Marcel Proust on the Psychology of Political Divisions

Bence Nanay Ph.D.

We do not form our beliefs because we have rational arguments supporting them. We form these beliefs because they satisfy an emotional need. This emotional need may be an unsavory one (to say the least)—as in the case of the Birthers or the opponents of Dreyfus. But we should also acknowledge that this is true of both sides of the political spectrum. Left-leaning liberals hold their beliefs for equally emotionally infused and non-rational reasons.

The question is how we can change these emotionally infused beliefs. And Proust’s lesson is that the old emotion vs. reason dichotomy is not what is at work here. Rational arguments can achieve very little. But we do change our minds in response to perceived peer pressure. The best way to stop someone from spreading a view (or even believing in it) is to make it uncool. The problem is that what is cool and what is uncool is becoming very relative in these politically divided times.

Categories Philosophy Politics Psychology

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