Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Final Post – Sydney


Logic & Scientific Philosophy:






Aesthetic Day Off – Sydney

After reading a bunch of different works by different people, I found myself picking pieces from different perspectives that I thought makes sense to have while experiencing an aesthetic event. One of the components is that during the experience, I am focussed on the activity itself and the feelings that I receive from the event, whether they are positive or negative feelings. Concentration on the activity leads to the second component of an aesthetic experience: having momentary release from concerns of past or present. This component has been especially important to me lately because of how everything from school has been piling up and creating more stress. As a result, this component is pretty important part of having an aesthetic experience. Through a combination of these two components, I would find success when I find I’m enjoying myself, not necessarily “winning” at whatever activity I’m doing.

For my aesthetic experience, I chose to do two main things: play guitar and watch “Scandal.” My goal was to just enjoy myself and not worry about anything else. I wanted to focus on the activity, not if I was any good at it (In regards to playing guitar, that is. I know I’m extremely talented at watching “Scandal”). But when we’re talking about watching “Scandal,” similar to when I was playing guitar, I just wanted to enjoy myself – not be watching the episode and halfway through thinking, “Oh no, do I have any biology homework?” Fortunately, I was able to reach these outcomes; I successfully enjoyed myself when I played guitar and watched “Scandal.”

Despite my success, there are some things that I would do differently next time around. Firstly, as I found it helped in the epistemology unit, I would definitely want to go out on my aesthetic experience with more intention and purpose. I might have set out more specific, designated times for me to play guitar or watch “Scandal.” As well, I might want to do an even more aesthetically-pleasing event – such as going somewhere to watch a sunset or something. Because playing guitar and watching “Scandal” are things I do somewhat regularly, I feel like I didn’t appreciate these aesthetics to their full ability.



Epistemology: A Summary – Sydney

When we started the epistemology unit in philosophy, I had three statements that I wanted to explore:

  1. Knowledge is what can be observe or what we can think about.

I think that knowledge begins with input from the 5 senses, but it can also be ideas we come up with independently of sensory information. Knowledge can also be what we interpret this sensory information as. Essentially, knowledge can be anything, but I think that knowledge can fall into one of the two categories (either sensory information or independent ideas). Knowledge can fall in the middle of the two, but I think it still leads back to one category where the knowledge was initiated.

  1. Knowledge is limited by ourselves.

I think there is only so much that our minds can do or think about. We can mentally extend ourselves, as in being able to learn/think about new things, but once again that’s limited by our mental ability.

  1. Knowledge is mainly individualized.

I don’t think that knowledge can really be collective – we can know the same things, but not in the exact same way as another person, because we don’t have their experiences and cannot truly see the world the way they do.

Out of these three statements, I decided to pursue the third one: knowledge is mainly individualized. To help me in my search, out of the two readings I found, I thought that “The Independence Thesis: When Individual and Social Epistemology Diverge” was the most useful and relevant to my topic. While the content of this article was mainly mathematical, I was able to decipher the idea that this article relates to my topic.The authors discuss group knowledge and how it begins with individual knowledge: although there can be groups of scientists sharing knowledge, the information really begins individually. Looking back at it now, this idea seems sort of like a variation of the “Which came first – the chicken or the egg?” discussion because the points made about group knowledge or individual knowledge coming first could definitely be argued. This reading led to me next question: is it possible to have collective or group knowledge without individual knowledge?

Unfortunately, during our discussions in class I was unable to talk about this question with my peers. Instead, we talked about knowledge as true belief, and our perception of reality vs. what reality is actually like. I talked to Kiana about knowledge being true belief. We thought that one person may believe something, and therefore to them it would be true knowledge. This relates to my topic because Kiana also mentioned how one person’s belief may be justified to one person and it would be knowledge to them, but this might not be the case with everyone else around them. As a result, this also suggests the idea that knowledge is individualized. When I talked to Dom, Liam, Adam, and Sam, we spoke about the difference between our perception of reality and what reality is actually like. We discussed the idea that our perception of reality is reality until that perception changes. I think this also relates to my topic because it implies that everyone has different perceptions. Our perception is coloured by our previous experiences and knowledge, and is also ever-changing. As a result, no one can have the exact same perception of reality as another person, and therefore cannot have the exact same knowledge as another person – it all leads back to knowledge being individualized! In my opinion, of course. Regardless, I thought that the discussions I had in class were useful and I hoped to carry these ideas with me as I pursued my active learning,

For my Phil’s Day Off this time around, I decided I wanted to make a video. I wanted to demonstrate the difference between my sister and I’s experiences, even though we were essentially experiencing the same activities. This would provide an example that shows how knowledge is still individual, even though it may be based upon similar experiences. I was successful – through filming this video, it cemented my idea that knowledge really is based on perception. I couldn’t film exactly what my sister experienced, because I would still be viewing what she saw through the lenses of my own experiences, and the tangible objectivity of a camera and filming something represented how I could never get in another person’s head and know what they know in the same way that they do.

From my reading, discussion, and active learning for this epistemology unit, I have come away with three findings: first, I found that going out with more intention is more useful. This is specifically in regards to my active learning piece. It helps to have a plan, and I was able to think more actively about everything I did and how it related back to my topic, rather than blindly navigating through my day and then reflecting at the very end and stretching for any point that could possibly be related to philosophy.

My second finding is that technically, there is no answer to any question we may have. I think that this has not only been my biggest finding in the epistemology unit, but also the biggest thing that philosophy has taught me. I think that we can say that we may think that we know something, but there will always be something or someone who can contradict it.

This leads to my third finding from the epistemology unit: everything leads back to perception. When I mean perception, by the way, I’m essentially talking about point of view. Everything we may think or know is based upon our point of view, which will never be the exact same as another person’s. However, like I stated before, there could definitely be a person who disagrees with me on this point (or any other point I’ve made, for that matter), and we will never ever know for sure who could be the closest to being “right.”



Phil’s Epistemological Day Off – Sydney


My goal was to demonstrate the difference between my sister and I’s experiences even though we were put in the same situation, which would provide an example that shows how knowledge is individual. My Phil’s Day Off experience cemented my idea that knowledge is individualized because it showed me that knowledge really is different from person to person and is based on perception. Because I can’t film exactly what my sister experiences, only she can really do that, it’s sort of like a metaphor for how I could never get in another person’s head and know their experience and therefore never know their knowledge in the way they do.

However, I still do have some questions regarding my topic. Why is it that we can’t exactly know another person’s knowledge? Why is individual perception a thing? Why is there such a thing as experiencing different things? Why can’t we know the exact same thing as another person? I don’t mean these questions as in the answer being “oh, because no one can experience the same thing as another.” I mean it in the way, why is this a thing? Why can’t we experience the exact same thing as another person? Another question I have is, is it possible for collective knowledge to exist without individual knowledge (as in an individual initiating that knowledge)?

This Phil’s Day Off was quite different from my last. On this Phil’s Day Off, I went out with more intention and purpose. I was actively aware of everything that I was doing that day that affected my experience, in comparison to last time where I went about my day blindly and then reflected on which parts could be applicable to philosophy. As well, this time I also have more physical evidence of what I did (an actual video) instead of just word of mouth.



Discussing the Discussion Pt. II: Epistemology – Sydney

My initial proposition that I walked into class with before our discussions yesterday was knowledge is individualized. No one knows the same things in the exact same way. I think that it is possible for a group of people to know the same the thing, but the way in which they know it and how they consider what they know can never be the same as another person.

During our discussions in class, I talked to Kiana, and Dom, Liam, Adam, and Sam. When I talked to Kiana, we were talking about her topic, which was along the lines of knowledge being true belief. We talked about how one person may believe something, and therefore to them it is knowledge. Kiana also said that this belief may be justified true belief, but it would be justified to that person and not necessarily to everyone else. As a result, one person’s knowledge may be false in another person’s eyes, but to that original person it is still defined as their knowledge. Kiana’s point supports the idea of knowledge being individualized, and added another layer to the idea.

When I talked to Dom, Liam, Adam, and Sam, we initially spoke of the difference between our perception of reality and what reality itself is actually like. Essentially, we discussed the idea that our perception of reality is reality until that perception changes. This can also relate to my topic because it deals with “our perception.” I think that this idea and statement also implies that everyone has different perceptions. Our perception is clouded by our previous experiences and previous knowledge, and is also ever-changing, and as a result no two people can have the exact same perceptions of reality – nor can they have the exact same knowledge.

To conclude, the discussions I had during our class were fruitful and provided evidence that I could use for my topic, and to hopefully consider while I pursue my active learning.




Individual Knowledge vs. Collective Knowledge – Sydney

The descriptive implication is that history and sociology of science can proceed neither by focusing exclusively on individual researchers nor by focusing exclusively on aggregate properties of scientific communities. Rather, both levels must be considered in understanding how groups come to further scientific knowledge… An accurate historical record of science ought to incorporate both detailed descriptions of the achievements of individual scientists and also a social history of the relevant scientific communities and institutions, including an analysis of how learning methods are shared and research results are communicated.
– “The Independence Thesis: When Individual and Social Epistemology Diverge,” Conor Mayo-Wilson, Kevin J. S. Zollman, David Danks.

At the beginning of this unit, I started with three propositions:

  • Knowledge is what can be observed or what we can think about
  • Knowledge is limited by ourselves
  • Knowledge is mainly individualized

I chose to explore my third proposition, knowledge is mainly individualized. To aid me in my search, I came up with this statement: if knowledge is created by our experiences, and experiences come from sensory information and our interpretation of it, and no one can experience the exact same thing as another, then knowledge is individualized. However, as much as I wanted to explore this statement, the reading I found was not related to it.

I read “Plato, Pascal, and the Dynamics of Personal Knowledge” by Michael Friedrich Otte, Tânia M. M. Campos, and Alexandre S. Abido; as well as “The Independence Thesis: When Individual and Social Epistemology Diverge” by Conor Mayo-Wilson, Kevin J. S. Zollman, and David Danks. The material in both of these readings was mainly mathematical. They talked about figures and mathematical examples of how the concepts they mention could be used, but I was hoping to find the more humanities-based perspective on the idea of collective and individual knowledge. I did, although find a point that was mentioned in “The Independence Thesis,” which provided evidence for my idea. “The Independence Thesis” mentions that groups of scientists/researchers are all individual. This suggests that there is such thing as group knowledge, but it is first based upon individual knowledge.

This led to my next question: Is it possible to have collective or group knowledge without individual knowledge? This is a question I hope to use to guide my ideas further and bring up in future discussions.



Phil’s Day Off: A Purple Doggy and A Dragonfly

On April 15, 2016, I volunteered at Shining Star Daycare from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. One of the things that the daycare believes in is making sure that the kids have constant and consistent routine. After lunch, they read books before their nap time, which was how I actively explored and learned about my modified question,  “Does an object exist if it does not have a name?”

While I’m reading books to them, I often like to point out animals or colours so they can practice and remember what certain things are called, and to just get them more engaged in general. It often proceeds as follows:

Me: What’s that?

Them: A doggy!

Me: What colour is that?

Them: Purple!

However, because they are two years old and they’re still learning about their world, sometimes they don’t know what I point to, and it goes something like this:

Them: What’s that?

Me: A dragonfly!

I think that this concept, especially when it regards children, is really interesting because we are able to see the different ways that nature and nurture affect their growth and development. During the weekend, I also reflected on how nurture plays a large part in naming objects and knowing that they exist. Personally, I don’t think that we are biologically predisposed to know what certain things are called – I’m sure I didn’t come out of the womb knowing what a dragonfly is or what it’s called.

As a result, I observed that children themselves provide evidence that perhaps objects that are unnamed truly do not exist to them – they didn’t know what a dragonfly looked like, and therefore there was no name to provide the dragonfly’s existence to them.



Discussing the Discussion – Sydney

Previously, I posted a blog post about Saul A. Kripke’s Naming and Necessity. I explored my question, “How do we judge, assess, and label “things?”” and read about how words have different connotations and denotations, and what the actual definition of a “name” might be. Kripke’s work allowed me to rephrase my question and change it into, “How do names refer to things in the world? However, during the class discussions, I found interest in topics other than simply naming objects.

On the first day of discussion, I talked with Kiana about the afterlife. This was really interesting because she mentioned how something she read had stated that death is merely a concept. Kiana and I discussed how it might be possible that because we are raised knowing that we will eventually die, that is simply the reason that we allow, so to speak, ourselves to die. Of course, our bodies will eventually deteriorate, but if we were unaware of death, our soul could possibly continue living. This concept is sort of similar to the idea of people who look at lists of symptoms for certain diseases online, and become suddenly so aware of the possibility that they could have the disease and think that they do when they actually don’t. We also applied this concept to other situations, such as when Mr. Jackson mentioned in class one day that blue was one of the last colours to be named. We wondered if just because there was no name for the colour blue, did they not see it all, or would they have just classified it as another colour or shade? This example of the colour blue does relate to my initial question in the way that it involves naming objects, but it relates more to questioning an object’s existence if it does not have a name at all.

On the second day of discussion, I was in a group with Jessica, Helena, Laike, Kiana, David, and Shem. In this group, we discussed different points about God:

  • Is there God? Does he make our decisions, or do we?
    • If people believe there is God, He has a plan for us.
    • Religion can be abused – how do we know what is real?
    • Religion gives people purpose, may be an external motivator
      • Especially in hard times, can provide relatability and be hero-like
    • Religion will evolve and change through time
  • Is religion put in place for justice?
    • Morality vs. actual law
    • There are obviously rules in the Bible, but what effect do they have on the law?
    • Can scare or limit people, but it may not be as useful today.

As much as this discussion was useful and interesting, I don’t think that this particular topic relates as much to my previous discussion or questions. It could be related through the question as to whether God is a name or a description, or whether God exists because we are aware of the possibility of His existence.

However, through these discussions, and especially my discussion with Kiana, I think that my question may be evolving into: Does an object exist if it does not have a name? Does an object exist if we are unaware of it?



The Necessity of Naming – Sydney

Image via Twitter. Design by Mike Raven.

How do we judge, assess, and label “things”?

My interest stems from a similar question that I had previously in the semester: Is our personality based upon who we are in situations where we are uncomfortable and don’t know what we’re doing, or who we are when we’re comfortable and do know what we’re doing? This initial question was inspired by another teacher’s statement while instructing us through a difficult game/situation. He claimed that during these conflicts where we were under a time limit and must figure out a certain solution is when our “true colours would come out; [we] can’t hide from who [we] are.” At the time, I was mildly doubtful of his position on what our personalities are based upon, but I thought it was an interesting point and wondered what we really mean when we describe ourselves as a certain way. Would I say that I have frizzy hair because that’s the way it is after air-drying, or would I say my hair is flat and oily because that’s the way it is two days after I shower?

In attempt to answer this question, I have started to read Naming and Necessity by Saul A. Kripke:

“… We may raise the question whether a name has any reference at all when we ask, e.g., whether Aristotle ever existed. It seems natural here to think that what is questioned is not whether this thing (man) existed. Once we’ve got the thing we know that it existed. What really is queried is whether anything answers to the properties we associate with the name – in the case of Aristotle, whether any one Greek philosopher produced certain works, or at least a suitable number of them.”

One of the most important aspects of this reading that addresses my question is the fact that Kripke describes that a “name” is a proper name, such as the name of a city, person, or country (pg. 254). This clarifies what is meant when we label these things, as opposed to a “designator” that can be used as a common term to cover names and descriptions (pg. 2). Another topic that Kripke addresses that sheds light on my question is John Stuart Mill’s A System of Logic, which describes that names have denotation but not connotation (pg. 3). A denotation is the explicit or direct meaning of the word, while connotation is the associated or secondary meaning of the word. An example of this would be when home connotes a sense of belonging and comfort whereas house denotes little more than a structure. This helps me explore my topic because it offers some suggestion on how names are related to descriptions.

The relationship between names and descriptions raises another question that is also brought up in the reading: Is ‘God’ a name or a description? Does it describe God as the unique divine being or is it a name of God? I find this an interesting question as well, but I don’t think I will be exploring it during this unit. However, more questions that are raised by Kripke’s work that I may want to explore are effectively summarized in, I’ll admit, a Wikipedia article (which seems to be reliable, as far as I’ve explored):

  • How do names refer to things in the world?
  • Are all statements that can be known a priori (independent of experience) necessarily true, and are all the statements known a posteriori (dependent on experience) contingently true?
  • Do objects (including people) have any essential properties?

The first question seems to be somewhat of a rewording of the main question that I am currently focussing on, but I also find the second and third questions particularly interesting and I might research them further.



$3 And 5 Minutes To Be A Bestselling Author – Sydney

An excerpt from “Putting My Foot Down,” written by Brent Underwood. Image courtesy of Brent Underwood via The Observer.

On The Observer, Brent Underwood recently posted on article about how it only took him $3 and five minutes to become a “#1 Bestselling Author” on Amazon. In order to prove his point, Underwood published a “book” on Amazon titled “Putting My Foot Down” and consisted of a single page that featured a picture of Underwood’s foot, pictured above. Describing the publishing world, Underwood says:

… it’s begun to feel a bit like a losing battle. Because those authors [trying to trick others into thinking they’ve written great books] are everywhere these days. The title of my fake book was “Putting My Foot Down” for a reason: I’ve become utterly exhausted with phony “authors” and the scam artists and charlatans who conspire with these folks–the cottage industry that has built up around them, selling courses, instructions and hacks. A quick Google search returns dozens of “bestselling books,” courses, packages, schools, secrets, summits, and webinars teaching you how to become a “bestselling author”. Hell, this guy even promises to show you how to be a bestselling author “Even if You Have No Book Ideas, Writing Skills, or Any Clue Where To Start” in a “5 Phase Formula.” Heart Centered Media will give you “Guaranteed Bestseller Status” for just “3 payments of $1,333,” although they let you know “Book Sales are NOT Guaranteed.” Denise Cassino promises that with her services, “You’ll forever after be a ‘Bestselling Author!’ a tag that will open doors otherwise closed to you”…for just $3250. Jesse Krieger over at “Bestseller Campaign Blueprint” encourages you to “Imagine looking on Amazon and seeing…Your Book on the Best-Seller Lists Next to Your Author Heroes” and lets you know he can deliver that dream for just $997. Peggy McColl has “Launched Perhaps MORE Bestsellers Than ANY Other” and will teach you how for only $2,497.

Image courtesy of The Observer.

Following Underwood’s argument, he proceeds to list the steps – with screenshots! – and detail how he became a “#1 Bestselling Author” on Amazon with only $3 and 5 minutes. It will probably take me a lot more than that to properly dissect his argument. Regardless, here is what I’ve gathered so far:


  1. Premise 1: Many people who publish books are only looking to make money, not to write good books. 
  2. Premise 2: Anyone can publish a book by themselves without being hired by a publishing company. 
  3. Conclusion: Therefore, it takes little to no writing skills to earn the title of “#1 Bestselling Author.”

The first premise cannot be proven factually true nor factually incorrect because this is simply Underwood’s opinion, and there is no data and evidence to prove that this premise is true. However, the second premise is factually true because it is actually possible to publish a book on Amazon by yourself, as proven by Underwood’s experiment and my own first-hand experience. The argument is valid, however, because this conclusion may be drawn from the two premises: it takes little to no writing skills to earn the title of “#1 Bestselling Author.” As a result, this argument could be sound, as long as the first premise can be proven to be factually true.