Up@dawn 2.0

Friday, May 24, 2013

Why Do I Teach?

I’ve concluded that the goal of most college courses should not be knowledge but engaging in certain intellectual exercises.   For the last few years I’ve had the privilege of teaching a seminar to first-year Honors students in which we read a wide range of wonderful texts, from Plato and Thucydides to Calvino and Nabokov.  We have lively discussions that require a thorough knowledge of the text, and the students write excellent papers that give close readings of particular passages.  But the half-life of their detailed knowledge is probably far less than a year.  The goal of the course is simply that they have had close encounters with some great writing... 
We should judge teaching not by the amount of knowledge it passes on, but by the enduring excitement it generates. Knowledge, when it comes, is a later arrival, flaring up, when the time is right, from the sparks good teachers have implanted in their students’ souls. 
The fruits of college teaching should be measured not by tests but by the popularity of museums, classical concerts, art film houses, book discussion groups, and publications like Scientific American, the New York Review of Books, The Economist, and The Atlantic, to cite just a few. These are the places where our students reap the benefits of their education...
Why Do I Teach? - NYTimes.com

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Urbanism and The City: Morgan Hunlen's (Almost) Final Blog Post - Trollface Socrates (H-01)

This is a very, very, late midterm post, and for that I'm sorry. Hopefully, the content can make up for it, so I'll be trying my best.

"Eyes mark the shape of the city.Through the eyes of a high-flying night bird, we take in the scene from midair. In our broad sweep, the city looks like a single gigantic creature-or more like a single collective entity created by many intertwining organisms. Countless arteries stretch to the ends of its elusive body, circulating a continuous supply of fresh blood cells, sending out new data and collecting the old, sending out new consumables and collecting the old, sending out new contradictions and collecting the old. To the rhythm of its pulsing, all parts of the body flicker and flare up and squirm. Midnight is approaching, and while the peak of activity has passed, the basal metabolism that maintains life continues undiminished, producing the basso continuo of the city's moan, a monotonous sound that neither rises nor falls but is pregnant with foreboding."

- Haruki Murakami, an excerpt from his book After Dark

So, as many of you may (or may not) know, I consider myself to be an urbanist! And in my blog post, I will be discussing what that means and how urbanism affects our cities.

Urbanism is, at it's very heart, is a philosophical belief that the city can offer a excellent place to foster the qualities and the advancement of humanity. It's the idea that the city, in effect, has the power to foster the march of civilization through providing a malleable and diversified melting pot of ideas, personalities, and cultures. As William James may have put it, the city represents an idea of pragmatism and pluralism, because the city represents a place where people are forced to interact with each other, where two intersecting lives critically engage each other to provide a greater meaning of "self" to a much larger whole.

So essentially, what does this mean? The city itself, while it does exist, is ultimately characterized by not by it's mere existence, but by the people that live in it. The city remains in a constant flux between place and placelessness because the definition of city changes with how its inhabitants view and interact with it. The city morphs into a kind of sounding board for it's residents, amplifying the voices of the many while coming to a distinct synergy that moves it forward in a constant state of abstract equilibrium. John Dewey, another American philosopher and psychologist, believed that not only was the city a malleable concept, it allowed for the advancement of democracy as well as it allowed for a way for citizens to project their personalities onto the environment and to build a ever-changing sense of place in the hopes of a better society.

In summary, the city is a melting pot of intertwining experiences, and it's from this convergence of philosophies and actions the character or our cities are born. When someone walks out onto the street to walk to the corner store, rides in a crowded bus or train to their destination, enjoys coffee and pastries at a local cafe, or decides to read book in the park on a sunny day, they inadvertently contribute to the social fabric of our cities by characterizing them through their interaction with the environment. It is because of this ever-constant public interaction that we breath life into this man-made ecosystem of change and progress.

So, why am I am urbanist? Growing up near a city (and in the suburbs), my life, and pretty much the lives of nearly 250 million other Americans are tied to the fates of their cities, and living on the cusp of one of America's famous poster child cities for sprawl, I could see how the destruction of the city and the rise of the suburbs was inexplicably linked, and personally, the lifestyle I was leading just didn't fit for me.

Born out of a Le Corbusier-like, over-romanticized desire to “commune” with nature while living close to their homes, powerful automotive companies, home builders, special interest groups, and ultimately the government played a role in highly subsidizing the growth of American cities by proving deep incentives for developers to develop large tracts of land outside the city centers for the construction of homes called subdivisions. Using the newly-created Interstate Highway System, both parties made it possible for people to leave the cities and move to the suburbs, effectively beginning the destruction of the city. The suburbs quickly became everything the city wasn't; stratified, segregated, and isolated, and the general urbanist consensus is that suburbia is in the long-term detrimental for the health of our society.

The response to the rise of the suburbs by the urbanists has been muted, but as many cities across America began to suffer the true effects of suburbanization, a movement called New Urbanism began to rise, and it epitomizes the late 20th century and early 21st century movement to revive America's cities. So, how would an urbanist respond to today's cities?

The most important thing when trying to make a city livable is to remember the humanistic element that exists in all of our environments. Instead of being designed to cater to the safety and comforts of pedestrians, our cities have bent their backs to cater to automobiles and the suburban population. In every American city, gray and dead parking decks and parking lots litter the landscape where historic buildings once stood. Interstate highways were slammed through minority and low-income neighborhoods in cities all across America, and the result was the decay of once-proud neighborhoods into infamous areas of urban blight. Mixed-use, commercial buildings have been replaced by cold, sterile, monolithic office buildings that try to emulate the style of the suburbs and fail to interact with the street and the area around them. Even in the design of the streets and the areas where people come together to interact, preference is given to getting the driver speedily from point A to point B rather than protecting the interests of the pedestrian.

This kind of lopsided, uneven urban design marginalizes those who choose to live in a city, and more importantly it discourages the city as a place of life. The number one most important thing for a city to have is an livable environment, and something and urbanist can truly appreciate is a place where people can live truly with the city, as opposed to being separate from it.

What are the qualities of a good city? They will vary from person to person, but there are some key qualities that go into creating a lively neighborhood and a successful city.

1. A Walkable, Engaging Environment – Places where people can safely commune or enjoy a walk through encourage sociability and overall represent broad overtures towards bringing life to a neighborhood. Establishments like shops, street-side restaurants, and even buildings like townhomes all contribute to creating a valuable aesthetic environment for the pedestrian. When located close to enough to places of settlement or within access of sustainable transportation, it's an even greater bump to the liveliness of the neighborhood. In the end, these initiatives promote street activity and promote the idea of a livable neighborhood.


2. Adequate Public Transportation – A staple of suburbia is the cult of the car and the overwhelming dependency that has grown to characterize life in the suburbs. Without a car, mobility is only possible for the privileged and able, and everyone else, especially the young, old, and poor, are marginalized by their inability to becoming active participants in society. A major part of urbanism is giving people back their freedom from automotive tyranny by challenging the ubiquity of the car, and that is done by promoting alternative forms of transportation. Public transportation and sustainable forms of private transportation like cycling are great ways to bring character and life to a city, and by discouraging automobile use, municipalities can begin to focus on people instead of cars.

3. Accessible, Open Public Spaces – Essential to the health of any community, public spaces like parks, libraries, and recreational facilities should be open to the public for everyone to use. Communal spaces like these are important for building character and life in a community, and these places go a long way towards giving character to a neighborhood and allowing for a place of assembly as well as a place of relaxation.

These are just a few of the things New Urbanists look for in a successful urban establishment, and the more a city has of these things, the more successful it will usually be. Cities like Savannah, Charleston, Celebration, and even larger ones such as san Fransisco, New York, Boston, and Chicago, have been able to become places of culture, character, and popularity because of how they treat their people, not their cars. Places like Phoenix, Houston, or Charlotte, cities famous for their sprawling growth, still hhave some ways to go in terms of both notoriety and urbanism, however.

Overall, I staunchly believe that urbanism is a better, more sustainable way of life than living in the suburbs. Other than the reasons listed above, there is a certain allure, a type of magic about being in a lively city that can't be replicated anywhere else, and this implicit, ethereal feeling has not only caused me to fall in love with the city but has inspired me to lead a new way of life as well. Through urbanism, it is my hope we can achieve a more wholesome way of living through once again becoming a society through our surrounds and communing like we once did before.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013

16-3 Exam Questions

What Harvard academic wrote a book entitled A Theory of Justice (1971) and created the concept of a “veil of ignorance?”  John Rawls

Which Australian philosopher argued that we should all be vegetarians on the grounds that we can easily live well without eating animals?  Peter Singer

Who said, of the Paradox of Tragedy, “I think the answer, to put it very briefly, is that our engagement with tragedy, as a form of art, is not an engagement that can plausibly be characterized primarily in terms of pleasure.”? Alex Neill

Who defined Idealism as “the view that the fundamental reality is spiritual not material?” Keith Ward

Who said that “we are not alien to each other; we are, literally, part of the same united reality?” Keith Ward

Exam #3 review

Topics to review, in addition to those below: Derek Matravers on art and "the Fountain," John Lachs on what Stoic Pragmatists are committed to, Peter Singer on speciesism, Don Cupitt on the “commitment [that] has become my religion,” and Anthony Grayling on  “the best and deepest thinking about ethics."

You can again prepare your extra credit response in advance: either write a couple of paragraphs on what you consider the most important thing(s) you've learned about philosophy (or learned to do more philosophically) this semester, OR supply and respond to your own discussion question. JPO

1. Thomson thought that the question of abortion is settled by deciding whether a fetus is a person if not.


2. Who created the Chinese room thought experiment? This experiment was designed to show that a computer can't really think even if it seems to.


3. What are the two problems Law finds with evil and God?

- Logical – suppose that the existence of evil is strictly incompatible with the existence of God

- Evidential – assumes that the existence of evil is strong evidence against the existence of a good God.

4. Barry Smith believes that the taste of a wine and the qualities we assign to it reveals something about the external world.


5. Whose philosophy was not based on purely abstract ideas?

-Arendt, based her philosophy on recent history and lived experience.
Posted by 

Q:Who states The main problem about human existence is its fragility?

Q:T/F, De Botton said when we describe buildings as beautiful we’re alluding to material versions of many of the qualities that we think of as good in other parts of life.
A: True

Q:A tester is in one room, typing a conversation on to a screen. The tester doesn't know whether he or she is having a conversation with another person in a different room via the screen – or with a computer generating its own answers. If during the conversation the tester can't tell whether there is a person or a human being responding, the computer passes the ________
A:Turing Test

Q:In Philippa Foot’s runaway train experiment if you decide to run over the 1 person on the tracks and not the five people then you mostly agree with what type of philosophy?

Q:Sartre ,who said “we are completely responsible for what we do every day and how we feel about what we do.”, has the view of a/an ______
Posted by 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Running Philosophy

Running Philosophy
By: Erin Paul
H1, Group 4

            I like to run. I don’t get to do it nearly as much as I would like to because of my busy schedule, but when I do it always makes me feel better. My life is constantly on the go and although I’m still “going” when I run, it’s the one time I can just get away from everything and collect my thoughts. It gives me time to reflect, pray, and really “philosophize” about things going on. This class has caused me to think deeper about things, and I have noticed that on my last few runs. As I was running one day last week, I thought about the Boston Marathon bombings. I ran my first half marathon in February of 2012.

 I can vividly remember what it was like to cross the finish line: pure joy that I could finally rest and complete satisfaction that I had just run 13.1 miles. That one moment made up for the days of getting up at 5 in the morning to run before school, for the terrible ninth mile that went straight uphill, and for the fact that this was 5 miles longer than I had ever run consecutively. And to think some of the runners of the Boston Marathon didn’t get to experience that moment. Instead, they got their legs blown off. Or lost their life. I can’t even imagine. And I shouldn’t have to imagine.

            When I heard about the bombings at the Boston Marathon finish line, my heart broke. Not only because I can’t comprehend why people would want to cause so much pain in the world, but because it really hit home. My dad has been running marathons ever since I can remember. He runs every Country Music Marathon there is in addition to several others around Tennessee. However, his life-long dream was to run in the Boston Marathon. Every year his time would get seconds closer to qualifying for the one in Boston. If I got anything from my dad, it would be the fact that we never give up. So he fought until he got it. My dad ran the Boston Marathon in 2012, just one year before the bombings, with my mom cheering him on at the finish line. What if the race had been bombed the previous year? What if it had taken my dad one more year to qualify? Those are the thoughts that filled my head when I heard the devastating news. I could have lost both my parents, just like that. Just like people lost their loved ones a couple weeks ago.
            Like I said earlier, I cannot wrap my mind around why these things happen. As I continued running, I began to reflect on the goings on of the world. My best friend’s 12-year-old cousin died a few days before from cancer. 12!?! I recently heard of a sick “abortion” doctor that would birth the babies (in unsanitary ways – often killing the mother) and then cut their neck open and break their spinal cords, killing the babies. All while taking advantage of and lying to the mothers. Absolutely disgusts me!!! All you have to do is turn on a news channel and you’re overwhelmed with murders, kidnaps, and heart wrenching deaths of all ages. It’s hard to see the beauty and good that surround us, when evil seems to dominate all around.
            This is one of the biggest arguments I’ve heard against Christianity. How do you believe in a god that lets stuff like this happen? If he really loves us, why do bad things constantly happen to people, even good people? If he really is all-powerful and the creator of all things, why does he not just make everything good? I am a Christian and I do wholeheartedly believe in God. And let me tell you, I still struggle with these questions. I believe it’s good to question God and wrestle with Him about difficult things, such as bombings and cancer.
            First of all as a Christian, I believe God created all things. He is the ultimate Maker and all things He created are good. In Genesis (the first book of the Bible) 1:1-25, God creates the world and the things in it. And after everything He creates, it says, “And God saw that it was good.” God doesn’t make mistakes, so everything He creates is perfect, like Him. But wait, so how do we have all these bad things in the world today if everything God creates is good and everything is created by God? Well, let’s move forward a little bit in time. God creates man – Adam and Eve. He created them perfectly in His image and put them into the perfect world that He has made. Most of you know the story that follows. Genesis 2:17 says, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” God gave them His entire creation to enjoy with one command, don’t eat the fruit from one tree. But, Adam and Eve did not listen and instead gave into the serpent’s (Satan) temptation. There it is: the fall. Sin has now entered the world and corruption has begun.

James 1:13 – 15 “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it is conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

Ecclesiastes 9:11 “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.”

Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—“
Romans 9:22-23 “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—“
            Sin has corrupted the world. Corruption of anything is not good. How is our corrupt world supposed to be good? Yes, God is all-powerful and could make everything good again. But our natural rejection of Him has created evil. Our God is loving, but He is also the ultimate Judge. He hates sin (He didn’t create it!) and cannot have any part of it. He is going to let it happen so that people will seek Him and want to live without evil (heaven).  Also, something we talked about in our discussion group about atheism is God allows us to go through trials because if our world was already perfect, what would be the point in living for Him? Why would we desire heaven if we have it here on earth? And we can’t forget about all the good things around us that point to God? Those things are different for everyone – stars, newborn babies, laughter, and so on. I’m not saying all this to preach to you all. I’m just simply organizing some of my thoughts that came into my head while I was running one day.
Word Count: 1261

Poppin' Philosophies: Final Post 4/4 (Quinlan Odom H1G1)

"We live on the cusp of death thinking it won't be us"

This song is Macklemore's story. Essentially all of his songs are, but this one is special. It's blatant and heart felt and serious. In this song you realize that Macklemore is a victim of everything he speaks against. Like all of us, he too is a victim of society and its' rules. That's his magic, he can relate to his audience and we listen because he's famous. 

"Now he just wanted to act like them
He just wanted to rap like him
Us rappers underestimate the power and the effects we have on these kids"

In the song, Macklemore recognizes this spell rappers and musicians have over their audiences. Not only does he recognize that power but he understands the effects it has. He's been a victim of it too. That's where all these philosophies have come from, his own realization of what he was allowing someone to make him do.  

"Despite how lil' Wayne lives
It's not conducive to being creative
And I know 'cause he's my favorite
And I know 'cause I was off that same mix"

Macklemore is a recovering addict. He started because that's what all the good rappers did. He wanted to be like them and to rap like them. So a guy who started his musical career at 14 got side tracked. By following what other rappers deemed "cool" he ended up losing track of his dream. 

"But he's an alien, I'd sip that shit, pass out or play Playstation
Months later I'm in the same place
No music made, feeling like a failure
And trust me, it's not dope to be 25 and move back to your parents' basement"

We look up to people who follow those societal norms that keep us from being who we are. We try to be them and act like them so that we can have what they have. We can't follow our own dreams because we're headed down someone else's path. Sometimes we aren't the only ones either, we aren't special. It happens to everyone. 

"I've seen Oxycotin take three lives
I grew up with them, we used to chief dimes
I've seen Cocaine bring out the demons inside
Cheatin' and lyin'
Friendships cease, no peace in the mind"

But what can you do? You can't stop rappers from singing about these things let alone doing them. I think Macklemore and Lewis know that to. Every one of their songs is an attempt to atone for the harm done by others before them. That's their ultimate philosophy: be better. They hold themselves to a higher standard because of this. They want to make a positive difference on the lives of their listeners. At the end of "Otherside" Macklemore raps:

"Swore I was goin' be someone
Growing up everyone always does"

Those two sentences have the most impact in the song. They hit a cord that everyone can relate to. You either fear that happening or you've had it happen or you've seen it happen. The point here, though, is what makes you someone? Is that something we've let society define as well? In the song Macklemore is referring to the idea that it takes drug abuse to make him someone in the world he wants to be in. We let society define us so much that it can be deadly. This is Macklemore and Lewis' attempt to change that. 

"And I can't change,
Even if I tried,
Even if I wanted to."
-"Same Love"

I included those lines from "Same Love" because it, essentially, sums up the philosophy of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. One day, life may be like that. Where we don't want to change who we are to fit societal norms because, in that world, we'd all be accepted for who we are. 

Final Blog Post (3/3) H1G4 - Edmund Pevensie: A Story of Redemption

Edmund Pevensie: A Story of Redemption

I am following the story of Edmund Pevensie in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, focusing mainly on the Christian undertones that permeate the tale.  In my last two posts, The Sinner and The Savior, I talked about how Edmund has sold himself to the White Witch due to his own greed, but fully regrets it once he realizes she really is evil and Aslan is the good guy.  Also, she is going to kill him to maintain her rule over Narnia!  However, the great Lion Aslan, the rightful King of Narnia, sacrifices himself to save Edmund.  The White Witch, after killing Aslan, believes she will reign forever and is now fighting against Aslan's army (sans Aslan).  However, miraculously, Aslan has risen from the dead, effectively taking away the White Witch's "victory."  We follow him now as he hurries with some warriors over to where his army is fighting.  They are really struggling, and it does not look good....

Aslan's army advancing on an even scarier, bigger army (unseen)....

Part III: The Saved

We are now at the big battle between good and evil.  Peter, the eldest Pevensie, is dueling the extremely terrifying White Witch, and he is struggling.  His strength is waning and he won't last long.  Enter Aslan, who is even scarier than the White Witch when he wants to be.  

Oh, you know, just being a boss.


Is that fear in her eyes?

Peter, while he triumphs over smaller opponents with relative ease due to his reliance on Aslan, cannot seem to get anywhere in his fight against the main instigator of all these troubles; in his human weakness, this young man cannot defeat the evil White Witch on his own.  Right when the White Witch is about to make her fatal blow against Peter, Aslan jumps in between the two and immediately kills the White Witch with his huge jaws and teeth.  He doesn't think twice about it.  Her power is absolutely no match to Aslan's.  The battle ends quickly after the White Witch's death.

Peter tells Aslan they wouldn't have gotten as far as they did if it had not have been for Edmund's intelligence.  They were losing so many people because the White Witch kept petrifying them, so Edmund destroyed her golden wand, which restored everyone into their natural selves.  However, Edmund is seriously wounded.  They all rush over to him, where he lays dying.  Aslan reminds Lucy of her cordial with its healing liquid, and she gives it to Edmund.  His health is restored and he looks different than he has the whole story: he looks more pure, more happy, as if a load has been lifted off of him.  

Lucy healing her brother....
Aslan then knights Edmund, turning him from a boy to man.  Edmund has been made new.  

So, what does this mean?

It takes Edmund realizing his mistakes.  He does that when he sees the White Witch's evil and when Aslan talks with him.  It takes forgiveness of his wrongdoings.  That could only happen when Aslan gave his life for Edmund, making it possible for Edmund's misconduct to be forgiven.  However, none of this yet brings Edmund the freedom he so desperately wants.  It is only when Edmund himself accepts the healing cordial - which is given to him at Aslan's request.  Edmund, in his humility, realizes he can not do it on his own; he needs Aslan's help.  When he accepts that help, he is knighted, officially a part of Aslan's army.

Edmund, of Aslan's Army
Edmund's mistakes.... what are they to us?  Have we ever been greedy?  Have we ever had bad feelings towards others?  Have we ever been selfish?  I sure have.   What does it mean to us if we perform these acts?  Why does it matter?  And what are these acts, anyway?  

It is sin.

It means our separation from God.  

It means no matter what we do, say, or think, we are not getting out of this alive.  Because, we have learned that sin means treason against God, and the punishment for treason is death.  
What does this mean?

No amount of works we do ourselves will help us.  We need the help of a Savior.  Enter Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, who is infinitely more powerful, loving, and important than anyone else we can find on earth.  And yet, He humbled Himself to become a snot-nosed human.  He taught, He loved, He healed.  He got dirty.  He got sick.  He experienced the same temptations we suffer every day.  But He remained perfect.  He gave us the healing cordial when He died on the cross and rose again three days later.  He defeated death.  The battle is already won!  We just have to drink the life-giving liquid in our hands.  It takes a realization of our own sin and that nothing we do can save us from that eternal punishment.  It takes our acceptance of His great gift to us: eternal life in paradise with our Creator.  To accept that gift means to die to ourselves, which means that we replace our desires with those of Jesus.  We turn away from our sin, and we turn to God.  We turn away from enslavement, and we turn to freedom.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

                                        - Philippians 1:21

When we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, the world does not get better.  We still face many trials.  Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy suffer terrible hardships even after they devote themselves to Aslan.  But, what we have in Jesus Christ is eternal peace and joy, even in our suffering.  No matter how bad it gets on earth, we have our place in paradise with our Creator.  It just takes faith in the only One who can get us there!

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. - 1 Peter 2:9