F**k logic, get votes

In a recent interview, George Lakoff, author of Don’t Think of an Elephant, highlights (again) his well-known disregard for “logic.”

To liberals, a lot of conservative thinking seems like a failure of logic: why would a conservative be against equal rights for women and yet despise the poor, when to liberate women into the world of work would create more wealth, meaning less poverty? And yet we instinctively understand those as features of the conservative worldview, and rightly so.

The nurturant-family model is the progressive view: in it, the ideals are empathy, interdependence, co-operation, communication, authority that is legitimate and proves its legitimacy with its openness to interrogation. “The world that the nurturant parent seeks to create has exactly the opposite properties,” Lakoff writes in Moral Politics. As progressives identify failures of logic in the conservative position, so it works the other way round (one of Lakoff’s examples: “How can liberals support federal funding for Aids research and treatment, while promoting the spread of Aids by sanctioning sexual behaviour that leads to Aids?”).

Lakoff seems to be arguing that logic is not essential to political disagreement because each side thinks the other to have failed at logic in some way.  What you need to do is highlight the strengths of your position:

 It’s about time progressives got out there and said what’s true about themselves, as well as what’s true of the other side. If you have a strong position, let’s hear it.

Point taken (maybe) about the adopting an exclusively critical position, but, I wonder, what sorts of things make your position “strong”?  Could it be that your position accords with reality, overcomes relevant objections, etc.?  It’s “logical” in other words?

If I’m not mistaken, Why We Argue has a chapter on this very issue (featuring Lakoff!).

2 thoughts on “F**k logic, get votes”

  1. Hey John, I’ve always felt that the Lakoff position (and the mirror version on the Right from Frank Luntz) was self-defeating. Rob and I run a version of that thought in WWA. Here’s how to capture the self-defeat: Lakoff says that all the evidence from CogSci shows that logic and evidence are not effective in changing people’s minds, so we (Progressives) should stop using logic and evidence.

    Two things about that move. First, Lakoff nevertheless takes his own views to be supported by logic and evidence – it’s that the framing moves are ones you put on other people. Second, once you say: let me frame it up this way, nobody ever is convinced. It’d be like me saying: Oh, so you have a problem with X? Well let me put some spin on that for you….

  2. Scott–indeed. That’s what I was referring to. Here, for your enjoyment, is the best of the interview:

    [Liberals] don’t understand their own moral system or the other guy’s, they don’t know what’s at stake, they don’t know about framing, they don’t know about metaphors, they don’t understand the extent to which emotion is rational, they don’t understand how vital emotion is, they try to hide their emotion. They do everything wrong because they’re miseducated. And they’re proud of that miseducation. Oxford philosophy reigns supreme, right? Oxford philosophy is killing the world.

Comments are closed.