Philosophy & Critical Thinking

Philosophy & Critical Thinking


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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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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