Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence. –Abigail Adams

There are a number of critical thinking processes, for our consideration, gentle reader, I am going to offer us two of them this morning; I will offer two more in PART II.

Gentle reader, if you have been following my blog for some time you know that I love questions.  I believe that we think differently when we reflect upon certain questions in order to ‘seek to understand’ than when we ‘seek to take action.’  For each process I will be offering us a number of questions to ‘consider’ – to reflect upon in order to ‘understand’ and to ‘take action.’ These are not the only questions that we might consider; others might emerge into your consciousness.  I invite you to note them and to spend time reflecting upon them.

PROCESS #1: Being contextually aware and, given the context, choosing what to observe and consider.  This includes an awareness of what is emerging/occurring in the context of the situation, including values, cultural issues, and environmental influences.

  • What was/is going on in this situation/context that may influence the outcome?
  • What factors contributed/contribute to behaviors taken/being considered?
  • What else was/is happening simultaneously that affected/may affect me/us in this situation?
  • What emotional responses influenced/might influence how I/we reacted/react in this situation?
  • What information is missing? What information might be missing?
  • How might I/We go about obtaining the missing information?
  • What about this situation have I/We seen before? What is different/dissimilar?
  • What’s important and what’s not important in this situation? How do I/We determine both?

PROCESS #2: Exploring and Imagining Alternatives.  This involves thinking about and imaging additional ways of looking at the situation, not just the first things that emerge into my/our consciousness. This also involves exploring as many alternatives as I/We can think of for the given situation.

  • What is one possible explanation for [insert: what is happening]?
  • What are additional explanations for what is happening?
  • What is one thing I/We could do given this situation?
  • What are two more possibilities/other alternatives?
  • What else would I/We want to know in this situation?
  • Are there others who might be able to help me/us develop more alternatives?
  • Of the possible actions I/We are considering, which one or two appear to be the most reasonable/rational? Why are the others I/We have discarded not as reasonable/rational?
  • Are there additional resources that I/We might/could/should mobilize?

[Critical thinking is crucial] because an educated electorate is a powerful electorate. Because an informed citizenry is the greatest defender of freedom. Because an enlightened government is a democratizing government. –Kofi Annan



During these past 54 years I have experienced three deep depressions.  The first occurred when I was 20, the second when I was 31 and the third when I was 60.  I have also had a number of ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ experiences.  For me, deep depressions are emotional experiences and dark nights are spiritual experiences.  There are similarities yet they are not the same….not by a long shot.

During both my deep depressions and during my dark night experiences I have been blessed with guides, psychologists/psychiatrists and spiritual directors/guides.  I have also been blessed during these times with one or two friends who I trusted enough to walk with me as I roamed the deep dark woods or walked in the wilderness or in the desert.

The ‘professional’ who guided me during my deep depression when I was 31 was a ‘Jungian.’  With his help I experienced the power of my dreams.

When I was 31 I was ‘lost.’  I was struggling with the questions: ‘Whose life am I leading?’  ‘Who am I?’  ‘Why am I here?’ ‘Where am I going?’  ‘What choice do I have in determining where I am going?’ 

I ‘held’ these questions and practiced the discipline of capturing my dreams in writing.  As I was developing the discipline of ‘dream interpretation’ I would share my dream with my therapist and he would guide me through an interpretation.  As I developed the ability to interpret my dreams I would ‘interpret’ them before I met with my therapist.  When we met I would then share my interpretation with him.

There were during this time 2-3 dreams that were ‘break-through’ dreams for me.  Here is one of them.

THE DREAM:  I was an adult riding in a car.  I was sitting in the back sit.  My mother was driving the car.  I asked her where we were going.  She replied that we were going on a journey.  In the dream I closed my eyes.  When I opened them I found myself sitting in the front seat of the car.  My mother was still driving the car.  All of a sudden my mother pulled over to the side of the road.  She stopped the car.  Left the keys on the dashboard.  She got out of the car.  Turned to me.  She smiled.  She walked away.  I was terrified.  I had no idea where I was.  I had no idea where I was going?  The sun was just coming up, rising behind me.  I found myself sitting behind the steering wheel.  I looked at the keys.  I picked them up.  I started the car.  I decided that turning around and going back would not be helpful – although it was an inviting idea.  I pulled back onto the road.  With the sun rising behind me, I drove off into the shadows.

Gentle reader, I am not going to ‘interpret’ this dream for you.  What I invite you to do, however, is to recall a time in your life when you had a ‘break-through’ experience.  An experience so powerful that you are the person you are today as one result of that experience.

As I continue to travel down my life’s road today the sun continues to rise behind me and I continue to drive into the shadows.

Gentle reader, I concluded PART II with this:

‘This is my guilt, all mine!’  Ah, gentle reader…Is it?  Is it all Creon’s?

Ah, gentle reader, is Creon correct?  Is the guilt all his?  He was, it is true, unbending.  Might we not say the same of Antigone?  After all, if Antigone had submitted to the law, there would have been no suicides; there would have been not tragedy.

The tragedy occurs because both Creon and Antigone were stubborn.  Both engaged in a ruthless simplification of conflicting values and this simplification effectively blocked and eliminated conflicting obligations.

Yet… For thousands of years Antigone has been – continues to be – more admired.  Why?  Consider this.

One part of the answer is rooted in the conversation I quoted from between Creon and the Chorus.  Creon, after engaging in moral reflection, saw his error.  The Chorus’s position – and the position of thousands of others – was that Creon should have thought all of this out prior to his taking action.  Creon reacted and his reaction was not rooted in moral reflection.

Creon’s moral error came in not being morally reflective prior to announcing his judgment.  Antigone, by contrast, holds a lengthy conversation with her sister, Ismene, prior to her taking a stance against Creon and the ‘law.’  We know that Antigone thought long and hard on both the moral right and the moral wrong involved and she thought hard about the consequences of her action.  How do we know all of this?  We ‘see’ her do it (We who watch the tragedy unfold).

Antigone, unlike Creon, is morally reflective AND she engages in this process before deciding what action to take.  Creon engages in moral reflection – with the help, perhaps insistence – of the Chorus after the tragedy has occurred.  Had there been no tragedy Creon would not have engaged in moral reflection at all.

Engaging in moral reflection before we act is, I think, always a challenge – if not difficult – and it also consumes a great deal of our time and energy.  On the other hand, it is not possible to be a person rooted in moral integrity without engaging the process of moral reflection.  Socrates, we know, declared that the unexamined life is not worth living.  As I have noted before, Robert K. Greenleaf ups the ante when he writes: to refuse to examine the assumptions one lives by is immoral.

‘Moral Reflection’ is a value, a guiding principle and a process that each of us is called to embrace.  Following your conscience is not good enough.  WHAT!?  Consider: that when a person takes little trouble to find out what is moral, what is true, and what is good and is simply guided by ‘conscience’ then, like Creon, tragedy can easily run amok.  By the by, being morally ignorant is no excuse.  We, each of us, have an obligation to discern the moral, the true and the good.  As a moral being, I must engage in moral reflection.  I must engage the process, if at all possible, prior to taking action.  At minimum, like Creon, I must engage the process after I take action.  Ideally, I will engage the process prior to taking action AND after I have taken action.

Creon might have benefited from Albert Einstein’s words: Power always attracts people with no moral values.



Gentle reader, I concluded PART I with two questions: Who showed the greater integrity, Creon or Antigone?  Were both Creon and Antigone acting rooted in integrity?

For more than two thousand years many folks have struggled with these questions.  This morning, let us struggle a bit with them.

First, consider the possibility that Creon, in his inflexible insistence that his rebellious nephew must be punished acts with more integrity than Antigone (remember, by refusing his nephew the burial-ritual that his nephew would then have to wander for eternity between earth and Hades; he would, indeed become a lost soul).

Now for me, and for others throughout the centuries, Creon is hardly a person that elicits sympathy.  On the other hand, Creon is clear and steadfast in following the law – in seeking to uphold ‘Justice.’  His integrity is rooted in the ‘Law.’  He shows no favorites, he makes no exceptions.  Even his nephew will be treated ‘fairly’ and ‘equally’ under the ‘ethic of law and justice.’

How about Antigone?  She made no protest when the punishment was carried out against the other Theban citizens who had joined in the rebellion and she certainly did not seek to honor the dead of those rebels that were not Thebans.  Only when the burial of her brother was forbidden did Antigone choose to act.  When she chose to act she was clear about her reasons: Zeus commanded that the burial must take place AND familial love also commanded that her brother not be denied entrance to Hades – that he not be condemned to wander the space between earth and Hades for eternity.  Antigone was also rooted in ‘law’ – the law of the gods; she was also rooted in love – familial love.  Two obligations rooted in integrity.

Remember, Antigone’s argument is not rooted in a universal position – ALL should be treated as her brother and provided the appropriate burial.  She demonstrated no care for any of the other rebels.  And yet…

And yet, it also seems clear to us that Sophocles intends for us to see Creon as the villain and Antigone as the person to be admired and emulated.  Consider, if you will, how Sophocles builds the dramatic tension as Creon begins to have second thoughts.

First, Creon’s own son, Antigone’s fiancé, urges Creon to release her and is furious when Creon chooses not to; he disowns his father.  Then, a prophet shows up (Ah, these prophets, they always show up at the most inopportune times).  The prophet warns Creon: ‘Stubbornness and Stupidity are twins.’

Creon finally recants his decree.  Too late (this is a tragedy after all).  Creon rushes to free Antigone.  Too late.  She has hanged herself.  Creon’s son, in a rage (‘rage’ is embedded in ‘tragedy’) tries to kill his father, misses and kills himself.  A distraught Creon stumbles back to the palace, haunted by the Chorus, which taunts him: ‘You have learned justice, though it comes too late.’  And then Creon learns that his wife has killed herself in despair over the death of her son.  Creon cries out: ‘This is my guilt, all mine!’

‘This is my guilt, all mine!’  Ah, gentle reader…Is it?  Is it all Creon’s?

A Guiding Life-Principle: At all times – Act, rooted in integrity. –RWS

As I have noted – indeed, emphasized – in a number of my posts, ‘Discernment’ is one of the – if not ‘The’ – crucial disciplines when it comes to acting rooted in integrity. For me, one of the classic studies in Integrity is contained in Sophocles’ play Antigone.

Consider, gentle reader, that in our Culture we have an admiration for a person’s capacity to sacrifice all for the sake of principle. We believe that this capacity is rooted in Integrity. A brief exploration of Sophocles’ play Antigone might help us more fully understand.

First, as Joe Friday would say, just the facts (it helps to be of a certain age to know who ‘Joe’ is and why this line is so important – but I digress).

Creon became the ruler of Thebes when two brothers, heirs to the throne, killed one another (literally, killed one another). These two brother had two sisters, Antigone was one of them.

The older brother had been displaced by the younger brother. He left town, hid out, raised an army and attacked Thebes in order to claim his throne. Immediately after the battle, the older brother’s army was defeated and left town, Creon became king (women at that time could not become the ‘ruler’ so the girls were ‘out’).

Creon declared that no citizen who dies fighting for the city-state’s enemies may be buried, instead the corpse must be left to rot outside of the city’s walls and be consumed by the birds and wild animals. This left the elder brother out in the cold – literally – to rot and be consumed.

Antigone, Creon’s niece, and sister to the rotting rebel, defies Creon’s edict. She buries her brother. Her rationale: She is acting out of love and she is obeying the god, Zeus. Both of these are big deals.

Creon, being caught between a rock and a hard place and being a fully human being rooted in both the ‘law’ and in his own ‘self-image’ condemns Antigone to death (the penalty for breaking this law of ‘unburial’). Antigone is walled up in a cave. More things happen. Creon changes his mind. Too late. Antigone, her sister, her fiancé (Creon’s son) and Creon’s wife, all die.

It is ‘right’ to obey the ‘law’ of man and it is ‘right’ to follow the ‘law’ of the gods. Creon acted, rooted in the first ‘law’ and Antigone acted, rooted in the second. For thousands of years hundreds, if not thousands, of questions have emerged as a result of this dilemma (thanks Sophocles). For our purposes, here are two questions I invite you, gentle reader, to hold (you might desire more information and so I invite you to read the play before reflecting upon the questions):

Who showed the greater integrity, Creon or Antigone? Were both Creon and Antigone acting rooted in integrity?

Love the questions themselves. –Rainer Maria Rilke

These are the questions that continue to be raised.  There also continues to be moderate-to-considerable disagreement on how they should be responded to.  For example, even today, not all feminists share the view that there is something like a separate and different ‘ethic of care.’  There does seem to be a ‘near –consensus’ that any adequate morality must include as a strong component the types of moral considerations that have come to be identified as belonging to a morality of caring.

One of the most significant deep conversations has been concerned with how justice and care can appropriately be combined from a feminist point of view.  Here’s a question that continues to be held: How does the framework of justice-equality-rights-obligations mesh with the network of care-relatedness-trust?

To consider, perhaps believe, that justice and care should predominate in different domains (Think: Justice in the public domain and Care in the private) seems less than helpful since feminists, generally, reject the traditional public-private distinction itself.

Clearly, for example, justice within the household is needed in order to protect its members from domestic violence and to ensure that women are not exploited in the name of ‘care.’  At the same time, more care is needed in social arrangements and in public policy decisions about a wide variety of issues/challenges/topics.  Those concerned with health and welfare might well be the most obvious.

A satisfactory morality should, to the extent possible, offer guidance for moral concerns in any context (Think: political, legal, international, etc.).  My current thinking is that ‘context’ is highly relevant to any adequate moral evaluation and that different approaches are best for different contexts.

Consider another possible way of seeking to reconcile justice and care.  Think of justice as setting moral minimums beneath which we ought not to fall and think of care as dealing with questions of the ‘good, beautiful and true’ – of putting human value over and above the obligatory minimum of justice.

Traditional moral theorists often view morality as composed of constraints.  Feminist moral theorists, in contrast, stress the value of good relationships – personal and civil – and of emotions conducive to leading virtuous lives.

Certainly justice can be ever more attainable in the sense of gaining an increasingly sensitive understanding of rights, equality and respect; thus, to think of justice in terms of the necessary constraints of morality may be misleading.  And certainly there are minimums of care that must be provided for persons to reach adulthood and to live a healthy life (Think: Healthy = Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Spiritual and Social life).

Feminist moral theorists continue to seek to develop ways of dealing with actual life-challenges by engaging in, and honoring, both the siblings we call: Justice and Care.

Philosophy is concerned with two matters: soluble questions that are trivial and crucial questions that are insoluble. –Stefan Kanfer



In the different voice of women lies the truth of an ethic of care, the tie between relationship and responsibility, and the origins of aggression in the failure of connection. –Carol Gilligan

The ‘Feminist Focus’ is not exclusive.  Feminists, generally, do not believe that an ‘Ethic of Care’ should replace an ‘Ethic of Justice’ – the ‘Ethic of Care’ is ‘Care-Focused’ not ‘Care-Centered.’  As we know, if we have been paying attention at all these past 70+ years, feminists believe that women need and deserve more ‘justice’ and ‘fairness’ than they have received in political life, on the job, at school, and at ‘home’ (Think: Division of labor at home).  Where ‘Care’ is perhaps most prominent – within the family and in the context of health and welfare – ‘Justice’ is surely needed as well.

Feminists seeking to develop moral theories of knowledge more fruit-full than the traditional theories have also attended to ‘Care’ as a moral consideration that ought to inform and form a process of moral inquiry.  Consider that if I am rooted in ‘Justice’ I will consider a process of moral inquiry that can easily become ‘Justice-Centered’ rather than ‘Justice-Focused.’  The same, by the by, can be said about ‘Care.’  If I am rooted in ‘Care’ I will consider a process of moral inquiry that can easily become ‘Care-Centered’ rather than ‘Care-Focused.’  A major challenge is to become rooted in a ‘Care-Justice’ process of inquiry.  We move from the age-old ‘either-or’ trap to embracing a ‘both-and’ focus.

Feminists, like the rest of us, are not of ‘one mind’ – thankfully, for if they were then ‘group-think’ would be running amok amongst them/us.  Feminists, thankfully, have been – continue to be – engaged in lively debates, discussions, and dialogues about ‘Care’ and ‘Justice.’  Progress has been made – some has been considerable – in developing feminist views of morality.

As you might know gentle reader, I love questions.  I especially love the questions that we are charged to ‘hold’ and perhaps, over time, live into the answers (Thanks: Rainer Maria Rilke).  Here are a few questions focusing on ‘Justice <->Care’:

  • Are they compatible?
  • Are they alternative and incompatible ways of interpreting the same moral situations?
  • If so, how might we go about deciding which ‘should’ guide us?
  • Are ‘Care’ and ‘Justice’ both indispensable for adequate moral understanding?
  • Should ‘Care’ supplement ‘Justice’ or ‘Justice’ supplement ‘Care’?
  • Is one more ‘fundamental’ than the other? If ‘Yes,’ then: Which one and Why?  If ‘No,’ is there another concept that is ‘more fundamental’ and if so, ‘What’ is it and ‘Why’ is it?
  • If ‘Justice<->Care’ are siblings joined at the hip, do they apply to ALL domains?
  • Can either one be included within the other, as a ‘Special Case?’ If so, which is more comprehensive…’Justice’ or ‘Care’?

Love the questions themselves. –Rainer Maria Rilke