The Quest for a Moral Life with David Brooks

by Scott Barry Kaufman, June 26, 2019

Today we have David Brooks on the podcast. Brooks is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times and appears regularly on “PBS NewsHour,” NPR’s “All Things Considered” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He teaches at Yale University and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the bestselling author of a number of books, including The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement; The New Upper Class and How They Got There; The Road to Character, and most recently, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.

In this episode we discuss:

  • The evolution of David’s thinking about character
  • The relationship between our commitments and our fulfillment in life
  • Brook’s criticism of self-actualization taken to the extreme
  • The four crises of our time
  • David’s current stance on reparations
  • Why David is a “border stalker”
  • How David reconciles the need for commitment with identity fluidity
  • Commitment vs. individualism
  • The importance of healthy transcendence
  • The enunciation moment
  • What we can do about the current political landscape
  • David’s thoughts on polyamory and the single life


4 Responses to “The Quest for a Moral Life with David Brooks”

  1. FifiG says:

    Valid points presented from Dr. Kaufman and Mr.Brooks. Was hoping for a convergence of ideas from “The Second Mountain” and “Authenticity Under Fire.” Is it possible to merge these ideas or is it more quantum physics ie. microscopic, attachment theory, personality traits, vs relative theory ie macroscopic, individualistic culture, group theory, capitalism, etc? Should we zoom in or out or are we just on different mountains?

  2. William says:

    Why did he even invite Mr. Brooks onto the show? All I heard was Kaufman hacking at things that made him uncomfortable.

  3. Nancy Hess says:

    I loved this discussion because Kaufman and Brooks were open about their respective views. I admire Brooks but am suspicious that his conservative views may evolve from male-centered thinking. For example, at age 60, my close friends with successful marriages are in unions where one spouse commits to the other’s career. I am convinced this is a formula (not “the” formula) for a successful long term relationship. However, in many cases, it was the husband who opted to commit to the wife’s career. I think, I hope, Brooks would say this is consistent with his own views. But I am not sure. Putting the union first, whether it is marriage or another arrangement, is a risky step to take, but from my point of view (and I am divorced but in a committed relationship) offers one path (a crucible of sorts) to self realization and a moral life. I am also fiercely supportive of the creative life and understand that many creatives need space and cannot commit to a close living arrangement. This is what makes the discussions about polyamory (which I don’t understand) and secure vs insecure attachments so fascinating! Keep probing, thanks.

  4. Steffie says:

    I had to listen to this podcast twice to ensure that I was understanding Dr. Kaufman‘s approach. I use the word approach intentionally, because I believe this was not really an interview but more of an intervention. Dr. Kaufman was not the least bit subtle regarding his desire to sway the opinion and seemingly educate his guest. I found his behavior to be condescending to see the least and obnoxious ifi am being polite. This was not an interview this was Dr. Kaufman telling the writer how he should think. I believe the last straw for me was when dr. Kaufman brought up polyamorous love seemingly gratuitously and then proceeded to normalize and I will go as far as to say extol the benefits of a lifestyle fraught with emotional land mines.
    In conclusion this was not an interview it was Dr. Kaufman schooling or perhaps a clumsy attempt at unsolicited mentoring. The interview should have been called “Let me tell you what I think, Dr. Kaufman.

Join the Discussion

SBK Events View All