Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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What is Philosophy?

What is philosophy? At the beginning of the semester, this question hit me like a wrecking ball. It knocked me off my feet because earlier that week, I walked into class not having the first clue of what the class was even about. So, the question ‘what is philosophy’ left me pondering for a long time. But know that I have done the course, this question isn’t so difficult to answer anymore. All I really had to do was look back at what we have done for the past four months to see how much I have grown.

Previously, I used the metaphor that philosophy is like a tree. Where the tree trunk is our lives, the branches are all aspects of our lives, and the roots are philosophy- the base foundation of or lives. I still agree with this metaphor, but only to a certain extent. Because now, I find myself seeing us, humanity, as the roots and philosophy being the tree trunk. The way I see it now, humans create philosophy which then help us with all aspects of our lives. 

Throughout the course, philosophy has taught me how to look at things from different perspectives and what to think about each of those perspectives. It is the process of questioning and analyzing those questions; then, attempting to find our way to a conclusion. Philosophy is an extremely subjective topic, but it’s the subjectiveness of it that has help me grow in my thinking. Being able to see an topic from different standpoints has helped me learn to try to relate and understand other people’s ideas. I think that how I have learned in philosophy has shaped been shaped through my environment and the people I am around as this is one of those classes where the learning experience depends largely on the students on the class. If there were to be a few extra people in the class or a few students who were missing, my learning experience and the class discussions would have been completely different.

A tip that I found to be very the one that Mr. Jackson suggested where we just take some time to think while we are walking or sitting on the bus instead of listening to music or doing something else. This is something that I will definitely be using in my everyday life along with many of the other things that philosophy has taught me. I still have much to learn, but I can now better understand how and why I get to certain conclusions about things.

Some things that I would’ve liked to improve on were participating in class and commenting on blog posts. Sometimes it was just too difficult to put my ideas into words so I just didn’t. With commenting on posts, now that I look back was not a very difficult thing to do and I should’ve taken out some time occasionally to comment on other people’s posts. One of the things that I am most proud of is my Epistemology/ Midterm post because even though I was really struggling with it at the beginning, it eventually got easier and I became really interested in my topic and the writing just started to flow.

Overall, I think what philosophy is is essentially the path of self discovery and reflection. It is not just asking questions, but also the process of finding the answers to those questions and being able to find out new things about myself along the way. Philosophy is a life skill that I will be able to apply to my everyday life and use moving forward, and I have all you guys to thank for it.

Could this possibly be the path of self discovery to the philosophy tree?

Could this possibly be the path of self discovery to the philosophy tree?

 

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Sam and Shiyun on unfairness in the justice system

Sam:

Ethics alone can be a very controversial topic, with so many sub topics and issues, its hard to narrow down and figure out the issues surrounding ethics. however, not straying from our Philosophy conversations in class, I will be discussing the issues of discrimination against our Aboriginal peoples within the Judicial system. For many years, its been a hot zone between our Canadian government and the natives of this land. They have been discriminated against, cast aside, and were ripped from what was truly theirs to begin with. (true land, strong and free? OK Harper.) However, despite Harpers blatantly obvious attempts to subdue our nations native peoples, they continue to fight back in small ways, defending what little we have ‘given’ them. Lets take a look at the ‘Sparrow Case’; in 1984, Musqueam band member Ronald Sparrow was arrested for fishing with too long of a net. Good job Canada, we have former prisoners walking around and you’re arresting the native guy that has a long net to catch fish. However, despite the complete stupidity over this case, it had very positive outcomes.

http://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/home/land-rights/sparrow-case.html

http://www.amnesty.ca/our-work/issues/indigenous-peoples/discrimination-against-first-nations-children

I feel that personally, this is ethically wrong. How is it fair the our native people, the people who first originated this land, are treated like the lowest in a caste system of Canadians? Its completely unjust and discriminatory that through our judicial system, the system that is supposed to be unflawed and completely neutral, is unfair towards a people that are fighting for what is rightfully theirs. If anything out judicial system should be blind to the person that stands before them & judged solely on their crimes rather than who their ancestors are and where they come from.

Shiyun:

Ethics may be a controversial subject, but it is something that interests many people and everybody has something to say about it. I have chosen to talk about the injustice of the judicial system in the United States. There are evidence of racism in the system thus making the punishment for criminal cases unjust. The system is biased towards caucasians as there are statistics that prove that they receive less jail time along with other types of punishment or fines. On the other hand, african americans and minorities in the United States are sentenced with harsher penalties because of their race. An example would be the Ferguson unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. Michael Brown, an unarmed african american, was shot to death by Darren Wilson, a white male police officer.It is believed that Brown was raising his hands up to surrender when he was fatally shot by Wilson. There were no criminal charges against Wilson. This incident was sparked an unrest in Ferguson that began with peaceful protests but led to looting and violence around the vicinity of the shooting.

I feel that it was extremely unfair that Wilson was able to walk away from the whole incident scot-free. There was definitely some biased in the court towards him because of his occupation and race.

Approach:

  •  Categorical imperative: When somebody commits, a crime, they get an equal punishment as everybody else no matter the situation.
  •  Utilitarianism: Every case is looked at differently and taking in account the person’s race and circumstances.
  • Veil of ignorance: There is a set punishment for everybody, regardless their race, occupation, or what family and situation they were born into.

 

How can it be addressed??

Unfortunately, racism is a concept that is still alive and well in today’s society whether you live in Canada, the United States, or any other part of the world. It’s a topic that can only be fixed through the next generations of people. Being a social topic, and involving the decision over people’s lives, it’s hard to rely solely on the categorical imperative in terms of criminal justice. In Canada, we feel that addressing the problem is addressing our government, speaking out and saying collectively as a society that “this is wrong and we need to change as a nation”. Racism is an unethical, social issue; being discriminated against because you were born into a certain race, culture, or religion. In the categorical imperative, the hypothetical imperative can be directly applied to the judicial system. you do not know beforehand what it contains – until the condition is given. Total and absolute non discriminatory situation in justice of the people.

 

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Subjectivity of Aesthetics

Vincent van Gough- Sunflowers (Tournesols)

The painting above provides a good example for the subjectiveness of aesthetics. The beauty of this painting has been debated during one of our class discussions. Some people thought that being able to see this piece of art in person would be breathtaking whereas others thought that this was an ugly painting and did not understand what people see in it. Personally, I do not find this painting very aesthetically pleasing but someone else may appreciate this art piece and find it to be the best painting they has ever been created.

 

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The Aesthetic Experience – Concentration

“The aesthetic experience has one universal characteristic, among all people, at any time, concentration.”

“The longer and more intensely concentrated the experience, the more lastingly vivid and intensely vivid the experience, and therefore the greater the aesthetic experience.”

Concentration in terms of the aesthetic experience is involved in some aspect of the environment. Concentration is directly involved and correlated with our vivid experiences. In reference, the more one concentrates on certain things, the more lasting and vivid the experience will be, and thus the greater aesthetic experience one will have. Positive or negative, what you focus and concentrate on, will directly affect you. Experiences when not concentrating isn’t considered a “quality aesthetic experience”. The basic concept of concentration is: with full concentration, one can achieve full capacity in the aesthetic experience, whether positive or negative. With everyday experiences, our mind is not fully concentrating on one task, and thus taking away from the full aesthetic.

There are two separate “ideas” that outline the classic aesthetic and the more science based aesthetic. The classic thesis being of Beardsley’s. Beardsley believes that:

  1. OBJECT FOCUS: attention must be fixed on a subject
  2. FELT FREEDOM: you cannot worry about past or future events, focus on present now
  3. DETACHED AFFECT: detaching yourself from your likes/dislikes emotionally
  4. ACTIVE DISCOVERY: “active exercise of powers to meet environmental challenges”
  5. WHOLENESS: personal integration and self expansion, enlightenment.

Beardsley’s classic idea can be misconstrued into a biased opinion of the aesthetic experience. It can be contradictory of what the aesthetic experience is defined as, and limits the boundaries as to what the aesthetic experience can be. For example, because the aesthetics can be positive or negative, then having “felt freedom” would be contradictory because the negative experience can still be classified as a “vivid and lasting aesthetic experience”. The second concept is from a psychologist, Csikszentmihalyi, who based his criteria on “flow experience”.

  1. MERGING OF ACTION AND AWARENESS: attention is centered on activity
  2. LIMITATION OF STIMULUS FIELD: no awareness of past or future, blank
  3. LOSS OF EGO: distanced from ego and loss of self-consciousness
  4. CONTROL OF ACTIONS: uses skills to overcome challenges.
  5. CLEAR GOALS, CLEAR FEEDBACK
  6. AUTOTELIC NATURE: doesn’t need external rewards, internally satisfying.

We believe there are different “ways” of concentration and have found two examples to help identify with the concentration theory.

  1. Attention control: refers to an individual’s capacity to choose what they pay attention to and what they ignore.
  • For example; A student could choose to not pay attention in Math class and thus have no recollection of an aesthetic experience. Or, the student could choose to pay attention and have either a positive or negative aesthetic experience.
  1. Samadhi: meditative absorption, attained by the practice of dhyana. The mind becomes still, one pointed or concentrated while the person remains conscious.
  • The meditative absorption allows for one to completely open the mind to the full aesthetic experience and have the full vivid experience through total concentration.

Questions:

“Let us consider experience when we are not concentrating:when we are doing one thing and thinking about another. This is the attribute of most everyday experience that keeps it from being quality aesthetic experience.”

Example: During the event of 9/11 most people involved, or even bystanders could completely recall where they were when they found out about this devastating event. For most people, even though it was a terrifying experience, they could still vividly recall what they did prior, during, and after.

Situation:

  • Where were you when Michael Jackson died?
  • When and where did you first sign up for Facebook?
  • When and where was your first… (kiss, friend, embarrassing moment)
 

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Knowledge is influenced by the environment

Knowledge is gained through experiences within an environment.

Knowledge:  acts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject

Experience: the process of doing and seeing things and of having things happen to you

Environment: the conditions that surround someone or something : the conditions and influences that affect the growth, health, progress, etc., of someone or something

Knowledge possessed is knowledge that has been acquired because we need it to survive in our environment. It would not be necessary to have knowledge about melting ice on the road if you live in a hot desert, because there is no need for that information there. Also, people in different parts of the world tend to know certain things so that it can help them improve their lives.

For example, somebody who lives on a farm in rural Alberta may have extensive knowledge on farming whereas someone who lives in Nova Scotia would probably have great knowledge about fishing. These people have knowledge about such things because they live in a place where it would be an advantage for them to have this information. For the person who lives in rural Alberta, it would be extremely helpful for them to know how to farm because it would probably be their main source of income and their crops can help put food on the table. On the other hand, the person who lives in Nova Scotia would know a lot about fishing because there is a large fishing industry there and it is the main source of income for many of its residents.

Syllogism:

If information and skills are achieved from a person’s surroundings,

and knowledge is facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience,

then knowledge is gained through experiences within an environment.

During one of our class disscussions, it was mentioned that people who live in different areas of the world have extensive knowledge on certain things or have a particular skill set because they have grown up around that information it is useful fo them. If somebody lives by the lake and watches the sunrise and set everyday, they would probably have knowledge on the when the sun rises and sets any time of the year.

In conclusion, there is an endless supply of information and knowledge out there, but what is neccessary for us to live in our environment is gained the easiest and stays in our mind for the longest.

 

 

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Wake up, are you conscious?

In my first blog post, I talked about the reality of truth and whether or not it exists. But during our class discussions, I realized that I had been brought onto a different tangent which had led me to more unanswered questions. Frankly speaking, metaphysics is not the easiest topic to understand. In fact, I feel like I am more confused now than I was when we started; but still, I began my research for my new blog post.

After some perusing on the internet, I noticed that my original subject, truth, was occasionally categorized under consciousness, so i began looking more into that. Then, I stumbled upon the website www.closertotruth.com, where there were great series of videos on what philosophers and other knowledge seekers had to say about consciousness. In the series on “What things are conscious?“,  Raymond Kurzweil, an author, inventor, futurist and director of engineering at Google, has some great points to share about this subject.

Kurzweil a well recognized inventor and engineer, with many praises from magazines such as “Forbes. Inc ” and “The Wall Street Journal”, and has received many awards for his achievements.

When asked the question “what things are conscious?”, Kurzweil says, ” …Fundamentally, consciousness is this subjective experience, and only I can experience [it]. I mean, I should only talk about it in first person terms. Now, I’ve been certainly socialized to accept other people’s consciousness, if they appear conscious, which they don’t always; but my own consciousness is really only aware of itself and there’s no real way to measure the conscious experiences of another entity.”

He then continues on about what things are conscious in a deeper sense but it was the quote above that really captured my attention.

Even though Kurzweil is not a philosopher, he is a very well recognized genius and what he said about consciousness was something I found so simple to understand yet confusing at the same time. Since consciousness is something that only someone can really experience themselves, how do I know that other people are actually conscious and that they are not just people who function and act like me, but do not have a sense of self (consciousness)? This question has caught me in a rut and I don’t seem to have anymore that could be added to this post.

 

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The truth on truth

The facts that we know of as true at this moment, aren’t they just ideas that people have come up with that just happen to be “correct” in their sense? Can “correctness” or “truthever be reached if there are always new ideas or metaphors that are trying to disprove our truth? For example, the earth was thought to be flat until it was discovered that it is actually round.

So, if all facts are only true until they are disproved, can anything really be true? Or are they just temporary hypothesis that humans theories to help them makes sense of the world they live in.

During our class discussion, we debated whether or not science can be objective. To me, science can never be truly objective because our past experiences influence our decisions. For example, we know that water is wet, so someone who touches water will become wet. Our knowledge on the wetness of water thus influences our conclusion.

We say that science is our way to discover the truth; but if science can never actually be objective, then real truth does not exist. 

 

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Gay Marriage- Confusing and Awkward?

 

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was debated in the House of Lords (upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom) on June 3 2013. There were many arguments against the idea of gay marriage as well as this Bill. The Archbishop of Canterbury argues that gay marriage would result in confusion and awkwardness for everyone .The following are a few passages taken from his full speech.

The result is confusion. Marriage is abolished, redefined and recreated, being different and unequal for different categories. The new marriage of the Bill is an awkward shape, with same-gender and different-gender categories scrunched into it, neither fitting well. The concept of marriage as a normative place for procreation is lost. The idea of marriage as a covenant is diminished. The family in its normal sense, predating the state and as our base community of society, as we have already heard, is weakened.

According to the article that this image was taken from, children who grow up with homosexual parents are just the same as children raised by heterosexual parents.

The statement above could be dissected into a syllogism like this:

  • Premise: Same-gender marriage and different-gender (conceptual) marriage are not the same.
  • Premise: Conceptual marriage is for procreation
  • Conclusion: Therefore, same gender marriage is not necessary for the base community for society because they cannot procreate.

The soundness of the argument above can be revealed by breaking it down even further.

Even though the form of the argument may be valid as the conclusion follows the premises, further evaluation reveals error in its content thus making it an unsound argument.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s argument is unreasonable.Procreation is not necessary for homosexuals when they are able to can adopt an orphan and give them a better life. Gay marriage is not that confusing, it is simply the union of two people who love each other.

 

 

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Philosophy Reflection

Philosophy is something that cannot be defined. Everybody has a definition of their own, but there is no one answer that everyone can agree on. Unlike chemistry, biology, physics, or any other science, there is no answer key to philosophy. For example, why not just weight the fish? Well, weighting the fish would just be weighting the fish. Once the answer is found, that’s the end of that and people move on. However, it is not like that for philosophers. They think deep and look for the little details, while also looking at the bigger picture, to find and learn new things.To me, philosophy can be humbling because it can help us realize that we are not superior and that allows us to open our minds to more opinions and ideas. It helps us understand that we do not know as much as we think we do. Philosophy is the basis of our existence, it is anything and everything.

 
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