Sunday, April 25, 2010

I bid you farewell.

My semester is coming to an end, which also means this blog is wrapping up. Since I only made this for my creative project final, it's intentions were not only to educate you awesome readers on some interesting philosophy facts, but to also develop my own knowledge.

And it really has. Everytime I read something for class, I wonder to myself if it would make an interesting blog post. I'm a hands-on learner, so having this project has really helped me learn and connect things philosophically better.

I'm so happy to have had this oppurtunity, and I want all of you to go out and study philosophy for yourself! Who knows, maybe I even inspired you to take a philosophy class?

Comic Relief

Brain in a Vat

To me, this is something so wild and crazy that only a philosopher could believe it.

I found this theory or argument, if you will, that's common only to bizarre sci-fi stories. It says that a mad scientist removes our brain, sticks it in a vat of life-sustaining liquid, and send electrical impulses throughout it, we would never know. It would seem like we're still living, and having entirely conscious experiences. So right now, in theory, I could just be a brain in a vat.

Apparently this little idea was one of the inspirations for the movie The Matrix. Pretty cool, huh?

Oh philosophers, where do you come up with this stuff?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lost + Philosophy = Mind Blown.

So the semester ends in less than two weeks, so I have been incredibly busy. It's amazing how much stuff I can get done when I'm under pressure though.

However, I always have time to talk about the best show on the entire planet -- Lost! The complexity of the plot has kept me interested for the last 6 years. You might be thinking 'Where is the closest mental hospital we can take this chick to, because what in the world does philosophy have in common with a silly television show?'

I hear you, but obviously you have never seen Lost.

Let me begin by saying that the show's creative team is great influenced by certain philosophical concepts and people. The central character often find themselves re-evaluating their own morals, values, and ethical belief systems. Many important universal questions of philosophy are posed throughout the episodes.

But even more interestingly, the writers have named many of the characters after influential philosophers, especially of the Enlightenment period. Personally, this keeps me interested in the big themes that Lost explores, as well as my actual philosophy class. Because when I see a name like Hume or Locke pop up in my textbook, it immediately grabs my attention and I compare and contrast them with the Lost character. Keeps things spicy!

There are MANY of these philosopher named characters, so I'll just highlight the big players.

Mikhail Bakunin- The character is a former Soviet soldier who was very loyal and believed people shouldn't question authority, while the real Mikhail Bakunin was an anarchist and rejected almost all authority figures, even God. Oh Lost writers, you love your irony.

Jeremy Bentham - This is used as John Locke's alias in Season 5. For more detail on the 18th century English philosopher, see my previous blog.

John Locke - The character and Enlightenment philosopher actually share a lot of the same ideas. In particular, the character Locke believes that everyone gets a new life on the island, which parallels the philosophical theory of 'tabula rasa'.

David Hume/Desmond Hume - Desmond and the philosopher are both Scottish, he actually was a proposer of skepiticism and felt strongly against miracles, something the character Desmond came to believe in.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau/Danielle Rousseau - Jean Jacques, a Genevan philosopher, promoted the idea of a 'noble savage' meaning that Man is born into a natural and innocent state but it corrupted by society throughout his lifetime. Danielle, the character, could actually be seen as a noble savage of sorts.

In addition, Lost references many other philosophy topics. In one episode, the phrase 'cogito ergo doleo' or 'I think, therefore I suffer' is a play on the very famous phrase by Rene Descartes 'I think, therefore I am'.

People even theorize that the entire show is based on Gaunilo's lost island argument.

Anyway! To sum it all up, Lost makes philosophy class more interesting, and knowing philosophical arguments and concepts makes Lost more interesting. Win, win. :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Re-thinking Philosophers

My professor shared this quote with me today from Beyond Good and Evil:

“Gradually it has become clear to me what every great philosophy so far has been: namely, the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir; also that the moral (or immoral) intentions in every philosophy constituted the real germ of life from which the whole plant had grown.”

To me, it brings this whole new level of thought in my opinion of philosophers.
So, readers, go forth and ponder.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A little about Jeremy Bentham.

Jeremy Bentham was born in a little city of London in 1748. A child prodigy from the start, he attended several prestigious throughout his early life. In 1776 when the United States presented their Declaration of Independence, John Lind wrote their rebuttal. Inside of an essay by Bentham himself mocking and attacking the declaration.

I know, I know. But don't dismiss him just yet. Jeremy Bentham actually strived to reform social change. He advocated for the end of slavery, equal rights for women, the seperation of chuch and state, rights for homosexuals, and more. He was quite liberal infact.

Among other things he is sometimes associated with the creation of the University of London. It was the first English college to admit all, regardless of race or political standing, and without the inspiration from Bentham, it might not have been created.

He was also a philosopher, and as we all know, philosopher's love to write. He created many works of literature across his lifespan including Elements of the Art of Packing, Not Paul but Jesus, and Emancipate your Colonies. Although his main motivation in life was utilitarianism which he outlined in The Principles of Morals and Legislation.

Bentham wanted a complete ulitarian code or law and morals. With his idea, people should create laws or act on things knowing it would do the greatest good for the most amount of people. He even came up with a way of judging the morals of any action using a 'felicific caluclus'. John Stuart Mill eventually refined and made his own type of ultilitarianism known.

Jeremy even dabbled in economics and animal rights (in fact, he was one of the first proponents of them). He even wrote a book Offences Against One's Self which argued for making homosexuality legal, although he didn't approve of homosexual acts themselves and never published the book during his lifetime.

One of the most fascinating things about this philosopher's life is actually his death -- or what happened after his death. Bentham's will stated that his body was to be used in an anatomy lecture and then preserved in a wooden box dressed in his own clothes. And it surprisingly happened. You can find him at the University College London on display, although his head has been replaced by wax after some student pranks.

Jeremy Bentham is quite the complax guy and introduced us to some mind-boggling theories on morals and law. Which, you really can't be a philosopher if you don't boggle some minds along the way, right?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Aquinas' Five Ways

So in my class we're currently reading about philosophy and religion, mainly how different philosopher's in the past have attempted to prove God's existance. One I have found most compelling and fascinating is the work of Thomas Aquinas. He was a theoligist in the 13th century who found many break-throughs in the world of philosophy and theology.

In his huge handbook entitled Summa Theologiae he presented his 5 reasons that God must exist. His argument is a posteriori which means he relies a lot on the senses. This tends to create a very strong argument that many people can relate to, and therefore, believe in. 

A couple of his 'ways' talk about cause and effect. If there is an effect, there must be a cause. Or at least that's how the human mind understands things to happen.  Aquinas places God as this ultimate source of cause. In another 'way', he says that God must be the perfection of qualities that all humans have in common, like beauty and truth. In yet another he argues that if all things are contigent (dependent), then not-existing is a possibility. Yet we do exist, so there must be some necessary source of existance (God).

In his most famous argument, he talks about design. We understand everything to have a designer, so the universe must as well. It's silly to think it doesn't...right? Because most things are goal-directed beings, there must be some intelligent designer of it all. Evolution could explain most of it, but that theory was not around in Aquinas' day.

It's extremely hard to understand his view without actually reading his literature, so I'll leave that part alone for now. What I'd like to explain next is it's affect on me personally.

I've always been on the edge with regards to religion. I'm so grounded in science and logic, that just having faith in something without proof is a step I haven't been able to take. And while Aquinas by no means converted me to believe in the traditional God, he gaves me some ideas. Maybe there's an ultimate state of truth, beauty, justice, goodness, etc in the universe. Not a being, but just a state. It's something to strive for and respect. Of course in my opinion religion should be a personal thing, so take my views with a grain of salt.

Basically what I'm getting at though is Aquinas' argument is really strong and would be a great use to those wanting to prove God's existence without the use of pure faith. Although it's doubtful if a God-type being will ever be proven to 100% certainty.