Monday, May 31, 2004


I have had a couple of shots on this blog in times past at George Lakoff -- the Leftist linguistics professor who thinks that conservatives all want to be punitive fathers. There is of course a Mt. Everest of nutty Leftist psychological theories around so why have I given Lakoff special attention? Because what he writes does, when you read it, sound very moderate, balanced and reasonable. It sounds good and it persuades many. But it is still nonsense for all that. In the past I have simply pointed out where and why it is nonsensical and contradicted by the evidence but I don't think that is enough to shoot down his theory. Theories tend to be killed off by better theories rather than by evidence. So I have just added a new introduction to my article on Lakoff that reads as follows:

"George Lakoff is a Leftist linguistics professor whose linguistic theories seem now to have fallen out of favour but who seems to think he knows all about the psychology of politics. Lakoff has written a book (reviewed here) which purports to explain the Left/Right polarity of politics as Mother-oriented politics versus Father-oriented politics -- a book called: Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think.

His program is an ambitious one. He rightly points out that there are many "contradictions" (I would call them compromises) in any real-life political program (he describes them eloquently here) and says he has a grand theory that explains how all such apparent contradictions arise -- a theory that shows the real consistency underlying the apparent inconsistency. That is undoubtedly a noteworthy and attractive claim.

I too think I can explain the inconsistencies Lakoff mentions but I think I can explain it, not in a book, but in one paragraph. Does that not trump Lakoff? I think it does. So here is the paragraph:

What I would say that is that the contradictions arise because neither side of politics is in fact much INTERESTED in being consistent. Conservatives don't like theories and just go by what seems to have worked well for people in the world to date -- in all the untidy complexity that the real world has. And Leftists are only interested in what sounds good at the time and are perfectly capable of advocating completely contradictory things from occasion to occasion as long as they sound good on each occasion [John Kerry, anyone?]. The example par excellence of Leftist contradiction is their common claim that right and wrong or good and bad is at least totally arbitrary if not meaningless altogether -- which claim can be followed almost immediately with a self-righteoous sermon on the rightness and goodness of (say) "tolerance". Leftists want to make us "better" while at the same time denying that there is any such thing as "better"!!

So Lakoff's program is foredoomed from the start. What he deals with is intrinsically INconsistent. There is no large-scale consistency there for a theory to describe. But a brief look at what he claims does nonetheless seem in order. His claim is an attractive one so deserves examination of its fit to reality...."


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