1.11.2004


More Cognitive Dissonance


There's been a lot of discussion the last few months about the cognitive dissonance afflicting the Left and its national avatars these last few years. And in trying to redirect a reader to his original point Steven Den Beste just dropped a wonderfully apt explanation for cognitive dissonance in the middle of the essay.

    The way that the locus of beliefs which are clustered together today in the faction I call empiricism ended up collected together is to some extent the result of historical contingency. In the particular case you ask about, it isn't so much that empiricism automatically leads one to humanism, as that in the first part of the Enlightenment empiricism was best able to flourish in the areas where humanism was also coming to dominate, and as a result the two ended up largely co-mingled thereafter. That's the kind of thing that happens in history, whether it makes philosophical sense or not.

    Each faction holds a group of ideas which are only loosely associated with one another on a philosophical level. I was trying to identify various strains of belief in each movement and trying to identify where they did actually come from, EVEN IF the totally collection of such ideas makes no sense philosophically – which in fact it does not, for either the empiricist or the p-idealist factions.

    If there's philosophical inconsistency, that's something you should take up with the true believers, not with me. I can't create a consistency that isn't there, and I'm not trying to claim that one actually exists. On the contrary, one of my basic and most important points in this series, which I had intended to devote an entire article to, is that they are not consistent. I think that's a critical point in trying to understand what is going on.

My personal favorite example of C.D. is the person who can tell you in the same breath that Communisim is a wondeful idea, and that women have the right to an abortion. The primary argument for a woman's right to an abortion is that her body is private property. The Communist Manifesto calls for the abolition of all private property.

How on Earth did those two ideas get wrapped together? Just a quick shot from the hip:
-Classical Liberalism originally based rights on the ownership of property.
-Until recently classical Liberalism was the ideology held tightly by the more religious members of American society.
-Said religious citizens were opposed to abortion.
-(ergo; vis-a-vis; a.k.a. totally guessing) The "enemy of my enemy" argument was put into play and the Left adopted abortion as a political cause.

So here is a historical contingency setting up cognitive dissonance.

I'm certain people more intelligent than I have made note of this many years prior, but situations like this became more apparent when there is a political shift, in this case the rise of the neo-conservative. Individuals dedicated to Liberalism and Libertarianism, without the religious aspect.

(If there are any horrendous typos, I blame it on my having made a complete hash of my body after performing a most stupendous faceplant on my mountain bike yesterday.)

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