Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Nothing beats homemade porridge -eric

 

(Found on imgur)

Food has always had a special place in my heart, and I’m sure everyone can relate to the pleasure of beautifully looking food (highly recommend /r/foodporn). Whether it is a gourmet steak, or that perfect macaroon, food manages to provide an aesthetic experience across all five senses.

When I think of aesthetically pleasing food, the main focus is almost always on its presentation. The visual aspect is so huge to our perception; it can make your $12 steak look like a $35 entrée and turn a regular bowl of oatmeal into something worth your Instagram feed. So what makes food look good?

 

First, I have to my best to define an aesthetic experience. For an experience or perception to be deemed an aesthetic experience, it has to meet some criteria. First, it must evoke some strong emotions, which can be positive or negative. Aesthetic experiences should gives us in essence, ‘the feels’. Secondly, I agree with Leath that a high level of concentration is also needed. As he puts it, to “focus on one type of activity, the one we do in the present moment”. I don’t believe one can have an aesthetic experience when not in focus. Imagine, eating a bag of chips while watching TV. It’s basically impossible to appreciate and invoke a deep emotional reaction to the potato chip when really you are just scarfing them down as you watch Friends. (Speaking from experience)

Working at Montana’s during my winter break, I was always cooking food. My goal was to find out why some food looked so much better than others. If you take a look at the photos below, it’s not hard to tell which is more aesthetically pleasing. The two plates or more or less the same content, but one looks way better than the other. But what exactly made it look so much better? What could be improved to raise the aesthetic quality? As I was working, my goal was to produce the most aesthetically pleasing dishes possible. I believe creating and experience require the same two things I outlined in an aesthetic experience; emotion and sole focus, which is quite hard to have in a busy kitchen. Anyone who has worked in a restaurant knows the importance of multi-tasking and especially not to get over-emotional. So finding these moments to concentrate on maximizing the aesthetics was very rare, but very rewarding. Of course my coworkers did not appreciate me rearranging the same plate multiple times,but to me there’s no better feeling then seeing all the care and focus I put into creating something as beautiful as the photo on the left.

In the end, when I ask “what makes food look good”, restaurants and coworkers have taught me that they are measurable, tangible things: golden brown, tall, crispy, bright. I’m sure these all make for more aesthetically pleasing food, but philosophically, I think the reason why those characteristics make them look better, is because we have always associated these characteristics with good food in our memory. Many people love crispy, bright food because it tastes great, but that doesn’t mean it is the most aesthetically pleasing for everyone.

 

In fact, maybe what makes food look good doesn’t have anything to do with the food at all. Whether it’s crispy or soft, golden brown or soggy and purple may not even matter. It may just depend on our memories and past experiences, and the feelings they have associated with a certain experience . Take a look at this korean-style porridge. To many of you guys it may look really boring; yellowish-gray and soupy isn’t aesthetically pleasing to most people, but it is to me weirdly enough. In fact, I think it is more aesthetically valuable than any food from Montana’s. If my original criteria was to produce a deep emotion or feeling, all I can say about Montana’s is “that looks good”. On the other hand, this porridge gives me feelings of comfort and home, and that’s why I really want some good porridge right now.

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Mr. Jackson please don’t grade this

 

If you trace back to the video shown in class that posed the question of whether it is right or wrong to push a fat man off a bridge to save 5 people who are about to be ran over by a trolley cart, or to witness them die by not pushing him over, my intuitive answer was to not push the fat man over the bridge. Wouldn’t it be unjust to incorporate an irrelevant person to the narrative simply because I couldn’t tolerate a higher level of misery in quantity? Or is it even more unjust to have authority to decrease the amount of misery by knowing the end-result, but not taking any form of initiative to change the ultimate outcome?

Utilitarianism is the concept in which the core of morality is dependent on increasing the amount of pleasure in the world; utilitarianism puts emphasis on consequences more than its intent. Such theory supports the idea of epistemic responsibility that I mentioned in my Metaphysics post (I don’t recommend reading that); epistemic responsibility is the concept that everyone has responsibility regarding our beliefs. Going in parallel with the idea of there being no such thing as, “private beliefs” and our beliefs have a way of spreading whether it is through our actions or choices, maybe the focus of morality should be on the consequences and results more than its pure intent. Utilitarianism argues that actions should be measured by how much happiness it produces, which means that one should be aware of how much happiness an action could create.

So are morality and ethical views an objective, or subjective matter? Let’s say that we say morality is an objective matter. One of the effects of defining morality to be objective is that it automatically eliminates the concept of cultural moral relativism. Perceiving morality to be an absolute means that some cultures are “wrong” for their perspectives; doesn’t this give an underlying message that some cultures are superior over others? Isn’t this contradictory to the idea of creating more happiness in the world if it wipes out certain cultures from believing in certain things? Or does the concept only apply to cultures that seriously infringe others rights to safety and freedom? Even though cultural moral relativism might provide reasoning behind why genocides and wars happen, there is also the danger of normalizing cultures that crudely infringed others lives, the most extreme example is the Nazi culture. Kantianism supports the idea of there being a supreme principle of morality; Kant believed in one acting regardless of purpose, but on maxims that you could will that everyone else approves, one which is consistent.

So if there is no moral realism and morality wasn’t about the grounding problem, there is no absolute in morality. My personal viewpoint is that is morality is subjective, it almost explains why all the shameful historical events happened (this could be anything, but I’m thinking of events like the KKK, witch hunts, etc). These events should never be justified, although it is easier to understand the stem of it if morality is handled to be a subjective matter.

So let’s go back to the fat man and the trolley cart incident. Unless you strongly root for the utilitarian view, our intuitions tell us that pushing an innocent bystander, the fat man in this case is wrong. Why it is wrong, I believe, is because of his status of being a “bystander” and because I took the action to be involved in a murder when the alternative was an accident. I do understand that pushing the fat man would ultimately make more people happier, yet there is a vast distinction between a crime and an accident. How are you morally right if you were just responsible of a death?

me rn

I define morality to be an intuition; if you do something simply because others say it is right or because you want to seem like a “good person” I think that is being good for the wrong reasons, thus, contradictory to its intent. I am not completely solid on whether morality is absolute or not, but I am currently shifted on the side that it is subjective, as it is the only way to explain disagreements in humanity. There definitely is a “more popular” belief or “more politically correct” viewpoints; however, I am not in the position to say any of them are “better” than others; it is undeniable that some of them are about everyone being treated equally, which goes back to the concept of utilitarianism.

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Nazlie Najafi – Metaphysics Post

 

(Completed on November 24 2016, edited over the past week)

TOPIC : FREEWILL VS DETERMINISM
Scientists often argue that free will is nothing but an illusion we use to trick ourselves into believing we’re in control. Could it be possible that the feeling of having free will is so strong that we can never really determine whether or not we’re truly autonomous? People form their identities and passions off of their belief in individuality, bravery, and autonomous decision making. It’s important for me to push the limits of my knowledge of free will and discover as much as I can through this unit.

QUESTION: ARE WE FREE? DO WE HAVE FREE WILL?

Q1: WHAT IS FREEWILL?
“Free will is the ability to choose between different possible courses of action. It is closely linked to the concepts of responsibility, praise, guilt, sin, and other judgments which apply only to actions that are freely chosen.” ~ Wikipedia

Free will = we have choices, we can choose our path in life and ultimately have control in the ‘end result’ of our lives.

Q2: IS IT POSSIBLE TO DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT WE HAVE A FATE? OR FREE WILL?

No. We will never be able to determine whether or not there is a destiny or if we really have control over our choices. I feel like it is mostly subjective, the feeling of free will or the feeling of believing in a destiny can be so strong that it can make the entire argument seem redundant. Of course there are people who are religious and believe in destiny, but all in all we tend to believe that we have control over our actions to an extent.

We will never be able to
Q3: IS THERE SUCH THING AS ‘FATE’? TO WHAT EXTENT?

Determinism is the idea that all events and choices we make are determined by a fate. It implies that people have no free will. Determinists are the biggest advocates for fate. To a determinist, all choice and all feelings of freedom are illusions. They do not believe in multiple outcomes, there is one fate and that is the only path. Many religious and spiritual groups are determinists. It is the idea that a preexisting destiny determines all of our choices for us.

After reading around, I’ve come to the conclusion that to an extent, preexisting conditions (race, class, gender, disability status, mental illness) do have control over our paths. However, these conditions do not impair our ability to make choices that will help us towards our goasl, but they create obstacles that block our way to our goals. Sometimes we might not even be able to achieve our goals due to these obstacles. And although environmental and health circumstances do have control over our situations, we are still capable of making choices within these restraints. I do not believe in faith.

Reading:

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ethical embryo? – kirsten

 

Ethics are a set of moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior. My personal definition of ethics follows most lineally along the basics of the categorical imperative. This view of ethics focuses on the intentions behind an action. I find myself supporting this theory in the way it suggests that a person with pure intentions and a good will is good in themselves. This way of thinking promotes the idea that if there is heart and good intentions behind an action, it is a good action regardless of the outcome. This ideology believes there may be a person of good will whose actions may produce something negative. This unfortunate accident may come from ignorance or forces out of one’s control, which does not necessarily mean they are a bad person, but more likely a good person who simply made a mistake. we cannot truly ever tell anyone’s intensions but our own, which makes it troublesome to decipher between people who have a good will and those who do not. this intangible idea of deciding the good in an action by the intention of the actor leads people to the other train of thought, utilitarianism. This idealism believes that the good of an action is in the action itself and what it produces. I do believe that every action has value, I do think where an action comes from is important. Being honest because your moral self wants to be is purer than being honest so people will think you are honest, or because we are socially inclined to be honest. In my life, i like to live along the beliefs of the categorical imperative for I try to be a good person for the sake of being a good person. I believe the reason behind why I do what I do matters, and that how I get there should be just as important as the fact that I make it. Over my high school career, I have found it easier when trying to not judge people by their actions. I never know where someone is coming from or the true intentions for their actions, and I should never give them a title that I don’t know if they deserve. Through this way of thought I have become a large fan of the assume innocent until proven guilty cliché. When someone’s actions may bring a negative outcome, I try and assume that the intentions were there, and something simply fell out of line along the execution.

 

My topic of ethics I would like to discuss is embryo modification. The basic idea of this practice is to genetically modify an embryo while growing in the mother’s womb, changing the natural dna and therefore life of the to-be baby. This is an idea I would like to support. Through genetic modification we could put an end to debilitating diseases, allow every child to be born with the ideal genetics for survival, and create a world where everyone’s biological quality of life is at the maximum. Unfortunately, this would only work in the ideal world where there is no corruption, greed, or financial power structure. With the presence of corruption and greed this biological miracle can be easily turned into a weapon of self interest. Couples whose child would be born with all the fundamental genetics to survive could try and manipulate their embryo for non-crucial and trivial reasons such as to meet typical beauty standards, or improve athletic growth, ect. These reasons are not void for change, and succumbing to them could create a world lacking diversity. This procedure would also cost a fair amount of money. It would be a problem for those who are not economically privileged, for their children may be born into a world where they have little to no quality of life, when others can have children who contain a biological jackpot of desired genetics. The potential good that could come from this project is revolutionary and I would like to believe that all variables would line up to see that nobody would have to suffer with degenerative diseases. Unfortunately, there are so many ways that this project could go wrong that I believe it would be irresponsible to release this science to world of corruption we currently live in. maybe one day with equal opportunity we could attempt this project, but even then, there would have to be strict restrictions on what should be changed. This would require someone to decide if a genetic abnormality was severe enough to change, which I don’t think anyone has the right to do. I am fascinated by this topic and would like to support it, but I am currently not able to put my faith in society for my own scientific inquiries if it could mean destruction.

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Nazlie Najafi – Metaphysics Phils Day Off

 

For my metaphysics post I chose the topic of freewill vs determinism. I concluded that that people have freewill, but there are factors that constrain our free will and can even impair it. For my phils off, I wanted to see how far I could push the constraints that were holding me back. I planned on leaving my comfort zone at an event and putting myself in a stressful situation to see how far I can push myself!

For me, this constraint is my social anxiety. I struggle with making friends/speaking to new people because of it. I went to a show on friday with a goal of ‘making new friends’ to see how far I can push myself and how much control I have over my illness in a social situation. I ended up being pretty successful.

I usually stay around the same group of people when I leave my house, whether it be to hangout or at a public event. Although it’s important (and there’s nothing wrong with) having a core group of friends who support you and spend time with you, as an aspiring artist it’s important for me to learn how to communicate (and make connections) with people outside of my inner circle. This is usually difficult for me because I am awkward.

For this show I made a goal of stepping outside of my inner circle. I had some old friends (acquaintances) from salt spring island who were coming out for this show. Usually, I would’ve stayed with my friends, and I’d be way too shy to reach out and say hi or have a timely conversation with anyone. I practiced my ~free will~ and went out of my way to be a little more bubbly and approachable than usual. I ended up spending the entire night dancing and talking to my friend Indigo. She introduced me to her friend Ocea, who lives in Vancouver and also makes art.

This wasn’t easy, and it didn’t feel natural either. Maybe to a “normal” person these interactions would be completely normal. For me they are a bit of a struggle. I’d have to admit that it’s probably not something I’d practice every time I leave my house. But does it mean that every time I leave my house I am doomed to hanging out with the same people, for the rest of my life? Does it mean this is my destiny? No, it doesn’t. I proved that I am capable of going out of my comfort zone and making a choice (although it’s ultimately an uncomfortable and painful choice) that interferes with this “destiny”.

Although environmental and health circumstances usually do determine our behaviour in situations, I proved that I was capable of pushing my boundaries and doing something that I’d never imagine would be possible, which is another reason why I overall believe we have freewill, and that our behaviours don’t abide to a predetermined destiny or law, we are in control (even though health problems and morals do impair us to an extent.)

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Nazlie Najafi – Aesthetic Phils Day Off

 

This winter break, I had the goal to have a “flow” experience that meets Csikszentmihalyi’s criteria, after realizing that most of the aesthetic experience’s i’ve had have met Beardsleys criteria. I’m not a performer, so I don’t have many opportunities to experience flow (loss of self consciousness, transcendence of ego boundaries), most of the time the aesthetic experiences I have involve at least some distance from the source of ~aesthetic pleasure~. So I made it my goal to have at least one flow experience over winter break. I also wanted to have one aesthetic experience and compare it to the flow experience to see overall which experience is the most intense and more rewarding.

 

For my flow experience, my friends and I spontaneously decided to hold a dance party at a local venue. The plan was that we would all DJ at the event and it would be a fun event to wrap up the year. We planned the entire event in 4 days, which was a time crunch, but it did ended up being successful. Although nerves were high for all of us, the environment we were in felt like home, and once I got on stage, I lost track of all of the worries I had about the performance and event. I was completely immersed in mixing songs together, and although I had just started teaching myself how to dj a week before, my skills were sufficient enough to be able to overcome any difficult transitions. It was great to look up and see that the crowd was enjoying my djing and dancing along to it, there was also visual pleasure from the experience with pretty, colourful lighting and holographic streamers.

A photo posted by Elastic Collective (@elasticcollective) on Dec 31, 2016 at 12:01am PST

 

For my aesthetic experience, I involuntarily went through a german criterion collection phase. One of the films I watched during my fleeting obsession was Ali: Fear Eats The Soul by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. I have REALLY bad attention problems, and whenever I watch a film on my computer, I get distracted about 8-10 times. Since it’s so easy to pause the movie, it’s hard for me to really have a connection with the film and immerse myself in the plotline and different characters, so I usually prefer a movie theatre trip. However, this film had these really beautiful, still and silent scenes where it felt like I was also there in the scene, frozen with the characters. These types of scenes started out the film, so I was immediately immersed in the film. These scenes went along perfectly with the story line, which I also had a personal connection to, so throughout the entire film, I had completely lost myself in the film.

Ali:Fear Eats The Soul

 

Overall, I’d say that the flow experience was much more powerful than the aesthetic experience. The fact that I was actually acting out an action, and that was the source of my pleasure, was much more powerful than watching a film from a distance that I could vaguely relate to. But at the same time, both experiences are powerful in their own way and I appreciate both.

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Aesthetic Experience Synthesis- David

 

For me an aesthetic experience is an experience that speaks to you – something that either rekindles a memory from the past or ignites a new type of excitement. For example, an event might invoke a feeling that connects you to your childhood, and might shower you with a warm gush of comfort. Or an event might pave a new path and spark a completely different feeling that you were foreign too. An aesthetic experience is a derivative of what you enjoy.

When I spoke with my peers regarding their definitions of aesthetic experience, I was showered with a variety of interpretations, but all with the same theme: To explore upon something that you enjoy. An aesthetic experience can not be achieved unless the person is doing something that he enjoys to some extent. To enjoy something, a relative level of control and excitement has to be exerted over that specific experience. For example, for some people, can aesthetic experience can border from a life threatening experience, but even so the person has some form of control over the situation to be able to enjoy that experience.

My peers mostly agreed with my interpretation of an aesthetic experience. I am sure, all of us have had experiences that revisit fond memories from the past and also spark new feelings that we would like to further expand upon. An aesthetic experience can also be achieved through a combination of both – an experience that seeks to appreciate what we already know and also explore beyond into the unknown.

For me an aesthetic experience that I treasured a lot during my Winter holidays was a revisit of the Chinese night market that I always used to visit as a kid. I had the pleasure of flying back to China to visit relatives over the winter and through my time in China i was able to rekindle with many of the things I used to be fond of as a kid. One such was my love for late night streets snacks. As a kid, I would visit streets in my hometown, Shanghai, filled with vendors that sell various types of street food such as grilled lamb skewers, fresh baked bread, fried tofu, fried chicken and many more delicious snacks. Even though, these stalls are shutting down more and more across the city due to stricter health guidelines and government control, there are still a handful left in the vast metropolitan city.

Through my visit to the Chinese night market I was able to connect back with the past me, the five year old me, and what he enjoyed. It helped me understand how much I’ve grown as a person, and how much my perspective has changed. I am now more aware of the many details that I did not care for in the past. For example, the dirty ethic that vendors might display, like touching money whilst cooking the food. All in all, re-visiting this memory brought me great joy, but also has helped me understand more about the experience that i otherwise would not have known.

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The Eye of the Beholder ✎

 

What do you see? A nice painting, the face of “beauty” staring you in the face, or is it the sun grazing the horizon sinking beneath the clouds? These scenes that I described likely painted a picture inside your head prompting you to recall the momentary essence of an aesthetic experience you’ve had in the past. Just as Rene Descartes once said, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” where the defining factor of beauty is entirely subjective to individual taste. My internalized definition of an aesthetic experience is primarily based on this principle of taste. Simultaneously, I am also a believer that an aesthetic experience does require some form of rational thought, sometimes enhanced by more senses initiated by the preceptor sense of vision and even memory. Yes, beauty does go beyond what meets the eye. After all, the etymology of the word ‘aesthetic’ relates to perception by the senses, or as the beloved Kant puts it: “science which treats of the conditions of sensuous perception” [OED].

On a personal note, an aesthetic experience can be enhanced (or created) with the simultaneous stimulation of various senses. Say you’re sitting at the beach as the sunset slowly approaches and you find it aesthetically pleasing regardless of the theories of immediacy (taste) or rationalist judgment (“actual” thinking). If you were to put on some ear-phones and play a fitting tune to the scene, how would this affect the entirety of the aesthetic experience? Now focus on the distinct smell of the sea breeze, the feeling of sand in your hands? If the combined essence of each sense is creating an increase in appeal to the sunset, then your aesthetic experience is being heightened by various external senses— sound, smell, feeling, and of course sight. As the experience is subjective to each individual, my experience would likely be a rational one, not an innately immediate aesthetic experience. The sunset itself may instigate immediate sensations of disinterested aesthetic appeal, yet as more senses are being stimulated, the more thought-provoking the experience becomes—each sense adding an element of internal pleasure in the judgment of beauty. In my mind an aesthetic experience can be one or a combination of the internalist and externalist theories of the aesthetic experience, just as I believe that an individual is not pre-fixed to be a rationalist or an empiricist thinker since conclusions of thoughts are drawn circumstantially.

Internalist theories appeal to features internal to experience, typically to phenomenological features, whereas externalist theories appeal to features external to the experience, typically to features of the object experienced.[1]

In this excerpt, the debate of contemporary philosophers Monroe Beardsley (internalist) and George Dickey (externalist) in the mid-late twentieth-century draws the difference–to put it simply– between the experience of features (internals) and the features of experience (externalism).


Whilst an aesthetic experience can require rational thought there is often plentiful ‘space’ for immediate appeal. As the University of Stanford’s Department of Philosophy puts it: 

The fundamental idea behind any such theory—which we may call the immediacy thesis—is that judgments of beauty are not (or at least not primarily) mediated by inferences from principles or applications of concepts, but rather have all the immediacy of straightforwardly sensory judgments.[1]

When judging the beauty in a landscape, a street corner, a person or a piece of art– whether that be verbal, visual or both– sometimes we activate this sense of immediacy, this seemingly intuitive and pleasing experience not challenged by rational thinking. If we directly refer to Kant’s point of view on the fine arts, illustrating the boundaries of rationalism drawn within aesthetic judgments, he argues that there exists an absence of concepts, or things that can be known about a subject that provides an aesthetic experience purely based on intuitive sensation. In other words, if you find something physically appealing you’re not deliberately thinking about why or how it pleases you, the subject matter just makes you feel that way. When strictly speaking of art, Kant argues that while we may appreciate the technique and skill used to craft an aesthetically pleasing work, it is often forced upon our judgment of beauty. Appreciation of ‘beauty’ derives from its form, but not on its process of creation


During the holidays I went on a trip to Mexico City to see the family. It was a unique kind of trip. Just me and my brother going back to visit after three years of not being back “home”. To be entirely honest, I did not retain many ‘new’ aesthetic experiences in a deliberate form of immediacy other than looking at San Francisco from my airplane window some form of attraction to particular women— I know, it sounds kind of cheesy but we’ve all been there. I did however, re-visit the architecture of the City as well as the good food which all offered their own unique form of aesthetic appeal.

Tacos Al Pastor in ‘El Tizoncito’, Mexico City

Image result for soumaya

Soumaya Plaza Carso Museum, Mexico City

Related image

Torres de Satelite in the night, Mexico City

Instead, I experienced aesthetic appeal to places of my childhood, with a sense of nostalgia manipulating my sensuous perception. Re-visiting the houses of my family members– and my own for that matter– restaurants, buildings or even parks generated an aesthetic experience where I was fascinated and appraising of settings in which I felt inherently unified with. While I did feel a sense of immediate pleasure upon arriving to Mexico (because I hadn’t been there for so long) this form of aesthetic pleasure was a much more rational one, situated on an epistemological foundation. My experiences were heightened–as seen in my post on epistemology– by the accumulated synthesis of conscious experiences.

As the US National Library of Medicine states, my aesthetic was defined:

as an experience qualitatively different from everyday experience and similar to other exceptional states of mind. Three crucial characteristics of aesthetic experience are discussed: fascination with an aesthetic object (high arousal and attention), appraisal of the symbolic reality of an object (high cognitive engagement), and a strong feeling of unity with the object of aesthetic fascination and aesthetic appraisal.,[2]

What I discovered is that often an aesthetic experience is more meaningful when an epistemological foundation is inherently linked to the aesthetic (which usually tends to occur). In my case, going back to Mexico City re-amped my emotions towards places linked to my memory. Each building, restaurant, house, park and street corner re-visited was an aesthetic experience in itself.

 

References:

Shelley, J. (2009, September 11). The Concept of the Aesthetic. Retrieved January 22, 2017, from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aesthetic-concept/#ConAes [1]

Marković, S. (2012). Components of aesthetic experience: aesthetic fascination, aesthetic appraisal, and aesthetic emotion. Retrieved January 22, 2017, from    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3485814/ [2]

Kant and the Problem of Disinterestedness. (n.d.). Retrieved January 22, 2017, from http://public.wsu.edu/~kimander/teraray.htm [3]

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Katie Crompton – The Cost of Education

 

As someone who is currently in the process of applying to universities and preparing to get into incredible debt once actually getting accepted into a post-secondary institute, I have witnessed first hand just how expensive post-secondary is. There has been many debates about low cost or free post-secondary education. Especially with the senate confirmation hearing in the USA of Trump’s Secretary of Education nominee, Betsy DeVos (sorry but this post has nothing to do with grizzly bears). There is a video of Bernie Sanders (FEEL THE BERN) questioning DeVos on her views on post-secondary education costs which has been attached right here.

This video covers a few topics but it shows what the democratic and republican views are on free or low cost post-secondary education. In summary, the democratic view is that it is a good investment to send all students who want to receive a higher level of education to school, regardless of their ability to pay for the current price of tuition. The republican view is that it’s simply too much of an investment for the country.

In his Theory of Justice, John Rawls says,

“…a society satisfying the principles of justice as fairness comes as close as a society can to being a voluntary scheme, for it meets the principles which free and equal persons would assent to under circumstances that are fair.”

Personally, I believe that everyone should be given equal opportunity to succeed. If someone or something excludes a particular group or prevents anyone from living their life the way they deserve, that is morally wrong. There are so many brilliant people in the world who aren’t able to go to university because they are disadvantaged somehow, especially financially.  If we were to apply the Theory of Justice to financial statuses, then that would justify free/low cost post-secondary education. By giving everyone access to advanced education after high school it would give more people the opportunity to find work that pays more than minimum wage, which is near impossible to live off of but that’s another conversation. Though I believe that being under the veil of ignorance is beneficial in some situations, it isn’t practical in others. In this situation, ignoring a potential student’s financial standing, ethnicity, gender, etc. is good, but universities must still take a student’s academic standing and potential into consideration, in order to make sure that these students are fit to go into the careers they are studying for. By enabling free or low cost post secondary education, you are making sure that a higher education is more accessible, not a guarantee for all. This would make society more productive and and create a more inclusive environment.

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Hermione Granger Would Understand Ethics (And Other Wizardry) – Claire

 

I have struggled a great deal with ethics. Admittedly, I am the type of person who tries to do ‘the right thing.’ When a situation arises and there is no black and white, no right and wrong, I freak out a bit, so you can only imagine what ethics has been doing to me. I have sat down to write this post several times, and have ended up staring at a blank screen with the cursor blinking before me (you know that feeling…the definition of ugh). I was getting to the point where I thought I would have no post to hand in at all.

*I tried to find a gif of Nicely from Guys and Dolls saying “it came to me sort of funny, like a dream…” but couldn’t find one, so instead imagine Waleed Hakeem saying this*

I’ve been re-reading the Harry Potter series over the past few months, and have enjoyed drawing parallels from what I’ve been reading to what we’ve been learning in Philosophy. I believe that, from reading this series while taking this course, I have a greater appreciation for these books as well as a better understanding of philosophy. I recently forced my dad to watch the one of the movies with me, and was trying to explain the Houses and how I knew that I was Gryffindor from taking an online quiz on Pottermore, the Harry Potter fan site (I know, I know, I could not possibly sound geekier). It was as I was explaining this that I recalled one of the questions that had come up during the quiz —one that I had struggled with —and was able to relate to ethics.

“You can rescue a baby or the only bottle of a potion that could save one thousand lives. Which do you save?

a) the bottle, the chance of saving one thousand lives is too important to miss
b) the baby, the bottle only might save one thousand lives”

When I was taking the quiz, my first thought was “both! Find a loophole and save both!” only to remember that I was taking a quiz, none of it was real and that I had to choose one or the other. Cue panic.

Reminding myself that it was not real and that no one would perish from my decision, I chose to save the bottle over the baby; this was because I was thinking along the lines of Utilitarianism and the concept of greater happiness. Yes, losing one life would be horrible (especially a baby’s…why would Pottermore think this is an okay question to ask? WHY?), but the possibility of one thousand lives being lost was just as horrifying. If I could save more lives and make more people happy in the long run, would I not choose to? Shouldn’t I want to create Greater Happiness? Did this make me a bad person, choosing more lives over a baby’s? The question never specified the ages of the thousands of people the bottle could save; there could have been babies in the mix too! Multiple babies! And children, and siblings, and parents…I felt like I had to justify my answer to myself.  I felt guilty, as if I had pushed the “fat man” off the bridge to save the five workers below on the tracks that the speeding trolley cart was headed towards. Sure, I saved more lives in the long run and made more people happy, but what about me? Was sacrificing my own happiness and living with that guilt worth it? Of course, those are two very different situations and Pottermore never specifies the circumstances of which I would be choosing the bottle or the baby. The idea of Utilitarianism seemed right at the time, but it felt wrong.

WWHGD: What Would Hermione Granger Do?

(if you’re feeling like killing some time and want to actually watch me make the decision to choose the bottle over the baby, click here and go to 5:41)

I want to be completely honest: I’m still not sure what I believe when it comes to making a decision regarding happiness and ethics. My instinct, to do the right thing, does not work if what is right is not defined. I don’t want to pretend that I have come out of this unit as a changed person who now knows exactly what she stands for and believes in and could make ethical decisions and be happy with them, because that’s not the truth. I am, however, more aware of my struggle in making ethical decisions and know that it’s not something I can shrug off the way I used to. I want to be able to make my own decisions and not rely on others to tell me what they think is right from wrong. It’s something I’m working on, and will continue to work on.

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