Thursday, December 16, 2010
Here's an interesting, but highly improbable movie called The Source Code:
This is the preview for The Adjustment Bureau that I showed you in class:
Friday, December 10, 2010
Bertrand Russell divides up Plato’s Republic into the three neat sections. You may find his simple outline helpful:
1.Books I-V: The definition of “justice” and the Utopian Republic
2.Books VI-VII: The definition of “philosopher” and Philosopher Kings as the ideal rulers
3.Books VIII-X: Discussion of the various forms of government (their pros and cons)
Ghost stories might make our leaders too nervous if they're exposed to them. I guess it's time to stop the remakes of Friday the 13th and Halloween. Because if the leaders are too scared, then the warriors / guardians might be as well. But what happens if a warrior loses a friend in battle, is that warrior allowed to grieve?
"Reflect: our principle is that the good man will not consider death terrible to any other good man who is his comrade... And therefore he will not sorrow for his departed friend as though he had suffered anything terrible... Such an one, as we further maintain, is sufficient for himself and his own happiness, and therefore is least in need of other men...And for this reason the loss of a son or brother, or the deprivation of fortune, is to him of all men least terrible... And therefore he will be least likely to lament, and will bear with the greatest equanimity any misfortune of this sort which may befall him."
In essence, when a warrior would lose a friend or family member, he/she wouldn't take a moment to grieve b/c in the whole scheme of things, that person was just one human. But what about comedy?
"Neither ought our guardians to be given to laughter. For a fit of laughter which has been indulged to excess almost always produces a violent reaction... Then persons of worth, even if only mortal men, must not be represented as overcome by laughter, and still less must such a representation of the gods be allowed..."
So, apparently no comedy. Sad. What about fiction, you ask? I wondered the same thing myself. Socrates equates fiction w/ lying and only reserves that "right" to doctors and the State:
"Again, truth should be highly valued; if, as we were saying, a lie is useless to the gods, and useful only as a medicine to men, then the use of such medicines should be restricted to physicians; private individuals have no business with them...Then if any one at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the State should be the persons; and they, in their dealings either with enemies or with their own citizens, may be allowed to lie for the public good.
But nobody else should meddle with anything of the kind; and although the rulers have this privilege, for a private man to lie to them in return is to be deemed a more heinous fault than for the patient or the pupil of a gymnasium not to speak the truth about his own bodily illnesses to the physician or to the trainer, or for a sailor not to tell the captain what is happening about the ship and the rest of the crew, and how things are going with himself or his fellow sailors."
And in the interests of truth? How does lying work in the best interests of truth? I'm still not happy w/ Socrates' answers with this one.
As for crime / mystery stories, I'm in agreement with him:
In the end, my question is, how would our American culture change if Socrates had his way about the arts? Provide specific examples by using points listed above and songs / TV shows / artists / movies from our culture today.
Due Monday, December 13. Minimum 200 words.
1. Plato's contribution to society - specialization / division of labor - http://mises.org/daily/2490
Online books, Book III, Plato's The Republic.
Plus, a great quote from a cool movie:
"BILL MURRAY: “What did you study?”
SCARLETT JOHANSSON: “Philosophy.”
BILL MURRAY: “Yeah, there’s a good buck in that racket.”
SCARLETT JOHANSSON: “Well, so far it’s pro bono.”
Lost in Translation (2003)
Sunday, December 5, 2010
I. Ancient Greece
- Plato felt that achieving this perfection would be impossible but it would be important to live a good life by striving for perfection.
B. Aristotle - Some of his ideas included deductive reasoning (that we might see in cop/mystery movies or forensics TV shows), the Golden Mean (choosing between two extremes), and the feelings of catharsis or an emotional cleansing. Aristotle was also one of the first true scientists of the ancient era who had the means to study and catalogue numerous plants and animals.
- With the Golden Mean, Aristotle might feel today that a balance should be struck somewhere between being totally in touch with one's friends through social networking and cutting one's self off completely.
- Here's an interesting website about a concept called the Overton Window - the points along the scale (if you mapped out the spots between one extreme and another) at which the public is willing to accept an option.
II. Modern Philosophy
link for a further elaboration on different types of dualism).
E. Immanuel Kant - One of his biggest ideas was the categorical imperative, or in other words, putting yourself to a moral test for each of your actions. You should consider what would happen if everyone followed your course of actions and how that would impact society. Applying this standard to all of your actions would be the key to living a righteous life.
- Also, perception matters, and it differs for everyone. We can never fully perceive what we perceive b/c we are not that object which we perceive.
Your job: pick which of these six best fits your own personal philosophy at the beginning of our class. Explain why. You may find that your ideas come from a couple different guys, so include that.
200 words minimum. Due Thursday, December 9 before class begins.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
- Was it trying to show us that lying has its good points (little white lies, brutal honesty that numbs us to those in trouble around us, insults that should be better left unsaid)?;
- Was it a critique of religion as false hope? When Mark was on a TV interview show for a brief second at Anna's house, he looked and sounded like just another televangelist;
- Or did it show, even if religion may be a false hope (in the moviemakers' eyes), that hope is worth believing in b/c it gives the people in this world that their lives weren't for nothing (you're a loser on Earth and now you'll be rotting in the ground - geez, what's the point of life then? Look at Jonah Hill's character and his insistent research into suicide);
- Did the filmmakers add deliberate philosophical tie-ins with Nietzche (bending reality to fit to one's will and lying creatively) or Christianity w/ Mark acting as a stand-in for God when he gave Anna the chance to love him on her own accord a few times (much like the Christian scholars have said that God gave mankind free will so that we can love Him on our own accord)? Though, I'm not sure what Mark sees in Anna...
So, your job is to think about something, just one single thing, that you would remove from our world in order to create a parallel world like the one in the movie so that this parallel world would somehow be better than our world.
Please try to stick to ONE thing; several of you have put down 2 things. That's fudging, and it's also unfair to those who haven't written a comment yet. Thanks.
Negative review of Invention: http://www.debbieschlussel.com/9910/weekend-box-office-anti-religion-invention-of-lying-awesome-zombieland-butch-feminist-whip-it-mikey-moore-agit-prop/
Another review of Invention from the New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2009/10/12/091012crci_cinema_lane
Another one from the L.A. Times: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/oct/02/entertainment/et-lying2
Saturday, February 20, 2010
2. Is the world “all in our heads?” How do you know? Will anyone ever know? If you realized you were living in a dream, would you jump off a cliff to see if you could wake up? - Jake P.
9. How come religion was such an important part of people’s lives a few centuries ago and is now “less important”? Do people have more doubt? Or is there something else? - Laetitia
10. Is death the end of everything or is there a soul that continues to exist after death? If so, is the soul immortal? - Sam T., Ben
11. Technology and other scientifical advantages seem to further divide religion and science. One example is Darwinism/evolution. What is another example that we may or may not have studied? - Sammy V., Stephen
12. How can you be sure that you are real and the people around you are real, if you can't trust your senses? - Irina, Jake P., Stefanos, Raphy
14. Do you believe that history could truly be manipulated like it was in George Orwell's 1984? - Jules
15. Spinoza’s philosophy claims that our world is deus sive natura, or “either Nature or God”, but how can it possibly be a question of either? It seems to me that either both exist, or neither exists. If only God exists, then he is malevolent in making a false nature that we perceive, and if only nature exists, then how could it have been created? - Claire
16. If we do, in fact, come into this world with “tabula rasa” do you think that eventually everyone ends up with the same general concepts on their slate or is what ends up on the slate determined by the individual? - Jessie
17. Given the recent intentional plane crash of an angry man into an IRS building (that killed one IRS agent) in Austin, TX, should the definition of a terrorist be redefined? In your own words what is a terrorist? Do you think the definition of terrorist changed over time? And what separates a terrorist from a freedom fighter or a martyr? - Moose
19. At what point does life end? At what point does life begin? If we define life as ending when the heart stops, then should we define life as beginning when the heart begins to beat or when the child is born? If we define life as beginning with the first heartbeat, is it ridiculous to label the mother a murderer during a stillbirth or would that be total heresy? - Eric S.
20. Is philosophy a waste of time since the meaning of life cannot truly be found? - Dayna
23. Is dialectic materialism a circle? Since I saw the timeline of cultures affected by each other on our Marxism notes I have wondered if the process is linear. There has to be a limited amount of ideas so they would have to repeat themselves once in a while, but perhaps the amount is so vast that that is not possible. Or does it have an end like Marx says at which Communism is the end point? - Claire
24. What makes us think we can trust our senses? Explain. - Richard, Jake T.
25. Why is Darwin being placed in a philosophy book with men that pondered where we came from and questions that can’t be answered while his theories are based off of data and facts? - Lisa
26. Have the philosophers discussed in class changed your views on life at all? How so? - Megan
27. Do you believe that each person has one true love that they are destined to find, or that there are multiple true loves for each person? - Sara D.
28. Do people need to have faith in a higher power, or anything for that matter, to be successful in life? - Amanda
30. Would you drink the cool-aide? If someone presented you with a drink that could make you meet the eternal god and, guarantee you passage into heaven, would you drink it? It’s like would you press the button for a million dollars? Can we believe what we hear, do we hear the truth, or do we inherently believe what we want to hear? - Eric S.
31. The author of Sophie’s World appears to have a fanatic obsession with romantic irony. The fact that he is constantly reminding us every chapter about how he is in fact simply writing a book about a man who is writing a book about characters that may actually exist in the fantasy world that he (the author) has created proves this statement. My question is, why has the author gone to such great lengths with his use of romantic irony? What does it achieve for the novel? - Tyler F.
32. Do you believe the theory of evolution disproves the existence of God or does God and Darwin's theory of evolution go hand in hand? - Stephen
33. Was G-d or a higher power created in man's image? Why or why not? - Amanda
34. Communism has never been achieved in any country. Do you think that it’s the actual process/idea of communism that is flawed or the nature of mankind that is flawed that prevents the idea from working? - Annie, Tyler F.
35. Can there be perfection outside of situations in which there is a clear definition of what it means to be perfect? i.e. Bowling the perfect game - 300! - Sam G.
36. Do you believe that the average American is intelligent? - Jake T.
39. If you assume that the universe is expanding, do you believe that it is expanding into something? Why or why not? - David M.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
past" - George Orwell
On Tuesday, I asked you to fill in the blank - "History is ___________" and we saw lots of different responses. We heard lots of different responses from "stupid" and "irrelevant" to "just sort of there" to "something that can be misused." I talked about my own personal feelings towards history: that it is something that doesn't necessarily repeat itself - which is why some teachers say you should teach it. I feel that history is our civilization's collective knowledge about itself and other past societies on earth, and that it is one generation's job (mine, for instance) to interpret it and pass it down to the next (yours, in this case). Soon, it will be your job to continue that legacy with the next generation. But, is there an end point at which we stop passing this history down?
George Hegel had thought so. For him, the French Revolution and Napoleon's invasion of the German states in the early 1800s was that end point. Hegel felt this point was the end of history b/c the Revolution and Napoleon were upsetting the old order of aristocrat and peasant in an effort to try and forge a more "universal and homogeneous state in which lords no longer looked down contemptuously on bondsmen" and people would recognize each other for their individual self-worth (Palmer 235-6). For about 15-20 years, this era of equality lasted, and would not emerge again in a widespread fashion across Europe until after the Cold War was over. When the Cold War was over, another historian, Francis Fukayama called that time period "the end of history" as well, b/c in the battle of worldviews, democratic capitalism had defeated communism and had proven to be the best of all systems. Therefore, the search for the system of government / economy that benefits most people w/o killing or exploiting the least was determined; hence, the end of history.
As for what path history follows, Hegel believed that God determined history's outcome - it is an unchangable, set-in-stone fact.
"Spirit does not toss itself about in the external play of chance occurrences; on the contrary, it is that which determines history absolutely, and it stands firm against the chance occurrences which it dominates and exploits for its own purpose" - George Hegel 2
We can trace this back to our examination of the differences in how Indo-Europeans and Semitic cultures have viewed history throughout the ages. Hegel's view seems to fit into the Semitic scheme that history is linear w/ a beginning and end, and it stands to reason that if God can interfere with or manifest himself in our history, then it makes sense that God has fixed history for all eternity.
My personal issue with this determinist view of history is that with six billion + people on the planet, I think it also stands to reason that occasionally, history is influenced and has been changed by chance events, random, wacky things that no one had planned for or anticipated. Two perfect examples that I use come from the American Civil War: 1. Union soldiers finding General Lee's orders which show how his army is separated into 5 very vulnerable parts, easy for the Union army to pick apart and destroy (only if they had the right commander, which the Union didn't). 2. The chance encounter of Stonewall Jackson's men with his own soldiers the night of the battle of Chancellorsville - the men of a North Carolina regiment on picket duty shot Stonewall and his officers fearing that they were Yankee cavalry on a nighttime raid. Stonewall survived the gunshots, but died a week later of pneumonia.
Neither of those examples were destined to happen, but they did occur by chance, and it is safe to say that they had a cumulative effect on the war's outcome. Random events determine life or death situations all the time. Just ask some of the survivors of the Twin Towers collapse from Sept. 11, 2001. Little random things made them miss being in the building at the time when the planes hit.
However, determinist skeptics would say that these weren't random events and that God has had a hand in all of these things. At that point, I'd ask for proof other than faith.
1. Fill in the blank, "History is _________________" and explain why you answered it that way.
2. Can history have an end point? If so, what would that be and why? If not, why not?
3. Do you agree with Hegel's assertion that history is determined by God or another higher power? Why or why not?
250 Words. Due Friday (Feb. 12, 2010) at the latest.
1. Palmer, Donald. Looking at Philosophy: The Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made Lighter, 4th ed. McGraw Hill Higher Education. New York, NY: 2006.
2. Burrell, David. "A Historian Looks at Hegel Philosophically." http://www.historicalinsights.com/dave/hegel.html Original 1991. Accessed 2/10/10.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
There can be a natural evil - something like a natural disaster (like we have seen so vividly in Haiti in the past week that may have killed almost 200,000 people and possibly left a million people homeless); diseases like cancer, AIDS, etc; accidents or other things that don't seem to have an intent to do harm but just happen (an agentless cause).
- 4th hour broke this one down to discuss a thing like lung cancer. If lung cancer is caused by someone's smoking habit, then it can be considered evil. The cigarettes themselves, however, cannot be thought of as evil, because they needed to be used in order to become toxic. If a person develops lung cancer b/c he/she lives in a high pollution area and has lived w/ heavy smokers his/her entire life, then the person wouldn't be considered evil. An evil has been done to him/her by another person's free will (the smoker, the polluting company).
- 5th hour broke it down with the atomic bomb - we tried to figure out if an object itself could be evil w/o an agent to use it. Discussing the atomic bomb, I think we came to the conclusion that there had to be some agent who needed to enforce his/her will upon the atomic bomb to make it do his/her bidding. Otherwise, the bomb could be used as a planter, couch, etc. without such an agent and therefore isn't evil.
Then there are moral evils. These have an agent as the cause or someone or something doing the evil with intent. We tried to break things down to universals - is there a universal evil in every society? Wikipedia broke the nature of moral evil down into 4 groups:
"Views on the nature of evil tend to fall into one of four opposed camps:
Moral absolutism holds that good and evil are fixed concepts established by a deity or deities, nature, morality, common sense, or some other source;
Amoralism claims that good and evil are meaningless, that there is no moral ingredient in nature;
Moral relativism holds that standards of good and evil are only products of local culture, custom, or prejudice;
Moral universalism is the attempt to find a compromise between the absolutist sense of morality, and the relativist view; universalism claims that morality is only flexible to a degree, and that what is truly good or evil can be determined by examining what is commonly considered to be evil amongst all humans. Author Sam Harris notes that universal morality can be understood using measurable (i.e. quantifiable) metrics of happiness and suffering, both physical and mental, rooted in how the biology of the brain processes stimuli." 1
As we had mentioned in the past unit, St. Augustine thought that evil was not doing God's will. Judaism believes (correct me if I'm wrong) that evil results when one forsakes God.
Then there is the problem of evil - why does it exist at all? This is the school of thought that if God (or any all knowing, all powerful good diety) existed, why would that diety allow evil to exist? If it did allow evil to exist, then is the diety really good and/or all powerful? There are many ways to look at this - see Problem of evil - here - and here - and here - for ideas. Some religious types think that this argument is so corrosive that they devote a lot of energy to debunking it - they think it might lead to atheism.
C.S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia, wrote this about his early athiest days:
"My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?... Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too--for the argument depended on saying the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies" 3
Occam's Razor is an idea credited to 14th Century friar William of Ockham which states that the conclusion based on the fewest assumptions is most likely the right one. 2
Questions (pick 3 of 4 questions to answer):
1. Is it better to prevent evil than to promoting good when making rules or standards to live by? Why?
2. Do you agree with the problem of evil - that a benevolent, omnipotent diety wouldn't allow evil? Why or why not?
3. Are we making this more complicated than it has to be? Or should we just reduce it to the simplest explanation (Occam's razor - see above)?
4. If we as humans can conceive of evil or evil acts and thoughts, does that mean we are evil by nature? Why or why not?
Due Thursday, January 21. 200 words minimum.
1. Evil, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil
2. Occam's Razor http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor
3. Problem of Evil http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil
4. Problem of Evil http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-problem-of-evil.htm
5. Problem of Evil http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/
6. Problem of Evil
Monday, January 11, 2010
Homework update: Test on TUESDAY. REVIEW SHEETS HAVE BEEN PASSED OUT AND THEY WILL BE POSTED ONLINE TOMORROW. Review session is on Tuesday morning at 7:45 a.m.
Links to Destination: Lost (called Ep24, pt 1-5)
Pt. 1 -(there's nothing on the video for the first 20 seconds).
If the embeds don't work, you can search YouTube by looking for Lost Destination Lost ep24 as a summary of season 1.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
"study and contemplation do in some sort withdraw us from our soul, and employ it separately from the body, which is a kind of apprenticeship and a resemblance of death; or else, because all the wisdom and reasoning in the world do in the end conclude in this point, to teach us not to fear to die"1
Cynics believe: ‘What good is philosophy if it never moves you to criticize your comfortable habits and actually change yourself for the better?’ Cynicism was conceived of as a way of life unbeholden to social convention or political demand, that is, a life lived according to nature. (This phrase is a recurring theme in debates among the Hellenistic philosophies.)
For Cynics, nature is the opposite of society’s conventions and norms. All that the ordinary social herd is interested in is getting on in this world. They flatter, they beg, they posture. Such people think that they are better if they can throw a big fancy party! ‘How shallow! How fleeting! How ridiculous!,’ say the Cynics. These people have lost touch with nature. 2
Here's a song by Extreme called "Cynical":
"And whatever you do / someone's done it first / though it's sad but true / this us just another verse / if you can't take it with you / then what's the use? / I never saw a u-haul / being pulled behind a hearse."
Skeptics: Pyrrho of Elis (c. 365/360-275/270 BCE) was the first celebrated Skeptic. He was said to have accompanied Alexander to India. His philosophical position was that we can only know how things appear to us, and we can’t rightly resolve disagreements as to what appears. This is all very disturbing. Wouldn’t it be better just to suspend judgment and live according to probable opinion and custom?
- "Skeptics aimed to undermine the supposed certainties of all their other philosophical competitors. While this might seem to limit it to making only a negative contribution, Skepticism did at least provide a voice for humility and tolerance, even if the Skeptics themselves did not always practise those qualities." 2
Epicureans: "Epicurus modified the materialistic philosophy of the 5th century bce atomists, Leucippus and Democritus. Everything is composed of matter, more specifically, of atoms moving in a void. For the most part, they move in regular ways. Their principal movement is to fall down in straight lines. (How ‘down’ can be identified in a void is a problem that the Epicureans did not clarify.) However, occasionally atoms ‘swerve.’ From these irregular movements, atoms began to collide and clump together. and the universe we know through our senses began to form. The movements and interactions of atoms suffice for a complete explanation of the world. The swerve is also the basis of Epicurus’ defense of free will.
- "Epicurus takes this absence of a cosmic purpose to mean that pleasure is the only good. Indeed, pleasure is the meaning of the good. The Greek word translated as ‘pleasure’ is the root of the English word, hedonism. Hedonism is the view that pleasure is the highest good." 2Editor's note: If this quote to the left attributed to Epicurus can be accurately pinned to him, then maybe there's more than just the anti-hedonist attitudes like Cicero's that this school has had to endure. It could most definitely have come from a church that had tried to solidfy itself over the centuries.
Stoicism: "your average Hellenistic Joe Schmoe feels his life running away from him in fifty directions—but God has got it together. There is a pattern to it all, despite what Epicureans will tell you. There is a grand plan—no—a perfect plan, behind the seemingly haphazard affairs of life, a logos." (<--Bust of Zeno, the founder of Stoicism) 3
- "Unfortunately, as the world is entirely material and perfectly ordered it is also thoroughly determined. Thus, it is also correct to name the divine as fortune. The earlier Stoics put a brave spin on this, and said that the plan evidenced divine providence, a reassuring God. Later Stoics, who must have been a bit discouraged by suicides, exiles and the like, thought that the plan was more like an impersonal, implacable fate.
- "The Stoics argue that, since every person has logos, the natural law is a universal law for all people, irrespective of ethnic background and political allegiance. Our true citizenship is not with any particular city and its parochial little customs. We are all citizens of the city of the world—the cosmopolis. The Roman Empire adopts Stoicism as the official ideology, exactly for this view." 2
Now that we've looked at the main schools of Hellenist philosophy (heck, throw in NeoPlatonism in there w/ ol' man Plotinus in there too), how will you face the end?