Philosophy & Critical Thinking

Philosophy & Critical Thinking


Existentialism: Authenticity vs. ‘Bad Faith’

authenticity May 3rd, 2018

In a prior post entitled “Existentialism, Humanism, Responsibility, and Freedom,” I examined meaning in life, Jean-Paul Sartre, existence, etc. In this blog, I would like to go a little further toward examining authenticity vs. the idea of “bad faith.” It will hopefully generate more light than it does heat as far as living one’s life with success, passion, deliberateness, and insight. As always, wisdom is about the highest goal, and happiness is not far behind. 

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Death Can Lead to Authenticity and Passion

death April 30th, 2018

Morrie Schwartz was an interesting fellow who was dying, and was visited many times by a former student. Their relationship and the advice and insight Morrie provided Mitch Albom, the student-turned-writer, made for a very popular book, Tuesdays with Morrie. This was just one in a long line of books and movies that deal with death. Though death can be perceived as frightening, an appalling deprivation of one’s life, and the ultimate loss of control, it can also have a positive side. This blog explores the positive side of death, showing that it can lead to living more authentically and passionately. This is the heart of existentialism.

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Twenty-Five Little-Known Wisdom Quotes

wisdom April 27th, 2018

What is wisdom? It’s one of the deepest, widest, most elusive, most complex, simplest, most intriguing concepts around. When you think you know what wisdom is, you’re not quite there; it cannot be pursued and grasped or taught and learned easily. It has long been the province of philosophers and theologians, but recently psychologists have begun to try to define, describe, and delineate this nebulous and fascinating idea. Here are twenty-five little-known quotes about wisdom that I imagine you would find worth your time. Think of them more like a little puzzle piece that takes time to understand, interpret, grasp, and appreciate than to envision each being a simple rule that can be easily memorized. More wisdom quotes can be found by searching The Wisdom Archive – a searchable quotation database that is always no-cost, easy, and ad-free!

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Is Death Good or Bad? To be Feared or Not?

death April 25th, 2018

Many writers, philosophers, theologians, and physicians have reflected over the centuries on the nature of death, including whether death is “good” or “bad”. Philosopher Thomas Nagel phrased the issue thusly: “If death is the unequivocal and permanent end of our existence, the question arises whether it is a bad thing to die.” In this blog, I will analyze death vis-à-vis meaning in life, and reflect on how we can integrate beliefs about the nature of death into our own lives. Epicurus’ ideas will be the keystone.

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Two Types of Values and Their Relevance

values April 23rd, 2018

British moral philosopher Bernard Williams (1929-2003) believed that categorical desires are those desires and aspirations that buoy us, give our lives deeper meaning, and really matter. The rest are mere ancillary and contingent desires. In Williams’ words, he believes we must have “systematic desires around which one organizes life activities which make life worthwhile.” Desires can give life meaning if wisely-placed. At least for a while. This blog will briefly summarize and reflect on the kinds of values human beings hold, and how positioning certain values front-and-center can be inspirational and motivational.

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Existentialism, Humanism, Responsibility and Freedom

existentialism April 13th, 2018

I am taking a wonderful class entitled “Meaning in Life.” It deals with meaning, obviously, and personal significance, purpose, fulfillment, death, and philosophy. My professor is named Mattias Risse and he’s really quite erudite. The topic I wanted to write about follows a lecture of his about renowned existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre. Ancillary topics are scientism, truth, and ethics. The background is in the era of 1900-1960, thinkers such as inimitable philosopher Bertrand Russell and the French intellectual Sartre were trying to find meaning and purpose in a secular-humanistic way. Much later, philosopher Robert Nozick made some improvements to their work. None wanted to slide into radical scientism as much as they didn’t want to resort to theological/religious assumptions. Indeed, Sartre penned a significant essay entitled “Existentialism is a Humanism”, and this is a medium-length encapsulation of how Sarte believes ethics is part and parcel of a developed form of existentialism.

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Teaching Virtue & Character Education (V&E-20)

character education April 2nd, 2018

This blog is excerpted from chapter 20 of the book Values & Ethics: From Living Room to Boardroom and explored character, and a phenomenon called character education. We’ve all seen examples on television – and many of us on our very streets – of children and adolescents who are somehow “off-track,” selfish, crass, violent, careless. Obviously, this has a lot to do with the family, community, political and socioeconomic environment in which the child is embedded. Should schools be teaching children how to be good, responsible adults with integrity and ethics? Or does that step on religious institutions’ toes? What would it look like to teach something as hard to communicate as virtue? Jason interviews character education expert, former professor, and author, Bernice Lerner, Ed.D. to find answers to his questions.

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Quotes About Wisdom and Values in Full Color!

quotes about wisdom March 29th, 2018

In the last decade, “memes” have become very popular on social media. Memes are graphic images with a very small amount of text. They can be funny, trenchant, pithy, provocative and catchy. I have made a number of memes, and I do so with a bit more wording, and really consider them to represent wisdom and value. In this blog which features quotes about wisdom, I show some of the memes I have made over the last year or two, and point out how the quotes about wisdom and values depicted can really be made engaging and thought-provoking when coupled with graphic imagery. Enjoy!

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Passionate Proponent of Progress: Marquis de Condorcet

progress March 21st, 2018

Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat, known as the Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794), was a  French philosopher of the Enlightenment. He was also an amazingly progressive and early proponent of women’s rights and educational reform. Condorcet did much of the heavy lifting in bringing the ideas of progress, or the indefinite perfectibility of humankind, to the fore. History has much benefitted from his courage, grace, and intelligence. He also has a very interesting denouement – to use a French word! – and I will share that shortly.

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Ten of History’s Greatest Thinkers

greatest thinkers March 19th, 2018

Perhaps you know of the eminent historian, writer, and psychologist/philosopher/anthropologist all rolled into one, Will Durant. He died in the late twentieth century, but was truly a man of letters and a wonderful writer. I found a neat little book, compiled after his death by John Little. It is a compilation of his writings that involved rankings of merit. The first real chapter in the book is “The Ten Greatest Thinkers,” though the two men put greatest in quotation marks, as I suppose they should, since great is really a subjective term. My intention in this blog is to share which ten men (yes, they are all men) he thinks shine the brightest among history’s renowned philosophers and scientists, and include a quote of each.

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