Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Taking a grading break to note how many students seem to take Calvin's approach to final report essays.

Epicurus and the word Arbitrary

Favorite philosopher(just one of them): Epicurus
I have to start with the disclaimer, that I hold no true favorite; however I take strong interest in his argument regarding the fear of death.  I agree that if we do not fear the time before birth, why should we fear the time after death.  During our lifetime, we will not experience death, and when we do, we will not exist to experience it, so why should we fear it.  This concept may cause one to begin thinking about how insignificant life is, but truly, I agree that the constant worrying is just as meaningless.  Further more, constant worrying will only make the brief time spent on earth even more miserable.  What Epicurus claims is so simple, yet it strikes me with great influence.  It seems that we the living rarely think about what came before life comparatively to what comes after.
I personally like to take time to consider both.  Please excuse the tangent I am about to embark on, but after the first round of presentations and the heated debates that were ensued, I have since felt compelled to share my opinions and personal philosophies.  After those debates I left class sharing some of my own philosophies with others, one student nearby even asked if he could walk with us after being so Intrigued with what I had to say.  The following paragraph are my own concepts as they have been influenced and built around my own life experiences.
First: the word arbitrary is the most important word in the entire existence of the human race.  (This will take a while to explain, please stay with me until it comes full circle)On a large enough scale, the entire history of humanity takes place on one small insignificant planet in an average sized solar system on one arm of an average sized galaxy.  You get the idea, my point is essentially that the brain named itself.  Every word ever developed in every language can only be as powerful as we make it.  Essentially, this “its only as significant as we make it” claim is the definition of the word arbitrary, so why shouldn't that word be the most important.  On our peripatetic walks we often discussed scientific theories as they applied to philosophy, one such recurring point of interest is the concept of time travel.  By now we are all surely familiar with the claim that time is relative.  Stephen Hawking believes that something moving fast enough can travel backwards in time.  In another branch of science, new theories are coming to light proposing the existence of other dimensions that we are not yet acquainted with.  Some are beginning to consider the possibility that our consciousness may move dimensionally when we die.  I personally like to take all possibilities into consideration.  I once heard that infinite possibilities exist simultaneously, to me this seems very analogous to the concept of a fractal image.  If you were previously unaware, a fractal is essentially the image form of a non terminating, non repeating decimal.
Combining all of my influences like this I have developed my own philosophies.  Please for a moment suspend all current beliefs and imagine the Fractal as an analogy.  You can endlessly zoom into a fractal image in any direction, and it will never be the same and it will never end.  Much the same way, I believe life and the universe operates similarly.  The universe could perhaps extend infinitely in every conceivable and inconceivable direction.  You may say that the universe is finite, but that is only the observable universe.  We must consider the possibility that it expands in more unconventional ways.  If infinite possibilities do exist simultaneously then that can very well mean that the universe can be traversed in space, time, and dimensions.  In another dimension possibility A exists, and perhaps point A also exists in the dimension, simply at another time and place.  As we move in space, time progresses in one direction or another, and if we were to return to our original position, time has still changed.  Possibility A has aged during the time we left and returned.  In this way, no matter where we travel in the universe, we are never seeing true repetition (like a fractal)

I believe in life the fractal is analogous to the concept of reincarnation.  Life is recycled in an endless loop that never repeats the same experience twice.  In another direction, it is speculated that the observable universe bears resemblance to that of a brain cell.  People have long believe that the big bang was the start of the universe, but what if it is merely another cycle.  Perhaps the universe expands until it slows down and contracts again, and as it contracts it speeds up until reaching some kind of critical mass causing it to explode once again.  You are reading this in the midst of experiencing eternity through the never ending life cycle of the universe.  To me, that is the time before and after life.  As Epicurus says: do not fear death.  I say: fear is yet another arbitrary creation by the human race.  Think all of this like a circle that you can go infinitely around without ever seeing it the same way.  When you move in one direction, time changes, in another, space changes, and so on.  The infinitely small is the infinitely large.  The time before birth is the time after death as well, it simply changes.  Whether you agree or not, it is all arbitrary, because life goes on and so does the universe.  (please excuse how informally that was all arranged , its hard to get down on paper without becoming convoluted.)

My Favorite Philosopher

Jesse Noe
May 6, 2014
Favorite Man in Prison
            Finding my favorite philosopher was harder than I expected. At first I looked for one that had the same views and ideas as me, but there wasn’t one I agreed with completely. So I moved on to finding one that I agreed with mostly, but this too proved harder than expected because I found that I agreed with most of them in some way or another. So I decided to find one that jumped out at me the most and left the biggest impression, and the story of Boethius in prison writing his last thoughts did just that. Ancius Manlius Severinus Boethius, his full name, was writing a book; a philosophy book, and Boethius thought of philosophy as a self-help, and an abstract way of thinking. He was accused of plotting against Theodoric, and was put in prison. While in his solitude of thinking, he wrote a book called The Consolation of philosophy, and this book became very popular in the middle ages.  In the book he ends up talking to a giant woman who is philosophy and tell him of how he has made her angry because he has forgotten her. The book is about their conversation, and I found that is has great philosophical ideas about luck, happiness, and God which was very interesting to me and I want to share.
             Luck is something that we all know. It is something good that happens to you by chance, and in Boethius’ book he and philosophy talk about it. Philosophy says that luck is always changing and that you might have it on day and not the next. Even the rich can find themselves broke in a day. So philosophy tells of how mortals let their happiness depend on luck and of one being lucky. She tells of how true happiness comes from inside. It’s something that human beings control and can keep from luck. With this kind of happiness you can be happy in any situation. Happiness then becomes a state of mind and this is something I can agree with. But what is it that we should find happiness in? That is different for everyone and something they have to find for themselves. For Boethius and me it is found in God, but it can be different for everyone. I would be interested to find out what it is for those who don’t believe in an afterlife because it would then have to be based on one distancing themselves from care. Avoiding pain at all cost? Some I think find that in drinking and doing drugs because they find they can think of the situation they are in or don’t really care. It’s interesting to find out what brings one happiness. For me I get it from my faith in God, a hope for a better life after this one, and serving others. There is more to it than that but that is for another time.
            One thing Boethius was troubled by was God knowing everything he would do before he would do it. He felt as if he had no say in the matter of what he is going to do. For example I am going to go exercise later today and on the way I can pull the car over without ever thinking that ever before. A split second decision and God knows it will happen. And the question is if God already knows what is going to happen, how can I have a genuine choice in the matter. I’ll quote from A Little History of Philosophy page 44. “If God knows what we are both going to do, how can either of us have a genuine choice about what we are going to do? Is choice just an illusion? It seems that I can’t have free will if God knows everything. Ten minutes ago God could have written on a piece of paper, ‘Nigel will carry on writing.’ It was true then, and so I necessarily would carry on writing, whether or not I realized this at the time. But if he could have done that, then surely I didn’t have a choice about what I did, even though it felt as if I did. My life was already mapped out in every tiniest detail. And if we don’t have any choice about our actions, how is it fair to punish or reward us for what we do? If we can’t choose what to do, then how can God decide whether or not we shall go to heaven?” This is a great question and one I’ve thought about before. You see let’s say that I have a friend that I know very well. We grew up together our whole lives and I know everything about him. So much so that I know how he thinks and how he acts. It becomes to where I can know what he is going to say before he says it. Does me knowing this take away his free will? Does he not still have a choice in the matter? Or let’s say that he is a smoker and I calculate when he is going to get his next urge to smoke based on the biology of his body and my advanced knowledge of all the sciences, and he goes out and smokes at the time I said he would. Is that then taking away his free will to do it? No, I don’t think it is because in the end, I’m not forcing him to do anything, and he is his own agent to act for himself, even though I know he will do it.

            These are some ideas I found thought provoking and that’s why Boethius is my favorite Philosopher as of right now, but I’m sure as I learn more about others it will change. I enjoyed my time learning about philosophy, and I hope to continue to learn more about philosophy and to keep asking questions. Have a great summer everyone and I hope to see everyone again.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Favorite Philosopher

Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in boston on May 25, 1803 to his parents, William and Ruth Emerson. His family was plagued by tragedy for most of his life, with the passing of his father in 1811 and the loss of 5 siblings, three of which died in childhood, while the other two before the age of thirty. He grew up in such poverty that he had to share a winter coat with his brother Edward. These hardships that Emerson faced were instrumental in the cultivation of Emerson’s ideas on the Human condition, which were unique at the time of their conception. However, with the help of his aunt, Mary Emerson, young Ralph Waldo Emerson pursued academics which eventually led him to Harvard University at the age of fourteen.
After Harvard, Emerson had wanted to become a school teacher, and that was his occupation until 1826, when he became a minister in New Hampshire. While preaching, he met his future wife, Ellen Tucker, and they soon moved to Massachusetts. Emerson worked at the Second Church of Boston until tragedy struck his life once more, with the passing of his wife due to tuberculosis in 1831. This tragedy shook his foundation for thought to the core, as well as his faith in god, leading him to produce the works he is known for today.
Some of the topics that Emerson chose to write about were that of religion. He had many problems with organized religion, such as his opinion that Contemporary Christianity had lost its way in how it influenced people. He felt that Christianity had ceased to activate the spirit, and had instead muffled or restrained the spirit. He felt that the image of Jesus had been changed, and his purpose as a friend of man had been altered by the organized church and turned him into more of an oppressor. He felt that the church had ruined christianity and what it truly stood for, stating that the “religious sentiment” that church should inspire was more likely to be found in “the pastures” or “a boat in the pond”. He often implied that Ministers of the church should not hold themselves above their congregation, but instead to be friends and examples to them, allowing them to share their thoughts on their own vision of the lord.
One of Emerson's most famous essays was Nature. This particular essay expressed Emerson’s belief that individuals must develop their own personal understanding of the universe that surrounds them. He makes his ideas clear from the very beginning that men should break away from the reliance on secondhand information and knowledge of the past and instead, venture out into nature and develop their own ideas. Emerson believed that people in the past had an intimate relationship with god and nature, which allowed them to come to their own conclusions regarding the universe, he goes on to say that, with the discovery of new lands and new men, we must push forward and produce our own ideas and works, as opposed to merely accepting old knowledge as enough. He also spent a portion of the essay expressing his ideas that due to our disconnect from nature, we fail to see the universe in its whole form, and until we as individuals, come to a point in which we can see nature’s relationship with god and everything else in existence, than we will have a fragmented view of the world.
Emerson was incredibly influential in the progression of philosophy. Philosophers like Nietzsche read German translations of Emerson’s essays, and copied passages from History and self-reliance in his journals, even to go far as to write that Essays made him feel “so much at home in a book”. When one reads Nietzsche’s work you can see the Emersonian influence in ideas such as education and giving up control in order to gain it. Some scholars have made connections to Emersonian ideals regarding transition and the power of human will, stating that it “permeates the writings of such classical American pragmatists as William James and John Dewey. However, what makes Ralph Waldo Emerson one of my favorite philosophers, is ultimately his ideas on nature and its importance in understanding the Universe, or at least the portion of it we reside in.

-Robert Hoppenrath

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Best study/writing advice

Old advice, new evidence.
"Most of us have heard by now that exercise, including walking, generally improves thinking skills, both immediately and in the longer term. Multiple studies have shown that animals and people usually perform better after exercise on tests of memory and executive function, which is essentially the ability to make decisions and organize thoughts (although prolonged, intense exercise can cause brief mental fatigue — so don’t take a math test after a marathon). Similarly, exercise has long been linked anecdotally to creativity. For millenniums, writers and artists have said that they develop their best ideas during a walk, although some of us also do our best procrastinating then. But little science has supported the idea that exercise aids creativity."
Until now...

Want to Be More Creative? Take a Walk - NYTimes.com - NYTimes.com

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Exam #3 Study Guide

20 of the following questions will appear on the May 5 exam (3:30 pm, in KOM 4542), with altered wording and without  the "OR" alternatives that appeared on the quizzes. There will again be a glossary. Study the relevant texts.

The extra credit DQ will be: "Who is your (new?) favorite philosopher? What did you learn about him/her this semester that you found most appealing?" You may supply an alternative DQ. You can prepare your printed response in advance.

1. What is Geist? OR, What did Hegel think he had achieved with his philosophical work? LH 129, 131

2. Who said we're stuck in a hopeless, meaningless cycle of desire and Will from which we can partially free ourselves in a way similar to that proposed by Buddhists? LH 132f.

3. Did Schopenhauer agree with Kant that we cannot encounter the noumenal world of ultimate Reality, but only the world of appearances (phenomena)? LH 134

4. What English 19th century "early feminist" prodigy (author of On Liberty and defender of the Harm Principle) thought Jeremy Bentham's version of utilitarianism was too crude, even though his father was a friend Bentham's? OR, How did JS Mill's utilitarianism differ from Jeremy Bentham's? LH 138f.

5. Who said he'd rather be related to an ape than to a human being who held back (he actually said "made a mockery of") scientific progress by making light of serious ideas and discoveries about human origins? OR, Who sailed on a ship called "The Beagle" and later had "the single best idea anyone has ever had"? LH 145f.

6. Did Kierkegaard, himself a Christian, think it might be necessary for people of faith to commit morally wrong actions? OR, Did he consider religious faith rational? LH 154

7. What 20th century atheistic French philosopher (or philosophical movement) took inspiration from Kierkegaard? LH 156

8. What was Marx's famous slogan expressing the cooperative intentions of communism? OR, What was his famous declaraction alluding to Rousseau's Social Contract? OR, What did Marx call religion? OR, What did Marx want to do that he thought previous philosophers hadn't done? LH 161-2 

9. What was the main message of Wittgenstein's Tractatus? OR the central theme of his later work? OR What did he see as his role, as a philosopher? Why did he talk about "language games"? OR What does it mean to "show the fly the way out of the fly bottle"? OR Why can't we have our own private language? LH 203-06

10. Was Eichmann the first Nazi Hannah Arendt encountered? OR What phrase did Arendt use to describe what she saw in Eichmann and other Nazis? LH 210-212

11. When, according to Popper, does science progress? OR How do scientists test their theories? OR What is the Problem of Induction? LH 214-16

12. What's the difference between science and pseudo-science? OR What was Popper's objection to psychoanalysis and Marxism? OR What's a paradigm shift? LH 218-20 

13. How did Wittgenstein think people had misconceived the relationship between language, thought, and people? OR What did he consider deeply flawed about Descartes' approach to thinking? PB 207-8

14. Who said "American dynamism" involved self-reliance, endurance, friendliness, democratic informality, aggressiveness, technology, and a sense of bigness and power? OR Who thought Socrates was a snob? OR Who admired George Orwell and wrote God is not Great?  AP 285, 288,295

15. What is the point of James's squirrel anecdote? OR, What is the pragmatic definition of truth? OR, How does James's view of truth differ from the traditional view? OR, Who did James credit with first saying that truth is not dependent on "invisible properties" but on practical consequences? LH 165-7

16. What's the difference between theism, atheism, and agnosticism? OR, What's James's view of what makes religious statements true? OR, Who made fun of James's view by saying it meant he had to believe in Santa? OR, Who carried on James's style of pragmatic thinking in the 20th century? OR, What do pragmatists think words allow us to do? OR, Does Warburton think pragmatists believe any ideas or interpretations are "correct for all time"? LH 167-9

17. Did Nietzsche believe God had literally died? OR, Did Nietzsche defend or recommend doing evil? OR, Why did Nietzsche reject Christianity as a source of values? OR, What's an Ubermensch? OR, Who distorted Nietzsche's philosophy to support their "warped" views and geopolitical agenda? OR, Whose cut-&-paste version of Nietzsche's philosophy supported racist interpretations of it? LH 171-5

18. What was the "3d great revolution in human thought"? OR, What's the method & purpose of psychoanalysis? OR, What's the Oedipus complex? OR, What do dreams symbolize? OR, Who criticized the "unfalsifiability" of Freud's theories? LH 177-9

19. Who are the "god figures" Nietzsche distinguished as representing the metaphysical tension implicit in our experience? OR, What was Nietzsche's view of suffering? PB 173-4, 179 

20. What American political philosopher declared the possible "end of history" in the 1980s? OR, In what state did a senator try to write the Ten Commandments into ethics legislation? OR, Who wrote an essay questioning the value of "loyalty" on the part of those who proclaim "America:Love it or Leave it"? OR, What Harvard linguist and political activist is the only living member of the "ten most-quoted humanist thinkers of all time"? AP 231, 238, 241, 244

21. Why did Bertrand Russell think people are drawn to religion? OR, Who was Russell's "godfather" and what was his influence on Russell's view of religion? OR,  What's an example of Russell's Paradox? OR, What puzzled Russell about phrases like "the golden mountain" and "the present king of France"? LH 184-6

22. What did A.J. Ayer think his Verification Principle enabled us to do? OR, What was the title of Ayer's famous book, or of the philosophical movement it helped inspire? OR, What was a "dirty word" for Ayer OR, The absence of what conditions made statements "meaningless," according to Ayer? OR, What do empirically verifiable statements tell us? OR, Besides metaphysics, what did Ayer attack? OR, Did Ayer's near-death experience change his view about God? LH 190-4

23. Who died before his 27th birthday in 1930, and said we don't need a theory of truth because the concept is "redundant"? OR, What does Hugh Mellor find "irritating" about the idea of an afterlife? OR, Name one of  Lakoff & Johnson's book titles OR one of their "three major findings." OR,Name one of the major classical philosophers whose views are challenged by L&J. OR, What did Robert Kaplan write about. (HINT: think Seinfeld.) PB 215-6, 221, 250-2, 255

24. What British philosopher created a runaway train (or "trolley") thought experiment, in part to elicit our intuitions on the ethical relevance of utilitarianism? OR, What American philosopher proposed the "Fat Man" scenario? OR, What is the Law of Double Effect? OR, What kind of harm is unacceptable, according to this "law"? OR, Which philosopher came up with the "Violinist" thought experiment? OR, For what is the violinist intended to be an analogy? LH 223-6

25. What book by John Rawls, published in 1971, was "quickly declared one of the most influential books of the 20th century"? OR, What did Rawls say we must do, to make our existence "bearable"? OR, What was Rawls' thought experiment called, and what was its central premise? LH 229-230

26. To what 19th century English political philosopher does Jonathan Wolff compare Rawls, saying there has been no one else of comparable stature? PB 248

27. What former Presidential aide interviews philosophers and intellectuals on public television? OR, Who said "mythology is everywhere" and advised following "your own track, kid, and not what your guru tells you"? AP 301-2, 307, 310

28. What's John Searle's "Chinese Room" thought experiment supposed to show? What was Alan Turing's "Test"? OR, What did he consider most interesting about the brain? OR, What does Searle think "understanding" requires? OR, Does he think an uploaded mind would be conscious? LH 234-7

29. Do most of us feel the same, according to Peter Singer, about a stranger dying elsewhere in the world and about a child drowning in front of us? Should we? OR, What was Singer's most influential book? OR, Why does Warburton compare Singer to Socrates? LH 240, 242, 244

30. What are some of Barack Obama's "rules for philosophical discourse"? OR, What are the "most substantial books" written by any President? OR, What's Romano's response to those overseas who mock America as a nation concerned only with power and money? AP 598, 604-5

The important thing

So, the end is nigh. But since it's really not: carry on. Keep asking questionscreate satisfaction,follow your bliss, and again: "your own track, kid, not what your guru tells you."

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. Always question everything. Without questioning we would never learn. If we ask the wrong questions, we at least learn from our mistakes." 
But you don't have to take his word for it.