Fall 2015 Proseminar Browsing Exercise

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Jason's Browsing

I found this article on Buddhist philosophy particularly interesting, particularly Sarvastividian Realism, and how it relates Anaxagoras'/ the Atomists' ideas of divisibility. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_philosophy#Sarvastivadin_realism

Heres an interesting article discussing the possibility of pre-traumatic street, and whether or not mere anticipation of trauma is enough to cause serious damage. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/03/waiting-for-the-bomb-to-drop/#more-157677

Interesting article discussing ethical egoism, especially in relation to last weeks global ethics. http://www.sevenoaksphilosophy.org/ethics/egoism.html

Another article discussing pre-traumatic stress disorder this time in relation to Environmental change. http://inthesetimes.com/article/18280/coming-of-age-in-the-age-of-extinction

Article analyzing Toffler's bookFuture Shock http://lithub.com/we-embraced-the-future-and-it-nearly-killed-us/

For some reason I've become very interested inure-traumatic stress disorder. This article discusses both pre and post-traumatic stress disorder http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/the_comparatist/v037/37.morello.html

In the article “Is Climate Change Causing Pre-trauma Stress Disorder in Millenials?,” Martin Bourmont and Dayton Martindale claim that the recent findings of Environmental researchers are having a significant impact on the psyche of the millennial generation. To support this, the two authors rely primarily on comparison to past events, and presenting results from psychological polls. The argument heavily relies on the reader buying into the fact that the consequences of environmental change are similar to post Cold War conditions. Essentially the generation alive after Cold War had to live in constant fear of a nuclear disaster, and eventually this psychological stress caused pre-traumatic stress disorder. According to Bourmont and Martindale, the predictions made by Environmental researchers have put a similar amount of stress on millenials, causing significant and permanent emotional damage. Having established that millenials are facing similar distress to the Col War generation, the authors move to solidify their argument by providing statistically significant data. The authors then call for some sort of change to be made so that millenials do not continue to suffer the effects of pre-traumatic stress disorder.

  • Alfino 10/9: Thanks for this Jason. The climate/trauma research reminds me of the "obligations to future generations" debate in philosophy. Thanks for the recon.

Max Kinney

I looked into the philosophy of competition and sportsmanship because I think some of the controversies that have emerged and the debates that follow can be a microcosm for myriad ethical issues in our world. The second article is an opinion on what the ideal coach (in this case football coach) should look like. It's interesting to actually break down athletics to a philosophical level because so many times we don't actually think about why sports are such a big deal to our culture. https://charactercounts.org/sports/Olympic/olympic-report-ethicssportsmanship2.htm http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/developing-a-successful-coaching-philosophy (Max)

  • Alfino 10/9: Thanks for this Max. Would you be interested in browsing "Philosophy of Sport" more comprehensively as a topic of interest?

10/13: Professor Alfino: Yes, after a week or so of browsing I have landed on the Philosophy of Sport. David Brooks, a favorite NYT editorialist of mine writes briefly on the subject in an op-ed I have reconstructed below. He alludes to Duke philosophy professor Michael Gillespie's contributions to the anthology "Debating Moral Education," in which Gillespie explores the "role of sports in American ethical training" (Brooks). I was going to ask you what the most appropriate method of obtaining this essay would be or if you would recommend that I just buy and read the whole book. All in all, this seems to be a subject that I can explore passionately while still maintaining a philosophical lens.

Reconstruction of David Brook's "The Sporting Mind"

Note: This is an interesting piece to reconstruct because most of the article is actually Brook's reconstruction and subsequent (and surprisingly brief) rebuttal of Gillespie.

After establishing the argument of Gillespie, Brooks posits that big-time college sports are not as detrimental to society as some may think. He argues that we are better off with college sports as they are today because they provide us with the opportunity to be united as a participatory community in a predominantly harmless way. By establishing the premise that we are a "segmented" society, he implies a need for some sort of unifying movement or activity. By sharing in emotional experiences on a large-scale through college sports (the same argument could probably be made for high-school and professional levels as well), we are less prone to commit acts of mass violence or create civic unrest. While this premise is not explicit, it is implied when Brooks mentions the harmlessness of team loyalties as compared to ethnic loyalties, or the way in which we can learn about human morality in a way that is meaningless yet still consuming. He also mentions that society is improved by college sports because in many cases local economies thrive in locations (college towns) that would otherwise be decrepit and lifeless. He finishes by conceding to Gillespie that college sports are absurd–both in the way we blindly support them and in the way that many times they contradict what it means to be a part of a university–but still reiterates that they matter and they still improve society even if it seems a little crazy.

Austin's Browsing

Sections 3.1 discussing music and emotions is really interesting. It's a bit long, but explores some interesting questions of why we can experience emotions from music and the theories surrounding this. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/music/#3.1

This shorter article discusses ghosts and while I didn't follow his name-dropping, the basic ideas are simple enough. While I don't believe in ghosts, I think this article was a fun and interesting read. http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com/2007/11/metaphysics-of-ghosts.html

This week I looked up a lot of stuff on thought experiments. I found a couple sites with lists of them, which were interesting. I was more intrigued by the examples that could really take place (spider in the urinal- trolley car, etc.) and less so with those that ask us to suspend some bit of normal reality (but they were still cool). I also found a couple articles that use thought experiments a lot. Most prominent would be Judith Jarvis Thomson's article on abortion. Very interesting integration of thought experiments to help one understand abortion. I think it is particularly appropriate for that topic as well due to how emotional abortion is as a topic. Thought experiments are so great because they force us to listen to the emotional side of ourselves, rather than running strictly on logic.

Couple sites with lots of thought experiments http://io9.com/9-philosophical-thought-experiments-that-will-keep-you-1340952809 http://listverse.com/2013/10/21/10-mind-boggling-thought-experiments/

Judith Jarvis Thomson Abortion http://spot.colorado.edu/~heathwoo/Phil160,Fall02/thomson.htm

This is my reconstruction of the main points within Thomson's article linked above.

Thomson develops the argument that a right to life does not include the right for a person to use another’s body to save their own life. It should be made clear that she first states issues with the premise that a fetus from conception is a human life, but for the sake of the arguments presented she assumes this premise to be true. She addresses her thesis by creating a difference in “just” and “unjust” killings. She says that a right to life is a right to not be killed unjustly. She draws a line in a very interesting place for dividing what separates just abortions from unjust abortions: intentionality behind having the child. If the child was intended since the intercourse that started it, and then the parents decide to have an abortion she argues it could be an unjust abortion. However, if the baby was had by accident or through rape, this can justify an abortion. She argues from an analogy that you are kidnapped and wake up connected to another human and that the connection must be sustained for the other to survive. She adjusts this analogy often to fit her example, but her main point is that the kidnapped has no moral obligation to not disconnect and kill the other. But, in this analogy, a person was kidnapped. Thomson addresses the justification of accidental pregnancies through yet another argument from analogy. The argument is that if you have sex with no desire for a child, and have "taken all reasonable precautions against having a child" it does not necessarily mean you need to take care of that child. The analogy compared with is that of a house and if you leave the window open because it’s hot and a burglar crawls in the burglar has every right to stay because you were aware that there are burglars and you, through your action, allowed the burglar in. Thomson uses this to reveal the absurdity of the argument in how responsibility is given.

  • Alfino 10/9: Thanks for this, Austin. Not a bad idea to look ahead to thought experiments. Realism is a good variable to focus on, but some bizarre thought experiments still make their point. Good reconstruction.

hailey's browsing

https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_of_the_history_of_philosophy/v050/50.2.mori.html article about an anonymous letter sent to descartes on the meditations, author argues Hobbes was the penman.

a lot of my research is feminist oriented, but here's an interesting article about a feminist phenomenology http://feministkilljoys.com/2014/06/04/practical-phenomenology/

https://www.ualberta.ca/~lgotell/OB_Articles/masters.pdf Feminist Levinas applied to cyborg soldiers

http://www.egs.edu/faculty/donna-haraway/articles/donna-haraway-a-cyborg-manifesto/ harraway, cyborg manifesto, the mother of socialist feminism in the late twentieth century

http://benjaminthomasjones.com/?p=44 does simone debeauvoir still matter? idk, find out, read the blog.

relevant as college students, interesting claim about moral nihilism http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/02/why-our-children-dont-think-there-are-moral-facts/

then, i have to admit that i've had kind of a weird week in terms of browsing. I've been thinking a lot about cannibalism http://www.theawl.com/2011/03/cannibals-seeking-same-a-visit-to-the-online-world-of-flesh-eaters this article kind of dug the rabbit hole i fell into. but, this is where i arrived: http://phaenex.uwindsor.ca/ojs/leddy/index.php/phaenex/article/view/4094/3171

THIS WEEK: Philosophy x Drug Use http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/out-of-the-cave-philosophy-and-addiction/




  • Alfino 10/9: Some really good blogs and Stone articles here, Hailey, thanks. The Philosophy/Drug, philosophy as drug, philosophy and addiction angles are interesting. You might want to read Derrida's "Pharmakon". It sounds like cannabalism is a research interest. Lots of ways to go there! It might interesting to explore connections between that and eating animals. Maybe justifying carnivorism also justifies canabalism?

For 10/14 NEW: Recently, I stumbled across philosophytalk, which is a forum where a "community of thinkers" post and share audio and video philosophical discussions. I'm more of a reader, so I haven't mined this site extensively, but found this podcast on the logic of regret interesting. The point I found myself pondering the most was the involvement of conditional intent and how it interacts with a Nietzschean idea of eternal return. Is the legitimacy, or perhaps viability is a better word here, of authentic regret contingent on the unconditinoal regret of all the consequences that stem from the subject of said regret? Or, is it sufficient to feel regret based on an isolated instance of conditional intent? http://www.philosophytalk.org/community/blog/john-perry/2015/10/logic-regret

This article about gender, sexuality and excess within Bataille's work is dense and heavily physoanalytic (which is a philisophical blind-spot of mine), but concludes that women and femininity are often exemplars of self-sacrificial death, eroticism, and excess. I'm not sure what it is about this article that I found intersesting, partially because I'm still digesting it. Perhaps a re-reading would serve me well. But for people who have been exposed to Bataille or are interested in narrative theory, this article could be fascinating. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/the_comparatist/v038/38.connolly.html

CONTD: TRANSHUMANISM/FUTURISM: I've been doing a bit of research into transhumanism and cyber-feminism, initiated by a re-reading of Donna Harraways cyborg manifesto (linked above). In this research, I came across an article that continues the line of questioning at the core of cyberfeminism thought. "does technology liberate society from norms or does political social theory liberate technology from norms?" While this article concludes that in the present, technology does more to reinforce gender roles than undermine them, it affirms the possibility for a philosophy of social change that "is built upon the discourse of dissolving cultural norms, of countering social standards and undermining hegemonic power." The potential for transhumanism to transgress the systems of power that determine gender roles in the status quo is a philosophical problem I find deeply thought provoking. http://hplusmagazine.com/2009/07/21/importance-being-cyborg-feminist/

In a similar vein, this manifesto for the gonzo futurist, which I suspect is only interesting to me http://hplusmagazine.com/2015/01/05/gonzo-futurists-manifesto/

An interesting analysis on what we stand to lose by investing in AI. AI isn't designed to grapple with the messy, non-quantifiable experience of being a human being in the world. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-a-i/

DRUGS X PHIL I can't find free access to this article, but the abstract looks promising http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/156916200746238

RELATED TO GOD Article criticizes the perverse calculation of self interest in traditional interpretation of pascals wager Offers a proposal for a re-articulation of the wager that does not conflate doubt with disbelief and understands the cost-benefit analysis of the wager in terms of hope and belief rather than salvation. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/09/28/a-new-wager/

BELATED RECONSTRUCTION: http://aeon.co/magazine/society/why-solitary-confinement-degrades-us-all/

In this article, Lisa Guenther concludes that solitary confinement is degrading for everyone because isolation harms our capacities to make sense of world around us and constitutes a false sense of freedom that forecloses critical awareness. Her rationale is an argument that consists of four premises: 1. Consciousness is relational. In keeping with phenomenological tradition, Guenther argues that meaning emerges in the interaction between the act of thinking and the objects of said thought.

2. The body is our central perspective on the world. In the triangulation of experience that is our being-in-the-world, the body is a site where the act of thinking relates to the objects of thought. Our interaction with the world is necessarily mediated by our bodies, and that our bodies are a 'here' to be contrasted with a 'there.'

3. The essence of human life is human contact. If consciousness is relational and if the body is the primary site of human experience, then the experience of being human necessarily entails the contact with other social beings. Human consciousness and experience is relational in that our ability to make sense of our lives requires an interactive feedback loop with other human beings in a social situation.

4. Solitary confinement is a process of sensory and existential annihilation. Because consciousness is relational, and our bodies are our central perspectives on the world, the isolation of solitary confinement forecloses the ability for both the prisoner, and the larger community to make sense of the experience of solitary confinement. She claims that regardless of their sensory capacities prior to solitary confinement, the longer a prisoner is in isolation increases the chances that their sensory perceptions erode. The testimonies of individuals that have experienced solitary confinement support this point in their descriptions of their experience including: living death, sensory and existential annihilation, becoming nothing, the abyss.

If consciousness is relational, and if the body is our central perspective on the world, and if being human necessitates human contact, then we are all degraded by the practice of solitary confinement. If our capacity to make sense of our lives requires human relation anchored in particular extensions of time and space, denying a prisoner the network of human communication that allows us make sense of our lives implicitly reduces our ability to make sense of life by virtue of their isolation. We don't relate to to the prisoner, we don't hear or see the prisoner because of their removal from the web of experience that is being in the world. To remove one from this web forecloses the possibility of relating that subject by virtue of thier removal.

Matthew Pancoe's browsing

MATH & PHILOSOPHY I am double major in math and philosophy, and while I don't often think about their relationship, people often ask how they fit together, because such a combination seems so foreign, so I did enjoy surfin' the web on this topic: http://www.britannica.com/topic/philosophy-of-mathematics

ART & BEAUTY Beauty is something that has always interested me. Questions like, what makes something beautiful?, is there objective beauty?, why do people respond so strongly to it?, etc, fill my mind, I think because beauty has moved me in powerful ways throughout my life, either through art, literature, music, people, actions, nature. So it was interesting reading more about the philosophy of beauty and seeing the technical side of it: http://faculty.philosophy.umd.edu/jhbrown/beautyintro/

Here's the link to the article on art: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/10/05/what-art-unveils/ Here's the reconstruction: "Alva Noë argues that art is not a phenomena to be explained, but is rather a way of investigating the world and ourselves, revealing our human nature. Noë uses the example of neuroscience as a possible means of explaining art, but claims that it is insufficient because it has yet to frame an adequate conception of human nature and is too individualistic, too inside the head, to understand the way activities shape us. It is reasonable to think art reveals to us our human nature because we can deduce such a claim from the fact that artists make stuff relentlessly, and art causes us to stop and think because it is strange, different from the ordinary. The fact that artists endlessly make art, despite its brilliance or lack thereof, shows not that the stuff we make is special but that making stuff is special to us. Art also makes things strange, and thus causes us to reflect, as opposed to technology, which designs things to be functional, e.g., we do not stop and think about a doorknob, we just turn it.Thus, since it provokes us to think in ways technology doesnt, and reveals to us that we are creators, it is a means of investigation and not an object of investigation."

PHILOSOPHY & THEOLOGY I am a Roman Catholic and love the Church in all of her teachings, especially concerning theology. I have, however, always been a little unclear about the relationship between philosophy and theology, namely, where one ends and the other begins. In my Christian Metaphysics class, our textbook has a quick session, which I only read within the last week, this too helps define the distinction: http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/aquinas_on_the_relationship_of_philosophy_and_theology/

LANGUAGE I like languages, speaking them, learning them, writing them, discovering a new world and culture, in doing so I've gained an appreciation for English, and often recognize my limitations with it, as far as expressing an idea is concerned, and what certain things imply. So: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Philosophy_of_language

HISTORY I took History 112 from Dr. Cunningham last fall--blew my mind--fantastic course. I highly recommend it. He showed me that history just isn't dates and names of events and battles, but much more which really peaked my interest: http://www.iep.utm.edu/history/

  • Alfino 10/9: Noë is a really interesting philosopher; maybe worth more reading. Part of a direction in thinking about consciousness as more socially distributed. Good interest in history there. Philosophers like Foucault really use history in interesting ways to do philosophy. On language, have you browsed about people who like creating artificial lanaguages (not computer langauges, but languages that you could speak, but that don't exist). Anyway, it might be good to read about "the Linguistic turn" in 20th century philosophy.

Christopher McKinnon

CS Lewis provides a brilliantly non academic reason for the existence of evil in the world today. One of my all time favorites: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/437424-god-created-things-which-had-free-will-that-means-creatures

For six years of my life, on and off, I have found myself fascinated with the development of the human body towards what I believe to be an aesthetic ideal. This fascination has led me to follow professional bodybuilding and physique divisions in order to derive inspiration and direction in terms of what an aesthetic physique truly looks like. In the article that I read tonight, a philosopher defends what is often considered a taboo activity in society, that being the sport of professional bodybuilding. Often time the bodies that are developed to step on competition stage are overly muscled and thus many people simply write this development off on steroids and make the assumption that "anyone can do that with steroids." The article goes on to discuss how these people are viewed as "athletically anorexic," or in other words; they are simply going overboard with their pursuit of developing their physique to the point where they are equivocated to someone with extreme anorexia still trying to lose weight. The article goes on to discuss how in fact this sort of lifestyle represents a pursuit toward a perfect expression of an art piece, in which the body is each man's canvas, and his genetics coupled with his resources constitute his tools. The philosopher who wrote the article then goes on to describe the monk-like dedication often exhibited by these individuals, in their pursuit of building their "temple." I have often seen myself sharing his point of view when it comes to analyzing the physiques of bodybuilders. For example, I personally believe that Frank Zane has the most aesthetic physique of all time, a body that took over 25 years to develop. This being said, this pursuit of aestheticism draws interesting issues into the forefront of the art expression because the potential result one may accomplish in terms of aestheticism is largely determine by one's genetics. This being the case, it would seem that some people are more adapt to be able to succeed in this expression of physical beauty than others, a belief that Aristotle would agree with. http://www.broadstreetreview.com/cross-cultural/bodybuilders_and_the_rest_of_us

  • Alfino 10/9: Thanks for this, Christopher. The CS Lewis quote is great, but makes me wonder if you want to dive into the contemporary literature on free will. Great interest in bodybuilding and cool that you found a philosopher writing about it. There could be an "ethics of bodybuilding" research interest here?

Michael Barbarossa's Browsing

Philosophy of Walker Percy
Recently, I have been interested in the philosophy of Walker Percy as articulated through his novels. I just finished reading "Love in the Ruins", which highlights the dislocation of man in the modern world and the efforts of the main character to heal the Cartesian split of body and mind (soul). Another theme he often treats is the "malaise" of modern man. This link is to an interested (albeit long) interview in "the Paris Review" conducted with Percy himself via letters. [1]
Here's another Percy article, this time from NPR on his book "Lost in the Cosmos." Although still fiction, this work contains a series of twenty questions and thought experiments which help the reader explore the concept of selfhood, abstraction, self-knowledge, etc. I would highly recommend the book itself. [2]
I also stumbled upon this other topic within Percy's body of work: his integration of the study of semiotics with the other themes in his novels. Especially in "Lost in the Cosmos," Percy delves into semiotics in relation to the self's abstraction and search for communion. The section from that book, entitled "A Short Semiotic Primer of the Self," is both fascinating and super confusing. Here are two articles: [3] [4]
Reconstruction of Desmond's Article on the Semiotics of Percy and Peirce (Link #3):
In his article “Walker Percy’s Search for Community,” John Desmond claims that Percy’s strength as a writer is his synthesis of Peirce’s semiotics with his Catholic faith and his focus on the possibilities of semiotic communication between humans and God. Desmond supports his claim with two inductive arguments. First, he identifies Percy’s use of the theosemiotic as evidence of his connection to Pierce. Percy rejected Cartesian thought as abstract and dyadic and instead embraced Pierce’s concept of thirdness: a triadic relationship between man, word, and God. Desmond also supports this claim with inductive evidence from Percy’s six novels, in which the conclusion is always a powerful affirmation of this theosemiotic vision. Each protagonist ultimately comes to recognize some real sign of God’s presence in human history and contemporary society. Also, each protagonist ends the novel having developed a critical relationship with another person, which can then be broadened to others. Desmond also supports his main claim with an inductive argument that Percy’s awareness of the tension between solitude and community in the human condition exhibits his synthesis of Peirce. His one premise for this argument is literary evidence from each of Percy’s six novels that shows the protagonist’s attempts to read the “asynchronic overlapping of signs from past, present, and anticipated future, and the flow of triadic interactions between these signs.” Overall, Desmond demonstrates inductively a strong synthesis of Peirce’s semiotic theories in Percy’s fiction work.
Philosophy of the Poetry of St. John Paul II
I have recently been focusing on an integration of my intellectual and spiritual life, and part of that task has involved prayerful reading and reflection on great figures in the Catholic tradition. In particular, I have recently immersed myself in the poetry of St. John Paul II and I have found it to be a deep blending of philosophy, theology, and art. Here is a link to an article from the Catholic journal "First Things" which provides a strong analysis of his collection "Roman Triptych." It particularly focuses on the epistemology presented in the poems. [5]
Concerning that same poem, here is an article from the website Catholic Culture that attempts to draw parallels between JPII's poetry and the then-current state of affairs in the world, especially the situation in the Middle East. [6]
Thomism, Phenomenology, and Personalism in St. John Paul II
Broadening my scope a bit, I found an interesting piece on the question of whether JPII should properly be identified as a Thomist or a Phenomenologist. [7] This second article discusses the relationship of Thomism and Personalism as articulated in his work. [8]
Philosophy of Greek Mythology and Other Related Questions
Pursuing a different interest of mine (I am also a Classics double-major), here are several interesting articles I found relating to the religion and myths of ancient Greece.
This article concerns the "ethics of belief," which it defines as a "cluster of questions at the intersection of epistemology, philosophy of mind, psychology, and ethics." The article is a bit lengthy, but even skimming it is interesting. [9]
Here's another random find from my search of the Stanford Encyclopedia for anything relating to mythology. It is actually about Transcendentalism, but it makes a few short references to certain figures' roots in Greek stories. [10]
  • Alfino 10/9: Nice diversity of interests, Michael. Thanks. It sounds like the Percy interest has some depth, but certainly others as well. I wonder if you would like to look for a piece that does uses phenomenology/existentialism to do theology.

Jonathan Snow

I really enjoyed this article by J.R.R Tolkien explaining his philosophy on stories and mythology. http://brainstorm-services.com/wcu-2004/fairystories-tolkien.pdf

Another good resource on the philosophy of stories is this article giving a broad overview of some of the more influential thought in the area. http://cafephilosophy.co.nz/articles/human-beings-are-inextricably-entangled-in-stories/

I have recently been reading Milan Kundera's book The Unbearable Lightness of Being to explore his ideas about Eternal Recurrence and Fate. I want to explore these ideas more in relation to Nietzsche's ideas on the same topics.

Article for reconstruction: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2184393?origin=crossref&seq=10#page_scan_tab_contents

Reconstruction of “The Eternal Recurrence” by Alexander Nehemas

Nietzsche’s ideas are not frequently called sensible; he “tears at the fabric of common sense.” Nietzsche himself insisted that his thought was unique, and in so doing gives justification for dismissal of his ideas, particularly the idea of eternal recurrence, which is the idea that all of existence is repeated in an identical manner over and over again infinitely. This cosmological hypothesis may not have actually be held by Nietzsche because he never provides a proof for it, but what matters is the question of whether eternal recurrence occurs or not, and the endless, meaningless unfolding of the universe that this theory supports. The idea of eternal recurrence only means to assert that if it is true, that all things—good or bad—occur again infinitely. This gives a weight to every moment in our lives. Nietzsche is not concerned with the truth of cosmological eternal recurrence, but with the internal attitude one must have to respond with joy if this hypothesis were true. We can either respond to this weight with joy, and live a fulfilled life, or be crushed under this weight. Nehemas offers an interpretation of recurrence: 1. Life will recur in an identical fashion. a. Response is utter resignation and indifference or indifferent joy in doomed effort. 2. Life may recur in an identical fashion a. Still, the response is utter indifference and resignation, either with joy or despair. 3. If life recurs, it will recur in an identical fashion. a. The response to this is metaphysical, because it asks why life recurs in the same way and not differently. i. This is because of Nietzsche’s belief that “the-thing-in-itself” does not make sense, because something is only itself in relation to other things. If these relationships are removed, the thing itself does not exist. ii. Therefore, if life recurs, it will recur in an identical fashion because the recurrence of life implies the recurrence of the relationships between all things in that life. “A different life would constitute a different person.” 4. Therefore, the only responses to the question of eternal recurrence is total exhilaration or total despair. The only way to respond with exhilaration is to live a life that is worth living again for all eternity, and so act as the Ubermensch. All events in our past are prerequisite to who we are today, and as such, if we can even for a moment be a person we would want to be again, we can justify the past as requisite for being who we want to be, and thus reconcile the past moments that we wouldn’t want to live again. In creating a present we would want to live again, we justify the past moments that we wouldn’t want to live again. Therefore, the significance of the past remains an open question.

  • Alfino 10/10: Thanks for these posts. Some great interests here. It's good for others to see the eternal recurrence argument. Glad to see Kundera is still being read. That's a great piece to bring back to the seminar as a follow-up on our philosophy and fiction theme. Cafe Philosophy is a pretty interesting site.

Kyle Poje's Browsing

Aristotle and John Paul II on the Family and Society: A Reply to John Hittinger - Walter J. Thompson http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=9590aa82-e54d-41e3-aff3-18adc7450f37%40sessionmgr4003&vid=35&hid=4209 The Theology of the Body by JP2 is the most wonderful topic in the world

Toward an Aesthetics, Ethics, and Pedagogy of Wonder -Laura-Lee Kearns https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/the_journal_of_aesthetic_education/v049/49.1.kearns.html This topic intrigues me, especially lately as we have brought up the reality of attraction being essential to education in my Ancients class with Socrates teaching method. Wonder and attraction are interchangeable to me.




These three short articles have expanded my view on what Philosophy is by the fact that Philosophy begins with Wonder, as Aristotle famously says. It is the starting point that naturally catapults us into philosophizing.

Reconstruction of “Why You Don’t Really Have Free Will” by Jerry Coyne http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/story/2012-01-01/free-will-science-religion/52317624/1

In his article “Why You Don’t Really Have Free Will”, Jerry Coyne asserts that humans do not have free will. He defines free will as “When faced with two or more alternatives, it’s [our] ability to freely and consciously choose one, either on the spot or after some deliberation”. Coyne uses two lines of evidence to support his claim. The first is that we are biological creatures that are made up of molecules that must obey the laws of physics, the same laws that determine the behavior of every molecule in the universe. Because these molecules make up our brains (the organ that does the “choosing”) everything we think, say, or do, must come down to molecules and physics. His second line of evidence is from recent experiments that show a person making a decision that can be predicted (using crude imaging techniques based on blood flow) by brain activity seven seconds before the subject is aware of having made the decision. He states that these decisions are really unconscious. With these experiments proving the reality of unconscious decisions and some of these decisions even being determined before a person has made them, Coyne concludes that there is no free will. Coyne addresses where the illusion of choice comes from by turning to evolution. He concludes that the illusion of choice is a product of natural selection perhaps because if people didn’t feel responsible for their actions, our ancestors wouldn’t thrive in harmonious groups, “the conditions under which we evolved”.

  • Alfino 10/10: Nice posts, here. Thanks. That article on the value of philosophy on "The Conversation" was great. I had no idea November 19 was World Philosophy day. Wonder is a really good theme and the article post for that was pretty good. There's more. Thanks for the anti-free will recon. We might wind up looking at some of that literature.

Tof's Browsing

A surprise appearance of the Socratic Elenchus reassures us that philosophy is alive and well! http://www.philosophynews.com/post/2012/06/08/The-Supreme-Court-and-Philosophy.aspx The audio is worth a listen as well: http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2011/2011_11_210 (Tof)

Another practical and fascinating use of philosophy. (Tof) https://www.ted.com/talks/damon_horowitz_philosophy_in_prison

Although Sam Harris can be intentionally and inappropriately provocative while discussing certain topics, this is quite an interesting post from his blog that's worth a read. In it, he is exchanging emails with Noam Chomsky, a Professor of Linguistics at MIT on the importance of "intent" when a question of ethics arises. In this case, it was the 1996 Clinton Administration bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. This however is only the surface value of the blogs interest; Sam Harris provides an interesting "thought experiment" in his April 27th message to Chomsky as well. But the most interesting aspect of the article is illuminated by the title of the post, The Limits of Discourse. I thought it was a unique experience to observe two incredibly gifted minds "disagreeing" about such a topic, and the manner in which they communicated. Enjoy! http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-limits-of-discourse

Reconstruction of Professor Patrick Stokes article, "No, you are not entitled to your opinion." http://theconversation.com/no-youre-not-entitled-to-your-opinion-9978

Professor Stokes asserts as the title points may imply, no, we are not entitled to our opinions; we are only entitled to what we can argue for or defend. There is only one main argument, being that we are not entitled to our opinions, but he employs two sub-arguments, one of which on what an opinion is; and the second on what it means to be entitled to our opinions. Within each sub-argument, there are three premises (in total six for main argument), and one subsequent conclusion (in total two for sub-arguments, and one overall, three total), lending itself to the form the first sub-argument to the second, and finally to the overall conclusion. The first sub-argument, on “opinions”, he asserts that too often people confuse their opinion of tastes and preferences with those on politics, legal or science. Of the first, there is little in the way of unjustifiable or unentitled opinions; but he asserts that the remaining kinds of opinions are categorically different, but we nonetheless make the mistake of implicitly assuming that they are inarguable in the same manner as the first type. He then moves to his second sub-argument, asking what it means to be entitled to our opinions. Stokes asserts that on the one hand, if we mean that no-one has the right to stop people thinking and saying whatever they want, then the statement is true, but fairly trivial. If on the other hand, when saying everyone is entitled to their opinions, we mean “that you are entitled to have your views treated as serious candidates for the truth’ then it’s pretty clearly false.” He illuminates this with the example of an Australian anti-vaccine advocate with no medical experience, conflating her entitlement to hold those opinions and her entitlement to have them taken seriously; or as he refers to Andrew Brown, “it confuses losing an argument with losing the right to argue.” In sum, Stokes uses the first sub-argument to illuminate the categorical difference between certain opinions. He uses the second sub-argument to distinguish what is meant by the phrase “everyone is entitled to their opinion” by again differentiating a key distinction that may have either overlooked or conflated. And in conclusion then, we are not entitled to our opinions where taste and preference are surpassed, unless and up until we are able to argue for or defend our opinions.

  • Alfino 10/10: The Sam Harris / Chomsky exchange is a little overwhelming and even the thought experiment might have needed more context for me, but I'll wade back in some time. Good reconstruction.

Angelo's browsing


This article talks about music and how it never is really pinned down in one place, and is never really represented materially in reality. Found it a very interesting read and here is my recon.

In this article, Friedmann makes an inductive argument about music and its “fleeting form.” His first premise begins when he talks about music as something in the present tense. He points out, rather poetically, that music only exists in an instant rather than having any real lasting qualities. It is present only in our mind or at the exact time of the music being played. Freidman proceeds with this premise to talk about how musical performance can show the momentary nature of music. A performance cannot be replicated in its entirety, but instead is just very similar to that of the same piece played at a different time. His next premise is based on the material quality of music as it is written down. Friedmann points out, through using Sartre, that music cannot be counted as consistently shown if it is represented on paper. Instead, it simply is gone right after the music is heard, and only lasts in the mind. Thought is the only thing that makes music last in any case for Freidmann. His conclusion consists of a broad statement about how nothing truly endures forever, and points out that everything is thus in decline. Friedmann posits that we try to deal with this by putting labels on things to try and make them last. He closes by saying that things in themselves, specifically music in this case, will always be ephemeral even in our attempts to make them clear.

This article talks more about music and some of its history. A very cool point that it makes to me is its idea of music as a timeless construct. This would mean that it would never be created and this is a very unique opinion. https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/music-aesthetics-of

This paradox of about truth is interesting, and then the following idea of a theory of truth for English as a whole. It really made me think about word choice in argument and truth. https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/semantic-paradoxes-and-theories-of-truth

Skoog's browsing

http://www.critical-theory.com/understanding-jean-baudrillard-with-pumpkin-spice-lattes/ UNDERSTANDING JEAN BAUDRILLARD WITH PUMPKIN SPICE LATTES This is an interesting article which describes one of my favorite thinkers using a product which is widely known, but represents a perfect example of what Baudrillard discusses regarding the hyper-real nature of food consumption.

https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/in-theory-baudrillard-2/ Jean Baudrillard: The Rise of Capitalism & the Exclusion of Death

This is part of a fantastic 11 part essay series on Ceasefire, where Paul Robinson writes about key issues relating to Jean Baudrillard's thought. This particular article, which focuses on Baudrillard's early claims regarding the exclusion of death in political discourse, does a very good job of explaining how the drive to avoid death creates violence through the need to remain permanent in the world.

http://redcritique.org/WinterSpring2014/historicalmaterialistfeminismforthe21stcentury.htm It Is Time To Give Up Liberal, Bourgeois Theories, Including New Materialist Feminism, And Take Up Historical Materialist Feminism For The 21st Century

Interesting take on how Historical Materialism can take steps to account for systems of gender oppression.

http://issuu.com/icasonlinepublications/docs/journal_for_critical_animal_studies?e=5211793/6468971 The Elephant, the Mirror and the Ark: Rereading Lacan’s Animal Philosophy in an Era of Ontological Violence and Mass Extinction P 1-32

This is just super sweet.

http://rauli.cbs.dk/index.php/foucault-studies/article/view/4824/5269 Desiring Disability Differently: Neoliberalism, Heterotopic Imagination and Intra‐ corporeal Reconfigurations

The new issue of Foucault Studies is about disability, and this article about the way that neoliberalism creates a certain disembodied subject is incredibly interesting because it is a structuring principle of our society that is rarely addressed.

http://www2.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudies/vol-12_2/v12-2-manning.html John Malkovich Does Not Exist

A really good review of a very good movie using Baudrillard's theories of the symbol and the subject to explain the voyeurism that is a constant theme in Being John Malkovich

Daniel Webster’s Browsing


This is a good article that talks about human relationship, obviously within a Catholic context. If you can, it would take about 15 minutes to read the whole thing, but if not, the key points would be the first paragraph, followed by the sections titled: “The Individualist Bias,” “Growing to Live Through Others,” and “Communion with the Source of Happiness”. Each section provides some pretty insightful points. Mainly, that the reality we live in involves given relationships, what these relationships mean and how the culture has distorted this meaning in such a way that we can fail to see how they are impacting our reality.


This Wikipedia is about Max Scheler who heavily influenced the thought of JPII. This little section contributes a lot of info about phenomenology. Here are some key excepts I found really thought provoking:

“Scheler never agreed with Husserl that phenomenology is a method in the strict sense, but rather ‘an attitude of spiritual seeing...something which otherwise remains hidden....’”[6].

      • Side note: Thomas Merton wrote in his book “Seeds of Contemplation” a really cool one liner which I think fits well wit this line of thought: “there is no contemplation where there are no secrets”. I have to credit Kyle Poje for pointing this out to me.

“Scheler writes, "Love and hate are acts in which the value-realm accessible to the feelings of a being...is either extended or narrowed."[11] Love and hate are to be distinguished from sensible and even psychical feelings; they are, instead, characterized by an intentional function (one always loves or hates something) and therefore must belong to the same anthropological sphere as theoretical consciousness and the acts of willing and thinking”


JPII wrote a book called “Person and Act” which really outlines his work on personalism, and it lead me to think a bit about moral action. My research lead me to this site which writes at good length about the various aspects of moral action.

This article has several diagrams to show how moral actions can be divided up into various aspects that contribute to the various parts at play within human action.


The reason why I think JPII’s immense focus on personalism carries an imperative role is primarily because of the notion that if we can come to a greater understanding and realization of the depth and various dimensions of the person, then we can begin to make important implications on subtle shifts in societal values that can in the long run have an enormous impact on any given individual and society as a whole.

It would be an injustice for me to try and summarize an entire encyclical, but you need not have to read much more than the subtitles to get an grasp at some of the important points he makes out. Even just thinking a few moments about the larger implications of these can lead to some great insight.

In short, here are a few subtitles that stood out to me: “The incomparable worth of the human person” “ ‘Am I my brother's keeper?’ (Gen 4:9): a perverse idea of freedom” “ ‘From man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting’ (Gen 9:5): reverence and love for every human life” “ ‘For you formed my inmost being’ (Ps 139:13): the dignity of the unborn child” “ ‘Your eyes beheld my unformed substance’ (Ps 139:16): the unspeakable crime of abortion”