Common sense vs.hypocrisy

Be realistic about death penalty: PM - National Breaking News - Breaking News 24/7 - NEWS.com.au
"But I think we have to be a little bit realistic in suggesting that the Government should complain as loudly as a death sentence being carried out on Saddam Hussein as we did in relation to Nguyen [Australian citizen executed in Singapore] is a bit unrealistic," [Australian prime minister Howard] said.

"Call it hypocrisy if you like, I think call it just normal human common sense."

Eventhough, this might be simply Howard's cynical ploy to deflect criticism, he does point to a larger issue of cognitive models and frames. The 'lie' or 'hypocrisy' models include a propositional and image schematic components that rely on a folk version traditional logic and entailment. I.e. If you're against the death penalty for every human being, and Saddam Hussein is a human being, you must be against the death penalty for Saddam Hussein. Otherwise you're being 'illogical' at best and a 'hypocrite' at worst. But there is another schema that is often employed that roughly relies on commensurate weight in entailment and requires prototypical categories. Saddam and Hitler are not prototypical human beings (some claim they should not be considered human at all) and their weight in the entailment chain is not as strong as that of a simple drug dealer let alone a person wrongly accused. These processes are an integral part of human reasoning (as Lakoff has shown fairly convincingly) and it would be foolish to expect them to be overcome - for instance with 'better education' (as many of the Vienna circle were hoping).

On the other hand, these issues do come up very frequently in public and private discourse (and cognition) and it will be important to account for their cognitive status in future research. In this context, I'm always reminded of an observation I first heard from the Czech linguist Zdeněk Starý (my teacher and friend) that 'linguistic purism' should be treated as part of 'linguistic competence' (which in Saussurean terms would probably be more langage rather than parole - although this argument implies that there should be no strict division between the two). The same applies to linguistic innovation and creativity and other processes which are often seen as largely independent of language. Labov and Hymes make a similar point (but we could probably trace this idea even further back to Humboldt - but that might be a stretch).