Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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categorical utilitarianism

Utilitarianism on google is described as “the doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority.” I agree that the definition of utilitarianism is whatever benefits the greater good.

Categorical imperative is defined as “an unconditional moral obligation that is binding in all circumstances and is not dependent on a person’s inclination or purpose.” To me, categorical imperative is doing good things not for any benefits, solely because it’s the right thing to do. It’s essentially the same definition but it sounds better to me.

Personally I’m a little biased towards Kant, so I agree with the categorical imperative. I think cheating is wrong no matter what, on a test, on your SO, no matter how you try and justify it, it will be wrong. The definition of categorical imperative where “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law” is really important to me. I think it’s super important that we treat others the way you want to be treated. The only real hiccup I can see in categorical imperative is in the case of self defense. If someone tried to kill you and your body enters fight or flight response, and you end up killing them, are you in the wrong? I believe Kant would say that it is wrong because it is regardless of your situation. Personally I think it’s okay that you killed them which is why I also don’t think I’m 100% categorical imperative. If you can prove that you literally had no other choice, then murder is right in that situation. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe in “an eye for an eye.”  I don’t believe these are the only two moral philosophies one can have. A combination of both would describe me since I can’t commit entirely to one.

A personal issue that I have encountered that relates to my moral philosophy is the Good Samaritan act. In Canada, “a person who renders emergency medical services or aid to an ill, injured or unconscious person, at the immediate scene of an accident or emergency that has caused the illness, injury or unconsciousness, is not liable for damages for injury to or death of that person caused by the person’s act or omission in rendering the medical services or aid unless that person is grossly negligent.” Basically, if you try and help someone but end up harming them more/killing them, you cannot be sued unless you were consciously disregarding their need for care. Categorical imperative would say that although you had good intent, you killed them anyways which is wrong. Utilitarianism would say that you tried to do something for the greater good (help them) but you ended up killing them in the end which is okay. As a civilian, I am protected under the good Samaritan act since it is my MORAL obligation to help people, but as a lifeguard, I am not because it is my LEGAL obligation to help as opposed to moral. The law has seemed to lean towards a utilitarianism way of looking at things.

However if you look at it from a different angle, the Good Samaritan act will allow people to “do the right thing because it is the right thing to do” without worrying about repercussions it could have which supports categorical imperative. On the other end, helping the weak doesn’t benefit the greater good because you’re wasting our tax dollars on their health bill, might as well let them die because the tax dollars can then be put towards the greater good. Though this sounds rather extreme, I think it is a true, valid and sound argument.

I don’t believe in the death penalty. I don’t believe in imprisoning people for the sake of keeping them segregated but rather to rehabilitate them. I DO believe that people should be allowed to do the right thing without thinking about the consequences to helping others. There are flaws in both systems of utilitarianism and categorical imperative. A combination of both together used in balance would have the greatest benefits. Being black or white sometimes is the right answer, but arguing for the right to have the grey areas is what allows us to even have morals in the first place.

 

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meisthetic

Of all the aesthetic experiences I had over the break, I have yet to find a way to connect them together. But out of the two that stood out (becoming a lifeguard and the picture of the sky), one was aesthetic because it was visually beautiful, the other was aesthetic because of the meaning that it carried. Choosing from the philosophers that we’ve discussed in class, I like Descartes theory of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” To others, the NL card has the same amount of value as a piece of cardboard. But to me it represents that I’ve put in a lot of effort into my class. To others the picture of the pastel sky is just part of another instagram theme. But to me, this was the most beautiful sky I’ve ever seen. The purple spot with a slow fade to a peachy yellow felt like cold lemonade in a hot day. It was as if an artist had mixed the colors together and hand painted the sky themselves. As I sit here and type this, sitting beside me is some loser is telling me that the sky wasn’t as beautiful as I’m making it to be. It proves Descartes point that everyone will think of beauty differently.

please don’t steal my identity.

The camera doesn’t do this any justice, it was a really nice sunset despite the fact it was -5.

Descartes theory of beauty being in the eye of the beholder probably was because no one else expect the eye of the beholder exists. But I believe he’s left that up for interpretation as well. My interpretation of it is whatever floats your boat. Whether it is an ugly dog or the picture of the sky, no one else but the beholder can judge how aesthetically pleasing something is.

 

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knowledge to me

In my 16 years of living, I’ve learned that everyone has different ideas on everything, which also includes knowledge. My proposition of knowledge is: people can acquire knowledge just through living. The three premises I have for this conclusion is…

Premise 1: We gain knowledge everyday through experiences.
Premise 2: Knowledge is subjective.
Premise 3: Knowledge is the ability to process thoughts into ideas.
Conclusion: People can acquire knowledge just through living.

My first point is a point that most people can agree with and understand. As kids we fall on pavement, get a cut on our leg, it bleeds, we clean it up, and it forms a scab. That one experience provokes the thought that maybe every time I have a cut, a scab will form. As we grow older, we get bigger cuts because we do more dangerous things and every time it forms a scab, no matter how big or how small the wound is. This is an example on gaining knowledge through experiences regardless if we’re in a classroom or not.

My second point is also pretty easy for everyone to agree on. Some may not think that knowing a cut turns into a scab is considered “knowledge” but some people do. My third point explains what knowledge is better.

My third point can be argued against. Many would say that thoughts and ideas are essentially the same thing. Thoughts produce ideas and ideas produce thoughts, so what is the difference between the two? A thought is just something that comes to mind but an idea is breaking down the thought into a purpose. The ability to process a cut becoming a scab is an idea. But the thought of scabs and cuts but not putting the two together, to me, isn’t knowledge. A better example is how human language works, you can learn all the words in the world but if you can’t create sentences and use grammar, then you don’t know how to use the language. In this example, the idea is using the language but the individual words are the thoughts.

My conclusion is easy to argue. But personally I think that my senses are reliable enough to acquire knowledge and they are reliable enough to process experiences.

Immanuel Kant describes my ideology pretty well. I do think I’m a transcendental idealist because I believe in both rationalism and empiricism. Kant described knowledge as “a unity of consciousness, an ongoing process of synthesizing experience, rational, and critical thought.” I agree with his idea that it is an ongoing process, people learn every single day in their lives.

My personal experiences with learning occur mostly in a classroom, but a place where I’ve also learned a lot from is the pool. From the two lifeguard courses I’ve taken, I realized that you can read as much as you want on first aid and how to meet the fitness standard, but actually practicing and being given scenarios where you have to perform first aid and having experience in swimming is much more valuable. In my very first day of class, the instructor explained the steps to do CPR: check for fire, wire, gas, glass, thugs, and drugs before you start. That already was very overwhelming and hard to remember. So when my instructor gave me my first scenario it was much easier just remembering the steps on how to do CPR than each individual step. When it is a life or death situation, I’ve learned that trusting your senses and previous experience is much more important than Kongfuzi’s theory that if we can recognize we don’t know something it is knowledge. Saying we don’t know something may lead us to the right direction of knowing it but applying your knowledge from experiences before is more useful.

 

 

 

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mei’s day off

Hockey games are probably the best kind of games to go to, they’re pretty relaxing and the crowd is usually nice.

But there is always one bad apple that’s rude and takes the game too seriously. This was perfect for me since I’m discussing morality and there are plenty of questions that had evolved for this man in dreadlocks screaming “you suck” at the giants.

A question I had to begin with in Phils day off were can morals be applied to anything? This question persisted because is it really fair to judge someones morality on their passion for a sports team?

My plans for Phils day off were to go to a hockey game and focus entirely on the fights and the audience-player interactions instead of the game. This was pretty easy considering the giants were losing pretty badly (8-3 in the end) and the crowd was getting pretty annoyed. To summarize, the plans went as expected and I did observe lots of things that weren’t planned to begin with, for example this lady who literally was texting the whole game only to stop between periods when there wasn’t a game. Not only did it make me wonder why someone would go to a game only to look at their phone but also if she were to look at her phone during an event where I’m also not interested in, I would feel the same.

Some artefacts that i did bring back would include the hockey ticket. I didn’t come back with new questions unfortunately just a new realization that people are really terrible towards each other over some WHL game.

Most people will say “but mei this seems like just an excuse for you to go to a hockey game and watch people yell at each other!” most of it is, but I do think being more observant of my surroundings and human interactions made me feel more in touch with the world no matter how small they may be.

 

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a post about my morality discussion. because why not :)

Knowing that the only comment on all my blog posts is from myself, I figured it’d be more appropriate to fit that comment into a post.

On thursday, we discussed our topics with people who had topics similar to our own. I talked to Jasmine, Kamakshi, Yury, Matthew and Jordan. Our topics of discussion included if science and religion could coexist, if there was an afterlife, what happened moment before death and taoism. I personally have never heard of taoism which is the belief that reality is the creation of the tao (the ultimate source of the universe). I still don’t really know what it means but I now know it’s a think people believe in. It also didn’t really occur to me that we won’t know what happens to a persons mind or soul moments before death. Even if we do decide to experiment and see what happens to the persons mind, there will always be an experimental flaw and surely death for everyone is a different experience.

These new ideas don’t really influence my previous thoughts except before I never realized how much morality and ethics influence everything we do. I didn’t really have questions to begin with but something I did begin to question is if it’s morally right to kill someone just to see if something happens moments before death or kill someone to benefit the greater good. One thing that I would like to explore further is if science and religion can coexist from a religious standpoint since all of my group was athiest. Even for the other topics, everyone seems to be on the same page so it’s kinda hard to argue when we all share the same opinions.

 

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metaphysics of human morality

Many would argue that what makes humans different from animals is having morals. But hardly anyone ever asks why we have morals or why most humans even WANT morals? English literature has been enamored by the idea of whether humans are born with morals or we learn them. However from a metaphysical perspective, there are other questions that need to be discussed.

My three questions on morality are:

Why do humans have morals?

Why do humans want to have morals?

Do all humans have the same moral duties?

My interest in the topic of morals stems from another interest of mine, criminal psychology. Murderers make me wonder if humans are born with morals and are corrupted through life or if they had failed to learn morals in the first place. The fact that humans differentiate themselves as different from animals on the sole fact that we have morals make me wonder if murderers could even be considered “human.”

Luckily for me, Immanuel Kant has written a book on morality called Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals which is arguably one of the most important works of moral philosophy ever written.

We seem to be the only species to have evolved to have morals. It’s almost paradoxical, we want morals because we have morals and if we didn’t have morals we wouldn’t want them. Morals are actually pretty important for survival. but why do we have morals? Personally I believe it’s beneficial for us to have them because without them we wouldn’t be able to live in a society with other humans.

If a man shoots his dog because the animal is no longer capable of service, he does not fail in his duty to the dog, for the dog cannot judge, but his act is inhuman and damages in himself that humanity which it is his duty to show towards mankind. If he is not to stifle his human feelings, he must practice kindness towards animals, for he who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. (Kant, LE, 212 (27: 459)

This quote by Kant shows that the way people treat animals is the way they treat everyone else.

It seems like a huge evolutionary disadvantage to feel bad for killing something or feel guilty for doing something wrong but somehow we distinguish ourselves from animals from this sole trait alone. Why do humans want to have morals? Many philosophers would say that it’s to distinguish us from other parts of the natural world. Personally I think humans want to have morals because without them, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish much. Another reason why we want to have morals would be to say that we’re better than every other species on this planet. Lets be real, no matter how much you say you hate the human race, you must agree that we are much more accomplished than any of our closest relatives.

Most rational people can agree that all humans are equal (or at least should be), but does this mean that all humans have the same moral duties? According to Kant “our moral duties are not relative to the situation in which we find ourselves. So in one situation it might be okay to keep a promise “but in another situation (in which, for example, keeping a promise conflicts with a higher duty) I may equally well be morally obligated to break a promise.”

Ultimately, I do believe that all humans have morals, some are just weaker than others. I also believe that us as humans need morals to survive as a society. If we lived the same as animals, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post.

 

 

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the logic behind depression

Logic is something that everyone is just born with. But when we break down arguments and identify premises and their truth and validity, it feels like logic is something that you have never encountered in your life.

For example,

Only dogs are pets,
Some cats are pets,
Some cats are dogs.

We all know that cats aren’t dogs and not only dogs are pets and this is a ridiculous argument to make but it is valid. This is why “studying” logic annoys me.

My personal argument I’d like to make is:

Some depression is terminal
Some cancer is terminal
Mental illness can be as severe as physical illness.

As I’m typing my first premise I can already see people going up in arms and saying that depression is not terminal, it can lead to suicide which is terminal but with that same logic, car accidents cannot be fatal because what kills you is not the car accident, it is the chest trauma or a broken neck that kills you. Depression is a silent killer. There are no tumors that can be detected. There is not enough chemotherapy in the world that could kill the demon inside someone who is depressed.

My second point is less of a debate. Almost everyone knows that some cancers are terminal and that everyone can be affected by cancer. That is the sad reality.

My conclusion is controversial. It is so easy to tell someone to get over their sadness or the voices in their head are just a really big imagination. It’s much harder to put yourself in the shoes of someone with cancer or any other terminal illness. To not know when your physical body will become detached from your conscious mind is an incredibly terrifying experience that many wouldn’t understand. I believe that the same can be applied to those who are mentally ill. With depression, you don’t know how much longer you can keep fighting your battles. The difference between the two is that, it’s much easier to accept those who have illnesses we can see the life being drained out of them than it is to see someone who is “perfectly able bodied” with a full head of hair and ability to stomach a meal.

A much easier way to understand my rambling is this analogy by David Foster Wallace.

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely do not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the roof of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror from falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’ , can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

I guess in my argument with cancer and depression, the flames would be the tumors, nausea and vomiting from chemo, the hair falling out and fatigue that makes “giving up” understandable. With depression, the flames cannot be seen, heard, or even felt by most. I believe that my argument is as valid as it can be since my conclusion is controversial. It’s factually correct based on who you ask and therefore sound. Through the years I’ve been in school, I’ve begun to see more de-stigmatizing events for mental illness which is a step in the right direction. I hope to see the day where both depression and cancer are no longer terminal illnesses.

The responsible thing for me to do is to leave a link or suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255) at the end just in case this piece of writing has triggered bad thoughts.

(If you disagree with my argument and leave a rating based on your personal views rather than the piece of writing itself being terrible, I genuinely would like to hear your input and what you personally believe in.)

 

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Philosophy is a wrinkled t-shirt.

Philosophy is a wrinkled t-shirt. Where each one of the wrinkles represent our thoughts and ideas. We all think that most of our t-shirts don’t have wrinkles but they’re there. Somewhere on your t-shirt there are wrinkles there and that isn’t a bad thing. If we look around, no two people have the same wrinkles on their t-shirt, just like how no two people have the exact same ideas. They’re very similar but what makes philosophy so interesting is how there is an infinite amount of thoughts and ideas we could have, just like wrinkles. As we go through our lives, there are people who will condition and iron our thoughts away so we look better on the outside. But every single time, the thoughts will come back no matter how many times we iron them away. They come back as different wrinkles, different thoughts, some are too noticeable and you can’t wear the t-shirt that day. But you don’t throw out that t-shirt just because of one bad wrinkle. If it’s a bad idea that doesn’t mean that you are a bad person it means that you can develop that idea into something good just like how even though that t-shirt is very wrinkled, if you just iron away the bad wrinkles it’s still a good shirt.

Bad wrinkles aren’t the only thing that shape us. If you go to a restaurant and get your t-shirt stained, it is just another life event that you’ve been through. It changes you and molds your wrinkly t-shirt into the one it is today.

Maybe it is your favorite t-shirt and it had been through a lot. It’s wrinkled and it is stained. But you are so stuck on wearing it and not having to throw it out for fear that there is no other t-shirt like that one. Just like philosophy, sometimes we fear that bad things will happen if we change our ideas. But being trapped in the Platos cave of t-shirts, discovering a brand new, wrinkle free t-shirt that you can mold and stain may open up your world.

 

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Plato was tripping

Perhaps everyone has been through an experience where they felt trapped like you would in a cave. A literal cave is like being in an entirely different world. It doesn’t matter if you’re not claustrophobic, at some point everyone will look up and have the moment of sudden realization where you’re like “oh, that’s the entire Earth above me.” But to come out of the cave is a moment of relief. There’s nothing better than that first breath of fresh air as you become birthed again by the Earth.

My metaphorical moment of Plato’s cave would have to be discovering my love for James Bond movies. At first I thought agent 007 was just another Sherlock or Doctor Who, but James Bond is a national treasure. The first movie I’ve watched in the Bond series was when I was on an airplane. There’s nothing to do on an airplane but to take advantage of the in-flight movies and free ginger ale. I had watched every movie that was provided except Spectre so reluctantly I decided to watch it. Spectre is probably one of the best movies I’ve ever watched and I’m so glad I came out of the cave that lacked the British secret agent. When I got home the next morning, I watched Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Diamonds are forever.

http://oyster.ignimgs.com/wordpress/stg.ign.com/2015/09/spectre-poster2-whitetux.jpg

Daniel Craig is arguably one of the best James Bonds.

I might still be in Plato’s cave since I refuse to watch any Jason Bourne movies. I think Jason Bourne is a knockoff of James Bond, even the initials are the same. But the legacy of Ian Fleming will continue to pull me into the James Bond series.

It’s probably rather strange I’d relate philosophy to a fictional movie but at the end of the day, what can we not relate to philosophy?

 

 

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Mei’s thoughts on Philosophy

Philosophy so far has not been what it seems. Philosophy to me a week ago was just questioning if our existence is real and looking for the meaning to life. A week later, I’ve already learned that philosophy is really about spreading information and already I’ve been more aware about how I communicate. The hardest thing about philosophy is supposed to be “finding the right answer” but to be that’s the best part. There never is a right answer. It’s not speech, writing or reading that has kept philosophy alive for thousands of years but never needing the “right answer.” There are still so many philosophical questions we don’t have answers to. Wisdom to me right now is just having good judgement and knowing what the best thing to do is in every situation. Perhaps that will change later on in the semester.

Something new I’ve learned this week would be different kinds of philosophy, contemporary and traditional. Seeing where I am on the perennialism to reconstructionism spectrum was very interesting since I’ve always thought I was more progressive than essential. I’ve realized that I’m in between both progressivism and essentialism since I do think it’s important to have knowledge of the core subjects and how to be a member of society.

Some goals I have would definitely be learning more about philosophers from the past. The only ones I know so far are Socrates, Plato and Confucius. Learning about their ways of thinking from thousands of years ago and comparing it to ours now would be insightful.

http://kurld.com/files/socrates.html

Socrates was a classic Greek philosopher and considered one of the founders of western philosophy.

One of the units in philosophy is ethics and in my opinion, the best unit. Despite not knowing what will be covered, the class will be incredibly entertaining and it’ll be a real test on our morality.

I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think. -Socrates

Regarding progressiveism and reconstructionism, I’ve began to wonder at what point should we stop starting over and setting up society. When will the world be perfect enough? At what point will we say “ok this is getting out of hand, horse lives do not matter.”

I still don’t really understand what’s going on in class 90% of the time but there are still so many things I want to learn. I think one of the greatest/worst things about philosophy is that it’ll always be a concept. We’ll never stop wondering things or loving wisdom. Philosophy is like mind yoga to me. It’s refreshing and allows you to have no boundaries on your thoughts.

 

 
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