Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


I’m Emotional – Katie Crompton

I’ve always thought that emotions are what make us human and that you need them to survive. If we couldn’t feel, how could we communicate and develop relationships? But what if you could live without expressing emotions? My questions on the ties between emotion and life have developed a lot during our metaphysical discussions, particularly when speaking about Heidegger’s theory of being vs. Being. From that topic came this question:

Does expressing emotion mean you are Being?

Before we can try and answer this question, we need to attempt to answer the following questions.

What is Being as opposed to being?

Martin Heidegger says that the difference between Being and being is how you live your life. He says that Being is having complete awareness of your Being while being is merely being a physical thing on the planet. In other words, being is existing while Being is truly living. Also, when you are Being, you are considered to be living an authentic life, while you are not if you are just being.

What is an emotion?

Merriam-Webster defines emotion as:

“the affective aspect of consciousness”


“a conscious mental reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body”

This may be the literary definition, but science makes this seemingly simple human action a lot more convoluted, as described in this article. This article depicts the difference between Paul Ekman’s universality theory and Lisa Feldman Barrett’s natural-kind view. The article describes these two theories and many more that fit in the middle of this psychological spectrum in much more detail, but in a nutshell, the universality theory says that all human’s express and observe emotions in the same way while the natural-kind view says that emotions aren’t biologically basic and aren’t interpreted and expressed in the same way. It well may be that emotions are just something we can’t explain or have a definitive answer on, which makes this whole concept a little more difficult.

The some of the pictures used in Ekman’s experiments from the article from The Atlantic

How do emotions happen/how are they expressed?

To answer this question, it would make it a lot easier if we could know if emotions are a biological thing or not, but we can attempt to answer this from things we already know.

*Note: I am not in psychology so this is not going to be a scientific explanation at all*

We can all basically agree that emotions are triggered things that happen in your daily life. Happiness from being with friends, sadness from hearing bad news, fear from watching a horror movie, and so on. Even though emotions can also be triggered from memories, it all happened in real life at some point. But what about things that happen in your dreams or just in your imagination? They can make you happy or scared or confused on their own. This then opens the question on reality and if the things that “happened” in your life are really just made up by your mind. As mentioned in the article, human’s have a special power. We have the power to create our own reality on agreeing on things like currency roads and possibly emotions. But did we create the reality or was it created for us?

Where to next?

This is a giant situation chalk full of unknowns. The next thing that should be explored is different definitions of reality and how they connect to the expression of emotions. This would then help us to discover the link between the expression of emotions and being.

Anchorman gif from Tenor



Infants Can Cry and I Can Write a Midterm – And Nothing May Be True

The mind gains knowledge through processing information in stimuli and internally rationalizing it. This I know to be true, but it cannot stand alone. Therefore, the following propositions must also be taken into account for us to all take this statement as true:

If the brain is a blank slate aside from instinctual qualities

And if those qualities include rational thought

And if knowledge does not have to be true to be known

As long as those statements are all true, then our final statement on how we gain knowledge also applies. Therefore, rather than prove my statement, we can prove the propositions that come before it, as the statement would logically follow as true.

The brain is a blank slate, aside from instinctual qualities.

This statement serves as two ideas in one, two ideas that would at face value contradict each other, but that can live in a balanced harmony to explain the brain and how it is. First, we can define what the blank slate is. Although cited in history many times, the theory was popularized in John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

The idea behind the Blank Slate theory is that at birth, an infant emerges with a mind blank of anything – thoughts, personality, instincts, and even the ability to process information. From there, processing, personality, thoughts, and all other basic brain functions are learned through sensory experience.

This theory obviously stands as undeniable pure empiricism, and because my statement does not, we are simply going to modify Locke’s theory as so many others have. Locke wrote his Essay Concerning Human Understanding in the late 1600’s, and by the late 1800’s Wilhelm Wundt had characterized all repeated human behaviour as human instinct, the most basic definition. From there, many psychologists and philosophers alike have toyed with the idea of instincts. For this statement, we’re going to use the criteria outlined in the book Instinct: An Enduring Problem in Psychology. The criteria go as followed:

To be considered instinctual, a behavior must:

a) be automatic
b) be irresistible
c) occur at some point in development
d) be triggered by some event in the environment
e) occur in every member of the species
f) be unmodifiable
g) govern behavior for which the organism needs no training (although the organism may profit from experience and to that degree the behavior is modifiable)

Warning for Baby Nudity

In layman’s terms, an instinct must be a behaviour that can occur in every human being when stimulated in a certain way, and it must be a behaviour that overrides reason and rational thought, therefore requiring no prior skill. Think fight or flight, a popularly cited and discussed human instinct. As for infant instincts, there are quite a few recorded that are cited by psychologists and parenting websites alike.

The instinctual qualities we are born with include rational thought

Once again, to answer this we must address and answer two things. The first is to define what rational thought is (and the purpose it plays in this statement on epistemology), and the second is to state that we are born with that rational thought.

Due to the nature of the word rational an the amount of people who have studied, defined, and warped it’s definition. this case, rational thought is the ability to process information, eg. rationalism, the theory that reasoning is the main source of our knowledge. Of course, because of our reliance on empiricism for the blank slate theory, we’ve reached a point here where rationalism and empiricism play an equal part in the gaining of knowledge.

With our definition of rational thought defined as the ability to process information through reasoning, we can safely assume infants are born with the ability to reason at the most basic levels. It’s undeniable that infants cry when they require attention, and in this case we can assume that the following basic reasoning is occurring.

“I’m hungry, so I will call for my mother.”
“My diaper is soiled, I will call for an adult.”
“Something has startled me, I will call for help.”

We can also apply the instinctual qualities earlier defined to rationalizing, further cementing the idea. Infant rationalizing is instant. For example, an infant will cry immediately after being started. It’s irresistible, babies cannot resist crying when they need help, unless serious trauma has rendered them silent. It occurs immediately at birth, a point in development. It is triggered by stimuli in the environment, such as fear, discomfort, and hunger. It occurs in all infants who are born healthy. It does not vary or change. And, finally, it does not need any prior training. In fact, quite the opposite, as most healthy infants come out into the world screaming.

Knowledge does not have to be true to be known.

This is perhaps the hardest statement to prove, if only because once we define knowledge and truth, we are left with something that still must be believed with perhaps a little bit of faith. Or, perhaps not, because even if it’s untrue it is known.

Either way, let us use the most literal dictionary definition of knowledge.

noun knowl·edge \ˈnä-lij\
: information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience or education
Although the dictionary is often not the best source for defining words in depth, in this case I’ve chosen the most basic definition for a very basic reason – this definition is the one most people recognize and ascribe to. Since humans have created language, humans can define language, and in this case knowledge is understood as information, understanding, and skills that are gained through experience.

As for truth… Well, truth is unknown. That is to say, there is no giant checklist that will say whether what we know is really a truth or not, and when so many things are either subjective or wholly based on perspective, we may never know. Because of that, humans have the potential to be knowledgeless if knowledge MUST be true to be known, so we will simply say that knowledge as potentially untrue is fair.

The mind gains knowledge through processing information in stimuli and internally rationalizing it.
Finally, we’ve gone through our propositional statements and defined them to the point where we can say that this statement is true.
The mind gains knowledge, (which does not need to be true,) through processing information in stimuli, (empiricism,) and internally rationalizing, (and instinct all humans are born with, and also rationalism) it.
With this statement, many (if not all,) schools of epistemology can argue their case. After all, as long as the stimuli is there and as long as the brain is functional enough to rationalize it, then it can be known. It can be known as competence and acquaintance, it can be argued as a true belief or not, it can serve itself to foundationalism or anti-foundationalism, and it can do almost any conceivable mixture of these schools.


Technology is ruining our society???

I think most people have heard this sort of argument, or something similar to it at least. There are a lot of people who look at how attached we are to our technology

and immediately come to the worst of conclusions. Technology is making us all anti-social, and as we stare down at the blinding screen we dismiss the presence of others to stay in our own technological bubble, and it’s ruining our society.

Take this example of an extreme argument, for example. One way to pull it apart is as follows:

Premise One: Technology is becoming an addiction in our society.

Premise Two: Our addiction is pulling us apart from each other.

Conclusion: Therefore, we need to pull away from technology and speak face-to-face

Or, in the words of the author themselves, “We need to try and go back to the good old days of people sitting down on porches talking to their neighbours.”

Now, lets actually look at the argument for Factual Correctness.

  • Premise One: Yes, and no. At least, according to the DSM-V. Under the DSM, Internet Gaming Addiction is categorized as a non-substance addiction, specifically separate from gambling addiction due to the lack of money on the line. (That is, money would be spent on games and micro-transactions – not on luck. Internet gambling is simply diagnosed as part of gambling as a whole.) However, there are three very specific points listed in the DSM itself that refute technology becoming an addiction to our society at large, and they are as follows:

“Note: Only non-gambling Internet games are included in this disorder. Use of the Internet for required activities in a business or profession is not included; nor is the disorder intended to include other recreational or social Internet use. Similarly, sexual Internet sites are excluded.”

“They typically devote 8-10 hours or more per day to this activity and at least 30 hours per week. If they are prevented from using a computer and returning to the game, they become agitated and angry. They often go for long periods without food or sleep. Normal obligations, such as school or work, or family obligations are neglected.”

“Excessive use of the Internet not involving playing of online games (e.g., excessive use of social media, such as Facebook; viewing pornography online) is not considered analogous to Internet gaming disorder, and future research on other excessive uses of the Internet would need to follow similar guidelines as suggested herein.”

  • From these quotes, it’s clear that the DSM only defines internet gaming as an addiction, (at least at the moment,) as there is not sufficient data yet to say that excessive use of social media or other forms of internet entertainment can be classified as addictive, despite the common myth that there is an agreed on criteria for diagnosing and evaluating them.There is also the criteria that normal obligations must be ignored. That is, there needs to be a lack of proper social functioning present to differentiate what is merely a strong passion, and an addiction. There also needs to be continued symptoms to count as an addiction – merely engaging in extended internet use once (say, for a friendly get-together,) does not count, even if it was for over ten hours per day.  And that does not even touch on the growing populace of people who have turned gaming into their job, through lets play commentaries, tutorials, speedruns, and other gaming based tournaments.

Gamebreaking has never been this profitable!

  • Context must also be taken into consideration, when agitation and anger are being assessed. Is this anger always present, and paired with a lack of the ability to complete obligations? Or, is it fair to assume that many people would be angry upon being forcibly removed from an activity they were engaged with.All in all, premise one is factually incorrect, as technology as a whole is specifically excluded from the DSM, and even if it was not, there are currently no consistent and factual studies to say that the majority of people are addicted – and going by the criteria for what an addiction must entail (irritability when separated from the object of addiction, increasing need to be exposed to more of the object of addiction, and an inability to keep up on other obligations,) most people in our society are not facing addiction at all.
  • Premise Two: Technology, social media especially, aredesigned as social. Their literal intent is to give people a means to communicate rapidly and comfortably. It gives users an outlet to connect with those that have similar interests, and gives them a social circle that understands them on a level those in their “real” life may not.The internet is also full of information, and with so much knowledge at the tips of our fingers, it’s not at all surprising that one would engage in technology during everyday life to enrich conversations or back up arguments. After all, that’s what we are doing right now with this project.
  • Conclusion: the conclusion is as limp as a wilted piece of lettuce when faced with all the things that keep people apart beyond technology. Work and school have people using the internet to do their work, people are enjoying their alone time by playing video games, people are using the internet to be social, and, frankly, if the people around you do not treat you fairly, there’s someone somewhere in the world who will. You don’t even have to buy a plane ticket to see them.

It’s still up in the air if we as a society really are “addicted” to the internet, or if it’s just become a part of everyday life. Frankly, I feel like it’s just something that has become an integral part of life, and that’s not a bad thing. I mean, remember that large scale power outage in August? There was no internet, no power, no technology. And yet, people managed to entertain themselves. They went shopping, they went on drives or walks or hikes, they read and painted and did puzzles. Unless it was too dark to do things, people were functioning just fine. But if the choice is there to do something online, then why not do it? It’s fun!

It’s not like going hiking or reading a book is something that makes you an inherently better person. (And lets not even get into how much reading the average person actually does online – there’s a good reason that people are taking note of fanfics – they are LONG.)

Besides that, a lot of what technology is becoming is interactive, that is to say, where TV was once a soapbox for those lucky enough to get onto it, it’s much more viewer concerned now. Social media has as much of an influence on a show’s popularity as simple ratings do, and people have HUGE meta conversations about things they love. And people have power online! Anybody can say anything, which gives oppressed groups that were never given a chance on the soapbox the same grounds to speak on what matters to them as the historic oppressors do.

So because of all of that, and even more things, I really can’t bring myself to consider the internet (and technology in general,) something we’re addicted to. Because it isn’t a problem, it isn’t stopping us from living life. It’s just changing how we live life, and I don’t believe for a moment that it’s changed for the worse.

(Edited on 19/10/15)



Political Animals

Following from some of the work Kelsey and Jeff have been doing, this New York Times Opinionator post may lead us into interesting discussions of social and political philosophy:

Homo sapiens has long sought to set itself apart from animals — that is, apart from every other living species. One of the most enduring attempts to define humanity in a way that distances us from the rest of animal life was Aristotle’s description of the human being as a “political animal.” By this he meant that human beings are the only species that live in the “polis” or city-state, though the term has often been understood to include villages, communes, and other organized social units. Implicit in this definition is the idea that all other animals are not political, that they live altogether outside of internally governed social units.

This supposed freedom from political strictures has motivated some, such as the 19th-century anarchist aristocrat Piotr Kropotkin, to take nonhuman animals as a model for human society. But for the most part the ostensibly nonpolitical character of animal life has functioned simply to exclude animals from human consideration as beings with interests of their own.

What might we be missing when we cut animals off in this way from political consideration? For one thing, we are neglecting a great number of solid scientific facts.This supposed freedom from political strictures has motivated some, such as the 19th-century anarchist aristocrat Piotr Kropotkin, to take nonhuman animals as a model for human society. But for the most part the ostensibly nonpolitical character of animal life has functioned simply to exclude animals from human consideration as beings with interests of their own.



Normal – a Fictitious Concept

“The normal does not exist. The average does not exist. We know only a very large but probably finite phalanx of discrete space-time events encountered and endured.”

Timothy F.X. Finnegan


What is it to be normal, does normality exist?

As a society we have rules and codes to follow. We have certain ways to view things; certain ideas of what is politically correct and ethically okay. We, as a society have a strong belief in normality. The word normal can be defined as the usual, average, or typical state or condition. What exactly is the usual, average or typical state of condition? How can we measure the usual? How often does something need to occur for it to become a typical state or condition?

Our society is run by its belief that everyone should behave and act a certain way. If they don’t conform to that behavior society may reject them, and they are labeled as “strange” and “abnormal”.

However, normal does not exist.

Humans are diverse, we are all different in some way or another so how can you classify us all into a spectrum of norm? This idea of normality is about unquestionable measures of reality and conformity. Humans can be unpredictable, but we try to remove the unpredictability by creating predictable behavior to create guidelines for acceptance and by doing so, we invent the norm.

Just as we create the norm, we prove that it cannot truly exist. There are many different cultures around the world that all have their own ways of living, their own beliefs and their own traditions. Cultures can contradict each other; they can be very different from one another. So how can we label any one of them as “normal” when they are all so different? Recall, the definition of normal is the usual, average, or typical state. If we were to calculate the averages of different beliefs of culture, we would end up with classifying cultures like those that exist in Asia as the norm purely because they have the highest population of people who follow that structure. Is then every other culture abnormal? Do we then have the right to say that no other culture is right except for the one with the highest average of followers?

Social norms are different around the world. For example, if I were to go to store in Canada not wearing shoes than I would be kicked out, because here the norm is “no shoes, no shirt no service.” However, if I went to a store in my home country, South Africa, without shoes people would not even notice; it would not a big deal in the slightest for people do it all the time.

An objective society is impossible to create.  Never will every mind agree with every other mind. What is real depends upon our values, and these values depend upon our personality and our experience. If there is a disagreement between society and an individual how do you determine who is right? If you ask one hundred people a simple question worded the exact same way every time no two individuals will respond exactly the same way.

How can normal exist when no two people are alike? Psychological diversity is a fact of life and so there cannot be a ‘normal’ person.

The craving to be normal is the craving to be average, it stems from the need that each individual has to be accepted and welcomed in their society. Be that as it may, the word in its literal meaning cannot exist. There can never be anything that is truly normal for there can never be any two things that are truly and exactly identical.




Epistemology- Starting to unravel

In my first assignment I briefly touched upon on Socrates idea that all he knew was that he knew nothing. I tend to agree with him in the sense that I believe there is so much knowledge out there, new things being discovered and even things that we can only truly understand by going through them, that we will never be “all-knowing.”

In my English class we just finished reading the play “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller. In one of our class discussions we talked about how each decision that we make leads our live in a certain direction, but it also closes all the other “parallel lives” that we could have had. I thought it was a sad way to look at it. Most of us make the best decisions we can at the time they come to us, sometimes we are not even aware that we are making a decision that will have a big impact.

I view knowledge in a similar way. It is all around us, but it is up to us to choose what we absorb and keep and what is thrown to the back of our minds and eventually fades. However how exactly we did that I didn’t know. In my psychology class we were taught that there is no known limit to how much information our brain can hold. I thought them how unfair it was then, that I had such difficulty remembering all the different names of the parts of our brain for the unit test. It was not something I wanted on the back of my mind, yet that is where it seemed to keep going.

As I kept reading I discovered that we need to “exercise” the connections to that knowledge for it to be easy to access, otherwise we may need something to spark it. Which why I think so many people like multiple choice questions, because they provide that spark that reminds us of the knowledge that we have forgotten that we have. It also made sense then those things that we do every day, knowledge passed to us by our parents such as table manners is in such frequent use and the connections must be so fast that we don’t even realize we are thinking about it. Yet it seemed a waste how much knowledge I may have and simply not be aware of it anymore.

In the midst of that thought how many things I learned when I was little that I do not remember. That lead to me think about Locke’s blank slate, and Plato/Descartes innate ideas. At first I thought blank slate made more sense, as you experience different events it adds to your knowledge. The only part that threw me off was when I thought about instincts. When babies are born they know to look for their mother’s nipples, as well as even have basic attempts to swim when under water, and know to not breathe in the water. Can that not be considered knowledge? They also know to try and copy what they see around them. No one has told them that they should do so. Babies copy facial expressions, eventually sounds. Some parts of us such as our heartbeat we cannot control but to look for a mother’s nipple as soon as we are born, to me seems much more complex.

Still, I do not think I have reached my final conclusion on this matter but something that I have come now to believe is that even though perhaps we may not be born with much knowledge, I think we are at least born with the bases to extend it.

As my father said at the dinner table “We build upon what is already there.” That is how humans further their knowledge, we take what our ancestors discovered and build upon it.