August 25, 2006

What is it about some conservatives

And to be fair, some liberals. Perhaps those who study the human mind can help us here. There appear to be personality types who are completely convinced that they are right, end of story. My recent conversation with Les highlighted that. As much as he used the language of conciliation and dialogue, he never really entertained any other idea because he was already right.

The AP notes that Tom DeLay knows the courts erred: "'I'm very disappointed in our justice system. There doesn't seem to be justice,' DeLay told KTRK-TV." Why? Because he knows the law and they are wrong.

I am sometimes a little jealous of these individuals. As strong as my ego is and as fervently as I can make my case, I never believe absolutely that I am right.


Les Puryear said...


I saw a bumper sticker while I was out today and I thought of you. It read: "Frodo failed. Bush got the ring."

I thought you might get a giggle.



Streak said...

Not bad, Les, not bad.

But for the record, liberals don't "giggle." It just isn't done.

ubub said...

I saw one the other day, a magnet ribbon like the ubiquitous
support our troops' ribbons (usotr?), that absolutely made me giggle. It read "Just Pretend Everything is OK." Absolutely it made me giggle. Sorry, Streak. Does this mean I have to turn in my ACLU card?

Leighton said...

After thinking about this issue for a number of months, I think the way I like to phrase my concern is in terms of differences in cultural expectations between "dogmatic" people and me when a disagreement arises.

My tendency is to say (implicitly, via my tone and approach), "Hey, we disagree, let's come together like equals and figure this out." People whose approach bothers me say instead (again, implicitly through manner and tone) "Here, I'm above you, let me explain to you why you're wrong."

I prefer this framing of it to the one that involves certainty vs. lack of certainty. Although strictly speaking I do gladly admit the possibility that I'm wrong on any issue, in practice I'm convinced of this so rarely that I'm not sure it's even relevant to bring up. The real issue is cultural, rather than epistemological: do you talk using an authoritarian or an egalitarian model? That's the real key for me.

Streak said...

Ubub, what can I say. Liberals don't giggle. You do the math.

Leighton, interesting. And I can certainly see where "certainty" lacks usefulness in this discussion. However, is there not an epistemelogical component as well--between those who believe that Truth is elusive and those who think they already know the Truth?

Leighton said...

I want to say that Knowing the Truth (TM) isn't sufficient--there also has to be a component of either holding that Truth to be fundamental to their identity, or else some very different expectations of the consequences of disagreement.

I have a couple of Christian friends with no training in philosophy who don't see the point in making a distinction between being Absolutely Certain and only "certain enough" about things you base your entire life on; they are as certain of their ideas as anyone ever is, but we still have great discussions because they don't think it's a big deal that I disagree with them. (A better way to phrase that from their point of view is that they don't think it's their place to decide what I believe.) For that kind of approach to turn abusive, you have to add some expansionist tendencies--either "I'm the only one who's right and it's important that everyone realize that", or "I must make everyone believe as I do", or both. Just believing isn't enough for problems to arise, I don't think; you also need to be plugged into an authoritarian subculture that wants to Make the World Christian.

I also suspect that in most cases, conversations that fail do so because at least one party turns out to be a jackass who lashes out when (s)he feels threatened, independently of the participants' respective epistemologies--the operative response being to the effect of, "Here's why I don't feel obliged to take you seriously", rather than "Well, since you bring it up, here are the substantive reasons why I disagree with you." When people get even moderately busy, though, doing the latter is usually prohibitively hard, so I try to extend some grace on that front.