Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, October 31, 2016

Quiz Nov 2/3

1. Why was Plato so eager for a Googleplex tour? (Why did he think it so important to "understand our tools"?

2. What does Plato say lies beneath all perfection and beauty?

3. Why does Plato say he's always written "with the greatest misgivings"?

4. What was the subject of Plato's first search?

5. What renders an ethical decision non-arbitrary, according to Plato?

6. Who were the two guys in togas on the Googlers' t-shirts?


  • Do you think we adequately understand the Internet and our relationship to it?
  • Was there ever a time in your life when you didn't "google" information? How else do you get answers to your questions?
  • In what circumstances is it rude or socially unacceptable to look at screens when in the presence of peers?
  • Is philosophy "just one more subject to take in college - or not..." ? 87
  • What's the most useful information you've ever found on the Internet?
  • Do you think "crowdsourcing" is a good way to learn? Are individuals better or worse judges of the quality of their own lives?
  • What's the difference between information, knowledge, and wisdom? 100
  • Is it "only superior reason that can get a person out of the cave"? 102
  • Should we give more weight to the estimation of people who think their own lives are satisfactory, and who are judged by others as living well? 107
  • Why did it take (most) humans so long to realize that slavery is wrong?

Aristotle, Machiavelli, Sun Yat Sen, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

A wider variety of news sources was supposed to be the bulwark of a rational age. Instead, we are roiled by biases, gorging on what confirms our ideas and shunning what does not.
On Point, on Google addiction...
FYI, from the provost: 

"the facilities use policy is here:http://www.mtsu.edu/policies/general-policies/I-01-06.php. I believe the events coordination office are the first responders on this, with ultimate decision-making policy depending on the venue requested."

(H3) Free Speech But Not Hate Speech

With the recent group who came to the college to speak on their view of "Christianity" and the free speech panel I listened to, it's made me really think about our rights to free speech. It's said that hate speech should not be allowed but the speakers at the campus last week were full of plenty of hate. They even claimed that their space was a "judgement free zone" but the majority of what they were saying was just judging the students on campus. I believe that every person has a right to free speech, but that does not mean that the right to free speech gives you the right to bring oppression upon others. These group of "Jesus Preachers" deeply saddened me because as a strong Christian who is also a homosexual, they were proclaiming that I would be sent to hell. They also claimed love but preached hate therefore giving Christians a bad name. These men who thought they were doing something good really just turned people away from Christianity and most likely made a handful of people want to not go to church ever. I am a strong advocate of free speech even if I may not agree with someone else's speech, but I am not an advocate for hate and that is where a line should be drawn. 

Free Speech on Campus

Free speech has been a hot topic, especially with the demonstrations that they have had on campus lately. The first amendment of our Constitution is meant to protect this right of the individual, but we have had a tendency to stifle opinions that we do not agree with. We as college students are here to learn not only lessons in the classroom but lessons about life. One of the biggest takeaways from that should be real world experience. Yes, the speaker in the SUB commons, was rude, and bigoted, and hateful, and very much misrepresentative of Christian belief. But he has every right to profess his beliefs just as much as the rest of us do. We can’t filter out that kind of ignorance in the real world, so why should we be coddled and protected from it in a place that is supposed to be preparing us for just that? As a Student Government senator there was a big debate about this about a month ago when purposing a resolution to oppose safe spaces on campus. This has recently become an issue for UT Chattanooga and we collectively believe that this will keep us on track to keeping the conversations open, and not shunning ideas at the risk of offending people. College is a place to learn and discuss ideas openly without risk of being silenced because it may be unpopular. We have to learn to listen and discuss rather than yell over each other, and if we can’t learn to do that, then we will never be able to progress as a society.


"Scholarly Spook" at Cheekwood
Today is All Hallows’ Eve, or Halloween. It’s believed to originate in the Celtic festival of Samhain, a pre-Christian festival held around November 1 to mark the end of summer and the beginning of winter. It was the biggest holiday of the Celtic year: a combination of harvest festival, New Year’s Eve, and community meeting. Animals were brought in from the pasture and made secure for the coming winter, and some of them were slaughtered to provide salted meat for the winter. It was also a time of year when the veil between living and dead was particularly porous, so the spirits of the dearly departed were more easily able to return to their earthly homes. And it meant that other otherworldly creatures — like fairies, leprechauns, and other tricksters — were more likely to be among us. But even though ghosties and ghoulies wandered among the living during Samhain, the supernatural wasn’t the main focus of the holiday the way it is for Halloween.
As the Christian Church grew, Samhain blended with a Christian holiday known as All Saints’ Day, All Hallows’ Day, or Hallowmas, which was originally observed in May but later moved to November 1. It was a time for believers to honor and remember those who had passed on to heaven. This blending was not coincidental. Early Christian leaders told their missionaries that if they wanted to convert pagans to Christianity, they shouldn’t waste time on trying to suppress their rituals and practices, but rather they should consecrate those practices to Christ and incorporate them wherever possible. This had the effect of establishing Christianity among the pagans — but it also preserved many of the pagan practices instead of quashing them. So Samhain and All Saints’ Day rituals influenced each other and eventually merged, and that is when we begin to see the traditions that we associate with Halloween today.
One such tradition was the practice of “souling,” common in Britain and Ireland in the Middle Ages. Poor people would go door to door on Hallowmas and offer to pray for the souls of the family’s dead relatives, in exchange for an offering of food. It mingled with the practice of “mumming”: dressing up in costumes and performing wacky antics in exchange for food and drink, and eventually trick-or-treating became a traditional part of Halloween. WA

“All great things must first wear terrifying and monstrous masks, in order to inscribe themselves on the hearts of humanity.” Nietzsche

(Do not underestimate the power of costume)

Free Speech Update. My follow-up to the Dean's response (he'd complained about students standing and watching the "freak show" and said if you don't want to be called names you should just move along):

Of course. My concern is that the conspicuous display of "open air" free speech on our campus is such an exotic event that students can hardly be faulted for treating it as a rare spectacle. Just walking away from an obstreperous and amplified hate-monger planted for hours on end in the middle of campus is easier said than done.
Mr. Skelly does in fact put on a "freak show," year after year, of the sort sure to dissuade many from valuing their first amendment rights. I'd love to see time limits, and an orderly process whereby the more thoughtful gawkers will be encouraged to become participants. More transparency and publicity for the process of gaining access to our "free speech zones" would be a big improvement.

The provost observes:
This group takes advantage of our Facilities Use policy, apparently hoping that we will deny them access. They apparently won some money in a lawsuit against Tennessee Tech a few years ago.
So apparently it's mostly a matter of legal caution that the fire-and-brimstone evangelists regularly appear on campus. We're still awaiting answers to these questions: Have other groups or individuals have been denied access because they don't seem to pose a legal threat? Who is charged with implementing our Facilities Use policy?What are the extra-legal criteria by which Facilities Use permits are granted?

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Marine Safe Zone (H3)

Here's something our professor should enjoy, certainly something the penguins will!

New Antarctic Marine Sanctuary

Personal Hell (H3)

In response to William James’ quote from his Principles of Psychology. It’s interesting how little we realize we put ourselves through our own personal hell. For instance, one of my friends recently went through a struggle with “depression”. I couldn’t figure out why they would be sad and depressed, since that person’s life was going pretty well at the time. And so one day I sat down and talked with them. Through that talk I came to realize that in fact, nothing really was wrong, except that they kept thinking about and overanalyzing how others perceive them. For some, realizing how much you care about others opinions and desiring to change that about yourself is a pretty easy fix, but this friend has been doing that their whole life. They have formed these reactions and habits of caring too much about others’ opinions instead of what they actually want. With this specific friend, it also might stem from their deep personal connection to their family. And so, because family means so much to my friend and my friend cares very much about their family’s opinions and has their whole life, it has shaped their thoughts and made getting through life much harder than it has to be in some aspects. All that to say that I have seen how true and applicable this quote is to our modern society. It’s strange how difficult your habits can make your life and truly sad that we are told too late about the consequences of forming bad habits.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Rebecca Goldstein at the Googleplex

Plato has begun to appear in some unexpected places. On the first track of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s hip-hop album, “Watch the Throne” (2011), you can pick out the line, “Is Pious pious cause God loves pious?” This, as classicists will instantly recognize, is an allusion to a dilemma posed in Plato’s dialogue “Euthyphro,” in which Socrates asks, “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” In Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s new book, “Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away,” Plato turns up not only at the search engine’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., but also with the obstreperous host of a cable news talk show, as a consultant to an advice columnist, and in several other places a long way from ancient Athens. In Goldstein’s neat finale, the pupil of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle eagerly disappears into the magnetic bowels of an fM.R.I. scanner to have his brain probed.

Goldstein is a novelist and a teacher of philosophy whose previous nonfiction book, “Betraying Spinoza,” was in effect a love letter to the 17th-century Dutch thinker described as “the renegade Jew who gave us modernity.” Now she has written a love letter to Plato, whom she regards as having given us philosophy. He is, in her view, as relevant today as he ever was — which is to say, very. To demonstrate his continuing hipness, her expository chapters on his writings and milieu alternate with Platonic-style dialogues set in ­present-day America, where Plato is on a book tour. The old chap adapts wonderfully to his unfamiliar surroundings. Presented with a Chromebook computer, he becomes addicted to Googling, and enrolls in online courses to brush up on ­neuroscience.

It’s diverting to speculate on which aspects of the Internet would be embraced by time-traveling ancient thinkers. The epigrammatic Heraclitus would surely have appreciated the enforced brevity of Twitter. Diogenes the Cynic, who made a spectacle of himself in order to heap scorn on conventional values (to which end he allegedly masturbated in public), would presumably have relished Facebook — until his selfie-strewn account was deleted. Diogenes Laertius, an infamously undiscerning historian, would have gleefully reposted every hoax and rumor to be found in cyberspace. It’s harder to swallow the idea that Plato would be such a Googler, given his insistence on the chasm between mere information and genuine wisdom. Aristotle, a keen collector of biological oddities, is the more plausible hoarder of facts.

But this is not a criticism. Quite the reverse: Goldstein’s resurrection of Plato actually works, which is no mean achievement. His avid Googling is slightly puzzling precisely because her character is recognizably the real thing — or rather, a plausible reconstruction of his mouthpiece, Socrates. When the rejuvenated Plato gently probes the loud certainties of Roy McCoy, Goldstein’s invented cable-news pundit, on the subjects of happiness, virtue, success and religion, we hear authentic Platonic arguments brought nicely up to date.

Plato never speaks under his own name in the old dialogues. We are told in them that he was present at the trial of Socrates and absent at his death, but otherwise we hear nothing about him. Giving Plato his own voice has been tried a few times before, notably in “The Mask of Apollo” (1966), a historical novel by Mary Renault, and in “Acastos: Two Platonic Dialogues” (1986), by the British novelist-philosopher Iris Murdoch. Murdoch’s Plato was dogmatic and impatient in one dialogue (“Oh what nonsense you all talk!”), and an emotional and tiresome youth in another. Goldstein’s Plato seems to have been modeled on the character of Socrates, because he is unfailingly modest and polite — and is thus quite unlike the “philosophy-jeerers” among scientists with whom she wrestles at various points in the book.

One of the most raucous jeers against philosophy in general, and Socrates in particular, was delivered in Plato’s own time, by the comic playwright Aristophanes. Nowadays, it is most often scientists who lead the taunting: Some physicists seem especially to have gotten under Goldstein’s skin. I’m not sure the ones she cites are worthy opponents. They are tone-deaf to philosophical reasoning and mistakenly suppose that the defect lies in the music rather than in themselves. Such uncomprehending hostility is an intriguing phenomenon, which perhaps in part reflects the narrowness of scientific specialization these days. Einstein and several of the founders of quantum mechanics were enthusiasts for philosophy, possibly because they benefited from a broader education than today’s laboratory pundits.

In the 1920s, the wife of an Oxford don once assured a dinner companion that a student with a first-class degree in classics “could get up science in a fortnight.” Today, the situation is reversed: It is some scientists who think they can grasp the fundamentals of another discipline by thumbing a few pages and having a quick ponder. Hence, for instance, the burgeoning literature by some neuroscientists and their fans in which the problem of free will, or some other venerable source of fascination, is breezily dispatched in a trice. (In some of the liveliest argument in this book, one such overconfident neuro-sage is masterfully needled by Goldstein’s Plato.)

Yet there is a problem, or at least a puzzle, about the nature of progress in philosophy, which the continuing relevance of Plato underlines rather than resolves. As Goldstein puts it: “If philosophy makes progress, then why doesn’t Plato at long last just go away?” Science makes cumulative advances, but philosophy can seem stuck in a loop — a situation made all the more embarrassing by the fact that many of its most famous practitioners, from the 17th century onward, keep announcing that now, at last, they have found the way forward (yet again). Goldstein’s response is somewhat gnomic. She claims progress in philosophy is real but “invisible because it is incorporated into our points of view. . . . We don’t see it, because we see with it.” Yet if that were so, shouldn’t Plato now be old hat to us? He would only be telling us things that, thanks partly to him, we have come to already know.

A more apt approach to the enigma of philosophical progress may be to question the question. Should we really regard philosophy as a dog-eared crossword puzzle, first published some 2,500 years ago and still pored over by enthusiasts who, after 100,000 rainy Sundays, have managed to fill in only a handful of clues? Another way to see it is as a fountain of eternally youthful questions, with which we shall always be grappling because they expose unresolvable tensions in our beliefs and concepts, and stimulate our intellectual appetites. Wouldn’t it in fact be rather disappointing to stop asking fundamental questions? If philosophy is not something we’d like to see all sorted out and put away, there will always be a place for Plato, because he was so remarkably good at it. ANTHONY GOTTLIEB 

Playing With Plato 

Philosophers eager to write for popular audiences are finding readers who want answers science can’t offer.
When i was 21, I was trying to decide whether to become a doctor or a philosophy professor. My older brother, whose advice I usually followed, asked me why I wanted to study philosophy. I was evasive. Finally I admitted that a lot of the books I loved had been written by philosophers and philosophy professors. Plus, one of my favorite books at the time, a book I’d read and reread since I was a teenager, was Hermann Hesse’s Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game, which unabashedly romanticized the life of the professor.

“Be practical. Books are dangerous things,” my brother warned me. “Just because it’s on paper, you think it’s true. Moneylove was one of the most damaging books I ever read. Not to mention How to Win Friends & Influence People.” (I should probably mention that my brother is a very successful luxury jeweler, who continues to love money and, as Dale Carnegie instructs, to “make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.”) This wasn’t what I wanted to hear, so I called my dad, at that time a broke New Age guru and sex therapist living in Jupiter, Florida—not exactly the oracle of Delphi, and not someone whose advice I usually followed. “Every doctor I know is miserable, son,” he told me. “They work all the time and complain about insurance companies.” (Not much has changed since 1988.) “Be a professor. You’ll never be rich, but you’ll be doing what you love: reading and writing. You get summers off. It’s a good life.

Note that my father didn’t say the good life, which is how a philosophically minded adviser might have put it to me—except that philosophy in America in the 1980s and ’90s seemed to be losing its way in dry, scholastic debates about the most lifeless of topics (what is the meaning of and?). But he told me what I wanted to hear, and a quarter century later, philosophy is making the kind of comeback that leaves a Hermann Hesse groupie glad to have headed for graduate school and ended up with tenure. Amid hand-wringing about the decline of the humanities, the philosopher (and novelist) Rebecca Newberger Goldstein can write a book like Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away, confident that she’ll find readers eager to turn to philosophers for help in thinking about the meaning of life and how best to live it. Books like Sarah Bakewell’s wildly popular study of Montaigne, How to Live, and the successful New York Times blog The Stone, back her up, as does the Harper’s column Ars Philosopha (full disclosure: I am a frequent contributor to the last).
We are deluged with information; the scientific method produces new discoveries every day. But what does all that mean for us?

But Goldstein wisely doesn’t take philosophy’s revival for granted in a culture committed to an increasingly materialistic worldview—materialistic in the philosophical sense, meaning convinced that the scientific study of matter in motion holds the answers to all our questions. The impetus for Goldstein’s ingenious, entertaining, and challenging new book is the theoretical version of the very practical problem I confronted when I graduated from college: Now that we have science, do we really need philosophy? Doesn’t science “bake bread” (not to mention make money) in a way that philosophy never has? Science is responsible for the grand upward march of civilization—so we are often told—but what accomplishments can philosophy claim?

In praise of Plato, the 20th-century philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once wrote, “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” But this, as Goldstein points out, is precisely what might make us worry about philosophy as a discipline:
Those predisposed to dismiss philosophy—some of my best friends—might hear in Whitehead’s kudos to Plato a well-aimed jeer at philosophy’s expense. That an ancient Greek could still command contemporary relevance, much less the supremacy Whitehead claimed for him, does not speak well for the field’s rate of progress.

Or does it? The question that Goldstein’s book sets out to consider is what we mean by progress, and also what we mean by meaning. Her goal is to do more than prove how relevant philosophy still is. She aims to reveal how many of our most pressing questions simply aren’t better answered elsewhere. Much of what we take for progress delivers answers that miss the point, distort issues, ignore complications, and may be generated by badly formulated questions in the first place. Goldstein also wants to show us that figuring out how to live a meaningful life is something very different from understanding the meaning of special relativity or evolution. We are deluged with information; we know how to track down facts in seconds; the scientific method produces new discoveries every day. But what does all that mean for us? As the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard observed:
Whatever the one generation may learn from the other, that which is genuinely human no generation learns from the foregoing … Thus, no generation has learned from another to love, no generation begins at any other point than at the beginning, no generation has a shorter task assigned to it than had the previous generation.

Another way to put it might be that every generation could use a Plato to tackle those genuinely human lessons. That is the creative, verging on wacky, premise that has inspired Goldstein’s approach to demonstrating why philosophy won’t (and had better not) go away. She transports Plato into the 21st century and, adopting his own preferred literary form, puts him into fictional dialogue with a variety of contemporary characters. As Socrates was for Plato—the great philosophical interlocutor, living in literary form—so Plato becomes for Goldstein. She ratchets up the entertainment value (this isn’t ancient Athens!), eager for drama and topical issues. Plato is put through his paces with an array of in-your-face conversation partners, from a smart if smarmy young employee at Google, to several experts on child-rearing, to a “no-bull” cable-TV talking head, to a neuroscientist. This sounds dangerously facile and cute, but Goldstein mostly pulls it off, cleverly weaving passages directly from Plato’s dialogues into her own.

Goldstein’s Plato, like Socrates before him, is less interested in teaching those with whom he converses than he is in helping them see that they don’t know what they think they know. In sending Plato to Google, Goldstein deftly exposes the conceptual presumption at the heart of what looks like the latest high-tech methodology. On his visit with the new masters of gathering human knowledge, Plato considers a (fictional) algorithm they have developed called the Ethical Answers Search Engine, or ease, which does just what its name suggests: it crowdsources answers to ethical problems, the same way businesses now employ crowdsourcing to predict political outcomes and stock-market fluctuations, or to select marketing strategies.

But ethical solutions are not as, well, easy as the search engine might have its users believe. Plato points out that ease uses a preferential ordering system, so its designers have already begged the philosophical question: they have built into their design their own ideas about what the good life looks like. Furthermore, ease assumes that the crowd will collectively possess greater knowledge about moral matters than an expert will—but when it comes to the hardest questions, is that the case? After all, most of us would admit we don’t know what the good life is—that’s why we turn to philosophers—so why would we trust a crowd of strangers who are likely just as confused about morality as we are?
Philosophy, at its best, probably doesn’t have to progress that much, because the most-difficult and most-important human problems don’t change that much.

Plato certainly did not think the crowd was a reliable source of ethical insight. It was the crowd, after all, who put Socrates to death. And one of Socrates’s favorite moves in Plato’s dialogues is to expose moral amateurism for the confused amalgam it is. Plato never managed to say exactly what counted as ethical expertise, but in Theaetetus and elsewhere, he has Socrates successfully undermine the moral relativism that was as popular and incoherent in fourth-century-b.c. Athens as it is today. In a similar spirit, Goldstein has Plato reduce his Google interlocutor to a sweaty, defensive mess after 30 or so pages. The whiz kid realizes that behind his clear-cut, ease-derived answers lie dilemmas that demand a kind of pondering his sorting program can’t begin to manage. At one point, for example, Plato’s media escort remarks, “We don’t do slavery,” a view that any crowdsourcing approach would endorse. ease might get it right sometimes: the moral prohibition against slavery that emerged in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries is surely an example of philosophical progress. But ease can’t explain why it gets it right. And we expect more from truth than just collective agreement—because we often collectively agree in morally mistaken ways.

Like Socrates in the dialogues, Plato emerges from the Googleplex unflustered, looking “more than ever like he was carved in marble, sitting so still and staring so intently,” eager to investigate further. At first it struck me as odd that Goldstein’s Plato didn’t experience more culture shock in his American travels, but his aplomb is crucial to the point she’s trying to make—which echoes Kierkegaard’s. Philosophy, at its best, probably doesn’t have to progress that much, because the most-difficult and most-important human problems don’t change that much. The quest for answers bumps up against obstacles that don’t seem to diminish. And now as ever, the quest benefits from—as Goldstein’s Plato says, cribbing from Meno when he joins a panel discussion on the topic of “How to Raise an Exceptional Child”—“the teacher who [knows] how to ask the right questions and awakens in his mind a love for the beauty of logical connections.”

Goldstein, like Plato, is at her strongest when showing us that some questions just won’t go away. But she’s not about to deny philosophy plenty of credit for coming up with its share of answers, too—and for setting scientists on their way in searching for theirs. The list of philosophical leaps is impressive: most notable, perhaps, is the 17th-century idea of individual rights. Goldstein reminds us that virtually every scientific area of inquiry began with a question or an insight from a philosopher. Democritus proposed the atom; Ionian philosophers invented what we now think of as the scientific method; Aristotle founded biology. In mathematics and physics, she observes, the metaphysical problems considered by Plato are still being debated.

My brother was wrong, of course. Books often do tell the truth, as I learned long ago when I read Magister Ludi and was seduced by sentences like this one: “This same eternal idea, which for us has been embodied in the Glass Bead Game, has underlain every movement of Mind toward the ideal goal of a universitas litterarum, every Platonic academy … every effort toward reconciliation between science and art or science and religion.” The eternal idea here is philosophy. Goldstein is with Hermann Hesse. Philosophy doesn’t merely tell us about the subjective, leaving the objective world to science. For Goldstein, who has also written splendidly on such highly abstract thinkers as Spinoza and Gödel, the finest scientific thinking will always be driven and informed by the philosophical spirit. The grand forward push of human knowledge requires each of us to begin by trying to think independently, to recognize that knowledge is more than information, to see that we are moral beings who must closely interrogate both ourselves and the world we inhabit—to live, as Socrates recommended, an examined life. Clancy Martin

Nigel Warburton (@philosophybites)
An interview with Rebecca Newberger Goldstein aka @platobooktour conatusnews.com/interview-with…@ConatusNews
RNG: "I had four interrelated goals [in Plato at the Googleplex]. The first was to put forward an original theory as to why the ancient Greeks were responsible for inventing the field of philosophy. Their society was saturated with religious rituals, but when it came to the question of how to live our lives, they didn’t look to their gods but rather to a secular grounding. This doesn’t mean that they were a culture of philosophers. There never has been a society of philosophers! And, of course, Athens sentenced Socrates to die. But the pre-conditions for philosophy were created in their secular approach to the big questions, and I was interested in exploring this aspect. The second goal was to explain Plato in the context of the wider Greek culture. The third goal was to demonstrate that progress has been made in philosophy, and to demonstrate this by going back to the inception of Western philosophy and uncovering presuppositions that had been instrumental in getting the whole process of critical reasoning going but which critical reasoning had, in its progress, invalidated. I was concerned to demonstrate in the book that progress in philosophy tends to be invisible because it penetrates so deeply down into our conceptual frameworks—both epistemological and ethical. We don’t see it, because we see with it. And the fourth goal was to demonstrate that the kinds of questions Plato introduced, philosophical questions, are still vitally important to us, and to demonstrate this, I interspersed the expository chapters with new Platonic dialogues, injecting Plato into contemporary settings. The first place I bring him to is the Googleplex in Mountainview CA, the headquarters of Google International, where he gets into a discussion with a software engineer on whether philosophy makes progress. I also have him on a panel of child-rearing experts, including a tiger mum. Then I bring him to a cable news set, where he’s interviewed by a rabble-rousing blowhard; they discuss the role of reason in the public square. The last dialogue has him getting a brain scan and engaging the neuroscientists on the question of whether neuroscience dissolves the notions of personal identity and moral responsibility. I’d produced these dialogues as a bit of fun to enliven my points, but it was this aspect of the book that got all of the attention from reviewers."

What Defines Good and Evil?

What do we really mean when we use these simplistic terms, ‘good’ and ‘evil’? ‘Good’ means a lack of centeredness. It means the ability to empathize with other people, to feel compassion for them, and to put their needs before your own. It means, if necessary, sacrificing your own well-being for the sake of others’. It means benevolence, altruism and selflessness, and self-sacrifice towards a greater cause - all qualities which stem from a sense of empathy.
‘Evil’ people are those who are unable to empathize with others. As a result, their own needs and desires are of paramount importance. They are selfish, self-absorbed and narcissistic. In fact, other people only have value for them to the extent that they can help them satisfy their own desires, or to which they can exploit them. Overall, their primary characteristic is an inability to empathize with others. 

Hypocrisy? H01

  This past Sunday (a week from Halloween and the day of The Walking Dead season seven premiere), my aunt informed me of the sermon preached at the church she, my father, and my brother attend. In short, the pastor spoke of the history of Halloween as well as forms of entertainment coinciding with the holiday, such as The Walking Dead, Twilight, and etc., encouraging everyone to reevaluate what they are watching. According to him, television shows, movies, and books that emphasize death- Christians should be emphasizing life- are not good influences in living a Christian life. While he didn’t demand these things forbidden, he heavily implied that they should be removed. Agreeing with the pastor, my aunt (a big fan of Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black) added that her children wouldn’t be watching or reading television shows or books, such as The Walking Dead or Harry Potter because of the material it portrays and she didn’t want her children to be frightened when they went to bed at night.
  My first reaction: WOW. I was livid. When I was a kid, the thing that scared me the most was not a fictional form of entertainment, but the fiery pits of hell. Every night, my mom helped me recite a prayer, “..and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take..” Dying in my sleep and living an eternal life in Satan’s domain, utterly terrified me. Of course, anyone has the right to watch or listen to whatever they want and I respect that, but this particular situation as a whole just seems hypocritical. 

P.S. TWD S7 E1 was awesome... although I am still emotionally unstable. 

Free-Speech Conference

The free-speech conference I attended at the James Union Building was immensely intriguing and starkly alarming. It had never really occurred to me just how fragile the nature of campus freedom of speech really was. The most inspiring quote I can recall from the conference was, with regards to the preacher who was on campus a couple days ago speaking of hellfire and "whorish" activity, "We should not be afraid of a man with a microphone." What I attained from the experience was that the continuous fluctuation between the various positions on the political compass is what furthers the country towards an improved future whilst maintaining the core freedoms, particularly those laid out by the 1st amendment. The potentiality of future movements for important issues like the Civil Rights Movement is contingent with these freedoms keeping it's core values.

Go Ahead, Believe in What You Can't See (H1)

I decided to start this weekly short essay question with a quick internet search. That search led me to the idea that plenty of people believe in things that they cannot necessarily prove or see. One website had a list of ten, many of which I found interesting. Those ten were: Aliens, Astrology, Cryptids, Ghosts, Psychic Mediums, Karma, Intuition, Fate, Religious Texts, and God. I find myself believing in quite a few of these things. For example, what this website calls intuition, is your gut feeling. You ever catch yourself in a situation where you need to make a decision, but you are at a loss as to which choice to make? A lot of people believe that when you have a gut feeling in one direction, that's some higher universal power telling you that your decision is correct. We've all used it, whether in that situation or when to decide if you should trust someone or not. There's no verifiable proof to it, there's just a deep-rooted feeling.

Is there anything wrong with this idea of believing in what you cannot see? No, there's not. We are human beings. We are infinitely beautiful and complex creatures. Some beliefs may seem silly or odd, but they make us who we are.  If every person only believed in concrete ideas, that would crush creativity and ideas and actions. Beliefs lead to action. Without them, we aren't who we were created to be. So go ahead and believe in what you can't see, you'll be better because of it. 

The Pursuit of Pleasure (h1)

It is basic nature for one to pursue the path which leads to achieving their personal pleasures. In fact, this nature is one of the leading principles behind capitalism, one can pursue their desires and anyone has the chance at achieving what they want. Whether a person pursues taking a bath, eating foods, spending time with their family instead of working, or their personal strive towards fame and fortune.  This is often constructive and beneficial for people in the allowance of work equals reward, however, there are sometimes when one's personal pleasures do not assist the greater good.

If someone is greedy and exploits those around them to achieve their goals in a harmful manner, should they pursue their own personal pleasure? This type of behavior is encouraged by capitalism but it left to the moral review of people's pleasures in order to decide if it should be pursued.

Many times one's personal pleasures do not directly conflict with the greater good, however, in cases in which it does, it takes the better person to sacrifice their own pleasure for the greater good of others, However, it is the fundamental idea behind our nation's economy, that if one is able, the personal pleasure of their own can be outweighed from that of those around them.

Blocked Thought

      I often struggle with losing my train of thought or not being able to complete a paper because I can not seem to think of anything else to write. When i lose my train of thought in the middle of speaking with others I generally wait and struggle to remember what I was going to say. I start by going back through what all was said in the conversation and attempt to remember where my place in the conversation was going. Often times I am able to regain my train of thought. There are also other instances when specific words can not formulate in my mind. These instances are harder to recover from. When it comes to whole ideas being blocked when I am on my own I generally "give up". I walk away from whatever I am working on and focus on other aspects. I have come to realize that these blocks generally happened when I have been to focused on or stressed about one thing. So, to me, these blocks are my minds way of reminding me that I have other worries and responsibilities. It is also my minds way of making me take a break and relieve some of my stress. I actually have not had one of these types of blocks in quiet some time. I have begun to switch between tasks and time my day in a more balanced manner. I no longer spend hours on any one aspect of learning. I switch between homework, work, adult responsibilities, and down time. I am generally always doing something, but I am never doing one thing very long. (H1)

This episode of Crash Course Philosophy talks about William James. He's a little more than halfway through the video.

It's neat because it talks about William James' conditions for belief without evidence. He still thought that if evidence exists, you should look for it. That seems to refute Russell's Columbus example. There is evidence Columbus sailed in 1492, so I feel like James would still think believing otherwise would be irresponsible.

 I really liked his idea of live, forced, and momentous beliefs. And while I do believe that religion is not entirely a forced belief like James insisted (that is, I agree with Russell that there are more options than complete belief and complete disbelief), I think that set of criteria is a pretty good one.

The philosopher discussed first in the video, W. K. Clifford, says there is no such thing as a private belief. We all affect one another with our words, with our actions. It's scary, but neat.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

(H1) To Disagree or Not to Disagree

Because we live in the marvelous land of the free, one of the rights we are blessed with is that of the freedom of speech. While this allows us to freely express our thoughts without the government censoring us or locking us up, this does not mean that we are not subjected to the court of public opinion and that we are protected from people disagreeing with us, loudly and vocally.
Recently on campus, this right to the freedom of speech has been used by a few men to express their views regarding religion and the fact that we are all going to Hell. Now since there are people on campus who disagree with them, they also have the right to express their views. But is it really best to voice this dissent to these men? There's a theory in psychology that when people actively discourage the views of someone, that person becomes more set in what they believe in. This is what drives organizations like the Westboro Baptist Church and likewise what drives these men.
So voicing your dissent against people like these to their faces, especially if you do it forcefully, just drives them to continue their hate-filled speech. So should we really confront these people? While we are driven to want to "correct" these people and move them to our side, we just fuel their own thoughts. Maybe we should look for calmer and more reasonable methods to try and effect change in these people, such as through the act of trying to ignore them. But this method will never work unless everyone does this as a collective, and human nature makes this nearly impossible.
Either way, while we may agree with some and disagree with others, what is really the right method to go about confronting people and trying to change strongly-held thoughts and opinions?

HellFire H01

I feel that many people are probably going to talk about this during their essay, so I figured my two cents in as well.

If any of you miraculously missed it, there has been two gentlemen posted up in front of the Student Union for most of the week blatantly screaming that every single one of us students are going to Hell for some reason or another, and God doesn't listen to us because we are all sinners, and so on and on.

If you did happen to miss him, you are a blessed and lucky soul.

I just feel that this person has literally sought us out to yell and claim that he is spreading the message. Now, I'm not Christian, but he is what gives Christians a bad rap. I know for a fact that literally 98.75% of what he is saying is absolutely false and has no grounds in the Bible or any other modern religion for that matter. Listening to this man speak has honestly made me lose brain cells this week and it reminded me of the cave analogy.

This man honestly believes that what he is doing is educating us all and enlightening us. He believes we are in a cave of sin and his belligerent and ignorant words of hate and hellfire are teaching us and showing us a new world. Yet, these people who are hearing his message are hearing only hate and not the love that we should be shown.

Is what he is doing good or bad? This is the question that shows up again and again in this class. Perhaps some philosophers would claim that what he is doing is good, as he is trying to spread what he believes to be 'truth.' On a more realistic side, can you see any good from belittling and telling hundreds and thousands of young adults daily that they shall soon be punished?

I just want to have a sit down with this man, no chaos and no screaming, to see why it is that he feels what he is doing is for the greatest good of society.

The Purpose of Hate Speech

    On our campus this week, a group has been shouting ignorant nonsense outside of the Student Union that has gathered large crowds of students and started a heavy debate about free speech and how far it should go. There's a very slim minority who want him here but I may be a part of the slim minority that says "If he wants to speak, let him speak".
    As a pro-choice queer person, the epitome of what they seem to be preaching against, it's very important that those people are able to have a voice. A consequence of free speech is having to hear opinions and dialogue that you don't like, but if America wants to call itself the Land of the Free, we have to allow them a voice whether we like it or not. The great thing, however, about all this violent speech that would normally bother me on a personal level, for every one person screaming homophobic ideals, there were hundreds of students against them. It was honestly heart-warming to see all of these students come together to love one another and created a reminder that all these hateful views are outdated and unpopular. The more this man shouts, the less people will take him seriously. He has said some very offensive things, not only to me but to many other students, but no matter what he says it only makes him less respected and his voice not important. So for a few days I will bear through a single man or group shouting from a megaphone about how I am worthless and repulsive if it reinforces that his opinions don't matter while still upholding the concept of free speech that makes America so great.

Who Creates the Standards for what is Good/Bad?

            While it would be nice if we could put things in boxes of “good” and “bad,” I believe there is a large grey area between the two. It seems that Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mills had a limited perception on the matter. Mills held the opinion that pleasure is the only thing desired, therefore pleasure is the only thing desirable. Bentham said that pleasure is good, and pain is bad. These are hard statement to completely agree with, as there are many situations in which the idea of what is “pleasurable” may be questioned.
Most of us spend our lives surrounding ourselves with the friends, family, activities, and jobs that are most pleasurable to us. We do, generally, seek out the things that are personally most desirable to us. However, we are also aware that the things we personally view as pleasurable may not be viewed as pleasurable by somebody else. A question of morality comes in to play here. Should we be willing to sacrifice our own pleasure in order to help someone else achieve theirs? Is the satisfaction of helping someone else pleasurable in itself? Is there a universal standard for what is good and what is bad? The idea of “pleasure” is abstract, and depends heavily on the situation at hand.

Mills and Bentham’s views on pleasure are true to an extent, but have many flaws on a larger scale. Who decides what is pleasurable? Is there really any way to measure it? These views work as general statements, but fail when applied to more difficult circumstances.

Study Guide for Exam 2

I've filled the answers to the best of my ability, but please post answers to the ones that are blank.

Quiz 1 (3/4)
·       How does Spinoza differ from Descartes on the question of "substance"?
o   Spinoza says there is only one substance, and that is God. Descartes believes in two kinds of substance, thinking and extended.
·       Spinoza rejects free will, but still thinks we can be free "in proportion as" what?
o   Infinity
·       How does Spinoza differ from the Stoics?
o   He does not object to all emotion, just “passions”
·       What can Russell not accept in Spinoza's view of misfortune?
o   The idea that events become different by absorption in a whole.
·       Who caricatured Leibniz as Doctor Pangloss?
·       How does Leibniz differ from Descartes and Spinoza on the question of "substance"?
·       How might a Manichaean retort to Leibniz?
·       What kinds of walks are "essential to alternate"?
o   Urban and country walks
·       What kind of mind achieves the greatest discoveries and joys on a stroll?
o   Child-like/Innocent

Quiz 2 (12/13)
·       What two kinds of perceptions did Hume distinguish?
o   Impressions and Ideas
·       What is the importance for metaphysics, theology, and knowledge of Hume's discussion of the Self?
o   Gets rid of the last surviving use of substance. Abolishes all supposed knowledge of the soul. Category of subject/object is not fundamental.
·       What does Hume say it means for something to cause something else?
o   2 objects are constantly conjoined.
·       What was the subject of Rousseau's prize-winning essay?
o   Have arts and sciences contributed to purify morals
·       How does Rousseau describe the human condition in the opening of his Social Contract?
o   Man is born free
·       What does Rousseau say should happen to those who disobey the "general will"?
o   Shall be forced to obey
·       What is distinctive about walking at age 16 or 20?
o   Only desire was to reach the end of the journey
·       What was Rousseau trying to identify in himself, in his long walks?
o   The natural man
·       Walking is reconciling yourself to what?
o   Your finiteness

Quiz 3 (17/18)
·       What did Kant do every day with such predictable regularity that his neighbors were said to have set their watches by it?
o   His constitutional
·       What are space and time, for Kant, if not concepts?
o   Subjection; supplies the concepts of how we understand experience
·       What famous phrase did Kant introduce in his Metaphysic of Morals to distinguish his view from utilitarianism?
o   “A completely isolate metaphysic of morals, which is not mixed with any theology or physics or hyperphysics.”
·       Who was the Galileo and Newton of the 19th century?
o   Darwin
·       What did Hegel consider unreal or illusory?
o   Separateness
·       What does Russell say freedom meant for Hegel?
o   The right to obey the law
·       What concerns did Kant share with Nietzsche?
o   The importance of a walk, and what he should eat
·       What impresses Gros about Kant?
o   Iron discipline

Quiz 4 (19/20)
·       To whom does Schopenhauer most appeal?
o   Artistic and literary people in search of a believable philosophy (young romantics)
·       What did Schopenhauer do for two hours every day?
o   Walked his dog
·       What did Schopenhauer consider the "thing-in-itself"?
o   The will
·       With what did Nietzsche accuse Socrates of corrupting the youth of Athens?
o   Democratic moral bias (democracy)
·       What view of J.S. Mill's did Nietzsche consider "vulgar"?
o   If things are good for anyone, it’s good for everyone
·       What human possibility does Russell say did not occur to Nietzsche?
o   A person should generally feel universal love
·       How was walking different for Nietzsche than for Kant?
o   N- not a distraction from work, but a necessity for work
·       Who wrote the first philosophic treatise on walking?
o   Thoreau
·       Why does Gros say you should you replace reading the news with a walk?
o   Rather than focusing on change, walking focuses on the new

Quiz 5 (24/25)
·       How did Bentham define good and bad?
o   Good is pleasure/happiness and bad is plain (to assign numbers)
·       What fallacious argument does Russell attribute to John Stuart Mill?
o   “Pleasure is the only thing desired, therefore it is the only thing desirable”
·       How does Nietzsche's ethic differ from utilitarianism?
o   Holds that only a minority of the population are ethical (few over many)
·       What was Hegel's influence on Marx, and how did Marx totally disagree with Hegel?
o   Marx- believed in evolution of species and society, disagreed in driving force- matter not spirit, dialectical materialist
·       What did Marx say is philosophy's real task?
o   Alter the world
·       What does walking sometimes let you feel, momentarily?
o   The elemental- the primary and primitive layer

Quiz 6 (26/27)
·       Russell credits James's book on what subject with "the highest possible excellence"?
·       Russell says James persuaded him of the truth of what doctrine?
·       What is the function of philosophy, according to James?
·       In what area does Russell say Dewey's influence was profound?
·       Whose philosophy influenced Dewey in his youth, and how did he move away from it?
·       What was Peirce's definition of truth? What concept did Dewey substitute for truth?
·       What did Montaigne say the mind needs for stimulation?

·       What is a lung-gom-pa?