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One of Many Reasons There Are So Few Conservatives In Academia


Academic study naturally leans toward reductive, analytical, WEIRD, world full of objects rather than relationships, rationalist thinking.  This is not a criticism.  Its just the nature of the beast, and understandably so.  Academia favors, the abstract reasoning of the Platonic cognitive style.

The liberal physiological profile ALSO leans toward rationalist thinkingLiberals think more analytically, more WEIRD, than conservatives. Theirs is the Platonic cognitive style.

Academia and liberalism were made for each other; sort of a match made in heaven.  It’s only natural that liberals gravitate toward it. 

Conservatives, on the other hand, lean toward holistic, Analects of Confucius style thinking.  They see a world full of relationships rather than objects.  Theirs is the Aristotelian cognitive style.   

To conservatives academia feels kinda dead, flat, superficial. It’s natural for conservatives to gravitate away from academia and toward think tanks or out in the real world full of relationships rather than objects.    

The same logic applies in the divide between cities and flyover country.  Cities are more amenable to the rationalist mindset and priorities.  Whereas environments like farming, mining, manufacturing, rural living, more naturally need holistic thinking and priorities; aka moral capital.

Below are two maps.  In the first map the highlighted areas show the areas where WEIRD-thinking Platonists tend to live. The second map shows the results of the 2016 Presidential election, where the blue areas voted for Hillary and the red areas voted for Trump. 

As Arther Herman pointed out in his book The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization:

Despite their differences, Plato and Aristotle agreed on many things.  They both stressed the importance of reason as our guide for understanding and shaping the world.  Both believed that our physical world is shaped by certain eternal forms that are more real than matter.  The difference was that Plato’s forms existed outside matter, whereas Aristotle’s forms were unrealiziable without out it. (p. 61)

The twentieth century’s greatest ideological conflicts do mark the violent unfolding of a Platonist versus Aristotelian view of what it means to be free and how reason and knowledge ultimately fit into our lives (p.539-540)  

The Coming Apart is Platonism v Aristotelianism writ large.

When we attribute the partisan divide and the presidential election results to things like nationalism vs globalism or egalitarianism vs authoritarianism we are demonstrating that we are blind to the true root causes of our differences. We’re distracted by the waves on the surface of the cultural ocean and oblivious to the Gulf Stream cultural current that is carrying all of us along.  

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