Category Archives: Ancient Philosophy

Knowledge: Good or Evil?

This is a question I thought about from a while back. During our readings on knowledge, it seemed to me that the ancient philosophers liked to write about how they would educate their citizens in order to reach their ideal worlds, while the Enlightenment philosophers taught about how they believed the process of knowledge works without setting up definitive restrictions of how people should be controlled. For instance, Plato talks about the Myth of the Metals as a means to maintain order in The Republic while Hegel writes about the didactic method of obtaining knowledge. This makes me question as whether knowledge is a means or an ends. Is the use of false knowledge (Myth of Metals) morally corrupt if it accomplishes the goal of a peaceful city? Continue reading

Is it Necessary?

I was laying in my bed, wide awake Saturday night, not wanting to get out, lying to myself that Spring Break would never end. I scrolled through the internet, looking through articles that seemed interesting. One of the articles, you can read here, was especially enticing. It explained the story of the alleged roommate of one of the internet’s most notorious owner of drug-trafficking. He lived essentially a double-life: he was a normal guy, graduated from UT Austin, lived comfortably in his house in San Francisco; but when he was behind the computer, he went took on the role of the DreadPIrateRoberts, founder and admin of Silk Road, an underground black-market that oversaw the exchange of illicit drugs and other paraphernalia. Ultimately, he was figured out and is under control by the FBI.  As stated in the article, it came as a shock to his roommate, his parents and now ex-girlfriend.

What I want to know is was it right for him to conceal, or lie in order for him to run his website? Since he was the head of the organization, I feel that he should take full blame for what he did, although lucrative, it was still illegal. I thought of Plato’s Republic, in which Plato described to Glaucon the Noble Lie, and that it was okay for government to lie to the people. In a way, I feel this might be the same case. He was the head of an organization, and in order to keep order in his life, created two identities for himself, one that he showed to the public, and the other behind the glow of the computer screen.

Any thoughts?

PhotoCredit to

PhotoCredit to

The Mentality of Education

While looking for an article for this week’s post I stumbled across a piece in The Atlantic that discusses how important one’s thought process is in education. The way Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses his experience of learning French immediately sparked a connection between his experience with French and the slave Plato discusses in Meno.  Continue reading

The New School

The conventional school is a dictatorship. Students enter their classrooms, sit in their assigned seats, obey the teacher, memorize a bunch of facts, and take exams testing their knowledge of those facts. This model of schooling has been used for centuries now. This model produces children who are capable of following and obeying rules; however, the children do not develop sufficient creativity and problem-solving skills to make the world a better place. True democracy can only exist when the people are active, collaborative, confident, and creative citizens. The conventional model does not offer that; however, Escuela Nueva may provide a better schooling model.

The Escuela Nueva (New School) model, first adopted in rural Colombia, employs a different approach to education. Students actively shape their own curriculum, work on their own projects, gain hands-on experience, and participate in class-wide discussions. In Escuela Nueva, students are no longer passive learners. They become active learners applying the concepts they learn in the real world. In his NY Times article Make School a Democracy, David Kirp argues that the Escuela Nueva model of schooling can help foster democracy in a country. This is because kids are taught to become active and participating students. These attributes are necessary for the success of democracy. Studies have shown that students who go through the Escuela Nueva model are more likely to be active members of their communities.

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that experience is extremely important in the education process. Escuela Nueva takes that into account. Students do not just learn abstract concepts; they apply them in their everyday lives. Students learn to write short stories, grow and garden plants, run their own experiments to explore their early scientific enquiries. This way school appears to be more relevant rather than a tedious and forced process. The conventional model for schooling is ancient; it is time for a drastic reform that adopts the Escuela Nueva style.


Here is the link to the article.


Education in Forrest Gump

In the movie Forrest Gump, the titular character gets labeled as stupid because he was born with a mental disability. When he goes to register for grade school, his mom has to use her “feminine influence” just so he could get a proper education. Society misunderstands his disability and he gets taken advantage of multiple times throughout the movie. He goes along with his catchphrase “stupid is as stupid does” whenever someone verbally attacks him with a remark reminding him that he has a disability. Even though his book smarts are not very sharp, his street smarts and his friendly personality provide him with what he needs to succeed in life.

Despite the discrimination Forrest faces in the movie, many philosophers would be even more critical towards his mental abilities. In a different historical context, Aristotle would not allow Forrest to live independently in his ideal city. According to Aristotle, Forrest would be considered a “natural slave” who is destined to serve the needs of the intellectuals. He also states that “the citizen should be molded to suit the form of government under which he lives … The character of democracy creates democracy, and the character of oligarchy creates oligarchy” (Politics 1337a). In this case, Forrest Gump would only learn how to be a servant and nothing else. Even though Aristotle generally supported education for all the citizens, women and the mentally disabled were not considered worthy to be taught.

Another interesting thought about Forrest Gump is how he was able to learn street smarts and politeness. In Plato’s Meno, Plato exclaims that education was just a recollection of experiences from past lives (Meno 81d). I wonder what Forrest Gump’s past life would have been if Plato’s theory holds true. Would he have also been mentally disabled in his past life? Did his personality carry over from the experiences of his immortal soul? While Plato’s theory has some holes in it, it does ask important question of how knowledge is obtained. If Forrest Gump could learn despite his disability, it gives me hope that people can change their personalities for the better through experience.Gump

Stupid is as stupid does

Perception of a Dress

A recent picture of a dress has taken the internet by storm. Someone posted a picture of a dress online and many people view the dress as blue and gold and a comparable amount of people view the dress as white and black. This simple dress sparked hot disputes all over the world. Although this discussion of the optical illusion dress seems totally irrelevant to our discussion of knowledge, as Megan Garber points out in her article in the Atlantic, it creates a point of discussion where people discuss where they fit into the world.  Continue reading

Hegel and Sense-certainty

I didn’t really understand what Hegel meant by sense-certainty until I read about what he meant when he said “Here” in the later paragraphs of our reading. In paragraph 101, he says,

“But in this relationship sense-certainty experiences the same dialectic acting upon itself as in the previous one. I, this ‘1’, see the tree and assert that ‘Here’ is a tree; but another ‘I’ sees the house and maintains that ‘Here’ is not a tree but a house instead. Both truths have the same authentication, viz. the immediacy ofseeing, and the certainty and assurance that both have about their knowing; but the one truth vanishes in the other.”

By this, I think that he means that how we sense, or perceive things to be in that moment is how things are, and if we are certain that what we are seeing is really what we are seeing, then that is how we are “certain” and we can say that that is a truth. With this example, he demonstrates that our sense-certianty can change.  This is what he means when he says “the one truth vanishes in the other”. When you are currently seeing a tree, you can say, with certainty, that what you are seeing then is a tree. However, if you see a house right after you see the tree, you cannot say that you are still, currently, seeing the tree; you are now seeing a different object. This is what he means when he says, right in the beginning of paragraph 99, that

“The knowledge or knowing which is at the start or is immediately our object cannot be anything else but immediate knowledge itself, acknowledge of the immediate or of what simply is. Our approach to the object must also be immediate or receptive; we must alter nothing in the object as it presents itself. ”

He is saying that you immediately can see one object and tell yourself what it is. However, if the object alters, then we must alter our knowledge on what the object is. This is what I think he means when he says that we must be “immediate and receptive”. So, our senses have to change, they have to adjust to our surroundings. What to you guys think?

The Here and Now

In Phenomenology of Spirit, G.W.F. Hegel discusses the meaning of “here” and “now” to determine how they relate to truth and “universality” (95, 96). Hegel indicates that at the exact moment of “now,” that is the “truest knowledge” because at that exact moment it is true that we are in the “now,” but he goes on to indicate how “now” simultaneously lacks all aspects of truth (91).  Continue reading

Construction of Perception

In Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant discusses how people are able to perceive different objects and determine how those objects exist relative to other objects. Kant determines that in order to truly perceive that an object exists, one must synthesize their different presentations to create a more holistic perception.  Continue reading

Why Only Physical?

In Book 2 of “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” by John Locke, Locke talks about how “the variation of great parcels of matter alters not the identity”, and then he goes on to give the example of the oak tree, and how “an oak growing from a plant to a tree… is still the same oak”, and that a “colt grown up to a horse, sometimes fat, sometimes lean, is all the while the same horse”. (Ch. 27, 3) This I completely agree with and understand. However, it appears to me that Locke is being a bit narrow in his argument. Locke is only focusing on the physical aspect identity instead of looking at the spiritual or emotional aspects identity, which I believe, when concerning humans, are the things that play the biggest part in altering one’s identity.

If I applied Locke’s argument about how physical variation does not alter identity to humans, he would be completely correct. Humans go from being an infant to an adult to a person of old age. Throughout this entire physical process, it is true that this person is the same. Their identity is not altered. If they were to take fingerprints when they were eight years old and then when they were eighty-eight years old, the prints would match because they are still the same person. However, from the age of eight to eighty-eight, the person has gone through a lot of spiritual and emotional changes. What they used to do and how they acted and what they believed in as a child changed when they became an adult, and may have even changed some more when they became elderly. And this change is what truly alters a person and causes them to not have the same identity as they did when they were of younger age.

This is the only problem that I have with Locke’s argument. I wish that when he talked about physical traits not altering identity that he would have compared it to spiritual and emotional aspects and how they do alter a person’s identity