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To David Brooks,

I am writing to you about your book, The Social Animal, which my colloquium class on the
Ethical Brain included as the central reading for the first part of the course. First, I would like to mention
I was not disappointed that this course allowed me to finally read your material because I enjoyed how
you brought together fairly complex and conceptual ideas into an informative narrative. I cannot
remember ever reading a book that blended together story-telling, social analysis and scientific
examples, but I was very pleased with how you managed to do so. Though I can understand if scientists
are more likely to be distracted by the narratives, and fictional readers can be a bit confused by the
scientific examples, I thought the concept of linking them together was refreshing and fairly ideal for the
purpose of my reading.
Your writing brought many new ideas and concepts to my attention that I had never really
thought about. For instance, the concept of mtis was new to me. From my understanding, Erikas
colleague-turned-mentor, Raymond, had mastered mtis because he was able to be aware of the
communication within the Level 1 brain, allowing him to admit his cognitive impairments (like being
easily swayed by a second argument when presented with two) and adjust accordingly. I had hoped
however while reading this particular chapter, that you could have elaborated on whether or not Erika
was fully capable of achieving the same power. In one sense I got the impression that her personality
and already long years of not being attuned in this way, would forever prevent from achieving total
mtis. On the other hand, Raymonds point of achieving mtis is never identified, though there is some
impression that he also had a mentor. I guess I just wanted to know if you believe one can achieve mtis
even after the cognitive molding stage of our youth, or in some ways, like wisdom, does it come more
naturally when were older?
Though I appreciated the fact that you included many references allowing the reader to easily
relate to not only the characters, but your analysis, I did have trouble with some of the generalizations.
For instance, the section covering the so-called Odyssey years generalized that many young adults
today are using the period between high school and formative careers to explore themselves. I
however believe this generalization is dated. I was told for some time that college was the best time to
find out who I was and what I wanted to do. My own parents gave the impression that I didnt have to
rush the process. However, with the current economy, I feel that more students and their families are
struggling to pay for only four years of college. Though you focus on Harolds journey through these
years, and he was upper-middle class, I felt that you didnt exactly explain why someone like Erika
couldnt use her time in such a way. I felt you attributed it more to her personality than her monetary
situation. These years may exist for some, but it would good to examine why it doesnt for others.
Another generalization I found was the idea that the lifestyles and life choices you
recommended could not be applied to the entire world. I am not only alluding to the difference
between prosperous countries and those struck by poverty. I am more so relating it to culture. Periods
like the Odyssey years wont be accepted by certain cultures like China. Similarly, the process of
achieving mtis, which no doubt takes time, will not work for individuals whose demands extend beyond
themselves, like single parents.
Overall, I found your book to be a very intriguing collection of new ideas on the power of the
Level 1 brain and the benefits of our naturally, social instincts. As a Communications major, I especially
valued your argument for a more interpersonal community. At your works most basic level, it sparked
interesting conversation within my class and Im sure with all those who have read it.
Gabriela Linares