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Jason Merchey the writer, philosophical thinker, and Master’s-level psychologist shares his perspectives on classical and modern applications of values, wisdom, ethics, and personal growth. The goal is to provide insight into what “a life of value” is and how one can live it. Quotations, proverbs, idioms, and historical facts often provide grist for the mill. Occasional guest blogs are featured as well.

Humor Quotes: Lighten Up, Friends!

Humor quotes make us relax, laugh, and appreciate September 25th, 2021

Life can be a drag. We can all get too serious, work too hard, and focus too intently. The world we live in is particularly adept at crushing spirits, reducing mental well-being, and depressing those of us who think. In fact, Jean Racine quipped that “Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel.” One of the things that can be helpful is to read and re-read some great humor quotes. They have a remarkable ability to open the mind, relax the soul, and create a fresh perspective. And though lightheartedness is, I say, one of the values of the wise (along with humor), a third aspect to this ValueSet is that of recognizing and accepting the absurd. Here are some of my favorite thoughts on this most interesting and engaging of subjects:

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Intention and Innocence Are What Make a Good Person

what makes a good person? September 21st, 2021

When we think of what makes a good person, we usually recall someone who is kind, selfless, and empathetic. But why is it that we often feel that some people who have those characteristics do not actually seem like good people? Is it the deed’s outcome and results that confers moral goodness, or is it the intentions of the person? I believe it is the latter, and moral theories indicate why.

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Is the Fear of Death Rational and Appropriate?

fear of death September 15th, 2021

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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Liberty and Truth are Allied Values

truth requires liberty to flourish September 7th, 2021

Albert Einstein said, “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

I found John Stuart Mill’s ideas on the freedom-truth relationship very enlightening and interesting when re-reading his book, On Liberty. Frankly, I hadn’t thought much about that exact relationship even though I have studied liberty and truth to some degree over the years. In some sense, I knew that a closed society or a cult would not facilitate the search for truth – that much is obvious. But in America, for example, the idea that truth is only apprehensible under conditions of openness and freedom and individuality is worth sustained consideration. What follows is a summation of Mill’s ideas about this relationship, and a little commentary from myself and relevant luminaries.

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Altruism in Action: Helping Others is a Virtue

altruism September 1st, 2021

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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Engaging in Socratic Dialogue

Socratic dialogue August 27th, 2021

There is something called Socratic dialogue. Essentially, two individuals engage in a conversation – a dialectic, as it is known – and they try to figure out the nature of the question and try to formulate an answer that is logical, rational, true, and correct. It’s not easy, but it is probably better to have a knowledgeable person work in concert with you if you are trying to figure out truth. This takes wisdom, obviously. Though it is not quite ready to be “an app,” there is something about the Socratic method that can be learned and useful to an individual even sans interlocutor, if you will. Thus, I will share with you my notes on what Socratic dialogue is all about. May it lead you one step closer to wisdom!

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“Values of the Wise”: What Does This Mean?

Values of the Wise logo August 12th, 2021

The goal of Values of the Wise (the company) is to bring to life ancient wisdom and progressive thinking. This is done through books, online tools and resources, quotations, social networking, and the like. But what are “the values of the wise?” What does the phrase actually mean? I am Jason Merchey, the founder and originator of the concept, and I will be happy to explain what I think it means.

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Ethics 101 (Highly Abbreviated!)

ethics: a noble pursuit August 5th, 2021

Ethics is a branch of philosophy with a long, storied past. Along with epistemology and aesthetics and metaphysics, ethics is one of the pillars of philosophical thought since Aristotle to the present day. Philosophers still study right from wrong in universities and books are written every year on the topic. What can we learn from studying it today; what dividend does doing so pay? The reason to learn more about right from wrong and morality is to be better able to make good decisions, live the kind of life an individual would really prefer, and have better and more functional relationships. After all, one has to be a good neighbor, responsible parent, trustworthy employee, and person of generally good character to get along well in society and both participate and benefit. Read on to find out more about what ethics really is about and how one can apply it successfully in one’s daily life. 

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Doubt and Skepticism: Philosophical & Religious (V&E-3)

doubt and skepticism August 1st, 2021

The topic of the day is philosophical and religious doubt and skepticism. With my very able guest, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Ph.D., I explore some history of the subject, and learn about her fascinating book. This is a transcript of an audio interview with Dr. Hecht on a then-program entitled Values and Ethics: from Living Room to Boardroom (available as a podcast). It then became Chapter 3 in a book of the same name in 2017. Let’s look into one of the most critical precursors of wisdom: doubt.

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Quotes About Passion and Enthusiasm

passion July 24th, 2021

If you are excited about life, passionate about yourself and your future, and enthusiastic about your job and your interests, you probably are living in a way that the wise would counsel. Life is long, and it can be very difficult to go through the motions if your heart isn’t in it. Those who experience a joie de vivre more days than not are probably not only happier, but more successful. You might have heard the famous inventor and scientist Thomas Edison wrote: “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” That’s a wonderful way to encapsulate the fact that having an idea is important, but the follow-through, the work required to make a novel plan come to fruition, is where the wheat is separated from the chaff. What follows are a dozen inspirational quotations that can help inspire the kind of gusto required to get stuff done, create new approaches to problems, and stick to a task until it’s complete.

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