Politics and “a psychological disposition towards cognitive laziness”

University of Toronto critical theorist Joseph Heath inquires: Whence the sapience of homo sapiens?

The core idea, known as dual-process theory, “is that we have within our minds two very different styles of cognition, two different ways of approaching and solving problems.” Intuition is referred to by academics as system one, while reason is system two.

Intuition usually works well enough for many purposes. It’s the easier path, so we incline toward it. However, the brain’s rapid intuition is also buggy, the product of earlier evolutionary times.

Reason is often what academics, not surprisingly, engage in. It has four essential characteristics: it is linguistically based; it is linear, where one thought follows another; it is conscious, meaning every step of the argument is explicit and available; and it is “effortful,” i.e., it requires our full attention and concentration. All of this is a rather slow process, said Dr. Heath.

What, then, of political life?

What [Prime Minister Pierre] Trudeau was implying was that “in a very emotionally charged debate, certain kinds of policy positions [federalism] are going to be at an intrinsic disadvantage because those policy positions are fundamentally not motivated by emotion [as is sub-federal nationalism/separatism], they’re motivated by rational insight. The debate is not neutral,” said Dr. Heath.

These considerations lead Heath to call for a new “slow politics.”

The article.


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