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#89- On Becoming a Better Person A Conversation with David Brooks

 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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25 July 2017 12:11
 

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with David Brooks about his book The Road to Character, the importance of words like “sin” and “virtue,” self-esteem vs. self-overcoming, the significance of keeping promises, honesty, President Trump, and other topics. I am a huge fan of Mr. Brooks. 

On Becoming a Better Person A Conversation with David Brooks

This thread is for listeners’ comments.

[ Edited: 25 July 2017 16:54 by Nhoj Morley]
 
 
Carbonesque
 
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25 July 2017 13:47
 

Listening now, but I think this one is podcast #89.

 
Nhoj Morley
 
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25 July 2017 16:55
 

Yep. Thanks. I’m all spots from testing light fixtures.

 
 
Martin Gifford
 
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25 July 2017 18:18
 

This whole idea of “becoming a better person” is just a nightmare perpetuated by society on individuals to maintain humankind’s low self esteem. Do tigers need to be come better tigers? Do trees need to become better trees? It’s time to question basic assumptions received from society.

 
Souther
 
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25 July 2017 19:11
 
Martin Gifford - 25 July 2017 06:18 PM

This whole idea of “becoming a better person” is just a nightmare perpetuated by society on individuals to maintain humankind’s low self esteem. Do tigers need to be come better tigers? Do trees need to become better trees? It’s time to question basic assumptions received from society.

On the contrary, attempting self-improvement helps raise low self-esteem.

 
Carbonesque
 
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25 July 2017 19:39
 

We are not trees.
We are not tigers.
We have a responsibility.  Maybe when you observe your child behave as you do, you will understand.

 
Martin Gifford
 
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25 July 2017 20:04
 
Souther - 25 July 2017 07:11 PM
Martin Gifford - 25 July 2017 06:18 PM

This whole idea of “becoming a better person” is just a nightmare perpetuated by society on individuals to maintain humankind’s low self esteem. Do tigers need to be come better tigers? Do trees need to become better trees? It’s time to question basic assumptions received from society.

On the contrary, attempting self-improvement helps raise low self-esteem.

But where did the low self-esteem come from. You see, society creates the problem (low self-esteem), then suggests the solution (self-improvement). It’s like a divide and rule strategy - get people to fight themselves and each other, and the real troublemaker continues unnoticed.

 
Martin Gifford
 
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25 July 2017 20:06
 
Carbonesque - 25 July 2017 07:39 PM

We are not trees.
We are not tigers.
We have a responsibility.  Maybe when you observe your child behave as you do, you will understand.

You missed the point I was making about trees and tigers. They are natural creations that are therefore faultless. We are natural creations that are therefore faultless. So the idea that we are faulty must be artificial.

Why do children behave badly? I have seen children of loving parents who behave well.

 
Carbonesque
 
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25 July 2017 20:46
 

How does being flawless follow from being natural?

I have seen children of loving parents who behave well.

They do not come out of the box that way.

[ Edited: 25 July 2017 20:48 by Carbonesque]
 
Martin Gifford
 
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25 July 2017 20:50
 
Carbonesque - 25 July 2017 08:46 PM

How does being flawless follow from being natural?

Of course, there are different meanings of “fault” and flaw”. But to get the idea of what I’m suggesting, can you think of anything natural that is faulty? Is a flower faulty? A dog? A planet? They might be damaged, but not faulty, not “less than” what they should be. They are totally guiltless, and fully themselves.

 
Probus
 
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26 July 2017 05:36
 
Martin Gifford - 25 July 2017 06:18 PM

This whole idea of “becoming a better person” is just a nightmare perpetuated by society on individuals to maintain humankind’s low self esteem. Do tigers need to be come better tigers? Do trees need to become better trees? It’s time to question basic assumptions received from society.

You are basically calling human civilization a nightmare. Perhaps you would rather live in a world where primitive urges, biases and instincts are embraced? Nature is an unbelievably cruel place. Tigers are tigers, because they can’t help it. They don’t have the cognitive means to actively change their behavior. Humans on the other hand, have these means. Hence, we can either choose to ignore these means and live our lives like tigers or we can embrace the fact that we can sculpt and change our own future.

 
Martin Gifford
 
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26 July 2017 07:54
 
Probus - 26 July 2017 05:36 AM

Perhaps you would rather live in a world where primitive urges, biases and instincts are embraced?

That argument is based on what you see and hear on this ignorant planet. What if there are wise evolved societies in the universe? If we had been born on one of those planets, would we have problems with “primitive urges, biases and instincts”? It is this ignorant society that triggers our lower instincts. It says, “Look out there at all the things in the world that you can get for yourself. You only have to compete against your fellow human beings to get them. And here’s 10, 12, 15 years of education to help you compete.”

 
Gamril
 
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26 July 2017 09:20
 

Argument against “civilization” means most of us living right now wouldn’t be able to cut it and would have never made it.  Might now be such a bad thing for those who would have made it….  It all depends on your perspective.

 
Probus
 
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26 July 2017 09:24
 
Martin Gifford - 26 July 2017 07:54 AM

That argument is based on what you see and hear on this ignorant planet. What if there are wise evolved societies in the universe? If we had been born on one of those planets, would we have problems with “primitive urges, biases and instincts”? It is this ignorant society that triggers our lower instincts. It says, “Look out there at all the things in the world that you can get for yourself. You only have to compete against your fellow human beings to get them. And here’s 10, 12, 15 years of education to help you compete.”

Yes, it’s based on what we “see and hear on this planet”. What else could we base such a discussion on? We are humans, and as such have a very primitive past. The alternative to civilized societies is barbarism. I don’t know what you mean by “ignorant society”. But, we don’t need civilized societies to trigger basic instincts. We need civilized societies to overcome such basic instincts. That is the definition to character development. To not give in to primitive urges. We know how easily civilizations can fail when they give in to traits like greed and selfishness.

Your argument goes against all common sense. If what you claim is true, then parenting and all forms of social cohesion is destructive. Because that’s what parenting is all about. Character development. Good parenting leads to good character development, and bad parenting leads to bad character development. There is absolutely no reason to think that we can just let nature take it’s course and it will lead to a better society. I don’t even know what that means? People in power, would still try to form the world to their liking. Even in small tribes, parents and elders would try to sculpt the behavior and character of their children or tribe members. The solution to what you cal an ignorant society (whatever you mean by that) is not less character development. It’s better character development. Ironically, David Brooks is arguing against fierce competition. He is promoting humility and more cooperation. What’s ignorant about that?

[ Edited: 26 July 2017 09:31 by Probus]
 
SkepticX
 
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26 July 2017 09:31
 
Martin Gifford - 25 July 2017 08:06 PM
Carbonesque - 25 July 2017 07:39 PM

We are not trees.
We are not tigers.
We have a responsibility.  Maybe when you observe your child behave as you do, you will understand.

You missed the point I was making about trees and tigers. They are natural creations that are therefore faultless. We are natural creations that are therefore faultless. So the idea that we are faulty must be artificial.

Why do children behave badly? I have seen children of loving parents who behave well.


Are you talking about “faultless” in the sense of the religious notion of sin maybe?

Agreeing with Einstein when he said he couldn’t conceive of a god that punishes its creations, basically?

 
 
BCCraig
 
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26 July 2017 12:14
 
Martin Gifford - 25 July 2017 08:06 PM

You missed the point I was making about trees and tigers. They are natural creations that are therefore faultless. We are natural creations that are therefore faultless. So the idea that we are faulty must be artificial.

Why do children behave badly? I have seen children of loving parents who behave well.

It appears that you are assuming humans are not naturally an aspirational species. Leaving aside phrases like “inherently flawed”, “fault” and “sin”, I think we do naturally aspire to be better than we are, at least on average. Built into this aspiration is a certain degree of acceptance that there exists, if not flaws or faults exactly, at least room for improvement. Low self-esteem is simply what arises when we fail to accept that we will always fall some distance short of our perfect potential, however we define it, or even a full understanding of what our perfect potential might be. Low self esteem is what occurs when we place too much blame upon ourselves for circumstances that had a certain degree of failure baked in from the get go. Nature did not, and indeed could not, endow us with anything like a complete understanding of ourselves, each other or the world generally. Nor can nature function without a degree of randomness that once in a while throws us a curve ball we could not reasonably be expected to anticipate. Given inevitable gaps in our knowledge and occasional rolls of the dice, it follows that the opportunity to improve to at least some degree will naturally exist for any species with even the slightest innate capacity to learn. In other words, there is nothing about our nature in particular or nature in general that requires either a denial of the possibility for personal growth or some variety of self-loathing (low self-esteem/perfectionism) arising from the fact that our reach consistently exceeds our grasp. We will always approach perfection - be it in the form of knowledge or moral behaviour - asymptotically. That’s the best we can do.

 
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