Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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When am I not talking about abortion honestly

Utilitarianism is the theory that actions should be taken based on their interpreted outcome. If your actions lead to an outcome in which the most happiness and least pain is generated, then the more just your action is. Basically, you’re always acting for the greater good, no matter the actions you take. An example of utilitarianism would be from the trolley problem; choosing to kill one person in order to let 5 live instead. This is taking action for sake of the greater good, even though it means sacrificing one life. Utilitarianism differs from Kant’s theory of the categorical imperative which is based on every individual’s moral compass. The obligation we have to our own morals overpowers our desires and inclinations. An example of categorical imperative would be buying and giving food to a homeless person you see. Having a categorical imperative is also having no ulterior motives for the things you do-you do something for the sole purpose of it to benefit someone else.

There are parts of both of these theories that I agree with and try to incorporate into my own morality. In terms of utilitarianism, I feel like I have always tried to be a people pleaser and a problem solver, so the concept of making choices to benefit all parties makes a lot of sense to me. On the other hand, I associate with the categorical imperative as I have a strong sense of justice and am a strong believer in doing things for the right reason. I think it’s important to have a balance between these theories, as there are many good things to take away from them. However, there are cons as well. Because utilitarianism evaluates actions based on their consequences, it can become tricky in certain situations. For example, we discussed in class the scenario of the army(the good guys) holding a person from a terrorist group(the bad guys) hostage and deciding to torture them in order to gain information that would ultimately help them save lives. In order to help the greater good, would you be willing to compromise your morals? As for the categorical imperative, it focusses more on the meaning behind actions rather than the consequences which can also be troublesome in certain situations.

A global issue that comes to mind when thinking about moral philosophy, is the controversy around abortion. Approaching this topic as someone who is pro-choice makes all the solutions seem very logical and easy to understand. On one hand, you have the pro-choice argument which is that abortion should be legal and accessible to all women because it’s their body and their choice. On the other hand, there is the pro-life argument which is that abortion should not be legal because it is the murder of a fetus. Looking at this with a utilitarian outlook, the option that has the best consequences is the pro-choice. There are many reasons why women choose to get abortions for ex. not being financially or mentally stable enough to raise a child. If this is the case, if the woman is forced to keep the child, it will most likely create a difficult life for not only the mom but the child as well. If the mother chooses to get an abortion, I believe its because she thinks it’s the best possible option for herself and her child. By forcing women to not have abortions, it creates anxiety and heartache, as well as some women will go through unsafe means to get one. So basically, by this school of thought, the pro-choice option generates the most happiness and therefore abortion should be legal everywhere. This also ties in with the categorical imperative, because choosing an option that is best for the mother and the child is morally right, and its unfair to deny this option.

Ethics was one of my favourite units; I loved learning about these theories as well as discussing hypothetical situations around them. I think this stuff is super important to be aware of and understand, because it’s applicable to everyone and everything.

 

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Epistemology Midterm

These past five units have flown by, I can’t believe I am already writing my midterm assignment! Epistemology, like every other topic we have covered in philosophy, has left me confused. However, this idea of how our knowledge is acquired and where it comes from has really stuck with me, and is something I wanted to learn about more in depth. I struggled to decide if I was more of a rationalist, which is someone who believes that reason is the main source and test of knowledge, or an empiricist, which is someone who believes that knowledge is gained from experience. Knowledge exists everywhere and in everything; it’s various forms and theories about how it is acquired are endless. Knowledge can be direct-which is single pieces acquired through experience, or indirect which is more complex and acquired through reason. Keeping this idea of indirect and direct knowledge in mind, my blog post revolves how all knowledge made of past experiences.

I believe that we as humans are subconsciously or consciously always observing and learning about the world around us. To use the technical terms, I think all we all grow and develop through posteriori knowledge, which is knowledge that is gained after sense experience. Going along with this train of thought, it is self explanatory as to under which conditions it exists, and how we acquire knowledge in our everyday lives. To help further my understanding, I looked into the ideas of Aristotle, who is said to be among the first empiricists of the world. He said that all knowledge starts with sense experience. When we are born, we have no innate knowledge or understanding of the world; everything we learn is acquired though our senses. This idea makes a lot of sense to me, and in fact, was one of the arguments I was having with one of my classmates. To me, this idea is very logical, as we are born with our senses and nothing else. Aristotle also says that your senses cannot deceive you-this only comes when you put forth a conclusion that comes with your own theory. This is a way to rebut against rationalist theories, and was perhaps the tipping point for me to fall into the empiricist side.

I suppose the real question here is how do I know this is the right opinion? Or more so, how do I prove it? Using the example I stated previously about being born with no innate knowledge, think about growing up as a kid: Not only are you gaining knowledge about social skills through encounters with people, but you are gaining ‘book’ knowledge by the physical act of going to school and learning with an adult who is your teacher. Everything starts with that first sensory perception that is crucial to the way we think and the way we gain knowledge. These experiences come in many different forms, and they are something that every single person acquires daily.

To help represent my understanding I have created a logical argument:

Proposition: Knowledge is understood through beliefs we have acquired.

P1: A belief is produced by a reliable means of knowledge.

P2: Knowledge can only be acquired from a past experience.

Conclusion: Beliefs are composed of past experiences.

Beliefs are composed of past experiences-all the experiences we have true beliefs, therefore they are a reliable means of knowledge. Just to focus in on my conclusion, when I say beliefs I am referring to the ideas and knowledge we have about anything and everything-all which is gained through experiences. 

Epistemology is important because it helps us figure out the origins of human knowledge and how to justify what we know. I think this topic can serve as almost a basis for all the other topics we have covered, as it provides us with an understanding about ourself and the mind. From here, we can delve into philosopical inquiry about the world around us, ask questions about reality and how the world was created, and find ways to resonate our thoughts with those of previous philosophers.

Sources:

https://campus.aynrand.org/campus/globals/transcripts/aristotles-epistemology-concepts-explanation-and-the-nature-of-science

 

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Discussions on Metaphysics

Before Phil’s day off, I was in a group with Martin, Anusha, and Sara. We didn’t exactly have the discussion that was supposed to take place, however I did encounter some new opinions and perspectives that will ultimately help me with my topic for metaphysics which is whether the physical universe is dependent on the existence of an intangible creator.

We started off our conversation by talking about our topics and why we chose them. Sara’s topic is on the unconscious and conscious mind, Martin’s topic is about how we know the things we know, and Anusha’s topic is determining why the “right” religion is. Since my topic is also related to religion, I wanted to hear more about Anusha’s ideas, so we began talking about our own personal experiences with religion and why we chose to study our topics. From here, the conversation moved to trying to answer questions that no one can answer i.e. how the world was created. We basically discussed everything that I have been thinking about while researching my topic- which was awesome because everyone was just as bewildered and confused as I have been for the past couple of weeks. All in all, our group kind of went off on a tangent, however I think these kind of conversations where everyone is honest, genuinely curious, and excited to discuss different topics is very valuable. Im glad I got a chance to participate :)

 

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PDO: A Time to Think

While getting ready to participate in PDO, I questioned the importance of this day itself and why it was necessary. I thought that as a student and as someone who is religious, these were the questions I was constantly pondering and reflecting on. I questioned how I would find a suitable way to contemplate my topic, as well as what artefacts I could bring to class to represent my thoughts.

After much thought, I decided to go to church, meditate, and go for a walk. Church is not something I go to uncommonly, however I haven’t gone in two months so I thought this would be the right time to start again. As for the meditation and the walk, I never really take the time to step away from my phone and other technology to reflect, so I thought PDO would be a good opportunity to do these things.

I went to church as planned, however I waited till later in the evening to meditate and go for a walk. To get myself in the right mindset, I wrote my first blogpost on metaphysics, which in itself was a time of reflection. Later, I ended up going to my apartment building which has a clubhouse on the 47th floor. Since it was raining, I sat outside undercover and meditated. After it got dark, I went for a walk around the neighbourhood. Some challenges I found in doing this was actually being able to focus deeply on a certain topic for a long period of time. Meditation is something I have learnt to practice, however I never do because it’s so difficult for me.      

The time I took to participate in PDO proved to be very valuable. My topic for metaphysics questions whether the physical universe depends on an intangible creator, so I spent time thinking about my understanding of the physical universe and what the ‘creator’ means to me. I also reflected on where I stand with religion, and what my original thoughts about how the universe was created. Since I am christian, I am biased to believe that God created the universe, however as I’ve grown older I have gone through periods of doubt. I have always been a skeptic, yet there is a part of me that can’t let go of religion and the idea of a creator. After looking at this topic from a scientific perspective and a religious perspective, I’ve come to the conclusion that we do need an intangible creator. This idea of a creator- which is usually related to religion in some way- gives people a sense of purpose or meaning. I think that metaphysical questions can be scary because in reality, we as humans are just small specs living in this expansive universe- we truly don’t know anything. I think this idea of a higher power gives many a sense of comfort, as well as a sense of security that humans crave. 

For my artefacts, I chose to collect items that represent the five elements of nature. I brought a lighter for fire, a piece of wood, scrap metal, a cup of water, and a bag of dirt. I thought it made sense to bring in the five elements because when reflecting on the creation of the universe, specifically Earth, its crazy to think about where these elements we encounter every single day actually came from. Whether it was brought on by the Big Bang or a creator, its undeniable that it created something incredible.

 

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Does the physical universe depend on the existence of an intangible creator?

Topic: Does the physical universe depend on the existence of an intangible creator?

We have yet to find the answer to the question of all questions: How was the universe created and where did we come from? In this unit of metaphysics, this question will be my guide to learning more about this idea of a creator, and how this has impacted society. To answer this question, I must first unpack it by exploring some sub-questions.

Sub-question 1: What defines the physical universe?

As defined in the dictionary, the physical universe is the totality of everything that exists. This includes everything from mountains, to oceans, to space and all of it’s contents.

Sub-question 2: What or who would such a creator be, what role do they play in our world currently?

The creator I am referring to is an all-powerful being who is portrayed in different forms in every religion. There is no doubt that religion plays a huge role in the day to day lives of many, as around 84% of the world’s population has a faith, and eight in ten people identify with a religious group. A third of this percentage are Christians, however in general, there are 4,200 religions in the world-most which have a creator.

I believe that every religion is complex, however they all have something in common: They give purpose to the lives of people who follow it, and answers to questions we cannot answer. For example, in Christianity, God created the universe and every living thing inside it. Christians believe that God is the reason for their existence, as well as gives purpose to their existence. Christian values focus on love, grace, and peace, and the morals taught in the Bible teach you how to live your life. When you look at it from this perspective, religion looks ideal and worthwhile for everyone. On the other hand, because there are so many different religions and cultures, there is always bound to be conflict which has been shown by several wars being fought in the past and even currently.

Sub-question: What are the implications if there is no creator-how was our world created? How do we explain the unexplained?

Scientists have come up with many theories to explain the mystery of how the universe was created. The most popular, the Big Bang model, is based on the idea that the universe was created during a time on inflation. It expanded within the fraction of a second from a size smaller than an electron, to the size it is now. The problem with this theory is that it cannot be tested, as well as for this to have actually happened, there would’ve needed to be some kind of special energy in the universes creation which we are unaware of. Just like this theory there are several others which sound plausible, but in the end, just cannot be proven. Basically, at this moment we cannot explain the unexplained. I think this is a contributing reason as to why so many people choose to believe in a creator; the possibility of our universe expanding out of nothing to create this intricately woven design that is our world is truly astounding.

Why this topic?

The universe is so vast and perplexing. Do you ever take the time to take a step back and think about how everything works together in perfect harmony? Before I even took philosophy, these kind of questions really intrigued me. Being religious myself, I had always had one perspective on the creation of the universe. However as I grew up and learnt more, doubts always flooded my mind and confused me. I chose this topic because it is something I genuinely want to explore and study for myself. I hope I can make this process fun as well as meaningful.

Where to next?

From here, I plan to continue learning about this topic but perhaps go more into spirituality and religion.

Reading:

http://www.livescience.com/1774-greatest-mysteries-universe.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existence_of_God

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/does-god-exist-the-craig-persson-debate

 

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Abortion: A logical Argument

One of the most heavily debated topics in today’s world is laws around abortion, and whether it should be legal or not. First of all, an abortion is the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy. There are many arguments for both pro-life(advocating against abortion) and pro-choice(advocating for women to have the choice whether or not she wants to have an abortion). However, being pro-choice myself, I will be sharing a logical argument that agrees with this perspective.

Premise 1: A ‘life’ exists biologically independent from its mother.

Premise 2: A pregnant mother exists independent from its parent.

Conclusion: Therefore, the need to protect the life of the mother who is independent and a contributing member of society, is greater than the need to protect the unborn child.

Evaluation:

Premise 1: Everyone agrees that an adult has the right to life as they are fully independent, however there is a lot of debate around when a human life starts in the womb. Looking at this from a scientific perspective, a baby’s organs are only fully formed at 24 weeks, and in Canada the cut off date for abortions is 20 weeks. Since you would only be able to get an abortion before the baby is even fully developed, you would not be ‘murdering’ a life. Looking at it from this perspective, this premise true.

Premise 2: A pregnant mother is independent from her parents in the sense that she can breath, eat, work and live in society without their help. Perhaps she will look to them for support with money, maybe the occasional meal, however it is safe to say that this premise is true.

Conclusion: As both of my premises can be argued as true and valid, the argument is sound.

Reflection:

As I mentioned before, abortion is a very controversial topic. I am pro-choice because I believe every women should have the right to make the decision on what she does with her body, and what is best for her child. Having an abortion itself is a huge decision that causes a lot of stress and emotional tension. If a women becomes pregnant, in no matter what the situation, it is her right to decide for herself if she wants an abortion and she should not be condemned for it.

I think everyones stance on abortion reflects their individual values, however I also think your upbringing, culture, and religion play a role in your perspective. That’s why people’s opinions vary so much, are there is a large amount of debate around the topic. When creating this logical argument, I tried to take the more objective route by focussing just on the actual life itself, but even then, framing the argument this way implies I don’t believe that the fetus is a real life which differs from the opinion of a pro-life’s. 

 

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Philosophy is like a 500 piece puzzle

For my presentation, my metaphor was “Philosophy is like a 500 piece puzzle”. I have included my Prezi and my script for the presentation.

 

http://prezi.com/ev71_bxliu3b/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

Slide 1: My metaphor is: “Philosophy is like a 500 piece puzzle”. This metaphor is slightly strange and random, but rest assured I will explain to you my reasoning. May I ask first if anyone actually likes doing puzzles? yes/no? Well I for one really do not.

Slide 2: This brings me to the first side of my analogy. Just like philosophy, for me personally it often makes me feel very frustrated. Just as there are hundreds of pieces, there are hundreds of ways to approach analyzing a certain topic, hundreds of different perspectives you must consider, and hundreds of ways to get lost and confused with your own doing. For example, thinking of the allegory of the cave which is something our class was working with recently, when I was sitting down to write my reflection and consider where I stood in terms of the cave, I was totally lost. I wanted to say that I would be able to confidently take the risk of leaving the cave and go out to experience everything I had missed, yet I do understand why the prisoners chose to stay and their reasoning is something I can relate to, as I also often cling to the comfortability of what know. This is because in philosophy especially, I don’t think anything is ever black and white. The definition of philosophy itself is the study of fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence. How can there possibly be one right idea to these expansive topics? Now you might say, “Well isn’t a puzzle pretty black and white? Because all the pieces will eventually fit together at one point”. This is very true, however it’s the process in which you get the point of actually completely the puzzle that is difficult and confusing. This brings me to the other side of my analogy:

Slide 3: Completing the puzzle. How do you feel when you complete a 500 piece puzzle? The first emotions that come to mind are happy, proud, and accomplished. This can be related to how you feel when you work through your thoughts, and find a clear path of understanding with philosophy. It is critical that you have all the puzzle pieces; if one is missing the picture is not complete. Just like all the pieces coming together to make a whole picture, you group all your thoughts, perspectives, and ideas to create your own opinion.

 

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Document of Learning #1

My first week in Philosophy was, to be quite honest, mystifying. Coming into this course, I thought that with past exposure to philosophical ideas and concepts, it would be a breeze for me. However, I find it hard to grasp some of the things we are learning, and I have been struggling to participate in class discussions. I think what hit me the most was after we did the Philosophy quiz, I realized what it truly took to exceed in this course: active engagement inside AND outside the classroom. Keeping this in mind, I set some goals for the rest of the semester that I will work towards completing. First of all, I want to be able to incorporate the messages shared in this class into my daily life and with the people I am close to. I have gotten to a point in my life where I constantly crave conversations of substance, not just the daily gossip thats going around school. I am always interested in learning about current events, and love to debate with others on controversial issues. I want to ask bigger questions and build better connections with the people I am surrounded by, and I feel like immersing myself into this subject will help me accomplish that. Another goal of mine is that I want to develop self-awareness about my personal perspectives, and be open to accepting and understanding new ones. I have always been a stubborn person who fixates on specific ideas. I want to work towards changing this about myself by learning to be more open-minded and accepting. As for personal aspirations in Philosophy itself, I would like to develop the capacity to think creatively about philosophical texts and issues, and to be able to express my own ideas concisely and defend them in arguments. 

The first thing we talked about in philosophy is love and wisdom. Looking more into wisdom, I believe it comes in many different forms and it can be acquired at any time from anything or anyone. There are many different types of wisdom, but I have condensed them into three different categories: book wisdom, experiential wisdom, and instinctive wisdom. Book wisdom is the kind of wisdom you learn at school-usually they are divided into different categories just like subjects. Most believe that this kind of wisdom is essential for living in our world. For example, you need a certain level of education(or have a certain level of understanding and wisdom in a specific area of study) to get a job. No one can deny that this kind of wisdom is important and useful, however I feel like the next type of wisdom is just as necessary, if not more. Experiential wisdom comes from actively participating in life itself. For me, this covers everything from daily interactions with people to having basic street smarts. Experiential wisdom obviously comes from experiences you obtain over your life span, however I don’t think just because someone is older that they have a greater sense of experiential knowledge. Just like book wisdom, there is no way to measure what types of experiential knowledge are more valuable than others, however it is something everyone develops no matter their circumstances. The last type of wisdom I want to discuss is instinctive wisdom. This type of wisdom is something that everyone is born with. It is certain feelings we have, urges to do certain things, and even understanding what others are feelings or what they want. I find it really interesting to think about how we know what we know; wisdom is everywhere and in everyone. We are acquiring it everyday, in ways that we don’t even realize.

 

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Allegory of the Cave-Reflection

Every time I hear this story it leaves me with a bitter feeling in the pit of my stomach. It makes me frustrated and sad that the prisoners would not listen to the one that has seen the light and reality, and that they would rather choose to stay in the dark physically and mentally. Despite this feeling, I enjoy the intriguing themes shown in this story and the subtle motifs. The theme that stands out the most for me is knowledge vs ignorance. I feel like its human nature to always want to put yourself in the safest, most comfortable position with everything you do. Just as the prisoners who refused to leave the cave after learning about the world outside, many choose the simpler path in life of staying with what we know best and not going outside the box. To many this seems so obviously wrong, and they automatically chastise these kinds of people. However, what exactly is so wrong with staying in your comfort zone? You may not get to experience the same things that others do, and you may be missing out on lost opportunities, but if you’re happy then why is it wrong? I believe there is no right or wrong answer to this because how is having certain knowledge about something, or having more experiences than others make your life any more valuable or better? Knowledge may be power, but ignorance can be bliss. 

Reflecting on this story, I can’t help but wonder what my decision would be if I was in this same situation. I want to be able to confidently say that given the chance, I would take the risk of leaving the cave and go out to experience everything I had missed, yet I do understand why the prisoners chose to stay and their reasoning is something I can relate to. I constantly try to put on a facade of indifference-I just go with the flow, do what I want when I want, and never care what others think about me. However, it takes a lot of effort for me to take big risks because it makes me nervous when I don’t know exactly how things are going to turn out. Although it has gotten a lot better over the years, I still often cling to the comfortability of what I know. In situations like these, you never know what your answer will be until it is happening in the moment and you have to make the decision. For me, I can only hope I would choose the light.

 
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