Philosophy & Critical Thinking

Philosophy & Critical Thinking


What is Socratic Dialogue?

Socratic dialogue January 12th, 2020

“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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America Desperately Needs Truth, Wisdom, and Critical Thinking

truth, wisdom, and critical thinking December 16th, 2019

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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America’s Wars: Same Inhumanity and Lies, Different Decade. 

December 10th, 2019

Noted social critic and historian, Howard Zinn, pointed out that, “Indeed, when the [Vietnam] war was studied years later, it was clear that no rational decision based on any moral principle had led the nations into war. Rather, there were imperial rivalries, greed for more territory, lusting for national prestige, and the stupidity of revenge.” Though Abraham Lincoln knew the gravity of a civil war, he also used soaring rhetoric at times to characterize the nobility of the side wearing blue: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are in.” When looked at in an objective sense, war is almost never justified, and yet in America, is appallingly repetetive. It’s like, Same inhumanity and lies, different decade.  This is especially true now, as new information has come to light that American presidents all knew the war in Afghanistan couldn’t be “won”, and yet it is to-date the nation’s longest-lasting war. 

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Is It True That “Everything Happens for a Reason”?

everything happens for a reason November 18th, 2019

At first, this might sound like a foolish title, because in one sense of the phrase, everything does happen for a reason. The universe operates according to the laws of physics which posits that everything is determined and so on (well, quantum physics kinda is the fly in that ointment). I get determinism and physics’ position. However, in a different vein, the more commonly-used vernacular you hear is, “Everything happens for a reason.” But is that true? I would say the evidence does not point in that direction, though, as some are quick to point out, “God works in mysterious ways” and almost anything is possible. This post explores metaphysics and truth and other heady subjects.

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Only Fools Vote Against Their Best Interests

only fools vote against their best interests August 16th, 2019

“A new report reveals that almost all of the states where people earn the least are controlled by Republicans, while the states where people make the most money are almost exclusively led by Democratic politicians.” So writes Michael Harriot. This raises some interesting and haunting issues. In a nutshell, Republican voters who are poor are fools. Only fools vote against their best interests. It’s not by chance that this came about, though. The GOP is an abomination, and Trump is only the natural result of that. Here is my reasoning as to how this all happens. Functionalism and conflict theory are very helpful in understanding this gross phenomenon.

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Social Problems: Gun Control and Mass Shootings Analyzed

gun control August 12th, 2019

In this blog, I will aim to parse the gun violence issue. I thought to do so because I came across a compelling essay by Nicholas D. Kristof entitled “How to Win the Gun Control Argument.” I then went to go look it up by name in a Web search, and guess what popped up in the #2 slot? An article from the exact opposite perspective entitled “Winning the Gun Control Debate”. That is obviously enough to give one a headache. However, wisdom is the ideal guide to analyze the competing claims, complex issues, and difficult aspects of the gun control/gun violence social problem that currently plagues us. Next to the opioid epidemic, I would say that gun violence is a massive concern for American society – as it is for New Zealand, Norway, and every other country, practically. We live in difficult times, and at their worst, humans are basically clothed chimpanzees with semi-automatic rifles.

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Finding Meaning in A Persistent Vegetative Mental State

August 8th, 2019

If you give me twenty minutes, I will blow your mind. What follows is a look at the amazing story of a man known as “Sixty-Six Garage”, and what it means to me about values such as wisdom, caring, social welfare, brotherly love, absurdity, existentialism, God, joy, and pain. Even if you don’t stick around for my commentary, the fifteen minutes it takes to learn about Sixty-Six Garage will be well-worth it. It’s an amazing and illuminating story for lovers of science, believers in God, and folks who pay taxes. Undoubtedly you are one of those three types 🙂

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Wisdom: Complex, But Invaluable

wisdom August 4th, 2019

This is an awesomely complex world. It seemed challenging and at times, overwhelming, to our distant ancestors who were trying to live life as bipedal social animals on the terra firma of the African savannah two million years ago. I don’t think life has gotten any easier or simpler since those stressful days. There have been many philosophies, belief systems, religious frameworks since, as humans have tried to understand what life is about, how to relate to each other, and what it all means. What is the one arrow humans have in their collective quiver that can possibly cut through all the noise and the clutter? Wisdom.

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Knowledge, Education & Wisdom in Colonial America

knowledge July 12th, 2019

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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Robert Nozick Quotes: On the Examined Life

an examined life July 8th, 2019

Philosopher Robert Nozick made quite a splash with his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974). He assertively planted a flag on the libertarian hill with quotes such as, “There is no social entity with a good that undergoes some sacrifice for its own good. There are only individual people  with their own individual lives. Using one of these people for the benefit of others, uses him and benefits the others.” Fascinatingly, though, he never published an encore, choosing instead to concentrate his scholarship on distinctly different areas of philosophy. One of those later works is the aptly titled The Examined Life. This blog presents eighty or ninety of the most interesting and insightful Robert Nozick quotes from his book on the examined life – a reference to Socratic wisdom if there ever was one.

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