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  1. #1
    Senior Member Lucas's Avatar
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    Default Political Discourse

    These are just some thoughts that have been running through my head recently. It will probably be semi-rantish, so I apologize for that.

    In political discourse, there are two primary possible systems, a system of morality, and a system of immorality.

    A system of morality first constructs a moral system, then applies that system to condemn or approve of actions.

    A system of immorality first condemns actions or ideas, and then either constructs a moral system to justify the condemnation, or piggybacks off of the language of another, or several other moral systems.

    The problem with systems of immorality in political discourse is that the moral systems they construct tend to be internally inconsistent, illogical, or simply ill-developed. The ones they piggyback off of lose their meaning, because when the language used by one moral system is used by a different system, two meanings are created. Confusion ensues.

    Certain words have become practically undefinable in the political sphere: human right, liberty, equality, all of the big ones. They can mean whatever people want them to mean, because they have been adopted by so many movements and causes that they have lost their original meaning(politically).

    Unfortunately, it appears to me that systems of immorality are becoming more and more common in our discourse. What I think are two of the best examples is the environmentalism and animal rights. Both have clearly defined what they are against; on the one hand, environmentalists oppose harming the environment, though I have yet to see a clear definition for harm. On the other hand, animal rights activists are opposed to what they consider to be the cruel and inhumane treatment of animals.

    However, from what I have read, neither movement has clearly defined and justified what they think should occur, in other words, created a moral system. I have yet to see an internally coherent, logical and non-political justification for why the environment is valuable independent of humans, or why animal life should be treated as human, or for that matter, what the environment or animals actually are.

    An example of the climate this creates is the concept of anti-incumbency. In the United States, numerous people are opposed to Obama's presidency. That is how they define their political stature, as opposed to what he does, without providing meaningful, and workable alternatives, or explaining why they are opposed.
    The same thing occurred during Bush's presidency. What seems to matter to people is not if you have a better plan, so long as you are filled with righteous anger against obvious wrongdoers.

    Comments?

    By the way, I realize that my political leanings probably bias my analysis of the situation. I am a rather strong liberal, by the European definition. Here in the States, where that word has been stolen by Progressives, I would be called a libertarian or a classical liberal.

  2. #2
    Sniffles
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    Interesting, especially this part:
    Certain words have become practically undefinable in the political sphere: human right, liberty, equality, all of the big ones. They can mean whatever people want them to mean, because they have been adopted by so many movements and causes that they have lost their original meaning(politically).
    I've come to a parallel observation. Certainly these concepts have actual meaning within a political context, but of course their original meaning has been forgotten or even deliberately perverted.

  3. #3
    Superwoman Red Herring's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lucas View Post
    By the way, I realize that my political leanings probably bias my analysis of the situation. I am a rather strong liberal, by the European definition. Here in the States, where that word has been stolen by Progressives, I would be called a libertarian or a classical liberal.
    No need for the warning, I can smell a libertarian from a mile away!

    I agree with what you say about the misuse of the big buzz words that have indeed become more and more wishy washy. The fun begins when you can argue both sides of an issue using exactly the same terminology depending on what definition you wish to impose on certain terms (or which aspect of them you wish ro stress).

    It is very interesting to observe the developement of environmentalism in Germany. At the beginning was a joined movement of pacifists and environmentalist (with its roots in the student movement of ´68) who decided to start their own political party the year I was born. The first decision they voted on was whether you could be both a member of the Green party and the communists and they voted against double membership.
    This party started as outcasts, but as ecological awareness increased and they gained in importance, the other parties slowly started adopting their demands in order to make them irrelevant. Today there isn´t a single political party that does not offer lip service to ecological ideas in their official program. Not because they are firmly convinced of the importance but because there is an "evolutionary advantage" to adopting some of your oponent´s strong arguments and integrating them into your own program by deluding the meaning of some of the core concepts. Dialectics at it´s best!

    As for the reasoning behind environmentalism and animal rights. This is a whole other issue, but since you mentioned it: There are economic arguments in favor of conservation (it´s mainly abou externailties) but as an idealist, I prefer ethical arguments. The problem with ethical arguments is that sooner or later you reach the core values your and your opponents arguments are built on and it is very hard to go on from there. If you assume that everybody is only out for themselves and essentially egoistic (ah, but then we might discuss the definition of egoism!)..well, then there is little reason to look out for your neighbors or future generations or even other species. So my guess is that when you say you haven´t heard any coherent arguments what you mean is that those arguments were based on other core believes than yours (either that or you are surrounded by idiots, I can not vouch for your social environment!)
    The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. Neither love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life. - Bertrand Russell
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Lucas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Herring View Post
    So my guess is that when you say you haven´t heard any coherent arguments what you mean is that those arguments were based on other core believes than yours (either that or you are surrounded by idiots, I can not vouch for your social environment!)
    A bit of both. What arguments I have heard are based on different core beliefs, but with little attempt to explain what those core beliefs are(in detail), or why I should believe them.

    Still being in high school does put something of a damper on potential discussions of this sort.

  5. #5
    Sniffles
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lucas View Post
    Still being in high school does put something of a damper on potential discussions of this sort.
    Yeah actually it does, although sadly out of high school it doesn't improve much in the majority of cases. Although paradoxically you do have more oppurtunities to encounter more intelligible arguments.

  6. #6

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    Language-game - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Just for interests sake.

    And just for the craic, there's also:-

    The Complete Newspeak Dictionary from George Orwell's 1984

    I say just for the craic because Orwell is hopelessly misconstrued and his books used in a manner akin to Rudyard Kipling's poem "If", that is "words used by knaves to lay traps for fools", or something to that effect. His own history and writing has been revised like that of a character from one of his novels so that where he seriously lamented the betrayal of socialism in two books, one for adults and one for children, they're now considered attacks on socialism per se

    I do not share your enthusiasm for classical liberalism or libertarianism but if you're serious about putting truth in the place of political lying and spin the depths to which it stoops as an ideology and its callousness and cruelty cloaked in high hopes, simpe promises and platitudes should be abundantly clear to all. Whatever they decide after that, well, even Socrates drank poison.

  7. #7
    Superwoman Red Herring's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lucas View Post
    A bit of both. What arguments I have heard are based on different core beliefs, but with little attempt to explain what those core beliefs are(in detail), or why I should believe them.

    Still being in high school does put something of a damper on potential discussions of this sort.
    Most of these core believes develope during primary socialization. At your age the best you can do is be able to identify yours (and recognize them as such) and get the other person to name theirs.

    The elementary convictions I mean by "core values" are the premises a political or ethical argument is built on. Since they are usually not based on logic themselves but at the foundation of any argumentative thread, it is near impossible to convice an adult (who has already adopted his own core values during his or her socialization) of your core values. If you ask the question "why?" long enough, you will eventually end at the point where your reply will be "because that´s how it is"
    The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. Neither love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life. - Bertrand Russell
    A herring's blog
    Johari / Nohari

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peguy View Post
    Yeah actually it does, although sadly out of high school it doesn't improve much in the majority of cases. Although paradoxically you do have more oppurtunities to encounter more intelligible arguments.
    You know if that's your experience Peguy I'm a little jealous, I remember at high school myself and clichs of friends used to debate everything from what heaven could be (some of that was pretty crude adolescent fantasy), athiesm vs. God, literalism and allegory and metaphor in the bible, socialism vs. capitalism, protestantism, Roman Catholicism and bigotry but when I went to further and higher education in a technical college (17-18, prior to university) things got less intelligible and certainly less intellectual, university was even worse.

    What I found was at tech the herd of morons had been thinned, a lot of people where fortune to have similar experiences with this and friendship, socialising, for some chasing tail and sex with girls took precidence over all the rest. I had some cool lengthy debates with a protestant evangelist chick which compelled me to look into Luther and Erasmus and Moores battles but that was the height of it, I'd be lying if I said I didnt fancy the girl in question and then fall a bit in love with her so it wasnt all intelligble argument.

    At university there was way, way too much alcohol, lying, cheating, abjectly horrible sexual experiences being had by pretty sheltered or sleazey members of the student body for anything resembling politics or intelligible debate. The Christian Union was just, as most evangelists in Northern Ireland are, a coalition of protestant prayer and bible circle intent on purging the world of Roman Catholicism. There was one labour club, which had a strange irish republican undercurrent, attracted authoritarian stalinists and people who make the UFC look like a bunch of pansies. It was remarkably short lived, some asshole absconding with the hundreds of pounds in stationary, amenities and membership monies (he got on a fisher boat and never came back).

    Although when I went to another university, in the republic of Ireland, I found a very vibrant student community, with lots of clubs and societies, including two or three successful debating societies. Some eejits had even started a fight club styled upon the film and almost got mired in drugs and prostitution, so one of the student papers reported and the police got called in, all I really knew of them was when two or three bruised up idiots shoved into me on the way to the bus when I was steaming drunk after a meeting with the caving club for some drinks and uninhibited enough by conscience to kick their asses (they where really middle class and didnt really know how to punch or kick). One of the cavers had run off with a girl I'd been chatting up all evening and someone else had gotten into an argument with me about Platos republic so I was pissed off. And the chinese was closed.

    You're going to say I need a blog right?

  9. #9
    Sniffles
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    You know if that's your experience Peguy I'm a little jealous, I remember at high school myself and clichs of friends used to debate everything from what heaven could be (some of that was pretty crude adolescent fantasy), athiesm vs. God, literalism and allegory and metaphor in the bible, socialism vs. capitalism, protestantism, Roman Catholicism and bigotry but when I went to further and higher education in a technical college (17-18, prior to university) things got less intelligible and certainly less intellectual, university was even worse.
    Well if that was your experience in high school, then I'm jealous of you. During that time people were just concerned about what's new on MTV or who's dating who, smoking pot, and all that happy horseshit.

  10. #10
    Let me count the ways Betty Blue's Avatar
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    Great thread, i'll get involved later...just working at mo...
    "We knew he was someone who had a tragic flaw, that's where his greatness came from"

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