Thu Jul 10th, 2008 at 12:52:29 PM EST
A New Scientist reviewer was less than complimentary about Lakoff's new book The Political Mind. He sent a reply which is worth quoting...
Owen Flanagan's description of my book left much to be desired. The book has two parts: one scientific and one pointing out the political consequences of the science.
There is a received view of the mind, absorbed into popular culture and similar to that of Descartes, that I refer to as 'Enlightenment reason.' It goes like this: reason is conscious, disembodied, dispassionate, literal, (it fits the world directly), logical (it leads from facts to correct conclusions), universal, and serves self-interest.
This is widely taken as defining 'rationality'. I surveyed results from neuroscience and the cognitive sciences that contradict all of these supposed properties.
Reason is mostly unconscious and physical - it uses the brain. It requires emotion and uses frames, metaphors and melodramatic narratives. It also varies depending on world view, and is used at least as much in the service of empathy as self-interest.
This is real reason, how people really think, and it requires a new account of rationality that calls for a New Enlightenment.
Each of these results is crucial for understanding politics. Conservatives, using marketing techniques taken from psychology, have marketed their big ideas effectively. Progressives have failed to build institutions (such as think tanks) to get their big ideas out in public honestly. An awareness of brain mechanisms could help map effective communication.
The Political Mind is an exercise in the democritisation of knowledge. It opens the cognitive politics for all to see. Journalists, policy makers, most economists and even many academics are stuck on the old view of reason, which leads them to fall prey to effective political marketing, mostly from the conservative side.
I haven't read the book yet, but it looks like a must-buy.