Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Philosophinal 12

cassidy philosophy childrens book

What Is Philosophy: a children’s story. Click on the cover to read.




May I use your phone?

“So … one hundred percent of the female gender has felt unsafe or harassed while taking public transit, and that’s garbage.” – rough quote from Mr. Jackson, in response to class discussion a few weeks ago about how different genders experience taking public transit



life without a phone is very… windy

I travelled alone to Victoria on Sunday, January 18 for a day trip to visit my boyfriend. Unluckily, in a rush to catch the ferry in the morning, I left my phone wedged in the seat pocket of my mom’s car. Because I’m pretty terrible at directions, my method for getting places is to screenshoot (it should be a word) transit routes from looking them up on Google Maps. I panicked for a little while. Although I knew that I could just ask my transit-savvy boyfriend how to get back, I still had a deep-seated feeling that timing the route back to the ferry would be tricky.

Having enjoyed my day without much worry, at the end of it, I decided the safest option was to go to the bus station on the UVic campus at around the same time that I did the previous time I went from Victoria back to Vancouver. There were two buses that were pulling up, and I took the first one. For an hour, I rode on the bus to where I thought would be the ferry terminal, except something was wrong. This was not the familiarly-lit road to Swartz Bay… Instead, this road was getting rapidly darker. In addition, I was one of the only passengers still on the bus, trying my hardest to prevent the panic from exploding.

I got off at the next available stop, a metal bus-shelter, which I might add was the only source of light on the road for almost as far as my eye could see: it was also somewhat secluded by a rock hill and some trees. What reels through my head?

Something bad is going to happen to me and nobody will be around to witness it.

Obviously not the exact bus stop I waited at, but this is just to get a feel for how isolated it was. The sky was darker than this one. Think about your overall fright level while looking at this picture.

Even worse, I absolutely had to find someone with a phone to tell my ride not to come on time (because I was going to have to miss the ferry I wanted to take). The situation was becoming desperate. I don’t think I had ever been so scared to walk alone in the dark, and I was a perfect victim, according to some of those articles: it was near-pitch-dark, I sure as hell was nervous if one could have seen me clearly, and I was in an unfamiliar location. Thankfully, it wasn’t far before I arrived at a checkpoint for a military base, and hoped that there was someone inside. The person inside was a woman. It was as if I relaxed by pure instinct. She let me use her phone, and my innate response was that because she was a woman, I was able to normalize my panic level quite a lot and ask her calmly if I could use her phone.

The rest of the story concludes with my taking the bus downtown and transferring to a different one that got me safely to the ferry terminal. I ended up taking the 9:00 ferry to Vancouver without a problem.

I thank my lucky stars, because it could have been so much worse. Pun intended.

The most intriguing part of this story that strongly relates to this issue is this: the person who let me use her phone in an emergency situation was a woman, and this was relieving to me.

If a man and a woman, both strangers with a cell phone, were equal distances away, who would I choose to help me in my state of emergency?

  • Utilitarianism: I would choose the woman. It is good for a woman to be my aide because it would cause me pain to ask an unknown man for his cell phone, whereas to ask a woman for her cell phone would cause me less pain. Therefore, the more pleasurable option is to ask a woman.
  • Categorical Imperative: I would not choose either, as, according to Kant, it is unacceptable to ever use human beings as means even in dire situations.
  • Behind the Veil of Ignorance: It would not matter who I choose. Ultimately, they both have a phone and are the same distance away from where I am.

As you can see from the multi-hyperlinked sentence, I was alone in the dark and I am not alone in my fear of what could be in it. Society is solving this issue by educating the female gender on how to stay safe when alone. The best defense that women have for being alone at night is, in most cases, just to avoid doing that! It’s sad, but society seems to have succumbed to that all women are targets.

Yes, I know it was pretty dumb of me to not double-check that I had my phone with me before leaving the car, but do you have any other opinions on anything I’ve said? I’m very curious to know: how would you have felt if you were me (retaining the gender you currently are) on the night of January 18th?



Aesthetic Irony

Yes, this was a joke. I attempted to create a negative aesthetic experience by expressing it as a subjectively positive one. However, the point I’m trying to make is: positive aesthetic experiences can turn negative or nonexistent, depending on how often one goes through them.

How many times can you listen to this sound clip? Might be something to keep in mind about your new favourite song.



I Found A Writing Prompt Instead Of A Woman Philosopher

“We perceive to learn, as well as learn to perceive.”

Eleanor J. Gibson, a philosopher (wow) psychologist

http://beknownforsomething.com/wp-content/uploads/senses.jpgEverything that can be noticed and noted with any sense is knowledge at its barest. This way, the presumption that both human and non-human living beings are capable of knowing becomes true, and the possibility of a universal language becomes true. Although much of knowledge exists through past experience, all potentially “known” things are rooted in what is originally sensed.

I’ll use an example to create a syllogism:

  • This (knowledge) is perceived by the ears as being a certain object.
  • The known object is believed, formed in the mind, because it was perceived aurally.
  • Knowledge is a belief derived from sensory perception.

!!! *a eureka moment ensued here*


As I was writing this post and researching Eleanor Gibson, it made me think to eliminate my previously constructed preparation and conjure up another scenario, based on my recent false belief. This is very much a spur-of-the-moment action for me, but I am really interested to see where it will take me, so if my thoughts seem disorganized, keep in mind I am still thinking them as I press the Publish button. If they are impossible to discern, please let me know if the flow is too jarring:

I got really excited around 90 seconds prior to starting this paragraph, because as I inserted that quote into my post (it’s not even where I’d like to put it, but I’ll leave it there for effect), I concluded, after an extremely brief time period, that Gibson was a woman philosopher. Let’s see the premises that zapped through my brain, after I copy pasted her quote:

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 9.07.25 PM



  • I read with my eyes, on my philosophy midterm blog post draft, that Eleanor J. Gibson said “we perceive … learn to perceive”, which applies to my philosophy midterm.
  • I believed it to be known because my eyes saw it.
  • I believed that Gibson was a philosopher due to my perception of her quote (words and location).

Since It is retained both consciously (in a classroom setting, students are constantly thinking about what knowledge they are being given, what they have to know for that midterm assignment) and subconsciously (we do not realize or often pay much attention to what we notice if it does not have a significant effect on us – see info on hardwired human traits). The example above of recent thought process in my brain proves how perceptual knowledge is what happens most often in all of our minuscule thought-windows, and is therefore the most relevant for life and survival.



Stop Posting About Religion, Oh My God

My dad and I love to park our derrières on the couch and watch Celebrity Apprentice when it airs. While watching the 2012 season, we both had a mutual feeling of like for a contestant who was a Vegas magician/comedian named Penn Jillette.

A sort-of-actual transcription of my dad and I in Barnes & Noble this past summer

Me: Dad!…hey dad, check this out. It’s on sale.

(leads him to a book)

Me: That’s Penn from Celebrity Apprentice!

Dad: Oh my god, that looks funny. (puts it in his book stack, for which he promptly pays)

I read the book cover-to-cover this weekend in philosophical spirit, but amidst the usually gratuitous NSFW, I never expected the words of a loudmouth funnyman to be so impactful. This video gives a nice overview of his outlined beliefs in God, No!. Bonus for all of you auditory learners: this is a perfect way for you to digest my topic (if you can’t stand reading “all that text”). Some of you may recall that I quoted from Jillette’s book in my last post.

If you’re into this topic (ex. Jayden, Parker, Devin, Kevin, Joel^2), watch up until the end of the video and I’d like you guys to let me know, in the comments, what you guys agree and disagree with. Penn Jillette is a very controversial figure. For the sake of staying on topic here, I’ll discuss questionable aspects of his ideologies in the comment section.

Jillette is not, by any means, a professional philosopher, but I chose to illuminate his point of view because he is more relatable to our student group. For one, he is in the media/entertainment industry, and teens are heavily influenced by media messages. Secondly, he speaks in a style more easily comprehended by young ears.

Hope you get something out of this listen!



Heaven Is Probably A Place On Earth

the-meaning-of-lifeI will try my best not to delve too deeply into paragraph upon paragraph of religious bias. If you don’t enjoy the topic, skip ahead now.

A great number of people live because there is supposedly a God, or another superior form waiting to submit them into heaven, an afterlife, or anything else that is far greater than the flawed Earth we live on. But, the question is: do we need something greater to live for? We are all alive, but we can only live based on what we choose to believe. For instance: faithful people require a purpose in life to secure their purpose in death: admittance to paradise. It’s satisfying to firmly believe that “death does not bring about their complete annihilation” (MHR Philosophy Unit 2: Metaphysics, 114).

Three Saturdays ago, just before I was about to leave my house to catch a bus, a Jehovah’s witness quietly knocked on my front door. Not wanting to be rude, I entertained him by watching a video he had pre-loaded on an iPad. It attempted to answer why, if there is a God, there would still be suffering and grievance. For those of you not interested in religion-related media: basically, the Bible says suffering happens because there is an “evil power“.

Although I didn’t appreciate having to once again be pummelled with the dodgeballs of religion, I suddenly understood why this is comforting for some. Many people don’t like to think that humans are at fault for terrible happenings! If a higher power is responsible for turmoil, it must mean all humans are innately good.

However, it is not a source of despair to refute a higher power. We have what we have: an “impossible universe full of awe and wonder … [and] an infinite number of questions we can work on”(Jillette, God, No!, 229). We must live by leaving it be, not by letting faith guide us. This is my bias, but am I enforcing this upon you? No. Choose to believe whatever you want, because you will always be an individual.

Trash_Religion_b-on-w_no-siteThe core of “living” is individuality. Humans can never have a common, shared life experience, no matter how much they are in each other’s company. I can’t think, thought-for-thought, in the exact same manner as the brains currently in this room.

  • Can we know that there is a superior being?
  • Can we know that there isn’t?

The frustrating short answer is no, but the existence of superiority should not prevent us from living on our own “rational” thoughts: well, that is a whole other subject.




Feyera-bending the rules


Clearly, anything goes with Feyerabend.

Jeff and I made a short review slideshow of Paul Feyerabend‘s “Anything Goes” ideology, to accompany what we discussed in class on October 17th, 2014. For those who would like to learn or have their memory refreshed, here it is:

Anything Goes




If Necklaces Could Kill

“I think Draco Malfoy gave Katie that necklace, Professor.”

– Harry Potter to Professor McGonagall, p. 238, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


Wizarding World fact: This ornate, innocent looking article of jewelry can seriously hurt anyone who slightly brushes their skin on it, and instantly kill anyone who puts it on.

Ah, though I have read the series over twenty times, it has been awhile since I have revisited the Potter world. When thinking about what logical argument to use, this one popped into my head almost instantly. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the sixth instalment or even Harry Potter in general, I will provide some background information to the logical argument I am about to discuss. This does not contain any major plot spoilers (if, by any chance, you hadn’t been spoiled years ago)!

A grim, unfortunate chain of events takes place at the wizarding school where Harry attends. This chain starts off with an anonymous person giving a female student a cursed necklace, which she touches and gets badly hurt. His archenemy since he started school there, Draco Malfoy, is someone he believes to be responsible. Near the start of the book, Harry saw the necklace in a window of a store in which the owner was having a conversation with Malfoy.

So, why does Harry automatically assume that Malfoy was the giver of the necklace?

Here is a syllogism to represent Harry’s thought process.

  • I overheard Malfoy arrange a purchase with the necklace storeowner.
  • The necklace got to Hogwarts and cursed a female student.
  • Therefore, Malfoy is the culprit.

Not a bad job, Harry: this argument is factually correct. All of the premises are true, but they do not “necessitate the truth of the conclusion” (Jackson, 2014): In the story, this is indirectly pointed out by the receiver of Harry’s argument: Professor McGonagall.

She states in Half-Blood Prince that “[they] cannot point the finger of blame at … Malfoy purely because he visited the shop where this necklace might have been purchased” (p. 239). He is not the only person to have ever bought something in that shop, so that is why the first premise does not support his conclusion.

If the first premise did support the conclusion, then the second one would as well. Yes, the necklace was brought to Hogwarts, and a girl was cursed by it, but Harry is unable to say or prove that Malfoy brought the necklace in, or that Malfoy cursed the girl. Literally everyone in the story, including the profs, detest that Draco is a cruel brat, so McGonagall thanks Harry for the input, but cannot use her authority to inflict punishment because the argument is indubitably not sound.

The logical lesson to be learned from Harry’s assumption is this: if one attempts to seek justice by using an argument without sound, the consequence is that they will not be believed.




Philosophy Is Thrilling

Michael-THE-THRILLER-Jackson-michael-jackson-19046718-650-772This is from my “What Is Philosophy?” presentation. I branched it off of my first post, using the music video and rewriting the lyrics of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Coincidentally, it’s sort of seasonal at this time of year. Spooooky…

The file is too big to embed, so this is a redirection to a public Dropbox file of it. Enjoy!




Philosophy is Undead

The essay, Why not just weigh the fish?, written by Robert Pasnau, mentions Steven Hawking stating that “philosophy is dead”.  This little cartoon is a definition of philosophy: it is neither dead nor alive, but it is also a depiction of what happens in our Philosophy 12 class. We “resurrect” puzzles that have been challenged for centuries and discussed sparingly among today’s people.

The essay, Why not just weigh the fish?, written by Robert Pasnau, mentions Steven Hawking stating that “philosophy is dead”. This little cartoon is a definition of philosophy: it is neither dead nor alive, but it is also a depiction of what happens in our Philosophy 12 class. We “resurrect” puzzles that have been challenged for centuries and discussed sparingly among today’s people.