Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Katherine’s Thoughts on Philosophy: AAAAAAAAH!

So, Philosophy 12 has officially begun. And in true Jackson fashion, what better way to start the year than a document of learning?

Now, I’m a little rusty on the whole format of these documents, but I’m pretty sure we start off with what we’ve done in these past two weeks.

Thoughts about love, wisdom, and loving wisdom:

I was very confused why Mr. Jackson was asking us about love and wisdom, and I only learned today that the actual definition of philosophy is “loving wisdom”. This explained a lot. In my discussions with people in the class, I had come up with a definition of “loving wisdom” as “the passion for gaining knowledge and improving yourself through experiences.” That actually sounds pretty close to philosophy to me, though in my head philosophy is a lot more thinking and looking deeply at sunsets. the most fun about loving wisdom was hearing my classmates’ thoughts on it.By talking to so many people and getting so many ideas put together, I reached a much deeper and better understand of both the words.

Thoughts on class readings:

While I’ve been a little lost in class discussions (as you’ll see later in my goals), I’ve found some pretty interesting things in our class readings. My favorite was the “Talk With Me” essay by Nigel Warburton. It was about how the stereotype of philosophers living as hermits and never talking to people is quite misleading.

I know right, Socrates??? The essay was about, funnily enough, the Socratic Method.  It is about how conversation and argument have a large place in philosophy. While many philosophers spent years in solitude, doing their best work in exile, most of them actually used letters to get other human perspective, or spent their time imagining people to talk too. Somehow, while all in isolation, they realized: there is something about human interaction that is essential to philosophy.

Audible non-verbal aspects of the interaction, such as hearing the smile in someone’s voice, a moment of impatience, a pause of doubt perhaps?), or insight – these factors humanize philosophy

As for the whole essay, the other part that really stuck with me was about argument. As someone who loves debates and arguments with classmates, family or teachers, I could easily see how disagreement is a driving force

It is the dissenters who force us to think, who challenge received opinion

Now, onto the more personal part of this post: My goals and aspirations. (Yes, it’s all about me)

Coming into philosophy, I had a pretty good idea of the atmosphere: mostly self-directed, making our own assignments, lots of class discussions. It was the content that surprised me. Epistemology?? I suppose I’ll learn more about that later, but it was really hard to form any goals without knowing what they were supposed about. He then said that anything we were worried about, or questions we had would also work. Thank god, because I am literally made of worry and questions.

  • Worried about being over-shined in a class of such keen and smart students. Will I speak up enough? Are my points good enough? Can I go “deep” enough?
  • Worried about finding a topic. What pool of topics am I choosing from? the subjects we cover?? It’s too big.
  • How to find a personal philosophy. I don”t know if this means one that I make up, or speaks to me, or even exactly what a personal philosophy is.

My only real, concrete goal for this class is: engage in class discussions and debates

 

I know right, Socrates?? Seems so simple, yet so unattainable. The thing is, while I absolutely adore class discussions and all the fun and wacky things they lead too, I suck at speaking in them. You find me mostly burying my head in a notebook, still listening intently, but with nothing to add. I really want to get more involved in the discussions in this class and debate more with the other classmates. that’s my main aspiration. (My aspiration for this project is to get an “exceeds expectations”, but we’ll see how that turns out.)

Until next time,

 

I’m really feeling the Bill and Ted vibe today

 

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Old Souls Talk About Souls

If you remember from my last blog post, I am looking into the concept of spirits and souls. I was exploring the difference in the two terms, whether or not they exist, and theories of how they affect life (and afterlife). I found this lovely reference website that has allowed me to look into different theories. The soul is a very old concept, so in order to gain a deeper understanding of it I have to research ancient philosophers like Plato and Socrates.

One theory is known as the Phaedo’s Theory of the Soul. In around fifth century Greek culture, it was not a popular belief to view the soul as an immortal thing. People viewed it as more of a substance that could be dispersed or disintegrated like smoke once a person died. Plato had a different view, which he inscribed in the Phaedo. The Phaedo is a dialogue written by Plato. It is important to note that Plato was influenced by Socrates, his teacher, so his dialogues detail Socrates. Also, Cebes was a disciple of Socrates. This website details three argument presented about the immortality of the soul.

The Cyclical Argument: Essentially Socrates states that opposites (ex. small and large) balance each other. He states that being dead and being alive are opposites. In order to balance out these opposites, coming to life must balance out dying. Therefore, the soul must come back to life after death. There are difficulties with this theory, mainly about the how small and large are comparative words while dead and alive are contraries. People question whether his argument can be applied to these two different terms.

The Argument From Recollection: Cebes states that the soul’s immortality is supported by Socrates theory of Recollection. It says that our soul must exist before we are born because it is possible to answer questions that we did not appear to know the answer to, if you use the proper methods.

The Affinity Argument: In this argument, it is stated that there are two types of existences: the visible world that we perceive, and the invisible world of Forms that we can only access with our minds. The body belongs to the visible world, whereas the soul belongs to the invisible world.

There are other theories of the soul, most of which adapted or inspired from these original theories that I have talked about. For the purpose of this post I will not go into detail about the other theories, but you can read about them in the links provided.

I feel that I have a pretty good understanding of different views of the soul after research and discussion. I think I have answered most of my original questions, but this may be leading me towards different topics altogether, like consciousness, the paranormal, or religions (as some of my classmates have been studying). With so many different theories on the soul, I still wonder how these beliefs affect our daily lives. How does it affect my life? I will hopefully explore this during my “Phil’s Day Off” adventure, where I will search out an opportunity to grow a deeper understanding of this topic.

 

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“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Philosophy is essential; at least according to Matthew Beard and Socrates it is. Personally I’ve always been fascinated by Socrates’ bold statement: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” He doesn’t exclaim that the “unexamined life” is less meaningful or less valuable, he simply and clearly states it’s not even worth living. Well, why does he make such strong, unmistakable statement? Socrates believed that the purpose of life on Earth was to gain personal and spiritual growth. Although, we are unable to comprehend a greater understanding of our true purpose unless we take the time to delve into and reflect upon our life. As another philosopher, Santayana, observed: “He who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it.”

Examining our life reveals patterns of behavior. Deeper contemplation yields understanding of the subconscious programming, the powerful mental software that runs our life. Unless we become aware of these patterns, much of our life is unconscious repetition. The good news is that it is never too late to start examining our life more thoroughly and to reap the rewards. We all have blind spots, missing pieces of the puzzle. But when I examine a returning problem in my life, I have that unnerving feeling that I must be missing something, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. We try to analyze ourselves, but none of us can see our own back side (our “shadow” if you will).

That’s why Socrates’ method of self-examination included an essential element that became known as: “Socrates Dialogue“. Conversing with a close friend, a spouse, a skilled psychotherapist or spiritual adviser helps reveal those blind spots we cannot see by ourselves. Our society discourages self-awareness with a weekly cycle of working and consuming that keeps us too busy to slow down for self-reflection. Consumer capitalism’s game plan prefers an unaware and vaguely dissatisfied populace that tries to fill the emptiness inside with shiny new products. It’s an overwhelming act to stop and contemplate your life. But according to Socrates, it’s the only game that really matters.

 

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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.

 

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Socrates (Gregory Gosse)

Socrates:

  • You and your philosopher (How do you differ, what do you hold the same?)
Differences Similarities
Socrates has his students to write down his life and his philosophy.   (Mainly Plato) We don’t document our lives through journals or other ways of writing.
  • What are they saying?(Outline a single argument/proposition from your selected philosopher.
    • Socratic Method aka Method of “Elenchus”
      • To solve a problem, it would be broken down into a series of questions, the answers to which gradually distill the answer a person would seek.
  • Truth, Validity, and Soundness (How would you evaluate your philosopher’s argument/proposition?)
Truth Validity Soundness
This argument is true.The Socratic Method is solving many branches of problems formed from   a single seed.When you answer the branches, the seed will then be solved. The argument has a solid point. It’s possible to find the answers to   questions which can help lead the first question to completion.If you continue questioning the premises, you will have a final   answer. This argument can be both sound and not sound.Sound because you do in fact get the first question’s answer by   finding out the premise of it.It’s not sound because when you question your premise, it can just   lead to more questions.

 

  • Metaphysics in the Modern World(Where do you see the influence, or evidence of the ideas expressed by your philosopher?)
    • Socrates once said
      • “I know you won’t believe me, but the highest form of Human Excellence is to question oneself and others.”
  • Socrates (Quoted in Xenophon’s “Economics”)
    • “Can it be, Ischomachus, that asking questions is teaching? I am just beginning to see what is behind all your questions. You lead me on by means of things I know, point to things that resemble them, and persuade me that I know things that I thought I had no knowledge of.”
 
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