Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Democracy’s Pillar of Support – Greg and Stephanie

“Democracy means a system of government in which all the people of a country can vote to elect their representatives. Media came into existence in 1780 with the introduction of a newspaper namely The Bengal Gazette and since then it has matured leaps and bounds. It has been playing a very important role in shaping human minds.” 

Media plays a crucial role in shaping a healthy democracy. “Media is the backbone of every democracy.” Media makes us aware of various social, political and economical activities happening around the world. It’s like a mirror, which shows us the bare truth and harsh realities of life.  It has undoubtedly evolved and become more active over the years through magazines, television, and even some cartoons! It is the media only who reminds politicians about their crooked promises at the time of elections. News channels produce excessive coverage during elections to help people in electing the right person to the power. This reminder compels politicians to keep their promises so that they can remain in power.

The media also exposes loopholes in the democratic system, which ultimately helps government in filling the vacuums of those loopholes and making a system more accountable, responsive and citizen-friendly. A democracy without media is like a vehicle without wheels.

In the age of technology, we are bombarded with mass amounts of information. Every single information is accessible with just a click of a mouse away. The perfect blend of technology and human resources has not left a single stone un-turned in corruption within politics and society.

The impact of media is really noteworthy. Excessive coverage or hype of sensitive news has led to riots at times. The illiterates are more prone to provocations than the literates. Constant repetition of the news, especially sensational news, leads to a lack of interest. For instance, in the Dhananjoy Chatterjee case, the overloaded hype led to death of quite a few children who imitated the hanging procedure which was repeatedly shown in most of the T.V. news channels. There is an abundance of such negative impacts. Media should take utmost care in airing or publishing such sensational news.

Commercialization has created a stiff competition in media. In order to outdo each other print, media has often gone one step further in publishing articles and covering stories, for example relationships.  Media experts say this is one of the means of attracting readers who are glued to T.V. news channels, and has been deemed as “cheap journalism”.

No one is perfect in this world, and the media is no exception. Not trying to bash the media, but there is still a ton of room for improvement. Media is like a watchdog in a democracy that keeps the government active. From being just an informer it has become a critical part of our daily lives. With the passage of time media has become a more matured and a more responsible entity. The present media revolution has helped people in making an informed decisions and this has led to beginning of a new era in a democracy.

 

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Behind the CG Effects – Stephanie

The author of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, C.S. Lewis described the origin of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in an essay entitled It All Began with a Picture.  The manuscript for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was complete by the end of March 1949.  The name “Narnia” is based on Narni, Italy, written in Latin as Narnia.

“The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it.”

Little did he know that this simple picture will be made into one of the most recognized motion pictures in the 21st century.

“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, tells the story of 4 siblings – Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie who are sent from their London home to the country estate of an eccentric professor in order to ensure their safety during World War II. The house is very dull, except for a large, ornate wardrobe discovered by young Lucy during a game of hide-and-seek. Venturing inside of it in the hopes of finding a hiding place, Lucy is transported to a snowy alternate universe: a magical world called Narnia. The land is populated by talking animals and ruled over by the benevolent lion Aslan, but sadly, the world is also in a state of perpetual winter. The White Witch, lustful for power and governed by narcissism, has cursed Narnia with a tyrannical decree that it will always be winter but never Christmas. Now, the children must fight alongside Aslan for the salvation of Narnia, but one of them, seduced by the charisma of the white witch, may choose to fight on the wrong side.” ~Movie Review

You may wonder why I chose a younger-audience targeted movie.  For a movie to be able to explain complicated and in-depth themes to children effectively is extremely difficult.  Watching this movie as an 8 year old in 2005, the underlying messages were successfully communicated to me; I could understand the themes on compassion and forgiveness, betrayal, sacrifice, guilt and blame, good vs. evil, and friendship.  The movie designates a moral position to certain animals and mythical creatures that connect with us in our daily lives.

The suspense, action, and emotion evokes a roller coaster effect on the viewers.  During the scene when Aslan walks to the Stone Table as a sacrifice in Edmund’s place, the tension and heart-rending moment nearly puts the audiences’ heartbeat to a stop. In the final battle final battle returns the children to the film’s opening: they witness violent destruction of bodies and material. The fight images are delivered in grand terms, as the two armies gather on hilltops and leaders raise their arms to prompt forward motion. This motion initially is like thunder – a rush of rumbling hooves and wheels. At the moment of first impact, when a cheetah and a tiger leap on one another (@4:52 in video below), the sound goes out for an instant. It’s awful, maybe thrilling, but only for a moment. It recalls the awesome power of war, to pretend glory and abstract honor. And that is beautifully scary.

What makes this movie beautiful is not just the computer effects, the actors, the background music, or the scenery, but the valuable message that breathes life into this composition.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbCee6s63g8]

 

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Playing God or Frontier of Science?

On February 23, 1997, Dolly the lamb was literally made. She is not the work of nature but of a man named Ian Wilmut and his team of scientists.  Dolly came into being as the genetic replica of an ewe, of whom she is a clone. When the bewildering news spread around the world, there was substantial debate over the issue as Dolly opened the doors for other types of cloning, including the possibility of cloning humans. Most concerns that were raised emphasized on the ethical issues, yet there are no clear answers to the questions. The Los Angeles Times opined that such a discovery” opens the door to a “blade Runner” world of human replicants. The Wall Street Journal asked business leaders and newsmakers whether they would like to have themselves cloned.

So, what is cloning exactly?

“Cloning is the creation of an individual that is a genetic replica of another individual. The process transfers a nucleus from a somatic nonreproductive cell into an “enucleated” fertilized egg, one that has had its own nucleus destroyed or removed. The genes in the transferred nucleus then direct the development of a complete organism from the altered fertilized egg. Two individuals who are clones have identical genes in their cell nuclei, but differ in characteristics that are acquired in other ways.” ~ Bookrags Research Article

For decades, cloning has caused ethical, moral and religious debates.  This controversial medical evolution brings about two points of view, either good or bad, there are no greys in between.

As cloning gives rise to an organism with the exact DNA as the original, the promising benefits that cloning may offer would be welcomed by those who suffer from immobilizing diseases, those that wish to save their loved ones or those suffering from infertility.  Just imagine, if you could clone the vital organs of humans and use them for transplantation, many lives could be saved with new organs.  There is no doubt that scientists with this new found science will get bolder; it would probably won’t come as a surprise that the world will try to clone influential people such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Martin Luther King Jr. so they can carry forward their legacies for generations after.

Cloning brings hope for those who are unable to have children.  People can just get themselves cloned and have a baby exactly like themselves.  With a little help from genetic engineering, “designer babies” are exact copies of the parents with some additional talents and looks; people can choose certain genetic traits (which Megan’s post further explains).  In addition to human cloning, plants and animals can be cloned as well.  If you have ever watched Jurassic Park, the scientists managed to recreate the entire species from the Lost World with a single strand of DNA.  Perhaps the world repopulated with clones of extinct animals isn’t such an absurd idea anymore.  Plants that are cloned can be modified with genetic engineering, thus providing more enhanced plants that features more than just the characteristics of the original. All these possibilities make cloning look like necessity to help save not only the human race, but also plants and animals.

However, with the good, comes the bad.  The idea of being able to use exactly compatible cells to save lives sounds like a beautiful vision…but is there a way to actualize this miracle without creating an embryo and killing its life?  Cloning, in a sense, is playing God; where we test the boundaries of the natural order of life. Many Christian ethicists argue that human cloning would “create substantial issues of identity and individuality.”  With two identical organisms living, people will lose uniqueness that is so accentuated in the society today.  Or let’s say the scientists recreate a different version of yourself, where the clone bears no negative traits of the original human.  It has the best physical features, the highest IQ possible, and the inhuman qualities that humans can only covet.  Wouldn’t you develop an inferiority complex if your own clone was better than you? What would if be like to live in the shadows of your clone when you are the original? Imperfections is what makes a human, a human.

There are also the individuals who want clones to meet their selfish motives.  If say a man is diagnosed with brain cancer, to clone another man to provide a compatible brain is for the benefit of the original; resulting in the death of the clone without the clone’s consent.  And how far does it go for a clone to demand his/her or even its rights?  Religiously, cloning is a denial of the basic aspect of reproduction, according to the Catholics, clones “lack a spirit and soul as it fails to go through the natural cycle of reproduction”.  Cloning is also highly ineffective: Dolly had taken 277 attempts and its life span was half of that of the original clone.

Though no one knows how human clones will effect the human identity and relationships, but can you imagine how the clone would feel to be called a copy of someone who is already existed and not someone who is unique? But ethically, it is already wrong to inflict harm to one’s feelings and confidence.

Human cloning seems to be an ambitious idea for the moment, but both sides of this issue are presented to you.  What’s your take?

http://www-hsc.usc.edu/~mbernste/ethics.cloninghumans.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolly_(sheep)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloning

https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/353-the-ethics-of-human-cloning

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/ethical-issues-of-cloning.html

 

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Do We Know What We Know?

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy which studies the nature of knowledge and truth.  But what exactly is the nature of truth and knowledge?  In the past week, the philosophy class has been involved in heated discussions trying to unravel the mystery behind, trying to decipher the meaning of knowledge.

 It questions questions such as: What is knowledge? What does it mean for someone to “know” something? How much can we possibly know? What’s the difference between belief and knowledge, between knowledge and opinion, between knowledge and faith? How do we know that 1 + 1 = 2 or that the square root of 9 is 3? Is there an ultimate ground of knowledge, a world of absolute truths? Do we know something from reason or from direct observation, or from a little of both? But no one can “observe” 1 + 1 = 2, so how do we know that the statement (or formula) is true? What is truth? Is truth absolute or relative? Is an object of knowledge a construction of the mind?

For centuries, what we believed to be true or to be knowledge comes from mutual agreements of the society – meaning that us, humans conclude the definition of truth for the population.   But as we are moving towards a more self-opinionated society, does that mean early foundation of “knowledge” will be shaken?  A blog post I happened to run upon, The Medium is the Message, contrasts the different stages of knowledge from history to today.  From past to present, humans have been exposed to varying ways of obtaining information and developing the “truth” from it; changing ever so slightly as it flows with the altering societal values.  So then what happens to the knowledge foundation our ancestors have set down?  Does that change accordingly?  Then what does knowledge and truth mean if they change?

No doubt, I completely understand that I don’t understand what knowledge is.  Like the baby in the picture, the more I think, the more confused I get.  What exactly is knowing when you don’t really know that you know?  Hopefully Philosophy 12 could bring some light into this complex topic of epistemology.

 

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John Locke

On August 29, 1632, in Wrington, England, the man widely known as the Father of Liberalism was born.  John Locke was an English philosopher and physician who has made a large impact on the United States Declaration of Independence with his contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory.  His work had made a great difference upon the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. He was also considered one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers.

Locke was born into an influential family, with his father being a country lawyer and military man who had served as a captain during the English civil war.  And through his father’s ties to the government, Locke was able to receive outstanding education.  He was also a distinct student who earned the honorary title “King’s Scholar”.  To sum up his life, John Locke was a rich and smart individual who had a smooth sailing life until he hit a political speed bump in 1679 and declining health problems thereafter.

Locke’s philosophical interests divide roughly into three parts: political, epistemological, and scientific. On the scientific side, his major influence was by his friend, the Irish scientist Robert Boyle, whom he helped with Locke’s experiments.  Lord Ashley’s contributions to John’s political thoughts and career can not be understated, as he was one of the founders of the Whig party.  Ashley imparted an outlook on rule and government that never left Locke.  However, Locke owes his success in Episemology to a 17th century Latin translation Philosophus Autodidactus (published by Edward Pococke) of the Arabic philosophical novel Hayy ibn Yaqzan by the 12th century Andalusian-Islamic philosopher and novelist Ibn Tufail.  This also led to the creation of one of his most famous works – An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

Locke’s theory of the mind is often regarded as the origin of modern conceptions of identity and the self.  His main thesis in one of his major works An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, was to explain that humans are not born with innate ideas but with an “empty” mind, a tabula rasa, “which is shaped by experience; sensations and reflections being the two sources of all our ideas”. [Wikipedia]

John Locke’s theory affects all of us, the very being of our human nature.  How we turn out and what we think is a result of our experiences, sensations, and reflections.  However, as understood by Locke, each individual was free to define the content of his or her character – but his or her basic identity as a member of the human species cannot be so altered. And through his theory, I came to reflect on the role that idea plays in perception, how we become who we are through these three qualities.  I agree on this idea of humans being born with a “blank-slate mind”.  As a result, we are shaped as we gain more knowledge because we are nothing to begin with, so humans will be what our experiences shape us to be.  But even so, we cannot completely alter who we were originally.

 

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Feminism – Iris, Yasmeen, & Stephanie

Since the beginning of the scientific revolution, the world of knowledge, and specifically the ever-pursued “objective” knowledge, has been defined by men. Truth was declared by only a small portion of people, excluding not only people of different social and cultural classes, but women, the other half of the population. As feminists, we question this male-created objectivity. Observing from, as they say, “the view from nowhere,” is flawed, as the masculine based institutions result in a masculine bias. For example, during the 1950s and ’60s, male primatologists arrived at hypotheses about territory and aggression, while women who entered the field in the 1970s, brought aspects of primate social life to light. The old hypotheses were forced to go through revision. Science is the product of social enterprise, built upon foundations of the background society. Under the influence of privileged men, the goals and direction set for science, as well the values placed on achievement is highly biased. How can relative truth be concluded if only a piece of the human population is contributing? In order for objective truth to be discovered, the perspective in which the truth is found must be larger, and most of all, must include women.  

Science by definition means to be objective, and to make sure you have been objective, you need to make use of logic.  In a  feminists point of view, generally they are unaware of the existence of objective reality, therefore believe what they want to believe without any effort to be objective. However, they believe not all claims to objectivity are false, but conceptions of objectivity are. Feminists question the intelligibility of a “view from nowhere,” and a presupposition less, bias-free science, for both postmodernist.  Feminists want to believe that the contrary is true as this will allow them to get whatever they want. In other words, what they want is to enjoy the self-pity associated with casting oneself as the innocent victim while at the same time satisfying their desires as opposed to men.

Feminism argues that objectivity is impossible as they believe that standards in any sphere are the products of a “male power structure.” They maintain that the “class interests” of men compel them to perceive reality from a distorted, prejudiced perspective – that men, “just don’t get it.”  Feminists question the intelligibility of a “view from nowhere,” and a bias-free science, for both postmodernist and pragmatic reasons.  They rarely propose innovative ideas, rather, they would rebuttal the masculine bias of the scientific community.

So here’s a question for you: How can truth be determined if both sides of the story are not heard?

 

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High Altitude to be Blamed – Presidential Debate

“During a post-debate analysis on Current TV, Gore went out on a limb and questioned if Denver’s environment had something to do with the president’s flop.

‘I’m going to say something controversial here,” Gore started, “Obama arrived in Denver at 2 p.m. today, just a few hours before the debate started. Romney did his debate prep in Denver. When you go to 5,000 feet, and you only have a few hours to adjust. I don’t know… Maybe.’

…Altitude sickness is a proven illness.”

~Huffington Post

The reason for President Obama’s dismal debate was altitude sickness according to Al Gore.  For him to come to this conclusion, he used Abductive Reasoning to explain the president’s poor performance on Wednesday night.  So how high does someone have to go to before his reasoning affected?  At least 6,000 feet as some studies have suggested that the first signs of short-term memory problems begin to appear at about 6,000 feet.  However, according to Gore’s information, the president had only reached 5,000 feet.  True, altitude might have been a factor that affected Obama in that debate, but to blame a lost debate on altitude?  Seems a bit far-fetched.  There are many factors that could justify the “flop”, for example, unexpected set-up by Romney, unpreparedness, fatigue, stress…etc.  Thus Al Gore’s statement cannot be proved sound.

 

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Children Learn What They Live Fallacy

This poem by Dorothy Law Nolte presents a fallacious hypothetical syllogism in the form of “If A, then B”.  However, the premises are not necessarily true as there are many factors that could affect a child’s upbringing.  The poem only shows one conclusion per premise, making it invalid because the way a child lives is restricted into one outcome. However, it is a valid statement as the conclusion from each premise can be one of the various results from a child’s life.  For example, “If a child lives with encouragement, she learns to find confidence”.  The child doesn’t just learn confidence, he/she could also learn arrogance as they start to think too highly of themselves.

 

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Gifted Individuals Proved “Ungeniuses”

All gifted individuals are geniuses.

Stephanie is a gifted individual.

Therefore, Stephanie is a genius.

Though this syllogism is valid, it is not sound as the information was based upon subjective opinions.  This statement is valid because it follows a correct form in which it includes a middle term “A” (all the gifted individuals), a predicate term “B” (geniuses), and a subject term “C” (Stephanie).  It is not a true statement or sound statement as the first premise is a false claim, because not all gifted individuals are geniuses.  Though many possess extraordinary traits, this does not necessarily mean all, including Stephanie, is a genius.

 

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What’s in a Human Nature – Egoists or Altruists?

Click to access our presentation on Altruism and Egoism! ~By Emily, Stephanie & Toren

 
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