Furthest Right

Opposite Day

To write about philosophy ensures a drift into politics, since philosophy when applied becomes politics and a few other things besides. That then leads to the question of how people approach politics.

In my experience, almost everyone except a handful of alert ones look at politics through a social filter: they are interested in how their political ideas make them look to their social group, a small circle of co-workers, family, friends, and people they meet at their pubs, stores, hobbies, and sports.

Very few of them are thinking at all about what would happen if their ideas were applied. They are interested in the immediate, which is how to use their political ideas to get dates, make friends, and open up business relationships.

For all of our distance from our Simian ancestors, humans still just want to look cool, which is equal parts detached and dangerous, bluffing others out of competing with us through an action like bullying by image.

This means that we fall prey to what we might call the modifier context shift fallacy in which by declaring ourselves to not be something of which we are accused by others, we switch context to thinking in those terms.

For example, if someone says, “you are selfish!” and we respond, “no, I’m not selfish,” then the debate has been reframed as a binary: selfish versus unselfish. All other questions have been abolished.

Leftism does this to us by raising the specter of equality and demanding that we either support it, which is always socially popular, or oppose it, which makes us seem mean and selfish in a social context.

However, now the context has been framed into equality-or-inequality, and politics has been deftly moved from the question of results in reality to the simpler question of social popularity (“demotism”).

At this point, all political debates consist of rationalization. Since the equality-versus-inequality context has been adopted, we must argue for any proposed act — say, tobacco taxes — by rationalizing it in terms of advancing either equality or inequality.

This means that we have forgotten the larger context, including the question of whether “equality” is actually good or merely popular. If most people think something is good, but it has bad results, it is not good, but surely it is popular.

We need a third option. In American politics, we can see the two sides this way:

  • Leftists: these distrust self-interest, so their entire framework consists of selfish-versus-unselfish, but this quickly becomes reduced to equality-versus-inequality.
  • Rightists: these distrust disorder, so their entire framework consists of order-versus-disorder, but this too frequently becomes status quo versus failure to maintain the status quo.

When dealing with Leftists, one needs a third option consisting not of selfish or unselfish, which we could designate as “uninterested in the selfish-versus-unselfish dichotomy,” or in other words, attentive to the larger context.

When dealing with Rightists, it is important to note that deviation from the status quo occurs both through “new” things (usually liberalized, or relaxing standards) and failure to maintain “old” things, usually by decay. We need a third option for an eternal order, which is why most old school conservatives talk of an eternal or inherent “tradition.”

In both cases, our struggle begins with removing the narrow context imposed by the negative modifier. If you say you are “not selfish” or “unselfish,” you have consented to reducing the debate to the sub-point of selfish-versus-unselfish.

This is why we turn toward tradition and measurement through realism, or effects in reality versus popularity. Only with this do we preserve context and make ourselves able to talk about the functional value of our decisions, instead of human opinions, judgments, and feelings about them.

Tags: , ,

Share on FacebookShare on RedditTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn