On his Twitter page Dr. Haidt recommends the idea of restoring the word ‘liberal’ to it’s rightful place, and correctly calling people on the left what they really are; leftists, or progressives, or governmentalists, but not ‘liberals’.
— Jonathan Haidt (@JonHaidt) July 30, 2015
Now that I’ve had a few days to read up on the idea ( here, here, here, here, and here ), I have to say I like it. It fits with my thesis, and apparently with the theme of The Village Square, which, as I see it, is twofold:
- replacing the mythology we use to mischaracterize each other with the latest knowledge about human nature; and
- replacing cognitive distortions like newspeak and doublespeak (e.g., trigger warnings and microaggressions) we use to dishonestly vilify each other with intellectual honesty.
But, you know? Live by the sword, die by the sword. If we’re going to insist that words have meanings then we must be prepared to accept the true and proper meanings of all of them, not just the ones that happen to fit our narrative.
For example, on liberalismunreliquished.net I found THE EXACT SAME ARGUMENT (and/or intuition) used to defend the word “liberal” that was used by many people to defend the word “marriage” for which the marriage defenders were labeled hateful, or bigots, or homophobic, small minded, or all of the above, or worse.
To be clear, my position on gay marriage is this: Life is hard. We all do the best we can to find peace and happiness. If two people of the same sex find that with each other then more power to them. There should be legal means through which they can declare each other life partners and enjoy all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of traditional marriage.
But, if you agree with Dan Klein’s statement on liberalismrelinquished.net (quoted below) about the word “liberal,” and if you agree with the goals of The Village Square, then you must also agree that the same logic applies equally to the word “marriage” and that therefore a union between two people of the same sex is not, and cannot ever be, marriage. Live by the sword, die by the sword.
The word liberal is powerful. It relates to liberty and toleration, reflected in to liberalize. Words have histories that a generation or two cannot undo. A word has cognates and connotations that make our language cohere, more than we know, more than dictionary definitions can tell.
That same logic applied to the word marriage might go something like this:
The word marriage is powerful. It relates to the unique union that can exist only between a man and a woman, and to the unique emotional and psychological dynamic that exists between them, their families, and society, reflected in matrimony. Words have histories that a generation or two cannot undo. A word has cognates and connotations that make our language cohere, more than we know, more than dictionary definitions can tell.