Author Archives: Lindsay Wilson

Animal Psychology: Complexity of Thought and Emotion

In the end of Chapter I Freud references “Animal psychology” (2), stating that his “general schematic picture of a psychical apparatus may be supposed to apply as well to the higher animals which resemble man generally” (2). I found this point to be fascinating. Do animals experience emotion the way in which people do? Can they distinguish between need and desire? Is their psyche compartmentalized into the same ultimate categorization of id, ego, and superego?

In my opinion, I think that this could be a possibility based off of my own personal experience with dogs and cats in addition to stories I have heard. I believe that animals experience emotion and make decisions based off of such feelings. Just a couple hours ago, a friend was telling me how her dad when he was a kid fell into a deep pit, and would most likely have died if not for his pet dog who ran barking to the nearest adult and led her to the place where his owner had fallen in. How could this event have taken place without the dog recognizing that his owner was in danger, and that in order to save him he had to involve someone who was capable of rescuing the little boy, indicating the capacity of emotion and decision-making based off of it? There are so many stories similar to this one that I consider it true evidence of animals’ capacity for complex emotion and emotional thought.

From my own personal experience, my dog has always gotten extremely excited when my family is enthusiastic about something. He will jump up and down, wagging his tail, any time we talk in loud voices excitedly or start laughing about something. Furthermore, when I am sad or another family member looks a little down he will sit down by our sides, and put his head in our laps, looking concerned.

Some may be skeptical of my theory, but just based off of what I know and have heard, I think that animals do have a certain emotional capacity, and display certain characteristics, behaviors, and actions that imply complex thought. Some species display affection for their offspring in such a way that could only be described as love. They show concern when things are going poorly, and they consistently mourn the loss of their loved ones, some even becoming unable to move past such deaths, slowly wasting away until they pass themselves. Also, just think about animals that became friends with others outside of their species, or who adopt offspring of other animals. These are actions that go beyond instinct, displaying complex emotion.

In conclusion, although I am unsure of how we would measure whether or not animals’ psyche is compartmentalized into id, ego, and superego, or their ability to distinguish between need and desire, I am convinced that animals experience emotion and make decisions based off of these feelings.

Any thoughts?

Relating “Docile Bodies” to Modern Society

I found Foucault’s “Docile Bodies” to be fascinating for the connections that can be drawn between the reading and modern society today. In my opinion, society has become much more objective and less emotional than that of the past. It is more focused on material wealth and status, and how to obtain it. It now places a much greater focus on math and science, rather than on the humanities. Classes such as English and History are considered a waste of time, whereas a lab science or a math course is considered as of the utmost importance. Visual literacy has gone up, while communication skills have fallen drastically.

I believe that these trends are mainly due to the rise in objectivity and lack of emotion that now permeates society, and that was described in Foucault’s writing. As stated in “Docile Bodies,” man has become more of a machine than a person. Less people take the time to read, play music, and spend time with their friends and family in order to focus on what they believe will get them ahead, such as social media or more individualistic approaches. The human element of nearly every aspect of life has fallen drastically because people feel like in order to achieve their goal of wealth, status, beauty, social recognition, etc. they have to be one step ahead of everyone else and to never admit to a flaw. They focus on the tasks they set out for themselves, with little thought to how their actions affect others.

I’m sorry for the rant, but I truly felt that much of what Foucault wrote could be applied to our own society today, and that society has become less humanistic and more corporate. I also think its fascinating to consider how although the world today is incredibly technologically advanced and filled with highly intelligent human beings, many people would probably secretly admit that they aren’t especially happy or that they feel like they’re missing something. I believe that many of the reasons why people are not content or satisfied with their lives can be found in Foucault’s writing, and that the rise in unhappiness can be attributed to an increased emphasis in objectivity and lack of emotion.

Knowledge as a Means of Manipulation and Oppression

During the Storey reading I was struck by the statement “discourses produce knowledge and knowledge is always a weapon of power” (7). I found this to be one of the most significant truths I have ever come across in philosophy.

As mentioned in Storey’s paper, with the example of the Victorians creating the concept of sexuality through discussion, the discourse that follows observation, studying, and experimentation of a certain subject allows for the generation of knowledge in that specific field. This then facilitates the creation of power, as a better understanding of something or a theory can be used to categorize and organize behavior, dividing it into “normal” and “abnormal.”

I had never really thought of knowledge as a weapon, but, when looking back at historical examples, it is seemingly a very relevant means by which to control people. Time and time again, history has proven that if you have knowledge, or appear to have knowledge, you have a better chance of manipulating and then taking command over people. We can see this with dictators, corrupt politicians, etcetera. Furthermore, people are naturally drawn to people who are or seem knowledgeable, because they want to be with those who seem to have the answers to unknowable and understandable questions, and are prone to adhering to societal norms generated through the public awareness of certain forms of knowledge for fear of appearing strange or “abnormal.”

Because the human mind is prone to categorization, people tend to divide the world into very black and white terms, deeming one thing as good and the opposite as bad. Through the process of the creation of knowledge through discourse, which is then followed by categorization and organization of behavior, the people who have a good understanding of the subject undergoing exploration hold power over others who lack that knowledge, and are able to decide, based off of their own personal opinion, what should be deemed right and wrong. Therefore, knowledge at the most basic of level can be turned into a weapon depending on the hands of the people it falls into, as it can be used to manipulate and control the innocent or naive.

When I read about the relationship between knowledge and power, it made me a bit nervous in terms of the negative effects it can have upon society, and how there is seemingly no way to combat it if it falls into the hands of or is developed by unscrupulous people. Do you think there is any way in which to prevent the obtainment of knowledge from being used to manipulate and oppress people?

The Practical Application of Freire’s Educative Philosophy to Reality

I have to say that I really enjoyed this reading. I thought that it was a very accurate description of the education process, and society’s impact upon education. I feel like I always do the worst in the classes where I have no interest in them, or merely just memorize information and then regurgitate it for the exam. I really think that narrative education is detrimental to the development of the individual, stunting creative power and allowing for the formation of a warped view of reality, as it boxes the student into a certain way of thinking and is more conducive towards memorization rather than actual learning and retention of knowledge.

I also really liked Freire’s theory of problem-posing education. I thought the idea of teachers and students simultaneously playing each others roles to be absolutely fascinating. I’ve always subscribed to the idea that people never stop learning, so I like the idea of the implementation of an education system where the teacher and students learn from each other, forming a cyclical relationship where ideas are posed and analyzed by both parties, and then conclusions shared with each other so as to enlarge their perspectives and knowledge base.

However, I am confused as to exactly how Freire wants to implement this program. I would assume that most of this system of education would be based upon discussion sections or classes founded upon student-participation. We have plenty of classes like that at Emory, but I do not think that a true student-teacher relationship has been formed, just based off of my experience in discussion sections and courses heavily dependent on student-participation. I have found that most students just respond because they feel like they have to, and the teachers have to ask question after question in order to force information out of them. How exactly does Freire hope to make this relationship between the student and teacher a reality? What methods does he want the teacher to implement in the classroom in order to achieve this goal of a teacher-student and student-teacher learning process?

In conclusion, in my opinion, Freire suggested a great system of education, and performed a very comprehensive and intelligent analysis of society and its impact upon education; however, I feel that he lacked a description of how to practically apply his theory to reality.

Experience’s Affect Upon Society

“But there is another aspect of the matter. Experience does not go on simply inside a person. It does go on there, for it influences the formation of attitudes of desire and purpose. But this is not the whole of the story. Every genuine experience has an active side which changes in some degree the objective conditions under which experiences are had. The difference between civilization and savagery, to take an example on a large scale, is found in the degree in which previous experiences have changed the objective conditions under which subsequent experiences take place. The existence of roads, of means of rapid movement and transportation, tools, implements, furniture, electric light and power, are illustrations. Destroy the external conditions of present civilized experience, and for a time our experience would relapse into that of barbaric peoples” (15).

I found this quote very interesting for its exploration of experience in relation to civilization. In the first few sentences, Dewey claims that experience takes place within the person, as it “influences the formation of attitudes and desires” (15); however, he goes on to state that experience exists beyond the person. It is a genuine experience that can be either active or passive, changing based upon the degree of objectivity under which the experiences are had. Dewey claims that the difference between civilization and savagery is founded in the transformation previous experiences have had on the “objective conditions” (15) under which such experiences have taken place. According to him, the existence of tools are all “illustrations” (15). If we were to destroy the conditions of society, what we consider to be society would fade away.

In my Anthropology 101 class right now, we are learning about the four stages of civilization: bands, tribes, chiefdoms, and states. Therefore, this comparison between civilized experience and barbaric experience can be related to what we are discussing in the Anthropology lectures. Its really fascinating to be able to relate what I learn in Philosophy to what we are discussing in Anthropology.

I agree with Dewey in that I believe that experience is the basis upon which society progresses. Previous experience allows us to make more educated decisions and serves as the foundation for the obtainment of new knowledge. The external conditions created by experience make us view society a certain way because of the social values, norms, and objects that are part of it. Take away experience, and what makes a society a certain society fades away.

However, I do not agree with Dewey in that experience defines something as barbaric versus civilized. Just because we call something barbaric does not mean it actually is. Societies function differently and are composed of different norms and tools. These differences in lifestyle, etc. do not mean that a society is less developed than ours. So in the sense of differences in culture defining the level of society, I do not agree with Dewey. I think that experience is important in forming society, and progressing society forwarded, but not in defining a society as either developed or civilized.

Knowledge in Terms of Business

In my research for the blog, I came across an article titled “Knowledge is Our Comparative Advantage.” It really threw me a loop. The author of the article not only designates knowledge as an asset, an economic term referring to something either tangible or intangible that provides future benefit, but also emphasizes the shift from explicit knowledge to collective knowledge through the development of social media. In his short article, he completely changed the way in which I view knowledge in the context of the real world.

In the article, the author explains how knowledge is our comparative advantage as a species because unlike other animals, humans can accumulate knowledge and share it with each other. In the 1990’s, businessmen began to categorize knowledge as an asset, as it is a medium that can generate profit in both tangible and intangible forms. Suddenly, focus was set on capturing, saving, and sharing explicit knowledge. Many organizations worked to save information in large database repositories that stored masses amount of knowledge in the form of data. Next, researchers began to realize that the immense amount of knowledge embedded in people could best be shared through the opening of these databases to the public in the form of information sharing websites. Hence, the birth of Myspace, Twitter, and Facebook- social knowledge soundboards. These social networks allow for incredible amounts of information, or knowledge, to circulate globally and increase the amount of data open to the public. Only through the designation of knowledge as a communal asset was the era of social media made possible.

This is where I was completely shocked. I had never really thought about what Facebook really was. Of course I knew it was a site where people shared information about themselves with others, or their supposed “friends,” but I never really considered it as the repository of knowledge that it really is. Facebook and other social media sites are representative of the shift from explicit knowledge, information in databases, to explicit knowledge, or collective, dynamic knowledge. Social media is a way in which knowledge is accumulated and then shared with others, increasing the amount of information open to people. Facebook serves as much more than a website where people stay informed about their friends lives and keep updated on current trends; it symbolizes the shift from personal knowledge to communal knowledge.

Furthermore, even though I am pre-business and have taken Business Economics, I never considered knowledge as an intangible asset. It just never crossed my mind to place knowledge in an economic setting, and to think of it in terms of its implications in terms of financial statements. When I think of the author’s categorization of knowledge as an asset it makes complete and total sense, but by myself I don’t think I ever would have made that connection, or at least not until I had more experience in the business world and with financial statements more specifically.

In conclusion, I thought this article was fascinating for its explanation of knowledge’s role in a modern setting, such as in social media and business. Although the article was a bit long-winded and got a little to into the author’s connections in the business world, I found “Knowledge is Our Comparative Advantage” to be a great read in terms of the emphasis it places on the practical application of knowledge in the business world.

The Implications of “Here”

“‘Here’ itself does not vanish; on the contrary, it abides constant in the vanishing of the house, the tree, etc., and is indifferently house or tree. Again, therefore, the ‘This’ shows itself to be a mediated simplicity, or a universality” (61).

I think that Hegel’s theory concerning “Here” is absolutely fascinating for its implications with regards to “universality” and “consciousness.” Hegel claims that “Here” is a term used to describe the placement or position in which a certain object resides. The word is constant. Just because its fixation changes, such as shifting from defining the placement of a dog to the placement of a cat, does not mean that “Here” “vanishes,” or takes on another meaning. It merely shifts focus from one object to another.

The theory of “Here” is imperative in the explanation of Hegel’s belief in universality, or the essence of a thing. Although “Here” can be used to describe many different objects, its meaning does not change based off of its fixation. With whatever object it references, “Here” refers to the placement of position of a thing not the thing in which is describes. Therefore, “Here” in itself never disappears or changes in meaning; rather, its focus shifts depending on the way in which it is being used to define the placement of an object. Its essence is never transformed.

The theories of “Here” and “universality” all tie into Hegel’s overarching theme of consciousness or cognitive awareness. As humans, we are constantly using our senses to gain knowledge and data from our environment. In order to quantify and then analyze such information, we need markers such as “This” and “Here.” These terms allow us to determine the meaning of and interpret the details our senses recognize. Such techniques provide us with the ability to ascertain the essence of the things we run into during our travels so that we may be cognitively aware of the environment surrounding and our placement in such an environment. Therefore, “Here” serves not only as a way in which to define the position of objects near and around us but also as a facilitator of the discovery of our own placement in the world.

Composition of Identity

“Our understanding can only think, and must seek intuition in the senses. I am, then, conscious of the self as identical, as regards the manifold of the presentations given to me in an intuition, because I call them one and all my presentations that make up one presentation” (B 135).

I think this passage is fascinating for its description of the relationship between knowledge and intuition, and Kant’s declaration of the self as being based on identity. Here, he states that understanding allows for the processing of information taken in through perception of the environment. Such understanding is supported by evidence gained from the outside world through perception, and further substantiated by instinct. Therefore, identity, or the self, is founded upon the “manifold of presentations,” or information gained from the environment and from instinct, coming together to form one presentation through the analysis of such data. This culminates to form the identity of self, as understanding and intuition allow for consciousness of oneself and comprehension of one’s position in relation to one’s environment.

Therefore, the distinction between knowledge and intuition allows for a better understanding of the composition of identity. Understanding is based upon thinking, whereas intuition is based upon feeling or sensitivity. This means that the self is based upon a balance between the objective and subjective. Identity is based upon the culmination of knowledge and instinct, or the analysis of various forms of information retrieved by the senses into one presentation.

I am not 100% sure whether I interpreted this passage correctly. I am a bit confused about his statement that many presentations combine to make up one presentation. Does this mean that many presentations culminate to form one presentation? Furthermore, what exactly is he referring to when he uses the term presentation? Does he mean the way in which things in the environment are positioned or something else?

Exploring the Foundation of Identity

“For in them the variation of great parcels of matter alters not the identity: An oak growing from a plant to a great tree, and then lopped, is still the same oak; and a colt grown up to a horse, sometimes fat, sometimes lean, is all the while the same horse: Though in both these cases, there may be a manifest change of the parts; so that truly they are not either of them the same masses of matter, though they be truly one of them the same oak, and the other the same horse. The reason whereof is, that in these two cases, a mass of matter, and a living body, identity is not applied to the same thing” (Chapter 27, paragraph 3).

Many authors, especially philosophers, turn to beautiful metaphors to describe their ideas to readers. Here, Locke follows this ancient tradition, furthering his claim that variation does not alter identity through the example of the development of an oak tree and maturation of a horse.

I found these metaphors to be not only eloquent and engaging but also great illustrations of his assertion. In order to further his point that “variation” in “matter alters not the identity,” he describes an oak starting out as a small shoot and then growing into a “great tree,” showing that just because the shape of the tree changes, its element is not transformed: it is still composed of wood and undergoes the process of photosynthesis in order to survive.

Furthermore, he writes of how when a colt matures to a horse, growing either “fat” or “lean,” it is still “the same horse” by nature. Its physical attributes does not change the fact that larger horses and skinnier horses are still the same horse, just with different characteristics, such as either an enlarged or shrunken frame. The horses’ “matter,” or what makes the horses horses never changes.

As “parts” change, the object changes into a different form of that same object; however, its identity does not change in relation to these so-called “great parcels of matter.” According to Locke, its identity remains the same. Here, he writes that, in the sake of using the tree metaphor, as long as the tree has the ability to do its same biological functions through appendages that make it a tree, such as roots, trunk, and branches, in the furthering of its life as an organism, the tree continues to exist as one and the same tree, despite the changes in its constituent matter. He, therefore, concludes that even though living organisms constantly lose and gain portions of their matter through process of growth and aging, we are not inclined to believe that they have changed into different creatures. The identity of organisms is based on their ability to sustain the biological processes that keep them alive. In conclusion, Locke believes that identity is founded upon this principle, and that the only time such identity shifts is when something separates from the original organism and gains a life of its own.

Existence Through Participation

“Plato accepted his teaching, but held that the problem applied not to any sensible thing but to entities of another kind—for this reason, that the common definition could not be a definition of any sensible thing, as they were always changing. Things of this other sort, then, he called Ideas, and sensible things, he said, were apart from these, and were all called after these; for the multitude of things which have the same name as the Form exist by participation in it. Only the name ‘participation’ was new; for the Pythagoreans say that things exist by imitation of numbers, and Plato says they exist by participation, changing the name. But what the participation or the imitation of the Forms could be they left an open question” (V I, Book VI).

After coming from reading several excerpts from Plato’s documents concerning Socrates’ life experiences and lessons, I find the transition to examining Plato’s ideas through Aristotle quite fascinating. It is somewhat reticent of coming full circle in that after Plato sharing his mentor’s philosophy in various different documents, now Aristotle is relating his mentor’s theories.

Additionally, I found this passage very interesting for its content. I find that I do not understand much of it except for the last two lines, especially the part concerning participation in relation to Form. Therefore, I bring this excerpt of the reading up for discussion because I am not entirely sure of its meaning and want to come to a better understanding to it.

What I gather from this passage is that Plato believed that change dictates much of life, and that its transformative power allows for progression in many aspects of existence. He was convinced that nothing was concrete or static; everything was constantly evolving into different things. Unlike Socrates, his beloved teacher, Plato was focused on both the ethical and the physical, looking at all entities of knowledge in order to gain a better understanding of the universe.

Plato did not believe in simple definitions; rather, he was convinced that the term “Idea” was the best word that could be used to define the concept of a certain form of existence. According to Plato, a “common definition could not be a definition of any sensible thing, as they [entities of another kind] were always changing” (V I, Book VI).

Furthermore, he believed that all things exist in relation to Form, or an abstract property or quality. This means that by stripping away fundamental or properties or qualities and examining just the object by itself, one would be able to analyze the form of that object. Based off of this theory, Plato believed that forms are the causes of all that exists in the world. He, therefore, asserts that the best way in which to examine the world is through the sensation of non-material abstract forms, or ideas, in order to gain the most fundamental source of reality.

I have to say that I am very confused by what this all means. I am in agreement with most of what I understand from this passage, but I am still pretty lost about the idea of participation in Form. I do believe that nearly everything in life is transitory, constantly evolving and always moving in one direction or another. I also believe that if we strip an object of its characteristics and qualities, we can move towards understanding what it is composed of, what its qualities can cause or bring forth, and why it exists. However, I am still pretty confused about Plato’s theory concerning Form.

Any thoughts?