Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, Second Edition

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University of Chicago Press, 2002 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 471 pages
In this classic text, the first full-scale application of cognitive science to politics, George Lakoff analyzes the unconscious and rhetorical worldviews of liberals and conservatives, discovering radically different but remarkably consistent conceptions of morality on both the left and right. For this new edition, Lakoff adds a preface and an afterword extending his observations to major ideological conflicts since the book's original publication, from the impeachment of Bill Clinton to the 2000 presidential election and its aftermath.
 

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I thought this was a very interesting book. Lakoff's methodology is very compelling, since I should hope that cognitive science has something to say about how people think about moral issues. His argument seems pretty sound. People think about morality metaphorically (based on findings from cognitive science). Their metaphors for morality are related to groups of metaphors involving different parenting styles which are given different moral priority (described extensively in much of the book). Two ways of thinking about how families should be raised give rise to two separate sets of morals. These sets of morals, when applied to society (society considered as a family) give rise to precisely the conservative and liberal political agendas. (These agendas are in many cases non-intuitive, such as why a pro-life stance correlates with support for the death penalty and opposition to programs for young mothers which save babies). I don't like when he talks about his "nonpartisan" reasons for liberalism. He cites cognitive studies that show that strict parenting is harmful and nurturant parenting is good. In my mind, this shouldn't be relevant since its not important that the moral metaphor be empirically verified as applied to child rearing; in fact it's important that this metaphor be verified as applied to politics. My understanding is that metaphors are *approximately* how the world works - not exactly.  

Contents

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About the author (2002)

George Lakoff is a professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the author of Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things and co-author of Metaphors We Live By and More than Cool Reason, all published by the University of Chicago Press-as well as co-author of Philosophy in the Flesh and Where Mathematics Comes From.

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