Friday, May 13, 2011

The Passion of Christ Follow Up

I wanted to follow up on my presentation regarding The Passion of Christ and the importance of humanity.

If one has faith that God exists and believes that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good the answer to the question of the importance of humanity is answered very easily.

The question "What does it mean to be human?" is answered through the passage "in the image of God" (Genesis 1:26-27).1 God created every human being to be made in His image and likeness. This alone is amazing. It shows that God wants us to be like Him. Our goal in life is to love and live as Jesus did.

The next act of God that answers the importance of humanity is God becoming human. God, being all-powerful, did not need to become human to show us and teach us how to live. He could have just said the words and all could have been made perfect. Yet, He decided that humanity is important, and therefore, decided to become human himself and teach us to how to live through His example. One being who incorporates both man and God is another example of ontology.

The most important act that God did to show humanity’s importance was to suffer through the passion and die on the cross. He died on the cross not for one person, not for himself, but for every human being that he created on earth. He took on the burden of humanities sin so that we could be forgiven and live with Christ in heaven.

God shows us in many different ways how important we are as human beings.

PS – If anyone wants to look at St. Anselm and St. Thomas Aquinas’s philosophy on the existence of God here is the link. It is pretty interesting!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Abstract: Plato's Cave

Richard Hoopman & Garrett Holt

We are examining Plato’s explanations of reality as depicted in The Allegory of the Cave

Plato believed the reality we exist in is merely a shadow of true perfection. We are unable to identify the truth of perfection, because our senses are only able to perceive the physical world around us. Truth is only obtained through logical thought, a reasoning which is completely deprived from physical reality. Plato divides thought and physical existence into two separate categorizes of being. The Allegory of the Cave demonstrates the fallacy of trusting physical
reality. Only by progressing through the different levels of Thought can true knowledge be obtained.

The movie The Island depicts an underground civilization tricked into believing a false reality. The main character questions his existence and, by rationalizing his situation, discovers the truth behind his being. The Island illustrates the fundamental point of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

Final Abstract -Scott Woody

Recent advancements in the field of Neurotheology have called into question the separation of the spiritual mind and body. Some have but forth the only separation between the mind and body is self-imposed. They further claim that recent scientific evidence alludes to the assumption that God was created in the mind of man.

Others, like Spinoza before them agree to a point. They also believe there is no separation between the mind and body, but believe both are just different manifestations of the same higher energy. Energy trapped in a slow moving form if you will. They also view the recent evidence in the field of Neurotheology of confirmation of a higher form or truth. Which side would you chose?

The Plausible Impossible Abstract

Saturday morning cartoons and cartoon movies are one of society's first teachers for children. Characters like Wile E. Coyote, Bugs Bunny, and Daffy Duck are often the first personalities children are exposed to besides family. In these cartoons, several philosophical links can be made to existentialism, reality, death, and suffering. Cartoons often suspend physics to make the situation funnier, but in doing so, a reality is presented to children which is not real. Some characters, like Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, are locked in a never-ending struggle against each other. The aggressive, unintelligent behavior displayed by characters like Wile E. Coyote is, whether we know it or not, being impressed upon young children. Finally, cartoon characters never experience true sorrow, trauma, or death. These experiences are impossible to escape in reality; yet, in cartoons, they are rarely examined. When death does occur to cartoon characters, it is never finite. The characters always return in the next episode without any psychological trauma or fundamental change in their personality. These cartoons, however innocent they are intended to be, are nonetheless influential in teaching children about the world. The concepts that children learn through cartoon violence and struggles must be unlearned if the individual is to ever fully understand the true nature of the world.

~From CJ Skinner and Shane Coffing

Friday, May 6, 2011

Abstract : Determinism in Minority Report

"The film Minority Report demonstrates several aspects of determinism though it's central plotline. Several ideas can be extracted from it's narrative, some even conflicting; but in the end, it still leaves the viewer with the fundamental question - is the future set?"

Writing in My Sleep Pt. 2

Descartes’ theory of distinguishing between dream and reality is similar to the idea of the totem portrayed in Inception. In order to differentiate between the world of the dream and reality, the characters in the film each carry their own totem unique only to the beholder. As the film describes it, the totem is “a small object, potentially heavy, something you can have on you all the time…like - this is a loaded die.” Another character then reaches out to feel the die. To this the owner responds “I can't let you touch it, that would defeat the purpose. See only I know the balance and weight of this particular loaded die. That way when you look at your totem, you know beyond a doubt you're not in someone else's dream.”

The totems in the film are basically objects that have certain characteristics that are known only to the owner. Therefore, when in a dream, the characteristics of that item can help the owner discern whether or not they are in someone else’s dream. If they are in someone else’s dream, that other person does not know the particular characteristic and thus in that dream the totem will not behave properly, signaling the owner that they are in someone else’s dream. If the totem does behave as the owner knows it should, then the owner concludes that they are either awake or in their own dream. Another example of this as portrayed by the movie is the totem of a spinning top. When the character is in someone else’s dream the top continues spinning indefinitely. When he is in reality or his own dream the top topples after a matter of a few seconds.

This idea of a totem seems plausible (supposing there were a way to get inside others’ dreams), but doesn’t propose a solution to the question of whether or not we ourselves are dreaming. The totem only informs the owner if they are in someone else’s dream. It does not help them differentiate between reality and their own dreams. Whether we consider this or not, the idea of the totem raises an interesting question: could there exist a universal totem, one that works for anyone and everyone? The film’s representation suggests that there could not. It emphasizes that the totem is a physical object and that its characteristics are known only by the owner such that those characteristics cannot be reproduced in another’s dream. Therefore, if everyone had the same totem then everyone would know that special characteristic and would reproduce it in every dream defeating the item’s purpose.

Descartes on the other hand, suggests that there could be a universal totem. He mentioned that one can know if they are dreaming based on the fact that they are considering their current state to be a dream. It is not a physical item like the film uses, but his theory could be applied to everyone as a sort of universal reference.

This idea of a universal totem is also suggested throughout culture in the form of pinching. It is common practice or belief to pinch one’s self when thought to be dreaming such that the pain of the pinch might induce waking. This therefore could also be used as a universal sort of totem or reference point. Arguing against this, Blackburn states that a person could merely dream the pain of the pinch in response to the action. He suggests that whatever the test, one could simply dream the expected result (25). This agrees with the film such that a person’s totem cannot help them discern between reality and their own dream.

As of the writing of this paper there has not yet been discovered a surefire way to distinguish between reality and the world of the dream despite these thoughts. Nevertheless, countless philosophers and filmmakers have provided thought provoking or, at the very least, entertaining ideas on the topic. Whether cruising through reality or living amidst the world of a dream, the mystery remains. Whether spinning a top or pinching until the skin turns purple, the discernment eludes. That said, it is possible that this assignment and the resulting paper at hand are all figments of the imagination, brought about by the dreams of someone fast asleep in a cozy bed… or perhaps no more than a brain, floating in a jar atop someone’s (or something’s) desk.,356080111

Abstract: The Passion of Christ

The philosophical idea of ontology, questions many things. The original question created by St. Anselm is, does God exist? The question that I ask is what is the importance of humanity? God answers this ontological question. The existence of God is based on the idea of faith. God becoming human is the first answer to this ontological question. The second answer is presented to us by Jesus’ suffering and death. God shows us that humanity is important by becoming human himself and by dying in order to save us from the sins that we commit. Due to the fact that God saved us from our sins, our responsibility toward Him is to behave morally.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Writing in My Sleep

Am I awake or am I living a dream? How can I know if I am truly awake? Dreams and the nature of reality present many philosophically compelling questions. This concept of reality has also provided the basis for many films. Among these include such titles from the classic Matrix trilogy to the more recent film, Inception. These films suggest that there exists an alternate reality and pose the question of which is the genuine reality or whether or not it can even be known.

To analyze the idea of differentiating between dreams and reality, both must be uniquely and firmly defined. Dreams are basically the sensations that a person may experience while asleep, whether it be sights, sounds, smells, feelings or anything else. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary a dream is defined as “a series of thoughts, images, or emotions occurring during sleep; an experience of waking life having the characteristics of a dream.”

Simon Blackburn says in his book Think that “dreams are jerky and spasmodic. They have little or no rhyme or reason” as opposed to real life that is “spacious and majestic” (25). Inception comments on this well when the main character states that “dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.” During a dream one might not think twice about a flying hippopotamus that talks, but in real life any of that would be considered highly absurd.

In order to continue, the definition of reality must also be formed. Merriam-Webster’s defines this as “the quality or state of being real (real being ‘of or relating to fixed, permanent, or immovable things; not artificial, fraudulent, or illusory’).” According to this, reality is basically anything that truly exists.

One interesting proposition on the possibility of whether one is dreaming or not was suggested by French mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes. His theory of an Evil Demon, as found in his first Meditation, proposed that there could exist a being that created everything around us that we believe to be real as a delusion to ensnare our judgment. He suggested that perhaps our brain is floating in a vat with inputs flowing in to make us believe that things are happening around us, deceiving us as to the actual reality that we are no more than a disconnected brain floating in a solution (27).

In response to the dream problem Descartes concluded that in order to even consider the possibility that you might be dreaming one must be awake because such is impossible to do during a dream. This relieved him of his worry brought about by the Evil Demon theory because the act of considering the possibility of currently being in a dream makes this current state the awake state and therefore it cannot be a dream or a delusion being imposed on a brain floating in a vat.

to be continued...

Free-will vs. Determinism

Ahh yes yet again the question of freedom. This topic has been brought up many time throughout the course and many time throughout history, but still remains unanswered. With this in light we will give the mystery one more crack using examples from the Film: The Adjustment Bureau. We understand that this film is still very new and will limit the scenes shown to keep from giving away the movie. We will relate the film to philosophical concepts presented by Locke and Spinoza. Spinoza is considered to be on of the great rationalist who held that absolutely everything that happens occurs through the operation of necessity. Locke fabricates concept of the human experience including metaphysics. Locke also speaks about religion and the concept of god and in addition creates concepts about human existence.
The Adjustment Bureau is a movie that suggests free will is limited if not non-existent. For our presentation, we will explore the concepts of free will and determinism as well as ponder whether life today is pre-determined or if we have the choice to determine where our final destination lies. 

Abstract: Epistemology, The Hitchhiker's Guide, and Class Conclusions

We have touched many different issues in class this semester. I’d like to present on epistemology and transition into my conclusions for philosophy this semester. I will be using The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to help demonstrate my points. I will bring Plato’s and Socrates’ views into the presentation, and tie this into the idea of epistemology. Since ideas of truth are very debatable, I will glaze over the subject due to time constraints. If time allows, we can explore the subject after the presentation, but through research I have learned that the issue is far too abstract and debated to clearly define a universal truth suitable for everyone. I will touch this issue in my presentation by stating that we each have a unique point of view.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Personal Identity as Portrayed through Big Fish

Throughout the semester we have explored the consequences of Cartesian dualism. One consideration is whether the mind or the body is a greater component of personal identity. In the movie Big Fish, the character Edward Bloom cannot be separated from the stories he tells, which causes his son to question Edward's true identity. Edward goes through many of the same experiences as other people, but his mind creates a new world that only has a slight basis in reality.

Locke and Leibniz have different views about what constitutes reality. Locke believes that physical events aren't necessarily correlated with mental events, while Leibniz believes the opposite. Big Fish highlights these arguments through the perspectives of Edward and his son, Will. Will believes that Edward has a fake identity because only his stories are visible, while Edward believes that his stories are a better representation of his identity than actual experiences.

Our presentation will investigate the nature of identity through the film Big Fish and the arguments of Locke and Leibniz.

Genevieve Vaive & Andrea Gallegos

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Abstract: Death Note and Justice

In class, we've often talked of morality. Generally, we have talked about morality on a large scale, whether it is right to take this or that attitude. For this presentation, I'd like to focus on how morality affects the legal system, and how the word "justice" can be interpreted. To that end I'm focusing on a story from across the Pacific called Death Note, originally written by Tsugumi Ohba. The story focuses on two young men, Light and L, with vastly differing views on justice and the legal system. However, the two are actually very similar to one another, and their actions are not clear-cut black and white, but more toward the grey. Through examining them through the lenses of various ethical standpoints, we may learn what true justice is.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Locke, Empiricism, and Tabula Rasa

Locke was one of the first empiricists and he believed that memories formulate who people are. He believed that without memories, a body is just a shell, and not an actual person. In this presentation, we will relate Locke’s memory theory to the movie Memento and the TV series Dollhouse. Both deal with people who live in a tabula rasa state, which as defined by Locke is the state all humans are born into. People learn through experience and experience only. In the nature vs. nurture debate, he believed in nurture. These are two representations of this philosophy, because in the case of Memento, Leonard wakes up every day as a blank slate, not being able to remember anything after his accident. He uses his body as a way to organize those facts he knows about the man who killed his wife, so that he can remember, through tattoos. Dollhouse is an example of tabula rasa in that the “actives” memories are erased, and replaced with memories that are desired by other people. After this so called “engagement” the actives minds are once again erased and they revert back into this blank slate state. The big question is: does this event (or series of events in the case of Dollhouse) change who these people are? Or is there something about these people that defines them, instead of their memories?

Abstract: Kuhn and The Paradigm Shift

In 1962, scientist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn changed the way society views science with his revolution book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In this work, Kuhn identifies the nature of a scientific paradigm and describes the process that must be undergone for one to change. While Kuhn’s work focuses on how paradigms affect science and scientists, his philosophy transfers beautifully to film. For this presentation, our scientists will be Neo from The Matrix and Truman from the Truman Show. With the help of these cinematic scientists, Kuhns views on paradigm shifts become more apparent. This presentation will focus on specific elements of the paradigm shift. For the paradigm to shift, an initial paradigm must be in place. The Truman Show will help us to understand why an initial paradigm can seem completely absurd to those above it, while being completely believable to those who subscribe to it. To follow, The Matrix will help us to identify the grief and denial that a scientist may experience when a paradigm is shifting. The Matrix will also demonstrate Kuhn’s notion that a paradigm shift requires a catalyst. Later, Neo will demonstrate the Kuhnian ideal that a paradigm shift can create enlightenment. To conclude, The Truman Show will provide a word of caution and express the need to keep an open mind when confronting paradigm shifts.

Why So Extreme?

One of the things we've been talking about in class is Eastern vs. Western culture and specifically about murder and violence.  We've talked about The Boondock Saints and whether taking the life of a person who will kill more is ethical and we've talked about the Dalai Lama and his approach toward the Chinese who've invaded his country.

Why do we only talk about the extremes of death, murder and violence?  On a more day-to-day level, what about things so small as talking about someone behind their back? Or lying? Cheating? 

Do you inform those with authority if you see someone doing something wrong or believe that karma will even everything out in the end? If you find out that someone said something mean about you, do you spread rumors about them too or shrug it off believing that it says more about the person talking than it says about you?