Virtues: One or Many?

In a post last week about the value of studying multiple philosophies, I observed that I have not read much Christian theology. As if on queue, I decided to read Augustine’s Of the Morals of the Catholic Church, written in 388 CE. The impetus was a footnote on page 179 of Daniel C. Russell’s bookContinue reading “Virtues: One or Many?”

What Is Philosophy For?

Occasionally one reads something so singularly misguided that it puts into stark relief a vital concern of human existence. In the case at hand, the vital concern is the place of philosophy in the best life for human beings and the piece of writing is a scholarly paper published just last week by philosopher HannoContinue reading “What Is Philosophy For?”

Exploring Philosophies

In his magisterial cultural history of the last 500 years (From Dawn to Decadence), the late Jacques Barzun wrote as follows about the study of history (pp. 568-569): Any writer of history aims at stating the truth, but that is only ancillary to the central role of the discipline, which is to present patterns andContinue reading “Exploring Philosophies”

Decisions Accumulate

In a recent post entitled How a Business Wins, Arnold Kling made the following observation: Building a business, especially an innovative business in a complex environment, requires many, many decisions. You can be lucky with any one decision, but to get enough decisions right to make the business work takes much more than luck. AsContinue reading “Decisions Accumulate”

Means and Ends

Last week we looked at the distinction between internal goods, external goods, and shared goods. At that time I touched on a further distinction between means and ends in life. Here again Aristotle can be of assistance, because he discusses these matters in his two major books about character and action, which have come downContinue reading “Means and Ends”

Good Things Come in Threes

In my recent post There’s No Such Thing as the Mind, I expressed astonishment at a statement by Italian philosopher Maurizio Ferraris to the effect that one’s body is part of the external world. This raises the question of what exactly is internal vs. external, and how to categorize the various good things we valueContinue reading “Good Things Come in Threes”

Thoughts, Actions, Values

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics famously begins with the following sentence (as translated by W.D. Ross): Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim. We can see here a point ofContinue reading “Thoughts, Actions, Values”

It’s Values All the Way Down

One often hears the claim that science must be value-neutral, especially in social sciences like economics, psychology, and sociology. This claim is one instance of fact-value dualism: the doctrine that facts are facts, values are values, and never the twain shall meet. Another instance of this dualism is the assertion (traceable to British empiricist DavidContinue reading “It’s Values All the Way Down”


While reading the autobiography of Charles Darwin a few weeks ago, I came across the following passage: I rejoice that I have avoided controversies, and this I owe to [Charles] Lyell, who many years ago, in reference to my geological works, strongly advised me never to get entangled in a controversy, as it rarely didContinue reading “Controversies”


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