Ethics & Morality

Ethics & Morality


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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The Wise Would Uniformly Call for Trump’s Ouster

"The wise" on Donald Trump October 7th, 2019

I am sick to DEATH of Donald Trump. I knew he was a disgrace to this country when he first threw his slimy hat in the ring (in 2015). And it has been virtually nothing but downhill since. There are a couple of things he has done that were “standard, prudent, proper, patriotic” but mostly it is throwing red meat to his base, defending his ego, and enriching himself and his friends. It’s really worse than predicted to be – which is saying a lot! There is no wisdom in continuing down this same path of obfuscation, autocratic maneuvering, dark political machinations, and utter abrogation of wholesome values. And yet, today, one of the most repugnant and ludicrous statements I have ever read (and I have read a lot!) came out of his Twitter-addicted thumbs: “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off-limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!).” I have been studying wisdom for quite some time, and I can assure you, dear reader, this man possesses less wisdom than most adolescent males. My thesis is that the wise would uniformly call for Trump’s ouster. I can say this with absolute confidence, based on what I know of “the wise” (as esoteric and ethereal as that concept may be). By the wise I am referring to wisdom incarnate; those who are in possession of uncanny wisdom, if you will).

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Finding Meaning in A Persistent Vegetative Mental State

August 8th, 2019

If you give me twenty minutes, I will blow your mind. What follows is a look at the amazing story of a man known as “Sixty-Six Garage”, and what it means to me about values such as wisdom, caring, social welfare, brotherly love, absurdity, existentialism, God, joy, and pain. Even if you don’t stick around for my commentary, the fifteen minutes it takes to learn about Sixty-Six Garage will be well-worth it. It’s an amazing and illuminating story for lovers of science, believers in God, and folks who pay taxes. Undoubtedly you are one of those three types 🙂

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Mueller Lacked the Courage to Stand and Be Counted

Mueller August 1st, 2019

Robert Mueller is reputed to be an upstanding American who exemplifies duty, courage, wisdom, justice, and honor. Last week, Mueller testified in front of two House committees, the Judiciary and the Intelligence Committees. I have been mulling over some thoughts and feelings I have had since that deeply disappointing day. I wanted to examine the behavior and the values evidenced by Mueller, asking whether he was demented, cowardly, or extremely unwise. I will attempt to validate the eminence of values such as duty, courage, wisdom, justice, and honor, though Mueller seemed to come up short in every category on that fateful day. 

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Civil Rights and Responsibilities

civil rights June 10th, 2019

Three social issues of great importance and significant disagreement include the right to abort an unwanted fetus within a certain period of time at a medical clinic (free from harassment or shame), the right to bear arms, and the rights of those who are gay and transgender to be free from discrimination in hiring and in the workplace. These are of importance because whenever a right is withheld in America, there needs to be a very compelling reason, Constitutionally and morally speaking. They are subjects about which there is fundamental disagreement (and not a little contention!) because they are thorny ethical, religious, and cultural issues. In the time of social media and political hyperpartisanship, the solution of these matters of great concern to society are matters of civil rights, and also of civil responsibilities. As well, with the resurgence of the radical Right, settled law (e.g., Roe v. Wade) is now being reexamined. This blog is about civil rights and civil responsibilities when it comes to three key issues.

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Society Needs to Promote Positive Masculinity

positive masculinity June 9th, 2019

My friend noted that in this wonderful story, four teenage boys made a great and courageous effort to save an elderly woman from a burning house. Bravo! We lauded their inspiring, prosocial, and brave act, and I think a difference can be drawn between so-called “toxic masculinity” (which is probably too loaded a term for my comfort) and a more positive masculinity that boys and teens and men exhibit. This blog illustrates what I’m thinking.

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Responsibility for Our Fellow Man

responsibility June 2nd, 2019

My wife and I donated five thousand dollars to a local no-cost medical clinic, the Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic. My visit was amazing. It’s a new building, and is at least as nice as my doctor’s. Probably nicer. It was built recently with 100% donations and grants! For an individual making up to about $25,000 a year or a family of four earning around $50,000 annually, primary care and many other specialties are free. Free. It felt like a wonderful asset to our community, which sits in one of the poorest states in the country. Many folks, however, believe that anything “free” is not only a waste of resources, but morally offensive. That is the cult of the individual, and it runs afoul of an important belief underlying progressive politics and moral decency: the responsibility we have for our fellow man (and woman).

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Humanity’s Dark Side: Obedience to Authority

obedience to authority March 9th, 2019

There is a strain of experiments buoyed by theory that is in the category of social psychology – the branch of the study of human behavior that locates a human being in their social context. That is, people may have some individuality, some trait-like tendencies to think, feel, perceive, and act in a more or less typical way (i.e., based on their personality type). Social psychologists study how human beings function in relation to their environment. This essentially radical environmental approach doesn’t mimic the approach of Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner – dyed-in-the-wool environmentalists – because the attempt is not to change behavior, but to analyze and predict it. Read on for a brief summary, some elucidating quotations, and one of the most shocking experiments ever to come out of a major university.

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Altruism in Action: Helping Others is a Virtue

altruism February 19th, 2019

Altruism is one of the most intriguing virtues. I have always found it to be “upon high,” very worthy, truly excellent. It has been called “selfishness in reverse,” and is basically when a person is helpful to another when “no benefits are expected or offered in return.” It sometimes involves self-sacrifice (for example, if you give money to someone, you don’t have that money any longer, or if you run into a burning building, you may be injured). It’s human beings helping human beings, and choosing to allocate valuable resources in such a way that one does not expect to keep a lion’s share of it. Is it real? How does is mesh with capitalism and the “rugged individualism” that the wealthy and powerful have fomented in this country since the very beginning? Is love really the answer?

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Truth: Detecting and Defending It

finding truth can be elusive February 1st, 2019

“We may not always know what is true, but we can develop some proficiency at detecting what is false” ~ Michael Parenti – a wonderful quote about truth. This is such an intriguing quote, I was amazed to find it virtually buried on page 37 of Professor Parenti’s 2007 book – a compilation of essays. It is, pound for pound, a great look at the value of truth. He also wrote: “Our readiness to accept something as true, or reject it as false, rests less on its argument and evidence and more on how it aligns with the preconceived notions embedded in the dominant culture, and assumptions we have internalized due to repeated exposure.” So, what is true? How can we know it? How to defend it? Read on.

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