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Conceptual Framing as a political tool....

by proximity1 Thu Jun 22nd, 2006 at 02:01:03 PM EST

 How important, how effective is "framing the debate" in political discourse?

 Are Republicans beating up on Democrats in large part because the Democrats are very poor at conceptual framing?

 This diary is to pursue an exchange started with Migeru, whose alleged nerdiness seems to be much to his advantage in this discussion, since he has interesting things to say about "framing".

 More, for fellow nerds, below the fold.


Your reply, Migeru-san ,is great and very interesting. I'd like to pursue this topic since you know more about it than I do--and if you aren't too bored, you could explain some things to me.
"It's not about catchy slogans,..."

But in everything I see from the Dems, their lead-in to this framing always involves the use of, the search for, the essential importance of slogans--always!

"... it's about an insight from cognitive linguistics that our thinking is not primarily logical but metaphorical."

Okay, that's very interesting; It sounds as though there is some implied conflict between these-- true, in your view?

 "If a discussion is not framed in the right conceptual-metaphorical settings, certain things become unspeakable and certain arguments become strained."

  Aren't these "right conceptual-metaphorical settings" also or very often the very elements of what is in dispute, at issue, in question--i.e. disagreed over?

 In other words, why is it that the elements in dispute are or can be essentially different from the core issues of what is under discussion?  Does that question make sense to you?

To take a practical example, there is now hot debate over the need to "frame" the matter of whether to call the conflict in Iraq a "war" (the current standard reference--and) the one supposedly serving Republicans' interests, or, on the other hand, an "occupation", supposedly framing the matter in a way which favors withdrawal--the end sought by the war's or the occupation's opponents.

 The argument is that by acceding to the terms of the Republicans in the use of "war" to describe the conflict, the advantages of, the need for, withdrawal is clouded and thinking about it is precluded.

 Why?  Why is one fashion "logical" and the other "conceptual-metaphorical"?

Why doesn't either term--war or occupation--operate as easily as a logical or a conceptual-metaphorical element? Indeed, why aren't "conceptual-metaphorical" elements of language integral parts of logical mental operations?  

Why draw a distinction there?

Also, why--or how--is it that the same person who cannot recognize something conceptually important when it is "framed" in the terms of a "war" can recognize this when the term "occupation" is substituted for "war"?  Does that seeming anomaly describe your thinking habits?  If not, why should it fairly describe your ideological opponent's?

In other words, the issue seems to me to imply some reasoning deficiencies which occur in one camp but not the other on any given controversy; and that these deficiencies are linked in some important way to what are claimed to be "conceptual framing" terms.  But, why should one definable set of disputants consistently see one thing rather than another while another definable set consistently sees its opposite in the same controversy?

 This goes against my intuitive notions about people and their behavior.  My view has it that in each camp there are essentially the same facts "seen"--no matter the terms in which they are "framed", and that in each "camp", we have people who accept or reject each of the contending opinions--for reasons that are beyond mere "conceptual framing".  That means that they'd behave and think in the same manner whether the framing terms were altered or not.

In looking at things this way, both parties to the dispute are assumed to reason and to behave in what are fairly called "logical" or "rational" manners.  Though they can arrive at opposing conclusions on the same set of agreed facts.  And, further, "conceptual framing" terms do not appreciably change this dynamic nor can they be reliably predicted to have one outcome or another in advance of practical trial and error.

That is, there is no telling necessarily, whether the term "occupation" shall make current "war" supporters more or less inclined to favor earlier withdrawal, as I see it.  It could as well be one way as the other, or, indeed, I assume that there would be some cases of each, and these in unpredictable numbers either way.

Uesd in the context of political debate, I think "framing" is a very weak and highly unpredictable tool for manipulating people's thinking and behavior.

 I accept as true in part that Republicans have had some marked success in getting large parts of the public to accept their political assumptions and priorities; but not, as I see it, because of some superior art in conceptual framing.

More likely because they have led people to accept the bases of their reasoned propositions--not merely the terms in which these are framed, since, even when Democrats shout out other alternative "conceptual-framing terms" --or, in ordinary parlance, this is known as "disagreeing with one's opponent", the Republicans stubbornly remain fixed on their existing "frames" of rhetorical reference.

 Why?

Display:
From other thread ...

Your assumption that most people actually look at the facts, even if they were ever presented with them, seems rather optimistic.  As is your intuition that people - or you - are rational in any useful sense of the world. Applying rational thought to problems is difficult and full of pitfalls. It's not something we're really all that good at or have time to apply to most problems that we need to deal with.

It strikes me that framing is necessary but not sufficient. If you could persuade a large number of people that the war was an occupation you might be in a better position to get them to listen to your arguments why that is a bad thing. If it's called a war that ties into all sorts of pre-existing emotional biases - patriotism, not wanting to lose etc. If it's an occupation then that doesn't tie into those biases. Perhaps.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 22nd, 2006 at 02:02:17 PM EST

 thanks.  You're quicker than I am. Now, to go back and read for a reply....

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge
by proximity1 on Thu Jun 22nd, 2006 at 02:11:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 To be honest, these views I'm defending, while I do hold them (so far), are all stolen from Raymond Boudon's writings on ideology.  

That said, it isn't necessary for the purposes here to have read any of that work by Boudon.  Instead, I'm paraphrasing as much of it as I've been able to make myself think I've understood.

 Yes, you're correct that the view I'm expounding  assumes that people behave or, rather, reason-- for purposes of this discussion about conceptual framing of political issues (which qualify as ideological)--in what are essentially rational ways even if they are not correct in their premises or the conclusions drawn from them, the relationship between these is still rational; it's perhaps faulty on the details of the reasoning but, if, for example, you asked why they believed such-and-such about a controversy, their reply would not be irrational nonsense but something which, in their view, is a reasonably drawn conclusion.

 e.g.  

Q: "Why did you vote for George W. Bush in his second campaign?"

A: "Because he's defending us from enemies determined to attack us."

 We can dispute this line of reasoning; we can disagree with its soundness; but we can't show that it is irrational.  That's an important part of my point--or, of Boudon's.  ;^)

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Thu Jun 22nd, 2006 at 02:24:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm afraid that falls pretty far short of what I'd consider reasoning, which in my world proceeds from a set of assumptions to a result, or at least can build some sort of justification for the conclusion.

I'm rather afraid that the "reasoning" you describe there would go rather like this:

  • Bush says he's defending us from enemies determined to attack us.
  • I'm being told there are nasties out to get me. Look at 9/11. I don't know exactly who they are or how I can protect
  • Bush seems like a nice guy, and he's tough. At least you know where you stand with him.

In fact, if you ask the question after the vote you'll be very hard pressed to find people who will admit to making a mistake. We're very, very good at justifying previous decisions.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 22nd, 2006 at 02:31:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The single most important thing to understand about narrative - of which framing is a subset - is that narrative isn't about facts, it's about morality.

Narrative logic mostly isn't very logical. If you look at fairy tales and creation myths, they don't really explain anything. Instead they use any old cobbled together 'explanation' to pretend to make sense of the world and remove some of the anxiety that ignorance cause. Or to get a moral point across. In reality-based terms most of these narratives are nonsensical. But in terms of narrative logic they work because they're memorable.

And that's what narrative is - it's a way to make a moral point memorable. That's probably how it started in evolutionary terms.

(Morality here doesn't mean any specific morality. I'm using it in the widest sense of making a statement about how the world should be, and especially what people should value and how they should behave.)

So the difference between the 'war' narrative and the 'occupation' narrative is a moral one. With the 'war' narrative, the ethical focus is self defense - which is a very strong and memorable point to be making, and one that's hard to argue against. With the 'occupation' narrative, the ethical focus becomes unjustified aggression. From there it's a much shorter distance to admitting that the war/occupation/fiasco is ethically untenable. But it's also a harder narrative to sell because it relies on greater honesty and self-awareness in an audience.  

A big difference between this round of Dems and Reps is that Reps exploit narrative very cynically. They don't engage with issues honestly and realistically. Instead they use ad-hominem sound bites (flip-flopper, terrorist, coward, socialist...) to sketch out simplistic moral positions, which they personally have no interest in.

This has been hugely successful, because it sinks in under most people's intellectual radar. And people are naturally socialised to assume that there's at least some truth and honesty in what others say. When the other is nakedly dishonest and exploitative, but covers it up with simplistic moral posturing, it's difficult for many people to realise just how cynically they're being abused.

The Dems argue and debate in a more rational and reality-based way. This a strength in dealing with reality effectively, but a weakness politically - because a good proportion of the population can't follow the arguments, or lacks the honesty and self-awareness to take them on board.

So framing matters is just a means to end - which is making a narrative memorable, simple, and appealing at every level of cognitive ability. The challenge for the Dems is how to do this when the other side fights dirty and has no ethical foundation at all.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jun 22nd, 2006 at 05:21:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The meter ran out on me yesterday before I had time to reply to « ThatBritGuy's » (TBG's) comment
on narrative reasoning. If it looked like I was not interested in what he had to say, then dispelling that
 impression is my point here.

I'm not sure I nderstand the working of the concepts he's describing well enough to respond to them but they're interesting as far as I could follow them. If part of the point is that much of our thinking is based on comparisons of our present experience with a set of learned commonly-experienced « narratives » drawn from life experience and which we incorporate very early in our childhoods, then I accept that view. I don't understand though how this relates to the logic or the lack of it in moral narratives--folktales and myths, for example. If I understand the point correctly, these tales are offered and accepted uncritically, as opposed to being subject to rational analysis by which view they might fail to hold our respect.  

And, they illustrate our capacity to reason in that manner.

I gather that this is one of the characteristics of narrative thinking; the narrative and its « logic » comprise an inseparable « whole » and are not necessarily «transferable » to other narratives. Thus, the same protagonist in different narratives presumably could behave in inconsistent or even flatly contradictory ways without eliciting confusion or objections in the audience (the community).

Such a schema certainly does seem to resemble some of what we can observe in political acts and discourse. Maybe the general practice involves applying rational analysis to our political opponents' narratives while accepting our own partisans' narratives as valid uncritically.

Are these really two different ways of reasoning, though? Or are they simply the same manner of reasoning with a double-standard of rational analysis?

In other words, is there anything about « narratives » which is not completely in keeping with logical chains of reasoning? Aren't logical progressions of exposition also examples of narrative exposition? If they aren't what is the essential difference beyond a semantic one?

All logical expressions are also narrative expressions while not all narrative expressions are logical,  correct?

by proximity1 on Sat Jun 24th, 2006 at 10:22:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bashing Democrats seems to be the indoor sport of the moment (I've seen this theme on at least a half dozen leftwing blogs as well as many political journals). The issue is "framed" as: "The Dems (have no ideas/are disorganized/can't get their message out/have no leaders), or some other blame the victim formulation.

The basis of these themes is, of course, coming from the Republicans. In point of fact, the Dems have lots of ideas and many of them are supported by the majority of the population (health care and retirement benefit reforms, for example).

The real problem is that the Dems have no effective media access. The major broadcast outlets are all controlled by big business (NBC by a military contractor), the print media is similarly controlled by conservative or corporatist interests. The conservative "think tanks" are funded by super rich families like Coors and Ahmanson.

Where is the liberal counterpart to the FOX network (Murdoch)? Time and Newsweek sell millions of copies, the most successful liberal journal (The Nation) sells about 80,000 copies. Two radio networks own several thousand local stations between them. The startup (one year old) Air America Radio is on about 80 stations.

The super wealthy and the corporate elite can afford a total media barrage with ground cover provided by their paid lackeys at neo-con think tanks. Just on the misinformation campaign on the estate tax a recent report found that the 18 families behind the effort have spent over $200 million in the past decade. They stand to save $42 billion if the tax is fully repealed.

How much can the Dems afford to spend on "think tanks"? How many major media outlets do they control (zero)? How often do they a fair hearing on the talk shows? Or, for that matter, how often do they even get on the talk shows (about 1/3 of the time compared to 2/3 for the rightwingers)?

Sure using the right "framing" can make getting your message out more easily, but if the message were really in the interests of the general public such a broad propaganda effort would not be needed.

Follow the Money.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Thu Jun 22nd, 2006 at 06:29:39 PM EST
Frankly, I know the Dems stand for universal health care and a balanced budget, but, beyond those two issues, I don't know the party's platform.  Where does the party stand on Iraq?  Is it in favor of pulling out, as Dean, Feingold and (now) Kerry seem to imply?  Or is it in favor of staying, as Lieberman clearly implies?  The biggest problem I had with Kerry was that he played right into Bush's hands during the campaign.  When Republicans tell me, "Kerry was inconsistent," I can't disagree with them, because they're right.  He said that Iraq was the wrong at the wrong place at the wrong time, while also saying that, if he had it to do over again (knowing what we now know), he would have voted the same way.

So, while I agree that the Dems do not possess the propaganda machine necessary to combat the Republicans' version fully, a large part of me believes that the party would be too politically incompetent to, if they did possess it, use it well enough, anyway.

Where do they stand on gay marriage?  Opposition?  Support?  States' rights?  Kerry said he supported states' rights, which rang a tad hollow with me, as I'm sure it did with every other voter, regardless of allegiance.  I'm reminded of the Dixiecrats when I hear that, or of Reagan's speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi.  Nobody believed Kerry on that.  He's a liberal Yankee, and he shouldn't run away from that fact.  That's really the problem.  The Dems are not willing to stand up and speak of their true beliefs.  They not willing to call bigotry out as bigotry.  They're not willing to stand up and say that creationism is bullshit.

The media love "shock and awe" stories.  Whenever Howard Dean says something "controversial" about the Republicans' policies, the press runs with it, and often the polls show that Americans agree, at which point the Republicans are forced to play defense.  It's not a matter of the Dems being unable to gain access to the press.  It's a matter of the Dems watering down everything they say until it means absolutely nothing and bores the hell out of the audience.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Jun 23rd, 2006 at 02:14:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your fallacy is in thinking that there is a Democratic Party, there are Democratic Parties (state and local). In addition there are several national coordinating groups like the DNC, DSCC, DCCC and DLC which work to get people elected. In addition the national party puts out (as does the RNC) a universally ignored party "platform" which is full of noble sounding political pablum.

The Republicans enforce party unity using various techniques such as directing pork to various districts, as well as providing campaign backing (or a lack of it). They even created a policy under Rove called "catch and release" which allows legislators to vote against a Republican position as long as the vote won't affect the outcome of the bill. This way the person can go back to their home district and claim they "think for themselves."

If you want to see what happens when someone crosses them (or threatens to) go back and look at what happened to Arlen Spector during his re-election campaign.

The Dems are a "big tent". They have certain general themes that they support, but they don't punish people who don't support all of them. The extreme case can be seen in the long alliance of the Dixiecrats with the Democrats. An overtly racist subgroup was kept in the party because of basic agreements on foreign policy.

Notice all the hoopla over Lieberman, this is one of the few times that a sitting Dem has been challenged by a grassroots coalition. The fact that his opponent is a product of the blogosphere makes the party leadership even more worried. If local groups can raise money and put forth candidates what is the purpose of the DNC?


Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Jun 23rd, 2006 at 02:39:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The GOP naturally has an easier time mantaining party unity.  It has only two sides: The Unprincipled (on cultural issues) Libertarians and the Christian Right.  And those two sides are, obviously, concerned with completely different issues.  The Dems have to balance no less than four or five groups that are based in different parts of the country: The culturally conservative Midwestern socialists, the culturally-liberal, economically-moderate Northeast, and so on.  A large part of the problem is that our groups are often in conflict with one another.

The grassroots coalition that is challenging Lieberman has, I guarantee, the support of the pro-grassroots DNC.  It's the DSCC, the DCCC and the DLC that are nervous, especially the last of these, because Lieberman has been left as the only openly-pro-DLC Democrat.  (Even Hillary is distancing herself a bit from that crowd.)  I promise you that there is no love lost between Dean and Lieberman, because Lieberman was the asshole who helped to organize the slime-job on Dean during the '04 primaries.  The DNC is run by old Dean for America staffers -- the very people who are responsible for the explosion of grassroots organization we've seen since 2002/2003.

The GOP also has an easier time, because people like Arlen Spector are few and far between, whereas the Dems are, as I implied above, quite diverse in their interests.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Jun 23rd, 2006 at 03:30:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See also:
* Venn Politics by Devilstower, March 15 2006
where he describes the non-religious part of the Republicans as the "lower taxes" group, not as "libertarian". The Republicans are an authoritarian, natinal-security-state party, and right-wing libertarians are not entirely comfortable within it. It's a pity that US right wing libertarians sound like looneys, because I think there is merit in the basic position. They just can't seem to articulate it in a way that makes sense.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 23rd, 2006 at 05:07:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure they can: "Leave Me Alone."  That sums up right-libertarianism quite well.

You're right about the non-religious Reps being a low-tax group rather than a libertarian one.  It's the CNBC Wing of the GOP, although, to be fair to CNBC, Jim Cramer has been taking quite a few swipes at Bush and the GOP lately.  I don't think that wing of the party is particularly authoritarian, but some of them are a bit too obsessed with DoD spending on things like Star Wars (which apparently now works, and has worked for quite a while, most of the time with short-range missiles, according to CNN; nobody tells me anything).

The principled libertarians in America are all buried in the academic world.  My uncle is among them, although he's now retired.  (Fucking American academics and their wonderful retirement packages.)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Jun 24th, 2006 at 03:06:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Conceptual framing" is a term popularized by George Lakoff, a cognitive linguist at Berkeley. I think it is important to understand where Lakoff comes from. I have mentioned Lakoff before: (December 14, December 17, March 20, March 30, March 31 and again, April 18, and today's comment which motivated your diary).

George Lakoff started out studying metaphor, the figure of speech, from a cognitive point of view. His original work in this field is the book metaphors we live by. To quote wikipedia:

The essential thrust of Lakoff's work has been the argument that metaphors are primarily a conceptual construction, and indeed are central to the development of thought. He says "Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature." Non-metaphorical thought is for Lakoff only possible when we talk about purely physical reality.
His second book on the topic of metaphorical thought has the suggestive title Women, fire and dangerous things. He then went on to argue that philosophical concepts are layer upon layer of metaphors ultimately grounded on rather basic bodily experience (fundamentally motor and sensorial) in Philosophy in the flesh. And finally he dared to take on mathematics itself and argue (convincingly in my opinion, though I think most mathematical reviewers misunderstand him) that mathematical concepts are also physical metaphors, in Where Mathematics Comes From.

In Lakoff's theory of mathematical thought we have the apparent contradiction you highlight between logical and metaphorical thought. There is no contradiction. What happens is this: postulates (in the target domain f the metaphor) are based on the properties of the source domain of the metaphor, and then logic can be applied to the postulates. In other words, it's not that our thought is irrational, but reason (or logic) is applied on a metaphorical substrate. This is the way I understand what Lakoff was trying to say in his book Moral Politics [written before Philosophy in the flesh], where he analysed political discourse in terms of conceptual metaphors and introduced the ideas of framing that have become so familiar (if maybe distorted) in Americam meta-political debate.

What I find most appealing about Lakoff's cognitive-linguistic theory of mathematical thought is that he actually provides an explanation for Kant's a priori forms of internal sensitivity. Applying the same ideas to how we reason about the physical world, one should be able to understand Kant's a priori forms of external sensitivity also as bodily-grounded conceptual metaphors underpinning our physical reasoning. In some sense, they are not a priori but result from our cognitive develpment during infancy. But they are also a priori in that they are the conceptuel metaphors that we develop earliest, and which underlie all our language and reasoning.

More tomorrow.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 22nd, 2006 at 06:38:10 PM EST
 Thanks for your reply.  All the replies are interesting, yours, with its details on Lakoff's theories, is particularly so.

 I can see I'm going to have to read his work.

 One correction where you have me wrong, though:

 "In Lakoff's theory of mathematical thought we have the apparent contradiction you highlight between logical and metaphorical thought. There is no contradiction.

 My point was also, indeed, that I saw not only no contradiction, but, even more, no fundamental distinction either, between what are termed "logical" and "metaphorical" thought.  In stating this, I recognize that I'm being terribly presumptuous to put what is my sheer speculative hunches--which lack even the most meagre grounding in the literature on this topic--up against your explanation of Lakoff, of whom I've not read a word.  But, while the ideas you've presented are fascinating, I don't yet see them as convincing-- though, of course, that's to be expected since you have only had time to present the barest of outlines, and you've done that very clearly.

It seems to me that Lakoff may be largely correct in his analysis as you've explained it of human reasoning processes as metaphorical and based on corporal experiences.  

I'd even say that in the following,

   "In other words, it's not that our thought is irrational, but reason (or logic) is applied on a metaphorical substrate. ..."

    I don't see anything to quarrel with.  Much of what you've presented so far can be readily adopted without any apparent inconsistencies with what I think I understand about Boudon's (and his predecessors who he supports)--or even with the points I'm trying to defend.

I think that people do practice "conceptual framing".  But I do not see it as a very useful practical tool of political debate and discourse or a means which lends itself to manipulating mass publics' opinion in any fashion which departs from "traditional standard views" of political discourse.  Or, in other words, so far I see nothing revolutionary in this or inconsistent with the views I've presented in the diary part above.  I think that while "conceptual framing" occurs, it neither facilitates nor relieves any otherwise necessary components of rational political discourse nor lends any particular advantage to some factions as opposed to others who try to make what might be called "conscious use" of its unconscious effects on others.  Another way to state this is to argue that I believe there is no substitute for practicing careful, critical reasoning in the effort to both understand others and to attempt to persuade them.

My major objection to the way in which Lakoff's ideas are being used is that they are presented as a sort of "short-cut" to the more laborious and less certain process of deliberative, argued persuasion.  That is not Lakoff's fault, of course.  But my point here is not about his lack of responsibility for others' misuse of his work, it's about _others' arguable misuse of his work.

This brings me to the other point that I think is worth making.  Previously, you expressed doubts about the validity of the "war" versus "occupation" controvesy as an example of the workings of Lakoff's theories.

 However, this misses the point.  I presented that for an example not because of any particular validity it might have as far as Lakoff's views are concerned but, rather, because it is a current example of people's efforts to apply their understanding of Lakoff's "framing" principles.

  Therefore, it's part of my point in saying that this example, whether faithful to Lakoff or not, is how the "framing" principle is in fact being urged, argued over and "_applied" in a sense; and that, if this application is faulty, then my point that it's applied use is questionable at best is a valid one.

 It isn't enough to simply object that, "People ought not to misstate, misunderstand and misapply Lakoff's theories"--of course they oughtn't.  But if they do, and if they do so consistently, then these principles are difficult for non-experts to understand and to apply to practical political affairs of the day.

I'm very interested in what your coming post(s) will present.

 thanks!

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Fri Jun 23rd, 2006 at 01:07:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have chanced my mind about the "war vs. occupation" debate, but I don't have time to write it now in detail. Maybe later. For a taster: the attitude of the "war" camp towards US presence in Iraq [and its consequences] stems from the underlying metaphor "Iraq as battleground". What do you think is the underlying metaphor of the "occupation" camp? The template is "Iraq AS <blank>".

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 23rd, 2006 at 01:24:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One big West Bank.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Fri Jun 23rd, 2006 at 06:07:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Picture a café on the banks of the Seine

Migeru If a discussion is not framed in the right conceptual-metaphorical settings, certain things become unspeakable and certain arguments become strained.

proximity1 Aren't these "right conceptual-metaphorical settings" also or very often the very elements of what is in dispute, at issue, in question--i.e. disagreed over?
In other words, why is it that the elements in dispute are or can be essentially different from the core issues of what is under discussion?  Does that question make sense to you?

Migeru No, I think often what happens is that two people approach a conversation about a particular topic not just from two different points of view [essential if you're going to have a discussion], but from two different conceptual frames [which is actually disruptive of communication]. This leads to a lot of misunderstandings, and "talking past each other". It's almost as if people arguing from different conceptual frames are speaking different languages. Like I said, certain things become unspeakable and certain arguments become strained. So, people end up throwing their hands up and waying "hold on here, look at it this way" and proceed to recasting the situation in their preferred conceptual frame, where what they are trying to say can be dispatched in one sentence, or one word. In this way, the conversation may derive to a discussion of the merits of the two conceptual frames.

Maybe that is what's going on with discussions os US policy in Iraq.

Enter Simplicius, a Republican, and Salviatius, a Democrat, strolling along the river bank

Simplicius I think we should <policy option>

Salviatius Why?

Simplicius Since clearly <brief statement of frame>, and <short argument>, it follows that <restate policy option>.

Salviatius But, but, <long-winded, strained argument for alternative policy option>.

Simplicius Sorry, I don't follow.

Salviatius Hold on, look at it this way: <brief statement of alternative frame>. It is clear that <alternative policy option>.

Simplicius But can't you see that <long-winded argument for original policy option>?

Simplicius looks confused as he cannot understand how his original common-sense-conservative argument has turned into a rhetorical quagmire

Salviatius <easily pokes holes in the new argument>

Simplicius gathers his wits and decides to argue on the frame first

Simplicius But surely it makes more sense to look at it this way: <restatement of original frame>...

exeunt



A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 24th, 2006 at 05:18:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]

  which am I? Simplicius?  Is that a good thing?

  ;^)

by proximity1 on Sat Jun 24th, 2006 at 10:25:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, no, while we're discussing this stuff, Simplicius and Salviatius happen to stroll by and we overhear their conversation which just happens to illustrate my point. Sounds like Deus es machina? Well... that's because it is.

And Simplicius is a Republican. Are you a Republican?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 24th, 2006 at 10:31:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]

 Not yet, No!
by proximity1 on Sat Jun 24th, 2006 at 10:58:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 Thank yo: with your explanation, I see the point you want to make with the dialogue of Sal and Sim.

  Still, for me, the conceptual frame is always there to be analysed, discussed, critiqued, no less than and no differently than any of the elements "within" it.

 It's part of the discourse to recognise and point out these frames and then to discuss the validity of each contending contending conceptual frame as they relate to a discussion.  

The fact that you, I, Lakoff and others can "deconstruct" such stuff shows that these aspects, while sometimes escaping the view of all of us and some of us all of the time, don't escape the view of all of us all of the time--as Lincoln once pointed out.


No, I think often what happens is that two people approach a conversation about a particular topic not just from two different points of view [essential if you're going to have a discussion], but from two different conceptual frames [which is actually disruptive of communication].

 I think one would be very hard-pressed to explain the essential difference between "two different points of view" and "two different conceptual frames" as [I think] we are using these terms.

 I'm delighted to patiently listen to you present this.  I don't think I could do it.  

Alternatively, to save you hours of effort, if you indicate the chapters in Lakoff's writings, I'll traipse to the library and look them up and read them.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Sun Jun 25th, 2006 at 09:20:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Alternatively, to save you hours of effort, if you indicate the chapters in Lakoff's writings, I'll traipse to the library and look them up and read them.

Hold it there!

I have read Where Mathematics Comes From, the interview on Philosophy in the Flesh I link above, and I have talked to the man in person after attending a lecture of his (and a panel discussion). I have also been able to insert press items and wikipedia articles in my view of what he says.

I suggest you read philosophy in the flesh and interpret it for me ;-)

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 25th, 2006 at 10:10:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lakoff is an example, par really good, of what the US higher educational systems churns out.  Skilled and knowledgable about one extremely narrow field, e.g., sexual habits of tree shews, and completely ignorant of anything and everything outside that extreme and narrow field of specialization.

Lakoff's main gig was the 'discovery' that, to communicate when you're talking about something, you have to restrict the discussion to what you are talking about.  Well, no shit, Sherlock.  AND - ready for a BIG(!) SURPRISE?????? -  for a discussion to take place you have to agree about what you are discussing.  (Gadzooks!)

More formally, without pre-agreement and pre-knowledge, on and of, fundamental semiotics, syntax, and semantics no communication happens.  This has been known since - oh - about 200 BCE but since Lakoff knew jackshit about the Stoics and Epicureans he didn't know this was a tiresome commonplace of Ancient Philosophy.  

Fortunately, for Professor Lakoff, most of his readers knew jackshit about Ancient Philosophy, epistemology, the history of Logics, or - frankly - anything outside of philology so an entire field of cognitive linguistics was spawned whose members busily go about their business quoting one another perfectly uncontaminated by anyone, anything, or any evidence outside the Frame of Cognitive linguini.

I meant linguistics.  Of course.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jun 25th, 2006 at 11:10:08 AM EST
You're wrong, Lakoff's work is grounded on empirical studies of developmental psychology, among other things.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 25th, 2006 at 11:20:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 Okay, well, my question now is where does this discussion go from here?

  Are you interested in presenting more of Lakoff's views here? (no problem if not, just want to know.)

 Did  I understand you correctly that your reading of his work so far is what you mentioned above:


  " I have read Where Mathematics Comes From, the interview on Philosophy in the Flesh I link above, and I have talked to the man in person after attending a lecture of his (and a panel discussion). I have also been able to insert press items and wikipedia articles in my view of what he says."

 but not Metaphors We Live By; Philosophy in the Flesh; Moral Politics; Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind; or Don't Think of an Elephant  ?

 Without reading more, I'm not at all sure whether or how much I agree or disagree with Lakoff's views; it seems to me, though, based on what I've seen so far, that there is some of both-- agreement and disagreement.

 I still suspect that "conceptual framing" is being abused and over-estimated by some, or many, people interested in "framing the political debate" as a device to help counter the Republican juggernaut and advance--I'm not really sure what "they" want to advance, but it's clear that whatever it is, they believe it must be properly framed and that this is so far lacking.

 Let me know if there is more life in this thread from your point of view.

 PS: I found and got a (english-- only two of his works are in french-- though this is pehaps one of those works which loses too much in translation and really must be read in the original.) copy of Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind and I'll be reading it along with thirteen or fourteen other readin' thangs that compete for my waking hours.  Getting and reading a copy of Philosophy in the Flesh shall take longer, and then, interpreting it to you, longer still.

 ;^)

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon Jun 26th, 2006 at 10:30:03 AM EST
Are you satisfied (if only momentarily) that my original comment has been sufficiently fleshed out? I was originally planning on writing a comment concentrating on what a conceptual metaphor ("A as B") is, but I would need to get ahold of Where Mathematics Comes From for precise quotations. Because of that, I think a proper book review would be in order, as a diary.

Regarding my partial reading of his writings, Where Mathematics Comes From being from 2000 and directed to a non-specialist audience, I think it can be assumed to give a good (if brief) overview of the general theory as it is now. It definitely gave that impression to me. So while someone with a primary background in linguistics, anthropology or philosophy might get more out of the earlier works, I think I'm ok... I do want to read Philosophy in the Flesh for whatever his take is on epistemology, but I don't feel motivated to read Moral Politics, for instance.

There are various reasons why Lakoff's ideas appeal to me. I've described myself as a Kantian, and I have given above my view of how Lakoff reinforces Kantian epistemology (though, like I say in the previous paragraph, he might well disagree with me, I don't know!). Also, cognitive science is quickly developing into a fairly empirical field, and I just like seeign what Lakoff does with it. Finally, I take a materialistic approach to consciousness, and Lakoff not only embodies the mind, but also gives his theory of conceptual metaphors an evolutionary slant which I find very appealing.

It's possible that nothing he says is new in the sense that some philosopher sometime, somewhere may have said it before, but to make an analogy, the difference between the Atomism of Democritus and that of Dalton (and even more that of today) is that Democritus had no reason outside his own mind to think the way he did, while Dalton had indirect evidence from stoichiometry, and we have electron microscopes. So I do believe that there is some progress in these more intangible issues such as consciousness, and that what 300 years ago would have been a serendipitous correct statement can be today substantiated more solidly.

But I digress.

P.S. I think I would need two write at least a book review diary, like I said above, rather than continuing "this here discussion". But I have all kinds of other esoteric diary ideas, so it will have to wait for a while.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 26th, 2006 at 07:23:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 "Are you satisfied (if only momentarily) that my original comment has been sufficiently fleshed out? "

 No, BUT, despite that, I'm more than happy to let this simmer while we both tie up other loose ends of chores.

 I have Boudon's L'idéologie and L'art de se persuader, and Jennar's Europe, la trahison des élites and a recently revised re-issue of a book by George Balandier, and a Taguief work, Quelle démocratie voulons-nous? and other stuff to keep me busy for a while.

  I want to thank you for prompting me to look into Lakoff's writing because what with the bizarre ideas floating around the blogosphere about "conceptual framing" attributed to him, I might have not given him a fair look for another few years--and with Women, Fire and Other Dangerous Things, I'm already twenty yeas behind the times.

  I've read some of the introduction to this work and it's really quite fascinating;  I think that Lakoff has a lot of interesting things to say--unforunately, they lend themselves to gross distortions and abuse by others.  Where he's mistaken, I suspect that they're very good and useful mistakes.

  As I read, I intend to keep a file of notes on the computer so that I have things already noted for references.

  I agree with you that his Where Mathematics Comes From should be a decent basis from which to speak about his views.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 08:45:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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