Monday, November 15, 2010

On Behavioral Psychology

On Behavioral Psychology: From classical conditioning to cognitive dissonance to latent inhibition, behavioral psychology is the study of various decision making processes in rational beings. On an elementary level, classical conditioning involves the presentation of various stimuli to a subject and the measuring of that subject's response to each one. This mental process is on display in the above video, which features British comedian Eddie Izzard satirically applying the psychological concept of Pavlovian response to cats. Partially related to classical conditioning is cognitive dissonance. Considered part of the rationalization process when an object of desire becomes seemingly unattainable, cognitive dissonance leaves the subject convinced that that previously desired object is no longer desirable. A final concept related to behavioral psychology is latent inhibition. It mostly entails the delayed or non-existent response of a subject to a perceived stimulus. As an unconscious reaction by the mind to limit or even prevent a subject's response, latent inhibition can signify either psychosis or genius in an individual.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Leo Strauss and Neoconservatism

Leo Strauss and Neoconservatism: Having partly originated in the writings of American political philosopher Leo Strauss, neoconservatism is a set of beliefs that melds economic liberalism with social conservatism. Although Strauss' works do not explicitly use the neoconservative label, they do present a feasible alternative to the political philosophy of the New Left. In effect, Straussianism constituted a right-wing version of American Marxism in that its adherents worked under a broad structural framework. This framework specifically repudiated the excesses of individualism, which Strauss understood as being indicative of both relativistic and nihilistic thinking. Modern American liberalism, for Strauss, was becoming increasingly hedonistic and aimless, especially with respect to public policies like abortion and welfare. Early neoconservatives therefore sought to correct this hedonistic aimlessness by fashioning a kind of politics rooted in the core values of capitalism, democracy, and freedom. This value-driven approach ultimately helped neoconservatives to synthesize their ideas in the 1960s and 1970s under thinkers like Daniel Bell and Irving Kristol. As a result, this political philosophy became a mainstay in American politics from the 1980s to the 2000s, particularly in the area of foreign policy.