Crito: Doing What’s Right

In his dialogue, Crito, Plato has Socrates gently admonish his friend, Crito, for his concern over what the uneducated public might think, or might spread by rumour and gossip, and encourages him instead to focus his attention on those ‘reasonable people’ who know the facts and in doing what is right: “Why, my dear Crito, should we pay so much attention to what ‘most people’ think? The really reasonable … (more–>)

Logical Fallacies

Last night at council I referred to seeing what I believed was a >post hoc fallacy in a report, or more properly a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Yeah, I probably annoyed some folks in the audience because I used Latin words and that confused them. But hey, they already think I’m a jerk because I can spell words like egregious and nefarious without using spellcheck, … (more–>)

Skepticism Too Easily Slides Into Cynicism

Years spent in the media, plus decades of independent practice as a writer and social critic honed my native skepticism into a protective psychological barrier against a wide range of social ailments and inappropriate, often dangerous beliefs. It has made me question motives, statements, logic and conclusions, and search for the underlying truths. It motivated me to explore, to examine, to dig deep. To try to understand, not simply … (more–>)

“A” Personalities: A Theory

When someone tells me he is an “A-type” personality, I cannot help but think of the title of Aaron James’ bestselling book: Assholes *A Theory (Anchor Books, New York, 2014). After all, what else would the “A” stand for when someone boasts to the audience he is an alpha male as if the rest of the room was full of less-worthy betas? Self aggrandizement is not … (more–>)

Montaigne on Friendship, Liars and Politics

“I am seeking the companionship and society of such men as we call honourable and talented,” wrote Michel de Montaigne in his essay, On the Three Kinds of Social Intercourse (Book III, 3). “It is, when you reflect on it, the rarest of all our forms…” Montaigne was musing in his essay and others on the nature of not simply friendship, but on what attracted people … (more–>)

Plato’s Apology

Plato records the trial and death of Socrates in four dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito and Phaedo. I’ve been reading The Apology this week and finding in it references that reflect well in today’s world, particularly in politics.* In The Apology – which meant defence in Greek, not saying sorry as it does today – Socrates defends himself against his accusers in a deft and bold way, but … (more–>)

Montaigne: The Depravity of Our Morals

“Our judgments follow the depravity of our morals and remain sick,” wrote Michel de Montaigne in his essay On Cato the Younger (Essay XXXVII, Book I, Screech translation, Penguin Classics, 2003). That’s quite a condemnation.* Montaigne opens that essay by quietly commenting, “I do not suffer from that common failing of judging another man by me.” Would that we all had his strength, not to judge … (more–>)

Examined Lives

Thought and deed. Thought and life. How does a person’s life, their upbringing, their daily toil affect their deepest thoughts, their beliefs, faith and passions? And as outsiders looking in, can we understand a person’s thinking by examining their lives? Can we understand their philosophy that way? I don’t know. Biographies describe the events of a person’s life, but cannot look into their innermost thoughts. Modern … (more–>)

The Trolley Problem

I had read about the “trolley problem” in the past, but not given it much thought until recently when I saw Thomas Cathcart’s little book of that name in the philosophy section of an Indigo bookstore. It’s subtitled, “Would You Throw the Fat Guy Off the bridge? A Philosophical Conundrum.” I, of course, was so intrigued I had to buy it. I have read others of … (more–>)

The Unexamined Life

“The unexamined life,” Socrates declared in his trial, “is not worth living.” His student, Plato, wrote down those words in his account of Socrates’ trial and death, in the book, Apology.* Socrates was speaking for himself and about the value of his life as a thinking person. He was on trial in 399 BCE for impiety – questioning the gods and introducing new gods – and corrupting youth. … (more–>)

The Emperor’s Handbook

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus was considered the last of the “Five Good Emperors” of the Roman Empire. He lived 121-180 CE and died while on campaign in Germany. Like many Roman thinkers of his day, he followed the popular Stoic philosophy and his writing became an important document in the late Stoic phase of classical antiquity. While he ruled, Marcus Aurelius kept notes – written in … (more–>)

Coffee with Cicero

Can you imagine what it would be like today to be able to meet the Roman philosopher, Cicero, for coffee and spend an hour chatting? Or meeting up at a local pub and settling down to a beer or glass of wine? How great would that be to spend an hour with one of the world’s great thinkers? What would you talk about? What wouldn’t you? … (more–>)

Common Sense

When men yield up the exclusive privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon. Thomas Paine, 18th century political activist and political philosopher, wrote that line. It struck me as particularly cogent in light of modern politics and the rise of fanatic, fundamentalist organizations: people who give themselves over to ideologies or to any monolithic cause lose their liberty because they stop thinking … (more–>)

Thirty years later…

In his book of aphorisms, Human, All Too Human, Friedrich Nietzsche described “marriage as a long conversation” like this: When entering a marriage, one should ask the question: do you think you will be able to have good conversations with this woman right into old age? Everything else in marriage transitory, but most of the time in interaction is spent in conversation. In just under two … (more–>)

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