Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It's David Brooks Fisking Day!

Having failed to say anything useful about politics, now he fails at saying anything useful about morality:
Today, many psychologists, cognitive scientists and even philosophers embrace a different view of morality. In this view, moral thinking is more like aesthetics. . . .
Most of us make snap moral judgments about what feels fair or not, or what feels good or not. We start doing this when we are babies, before we have language. And even as adults, we often can’t explain to ourselves why something feels wrong. . . .
What shapes moral emotions in the first place? The answer has long been evolution, but in recent years there’s an increasing appreciation that evolution isn’t just about competition. It’s also about cooperation within groups. Like bees, humans have long lived or died based on their ability to divide labor, help each other and stand together in the face of common threats. Many of our moral emotions and intuitions reflect that history.
This isn't a newspaper column. It's an English-comp theme that any bright college psych major could have written. There is no attempt at reporting, no effort at timeliness or relevance.

One gets the mental image of Brooks reclining on a divan, reading an article in Psychology Today and saying, "Oh, I'll write about that." And -- voila! -- second-hand expertise.

As always, Brooks approaches his subject with the general idea, "What do the 'experts' say? What is the prestigious, fashionable, high-status thing to say about this?" He is merely a mirror of the attitudinal dispositions of the elite, a sort of living sociological treatise on the current mood of our decadent intelligentsia.

More comment at Memeorandum.


  1. Altruism may be hard-wired into humans as a survival strategy, and not merely a matter of religious dictates, but this isn't news. Brooks' column is just another attempt by a smug, self-aggrandizing liberal to feel superior to those knuckle-dragging troglodytes who don't agree with him on policy issues.

  2. Altruism is hard wired.

    So why do we need police?