Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


The Eternal Pursuit for Knowledge and Meaning (aka Nikki’s soul-searching journey)

Intellectual or not, the human mind is on a constant path of furthering it’s own knowledge. Whether it be street smarts gained by years of socialization or the physical push for a higher education, we grow and adapt and seek out new information to cope with our ever changing surroundings.

Since the dawn of time, man (and woman) have pushed and grown to new heights to advance as a civilization. What drives this innate sense of growth and prosperity? What pushes us to seek higher education and put ourselves through years of schooling?

In it’s truest form philosophy refers to the “love of wisdom,” but in a general sense it could also refer to “the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group.” To myself that definitely seems like the pursuit of knowledge and growth in a person. As seen by this photo, even philosophy itself, moves and adapts and seeks more and more to fulfill their insatiable need to explain the universe.

We desire knowledge to figure out this crazy universe and if there is a true meaning to our lives or if we’re just pawns in someone’s game or just specks of dust floating in space.

Different views have different opinions so what are we really supposed to believe? We as individuals seek out philosophy as a way to differentiate ourselves from the general populace of “sheeple” and to find our own meaning to life. To learn and hear people’s opinions and learn tolerance and how to argue for ourselves and stand up and fight the face of injustice.

Philosophy gives us a platform to seek a higher knowledge and expand our views. I personally am here to develop my own opinion and find my voice in the endless void. It is so easy to be lost in the sea of opinions and just give up and join the masses, but it takes real chutzpah to be the voice above the rest and really be yourself.

And along the words of the eternal cliche Robert Frost “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —I took the one less traveled by.”

TL;DR I’m very opinionated and I like big words. Different people have different views, it’s almost like we’re individuals. Philosophy gives me existential crises and I don’t know if I like that.



The Almighty Google and a Tidbit on Whales

wittgensteinWhen starting to think about “what is philosophy”, I found myself pulling up the Google webpage and searching exactly that. What I found was a solid definition stating that “Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.” After reading this definition, I still found that it had changed nothing about the concept of philosophy for me. So I searched a bit deeper and come across another more casual definition. “Philosophy can refer to the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group”. Now here is a definition I can talk a little bit more about. Now this is a definition that I can actually picture in my mind. It helped me imagine and think about my basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes as an individual. I believe that everyone has a purpose on this planet physically and mentally. I believe that I, as an individual will lead my own path based off of my decisions, values, and ambitions in life. With this definition to go off, the wheels started turning in my head. I started to truly recognize what philosophy was to me. Are you ready?

Philosophy is like a collection of books, each with different ideas, storylines, and dialogue. However when you bring all of these novels together you get an enriching plethora of knowledge, reasoning, and arguments. Philosophy is whatever people want it to be, whether it’s talking about whales (and yes, I just had to fit whales somewhere in this talk), or what is the meaning of life. It’s all relevant and important in terms of philosophy. When you talk about a thought with someone, for example; “why not just weigh the fish?” you can talk and talk and bring your own ideas to the table, your own beliefs, concepts, and attitudes on the subject. That is what philosophy is all about, bringing your ideas to the table and saying “why not this? This is what I believe.” Philosophy is the organic breaking down of a subject influenced by your own beliefs, concepts, and attitudes.



My Thoughts

Philosophy is whatever you want it to be.
Philosophy has a different meaning to everybody. One person might say its a way of living; a life style. While others will tell you it’s a joke.
So like said philosophy means what ever you want it too.
In my case I belive it’s a way of living; almost like reading in between the lines on a regular basis.
It’s about getting all you can out of a situation, even if it’s just the little things. Like watching the clouds or reading something and wanting to know everything about that topic.

So what does philosophy mean to you?



What is philosophy – Wisdom

What is Philosophy?

Before we answer this question, let’s look into the word “philosophy” in depth.
The word “philosophy” was founded directly from the Latin word “philosophia“. The word philosophia came from two words “Philo” and “Sophia“. Philo- means ‘loving’, while Sophia is a reference to the Goddess of wisdom. The combination of these two words result in the final definition of “love of wisdom”.

But what is wisdom? Wisdom to me, is the quality of understanding life. The wiser a person can be, the better understanding of the world they will have. In Plato’s Cave allegory, the wise person would be the one that escapes the cave to see the world. Through questioning and reasoning, the free man is able to gain wisdom, and understand the world for how it truly works.



What is Philosophy? – Ashley

                When given the direction to define “philosophy,” I instinctively turned to the internet for the opinions of those who actually knew what they were talking about. I thought that I could create my own perfect definition based on the answers of successful philosophers. I found a vast assortment of intellectual explanations written by people with university degrees specializing in the field, but none of them seemed like they gave the correct ‘answer’ to my question.   A part of me found that pinpointing a definition of philosophy was completely impractical and barely possible because of how broad of a spectrum it covers. On the other hand I also found that the many subcategories of philosophy allowed it to be as broad as it is but with limits and borders. Figuring out which point was truer to me caused me a massive amount of grief because they completely contradict each other and I thought it would be very confusing to support both of them. However I figured out how these two contradicting points can actually complement each other very well. Philosophy, just like the universe, is infinite. The universe is broken down into galaxies, planets, stars, and more to make it comprehensible for people. The same goes for philosophy. The little pieces that they are broken down into do not limit the universe and philosophy similarly, to go beyond those.


                Philosophy is a general discussion that covers a massive spectrum of human thought. Because it is so broad, philosophy has been divided into more specific subcategorized trains of thought: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, logic, and aesthetics. These categories are there to set some boundaries and make discussion more useful and focused. Some may argue that these subcategories are the philosophical “limits” and that these categories alone define philosophy. My question to that is who is to say what the definition of philosophy really is? Is it practical to pinpoint an exact definition of philosophy? Is it even possible to define philosophy? Different approaches to philosophy have been taken by different cultures and eras, and an unlimited amount of approaches can be taken by and unlimited amount of people in the future. Because of this, philosophy is too much of an umbrella term to define.


                To me, philosophy is all about contradiction, creativity, and conversation. Without these three key elements, philosophy can’t be as unlimited as it is. Philosophy starts when somebody questions. When something is questioned, it’s usually because the questioner finds a flaw or contradiction in whatever they no longer believe. Next, the newfound philosopher has to creatively come up with an alternative or solution the problem and then share his or her ideas with others. I strongly believe that with this process, philosophy can truly be unlimited and the meaning will differ between everybody.  Although philosophy can hardly be defined, I believe that because it is so unlimited, it can be interpreted by any individual, and that can be done in any way a person decides to do so.



Negative Freedom? – Emily



The term “negative freedom” can cause quite a bit of confusion at first. When you first hear its name it sounds like something bad, something to be avoided. After all, the term negative means “marked by

denial, prohibition, or refusal” so I automatically assumed that it was the opposite of positive freedom which states that you have the freedom to control and direct



your own life. Now, after reading the introduction text I realized that this is not true.

Negative freedom in fact means that you are free from external interference that may prevent you from what you want to do. Even though I am now clear on what it means I am still unsure of why it’s called negative freedom. Surely there’s another set of terms that would better apply to both positive and negative freedom. Is there a reason that I’ve missed?

Despite this I think that it works well to have it called negative freedom because it’s, at the very least, very easy to remember.



Curiosity – Emily

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is a famous philosophical tale told to illustrate the philosophical way of thinking and how it can change us. What struck me most when we discussed the allegory was the why. I tried to imagine why and how such a thing could take place.

Curiosity. Isn’t that why experiments like the Stanford Prison and Milford Experiments happened? I always guessed these scientists and psychologists had some information or hypotheses about what people would do in such situations, but they went and conducted these experiments to learn more. Because they were curious.

So  I wondered: could something similar happen with Plato’s Cave? Could this possibly ever happen? With the Nuremburg Code, however, this is unlikely, but there have been experiments and more experiments before and supposedly since the Code was put in place. The David Reimer Experiment, MKULTRA, The Well of Despair and The Monster Experiment are all examples of experimentation that did not follow the Nuremburg Code and cause amounts of disgust and revulsion in many. In the Monster Experiment, groups of orphans were given specific feedback that affected them throughout the rest of their life.

The psychologists did this experiment to see the effects of positive and negative feedback. Those who had received the negative feedback on their fluency and speech imperfections had psychological issues and speech problems throughout the rest of their lives. Pardon me, but who are these scientists to do such a thing to a child, something that rests with them all their life?

The Allegory of the Cave is quite similar – from a young age, the participants or subjects would be forced to see only the shadows on the cave wall. When released, such an experience would surely affect them the rest of their lives, as did the negative speech therapy in the Monster Experiment. Some may argue, “But at least the kids in Monster actually got to experience life, even if they had speech impediments! The ones stuck watching shadows never got to do any of the things we do!”

This brings me around to Mariana’s and Kristina’s points: is ignorance bliss? If all you had ever known was the cave wall with the shadows, would you ever dream of there being more to life? Maybe you live watching shadows, or you’re the best or the fastest at identifying them. You might be the biggest fish in your little pond. Living in the cave with the shadows would be a completely different life, not one as we know. Perhaps living with the shadows in the cave is a far better existence and a more pleasurable and fulfilling life than we’ve ever known. We can’t know. Maybe you would have more time for introspection and thought. Or, what if you were freed and guided into living in modern society? I doubt you would take as many things for granted as we do today.

How would we find this out, other than putting some kids through this kind of existence? We’re curious. Maybe, there’s a small egoistic part of us that wants this experiment to happen – as long as it’s not to us – so we can find out a little about what it’s like.  It’s our curiosity that led us to learn so much thus far. And to me, that’s philosophy. Wondering. Thinking. Curiosity.



Sticky Posts for the Week of September 24th – 28th

Visitors to the class blog this week.

It’s been a busy week shaping up on the Philosophy 12 course blog, with comments and posts covering topics from morality to education, literature and the existence of good and evil. Threads of conversation and comments leading off in countless directions. Upon some conversation in class and reference to some of the blogs analytic – tracking, there are a few posts that we decided could be gathered as a sort of week-in-review to hopefully foster further conversation around the themes that are arising:

  • Nature? What Nature? 
    Liam’s post on good and evil has garnered much conversation about the existence of morality, and the social constructions surrounding our ideas of good, evil, and all that lies between. Seven comments and counting.
  • Ignorance is not Bliss
    While Mariana wasn’t the only Philosophy 12 participant  to mine this terrain, her post has served something of a hub around the conversation about learning and the discomfort it brings about, but also the rewards of growth. Five comments and counting.

  • Polar Bears, Planets and Believing in Knowledge
    Kelly’s post concerns learning as well, but addresses the shifting terrain of truth and the difficulty of “knowability.” Three comments and counting. 

I’ve collected these posts and links here in the hopes that aggregating these various conversations might allow us to take them to a new place and understanding. Don’t feel obligated to continue the thread in the comments section for the posts if you want to synthesize and regroup what you are reading and take it to the ‘next’ place – start a new post and link to the thread that preceded it: make the connections for your audience, and take us with you!



Links & Assorted Philosophical Collegiality from @DrGarcia


The last few days has seen the activity in #Philosophy12 expand across the Internet with the use of DS106 Radio, a user-maintained web-radio station I’ve been working and playing with for the last year and half, that has allowed our class readings and discussion to be shared with a wider audience and learning community.

No stranger to the #ds106radio airwaves and many a broadcast from the halls and auditoriums of our highschool, GNA Garcia has been an active listener and participant in the last two days’ discussions of Plato’s Allegory of the Caveand in the true spirit of open-online learning has become a teacher-learner-facilitator node in what I hope is beginning to form as a working blended learning network: a classroom supported by co-learners participating at a distance.

To this end, GNA has shared a host of links, videos (the one embedded above is from her) and readings to supplement our learning in the last few days, which I’ll share here so that those not yet immersed in the burgeoning twitterstream for the course can keep up.

A big thanks to GNA for her contributions this week and for (always!) listening along: we’re fortunate to have you as a part of our learning community!