Sunday, December 31, 2006

George Lakoff on the analogies of Conservatives and Liberals

A giant once told me some unfavorable things about George Lakoff's immense ambition: "Lakoff thinks he has discovered the fundamentals of all things". With books about Cognitive Science, Philosophy, Mathematics, and Morals last time I checked, all claiming to be radical departures from the establishment, it is hard to argue against that claim. Yet, Lakoff has to be taken seriously. His basic tenet (in Math, Philosophy, CogSci etcetera) is that people, unlike the enlightenment philosophers view, do not think in literal terms but through analogies and metaphors. This is a point with which we of course agree wholeheartedly.

We have written about mechanisms for creating subtle associations previously. How do these almost invisible associations and connotations affect policy and the public? For a first, policies with strongly loaded connotations such as "tax relief" become, after strong reinforcement, "common sense". And at this point, the avenue becomes wide open for policy-makers; for even if you argue against "tax relief", the mere activation of the concept is an argument for it.

Interestingly, he also points out contradictions in the mindsets of people in both sides of the political spectrum. How can conservatives be "pro-life" and for the death penalty? How can liberals be "pro-choice" and against the death penalty?