Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, May 4, 2017

You are here

Image result for you are here poster

A Pale Blue Dot. This excerpt from Sagan's book Pale Blue Dot was inspired by an image taken, at Sagan's suggestion, by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990. As the spacecraft left our planetary neighborhood for the fringes of the solar system, engineers turned it around for one last look at its home planet. Voyager 1 was about 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) away, and approximately 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane, when it captured this portrait of our world. Caught in the center of scattered light rays (a result of taking the picture so close to the Sun), Earth appears as a tiny point of light, a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size.
The Pale Blue Dot of Earth
This image of Earth is one of 60 frames taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft on February 14, 1990 from a distance of more than 6 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) and about 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane. In the image the Earth is a mere point of light, a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size. Our planet was caught in the center of one of the scattered light rays resulting from taking the image so close to the Sun. This image is part of Voyager 1's final photographic assignment which captured family portraits of the Sun and planets.
Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
-- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Section 8- Installment 2: 'Absurdism' and "The Plague"

As I mentioned in my first installment, I plan to relate how the ideal of 'absurdism' relates to Albert Camus's The Plague. Also, as I mentioned before, The Plague won Albert Camus the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature. This being said, I believe, that The Plague's relationship to 'absurdism' begins before one actually even reads the novella. I would like to argue that the relationship 'absurdism' starts when one knows the situation around Albert Camus's death. As one may know, there have been many explanations surrounding how Albert Camus's death is perceived. He died with a manuscript and train tickets in a car accident with his publisher. This is seen as an absolute tribute to this ideal. He died only a few years after winning the Nobel Prize with pockets full of hope. Camus is seen as someone who lived and died by this philosophy of 'absurdism.' However, I would like to argue that, as I have mentioned before, the perception of how he died determines if his death is 'absurd' or not. For example, the same thing can be said with how the population of Oran in The Plague deals with the deaths of their own versus how outsiders view the deaths of those in Oran. 

Without getting too far ahead of myself, I would like to mention a brief synopsis to The Plague. This novella focuses on the French Algerian city, Oran. The novella is split into five sections as the stages of the disease progress throughout the city. The novella mostly follows the character, Dr. Bernard Rieux, and gives a lot of insight from the doctor's perspective. That being said, the novella's main purpose is to show the human condition and how that condition responds to the stages of the illness within the city itself and without. Even with the human condition in play, Camus constantly compares the people in The Plague to rats. Even as early as page 7, Camus makes this comparison. The rats were the warning, yet the population of Oran became the rats. The urgency of the need to keep the human condition can be seen even before the comparison to rats on page 5. The quote is this:

"At Oran, as elsewhere, for the lack of time and thinking, people have to love one another without knowing much about it." 
Even through the illness, the population of Oran is striving to be happy. They keep living, which is in direct correlation to the meaning of 'absurdism.' The population keeps rolling their stones up their hills.

Humans may be rats in some cases, but we seem to feel more than the average rat. We take our fears and turn them into strength in one way or another to fight nihilistic tendencies. Camus had a crap early life, but he made the most of what he had. And, he died as absurdly as he began. The Plague is absurd in its comparison to rats. But, if we think about it, is this comparison really absurd? When we are afraid and act on fear, we may not be any better than rats.

Below is a video calling Camus an absurd hero:

Below is a monologue from American Psycho that seemed relevant:

"Effective Altruism and Ethical Living"

Posted for Samantha Rozell, Section 8-Installment 1 and 2

Peter Singer, born in July of 1946, is an Australian philosopher who teaches at a few

universities, specializing in applied ethics. The definition of ‘applied ethics’ can be summed as

the philosophical examination of a situation, private or public life, that requires moral judgement.

This being Singer’s specialty, he’s most known for his book Animal Liberation, published in

1975. The popularity behind it was gained from Singer’s active support for vegetarianism and

breaks down his support through the argument of rights when it comes to human and nonhuman

life. However, for this final installment, I’m going to shift the interest over to Singer’s most

recent novels, The Most Good You Can Do.

For the midterm reports, my group had chosen Singer’s book out of the fascination of

effective altruism and what exactly that entailed. The definition of effective altruism, gained

from reading Singer’s book, is the philosophical motive that applies logic and reasoning to

situations to determine the most probable outcome to benefit the highest amount of people

possible. A selfless, disinterested approach to highly emotional situations. The idea seems

pleasant in theory; one being able to make a logical decision that’s the most beneficial without

emotions factoring their decision. But where’s the line drawn where the pleasant idea is


In the first section of the book, Singer brings up a scenario in which no one has ever truly

questioned: The Make a Wish Foundation. To effective altruists, the Foundation can be seen as a

ploy to fool people into believing they are doing the most good by granting a dying child’s final

wish. Sounds harsh, believe me. In most people’s minds, the desire to fulfill the empathetic side

of our reasoning outweighs the rest, especially in high emotion, philosophical situations.

However, in Singer’s eyes and others who practice effective altruism, the money used to grant

one child’s wish can be used to aid in developing a cure that kills hundreds of people annually or

provide food and shelter for multiple homeless people. Granting the wish for one child isn’t

doing what’s best for the greater good.

Another scenario is the trolley example. A famous philosophical situation laid out as so:

You’re standing near a pair of train tracks. At the end of the track, there’s a person tied up,

unable to move. The trolley is coming full speed, essentially going to kill said person. In front of

you, there’s a lever that if you pull, switches the trolley to a different track that has five people at

the end of the track rather than one. Meaning, you would kill five people instead of one. What do

you do? The first time this situation was ever addressed to me, was outside the book. It was

mentioned in a movie I watched, titled After the Dark. However, in the movie, a scenario was

added on top of the original, since the majority of people asked the question would agree to kill

the one person to save five. The twist follows: Instead of a lever, there’s an obese man who, if

pushed in front of the trolley, weighs enough to derail the trolley, and saves the person tied to the

track. Do you push him?

My opinion, in all honesty, is both situations results in murder. Whether you passively sit

back, where you don’t pull the lever or push the man, or whether you do pull the lever or do push

the man; the situation cannot be justified. At the end of the day, whether you saved one person or

five, whether you killed five people or one, it’s murder. Now of course, these situations are

hypothetical and not meant to be taken literally, but, in reality, no one quite knows what they

would do in a situation like the trolley example because it would never happen. People can sit

and ponder all day and argue why their viewpoint is more logical than the next; if the situation

did arise, everyone, no matter what set of ethics they have or philosophical beliefs, will act

purely on impulse. And that is not something that can be argued or altered.

I wasn’t aware of the term ‘effective altruism’ before I read Singer’s book. I honestly

wish I had stayed blissfully unaware of the term. If anything, it angers me. I do agree with some

points, such as Singer’s belief in body donation, but the practice as a whole I strongly disagree

with. It could be because I see myself as a very empathetic person and I cannot understand, no

matter how hard I open my mind and try to comprehend, how someone can take such a cold,

analytical approach to situations that require emotional input to fully understand. I fully believe,

contradicting Singer’s entire belief, that effective altruism could destroy us as a society. In

certain situations, it could be deemed as efficient, but removing emotion and analyzing

everything as robotic as effective altruists come across removes empathy. Empathy is what keeps

us sane. Empathy allows us to recognize others as human as we see ourselves. It’s what leads to

forgiveness and happiness and love.

Doing the most good in life is ideal for everyone. But ideal situations always have

consequences. I’m not saying my moral and ethical compass is the only way. I’m not saying

effective altruism isn’t needed. A balance is key in any situation, philosophical or not. One

extreme doesn’t need to dominate every other option is all.

Philosophical ethics such as effective altruists allow young philosophers to analyze their

own morals. It allows them to be exposed to certain situations or ideas and lets them form their

own way of thinking, which is beneficial no matter your own beliefs. To finish off this final blog

post, a quote from Peter Singer himself on the idea of our responsibility in the world: “I believe

that in this new world that we live in, we often have a responsibility, you know, to actually go

beyond the thou shalt nots- that is, the not harming others- and say we can help others and we

should be helping others.”

Additional links:
-Effective Altruism: https://www.effectivealtruism.org/

-Peter Singer discussing effective altruism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Diuv3XZQXyc

Section 10 Second Installment. Christianity and how I related religion to the Cave.

Logan Mize

Second Installment

In my last installment, I touched on the controversial subject of Christianity, and Plato’s, “Allergory of the Cave”, and how it changed my perspective of life.
During the symbolic exit of the cave, the escaped prisoner is blinded by the sun. It takes time for his eyes, that is only accustomed to darkness, time to adjust to the light. This adjustment period can be an extremely intense period in someone life. It is getting used to the things around you in your new point of view, which without help, can often be scary, until the complete adjustment.
When Plato speaks about returning to the cave, the escaped prisoner speaks of the life outside of the cave to the cave dwellers. They are in disbelief and offended at his words and plot to kill him.
Obviously the result in real life isn’t death. But like all things in this lesson, it is symbolic of something. When trying to tell people of what I experienced, I was often laughed at and called, ”way out there.” How can someone insult someone that is trying to help them? It is because they do not understand. It can be very hard to make people realize and understand the lesson, especially without making them feel less than you, even if that isn’t your intent. To most, it is too much of a change. They would rather keep living their life then try and change it in search of the truth.
Coming from an extremely Christian household, I have not explained my feelings towards my family. I feel they would only worry and go through extreme depression because I will not make it to heaven with them. This saddens me and I know it must be dealt with at some point in my life. This is something many like me struggle with.

If you decided to research The Allegory of the Cave, try to relate to it, it’s a good way to truly understanding it. From these installments, I hope you can take a new persective of the Cave with you, and try and understand it through my perspective. It is always helpful to look at any situation through others perspectives.

Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill 2nd Installment

Section #10

Yonathan Feleke

In my first installment, I talked about how John Stuart Mill explained the role happiness played in shaping our moral values. You can find a link to my first installment by clicking here. We’ve discussed in class about the higher and lower happiness so I’m going to jump to skip that portion.
Mill raised the question on what basis does the principle of utility rely on, or in other words is there some kind of proof. He answers this question by mentioning that it is common for all first principles to lack “proof by reasoning”. He then goes on to say that we can prove that something is visible because people can see it, using the same principle, the only way it can be proven something is desirable is that people desire it, and people desire happiness. Mill stated, “The utilitarian doctrine is that happiness is desirable.” Not only that, but he also stated it is the only thing desirable as an end. This means everything we do is means to that end. But what about virtue? Don’t people desire that?
Yes, it is true that people desire virtue, but it is not “as universal” as the desire for happiness. And the utilitarian doctrine doesn’t deny the desire of virtue. In fact, Mill stated, “… not only that virtue is to be desired, but that it is to be desired disinterestedly”. What does that mean? In short, it means that individuals should desire virtue without the belief that actions are only virtuous because they lead to some desirable end, which they do, but not on the account of it being a virtue. In that account people, according to Mill, who live virtue “disinterestedly” has made it as part of their happiness. Keep in mind that the principle of utility doesn’t state that the means come together and make up something called happiness, and we desire them to that account. Each means is “desired and desirable” in and for itself and not only they are means to happiness but also, they become part of it. Mill gave a good example of this by introducing the “love of money”.  Money by itself, if we’re observing it without value, is no more desirable than a piece of paper. But money has value because it can buy things. So, it is fair to say that we desire money to get other things than itself. Yet, we observe that people’s desire to have and reserve it is more than they want to spend it. So, it changes from that the desire for money is “not for the sake of some end, but as part of the end.” Individuals who love to possess money will make it part of the “principle ingredient” to their happiness.

Virtue was not originally part of happiness according to the utilitarian conception but through time what is considered virtuous promotes pleasure and “especially to protection of pain”, and adapt and associate it to be “good in itself”. Thus, creating the desire to leading it to become part of happiness. The love of money, fame, or power, may cause a person to become unpleasant to the society that he/she is a part of, but the “disinterested love of virtue” will bring him/her closer to them. Because of that reason, the utilitarian standard states the love of virtue as “above all things important to the general happiness.”

Although I conclude my blog here, I strongly suggest to anyone interested to read the book. It has changed my views on what happiness is how much the things we do is influenced by it. It opened my eyes and made me more conscious of my actions. I hope for all of you who decide to read it to have as much fun as I have with it (if not more). Utilitarianism John Stuart Mill

Section 9. Installment 2: Logic

     In Alice in Wonderland, there is a certain philosophy about logic and the way humans perceive things. The nonsense in which the characters of Alice in Wonderland seem to live in only seems like nonsense because we only see the surface of everything.
When one is only able to see the surface of an event, they are not able to understand the logic of it. Therefore, they see the event as nonsense.
     The same can be said if one doesn't understand the experiences of others because they are different than their own. The close mindedness of a person can result in the misunderstanding of the experiences of others. One must open their mind and attempt to see things in ways other than their own in order to fully understand another person or an event. In relation to Alice in Wonderland, George A. Dunn writes,
"They only seem nonsensical to us because our experience of our world aboveground and on this side of the looking glass has burdened us with a slew of preconceptions about what can and cannot be accomplished by ingesting the caps of gilled fungi."
     The way that we understand things is all about perception and how deep you are willing to look into them. You may perceive something as nonsense because you are only looking at the bigger, general picture instead of the details. One must dig past the surface of something to really understand the logic of it.

The Philosophy of West World - William Deaver Section 10, Installment 2

West World is a recently premiered TV show on HBO. It dives deep into what makes us human, and how our decisions are made. West World is a theme park for the wealthy to play out their western fantasies at the cost of around $60,000 a day. During this time the guests are allowed to do anything they want in this park as long as no other human is harmed. The park is populated with robots otherwise known as hosts. These hosts have false memories and identities (otherwise known as roles) planted inside their head. For them, they actually believe that they live in the old west and that everybody is human. A host can be configured to play the role of the Sheriff of the town, to being the criminal mastermind with a bounty on his head. If a host gets killed or damaged, they simply get taken out of the park and repaired without themselves knowing about it. All their memories get wiped at the end of the day and they repeat the same cycle.

The show asks the question if it is not only the hosts that are pre-programmed but the human guests as well. The question that is brought up near the end of the first season is if humans are any different. Are we truly making our own choices or are we destined to follow our “programming” based on our personality? Are we simply puppets or can we choose our own fate? Unfortunately, this is a question that is incredibly hard to answer. Since we cannot assess how we have made decisions before that they have happened, we can never truly know if we are making them or not. If we attempt to rebel against our normal personalities, how would we know that it is not how our personalities were in the first place?

Another topic that the show touches on is what rights an artificial being has. Is a human life worth more than an artificial life? Should robots and AI be protected by the law just as people are? If something can show emotion and intelligence, does that make it equal to a human? These are very important questions that will need to be answered in the near future. As science and technology advances, we will need to make a decision on how humanity addresses this topic. For the show, the park builds the hosts to mimic how the human body works. There are no wires, circuit boards, or metal, but instead, flesh and blood just as a human would have. For the park, this adds an added sense of realism and is so convincing that some guests have even fallen in love with the hosts. Despite this, the hosts have no rights. They are programmed to be harmless to the guests, even in cases of self-defense or protection.

West world is a show that is very rich in philosophical questions regarding what we are and why we decide to do what we do. Below I have linked a video going into further detail about rights of artificial beings:

Link to first installment:

Link to comments: 


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Philosophy and Implications of Artificial Intelligence pt.2

Tristan McGuffin        Section 10                                                                         Installment 2

      Continuing from my last installment, I would like to present even more information covering the subject of artificial intelligence and how its possibilities are being explored.

        Massive amounts of information is being gathered every day for purposes of research and preservation. Whether it be the ads you see on your Facebook feed or those cute little quizzes you take on Buzzfeed whenever you're bored, it's becoming more and more commonplace to provide information to the internet. Every online comment you make or every click you've made on a screen has the potential to provide some sort of useful information to anyone interested. It's not so uncommon for a website or company to do just this, amalgamating all of the interactions they can record to create a kind of information archive. This is very useful in marketing and some tech powers, such as Google, have even begun making what could end up being early iterations of a kind of an all-encompassing internet hive mind.

       The idea of having one single source for all of the information I could ever imagine, and then some, is exciting to say the least. With a connection to an infinite source of information, nothing would be out your reach.

       This is the current model for how artificial intelligence is being developed and it's going to change the way we interact with each other forever. Robots are being programmed to learn exponentially from interaction and observation, mimicking the very way that human beings learn. They can be taught and they can teach- these are leaps and bounds in a direction that could very well bring us into The Singularity.

        Imagine a future where the separation between man and machine is blurry or even indistinguishable. This is the path we have set ourselves upon. At some point our technology is bound to evolve at exponential rates, taking us along with it and this fact is somewhat intimidating.  What if we lose our grasp on what it means to be an individual? How would this impact how we interact with the world around us? What would motivate us if we no longer had to deal with our biological stressors? These are questions that immediately come to mind, questions that may have one million answers or none.

        Death and sickness are terrible things that may no longer exist in the future, which at face value sounds wonderful, however I can't help but feel that with so much gain we may lose what truly makes us human.  Mankind may lose all of the control it's been desperately grasping for all of these millennia and that may just be exactly what we need.

        The way technology is going, there's no need to worry about becoming a robot any time soon and the human condition is another conversation for another time. Thank you so much for lending me your time and energy and don't forget put that human brain to use and do a little bit of hard thinking every once in a while.

Link to part 1

Monotheism Brandon Benson Installment 2

            Gore Vidal, who dedicated his life to carefully studying human history, cites America’s Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights as key players in the anti-monotheistic movement, as their disdain for and cynicism towards monotheistic beliefs stemmed from a rejection or a sky-god presence, and a focus on man at the center of the world. Thomas Jefferson was an open deist who found monotheism comically illogical, and a young Abraham Lincoln wrote pamphlets against the Christian church. In a 1994 interview, Vidal describes west as having been in a thriving period until monotheism befell society in the Greco-Roman world, as well as other older civilizations. Vidal then goes on to address and confirm his anticipation of the rise of China, and attributes the rise of China to Confucianism. Confucius is an atheistic system of thought and education, which is far better suited to serve a diverse society like the United States of America, certainly preferably to monotheism. The reason for that, Vidal claims, is due to the dementia of our churches, which derives from religious tax exemption. While countries continue to bicker and fight over religious views deriving from an unproven existence of a sky-god, countries are falling behind the inevitable and eventually impending war over water. Climate change will cause a race to control the ice caps, and that is a much more serious problem that should concern people rather than monotheism. Vidal says: From the beginning, sky-godders have always exerted great pressure in our secular republic. Also, evangelical Christian groups have traditionally drawn strength from the suppressed. African slaves were allowed to organize heavenly sky-god churches, as a surrogate for earthly freedom. White churches were organised in order to make certain that the rights of property were respected and that the numerous religious taboos in the New and Old Testaments would be enforced, if necessary, by civil law. The ideal to which John Adams subscribed — that we should be a nation of laws, not of men — was quickly subverted when the churches forced upon everyone, through supposedly neutral and just laws, their innumerable taboos on sex, alcohol, gambling. We are now indeed a nation of laws, mostly bad and certainly anti-human.
Roman Catholic migrations in the last century further re-enforced the Puritan sky-god. The Church has also put itself on a collision course with the Bill of Rights when it asserts as it always has, that "error has no rights." The last correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson expressed their alarm that the Jesuits were to be allowed into the United States. Although the Jews were sky-god folk, they followed Book One, not Book Two, so they have no mission to convert others; rather the reverse. Also, as they have been systematically demonized by the Christian sky-godders, they tended to be liberal and so turned not to their temple but to the A.C.L.U. Unfortunately, the recent discovery that the sky-god, in his capacity as realtor, had given them, in perpetuity, some parcels of unattractive land called Judea and Samaria has, in my mind, unhinged many of them. I hope this is temporary.”