Driving Right-Winged Logic


[This is my interpretation of the incredible work of George Lakoff from UC Berkeley.]

When we break down the logic of conservativism, we will then be able to understand it.  Believe it or not, there is nothing irrational about it, but this doesn’t mean that we need to support it.  What drives its logic is its adherence to a “strict-father” morality and its reliance on folk behaviorism.  Before describing how the model works, we will look at the assumptions that drive its logic.

It is not irrational if we believe that its assumptions are true, but it is dangerous if taken literally to those that are unable to meet its standards since social hierarchy and meritocracy are moral and necessary parts of the system.  In fact, competition, which is the means to hierarchy, is such an essential and inseparable piece of conservative morality that without it it would become incoherent.

Without competition, there is no source of reward for self-discipline, no motivation to become the right kind of person.  It is through competition that we discover who is moral, that is, who has been properly self-disciplined and therefore deserves success, and who is fit enough to survive and even thrive in a difficult world. [2]

This worldview is one mode of thought that is common throughout all cultures although perhaps not in the same exact configuration – a configuration that “appeals to the worst of human instincts, leading people to stereotype, demonize, and punish the Other. [2].”  I am in agreement with Lakoff here, but if I am to be at all honest, then I must admit to using this “hawkish” type of reasoning myself.

If he has not worked hard enough, he is slothful and hence morally weak.  If he is not talented enough, then he ranks lower than others in the natural order…The rich (who are talented enough and who have worked hard enough to become rich) deserve their wealth and the poor (either through lack of industry or talent) deserve their poverty. [2]

 


Assumptions on Human Behavior

Conservatives’ logic relies on folk behaviorism, which is a model of human behavior that explains learning in terms of rewards and punishments.  Since we do respond to incentives, trade-offs, and consequences, then folk behaviorism seems to be true, but life isn’t all about carrots and sticks as much else can motivate us.  It is, however, an essential piece for making their reasoning work.

People, left to their own devices, tend simply to satisfy their desires.  But, people will make themselves do things they don’t want to do to get rewards; they will refrain from doing things they do want to do to avoid punishment. [2]

Behaviorism as a model for how we learn has largely been replaced by cognitive science as an explanatory tool [6].  And it can’t be true in the absolute sense since it requires that punishment and rewards have absolute meanings, but they don’t since conceptual categories, which rewards and punishments are, are considered to be “fuzzy”, “radial” and vary in the prototype that is used.

Not only can’t we unequivocally define what reward and punishment are for everyone, but we don’t always act according to what the rational actor model predicts, which is not in some objectively defined way that is always in our best interests.  What interferes with us maximizing our rewards and minimizing our punishment is that our reasoning varies over time, situation, and with the individual.

Often, the source of that failure is due to the fact that people use other forms of reasoning that get in the way of a reward-punishment form of “rationality”—prototype-based reasoning, alternate framings, worldview differences—which affect how categories of people and events are understood and even affect judgments of simple probability.

There exists an additional, hidden, assumption that life is a struggle for survival, and therefore “survival in the world is a matter of competing successfully”. [2].  This means that the world is difficult and that we must become self-disciplined through rewards and punishments which builds character.  We already know, however, from this post that we are making life a struggle for survival.


Assumptions on Categorizing 

The worldview also makes assumptions on how we understand concepts and interact with one another such that their strict-father morality must be absolute, literal, and perfectly communicated.  These assumptions, in addition to the two above, allow their worldview to work at some level.  But it’s not just a matter of coherency but rather whether or not these assumptions are true.

Cognitive science has shown that all of these are false. The human mind simply does not work this way. And it’s not that these principles are off just a little. They are all massively false. [2]

Strict-father morality requires absolute categorization in that an attribute is either in or out of a category [2].  This means that concepts can’t be “fuzzy”, “radial”, or exist as prototypes since they need to be fixed and literal.  Take the conceptual category of rich and poor, which is “fuzzy” since is it based on economic status or education, and if economic, where do we draw the line?

Concepts at a high enough resolution lack boundaries, making them “fuzzy”, but they are also not fixed but rather “radial” – that is, they vary from some ideal type.  Take any concept, even moral concepts, and we will see that they vary with time and context.  This doesn’t mean that moral relativism is inevitable but just that morality can’t be defined in such strict ways as this worldview requires.

The kind of reasoning that we use changes based on the prototype we use to reason with.  A common prototype is the stereotype that is a genuine way in which we reason and understand with.  For example, the stereotype for “dumb” is a non-reflective conclusion that a person is the typical “dumb” person.  But not everyone jumps to the same stereotype since perception varies.


Assumptions on Communication

We also “frame” things differently based on “worldview” effects, making absolute categorization very difficult.  An example that Lakoff uses is the concept of someone being thrifty or stingy.  They both mean to spend little but each uses a different frame to alter its meaning.  Thrifty frames spending little in terms of preserving one’s money while stingy frames it as how generous one is.

Lakoff takes this example further to illustrate worldview effects.  For example, an ideal liberal may view the government’s role as needing to be thrifty but not stingy but, on the other hand, an ideal conservative would say that the government is never stingy when being thrifty since their worldview dictates that stinginess builds self-reliance and self-discipline, which leads to character building.

So we don’t have perfect communication based on how we frame things as well as how we use language.  Some people understate things while others overstate things and some use direct language while others use indirect language.  The preferences that we have vary over time and individual.  For instance, a sensitive person could view the use of direct language as impolite.

In conclusion, morality is obviously mostly metaphorical and not literal.  But if you aren’t convinced, look at Lakoff’s model where each category is a complex metaphor that is a composite of further metaphors.   But if moral concepts are largely metaphorical, and conservatism requires literal and absolute concepts, then their worldview is based on an ideal that can’t be realized with precision.


The Conservative Morality

  1. MORAL STRENGTH:
    1. This contributes a great deal—the strict dichotomy between
    2. good and evil, the internal evils, asceticism, and the immorality of moral weakness.
  2. MORAL AUTHORITY:
    1. This contributes notions of the legitimacy and illegitimacy of moral authority, and
    2. transfers the resentment toward meddling parents into resentment against the meddling of other authority figures.
  3. MORAL ORDER:
    1. This legitimizes certain traditional hierarchical power relations and, together with Moral Strength,
    2. makes it seem reasonable to think that the rich are either morally or naturally superior to the poor.
  4. MORAL BOUNDARIES:
    1. This provides a spatial logic of the danger of deviance.
  5. MORAL ESSENCE:
    1. This contributes the idea that there exists an essence called “character,”
    2. that it can be determined by significant past actions, and that it is a reliable indicator of future actions.
  6. MORAL WHOLENESS:
    1. This makes moral unity and uniformity a virtue
    2. and suggests the imminent and serious danger of any sign of moral nonunity and nonuniformity. 
  7. MORAL PURITY:
    1. This associates our visceral reactions of disgust
    2. and our logic of the corruption of pure substances with the idea that morality must be unified and uniform.
  8. MORAL HEALTH:
    1. This adds the logic of disease to the logic of immorality
    2. and contributes the idea that contact with immoral people is dangerous 
    3. because the immorality might spread in a rapid and uncontrollable way like an epidemic.
  9. MORAL SELF-INTEREST:
    1. This adds the idea that seeking one’s self-interest is a moral activity
    2. and interfering with the seeking of self-interest is immoral.
    3. The application of this metaphor is limited by its role in the system.
  10. MORALITY AS NURTURANCE:
    1. The role of this metaphor in the system is to specify when helping people is moral.

References:

[1] Graham, George, “Behaviorism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2019 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2019/entries/behaviorism/.

[2] Lakoff, George. Moral Politics. University of Chicago Press.

[3] Lakoff, George. Philosophy In The Flesh.

[4] Lakoff, George. The Political Mind. Penguin Publishing Group.

[5] Lakoff, George. Your Brain’s Politics. Societas.

[6] Wikipedia contributors. Behaviorism. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:59, December 17, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Behaviorism&oldid=993314157.

Comments

  1. says

    It is through competition that we discover who is moral, that is, who has been properly self-disciplined and therefore deserves success

    Doesn’t this just translate into “by any means necessary”? If you win, that means you deserved to win, which means you’re a moral person, which means whatever you did to get there was justified.

    It’s very prosperity gospel/just world-y. Reflected in point 3, I guess.

    • musing says

      I don’t think most conservatives would agree that to win we do so “by any means possible”. They understand what is fair play and what is not just like anyone else does. As long as we play by the rules of the game, then this implies that we were either talented enough and or disciplined enough to now rank higher than others. But they don’t seem to address the huge factor of chance that plays in everyone’s life to become successful.

  2. Marja Erwin says

    Hi,

    It seems to me that rightists want competition between people, but are ambivalent about competition between ideas.

    They’ll insist that we need to debate whether they are biologically superior, whether the rest of us should be sent to gas chambers, etc. and claim it’s censorship if we tell them to go frak themselves.

    They’ll also insist we need to avoid critical thinking, etc., they’ll denounce discussions of power structures, etc., and I’m not sure if that’s a fear of losing power or a distaste for relationships without power.

    They often define “bigotry” as hating certain ideas, never acknowledging that it’s often used to mean hating certain people for awful reasons. (As no one knows the etymology, it could come from an old slur for all anyone knows, I prefer to avoid the word anyway.)

    • musing says

      I agree with you that they often come across that way. As far as getting insecure when discussing the legitimacy of power, if I am interpreting your point correctly, I’ve learned that it is probably a mixture of two things. First, they honestly believe in and see the purpose behind social hierarchy and certain power structures as well as get insecure when progressives are rioting in the streets since to them it is, in some respects, immoral to challenge “legitimate” power.

  3. says

    It is through competition that we discover who is moral, that is, who has been properly self-disciplined and therefore deserves success, and who is fit enough to survive and even thrive in a difficult world.

    But why should people create a difficult world in the first place? Sure, natural disasters and diseases exist outside of our control and commonly defy our attempts to mitigate them, but a lot of difficulties a person faces in their daily life are inflicted by the society and would be avoidable. Instead of creating a society in which some unfortunate people suffer, it would be possible to create a society in which people help and support each other. Start with abolishing all forms of discrimination. On top of that, guaranteed minimum income and state-funded healthcare would be doable and would be a great start in alleviating a lot of suffering and making the world less difficult. Right now humans intentionally make this world a harder place than it needs to be.

    an ideal conservative would say that the government is never stingy when being thrifty since their worldview dictates that stinginess builds self-reliance and self-discipline, which leads to character building.

    Character building that makes a person cynical, jaded, hopeless, and depressed and forces them to conclude that they are better off giving up on humanity. Why bother trying to make the world a better place or working in order to right all the wrongs you see around yourself if the world is a grim hellhole and you see no light at the end of the tunnel? Or, for that matter, why bother working hard if those with money and power will abuse you endlessly and never let you get a job where you get paid more than the minimum wage? After all, hard work doesn’t get rewarded anyway, instead people get rich by finding legal ways how to steal and exploit others.

    • musing says

      I agree that we are making it harder on us than it probably needs to be in order to satisfy our “hawkish” worldview. As far as power always exploiting, I think this is true given the right scenario, but we have to be careful with how we define exploit. A lot of times we may have respect for others due to admiration and not coercion, and this in itself creates a hiearchy since we “defer” to the ones we respect. But this is not exploitive and may serve the purpose of distributing power to the more capable. So hiearchy has a purpose. However, I have found myself that virtually without exception that in any interpersonal relationship that those with an edge, whatever or how subtle it may be, tend to use that to their advantage which is often at the cost of the other in a loss of power or influence. So those that are in the subordinate position have an increased chance of getting dominated or pushed around because those that can often do when the situation presents itself. I mean there is little resistance going down the hill, and if I can, then I will. I notice myself being more pushy when confident and that is why we need the counterbalance force of equalizing those that get “big heads”. To me, that is true morality. To me, freethoughtblogs.com is the equalizer against the bully.

      • says

        A lot of times we may have respect for others due to admiration and not coercion, and this in itself creates a hiearchy since we “defer” to the ones we respect.

        in my first comments I was referring to people like those at the top of Amazon profiting from forcing warehouse employees to work in inhumane conditions for a minimum wage. Or people like Trump taking advantage of bankruptcy laws and screwing other people. That’s how you get rich. Instead of working hard force other people to work hard for you and take the wealth they generate.

        • musing says

          Yes, I agree completely with you on the unambiguous cases of exploitation when it comes to companies and waged workers. I have a bad habit of looking at individual relationships first and then extrapolating out. I believe that how we relate to one another is a microcosm into how we function at a larger scale, such as with your example. Thanks for your comment.

  4. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    To OP
    I really like this take on the conservative outlook. It was interesting to read.

    I think you’re missing a key assumption of the conservative mindset, or you’re not giving it the attention it deserves. Namely, the assumption “the world is actually fair, and those that work hard succeed, and those who are lazy do not succeed”. Aka the Just World myth. I think that this is arguably the core foundational axiom, and also the most flawed of their foundational axioms.

    I also believe that the Just World myth is inextricably tied to religion, e.g. something like “Yahweh would make a just world where people get what they deserve”, i.e. karma.

    I think it’s the most critical assumption because of how false it is. If the conservatives could just be convinced that they’re wrong on this point, I feel like they might become open to many leftist principles.

    Also, I realized that one can draw a connection between this and the problem of evil. I bet that most conservatives excuse most evil in the world as “they deserve it”, which they can assume based on their Just World assumption. It’s really the conservative inability to accept that there is needless suffering in this world created by their god.

  5. musing says

    Thanks for the comment.  Fairness is a good topic.  Let me try to frame what you are saying a little bit differently.  If I am off in left-field, then let me know.  Bear with me here as this may seem unrelated to what you are saying.

    Lakoff’s model on conservative morality assumes that the world is not fair as we all vary in our capabilities (intelligence, skills, and drive) and social desirabilities (likability, attractiveness, etc.), both found important to success in life.  It’s this uneven distribution in capabilities and desirabilities that causes social hierarchies to emerge.  

    The fact that we, more or less, all want the same stuff (good salaries, nice houses, desirable mates, etc.), which is finite, gives rise to competition. And those that have the right capabilities and desirabilities are more likely to succeed and rise in the hierarchy. Conservatives view this competition and hierarchy as being fair which is what I think you mean. As in we get what we deserve, and we don’t get what we don’t deserve.

    But is this really fair? Jonathan Haidt, author of “The Righteous Mind”, articulates this best when he says that conservatives have a different understanding of what fair means which is based on karma or proportionality and for liberals it’s based on equality that may even go beyond equal opportunity but also in outcome.

    An implicit assumption for conservatives is that life is a competitive struggle for survival. But given that we’ve reached a level in which resources are abundant and we have enough smart people to innovate and help sustain us, there is no reason why we can’t cooperate in other ways to distribute these resources. In a sense, conservatives assumption is making life more difficult than it needs to be.

    Furthermore, I don’t believe that people want to be lazy as if it’s some conscious choice that they make since we all have some drive to be the best versions of ourselves and want to succeed and advance. In fact, those that appear lazy may just be content and satisfied with where they are at. They could be minimalists and practice acceptance in order to be OK, and minimize competition.

    On the other hand, they may have disabilities that forces them to appear lazy because they can’t compete and end up living on the margins. And since the world promotes competition and consumerism, these people feel left out and are desperate to keep up with everyone else, which can result in cheating or just giving up. But that is no choice.

    Conservatives’ major flaw in their fairness doctrine of proportionality is that we don’t choose our capabilities and desirabilities as well as don’t choose to be born in a privileged family. Yes, we can work hard and effort counts for a lot but even effort depends on our previous successes as success builds on success since each advancement acts to motivate us further. And so this still depends on our other capabilities and desirabilities. There is also an element of luck, which we don’t control.

    Conservatives are wrong in a big way. Life isn’t fair. Conservatives are often victims of their mode of thought and are making life harder than it needs to be. There is a reason why empathy and nurturing others rank the lowest in their worldview.

    • GerrardOfTitanServer says

      I agree with what you’re saying. I think this is important. However, you might be missing my point, so let me try to rephrase.

      Conservatives believe the world is a meritocracy, where every individual receives a level of success commensurate with their level of total competency. Here, I am using the conservative’s effective definition of “competency” which includes differences in intelligence, physical ability, work ethic, and social skills (but presumably not skin color, sex, gender, etc.). My point is that even under this particular definition of “competency”, the world is clearly not a fair meritocracy. Two identical individuals will receive wildly varying outcomes depending on the location of their birth, and extremely minor differences in one-off events can radically change an individual’s life for the better, or the worse. The country of birth. The city of birth. The competency of the parents. The wealth of their parents. Having or avoiding an unlucky car accident. There are many things which affect success which are completely outside of the control of the individual.

      The world is not a meritocracy, but many leftist policies try to make it a little more fair and little more like their ideal meritocracy. For example, better schools for poor areas funded with tax dollars from the rich. For example, the US’s civil rights act of 1964, including the employment protections, housing protections, etc.

      • musing says

        You are focusing on the fact that a true meritocracy, according to a political science textbook, doesn’t exist. Conservatives assume it does and that it’s fair. I did bring up the element of chance and privilege above. But what you are saying is what liberals always say in that privilege, especially privilege, and chance makes it impossible to have a true meritocracy. I completely agree, and I thought this was understood. The only difference is that I’m focusing on meritocracy through the lens of biology and not political science.

        Why do you place an emphasis on the unfair advantage that chance brings by way of privilege and unique circumstances but exclude biology? We are saying the same things but differ in emphasis. We’ve created a social norm that abilities and effort should award a person the right to advance and achieve. My point that I obviously need to clarify is that meritocracy is potentially evil. How is it fair that a person with inborn traits that allow a person to be more talented, skilled, and motivated rise to the top, and those that don’t have these don’t? If we really want to be fair about fairness, then this needs to be addressed.

        My opening paragraph hinted at meritocracy without an equalizing force will lead to exaggerated hierarchies. We don’t even need to factor in the obvious variable of financial privilege. This is a form of social Darwinism with or without it. Meritocracy leads to weeding out the weak by way of biology. I think you are overstating the effects of privilege and understating the case that people with success, a lot of them, have what it takes, which is a drive, talent, skill – even traits of psychopathy or narcissism – that gives them an unfair advantage over others.

        Conservatives believe that if you don’t succeed in life then it’s because either you weren’t talented enough or are lazy. Either way, you are considered a lesser being. I’m questioning whether or not conservatives even know that biology dictates laziness and talent more than free will does and choices made. But I know liberals aren’t comfortable with talking about these issues in terms of inborn traits and genes. The interesting thing would be, coming from a psychological perspective, is why is your emphasis on financial privilege and unique circumstance and mine is on genetic privilege.

        • GerrardOfTitanServer says

          Two things.

          I think it’s important to emphasize that the policies of conservatives are incompatible with their stated goals due to what you call “chance”, including chance events in life and differing circumstances of birth. I didn’t think this was given enough emphasis by you. I also think that if we could convince some conservatives that the world is not fair according to their notion of “capitalist competency”, then we might be able to find some common ground with conservatives, and we might be able to make some progress.

          Second point. I agree that meritocracies as being discussed here are far from ideal. However, I unfortunately believe that some degree of “unfairness” is required to strive towards an ideal society. I believe that some degree of meritocracy is required. Fairness is not the only metric that matters. I unfortunately believe that we must structure society so that people who work harder, and who are smarter, and otherwise more competent in the capitalistic sense, get better rewards. I believe that having some level of this sort of personal incentive is necessary for the proper functioning of the economy and thus society. We do not live in a post-scarcity economy.

          I don’t believe that smarter people, harder working people, and more competent people, deserve to be better rewarded as some a priori moral principle. Rather, I believe that these kinds of personal incentives and personalized rewards, and capitalism in general, are required tools to achieve my desired goals, which include a prosperous, wealthy, safe, and happy society.

          Also, because it needs to be stated in this context, I do not believe that we should reward more “capitalistically-competent” people with whatever they can obtain in a laissez-faire unregulated market. Rather, I believe that these markets should be carefully regulated to ensure that we achieve other competing needs. We need the balance the need to have personal incentivizes to have a material wealth for everyone vs the need to treat everyone fairly regardless of “capitalist-competency”. To give you an idea of where I’m at on that, I personally want an progressive income tax where the people who makes millions of dollars per year to be taxed at a 90%+ income tax rate (possibly higher), with lots of good welfare programs for everyone, such as a guaranteed minimum income scheme. No one has the right to be a billionaire. (I also want comparatively high yearly progressive asset taxes, and super-high progressive inheritance taxes on the.)

          (I also want these progressive tax policies for other reasons. Specifically, I believe that money is power, and a free democratic society cannot well survive when there are such vast differences in personal power, and therefore a proper free democratic society needs to regulate the power differences between its members to ensure that these power differences remain “small enough”.)

          I believe that I can morally defend these assertions by appealing to utilitarianism, and specifically the Veil Of Ignorance standard of John Rawls.

          • musing says

            I agree with most of your well-articulated comment. There are two worthwhile points to make here as well.

            First, I am not making the important distinctions that need to be made so that I can be understood and apologize. None of this analysis is normative and is a model that attempts to characterize how real conservatives think and reason. Most people come from a political theory background that is about what we should be not what we are.

            But Lakoff gets close to prescribing instead of describing. Lakoff at the end of “Moral Politics” says that his model on liberals, which is the Nurturant Parent Morality, is empirically justifiable because it conforms to what real morality is, which is about the wellbeing of others.

            In fact, I have argued that liberals have it right and that morality is indeed about the welfare of others as it evolved to suppress the self-interest in others to allow for cooperation. So in a sense, he is saying that real liberals are scientifically justified in the way that they reason and think about morality.

            But that is about as close as he gets to what we should be like. And as much as there is to like about Rawl’s model, Lakoff criticizes it, as others have, for having an inordinate focus on humans being “isolated autonomous individuals” and appeals to communitarianism. Because we aren’t and are highly dependent upon one another.

            Also, utilitarianism, which I like in principle, is problematic because it assumes some old ideas from the Enlightenment era that are totally false by way of cognitive science. If you are interested in this, we can always debate this further, and I could refer you to past posts.

            Second, I am only pointing out that true fairness will never exist and that why should we stop at equal opportunity. But I am a realist too. We need to drive economic activity because we reap tons of benefits from it. But we don’t need to assume that life is a competitive struggle for survival as they do.

            You offer a lot of good suggestions on how to solve these problems. This infamous problem dates back, in spirit at least, to Aristotle, and I think if I put it this way, then it’s including all of our differently weighted emphasizes:

            Problem: Given that not everyone will be able to compete as well as others nor does everyone get a lucky hand to play life with, how do we minimize the costs of meritocracy, which gives rise to inequality, to those that are left behind and to those that aren’t born privileged.

            It’s that problem that keeps me trying to understand why the worldviews have such different ways of solving it. I think I am getting close to the answer by reading what science has to say. The solution isn’t easy though.

            Maybe the only way this can be solved is by domination, which is the very thing we oppose. But who cares about being consistent when people’s wellbeing is on the line.

            Domination as in liberals taking control since appealing to a worldview’s common sense that is not common sense to a liberal and which places empathy last in their worldview makes any other way impossible.

          • GerrardOfTitanServer says

            Re utilitarianism and Rawls.

            I wasn’t citing some of Rawls’s more expansive work. I was specifically and only citing his Veil Of Ignorance standard as the best foundation for comparing two real or hypothetical societies. If you have something better, please let me know.

            Did you just say we fix society but stop at / go no further than equal opportunity? That’s obviously wrong. We should go way past equal opportunity. I think you misspoke here, or we’re having a severe miscommunication problem. We can and should have various welfare programs, wealth redistribution programs, etc., which go well beyond mere equal opportunity.

            Finally, did you just seriously suggest a leftist coup and dictatorship as a reasonable or plausible solution to our problems? It’s not mere mindless principles that prevent us from seeking “domination”. Benevolent kings are nice and all (/s), but what is the selection process to choose the benevolent king? Plus, even if you find a person who would be a benevolent king, remember the adage “power corrupts”. There’s also the problem of peaceful transitions of power and rules for succession. If you are even seriously entertaining an enlightened leftist dictatorship as a solution to our problems, then you’re a crank, and I should go elsewhere. Modern history is replete with examples of how this has gone very, very badly.

          • musing says

            We can learn a lot from how we respond, sometimes more than our response. I have learned both ways. I’m critiquing ideas, not you, and everything has tradeoffs; no silver bullet exists. Also, please give the benefit of the doubt before jumping to conclusions that my ideas are crazy. I love to learn, and I write to learn. I try not to write to pick fights, though. But I’m not perfect either.

            I want to elaborate on the theoretical foundations of Rawls and utilitarianism.

            The models assume that humans are autonomous agents that seek – in a rational way – to maximize their self-interest. We can be rational and self-interested, but not in the strict sense. This autonomy is a prescription on what we should be like, but we aren’t independent rational actors and depend on one another in numerous ways. This criticism is on empirical grounds.

            In fact, we are so dependent on one another that biologists characterize us as “wired to connect with others”. For example, in an intimate relationship, our heart rates are regulated by one another. There are countless examples of this, which undermines the idea of autonomous rational actors. There is much more in that area, but I already discussed it. See here and here.

            Morality is a social phenomenon. It evolved to solve the problem of cooperation and is about suppressing the self-interest of others. So in this respect, utilitarianism gets it right because true morality is about maximizing the group’s wellbeing as a whole.

            But do they frame it like a libertarian does: they want liberty in so much as it doesn’t infringe upon another person? I don’t recall, but I’m sure it’s compatible with that idea. This is what Lakoff says about the right parts from “Philosophy in the Flesh”.

            Utilitarianism may not seem as though it could have anything to do with family morality. It is often seen as a rational principle, set within Enlightenment economic theory, that focuses on the maximizing of happiness according to a moral calculus.

            Sometimes this might require personal sacrifice of one’s own wellbeing in order to promote the wellbeing of others as a whole. Hume and Mill are both explicit in seeing morality as motivated ultimately by a broadly shared moral sentiment they called benevolence, fellow-feeling, and sympathy.

            [I love Hume as he got it right in that our passions drive our reasoning as well as on what drives true morality.]

            I will address some misinterpretations that you had above.

            Veil Of Ignorance standard as the best foundation for comparing two real or hypothetical societies. If you have something better, please let me know.

            I said there is a lot to like about it but that doesn’t mean that it can’t have assumptions that are not empirically valid. No, at this time I don’t have anything better, but I wasn’t criticizing it on the grounds of it being an ideal that we could more or less follow. It seems reasonable, but I haven’t studied it enough.

            Did you just say we fix society but stop at / go no further than equal opportunity? That’s obviously wrong.

            I did not say that we should stop there. I don’t know how to deal with equality of outcomes, though, and am ambivalent about it as of now. You claim that we need incentives to drive our economy, which is true, but isn’t redistribution of wealth a disincentive? I am only saying that I don’t know how we should redistribute wealth to achieve equality of outcomes in a way such as that would appeal to conservatives. I don’t have any of these answers right now. I am not even that political right now, which I hope will change after the ridiculous research that I do, which is quite frankly exhausting and I want to eventually “make a difference”.

            Finally, did you just seriously suggest a leftist coup and dictatorship as a reasonable or plausible solution to our problems?

            You have to be kidding me on that interpretation. Domination doesn’t have to be a coup. People are still people, and we will always have problems, regardless of the party in office. I am talking about dominating the minds of others by learning how real people reason and think. When we know how real people reason and think, then maybe we have a better chance at persuading them on a liberal worldview as opposed to a conservative one. This does not have to be through propaganda or “spin”.

            Just the realization that we need to appeal to people’s “deep frames” that contain much emotional content in order for a worldview to appeal to them. Lakoff argues that conservatives do a better job at gaining members because they know how to reach people at the emotional level. He is saying that we can’t just appeal to the “facts” because a lot of politics is identity-based and there is no universal reason, so we shouldn’t appeal to some universal logic as conservatives and others won’t “get it”.

            I am starting to believe this although some still stick with the idea that universal logic and reason exists, which comes out of the Enlightenment era, and if we just all have the facts, we will all reach the same conclusions. If this were true, then why doesn’t everyone vote the same way on issues? If this was true, then why do conservatives vote conservative because they are often voting against their best interests? These are the points I’m trying to drive home.

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