The anti-ethicist: Drive Noah Drive

You know Randy Cohen’s column “The Ethicist” in The New York Times? The one where people write in with mundane but ethically puzzling problems, to find out the right thing to do?

The column gives you that comforting, whole feeling when you’re done reading, a feeling where you go, Oh, good, with the necessary tools you can figure out what’s right and wrong in just about any situation.

Trouble is, try to apply that kind of rubric to real life, and letting “ethics” rule your existence turns out to be cumbersome, confusing, miserable, exhausting and — when it comes down to it — damn near impossible.

That’s where DriveNoahDrive comes in. This gem of an online serial takes a different approach to life, one I like to call “selfish compassion”. Noah, a handsome, LaCoste-drenched but down-to-earth dude who lives in LA, takes us in the car with him as he explains his methods for getting through life’s murky moments. (OK, full disclosure: Noah is very closely related to me. But I honestly wouldn’t be big-upping him here unless I thought he was really onto something with this show.)

So, selfish compassion: What I mean by that is Noah drives his decisions not by the tired measure of ethics, but by the holistic accounting of the maximum utility for all involved. We’re not talking unethical here. We’re talking non-ethical — a magical decision-making process that taps into a whole different evaluative framework. Take a look:

For Noah (at least the Noah of his online show) the most advanced philosophy to apply to one’s life is the win-win situation. A few fibs might be told along the way (we’re advised to keep them down to three or four a month), a few technicalities might need to be fudged. But in the end, everyone feels better — or at least learns something.

Feeling a bit suffocated by the Ethicist’s stiffness? Check out He’s the Hutch to Randy Cohen’s Starsky. (Does that make sense? I didn’t have a TV growing up, but I watched the Stiller-Wilson flick. Just trying to relate.)

One thought on “The anti-ethicist: Drive Noah Drive

  1. The Macrthur Foundation devalues its so-called “Genius” grant each year that it fails to recognize the contributions of Noah.

    In the interest of self-disclosure, I must add tha I am not related to Noah in the biological sense. I am, however, his spiritual brother, a kindred spirit on the road to self-discovery. And unlike many on this website, I am proudly not one of his creditors.

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