Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Fall is here

Fall has finally come, which for most people means numerous cold jaunts through the chilling air, but for me I tend to desire a true walk. There’s something about walking through the chilling air that makes you start to think a little harder about your life and your thoughts. Yes, perhaps you move faster because the brisk air starts to get to you, but in all honesty the cold air makes me think more. It’s as if the weather is trying to tell me to slow down and enjoy the falling temperatures. When I’m outside I try to walk slowly so that I can take it all in, but in reality I as a college student must keep moving, working, and overcoming challenges daily. I recently had a few blunders happen. I’m a clumsy person generally but now that I am moving faster, walking faster, thinking faster I am especially clumsy. This idea of slowing down in order to think about and discuss philosophical things therefore got me to realize that I need to slow down or I’ll wear myself out in the next few weeks. Also, my phone has been uncooperative recently, which at first frustrated me, but then I realized how ignorant I was being to the things and people around me. I was moving too fast in life and not taking enough time to think. And every night as I was about to go to sleep I started to question myself, my purpose, my life and my future. I hadn’t thought to merely slow down and work through these things instead of blazing a trail to nowhere. And so, I would invite all of you to truly try and slow down this Fall with me. Taking time to focus on what’s best for you and for us all philosophically, theologically, etc.

I Am the Ghost of MTSU

Relating to both those who suffer tendencies of socially outcast students as well as those who partake in peripatetic philosophy, it often feels as though I am a ghost roaming this campus. Rather than to go outside, I become outside as Fredric Gros marked being the difference between a normal walk and a peripatetic walk. Rather than go outside, I am of outside. The best time to haunt the campus is in the middle of a weekday in which the vast majority of students are making their way towards or just now exiting their courses. If I am alone, which I most likely am, I remove myself from the crowd, and become a ghost who haunts this university. As I attempt to philosophize during my walk, the chatter and bustle is oh so subtly influenced by the students’ feeling of a slight chill or foreign presence as they brush by the ghost of MTSU, a student who is brashly reaching for a higher state of conscience, and even if that attempt descends my being to much lower than the students converging around me, I can still look up and see a variety of students from a plethora of ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds who don’t see why I’m trying cross that line. That line of philosophy. And as a result, they are haunted by the ghost of MTSU.

Infinity


"When you look into infinity, you realize that there are more important things than what people do all day." Spinoza the lens-grinder agreed.

Walking



So as I tried to find something to write about or even a concept to ponder, I realized I had no ideas. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. This prompted me to take a short stroll outside and get some fresh air so I could contemplate how I was going to do this. Then it hit me nearly instantly. The energy in the air, the clear mindset while walking, the open pours of thought. Just by walking I came to this revelation and became a little ecstatic. Gros’s philosophy of walking really hit me that you can escape some kind of sense of routine and gather energy from the earth around us. Granted if you are walking around in a big city full of noisy people and you are in the center of some kind of negative energy then you really gotta re-evaluate where you want to walk.
            No matter the reason you walk: to go somewhere, to see someone, because you felt like it, or even to achieve some kind of cosmic balance; you know that it will be worth it in the end, but the actual action of walking can be taken for granted. Think about those who may not be able to enjoy the lovely strolls we can take either because they physically cant or some other reason.
(H2) Kyle Anteski

The Politician (H1)

Machiavelli's rules for leadership laid out in The Prince are not just rule that royalty can follow, they can be used by the modern day politician as well. Machiavelli's tactics of cunning and deceitfulness in order to obtain one's ultimate goal are in line with the way some politicians work; after all, the end justifies the means right?
But are Machiavelli's tactics the best ones to use? Should we admire a ruthless and determined politician over an honest one? Is just the obtaining of one's goal really what makes the best politician? Or is it someone who always keeps the people in mind and works, not underhandedly, but with others? There are already so many modern politicians it seems that use Machiavellian mean, maybe the best thing in today's age are politicians who don't, to help balance the field and make politics honest.
Let's look at our current top presidential candidates and the contender that didn't quite make it. Clinton has been in some form of political office nearly since before I was born, and Trump has been running large business (which could be similar to running a country today) for longer. What we've seen through this election is that Trump is not afraid to to do or say what's necessary to sway those in his party to vote for him, no matter how outlandish it may be. When he was younger he was quoted as saying that if he ever wanted to become president, he'd run republican because it would be so much easier to get their vote. Trump really does embody the ends justify the means argument. Meanwhile, Clinton has made work of numerous connections and has not been afraid to flash her political pedigree and the knowledge and secrets that she's gained from working in office for so long.
So now let's look at Bernie Sanders. Arguably, the most honest candidate and the only one who didn't use underhanded means. While he may have lost the nomination he came scarily close to getting it, because the people loved him and how he was this new kind of politician that wasn't going to maneuver and manipulate, but rather one that was just going to do his best. And while he may not be elected president this term, who's to say that in the future a candidate more like him won't be?

Original Sin


(H3) Original sin is the Christian doctrine of humanity's state of sin resulting from Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden. Basically, it says everyone is born with sin, evil inside them that they have done nothing to warrant. I have a very strong opinion against this doctrine. I have no doubt in my mind when I look in a newborn baby's eyes I see good, not evil. I think it is an absurd excuse to believe we are born with sin. People use this explanation to justify their own sins, if we are born with sin then that must be why I did what I did. I think we are born a blank slate, shaped by our actions and beliefs. Now, I do believe we are all born with the potential for sin, just as we are born with the potential for good. It is our choices that define who we are not some predestination doctrine. Each day each person makes choices that reflect who they are and for what they stand. Each heinous act committed by an individual could have been avoided if they had chosen differently: it has nothing to do being born bad. Some might make the argument of nature vs. nurture, but in the end it comes down to that person’s decision. I do not believe on any level that we are born with sin in our hearts, however, it is very easy to make a wrong choice, to commit sin. In the end, it is all about who you want to see, who you would be proud to see, when you look in the mirror and how to achieve that goal.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Exam 1 study help

For the classes that have yet to take the exam i made a quizlet flashcard set using Jake's study guide. https://quizlet.com/_2km606
Hope it helps!

Primitive Walking

I think walking can easily bring happiness. It's a simple, primitive, human thing. The very being of ourselves, other than breathing, eating, drinking. To move is essential to the person. And if you're anything like me, I really enjoy the other primitive things (like eating and drinking), so walking is a no-brainer. "What dominates in walking, away from ostentation and showing off, is the simple joy of feeling your body in the most primitively natural activity" (Philosophy of Walking 143). Especially when walking just to walk (walking can suck when you have to walk across campus in 90 degree heat). Walking when not just passing moments to and fro buildings can be an experience. I think nature come hand-in-hand with walking, especially in order to properly think or meditate. Maybe I’m just spoiled to living in the country, but I would have a lot of trouble trying to focus on “why’s” and “how’s” when surrounded by people, concrete, and cars. Walking to meditate is something I began picking up since I was a kid and my dad and I went on walks. We didn’t even speak half the time, we just simply enjoyed our surroundings and company. Now I’m partial to walking just on my own. To quote The Philosophy of Walking, “The experience of walking…which as we know brings joy…when it is at rest, of fullness or plenitude, that secondary, deeper, more fundamental joy, linked with a more secret affirmation: the body breathes gently, I am alive and I am here”.  

Caroline Gunter (H1)

          

The Shower and the Summit

One of the first things to accept when studying psychology is that everyone you meet may be an exception to the rule; there are broad generalizations because of this, and many classifications tend to be extremes of the poles whereas individuals tend to fall somewhere in between. Introversion and extraversion, for example, are becoming better known by the general population. I propose philosophy is in the same boat as psychology, but it takes a philosopher longer to realize it, if at all.

It seems many great thinkers came to the conclusion that by walking one will eventually arrive at a “Eureka! Moment" or a similar sort of revelation; however, some modern thinkers seem to be wheezing before they get to the mailbox. Maybe their best ideas come from standing in the shower, as many have reported? There is a science to that (http://bit.ly/1jjWXMD), and for those who become too stressed by the temperature du jour or the stirring wildlife, the bathroom is far preferable to the tall hill leading to another Eureka Moment that may be locked away by layers of sweat and tense muscle. Stepping into the shower is just a different way to trek across the hillside.


I have come to the conclusion that there are extraverted philosophers (peripatetics) and introverted philosophers (shower thinkers). Everyone either falls somewhere between the two poles or is an exception to the rule, and the way one thinks is no different; psychology and philosophy are practically cousins. For some, ideas come at the summit and go down the drain. Others find revelation at the showerhead and lose more than their breath at the crest. Luckily, many of us fall somewhere in between and have no need to fear losing our best ideas to one choice or the other; we can instead take our pick and trust that regardless of our location great ideas will not be far behind.

Christian Brooks, H3
28 September 2016

Political Philosophy

      (H3)

      I find it interesting that during the time of the Renaissance and modern day philosophy, political philosophers backtracked from the well established democratic form of government in the birth of philosophy- ancient Greece. I would think that philosophers progressing from the times of ancient Greece would grow upon the model with the most freedom for thought and expression. The political theories we get in these "progressive" periods, however, seem to be barbaric. Machiavelli's theory that a ruler's success is the achievement of your purpose whatever the goal may be has an extreme lack of morals. Thinking like this is what leads to rulers like Hitler and -- dare I say it-- Donald Trump. Hobbes' theory is better than Machiavelli's, but he still misses the mark. Insisting that a population needs a strong ruler to decide the best for the people whether they like it or not is definitely not ideal. Hobbes' theory dramatically underestimates the power of people to decide what is best for themselves as whole and rebel against such rulers that try to repress that right. Both Machiavelli and Hobbes' political philosophies are deceitful and therefore unmoral. They encourage politicians to lie, do whatever is necessary to get the means, and do what they think is best instead of what the people think is best. Government is meant to protect people in exchange for giving up some certain rights to the government. If there is a Leviathan in charge, the people aren't safe from the government itself, making government useless. A population would not stand their rights being stomped on for very long, so I don't think that Machiavelli or Hobbes' political philosophies would be utopian or even ideal at all.

Therapy of walking (H3)


No matter where you are or what you are doing while you walk, walking is therapeutic. Sure, walking from class to class in the heat at beginning of the semester was anything but therapeutic, but the early walk in the morning for me has become a point of healing and therapy. My walk from the Greenhouse lot to my 8am class across the campus started out as a dreadful event that burned my shins and rubbed the backs of my ankles raw. The more I walked, however, the more I began to take part in deep thought and admiration for the sights around me. Since I work out three or four times a week, this early walk helps stretch my sore legs in preparation for my next workout. I've even started getting to campus earlier so I can walk longer to sort out any troubling thoughts or problems I've had. Walking as the sun rises creates all of the perfect conditions of a productive walk, or just walking for the sake of movement. Walking is a joy, as explained in Chapter 16 of The Philosophy of Walking, "...[E]xecuting with ease something difficult that has taken time to master, asserting the faculties of the mind and the body. Joys of thought when it finds and discovers, joys of the body when it achieves without effort..." There really is a sort of 'cosmic rebirth' after a long walk that creates a feeling of victory and cause for repetition.

Walking, Energy, and Environment

When it comes to getting energy from walking, I think it all depends on the environment one is walking through. When walking in an urban area, I find that walking is mainly just exhausting. There is too much background noise  to think clearly and there really is no connection with the Earth. When I walk in a city, my body tends to get fatigued quicker and my mind does not  find peace to where i can think about my day, any plans I have, or any problems that i need to solve. However, when i walk through an area that is just nature, like on a hike on a mountain or through the woods, I become reenergized and rejuvenated. I feel energy flow into me. This could possibly be the simple elation i have from being surrounded by nature or it could be a connection that I make with the Earth by becoming part of it. Nevertheless, I can walk for many more miles without feeling fatigue in my muscles. Also, there is a certain peace of mind that comes through nature walking that could explain why everything becomes so much clearer and i feel more energy while walking. For me, gaining or losing energy is all about the environment. Is it the same way for you? If so, where is it that you feel most rejuvenated when walking? If not, why does it not matter the environment for you when walking?

No quiz, Sep28/29

It's exam day, so no new quiz. But here's an old one.

Descartes (LH) & Montaigne (How to Live, ch1); LISTEN: Sarah Bakewell on Michel de Montaigne (PB); A.C. Grayling on Descartes' Cogito (PB); WATCH: Montaigne (SoL); Descartes (HI); Midterm group report presentations continue... Podcast

It's "Super Tuesday" - cousin John Oliver has some thoughts...

1. What state of mind, belief, or knowledge was Descartes' Method of Doubt supposed to establish? OR, What did Descartes seek that Pyrrho spurned?

2. Did Descartes claim to know (at the outset of his "meditations") that he was not dreaming?

3. What strange and mythic specter did Gilbert Ryle compare to Descartes' dualism of mind and body? ("The ____ in the ______.")


4. Sarah Bakewell says Montaigne's first answer to the question "How to live?" is: "Don't worry about _____."

5. What was Montaigne's "near death experience," and what did it teach him?

6. Montaigne said "my mind will not budge unless _____."

BONUS: What pragmatic American philosopher was Descartes' "most practical critic"?

BONUS: (T/F) A.C. Grayling thinks that, because Descartes was so wrong about consciousness and the mind-body problem, he cannot be considered a historically-important philosopher.

BONUS: What skeptical slogan did Montaigne inscribe on the ceiling of his study?



DQ:

1. Is there anything you know or believe that you could not possibly be mistaken about, or cannot reasonably doubt? If so, what? How do you know it? If not, is that a problem for you?

2. How do you know you're awake and not dreaming? Is it meaningful to say "life is but a dream"? (And again: "Inception" - ?!)

3. Are you essentially identical with or distinct from your body (which includes your brain)? If distinct, who/what/where are you? How do you know? Can you prove it? OR, Do you believe in immaterial spirits? Can you explain how it is possible for your (or anyone's) material senses to perceive them?

4. At what age do you hope to retire? What will you do with yourself then? Will you plan to spend more time thinking?

5. Have you had a near-death experience, or known someone who did? What did it teach you/them? How often does the thought occur to you that you're always one misstep (or fall, or driving mistake) away from death?

6. What have you learned, so far, about "how to live"? Have you formulated any life-lessons based on personal experience, inscribed any slogans, written down any "rules"?






It’s the birthday (Feb. 28) of essayist Michel de Montaigne (books by this author), born in Périgord, in Bordeaux, France (1533). He is considered by many to be the creator of the personal essay, in which he used self-portrayal as a mirror of humanity in general. Writers up to the present time have imitated his informal, conversational style. He said, “The highest of wisdom is continual cheerfulness: such a state, like the region above the moon, is always clear and serene.” WA
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Montaigne in The Stone...
  1. The Essayification of Everything

    “How to Live,” Sarah Bakewell’s elegant portrait of Montaigne, the 16th-century patriarch of the genre, and an edited volume by Carl H. Klaus and Ned Stuckey-French called “Essayists on the Essay: Montaigne...
  2. Of Cannibals, Kings and Culture: The Problem of Ethnocentricity

    In August of 1563, Michel de Montaigne, the famous French essayist, was introduced to three Brazilian cannibals who were visiting Rouen, France, at the invitation of King Charles the Ninth. The three men had never before left...
  3. What's Wrong With Philosophy?

    getting on board a student’s own agenda. Sometimes understanding is best reached when we expend our skeptical faculties, as Montaigne did, on our own beliefs, our own opinions. If debate is meant to be a means to truth — an idea...
  4. Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene

    questions have no logical or empirical answers. They are philosophical problems par excellence. Many thinkers, including Cicero, Montaigne, Karl Jaspers, and The Stone’s own Simon Critchley, have argued that studying philosophy is...





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Old posts-
Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Montaigne

Montaigne was originally scheduled for just before our Spring Break, but it got a jump-start week before last. Looked like a snow-globe out there for awhile. Now, it's practically Spring!

Older Daughter and I went and did what we'd been talking about doing for years, now that her Break and mine finally coincided: went to Florida's Grapefruit League Spring Training! Day after day of waking to 72 degrees, on the way to high 80s. Baseball and bliss.

But that was then. Now, Montaigne (& Bakewell on How to Live acc'ing to M)...

One good way to live, he thought, was by writing and reflecting on our many uncertainties. Embracing and celebrating them, in fact. That makes him an anti-Descartes, a happy and humane modern skeptic.

One thing we know for sure is the historical timeline. Montaigne comes first, but since I always introduce him as the anti-Descartes he rarely gets top billing. The late Robert Solomon did the same thing. Not fair, for a guy who gave us the essay and (as Sarah Bakewell says) is so much "fun" to read. Unlike Descartes he was a true skeptic (again though, not so far over the cliff as Pyrrho) and "quite happy to live with that." His slogan was Que sçais-je?

Montaigne retired in his mid-30s to think and write, and ponder what must have felt to him (ever since his unplanned equine-dismounting event) like ever-looming mortality. He inscribed the beams of his study with many of his favorite quotes, including "nothing human is foreign to me" and "the only certainty is that nothing is certain."

Some of Montaigne's life-lessons and rules for how to live, as decoded by Sarah Bakewell: Don't worry about death; Pay attention; Question everything; Be convivial; Reflect on everything, regret nothing; Give up control; Be ordinary and imperfect; Let life be its own answer.

Montaigne leaps from the page as mindful, both ruminative and constantly attentive to the present moment. He has good advice for the walker. "When I walk alone in the beautiful orchard, if my thoughts have been dwelling on extraneous incidents for some part of the time, for some other part I bring them back to the walk, to the orchard, to the sweetness of this solitude, and to me."

Sarah Bakewell quotes Montaigne, disabusing us of the false image of him "brooding" in his tower. He was a peripatetic, too: "My thoughts fall asleep if I make them sit down. My mind will not budge unless my legs move it." So, like Emerson he might have said "my books are in my library but my study is outdoors."






There's just something irresistibly alluring about the candid and disarming familiarity of his tone, that's drawn readers to this original essayist for four and a half centuries and obliterates the long interval between him and us. He makes uncertainty fun.


"The highest of wisdom is continual cheerfulness"...


[Montaigne @dawn... M on Self-esteem (deB)... M quotes... M's beam inscriptions... M "In Our Time" (BBC)...M's tower...M's Essays...]

Also today, we'll consider the philosophical status of science. Montaigne the fallible skeptic actually had a better handle on it than Descartes, the self-appointed defender of scientific certainty. That's because science is a trial-and-error affair, making "essays" or attempts at evidence/-based understanding through observation, prediction, and test, but always retreating happily to the drawing board when conjectures meet refutation.

To answer some of my own DQs today:

Q: Are there any "authorities" (personal, textual, political, religious, institutional, traditional...) to whom you always and automatically defer? Can you justify this, intellectually or ethically? A: I don't think so. Whenever I feel a deferential impulse coming on I remind myself of the Emerson line about young men in libraries...

Q: Can you give an example of something you believe on the basis of probability, something else you believe because it has to be true (= follows necessarily from other premises you accept as true), and something you believe because you think it's the "best explanation")? Do you think most of your beliefs conform to one or another of these kinds of explanation? A: Hmmm... The sun will probably rise within the hour. I'm mortal. Life evolves. Yes.

Q: Do you think science makes genuine progress? Does it gradually give us a better, richer account of the natural world and our place in it? Is there a definite correlation between technology and scientific understanding? Do you think there is anything that cannot or should not be studied scientifically? Why? A: Yes, yes, yes, no. Science is a flawed instrument, because the humans who practice it are finite and fallible; but we have nothing to take its place. We shouldn't be scientistic, to the neglect of all the other tools in our kit (including poetry, literature, history, humor), but we definitely should be as scientific as we can.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Descartes

Rene Descartes, not at all (Pythons notwithstanding) a "drunken fart," simply wanted to know what he could know for certain. He asked his version of the Howard Baker question. (The majority of students in my Tennessee classrooms could not identify the statesman-Senator when asked, the other day. Sigh.)

His skepticism was methodological, his goal was indubitable certainty. This, he thought, would serve the new science well. He misunderstood the self-correcting, probabilistic, fallibilistic nature of empirical reasoning. But most philosophers still think it’s worth wondering: how do you know you’re not dreaming, not being deceived by a demon or by your senses, not mistaking your own essential nature?



Still, cogito ergo sum overrates intellect. You don’t have to think, to demonstrate your existence. You just have to do something… even, as an old grad school pal used to say, if it’s wrong. (NOTE TO CLASS: I flip-flopped Descartes and his predecessor Montaigne, the anti-Descartes, on our syllabus: Descartes before the horse M. fell off of.)


Descartes' different aspects - mathematician, scientist, Catholic etc. - might suggest his split allegiance between Teams Aristotle and Plato. Both would probably like to claim him. I think he belongs with the armchair Platonists.
Reducing the operations of the universe to a series of lines,circles, numbers, and equations suited his reclusive personality. His most famous saying, “I think, therefore Iam” (cogito, ergo sum), could be stated less succinctly but more accurately as 'Because we are the only beings who do math, we rule.'
For Descartes, the essence of mind is to think, and the essence of matter is to exist-and the two never meet... we are the ghosts in the machine: souls in a world machine that operates inexorably and impersonally according to the laws of geometry and mechanics, while we operate the levers and spin the dials." The Cave and the Light



I usually think of Charles Sanders Peirce as Descartes’ most practical critic, and I agree with him that a contrived and methodological doubt is not the best starting place in philosophy.


But it occurs to me that an even more practical alternative to what I consider the misguided Cartesian quest for certainty is old Ben Franklin’s Poore Richard. His is not armchair wisdom, it comes straight from the accumulated experience of the folk. Some of that “common sense” is too common, but plenty is dead-on. “Early to bed, early to rise…” has definitely worked for me.


Still, says A.C. Grayling, "we may disagree with Descartes that the right place to start is with the private data of consciousness" rather than the shared world of language and common experience; but even if he was wrong he was "powerfully, interestingly, and importantly wrong." Russell concurs.




The thing is, the quest for certainty in philosophy tends to go hand-in-glove with the assertion of rational necessity. That, in turn, courts determinism and fatalism. Do we really want to rubber-stamp everything that happens as fated, not free? Hobbes (the contractarian and the cat) did. Calvin learned not to.





Is there anything we know or believe that we could not possibly be mistaken about, or cannot reasonably doubt? Certainly not, speaking at least for myself. But I'm next to certain that I'm more-or-less awake, at this hour, as the coffee drains.



I'm also pretty darn sure that I am (and do not "have") a body/brain. When I think of who, what, and where I am, though, the answer is interestingly complicated by all my relations (I don't just mean my familial relations): I am inclusive of a past and a future (though it keeps shrinking), and of wherever my influence (for better or worse) manages to stretch. I am vitally related by experience (actual, virtual, vicarious, possible, personal, interpersonal) to points far and wide. And, to actual physical objects in the extended world - not merely to possibilities of familiar object-like patterns of perception, as the phenomenalist has it. I'm not trapped in my skin, and we are definitely not alone in a solipsistic universe. Like Dr. Johnson, contra Berkeley, I find the pain in my toes (or hips) decidedly more substantial than an immaterial idea.

Or ghost.




I don't believe in ghosts, except metaphorically. (I am haunted by opportunities missed, possibilities unnnoticed, diems uncarped.) But most of my metaphorical spooks are Casperishly friendly (albeit incoherent, dualistically speaking). This is true of most people who read and think a lot, isn't it? We're in constant, happy communion with the dead, the remote, and the prospective members of our continuous human community. Books transport us to their realms, and to the great undiscovered country of our future.