Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Quiz Jan.23

Our first daily quiz includes questions about keeping score (which we'll do every day to track and inspire participation). Write your answers down on a sheet of paper and bring it with you to class. Claim a base for each correct answer (and a run on the scorecard for every four bases, up to 5 runs per class). Also claim a base for each posted alternate quiz question, discussion question, response to a discussion question, other comment, or relevant link, and claim a RUN for posting a weekly 250+ word essay on the relevant topic of your choice. Keep track of everything you post in a dated personal log that will be collected later. When posting comments (etc.), include your section # ()

1. Name two of the ways you can earn a base in our class.

2. How many bases must you earn, for each run you claim on the daily scorecard?

3. How do you earn your first base in each class?

4. Can you earn bases from the daily quiz if you're not present?

5. How can you earn bases on days when you're not present?

6. What should you write in your daily personal log?

7. Suppose you came to class one day, turned on the computer/projector and opened the CoPhi site, had 3 correct answers on the daily quiz, and had posted a comment, a discussion question,  and an alternate quiz question before class. How many runs would you claim in your personal log and on the scorecard that day?

8. How many bases do you get for posting a short, relevant weekly essay of at least 250 words?

9. What are Dr. Oliver's office hours? Where is his office? What is his email address?
==
DR, Intro
10. What approach to the story of philosophy does Anthony Gottlieb say he aims to take in The Dream of Reason?

11. When was western science created?

12. How did William James define philosophy?

13. What's distinctive about philosophical thinking?

14. What is the sequel to The Dream of Reason?
==
FL 1-2
15. What "remarkable phrase" was the catalyst for Kurt Andersen in writing Fantasyland?

16. Who coined "truthiness"?

17. Why does Andersen think Americans are so fantasy-prone?

18. What two big ideas of Martin Luther's set the stage for "Fantasyland"?

DQ (Discussion Questions):
  • What's your definition of "philosophy"? 
  • Do you have a favorite philosopher? 
  • Can you summarize your current, personal philosophy of life? 
  • Russell * says philosophy occupies the No Man's Land between science and theology (xiii). Are scientists and theologians not philosophical? Or are they philosophical in a way different from Russell's? Do you like his definition of philosophy? Are you philosophical, by his definition?
  • Is your duty to God more imperative than your duty to the state, to your fellow citizens, or to humanity? xvi
  • Does Copernican astronomy influence your personal philosophy? How? (Or, why not?) xviii
  • Do you acknowledge the authority of any individuals or institutions to interpret the truth for you? WHy or why not? xx
  • What's your definition of "reality"? 
  • Do you think you have a right to your own facts, as well as your own opinions?
  • [I invite you to post your comments on these, and to post your own DQs as well. Keep track in your personal log of everything you post. You get to claim another base on the scorecard for each posted comment, DQ, relevant link, or alternative quiz question you can document.]
  •  


Also recommended: Look on the This I Believe website for essays you like, and post links to them; TIB II William James, Pragmatism lecture 1; WATCH:What's Philosophy for? School of Life (SoL). LISTEN: What is Philosophy?and Who's Your Favourite Philosopher?(PB Philosophy Bites)
==
* "Philosophy" is a word which has been used in many ways,
some wider, some narrower. I propose to use it in a very wide sense, which I will now try to explain. Philosophy, as I shall understand the word, is something inter- mediate between theology and science. Like theology, it consists of speculations on matters as to which definite knowledge has, so far, been unascertainable ; but like science, it appeals to human reason rather than to authority, whether that of tradition or that of revelation. All definite knowledge so I should contend belongs to science ; all dogma as to what surpasses definite know- ledge belongs to theology. But between theology and science there is a No Man's Land, exposed to attack from both sides; this No Man's Land is philosophy. Almost all the questions of most interest to speculative minds are such as science cannot answer, and the confident answers of theologians no longer seem so con- vincing as they did in former centuries. Is the world divided into mind and matter, and, if so, what is mind and what is matter? Is mind subject to matter, or is it possessed of independent powers ? Has the universe any unity or purpose? Is it evolving towards some goal ? Are there really laws of nature, or do we believe in them only because of our innate love of order ? Is man what he seems to the astronomer, a tiny lump of impure carbon and water impotently crawling on a small and unimportant planet ? Or is he what he appears to Hamlet ? Is he perhaps both at once ? Is there a way of living that is noble and another that is base, or are all ways of living merely futile? If there is a way of living that is noble, in what does it consist, and how shall we achieve it? Must the good be eternal in order to deserve to be valuc'd, or is it worth seeking even if the universe is inexorably moving toward? death ?

-Russell's History of Western Philosophy
==
An old post:

Who's your favorite philosopher?

That's the Philosophy Bites question we take up today in CoPhi. If you think it puts Descartes before the horse you can visit What is Philosophy? first. (That was the first bad phil-pun I heard, btw, from a perky Scot called Cogan on my first day of Grad School back in 1980. Not the last. It was already an old joke.)





We don't all agree on what philosophy is. Not even we "Americanists," amongst ourselves. But we try to disagree agreeably. A little post-HAP 101 exchange between a pair of students once threatened for a moment to become disagreeable (unlike the class itself, which was thrilling in its impassioned civility). Almost made 'em watch the Argument Clinic. "An argument isn't just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes," etc. etc. But I don't want to argue about that.

Maybe a round of Bruces would be welcome today, simultaneously introducing several stars of philosophy, teaching us how to pronounce "Nietzsche" (and mispronounce "Kant") and disabusing anyone who falsely presumes our subject to be overly sober and serious about itself. If any doubt about that persists, just drop in on the Philosophy Club's Thursday Happy Hour - not that I'd want to reinforce the spurious conceit that philosophers are drunks. G'day.

I don't have a "favourite"... but my favorite (as I've already told my classes, on Day #1) is of



course William James.I don't always agree with him, but I almost always want to know he'd say about the topic du jour.

Philosophy, beginning in wonder, as Plato and Aristotle said, is able to fancy everything different from what it is. It sees the familiar as if it were strange, and the strange as if it were familiar. It can take things up and lay them down again. Its mind is full of air that plays round every subject. It rouses us from our native dogmatic slumber and breaks up our caked prejudices. SPP

My favorite living philosopher is John Lachs. He came for a visit last year, to my CoPhi classes.

It's no surprise that David Hume outpolls everyone on the podcast, given its Anglo-centric tilt, or that Mill and Locke pick up several votes. They're all on my short list too, as is Bertrand Russell (who definitely knew the value of philosophy).

I notice that my Vandy friend Talisse is one of the handful of Americans here, and he, like Martha Nussbaum, picks Mill. Sandel picks Hegel.) Other big votegetters: Aristotle, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein.

No surprise either that James, Dewey, Peirce, Santayana, Rawls, and other prominent Yanks don't win wide favor across the pond. (But I hear the Rawls musical has been a hit with the Brits.)

I did hear an English philosopher praising James once, on the BBC's excellent "In Our Time." But generally they prefer William's "younger, shallower, vainer" (and more Anglophilic) brother Henry, who lived most of his adult life in Sussex.

The British roots of American thought do run deep, and the branches of reciprocal influence spread wide. Stay tuned for info on our Study Aboard course, as it moves from drawing board to future reality.

Why do I find WJ so compelling? Hard to put my finger on a single reason, there are so many. I was first drawn to him through his marvelous personal letters. Then, his essays ("On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings," "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life," "What Makes a Life Significant") and lectures-cum-books (Varieties of Religious Experience, Pragmatism, A Pluralistic Universe). His warm, charming, playful, disarming, sympathetic personality shone through all. He was so great at tossing off wit, profundity, and practical wisdom with seeming effortlessness and concision. A born tweeter. But his health, physical and emotional, was a lifelong challenge. He expended vast effort to become William James.

Honestly, the best explanation for why I became a lifelong student of, and stroller with, WJ may just be that little moment in the Vandy bookstore back in my first year of grad school - the moment when my new mentor John Compton noticed me browsing the McDermott anthology o fThe Writings. John's warm and enthusiastic familiarity with "Willy James" hooked me. Thank you, John.

The thing James said that's stuck with me longest and made the most lasting impression, I think, is the little piece of youthful advice he once wrote to a despondent friend. I'm not quite sure why, but it lifts my mood every time I think of it:



Remember when old December's darkness is everywhere about you, that the world is really in every minutest point as full of life as in the most joyous morning you ever lived through; that the sun is whanging down, and the waves dancing, and the gulls skimming down at the mouth of the Amazon, for instance, as freshly as in the first morning of creation; and the hour is just as fit as any hour that ever was for a new gospel of cheer to be preached. I am sure that one can, by merely thinking of these matters of fact, limit the power of one's evil moods over one's way of looking at the cosmos.

Is this true? Maybe. Is it useful? Definitely.

We're also looking today at Nigel Warburton's introduction to Philosophy: The Basics.(5th ed., 2013), in which he quite rightly points out that while philosophy can help you think about who you are and why you're here - about the meaning of your life - it isn't an alternative to other fields of study. "It is important not to expect too much of philosophy," to the neglect of literature and history and science and art, et al.

That's right. But it's equally important not to expect too little of yourself, and to think you're not up to the challenge of an examined life. To repeat Professor James's empowering declaration: "I know that you, ladies and gentlemen, have a philosophy, each and all of you, and that the most interesting and important thing about you is the way in which it determines the perspective in your several worlds." If you don't all know that yet, CoPhilosophers, we'd better get to work. Serious fun, dead ahead. 8.27.14
==

 The Biggest Misconception About Today’s College Students

You might think the typical college student lives in a state of bliss, spending each day moving among classes, parties and extracurricular activities. But the reality is that an increasingly small population of undergraduates enjoys that kind of life.

Of the country’s nearly 18 million undergraduates, more than 40 percent go to community college, and of those, only 62 percent can afford to go to college full-time. By contrast, a mere 0.4 percent of students in the United States attend one of the Ivies.

The typical student is not the one burnishing a fancy résumé with numerous unpaid internships. It’s just the opposite: Over half of all undergraduates live at home to make their degrees more affordable, and a shocking 40 percent of students work at least 30 hours a week. About 25 percent work full-time and go to school full-time.

The typical college student is also not fresh out of high school. A quarter of undergraduates are older than 25, and about the same number are single parents.


AdvertisementContinue reading the main story

These students work extremely hard to make ends meet and simultaneously get the education they need to be more stable: A two-year degree can earn students nearly 20 percent more annually than just a high school diploma... (continues, nyt)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

More

Image result for academia cartoons new yorker

Well, there's philosophizing about them... and enjoying it.

Introductions

Let's introduce ourselves, Spring 2018 CoPhilosophy collaborators. (I'll tell you in class why I call my version of the Intro course "CoPhilosophy." But maybe you can guess, from the William James quote above.)

I invite you all to hit "comment" (below) and reply with your own introductions, and (bearing in mind that this is an open site) your answers to two basic questions: Who are you? Why are you here? (in this course, on this campus, in this state, on this planet...)

Our first class meeting will consist mainly of introductions and a heads-up that this is an unconventional course in ways I hope you'll find delightful, instructive, and rewarding. If you don't like to move, breathe, and converse in the open air on "nice" days, this may not be the course for you. But if you don't especially like the conventional lecture-style academic model in which I talk and you scribble silently in your seats, it may be just what you're looking for.

We'll not go over the syllabus or get bogged down in the nuts and bolts of course mechanics on Day #1, there's plenty of time for those details later. But do peruse the blogsite and syllabus (linked in the right margin) before next class and let me know what's unclear. Meanwhile, read your classmates' intros and post your own.

I'm Dr. Oliver, aka (despite my best efforts to discourage it) "Dr. Phil." I live in Nashville with my wife, Older Daughter (a recent college grad), a dog (Scooter) and a cat (Zeus). Younger Daughter is a college freshman at another school.

My office is 300 James Union Building (JUB). Office hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays 11-1 (better make that 11:15-12:45, given the time it takes to cross campus to & from class), & by appointment. On nice days office hours may be outside, if so a note on my door will direct you. I answer emails during office hours, but not on weekends. Surest way to get a quick response: come in or call during office hours.

I've been at MTSU since the early '00s, teaching philosophy courses on diverse subjects including atheism, childhood, happiness, the environment, the future, and bioethics.

My Ph.D. is from Vanderbilt. I'm originally from Missouri, near St. Louis. I was indoctrinated as a Cardinals fan in early childhood, so I understand something about religious zeal. My undergrad degree is from Mizzou, in Columbia MO. (I wish my schools weren't in the SEC-I don't approve of major collegiate sports culture or football brain injuries, as I'm sure to tell you again.)

My philosophical expertise, such as it is, centers on the American philosophical tradition of William James and John Dewey. A former student once asked me to respond to a questionnaire, if you're curious you can learn more about me there.

What you most need to know about me, though, is that I'm a peripatetic and will encourage you all to join me in that philosophical lifestyle as often as possible during discussion time. (If you're not sure what peripatetic means, scan the right sidebar or read the syllabus or ask me. Or look it up.)

I post my thoughts regularly to my blogs Up@dawn and Delight Springs, among others, and to Twitter (@osopher), and am continuing to experiment with podcasting as a classroom tool this semester. Follow me if you want to.

But of course, as Brian Cohen said, you don't have to follow anyone. (Extra credit if you get that reference... and real extra credit if you realize that my "extra credit" is usually rhetorical.) However, if a blog or podcast link turns up with the daily quiz (which will always be posted on this site no later than the night before class), you might find it helpful to read or listen.

Enough about me. Who are you? (Where are you from, where have you been, what do you like, who do you want to become,...?) Why are you here? (On Earth, in Tennessee, at MTSU, in philosophy class)? Hit "comments" below and post your introduction, then read your classmates'... and bear in mind that this is an open site. The world can read it. (The world's probably busy with other stuff, of course - Drumpf and Kardashians and cooking shows and other examples of what passes for "reality" these days.)

Please include your section number in your reply, and in all future posts on this site:
  • #3 Introduction to Philosophy TTh 09:40-11:05 BAS-S330
  • #8 Introduction to Philosophy TTh 01:00-02:25 LRC-208




0:01
 
From a distance, philosophy seems weird, irrelevant, boring...
0:06
 
and yet also – just a little – intriguing.
0:08
 
But what are philosophers really for?
0:11
 
The answer is, handily, already contained in the word philosophy itself.
0:16
 
In Ancient Greek, philo means love and sophia means wisdom.
0:20
 
Philosophers are people devoted to wisdom.
0:23
 
Being wise means attempting to live and die well.
0:26
 
In their pursuit of wisdom, philosophers have developed a very
0:29
 
specific skill-set. They have, over the centuries, become experts in
0:34
 
many of the things that make people not very wise. Five stand out:
0:43
 
There are lots of big questions around: What is the meaning of life?
0:46
 
What's a job for? How should society be arranged?
0:49
 
Most of us entertain them every now and then, but we despair of trying
0:52
 
to answer them. They have the status of jokes. We call them
0:56
 
'pretentious'. But they matter deeply because only with sound answers
1:00
 
to them can we direct our energies meaningfully.
1:04
 
Philosophers are people unafraid of asking questions. They have, over
1:07
 
the centuries, asked the very largest. They realise that these
1:11
 
questions can always be broken down into more manageable chunks and
1:14
 
that the only really pretentious thing is to think one is above
1:17
 
raising big naive-sounding enquiries.
1:23
 
Public opinion – or what gets called ‘common sense’ – is sensible and
1:27
 
reasonable in countless areas. It’s what you hear about from friends
1:30
 
and neighbours, the stuff you take in without even thinking about it.
1:33
 
But common sense is also often full of daftness and error.
1:38
 
Philosophy gets us to submit all aspects of common sense to reason.
1:42
 
It wants us to think for ourselves. Is it really true what people say
1:46
 
about love, money, children, travel, work? Philosophers are interested
1:50
 
in asking whether an idea is logical – rather than simply assuming it
1:54
 
must be right because it is popular and long-established.
2:00
 
We’re not very good at knowing what goes on in our own minds.
2:03
 
Someone we meet is very annoying, but we can’t pin down what the issue is.
2:07
 
Or we lose our temper, but can’t readily tell what we’re so cross about.
2:11
 
We lack insight into our own satisfactions and dislikes.
2:14
 
That’s why we need to examine our own minds. Philosophy is committed
2:18
 
to self-knowledge – and its central precept – articulated by the
2:22
 
earliest, greatest philosopher, Socrates – is just two words long:
2:26
 
Know yourself.
2:30
 
We’re not very good at making ourselves happy. We overrate the power
2:34
 
of some things to improve our lives – and underrate others.
2:37
 
We make the wrong choices because, guided by advertising and false glamour,
2:41
 
we keep on imagining that a particular kind of holiday, or car, or computer
2:45
 
will make a bigger difference than it can.
2:48
 
At the same time, we underestimate the contribution of other things –
2:51
 
like going for a walk - which may have little prestige but can

2:54
   
contribute deeply to the character of existence.

2:58
   
Philosophers seek to be wise by getting more precise about the

3:00
   
activities and attitudes that really can help our lives to go better.
3:08
 
Philosophers are good at keeping a sense of what really matters and what doesn't.
3:12
 
On hearing the news that he’d lost all his possessions in a shipwreck,
3:15
 
the Stoic philosopher Zeno simply said:
3:17
 
‘Fortune commands me to be a less encumbered philosopher.’
3:21
 
It’s responses like these that have made the very term ‘philosophical’
3:25
 
a byword for calm, long-term thinking and strength-of-mind,
3:29
 
in short, for perspective.
3:31
 
The wisdom of philosophy is – in modern times – mostly delivered in
3:35
 
the form of books. But in the past, philosophers sat in market squares
3:39
 
and discussed their ideas with shopkeepers or went into government
3:42
 
offices and palaces to give advice. It wasn’t abnormal to have a
3:45
 
philosopher on the payroll. Philosophy was thought of as a normal,
3:49
 
basic activity – rather than as an unusual, esoteric, optional extra.
3:54
 
Nowadays, it’s not so much that we overtly deny this thought but we
3:58
 
just don’t have the right institutions set up to promulgate wisdom
4:02
 
coherently in the world. In the future, though, when the value of
 
philosophy* is a little clearer, we can expect to meet more
4:09
 
philosophers in daily life. They won’t be locked up, living mainly in
4:12
 
university departments, because the points at which our unwisdom bites
4:16
 
– and messes up our lives – are multiple and urgently need attention -

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Fantasyland

When did America become untethered from reality?

I first noticed our national lurch toward fantasy in 2004, after President George W. Bush’s political mastermind, Karl Rove, came up with the remarkable phrase reality-based community. People in “the reality-based community,” he told a reporter, “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality … That’s not the way the world really works anymore.” A year later, The Colbert Report went on the air. In the first few minutes of the first episode, Stephen Colbert, playing his right-wing-populist commentator character, performed a feature called “The Word.” His first selection: truthiness. “Now, I’m sure some of the ‘word police,’ the ‘wordinistas’ over at Webster’s, are gonna say, ‘Hey, that’s not a word!’ Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They’re elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn’t true. Or what did or didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I wanna say it happened in 1941, that’s my right. I don’t trust books—they’re all fact, no heart … Face it, folks, we are a divided nation … divided between those who think with their head and those who know with their heart … Because that’s where the truth comes from, ladies and gentlemen—the gut.”

Whoa, yes, I thought: exactly. America had changed since I was young, when truthiness and reality-based community wouldn’t have made any sense as jokes. For all the fun, and all the many salutary effects of the 1960s—the main decade of my childhood—I saw that those years had also been the big-bang moment for truthiness. And if the ’60s amounted to a national nervous breakdown, we are probably mistaken to consider ourselves over it.

Each of us is on a spectrum somewhere between the poles of rational and irrational. We all have hunches we can’t prove and superstitions that make no sense. Some of my best friends are very religious, and others believe in dubious conspiracy theories. What’s problematic is going overboard—letting the subjective entirely override the objective; thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings are just as true as facts. The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, whereby every individual is welcome to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams, sometimes epic fantasies—every American one of God’s chosen people building a custom-made utopia, all of us free to reinvent ourselves by imagination and will. In America nowadays, those more exciting parts of the Enlightenment idea have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts. Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the past half century, we Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation—small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become... (continues)

Kurt Andersen