Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Katherine: my mom said to stop saying gay to everything so this post is a hetero™ post

Normally, I’m not always a big believer in honesty. but I’ll be honest here: the Aesthetics unit was the most confusing thing I’ve ever experienced. Maybe it was because I was expecting it to be easy; Epistemology and Metaphysics sound waaaaaay out of my league, but Aesthetics? I think about that stuff everyday. Should be easy!

It Was Not Easy.

To start, it took me awhile to come up with my own definition of aesthetics, or what I think an aesthetic experience is. To start, here are some of my beliefs: I believe that you cannot fully tell you are having an aesthetic experience until it is over. It would take away from the moment. In paying direct attention to what you are doing, it break the experience. Two things that really intrigued me were concentration and distance. The idea that staring at a pretty sky or a field of flowers and being distant from it, not overly concentrating but just taking the peace and thinking it is pretty,w as totally new. Contrast that to the idea that an aesthetic experience requires complete immersion, all of one’s focus and concentration, and you can understand why I was confused for a while.

Both distraction and complete concentration bring you a kind of peace. Distraction and distance take your brain away and give it peace, and complete concentration removes all distractions and also leaves a kind of peace. Even the experience of say, bungee jumping, or seeing a rock concert, could be considered peaceful while exciting. It’s pretty hard to think of grocery lists while you are bungee jumping, and an exciting rock concert leave you fully immersed in the music. Either way, they are freeing your mind from distraction.

Does that make sense? No? Too bad, we’re moving on.

Old White Dudes Weigh In: Plato

Let me say this: Plato is one of my least favorite philosophers. Ever since the whole concept of “Plato’s Forms” came into this class, he’s lost me. But I was googling aesthetics, I learned something funny about him: while to him, beauty is one of the greatest goods, and art is one of the greatest dangers. As I had always thought of them as the two major parts of aesthetics, I couldn’t understand why he had such differing opinions on them.

Art and beauty are both subjective. There is no way around it. Everyone’s’ pinions on art and beauty are influenced by their environment, their upbringing, their exposure to the world. You can argue that there are some things that are “universally beautiful”, but I contest that. There will always be someone who disagrees.

Beauty, at its base, is something “pleasing to the eye”, something that fires off positive synapses in your brain. Why do people sometimes say “beautiful disasters” and the like? Because you can find beauty in something being destroyed. Watch a fire roar over a forest, or watch a tornado sweep through a town; devastating, but with form, and precision, and clean lines.

Old (usually) White Dudes Weigh In: Confucius

Of all the philosophers, I’m quite fond of Confucius his opinions on art and beauty are quite similar to mine: they are highly important to society. He always emphasized the role of the arts and humanities, especially music and poetry, in helping human nature and bringing us back to the essentials of philosophy.

Now, I also tend to believe that an aesthetic experience is also a state of mind. You can look at something while in a bad mood and purposely find it ugly. Take one of my aesthetic experiences for example: putting on makeup. (Yes, I know how that sounds lemme explain) If I look at myself in the mirror while im in a bad mood, all I see are my flaws. I can pick apart every part of my face and find ways to hate myself. As I put on makeup, I can see myself as trying to hide how I look because I hate it, I can hate how the makeup looks on me, there are an infinite number of ways to make this a shitty and un-aesthetic time for me. But when I concentrated, looked at myself in the mirror and tried to find all the things I liked about myself, I could make the things I hated into, you guessed it, aesthetic experiences. As I paid close attention to what I was doing with the makeup, thinking of art and beauty and deeply concentrating (hey, I connected it to the paragraph above!), I found an aesthetic experience.

Art can be beautiful, but can Beauty be art?

Can you turn any experience into an Aesthetic Experience if you try?

Can you answer any of my other thousands of questions that I won’t post here but I might comment them because theya re bugging me????




Katie Crompton – Basically Just a Shameless Family Promotion

For my Phil’s Day Off assignment, I decided I would explore how we express emotions by visiting my aunt and uncle’s art studio at The Arts Factory for Vancouver’s East Side Culture Crawl. Before I got there, I had no idea what this event was other than the fact that my aunt and uncle were participating. What I found out was that the East Side Culture Crawl is an event where a bunch of artists who have studios on the East Side of Vancouver open their studios to the public and show their pieces for a weekend. When I got to my out and uncle’s studio, I was happy to find that my aunt and uncle share a space with a ton of other artists from the area.

[Left] An example of my uncle’s photography [Middle] My uncle (David Crompton) and my aunt (Tristesse Seeliger) in front of their work [Right] One of my aunt’s collages using maps

As I walked around the space admiring everyone’s work and feeling intimidated by the stereotypically pretentious art people, I began to realize that not only does art show the artists emotions, but it also evokes emotions from the viewer. A lot of the time, it is left up to the viewer to interpret the meaning and emotions behind a piece. One technique that artists use to hint at specific emotions in their work is colour association. They will use certain colours in their work that are commonly associated with certain emotions. Different shades or variations on the same colour have different colour associations as well. For example, pink is associated with romance, love, and friendship while a darker red is associated with leadership, vigour, and anger. This is shown in the picture below. The piece on the left seems much calmer and happier than the piece on the right. We use colour association extensively in our daily lives. Without even noticing it, we automatically judge and react to things based on its colour.

[Left] a painting by Marion Landry [Right] piece using mixed media on board by Catherine Tableau

Another thing I discovered from this trip was that is is easy for people to interpret emotions differently. There were a lot of sculptures and portraits in the studio and I found that different people could easily get different emotions out of the same piece.

Sculpture by Ati Ahkami

Let’s look at the picture to the left. At first glance, you may see a calm and content person, but others may see sadness or longing. Unless we talk to the artist, we won’t know for sure what the intended emotion is for this piece, but that adds to the intrigue. We can connect this to our interactions with people as well. Human’s ability to hide emotions and the fact that everyone expresses their emotions differently makes it difficult at times to pin down how other people are feeling. This is one of the reason’s why art is so great at capturing life and the human experience.


The main thing I got through this experience is that artists are very in tune with their emotions. I believe that when you are in tune with your emotions, you are living authentically. Being authentic and having complete awareness of everything that is you, including your emotions, is what Being is all about. I have reached the conclusion that though emotions may not be the soul of Being, they are a part of you that makes you more than just a collection of cells. Emotions are a vital aspect of your Being.

TIME FOR THE SHAMELESS FAMILY PROMOTION! If you are interested in my aunt and/or uncle’s work, You can check out their websites www.tristesseseeliger.com and www.davidcrompton.net. OR you can follow them on Instagram: @missytrissy and @crompsy.




Metaphysics Phil’s Day Off

My question for this unit is “what are words?” and I was struggling to figure out what to do for my Phil’s Day Off! This is a difficult topic to do out of class learning but I was planning on going downtown anyways, so I decided to go to the Vancouver Art Gallery with Erin. My objective was to try to see how or if the things people said about the artwork, changed my opinion of the art. I was very lucky because the theme of one of the displays happening that I went to was “Modern Art.” There were a ton of “simple” and very abstract pieces that people seemed to have a lot of their own opinions on.

Listening to some conversations, I could tell that they were like me, they didn’t know much about art because they either weren’t saying much, or nothing at all. I was dissatisfied how not many people were talking about any of the art so I walked onto the part of the exhibit that was more “abstract” so more people would have different opinions on the art and I could see if my theory was going to work. As I kept walking further into the exhibit, more people started speaking their opinions on the work. I was looking at a piece I really liked and it was a very unusual sculpture because it was very simple and plain-looking. One lady who to me, sounded like she knew quite a bit about art started pointing out some of the flaws she noticed like the color, how boring it was, how it didn’t really convey a message about anything and much more that I couldn’t even comprehend. She seemed almost discussed how this was even considered good enough art to be in a gallery. Afterwards I found that when I looked at the art again, I focused more on the many imperfections that if had. I couldn’t really look at this art that I once really liked, and see it the same way that I had before because I was more aware of the fact that someone who seemingly knew a lot about art, didn’t like this piece which of course, made me not enjoy its beauty anymore.

This showed me how greatly our use of words affect objects around us and how we perceive them. The way we string together our words and voice our opinion on something can completely alter my opinion and change the way I see it. It was a very important aspect of me research because It helped me see how much words really do affect us and items in our lives. I think that it really depends on how people are altering their use of words makes me assume they are more knowledgable on the subject and I will ultimately value their opinion much more!

I think my phil’s day off was very successful because I really learned how my opinion on things around me can be altered by the way people manipulate their words to seem more knowledgeable on a subject. If you are constantly using words that are completely unrelated to the topic, nobody will think you know what you are talking about and they wont really take your words into consideration.

Questions I had after I completed my phil’s day off were: How do our words convey how much we know on a topic?, What about grammar and its relationship to our knowledge? How do my words affect the people around me? Do you have to be knowledgeable to be considered smart on a topic?



Metaphysics of Art (first post)

I plan to investigate the different philosophies on art and what previous philosophers considered art to be. Besides the obvious need to be aesthetically pleasing, if there something else that art contains that is different than just a pretty picture.


I have discovered that there is a known difference between a piece of art and a work of art. In the eyes of many famous philosophers of the past, true Art is something that unifies our collective consciousnesses and places us in  a higher realm. This area we are brought to is where we find understanding and see things differently than we have ever seen them before.Image result for starry night

I chose this topic because whenever I go to places like the art gallery or even the art room at my school, I wonder why some people get famous and why other people don’t. I find it interesting that someone like Emily Carr who is so well known and has one of the most respected Art Universities in  the lower mainlands named after her, and what made her art so special. I have seen some of her work and when I look at it I feel like it is something that one of my classmates could make but there is still something special about it. I think this is why these questions are so important, it is so that we can understand our feelings when we view something beautiful and how this may change our lives.

This is an important topic because I think that it is something that a lot of people have asked but the answer is not always so clear. It raises many questions about if art even has to be aesthetically pleasing to make it true art and if the philosophy of art is separate from aesthetics. I think that this would not be ppainting 1ossible in most cases but im sure there are instances where a work of art is beautiful and speaks to many people but it is not beautiful in the visual way, perhaps that is where aesthetics does not come into play. I think this also raises questions about how we can calculate and understand the reactions and emotions that people around the world may have. When one person or even one group of like minded people look at a work of art and agree that it is something more than it appears to be and that it allows oneself to see the true meaning of the picture, then who is to say that this will be understood globally. There is always going to be a certain margin of subjectiveness to art and I think the way people try to understand it is by making philosophical theories and trying to categorize different aspects of art with words like elements and form






“Pics or it didn’t happen”

Image via MemeCenter

The mantra of the Instagram era:

Think about the pictures of a horde of tourists assembled in front of the Mona Lisa, their cameras clicking away. It is the most photographed work of art in human history. You can see it in full light, low light, close-up, far away, x-rayed; you can find parodies of parodies of parodies; and yet, seeing it in person and walking away does not suffice. The experience must be captured, the painting itself possessed, a poor facsimile of it acquired so that you can call it your own – a photograph which, in the end, says, I was here. I went to Paris and saw the Mona Lisa. The photo shows that you could afford the trip, that you are cultured, and offers an entrée to your story about the other tourists you had to elbow your way through, the security guard who tried to flirt with you, the incredible pastry you had afterwards, the realisation that the painting really is not much to look at and that you have always preferred Rembrandt. The grainy, slightly askew photo signifies all these things. Most important, it is yours. You took it. It got 12 likes.

This is also the unspoken thought process behind every reblog or retweet, every time you pin something that has already been pinned hundreds of times. You need it for yourself. Placing it on your blog or in your Twitter stream acts as a form of identification – a signal of your aesthetics, a reflection of your background, an avatar of your desires. It must be held, however provisionally and insubstantially, in your hand, and so by reposting it, you claim some kind of possession of it.



The Experience of Beauty

 Three fundamental questions:

  1. What can I know?
  2. What ought I do?
  3. What can I hope for?

And one, into which every other question flows: What is man?


Basically, the contemplation and the production of beauty depend exclusively upon characteristics that only man possesses and that thus allow him to be ontologically distinguished from all other beings which differ from him.
We judge beauty beginning from the feeling of what is agreeable and disagreeable.
And the representation of feeling can be sorted in:

that of ‘pleasant’(simple animal), that of ‘good’(rational being), that of ‘beautiful’(only human).
The experience of beauty originates from freedom.

The beauty of work of art

This shows itself to have characteristics which do not permit going back to a mechanistic model of comprehension, in both of its internal organization and in the means of production.

What in the work of art contrast to its mechanistic reduction is constituted by man characteristics, which place it in an intermediary position between the human techno-practical production, on the one hand,     and the way in which nature produces the organized beings, on the other.

One must be aware that it is art, and not nature.

The basis for the originality and the beauty of the work of art are the inventions or ideations, which Kant calls ‘aesthetic ideas’ are not in control, as to their origins, of the artist who brings them into being.
What the source might be upon which these prerogatives of the work of art depend, Kant’s answer may seem disarming in its simplicity: at the origin of the creation of beauty there is a particular proportion, in which the power of the imagination and the discipline of the intellect play freely with each other.
In man there is an original accord between three heterogenous faculties:

  1. Imagination as the faculty of intuitions
  2. Intellect as the faculty of rules.
  3. Reason as the faculty of ideas.

The other aspect which takes the work of art away from a physico-deterministic consideration is constituted by that complex of characteristics which makes it related to the beings organized by nature.
In the work, considered as whole:

  • Every part is bound to every other part in such a way as to be mutually each to other the cause and effect of their form;
  • Furthermore, every part of the work exists only through all of the others and its existence makes sense inasmuch as it is in view of the others and of the whole

Neural Correlates of Beauty:

A number of researches have demonstrated that every pronouncement of an aesthetic judgement corresponded to the activation of a set of specific cerebral areas (the medial orbito-frontal cortex, the anterior cingulate, the parietal cortex and the motor cortex), operating interconnectedly, even though their quotients of activity were differentiated according to the type of experience.

Nevertheless it is wise to ask:

  • Is this side of research, in addition to being recognized as necessary, sufficient enough to explain the artistic phenomenon?
  • Is the process of naturalization or, the mechanistic understanding capable of exhausting the entire realm of the experience of beauty?

Experts, which are critically attentive, generalized the mind-brain relationship concerns into the following:

Those which are initially presented as neurally ‘correlated’, as substratums or ‘involved’ neural processes, ‘subtended’ or ‘associated’ with the of beauty, are transformed insensitively or with brusque passages (with no forewarning as with those of the authors) into neural processes that ‘generate’ aesthetic judgment, ‘determine the creation’ of the work of art, ‘originate’ the fundamental properties of the conscious experience of the beautiful.



To sum up, a free use of the cognitive faculties is the specific experience of freedom which is the basis of the work of art and that, opening the access to the beautiful, allows for the actuation of a way of being that only man can experience.





The Beauty of Art


Art is aesthetically pleasing, comes in many forms and is subjective.
One person may find this photograph that I took in the spring aesthetically pleasing.

However, another person may feel this painting by Ruth Harris to be more pleasing.




Both works of art are of similar subjects and yet they can be viewed in very different ways and can produce different emotional responses, proving that aesthetics is a very broad, very subjective field.



Aesthetic Experience: Criticism of Self-Styling

By: Avery and Vincent

Image taken from upload.wikimedia.org and used under Creative Common License.


Aesthetics paints the world in a vastly different way than the clinical worldview of the sciences. Drawing on the subjective nature of humanity, art and beauty often ignore more objective viewpoints and assign their own meanings to nature and the environment. These two outlooks on life have massive differences; most important, subjective aesthetics may often find meaning when objectivity assures us there is none.

A Short Introduction to Self Styling

Self-styling introduces the idea that art “[creates] a front between the ‘nausea and suicide’ we realize due to honesty” (Azfal, Niezsche’s Self Styling). In other words, art serves as a shell between humans and the truth of the meaninglessness of human life. Art allows optimism, kindling subjective beliefs of meaning and purpose.

Drawing from the objective meaninglessness of everything, self-styling guides “artists” (read: self-stylers) towards a path of artistic perspective, and ultimately a level of self-deception. Involving deception, perspective, and forgetting, an artist crafts themselves to allay existential nausea. It allows “acceptance and appreciation of the self” despite the brutal honesty of the nature of the world.

Criticism of Self-Styling

Criticism of self-styling revolves around how the practice promotes self-deception. It guides artists towards “reveling [sic] in the delusions self-styling promotes”, encouraging one to shield oneself from honest nature and instead live in the world of dreams. This seems a step back for development and understanding, artists choosing to retreats into their safe bubbles instead of forging forwards to create new boundaries and face the challenge head on. While self-affirmation suggests that the nature of life should “be embraced without flinching”, self-styling “[makes] one’s character pleasing by falsifying it.” This approach to life appears apathetic of the quest to obtain real answers, instead content to cocoon itself a safe area and ignore the bigger issues at play.

Discussion Questions

How do the positives of self-styling compare to the negatives?

How does self-styling affect everyday life and perception of the world?

How does the self-deception involved in self-styling influence self-perception?



Rationalism, the Paradigm Shift, and the Penrose Tile

KITES & DARTS: British mathematician Roger Penrose created a plane of beautiful, endless variation with just two shapes, kites and darts, seen here in blue lines. Image by Dominique Fung

I came across this article in Nautilus that seems to tread some familiar territory in terms of a few of our discussions during metaphysics in the last while.

Given that Fibonacci seems to appear everywhere in nature—from pineapples to rabbit populations—it was all the more odd that the ratio was fundamental to a tiling system that appeared to have nothing to do with the physical world. Penrose had created a mathematical novelty, something intriguing precisely because it didn’t seem to work the way nature does. It was as if he wrote a work of fiction about a new animal species, only to have a zoologist discover that very species living on Earth. In fact, Penrose tiles bridged the golden ratio, the math we invent, and the math in the world around us.

However, an added piece of this idea relates directly to a concept at the heart of our epistemology unit, as relates to the idea of a paradigm shift:

It was as though Penrose’s fanciful mathematics had forced itself into the natural world. “For 80 years, a crystal was defined as ‘ordered and periodic,’ because all crystals studied from 1912 on were periodic,” Shechtman says. “It wasn’t until 1992 that the International Union of Crystallography established a committee to redefine ‘crystal.’ That new definition is a paradigm shift for crystallography.”

It was more than mere mental inertia that made it so hard to understand and absorb Shechtman’s discovery. Aperiodic crystalline structures weren’t just unfamiliar; they were supposed to be unnatural. Remember that the placement of one Penrose tile can affect things thousands of tiles away—local constraints create global constraints. But if a crystal forms atom by atom, there should be no natural law that would allow for the kind of restrictions inherent to Penrose tiles.

As we continue to argue the merits of empiricism versus rationalism, doesn’t the example of the Penrose tile present a case of rationalism leading the way?



The Art of Silence- Dylan

I sat in my chair, in this little restaurant in downtown Vancouver, listening intently to the music being performed in front of me. I could feel the twenty or so other bodies in the room sitting at tables nearby , all of us within a few meters of the performers. Of all the pieces that were played that night, this slow, emotionally vibrant,  peice had us all completely hooked. Everyone in the restaurant had stopped eating, stopped talking, and were completely committed to what was happening with the music. We were all hooked to every single note, every single beat of the whole song, following the band as the lead us on journey to some unknown destination. As we intently followed the piece, it began to wind down, slowing down as the final notes were being played. We were all caught in some almost hypnotic trance. And as last note of the trumpet sounded out and stayed with us for some time we were still completely absorbed in the beauty of the piece and then, absolute silence. Everyone in the room was completely still. It felt as if everyone was suspended in time, with the last note still resonating in the air around us, wrapping us in a communal tension. I was aware of everybody in the room, aware of the music, aware of the performers, and aware of the.  And then, just as the tension became almost too much, applause. The silence was broken, and we all were acknowledging what had just happened. These three moments of silence that still lay so vividly in my mind.

That was the most memorable moment of the whole night. Not to say that the music throughout the whole night wasn’t fantastic, but that to me was such a powerful moment, that it still sticks out in my mind.  Taking that moment to appreciate the music that we had just heard in silence, and the fact that the music had made us silent, is still so astonishing to me. Silence is such a powerful force. There are so many moments in life where it’s true that a thousand words can be said with a single moment of silence. This moment to me, was a true testament, to the power of silence. But was the silence itself, an aesthetic experience? If nothing is really happening, can that still be called an aesthetic experience? There have been many others who have taken a look at the power of silence in art, and to really try to get down to the bottom of this experience, let’s take a look at one of these first.

One man, took the study of silence so far as to make an entire piece of music about it. Inhttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/52/Anechoic_chamber.jpg 1955, minimalist composer John Cage composed a piece entitled “4’33″”. The piece is an entire composition of complete silence, which includes three movements. The title of the piece changes depending on the length of the performance, with the first performance having been four minutes and forty-three seconds long. John Cage composed the piece after a long time fascination with silence, and after having made silence a big factor in a lot of his compositions beforehand. In 1951, Cage visited an anechoic chamber at Harvard University. An Anechoic chamber is a room designed to absorb all sound coming from within the room, and block out any external sound as well. Cage went to the room expecting to hear absolute silence, but instead he reported hearing two sounds, one low and one high. When he described this to the engineer in charge, he told Cage that the low sound was his blood in circulation, and the high sound was his nervous system in operation. Cage was astonished. He went to a place where he though there would be complete silence, and yet still heard sounds. He was reported saying, “Until I die there will be sounds. And they will continue following my death. One need not fear about the future of music.” This experience, and being influenced by other experimental artists at the time creating similar works, composed this piece as a study into the world of silence.


Cage was very passionate about this piece, his purpose was to envelop the audience in the natural sounds of the environment that was around them while the piece was going on. Because he considered sounds themselves, completely pure and untouched, to be music, he completely presented this as an aesthetic experience. But this piece, as you can probably guess, caused a lot of controversy. There are many who considered this piece to be a great look into what constitutes as music, a can be taken as a challenge to the very definition of music. But there are also others who point this out as having absolutely no point at all. And being that it is a piece of music, that it is completely silence, it’s not hard to see why people could see this as self-indulgent, and even pretentious. But maybe it doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with the pieces usefulness of honesty,  maybe the aesthetic experience doesn’t have to have you agree with it.  Before we get down to that, let’s take one more look at what John Cage has to say about silence.

It’s interesting to wonder what makes some people love the piece, and some people hate it. The experiences that people could have while experience John Cage’s “4’33″”, and the one I had in the restaurant could be considered to be quite similar. Being enveloped in complete silence, especially with other people in the room, is going to create some sort of feeling with in you. For people like John Cage who view sounds as a part of music, this piece becomes about the positive effect that silence can have on you. For others, it becomes a something that they dismiss as having any real meaning. But either way, the piece becomes something in that person’s mind. Whether it be positive or negative, it has stirred something inside of that person. One of John Cage’s reasons for creating the piece was the he knew that different people would experience it in different ways. He knew that some people might take it as a joke, while others might not. But what he wanted, was for it to do something. and I think that’s where the aesthetic experience comes from. Just like that moment in the restaurant, even if it was just silence, that silence became something inside my mind and it made me think about that experience. The aesthetic experience is an experience becomes something inside of you, and has left an impression that you later can think about. It’s an experience that while you’re having it, allows you to complete concentrate on what’s going on in front of you. And that can be anything. Even silence.