cognitive politics

All theories of cognitive politics essentially hold that politics is a comprehensible and even potentially a calculable phenomenon: that the interactions in the mass scale between human beings are predictable insofar as the following phenomena are predictable:

predictable inputs to politics

  • the cognition? and perception? regularities of the Genus Homo as explored in cognitive science?
  • shared understanding of the physical constraints of life
    • their surrounding ecosystems like ecoregion?s,
    • scientific understanding of the ecology of these,
    • the human-built environment?, such as urban areas and infrastructural capital like roads
  • shared understanding of the social constraints
    • the language that humans use to decribe their ethics and ethical choices - the ethical codes and the intellectual integrity with which they are intepreted and applied as:
      • legal code?s to direct social response, e.g. to restorative justice or transformative justice?
      • moral code?s to inhibit action that is "unjust"
    • the lifeway?s that humans follow within and as regulated and constrained by all of the above
    • the specific history of a given group of humans, e.g. a culture, myth?, and other stories that they "believe", that makes them an epistemic community?
    • the political virtues admired in religion? or other ethical habit?s
    • the moral example?s and moral exemplar?s, e.g. central religious figures, and the record of their lives
  • specific value of life and value of Earth placed on any community by its valuation in the global market?.

combining the inputs to predict and decide

A study of cognitive process?es is humans, human groups and organizations, can, in theory given the above inputs, discover their influence on decision on an individual scale. When combined with a theory of collective intelligence, a genuinely cognitive politics must result, one which is calculable given starting conditions.

It is then the starting conditions, the current position in history, that become the most sensitive determinations in order to make predictions. Discovering ways to measure current conditions and compare them is a psychohistory. This is a human science? with the usual concerns:
  • what conditions must we know about to make predictions?
  • how do we know when conditions have changed or advanced?
  • how can we compare outcomes when there is no "control"?

To these cognitive politics adds the following:
  • how can we determine the limits of tolerance of people?
  • what do we ethically have the right to expose people to?
  • to what degree do we require permission to take actions?
  • are experiments ethical? even if they yield knowledge only at the direct expense of seeking material outcomes?
  • should we attempt to predict what we might have decided, even if it is markedly more difficult to do what we choose?

constraint discipline

In contrast to postmodern politics which looks at the ethical relationships involved, the focus in the more cognitive approaches is on the measurable constraints, and on the specific exemplary actions of political leaders in their political roles, and even family roles:

Given that there is limited vocabulary and some danger of precedent? of bad decisions, and also of limited liability? of each member of the society, cognitive means can be much more demanding to apply than any other methods.

Those fearing a general social collapse due to abuse of natural capital, and seeking a sustainable society?, however, accept that a society is highly constrained, in what it permits its members to do, think, believe, decide.

This discipline might thus be no more than is really required to live on this planet in such large numbers.


A cognitive politics must be approached empirically over much time, e.g. by Green Parties practicing an ethical calculus?. A transcultural basis of sanity? and good governance? may be required in which good means both "high integrity" and "correct" and in which sane means both "accepting of constraints" and "verifiable".

A person whose activities are publicized widely via the mass media? of their society becomes a general moral exemplar, whether we call them monarch? or celebrity?. An aristocracy? of like-behaved folk, perhaps formalized as a nobility?, might soon follow, but, leadership would be situational and based on action.

An extreme and anti-monarchist version of cognitive politics, in which the aristocracy is entirely hidden, is the psychohistory theory informally advanced by Isaac Asimov? in his Foundation Trilogy? and two followup books. In this view, human action on a mass (multi-planet scale) is predictable precisely because in such a variety of circumstances and ecosystems and political arrangements, it is ONLY the human's cognitive similarity that prevails, and which tends to guide events in a predetermined pattern. Action of billions is thus totally predictable, because this highly regular cognitive expression is ALL that they share, and the ONLY thing that they can cooperate on. A First Foundation? focuses on technological skills and the sustainable trades of the new scarcity-driven economy after the collapse of an Empire, while a hidden Second Foundation? practices the psychohistory itself: working rigorously to perfect their cognitive politics and to counter and neutralize any exemplary figures who may emerge to disrupt the steady progress towards the new norms. See also Rollerball? for another such model in which leadership is inherently defined as being dangerous.


There is however the view that leadership is necessary but not emulable - that it is embodied in certain individuals of superior cognitive powers, trustworthiness, and so on.

Shakespeare? presents "the ideal of kingship in Henry V: piety, humility, learning, courage, leadership, restraint. and mercy are all demonstrated" in his conquest of France, though this conquest is motivated by a concept of right that will be harder for this millenium's audiences to understand. It is obvious in the conduct of the play that Henry is neither afraid of warfare and politics and their implications, including exiling noble friends and executing ignoble ones, nor of honestly dealing with his men as one of them, nor of openly admiring their simpler life. This is cognitive politics in a nutshell: the awareness that a good political leader is so constrained in his or her actions that it is ultimately a symbolic, not emotionally fulfilling, life. As Henry puts it "what have Kings, that these have not, save ceremony"

Real history provides excellent examples of good political and moral leadership. Among them we might include at least the following historical figures who are fully documented and widely admired:
  • Marcus Aurelius - Stoic ruler of the Roman Empire?, 2nd century AD
  • Muhammad? - possibly the most influential historical figure ever - see Muslim World? and political Islam
  • Asoka? - the first Buddhist? Emperor of India?
  • Tecumseh? - the first unifier of First Nations and another student of Shakespeare?
  • Elizabeth II? - see British Commonwealth? which succeeded the British Empire? during her reign alone
  • Dalai Lama XIV?

Each of these were or are a political leader of a distinct people involved in conflicts with other peoples and other cultures. Each also sought transcultural principles of good political organizing and negotiating.

Though their styles differ drastically, and the historical and cultural constraints within which they dealt were very different, they may each be said to have followed a strict cognitive politics in which their own preferences were not granted much leeway in decisions. Where there was a general principle to find, they sought in general to find it and apply it, and leave an historical record of same.

current debates

Current debates in cognitive politics include:

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