I have recently revisited the short and very accessible book: “The Three Languages of Politics” by Arnold Kling. He has a Ph D in Economics from MIT and is a former economist for the Federal Reserve. It is available via kindle for $3.99. I continue to be impressed with it’s simplicity and usefulness. I will summarize some of the main points here, but I hope that this inspires you to read the book for yourself. Or, you can listen to a video presentation by Arnold Kling on the Three Languages of Politics here.
A good place to start is with his explanation of the distinction between motivated and constructive reasoning and how it relates to current discourse. He likens motivated reasoning to the actions of an advocate, such as a lawyer, while constructive reasoning is more like a judge or mediator.
“There is more polarization among well-informed voters than among poorly-informed voters. Moreover, when you give politically-engaged voters on opposite sides an identical piece of new information, each side comes away believing more strongly in its original point of view. This phenomenon has been called motivated reasoning. When we engage in motivated reasoning, we are like lawyers arguing a case. We muster evidence to justify or reinforce our preconceived opinions. We are open and accepting when it comes to facts or opinions that support our views, while we carefully scrutinize and dispute any evidence that appears contradictory. I want to posit that there exists another form of reasoning, which I call constructive reasoning. Someone using constructive reasoning acts like an impartial judge rather than an aggressive lawyer. Constructive reasoning is conducted with an open mind. With constructive reasoning, we apply an equal standard of rigor to evidence that supports or contradicts our prior views. We are open to changing our minds.”
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