Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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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”

or

“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

 

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Energy in Motion

What if humans did not have emotions?

I set out to answer this question further than my original thoughts (that life would be meaningless without them). I also set out to discover a philosopher who also has some insight into emotions. And I found David Hume’s very interesting perspective of emotions into the world from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

He proposes that emotions are part of the passions, along with feelings and desires. These passions lead us to the top of will, definitely not where I was headed. However, what he has to stay is quite interesting. Its the thought that “we discover just as much necessity to hold between human motives, character traits, and circumstances of action, on the one hand, and human behavior on the other” from this realm of passions and will and emotions.

To understand what he is saying, and how it relates to my initial understanding, I am going to breakdown his quote. He incorporates a sense of necessity into motives, character traits, actions, and behaviour. Human motives represent our ambitions and aspirations towards some goal. Our character traits are what defines us, which is parallel with emotions in the we act out based on our circumstances. A particular judgement often made against others is how a person might react to a specific situation. I think Hume is suggesting that emotion is a driving force in the action we make of our circumstances, and this outlines the kind of person we are. Human behaviour comes into play also with reactions. It is how we decide, whether nature or nurture, to respond to our environment.

I agree with David Hume on this point, before he begins to gets into Free Will and Morals. One of the things I feel most compelling in my life is to seek happiness, which I guess can be thought of as a purpose of life. But back to my original question, what does the absence of emotions in humans entail? Overall, I think it would equate to a lack of connections between us. We would be more self sustaining, have other motives or drives, and perhaps not be able to recognise a purpose in life. The lack of emotions may lead as far as a less evolved brain, and more primal instincts because that is what I see humans would rely on. Without emotions, we not really be human at all (I mean this far outside of mental illness/disorders, please do not think my intentions are related to that topic).

While emotions may just seem like a thing that we happen to experience, it can involve many other metaphysical inquiries, and is not as simple as one may think at first.

 

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Emotion, a “happening” in our brain?

Emotions hit us like a train every time something happens to us, generally a reaction to another persons actions or events that take place. These emotions affect our actions and thinking very drastically in good and bad ways from crying or laughing to fight or flight. It is the motivation inside us to actually do something and aspire. It is how we decide right from wrong. Emotions help us to understand the world by assisting our minds in comprehending things beyond logic.They are a very important tool for survival, without fear we wouldn’t feel danger and would die more often. This proves that emotion is something we need, but what actually IS emotion? Why do we naturally feel it?  where does it come from? do we decide our own emotions in our consciousness?

emotions

This topic for me sparks up an endless amount of questions that seem unanswerable and give me a headache, and its hard to know where to start. I visited a Stanford university page on psychology and emotion to see what view a professional has on this topic.

“constructionist approach to the science of emotion centered on three key ideas: (1) an emotion word (like anger) refers to a conceptual category, populated with situation-specific instances that are tailored to the environment; (2) each instance of emotion is constructed within the brain’s functional architecture of domain-general core systems; (3) the workings of each system must be understood within the momentary context of the rest of the brain and the body.” – Dr. Lisa Feldman-Barrett

This statement claims that each instant of emotion is constructed within the brains functional architecture of systems. this bold and unexplained statement leaves me with too much curiosity. do we consciously construct instances of emotion? how does our brain do that? WHAT is it creating?

Emotions are expressions of energy that contain specific energy codes. These energy codes are created by our intuitions and thoughts, which allow us to understand them in an authentic way. This process of creating emotion energy codes in an authentic fashion is what gives us the perception of feeling.

yet even if you are faking an emotion, and don’t really feel that way, the real authentic feeling stabs you in the stomach and you might suppress it. Where does the authenticity come from? is that your underlying true self showing his opinion? there is no choice in that authentic emotion, where does it come from?  the fact that there seems to be a force of uncontrollable emotion in existence, it must come from somewhere. many articles are claiming it comes from this “subconscious mind”, WHERE THE HECK IS THAT.


Doctor climbing a ladder to look inside a giant brainit seems to be an answer many of us want to know, but there can only be theories, and to study what is happening in the brain. the limbic system of the brain, which is made up of several structures located in the cerebral cortex, is responsible for these emotions. It structures the levels of chemicals, called neurotransmitters, being manufactured by the body in response to certain conditions the person is experiencing. Here is an example of a professionals explanation of emotions.

it seems to be an answer many of us want to know, but there can only be theories, and to study what is happening in the brain. the limbic system of the brain, which is made up of several structures located in the cerebral cortex, is responsible for these emotions. It structures the levels of chemicals, called neurotransmitters, being manufactured by the body in response to certain conditions the person is experiencing. Here is an example of a professionals explanation of emotions.

This still leaves us all in a confusion of understanding where emotions come from and why. what force is creating them? is it me? Gonna leave this one hanging..

t2-phone_99370c

 

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Reality, a process: Interdependence, Emptiness and Physics

     In early Buddhism, dependent origination (pratitya-samutpada) was primarily used to explain the law of causation, the chain of cause, effect, and conditioning:

Ignorance > Karma > Consciousness > Name-Form > Senses > Contact > Feeling > Craving > Grasping > Becoming > Old age and death > Rebirth

The fundamental state of being is ignorance, conditioned by the imprints or seeds of past actions, habits and relationships (karma), which gives rise to consciousness, which is joined to name-form (the psycho-physical entity, specifically the embryo in the womb), which activates the six-senses; the senses come into contact with objects of desire and as a result, feeling, craving and grasping arise; these factors cause and condition the becoming of life and all that is becoming (existing) is subject to old age and death, and with the theory of rebirth, everything is set to be repeated in a future life, a continuum of consciousness within an seemingly endless cycle of birth and death.

 

 

By the time the Mahayana tradition was established, the focus of the analysis was less on how things come to be and more about how nothing can exist by itself, that everything is interconnected and inter-related. This is one reason why I interpret  pratitya-samutpada as interdependence. Dependent origination or dependent arising sounds too much like a form of creationism.For Nagarjuna, the architect of Madhyamaka philosophy (you can learn more about Madhyamaka here) interdependence was synonymous with emptiness (sunyata).The true nature of reality (paramarthasatya) can be termed as the “emptiness of own-being” (svabhava-sunyata) and “interdependency” (pratitya-samutpada). Nagarjuna and the Madhyamaka’s taught that neither an individual nor dharma have an own-being that exists by its own right.

The Sanskrit word parikalpita, meaning imaginary or the “imagined.” In Chinese Buddhist terms defines it as “Counting everything as real, the way of the unenlightened; The nature of the unenlightened, holding to the tenet that everything is calculable or reliable, i.e. is what it appears to be.” Paraikapita is one of the three natures (tri-svabhava) that imagines a duality between subject and object. This imagined reality is an illusion, a thought construction superimposed on the true reality. Like a veil, it conceals the truth of emptiness/interdependency and all we see in our ordinary experience is an apparent reality, in which things appear to exist by their own right and seem to possess a nature or being that is permanent, independent, unconditioned and designed.

In Madhyamaka philosophy, any duality between subject and object is considered to be imagined (parikalpita again); there is no independently existing ‘experiencer’ apart from the experience, and experience can be also designated as a process.In the world of subatomic physics there are no objects, only processes. Atoms consist of particles but these particles are literally empty. So, we are aware now that reality is not particle-like but more like the nature of space. The common idea of space is an empty three-dimensional area. But there is no empty space (if by empty space, one means nothingness), space is actually permeated with an impalpable continuum. But the three dimensional aspect we perceive is somewhat of an illusion, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say it is not the full reality.

Finally, interdependency or pratitya-samutpada – the insubstantiality, the interconnectedness, the expansiveness of reality – is not only the foundation for all the diverse concepts in Buddhism, it is also the ground of the diverse world. Emptiness is the cause of interdependency and emptiness is not only a synonym for interdependence, it is also a synonym for something else

“That which is of the nature of coming and going, arising and perishing, in its saha (mundane) nature is itself Nirvana in its unconditioned (ultimate) nature.”

-Nagarjuna, “Treatise on the Maha Prajna-Paramita Sutra”

 

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Come Join the Hivemind

(Okay, don’t really.)

So, consciousness and unconsciousness. In theory, we’ve all got one. They’re the defining traits of what makes us who we are, and, in the words of Descartes, “thought exists, it alone cannot be separated from me. I am; I exist,” the idea then, that nothing can be confirmed except ourselves – except the presence of our own thoughts and conscious. That concept then, is that we are alone.

But, we cannot perceive all of our unconscious. For the most part, it’s unknown to us, coming out in the form of passive dreams, hidden desires, and for some, intrusive thoughts that we know we didn’t have. Nobody knows all there is to know about the thoughts they have, no matter how much they may claim they do.

So, if we cannot perceive all of our conscious that lets us Be, then who’s to say that it functions autonomously? What if Descartes was right, that the only thing that can be proven is our own thought. But also, what if our thought was not only ours? Taking a page out of Carl Jung‘s book, what if we shared a collective unconscious?

It’s not a new idea. Archetypes, the concept that the collective unconscious relies on the most heavily, were first mentioned with Plato relating to his Theory of Forms. However, it was Jung who refined the idea the most.

His idea was that we all collectively are aware of archetypes as concepts, and as history and culture move forwards, we experience people and moments that display these archetypes, whether through real or fiction. (In the case of fiction specifically, try The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.)

So, through the collective unconscious and the archetypes within, we see reflections of concepts such as the motherthe devilthe childthe tricksterthe wise old man, and others. While broad terms, they’re seen reflected throughout history and throughout all cultures. These archetypes touch our myths and define the heros of media even today. Play them straight or juxtapose them, but they come out all the same regardless.

A collective unconscious, a shared reality. They’re ideas that have been touched both by Psychologists and Philosophers, due to the very distinct nature of the consciousness and our understanding of ourselves, which makes it a very rewarding topic to broach.

But, how do we prove it?
Can we let it define us?
Are we our own people, let alone capable of originality, if our ideas all come from before?

We might not ever be able to tell, but we might as well ask anyway.

 

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“Pics or it didn’t happen”

Image via MemeCenter

The mantra of the Instagram era:

Think about the pictures of a horde of tourists assembled in front of the Mona Lisa, their cameras clicking away. It is the most photographed work of art in human history. You can see it in full light, low light, close-up, far away, x-rayed; you can find parodies of parodies of parodies; and yet, seeing it in person and walking away does not suffice. The experience must be captured, the painting itself possessed, a poor facsimile of it acquired so that you can call it your own – a photograph which, in the end, says, I was here. I went to Paris and saw the Mona Lisa. The photo shows that you could afford the trip, that you are cultured, and offers an entrée to your story about the other tourists you had to elbow your way through, the security guard who tried to flirt with you, the incredible pastry you had afterwards, the realisation that the painting really is not much to look at and that you have always preferred Rembrandt. The grainy, slightly askew photo signifies all these things. Most important, it is yours. You took it. It got 12 likes.

This is also the unspoken thought process behind every reblog or retweet, every time you pin something that has already been pinned hundreds of times. You need it for yourself. Placing it on your blog or in your Twitter stream acts as a form of identification – a signal of your aesthetics, a reflection of your background, an avatar of your desires. It must be held, however provisionally and insubstantially, in your hand, and so by reposting it, you claim some kind of possession of it.

 

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The Golden Ball

Philosophy can be seen as questioning the mere existence of reality, and this questioning goes beyond our material world. In the material world, reality is confined to “facts”, information and experiments that give us a false sense of reality and logic. Further more, this fascination the human brain has with the materialistic world may have its essence in the way we think, the way we think on the surface.Things we can understand that fit in with our experiments and laws that have been declared by sets of theories that have been only developing for only couple hundred years seems to give us comfort, a sense of security about this mysterious phenomenon we call life. On the contrary the human brain is so complex it also finds comfort in “abstract ideas”, such as theism and variety of dogmatic, ritualistic practices that give the illusion of an higher being, a deity that keeps you safe or destroys you with his wrathful will. A loving god that will take your soul to heaven, after you die. Death, A concept that has fascinated the human brain as far as the time our story began. Science argues that after death there’s no more existence as we know it. Our biological body decays as cellular death occurs. Does this mean our consciousness cease to exist as well? Or is there more to this phenomenon more than we can imagine. Philosophy, aims to ponder deeper into these thoughts. Is there a certain, ultimate answer? Probably not, as most of these abstract ideas such as the nature of self or how human consciousness really works ; create more questions that seem to have no answer. So? What’s the point of spending time and energy on philosophical ideas? If you would like to be believe the human race is even more fascinating than the way science perceive to be, then perfection of wisdom, pursue of enlightenment would be the path that you wouldn’t be able to wonder of another way. Philosophy is transcendental, it doesn’t favor different perspectives but the wise and the enlightened. Philosophy does not have facts to be discovered it doesn’t have information to live upon. Philosophy is a gateway to higher state of thinking and consciousness, where you can discover more about the very nature of human existence and more about you. Philosophy satisfies our fascination with mystery while having you guessing and questioning the idea of mystery it self. If knowledge is an ever expanding ocean of ideas that has existed and will exist in the future, than philosophy is a golden, glowing ball of fascination thrown into to the ocean of knowledge. It sinks and sinks to the very essence of the ocean. It doesn’t stay in the surface, for the surface of this ocean is visible. It is visible to the by standers whom have no idea how deep the ocean is. They are too stunned by the beauty of the ocean they see yet they refuse to acknowledge the dept of ocean. Praising the beauty of the ocean from the shallow end seem to be safer, it gives them comfort But the enlightened,he follows this golden ball of fascination deep into the ocean. As the ball goes deeper it sheds light upon the very darkness of the ocean of knowledge. The enlightened dives further, following the ever sinking ball. it gets darker and colder as he leaves familiar waters. As it gets darker, the ball still sheds light into the darkness, clearing a path for the man. Then he realizes, he finds comfort discovering the unknown. He realizes that the darkness will continue as the golden ball seem to shed more and more light as it sinks. This satisfies his curiosity, his craving for wisdom. Now that he’s deep in the ocean, he doesn’t see the purpose of admiring the beauty of the waves that hit the shallow shore, where people stand and watch. Does he keep following the golden glowing ball or does he go back to share what he has seen?

 

 

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The Eternal Pursuit for Knowledge and Meaning (aka Nikki’s soul-searching journey)

Intellectual or not, the human mind is on a constant path of furthering it’s own knowledge. Whether it be street smarts gained by years of socialization or the physical push for a higher education, we grow and adapt and seek out new information to cope with our ever changing surroundings.

Since the dawn of time, man (and woman) have pushed and grown to new heights to advance as a civilization. What drives this innate sense of growth and prosperity? What pushes us to seek higher education and put ourselves through years of schooling?

In it’s truest form philosophy refers to the “love of wisdom,” but in a general sense it could also refer to “the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group.” To myself that definitely seems like the pursuit of knowledge and growth in a person. As seen by this photo, even philosophy itself, moves and adapts and seeks more and more to fulfill their insatiable need to explain the universe.

We desire knowledge to figure out this crazy universe and if there is a true meaning to our lives or if we’re just pawns in someone’s game or just specks of dust floating in space.

Different views have different opinions so what are we really supposed to believe? We as individuals seek out philosophy as a way to differentiate ourselves from the general populace of “sheeple” and to find our own meaning to life. To learn and hear people’s opinions and learn tolerance and how to argue for ourselves and stand up and fight the face of injustice.

Philosophy gives us a platform to seek a higher knowledge and expand our views. I personally am here to develop my own opinion and find my voice in the endless void. It is so easy to be lost in the sea of opinions and just give up and join the masses, but it takes real chutzpah to be the voice above the rest and really be yourself.

And along the words of the eternal cliche Robert Frost “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —I took the one less traveled by.”

TL;DR I’m very opinionated and I like big words. Different people have different views, it’s almost like we’re individuals. Philosophy gives me existential crises and I don’t know if I like that.

 

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Quantum Mechanics 101

From time to time in Philosophy this semester we’ve stumbled into metaphysical issues brought about by Vincent quantum mechanics. To help scaffold these conversations through the balance of the semester, or merely for your own curiosity, here are a few short videos on the key concepts in the field.

Demystifying Tough Physics in Four Lessons

Ready to level up your working knowledge of quantum mechanics? Check out these four TED-Ed Lessons written by Chad Orzel, Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Union College and author of How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog.

You’ll find the four short lessons linked below:

  1. Particles and Waves: The Central Mystery of Quantum Mechanics
  2. Schrodinger’s Cat: A Thought Experiment in Quantum Mechanics
  3. Einstein’s Brilliant Mistake: Entangled States
  4. What is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle? 
 

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Midterm Assignment: Personal Theory of Knowledge

εntropyıng ın-bεtwεεn Camεra▲Obscura . .

Image courtesy of Flickr user Jef Safi

All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.

Immanuel Kant

For credit as well as open-online participants are invited to respond to the following prompts in developing a personal theory of knowledge to be share on the blog by the end of next week (Friday December 5th). 

Purpose

  • To state and support a proposition of personal knowledge;
  • To synthesize and reflect on course topics explore thus far:
    • Philosophical Inquiry
    • Logic
    • Scientific Philosophy
    • Metaphysics
  • To integrate existing epistemological ideas into a unique personal theory.

Components

  • It’s a Blog Post: Each personal theory of epistemology will be posted in the form of a blog entry on the class site.
  • Tell us what you know: Identify a specific aspect or perspective of your view of knowledge ( how, where, and under what conditions it exists, is acquired, communicated).
  • Be Logical: Represent the statements formulating your proposition of knowledge as a syllogism or logical argument.
  • Cite your Sources: Whether the website that originally posted the image at the top of your post or the thinker(s) who informed your own ideas, use links and identify how others’ have influenced your published work.

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