Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Metaphysics Phil’s Day Off

My question for this unit is “what are words?” and I was struggling to figure out what to do for my Phil’s Day Off! This is a difficult topic to do out of class learning but I was planning on going downtown anyways, so I decided to go to the Vancouver Art Gallery with Erin. My objective was to try to see how or if the things people said about the artwork, changed my opinion of the art. I was very lucky because the theme of one of the displays happening that I went to was “Modern Art.” There were a ton of “simple” and very abstract pieces that people seemed to have a lot of their own opinions on.

Listening to some conversations, I could tell that they were like me, they didn’t know much about art because they either weren’t saying much, or nothing at all. I was dissatisfied how not many people were talking about any of the art so I walked onto the part of the exhibit that was more “abstract” so more people would have different opinions on the art and I could see if my theory was going to work. As I kept walking further into the exhibit, more people started speaking their opinions on the work. I was looking at a piece I really liked and it was a very unusual sculpture because it was very simple and plain-looking. One lady who to me, sounded like she knew quite a bit about art started pointing out some of the flaws she noticed like the color, how boring it was, how it didn’t really convey a message about anything and much more that I couldn’t even comprehend. She seemed almost discussed how this was even considered good enough art to be in a gallery. Afterwards I found that when I looked at the art again, I focused more on the many imperfections that if had. I couldn’t really look at this art that I once really liked, and see it the same way that I had before because I was more aware of the fact that someone who seemingly knew a lot about art, didn’t like this piece which of course, made me not enjoy its beauty anymore.

This showed me how greatly our use of words affect objects around us and how we perceive them. The way we string together our words and voice our opinion on something can completely alter my opinion and change the way I see it. It was a very important aspect of me research because It helped me see how much words really do affect us and items in our lives. I think that it really depends on how people are altering their use of words makes me assume they are more knowledgable on the subject and I will ultimately value their opinion much more!

I think my phil’s day off was very successful because I really learned how my opinion on things around me can be altered by the way people manipulate their words to seem more knowledgeable on a subject. If you are constantly using words that are completely unrelated to the topic, nobody will think you know what you are talking about and they wont really take your words into consideration.

Questions I had after I completed my phil’s day off were: How do our words convey how much we know on a topic?, What about grammar and its relationship to our knowledge? How do my words affect the people around me? Do you have to be knowledgeable to be considered smart on a topic?



Phil’s Day Off- Alysha Gillis

My goal during this phils day off was to find out how language relates to how knowledgeable you are percieved as by others. I was struggling to figure out what to do because I couldn’t just go on with my weekend becuase nothing I was going to do was going to help me with my topic. I decided to do to exact same thing as I did last Phil’s day off because my topic again has to do with words and the use of language so I figured that this would be a good idea. So I went back downtown to the Vancouver art gallery. This time I went to a different part of the gallery and this time it was based on Picasso’s artwork and this kind of fit perfectly with my topic becuase it got people talking about their opinions of all of the artwork.

During my afternoon at the art gallery I was just walking around and looking at the different art and listening to what peoples opinions on the art and the difference between last time and this time was last phils day off I was trying to listen to how people’s opinions affected my view on the artwork but this time I was trying to see if I could tell how knowledgeable people were about the art.

I discovered that it was clear who was an artist and was the “smartest” and had the most information on the artwork and who was just there becuase the art was pretty or for something to do on the weekend. I was listening to the people who were actally artists and had a lot of knowledge about art and it was much more interesting listening to people who actually knew what they were talking about becuase I felt like I could really learn much more about the piece than if I was listening to someone who didn’t know much about art and just thought it was pretty. I learned that when I was listening to people who used proper language about the topic, it seemed to me that I assumed that they had more knowledge than the people who spoke with less artistic vocabulary.

I think that I still would like to learn more about how smart I think people are about things I have knowledge about  becuase I could have been biast because I don’t really know much about art. Maybe if I did know a ton about art, those people that I thought knew what they were talking about, could have been completely wrong but since I knew basically nothing, I couldn’t have known any better.

I think that this phils day off was equally as sucessful as last because in both, I ended up sucessfully achieving my goal that I set out to complete. I also think that I learned more about my topic and answered a few of my unanswered questions so I would consider this a sucessful phils day off.



Discussion Post- alysha

In my last post What are Words, my question was related to our thoughts in our minds as we process the sounds that we call “words.” I read the article called “What makes a word” and in that article it allowed me to further my understanding on the basis of us comprehending words. It also gave me insight on how we put words together, make words and when and how we choose to use the words. The main thing that all of my readings taught me was the two opinions of Saussure and Locke because both of them had very contradicting opinions on how we conceive words. The more I read about my topic, the more questions I had about it. How come words are our main source of communication? How did words first become our communication source? And I think the more sources I read, the more questions I had about the details.

In my discussion on the 11th we really didn’t talk much about topics related to mine. We talked more about Courtney’s topic on “Time is an illusion” because we all seemed pretty interested in it. We all really agreed on the fact that time was just an idea made up and we all follow this specific set time all over the world. I brought up the idea that when you are in a hurry or have a lot of things to do, an hour seems like 15 minutes, but when its the last 15 minutes of block 4 at the end of the day, 15 minutes tends to seem like 1 hour. Without the concept of time, we would just sleep when we are tired and wake up when we have had enough sleep.

In the next discussion group we were in, I decided to bring up this topic once again because I wanted to see if anyone really thought time was real or a definite concept. Most of the group agreed with my original idea and the fact that time was an illusion but Erin brought up the idea that she agrees time is an illusion but humans need it to function on a daily basis because we are creatures of habit. We have to do the same things everyday because we need structure in our lives to work, to eat, to meet others and to live out our daily habits. This is an aspect of time that I have never really thought about and I think that she brought up a good point because we need the concept of time even if it is an illusion. I was really interested in this topic and it really made me think and spend time wondering and looking deeper into this topic of time. How is time directly influencing us? Who decided that this idea of time was the rule for the whole world? If there was no time, where would civilization be now? Does time affect the outside world?




What are Words? – Alysha

Component A: My question was about how words affected our idea of objects and how we associated words with what they were created to mean. I chose this question because I have always been curious about how there is a specific list of words that we all just accept and all agree on one specific meaning. I think it is really interesting how we can create a mental picture of something in our head that was communicated by putting together a couple of letters. Also how letters put together, can alter our perception of the world around us.  The idea of different languages and how we can not communicate with people in different parts of the world because their letters are put together differently than ours and a word that looks like an english word can have the meaning of something completely different really confused me and made me want to look deeper into it. This was a very difficult subject to research due to the fact that I had to pre-research before I actually was able to use the databases. I spent many hours wrapping my mind around the idea of linguistics and what that area of study was. I also spend a lot of time researching on Saussure and Locke because both had many valid points on their opinion of where words actually came from. Finding actually relevent topics on the data bases was almost impossible some of my research was done through the databases and some came from other sources. What is the significance of words? How do words affect our ideas and thoughts? How do we associate objects with words? These were all the questions I wanted to research answers to.

Component B: Statistics, Probability, Significance, Likelihood: Words Mean What We Define Them to Mean GORDON B. DRUMMOND,* AND BRIAN D. M. TOMDebate: Seven Ways to be A Realist About Language,The arbitrary power of language

Component C: In these readings and several others, the main aspects that shed light upon my questions were:

  • “We use language to express ourselves through speech, to record our experiences, or to invent or tell stories in writing. Language is made up of socially shared rules that includes:
    • What words mean
    • How to make new words
    • How to put new words together
    • What word combinations are best in different situations”   — This abstract explains how we as a society incorporate and manipulate language to further befit ourselves and how language assists us to communicate our ideas and to share our opinions with our peers. This list demonstrates that language is not set in stone, instead it is just an idea of how society has come together to put together a way to communicate with each other. Language is not finite but rather infinite because people are always coming up with new ways to share ideas or thoughts and dictionaries are always adding new words that we have never come up with before into them which proves that language is a never-ending concept that is difficult to completely master.


  • Ferdinand De Saussure — He was a big influence on the ways we thought about language and where do words really originate from. He understood that thinking about language really ment to be thinking about thinking. This concept is really challenging to wrap your head around, but this meant that in order for him to conceptualize words as a whole, he needed to first understand what it meant to think about how our brains think about words. He first broke down our idea of a word into two parts a) the concept and b) the sound image.
    • For example: picture a random tree (made up or real). This tree regardless of the exact form, this abstract idea of a tree, is a concept. Now picture the letters T-R-E-E. These four letters, when put in this order form the sound image in that they can be spoken, written or read. But without the imagined tree behind them, the letters are meaningless. Only by uniting the concept and sound image will tree evoke the mental picture you have just made up.


  • John Locke wrote: “There is no natural connection between particular sounds and particular ideas, if there were, there would only be one human language.” — This was a very important idea for people to understand because it directly contradicts Saussure idea of how words are conceptualized because Saussure believed that in order to understand words, we must first understand how we think about words, while Locke believed there was no such connection between the two concepts. His opinion was more leaning towards all words are arbitrary otherwise why would different words be used for the same thing in a different language.


Component D: New Questions…

Who accepts this words (sound) as the single way to communicate ideas/opinions to each other?

How do we define and create new languages?

How do words create a symbol of objects?

How do we form the “standard” of a word, and who decides if it is a word or not?

Why is the spelling of a word correct and who declares that it is?






English Sucks.

Iktsaruarpok (Inuit)
The frustration of waiting for someone to show up.
Mamihlapinatapei (Yagan)
The meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start..
Shadenfreude (German)
Enjoyment obtained by the misery of others.
Wabi-Sabi (Japanese)
Accepting the natural cycle of growth and decay.
Ichi-go Ichi-e (Japanese)
One time, one meeting. Never again. Once in a lifetime. (Music, People, Photos)
Fernweh (German)
Feeling homesick for a place you have never been to.

Waldeinsamkeit (German)
The feeling of being alone in the woods.
Aware (Japanese)
The bitter-sweetness of a brief and fading moment of transcendent beauty.
Shemomedjamo (Georgian)
When your meal is so good you don’t stop eating, even thought you’re full. “I accidentally ate the whole thing.”
Backpfeifengesicht (German)
A face badly in need of a fist.
Pelinti (Buli, Ghana)
To move hot food around in your mouth.
Bakku-shan (Japanese)

A girl who is beautiful, but only from behind.
Shlimalz (Yiddish)
Someone who is chronically unlucky.
Komorebi (Japanese)
When sunlight shine through the trees in lines.
Gigil (Filipino)
The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is irresistibly cute.slide_348793_3717805_free
Ya’arburnee (Arabic)
To hope that you die before that person you deeply love, because you cannot bear to live without them.
Boketto (Japanese)
The act of gazing into the distance without thinking anything.
Cavoli Riscaldati (Italian)
The result of attempting to revive an unworkable relationship. “Reheated Cabbage”
Bilita Mpash (Bantu)
An amazing dream. Not just a “good” dream; the opposite of a nightmare.
Litost (Czech)
The emotion of a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.
Yugen (Japanese)
An awareness of the universe that triggers feelings too deep and mysterious for words.
Treppenwitz (German) – Esprit de L’escalier (French)
A clever remark or comeback that comes to mind when it is too late to utter it (after the argument is over).
Weltschmerz (German)
A state of mental depression caused by comparison to the state of things, even if that state is fantasized. The grass is greener on the other side.
Torschlusspanik (German)
The fear that time is running out or important opportunities are slipping away.
Erklarungsnot (German)
Having to quickly explain yourself.
Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung (German)
The struggle to come to terms with the past. The past cannot be changed.
Handschuhschneebalwerfer (German)
A coward willing to criticize from a safe distance. “A person who wears gloves to throw snowballs.”