One problem any writer has who tries to deal with a subject that is both subtle and different from what the reader already thinks or knows is that, if the concept is different than the words needed to explain the concept either needs to be a pile of senseless jargon that the reader has a hard time remembering, or to carefully define common words and concepts to explain the subtleties they intend. Often they are the original idea mangled by misuse of others, sometimes it is taking a word of somewhat blurry definition and attempting to create a use that has more clarity at least by that particular writer. Personally, I prefer the latter refinement of what exists rather than inventing new. First, let me point out that those values I am discussing are derived from many sources; most directly from George Lakoff as each side represents the particulars of what he calls the "Strict Father Morality"(SF) and the other from what he calls "Nurtutant Parent Morality"(NP). As he points out, a great many people use these in different amounts in different aspects of their lives. Someone might treat their Family SF, their church NP, their Business SF, their local politics NP and their National Politics SF; they would be called Centrist politically, but so would a person that thought the opposite of that in every particular. And even that could be not fine enough grain as they could take different sides on different issues within each of those points. Lakoff has gone to considerable distance to point this out and calls them "Biconceptuals" and that most people may not be an even split, but will go to one side on many issues and the other on some others.

As for business, Douglas McGregor developed virtually the same dynamic (as theory “X” and Theory “Y”) in the 1960s and used them to define the SF and NP attitude in running a business, pointing out that the NP mode (theory “Y”) can be more profitable and certainly have a happier workforce. It is certainly possible that even a Dictatorship could have a "Good King" that oversees himself, and even acts as an honest agent for all of his people. In theory even the lowest peasant could feel very free in such an environment, but without an institution to codify that, it could change in a minute if the king dies and his son stands as the opposite position. Many have outlined that divide, but I will be using Lakoff's version as a common definition.

Lakoff speaks of the common vision of a nation and a family, and McGregor speaks of a business, I have sought to unify all group actions to look at their common structures and compare when they are most Functional and dysfunctional. This has led to particularizing Lakoff's SF vs NP names he has used, to four critical values, that I think that you can define 95% SF & NP general morality. In short form they are: Accountability, Empowerment, Empathy, and Reality. It is very easy to go off the rails in how different people will see those words I will try to give more detail later. In the finest detail, there is little or no middle ground, though as noted most folk flip or flop one way or the other depending on how the question is even asked, and it is more than just possible to ask the question in a way that pushes the answer to one side or the other, it is the central point of much of Lakoff's work, to not be trapped by folk who do that.

To understand how it all works one first needs to have an agreed structure and common definitions and understanding of the generic nature of groups. For any group of people to achieve a goal many people have to each do their part. The achievement itself will have costs and benefits and a lot of structure about different levels of involvement and impact that I will not be addressing here; but for simplicity's sake I will define it as an Enterprise. The borders of an Enterprise are also not "clean" as everyone's life will involve many Enterprises, most interacting to some amount with each other so trends and structure is easily lost in the minutia of each special case.For the Value of Accountability/responsibility, the  one job common to every Enterprise is the person who best expresses the common vision and organizes the other jobs and benefits of the rest of the group. Unlike most parts that people have to play this leadership position holds social or political power, and if people are going to voluntary do their part in the Enterprise, they have to believe that they are getting a fair shake that the leader is acting as the AGENT of everyone involved and not the king and must take the needs of everyone to account first and not last. If they embezzle they should have the bad life of any other embezzler caught and punished.

In NP Morality the Leader is the Agent and in SF morality they are the King, and not accountable to those they lead.

For the value of Empowerment, it should be obvious that a person who has great talent that is artificially blocked, will not be able to apply that talent for society, and while they may be injured by loss of the compensation for that talent, the entire society loses all the benefit of that talent as well. So it is "Profitable" for the society as a whole to assist even at a cost, as in general, such a cost is repaid many times over. Schools are a perfect example, but so is public transportation, from high speed rail to roads, and all the infrastructure, personal and general public, and even the knowledge commons and others I laid out here

This is the deepest meaning of equality, not that everyone be advanced or paid equally for any occupation, but in accordance to the talent and not the circumstances of each individual. Again, in NP morality the advancing of everyone is the goal, and each person is charged with advancing others, and by everyone advancing they also advance themselves. Built in to that is the ability to hold leadership accountable and be the ultimate “guard of the guards” while in SF morality that very freedom, is a limitation  in the particular as the individual has real choices, and it gives them the “torches and pitchforks” to hold power accountable that SF morality considers evil.

Those first two Basic Values are values of action, how you treat others and act in society. There are also two values of observation of which the first is Empathy. You cannot understand any person’s life that you cannot crawl inside and see from their life. Unless you can do this the values of action will make no sense in when or how to apply them. It has been well demonstrated that most mammals (and many other critters) possess what are called “Mirror Neurons” that enable them to see through the experience of others and understand their lives, and act based on that understanding. Very different from sympathy or pity, it can also spark outrage if the subject of observation is seen to be very unfair. Indeed, understanding fairness too is a part of mammal brain structure, as has been often demonstrated. In SF morality this is seen as weakness and every effort is to suppress or ignore it.

The last value of Reality is also hard for some to get their head around. Any person can have no other than their own belief. It cannot be imposed from outside, and thus needs to be respected. However, only Secular reality can be the final decision, not anti-religion but the best evidence based on principals of science and logic that have been being sorted out for a thousand years. In this way a person can have many ideas that contradict the beliefs of others, but must by the rules of logic or scientific method be able to define and demonstrate to be able to make that decision which the Enterprise will act on. It is the very Basic Values however that have no capability to be scientifically derived, as there is no experiment, or observation that can define the reason why NP morality is superior to SF morality. All that can be done is to deeply and logically understand that dividing line and see what is at stake. It is also, I believe, fairly well demonstrated that NP morality is more functional for the most people but that too becomes subjective for those with an NP preference. 

Unlike Lakoff (whom I’m sure would disagree) I do think that both paths are deeply and evolutionarily structural, and that brain plasticity has as much to do with experience and choices that enhance, not so much invention from a blank state, as choices from among possibilities that flowers expansion on metaphors rather than random stuffing of information as a computer does.

Both SF and NP can be very strong evolutionarily even as the SF writes the history books it is the NP that make things work and actually raises more kids. I don't think that mixing will ever be resolved more one side or the other, or that any tribe or racial group will contain more of one than the other. Which has the more political power at any given time is another matter.



Bob Danforth

Bob Danforth

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Recent Articles
Sauron's Ring and the Cluetrain

  • No comments found