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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.

“Anti-Intellectualism”: A Rejection of Critical Thinking

anti-intellectualism August 2nd, 2022

As writer and attorney David Noise put it, “The gun massacres that occur on a weekly basis will no doubt lead to more discussion of several important and recurring issues in American culture—particularly racism and gun violence and mental instability/rage. However, these dialogues are unlikely to bear much fruit until the nation undertakes a serious self-examination.” Indeed, considering the tenacity and inflexibility of the positions held by gun fetishists, the obnoxious relativism and doublespeak one sees on right-wing media outlets, and an astonishing unwillingness to throw Trumpism into the dustbin of history are not that hard to fathom if one considers the following:

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Cosmos: Science, Hope, Wisdom & Inspiration

science July 28th, 2022

Famed astrophysicist Carl Sagan’s obituary featured the President of the National Academy of Sciences, Bruce Alberts extolling him thusly: “Carl Sagan, more than any contemporary scientist I can think of, knew what it takes to stir passion within the public when it comes to the wonder and importance of science.” The television program Cosmos has been a reliable, interesting, educational experience for me and for millions of others; it’s like Sesame Street for this millennium. If you want to learn more about science—astrophysics, astronomy, geology, and even the history of science—this is the show for you.

I will say a few things about it and share a number of quotes from a diverse group of individuals.

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Responsibility & Character Will See Us Through

responsibility July 23rd, 2022

This blog is a short screed that maintains that liberty is lacking in certain key areas for certain classes of individuals (abortion rights, the right to read whatever literature one chooses, the right to choose one’s sexual orientation and gender, etc.) but alive and well for many other classes and groups. Further, responsibility is missing in many areas, too. And as the wise man  said, you can’t have rights without responsibilities. It seems pretty inarguable that character, integrity, honor, and excellence are insufficiently appreciated and cultivated by most Americans. In a word, we are not a democratic republic that seems to extol virtue. Whether we did in the past, or if it is in fact mere lore, we certainly need it now!

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What is Socratic Dialogue?

Socratic dialogue July 17th, 2022

“In order to improve yourself, Socrates insists, you have to know yourself,” said philosopher Judith Barad. Socrates hasn’t been around since ancient Athens, Greece, but the method of inquiry and self-examination he pioneered is still valid and has a lot to recommend it. “Socrates was the first to call philosophy down from the heavens and establish it in the towns and introduce it into homes and force it to investigate life, ethics, good and evil,” according to also-significant Roman orator Cicero. “Socrates’ method was to go about, as he said himself, ‘cross-examining the pretenders to knowledge and wisdom,’ and by the cross-examination, showing them that they were in error, that what they supposed they knew, they did not know,” noted the luminary Mortimer Adler. This blog is about Socratic dialogue – how to appreciate it, and what it can do.

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What Can Values & Virtues Do in Dark Times?

July 12th, 2022

Someone recently asked me what my “main take-away” is, my most distilled version of my message. In other words, what am I thinking about when it comes to Values of the Wise, my 2022 book on wisdom, considering the state of the world, and based on all the readings I’m doing these days.

What follows is a concise encapsulation of what is on my mind and in my heart when I think about personal growth, and what psychology and philosophy mean to me:

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Abortion Rights (and Wrongs)

abortion rights July 6th, 2022

Abortion is one of the hot topics du jour—unfortunately one of ten or twenty that are now crowding each other for center stage. Indeed, America is riddled with social problems and plagued by a tearing of the social fabric that holds this heterogeneous and highly class-based country together. Though gun violence, the vast Right-wing conspiracy to subvert democracy in 2020-2022, and economic troubles do prey on my mind, I think abortion is quite relevant to values—and therefore it concerns me here on this blog.

Indeed, abortion is all about values: First and foremost, the right a woman has to control her own body (autonomy, or privacy, or freedom, or equality, perhaps).

Secondly, the so-called rights of the unborn child.

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Social Justice on This July Fourth Holiday

social justice July 4th, 2022

This is one of the hardest starts I have had writing a blog – and usually they just pour out of me. I think it is because the present topic is very disturbing to me as a Jew, a liberal, a person who is fairly educated. I also have feelings of hatred inside me, and that is uncomfortable and hard to deal with – obviously, I don’t want to vomit a screed of ill-conceived hatred onto your screen. At any rate, I will try to share some of my feelings and a few thoughts as well!

The topic: what has become of almost half the population of the United States, vis-a-vis social justice, racism, privilege, demagoguery, and authoritarianism.

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The Republican Party is a Clear and Present Danger

The Republican Party June 30th, 2022

Things keep coming across my desk that strike the same note of fear and anger: the skullduggery, chicanery, and corruption the modern Republican Party is engaging in is a clear and present danger to the fabric of American society. We must not take this lightly, be cowed into silence, or shrink from this grave danger. Obviously, no one has to agree with my take on vigilance, patriotism, or decency—or any other value, political stance, or threat assessment—but I believe it is imperative that we stay cognizant of just how extreme, dangerous, and self-aggrandizing this broken Republican Party is.

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Dignity as an Antidote to Partisanship and Economic Despair

dignity June 25th, 2022

E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post suggested (a while ago now) that dignity is an antidote to partisanship and economic despair, and can be the best way to defeat Trumpism, which is, appallingly, still a scourge on the American republic. Perhaps until we root out the essential causes and contributors of how it is that so many Americans are so disaffected and so susceptible to propaganda and white supremacy and violent extremism, we will not be back on track. Perhaps this will all end up being a crucible through which Americans had to pass in order to transcend the figurative adolescence in which we have clearly been stuck.

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A Time of Unprecedented Tribalism in America….

unprecedented tribalism June 21st, 2022

Now is a time of heightened threat, trouble, tribulation, and tumult for America.

We are beset by anxiety, risk, lack of clarity, fear, and in-fighting.

I really worry that we are facing a panoply of dangerous (and often self-created) problems!

Can we rise to the occasion, or will we crumble in the face of myriad threats and internal vulnerabilities? Will we listen to “our better angels,” as Lincoln put it? Or tear ourselves apart as we did in the Civil War?

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