Virtue & Character

Virtue & Character


Morality as it Relates to Politics

morality as it relates to politics February 16th, 2020

When we talk about Bernie Sanders supporting a “Medicare for All” approach to healthcare, there are many distinct and legitimate approaches one can take when thinking about it. One is functionality; another is cost. Viability is a third, and unintended consequences is yet another. There are also moral aspects of politics, for example, when it comes to healthcare. For example, is it a right or a privilege? Can a CEO promise it during heated negotiations with employees, and take it away the next quarter? Is there equal access to quality healthcare, or is it, as with most goods in society, available in varying degrees based on one’s privilege, wealth, and power? This is but one example of morality as it relates to politics, the subject of this blog.

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Dignity as an Antidote to Partisanship and Economic Despair

dignity February 11th, 2020

E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post suggests that dignity is an antidote to partisanship and economic despair, and can be the best way to beat Donald Trump. Dionne indicates that dignity is the urgent need in the United States now. His most recent book is indeed entitled: Code Red: How Moderates and Progressives Can

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Moral Dilemmas and Moral Hypocrisy: Politics in 2020

hypocrisy February 7th, 2020

Moral hypocrisy – basically making an exception of oneself when it comes to behavior that is wrong – is deeply embedded in political conservative ideology, in my opinion. In a written piece entitled “Why we are all moral hypocrites – and what we can do about it”, researcher Jared Piazza, who looked into morality, highlights the following: “In one study, we had people consider which traits they rate highest in people who occupied different roles in their life – from staff at the grocery counter to teachers, judges and parents. Moral traits, such as being honest, fair and trustworthy, were valued more than other traits, such as being sociable or intelligent, across these roles. We have also found that people with a moral failing are typically seen in a more negative light than people lacking other traits.” In this blog, I wish to think about politics in light of moral hypocrisy, inconsistency, bias, and a crass kind of moral reasoning that, not surprisingly, can be called quid pro quo.

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Senator Romney Finds His Courage

courage February 6th, 2020

Mitt Romney, former presidential candidate and current Senator from Utah (and Mormon, and former hedge fund guy) is in some ways the last person one would expect to be the shining light in the dark, dank place where the modern GOP dwells. This is a paean to Mr. Romney, having found the courage to stand up for what is right, despite the fact that the vengeful Republicans and their craven Führer are going to rain down punishment on him like a vengeful Greek god. This story is truly one of earnestness, religiosity, courage, and character.

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Partisan or True? Where Psychology Meets Politics

psychology February 5th, 2020

Citing a little inventory about politics, The Atlantic writer Olga Khazan states that “…the issues that most concern political liberals tend to fall under the category of ‘individualizing’ moral foundations, which have more to do with personal standards: care versus harm, and fairness versus cheating. Political conservatives, meanwhile, tend to be more concerned about group-focused ‘binding’ foundations: loyalty versus betrayal, authority versus subversion, and disgust versus purity.” She points out that, “Among the factors that shape such deep-seated political preferences, a prominent one is believed to be fundamental moral beliefs—how someone thinks a good society should function or a decent person should behave.” Khan goes on to point out, interestingly, that perhaps the causal direction should actually be reversed! That is, she is noting that perhaps it is not that certain Americans notice the obnoxious stuff coming out of Trump’s mouth and his pen and find it immoral and repugnant; rather, a certain subset of the population identify as liberals, are partisan and biased, and therefore they subjectively find Trump offensive. In this blog, I explore this complex and intriguing phenomenon.

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What Do We Deserve? Moral Desert & Entitlement

moral desert January 21st, 2020

What does a person – let’s confine it to Americans in this blog – deserve? In philosophy, it is termed moral dessert. That is, as a member of society, what rights does one have to goods and benefits and opportunities? Contrast dessert (sometimes spelled desert) with entitlement – the rights one has based on law, contracts, and agreements. In this piece, I want to dilate on this topic, and to that end, will share a brief discussion a friend and I had. You may not be surprised to learn that I take a generally liberal position, and my friend, a fairly libertarian one. I am more likely to see, optimistically, that people deserve opportunity, chances, and help from society at large (i.e., the institutions of government and associated social welfare provisions). You can expect, of course, to see apt quotations brought to bear on the dialogue.

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What is Socratic Dialogue?

Socratic dialogue January 12th, 2020

“In order to improve yourself, Socrates insists, you have to know yourself,” said philosopher Judith Barad. Socrates hasn’t been around since ancient Athens, Greece, but the method of inquiry and self-examination he pioneered is still valid and has a lot to recommend it. “Socrates was the first to call philosophy down from the heavens and establish it in the towns and introduce it into homes and force it to investigate life, ethics, good and evil,” according to also-significant Roman orator Cicero. “Socrates’ method was to go about, as he said himself, ‘cross-examining the pretenders to knowledge and wisdom,’ and by the cross-examination, showing them that they were in error, that what they supposed they knew, they did not know,” noted the luminary Mortimer Adler. This blog is about Socratic dialogue – how to appreciate it, and what it can do.

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America Desperately Needs Truth, Wisdom, and Critical Thinking

truth, wisdom, and critical thinking December 16th, 2019

America has a boat-load of problems. To open a newspaper any day of the week is enough to discourage anyone. Partisanship has reached nearly-fervid proportions. I fear we have little hope of seeing the forest for the trees when 45% of Americans don’t think Donald Trump should be tried in the Senate! Indeed, Trump may be the grotesque manifestation of a country that is sick, but the origins of what ails us are older than the huckster in the White House. What does this have to do with values? Truth, wisdom, and justice are not values that one can expect to apprehend if one sits around watching Fox News, “America’s Got Talent”, and football. If we want to improve, to thrive, to avoid disaster, the road is a tough one – much tougher than a trope such as “Liberals have been causing the decay of American society for decades now!” or “The most important thing in 2020 is to remove Donald Trump from office!”

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Are Human Beings Selfish?

are human beings selfish? October 23rd, 2019

I thought about the question, Are human beings selfish?, when I received this snippet of an article from a friend: “Advocates of capitalism understand, as the classical economists understood centuries ago, that government and social institutions must be designed for the human beings that actually exist — callous self-interest and all.” That thought, from The Mises Institute, a capitalistic/libertarian think tank, is making a fair point that can be examined to see how fully and completely true it is. That is what I will do in this blog. As a sneak peek, my answer to the question, Are human beings selfish? will be “Yes, to some degree, but not to the exclusion of all other high values.”

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What Happened to America’s Heroes?

American's heroes October 11th, 2019

What happened to America’s heroes? True, we have television shows now that elevate someone as a crafty and lucky game show contestant, a dexterous modern ninja, or a brave kid with astounding talent. As I write, the Trump scandal about Ukraine is unfolding. I turned off the television when he alluded to capital punishment for the folks in the White House who were implicated as informants on his repetitive, unpatriotic scandals. Frankly, the most we tend to see about this abomination of an Administration are anonymous opinion pieces in a newspaper, folks being forced to resign for not toeing the line, and occasionally someone will sort of allude to the fact that they left the Administration because they weren’t seeing eye to eye with Trump. Where are the heroes who stand up and say they will not accept scandalous, unethical, and outrageous behavior on the part of the President?

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