Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Gender Inequality in the Workplace

hello 1950s

The Issue:

Even in modern day, women face inequality in many forms, including in the workplace.  Whether through lack of opportunity, receiving less pay than their male counterparts, or are victims of discrimination at work, inequality for women is still strongly prevalent. Women were not even considered persons under Canadian law until 1929, and although great strides have been made since then, injustices still occur. My own mother faced discrimination in her workplace. When she was a young woman working in retail, she asked her supervisor why a male employee with the same job as her was making more money. They replied that “he is the breadwinner of his family” and needed to support a wife and children, while she was just supporting herself. They added that soon she would probably get married and pregnant, and go on maternity leave  anyways.

hisandhersAlthough my mother’s experience was quite a few years ago, one of my close friends also experienced inequality in her workplace. During her first summer job earlier this year, she was frustrated that she was receiving barely any shifts. She later found out that one of the other male employees hired the same time as her with the same amount of experience  was working full time. It turned out the supervisor (a man) in charge of giving out shifts was only giving out shifts to male employees. Another girl working with my friend had to give up a shift for a family vacation (which others had done) and the same supervisor let her take the week off, but also took away her shifts for the rest of the summer. It is surprising when some say that equality for women in the workplace has been reached, and three women I know have been discriminated against.

These are only a few cases of countless incidents that occur to women. Women are promoted to CEO’s less than men, because it is assumed they will not be hard enough on others and make tough decisions. Employers see hiring women as a risk, as they could get pregnant and go on maternity leave. Women are paid less than men for the same job and amount of work.

The Approach:

“We must raise both the ceiling and the floor.”

-Sheryl Sandburg, Lean in: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Although the gap of inequality for men and women has been slowly closing over the years, the workplace is not equal for both we can do itgenders. However, despite what is done to increase equality, I don’t believe equality for both genders is ever attainable as long as women have children. (Which is essential for the continuation of the human race). Even behind Rawl’s veil of ignorance, if we decide to have equal opportunity, equal pay, and no discrimination against women, there will still be inequalities. To start, women are the child-bearing gender, a huge disadvantage for a career woman who also wants a family. This woman will have to take time off work, putting her even farther behind advancing on the career ladder.

To conclude, although equality in the workplace for women is not attainable, I believe the best solution is closing the gap as much as possible. At least controlling the aspects employers can, such as equal pay, would bring about so much change for women.

 

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Aesthetics and Symmetry

Which face is the most aesthetically pleasing?

Julian Wolkenstein’s “Symmetrical Portraits” project (click on for a closer look)

Which face is most aesthetically pleasing? Human nature tells us that we would not pick the face on the far right, which is asymmetrical. Facial symmetry is associated with beauty and is aesthetically pleasing to look at. Even babies are more attracted to and will look longer at people with more symmetrical faces than others. So why is symmetry so beautiful?

On a biological level, there are many reasons why humans are attracted to more symmetrical faces. Facial symmetry is associated with stronger genes and a healthy well-being. Asymmetry on the other hand, indicates aging and stress. Therefore, on an evolutionary scale, being attracted to those with symmetrical faces would help humans procreate with those who can create even stronger genes.

Even though facial symmetry is considered most aesthetic, when looking at completely symmetrical faces, humans feel that they are freakish and abnormal. Closely symmetrical faces are considered the most attractive.

 

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Midterm: Knowledge and Language

Proposition: Knowledge cannot be effectively shared only through spoken language.

As humans, we are constantly sharing and gaining knowledge through communicating with others. The question is if the knowledge we are communicating is the same knowledge gained by another. Is communication ever fully effective? By definition, effectiveness is decided by successfully producing a desired or intended result. I would argue that no type of communication is ever fully interpreted correctly.

Can we fully communicate without a universal language?

Can we fully communicate without a universal language?

A main form of communication is through spoken word. Languages vary all over the world, with roughly 6500 spoken in the world today. Mandarin Chinese is the most popular language in the world, spoken by about 1.21 billion people. This is one of the main flaws in communication. There is not one universal language that all humans use to speak with one another. Translations between languages are never 100% accurate, already altering the meaning of the shared knowledge.

Again as humans, we are all unique individuals with different experiences, personalitities, opinions, and values. Anything that we observe, hear, or feel is different when compared to another human. Therefore, when interpreting knowledge, it will not be exactly the same as the knowledge outputted to us.

Some may argue that there is a universal language between humans, but not through spoken word.

What emotions do these facial expressions portray?

What emotions do these facial expressions portray?

All humans smile, laugh, and cry, despite where they live in the world. Our facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language definitely aid in communication, but cannot be solely relied on for sharing knowledge. This can also be interpreted incorrectly, and some people cannot comprehend this universal language. Some humans suffer from social-emotional agnosia, which is the inability to interpret facial expressions, body language and voice intonation. This disorder usually effects people with autisim or schizophrenia, and limits social interaction.

To conclude,

Syllogism:

  • If many languages are spoken all over the world and can never be translated 100% correctly,
  • And humans are all unique indivuduals that interpret knowledge in their own way,
  • And the universal language of facial expressions cannot be comprehended by everyone,
  • Then knowledge cannot be effectively shared only through spoken language
 

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Peter Singer, Liberation, and Animal Intelligence

Australian Philosopher Peter Singer

Australian Philosopher Peter Singer

After writing my blog post “Are We Really Smarter?“, it was not difficult to find real philosophers that agreed or had similar ideas to the questions I posed. After briefly researching some different philosophers, I decided to look more in depth into Australian Philosopher Peter Singer. Many of his known works, such as his book “Animal Liberation” (1975), pertain to issues involving ethics, especially with animals. In his book, he talked about animal intelligence as well. He argued that animals do have a lower intelligence than the average human, however that some animals show intelligence of that of human children. Therefore, he believes, intelligence should not be a basis when providing treatment of nonhuman animals any less than when considering the treatment of children. Thinking of the way we treat animals, would it also be an ethical way to treat children? In my earlier post, I mentioned SeaWorld, where intelligent animals such as dolphins and orcas are kept in small tanks for our entertainment. However, would it be socially accepted to do the same with human children? I think not.

Peter Singer 2Singer also argued that there is a larger difference between an oyster and an ape than an ape and a human. He says that calling a great ape, or other intelligible animals, an “animal” is truly arbitrary. I feel that this solidifies my own argument that as humans, we may not be the most intelligent animals on the planet. Because, truly, we are animals too.

To my disappointment, I could not find anything in my research about Peter Singer’s opinion on animals conscience, as it is a large portion of my metaphysics questions. I wonder if Singer even considered animal conscience, as it was not as well known about when he wrote his novel “Animal Liberation” in 1975. I feel that it would only support his arguments further.

When researching, it was difficult to find a philosopher specifically on animal conscience. I found articles about the opinions of marine biologists, neuroscientists, and other animal specialists. The majority of philosophers that had anything to do with animals focused mainly on ethics. Ethics does come into play with my metaphysics post, as with the idea of animals having intelligence and a conscience, one must think about the way we are treating animals, and if it is “right” to do so if they are equal with us.

To finish, Australian philosopher Peter Singer has ideas (along with many other opinions on ethics) that solidifies my own metaphysics arguments. Similarly to myself, he argued that animals have a similar level of intelligence to us as humans, and therefore must think about if the ways we treat animals is ethical. Unfortunately I was unable to find any writing about Singer’s opinion on animal conscience, as it is a large part of my metaphysics project, although I found multiple articles about the opinions of neuroscientists and animal experts.

 

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After the Dark, A Thought Experiment

So today in our philosophy class, we conducted a thought experiment. Based off of an idea in the 2013 film “After the Dark“, our class had to decide who would “live or die”. In this activity, each of the twenty-eight of us picked a random piece of paper from a jar. On that piece of paper was an occupation, such as “Heart Surgeon”, “Daycare Worker”, or “Published Poet” to name a few. We then transported ourselves to a nuclear apocalypse, where we would all inevitably die. However, there is a shelter for us with enough food, energy, and other supplies to last a year, after which it would be safe for us to leave the shelter and restart civilization. The catch is that there is only room for ten people. The facilitator of the experiment (myself) does not choose an occupation, but instead is a “Wild Card”, whose special skill is known only to the moderator. The Wild Card has a skill that could be beneficial or detrimental to the group.

Making Do or Die Decisions

As a class, we had to decide who would be chosen to go in the shelter, and who would be left outside to die. During the first round, people like Aileen (heart surgeon), Kevin (professional chef), Ryan (farmer), Sam (civil engineer), Nadine (psychologist), and Liam (construction worker) were chosen to live in the shelter. For the last spot, there was a tie between myself (the Wild Card) and Shiyun (underwear model). It was a surprise to myself that the underwear model was even considered, however most of my male classmates seemed to disagree. We re-voted, and Shiyun was chosen for the last spot in the shelter. Thanks guys.

I was left to die outside with some of my other classmates, with careers deemed useless in rebuilding civilization. Those included Avery, (published poet), other Kevin (frozen yogurt store worker), Tara (marine biologist), David (accountant), Kimberly (concert pianist), Alyssa (TV news reporter), and Devin (Olympic swimmer-despite his strong argument that being Michael Phelpsesque, he would be capable of reproducing awesome, muscular, swimming, babies).

The lucky group chosen to survive happily lived out their year in the shelter. HOWEVER, when it was time to leave the shelter, they realized that there was a code needed to exit. The only person who knew the code was the Wild Card. So, everyone was unable to leave the shelter, despite trying almost everything. They all perished, one by one, from either suicide, suffocation, or by being eaten by their fellow classmates. Not really a successful simulation, considering they all died. However, I think we all learned a valuable lesson. (Maybe being an underwear model is not as “useful” as previously thought.) Some argued afterward that they would rather choose Shiyun instead of take a risk choosing the unknown, which could have had detrimental effects, which seems logical.

For the second round of the simulation, each person picked a second card, containing another factor about themselves. After the DarkThis changed up who would be picked to live in the shelter. For example, Kevin, who was previously useless,(frozen yogurt store worker) picked a card saying he participated in recreational hunting. Tara (marine biologist) had a card saying she was a certified midwife. Some cards had neutral effects, and did not change whether or not they were chosen. Jayden (quantum physicist) was also a YouTube star, and still voted in. Joel (lifeguard) had contracted the Ebola virus and again, was not chosen. Some who were previously picked did not receive a spot during the second round. Ryan (farmer) was a convicted criminal (arson), and Shiyun (underwear model) was a carrier for cerebral palsy. This simulation the Wild Card was not in play, so the survivors lived out their year in the shelter and rebuilt civilization. Happily Ever After.

To conclude, I think our thought experiment went very well! I was glad that the Wild Card was not chosen the first round (similarly to the film), as it put an interesting spin on things. I hope that everyone enjoyed themselves, and feel a little more philosophical. If anyone has any comments or questions about how they thought it went, please let me know! I would love some feedback.

 

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Are We Really Smarter?

tilikumwithquote

Tilikum trapped in Seaworld

What does it mean to be human? Are we really the most intelligent beings on this planet? As humans, we seem to think so. Throughout human history, and up until very recently, we as humans believed we were the only living beings on Earth with a conscience. We thought we were the most intelligent, highest living organisms on the planet. However, we may be wrong. After watching Nova’s “Inside Animal Minds: Smartest“, I realized even more that I previously believed that being “intelligent” (as we define it) and having a conscience is no longer something unique just to humans. Animals such as dolphins and elephants recognize themselves as an individual when they look in a mirror. They have an awareness of self, something humans do not even achieve until they are about two years old! How do we know that animals such as dolphins and whales don’t think the same way we do? Dolphins live in social groups, raise their young until they are old enough to survive on their own, and have lifelong friends. These characteristics could be used interchangeably with humans.

Human vs Dolphin Brain

Human vs Dolphin Brain

Scientists even believe that animals such as killer whales may feel emotions in more depth than we do. Even when comparing the brain of a dolphin and a human, there are amazing similarities. Like a human brain, the cortex of a dolphin’s is folded to increase surface area. They also have considerably large brains in comparison to their body, as do humans. There is even more evidence to back up questions about other animals having great intelligence.

I think that in 50 years, we’ll look back and go ‘My God, what a barbaric time.’

-From “Blackfish”, the 2013 documentary

A lot of research is being done on this topic (and in the past an unethical experiment when a dolphin named Peter was “taught English” in the 1960’s) and there has been a media boom as well with the release of “Blackfish“, a documentary about Tilikum and other animals involved with Seaworld. (I definitely recommend anyone to watch it, especially to open their eyes to how Seaworld is really just a prison where intelligent mammals are mistreated and denied the life they deserve.) Considering all this, why do we mistreat these animals, if they may be of equal or even greater intelligence of us?

To conclude, we have now discovered that having a conscience and being intelligent is no longer uniquely human. Other animals, such as dolphins and whales, share these traits with us. So what really makes us humans? Is the only difference between us and them is that dolphins don’t keep “lower life forms” in living spaces the equivalent to a bathtub  like we do to them? Are dolphins and whales maybe even better than us because they do not display the cruelty and disgusting mistreatment of helpless animals like we are? Food for thought.

 

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Malala’s Philosophy

Malala

Malala Yousafzai, image via Pinterest

Earlier this week, Malala Yousafzai was awarded as a co-winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. An activist for girls education, at only seventeen she is the youngest recipient of the award. After being shot while returning home from school in Pakistan two years ago, Malala has become a global icon who fights for children’s rights. She was quoted in an article in the Globe and Mail this weekend at a conference after finding out that she had received the award. Malala said that she believed that “[children] have the right to live a happy life.”

Malala’s statement can be taken apart as an argument with two premises and the following conclusion:

Premise 1: Not all children have the right to a happy life

Premise 2: All children deserve equal rights and opportunities

Premise 3: No children should be mistreated

Conclusion: Therefore, all children should be given the opportunity to have the basic needs to live a healthy and happy life, without being harmed.

By evaluating this argument, now the soundness of Malala’s statement can be determined.

  • Premise 1: Is factually correct, as it is known that children in parts of the developing world suffer from poverty, hunger, and no right to education, leading to an unhappy life.
  • Premise 2: Is an opinion that is practiced in the majority of the developed world, although is not globally practiced.
  • Premise 3: Again, something that is enforced and practiced in the developed world, but not globally.

Although Malala’s argument is valid, there is an issue with the content, making it not a sound argument. Children will not live happy lives when premise 2 and 3 are not practiced worldwide. This argument is sound in countries such as Canada and the United States where children at least have basic rights. However, even in countries where there are children’s rights, there are children mistreated and abused. This argument is not applicable to every child, although every child does deserve the right to a happy life. Logically, if premise 2 and 3 were practiced, her argument would be sound, however they are not.

The origin of Malala’s statement goes back to the age of the Enlightenment, when views on children’s rights began to change. Opposition to child workers during the Industrial Revolution grew, when children as young as six worked in factories or coal mines with long hours and little pay. Social reformers began to campaign against these practices. Even in modern day, campaigns are held to end practices similar to the ones in the 1800’s during the industrial revolution.

 

 

 

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High School Students on Philosophy

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JMGhouWTUs]

“Probably bald, old, ugly…Yeah. ”

-Andy Guan on “What do philosophers look like?”

For our “What is Philosophy” project, Alyssa and I decided to make a joint film in addition to our own separate responses. We thought it would be interesting to ask other people what philosophy meant to them. We interviewed a handful of people, both who had been exposed to philosophy, (such in our class) and those who had not.  We compiled our clips into a short documentary called “High School Students on Philosophy“. Please watch and let us know what you think!

Andy Guan, a participant in "High School Students on Philosophy"

Andy Guan, a participant in “High School Students on Philosophy”

 

 

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Should We Just Weigh the Fish? -Kelsey Field

“A fish weighs more after it has died.” This is what Charles II cleverly told philosophers, although it is not true. I think it is clever because he received “ingenious answers” to a question that was not even valid. It makes me wonder about the relevance of philosophy at all. Obviously, it is something that interests me, and something I wish to pursue, but one has to question why philosophy matters at all.

As students of philosophy, our job is to ask the “big questions” and find truth in them. However, how do we know there are even truth in our questions? We could find a truth, only to realize that our question never had relevance anyways! I think about the philosophers, in a hut in Norway or otherwise, struggling to answer Charles’ impossible question. Maybe a philosopher spent months, or even years pondering their answer in isolation. Would it have been worth it to just weigh the fish before pondering? Or is the whole point of philosophy to find the answers to the “what if” questions?

Realistically, with other philosophical questions, one cannot really “weigh the fish” so to speak. “Who are we?”, or, “Why are we here?”, are immeasurable questions that may never have answers. One cannot go and find out if these questions already have an obvious answer.

After reading about Charles II and his fish, I felt that I understood more about why philosophers receive so much ridicule. It makes them seem so naïve and unintelligent that they would just delve into their answer without even checking if the question made sense. Maybe it doesn’t matter that the question did not have an answer. Maybe what really mattered were the philosopher’s own personal answers, their take on the impossible question.

 
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