Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Jess’ Phantasmagorical Philosophy Final

My prezi isn’t embedding again, so I shall instead link it here and the script/lyrics/words are below:

What is philosophy?
Philosophy is the study of ourselves 
So place our races on the shelves of humanity
It’s insanity to call ourselves equal
What is equality if not pulling the hijab from your head
Because not doing so means winding up red in the streets of Australia
It’s alien to me that in 2015 people still have to march to be free
What is equality but people telling me my father doesn’t look very Chinese,

Four months ago I sat there, asking you to compare faces
Because race is the deciding factor in all of our lives
But we can’t all be colour blind
Rank ourselves by the tone of our skin
Let’s begin.

I’m the Mixed Up Files of a childhood
Propelling me towards the idea that
Being a person means choosing one title or
The other.
What philosophy means is finding our label
It’s a fable that we construct who we are
We get farther if we’re the main character
But tear at the notion that those around us
Simply occupy space
Whatever happened to the Human Race?
Let’s face it.
We suck.

Pluck yourself from your body
Call shotty on the passenger seat of a day in the life of someone else
The hand you’re dealt is all you have
Navigate your way out of the boxes you were placed in
Ignore the din of people calling you anything but your name
Because philosophy is not about ourselves

Delve into the consciousness of those around you
The view is nice inside their head
Spread yourself out
Don’t doubt that everyone else is human too
It’s true our thirst for knowledge is what drives us
Poised on the cusp of what is to come
Don’t run out of questions for who you are
You won’t get far if you bleed dry
Have a backup supply of quandries and ponders
Wander away from the idea that humanity is a herd waiting for a master
Cast your follower ideas away
Because hey.
Have hope.
Tie a rope to the idea that
We are not all the same
But don’t forget your names
(Jess, biracial, girl, student)

It’s prudent
That we ask who we are
Carve the words ’til they scar
Because they do
It’s true we don’t choose our own fate
Brought anew with a silver spoon
or cast aside not worth our weight
In gold or in lead
You dread the day when someone says
“What are you?”
Because to ask yourself the same
Becomes a daily game
Of labeling the world which represents you best
Who Are We?

We are the titles we’ve been handed
Branded forever by society
Propriety tells me not to question the quo
So take pride in your rank
It’s the plank that you stand upon
As the ocean wind brushes by
Say your goodbye’s to the naysayers and threats
Deal out your debts
And take a step back,
Remove your rose-coloured glasses
The last thing on your mind
Should be an appeal to the masses
Ask yourself what to do as you start over again
Because What is Philosophy?
Just a means to an end.

Actually, something that I think shows my growth is this random parallel, which is comparing my first and last prezi. I didn’t realise they were the same template until I was halfway through but hey. If it works.

I think that, looking through my tag, some of my best examples of growth are the posts where I tried to tackle issues which I had never learned about before. My first post about nothing and my theory on Epistemology were especially difficult because I had never really thought on the issues that I tackled. Interestingly, I didn’t think that my post on Ethics was one of my better ones because although I tried to make it as non-argumentative as possible, I’ve always had some kind of a position on abortion, so I didn’t have to research it as much as I did for Epistemology or ‘Nothing’, so I don’t feel as though it showed as much growth as my other work.

I googled ‘Language’ and found this fun and informative image from zengardner.com

My favourite post that I made was my ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ post about the various protests and riots that were going on globally. I felt that, not only was it relevant to life, philosophy, and current events, but I had to do a ton of excess research to actually know what I was talking about, and I felt like I put some of my best effort into making that post a good one, if only because I thought (and still think) that it is relevant.


With certain posts I made (On feminism, protests, abortion, and my slam poem above) I tried to make them more relevant to real life, or rather: I tried to get people to connect philosophy to their everyday life, and I hope I was successful in this endeavour, because I know that I connected a lot of what we did in Philosophy to my everyday life (even if it is just contemplating aesthetics on my walk home). I think that these are the best ways of using philosophy in the future, because to take current events and view them through the lens of a philosopher is always important, especially in regards to Ethics, Logic, and Social & Political Philosophy. In this way, I hope to be able to use what I’ve learned, but I also think that just in general, Philosophy has already been able to permeate my everyday life because it helps me see things differently, and from angles that I’ve never thought of before.

If I were to do it over again, I would probably comment more on other people’s posts, because I know that I enjoyed getting comments on my posts, yet I didn’t comment as often as I would have liked. One of the comments which I was actually quite proud of was the one I posted in response to the question of systemic misogyny, because I thought that the discussion that blossomed from it on harassment and women feeling safe was one of the (if not the) best discussion we’ve had all year (save for Kelsey’s thought experiment). I enjoyed the chance to talk about my own experiences and hear others, because it also contributed to my knowledge, and I think that I’ll use what I learned in that discussion in future. ((Sidenote, I also enjoyed the discussion that Avery, Vincent and I had on my Theory of Epistemology post))

On the whole, I’ve really enjoyed this class, and to say that it was just good would be a gross understatement, so thank you to my classmates for being amazing and making me feel as though I can share my opinions on everything and thank you to Mr Jackson for a) scoring Mr. Findley’s classroom and b) being a fabulous teacher/teaching a fabulous course.



Jess and Jeff discuss abortion

What is the issue?

Controversy surrounds the topic of abortion. For some, it’s been a tool of great social change, reducing crime-rates while inducing other beneficial effects. To others, it can’t be sugarcoated and is simply murder of the most innocent, defenseless members of our society. Evaluating this issue with a variety of different perspectives is integral in order to find the ‘right’ way to approach it. With a tie-in to subjects such as religion and ethics, evaluating the ethical implications of abortion can allow one to see the different viewpoints that people see the world through.

photo taken from the conversation.com

How can it approached?


  • Women who have had abortions
  • Women who will/may get pregnant in future
  • Men whose SO’s may get an abortion

Categorical Imperative:  

People who both a) do not agree with murder and b) do not agree with abortion would be agree with the categorical imperative. The categorical imperative would see abortion as bad because if you see murder as a negative or something completely unjustifiable, then abortion would, in terms of the categorical imperative, be seen as just as bad as, say, shooting someone on the street.


Utilitarianism is for the benefit of the whole. An article was cited in saying,

“The reasons most frequently cited were that having a child would interfere with a woman’s education, work or ability to care for dependents (74%); that she could not afford a baby now (73%); and that she did not want to be a single mother or was having relationship problems (48%). Nearly four in 10 women said they had completed their childbearing, and almost one-third were not ready to have a child. Fewer than 1% said their parents’ or partners’ desire for them to have an abortion was the most important reason. Younger women often reported that they were unprepared for the transition to motherhood, while older women regularly cited their responsibility to dependents.”

Many of these reasons are ones that we, if we were a utilitarian society, could approve of. To bring a child into the world when the financial situation of the parent(s) would not guarantee them a good life would mean that the child would have a higher likelihood of growing up and being imprisoned, homeless, impoverished, or a number of other things. Ultimately, to bring a child into a scenario where the parents are unable to care for them as they should would be seen as a negative thing, if viewed in a utilitarian sense.

photo taken from cbc.ca


Ignoring the fact that Rawls’ theory requires you to be behind the veil of ignorance and therefore a fetus (and thus, very much not in favour of being aborted), this theory still has the possibility of going in either direction. Perhaps it is more likely that one would be in favour of abortion if they were able to be put in the situation of having to decide — ergo, if they were born an impoverished woman — but it is still quite subjective.

How can it be addressed?

Abortion can only really be addressed on an individual level. Viewing it through a variety of different perspectives only enlightens the person further into which direction would be the ‘ethical’ way. Whereas utilitarianism would welcome abortion if it were done to people who could not raise their children in a safe environment, the categorical imperative would argue that there is no way to justify murder and that abortion is ethically wrong no matter what the circumstance. With Rawl’s theory, however, it all comes down to personal preference, and in the end, isn’t that all that it is?




Self-Styling AKA: How to Look Good (but like, in a philosophical way)

The first thing you need to know about self-styling is that, while it does not mean using hair gel to do your hair, it can incorporate it.



(click the photos to see the notes Cassidy and I took)

Self-styling is the act of making yourself into a better person, whether that is through deeds, make-up, or simply a self-confidence boost. Nietzche was the one who said that art gives us distance from our lives, which helps us see our own selves from a distance. To me, this simply means that art helps us see ourselves as others see us.

For example, take the word ‘us’. Us. us. US. us us us us us us us us.

Does ‘us’ look weird to you now?

It’s the same with ourselves. We look in the mirror (and shop windows and car doors…) so often, and know our own faces so clearly that we’re almost too familiar. We need to take a step back.

take a step back, Justin

But, continuing on: Nietzsche also discusses how art—or artistic distancealso helps us think beyond our own selves. Nietzsche calls our usual state ‘artistic foreground’, while art gives us the ability to see beyond, into the background.

Self-styling also ties in with self-reflection, as one must reflect upon who they are before they begin self-styling. While various philosophers claim that self-styling requires concealing the parts of yourself that are unattractive, I believe that self-styling is to fall in love with yourself, whether it is through make-up, wikihow, or otherwise.

“Glittery hair gel is the best way to self-style yourself.” – Nietzsche

The trouble, of course, comes when/if someone constructs their self “too greatly” which, if we translate that into layman’s terms, means to not get too big an ego. This leads into Criticism, which is the next part of the booklet.

ps: A lot of this info is taken from the booklet, so consider this my source.



Lala Land: A Theory on Epistemology


Knowledge is shaped by language

Before I delve too deeply into this proposition, I’ll define some things first.


  • The statement is true
  • You believe the statement is true
  • Your belief is based on a true statement
  • There is justification in your belief

Despite the fact that this is taken directly from one of the packages we received, I think that it can work for what I’m discussing today. I may change parts of this definition later in this post, but I’m alright with this for now.



This was a bit harder, if only because there is no true set parameters for a language. Or at least, if there are, then they could be expanded based on what we consider a language.

Morse code, for example, could be considered a language of it’s own. Binary, too. I personally would say that it does not constitute a language, if only because it does not grow and change as a language does today; yet that same thought cannot apply to dead language such as Latin. Building even more on that, what of ASL and other sign languages?

To incorporate all of these thoughts, I will go with the definition that:


So, going back to my premise:

Knowledge is shaped by language

I think that in many ways we are unable to have knowledge without language. While we can still experience the world without being able to name specifics within it, language is inherently a system of communication, no matter which one you are “speaking”. Because of this, language gives us the ability to convey our thoughts on the world around us, to give names to the trees and the sky and our mothers. There have been people who have lived without language, yet as they discuss in this podcast (skip to 54:30), such a life is impossible to conceive of , especially considering the way that Ildefonso’s friends communicate.

To not have words or language is incomprehensible, yet Jill Bolte-Taylor’s TED talk on her “stroke of insight” elaborates on her stroke which caused her so-called brain chatter to cease for several months.

(warning for an actual human brain, which is a bit disturbing)

Because of both Bolte-Taylor and Ildefonso’s experiences, I believe that I can say that it is impossible to make connections and truly comprehend the world without language. Mentalfloss discusses this very topic in a short article which also referenced the birth of a language in Nicaragua, which, independent of teaching from anyone outside of the student’s deaf community, became it’s own conventional language, just as ASL is a language. As well, the article written by Greg Downey, which heavily references the story of Ildefonso, discusses how language becomes ingrained within us after we have learned it, becoming such a deep part of us that it is impossible to forget once we have learned it.

Photo taken from Zack Godshall’s website of Ildefonso and SUsan Schaller

Indeed, languages grow as we grow, and at the same time, languages cause us to grow while we learn them. Going from having no language at all to having a complex one that was created by and for you creates a world in which your growth and the language’s is in tandem. Though perhaps this isn’t just confined to sign languages—after all, we did just name ‘vape’ as this year’s “Word of the Year”. If that isn’t growth, I don’t know what is.

Photo taken from Imperial Tobacco EU Twitter acct

So, because of all of this, I believe that I can say that the following premise is true:

  • Language is necessary to comprehend the world

Building on that last point, in our class we’ve mostly agreed on the idea that to prove you’ve learned something, you must be able to teach it to others. To teach something to other people you need language, or at the very least, a means of transferring what you know to the other person. There’s a branch of philosophy that has to do with the philosophy of language, especially relating to language and thought. This relates to the idea that if someone does not have the words to convey and idea, then they cannot have that idea or comprehend the subject. If you’ve read 1984, this is Newspeak.

Photo taken from paranoidmandroid.co.uk

This is also reflected in the world today, with cultures that do not have names for numbers or colours. On the other hand, as with Parker’s post about untranslatable words, perhaps other cultures see our language as plodding and slow as compared to their own. Within Chinese dialects and French, they have different terms for specific family relations; the Chinese dialects have specific words for father’s mother and mother’s mother (mama and popo, in Cantonese respectively) and in French the gender-specific cousins vs. cousines shows whether you are indicating a female or male relative.

Photo taken from Ella Frances Sanders’ blog

So what does that mean?

On the surface, it means that the amount of information within your language is directly related to how much you can comprehend of the world, therefore how much you know. This leads me to my next point, which is that:

  • Without the proper words, you are unable to think and understand the world as a whole

So my syllogism is as follows:

  • Language is necessary to comprehend the world
  • Without the proper language, you are not fully able to think and understand the world as a whole

So if knowledge is a collection of facts that you have gathered as you grow, and language is inherently tied to your knowledge and thinking process,  then:

Therefore: Knowledge is shaped by language



The End of the World Means Nothing (or: a lively unicorn debate)

Take a moment to look around you. You’re probably in your home, at school, maybe out in a coffee shop. There may even be people around you. Now imagine that just like that,

there is nothing.

(Sound effect courtesy of David Keller)

Now, the idea of nothing is vague. I’ll assume you imagined a large black space. A void, if you will. If you didn’t, go ahead and explode everything still left mentally until you have a large black void. I’ll wait a moment.

The concept of capital ‘N’ Nothing in philosophy was first discussed by Parmenides, who said that nothing could not exist because to be able to talk about something, it had to exist. Even though Parmenides’ theory on nothing has mostly been discredited or altered to make more sense, I liked it, if only because the concept assumes that ideas are things.

To explain, think of a unicorn.


You probably thought of something along the lines of this:

Rob Boudon, Unicorn - Full Speed

Rob Boudon, Unicorn – Full Speed ((A real photograph of an imaginary unicorn))

Obviously, unicorns don’t exist, yet you still imagined one. Parmenides said

For never shall this prevail, that things that are not are.

which, frankly, is more confusing than it has any right to be, but I digress. Parmenides meant that when you discuss something (unicorns), you aren’t actually talking about it—you are discussing the idea or concept of it. If a unicorn cannot be, then what must be is your thoughts, or the idea of a unicorn.

This is a roundabout way of saying that ideas are things. While they may not be tangible, they still are, in the same way that you are and a rhinoceros is and Pepsi Salty Watermelon is.

But Jess!, my imaginary version of you is saying. What about the concept earlier? When you discussed the fact that there was nothing!

Well, if you’re still somehow juggling thinking of unicorns, asking me questions, and thoughts on the void, you’ll remember that our concept of nothing was just a black void. If you’ve been keeping track, though (and even I have only barely been able to, so kudos) you may be thinking:

  1. Black is still a thing.
  2. The idea of void is something, because we just decided that ideas are things.

Well, voice in my head/audience, you’ve come to the crux of the issue. To me, nothing is a concept that we cannot fathom, if only because we cannot imagine it. Personally, even the idea that there is nothing is kind of absurd to me, if only because of the following thought, which I’ll walk through:


As the caption clearly states, this is our void. Let’s label it!


So this is our nothing, but if we assume that ideas are things, then would facts and concepts not also be things? As in, the very concept that there is nothing?


So if our lonely little concept, the very concept that there is nothing, is something, then doesn’t that mean that our nothing is now something?


So even if we assume that everything around us is real, then what remains is still that stubborn little concept. Descartes thoughts on nothing were that, instead of beginning with something, as we did earlier, we start with nothing and allow what can be proven to fill the void. The concept of solipsism assumes that you can only be sure that you exist, and everything else is unproven.

So if we do assume that there is at least something, then what does that mean?

It means that nothing is an impossibility. Even in the complete absence of something, there still remains the concept that there is something. So if the world were to end, right here and right now, and it somehow took everything along with it, that would mean absolutely, positively nothing something.



Become a feminist for the low, low price of zero dollars!

So, after we completed our presentation in class today, I couldn’t help feeling like I’d missed something in our point of view, and in going back into that wild jungle that we call the internet, I found that I had.

**Just as a sidenote, before we get started, feminism is the desire for the equality between genders (not, you know, women being better than men)**

The concept of “strong objectivity” is one that we probably should have discussed in class, but I didn’t do nearly enough research, so here it is now. Strong objectivity is the concept that many different studies and phenomena in science and philosophy are weak, due to the fact that they are not biased towards a feminist point of view.

Before you start yelling about how unfair that may be, read on fellow philosophers.

Strong objectivity comes from the idea that many different concepts in science and philosophy stem from men, and it argues that we need to begin to stem ideas from women and other minorities. We’ve discussed this in class, how philosophy sort of seems like a bunch of old white dudes postulating wildly.Unto itself, strong objectivity wants epistemology to begin with a woman’s viewpoint, rather than a man’s. This has to do with standpoint feminism, which discusses the theory that oppressed people have a different, if not better, viewpoint than those in the majority.

[Sandra Harding, who coined standpoint theory] argued that it is easy for those at the top of social hierarchies to lose sight of real human relations and the true nature of social reality and thus miss critical questions about the social and natural world in their academic pursuits. In contrast, people at the bottom of social hierarchies have a unique standpoint that is a better starting point for scholarship.

Elizabeth Borland, from the Encyclopedia Britannica Online article

I believe we’re going to discuss objectivity more in class on Monday, but I think that in the case of feminism, it will always be subjective when it comes to science, and vice versa until the genders are equal.

Here‘s the link to Alyssa, Nadine, and my prezi, which expands more on women in science!!!

(you may now continue yelling about unfairness)



Hapa Haole


Oh well, here’s my prezi (it wasn’t embedding) and script!

I think that philosophy is the study of humanity. From what I know so far, it centers around humans quite a bit. Humans think about it, humans debate topics on it, and there’s even a section on what, ethically, humans can do. So … philosophy is us. Or, rather, all about us. This, frankly, seems a bit egotistical, but, to be fair, it is a human invention, and we don’t exactly have a method for bringing dolphins and mice into our discussions on why we’re all here, so maybe it isn’t so much ego as it is… a language barrier.


So happy together....

So happy together….

Which brings me to 2. Since philosophy really is all about us, it can almost be molded so that it’s exactly what we need at any given time. Take Wittgenstein. He went about philosophizing for a year, all solitarily, and then he finally decides to branch out and talk at someone about these fantastic ideas that he’s come up with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they are fantastic ideas, but he went from living alone in a hut to talking to one guy to an entire classroom of students who were all watching him stare at his hand. His method of philosophizing changed drastically, and it fit perfectly with how he wanted to live his life.

Because of that, I think that philosophy is a broad enough subject that you could pick and choose what you wanted to focus on depending on how you felt on any given day. If I were to wake up and look out the window and see bright sunshine filtering over the leaves (and if I were to think philosophically about this), I’d probably wonder what or why something so beautiful would happen and how I was able to comprehend its beauty and what exactly beauty is, anyway.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=co6WMzDOh1o&w=420&h=315]

On the other hand, if I were to wake up, look outside, and see thunder and lightning mixed with snow, mixed with hail, I’d probably be thinking something along the lines of: How far would I go to get rid of this awful weather? What comes after death? Are any of us really here? Sad and complicated things like that. There is no precise starting point where philosophy begins, and there’s certainly no place where it ends, so who’s to say whether the happy philosophizing is right and the sad one is wrong? They’re both considered philosophy, so where does that leave us?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_dideF5qvk]

Because philosophy is inherently about humans and it can be whatever we want it to be at any given time, in the end, it’s really just a big study about ourselves. I’ve recently been thinking more about this question, what (or, I guess, who) am I, because I went to this art exhibit called Hapa, which is a Hawaiian word meaning half. Hapa is also a term for someone who is of mixed ethnic heritage, and I am half Chinese and half Scottish. So, this art exhibit was done by a man named Kip Fulbeck, who is also Hapa, and wanted to take portraits of other Hapa people. Fulbeck is a photographer, a filmmaker, a writer, and an artist, and going to this exhibit was, I won’t lie, kind of a big deal for me. Each portrait that he took was accompanied by a little half-page that each person had to fill out with their answer to the question: What are you?

The "other" box is basically my Mt. Everest

The “other” box is basically my Mt. Everest

Reading each of these answers was fascinating for me, because they ranged from this [1], to this [2], to this [3], which is probably the most creative and philosophical answer that I saw out of all of them.

So, in conclusion, philosophy is the study of ourselves because we, as a species, and me, as a person, are still figuring ourselves out. The sciences—and I mean Chemistry, Biology, those things—will give you equations and percentages, but I think that only philosophy will give us a true concept of ourselves, because it’s a subject that was created by humans about humans, meant for humans to discuss.