I quoted a recent George Lakoff article on environmental framing, an essay that has cause a bit of a debate about the relationship between cognition, politics and the environment. Adrian Ivakhiv has written a quite extensive and well documented critique of Lakoff’s argument (snip below). I encourage you to read the whole thing and follow all the links. I also encourage you to go the NYTimes article that sparked the discussion.
One more thing, Dr. Robert J. Brulle, who is subjected to Lakoff’s critique, has a great Website full of articles about environment and social change. You can check them out here.
In translating science for a popular audience, especially in a political context, one of course has to simplify. But I find Lakoff’s simplifications here a bit jarring. They remind me of those Cartesian diagrams of human mental circuitry by which a physical stimulus leads to a neurochemical response leads to a physical reaction (see illustration above), with no place for culture or for a feeling human agent in the middle of it. Lakoff reduces all of our understanding to words (“all of our language” works this way) activating distinct neural circuits called “frames,” which are “organized in terms of values,” with the latter in turn “determin[ing] our sense of identity.” It’s not clear where these “values” come from, or if values and identity have their own separate neural circuits or, if not, what exactly they are. According to Lakoff, “two competing value-based systems of frames,” and therefore two identities, are available “in our politics”: a conservative one and a progressive one. (See his Moral Politics for more on these.)