Category: Philosophy

Restoring the Soil of Manhood

Many of us are disappointed in ourselves and disappointed in our fellow men. We wonder where the men of honor, courage, and adventure have gone. You can find an answer in an analogy of soil. There is a kind of “soil” that produces men like the Beowulfian heroes of old, men who would skillfully live […]

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Life Can’t Be About Saving the World

For much of my life I’ve found purpose in the idea of saving the world, or at least making it better than the way I found it. In this, I am like many young people and quite a few older ones as well. We all have different ideas about what saving the world looks like, […]

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Feel Challenge, Not Pride, from Your Heritage

If you were born in America, you were gifted with quite a heritage: explorers, craftsmen, warriors, statesmen, sailors, writers, and artists from Henry David Thoreau and Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis and Thomas Edison. Should you take pride in that heritage? (Set aside the bad heritage – and there is plenty of it – let’s […]

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You Don’t Get Credit for the Moral Advances of Others

Oh, you’re anti-racism, hmm? You believe women should have equal rights? You’re against war? You think Nazis are bad? Good. But that belief (and repeating it on social media, etc) doesn’t make you a hero. Being “more enlightened” than your ancestors in these ways doesn’t actually make you smarter or wiser. All of these beliefs […]

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Limiting Variables and a Scientific Argument for Traditionalism

Good scientists know that good experiments limit their variables. They also limit the number of experiments running on a human population at the same given time. So what if human society was a grand experiment? How would our various cultural philosophies handle the running of experiments? How would traditionalism and modernism set up their laboratories? […]

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It Helps To Know a Thing Intimately Before You Reject It

I’ve held a lot of strong positions on things political, cultural, religious, and philosophical in the course of my (short) life. And I’ve changed my mind: a lot. I realize my current positions continue to evolve and will continue to change with time. But – ironically perhaps – I trust my current positions more *because* […]

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Will Your Ancestors Welcome You As an Equal?

“I go to my fathers. And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed. I felled the black serpent. A grim morn, and a glad day, and a golden sunset!” King Theoden, dying on the battlefield of Pelennor in The Lord of the Rings Imagine if after dying you joined all of your forebears in Valhalla, or Hades, or […]

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My Favorite Philosopher Is Me

Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of people who are wiser than me. There are plenty of thinkers and writers more profound. There are plenty more original (I’m certainly influenced by lots of philosophers – some whom I don’t even know). There’s just not anyone else who can do my thinking – and living […]

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Desire Is the Enemy of Courage

It sometimes occurs to me that my passions conspire to keep me from acting courageously. It’s ironic: I want to spend my life doing interesting, adventurous things that require courage. And that very desire often keeps me playing it safe, taking the cautious path. At least, it seems that playing it safe is the “safest” […]

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Amor Fati, But for the Past

It takes as much equanimity to accept the past as it does to accept the future. Friedrich Nietzsche (I think) introduced the notion of “amor fati,” or “love of fate” as a way for humans to reconcile themselves to the uncertainty of the future and the disasters it may bring for each of us. The […]

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Love the Very New and the Very Old

I love old farms and skyscrapers under construction, old cars and Elon Musk’s newest spaceships. I think my ideal way of living would consist of working on a farm (or hunting/gathering out in nature) during the day and working on a high-tech project at night (call it “Jeffersonian futurism.”) I love the very old and […]

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Nothing Done With Love Is Wasted

Sometimes I paralyze myself with my own cynicism and critical mind sometimes. When I am burnt out on the posturing, inauthenticity, the mundanity, or the inanity of something in the mainstream (from soulless corporate jobs to mindless consumerism to self-referential intellectualism), it can be hard to see a way out. Whenever I desire to share, […]

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Your Solution for the World’s Problems Is Meaningless (Without This)

What is the right way to respond to pandemics? What is the right way to educate children? What about healthcare? What’s the right relationship between the sexes? What is the right relationship with family? With tradition? With the past? With religion? What’s the right way to conduct a career? The right way to become a […]

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Do Intellectuals Make Life Any Better?

There’s a path my life could have taken – could still take – toward the life of an intellectual. I’ve just about always been interested in one or more of the favorite intellectual subjects of philosophy, history, politics, theology, economics, psychology, and sociology (whatever that is). I’ve always liked to have big opinions on things. […]

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What You and the Pandemic Virus Have in Common

What can the COVID-19 virus teach us about philosophy? With any virus – but particularly with an especially infectious one – we get a perfect working metaphor for the relationship between individual actions and society. Namely: the only thing that spreads as far and as fast as a pandemic are the consequences of your moral […]

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Fools Leading Fools

I have a special contempt for people who think they can fool the world. These are the people who will tell you that “ordinary people” can’t think. These are people who also fail to exercise the basic thought required to know that 1) they might not be as extraordinarily intelligent as they think and 2) […]

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How Can We Encourage More Empathy?

I’m writing short essays/posts in response to questions submitted by significant donors to my Charity:Water campaign. This is one of them. One reader asks this question: “How should a society encourage and breed empathy in its members?” First, a standard definition of empathy: n. the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. “Society” […]

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Leave a Car-Length: Responsibility, Suffering, and Traffic

Driving in Atlanta tends to make you conscious of traffic and the ways that it can go wrong. In slow or stopped traffic it’s generally a good idea to leave a car-length of space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. If not, you’ll find it’s very easy to get into a […]

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Elitism for Everybody

While not everyone is great, everyone can be. This may be my most American idea. As Gordon Wood argues in American Characters, we live in a populist country founded by elitists: a strange twist in history that has given to a mass population personal role models who had extraordinary (if flawed) personal character. We’re taught […]

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Honor Is a Game of Chess, Not Checkers

“It’s chess not checkers.” That’s what my jiu jitsu coach told me once when I asked about when to or how to use a takedown. In as complex a fighting style as jiu jitsu (just like in chess, as opposed to the simpler game of checkers), there isn’t really a clear answer about when to […]

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You Can’t Fight Your Descendants’ Battles for Them

I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.” – John […]

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You Are Responsible for Your Own Disillusionment

We aren’t so much disillusioned by the failures of others as by our own failures. We aren’t just disillusioned with our ideals because of the corrupt systems at our companies or in our countries. Plenty of people keep their idealism while fighting corrupt systems. We are disillusioned because we go along with the systems. We […]

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Every One of Your Actions Sets a Precedent

I wonder whether scientists like Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer had any inkling in their youth that their work in physics would one day be used to produce nuclear weapons. Yet by cooperating with the government that produced these weapons, these men (even Einstein, more indirectly) created the forces that could destroy all life on […]

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Good Fiction Is Like Case Law

Good fiction is a lot like case law. Stick with me here. You’ve probably been in moral dilemmas before that are harder than some court cases. And you’ve had to play the judge. Should you cover up a friend’s misdoing? Expose it and rat him out? Or expose it and take the blame? Should you […]

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Get Off the Pendulum: The Trap of Reactionary Thinking

When I was younger, I used to enjoy riding Pharaoh’s Fury at the Coastal Carolina fair. This big sphinx-headed boat swung back and forth on a mechanical arm, terrifying and thrilling the riders, and (in our imaginations) we thought about what it would be like if it went upside down – dumping us all out. […]

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The Value of Knowing Awful People

“Surround yourself with people you want to be like.” “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” This is all fine advice. I’ve found it to be true in my own experience. But like all advice, it has its counterpart. As good as it is to have admirable, wonderful […]

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Find Your Play In Your Purpose

Is life about just devoting yourself to some higher cause? Some people say yes. What’s the point of just consuming, reproducing, and dying? This is the purpose camp. Others argue that life is just about having a good time. What’s the point of existing if you don’t get to enjoy existence? This is the play […]

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The Wheat and Tares Grow Up Together: Morality and Judging Historical Eras

Is the 21st century a time of great moral progress? Or is it a time of decadence? Ask different people and you’ll get different answers. In my view, the answer is “both.” On one hand, humans are progressing. The internet and software are breaking down barriers between people and people groups. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and […]

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Game of Thrones Philosophy Breakdown Finale: A Look Back on the Song of Ice and Fire

*SPOILER ALERT FOR GAME OF THRONES, OBVIOUSLY. Don’t listen to this if you haven’t watched the show!* The Night King is dead. Cersei is defeated. The new tyrant Daenerys has been stopped. And our boy Jon and his boy Tormund and their good boy Ghost have ridden off into the sunset of the true North. […]

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Why Be Moral? Let Your Curiosity Have a Say

Why be kind, just, ethical? I’ve already spent a good amount of my time thinking about this question – and there is more than one good answer. But I’ve been fascinated lately by a new way to think about the reasons for “being good”. Perhaps one of the most powerful moral motivators I can imagine is […]

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