Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Attribution and the Ethic of the Link

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 8.20.06 PMAs we set out into blogging this term in Philosophy 12, I want to highlight this observation from GNA Garcia on our first batch of posts. For the face-to-face authors’ part, the objective of this first assignment was to tackle the mechanics and navigation of the course site; but I appreciate GNA focusing our efforts as we build on this early success. Such feedback and interaction is what makes our open online participation valuable, as GNA and Stephen Downes have once again shown in this new year by sharing their consistently thought-provoking comments and contributions to the class.

To GNA’s point, citation and attribution of the ideas we use to support our own thinking is indeed how we contextualize, connect, and make sense of ourselves as academics, and as such are integral parts of scholarship. But they are also vital aspects of building knowledge on the web (something Mr. Downes may wish to elaborate on in a comment), something we are similarly involved in here with Philosophy 12, and which we will delve into further in our Epistemology unit.

In the meantime though I would challenge our face-to-face participants to look to the posting of our upcoming “What is Philosophy?” assignments as an opportunity to engage what NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen calls “the ethic of the link.”

 

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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.

 

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Scientific Philosophy Group Headings

Image from the FreeCollective.org

This week we will be attempting to respond to the question, Is Science Objective? through a variety of lenses. Read up on the links below to help us in choosing our groups for this course of study.

The Objectivity of Science
Chris Price

Postmodernism
Kristina, Daniel & Leanne

Philosophy of Deutsch
Richard and Greg

Thomas Kuhn
Daniel
Guide to Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Feminism
Iris, Yazmeen & Stephanie

Logical Positivism
Jennifer, Mariana & Misha

Karl Popper
Jonathan & Nick

Anarchistic Epistemology
Liam Keagan & Clayton

Instrumentalism
Toren, Megan & Derek

Van Ormine Quine
Kelly, Emily & Zoe

 

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Ethics Blogging Assignment and Readings

Image from the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Image from the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Having crested the mid-point of the semester’s study of Philosophy 12, the face to face participants in the course have taken a brief respite from the class blog and focused on classroom-based activities and assignments.

As a synthesis of collaborative learning and knowledge-construction, two weeks ago the group delivered an hourlong, four-part lecture on Epistemology. This last week saw the class split into groups to prepare creative lessons / resources on Ethics to be shared with middle school students sometime next week. As these projects move forward with filming, songwriting, and illustration, this week will include a few different discussions of ethical questions and issues, both in class and on the blog.

Each of the for-credit participants will be asked to submit a post introducing and summarizing a moden ethical issue. These posts should roughly respond to the following criteria:

      • Describe the context, stakeholders, and ramifications of different outcomes of the debate. 
      • Summarize the key questions involved in processing the issue. 
      • Explore ways in which the debate could be framed in a larger context or conversation (eg. what is the essential question at stake?)
      • Outline past philosophers’ attempts to answer questions involved with this issue, and whether their wisdom can be applied to contemporary times. 

In addition to the standing invitation for our open online participants to join in the various discussions that these posts will likely illicit, and to ask questions, push back, or explore these issues and debates alongside our for-credit students, we would also welcome posts you might like to share with us outlining events or questions we might be overlooking.

If you haven’t yet, you can still drop your details in the course signup form and be added as an author on the blog. Also be sure to join us on Twitter by following the class hashtag at #philosophy12.

Some suggested areas of inquiry in the coming week:

Lying, Cheating and Stealing

Survey finds less cheating in high schools
““Changes in children’s behavior of this magnitude suggest a major shift in parenting and school involvement in issues of honesty and character,” Josephson said in a statement.

“Brian Jacob, a professor of education policy at the University of Michigan, said providing students with more information is one way to help curb cheating in schools. For instance, Jacob, who has looked at plagiarism in college, said research shows that you can help students understand, through tools such as an online tutorial, what constitutes plagiarism and strategies to avoid it.”

Freedom of Expression & Censorship

Bradley Manning: a tale of liberty lost in America
“Whatever one thinks of Manning’s alleged acts, he appears the classic whistleblower. This information could have been sold for substantial sums to a foreign government or a terror group. Instead he apparently knowingly risked his liberty to show them to the world because – he said when he believed he was speaking in private – he wanted to trigger “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms”.

War

Rethinking the Just War
“Can war be justified? Is there such a thing as morally proper conduct in war?

“With Veterans’ Day upon us and, with the Obama administration preparing to face another four years of geopolitical choices in unstable regions, The Stone is featuring recent work by Jeff McMahan, a philosopher and professor at Rutgers University, on “just war theory” — a set of ethical principles pertaining to violent conflict, whose origins can be traced back to Augustine, that still influence the politics and morality of war today. The work will be published in two parts on consecutive days — the first dealing with the background and history of the traditional just war theory, and second consisting of the author’s critique of that theory.”

Euthanasia

Appeal Court upholds exemption from doctor-assisted suicide ban
“Gloria Taylor’s right to avoid a “frightening and repugnant” death in the clutches of Lou Gehrig’s disease shouldn’t be sacrificed because the courts have yet to decide the fate of Canada’s doctor-assisted suicide ban, a judge ruled Friday as she upheld the British Columbia woman’s personal exemption from the law.

“The woman from West Kelowna, B.C., who was diagnosed with ALS three years ago and whose health continues to deteriorate, was among the plaintiffs in a landmark case that saw the B.C. Supreme Court strike down Canada’s ban on doctor-assisted suicide as unconstitutional.

“While the court suspended its decision, Taylor was granted an immediate exemption, making her the only person in Canada who can legally die with the help of a doctor.”

Genetics

Human Evolution Enters an Exciting New Phase
“Most of the mutations that we found arose in the last 200 generations or so. There hasn’t been much time for random change or deterministic change through natural selection,” said geneticist Joshua Akey of the University of Washington, co-author of the Nov. 28 Nature study. “We have a repository of all this new variation for humanity to use as a substrate. In a way, we’re more evolvable now than at any time in our history.”

Conservation & Preservation of the Environment

What is Education for? by David Orr
We are accustomed to thinking of learning as good in and of itself. But as environmental educator David Orr reminds us, our education up till now has in some ways created a monster. This essay is adapted from his commencement address to the graduating class of 1990 at Arkansas College. It prompted many in our office to wonder why such speeches are made at the end, rather than the beginning, of the collegiate experience.”

Treatment of Non-Human Animals

Animals Can Tell Right from Wrong
“Until recently, humans were thought to be the only species to experience complex emotions and have a sense of morality.

“But Prof Marc Bekoff, an ecologist at University of Colorado, Boulder, believes that morals are “hard-wired” into the brains of all mammals and provide the “social glue” that allow often aggressive and competitive animals to live together in groups.”

New Science Emboldens Long Shot Bid for Dolphin, Whale Rights
“Just a few decades ago, cetacean rights would have been considered a purely sentimental rather than scientifically supportable idea. But scientifically if not yet legally, evidence is overwhelming that cetaceans are special.

“At a purely neuroanatomical level, their brains are as complex as our own. Their brains are also big — and not simply because cetaceans are large. Dolphins and whales have brains that are exceptional for their size, second only to modern humans in being larger than one would expect. They also possess neurological structures that, in humans, are linked to high-level social and intellectual function.”

Intellectual Property

Remix, Aggregation, Plagiarism, Oh My
“Remixing is the 4th most nefarious form of plagarism, and mashups are #7…at least according to these 900 teachers and instructors. This saddens me because I happen to consider these two activities some of the most creative and original cultural actshappening today. And to think there are 900 some instructors and teachers out there who do not recognize the creative value  and sheer amount of work it takes to create something new and original out of what existed before.”

Ethics in Business

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Business Ethics
“This entry focuses generally on academic business ethics, more particularly on the philosophically-informed part of business ethics, and most particularly on the constellation of philosophically-relevant questions that inform the main conversation and ongoing disagreement among academic business ethicists. It covers: (1) the history of business ethics as an academic endeavor; (2) the focus on the corporation in academic business ethics; (3) the treatment of the employment relation in academic business ethics; (4) the treatment of transnational issues in academic business ethics; and (5) criticism of the focus and implicit methodology of academic business ethics.”

Advertising

Rogers Misleading Advertising Case: Truth-In-Advertising Laws Violate Our Rights, Telecom Giant Says
“Telecom giant Rogers is arguing before an Ontario court that truth-in-advertising rules are a violation of its right to freedom of expression, according to a news report.

“Postmedia’s Sarah Schmidt reports that Rogers is challenging a $10-million fine levied on it for misleading advertising by the federal Competition Bureau by arguing that being forced to test its products before making claims about them is a violation of freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

 

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Thoughts on beginning Epistemology

Old and Bold

Image and Edit courtesy of Flickr user @talonsblog

No small part of the #Philosophy12 course design has been based in the framework of social constructivism:

according to which all “knowledge is a compilation of human-made constructions”,[16] “not the neutral discovery of an objective truth”.[17] Whereas objectivism is concerned with the “object of our knowledge”, constructivism emphasises “how we construct knowledge”.[18] Constructivism proposes new definitions for knowledge and truth that form a new paradigm, based on inter-subjectivity instead of the classical objectivity, and on viability instead of truth. Piagetian constructivism, however, believes in objectivity—constructs can be validated through experimentation.

Many of the different ideas contained in the above definition (from Wikipedia) arose during last week’s Metaphysics Pecha Kucha presentations, and I have been thinking about how to extend our class’ pursuit of individual and collected knowledge with the beginning of our Epistemology unit, some of which I hope to introduce here, even if these ideas aren’t quite yet fully formed.

I have been reflecting on the purpose of the philosophical lecture, as well; the series of Pecha Kucha presentations delivered last week, each outlining and contextualizing a proposition of a notable metaphysician, were a literally awesome exploration and synthesis of a broad scope of human thinking about the nature of reality.  In my own preparations for the Epistemology unit, I’ve continued to indulge in materials from iTunesU, and Oxford University‘s Philosophy for Beginners, as well as Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (nicely accompanied by Project Gutenburg‘s access to the free volume of the text), and have been immensely grateful to these wildly knowledgable and articulate professors (and their institutions) for being willing to share their wisdom of the different contexts surrounding the development of human knowledge with us and others free of charge. (While some others may disagree, I think that this free and open sharing of ideas is necessary for our continued learning and progress as a society and civilization, and has been since time immemorial.)

Without these keepers of such knowledge, and contexts, being ‘brought up to speed‘ on the progress of philosophical thought would no doubt be a much more painful and arduous process, and I hope for-credit and open online participants familiarize themselves with some of the outstanding materials available to them online and locally (please feel free to use the comments of this post, the #philosophy12 hashtag, or a new posting on the blog to share something you come across that we could benefit from).

True to our constructivist’s roots, the class will be engaging with the idea of human knowledge by developing a statement and articulation of each learner’s own emerging individual philosophy, and then working collaboratively to synthesize and present a class lecture (one lecture undertaken by the class as a whole) outlining our collective reasoning, that will be recorded and streamed live online, and shared in the pantheon of voices between our own humble classroom and the halls of Oxford, the University of Glasgow, or even the new year’s Coursera offering.

The face-to-face class will be meeting Monday, November 5th, to discuss the criteria and layout of the unit of study, and streaming the conversation on #ds106radio so that open online participants can listen and take part in the conversation.

More Free Online Courses:

  • General Philosophy
    A series of lectures delivered by Peter Millican to first-year philosophy students at the University of Oxford. The lectures comprise the 8-week General Philosophy course and were delivered in late 2009.

  • Nietzsche on Mind and Nature
    Keynote speeches and special session given at the international conference ‘Nietzsche on Mind and Nature’, held at St. Peter’s College, Oxford, 11-13 September 2009, organized by the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford.

  • Kant’s Epistemology (audio only)
    Dr. Susan Stuart taught this course at the University of Glasgow in 2008, covering Kant’s three critiques published between 1781 and 1790.

  • Coursera’s Introduction to Philosophy
    This course will introduce you to some of the most important areas of research in contemporary philosophy. Each week a different philosopher will talk you through some of the most important questions and issues in their area of expertise.

I can also heartily recommend the Open Culture blog‘s collection of 55 Free Philosophy Courses

 

 

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Thinking Dutch | Interesting read on NYTimes Philosophy Blog

Reflections

I came across an interesting read on the recent philosophical climate in the Netherlands on the New York Times’ Philosopher’s Stone Blog:

Attention to the subject, Mulder points out, peaks each year on the Night of Philosophy. Held annually at the International School of Philosophy, it attracts a lay audience a thousand strong. As one organizer says, “The Dutch see an evening of philosophizing as a night out”: many cafes hold philosophical readings and discussions and books of philosophy regularly become best-sellers.

Mulder dates the growth of popular interest in the subject to the early 1990s, when neo-liberalism, commercialism and “hyper-individualism” began to disenchant the Dutch, whetting their appetites for fresh conceptions of society and the good life.

Regularly among the most desirable places in the world to live, Holland’s public discourse has had to encounter many uncomfortable conversations as the nation’s character has met with developments in a post-9/11 geopolitical climate:

But more recently, Mulder writes, Islam may have done the most to push philosophy into public life, by bringing certain fundamental (and discomfiting) questions to the fore: What is Enlightenment? What are Western values, and what grounds them? Is there a legitimate basis for the cross-cultural appraisal of values? Do all religions need to pass through a secularizing phase to have a place in the modern world and its political arrangements? Is democracy antithetical to religion? The various answers returned to these questions have sometimes been disturbing, but one cannot doubt that the questions have philosophical substance.

I think a few of the questions above – not to mention a few others that could be tied into this conversation – connect to something that Nick & Chris are getting at in the comments of Chris’ post (which is really a lengthy reply to Liam’s original question, Nature? What Nature?), but may also beg the question of how Canadian, or North American philosophical life measures up against our Scandanavian friends. What might our different degrees of commitment to personal and public philosophizing say about our different societies, or cultural experience?

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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!

 
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