Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Philosophy is like a Constellation

Philosophy at the beginning of the semester was simple, like the big dipper. Epistemology was knowledge; metaphysics was the hard, annoying questions that nobody enjoys to answer unless forced to; logic appeared self-explanatory; aesthetics were ‘beautiful’ things; and ethics was where we come from and what we believe. Now, philosophy is much more complicated. According to epistemology, I know nothing. Metaphysics hurts my head. Logic turned into math? Aesthetics became what I consider to be a proper form of gratitude that we are all capable of perceiving. Ethics changed into intentions and what means to an end are acceptable.

I initially thought that philosophy was like rugby. The plays initiated were the philosophical ideas and the players themselves were the philosophers. Now, I believe that philosophy is stargazing at constellations. Essentially the constellations themselves are the philosophical schools of thought while the stars themselves are each individual idea.

In my mind, things I thought about philosophy were the stars that made up the big dipper. This is because ever since I was a child, I have never had to strain too hard to discover where the stars of this constellation were scattered in the night sky, this is the same with my initial philosophical ideas.

  • Aesthetics is the little dipper. It’s a small grouping of stars that can be a challenge to find, but once one does, it’s very easy to appreciate and find aesthetically pleasing.
  • Logic is like Volans (the flying fish) because it comes our of know where and smacks one in the faces, metaphorically speaking. I say this because through philosophy, logic became math which I do not particularly enjoy.
  • Epistemology is like Horologium (the clock) because it pertains to knowledge and what one can truly know. I think that I learnt that there is a sense of time running out when it comes to epistemology because one does not want to forget before they can articulate their findings.
  • Metaphysics is like Microscopium (the microscope) because metaphysics questions anything and everything all the time. It picked apart the world as we once knew it and reforms it to become a new paradigm.
  • Ethics is like Circinus (the compass) because it reminds me of ones moral compass. Nobody can have a direction, purpose or sense of right and  without a something guiding them. Ethics will never be set in stone, just as constellations will never be set in stone.

The main reason I changed my allegory from rugby to constellations is because rugby was a black and white understanding of such a broad topic. Through philosophers, such as Kant, I have been able to develop a greater understanding of what my definition of philosophy is. While researching for various blog posts, I found myself struggling to articular and comprehend my ideas, thoughts and readings to the standards I wanted to. By blogging, researching and philosopher’s days off I began to develop a new sense of what philosophy is to me.

The one thing I wish I could change about my time in philosophy was how involved I was in and outside of class. I think that the lessons I learnt about the world around me and myself will stay in my mind for the remainder of my existence. I will miss sitting (napping…) on the couches in block two. Philosophy has been a one of a kind class that I think every individual would benefit from. And in the words of my favourite philosopher (Phil Dunphy from the TV show Modern Family):

 

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Communicating Knowledge

The demonstration of knowledge is one of a complex nature. With over 1000 written languages, 6900 spoken
languages, 130 forms of sign languages, and the universal body language, communication has evidently become the
most commonly accepted means of demonstrating knowledge. From personal experience, I have come to the belief that non-verbal communication is a more universal means of communication than verbal communication. This ideology ties into the epistemological theory of propositional and competence knowledge. My concept of the communication of knowledge can be broken down into the following syllogism:

  • Premise 1: If non-verbal forms of communication, such as sign language and body language, are more universal ways of conveying the understanding of knowledge.
  • Premise 2: And if verbal communication is very limited in its range of communication and leads to the most amounts of confusion and misunderstanding.
  • Conclusion: Then non-verbal communication is cos a better means of demonstrating knowledge than verbal communication

Before delving in further to my understanding of knowledge, there are some terminology that needs to be defined in its regards to my syllogism.

  • Knowledge: Information gained through rationalism and empiricism.
  • Communication: The expression of knowledge to another being in a way that both people comprehend
  • Non-Verbal Communication: A form of communication that uses the body to convey knowledge, ways such as facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures, it is also more universally understood.
  • Verbal Communication: A form of communication that uses speech to relay information and is limited by language barriers.
  • Better: A more effective or efficient means to convey comprehendible information.
  • Universal: Being able to demonstrate knowledge to others regardless of their language or nationality.
  • Demonstrating: Relaying information to other individuals through actions or words.

Now, onto my first premise: If non-verbal forms of communication, such as sign language and body language, are more universal ways of conveying the understanding of knowledge. 55% of communication is demonstrated through non-verbal cues humans display either subconsciously or consciously. Generally, people world wide have the ability to demonstrate their opinions, feelings and knowledge of things through their body language. When you feel as if you’re under attack, naturally you would become tense and have defensive posture. Displaying knowledge through the human figure may seem strange, but we do it on a regular basis. When we agree, understand or know something, we tend to be more open with our body language. In opposition, when we don’t understand, think something is wrong or don’t agree with something, we tend to have closed body language. This is a concept that majority of people have the capacity to recognize.

My second premise: if verbal communication is very limited in its range of communication and leads to the most
amounts of confusion and misunderstanding, addresses the verbal aspects if communication. While there are some individuals who are great at speaking, they still use and manipulate their body language to convey a certain message. This can lead to misunderstandings and confusing quiet easily. Not to mention the one dimensional aspect of language that is created by having one mother tongue or in some cases, multiple. This barrier restricts the how widely a message can be spread.

How does all this relate to competence knowledge and propositional knowledge? Competence knowledge is explained in one of our class readings as knowledge that is understood through demonstration while propositional knowledge is explained as the processing of information, usually through words. This direction connects to my syllogism because non-verbal communication can also be interpreted as competence knowledge and verbal communication can be understood as propositional knowledge. So by following my syllogism, competence knowledge is a better means of knowledge than propositional.

I have come to make these conclusions through experiences such as interacting on a daily basis with a variety of people and through my own personal realizations. To me, there is no ‘right’ answer for what knowledge is. Knowledge is whatever we allow it to be. It’s intangible and carries from person to person. I think that the most common experience I have in regards to this is when two people witness the same event and both tell entirely different versions of it. Their body language will convey more about the emotional connection and understanding to the event rather than the words that come pouring from their mouths. At the end of the day, people struggle to communicate their true intentions through words, but non-verbal communication will always prevail.

 

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What is the purpose of life?

What is the purpose of life and what influences our purpose in life are my two predominate questions I have regarding the purpose of life. As I talked about in my previous blog post, the purpose of human life seems to motivate our actions and push us to develop ourselves.

The ideology that I connect with the most can be summarized by subjectivism. Subjectivism states that meaning varies from person to person and relies on ones mental state. This ideology sheds light on my topic by allowing for individuals to be able to feel as if they have a greater purpose than reproduction. Some philosophers, such as Frankfurt, believed that loosing oneself initiative the our intuition to find purpose and that through our life experiences we are able to develop our own sense of purpose. The basic idea of subjectivism is straight forward and easy to follow, but just as with all philosophical things, the harder you thin about something, the more complicated it becomes.

This new material on subjectivism relation to human purpose in life both confuses and helps me understand the purpose of life. On one hand, stating that we are able to create our own purpose of life makes sense and appears to be straight forward. But there is much more to loosing oneself in order to find purpose. The objections to subjectivism’s theories also make sense, forming a cloud of confusion. How can one find purpose in being lost when purpose gives you a sense of direction? Ethics and religion also play a very important role in subjectivism creating objective means in some cases. Regardless, there is no way to easily understand the purpose of life.

I think the video bellow effectively summarizes the subjectivity of the purpose of life:

Other questions I have established regarding the purpose of human life are:

  • Does purpose evolve as an individual evolves?
  • Are there permanent factors that influence our purpose?
  • What defines being ‘lost’ and is it a static definition?
 

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Is there any purpose in this blog post?

Every week, I spend anywhere between 12 and 24 hours slicing meat at a grocery store. Every week, I spend 30 hours a week at school. Every week, I spend countless hours wondering: what’s the point of it all? I feel as if everyone is working towards a ‘greater purpose’ in life, but what is that purpose? Does a purpose in life exist? Why do human beings need a purpose? What if there is no purpose? These are all questions that I hope won’t make me have more questions about the purpose and meaning of life.

I chose the topic of purpose regarding human life because as a grade 12 student I feel there is a lot of emphasis put on succeeding and finding a purpose in life. Purpose is extremely fuzzy with no clear definition due humans finding purpose in a variety of things. I think that mental well being, emotions and beliefs are factor that greatly affect what someone defines their purpose as.

The purpose of life is very important. It is what we base our entire existence upon. Darwinism states that the only purpose of life is to reproduce for the survival of man kind. Another perspective is that of various religion which follow the concept of be “good” and have a “good” afterlife. While both of these perspectives are valid ways to life, I personally do not know what the purpose of life is.

“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.”

       —  Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934
I think the above quote directly reflects my current understanding of life. We are all part of a story that cannot be directed by anyone other than ourselves. By looking more in depth at the purpose of human life, I hope to come to the understanding of why humans desire a purpose. Why are we not satisfied with being alive for a singular reason? I think that in the search for the answers of these questions, regardless of finding them, I will be able to develop my own purpose.
 

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Miley Cyrus and The Wolf Cull

After Miley Cyrus’s surprise visit to Vancouver in September, the pop princess witnessed BC’s wilderness on a wildlife tour. She then became determined to stop the BC Wolf Cull. Using the information she obtained from environmentalists, she used her fans by asking them to sign Pacific Wild’s petition to end the wolf cull.

Image via thestar.com

According to Ian McAllister, the director of Pacific Wild, killing wolves to save caribou will not help the endangered caribou population from going extinct. The cause of the endangerment appears to be linked to human activities such as snowmobiling. Christy Clark responded by telling Cyrus that she has no reason to interfere with BC’s politics and environmental plans, as well as slut shaming the well known singer.

Miley Cyrus’s argument to bring closure to the wolf cull can be separated into the following premises and conclusion:

Premise 1: The BC government believe that wolves are the blame for the endangerment of the caribou

Premise 2: The endangerment of the caribou is due to the impact of humans

Premise 3: The wolves are also being killed due to human impact.

Conclusion: Therefore the government is killing BC wildlife for no beneficial reason.

The soundness Cyrus’s argument is comprehendible when we begin to understand the premises.

Premise 1: Wolves in BC are the most predominate predators towards caribou, therefore the government has something else to blame for their mismanagement of the caribou as well as justification for their actions. This can be acknowledged as true.

Premise 2: The effects of humans on the caribou population are easy to challenge given that there are many contributing factors to the decrease in population such as climate, predators and the loss of habitat. While the wolf is one predator of the caribou, humans may be considered a larger predator to various species of wildlife according to environmentalists. Due to man-made logging roads and the process of logging have been main causes of habitat loss for the endangered caribou.

Premise 3: It is clear that by culling wolves is a direct impact on the wolf population.

The form of this logical argument believed by Miley Cyrus and her environmentalist pals may be valid and also have true premises. This results in a sound argument.

When I first decided to address the logistics of the Wolf Cull, I thought that I would side with the BC

Image via cknw.com

government; considering Miley Cyrus isn’t necessarily a positive influence on society, but as I discovered more about the wolf cull, I began to realize that Cyrus has a point. Instead of intervening in the endangerment of caribou, the BC government seemed to have waited until the last moment to do anything about it; implementing a 5 year plan to try to control the population problem so that they appear to be doing something. In reality, the government is not legitimately doing anything but killing beautiful BC wildlife. It took the humiliation of being called out by Miley Cyrus for them to fully address the reality of the situation.

 

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Philosophy is like Rugby

In my opinion, philosophy is very relatable to rugby. The concept of two teams playing against each other translates to philosophical debates or other sciences against philosophy. There also is a camaraderie between rugby players, after a game, that allows friendships to form despite the jersey they wear, I think that this is also the same in regards to philosophy and their opposition.

Scrums represent the initial philosophical ideas that a philosopher has. There are various plays that are called to the scrum that inform others of what to do and what is going on, showing the importance of communication and teamwork within a network of philosophers. When the scrum is live and the two teams fight for the ball, I see it as the opportunity to fight for the philosophical idea.

Once the scrum is won and the ball is out, the opportunity to pass the ball presents itself. Passing the ball out, relates to sharing ideas with more individuals and getting input from others as there are various things that each player is capable of accomplishing.
Tackles are set backs and challenges that a philosopher may face when pondering an idea. Whilst they may hurt, they are inevitable and allow a greater perspective to be achieved. They are almost always followed by a ruck. When a ruck forms, it gives both teams a chance to either keep or steal the ball. If a ruck is won, then a challenge has been overcome.

The last piece of my allegory is scoring a try. Which in other sports would be a goal or a touch down. Scoring a try is having a break through and having another person understand your philosophical ideology. There is always a chance for the opposition to score a try but what matters the most is the score at the end of the day. Throughout history, philosophy has faced it’s challenges and developed over time, just as rugby has.

 

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Which Rice Are You?

“…philosophy begins when we wonder about something. It is – like every intellectual discipline – a way of asking questions about the nature of things. In this way, philosophy is born of the very basic human disposition toward asking questions.” -Matthew Beard

I have always been sensitive to emotion, mine as well as others. In the article we read in class, Love, Wisdom and Wonder: Three Reasons to Celebrate Philosophy by Matthew Beard, I was reminded of a concept I was recently introduced to. An experiment done by a Japanese scientist, Dr. Masaru Emoto, which shows that our words have a greater effect than we realize.

The concept is simple: three jars with rice covered water are each treated with different human sentiments. The video bellow explains and demonstrates the results of this experiment.

Now, how does this relate to philosophy?

Philosophy is commonly known as the essence and wisdome of how society perceives reality. This reality, in my opinion, needs to be shifted towards a more conscience effort to be aware of the phycological and physiological damage that one can experience. As per the aforementioned quote above, the wonder of how our language and actions can cause others to essentially become “mouldy rice” is my question. The power of positivity can create a loving safe environment that is open to being interrupted by those in the spotlight. There is the query of how can we shift the spotlight to also see the ignored and those who perceive themselves as being hated.

Our individual perceptions are key to when we are interacting with one another. If we have what we believe to be a positive connection with someone, we are able to improve our confidence. If we believe to have a negative connection with someone, we are able to destroy our own confidence. If we believe that another individual is being ignorant of our opinions, emotions or beliefs, we become bitter and resentful. This resent causes us to become “mouldy”.

Nonetheless, I believe that if society is able to see the consequences of how others may perceive their action, more positivity can be spread through the process of love and gratitude. This is a perception I hope Philosophy 12 will help me comprehend.

So, which rice are you?
 
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