glance. It is dishonest when one is unwilling to see it. The person asking a question is the best judge of which is which, but the person hearing it will always be able to tell the difference.
As to the present political trend of government controls, I quite agree with you. It is vicious, immoral, collectivistic—and will achieve, if continued, neither freedom nor security, but only total destruction.
If my letters have helped you to clarify some important issues, I am very glad.