Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Winter Break Aesthetics – Emily



I’m not sure why, but I often think of snow. I think that my parents think that I’m crazy because they

always dream of escaping the cold and traveling to hot exotic places during Christmas break but not me. I

long for that perfect moment when the snow falls and covers the world in a white powdery blanket. Before the snow trucks turn it black and watery and before it ultimately begins to rain again. This year we were lucky to get a little bit of snow on the final day of school, and as I walked to someone’s house after school, I traveled through the cold, blizzardy weather impassable by the four wheeled vehicles and the snow destroyers. In that moment, surrounded by the forces of nature you truly feel insignificant. And not in a cliche “you realize that the universe is really big” way. You just realize that you can’t do anything to change it. No one can (unless you count global warming which is a topic for another time). As you stare into the sky as little wet white fluffy things fall from the sky in millions, you begin to think about the world and how those snowflakes could have traveled it in whatever form they occupied. About the perfection of that little moment, and you learn to savor it as you know that it’ll only be there for a few moments before it disappears.



As i walked, I stopped for a moment until i was told to hurry up. Everyone was getting cold. The funny thing was that I wasn’t cold. I wasn’t really anything other than

awed. Now I’m not sure what it is that makes me love the snow and the cold. Maybe its the fact that this “perfect” moment only occurs once every few years. Maybe it’s the pureness of the snow. It’s truth and simplicity. Or maybe it’s neither and I’m just trying to be different than my parents. Either way, it’s vividness seems to stay with me for a long time. Sometimes until the next snowfall.

Aesthetic is described in the dictionary as


adjective es-ˈthe-tik, is-, British usually ēs-\-ti-kəl

: of or relating to art or beauty



But it’s something deeper than that it’s an individual process that occurs and that depends entirely on your own taste. There are however three features which all aesthetic experience have in common which people can use to test their own aesthetic experience and use to compare their aesthetic experience with others. These are; focus, intensity and unity (where unity is a matter of coherence and completeness). Focus where  your attention is solely fixed on your experience and Coherence which is having elements that are properly connected to one another so that you have a “complete” experience. So essentially, if you experience these three (or four, depending on if you count unity as two separate things) features, you have experienced an aesthetic experience. Now I was then wondering, what’s the point. When, evolutionarily speaking, has it been beneficial for us to, lets say, stare up into the night sky and look at the stars in awe. Wouldn’t that moment of vulnerability and separation get us killed. As it turns out, aesthetic experiences are a way of communicating with others and gaining new insights about the world. This way you have new information to share and to pass on to others.



So maybe an aesthetic experience means something different to everybody because in the end, although they all share the three characteristics. Aesthetic experiences say a lot about a person’s personality and interests. As everyone is different, everyone’s aesthetic experience will be different. Even if two people stare into the night sky at the same time, in the same place. What they experience will be incredibly different as the two have different knowledge and memories but maybe, they will be able to share their collective knowledge together through their perception of beauty and wonder.



Conscious and Unconscious Knowledge – Emily

Now I loved this unit. “Epistemology”. It’s even a cool word to say. Plus learning and knowledge are something that students often think about after being immersed in the world of school for six or more hours every day. Now, when I was trying to decide what I was going to write about I wasn’t sure what to do. There were so many things that had fascinated me and narrowing it down to one seemed difficult. After much deliberation I decided on conscious and unconscious knowledge. Another way of explain this is: what we know we know vs. what we don’t know but we know.



Now I understand that that is confusing and definitely not even close to perfect but it managed to help me sort through the topic. The “what we know we know” is the conscious knowledge. We have access to it at all times and we generally have a good idea of what it contains. The “what we don’t know but we know” is our unconscious knowledge. Although we technically possess the knowledge, our brain somehow can’t explain to us why we know this information and the limits to our knowledge.

Now, I have always wondered how it is possible for me to know something but to not really have access to it. For example if you ask a young child how they are able to catch a ball, they will probably just look at you really confused. They can catch a ball because they, well, can just catch a ball. Even if you ask me today, I will still not have a proper understanding. I might remember enough from a science class to recite back a generic response but my conscious mind will never be able to fully understand or process what my unconscious mind knows. A quick clarification is that unconscious knowledge is essentially the equivalent of instinctual knowledge. It still has to be processed by our brain and acts quite similarly to conscious knowledge but the connections are processed faster.



Now, some of my questions include, when did we acquire this knowledge? As young children did our unconscious brains secretly learn something that our conscious brain could not understand? And to expand on that, how much does our unconscious know that our conscious does not? Can we ever truly measure it? And does that mean that there isn’t a maximum amount of knowledge.

I was reading a very interesting blog post that says that conscious knowledge can become unconscious with experience, so essentially repetition is key. To go further with that you can essentially control your future instincts (unconscious knowledge) by thinking of what you want enough. Now this would lead me to believe that all of my instincts have been conscious knowledge at some point in my life. But what about instincts that have been passed down as humans evolved. We were never directly thought about that although it is possible to pick up on things that others do. Expanding that, what about children who show extraordinary abilities as young children in fields such as music, art, science and math. It has been speculated that when we are born we already possess subconscious knowledge but this is impossible to test. It is believed that unconscious knowledge is passed down by DNA but again this is fairly impossible to test.



Although this has not yet been proven there are a number of researchers and scientists who believe in this and say that theories about deep DNA memories cannot be ruled-out. If so, then it could be possible to access an ancestor’s memories and learn from their mistakes. Although we will never know if this is true it is altogether possible that our subconscious knowledge already has information about the dangers of life before we are even born. If so, then can we truly say that young children have an open mind and no preconceptions if their mind can already sense dangers?

Epistemology was an excellent unit and although I have not yet answered all my questions (with every question that I answer I discover at least two more questions), I hope to continue to think and reflect on them because although I do not believe in one universal truth, I believe that I can hopefully come close one day to achieving my own truth.

Since most of the questions that I’ve answer have many different answers, feel free to try to answer them yourself in the comments section.








Connective Knowledge and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs



Today I read a very interesting blog post about knowledge. It was by Stephen Downes on the different types of Knowledge and Connective Knowledge. This introduced a fifth kind of knowledge based on a network of connections.

Connective Knowledge involves learning about networks and learning from networks and connections. In the post Stephen mentions that humans are a part of a network and also have a network or are networks. Humans are part of society, a giant network that you can either observe by itself or based on the individuals who participate in it, and they are also a part of a neural network that is changed by interactions between people and through reflection.




Within these networks of knowledge there are also active and reflective participation. Active participation is, well, for lack of a better word, when you actively participate in society and when you perceive things as

they are with your brain. Reflective participation is when you observe society and reflect on your brain and how information is processed. It is a far more passive participation but requires far more thought.

I believe that they are both necessary, however are used at different times in different places.

Today in class we were talking about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.



When the bottom of the pyramid is not fulfilled, the individual cannot move up the ladder and therefore cannot make the shift from active participation to reflective participation. It is when people find themselves with extra time to think and are not worried about survival when they move into reflective participation and begin to think about how they think, and why they think the way they do. Unfortunately when people find their lives threatened every day, they remain at active participation and do not reflect as much about why they think as such things are frivolous and will not help you survive. All of that being said; it is still important to have a combination of both as, in order to reflect on what is happening you must first understand the network and connections and be able to navigate and understand them.



Emily 2013


Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry –  Negative Freedom?

Philosophy Stew

Logic and Scientific Philosophy – Basic Concepts of Logic – Preliminary Definition Prezi

Greenpeace Oil Rig Protest Logic

CrossFit Liberatarian Logic

Obama Critisized by Fox News Logic

Martin Heidegger and his Effects on Postmodernism

Metaphysics – Baruch Spinoza

Perception, Reality, and The Matrix?

Epistemology – Concious and Unconcious Knowledge

Ethics – Ethnics: Get Out! (with Aman and Julie)

Aesthetics – Winter Break Aesthetics


Logic and Scientific Philosophy – Potato Logic – Imtiaz

Unarguable Logic – Katherine

One Likes to Believe in the Freedom of Music – Dylan

Metaphysics – Henri Bergson – Ashley

Thomas Aquinus – Katherine



Perception, Reality, and The Matrix? – Emily

My group’s theme was perception creates one’s reality. A main problem that I’ve had with that is that it’s



possible for your reality to be that there’s only one reality. Therefore the two perceptions of reality cannot co-exist with both of them meaning two opposite things.

One of the scariest things is that everything could be in your head. Many movies have demonstrated this by showing characters awakening from their version of reality to discover that there is something else, a “truer reality” that they have never known. A good example of that is the Matrix where Neo awakens from the Matrix to discover that it was all essentially in his head.



The Matrix, is our version of reality and this movie explores the idea that our version of reality is not true and that there is another reality. The “true reality”. It is only when you awaken your mind that you discover that what you though was true is in fact false. Now, where it becomes more confusing is that that reality is also not necessarily the true reality. It could be that that is their own reality and that what they were living in before is the one reality. When you go further, is there one true reality, or does everyone have their own reality and their own version of the world? In short, is anything real? I think that one of the only ways to comprehend this theory that life is different for everyone is to understand it. When you begin to understand that everything could possibly be fake and all in your head you need to find a way to come to terms with it and to understand that that gives you more freedom. You are not bound by what anyone else does. You have your own reality.

According to Spinoza, reality is perfection and if any circumstances are seen as unfortunate it is only because of inadequate conception of reality. Spinoza also said that God and nature were the same reality. Although he didn’t ever explicitly say it, I believe that Spinoza believed in one universal reality with God and nature dictating the rules of society. Henri Bergson believed that immediate experience and intuition are the most effective for understanding reality. He also found that the thought of reality exceeds our logic and that we cannot begin to properly understand it. Our reality surrounds us and it is there even if we do not want it to be there. Thomas Aquinas believed that God is the author of all truth and whatever is discovered to be true about reality should not be challenged. He said that faith or religion affect’s one’s perception or reality. How one view’s the world depends on their faith.

The truth is that no one can answer the question of “What is reality and is it affected by your perception? “The best that we can do is to think about it and try to discover as much as we can during our lifetimes. I believe that the reason that people ask these sorts of questions is that so they can live a better life. As soon as you ask these sorts of questions you begin to understand the purpose of life and of living.



Baruch Spinoza

Baruch Spinoza was born on November 24th 1632 in Amsterdam.



He was the son of a successful merchant. Although his mother tongue was Portuguese, he also knew Hebrew, Spanish, Dutch, French, and later Latin. In 1653, at the age of 20, Spinoza began studying Latin with Frances van den Enden (later known as an atheist and a radical democrat), who introduced Spinoza to scholastic and modern philosophy.

When his father died in 1654 renounced his inheritance and gave it to his sister. Spinoza then adopted the Latin name Benedictus de Spinoza, began boarding with Van den Enden and teaching in his school. During this time Spinoza met the Collegiants, an anti-clerical sect with tendencies towards rationalism. During this time many of his friends belonged to group that rejected the authority of established churches. It is not certain when Spinoza began doubting the bible and all that it says but it is claimed that it was the result of a lengthy internal struggle.

Now branded as a heretic, Spinoza clashes with the church became more pronounced. After his father’s death in 1654, Baruch Spinoza ran the family business but had to give it up when it ran into significant financial difficulties. It was then that he decided to devote himself to philosophy. In 1656, the Jewish community in Amsterdam issued a ban of Spinoza. Spinoza spent his remaining 21 years writing and studying as a private scholar. It was then that he worked on and wrote his novel “Ethics”. During this time he worked as a lens-grinder for microscope and telescope which was said to have caused his death in 1677.



Spinoza’s philosophy was largely based around the bible. He believed that god exists and it abstract and impersonal. When he was younger and was studying Descartes, he disputed his theory that the body and mind are two separate substances and said that they were a single identity. He also contended that everything that exists in Nature is one reality and that there is only one set of rules governing the whole of the reality that surrounds us and of which we are part.

Spinoza also viewed God and Nature as two names for the same reality that is the basis of the universe and which all other entities are actually just modifications. He also believed that everything that has and will happen is a part of a long chain of cause and effect that cannot be changed. No amount of prayer or ritual will sway god. Only the knowledge of God allows us to best respond to the world around us. Spinoza was a determinist and believed that everything happens for a reason. According to him, humans do not have the possibility to say “no” to events that will happen, but we have the possibility to say “yes” and fully understand why things need to happen that way. When we say “yes” to things that happen and understand more about what’s happened, we become more free and more like God.



Spinoza lived a modest life and did not become well-known until his death. Once his book was published posthumously, he became known as one of Western philosophy’s more important thinkers. Philosopher Georg Wilhem Freudrich Hegel said that all contemporary philosophers are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all. I think that his modest upbringings greatly affected his work. He was shunned by his community at a relatively young age. Most of his philosophy was affected by this and his views of God were also determined by his childhood mentors and friends especially Frances van den Enden. Arguably one of the things that he is best known for is laying the groundwork for the 18th century Enlightenment.

I think that it’s truly incredible that he was able to make such pronounced statements about thing that we still are not sure of today. Spinoza’s naturalism (the idea that nothing exists beyond the natural world), was incredibly controversial and still is today. The thing that has surprised me the most is how sure he was of his beliefs even when they contradicted the social norm of the era.



Martin Heidegger and his effects on Postmodernism

Meine liebe Damen und Herren. Dear readers. My name Martin Heidegger and my work as a philosopher was instrumental in understanding postmodernism and their views on science. My book, Being and Time, is considered one of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century and my work is said to have played a crucial role in the development of existentialism, hermeneutics, deconstruction, postmodernism, and continental philosophy.


Is science objective: No, of course it is not. Scientific

researchers become scientific researchers through socialization and training and those are both changing through time so the scientific training that workers receive depends on social and political conditions. Without our preconceived notions, we are nothing. It is impossible to separate us from the environment that we live in. I feel that it is also important to note that fashions in science often change, and work that seemed important suddenly becomes irrelevant. Just as trends change as society progresses, science changes too.  I have always maintained that our way of questioning defines our nature and I believe that philosophy is a funnel through which we can pour our questions and try to find ourselves as we come up with an answer.

Science may not be objective, but in truth; what is? Can we truly say with certainty that something is objective if it is being manipulated and calculated by a human with their own history and experience? I believe that nothing is objective and that nothing will ever be objective because everything is done with the help from the mind of a person who has known cultural norms and standards and who has preconceived notions about the world.



Obama Critisized by Fox News Logic – Emily


In Obama’s speech to the United States during the Navy Yard shooting he mentioned that several people have been shoot and that some have been killed

12 people had already been killed during the Navy Yard shooting which was more than Obama mentioned

Therefore Obama is tasteless and has no decency or shame

This argument has no form as its conclusion does not follow its premises and is not factual as Obama’s speech to the United States does not prove that he is tasteless and has no decency or shame.

The author of this article, Michael Goodwin, is very cynical towards Obama. He has written and published a number of rant articles about him. It should come as no surprise that he criticized Obama during his speech. This article will not have many effects as it will be read by the people who read fox news and has not been published or viewed on many different sites, but it will affect nothing political.



CrossFit Libertarian Logic – Emily


CrossFit, the popular fitness regimen questioned the wisdom of military strikes in Syria

Some libertarians discuss military strikes in Syria

Therefore CrossFit is a libertarian organization

This argument has a correct form =

X, Y

Z, Y

X, Z

This argument is not factually correct as not all of the statements are true. The conclusion is a far-fetched guess based on the premises but has the potential to be argued. Despite this fact, I still believe that it is not factually correct. Although the argument has the correct form, it is not factually correct, therefore it is not sound.

This argument’s logic comes from a CrossFit tweet that was related to an article by the Cato Institute, a libertarian organization. The article discussed minimum wage regulations and how they can drive up unemployment. Although this argument raises the potential for CrossFit to be a libertarian organization, it is impossible to come to that conclusion without more significant evidence.

I don’t think that anything will change due to this article. CrossFit is considered to be controversial and has been accused of being a Libertarian organization on many occasions. Despite these accusations CrossFit is still a popular fitness regimen.



Greenpeace Oil Rig Protest Logic – Emily


30 Greenpeace activists were attempting to seize a drilling platform to the north of Russia

Vladimir Putin accused them of piracy

Therefore, they are pirates

In this argument neither the form nor the argument is valid. To begin with the form is not valid because the conclusion is not true. On top of that it does not fit in with any of the forms and does not have clear X, Y, and Z. The premises of this argument are also not factually correct because although the Greenpeace activists were accused of piracy, they are not pirates. Pirate being defined as “A person who attacks and robs ships at sea.” (the freedictionnary.com). Since this argument is neither valid nor factually correct, it is not sound.

The logic from this argument stems from the fact that Greenpeace activists boarded a high hazard Arctic oil rig with plans to stop its operations. Russian coastguards stormed the operation and began to round up the activists with knives and guns. They were then held on the boat until Russia decided to charge them with piracy with the support of Gazprom, the oil company that owns the rig that Greenpeace was trying to shut down. It was later revealed that Russia stopped Greenpeace’s argument because the any unauthorized action on the drilling platform could lead to an accident.

Now, this causes quite a stir for Greenpeace, who claims that they were just staging a peaceful protest. They still do not have much news from the activists, but a piracy conviction can carry a fine up to $15,000 and jail time.