Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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The Real Ideology is the Friends We Make Along the Way: An Extremely Belated “Plato’s Cave” Post

In Plato’s cave, the shackled prisoner reaches enlightenment upon entering the real world. From there, he is portrayed as having achieved the ultimate level of knowledge. I don’t find myself entirely agreeing with Plato’s allegory, as I believe there is always more to discover on our journey to the goal of enlightenment. I see our knowledge as constantly evolving and growing. An occasion in which I can look back on and realize it was a form of “enlightenment”, only to later have the knowledge attained from such enlightenment evolve and change, is the very first book I had ever read on political theory; Marx for Beginners.

For those of you unaware, Marxism is a form of socioeconomic analysis focusing on class struggle. It originates from the works of Karl Marx and Fredierich Engels, and what you are most likely aware of, is that Marx and Engels wrote the “Communist Manifesto”. The Manifesto advocated for the creation of a socialist society that would transition into a communist one, and called for united proletarian revolution. Communism would entail very literal, absolute equality; all property being commonly owned, each individual working and being paid according to his own need. No social classes, no currency, no state. At the small, simple age of 13, I was entranced by the idea of a world where equality would be real; I had decided that I was to become a radical Communist, bring glorious proletariat revolution to the decidedly politically moderate Canada, and essentially become a miniature, 5 foot tall, female, Iranian-Canadian Che Guevara. I was decidedly obsessed, and I glorified the concept and some of its key figures: Lenin, Trotsky, Luxembourg, and Castro. On some level, I held the belief that criticisms of communism could only come from the privileged bourgeois, trying to induce a red scare. The fact that Communism was such a taboo only made it more alluring, and it didn’t end with that one book. Some samples of what I came to read include: the original Communist Manifesto, The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, select few of Chomsky’s work, and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Of course, at 13 years old, I barely understood what I was reading.

Other factors spurred my intense passion for Communism further; my best friend’s grandparents were real life, Chilean Communists who had been persecuted by Pinochet, who were only happy to repeat their heroic tales of bravery in the face of Fascism. This was also only a year after the Occupy Wall Street Protests had died down. At the same time as my introduction to Marxism, I started to become a Feminist. With that, came the analysis of patriarchy, intersectionality, and oppression in works from authors such as Bell Hooks. The concept of privilege politics was introduced to me via feminist and anti-racist theory. Thus, my very first political beliefs were formed, and “radical” ones at that.

Upon reading the People’s History of the United States, I was appalled by the western world in which I had been brought up in. This too, felt like a form of enlightenment. I couldn’t fathom the horrors of history that had never been addressed, the injustice against indigenous peoples, the whitewashing of our history so as to make us appear to be the ever constant heroes. The anti-communist propaganda brought about in our culture through McCarthyism and the first and second Red Scare, historical events like the banning of the Communist party of Canada made me see that the society we lived in could be just as unjust as those we adored to criticize. I thought I really did have the world entirely figured out at that point; all we had to do was have an inter-sectional, feminist, anti-racist, LGBT inclusive, revolution to destroy Capitalism, Colonialism, and Imperialism!

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi truly depicts the young revolutionary

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi truly depicts the young revolutionary

In the 4 years (wow, it really doesn’t feel that long) since I discovered politics and the political spectrum, I’ve discovered again and again that it’s not as black and white as I once thought. That I was wrong about some things. The dictatorial figures I had felt were unfairly slandered by the West, Mao and Stalin, were discovered upon actually reading into historical accounts to be the murderous, in the case of Stalin, genocidal, cruel, and authoritarian figures they were said to be. After hearing the testimonies of those from Eastern Europe who suffered under Stalin, learning about the long, brutal spectre left by Communism on Eastern Europe, the testimonies of those from China who are still suffering from Mao’s legacy, I knew I could no longer place my ideology on a pedestal of glory. Fidel Castro himself may perhaps be the most morally-grey historical figure I have yet to read about. Turns out no ideology, no country, holds a monopoly on mass murder.

My view of privilege politics has evolved, I have come to view it as too simplistic and western-centric to adequately summarize the oppression of various marginalized groups worldwide, and too often misused. No ill will towards the passionate defendants of course. I can see where it’s coming from, it was my very first introduction to the concept of social justice, and I certainly agree with the basis that certain groups have an advantage over others on a systematic level. I still consider myself a Feminist, but my personal views on feminist issues such as pornography and prostitution have evolved time and time again. Most importantly, I have found that even those on a different side of the political spectrum or debate oftentimes want what they believe to be the best for the world, or if you discuss a concept long enough, you may find the two of you agreeing.

Except Fascists, screw Fascists.

So, how about that for enlightenment. Still, some things stay the same in ways: I hold steadfast that Communism has never been practiced correctly as real Communism is incompatible with the existence of a state, that the system does not necessarily require authoritarianism, and that when it comes to death toll, more so can be attributed to Capitalism than to Communism. That the Western World is still guilty of injustice upon injustice, genocide, exploitation of the “third world”, thriving off the legacy of colonialism, and that Western Imperialism has been responsible for poverty, destabilization, death, and dictatorships worldwide. Most importantly, that Capitalism as a system is unjust, violating the moral principles I hold steadfast that human life and liberty not just takes precedence over profit, but that the concepts of profit, wage labour, private ownership, and the free market is incompatible with the human right to life and liberty. Yet, I know that none of this makes it so that I can cast socialism as the unsung hero of the story.

Quite honestly, left-wing politics and socialism still form the foundation of my viewpoints. What I’m trying to communicate is that what we may initially believe to be enlightenment may evolve, may grow, and that we should never place our so called enlightenment on such a pedestal so as we become blinded to the idea that what we believe may be flawed, or even wrong. So, a note to our dearly departed Plato: There is always more to learn, there is always room for evolution. Even for great, dead, philosophers.

P.S. The comic book/movie adaption of said comic book, Persepolis, is a great non-fiction account of the Iranian Revolution. As well as a beautiful coming of age story!

 

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Belief without Basis

In researching support for my topic (the dimensions of consciousness) I came to two realizations quite quickly. First, there is a ton of dialogue and claims that support this theory, from philosopher Terence Mckenna to comedian Jim Carrey, BUT there is basically no scientific facts or evidence in this field. Damn. Second, the material speaks for itself; there isn’t a lot I can say but present what I’ve found and leave it up to interpretation.

Sidenote: Your interpretation will be biased by your culture and as an extension of that your conditioning, ideology, or (as Mckenna would have said) your boundaries. Just though I’d point that out.

Lets start with Jim Carrey…

“Niagras [rivers/pools] of beauty are flowing by untapped from ordinary consciousness.”

-Terence Mckenna

In class (and Kevin’s post) we’ve talked about what makes us US. The most popular idea presented was: a little nature for the basics and nurture for the rest (our culture, past experiences, and childhood upbringing). Mckenna would argue that these factors have limited our minds/awareness/consciousness. He encourages people to break out of this; he calls that boundary dissolution.

“Transcend and mistrust ideology. Go for direct experience. Everything else is un-confirmable rumor. Useless. Probably Lies. Liberate yourself from the illusion of culture. Take responsibility in what you think and what you do.”

-Terence Mckenna

He has a very empowering message, but it holds a lot of practical value. Take the world around you with a grain of salt. If you desire something, information lets say, then it’s up to you to seek and experience that. Ultimately, it will be up to you to interpret it. Never take word as scripture. Mckenna argues that language is extremely limiting as of now, but is actually the tool we must develop in order to progress.

CLICK ME FOR A SOUND BITE

“The only experience which counts is your own experience”

-Terence Mckenna

I’ve been researching this all day, and I intend to continue doing so tonight and into the future, but It’s not all going to fit into this blog post so lets stop here. I’ll leave you with this:

We have lost touch with our moral compass, because we have lost touch with our gayan mind. The gayan intent is an act of feeling. If we could feel what we are doing we would stop. We are trapped by society, materialism, culture. If we could feel we could be awakened to the mystery of each other.

 

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Logic Assignment Introduction

Logic Lane, Oxford

Photo of Logic Lane at Oxford by Andy Hough on Flickr.

As we move into our unit on logic, the face-to-face participants in Philosophy 12 have been reading about the Basic Concepts of Logic (pdf), which may be defined as “the science of reasoning.” Delving into statements, premises, propositions, as well as truth, validity and soundness, our hope is to greet the weekend with a host of blogged examples of logical arguments in their natural habitat. In past years, the tasks around logic have involved a similar feat of strength, and participants have generated multiple examples of logical arguments and tested them for form and content. Occasionally this has sparked interesting discussions of both the merits of this or that argument, the cultural implications (or origins) of such thinking, and by amending the unit assignment this week hopefully we will see more of this type of discourse emerging around our logical examples.

The Assignment 

  • Summarize and describe an example of a logical argument you have uncovered in a variety of settings: current events, popular media, personal anecdotes or hypothetical thought experiments. Be sure to include enough back-story for people unfamiliar with the milieu of your example to digest the logic at work, and provide links, video, or attached materials so that your audience can follow up or extend their inquiry into your example with ease.
  • Dissect the argument and its form by representing it as a syllogism.
  • Evaluate the argument for Truth, Validity and Soundness and explain your judgements.
  • Reflect upon the origins or implications of your selected argument. Where does it (or others like it) come from (in society, culture, etc)? What are the consequences of the conclusion drawn, or from the argument being framed in this way?

Post your example on the class site no later than Tuesday morning, and be sure to include the proper Category: Logic and Scientific Philosophy.

For your reference and preparation, here is an example of a response to this assignment:

Prime Ministerial Logic 

Image via Transitions, an Advocate for Sociological Inquiry

Following the discovery of Tina Fontaine’s murdered body in the Red River, in August, Prime Minister Stephen Harper faced reinvigorated calls to launch a federal inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada. On the heels of reports from the special rapporteur to the United Nations, as well as the RCMP, which each discovered that aboriginal women in Canada face significantly higher rates of violence than non-aboriginals, Harper’s federal Conservative Government continued to reject pressure to better understand the root causes of this trend. The Prime Minister himself stated that “we should not view this as a sociological phenomenon. We should view it as a crime.”

The Prime Minister’s statement might be seen as an argument broken down to the following premises and conclusion:

Premise 1: The murder or abduction of aboriginal women is a crime.

Premise 2: Crime is not a sociological phenomenon.

Premise 3: A federal inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women would rely on sociological practices of inquiry.

Conclusion: Therefore, a federal inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women would not address crimes against aboriginal women.

By evaluating the various premises’ truth and/or accuracy, we might be able to reveal the soundness of the Prime Minister’s argument.

  • Premise 1 can easily be accepted as true.
  • Premise 2 can be more easily contested, as the study of criminology itself is a branch of sociological inquiry. While it is the government’s prerogative to define and combat crime in terms it was elected to uphold, practitioners in the fields of both sociology and criminology would likely contest the Prime Minister’s assertion that “crime is not a sociological phenomenon.”
  • Premise 3 can be seen to be true, as an inquiry into the trend of murdered and missing aboriginal women would “study social behaviour, its origins, development, organization, and institutions,” which Wikipedia defines as sociology.

As we can see, the flaw in the Prime Minister’s argument is contained in Premise number two, and damages the conclusion reached. While the argument’s form may be valid, an error in its content damages both the truth of its premises and the soundness of the conclusion.

The origins of the Prime Minister’s logic are difficult to trace, though they might be seen in the political ideology of Neoliberalism. Writing in the Toronto Star, Jakeet Singh noted that the Prime Minister’s remarks were

“clearly trumpeting a standard component of neo-liberal ideology: that there are no social phenomena, only individual incidents. (This ideology traces back to Margaret Thatcher’s famous claim that “there is no such thing as society.”) Neo-liberalism paints all social problems as individual problems.”

The effects of this logic being brought to bear on crime and punishment in Canada can be similarly difficult to witness (somewhat ironically even, as the evidence to be found would reside within the sorts of sociological inquiries the Prime Minister is denying). However, Singh’s article describes the casualties of Mr. Harper’s ideology as our societal ability to perceive and confront injustice. “You see,” he writes, “Sociologists often differentiate between “personal injustices” and “systemic” or “structural injustices.” Personal injustices can be traced back to concrete actions of particular individuals (perpetrators). These actions are often willful, and have a relatively isolated victim.”

Structural injustices, on the other hand, are produced by a social structure or system. They are often hard to trace back to the actions of specific individuals, are usually not explicitly intended by anyone, and have collective, rather than isolated, victims. Structural injustices are a result of the unintended actions of many individuals participating in a social system together, usually without knowing what each other is doing. Whereas personal injustices are traced back to the harmful actions (or inactions) of individuals, structural injustices are identified by differential societal outcomes among groups. Sociologists call these “social inequalities.”

By refusing to view crime as a sociological phenomenon, those accepting the Prime Minister’s argument do so within a broader context which should trouble those who believe in our collective responsibility for one another’s well-being. “When we paint all social problems as individual problems with individual solutions,” Singh writes, “we also lose any sense of the social responsibility, rather than personal responsibility, that we need to address them.”

 
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