Friday, December 14, 2018

The Brain and Seven Virtues


Just for fun I decided to view these seven virtues against the back-drop of current world events. Each brain has its own perspective of these seven virtues.

·        Prudence from prudentia meaning "seeing ahead, sagacity") is the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason. 

·        Justice is the virtue which regulates humans in their dealings with others. Connected to justice are the virtues of gratitutde, piety, and religion. 

·       Fortitude that Thomas Aquinas ranks third after prudence and justice and equates with brave endurance. Patience and perseverance are qualities (or virtues) related to fortitude.

·        Temperance is the virtue which moderates in accordance with reason the desires and pleasures of the sensuous appetite. Related to temperance are the virtues of continence, humility, and meekness.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Brain and “Virtue”, 3


According to Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato, the four most desirable character traits in a human being were: temperance, wisdom, justice, and courage (or fortitude). “Many the time when my eight-year-old self would become a slight bit impatient about the length of a visit to the sick or the length of time it was taking to memorize a new piece of music, my father would solemnly quote, “Patience is a virtue.” I was reminded of that while reading about the Science of Generosity, defined as the “virtue” of giving good things to others freely and abundantly. I even recall going to the public library and looking up the words patience and virtue and didn’t seem to find they were particularly connected. I did discover that some theologies took temperance, wisdom, justice, and courage and added to them faith, hope, and charity—making seven virtues. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Brain and “Virtue”, 2


Excellence has been defined as the quality of being outstanding or extremely good in doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. But who or what decides what is right and what is wrong? Which “brain” determines the criteria? Therein lies the conundrum. Children grow up consciously or subconsciously absorbing what the “big people” in their life “DO” in terms of behaviors and what their role-models “DO” has far more impact on a child’s perception than what the parents, grandparents, teachers, or care-providers say. This means that the definition of “excellence” along with “Virtue,” is very subjective and depends in large part on what a child was exposed to growing up. The good news is that a human brain can evaluate what it learned it childhood and decide whether or not it wants to continue down that road or take another road. You may recall the poem by Robert Frost that ends with these lines:  Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Brain and “Virtue”


One doesn’t hear much about “virtue” these days. Growing up, I certainly heard more about it than in recent years. I was taught that the word itself referred to behavior showing high moral standards; a quality considered morally good or desirable in an individual and something to be practiced whether the person was alone—with no one watching—or when with others. Indeed the Latin words virtus and the Ancient Greek ρετή "arete" refer to moral excellence. So what is “moral excellence? The term moral was defined in several dictionaries as “the quality of doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong.” The word excellence was defined as the quality of being outstanding or extremely good. Combining them the definition could be the quality of being outstanding or extremely good in doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. More tomorrow.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Science of Generosity

Christian Smith at the University of Notre Dame and colleagues, are studying the science of generosity, as they put it. They defined generosity as the virtue of giving good things to others freely and abundantly. They also pointed out that generosity also involves giving to others not simply anything in abundance but rather giving those things that are good for others. The goal of true generosity is to enhance the true wellbeing of those to whom it gives. Generosity can involve tangible and intangible gifts. Many automatically think of money and possessions. Some of the intangibles may even be more important in the long term, including personal time, attention, aid, encouragement, emotional availability, empathy, the sharing of information to help promote personal growth and high level of Emotional Intelligence, and so on. The researchers were also clear that generosity is not identical with pure altruism, since people can be authentically generous in part for reasons that serve their own interests as well as those of others. If indeed, generosity is a virtue, to practice it for the good of others also necessarily means that doing so achieves one’s own true, long-term good as well. Perhaps like all of the ‘virtues,’ true generosity is in people’s best enlightened self-interest to learn and to put into practice.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Personality Traits Linked with Intelligence, 2


The second study reported in the Journal of Research in Personality concluded that those who possess a dispositional tendency to value joint benefits more than their own, scored higher on an intelligence test. Researchers studied 301 people who played games that involved either donating to others or keeping things for themselves. They found that those who were more egotistical and who kept more for themselves tended to be less intelligent. While those who were more generous to others tended to be more intelligent (e.g., individuals with higher IQs were more concerned with the public good.) Comments by the authors concluded that the evidence presented supports the possibility that unconditional altruism may serve as a costly signal of general intelligence because altruism is costly and is reliably linked to the quality ‘general intelligence’. They also found that children’s intelligence predicts later socio-economic success better than attributes of their parents’ attributes, concluding that intelligence is an indicator of future resources. A person with high cognitive skills may be able to donate more in advance than someone with lower skills and perhaps can afford to be more generous because they have more to give.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Personality Traits Linked with Intelligence

A study published in the Journal of Research in Personality revealed some interesting information. It concluded that intelligent people are more likely to be generous and altruistic. While generosity is not something people usually associate with intelligence, this research clearly shows a link. In the study abstract, the researchers referred to “unconditional altruism” as an enduring puzzle and posited that the “costly signaling theory,” a well-established framework in biology and economics, may be useful to shed light on the individual differences in human unconditional altruism. Based on this theory, their research showed that unconditional altruistic behavior is related to general intelligence; that unconditional altruism can serve as an honest signal of intelligence. They believe that their findings imply that altruistic behavior can be distinguished from cooperative behavior.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Breakfast and Chronic Disease


Eric Rimm, senior author of a study related to breakfast and coronary heart disease and associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, said, “It’s a really simple message. Breakfast is an important meal.” And Leah Cahill, postdoctoral research fellow in HSPH’s Department of Nutrition, was quoted as saying: “Skipping breakfast may lead to one or more risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, which may in turn lead to a heart attack over time.” This study corroborated other studies that have pointed to a link between breakfast and obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other health problems seen as precursors to heart problems. As my favorite aunt would likely have put it: “Eat a good breakfast already!” I do.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Breakfast and Energy


Prevailing wisdom has been that a failure to eat breakfast can result in a 40 percent loss of energy by noon. That’s not all. In a study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), researchers found that men who regularly skipped breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who ate a morning meal. Non-breakfast-eaters were generally hungrier later in the day and ate more food at night, perhaps contributing to metabolic changes and heart disease. The scientists analyzed food questionnaire data and health outcomes from 1992-2008 on 26,902 male health professionals, ages 45-82. During the study, 1,572 of the men had cardiac events. Even after accounting for diet, physical activity, smoking, and other lifestyle factors, the association between skipping breakfast and heart disease persisted.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Breakfast and Brain Function


I sometimes am asked questions about whether or not eating breakfast is important. There are, of course, opinions on both sides of the question. Breaking the fast from sleeping (unless you get up and snack at night!) boots up the brain much like you boot up a fats, and carbohydrates for energy, not so with brain cells. Glucose from carbs is the only source of fuel that the brain can use (it cannot burn fat). Due to its rapid metabolism, the brain requires minute-to-minute glucose. Glucose levels decline more during a period of intense cognitive processing. Studies in all types of people have shown improved mental ability following a carbohydrate meal. But what type of carbs? Healthier ones, of course, Carbs that are eaten in as natural state as possible and that are relatively low on the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load lists. Those recommended in a Longevity Lifestyle.

(Nedley, Neil, M.D. Proof Positive; Brand-Miller, Jennie, PhD, Thomas M. S. Wolever, MD, PhD, et al. The New Glucose Revolution)