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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.

Knowledge, Education & Wisdom in Colonial America

knowledge July 12th, 2019

Philosopher/psychologist and distinguished man of letters, Daniel N. Robinson, says much about knowledge, wisdom, and education in the citizenry and the founders at the time of the Declaration of Indpendence and the crafting of the U.S. Constitution. It is very enlightening, and he takes pains to connect the state of affairs then with our horrible political, social, and educational predicament that is so clearly exemplified by corporations, Donald Trump as President, and social media bickering today. It’s not a pretty picture, but one worth taking a long, hard look at. I then follow up his incisive commentary on the Founders with quotes about knowledge, wisdom, and education in modern America. Recall that education is not just about keeping the economy rolling: “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty,” wrote the main architect of the Constitution, James Madison. And this is very important; as modern progressive author, Thom Hartmann puts it, “We need to begin paying attention to the wisdom of the Founders and Framers [of the United States] if our country is to survive.”

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Robert Nozick Quotes: On the Examined Life

an examined life July 8th, 2019

Philosopher Robert Nozick made quite a splash with his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974). He assertively planted a flag on the libertarian hill with quotes such as, “There is no social entity with a good that undergoes some sacrifice for its own good. There are only individual people  with their own individual lives. Using one of these people for the benefit of others, uses him and benefits the others.” Fascinatingly, though, he never published an encore, choosing instead to concentrate his scholarship on distinctly different areas of philosophy. One of those later works is the aptly titled The Examined Life. This blog presents eighty or ninety of the most interesting and insightful Robert Nozick quotes from his book on the examined life – a reference to Socratic wisdom if there ever was one.

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Courage and Willingness to Risk are Virtues

willingness to risk July 4th, 2019

“Immanuel Kant defined enlightenment as the human being’s emancipation from ‘self-incurred minority’. Minority is defined as a condition in which one’s understanding is used only under the authority and direction of another, and minority is self-incurred when it is due not to the immaturity or impairment of the understanding, but because it refuses to trust itself and prefers the comfort and security of tutelage to the risks and responsibilities of thinking for oneself” ~ Allen Wood. This quote is about willingness to risk. That is, when not taken to extremes, one of the values of the wise. This blog explores exploration – of the literal and the metaphoric types.

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Progressive Politics: Government Reform and Rehabilitation

progressive politics June 29th, 2019

This blog is a defense of progressive politics. A writer named William L. Anderson criticizes progressives as bad governors in a piece, “Why Progressives Are So Bad at Governing.” The noted economist and author Paul Krugman leads off my rebuttal, saying, essentially, that conservatives are not that great with governance, either. Indeed, ever since the ancient Greeks, people have been considering at least three main issues: the problem of knowledge, the problem of conduct, and the problem of governance. If Americans aren’t getting it right, it says much about our political system, but it also speaks to fundamental challenges and liabilities inherent in the human species as they try to organize and get along. I make some points and then share some quotations about progressive politics to bolster my position.

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Personal Growth Tip: Choose ‘Enlargement’

personal growth June 18th, 2019

James Hollis is the author of a sweet little book (2018) entitled The Examined Life: Wisdom for the Second Half of the Journey. He divides the 110-page book into 21 chapters, each about 2-3 pages long. Hollis keeps it pithy and free of fluff. Examples of chapters include: “It’s Time to Grow Up”, “Step Out from Under Parental Shade”, “Vow to Get Unstuck”, and “Choose Meaning Over Happiness”. What follows is a brief review and some personal growth quotes that can be found in Chapter 9: “Choose the Path of Enlargement”. I do recommend the book and please consider this a “critical review” for educational purposes.

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Civil Rights and Responsibilities

civil rights June 10th, 2019

Three social issues of great importance and significant disagreement include the right to abort an unwanted fetus within a certain period of time at a medical clinic (free from harassment or shame), the right to bear arms, and the rights of those who are gay and transgender to be free from discrimination in hiring and in the workplace. These are of importance because whenever a right is withheld in America, there needs to be a very compelling reason, Constitutionally and morally speaking. They are subjects about which there is fundamental disagreement (and not a little contention!) because they are thorny ethical, religious, and cultural issues. In the time of social media and political hyperpartisanship, the solution of these matters of great concern to society are matters of civil rights, and also of civil responsibilities. As well, with the resurgence of the radical Right, settled law (e.g., Roe v. Wade) is now being reexamined. This blog is about civil rights and civil responsibilities when it comes to three key issues.

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Society Needs to Promote Positive Masculinity

positive masculinity June 9th, 2019

My friend noted that in this wonderful story, four teenage boys made a great and courageous effort to save an elderly woman from a burning house. Bravo! We lauded their inspiring, prosocial, and brave act, and I think a difference can be drawn between so-called “toxic masculinity” (which is probably too loaded a term for my comfort) and a more positive masculinity that boys and teens and men exhibit. This blog illustrates what I’m thinking.

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Virtue and Character: Coping with Aging

coping with aging June 7th, 2019

Rush is one of the best bands out there not only for instrumentation, virtuosity, and precision, but also lyrics. Amazingly, the lyrics below are a song written by Neil Peart. It’s a haunting piece about aging, success, confidence, sadness, desperation, and suicide. It’s absolutely remarkable. In the end, I have a link to watch it being performed live. For anyone who tries to reach the pinnacle of performance and the zenith of success, you will no doubt resonate with this melancholy song. Alas, death comes for us all, and as soon as we are born we start dying. For some it reaches the point of absurdity and extreme existential angst. I will add a few quotations for your consideration about life, pain, aging, illness, overcoming, meaning, existentailism, hope, and optimism in the end.

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Confidence & Creativity: Commonwealth Cafe

confidence June 5th, 2019

I met a remarkable guy in 2007. He was an entrepreneur, a risk-taker, and a leader. His sense of humor, his dedication to build something wonderful led to us building and running a wonderful diner, named Commonwealth Cafe. Those days of working extremely hard, reaching to come up with the right plan, and having a lot of fun are treasured by me now, though there is also a deep pain. The licks I took on the project and the skills I learned have paid dividends in subsequent years. It isn’t easy to suffer a major loss, but there was so much merit to the Cafe while it was being built, promoted, and run. It was a really soulful and special place. Leighton Hollingsworth will always have a special place in my heart. We both created a bit of heaven on earth, and went to hell and back.

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Responsibility for Our Fellow Man

responsibility June 2nd, 2019

My wife and I donated five thousand dollars to a local no-cost medical clinic, the Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic. My visit was amazing. It’s a new building, and is at least as nice as my doctor’s. Probably nicer. It was built recently with 100% donations and grants! For an individual making up to about $25,000 a year or a family of four earning around $50,000 annually, primary care and many other specialties are free. Free. It felt like a wonderful asset to our community, which sits in one of the poorest states in the country. Many folks, however, believe that anything “free” is not only a waste of resources, but morally offensive. That is the cult of the individual, and it runs afoul of an important belief underlying progressive politics and moral decency: the responsibility we have for our fellow man (and woman).

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