Up@dawn 2.0

Friday, March 24, 2017

Quiz Mar 28, Assignment Mar 30

T 28 - Montaigne, Descartes, & Pascal, LH 11-12
Also recommended: (How to Live, ch1); LISTEN Sarah Bakewell on Michel de Montaigne (PB); A.C. Grayling on Descartes' Cogito (PB); WATCHMontaigne(SoL); Descartes (HI) Reports conclude-all remaining groups.

Th 30 - no class, I have another out-of-town conference (the last this semester, I promise). ASSIGNMENT: read LH 13-14, post 250+words on Spinoza, Locke, &/or Reid

1. What state of mind, belief, or knowledge was Descartes' Method of Doubt supposed to establish? OR, What did Descartes seek that Pyrrho spurned?

2. Did Descartes claim to know (at the outset of his "meditations") that he was not dreaming?

3. What strange and mythic specter did Gilbert Ryle compare to Descartes' dualism of mind and body? ("The ____ in the ______.")
4. Pascal's best-known book is _____.

5. Pascal's argument for believing in God is called ________.

6. Pascal thought if you gamble on God and lose, "you lose ______."

7. (T/F) By limiting his "wager" to a choice between either Christian theism or atheism, says Nigel Warburton, Pascal excludes too many other possible bets. 

BONUS QUESTIONS (See "recommended" above)
  • Sarah Bakewell says Montaigne's first answer to the question "How to live?" is: "Don't worry about _____."
  • What was Montaigne's "near death experience," and what did it teach him?
  • Montaigne said "my mind will not budge unless _____."
  • What pragmatic American philosopher was Descartes' "most practical critic"?
  • (T/F) A.C. Grayling thinks that, because Descartes was so wrong about consciousness and the mind-body problem, he cannot be considered a historically-important philosopher.
  • What skeptical slogan did Montaigne inscribe on the ceiling of his study?

How do you know you're awake and not dreaming? Is it meaningful to say "life is but a dream"? (And again: "Inception" - ?!)

Are you essentially identical with or distinct from your body (which includes your brain)? If distinct, who/what/where are you? How do you know? Can you prove it? OR, Do you believe in immaterial spirits? Can you explain how it is possible for your (or anyone's) material senses to perceive them?
  • At what age do you hope to retire? What will you do with yourself then? Will you plan to spend more time thinking?
  • Have you had a near-death experience, or known someone who did? What did it teach you/them? How often does the thought occur to you that you're always one misstep (or fall, or driving mistake) away from death?
  • What have you learned, so far, about "how to live"? Have you formulated any life-lessons based on personal experience, inscribed any slogans, written down any "rules"?
  • Do you agree that, contrary to Pascal, most nonreligious people would consider it a huge sacrifice to devote their lives to religion? Why?
  • Is the choice between God and no-god 50/50, like a coin toss? How would you calculate the odds? At what point in the calculation do you think it becomes prudent to bet on God? Or do you reject this entire approach? Why?
  • Is there anything you know or believe that you could not possibly be mistaken about, or cannot reasonably doubt? If so, what? How do you know it? If not, is that a problem for you?

Old posts-

It’s the birthday (Feb. 28) of essayist Michel de Montaigne (books by this author), born in Périgord, in Bordeaux, France (1533). He is considered by many to be the creator of the personal essay, in which he used self-portrayal as a mirror of humanity in general. Writers up to the present time have imitated his informal, conversational style. He said, “The highest of wisdom is continual cheerfulness: such a state, like the region above the moon, is always clear and serene.” WA
Montaigne in The Stone...
  1. The Essayification of Everything

    “How to Live,” Sarah Bakewell’s elegant portrait of Montaigne, the 16th-century patriarch of the genre, and an edited volume by Carl H. Klaus and Ned Stuckey-French called “Essayists on the Essay: Montaigne...
  2. Of Cannibals, Kings and Culture: The Problem of Ethnocentricity

    In August of 1563, Michel de Montaigne, the famous French essayist, was introduced to three Brazilian cannibals who were visiting Rouen, France, at the invitation of King Charles the Ninth. The three men had never before left...
  3. What's Wrong With Philosophy?

    getting on board a student’s own agenda. Sometimes understanding is best reached when we expend our skeptical faculties, as Montaigne did, on our own beliefs, our own opinions. If debate is meant to be a means to truth — an idea...
  4. Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene

    questions have no logical or empirical answers. They are philosophical problems par excellence. Many thinkers, including Cicero, Montaigne, Karl Jaspers, and The Stone’s own Simon Critchley, have argued that studying philosophy is...

Old posts-
Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Montaigne was originally scheduled for just before our Spring Break, but it got a jump-start week before last. Looked like a snow-globe out there for awhile. Now, it's practically Spring!

Older Daughter and I went and did what we'd been talking about doing for years, now that her Break and mine finally coincided: went to Florida's Grapefruit League Spring Training! Day after day of waking to 72 degrees, on the way to high 80s. Baseball and bliss.

But that was then. Now, Montaigne (& Bakewell on How to Live acc'ing to M)...

One good way to live, he thought, was by writing and reflecting on our many uncertainties. Embracing and celebrating them, in fact. That makes him an anti-Descartes, a happy and humane modern skeptic.

One thing we know for sure is the historical timelineMontaigne comes first, but since I always introduce him as the anti-Descartes he rarely gets top billing. The late Robert Solomon did the same thing. Not fair, for a guy who gave us the essay and (as Sarah Bakewell says) is so much "fun" to read. Unlike Descartes he was a true skeptic (again though, not so far over the cliff as Pyrrho) and "quite happy to live with that." His slogan was Que sçais-je?

Montaigne retired in his mid-30s to think and write, and ponder what must have felt to him (ever since his unplanned equine-dismounting event) like ever-looming mortality. He inscribed the beams of his study with many of his favorite quotes, including "nothing human is foreign to me" and "the only certainty is that nothing is certain."

Some of Montaigne's life-lessons and rules for how to live, as decoded by Sarah Bakewell: Don't worry about death; Pay attention; Question everything; Be convivial; Reflect on everything, regret nothing; Give up control; Be ordinary and imperfect; Let life be its own answer.

Montaigne leaps from the page as mindful, both ruminative and constantly attentive to the present moment. He has good advice for the walker. "When I walk alone in the beautiful orchard, if my thoughts have been dwelling on extraneous incidents for some part of the time, for some other part I bring them back to the walk, to the orchard, to the sweetness of this solitude, and to me."

Sarah Bakewell quotes Montaigne, disabusing us of the false image of him "brooding" in his tower. He was a peripatetic, too: "My thoughts fall asleep if I make them sit down. My mind will not budge unless my legs move it." So, like Emerson he might have said "my books are in my library but my study is outdoors."

There's just something irresistibly alluring about the candid and disarming familiarity of his tone, that's drawn readers to this original essayist for four and a half centuries and obliterates the long interval between him and us. He makes uncertainty fun.

"The highest of wisdom is continual cheerfulness"...

[Montaigne @dawn... M on Self-esteem (deB)... M quotes... M's beam inscriptions... M "In Our Time" (BBC)...M's tower...M's Essays...]

Also today, we'll consider the philosophical status of science. Montaigne the fallible skeptic actually had a better handle on it than Descartes, the self-appointed defender of scientific certainty. That's because science is a trial-and-error affair, making "essays" or attempts at evidence/-based understanding through observation, prediction, and test, but always retreating happily to the drawing board when conjectures meet refutation.

To answer some of my own DQs today:

Q: Are there any "authorities" (personal, textual, political, religious, institutional, traditional...) to whom you always and automatically defer? Can you justify this, intellectually or ethically? A: I don't think so. Whenever I feel a deferential impulse coming on I remind myself of the Emerson line about young men in libraries...

Q: Can you give an example of something you believe on the basis of probability, something else you believe because it has to be true (= follows necessarily from other premises you accept as true), and something you believe because you think it's the "best explanation")? Do you think most of your beliefs conform to one or another of these kinds of explanation? A: Hmmm... The sun will probably rise within the hour. I'm mortal. Life evolves. Yes.

Q: Do you think science makes genuine progress? Does it gradually give us a better, richer account of the natural world and our place in it? Is there a definite correlation between technology and scientific understanding? Do you think there is anything that cannot or should not be studied scientifically? Why? A: Yes, yes, yes, no. Science is a flawed instrument, because the humans who practice it are finite and fallible; but we have nothing to take its place. We shouldn't be scientistic, to the neglect of all the other tools in our kit (including poetry, literature, history, humor), but we definitely should be as scientific as we can.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Rene Descartes, not at all (Pythons notwithstanding) a "drunken fart," simply wanted to know what he could know for certain. He asked his version of the Howard Baker question. (The majority of students in my Tennessee classrooms could not identify the statesman-Senator when asked, the other day. Sigh.)

His skepticism was methodological, his goal was indubitable certainty. This, he thought, would serve the new science well. He misunderstood the self-correcting, probabilistic, fallibilistic nature of empirical reasoning. But most philosophers still think it’s worth wondering: how do you know you’re not dreaming, not being deceived by a demon or by your senses, not mistaking your own essential nature?

Still, cogito ergo sum overrates intellect. You don’t have to think, to demonstrate your existence. You just have to do something… even, as an old grad school pal used to say, if it’s wrong. (NOTE TO CLASS: I flip-flopped Descartes and his predecessor Montaigne, the anti-Descartes, on our syllabus: Descartes before the horse M. fell off of.)

Descartes' different aspects - mathematician, scientist, Catholic etc. - might suggest his split allegiance between Teams Aristotle and Plato. Both would probably like to claim him. I think he belongs with the armchair Platonists.
Reducing the operations of the universe to a series of lines,circles, numbers, and equations suited his reclusive personality. His most famous saying, “I think, therefore Iam” (cogito, ergo sum), could be stated less succinctly but more accurately as 'Because we are the only beings who do math, we rule.'
For Descartes, the essence of mind is to think, and the essence of matter is to exist-and the two never meet... we are the ghosts in the machine: souls in a world machine that operates inexorably and impersonally according to the laws of geometry and mechanics, while we operate the levers and spin the dials." The Cave and the Light

I usually think of Charles Sanders Peirce as Descartes’ most practical critic, and I agree with him that a contrived and methodological doubt is not the best starting place in philosophy.

But it occurs to me that an even more practical alternative to what I consider the misguided Cartesian quest for certainty is old Ben Franklin’s Poore Richard. His is not armchair wisdom, it comes straight from the accumulated experience of the folk. Some of that “common sense” is too common, but plenty is dead-on. “Early to bed, early to rise…” has definitely worked for me.

Still, says A.C. Grayling, "we may disagree with Descartes that the right place to start is with the private data of consciousness" rather than the shared world of language and common experience; but even if he was wrong he was "powerfully, interestingly, and importantly wrong." Russell concurs.

The thing is, the quest for certainty in philosophy tends to go hand-in-glove with the assertion of rational necessity. That, in turn, courts determinism and fatalism. Do we really want to rubber-stamp everything that happens as fated, not free? Hobbes (the contractarian and the cat) did. Calvin learned not to.

Is there anything we know or believe that we could not possibly be mistaken about, or cannot reasonably doubt? Certainly not, speaking at least for myself. But I'm next to certain that I'm more-or-less awake, at this hour, as the coffee drains.

I'm also pretty darn sure that I am (and do not "have") a body/brain. When I think of who, what, and where I am, though, the answer is interestingly complicated by all my relations (I don't just mean my familial relations): I am inclusive of a past and a future (though it keeps shrinking), and of wherever my influence (for better or worse) manages to stretch. I am vitally related by experience (actual, virtual, vicarious, possible, personal, interpersonal) to points far and wide. And, to actual physical objects in the extended world - not merely to possibilities of familiar object-like patterns of perception, as the phenomenalist has it. I'm not trapped in my skin, and we are definitely not alone in a solipsistic universe. Like Dr. Johnson, contra Berkeley, I find the pain in my toes (or hips) decidedly more substantial than an immaterial idea.

Or ghost.

I don't believe in ghosts, except metaphorically. (I am haunted by opportunities missed, possibilities unnnoticed, diems uncarped.) But most of my metaphorical spooks are Casperishly friendly (albeit incoherent, dualistically speaking). This is true of most people who read and think a lot, isn't it? We're in constant, happy communion with the dead, the remote, and the prospective members of our continuous human community. Books transport us to their realms, and to the great undiscovered country of our future.

Thursday, March 19, 2015
Pascal & the mind

Somewhere in Walden Thoreau says something about needing a little water in his world, to provide a reflective glimpse of eternity. He also has things to say to today's headliner Pascal, about not being cowed by the scale of the cosmos. Pascal famously confessed: "the eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me." (No wonder he was frightened, say J & M.) Henry said, in reply to neighbors who wondered if he wasn't lonely out there by the lake in the woods:"Why should I feel lonely? is not our planet in the Milky Way?" Unlike his French predecessor, our transcendentalist was at home in the universe. He was less so, sadly, in the society of his peers.

Trivial pop-culture factoid: last night on "Madam Secretary," the husband (a teacher)mentioned Pascal.

Less trivially, Voltaire (we'll soon see him skewering Leibniz) intervened in the Pascal-Montaigne conflict. He called Pascal a "sublime misanthropist" whose vision of humanity as imprisoned and terrorized by the immensity and uncertainty of the cosmos was "fanatic."

Bertrand Russell mostly felt sorry for him, approvingly citing Nietzsche's critique of Pascal's "self-contempt and self-immolation." He meant Pascal's intellectual suicide, driven by fear.

Fortunately there’s much more to Blaise Pascal than his famous Wager [SEP], which we've already encountered in CoPhi.

Besides his mathematics and "Pascaline," his proto-computer, there are all those thoughts ("Pensees"-you can listen for free, here) and there’s also his antipathy for his fellow philosophe Francais, Montaigne. I usually compare-&-contrast Montaigne and Descartes, so this makes for a nice new menage a trois. Blaise is hostile to both Rene and Michel but is a cautious gambler, finding Descartes’ God too antiseptic and too, well, philosophical. And he finds Montaigne a self-absorbed, trivia-mongering potty-mouth.

But Montaigne would not at all disagree that “the heart has its reasons which reason knows not.” And isn’t it funny to think of Descartes philosophizing in his hypothetical armchair, asking if his fire and his body (etc.) are real, pretending to speculate that all the world and its philosophical problems might be figments of his solipsistic or dreamy or demon-instigated imagination? And then funnier still to come across this quote from Pascal: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” But look what happens when a philosopher sits quietly in a room alone: you get the Meditations!

Pascal also said
“Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.” And “It is man’s natural sickness to believe that he possesses the Truth.”
“There are two equally dangerous extremes: to exclude reason, to admit nothing but reason.”
“The nature of man is wholly natural, omne animal. There is nothing he may not make natural; there is nothing natural he may not lose.”*

“The weather and my mood have little connection. I have my foggy and my fine days within me…” [Or as Jimmy Buffett says, carry the weather with you.]

And all military veterans especially should appreciate this one:
“Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarrelled with him?”

And this will be an epigraph for my Philosophy Walks (or its sequel Philosophy Rides):
“Our nature lies in movement; complete calm is death.”
Reminds me of what Montaigne said about needing to kickstart his mind with his legs.

But Pascal does finally blow the big game of life, for betting too heavily on self-interest. He’s obsessed with “saving [his] own soul at all costs.” That’s a losing proposition.

[*That statement about us being "omne animal" sounded flattering, to me, being a philosophical naturalist and a friend to animals. But later epigraphs indicate Pascal's platonist perfectionism and his derogatory attitude towards humanity and its natural condition. Without God's grace, he writes, we are "like unto the brute beasts." He doesn't seem pleased about that, but I'm with Walt Whitman: "I think I could turn and live with animals, they're so placid and self contain'd... They do not sweat and whine about their condition... They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God..."]

Julia Sweeney, donning her no-god glasses, gets to the nub of what’s wrong with Pascal’s Wager:
So how can I come up against this biggest question, the ultimate question, “Do I really believe in a personal God,” and then turn away from the evidence? How can I believe, just because I want to? How will I have any respect for myself if I did that?

I thought of Pascal’s Wager. Pascal argued that it’s better to bet there is a God, because if you’re wrong there’s nothing to lose, but if there is, you win an eternity in heaven. But I can’t force myself to believe, just in case it turns out to be true. The God I’ve been praying to knows what I think, he doesn’t just make sure I show up for church. How could I possibly pretend to believe? I might convince other people, but surely not God.
And probably not Richard Rorty, for whom philosophy is not about nailing down the unequivocal Truth but rather continuing the never-concluding Conversation of humankind.

Rorty was the most controversial philosopher on the scene back when I began grad school, having just published his brilliantly and infuriatingly iconoclastic Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature.

Everybody had to have a view on it, and on his view that philosophy's long quest to represent "external reality" accurately was a waste of time we were free to give up. We could ditch our "comic" efforts "to guarantee this and clarify that."

Philosophers get attention only when they appear to be doing something sinister--corrupting the youth, undermining the foundations of civilization, sneering at all we hold dear. The rest of the time everybody assumes that they are hard at work somewhere down in the sub-basement, keeping those foundations in good repair. Nobody much cares what brand of intellectual duct tape is being used.My current position, after several oscillations, has settled at last into the earnest wish that more philosophers wrote as wittily and as well as he did. Almost none do. Did he get pragmatism and truth right? I guess that's what he'd call a duct tape question.

Rorty, with his metaphor of mind as (cloudy) mirror, is a good segue to the discussion of philosophy of mind, also on tap today.

Dualism gets us ghosts and spirits and other non-physical entities. Scary! But not for most students, I've found, so deeply have most of them drunk from the holy communion trough. It's not a question of evidence but of familiarity and fear, in many cases - fear of the alternative. A student expressed that just the other day, asking with incredulity and contempt how anyone could possibly ponder facing the end of mortal existence without an immortal safety net firmly in place (in mind).

Why do they think the evolution of mind so closely parallels that of the brain? They don't think about it, mostly.

Nor do most think much about the possibility of mind and body being on parallel but never-converging tracks, pre-arranged to keep a synchronous schedule and never throw up a discordant discrepant "occasion." And forget too about epiphenomenalism (which Sam Harris seems to be trying hard to revive).

If neuroscientists ever succeed in mapping the brain (TED) and modeling the causal neurological events correlated with thinking, will that solve the mystery of consciousness? [John Searle's view...] Is there a gap between the explanation and the experience of pain, pleasure, happiness, etc.? I say no and yes, respectively. But let's try and draw that map, it may take us to interesting places none of us have thought about.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Spinoza & art

Today in CoPhi: Baruch (nee Benedict) Spinoza (and Susan James on his concept of thepassions).

Spinoza ("Spinozer," my old teacher from Brooklyn called him) believed in Einstein’s God (or would have), and vice versa. Gambling with your soul? Einstein famously said God does not play dice with the universe. God doesn’t play at anything, or listen to anyone, or save or punish or forgive or do anything intentional and deliberate. No more than nature does, anyway. God just is. Paul Davies:

Sometimes (Einstein) was really using God as just a sort of convenient metaphor. But he did have, I think, a genuine cosmic religious feeling, a sense of admiration at the intellectual ingenuity of the universe. Not just its majesty, but its extraordinary subtlety and beauty and mathematical elegance.
You could say the very same of Spinoza.

In HAP 101 last year we tried to make sense of the Buddhist-inspired statement that we're not part of nature but all of it. Spinoza offers another take on that disorienting notion.
In so far as the mind sees things in their eternal aspect, it participates in eternity.
I do not attribute to nature either beauty or deformity, order or confusion. Only in relation to our imagination can things be called beautiful or ugly, well-ordered or confused.
I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.
Nothing in nature is by chance... Something appears to be chance only because of our lack of knowledge.
The passions of hatred, anger, envy, and so on, considered in themselves, follow from the necessity and efficacy of nature... I shall, therefore, treat the nature and strength of the emotion in exactly the same manner, as though I were concerned with lines, planes, and solids.

They were pantheists, Spinoza and Einstein, a lot less tormented by the vast and starry universe than Pascal (“the eternal silence of these infinite spaces" etc.) with his personal and possibly punitive God. As we note Jennifer Hecht noting, there’s a howling statistical error at the heart of Pascal’s specious reasoning: “We may be struck by lightning or not, but that doesn’t make it a fifty-fifty proposition.” Pascal's fright contrasts sharply with Spinoza's cosmic bliss. "What Pascal decried as the misery of man without the Biblical God, was for Spinoza the liberation of the human spirit from the bonds of fear and superstition."

[Descartes to Deism... Tlumak on free will...Descartes before the horse (& Spinoza/Einstein slides)... Spinoza @dawn...Pantheism SEP... FAQs... He's back (Goldstein)... The Curse]

Spinoza, says Susan James, was interested in our capacity to maintain ourselves as ourselves, which he called our conatus. How do we do that? By breathing, sleeping, fighting, friending,... but ultimately he thought our best bet was to resign ourselves to an acceptance of rational necessity.

"Spinoza thinks that, in so far as you're passionate," subject to external influence, "you're in bondage and unfree." How to free yourself? Become mentally active, get "a better understanding of yourself and the world," and experience his version of cosmic bliss or supreme happiness. And what does this maximal understanding come to, in a word? Pantheism.

In Spinoza's vision, there is no ultimate distinction between different individuals. We are all part of the same single substance, which is also God. This means that our sense of isolation from and opposition to one another is an illusion, and it also means that our sense of distance from God is mistaken... Given that the universe is God, we can therefore be confident that whatever happens to us happens for a reason. Passion for Wisdom

And still they called him heretic and atheist, and excommunicated him despite his "intellectual love of God," which he said was "the highest felicity." God only knew why.

He's still a good guy to follow on Twitter, btw.

Spinoza Quotes ‏@BenedictSpinoza6 Oct
"[True #happiness & blessedness does not consist in enjoying wellbeing not shared by others or in being more fortunate than others]." (TTP)

Spinoza Quotes ‏@BenedictSpinoza5 Oct
"It is the #nature of reason to conceive things under a form of eternity." (E5p29pr) @philosophyideasBut, there are difficulties involved in trying to internalize a "Spinozism of freedom"...
Spinoza is led to a complete and undiluted pantheism. Everything, according to Spinoza, is ruled by an absolute logical necessity. There is no such thing as free will in the mental sphere or chance in the physical world. Everything that happens is a manifestation of God's inscrutable nature, and it is logically impossible that events should be other than they are. This leads to difficulties... Bertrand Russell
= = = = = = = = = =
Also today: art. We'll try to discern the artfulness of Duchamp's Fountain, Dewey's ballplayer, maybe even Mapplethorpe's transgressive iconoclastic work. We'll introduce Wittgenstein's family resemblance, the Institutional Theory, and more.

And then we'll be done with Philosophy: The Basics.

Arthur Danto, premier aesthetician of his generation (and former MTSU Lyceum speaker), had interesting thoughts on what makes Andy Warhol's Brillo cartons and Marcel Duchamp's urinal(click, then scroll to the bottom to see his "Fountain") works of art. In a word: interpretation. Or in another word: philosophy. "Things which look the same are really different" is Danto's "whole philosophy of art in a nutshell." Thus spake the "weightiest critic in the Manhattan art world" of his generation. [The end of art]

I don’t claim to know what art is, or if Marcel Duchamp’s “fountain”should count. But like most of us, I know what I like: I like John Dewey’s approach in Art as Experience.
Dewey’s antipathy for spectator theories of knowledge did not block his acute perception of “the sources of art in human experience [that] will be learned by him who sees how the tense grace of the ball-player infects the onlooking crowd.”

The crowd at the fountain had best be careful not to be infected by something less delightful.


  1. 8 AQQ 3-28 LH ch 11-12
    1.What nationality was the philosopher Rene Descartes?
    2. When was he born?
    3.When did he die?
    4.What is a false awakening?
    5.What question did Rene Descartes ask?
    6.Did he have a false awakening?
    7.For Descrates, philosophy was one among many what?
    8.He was an outstanding what?
    9.What is he best known for inventing?
    10.What did he invent it from allegedly
    11.What other subject fascinated him?
    12.Was he an astronomer?
    13.Was he a biologist?
    14.What books did he write?
    15.What did he explore in these books?
    16.He didnt like to believe anything without what?
    17.He liked asking what?
    18.What is an awkward question?
    19.What is the method he developed?

  2. The early life of the philosopher Baruch Spinoza
    Baruch Spinoza was born in the year 1632 and died in the year 1677. Baruch Spinoza thought something that was considered quite unusual to most people who were alive at the time. He thought that God is the world. This was considered strange to most people because most religions were taught that God lived outside the world in places like heaven. Baruch Spinoza wrote about “God or Nature” to make the unusual point that both God and Nature are synonymous and mean the exact same thing. This idea was very crazy and considered by most to be quite radical, which got Baruch Spinoza into a lot of trouble. Baruch Spinoza was born in Amsterdam. He was brought up in a Jewish heritage but was later cursed by the rabbis in 1656 when he was 24 years old. Why did this happen to him? This happened to him because of his views on God which the rabbis probably considered to be sacrilegious. He later changed his name to Benedict de Spinoza and left Amsterdam. Baruch Spinoza took a liking to geometry and wrote his philosophy as if it were actually geometry. He even included proofs for his philosophy in the book he wrote, entitled ethics. He thought that he subject that he wrote about in philosophy like God and Nature, could be proven just like geometric ideas like shapes. He also like to be on his own because it gave him peace and time to work on his studies.

  3. Clayton Thomas (10)10:29 AM CDT

    3/27- DQ's
    1. I don't think one can definitively know whether they are awake or dreaming. This world could really be the dreams of of a dreamer from another world. When we awake they sleep, when we sleep they awake. It seems highly improbable, but not impossible. I would say "life is but a dream" could be meaningful.

    2. I would say every person is distinct from their body, excluding the brain because I feel like if full brain transplants were possible the body would react as the brain tells it. So having a different brain put into identical bodies the two would be completely different people, but if they were switched they would begin to act as the other because the brain controls and, unless it could be manually rewired, the same memories and feelings would be attached with the brain and not the body. There is no solid proof behind this, but I feel that this is what would happen.

    3. I want to retire sometime in my late 40's to mid 50's if I can have enough money saved to enjoy the rest of life. I'll hopefully be able to do whatever I want, I'm sure I'll have more time to think but I'm not sure how much of it I would actually spend just thinking.

    4. My bestfriend had a near death experience when he was younger, him and his sister thought it would be fun to play Star Wars with knives and he accidentally stabbed him. For one, it taught him not to play with knives, but it also gave him a new outlook on life. He's always positive and upbeat because an unhappy life ain't worth living so that's what he strives to do. Stay happy, and spread it too. It occurs much more often while driving just because I know at any moment myself or mainly another driver could cause some serious accident resulting in death very easily.

    5. So far, I have learned how to live more positively. I haven't necessarily written down any rules or inscribed any slogans, I just try to go with the flow of each new day. Every day is something, its best to just go into head first and make the best of it.

    6. I do agree because most nonreligious people do things and participate in thing which would be deemed sinning to their god of choice, so in order to become religious they would have to sacrifice these tendencies or activities to become fully devoted.

    7. I wouldn't say it's as easy as a coin toss by any means because finding God,if there is one, can be a daunting task. So I would say 33%, 33%, 33% and the 1%. Each of the 33% representing, god, no god, and unsure/in search of god, and the 1% represents those who believe that religion is some sort of conspiracy.

    8. I cannot reasonably doubt my existence, however I cannot prove my existence. It does bother me a little because it would be nice to know how we all really came to be with definitive proof, but its also nice to have this mystery still alive and wonder if anyone will ever reach a conclusion to that question.

  4. Devin Willis7:31 PM CDT

    Devin Willis-8
    1. I know I'm awake because I'm able to utilize my body to its full potential, and life is somewhat a dream because "dreams can come true."
    2. I hope to retire at 50 plus, and during retirement I would like to go out to urban areas and help kids in any way possible.
    3. I have had a near-death experience and it has taught me to be cautious of my surroundings and to avoid going out and doing certain things. The thought of being one-step away pushes me to live life to the fullest and to be aware of everything and everyone.
    4. Yes and my slogan would be "Listen to your gut and elders because they know what their talking about."
    5. Yes, because in essences you're giving up a life which you had before, for a new life in which you know nothing about.

  5. DQ
    1. I hope to retire once I get to the point to where I deserve a break from the job I may have. Probably what most people plan on doing such as traveling and taking part in other similar experiences.

    2. I've almost gotten hit by a truck and hit by a car in my life and that sort of experience makes you feel very stunned and shocked from the rush of adrenaline and disbelievement, sometimes you question how you are still alive. It definitely made me fear crossing the road for a long time, but then I eventually got over it because it taught me that you can't live your life in fear.

    3. I think nonreligious would consider it a burden because they would feel that they were wasting time since they don't believe in a god, and they could use that time to do things that they do consider productive.

    4. You should not believe in something unless there is evidence that proves it's existence. Therefore as far as we know at this moment in time it is not a 50/50 chance that there is a supernatural being controlling the fate of humans.

    5. I am 100% certain that I exist due to me having experiences, which you can not have unless you exist. I do believe that the life I have lived has in fact happened because even if you may not remember everything that has happened in the past doesn't mean that it has never happened. It goes with the saying "If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound" and the answer is yes because sounds is just the compression and decompression of air.

  6. DQ
    *I do not think you will ever know when you are awake are dreaming, so life is but a dream is very meaningful.
    *I want to retire when I am exhausted from working. I probably would spend more time thinking since I would have a lot more time than I do now. I also, hope to spend this traveling and enjoying life.
    * I cannot recall having a near death experience or anyone I know, but if I did I think it will teach me to value life more. Experiencing a moment when I almost lost life will teach me to cherish the little things I did not before.
    * I learned that there will never be any rules to tell you how to live because each individual point of view of life is different. However, I have learned to not repeat some mistakes I made in the past. Life is precious and you should not focus on "rules" to live life, instead you should live it the way you think is meaningful to you.
    *I would not doubt my existence for many reasons because the things I experience would not happen if I did not exist.

  7. Maddy Russell 10
    1. I hope to retire when I am done working. That can mean at 65 or at 45 if I have made all my money. At that point I will spend more time thinking because I will have more free time.
    2. I have never had a near death experience and I do not think I know anyone who has.
    3. So far in my life I have learned that you should be happy. Life is too short to not be happy.
    4. I am not a religious person and I do agree with other religious people saying that they would sacrifice something to be religious. You have to look at it as asking a very devoted catholic person to stop being religious, they wouldn't do it.

  8. Section 8
    1. Descartes invented what kind of co-ordinates
    2. What is the method of Cartesian Doubt?
    3. What must you do if there is the slightest room for doubt?
    4. A straight stick does what when views through water?
    5. What purpose did the "evil demon" thought serve?
    6. Descartes believes "I am thinking, therefore ____"
    7. If the body is the machine, then what is the soul?
    8. What was Pascal's religious belief?
    9. Was Pascal an optimist or a pessimist?
    10. What did Pascal believe humans were driven by?
    11. Pascal's mathematical ideas centered on what?
    12. What was a major Jansenist belief?
    13. What is a serious problem with Pascal's wager?

  9. Section 8


    1.) I am fairly certain that I am awake because when I am dreaming I do not feel this overall physical exhaustion for being awake too long. Then again, maybe my real reality works differently from how life is supposed to be. I cannot be for certain.

    2.) The exhaustion that I feel for staying up so late makes me believe that my spirit or consciousness is not distinct from my body at all. I feel sluggish and heavy. However, I cannot prove that I am in anyway bound to my body as much as I cannot prove that I am separate other than when I am dreaming.

    3.) I do not want to retire. I think I will want to keep going. I am a biologist, and we do a lot of thinking anyway. It's a part of the job.

    4.) I have had a near death experience a few years ago. I was in a car accident when I was 16. Sometimes, I think about it, and I get some motivation from that experience. Though, recently, I have not been feeling much on the motivation part regardless of that experience. I think about being so close to death a lot. And, one would think that I would have more motivation to live and to enjoy my life while I have it, but I do not have that energy.

    5.) My rules depend on my mood. In the past year, I have been diagnosed with chronic depression. When everything is great, it's more than great. The same can be said when life is really low. That being said, I tend to try to take advantage of the moments that I feel my best. I am not very social; however, I think that one needs others to thrive because the world, the way that I see it, is built on the backs and the souls of everyone. We seem to have our society set in such a way that we need each other to cooperate to accomplish anything. With that being said, my philosophy on "how to live" is fairly simple: be kind and help others when it is necessary. I am a firm believer in the belief of treat others the way that you wanted to be treated. From my limited view point, I believe that we do not practice that lifestyle very much. If we did, the world that we have worked together to create would not be so bad. Don't get me wrong; competition is okay in certain cases. Competition can help us move forward. However, we should remember this: we are nothing without each other. We would not even have mass produced cell phones without the teamwork that it took to make them. This is not to mention that we would have no one to even talk to if we did not have each other.

    6.) I would not honestly know. I am somewhat nonreligious,and I do not think that devoting my life to a religion a huge sacrifice. People find what they are personally good at all the time. Some people are good at interpreting religion.

    7.) I do not think the choice between God is 50/50. There are so many other religions to contend with that I do not find it that simple. To calculate the odds of no god, you would also have to calculate the odds of there being a god, which may be impossible because there are a plethora of religions. I do not think that there really is a time for when it is prudent to bet on God or against God. People have different capacities for miracles and for science.

    8.) I do agree with Descartes in that if I did not exist, I would not be able to think or to continuously think. That means that without a shadow of a doubt that I exist in some form or fashion.

  10. -10 D.Q. Responses

    1.) I am positive I am awake and not dreaming because of the reliability of my senses in reality. When we dream there is always a sense of displacement, even though the senses can deceive you at first, the sense of reality diminishes.

    2.) I hope to retire in late 50's early 60's, I probably wont know what to do with myself then, will possibly spend time contemplating over issues that may never be solved.

    3.) I believe that the odds to bet on whether there is a God or not is much higher in odds favoring God than against Him. The fact to bet against God, or a god (religion other than Christianity) is irrational. It is certainly not a 50/50 chance that may be right in betting against or with a god. Nonetheless, if we choose to bet on God and turns out we are wrong, we loos nothing, but if we bet against God and lose, we loose everything.

    4.)I believe that nonreligious people see devotion to a religion to be a huge sacrifice because they (nonreligious people) would be in a lifelong devotion to something they cannot sense, come to understand, or believe in.

  11. It depends on my financial situation, but I would like to retire at around 60 years old. I plan to learn during my retirement.

    I have not, however I have thought about how easy it is for something to go wrong.

    I have learned to value yourself over others. It is okay to be selfish as long as it is not negatively impacting others. Also that people are not perfect and expecting them to be will only bring disappointment.

    I agree that religion does require a great sacrifice. However most religious worship involves some aspect of social interaction and belongingness.

    I wouldn't say it is 50/50. We do not have enough information to determine a probability.

    I like to be fluid on my understanding of things. Everybody I meet knows something that I don't, so why should I have concrete stances?

  12. 10- Discussion Questions
    1. I know I'm awake and not dreaming because everything seems clearer and more accurate. Also, in all of my dreams there's usually something that will happen or something like that that helps me realize it is a dream.

    2. I think you might be a little distinct from your body, but overall it's easier for me to believe that we're one in the same.

    3. I hope to retire around 50 or 60, really just as soon as I'm able to. Hopefully I'll have grandkids that I can spend time with, and I'd also like to travel. I guess I would spend more time thinking, after all I'll have a lot of time on my hands once I'm retired.

    4. I've known a couple people who have had near-death experiences. It just shows you how precious life is and that you really shouldn't take your time here on Earth for granted. I do realize how close you can be to death at all times, so it makes me want to take advantage of every moment I have here.

    5. I have learned to make the most of every moment and try to make a difference in people's lives, and truly care about people. I haven't necessarily written down any rules to live by, but I have standards for myself and I know what I want out of life.

    6. I guess it could be a sacrifice to them, if they're devoting their lives to something that they don't believe in then it would feel like a waste of time to them.

    7. I would bet on God all the way. However some people wouldn't, so the odds would be different for everyone.

    8. I don't doubt that I exist, like Descartes said, "I think therefore I am."

  13. Trevor Hutchens #10
    Discussion questions:

    1. I hope to retire at a reasonable age; between 55 and 60. In California, where I am from, the minimum retirement age was just raised to 65 (as opposed to the original 55), which means there will be more competition for longer-lasting jobs.

    2. One of my coworkers experience near immediate death. He was texting and driving, and flipped his car. Fortunately, he escaped from his totaled car unscathed, with only bumps and bruises. He told me not only will he NEVER text and drive again, he values his life to its fullest extent.

    3. Your life will be as good as you can make it. A vague statement, but it has much power to it.

    4. It all depends on your perception. If you dedicate your life to religious studies, almost like a monk, then it may seem a bit overbearing. However, if you truly believe that is your calling, then it is not a waste of your life; you are living out to your fullest extent.

    5. This entire question is told with a faulted approach, in my opinion. One should not "bet" on God for anything, because betting is not fully trusting. Protestant Christianity is interesting because of its emphasis on relation, trust, and faith in God. Although the choice may be tough at times and sometimes I may not choose God, the answer is always God.

    6. I can confidently say that my faith remains unshaken. That doesn't mean my faith goes without being challenged, however. Every corner i take, i always see my faith being challenged and allegedly "disproven". But the truth lies in our basic morals and archaeological facts. Without a supreme being, we would have no morals.

  14. Carlos Landeros, Section 9
    250+ post for March 30, 2017

    I agree with John Locke to an extent. From my point of view, our thoughts and memories make each one of us unique. No one has undergone your memories other than you. While you may have experienced past events with other individuals, no one has your own unique perspective from the event. By that I mean no one other than you witnessed the event in your mind or in your body. No one else shared the exact same thought processes that went through your mind.
    While I do agree with Locke that memories constitute an individual, I disagree that a person has to have a continuous recollection of memories to be considered the same person. Just because you cannot remember something does not mean you were not there. While memories might fade away over time, that does not mean a person was not there to experience things. The person's mind and body were still there to participate and play a role in their past. In addition to, it is nonsense that you cannot be punished for forgotten actions. Anyone can have a change of heart but that does not excuse them from what they did.
    Lastly, I want to agree with Spinoza's perception of god. I want to believe there is a god but I am not sure if the real god is the one we hear about in our religious upbringings. At this point in time, I agree with Spinoza's view that god is a figure that has no personal feelings towards us.

  15. 10- Spinoza 250+ word post:

    Baruch Spinoza’s philosophy is unique and was unthinkable during the 17th century. Spinoza’s book, Ethics, focused on God, nature, freedom and emotion, to be of one system. Spinoza’s approach to philosophy was one which emphasized reason rather than experiment and observation, and can be labelled rationalism. Spinoza lived in solitude, enjoying peace to follow his studies, and possibly for the best, as his views on God were very controversial during his time and strayed away from conventional religion of the time, which explains why his book wasn’t published till after his death. Spinoza was excommunicated from the synagogue at age 24 due to his views of God being nature and nature being God, the belief that God is everything, which was viewed as unorthodox in Jewish religion. Spinoza was considered a highly original thinker of his time, although is studies of God being infinite and that there cannot be anything that is not God seemed unappealing to most, he was offered a position to teach at Heidelberg University, which he declined. Instead, Spinoza would discuss his ideas to thinkers who would visit him, accepting small payments from time to time. Spinoza lived a very simple life as he would stay in lodgings opposed to owning a home, and main source of income being a lens grinder, making lenses for telescopes and microscopes, which possibly contributed to his death at age 44. Spinoza’s simple life allowed him to constantly follow his studies of his infinite God, where everything is a part of God. The main idea of Spinoza’s God that I feel he is trying to convey is that everything around us, including ourselves, was and is created by God, and that without God, everything would cease to exist. The greatest controversy of Spinoza’s God compared to the conventional orthodox teachings of the 17th century is that Spinoza’s God was completely impersonal and did not care about anything or anyone. That we should love God but not expect him to love us back. Even though this sounds to be a pessimistic approach, Spinoza had a dep intellectual love for God others could not see nor understand. Along with his view of God, Spinoza’s view on free will also opposed others as he was a determinist, which believed every human action was result of an earlier cause. Spinoza is the ideal philosopher in a typical sense, as he was prepared to be controversial, and put forth ideas not everyone was ready to hear, and defended his attacked views with argument.

  16. Zach Rosenberger #10
    Thomas Reid was against John Locke’s consciousness theory for many reasons. He believed that a person’s identity was impossible to completely recreate, it was a single instance of a person. The identity must be based on something non-transferrable to another person that cannot change from one moment to the next like memory can. Reid used the “officer paradox” describing how a person is the same throughout their whole life, even though they may forget something they did as a child. A 40-year-old man is stealing an enemy’s food stock and remembers stealing apples from a neighbor’s orchard as a 10-year-old boy. 40 years later in life, the same officer remembers stealing the apples as a 40-year-old but no longer remembers the apples as a child. According to Locke’s theory, the 80-year-old man would have to be identical to the 40-year-old as he remembers stealing from the enemy’s food store and the 40-year-old is identical to the 10-year-old. Although, the 80-year-old was not identical to the 10-year-old boy as he can no longer remember the incident. Reid thought of Locke’s theory to be absurd because of this logical paradox. In a society with Locke’s identity as the basis for proving guilt in court, a criminal would easily get away with something by claiming they don’t remember committing a crime. Only God would be able to truly judge them for their crimes, as he knows all. Nazi-hunters would have a boring day if they were only able to hold an old man for what he remembers doing as a concentration camp guard, rather than all the crimes he committed.