Thursday, May 31, 2007

David Brooks on Al Gore

The Non Sequitur does a great job on the hapless David Brooks' attempts to talk philosophy in response to Al Gore's new book, The Assault on Reason. Brooks gets himself into serious trouble, but a smarter man might have seen that coming. I don't mind the plebes (sniff) doing philosophy, but I have never ever seen a pundit not mangle or radically over-simplify philosophical ideas. It doesn't need to be that way. But then, that's Gore's point.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

But Gore’s imperviousness to reality is not the most striking feature of the book. It’s the chilliness and sterility of his worldview. Gore is laying out a comprehensive theory of social development, but it allows almost no role for family, friendship, neighborhood or just face-to-face contact. He sees society the way you might see it from a speaking podium — as a public mass exercise with little allowance for intimacy or private life. He envisions a sort of Vulcan Utopia, in which dispassionate individuals exchange facts and arrive at logical conclusions.

It really would suck if people “exchang[ed] facts and arriv[ed] at logical conclusions.” The mysterious thing here is that not only is Gore lamenting the absence of civil discourse–which is, dear Mr.Brooks, a kind of civic engagement–but he can hardly be taken to be claiming that it’s the only thing people do.

What lurks behind Brooks dimwitted review is the classic Brooksian dichotomy: things can only be one way (my way) or the totally absurd other way (whatever your way is). Gore cannot be right about logic, because then we would all be Vulcans–like Dr.Spock (the one on TV). Maybe Al Gore is saying that we need logic at least, or perhaps, also.

Some, maybe like Kant or Aristotle or Aquinas, would agree with Gore.


SC@MD said...

Mr. (not Dr.) Spock, unless I am missing a point here.

Murky Thoughts said...

I knew MD's were proprietary, but I didn't know the concern extended to characters in fiction.

helmut said...

Yes, a "sic" might have been in order.