Brain Pickings

David Brooks on the Dangerous Division Between Reason and Emotion, Animated


The false division of the self, or what’s wrong with using physics to assess human behavior.

Yesterday, we marveled at a fantastic short film that captured Michael Pollan’s classic Food Rules in animated stop-motion vegetables. Another wonderful motion graphics entry from the same RSA film competition by Tomas Flodr is based on an RSA talk The New York Times’ David Brooks gave about his newish book, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, which echoes an older RSA sketchnote animation about the divided brain and the dangers that lurk in modern society’s propensity for prioritizing the left brain over the right. (Something at which Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Anne Lamott would all have raised an eyebrow.)

We have inherited a view of ourselves that we’re divided selves. We have reason over here and emotion over here, and if anything, they’re on a teeter-totter — that if reason is up emotion is down or vise versa, and society advances to the extent that reason can suppress the passions. So this has created methodologies of studying human behavior that try to use the methodologies of physics to do social science, which emphasize the things we can count and measure, and which amputate all the rest.”

For more, see Brooks’ TED talk and, of course, the book itself.

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