Why do politics divide us? Really, why do they?
All people, whether they admit it or not, hold beliefs which are based on other, more fundamental ideas which are based on deeper, even more fundamental ideas which together form a “philosophical pyramid,” if you will. Politics, which rests at the fourth level of this pyramid, concerns itself with defining and enacting a proper social system. Below politics is ethics, which deals with discovering and defining the moral values that people should live by. You can’t decide on the best social system without first having some sort of ethical code (whether you hold that code implicitly or explicitly) that you use to weigh and judge a political system. Beneath ethics sits epistemology, which deals with the question of how humans can claim to know anything at all. You cannot determine which kinds of human behavior are good and which are bad, for example, if you do not have some sort of method by which to know anything at all. To be specific, some people believe that the Bible is an appropriate method of acquiring knowledge; others believe in their innate intuition; others believe in logic; others believe in some mixture of all of these methods; etc. Epistemology provides an answer to the question, “But how do you know?” And finally, below epistemology lies metaphysics, which concerns itself with the question, “What even exists in the first place?” Metaphysics is the investigation into the nature of the universe itself and the kind of world we actually live in. (Do we live in seven dimensions? Or one? Or inside a computer? Or in the hands of a god? Or in an illusion or a dream?)
Why do politics divide us? Because people hold vastly different beliefs about things that lie quite low on the philosophical pyramid. People do not actually agree on the kind of world we live in or on the proper method for acquiring knowledge. They especially do not agree on the proper moral code for human behavior. And so these people will obviously disagree on what kind of social system is the best kind to have in America.
Do politics really divide us in America today because some people are just ignorant, miseducated idiots with hate and fear and sexism and racism in their hearts? Really? Is that the essential reason why this is happening?
I posit no.
And I posit that nothing is going to get better until we face our disagreements for what they actually are: disagreements about the deepest, most important questions of life.
Please stop treating this era in American history like it is the most obvious thing in the world, because it isn’t. If you cannot clearly define the metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical positions of the opposing team, you should not present your opinions about the election as authoritative.
This is for you, Left.