Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Beings with Non-Physical Selfs vs Selfs of Non-Physical Beings

During the discussions on Thursday my groups talked about a broad range of topics including astral projection, freewill, the dream-verse, Being, and non-physical existence. Although the topics were very diverse they all connected to the idea of the self and the possibility of non-physical components of the self. Whether it be the ability to disconnect from the physical body and enter the dream-verse/astral plane or trying to determine if there is a predetermined destiny and plan for our lives, it all comes back to the self.  What is the self? What is it made of? Is it static or is it built up throughout the course of our lives?

After taking part in the discussions I was left with more questions and felt slightly overwhelmed by metaphysics. I was having trouble comprehending my own topic let alone other people’s questions and opinions. I had more conversations with my family and friends about my topic of non-physical existence and if it is possible to have a whole self without a substance/physical component. Then I realized that I was actually interested in the non-physical components of the self as opposed to how much of a self a non-physical “Being” can have. In order to begin to comprehend and address big metaphysical questions I believe that I must first develop a strong philosophy and understanding of the self.

Moving forward I want to continue to explore the Bundle Theory, in addition to the idea that the self is a collection and projection of experiences as well as the process through which experiences become memories. Sticking with my original focus on social media I am interested in exploring how social media facilitates the collection and sharing of experiences, the preservation of memories, and the development of the self. I am also interested in the idea of vicarious experiences and how much of an impact other people’s experiences can have on your own self. Additionally, I want to explore the idea of shared experiences. Does sharing an experience with others create identical pieces of the self among a group of people, is this the reason they feel a deeper connection to one another? Can shared experiences be interpreted differently among different people based on their past experiences?

I have a lot of questions and a slightly more focused inquiry topic now and I am excited to explore them further during my Phil’s Day Off project.

 

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Non-Physical Existence

After discussing the basics of Metaphysics in class I am very curious about the ideas of the self and existence. When it comes to the self, I believe most strongly in the theory of dualism, the idea that the self is both essence and substance, material and non-material. I also believe in David Hume’s Bundle Theory, the idea that the self is a projection of the bundle of experiences we have collected throughout our lives. However, I am curious about just how much of the self can exist as either entirely physical or entirely non-physical. In a strictly physical existence, the self can be defined as a mass of molecules and a collection of chemical reactions. But when it comes to a non-physical existence there isn’t a clear definition. I want to explore the possibility of the self existing entirely separate from the physical body and the different ways in which this could occur. For this series of blog posts I have decided to ask the question: In what capacity can the self exist outside of the physical body?

 

What is existence?

To begin to approach this question, we must first define existence. What is existence? Existence can be defined as the fact or state of living or having objective reality, continued survival, or any person’s supposed current, future, or past lives on this earth. For the purpose of my inquiry, I am going to look at existence more in terms of Heidegger’s “Being” and less in terms of basic survival or occupying physical space. In order to discuss this I hope to find or develop some sort of system for measuring the level of “Being” that an entity has in order to objectively as possible discuss the capacity at which it is existing.

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What are the components of the self?

Another important concept to explore is the different components of the self and how they in turn relate to existence. I want to further explore the connections and separations between essence and substance as well as mind, body and soul. I also want to look into the similarities and differences between how an individual perceives their own self and how others perceive it.

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How can a non-physical existence occur?

Finally I want to ask, in what ways can a non-physical existence occur? And is it possible for a person to exist without a physical body? While most of us can agree that non-physical emotions like pride and love and hate exist, is this type of existence possible for people? To start off I’ve made a mind map of the different ways in which I believe a non-physical existence can occur.

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I am really excited to look into this topic, I think it is really relevant to the current state of society where more and more of our lives and interactions are happening online. To begin to answer my questions I have turned to Rob Horning’s essay Me Meme. In the essay Horning explores the relationship between social media and the self and proposing really interesting ideas about “the makeshift identity” most of us have on social media platforms. He goes on to state that “this identity can be shared and consumed not only by others but by oneself. This brings up the idea that the self we portray on social media can be, in extreme cases, completely independent from our true self and therefore may be considered a non-physical existence. Moving forward with this inquiry, I am really interested in looking into the way social media is facilitating the creation of less and less physical existences.

 

 

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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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Systemic Misogyny or Over-sensitivity?

Screenshot courtesy of the Halifax Journal

Noted copy-paste journalist Margaret Wente has an article this week delving into recent events at Dalhousie’s Dental School, allowing us to return to our discussion from last Friday. Wente takes aim at the notion of “rape culture,” and puts the onus for progress squarely on women’s perceived sense of threat:

How did that happen? How did we create an entire class of highly privileged, mostly affluent young women who feel unsafe on campus, microaggressed at every turn, utterly unable to cope with the garden-variety misdemeanours of boys and men, who have been behaving badly since time began despite our many efforts (most quite successful) to civilize them?

Well, you know the answer. The universities are hothouses for a grievance culture that sees racism, sexism and misogyny under every rug. Many of the faculty derive their livelihoods from it. These institutions have constructed increasingly elaborate codes of conduct and large administrative apparatuses to detect and uproot these evils, however subtle and invisible they may be to ordinary people.

In Macleans, Anne Kingston musters a brief but thorough critique of Wente’s dismissal:

Protecting those accused of abusive behaviour is a hallmark of rape culture. So is dismissal of those subject to abuse. We saw it in the hand-wringing after the 2013 conviction  of two teenagers for brutally raping a young girl in Steubenville, Ohio.CNN, for one, fretted how the young men “had such promising futures, star football players, very good students,” not for a moment considering how the assaults might affect the victim’s future. In a similar vein, Wente praised the dentistry students who joked about drugging and sexually assaulting women as “decent people.” If she had a daughter in the class, she writes, the first thing she’d ask her was: “What are these guys like in person? Are they disrespectful pigs or are they decent people? (The answer, evidently, is that they are decent people.)” What evidence she marshalled to conclude the group is anything but “disrespectful pigs” is unclear. The fact they’re enrolled in a professional school? The fact they knew their posts were offensive, and then scrambled to cover up when they were about to be exposed? Equally unclear is why their actions in private shouldn’t be a more significant marker of character than their public personae—a lesson learned in the Jian Ghomeshi scandal.  If these students were decent people, they would come forward with an abject apology. They haven’t. Which means that if anyone needs a retrograde lecture on how to “man up,” it’s them.

Whether you are swayed by either of the pieces, they can be seen to broadly sketch out two fundamental planks of the argument over systemic misogyny and the ‘rape culture’ we discussed last week.

Based on the above readings, a few questions:

  • What do you feel are the merits of these two arguments?
  • Similarly, where do you feel that either of the arguments is vulnerable or weakly articulated?
  • Have you seen others make either case better?
  • Are there further perspectives that these two essays may be leaving out?

As ever, I’d be curious to hear from you in the comments.

 

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Twitter and “the Hallway”

DS106: An Open, Participatory, Student-centric, Community-focused Course on Digital Storytelling from DML Research Hub on Vimeo.

Someone else who bears some responsibility for the course structure of Philosophy 12 is Jim Groom, who along with Tom Woodward, Alan Levine and Martha Burtis have built the educational phenomenon known as Digital Storytelling 106, or #ds106, which he discusses in the above video with Howard Rheingold here in an interview that cuts to the heart of what it means to learn in the open.

Something that made me want to share this brief talk here was something Jim says about Twitter:

“Twitter became the platform for everything that is missing in online learning – that hallway space, the space where you are joking around, the interstitial spaces that aren’t tested on and aren’t assessed – but it’s where all the learning happens.”

Jim Groom talkijng to Howard Rheingold

Part of my excitement around Philosophy 12 last year came from the discussion and activity that sprung up around the course’s hashtag on Twitter, something I hope we can replicate this year. In addition to sharing resources and readings, Twitter facilitated much of the interaction between our class and its open online participation, and created an ongoing dialogue that ranged – if not about the course content itself – between many of the students in class, myself, and those beyond the classroom walls.

As we set out into September and the balance of the course, I hope to see more of you in the literal hallway outside of class, maybe on the intramural pitch come the semester’s lunchtimes, and on Twitter. If nothing else, you might see your Philosophy Pop Quiz marks on the rise.

 
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