Can a person truly separate rationality from passion? No, says David Brooks, Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times and author of "The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement," a new book exploring the intersection of brain science and sociology.
"Emotions are at the center of our thinking," said Brooks during his recent TED talk. "Emotions are not separate from reason, but they are the foundation of reason because they tell us what to value."
This may seem paradoxical. But according to Brooks, that's because "for centuries we've inherited a view of human nature based on the notion that we're divided selves, that reason is separated from the emotions, and that society progresses to the extent that reason can suppress the passions."
Symptomatic of this larger problem, said Brooks, is politicians' approach to policy-making. Despite their "incredible social skills," these public figures become "completely dehumanized when they think about policy."
For Brooks, such behavior feeds into a "shallow view of human nature" that "we're rational individuals who respond in straightforward ways to incentives." He continues: "It has produced a great amputation ... we're really good at talking about material things, and we're really bad at talking about emotions. We're really good at talking about skills, safety and health. We're really bad at talking about character."