I can see why someone who has been reading the last several posts might think so.  I’ve been talking about the motives people have to adopt the opinions they do, and I’ve connected these motives with the groups that they belong to.  Isn’t that just the Marxist theory that ideology is a reflection of class?

Well, no.  For one thing, you don’t have to be a Marxist to recognize that group self-interest may influence how people think.  But I don’t think about these groups the same way, and I don’t think about the nature of this influence the same way.

In the first place, Marx was a materialist.  By a “class,” he meant a group of people who have the same relationship to the physical means of production.  I am not a materialist, and I think people belong to all sorts of groups – in fact, to many different groups at once.  Most of them are not what Marx would call “classes.”

In the second place, Marx was a determinist.  He thought the influences of group membership on how people think is foreordained, so that it could even be predicted.  I don’t think that either.

If you already know how someone views his group interests, you can make a pretty good guess about what political views he may find tempting.  But in the first place, it is a lot harder to guess how he is going to view his group interests.  I’ve been observing, not predicting.

And in the second place, a pretty good guess is not a prediction, because people are not iron filings in a magnetic field.  People don’t always yield to temptation. 

There is such a thing as moral virtue; there is even such a thing as intellectual virtue. 

Teaching people to follow the argument, rather than simply believing what is convenient, is what liberal education used to be about.

More about this in the next post.