The New Clarion

The New Clarion header image 2

Which Side is Telling the Truth?

August 12th, 2009 by Myrhaf · 13 Comments · Uncategorized

Here is one point of view:

But the outpouring of anger continued from those who see healthcare reform as misguided, even destructive to the country’s fabric.

“I think it is very hard because [Democrats] don’t have the message machine the Republicans do,” said George Lakoff, a UC Berkeley linguistics professor who has advised some Democrats on how to sharpen their message. “The Democrats still believe in Enlightenment reason: If you just tell people the truth, they will come to the right conclusion.”

Here is the opposite point of view:

George Orwell is alive and writing new fiction about Congress legislating expanded government control of health care. Or at least it seems that way.

A growing and ominous trend lately is the inversion of language to couch further government intervention in the name of liberating “reform.”

For instance, if you want to eliminate the secret ballot in union-organized elections and force workers to vote in clear sight of their employer and a union enforcer, call it “The Employee Freedom of Choice Act.”

There are many more flagrant examples of doublethink in the debate on health care. And it becomes increasingly difficult to have a sane discussion when too many words are used as the opposite of their proper meaning. It can even confuse journalists.

When the government has made a mess of medical care by increasing its control from 10 percent to 50 percent over the last forty years, driving up costs by shifting them to private insurers, and when state regulators have driven up the cost of the other half of care, mandating coverage that makes private insurance unnecessarily expensive, we are told that “reform” means giving government complete control of whatever is left.
Their “reform,” then, amounts to more of the same poison that has been killing us.

We report, you decide.

13 Comments so far ↓

  • madmax

    “The Democrats still believe in Enlightenment reason: If you just tell people the truth, they will come to the right conclusion.”

    He actually believes this. Leftists are delusional and psychotic; ie total break from reality.

  • Michael Labeit

    “Enlightenment reason” ??? Au contraire Dr. Lakoff, this proves linguist professors make the crappiest of comedians.

  • madmax

    It is scary that leftists think they are the children of the Enlightenment but in one sense I wonder if they are. As I understand the Enlightenment, it tried to defend liberty and Rights by basing them on a benevolent interpretation of God and Christianity. Also, Enlightenment philosophers (most notably Locke and Hume) unleashed philosophic skepticism by failing to properly ground reason. From Locke and Hume to Kant was but a small leap.

    Is this a fair assessment of The Enlightenment? And if it is, can the entire Progressive/Marxist/Egalitarian/Post-Kantian* phenomenon be thought of as the ultimate failure of The Enlightenment? That does seem harsh.

    * I would love for an Objectivist to lay out exactly what the defining elements of the Left are – in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics and even their view of art.

  • Michael Labeit


    I would say that while contemporary liberalism has its epistemological roots in Hume, it was launched truly by Rousseau and the campaign of the radicals within the French Revolution who, unlike the American revolutionaries, advanced the cause of economic equality (while trying allegedly to pursue liberty as well.) “Liberty, Fraternity, Equality” – though I don’t know if that was the specific order.

    Shortly after, Hegel pioneered the idea of the all-powerful State, influencing two stooges named Marx and Engels to publish “The Communist Manifesto” spawning an age of radical collectivists who would splinter into socialists, communists, and left-anarchists and emerge into the 20th century influencing both academics and governments far and wide.

    Notice that Hume and Locke certainly influenced Enlightenment politics, Hume defending free trade and private property while Locke pushing natural rights. Their empiricist epistemology however cannot be considered contributing to “Enlightenment reason.”

    I’ll go out on a limb and claim that the rationalists did more for epistemology than the empiricists. Leibniz, for all his problems, advanced logic and mathematics as did Decartes. Newton fathered modern science but I don’t know if he’s considered a rationalist. But these three did much for Enlightenment epistemology.

    I would say that the “Progressive/Marxist/Egalitarian/Post-Kantian” movement was based upon a fundamental rejection of Enlightenment philosophy – and that postmodernism is the most advanced rejection of the Enlightenment.

    Leonard Peikoff has his mammoth history of philosophy available at ARI’s bookstore but you’ll have to pony up for it.

  • Jim May

    Liberalism is the true heir of the Enlightenment; the Left, on the other hand, is simply the poisonous muck that issued from the Enlightenment’s dying corpse after Kant slipped his knife into its young spine.

    I always take pains to separate the two before dealing with BS like that.

  • madmax


    Thanks. That was helpful, especially the breakdown of how Hegel lead to the socialists, Communists *and* the Left-anarchists (the very same left-anarchists that I imagine morphed into the “anarcho-capitalist” movement with Rothbard.). I really do need to listen to Peikoff’s philosophy course but as you say it is expensive.

  • Matt F.

    An odd thing for Lakoff to say, considering what he has said in his books. Especially “Metaphors We Live By”, “Moral Politics” and “The Political Mind”.

    Sometimes I think it impossible to determine just how much of a cognitive mess so many modern philosophers are. (Although, I guess Lakoff is technically a linguist).

  • madmax


    What were some of the conclusions in Lakoff’s books? Did he explicitly attack the Enlightenment and thus is a hypocrite for now supposedly defending it?

  • Matt F.


    I went out and tried to find some context for Lakoff’s quote, and I just really couldn’t find any. Even the original LA Times piece seems to have just plunked his quote into the middle of the article. Given what Lakoff believes, and what connotations most people have with a phrase like “Enlightenment reason”, doing so was a bit misleading.

    Lakoff couldn’t have meant “The Democrats still believe in Enlightenment reason: If you just tell people the truth, they will come to the right conclusion” as a compliment. Lakoff has spent his entire career denigrating the concepts of objectivity, existential truth and other related concepts. He even spends a couple of chapters in his most influential book, “Metaphors We Live By”, attacking objectivity.

    Lakoff believes that the Enlightenment model of reason is outmoded and, to put is succinctly, just plain wrong. We know better now. We know that man cannot objectively reason about reality. According to Lakoff (and his frequent collaborator, Mark Johnson) man does not operate on rational abstractions reached through perceiving and integrating the facts of reality, but instead operates on a process of unconscious metaphors. Metaphors are a significant (indeed, the most fundamental part) of human cognition. Lakoff and Johnson have been expanding on this idea their whole careers.

    Lakoff’s books that delve into politics also apply this theory. In “The Political Mind” (which, incidentally, is subtitled “Why you can’t understand 21st century American politics with an 18th century brain”) dwells on the notion that the major problem of the left is that their alleged belief in Enlightenment reason and it is actually a handicap. It prevents them from framing political issues in a way that would be advantageous to whatever ridiculous cause they crusading for.

    He pushes Dems to recognize that the mind doesn’t deal in reason, objective facts and proper abstractions and to instead frame the political discussion to emphasize their values, such as “empathy” (which, as luck would have it, he believes we are hardwired to embrace).

    That’s the capsule version.

  • madmax


    Thanks for the summary of Lakoff’s views. Their horrific but what I would expect. There are so many attacks from the academic left on objectivity and reason that its hard to keep up with them all. I’ve read of arguments against Aristotelian logic as obsolete which should be replaced with “maybe logic”; ie “logic” without the law of identity. I’ve read arguments that say that man doesn’t really interact with the world but instead “creates” most of it through neural processes, etc.. And of course, the argument that empathy and egalitarianism are hardwired into us through eons of evolution is ubiquitous on the left. Depressing.

  • Andrew Dalton

    Wouldn’t it be nice if these modern irrationalists — from George Lakoff on the left to David Brooks on the right — would act consistently with their theories of cognition and, well, shut up?

    Fat chance of that, I know.

  • Richard

    Mr. Dalton, what was that about “Shut up”?

    Who’s side are you one here?

    I suggest New Clarion readers check out this PJTV opinion piece on the use of “shut up” by the Left.

    Shut UP.

  • Andrew Dalton

    Richard –

    We are not talking about mere politics here.

    A person who is an irrationalist — that is, one who explicitly denies the efficacy of reason — is attempting to undercut the means of making or understanding any argument, including his own. He’s effectively saying, “The human mind is impotent to understand reality; and that is a fact, and here are the reasons why you should accept this …”

    In other words, a proselytizing irrationalist is either recklessly inconsistent or else arguing in bad faith.