Quote: David Brooks on the Need for the Philosophy of Personalism

[O]ur 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…

[T]oday’s social fragmentation didn’t spring from shallow roots. It sprang from worldviews that amputated people from their own depths and divided them into simplistic, flattened identities. That has to change

David Brooks

The quote above is from David Brooks’ article (see here) where he suggests a return to the philosophy of Personalism – a philosophy that had a brief life in the late 19th century and early 20th century. I’d initially dismissed this philosophy as “too subjective”, but as I read more about it, the more I come to see the potential value this philosophy has, particularly when one does not divorce it from God’s revealed Word.

I plan on reading more on Personalism, but some initial thoughts come to mind:

  1. Personalism is not saying that the individual is the ground of reality. The essence of humanity (at least in part) is that we are personal beings. And, as created in God’s image, our personhood reflects the nature of the Triune God. [Obviously, more needs to be said about what is meant by “personal”, but that’ll come later.]
  2. Personalism does not have to reject universal truth; in fact, I believe that one can consistently hold to a form of Personalism and universal truth.
  3. In a day where we experience the Cartesian divorce of humanity from “culture and tradition” on one end of the spectrum, and the Postmodern complete encapsulation of humanity within culture and tradition on the other – Personalism may be a helpful way to bridge the gap.

So, it seems that my personal (no pun intended) research is beginning to take shape once again as I near the end of my one-year hiatus from writing. With my previous post on “knowing and being known” and now this renewed interest in Personalism, I believe I have my work cut out for me.