Thursday, September 16, 2010

Philosophy vs. Ideology

At a Minnesota fund-raiser, Bill Clinton put his finger on the reason it's so hard to discuss politics or achieve consensus in the U.S.—too much dogma and too little philosophy:

"If you have a philosophy, it means you’re generally inclined one way or the other but you’re open to evidence. If you have an ideology, it means everything is determined by dogma and you’re impervious to evidence. Evidence is irrelevant."

This is a very interesting distinction, and one which pretty well sums up the great political divide in America.

People who subscribe to similar philosophies may argue the finer points of their world view, although they tend to agree on the basic premises. This requires real intellectual work and enough integrity to admit to doubts and uncertainties.

Ideologues, on the other hand, gloss over differences and march together in lockstep, espousing a particular point of view regardless of all evidence to the contrary. They put forth their own version of truth—be it "truth" about climate change, creationism, or the Constitution—and evidence be damned.

Sadly, the ideologues have a real advantage in politics. They can always speak with complete conviction, regardless of the truth or falsehood of their arguments. Thus, John Boehner can falsely claim that the Bush tax cuts created jobs and stimulated the economy; in fact, they added $38 billion to the deficit (one of a series of missteps by the Bush administration that turned a $128 billion surplus into a $490 billion deficit).

It's hard to talk to ideologues. They tend to be firm in their (sometimes literal) conviction that God is on their side and evidence that supports another view is the work of the devil.

How can any rational person argue with that?


Idna said...

I would LOVE to explore this "philosophy vs. ideology" with a little hypothetical exercise. Are you game?

In the previous post, in your comment about Alvin Greene, the S.C. Dem. nominee for Senate(which has become a real embarrassment for the Dem. party), you said "the man has more going for him than some of the Tea Party candidates we've been discussing."

Really?? Have you SEEN some of his interviews?

The guy had an "involuntary discharge" from the military (read: he was kicked out) for ineffective leadership, lacking organization and receiving multiple disciplinary actions for failing to perform his duties.

So here's my question. If you lived in South Carolina who would you vote for? Jim DeMint or Alvin Greene? No fair choosing to NOT vote or voting for a third party.

And since you don't live in S.C., who are you rooting for to fill that very important Senate Seat? The Republican who has lots of experience, but you don't agree with his ideas ... or Alvin, who is more than a few pecans short of a fruitcake?

Citizen Jane said...

Under no circumstances could I, in good conscience, ever vote for Jim DeMint. He's been a consistent leader in the efforts of the Republicans to obstruct all progress in Washington,
D.C., regardless of whom it might benefit, for the past two years. A religious fanatic and member of the secretive "C Street" clan, he's one of the most dangerous class of nut cases--the kind that can pass as rational.

Nope. There are Republicans I could support, but if I lived in S.C., I'd cast my lot with Mr. Greene.

Idna said...

I am speechless!

And this is the first time I heard about "C street". Upon googling it, it seems to be a spiritual retreat for Bible study and a support group for Congressmen.

Obviously there must be lots of conspiracy blather out there in liberal circles about the evils of this group for you to bring it up. What exactly have they done?

I'm sure that if C street was a Muslim meeting place, liberals would fall on their swords to defend it. But Christians are DANGEROUS and must be feared?

Six said...

Hi CJ - been a long time since I last posted!

Seems to me though, in your world what it really amounts to is that if someone agrees with you, it's because they are guided by 'philosophy' and if they disagree it is because they are guided by 'ideology'...

I mean, Democrats never 'gloss over the differences' and 'march in lock-step' regardless of evidence to the contrary... I can't think of ever a time when Clinton, Obama, Pelosi, etc did aaaanything like that....

Citizen Jane said...

Idna, I can see where Fox News might not have been interested in covering the controversies regarding C Street, since there's no way to spin that story without making extreme conservatives (and in this case, we're talking about extremists from both parties) look bad.

Jeff Sharlet, in his book "C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy," disclosed a good many of that group's secrets, from tax dodging to covering up illicit affairs to promoting persecution of gays in Uganda. It's a very ugly look at how some of our tax dollars have been spent and what some of our elected officials have been doing with their time.

Idna said...

The insulting suggestion that I ONLY get my news from Fox has been duly noted. I feel no compunction to once again try to correct your false assumption.

Be that as it may, the C-Street conspiracy theory made up by some no name author is obviously without merit. If there was really something there, you can bet that many other media outlets, who are no fans of Christians or conservatives, would have run with it.

Taking just one of your examples, that of tax-dodging. Why have none of these "C-Street politicians" been brought up on charges? We see that there are currently several politicians who will be making visits to the Ethics Committee (but naturally only after the elections)for their own tax dodging and funny money bookkeeping. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), comes to mind. He, who was Chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, who writes laws concerning how other people need to pay taxes, couldn't quite understand how to pay his own.

Then there are lovely Maxine Waters (D-CA)and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson(D-TX.)

And how about tax-cheat Timothy Geithner ... whom Obama made Treasury Secretary.

And then there was Former Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) who was sentenced 13 years in prison for what the lead prosecutor described as "the most extensive and pervasive pattern of corruption in the history of Congress."

So you see, even when Democrats are totally in power, they attempt to bring tax cheats to justice even if they are other Democrats. So why wouldn't they jump at the chance to skewer Republican Conservatives Christians? This would be fabulous stuff for them especially during election cycles.

Your description of Jim DeMint as a C-Streeter and one of the most dangerous Senators out there would make him a prime target, wouldn't you say? So why no accusations to be heard if any of this nonsense were true?

Anyone can write a conspiracy book. Doesn't make it true. So for now, even though I'm not from Missouri, I'll co-opt their slogan as say "you'll have to show me."