Dalrymple believes that people are and always will be infinitely complicated, variable and stubbornly contradictory, and thus human behavior is destined to remain a mystery, frustrating those who seek logical consistency or predictability. This March 2007 piece in New English Review is probably his best instance of this argument, and perhaps one of his best essays overall.
In the current New Criterion he applies this insight to Freud biographer Dr. Ernest Jones’ well-known psychoanalysis of Hamlet:
All the explanations of psychoanalysis are ex post facto—they do not and cannot tell us what is the true, the beautiful, or the good, and cannot tell us how to live. There is, in fact, no plucking out the heart of life’s mystery, and Hamlet has only to utter these words for us to know it. Of course, the claim that human existence is, or is about to become, totally explicable, with no remainder of mystery, continues to be made. But even those claims that are more modest—that progress in understanding has been made—seem to me absurd.…..To reduce Richard II to a man who needs Prozac for a few weeks seems to me to represent not an advance, but a retrogression, in understanding.