Halloween Horrors and Hypocrisy

The last of the neighborhood children are dribbling in, ready to reach into the proffered bowl of candy and stuff a few more unhealthy calories into their sacks. As the end of October approaches each year, I go through the same mental gyrations. Should I fight the fakery of Halloween and leave the front lights off or should I give in and play into the hands of Mars and Hershey, and bribe the kids with candy? Candy usually wins because I enjoy seeing the kids who show up; they are usually gone off to school before I take my morning walk. We still live in a suburban neighborhood, holding out… Read More

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Sandy’s Positive Power

Sandy is coming, but when and how strong? She is the biggest, in terms of the affected area, of any hurricane in historical records. I am sitting in front of my computer wondering when the screen will go black and I get disconnected from one of my several worlds. Some people around Cape Cod have already lost power and have been told it may be three days before the lights go back on. New York City is literally shutting down. All of a sudden, the power of nature shows up against the everyday consciousness that we are her masters. And our impotence to respond also shows up when the tools… Read More

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Wicked Problems

After my post yesterday, I got a comment that my argument that pragmatism is the only framework for dealing with the always messy problems of real life is mistaken. Mike argued that pragmatism can lead only to fallible truths or propositions and any absolute-sounding such as I made is self-contradictory in this sense. I agree, but only on the surface. It does sound paradoxical, but I still believe it is true in a pragmatic sense. For me, I cannot see a better way to go. Pragmatism does work in complex situations. Any other formulation or philosophical basis I know about always comes back to being a form of pragmatism, methodologically… Read More

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Sustainability, Politics, and Pragmatism

I know that everyone is sated with political talk at this point in the election cycle, but I cannot get away from it. You have probably guessed where I will come down on Election Day; my choice of Obama is completely clear to me. I have many points in my path to this choice, but let me focus on just one, one that is tightly bound to my concerns for sustainability. Obama has been called a pragmatist before and since he became President in both a positive and pejorative sense. For me, this descriptor is both positive and essential. The pluses of operating from a pragmatic, rather than an ideological… Read More

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Plain Talk (redux)

I beat the NYTimes by a few days. Check out this column. Here’s the opening paragraph. > IMAGINE a presidential candidate who spoke with blunt honesty about American problems, dwelling on measures by which the United States lags its economic peers. That’s it.

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Plain Talk

I often write about authenticity as an essential attribute for flourishing and hence, for sustainability. Although this quality has great import in the model of human being I associate with flourishing, it is difficult to observe in action, and virtually impossible to recognize in a single event. Only the actor really can tell if he or she is acting out of true caring, metaphorically responding to an inside voice; not following the voices of the surrounding world. But, in place of interpreting some physical action, is it possible to listen to the actor’s words and assess how well they are connected to the inside and outside world. The absence of… Read More

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Inauthentic Speech is Dangerous to Our Souls

The editorial in today’s NYTimes (10/13/2012) takes Candidate Romney to task for his tendency to tell the audience whatever they want to hear, while keeping the same old positions in his body waiting to emerge, if elected. > There isn’t really a Moderate Mitt; what is on display now is better described as Convenient Mitt. Anyone willing to advocate extremism to raise money and win primaries is likely to do the same to stay in office. Politically speaking, I think that epithet is a good one, but I have my own related to sustainability, Inauthentic Mitt. Putting my political opinions aside for a moment (hard to do), Romney’s manner of… Read More

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What We Do Not Hear in the Debates

I listened to Gus Speth talk about his new book, America the Possible, yesterday afternoon. This is his third book in what might be called a trilogy, with echoes to John Dos Passos’s massive USA trilogy of the 1930’s, The 42nd Parallel, 1919, and The Big Money. Dos Passos’s novels, written in a highly unconventional style, depicted the lives of a group of families struggling to become rooted in the US society of the early 20th century. It is impossible to capture the work in a few words, but here goes.The theme relevant for this blog is how the social and political system of that period thwarted the dreams and… Read More

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Pragmatic Truth and Politics

I am teaching a course on Pragmatism this semester at my program for retirees. Right now we are taking up the pragmatism of William James after spending a few sessions on C. S. Pierce, the father of American pragmatism. James took Pierce’s theory of meaning and applied it to the concept of truth and came up with a definition that is both powerful and easily misinterpreted. Pierce gave us the idea, his Pragmatic Maxim, that the meaning of any concept was to be understood by thinking about all the conceivable outcomes of applying it in practical situations. The entire meaning of that concept was contained in the whole of those… Read More

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The Sustainability College Rankings Racket

It’s always pleasant to find confirmation of one of my favorite targets for scorn in the “legitimate” media. Joe Nocera’s NYTimes [column](http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/29/opinion/nocera-the-silly-list-everyone-cares-about.html?_r=0) on September 28th took the latest U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings to task, arguing, as I often have, that the methodology doesn’t justify the precision of the numbers. If I didn’t know better, I might guess he was cribbing from one of my earlier posts on the folly of these rankings, whether of colleges, green companies, or sustainable products. Here’s his own words. I couldn’t have said it better. > The U.S. News & World Report’s annual college rankings came out earlier this month and —… Read More

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