Punchinello’s Chronicles

October 7, 2008

Why is there No Middle Ground?

For thirty years I’ve heard arguments and complaints that Republicans or Democrats refuse to compromise. These complaints range all over the field, from being too black-and-white, refusing to see shades of gray, being overly analytic, being caught up in semantics, to being childish. Stuck in the middle is a blurred vision that conservatives are the same as Republicans, and liberals are the same as Democrats.

Everyone wants people to compromise, saying that without compromise there can’t be any social progress. We’re bombarded constantly by the news media telling us that an issue is partisan or bi-partisan, and that Congress is in gridlock, with neither side willing to compromise. It all comes back to unwillingness to compromise.

The key to unraveling all this is in a crystal clear understanding that conservative and liberal thinking have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with political party affiliation, political party platforms, and political party organization or structure. To further demonstrate the absurdity would be to say that Republicans also are soccer fans, where Democrats generally like seafood.

Where would be the compromise between soccer and seafood?

A philosophy is an organized body of reason used to explain the nature and function of existence. We can use the term philosophy to mean an organized body of reason, then limit it to a field of existence. Long ago, “philosopher” was used to mean a teacher of knowledge, hence the Ph.D. known as a doctorate of philosophy.

Within any philosophy are divisions of interest. Morality (also called Ethics) examines the nature and principles of virtue (good and bad, good and evil, honor and deceipt, etc.). A morality generates the policies and procedures of behavior for a particular philosophy. Different philosophies often produce different moralities.

All philosphies, without exception are constructions of human reasoning. Every one of them is a logical structure, and every one of them must absolutely rest on words and the meaning of those words. Even philosophies that tell us words mean nothing, they use words to tell us that very thing.

Morality then creates its own structure of politics and law. Both descend from a philosophy’s morality. Politics and statesmanship are the bodies of knowledge explaining how human being interact. Generally, that interaction is on a society-wide level, and politics examines the rules of governance, the meaning of an individal, citizen, group, government, and so forth.

Perhaps the most important area of philosophy, particularly at this time in history is metaphysics. Basically speaking, metaphysics (and ontology) examines the fundamental nature of existence and reality. Familiar questions such as “What came before time?” fall into the category of metaphysics.

Directly next to metaphysics is the other major area of a philosophy called epistemology. This is a $100 word that mostly examines how do we know what we know. Since a philosophy is mankind’s attempt to explain all of existence, the entire question and its responses must include, “How do you know that?”

An ideology is the philosophic framework that generates a set of politics. For example, the philosophy of romanticism carries a morality of altruism, in which all living things naturally want to help each other and co-exist. “Value” and “self-interest” play almost no role in altruism. As such, the morality of altruism generates a political structure and rules of governance.

Liberalism is the philosophic next step of the morality of altruism, which in turn descends from the overall philosophy of romanticism. To be a modern-day liberal, one must also have a comprehension of the philosophic structure of altruism and romanticism.

Conservatism is the philosophic next step of the morality of capitalism, which in turn descendes from several philosophies, but has never been fully defined. Capitalism only began to develop in around the late 1700s and early 1800s. It hasn’t been fully delineated, which is why it has so many weaknesses when confronted by romanticism.

Science, to some extent also known as empiricism, descends from a philosophy of structuralism. In a nutshell, this philosophy tells us that it doesn’t matter if reality is real or not. What matters is how the reasoning mind examines “something” and breaks it apart into its structural components. All things have smaller and smaller pieces, going down to particles. Even emotions, feelings, imagination, gravity, and space are made up of particles.

So: What is the middle ground between Religion and trout fishing? Where is the middle ground between building bicycles and astronomy? Where is the middle ground between corporate management and the Age of Enlightenment? What is the middle ground between Science and trade deficits?

There can be no middle ground between two antithetical ideologies. Liberalism is the opposite of conservatism, just as dark is the opposite of light. A more formal and philosophic way of saying this is that “dark” does not exist in and of itself. Dark is the term we use to describe the absence of an actual thing, light.

Liberalism and altruism refer to the absence of individual responsibility, individual freedoms, individual direction, individual morality, individual governance, and rational self-interest. Conservatism describes the existence of these abstractions, and how they would ideally operate in a real world.

There cannot be a middle ground between light and the absence of light. The presence of any light at all terminates the meaning of the word “dark.” So too, there cannot be socialism if there is a little bit of capitalism. Nor can someone be a little bit pregnant.

All that’s failing in China’s economy, the European Economic Community, and the many other emerging capitalist economies around the world can be traced to the partial introduction of capitalism. A socialist or communist government is trying to introduce freedom while maintaining control. That’s a contradiction in terms.

So too, a middle ground between conservatism and liberalism is a contradiction in terms. Whatever the Republican political party and the Democratic political party (and we can throw in the Green party, if you’d like), and whatever middle ground they have, it has nothing whatsoever to do with conservatives and liberals.

Reading economics written by a self-avowed Democratic professor, I see a tremendous number of matches in philosophy. The only real difference is in the political nature of governmental oversight regarding only a few particulars. But what this author means when using the term Democrat has no meaning at all in terms of modern day liberal Democrats.

A common philosophy, based on common metaphysics, morality, and epistemology, may differ in specific implementation of particular plans. If we all agree with capitalism, then we can reach a mutual agreement (not the same as a compromise) as to how best to finance the government. Should we use a flat tax, value-added tax, progressive income tax, and so forth.

The problem today is that we do NOT all agree with capitalism as a core philosphy. There is no middle ground between rational self-interest and romantic altruism. The two are mutually exclusive. There is no middle ground between the right to own property and having no right to own property. The two concepts are mutually exclusive.



  1. The world is not a Dualistic white or black thing.You talk about light and dark, but do you not remember that there also exists this thing called twilight? Only an extremist sees no possibility of a middleground.

    Comment by Wraith — February 18, 2009 @ 2:40 am | Reply

  2. Actually, the world is dualistic when it comes to right or wrong, freedom or slavery, justice or injustice, truth or lies. This tired old argument about shades of gray is just that, tired and old. You may want to read about a world of color, instead of considering only a grayscale view of things. “Seeing Shades of Gray”

    Comment by Punchinello — February 19, 2009 @ 12:01 am | Reply

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