Left liberal bailey; right liberal motte

October 6, 2016 § 32 Comments

One feature of motte and bailey doctrines is that we can have, at the same time, certains groups expanding the territory of the bailey while other groups launch defensive arrows from the motte.

In the case of liberalism, left liberals play offense in the bailey while right liberals (a.k.a. conservatives) play defense from the motte.  

They think they are on different teams but are in reality on the same team.  Their faux rivalry is the internal rivalry of the offensive and defensive squads, while their concept of winning is ultimately the same.

Democratic elections represent the liturgy which brings the public on board; and ultimately all of the pseudo conflict is thermal noise in a cauldron collapsing toward the same transcendent unreality.

§ 32 Responses to Left liberal bailey; right liberal motte

  • Kidd Cudi says:

    Do you ever try to say something like that in conversation? Do people just zone out or say “you’re crazy” ?

  • Zippy says:

    Kidd Cudi:
    I usually don’t talk politics unless someone else brings it up. This does happen often enough, since politics is almost as popular as sportsball. What I say varies based on the context but the sorts of things I tend to say do often bring discussion to a halt.

  • […] liberalism as a motte and bailey doctrine, with left liberalism aggressively expanding the liberal bailey (outer region of novel and […]

  • Isn’t this perhaps the most natural thing about liberalism? It seem like a ordinary propagation from the strongly center toward the weakly held. I think particularly of the science as holding a strong certain doctrine at times in conflict with newer development. However, the consummation of liberalism seems to be an about-face and burning everything gained, because it is all too real.

  • Zippy says:

    Certainly the structure of a literal motte and bailey is a perfectly sensible defensive strategy.

    In a motte and bailey doctrine though the assertions in the bailey are literally indefensible. I suppose a difference with liberalism is that the propositions within the motte are also indefensible; they are just widely and irrationally held to be true as “self evident”.

    You have a point about liberalism burning the ground behind it too. The motte is a kind of expanding wall, and in the center is a burnt wasteland filled with the refuse of previous liberalisms.

    So as usual what we have is a partial and imperfect model; but it may help spur insight and discussion about the reality.

  • donnie says:

    I’ve been rethinking how useful the motte and bailey analogy is over the last couple of days.

    A friend insists it can be used to discredit anything one likes, and gave the example of the Catholic Church as a motte and bailey. As he tells it, one could say that the traditional doctrines and dogmas of the Church are the bailey (papal infallibility, the reality of Hell, opposition to contraception, etc.) and that post-Vatican II, Pope Francis-style Catholicism is the Church’s motte (it can mean whatever you like it to mean, so it’s hard to attack).

    In this view, he said, Traditionalists are those who complain that since the ’60s there has been practically no toiling in the bailey and we have cabin fever for being stuck up in the motte for too long.

  • Zippy says:

    Maybe it is one of those models that proves too much. In order to work the bailey has to be actually indefensible, which of course is precisely what is at issue, and the motte has to be obviously defensible, which is not the case as often as folks think. So I’d buy that there is significant danger of begging the question.

  • Zippy says:

    The counterpoint is that quite a lot of ‘socialized equivocation’ really does take place.

  • donnie says:

    “Quite a lot of ‘socialized equivocation’ really does take place.”

    Having mulled this over a bit more, it may be more accurate to say not that the Church is an example of the motte and bailey doctrine, but rather that the present Church hierarchy treat it as if it is, to the scandal of us all.

    In other words, the Church’s “bailey” looks indefensible to modern eyes but is, in fact, very defensible and has been successfully defended for centuries. Our present-day Church leaders, however, do not see it as something that can be successfully defended and have retreated to the “motte” out of cowardice and a lack of faith. Some are even traitors who have ran off to go toil in modernity’s bailey, and urging those around them to follow suit.

    Faithful everyday Novus Ordo Catholics are those perfectly contented to sit in the motte and don’t see anything wrong with this situation, while the Traditionalists are the small pocket of people trying desperately to get the bishops and the faithful to go outside and work in the bailey before it becomes completely overcrowded by weeds.

  • Zippy says:

    That is an interesting take donnie: a kind of motte and bailey dynamic can take place when those who ought to be defending doctrine retreat to socially acceptable banalities, whether out of cowardice or because they themselves find the doctrines distasteful.

    The motte and bailey structure applies not to objective defensibility of doctrinal truths, in the case of cowardice or finding the truth inconvenient or repulsive: it applies to the social acceptability of doctrines in polite society or the personal palatability of accepting the truth.

    So cowardice and vice can give rise to the appearance of a motte and bailey doctrine where there isn’t one.

  • […] not a single formal proposition: it is a way of thinking about or understanding something.  ‘Motte and bailey‘ describes the structure of how a false doctrine is defended and advanced as a social […]

  • “They think they are on different teams but are in reality on the same team.”

    Well, yes. Everyone seeks the good and supposes that they are on a different team from the people who have other opinions about the good. But they are all seeking the good, so they are all on the same team. That applies to you, too.

  • Zippy says:


    Well, yes. Everyone seeks the good and supposes that they are on a different team from the people who have other opinions about the good. But they are all seeking the good, so they are all on the same team. That applies to you, too.

    Only if we don’t pay any attention to the conflation of liberalism with the good. Both left and right liberals seek liberalism.

  • Zippy, liberals think that liberalism is good. You think that something else is good. But you both are seeking the good.

  • Zippy says:


    … liberals think that liberalism is good. You think that something else is good.


    That means — do try to follow the logic here — that they are the same in that respect, whereas I am different from them.

    [*] More strictly, liberals think liberalism is good whereas I recognize that it is in fact bad.

  • Scott W. says:

    Seekers of Lebensraum were seeking good; we can go on like this endlessly but shouldn’t because it falls under the category of true-but-uninteresting.

  • Zippy says:

    Scott W:

    …it falls under the category of true-but-uninteresting.

    Right: which makes it a motte defense against the OP, for those following along at home.

  • That other people are different from you, and they have in common the fact that they are different from you, is true but uninteresting. Because they are also different from each other, in other ways.

  • Zippy says:

    What liberals have in common is their commitment to liberalism.

    But thanks for providing illustration, in this thread, of the motte side of the motte and bailey.

  • […] doctrine is a mistake: a mistake easily rejected by liberals as a caricature which creates a motte and bailey social structure from which escape becomes […]

  • […] observation that we have free will, coupled with a judgment that this is good, liberty lurks in a motte within which it bides its time, waiting to escape into social […]

  • […] societies put the wrong sort of people in prison; so “freedom” in the political motte has become a way of expressing the speaker’s approval of that society’s rules and […]

  • […] is of course common to equivocate here: to suggest that liberalism merely says (tautologically) that people ought to have the […]

  • […] a doctrinal mashup of contradictory nonsense defended by the modern political monoparty with motte-and-bailey equivocation.  A liberal sovereign delegitimizes his own authority, and the authority of his peoples’ […]

  • […] psychologies: that, for example, psychologically passive-aggressive people tend to see their own motte-and-bailey approach to argument as virtuous rather than […]

  • […] permanently vanquish liberalism: it always has a welcome home and can rise again, emerge from its impregnable keep in the central holy of holies, to ravage the plains, mountains, and streams of real […]

  • […] not know where we, the deserters, should rally against the liberals. He’s swamped enough with burning their baileys and sieging their mottes of every type, from communism and left-liberalism, to right-liberalism and fascism, along with all […]

  • […] above the others as subjugated chattel. In truth, this conflict is only a conflict in appearance. Both teams are liberals at heart. All their short-term defeats are just victories for the other sub-team, whether it’s the […]

  • […] no matter how it is phrased or how circumscribed right liberals attempt to frame it to be — is a motte-and-bailey mashup of tautology, nominalism, and self […]

  • […]  And scapegoating theories ironically produce enough obscurity to enable right liberals to cling to their own incoherent defenses of political freedom, thus ensuring the perpetuation of […]

  • […] phrase “equality before the law” is one of those liberal slogans which is either vacuous or incoherent, depending upon how it is […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Left liberal bailey; right liberal motte at Zippy Catholic.