Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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What is Philosophy? Final

Looking back at the “David” from five months ago I can easily say I was a much more ignorant individual than I am now. Like the majority of us, I also believed philosophy was the study of white guys with “white beards”, but from the start of the semester my assumptions were wrong. Instead of “talking about our feelings” we dealt deep into

Initially, my idea of philosophy had to do with questions. I believed philosophy was the series of questions humans use in order to answer the unanswerable; because you cannot have an answer without a question. Although this is true, I soon realized that much of philosophy wasn’t the answering of the question, but actually the process of answering the question. A process in which you would leave with more questions than you had before, and so on and so forth.  I was pretty satisfied with this answer I created for myself. As a result, I was very unsure of how my answer would differ compared to the one at the end of the semester, but it is quite astonishing that indeed it changed.

Although my views have not altered completely, and I do in fact still agree with the “david of the past” I think there is a deeper meaning to all of this. To me philosophy has shifted into a more complicated way of trying to understand the world around me. Similarly to solipsism, our views on the world are unique to every single one of us, and the journey we have as an individual in order to understand our own version of the universe through questions, experiences, and the people around us is what I think philosophy is. I also believe that every person’s subjective philosophy becomes a means to help every other individual achieve their philosophy. A process that takes a lifetime, and stays alive after we die. For example, the philosophies of well-known philosophers live on and help us become wiser individuals.

Overall this course has been extremely interesting and enjoyable. It was not what I was expecting, and it definitively surpassed my expectations, as it rose to being on of my favorite of my high school career. The unique way of teaching through discussions and blog posts has proved efficient while very fun. And I think Mr.Jackson did a wonderful job of organizing this entire course. Thank you everyone that made it an enjoyable part of my semester! 🙂

 

 

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Torture… Yay or Nay?

 

First let us define torture.

According to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, torture’ means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.” (United Nations Convention Against Torture, Article 1)

I often ask myself whether torture is justifiable in certain situations such as the ones undergone in Guantanamo Bay by the U.S. government. Is it the means or the ends that really matter? And can torture really be justified?

As a method of retrieving information, torture can be quite effective. Although this is true, the information that is gathered is often false due to the unexplainable pain one undergoes. In stressful situations like these, an individual must often say anything to bear the pain they feel. In a particular example, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a twelve year innocent prisoner is charged with helping Al-Qaeda by training those that committed the 9/11 attacks. The only reason he was taken away was because his name came up when someone was being tortured. Slahi is still captive, and up until now there has been no proof that is guilty.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/excerpts-from-guantanamo-diary-of-mohamedou-ould-slahi-a-1013724.html

Personally, my beliefs on torture is that it is an act of immorality, and unjustifiable by any means. The fact that one must undergo “severe pain or suffering” which can ultimately cause death or serious brain damage is extraordinarily disturbing, regardless of whether the individual is guilty or innocent.  Often people become insane, with certain “sensory deprivation” activities often resulting in confusion, disorientation, and hallucinations; where individuals must wear blindfolds, headphones and masks to block out their surroundings.

In order to achieve a higher understanding of what happens in a Guantanamo bay style of detention camp, I decided to investigate further. As a result I found myself watching the documentary “Torture – The Guantanamo Bay Handbook” by UK’s channel 4, where the appalling conditions of a camp were replicated, and a handful of volunteers had the “Guantanamo Bay experience”.  The individuals taken were on both sides of the spectrum; where some agreed with Americans utilizing torture and some did not. The experiment would last approximately three days. What initially struck me was that many of the individuals could not handle twenty-four hours of the experiment. In fact, one volunteer was forced to drop out of the experiment because he had begun to show the initial signs of hypothermia.  After the full experiment ended, only a couple individuals were left and those that agreed with torture had completely changed their minds. This goes to show you that it is much easier to demand and say something than it is to actually go through it. This leaves me extremely curious to see what Dick Chaney would say, had he been a volunteer in the experiment.

Categorical Imperative:

Kant would perceive torture as wrong no matter what the circumstances are. He would argue that torture is never the right thing to do, even though the circumstances “might” allow it.  Morally, having a few individuals undergo extreme mental and physical pain would be wrong because there would be other ways of dealing with the situation. Ways that in his mind would seem suitable for his “right” mentality.

Utilitarianism:

When it comes to “maximum happiness” utilitarianism would view torture as a correct means of producing the maximum amount of happiness for the most amounts of people. An example of this would be in the U.S. Regardless of whether the individuals in Guantanamo Bay are innocent or guilty, having them there allows the public feel a sense of security because the “villains” are where they should be. They would argue that, as long as it helps the bigger cause and allows them to retrieve information, anything goes. And in this case, having only a few hundred individuals suffering intensely is better than having the masses unhappy.

The question I leave is whether you agree or disagree with torture, and Guantanamo Bay?

 

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Is E.T. Capable of Knowing?

 

Does knowledge exist outside of earth?

One of the biggest questions humans have asked since the dawn of time is, whether there is life outside of earth. One can only assume that there is another planet in existence other than earth that can provide the necessities to bear life, but what are the chances that the life that exists is intelligent. In other words, can these extra terrestrial organisms perceive knowledge? It is a very daunting question, but one that I really want to investigate.

Thanks to astrophysicist Frank Drake, we have come slightly closer to calculating the probability of other life forms.  His research led him to create the Drake Equation: an equation that calculates the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which radio-communication might be possible.  Although the specifications of this equation do not provide us with the number of planets that can harbor knowledge, we can conclude that if the species in the civilization can communicate through radio, they are conscious beings that can perceive an idea similar to knowledge.

Drake Equation:

 

  • N = The number of civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.
  • R* =The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.
  • fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.
  • ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.
  • fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.
  • fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.
  • fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.
  • L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

– Frank Drake

After plugging in the numbers Frank Drake came up with the conclusion that in the Milky Way there are four to ten planets with civilizations capable of communicating with us through radio. Although this is quite interesting, the factors in the equation vary quite a lot, and depend too much on the unknown. Furthermore, an organism with the intelligence of a dog can exemplify the use of knowledge. As a result, this leaves me quite sure that there are more than 4 to 10 planets where knowledge exists. Not to mention, that is only in the Milky Way.

So, to answer my initial question, “does knowledge exist outside of Earth?”, I think yes it does. Although it is only a theory, the possibility of it being true is quite high. But this causes me to enter a loop of so many questions. But the one I’ll leave with you now is, will our lack of communication with extra terrestrials cause detrimental consequences between the sharing of our knowledge and theirs?

 

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Video Replay in Soccer

The FIFA World Cup is arguably the biggest sporting event the world has ever known. Regardless of its prestige, FIFA has one of the least advanced review systems in the athletic world. As a result, the world cup is notorious for controversial calls that usually infuriate entire nations at a time. It is very common for a team to get knocked out of the tournament due to a miss call from a referee and his three linesmen.  When asked about reviewing calls, Sepp Blatter (President of FIFA) responded by saying “If we were to permit video replay it would lead to a flood of commercials that would essentially destroy the game,”

Premise one: Video replay will cause the game to stop often

Premise two: Commercials are utilized frequently when the game is stagnant.

Premise three: Commercials are bad.

Conclusion: Video replays will cause soccer to have many commercial breaks and will essentially ruin the of the sport.

Over view

Premise one is factually correct due to examples in other sports such as hockey. Whenever the game stops due to a call or a review, the game is paused for up to thirty seconds at a time. It is very likely that the same thing would happen in soccer.

Premise two is also correct, but it can change depending on the contracts FIFA makes with all the companies. Depending on the protocols FIFA must follow, the premise could be considered correct.

Premise three is not valid because there are commercials in soccer, but only at half time. So technically this premise is incorrect.

The entire argument is not sound due to a flaw in premise three. I think what Sepp Blatter has the idea that by implementing reviews, there would be too many commercials for his liking; making this topic very subjective because it is only his opinion and  a majority of soccer fans do not agree with Sepp Blatter’s views. Ultimately, this topic is very controversial and as a soccer fan myself, I don’t agree with Sepp at all. Since soccer is the largest sport in the world, I believe it should have the best review system also.

 

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Money and Happiness

In my first post, I dealt with a topic that had more to do with free will. In truth, I wanted to talk about whether we had the right to choose to be happy or not; which in itself ties into free will, but I didn’t know if getting into the topic would be considered metaphysical.

“Happiness is Pleasure; all things are to be done for the sake of the pleasant feelings associated with them” Epicurus

Happiness. What is happiness? Is it a state of mind, is it a feelings, is it a purpose?

The idea of “Happiness” has always caused excessive thinking in my mind. Happiness is a concept that we all strive for, but rarely seem to be satisfied with our results. As human beings we have been programmed to want the most amount of pleasure with the least amount of pain. Our entire lives are based on the things we like and want; things we receive pleasure from. Naturally, that means we strive for things that cause us happiness. Although this is true, why aren’t we always happy?

Well, the great philosopher Epicurus and Dan Gilbert gave me an answer I’m satisfied with.

They both stated that when it comes to money and happiness, the difference in happiness between a person that cannot meet their basic needs with their income are exponentially unhappier than those that can. For example, someone that has a $5000 per year income compared to one that earns $50000 a year the difference is huge. Yet when you compare a person that earns around a million dollars a year and a person that earns fifty-thousand the contrast in happiness is minimal.

The main reason I’m so intrigued by this is because our society and culture is so driven by money that we overlook all aspects of our lives for it. Could it be that we’re looking in the wrong places for happiness?

 

 

 

 

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Leaving the Cave

As human beings is it our obligation to “retrieve men from plato’s cave”? Or is it ultimately up to each individual to decide whether they want to stay in the illusion they call “life” or venture out into a new perspective on the world?

Until recently I never really thought about it. Throughout history, people that have reached a new level of understanding have always pulled people out of the deep abyss we call ignorance. For example, Isaac Newton, Galileo and all these others scientists have come up with conclusions about the universe that seemed illogical and Ludacris to society. These men were “crazy” and “insane” for coming up with such theories, yet nowadays their revelations have sparked entirely new ways of looking at the universe.

As we speak there are several human beings that have entered a higher state of mind, which inevitably means they see the world in a way we cannot imagine. Yet when they try to explain their findings to us, we react in disbelief. This process is an un ending cycle of knowledge. A process society forces us to catch up and keep up with. A very simple example is school. Up until grade eleven, it has been illegal for us not to go to school. The mere idea of “staying in plato’s cave” by not going to school is impossible for us.

This leaves me with the question do we really have free will? Because at the end of the day, our world is a CD player that keeps replaying itself. Although our small actions are our own, the end product is almost always going to be the same; we are going to get pulled out of “the cave” regardless if we want to or not.

 

 

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Wolf and Dog

We always ponder the question, “Science or philosophy?” Yet, can we really compare two different ways of pursuing knowledge. Is it right to justify which way is the right way? I am a believer of both philosophy and science, and it’s hard to see each community bash each other for thinking differently. If you compare a wolf and a dog you’ve got two animals that come from the same branch in the tree of life.  Both of these animals share the purpose to survive, however the behaviors they show in the quest to survive and thrive couldn’t be any more different. Dogs used to be creatures that could provide for themselves in ways that wolves do now. Although this is true, the dog has become a domestic creature that no longer has the need to take care of itself. As a result, its purpose has shifted towards being a loving companion and filling a role in our modern lifestyles. You could argue that science and philosophy share the same relationship: Both have evolved from the same branch in the effort to answer the questions of “why is”, but the process they use is not shared. For hundreds of years, philosophy and science were apples from the same tree, but as science has progressed into what it is now, the need for philosophy has shifted. Instead of helping us understand things that have already been answered, I think philosophy deals with the things science wishes it could answer; things numbers and equations can’t seem to crack.  I simply don’t believe these fields should be compared and analyzed in a competitive manner. Neither field is better than the other because they help us understand different things in different ways.

 
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