Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


$3 And 5 Minutes To Be A Bestselling Author – Sydney

An excerpt from “Putting My Foot Down,” written by Brent Underwood. Image courtesy of Brent Underwood via The Observer.

On The Observer, Brent Underwood recently posted on article about how it only took him $3 and five minutes to become a “#1 Bestselling Author” on Amazon. In order to prove his point, Underwood published a “book” on Amazon titled “Putting My Foot Down” and consisted of a single page that featured a picture of Underwood’s foot, pictured above. Describing the publishing world, Underwood says:

… it’s begun to feel a bit like a losing battle. Because those authors [trying to trick others into thinking they’ve written great books] are everywhere these days. The title of my fake book was “Putting My Foot Down” for a reason: I’ve become utterly exhausted with phony “authors” and the scam artists and charlatans who conspire with these folks–the cottage industry that has built up around them, selling courses, instructions and hacks. A quick Google search returns dozens of “bestselling books,” courses, packages, schools, secrets, summits, and webinars teaching you how to become a “bestselling author”. Hell, this guy even promises to show you how to be a bestselling author “Even if You Have No Book Ideas, Writing Skills, or Any Clue Where To Start” in a “5 Phase Formula.” Heart Centered Media will give you “Guaranteed Bestseller Status” for just “3 payments of $1,333,” although they let you know “Book Sales are NOT Guaranteed.” Denise Cassino promises that with her services, “You’ll forever after be a ‘Bestselling Author!’ a tag that will open doors otherwise closed to you”…for just $3250. Jesse Krieger over at “Bestseller Campaign Blueprint” encourages you to “Imagine looking on Amazon and seeing…Your Book on the Best-Seller Lists Next to Your Author Heroes” and lets you know he can deliver that dream for just $997. Peggy McColl has “Launched Perhaps MORE Bestsellers Than ANY Other” and will teach you how for only $2,497.

Image courtesy of The Observer.

Following Underwood’s argument, he proceeds to list the steps – with screenshots! – and detail how he became a “#1 Bestselling Author” on Amazon with only $3 and 5 minutes. It will probably take me a lot more than that to properly dissect his argument. Regardless, here is what I’ve gathered so far:


  1. Premise 1: Many people who publish books are only looking to make money, not to write good books. 
  2. Premise 2: Anyone can publish a book by themselves without being hired by a publishing company. 
  3. Conclusion: Therefore, it takes little to no writing skills to earn the title of “#1 Bestselling Author.”

The first premise cannot be proven factually true nor factually incorrect because this is simply Underwood’s opinion, and there is no data and evidence to prove that this premise is true. However, the second premise is factually true because it is actually possible to publish a book on Amazon by yourself, as proven by Underwood’s experiment and my own first-hand experience. The argument is valid, however, because this conclusion may be drawn from the two premises: it takes little to no writing skills to earn the title of “#1 Bestselling Author.” As a result, this argument could be sound, as long as the first premise can be proven to be factually true.



Is great philosophy, by its nature, difficult and obscure?

A good question posed on the always-provocative site Aeon:

To some degree, all texts need interpretation. Working out what people mean isn’t simply a matter of decoding their words, but speculating about their mental states. The same words could express quite different thoughts, and the reader has to decide between the interpretations. But it doesn’t follow that all texts are equally hard to interpret. Some interpretations might be more psychologically plausible than others, and a writer can narrow the range of possible interpretations. Why should philosophy need more interpretation than other texts?

As we look ahead at some of our more challenging units – thinking specifically of Metaphysics and Epistemology – the article may help frame the difficulty of engaging these more opaque topics, not in as much as it makes the unclear clear, but hopefully for offering the rationale and some inspiration to dig deeper when the going gets tough:

…some great philosophy is creative in a way that is incompatible with clarity. It doesn’t seek to construct precise theories; rather, it reaches out to unmapped areas of thought, where we do not yet know what techniques to employ, what concepts to use, or even what questions to ask. It is more like artthan science, and it makes its own rules. It is not that such work is defective by being ambiguous; it is trying to do something that cannot be done clearly, and its aim is precisely to stimulate diverse interpretations.





Call me Mel. Melody is too much of a mouthful, I can’t even say my own name properly without cringing.
I like video games, but that phrase has been rendered meaningless in the contemporary world, because who doesn’t play video games. Even fetuses in a womb play video games. I also draw, for money and for free (mostly for money because I’m broke and the motivation helps me). I’m thinking of starting a web comic in the near future if my parents don’t force me to get a job. But I do want to work at the same time, because I need money and a steady income to buy
Star Wars™ merchandise. Also for post secondary. My parents aren’t paying for all of that. (By the way, as well as Samson, I am a walking meme).

Maybe if I keep rambling I’ll reach thDOOT DOOTe required word count??? Writing is hard for me when the topic is so vague.

Now speaking of the topic: on to the subject at hand; Mr. Jackson asked “What is philosophy?” Honestly, I am not sure. Is it just talking about topics in depth, and getting so in depth that your head starts hurting? Or is it a pleasant conversation that comes up at lunch time and suddenly your thoughts are branching off into hundreds of different subjects? Like boys? Makeup? Cars? The best way to hit someone with considerable force on the head without causing permanent neurological and psychological damage? Or maybe, it’s a way to pass the time, and a way to understand the world and your life more clearly. To philosophize, in a general statement, is to “. . .study [the] fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline”.

I love to think about life and the nature of things in depth. The discussion we had earlier in class this week about the article, “Does Color Even Exist?“, was very intriguing. We were able to take one simple? topic and generate many ideas, theories and concepts. If color doesn’t exist then how do cameras capture it? Or do cameras capture the black and white, and then our brains imagine the color because who wants to live in a world of black and white? Do the minds of people refuse to see a dull world so much, that from the beginning of mankind we’ve forced to imagine up hues and shades- WHAT IF COLOR IS JUST SOMETHING WE’VE MADE UP?? WAIT. IT IS SOMETHING WE’VE MADE UP. WHAT THE HELL IS A YELLOW–

“Color hovers uneasily between the subjective world of sensation and the objective world of fact.”

I wish we had more debate time, I had just started getting into a heated conversation. I’ll flip a table next time to prove my arguments.

In my respectful opinion philosophy is more composed of speaking and holding a debate between a pair or a group of people, than writing. Of course, writing makes it easier to access ideas and keep track of the different thoughts, but speech takes one idea and holds it up within the group, a simple shape floating in the air, and the rest of the group bends it and shapes it and stretches it so it is a mixture of thoughts and ideas and it grows as more people add to it. Talking is an important element – a vital aspect, of circulating ideas throughout a society, and ideas are heard and reinforced more often through word of mouth, than when written on paper.

TL;DR (even though its not that long), what if we’re actually all in comas and what we’re living in now is just a computer generated dream and Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Connor are fighting off Skynet.





Stephen Downes’ Theory of Epistemology

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We are greatly fortunate to have a mind like Stephen Downes‘ join us from time to time in Philosophy 12 to offer comments, feedback and dialogue with our for-credit participants. Occasionally, he offers responses to assignments, as in the case of this semester’s mid-term assignment, where he proposes the following theory of epistemology:

Most theories of knowledge depict knowledge as a type of belief. The idea, for example, of knowledge as ‘justified true belief’ dates back to Plato, who in Theaetetus argued that having a ‘true opinion’ about something is insufficient to say that we know about something.

In my view, knowledge isn’t a type of belief or opinion at all, and knowledge isn’t the sort of thing that needs to be justified at all. Instead, knowledge is a type of perception, which we call ‘recognition’, and knowledge serves as the justification for other things, including opinions and beliefs.

You can read the rest of Stephen’s theory of epistemology here. But other philosophers writing their own Theories of Knowledge midterms this week may also find useful reading from an older piece of his writing, How to Write Articles Quickly and Expertly

From time to time people express amazement at how I can get so much done. I, of course, aware of the many hours I have idled away doing nothing, demur. It feels like nothing special; I don’t work harder, really, than most people. Nonetheless, these people do have a point. I am, in fact, a fairly prolific writer.

Part of it is tenacity. For example, I am writing this item as I wait for the internet to start working again in the Joburg airport departures area. But part of it is a simple strategy for writing you essays and articles quickly and expertly, a strategy that allows you to plan your entire essay as you write it, and thus to allow you to make your first draft your final draft. This article describes that strategy.

Begin by writing – in your head, at least – your second paragraph (that would be the one you just read, above). Your second paragraph will tell people what your essay says. Some people write abstracts or executive summaries in order to accomplish this task. But you don’t need to do this. You are stating your entire essay or article in one paragraph. If you were writing a news article, you would call this paragraph the ‘lede’. A person could read just the one paragraph and know what you had to say.

But how do you write this paragraph? Reporters will tell you that writing the lede is the hardest part of writing an article. Because if you don’t know what the story is, you cannot write it in a single paragraph. A reporter will sift through the different ways of writing the story – the different angles – and find a way to tell it. You, because you are writing an article or essay, have more options.




Midterm Assignment: Personal Theory of Knowledge

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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). 


  • 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.


  • 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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Metaphysics Reflection / Epistemology Unit Planning Notes

Epistemology Unit Planning

Discussion Notes by Julie.

With thanks to Julie for the notes, above are the representative themes, questions, and wishes for our upcoming study of Epistemology. The class discussion reflected on elements of the Metaphysics unit content, and delivery methods, to propose improved engagement in the class’ future studies.



My Epistemology – Mr. J Edition

About halfway through my attempted introduction of Philosophy 12’s Epistemology unit assignments – clumsily introduced here Jonathan asked a salient question: 

Could you do one of these assignments first, so we can see what it is you’re looking for?

To refresh myself ourselves, the individual piece of the Epistemology study will be to create a personal epistemological proposition: to state and explain something about what we know, and how we know it.  

Can I do this first so I the class can see what it is I’m looking for?

Um… yeah, sure. Of course. 

First Steps

What I Know… How I Know It

This started out as a messy, painful process for me that I trust will emanate throughout the class this week. But this sort of psychic discomfort is integral to the learning process, I’ve come to think; and it is something that I was curious to lean into with the hope of seeing where my thinking took me.

I started with the attempt to create simple statements that I hoped would lead me somewhere meaningful.

Statement A

I doubt what I know; it fluctuates. My relationship and understanding of my self and the world is subjective. 

Statement B

I read (some of) Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” to be about the need to live as though the things that cannot be known *can* be (even while admitting that they can’t). 

Therefore (Statement C)

Learning is central to trusting in the fleeting knowledge gained while I interrogate and reform my “knowledgable paradigm.”

I have always been fond of the Hemingway quote

There are some things which cannot be learned quickly and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things and because it takes a man’s life to know them the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.

OK, so…?

Having come to some understanding of what I wanted to say, what I could stand behind as my beliefsabout knowledge at this stage, I then sought to ground these statements in the contexts of philosophy and epistemology. I had a few different ideas here, mostly due to recent thinking about Immanuel Kant, Thomas Kuhn, and Gregory Bateson.

Ecological Mind

Where to next?

As it stands now, I’m returning to the syllogistic A & B –> C format of attempting to lay out my proposition about knowledge and learning, trying to hone the statements offered above and support them with some of the thinking of other philosopher’s.

My “A” Statement at the moment begins with the preface of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

Human reason,” he says, “in one sphere of its cognition, is called upon to consider questions, which it cannot decline, as they are presented by its own nature, as they transcend every faculty of the mind.”

I’m hoping to contrast some of my thinking about the above with what he says later, that: “…a dogmatist promises to extend human knowledge beyond the limits of possible experience; while I humbly confess that this is completely beyond my power.”

Taken together (A & B), this rationale – to seek, even when the knowledge may be beyond us – creates a dizzying cumulative effect that Gardner Campbell spoke about a few weeks ago in Vancouver: the double bind. I think this scenario is where I find my thinking aligning with Gregory Bateson‘s Hierarchies of Learning, and even the ‘scientific crisis’ written about by Thomas Kuhn, wherein the old paradigm is the prison, but also the route to salvation (for a time).

Mr. Jackson, it seems like you’re more confused than when you started…

Of course not! 

Well, maybe a little.

But I’ll let you know how the next few steps go.