David Brooks–The Way to Produce a Person

We live in a relentlessly commercial culture, so it’s natural that many people would organize their lives in utilitarian and consequentialist terms. But it’s possible to get carried away with this kind of thinking ”” to have logic but no wisdom, to become a specialist without spirit.

Making yourself is different than producing a product or an external outcome, requiring different logic and different means. I’d think you would be more likely to cultivate a deep soul if you put yourself in the middle of the things that engaged you most seriously. If your profoundest interest is dying children in Africa or Bangladesh, it’s probably best to go to Africa or Bangladesh, not to Wall Street.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Globalization, Philosophy, Psychology, Theology

2 comments on “David Brooks–The Way to Produce a Person

  1. David Keller says:

    This is a very strange article. I really had to read it twice to grasp it, because it sounds appealing. But on further review, it’s not. We all have different callings. Two things come to mind. In happier times in2000, GC had a career forum with young people which I volunteered to be a table leader for. One teen asked me why I was lawyer, and I said it was so I could have the means to do “this” meaning church work as a lay leader. The other is Biblical. Lydia funded Paul. She was not called to go on missionary journeys, but to fund them. If one is called to go to Africa, then go. But if you are called to use your means for the Kindom’s glory, then do it. I’d a lot rather have Jason Trigg on Wall Street than Mark Rich or Bernie Madoff.

  2. J. Champlin says:

    David, as I read it, the issue in the piece is utilitarian ethics. Peter Singer is a card carrying utilitarian — everything is calculated on outcomes, pleasure and pain for sensate beings (and Singer, of course, counts all sensate beings; humanity is not accorded special status). The result is strangely impersonal — more or less, everything is commodified, including persons. Or rather, persons pretty much drop out of the calculation, being little more than a nexus of pleasurable and painful sensations. And, of course, insofar as everything is calculated it’s rational.

    As I read it, the point Brooks is making is that Jason Trigg has made a strangely impersonal and abstract decision, in many ways the exact opposite of your service, or Lydia’s for that matter. That is, your service is based on a lifelong, self-involving commitment to the practice and people of the church, a tie not easily broken. On the other hand, there is something abstract and impersonal about Trigg’s decision, something that could be abandoned as easily as it is made. Means and ends are strangely disconnected; the person is missing in the calculation.

    The difficulty in all this, of course, is that none of us know Jason Trigg. Alas, he’s being “used” as an example. However, insofar as Brooks is trying to get at a difficulty with a very pervasive utilitarianism, I think he’s onto something.