Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Beyond a Formal Acknowledgement

Image from the First Peoples Guide for Newcomers, published by the City of Vancouver (2014)

In 2014, the City Council of Vancouver voted unanimously to recognize that the city was built – and exists – on unceded aboriginal territory. The statement from the city reads in part:

“Underlying all other truths spoken during the Year of Reconciliation is the truth that the modern city of Vancouver was founded on the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations and that these territories were never ceded through treaty, war or surrender.”

Earlier this month, HG Hamilton wondered in the Mainlander what may lay beyond this formal acknowledgement, especially given councillor Andrea Reimer’s admission that the acknowledgement wouldn’t effect the legal practices of the city, “because Vancouver is not involved in treaty negotiations and has no such authority over land.”

Hamilton notes that:

Vancouver City Council and other political parties are praised for their formal acknowledgement of the city’s occupation of unceded territory, even if it does little to change the everyday conditions of Indigenous peoples (poverty, dispossession, criminality, premature death). This gesture is what Tuck and Yang would define as a “settler move to innocence,” a strategy or positioning that attempts to relieve feelings of guilt or responsibility of a settler without the settler giving up land, power, privilege or changing much at all.[4] Gestures of remorse or acknowledgement may endow the settler with “professional kudos or a boost in their reputations for being so sensitive or self-aware.” For example, David Schaepe, director and senior archaeologist of the Sto:lo Research and Resource Management Centre and technical advisor for the Sto:lo Xwexwilmexw Treaty Association, has congratulated city council on its formal recognition and called it a “very positive development.” Despite the fact that the formal acknowledgment has been received positively in the media, Tuck and Yang warn that settler moves to innocence are hollow and only serve the interests of settlers. Such actions lend false legitimacy to settler governments, allow the ongoing work of dispossession, displacement, and settlement.

In addition to connecting to our visit this coming Friday with UBC professor Dr. Mark Aquash, the case provides a local look at our ongoing discussion of systemic oppression.

Hamilton continues:

“You’re never going to gain the full recognition of your freedom from your oppressor,” argues Glen Coulthard, member of the Dene Nation and author of Red Skin, White Masks, in an interview. “They will only recognize you to the extent that it serves their own interests. The effect that that recognition being given to you has on the dominated or the colonized is that they come to see that gift of recognition as a form of justice or decolonization itself. You think recognition is actually freedom and decolonization, but it’s really colonization in a new form.” The recognition that Vancouver city council has offered to Indigenous peoples only extends to the acknowledgement that Vancouver occupies unceded territory. This primarily benefits Vancouver city council and other political parties because it creates a semblance of sensitivity and self-awareness. The formal acknowledgement falls short because it only acknowledges one aspect of settler colonialism rather than the multitude of ongoing violence and traumas. It does not recognize the historical or ongoing role of Vancouver city council in settler colonization through practices such as policing and community dispersal of the Downtown Eastside community, where economically marginalized Indigenous peoples are over-represented.[4] Nor does it begin to engage in the difficult work of moving beyond metaphors and gestures and towards changing the material conditions underlying the daily warfare of colonization.

Hamilton’s piece includes a great many references to scholarship and historical research into the British Columbian and North American history of colonialism, and poses difficult questions for those of us who have been contemplating the moral reasoning of John Stewart Mill, Immanuel Kant, and John Rawls.

Continuing with the theme of our ethical studies, it is likely best to begin from a place of discussion. And as a means of approaching this local issue, about which many of us likely hold some opinion – however informed or unformed we feel our own views to be – in a critical fashion, let us begin by looking at the lenses of moral philosophy we have been working with this week:

  • How might each of these three moral philosophers approach these recent events?
  • Are there ways in which they might agree?
  • Where do you see their thoughts on indigenous land claims diverging?
 

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Harvard’s Justice and the Morality of Murder

To introduce our study of ethics and social/political philosophy, we’ll be viewing the introductory lecture(s) by Michael Sandel in Harvard’s JusticeIn addition to the introduction to the two major schools or moral reasoning – consequentialist and categorical – Sandel’s brilliant facilitation throughout the series stands out as a remarkable feat of intellectual discourse. By highlighting the guiding principles underpinning our ‘gut’ reactions to the thought experiments, the lecture/discussion serves as a model of respectful dialogue, as well as an invitation to engage everyday topics with an open mind.

Upon completing the discussion, Sandel poses three questions I would like to pose here for our own debate and introductory musings on morality and ethics. Please add your thoughts to one or more of the following prompts in the comments to this post:

  1. Do we have certain fundamental rights? (Follow up: What are they? Why can we assume that they exist?)
  2. Does a fair procedure justify any result?
  3. What is the moral work of consent? In other words, Why does/can consent make the amoral moral?
 

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The Penrose Tile, Continued

Zonohedron #3: Penrose tiling

Image courtesy of Flickr user Andrew Hudson.

I took Vincent’s comment on my recent post about the Penrose Tile to some mathy friends of mine online, asking what they thought of his extension of the concept:

I feel that the golden number does appear in several ratios, but at the same time I feel that we are searching for that ratio in nature, rather than trying to disprove it. It feels like were saying look at all these examples that follow the golden ration (I totally support the golden ratio ideology, its just that it seems too convenient) and we aren’t pointing out any that disprove it. In science, empiricism, logic, rationalism, and basically everything that creates theories; the goal is to disprove your theory and therefore prove it.

I don’t know of any examples of this theory appearing false of course, but I don’t know if we have searched for any. Therefore, I wonder, is there anything that disproves this golden number theory, the magical sequence of 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21 . . .?

David Wees is a math teacher who used to be based in Vancouver before relocating to New York, and had this to say as a reply to Vincent’s thoughts:

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 9.18.33 AM

 

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Comment from the Internetz

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqiTQCbiMWA&w=560&h=315]

A comment left on the archive of our Epistemology discussion of Reality, Perception & What can be Known:

I think it looks like the quiet students are the ones deep in thought. I was a quiet one back in school and still am. Very well spoken students! Thoughts were so well said and expressed by. I would have been one of the ones in school who sat and listened for fear of speaking out, sadly. In my mind I thought all sorts of things but how would anyone know if it is not expressed to everyone? I guess I did not have a bold personality.  Little did I realize how trivial my fears were and still are.

This environment and community of open discussion is so very valuable and provoking. Especially that these are young people who are just starting to delve deeper, yet are already so knowledgeable. And discussions like this in a large group do not happen very often with young people.  I love how they bounce ideas off each other so well and how you guide them through the discussion.

It is inspiring to see your enthusiasm and commitment to the students and also your own zeal and enthusiasm throughout. As well as being able to maintain and let the students speak with out interrupting or become too immersed. very cool. This school keeps getting better. The students energy is amazing.

It is amazing you are able to capture this. Really makes one think about … well everything!

 

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Ethics Discussion Schedule & Posts

Screen shot 2013-12-04 at 12.46.29 PMAbove you’ll find our rough schedule for discussions on various ethical topics we plan to address in the coming days. In addition to being able to join our class proceedings via #ds106radio, or Google Hangout (stay tuned to the #Philosophy12 hashtag on Twitter or @bryanjack’s account to find links to these talks) beginning at approximately 10:20am (PST) on the days listed, Philosophy 12 invites you to engage in dialogue around these topics on posts coming across the course site as of today.

Here are links and brief excerpts of the ethical issues we are investigating:

I have the Right to Die – Andrea R. and Ramona K.

Immanuel Kant believed that the moral rules can, in principle, be known as a result of reason alone and are not based on observation. He believed that reason can be revealed in the basic principles of morality. These principles are goodwill, duty and categorical imperative. His categorical imperative states that we should act in such a way that we can all will the maxim of our actions to become a universal law. An objective principle, in so far as it is obligatory, is called a command (of reason), and the formula of the command is called an imperative. All imperatives are expressed by the word ought, and indicate the relation of an objective law of reason to a will which is not necessarily determined by it. They say that something would be good to do, but they say it to a will which does not always do a thing because it is conceived to be good. “What makes a moral act right?” And this happens to be what we are looking for, in the sense of what makes euthanasia right?

The Ethics of Voting: Not Efficient, Not Ethical, What’s the Point? – by Aidan C. and Lazar A.

The problem is, that we, as members of a democratic system cannot view voting as an ethical task. It must be an act which is performed at the out-most interest of oneself, so that the leaders of our country can take action as our representatives. We ask, that shouldn’t the very foundation of a democratic system be ethically correct towards its people, since the system itself is made upon ethical views? No, it does not, because the second you begin voting for the wants and needs of those around you, a) you cannot know what they want, and b) which person’s wants and needs do you vote for? For instance, what everyone votes for the wants and needs of one person…that does not bring a greater good to the most people either, therefore, once again at an ethical stale mate. Concluding, although unethical, voting is the key to a system which strives to be ethical.

Wikileaks vs. the Government – by Julian P. and Imtiaz P.

“Big brother is always watching you” is a widely used phrase that was written by George Orwell, to emphasize an omnipresent, seemingly benevolent figure that represents oppressive control of individual lives, who is absent in the believe of morals and or ethics…

Online Piracy – by Dylan A. Cassidy P.

Is piracy actually theft? Technically speaking, theft happens when person A takes something from person B. Person B now does not have that thing which they originally had and person A now has that thing which person B had. Because this object is not being physically stolen from anyone, is it truly considered stolen? This isn’t the case for Internet piracy. When you download something online, you aren’t taking that thing, you’re making a copy of it. The original author hasn’t lost their work, there’s just more of it around now. Now that’s not to say that if the author didn’t originally put their work up for free online that they aren’t getting the money that they asked for, so in that way people would argue that it is stealing. So that’s when online piracy becomes very messy, and we’re stuck in between two sets of views that are both agreeable yet can’t exist together within the current ways that copyright infringement is dealt with.

The Ethics of Animal Experimentation – by Katherine B. and Jessica P.

Mill’s utilitarian ethics would agree to medical animal experimentation, as we see an exponentially greater amount of “good” brought into the world from the harms we committed in order to bring about that good. Animal testing for medical research and drug development also satisfies a higher level of utilitarianism. The “good” (of progression in medical research), brought about by the “harm” (of testing on animals) is being created for an altruistic reason; to benefit and improve the health of all human lives. In contrast to cosmetic animal testing whose purpose is to satisfy debateably superficial wants, scientific animal testing is being used to grant people a higher quality of life.

Ethnics: Get Out! – by Julie, Aman & Emily

…citizens are wondering if multiculturalism is a failed experiment but Habermas disagrees and states that they should continue to embrace multiculturalism and not resort to tactics such as relying on the support of right-wing populists like the Netherlands or having a ban on building minarets like Switzerland. Although xenophobia seems to be spreading in some areas of the world Habermas believes that if we get to know people from other countries and we get to experience their culture, then we will realize that this is the best way to live.

Power: State vs. People – by Jade, Ayden & Deion

Questioning the government seems to be somewhat of a common thing amongst the population. We criticize the amount of power that our state has, yet we do nothing to make a change. The idea of having no control in our own society enrages many of us. If this is a fear that we all have, why don’t we step up and take the power?

Democracy gives us of legal age and registration the ability to vocalize our preference in political leaders. But with the ability to control the majority in government, what do we do with it? Sheep give their trust to their herder in where they choose to guide them. Similarly, people invest their trust in an elected leader. Ironically, people can be lead to ignorant knowledge.

Stay away from the Bacon! – by Heather M. and Kristina S.

Pigs are the 4th smartest animal (excluding humans.) They are only outranked by elephants, dolphins and chimps (and humans.) They learn as quickly as chimps. They can recognize their own name within only a week of being born. Guess how long it takes a human baby.

HALF A YEAR.

And their names are probably called a lot more than these piglets, so consider those implications. They continue exceed the capability of any 3 year old child, and most toddlers speak by then. They are far more intelligent than your cat or dog, too.They can recognize and remember up to 30 other pigs.

Capital Punishment – by Tyler L. and Leon C.

“As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated” said Amnesty International. In 1973, over 140 people had been released from death rows in 26 states because of innocence.  Hugo Bedau, a philosopher, who’s most ambitious work was “The Death Penalty in America” and took up the issue in “The Case Against the Death Penalty” which was a pamphlet distributed widely by the American Civil Liberties Union. He was the first to make general empirical argument against the capital punishment as said by Michael Radelet.

Safe Injection Sites – Ashley A. and Sophie T.

Many argue that providing a place for drug addicts to continue using is logically and ethically wrong, as it is encouraging illegal activity with no legal intervention or consequences. People who oppose these safe injection sites also believe that it isn’t right to enable these people to continue using, rather than helping them decrease the amount of drugs they are taking or getting off of the drugs all together. To some people, giving addicts a place to consume illegal, dangerous intravenous drugs is equal to giving people with chronic depression a place where they can “safely” kill themselves. The only safe place that these people believe that drug addicts belong is in jail and/or a rehabilitation program.

Economics, Inequality & Enlightenment – by Mr. J

…should the goal revolve around creating *enough* social cohesion to bring about greater justice than presently experienced? I was watching another talk hosted by Sandel the other night (about the moral justification for wealth-redistribution) where someone in the audience said that those in favour of redistribution don’t put their best foot forward when they present the “selfish” argument for paying higher taxes: “You will have a better healthcare system if we all pay.” The more powerful argument, this person posited, was that members of a community (family, province, nation… planet?) have an inherent obligation to one another. We are all members of the same family, in other words, and thus taxation for the benefit of all not so much a case of taking from one to give to another, but something we all do for the good of all (which includes each of us).

 
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