Category: Virtue

Game of Thrones Philosophy Breakdown: S8E4 “The Last of the Starks” – Funerals, Debts, Lovers, and Treason

*SPOILER ALERT FOR GAME OF THRONES, OBVIOUSLY. Don’t listen to this if you haven’t watched the show!* What is the right way to respond to the deaths of others? Should you be more loyal to your family or to your lover? And what explains the power of treason as an idea? The latest Game of Thrones episode […]

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Game of Thrones Philosophy Breakdown: S8E3 “The Long Night” – War, Past Mistakes, and Noble Deaths

*SPOILER ALERT FOR GAME OF THRONES, OBVIOUSLY. Don’t listen to this if you haven’t watched the show!* Do our past mistakes work out for the best? What is the right way to die? And how can reading too many /r/gameofthrones Reddit threads make you less virtuous? This last week brought an epic episode of Game of Thrones that resolved some […]

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Contempt Is the Most Contemptible Emotion

There’s a downside to self-development: it can be very easy to start developing contempt for the people you’re passing. People who don’t go to the gym start to look like slobs. You* start to judge people who watch TV instead of doing creative work. You condemn people who spend more money than they make. Of course, you […]

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Game of Thrones Philosophy Breakdown: S8E2 “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” – Titles, Evil, Memory, and Your Last Night on Earth

*SPOILER ALERT FOR GAME OF THRONES, OBVIOUSLY. Don’t listen to this if you haven’t watched the show!* What is the nature of titles? What really drives evil? And is memory really what makes us human? This week, as the Night King’s army approaches Winterfell, our heroes somehow find time for some of their most reflective moments […]

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Forgiveness Keeps the World Turning

If you’ve ever wronged someone, you might know how the feeling of guilt drags along behind you like a ball and chain. If you’re like me, you tend to judge yourself more harshly even than other people judge you. If you’re like me, you know that living without confessing and receiving forgiveness for a fault […]

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Game of Thrones Philosophy Breakdown: S8E1 “Winterfell” – Free Riders, Obligations, Disclosure, and Leadership

*SPOILER ALERT FOR GAME OF THRONES, OBVIOUSLY. Don’t listen to this if you haven’t watched the show!* We’re excited to be back podcasting on the philosophical themes of Game of Thrones, and the first episode of this final season brought great story and good food for thought. As Jon, Daenerys, and their allies prepare for the […]

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The Courage of Consistency

The older I get, the more I realize how ballsy it is to show up and do the same thing week after week. When I was younger, I had the impression that it was the pursuers of novelty and the unknown who were brave, and the “slaves of routine” were the ones who gave in […]

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Yes, I Do Have An Enemies List

It’s a powerful thing to name your enemies. By naming them, you can keep always in front of you what you’re up against. So I figure I ought to take a page from Arya Stark’s playbook and start keeping tabs on my list of enemies. Some of my enemies are emotions: despair, terror, vindictiveness, arrogance, numbness. […]

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Personal Development Hack: Prioritize By Irritation

I hate being micromanaged. And yet I have a tendency (at least sometimes) to micromanage others. I hate it when people interrupt me. And yet I have a tendency to interrupt. I hate disorder in others. And yet I can sometimes make other people bear the costs of my disorder. It’s been said before, but […]

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Reward Someone’s Faith

Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world in which humans had faith in other humans? Wouldn’t it be nice if people had faith that good wins out over evil, that virtue leads to happiness, and that freedom creates the best kind of society? Answer: it would be very nice. But the faith – the […]

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Irresponsibility Is the Youth-Killer

There’s this myth in our culture that youth is a blank check to be irresponsible. “Have fun and cut loose a little,” older folks tell us, not without a little envy. But being young is not the opposite of being responsible. And to be carefree is not the same as to be irresponsible. In fact, irresponsibility is […]

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Trade Peer Pressure for Past Pressure

“Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. . . Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy Peer pressure is shockingly sneaky. Despite all the warnings against it, I’ve […]

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Use Charity To Become More Practical

If you look closely, you’ll find that even in (especially in) your kind acts to others, you are probably doing an important kindness to yourself. When I think back to the (occasional) times I’ve helped a stranger jump-start a dead car battery, or the time I stopped to assist a stranger with a flat tire, or the times I’ve tried […]

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My Favorite Collected Wise/Inspirational Sayings (from Other People)

Some words just have a magical quality. “To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That’s what everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul – would you understand why that’s much harder?” (from The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand)  Don’t words like those just hit you […]

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Integrity Is Selfish (And Other Thoughts On Being True and False)

As part of my Charity:Water campaign, I’m writing blog posts for people who contribute $25 or more to bring clean water to 23 people. You have a word/topic/question you want me to riff on? I’ll (probably) write it.  This blog post is in response to a question from one donor, who wanted to know about […]

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Ask Forgiveness, And Don’t Give a **** About Getting It

So, you screwed up. And you screwed up so bad (or made a recovery so bad) that you know it’s pointless to ask forgiveness. You know you won’t be forgiven. You should ask forgiveness anyway. To ask forgiveness is about more than just getting forgiveness. It’s a step toward acknowledging and righting a wrong, and […]

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The Call to Entrepreneurship and Our Excuses

Think starting up your dream business is a daunting task? Imagine going straight from being on vacation to starting up a complex refugee rescue mission under the nose of the Nazis – with no prior experience and no preparation. That was 29 year-old stock broker Nicholas Winton’s entrepreneurial story. From 1938 to 1939, Winton successfully […]

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What If I Become Evil?

“You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” – Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight  What if I become evil? This is a great tragedy: to go through life struggling for the good only to become corrupted, to lose, to give in, to actively participate in making the world worse. Many […]

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How Hard Would It Be To Enslave You?

Do you believe you’re free? Ask yourself how hard it would be for someone to enslave you – politically, emotionally, financially, physically, relationally, mentally. Do you have debt? We may no longer have debtor’s prisons, but for all intents and purposes, you are one collection away from losing your choice. Do you have compromised character? While you live […]

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Strong People Don’t Say “I Told You So”

Just like strong people don’t defend themselves, or make excuses, they also don’t say “I told you so.” It is a constant temptation (especially in the workplace), but pointing out in the wake of a mishap that you warned against that mishap is a weak thing to do. To rely on someone else’s catastrophe to […]

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“He Lives In You”: Ancestors, Character, and Immortality

My grandfather has become a stronger presence in my life since he passed away last year. It’s not just that I reminisce more (I do) or look back at pictures or keepsakes (I do that, too). I find myself striving to be as optimistic, good-natured, generous, manly, and dependable as he was. I feel the weight and […]

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I Kinda Understand Ancestor Worship Now

I remember first hearing about the ancestor worship practiced in some world cultures. I was bemused – clearly this was a silly superstition – one of the sillier religious beliefs that wasn’t mine. But now the phenomenon of ancestor worship is starting to make a little more sense as I get older. Because as I get […]

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Redeem the Evil Days

Have you ever wondered how our time will be remembered? You start to ask this question a lot if you’ve read a lot of history. The passage of time can either paint a positive or negative picture of how you and your fellow humans spent your time and your lives. Will people remember the time we were alive as […]

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“I Am Not Those Men”: Distinctive Character and Morality in “Kingdom of Heaven”

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains major spoilers for the ending of Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven.  One of my favorite scenes in all of film comes from Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven.  The Christian lord Balian has organized a (so far) successful defense of Crusader-held Jerusalem against the much larger Muslim forces of Saladin. But he knows […]

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Stop Pretending That Being Good Is Easy

There are a couple of things that make it especially easy for people to do wrong: We refuse to name evil for what it is. We assume we are good.  Evil never appears in obvious guises. We all know it. It’s been said before. And I’ve written a couple of times about how mundane choices can often slip past […]

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Think About Your Family Name Like a Brand

I was driving through Atlanta yesterday when I noticed a family name I recognized decorating a highway sign. You see things like that in Atlanta and in many small towns (like my hometown of Charleston). A few founding families can define a city. That’s interesting if you like history, but the relevant part is how […]

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Your Own Personal Normandy Invasion

I’ve been thinking a lot today about the young people of the Allied liberation of France, which started 74 years ago today with the invasion of Normandy. Many of them were several years younger than I am now, but they took on a challenge bigger than any I’ve ever faced. I almost can’t write about […]

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Curiosity Is the Enemy of Conceit

I am a selfish person, but occasionally my selfishness helps to temper my conceit. In a room full of strangers, my default mode is the curious interviewer. I ask people about themselves, about their plans, and about their experiences. If I have to talk about myself, I typically keep things short and understated so I […]

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