Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


If I’m memeing and you’re memeing then who is driving the plane?

Hi, my name is Sam, Samson, Samburger, any works. Pronoun wise, I use she/her and/or they/them. This is a blog post about me, and what I think I’m like, and what I hope to accomplish here! ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ

Sometimes I play video games. Sometimes I play too many video games!! It is really a bit of an issue. (Please buy me Splatoon) I like writing, drawing, baking, and the occasional meme aged like a fine wine.

But I mean, aside from that I really do care about the direction the world is heading in. It feels like it’s going downhill at a rapid pace, and for every step forwards we as a collective people make, we take two steps back.


Seriously, this is just what I could find using Google and the most current topics, which isn’t always the best way to find things. But if you were to ask me what’s grating painfully on my mind regarding the state of the world, I can assure you it can go on for hours. It’s just… Exhausting. Sometimes the only thing I can do is numb my brain to the hardships of the world and take some time for myself.

Maybe is a sign of privilege, that I can push aside the problems of the world because they aren’t constantly hurting me. Maybe it’s just a form of self-preservation for whatever sliver of comfort I still have in my brain that the world is a good and loving place.

Also, I care about Psychology a lot. It’s a big part of why I ended up taking this course, really. It’s the logical

extension of the more social aspects of psychology, and being able to tackle the big questions in life can never hurt when I want to spend the rest of my life helping other people cope with theirs. It’s a big picture thing.

As a result, my Philosophy will heavily focus on psychological and social justice aspects and world views. This isn’t any sort of ‘I’m here to say THIS and I will say it, I promise,’ deal, I just know my own tells and personality enough to know it’ll sort of pop out that way.

So far, honestly, Philosophy really seems to agree with me. If we’re going to tackle the hard things in life, we need to discuss them. We can talk about what draws people in…

This gladiatorial element is a challenge for many young philosophers…

Or pushes them out.

…but it seems to put more women off than it does men.

And really, it’s only when we’re willing to talk about the tough stuff (exhausting that it may be,) that we can start asking ourselves why what one person can consider moralistic is considered extremely immoral to others, and where we as a functioning group society draw that line.

Plus, we get to talk about the cool and strange stuff, like aesthetics, and uncanny valley, and all that fun stuff.

And finally, a few testimonials from my friends and family.

“Gay” – Nikki Salandong

“A homosexual meme” – Kiuko Notoya

“2.5 boats” – Ashley Smith

(●ↀωↀ●) See you later fellow philosophers.





Introductory Readings for Week I


Marginalia by Flickr user Shelly.

Love, Wisdom and Wonder: Three Reasons to Celebrate Philosophy | Matthew Beard writing in the Conversation

Philosophy matters, simply, because the answers to philosophical questions matter. Not only is it a matter of life and death, but a matter of, to name a few examples, the nature of law, the role of language, where morality comes from, whether there is a God, whether there is a self and what constitutes our identity, and what beauty is. What makes these questions important is not only that they help societies to function (although they certainly do), but that they reflect something deeply fundamental about human beings: that we are physical creatures, but our consciousness is not restricted to physical matters. Indeed, philosophy is both reflective and perfective of human nature.

Philosophy in our schools is a necessity, not a luxury | Robert Grant writing in the Irish Times

Our standards for truth and knowledge influence our scientific and religious beliefs. Our ideas about justice, equality and freedom determine whether we are liberal or conservative, capitalist or socialist.

In examining these concepts, philosophers rarely come up with neat answers. None are immune to counter-argument.

Philosophy teaches that our understanding of these basic concepts rests on shaky foundations. In so doing, it reveals the limitations of human knowledge and understanding.

Such awareness helps students be wary of those who claim certainty and truth; it protects against dogmatic indoctrination and group-think. Philosophy celebrates the complex, nuanced nature of our understanding. It reminds us of what we do not know.

Why are there so few women philosophers? | David Papineau writing in the Times Literary Supplement

Women occupy 25 per cent of the posts in university philosophy departments across the United Kingdom. The figures are similar throughout the anglophone world. In the United States the proportion is 21 per cent, while Canada, Australia and New Zealand all have fewer than 30 per cent women philosophers. This makes philosophy an outlier among humanities subjects. Half a century ago, all university departments employed far fewer women than men. But this kind of imbalance has all but disappeared from areas such as English literature and history, and is nowadays largely restricted to the so-called STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Philosophy stands out in continuing to appoint about three times as many men as women to academic posts.

What is the explanation for this peculiarity, and should it be a matter of concern? These two questions are interlinked. How far philosophy’s gender imbalance is bad depends on its causes. If it were the result of simple discrimination against women, for instance, then it would not only be unjust, but it would also be preventing some of the best-suited people from working as philosophers. But it is not obvious that discrimination is the right explanation, and it should not be taken for granted that any other causes for the imbalance would be similarly unacceptable.

The key step is to point out that there are certain genuine puzzles regarding fundamentally important notions that only philosophers work on and about which scientists don’t seem able to solve or often disposed to even address. The reason these puzzles are fundamentally important lies in their subject matter (e.g., truth, justice, consciousness, knowledge); the reason they are genuine is that they can be put in the form of a small number of individually highly plausible yet apparently jointly inconsistent claims. Since they seem jointly inconsistent, I want to say that they can’t all be true; since each is highly plausible, I want to say that each is true; but of course I can’t say both things once I see the incompatibility between them. Any minimally adequate response to the puzzle must do either of two things:

  • Identify the claims in the puzzle that aren’t true, explain why they aren’t true, articulate the truths we have been confusing them with (if there are any), and explain how it is that we made those mistakes.
  • Explain how contrary to what anyone thought the claims are all true and do not conflict with one another. In this case the solution must greatly clarify the claims so we can see that they don’t really conflict.

Does Colour even Exist? | Malcolm Harris writing in the New Republic

One of the reasons I think philosophy isn’t very popular in the United States is that the secular among us assume not only that there exists a scientific explanation for everything, but that someone in a laboratory or a library somewhere already knows it. Primary science education plays up this assumption, preferring testable information to ongoing mysteries—I am reminded of an eleventh-grade physics exam on opponent processing. But here’s what they don’t tell you in school: The neurological and physical evidence that supports this model is extremely inconsistent.

Philosophy: A Brief Guide for Undergraduates | American Philosophical Association

Philosophy is quite unlike any other field. It is unique both in its methods and in the nature and breadth of its subject matter. Philosophy pursues questions in every dimension of human life, and its techniques apply to problems in any field of study or endeavor. No brief definition expresses the richness and variety of philosophy. It may be described in many ways. It is a reasoned pursuit of fundamental truths, a quest for understanding, a study of principles of conduct. It seeks to establish standards of evidence, to provide rational methods of resolving conflicts, and to create techniques for evaluating ideas and arguments. Philosophy develops the capacity to see the world from the perspective of other individuals and other cultures; it enhances one’s ability to perceive the relationships among the various fields of study; and it deepens one’s sense of the meaning and variety of human experience.



Introductory Epistemological Discussion(s)

afraid of knowledge

Image courtesy of Flickr user Olya Afonina

We are embarking on our discussions of epistemology this weekend, having been briefly introduced to foundational concepts such as:

  • rationalism
  • empiricism
  • a priori knowledge
  • a posteriori knowledge
  • justified true belief
  • indirect knowledge
  • direct knowledge
  • knowledge by acquaintance
  • knowledge by description

I am curious to see where our cohort’s interests are shaping up against these introductory thoughts and ideas on the nature of knowledge, though. Because each of us is the owner of a uniquely personal theory of our own knowledge, which supplies us with answers to questions like What do I know? How do I know that I know it? Where does my opinion overlap with what is considered a fact? Where do they diverge? 

How these personal conceptions come together in the present digital age is of special concern to regular open onliner Stephen Downes:

What we ‘know’ is, if you will, a natural development that occurs in the mind, other things being equal, when presented with certain sets of phenomena; present the learner with different phenomena and they will learn different things. Like the Portugese word for ‘snow’, for example. And whether something counts as ‘knowledge’ rather than, say, ‘belief’ or ‘speculation’, depends less on the state of the world, and more on the strength or degree of connectedness between the entities. To ‘know’ something is to not be able to not know. It’s like finding Waldo, or looking at an abstract image. There may be a time when we don’t know where Waldo is, or what the image represents, but once we have an interpretation, it is not possible to look without seeing Waldo, without seeing the image.

So let us begin at the beginning, by relating our own theories of knowledge to what we have encountered in our initial reading.

We brainstormed several questions related to Epistemology in class this morning:

  • How do we know what we know? 
  • What is true? 
  • How we know was is factual? What is opinion? What is belief? 
  • How are senses and reasons different? How are they complimentary? 
  • What is knowledge? How do we acquire it? 
  • Are there things that we’ll never know? 

But now we are looking to continue to the discussion…

There are, naturally, more where that came from, and we might begin our discussion by continuing to list the essential questions of epistemology below in the comments to this post, or on the Twitter hashtag for #philosophy12.

Other items for consideration and discussion may include…

Sensory, Rational, and Objective knowledge

In terms of classifying these questions, which of them would you file under Sensory knowledge?

Which would you deem most closely related to Reason, or rational knowledge?

Which do you feel deal with certainty? 

Rationalism and Empiricism 

Of these two schools of epistemology, which do you feel corresponds to your own approach to learning and knowledge?

Who is considered to be a notable proponent of either of these disciplines? Who has made convincing arguments to introduce a combined process of the two? Or a third (or fourth) new way altogether?

Where do we see examples of rational or empirical perspectives on knowledge in competition (or dominance) in our contemporary society?

Different Types of Knowledge?

How do you distinguish between the various levels and descriptions of knowledge?

How might these distinctions be limited in their scope to a particular perspective on knowledge? How could we fix this bias, if it in fact exists?

By no means exhaustive, the above questions will hopefully serve as an opening salvo in an ongoing exploration of knowledge this weekend. So respond to one of the above, or a few, or pass along these questions to someone who might wish to offer an opinion or refer us to a significant piece of the conversation we may be missing. Don’t hesitate to pose new questions to the community as well!



Introductory Readings: What is Philosophy?

Susan Sontag’s copy of Finnegan’s Wake

Introductory readings this week in #Philosophy12:

Talk with Me by Nigel Warburton 

The point of philosophy is not to have a range of facts at your disposal, though that might be useful, nor to become a walking Wikipedia or ambulant data bank: rather, it is to develop the skills and sensitivity to be able to argue about some of the most significant questions we can ask ourselves, questions about reality and appearance, life and death, god and society. As Plato’s Socrates tells us, ‘These are not trivial questions we are discussing here, we are discussing how to live.’

Philosophy and its History by Graham Priest 

So why are we still reading the great dead philosophers? Part of the answer is that the history of philosophy is interesting in its own right. It is fascinating, for example, to see how the early Christian philosophers molded the ideas of Plato and Aristotle to the service of their new religion. But that is equally true of the history of mathematics, physics, and economics. There has to be more to it than that—and of course there is. 

Why not just weigh the fish? by Robert Pasnau 

If even philosophy is dismissed as a waste of time for being insufficiently scientific, where does that leave those other modes of humanistic inquiry? Reading Plato or Chekhov may not stop the planet from warming or cure a disease – or help build more accurate missiles – and it may not point the way toward a new science of ethics or will. Yet what of it? Does such inquiry not have a value of its own? That is of course itself a philosophical question.



Notes on Class Activities Wednesday / Thursday

Inlet Running

Hey there,

I will be away with the TALONS class Wednesday and Thursday of this week, and have left the Philosophy 12 group with a task to be completed for our next meeting on Monday. There will be a TOC in class to manage things, take attendance, and the like; but my hope in sharing this note here is that their role is supportive rather than directive, or – I doubt altogether – disciplinary.

Groups have been selected and given different sections of the Basic Concepts of Logic handout for dissection and discussion. It is my hope that the smaller groups will prepare a brief synopsis and explanation of their section of the text when we meet again on Monday. If there are review questions in the back of the booklet which correspond to a group’s section, they are asked to guide their classmates on Monday in answering a sampling of them.

Class time on Wednesday and Thursday should be spent ensuring that each member of the group is familiar with the main idea in their section of the reading, and how their part fits into the whole (with special attention to the sections immediately preceding and following theirs). Beginning Monday, each group will be responsible for the class’ understanding of their own section, and be asked to contribute to the understanding of the group during the other sections (see: a fluid discussion moving from section-to-section).

Possible tips for planning might include:

  • Creating a class set of notes via Google Document

  • Sharing supplemental information (links, videos, resources) on the blog before Monday

  • Or nominating a note-taker / lecture host to guide & connect the discussion(s) on Monday

The groups have been divided as follows, should anyone have been absent on Tuesday (Devon!) or forgotten:

1. What Is Logic?
2. Inferences And Arguments
Lazar, Cassidy, Andrea

3. Deductive Logic Versus Inductive Logic
4. Statements Versus Propositions
Dylan, Aman, Jessica

5. Form Versus Content
Ashley, Deion, Kristina

6. Preliminary Definitions
Sophie, Emily, Ayden

7. Form And Content In Syllogistic Logic
Katherine, Jade, Julien, Tyler

8. Demonstrating Invalidity Using The Method Of Counterexamples
Aidan, Ramona, Julie, Leon* (We may have moved Leon to the next group, though?)

9. Examples Of Valid Arguments In Syllogistic Logic
Heather, Imtiaz, Devon



Philosophy Stew – Emily

Philosophy stew can be whatever you want it to be. Here are the suggested ingredients but feel free to substitute some of them to achieve a different philosophical stew. Be warned, philosophy stew takes a long time to cook and once you start it is hard to quit.




4 cups of questions with no answers

5 gills of logic without logic

2 teaspoons of confusing people by asking too many questions

1 oz of critical and rational thinking

8 cup of questioning everything

3 possible meanings of life

8 teaspoons of studying and learning everything

60 discussions and debates

18 cups of patience

4 lbs. of confusion


Step 1: Combine questions with no answers, logic without logic, and confusing people by asking too many questions. Stir thoroughly and be sure to combine properly.

Step 2: In a second bowl pour critical and rational thinking and the act of questioning everything. Slowly add it to the first bowl being sure to combine carefully to not spill anything. Spilling anything could cause the most dire of consequences.

Step 3: Add the bowl to a slow cooker and turn on low for 3 days. Once the combination turns green add the 3 possible meanings of life one by one making sure that they mix in with the mixture.

Step 4: Quickly add studying and learning everything, discussions and debates and a lot of patience. Leave the stew in the slow cooker for at least 3 years until it develops an open mind.

Step 5: Finally, add 4lbs. of confusion and serve when needed. The longer you cook it, the more confusion you need to add.

Congratulations, you have just made your first philosophy stew. Or have you… It’s never truly complete because there’s always something new that you can do with it. You can work on it for your entire lifetime and still never complete it or even know what it is. But whatever you do, make sure to never settle for anything less than the finished product.

Warning: Results may vary. Picture is not an accurate representation



#DS106 Daily Create: What is Philosophy?

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With much thanks to Alan Levine and Tim Owens for building the marvelous creativity machine that is Digital Storytelling 106 (#ds106)’s Daily Create, and to Alan for orchestrating my suggested Create to coincide with our class presentations on the same topic, it is a great thing to see the ripple of the question we are asking in Coquitlam find its way out onto the open web! Thanks to all who submitted their own responses to the question; you can find many of the class’ entries under the Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry category.



Twitter and “the Hallway”

DS106: An Open, Participatory, Student-centric, Community-focused Course on Digital Storytelling from DML Research Hub on Vimeo.

Someone else who bears some responsibility for the course structure of Philosophy 12 is Jim Groom, who along with Tom Woodward, Alan Levine and Martha Burtis have built the educational phenomenon known as Digital Storytelling 106, or #ds106, which he discusses in the above video with Howard Rheingold here in an interview that cuts to the heart of what it means to learn in the open.

Something that made me want to share this brief talk here was something Jim says about Twitter:

“Twitter became the platform for everything that is missing in online learning – that hallway space, the space where you are joking around, the interstitial spaces that aren’t tested on and aren’t assessed – but it’s where all the learning happens.”

Jim Groom talkijng to Howard Rheingold

Part of my excitement around Philosophy 12 last year came from the discussion and activity that sprung up around the course’s hashtag on Twitter, something I hope we can replicate this year. In addition to sharing resources and readings, Twitter facilitated much of the interaction between our class and its open online participation, and created an ongoing dialogue that ranged – if not about the course content itself – between many of the students in class, myself, and those beyond the classroom walls.

As we set out into September and the balance of the course, I hope to see more of you in the literal hallway outside of class, maybe on the intramural pitch come the semester’s lunchtimes, and on Twitter. If nothing else, you might see your Philosophy Pop Quiz marks on the rise.



Discussion Synthesis Soundbytes

Sea to Sky Outdoor School

Positive / Negative Freedom

For those following online, here are the pieces of conversation synthesized by different groups following last week’s reading on Positive / Negative Freedom. Topics covered included political correctness, religion, and the aforementioned freedom:

Note: Group six’s share will take place at the beginning of class on Tuesday and be posted shortly thereafter.  

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Bertrand Russell’s “Value of Philosophy”

A Philosopher.

Courtesy of Jeff Longland via Twitter, a supplemental read for our first week:

This view of philosophy appears to result, partly from a wrong conception of the ends of life, partly from a wrong conception of the kind of goods which philosophy strives to achieve. Physical science, through the medium of inventions, is useful to innumerable people who are wholly ignorant of it; thus the study of physical science is to be recommended, not only, or primarily, because of the effect on the student, but rather because of the effect on mankind in general. This utility does not belong to philosophy. If the study of philosophy has any value at all for others than students of philosophy, it must be only indirectly, through its effects upon the lives of those who study it. It is in these effects, therefore, if anywhere, that the value of philosophy must be primarily sought.