Induction and Deduction

What bothers me about far right Republicans is their belief that “the system” has to be right, no matter what. This dogged belief turns into a series of mantras that, when repeated enough, become principles upon which all thought and decision making is based. Capitalism has to be pure to work. All welfare recipients eventually become dependent, and take advantage. Nothing the government touches is done well. We need über-rich people for others to admire and to make jobs trickle down to the underlings. America is a Christian nation, the greatest in the world.

So, we get a deductive approach to politics. First comes the ideas, then they find “facts” to support them. It drives any rational person crazy. There are some deductive liberals too, but they are fewer in number. These are the ones who claim that all power corrupts, so does money, and it should be distributed evenly. Any person with less to show is more unlucky than undeserving. The media that begin with “their perspective,” following it up with its own “support” reinforces this flaw in the public debate on both sides. Extremism is taken too seriously, examination is put aside as if it’s boring.

We want to be able to use deduction in decision-making. We want to have principles upon which to make judgments. And there is SO MUCH information out there that anyone can choose their facts – actual data or made-up – and make their case. And that would further justify those original principles. It’s a recipe for sinking deeper in the partisan swamp. And so it goes.

Religion is one of the big precepts to deduction. Ignorance and impatience, even past personal experience are each limiting factors that block someone from looking beyond. Furthermore, these factors can be used as weapons to defend what amounts to opinions based on falsehood. They might even be used as excuses to justify someone’s sad mistakes, leading to disastrous policy.

The moderates are more accepting of exception and nuance, and are in general more rational people. I am one of them. I want to listen and learn the issues before making my stand. I want to avoid blanket proposals before I discover the history behind them. I choose to understand before I am understood. And I want to remind my over-principled colleagues of the problems with their aggression. Induction begins with a search for facts, and then looks for the pattern the data reveals. Way better.

I would allow that everyone needs some principles. Given a bunch of assorted facts, we need a kind of filter that allows one to see a certain pattern. And I concede to some extent the adage, “You have to stand for something, or else you will stand for anything.” But there’s a hole in such a quick jump to conclusion. Try these other cliche’s for example: The unexamined life is not worth living, and the unexamined – reconsidered – political opinion is not worth having.

I would ask everyone to examine their own “pre-existing conditions” before they lock them in.


About Jim

I've been leading outdoor environmental education in the YMCA since the 1970s. I love teaching nature, history, current events, being a dad, fixing stuff, groups, and general thinking.
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