Altruism is one of the most intriguing virtues. I have always found it to be “upon high,” very worthy, truly excellent. It has been called “selfishness in reverse,” and is basically when a person is helpful to another when “no benefits are expected or offered in return.” It sometimes involves self-sacrifice (for example, if you give money to someone, you don’t have that money any longer, or if you run into a burning building, you may be injured). It’s human beings helping human beings, and choosing to allocate valuable resources in such a way that one does not expect to keep a lion’s share of it. Is it real? How does is mesh with capitalism and the “rugged individualism” that the wealthy and powerful have fomented in this country since the very beginning? Is love really the answer?Read More
September 1st, 2021
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
July 9th, 2020
What do we think when we pass a homeless person begging for money? Do you judge and ignore, or does their situation sink in as you are on your way to a meeting or a museum?
How do we feel when a person of another race is a victim of a hate crime, or killed by a police officer for unjustifiable reasons – and does it sink in if you’re white?
What is the meaning of a woman being discriminated against trying to get a job, or raped as she serves in the military, and does it sink in if you’re a man?
Empathy is one of humanity’s highest aspirations. Truly, it is the fount of kinship; it is the better part of our mottled souls; it is the mother of kindness; it is the foundry of care; it is the wellspring of goodness; it is the origin of forgiveness.Read More
May 19th, 2020
I’m not the “most Jewish” person around, that’s for sure. One thing I do have, though, is that I connect my Jewishness up with empathy for what African-Americans have gone through and still experience. We Jews ought to have special insight into America’s long history of racial, ethnic, and class discrimination because of our unique history. My wife came up to me tonight, flaming mad, about another example of the mistreatment of, discrimination toward, and prejudice directed at black people in America. It was heartening to see her make an astute connection, and the point of this blog is to elucidate that thesis for you.Read More
May 16th, 2020
Author Steve Almond writes: “Although born into affluence, Trump developed a worldview indifferent, or perhaps hostile, to noblesse oblige—the notion, exemplified by the Kennedys—that nobility extends beyond lineage and requires constant compassion for the less fortunate. From early on, Trump favored a social dominance orientation, which describes the sort of person hung up on creating a hierarchy so he can be at the top of it. ‘Narcissistic Darwinism’ might also apply.” Here are a few thoughts on this idea that one with plentiful material comforts is best when they concern themselves with and help the less fortunate:Read More
March 9th, 2020
David Leonhardt of the New York Times, says this about Joe Biden: “As happened with McCain in 2008, a large share of primary voters this year weren’t wowed by any of the candidates. They instead were waiting for one to emerge — especially one who seemed likely to beat President Trump. I don’t think it was inevitable that Biden would be that candidate, especially after his weak start. But after Sherrod Brown and Mitch Landrieu didn’t run, after Michael Bloomberg entered the race late, after Cory Booker and Kamala Harris dropped out and after every other candidate failed to appeal to black voters, Biden was the one left standing. Many voters have found their way back to him.” He might not have been the most able candidate from the beginning, but with Bernie failing to really catalyze a winning combination of huge voter turnout, minority support, and suburban appeal, Biden is the man African-American, older, and many Hispanic voters are choosing to accomplish the most important goal conceivable: send Donald Trump back to his gilded towers of dark magic and usher in an era that is both progressive and harkens back to the largely-successful Obama years. Biden’s coup on “Super Tuesday” was reminiscent of the mythical boxer and “comeback kid”, Rocky Balboa. Here is a brief synopsis of the virtue and character that many see in Biden’s glorious victory.Read More
October 30th, 2018
The following blog is written by guest blogger Jon Greenberg, a high school teacher, activist and writer. I wanted to present this take on white privilege because I believe that it is important in this time of hyperpartisanship, ethnic divisions, and political demagoguery. I am pretty much on the left when it comes to how I feel about race, racism, privilege, institutionalized racism, etc. That is to say that I am not all the way to the left; for example, I find Mr. Greenberg’s use of capitalization in the phrase “People of Color” to be silly and overdone. However, it is only slightly more mistaken than a lot of the beliefs and customs that my fellow European Americans to the right of me hold. Somewhere in between political correctness and social justice is where I come down on this topic. What follows is why Mr. Greenberg believes ethnic studies courses are useful for his white children (and white Americans everywhere):Read More
August 23rd, 2018
You might not have heard of the musical group Everlast. In 1998 they put out a fantastic, unparalleled song “What It’s Like.” I can’t say enough good stuff about it, both lyrically and musically. It’s absolutely remarkable. It’s been listened to over 5 million times on YouTube, and it hit #13 on the charts when it debuted. In this blog, I will provide a YouTube link and share the lyrics. Watching the video while reading the lyrics will no doubt provide the reader interested in values, ethics, and virtue with inspiration and a truly deep emotional experience. I have literally teared up listening to this amazing song. The crux of the empathy the writer Erik Shrody is calling for can be clearly seen in these words: “You know where it ends…usually depends on where you start.” See how the other half lives in the song “What It’s Like”…Read More
July 3rd, 2018
I just watched a neat program, “The Face of Evil”, hosted by a journalist I like, Chris Cuomo. In the episode, he interviewed a notorious murderer he grew up fairly close to in New York, Jeremy Rifkin. About this horiffic form of mental illness, Cuomo said, “Cases like Rifkin’s have stuck with me, leaving me to question how such a thing could occur. What makes someone who looks and acts like the rest of us most of the time, suddenly turn into a monster?” I see the positive values of love, magnanimity, optimism, and honor, but am also fascinated by how things can go so awry in a human heart and mind. When suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in a society and gun violence is on the rise, there is a significant problem. In this blog, I want to examine mental illness, focusing especially on “social disease” such as sociopathy, suicide, and mass shootings.Read More
October 10th, 2017
The following is an excerpt from the book Values & Ethics: From Living Room to Boardroom, taken from the name of an Internet-based talk radio show I did in times-past. The topic from chapter five is “Relationships and Social Policy That Foster Moral Development and Caring.” My two impressive partners in dialogue are psychotherapist and author Marianne Preger-Simon, Ed.D. and noted philosopher and professor, Nel Noddings, Ph.D. Concepts we try to elucidate in our engaging conversation include moral development, care, caring, love, maturation, socio-emotional development, nurturance, empathy, morality, character, and responsibility.Read More