Virtue & Character

Virtue & Character


“Strange Fruit” Had a Massive Impact on Society

Strange Fruit May 17th, 2021

America has maximized human and societal potential in many ways – we are truly a republic of great potential and productivity. Of course, being black, Holliday experienced an appalling side of America first-hand, one grossly shy of the beautiful principles on which it was founded. We are the best and the worst of everything in humanity. It is fair, recognizing slavery and poverty and vicious wealth inequality since ideals such as liberty, inclusion, democracy, and opportunity are unambiguously glorious values and aspirations we do treasure here. We must be truthful and integrate all our past and reconcile our darkness with our light. Anyway, Billie Holliday represented something special to many people, and I think the story of her song “Strange Fruit” is quite relevant to the idea of integration – both on a personal level, and certainly on a societal one.

Read More

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. 

Read More

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.

Read More

Empathy is a Solid Route to Moral Goodness

moral goodness March 6th, 2021

Empathy is the degree to which a person can place oneself in another’s shoes. Anyone can feel pain when someone steps on their toe, but what if you see someone else wincing in pain, grasping their own toe? The question is related to what you experience when you determine, perceptually, that someone else is suffering in some way. Empathy is a key driver of moral goodness, I believe. Another way to describe this phenomenon is, acting right is about empathizing with the other. What follows is my rationale.

Read More

What Do We Deserve? Moral Desert & Entitlement

moral desert February 27th, 2021

What does a person – let’s confine it to Americans in this blog – deserve? In philosophy, it is termed moral dessert. That is, as a member of society, what rights does one have to goods and benefits and opportunities? Contrast dessert (sometimes spelled desert) with entitlement – the rights one has based on law, contracts, and agreements. In this piece, I want to dilate on this topic, and to that end, will share a brief discussion a friend and I had. You may not be surprised to learn that I take a generally liberal position, and my friend, a fairly libertarian one. I am more likely to see, optimistically, that people deserve opportunity, chances, and help from society at large (i.e., the institutions of government and associated social welfare provisions). You can expect, of course, to see apt quotations brought to bear on the dialogue.

Read More

Review of Ch. One: “In Defense of a Liberal Education”

liberal education February 11th, 2021

Liberal education is not typically prized by parents. “What you are not supposed to do is study the liberal arts. Around the world, the idea of a broad-based ‘liberal’ education is closely tied with the United States and its great universities and colleges. But in America itself, a liberal education is out of favor.” This is a sad and even ironic state of affairs. In the wonderful, well-researched, short but stout book In Defense of a Liberal Education, noted columnist and historian Fareed Zakaria, called “the most influential foreign policy advisor of his generation” by Esquire, laments that the humanities are no longer as popular as they were in America’s more prosperous decades. As manufacturing is under severe threat and jobs are increasingly lost to foreign countries or automation, Zakaria maintains that “to succeed today, you need creativity, lateral thinking, communication skills, and, more than anything, the ability to keep learning – precisely the gifts of a liberal education.” What follows is a summary and review of chapter one of this engaging book.

Read More

American Treasure: Helen Keller’s Values

Helen Keller February 3rd, 2021

In this day and age of political unrest, questionable media, and discrepant values, it is a breath of fresh air to read the beautiful words of optimism and understanding. I am referring to the wonderful woman and hero of girls and handicapped individuals everywhere, Helen Keller. She evolved from someone who truly knew hardship and adversity to one who successfully focused her time and energy into the worthy pursuits of growth, happiness, love, and compromise. She pushed her own (and society’s) boundaries and became someone great. Who was Helen, and what can we learn from her?

Read More

Cultivating Virtue & Living Wisely

virtue December 22nd, 2020

Cultivating virtue helps us to live well, and within reason. But how are we to understand the kind of guardrails reason provides? Why suppose that reason can govern action and emotion in the way that modern Aristotelian theorists of virtue seem to suggest that it can? After all, there is an impressive body of empirical research suggesting that people frequently fail to live up to their own ideals. In this blog, Professor Candace Vogler writes about reason, virtue, and living wisely.

Read More

Will Durant Quotes About the Meaning of Life

quotes about the meaning of life August 18th, 2020

Will Durant was one of America’s greatest intellectuals. He lived from 1885 to 1981. In his long, varied, and distinguished career, he taught, wrote, earned a doctorate in philosophy, and came to know many of the most important and elusive truths. His interest in history was as salient than his love of philosophy, for he is best known for his book the massive, 11-volume set The Story of Civilization, his take on significant historical happenings and patterns (which he published with his lifelong interlocutor, his wife Ariel). They won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom for the work. Only slightly less remarkable was The Story of Philosophy, which detailed the lives and works of a dozen of the most impactful philosophers throughout history, such as Plato and Nietzsche. Durant was truly a remarkable man; we are so lucky he lived to the ripe old age he did, and that he was a philosopher, historian, teacher and writer – and not a banker or a tennis player or a gambler. This blog is about Will Durant’s quotes about the meaning of life from his superb book on the subject.

Read More

Sometimes, You Can’t Square the Moral Circle

square the moral circle July 24th, 2020

Sometimes two family members, or friends, or members of the same social group can kind of “steer clear” of each other’s hot spots. Maybe agreeing to disagree works, or simply avoiding the topics in question (Thanksgiving dinner comes to mind!). However, certain issues are just too ineluctable to make peace with. This is why it has been said that “one shouldn’t talk religion or politics in polite company.” In this blog, I reflect on a couple instances when this was the case for me. Morality is hard to compromise about, and when you have two diametrically-opposed opinions about fundamental moral issues, it can be too difficult to successfully square the circle, as it were.

Read More