Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Humanity and Freedom part 2 – Jessica Lewis

In My last post, Humanity and Freedom, I mentioned the idea of humans and freedom. My first question for this assignment was are humans free? to gain more knowledge on the freedom of humans I read an article called, Morning as the Origin of Humanity. The article helped me gain a firmer grasp on what it means to be free but as much as it helped it also confused me, New questions were raised from the article. These new questions were are we as free in death as we are in life? These questions led me to the conclusion that could there be an afterlife? Is there a whole purpose to this ride were on? I understand that the question about purpose seems rather far fetched from my original questions but it isn’t, My question led me down the path of religion and the argument many historians, priests and realists have argument for years, Religion or reality?


In a discussion with Laike on April 11th We  brought up both our topics and immediately knew we had similar ideas. As regards to my question are humans free? Me and Laike talked about how although we feel free we really aren’t. In society today we are confined by gender roles, Societies view and religious restrictions.  Lake merged our questions together and we came up with God. Due to us both having religious backgrounds it wasn’t hard to think back to all the rules that comes with Christianity. One of the examples we spoke about was Adam and Eve and how god gave us freedom but took it away so quickly ( and some may argue we are still paying for it today ). Talking to Laike allowed me to have more insight as to how religion plays a role in our lives just as much as gender roles does. In the conversation I brought up the idea of school. I related it to freedom and how we ‘feel’ free. We come to school and yes, some people hate it but they still come. W mentioned how yes, we do have the right ( once 16) to refuse to come to school but it doesn’t mean were free. Deciding to not come to school anymore till have strings attached and isn’t as easy as just never looking back.


In Our class discussions I found that although we had similar ideas, The differences were that some interoperated story’s and quotes from the Bible in different ways. Some interpreted Eve eating the apple because the Snake wanted to give us sin or some say that the snake was right and god simply wants to confine us from freedom. One finding I think everyone in my group came to was that the question of God,as with religion, wont be ever be answered.


In a second discussion on April 12th, when we  formed a bigger group with other students in the class, The topic of God and the restrictions of religion was yet again the topic of discussion. Helena, Laike , David and Shem all borught up interesting points about why and how do we react to certain aspects of religion. In the discussion It was mentioned that some people find safety In looking to some Higher Power, It gives some people relief. We also talked about how the Bible doesn’t always make sense. For example, As mentioned previously, ‘God’ punished Adam and Eve for eating the fruit and its said that everyone now is born with that ‘sin’. However in the new testament on the Bible things were changed and rules were altered. Why? and how? If the Bible was so real why doesn’t  it make sense? and if the religion constricting us to roles and rules is false, maybe we are free after all? or maybe ourselves are what is restricting us? Are we sub consciously confining ourselves?







The Meaningfulness of Lives

While running

In what I have called an age of economics, it is even more urgent to ask the question of a meaningful life:  what it consists in, how we might live one.  Philosophy cannot prescribe the particular character of meaning that each of us should embrace.  It cannot tell each of us individually how we might trace the trajectory that is allotted to us.  But it can, and ought to, reflect upon the framework within which we consider these questions, and in doing so perhaps offer a lucidity we might otherwise lack.  This is as it should be.  Philosophy can assist us in understanding how we might think about our lives, while remaining modest enough to leave the living of them to us.

Todd May writing in the New York Times 

I left a link to the story quoted above on Liam’s post about the nature of life’s meaning if not provided from an external ‘god’ force or intelligent design. But many of the conversations we have had – and will have – are the logical extensions of many of our metaphysical concerns.

It is no random act that organizes our philosophy course in the order that it does, as questions about What is, and What is it like naturally lead us to consider what we can know objectively (or personally/subjectively) in such a world, and then onto – based upon that knowledge – what it is that constitutes a good life.

This assumes of course that a ‘good life’ is in some way connected to life’s purpose. Though perhaps that is a debate worth having as well.



Heaven Is Probably A Place On Earth

the-meaning-of-lifeI will try my best not to delve too deeply into paragraph upon paragraph of religious bias. If you don’t enjoy the topic, skip ahead now.

A great number of people live because there is supposedly a God, or another superior form waiting to submit them into heaven, an afterlife, or anything else that is far greater than the flawed Earth we live on. But, the question is: do we need something greater to live for? We are all alive, but we can only live based on what we choose to believe. For instance: faithful people require a purpose in life to secure their purpose in death: admittance to paradise. It’s satisfying to firmly believe that “death does not bring about their complete annihilation” (MHR Philosophy Unit 2: Metaphysics, 114).

Three Saturdays ago, just before I was about to leave my house to catch a bus, a Jehovah’s witness quietly knocked on my front door. Not wanting to be rude, I entertained him by watching a video he had pre-loaded on an iPad. It attempted to answer why, if there is a God, there would still be suffering and grievance. For those of you not interested in religion-related media: basically, the Bible says suffering happens because there is an “evil power“.

Although I didn’t appreciate having to once again be pummelled with the dodgeballs of religion, I suddenly understood why this is comforting for some. Many people don’t like to think that humans are at fault for terrible happenings! If a higher power is responsible for turmoil, it must mean all humans are innately good.

However, it is not a source of despair to refute a higher power. We have what we have: an “impossible universe full of awe and wonder … [and] an infinite number of questions we can work on”(Jillette, God, No!, 229). We must live by leaving it be, not by letting faith guide us. This is my bias, but am I enforcing this upon you? No. Choose to believe whatever you want, because you will always be an individual.

Trash_Religion_b-on-w_no-siteThe core of “living” is individuality. Humans can never have a common, shared life experience, no matter how much they are in each other’s company. I can’t think, thought-for-thought, in the exact same manner as the brains currently in this room.

  • Can we know that there is a superior being?
  • Can we know that there isn’t?

The frustrating short answer is no, but the existence of superiority should not prevent us from living on our own “rational” thoughts: well, that is a whole other subject.




Religious Freedom


Image via Wikipedia, Barack Obama

“Religious freedom doesn’t mean you can force others to live by your own beliefs.”

The following statement can be made into a syllogism with three premises and a conclusion:

Premise 1: Your religious choices should not be subject to interference or limitation

Premise 2: You have the right to follow or to not follow a religion

Premise 3: Your religious choices should not affect others

Conclusion: Therefore, religious freedom doesn’t mean you can force others to live by your own beliefs.

After evaluating this argument, I came up with the following 3 premises and conclusion:

  • Premise 1: Is practiced by most but not accepted by all. I believe the majority of people would agree that our religious choices should not be subject to any sort of interference or limitation, though it can not be argued that this is a premise accepted by everyone.
  • Premise 2: Is again practiced by most but not accepted by all. I believe that the majority of people would agree that everyone should have the right to follow or to now follow a religion, though again it can not be argued that this is a premise accepted by all.
  • Premise 3: Is again practiced by the majority of people but not accepted by all. Most people would agree that your religious choices should not affect others though this premise is not true for all.

This argument can be accepted as valid as the conclusion follows the premises though it can not be accepted as sound as the premises are not accepted by all. This argument is not a sound argument in everyones eyes but the majority of people would agree that everyone has the right to choose and practice their own religion without limitation or interference. Those who have strong beliefs about the rights and wrongs of religious/non-religious beliefs may not agree with this statement making it an unsound argument.

After further research on the origin of this statement I have come to find that this is an entirely fictitious statement most likely formed by someone other than Barack Obama.  



The Perspective of Negative Freedom- Dylan

As with all good questions to be pondered, once answered there seems to be thousands of more questions that are then opened up, waiting to be answered to if only unlock the door to thousands of more mysteries waiting to find answers too.

This is where I seem to be at. After a long time spent pondering positive and negative freedom, I feel I have a stable enough grasp on what they both mean, and can analyze and discuss them enough to contribute to some sort of discussion surrounding the topic. But as I mentioned above, I’ve a sort of, philosophical wall of questions. One that, I feel, is making it hard for me to make that jump to  fully understanding these concepts to the best of my ability. Even if I don’t find an “answer” to these questions, just being able to try to articulate them is enough to make me feel satisfied with them. One in particular has been burning in me for a couple of days, and has to deal with the very nature of subjectivity and objectivity and how we can relate these things to freedom. This scenario that I’ve been trying to unravel in my head has to do mainly with negative freedom, and freedom in religion also, but also covers the grand spectrum of the idea of freedom.

And just as a disclaimer, my purpose of this question is not to make any sort of religious or anti-religious statement, I just find this scenario to be the most helpful in trying to explain whatever it is I’m trying to say and considering the awesome amounts of discussions we had today concerning religion, I find it to be a very interesting topic to discuss right now.

Let’s say Person A follows a certain type of religion, and adheres to that religion’s particular text and rules. They lead the life they want to live with that particular text, and know the rules and restrictions that it lays out for them, and follow these as part of their daily practice. They know that there are restrictions being placed on things that on what they do by the wishes of the spiritual deity or higher power that they look to. Now, Person B, as on-looker of Person A and one who does not necessarily believe in the same walk of faith would look at the rules and in their mind not see them as restrictions for they do not see any credibility in the external force that these restrictions originated from. Person B, not believing in the same external deity that Person A does, would not see these rules being placed down from a real source.

Looking at this scenario, the person who is follows that particular religious text would say that yes, they do have some restrictions on their freedom to do what they want, but that they believe in these rules to help them lead the life that they want to live. While an on-looker who does not particular adhere to the same rules of faith and does not believe in the same way of thinking would say that the other person is actually free and that they themselves are the ones who are putting the restrictions on their lives, not anyone else.

So, who really is right in this scenario? I mean technically speaking, negative freedom is the freedom from interference of others, so in Person B’s ways of thinking, Person A is free. Because Person B does not believe in the spiritual deity or set of rules that Person A believes in, they believe that they themselves are enforcing the rules on themselves, and that there actually are no external restrictions. But for Person A, it is the total opposite. They do have an external force restricting some of the choices that they make, which means that in their mind there is some

Which finally brings us to the question. Considering the scenario, could that mean that in some cases, depending on the situation and too different degrees, that negative freedom could be totally subjective at times? Could it be that freedom is based on perspective and is not completely objective? Because in regards to this scenario, no one really knows if there is any sort of “higher power”, in which ever way you’d like to define that, or not out there. There is really only what we ourselves believe. And in that case then, since we only have what we ourselves believe to go off of, could freedom, and more specifically negative freedom, just be a token of our perspective?



Discussion Synthesis Soundbytes

Sea to Sky Outdoor School

Positive / Negative Freedom

For those following online, here are the pieces of conversation synthesized by different groups following last week’s reading on Positive / Negative Freedom. Topics covered included political correctness, religion, and the aforementioned freedom:

Note: Group six’s share will take place at the beginning of class on Tuesday and be posted shortly thereafter.  

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Thinking Dutch | Interesting read on NYTimes Philosophy Blog


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?