Philosophy & Critical Thinking

Philosophy & Critical Thinking


Only Fools Vote Against Their Best Interests

only fools vote against their best interests August 16th, 2019

“A new report reveals that almost all of the states where people earn the least are controlled by Republicans, while the states where people make the most money are almost exclusively led by Democratic politicians.” So writes Michael Harriot. This raises some interesting and haunting issues. In a nutshell, Republican voters who are poor are fools. Only fools vote against their best interests. It’s not by chance that this came about, though. The GOP is an abomination, and Trump is only the natural result of that. Here is my reasoning as to how this all happens. Functionalism and conflict theory are very helpful in understanding this gross phenomenon.

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Social Problems: Gun Control and Mass Shootings Analyzed

gun control August 12th, 2019

In this blog, I will aim to parse the gun violence issue. I thought to do so because I came across a compelling essay by Nicholas D. Kristof entitled “How to Win the Gun Control Argument.” I then went to go look it up by name in a Web search, and guess what popped up in the #2 slot? An article from the exact opposite perspective entitled “Winning the Gun Control Debate”. That is obviously enough to give one a headache. However, wisdom is the ideal guide to analyze the competing claims, complex issues, and difficult aspects of the gun control/gun violence social problem that currently plagues us. Next to the opioid epidemic, I would say that gun violence is a massive concern for American society – as it is for New Zealand, Norway, and every other country, practically. We live in difficult times, and at their worst, humans are basically clothed chimpanzees with semi-automatic rifles.

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Finding Meaning in A Persistent Vegetative Mental State

August 8th, 2019

If you give me twenty minutes, I will blow your mind. What follows is a look at the amazing story of a man known as “Sixty-Six Garage”, and what it means to me about values such as wisdom, caring, social welfare, brotherly love, absurdity, existentialism, God, joy, and pain. Even if you don’t stick around for my commentary, the fifteen minutes it takes to learn about Sixty-Six Garage will be well-worth it. It’s an amazing and illuminating story for lovers of science, believers in God, and folks who pay taxes. Undoubtedly you are one of those three types 🙂

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Wisdom: Complex, But Invaluable

wisdom August 4th, 2019

This is an awesomely complex world. It seemed challenging and at times, overwhelming, to our distant ancestors who were trying to live life as bipedal social animals on the terra firma of the African savannah two million years ago. I don’t think life has gotten any easier or simpler since those stressful days. There have been many philosophies, belief systems, religious frameworks since, as humans have tried to understand what life is about, how to relate to each other, and what it all means. What is the one arrow humans have in their collective quiver that can possibly cut through all the noise and the clutter? Wisdom.

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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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What Happened to Truth?

truth June 20th, 2019

Humans greatly desire to feel that they are in possession of the truth (I should probably call it “capital-t-Truth”). We often think of “truth” as indicating something such as “Did they lie when you asked them where they were? Oh, they told you the truth?!” But it also has been one of the main philosophical phenomena (I think “value” or “virtue” kind of misses the mark a tad) since antiquity. The Bible talks about it. Scientists discuss it. Philosophers argue about what it is and whether we can actually apprehend it. Psychotherapists work with their clients to grasp it in the context of their childhood and their present, challenging relationships. Truth is a big, big deal. It has always been a challenge – think of the titanic struggle between capitalism and Communism, or Muslim Saracens vs. Christian crusaders.

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When Heuristics Help, and When They Fail

heuristics June 13th, 2019

I was speaking with a big-time investor today. I have had about three hours of conversation so far. He certainly operates at a higher level and is in a very different class than I am (I don’t mean when it comes to generally what depth of a person he is – authenticity or generosity or decency). I am talking about the folks he knows, the deals he has done, the net worth he has accumulated, the risks he has taken, and the knowledge he has under his belt is just clearly a few levels above me. He is older than I, and has been at it longer and excelled in it. How does a person of my intelligence and experience level suss out whether this man is all he is cracked up to be? Can he be enormously helpful to me as a mentor, or am I just a fish he has on the hook? In the human mind, prejudices and cognitive biases abound, so wisdom is really what is called for. In the field of applied philosophy, a thing called heuristics can help, but they can also fail.

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The Common Values of Liberals and Libertarians

May 27th, 2019

Though the face of the Republican Party is standard-issue “conservatism”, libertarians sometimes part company with Republicans philosophically. Though libertarians (free market and social freedom lovers) tend to agree with conservatives on many fiscal and economic issues, they often disagree on social matters. As well, in the economic sphere, libertarians often feel that conservatives are more “crony capitalists” than true, free-market capitalists. Here are some quotes about the natural affinity between liberals and libertarians. These are helpful and inspirational in an era when many libertarians are rightfully sick of the chicanery, cronyism, and corporatism of Donald Trump’s GOP.

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Moderation is Sometimes a Virtue

moderation April 13th, 2019

I saw a picture of a childhood friend today, shaking hands with president Trump. He said he was proud to be shaking the hands of a president – this or any other. I spend so much time in a given week learning about or thinking about the travesties that pass as governance, and feel sometimes like I am stuck in an Orwellian nightmare. I can’t help but feel that if one agrees with Trump as a person, that they are a part of a social group that is diametrically opposed to my sensibilities and philosophies and instincts. And that if they support him as the leader of the free world, they are lost as to what values and virtues such as freedom, responsibility, and the rule of law really mean. I felt much the same way when Bush was in office. It raises some interesting questions not only about friendship, but also partisanship, principles, and temperament. As I reflect on this friendship vis-à-vis the problems in America today, I am asking myself questions about the virtue of moderation – not one of my most familiar values. 

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