Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Philosophy 12 Final : What is Philosophy?

My philosophy final talks about my journey through Philosophy 12 🙂



Disinterestedness — More than just a big word

We all have different passions. For me, this:


source: http://www.brightsideofnews.com/2014/09/03/lenovo-announces-intel-powered-tab-s8/

is infinitely more interesting than say, this:

source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/84935187@N04/15045568809/in/photolist-oVwtqM-ej4aUR-bVJFVV-pGvQuS-8M5Tx-91k5nz-ovAAJq-9Kb7V8-nJu3a6-nnL5Y9-pPHdvG-a3pCa9-9QcGXE-p6SGtS-fgyZv9-nftvfa-d9XQ7-8K4qTh-6CreoR-4eANYS

source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/84935187@N04/15045568809/in/photolist-oVwtqM-ej4aUR-bVJFVV-pGvQuS-8M5Tx-91k5nz-ovAAJq-9Kb7V8-nJu3a6-nnL5Y9-pPHdvG-a3pCa9-9QcGXE-p6SGtS-fgyZv9-nftvfa-d9XQ7-8K4qTh-6CreoR-4eANYS

At the same time, the first picture invokes a positive aesthetic experience whereas the latter does not. Why? In my case, I believe that interest, or rather, disinterestedness can also play a huge role in the way we perceive experiences, as either positive, or negative.

There is no doubt that I have an interest in technology. The glossy display of a tablet, the alluring camera hump on a smartphone, the internals of a powerful computer all give me a positive aesthetic experience. However, to many other people, this is definitely not the case. Others may find that the smell of a freshly mown lawn (gross), the ‘beauty’ of a colourful flower (meh), or the beautiful contrast between land and sky in the horizon (admittedly pretty beautiful) as a more positive aesthetic experience, but I find that because I have an interest in technology, I have a better aesthetic experience and appreciation of it.

At the same time, I recognize my disinterestedness in things such as grasses of flowers. I’ve never appreciated the so-called ‘beauty’ in a flower, but instead have found it just a natural part of life. Although I can see why some may find it to be visually appealing with its bright, vibrant colours and soft smell, but because my own interest is not nature, I am not attached to the experience of nature as I am to, say, automobiles. My disinterestedness also affects my aesthetic experiences, making possible ‘positive’ experiences into ones that are just aesthetic experiences, not pleasing.

In conclusion, I’ve found that interest plays a huge part in the aesthetic experience. For me, it’s easy to say that an aluminum-brushed smartphone is ‘beautiful’, but to others, a flower might be there go-to example of beauty. My interest in technology, and the other person’s interest in the flower can co-exist because neither of us is wrong. There is no set standard to beauty, there is only individual perception. And through my perception, my own interest would lead me to believe that there is nothing more ‘positive’ than the LEDs on the outside of a flashy gaming computer.




Distance, disinterestedness, and beauty are not defining characteristics of the aesthetic experience

Source: http://www.gettyimages.ca/detail/photo/milage-and-direction-sign-post-high-res-stock-photography/82626172?Language=en-GB


Although distance, disinterestedness, and beauty may affect the characteristics of the aesthetic experience, the actual experience cannot be defined by those factors.

Colin Leathe claims that the “aesthetic experience requires an interest in having the experience” (Leathe 3), hence being disinterested is something one can’t even do subconsciously when trying to experience something. For example, Leathe describes the experience of Kant who believes that his appreciation of “flowers, free patterns, [and] lines aimlessly intertwining as pleasing despite… he having a disinterested and free delight in the experience” (Leathe 3). However, Leathe argues that because he is fascinated in his own enjoyment, there is some degree of interest and Kant cannot then truly be disinterested.

Additionally, beauty also cannot be a part of the aesthetic experience due to how subjective it can be. In the text Colin uses the example of one man that perceives fog as beautiful and another man that perceives fog as terrifying. Both characters are varying distances ‘away’ from the fog, as one is a sailor leisurely sailing through, while another is a character shouting into the fog to find his friend. As a result, the beauty of the experience is actually determined by such aspects such as distance and disinterestedness, and is actually not the ‘cause’ of an experience but the ‘effect’ of the experience on the feelings of an individual.

Finally, distance is most definitely not capable of defining the aesthetic experience because it merely helps us “[understand] the positive aesthetic experience”(Leathe 4). Bullough uses the example of being in a theatre distant from the actions that are happening on stage. Although we may be experiencing the play happening we have “no desire of control” (Leathe 3) it.

All in all, these three categories can help us understand the aesthetic experience but are simply not defining features about it.

Questions for extension/discussion:

Is distance always necessary for appreciation of the aesthetic experience?

Is there a point where too much distance actually detracts from the aesthetic experience?

Why would distance be beneficial in the aesthetic experience?

Can you be disinterested in something and consciously observe and experience it at the same time?



Midterm Assignment: Perception of Experiences for Knowledge

In the beginning of the epistemology unit, I had no concept of how there can be innate logic in our heads without experiences. Through the research of both myself and my classmates, I slowly began to push against my own idea, realizing that the concept of learning and increasing knowledge with experience is not mutually exclusive with having innate logic and reason within ourselves from birth. The two intertwined is what gives humans the ability to both experience, and learn and gain knowledge from those experiences. However, in the end, I did realize that the more passionate portion to me is still trying to decipher how one’s experiences affects his or her knowledge on one topic. My research question then, has to do with how our prior experiences affect the way we perceive future experiences and therefore our knowledge. The proposition is as follows: Our prior experiences affect the way we perceive future experiences, and therefore the knowledge we gain from these experiences.

A and B have the same shade but our eyes often account for the shadow of the cylinder. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Same_color_illusion_proof2.png

With that proposition, I do make a few assumptions.

1. Experiences give us knowledge
2. The way we perceive experiences affects the extent and perspective of the knowledge we gain
3. The way we react to future experiences is dictated by the knowledge gained by our prior experiences

So if we frame it in an argumentative fashion:

If experiences give us knowledge
and the way we perceive experiences affects the knowledge we gain
and the way we react to future experiences is affected by our previous knowledge
then the knowledge we perceive in the future is directly dependent on the knowledge gained by previous experiences.

Therefore, we can say that the knowledge we gain from previous experiences directly affect the knowledge we will perceive in future experiences.

Before we start moving too far, however, we do require these propositions to be true. So let’s start with the first:

1. Experiences give us knowledge

It is hard-fought to find somebody who would disagree with that statement. If we touch a stove when it’s on, we gain the knowledge that the stove is hot when on. If we go outside and touch snow for the first time, we gain the knowledge that snow is cold. Therefore, experiences do give us knowledge, if we define knowledge as awareness and familiarity.

2. The way we perceive experiences affects the extent and perspective of the knowledge we gain

This concept is a bit harder to prove, but it with the idea of selective perception and selective retention, it could be seen as true as well. Selective perception means to not notice things that bring emotional discomfort, and to notice experiences that give us emotional fulfillment. In the same leaf, selective retention is when humans remember certain instances that are closer related to their values and interests. An example of selective perception may be a teacher who remembers their best and brightest students’ excellent work, but disregards a slacker student’s effort to become better. Following on with the same example, selective retention would dictate that the teacher remembers their best students more than they would remember bad students. With these two concepts that convey the idea that our mind narrows according to our emotional feelings, it can be said that the above argument is true. If we close our minds off to certain aspects, it affects the extent of what we can learn from the experience as we are not perceiving certain aspects of it, therefore affecting the knowledge we gain as well. Therefore, I would say the statement above could be seen as true.

3. The way we react to future experiences is dictated by the knowledge gained by our prior experiences

The statement above can be considered true as well. Learning means to recognize knowledge from experiences, and like how a child can quickly come to realize that falling down hurts, they can learn that they do not want to fall down. Therefore, once a kid learns that falling is bad, they might react to a potential situation that may invoke falling differently than if they didn’t have this knowledge.

Which brings us to the last point. Because experiences give us knowledge, and the way we perceive experiences dictate what kind of knowledge we gain, and the way we react to future experiences is dictated by prior experiences, we can come to the conclusion that the knowledge we gain from experience in the future is dependent on the knowledge gained from the past because prior experiences change our reaction to future experiences, allowing us to perceive things differently than if we didn’t experience the prior experiences. Phew, that was a mouthful.

The idea I thought I came up with is not exactly a new concept. Enactivism “argues that cognition arises through a dynamic interaction between an acting organism and its environment.” Evan Thompson, one of the fathers of enactivism who is also a professor at UBC, argues that “experience of the world is a result of mutual interaction between the sensorimotor capacities of the organism and its environment.” In my idea, he argues my point that the interaction between an organism and its environment ultimately dictates experience, which grows to knowledge. Though a relatively new philosophical idea, enactivism perfectly encompasses my argument that our experiences prior affect our experiences and knowledge of the future.

Though the idea of acquiring knowledge through experience is an age-old concept, it’s seen that there is always room for improvement. Because I know this, I will know that I am interested in the future about this idea in the future and therefore will act accordingly. And so, I end this mid-term with this quote by Marianne Williamson:

We can always choose to perceive things differently. We can focus on what’s wrong in our life, or we can focus on what’s right.’



What’s up[,]dog? Not much, what about you?

In my first post, “Aliens, Koko the Gorilla, and Interspecies Communication,” I talked about how animals should be defined as people due to their sense of self. In my research on animal consciousness, specifically on animals being aware of self, I found multiple philosophers that argue both for animal consciousness and against, with some notable philosophers like Descartes and Thomas Nagel taking the opposition, and Douglas Hofstadter and Donald Griffin as the proposition. In this blogpost, I will be analyzing the thoughts of Bernard E. Rollin, an American philosopher and professor of philosophy at Colorado State University who argues that animals are both conscious and able to feel pain.



In Animal Rights and Human Morality, Rollin splits the book into four parts — Moral Theory and Animals, Animals Rights and Legal Rights, The Use and Abuse of Animals in Research, and Morality and Pet Animals.

Part one of the book describes the moral theory and its application to animals. Part two Rollin tries to convince the reader that because of the implications of part one, we should also grant legal rights to animals. Part three firmly analyzes the theme of ethics in animal experimentation while also describing the role of humanists in both scientific and philosophical issues. Part four describes pets and morality, arguing that pet animals, if treated humanely, is still morally right.

In general, Rollin’s views can be described as a healthy medium between die-hard, vegan, animal-activists and Descartes’, whose mistreatment of animals due to his view that animals are not conscious, earned him the reputation of a man with blatant mistreatment of animals. For that reason, I have come to agree with his more moderate views of animal rights, stating that humans should be treated with legal rights but also still be classified as something other than ‘persons’ under the law.

In conclusion, I’ve come to find Rollin’s views on animal rights and consciousness as refreshing, considering the two extremist views we always see. His realization that animals are conscious, but not to the extent of humans, therefore putting them as ‘humanoid’ but not completely human in the level of consciousness.






Aliens, Koko the Gorilla, and Interspecies Communication

Below is a powerpoint presentation with my blog post in mind 🙂



NSA Need Not Look Here

Edward Snowden, the whistleblower of the NSA, is arguably one of the better-known crusaders for privacy. When he talks, people listen, which is why Tech Crunch reports:

According to Edward Snowden, people who care about their privacy should stay away from popular consumer Internet services like Dropbox, Facebook, and Google.

Anthony Ha “Edward Snowden’s Privacy Tips: “Get Rid Of Dropbox,” Avoid Facebook And Google”

The argument is made that those who value privacy ought to stay away from popular consumer Internet services. The argument can be broken down into this:

  1. Premise: People who care about privacy take measures to ensure their privacy
  2. Premise: Popular internet services do not ensure the privacy of their users
  3. Conclusion: Therefore people who care about their privacy should stay away from popular consumer Internet services

First, to determine the soundness of Snowden’s argument, we must ensure that the arguments are true/accurate.

  • Premise 1 can be contested, though is mostly accepted.

  • Premise 2 can be contested. Popular Internet services may not have privacy as their highest concern, it may be argued that Internet services are not antagonistic to privacy. Companies like Dropbox actively encrypt files transferred from you to their servers, and are also encrypted while they rest on their servers as well.

Therefore, the flaw in Snowden’s logic lies in premise 2, stating that popular consumer internet services do not ensure the privacy of their users. Though the form of the argument may be valid, premise 2’s error in its contents damages the truth of its premises, and consequently the conclusion reached.

The reason why Snowden may have come to this conclusion is another argument in itself. Though his idea of ‘privacy’ may differ from those of a layman, he should be aware that not all popular consumer internet services disregard privacy, though many do. This misconception may have come from numerous sensationalist titles of news articles:

The Guardian – “Apple’s Tim Cook attacks Google and Facebook over privacy flaws”
BBC News – “Google urged to change privacy rules by data regulators”
Reuters – “German privacy watchdog tells Google to restrict use of data”
ABC News – “How Hackers Got Private Photos Without Ever Breaching Snapchat’s Servers”
Dailymail UK – “We’re not reading your email or your iMessages’: Apple boss Tim Cook hits out at privacy claims following iCloud hacks”

The links above are just a few examples of headlines denouncing popular consumer Internet services like Google, Facebook, and Snapchat so it’s very likely for people to assume that social media and Internet services don’t have peoples’ privacy in mind. However, because many of these companies’ backbones consist of users’ information, they put in place many privacy measures that users can utilize. Though not saints of any kind, Google, Facebook, Apple, and Snapchat servers themselves rarely get hacked. However, the average consumer does not put privacy as the highest concern, resulting in shared or week passwords for multiple accounts, or the usage of third-party apps resulting in privacy issues unconcerning the companies themselves.

Though Snowden brings up a good point that those concerned with privacy should be more vigilant when approaching social media and internet services, privacy is not always in the hands of the company that holds the information. Though hacks on servers are not unheard of, many times the user themselves are what cause privacy-related problems. And because of that, not all people concerned with privacy should stay away from popular consumer internet services.





Philosophy Transcends the Boundaries of Space, Time, and Communism

Philosophy is Universal

Prezi Presentation

When you look at my Prezi presentation, you’ll see that the background is a very generic, cliche picture that many use to denote philosophy — a universe. “Now Jeff,” you might say “why are you choosing such a cliche picture?”

And my response would be, “Because I’m a very unimaginative person.”

But in reality, I would say that it’s because sometimes cliches are true.

The simplest reason why we associate the picture of the universe with philosophy is because people often mistakenly believe all philosophers to be hippy, left-leaning, life-pondering individuals. Now that may not necessarily be wrong, but at the same time it’s not correct either. Philosophy is so much more than just the question of “Why do we exist?” or “What role do we play in the universe?” but to many, that’s all they’ll care to think about regarding philosophy.

Let me introduce you to another reason why the philosophy can be represented by the universe — philosophy is universal. Before I get to the dudes chilling on the universe background, let me talk more about what I mean by that statement. First of all, let me define my version of universal as “transcending the boundaries of space, distance, and time up to the point of human existence.”

The reason why I choose the point of human existence is because philosophy, or what we know it as today, existed ever since the first human with the full or even lesser cognitive ability as us walked the Earth. If we look at ancient religions, cultures, and artworks, we can see that even the earliest of humans pondered philosophical questions. A common one is “where do we come from?” Almost every civilization in the world has come up with an answer to that question. The ancient Romans adopted the beliefs that the modern-day Christian God molded humans from his own image.

Next is, “where do we fit in in the universe?” Many civilizations believed us to serve the gods, such as the Mayans who sacrificed people to satisfy their bloodthirsty gods, or the Aztecs who also sacrificed people for their bloodthirsty gods, the Indus River Civilization who sacrificed people for… you get the point. But joking aside, besides human sacrifice, philosophers from across the world, across space and time, and even still today are just debating about what we truly are in the grand scheme of things.

Now, let’s get back to the actual presentation. Now that I’ve talked about ancient history, let’s get back to…. last century. First off is Marx — if you don’t know him, he’s the one who inspired the not-so-music loving Lenin (to clarify, that’s the one who founded the Soviet Union, not the one who co-wrote Yellow Submarine with Paul McCartney). His thoughts are what inspired the formation of the Soviet Union, and consequently the Cold War, and today’s (or moreso yesteryear’s) People’s Republic of China.

Next, we go back 2500 years, to the warring states period where Confucius, that handsome dude over there, founded the principles that most, even modern Chinese people, have been influenced by. Ideas of respect for elders and even some aspects of the divine right of rule for kings still exist in the mind of many Chinese.

Next is Lao Zi, another Chinese philosopher who founded the ideas of modern-day Taoism.

Finally, going back to the stereotype of old, dead, white men, we see Aristotle. His ideas and his studies still permeate society today. For those of you who remember yesterday’s philosophy class, he was one of the first people ever to study logic, and he probably went through much of the same process as us!

To conclude, I just want to express the idea that philosophy, at least to me, is subjective — which is why it fits so neatly into every human being and civilization that has ever existed. It’s fitted and molded with the times, whether it’s during prehistory or the modern age. It’s fitted and molded by local geography, traditions, cultures, and so many other factors that it’s nigh-impossible to define it markedly for everybody at once. Which is why to me, the only real answer that I can really express about philosophy, as of right now, is that it’s universal.