Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Mr. Jackson please don’t grade this

If you trace back to the video shown in class that posed the question of whether it is right or wrong to push a fat man off a bridge to save 5 people who are about to be ran over by a trolley cart, or to witness them die by not pushing him over, my intuitive answer was to not push the fat man over the bridge. Wouldn’t it be unjust to incorporate an irrelevant person to the narrative simply because I couldn’t tolerate a higher level of misery in quantity? Or is it even more unjust to have authority to decrease the amount of misery by knowing the end-result, but not taking any form of initiative to change the ultimate outcome?

Utilitarianism is the concept in which the core of morality is dependent on increasing the amount of pleasure in the world; utilitarianism puts emphasis on consequences more than its intent. Such theory supports the idea of epistemic responsibility that I mentioned in my Metaphysics post (I don’t recommend reading that); epistemic responsibility is the concept that everyone has responsibility regarding our beliefs. Going in parallel with the idea of there being no such thing as, “private beliefs” and our beliefs have a way of spreading whether it is through our actions or choices, maybe the focus of morality should be on the consequences and results more than its pure intent. Utilitarianism argues that actions should be measured by how much happiness it produces, which means that one should be aware of how much happiness an action could create.

So are morality and ethical views an objective, or subjective matter? Let’s say that we say morality is an objective matter. One of the effects of defining morality to be objective is that it automatically eliminates the concept of cultural moral relativism. Perceiving morality to be an absolute means that some cultures are “wrong” for their perspectives; doesn’t this give an underlying message that some cultures are superior over others? Isn’t this contradictory to the idea of creating more happiness in the world if it wipes out certain cultures from believing in certain things? Or does the concept only apply to cultures that seriously infringe others rights to safety and freedom? Even though cultural moral relativism might provide reasoning behind why genocides and wars happen, there is also the danger of normalizing cultures that crudely infringed others lives, the most extreme example is the Nazi culture. Kantianism supports the idea of there being a supreme principle of morality; Kant believed in one acting regardless of purpose, but on maxims that you could will that everyone else approves, one which is consistent.

So if there is no moral realism and morality wasn’t about the grounding problem, there is no absolute in morality. My personal viewpoint is that is morality is subjective, it almost explains why all the shameful historical events happened (this could be anything, but I’m thinking of events like the KKK, witch hunts, etc). These events should never be justified, although it is easier to understand the stem of it if morality is handled to be a subjective matter.

So let’s go back to the fat man and the trolley cart incident. Unless you strongly root for the utilitarian view, our intuitions tell us that pushing an innocent bystander, the fat man in this case is wrong. Why it is wrong, I believe, is because of his status of being a “bystander” and because I took the action to be involved in a murder when the alternative was an accident. I do understand that pushing the fat man would ultimately make more people happier, yet there is a vast distinction between a crime and an accident. How are you morally right if you were just responsible of a death?

me rn

I define morality to be an intuition; if you do something simply because others say it is right or because you want to seem like a “good person” I think that is being good for the wrong reasons, thus, contradictory to its intent. I am not completely solid on whether morality is absolute or not, but I am currently shifted on the side that it is subjective, as it is the only way to explain disagreements in humanity. There definitely is a “more popular” belief or “more politically correct” viewpoints; however, I am not in the position to say any of them are “better” than others; it is undeniable that some of them are about everyone being treated equally, which goes back to the concept of utilitarianism.

 

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Someone call the aesthetic police, I’m having a meltdown by: Ashlee Ahn

Summer of 2016, it was a crisis. An endless internal agony that couldn’t be traced back to its origin and this is what I call the “Aesthetic Meltdown 1.0”. I went on to delete all my pictures on Instagram because I didn’t consider them to be, “aesthetically pleasing”. I couldn’t grasp what beauty was, I couldn’t narrow down a single, “theme” that would define me in a visual aspect. I went on to find the answer in Google. “How to make Instagram photos aesthetic”, “Aesthetic themes” and my questions were all focused on finding a single answer, but my question now is, “Was that the right approach?”. Was I searching for a personal answer, by asking no one, but me? My days spent crying and purchasing photo editing apps from the App store are now nothing, but regret, yet one thing I did surmount is that such agony stemmed from my false approach: I tried to limit my aesthetic and definition of beauty into one defining feature.

In order to find my aesthetic, I tried to create my personal definition of aesthetics. The dictionary definition of aesthetics is: an adjective, concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty. This definition gives off an underlying message that there exists a universal definition of beauty, but like 16th century philosopher, Descartes argued, isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder? Being the visually driven and avid photographer I am, I decided that a way to approach such dilemma was to find a correlation between all the photos that I took which I quite appreciated. Back then, my answer was something among the lines of, “they all seem to have a similar level of brightness and a reoccurring hue in its tint”.

Looking back at all the photos and now (hopefully) having a broader view of aesthetics, I believe that such photos were able to bring me back to the emotion in which I felt then, because there is a distinct similarity within the experience I had when taking them. The photos do not exist to be a beauty of its own, in the external world this may be true, but to me it’s a personal memorial that links me back to the emotions I once felt. The amount of contentment it brings me, I believe, has a direct relation to the beauty of the moment I shared with my loved ones in beautiful places. Like how aesthetics in Buddhism, the Zen art possesses central values of, “simplicity, the spirituality of the ordinary, and genuineness of heart”; they put the focal point on the mind of the maker much more than its finished product.  In the end, the emphasis lies much on the nostalgia it manages to bring me, more than the way it’s edited.

I define aesthetics to be a choice; an aesthetic experience is highly dependent on the mindset of one. I previously focused on the physicality and the theme of the photographs I took when in reality, what was evoking me was the emotions it induced in me. An aesthetic experience was defined as a, “pleasurable and desirable experience” that is “[characterised] by a concentration originating in the organism causing it to perceive its environment” by Colin Leath, which I go in parallel to, with the addition of there being a definite intention. If anything that is “pleasurable and desirable” with there being absolute no intention to cause change, then it can be personally labelled as an, “aesthetic experience”. I will add on to such argument with some personal experiences I had over the winter break. I interned at a law firm located in Downtown for a week, and such experience was life changing. I got to meet highly educated people, broaden my perspective, and of course, enjoy the mesmerizing view of Robson on the 28th floor every day; that exact experience I would never trade for anything, nor do I wish it would have been any different. However, regarding the level of concentration and pleasure there was, I do not regard this to be an, “aesthetic experience”, because I believe there was no intention within me to seek a form of tangible and or, visually appealing factor. My intention was to grow as a person and to make lasting connections in the field of career I was interested in, not to create visually appealing keystones of what I considered to be, “beautiful”. To me, aesthetic, or an aesthetic experience can only exist when there is that internal consent; an agreement to either create beauty from an average “it”, or the pursuit of beauty.

Thinking back to my trip to Victoria with our close family friends, or one of the many photo shoots I went with my pals, I believe it is a perfect example of when my intention was the core of the aesthetic experience. I remember those moments to be the way they are today, because of my purpose to grasp beauty and make it last with my camera; with such purpose there was an absence of willingness to change the situation, and my emotions I still commit to memory. The Japanese philosophy, mono no aware: pathos of the awareness of surroundings; there is depth with their cultural appreciation towards the gratitude towards the moment. In addition to such belief, the intention of the experience when coexisting with the awareness of the environment is the distinction between what is an aesthetic experience versus a simply happy moment.

So why couldn’t I settle on one single defining theme of beauty? Because of the unconscious definition I had of aesthetics, or an aesthetic experience, I struggled to restrict my emotions into one physicality. My emotions, opinions, thoughts, style, and everything about me was constantly evolving and there was no way that my definition of beauty or what I consider to be beautiful to stay the same as well. Just like how the classical Japanese philosophy has a paradigm of our reality to be a constant change (Buddhist expression: impermanence), there was no stable answer to the broad question.

With my previous definition of aesthetics being on the final product, I failed to understand one of the main attributes that existed in all of my work: my fullest intent of longing to seek beauty, as well as the emotions I felt in that very moment. The Buddha once said that what you feel, you attract; aesthetic experience is a state of mind in which the person can conquer with the right approach.

(You probably don’t care, but if you were wondering, this is the very reason as to why I never post on my main Instagram account).

((all original photos, by me!))

 

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Everyone is responsible for what they know by Ashlee

Simplifying my theory of knowledge, I managed to summarise how I perceive knowledge in a few bullet points:

  • You should withhold judgement before you investigate the situation
  • belief should exist in correlation to validity and true in order to be perceived as knowledge
  • knowledge is subjective; for every object or matter there exists different ideas
  • Without a human mind that can think, the existence of knowledge is impossible

And with pondering lead by these thoughts, I concluded  that with all forms of knowledge follows epistemic responsibility. The thought process (shout out to Mr. Jackson for guiding me in finalising my rather jumbled and disoriented mind) looks something like this:

  • Premise 1: Knowledge tends to affect the way people view the world
  • Premise 2: the nature of one’s knowledge tends to have an implicit effect (even without the explicit intentions/actions) on the world in which we live in
  • Conclusion: All form of knowledge holds epistemic influence that affects our surroundings, no matter its intentions

Knowledge tends to affect the way people view the world:

Coinciding with the idea of knowledge being perpetuated as a belief, I believe that one’s knowledge is mainly rooted from the way they tend to perceive the world. Knowledge is often interpreted as facts, information, data and what the current education system teaches our adolescents, yet knowledge exists in forms of layers. Its concept is often believed to be subjective among many philosophers; Plato has argued that two conditions must be fulfilled in order for anyone to claim to withhold knowledge: truth and belief. From here, I much agree with Plato, except I personally put the emphasis on the “belief” aspect more than the “truth” part. Often, there is much contrast put between belief and knowledge, but I believe that knowledge stems from individual’s beliefs; if there exists enough motivation to pursue proving a point one possesses, then that is the reality in which they live in. The knowledge that individuals carry is a paradigm that has a direct effect on our emotions, opinions, and thought processes in general. In clarity, you see how much you know, and how much you know is directly impacted by what you believe in.

The nature of one’s knowledge tends to have an implicit effect (even without the explicit intentions/actions) on the world in which we live in:

After much investigation I decided that even without physical or verbal actions being taken, knowledge has its way of making an effect in our world. The way we treat others and our actions derive from the epistemic responsibility that is behind our choices. English philosopher, W.K. Clifford purposed that there is no such thing as a “private belief”, meaning that it spreads not always with our fullest intentions. One example I want to bring up to support this very premise is how epistemic responsibility is of absence when it comes to religion. Clifford suggested that a belief in a God was “epistemically irresponsible” and is proven as a “blind faith”. Clifford believed that a blind faith leads one to live an unexamined, unthoughtful life by ignoring facts and arguments.  Just like how a religious person’s reality consists of believing in a superior being and actions carried out may be through attempts in conversion (of others) to weekly rituals. Although, I want to accentuate even without those religious actions, a religious person relies on a God (possibly more than any other factors in their life), which has an impact on to which they show gratitude towards, thoughts on evolution, and personal morals. For instance, when I was younger I was much more indulged in Buddhism because I attended a Buddhist-kindergarten, located inside a Buddhist temple (I still can’t believe such thing exists, but it was honestly the coolest thing ever). My knowledge and beliefs was raw, and I had first-hand experience in obtaining them; such environment shaped the way I thought and the way in which I expressed myself. Through this, I want to prove that the Buddhist morals and values I gained directly impacted things like my diet, manners, behaviour and personality (to this day).

All forms of knowledge holds epistemic influence that affects our surroundings, no matter its intentions:   

Brought by the above premises, I believe that all forms of knowledge has an epistemic background that have an effect on our surroundings, in regardless of its intentions. The dictionary definition of epistemic responsibility is, “related to capacity to engage in adequate policies in search of truth, the ability to give reasons, or the readiness to revise one’s beliefs in the light of new evidence.”   This leads to my point of epistemic responsibility being what dictates our decisions. Epistemic responsibility is told to hold an idealistic character, that in order for knowledge to exist there must be someone who has the ability to process and appreciate the concepts. With the knowledge perceived by individuals comes an epistemic responsibility as the subjectivity of knowledge comes with a choice. After much thinking, I decided that people choose to believe certain things, and people choose to learn or educate themselves and because of this very thought, belief coexists with knowledge. Of course when the word “knowledge” is used in modern day society, its connotations are known as what is, “true”, but because I personally believe that knowledge is the nature and reality of one, it’s impossible for the person to not have authority over how their belief is shown through. To make it more precise:

  • belief requires knowledge in order to be valid
  • knowledge reflects the person’s reality and,
  • the belief that derives from one’s knowledge holds epistemic responsibility

So basically, our actions or words, or even sometimes our implicit intentions have a way of being carried out. Knowledge is only an illusion of seeming to be the “absolute truth”, but with different realities everyone holds, in no way is it achievable for there to be a universal truth; common-sense realism is viewing the world in a flat approach. From where I stand today, my understanding is that knowledge comes with much responsibility and is a direct reflection on the nature of one’s paradigm.

Sources:

http://www.giffordlectures.org/books/belief/lecture-3-belief-and-knowledge

https://www.bu.edu/arche/5/cusimano.pdf

http://www.province-of-the-mind.com/exploring-epistemic-responsibility.html

 

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Somewhat-not-really-like -15%-Eureka moment By Ashlee

Going into my “Phil’s Day Off”, a lot of my questions such as, “Do all our decisions rely on determination?” or “does free will exist?” (Basically any sentences that ended with a question mark in my first metaphysics post) were still left unanswered. However, one of the major questions I decided to orbit around was, “Is it at all possible to go against determinism, if that is the superior state?”

I’m desperately hoping that I am not the only one going into Phil’s Day Off blindly lost as to how I could prove anything. It’s not a huge surprise that the question still applies, but on the bright side, I can now (sort of) say with confidence that I know where I stand in the argument of determinism vs. free will (around 65% sure!). Instead of using my time on Phil’s Day off to have quiet time to myself, I came up with an experience that would guide me in proving the topic I was striving to understand, which eventually lead me in thinking for hours.I decided to rely most of my decisions for the first half of my Phil’s Day Off on a coin flip. I would ask questions I would usually leave myself to answer on the coin; I believed that this act would result in me being solely dependent on an external factor. This would mean that I am going completely against what I was determined to do by making the most random choice…but did it?

I spent the whole day making decisions mostly dependent on my coin. I use the word, “dependent” here as there were many inquiries that arose on way.  Some examples of the questions I made through my coin:

  • Should I go get ice-cream?
  • Should I continue studying for my law test, or take a 30 minute break?
  • Should I take a bath?
  • Should I floss tonight?
  • Should I go to work, or call in sick (I was pretty sick)
  • Should I go to McDonald’s with my friend at 2 AM?

After a couple of rounds of asking the coin a question, I decided that there was a huge flaw in such hypothesis; was I really asking the coin, or was this whole experiment a hoax in disguise? This experiment wasn’t proving much and here is why:

  • I still held authority to the questions being asked. For instance, I wouldn’t casually ask, “Should I commit genocide?” and even if I did, I would never carry out such act, no matter what the coin said
  • My answers may have been dependent on the coin, but it was ultimately me who chose to do a coin flip in the first place
  • For some questions, I flipped until the answer was something I wanted it to be, for instance, for “should I go get McDonald’s with my friend at 2 AM” (because she was nagging me), I flipped until I got a, “no” because I was tired. This means that even the coin flip, which seems like the most random and dependent source of decision, has room for personal input

The second inquiry I obtained during my confusing journey of metaphysics was what lead me to solidify previous thoughts. I still believed to have the ability to influence my decisions greatly; so what was controlling my decisions that I could prove? From where I stand today, the most I could validate, were my morals and emotions.

The single strongest reason holding me back from supporting the theory of determinism was my value towards morality. Believing that human impulses reply on the world, where all decisions are determined would instantly abolish any form of responsibility anyone has for their actions (or words). To make this more clear, even a murderer would technically be able to justify their crime by saying that they were determined to do so with the power of the universe. Determinism would have to mean that the universe holds no distinction between what we label to be, “evil” or “good”, but everything is solely dependant on fate. By supporting such theory I would automatically disapprove all existing morals of mine; I could no longer be authoritative over my own values.

There also exists that my feeling of freedom was too strong to be unnoticed; the science aspect of myself believes that my brain receives signals to control my muscles into carrying out physical actions, but the feeling of my mind overpowering my entire self is superior over the thought of something else possibly being in charge of it.

There were many situations and ideas that simply stumped me, including my friend Ben (second shout out!) asking, “If a child was raised, being brainwashed by his/her parents, and that specific environment caused him/her to make certain decisions, would such situation still be accountable for the concept of free will?” This one still makes me think, and I’m sure there are still many questions out there that will cause me to ponder. My answer to this very question is that, being brainwashed by an environment in adolescent years are minimising the amount of choices available, and there are still room for personal input (in most examples I am imagining now, may not be the case for all). As this can lead to a sensitive area for many with such ease, I won’t extend it, but my answer is that with the amount of situations that can exist, there are also an infinite amount of probabilities.

Going back to my original question of the possibility of contradicting to determinism, is impossible to answer objectively. Although I can now prove that my hope for the existence of free will derives from my morals; they are both justifications for each other’s existence. My morals could not exist without true ownership, which also cannot exist without my personal authority into thinking so. My Phil’s Day Off wasn’t consisted with a continuous chain of epiphanies, but it did lead me into having a solid opinion on my own beliefs of our freedom.

p.s. Apparently I can’t attach a photo of my special coin because the file is too big?

 

 

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Existence? (Class Discussion) by Ashlee

On Thursday our group was united with the correlating theme of existence. Our subtopics like free will, dreams, source of knowledge, and many other topics that came up all had the overarching umbrella of tracing back what we’ve become numb to. I spoke to Martin, Lyle, Jason and Jamie who all embraced the metaphysical side of our daily lives-our dreams, our decisions, and our source of knowledge. The captivation of the main idea rooted from our ideas revolving around: reasons and/or purpose of existence, knowing our foundation of knowledge, free will, and the existence of God (questioning Descartes’s logical syllogism proving that God exists). These new ideas influenced my inquiry in letting me discover the multiple layers in the concept of free will and determination.

I was quite intrigued by the topics Jamie opened up to us; he discussed Descartes’s point contradicting to himself; it was interesting to think that there was an existence of fine line between a superior being and a famous philosopher’s long lived supposition.

Our discussion about free will and our amount of authority or control to be able to make decisions eventually lead us to question: is there a superior being? There was an ultimate parallel theme of our decisions either being made by a “superior being” or us humans, as well as any other biological beings (Being?) on this planet having the freedom to make our own choices.

The questions that lead us to ponder endlessly lead us in asking much more, including:

  • Can god be proven logically?
  • How do we know we aren’t all flashbacks?
  • Is there a definition between free will and complete lack of freedom? Is there a line that gets drawn?

 

After the question that had much depth and critical thinking, it definitely guided me in a direction of interest towards religion and religious beliefs.  Do religions value the concept of determinism or free will, and whichever their conclusion is; do they believe that our freedom is jeopardised by a superior being? From the surface all the topics mentioned above seem to have vast distinctions, yet, when pondered further and analysed thoroughly, they all rather have many overlapping concepts that all goes back to the question of existence.

 

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“Do you believe in destiny?” by Ashlee

A conversation I had with a friend, he asked, “you guys seem to be perfect for each other, do you believe in destiny?” I recall debating the question and factoring out all probabilities before answering, “Yes”; but does that lead to a conclusion that humans aren’t free? Are we not capable of truly making our own decisions? Are even the most impulsive or random choices destined to be? If we don’t have free will, why are we here? After pondering those issues, I decided that in order to justify my existence and purpose, I should believe in free will, but does that mean I am just being cowardly of the potential existence of determinism?

So, what is determinism? Determinism, a noun, the principle that all events, including human action, are in the end, determined by causes external to the will. Some philosophers have even gone to the extent of taking determinism to imply that human beings have no free will, therefore, cannot be held morally responsible for their actions. Such definition that the concept of determinism concludes to the idea of humans living with an absence of freedom, or that they can’t be hold accountable for their actions leads me to ponder the question: “Are humans ever free?”

The Libertarian free will is the conviction of human actions being freely chosen, and truly free actions will necessitate options so that there are other potential chances of probability. The belief concludes that decisions aren’t necessarily caused by anything that happened before it, but solely is the result of non-physical events. This means that all our choices are based on our impulses and there is no external factor or a prophecy that can factor into that.  After looking more into a libertarian’s views on free will, they validate their point with the distinction between event causation and agent causation. Event causation is the argument that no physical event can occur without being caused by a prior event, while agent causation is the belief of a being starting a whole chain of causality, with no other causes.

On the other hand, I perceive determinism to be linked with reductionism greatly; reductionism is the view that all parts of the world, and of our own experience, can be traced back/reduced down to one singular thing. If this is the case, then moving backwards, it could define that everything is the inevitable result of what came before including our actions.

The main reasons drawing me back from hopping onto the idea of determinism completely, is that the concept of determinism would validate any actions committed, including those classified to be wrongful. Can a murder argue that they were determined to kill the victim and that the universe disregards the good and evil, and that such action was meant to be? Another reasoning that many libertarians seem to argue is that it’s nearly impossible to disregard the feeling of freedom entirely; if we feel free, we should consider the likelihood that we are. So are decisions and circumstances purely a result of belief, desire and temperament leading to an action, or is it just, “meant to be”?

 

Still being unsure whether I hold any authority to my decisions, it’s hard to ignore the concept of determinism if it attacks the purpose of my existence. I still cannot answer any questions I have asked above, nor do I know why we are here. Although after doing much research, it’s evident that my morals are what’s drawing me away from determinism, and that deep down it generates fear of my existence being upon something or someone else’s superiority.

 

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“She was asking for it” by Ashlee

After countless nights of pondering, and an infinite amount of research, the vital factor that really helped me solidify my topic was the conversation I had with my good friend, Ben (shout out to you!). The question, “What’s one topic that irks you? Without hesitation, my reflex answer was rape culture and its discriminatory traits. So, why do these thoughts occur? Where is the foundation of such beliefs? It’s time to dissect what has constantly been bothering me: why is there fear generating from the victims, when what’s been done had an absence of consent? Maybe a step by step analysis will help me (and whoever is reading) at least understand the root of such logic.

 

Premise #1: women dressed provocatively evoke men’s sexual urges

Premise #2: men cannot control their sexual urges

Conclusion: Therefore, men aren’t to blame for sexual assault

Let’s start with validity. The definition of a valid statement is a one that has a conclusion that follows from its premises. Considering such definition, the premises above technically lead to the final conclusion. The argument is structured, putting aside its lack of truth or consideration. If the way women dressed did provoke sexual arousal from men, and if men had a difficult time controlling such desire, then men shouldn’t be the ones to blame. It’s as simple as which party pried it out and which party has less control over their vulnerability. As much as I think it’s quite unprofessional to incorporate personal opinions into my work, I will! Personally, I value the “truth” part of a deductive argument more than its validity; anything can be valid because validity is mostly about its structure. For instance, the argument:

Premise #1: all dogs are astronauts

Premise #2: All astronauts are Spanish

Conclusion: Therefore, all dogs are Spanish

aw ye boi

With common sense, most people can detect that such argument is blatantly false (although, never take away a dog’s right to become an astronaut). The way that this argument is structured however, is completely valid. This example can be used to prove the importance of both aspects of an argument: validity and truth.

Let’s dissect the truth aspect of such argument:

The first premise that states, “ women dressed provocatively evoke men’s sexual urges” not only comes straight from the ancient prejudice of labelling men to be more aggressive and sexually active, but is false. This generalization is an attack to not only the reputation and characterization of men, but the safety of women (or any sexual assault victims).

The second premise, “men cannot control their sexual urges” is a biased cliché, and there are countless reasons as to why it isn’t factually correct, but let’s state some of the obvious. The real question here is, what is the difference between the sexual desire of a man versus a woman? The common belief that men have a stronger sexual longing than woman, to mark them as “the gender that has the uncontrollable crave to reproduce” is a myth. This myth exists due to the fact that men generally tend to place the emphasis on the outcome of the relation (in this case, sex), while most women might value the relationship, mood, or their partner more. Although this is also a societal image formed over a period of time. There is no solid answer as to how exactly specific genders feel about sex and the amount of control they have; it’s solely dependant on the person. Being aware that many studies have proven that in fact, men do have a stronger sex drive than women, that can never be an excuse to sexual assault. Everyone, no matter the gender, is entitled to a right to safety; it’s unfair for their rights to be taken away because of someone else’s lack of self-control. A more truer statement would be, “some people cannot control their sexual urges”.

With two false (and biased) premises, it’s impossible for the final conclusion to be sound. “Therefore, men aren’t to blame for sexual assault” is technically valid, but far from being factually correct, therefore, not a sound argument. After reading many articles, my ultimate conclusion was that the main cause of rape are the rapists. There might be a higher statistic in a certain cohort or a recurring similarity in sexual assault cases, but that does not change the fact that what potentially caused it was the mindset of the rapist.

It should never be okay to normalise rape culture. Although, the argument stated above, unfortunately is still the perception of some. I do not aspire to brainwash every single existing misogynist into considering gender equality, yet I do think it’s possible for me to get some people thinking, or at least myself. These things should infuriate us; one of the biggest benefits to such arguments is that it gets us thinking. I do not believe I am doing this “because I’m a woman”, but because violation against other’s rights should never be tolerated. Some might say that this argument is completely sound, but even being the frankly neutral and indecisive person I am, my answer to that is, and will stay in a strong disagreement. 

 

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Philosophy is like Art by Ashlee

As vague as the concept of art is, I will be focusing on the smaller fragments that compose the entire idea of art that I think well relates to philosophy.

Philosophy goes way back in time to 470 BC, and has only continued to expand and develop since. Although I only said this as that’s when Socrates was born, and just like art, it’s incredibly complicated and nearly impossible to state when exactly art or philosophy started as there still isn’t the definition to these two topics. Art could be considered what the cavemen drew on stones 66 million years ago, and philosophy can also be how those people questioned their existence or purpose of life; there is no tangible or scientific evidence to oppose to that.

 

Both philosophy and art tends to rely much on its environment. Philosophy can be greatly influenced by external factors and the surroundings of one’s life and so can art. Western and Eastern art tends to be very different in style, focus, and meaning especially if you go back in time; it’s due to the difference in their cultures and surroundings. And now, let’s compare a man who grew up being brainwashed by his parents to think that the purpose of life was to achieve good grades to become a doctor, to a farmer who farmed for his entire lifetime to think that the purpose of life was to work for what you need. These two will obviously have vastly different philosophies and theories in not only life, but other debatable topics. Both art and philosophy heavily relies on internal inquiries, but it’s inevitable that external factors determine parts of it; it’s impossible to not be 100% influenced by your surroundings.

 

In art you are constantly influenced and inspired, it’s incredibly hard to connect with a large group of people, if the artist is sheltered and close minded. Inspiration represents the enlightenment we often get in philosophy. Like in Plato’s cave, how the prisoners were enlightened by the outside world and its assets, art has much to do with inspiration. Anything can be an inspiration, but it’s important to clearly distinguish inspiration between plagiarism. Like in philosophy, how you can expand on someone else’s idea, but just stealing it and re-phrasing it does no good to either parties.

In art, I tend to enjoy the process rather than the outcome, as I take pure joy in being fully indulged on my task. Sometimes, I don’t even know what my final result will be; I just start and see where my imagination will take me. Just like that, what we’re talking about aren’t just answers and finalized conclusions. I believe that philosophy heavily relies on the steps taken to construct your “answer” as it’s not about the answers but really more about the approach.

In order to produce top quality work, I will need a good canvas, some fine brushes, and good paint. Just like that, philosophy relies much on the “materials” in order to create “top quality work”. In order to make a deductive argument, it requires valid premises that lead to a conclusion.  Also, in art, even when the materials are A+ quality, it doesn’t always mean that the work will also be A+; like how in philosophy, just because the premises are true, it doesn’t make it valid.

 

I believe that art and philosophy are both ways of externally expressing internal matters. Art is a device that can easily be used to express things like emotions, thoughts, and opinions. I think this well applies for philosophy as it can easily be used to express one’s personal values. Philosophy greatly represents one’s deepest and most esteemed values and theories. To add-on to that, there might be art styles that are “most preferred” or “popular”, just like in philosophy how some philosophical statements are “more appreciated”, although that doesn’t make it more superior than any other.

Finally, as much as the process of creating your art or philosophy is important, what also matters is what you decide to do with it afterwards. Maybe you decide to sell it, frame it, hang it up, or maybe create more paintings from the skills and tips you acquired from the previous piece. Just like that, philosophy can greatly influence your perception and how you decide to think afterwards. It can be the root of many more philosophical inquiries and theories.

I don’t think anyone stops being artistic; art is constantly surrounding us; like how there are always questions to everything and anything. I believe that as long as I continue to embrace art and beauty, I won’t stop questioning, and learning; to expand on to my investigation to what I think matters.

 

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That time Ashlee was mind blown

Being the naïve, yet overly enthusiastic 13-year-old, I somehow got the chance to volunteer at the Downtown East side along with my classmates. Our main role was to give out food and clothing to the homeless; the fact that I could devote my time in serving the community drove me. The bus ride there was already impactful itself; you could see the tall buildings and high-end stores of downtown, all the expensive cars to five-star restaurants… and tick. As if someone turned the switch, it drastically changed to homeless people roaming the streets. I could probably even draw a line to classify where the poverty started, it definitely wasn’t gradual. It was unbelievable how quick the atmosphere changed, and being the young kid I was, I classified myself differently from them. My default mode was to pity them, and to generalize them with the stereotype I formed.

Handing out the food and clothes to the numerous homeless people, I took the initiative to start conversations with them. The conversations I had, I still remember to this day; a huge slap across the face that crossed out all previous stereotypes I ever had. Some of them were vegan, some had a distinct taste in fashion (when choosing clothing to take), some had preferences over the type of bread, and the diversity within them was endless.

My mindset as a 13-year old may sound blatantly ignorant, and it is. Volunteering that day made me realise that they’re no different from anyone else that I would classify as “normal”. I used to categorise them differently from where I stood, and had a default mindset of placing myself higher than them (to which I never admitted, nor wanted to). It even bothers me as I’m writing this, that I have to refer to them as “them” or “homeless people”. I hated myself for generalizing, to think that they’d accept whatever was given to them. I was so blind to see only what was on the outer layer; I didn’t even bother to understand. I didn’t seek to find out their stories, I only assumed.

I felt a rush of indignity and disgust at myself on my way back home, even though I wanted to focus on the reminiscent insights I had; it was difficult to wash off the guilt. Not only did my life-long stereotypes was shattered (thankfully!), but I just proved myself to be the person I never wanted to be.

This story would be tragic if I ended it here, but luckily there’s more to it (hooray!). I mean, who wants to read a story about a girl who victimized herself and lived sadly ever after?

Ever since, I decided to redeem my once-oblivious-mindset by continuing to add on to what I’ve learned, and by giving back to the community. I devoted myself to help those who really needed it; although the more vital part is that my mindset while doing so was what has changed.

Now, everyone starts with a clean zero, until I get to know them myself, I don’t let anything factor into what makes them who they are. It doesn’t matter where in society they are placed, or what they are labelled as, but what I remember them by is what makes them unique. Because that’s how I want others to perceive me, that’s how I will perceive others.  Everyone has a story worth being listened to. We never know how people got to where they are currently without seeking to comprehend. I still think about my experience that day, and share it with others; hoping to make the impact that I’ve cherished to this day.

 

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Ashlee’s disorganised cluster of thoughts

You can often find me making metaphorical references to almost everything, as well as scolding my friends when they don’t make sustainable choices, such as putting plastic bottles in the garbage (shame on all of you who commit such sin). So when I was posed with the question, “What is philosophy”, my default mode went into comparing it to how a plastic bottle gets recycled. Philosophy is rather subjective and endless topic, and the question, “What is philosophy” is as challenging, so I decided to compare it to one of my most adored topics.

One of the first stages of recycling is when one starts with a fresh bottle of fluid, and of course, it will eventually disappear. This is much like how in philosophy, you start with a bright new topic and absorb all the knowledge you might need. One of the most fundamental stages of developing a personal theory is to ensure that you can create a strong, deductive argument with valid premises that leads to a true conclusion. In order to do this, it is a priority to absorb in all the relevant information and to practice prior research, yet, like mentioned in Talk with me by Nigel Warburton, the purpose of philosophy is not to become a human ambulant data bank, philosophy is beyond just pure information.                    

If you are a compassionate human being with a place in heart for sustainability, you are aware that plastic bottles belong to the recycling when empty. Subsequent to, it getting sorted according to its type and being chopped up into little fragments. This can be compared directly to how in philosophy; thoughts may be sorted into different people having different “answers”. Often times, those “answers” tend to branch out into smaller fragments to support its root. A key aspect of developing your personal theories is through conversation. It is a gateway to challenges, questions, and a chance to further polish any flaws in your premises. Like stated in Talk with me,

“Without conversation and challenge, philosophy very quickly lapses into the dead dogma”;

without conversation, there is no bone to philosophy, or any topics of that matter.                                                  

A personal favourite stage is when the once-plastic-bottle is cleaned and compressed into tiny pellets… to become an even newer plastic thing! Much like this stage, philosophy tends to greatly affect future outcomes. If knowledge is information you can learn and intake, wisdom is what you do with your past experiences, and personal theories can greatly influence that (Miles Kingston once said, “knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad”). Having the ability to develop your internal conflicts into perfecting your beliefs is an attribute I highly respect. I’m a huge believer that change is by choice, and that means that one’s mindset tends to influence their life the most; more than any external causes.                                                                                                                           

The question, “What is philosophy “makes me think, and it always will. I can only wish that my response to this question by the end of the semester is more strongly developed than it is now.  Although, the past week I definitely did conclude on the fact that philosophy is constantly being recycled; it’s endless. It’s beyond just knowledge, it’s about wisdom and human interactions. However, for now, all I can do is to think and to question myself; to perceive any opposition as challenge, and to be the creator of my life. As for now, I am still in the stage of drinking my delicious juice, aspiring to come across my plastic bottle again after it becomes a new one.   

pondering “what?”

 

 
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