Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, March 21, 2016

Quiz Mar22

Voltaire & Leibniz (LH); WATCH: The Life of Leibniz; LISTEN: Voltaire's Candide, In Our Time... Podcasts-Cultivating our garden... Pangloss and meliorism

1. What English poet declared that "whatever is, is right"?

2. What German philosopher, with his "Principle of Sufficient Reason," agreed with the poet?

3. What French champion of free speech and religious toleration wrote a satirical novel/play ridiculing the idea that everything is awesome?

4. What 1755 catastrophe deeply influenced Voltaire's philosophy?

5. What did Voltaire mean by "cultivating our garden"?

6. Was Voltaire an atheist?
==
DQ:
1. If "whatever is, is right," is political reform or personal growth and change ever an appropriate aspiration? Does anyone ever really act as if they believe that this is the best of all possible worlds? What would you change about the world or your life, if you could?

2. Even if there's a logical explanation for everything, does it follow that there's a justification?

3. If you agree that "Panglossian" (Leibnizian) optimism is ridiculous, what form of optimism isn't? Are you an optimist? Why?
4. Why do you think people who survive earthquakes, floods, tornadoes etc. so frequently praise god for sparing them, even or especially when their neighbors are not so fortunate? What does this say about human nature and religion focused on personal salvation?
5. Was Voltaire's play an example of "cultivating your garden"? What other examples can you think of? 
6. Do you like Deism? Is it more defensible, against charges of divine indifference, than mainstream theism?

The Almanac recognizes Sam Johnson's sidekick James Boswell, who was also Voltaire's friend. A good segue for us:
It's the birthday of James Boswell (books by this author), born in Edinburgh, Scotland (1740). He is best known as the author of Life of Johnson (1791), a biography of Dr. Samuel Johnson, which is considered by many people to be the greatest biography ever written in English. As a young man, Boswell's father wanted him to settle down and take care of the family's ancestral estate in rural Scotland. Boswell wanted adventure, excitement, and intrigue, so he ran away to London and became a Catholic. He began keeping a journal in London, and instead of describing his thoughts and feelings about things, he wrote down scenes from his life as though they were fiction. He described his friends as though they were characters and recorded long stretches of dialogue.
As a young man, Boswell was the life of the party, and everyone who met him liked him. The French writer Voltaire invited him to stay at his house after talking to him for only half an hour. David Hume asked him to stay at his bedside when he died. He hung out with the philosopher Rousseau, and Rousseau's mistress liked him so much that she had an affair with Boswell. He was even friends with the pope. And then on May 16, 1763, he met the scholar and writer Samuel Johnson in the back room of a bookstore. Johnson was a notoriously unfriendly man, but Boswell had long admired him and tried hard to impress him. The next time they met, Johnson said to Boswell, "Give me your hand. I have taken a liking to you." Johnson was 30 years older than Boswell and he was the most renowned literary scholar in England. Boswell was undistinguished compared to Johnson's other friends, but Boswell never tried to compete with Johnson's intellect. Their relationship was like an interview that went on for years. Boswell would just ask questions and listen to Johnson talk, and then he would go home and write it all down in his journal. 
The two men eventually became great friends. They talked about everything from philosophy and religion to trees and turnips. Boswell knew early on that he would write Johnson's biography, but he didn't start until after Johnson's death. The work was slow going. He watched as several others published books about Johnson, and he worried that no one would care about his book when he finished it. He had to fight with his editor to keep the odd details, like the things Johnson had said to his cat and what kind of underwear he thought women should wear. He felt that these were the details that revealed who Johnson really was. When the book finally came out, it was a huge best-seller. No one had ever written such a personal biography that so completely captured a life, and no one has done so since.==
It's possible that he, like Yogi Berra, didn't say everything he said. Abe Lincoln warned us not to believe everything we read on the Internet. But these lines attributed to Voltaire are good:


  • “Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”
  • “‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” 
  • “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” 
  • “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” 
  • “Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.” 
  • “The most important decision you make is to be in a good mood.” 
  • “I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health.” 
  • “Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.” 
  • “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.” 
  • “What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly - that is the first law of nature.” 
  • “The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe.”
  • “One day everything will be well, that is our hope. Everything's fine today, that is our illusion” 
  • “The greatest consolation in life is to say what one thinks.” 
  • “Let us cultivate our garden.” 





Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
(1646-1716)
...La Monadologie (Monadology) (1714) is a highly condensed outline of Leibniz's metaphsics. Complete individual substances, or monads, are dimensionless points which contain all of their properties—past, present, and future—and, indeed, the entire world. The true propositions that express their natures follow inexorably from the principles of contradiction and sufficient reason.

The same themes are presented more popularly in the Discours de Metaphysique (Discourse on Metaphysics) (1686). There Leibniz emphasized the role of a benevolent deity in creating this, the best of all possible worlds, where everything exists in a perfect, pre-established harmony with everything else. Since space and time are merely relations, all of science is a study of phenomenal objects. According to Leibniz, human knowledge involves the discovery within our own minds of all that is a part of our world, and although we cannot make it otherwise, we ought to be grateful for our own inclusion in it.





And the meliorist just wants to make it better.


William James, in Pragmatism:
Truly there is something a little ghastly in the satisfaction with which a pure but unreal system will fill a rationalist mind. Leibnitz was a rationalist mind, with infinitely more interest in facts than most rationalist minds can show. Yet if you wish for superficiality incarnate, you have only to read that charmingly written 'Theodicee' of his, in which he sought to justify the ways of God to man, and to prove that the world we live in is the best of possible worlds... (continues)
And,
...there are unhappy men who think the salvation of the world impossible. Theirs is the doctrine known as pessimism.

Optimism in turn would be the doctrine that thinks the world's salvation inevitable.
Midway between the two there stands what may be called the doctrine of meliorism, tho it has hitherto figured less as a doctrine than as an attitude in human affairs. Optimism has always been the regnant DOCTRINE in european philosophy. Pessimism was only recently introduced by Schopenhauer and counts few systematic defenders as yet. Meliorism treats salvation as neither inevitable nor impossible. It treats it as a possibility, which becomes more and more of a probability the more numerous the actual conditions of salvation become.
It is clear that pragmatism must incline towards meliorism... (continues)
==
An old post-

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Voltaire & Leibniz

Brains, John Campbell was saying in his Berkeley interview, are a big asset. "It's very important that we have brains. Their function is to reveal the world to us, not to generate a lot of random junk."

Voltaire, dubbed by Russell "the chief transmitter of English influence to France," was an enemy of philosophical junk, too. One of the great Enlightenment salon wits, a Deist and foe of social injustice who railed against religious intolerance (“Ecrasez l’infame!”) and mercilessly parodied rationalist philosophers (especially Leibniz, aka Dr. Pangloss).
Pangloss was professor of metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology. He proved admirably that there is no effect without a cause, and that, in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron’s castle was the most magnificent of castles, and his lady the best of all possible Baronesses… Candide“There is a lot of pain in the world, and it does not seem well distributed.” [slides here]
William James called Leibniz's theodicy "superficiality incarnate": "Leibniz's feeble grasp of reality is too obvious to need comment from me. It is evident that no realistic image of the experience of a damned soul had ever approached the portals of his mind..." And James's comments continue, in a similarly scathing vein. He was particularly incensed by the disconnect between Leibniz's philosophy and the suffering of a distraught Clevelander whose plight and ultimate suicide stands for the despair of so many through the ages. But if you like Leibniz's defense of the ways of god, maybe you'd love his monadology. Maybe not. But if one substance is good, how good is a practical infinity of them?

Russell raises the basic objection to Leibniz's "fantastical" scheme of windowless monads: if they (we) never really interact, how do they (we) know about each other? It might just be a bizarre collective dream, after all. And the "best possible world" claim is just not persuasive, though many will want to believe it.

People wish to think the universe good, and will be lenient to bad arguments proving that it is so, while bad arguments proving that it is bad are closely scanned. In fact, of course, the world is partly good and partly bad, and no ' problem of evil' Voltaire’s countryman Diderot offered a sharp rejoinder to those who said nonbelievers couldn’t be trusted. “An honest person is honest without threats…” [Voltaire @dawn...Leibniz@dawn... Spinoza Leibniz slides... Voltaire_Leibniz_ James]

"Whatever is, is right." I don't care which Pope* said that, it's crazy. No way to think and live.

Submit.—In this, or any other sphere,
Secure to be as blest as thou canst bear:
Safe in the hand of one disposing pow'r,
Or in the natal, or the mortal hour.
All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony, not understood;
All partial evil, universal good:
And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.
*An Essay on Man


Everything happens from a cause, sure, but not "for a reason" if that's code for "for the best."


Irremediably, irredeemably bad things happen. Regret is an appropriate first response. Of course we should try to prevent recurrences of the worst (by our lights) that happens.

Voltaire's Candide may be the most devastating parody ever penned. A "logical explanation for everything" leaves the world much as it found it, less than perfect and easy to improve. Feeding the hungry, curing the sick, educating the ignorant, saving the earth, etc., are obvious improvements to begin with. "All is well," Miss Blue? (An obscure reference to a sweet-hearted cleaning lady I used to hear on the radio when I was young, who ruined that phrase for me.) I don't think so.

But the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 did nothing to block Voltaire's "Pangloss" from continuing to insist that everything is the result of a pre-established harmony. What must it be like, to live in a bubble of denial so insulated from reality as to permit a learned person to believe that?

After tornadoes, earthquakes, and other fatal natural disasters, people interviewed on television frequently thank god for sparing them. Hardly a reasonable response, even if a lifetime of indoctrination and insulation makes it "understandable." But to say it in the hearing of survivors whose loved ones weren't spared? Unspeakably insensitive. If "acts of god" (as the insurance companies put it) take life randomly, and you happened to be one of the random survivors, is gratitude really the humane response?

Candide's statement that "we must cultivate our garden" is a metaphor for not just talking about abstract philosophical questions but instead doing something for our species while we have the opportunity. It's a plea for applied philosophy. I'm fresh from a philosophy conference where, I'm sorry to report, the old bias in favor of Grand Theory still has its champions. Spectators, not ameliorators, more concerned to polish their conceptual palaces than rebuild the crumbling human abode. (Thinking in particular of an environmental ethics session, where activists were slighted for being less than rigorous.)

Voltaire, as noted, was a deist, a freethinker, and a pre-Darwinian. He was not an atheist. But is that just an accident of history? If he'd come along a century later, might he have embraced godlessness?

Hard to know. He marveled at nature's universe, wondered at (didn't shrink from) the stars, and burned with a passion to make a better world. The highest powers are those aligned with that quest, not the complacent and wildly premature contention that this is the best of all possible worlds. His god, in any age, would not have been an excuse for passivity or indifference to the fate of the earth and its riders.

35 comments:

  1. Mariem Farag #12
    Some people who survive earthquakes, floods, etc. still praise God after the survival, because, to them, without God they would've not survived. To them, it's the power of prayer that prevented them from dying. Just this past spring, I survived a fatal car accident on the interstate without a single broken bone. Some may call it luck, but no luck could've saved me from such fatal crash, without even a single broken bone. I praised God even more after the crash, because, to me, if it wasn't for him there would've been some serious permanent damage or no chance of survival. Same thing with the people who survive such horrible earthquakes, floods, etc. They do not think of God as someone who caused it, but rather someone who prevented it from destroying them. It is all in the mind, and how each one of us perceives it.

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  2. Karol saleh section 8
    Why do you think people who survive earthquakes, floods, tornadoes etc. so frequently praise god for sparing them?
    I think people who survive this things raise god more than other because God saved them and they god a second Chace to change their life to good and without God they would've not survived.

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  3. Karol saleh section 8
    6. Do you like Deism?
    I don't know if I like Deism or not but all I can say that when God see their children are far from him, he need to throw problems to them so they can realize that their is god who can solve anything in the world.

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  4. (8) Janet Peoples
    Even if there's a logical explanation for everything, does it follow that there's a justification?

    I do think there's a logical explanation for everything that happens or mostly everything. I don't think its always a good thing that happens but it had a reason it happened or it wouldn't of happened.

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  5. (8) Janet Peoples
    Why do you think people who survive earthquakes, floods, tornadoes etc. so frequently praise god for sparing them, even or especially when their neighbors are not so fortunate? What does this say about human nature and religion focused on personal salvation?
    I think people who survive horrible weather conditions start to believe or continue to believe in God and start to pray or pray more. They believe they either got a second chance at life or they think it wasn't there time to leave this earth. If someone else died then they do feel sad because they cared about that person and believe/hope they are in a better place.

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  6. (8) Janet Peoples
    Why do you think people who survive earthquakes, floods, tornadoes etc. so frequently praise god for sparing them, even or especially when their neighbors are not so fortunate? What does this say about human nature and religion focused on personal salvation?
    I think people who survive horrible weather conditions start to believe or continue to believe in God and start to pray or pray more. They believe they either got a second chance at life or they think it wasn't there time to leave this earth. If someone else died then they do feel sad because they cared about that person and believe/hope they are in a better place.

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  7. (8) Janet Peoples
    Even if there's a logical explanation for everything, does it follow that there's a justification?

    I do think there's a logical explanation for everything that happens or mostly everything. I don't think its always a good thing that happens but it had a reason it happened or it wouldn't of happened.

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  8. (#8) DQ4: I think people continue to praise God after they have suffered a tragic event due to the fact that they might feel unworthy of this divine intervention; especially when, they consider how a possible more "righteous" neighbor or friend may have received the short end of the stick and not have been as lucky. On that same thought, this could possibly drive the idea that these people continue to praise God to almost show Him that they appreciate this act. I think this states that human nature is instilled with this innate behavior to surrender or acknowledge that there is a God for whom personal salvation can be achieved.

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  9. sierra cox #11 would Leibniz have changed his belief of more good over evil if he lived in todays society? I believe yes, and I would say it would switch and he would say there is more evil than good if he lived in 2015.

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  10. (#8) Why do you think people who survive earthquakes, floods, tornadoes etc. so frequently praise god for sparing them, even or especially when their neighbors are not so fortunate? What does this say about human nature and religion focused on personal salvation?
    I believe people continue to praise God for their safety, even though their neighbor or other family members may have been affected, because their faith gives them purpose and they continue to believe that them not being harmed shows they are on earth to make a difference. Also people believe they may be unaffected because they are meant to help others that are hurt. Humans focus on personal salvation and shows that their personal relationship with the Lord may save them from harm. Some humans that are extremely religious may believe their own relationship with the Lord is better than others so that is why they may of survived something like an earthquake but no one's relationship is stronger or better than others it is more about morals and spirituality.

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  11. (8) If "whatever is, is right," is political reform or personal growth and change ever an appropriate aspiration? Does anyone ever really act as if they believe that this is the best of all possible worlds? What would you change about the world or your life, if you could?
    I relate differently with this phrase.
    What is “right”? Right, by definition, is correct, factual & true. Many equate “right” with goodness. As if Right equated to goodness and positivity and perhaps negative to falsity or the left direction (physicists may disagree, but we’re talking about societal preconceptions). If we remove the connotation of goodness from the word “right” then yes, “Whatever is, is right.”
    Sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer. But let’s dig further…
    I suppose here that if “whatever is, is right” the implied meaning is that everything is perfect and that nothing needs to change. Yes, there is still motivation to change, because change is right. Because evolution of mind and body is right. Because the universe is constantly expanding and growing. THAT is right.
    So then is truth right? Is pain good? Is suffering ok? There is value in suffering. Even things that are wrong can be right. Genocide can even be right in that it is true. It may not be JUST, but we aren’t discussing justice according to law. We are discussing truth. Even if the argument must be made about genocide being “good,” consider the long term implications, a culture is lost, genetic variances gone forever or children never living up to possible potential. What of this? Less strain on limited local resources (water and grain), possible elimination of criminals, bringing awareness to the habits and behaviors of the murdering cultures, respect and honor bestowed upon any surviving entities. Then there’s the argument I’ve heard from some religious peoples: They’re going to meet their maker, you should be happy for them.
    Is the natural order of things “right”? Contemplate natural order. Growth, life, death, deterioration. Ebb & flow of order in chaos. If it seems chaotic and uncontrolled, perhaps it is. If the chaos theory is true, then the answer again would be “Yes, whatever is, is right.”
    This does not mean that we do not strive to be good humans; that we do not strive to leave a positive impact on our world. Of course we always strive to find a more positive and harmonious perspective among chaos, and we hope to encourage goodness in and around our lives, even if only for the sake of selfishness. Yes, “whatever is, is right” even if it hurts, even if it is painful. No this does not mean that we do not constantly strive to achieve harmonious perspective and peace among chaos (isn’t that happiness?). But just because our world is chaos does not mean that whatever is, is NOT right.
    It is beautiful and tragic, but it IS. That is right.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Haley Harwell (12)8:50 PM CDT

    Test 2 Extra Credit Essay

    I feel like more often than not, survivors of natural disasters believe the occurrence was the work of none other than their respective god. Religion causes people to live their life constantly trying to confirm that they are worthy of being saved. Therefore, when these natural disasters wipe out communities, neighbors, loved ones, believers tend to still praise their god, no matter who they lost. Self-preservation is a very primal and instinctual quality for humans, and for believers, thanking and praising a god (that they believe is to thank for ‘saving’ them from a disaster) is an insurance policy of sorts. However, it makes no sense to me. Those wiped out during a storm may or may not have been believers/praisers/worshippers, but yet they’re dead. They’re not dead because they forgot to pray or choose not to believe. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time during a natural disaster or ill prepared. I also feel like humans are inherently selfish, whether intentional or unintentional. It is very hard for me to put myself in the shoes of believers, especially when there is so much turbulence in the world, such as hurricane Patricia. I’d be far more worried about trying to be vigilant and do what I can for myself as well as my community to ensure safety, as opposed to sitting around praying that someone else does it for me.

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  13. 12) Why do you think people who survive earthquakes, floods, tornadoes etc. so frequently praise god for sparing them, even or especially when their neighbors are not so fortunate? What does this say about human nature and religion focused on personal salvation?

    I think people thank god for surviving earthquakes, floods etc. because it a way of rationalizing something that doesn't have a particular "reason". It is nice to think that there is someone out there protecting you and that you are more special that your less fortunate neighbor. rather than, the possibility that you only survived by chance. It also could stem from human selfishness. you could be praising god for surviving a flood while your neighbor is cursing god for killing their newborn baby in the same storm, and vise versa.

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  14. Danielle Bonner section 4
    Quiz questions
    1 why did Pope think that we should not question natural disasters and evil?
    2 What was the principle that Leibniz used to conclude the presence of God and conclude that all evil was a part of God's plan called?
    3. How was Voltaire different from most philosophers?

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  15. Sterling Smith (#6)9:42 PM CDT

    Quiz Question: (T/F) Voltaire was very suspicious of political systems

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  16. Sterling Smith (#6)9:44 PM CDT

    Discussion Question: Does your personal philosophy fall closer to Leibniz or Voltaire?

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  17. quiz question

    who said "I hate what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it", and why is it important?

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    Replies
    1. sect 6
      Voltaire. It pointed out his idea that tolerance of other ideas, despite if you agree or disagree, are important. "Freedom of speech and opinion".

      Delete
  18. Lucas Futrell (6)
    Quiz Question

    1. What is Voltaire's real name?
    2. Why was Voltaire imprisoned in the Bastille in Paris?
    3. How did Voltaire invest his money after he became rich?

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  19. Quiz Question:
    Who was Voltaire's greatest influence?

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  20. Amy Young (4)
    DQ 4: This says that religion is very personal and selfish in a sense because you thank god for saying you, but you do not feel excessively negative about god taking the lives of others.

    Quiz Question: What was Alexander Pope's most famous writing?

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  21. I have always loved this quote from Voltaire, "To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize."

    Bonus Question:
    7. Who did Voltaire famously defend?

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  22. Ian, Skylar, Akmal section 4

    We discussed Leibnitz and Pangloss and the difficulty of finding an answer to this question.

    ReplyDelete
  23. F Dremel - Section 6
    DQ3 If you agree that "Panglossian" (Leibnizian) optimism is ridiculous, what form of optimism isn't? Are you an optimist? Why?

    A: To an extent, all optimist views hold a certain degree a ridiculousness. This is not to say that being optimistic is a ridiculous thing to be, however it is important to be aware of the realism in life's events, and accept that negative finds a way of balancing the positive. This, of course, is my own viewpoint on this, and in itself helps illustrate the dualistic nature of discussing optimism.

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  24. QQ: Who is the central character in "Candide"?

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  25. Section 6
    QQ:
    Who made the most popular sculpture of Voltaire?

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  26. sect 6
    QQ: 1. Voltaire was unusual among philosophers because he had ________.

    2. He obtained this by being part of a ______ that found a flaw in the state lottery.
    3. who was the optimist in the story "Candide" by Voltaire?

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  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  28. Courtney Manns Sect. 6
    QQ: Did Voltaire take credit for the novel Candide?

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  29. DQ1: Yes, i do like deism, probably because I could be considered one. I don't subscribe to anything organized, but i believe there is some sort of power out there that is responsible for at least that first particle that created our universe. I do not however believe this being must be perfect or even all powerful. Popular theism believes that god intervenes in our lives and our universe, i believe there may only be one divine intervention, and that was the creation of the universe. The rest is the nature of our existence.

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  30. (#6) Caleb & Deandra

    We talked about catastrophe survivors and how they jump to religion. Although selected survival could be seen as a blessing and a miracle, we suppose someone would look for any way to explain their survival in the wake of disaster.

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  31. Lucas, james, spencer (6)

    We talked about how the world couldn't really be changed because a utopian society isn't logical.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Sophie and Courtney M
    Sect 6
    We talked about how optimism and pessimism is involved in our lives. We also discussed how a mixture of both of these is ideal in the sense that a pessimist is always thinking the worst, but at the same time he or she is prepared for anything to happen whether that outcome is good or bad.

    ReplyDelete