Wednesday, May 7, 2014

De-politicization of beliefs

An addendum to yesterday's post.

Say there is some issue A, like "climate change is a problem that warrants policy intervention," with which liberals are more likely to agree and conservatives are more likely to disagree (or vice versa). There has been talk of de-politicizing such issues, meaning removing the association of the issue with one ideological group (which may be a matter of detaching the issue from underlying beliefs or values that differ across ideological groups). The presumed benefit of de-politicization is that it would make conservatives more likely to believe A. But at the same time, it would make liberals less likely to believe A. That it is a political issue cuts both ways: it's harder to get some ideological groups on board, easier to get others.

Now, what we really want to accomplish is to get people to believe something because it's actually true. Appealing to reason doesn't seem to be the way to go, its effectiveness being severely limited. Perhaps there is a way to appeal to beliefs or values that are common to many ideological groups--stuff that tends to unite rather than divide people. This  raises the question of whether people adopt beliefs because they want to agree with their own group or because they to want to oppose some other group (about which I wrote a paper). If you argue an issue in a way that is meant to appeal to one's humanity (rather than one's ideology), will that fail because there is no obvious group to which one can be opposed? Does Haidt's "groupishness" have an inherent us-vs-them component? If so--if people need to find something to disagree about--then maybe the thing to do is change the focus of disagreement to something more innocuous. I.e. try to get liberals and conservatives to expend their us-vs-them energies on something that doesn't have such dramatic consequences.

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