Friday, October 22, 2010

Conflicting Rational Styles

The last post was a stream of conscious post in response to disinformation in Wikipedia. The post introduced a few of my ideas on classical liberalism which I thought I should clarify:

I define classical liberalism as the application of a refined version of classical logic to the question of liberty.

The US Founders had a classical education based on the Trivium (language, logic and rhetoric). The primary logicians were Watts and Arnauld.

The US Founders were the generation after the Great Awakening. They had a strong religious upbringing tinted with a distaste for the excesses of religion.

Just as Aristotle disliked absolutes, the US Founders disliked extremes. Classical thinkers realized that any virtue pushed to an extreme became a vice. The classical tragedy (as defined by Aristotle and perfected by Shakespeare) would have a hero with a tragic flaw. The tragic flaw was a virtue pushed to the point that it became a vice.

To understand the US Founders, one needs to learn to appreciate their rational style.

The basic distinction between classical liberals and modern liberals is one of rational style.

Modern thinkers love to push ideas to extremes. In most cases they do this by projecting the extremes on others. You will notice that a large number of words ending in "ism" appeared in the English language at the beginning of the modern era. An "ism" is an idea pushed to an extreme.

When one pushes an idea to an extreme, the idea often folds back onto itself to create a paradoxes. There's a million of these paradoxes. For example, a democracy could destroy itself by electing in a dictator. Attempts to push rationality to an extreme results in irrationality. A society based on absolute individual self interest is apt to destroy the self-interested individual. Uniting one group in society against another creates division. An ideology of total toleration must tolerate intolerance.

There is a myriad of ideas that self destruct when pushed to an absolute. This is the reflexive paradox.

Modern thinkers love to push ideas to extremes and revel in the paradoxes they create.

The result of this paradoxical style is that modern liberals and classical liberals differ on most issues.

Notice how Obama and crew systematically come to different conclusions from the US Founders? This is the result of paradoxical rational style.

Because of the different rational style, classical and modern liberalism are at sharp odds. Classical liberals believe freedom is freedom and slavery slavery. Modern liberals hold freedom is slavery and slavery freedom.

Modern Conservatism is a reaction to modern liberalism. Classical liberals and Conservatives often agree on issues. However, the two groups often have a different rational style.

Much of modern Conservatism is kneejerk reactionism. If a progressive is for the environment, then the conservative is against it. Many modern conservatives revel in paradox just like the modern liberal.

It is my hope that Conservatives will get off their high horse some day and realize the extent to which it is the rational style and not just partisan issues that is destroying this nation.

Instead of just calling liberals names, I wish Conservatives would realize that the Founders of the United States were liberals, but with a better method of thinking than paradoxical mush that dominates modern discourse.

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