Of Studying Philosophy: A DIalogue Part II

Friday, 27 April 2012 07:23 by mdb008

Part II

 

Setting: Science now sees value in philosophy, great value, and begins to question the credibility of his own major as well as other non-philosophical areas of study. He inquires about whether other fields of study hold any value in the grand scheme of things.


Scientist: So are you telling me that the only thing everyone should be doing is philosophizing? That business, English, music, and all that other stuff are all pointless?

Philosopher: Not at all, I am not proposing that there is a hierarchy in which philosophy reigns supreme. I simply wanted to express to you its worth and practicality.

S: But if philosophy is so great and solves everything, why do anything else? Why major in and chase a career in business or math or digital communications if philosophy has all the answers?

P: Because there is use in all of these fields.

S: How so?

P: Well let’s start with the fine arts; music and art. There is a quality of music and art, something elegant, something unmatched by all else, something that speaks to us like nothing else can. On your worst day, the right song or the right image can impetuously alter your mood, am I right?

S: Yeah, you’re right.

P: And is it not true that we have come to learn so much about our past through paintings and songs and ballads? Think about the portrait of The Last Supper or the epic poems of middle English literature, or even jazz and how it characterized an entire people, weren’t they indeed valuable?

S: Of course.

P: And what about digital communications and digital media? Is it not true that every job and facet of our world involves online communication of some sort? Think about this, how difficult would it be to run a business, be an employee, even apply for a job or research something to broaden your knowledge without Internet?

S: Very difficult.

P: Almost all of our information is online and easily accessible.

S: So true.

P: And economics plays a huge role in our society as well too, right?

S: Yeah it does.

P: An economy, in its simplest form, is the exchange of goods for other goods or a service. Everything is indeed economic; any job, any store purchase, education, even friendships.

S: How are friendships economical?

P: Aren’t you exchanging your time, feelings, and trust for their friendship? You exchange these things for the service of your friend’s friendship and companionship, their time, hanging out with them, sharing interests, etcetera.

S: Ahh, I see.

P: We also need math and science. Math allows us to determine the likelihood of things that could occur, it is an integral part of our everyday lives, and numbers, at least the way we see them, are perhaps some of the few things that do not present the difficulty of undergoing much change to complicate things for us.

S: I think you’re right. But before you pretty much said science is a piece of crap.

P: Oh no, science is our primary measure of the knowledge we have come to apprehend. Science has taught us much about the world we live in and worlds beyond our own. We have traveled to the moon, discovered other planets in our galaxy, and discovered other galaxies all with the help of science.

S: But you said that science is never right because things always change in the field.

P: But it is a way in which we make sense of our ever changing and complex world. Without science, we could still think our hearts control all the functions of our bodies, that the Earth of still flat, or that the Earth is the center of our planetary system. Science concerns itself with how we know our natural world. The object of its study is all that lies before us in our environment. With music the object of its study is the degree to which musicians have mastered the craft, and the same goes for art. Digital communications studies the effective use of media and our technologies and economics studies the efficiency and practicality of our business world. These are all objects of sight. Philosophy, however, is learning to see differently.

S: What do you mean?

P: Philosophy does not necessarily have a particular thing it studies, rather it is study itself. It concerns itself with how we see things rather than what we see.

S: Ohh okay.

P: What I am saying is not that this area of study or this lifestyle is better than that one, I am not condoning the construction of a hierarchy, rather a visit to the optometrist.

S: The optometrist?

P: You know the conversation, “Which is better 1 or 2… 1 or 2,” then you say “They’re about the same.” Well imagine that there’s not just two to choose from, but hundreds, thousands. These fields are ways of viewing the world and they simply allow you to see it differently. To see things in more than one way is an invaluable experience, it opens up new worlds. You begin to really experience the fullness of life—the conflation of all of these perspectives of life—and we must embrace them all without dismissing one as better than another. Each field is simply a lens to see the entire spectrum of life’s gloriousness. So don’t deprive yourself of a complete view of the life you live by dismissing one lens as more important than another.

 

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Of Studying Philosophy: A Dialogue Part I

Wednesday, 25 April 2012 22:02 by mdb008

Of studying Philosophy

 

Part I

 

Setting: A sophomore philosophy major is reading The Apology by Plato in his dorm. One of his peers enters, a science major, full of factual and practical “knowledge”. The science major inquires about what the student of philosophy is reading and, upon finding out, scoffs at the student’s “useless major”.

 

Philosopher: How is it useless?

Scientist: What kind of job can you get with a philosophy degree? No one’s going to pay you to think about life. You want to know where that degree will get you? 95% of the time it’ll get you nowhere in the real world and the other 5% of the time, also nowhere.

P: Might I ask what world I am living in now? The fake world?

S: No, I guess you’re not in the fake world, but the point is that philosophy is useless in today’s society.

P: I beg to differ. Philosophy, in some aspects, is the most important and beneficial course of study you can take up.

S: How so?

P: It is the education and fine-tuning of one’s soul. It is preparing us, fortifying us, for death. We are going to die someday and we must be ready.

S: What?! I’m not trying to spend my life getting ready to die.

P: Okay, let’s back up a bit first. You’re a science major, is it correct to assume that you concern yourself only with what is factual and true?

S: Yeah, why would I worry about what’s not true. That’s a waste.

P: Now, is it true that the field of science has undergone much change in the past ten, twenty, fifty, even one hundred years?

S: Yup, I’d say so.

P: Is truth always the same, always true no matter what?

S: You better believe it.

P: All right, now correct me if I’m wrong, but you just said you’re a science major and concern yourself with truth. Truth is always the same and always true, however, science has undergone much change over the years. These changes occurred essentially because what was once thought to be right and factual turned out not to be so, therefore, the change in theory or empirical data or whatever changed. Atoms were once said to be the smallest particle and indivisible, but we now know that not to be true because we have protons, electron, and even quarks. So, is science not always right?

S: I guess you’re right.

P: So science is not always true, meaning that in another ten years what you say is true now can turn out to be false. Therefore, you cannot say, for instance, that all things are made out of cells, you cannot market it as absolute fact because it is possible that it may turn out otherwise, correct?

S: Yes, that’s correct. I’ve never thought of that. But still, philosophy has nothing to do with anything in the working world.

P: Well let’s examine what is required for the working world. Now, it is not required that you have a degree of work experience in order to work, right? People have worked without those, correct?

S: Yes, that’s true.

P: So what is the bare minimum for the working world?

S: I guess I would say you need to know what you’re doing so you can do your job.

P: Let’s entertain this thought. Is it true that some of the greatest discoveries have been stumbled upon when someone had no idea what they were doing exactly? Like accidental findings.

S: Sure, I guess.

P: So we don’t even need to know what we are doing to prosper in the working world. Would you agree that above all else, the bare minimum we need to survive in the working world is the ability to think? To make a decision about something and choose to act or not?

S: That sounds about right.

P: Well my scientific friend, philosophy does just that. It develops one’s ability to think efficiently and to make sound judgments; to think critically. Critical thinking skills are involved in every seemingly meaningless decision you make, it all boils down to  “What is the best thing to do in each individual situation.”

S:I think I understand.

P: The ability to make sound judgments beats having masterful accounting skills or superb knowledge of muscle anatomy. Those who excel in the former can masterfully create fraudulent accounts and those who excel in the latter can knowingly recommend detrimental rehabilitation. Both are experts in their craft, but may possess bad judgment.

S: So I can be the best marksman, but without good judgment I could decide to shoot the president?

P: Precisely.

S: I see how philosophy can help in the working world, but what benefit does it bring to someone who doesn’t work, who doesn’t do anything? Why would they need philosophy?

P: Well let’s see. If this person did nothing for anyone, lived alone, and only looked out for him or her own well-being and happiness, who would you say is the most important person to them?

S: I’d say that they are the most important person to themselves.

P: Well there’s our answer! Philosophy teaches us about that most important person—ourselves—and allows us to adequately explore who we are, not what we do or what groups we belong to or how others perceive us, but who we truly are. It allows us to contemplate about our ultimate role, why we are who we are, what we are supposed to do.

S: They seem like very important questions.

P: They are, the most important perhaps. Now, back to where we began; preparation for death.

S: Yeah, I still don’t get that.

P: (I give credit to Dr. Valgenti for this analogy) When it comes time for you to compete in the afterlife Olympics, you can’t bring your money with you, or your friends, or physical body. All you have is your mind—not your brain but your mind—and your soul. As I said before, philosophy is the education and fine-tuning of one’s soul. We are too dependent upon our physical bodies for many things, but once the afterlife gun goes off, the soul is all that is left. Without philosophy, without the refining of the soul through philosophical exercise, how fit will you be for those eternal races?

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Why Teach About Whiteness?

Friday, 13 April 2012 08:26 by mdb008

I shall keep this preface brief. I am not an expert on the subject, far from one actually. I am not racist, at least I personally feel that I do not possess racist ideologies or actively participate in racist behavior. I am a student, a thinker, who wishes to explore the topics too often overlooked, overshadowed, and swept under the rug like a mess two minute before guests arrive. This is my attempt at divulging a topic rooted deeply in our society which affects us all on a personal, societal, and institutional level.

White people need to take responsibility for race, since they invented the idea in the first place—at least in the modern sense. White, in this instance, refers to those of lighter skin pigmentation. White is often used interchangeably with Caucasian, however, Caucasian is an anthropological term for a race of people which includes those native to Europeans, the Middle East, North Africa, West Asia, parts of central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. Thus, it is clear that the Caucasians actually display a wide range of skin color, and include many people often thought of as white. Therefore, all white people are Caucasian, but all Caucasians are not white. The question of race should not just be raised only when talking about "people of color," because they have not played a role in its creation. We should be teaching about whiteness rather than letting it dwell in the background because letting it do so allows it to remain invisible, to remain the default, to remain purportedly "the norm". We need to move beyond the notion of the celebrating diversity model of multiculturalism. When discussing multiculturalism we overwhelmingly talk about the races of color when if simply looking at the term "Multi-cultural" it is clear that we should not only be talking about race, but about cultures; and yes, there is a white culture, a European culture, a German, an Irish culture, not just black or Hispanic culture.

Studying whiteness is to study the monster that is institutional racism and, more importantly, white privilege—experiencing unearned advantages and benefits in society merely because of one's pale skin color. In 1999, the racial and ethnic chasms were tremendous, the average per capita income being $29,043 for whites, only $15,272 for African-Americans, $16,489 for Native Americans, and $12,680 for Latinos. Communities of color experience unemployment rates twice that of whites, African-American and Latino students have a higher dropout rate, white students score higher on standardized tests, students in districts with higher median household incomes scored higher, and these households are grossly disproportionally located in white suburban communities. Perhaps the most shocking statistics lie in the rate of criminal "justice". In specific areas of drug arrests, African-Americans have a far higher rate of arrest when reliable research shows that whites use drugs far more frequently. Statistics show that whites are 125% more likely to use marijuana, 181% more likely to use cocaine, 413% more likely to abuse inhalants, and 516% more likely to abuse LSD than African Americans or Latinos, but yet four out of every five people arrested on drug charges in Chicago were African American.

What needs to be done is public, yet civil discourse surrounding whiteness. Silence about whiteness perpetuates the prejudices and misconceptions, and ultimately that white equals "normal". When whiteness is invisible and "seen" as the default, it oppresses without opposition, therefore, we must make whiteness visible and shine the spotlight on it to watch it cower in prejudicial fear. To be white is seen as a value, it is an aesthetic advantage and symbol of worth. This very mindset celebrates whiteness and marks it as a commodity of highest value. In turn, this mindset must be dismantled and must be deconstructed and stripped of its false worth.

Questions worthy of serious thought

Is white a term for a cultural group or a racial group? If there is a "white culture" where is it rooted, whitefrica? Is white a pan ethnic category like Asian American or African American?

If white is not a coherent and cohesive cultural or ethnic category, not having a country of origin, then what is it? Social? Economic? Political?

And the most controversial and perhaps hardest concept to grasp, who created race?

Contemporary scholars agree that "race" was a recent invention and that it was essentially a folk idea, not a product of scientific research and discovery. Race and its ideology about human differences arose out of the context of African slavery. It is used as a way to create a hierarchy of people. Having no innate difference in value, the establishment of "race" was used to denote, especially the Negro, as inferior. Race is a physical difference, a category to tell the "type" or "kind" of person being dealt with, but physical difference is not grounds to delegate inherent differences. If all people possess difference in at least some aspect of their physical appearance, why has race, or more accurately a person's skin color, been chosen to denote characteristics and personalities? Physical features of different groups become markers or symbols of their status on a hierarchical scale and thus justify their positions within the social system. Race ideology proclaimed that the social, spiritual, moral, and intellectual inequality of different groups was, like their physical traits, natural, innate, inherited, and unalterable which is far from true.

Of course, I am certain that a scholar in race theory could explain and elaborate on this topic much more thoroughly and eloquently than I have, but my aim was not to be perfect, but to present a topic in which you may have never thought about. If you are thinking about it now, then I have succeeded.

Sources I found extremely helpful:

http://www.englishforums.com/English/CaucasianVsWhite/dcmqw/post.htm

http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-02-09.htm

https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/gjay/www/Whiteness/Teachwhiteness.html

http://www.peoplesworld.org/institutional-racism-still-going-strong/

 

 

 

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A Liberal Arts Education: the key to unlocking the acme of our potential

Wednesday, 4 April 2012 00:03 by mdb008

 A Liberal Arts Education: the key to unlocking the acme of our potential

 

A liberal arts education consists of education in culturally oriented subjects: college and university subjects that are intended to provide students with general cultural knowledge, (e. g. languages, literature, history, and philosophy) and is aimed at imparting broad general knowledge and developing general intellectual capacities, in contrast to a professional, vocational, or technical curriculum.

 

What does this mean? It may be thought to intimate a dispersed, diluted form of education, only touching upon various things without gaining adequate knowledge of the subject; promoting people who are jacks of all trades, but masters of nothing. Contrarily, this means that those who indulge in a liberal arts environment become more well-rounded and broad thinkers. In a society where people too often think too little, it is an invaluable asset to be able to and competent enough to think on a level that differs from one’s own. Liberal arts education provides students with skills of argumentation; being able to construct, decipher, and hold discussions with those who share a differing opinion than oneself. It is essential to be able to apprehend another’s argument because it can lead to civil discourse, a form of conversational debate that is rare. To understand an argument does not necessarily imply that one is in agreement with it, however, it means that one can empathize with others and promote civility between all people.

 

Liberal arts instruction and indulgence can also reveal worlds and realities that may have been thought to be nonexistent. One develops multiple skills, accrues numerous avenues of thought which lead one to the realization of their own potential to express themselves through various means (communicative, philosophical, professional, etc.) and creates more competent, more knowledgeable human beings. One can immerse themselves in any concentration under the sun within a liberal arts program. Philosophy courses, business courses, science courses, sociology courses, essentially anything imaginable can prove to be a tremendous asset to anyone because it gives them various lenses to examine life through. It is comparable to a house on a beautiful spring afternoon: the more windows it has, the brighter and more vivid the house will be.

 

With liberal arts, we acquire more apertures, more ways in which the world can affect and influence us in ways that allow us to experience life and our encounters with the world to our utmost potential. We become more curious beings and take initiatives to learn about others, about our surroundings, and, most importantly, about ourselves.

 

What are the practical benefits of a liberal arts education?—because our society is so hung up on “What can I get out of this?”

 

This education will increase your dexterity with interpersonal encounters and mold you into an adroit professional. In every profession we will encounter others who we need to relay information to, commune with in order to come to a compromise, and perhaps persuade. It encourages a more flexible and adaptable you, a you that can shift gears seamlessly and pounce on all apropos opportunities. However, it must be remembered that one’s job does not define them. It is important to define oneself not by what one does, but by who one is, what one believes and value, and how one carries oneself. Liberal arts grants that opportunity by exposing all participants to a variety of things that they may identify with rather than what they identify with primarily. We are all made up of parts, we are not simply lawyers or doctors or car dealers or janitors, we are wives, parents, couch potatoes, and cooks as well and all at the same time. Liberal arts attests to this notion, it gives us a chance to reinvent ourselves because we are always changing. We are not static beings; we appropriate new and different interests, new careers, new opinions, so why not lay some foundation for those future ‘news’?

 

All in all, a liberal arts education embodies the renaissance ideal; do as much as you can and do it well. We owe it to ourselves to do everything we wish to do and to do it big. It is an insult to our own character, our own potential to give ourselves less than what we deserve. And we deserve the best we have to offer ourselves. We deserve a liberal arts education.

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Solid as a Rock

Wednesday, 28 March 2012 06:38 by mdb008

We often feel that we have a "solid" grasp of things; how a thing forms, where a thing comes from, but more importantly, what a thing is and how we can so vehemently state "this is this and that is that." We know a table when we see one, a chair, a wall, etc., right? Or is our perception, our defintion of things, a bit inaccurate? 

Let us examine a concept called Sorite's Paradox, also known as a little-by-little argument, or the Heap Paradox, take your pick. The paradox follows as such: If you have a pile of hay before you, a collection of almost an innumerable amount of needles of individual hay, it is safe to say that that is certainly a pile of hay. Now, what if one were to remove one needle of hay from the pile, is it still a pile of hay? One would most likely assume so. If another needle were removed, is it a pile of hay still? Of course. Now if this process is repeated, eventually the stack of hay will be depleted and it will cease to be a pile of hay. At what point did the pile stop being a pile? Undoubtedly the answer is relative and subjective, however, there still must be a point in which one needle disqualified the heap's stack or pile status. What is that point?

This reveals to us that our categories and definitions of things are far from clear-cut, as with many things we consider as such. We may have determined that an extreme case, such as a large stack of hay, is to be called a pile, however, we fail to distinguish when that qualification of a pile begins. So, although we've failed to draw distinct categories, how vital is it that we do so? Have we suffered from our mistake or is it not a mistake at all, rather intentional and the most pragmatic option?

We have also fell prey to taking for granted the things we consider whole, complete, solid, etc. A quick science lesson shall prove to be an elucidative preface. All things are made of atoms. All atoms are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Protons and neutrons cleave together at the atom's core while electrons, which are a mere fraction of the size of protons and neutrons, traverse the outer electron cloud is rapid fury. However, these protons, neutrons, and electrons take up a miniscule 0.000000000000001% of the overall space of the atom. Therefore, that which makes up everything (atoms) is comprise of pretty much nothing. How solid is that rock now?

The things we feel (literally) are solid—the ground we walk on, the wall we bump into, the structures that support us—are, in reality, hardly solid at all and, in fact, quite the contrary. The laptop or computer that you are reading this on is primarily—99.9999999999% nothing. So, the next time someone complains about how heavy something is or solid of a structure they've built, just tell them, "It's pretty much nothing."

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Fear and Greatness

Thursday, 22 March 2012 22:17 by mdb008

Søren Kierkegaard said, in Fear and Trembling, that we speak inhumanly about greatness. This fact was never more evident than when reflecting merely moments after reading that quote. Often times we say "I am searching for greatness" or consider it something in which we must find and apprehend, rather than realizing that it is already within us. We speak as though greatness is a force or quality outside ourselves when it is really already what makes us who we are. Greatness lies within a man, it is not what becomes of him.

But why do we speak of greatness in such a way? Perhaps it is because it is seen as a quality that is superhuman, a quality that lies beyond the grasp of a mere mortal and is only given to those who exhibit metahuman worthiness. To exude greatness is to be unusual or considerable in degree, power, or intensity so there is no wonder as to why we so often feel that it is outside ourselves. We consider ourselves average, run-of-the-mill, typical, and ordinary, which brings me to my next point of emphasis; fear.

While tutoring one of my peers I asked her the question "What is your career goal?" She responded, however, qualified her response with "But I don't think I'm going to do that, I'm not good enough." This shed light on the cultural phenomenon that exists ubiquitously amongst us all; we are afraid to be great. To be great me must risk our sanity, our reputation, and we must invest tremendous effort in something that does not guarantee success. This is a frightening thought to many. We enjoy our security and sure bets and refrain from striving for greatness because of its precarious nature. Since greatness is far short of being guaranteed and we as a people fear what we cannot be sure of, we fear greatness even if the reward we reap is tremendous.

This problem that sifts throughout the very fabric of our beings must be solved. With too many people cowering from the efforts that could grant them eternal happiness ad intrinsic value, we shortchange ourselves as a society. We need to challenge ourselves to be the archetypes of ourselves in order to flourish and prosper. We owe it to those who stared fear in the face and disregarded its warnings in order to throw the first pitch in our game of life. They did it for us, now we must return the favor and finish the job.

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What's good is bad, what's bad is good. What?

Sunday, 18 March 2012 22:34 by mdb008

My favorite branch of philosophy by far is ethics. I find it exhilarating to plumb through the topics that people too often feel are "clear cut". For example, as a resident assistant I oversee an eclectic group of guys and when I proposed an ethical and controversial question to them I reveled in the eruption of discourse it created. This is where my love of philosophy spawns from; the exploration of things that too often go unexplored, yet people possess such vehement emotion towards them.

The question I wish to discuss pertains to morality, which ethics concerns itself with. Ethics is the philosophical inquiry into the nature and grounds of morality, and the term morality here is used as a general name for moral judgments, standards, and rules of conduct. When deeming something or someone as moral or immoral, one must delve into the focal point of that judgment. When we attempt to decide whether something is morally wrong or not, we implicitly refer back to moral norms—rules of conduct or standards of evaluation. Undoubtedly, it can be said that it is possible for the same kind of action to be wrong in one situation and right in another, because in the first the consequences were negative while in the second the end result was positive. For example, if one were to lie in order to cause harm to another we would consider the action wrong, right? However, if an abolitionist were asked if he was hiding slaves (and he indeed was hiding slaves) and the abolitionist lied in order to spare the slaves from incessant cruelty and labor, then this action would most likely be seen as good.

So, there you have it, not so clear cut after all. However, one is not being compelled to appropriate the doctrine of moral relativism because that can also be incorrect. With the precarious nature of morality—an action being bad in one circumstance and good in another—some (like moral relativists do) conclude that all morality is subjective, therefore there are no good or bad actions, there are no objective moral values which help us to determine what is right or wrong, everything is relative. Moral relativists also assert that since we should tolerate the different moral practices of others and that others deem things as moral that we may not—simply that people disagree on the specifics of morality—means that there is no objective truth or validity to morality. This is, however, believed to be incorrect because the mere fact that people disagree is not grounds for determining that there is no objective truth. If I disagree with someone about whether the sky is blue or not this does not mean that the sky has no color.

So where am I going with this? I wish to explore the question "How do we decide what is bad and what is good?" Simply because we have a sense as to what we should and should not do based on a contingent standard that our society has created is not proof that that it is absolutely correct and that is covers all bases. On what grounds can one say that they know that this or that moral is true or false? To say this is to indirectly claim that one knows what moral knowledge is and also that such knowledge exists.

Also, what is it that we are saying is bad and good? This is a good question. When we say "She is a good and moral person" what are we referring to? It cannot be what she says because anything can be said by someone which may not necessarily be true and we all know the cliché "Actions speak louder than words". So are we judging one's actions as moral? If so, consider this: I can behave in the most morally sound manner, one that comports with societal expectations, but consider myself to be what others would call racist, intolerable, close-minded, etc. I can despise other races and feel that they are worthless, I could feel that other religions are completely proposterous and should be terminated, and I could loath children and want them dead, but I behave like Mother Theresa. Although one who feels this way would most likely not behave like a saint, we cannot remove the possibility. So is this person, the one who has the heart of Satan but acts like God, moral? I would hope not. Therefore, it cannot be the actions that we judge (or should judge), rather, the inherent moral of a person. There is, however, a problem to this; we cannot measure intrinsic morality. So what do we do? I do not have an answer, but you may.

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"Professionalism"

Tuesday, 13 March 2012 19:54 by mdb008

This entry was sparked by a preface to a speech I presented on celebrating our heritage during Black History Month. Although it is not as philosophical as one would wish, I feel it deserved to be preserved here because it is something I feel passionately for and I will make every effort to see a change in this act of society.

We are told to dress "nice" and "professional" nowadays in order to be taken seriously. It is sad that we claim to have come so far and yet have only changed the vessel of bigotry. The great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream was "To have [his] children live in a nation that judges them not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." We have only jumped from judging by skin color to judging by another facet of one's appearace; attire. One's clothes say little to nothing about their character or intrinsic qualities and it is a shame that someone who is dressed in jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt is thought of as less qualitfied or less prestigious than their dressy counterpart.You can robe a bum in an Armani suit and someone with the intellect and insight of Dr. King in sweatpants and a t-shirt and the more "well-dressed" man will be seen as better because his clothes are of a certain fabric and cost a larger sum of money. This, my fellow thinkers, is a sad fact of America. With the incessant repitition of the mantra "Never judge a book by its cover" it is now evident that that is a fictitious cliché because once one steps in the "real world" (as opposed to what, the fake world?) it is not only expected, but demanded of them to "look the part". Dress codes are enforced, people with tremendous abilities go unhired, but for what? Because the public and private will THINK that they are not qualified, which is a problem in itself. People will profile and judge your personality, preferences, career, demeanor, etc. all based on their own personal beliefs and bias, so why attempt to cater to such a precarious phenomenon? I personally will and have been judged and categorized as a myriad of things because I am a male, a heterosexual, an African-American, of a specific height or weight, have tattoos, and many other things so why is it required that I dress "classy" or "professional"? Certainly not to quell others' snap judgements. Therefore, I refuse to follow the trend and I say no to buying in to a system that I feel is flawed. I will dress in any manner I wish and dare anyone to try to convince me to conform. I choose to let my character shine through the words that I speak and the manner in which I carry myself and refuse to succumb to flaunting a false value based merely on what we are told is supposedly classy.

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Religion and Capitalism

Friday, 2 March 2012 06:11 by mdb008

"Welcome to the United Snakes, Land of the thief home of the slave.

Grand imperial guard where the dollar is sacred and power is God."

—Brother Ali, Uncle Sam 

 

The topic to be explored here was sparked by a Colloquium event I attended last semester that has altered my perception of our nation's currency drastically. The quote depicted at the head of this entry is from a song by a rap artist named Brother Ali. Although many of his songs are aimed at political and religious issues, this song especially sheds light on money and theology. The chorus of the song seems to fit exceedingly well for the topic at hand.

What do philosophy and religion have to do with money one might ask? Money is seen as a solution; to worldly issues or personal dilemmas and has allowed many of us to escape the taut grasp of life and its labors. It solves the most complex and intricate complications with gracious dexterity and fluidity and seems almost god-like. This may be because it is such. Money and currency is also something we can control in that it not only relieves us of our troubles, but upon our demand it does so. We can summon it at will and have it do our "dirty work". Most people spend their entire lives seeking money, searching for avenues in which it flows in abundance just to give their lives meaning and clarity. When in the possession of money, we are obligated to perform tasks based on this mere fact: pay utilities, spend on luxuries, and, if you have a sufficient amount, give to others who have little. Has the affiliation between religion and money been elucidated?

With all the aforementioned results of money one may begin to see how it relates to theology. Money acts as a solution as does religion in that it provides answers for the problems we commonly face. We make sense of—control and tame—the world that surrounds us with religion by relinquishing ourselves to a deity that is all knowing and gives us the answers we so desperately seek. Lives are devoted to seeking money, which is comparable to religion because the lifelong journey of religious devotion is aimed at creating a sense of worth and purpose as is the same with the journey on the money trail. Perhaps the most daunting similarity between theology and currency is their innate power over our lives and our world. Societies are controlled by money, people's values revolve around money, and others are slain because of quarrels over money; religion has done the same.

Now, what is money? I am not looking for the answer, "It's green and can buy you things." because money is far more than a simple means of bartering. Money is a token of value, but a token of what? Why do we believe in money's overwhelming power? We believe in its power because it is strengthened every time we feed into the monetary torrent. It is a token of our indebtedness to not only others, but ourselves as well. However, more importantly, we owe debt to our money, therefore, we are indebted to our debt and cannot escape it. Religion and philosophy serve to ultimately allow us to better make sense of the world and distribute our values accordingly. Money does the same. We now see values of the world in terms of money and condemn all "value" to a monetary constituent.

In our society, money now occupies the place once occupied by God. Yes, money is God. Money is our means of self-evaluation as was God. We look to our finances to tell us how good of a person we are or how well we're doing in life. We look up to money as our father and praise it. This presents a critical problem in regards to virtue and righteousness. The problem with looking up to and idolizing money is that it makes the rich virtuous and righteous and the poor sinful and unjust. This then brings into question what really matters if the rich are the virtuous ones. Does this mean we do all in our power to get as much money as possible because it is synonymous with the things we should aspire to obtain? You be the judge.

The question now in regards to the servitude we 'pay' to money, after all that has been said, is this: can we escape it?

 

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Coming to Grips With "Practicality"

Friday, 24 February 2012 05:21 by mdb008

How I came to major in the most practical field of study; Philosophy

Philosophy comes from the Greek word "philosophia" which means "love of wisdom". Is it not true that in all of our daily endeavors we seek to obtain some form of knowledge, some aspects of wisdom? Through our mere experiences we accrue wisdom that we feel is invaluable, simply ask any parent or grandparent and they will undoubtedly say that their life experiences have branded them with marks of wisdom and they are better human beings because of them. Philosophy not only provides us all with knowledge of iconic figures in our past who have tremendously impacted our lives and thoughts, but at its most fundamental and pedagogical level it instructs us in a course we all are required to take; life.

I began my first year of college as a biology major, thinking that I would become a doctor. I knew not why I chose that major other than knowing that I'd have a definite career path to traverse. A conflation of being ignorant to other fields of study at my disposal and succumbing to the purported expectations of my mother, I went the traditional and safe science route. Not a wise decision.

After a month of loathing my biology and chemistry labs and becoming blissful when I entered my gender and my intro to philosophy classes, I decided to take initiative and change my major to American studies and philosophy. A wise decision.

As a sophomore now, I often reflect on why I find pleasure and take such pride in my chosen field of study not only to assuage my own personal desire to examine the deep crevices of my essence, but also to be able and apt to combat any of those who ask "What is philosophy going to do for you in life?" Well naysayers, here is your answer:

Philosophy is the most practical craft one can practice. It teaches me—teaches us—how to actively examine how we are living our lives. It educates us in revealing to us that we are perfectly capable of determining our beliefs, values, goals—our true selves—for ourselves without relying on the ill-informing media to construct them for us. Philosophy shows me what is important to my life and my existence and has indubitably proved to be one of the most advantageous decisions I have ever made. Philosophy, philosophy, philosophy has given me the tools to experience life with the utmost grace and humility. If this is not important to you, if life and living it to the absolute fullest is not important to you, then perhaps it should be important to reevaluate your priorities.

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