Philosophy & Critical Thinking

Philosophy & Critical Thinking


Aristotle’s View of Humanity’s Highest Aspirations

humanity's highest aspirations September 15th, 2018

Aristotle is the grandfather of ethics and human flourishing; his book The Nicomachean Ethics has been a classic read in philosophy and ethics courses at universities since about 340 B.C.E. He studied with Plato and is largely credited with inventing logic and natural science. In this blog, I will share a brief outline of Aristotle’s first section entitled “The Human Good”, including a few quotations about humanity’s highest virtues.

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The Nature of Values According to Socrates

the nature of values according to Socrates September 8th, 2018

In 399 B.C.E., the year Socrates was put on trial in ancient Athens, he met a prosecutor (for lack of a better word) on the steps of the Court of Archon. His name was Euthyphro, and, astonishingly, he was prosecuting his very own father for murder. He felt it would be “pollution” to allow his father to go unpunished; a stain upon his good name. They get to talking, and soon Socrates has the arrogant man in his grasp. This blog is about the nature of values according to Socrates, which is essentially Socratic dialogue. The question being explored, specifically, is whether goodness is goodness because the Ancient Greek gods want it to be so, or do they see goodness when they look upward, just like we humans do?

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Evidence for A Certain Set of Values

evidence for a certain set of values September 4th, 2018

Philosopher James Rachels asserted “Philosophy, like morality itself, is first and last an exercise in reason – the ideas that should come out on top are the ones that have the best reasons on their sides.” In this blog, I wish to extol the virtue of certain values. This is not new; truth and justice and wisdom have been enshrined and touted and defended since before Socrates and Confucius and the Code of Hammurabi. The thousands of hours and thousands of dollars expended on reading, thinking, recording, codifying, transcribing, and communicating about ideas is philosophy in action; the quotations and the organization Values of the Wise offers is really evidence for a certain set of values.

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What is Wisdom? A Diverse Group of Skills

what is wisdom? September 1st, 2018

Second in a series called What is Wisdom?, this blog seeks to provide some more definition to the concept. Wisdom is one of those skills/values that is difficult to understand and to define. In the first segment of this series, I approached the question what is wisdom? by noting it is an ability to correctly predict outcomes. This second segment takes a cue from the noted philosopher Robert Nozick’s book The Examined Life; specifically, his twenty-third chapter entitled “What is Wisdom? Why Do Philosophers Love It So?”

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Thoughts On Living a Life of Value

a life of value August 31st, 2018

Especially in this midterm election year, the word “values” gets twisted to mean demonizing immigrants and non-whites, reducing a woman’s right to choose, or a very liberal interpretation of the Second Amendment.  You hear a lot about “fake news” and other signs of demagoguery. It’s all very dispiriting. And can priests be trusted?  Not if you live in Philly, they can’t! You also see rich pastors from megachurches selling their wares and scaring folks into giving until it hurts.  No, Values of the Wise (VOW) is deeper, more authentic, less crammed down your throat. Living a life of value is a goal within your reach and VOW can offer inspiration and an intellectual justification for finding wisdom and meaning in life. Maybe happiness and fulfillment to some degree, too!

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Finding Meaning and Living a Good Life

meaning August 29th, 2018

This is a guest blog written by Paul Wong, Ph.D. In it, he writes that “All the great humanitarians, such as Albert Schweitzer, Maya Angelou, Oskar Schindler and Mahatma Gandhi, devoted their lives to a noble mission. In contrast, those who pursue money, power and wealth can achieve only a shallow life at best; when they fail in their egotistic goals, they are more likely to become bitter, angry and depressed than those who failed in pursuing a life full of meaning.” Read more about how meaning contributes to a well-lived life – a life of value.

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Does God Exist? The “Problem of Evil”

problem of evil August 26th, 2018

I was watching an episode of the psychological thriller “Dexter” last night (yes, I’m quite a few years behind), and a challenging scene came up. It was that of a woman who was held against her will as a sex slave. The same day, I at my wife’s (Catholic) Church, and the two really got me thinking. Specifically, about whether God exists and if so, how to deal with one of the main objections to the existence of God: the problem of evil. Unfortunately for us mere mortals, “It is incomprehensible that God should exist, and it is incomprehensible that he should not exist” (Blaise Pascal).

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Libertarian Values Deserve Praise and Critique

August 24th, 2018

Libertarianism is a philosophy and a theory about government and society in which liberty is the highest principle. Other libertarian values include freedom, autonomy, responsibility, and non-coercion. Libertarians have always (and especially in Obama’s two terms) are very skeptical about state power (e.g., the government). Laws — from being drafted into the military all the way down to motorcycle helmet laws — are ideally few and only those which are absolutely necessary for social functioning and human welfare. The motto of a person holding libertarian values goes something like “I am a free and autonomous individual. I want to pursue my own ends in ways of my own choosing with other individuals (or not!) and government has very little justifiable reason to prevent me from doing what I wish – as long as I don’t harm other people.” In this blog, I explore libertarianism, highlight a few notable libertarians, contrast it with modern/American political liberalism, and generally share some information and critique of libertarian values.

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Are the American People Stupid? Sort Of.

Are the American people stupid? August 22nd, 2018

You watch the news on almost any given night and, even subtracting something for sensationalism and the 24-hour news cycle, it seems plain that my countrymen (and women) are really pretty suspect. The question, Are the American people stupid? is not an inappropriate one by any means. In this blog I will entertain the question and try to be fair but honest.

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Religion, Faith, and Spirituality Examined

religion August 20th, 2018

It’s very easy for me, as a skeptical kind of person, to find fault in religion and to criticize it as more about the placebo effect than some kind of benefit bestowed by a powerful ally in the sky. However, religious and faithful persons have demonstrably improved and advantageous lives either due to or at least associated with their belief in a higher power. That much has been shown by social science. They can even find evidence of various beliefs and states in the brain when a person undergoes an fMRI and such. There is a huge functional brain effect from mediation, for example. Here are a few thoughts on the benefits of religion in a person’s life.

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