Thursday, March 31, 2011

this amputated view of human nature

Melissa Cordero sent me this article by David Brooks, "The New Humanism."

Here's a sample:
"When we raise our kids, we focus on the traits measured by grades and SAT scores. But when it comes to the most important things like character and how to build relationships, we often have nothing to say. Many of our public policies are proposed by experts who are comfortable only with correlations that can be measured, appropriated and quantified, and ignore everything else.

"Yet while we are trapped within this amputated view of human nature, a richer and deeper view is coming back into view. It is being brought to us by researchers across an array of diverse fields: neuroscience, psychology, sociology, behavioral economics and so on.

"This growing, dispersed body of research reminds us of a few key insights. First, the unconscious parts of the mind are most of the mind, where many of the most impressive feats of thinking take place. Second, emotion is not opposed to reason; our emotions assign value to things and are the basis of reason. Finally, we are not individuals who form relationships. We are social animals, deeply interpenetrated with one another, who emerge out of relationships."


  1. This insight--that not all aspects of human character are empirically quantifiable--is similar to a key aspect of Austrian economics. Unlike conventional economics, which views value and utility as both quantifiable and measurable (with money prices as a proxy) and interpersonally comparable, Austrian economics realizes that economics is the study of the logic of human action, and human action is teleological and values are subjective, and ordinal, not cardinal (they are ranks, and expressed in action, not measurable quantities),and not interpersonally comparable. The modern trends of econometrics, law and economics, wealth maximization, and utilitarianism all suffer flaws, in comparison to Austrian economic methodology, just as the modern educational notion of quantitative testing and measuring inherently unmeasurable aspects of human character is flawed in comparison to the Montessori qualitative approach.

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