Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Humanity and Freedom part 2 – Jessica Lewis

In My last post, Humanity and Freedom, I mentioned the idea of humans and freedom. My first question for this assignment was are humans free? to gain more knowledge on the freedom of humans I read an article called, Morning as the Origin of Humanity. The article helped me gain a firmer grasp on what it means to be free but as much as it helped it also confused me, New questions were raised from the article. These new questions were are we as free in death as we are in life? These questions led me to the conclusion that could there be an afterlife? Is there a whole purpose to this ride were on? I understand that the question about purpose seems rather far fetched from my original questions but it isn’t, My question led me down the path of religion and the argument many historians, priests and realists have argument for years, Religion or reality?

 

In a discussion with Laike on April 11th We  brought up both our topics and immediately knew we had similar ideas. As regards to my question are humans free? Me and Laike talked about how although we feel free we really aren’t. In society today we are confined by gender roles, Societies view and religious restrictions.  Lake merged our questions together and we came up with God. Due to us both having religious backgrounds it wasn’t hard to think back to all the rules that comes with Christianity. One of the examples we spoke about was Adam and Eve and how god gave us freedom but took it away so quickly ( and some may argue we are still paying for it today ). Talking to Laike allowed me to have more insight as to how religion plays a role in our lives just as much as gender roles does. In the conversation I brought up the idea of school. I related it to freedom and how we ‘feel’ free. We come to school and yes, some people hate it but they still come. W mentioned how yes, we do have the right ( once 16) to refuse to come to school but it doesn’t mean were free. Deciding to not come to school anymore till have strings attached and isn’t as easy as just never looking back.

 

In Our class discussions I found that although we had similar ideas, The differences were that some interoperated story’s and quotes from the Bible in different ways. Some interpreted Eve eating the apple because the Snake wanted to give us sin or some say that the snake was right and god simply wants to confine us from freedom. One finding I think everyone in my group came to was that the question of God,as with religion, wont be ever be answered.

 

In a second discussion on April 12th, when we  formed a bigger group with other students in the class, The topic of God and the restrictions of religion was yet again the topic of discussion. Helena, Laike , David and Shem all borught up interesting points about why and how do we react to certain aspects of religion. In the discussion It was mentioned that some people find safety In looking to some Higher Power, It gives some people relief. We also talked about how the Bible doesn’t always make sense. For example, As mentioned previously, ‘God’ punished Adam and Eve for eating the fruit and its said that everyone now is born with that ‘sin’. However in the new testament on the Bible things were changed and rules were altered. Why? and how? If the Bible was so real why doesn’t  it make sense? and if the religion constricting us to roles and rules is false, maybe we are free after all? or maybe ourselves are what is restricting us? Are we sub consciously confining ourselves?

 

 

 

 

 

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The Golden Ball

Philosophy can be seen as questioning the mere existence of reality, and this questioning goes beyond our material world. In the material world, reality is confined to “facts”, information and experiments that give us a false sense of reality and logic. Further more, this fascination the human brain has with the materialistic world may have its essence in the way we think, the way we think on the surface.Things we can understand that fit in with our experiments and laws that have been declared by sets of theories that have been only developing for only couple hundred years seems to give us comfort, a sense of security about this mysterious phenomenon we call life. On the contrary the human brain is so complex it also finds comfort in “abstract ideas”, such as theism and variety of dogmatic, ritualistic practices that give the illusion of an higher being, a deity that keeps you safe or destroys you with his wrathful will. A loving god that will take your soul to heaven, after you die. Death, A concept that has fascinated the human brain as far as the time our story began. Science argues that after death there’s no more existence as we know it. Our biological body decays as cellular death occurs. Does this mean our consciousness cease to exist as well? Or is there more to this phenomenon more than we can imagine. Philosophy, aims to ponder deeper into these thoughts. Is there a certain, ultimate answer? Probably not, as most of these abstract ideas such as the nature of self or how human consciousness really works ; create more questions that seem to have no answer. So? What’s the point of spending time and energy on philosophical ideas? If you would like to be believe the human race is even more fascinating than the way science perceive to be, then perfection of wisdom, pursue of enlightenment would be the path that you wouldn’t be able to wonder of another way. Philosophy is transcendental, it doesn’t favor different perspectives but the wise and the enlightened. Philosophy does not have facts to be discovered it doesn’t have information to live upon. Philosophy is a gateway to higher state of thinking and consciousness, where you can discover more about the very nature of human existence and more about you. Philosophy satisfies our fascination with mystery while having you guessing and questioning the idea of mystery it self. If knowledge is an ever expanding ocean of ideas that has existed and will exist in the future, than philosophy is a golden, glowing ball of fascination thrown into to the ocean of knowledge. It sinks and sinks to the very essence of the ocean. It doesn’t stay in the surface, for the surface of this ocean is visible. It is visible to the by standers whom have no idea how deep the ocean is. They are too stunned by the beauty of the ocean they see yet they refuse to acknowledge the dept of ocean. Praising the beauty of the ocean from the shallow end seem to be safer, it gives them comfort But the enlightened,he follows this golden ball of fascination deep into the ocean. As the ball goes deeper it sheds light upon the very darkness of the ocean of knowledge. The enlightened dives further, following the ever sinking ball. it gets darker and colder as he leaves familiar waters. As it gets darker, the ball still sheds light into the darkness, clearing a path for the man. Then he realizes, he finds comfort discovering the unknown. He realizes that the darkness will continue as the golden ball seem to shed more and more light as it sinks. This satisfies his curiosity, his craving for wisdom. Now that he’s deep in the ocean, he doesn’t see the purpose of admiring the beauty of the waves that hit the shallow shore, where people stand and watch. Does he keep following the golden glowing ball or does he go back to share what he has seen?

 

 

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Heaven Is Probably A Place On Earth

the-meaning-of-lifeI will try my best not to delve too deeply into paragraph upon paragraph of religious bias. If you don’t enjoy the topic, skip ahead now.

A great number of people live because there is supposedly a God, or another superior form waiting to submit them into heaven, an afterlife, or anything else that is far greater than the flawed Earth we live on. But, the question is: do we need something greater to live for? We are all alive, but we can only live based on what we choose to believe. For instance: faithful people require a purpose in life to secure their purpose in death: admittance to paradise. It’s satisfying to firmly believe that “death does not bring about their complete annihilation” (MHR Philosophy Unit 2: Metaphysics, 114).

Three Saturdays ago, just before I was about to leave my house to catch a bus, a Jehovah’s witness quietly knocked on my front door. Not wanting to be rude, I entertained him by watching a video he had pre-loaded on an iPad. It attempted to answer why, if there is a God, there would still be suffering and grievance. For those of you not interested in religion-related media: basically, the Bible says suffering happens because there is an “evil power“.

Although I didn’t appreciate having to once again be pummelled with the dodgeballs of religion, I suddenly understood why this is comforting for some. Many people don’t like to think that humans are at fault for terrible happenings! If a higher power is responsible for turmoil, it must mean all humans are innately good.

However, it is not a source of despair to refute a higher power. We have what we have: an “impossible universe full of awe and wonder … [and] an infinite number of questions we can work on”(Jillette, God, No!, 229). We must live by leaving it be, not by letting faith guide us. This is my bias, but am I enforcing this upon you? No. Choose to believe whatever you want, because you will always be an individual.

Trash_Religion_b-on-w_no-siteThe core of “living” is individuality. Humans can never have a common, shared life experience, no matter how much they are in each other’s company. I can’t think, thought-for-thought, in the exact same manner as the brains currently in this room.

  • Can we know that there is a superior being?
  • Can we know that there isn’t?

The frustrating short answer is no, but the existence of superiority should not prevent us from living on our own “rational” thoughts: well, that is a whole other subject.

 

 

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Baruch Spinoza

Baruch Spinoza was born on November 24th 1632 in Amsterdam.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ea/Spinoza.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ea/Spinoza.jpg

He was the son of a successful merchant. Although his mother tongue was Portuguese, he also knew Hebrew, Spanish, Dutch, French, and later Latin. In 1653, at the age of 20, Spinoza began studying Latin with Frances van den Enden (later known as an atheist and a radical democrat), who introduced Spinoza to scholastic and modern philosophy.

When his father died in 1654 renounced his inheritance and gave it to his sister. Spinoza then adopted the Latin name Benedictus de Spinoza, began boarding with Van den Enden and teaching in his school. During this time Spinoza met the Collegiants, an anti-clerical sect with tendencies towards rationalism. During this time many of his friends belonged to group that rejected the authority of established churches. It is not certain when Spinoza began doubting the bible and all that it says but it is claimed that it was the result of a lengthy internal struggle.

Now branded as a heretic, Spinoza clashes with the church became more pronounced. After his father’s death in 1654, Baruch Spinoza ran the family business but had to give it up when it ran into significant financial difficulties. It was then that he decided to devote himself to philosophy. In 1656, the Jewish community in Amsterdam issued a ban of Spinoza. Spinoza spent his remaining 21 years writing and studying as a private scholar. It was then that he worked on and wrote his novel “Ethics”. During this time he worked as a lens-grinder for microscope and telescope which was said to have caused his death in 1677.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/Spinoza_Ethica.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/Spinoza_Ethica.jpg

Spinoza’s philosophy was largely based around the bible. He believed that god exists and it abstract and impersonal. When he was younger and was studying Descartes, he disputed his theory that the body and mind are two separate substances and said that they were a single identity. He also contended that everything that exists in Nature is one reality and that there is only one set of rules governing the whole of the reality that surrounds us and of which we are part.

Spinoza also viewed God and Nature as two names for the same reality that is the basis of the universe and which all other entities are actually just modifications. He also believed that everything that has and will happen is a part of a long chain of cause and effect that cannot be changed. No amount of prayer or ritual will sway god. Only the knowledge of God allows us to best respond to the world around us. Spinoza was a determinist and believed that everything happens for a reason. According to him, humans do not have the possibility to say “no” to events that will happen, but we have the possibility to say “yes” and fully understand why things need to happen that way. When we say “yes” to things that happen and understand more about what’s happened, we become more free and more like God.

http://www.yoism.org/images/SpinozaBanknote.JPG

http://www.yoism.org/images/SpinozaBanknote.JPG

Spinoza lived a modest life and did not become well-known until his death. Once his book was published posthumously, he became known as one of Western philosophy’s more important thinkers. Philosopher Georg Wilhem Freudrich Hegel said that all contemporary philosophers are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all. I think that his modest upbringings greatly affected his work. He was shunned by his community at a relatively young age. Most of his philosophy was affected by this and his views of God were also determined by his childhood mentors and friends especially Frances van den Enden. Arguably one of the things that he is best known for is laying the groundwork for the 18th century Enlightenment.

I think that it’s truly incredible that he was able to make such pronounced statements about thing that we still are not sure of today. Spinoza’s naturalism (the idea that nothing exists beyond the natural world), was incredibly controversial and still is today. The thing that has surprised me the most is how sure he was of his beliefs even when they contradicted the social norm of the era.

 

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God, Christ, and Creatures -Aman

“I perceive and bless God for it, that my Lady Conway was my Lady Conway to her last Breath; the greatest Example of Patience and Presence of Mind, in highest Extremities of Pain and Affliction, that we shall easily meet with: Scarce any thing to be found like her since the Primitive times of the Church.”

-Henry More

Anne Conway was a rarity. There’s no other way to put it. She was a great female philosopher who worked with many men in the field. Being a woman at this time was hard, and to become respected in your field was very, very uncommon. However, Anne did it. After her death, the book she wrote was published and all her ideas were shown to the world. Anne was radical in her way of thinking, but she was true to what she believed and as you can tell, her mentor (Henry More) was very proud of that fact.

Anne was born on December 14th, 1631 and died on February 18th, 1679. A week before she was born, her father died. Her mother remarried and she had other siblings added to the bunch. Her childhood was spent studying languages and dealing with an ailment. When she was twelve years old she suffered a fever and from then on, she experienced periods of severe migraines. Due to this, they tried a number of different treatments including cutting her jugulars, trying tobacco, coffee, opium, and other dangerous things. None of the remedies worked and she eventually succumbed to her illness.

Anne Conway’s intellectual capacity was not breached though. Her step (or half) brother studied at the University of Cambridge and through him she met Henry More who was a Cambridge Platonist. Since she was a woman, he could not teach her at the university so they corresponded through letters. Their relationship was strong and soon enough, Anne Conway became Henry More’s intellectual equal. The remained friends for life. Henry More taught Anne on a Cartesian basis. They discussed famous philosophers like Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, Hobbes and Spinoza. They discussed things on a Cartesian basis. Later, however, Anne’s study of the Jewish kabbalah led her to break ties to the Cartesian way of thinking.

Anne did get married and later was pregnant. She had a son named Heneage who died in infancy with small pox. Ms. Conway would not release her baby and became sick with small pox herself. She did recover however, and continued with her passion for philosophy.

In Anne’s last few years, she lived with a doctor named Francis Mercury van Helmont because her headaches were so severe. He introduced her to Quakerism, and she eventually converted. Shortly after, she died and her book was published (The principles of the most ancient and modern philosophy).

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Anne Conway felt that she had suffered a lot in life with her illness and loss of her child. Instead of this being an excuse to be tragic, she used it as a way to see good in humans. Anne’s book specifically studies the metaphysics of sympathy. Due to her suffering, she looked at other mortals and discovered that everyone suffers and because of our suffering, we have the greatest capacity to be sympathetic. She believed in a hierarchy of “species.”

The highest level is God.

He leads to “Middle Nature” or Christ.

Which then leads to “Creatures” or the mortals on Earth.

Her idea was that God is perfect because he is fair, just, loving, wise, caring, joyous, and all things good. His essence flows into Christ who is perfect, but not as perfect. And then the essence flows to mortals who are good but not perfect. In this system, everyone and life is good because God is good. She did not believe in the material body because God is life itself, so the material body contradicts God’s nature. As well, she believes everyone can become more spirit-like because mortals are made of spirit and particles called monads while God is all spirit. Creatures are different from God because of the sheer number of Creatures. God can create infinite creatures but there is one God. To Anne, God was unchangeable.

Middle Nature, or Christ, is God’s communication medium. Through the second level, God delivers messages of being good, just, and loving.

God communicating through Christ.

Anne believed that creatures can become a more spiritual substance, and that all things are capable of increased goodness. She believed that suffering was a long journey on the way to spiritual recovery. She did not believe in Hell because God sending others to an eternity of punishment is unjust and contradicts his nature. The biggest theme is that Anne believed pain and suffering led to greater beings. 

Suffering and pain leads to a greater being.

Anne wrote her book to appeal to all religions so that everyone could get a glimpse on what humanity is all about. However, these were her ideas and in her book she did criticise other philosopher’s ideas like Descartes, Hobbes and Spinoza. Anne was radical with her way of thinking and looked down on those who believed in material substance.

A quote I find that coheres with Anne’s theory is:

“We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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Anne’s idea of life is an interestingly optimistic one and how it affects our mindset is very contradictory. First, her nature to believe in good is admirable, but in this society it is very unrealistic. Second, the fact the religion plays such a heavy role in this idea often makes it unappealing to others. Her ideas may be radical but her principles can hold true in some way to many people. For example, God is an all round perfect being to those who believe. He is good,divine, and has the power to create Creatures. However, many people may disagree with things like mortals being made of a spirit like substance. One thing for sure though, is that in her hierarchy system, all beings are connected and something that many people are believing now is that everyone and everything is connected. The flap of a butterflies wings on the other side of the world affects me, at this moment, while I write this blog post. Finally, her idea that suffering leads to recovery is one that many people hold true. Humans like to believe that with the bad times, come good and that the good is well worth the bad.

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Her ideas were hers and she stayed true to them though which is something to be taken out of this. As well as the fact that she was a prominent female philosopher at a time where women were not considered equal. Her determination and passion led to her success and allowed her to overcome many sufferings. Her idea may not be one I fully agree with, but there are aspects of it that I can agree to, sometimes. In all honesty, it depends on my mood whether or not I think humanity is inherently good.

On one hand, when reading Anne’s idea I like to believe that the suffering and pain is worth something and that everyone has sympathy towards others because of the pain. I want to believe in the good of people, in the good of God. On the other hand though, I find sympathy an effective tool but I believe empathy is far superior. I think her idea would jive with me better if empathy was the root of all good. Either way, it depends on my view on humanity at the moment as well. Sometimes I see the good and sometimes I see the bad. Even within myself, I find it hard to believe whether I’m all good or bad. Her theory is so radical that you have to be in a specific mindset all the time, but I’m not, most people are not. Life is always changing and progressing so it’s hard to pick one theory to truly believe in. I guess there’s not really something with my philosopher that I am confused about, I’m more confused with the idea of living by one philosophy. How do these great philosopher’s do it? What does it take?

 

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A Flawed Pragmatic Argument for Religion

Reading some stuff recently, I stumbled upon a really interesting argument for the justification of religion, it went:

1. The Belief in God gives Practical Benefits

2. All Beliefs giving Practical Benefits are Pragmatically Justifiable

3. The Belief in God is Pragmatically Justifiable

Now, this is an example where the argument, is neither, sound, nor valid. Breaking down the syllogism, The Belief in God is (A) or The Subject Term, Practical Benefits is (B) or The Middle Term, and Pragmatically Justifiable is (C) or The Predicate Term.

But, breaking down the syllogism, we can find that the syllogism is potentially valid, because believing in God could possibly give Practical Benefits, and All Beliefs that are practical are justifiable.

However, where this syllogism falls short, is that it commits 3 major fallacies, Relevance, Ambiguity, and Presumption.

First, let’s break apart the first premise, “The Belief in God gives Practical Benefits”, this has 2 main problems first, it presumes that believing in God gives Practical Benefits, because as far as I know, it isn’t backed up by scientific or experimental data, and fact. Secondly, it falls short, because it is ambiguous, Practical Benefits is a highly ambiguous term, it could mean a multitudinous amount of things. It could be practically beneficial in the realm of giving power to the Church, it could be practically beneficial for health and etc.

But, where the entire argument collapses like a house of cards is because it is simply irrelevant. Note, how statement 1 states that Belief in God is Practical, but going around full circle, Statement 3 states that Belief in God is Pragmatic. Looking, at the definition, and connotation of Pragmatic, we can conclude that Pragmatic, and Practical are the same thing. So, therefore, Statement 3 = Statement 1, and (C) = (A), and it makes a huge show out of actually getting nowhere at all.

 
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