Friday, May 22, 2009

Born again liberal

Steven Pinker (whom I greatly admire) indicates in his book How the Mind Works that many of our mental stances are inborn, including whether one is liberal or conservative.
Let's for a moment accept this as a working hypothesis. Now, it's clear that one isn't born with genes for liberalism, so it has to be something else, something that is not liberal or conservative but which leads in one direction or the other. I'd think it is a way of looking at the world. I've long since decided that the fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives is their attitude toward the present. The conservatives like things the way they are (or were), and the liberals think we need to change things.
If this is so, then the whole reason for the vicious fighting between the two thought patterns comes down to the fact that liberals are born to view the world as imperfect and conservatives are born to view the world as fine the way it is.
Now, as with all things genetic, mental, and what have you, there is a caveat necessary. What our genes give is, in many cases, is not an absolute, overwhelming mandate (You must be a conservative), but a tendency. So, we could say that some people are born to tend toward liberalism, others are born to tend toward conservatism.
Since I am somewhat of a biological determinist, this makes lots of sense to me. It also makes it easier to forgive my liberal friends, and gives me reason to doubt both ends of the spectrum.
And, darn it, the half full/half empty glass metaphor is so after all.

5 comments:

bekkieann said...

As a teen, I freely accepted liberal ideas, but as a young married adult, I tried very hard to think as a conservative. I just couldn't do it. It felt so dishonest with myself. Finally acknowledging my liberal self was, well, liberating.

The half-full/half-empty metaphor is probably true. But as one of your liberal friends, I'm not sure why you are forgiving me. But just the same, I'll forgive you too. All this said in sincere kindness and friendliness.

On both your houses said...

I appreciate and need your forgiveness. I forgive liberals for being knotheaded. I forgive conservatives for being knotheaded. The more knotheaded, though, the more their actions are their own doing and not any genetic tendency. So, I forgive my reasonably rational conservative and liberal friends. It's just that, all the chips on the table, I come out conservative.

bekkieann said...

It's part of your charm, part of what I like about you. Don't ever change.

(Well, it would be all right if you wanted to vote for liberals.)

I do agree on the knotheaded part. It's my words and not my view that get me into more trouble.

bekkieann said...

Oh yeah, I also like that you sometimes let me win at Scrabble. You do let me win, don't you? I think so.

On both your houses said...

Are you kidding? Most of the time I feel like I'm fighting for my life. Believe me, if I could win all the time, I would