Thebastidge: On Natural Principles
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    Thursday, April 19, 2007

    On Natural Principles

    I posted this first in comments over at Mrs. Dutoit’s site. I’ve expanded a little bit here with some thoughts that didn’t occur during my first draft.

    Once you understand that people react rather than think probably 90+ percent of the time, you understand why people are the way they are.

    Rigid deductive analysis is “expensive” in terms of time and effort. Habits (particularly of thought) influence us far more than we typically realize.
    The difference between conservatives and left-liberals is that conservatives have chosen to ‘practice’ certain habits of thought, and left-liberals have chosen to practice others. That’s why it takes each of us very little time to come to conclusions, and they are fairly consistent. We’ve already done the calculations and now have a short-cut to conclusion. Left-liberals mostly choose to ‘practice’ literature, and social ‘science’, “art” and feminist theory, etc. These are things that arguably have value, but do not, of themselves, give a good grounding in rigid analysis of how the world works.

    Leonardo Da Vinci was a natural scientist, not just an artist. His art grew from his drafting skills, honed through practice and apprenticeship. He didn’t just paint whatever took his fancy, he painted what he could observe, and then adapted it to a commercial venture- his art was never “pure” in the sense that most “modern artists” would use the term- he painted portraits for commissions, and made people look better than they did in life, for financial consideration.

    Non-deist conservatives (what Drumwaster's Rants calls "Rational Conservatives") mostly choose to practice mathematics, and engineering, and mechanics. Natural Sciences. This gives us grounding in natural principles, thus we have a habit of thinking in terms of these natural principles. The other major difference applies to financial investment strategies as much education: the more you invest up front, not only the more benefit you reap down the road, but it is also compounded along the way.

    [Aside: I have actually had people wonder what I am talking about when I say “natural principles”. Morality and ethics obviously involve some value judgment, but are worthless if they don’t align with natural principle. This goes for conservative morality as well. However, leftists always seem to think it is code for some kind of whacko fundamentalist theocratic commandments. This would seem to say more about their projected worldview and tendency to use dishonest crypto-speak than anything else. When I say, “No, it means things like ‘water is wet’ and ‘economics is about incentives’ they say, ‘of course’ and breeze on without thinking about it any further or applying the principle.]

    The time to challenge idiocy is as early as possible, in as non-emotional a venue as possible. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible. You have to create new habits in the place of the reflexive childishness (as in lack of self-reliance and responsibility, lack of analytical reasoning, intellectual laziness, and lack of life-competence) before you will change someone’s opinion. Even still, those old habits are easy to slip back into.

    Most leftists have good reason to be afraid of conservatives. We’re the engineers, the police, the military, the farmers and ranchers, the people who get things done. Essentially, they are dependant upon us and do not understand how things work. Children are most disturbed by their world being unpredictable.
    This is not to say that there are no left-wing engineers, or that no one who has a socialist bent has any technical knowledge. But the preponderance of the population divides along these lines.

    They are afraid because they are still in the dark ages- everything around them really IS the result of vast shadowy forces they neither comprehend nor control. Individual choice in economics really is a vague and indefinable, hard to predict quantity. They are still ignorant, superstitious tribesmen (identity politics anyone?) praying to the great gods Electricity and Science to keep them warm and safe, though they understand neither. Thus junk science- a glossy patina of rationalization over fundamentally flawed ideas. If you've never had to move more than your own weight, or fix something that was broken, you probably don't instinctually understand the principle of leverage, or feel confident of your own competence, or realize that you don't have the right tools. If you've never done a profit/loss assessment, you may not know when to write off sunk costs and start over without wasting resources on a lost cause. There is a reason why communism was more attractive to the peasant serf than the master craftsmen. A person with any skill or education is not likely to buy it.

    Nor are we on the right immune to it. We’re just more likely to be called on it and admit it, because we do value that analytical deconstruction and we empirically test our theories through application of the principles, because we are the do-ers in society- the business person, the engineer, the cop, the soldier, the farmer and mechanic.

    We do have that grounding in natural principles and thus we experience cognitive dissonance, that uncomfortable feeling of something not being quite right. We do have that moral belief and peer-pressure context that honesty and honour are more important than expediency. We conservatives value questioning and skepticism, particularly about new things. We try to see how the known facts fit into a context. Not all of us, but the preponderance.

    If you have little to no awareness of natural principle, then there’s nothing to be uncomfortable about. The world is a collection of random observances, unrelated to each other, and you don’t expect it to make sense. Thus any interpretation is as valid as any other.

    If you’ve been taught that the end justifies the means; that there is no underlying principle that makes one thing work and another thing fail; then intent is all that matters. Feeling good about intent is the highest possible good, because you can’t affect it in any meaningful way no matter what you do.

    As an aside: This is one reason why I like Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, btw. It focuses on relationships, and being in congruence with natural principle, and emphasizes that ‘personality ethic’ and facile sales technique avail nothing if not based upon natural principles, and investment in developing oneself. Mutual prosperity therefore flows naturally from developing relationships based upon this foundation of moral integrity and natural principle. Good will is a vital and natural part of this, but is properly incentivized by mutual prosperity, and not the other way around. It’s just good economics.

    This left/right dichotomy between understanding and applying natural principles reflects in discussion (or argument, if you prefer) styles. My natural response to inaccuracies is to refute them with references. I would expect anyone on my side of the argument to take the same tack with anyone. I would hope that someone on the OTHER side of the argument would do the same, but I am largely resigned to the fact that they rarely do.

    Inaccuracies in detail tend to make arguments less persuasive to me, because I think correct belief follows from correct grounding in the basics. An argument that contradicts the principles it is based upon, or an argument lacking in principle is worthless. Thus I invite people to do the research for themselves and try to always point to my sources.

    This is not an absolute reference, but does discuss some of the ideas I hold, and expresses some of it better than I know how to: Den Best on Inductive Logic. The preamble is about religion, but the meat of the matter is about how people come to conclusions.

    Here he talks about Science and Theory. I’ve heard a lot of the more ignorant people on the fundamentalist end of things do what he talks about ‘laymen’ doing; specifically thinking that because science labels a body of conclusions about the way the world works a ‘theory’ that it’s just a guess. (The Theory of Evolution comes to mind.) Well, I’ve run into far more people on the left end of the spectrum that treat rigorous analysis and deduction as no better than a guess. They may give lip service to science, but they really don’t ACT is if they believe in the best explanations we have for the way things work. In economics, that is known as ‘revealed preference’, and it is a better clue to what people really think than any poll.


    Blogger Barb said...

    "You have to create new habits in the place of the reflexive childishness ..."

    "History & Moral Philosophy", anyone?

    6:51 AM  

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