Wisdom

Wisdom


Character Matters In Our Leaders and In Ourselves

character November 9th, 2018

I miss Ronald Reagan. That is not something that I say often. But as of this writing, the 2018 midterm elections just occurred, the Russia probe of Trump is about to drop, and the majority of Republicans remaining in Congress are extremists. There was a kind of class about that old coot Reagan, and it’s sorely missing now in the Commander in Chief. Character is all-important in everyone, but especially in the American President, a position that has increased in importance beyond the Founders’ intentions, and one that is of great power and influence.

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The Risks of an Open Mind

an open mind October 19th, 2018

I was just having a discussion about my nemesis, Donald Trump, with a libertarian friend of mine. An economist, no less. I informed him that the American deficit just reached a seven-year high! It’s amazing that Obama was working with a horrible economy given to us by (drum roll……..) the Republicans – and still had a smaller deficit than what we do in 2018. Stimulus spending was the order of the day back then. The GOP loves to claim the Dems are “capital-S” Socialists who will run us into the ground with profligate spending on Medicare for All and such. Yet, the record seems to show that the GOP likes to spend tax revenue, but they also like to cut taxes to please their donors and feather their own nests. My friend tried to tout the idea that when we cut taxes, revenue increases. It’s magic! Actually, George H. W. Bush, then running against Ronald Reagan, did call this phenomenon “voodoo economics”!! I claim that supply-side economics doesn’t have good support, but it was my friend’s contention that it does. It led me to want to write a blog about the risks of one keeping an open mind in today’s hyperpartisan culture.

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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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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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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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The Nature of Values According to Socrates

the nature of values according to Socrates September 8th, 2018

In 399 B.C.E., the year Socrates was put on trial in ancient Athens, he met a prosecutor (for lack of a better word) on the steps of the Court of Archon. His name was Euthyphro, and, astonishingly, he was prosecuting his very own father for murder. He felt it would be “pollution” to allow his father to go unpunished; a stain upon his good name. They get to talking, and soon Socrates has the arrogant man in his grasp. This blog is about the nature of values according to Socrates, which is essentially Socratic dialogue. The question being explored, specifically, is whether goodness is goodness because the Ancient Greek gods want it to be so, or do they see goodness when they look upward, just like we humans do?

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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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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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What is Wisdom? A Diverse Group of Skills

what is wisdom? September 1st, 2018

Second in a series called What is Wisdom?, this blog seeks to provide some more definition to the concept. Wisdom is one of those skills/values that is difficult to understand and to define. In the first segment of this series, I approached the question what is wisdom? by noting it is an ability to correctly predict outcomes. This second segment takes a cue from the noted philosopher Robert Nozick’s book The Examined Life; specifically, his twenty-third chapter entitled “What is Wisdom? Why Do Philosophers Love It So?”

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