The cognitive styles that represent the two sides of the ideological divide are represented metaphorically by Arthur Herman in his book The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization.
Plato thought that everything in the real world is but a pale imitation of its ideal self, and it is the role of the enlightened among us to help us see the ideal and help to steer society toward it. This is RFK’s “I dream things that never were and ask why not?” It is John Lennon’s “Imagine.” It is President Obama’s “Fundamentally Transform.”
Concepts that follow from this intellectual wiring scheme include outcome-based positive liberty, equality, justice, and fairness. It is represented by Woodrow Wilson’s progressivism, FDR’s “New Deal,” LBJ’s “Great Society,” Obamacare, and modern-day liberalism/progressivism.
Aristotle thought it’s all well and good to try to improve the human condition, but the real world we actually live in places some practical limits on what’s achievable. The clay that is human nature not infinitely capable, nor is it infinitely malleable. We have to work within those limits. It’s when we forget them that our good intentions lead us down the proverbial road to hell.
Concepts that follow from this cognitive operating system include process-based negative liberty, equality, justice, and fairness. These are represented by Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke, Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, The Federalist Papers by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay, The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and modern-day conservatism.
These two cognitive styles and the moralities that follow from them have always been at odds with one another.
The Cousins’ Wars: Religion, Politics, Civil Warfare, And The Triumph Of Anglo-America by Kevin Phillips shows that this struggle has manifested in three different political upheavals; The Glorious Revolution in England, the American War for Independence, and the American Civil War.
Those three conflicts can be thought of as ideological World Wars I, II, and III.
The partisan divide and the culture wars of today are, essentially, World War IV. The exact same two sets of mutually exclusive “sacred values” are struggling with one another yet again.