Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Human, all too Human (BBC Documentary on Sartre, Heidegger, & Nietzsche)

From the good folks at the Open Culture blog:

Human, All Too Human” is a three-hour BBC series from 1999, about the lives and work of Friedrich NietzscheMartin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre.The filmmakers focus heavily on politics and historical context — the Heidegger hour, for example, focuses almost exclusively on his troubling relationship with Nazism.

Beyond Good and Evil, Frederick Nietzsche

Human, All too Human, Martin Heide






The Meaningfulness of Lives

While running

In what I have called an age of economics, it is even more urgent to ask the question of a meaningful life:  what it consists in, how we might live one.  Philosophy cannot prescribe the particular character of meaning that each of us should embrace.  It cannot tell each of us individually how we might trace the trajectory that is allotted to us.  But it can, and ought to, reflect upon the framework within which we consider these questions, and in doing so perhaps offer a lucidity we might otherwise lack.  This is as it should be.  Philosophy can assist us in understanding how we might think about our lives, while remaining modest enough to leave the living of them to us.

Todd May writing in the New York Times 

I left a link to the story quoted above on Liam’s post about the nature of life’s meaning if not provided from an external ‘god’ force or intelligent design. But many of the conversations we have had – and will have – are the logical extensions of many of our metaphysical concerns.

It is no random act that organizes our philosophy course in the order that it does, as questions about What is, and What is it like naturally lead us to consider what we can know objectively (or personally/subjectively) in such a world, and then onto – based upon that knowledge – what it is that constitutes a good life.

This assumes of course that a ‘good life’ is in some way connected to life’s purpose. Though perhaps that is a debate worth having as well.



What Makes a Hero? | An introduction to the work of Joseph Campbell


From Wikipedia, here is an introduction beyond the components of the Monomyth presented in the video:

As a strong believer in the psychic unity of mankind and its poetic expression through mythology, Campbell made use of the concept to express the idea that the whole of the human race can be seen as engaged in the effort of making the world “transparent to transcendence” by showing that underneath the world of phenomena lies an eternal source which is constantly pouring its energies into this world of time, suffering, and ultimately death. To achieve this task one needs to speak about things that existed before and beyond words, a seemingly impossible task, the solution which lies in the metaphors found in myths. These were statements that pointed beyond themselves into the transcendent. The Hero’s Journey was that story of the man or woman who, through great suffering, reached an experience of the eternal source and returned with gifts powerful enough to set their society free. As this story spread through space and evolved through time, it was broken down into various local forms (masks), depending on the social structures and environmental pressures that existed for the culture that interpreted it. The basic structure, however, has remained relatively unchanged and can be classified using the various stages of a hero’s adventure through it, stages such as the Call to Adventure, Receiving Supernatural Aid, Meeting with the Goddess/Atonement with the Father and Return. These stages, as well as the symbols one encounters throughout the story, provide the necessary metaphors to express the spiritual truths the story is trying to convey.

I think there is an interesting overlapping with our recent reading about Nietzsche’s notion of Self-Styling, explained here by Cameron Afzal

Self-styling compliments a naturalistic outlook, it doesn’t destroy it. Art will not replace religion, but it can provide partial cures for the nausea we are exposed to in a world of honesty and nihilism. While it may seem to be opposed to naturalism, self-styling is indeed the most pragmatic way to balance aesthetic satisfaction and naturalistic affirmation without compromising a scientific perspective by purporting to represent the self and the world as they exists, only as we might imagine them to be. 

What do you think Nietzsche would make of Campbell’s Monomyth? Or Campbell of the idea of “self-styling”? Are these two sides of the same coin, so to speak?




Many thanks to GNA Garcia who shared this brilliant history of philosophical satire on twitter today:

My crowning moment in word serendipity is seared into my brain. I was thumbing through Paul Hellweg’s ”Insomniac’s Dictionary” when I stumbled upon the word resistentialism , which Hellweg defines as ”seemingly spiteful behavior manifested by inanimate objects.”

Reading that definition, I had what can only be described as a revelation. I felt that an entire category of my experience had been uplifted from the Cimmerian realm of the Inexpressible into the clear, comforting light of the Known.

Here, at last, was a word for the rug that quietly curls up so it can snag your toe, the sock gone AWOL from the dryer, the slippery piece of toast that always hits the floor jelly side down. Here, at last, was the word that explained the countless insolent acts of things, especially the infuriating intractability of plastic wrap.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines resistentialism as a ”mock philosophy which maintains that inanimate objects are hostile to humans” and calls it a ”humorous blend” of the Latin res , thing(s), and French résister , to resist, with existentialism . The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Fifth Edition (2002), perhaps in resistential defiance of its title, expands that definition to ”a mock philosophy maintaining that inanimate objects are hostile to humans or seek to thwart human endeavours.”



The Examined Life | Cornell West and the Pursuit of Truth


Cornell West covers a lot of ground in this 7′ taxicab ride: the courage historically written into the language of philosophy and its various expressions across music and arts. He weaves an epic and energetic thread deftly, to be sure; but what do you make of his major conclusions?

Among the many points he’s making here, how would you characterize his overarching idea?