Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Law, Ethics, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – Kelly

My father’s old friend is a law professor and has taught, studied, edited, and written books on ethics.  After reading the ethics blogs, this is what he replied with:

Many apologies for not responding sooner to the issues you raised in
respect of your daughter’s studies re law and ethics and the Charter.
I have been swamped…
Each time I have looked at the blog topic of the Charter as ethics
I am reminded of how complex this can be. It is impossible
to separate law and ethics generally in my view and the Charter
becomes but one expression of this.It is true that lawyers tend to see Law and Ethics as a unique topic
typically devoted to studying their own conduct, the latter being a very
important topic and practice. However lawyers seldom look
at the ethics of the substantive law with which they are dealing.A criminal lawyer looking at the Criminal Code would look at it technically
– does section such and such apply to her client (or the person she is
prosecuting). She would ascertain the facts, apply an appropriate
section of the Code to the facts (or respond to a charge laid
under a specified section) and would do this within
the context of rules of statutory interpretation and case law interpretation.
It is a technical act and, day to day, it mostly is simply that for most of us.
But that is not the only level one can look at the Code. It is
a profound statement of morality, of principles of right and wrong,
reflecting basic beliefs about proper behaviour. It is an offence to murder
someone – sure – but why and the why of it is an ethos
about right behaviour.

I am not sure how your daughter’s group is using the term ethics.
For many people ethics are synonymous with morals. The definition at Dictionary.com
reveals some of the complexity of the term:

[eth-iks] Show IPA
plural noun

1. ( used with a singularor pluralverb ) a system of moral principles:

the ethicsof a culture.
2. the rules of conduct recognizedin respect to a particularclass of human
actions or a particulargroup, culture, etc.: medical ethics; Christianethics.
3. moral principles,as of an individual:His ethics forbade betrayalof a confidence.
4. ( usuallyused with a singularverb ) that branch of philosophydealing with values r
elating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain
actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.

In my work in ethics law – I tend to view ethics as rules of conduct. Those rules
in turn reflect values and principles. The Charter reflects moral values,
ethical principles and rules of conduct.

The Charter is a profound statement of values but also provides rules for
public institutions. It values individual freedom (eg to worship,
to express oneself freely) and collective rights (language, schooling,
aboriginal rights). On the one hand it shows a value for the individual,
the importance of individual self fulfillment but also values the collectivity
or collectivities within society generally and thus reflects an appreciation and
valuing of our humanity as a social phenomenon.

The Charter has rules – public institutions must not abridge fundamental freedoms
for example – or well they must not do it unless the abridgement or breach
can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. The value
here is again valuing our social being. The rule is that freedoms are not

In my view, judges interpret the Charter pretty much the same way they do any piece of
legislation. To be sure, they are allowed to look at a wider array of information and documentation
than would typically be the case. Policy documents, legislative history, international instruments
etc etc are important in Charter litigation in a way in which they are typically not in othesr.

But in the end judges judge, and in so doing reflect as best they can their broad understanding
of the law, their own moral precepts and visions and how their understandings fit with
case precedent and statutory interpretation.

The blogger makes this statement:
I suggest the Supreme Court is using the Charter to implement ethics at an
individual case level, while keeping the law intact at the general level […]
much as the old courts of equity did.

To be fair I am not exactly sure what this means and I may be missing the point for which
I apologize in advance. Any judicial decision is an implementation of ethics
at an individual case level but what does it man to say “keeping the law intact
at a general level”. Every judicial decision does this because in fact decisions
are at the heart of our law. BUT Charter decisions shape our law perhaps more
than many other kinds of decisions. A decision on a Charter matter will shape other
law, it may strike it down. Consider Edward books and Sunday shopping, consider
H v M and spousal rights, consider the Burns case and the courts disavowal of
the death penalty etc etc etc ….

Charter decisions move the law considerably but this in turn does keep the
law intact because that is the law and that is how the law moves and grows…

The equity statement is interesting but not unique in the Charter environment.
The courts of equity and common law were merged in the 19th century.
There are law and equity statutes which allow equitable relief in legal decisions
at many court levels. Also superior courts historically have had equitable
jurisdiction generally.

The Charter itself is the supreme law of the land. Its values and precepts and rules trump all others
in the domains it regulates.

The statement about the Charter being liberal social engineering is problematic. It goes hand in
hand with the view that Supreme Court is filled with liberal activists and that the Charter
is about judicial activism. For me judges are always activist because that is what making a decision
means – it is an active practice and surely does reflect morality and ethical conduct. That
is simply life. However that does not mean the Charter is a liberal or conservative document
– rather it is a vessel with some basic ideas and fundamental values and rules which will be interpreted
and reinterpreted in successive social milieus and will evolve with society.

The liberal social engineering barb is from conservatives who do not like certain decisions
which they regard as activist. Funny though, I have yet to hear any conservative political
scientist or lawyer rail against the Irwin Toy decision which recognized the idea
of commercial expression which could receive Charter protection. Where were
these critics when that decision came out?

I think the right/left, conservative/liberal division is too simple to handle the complex decision
making which must occur. This does not mean that judges will not act on their core
beliefs and ideals so far as law and precedent allow them. Of course they will
and so they should – because to judge is…well… to exercise judgment which
requires all of the foregoing………..



The Beauty of a Classic – Kelly

Why do we repeat things which we have previously done?
We like the feelings which it elicits and we want to relive those feelings.

This almost defies practicality.  Why would we want to reread the same book, watch again the same film, look again at the same piece of art, listen again to the same piece of music, when there is always something more that could be read, watched, seen, or heard?  We could, instead of doing the same thing over again, find something new which may elicit the same, or an even stronger emotion or feeling.  So how do we explain returning to the same thing over and over again?

I read once that there was a man in New York who had seen Andrew Lloyd Weber’s The Phantom of the Opera live on Broadway something like 150 times.  As an extraordinarily musical obsessed child, I thought that was incredible.  I was ridiculously jealous.  To me, there could be nothing better than seeing my favourite musical over and over again endlessly.  But at that point, The Phantom of the Opera was the only musical I knew.  So it had to be my favourite by default.

And then I discovered Hairspray.   And I fell even more in love with that musical, and I wanted to watch it over and over and over again.  And then came Wicked and Chicago and Les Miserables and Next To Normal and Chess and all of the other musicals that fill my iTunes library.  And while I continuously am in search of my next great musical obsession, something about The Phantom of the Opera always draws me back.

Maybe it is because it is a classic, or maybe it is because it was the first Broadway style production I ever saw, or maybe it is simply because my father drilled the music into my head as a child, but there is something I will always hold very dear to me about The Phantom of the Opera.  It is by no means my favourite musical.  I believe far more in descriptive value than normative value, so I can’t objectively say why I appreciate some musicals more than others, but The Phantom of the Opera is not my number one.  However, the feelings and emotions it elicits when I watch or experience it far surpass some of the musicals which I would say that I enjoy more.  And I believe that that has something to do with returning to an old favourite, a classic.

The Phantom of the Opera is one of those timeless pieces of art which have been portrayed across almost every artistic medium.  Beginning as a literary work by Gaston Leroux in France in 1909, the iconic Phantom of the Opera became the Broadway musical we all know today by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Charles Hart in 1986.  From there, it became Broadway’s longest running musical, had various film adaptations, and became an aspect of popular culture that most of our society recognizes.  The opening bars of the title song of the musical (linked below) stand as a representation of all that is Broadway musicals.  That song is one of the most known and loved pieces of Broadway history.

Value, however, is a very hard thing to appraise when it comes to a Broadway musical.  There are so many sides to it, and none are even remotely objective.  To someone like me, quality theatre is basically priceless.  There is nothing more astounding and awe-inspiring than seeing a group of dancers in perfect synchronization while the leading couple serenades one another in a romantic ballad.  For example.  But that is just me.  And that is coming from someone who began crying in the first five minutes of watching the film version of Les Miserables.  I am clearly not objective.

To others, the aspects of theatre which I find incredible are seen as annoying, over the top, and silly.   While I absolutely don’t agree with this, I have to acknowledge that this is a valid belief.  So, to these people, the theatrical work has very little value, and very little feeling is elicited from the experience.

According to Wikipedia, over 130 million people have seen Andrew Lloyd Weber’s The Phantom of the Opera.  Clearly, it does have some value.  I would have to say that musical theatre is appraised far more descriptively than normatively.  There are certain normative aspects which make a work great.  Included in this are performance value, vocal quality, dance quality, and certain musical and technical specifics which I will not even begin to understand.  And those things are all extremely important, but, for the most part, are often constant, or at least comparable, to other musicals in the genre.  The descriptive aspects I think matter more.  How does this experience make you feel?  What emotions or memories or feelings did this experience elicit?  Do you feel as though you want to repeat this experience?

Those questions are what is important, and can only be answered individually.  When I watch The Phantom of the Opera, I see a timeless classic which has survived the centuries.  I see beauty in the music, in the dance, and in the story.  And I am reminded of the feelings I had as a child when I began to discover the beauty of musical theatre.

So, I find great beauty in The Phantom of the Opera, but the value that I associate with that is definitely not comparable to the value that anyone else gives it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej1zMxbhOO0 (Sorry.  I do not know how to embed.)



How Can We Define Family – Kelly

parent (noun) – a father or a mother
mother (noun – a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth
father (noun) – a man in relation to his natural child or children
child (noun) – a young human being below the age of full physical development or below the legal age of majority; a son or daughter at any age

This is how the dictionary defines a family.

Never once, in all these definitions, is the well being of the child taken into account.

About 32000 sexual assaults on women which result in pregnancy occur each year in the United States.  In approximately 10000 of these cases, the female victim, the mother, decides to continue the pregnancy and keep the child.  For whatever the reason, these women choose not to abort their babies, and prepare themselves to raise the child of their attacker.

As a brief side note, I would like to point out that every single one of these 32000 annual sexual assaults which result in pregnancy could be, in fact, a legitimate rape.  In spite of what Mr. Todd Akin would have you believe, there is no biological chemical in the female anatomy which prevents pregnancy from instances of rape.  On the contrary, ovulation is heightened with anxiety, anger, and fear, so the probability of pregnancy from a sexual assault is actually greater than that of a consenting and safe sexual encounter.

But this is not a piece on legitimate rape, or any other kind of rape for that matter.  This is a piece on the privileges and obligations of each person and of the state to protect the victims, perpetrators, and consequential beings resulting from rape.  After all, every living being has to follow a code of both legal and moral rights and responsibilities.

At conception, every child, every person in the world, has a biological mother and father.  That fact does not change until the day that person dies.  In a regular, consenting and safe relationship, the mother and the father share legal rights and responsibilities to the child.  If the couple is together, they both live with and provide for the child in the way which best benefits the child and the family as a whole.  If the parents are not in a relationship, family court measures are taken to determine what living situation is in the best interest of the child in question.  Legal rights to custody and visitation are decided, as well as legal responsibilities and obligations such as child support are dictated.  The court ruling determines what will most benefit all the parties involved, with an ultimate and primary focus on the child.

What if the child was conceived during a sexual assault?

What happens if the only reason that the child in question exists is because the child’s biological father raped the child’s biological mother?

What happens to the rights and responsibilities of everyone in question, the mother, father, and the child?

In the United States, paternal rights are constitutional.  It violates the American constitution to prevent a parent from having access to his or her child, unless parental termination has been ruled by a Supreme Court.  In cases of both statutory and forcible rape, the father has both legal paternal rights and responsibilities to the child.  If desired, the father can petition and sue for legal rights to visitation and even custody of a child he produced during a sexual assault.

So the question comes simply down to who’s best interests are in need of protection, and how can that be accomplished.

Wendy Murphy, a Massachusetts attorney, represented a client in a case such as this.  Her client had been raped at the age of 14 and became pregnant from a twenty-year-old male.  Three years later, the mother was attempting to move on with her life, to raise her child as a single mother, and to keep the idea of her child completely independent of her sexual assault.  As the child was reaching her third Birthday, the biological father, and rapist, sought to fulfill his legal paternal rights, which, under American constitution, includes visitation.  The state law allows the father, the criminal rapist, to have rights to the child, completely disregarding the crime he committed against the child’s mother.

So the state of Massachusetts believes that it is in the best interest of the child to be allowed visitation from a rapist?  Or does it simply believe that the rights of the criminal are more valuable than the rights of the victims of the crime?

In another case, Shauna Prewitt was in the process of dealing with pursuing charges of her rape when her rapist attempted to sue her for legal rights to her daughter.  The state of Missouri, Ms. Prewitt’s home state, has very similar rulings to Massachusetts, that fathers have both rights and responsibilities to their children, which are protected by the American constitution.  In this case, paternal rights were very quickly terminated to the offender.  This means that, while he does not have visitation rights, the father is also not obliged to provide financial child support to Ms. Prewitt.

This begs the question: should sexual offenders be obliged to support, but not allow having rights to their children?

The problem with legislature such as the above two examples is that it opens the door for further manipulation of the victim by the assailant.  ‘If you drop requests for child support, I will stop suing for visitation rights.’  ‘If you stop your accusations of rape, I will stop suing for visitation rights.’  In an attempt to protect her child, a mother will go to extraordinary lengths.  How could it possibly be in the best interest of the child to be used as a pawn in victimization by his or her father?

In this sense, Canada gets it right.  Instead of constitutional rights, custody rights are based on the Provincial Tests of the Best Interest of the Child.  This can be petitioned by anyone, be it a godmother or a biological father or a maternal grandmother.  Whoever can prove that they are the guardian that is most beneficial to the development, growth, maturation, and life of the child will be awarded with primary custody.  The test includes history of violence, love and affection, and the type of situation in which this would put the child and the guardian in the future.  This also eliminates the idea of parental termination.  If twenty years down the road the father is a changed and reformed man, or the child later wants to seek knowledge of his or her parent, contact can be made.  Unlike in the United States, Canadian policy sees an immediate plan which can be altered dependent on changes which may occur in the future.

So what does this all ultimately mean?  In short, I think Canada has it figured out better than the United States for the most part in this case.  It is clearly immoral for a rapist to be able to use child support or refraining from suing for custody as a bargaining chip to prevent incrimination.  But that might not always be the case.  It is also immoral to say that any man who has been accused by a pregnant women of rape and subsequent pregnancy to be declared future parental rights.  Both of these situations clearly open up way too much opportunity for abuse of the legal system.

So what do I believe?  I believe that once a child is in existence, he or she should be the ultimate priority.  Whatever the best circumstance for the child’s upbringing should be the one in which he or she lives, whether that is proven to be with the mother, father, grandparents, or anyone else.  I also believe that these decisions should not be permanent.  If a living situation is not working out ideally for the child, something must be changed.  Likewise, if a past assailant becomes a changed man and the child wishes to seek his or her father, this should be a legally available option.

I ultimately believe that the child is most important.  And this brings me back to where I began, defining a family.  Each member of a family is simply defined by who they are related to.  However, family is defined differently.

family (noun) – a group consisting of parents and children living together in a suitable household

Family is a group.  Family involves togetherness.  Family is suitable.

And I ultimately think that, no matter what, this is the situation in which I child should be raised.



The Meeting Point of Experience and Universal Truths – Kelly

Epistemology, like metaphysics, is deeply rooted in all aspects of philosophy.  How can we look at ethics, what we know to be right or wrong, or aesthetics, what we know to be attractive, without studying epistemology, what we know about what we know?  The introductory chapter of our textbook is even called ‘An Introduction to Human Thought,’ which shows just how critical the understanding of thought and knowledge is to the understanding of any other aspect of Philosophy.  So with that in mind, the entire course of Philosophy 12 could be seen as Philosophy through the lens of epistemology.

So, what is my view on human thought, the essential foundation for and understanding of the beast that is Philosophy?  I believe that what we believe and deem as Truth comes from past experiences and connections, as well as singular, powerful experiences.

Albert Einstein once said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.”  As I wrote about earlier in my first post of Philosophy 12, things that we have not experienced cannot be fully justified by each individual person.  As I stated, I have never seen a polar bear.  My direct knowledge does not know that a polar bear would eat me.  It is not something I have personally and directly experienced, so, by Mr. Einstein’s logic, that cannot be something I know to be true.  So, by the logic of Mr. Einstein, there would be no reason for which I would hesitate to approach a polar bear and try to pet him, as if he were a teddy bear.

Conversely, the same statement could be made for the opposite side of the idea.  One could believe that experiences alone are not valuable sources of Truthful knowledge, as they have no other information to back them up.  For argument’s sake, I will maintain the same example.  If I was to see a polar bear and stupidly go up to it and pet it, and it were to case me and attack me, what knowledge would I gain from this singular experience?  I would learn that polar bears are not soft, fluffy animals, but instead vicious and dangerous killers.  From this singular experience, I would learn not to repeat that same mistake and attempt to pet any more polar bears.  By this logic, it is possible for one to learn a piece of direct knowledge and have enough knowledge, just from that singular event, to learn from it for future instances.

I believe that the truth of the matter lies somewhere in the middle.  While I disagree with Einstein’s belief of experience as the only valid source of knowledge, I also do not believe that indirect knowledge is the only valid source of knowledge.  I believe that it is a mixture of the two.

I think that there are some universal facts that are not falsifiable, and are as close to being True as our world can allow.  There will always be that tiny speck of doubt, as nothing can be proven to be one hundred percent true one hundred percent of the time.  This bank of universal knowledge, however, is justifiable believable.  We are justified in believing that polar bears will attack us, whether or not we have witnessed it firsthand.

I do, however, also believe that direct, sensory experiences, without any background awareness, can create vast, direct knowledge.  If we look back to the caveman days, we can see that this is an inborn attribute.  The first time you touch fire, you burn yourself.  From then on you avoid touching fire in fear of repeating that level of pain.  Powerful experiences which ignite the senses to an extreme degree create knowledge of situations that do not require background information.

From this, we see that humans and knowledge are not meant to sit on any sort of extreme.  We sit somewhere in the middle, our knowledge made up of both universal, justifiable truths and personal direct experiences.  And I believe it is in the differences of justifications and experiences that we find our own personal knowledge and truths.



Representationalism and the Personal, Unique World – Kelly

Arthur Schopenhauer was a nineteenth century German philosopher and metaphysician.  His father gave him a choice as a young man: become a businessman with my financial support, or pursue philosophy, get cut off from the family fortune, and ultimately be impoverished.  Ultimately, he chose business, but returned to philosophy when his father passed away.  Schopenhauer had a very large ego, and liked to challenge the status quo, primarily with his critiques of Immanuel Kant.

To be completely honest, there is very little that I have found on Schopenhauer that has not made me want to either rip my hair out, throw my laptop at the

Arthur Schopenhauer and his truly spectacular hair

wall, or stab needles into my eyes.   Not only is the internet far too large and far too general, but all the articles on the metaphysical ideas of Schopenhauer were written by scholars, so a dictionary was required for nearly every single word.  I think, though, I eventually found the main ideas that Schopenhauer is known for (but, like I said, I really do not understand very much of this, so if you know more than me, let me know where I went wrong).

Schopenhauer strongly believed in representationalism, a school of thought which states that our senses demonstrate the way we perceive the world, ultimately allowing us each to change it.  He argued that we can never truly know the world as it really is because each man’s opinion is influenced by his self.  He believed that a person could know who he or she was through experiences and will, but he also believed strongly that will could not be appeased.   Schopenhauer was a very pessimistic person, and thought that people willed something they were unhappy about not having, or were bored of what they had already willed to possess.  He said that the best way to please the will was to live a silent, solitary life in a beautiful location.

Schopenhauer’s ideology, combined with the philosophies of many others, contributed to today’s views of personal outlook and ambition.  Everyone sees the world differently, everyone wants something different, and every new thought and idea is discoloured with different past experiences and preconceived notions.  Two people can lay side by side in a field, looking at the same sky, and see completely different things, simply based on connections they make with past experiences and aspects of the self and the will.

‘Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.’   
-Arthur Schopenhauer


Van Ormine Quine – Kelly, Emily, Zoe

It’s hard to find an exact definition for any word. Every person has a slightly different meaning for a word. Quine had this as the basis for his belief about the objectivity of science. If you can’t define a word exactly, how can you use it in a definition for something else, or a scientific theory, hypothesis, or “truth”. Van Ormine Quine was an American philosopher who studied language and logic. He uses language as the main reason why science is subjective.

In the words of Quine (impersonated by Zoe):
“Our sensory input only provides us with a limited amount of information. When you see a rock, what do you really see? A gray shape with certain gradiential patterns of lighter and darker shades. Yet, from that, we find it to be 3D, we decide it must be hard, we make a guess at its weight, we determine it to be a substance made of minerals, based on linking our sensory input with other sensory input of touching or holding rocks in the past. Yet, we don’t really know that these rocks are the same, it is an arbitrary link we make between the two.  We cannot say that every rock is made of minerals without testing each rock, yet we don’t have the resources to test every rock. So, in order to advance, we must make assumptions. And while these are necessary, they should never be mistaken for objective facts.”

Anybody who has known Zoe, or seen her blog posts, knows how she writes and speaks.  So here are some of the best of the Zoe Notes on Quine:

  • Willard was all over the epistemology. ALL OVER IT.


  • Take a little thing and make it bigger. (It’s not the size of the fact that counts, IT’S HOW YOU USE IT.)
  • Nothing can be disproved, as every hypothesis can simply be advanced.
    IE, “All swans are white”
    “Oh, look, a black swan.”
    “Please, that swan was dipped in coal. Or something.”
  • Extrapolation was his favorite thing, but he was very cautious about logical contradictions. (All generalizations are bad)
  • Generalization will inevitably end in contradiction.
  • Trying to understand science using only our sensory input is arrogant.

Ultimately, science just ain’t objective, as we only know a limited amount of information.



Vancouver: Sunny and Beautiful – Kelly

My parent’s best friends from when they were young are visiting us this weekend.  They live in London, Ontario.  After arriving on Thursday night, my father and his friend, Terry, picked me up from dance.  On the way home, Terry commented on how beautiful the weather was, saying “You are so lucky.  The weather here is always so wonderful.”

Clearly, this is an inductive fallacy.

Having just arrived in Vancouver, the weather was sunny and mild.
Therefore, the weather in Vancouver must always be sunny and mild.

This is a fault of hasty generalization, following the form of:

A is true for B.
Therefore, X, Y, and Z are true for B.

This is obviously false, as anyone who has ever spent a reasonable amount of time in Vancouver knows that the most common weather of the area is rain.

The first premise is true, but the conclusion is false, and the argument is not sound.



After Some Revisions… – Kelly

I awoke this morning to an extraordinarily kind comment from Mr. Stephen Downes, who tore my blog post to shreds.  Well, that is slightly dramatic.  He opened my eyes to just how little I actually knew about how to properly write fallacy and syllogism.  So, after some reiteration, explanation, and revision, here is a (hopefully) more accurate version of what I tried to say last night:

Someone with the last name 'Bryant' is in Africa.
I am Kelly Bryant.
Therefore, I am in Africa.

While the two premises are true, this argument is not sound.

A – Bryant
B – Africa
C – I (Kelly Bryant)

This categorical syllogism follows the form of:

Some ‘A’ is ‘B’.
‘C’ is an ‘A’.
Therefore, ‘C’ is a ‘B’.

The two premises are true, but the form is wrong, making the conclusion false.  The form is wrong because there are two particular premises.  This argument is not vaild or sound.  My sister, Stacey Bryant, is currently in Uganda, so it is truthful to say that ‘Someone with the last name Bryant is in Africa.’  My last name is clearly also Bryant, making the second premise also truthful.

This is where the categorical fault in logic takes place. To categorize accurately, you would need to use the form of Disjunctive Syllogism:

Either Kelly Bryant or Stacey Bryant is in Africa.
Kelly Bryant is in Port Coquitlam.
Therefore, Stacey Bryant is in Africa.

This argument is both valid and sound.

A: Kelly Bryant
B: Stacey Bryant
C: Uganda

A disjunctive syllogism uses the following form:

Either ‘A’ or ‘B’ is a ‘C’.
‘A’ is not a ‘C’.
Therefore, ‘B’ is a ‘C’.

Typically, the word ‘either’ and ‘or’ mean ‘either or both’, not ‘either but not both,’ which makes this argument more difficult to accurately prove.  However, I began with saying ‘either’, meaning ‘one or both’ is in Africa, but then went on to say that one of the terms was in Port Coquitlam, making it clearly not in Africa.  This proves that the other term must be in Africa.  ‘Kelly Bryant’ (A) is clearly not in Africa, and one of the terms must be in Africa, so that soundly concludes that ‘Stacey Bryant’ (B) must be in Africa.

Stacey Bryant hanging out by the Nile in Africa

Kelly Bryant taking a nap in Port Coquitlam



The Fallacy and Syllogism of Bryants – Kelly

Someone named Bryant is in Africa.

I am Kelly Bryant.

Therefore, I am in Africa.

While the first two premises are true, this argument is clearly false.

(A) being Bryant, my surname, (B) being Africa, and (C) being myself, (A) is in (B), and (C) is a (A), so (C) must be in (B).

Unfortunately, there is another Bryant, my sister Stacey, who is currently spending her weeks working in Uganda, and her weekends white water rafting the Nile.  I, the other Bryant, am stuck in high school in Coquitlam, making this valid, but faulty logic.

Stacey Bryant (not me) hanging out by the Nile.

Using disjunctive syllogism, however, you could say:

Either Kelly Bryant or Stacey Bryant is in Africa.

Kelly Bryant is in Port Coquitlam.

Therefore, Stacey Bryant is in Africa.

The above argument is both sound and valid, as I just got off the phone with my lucky sister, who called from her hut in Mbarara, while I lay in bed in Port Coquitlam.

Kelly Bryant (me) in bed in Port Coquitlam



Class Presentations Wrap-Up – Kelly

I set out to create my own project, but ended up building some sort of synthesis resource for the class.

Over the past few weeks, Philosophy 12 has been presenting their group assignments on ‘An Introduction to Human Thought.’  This generally included a brief touching on some, or all, of the major philosophy controversies, including good versus evil, altruism versus egoism, and nature versus nurture.  I took a different approach.

While my fellow students were presenting and analyzing and critiquing and thinking, I was furiously jotting down notes.  Eventually, and in my crazy, disorganized penmanship, I ended up with close to six pages of notes from about a week of classes. Typed out and somewhat cleaned up, it ended up looking like this:

evil not good genetically evil altruism versus egoism life is nasty brutish and short according to religion jesus makes you good enough to go to heaven selfishness is evil nature versus nurture and upbringing evilness is circumstantial judged to be evil versus thinking you are doing evil nature of societal evil if you are stealing to support your family is that evil born blank neither naturally good or evil to improve by selfishness do things that affect you yelling fire personal consequences versus consequences of others good something that benefits society overall conscious and guilt tell us we know we are doing wrong selfishness does not equal evilness charity is good whether selfish or not evolution changes what is good even if good intentions can be evil all life is scientifically with their best interests altruism selfless acts without personal gain egoism every act benefits us doing on does the other doing something for someone to make yourself feel good reality is variant and personal what you believe in is your reality raising a baby is illogically selfless babies result in altruism or egoism love for a child is a thinly disguised desire for personal power altruism and egoism trigger each other altruism to look good is egotistical with a stigma would you still do a good deed once you consider altruistic act you think of personal benefits kindness of soul versus personal gain personal loss versus personal gain people always think they are befitting the greater good judging what you see versus internal thoughts cannot limit humanity to a single personality everyone has masks controlling emotion and opinion dependent on situation milgram experiment stanford prison experiment if gain and loss is bank zero what would you do instinct to protect nature versus nurture being protective forms you sacrifice to pursue evolution of ethics born good or evil objective truth does not exist there is no natural sense surroundings influence your choices based on things you encounter they are just people there has to be evil so good can prove its purity about it everyone basically has the same opinions for you versus for others goodness for the sake of good thomas hobbes says humans dominate parents love is a power gain joseph butler said humans do things without personal gain egoism versus altruism

That then became the following Wordle:

I think that is a pretty good representation of the class.

Wordle processes data in terms of frequency, making the words which appear the most often the largest.  In order from largest to smallest, the top significant words from the week were:

  • Good
  • Personal
  • Evil
  • Versus
  • Altruism
  • Gain
  • Egoism
  • Benefits
  • Selfishness
  • Nature

This is where the data collection begins to get interesting.  The primary topics discussed and presented on in class this past week were good versus evil and altruism versus egoism, with a bit of nature versus nurture thrown into the mix.  So why is it, then, that ‘good’ appears far more times than ‘evil’ and a completely separate idea, ‘personal’ appears less frequently than ‘evil’ but more frequently than ‘good.’  Why is ‘altruism’ so much higher on the list than ‘egoism,’ and why is ‘nature’ on the list, while ;nurture’ is not, even though the themes of the class made it seem like nurture was more important than nature?

I can’t really answer any of those accurately, but I do have my own, heavily biased, ideas.

‘Good’ came up in conversation far more than ‘evil’ because goodness is rooted in aspects of altruism, egoism, nature, and nurture in a way that evilness is not.  Instead of ‘evilness’ in terms of altruism and egoism, we use ‘selfishness,’ this is why that shows up on the list later on.

‘Personal’ is so high on the list because everything in Philosophy is dependent on the person making the claims.  The thin that I love, and hate, the most about Philosophy is that there are no right and wrong answer, and that everything is entirely open to subjectivity. When all aspects of Philosophy are up to you, your reality, ideas and beliefs become incredibly personal, and this data shows that we value what something means to us extremely highly.

‘Altruism,’ ‘gain,’ ‘egoism,’  ‘benefit,’ and ‘selfishness’ are the next set of words on the list, all pertaining to discussions about the difference between egoism and altruism.  These words, their frequency, and the words surrounding them show that these ideas are very interconnected.  If you look back up at the Wordle above, you will see that all five of these words are very close in size, which can show us that they do not exist without each other.

Finally, we have ‘nature’ obviously a part of the nature versus nurture controversy.  Interestingly, the information which I collected, and the discussions we had in class, made it seem like the students in Philosophy 12 believe far more in nurture and the environment than nature.

Finally, I pared down the information I collected into five main points, which I think do a really good job of summarizing the unit.  They are as follows:

  • We are a product of our surroundings
  • Altruism and egoism are extremely different, but very difficult to isolate
  • Ethics and values have changed as society has changed
  • Reality is personal, and different for everyone
  • We are not good or evil, but a mixture of both

The first point, clearly, responds to the nature versus nurture issue, showing the general class views on the controversy.  The second was a very common thread throughout the week, showing that there are always roots in both altruism and egoism when committing any act.  The Third is not a ground breaking idea, but evolution was common in many presentations.  The fourth point is about how the world, philosophy, and beliefs are specific to your definitions of them.  The fifth and final point states that we are not inherently good or evil, but the situations we have been put in bring out aspects of both in us.

I am very aware that these statements are not necessarily of fact, and are hugely subjected to my personal biases, but I do believe they hold a certain amount of truth, even if it is just within the walls of Philosophy 12.  I hope this resource is helpful to some of you when it comes time for midterms, finals, or later assignments.

“Good loses.  Good always loses because good has to play by the rules.  Evil doesn’t.”

– Henry Mills, Once Upon a Time