Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


A Trip Down Memory Lane

My question going into the Phil’s Day Off project was “what are memories and how do they relate to the self?” In order to tackle my inquiry I used The Bundle Theory of the self and I first had to address how a memory is created. My plan was to research experiences, memories and the self on Saturday in order to have enough information to hold an interesting conversation with my family members on Sunday. I wanted to collect a bunch of different opinions and information and synthesize them in order to form my own philosophy about memories and the self. In addition to this I also did a lot of self-reflection on my own experiences and memories and how they have contributed to who I am today.

On Saturday I researched how memories are created and what is necessary to turn an experience into a strong memory. I found some really interesting articles, from a variety of sources, including one about why you should stop trying so hard to make memories in the social media age. It introduces the term “futurepast” and poses the question “when did we go from living our lives to striving for memories?” I also found an article about the intergenerational trauma in First Nations communities as a result of Residential Schools. The article explains that self-destructive behaviour develops as a result of unresolved trauma and that these behaviours can then be normalized within a family or community and passed down to subsequent generations. This article highlights just how significant an affect experiences and memories can have on the self and the fact that future generations can be impacted by second-hand trauma. I found another article explaining the science behind creating memories which listed criteria for an experience to be memorable. These criteria include the novelty of the experience, the amount of attention a person is paying, and the strength of the emotions evoked. As a result of my research I created a mind map to lay out my ideas for discussion.

View post on imgur.com

On Sunday I conducted a conversation with my parents over dinner in attempt to develop a more personal understanding of the topic. We ordered sushi and talked about the following topics, which I took notes on. Here are some of the highlights:


  • Memories attached to specific items or places
    • Do the material objects hold a piece of the self?
    • Wedding rings, first car, childhood home, bagpipes, etc.
    • A symbol of important experiences
  • Incorrect memories
    • Why do we remember somethings incorrectly?
    • We remember what other people told us about one of our experiences instead of our own memory
    • Some incorrect memories are a mix of multiple experiences, this results in a memory that never actually happened
  • The self as you age
    • becomes more concentrated as you get older, only really important memories remain
    • when you are young you have fewer experiences and can remember a greater portion of your self
    • more experiences are novel and “life-changing” when you are a child
  • Dementia and the self
    • When you lose your memories you lose chunks of your self
    • You revert back through important past memories and eventually childhood memories
      • This implies that the self is constantly shaped by experiences and memories throughout our lives, starting in childhood.
  • Can other people’s memories affect your self?
    • Yes, my parents have bad memories of skiing and I’ve never skied in my life
    • My Opa loved soccer and played it all his life, my Dad also loves soccer and I played soccer throughout my childhood. My Opa’s positive memories of soccer affected my dad and my dad’s memories of soccer affected me.
    • Family values and culture are created by the experiences and memories of parents and have a significant impact on who the kids become.
  • Kids growing up in the social media age
    • They will have access to thousands of pictures and videos of themselves from the moment they were born
    • Will this affect the self?
    • Will this affect the role of memories in their lives
  • Earliest or significant childhood memories
    • We mostly remember experiences from when we were about 5 years old.
    • Do you not have a complete self until you are around 5 years old?
    • We don’t have a specific first memory of parents because they were always there
  • Shared experiences
    • Everyone remembers things slightly differently, different things are important to different people so they focus on different parts of an experience
    • Are shared experiences better?

While completing my Phil’s Day Off project I was able to gain knowledge and develop conclusions that have contributed to my own personal philosophy about the self. The first of which is that the non-physical components of the self or memories are more important than the physical components of the self or the chemical reactions and atoms. When it comes to making you who you are, experiences and memories are far more influential than the body they are contained in. If anything the body, like social media, is just a platform through which we can interact with others, experience, share and express ourselves. This idea can be supported by looking at dementia, when someone has dementia their physical self is still present and functional, they look the same. However, they are slowly losing their memories and their ability to interact with the world around them, they are losing their self and their ability to continue to build up their self. Without their memories chunks of their self are missing and they aren’t the same person.

Another thing I realized is that no two selves are the same, although people may have many shared experiences they can’t have the exact same memories of said experiences and therefore can’t have identical selves. Even if two people experienced the exact same situation they would remember things slightly differently based on what is important to them, what they were focusing on, and the emotions they felt. This can be illustrated by interviewing people after a crime has taken place, people that all witnessed a shooting may remember numbers of shots fired, the appearance of the suspect or the getaway car differently. Although they all saw the crime take place they focused on different parts of it and none of them have the whole story. Therefore, the self is completely unique and also a very subjective record of experiences.

My final conclusion is that the self is dynamic and always changing because we are constantly having new experiences and creating new memories. People can change drastically throughout the course of their lives and part of growing up is having new experiences and finding yourself.  An example of this is the change in self that occurs when people move away to attend post-secondary school. For many it is the first time they have lived on their own, they are being exposed to vast amounts of new information, and they have the freedom to meet new people and try new things. The strong emotions and novel experiences presented by this situation are perfect conditions for strong memories to be made and collected by the self.

While conducting this project I also looked for real-world applications of the knowledge I had gained about the self. The strongest message I took away from this project was that memories are more important than material objects. With Christmas only a month away it is easy to get caught up in holiday consumerism and focus on the giving and receiving of presents when we should really be thinking about making memories and spending quality time with family and friends. One way to do this is to give people you care about experiences instead of presents, you can take them to a play or concert, try a new restaurant, or even plan a road trip. If you are looking for ideas or interested in learning more, check out the Create Memories, Not Garbage website.

In a very meta and unplanned way I actually had the chance to put my philosophy to work in real life and reflect on it. As a volunteer leader at a science club for elementary school girls I play a role in creating “self building” memories in the girl’s lives. This past weekend our theme was Genetics and we led the girls in chemically isolating their own DNA, an extremely cool lab that most people wouldn’t encounter until Biology 12 or university. For many of them Genetics was an entirely new concept and they were extremely excited and proud of their little vials of DNA. I believe that for many of them, this experience will become a strong memory and contribute to their future selves. The goal of the club is to help young girls develop the confidence and passion necessary to be a woman in STEM, it provides them with female role models and opportunities to explore different areas of science.

I know that this club has a significant impact on the girls who attend it because I was a member. I have a wide range of vivid memories from the club, including dissecting a tilapia, developing homemade pinhole camera pictures, and doing the UBC Botanical Gardens canopy walk. Part of my “self” was built as a member of the club, I developed a love for science and as a result I am pursuing a future in medicine and medical research. Some people may say that my future in science was determined before I was even born or that the physical components of my “self” make me interested in the sciences; however, I strongly believe that the experiences I had and the memories I collected as a young girl in the club are truly responsible.





Defining Aesthetics

Photo courtesy of nitrok-d747vvj on Deviantart

By Angela and Kimberly

Aesthetics revolves around stimuli that provoke emotional responses from organisms. Its source is the biological mechanism in an organism that responds to stimuli, while the object is something that provokes the stimulation. An example of an object could be anything that someone finds beautiful; a piece of art, a piece of music, scenery, emotions, etcetera. Humans perceive certain stimuli as pleasing because every behavior has a biological basis. This perception is highly subjective, and varies from person to person. This can be proven using an example; for example one person may find a painting very beautiful, while another may find it extremely hideous. This sense of aesthetics depends highly on culture and nurture.

“Aesthetics … is the study of all activity from the perspective that we are orienting ourselves to have certain perceptions (experiences)”. -Colin Leath, The Aesthetic Experience



Foundation of experience construct knowledge

Knowledge is constructed on a foundation of previous experience.

As the diagram I presented on the board the other day (Pic), clearly demonstrated how knowledge (the house) derived from a solid fact or previous experience (the base, groundwork). Different from the house that was simply a “house” which indicated knowledge is simply knowledge without external support, or in another word, justification. 

In this case, experiences are considered to be the external support of the structure. Of all the decision we made, we intended to refer the same scenarios we’ve experienced, or those similar ones for the sake of better judgement. Therefore, a solid base is formed for future process. When in terms of knowledge, it is the same theory. For example, a government has the intention to conduct a population census, they will definitely go over the previous history of record despite the differences that occured. Since the mode is the same regarding the differences in the new era, we can recognize this as previous history (experience) provides the foundation.


According to foundationalism, our justified beliefs are constructed like a building: they are separated two parts which contain a foundation and a superstructure. Superstructure relies more on the foundation. Beliefs belonging to the foundation are basic. Beliefs that affiliated to the superstructure are non-basic and receive justification from the justified beliefs in the foundation, which again proved the structure of knowledge derives from the structure of justification. In order to make this statement sound, two obstacles must be resolved

  • firstly, by conscious of exactly what are basic beliefs justified?
  • Secondly, how can basic beliefs justify non-basic beliefs?

In order to clear this confusion, two concepts should be introduced: Doxastic Basicality (DB) and Epistemic Basicality. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_belief

Doxastic Basicality (DB)

Sam’s justified belief that p is basic if and only if Sam’s belief that p is justified without owing its justification to any of S’s other beliefs.


Let’s think of an example. Suppose we notice Mr. Jackson’s stylish shirt, and we also notice that that shirt looks light blue to us. So we believe:

(J) It appears to us that Mr. Jackson’s shirt is light blue.

Normally, (J) is an example of a justified belief. DB tells us that (B) is basic if and only if it does not owe its justification to any other beliefs of us. So if (J) is indeed basic, there might be some item or other to which (J) owes its justification, but that item would not be another belief of yours. We call this kind of basicality ‘doxastic’ because it makes basicality a function of how our doxastic system (our belief system) is structured.                                                                                                                                                   Let us consider the question of where the justification that attaches to (J) might come from, if we think of basicality as defined by DB. Be aware that DB merely tells us how (J) is not justified. It says nothing about how (J) is justified. DB, therefore, does not answer that question. What we need, other than DB, is an account of what it is that justifies a belief such as (J). According to one strand of foundationalist thought, (J) is justified because it can’t be false, doubted, or corrected by others. So (J) is justified because (J) carries with it an epistemic privilege such as infallibility, indubitability, or incorrigibility. The idea is that (J) is justified by virtue of its constitutional nature that makes it possess some kind of an epistemic privilege.

Be aware that (J) is a belief about how the shirt appears to us but not a belief about the hat. So (J) is an belief about a perceptual experience of ours. Think of the thoughts we’re considering, a subject’s basic beliefs are made up of introspective beliefs about the subject’s own mental states, of which perceptual experiences make up one small set. Other mental states about which a subject can have basic beliefs include such things as having a headache. Beliefs about external objects do not and indeed cannot qualify as basic, for it is impossible for such beliefs to own the kind of epistemic privilege needed for the status of being basic.
Some other opinions said (J) is justified by some further mental state of ours instead of the privileged things. And that is a perceptual experience that (J) is about: to us the shirt is light blue. If ‘(E)’ is that experience, based on this, then (B) and (E) are distinct mental states. The idea is what justifies (B) is (E). Since (E) is an experience, not a belief of ours, (J) is, according to DB, basic.

Epistemic Basicality (EB)

Sam’s justified belief that, p is basic if and only if Sam’s justification for believing that, p does not depend on any justification Sam possesses for believing a further proposition.


EB makes it more difficult for a belief to be basic than DB. In order to understand, we turn to the chief question (‘C-question’) that advocates of experiential foundationalism face:

Why are perceptual experiences a source of justification?

Compromise position, which meant to be compromise between foundationalism and coherentism, can be applied to answer. This will show the differences. If we accept this, beliefs such as (H) will qualify as basic according to DB, but according to EB as nonbasic.
Coherentist will say we might think the C-question as: Perceptual experiences are a source of justification because we are justified in believing them to be reliable.
Basically, making perceptual justification dependent on the existence of reliability-attributing beliefs is quite a problem. There is a replacing answer to the C-question that appeals to reliability without making perceptual justification dependent on beliefs that result from reliability to perceptual experiences. According to this second answer to the C-question, perceptual experiences are a source of justification because we have justification for taking them to be reliable. That’s the view we shall call the compromise position.
We have justification to believe that p does not necessitate that we believe p. If we believe that the person next to us wears a blue hat, we have justification for believing that the person next to us wears a blue hat or a red hat. We’re having justification for attributing reliability to our perceptual experiences doesn’t necessitate that we have given thought to the matter and actually formed the belief that they are reliable. Simply speaking, if our perceptual experiences are a source of justification for us, then we must have considered the matter and believe them to be reliable. The compromise position says no such thing. It says merely of that.

Generally, we can briefly consider how justification is supposed to be transferred from basic to non-basic beliefs. There are two ways:
The justificatory relation between basic and non-basic beliefs could be deductive or non-deductive.

  • If we take the relation to be deductive, each of one’s non-basic beliefs would have to be such that it can be deduced from one’s basic beliefs.
  • If we consider a random selection of typical beliefs we hold, it is not easy to see from which basic beliefs they could be deduced.

Foundationalists, typically conceive of the link between the foundation and the superstructure in non-deductive terms.

‘for a basic belief, J, to justify a non-basic belief, J*, it isn’t necessary that J entails J*. Rather, it is sufficient that, given J, it is likely that J* is true.’