Newthink’s Universe Metaphor

Like Americanism, newthink — the progressive worldview — operates through its versions of the three primary metaphors.  Newthink’s universe metaphor is the Godless Universe metaphor:

 Godless Universe Metaphor
• The Universe is a Home.
• God is the Absent Father.

Under newthink, the universe metaphor changes: the universe is still our home, but God the Father has gone missing. From the Godless Universe metaphor comes unconscious entailments like “human beings are inherently and transcendentally noble” and “we need to strip away society and return to a natural state to uncover our inherent and transcendent nobility.”

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Americanism’s Government Metaphor

Our worldview’s government metaphor shapes our notions about the ideal form and responsibilities of government. It also defines our responsibilities and rights as citizens, our expectations of our government, our social conventions, and more.

Americanism’s government metaphor was the Government Is Fire metaphor:

Government Is Fire Metaphor
• Government is fire.

History and experience with European tyranny taught traditional Americans that over-powerful government was dangerous. Like fire, it was a necessary evil – essential for civilization and useful in many ways, but inherently perilous. It could grow, burn and destroy. As George Washington said, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a handy servant and a dangerous master.” The Government Is Fire metaphor engendered unconscious beliefs like “Government is necessary for civilization,” “government should be kept as small as possible while still performing its functions,” and “unrestrained government is perilous.”

Americanism’s Society Metaphor

Our understanding of the society we inhabit is also guided by metaphor. Our social interactions, our goals, our style, our group affiliations, our self-imposed limits, our ideas of social virtue and vice, and more are defined by the society metaphor we have unconsciously assimilated.

Americanism’s society metaphor was the Society is a Wilderness metaphor:

Society is a Wilderness Metaphor
• Society is a Wilderness
• Humans must civilize the wilderness.

Traditional Americans assimilated this metaphor, again inherited from western civilization, as part of their worldview. They saw society as a wilderness and believed they were obligated to civilize it – the physical wilderness of early America, the wilderness of the unenlightened and sometimes dangerous cultures they encountered, and the inherent wilderness in their own society deriving from human nature. The Society is a Wilderness metaphor generated unconscious entailments like “civilization must be defended from barbarism,” “it is virtuous to fight for civilization,” “wildness must be tamed” and others.

Americanism’s Universe Metaphor

Humans are understandably concerned with the nature of the universe that is their home. The cognitive metaphor explaining the universe is important because it’s so foundational. Our ethics; our spiritual outlook; our view of human nature; our judgement of other individuals and societies; our societal values; our attitude toward the human body, emotions and mind – the universe metaphor shapes all these and more.

The universe metaphor of Americanism – the traditional American worldview – was the God’s Universe metaphor:

God’s Universe Metaphor
• The Universe is a Home.
• God is the Father.

Cultures don’t necessarily view the universe as primarily a home. The ancient pagans, for instance, seemed to see it as a play land for powerful deities in which humans were mere pawns. But Americanism inherited from western civilization, and ultimately from the Old Testament, the God’s Universe cognitive metaphor: that the universe is a home, and God is the father. In reality, the universe is where we live, but it isn’t a home in the individual human sense. Yet metaphors allow us to understand and experience one thing (the universe) in terms of another (home). And so traditional Americans understood and experienced the universe in homelike ways.

The God’s Universe metaphor sprouted unconscious entailments like “people are the children,” “father has a plan” and more – all of which were unconsciously believed and acted upon.

The Universe Metaphor, the Society Metaphor and the Government Metaphor define and direct each distinct worldview

Just as unconscious cognitive metaphors provide the framework for each individual’s thought, so do these shared metaphors provide the framework for a worldview.

My assertion is that a culture operates unconsciously through three primary cognitive metaphors – the universe metaphor, the society metaphor and the government metaphor – covering three primary areas of existence: What is the universe? What is society? How should we govern ourselves?

It’s as basic as: Where are we? Who are we? What should we do?

The universe metaphor, the society metaphor and the government metaphor fundamentally (and, for the most part, unconsciously) define a worldview and distinguish it and its attendant culture from its neighbors.

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Worldviews are mostly unconscious group phenomena

I intend to outline the basic arguments of Newthink in this blog and flesh them out with some examples. Bear with me – I am going somewhere with this.

Today’s point: Worldviews are mostly unconscious group phenomena.

Worldviews are group phenomena, operating on a society-wide level. Like an organism which contains many parts, each incomplete in itself, the whole cognitive structure of a worldview is shared; each person carries only a part. A worldview only makes sense when viewed as shared knowledge.

Since most thought is unconscious, it follows that worldviews are mostly unconscious. Like the mind of a human, the shared mind – the worldview – of a society operates for the most part unconsciously, under the surface. Popping above the surface, its social conventions and explicit tenets are evident, if not fully understood. But for the most part, a worldview operates nebulously. We absorb and obey the tenets of our society unconsciously.

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Thought is Mostly Unconscious; Cognitive Metaphors Structure Our Thinking

I’m continuing to lay the groundwork for assertions to come.  Today’s points are: Thought is mostly unconscious; cognitive metaphors structure our thinking.

Cognitive psychologists now believe that thought is more often than not unconscious; most thinking is done below the level of awareness. Our cognitive unconscious structures our unconscious thought into patterns. These patterns originate in metaphors, which psychologists call cognitive metaphors. For instance, George Lakoff in his book Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think talks about a Moral Accounting metaphor which we unconsciously use to conceptualize our morality in terms of financial transactions. If you do someone a favor, they are indebted to you and may feel the need to repay you. If you hurt someone, they may want to get even. Morality is structured in financial terms because of the Moral Accounting cognitive metaphor which we carry around inside us.

So, a complicated but logical system of unconscious metaphors structures our thought just as a complicated but logical system of cells structures our bodies.