On Optimism and Despair | by Zadie Smith | The New York Review of Books

If novelists know anything it’s that individual citizens are internally plural: they have within them the full range of behavioral possibilities. They are like complex musical scores from which certain melodies can be teased out and others ignored or suppressed, depending, at least in part, on who is doing the conducting. At this moment, all over the world—and most recently in America—the conductors standing in front of this human orchestra have only the meanest and most banal melodies in mind.

English: Zadie Smith announcing the five 2010 ...

English: Zadie Smith announcing the five 2010 National Book Critics Circle finalists in fiction. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Source: On Optimism and Despair | by Zadie Smith | The New York Review of Books

 

Moral philosophy and empirical psychology

English: Behavior Analysis Laboratory Szeged M...

English: Behavior Analysis Laboratory Szeged Magyar: Viselkedéselemző Laboratórium Szeged (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent essay in The New York Review of Books :

The Psychologists Take Power by Tamsin Shaw

is well worth reading.

 

 

 

 

 

In 1971, the psychologist B.F. Skinner expressed the hope that the vast, humanly created problems defacing our beautiful planet (famines, wars, the threat of a nuclear holocaust) could all be solved by new “technologies of behavior.” The psychological school of behaviorism sought to replace the idea of human beings as autonomous agents with the “scientific” view of them as biological organisms, responding to external stimuli, whose behavior could be modified by altering their environment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in 1964 Skinner’s claims about potential behavior modification had attracted funding from the CIA via a grant-making body called the Human Ecology Society.