Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Three Hours of Doing Hoodrat Stuff – Lyle H

It was Sunday night at around 9 PM, and I didn’t know what to day for my Phil’s Day Off, which was due tomorrow. I decided to take a walk. I have given some thought to how destiny can be affected by something as simple as your outfit. I dressed in all black, and put a hat on, and went out into the night. What was initially going to be a brief Sunday night stroll wound up being a 3 hour adventure through the labyrinth of Westwood Plateau.

I wanted to answer a few questions: Do I have a destiny? Are my choices predetermined or are they my own? Was I destined to take the route I take?

My plan was to have no plan. I took an undetermined walk around my neighbourhood, with the only details being I would record my route, and note anything I saw on the way. Here’s the route I took:

 

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The first point is my house. From there, I went to my old elementary school at Point A. On the way there, I saw an enormous owl in a tree beside the trail I was walking on. Owls kind of scare me because of the whole 360 degree head turning thing, and their eyes strike me as very lucid when I shine a light on one that’s staring at me. At my elementary school, I walked around until I heard a weird noise coming out of the external PA speakers. This is something I never noticed before. I walked up the next part of the trail from there, but it was very dark and I was scared of going up the forested trail, so I went up a staircase from the trail to a cul-de-sac at point B. I walked up the street and saw a second owl that scared the poop out of me when it flapped up to a nearby tree. This one was very clearly interested in me, and I quickly moved on. I walked around to the top of the crunch, where the spooky trail would have taken me anyway, quickly detouring to a pump station surrounded by a barbed wire fence. I walked around the perimeter, accomplishing nothing but getting my shoes extremely muddy. At the top of the crunch was a car parked to the side of the road with the headlights on. The dome light kept coming on for a few seconds at a time, and then fading away so I couldn’t see anyone inside. In the brief moments of light, I saw two people sharing one front seat. I choose to assume they were exchanging platonic massages, and nothing more.

I accidentally scared some guy walking down the trail, despite my best efforts. From here, I cut through a forested path. This was easily the scariest part of my trip. I constantly felt like I was being watched as I walked through, and was checking behind me, seeing things in the trees. I was happy to break through into another cul-de-sac. I decided to push on, and found myself at the Westwood Plateau golf club. I sneaked into the parking lot and for a few minutes pretended I was a diamond thief or a serial killer – watching the few closing workers shut down the restaurant for the night. I seriously considered jumping over the fence onto the actual golf green, but decided against it. From here, I called up my cousin, Brock, because it was getting a little lonely. We met up at his house, and walked towards Eagle Mountain Park. We didn’t do much, just walked and talked. I took a good minute at the Meridian Substation, which is a huge enclosure of electrical towers and conduits the power the neighbourhood. It has a weird vibe, kind of like the power station in Stranger Things. We found an open gate onto the golf course, just a few minutes later, so naturally we headed in. There wasn’t much to see, so we carried on up to a little playground called Tanglewood Park, which is about as North as one can get in this area and still be in suburbia.

From there, I walked home. I arrived at my house around 12:30am, and it seemed my parents didn’t even realize I left. I slipped inside and kicked off my muddy shoes, and went to bed.

So what was the point of all of that?

I wanted to see if there was anything drawing me to where I ended up. I was open to any kind of manifestation of destiny presenting itself, and used every sense to decide which way to go – left or right. If I had come across a car accident or some other event I would be able to help or participate in, I would be more convinced of a pre-planned destiny. The only pull I felt was motivated by instinct and emotion. Detours like the pump station and substation were motivated by curiosity. Getting out of the forest and into the cul-de-sac was motivated by anxiety and fear. This still leaves the question of whether I was always bound to do what I did that evening. And really, how could I know? I do know however, that if my trip was pre-planned, it clearly did not have much in store for me. It wasn’t dull, but it wasn’t that exciting. I tried to keep destiny on it’s toes, making choices that I wouldn’t make normally.

I have concluded that I am in full control of my choices. I have no way to know for certain, but I am pretty confident that my life is a series of yes or no questions, quite simply. If I were to make a physical representation of this model, I would add the third dimension to show things that can influence your choices, shown by peaks in valleys of the line of ‘destiny’ in the key. This probably isn’t clear without an image, but I don’t have one, so allow me to make it more convoluted with my wordy explanations.

Suburban Hell, breeding ground for teenagers like this guy. Courtesy of abcdunlimited.com

I don’t believe an omnipresent force like destiny controls our actions or decisions. I think they are influenced however, by external factors in the more tangible world. I was motivated to turn right instead of left because I was scared of being in the dark forest by myself. So fear motivated that decision. These influences can be things like the actions of others, the invisible forces in someone’s head, or any number of things. I believe the only things controlling our decisions are: tangible influence, and statistics.

Phil’s day off ended with muddy feet and tired legs, but I refined my opinion on destiny, all while spitting in it’s face. It’s good to be a skeptic.

 

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Oscar’s Week Off | A Choice of Self- Inquiry

 

My Plan?

Initially I really did not have a plan, in fact, these past weeks have been mind-clogging and in truth, the entire unit of metaphysics has not embedded a seed of clear understanding in my brain as it should be. Regardless, my plan for my P.D.O. was to go through an uninterrupted period of meditation to answer questions of my own self- an ideal I aspire. While I pondered over my existence and jousted mentally with myself, I found it incredibly difficult to decide on how I should go about my P.D.O. as this ‘day off’ was starting to turn into a week off- this ‘plan’ I had ended up being scrapped.

Upon trying to gather and create options, narrow them down and eventually take action through a process of decision making, I realized that I was doing exactly what I told myself not to do- to overthink and strive for perfection. I had too many options to choose from and while I continued to I agonized over this ‘Day-Off’ I had finally arrived to moment of clarity. I could watch some home videos I had never watched but had just been “shelved”, only for me to visit these digitized VHS tapes fifteen years in the future!

First Inquiries going into P.D.O.

Metaphysical questions. Always present, often never conclusive. After finally deciding what I was going to do going into my P.D.O I generated too many questions to be comfortable with answering; most of which subsided into my sub-conscious mind and never made it out alive onto this web-page. In any case, here is a handful of questions I gathered going into my P.D.O:

  • How is my mind and body actively contributing to each and every choice I make?
  • Are the choices I’m making actively making me grow in the mental essence? In the physical essence?
  • As I believe in free-will, at what extent am I living the best version of myself? How do I know the choices I am making are contributing to the unveiling of my best ‘self’ version? 

As these questions continued to expand, I questioned whether I was or was not living an optimal version of myself during the course of my ‘day off’ or whether my choice to sit down and view “ancient” home videos was to bring the best e-motions (literal energy motions) within me; emotions that could prompt me to seek more questions about self-knowledge.

What Actually Happened:

Everything actually worked out pretty nicely despite my indecisiveness that prolonged throughout the week. I sat down at around mid-night, uninterrupted on a Friday night where I rolled back the tape (literally, well maybe not because it was digitized) and took three solid hours to be left mesmerized by my existence throughout 1999-2003. These years fabricated the detachment from my own existence where my existence preceded my essence. Essentially, these years marked the transition between the mechanisms of a being and a Being. In hindsight, the year 2003 marked the beginning of my essence in which viewing these videos prompted me to think how much I actually knew of myself? If memory does support the bundle theory, than my past is simply a mere conjunction of qualities and not a substance- what would be of myself if my own memory was suddenly withdrawn from my physical essence?

Suddenly, I found myself choosing to take a path of self-inquiry; I was striving to seek answers to strengthen the knowledge of my own self based on past and present but not future.The American/English philosopher Stuart Hampshire’s argues that the question, ‘Who am I?’ requires a person to engage in a process of rational, reflective detachment from the first-person point of view. In direct correlation to this statement, viewing a periodic video of myself that took place at the beginning of my life states that I could now pursue my aspirations- to be more self-knowledgeable. Being self-knowledgeable in my views, lays on the foundation of every choice and action you make because that is the only realistic or “action-based” way to go about ‘things’; when thoughts and choices formulated within the mind can be expressed in the physical, spacial world.

 

Remaining Questions? Artefact?

Now that this blog is quite literally giving me a headache I’d like to introduce my artefact. I found the original VHS tapes laying somewhere in the depths of my basement. Each tape, essentially being a consequential chapter in my mind, can be rolled back and ‘fast-forwarded’ much like my brain can do within my own memories. I may wish to roll the tape back or fast-forward towards any point in my life but never in the future, for that would require the creation or introduction of another new VHS tape.

In short, none of my questions were answered but I only formulated more doubts and reasons to comfort myself because metaphysics has just clogged my mind with the nature of ‘things’ being too complex to discuss.

Image result for vhs tape

As this post is beginning to become somewhat of a headache, I’d like to state my remaining questions as follows:

  • What is the bridge between freedom of choice and self-awareness? How are they linked together?
  •  How is ‘reflective self-detachment’ possible in our day-to-day lives? Is this only possible through travelling through memories (in the mind, through pictures or videos?) and through lucid dreaming?
  • What kind of power can “successful” reflective self-inquiry bring upon our lives? Would we be able to make the ‘best’ and right choices without much doubt?

Questions I will try to never answer but will always want to answer…

 

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Dream Worlds, Astral Planes, God is Dead, and Something Controls Our Every Move – Lyle Hendriks

The discussion was a weird meld of what I would describe as tinfoil hat level conspiracy, psychedelic drug level insight and paranoia, peak breakdown level existentialism, and ego death level self-awareness.

My discussions in Block 2 philosophy were added to by such minds as Jamie Fajber, Ashlee Ann, Emma Jeurgensen, Jason Forster, Martin Norman, Claire Lundin, Ben Mendes and others.

We discussed everyone’s topics, some more confounding than others. Horrible, mutated examples of the English language came up, such as Martin’s question: “How do we know that we know what we know?” Who knows? Jamie asked a question looking to disprove Descartes’ syllogism supposedly proving the existence of a god. As an atheist, Jamie was infuriated by this supposedly irrefutable argument, and I was curious about his reaction. A purely theoretical syllogism that has no real bearing on anyone’s life totally shook Jamie’s theology, which tied in partially to my own question of destiny.

Throughout an exploration of destiny and it’s impact on humans, I have gotten a clearer idea of what I believe human decision making to look like. I described this to the second group I was in, and I got even more clarity because of it. I see a human life as a dichotomous key, a series of yes or no choices with several branches cascading down from the point of birth towards the point of death. This tree has billions upon billions of potential ways it could go, with some tree branches potentially leading to a much later or earlier death. Some key decisions could totally alter later events, who you become as a person, or when you die. However, only one tree branch is explored fully. Your tree can be augmented by the trees of others, as branches combine and overlap, your choices may be influenced by external forces, such as other people or inanimate objects.

I explained that I believe that inanimate objects have some kind of destiny. In the book 127 Hours, the story of a climber and hiker who becomes trapped in a canyon when a boulder rolls down and pins his arm to the canyon wall. On the third day or so, with almost no water and no food, he has a vivid dream/hallucination where he has an epiphany about his situation. He sees the rock coming down to earth as a meteor millions of years ago, he sees every choice he has ever made in his life to become the type of person to be a hiker, to be the type of person to enter that canyon, to be the type of person to do it without supplies. Every choice in his life leads to this moment – and he faces one more choice. Just a few hours after his epiphany he makes the choice to break his arm and cut it off with the blade of his multitool.

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The gruesome scene of Ralston’s self amputation. Was it destiny, his own choices, or sheer bad luck that he ended up here? Courtesy of Atria Books

 

This idea of destiny will be explored in my ‘Phil’s Day Off’ post. Check it out next time.

 

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Free Will, Determinism, and Destiny – Lyle Hendriks

Is free will real?

    1. Are events determined by ‘destiny’?
    2. Is every event just a result of statistical probability, the past, and laws?
    3. Is any choice our own?

This morning, I made a choice on what to wear. It probably won’t change my day much, but what if I did decide to wear something else? If I were to be fall in love with someone that I had instant chemistry with because they liked something I was wearing, some might say that it was ‘destiny’ that I wore that outfit on that day. However, when I was getting dressed in the morning, I had the choice to wear anything I wanted. Was destiny controlling me?

I aim to look at free will, and the agents that hope and claim to have it. In my series of blog posts, I’ll be focusing on human agents. I have done some reading on the subject that was pretty dense and hard to understand – let me try to condense a couple things I found interesting. One theory that gives an interesting idea to the philosophy of free will is called ‘Casual Determinism’. The very short version of this complicated theory is that if humans had perfect knowledge of every event in the past, and perfect knowledge of every law that affects events (physics, evolution, etc), and had perfect, infallible logical reasoning, then they could predict the future. This seems like a stretch, and personally I disagree with this theory. It doesn’t account for some things that I see to be unpredictable, especially the human aspect of life. Humans are unpredictable, motivated by intangible constructs like greed, sex, narcissism, jealousy, anger, and others. Even if you have perfect knowledge of what every person has done in the past, mental health issues could come up that totally change who they are and how they act.

The other theory I found interesting is called the ‘Reasons-Responsive View of the Will’. This can be explained with a quote:

“A reasons-responsive view of the will says that Allison’s volition to walk her dog is free if, had she had certain reasons for not walking her dog, she would not have decided to walk her dog. Imagine what would have happened had Allison turned on the television after waking from her nap and learned of the blizzard before deciding to walk her dog. Had she known of the blizzard, she would have had a good reason for deciding not to walk her dog.”

-Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

What this means for human agents having free will is that they can always choose whether to do or to not do something, which leads to new yes or no choices. With my example of what I chose to wear today, Reasons-Response View of the WIll says that I have the choice to put on the clothes I am wearing, or to not choose them. Then I look at the next option in my closet, say yes or no, and then the next if necessary, etc. I think that this is a pretty close match to my own views on free will. I don’t believe that humans have a destiny, simply a dichotomous tree that begins at birth and ends at death, with billions of unexplored pathways, and one fulfilled to completion.

This has been a very interesting introduction to an extremely complex topic. Although a lot of the reading that I have done so far is dense and difficult to understand, it offers many different viewpoints to one question: “Do humans have free will?” Find out next time (probably not but I need to keep my readerbase up)!

 

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Metaphysics: Free Will Pt.2

Robert Kane, one of the leading contemporary philosophers on free will, advocates for what is known as “libertarian freedom”, which holds the position that free will exists and determinism is false.

Kane’s argument states that “alternative possibilities (or the agent’s power to do otherwise)” are a necessary condition for the ability to act freely, but that alone is not enough. His argument is based around what he refers to as “ultimate responsibility” (UR)

“UR: An agent is ultimately responsible for some (event or state) E’s occurring only if (R) the agent is personally responsible for E’s occurring in a sense which entails that something the agent voluntarily (or willingly) did or omitted either was, or causally contributed to, E’s occurrence and made a difference to whether or not E occurred; and (U) for every X and Y (where X and Y represent occurrences of events and/or states) if the agent is personally responsible for X and if Y is an arche (sufficient condition, cause or motive) for X, then the agent must also be personally responsible for Y.”

Or in more simple phrasing:
“an agent must be responsible for anything that is a sufficient reason (condition, cause or motive) for the action’s occurring.”

Kane also talks about what he refers to as “self-forming actions” or SFAs. SFAs being those moments of indecision during which people experience conflicting wills. If a person has had the opportunity to make a character-forming decision (SFA), he is responsible for the actions that are a result of his character.

But Robert Kane doesn’t seem to take in to account WHY someone makes the choice that they do, for him, merely having the ability to do otherwise is enough for free will to exist, but can we really say that they had the ability to choose otherwise? Sure on the surface, if we were to decide between two options, such as choosing between cake or ice cream, it would seem clear that we have the ability to choose either, but if every factor, no matter how minute is taken into account, from the temperature in the room to the chemicals in our brain, to the very nature of the choice that we are given with that all contribute to the circumstances of the situation, do we really have the ability to choose otherwise? Sure we may have full motor function, we might be capable of picking up the ice cream instead of the cake, but there is more to a choice than merely physical limitations. If the agent in question dislikes ice cream but loves cake and hasn’t eaten in quite a while, they may have the physical ability to pick up the ice cream and ingest it but they don’t truly have the ability to choose the ice cream. Why we do something contributes just as much if not more to our ability to do something than our physical capability. If there is no reason to choose the ice cream and several reasons to choose the cake, then the agent in question will choose the cake. If there is a reason to choose the ice cream and that reason is more important to the agent than the pleasure gained from eating the cake, then they will choose the ice cream. If there is no reason to choose either, then the agent will attempt to choose randomly, but by choosing randomly the choice is not theirs, it is also still directly caused by the agents actions. For example If they decide to spin a bottle and whichever it is most closely pointing too will be chosen, the outcome will be a direct result of several factors such as how hard the bottle is spun, how much it weighs, where in relation to the bottle the two choices are placed.

To say that one has the ability to choose otherwise is absurd as there are countless factors influencing the choice and if the situation were to be recreated with all the factors exactly the same, then the outcome will be exactly the same. How then can we say one has the ability to choose otherwise if the other choice is never made, And how can we say that the agent is responsible for the choice when there are so many other factors influencing the outcome that are independent of the agents consciousness?

I retain my personal stance that free will cannot possibly exist, but much like with solipsism, does it really matter? Realism is far more convenient. If there is only one possible outcome but we can’t know what that outcome will be, then we still must act as though we are in control of determining that outcome ourselves. Even if the universe is deterministic, we have no way of knowing what that determined plan is, thus it doesn’t really have any bearing on how we act.

 
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