The Literary Drover No. 1736


Previous mention of my reading list resulted in a large number of e-mails suggesting additional reading and asking for recommendations. If you want to indulge politics consider Thomas Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society and Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. You may not realize logic and reason or even common sense after reading these works, but the hope is that you will become a better person for reading them.

In Chapter 16 – Politics – Pinker notes with superficial sycophantic expression that Sowell accomplished the most impressive of undertakings: An almost inclusive attempt at surveying the underlying dimension of the conservative and liberal belief systems.

Pinker suggests a difference between the two is simplified as a vision. One he calls the Tragic Vision, and characterizes it as a vision wherein “humans are inherently limited in knowledge, wisdom, and virtue and all social arrangements must acknowledge those limits. . . human nature has not changed. We are all members of the same flawed species. . . Putting our moral vision into practice means imposing our will on others. The human lust for power and esteem, coupled with its vulnerability to self-deception and self-righteousness, make that an invitation to a calamity”. His examination continues that “in the Utopian Vision, psychological limitations are artifacts that come from our social arrangements, and we should not allow them to restrict our gaze from what is possible in a better world.” This assertion is further supported when he provides his view, where he notes that the sciences of the mind and human nature have vindicated a part of the Tragic Version, and he lists facts regarding findings regarding how the mind works and how these seven facts are relevant to the visions. Number Six seems to provide an explanation as to why Liberalism is dying a slow, wretched death: The prevalence of defense mechanisms, self-serving biases, and cognitive dissonance reduction, by which people deceive themselves about their autonomy, wisdom, and integrity.

A certain condemnation, Pinker concludes the chapter with a profound observation: “once the Utopian Vision is laid to rest, the field of political positions is wide open. The Tragic Vision, after all, has not been vindicated in anything like its most lugubrious form. For all its selfishness, the human mind is equipped with a moral sense, whose circle of application has expanded steadily and might continue to expand as more of the world becomes interdependent. . . Traditions, for their part, are adopted not to human nature alone but to human nature in the context of an infrastructure of technology and economic exchange”.
As noted, reading these tomes is unlikely to provide logic and reason as to the nature of politics presently, but they should provide you the means to understand why they are best avoided.


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