Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The End of David Brooks

No, not really – a more accurate title would be, '"The Limitations on David Brooks' Understanding of Ethics." He wrote an op-ed for 4/6/09 called "The End of Philosophy." It's not horrible, I guess, but it is rife with imprecision and inaccuracy. Hilzoy has a lovely dissection of it in "Philosophy: Not Dead Yet!"

I'd just add – although I'm overdue for re-reading Aristotle – Aristotle discussed the difference between doing good deeds with and without reflection and deliberation. Roughly speaking, Aristotle viewed true virtue as the good deliberately chosen, a set of good habits and a general path. Brooks puts moral thinking and snap moral judgments in opposition, but in actuality, the ancient Greeks discussed and debated both in great detail. Furthermore, the existence of snap moral judgments and our basis for making them (while interesting) does not mean that a more reflective form of moral thinking doesn't exist or is not valuable. It would be one thing if Brooks argued that we underestimate how many of our moral judgments are actually snap decisions and that we misjudge the source of our own sense of morality. I suppose if we're especially charitable that is what Brooks is saying. But he also misses something essential, because contrary to what he argues, not all "moral judgments are like that" – they are not all "rapid intuitive decisions." But read Hilzoy's post, because it uses a splendid analogy and her piece is far more elegant.

Hilzoy also remarks:

(Parenthetical note: what is it with these conservatives and their desire to kill off the humanities? Fukuyama and the End of History, now Brooks ... can the Death of Inner Asian and Altaic Studies be far behind?)

Considering conservative antipathy toward the arts and toward science, it's not surprising.

(Cross-posted at Blue Herald)


Tengrain said...

Bat -

That was a mean bait-and-switch! There I was hoping for an obituary or at least a retirement announcement.



Batocchio said...

Ten, fair enough!

I'm holding out for Kristol first on that count, though.

Tengrain said...

Could we have a two-fer?!