Personal Growth

Personal Growth


Is the Fear of Death Rational and Appropriate?

fear of death November 5th, 2018

Epicurus (341-271 BCE) put forth an argument centuries ago that still retains much appeal and boasts some notable adherents (e.g., Rosenbaum, 1986). His thesis was that the actual occurrence of death (as distinguished from any possible afterlife or the act of dying) was not a bad thing, and thus the great anxiety our fear of death brings many people is unwarranted. He did admit that “being alive is generally good.” Epicurus believed that no post-mortem experience was likely, and that we never really know death because where we are, it isn’t, and where it is, we aren’t. It is appealing, but though it contains a meritorious theoretical/cognitive technique to stave off anxiety, I believe that Epicurus’ argument is somewhat shallow and incomplete, it doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny.

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Exemplifies Civic Duty

October 20th, 2018

We find it hard to ask, whether in asking for more than we have, or more than we think we can get, if we are in fact asking for the right things. In the wake of a 2016 election defined for many by the fear of “falling behind,” of losing the material security promised by the American Dream, we need to think about how we define the contents of that dream and examine the entitlement behind the notion of “falling behind.” We now know that many more voters were galvanized this year by appeals to fear and entitlement than were moved by visions of social justice and equality. We need to address the appeal of fear and entitlement before we can go on to articulate a larger vision of a just society where there is opportunity for everyone. This is a blog about virtue and values, self-interest and self-indulgence, moral complacency and spiritual emptiness, by Jaime Hovey, Ph.D. of the University of Chicago.

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Views of Death Held by Various Philosophers

death October 16th, 2018

Epicurus put forth an argument centuries ago that still retains much appeal and boasts some notable adherents (e.g., Rosenbaum, 1986). His thesis was that the actual occurrence of death (as distinguished from any possible afterlife or the act of dying) was not a bad thing, and ought not to be feared or be a source of great anxiety. He did admit that “being alive is generally good.” The context of this notable Greek thinker was primarily a response to the theistic imaginings of the day that predicted very unfortunate occurrences in the “afterlife.” Epicurus believed that no post-mortem experience was likely, and that we never really know death because where we are, it isn’t, and where it is, we aren’t. It’s logically sound. What follows is a summary of some philosophical points of view about death.

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The Nature of Happiness According to Aristotle

the nature of happiness September 27th, 2018

Aristotle’s landmark work, The Nicomachean Ethics, puts forth many prescriptions and claims about how to live the right kind of life, what to value, and how human beings ought to ideally act. Especially considering the incredible age of the work, it has to go down as one of the most influential pieces of writing by

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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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Success According to Philosopher Tom Morris

success September 13th, 2018

Success is often talked and written about, but what exactly does it mean? Is it just another word for fame? Is it really about dominating the workplace? Driving the coolest car, having the most children? And who is one’s comparison group: peers, oneself, one’s superiors, one’s community? How about money: is the accumulation of it synonymous with success? Being a good person, and leaving the world better than one found it? I recently finished the older but still relevant book True Success, by the philosopher, one-time Notre Dame professor, person of faith, and values guru, Tom V. Morris. I will share some of the quotes from his book in this blog, this being the first: “To the extent that we want to have goals that are right for us and that will help make the contribution we are put in this life to make, we can be said to have as a goal true success.

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Quotes That Clarify the Cardinal Virtues

cardinal virtues September 11th, 2018

Have you heard the phrase the cardinal virtues? This is how Wikipedia describes their early beginning: “Plato identified the four cardinal virtues with the classes of the city described in The Republic, and with the faculties of man. Plato narrates a discussion of the character of a good city where the following is agreed upon. “Clearly, then, it will be wise, brave, temperate [literally: healthy-minded], and just.” (427e; see also 435b) Temperance was common to all classes, but primarily associated with the producing classes, the farmers and craftsmen, and with the animal appetites, to whom no special virtue was assigned; fortitude was assigned to the warrior class and to the spirited element in man; prudence to the rulers and to reason. Justice stands outside the class system and divisions of man, and rules the proper relationship among the three of them.” This blog examines the cardinal virtues from a transcultural and temporally-unlimited perspective.

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Reason and Emotion: Integrating Passion and Intellect

reason and emotion September 9th, 2018

There is an interesting metaphor for living in the world: that we ride atop an elephant (our emotion, our instincts, and our desires) and that our rational mind is like the human who attempts to direct the elephant where one wants this beast to go. This blog is about the ability to integrate reason and emotion, and the positive effects it can have on creativity, habit formation (and habit-breaking), and living a fulfilling and happy life. And what does one need to cultivate in order to ensure that rational thinking enjoys the benefit of passion and emotions? As usual, the answer is: wisdom. The bulk of the following is really quotations about reason and emotion, as exemplified by this quote by the distinguished scientist, evolutionary biologist, and author, Edward O. Wilson: “Brain scientists have vindicated the evolutionary view of mind. They have established that passion is inseverably linked to reason. Emotion is not just a perturbation of reason but a vital part of it.”

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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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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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