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Jason Merchey the writer, philosophical thinker, and Master’s-level psychologist shares his perspectives on classical and modern applications of values, wisdom, ethics, and personal growth. The goal is to provide insight into what “a life of value” is and how one can live it. Quotations, proverbs, idioms, and historical facts often provide grist for the mill. Occasional guest blogs are featured as well.

Is There Hope for Free Will and Moral Choices?

free will November 12th, 2018

One of the oldest questions in psychology, and in other fields such as philosophy, is whether humans have free will. That is, are we able to choose what we will do with our lives?” This is how psychologist Seth Schwartz begins his trenchant piece entitled, simply, “Do We Have Free Will?” This article, which originally appearred on PsychologyToday.com, is particularly relevant to the section of this blog called Applied Psychology. I am eager to present this piece here because this 10-minute read carefully captures the intriguing and vexing issue of free will vs. determinism when it comes to human actions – and, importantly, morality.

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Character Matters In Our Leaders and In Ourselves

character November 9th, 2018

I miss Ronald Reagan. That is not something that I say often. But as of this writing, the 2018 midterm elections just occurred, the Russia probe of Trump is about to drop, and the majority of Republicans remaining in Congress are extremists. There was a kind of class about that old coot Reagan, and it’s sorely missing now in the Commander in Chief. Character is all-important in everyone, but especially in the American President, a position that has increased in importance beyond the Founders’ intentions, and one that is of great power and influence.

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Is the Fear of Death Rational and Appropriate?

fear of death November 5th, 2018

Epicurus (341-271 BCE) put forth an argument centuries ago that still retains much appeal and boasts some notable adherents (e.g., Rosenbaum, 1986). His thesis was that the actual occurrence of death (as distinguished from any possible afterlife or the act of dying) was not a bad thing, and thus the great anxiety our fear of death brings many people is unwarranted. He did admit that “being alive is generally good.” Epicurus believed that no post-mortem experience was likely, and that we never really know death because where we are, it isn’t, and where it is, we aren’t. It is appealing, but though it contains a meritorious theoretical/cognitive technique to stave off anxiety, I believe that Epicurus’ argument is somewhat shallow and incomplete, it doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny.

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Economic Inequality and Political Polarization

inequality November 3rd, 2018

The following is a brief piece written by New York Times columnist, David Leonhardt. In it, he asks the question, Race, class or both? He is referring to whether the 2016 election was in large part won by Donald Trump due to Americans’ racism (the white people, that is) or economic insecurity/economic inequality. It is an interesting summary, and it is recommended that the interested reader follow the links herein to the New York Times to read more. I also include a dozen interesting quotes about economics, capitalism, economic justice, and income inequality by scholar and author Steven Pearlstein.

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Climate Change Quotes (Global Warming Quotes)

climate change November 1st, 2018

I was talking with a friend about illegal immigration, and I was thinking, We non-politician citizens here in America are damned dumb if we worry about these alleged Middle Easterners and welfare sponges and criminals heading toward our country and ignore our more serious problems. For example, Conor Lynch enlightes as to the clear and present danger of climate change (global warming): “Hurricane Florence is devastating the Carolinas, and … Republican lawmakers in both North and South Carolina are notorious for their climate denialism and have done little to prepare for the impact that a changing climate will have on their states. One can only hope that the very real storms we are witnessing today will convince Americans across the political spectrum that we must address the clear and present danger of climate change before it’s too late.” I live in coastal South Carolina, and this guy is spot-on. I wish Republicans at the national and local level (politicians, that is) would stop using wedge issues and other techniques to distract from pressing issues such as the steel trap of climate change. Click through to find interesting quotes about global warming and climate change to inspire your thinking.

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Ethnic Studies Courses for White Children

ethnic studies October 30th, 2018

The following blog is written by guest blogger Jon Greenberg, a high school teacher, activist and writer. I wanted to present this take on white privilege because I believe that it is important in this time of hyperpartisanship, ethnic divisions, and political demagoguery. I am pretty much on the left when it comes to how I feel about race, racism, privilege, institutionalized racism, etc. That is to say that I am not all the way to the left; for example, I find Mr. Greenberg’s use of capitalization in the phrase “People of Color” to be silly and overdone. However, it is only slightly more mistaken than a lot of the beliefs and customs that my fellow European Americans to the right of me hold. Somewhere in between political correctness and social justice is where I come down on this topic. What follows is why Mr. Greenberg believes ethnic studies courses are useful for his white children (and white Americans everywhere):

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Exemplifies Civic Duty

October 20th, 2018

We find it hard to ask, whether in asking for more than we have, or more than we think we can get, if we are in fact asking for the right things. In the wake of a 2016 election defined for many by the fear of “falling behind,” of losing the material security promised by the American Dream, we need to think about how we define the contents of that dream and examine the entitlement behind the notion of “falling behind.” We now know that many more voters were galvanized this year by appeals to fear and entitlement than were moved by visions of social justice and equality. We need to address the appeal of fear and entitlement before we can go on to articulate a larger vision of a just society where there is opportunity for everyone. This is a blog about virtue and values, self-interest and self-indulgence, moral complacency and spiritual emptiness, by Jaime Hovey, Ph.D. of the University of Chicago.

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The Risks of an Open Mind

an open mind October 19th, 2018

I was just having a discussion about my nemesis, Donald Trump, with a libertarian friend of mine. An economist, no less. I informed him that the American deficit just reached a seven-year high! It’s amazing that Obama was working with a horrible economy given to us by (drum roll……..) the Republicans – and still had a smaller deficit than what we do in 2018. Stimulus spending was the order of the day back then. The GOP loves to claim the Dems are “capital-S” Socialists who will run us into the ground with profligate spending on Medicare for All and such. Yet, the record seems to show that the GOP likes to spend tax revenue, but they also like to cut taxes to please their donors and feather their own nests. My friend tried to tout the idea that when we cut taxes, revenue increases. It’s magic! Actually, George H. W. Bush, then running against Ronald Reagan, did call this phenomenon “voodoo economics”!! I claim that supply-side economics doesn’t have good support, but it was my friend’s contention that it does. It led me to want to write a blog about the risks of one keeping an open mind in today’s hyperpartisan culture.

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The Mystery of Good Character

character October 16th, 2018

The following is a guest blog written by A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University, Christian B. Miller. In it, he addresses character and introduces the reader to the concept of a character gap. His new book is entitled The Character Gap: How Good Are We?  There is also a link to a blog written by Jason Merchey entitled “The Values and Virtues America Desperately Needs”

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Views of Death Held by Various Philosophers

death October 16th, 2018

Epicurus put forth an argument centuries ago that still retains much appeal and boasts some notable adherents (e.g., Rosenbaum, 1986). His thesis was that the actual occurrence of death (as distinguished from any possible afterlife or the act of dying) was not a bad thing, and ought not to be feared or be a source of great anxiety. He did admit that “being alive is generally good.” The context of this notable Greek thinker was primarily a response to the theistic imaginings of the day that predicted very unfortunate occurrences in the “afterlife.” Epicurus believed that no post-mortem experience was likely, and that we never really know death because where we are, it isn’t, and where it is, we aren’t. It’s logically sound. What follows is a summary of some philosophical points of view about death.

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