Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


The Aesthetic Experience -Katherine B

Calvin-existential“Fine wines and perfumes offer tastes and odors which are sought and enjoyed apart from the satisfaction of hunger; in dancing, movement sensations are enjoyed for their own sake; in the bath, heat and cold. But, as we have seen, it is not sufficient for a sensation to be free from practical ends in order to become aesthetic; it must be connected with the larger background of feeling; it must be expressive.”

-The Principles of Aesthetics, by Dewitt H. Parker

I do not find beauty in rainy days or classical music or renaissance art. I may not find beauty with a hundred dollars in my wallet, or in the Louvre, or in the company of someone who so desperately seeks beauty in this world as much as I do. I will not find beauty from a sunset on a Monday morning in March, nor in the hallways of my high school on a Friday afternoon. You, on the other hand, may love rainy days, classical music, visual art, good company, early mornings, and the end of a work week. You may also find what I perceive to be beautiful completely horrendous. Have you cried while thrashing in the beautiful chaos of a punk band’s mosh pit, or drove for miles in the weary night for the person you believe to be the most beautiful on earth – with curly brown hair who refuses to dress in anything other than tie-dye and suits? Can Dexy’s Midnight Runners force you to drop everything anywhere and dance until their song ends? Is your perfect night one filled with cheap tea and chemistry problems? Because those things are what I find beautiful; they are my aesthetic experiences.

The aesthetic experience can be defined as a “pleasurable and desirable experience… which gives life worth and meaning”, and penned by Nietzsche as something we use in order to cope with existentialism (partially the awareness of how meaningless our being and this universe is). It seems to act almost as an analgesic, or painkiller, to the realization we have of how little we know, and how little we are in this universe. Do the aesthetic experiences which I have change the reality in where my existence is virtually meaningless to this universe? Well no, they do not. However, they null the existential thoughts in my mind which if I were to dwell on, could very well lead me to insanity or suicide. In this sense, one could argue that the aesthetic experience is what keeps us alive.


The aesthetic experience is one we do not wish do change. We have control in these experiences, however decide to not change what it is we are experiencing, because we find what is happening to be pleasurable. Rephrasing, the aesthetic experience brings us a state of content. So are art and aesthetics necessary for the our survival? Well one could argue no, that aesthetics do not fulfil our fundamental bodily needs, however, do they fulfil our fundamental psychological needs? Once again, without aesthetics and art, we would be left in a state of sobering existentialism. But is this bad? If we lived in a society where existentialism was the dominating philosophy, would people be more productive or more stagnant? And so I prose the question, how necessary is the aesthetic experience for the development of humanity, both on a personal and a global scale?



The Ethics of Animal Experimentation -Katherine and Jessica

calvinhobbes_ethicsWe live in a society which prides itself for being modern, sophisticated, and cultured. A society hoping to fight corruption within systems, a society boasting cutting-edge research, a society living with justice and cohesive ethics. While many of us could agree with this, many others would disagree due to the way our society deals with different ethical dilemmas, especially regarding the controversy of animal experimentation. Before we discuss the philosophical ideologies applicable to this problem, let us define animal experimentation, and look at some concrete pros and cons it brings to society.

Animal experimentation is defined as “the use of non-human animals in research and development projects, especially for purposes of determining the safety of substances such as cosmetics and drugs”, thus we find two distinct purposes for animal testing: developing cosmetics and drugs. Cosmetic animal testing is used to determine the toxicity, appropriate dosage, and safety of an ingredient before it is put into product. There are many types of tests cosmetic companies run to determine the safety of an ingredient, such as the infamous Draize test, where a substance is applied to the eye of a restrained rabbit and reactions are monitored for up to three weeks. John H. Draize, Ph.D., the scientist who invented to Draize test, also developed a skin irritancy test in which high concentrations of test substances are applied to a rabbit’s shaved skin and reactions are observed. The rabbits are then disposed of after the experiment. Most cosmetic animal tests are a variation of Draize’s tests, and bring about both pros and cons to society, which we can evaluate with the different philosophical ideologies we discussed in class.

So what are the pros of animal experimentation for cosmetic purposes? From reflecting over what we have learned so far, it appears to only satisfy a lower form of utilitarianism. Cosmetic products make people “happy”. Mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, primer, foundation, and blush bring many an unyielding confidence and happiness from being perceived as aesthetically beautiful. Soaps, shower gels, lotions, perfumes, and cleansers allow people to (literally) feel pleasant, and bring them comfort and satisfaction as well. Utilitarians would argue that this happiness does bring about the good of “happiness”, as happiness from cosmetics is generally perceived as selfish, and so it satisfies only the lower level of utilitarian ethics. Contrasting, Kantian ethics would deem cosmetic animal testing as unethical, seeing that this type of animal experimentation is done only for self-interest. In order for it to be considered moral by Kantian ethics, we must be testing on animals due to a moral duty we have which rationalizes the action of subjecting them to inhumane trials and think; would this maxim be good if made into a universal law? The maxim in which we justify cosmetic animal testing can be phrased into a syllogism:

Cosmetics are tested on animals

Cosmetics make humans happy

Cosmetic testing makes humans happy.

Would this maxim of “doing what makes us happy” bring about good if implemented as a universal law? Simply, no. Some people find happiness in killing others. Some find happiness in wealth, and sell their souls to corruption in order to pursue their desire. Some find happiness in being aesthetically beautiful, and this happiness is often brought about by products which have been tested on animals. So we see that this maxim of “doing what makes us happy” cannot bring about only good if made into a universal law, and thus is considered immoral by Kantian ethics.


Now moving onto animal experimentation for medical research and drug development. Animal testing for medical research and drug development has been used by researchers for many centuries. A few highlights of medical discoveries from animal testing:

1600’s: William Harvey dissected animals to observe how blood flowed through the body. This resulted in the discovery of the circulatory system and how the heart pumped blood throughout the body.

Early 1900’s: Louis Pasteur proved the germ theory (that germs attack the body from the outside and cause diseases) to be true by infecting sheep with anthrax. He went on to discover how diseases were caused and the developed vaccinations for these diseases.

1920’s: Frederick Banting experimented on dogs to find the role the pancreas played in producing insulin, discovering a way to treat diabetes.

1950’s: Researchers and scientists injected streptomycin into guinea pigs diseased with tuberculosis, proving the capability of antibiotics to stop and reverse disease.

1960’s: Albert Sabin infected numerous animals to be living hosts of Polio, creating a living vaccine to inject into humans.

1960’s: Albert Starr pioneered heart valve replacement surgery by learning and practising on animals. The discovery of heart valve replacement surgery. No longer was a full heart transplant needed if someone had a diseased heart, technology could now replace unhealthy heart valves.

Mill’s utilitarian ethics would agree to medical animal experimentation, as we see an exponentially greater amount of “good” brought into the world from the harms we committed in order to bring about that good. Animal testing for medical research and drug development also satisfies a higher level of utilitarianism. The “good” (of progression in medical research), brought about by the “harm” (of testing on animals) is being created for an altruistic reason; to benefit and improve the health of all human lives. In contrast to cosmetic animal testing whose purpose is to satisfy debateably superficial wants, scientific animal testing is being used to grant people a higher quality of life.

Something we’re unsure about is where Kantian ethics lies on this issue. We’ve come up with two possible maxims to be conceived as universal law which would label scientific animal experimentation as either moral or immoral:

Moral: I am testing on animals to decrease the amount of human physical suffering in this world. So, would I want to live in a world where everyone worked to decrease the physical suffering of humans? Yes. Therefore, testing on animals is ethical.

Immoral: I am subjecting a living being to inhumane circumstances for the benefit of another living being. So, would I want to live in a world where every being could torture another being for the benefit of another? No. Therefore testing on animals is unethical.

The large difference between the two maxims is that they differ on how they view the rights of non-human persons. If we value them less then humans, then yes, it’s ethical. If we grant them the same rights as humans – such as the right to security of person – then no, torturing an animal is completely inhumane and unethical.

So we ask you: does with rights come responsibility? And if so, what responsibilities are animals fulfilling which grant them this right to security of their being?



The Wise Agnostic -Katherine

“Let us call this unknown something: God. It is nothing more than a name we assign to it. The idea of demonstrating that this unknown something (God) exists, could scarcely suggest itself to Reason. For if God does not exist it would of course be impossible to prove it; and if he does exist it would be folly to attempt it. For at the very outset, in beginning my proof, I would have presupposed it, not as doubtful but as certain (a presupposition is never doubtful, for the very reason that it is a presupposition), since otherwise I would not begin, readily understanding that the whole would be impossible if he did not exist. But if when I speak of proving God’s existence I mean that I propose to prove that the Unknown, which exists, is God, then I express myself unfortunately. For in that case I do not prove anything, least of all an existence, but merely develop the content of a conception.”

-Kierkegaard, Søren. Philosophical Fragments. Ch. 3

Throughout exploring many topics of Epistemology and engaging in class discussions, I’ve started wondering about what truth is, and how relevant knowing the truth is. Rephrasing, exactly do I need to know what the truth is? I began to read about a belief which I found to be quite interesting, called agnosticism. Agnosticism believes that metaphysical and religious truths will remain unknown, as proof must be provided to declare anything to be true. Agnostics are largely known for how their ideals view the existence of a god or gods. Agnostics do not believe in the existence of any deity unless there is enough evidence for the belief to be true. Agnostics neither believe atheists, unless an atheist can prove that a deity does not exist. Pertaining not only to spiritual beliefs, agnostics believe that the truth to metaphysical questions regarding being, knowing, and existence will remain unknown, due to the fact that physical proofs regarding our “being” are unlikely to ever be found. Agnostics only believe what has been proven to be true. So in that sense, aren’t they the ones who truly understand what “truth” is?

Our class discussed during the “History of Knowledge” that different religions have different religious “truths” which they believe, regarding reasons for existence, the ethics one should follow, and the key to salvation. Through studying epistemology, I think I’ve come to realize that all religious truths really aren’t truths. Because we believe religious truths. We don’t know religious truths. The truth should be something that we know, not something we must convince ourselves to believe through means our senses cannot experience. Is God out there? I personally believe He is. Can I prove it? Absolutely not. But when I witness the beauty of goodness, compassion, innocence, strength, or love, I wonder how these things can exist without some unknown deity granting us these things with their grace. However this is simply a belief. This is not something that I will ever absolutely know, and I would not categorize this idea I have convinced myself to believe as “knowledge”. I would say it is faith.I can’t prove anything, and yet, those who oppose my belief don’t have any evidence for God not existing either.

So do I know the truth? I surprisingly agree with agnosticism stating that only things capable of being proven true are really true. And I don’t believe in a certain religion being the “right” religion, as I don’t think any religion can wholly answer any questions pertaining to these “truths” which we so desperately seek. With that being said, although I have the knowledge that a religion will never bring me closer to the truth, I still choose to believe in God. This is my belief, this is not my knowledge. It is my personal philosophy which I choose to live by and use to satisfy my fear and curiosity of those questions that can never be answered. Ironically agnosticism is a belief, and beliefs do not relate to the truth. Like we’ve discussed in class, knowledge brings us closer to the truth, and frankly, from participating in class discussions, I’ve formulated that beliefs will never bring us to the truth, but so many of us have beliefs not because of our desire to know the truth, but due to the acceptance that we will never know it.

Marcus Aurelius Quote



Katherine 2013


Intro to Philosophical Inquiry: What is Philosophy?

Logic: Fifty Shades of Grey

Scientific Philosophy: Thomas Kuhn, Is Science Objective?

Metaphysics: Thomas Aquinas , Perception vs. Reality

Epistemology: The Wise Agnostic

Ethics: The Ethics of Animal Experimentation

Aesthetics: The Aesthetic Experience



Chris Price’s “The Problem of Evil



Perception vs. Reality -Katherine B.

Aquinas supported the idea that faith and philosophy could both be applied harmoniously into one’s life. Faith, or religion, often shapes one’s perception. How one views the world and reasons for which it exists often is dependent on one’s faith. One could believe that life on earth is simply a determining test for if one receives or is denied eternal salvation, thus, this perception shapes their reality. Others could believe that life on earth is all there is and therefore they should live a fulfilling, indulgent life. This perception creates their reality. These examples can illustrate our group’s theme that perception creates one’s reality. However, it is necessary to evaluate a theme which contradicts our group’s idea; that there is only reality, perception does not create it. Reality just “is”. From this point of view, reality is not dependent on what people perceive it to be; it is an independent, constant variable which never changes, and adheres completely with its dictionary definition as “something that exists independently of all other things and from which all other things derive”*.

Thomas Aquinas

So how does Aquinas try to resolve these two clashing ideals? He states that frankly, it doesn’t matter. What each individual perceives reality to be should not influence how a state is run or the amount of respect we treat others with. Individual theologies are subject to a secular state’s laws, and those laws should be liberal enough for people to practice their individual beliefs.




Thomas Aquinus -Katherine B.

Thomas Aquinas was born in Roccasecca, Italy, in 1225. At the age of five he was sent to the Abbey of Monte Cassino where he lived for eight years, puzzling over the question “What is God?”. At thirteen, he was forced to relocate to the University of Naples due to political instability in Monte Cassino. At the university, Aquinas began to form his theological philosophy while studying the works of Aristotle, Averroes, and Maimonides. He then joined an order of Dominican monks, was kidnapped by his family in attempts to eradicate his new beliefs, then was later released and returned to the order. Later, he went on to teach theology at the University of Paris before dying in 1274.

Aquinas attempted to reconcile theology and philosophy for the medieval mind, as the medieval society struggled with answering the question “What is?” through ideals of both faith and reason as the two often contradicted one another. Religion (predominately Catholicism in the medieval ages,) taught that God is the simply the answer to everything. This idea that God is the answer to everything, God created everything that is, and the confusion regarding the nature of being is answered by “God’s will”. Catholicism indirectly suggests that we can’t wholly understand the nature of existence and reality (meta) because we don’t have the same divinity and absolute knowledge that God has, therefore we should just accept the things we don’t understand because we’re not as smart as God. Contrasting, reason suggests that the more we ponder “what is ultimately there” and “what it’s like”, the closer we will get to answering the questions of our realities and existences.

So what exactly did Aquinas do? He brought about the idea that faith and reason can work harmoniously to answer questions about being, existing, and reality, and also co-exist within society. On an unrelated note, he proposed that religion and government should not be intertwined, as faith should be practiced within oneself, while the government must rule their people with reason. This exemplifies how one can live and think with both faith (within oneself) and reason (acting within society). Aquinas, though devoutly religious, philosophized that reason and scientific inquiry is essential to exploring and understanding metaphysics. He was a forerunner of spiritual men who attempted to unify theology and philosophy, which within our 21st century mindset, is quite common. So in our modern day, Aquinas’ ideas may not be that mind-blowing or paradigm-shifting. But in the intellectually deprived medieval ages, he proposed a revolutionary idea to harmonize theology and philosophy in order to study what is.



Fifty Shades Of Grey – Katherine

Before reading on: this has absolutely nothing to do with the book by E. L. James. Sorry folks.

Society hates murderers
Murderers are evil
Society hates evil


Society is good

I haven’t picked a specific article with which to construct this argument, as you can find multitudes of articles condemning murderers, and would have a very difficult time finding one glorifying them. These premises are based on my generalization of societal views of murderers; where I assume that society hates murderers based on the severe punishments we implement and animosity we breed towards them. I also assume that murder is a bad thing… Is that even an assumption?

Alright, with all assumptions aside, this argument is valid.
If x is not y
And y is z
Then x is not z.

Is this argument factually correct? Like I was saying earlier, I hope it is! The soundness of the argument then relies on the factual correctness of the premises. Once again, I hope it is!

I’ve attempted to draw another conclusion based on the conclusion “Society hates evil”. So if society hates evil, does that mean that society is good? After all, it’s just good versus evil, black versus white, Coke versus Pepsi… Or is it? The problem I’ve noticed with syllogistic logic is that it makes things either one way or the other, neglecting the possibility of contrasting things co-existing – which actually happens very often in our lives. Sometimes there’s fifty shades of grey in life, sometimes we mix our Coke with Pepsi, and sometimes good can exist alongside evil. Syllogistic logic argues that because society hates murders (who are evil), society therefore hates evil. And because society is opposed to evil, society must then be good. Well is society in essence, good? I’ll save my uncensored, unedited opinion about this for a time and place that doesn’t hold me accountable to what I say forever and ever (unlike the internet).

For now I’ll say this: If society’s “goodness” were to be a glass of soda, the cup wouldn’t be filled with only one type of drink. There would be Coke, Pepsi, iced tea, root beer, Dr. Pepper, Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, diet iced tea… Diet root beer… Diet Dr. Pepper… A mixture of many different drinks. I think it’s extremely difficult to define society as good or bad, despite the syllogistic logic of society’s goodness being sound. So you know what syllogistic logic? Even though you’re quite formulaic and I quite enjoy mathematics, I don’t think I like you very much.

Katherine likes math
Syllogistic logic is mathematical
Katherine likes syllogistic logic

Valid? Yes.
Factually correct? Definitely.
Sound? Apparently.
True? No way.



Assisted Suicide Syllogistic Logic -Katherine



We have the freedom of liberty

Assisted suicide is a liberty

/We have the freedom to choose assisted suicide


Yes, this form flows and makes sense, and is thus valid. It’s difficult to determine this argument as factually correct or not, considering that the second premise supporting this conclusion could be considered true or false, depending on who you ask. If the second premise is to be true, then this argument would be sound as well; vice versa for if the premise is false. This argument obviously supports the idea of assisted suicide, which is drastically impacting many in our society, as shown in the article regarding Dr. Donald Law’s request for the implementation of it. I don’t know if a proposal/argument like this could ever be wholly sound even if it became legalized, as we all have different opinions and philosophies, and despite any laws created, it would be difficult for them to completely influence one’s ideologies. So to some this may be sound, to others, simply valid.



Unarguable Logic -Katherine



Gilmour only teaches what interests him.

Gilmour is not interested in women authors.

Gilmour will not teach about women authors.


I honestly don’t understand why this article is even an article. But since it is, I think it’s a great example of something valid, factually correct, and therefore sound. I don’t see the purpose of this article as I find it completely logical and sound, and I rarely find articles which simply state things that make sense and that everyone can agree upon. This article attempts to create conflict in a story which there is none; concerning how women authors are not in Gilmour’s syllabus.


The form of this argument is valid. It follows the form;


x is y

y is not z

/ x is not z


With x representing Gilmour teaching, y representing what Gilmour is interested in, and z representing women authors.


It is also safe to say that these premises are factually correct. Gilmour will teach what interests him – true; Gilmour is not interested in women authors – also true. As this argument is both valid and factually correct, it is thus sound. I think the logic Gilmour uses to justify why he only teaches about male authors bears no discrimination against any person. What to consider is why this is even an article. I feel as though the author of the article, Joshua Errett, attempts to create conflict in a story where none exists. Now I can’t explain the logic behind that.



What Is Philosophy? -Katherine




  1. The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence
“Everything that we can’t answer is put under the subject of Philosophy.”
-Ashley A.
“The way people view the world.”
Sophie F.
“The study of mysteries we don’t understand.”
-Cassidy P.
“The love of wisdom.”
-Aidan C.
The study of knowledge.”
Sophie F.
Thinking of the way things are.”
-Maya M.
“The study of ideas and concepts.”
Angie D.
“Defining ways to live life.”
-Jordan L.
“Morals and ethics.”
-Willy C.
“System of ideals and beliefs.”
-Heidi B.
-Curtis G.
“A group of people coming together in the search of the meaning of life.”
-Andrea R.
-Grant G.
“Your outlook on life.”
-Jeff H.
“I don’t know. I have absolutely no idea what it is.”
-Maria B.
“What is philosophy?”
-Lorie T.
“The study of the things we don’t have answers to.”
-Daniella B.
“It’s the study of anything and everything.”
-Jessie Z.
“The way we live our lives, I think.”
-Katie L.
“Deep thinking about deep questions.”
-Alex C.
“A subject that questions the meaning of life.”
-Gabriel P.
“Whatever you want.”
-Liam S.L.
“The study of beliefs.”
-Raha D.
“Being able to think whatever you want about something, as long as you back it up.”
Chiara B.

To me, philosophy is an attempt to answer every unprovable question that man has ever asked. With this I suggest two things: one, that this is my answer to the question, “what is philosophy?” as I believe the answer to this question is unique to oneself, in the same way one is unique in relation to the seven billion other humans on earth. Two, that every philosophical question we attempt to answer and prove will never be answered nor proved. I say this because I would categorize any provable question under ‘Science’.

Despite my second proposition of philosophical questions being unprovable, I’ve feebly tried to prove my first suggestion regarding all the varying -and in my opinion- completely correct answers to the question of what philosophy is. Jessica and I questioned many people throughout our day, and received many different answers as to what they believed philosophy was. Some said philosophy studies the meaning of life, while others vaguely described it as the study of anything and everything. Google says it’s “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline”. Me? I agree with every definition, despite some definitions clashing (even with mine!), because I stand to support my opinion that only each individual can correctly define what philosophy is, for themselves. Jessica’s definition of philosophy is correct in Jessica’s eyes, just as Cassidy’s definition of philosophy is correct in Cassidy’s. My definition is correct to me, and my definition tell me that everyone’s eyes interpret things differently, but are subjectively accurate nonetheless.

I like to define philosophy as an attempt to answer unprovable questions, once again, as I believe anything provable falls under the realm of science. From a young age we used our philosophical thinking-cap, wondering why the grass is green, skies are blue, and clouds are white. We pondered what made us grow, sneeze, and bleed. We questioned where babies came from. We made up answers that made sense to us. At this stage in our lives, this was how we did philosophy. We had no way to prove our theory of the sky being an upside down ocean, or that storks dropped babies off at doorsteps. School taught us that chlorophyll makes grass green and white blood cells clot our wounds. As science began to answer questions that once seemed unanswerable, we progressed to philosophize about other things: How does the moon revolve around the earth which revolves around the sun? Why is it always sunny in California, and raining in Vancouver? Why am I happy? Why am I sad? Once again, science proved the existence of gravity, and showed us that certain activities boost serotonin levels. Science is based on proofs and what is, while in my opinion, philosophy is conceptual and what isn’t. If we ever are able to prove a philosophical question, it’s no longer a philosophical question, but now a scientific one with an answer.

So what is philosophy? It’s anything and everything I will never understand. But hey, that’s partially why I took this course.