Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I think the area in which this class helped me the most is differentiating between true philosophical concepts and mere opinions. Sometimes we propose something when talking about a philosophical theory and don’t realize that we may just be speaking about a subjective experience that has little to do with the particular concept we are talking about. There have been many times, including the reading of Deleuze and Guattari, when I have found myself totally disagreeing with whatever author we happen to be reading until I have a strong grasp of their whole theory. Usually when this occurs I find myself agreeing much more than not with the theories, and found what philosophers proposes to be much closer to what I believe than I originally thought. I think there are many times when our conversations took a strong tangent because an idea was brought up that, while interesting, didn’t really apply to the theory we were discussing. I think there are also times when we have long disagreements that turn out to be just differences of word use and vocabulary. It almost feels like the more philosophy I do the more complicated it gets and the harder it is to find the words to convey my actual thoughts. While I might find it easier to differentiate between opinions and concepts, I have found myself being more plagued by differences of vocabulary and such. I have had extensive conversations in which myself and my interlocutor have thought we were disagreeing, but by the end of it discover that we actually agree. Too often do we find an issue with a small point or phrase and then ignore the rest of what someone is trying to say because we can’t get past that point. I found this when reading D&G however once I had finished the book and looked back at certain problems I had I found them to be elementary. Once I was able to grasp the greater mission of their text I was able to understand the smaller points they made from their own perspective.

I want to talk about our senior projects as well. I really enjoyed everyone’s papers (even those I thought I wouldn’t) and I loved the variety of topics we covered. We all had complex yet well thought out ideas; I just wish we had had more time to discuss them! I also wish we could’ve had more class discussions about our papers while we were writing them. It took us a lot of effort to convey what we really wanted to say to each other, but by the banquet we were spot on. Good job guys!
Dear Classmates,

This past semester has been interesting to say the least, but looking back at the tough weeks we all encountered I am proud of our class and our finished products. I think this is where I want to focus my attention- the struggle that led us to the end. To sugar coat our experience in senior seminar would allow us to look past the tough spots we all encountered. Maybe I am being too general here, but at some point I assume we were all ready to throw up our hands. We started off with difficult material that was completely different from anything we had read in the past. The abstract language, new ideas, and dense writing forced us to slow down and critically addresses the questions that were bring brought about by the material. It would have been easy to brush these concerns to the side, and keep pressing forward without a clear idea of how the argument was being constructed. If we were to overlook our questions or our concerns about the material, we would have failed to grasp the ideas. At the time, I was so frustrated. I didn’t have much to say in class, because when reviewing what I read I was never sure what I understood about it. But my point is not to show the distraught, but how the struggle led to me fully understanding the material and introducing me to a new way of looking at philosophy. I have referred to D and G’s ideas about the concept’s uniqueness to philosophy, philosophy’s comparison to art and science, and the structure of each of these formations of thought many times. It altered the way I viewed our field of study, and I am glad we slowly pressed through till the end.
I think our struggle with D and G reiterates the importance of perseverance. If this semester would have been easy, I don’t think I would appreciate the diploma I (hopefully) will be receiving in two weeks. The question of whether I can make it to the end or if I want to make it to the end has been debatable, but now being close to finished I appreciate that this semester has been fight. As we approach the real world I think these little fights will be a reoccurrence, and we may not always have the known reward waiting at the end of it all. But it is important to remember these times, and know that the hard work at some point does pay off whether or not we recognize it. Anyway, I am proud to be graduating with an intelligent group of students that have worked for our diplomas. Congratulations! Thank you Dr. J for making this semester memorable and believing in us these past four years.

Best of luck,
Courtney Martin

Final thoughts senior sem

My experience in this class has really helped me grow in philosophy more than most other classes I have taken. It was a valuable experience to be able to write on whatever subject I wished and get insight on possible flaws with my reasoning. My experience during this class was unique because I was not simply learning some dead philosophers beliefs and applying them to things like the ethical implications of torture or the ethics in the series Torchwood. I believe that this class was the first one where we were actually doing philosophy and not simply the history of philosophy. I think that it was a valuable experience that properly ends our education. I believe it was nice to gain insight into the different presentations that were made. After getting past the D&G we were really able to open up and start philosophy. I learned a lot about the philosophy of art and the art experience as well with this class.
One of the possible problems addressed to my senior seminar is the idea that holding a belief without material evidence based on certain criteria would allow almost any belief. Like a belief in Santa Claus or fairies could be justified if it somehow met the criteria. I was hesitant at first to say this in class however any one of those beliefs are justified so long as it is beneficial and they are not delusional beliefs. So long as the belief cannot be solved on intellectual grounds and the option is momentous, living, and forced holding that belief is justified Holding different beliefs in Gods or fairies is no different than holding different religious beliefs. So long as those beliefs are beneficial a person can consider them true. Some people may criticize it for allowing so many different beliefs like that however it is no different than the differing religions in the world. Some may have a problem with allowing those beliefs, but they have to keep in mind that those beliefs can be of the same rationality as all religious beliefs. I believe that I demonstrated the benefits of religion as well showing that it can be justified. Religion has been used to inspire thoughts and movements which have been beneficial to society and has helped people on a personal level that can be directly observed. I believe that religion is an aspect of our life that seems to be forgotten by philosophers nowadays and my work on the presentation showed me how philosophical those beliefs actually are. I thought I should clear up that little aspect of my senior sem presentation.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sport and Society

Peter Arnold discusses the relationship between sport and society in his article Democracy, Education, and Sport. “Democracy,” according to Arnold, is a form of government that is fundamentally based on freedom, human dignity, and equality (Holowchak 484). Arnold asserts that democracy also serves as a “sociocultural, a moral, way of life in which persons are free to associate in various ways and to express their mature interests and concerns” (Holowchak 486). In order to participate in a democratic life, Arnold explains that individuals must pursue a liberal education. Because it avoids narrow specialization and demands individuals to exercise their intellectual abilities, Arnold believes that a liberal education transforms individuals for the better and teaches them how to properly approach life (Holowchak 486). Rationality and morality, the two strands of liberal education, have significant implications for the individuals in a democratic society. Arnold explains that sound decisions develop from rational judgment, as opposed to passion, prejudice, or uninformed opinion (Holowchak 486). In addition, the reasoned criticism and review of public policy that stems from rationality is essential to democratic ideals and prosperity. Morality, in particular, concerns the “values and principles to which reference can be made before making a decision or engaging upon a particular course of action” (Holowchak 488). Morality involves a consideration and concern for our own interests and the welfare of other individuals. Together, rationality and morality constitute a specific type of education that allows individuals to successfully protect democratic ideals.

Arnold separates rationality into two distinct categories: theoretical reasoning, which includes the subjects of mathematics, science, and history, and practical reasoning, which incorporates activities such as dance, pottery, and sport. Practical reasoning, as opposed to theoretical reasoning, is concerned with individual action in the world, rather than merely providing information or speculating about the world (Holowchak 489). Arnold argues that knowing how to participate in a range of physical pursuits is an important aspect of human development; practical reasoning “provides an individual with the opportunity to become a more completely rounded person” and “permits an individual the freedom to choose…between the inherent values of different types of activity” (Holowchak 489). Sporting practices, among the other types of practical reasoning, provide opportunities for an individual to exercise particular virtues in the form of justice, honesty, and courage. In addition, Arnold believes that the universal and impartial rules of sport foster and shape the principle of equality (Holowchak 490). Like democracy and education, sport contributes to the structuring of society; it operates within a context of what is fair and just. In light of the increasing number individuals who see sport as a significant part of social and cultural development, Arnold encourages developed democracies to integrate the right to take part in cultural life into social policies. The government should be responsible for the provision of sport “on a fair and equitable basis” because this activity provides the means for individuals to become more complete and responsible members of a community (Holowchak 491).

Monday, April 25, 2011

McKenna Animal Ethics

Mckenna notion of truth is one that rejects classic notions of truth in favor of a truth that evolves throughout time as the situation changes. Right and wrong has the ability to change based on the context at which it is presented. Her criticism of PETA for attempting to demand a renaming of pets to non-human companions, and her criticism of over humanizing pets demonstrates that there is not a system of laws that can completely protect and articulate animal rights in a moving system. She seems to take a very Aristotelian take on animals ethics arguing that we need to find a mean between the anthropomorphizing animals and the treatment of them as things.
McKenna argued that dogs and cattle have evolved to be of use to humans or at the very least require an interaction with humans to survive. She mentions that dogs are evolved to interact and communicate with humans better than their wolf counterparts and have been used by humans for thousands of years. She uses this to demonstrate that humans as social animals interact with other animals in order to survive, and through this interaction both species evolve to be of use to one another. In fact I would find it hard to believe that cattle could survive for very long without the assistance of humans. I do realize however that while this is an effective argument for not dismissing the use of all animals PETA can still object to McKenna by arguing that humans should stop interacting with new species of animals because they are not evolved in a way to work with humans. This would require us to respect the rights of exotic animals. In addition PETA could also object to McKenna by arguing that our use of animals does more harm and suffering to the animal than it does good. If there is a clear side benefitting at the expense of the other then humans would not be in a community with the animals, the animals are merely being exploited. PETA’s argument against the use of animals is because by nature humans seem to be exploiting these animals. If this is the case then PETA would have a very pragmatic case against McKenna’s position. To this McKenna tries to demonstrate that we need to move back the mean between anthropomorphizing animals and treating animals as things to prevent things like factory farming. This would reduce the exploitation of animals without having to do things like try to rename fish sea kittens (no really PETA tried to). One thing I think is the use of animals is something that is a part of human nature and cannot be escaped. There is no absolute that can be taken to avoid this.
I also find McKenna Feminist pragmatism to be different from many other pragmatists. While most pragmatists would argue that one should find a position that is the most beneficial for all parties McKenna tries to make people change their position as dominant over other species. This would mean that even if we want to help the animals we cannot treat them as things completely because it would eventually defeat the purpose and lead to the further exploitation of the animals.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Erin McKenna Lecture: The Benefits of the Eco-Feminine Perspective

Professor’s Erin McKenna’s lecture on Thursday addressed the current misconception of human involvement with all other animal. As a devout pragmatist, McKenna used Dewey’s means-end-continuum to show how we can better understand our connection with animals, and how recognizing these commonalities will create an ameliorated animal ethic. McKenna argued that we as human must consider ourselves as part of the “animal kingdom”. Though we as humans have different characteristics from most other animals, we nonetheless fall under the same genus of animals. We should therefore spend less time trying to figure out how animals live, how they can fulfill human ends, and more time figuring out how we (as animals) relate to each other. With this in mind, the more we see ourselves as intertwined with other all animals the less we ought to embrace an over-anthropomorphic view of animals. The problem with sticking to an over-anthropomorphic view of animals is that often elevate ourselves as the dominant animal, which falsely validates why humans can view all other animal “instrumentally”. As an advocate of “pet” ownership, however, McKenna was intent on clarifying how animals cannot be considered as “things”. This approach to animal ethics reinforces the instrumental view of animals as “ends” for humankind. Animals thus become the means for human ends rather than ends in and of themselves.

Last semester I took Prof. Terj’s class on Environmental Ethics. We read a few articles by McKenna; one of which attacking the use if on factory farming and the other an eco-feminine approach to animal ethics. Of course both articles, not to mention her lecture, where motivated by pragmatic understanding of animal ethics. One of the points she reiterated in her lecture was how pragmatist recognize their own fallibility. In general, the pragmatist would dismiss what William James might call “supposed necessities” and use the rule of fallibility helping reshape an undersigning humankind kind. But what I found most appealing in McKenna’s philosophy is how she employs an eco-feminine perspective to animal ethics. The advantage of an eco-feminine perspective helps reassess what we as humans are missing in our approach to animal ethic. The eco-feminist perspective encourages humans to abandon the “dominant”, anthropomorphic view of animals. Instead it appeals to the interest of all animals, which we as humans should embrace as being part of the animal kingdom. Thus, if the eco-famine can indeed teach more about our involvement with animals, it is that our relationships with animals are more intimate and transformative than they are instrumental. Only in abandoning the anthropomorphic view are we as humans then able to consider the needs and interest of all other animals.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Erin McKenna Lecture Thoughts

I was a bit confused by Dr. McKenna's ethic, as it seems to undermine itself a bit.  If this is a pragmatic ethic, then the classical notion of truth is ignored in favor of what works in helping people to relate to one another and society better, right?  Well, Dr. McKenna seemed to be saying that we should realize no system of laws or regulations could ever sufficiently stop the ethical violations she's concerned with.  Realistic?  Probably.  But what effect will the acceptance of that truth have on the people attempting to create the laws and regulations?  I think this would probably lead them to accept a certain degree of "inevitable casualties" inherent in an imperfect system, and this seems like a very dangerous slope to slip down.  Pragmatically, wouldn't it be better to just tell people that we can create sufficiently expansive or effective laws, and let them keep trying to better them?  Why should we realize that no laws will ever be good enough?  She says that this will allow opposing sides to work together, but I don't realize how that will necessarily happen.  I may not be understanding her talk, and I definitely don't have a firm grasp of pragmatic thought, but that's one of the problems I saw.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Missing Something

Here's a section from my paper.  I have a suspicion that I'm missing something obvious here.  If someone sees it, let me know.

 An act’s appropriateness or rightness, rather than being determined by a single factor, relies almost entirely on context in its evaluation.  While consequences may be considered, they are not the exclusive determining factor.  So an act may be considered moral or right if it is done in a right way, for the right reasons, with the right object, at the right time, or perhaps any combination of these or more elements.  Aristotle’s is perhaps the most famous example of a system of this kind.  But what determines the rightness of a certain action in certain circumstances?  I suppose that this could be determined by social codes or subjective notions, but there seems an overarching principle lying behind such possibilities to the effect of, “you should obey social codes, etc.”  But if this is internal to the system, just another social code, as it were, it provides no outside justification for adhering to the system.  A person must therefore, for no moral reason, decide to willingly place herself within the subjective justificatory system.  What sort of reason would she have, then, to perform certain kinds of moral action if not a moral reason?  One could, of course, argue that it is a pragmatic consideration, and that it is simply easier or that it works practically.  Then the ground of the morality of the system is either non-moral, which seems impossible, or morality is defined as that which works best (understood in a practical sense) in a certain situation.  The Stoics are perhaps most closely allied with this view, stating that one should act according to the law of nature.  Things are designed to run smoothly in a certain way, and one should go along with the flow of the universe, in a sense, without resisting.  This is virtue (arĂȘte).


is paper will consist, broadly, of an exploration of critical race theory in America. In more specific terms, I intent to connect some of the ideas and problems which CR theorists have highlighted as defining the schism which is apparent in the modern, post-enlightenment Western world. In this paper I will attempt to inquire into some of the presuppositions which have helped to shape the underlying assumptions of philosophy and, to a greater extent, modern western society as it has developed. In particular, it would seem fruitful to me to research and explicate on some of the enlightenment thinkers and give context for their opinions and claims.

These critical thinkers were fundamental in shaping various essences which are commonly taken to be the basic properties of humankind. Though it may be a bit difficult to correlate, I would like to move from this to an analysis of racism within the United States specifically. There are, for various reasons, many different misconceptions which have mangled the profound scholarship which came about at this time (the enlightenment) - some of which are perpetuated today. In diagnosing some of the basic assumptions which grew to separate the various groups of people in this time, we can see the bane which still plagues America to this day.

What Does Race Accomplish?

In my paper I want to explore race the idea that it is a social construction. Most of us would agree that race has no biological foundation outside of physical ethnic characteristics. Instead it is a combination of factors that include appearance, ancestry, experience, culture and perceived community membership. Not only does one’s ancestry come into account, but whether one is aware of it and whether the public is aware of it. In one sense, an individual identifies for themselves what community they are a part of; but in another sense, it can be an identity that is pushed on him or her by other people. The race one identifies with can even be different than what the public identifies that person as. Appiah believed that they was no term that could do for us all the things we try to make race do and I think he was right in that assertion. There are numerous factors that go into deciding someone’s race and even considering all these factors together sometimes doesn’t give a clear indication of what race an individual belongs to. In his book Blackness Visible, Charles Mills identifies seven different factors that go into a person’s racial identity and showed how even when you can identify all the factors, a person’s race may still be elusive. I think, like Appiah, that we have made race too broad of a category; including appearance, experience, culture, and ancestry in one is a messy business and leads to much confusion. If the concept of race we identify today is so complex and flawed then why do we even use it still? Most people seem ready to admit that race is flawed yet we do not abandon the system. What do we gain by keeping a system as flawed as this so prominent in our conception society and the world? I think that, for the most part, it leads people to jump to incorrect conclusions and negatively affects how we interact on a day to day basis. While I suppose that there are different communities that make up the larger society, separating people by race only encourages and forces social separations. Even when we find little instances in which our conception of race works out, they are still vastly outweighed by the instances in which racial considerations lead to injustice and inequality.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Ethics of the Baseball Code

In his book “Philosophy of Sport,” Drew Hyland introduces a wide range of practical and theoretical issues that incorporate sociological, psychological, and philosophical themes. Hyland argues that, alongside politics, religion, music, and the arts, sport should be considered a legitimate subject of philosophical inquiry. The philosophy of sport, in particular, is a relatively new development within the realm of philosophy. Hyland explains that many great philosophers have discussed sport in their works (Plato, Aristotle, and Nietzsche), but that they usually treated sport as an example of a larger point or as a metaphor for a larger issue being addressed (xvi). It wasn’t until the 20th century that philosophers turned their attention directly to sport as a theme for philosophical investigation. Although the philosophy of sport covers a wide variety of topics, including the relationship between sport and society, mind and body in sport, and sport and self knowledge, this area of philosophy places the greatest emphasis on the ethics of sport. Hyland believes that the philosophy of sport must address the issue concerning the “overemphasis on winning” in sport, which elevates with the levels of competition. Unfortunately, competitive sports encourage participants to treat their opponents as “the enemy,” or someone they must dominate. Hyland explains that this type of activity creates alienation between both players and teams, an issue he considers the most significant in sport. Hyland also discusses the issue of drug use within sport, which he believes has a positive correlation with the level of competition.

Because I have participated in baseball throughout my life and on every level short of professional, it is the particular sport I plan to investigate in my term paper. An individual who watches or follows baseball will probably notice that players, coaches, and umpires follow certain rules or guidelines. For example, all players must use some type of protective helmet while at bat and all players on a team must wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style. These types of rules are provided by Major League Baseball and are considered the “written” rules of baseball. If an individual participates in baseball, however, he gains the opportunity to experience an entirely different set of rules. These separate rules are considered the “unwritten” rules of baseball because they are not in the rulebook and are primarily learned through playing the game. The collection of unwritten rules, also known as the baseball “code,” is divided into two categories: the first set is designed to promote sportsmanship (these rules explain when it is appropriate to run, swing, etc.) and the second set is designed to enforce the first set (these rules explain when it is appropriate to throw at a batter, provide a hard tag, etc.). My term paper will investigate the morality of the unwritten rules of baseball using specific virtues provided in Aristotle’s ethics, including courage, fortitude, prudence, justice, and temperance. In order to determine whether or not the activities in baseball are ethical, it is necessary to determine the morality of its players based on varying situations. Because the values of society are reflected in sport, I hope to gain knowledge of these values during my investigation into the ethics of the baseball code.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Nature and Chaos: One in the Same?

In taking up the subject of philosophical taste as a capacity to judge the beautiful, I find it altogether difficult to part ways from a Kantian perspective. But as the case with almost all of Kant’s philosophy, you’re enticed by his philosophy as much as you are repulsed. Granted his examples (particularly that in art) are meager and lacking in any real substance, but he compensates so well through his thorough explanations that read more scientific than they do philosophical. I don’t mean “scientific” in actual sense, but rather from Kant’s astute, methodical observations of “nature” that characterize his philosophy. The mere fact that he was able to publish three volumes on the subject philosophy is symbolic enough of his immense understanding the human mind. I mean, whether you disagree with him or not, the fact remains how he singlehandedly revolutionized modern philosophy – undoubtedly so, too.

The more I trek through the Third Critique, the more I realize how influential – to an almost inescapable degree – his philosophy has been even amidst those hailed as the more contemporary of thinkers. Such is evidenced is our reading of What is Philosophy by Deleuze and Guattari. The most sticking similarity I’ve come to find between Kantian philosophy and D&G’s distinction between the three modes of thinking lies is found in their respective understanding of art. In particular, the similarity between nature and chaos. For Kant, nature is our apparatus for understanding everything that “exist” in time and space. All things sensible come from nature and our intuitions are a product of nature’s being, more or less, constantly upon us. In application to aesthetics, nature is where we find/discover beauty. The simple pleasures and pains which arise from nature presenting itself to us thus become the basis for our “liking” of beauty and moreover ground the subjectivity of our empirical encounter with nature. What we call beautiful, therefore, derives from our “disinterested” – perhaps better phrased “neutral”—pleasure which nature invokes from us. Our capacity for making this pleasure known is called taste, and everyone has taste. The artist, then, to whom nature has given a certain, ability, skill, or talent (denoted as genius), is the one who can effectively communicate taste through means of nature.

The same is true of the aesthetic figure in art. In art’s struggle with chaos (nature?), at a certain moment it is able to extract from chaos, in the form of a chaoid compound, a pure sensation that is able is capable of standing up on its own. The astonishing similarity I find between Kant’s imagination, where nature presents itself to us via the senses, and D&G’s understanding of art is that way in which both extract from the world private sensations that can be communicated as something universal. In this way chaos and nature are one in the same. They both inexplicably yield sensations to us which that we the capable of communicating to the world via art. Thus, I honestly think you’re right, Austin, the aesthetic figure is to chaos as the genius is to nature. So it seems, at least.

This is Genius: http://www.nowness.com/day/2011/3/18/1371/sebastian--embody