Philosophy & Critical Thinking

Philosophy & Critical Thinking


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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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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Healthcare: Comparing the U.S. to the Leaders

healthcare July 20th, 2021

I came across an article that is so good, I have to take from it liberally. If the New York Times is miffed and wants me to take it down, sure, of course I will. But in the meantime, you will learn a lot about healthcare!  Basically, in this article, the authors, Aaron Carroll and Austin Frakt opine about two-way matchups between eight different countries when it comes to the healthcare systems they have in place to insure and care for the health of their respective citizens. This is like a round-robin tournament comparing the strengths and weaknesses of various healthcare systems to each other. The article does go into more detail, and is worth a read if you’re that interested. Let the games begin!

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Ancient Greek Quotes (and Roman, Too)

ancient Greek quotes May 9th, 2021

The Athenians, Spartans, and Romans were remarkable in so many ways. Certainly, one way in which these societies excelled is in writing down laws, establishing and testing the limits of democracy and other forms of government, and in oration/theater/philosophy. We have myriad ancient Greek quotes, Roman proverbs, writings, meditations, insights, and bits of wisdom that survived the ages. This is saying a lot because much has been lost or destroyed in the last 2,000 years. It is a rich cultural heritage that Athens bestowed, and there is much of interest in the Spartan and Roman civilizations as well. Add in Macedonians like Alexander and Aristotle, and you have a very valuable vein of knowledge, discovery, and even proto-science. Below you will find a beautiful array of ancient Greek quotes (and Roman, too) on all manner of subject, including philosophy, personal growth, wisdom, politics, glory, courage, and strength. 

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Socrates: Still Relevant After 2,400 Years

Socrates May 5th, 2021

Few persons are relevant 2,350 years after they died. Confucius, The Buddha, and Jesus of Nazareth all have deep and lasting legacies. Socrates is certainly one of the most influential individuals ever to live. Considering how many ancient Greek documents and texts have been lost, we are lucky to have any information about him at all. He never wrote anything down! I will share a few thoughts and quotes about Socrates, one of the best teachers of wisdom and most interesting thinkers in history. He is a great guide to us in the waning days of empire here in the United States, just as he was in the tumultuous period in which he lived in ancient Athens.

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Consistent Critic: Noam Chomsky Quotes

April 8th, 2021

Noam Chomsky is literally one of the most influential and prolific individuals in the history of mankind. We are all so lucky that he has worked so hard on behalf of values such as truth, justice, social justice, freedom, solidarity, progressivism, and social welfare. Thought of as the founder of modern linguistics, he is extremely erudite and has written on all manner of subject—mostly politics and economics. Known as a “left-libertarian” or a “libertarian socialist”, he is wary of government, the media, the military, and the two big political parties. He has lampooned, lambasted, and laid bare their lies, machinations, and subterfuge. He is a man of the people, and has my deep respect. Bono called him “a rebel without a pause.” A great American.

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