Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


A Solely Human Aspect of Existence: The Experience of Beauty

Image from Wikipedia.org

Another reading on Aesthetics for those looking into Kant, and the nature of beauty:

In the history of thought there is probably no philosophy that has posited the question about man with the intensity, extensiveness and centrality equal to those present in Kant’s philosophy. It is well-known that in his last work, Logik, which appeared as edited by his student Jaesche, but reviewed by Kant himself, he sums up the three fundamental questions which guided him throughout the elaboration of his own thought (‘What can I know?’, ‘What ought I do?’, ‘What can I hope for?’), in the one, fundamental question, into which every other question flows: ‘What is man?’. In each of his works there come to light aspects of the humanity in man which circumscribe to man, in an ever more precise and essential way, a proper and irreducible character. In this way of approximation to the being of man, the experience of beauty comes to have a singular place.




What is Euthanasia?

Euthanasia is considered one of the most controversial issues facing humanity today. Euthanasia is a type of assisted suicide, in other words, where one person helps another person to take their own life. However, the reason for such action occurs where an individual may be facing a very serious debilitating illness that stops them from having a reasonable quality of life, therefore want the action of euthanasia to take place, with the express intention of ending life to relieve persistent suffering.

Ways Euthanasia is performed:

  • Lethal injection
  • Suffocation
  • Removal of the means to sustain life (such as, removal of a patient’s feeding tubes)
  • Euthanasia may be “active” (the person performs on the euthasia recipient the last act that intentionally causes death) or “passive” (withdrawing ordinary means of sustaining life- food, water, medication)

There are two main classifications on euthanasia:

1) Voluntary Euthanasia – Refers to ending life in a “painless” matter
This form of euthanasia is the voluntary decision of a patient, therefore the doctor terminates the patient’s life, in the case that the patient suffers too much, with no hope of recovery, no hope on a reasonable quality of life and in some cases if the patient wishes to do so, to end financial, or the psychological burden it may overtake on their family.

2) Involuntary Euthanasia – Performed without consent of the patient
This form of euthanasia is the involuntary decision made by friends or family of the patient to end the patient’s life.

Ethical key issues/ questions include:

From different point of views, different opinions result. Some individuals view euthanasia as the practice of ending a life in a painless manner, while many others may disagree with this interpretation, as it needs to include a reference to intractable suffering.

Arguments against euthanasia:

1) Religious vs. Non-religious

Religious people generally oppose euthanasia on the grounds that death should not be forced and only god has that decision, therefore people have no right to go against gods will. Euthanasia is considered either a crime if brought up involuntary, or suicide if brought by choice, therefore both result an act of sinning. Non-religious people, on the other hand, oppose it on the grounds that it could open the door to “sanctioned murder.”

2) Euthanasia will become only “voluntary”

Many people believe that once legalized, emotion and psychological pressures could become overpowering to these individuals. Therefore, if euthanasia is considered a good decision to receive care, many people would then feel guilty for not choosing death, and will feel pressured to do so. Many disabled are not ready to die, and wish to continue with their lives, but if euthanasia is legalized, where assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia were available, would they possibly feel it was the responsible thing to do? If legalized, would the concept of having the “right” to die, be seen as a “duty” to die? The effects financially, will also add pressure that would lead a person to “choose” euthanasia as opposed to voluntarily choosing. As a result, many people believed that voluntary euthanasia will lead to involuntary euthanasia.

3) Once legalized, euthanasia will not be used just for those facing serious illnesses, but those who are depressed

Those depressed will most likely participate in voluntary euthanasia, however depression is curable and not living is considered unreasonable for many people. There are plenty of other healthy ways to cure depression, therefore death is not the answer. Many fear that by legalizing euthanasia, it will open the door to majority of depressed individuals.

4) Euthanasia is a rejection of the value and importance of one’s life.
“With euthanasia no one’s life is being saved – life is only taken.”

Arguments for euthanasia

1) By not allowing someone to make that decision of one’s life, we are taking away a right that contradicts with freedom, doesn’t everyone have the right to make decisions of one’s life?

Many people argue that deciding whether to end one’s life for any reason should be of choice. It should be a legal decision to do so and for their mind alone.it gives a freedom of choice for the individual, and allows the individual to get away from the pain, either physically, and emotionally that they are currently facing.

2) Making euthanasia legal is far more cost effective

Many argue that financially, making euthanasia is a lot more cost effective than having to take care of the person for as long as they live for, and it frees up medical funds to help other people as well. Medications and medical treatment are expensive, why should people who don’t want to live be provided with the treatment?

My opinion:

I think that Euthanasia should be legal but only to those facing extremely horrible circumstances physically due to any sort of medical condition. I believe if the individual is physically unable to do certain things, and if they really don’t want to continue living there life the way it is, they should be given the choice whether to live or not regardless. In my opinion, unbearable pain both physically and emotionally isn’t a way of living. As I mentioned previously as well, financially, making euthanasia legal is far more cost effective than having to take care of the person for as long as they live for and frees up medical funds to help other people as well. Medications and medical treatment are expensive and by providing it to those who don’t want to live, in my opinion, doesn’t seem reasonable.

Past philosophers:

Past philosophers, such as John Locke, and Immanuel Kant, opposed suicide, therefore euthanasia was considered suicide, regardless how much the individual may be struggling. Locke argued that life itself is a gift that represents an inalienable right, which shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Immanuel Kant

One of Immanuel Kant’s quote states his belief that connects to euthanasia: “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.” Therefore, when injecting patients in the act of euthanasia, you must be willing for that to become a universal law so that everybody can do it including your own self. He also argued that we should do moral things out of duty. You must feel that doing euthanasia is the right thing to do out of rational duty, as opposed to some emotional reason or other passion.

Overall, Kant believed that us being humans has huge value itself. Our inherent value doesn’t depend on anything else, regardless having a good life we enjoy or not. The fact that we exist, has enough value itself, meaning we shouldn’t end our lives just because it may seem necessary. Suicide was considered an example of an action that violates moral responsibility in Kant’s eyes. He strictly believed that the proper end of rational beings requires self preservation, therefore suicide would be inconsistent with the fundamental value of human life. As a result, philosopher Kant believed that regardless the situation an individual may be suffering, euthanasia is wrong.



Epistemological Ecology – Mr. J

Learning Never Stops

There is a certain pleasure in being allowed to start things off in a class like #Philosophy12; while others may garner the satisfaction that comes from rising to the challenge of the various assignments and syntheses of ideas, as classroom facilitator my critical tasks have thus far revolved around the outset of the unit. Having hopefully created the conditions for individual and collective learning, I focus my energy around supporting the group’s thinking, whether in daily activities, viewing or reading materials, or engaging in class discussions about the direction and intentions of the unit or task at hand.

I get to learn a lot, just in seeing how the various branches of inquiry manage to reveal the topics at hand, and the perspectives that bring them to our classroom.

But I haven’t yet taken the opportunity to engage directly with the tasks myself, and I was taken with an idea for Epistemology: to state and support a personal proposition about the nature of knowledge, learning, and the justifications we use to frame these ideas. Within the context of the opening class structure, the unit presented a natural opportunity to turn the teaching of the course into a personal engagement with the material. If I could demonstrate an example of the type of learning I would like to see, would the allowance of the space and opportunity for participants to engage with their own individual creation of knowledge bring about an authentic expression of social constructivism?

“All knowledge begins with experience.”

The starting point for my own epistemological proposition centers around a view of our reason as an evolving structure of knowing that shifts with the acquisition of new knowledge (gained through experience). I have more or less directly swiped this from Immanuel Kant, but I have seen these ideas reflected in the foundations of the post-modern era, constructivism, as well as a frequent touchstone in the class’ conversations about knowledge and knowing. A certain amount of our work in the unit was bound to retread at least some of the contribution he has brought to the field, I figure.

But I am nevertheless grounded in the idea that the structure against which our experience of the world is interpreted – our ability to reason – evolves with our experiencing of the world; as it does our sense of what can be known changes in kind, eliciting further questions, and creating new un-knowing. Jonathan said it well in his first of two Epistemology posts: “As we accumulate knowledge over time, I also believe that we develop abilities to gain these different types of knowledge too.

The sage former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld summarized part of this arc memorably in February, 2002:

“[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don’t know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.”

“…the limitation of all possible speculative cognition to the mere objects of experience, follows as a necessary result.”

There is something of the snake-eating-its-own-tail that then arises in the compulsion to expand our notions of knowing against an ever-expanding experiential plain. “Essentially, we have proven that no piece of knowledge, whether of reason or of reality, is reliable,” Liam writes in his exploration of Descartes’ Evil Genius theory:”

Really, a more unhelpful and useless conclusion has never been reached. True knowledge, it seems, is nowhere to be found – and because of that, we must accept the flawed, unreliable knowledge that we have and make do with it.

The Double Bind

As I began to explore in my initial post and reflections, the contradiction of pursuing a knowledge that evades alongside our mastery over it reminded me of the concept of the Double Bind, introduced to me a few weeks ago by Gardner Campbell at the Open Education conference in Vancouver. According to wikipedia, 

double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, in which one message negates the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will be automatically wrong regardless of response.

While the acquisition of knowledge may not be an eitheror scenario as described in the double bind, what I found valuable about Gardner’s characterization of the dilemma was the idea that the double bind can serve as a kind or prison, but also create the conditions for an expansion of awareness (or, cognition) that is the process of meaningful learning I hope some of #philosophy12 is providing for its participants. Again from Wikipedia:

One solution to a double bind is to place the problem in a larger context […] the double bind is contextualized and understood as an impossible no-win scenario so that ways around it can be found.

For my own part, the attempt to characterize and justify my own beliefs about knowledge has been vexing in the manner Bateson predicted as one of the responses to the double bind, wherein objective truth “cannot be reliably known, so all [truth] is treated as trivial or ridiculous.” It is admittedly difficult to engage faithfully in a process that seems fruitless from the outset, and for this I am glad to have waded into this experiment alongside the #Philosophy12 class.

Because it is a confrontation with the double bind that a new paradigm, either for each of us personally or together as a society, and isn’t this what I should be doing as a teacher?

Bateson outlines a Hierarchy of Learning in which Learning III (third in a series of IV) represents an ability to develop a “meta contextual perspective, imagining and shifting contexts of understanding.” Learning III puts the individual into a moment of learning with risk, where “questions become explosive,” Gardner says, as the potential to begin again at the base of the pyramid Jonathan outlines here is something that we are not often keen to explore, but central to the learning process.

And I think that perhaps this is both the source and the solution to the double bind offered in our own rational and experiential development. Learning IV – which would be the change enacted to progress beyond Learning III – Bateson notes, “probably does not occur in any adult living organism on this earth.”

Naturally: once we have solved the initial double bind and reached beyond our present understanding, we are greeted with new incongruities to decipher.

And yet..?

And yet we continue to engage in this process. We continue to yearn for a greater understanding, even while that understanding becomes obscured in the new questions it raises.

“It may be,” Gardner says, “that the evolution of the species represents the emergence of the possibility of Learning IV, as we think together.”

Leaving me again with echos of Kant:

it is plain that the hope of a future life arises from the feeling, which exists in the breast of every man, that the temporal is inadequate to meet and satisfy the demands of his nature.



My Epistemology – Mr. J Edition

About halfway through my attempted introduction of Philosophy 12’s Epistemology unit assignments – clumsily introduced here Jonathan asked a salient question: 

Could you do one of these assignments first, so we can see what it is you’re looking for?

To refresh myself ourselves, the individual piece of the Epistemology study will be to create a personal epistemological proposition: to state and explain something about what we know, and how we know it.  

Can I do this first so I the class can see what it is I’m looking for?

Um… yeah, sure. Of course. 

First Steps

What I Know… How I Know It

This started out as a messy, painful process for me that I trust will emanate throughout the class this week. But this sort of psychic discomfort is integral to the learning process, I’ve come to think; and it is something that I was curious to lean into with the hope of seeing where my thinking took me.

I started with the attempt to create simple statements that I hoped would lead me somewhere meaningful.

Statement A

I doubt what I know; it fluctuates. My relationship and understanding of my self and the world is subjective. 

Statement B

I read (some of) Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” to be about the need to live as though the things that cannot be known *can* be (even while admitting that they can’t). 

Therefore (Statement C)

Learning is central to trusting in the fleeting knowledge gained while I interrogate and reform my “knowledgable paradigm.”

I have always been fond of the Hemingway quote

There are some things which cannot be learned quickly and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things and because it takes a man’s life to know them the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.

OK, so…?

Having come to some understanding of what I wanted to say, what I could stand behind as my beliefsabout knowledge at this stage, I then sought to ground these statements in the contexts of philosophy and epistemology. I had a few different ideas here, mostly due to recent thinking about Immanuel Kant, Thomas Kuhn, and Gregory Bateson.

Ecological Mind

Where to next?

As it stands now, I’m returning to the syllogistic A & B –> C format of attempting to lay out my proposition about knowledge and learning, trying to hone the statements offered above and support them with some of the thinking of other philosopher’s.

My “A” Statement at the moment begins with the preface of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

Human reason,” he says, “in one sphere of its cognition, is called upon to consider questions, which it cannot decline, as they are presented by its own nature, as they transcend every faculty of the mind.”

I’m hoping to contrast some of my thinking about the above with what he says later, that: “…a dogmatist promises to extend human knowledge beyond the limits of possible experience; while I humbly confess that this is completely beyond my power.”

Taken together (A & B), this rationale – to seek, even when the knowledge may be beyond us – creates a dizzying cumulative effect that Gardner Campbell spoke about a few weeks ago in Vancouver: the double bind. I think this scenario is where I find my thinking aligning with Gregory Bateson‘s Hierarchies of Learning, and even the ‘scientific crisis’ written about by Thomas Kuhn, wherein the old paradigm is the prison, but also the route to salvation (for a time).

Mr. Jackson, it seems like you’re more confused than when you started…

Of course not! 

Well, maybe a little.

But I’ll let you know how the next few steps go.