George Lakoff points out that the differences between "conservative"
and "liberal" positions on various issues have less
to do with "disagreements of fact and logic" than with
opposing "metaphorical" conceptions of morality.
Take two examples: student grants & corporate
1. Conservative view of student grants:
They're "immoral" because:
• They encourage dependence on the government, and so
are against the morality of self-reliance & self-discipline.
• They're not available to everyone, so they introduce
competitive unfairness, an interference with the "free
market", and hence with the fair pursuit of self-interest
(part of the morality of reward and punishment).
• Since they're paid for by tax, they take money from
someone who has earned it, and give it to someone who hasn't
(against the morality of rewarding self-reliant, self-disciplined
2. Conservative view of corporate welfare:
Not (immediately) seen as immoral because:
• Those receiving it are pre-conceptualised as self-reliant,
self-disciplined in the entrenched iconography of the heroic,
hard-working, successful "wealth creator". In
the moral accounting metaphor of conservatives, they are deserving.
• The comparison between corporate welfare and social
welfare thus doesn't work on conservatives (at least not without
decades of reframing), because the heroes and demons in the
conservative worldview are based on "deep" cultural
metaphors reflecting the primary morality of self-discipline
(The "liberal" view, in contrast, holds things like
"empathy" and "nurturance" as primary, in
moral terms, with self-discipline and self-reliance as secondary
in moral importance.)
Naturally, when you split people into two groups, you are making
generalisations. But where people continue with such dichotomies
(right v left, liberal v conservative, corporate v non-corporate,
power v public), why not be informed about the validity (eg in
scientific terms) of the basis for the dichotomy?
Moral metaphors and moral framing, and the way they underlie
political worldviews in general, are subject to scientific investigation.
But essences of good and evil, aren't. We don't have virtue-o-meters.