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In this classic text, the first full-scale application of cognitive science to politics, George Lakoff analyzes the unconscious and rhetorical worldviews of liberals and conservatives, discovering radically different but remarkably consistent conceptions of morality on both the left and right. For this new edition, Lakoff adds a preface and an afterword extending his obser In this classic text, the first full-scale application of cognitive science to politics, George Lakoff analyzes the unconscious and rhetorical worldviews of liberals and conservatives, discovering radically different but remarkably consistent conceptions of morality on both the left and right. For this new edition, Lakoff adds a preface and an afterword extending his observations to major ideological conflicts since the book's original publication, from the impeachment of Bill Clinton to the 2000 presidential election and its aftermath.


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In this classic text, the first full-scale application of cognitive science to politics, George Lakoff analyzes the unconscious and rhetorical worldviews of liberals and conservatives, discovering radically different but remarkably consistent conceptions of morality on both the left and right. For this new edition, Lakoff adds a preface and an afterword extending his obser In this classic text, the first full-scale application of cognitive science to politics, George Lakoff analyzes the unconscious and rhetorical worldviews of liberals and conservatives, discovering radically different but remarkably consistent conceptions of morality on both the left and right. For this new edition, Lakoff adds a preface and an afterword extending his observations to major ideological conflicts since the book's original publication, from the impeachment of Bill Clinton to the 2000 presidential election and its aftermath.

30 review for Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cooper Cooper

    This book might change how you think about American politics. A worldclass cognitive linguist from the University of California-Berkeley, Professor George Lakoff analyzes liberal and conservative ideology in terms of his specialty—metaphor. In America, he insists, politics is all about morality, and American morality is grounded in the metaphor of the family: conservatives champion a Strict Father morality and liberals a Nurturant Parent morality. In Strict Father morality “father knows best”: This book might change how you think about American politics. A worldclass cognitive linguist from the University of California-Berkeley, Professor George Lakoff analyzes liberal and conservative ideology in terms of his specialty—metaphor. In America, he insists, politics is all about morality, and American morality is grounded in the metaphor of the family: conservatives champion a Strict Father morality and liberals a Nurturant Parent morality. In Strict Father morality “father knows best”: the father rules and must be obeyed. The father’s authority derives from the Moral Order, a God-given hierarchy in which man dominates nature and exploits it for his own use, men dominate women and parents dominate children. With authority goes responsibility: to provide for, to protect against external evils, and to teach the self-discipline that alone will yield the moral strength for combating internal evils (temptations), and (in the case of children) the self-reliance needed for success in life. Among other things, this translates into a black-and-white politics with little middle ground, and policies that favor the successful and militate against life’s “losers” (the unself-reliant). This brief description scarcely touches the surface of a metaphor that Lakoff treats at great depth, and which makes sense of many apparent inconsistencies in conservative politics—for example, being against abortion but in favor of the death penalty. In fact, Lakoff devotes many chapters to demonstrating the moral consistency of apparently inconsistent political views of both conservatives and liberals. The Nurturant Parent morality of the liberals is based on moral nurturance. This includes protection as a prerequisite but is primarily based on empathy: being able to walk in other peoples’ shoes, see what they see and feel what they feel (remember Bill Clinton’s “I feel your pain.”). Nurturant Parent morality emphasizes social ties, community, interdependence (“We’re all in this together”), self-development, happiness, fairness. Nurturant Parent moral authority stems not from the “Moral Order,” but from respect earned through nurturing and setting a good example. For instance, when enforcing standards, the Nurturant Parent shows respect for the child by patiently explaining the rules and reasons and by encouraging the child to ask questions and state her views. Politically, these beliefs translate into policies that respect the voices of all Americans, and that seek to “level the playing field” so every American has a genuine (not merely rhetorical) opportunity to pursue his own version of the American Dream. These are ideal models; Lakoff discusses many variations on the “central metaphors.” He describes both normal and perverse versions, the latter including abuse by strict fathers and over-indulgence by nurturant parents. Lakoff is a liberal. In the interest of analytical rigor he attempts to suppress this personal predilection in the first portion (about four-fifths) of the book, then explains why, from a meta view (rising above the Strict Father and Nurturant Parent metaphors), the Nurturant model makes more sense and is more effective in light of what is now known about child-rearing and how the human mind works. Scientifically, according to Lakoff, the Strict Father model is not only out-of-date but counterproductive. The first edition of this book appeared in 1996. The second edition (2002) includes an afterword that discusses, in terms of the Family Metaphors, the Clinton impeachment and the 2000 election. I think it’s fair to say that if Al Gore and his advisers had read and taken to heart the first edition of this book, George W. Bush would never have made it into the White House. Conservatives, on the other hand, have (as Lakoff says) for some time intuitively understood the power of these metaphors and have developed coherent policies around them; liberals, including John Kerry, suffered incoherence for not doing so. I have little doubt that the GOP’s Frank Luntz (and probably Rove and Mehlman) read the first edition of this book with great interest. I think Lakoff got quite a bit of attention from the Obama campaign. A disturbing implication of this book: since politics is based on morality, on many issues compromise may be well nigh impossible. This is especially true for conservatives, for whom in some cases any yielding is considered immoral—giving in to evil. According to Lakoff, at core there’s really no such thing as a “moderate”: at core you’re either a liberal or a conservative—you favor either Nurturant Parent morality or Strict Father morality. Does this mean that “moderates” and “independents” should quit waffling and choose sides once and for all? Read this book. It will teach you to x-ray right through the partisan bickering and obfuscation and propaganda to the heart of American politics.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Webb

    I read this book for a logic class my sophomore year of college. Following is the paper I wrote in hopes of defusing Lakoff's argument. In Moral Politics, George Lakoff gives us two models for running a family—the strict father and the nurturant parent. He then attempts to show that these are also the conservative and liberal models for government, and explains why the nurturant parent/liberal government model is superior to its counterpart. This paper will attempt to show that his underlying su I read this book for a logic class my sophomore year of college. Following is the paper I wrote in hopes of defusing Lakoff's argument. In Moral Politics, George Lakoff gives us two models for running a family—the strict father and the nurturant parent. He then attempts to show that these are also the conservative and liberal models for government, and explains why the nurturant parent/liberal government model is superior to its counterpart. This paper will attempt to show that his underlying suppositions are false and that the conservative model of government is in fact superior to the liberal model. After more than five sections and three hundred pages of reiterating the difference between the two family models, and how these models fit various political issues, Lakoff finally makes an argument for a liberal form of government in pages 335-388. However, almost half of this argument is a chapter entitled “Raising Real Children” in which he shows that that the nurturant parent model is the superior one for raising a family. He may very well be correct in this, but the time he spends discussing family reveals a major weakness in his argument regarding government. On page 258, Lakoff uses the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden in a metaphorical sense—it represents being sheltered in infancy, while the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil represents leaving home and reaching independence. Whether his interpretation of the book of Genesis is correct is irrelevant. However, he is absolutely correct in saying that in childhood we are protected and cared for by our family, and that in later life we reach a state of more freedom, but also responsibility. This brings to light a major problem in his “family” models of government—what works in a home to raise children may not necessarily work on the vast scale of government. To begin with, children and adults are very different. Parents should be nurturant and forgiving and tolerant to their children; their children are young, innocent, naïve, and need a lot of help, love, and instruction. But later in life, when the children reach adulthood, they are no longer able to have their parents fill all their needs. Should they therefore go to the government as a kind of “new parent” when their biological or adoptive parents have passed away or are no longer able to provide for them? Of course it seems apparent that eventually adults must learn responsibility. That is not to say that the government should not help people who are truly in need and have no means of livelihood, but the role of the government is to protect its citizens and give them opportunity, helping when it is necessary. But, its role should not be that of a “parent.” Another challenge to Lakoff’s argument lies in the “dependence” problem. That is, if the government takes the role of a loving parent, people will adapt and learn that they do not have to work to survive. Though he brings up the problem as a complaint from conservatives, no where do I see a response to it—he instead dismisses it as being unimportant next to the virtue of kindness. The problem with a government whose main aim is to be kind is the question: kind to whom? It may be kind to give money to the poor, but if that means raising taxes, it is also taking money from someone who has earned it. Whatever laws are passed, some parties will benefit and others will suffer. Of course there must be compromise, and the government must take taxes and help those who are unable to provide for themselves and their families, but Lakoff almost seems to imply a “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” manner of rhetoric. Lakoff creates yet another contradiction on page 254 when he says, regarding the conservative and liberal interpretations of the Bible “if you have a Strict Father interpretation, you need not use the Nation as a Family metaphor to project Strict Father morality onto the public domain.” If this is true, it defuses the very basis of his argument; isn’t the point of the book that morality and religion are the backbone of American politics and government? That it is truly impossible to separate morality, religion, and politics into separate spheres? Why is the conservative model of government superior to the liberal model? Referring back to Lakoff’s interpretation of the Genesis story, and his demonstration that nurturance is the best policy for raising children, the answer can be put very simply: the government concerns adults. It is true that there is no one way to be a parent; if there was, surely everyone would know of this wonder method and practice it. As it is, there are thousands of books describing as many methods for raising children— empathy, reward systems, physical discipline, non-physical discipline, etc. With that said, in the chapter “Raising Real Children,” which is essentially the first half of Lakoff’s real argument, he sets forth a very solid argument for the nurturant parent model of child rearing. But generally, children are reared by their parents (or close relatives, or step-parents, or adoptive parents). And, also generally, the only authority to which an adult ultimately answers (other than his conscience and his God) is the government. And so, the family should be organized in a manner conducive to the rearing of children, and the government should be organized in a manner conducive to the regulation of the activities of adults. Lakoff presents many issues in Moral Politics, and they are too many to cover here. But perhaps explanation of a few key issues will serve to demonstrate why a government should behave differently than a family. For example, he accuses conservatives of spending too much time and effort on military defense. In a family following the Strict Father model, this translates to the father’s number one priority being the physical defense of his family, at the cost of helping them in other ways. Now, a suburban father stockpiling guns and other home defense mechanisms might be damaging to a child’s upbringing, and would certainly seem somewhat paranoid, or at least eccentric. But a major reason it would seem strange is that suburban neighborhoods are generally safe places. There are better ways to be a parent than simply waiting to shoot someone who threatens your child. But when applied to government, spending on defense makes much more sense. After all, there are always threats to the country, recently during the Cold War, and now because of the threat of terrorism. To acknowledge a very real danger is not paranoid; we know very well that a large part of the world would like to see our country destroyed. True, our military seems so huge and powerful that it could probably scare off an attack by a coalition of five or ten other countries’ militaries without a fight… but isn’t that what we want? If the government failed to protect the country from physical danger from communists, terrorists, or other parties who would seek to destroy the country, all other freedoms and government benefits—from freedom of business, to welfare, to the most basic freedoms of speech and expression—would be meaningless. Thus, it makes perfect sense for a government’s major priority to be the physical defense of its citizens, rather than their nurturance. Another major issue of the book is that of government aid to the poor. Of course, both sides agree that someone incapable of providing for himself (the handicapped, the recently laid off, etc.) should be given some help by the government. But for how long? Should the government give money to everyone who wants it, or only to those who are in deepest need? Lakoff says that children need to be helped, and by continuous helping they can be trained to succeed. This is very true. Nonetheless, when the issue concerns adults, and not children, the conservative views on limited welfare fit much better than the liberal views. That is to say, children are inexperienced and need constant help and reinforcement. Adults, on the other hand, are usually physically and mentally capable of helping themselves. The conservative, and much hated, “Welfare to Work” act passed during Clinton’s administration is a good example—is a few years of welfare insufficient time for a capable adult to get back on his feet after a job loss or other crisis? In short, Lakoff’s argument is flawed on a very basic level—the models of family he discusses are a good way to discover they most effective ways of raising children, but not regulation of adult activities, simply because children and adults are very different and should be treated as such. A liberal, nurturant, method of raising children is probably preferable to a strict, conservative method. But, when the child grows up, he will be ready to live as an adult under a government which treats him accordingly.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Clif

    George Lakoff is out to explain the political behavior of Americans For the first third of this book, I wearily turned the pages as he built the foundation upon which he would defend his theory that it is our moral worldview that determines our political view, not the objective facts upon which arguments for or against some policy might be made. In several cases he shows conclusively how the logical conclusions on an issue have little to do with how policy on the issue is decided. Gut feelings co George Lakoff is out to explain the political behavior of Americans For the first third of this book, I wearily turned the pages as he built the foundation upon which he would defend his theory that it is our moral worldview that determines our political view, not the objective facts upon which arguments for or against some policy might be made. In several cases he shows conclusively how the logical conclusions on an issue have little to do with how policy on the issue is decided. Gut feelings count for far more than logic. Lakoff is looking for the basis of the remark we have all made that "it just doesn't seem right to me" or "that's just plain wrong!" when discussing politics. What, exactly, makes something wrong? Where do these feelings that drive our votes come from? But the author has to be forgiven the dry and boring first third of the book because he must present the basis for the writing that follows if it is to hold together logically and not simply be his unsupported opinion. This is the only reason I don't give the book five stars - because I think many readers might give up reading before they get to the very persuasive last two thirds that starts with the chapter called "The Hard Issues". Feel free to skip to there, you can go back to it if you are as intrigued as I was. So what's his argument? He says we don't view issues on the actual practical merits of experiential reality, but from the metaphors that we use to make sense of reality; our worldview. The common political metaphor that holds sway is that of the nation as family. This metaphor portrays the country as a large family within which morality exists, may be flouted and must be supported. How citizens should be treated by the government and the function of government are seen through two different ways of looking at the nation as family. Underlying conservative thought, Lakoff identifies what he calls the "Strict Father" metaphor. In this model, being upright and forceful, setting a strict standard for behavior, competition as an unqualified good, punishment for misbehavior/reward for good behavior and "tough love" are thought to mold the morals of the citizenry as it is claimed to do for the children in a family headed by a strict father. Just as a child under this paradigm is spanked, so should citizens who do wrong be punished, because retribution is right. Underlying liberal thought, Lakoff presents the "Nurturant Parent" metaphor of the nation as family. In this worldview the cultivation of the person is the priority. A child is not punished physically, but shown by example and explanation with reasoning when bad behavior occurs. The government exists not simply to protect the citizenry but to aid it in full realization through fair treatment. It is cultivation and fairness not retribution that are key. Calmly and clearly, Lakoff shows how these two worldviews tie together all the stands on different issues such as abortion, the environment, welfare, the military, feminism and more, that define conservatism and liberalism. Though Lakoff identifies himself in the introduction as a liberal, he respects and even admires the way that conservatives in recent years have been able to frame political arguments to make it appear their stand on each issue is a natural consequence of what is right and wrong. He brings the reader up through the Supreme Court ruling on the election of George W. Bush to show that political actions follow the belief in the metaphorical concepts he discusses. In keeping with any good theory, this one should allow one to predict the conservative and liberal views on almost any political issue, though Lakoff is careful to say that many individuals are variants of the conservative/liberal dichotomy...and he illustrates this with convincing analyses of the libertarian and feminist variants. I will not reveal the closing argument that he makes that confounds the Strict Father metaphor, but it certainly seems irrefutable to me. Two thoughts were prominent when I finished the book: 1) I grasped that "the way things are" is by no means the only way they can be, or the way they must be, or the way they should be. It is the metaphorical worldview we have that seems to be firmly set in a concrete of the mind. 2) he who frames the issues, wins the debate. It's Lakoff's goal to break the conservative framing within which American political discourse is trapped. I found his presentation convincing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    Read this instead of Haight's Righteous mind for an analysis of what drives liberal and political language. It's a really great analysis. Though I do have some disagreements: The theory of the nurturing family vs. strict parent mindsets does more to explain political rhetoric than it does to explain motives for why someone is a liberal or conservative. Lakoff is at his most astute when he talks about how conservatives have used these ideals to craft narratives against taxes or welfare, etc. In o Read this instead of Haight's Righteous mind for an analysis of what drives liberal and political language. It's a really great analysis. Though I do have some disagreements: The theory of the nurturing family vs. strict parent mindsets does more to explain political rhetoric than it does to explain motives for why someone is a liberal or conservative. Lakoff is at his most astute when he talks about how conservatives have used these ideals to craft narratives against taxes or welfare, etc. In other words, I think they created the strict parent thinking about the government as an effective rhetorical tool--rather than there being something inherent in conservatives that makes them strict parents. I do think that is true for some subset of conservatives, but that seems to not fully capture what drives many on the right. But as with any book that is proposing a broad theory, it's going to miss some nuance. Still, this framework is super helpful in thinking through how liberals might counter conservatives rhetorically using the nurturing family model. Lakoff's newest book is great on that point.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    This book is about cognitive frameworks, or, more precisely: about two frameworks that plausibly explain many of the differences between liberals and conservatives. Oddly enough, I'm still struggling with how this book interacts with my own cognitive framework. I have several pages of notes that should eventually go into a review, but Lakoff's focus on those two political perspectives was so ultimately frustrating that the book left me incredibly frustrated. As far as the book goes, it is a fascin This book is about cognitive frameworks, or, more precisely: about two frameworks that plausibly explain many of the differences between liberals and conservatives. Oddly enough, I'm still struggling with how this book interacts with my own cognitive framework. I have several pages of notes that should eventually go into a review, but Lakoff's focus on those two political perspectives was so ultimately frustrating that the book left me incredibly frustrated. As far as the book goes, it is a fascinating dissection at how personalities can share deep similarities across a broad spectrum of society due to those frameworks. But so many questions: are these supposed to be the innate two? Or are these just the current dominant pair due in our evolving culture? If the latter, what other frameworks have been used by, say, the founding generation of the United States? Or of the Socratic Greeks? How does one research such questions? In our own time, do these dominant two account for 99% of everyone in the United States? Eighty percent? Fifty-one percent? I know it isn't 100%, because I'm certain I don't fit either framework. How many hyper-rationalists like me are there out there? The problem is that I've left the book sitting on my desk for so long un-reviewed that I have to return it to the library tomorrow: no more renewals. So some notes that might help me do a better job after I've read Lakoff's Philosophy in the Flesh, currently holding down my bedside table. » Refer to cognitive frameworks implicit in supreme Court decision, cf. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/... » P. 72: Morality is Strength (thus, Meta-morality is morality): "One consequence of this metaphor is that punishment can be good for you, since going through hardships builds moral strength. Hence, the homily, 'spare the rod and spoil the child'. By the logic of this metaphor, moral weakness is in itself a form of immorality. The reasoning goes like this: A morally weak person is likely to fall, to give in to evil, to perform immoral acts, and thus become part of the forces of evil. Moral weakness is thus nascent immorality, immorality waiting to happen." What does this say about the myth of pure evil? Is the prospect of moral weakness and nascent immorality illuminated in Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray or Conrad's Heart of Darkness? » P. 76: Moral Authority: "... Within the Strict Father model, the parent (typically the father) sets standards of behavior and punishes the child if the standards are not met. Moral behavior by the child is obedience to the parent's authority...." This incorporates the profoundly disturbing implication that the parent is always right. Actually, the model has the caveat that the parent must be acting in the child's best interest and have "the ability to know what is best for the child", but these still blithely ignore what happens when the parent is well-meaning yet wrong. My personal framework demands that all authority is contingent, and that a very high priority goes to every individual's responsibility to be capable of evaluating the demands of authority and considering, when necessary, whether the consequences of denying such authority is worth the entailed costs. While I believe I see evidence of Lakoff's "Strict Parent" model throughout society, my personal framework directly contradicts it. What framework is the "Question Authority" bumper sticker a reflection of? » P. 109: Nurturant Parent Morality: "... Open, two-way, mutually respectful communication is crucial. If parents' authority is to be legitimate, they must tell their children why their decisions serve the cause of protection and nurturance. The questioning of parents by children is positive, since children need to learn why their parents do what they do, since children often have good ideas that should be taken seriously, and since all family members should participate in important decisions. Responsible parents, of course, have to make the ultimate decisions and that must be clear." Sounds good (and consistent with "Question Authority") but also sounds incredibly naive, much like communist idealism. This completely ignores the less mature reasoning abilities of children, and ignores the limited patience of normal parents. Seems like a caricature. » P. 112: "What does the world have to be like if people like this are to develop and thrive? The world must be as nurturant as possible and respond positively to nurturance. It must be a world that encourages people to develop their potential and provides help when necessary. And correspondingly, it must be a place where those who are helped feel a responsibility to help others and carry out that responsibility. It must be a world governed maximally by empathy, where the weak who need hep get it from the strong." Oh, please, what world are we living in? Human nature is both cooperative and competitive. ('What's so great about being among "the strong" if that just means you have to do more work', he was heard to whine.) What about when people don't want to "develop their potential"? Plenty of people spend hours online, but how many of them are taking the free online classes at the Open University, etc.? Folks don't seem to optimize themselves to meet society's needs; free-riding behavior kicks in far too easily. Always remember: we've all descended from the people that won their wars; genes that say "turn the other cheek" are too easy to take advantage of to last long. » P. 127: "In Nurturant Parent morality, the virtues to be taught—the moral strengths—are the opposites of the internal evils: social responsibility, generosity, respect for the values of others, open-mindedness, a capacity for pleasure, aesthetic sensitivity, inquisitiveness, ability to communicate, honesty, sensitivity to feelings, considerateness, cooperativeness, kindness, community-mindedness, and self-respect." Again the caricature of the liberal. This reminds me of the "always cooperate" tactic used in iterative Prisoner's Dilemma: a naively nice strategy that is quickly wiped out by any predators. Of course, the Strict Father morality is paranoid and easily falls into predatory patterns — and we know who wins that battle. Will Lakoff ever find elements of a cognitive framework that mimic the best PD strategy, tit-for-tat? Actually, *generous* tit-for-tat beats tit-for-tat in a chaotic environment, and it is that element of generosity that appears to have been seized upon as the core of the NP morality. But this only survives in a highly benevolent environment, and probably isn't stable even then. » P. 242: Re: the culture wars and the possibility teaching pluralism: "There may be a problem in taking this route to teaching morality and avoiding partisan moral and political indoctrination. Many conservatives believe that there is only one possible view of morality—Strict Father morality. Many religious conservatives believe that teaching both moral systems is itself immoral." Well, no duh. Witness the quote I found while reading Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past:An officer of the Daughters of the Colonial Wars, for instance, complained about books that “give a child an unbiased viewpoint instead of teaching him real Americanism. All the old histories taught my country right or wrong. That's the point of view we want our children to adopt. We can't afford to teach them to be unbiased and let them make up their own minds.”Ecumenicalism logically can't include zealots that want to burns the others at the stake. » P. 261: After a somewhat labored exploration of how Christianity as each of the two paradigms interpret it: "Finally, the two forms of Christianity have very different understandings of what the world should be like so that such ideal persons can be produced. Strict Father Christianity requires that the world be competitive and survival difficult if the right kind of people (strong people) are to be produced and rewarded. Nurturant Parent Christianity requires that the world be as interdependent, nurturant and benign as possible, if the right kind of people—nurturant people—are to be produced." Sounds like Warriors for Christ versus Mother Teresa, eh? » P. 269: In the chapter on Abortion, Lakoff points out the variants of each model exist. For example, if the "Men are dominant over Women" aspect of the Strict Father model is removed, one gets conservative feminism. Lakoff plausibly argues that this indirectly removes a crucial condition for requiring opposition to abortion, and thus these conservatives "are not bound by the logic of their morality to be either pro-life or pro-choice. In short, the model predicts that there should be conservatives who are pro-choice, and that they should be those who do not rank men above women in the moral order." One of the glaring holes of Lakoff's book is the lack of empirical evidence or even a research program that would produce testable hypotheses. This is understandable, since research on human ethics and morality can't easily be separated from the messy world in which we live. The book is largely a thoughtful exposition based on plausible initial assumptions, and is no more scientific than Plato's Dialogs. That Lakoff shows that this model can explain or predict counter-intuitive beliefs is the only sign of scientific rigor I recall. » P. 280: Liberal often castigate the conservative morality for whipping up anger and outrage, thus creating social conditions that foster immoral behavior. The relatively recent assassination of a doctor who performed abortions is one example; another is even more recent example of the militant who flew his small plane into a government building, killing himself and one government employee. "To the conservative, immoral behavior is attributable to individual character, not to social causes: What is right and what is wrong are clear, and the question is whether you are morally strong enough to do what is right. It's a matter of character. Conservatives believe that if an extreme conservative commits a crime, say killing people, in the name of vigilante justice, then conservatism itself cannot be held to blame, nor can those who spew hate over the airwaves. The explanation instead is that that individual had a bad character, that is, a bad moral essence. ...explanations on the basis of social causes are excluded." » P. 296: Good example of when the cognitive frameworks can be intermixed even within one person.Consider someone who is a thorough going liberal, but whose intellectual views are as follows: • There are intellectual authorities who maintain strict standards for the conduct of scholarly research and for reporting on such research. • It is unscholarly for someone to violate those standards. • Young scholars require a rigorous training to learn to meet those scholarly standards. ... • Students should not be "coddled." They should be held to strict scholarly standards at all times. ... » P. 356: In his chapter "Raising Real Children", Lakoff discusses research that shows strongly that children raised within the Strict Fatherr morality tend to be more dysfunctional than those raised in the Nurturant Parent morality, even by the standards of the former: "This overall picture is quite damning for the Strict Father model. That model seems to be a myth. If this research is right, a Strict Father upbringing does not produce the kind of child it claims to produce. Incidentally, this picture is not from one study or from studies by one researcher. This is the overall picture gathered from many studies by many different researchers (see References, B2)." Yes... but... Lakoff starts his book claiming he will be as non-partisan through most of the book, only explaining his conclusions the beliefs fostered by those conclusions in the final chapters. Yet, despite being a liberal myself I couldn't help but feel throughout the book that his bias was evident. I had the impression that his examples were chosen to highlight the failures of the Strict Father model and hide, or at least not address, those of the Nurturant Parent model. Moreover, the picture Lakoff presents is that of a strict dichotomy, and I have reasons (someone eccentric ones) to think this is fundamentally flawed. Years ago I read a book on game theory which hinted that the iterated Prisoner's Dilemma was a thought experiment that provide astonishing insight into the eternal conflict between cooperation and competition. Sophisticated iPD models shows that blind "niceness" fails quickly in the face of predation; it also shows that predation fails more slowly, but no less inevitably when there are no more nice "suckers" around to prey on; the winning strategy is nice, but cautious, and strikes a middle ground between the two poles. That Lakoff has formulated a model of cognition that somehow manages to completely ignore this golden mean makes me deeply suspicious. Certainly our genetic heritage from millions of years of cognitive development should provide the underpinnings that assist not just in "Strict Father" competitiveness or "Nurturant Mother" cooperation, but what lies between, what has allowed us to muddle through eons of flawed civilizations. These comments, lengthy as they are, don't even tap into the several pages of notes I've got. They are only comments triggered by the post-it-note bookmarks I use to highlight specific passages. It should be clear that this is, at least to me, a very important book. It is very flawed as well; even beyond the preceding complaints, Lakoff's style is pedantic and verbose, and often repetitive. I wish he had written a better book, however what he gave us still will be a source of deep thinking and surprising insights for those willing to wade in. ­

  6. 5 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    A very very important book that's not a particularly good read. I'll get the criticism out of the way first; Lakoff is incredibly repetitive, restating the basic premises in almost every one of the chapters and subsections. It's probably an exaggeration but part of me felt like it would have been possible to have condensed the entire book into an article of about 40 pages. Having said that, it would have been one hell of an important article and what Lakoff says is absolutely crucial. A cognitive A very very important book that's not a particularly good read. I'll get the criticism out of the way first; Lakoff is incredibly repetitive, restating the basic premises in almost every one of the chapters and subsections. It's probably an exaggeration but part of me felt like it would have been possible to have condensed the entire book into an article of about 40 pages. Having said that, it would have been one hell of an important article and what Lakoff says is absolutely crucial. A cognitive linguist (check out his earlier book Women, Fire and Dangerous Things for a less politically charged sense of what that means), he sets as his task identifying the basic premises underlying the myriad differences between "conservatives" and "liberals" in the U.S. (Quick footnote: Donald Trump isn't either in any meaningful sense, but that's a digression.) His central argument is that conservatives' sense of "common sense"--the things that don't need to be argued or explained because they're "obvious"--derives from the "strict father" model of the family. Liberals "common sense" is grounded in the "nurturant parent" model. One places a central emphasis on authority, order and a number of associated values, the other on empathy and caring. Each carries with it a demonology (Hillary Clinton or Newt Gingrich), each a notion of a model citizen. One of the important things about the book is Lakoff's very clear explanation of how that generates fundamentally undiscussable differences on issues ranging from aid to education and criminal justic to education, feminism and the environment. Crucially, Lakoff--who keeps his politics in the far background until the last section--argues that conservatives understand their value structure, while for the most parts liberals don't. Liberals prefer to argue specific policies, usually expressing incredulous outrage at what appear to them to be contradictions in conserfvative positions. Conservatives mostly don't bother, simply acting as their values say they must. He also acknowledges the fact that these are typologies and that individuals mix the worldviews, often acting differently in their political and personal lives. (i.e. Strict father conservatives make room for nurturing within their families, often foregrounding the role of the mother; liberal teaches are fully capable of disciplining their students, etc.) It's a sobering read for anyone committed to progressive ideas. I came to this book in part because of an op ed sent to me by my friend Dan in which Lakoff says liberals should stop arguing issues and put the moral differences in the center. To some extent, I think that's what Bernie Sanders did. File under "water under a demolished bridge." As I've read, I've been able to apply Lakoff's schema to everything from the agonies being experienced by Republicans who really do believe the moral vision and know Trump doesn't to the ascendency of Richard Nixon in the late 1960s. I do have some hesitations. The most important is that, as Lakoff knows. the world can't be reduced to a binary. And, man, does he hammer you over the head with the repetitions (which is why this isn't a five star book.)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    This is one of the best works of non-fiction I have ever read. For the first time in my life, I feel like I actually understand why conservatives think the way they do. I still don't agree with their values or views at all, but I do recognize now that it is an internally coherent worldview. Conservatives are not going to go away in America, so we better learn how to live with them and engage in dialogue that actually resembles communication, not just a trading of insults. The basic thesis of this This is one of the best works of non-fiction I have ever read. For the first time in my life, I feel like I actually understand why conservatives think the way they do. I still don't agree with their values or views at all, but I do recognize now that it is an internally coherent worldview. Conservatives are not going to go away in America, so we better learn how to live with them and engage in dialogue that actually resembles communication, not just a trading of insults. The basic thesis of this book is that humans live and think by relying on metaphors. These metaphors guide the way they perceive themselves, their families, their career, and their government. Lakoff argues that conservatives rely on a "Stern Father" model, and liberals look to a "Nurturing Mother" model. Does it make sense that millions of Americans can be pro-life, pro-military, pro-death penalty, pro-wealthy, anti-poor, anti-social justice, anti-peace, anti-environment? Liberals usually dismiss these views as stupid, selfish, and prejudiced, but this conclusion reveals liberals' own ignorance: they don't understand the way that conservatives think! Using a liberal lens, the conservative worldview is completely wrong, but the reverse is true, too. Once you understand the principles of Stern Father morality, all the social and political issues simply fall into place. While I think this book is a resounding success for enlightening liberals about how conservatives think, I'd be curious whether conservatives think they've been fairly characterized, and whether they were enlightened about the liberals' Nurturing Mother morality. Please read the book and tell me what you think!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    In Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, George Lakoff uses the methods of cognitive linguistics-a field in which he has worked since its infancy-to explain the different worldviews that shape liberal and conservative thought, and why what seems like common sense to one seems like bunk to another. In doing so, he hopes to begin a national discussion of morality and politics and, more specifically, prove why the liberal viewpoint is better for America. In both attempts, he ultimat In Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, George Lakoff uses the methods of cognitive linguistics-a field in which he has worked since its infancy-to explain the different worldviews that shape liberal and conservative thought, and why what seems like common sense to one seems like bunk to another. In doing so, he hopes to begin a national discussion of morality and politics and, more specifically, prove why the liberal viewpoint is better for America. In both attempts, he ultimately fails. But first, why cognitive linguistics? In the simplest terms, it is the study of how humans conceptualize the world, particularly through language. What most of us consider "common sense" is actually a complex series of metaphorical connections we subconsciously make between different categories of experience. For example, our Western understanding of morality is connected to our understanding of finances, where moral credits (receiving kindness) can lead to moral debts (owing a favor). One of the most common metaphors people use to think about the nation is the family. It follows that different conceptions of the "ideal" family lead to different conceptions of the "ideal" nation. According to Lakoff, these differences are at the heart of conservative and liberal thought. Understanding the logic behind his family models allows us to understand, as the title promises, how liberals and conservatives think. On its broadest level, Moral Politics is convincing. That morality has its roots in the family seems clear, as does the connection between morality and political beliefs. Lakoff's two models of the family-the "Strict Father," based on dualism, moral strength, and self-sufficiency, and the "Nurturant Parent," based on pluralism, caring, and cooperation-also explain certain sets of conservative and liberal beliefs reasonably well. However, Moral Politics ultimately overreaches in its attempt to explain all possible political and prove the superiority of the liberal model. Lakoff's models cannot explain the diversity of political opinions, nor can he prove that the liberal worldview is superior. Arguing for a particular world view isn't strange, of course. It goes on everyday in op-ed pieces and talk radio. In a book of supposedly unbiased analysis, however, it is problematic. To make his case, Lakoff oversimplifies modern political thought. Although he acknowledges that political views vary widely, Lakoff still places them on a linear scale. This is a common-sense understanding of politics, but it does little to explain a political landscape that includes ideologies, pragmatism, issue- and identity-based politics, and old-fashioned self-interest. All of these shape our political identities, but lose their meaning in Lakoff's dualistic scheme of politics and the family. More importantly, though, Moral Politics removes politics from their historical and cultural context. A conservative living in 2004 bears little resemblance to a conservative who lived in 1904, or even 1984. Differences in historical context, not to mention race, class, and gender, have a significant effect on political views, both individually and nationally, but Lakoff ignores them in favor of his more unifying theory. Sacrificing the effect of such differences in favor of a more elegant (but simple) theory is both unrealistic and dangerous. In fact, in trying to fit the entire political universe into its simple model, Moral Politics violates some of its own rules. For instance, Lakoff argues that a person need not apply the same model to their family and their politics. Despite this, he states that "[m]any elementary school teachers are women, often nurturant mothers, so nurturant they want to nurture other people's children. That is why conservatives are attacking the infrastructure of public education in the country…They are up against an infrastructure full of nurturers." Even if his large generalizations are true, Lakoff still assumes that the nurturing women in education have nurturing, i.e., liberal politics, and that political conservatives have an equally conservative attitude toward schooling, but these aren't assumptions that cognitive linguistics allows him to make. Such an insistent attempt to fit all situations into the model indicates that Lakoff hasn't been as objective in his analysis as he claims. Even more disturbing, though, are the causal links Lakoff makes between conservatism and violence. He argues that "there is a slippery slope from one model to the other, from normal law-abiding conservatism to violent conservative vigilantism." To argue that the end product of mainstream conservatism is violence is not only reductive, it is a dangerous demonization. Plus, it ignores the violent excesses of the Left, from the Weather Underground in the 1960s to radical environmentalists today. Political violence exists among all ideologies, and Lakoff's attempts to link it strictly to conservatism hinder, rather than help, the political debate he hopes to foster. Ultimately, though, its Moral Politics' insistence on proving the superiority of a liberal world view that does it in. Although I agree with his politics, I can't agree with Lakoff's methods. Psychological studies might indicate that a Nurturant Parent family model is better for children, but this doesn't mean that a liberal world view, or the policies that go with it, are better for the country. Despite the convenient metaphor, running a country isn't raising a family, and liberals are going to have to win on the issues, not on spanking, if they want to convince the country of their world view.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jon Stout

    Lakoff has fascinating, even exciting, insights, but his treatment is ponderous and marred by equivocations in how he approaches his subject. His basic idea is that the differences between Democrats and Republicans can be explained by different metaphors of family life used by the two sides. Lakoff says that Republicans analogize government to the “Strict Father” style of parenting, which is more authoritarian and emphasizes self-discipline and self-reliance. Similarly, Democrats analogize gover Lakoff has fascinating, even exciting, insights, but his treatment is ponderous and marred by equivocations in how he approaches his subject. His basic idea is that the differences between Democrats and Republicans can be explained by different metaphors of family life used by the two sides. Lakoff says that Republicans analogize government to the “Strict Father” style of parenting, which is more authoritarian and emphasizes self-discipline and self-reliance. Similarly, Democrats analogize government to the “Nurturant Parent” style of parenting, which is more supportive, and emphasizes nurturance and empathy. This basic insight is very powerful, and Lakoff is able to develop the idea in some detail to explain a wide variety of political positions held by Democrats and by Republicans. My first difficulty with the approach is that it seems to identify the “Strict Father” approach with men, and the “Nurturant Parent” approach with women. While there is a well-documented “gender gap” in which more men support Republicans and more women support Democrats, the differences are not more than 10% or so. I think it would be a mistake to say that Republicans do things in a “manly” way and Democrats do things in a “womanly” way. I would have preferred it if he had left gender out, and just talked about “Authoritarian” and “Nurturant” as options for people, as well as for political parties. Another problem is that it is not clear whether Lakoff is talking Politics and Morality, or whether he is talking about the psychology behind political and moral talk. He says that his two conceptions of family life are “unconscious, cognitive metaphors.” Science often operates on the basis of metaphors, known as theoretical models, and they have specific consequences, as well as definite limitations. For example, when Torricelli said that the atmosphere was a “sea of air,” he could explain bouyancy in the air, but he did not expect to get wet. Molecules of gas may be considered as “elastic balls” in hydrodynamics, but you can’t throw them. The “Strict Father” and “Nurturant Parent” metaphors are, in a sense, rival theoretical models for political and moral systems. In this sense, they parallel the rivalry between the “wave” and “particle” models for the theory of light. But, since there is evidentiary support for both models, scientists try to reconcile them, or to show in what circumstances each is appropriate, while Lakoff treats his rival metaphors differently. Sometimes he treats them as arbitrary, as in “You could believe this, or you could believe that.” Other times, he takes an advocacy position, and offers reasons why you should accept one over the other. He seldom, if ever, tries to reconcile the two views. When Lakoff expresses his personal attitude, he appeals to my liberal biases. I googled reviews of his book, especially in conservative sources such as the National Review, and Lakoff is regarded as anathema by conservatives. I thought that they might be impressed by the explanatory power of his metaphors, but conservatives regard him as a liberal partisan. And as I thought about it, I realized that my conservative friends can be affectionate and indulgent with their children, while my liberal friends can appreciate lines of authority and “tough love.” As Woody Allen said sarcastically, “I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype.” Life is more complicated than Lakoff describes. Somehow there must be room for dialogue between the two points of view. Lakoff provides a starting point, but it needs to be taken farther.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bob Nichols

    Lakoff describes a basic division in American politics based on an underlying moral framework. He argues that political differences are not about issues and reasoned positions as liberals believe. They are about powerful moral values that reflect a comprehensive worldview. Political conservatives adhere to a "father figure" model (authoritarian morality). Liberals follow a "mother figure" model (nurturing morality). While there are many variations, these are the twin poles of American politics, Lakoff describes a basic division in American politics based on an underlying moral framework. He argues that political differences are not about issues and reasoned positions as liberals believe. They are about powerful moral values that reflect a comprehensive worldview. Political conservatives adhere to a "father figure" model (authoritarian morality). Liberals follow a "mother figure" model (nurturing morality). While there are many variations, these are the twin poles of American politics, he says. Lakoff argues that conservative thinkers and advocates have done an excellent job to articulate their value-based worldview in contrast to liberals who are stuck on issue-specific positions. Lakoff states that positions on issues are about values, not about facts and reason. Until liberals understand this he argues, liberals will be sucked into public debates that they cannot win. Lakoff closes with an outline of his version of a nurturing worldview but this part of the book fell flat. It comes across as a reiteration of the same fact-based arguments. As opposed to issue-based discussions, what is needed is a comprehensive strategy that moves a liberal position forward, both politically and as a political worldview. Conservatives, after all, seem to have a comprehensive political strategy (Supreme Court, state legislature, Fox News, etc.), whereas liberals do not. Given what Lakoff has to say, it’s interesting to speculate whether the basic division between a fear-based authoritarian model and a love-based nurturing model has some of its origins in our biological nature (fear-based model; love-based model).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Patty

    This is one of the most important books I've read this year, possibly ever. Yes, as many reviewers have said, there is repetition, but I felt the repetition he used was necessary to lay out his very complex argument. As much as I'd like for the information in this book to be accessible as an article or a TED talk, it just isn't that simple. Liberals and conservatives have been moving farther and farther apart in this country. Whatever our beliefs and politics, I think we have to take steps to und This is one of the most important books I've read this year, possibly ever. Yes, as many reviewers have said, there is repetition, but I felt the repetition he used was necessary to lay out his very complex argument. As much as I'd like for the information in this book to be accessible as an article or a TED talk, it just isn't that simple. Liberals and conservatives have been moving farther and farther apart in this country. Whatever our beliefs and politics, I think we have to take steps to understand each other rather than continue to demonize and belittle the other side. This book for me is definitely a step toward understanding why we think the way we think, and therefore understanding why others think the way they think. I read something today that felt relevant: "When people talk about traveling to the past, they worry about changing the present by doing small things, but pretty much no one in the present thinks that they can change the future by doing something small." Well, I'm going to do some small things, to try and move some individual people from demonizing to listening and understanding.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Adam Ross

    An absolutely fascinating book. Lakoff is a cognitive scientist who has been studying American worldviews for a number of years. In this book he explores the metaphors we use when we talk about politics and the government, and discovered that our metaphors speak of the nation as a family. With this insight, he shows how the different political positions of conservatives and progressives operate with different visions of family life. Conservatives operate under the "Strict Father Model," that emp An absolutely fascinating book. Lakoff is a cognitive scientist who has been studying American worldviews for a number of years. In this book he explores the metaphors we use when we talk about politics and the government, and discovered that our metaphors speak of the nation as a family. With this insight, he shows how the different political positions of conservatives and progressives operate with different visions of family life. Conservatives operate under the "Strict Father Model," that emphasizes authority, hierarchy, obedience, and rewards and punishments, as well as hyper-individualism. This is the root of their political positions. Progressives operate under the "Nurturant Parent Model," which emphasizes cooperation, equality, and empathy, and this plays into the root of progressive politics. The government is the parent in this metaphor. An absolutely eye-opening book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I can't believe it took me this long (ie: I read it in its third edition!) to read this. A must-read for progressives and conservatives alike. The two most profound illuminations for me were Lakoff's calling out of liberal academics for working in a Strict Father-based institution and how many professed politically-liberal academics teach/do scholarship in a very strict way; and how the Nurturant Parent model, as in a real family, is about communication--constant, messy, communication. The assum I can't believe it took me this long (ie: I read it in its third edition!) to read this. A must-read for progressives and conservatives alike. The two most profound illuminations for me were Lakoff's calling out of liberal academics for working in a Strict Father-based institution and how many professed politically-liberal academics teach/do scholarship in a very strict way; and how the Nurturant Parent model, as in a real family, is about communication--constant, messy, communication. The assumption is there IS no absolutely clearly relayed message (which is why, ultimately, the Strict Father model is no good and inhumane--at the real family level, and politically). Any good relationship then, is about learning how to communicate--to speak, and listen, and try to understand how the other is also trying to be understood. The chapters on Basic Humanity and Loving Country, Hating Government are as relevant now as ever. The idea that at root, if one (consciously or not) is rooted in the Strict Father morality, one is basically out of touch with the realities of lived experience is so, so key... (in Basic Humanity chapter)...but also why facts and all the blue-in-the face arguments progressives make will not work. Only real life experience will change minds. Is your brother/daughter/mother gay? Is your child addicted to opiods? Your kid in need of medical care? Only then does experience butt up against the assumed Moral Code in a way that must shatter it--or deny the humanity of the child/mother/brother etc. It explains a lot about why I chafe in Academe... and Lakoff isn't lazy--he brings up many, many variants and complexities.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Geoff Young

    Illuminating discussion of the metaphors used by liberals and conservatives to frame their arguments based on worldviews that unconsciously comprise a fundamental part of who they are. Such a wide lens helps make sense of conflicts that are often incomprehensible when considered as individual issues. The writing is dry and repetitive, with more time spent identifying the problems in discourse than offering solutions, although the afterword makes a few suggestions that might prove fruitful. Despit Illuminating discussion of the metaphors used by liberals and conservatives to frame their arguments based on worldviews that unconsciously comprise a fundamental part of who they are. Such a wide lens helps make sense of conflicts that are often incomprehensible when considered as individual issues. The writing is dry and repetitive, with more time spent identifying the problems in discourse than offering solutions, although the afterword makes a few suggestions that might prove fruitful. Despite its stylistic limitations and idiosyncrasies, this book contains novel ideas that allow for a different conceptualization of political discourse in America than is normally found. Findings from cognitive linguistics research are both disturbing and reassuring. The way we use language or allow others to use it has a significant impact on perception of meaning. Some groups understand this better than others and have manipulated it to their advantage, often with those being manipulated having no clue. While this is hardly new, reading it in such blunt terms can lead to feelings of helplessness. Fortunately being aware of what is already happening also has an empowering effect. The first step to solving any problem is admitting that it exists. Knowledge is power. Use it well.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    This book defines a model to look at the conservative mind and the liberal mind and how they so often clash. Here are my reading notes: # Morality Morality is often talked about as a problem of accounting. We are indebted to others; we owe one to someone. These metaphors underlie the way we think about morality, fairness, self-righteousness, etc. # Strict Father Morality The conservative strict-father morality (SFM) will prioritize different metaphors from this pool of metaphors around Moral Account This book defines a model to look at the conservative mind and the liberal mind and how they so often clash. Here are my reading notes: # Morality Morality is often talked about as a problem of accounting. We are indebted to others; we owe one to someone. These metaphors underlie the way we think about morality, fairness, self-righteousness, etc. # Strict Father Morality The conservative strict-father morality (SFM) will prioritize different metaphors from this pool of metaphors around Moral Accounting. The strict-father model says that: ### Morality as Strength - people left to themselves will tend to be epicurian - people will follow rules to get rewards - the world is hard and full of dangers - the father is the traditional seat of authority in the family - children should follow rules set by the parents - not following the rules leads to punishment - self-discipline and character is built through obedience - the mother is relied upon to care for the house and the children - children should not be cuddled lest they be spoiled - children grow up and sink or swim by themselves - parent interference in the lives of adult children is resented - competition is necessary to build self-reliance ### Morality as Authority - a community is a family - moral authority is parental authority - an authority figure is a parent - a person subject to moral authority is a child - moral behavior by someone subject to moral authority is obedience - moral behavior by someone in authority is setting rules and enforcing them Metaphors prioritized by this model include: - being good is being upright - being bad is being low - doing evil is failing - evil is a force - morality is strength Virtues propped up by this model include: - chastity - temperance - modesty - satisfaction with one's lot - calmness In this model, evil is an external force and one must stand up to it. The way to do that is through self discipline. # Nurturing Parent Morality The liberals reject the SFM system and substitute it with a nurturing-parent morality (NPM) system. This liberal system enphasizes empathy and care. This system includes the following metaphors: - The nation is a family - The government is a parent - The citizens are the children # Misconceptions ### Liberals have towards conservatism 1. Conservatism is "the ethos of selfishness" 2. Conservatives just believe in less government 3. Conservatism is no more than a conspiracy of the ultrarich to protect their money and power and to make themselves even richer and more powerful These misconceptions are wide-spread. And the SFM system can help provide reasons why conservatives are not inherently selfish, why they do not necessarily believe in less government, and why conservatism is not a conspiracy. ### Conservatives have about conservatism 1. Conservatism is against big government 2. Conservatism is for traditional values 3. Conservatism is just what the bible tells us Again, the SFM system can help explain why these are misconceptions. # Moral actions The SFM system will lead to the following categories of action, considered moral: - promoting SFM - promoting self-discipline, responsibility, and self-reliance - upholding the morality of reward and punishment + preventing interference with the pursuit of self-interest by self-disciplined, self-reliant people + promoting punishment as a means of upholding authority + insuring punishment for lack of self-discipline - protecting moral people from external evils - upholding the moral order The liberal morality system leads to the following categories of action: - empathetic behavior and promoting fairness - helping those who cannot help themselves - protecting those who cannot protect themselves - promoting fulfillment in life - nurturing and strengthening oneself in order to do the above # How moral systems affect opinion about policies The book makes three main claims: - Political policies are derived from family-based moralities - Those family-based moralities are largely constructed from unconscious conceptual metaphors - Understanding political positions requires understanding how they fit family-based moralities Thus, the underlying moral system of a citizen will greatly influence their opinion about a specific policy. The author goes on to mention that the "middle" of the electorate is not necessarily in the middle of a spectrum between conservatives and progressives. The middle might allow for both SFM and NPM systems when reasoning about an issue. Or they might apply one system in one case, and the other system in another. The "middle" is not at all lethargic or amoral. # Reasons for choosing the liberal system over SFM 1. The NPM is superior as a method of childrearing 2. SFM requires a view of human thought that is at odds with what we know about the way the mind works 3. SFM often finds morality in harm; NPM does not # Re-framing In order for the liberals to make better use of public discourse, they need to learn that: - words are defined relative to conceptual frames. Words evoke frames, and if you want to evoke the right frames, you need the right words. - to use the other side's words is to accept their framing of the issues. - higher-level moral frames limit the scope of the frames defining particular issues. - to negate a frame is to accept that frame. Example: to carry out the instruction "don't think of an elephant" you have to think of an elephant. - rebuttal is not reframing. You have to impose your own framing before you can successfully rebut. - the facts themselves won't set you free. You have to frame facts properly before they can have the meaning you want them to convey.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Diane Scholten

    Oy! Talk about mansplaining. This 445 page book could have been about 100 pages but for the citations and repetitions and academic prose. I'm also struggling with the premise - that our political opinions are based on our morality which is based on parenting. I think it's way more complex than that --- although I will say that the theory DOES make some otherwise inexplicable political opinions ('right to life' does NOT include anti-war, anti-death-penalty) hang together. I don't know - I wanted Oy! Talk about mansplaining. This 445 page book could have been about 100 pages but for the citations and repetitions and academic prose. I'm also struggling with the premise - that our political opinions are based on our morality which is based on parenting. I think it's way more complex than that --- although I will say that the theory DOES make some otherwise inexplicable political opinions ('right to life' does NOT include anti-war, anti-death-penalty) hang together. I don't know - I wanted to like this book, but it was a tough one to embrace.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Donald Owens II

    George Lakoff claims to have recognized two competing philosophies of life, which originate in two opposing models of family life. These are the “strict father morality” and the “nurturant parent morality”. One guess which he prefers? Not very subtle naming to say the least. He claims that though there may be nuance, this perspective is sufficiently reliable as to provide a dependable predictive model not only for the family, but for other areas as well, such as politics. He claims that strict f George Lakoff claims to have recognized two competing philosophies of life, which originate in two opposing models of family life. These are the “strict father morality” and the “nurturant parent morality”. One guess which he prefers? Not very subtle naming to say the least. He claims that though there may be nuance, this perspective is sufficiently reliable as to provide a dependable predictive model not only for the family, but for other areas as well, such as politics. He claims that strict fathers do not love their children unconditionally or nurture them, but simply command and force them into independence. Then he claims that there are other parents who unconditionally love and nurture their children, and don’t require them to obey rules or discipline them for sin. Those with strict fathers grow up to be unloving, to withhold help from the needy, to care more about rules than people, and to vote Republican. Those with “nurturant parent" families grow up to be compassionate and empathetic, know how to care for people without primitive things like rules, and vote Democrat. There are several serious flaws in the book: Relativism: George Lakoff's starting assumption is that truth is relative, that is, that it can only be defined subjectively, and not by any abstract or objective standard. If that is right, then it is not objectively true, which is to say, false. If false, then he is wrong. And if he is wrong, why read any further? This is not a word game, but a fatal flaw in his system. It is the logical equivalent to saying, “This statement is false”. It is not coherent. Lakoff assumes that the definition of vice or virtue is dependent only on one's metaphor for reality not on reality itself or the Author of morality revealing those definitions. He is doing his moral philosophy in the dark, willfully blind to reality as it actually is and thus speaks without authority or understanding. Just as I would not trust a blind man to tell me the color of the sky or a deaf man to tell me the right note to play, I cannot trust a moral idiot to define morality for me. Or rather someone with such a moral and intellectual handicap I cannot take seriously. Take this quote for example: "Sexual activity without marriage is not immoral in itself. It is immoral only if it results in harm to oneself or others.” This would seem to indicate that our standard for ethics is harm avoidance, which has been repeatedly demonstrated as an insufficient basis for an ethical system. Elsewhere he explicitly argues that there is no moral order, there are only degrees of behavior with varying levels of harm or nurturance. If this is true, how does he know, and with what authority does he ever say “ought"? By what authority does he claim that harm is immoral and nurturance is moral? He does not take into account any rules or revelation on how children are to be raised, or on what are our standards of right and wrong, but assumes that all things are defined subjectively in a secular universe by individuals with no views more or less legitimate than any other. (And he expects us to value his opinion why?) And since this is not the universe we live in, his entire system fails. His relativism becomes clear in his painfully strained attempt to present a neutral definition of abortion. He describes calling an unborn human a baby "imposing the term baby". He claims that it cannot be called a baby scientifically until it is "recognizably human". Of course he ignores the fact that even one cell has “recognizably human” DNA. Why does he go through all these mental gymnastics to excuse killing anything that is not recognizably human to the naked human eye? Is it because he believes the naked human eye is the most scientifically sophisticated instrument we should use? Is it because he wants to leave himself room to define things in such a way as to excuse murder when convenient? Is it to leave room for murdering handicapped or deformed humans? Also consider this quote, which would seem to preclude the possibility of neutrality, and thus relativism: “There is no morally neutral concept of government. The question is which morality will be politically dominant.” This is true and profound. Unfortunately Lakoff cannot see clearly enough to follow this out to its logical conclusion. Which morality should be politically dominant? That depends on which one is true. Where does morality come from in his world view? It derives from whatever metaphors we use to illustrate it. Essentially morality comes from man, and man needs to just find the right metaphor (whatever right means) and apply it. He does briefly consider an alternate explanation such as that conservatives are "just trying to obey the Bible" but he rejects it without much consideration simply because there are so many different ways to interpret the Bible. Confusingly he also admits that there is no one unified interpretation of liberal philosophy either, but doesn’t see that as disqualifying his own liberal worldview. Either-or Fallacy: His two main categories, and their mutual exclusivity are not based on any scientific research or objective analysis of widespread familial trends, but primarily on Lakoff’s own feelings, and his satisfaction with their ability to explain the world. In fact, law-keeping is not logically contrary to nurturing, but is rather supportive of it. God Himself commanded both emphases, as in Ephesians 6 when He tells fathers to bring children up in the nurture AND admonition of the Lord. Neither my personal experience, nor my education, nor my reason, nor my faith compel me to agree that we have to choose between nurturance and strict obedience to law, nor that strict parenting results in heartless children, nor that permissive parenting produces well-adjusted compassionate children. In fact, the opposite is generally the case. A related flaw in his thinking is his assumption that there is a single unifying conservative philosophy. Conservatism is an amalgamation of world views because the conservative movement in America is made up of many different people with different world views and motivations who happened to see some things in a similar light and so are willing to cooperate in certain areas with one another. He seems unable to recognize that there is no unifying theory of conservatism any more than there is of liberalism. The premise for the book is flawed therefore because he is setting out to prove that there are two competing philosophies of government in America: the liberal and the conservative, and that both of them can be explained by their respective unifying characteristics/themes. This cannot be done. Weak Analogy: Not only are his two family models inadequately proven, but he also failed to demonstrate that they have any relationship at all to politics. From the very beginning of the book his bias and ignorance of the true nature of reality were evident. He ignores the concept in philosophy of sphere sovereignty as taught by such philosophers as Abraham Kuyper. So when he calls the family a metaphor for the state he does not represent either the concept of a metaphor nor the concept of different spheres of authority accurately. What he is actually trying to do is draw an analogy between the family and the state. Analogies by their nature are not true or false but strong or weak. Only if you understand the concept of sphere sovereignty and of God's authority over (and definition of) family, church and state and their relationships, will you be qualified to analyze any of the three or any analogy between them. Since he does not take any of this into account nor even grasp the nature of the reality he lives in i.e. that God is the definer and law giver, his analogy between family and state is decidedly a weak analogy. Dishonesty: One indicator of a fair debater is their ability to represent their opponents accurately. George does not do this. No conservative would agree with his caricature of them. He is not a trustworthy guide. For instance, he rejects the idea that any conservatives are genuinely motivated by "obeying the Bible", citing the variety of biblical interpretations. He says this disagreement over how the Bible should be understood demonstrates that even this motivation is too diverse to provide a unifying impulse. It's true that Christians who are trying to obey the Bible interpret it in various ways, but it does not follow from this that there is no right interpretation. It is also true that some people claim to obey the Bible while actually using it to excuse their own ideas. The fact of these “hypocrites" does not disprove the existence of conservatives who seek to obey the Bible, nor does it prove that the Bible cannot work as an overarching principle in politics, any more than hypocrisy among liberals debunks liberalism. A system can only be judged by its best representatives who are actually operating consistently within it, or lacking that, by an analysis of what the results would be if they were. In trying to determine why conservatives do what they do he considers three different conservative explanations for their unifying philosophy and he rejects all three because he finds exceptions to them. This is not an honest, but rather a straw-man critique; inconsistency in applying a philosophy does not in itself refute that philosophy. He does not apply the same standard to his own view. Inconsistency: Speaking of inconsistency, he himself is guilty on that count. At one point he says it is ridiculous to draw an analogy between the importance of balancing a family budget and the importance of balancing the federal budget because families are so dissimilar from federal governments. As evidence, he points out that families cannot print money and all of the members of a government or a nation are adults not children. Somehow he does not see that this undercuts the entire thesis of the book, which assumes an analogy between family and state. It is when he begins to describe Christianity that his real bias and ignorance are manifest. He does not understand biblical hermeneutics, he does not understand the Gospel, and he does not describe Christianity in a way that any literate Christian would recognize, much less affirm. He claims that Christians who claim a literal interpretation of scripture are actually lying, because God is not actually a Shepherd, etc, revealing his ignorance of what literal interpretation even means. He claims that Scripture has no inherent objective meaning or moral imperatives, but only subjective interpretations based on imposed moral systems (of which there are of course only 2; the two he sees). Again, the thing that makes all of this laughable, as with all relativists, is his assumption that no one will apply to him the same standard he applies to others. As the philosopher Cornelius Van Til said, “any philosophy that refutes itself can be considered amply refuted.” So in reality, this whole work can be rebutted by reading it as he insists we read everything else. We can say that his book has no inherent objective meaning but only subjective meaning imported by the reader. If you are a liberal, perhaps the meaning of the book is that there is no such thing as “must" or “ought", but that as nurturant humans we ought to… well, no, I mean we must… well, no I guess just follow your heart… if you want. If you are a conservative, since you are incapable of thinking outside of your “strict father" mentality, perhaps the meaning of the book is that you should withhold affection from everyone who differs from you, and shut down any alternative view. In short, since the author is surely a consistent nurturer, he would never tell us what to do like a mean strict father, but will affirm you in finding your own path and recommends that you close his book, ignore his half-baked theories, and carry on. Since there is no objective moral order, certainly his ideas are not moral, and can thus be safely ignored. Let me conclude with a lit of the inconsistencies I noticed while reading his work: He praises liberals for seeking their own emotional happiness and wellbeing, as this is not selfish when its aim is to make one capable of serving others and providing them stability and support. And yet when a conservative seeks to make his business successful Lakoff cannot seem to understand that this same principle applies, and that it is not selfish to seek to make one’s business prosperous so it can continue to serve customers, and support the economy and its employees. He mocks conservatives for being obsessed with keeping rules and doing things the way they “ought to be done”, and he mocks them for this because they break his rules and do not live as they ought to live. When he is carefully choosing language and metaphors and words that make him look good and his opponents look bad he calls that "careful framing" and encourages liberals to do it, but when conservatives do the same thing he calls them deceitful and unable to see past their own metaphors. Speaking of the Bible he says a variety of interpretations makes it an unfit source for morality and yet at the same time when speaking of his own book he seems to assume that it is possible to discern the intent of an author and adjust your views and behavior accordingly. Why did he write a book if he does not think it possible for books to be interpreted outside of our preconceived metaphors for morality? When he sets rules in his family it is because he is a nurturer who cares about their well being, but when conservatives have rules for their families they are following their strict father morality rather than caring for the nurture of their children. When liberals change the meanings of words and adjust legislation or ignore it to accomplish their goals they are being nurturant and flexible and willing to think for the good of their people, but when conservatives change laws they are simply defending their strict father morality at all costs no matter who they hurt or how they cheat. He even claims to have improved on the golden rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) with a superior golden rule, “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” Which, of course, is what the golden rule means if he would only bother to think it through. “Liberals have a moral system. It is described explicitly in this book. It is organized not around adherence to specific rules but around a higher principle: “help don't harm.” It is an ethics of care centered around empathy together with responsibility.” What does he think a rule is, besides “a higher principle"? Does he think that is superior to the Christian “higher principle“ of “You shall love your neighbor as yourself “? Which, by the way, Jesus said is our law. When conservatives try to influence future generations by spending money on education they agree with, they are simply stuck in their ways defending their assumptions without being willing to yield or learn or grow. But when the author writes a book like this and it becomes required reading in liberal universities this is simply nurturance and concern for the health of society.

  18. 5 out of 5

    David

    This came out in 1996, and I've seen it, or its core idea, referred to so many times in newspaper articles that I felt as though I'd already read the book. Probably would have rated it higher and enjoyed it more if I'd read it when it first came out. Basic concept is that liberal vs. conservative political views on specific issues are best understood as emanating from different metaphors for government as family -- the Strict Father (conservative) or the Nurturant Parent (liberal), not some of th This came out in 1996, and I've seen it, or its core idea, referred to so many times in newspaper articles that I felt as though I'd already read the book. Probably would have rated it higher and enjoyed it more if I'd read it when it first came out. Basic concept is that liberal vs. conservative political views on specific issues are best understood as emanating from different metaphors for government as family -- the Strict Father (conservative) or the Nurturant Parent (liberal), not some of the dimensions that supposedly account for them (relative importance of freedom vs. equality, individual vs. collective, states' vs. federal rights, less vs. more government, etc.). The case is elaborated in numbing detail and is fairly persuasive, though he doesn't deal much with how to account for people whose views do not agree with one side or the other consistently across issues (or as one of my brothers would say, whose ideas do not come by the six-pack). The author strains through most of the book to be even-handed, though it comes as no great surprise at the end that he thinks the liberal view is correct and superior. Somehow I'm not confident that conservatives are going to read the chapter on negative effects of corporal punishment and then deduce (via strict father metaphor linkage) that they must be wrong about the need for robust national defense and stricter anti-abortion laws. Also, it's not relevant to the utility or accuracy of his ideas, but I find it a slog getting through books in which the author is greatly impressed with his own insights -- there is a good deal of stuff along the lines of "consider this quote that shows how analyst or politician X fails to understand the way people think or where their politics come from - now let's consider my superior analysis".

  19. 5 out of 5

    Charles Moody

    Lakoff’s thesis is that the political divisions in our country are so intense because they are ultimately grounded in divisions in personal morality. Conservatives approach issues from a morality of strictness, believing that, as in a strict-father family, society must have rules with consequences in order for people to develop the necessary self-discipline, self-reliance, and respect for legitimate authority. Liberals, on the other hand, begin from a morality of nurturance, believing that when Lakoff’s thesis is that the political divisions in our country are so intense because they are ultimately grounded in divisions in personal morality. Conservatives approach issues from a morality of strictness, believing that, as in a strict-father family, society must have rules with consequences in order for people to develop the necessary self-discipline, self-reliance, and respect for legitimate authority. Liberals, on the other hand, begin from a morality of nurturance, believing that when people are empathized with, cared for, and respected, they can lead lives of personal fulfillment and meet their responsibilities to the community. I found interesting his documentation of how thoroughly the language of these two sets of metaphors (Strict Father and Nurturant Parent) pervade our political dialogue and cultural wars. But the last section (Who’s Right? And How Can You Tell?) did not seem serious to me. The Preface suggests that the book is intended to improve public discourse; because conservatives and liberals are unaware of their underlying moralities, they often make arguments that talk past each other, and are mystified when what seems common sense to them is deemed unpersuasive or irrelevant by the other side. But then in the book’s last section the author “proves” that conservative thought is both wrong and dangerous, because “strict father” parenting is not supported by research in child development – an undertaking that I cannot imagine was seriously intended to persuade any conservative that what he believes about national defense, immigration, abortion, or the size of government is misguided. At most it might dissuade a liberal from attempting better understanding of those who differ from him politically.

  20. 4 out of 5

    EB

    I spent a lot of time not liking this book. I think it was largely due to my resistance toward an understanding of politics within the framework of cognitive science. Or perhaps it was mostly due to the misleading title of the book. I thought it was going to be a more philosophical text on the nature of liberal and conservative rhetoric, more akin to a dissertation tracing the lineage of each sides’ means of persuasive logic and the competing moralities that result. That’s what I get for reading I spent a lot of time not liking this book. I think it was largely due to my resistance toward an understanding of politics within the framework of cognitive science. Or perhaps it was mostly due to the misleading title of the book. I thought it was going to be a more philosophical text on the nature of liberal and conservative rhetoric, more akin to a dissertation tracing the lineage of each sides’ means of persuasive logic and the competing moralities that result. That’s what I get for reading the title, realizing it was written by a cognitive scientist, and assuming “ya, that’s what that book is about.” The book is really two separate books, or maybe it’s more accurately described as an extended literature review of George Lakoff’s research followed by an extended opinion piece. It’s not quite as jarring as it sounds, because Lakoff doesn’t use much of the sophisticated jargon or long lists of references that I’m sure he utilizes in scholarly journals. He attempts to communicate the theory and application of his work in academia to a broader audience, and he does so with undergraduate-like simplicity. When Lakoff shifts gears toward the second portion, it doesn’t feel like he’s speaking to two different audiences or for different purposes. And yet the reason I spent a lot of time disliking the book is largely because of that first part. I couldn’t get over my mental hangups with the Lakoff’s conceptualization and application of cognitive science. One major bone of contention is that ihis main theses are based on inductive reasoning. This is by necessity based on the nature of cognitive science. We can’t see cognition per se. We can’t look into a microscope and see people using schemas, metaphors, and prototypes to make moral decisions that altogether make up political beliefs and action. Lakoff is clear that this requires that we induce those archetypes because they meet all of the adequate conditions he explicates. This is akin to saying “God must exist, because his existence meets adequate conditions of the world existing and something not being able to come from nothing” or “the engine is broken because the car isn’t moving and there’s no noise coming from it.” Though it’s not implausible, it doesn’t discount the probably thousands of other explanations available (in this case, that political belief and action is the product of more than just rational, moral calculus). Sometimes the line between induction and presumption fades all too quickly. That brings me to another criticism: the implication that people hold political beliefs and act in particular political ways based on rational moral calculus. The problem is that people don’t always think rationally or in consistency with espoused moral beliefs. I think that’s probably especially true when there are threats to existential needs, i.e. survival. People act largely within their self interest, however that gets defined at the time that they act. I would contend that it’s just as likely if not more likely in many instances that morals get determined and used to justify actions after the fact, not the other way around. That would seem to explain the reasons for contradictions between moral beliefs and political actions that Lakoff describes, and it might go as far or further in meeting his adequate conditions. He could benefit from partnering with a cognitive psychologist, or even one from the behaviorist tradition. I don’t want this to turn into a counterargument for all the reasons we should discount Lakoff. I only mention these to help understand why I felt like giving up on this one before I made the transition to the second portion, which still didn’t gratify my expectations of the book, but at least it was a pleasant enough read. Lakoff is clear at the beginning that he means to outline his theories on how liberals and conservatives think differently (in terms of the differing metaphors that make up their moral beliefs and that guide political action) as objectively as possible before turning to a persuasive expression of why he thinks that liberals in the United States have the right of it. I did enjoy how he brings together arguments from research and thought in psychology, child development, and other social sciences to discuss the merits of liberal-minded approaches to public policy. He takes apart the conservative mindset (based he argues on the “Strict Father” metaphor) and illustrates how it leads to the opposite outcomes of its intended goals. I agree and appreciate his message that we ought to inject our social and political consciences with more unconditional positive regard for our fellow human beings, which I gathered is the heart of Lakoff’s liberal “Nurturant Parent” moral model. However, I wonder if it’s not just a matter of finding his arguments persuasive but rather that I just happen to already agree with his conclusions for much of the same reasons. And though Lakoff does some work to clarify that all people will not fall into the category of purely liberal or conservative, his analyses and discussion seem to depend largely on people operating as if they did a majority of time. I can’t say that’s true for me. I identify as a liberal or leftist in my political views, though on some issues I’m more left-of-center or conservative. As such, some parts of Lakoff’s outline of liberal thinking hit home with me, like the central theme of empathy in morality. But still other parts struck me as totally off-the-mark, such as the notion that liberals think that citizens are to government as children are to families. Sure, I think that government has a role in protecting and nurturing its citizenry, but I don’t believe that the metaphor holds true in other ways like the claim that “children don’t know what’s best for themselves.” I wonder if conservatives would read his discussion of their ostensible way of thinking and find it equally dissatisfactory. In conjunction with the conjecture that all of this is going on subconsciously, meaning you’re doing it even if you’re not aware or insist you’re not doing it, the whole argument becomes doubly aggravating. I don’t think this one will be worth revisiting for most readers simply given the amount of time that has passed since its most recent publication. Not because it’s a bad book, but it probably benefited from the primacy of concerns regarding the family in the decades that it was sold. Nowadays it comes off as a soft-baked mix of social science disciplines that can be fed to an educated batch of pre-dedicated liberals who are looking for a slightly more empirical explanation of why they should believe the things they already do.

  21. 5 out of 5

    David

    This book presents an extremely convincing argument that the current state of politics and political discourse in the US are being shaped by similarities between how we conceptualize the relationship between government and its citizens and how we define our most basic family values. Whether or not you agree with the idea that most people formulate their political beliefs based on moral systems learned and supported in family units, after reading this for me there is no question that the values w This book presents an extremely convincing argument that the current state of politics and political discourse in the US are being shaped by similarities between how we conceptualize the relationship between government and its citizens and how we define our most basic family values. Whether or not you agree with the idea that most people formulate their political beliefs based on moral systems learned and supported in family units, after reading this for me there is no question that the values we use to define our political beliefs are derived largely from our sense of what type of world we live in and the world we'd like to live in. The genius of the book is its ability to group and map some very central values to the political worldviews of conservatives and progressives. While most people will not find themselves entirely represented by the categories described in the book, I came away with a better understanding of one way conservatives and progressives can think about their relationship to specific political issues. Like the author, I gained a heightened sense of the humanity of people who ascribe to a conservative world view while strengthening my conviction in and reasoning underlying my own progressive beliefs. I'd argue anyone who is concerned by the highly polarized state of politics and political discourse in the US will find this book time well spent, and an enlightening glimpse into an extremely powerful explanation for how we arrived here.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    Four and a half stars. This book was the first selection for an EPA Water Permits Division book club that never really got off the ground. We never got around to discussing this book (or any other), but I found the argument very compelling and find myself recalling it often even several years later. Lakoff's primary argument is that there is a common thread through family life and parenting styles, morality, and politics. He makes a persuasive argument that right-wing conservative polities is clos Four and a half stars. This book was the first selection for an EPA Water Permits Division book club that never really got off the ground. We never got around to discussing this book (or any other), but I found the argument very compelling and find myself recalling it often even several years later. Lakoff's primary argument is that there is a common thread through family life and parenting styles, morality, and politics. He makes a persuasive argument that right-wing conservative polities is closely allied with authoritarian ideas of family structure and, conversely, liberal politics can be connected to authoritative ideas of family structure. These connections help to explain a lot of things about the respective political platforms that can seem otherwise contradictory. Like how the supposedly "fiscally conservative" Republican party has been subsumed by leaders/groups that have no problem spending billions of dollars on defense and the military. Lakoff notes that conservatives have recognized the coherency of their position, and used it to gain a rhetorical monopoly on "family values" and "morality." But he argues that the liberal point of view can be seen as just as coherent, and that recognition of that internal consistency would go a long way toward balancing the morality argument in politics.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Angela Cheney

    I find George Lakoff's work in cognitive psychology to be absolutely fascinating! His conceptualization of two family models (the strict father model and the nurturant mother model) provides a framework to view the current political polarization in the USA these days. Living with this polarization is often very difficult, and seeing the impact it can have on both sides of the division (the Republicans who think Democrats eat their young for breakfast, and the Democrats who think the Republicans I find George Lakoff's work in cognitive psychology to be absolutely fascinating! His conceptualization of two family models (the strict father model and the nurturant mother model) provides a framework to view the current political polarization in the USA these days. Living with this polarization is often very difficult, and seeing the impact it can have on both sides of the division (the Republicans who think Democrats eat their young for breakfast, and the Democrats who think the Republicans eat their young for breakfast) is often painful in the way it plays out in families, churches and communities. What I think Lakoff may be overlooking, however, is the role that media and politicians may be playing in stirring up this polarization. This division is clearly profitable to the media, on both sides of the politcal spectrum, and the more there is conflict, the more successful the media can be in filling their 24/7 "news" coverage now. Politicians are finding easy, slick, platforms by claiming to not be "the other side" rather than being held accountable for having solutions to the problems facing us all. But Lakoff's book may provide some real clues as to how the initial, basic, differences are shaped, before they have "accelerants" thrown on them by politicians and the media.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

    If one of the characteristics of postmodernity is the understanding that all truths are contextually situated, then cognitive linguistics provides a more-than-adequate means for reckoning what we believe and why we believe what we believe. The cognitive model that lies in the heart of Lakoff’s Moral Politics thoroughly illuminates the American political landscape. If you have an open mind, then reading this book will provide you with a solid framework for understanding why political discourse sin If one of the characteristics of postmodernity is the understanding that all truths are contextually situated, then cognitive linguistics provides a more-than-adequate means for reckoning what we believe and why we believe what we believe. The cognitive model that lies in the heart of Lakoff’s Moral Politics thoroughly illuminates the American political landscape. If you have an open mind, then reading this book will provide you with a solid framework for understanding why political discourse since 1992 has been so polarized. Those who dismissively accuse Lakoff of having a liberal agenda are either missing the point or are applying a pre-Enlightenment, authority-based epistemology to their worldview and their interpretation of this book. His assumptions are reasonable and his methodology is transparent. Given his warrants and the evidence he provides, his conclusion—that our political ideologies are derived from our conception of an ideal family—is indisputable. Lakoff’s agenda, if he has one, is to foster the belief that we can know ourselves and our world. That—nothing more, nothing less—is what makes him a liberal. This is a great book. Read it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Should be required reading for any liberals OR conservatives who seek to thoughtfully discuss politics with their opposite number. This clearly written and thoughtful analysis of the underlying metaphors through which we all see the world provided this committed liberal with the first coherent explanation of why conservatives take the positions they do. I also found the descriptions of metaphors associated with liberal thought reasonably accurate. Overall, quite a good and useful read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Conrad

    What a miserable book. What it boils down to is, if you're a Democrat you follow a nurturant model of government and you're effeminate; if you're a Republican you follow a punitive model and you're masculine... but we should all be effeminate. What tripe. This perpetuates culture wars. What a miserable book. What it boils down to is, if you're a Democrat you follow a nurturant model of government and you're effeminate; if you're a Republican you follow a punitive model and you're masculine... but we should all be effeminate. What tripe. This perpetuates culture wars.

  27. 5 out of 5

    David

    Though I found the writing style arduous and plodding, this book really pushed me into understanding the underlying (and rational, each given their own premises) philosophy, ideology, and world views of the Conservative and the Liberal minds.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Pete Davis

    Great introductory concept: moral politics is based on what clusters of conceptual metaphors we subscribe to. But, the whole middle is too confident in his attempt at guessing and stretching his descriptions of the dominant metaphor clusters. Read the start and the end for the best insights.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lisa de Jong

    Why are liberals against the death penalty but anti abortion and conservatives vice versa? Lakoff gives fascinating insight into how the mind works from a political point of view and where these morals come from. Politics meets cognitive science and holds hands with semantics. Great read!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Very helpful book in understanding the sometimes baffling mind of conservatism.

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