Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Philosophy Finally

Philosophy is the means which humanity uses to find meaning.

My response to the question of “What is Philosophy?” has changed as I have learnt more about the different branches of philosophy, and how they relate to our daily lives. I previously used to think that philosophy was reserved exclusively for those who were prosperous to have enough time on their hands to philosophize, and not for the masses. Now, I hold the view that philosophy is for the whole of humanity, no matter what their age, race, gender, or religion. I now also understand that philosophy will exist as long as humanity continues to have curiosity and the thirst to seek answers.

To show evidence of my learning, I have written my blog posts on the topics of epistemology and aesthetics. While writing my Personal Theory of Knowledge, I felt that my learning became a cohesive whole that I could explain in a clear manner. For my Aesthetics blog post, I was able to connect with the topic; therefore my response was insightful even though it utilized simple concepts.

In addition, I felt that my various discussions with my dad about the topics we explored in class aided my understanding of the topics. We discussed how these areas of philosophy affect society, as well as conspiracy theories that question mainstream society and its tacit acceptance of certain events.

After having taken this course, I am proud of my newfound ability to view issues through the lenses of different philosophers. I have sometimes found viewing contentious issues or ideas through different perspectives difficult, but now I find that this skill comes more easily to me now. Our blog post on Ethics encouraged me to practice this skill, and now I feel that I will be able to more clearly articulate both sides of an argument.

I would improve my ability to participate in discussions, and to think on my feet more quickly. I found that my inability to do so hindered my participation in discussions this semester. I will continue to work on this skill in order to enhance my participation and engagement in courses similar to this in the future.

In the near future, I foresee myself engaging in maintaining my philosophical construct, and having thoughtful debates with others about philosophy. I wish to continue engaging in philosophy at a personal level, instead of taking formal classes, because I prefer a less structured approach.

I will apply my knowledge that I have gained from this class by striving to be the enlightened individual that my peers look to for advice. It will be useful in discussions where I wish to be viewed as the urbane individual who is knowledgeable in such things, and free thinking.

 

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The Road to Murder

 

Before reading the entirety of the post, keep one thing in mind: We are limited to the amount of ‘free will’ we have (or maybe we don’t have free will at all, depending on what you think) and it traps us. This plays a huge role in our topic.

Social Factors:

  • Friends
  • School
  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Social stigma/discrimination

Personal Factors:

  • Parents
  • Adoption
  • Family
  • Needs/wants/desires/goals/dreams
  • Philosophy/ideology
  • Influences
  • Boredom
  • Neglect

Mental Factors:

  • Genetics
  • Mental Illness
  • Pressure/Stress

All of the factors listed above play a part in the road to murder. Society tacitly condones murder by having these factors. An example is boredom; when an individual is bored, and seeks to quell that boredom through murder, society punishes them for doing so. We forget that everyone is different, so naturally, what pleases certain individuals may not please you. We are brought up to think of murder as bad, but it could very well be just like any other interest. Many of us like to listen to music, watch movies, play video games, play sports and the like, so why is murder any different? Isn’t it because we were made to think that way?

Society conditions a certain group of individuals into being the weak; for example, the blacks, the Jews, and First Nations are conditioned to be thought of as the weak. Society conditions Muslims, men, and terrorists in general to be thought of as the strong, because we fear these people and what they are capable of doing.

Society can be categorized into three groups: the weak, the average, and the strong. Using a scale as an example, the weak and the strong are at the ends of the scale, while the average are at the middle. The weak and strong would be categorized at outliers, while the average are categorized as the majority. The strong category would include those with mental capacity and strength that is above average; physical strength; innovative and creative; influential and charismatic; those with interesting and unique ideas; and those with dreams that they are willing to sacrifice everything for to achieve. The weak include those who drop out of school; lose their jobs and homes (homeless); those who are considered “failures” in life by society; those who have no motivation or drive in life to achieve anything; those who are dependent on others even though they have full capability to be independent; those who are socially oppressed against their own will; and those who are physically or mentally disabled.

Society seeks to prolong the survival of the average, the middle class which has the highest chance of survival. It ostracizes the weak and the strong, which leads to these two outliers feeling despair, and thus raising the chances of these two outliers committing acts of violence. These outliers are driven to taking revenge against the average for what society has done against them, in order to give them a sense of purpose which will encourage them to continue living. Society, in doing so, causing itself harm: if it did not ostracize these two outliers, it would not have to deal with the troubles caused by them. Remember, our ‘free will’ is limited or otherwise non-existent (depending on your belief), and therefore, the weak have no opportunities to bring themselves to power and the strong are typically alienated against their will.

Thinking more in-depth about it, there have been numerous pieces of evidence that back our points up. Numerous studies agree that gifted children are more emotional than the average person; blacks and Jews have been kicked around for a good chunk of history; people of different sexual orientations are still being discriminated today.

Some proofs that hit closer to home include: when we bear expectations of our hardworking peers and continuously praise them for their good marks, not knowing that it puts pressure on them; when some parents overlook the good and can only see the bad in you; when you have no say over anything because you’re just a child; when being gifted or being good at something automatically means other people can call you super smart and the fear of disappointing others overtakes you; when you are a certain religion, skin color, nationality, heritage, body size, etc. and you can’t do anything about it, but the media only brings the spotlight to men with “hot” bodies and skinny and tall women. Things like that drive us into a hole, and sometimes, it causes people to crack- to kill, even- and sometimes, the victim of this harm is ourselves.

Therefore, in the interest of the greater good or benefit, society would benefit itself by caring for the two outlier groups in order to maximize the happiness of the average. John Stuart Mill, an extremely important British philosopher who lived in the 19th century put forth the Principle of Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle: “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness”. In this case, society would be justified in judging the two outliers, in order to promote the greatest happiness of the majority. Even though these two outliers would undergo the opposite of happiness (pain), the majority of the average would benefit, therefore justifying these actions.

However, through the lens of Kant’s Categorical Imperative, every human being should be treated as an end in itself. Therefore, society should treat each person in a way that benefits their inherent dignity as a human, and be given help to prevent them from sinking down to a level of violence. This view disagrees with that of Utilitarianism, because it does not condone using people as means. By treating everyone fairly, we would prevent a lot of the trouble that the justice and social system has to deal with.

Is murder justified after being presented with the evidence above? This includes:

  • Murdering for fun (keeping in mind about our points in the first two paragraphs)
  • Murdering because people have cracked under the pressure (keeping in mind about our points in the second to fifth paragraphs)
  • Murdering for the greater good (Mill & Kant paragraphs)

Anything not mentioned on the list above can be posted about, but please don’t direct arguments or discussions towards those points.

 

 

 

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Distance & Subjectivity

Distance: the gap between the viewer’s conscious reality, and the fictional reality presented in a work of art, which provides enough stimulation without the need for control.

Subjectivity: personal opinions and judgment about truth, reality, or debates

In aesthetics, distance and subjectivity are not considered to be important characteristics of a positive aesthetic experience. However, I believe that they are both integral components that have a closely tied relation. An example can be used to illustrate this relation; let us refer to a painting. When the viewer sees the painting, the distance experienced enables him or her to feel an appropriate amount of stimulation, without feeling the need for control. Distance then enables the viewer to be subjective, to form an opinion about the painting, whether negative or positive. If there were no distance, the viewer would not be able to enjoy the stimulation provided by the painting, even if they had a negative opinion of the painting. If they were overcome with the overwhelming urge to change the painting, they would block out the stimulation of the painting, and instead focus on the changes they would make to the painting. The relation between these two components enables a pleasantly positive or negative aesthetic experience to form.Inspired by Piet Mondrian

To illustrate these two components, I created a painting to illustrate an aesthetic experience. My painting is inspired and influenced by Piet Mondrian, a Dutch painter who evolved an art form known as neoplasticism. In his various paintings, he used simplified elements to convey a clear aesthetic language that could be understood universally, without references to the outside world. His best known paintings used asymmetrical balance, simplified shapes, and primary colours to create pure abstraction, which he believed would express the “utopian ideal of universal harmony”.

My painting utilizes a similar use of white space bordered by thick black lines, but it deviates from Mondrian’s in its use of non-primary colours. Mondrian relied mainly on red, blue, and yellow, but in my painting, I have used brown, purple, and green in addition to yellow and blue. When a viewer looks at my painting, they can enjoy the stimulation that the various colours and lines provide through distance. This then enables them via subjectivity to form an opinion about my painting, be it negative or positive.

 

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Defining Aesthetics

Photo courtesy of nitrok-d747vvj on Deviantart

By Angela and Kimberly

Aesthetics revolves around stimuli that provoke emotional responses from organisms. Its source is the biological mechanism in an organism that responds to stimuli, while the object is something that provokes the stimulation. An example of an object could be anything that someone finds beautiful; a piece of art, a piece of music, scenery, emotions, etcetera. Humans perceive certain stimuli as pleasing because every behavior has a biological basis. This perception is highly subjective, and varies from person to person. This can be proven using an example; for example one person may find a painting very beautiful, while another may find it extremely hideous. This sense of aesthetics depends highly on culture and nurture.

“Aesthetics … is the study of all activity from the perspective that we are orienting ourselves to have certain perceptions (experiences)”. -Colin Leath, The Aesthetic Experience

 

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Knowledge Changes.

Proposition:

Knowledge changes.

Syllogism:

Knowledge is tied to technology.
Technology changes as it develops.
Therefore, knowledge changes due to impact of technology.

To further clarify my preposition, technology develops because of scientific development. Knowledge is bound to change since all things change in some way, to different extents. As technology develops, it enables us to discover new things that were previously unknown, thus increasing our knowledge. Therefore, there is no limit to our knowledge, since there is no limit to the development of technology. Technological development and change is exponential, so the change in knowledge will be exponential as well, since there is a correlation between the two.

Philosophical Inquiry

Image courtesy of http://mrssirilla.weebly.com/scientific-methods.html

Image courtesy of http://mrssirilla.weebly.com/scientific-methods.html

Philosophical inquiry consists of asking questions about assumptions from a field of inquiry in order to gain results. My theory is slightly different from this definition; my theory is that we ask these questions in order to make our knowledge in this field change. Today, there are techniques that are accepted as part of the scientific method, but there are huge, contentious debates about their validity. I think that these debates are valid, but not very important, since the most important question to ask is “How do these techniques change our knowledge?” There is no point in fighting over the methods if it results in nothing being produced; rather we should focus on production instead.

Logic

Image created by Bartolomeu Velho, courtesy of Wikipedia

Image created by Bartolomeu Velho, courtesy of Wikipedia

Before the Copernican Revolution, Aristotle’s theory that the Sun and other planets orbited the Earth in circular orbits was commonly endorsed. Copernicus was the first to improve on the heliocentric theory that the Earth orbited the Sun, and over the course of a century, astronomers such as Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei challenged scientific knowledge of that age, in a period known as the Copernican Revolution. These astronomers further built and refined Copernicus’ theory with the advancement of technology. Brahe built an observatory, where he and his apprentice, Johannes Kepler, made important discoveries about the stars; Galileo improved on the designs of a spectacle maker, Hans Lippershey, to build a more powerful telescope. This improved telescope enabled Galileo to make monumental discoveries that forever altered astronomical knowledge, such as the discovery that Jupiter had four moons orbiting it. This challenged Aristotle’s belief that all heavenly bodies orbit the Earth, thus creating a paradigm shift.

“Logic is, in essence, pure abstraction, produced by thought alone. Without the material of observation statements, it has no meaning on its own. Logic can be used to derive knowledge from experience, but not to produce knowledge by itself. Logical and mathematical truths are true only within the language of logic itself; they are then applied to statements about experience and used to infer new statements about experience. So the theory goes, at least.”

– Stephen Downes

Mr. Downes wrote the above quote in his blog, and makes very insightful points in it. Galileo was able to give meaning to his logic using his observations about the planets; his knowledge changed as he discovered new things using new technology. Knowledge is a combination of logic and its application to experiences; it is not purely one or the other.

Scientific Philosophy

Paul Fereyabend was a notable philosopher of science, who advocated that all scientific methods should be allowed in order to allow scientific progress.

“For is it not possible that science as we know it today, or a “search for the truth” in the style of traditional philosophy, will create a monster? Is it not possible that an objective approach that frowns upon personal connections between the entities examined will harm people, turn them into miserable, unfriendly, self-righteous mechanisms without charm or humour?” – Paul Fereyabend, Against Method. p. 154

In this quote, he advances an interesting point that not many scientists would be inclined to endorse. If only one type of procedure is allowed for scientific inquiry, it will result in stagnation in discovery. In addition, if scientists are discouraged from making personal connections to their inquiry, then their input would have been lost, and breakthrough discoveries may not have materialized.

Metaphysics

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived before Socrates, believed in the Flux Doctrine, where things are always constantly changing in order to remain the same.

B12. potamoisi toisin autoisin embainousin hetera kai hetera hudata epirrei.

On those stepping into rivers staying the same other and other waters flow. -Heraclitus

Heraclitus’ quote illustrates the example of a person crossing a river. If the person crosses the river a second time, the river would still exist as a river, but the water that the person stepped into is different from the water the person stepped into the first time.

A more relevant example would be one involving a burger. The person who purchased the burger then proceeds to eat it, and because his hunger is not satisfied, he buys another burger. The second burger is a still a burger because of its characteristics, but at the same time, it is not the same burger that was originally purchased.

The two examples above show that the base of knowledge is the same, but yet it is different because of different environments or conditions. However, changes to the base of knowledge can occur with changes and improvements in technology.

 

 

 

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Social & Cultural Perceptions of Knowledge Link

Here’s the link to our Prezi since we were unable to finish our presentation on Thursday. Enjoy!

 

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Unity of Opposites

Heraclitus of Ephesus Painted by Johannes Moreelse

Heraclitus; Painted by Johannes Moreelse

In my previous blog post, I discussed the concept of how all existences (except God) are interconnected and cannot exist independently of each other. This concept is known as the unity of opposites. One of the first philosophers to suggest this concept was Heraclitus of Ephesus, a philosopher who lived before Socrates. He believed that existences are characterized by their opposing properties, as well as their opposing relations to other existences. For more background information on Heraclitus’ upbringing and views, Clayton’s post about him provides a good starting point.

Sea is the purest and most polluted water: for fish drinkable and healthy, for men undrinkable and harmful. -Heraclitus of Ephesus

This quote from Heraclitus beautifully captures the essence of the unity of opposites; whereby something (the sea) can be essential to one organism (the fish), and simultaneously harmful to another organism (the men).

The quote also illustrates how existences are interconnected to each other, through the clever use of the sea, men and organisms (fish) in the same setting. If we refer back to our Cake Stand concept of relationship between existences in my previous post, we can see how the sea, men and organisms mentioned here are interconnected.

Earth exists in the fourth tier with all planetary and celestial bodies, whilst the sea and land exist on Planet Earth, this being the fifth tier. Organisms that exist on Earth are placed in the sixth tier. The Cake Stand concept demonstrates that without the sea and the land, organisms would not be able to exist, and that without the Earth, the land, sea, and organisms would not exist without it.

I will be able to recognize that I have reached a greater understanding of my topic if I can identify the relationship between similar and opposite existences. By being able to do so, I will be able to refine and revolutionize my viewpoint and perspective, and become the enlightened individual who is a role model to other unenlightened beings. To put my learning into practice, I plan to create a visual representation of what I have learned. This depiction will hopefully convey to others the gist of what I have explored and discovered.

 

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Cake Stand of Existence

Many of us do not stop to ponder the existence of many of the things that constitute our world, and take for granted their existence. Upon deeper contemplation, we began to realize that many existences are defined by their “opposites”.

 “They say there is no light without dark, no good without evil, no male without female, no right without wrong. That nothing can exist if it’s direct opposite does not also exist.” ― Laurell K. Hamilton, Incubus Dreams

 

there_can__t_be_light_without_darkness_by_yentl_star-d4rl3yy

Photo courtesy of Yentl-Star on Deviantart

Closer examination of the quote above shows that many of the existences that we have traditionally thought to be polar opposites have to coexist with each other in order for them to be possible. With all of the tragic events that are happening around the world today, it seems easy to conclude that the world consists only of immense suffering. We never stop to think that happiness is only defined because we have suffering. If there is no sadness, how would we know what happiness really is?

When we start to expand our circle of thinking, we begin to realize that many existences in our world are all connected. This concept is similar to the Buddhist principle that nothing can exist on its own:

Shakyamuni used the image of two bundles of reeds leaning against each other to explain this deep interconnectedness. He described how the two bundles of reeds can remain standing as long as they lean against each other. In the same way, because this exists, that exists, and because that exists, this exists. If one of the two bundles is removed, then the other will fall. Similarly, without this existence, that cannot exist, and without that existence, this cannot exist.” – Soka Gakkai International

Photo courtesy of web-japan.org

Photo courtesy of web-japan.org

If we compare existence to a Japanese pagoda or a tiered wedding cake stand, the concept of interconnected existences becomes clearer.

 

Cake Stand

Cake Stand of Existence

At the bottom tier of the cake stand, we have God, the creator of everything that exists. Without a creator, nothing would exist: the very existence of nothingness depends on the existence of something or someone: the existence of God the creator is the premise for any other existences.

 The second tier of the wedding cake stand is the universe; the third tier consists of galaxies; the fourth tier is our Solar System, which contains Earth, the Sun, and all the planetary bodies we are familiar with. The fifth and final tier of the cake stand is everything and everyone that exists on Earth.

As we move from a macro to a micro view, we begin to realize how everything is so deeply interconnected, where we can see that each cake stand tier cannot exist without the existence of the tier below it. Therefore if the universe didn’t exist, then nothing else would exist, except for God, since his existence ensures that everything exists. We can thus conclude that nothing (except God) can exist independently of anything else, and that all existences are interconnected.

 

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Anti-GMO Food Logic

Screen-shot-2010-02-06-at-13.48.42

 Image courtesy of http://lincolngenetics.blogspot.ca

Tomato in the left column: non-GMO

Tomatoes in the centre and right columns: GMO

Modified 15/10/2014

GMO food has been on the market since 1994, when Calgene first marketed its Flavr Savr delayed ripening tomato. Since then, GMO food has become widespread in the food market, and most people aren’t even aware they are eating GMO food. GMO food is produced through genetic engineering, where a gene from one organism is inserted into the genome of another. The genes are usually removed from one species and inserted into another species, creating transgenic organisms.

David Suzuki is a renowned Canadian scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. In an interview with CBC in October 1999, when asked about his opinion about GMO food, Mr. Suzuki replied that he’s “we have no idea what the long-term consequences of these genetic manipulations are.”

Mr. Suzuki’s statement can be viewed as an argument broken down into the following premises and conclusion:

Premise 1: Effects of gene transplantation from one species to another species on the organism are unknown.

Premise 2: Effects from consumption of GMO organisms on an unmodified organism are unknown.

Premise 3: Consumption of GMO foods entails risks that have not been fully identified or proven.

Conclusion: Therefore, we should avoid consumption of GMO foods.

An evaluation of Mr. Suzuki’s argument may reveal to us how sound his argument is.

Premise 1 can be considered to be true, since there have not been extensive studies conducted into the effects. There is insufficient scientific data to prove any known effects.

Premise 2 can be considered to be true also, since monitoring the effects of all the different combinations of GMO foods is close to impossible.

Premise 3 can be considered to be true, as this premise is based on the Precautionary Principle, which states that “if a proposed activity carries with it the possibility of environmental harm, but that harm is not completely proven, then that activity may not be allowed.”

– P. Saradhi Puttagunta

As seen above, Mr. Suzuki’s argument is factually correct, since all the premises are true. They are true because the development of GMO food is relatively recent, and not enough research has been done on its effects. His premises are valid because they have a correct form and are based on valid logic. This validates his conclusion, thus making his argument valid. His argument is logically sound, because it is both valid and true.

Genetic engineering may affect future generations of humans in a variety of ways. Firstly, the biodiversity of flora and fauna will be severely diminished, since unmodified varieties of crops will be replaced with genetically engineered varieties. Food supplies could be severely affected if the genetically engineered crops are stricken with disease. Since there would be fewer varieties of crops, natural resistance to the disease would not exist, resulting in massive crop failure. This would lead to severe food shortage, malnutrition, health problems, and even death.

However, the danger of endorsing Mr. Suzuki’s argument is to deprive developing countries of a chance of improving their condition. GMO food may help to reduce hunger because it can be engineered to provide more nutrition. This property can help combat malnutrition, and improve the health of many populations.

 

 

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What is Philosophy?

Philosophy is a means for me to question what occurs in the world and to develop intelligent and mature responses to these issues. The reason behind questioning is that the cost of not questioning is to become part of the “herd”.

 

Being part of the herd means following the mentality of the herd, which can be highly undesirable for several reasons. Firstly, this entails following standards set by the herd, for fashion, interests, viewpoint of issues, and various other things. The significance of this means the loss of uniqueness and individuality, and assimilating into the herd. Secondly, being a herd follower means endorsing and following the decisions of the herd. For example, if the herd decides to do something illogical, such as going skydiving without parachutes, being a follower implies blindly doing the same.

 

I believe there is an alternative to belonging to a herd. First and foremost, one can create a philosophical construct, a mental plane where one can organize one’s thoughts, ideas and contemplations about philosophical issues and pursuits. This can be achieved through a two-step process: seeking and attaining.

 

Seeking involves research about the issue or issues of one’s choice. This requires collecting information in order to formulate ideas to place in the philosophical construct. When doing so, it is essential that one avoids logical fallacies, as this can severely degrade one’s credibility.

 

Attaining necessitates discussion and debate, in order to refine and strengthen one’s ideas. Without the input or feedback of others, one’s ideas will never flourish to their fullest, since a stagnant mind cannot bear fruit. After one’s ideas have been refined, the final step is to construct a response. This can take many forms: it can be an essay, blog post, video, or some other form.

 

After the response has been completed, the final process can be separated into two parts: contemplating and sharing. Through contemplation, we can question why we shouldn’t endorse common wisdom and mainstream views, and create a thoughtful alternative instead. In addition, we should maintain the philosophical construct, and ensure that it is structurally sound, so that it will not collapse.

 

In addition, we can continue to share our views with others, and consider their views as well. This will encourage philosophical growth and maturity, as well as plant seeds of new ideas. Rather than finding only like-minded individuals to converse with, we should also place emphasis on seeking those with opposing views in order to expand our perspective of issues. Lastly, we should frequent discussions and debates with both these types of individuals so that we can hear both sides of an argument.

 

 

 
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