Psycho-Philosophical Differences
Between Left And Right

By Dr. Noah Nissani

Part I

Introduction

The political terms "Right" and "Left" were born in the French Revolution, when two different revolutionary factions took seats in the French National Assembly's hall: the Girondins on the right wing and the Jacobins on the left wing. Their political outlooks were opposed and hostile to each other, although they shared the same ideology and aspired to the same goal: more "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity".

The Girondins started a process of creating a liberal-democratic regime, fashioned after the English model, which had been a stable system for six centuries, but the process lasted less than three years and halted when the Jacobins came to power. The new rulers drowned France with the blood of some 100,000 victims, during the period known as the "Reign of Terror", and eventually crowned an emperor in the king's place, then left Europe torn through a series of wars.

This article attempts to examine the essential differences between the psycho-philosophical backgrounds of these two parties, thus seeking to understand the reasons for the horrific 20th Century drama, when hundreds of millions of people were murdered by their own governments. There are three psycho-philosophical differences between the two parties that seem most meaningful:

A. Dividing human beings into "good ones" and "bad ones", as opposed to recognising the universal human weakness.

B. Atheism versus religiousness.

C. Rationalism versus empiricism.

A. "Good And Bad People" Versus Recognising The Universal Human Weakness.

The most significant difference between these two revolutionary outlooks seems to be that, unlike the Girondins, the Jacobins divided all people between good people and bad ones, honest people and wicked ones(1). The lower classes, who suffered from the nobility's exploitation and tyranny, were the good and honest people. The oppressive aristocracy and its collaborators were the bad and corrupt ones.

In line with this perception and due to their view of social processes as struggles between good and evil, the Jacobins' rule started the darkest period of the French Revolution, first murdering aristocrats and then those suspected as their associates(2) . But this was only an introduction to the events that humankind was to experience a century later, when other arrogant "good people", the Marxists, took over large parts of the world.

Unlike the Jacobins, many of the Gerondins came from aristocratic background. Inspired by the Bible and the Greek philosophers, they held that all people were essentially equal. They had no fixed definitions for enemies who had to be fought, and their intention was to change the regime, from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional-parliamentarian one, much like the English model, thus abolishing the excessive privileges of the upper classes.

B. Atheism versus religiousness.

The Jacobean atheism was integrated with rationalism, which is discussed in the next section, and with the dismissal of Judeo-Christian scriptures(3). The act that expressed this attitude was the introduction of a statue into the Notre Dam Cathedral of Paris, declaring it as "the god of reason". Their rise to power was probably the first time in history where an atheist ideology, as opposed to atheist individuals, took over an entire country.(4)

On the other side of the French National Assembly, the Girondins, who shared the ideology of English Liberalism, supported the freedom of religion and the equality of all churches and religious movements, thus abolishing the privileges and the official status of the Catholic Church as the state religion(5) . Their views were religious in essence, deeply influenced by the Bible, the Greek philosophers and the Freemasons(6) . They combined religious values and the humility of the ruler who kneels before a higher being, with the values of free speech and thought(7).

C. Rationalism versus empiricism.

The impressive achievements of Newtonian mechanics in describing the laws of movement of both earthly and celestial bodies, through a small number of simple mathematical formulae, drove many, including the Jacobins, into a certain type of megalomania - Rationalism, an exaggerated faith in human logic. Lacking the knowledge about Newton's empirical methods, based on Tycho Brahe's experiments a century earlier, and the lack of understanding of the process of trial and error through which science makes progress - a process that is basically not different from the way mice find their way in a labyrinth, made them believe in the human ability to find out the absolute truth through deductive methods. These methods are wrongly thought to be employed in mathematics, and especially in geometry. Therefore, the scientific progress that followed from Newton's contribution encouraged a new form of an old arrogance, described in the Bible: the arrogance of the builders of the tower of Babylon.

Unlike the Jacobean rationalism, represented by Voltaire, the chief Girondin ideologue Montesquieu, followed Aristotle's empirical method. He added to the research of around 150 regimes, which served as the basis for Aristotle's "Politics", another twenty years of study, with a team of assistants, for writing his book "The Spirit of the Laws" (1748). Together with the Bible and the Greek philosophers, this book guided the founding fathers of the American Revolution in shaping the principles and institutions of the United States. This Liberal Democracy has proven its viability for over two centuries, to this very day.

Continue To Part II


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