Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Extra Credit - Flash Forward Blog #1

Flash Forward is the new TV show on ABC whose premise is that the entire world blacks out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds. During that blackout, many people had visions of events that would occur 6 months into the future, on April 29, 2010 at 10 p.m. (Pacific Daylight Time). Here's the TV show's summary from their website:

"Los Angeles FBI Agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) is
desperate to uncover why this happened and who or what is behind it. And he's
not the only one. Before long, everyone starts asking, "What did you see?" As
Mark and his team struggle to figure out what caused this bizarre event, they
begin to piece together the future by creating a huge database of people's flash
forwards from all over the world - The Mosaic Collective. No one knows what
these flash forwards mean or exactly what the future really holds. But it is
clear that across the globe people who've never met will somehow be intimately
connected and will have an impact on each other's lives in the next six months.
Some will fear what's coming, others excited; but not a single person will be

The questions that we raised in class concerned concerned self-fulfilling prophecies. How likely are the characters to fulfill their destinies? Mark Benford, the FBI agent investigating the blackout, worries about falling off the wagon. His wife, Olivia, worries about breaking up her marriage w/ a mysterious stranger. Will Demetri Noh, Mark's partner, figure out why he didn't have a vision in time to avoid a potential death? How will fellow FBI agent Janis Hawk become pregnant? Will Mark's AA sponsor and friend, Aaron, find his daughter alive in Afghanistan after believing she'd been dead for 2 years?

"Just because we saw these things doesn't mean they have to happen."

Questions (choose one of the following):
1. If you see a vision like the ones that these folks have seen, why doesn't it have to happen? Or, do you believe the opposite: these visions are glimpses of the future and that no matter how hard you try, you won't be able to avoid it? Or maybe we wish / desire something to happen so badly that it actually occurs?

2. Why do you think that some of the characters (Nicole, the babysitter and Bryce, the intern who almost committed suicide) turned to God as an explanation for the black out? Is it easier to turn to God as an explanation for this event or harder? Why?

3. Could our consciousness move somewhere else? In the TV series' example, it moves temporally six months into the future. Do you think it could happen? Why or why not? As a related question, where does our consciousness go when we dream?

Answer one of the questions with a minimum of 150 words and have it completed by Sunday night, October 12th, 11:59 p.m.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Blog #21 - Whose arguments do you think make more sense to you?

Since we're discussing Plato and Aristotle in our Greek unit, we should analyze the rift between the two concerning what is more reliable: our reason (Plato) or our senses (Aristotle)? To quote Sophie's World, Gaarder writes:

"Taking it to extremes, we could say that Plato was so engrossed in his eternal
forms or "ideas" that he took very little notice of changes in nature.
Aristotle, on the other hand, was preoccupied with these changes ...or natural
processes. To exaggerate even more...Plato turned his back on the sensory world
and shut his eyes to everything we see around us...Aristotle did the opposite:
he got down on all fours and studied frogs and fish, anemones and poppies"

- Plato put eternal forms above and beyond the senses (the reality that we sense isn't the True reality, only the eternal forms are True). When we see a chair, it's just a reflection of the ideal or eternal form of a chair (like in the Matrix where the computers tried to estimate what steak or chicken taste like even though they're just sensory inputs to our brains). These eternal forms resided in our soul; therefore, we are born w/ innate ideas.

This chair wouldn't last forever like the eternal form of a chair, and there are multiple interpretations of this chair throughout history - you can see them in a museum or even at IKEA.

- Aristotle feels that you need to use both your reason and senses to interpret reality. He also disagreed with Plato in that this world we inhabit is the real world. According to Ari, we have to use our senses to figure out this world - our natural world - and that nothing exists in our minds that hasn't already existed previously in nature. In essence, we are born as blank slates and that our senses and reason help make us who we are.

Unlike Aristotle, Plato feels that nothing can exist in the natural world that doesn't already in the Eternal Idea/Form world (our soul). In some ways, Plato believes more in the nature side of the argument (who we are is hardwired into our brains and determines more of our personality than our surroundings) of nature vs. nurture, where as Ari sided with the environment nurturing human development as we grow up.

So, which Greek philosopher do you think makes more sense to you? I realize that some of Plato's ideas might seem esoteric, but contemplate the whole of his system.

Blog response is due by Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2nd hour. Minimum 200 words.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Blog #20 - Escaping Your Fate

Even the bus is #42!

In the episode of the Unusuals, "42" that we watched in class, we saw how Detective Leo Banks tried to escape his perceived fate (to die at 42 b/c of family members who had done so). As a foil to Detective Banks, there was the psychic who wholeheartedly accepted her fate and did just about everything she could to meet it with open arms.

On the other hand, Detective Cole has altered his destiny of crime and reinvented himself as a religious young man who became police officer. His former accomplice (and villain in this episode, Frank Lutz) appears to be very jealous of Cole's transformation and demands that Cole pay some sort of restitution for this. In the end, detectives Schraeger and Walsh cover for Cole and Lutz ends up dead. In essence, they approve of Cole's new life by not turning him in.

And in a superstitious way, Banks, Walsh and Delahoy refused to go into the hospital for various reasons. But, it could all be just a way of avoiding the ever-present danger of death prevelant in their job.

Each person, in their own way, dealt with their fate either by changing it (Cole, Banks), accepting it (the psychic), fighting it (Lutz), or avoiding it (Walsh and Delahoy).

Question: If you had a similar fate with one of the characters in the story, pick one and tell us how would you deal with it? Where would you fit into this scenario? Why?

Due Monday, Sept. 21. (150 words minimum).

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Blog #19 - Natural Philosophers

You should read the chapters, "Natural Philosophers" and "Democritus", pgs. 30-48 in order to do a great job answering the blog question.

The natural philosophers discussed in these two chapters sought the answers as to what substance makes up our world and how to account for perceptible changes in life.

What was the substance of life?

- Was everything made of water as Thales stated? Or air in different combinations like Anaximenes commented? Or something called the"boundless"? Empedocles went further and felt that everything in life was a combo of 4 roots - earth, air, wind and fire - and that all things that have ever been and will ever be come from infinte variations of those roots. Anaxagoras was ahead of his time by envisioning material items being made up of tiny particles called "seeds."

- Or, as Democritus hypothesized, is life made up of immutable, tiny particles that are much like Lego pieces? The pieces are not all uniform in size and shape, and so that's what accounts for the infinite possibilities of these pieces he called "atoms".

What makes things change?

- Parmenides believed like all Greeks that nothing could come from nothing, and so things really didn't change. If he saw that the leaves were changing colors but his reason told him that nothing could really change, so what gives? Parmenides says that you can't trust your senses.

- Well, Heraclitus says Baloney! Everything's in flux, he says, but the thing that keeps everything whole is the logos or universal reason.

- Empedocles blended them both together with his 4 roots theory. Things change, but the roots are immutable and you can trust your senses.

So, with this info and more out of the book (and stuff we've talked about in class), you have alternative questions:
1. Which of these natural philosophers best reflects your personal views of life / universe? Why?


2. Which of these natural philosophers is the most opposite of your personal views of life / universe? Why?

200 words minimum - Due Tuesday, Sept. 15.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Blog #18 - What's wrong with Americans?

Many have criticized Americans for not being too philosophical, especially when compared to Europeans. In Europe, philosophers can actually make a decent living by writing books and giving lecture tours, but in America, they are university professors (or high school teachers!).

Maybe this dislike for philosophy comes from the super specialized language that we hear in philosophical circles (remember the bottle of tea example from Zizek!). If we can't seem to talk about it or explain it in straight forward language, forget about it!

Also, America tends to have an anti-intellectualism streak to it. If you follow our history, there have been movements that have looked upon scientific advances or theories w/ suspicion and even fear (evolution just being one). This is the same country that revels in Redneck jokes.

But parts of me wants to disagree with this idea that Americans hate philosophy. A popular TV show like LOST is full of philosophical and religious references with some main characters named after dead philosophers. The 1999 movie, The Matrix, is a modern version of Plato's allergory of the cave, how mankind learns (and may learn too much). The movie calls into question simple things that we take for granted - can we trust our senses? If not, what do we trust? The Matrix was hugely popular and spawned two sequels (though not as good).

Plus, do we not need some kind of personal philosophy to guide us along life's journey? A moral compass of some kind to steer us through the tricky waters? Or is that what religion is for?

If we don't philosophy for a moral guide, then what good is it? British philosopher Sir Bertrand Russell said the following:

Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its
questions, since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but
rather for the sake of the questions themselves"

Every generation asks the big questions: why am I here? What's the purpose of life? What is good/evil? Is there a god?

And every generation comes up with their own answers. The Matrix and LOST are just a couple examples of those answers.

Your question: From your observations, do you think most Americans really care about philosophy? Why or why not? Use specific examples from your own life.

Minimum, 150 words. Due Friday, Sept. 11.