The Evolution of David Brooks

But I’ve really become disillusioned—not completely—but halfway disillusioned with neuroscience. Ten years ago, I thought that was going to teach us a lot about who we are. And it does, a little. It teaches you the importance of emotion, how the amygdala is involved in everything. But I don’t think neuroscience has taught us anything that George Eliot didn’t already know. It doesn’t at all solve the problem of meaning. So I felt I had to go back to the Soloveitchiks or the Niebuhrs or George Eliot or Dostoyevsky, who didn’t have fMRI machines but were pretty good observers of human nature.

.. One of my callings is to represent a certain moderate Republican Whig political philosophy, and the other is to try to shift the conversation more in a moral and theological direction.

.. Universities and a lot of institutions became very amoral because they didn’t know what to say. We became such a diverse society that it became hard to know what to say without insulting somebody. And then we became a very individualistic society. If there’s something I’ve been frustrated with, it’s our excessively individualistic society. That’s led to a belief that everyone should come up with their own values and no one should judge each other. That destroys moral conversation and becomes just a question of feelings.

.. The 1960s and 1970s were a great age of social individualism from the left. The 1980s and 1990s were a great age of economic individualism from the right. And as a result, we eviscerated a lot of things that we held in common.

.. Some people pray at shul or at church or mosque, or in the woods. I pray by writing.

.. Writers tended to be narcissistic, and they were bad to the people around them

.. when I went to The New York Times 13 years ago for the first time by how many shy and socially awkward people there were. I remember thinking, interviewing is a social activity, but it’s structured. So if you’re awkward, you know how to do it, but it’s not like hanging out at a party.

.. I think our problem is too much freedom. The great challenge for me is tying myself down, and that involves maritally, that involves defining what I’m doing with the column. The thing I have not done is tie myself to a community.

.. sin is when you get your loves out of order—if a friend confides in you and you blab his secret at a dinner party, you’re putting your love of popularity above your love of friendship, and that’s wrong, that’s a sin.

.. In 1970, people were asked, would you mind if your son or daughter married outside your party? Five percent would mind. Now, 40 percent would mind.

.. Obama’s a writer more than he is a politician, and that personal aloofness hurt his performance

.. I think Hillary Clinton will be the next president. My normal rule is, people vote for order.