Saturday, December 16, 2017

Blog #78 - Aristotle's Ideas on Democracy

Using the article, "Aristotle's Philosophy of Equality, Peace, and Democracy" by Matt Qvortrup (Philosophy Now, October/November 2016), let's examine what Aristotle said about these three topics in his lecture notes, The Politics, and how they still resonate with us today. 

When it comes to equality, Aristotle felt that political leaders have to find ways to keep people happy.  "The truly democratic statesman must study how the multitude may be saved from extreme poverty" (Politics).  The official poverty rate in America in 2015 was 13.5% (for Black Americans it was 24.1% and Latino Americans it was 21.4% and Asian Americans 11.4%).  There are about 19 million people in America living in extreme poverty, making about $10,000 annually for a family of four.  This would be one area where an American President and Congress would start, according to Aristotle.  In order to make sure that everyone was happy, according to Qvortrup, Aristotle advocated "measures... that bring about lasting prosperity for all" and was willing to redistribute the wealth of all:  "The proper course is to collect all the proceeds of the revenue into a fund and ditribute them in lump sums" (Politics).  We do something similar today with our taxes that go for welfare, Social Security, food stamps, Medicaid and Medicare, and other aid programs.  But it sounds like Aristotle advocated something more drastic than what we have today. 

In the second part of the article, Aristotle gives us the key to ending our culture of political violence and terrorism - including minorities and increasing democratic engagement in order to lessen inequality and lower levels of violence.  When we look at civic engagement in America, there has been a recent push by Emily's List to increase the number of women and specifically women of color to run for office in America since November 2016.  When looking at the gender make up of Congress, our highest law making body, it is 80% male, 80% white, and 92% Christian (see charts below).  Aristotle would likely scoff at these numbers and say that things need to change.  But the question remains how? 
Also, the article questions how we deal with terrorism and political violence.  Written from a British point of view (but similar to America's responses), Qvortrup questions whether increased surveillance and military action are the best ways to deal with domestic or international terrorism. 

In the last section of the article on constitutional democracy, Qvortrup stated that Aristotle made a massive study of constitutions, but only his study of Athens' constitution is the one that survives.  He found that balanced constitutions work best, with an enlightened and elected aristocracy (based on "uncommon prudence and intelligence, not wealth") making the laws and the people having a say-so on those laws.  Today, you practically need to be a millionaire to run for national office, or raise hundreds of millions of dollars to compete and possibly win.  A wealthy aristocracy (made up of white Christian men) appears to be running our country.  However, they seem to have listened to their constituents lately when it comes to health care repeal and possibly tax cuts for the rich.  The next issue Americans need to be heard on is net neutrality (here's an article on what it is and why you should care -  Aristotle believed in the wisdom of the crowd and that the more people deliberated over an issue, the better.  I tend to agree with this, that enlightened discourse about a topic is much more effective than just watching commercials about it.  But is this enlightened discourse still possible today? 

Questions for you to answer (answer one from each part for a total of three questions): 
Part A 
1. Should the aim of government be to increase the general happiness of its people - even if this means redistributing peoples' wealth?  Why or why not?
Part B 
2. Should women and people of color be more included in governing bodies at all levels of government?  How do we get more people to run? 
3. Should America change the way it deals with political violence / terrorism from its current ways of increasing surveillance and military action?  Why or why not? 
Part C 
4. Do you trust the wisdom of the crowd to make the right decisions most of the time?  Why or why not? 
5. Is it impossible to have an enlightened discourse in today's age of sound bites and social media and fake news?  Why or why not?

Poverty facts came from

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Blog #77 - What in the World is Wrong with Socrates?

We read the articles by Emily Wilson with her alternative take on the life of Socrates. In "What's Wrong with Socrates?"in The Philosophers' Magazine, 2nd Qtr., 2008, she listed 10 things that conflicted with the myth/legend of Socrates that we have grown familiar with.

Among Socrates' perceived transgressions (in Dr. Wilson's eyes), he was:
1. An amateur and prided himself in not getting paid;

2. Irresponsible to leave his wife and two children behind;

3. A chatterbox (talk over action is valued);

4. Psychologically naive - with statements like "nobody does wrong willingly", Wilson tears him apart;

5. Felt that pain didn't matter - if you were good, though wrong/harm was done to you, the real harm is in the sinner or the wrongdoer;

6. Anti-political - he felt that few if any are smart enough to run a government properly, but could he do it? Could anyone? If not, why have gov't in the first place?

7. Parochial - there was little that Socrates believed could be learned outside of the walls of Athens;

8. Arrogant - when Dr. Wilson says arrogant, apparantly she means ill-mannered and inconsiderate among other things listed in the article;

9. Superstitious - sometimes, philosophers mean that someone who is religious is superstitious, but the way she wrote this passage, she made him sound a bit loony (eccentric if you want to put a good spin on it) for listening to the voice inside his head. Is that voice his conscience or was hearing voices like the math professor in A Beautiful Mind?

10. Rationalist - normally, you wouldn't think there's anything wrong with being rational, but Dr. Wilson finds that Socrates puts such a strong emphasis on being rational that he leaves no room for emotion in solving problems. He is devoid of emotion.

So, your job here is to pick 4 of these criticisms and discuss whether or not you agree or disagree with them and explain why for each of them. This would be a good place to refine your ideas about Socrates.

350 words minimum. Due Monday, Dec. 11 by class.  Please post your blog here and not on your blog. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Who Am I? Paper

I'm asking you to do a paper about your identity.  If we know who we are, then we can figure out what we believe.

The paper should be a minimum of 1.5 pages, double spaced, 1 inch margins, no bigger than 12 point font.  It's subject is you and who you identify as.

1. Complete the social identity wheel.  Describe which of these social characteristics define you the most, the least, and why.  Don't lose this handout, you will turn it in w/ your paper on Friday, Dec. 8. 

2. Watch the two Crash Course videos on Identity below.  #19 Personal Identity talks about the two theories about identity - body and memory theory.  Which do you feel is more of an accurate reflection of you and why?  #20 Arguments Against Identity discusses the ideas of a fixed identity and one that is a bundle of impressions.  Also, there is a discussion about our identity and the promises, obligations, and responsibilities that we have.  Which of these critical ideas do you most agree with and why?

3.  Describe yourself.  Who are you to your family?  Who are you to your friends?  Who is the hidden you that no one sees?  Also, which do you think has influenced you more - nature or nurture?  Explain why with specific examples.  

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Blog #76 - Critique Top Western Philosophers

In the article, "Philosophy 101," we surveyed six major philosophers and came up with some modern-day applications / examples of their ideas. What you should do with this blog is review their ideas and pick which one you think has the most problematic views, whether their philosophy can apply to today, or if you think it doesn't make sense.  Explain why.  

I. Ancient Greece 

A. Plato - he believed in the idea of the perfect form, that there is a perfect concept for everything (person, horse, chair, etc.) and that everything manmade or natural on Earth is an imperfect copy of that perfect form (In the picture to the left, you have a photo of a chair, a definition of a chair printed out, and an actual chair - each one is a chair but they each have different degrees of reality to them - the farther away from the ideal form they are, the less perfect they are). 

- 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 

C. Rene Descartes - He is the father of modern philosophy and started many snowballs rolling downhill, but the one we focused on here was the idea of dualism, the mind and body are separate and not linked. An example the article gave was that if you died in a dream, you wouldn't die in actuality. Movies like The Matrix and Inception deal fully with this mind / body dualism. Descartes is also known for the statement "I think, therefore I am" in which in order to exist, you must first think. Quite a concept! (See link for a further elaboration on different types of dualism).

D. David Hume - This Scottish philosopher improved upon some of Descares' ideas like skepticism (that we cannot truly ever be sure of something b/c it might not reoccur - the article uses the example of a bottle breaking when knocked off of a table). Part of the reason that this type of skepticism exists is b/c of the randomness of life and the infinite number of variables that play into it (later to be called the chaos theory in Jurassic Park or the butterfly effect). Lastly, there's the post hoc fallacy, or to believe that because we see two things occur together, one must have caused the other. Let us say that one morning I get up and turn my coffee machine on, but at the same time, the dishwasher starts up. Does that mean that X (turning coffee machine on) causes Y (dishwasher turns on)? No, not necessarily. 

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. 

Image result for immanuel Kant cartoon

F. Georg Hegel - Hegel had an idea that had been around for awhile but he refined it to something called absolute spirit - a network that connected every thing to ideas, people and other things around the universe. Hegel also came up with an idea called zeitgeist(German for time-spirit) where peoples' thoughts are guided by the political and cultural atmosphere of a specific time in history. For instance, our time period represented the angry Populist revolt of the Tea Party. 

Your Job: Pick one of these philosophers and critique his major ideas.  Make sure you include some details and explanation in your response. Feel free to use the article, "Philosophy 101." 

Minimum 300 words for your answer.  Due Tuesday, Dec. 5 by class. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Blog #75 - Examined Life philosophers

Out of the several philosophers that we saw in The Examined Life, which of them seemed: 
1. To have the most appealing outlooks on life; 
2. To have the least appealing (or comprehensible) views of life? 

In summary, here they are in order of appearance in the film: 
1. Cornel West - Harvard and Princeton educated, Dr. West has spent the majority of his studies examining race, gender, and class in American society.  He is considered a "neopragmatist", similar to that of William James' pragmatism (something has value if it works), where language is the primary vehicle for understanding the world and trying to make meaning from it.  He has called himself a "non-Marxist socialist" primarily because he's a religious person and cannot reconcile the fact that Marxism dismisses religion.  He also tends to be suspicious of all forms of authority, because they can lead to tyranny and / or abuse.  One of his latest books is called Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism.  

2. Avital Ronell - her parents were Israeli diplomats and she was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia.  She is a professor of German language in New York and has translated French philosopher Jacques Derrida in his earliest works introduced into America.  She follows a school of philosophy called Deconstructionism where she tries to discover the underlying meanings of words and language.  She feels that " language is a material that cannot not interrupt, suspend, resist, exceed, and otherwise trip up the very message it is charged to deliver," because "words can go AWOL (absent without leave" or in many instances, be misunderstood or misinterpreted by the listener / reader.  In many respects, this problem with language has led her to believe that there are no guiding Truths.  One of her latest books is called Stupidity

3. Peter Singer - an Australian philosopher who has become very popular with his most well known for his strong moral beliefs about animals and eating meat.  He is opposed to animal experimentation as well as eating meat.  He follows in the school of Utilitarianism (John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham) which tries to maximize the greatest good for the largest number of people.  He also feels very strongly that the wealthy have an obligation to provide help for those in extreme poverty (remember the $200 pair of shoes ruined to save a drowning child).  On his own website, he claims to give 25% of his income to non-profit groups that are devoted to the poor.  His latest book is The Life You Can Save.  

4. Kwame Anthony Appiah - as mentioned in the film, he's the product of a Ghanian father and an English mother, he studied at Cambridge and has taught at some of the top universities in the U.S.  His studies have included examining the intellectual history of African Americans and he also deals with language and semantics - the underlying meanings of words.  In the segment we watched, Appiah talked about our notion of identity in a multicultural world.  He doesn't believe that race should form your identity, but that we should look for universalities between us to do that.  Forbes Magazine named him one of the Top Seven Most Powerful Thinkers in the world - Judith Butler is also on this list as well.  Appiah's latest book is called The Honor Code.  

5. Martha Nussbaum - is a professor at the University of Chicago with an interest in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy along with concerns over feminism, political philosophy and morality.  From ancient Greek and Roman philosophies, she has explored the idea of neo-Stoicism which acknowledges that things outside of our control have a great influence on us.  She has also tried to draw attention to the political and gender inequality and the lack of opportunities for women.  She's a strong believer in inclusion of other cultures and feels that those who promote Western culture (our culture) at the expense of others is paternalistic.  In the field of moral psychology, she wrote that emotions like shame and disgust are legitimate emotions to use to make legal judgments.  Her latest book is The New Religious Intolerance

6. Michael Hardt - Hardt is a political philosopher from Duke University who was born in 1960.  As he mentioned in the film, he spent time in Latin America during the 1980s learning from the Marxist political movements in Nicaragua and El Salvador.  He has criticized globalization and sees it as a form of American imperialism.  Nations' power to control their own destiny has declined as American (and European) companies have expanded to control various aspects of developing countries' resources.  His major work, written with Antonio Negri, is called Empire.  Globalization has spawned new forms of racism and cultural change, and that the focus of political power has shifted from governments to corporations.  This shift is less democratic because there's very little if any recourse to stop / control these corporations. 

7. Slavoj Zizek - Zizek is a neo-Marxist and has been considered the "hippest philosopher in Europe" by many and also called "the Elvis of philosophy."  He hails from Slovenia and has written many books.  He tends to provoke with his statements, like comparing Julian Assange to Mahatma Gandhi.  He rarely gives straightforward answers to questions: "I like to complicate issues. I hate simple narratives. I suspect them. This is my automatic reaction."  He is also an athiest and has written extensively on movies, violence, and other topics.  He apparently wrote a review of Avatar first w/o having actually seen it first: "I'm a good Hegelian.  If you have a good theory, forget about the reality."  His primary influence is philosopher Jacques Lacan.  One of his latest book is Living in the End Times.  

8. Judith Butler - is currently a professor of rhetoric and literature at the University of Berkeley, California.  One of her primary philosophical keys is gender studies and how sex and gender roles are flexible or shouldn't be as confining as we tend to see them in our society.  Gender identity does not necessarily reflect who are in our "inner core" - meaning, that just because we are men or women does NOT mean that we should be bound by those male and female roles.  Gender is supposed to be a secondary characteristic to who are, not a primary one.  Also, her political philosophy has been influenced by her religion, Judaism, and she believes in a "Judaism that is not associated with state violence," and has said that Israel does not represent all Jews.  As mentioned in the segment on Appiah, Forbes named her one of the top seven thinkers in the world and she has been called "a big-deal academic, ... and oft-cited academic superstar...the most famous feminist philosopher in the United States," "the queer theorist par excellence," and "the most brilliantly eclectic theorist of sexuality in recent years."  Her most popular book has been Gender Trouble.  

This blog will be due by Monday, June 12 by class.  

Also, please read this article for Monday for an enlightening discussion on the ethics of punching a Nazi. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Blog #74 - Hanna and Genetic Engineering

The subject of genetic engineering / manipulation came up during Hanna, though in an unrealistic sci-fi scenario where the CIA tried making super soldiers through invitro - genetic enhancement.  But while this sounds like sci-fi now, there are a lot of things today that can be done that are NOT science fiction that are pretty close to genetic manipulation.  
1. What happens if you want a boy in your family since your family already three girls?  What could you do to increase the odds?  Picking the sex of your child can be done now w/ invitro fertilization (IVF) once fertilized eggs divided into eight cells, that mass can be tested for sex and then implanted in the mother's womb. 

2. What if you really loved your dog or cat and wanted one exactly like it?  Apparently, a company existed for 2 years called Genetics Savings and Clone and was able to clone a couple of cats.  It shhut down in 2006 for reasons I can't quite fathom (besides my basic revulsion of the idea, other qualms), but here's an NPR link to a radio interview about the company when it opened in 2004

  - Here's a more recent story from 2009 about a Korean company that cloned a Labrador Retriever for $155,000.

 3. What if your only child died or had was dying from an accident and making a clone to replace the missing or needed parts was the only way to replace or help that child?   This would be a tough one for me to answer b/c I've never ever been in a situation like this, and I don't know how desperate I might get to save my daughter's life.  If making a clone of my daughter to create stem cells could help her, I would be all for it.  Chances are, scientists wouldn't have to go as far as cloning to help her since our body makes stem cells all of the time. 
 - But, South Korean scientists in 2004 were successful in cloning a human embryo using the same person's cells (  The idea was to aid the woman's health, not clone her.  Even so, a recent poll in America states that 84% of Americans feel that cloning humans is morally wrong.

 4. Would you be willing to be part of a genetic experiment that not only strengthened your muscles but prevented them from deteriorating with age?  Gene therapy can allow us to repair damaged cells but apparently scientists at the University of Penn have done such a thing with mice in 2004 - called "Mighty Mice."  This kind of therapy could help people with muscular dystrophy or ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).  But could it also be abused by athletes and others looking for an edge, especially if they aren't injured?  Gene therapy doesn't usually show up on drug tests since it's supposed to be part of your natural body chemistry, so how do you know who's doping and who's not?  

 5. If you had the chance (and it were possible), would you pick certain traits for your child before he/she was born?   Would you want a child that is more predisposed to music, athletics, math, or would you try to pick the hair and eye color and let fate take care of the rest?  

 6. Is this kind of genetic selection ethical?*  Would it create a separate subspecies of humans like portrayed in the movie Gattaca - those who have been enhanced and those who haven't?  If you haven't been enhanced, you're stuck in a 2nd class citizenry status much like African Americans were before the Civil Rights movement, while those who have been genetically enhanced (those with money, of course) get the best pick of jobs, lives, etc. 

Pick at least three questions (one must include the last one about ethics*) and answer them by tomorrow before class.  Thanks.  300 words minimum. 

Gallup Poll on Cloning -
Moral Obligation to be part of a medical research study -

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Blog #73 - Why Doesn't the Batman just kill the Joker?

Having read the article on the ethics of killing the Joker, what do you think?  (We're going to assume that this comic book world that we are inhabiting is real, so don't start going down that road).

It brings up a few good points: 
1. The Joker will continue to kill (but does Batman murder him for future crimes - could be dangerous - or past crimes?  Joker has killed Robin, Commissioner Gordon's wife, and crippled Batgirl, Gordon's stepdaugher).
2. Batman's honor code of not killing is just a way for Batman to feel superior to the men and women of crime whom he is fighting.
3. Is Batman responsible for all of the deaths / mayhem / destruction since Batman first apprehended the Joker?  Is that chaos Batman's to own, or should it be the Joker?

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So, questions to answer: 
1. In which of the scenarios of the Trolley Problem do you think best applies to this situation w/ the Batman and Joker (assuming it was the Joker who is the trolley)?
2. Should the Batman kill the Joker?  Why or why not?  And if so, for what crimes - past or to prevent future crimes?
3. Should our superheroes have a no-killing code?  Why or why not?  Does it just lead to more crime?
4. Is the concept of utilitarianism useful in real life?  Why or why not?

300 words total.  Due by class on Thursday, June 1.  

Articles to read and consider: 
Why Doesn't the Batman Just Kill the Joker? by Jesse Richards.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Blog #72 - Invention of Lying

After watching most of The Invention of Lying on Tuesday and Wednesday., we discussed what the true intentions of the movie were: 
  • 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 movie makers' 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 Nietzsche (bending reality to fit to one's will and lying creatively) when he asked "if you could remake life the way you want it, what would you do?"  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)? Or when "the man in the sky" is attributed with all of the bad/evil things that happen in life (like natural disasters, disease, accidents, even mankind's free will, etc.) - the classic problem of evil?  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.

Explain how your new world would be different, and try to be imaginative by thinking of both the positives and negatives. Don't be discouraged if someone has already taken your idea. Build on what they've already written or go off in a different direction or rethink your approach. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

If you missed the videos

We watched three videos in this unit, Kant and Categorical Imperative, Romanticism, and Hegel.

See below.





Monday, May 8, 2017

Blog #71 - In Time

"For a few immortals to live, many people must die."

Image result for In time movie

We are presented with a future world in the movie, In Time, in which time has become so precious that it has now become currency.  Somehow, our bodies are born (or implanted with a device) that begins ticking when we reach the age of 25 so that those who work get paid in time and have to buy their necessities like food and rent using the currency of time. 

There are also time zones (don't think like what we have -Eastern, Central, etc., but different parts of a larger city), segregated communities that you must pay time to get into.  Just think of gated cities within a much larger city - this is a way to keep the very poor out of (what can only be assumed to be) a middle class or upper class time zone, because the more Will pays as he heads towards the wealthiest part of town, the price continues to go up.  So, in essence, there still is free passage among the city, but only if you can afford it.  But since many can't afford it, the poor are stuck in their slums. 

The movie focuses most of its time on poor characters who are working day-to-day and struggling to survive.  When wages go up, the prices of goods go up, so there's no real way for the poor to get ahead.     And of course, in such a dog-eat-dog world, there are also gangsters who try to steal peoples' time - the Minutemen.  And when the clock runs out on someone, he/she is dead.  Even the timekeepers, the police of this dystopian society, are barely paid decent wages in order to stay alive.  Sadly ironic, the ones that are entrusted with enforcing the system don't get paid enough (sounds familiar).  

The rich, on the other hand, are trapped in a different kind of gilded prison.  With decades, even centuries on their clocks, they continue to look the same as they did when they were 25 even though they might be 107.  The one creepy Freudian thing is when Phillipe Weis introduced his mother, wife and daughter (Sylvia) who all looked very similar.  Sylvia and Will hit it off and that's when Sylvia said that all the wealthy needed to do was stay out of trouble and they could live forever.  Play it safe = live forever.  So, unlike Will who lives by the phrase, "Carpe Diem", Sylvia never took chances until she met Will. 

Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to 1. apply at least one philosopher or philosophic concept to any part or parts of this movie that you find apply to this movie.  2. Find a weakness in the movie, whether it be in the plot, concept, etc. and explain why. 

Due Friday, May 12 by the beginning of class.  Minimum of 300 words total.  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Blog #70 - Scale of Doubt

O.k., so we talked about how philosopher Rene Descartes had some serious doubts about the world around him.  He had discovered that some of his tried and true scientific wisdom about the solar system just weren't accurate anymore, because of the invention of better telescopes and compiled scientific evidence that didn't back up a geocentric world.  These new discoveries forced Descartes to really re-examine his entire life, all of the things that he took for granted.

He doubted his senses.  He doubted whether or not we could tell the difference between the waking world and the dream world.  He even wondered / worried that an Evil Genius might spent all of its time manipulating Descartes' world so that even MATH is incorrect.  But this is where he eventually pared it all down to his thinking process - someone, namely me, is doubting all this stuff.  That someone must be thinking.  Therefore, if I am thinking, I must exist.  That axiom, I cannot doubt.
Image result for rene descartes

So we get to the root of epistomology - how do we know what we know?  Descartes tackled this through reason.  Locke, Hume, and Berkeley tackle this question through our experiences and senses.  For this blog, you can use either reason or senses or both to answer the question.

A few days ago, we took the Scale of Doubt quiz, and you were asked to say yes, no, or maybe to the 13 following questions:

1. Do you believe that a particular religious tradition holds accurate knowledge of the ultimate nature of reality and the purpose of human life?

Image result for higher power2. Do you believe that some thinking being consciously made the universe?

3. Is there an identifiable force coursing through the universe, holding it together, or uniting all life-forms?

4. Could prayer be in any way effective, that is, do you believe that such a being or force (as posited above in question 3) could ever be responsive to your thoughts and words?

5. Do you believe this being or force can think or speak?

6. Do you believe this being has a memory or can make plans?

7. Does this force sometimes take a human form?

8. Do you believe that the thinking part or animating force of human being continues to exist after the body has died?

9. Do you believe that any part of a human being survives death, elsewhere or here on earth?

10. Do you believe that feelings about things should be admitted as evidence in establishing reality?

11. Do you believe that love and inner feelings of morality suggest that there is a world beyond biology, social patterns, and accidents --- i.e., a realm of higher meaning (metaphysical world)?

12. Do you believe that the world is not completely knowable by science?

13. If someone were to say, "The universe is nothing but an accidental pile of stuff, jostling around with no rhyme or reason, and life on earth is but a tiny, utterly inconsequential speck of nothing, in a corner of space, existing in the blink of an eye never to be judged, noticed, or remembered", would you say, "Now that's going a bit too far, that's a bit wrongheaded"?

Image result for nihilism

So, what I would like you to do are two things: 
1. Pick one of the questions above and explain why you answered yes, no, or maybe.  Provide specific details and reasoning.
2. Then, take the same question and argue the OPPOSITE of what you just answered for part 1.  If you answered maybe, then pick a side (yes or no) and go with that.  You don't have to necessarily believe in what you're arguing, just try to do it persuasively.  Also use specific examples / details and reasoning.

Due Friday April 28 by the beginning of class.  
300 words minimum total. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Problem of Evil Paper, Rubric, and Crash Course

Here is a link to the Problem of Evil paper -

Here is a link to the rubric for the paper.

Here is the episode of Crash Course Philosophy that we watched on Friday.

Paper is due Monday, April 24 by class.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Blog #69 - Some random thoughts on fate and free will

Last week, before watching the Adjustment Bureau, we talked about varying degrees of fate and free will and their connections to philosophers that we've studied so far.

Determinism - everything that occurs in life happens out of necessity, whether it is God's plan, the laws of nature, or something else's plan.  Or, in other words, every action that we take has something that came before it that triggered that action, whether external (out of our control) or internal (feelings, thoughts, experiences).

Hard Determinism - believes that Determinism is true and that as humans, we have no freedom.  Psychologists B.F. Skinner and Sigmund Freud believed in many respects that Hard Determinism is true and that humans are little machines who are slaves to our upbringing / conditioning (Skinner) or our conscious and unconscious desires (Freud).
  - One of the things that I said that I found problematic with HD is that we really aren't responsible for our actions if HD really is the case, because we have all been fated, if you will, to do the things we are going to do.  I feel that we need to be held responsible for our actions, to a great extent.
 - Another thought (new for this blog and not in notes) is that because we're all physical beings in a physical world, we are subject to physical or natural laws, and we can't change them.  Try to defy gravity.  I've tried it. I almost broke my ankle once when I was ten jumping off of the roof of my grandparents' garage. Image result for broken ankle  (not my ankle).

Soft Determinism - this occurs when there is an intersection of our will and our capacity to do something that we want.  We are free to the extent that we are able to get the things that we want.  If I wanted to date Heidi Klum but didn't have the capacity, then I wasn't really free.  If I had the capacity or ability to ask Heidi Klum out on a date, and I met her (let's say I was hanging out at a taping of Project Runway, non-stalker like), I would be free to ask her out.  But that doesn't mean I have the freedom to actually go out with her, because that would also require her consent.  So, my freedom is very limited in this sense.
Free Will & Determinism
• Universal Determinism: position that states every event that takes place is caused by some condition beforehand even if you are or are not aware of all conditions or events. If you were to repeat the same moment under the...
  - St. Augustine, an early Catholic Church father and once prodigal son, felt that our free will (within God's plan) can lead us to sin if we deviate from His plan.
  - The Hellenist philosophers, the Stoics, believed that we should be happy with what we get, since they believe that to fight the laws of nature is futile.

Indeterminism - Determinism is wrong and there could be a few different options:
  a. In life, there are only random events.
  b. In life, some events are random, some we have choices over.
  c. Some things are uncaused (or we don't know or understand the cause)
  d. Some events are caused by not necessary (I gave the example of heavy smoking causes cancer).

A branch of Indeterminism is called Libertarianism, rejects determinism and states that everyone has free will, and regardless of the circumstances or parameters, you still have a choice.  This is something that Existentialist philosophers, most notably Jean-Paul Sartre, believe in.  We are truly free as long as we have options to choose from - latte, mocha, coffee, frappaccino?

Below is the Crash Course episode on Determinism vs. Free Will. Enjoy.  It may frustrate you.

So, after watching the Crash Course video, The Adjustment Bureau, and reading over some of the thoughts listed above, what are your views on determinism vs. free will?  Are you buying Hank Green's argument about hard determinism?  Is our free will just an illusion?  Or are you o.k. with God's plan (if that's what you believe) or just rolling with the flow (if that's your belief)?  Do you believe in free will despite what Hank is saying?
Please provide some specific examples from either CC, Adjustment Bureau, the thoughts above, and your own life.

Thanks for reading.  Due Thursday, April 20th by the beginning of class.  250 words minimum. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Review for Hellenism, Christianity, Renaissance, and Baroque Test

Review for the Hellenism, Christianity, Renaissance, and Baroque Test - Wednesday, April 19 -

Crash Course - Anselm and Ontological Argument for God.

Crash Course - Aquinas and the Cosmological Arguments for God

Crash Course - Intelligent Design / Teleological Argument for God

Monday, March 27, 2017

Blog #68 - Which Hellenist philosophy fits you best?

I kept wondering how Hellenistic philosophy applied to today's world as we briefly discussed it on Wednesday.  I didn't have a lot of time to really go in depth with it, so I included summaries, but I still didn't feel like it was enough.  So, I thought, why not dig into this school of thought on the blog?

First, Epicureans - as we explore most philosophy (and most likely religions as well), there seems to be a denial of pleasure or the association that pleasure is at best, a necessary evil. The philosopher, Epicurus, said that the "best sort of one that is free from pain in the body and from disturbance in the mind. That sounds a rather negative credo for a 21st-century devotee of the good life."  There are so many pleasures out there in life that we have been told to stay away from or "wait until you're older."  And, in fact, Epicurus "condemned all forms of over-indulgence, and recommended a simple diet."  But, as you become an adult and temptations increase, where do you draw the line?  Was Epicurus right to withdraw into his garden with friends and live a simple life of pleasure?  How can that work in today's fast-paced, interconnected society?  Do you pull a Henry David Thoreau on everyone and go to live in the woods, simply?  Or is there something in between completing dropping out and total hedonism?

I found an interesting article online about Epicurus and the Pursuit of Happiness: 

Stoicism - When I think of this, I mentioned the British palace guards who tourists like to mess with and try to get them to smile.  But stoicism is much more than that, especially when dealing with such an uncertain, violent world.  This particular quote from Marcus Aurelius, one of the last great Roman emperors, could fit perfectly in our time period: 

“I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill… I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman…” - Marcus Aurelius

Stoicism doesn't mean standing idly by while crazy stuff happens.  I think, in many ways, it has to do with the ways in which you react (or don't react) to all the sensationalist news, Chicken-Littles, and Boys-Who-Cried-Wolf out there in the media.  If we believed everything we saw and heard about our world that's dangerous, we'd never get our kids immunized for fear of them getting autism, we'd never buy certain brands of products b/c of an email circulating the globe about the product's danger, and we'd certainly never leave the house.  

This article, "The Modern Wimp's Introduction to Stoicism", is rather crude but funny and tries to dispel the notion that being stoic means not flinching when boys get punched in the groin:  

This article talks about how to be stoic with illustrations:

 - However, do we ignore all of the warnings out there about impending doom?  Too many people ignored the oncoming freight train of death that was attached to the subprime mortgage bubble, and you see where that got us in 2008.  Too many people were busy making too much money to listen to the Pollyannas saying, "hold on a minute!"  And sometimes, sifting through the town crier's messages, isn't there just the call for moderation?  If global warming isn't happening exactly as Al Gore said it would, what's wrong with cutting back on our dependence on foreign oil and driving more fuel-efficient cars?  What's wrong with getting involved more with the 3 Rs - recycle, reuse, and reduce?  I don't know who is correct in the global warming debate, nor do I care, but there can't be anything wrong w/ America reducing its carbon footprint.  

Cynics - the ancient Greeks who followed this school of thought often rejcted materialism and strove to live life simply. Cynics today, however, at least the word cynic, generally dismiss peoples' good intentions as having ulterior motives. There is a strain of persistent disbelief and irrational thought that can lie in the cynical outlook today. With the number of politicians and celebrities that have lied to us while embracing the opposite of what they hold dear, while corporations say one thing and do the other, and our government fails to follow through on its promises, it's no wonder Americans didn't become full blown cynics before the Vietnam War and Watergate in the 1960s and 70s.

 - Has cynicism led to an unhealthy belief in conspiracy theories?  When common sense or persistent, reasoned questioing can poke holes in most of the conspiracies almost immediately, why do they still continue to stay alive?  Should we believe in our politicians and leaders and their promises, or just expect them to let us down again? 

Some comments in this paragraph come from:

Skeptics - this school is probably the most easily applicable to today's world because of our almost religious belief in modern science, which practically demands a skeptical viewpoint of the world.  And in many ways, having a healthy skepticism is helpful for a scientist, philosopher, and in general, being an intelligent human being with all the flood of bogus news out there. 

Where skepticism differs from cynics is that with cynics, you've already lost before the battle has begun.  You will not be able to convince your opponent, rhetorical or otherwise, of any good intentions, etc.  If you win, the cynic will probably claim that the game was rigged, and if they win, you weren't a worthy opponent.

I believe that a healthy skepticism in today's life means many things, but I find it hard to explain it w/o resorting to cliches.  "I'll see it when I believe it."   "Proof is in the pudding." 

Craig Damrauer's print from "Modern Art" which
I think sums up the art cynic in all of us.
However, I always leave room for belief if something has been proven correct.  This can extend to just about anything in my life.  I sometimes fear that skeptics have been cast as those who don't believe in anything, and maybe that is where the confusion lies w/ cynicism.  

Your job: Pick one of the four Hellenist schools of thought and explain in 250 words or more how it applies to your life.  If you're having trouble just sticking to one school of thought, or you take issue with something I've said here, then by all means, jump into the fray!

Due by Friday, March 31 by the beginning of class.