Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Who contributed positively to your study of Metaphysics?

Who do you think contributed to your study of Metaphysics?

Who do you think contributed to your study of Metaphysics?

A few highlights from the Metaphysics unit reflection completed yesterday:

Who do you think contributed positively to your group conversations?

…because the group was small and we were in a low-pressure environment, all of us were able to comfortably share our ideas to the best of our abilities. We all learned a lot from every idea shared, and the conversation greatly augmented my understanding of metaphysics.

Julie and Lazar helped me understand what exactly is metaphysics and cleared up a lot of questions that I had. With their examples and ideas i was able to start generating my own and succeed in the subject.

Katherine really helped brighten our conversations and bring more perspectives.

Both Aidan and Aman had insanely good points and ideas that they brought to each and every group discussion. They each explained their philosophers and their own ideas on the topics that were discussing at the time so thoroughly and descriptively that it really helped me learn more about my own philosopher and my own ideas just by listening to them. Other discussions happened outside of class with both of them as well, through the blog and also more direct conversations as well.

I believe that Katherine contributed positively to my group conservation by being able to eloquently share what she’d learned and by helping the rest of us fully discover what we learned. She was also very encouraging and helped us fully process what we’d learned.

I think Julian tried just a little bit harder to understand, always pausing to clear things up if there was confusion. He also went a step further trying to connect our ideas together.

Indirectly, Confucius. Directly, Kristina. Confucius and his theories allowed me to present a different side of each question that my group and I may not have thought of before. Kristina, although sick for most of the activity, came back with raw Kristina input and was able to stand back from the conversation and tie it all together.

Andrea was the firestarter to our conversations as she brought her insight and well interpreted personal experiences of her journey to answer the thematic questions. 

Ayden, in the time she had spent to tell us about her experiences, opened up potential options of expressing our general theme.

Everyone always had something to talk about and no one came unprepared.



Metaphysical Emergence and the Discussable Object

Unplug'd 2012 Map Prep

Photo courtesy of Alan Levine

“It is to the reality which mediates [people], and to the perception of that reality held by educators and people, that we must go to find the program content of education.”

Paulo Freire

As we set out to encounter Metaphysics, my ambition as teacher is to help frame the creation of a learning object as an attempt at authentic social constructivism. Today we began with a conversation based on another Freire quote (about education being a ‘with’ transaction between teachers and students much more than a ‘to’ or ‘for’), and came away with a loose timeline and list of objectives and ambitions for the unit in the coming week.

“The investigation of […] people’s ‘thematic universe’ – the complex of their ‘generative themes’ – inaugurates the dialogue of education as the practice of freedom.”


Our task, in general terms, will be to encounter the lives and ideas of metaphysicians. And, in asking of ourselves what we can interpret of their essential guiding questions, to engage in the study of our own metaphysical thoughts and conceptions. This will happen in exposition on the class blog, connections made through comments and conversation, and inquiry through reflection and dialogue.

My hope is that these activities can be engaged in with the following in mind:

“…knowledge is neither a representation of something more ‘real’ than itself, nor an ‘object’ that can be transferred from one place to the next. Knowledge is understood, rather, to ’emerge’ as we, as human beings, participate in the world. Knowledge, in other words, does not exist except in participatory actions.”

Osberg and Biesta

Thus far the group has agreed to the following objectives:

    • Delve into a metaphysical thinker’s life and ideas
    • Put their ideas into the context of larger theory, culture and critique
    • Evaluate one of your philosopher’s questions, ideas, or arguments with your own ideas about validity, truth and soundness
    • Narrate and participate in the creation of a collective representation of our learning about Metaphysics, and metaphysicians

This will begin with a blog post, wherein participants will demonstrate research and introduction to a philosopher of Metaphysics, and strive to respond to the following questions:

    • How did the philosopher’s life or biography influence their philosophical development?
    • What ideas or concepts are they credited with, or notable for?
    • How have these ideas been built on or incorporated into our modern zeitgeist or mindset?
    • What personal response do you have to the topics your philosopher explored?
    • What do you find confusing or difficult to conceive of, in your philosopher’s thinking?

And from there work through individual reflections and assessments of our own ideas contrasted against those of notable metaphysicians, as well as one another. Over the course of the following week, these experiences, discussions, reflections and activities will culminate in the creation of what for now we will call the Discussable Object. The logic here is derived from Osberg and Biesta again:

“…if educators wish to encourage the emergence of meaning in the classroom, then the meanings that emerge in classrooms cannot and should not be pre-determined before the ‘event’ of their emergence.”

At present, the idea of the creation of the Discussable Object as an authentic constructivist summative assessment is unrefined; but the general intention is this: to create a collective representation of our individual journeys of understanding metaphysics.

This raises an interesting contradiction within emergentist epistemology that we will likely spend time in the coming week discussing, that:

“for the process of knowledge production to occur it is necessary to assume that the meaning of a particular ‘knowledge object’ exists in a stable form such that the ‘knowledge object’ can be used like a ‘building block’ in the production of new abstract knowledge objects. This idea, however, is precisely what an emergentist epistemology denies. Because the meaning of any new knowledge ’emerges’ would be highly specific to the complex system from which is emerged, it follows that no ‘knowledge object’ can retain its meaning in a different situation.”

This marks I think a necessary crossroads in the creation of the blended open-online course, as 24 of our participants will engaged in something that may only create significance between themselves; I wonder about our ability – or the validity of the attempt – to share this process beyond the constructivism of our physical classroom. Here I am left thinking about Jesse Stommel‘s post on Hybrid Pedagogy, How to Build an Ethical Online Course, and the idea that:

“We must consider how we’ll create pathways between the learning that happens in a room and the learning that happens on the web.”




The Epistemology Lecture

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

This week, the face-to-face participants in Philosophy 12 will be delivering an introductory lecture on what they have learned during the past few weeks’ blogging and discussions about Epistemology. Over the course of the last week, the class has worked as a collective to highlight and articulate the main elements of an emerging epistemology, and the lecture and accompanying slides will be presented by live video that will be archived on Livestream, and later on the blog as a lasting artifact to what we know now, and how we know it.

Open Online participants are invited to engage with the lecture by tuning in to the live broadcast on Tuesday, at 10:30am (PST) as well as on twitter, and the debriefing to be conducted Wednesday beginning approximately the same time. If you can’t make it to the live discussion, your thoughts and comments are, as ever, welcome here.