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This post comes from something I just read. It seems to me that American politics can be defined with one word – vagueness; specifically, vagueness as defined in the philosophy of Phenomenology.

Sometimes the material we are talking about is beyond us; we really do not understand what we are saying. Much of what people say about politics, for example, is like this. Much of what they say is vague: slogans are repeated, favorite ideas are trotted out, statements made by others are stated verbally but without comprehension. Most public opinion polls measure vague thinking. The human power of speech, the noble power that give us our dignity as human beings, also makes it possible for us to seem to be thinking when we really are not. This is a specifically human way of failing to be what we should be, and it is very important in human affairs.

Introduction to Phenomenology, Robert Sokolowski, p. 105

Of course maybe the politicians really are thinking, but then if that is the case then they are in error about that which they believe to be true. Maybe it is really Americans in general that suffer from the malady of vagueness. Many Americans just jump on various bandwagons – like “marriage equality” – that they hear proclaimed by politicians and the media, assuming that what they are hearing is true and then not really thinking it through.

But I must admit, as Sokolowski points out a few pages later, that I too suffer from vagueness. In fact we all do at one point or another. We cannot begin to learn anything at all unless we start from vagueness and move toward understanding. And that is exactly what we need to do – move toward understanding. Do we really understand the various things that we profess to believe? Or do we just parrot back what we hear others say?

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