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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Humanity & Appreciation – K’naan

         What is art really? During our philosophy class, based on are discussion, there are many opinions about what is considered good “art,” whereas some of us believe its just a piece of work that gives us satisfaction when viewing it, having no specific point behind it, while some of us believe every kind of art has some kind of initial meaning behind it, or perhaps a message, made with an intention in mind. Art gives us a way to be creative and express ourselves. In other words, art is something that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing to our eyes. Although it lacks a satisfactory definition, it is easier to describe it as “the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others”

One piece of art that is significantly meaningful to me, is the song “take a minute” by K’naan. K’naan declares in “Take A Minute,” the importance of humanity, patience, and quiet strength, in which places K’naan within a humane tradition, familial, communal, and artistic perspective:

And any man who knows a thing knows
He knows not a damn, damn thing at all
And every time I felt the hurt
And I felt the givin’ gettin’ me up off the wall

I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze

How did Mandela get the will to surpass the everyday
When injustice had him caged and trapped in every way?
How did Gandhi ever withstand the hunger strikes and all?
Didn’t do it to gain power or money if I recall

It’s to give, I guess, I’ll pass it on
Mother thinks it’ll lift the stress of Babylon
Mother knows, my mother she suffered blows
I don’t know how we survived such violent episodes

I was so worried and hurt to see you bleed
But as soon as you came out the hospital you gave me sweets
Yeah, they try to take you from me
But you still only gave ’em some prayers and sympathy

Dear mama, you helped me write this
By showing me to give is priceless

And any man who knows a thing knows
He knows not a damn, damn thing at all
And every time I felt the hurt
And I felt the givin’ gettin’ me up off the wall

I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze

All I can say is the worst is over now
We can serve the hard times, divorce, it’s over now
They try to keep us out but they doors is open now
My nigga, Akon is gettin’ awards and covers now

Comin’ out of Mogadishu and still draped in the mess
And no matter how we strong, homie
It ain’t easy comin’ out of where we from, homie

And that’s the reason why, I could never play for me
Tell ’em the truth is what my dead homies told me
Ooh yeah, I take inspiration from the most heinous of situations
Creating medication out my own tribulations

Dear Africa, you helped me write this
By showing me to give is priceless

And any man who knows a thing knows
He knows not a damn, damn thing at all
And every time I felt the hurt
And I felt the givin’ gettin’ me up off the wall

I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze

Nothing is perfect man, that’s what the world is
All I know is I’m enjoying today
You know ’cause it isn’t every day that you get to give

And any man who knows a thing knows
He knows not a damn, damn thing at all
And every time I felt the hurt
And I felt the givin’ gettin’ me up off the wall

I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze

I got nothin’ to complain about
You know where I’m from
You know where I’ma last, so
You know I was flyin’ high

I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze

The song take a minute by K’naan, embraces several messages as the lyrics go on.His overall message states that one should appreciate life with regards that we are granted with a lot, therefore, we should appreciate all we are given in our lives as he says “Nothin’ is perfect man, that’s what the world is”

He also states that we should give to those less fortunate, always keeping in mind that no matter what we may be facing in life, someone is always going through worse, and needs help “How did Gandhi ever withstand the hunger strikes and all / Didn’t do it to gain power or money if I recall / It’s to give; I guess I’ll pass it on” and “But you still only gave ’em some prayers and sympathy / Dear mama, you helped me write this, by showing me to give is priceless”

Furthermore, as his lyrics display, he says to slow down and enjoy each day of our lives for what it is worth “And every time I felt the hurt and I felt the givin’ gettin’ me up off the wall / I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride, i’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze”

History’s influence on his music

K’naan is a poet, rapper, singer, song writer and an instrumentalist who is highly famous for his rap, currently singing for Hollywood records. Born in Somalia, he spent his childhood in Mogadishu living there until the start of the Somali Civil War, which began in 1991. When he was 13, K’naan and his mother, along with his three siblings, left their homelands settling in New York City for a brief amount of time then moved to Canada in Rexdale Toronto, which was a large Somali community. As he began improving in speaking English, he began rapping, and travelled around North America, performing constantly. He was given the opportunity to perform at the United Nations 50th anniversary concert in 1999, held in Geneva, where he used his platform to publicly criticize the United Nations handling of the Somali crisis in the 1990s.

K’naans music embraces the big picture of appreciation and realization. Growing up with the Somaili Civil War occurring, it influenced him a lot, as he expresses it in his music. Most of his songs encompass a similar message of appreciation, with the realization that many individuals around the world are going through many struggles each and every day, therefore we must always keep in mind how much we are granted with.
K’naan demonstrates a melodious grasp of rap, and connects to various parts of the African disaspora. His music reflects an international perspective, where he talks about life, family, and love, and about the morality he learned at home as well as Nelson Mandela and Gandhi.

 

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For the sake of knowledge, let’s just assume.

The past few days in class, I got a chance to see what the philosophical society defined one of the ideas that I thought of in the first unit “Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry. Now when studying epistemology I can add considerable information and include new concepts to express my thoughts.

At the beginning of the course, in class, we were discussing “Truth”, which in itself is tied inextricably to epistemology. The next following days, I came to a simple conclusion. We really cannot know something to be 100% true. Absolute truth in my opinion cannot be found as long we perceive things. The moment we attempt to measure something, that “thing” changes because we are measuring it in Human terms and Human instruments. A Human Bias if you will.

Perhaps assumptions would be a good replacement for “lies”

Now in epistemology we can delve deeper into Truth, Belief, and Justification, and their roles in how we know things.

Henry Ford’s assembly line

How I like to view of how we reach knowledge or learn in general, is by looking at the process as just that: a process. I see how we know and develop our thoughts as a assembly line, continually developing and refining raw materials and adding to the scaffolding or blueprint provided.

At the start, we must have some idea of what we want to know or would like to know. I see this as belief in epidemiological terms. Belief is defined as holding something as true in your mind despite a lack of evidence for it. The way I see it, it seems like the raw material in an assembly line. In some cases it may be sufficient. If you are a grocery store, the raw apples are enough for you. No further refinement is needed. Through this vein, belief looks to be a fundamental item in the progression of knowledge. The scientific progress that our century has enjoyed is due largely to the conjectures and beliefs of scientists who later went out and sought corroboration for their theories, or in other words refinement.

Taking all this into consideration, how do we know what we’re doing is actually refining the product? How do we know what we’re adding to our belief isn’t just more beliefs? Knowledge, if taken as belief that has been proven true through supporting evidence, is a fickle thing. True as used in the previous sentence is tricky as well.

Now going back to my opening remarks, the knowledge with which we pride ourselves with may simply be stronger beliefs stacked supporting beliefs that are less so. I think this is the case. Setting aside “what if” examples, we can truly investigate what is behind our human knowledge. On the assembly line metaphor, we cannot construct or attain raw and unbiased knowledge because the machines with which we process it are man-made. The human bias of simply observing through our organic eyes, nose, skin, tongue, and ear alters what really is there. Nothing is translated perfectly without distortion. That distortion is what accounts for the problem of knowledge.

It is often written that knowledge is “true belief”. The belief part of this is straightforward enough, but “true” is a problem. If we are defining true as the objective and ultimate truth, “true belief” and consequentially knowledge cannot actually exist, again due to the human bias.

The way I see it, however, is in terms of practicality. I pose the question: “does it even matter?” What is the use of doubting our own senses and interpretation of the different wavelengths of light flying through the air. If as long as we exist and observe, we cannot attain objective truth, why worry? Yes, it’s important to recognize that knowledge in its technical and pure form cannot be attained by us mortals, but, perhaps more importantly, knowledge as defined by our limitations is definitely possible. We must assume truth to learn and teach without doubt.

 

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Nature? What Nature?

It is one of the oldest questions: What is the nature of man? Is he by nature good and reasonable, as argued by Butler? Or is he instead evil and selfish, fulfilling Hobbes’ description of life as nasty, brutish, and short? And if the latter is true, is man still redeemable, either by reason or action, or is he condemned to be of that fallen state forever?

Worthwhile questions, to be sure; but I reject the concept. ‘Nature’ is a funny word – we use it to apply to so much, but it really doesn’t actually mean anything. What is it? Some nebulous concept of a person’s character? There are some people we would call ‘good’ and some people we would call ‘evil’. Who are we to say which is the default? Furthermore, no one in the history of the world has actually considered themselves ‘evil’. People always act as they believe is justified, whether that means killing six million Jews or devoting a life to the service of the needy.

Indeed, this pigeon-holing of people as ‘good’ and ‘evil’ has dangerous ramifications. Doing so makes it easy for us to cast off immoral actions as the result of evil people, letting us go on with our lives safe in the knowledge that people who do bad things are just bad people and we’d better try our best to stay away from them. But this is simply a denial of reality. No one is intrinsically ‘evil’. Everyone is simply human; no more and no less. To label someone as ‘evil’ is to deny their humanity, and by extension, to deny that they are the same as you and I. For that is the most important thing to remember when we speak of ‘evil’. We are not speaking of monsters, of deformed boogeymen and incomprehensible lunatics. We are speaking of people. We are speaking of people with mothers and fathers, of people with brothers and sisters, of people who cried when they skinned their knee as a child and felt scared when the older kids walked by. If you want to understand ‘evil’, you cannot separate it from our basic notions of humanity.

This answers the question, I think, albeit in an indirect way. What is the nature of man, but man? How can you declare seven billion people, with all their different lifestyles, morals, and experiences, to be one thing or another? Every action, ‘good’ or ‘evil’, is the product of all that has come before, just as every person is the product of everything that has happened to them during their life. What was it that led Joseph Stalin on a different path than Mother Theresa? Were they born fundamentally different beings? Did God send one as a plague upon the world and the other as an angel? Or is the thing that separates them rooted in the experiences that shaped their mind and formed their world? Indeed, how could it be anything else?

We see, then, that we cannot ascribe the character of men to some vague, generalized notion of ‘human nature’ that is applicable in all cases. Every person is different, and every person will have their own biases, assumptions, and experiences. That fact must be the fundamental basis for understanding humanity. The nature of man lies not in his universal goodness, or his lack thereof. The nature of man lies in his variety.

– Liam St.Louis

Follow me on Twitter: @LiamtheSaint

 

 
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