Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ignoring the Mind-Body Gap

George Lakoff: neuroscience of politics - David Pescovitz @ BoingBoing

I always have trouble with books and theories like this. The idea that somehow our political minds are hardwired, either by nature or by nurture, to favor one kind of political thinking over another smacks far too much of biological determinism. While slightly informative on how the brain works in a certain area, this kind of thinking typically ignores the philosophical problem of the mind-body gap by implicitly denying its existence. I will agree that Lakoff's earlier work on how framing a debate will affect the outcome but I think it takes that good idea and stretches it too far into the realm of hard science. We are not born liberals or conservatives (definitions which themselves change with each generation) and nurturing people to think one way or another has had little permanent success; i.e. the French Revolution, fascism and communism.
So take arguments like Lakoff's with a large grain of salt. They are interesting thought experiments but that's all they are.