Opinion | Personalism: The Philosophy We Need – by David Brooks – NYT

“One of the lessons of a life in journalism is that people are always way more complicated than you think. We talk in shorthand about “Trump voters” or “social justice warriors,” but when you actually meet people they defy categories. Someone might be a Latina lesbian who loves the N.R.A. or a socialist Mormon cowboy from Arizona.

Moreover, most actual human beings are filled with ambivalences. Most political activists I know love parts of their party and despise parts of their party. A whole lifetime of experience, joy and pain goes into that complexity, and it insults their lives to try to reduce them to a label that ignores that.

Yet our culture does a pretty good job of ignoring the uniqueness and depth of each person. Pollsters see in terms of broad demographic groups. Big data counts people as if it were counting apples. At the extreme, evolutionary psychology reduces people to biological drives, capitalism reduces people to economic self-interest, modern Marxism to their class position and multiculturalism to their racial one. Consumerism treats people as mere selves — as shallow creatures concerned merely with the experience of pleasure and the acquisition of stuff.

Back in 1968, Karol Wojtyla wrote, “The evil of our times consists in the first place in a kind of degradation, indeed in a pulverization, of the fundamental uniqueness of each human person.” That’s still true.

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So this might be a perfect time for a revival of personalism.

Personalism is a philosophic tendency built on the infinite uniqueness and depth of each person. Over the years people like Walt Whitman, Martin Luther King, William James, Peter Maurin and Wojtyla (who went on to become Pope John Paul II) have called themselves personalists, but the movement is still something of a philosophic nub. It’s not exactly famous.”

 

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval at nyt comments.
Lovely piece David Brooks, thank you. I fear that Personalism is terrific, but flawed, and perhaps a useful starting place. It is probably too anthropcentric to get us homo sapiens to a right balance and relationship with other species, who by the way are disappearing all over the planet. “Anthropocentrism is human-centred living and this is the opposite of Biocentrism, or nature-centred living. . .” from Eco-action.org. I like your Personalism, but it is too anthropcentric for the survival of life on this planet as we know and love it. It might be a good time for you to do one of your deep dives into 350.org, and the work of Bill McKibbon and Al Gore and Edward O Wilson (scientist), describing the work of about 97% of climate scientists, who warn that global warming and climate change are sending us now into the sixth extinction. David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com
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About David Lindsay Jr

David Lindsay is the author of "The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth- Century Vietnam," that covers a bloody civil war from 1770 to 1802. It was published by Footmad and Cherry Blossom Press on September 11, 2017. Find more about it at TheTaySonRebellion.com, also known as, DavidLindsayJr.com.
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