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
May 5th, 2021
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
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
July 3rd, 2020
As I write, America is smack-dab in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Fifty states, for the first time ever, have declared emergencies. The economy has ground to a screeching halt. Social isolation, disease, and domestic violence are wracking our decaying country. These are hard times.
You know which groups of people are making it harder— and obviously endangering others’ lives, with their moral irresponsibility? Soulless politicians, stupid adolescents, ignorant worshippers, criminals, and misguided anti-science types. This utter lack of wisdom, principles, and insight speaks to the low level of moral and often psychological development on these individuals’ parts, and as I said, their choices can cost people’s lives. Since they are all essentially libertarians, the irony should be noted.
June 25th, 2020
Eleanor and Gilbert Kraus are very likely two of the greatest unsung heroes in American history – at least, in Jewish history. I watched a documentary about their courageous acts (in 1939), which amounted to nothing less than a full-throated display of magnanimity and altruism. Here is their story. I will also include a selection of quotations about magnanimity by noted Holocaust survivors, human rights activists, altruism researchers, and stalwart exemplars of virtue and honor such as Elie Wiesel, Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Viktor Frankl.Read More
May 13th, 2020
“I don’t think President Trump reflects any of the values that I learned in the military. I don’t see integrity in him. I don’t see honor. I don’t see courage.”
So says United States Marine, Hunter Henderson. Considering how thin-skinned and vindictive Trump is, it was very courageous for Henderson to “come out of the closet” and speak truth to power.
There is no case that can be made that Donald Trump is honorable, courageous, principled, or good. His proponents might say, “Well, I don’t agree with some of what he says, but I agree with many of his positions.” In the field of ethics that is called the end justifying the means (when the means are dirty or wrong, and the end of those means is supposed to—predicted to—be positive and fruitful.
I like politics, as you probably know. But my business is real estate investing. Here is how character matters in this field:Read More
April 7th, 2020
I just watched the movie 300, based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller. If you haven’t seen it, you may want to go for it. It is bloody; savage even; but it tells a story of solidarity that is compelling in any time and place, but particularly so now that America is facing down a mortal enemy: the virus, COVID-19. This blog is a paean to first responders, doctors, and parents who have to now teach their kids; it is in praise of those who lost a job due to no fault of their own; it is a criticism of the federal government; it is a recounting of some of the tough spots Americans have been in since the tumultuous colonial era which led to war with England. Heroism and self-sacrifice are called for during these dark days.Read More
February 28th, 2020
The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 10% of its value this week, probably two or three trillion dollars of wealth evaporated. Now, I think that the stock market is a foolish “bet” but I do have all of my retirement income tied up in it (for some complicated reasons I shouldn’t get into). I feel this very keenly since I lost $100,000 in the time it took my orchid to put out a flower. However, now we know what is causing the global contraction and the loss of profit. Commentator Joe Scarborough talked of the market usually as being “like witchcraft” – capricious – but there is a clear cause for all this volatility and fear: Supply chains have been shattered. Conferences being cancelled. “This terrifies investors,” he said. It’s much about loss of profits and uncertainty – will this slow-moving and hard-to-contain disease last for longer than 6 or 9 months? Scarborough said, “the snowball is just starting to roll down the hill.” I think the major reason America is in jeopardy is that Donald Trump leading America during a major crisis. This is more or less the chickens coming home to roost when it comes to Republicans in power, though. At bottom, this crisis is both an opportunity and a danger, one in which Trump faces a demanding test of his responsibility and prudence. It is about wisdom and virtue and character. Don’t hold your breath.Read More
October 23rd, 2019
I thought about the question, Are human beings selfish?, when I received this snippet of an article from a friend: “Advocates of capitalism understand, as the classical economists understood centuries ago, that government and social institutions must be designed for the human beings that actually exist — callous self-interest and all.” That thought, from The Mises Institute, a capitalistic/libertarian think tank, is making a fair point that can be examined to see how fully and completely true it is. That is what I will do in this blog. As a sneak peek, my answer to the question, Are human beings selfish? will be “Yes, to some degree, but not to the exclusion of all other high values.”Read More
October 11th, 2019
What happened to America’s heroes? True, we have television shows now that elevate someone as a crafty and lucky game show contestant, a dexterous modern ninja, or a brave kid with astounding talent. As I write, the Trump scandal about Ukraine is unfolding. I turned off the television when he alluded to capital punishment for the folks in the White House who were implicated as informants on his repetitive, unpatriotic scandals. Frankly, the most we tend to see about this abomination of an Administration are anonymous opinion pieces in a newspaper, folks being forced to resign for not toeing the line, and occasionally someone will sort of allude to the fact that they left the Administration because they weren’t seeing eye to eye with Trump. Where are the heroes who stand up and say they will not accept scandalous, unethical, and outrageous behavior on the part of the President?Read More