Dr. Johnson On Moral Philosophy As A Cornerstone Of Education

We have here very frequently discussed the necessity of training in character and the virtues as a lifelong activity.  This subject is the concern of moral philosophy:  that is, the study of conduct and the virtues.  It is through moral philosophy that a man’s passions are bridled, directed, and channeled for positive use.  Without this discipline, he never learns to sublimate his ego to a higher purpose; he begins to think of himself as an emperor, a man beyond the reach of the rules and obligations that apply to everyone else.  Selfishness, arrogance, and close-mindedness creep into the subconscious, eventually to dominate every waking impulse.

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Where Have All The Leaders Gone? (Podcast)

Does it sometimes seem as if there are no leaders of substance any more? That, as we look around the world, or around our nation, every so-called “leader” is a mediocrity who does nothing of consequence? Did leaders of previous eras have better character and overall fortitude? We ask whether this sweeping generalization has some elements of truth, and make some related observations.

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The Eight Qualities Of The Man Of Understanding

One of the first and greatest classics of Arabic prose is the Book of Kalila and Dimna.  It is a collection of fables told with an allegorical purpose, but it is presented with such wisdom, poetic eloquence, and engaging humor as to make it one of the treasures of world literature.  Its pedigree verifies its merit.  The stories it contains were originally derived from a Sanskrit classic called the Panchatantra, but a Persian scholar and translator named Ibn Muqaffa’ (ابن المقفع‎‎), writing around 740 A.D., reworked the stories into something that was entirely original.

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On The Remaking Of Character

One of the apparent corollaries of the maxim that “character determines fate” is that character is static and unchangeable.  In the majority of cases this is undoubtedly true; but this truth should not be used as a license for us to lie supinely on our backs and let the swerve of the atoms in the void determine our future.  As volitional beings, we must act.  Forward movement is one of the imperatives of masculine virtue.  The negative personality takes refuge in the apparent indifference of the universe; but the active man, the healthy man, is too busy with his own affairs to fret over such exculpatory abstractions.  Each of us is responsible for his own fate.  Having accepted this, we will now ask how character can be modified to suit the will.

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The Character Of Epaminondas

The great Theban general Epaminondas is most famous for his crushing victory over the Spartans in the Battle of Leuctra in 371 B.C.  With this battle the long military influence of Sparta on the Greek peninsula was brought to an end.  He was a man of few words; but when he did speak, his words were worth recording.  The historian Cornelius Nepos relates two anecdotes that are revealing of his character and temperament.

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An Epitaph For Fidel Castro: The Failure Of Self-Mastery


He was from youth a strong-willed and charismatic man, certain of the correctness of his ideas and the importance of his mission. It is probably true that in the beginning he genuinely wanted the best for his country, and he was possessed of a burning desire to right the wrongs he saw all around him. Cuba under his predecessors was little more than a huge plantation, exploited at will by corrupt elites and foreign powers.  His certitude gave him a charisma which the credulity of the commons mistook for leadership.

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The Ways A Man Can Win A Good Name


Every man starting out in life is concerned with gaining notoriety.  He wishes to win a name for himself, and thereby gain the respect of others.  We wish others to see us as we see ourselves; or perhaps we want to remake ourselves into something better than what we once were.

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Your Character Has Two Components


Every man’s character has a dual quality to it.  One quality is etched into every man’s consciousness from birth, more or less.  And this is the quality of reason that Nature herself has endowed us with; it is that which separates us from the unreasoning brutes.

It is a universal quality, in the sense that every man possesses it.  From this rational aspect we get our innate sense of justice and fairness.  It is also what gives man that special curiosity about the world:  it is that which impels him to make inquiries into everything, to investigate everything, and to try to find answers for the riddles of Nature.

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