Virtue and Character

Virtue and Character A world with eroding standards of conduct Are virtue and character antidotes to the chaos and discord we see every day?Events in the newspapers, social media, and on television leave me feeling the world simply doesn’t make sense. Highly polarized groups can’t have rational discussions. Actions such as the Brexit vote are at odds with people’s best interests. Middle class “normal” kids join terrorist groups, cut off heads,…

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The Times They are A-changin’

Evolving perspectives on Change The times they are a-changin' Bob Dylan's song, "The Times They are a-Changin' " was the anthem for many of my generation. It captured my feelings at the time and the desire many felt to make the world a better place and to do it now. Civil rights, the Vietnam War, the environment, women's liberation -- so much needed drastic change was needed. We were confident…

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Political decay — Insights from Francis Fukuyama

Are we experiencing political decay? Our political situation, particularly the current Presidential election process, is unsettling and unprecedented in my lifetime. Is this political decay or just a rough patch in our political process? I have been trying to determine whether my reaction has some rational basis or is just the emotional response of someone in the last third of life who, like so many before me, feels the world is falling…

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Character should matter in elections

I rarely write about politics but the current presidential election compels me to share some thoughts. I write not to advocate for or against one party or candidate. Instead, I am advocating for a principle.  That principle is that a candidate's character should matter when voting. This may seem to many simplistic, naïve, and Quixotic. But perhaps it is best to look past all the chaos of this election and focus…

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Fearless sifting and winnowing

The recent protests on several college campuses and the response by the leaders of those institutions have raised important issues that deserve public debate. One of the most important is free speech. The question is whether colleges and universities should allow speech by students, faculty, or outside speakers when some, or even most, of the people find the speech offensive. Some historical perspective, as always, is helpful.  In the late 1800's a University…

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So much we don’t understand — spooky action at a distance

For as long as I have known about the theory of quantum mechanics I have been fascinated and awed by what is referred to as "spooky action at a distance."  This is the phenomenon where two subatomic particles are "entangled" and a change in one particle affects the other particle instantaneously even though the particles may be light years apart. It seems foreign and impossible. Even Einstein thought this theory had…

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Mowing the lawn, duty, living your dream, and happiness

I liked the recent New York Times column by Roger Cohen, Mow the lawn, for questioning the all too common advice to "live your dream" or "pursue your passion" as the path to happiness.  He argues that sometimes it is more important to focus on what we need to do even if it is mundane. Dreams are important and can motivate people.  The evidence is strong that doing what you are good…

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Philosophy, Politics, & Democracy — Teaching Plato in Palestine

I believe philosophy is important in living a meaningful life and creating a society that makes that possible.  I found this review of Carlos Fraenkel's book interesting and have put the it on my ever growing reading list. Teaching Plato in Palestine - WSJ Book Review

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FX’s “The Americans” and moral conflict

I am a big fan of "The Americans" TV show on FX.  Its an exciting cold war spy thriller with complex personal relationships and deep moral conflicts.  So I was interested in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (The Mystery of Loyalty, in life and on The Americans) that discusses one of the fundamental conflicts in the show.  That is the conflict between the loyalty one feels to a group…

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Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, and Moral Law

Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, and Moral Law Cormac McCarthy I am a fan of Cormac McCarthy and his book "Blood Meridian."  Re-reading the book recently I noted this passage: "Moral law is an invention of mankind for the disenfranchisement of the powerful in favor of the weak. Historical law subverts it at every turn. " There is insight in this statement. I had not thought of our moral codes in those…

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