Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Here, Have Some Wisdom!

Current Mood

Two weeks into Philosophy and I feel like I have an infinite amount of questions and no real answers. I came into this class expecting it to be a challenge as well as an opportunity for me to step outside my comfort zone and expand the way in which I interpret the world around me. I have the tendency to become engrossed by difficult questions and problems without a solution until I am able to find an answer. I am beginning to realize that this is not the case for philosophy and I need to be okay with the possibility of never finding an answer and not let it limit my thinking or stop me from asking questions.

One of the many question that has been bugging me lately is the very first questions we addressed in class what is wisdom? I don’t have a conclusive answer and in fact I have more and more questions on the topic every day. However, I currently believe wisdom is a collection of experiences, information and values that is built up over time by your nature and nurture. I also believe that there is nothing that we really know that has not been imprinted on us or shared by other people in our lives. This conclusion supports the idea that philosophy must therefore be “inherently social” as Nigel Warburton refers to it in his essay Talk with me. I believe that sharing information and experiences, or “wisdom”, amongst ourselves is the only way to begin to understand or strive for knowledge surrounding topics like the meaning of life.

I agree with Warburton on his points that philosophy should be a conversation and that philosophers need “an intelligent listener who could criticise and help [them] focus [their] thought.” I also think that the input from another person, with an entirely different perspective and set of experiences, not only adds value and perspective to a philosophical conversation but cannot be objectively replicated by any other means.

I also agree with John Stuart Mill* in terms of his ideas on the value of dissenters. It is very easy to gloss over flaws in your thinking when there is no one there to call you out on them. When conversing with someone of an opposing view point it actually allows a philosopher to strengthen their argument and increase their own clarity of understanding as they work to persuade the dissenter.

*Fun fact, John Stuart Mill was a white man born in 1806 and a feminist*

On the other hand, I don’t believe that philosophy must be a social practice all of the time. Warburton’s essay highlights a recurring pattern of great philosophers seeking out isolation in order to further develop their ideas and complete their written work. I think that there is a place for both heated debates and independent pondering and that taking time as a philosopher to sit with your thoughts is essential.

 

 

Another question posed in class that has resonated with me was what is school for? It was odd to really critically examine and question the motives of an institution that has been a significant part of my life for the past 12 years of my life. However, when it came to exploring educational philosophies, I wasn’t surprised that I agreed the most with progressivism. I consider myself lucky to have been in very progressive learning environments in the form of programs of choice from 6th to 10th grade and I believe they helped me become an autonomous and life-long learner. I really appreciate the progressive learning philosophy because I feel it helps students find and cultivate their strengths and passions in addition to preparing them for the real world. I strongly agree with the role of the teacher in a progressive classroom, as a guide for problem solving and scientific inquiry”. I believe that teaching students in a progressive environment is the best way to raise a generation of people capable of finding innovative solutions to societies increasingly complex problems.

 

In terms of my personal goals for philosophy, I am really interested in working to finding a mix of science and philosophy with which to approach big questions or problems. Although I am very scientific and left brained I also believe there are some things in life that just can’t be explained by science and that sometimes there are multiple correct answers. I am also excited about working to develop a personal philosophy and my own definition of a “good life”. As a grade 12 student, I’m approaching one of the most significant changes of my life to date. Within the next year I will be transitioning into adulthood and heading to university to start out on my own. I want to go into this new chapter with a strong personal philosophy and a defined “good life” to strive for. Most of all I would like expand my thinking ability by developing the skills necessary to conduct philosophical conversations and approach situations with an open mind.

Moving forward I am looking forward to discussing topics including intuition and coincidence, why some people don’t like bagpipes, and the effect of social media on philosophical discussions.

 

 

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Idealism and Pragmatism – Derek & Jonathan

In analyzing the balance between pragmatism and idealism, we concluded that the most important subject of discussion is the goals of democracy. While we have many different ways to run it, the aim of government is what affects its quality and style the most. As time has progressed, we have seen a dynamic change in the way that we as a society, seek specific goals. As we entered the modern era, we have allowed more room for idealists, and have been awarded then by the goals that we have sought.drawing idealist pragmatist w800

Our modern government today has approached their democracies in a varieties of ways, but these methods can all be encompassed by two major ideas: pragmatism and idealism. The challenge that our governmental system faces today is how to balance these major pillars of ideology.

The direction in which we progress, however, has still been logically and largely pragmatic. This is due to the nature of pragmatic approaches. If we consider pragmatism, which literally means a practical approach, we see that it is simply looking for the best available option. Many issues are solved daily with pragmatism and it has done relatively well so far. Pragmatism, unfortunately, is limited by it’s own definition. When issues are considered in a pragmatic way, whatever changes exacted will be within the current method of thinking. A parochial solution if you will. Not to say pragmatism does not solve problems, but the nature of pragmatism inhibits the growth of idealism and subsequent major developments in the social paradigm.

Idealism is, well, idealistic. To seek an idealistic society is to seek the best possible that the system may offer, regardless of its potentiality. Admittedly, there are many great components to this resolution. An idealist would say that why not seek the best possible options? We must aim for the best, in order to attain the best for the citizens of this planet.

Idealism would also argue that there must be a catalyst, an instigator for change, in order to make the monumental progress that is possible. How could we possibly know what’s possible, if we don’t try? It parallels the ideas of Kuhn in epistemology, as he suggests we challenge the basis of the paradigms we remain trapped in today.

You could say “shoot for the moon and you might just land in the stars”. But a pragmatic approach combats this with a different idea: if you shoot for the moon, you might just end up floating in the middle of space, with nothing accomplished. This is one of the undeniable flaws of idealism, and one of the major points of contention from both sides – what happens when one falls short of the goals presented by idealism? Have they achieved the distance they have covered? Or is it an all-or nothing challenge?

Pragmatists have also challenged the idealists in terms of limitations. Is there a potential limitation to the goals you can seek? One could ask: when do the possibilities of ideals end? Human nature can only conform to the ideals of this world to a certain limit. Mengzi once said that “the great man is the one who does not lose his child’s heart” – this goes on to say that all men are eventually corrupted. If so, this means that an idealistic world cannot exist (or only exists to a certain point). This asks the question: when should we stop searching for a greater society? Is there a point when we have reached the peak of our abilities?

Furthermore, it is important to note that, due to the differing areas in which pragmatism and idealism may be applied, the answer to which is better depends on the questions you ask and the area you wish to broach. Like Quantum Mechanics if you will. You may be considering these two ideas in terms of their social, political, religious or even moral aspects. The plausibility of these two may change significantly depending on what aspect you are looking from.

As seen above, there are many questions to consider when dealing with these two ideas. If they were to be simplified to a select few, these are the most important questions to ask:

1. Should democracy seek idealism or pragmatism?
2. Is there a limit to idealism?
3. Should we treat idealism and pragmatism differently when dealing with unique topics (eg political, social, moral, etc)
4. Is there a balance between idealism and pragmatism? If so, where is it?

 
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