Philosophy in the World Option A: The Philosophy of Rick and Morty

Rick and Morty is an animated comedy tv series in which nearly anything can happen. The writers of Rick and Morty draw heavily on nihilist and existentialist philosophic views and use cosmic horror to explore the insignificance of human life within the universe. By exploring nihilism in a comedic way, Rick and Morty helps the viewer to feel at peace with their insignificance and in a paradoxical fashion empowers the viewer. Through the philosophy of cosmic nihilism, Rick and Morty demystifies many deep-rooted fears of the unknown, and takes on difficult existential questions, such as: “is my life significant?”. However, before we get to the answer to this question according to the show (hint: no!), lets define philosophy.

What is philosophy exactly? To me, philosophy is the reflexive study of the essential questions of the universe, and the interrogation of how one’s existence fits within the universe. I believe that through practicing philosophy, one can confront the things that they are uneasy or unknowledgeable about and begin to rationalize them, in order to bring greater peace to their existence. Within my definition, practicing philosophy can involve discussion and productive argument on any matter with the intent of demystifying it, meditation on one’s troubles, analysis of the value of human life, and political activism (such as arguing for why we should have human rights), non-exhaustively.

Socrates is an excellent source to look at when attempting to define philosophy. While his definition that “[a] philosopher’s mission [is to] search… into [oneself] and other men” (Plato, “Apology” 8) is slightly narrower in scope than my more universal definition, the practices he associates with philosophy are quite similar. While his definition may exclude looking into existential questions as a primary goal, it does still encompass discussing existential questions with other people, as Socrates was often seen doing with the men of Athens. Given that argument (and discussion) was a pillar of philosophical activity to Socrates, let’s talk about it!

Productive argument is something that I am very passionate about, and Socrates is perhaps the most famous arguer in all of history. While productive might be used lightly when applied to some of Socrates’ arguments, such as his discussion with Euthyphro on the definition of the word “pious”, where he constantly baits Euthyphro into contradicting himself all the while sarcastically mocking him (Plato, “Euthyphro”), his strategy of sparking philosophical discussion with whoever will listen displays his intrinsic desire to enlighten himself and others. And that, being the enlightenment of oneself and others, is what I too believe the productive goal of philosophy is. To quote Socrates, “[philosophy is] the greatest improvement of the soul” (Plato, “Apology” 9), meaning that he believes there is nothing better one can do to reach intellectual enlightenment, as well as spiritual enlightenment if you seek it. Therefore, philosophy is a way of studying the world whose practice provides enlightenment and knowledge to oneself at the cost of interesting and productive discourse with oneself and other people; hardly a cost for such great benefits!

Now that we have a good idea of what philosophy is, we can apply it to Rick and Morty. The YouTube channel Wisecrack has many excellent videos on the philosophy of Rick and Morty, and one that I have linked as follows contains an entertaining and concise overview of cosmic nihilism, which is the prevailing philosophical view within the show. Here is the video, in which the portion on Rick and Morty begins at the 8:25 mark:

Within this video, cosmic nihilism is defined as “[a] hyper-rational [philosophic school of thought], which argues that there is no truth or meaning to be found in the universe” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsotfzGpby8). While this sounds rather gloomy,  to the contrary my opinion is that cosmic nihilism is one of the most empowering philosophical ideas in existence. If there is no meaning to be found in the universe, then “there isn’t anything on which to ground ethics,” and “if there is no value on which to build an ethical system, then one is free to do whatever they want” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsotfzGpby8). What could possibly be more freeing and empowering than that?

While in practice a philosophy that tells you that nothing matters and that you can do whatever you want might not be a healthy foundation for your life, as Michael Burns writes for Wisecrack: “nihilism [isn’t] about giving up completely, but rather… [offering an approach] to moving forward in a largely uncertain world” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsotfzGpby8). This is the reason that the potentially depressing topics tackled by Rick and Morty end up empowering the viewer; one does not need to fully adopt nihilism, but only to find comfort in facets of it that move them, such as the reassurance that they are fully autonomous and unrestricted beings, or the knowledge that the answer to the question “is my life significant?” is “no!”. To me this answer is wonderfully empowering, as it frees the mind from the dark existential musings which have the potential to eat away at you, and allows you to focus on the things you have control over. If nothing matters, then you have just as good a reason to live your best life as not, except you can now, having accepted that nothing matters, live your best life free from the burden of the existential questions of the universe!

To demonstrate one of the countless practical applications of philosophy, I will now discuss one way I engage in philosophical activity in my life, which is through what I consider to be my favourite hobby and biggest passion: music. I absolutely love critically engaging with the music I listen to as well as analysing how it can challenge my ways of thinking. As far as philosophical activities I partake in through music, I thoroughly enjoy discussing the meaning and value of music with other fans, as Socrates enjoyed discussing the meaning of life with the citizens of Athens. I also partake in meditation during the act of listening to music, which is another method of philosophical practice under my definition. One can listen to music that fits whatever mood they are in, and which speaks to whatever problems they are facing, or questions of the universe one is attempting to interrogate at any given time. This extreme level of flexible applicability turns music itself into an always-ready partner in your own private philosophical discussions, and makes music one of the best ways to interrogate the universe through looking within oneself.

I hope that my definition of philosophy can be of service to you as you attempt to interrogate and de-mystify the questions of the universe. I also hope that you can see how the deceptively simple activities in your life, such as watching cartoons like Rick and Morty, can provide deep philosophical insights into the nature of your existence, and can empower you to live your best life. Socrates would be proud of your insights, knowing that his legacy still lives on in the 21st century.

Philosophy in the World: Health and Nutrition

Throughout this semester in Philosophy 102, my definition of what philosophy is has evolved tremendously. Prior to this course, I saw philosophy as a field of ancient study dominated by famous Greek and Roman thinkers. I imagined it to be sophisticated discussions of vague concepts – predominantly pertaining to thinking and knowledge. However, as the course progressed I was able to see the importance philosophy plays in modern day, and its relevancy to daily life. This caused a change in my preconceived notions, helping me arrive at a new definition and enabling me to view the world from a different lens. In this paper, I will start by defining what philosophy means to me. Next, I will provide an example of how I practice philosophy according to my definition, focusing on my diet. Lastly, I will apply that definition to a popular health and nutrition documentary, What the Health, thereby establishing its philosophical nature. Ultimately, this paper will provide another interpretation of philosophy, demonstrating an additional way in which it can be applied in the world.

My definition of philosophy is based upon Socrates’ belief that “the unexamined life is not worth living” (Plato, “Apology,” 13). This statement was recorded by Socrates’ pupil, Plato, during the former’s trial. When charged with corrupting the youth and impiety, Socrates rationalizes his actions by referring to his personal philosophy (5). In his explanation Socrates refers to himself as a gadfly, gifted by God to the Athenians (9). Socrates tries to show to the Athenians that in his role as a gadfly he is “fastening upon [the Athenians], arousing and persuading and reproaching” them (10). Without the harmless nuisance that Socrates imposes, the state of Athens would not be critical of its actions, as it is Socrates who constantly challenges the status quo. In fact, Socrates’ method of inquiry has been coined the Socratic Method, as it is unique to the way he practiced philosophy. An example of this method can be found in Socrates’ conversation with a clergyman named Euthyphro, in which he is trying to define piety (Plato, “Euthyphro,” 4). Socrates asks Euthyphro many questions, and just as the latter reaches a response, Socrates cleverly reveals the fallacies of that answer (5-8). This method of inquiry, although often vexing and irritating, results with individuals questioning their beliefs and trying to identify the reasons behind them. Evidently, Socrates was a bit careless in his method, as it concluded with growing resentment towards him that culminated with his execution at trial (Plato, “Apology,” 4). Nonetheless, the example with Euthyphro, a clergyman that cannot define piety, imprinted upon me the importance of questioning one’s beliefs. This idea has become the foundation of my personal definition of philosophy. Like Socrates, I believe in the necessity of examining one’s life. Where I diverge from Socrates is that I apply this idea not to vague concepts and words such as impiety, but to established activities or actions that have become so ingrained in my life that, unless I consciously question them, will go unnoticed. One such activity is the way I eat, which was a topic I put under philosophical scrutiny this year.

As a consequence of starting university and living on my own, I began to think more about the decisions I was making regarding food. When I was living in my parents’ home, I seldom questioned what I ate – I would just have whatever my mother had prepared that day. However, switching to eat at my campus residence cafeteria, there were far more food-decision to be made. Instead of unthinkingly settling into a habit, I decided to practice what would later become my definition of philosophy and examine this aspect of my life. I started by searching online for dietary guidelines and advice, however I soon realized that the plethora of contradictory information will be impossible to navigate effectively. I quickly identified documentaries as a better way to learn about health and nutrition. This strategy enabled me to practice my current definition of philosophy with people doing just the same; namely, filmmakers determined to shed light on an unexamined part of life. One such filmmaker, Kip Andersen, is what I believe to be a modern-day gadfly, and it was his film, What the Health that inspired me to continue examining this aspect of my life and change it.

What the Health is a film which traces back the astonishing growth in chronic diseases -specifically heart disease, cancer, and diabetes- to diet. In the film, Andersen investigates the causes behind the rise in these illnesses, echoing Socrates in his inquiries. On the What the Health website, Andresen’s start as a filmmaker is described as an “awakening;” Socrates uses similar language, comparing the Athenians who learn from his questioning and get frustrated by it to those who are “suddenly awakened from sleep” (Plato, “Apology,” 10).  Much like Socrates, Andresen goes to experts in their field, and questions them about matters to which he expects they would have answers (like a clergyman knowing the definition of piety). However, he finds that getting an answer is far more difficult than one would anticipate. Throughout the film, Andersen’s use of the Socratic method unveils shocking information about the dietary misconceptions so commonly accepted by our society. After viewing this film, I began watching countless other documentaries about food, nutrition, and what composes a healthy diet. Some of the information I came across shocked me, not so much the facts but the possibility that they are not known by most people, and that in many cases, the opposite is held true. For example, dairy is believed to strengthen bones, but it has been found that in countries where dairy consumption is the highest, so too are the rates of osteoporosis (What the Health, 29:47). This is but a mere example of the information What the Health and similar documentaries have discovered. The volume of uncovered statistics, coupled with consistently reliable sources, has pushed me to examine my life in terms of diet, ultimately adopting a vegetarian lifestyle and reducing the amount of animal products I consume. Although at the time I did not attribute this quest for knowledge as philosophy, I have now realized that I was, in fact, practicing my own definition of philosophy. Moreover, this definition parallels that of a great Greek thinker I once considered far-removed and irrelevant in my daily life.

As demonstrated, through Philosophy 102 my notion of philosophy has significantly shifted. From an ancient study, my definition of philosophy has evolved to mean examining aspects of one’s life to reach meaningful conclusions. Such a definition enables me to dissect different parts of my life, for example my diet. Moreover, this definition has allowed me to appreciate others’ philosophical journeys, like that of Kip Andersen through his film. Ultimately, I am now able to identify philosophy when I see it in the world. This helps me lead a more informed life, and one that I -along with Socrates- would argue is worth living.

Kip Andersen’s Film Website: http://www.whatthehealthfilm.com

What the Health Film Trailer:

Works Cited

What the Health. Directed by Andersen, Kip, and Keegan Kuhn. A.U.M. Films & Media, 2017.

 

Option A: Why is the One Ring evil? Philosophical analysis of Good and Evil

The Lord of the Rings, written by J.R.R Tolkien is the most influential fantasy novel of 20th century. One of the central theme of the book is the struggle between the good versus evil; of the war between the ‘free people’ of the Middle-earth against the dark lord Sauron. While the book does describe the military battle between the armies of the good and the armies of the evil, struggle is better shown through how various characters interact with the One Ring. In the book, it is not the wise wizards, the immortal elves, nor the valiant warriors that resist the evil of the Ring. The ones who show the most resilience to the Ring are the Hobbits; simple folks from peaceful, rural society of Shire. This begs the question why is the One Ring considered evil and what is the goodness in those Hobbits that allow them to better resist the Ring?

 

Before considering the struggle between good and evil presented in Tolkien’s work with philosophical view point, let me first explain what I think philosophy is. To me, philosophy is the process of finding answers to the questions. I do not mean the questions that can be answered by researching the relevant facts or performing experiments to gather data. I mean the questions that cannot yet be answered definitively: What is good? What is bad? Are there absolute truths or only relative truths? What is a soul? What does it mean to know? What is the purpose of life? How does the world work? The questions explored in philosophy need not remained unanswerable forever; indeed, many branches of philosophy have been moved from philosophy proper to give birth to branches of science such as physics. The Doctor of Philosophy in physics uses scientific methods to support hypothesis to answer questions regarding laws governing the physical world. However, the hypothesis in the philosophy proper cannot be supported by gathering and analyzing empirical data. In philosophy, one’s conclusions must be defended using logic and sound arguments to withstand the opposing views. In my opinion, by exploring currently unanswerable questions, philosophy allows mankind to expand our mind and explore the unknown.

 

The view that the philosophy is about exploring difficult questions is shared by many philosophers throughout the history. Plato, through his depiction of Socrates in Euthyphro, explored the unanswered question of “What is piety? That is an enquiry which I shall never be weary of pursuing as far as in me lies” (Plato, Euthyphro, p.16). The Socrates/Plato wanted to explore what it is about pious act that makes them pious. This question remained unsolved at the end of the work, yet through Socrates, Plato claims that he will never be weary of pursuing such questions; the questions that are worth exploring even without being able to come up with an answer. Another Greek philosopher, Epicurus, emphasized the importance of prudence in his teaching. Epicurus taught that to live happiest life, one need to maximize pleasure and minimize pain through philosophy (Epicurus, Letters, p.1). One important essence of this happy life is to explore the unknown. Only those who are prudent enough to look for answers can triumph over the primal fear of unknown. Those who decide to believe in popular myths rather than philosophically approaching difficult questions continue to suffer fear of not knowing and cannot achieve the pleasurable life (Epicurus, Doctrines, p.2). In modern times, philosophers such as Mill and Kant explored the question of morality. In the introduction to Mill’s Utilitarianism, Mill acknowledged that the question he was about to explore has been discussed since the dawn of philosophy for more than two thousand years without a universally agreed answer (Mill, Utilitarianism, P.1). Even though he knows the question at hand have been failed to be answered for a long time, he nonetheless does his best to present his hypothesis and provide arguments and counter-counterarguments to support his stance.

 

While Tolkien himself explicitly stated that there are no allegories or hidden meanings behind his work (Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, p.xvii), it is but natural for readers to find meaning in author’s work even when there are no such hidden messages from the author. And, as someone who is studying morality in philosophy class, it is but natural for me to find application of Mill and Kant’s idea of morality to the evilness of the One Ring. In Tolkien’s work, the One Ring is evil because it contains the power of Sauron. And Sauron is evil because he served Morgoth. And Morgoth, in turn, is evil because he rebelled against the creator. But, as Socrates did in Plato’s work, let us not be satisfied with the mythical answer and rather try and assess what it is about the Ring itself that makes it evil. Through his character Gandalf, Tolkien explains that the One Ring contains the power to “rule over the others” (Tolkien, p.68), giving its possessor the ability to bend the will of the others to serve him. Applying Mill’s utilitarian approach, from the past examples of tyrants and dictators, we know that forcibly ruling over others against their will result in great pain and unhappiness. According to the Greatest Happiness Principal, something that causes more pain and unhappiness than pleasure and happiness is evil (Mill, p.2). The evilness of the One Ring can also be assessed using Kantian approach. The One Ring’s main purpose is to gives the power to turn others into mere means to achieve its owner’s goal. According to Kant, any action that treats another human being as a mere means is evil (Kant, Metaphysics, p.8). Using Epicurean teaching, we can infer why Hobbits show greater resilience to such evil. While the Hobbits do not live the ideal Epicurean life, as they love feasting on excessive amount of food, they are also simple people who does not understand nor desire great ambitions. When the Ring tempted Samwise Gamgee with the power to restore burnt and barren world back into green fields, Sam was able to reject the temptation because what he truly wished in his heart was a small garden he could tend with his hands. This is in accordance with one of Epicurus’ main teachings; be free of vain desires for grandness (Epicurus, Letters, p.3). By being accustomed to living a “good”, simple life that is free from vain desires, Hobbits were able to resist the evil of using others as means to server their own goal.

 

The paper looked at an example of philosophy that could be found in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Asking questions like ‘was that villain actually evil?’ or ‘were the protagonists actually justified in their actions?’ is a good example of philosophical activities we do in everyday life outside of the philosophy class. I am doing philosophy when I am in shower or in bed, asking absurd questions like “what if we are living in matrix?”, “are there really aliens out there?”, or “what happens after we die”. Whenever I pass a moral judgement on someone’s action or try to decide whether buying that material good can bring happiness in my life, I am doing philosophy. According to my view of philosophy, whenever I explore questions whose answers cannot be found in textbook or laboratory, I am engaged in philosophical activity.

 

 

References

Tolkien, J.R.R., The Lord of the Rings. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994. Print.

Philosophy In The World: Philosopher’s Café (B)

On the night of Wednesday, March 21 I decided to attend my first philosopher’s cafe in Port Coquitlam. Honestly, prior to actually attending a philosopher’s cafe for myself I had no idea what to expect. My knowledge regarding how this type of event would work was next to nothing, besides the few sentences that briefly described the topic on SFU’s website, so I was very curious as to how the evening would unfold. For some reason I had assumed that I would be entering a room of people of similar age to mine upon arriving at the Michael Wright Art in Leigh Square, yet my assumption was completely wrong. Of the 13 people who were there (including myself) I think I can safely say that 11 of them were middle-aged adults, most of them being of or around the same age as my parents. Luckily, I asked one of my friends to come along with me so that I would not be all by myself. Interestingly enough he ended up being the only person there that was the same age as I am. The fact that I knew we were the youngest made me nervous because I felt a little out-of-place at first, but I soon became more comfortable being a part of the group once the discussion started. The conversation was structured like a discussion group. There was one moderator who kept the conversation flowing by bringing up new topics or ideas and redirected the conversation if it ever became too off topic, but other than that we could all talk freely about our thoughts and opinions one at a time. I did not notice this until it was pointed out, but the moderator mentioned how it was interesting how the majority of people happened to be men, with only four women present including the moderator herself and myself, when the topic was about evil and where it comes from.

Personally, I believe I gained a deeper understanding of philosophy from this experience as philosophy is not simply one single thought from one person. It is more of a collection of thoughts from multiple people who can be used to explain and expand on ideas we all have. To me, philosophy is attempting to answer the bigger questions like “what is right/good?”, “what is wrong?”, and “how should humans act and behave?”. It is looking for responses to situations that do not simply have one sole explanation or solution. Philosophy is about discovering what we do and do not know and continuously questioning both. My definition could be seen as quite similar to Plato who sees philosophy as having the curiosity to learn because one is never satisfied with the amount of knowledge they have or even Socrates who would describe philosophy as a daily activity or unending search for  understanding. I found that the Socratic method (as seen in Euthyphro by Plato), a form of dialogue where questions are thoughtfully asked and answered to provoke critical thinking, was present at the philosopher’s cafe. By further questioning thoughts, a more in depth conversation emerged. As new ideas and opinions were being brought forth, we openly discussed each one while analyzing possible answers and conclusions.

Speaking more specifically about the philosophy discussed in the philosopher’s cafe I believe that the concept of evil can be related to the ideas of Socrates and Plato. Because Socrates sees knowledge as the greatest good, I found that his philosophy was very present at the philosopher’s cafe. We are to treasure knowledge and continuously be in search of further knowledge through introspective deliberation. The fact that Socrates highlights self-realization because of “his belief that it is the innate knowledge which man cannot disregard” becomes quite relevant when discussing acts that are morally wrong and could even be considered evil (http://www.al-mawrid.org/index.php/articles/view/good-and-evil-1-views-of-the-philosophers). He would say that knowledge that one does not have has no significant impact. Socrates points out that humans are not voluntarily ‘bad’ or ‘evil’. Humans become evil when they are not aware of the difference between what is good and what is bad. Similarly, Plato also considers the role of self-awareness and sense of morality in the soul. He explains that “the soul will always choose to do good, if it recognizes what is good” (https://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/athenians.html). Plato believes that, in our souls, we are naturally drawn to good. Both Plato and Socrates would agree that if one knew what is good, it would be natural for them to choose it. They focus on how humans can be good and bad. They see morality as a very important aspect in explaining philosophy.

After having participated in a public philosophical discussion I believe my idea of philosophy was reinforced. My thoughts on how philosophy is the continuous search for answers was strengthened. As a group we questioned what we already knew (or thought that we already knew) in order to discover new possibilities. It seemed as though everyone at the philosopher’s cafe had their own individual thoughts, yet everyone was open to learning more and hearing thoughts from others, possibly to widen their own perspective. The ideas discussed fit with the ideas I already had on knowledge and how curiosity leads to further learning. I would say that the experience of being able to have a philosophical discussion greatly enriched my understanding of what philosophy is because I had the opportunity to see how people can have meaningful conversations to broaden their perspective. Everyone seemed genuinely interested in not only sharing their point of view, but also listening to the point of view of others as well. Philosophy is about thinking and by thinking in the presence of other people one can greatly enhance their knowledge. By engaging in conversation and listening to thoughts that are conceived by other people we can further develop and expand on our own personal thoughts. By contributing to a discussion we may also be contributing to the growth and expansion of thoughts, opinions, and ideas of the people with whom we are sharing. After having attended the philosopher’s cafe, I would definitely recommend going to one. I was surprised by the cafe in the best way and I think that anyone who loves thinking, learning, and sharing ideas would certainly benefit, regardless of age and gender. I believe that these types of discussions in the community would be useful to both individuals and to the larger society because they provide a deeper insight into philosophy and how philosophy is everywhere around us.

Philosophy in the World Assignment (Option C)

For this assignment, I attended the BC Poverty Reduction Strategy Consultation on March 7. When I walked into the BC Hydro Theatre, the room had around 8 separate tables. Each table had around 6 people, including a discussion facilitator and a note-taker. Funnily enough, the other people at my table were all students of PHIL 102 as well— I guess we saw familiar faces and sat down.

The event started with a brief introduction of the history of poverty in Vancouver, with the usual statistics and graphs to show trends in the city. But the real discussion began soon after. We talked about how poverty (or money in general) has been a problem relevant to our lives, or in the lives of those around us. Although everyone in my group was from PHIL 102, we were each shaped by different experiences in our lives. For example, I don’t live alone and I don’t have student loans, so it was a learning experience to hear from those who did. After a break, we split into new groups based on topics such as housing, post-secondary fees, or general affordability. We brainstormed ideas on a poster, then pinned it up along the back wall to be seen by everyone. The best solutions would be included in the upcoming Poverty Reduction Strategy Plan. Overall, it was a very enlightening event because I got the chance to talk about issues I never thought about before.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I signed up for the consultation. I actually thought it would be like a big Q&A discussion with a panel up front, so I was very surprised when I saw the room was quite small! It was definitely telling that this discussion took place in a university, just because my groups talked a lot about how UBC could alleviate financial strain and provide support for its students and staff. I came out of the event learning about issues that matter, even if they didn’t affect me, and potential small steps towards bigger changes. My favourite ideas I saw at the end was a low-income transit pass for those who can’t afford normal transit fare, and rent freeze— a concept which I was completely unaware of before.

This experience made me realize how much philosophy isn’t just about what you think— it’s about how you share your ideas with others and expand your worldview from discussions.  That is my definition of philosophy: the learning and sharing of ideas in order to understand the world better. This definition is very similar to what Socrates/Plato defines as philosophy, which can be summed up as an unending search for wisdom. He enacts this by going around Athens asking people questions, trying to prod them to think. In Euthyphro, Socrates spends asks Euthyphro, a religious figure, what the definition of piety is. The more uncomfortable Euthyphro becomes, the more persistent Socrates gets, because he is trying to probe Euthyphro for an answer. Socrates does this because, as he is famously quoted for ‘saying’, “the unexamined life I not worth living” (Plato, Apology 11). Socrates believes living a full life requires an unending questioning of oneself and of others. Even when persecuted to the point of execution, Socrates stands by his words, refusing to stop his search for wisdom.

The consultation was not interrogative or accusatory, as Socrates sometimes appears to be, but enlightening and welcoming. However, the general theme of gaining knowledge and wisdom from questions and answers is still prevalent. Our discussions were prompted by questions: how is poverty an issue? Why does it affect us? What can we do to fix it? There were no right or wrong answers, because it was dependant on each person.  We can disagree and refute somebody’s opinion, but in the end, that is all it is— an opinion. But by talking and listening to others, as well as speaking through big issues, we make connections and link ideas in our heads. By asking and answering questions, learning can be catalyzed; the Socratic method is based on discussion.

One can argue that the reason why public consultations are effective is because they are public: they involve groups of people that otherwise may not be in conversation. The event brought together students from difficult faculties, ages, political standings… People typically seek out others that think similarly, so these groups give a chance for the problem of poverty to be taken apart from various directions, allowing points of view that may not be present from groups of similar people. If the consultation only involved one person a time, then although I would be able to give my opinion on poverty reduction, I would not be able to learn what others think of the issue. To illustrate, consider this: there was someone in my group who was a couple years older than me; he had a different perspective of poverty and money, one that I wasn’t familiar with because I don’t need to support myself. So not only did I contribute to the consultation, I was in conversation with others, and my worldview expanded as a result. This is where philosophy— gaining wisdom through discussion— is relevant.

Although the consultation does not seem philosophical on the surface, it is the methodology and result that makes it philosophical. Facilitation of discussion and encouragement of knowledge is extremely important to learning and improving quality of thinking. This type of group discussion is necessary for brainstorming ideas and inspiring change— how else are we supposed to be challenged to think of what might be possible? Society progresses when people come to together to discuss, whether for rebellions or policymaking. Group conversations are philosophical because they provide a place for us to acknowledge our ignorance, and is a birthplace of wisdom and knowledge. Through the consultation, I was able to converse with experts working to reduce poverty, and with peers that have different perspectives than me. And through these interactions, I learned to think differently and became all the little wiser in the process

Philosophy in the World

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? A Philosophical Novel by Philip K. Dick

The science fiction novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep written by Philip K. Dick and published in 1968 provides commentary on the definition of humanity and what it means to be human relative to other beings.  I first came across this novel in one of my courses a few years ago, as well as through its publicity as the inspiration for both the film Blade Runner and its recent sequel Blade Runner 2049.  The story follows the mission of Rick Deckard, a human bounty hunter whose mission is to kill six rogue androids, man-made robots said to lack any sort of empathy.  The novel takes place in an alternate universe in which humans have fled to Mars, creating androids or robots to serve advanced tasks, including the ability to pose as humans.  In order to fulfill his role as a bounty hunter, Deckard hunts down these androids, using philosophical and empathy-based tests to discern between human and android and eliminate them.  However, Deckard encounters many philosophical and ethical questions in his pursuit of these beings, recognizing them as human-like and able to capture emotion, thus putting Deckard’s own actions in question as he struggles to discriminate between human and android.  These deeper themes of the novel give it a philosophical undertone as well as ethical commentary on the advancement of technology ahead of our own philosophical understandings of human kind.

In my opinion, Philip K. Dick captures the concept of philosophy within a futuristic and fictional setting that aligns with my own thoughts on what philosophy really means and ways to practice it.  Throughout this course, we have repeatedly discussed multiple topics, and more importantly, multiple views and arguments on these topics, analyzing the outline of varying perspectives, advantages and disadvantages, application, and accuracies of each.  Although some of these views seemingly contrast or contend with one another, all have provided sound arguments on topics that are still surrounded with controversy and debate today.  By thoroughly analyzing and investigating each argument and stance, I believe that we have practiced and studied philosophy.  Although broad in the reach that it brings, philosophy lies as a field of questioning in which individuals can debate, discuss, and ultimately reach evaluations on the states of a huge variety of subjects and topics.  The very act of doing so is philosophy itself, manifested throughout all topics that encompass our daily lives.  As one of the most infamous philosophers of the Western world, Socrates captures the concept of philosophy as a basic form of questioning the world around us.  I think that his arguments through the writings of Plato really provide an accurate summary of my own beliefs regarding the practice and study of philosophy.  In one of his most acclaimed works, Plato writes of Socrates arguments on philosophy as the love of wisdom, stating that one “must look to himself, and seek virtue and wisdom” (Plato, Apology; 12).  This captures one of Socrates beliefs in that philosophy is rooted in our own thoughts and beliefs, and through application of these concepts towards the outer world in the form of wisdom.  Furthermore, the Socrates defines the effects of a lack of philosophy as he argues that “ignorance…a disgraceful sort, the ignorance which is the conceit that a man knows what he does not know” (Plato, Apology; 12).  In doing so, the philosopher insinuates the essence of philosophy as avoiding ignorance through questioning all views, ideas, concepts, and beliefs that we encounter on a daily basis.  Only by practicing this form can we avoid ignorance and practice philosophy.

Dick’s science fiction novel has been rightfully called a philosophical narration on the future of technology and human ability due to its intricacies and inner thoughts of Rick Deckard throughout the plot.  Before the actions that take place throughout the story, Deckard is described as a man who simply accepts his role in this post-apocalyptic society, maintaining his position as one who stands between the boundaries of human and android without questioning the structures and societies that have defined the two in these ways.  Thus, the protagonist begins as a character who lacks philosophy and wisdom as he is unquestioning of his own circumstances and the society that surrounds him.  However, with his mission of pursuing and killing advanced androids, arguably capable of empathy and emotion, Deckard begins questioning society and his own definitions of what it is to be human.  Although previously defined as having a lack of empathy, it seems wrong to Deckard that androids are killed simply based on their society-defined lack of emotion and irony arises as Deckard, through his actions of mercilessly killing, begins to realize that his own actions are less human than those of the androids.  Through this character development and evolution, Dick highlights the philosophical questioning essential to gaining wisdom in an age of ever-evolving technology and societal structures, maintaining the need for philosophy, self-evaluation, social questioning, and moral ethics in light of the future.  Thus, his novel provides commentary on the necessity of philosophy as technology and science advance past our own moral questioning of these topics.

Many philosophers have emphasized the importance of philosophical evaluation as societies and science evolve, as described in the novel.  As a student in philosophy today, I try my best to re-evaluate and question my own understanding of actions, consequences, society’s structures, and some of the beliefs commonly held today.  I think that this is a crucial aspect and purpose as a human to avoid a life of ignorance and pure acceptance.  Only through questioning and examination can we truly begin to understand the mechanisms of the world and its many controversies in the ways that we and others live.  I believe that philosophy remains as an archaic, yet important aspect in contributing to the world around us and maintaining a better world for the future.

Socrates to Mozi

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