Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Framing the unspoken debate.

Metaphor, Morality, and Politics

Or,

Why Conservatives Have Left Liberals In the Dust


by George Lakoff

© copyright George Lakoff 1995
Please go read it now, than bookmark it and blog on it.

Here's the bit that I found of particular importance (because, of course, it validated my own thinking, and put words to some incoherent gut instincts.)

Moral Pathologies

It is one thing to analyze a moral system and another to criticize it. Criticisms of moral systems are often suspect because they come from within opposing moral systems. I would like to suggest that it is possible in various ways to criticize a moral system on other grounds -- either on structural or empirical grounds. I believe that is is meaningful to speak of moral pathologies, and I will briefly discuss three of them, namely:

  1. Deviational Pathology: Here a deviation from an ideal model turns out to harm people the ideal model was supposed to help.

  2. Foundational Pathology: Here a moral system contradicts its own foundations.

  3. Empirical Pathology: Here the moral system simply makes an empirical error about the helpful effects it is supposed to produce.

Lakoff then details things you need to read and think on yourself, in relation to your own moral priorities, ideals of family, and how things ought to work in general. This 'graph is what I wish folks to consider deeply before proceeding:

In short, both models can be misused. Many of the critiques of the models are really critiques of the misuse of the models. Are such critiques fair? Yes and no. No, because they not critiques of the ideal models in themselves. Yes, because those ideal models have to be used by real people, who will fall short in many cases in just the ways indicated.
That is what I find so electrifying about Lakoff's work. It's not that it justifies my own ethos, it's that it accurately predicts where the failure points for my particular ethos will be, and what my sort of screw-ups will look like.

In a somewhat more abstract sense, it clearly outlines the period of cultural warfare we have engaged in; a cultural warfare that not only explains the foundation of the War on Terror, but all the other Conservative, Christianist crusades against what progressives see as abstractions.

All sides see the behavior of their opponents as being deeply and fundamentally immoral, and I confess I'm no different in that regard. But through this lens I can begin to understand how those on the "opposite side" can have come to hold their positions sincerely, and I can start to actually argue the morality, rather than attacking persons.

I'll stake out my personal positions and observations in a subsequent and probably long essay, but I'm as much interested in the viewpoints of others; please forward this post to anyone who you would think of having a particularly interesting take on it.

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2 comments:

Jacob said...

A growing number of us feel that something more dramatic than signing petitions and writing letters is necessary. We're putting out a call for a MASSIVE nationwide convergence on Washington to demand that that Congress impeach him NOW.

This wouldn't be part of an antiwar march or any other political demonstration. It would be a unqiue event calling solely for his impeachment. Nothing like it has ever happened before.

A website has been set up at www.marchtoimpeach.com as an initial place to start exchanging ideas.

So what do you think? Are we smart enough and resourceful enough and pissed off enough to get a million people to DC to demand Bush's impeachment? Do we have the imagination to use the blogosphere and MySpace and YouTube to bring down the president?

www.marchtoimpeach.com

Bob King said...

Well, overlooking the tangential nature of this comment, I see the moral force of the citizenry already at work, and I see no reason why such a march could not work.

I support impeachment in principle; I'm less sure that timing makes it practical, considering other critical issues facing us that Congress MUST concentrate upon. The Gulf Cost needs rebuilding, FEMA (and the entire civil service) is broken and our military is breaking down in terms of both material and morale.

Finally, the appearance of a democratic coup could not be avoided, and that might end up being more paralyzing that leaving Shrub in office.

As I said, a question of timing. Once the 2008 elections are passed, and the leadership is determined by ballot, I'd suggest that the obvious remedy is extraordinary rendition - to the Hague.

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