Up@dawn 2.0

Friday, August 31, 2012

One more thing

"I feel like Peter Falk’s Lieutenant Columbo, trying to move beyond our opening “What is Philosophy?” query in CoPhi. “One more thing…” Or two.

The one thing I awoke this morning wanting to be sure to have said to my philosophy neophytes, especially all those who told me during this first week that they don’t think they have a personal philosophy or even a rudimentary grasp of what it would mean to have one, is: Yes, you have. You just haven’t tried to say it yet. Or think it. So you’ve come to the right place, we’re all about throwing new seeds into the discussion in my classes."

Philosophy, trivial and sublime « Up@dawn

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Section #14 Group#1 (Socrates)

       During the class discussion of August 30,2012, we,as Group #1, initiated the group discussion by becoming acquainted with one another, by going around our close knit circle introducing ourselves. Shortly afterwards, we all took a brief moment to think about who Socrates was to us and about the impact he had on the philosophical world. But then, we quickly came to realize that neither of us had taken a moment to share our individual views on what philosophy itself actually means to us. Not surprisingly, an assortment of opinions were shared one after the other, with the definition of philosophy ranging from the way an individual thinks all the way to the reason why people lead the different lives that they do. Although that point in our session was fairly intriguing to listen to, one of the most interesting topics brought up during the course of the discussion was about the people that we considered to be brilliant philosophers. One particular member of Group #1 caused us all to see philosophy in a non traditional light ,while using the general concept of philosophy that we as group developed,  as he professed to us how individuals unlike Socrates and Plato the like, but more like authors such as Mark Twain, could be brilliant philosophers. His reasoning being that Mark Twain frequently pondered about the "quirks" of life and humans, as well as their nature, all while criticizing his own life and way of thinking. In continuation of the discussion, we all then analyzed the similarities and differences in our views before revealing a few of our own personal philosophies, like minding one's own business, prior to closing out our session. Furthermore, our first group discussion went pleasingly well, and I'm sure there will be more to come!

Section 14 , Group 4 Summary

In our discussion group today, we began by talking about what we all think Philosophy is. Most of us agreed on just about the same things when it came to this topic. We all, in some way, thought of Philosophy as trying to basically make sense of the situations you are in and the way one thinks. We then began to talk about the book , "Pearl in the Storm". Being that only a few of us had read that book for those that did not, we were informed on what the book was about and the author. One main thing that was discussed in our group was the fact that the author stated that she rowed across the Atlantic river. We were kind of having conflicting thoughts based on that whole situation. Some of us thought that she told that story just to be like, "Hey, I did it. What have you done?" Some of us thought that she was possibly trying to be inspiring. We tended to have different views about the author and her book. Yet, in the end one of our group members made the statement, "You have to take what has pushed you down in order to do things that will ultimately push you forward". This in the end concluded into a thought stating that people have different views about different things as well as similar things. This conclusion is set for Philosophy as well. No one really knows what Philosophy means. We come up with the most reasonable answer based off what we have heard, seen, or done most of the time. Overall this was a very good group discussion.

What is philosophy? (section 13, group 2)

In this morning's class meeting, August 30th, we started to discuss what philosophy means to us, what we think it is, and what we expect to learn/encounter in this introduction class.  Before we jumped into the topic of philosophy, everyone in our group introduced themselves.  We discussed majors, year in school, and common interests.  This helped break the ice for the rest of the semester.  When it came to the topic of philosophy all of us were unsure on what it really is, or an exact definition, which it doesn't seem to have one. None of the group has had any previous classes pertaining to philosophy. We decided that philosophy seems like questioning anything and everything, even math!  The group then moved onto what personal values and moral systems they held with themselves.  We found that most of us have the same standard values, but we may have not obtained them from the same sources. Overall, it was a good first group meeting!

Group 3 Section 14 Summary

Today during our discussion we started off introducing ourselves and discussed the definition of philosophy. Most of us agreed it was asking questions that don't necessarily have a right or wrong answer or trying to explain things that may not have an answer at all. We then played with the idea that everyone's definition of philosophy will be different and derived from their own personal experiences and beliefs. Another interesting topic we discussed was who can be considered a philosopher? Is it a particular type of person, or can anyone who presents a thought provoking question be considered a philosopher?

Philosophy Section 14 Group 2 Summary

Today our group got off to a bit of a rocky start, but no worse than anyone else's. We began by introducing ourselves and playing a game of "Guess the major" for everyone. Unfortunately, no one guessed anyone's major successfully, but some came close. Following that, we talked about general philosophy, which proved to be quite difficult, if not entirely vague. Most answers involved the word "thinking." After we had finished that, we created an informal outline for tomorrow's discussion and will hopefully come to class on Tuesday with some solid discussion ideas on the philosopher Plato.

On a personal note, I am finding this informal organization of class discussion quite refreshing, and a good escape from the structured rigor of  contemporary education. The discussion period and by extension the class period passed by in an unexpectedly quick fashion once we had begun seriously discussing our topics.

Now, a question for you: What is a personal philosophy you hold close to you? This can be a moral, ethic, quote, or statement; as long as it's something you believe to be valuable to you and has possibly contributed to building the person you are today. If you think it needs explanation or has some relevance to your life then feel free to include that as well - Keep it as informal as you want, and put in whatever you feel appropriate!


Socrates Section 13 Tues. / Thurs.

Hello Everyone from Group #1

Speaking of Socrates and allowing ourselves to theorize on our understanding of him from what we discussed in class, 08-30-2012, compared to the text from A Little History of Philosophy.

We discussed our views on what philosophy is and in some cases how it applies to what we see around us.  Though we all had great examples on different aspects of our understanding we touched on creating a situation where philosophy begins and how it could or could not define us as individuals.

What was it that Socrates did when he walked the streets of Athens and how was he viewed?

From this answer we reflect over our own situations and experiances.  How do we compare to Socrates if at all?  Are there situations that we deal with in the present or things that we experianced which could be handled from an additional aspect?

Michael Lucas
08-30-2012 Sec. 13 Tues. / Thurs.

Group 4 What is philosophy?

We started off the group by introducing ourselves using the information written on the index cards. We then turned the conversation to the question, "What is philosophy?" For a minute or two we all sat there in silence, staring at each other awkwardly, because no one could come up with an answer. We discussed the fact that even the philosophers in the podcast had trouble answering what seems like such a simple question . As we got a little more comfortable with each other we started talking about what we thought our own philosophies are, and again, it was difficult to come up with an answer; none of us had really thought about it before. We decided to answer a simpler question: what are some commonly accepted philosophies? The answers came a little more quickly. The Golden Rule, is your glass half full or half empty, and so on. We decided to think more on our own about our own personal philosophies for the next discussion.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

hakuna matata (group 3) what is philosophy?

We started off with short introductions about ourselves and shared some of the things we put on our introduction comments from the previous class. When we started discussing Philosophy we began to brainstorm on what we thought Philosophy was. The clearest definitions we could come up with consisted of: Ideas, different opinions and outlooks on topics, thinking too much into things, and the study of different theories. We all agreed that trying to define Philosophy was difficult. We then began to discuss what we thought our personal philosophy's might be. We came up with sayings such as: You have to live for something greater than yourself, If your going to do something than go all out doing it, do the right thing, You only live once, and no worries. These were things that we believed in and lived our lives by. Lastly we discussed the relevance and purpose of philosophy. Philosophy is often used on an attempt to explain things and possibly grasp a better understanding of them. It possibly keeps us from falling into ignorance of believing everything that someone else says is true. It can keep your imagination alive by trying to think in a bigger scale. And our personal philosophy's give direction in life. We then reviewed over what some of the proffessors defined philosophy as from the intro in the book Philosophy Bites.

No Answers

Philosophy is not a hands-on science; rather, it takes place in the minds of those who study it. There is no physical evidence, no indication that any answer, satisfying or otherwise, will ever satiate humans' natural curiosity for the unknown. Philosophy is in itself deeply philosophical, it is thinking about the process of thinking, it is tuning out the world to tune in to the world.

And yet, we humans cannot resist the truths beckoning to us from the darkness. In the very core of our beings, we are programmed to believe not everything is as it looks, that even supposedly meaningless objects such as a plastic bag drifting on the wind carry some history, some deep reason why it is here at this very moment.

We question it and question it, but we never find the solutions we seek. To questions such as "What is philosophy?" there are no direct answers. Humans are curious, but we are flawed. One's own philosophy differs from that of the others, and yet so proud are we that we seek the ultimate divine Truth, unattainable but dangling in front of us. To get there, we scratch our heads and ponder incomplete truths, our thirsts never quenched in the endless pursuit of knowledge. The answers to these questions will never be found, but we will never admit defeat.

6 and 1/2 Americans (Group 2 Section 19)

Philosophy is one's opinion about a certain situation based on a specific subject or one's theory on a subject of importance. Philosophy is important because it allows us to comprehend the importance of certain subjects which have significance not only in our personal lives, but also in our society as a whole. Philosophy can also pertain to insignificant situations like buying books before class. Most people buy books before the first day of class that they don't even need. This is but one example of how having philosophy on important and unimportant matters whether that be trying to figure out the origins of life or buying groceries for dinner is of importance.

"What is Philosophy?"

That's the question of the day. Come to class prepared to talk about that, from your own perspective and from that of the Philosophy Bites authors.
"So what is philosophy? Funny question, apparently. Several of the PB respondents respond by simply laughing, or changing the subject, or stonewalling. “Philosophy is an unusual subject in that its practitioners don’t agree what it’s about.” No kidding. That may be the understatement of the millennium.
But a few common themes do emerge: the quest for clarity, as noted in yesterday’s post. The Sellarsian urge to see how things hang together. (I met Sellars once, after he gave a talk at my undergrad alma mater. He wasn’t hanging together too well, he and Quine in the kitchen.) The stubborn refusal to accept convention and common sense without a critical challenge..."
Continues at What is (green) philosophy? « Up@dawn...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Living Death of Solitary Confinement - NYTimes.com

Vandy philospher Lisa Guenther is writing here about prisoners in solitary confinement...
"Deprived of everyday encounters with other people, and cut off from an open-ended experience of the world as a place of difference and change, many inmates lose touch with reality." The Living Death of Solitary Confinement - NYTimes.com
But some philosophers, and others who isolate themselves from meaningful conversation, are at risk of losing touch too. One reason why we'll be philosophizing collaboratively in our course.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Jamesian freedom

"In 1870, James famously declared himself for free will. In a diary entry for April 30, he wrote, “I think that yesterday was a crisis in my life. I finished the first part of Renouvier’s [French philosopher Charles Renouvier, 1815-1903] second Essais and see no reason why his definition of free will—‘the sustaining of a thought because I choose to when I might have other thoughts’—need be the definition of an illusion. At any rate, I will assume for the present—until next year—that it is no illusion. My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.”

James identified chance as the source of “ambiguous possibilities” and “alternative futures...”

Philosopher and scientist Robert O. Doyle has a new model of free will | Harvard Magazine Sep-Oct 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Martha Nussbaum on the point of education

"Apart from economic gain, a system of education (both K–12 and higher education) needs to prepare students for rich and meaningful lives, and–my primary focus–it needs to prepare them for democratic citizenship. If it does not cultivate skills essential to the health of democracy, democracy won’t survive. It’s that simple. For democracy to survive, young people have to learn to argue and deliberate. They need to be able to decide what they themselves want to stand for, giving reasons for their preferences to others rather than simply deferring to tradition and authority. Training in the ability to argue also produces greater respect for others, as people come to see that people who disagree with them also have reasons for what they choose. They develop healthy curiosity about those reasons, rather than seeing political argument as just an occasion to defeat the opposition."

Not for Profit : Six Questions for Martha Nussbaum—By Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pussy Riot and Philosophy

"Meanwhile in Moscow, the three members of the punk rock group Pussy Riot, including philosophy student Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, were sentenced to two years in prison for, among other things, “the insult and humiliation of the Christian faith.” If that sounds like an echo of the condemnation of Socrates for “impiety,” it’s no surprise to learn that in her closing statement, Tolokonnikova alluded specifically to the similarities between the two cases.

Tolokonnikova’s grasp of Socratic irony and humility shows in her assertion that “the philosopher is the one who loves wisdom and yearns for it, but does not possess it.” She claims that Socrates, far from being “an enemy of the gods,” in fact “had a living connection with the divine voice.” And throughout her remarks, which also included references to Dostoevsky and Pythagoras, Tolokonnikova stresses that Pussy Riot’s quarrel is with what they see as the Putin regime’s abuse of political power, and not with the Orthodox Church, or with Christianity, which she considers to be allied with philosophy as it “supports the search for truth.”"

The Stone Philosophy Links - NYTimes.com

Programmists, informalists, lone wolves, & syncretists

"What kind of philosopher are you? A post at Talking Philosophy sketches out a taxonomy of philosophical tempers. First, there is the “programmist,” a figure who, like W.V.O. Quine, “downplays the importance of humility” in favor of “philosophical rigor.” Second, we have the “informalist,” a kind of “guru” best exemplified by Nietzsche, for whom “insight was the single most important feature of the philosopher.” Next are the “lone wolves,” such as Wittgenstein, who make their marks “by way of sheer stamina and force of will.” Finally, there is the “syncretist,” who is “driven to reconcile opposing doctrines” in the manner of Jürgen Habermas."

The Stone Philosophy Links - NYTimes.com

Profiting from philosophy

"Why study Humanities subjects? Isn't studying Philosophy, for example, just a luxury of no obvious value to a democracy? Martha Nussbaum thinks not. In her recent book, Not For Profit, she has made a passionate defence of the Humanities. In this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast she discusses these issues with Nigel Warburton."

philosophy bites: Martha Nussbaum on the Value of the Humanities

Thursday, August 16, 2012


On our first day we'll begin to introduce ourselves and discuss these questions: 

  • Do you consider yourself “philosophical”? 
  • What do you understand “philosophy” to mean? 
  • Do you have a favorite philosopher? 
  • How would you summarize your personal philosophy? 

Everyone should then post their own introductions to the course blogsite and read others’posts before our second class meeting. But feel free to go ahead and post your thoughts in the comments space here, whenever you wish.

Dr. Oliver