philosophy and critical thinking

philosophy and critical thinking


The Ethical Life: Coping with the Pandemic

ethical April 27th, 2020

The following is a republication of a piece written by Mark Manson, who made a splash with his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life . Mark calls himself an “author/thinker/life enthusiast”, which I think is nicely done. I’m just getting to know his style and his merit, but I was willing to sign up for the $6 a month subscription (aren’t you glad you get to read my stuff for free!?). I found the following essay about ethical dilemmas and how to deal with life in the time of lockdown interesting enough to request to republish. Here you have it:

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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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When Heuristics Help, and When They Fail

heuristics June 13th, 2019

I was speaking with a big-time investor today. I have had about three hours of conversation so far. He certainly operates at a higher level and is in a very different class than I am (I don’t mean when it comes to generally what depth of a person he is – authenticity or generosity or decency). I am talking about the folks he knows, the deals he has done, the net worth he has accumulated, the risks he has taken, and the knowledge he has under his belt is just clearly a few levels above me. He is older than I, and has been at it longer and excelled in it. How does a person of my intelligence and experience level suss out whether this man is all he is cracked up to be? Can he be enormously helpful to me as a mentor, or am I just a fish he has on the hook? In the human mind, prejudices and cognitive biases abound, so wisdom is really what is called for. In the field of applied philosophy, a thing called heuristics can help, but they can also fail.

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Moderation is Sometimes a Virtue

moderation April 13th, 2019

I saw a picture of a childhood friend today, shaking hands with president Trump. He said he was proud to be shaking the hands of a president – this or any other. I spend so much time in a given week learning about or thinking about the travesties that pass as governance, and feel sometimes like I am stuck in an Orwellian nightmare. I can’t help but feel that if one agrees with Trump as a person, that they are a part of a social group that is diametrically opposed to my sensibilities and philosophies and instincts. And that if they support him as the leader of the free world, they are lost as to what values and virtues such as freedom, responsibility, and the rule of law really mean. I felt much the same way when Bush was in office. It raises some interesting questions not only about friendship, but also partisanship, principles, and temperament. As I reflect on this friendship vis-à-vis the problems in America today, I am asking myself questions about the virtue of moderation – not one of my most familiar values. 

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Free Will: The Mystery of Libertarianism

free will November 19th, 2018

In this blog, guest blogger Chad Vance, Ph.D., of the College of William and Mary, explores the mystery of libertarianism. Not political libertarianism (the view that government is to be extremely limited), but philosophical libertarianism – the view that we human beings are capable of acting freely. That is, we are not utterly constrained in our choices and actions (because hard determinists do believe exactly that). Do you think we are free to act as we wish? Check out what Professor Vance thinks.

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Is There Hope for Free Will and Moral Choices?

free will November 12th, 2018

One of the oldest questions in psychology, and in other fields such as philosophy, is whether humans have free will. That is, are we able to choose what we will do with our lives?” This is how psychologist Seth Schwartz begins his trenchant piece entitled, simply, “Do We Have Free Will?” This article, which originally appearred on PsychologyToday.com, is particularly relevant to the section of this blog called Applied Psychology. I am eager to present this piece here because this 10-minute read carefully captures the intriguing and vexing issue of free will vs. determinism when it comes to human actions – and, importantly, morality.

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Is the Fear of Death Rational and Appropriate?

fear of death November 5th, 2018

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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Wisdom Quotes by Author Stephen S. Hall

wisdom August 6th, 2018

This blog is third in a series of three blogs which feature wisdom quotes and words of wisdom from the very capable author of Wisdom: From Philosophy to Neuroscience, Stephen S. Hall. He is a science writer for magazines like TNew York Magazine and Scientific American. In this dense yet fascinating book, Hall gives the reader a look into the origin, nature, and scientific findings about wisdom. It is an integrative and enlightening book. I researched it thoroughly, and pulled out many of the best and most succinct wisdom quotes it has to offer. As a proponent of the research ideal, philosophical thinker, and voracious reader, I found the book quite entertaining.

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