Virtue & Character

Virtue & Character


The Mystery of Good Character

character October 16th, 2018

The following is a guest blog written by A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University, Christian B. Miller. In it, he addresses character and introduces the reader to the concept of a character gap. His new book is entitled The Character Gap: How Good Are We?  There is also a link to a blog written by Jason Merchey entitled “The Values and Virtues America Desperately Needs”

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Magnanimity & Altruism: Saving 50 Jews from Death

magnanimity October 4th, 2018

Eleanor and Gilbert Kraus are very likely two of the greatest unsung heroes in American history – at least, in Jewish history. I watched a documentary about their courageous acts (in 1939), which amounted to nothing less than a full-throated display of magnanimity and altruism. Here is their story. I will also include a selection of quotations about magnanimity by noted Holocaust survivors, human rights activists, altruism researchers, and stalwart exemplars of virtue and honor such as Elie Wiesel, Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Viktor Frankl. 

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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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Wisdom Is Ever-Ready to Guide Us From Here

Wisdom is ever-ready to guide us September 5th, 2018

For the moment, envision the high values and virtues – wisdom, truth, justice, beauty, passion, love, honor, strength, courage, etc. – as upon high; imagine they are personified, represented by gods and goddesses. Athena of course would symbolize wisdom; courage might be Apollo; Woden is strength, and so on. This idea was exemplified to great effect by Ancius Boethius. What he was thinking popped into my head when I looked at a picture of the anti-Christ, Donald Trump. Let me tell you about philosophy and Boethius. In his  The Consolation of Philosophy he spoke reverently of the word, and use the pronoun she to refer to wisdom and philosophy. He believed she watched over him, guided him, and could save him from his fate as a prisoner. I have hope that Wisdom is ever-ready to guide us from here to where we as individuals, communities and especially as a nation, we need to be.

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Is American Patriotism Getting Out of Control?

patriotism September 3rd, 2018

It’s been called the last refuge of scoundrels. It is undeniably linked to “us-against-them” tribal impulses, rooted in emotion and often impervious to reason. It feeds nationalism and militarism, making it a potentially dangerous phenomenon in a world of modern weaponry. Yet patriotism — outward, vocal, and enthusiastic patriotism — is still considered a vital element in American politics, an aspect of our culture that we not only tolerate but encourage. To many humanists, this is worth rethinking.

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The Values and Virtues America Desperately Needs

the values and virtues America desperately needs September 2nd, 2018

America, if it were a person, would be experiencing anxiety, self-doubt, egocentrism, confusion, self-loathing, and narcissism. Life has never been easy or uniformly positive for all but the wealthy, and even then, the rich aren’t any happier than the other social classes. It’s true, there was what some consider to be a “golden era” as we came out of World War II. The wealthy and corporations paid a large share of the tax burden, had more in common with the other social classes (e.g., “the Commons” were more robust then), and jobs were well-paying and fairly secure. Despite the racial, gender and sexual orientation problems that plagued America then, it was a time of general prosperity, social mobility, and optimism. Something has gone awry to an increasingly dire degree; if America were a person it would be spending a lot of time in bars, occasionally getting into a fight while intoxicated, and dealing with a persistent cough. The values and virtues America desperately needs are the subjects of this blog. It entails social criticism, but I think America can look to its “better angels”, as Lincoln put it. We have to do it. 

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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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