Monday, December 14, 2009

States of Nature

States of nature were a recurring theme in Search 201 this semester. Various philosophers such as Locke, Rousseau, and Hobbes used this term to describe a hypothetical situation rooted in their own personal philosophy. The “State of Nature” is a term used by social contract theorists to describe the condition of humanity before law and the state. Essentially, a State of nature is a model for human life during pre-political anarchy. States of nature play a fundamental role in political philosophy because they serve as a justification or reason for entering society. What factors determine an individual’s conception of the State of Nature? I think that it is possible to identify a few of these factors by examining individual proposals of the State of Nature.

Hobbes, who first posited the idea of the State of Nature, portrays pre-political society in a Darwinian fashion. He describes the state of nature as a war. Anyone has the right to defend their own personal liberty and safety. Life is characterized as short and brutish under these conditions. Since there is no law, there is no justice aside from natural precepts like a universal endeavor for peace. He also contends that man should be willing to lay down some personal liberties for the sake of that peace. From that point, Hobbes uses those natural precepts to set the stage for the replacement of the state of nature with civil government arising from those mutual contracts. On the other hand we have John Locke, who has a different vision of this prepolitical state. In Locke’s conceptualization of the state of nature, there is no reigning authority or pronunciation of justice. However, a Law of Nature exists to govern this state, a law of reason. Locke says that reason teaches us not to harm each other in terms of liberty, possessions and health, and that violations of this law are punishable. Since there is no enforcement of this law, what should be a state of peace turns into a state of war similar to what was posited by Hobbes. However, unlike Hobbes’ theory there is an obligation to obey the law of nature despite the nonexistent enforcement of this law in the State of Nature.To avoid the state of war and to protect personal property and liberties, Locke says that men enter into society and civil government. Upon the failing or dissolution of the government, humans return to this State of Nature.

What do these two hypothetical conditions tell us about Hobbes and Locke, and what determines one’s conceptualization of pre- government society? As theories written in the 17th century, we can see different sources for these theories. Hobbes’ conceptualization is chaos in absence of government, a war of all against all that is driven by conflict. His path to salvation from this state of war stems from mutual agreements and covenants between men, formed by men in a utilitarian sense. This type if law is positive, or man made. Locke argues that the same anarchy exists, but his natural laws lean more toward something written by Aquinas. Locke’s state of nature assumes theism, whereas Hobbes’ does not. These two hypothetical situations are indicative of the time, and are more theory based than the typical state of nature posited by individuals in the 21st century. The study of biology, psychology, and anthropology makes the modern conception of the state of nature closer to scientific theory rather than political philosophy. Whereas Locke or Hobbes’ theories involve personal conceptions of human nature or formation of society, evidence and research are used mechanistically to define a state of nature that existed. With factual evidence being presented against theory, the validity of these two thinkers is diminished from what it might have been earlier. If there is a modern scientific conception of the state of nature, what is it? Is it possible to merge political philosophy and other fields to determine the true state of nature?

A Common Introspective Thread

As I compiled the list of values I’ve gleaned from the different thinkers that compose the Search program for this class' final paper, I initially thought that I was affected by each for different reasons. For many I certainly was, but I was surprised to find that several on whom I drew seemed to embrace the same message, only in different forms. The thinkers about whom I am referring to are Luther, Kant, and Sartre.

On the surface, each seems to be notable for different reasons: Luther for dissent against the Catholic Church, Kant for his theory of moral objectivity, and Sartre for the contribution and perhaps founding of popular existentialism. But as I analyzed why I was drawn to each, I realized it was because the message of each is built on a common principle: the necessity of introspective self-examination and the open criticism of the motivations of our actions.

Luther’s primary aim was to encourage Christians to abandon the practice of seeking forgiveness through physical deeds, and to refocus on faith and the nature of the heart. Luther cites biblical texts in reference to the importance of faith over deed, and (controversially) suggests that good deeds done for the sake of good deeds are useless, that the only truly good deeds are those done out of faith and good intention. Luther forces his audience, in this way, to critically examine the genuineness of their actions and renders useless those that are not.

Kant’s message is similar, but whereas Luther was concerned with religion, Kant is concerned with the treatment of others. Though it is easy to get caught up in his clear commitment to duty and action and actually being moral, the three formulations of the Categorical Imperative attempt to inspire self-examination of maxims and intentions. For Kant, the only way to act dutifully is to act out of good will, and his formulations offer very specific criteria for how to do so.

Lastly – and perhaps this one is more of a stretch – it seems Sartre is trying to get at a similar idea. Sartre suggests that because man’s existence precedes his essence, a predetermined human nature does not exist and he is therefore capable of determining his own nature. But as the cliché demands, “with great freedom comes great responsibility.” Sartre is quick to mention that as we attempt to create an image for ourselves, we create an image of we think man ought to be and, in a way reflect all of mankind. He demands we ask ourselves, “What would happen if everyone did what I am doing,” and that he who does not simply “lies to himself” in “some kind of bad faith” (Sartre 25). So it seems that even Sartre is dedicated, in a very similar and serious way, to the self-examination of our actions and their consequences.

The Hypothetical Universal Decision

In “Existentialism is a Humanism,” Sartre claims that a man’s total freedom and control of himself and the course of his life leads a man to feel anguish. This anguish arises from the individual’s constant need to make decisions and bear the responsibility of those decisions. Essentially, when a man has total freedom, he is responsible for making the decision that he views as the best decision. This does not mean the best decision for him, but the best decision for all of man. When a man then makes that decision and follows through with it, he is saying that that is the decision that everyone should make if given the choice, and he should ask himself “what would happen if everyone did what I am doing?”
I found this reasoning to be very similar to part of Kant’s Categorical Imperative, which states that your actions are moral if you can will the maxim behind your action as a universal law, and if your maxims could be adopted as a law in a kingdom of ends. Now, the large scale importance of one’s decision has clearly been emphasized, but I wanted to bring up one more question that naturally accompanies those listed above. On top of asking “what if everyone made the decision that I am about to make?” you should also explore what would happen if everyone chose differently than you. While this may seem absurdly obvious, I can’t help but feel that asking this question would help to clarify the outcome of the decision, especially if the decision involves stress or emotional involvement. These factors can often blur the morality of a given decision, especially when making the decision has immediate benefits for you, such as avoiding a tragedy or keeping an item of sentimental or other value.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

On Stereotypes

(This is Cole not Will, apparently my account no longer works...)

There are two sides to this coin. The side more often represented states that everyone should try to be equal and calls for an end to stereotypes. I think this is good. But I feel like it unevenly distributes the blame and responsibility. I don’t think it is appropriate to tell someone how he should think and judge others. The problem people have with stereotypes is that they make generalizations about a group of people that do not necessarily apply to every individual within that group. If they did, then people couldn’t complain because the stereotype would be true. However, the fact is, stereotypes are not unfounded. They do not come into being simply out of a whim. A stereotype is something that has been observed to be at least somewhat consistent within a given group. The problem is, most stereotypes reflect a characteristics that their respective groups do not appreciate being “called out” on.

Like I said, as much as I wish it were not the case, stereotypes are not unfounded. Jews are stereotyped as tight with their money; unfortunately I have witnessed several Jews only affirm this stereotype. I know blondes that aren’t dumb, but there are obviously enough who are to make a stereotype out of them. I’m sorry if I offend anyone in saying either of these things. The point I am trying to make is that it is unfair to completely blame someone for stereotyping. These views are not unfounded, and the group is just as much responsible for embodying the stereotype as one is for acknowledging it. So yes it is unfair for someone to judge you based on external features such as your skin or your hair. However, that person is not completely to blame for his opinion. It does little good for me to tell someone that stereotypes are bad because they do not accurately characterize an individual, when in that person’s experience, the stereotype has in deed been realized nine times out of ten.

No, for stereotypes to cease this requires action from both sides. Instead of complaining about being stereotyped against, people who feel this way need to take an active stance in demonstrating the inaccuracy of such claims. You have no place to complain about a stereotype if you yourself only affirm it. For people to stop placing validity in stereotypes, the stereotypes need to be untrue. It is unfair to fault someone for having an opinion, if that person he has found his opinion to be reasonably true. I realize there are plenty of stubborn and closed-minded people with unwarranted prejudices. However, if we can expect to end stereotypes it will take action from both sides.

End of the Year Response

Looking back at my Search courses I believe that the course has left a postive impression on me. At the beginning of my first year I was excited to be reading Gilgamesh and the Iliad, but I couldn't see how the course was supposed to shape my value system. As the year went on I learned how to look deeper into my own value system and see what things I've studied had a great effect on me. When we came into this second year I was excited to learn about more philosophies, but this years readings didn't have that great of an impact on me at the beginning of the semester. When we started talking about Human Rights, Feminism, and Globalism I started to realize where this course was taking me. In my opinion Search has ended openly for me to address some major social boundaries that have recently hindered or helped the world. I think the program, through its readings and discussions have helped me look at situations through your eyes and my own. Even though some of the reading assignments and papers were painful to get through, I think this course has been a positive influence on myself. I wanted to pose the question out to the class if anyone needed to still respond to a blog. Do you think the Search program has left a positive or negative impression on you?

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Female Feminist

Many posts have discussed the topic of Feminism in reference to the uneasiness that men feel when the topic is discussed.  I am actually more interested in the way in which even women tip toe around this subject.  In my own experiences, I find this subject to very threatening.  It is not difficult for me to understand the men’s view, when I myself whisper the word in public.  Why is this word so socially unacceptable even to women?

In class someone brought up the idea that many women don’t want to be linked to the extreme cases of Feminism that have been seen throughout history. It seems that if a woman is to identify herself as a Feminist, they are lending themselves to the sole identity of a workingwoman who remains independent and refuses all the preconceived characteristics of the stereotypical housewife.  This is where the problem occurs.  The idea of Feminism is not in itself threatening, but the outdated definition of the word causes many women who actually do believe in their rights, to stand back and keep their mouths shut on this subject. 

I am guilty of doing just that.  Instead of standing up and saying that I believe in women’s rights, I would rather brush over the word whenever it comes into a conversation.  The word Feminism goes onto the list of topics you just “don’t” talk about in public: Politics, God, and Sex.  It is very sad to think that even women go around this word.  It seems that many want to rename the concept.  This could also be due to the fact that a percentage of women actually want to stay home and raise their children.  Many can’t identify with being a Feminist because if they do want to be at home, then they may seem hypocritical.  However, it is possible to be a housewife and still believe in equal pay and equal opportunities.

This is mostly seen as a negative subject in reference to males, but I think that many women are also uncomfortable with the connotations that come with the word itself.  This may just be my opinion, but I usually have to think twice before I affirm that I show Feministic ideas.  I feel like I get the concepts of the movement, confused with the stereotypes when the stereotypes themselves should not interfere with the actual value behind the cause.  Even though I do believe in the equalities between men and women, I just don’t know why I can’t get past the word.  I sometimes feel like I don’t want the word Feminist to be a describing factor of my character, which is interesting to contemplate.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Perspective of Feminism and the Male Response

When we discussed feminism in class a couple of weeks ago in class I became extremely curious when we brought up why men would take a feminism class. I have been dwelling on why men are so hesitant to learn about the importance women have had on history, especially in America. I guess the stereotypical pro and con on a guy taking a course on feminism is that he'd be one of few guys surrounded by women and can work on his "game" while learning a thing or two on women's rites. A con is that maybe your one of the few lucky guys in a class surrounded by girls, but you learn they are outraged with their treatment from men over the years and will all hate you if you speak. I think both these stereotypes are false and that men don't always understand what role they can play in a feminist movement. There lies the big question men have about feminism, what could I learn by taking this class? What role could I possibly play in a dominantly female movement? I feel that we could learn a lot out of taking a course on feminism. I personally learned many interesting facts about feminism just reading "Feminism: A Very Short Introduction." I think if all men could gain a sense of the inspiration women have about not being seen as inferior, then we would be more understanding in some of the actions women take to prove they are just as important to this society as males. I think the main and true reason men are afraid to take a feminist class is that we would fear that we couldn't offer incite into a movement that revolves entirely on women. I think that men are more afraid that we are looked on so negatively in the past for a strong feminist that our input would be shut down. I personally think that for feminism to reach a new "wave" it would need to be one where men are educated on the importance of reaching equality. These are my thoughts on the topic, but I'd be curious to know what anyone else thought on this.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I found this bit of news interesting and relevant in light of recent class discussion, thought I'd pass it along. Wondered what you guys thought.

Globalization is Amoral

In our discussion of globalization, we encountered three presumably opposed forms of globalization: jihadist globalization, justice globalization, and market globalization. The first choice is the acceptance of something more valuable than human freedom, a choice I can quickly reject. The second seems the choice of those with but a shred of morality or concern for human rights. It is the thoughtful implementation of processes steadily bringing the world together, integrating people around the world into a global community of sorts through increased social, cultural, political, and economic contact. While I would be ashamed to admit I lacked concern for my fellow man, I am hesitant to adopt a new found scrutiny of the global effects of my actions. This is not from a lack of concern for people with whom I do not have immediate contact. It is out of respect for these very people. I truly have no way of clearly interpreting their interests and shudder at the thought of others inhibiting my freedom to make decisions for my self out of a notion of supremacy (an ultimately patronizing notion).

If I truly care about others, which I like to think I do, I should fight for their freedom. In this respect, globalization can do great things. Governments are increasingly less able to employ authoritarian rule, as globalization has allowed people, information, and services to more easily cross (or span) borders. A rather Utopian writing of the end of this story might culminate in the elimination of what are largely arbitrary state borders in favor of a human community. Depending on your own take things, you probably view this as an eerie future primed for authoritarianism or a fertile laboratory for human rights. Realistically, I don't anticipate either scenario, but instead an erosion of sovereignty by an increasing concern for human rights. This would seem the acceptance of justice globalization, but it is rather the belief that while I am incapable of plotting egalitarian progress global, I can foster it through a free global market. For a true free market necessitates the freedom of those participating within it.

Globalization is often morally implicated in the erosion of valuable cultural elements, which I find a false judgment. Globalization simply allows the valuation of cultural. From this it follows that some aspects of culture are lost, as society has rendered them more costly than beneficial. Should a town greatly value the exclusion of franchises in favor of local businesses that offer similar products, they can show this by supporting these likely more expensive venues. This will bring the failure of franchises, which will ultimately realize there is no demand for their products within the town. Thus a town that truly values cultural integrity will maintain it. A town with other values will find a new, increasingly global culture.

Culture in the Rise of the Global Imaginary

In my battle with sovereignty, I have always looked to globalization as the hope for our planet. Because of this, I have always thought of globalization as purely an economic and political phenomenon, but after reading Globalization by Manfred Steger, I wonder about the future of human culture.

Steger refers to me as a hyperglobalizer, and, in terms of culture, I consider myself an optimist. Steger gives two different examples of the optimistic hyperglobalizer, but I do not buy into the homogenization of the world into one Western culture. Instead, I think that globalization is leading to a much needed shift from nationalistic culture. I have never agreed with people who define themselves through race or national origin. These are two things that reflect nothing except their expression of certain genes and pure geographic happenstance. In my mind, it has never seemed logical to “be proud to be an American,” but it has nothing to do with how I feel about the United States itself. The fact is that I never had a choice, and it would be silly to be proud of something I did nothing to deserve. Instead, we should be affiliating ourselves with our philosophical values such as the superiority of democracy, the irrefutability of human rights, or the inhumanity of state sovereignty.

With the falling of modern nationalism and rising of the global imaginary, this trend seems to be taking over. My ability to check news in Pakistan and read the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche in my room has made me free to associate myself with whatever choices I make without any regard for sovereign borders. These decisions are the new expression of global culture. Ryan Carroll is no longer an American; I am a left-winged mathematician who demands world-wide human rights, the redistribution of wealth, and the breakdown of sovereignty.

I don’t believe that humans will ever homogenize. In the interest of their personal identity, people will inevitably find some way to exclude themselves from the general population. This fact has always seemed silly to me. It seems to be the principle behind almost every war in human history, but after the Holocaust, I’m alright to settle with a shift away from the meaninglessness of nationalism. Unfortunately, I do not believe that religious prejudice will go away so easily, but I guess world peace comes one step at a time.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

“Man is condemned to be free: condemned, because he did not create himself, yet nonetheless free, because once cast into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”

-Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism, p.29

This ominous phrase, “man is condemned to be free,” seems to clash with everything that I have been taught. I am left puzzled and must ask myself, “how can anyone be ‘condemned’ to freedom?” As an American I have been raised to believe that freedom, God, and the National Football League are the only completely good things on this earth. The Founding Fathers certainly did not risk their lives in order to “condemn” themselves to freedom. Americans fought and died on the beaches of Normandy in order that France could be free, so why is this crazy French guy with a name I can’t pronounce running around saying that I am condemned to be free?

The fact of the matter is that “freedom” is a word that is thrown around too easily these days. It’s overused and, frankly, has become a bit stale. We are told that the Americans currently sacrificing their lives in barren desserts and isolated mountain ranges on the other side of the globe are doing it all for the sake of our freedom, but how often do most of us question what this freedom really means? Although Sartre is not referring specifically to political freedom, his message still applies. Indeed, Sartre reminds us that freedom does not come freely. It carries with it a great burden of responsibility for us to be informed of the circumstances and outcomes of our actions. As Americans we should be proud of our freedom and we should discuss it constantly, but not as we do now, not in passing, not as a political slogan devoid of all meaning.

In fact, it is time that we recognize that our freedom is threatened by a poison that is far more cancerous than international terrorism – a venom that has already begun to eat its way through our democracy from the inside out. I refer to the political apathy that runs through America today. Americans complain that their government is out of touch with their needs and desires, and so they don’t vote and they don’t organize. This is the height of absurdity. It is our duty to force government to bend to the will of the people! Our constitution condemns us to be free individuals. It charges us with the enormous responsibility of governing ourselves. The time is now for us to critically examine our freedom and to finally take it seriously once more.

Pros and Cons of Globalization

Globalization occurs when countries get rid of their barriers to make a pathway where ideas, beliefs, and culture can cross borders. Globalization is not limited to affecting the economy only; it also has an effect on many other aspect of life, such as cultural, social, psychological issues. Though some view globalization as the means for a hopeful future, others see is as a potential disaster for the world’s economy. Thus, because Globalization is a controversial issue I believe that it is important to highlight both its pros and cons.

            There are many pros to the benefits that globalization would have. With globalization there would be a universal market that would allow companies from all over the world to trade products with one another, which would allow people a wider range of options.  Currently there is enough money in the world to feed every man, women and child, however, resources are unfairly distributed; developing countries are often the ones who feel the burden of this fact. Globalization would greatly help developing countries because there would be a more equal flow of money. Also, there would be an increase in the production sector that would allow manufacturers a greater variety of options. Inflation would be less likely to occur because competition is known to keep prices lower. Also it would be reassuring to know that no one country “remains the single power head; instead there are compartmentalized power sectors.” Globalization would help communication between different countries, which would hopefully minimize conflict, and prejudice. Communication would also give countries an opportunity to experience other cultures. Diversity would be much more prevalent.

            Though the pros of globalization seem to outshine the cons, the cons should still be mentioned. Many Europeans are losing their jobs because of globalization. This is happening because jobs are going to people in the Asia countries because all expenses are cheaper, for example, production and employment rates are less expensive which creates a more efficient system. When countries transfer the quality of their products to other countries they are increasing their chances of being qualitatively deprived. Also, many experts believe that globalization is the cause for many of the diseases as well as social erosion in countries. Many people find it frightening to think that corporations could potentially rule the world if globalization continues. Lastly some argue that rich countries take advantage of poor countries where there are lower wages.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Modern Globalization VS. Ancient Globalization

In our class about globalization, we talked a lot about transnational corporations (TNC). The existence of those corporations has brought about many problems that contradicted the idea of globalization. I remember we mentioned that a larger gap occurred between global north countries and global south countries because the regulations and policies established by the TNC have made the rich countries richer and the poorer countries poorer. Globalization in this case has lost its purpose.
It then occurred to me that globalization nowadays is really more about differentiation. If one wants to argue that the pervasive of the culture and language and the increasing of economic dimension and so on have proved globalization to be true, I would say, why not look at the history of our past? If those are the criteria of globalization, then I believe it already existed centuries ago. Back into those times, there were already immigrants moving all over the world. In China, for example, people would wear western suit, use western pens, and travel to western countries. In western countries, there were Chinese restaurants in all places (Although they didn’t have a unified brand name such as McDonald’s, the number of overall Chinese restaurants could even be more than that of McDonald’s franchises). People would also deposit their money in foreign banks, and this activity of capital export has been seen as a main characteristic of capitalized society by then. What’s more, people were free to move from one country to another without passports, unlike today when passport is a must. People at that time also had their own ideologies which are no less diversified than now... …What globalization really brings us today are more conflicts than similarities. Cultural exchanges should have promoted understandings but it also generates conflicts in people’s ideologies. Nationalism has been manifested because people nowadays care about their identities more than anytime. Then there are immigration rules, there are customs, and finally there are weapons.
All in all, I just feel that people should have been getting closer to each other under globalization but we end up getting further. There’s no need to mention how high-tech has created this gap because it’s so obvious. Other than that, everything people do today seems to be based on economical interest and with the incentives of interest people will do whatever they want. I can’t imagine what else this modern globalization will bring us.

Our Changing World

People love to talk about their opinions regarding global transformation and progression. However, regardless of whether one is for or against globalization, our world is undergoing substantial changes. Here are some interesting facts and estimates:

-It is estimated that a week's worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century.

-The 25% of India's population with the highest IQ's is greater than the total population of the United States. In other words, India has more honors students than America has students.

-The top 10 in-demand jobs for 2010 did not exist in 2004.

-If MySpace were a country it would be the 5th-largest in the world (between Indonesia and Brazil).

-There are 31 billion searches on Google every month. In 2006, this number was 2.7 billion.

-The first commercial text message was sent in December of 1992. Today, the number of text messages sent and received everyday exceeds the total population of the planet.

-Years it took to reach a market audience of 50 million: Radio- 38 years, TV- 13 years, Internet- 4 years, iPod- 3 years, Facebook- 2 years.

-The number of internet devices in 1984 was roughly 1,000. The number of internet devices in 1992 was roughly 1,000,000. The number of internet devices in 2008 was roughly 1,000,000,000.

-There are currently about 540,000 words in the English language. This is about 5 times as many as during Shakespeare's time.

-NTT Japan has successfully tested a fiber optic cable that pushes 14 trillion bits per second down a single strand of fiber. This is roughly equivalent to 2,660 CDs or 210 million phone calls every second. It is currently tripling every six months and is expected to do so for the next 20 years.

-It is estimated that by 2013 a supercomputer will be built that exceeds the computational capabilities of the human brain.

-Predictions are that by 2049, a $1000 computer will exceed the computational capabilities of the entire human species.

-Americans have access to 1,000,000,000,000 web pages, 65,000 iPhone Apps, 10,500 radio stations, 5,500 magazines, and 200+ cable TV networks.

-Newspaper circulation is down 7 million over the last 25 years but in the last 5 years, unique readers of online newspapers are up 30 million.

-More video was uploaded to YouTube in the last 2 months than if ABC / NBC / CBS had been airing new content 24/7/365 since 1948 (which was when ABC started broadcasting).

-10 million is the number of unique visitors ABC / NBC / CBS get every month, collectively. These businesses have been around for a combined 200 years. Meanwhile, 250 million is the number of unique visitors MySpace / YouTube / Facebook get every month. None of these sites existed 10 years ago.

-Roughly 95% of all songs downloaded last year weren't paid for.

-Wikipedia launched in 2001. It now features over 13 million articles in more than 200 languages. Cisco's Nexus 7000 data switch could move all of Wikipedia in .001 seconds.

-Nokia manufactures 13 cell phones every second. Right now, 93% of US adults own a cell phone.

-In February 2008, John McCain raised $11 million for his US presidential bid. That same month, Barack Obama attended no campaign fundraisers. Instead, Obama leveraged online social networks to raise $55 million in those 29 days.

-90% of the 200 billion emails sent every day are spam.

-It is estimated that the mobile device will be the world's primary connection tool to the internet in 2020. The computer in your cell phone today is a million times cheaper and a thousand times more powerful and about a hundred thousand times smaller than the one computer at MIT in 1965. In other words, what used to fit in a building now fits in your pocket what fits in your pocket now will fit inside a blood cell in 25 years.

Source: The Huffington Post (
I was reading about the Pygmalion effect in my Psychology class. Rosenthal suspected that when teachers are given data concerning information about a students I.Q. it can create certain expectancies within the teacher about the student's potential, "whether strong or weak, the teacher might unknowingly behave in ways that subtly encourage or facilitate the performance of students seen as more likely to succeed." (Hock 95). The teacher acts this way because he or she constantly has that knowledge looming in the back of their minds, causing them to unintentionally be biased.

So l i know this is kind of a big stretch but I was just thinking about how this effect can be applied to society's perception of women. Though it is socially unacceptable to view a female as inferior because of her sex (at least in the United States) I wonder if certain people unconsciously and unknowingly treat women as lesser people because of attitudes of the past. Even though they may not be aware of it I think this idea has influenced the way that some individuals treat and view women. Because certain people can not delete this idea from their head it hinders their ability to treat females as equals. The thought that women are inferior to men constantly lingers in the background, posing the question: Well what if it is true? What if?........

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


In class on Tuesday we discussed how globalization allows us to have a 'piece of home' regardless of where we are in the world. Although the idea of always having the comforts of home can be appealing, I feel that globalization has led to people being less immersed in foreign cultures while traveling. Every summer while in Syria, all my little brother can talk about are McDonald's french fries. In Syria there is a law that allows companies which do not produce their products on Syrian ground to import them, but with a large tax attached. The result of this law is that mostly Syrian products are sold in the markets (keep in mind there are no Target or Walmart-like stores in Syria), and many large companies like General Mills and Johnson and Johnson have opened factories within Syrian borders to avoid the tax. This law may seem ridiculous to outsiders, but it has kept the Syrian economy going by employing thousands of workers in factories and keeping international monopolies, like Coca-Cola and McDonalds, from out competing the family run shops. So even though James can't have his french fries in Syria, as soon as we cross the Lebanese border, he can have them with every meal. Lebanon does not have restrictive production laws like Syria, and on every corner there is a KFC or McDonalds. It is the perfect example of a globalized country. Even though it is a Middle Eastern country, most people speak either French or English, and some people have lived there their whole life and do not know Arabic. There are supermarket stores, malls and most people drive foreign automobiles. This is one of the reasons I do not find Lebanon as charming as other Middle Eastern countries. When I am traveling I want to be somewhere that is not exactly like my home. It is easy for the culture of a country to be lost in all of the globalization. Modernity and globalization are not linked in my mind, and a country does not need to have a McDonalds to be considered modern. The point of traveling, at least for me, is to escape from my American life and take on new experiences that only a certain country or culture has to offer.

Men and Feminism

Among the fundamental problems within the feminist movements is the issue of male apathy. Feminist women often wonder—as do feminist men—why males are reluctant to learn about feminism. It is, after all, undeniably pertinent to modern society. Given both its historical and contemporaneous applicability, what is it about feminism that makes men cringe? Is it that men prefer to ignore a female movement as a means of disparaging women and preserving their masculine supremacy or are other factors contributing to male apathy?

Firstly, I think the term itself—feminism—is a contributory factor. To many men, the word implies a field of study which is inapplicable (and thus unimportant) to male life. Though clearly not the case, for those men who know nothing of feminism—and there are many—it is assumed that men have no place in what is clearly a woman’s issue. Given such a faulty assumption, men are dissuaded from engaging in a subject which retains no personal relevance. Furthermore, due to such misconceptions, those males who express interest in feminism may be socially emasculated.

Secondly, men are often apathetic towards feminism not because they disagree with its principles, but contrarily, because they are in agreement. Males such as myself, who are for equal rights between the sexes and feminine empowerment, may find much of feminist theory to be stating the obvious. In such a mindset, the study of feminism is applicable to males at large, but not to certain ‘unproblematic’ men. The same logic may be applied to white students who do not enroll in African-American studies courses. It is not because these white students are racist, but conversely, because they do not see themselves as furthering racial tension.

Thirdly, many males fear that feminism demonizes men. Feminist theory focuses on the patriarchal oppression of females—a topic with which males are inherently uncomfortable. Many males do not wish to immerse themselves in the misandrist environment that feminism might bring about and instead choose to avoid the subject altogether.

To conclude, I would like to point out that these are horrible reasons to avoid studying feminism. Nevertheless, many males distance themselves from the topic and I think the aforementioned excuses may provide some insight as to why. I believe that everybody could benefit from more men studying feminism, but that equality can never truly exist as long as the study of feminism is necessary.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sartre: Existence Precedes Essence

After reviewing Sartre's first essay in Existentialism is a Humanism I am amazed by the amount of responsibility that Sartre assigns to man. As human beings we are not provided with a set of a priori principles as Kant believes but rather we define our own essence after we have entered into a state of existence. This existentialist theory provides man with a number of, previously predetermined, choices to be made. I am not opposed to Sartre's vision of human nature, or lack thereof, but rather I am shocked by the extremity of his departure from previous thinkers. Sartre does incorporate Kant's concept of universal maxims by suggesting that when man creates an image of himself he also creates an image of what man, generally, should be. This portion of Sartre's essay is what places such enormous responsibility in the hands of each man's choices. As a result of this idea each individual must re-evaluate their decision-making process to ensure that there is a sufficient amount of analysis and consideration put into each choice. As Sartre states this is ultimately a very optimistic view of the world because it indicates that man is prepared for this type of responsibility. I find this view very refreshing. The atheistic nature of Sartre's existentialism is also personally attractive. I find that this is one of the more convincing arguments for the impossibility of a creator. Sartre presents us with the idea that man is a freedom, and as a result has the ability to create his own essence. As a result there is no place for a creator because man creates his own essence through action and thought and does not rely on predetermined principles of an ultimate good delivered by a universal creator.
Sartre's position concerning familial love is the only idea in this essay that I truly find troubling. The passage relating to his students love for his mother presents the idea that an action is what leads to the feeling of love. This follows Sartre's explanation of existentialism but is still hard to accept. Sartre admits that this view can lead to a "vicious circle" but the importance of action and its relation to freedom and thought represses any problems that Sartre may confront with this particular idea. At one point in his essay Sartre compares man's right to free choice and its moral consequences to a painting. Throughout this passage Sartre uses existentialism to inadvertently explain why two individuals can create two entirely different realities for themselves through choice. An interesting part of this theory of choice is that inaction is also a choice and therefore not choosing is an impossibility. This portion of existentialism reinforces my admiration for Sartre's position. Because of the strict guidelines that are encapsulated in the responsibility of existential choice I can be sure that inaction and a transfer of responsibility are impossible. These two qualities make Sartre's view of freedom quite concrete. In this way Sartre's view of freedom and choice is quite simple. Despite its simplicity existentialism is highly scrutinized because of its lack of predisposed principles and the pure sense of responsibility attached to it. I find it interesting that an individual can criticize Sartre for his emphasis on responsibility as this would suggest that responsibility is a reprehensible attribute.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sexual Liberty and Intelligent

The movement of feminism in western countries has intrigued me a lot, especially the wave in the 60’s with regard to sexual liberty. I believe the idea of sexual liberty is still popular in western societies nowadays. This randomly reminded me of Freud’s idea of the “Libido” and Sartre’s idea of existentialism. Libido is defined as the instinct energy or force, contained within what Freud called the “id”. It is this sexual desire that makes sexual behavior justifiable. And according to Sartre, existence precedes essence, therefore human beings have the freedom to create their own essence and since they are themselves freedoms, they are free to choose. Based on these theories, people are able to claim for sexual liberty.

While sexual liberty offered people the freedom to have sex and enjoy the life, meanwhile it has brought about some consequences which people might be unaware of. An article I recently read has unveiled some really interesting and unbelievable facts. Sexual liberty can lower people’s intelligence! The article showed a research fact that for males, the bigger their genitals are, the smaller the dimensions of their brains are and therefore their IQs are lower too. The example of the ancient Egyptian civilization has helped prove it. Everyone would stand in awe at the pyramid their ancestors had built in ancient times but nobody today could ever be able to build up a similar architecture. It is obviously telling us that modern people are not as smart as the ancient Egyptian people. After this, the article tells us more about how later Egyptians had fell to other nations and how other people such as the Jews still preserve higher IQs. If the Egyptian had had the similar IQs as their ancestors, they would have not lost to any other invaders. But the fact that they are losing almost everything to other people has clearly proved that their IQs are no longer as high as before. Due to the long and old ages these Egyptians people were living in, it is hard to find enough evidence to prove that sexual liberty is the only reason to lower their IQs. But the fact that other people such as the Jewish still have high IQs nowadays because of their conservative ways of living has more or less proved it to be true.

Personally I have no doubt in this fact because I’ve also heard some similar examples occurred in countries like China (in ancient times) and Japan. Sadly though, there is no way to tell what will happen in the future if the society goes on like this. In western countries, sexual liberty will always be a popular fad, and this is largely due to the culture so it’s not easy to change it. There’s certainly no fault in this fad but people should at least be aware of it just for the sake of their descendants.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In Bad Faith: Ignoring Your Own Transcendence

During last class we discussed an alternate example to the waiter in the cafe as acting in bad faith. I argued that someone who works as a stripper provides a better example of someone who "flees their freedom" and transcendence, and pretends to only be a facticity. They are not merely unchanging objects, but they have the freedom to change and transcend. The bad faith comes in from the fact that when playing the role of a stripper, whose only purpose is to bring pleasure to others, they degrade themselves by allowing others to treat them as an object and who does not have freedom and transcendence. Obviously this is their personal choice to act this way, and the argument against this being in bad faith is that they are responsible for their choice, and if they see nothing wrong with it and take responsibility for their choice then it is not in bad faith. I would argue that it is in bad faith even if they do take full responsibility and do not deny their transcendence, because they are still denying one key aspect of transcendence: that in our own actions we are not just responsible to ourselves, but are also responsible to others.

In Sartre's "Existentialism is a Humanism," he refutes the criticism used against him saying that existentialism is basically a selfish philosophy lacking in morality. He says that when we make a choice, we are not only fully responsible for that action, but we are also responsible to others. We should make choices that we would want others to make, so that you would want all men to be "measured" by you. Even if the stripper treats their profession as a transcendent choice, and not as something that have to do and are not responsible for, it is still in bad faith because their choice is denying their responsibility to fellow human beings. Their choice to be a stripper has the effect of influencing how men treat women, and how women allow themselves to be treated. Men often treat everyday women who are not strippers as objects that can be disposed of, and women allow this because it has almost become a normal expectation. I am in no way saying that strippers are wholly responsible for this phenomenon, because Sartre would say that everyone is responsible for allowing this type of treatment to occur. However, I do think that being in that line of work denies that allowing men to see you as an on object contributes to the large problem of mistreatment of women that occurs all the time.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Speeches

Click here for the page where you can find both audio recordings and transcritps of Malcolm X's "The Ballot or the Bullet" and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speeches.

Who is the parrhesiastes?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kierkegaard and Faith

Prior to my introduction to Kierkegaard, I never really questioned the stories that comprise my faith. Baptized before I was even a year old, I accepted Christianity as an infant, quite an achievement for someone who could neither walk nor talk. My parents baptized me just like their parents had baptized them. This cycle of faith led me to assume that my elders were completely familiar and aware of the Christian stories, and because of this felt strongly that I too must learn from the story’s messages. So why, when I asked my mother and father if they would be gentle as they placed me on the altar for sacrifice, where they so taken aback?

Okay, so I agree that this scenario is a bit extreme and that accepting Christianity does not necessarily entail one to kill their only son, however, it does support Kierkegaard’s belief that certain components of Christianity are “irrational.” It is frightening to think that the story of Abraham and Isaac is the Christian story of faith. When one talks about experiencing ghosts, producing magic, or anything involving the supernatural, most likely, they would be accused of insanity or experimenting with acid. So how is it that there are over 2 billion Christians in the world who believe that Jesus walked on water, turned water into wine, raised people from the dead, and so on. I don’t mean to suggest that Christianity makes fools of its believers or that it shouldn’t be practiced, rather that one should analysis and think hard about what it is that he or she really believes in, and whether or not they are willing to accept the many paradoxes that can be found in Christian principles.

Kierkegaard addresses examples of paradoxes that he finds in the Christian faith, one that Jesus Christ is considered both man and god. The Christian faith states that there once existed a man, Jesus Christ, who was made up of both one hundred percent man, and one hundred percent god. If one chooses to agree that Jesus Christ indeed existed, he or she is disagreeing with the basic principles of logic and reason. Then again, many aspects of science contradict components of the bible.

Kierkegaard does not think that believing in God is foolish; rather, he thinks the opposite. He views the dogmas of Christianity as implausible because “being raised to assent to certain absurd formulations, to attend church with family and friends, and to call oneself ‘Christian’ by right of birth has nothing to do with being a Christian” (91). He doesn’t want society to blindly subject themselves to a religion simply because it is the sociably acceptable thing to do. Instead he thinks one should access their own beliefs, independent from others, and hopefully, he or she will come to the conclusion, like him, that even though Christianity is irrational, God is beyond reason.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Predetermination vs. Self-Empowerment

Sartre views essentialism as a progression in which “man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world - and defines himself afterwards.” God does not exist, according to Sartre, and therefore predetermination is illusionary. Consequently, man must exist and experience before establishing for himself essence independent of deism. Sartre’s commentary is inherently atheistic and thus unlikely to resound amongst those with immutable faith in God. However, for those willing to reject conviction in God and seek personal essence, Sartre claims angst and dejection to be common emotions. Such feelings result from the relinquishment of “deterministic excuses” with which personal responsibility is avoided.

I do not understand why despair would result from rejecting predetermination. Why is it bad that freedom brings personal responsibility? Responsibility implies the presence of choice, meaning that individuals maintain rule over themselves. Even though responsibility invariably carries consequences, an individual’s ability to make absolute decisions should be empowering. I understand that many people may be fearful of assuming control over their lives, but isn’t the notion of personal freedom more satisfying than that of an external force controlling life? Even if that outside force is compassionate and all powerful, I prefer think of myself as supreme ruler of myself.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kierkegaard For Modern Times

Kierkegaard was disgusted by the Christianity of his time, and the way he felt it had been overly democratized. Having faith is not easy and should be a very private and difficult achievement. Everyone should find something they passionately care about, and Christianity is not a passion that is meant for everyone. The difficulty of true faith is shown by the story of Abraham and Isaac, and the fact that Abraham has to go against the ethical realm for his faith by his willingness to kill his son.

Kierkegaard's extension of Hegel's philosophy can be taken in two ways in light of modern Christianity. One interpretation could take his philosophy to encourage an extreme zeal for Christianity, such as the evangelical movements that have been occurring in the United States. These evangelical movements want Christianity to be a difficult choice, but with the obligation to spread this zeal to other people and to fight for their strong beliefs. The other interpretation would be one emphasizing the individual nature of the choice, and the fact that it may not necessarily be a passion that is meant for everyone. I think that the second interpretation is the healthiest for modern times, and that Kierkegaard would have wanted Christian faith to be an individual experience.

I have a problem with anyone thinking it is their right to push their personal beliefs on another person. Everyone should find something to be passionate about, but should not assume that others need to also be so passionate. There is nothing wrong with wanting to share your passion, but it goes to far when it seeks to stifle the rights and passions of others. Freedom to be faithful is important, but so it the freedom to not be ruled by the faith of others.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Chicken Factory

Today in class we discussed a philosopher who I have studied in a few other classes at Rhodes, Karl Marx. Marx argues that Capitalism has forced laborers to accept the lowest wages possible due to competition. The 'army of unemployed', or reserve of laborers, are waiting to take any available job and willing to work for cheaper, enforcing the idea that laborers are a tradable commodity. The division between the bourgeoise and proletariat classes grows larger every day that laborers are forced to work for the lowest possible wage. There is a Tyson Foods poultry-production factory in Springdale, Arkansas that should have Marx turning in his grave. Sociologist Steve Striffler applied for a job at the Tyson Foods factory, which predominately employs Mexican immigrants who cannot speak English, to examine the treatment of employees. Striffler was one of the only American employees at the company that was not in an upper level position. The cultural difference between the laborers and their bosses just heightens the misunderstanding between the two groups. In the factory he witnessed the daily horrors which the employees were faced with on the 'assembly line'. The laborers work fifteen hour days, with little hope of moving up in the company. At one point there is company downsizing, and the remaining laborers are forced to compensate for the cut employees. After these reductions Striffler finds himself working two jobs on the assembly line, but still receiving the same pathetic wage. The Capitalistic mantra of maximum speed and maximum efficiency is drilled into all the workers minds, and when a machine breaks down the employees suffer. Also, the employees are not alerted when changes to a machine's speed is made, and find out when they are unable to keep up with the faster pace. At the end of a hard day, the laborers are given boxes of fried chicken, the very product they were making, as a reward. Striffler mentions that none of the employees want to eat the chicken, but really have no choice because they cannot afford to throw away free food. All of the events that the employees of the chicken factory encounter reinforce Marx's theory of alienation. When humans 'sell their labor' to work in unforgiving conditions, for the lowest pay, they lose themselves. Their alienation with the final product is shown by their repulsion to the free fried chicken, which they helped prepare by slaughtering, bredding , injecting chemicals into and frying the meat. It is articles like Striffler's that make me skeptical of Capitalism. Yes, it can have it's positive points, but the negatives seem to be a black cloud looming over the system. Nobody in the workforce should have to toil in the conditions that those in the Tyson Chicken Factory do. Their employees work in unforgiving conditions for fifteen hours a day, which is not exactly the American Dream. The laborers of the Tyson Chicken Factory reside in America, but do not seem to actually be a part of it, since they are stuck as second class citizens in the proletariat class.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hegel Takes the Easy Way Out?

While thumbing through Hegel’s thoughts concerning the dialectic, I was struck by the similarity they bear to a quote I came across in an anthropology class. The quote reads as follows: “One of the most significant facts about us may be that we all begin with the natural equipment to live a thousand kinds of life but in the end having lived only one” (Clifford Geertz, The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man). Geertz – and the whole of anthropology, for that matter – is trying to make a case for the equality of any given way of life – the rejection that one lifestyle is inherently better, more advance, etc. Hegel seems to share a similar idea, but applies it to a discussion of truth: according to Solomon, “our shared concepts are not in fact universal but quite particular and provincial, aspects of the truth…” (Solomon 57). Found in both is a respect for others, a humble understanding of place, and an embrace of diverse coexistence.

Hegel’s idea seems to resonate more universally than those previously studied in this course, and for good reason. His description of the process by which ideas are built upon each other, improved, and move toward a single idea is attractive because it draws comparisons to the scientific method. And his ideas of universality and the recognition of the relatively equal worth, which are based in humility and equally attractive, stand as a stark contrast to the polarizing theories of human nature and objective morality of previous thinkers. But as Solomon points out, there is a contradictory tension buried in Hegel’s philosophy, and I am beginning to wonder if perhaps his attempt to create a system that aims to justify everyone’s beliefs isn’t just taking the easy way out.

A tension arises between what Solomon calls “the conservative search for the Absolute,” and the “recognition that there may be no such Absolute, but only the possibly endless diversity of different forms of life and consciousness, each of them relative to and dependent upon its own historical, conceptual, and social epoch” (Solomon 59). There seems nothing inherently contradictory about his aforementioned process of idea improvement, so long as it applies to ideas, but the contradiction arises when each is labeled “equally true.” His intention is noble, but two conflicting statements cannot both be true at the same time.

For Hegel, the truths and moral values of one culture are just as valid as those embraced by the next. But is he simply taking the easy way out, failing to take a stance concerning these topics? He seems to be trying to simultaneously validate the subjective and objective approaches. And what are the implications of such an approach? Are ethical or moral rightness or truth determined circumstantially? Or is it objective, such as Kant suggests? Hegel doesn’t make a definitive case for either.

Categorical Imperative

I’m really glad that I finally got the chance to study Kant. It was the first thing I had read in a long time that truly stopped my brain. You can’t just say you disagree with something he says—his arguments are nearly impossible to argue with logically. I like to think that I am, more often than not, a moral person. But Kant’s categorical imperative makes that tougher to claim.

According to him, moral actions are only those whose maxim you can will to be universal law, those that treat people not only as means but also as ends, and to act only in such a way that the maxim of your actions would be adopted as a universal law in a kingdom of ends. This puts a huge amount of pressure on every action I take.

Originally, I took issue with the categorical imperative because it meant that a lot of the things I do are, according to Kant, immoral. And that bothered me. Lying to protect people seems like a good thing to me, but on reflection I realized it’s not really rational. What if I needed to find out what was true, and someone I would consider immoral lied to protect them? How could I judge them for that? I can only judge them if my morals are absolute, and the categorical makes them so in a way that is more appealing to me than I initially assumed.

The categorical imperative makes every action we take that much more meaningful. If we are trying to act in a way that we can will all of humanity to act in without negating reality/logic altogether, we are making a decision much greater than whether to lie just this one time. And if and when we do decide to lie, the decision has that much greater of force, because we are really choosing to do something despite its illogic. I don’t know if that means that emotion has necessarily overpowered logic in these scenarios (though that is definitely not what Kant would suggest), or if it simply means our immoral decisions are that much more immoral, but I think it brings a greater weight to our decisions.

Do you all think it’s a stretch to say that the categorical imperative gives greater meaning to the things we do? It obviously holds us to a higher standard, but do you think it makes things mean more, no matter which action we choose?

Rand's Influences

Throughout these first weeks of class, while learning about the philosophies of famous epistemologists, I am reminded of another more modern philosopher: Ayn Rand. For those unfamiliar with Rand, her books The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, (both of which I’m attempting to read) laid the groundwork for the modern philosophy known as Objectivism. Her ideology was highly significant—influencing prominent Americans such as Alan Greenspan and Nathaniel Branden. Objectivism holds (in part) that “reality exists independent of consciousness; that individual persons are in direct contact with this reality through sensory perception; that human beings can gain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive and deductive logic; that the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness or rational self-interest.”

Rand’s writings portray the principles behind her philosophy, many of which are directly related to concepts previously introduced by certain philosophers discussed in class. Such similarities are evident upon comparing Objectivism to aspects of Hobbesianism and the philosophy of Descartes. For example, in Atlas Shrugged, Rand describes her ideology as “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” This statement, as well as the one introduced in the first paragraph, portrays certain concepts formerly established by the aforementioned philosophers.

Firstly, the notion of morality as defined by one’s pursuit of happiness and self-interest is unmistakably Hobbesian. Hobbes proposes that the state of nature is inherently self-interested. Clearly, Rand agrees, and states not only that self-interest is an essential part of humanity, but that one’s furtherance of it defines morality. While (to my knowledge), Hobbes does not define moral worth in terms of selfishness, Rand is effectively in agreement with his claim that self-interest is psychologically imperative and the governing force behind human action.

Secondly, Rand claims that reason is humanity’s only absolute. Such a statement is reminiscent of Descartes’ method of hyperbolic doubt. Descartes states that there is no way of objectively knowing the nature of existence. As such, res cogitans must be utilized to determine the validity of existence. It alone, as an Archimedean Point, can prove the existence of itself—reason— and from there forward can be used to gauge the veracity of other concepts. Nevertheless, it stands that reason as derived from res cogitans is humanity’s only absolute truth.

While Objectivism is hugely different from the teachings of Hobbes, Descartes, and other European epistemologists, it is evident that Rand utilizes their philosophies as a means of crafting Objectivist thought. Given its influence, learning about Objectivism and the philosophies which influenced its formation can lead to a greater understanding of the modern world.