Tag Archives for " Barry Schwartz "

Mar 09

Watch Barry Schwartz Talk About Moral Wisdom

By kevin | Decision Making , Ethics

A fine video on the topic of practical wisdom by Barry Schwartz.  I was particularly taken on his point of view on “practical wisdom.”

“Practical wisdom,” Aristotle told us, “is the combination of moral will and moral skill.” A wise person knows when and how to make the exception to every rule, as the janitors knew when to ignore the job duties in the service of other objectives. A wise person knows how to improvise,as Luke did when he re-washed the floor. Real-world problems are often ambiguous and ill-defined and the context is always changing. A wise person is like a jazz musician — using the notes on the page, but dancing around them, inventing combinations that are appropriate for the situation and the people at hand. A wise person knows how to use these moral skills in the service of the right aims. To serve other people, not to manipulate other people. And finally, perhaps most important, a wise person is made, not born. Wisdom depends on experience, and not just any experience. You need the time to get to know the people that you’re serving. You need permission to be allowed to improvise, try new things, occasionally to fail and to learn from your failures. And you need to be mentored by wise teachers.”

Dec 05

Obama’s Paradox

By kevin | Current Affairs , Decision Making

With great care I draw your attention to an article by Lee Siegel called The Zero-Sacrifice Presidency.

Obama tells us that we can have quality, universal health care without increasing the deficit. He tells us that he intends to have the 9/11 detainees given a fair trial in a civilian court but assures us that the trials will end in convictions. He declares that he will wage war in Afghanistan, but pledges to start bringing the troops home in 18 months. And everybody nevertheless takes these contradictory, irreconcilable statements seriously, as they parse, analyze, scrutinize Obama’s every word for some kind of coherent meaning. The president is like the character Chance in the novel and movie Being There, whose every fatuous utterance was celebrated for its profundity.

Some of Obama’s defenders chastise his exasperated listeners for their inability to detect the president’s “complexity.” But a fantasy of universal popularity that panders to every conflicting interest simultaneously is not the same thing as “complexity.” It is complexity if I tell my wife that I have to move to another state where I know I can find work, but that I realize the strain it will put on our marriage, and that I know the effect it will have on our child, and that I am aware of the consequences of such an attempt if I don’t find a job, having spent so much money on moving and establishing myself in a new place. It is not complexity if I tell my wife that I have to move to another state where I know I can find work, but that I will be back next week, and with lots of money.

In the spirit of full disclosure, my caution is based on two points.  The first is that I was and largely still am an Obama supporter (though I fully admit my reasons may not be rational).  The second is that I made a promise to myself that I would stop writing political screeds. So why this?Continue reading