Our mastery over the physical world over the past few centuries has been based on our newly acquired ability to understand the structural intricacies of that world. Understanding that world has required that we make certain reductive assumptions about how it works, and although they have been incredibly fertile, many of these assumptions, especially when applied to our understanding of human nature itself, have turned out to be rather simplistic, mechanistic and individualistic.
As David Brooks explains in the following thought-provoking and funny TEDTalk presentation, because of our intellectual drive toward quantification, we've focused a lot of attention on those aspects of our humanity that can be measured while ignoring many of the more subtle, rich and complex intricacies of what it means not only to be human but to be a social animal.
Drawing on insights from philosophers like Aristotle and David Hume, and from the cognitive and neurosciences, Brooks attempts to lay the foundation for certain concepts that could provide the basis for a more enriched and nuanced understanding of who we are, as well as set the stage to solve many of our economic and political challenges.
And for similarly relevant entries, check out Daniel Pink on our carrots-and-sticks incentives mentality, or Matthew Taylor on 21st century enlightenment.