Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blog #6 - The Most Perplexing Questions Imaginable

We've tackled heaven and hell, good and evil, perception and reality. What awaits us after we die? Anything? Catholic Purgatory? Absolutely nothing? Is evil an objective or subjective term? Who defines what or who evil is?

I know that there are many questions still left out there unanswered. What the heck was Plato thinking with his Forms? Why did Socrates allow himself to be put to death? Where is the novel going to go now that we know it's really a novel?

What if the whole Lost series is really going on in Hurley's head? Could the island be purgatory and everyone be dead waiting while their sins are washed away? What if you had a chance to reinvent yourself, who would you become?

There are many more questions to be answered, places to go, people to meet and we can't possibly cover them all in 12 weeks. Obviously, I'm just showing you the path to help you begin your journey of self-discovery, you'll have to do the rest on your own.
These are just a few examples of some questions that you can ask for this blog entry. 200 words minimum. Due Thursday, October 30th.

P.S. I apologize for posting this so late - had to go grocery shopping, make dinner, get my wife's new laptop going, and then Mario Kart Tournament. I got 2nd. If you need another day to do the blog, that's fine. Cute picture of my dog, Izzy, below.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Post #5 - How do we know what we know?

This week and next, we'll be tackling the root of knowledge - how do we learn the knowledge that ends up in our head? When it's all said and done, how did our knowledge of the world get into our mind, stay there, and be able to be recalled?

Descartes believed that we learned info through reason alone. We had to be skeptical of many many things, as he felt that we should be (especially of the learning of the Middle Ages). To quote Sophie's World, "Descartes maintains that we cannot accept anything as being true unless we can clearly and distinctly perceive it... You could say that every single thought must be weighed and measured, rather in the way Galileo wanted everything to be measured and everything immeasurable to be made measurable." Through this perception - though flawed b/c we can't always trust our senses, we must use reason to figure out what we're perceiving. One of the things that we have built in (innate) in us is our sense of God, according to Descartes.

To sum up with a quote from Sophie's World, "a rationalist believes in reason as the primary source of knowledge, and he may also believe that man has certain innate ideas that exist in his mind prior to all experience. And the clearer such ideas may be, the more certain it is that they correspond to reality."

On the flipside is the empirical belief that we learn about the world through experience. By contrast, we start with a tabula rasa, a blank slate, or nothing in our minds, and the things that we learn is added there b/c we have experienced it. "An empiricist will derive all knowledge of the world from what the senses tell us...in the final analysis, all the material for our knowledge of the world comes to us through sensations. Knowledge that cannot be traced back to a simple sensation is therefore false knowledge and must consequently he rejected." These ideas began with Englishman John Locke and his work, Essay on Human Understanding.

In your own opinion, how do you think we learn? Is it through reason? Through experience? Both? Neither? Another way not mentioned here? Your comments (200 words).

Due Monday, 10/20/08.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Blog #4 - What is the nature of evil?

In our discussion of St. Augustine's world view, inevitably, we end up looking at the difference between good and evil. Augustine lived a decadent life before becoming a Christian midway through his life, and after he became a Catholic priest (but not before going through Manicheanism and NeoPlatonism), he wrote much on the problem of evil. His thoughts on evil were influenced by Manicheanism - an ancient Persian religion that looked at the world in purely terms of a struggle between good vs. evil. We could look at the war on terror as a battle between good and evil, but that would be too simplistic of an argument.

Augustine wanted to delve more deeply into evil and adapted the NeoPlatonic world view to Christianity. In this case, the farther you were away from God's will, the more evil you were doing. I don't believe that Augustine felt that evil was an actual force or being that existed in the physical or metaphysical realm (picture either a serial killer here in our world and Satan in Hell or demons or whatever you like). This tendency to do evil, to stray away from God's will goes all the way back to our beginning as humans, Augustine says, when Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis disobeyed God's command that they not eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. They disobeyed Him and were cast out of the Garden of Eden. For Christians, this is the Original Sin, or the first sin, and is literally already one strike against us as soon as we're born before we've done anything wrong!

So, that's his take. My question for you to consider/ponder over/ruminate upon is "what is the nature of evil?"

Thoughts to consider:

1. Is evil a tangible force that we can fight against in our physical world? For example, genocides, mass murders, serial killers, etc. If so, where does it manifest itself and why?

2. Are acts of nature (floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes), deadly diseases, catastrophes, and horrible accidents evil? Why or why not?

3. Are things like poverty, war, crime, injustice, racism and other things like this evil? (please, no jokes about political ideology here). Why or why not?

4. Is evil inside all of us just waiting for the right circumstances to arise - like if no one was watching, or if we knew we could get away with something?

5. Where does evil come from? Can it come from just one single person or do you need at least two people to commit an evil act? If you were the only person left on the Earth, would it be possible for you to commit an evil act?

6. If God exists, why hasn't He/She/It done away with evil if He loves all of His creations (us, the planet, animals, etc.)? If God is all-powerful and still leaves us alone w/ evil, does that make God evil? Or less than all-powerful?

I think examining this issue will take at least 250, maybe even 300 words. I put these questions here for you to consider, not necessarily to answer. Putting the full power of your noggin' behind this will help you write a better essay upon the same topic that will be due later this month.

Due Monday, October 6.