Join | Login


  Home > Philosophy > Articles > Why the Left and Right Can't Agree
Philosophy Articles
  1. If You Live Long Enough
  2. Aiding The Underprivileged and The Needy
  3. Universal Reasoning
  4. Everything is on its way to Somewhere
  5. Metaperspectives for the Future: Technolog
  6. Paralipsis...
  7. Rainbowing Prisims
  8. Evolving Thoughts
  9. Introducing Tao of the Rainbow
  10. Tolerance
  11. The Great War at 100-Honor v. Dignity
  12. More Robert Fulghum... ...Why not?
  13. The Law And Morality
  14. Poor Planet Earth: a Volunteer Trapped in
  15. From There‑Then to Here‑Now
  16. The (actual) Happiness Machine – Inspired
  17. This n' That
  18. Learning for the Right Reasons – Commitmen
  19. Is Faith an Addiction?
  20. Participating and Observing

Featured Book
Everything (Available in print; e-book, 2nd Ed.; and Kindle,
by Robert Wood

A unique perspective about the reality of existence, the meaning of life, the true impact of relationships between human beings and all life as well as the spirit world, ..  
BookAds by Silver
Gold and Platinum Members

Why the Left and Right Can't Agree
By Edward Phillips   

Share    Print  Save   Author Tracker

Analysis of a recent political debate involving Left and Right, and repeated reliance on the "Is/Ought" contradiction.

Why the Left and Right Can't Agree

I just listened to one of the best political discussions I've heard in a very long time.  On the Right were George Will and Paul Ryan, while on the Left were Barney Frank and Robert Reich.  It was a debate about what is right or wrong with America, who or what is responsible for our problems, and what can/should be done to correct  many issues.  The debate was moderated by Christiane  Amanpour.  One refreshing element was the absence of shouting.  Each of the participants was civil and respectful of the others, and each made and defended many points well.  As usual, however, they agreed on virtually nothing and nothing was resolved.  The highlight of the proceedings occurred right after George Will blamed "Big Government" for most of America's ills, whereupon Robert Reich stood up (he's about 4'10") and said "I've been in government most of my life, and I don't think  'Big' government is the problem."  The audience roared with laughter.  Barney Frank also scored a good laugh when he argued that he could not understand why the Right believes that if he were to marry a man, that his action would somehow cause other married men to want to leave their wives. "Why? he asked.  "Would they suddenly be attracted to me?"

The reason why there was not a meeting of minds on issues was because the two sides were arguing from two perspectives that did not allow for a resolution, or even for finding common grounds.  Think about that:  Four intelligent people of good will, were discussing issues honestly and with good intentions,  nevertheless, they could not find common grounds, and each believed he had the high ground.  In reality, they all fell victim to this very common flaw of logic:   One side was making a "normative" argument, while the other was making a "positive "argument. 

A normative argument is one in which the presenter argues from values.  He/she wants to discuss "what ought to be" by arguing from a set of values or principles.  He tries to keep the debate focused on the ideal society, and if we can only get back to those ideals, everything will be fine.  And the big intruder to his ideal society is government--big government.  It is an easy argument to make or defend because we all tend to support the same basic set of values.  It's the way those on the Right tend to argue.

In contrast, a positive argument is one in which the participant argues from facts.  He/she wants to discuss "what is" or the conditions that actually prevail.  He is concerned with fixing things that are wrong.  He sees the injustices that arise when crooks, thieves, and other dishonest people are in charge, or make bad policies.  This is the way those on the Left tend to argue.

In the "give and take" of the debate the arguments quickly fall into predictable categories.  The Left argues "spend more or less to fix a problem," or "fire this person" to fix another problem.  The Right counters with "that would mean more government, and we don't need more government, but less."   Or, "we need less spending, not more."

 And so we have a format of "facts" vs. "principles," which produces neither solutions nor even common ground for finding solutions.  A wise philosopher (David Hume) alerted us to this fallacious way of reasoning about 250 years ago:

    Put simply, nothing about the way the world is can tell us anything about the way it should be. The view of far too many scientists and philosophers is that even given a perfect understanding of human nature and the universe, we would lack sufficient information to say how humanity ought to be. The is-ought “fallacy” has poisoned intellectual discussion for centuries.

 In my opinion Hume's words are among the wisest ever spoken in the past 300 years on this subject.  We need to stop confusing "what is" with "what ought to be."  This is the "secret" to making progress in any kind of discussion on any subject.  Put another way, we all need to first agree on the facts.  Once done, we at least then have a chance of agreeing on how we "ought" to apply those facts to the solution of a problem or to a common purpose.








Click here to post or read comments.

Recent articles by this author.     All articles by this author
  • What is Truth? (Tuesday, March 03, 2015)
  • Spock: Live Long and Prosper (Friday, February 27, 2015)
  • Best Video Ever Made (Monday, February 23, 2015)
  • America: Change it or Lose it, Part II (Friday, February 20, 2015)
  • America: Change it or Lose it (Wednesday, February 18, 2015)
  • Remembering Frank Chacksfield (Tuesday, February 17, 2015)
  • D้jเ vu (Friday, February 06, 2015)
  • When Competing Evils Collide: c. 2040 (Saturday, January 31, 2015)

  • The House of Music by Lois Santalo

    Opera star Philippe Weintrob of Vienna shares with an American woman a recurring dream of a house of music where groups regularly perform. Philippe is convinced this means they sha..  
    Featured BookAds by Silver
    Gold and Platinum Members

    DELUSIONS — Pragmatic Realism by Stan Law (aka Stanislaw Kapuscinski)

    Dedicated to Richard Dawkins,in gratitude for many hours of enjoyable reading. While he and I don’t always see eye to eye, the doctor might find, here, additional arguments for his..  
    Featured BookAds by Silver
    Gold and Platinum Members

    Everything (Available in print; e-book, 2nd Ed.; and Kindle, 3rd Ed.) by Robert Wood

    A unique perspective about the reality of existence, the meaning of life, the true impact of relationships between human beings and all life as well as the spirit world, and the im..  
    Featured BookAds by Silver
    Gold and Platinum Members

    Authors alphabetically: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

    Featured Authors | New to AuthorsDen? | Add AuthorsDen to your Site
    Share AD with your friends | Need Help? | About us

    Problem with this page?   Report it to AuthorsDen
    ฉ AuthorsDen, Inc. All rights reserved.