Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Honors section, group 3.

In our group, we decided it would be best to re-introduce ourselves in order to put names to faces. I don't believe we answered the question about our personal philosophy, and only Seneca and Mitchell could name their favorite philosopher: G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, respectively. Mr. Oliver came over to chat with us for a bit about being the Devil's Advocate and seeing arguments other than your own. He also gave a brief summary of William James' philosophy: pragmatism. Toward the end of class, Mitchell also asked "What then is knowledge?" in response to skeptic philosophers of the past. 

I'll post discussion questions and the like later. I just wanted to get this up for you guys ASAP. 


  1. Thanks, Kayla. You beat me to the punch here, as it occurred to me I could use the library computers post-class, even if I didn't have my laptop.

    As to my questions: First, Factual: When and where did Plato adopt his moniker of Plato? ~While competing in the Isthmian Games. Fun fact, if you ask me. Now, for Discussion, I would like to ask this: Why might it be that America is considered unphilosophical, despite the great number of Americans who have influenced the world of philosophy? Is it perhaps because Americans' thinking and willingness to think has so degenerated over time that the nation as whole cannot exert any influence upon other nations because Americans, on the whole, don't try and don't care? Might the issue be apathy? On the issue of apathy, here's an interesting quotation: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/h/horacegree137011.html It speaks very much to Mr. Romano's subject.

    Now, back to my analysis on what knowledge is. If we say that we can know nothing, then haven't we just established something, a concrete fact, which can be known? It seems to me a contradiction. Moreover, of those who are skeptical of existence in the first place I would ask if they believe they themselves existed. From what I've heard of the skeptics, they would doubt their own existence. My response would go something like this: If you doubt your own existence, by what means do you doubt? Is it not through your mind? If you have the ability to doubt your existence, is not that ability the greatest proof of your existence--that you can question? It is only through having a rational mind that one can question in the first place. As far as having a reference point for existence goes, C.S. Lewis dealt with the nature of reality in his excellent book "The Problem of Pain," which I am in the process of reading at the moment. He talks about what Nature is and how it is a fixed medium in which people may exist. He explains that people who wish to challenge the absolute nature of Nature (ba dum tssh) must presuppose Nature's existence, since they must have a point of orientation, so to speak, for their thought. In fact, the only way we can be aware of another person's existence is by the grounded, defined state of Nature, which "allows me the pleasure of making your acquaintance," to use his words. The impact upon the skeptics' point of view, then, is that in arguing against existence they must 1) Deny the existence of the very thing by which they may question existence in the first place, the mind; and 2) Presuppose existence in order to have any ground by which to question it.

  2. I wasn't in this group, but I couldn't help noticing the mention of 'Devil's Advocate,' and had to comment. It's probably one of my favorite roles in discussion, and I think one of the most important. It's vital, in order to gain comprehension of an idea, that the group discussing said idea avoid a phenomenon known as 'Group Think' wherein everyone in the group, rather than contradicting each other, or even posing questions, simply follow each other blindly. To me, this voids the entire purpose of discussion in a group setting. Because of our varying backgrounds, I think it is impossible to share exactly the same viewpoint on an issue. There has to be some level of difference, even if it's minor and relatively without impact, and I think part of the responsibility of a participant in any discussion is to work hard enough to uncover those differences so that they can be shared and discussed, in the hopes that one (or, preferably, all) of the group might gain a better understanding of the inner workings of the topic.

    That's not to say, mind, that I don't think people should ever agree with one another. There are simply some things that people will have in common. What I mean to say is that, that shouldn't be allowed to become the mode of the discussion. After all, what's the point of discussing an issue with only one side? Not much of a discussion, is it?

    I do think there are certainly responsibilities that come with playing the role of Devil's Advocate, however. It can't simply be a role of contradiction, like in Monty Python's "Argument Clinic." The Devil's Advocate has the responsibility of providing reasons, which could be challenging if it's a position that one doesn't necessarily believe, and is merely proposing as a counterpoint to the understood meanings. It is important, however, in order to foster discussion, that this individual be able to think critically, and see things from multiple sides, so that maybe everyone can see the issue in lights they might not have thought of before.

  3. So, I really enjoyed our discussion, but was thoroughly surprised at the number of Christians in our group. However, as those before me have mentioned, we will participate- I am sure- in playing the Devil's Advocate.

    I can't say I enjoy doing this, yet I am glad to have the challenge of it. I can foresee great discussions in this group and hope everyone brings much to say.

    As to C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton being some of the favorite philosophers, they are both my favorite because of their brilliant imagination, use of language, and a beautiful sense of the world and the world in which we cannot yet comprehend.

  4. Good comments, Leigh. It seems to me that playing Devil's Advocate will most effectively be done through the Socratic method (which I enjoy using anyway). Questions stimulate people's minds in ways that other ways of discussion don't. Besides, questions allow both the questioner and the questionee to better understand each person's view. I think the discussions in this class will be thought-provoking.

  5. Seneca H, group 3

    Factual Question: What are some books that speak to the fact that "America is unphilosophical"?
    -Anti-Intellectualism in American Life
    -The Big Muddy That Flooded America!
    -Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free
    -Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future
    -The Age of American Unreason

    Discussion Question: In your opinion, what could Americans do to help mend this stereotype
    of "America, the unphilosophical"?

  6. Factual question: What is the name of the New York Times's philosophy blog? ~The Stone. I had a bit of a nerd moment there, because the first Harry Potter book is actually titled The Philosopher's Stone. Anyway, moving on to my discussion question... Romano mentions Frankfurt's "On Bullshit" and McGinn's "Mindfucking". The former was more successful, but that isn't my question. Why do you think that authors need to give their works such (potentially offensive) titles to gain any sort of notoriety in America? Comment: Mitchell, I do feel that it is apathy that makes America unphilosophical. In high school, I was never encouraged to take a philosophy class -- I'm not even sure that it was an option. The little that I know about Thoreau and Emerson was taught in my AP English class junior year. I feel that most Americans would rather watch shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians than bother to read a book, let alone one on philosophy (which I'm not thrilled to do, so no judgement toward anyone for that). We -- as American citizens -- are not taught to value philosophy. It falls to the wayside and becomes buried beneath pop culture.

    For my link, have a Thoreau quote that I enjoy. There were several, but I felt this one packs a punch. http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/29898.html

  7. The dicussion of knowledge seems very interesting. I look forward to rotating into this group and learning the thoughts of everyone.

  8. Jordan Cornelius11:10 AM CDT

    This is me commenting on yall's post so I can get a home run. What is pragmatism?
    Thank you.
    Jordan Cornelius, Sec 16, Group 1

    1. According to the online dictionary, a pragmatist "deals with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations." Maybe they're motto could be, "Whatever works."

  9. Shannon Allen (H3)5:34 PM CDT

    Factual question: Which philosopher did Fidel Castro quote in his autobiography? Plato. I tried to look up the actual quote and I found this link with a paragraph about the quote. It's the best I could find. http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/fidel-castro-talks-beard-bio-book-article-1.271960

    Discussion question: From my understanding, our assigned reading debated that America is lacking in Philosophy compared to other countries. I think we need to take a step back and discuss what philosophy actually is before we can compare, as we did not discuss this in our group last class. One paragraph in the book on page 7 talks about the Dendral program, which aids chemists in identifying molecular structures (which I spend a lot of time doing at work). This reminds me that sciences are included in philosophy. Many "doctors" are philosophers because Ph.D stands for Doctor of Philosophy. http://www.ask.com/question/what-does-phd-stand-for
    Google tells me that philosophy is "the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, esp. when considered as an academic discipline." From those two points, I gather that most everything is philosophy. Basic thought could be argued as philosophy.

  10. Factual question: Who wrote Democracy in America? - Alexis de Tocqueville
    Discussion question: Why do you think America does not take philosophy seriously?
    My comment is that I really enjoyed getting to know everyone in my group. I am very excited because it seems my group knows a lot more about philosophy than I do. I am very excited to learn from them.
    My link is a website that shows several quotes by Plato http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/p/plato.html

  11. I really enjoyed meeting all of you the other day :) Even though I am in a different group now, I am really looking forward to when I get to return to Group 3 as a floater. What was your answer for the question, "What is knowledge?". And to go along with that, Are knowledge and truth the same thing?

  12. Shannon Allen (H3)8:43 PM CDT

    Wow. "Are knowledge and truth the same thing?" is a GREAT question that I would love to discuss tomorrow. Did Dr. Oliver ask that or did you come up with it? I love that.

  13. Michael Anderson H3
    Factual Question: Who wrote The Clouds (423 B.C.)? Answer-Aristophanes
    Discussion Question: Do you believe that today's "talk stars" bear a resemblance to ancient Greek rhetoricians and actually teach the art of persuasion by example, or do you believe that they are just pundits spouting rhetoric and entertaining the masses without providing any real forums where healthy debate and sharing of ideas can take place?
    My link is the Christian Science Monitor article mentioned on page 6 of our assigned reading that poses the question "Oprah Winfrey: the greatest existential philosopher ever?"
    I believe we have a very good group and I look forward to our next in class discussion.

    1. Forgot the link


  14. Olivia (H)10:35 AM CDT

    Awesome question of "What is knowledge?"! I am sure there was awesome discussion on that seeing as how there are so many ways to answer that question! I am excited about floating to this group.

  15. This groups seems exceedingly interesting and brimming with good thoughts and ideas. I look forward to floating through your group.