Body and Soul: why the Left and Right talk past each other

The essence of right and left goes something like this: a Democrat might declare that since salt is essential to everyone’s meals, let’s give free salt. The Republican will come back with — oh and I suppose you want to give free pepper too and ketchup and mayo and pickles and why not just throw in some pate de foie gras. No, you lunk — the Democrat responds — I’m just talking about salt.

There’s a certain concrete-centrism (concrete boundedness) on the left, and a certain abstraction-centrism on the right. The Democrat talks of salt, and the Republican talks of the concept “condiment”. The Democrat talks of GE Bonds, the Republican talks of the rule of law. The first talks in terms of discrete limited concerns and the second talks in terms of broad abstractions.

In each case, this leads to lunacy when taken to extremes. Democrats can totally fail at some policy, causing destruction and misery, then turn around and apply the same policy to another concrete, never seeing the similarity in the abstract nature of both attempts. Republicans can tie themselves in ideological knots, trying to integrate irreconcilable abstractions like capitalism and the Sermon on the mount. Abstraction-boundedness leads some to spin wild conspiracy tales that don’t have to be grounded in reality.

Unless Republicans abandon makey-up and learn to communicate with Democrats in terms of materialist non-abstract here-and-now or Democrats learn to integrate their disparate tinkerings and see the false principles and mistaken abstractions that underlie their failures, no communication is possible. I don’t see either adopting the mental habits of the other side any time soon. I don’t honestly know if they could.

The solution, of course, is to integrate both sides — to deal in both concretes and abstract principles, to understand that the moral and the practical are one, and to take concrete actions that are not irrational, but sound in both theory and practice. Neither side is quite up to the task as yet.

Originally posted on Facebook.


One Comment

  1. My opinion is very different. I believe that most Republicans do not talk about principles ENOUGH (not too much).

    For example, the Republicans (by “Republicans” is meant people who actually do a little bit for freedom – not the “compassionate conservative” RINOs, what we used to call “Me To” Republicans, who are no worth discussing) will say the “practical problems with your free salt policy are ….” (and on for pages). And the Democrat will change the details of the policy (or not change them) and, in the end, it will make no difference.

    For it is the PRINCIPLE of the state handing out free food that is wrong.

    “But if people do talk to the left in terms of practicalities (indeed talk about practicalities TOO MUCH and principle TOO LITTLE) how come we are not communicating – that we can not agree on how to solve the problems and…..”

    Because no such easy agreement is possible.

    We are NOT “talking past each other”.

    We are ENEMIES.

    And that is a fundementally different relationship.

    It is not a matter of having “different ideas about getting to the same place”.

    Pro freedom people want to get to one place – and collectivists want to get to a fundementally different place.

    The opposite place.

    “But you are saying there is no peaceful way out of this”.




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