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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.

America’s #1 Satirist: Mark Twain Quotes

Mark Twain quotes January 11th, 2022

Mark Twain is up there with American luminaries such as Will Rogers, Lucille Ball, Woody Allen, Dorothy Parker, Ambrose Bierce, Betty White, Thomas Nast, Gary Larson, Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, Charlie Chaplin, and Carl Reiner. This is, of course, a shockingly truncated list. Mark Twain quotes have stood the test of time for their penetrating, serious character as well as their satirical and humorous quality. Here are those in the Wisdom Archive, over 26,000-strong now! 

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Wisdom: Who, When and Why?

wisdom: Picard's Specialty? January 6th, 2022

Who has wisdom? At what age is it likeliest? How can one develop it? What does it look like? Here are some practical characteristics of this challenging concept grounded in the idea that it takes more than just age to develop; it is based more on skill and perception than accumulation of years. If the 60s is the decade wisdom is likeliest, that makes the 20s and 30s virtually impossible to really grasp the nature of and importance of learning (beyond technique, such as how to repair a car or how to administer the law, which is more easily attained at younger ages). As well, a person in their 80s is probably too subject to cognitive decline to be the wisest among us. Though it can be heard “from the mouths of babes,” usually babes just cry, gossip, and whine. Read on to hear what some experts think is likely to result in not just knowledge, but wisdom.

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America Desperately Needs Truth, Wisdom, and Critical Thinking

truth, wisdom, and critical thinking November 26th, 2021

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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Knowledge, Education & Wisdom in Colonial America

knowledge November 17th, 2021

Philosopher/psychologist and distinguished man of letters, Daniel N. Robinson, says much about knowledge, wisdom, and education in the citizenry and the founders at the time of the Declaration of Indpendence and the crafting of the U.S. Constitution. It is very enlightening, and he takes pains to connect the state of affairs then with our horrible political, social, and educational predicament that is so clearly exemplified by corporations, Donald Trump as President, and social media bickering today. It’s not a pretty picture, but one worth taking a long, hard look at. I then follow up his incisive commentary on the Founders with quotes about knowledge, wisdom, and education in modern America. Recall that education is not just about keeping the economy rolling: “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty,” wrote the main architect of the Constitution, James Madison. And this is very important; as modern progressive author, Thom Hartmann puts it, “We need to begin paying attention to the wisdom of the Founders and Framers [of the United States] if our country is to survive.”

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Developing Wisdom As You Go

developing wisdom November 9th, 2021

If it is true that wisdom is much more complex and multifarious than, say, courage or passion, then it seems as though some aspects of a person’s wisdom would be more advanced than others, which would be relatively underdeveloped. I picture a bar graph for each individual with some levels (bars) being more highly developed and prominent than other levels. Life is a challenge, and a wise person knows where they’ve been, knows what they are about, and knows what it takes to get where they are going. Developing wisdom as you go is a concept I want to reflect on in this blog.

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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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