March 29, 2024

"If nothing else, reflecting on the social roots of your political opinions and behavior should prompt some humility."

"Even if you hold the 'correct' political beliefs, you may not deserve to congratulate yourself for them; your moral righteousness could be an accident of birth or a product of good social fortune. So on what grounds are you permitted to feel snidely superior to your peers who — simply because of their different life circumstances — wound up on the other side of the political aisle?... The contingency of our own positions also raises the distinct possibility that others’ opinions contain overlooked elements of truth."

Writes sociology professor Neil Gross, in "When It Comes to Politics, Are Any of Us Really Thinking for Ourselves?" (NYT).

Another occasion to roll out the old adage, "All the assholes are over on the other side":

44 comments:

Joe Biden, America's Putin said...

The left are telling us that Biden's 90+ executive orders to open the border are not real.

The left are telling us to ignore our lying ears.

Leland said...

Neil Gross seems like a bigot that assumes people are only who they are because of where they are from.

Narr said...

Hmmm. Yes.

I am thinking for myself.

Achilles said...

"When It Comes to Politics, Are Any of Us Really Thinking for Ourselves?"


I could have written that.

Now what percentage of liked comments on this article will be about how terrible Trump and his supporters are?

Yancey Ward said...

I guess I would ask this- how does Gross apply this paintbrush. I see the "are any of us" part but does he really mean it, or was this just a jumping off starting point to launch another NYTimes anti-conservative critique?

Enigma said...

This is a squishy sociologist rather than a natural scientist or engineer.

The proof is in the pudding. The proof is in your accomplishments in life. The locked-in proof is in the next generation. The proof becomes obvious after centuries of a given culture's effectiveness or failure or cruelty or fairness.

"But equity." "But diversity is our strength." Nope. The universe doesn't care. Some animals, plants, and people are literally doomed from the start. Not every acorn will grow to be a mighty oak tree. Mitigate the negatives, but don't expect that 2+2=5 or that you can create utopia.

Ice Nine said...

It would take a sociologist to come up with that, wouldn't it. A historian would know better than to bother.

RideSpaceMountain said...

I think about this often. There are things - and we've all seen them - in the last 10 years of America's political life that defy description. I'm well-traveled, educated, speak several languages, and have seen some things that seem unbelievable to me even though decades have passed, so I like to think that I have the necessary capacity to put myself in someone else's shoes. I want to understand how some of these events I've seen have coalesced and how some of the people doing them came to be the people they are. I genuinely do, and along with most rational people my default mode is to mercy and compassion first and any other reaction second. But I just can't stop seeing over and over again the same deadly motivations of pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth either alone or all at once in many who don't share my views. I'm pretty sure they'd say the same thing, but like Lincoln said, "Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time."

Cultural and moral relativism are a disproven joke. It's a failure. Bad culture exists. You see it all the time. Our ancestors saw it. Evil exists. I have seen it personally. Most actions do not have dual consequential pathways, just as most sins don't go unpunished in this life. And both heaven and hell can be earthly and all I see is a lot of pain in the lives of those that don't share my views. But I will never stop trying.

Wince said...

"So on what grounds are you permitted to feel snidely superior to your peers who — simply because of their different life circumstances — wound up on the other side of the political aisle?... The contingency of our own positions also raises the distinct possibility that others’ opinions contain overlooked elements of truth."

Oh, but now old friends, they're acting strange
And they shake their heads and they tell me that I've changed
Well, something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day

I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

AlbertAnonymous said...

“Our outcomes will be far better on average than if we acted from our lay knowledge, as higher death rates among Covid vaccine deniers attest.”

There’s the tell…

I’m calling civility Bullshit. This is a leftist telling the “Ultramaga” people to not be so angry and entrenched. We just don’t know how dumb we are, it’s time we try to understand all the lefty stuff that we don’t understand. After all, Obama and Clinton were in Manhattan with Joe. See, you’re gonna be fine. They have their top men on it… their best people !!

Narr said...

"Evil exists."

If history (or History) teaches us nothing else . . .

Ampersand said...

Gross makes an important point. There is a degree to which our opinions choose us.
I was much influenced by parents who grew up poor, and who were exposed to the tragic and foolish dimensions of life.

That said, most of my siblings are on the other side of the Great Divide. So the causal linkages are opaque.

Wince said...

A Republican transformation into a pro-growth, working-middle class party would seem to reflect the exact virtue being extolled.

traditionalguy said...

Jordan Peterson thinks for himself. Listen to him. He is on Spotify podcasts and many you-tubes.

As for Sociology, it is pure propaganda disguised as “Scientific” and a well known joke.

Humperdink said...

I remember like it was yesterday where my political views came from. I started a new job with a privately owned company in 1979. The owners were conservatives. Up to that point I was politically ambivalent. In the company lobby was a magazine rack filled with conservative publications. I started reading them at lunch and became sold. Lower taxes, fewer regulations, smaller government, stronger military. It all made sense, especially with a peanut farmer as president and the Iranian hostages paraded daily.

Big Mike said...

So on what grounds are you permitted to feel snidely superior to your peers who — simply because of their different life circumstances — wound up on the other side of the political aisle?

Because I’m smart and they’re stupid, and they’re stupid despite whatever credentials they may try to wave at me. If they’re on the other side of the Normals - Elitists chasm then their “life circumstances” probably have not included fixing a leaky faucet or using a plunger on a stopped up toilet. Do they know the difference between a cross cut saw and a rip saw? Have they ever changed their own oil? It’s not that these activities are ennobling, but the kind of people who implicitly sneer at plumbers, carpenters, and mechanics for not having a college degree, and who wish to do their thinking for small business owners, tradesmen, and even unskilled laborers, are contemptible on the best day of their despicable lives.

Do I think Prof. Gross is among the Elitists? He’s a sociology professor — do I need any additional proof?

MadTownGuy said...

Quote from the article:

"The contingency of our own positions also raises the distinct possibility that others’ opinions contain overlooked elements of truth."

He says that, but does he mean it?

Virgil Hilts said...

I am struck by how many liberal friends do not seem to have a single unorthodox belief, even as the orthodox shifts in weird ways.
I think growing up people of my age generally accepted that maybe 1% of humanity (or at least men) were crazy or psychopaths and just needed to be kept locked up, that maybe 5% of people were potential addicts and making drugs / vices freely available might not be a great idea (even if we tolerated indulgence behind closed doors), that some cultures were vastly superior to others, and you had to be careful radically changing things if and when things were working.
I think the writer is wrong. Too many people seem to have lost the opinions and common sense that our parents/grandparents had. The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter will return, but it's not going to be fun.

wildswan said...

The intellectual underpinning of one's thought can be either philosophy or the common outlook of one's social group. Included in this last these days is the possibility, if your group is "liberals", that you have adopted the outlook of the social group sworn to destroy you which you adopt to show you aren't a pawn of your environment. The Lincoln Project and Queers for Palestine are an examples of that.
Philosophy began when the Greeks came in contact with diverse societies as they traded. The first response was Sophism where people taught you how to appeal to the group you needed to win over using the arguments the group would recognize without regard for whether you believe what you are saying. This is pretty much the same as the social sciences, propaganda, marketing, etc., or in other words, where we are today.
The Socrates worked to develop a rational response. A rational response is universal. From this came philosophy with its universal claims. But philosophy got into trouble in the sixteenth century when Descartes replaced realism with idealism. The idealist philosophers were not able to prove under their own rules that their thinking connected to real existence - the point for us being that this meant that there was no possible universal basis for our social and political judgements. Philosophy was replaced by the social sciences, mere accounts of a society's rules and assumptions.
Starting from the realist philosophical stand point one can achieve a rational, universal basis for one's social and political opinions. In a realist philosophy we come to understand that our minds understand the world as made up of beings with different forms. Our knowledge is just knowledge of those forms but it is stable knowledge because it based on how things are existing, not how our society taught us to stereotype them.
In a realist philosophy the person is real, and the state is an organization made to serve the person in their basic nature. The US was founded by men following a realist philosophy "We hold these truths to be self-evident. All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights [i.e., with a nature] - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights just governments are established among men."
So anyone who only believes in the social sciences can't actually get to a rational defense of their society or any other they defect to or to a rational social theory. But by adopting the realist outlook it would be possible to re-achieve a rational understanding of the basis of society, especially our own.
In a sense, the Federalist Papers are based on this metaphysical position, you can just read them. But time goes on. We're back in the time of the Sophists and a metaphysical or realist and rational defense of the Federalist Papers might be needed now.

This collapse of metaphysics is set forth in Modern Philosophy, Langan which is now on Kindle, 7.95, use the Althouse portal.

Original Mike said...

"When It Comes to Politics, Are Any of Us Really Thinking for Ourselves?"

I read in the NYT, the day after the 2004 presidential election, an article interviewing New Yorkers about their opinion of the results. One New Yorker offered that in New York voters think for themselves, while in the Midwest people vote for whom their friends tell them to vote. NY City went for Kerry like 90%, while in Wisconsin the vote was essentially 50/50.

Original Mike said...

"When It Comes to Politics, Are Any of Us Really Thinking for Ourselves?"

Open border; awful policy.
DEI; awful policy.
Shutting down fossil fuel generation w/o a viable replacement; awful policy.
Defund the police, don't incarcerate criminals; awful policy.
Lawfare your political opponents; awful policy.
(I'm sure I missed some more awful policies.)

Yeah, I think for myself. Democrats have us on the road to ruin.

Carla Zaz said...

Maybe instead of worshipping the subjective, or blindly thinking that the subjective is the only thing that counts, we just go back to objective truths that all persons can discover and know by right reason and base our laws on that?

There is a natural law that applies to all regardless of people's opinions. But it is inconvenient for some people's wants and desires and passions.

Bob Boyd said...

This used to be obvious common sense. Now it's news.

Rusty said...

Some thoughts.
The guy asleep on the curb has the right idea.
Just because you have a guitar doesn't mean you should play it.
Blues. Even bad blues make every outdoor event better.

Joe Smith said...

I get it, but there are things that most sane people can agree upon.

Here are two: Men cannot be women, and it's a bad idea to castrate your teenage male child.

And yet one side thinks that men can indeed be 'real actual' women, and that little Johnny is better off being little Jane.

Until this chasm is bridged, there will always be a social civil war...

Rabel said...

After 475 words, wildswan finds a line break.

You have some interesting things to say. I'd love to read them. But reading text on a monitor is not like reading text in a book. It's difficult for my old eyes to follow through the block of words without losing my place. Please consider making your posts more readable with a little bit of spacing.

Thank you.

Bob Boyd said...

Guy realizes he's not thinking for himself after all. Decides that describes everybody. Feels better. Doesn't rethink anything.

Christopher B said...

There's a popular line that goes something like "you can't reason someone out of a position that he wasn't reasoned into."

It would seem then to be the case that you can't reason someone into a position that you didn't adopt by reason, either.

Jupiter said...

"Writes sociology professor Neil Gross."

You know, Althouse, when they tell you right up front that the author is a sociology professor, or a noted astrologer, or a feng shui consultant, you don't have to keep reading. I remember how liberating it was, sometime in my 20's, when it dawned on me that "You don't have to finish it, just because you started it!". Although I picked up a surprising amount of random general information, reading pretty much everything I found on the fiction shelves of the Eugene Public Library all the way to the end.

OhMichael said...

I know some leftists personally and I can tell you as a fact they sit around with each other and brag they are the smart crowd, brag they are the moral crowd, and look down on anyone who disagrees with them. It is virtue signaling, it really isn't true, but their entire world view depends upon it.

Rabel said...

"What You Are Is Where You Were When."

An old adage from Morris Massey.

OhMichael said...

I know some leftists personally and I can tell you as a fact they sit around with each other and brag they are the smart crowd, brag they are the moral crowd, and look down on anyone who disagrees with them. It is virtue signaling, it really isn't true, but their entire world view depends upon it.

Achilles said...

Wince said...

A Republican transformation into a pro-growth, working-middle class party would seem to reflect the exact virtue being extolled.

Why do you think NYT's readers are so upset?

RideSpaceMountain said...

On the pinnacle of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi were the 3 great "Ɛ" Delphic Maxims:

1. "Know thyself" (Γνῶθι σεαυτόν)
2. "Nothing to excess" (Μηδὲν ἄγαν)
3. "Surety brings ruin" (Ἐγγύα πάρα δ' Ἄτα)

Most are very familiar with #1, but in my opinion the most important is #3. Nothing humans can ever know is 100%, not even the love of family. That being said a lot of people - probably including Neil Gross - look at #3 as an excuse to do nothing at all, as if building oneself even a partially completed 'ontological raft' were a fool's errand.

As some have already said, biological sex is where I draw the line. 100% surety? No. Just 99.999%.

ColoComment said...

I have read Bastiat, Hayek, Friedman, Sowell, Krugman, Reich, Russell, and others, all of whom write on economics (which, I contend, should be the driving force behind all politics.) Y'know, guys who've written about cost v benefit, and allocation of scarce resources, and satisfaction of wants v needs type "stuff."

You can find it distilled down to 4 ways to spend your money, here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RDMdc5r5z8

Achilles said...

ColoComment said...

I have read Bastiat, Hayek, Friedman, Sowell, Krugman, Reich, Russell, and others, all of whom write on economics (which, I contend, should be the driving force behind all politics.) Y'know, guys who've written about cost v benefit, and allocation of scarce resources, and satisfaction of wants v needs type "stuff."

Economists would be better than our current negotiators who are largely lawyers who are only slightly better than Sociology majors..

But Economics is too narrow to cover the development of social contracts. More than that wealth and consumerism are poor predictors of happiness and fulfillment across a population. Spirituality and Biology are at least as important for subject specific contributors to that negotiation. Philosophy would also be an important contributor.

Economists are experts and they *know* stuff. They are prone to follow dogmatic response. Lawyers are even worse.

A Generalist who knows a bit about all of the above subjects would come up with better solutions.

Rusty said...

Jupiter is very wise.

Achilles said...

Ideology is fun. An interesting discussion about Candace Owens being Fired at the Daily Wire.

The left vs. right conversations are boring compared to this stuff. The real fight in this country is Truth vs. Con Inc.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

I don't feel "snidely superior" to anyone. Not even my parents, who are now so far to my left that, as the saying goes, you can't see there from here. Nor can I attribute my current politics to my "environment" (at any time) or anything else. I grew up left-wing, and at 16 went to UC/Berkeley. At the time, my parents were trying to restrain their leftist firebrand of a child.

So . . . things changed. Partly b/c of what befell me at Cal. I went to a meeting of the Campus Progressive Coalition and discovered that I was the fourth and last person present. I went through grad-student "sensitivity training" and discovered that it was I who'd made the racist mistake, in not assuming that the two students "monopolizing the discussion," with generic (not-obviously-ethnic) names were white. When I said in a training session that I was formerly a mechanical engineering student, and had never experienced sexism from either that world or the one I was currently in (music), I got, "Oh, yes, lots of women in the hard sciences have this illusion that they've been fairly treated." When I said the same to a fellow female grad student, she retorted, "But they don't see you as female." As opposed, presumably, to herself.

Bleh.

I have been picking my own way, thank-you-very-much. And I do not believe that I have been following anyone.

Rusty said...

"The real fight in this country is Truth vs. Con Inc."
Yes. So the question then becomes, "what do we know to be true?"
We are born either one of two sexes. This is the truth. It is irrefutable.

Mikey NTH said...

Someone somewhere is publishing that no one has a monopoly on truth?

That's interesting.

Mikey NTH said...

Humperdink: I was delivering newspapers then and remembered reading all about the hostages in Iran and was outraged that other than the failed rescue attempt nothing was being done other than negotiate. I knew enough history to know "Pedicaris alive or Rassouli dead" was a negotiating position and why that wasn't done turned my teenage person to a Republican and a Reaganite.

mikee said...

As a lapsed Roman Catholic I have enjoyed, in years past, telling evangelizing Protestants that according to the One True Church, they are heretics and damned to eternity in Hell without their return to the loving arms of Mother Rome. Assuming even such a blatantly faux moral superiority over people whose entire act is based on assuming their own moral superiority is a great way to crack their shell of self righteousness. And it usually got them to shut the hell up and go away.

I offer this method free of charge to anyone reading who may find it of use in their own lives, with religious people, political people, salesmen, pimps and hoes. It works wonders with them all.

Rusty said...

mikee
I just tell em I'm jewish and they leave me alone.