The Morality MatrixS

Hey baby, what's your major? Philosophy? Oh yeah? Me too. Wait? David Brooks said what? God/Print/Hip Hop/Web2.0/Print/Facebook and Philosophy is dead??? And then 446 unemployed philosophy majors commented in protest??? Oh, hell no.

So, um, yeah, earlier this week David Brooks waxed Gladwellian while filling in for Bob Herbert with a column breathlessly headlined "End of Philosophy." But it was more about "Reassessing Morality." Or as he phrases "moral thinking." Whatever. He's quick to point out sometimes we just, like, blink, and make snap judgments:

Think of what happens when you put a new food into your mouth. You don't have to decide if it's disgusting. You just know.

Yessir, kind of like when you smell hot-ass bullshit in a column. You just know! But we digress. The Blink camouflage is just cover for his main point on our new moral sensibility:

What shapes moral emotions in the first place? The answer has long been evolution, but in recent years there's an increasing appreciation that evolution isn't just about competition. It's also about cooperation within groups. Like bees, humans have long lived or died based on their ability to divide labor, help each other and stand together in the face of common threats.

Oh, kind of like Gawker commenters and Jimmy Fallon? Word, I got you. Cooperation. So in sum, David is letting us know that Morality 3.101 is all about a blend of rational and emotional processing. And remaining open to this emotional side engenders a "warmer view of human nature" that is "nice" and suffices as a handy explanation for the "haphazard way we live our lives," dude. Awesome.

As a former bullshit artist philosophy major, my moral impulse is to look squinty-eyed in Mr. Brooks general direction, but I'm persuaded by his message of hope and cooperation. Unfortunately, it's all too much to fit in a Twitter. So now what do we do?

Well, I've long been a fan of NY Mag's Approval Matrix, and think it's an approach that can be translated for effectiveness beyond the approval of a niche agazine. For example, I once sent Gawker a Melanin Matrix to help determine cultural cachet.

Now, inspired by the Brooks column and the spirit of camaraderie, we've come up with a scatter-graph of recent news to give us some sense of perspective on this new Morality Matrix. On one axis we go from "Rational" to "Emotional." The other we go from "Selfish" to "Selfless." With any luck, Philosophy will get to one day live again.

Photoshop expertise provided by Mari.