Friday, November 28, 2014

Lakoff's Salon interview

Read it here. Some excerpts follow, with follow-up discussion at this IPS thread:

"People thought that when I was talking about framing that I was talking about words. This is what Frank Luntz keeps saying, 'Words that Work.' The reason he can do that is that on the right, the think tanks figured out the frames before he came along. All he had to do was supply the words for the frames, whereas we have to think out the whole thing. Moreover, the assumption was that there was no difference between framing and spin, which is utterly ridiculous. You do framing every time you talk, every time you think, because frames are what you use in thinking—they’re neural structures."

"[W]hen you start talking about the communications system that the right wing has set up, people think, 'Well, we’re Democrats and progressives, we don’t do that. We don’t set up a real communications system; that would be underhanded, that would be propaganda.' There’s a difference between saying what you believe in, getting your ideas out there, and propaganda to say what you believe. You tell the truth, that’s not propaganda."

"[T]hought is part of the world. That when you’re thinking, it’s not separate from reality, it’s part of reality. And if your understanding of the world is reflected in what you do, then that thought comes into the world through your actions. And then through your actions, if many people have the same ideas, those ideas are going to spread, and they’re going to come back and reinforce themselves, because they will change the world."

 "Hypocognition is a very big deal. There is an assumption that we have all the concepts we need. We can express anything we want, and this is there, officially, in a lot of Anglo-American philosophy—it ‘s called the principle of expressability. It says that we have all the concepts we need, because concepts are assumed to come right out of the world, in an Aristotelian fashion: The world gives us our concepts, we have all the concepts we need, and therefore we can express anything in natural language using those concepts, because words just express concepts.

"All of that’s false. Words don’t express concepts that way, concepts aren’t like that, etc., and the principle of expressability isn’t true. What’s important here is that we don’t have all the ideas we need, and reflexivity is one of them. Hypocognition itself is an idea that we need."

"[I]n the brain, there’s a hierarchy of frames, which is there in neural circuitry. When you strengthen something lower in the hierarchy that implies strengthening things up higher in the hierarchy, which is the way that neural system works. So that is why conservatism has come as far as it has in the last 30 years. The conservatives have been using their language, getting it out there on all the issues, and progresses have done the opposite.

"The reason for this is really interesting, because progressives think that they have to speak to the other guy in the other guy’s language. You’ve got to speak their language for them to understand it. It’s exactly the wrong way. Because as soon as you use conservative language, it activates conservative frames, which activates the conservative moral system, which strengthens it, and weakens your own."

"Around the world, people study the grammar of languages, and every grammar has a way that expresses causation, direct causation only, or slightly indirect causation, where there might be one intermediate cause, or something, but every language expresses direct causation. No language has in its grammar to express systemic causation. The reason for that is clear. When you’re a child, you learn direct causation. There is no way that, as a child, you’re going to learn systemic causation. And once you learn, the structure of the world that you acquire as a child has everything to do with your conceptual system, and the kinds of concepts expressed in the grammars of the world. So what happens is you have to actually learn what systemic causation is.

"That’s really important to understand if you’re going to understand global warming denial. Because the deniers are just going to use direct causation. Direct causation comes out of a lot of conservatism. This is spelled out in my book “Whose Freedom?,” where it turns out that conservatives tend to think in terms of, in a strict father situation, the kid does something wrong, immediately their job is to spank them or hit them or do something painful to make him regret it and try to avoid doing that thing—it’s direct causation. Similarly you have Republican policies about immediately sending troops and having shock and awe right away, and so on, in all military situations. That is a case of direct causation, and many other conservative proposals involve direct rather than systemic causation, and require not thinking about what the system really requires."

 "[Y]ou not only have two moral systems, but there is a test that shows that one moral system fits what’s true about the world and the other does not. And that’s a big deal. I hadn’t really thought that through back in 2004, but one of the things that Obama particularly has said and that all progressives intuitively know, even if they don’t say it, is that there’s a difference in the view of democracy between conservatives and progressives.

"And the person who has best expressed that is Elizabeth Warren. [...] And almost nobody aside from Elizabeth Warren ever says it. But it’s out there, it’s behind all the issues, and the point of it is that those public resources permit freedom, they allow you to be free to start a business, they allow you to be free to be healthy and have health care—health care allows freedom; you have cancer and you don’t have health care you’re not free. Having safe food allows you to be free to eat, not worry constantly about whether you’re going to be poisoned."

"This is crucial in our society and it’s absolutely central, it needs to be said every day and that’s the next mistake. The Democrats think they only have to worry about messaging during an election. Messaging is constant. Why? Because it’s what changes people’s brains. It is what gets those ideas out there."

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