Thursday, August 26, 2004

Safire's Reptilian Brain

Inside a Republican Brain By WILLIAM SAFIRE
This is archived:

but there is a copy here:

Great, the ur-conservative pundit has spelled out his worldview in detail. He greatly validates Lakoff's scheme.

The quote:
"self-reliance over community dependence, intervention over isolation, self-discipline over society's regulation, finding pleasure in work rather than working to find pleasure" describes some of the major aspects of The Strict Father model.

Where does his cognitive dissonance come from? Out of several "personas" he describes, all but one belong to the core conservative mode. The one that does not, the one that creates his confusion, is "libertarianism".

Lakoff has a whole chapter on "radial deviations" from core models, libertarianism being one of them (an offshoot of the conservative model).

Core conservative model is hierarchical. Individuals compete. Competition results in victory for some and loss for others. Victors get to write the rules for the next round of competition, thus making it easier and easier for the same people (and their progeny) to keep winning, and harder and harder for losers to start winning. Sense of moral superiority by winner towards the loosers makes any attempt at rectifying the rules of competition "un-natural" and counter-productive. We've already discussed before why this is wrong, aristocratic and utterly un-American.

Libertarian model is anarchic. Indivuals compete. Competition keeps on going forever, i.e., there is never a moment when victors and losers are declared. Thus, nobody gets to set the rules, keeping the rules minimal.

Liberal model is interactionist. Individuals both co-operate within groups and compete between groups. As a result, GROUPS of people win or lose, not individuals. The groups can be clans, or villages, or political parties, or religious denominations, or NATIONS!!! The system is fractal (or Russian-doll). The victorious groups set the rules for the next round of competition, but the communitarian spirit drives the winning groups to propose fair rules for competition. Thus, liberal model is, almost by definition, more PATRIOTIC than conservative model, as it fosters in-group cohesion and mutual help, while acting in a unified and organized manner against other groups. The group in which conservative model dominates concentrates on internal competition which renders most of its membership wounded, thus presenting a weak, unconcentrated and unorganized front in the competition against other groups. Furthermore, the liberal outlook makes inter-group competition less severe, fractally moving upward, towards co-operation BETWEEN groups, if it is possible (i.e., if the other groups are willing to co-operate, e.g., allies vs. enemies).

The anarchic (libertarian) model was never too popular anywhere and anywhen on Earth, not in politics, not in economics, not in other human endeavors. The hierarchical models dominated human thought for the better part of history, including within natural and social sciences. However, during the last several decades, the hierarchical models have hit the "Kuhnian wall", as they could explain less and less of the world phenomena. When a theory starts hitting the walls like this, a novel paradigm usually arises and replaces the old one. The new theory, of course, needs to be much better at explaining all the available data about the world. Thus, interactionist models, much more useful at explaining the world, sprung up in fields from philosophy, history, sociology, anthropology and psychology, to physics, chemistry, biology and cosmology, not to mention economics and political science.

Conservatives (in politics, as well as within the disciplines noted above) stick to hierarchical models, mostly for emotional reasons - they are unable to "let go" of simple, deterministic views of the world. Indeterminism of interactionist models scares them. Thus "gene control" advocates stick to their guns although the interactionist models explain the living world much better. "Selfish gene" is the theory of conservative "control freaks", while modern biologists embrace multi-level explanation of evolution. The models across disciplines are not just superficially similar - they are, at their core, the SAME model. The multi-level account of biological evolution does a marvelous job at explaining the emergence and persistance of religion (see D.S. Wilson's "Darwin's Cathedrals"). Lakoff's model of the liberal core (The Nurturant Family) is the model of developmental psychology (Jean Piaget et al.), and cognitive psychology (Howard Gardner et al.), and cognitive linguistics (George Lakoff et al.), and cognitive ethology (many researchers) and many related disciplines. It is the model most consistent with the current data on how the world works, how the human brain develops and works, how human beings as individuals and groups behave, how societies and economies work and behave. The conservative, hierarchical (might makes right) world-views are just out-of-date, ready to be relegated to the trash-heap of history. We just need to wait for their proponents to die out, and to make sure that their children are educated properly for the 21st century.

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