Philosophy & Critical Thinking

Philosophy & Critical Thinking


“Running on Empty” Strikes Deep Into Me

May 21st, 2019

I was mowing just now. It’s not an easy task – mowing in humid South Carolina. A song randomly came on my music player: “Running on Empty“, the classic and trenchant song by Jackson Browne. I began to cry as it struck deeply into me. It’s a haunting and prescient piece. It’s intriguing, incisive, introspective.

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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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Can Wisdom Be Found in Books?

wisdom in books April 7th, 2019

All due respect to Tom Morris, who is an intellectual titan. He wrote this piece in a LinkedIn post. At first I was very excited to repost it as a blog. It had a decent length, and the title – wow! – I figured it had to be good. Well, it wasn’t, exactly. The issue with the post was not that it wasn’t fair for Morris to use that title to draw readers to his works of fiction. I am fully willing to grant that his books are about wisdom in the indirect sense, and like many fantastic and hallmark examples of literature throughout the ages – Tolstoy, Austen, Hemingway, Jong – we can find much in them to enlighten and move us. Topics and ideas and nuances that shed light on major questions in the philosophical and personal growth realm. Morals, existence, values, wisdom, etc. My issue was simply that he was pointing to his books as examples of art that extol and explore issues such as wisdom. In my blog of the exact same name (hat tip to Dr. Morris), I would like to explore the question in a much broader and deeper way.

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Patriotism: Liberal & Conservative Viewpoints

patriotism April 1st, 2019

Colin Kaepernick has done what many an African American has done in America’s long and tumultuous and somewhat ignominious history: made us all look at the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and centuries of legal precedence in a new light. He has an outstanding foil in the vacuous President of the United States, I am ashamed to say. Both representatives of polar-opposite points of view tout patriotism – though of a very different stripe. It’s an interesting, critical, and telling public debate that I suggest we all weigh in on. At best, we can progress toward higher levels of legal, societal, and emotional development if we accept America’s liabilities and mistakes and move forward with dignity and grace.

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Humanity’s Dark Side: Obedience to Authority

obedience to authority March 9th, 2019

There is a strain of experiments buoyed by theory that is in the category of social psychology – the branch of the study of human behavior that locates a human being in their social context. That is, people may have some individuality, some trait-like tendencies to think, feel, perceive, and act in a more or less typical way (i.e., based on their personality type). Social psychologists study how human beings function in relation to their environment. This essentially radical environmental approach doesn’t mimic the approach of Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner – dyed-in-the-wool environmentalists – because the attempt is not to change behavior, but to analyze and predict it. Read on for a brief summary, some elucidating quotations, and one of the most shocking experiments ever to come out of a major university.

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The Dialectic: A Top 10 Philosophy Concept

the dialectical method March 2nd, 2019

Have you heard the term dialectic? It’s a philosophical concept that is a bit complicated. This blog will explain what a dialectic is, how it can be useful, a little bit of history, etc. At bottom, the centuries-old concept is a way of moving toward wisdom in which two opposing positions are reconciled, compared, and synthesized, thus arriving at a new, superior, insight. It’s a higher-order phenomenon borne of philosophizing, communicating, comparing, contrasting, analyzing, and parsing. Strengths of each opposing point of view is considered, explicated, and utilized. Different theories can be compared in this manner and a final, integrative model can result. 

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Truth: Detecting and Defending It

finding truth can be elusive February 1st, 2019

“We may not always know what is true, but we can develop some proficiency at detecting what is false” ~ Michael Parenti – a wonderful quote about truth. This is such an intriguing quote, I was amazed to find it virtually buried on page 37 of Professor Parenti’s 2007 book – a compilation of essays. It is, pound for pound, a great look at the value of truth. He also wrote: “Our readiness to accept something as true, or reject it as false, rests less on its argument and evidence and more on how it aligns with the preconceived notions embedded in the dominant culture, and assumptions we have internalized due to repeated exposure.” So, what is true? How can we know it? How to defend it? Read on.

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Fake News in Trump’s America

fake news January 26th, 2019

Throughout the country’s short existence, the most authoritarian Presidents have been, in order: John Adams, George Dubya Bush, Woodrow Wilson, Andrew Jackson, and Donald Trump. There are grumblings on the Right that Obama was somewhat abusive of his power, and I think that case can be made (certainly, journalists and Freedom of Information Act seekers were very disappointed in him). I intend this essay to be about the psychology underlying political beliefs, and the hot-button topic in this realm is, perhaps with a plethora of absurdity, uttered by Trump almost daily: the term fake news. Trump most likely coined the term fake news, and though he is but a con-man, truth, lies, and deception predate him – laying bare the idiocy of our whole politico-cultural system.

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Live Your Values; Bring Them to Life!

live your values January 2nd, 2019

“…bring to Life Those Ideals.” The remarkable thinker, historian and activist Howard Zinn was referring you ought to “live your values” with that quote. It is a kind of integrity, I think, to not only know what you value, but to try to make your values real and manifest them in your life. It’s not always easy, though. “The hours” have a way of sapping energy and reducing focus. Yet Zinn lived into his 80s and was active and influential until near the end. Read on to find some inspirational quotes set in the context of living a life of value.

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Intelligence Has Much To Do With Discrimination

intelligence December 14th, 2018

No, really. I don’t mean bias and social meanness. I am referring to the idea that intelligence has much to do with the ability to analyze correctly, to tease apart concepts, to question astutely, to distinguish two related concepts, and compare and contrast things. Your basic nightmare from English class back in high school 🙂

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