M e e t i n g s
Wednesday, April 6, 2005. Topic: God. Well, it seems that our last meeting gave us a new lease on life, so we figure it's time to throw down on the big philosophical third rail we haven't touched yet: God. As always, a good place to start is with the IEP, which has an extensive discussion of Western Concepts of God. If you're new to the topic, you should definitely take a look at what Descartes has to say in his famously theistic rationalist approach. Whatever your angle, come open-minded and thoughtful!
Wednesday, March 16, 2005. Topic: The very existence of the club itself! Debate the question: should the Philosophy Club survive? Does the presence of the Topics in Philosophy and Writing class affect RHS's need for a Philosophy Club? What should we do about ourselves? Is this the end of Philosophy Club?!?!?
Monday, February 7, 2005. Topic: The club's aristocracy has decided to limit the subject yet again to the Kids' Philosophy Slam. The topic for the 2005 competition is, "What is more important in your life, Truth or Beauty?". Please write an essay for the contest and come share it with the club; if you don't have one written, we still want to see you so you can read and comment on the ideas that flow from your fellow club members. Mr. Rosin plans to send in all RHS Slam entries by February 11th, the end of this week, which is the postmark deadline for the contest.
Update: Thank you and congratulations to the four Radnor students who submitted Slam entries. We will keep you posted on the results. Maybe we'll have another winner this year!
Monday, December 13, 2004. Topic: "What makes something Beautiful?" and the somewhat-related "What makes something Art?" (the philosophical topic of Aesthetics). The focus however will be on the first question for the following reason: We (as in the collective management of philosophy club and all you members) will be participating in a national philosophy competition! It's called Kids' Philosophy Slam. The topic for the 2005 competition is, "What is more important in your life, Truth or Beauty?" We will hold a meeting specifically about Beauty in early 2005.
Monday, November 15, 2004. Topic: Are ideas innate? This classic philosophical battle centers around the question of whether humans are born with a "clean slate" for a mind. Check out some readings to help prepare (and to follow up afterward!)...or, if you already have innate ideas about this topic, feel free to skip the readings. (Note: not recommended.)
Monday, October 18, 2004. Topic: What's the difference between a person and a shoe? Or, in other words, what is the essence of humanity -- is mind of a different kind than body? We take a look at idealism, dualism, and materialism: check out some readings to help prepare (and to follow up afterward!).
Monday, September 27, 2004. Topic: What is philosophy, and why is it important? What is the difference between a philosophical question and a scientific question?
Monday, May 24, 2004. Topic: Planning The Course. Bring whatever notes you may have taken on whatever reading -- philosophical or literary -- you may have done.
Monday, May 10, 2004. Topic: Truth. See Readings.
Monday, April 19, 2004. Topic: Free Will. See Readings.
Monday, March 15, 2004. Topic: To Be or Not To Be -- Existentialism in Life and Literature. See Readings.
Monday, February 23, 2004. Topic: Do the Right Thing -- an examination of Ethics. See Readings.
Monday, February 2, 2004. Topic: War or Peace -- Is world peace possible, or does human nature make war inevitable? Readings.
Monday, January 12, 2004. Topic: Descartes. Facilitators: Aaron K. and Dan S. Click here for Readings.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003. Origination meeting.
C l u b D y n a m i c s
It is certainly possible to take different levels of engagement in this club. Some of you will be actively researching, reading, and even presenting in the club. Some of you like philosophy but may not be inclined to do extra reading beyond what your credit-granting teachers already give, and so may prefer just to attend for the discussions. Some of you may only want to come to meetings because you want to meet new people, or because your parole officer requests it. Whatever your planned level of engagement, you are welcome.
That said, if you ARE interested in reading and research, it is especially important that you come to the next meeting, because I will be offering some opportunities for research to be done over the next few months, and asking teams of you to take them on.
As you saw if you were at the initial meeting (January 2003), Aaron K. and Dan S. got on the first such task -- in fact, this was their idea. See a list of readings for that meeting.
R e a d i n g s
Readings for our various projects, topics, and meetings. Many of these refer to the "Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy", henceforth abbreviated as "IEP".
November 15, 2004 ... 2:45 p.m.
Are ideas innate? Or is the human mind a tabula rasa?
Some worthwhile sources of study are as follow:
- Hume's "Origin of Ideas" -- an interesting piece on ideas in general.
- This article which talks about both Locke and Descartes, who stand on opposing sides of the innate ideas issue. A little inaccessable, but things which aren't easy to read are often the most rewarding!
- The IEP's article about (continental) rationalism, Descartes' school of thought which believes in innate ideas
- The IEP's article about empiricism, the exact opposite of the foregoing.
October 18, 2004 ... 2:45 p.m.
What makes people different from shoes? Your first reaction might be to argue that people have minds, and shoes do not. But what really do we mean when we say "mind". Is the mind some mystical entity residing within the ether? Or is it a product of the body?
This is something philosophers have argued for centuries over and is commonly know as the problem of the "mind body connection". We will discuss the mind-body connection, and explore the ideas of idealism, materialism, dualism, and probably several unrelated tangents.
Some related and semi-related sources of study are as follow:
May 10, 2004 ... 2:45 p.m.
Keats wrote, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty -- that is all / Ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know." Is this true? (And, if it's not, is it thus not beautiful? Sorry, couldn't resist.) We glance at what is Truth, how we know, the role of Semantics, and even whether a given statement is Meaningful.
As for background reading, there's of course "Truth" on the IEP, plus a great little item on that site about "the Liar's Paradox". In addition, because our course-to-be is about Philosophy and Literature, we'll be looking closely at relative truth and Postmodernism, which is approached within that "Truth" article.
April 19, 2004 ... 2:45 p.m.
C.S. Lewis wrote, "free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having." Alvin Plantinga commented, "A world containing creatures who are sometimes significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all." We -- especially as Americans -- put a lot of stock in the word "freedom", but what does it really mean in terms of the basic nature of the human condition? Is "freedom" even related to "free will"? Is either term meaningful at all? Is Evil in the world only because free will is so important? Is fate determined or are we in control of our destinies?
The questions dribble on and on. Check out an extremely interesting reading from the IEP on The Logical Problem of Evil and scavenge through this list of Yahoo sites on the topic, if you have the time. Then join us to discuss the topic.
Warning: those of you who are looking for the Film Club discussion on the killer whale flick Free Willy are going to have to go elsewhere. And please read the headings more carefully in the future.
March 15, 2004 ... 2:45 p.m.
Ontology goes on in the Philosophy Club! The WWW has many sources for reading about Existential thought, which include the interesting websites The Cry and this one that refers to many examples of existential literature. If you are looking around on IEP, check out the entries on Soren Kierkegaard and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Our discussion will refer to the novels that some of you have read/are reading -- Catcher in the Rye, Crime and Punishment, The Plague, even Hamlet and beyond.... Come in prepared to make connections across texts and between text and philosophy, EVEN IF (perhaps even especially if) you have read only one of the texts, or even if you have read none. If you have read none, you should definitely check out some sources for background on the concepts of existentialism, so you have some grounding in the topic.
February 23, 2004 ... 2:45 p.m.
For our discussion on Ethics, there are many many sources for you to consider. First, you should consider the IEP's article on Ethics and perhaps some of the related ones (Kant's ethics, look under Jeremy Bentham for Utilitarianism, etc.).
Following upon that, there are an almost infinite number of connections you can make with the outside world. Consider novels that you have read -- is there an ethical conflict, and does it reflect on an ethical code? Does the author struggle with relativism? The same questions are true about world affairs and the moral (and immoral) behavior of humans and nations. The world is full of ethics issues -- "applied ethics", you might say -- that you should think about. Immanuel Kant, among others, considered the idea of universal moral rules and whether they exist. What do you think?
February 2, 2004 ... 2:45 p.m.
I hope we are not too late, but time is running short for submissions to this year's Kids Philosophy Slam, a national contest that challenges thoughtful students of all ages to answer Big Questions, for the love of knowledge...and cash prizes. There's also a school prize. We'll be organizing this meeting around this year's topic, and maybe get some of you to submit the brief essay that the Slam requests.
This year's topic is "War or Peace: Is world peace possible, or does human nature make war inevitable?" We'll be talking and writing about this a bit -- maybe more than a bit. In preparation, check out the Philosophy Slam website (see link above) for rules and such, and maybe take a gander at some philsophy that considers whether we are inclined to goodness or nasty brutality. Bring your findings and thinkings with you on the 2nd, and we'll Slam.
January 12, 2004 ... 2:45 p.m.
Aaron and Dan will be presenting and leading a discussion on one of our major topics and major philosophers: Truth, and Rene Descartes (pronounced "day-CART", although if you feel a wave of Frenchness coming over you, you can try softening that "R" a bit to make it sound more authentic).
Here are some ideas for reading that will help you start thinking about the topics at hand:
- Aaron found Descartes's Meditation 1 online. Like much philosophical writing, this can be quite dense, so it may help if you either take notes and/or read a commentary on it. The IEP has Discourse on Method and Meditation 1 within its Descartes entry, which may help. Meditation 1 goes into a lot about the existence of God, but please remember that this club is philosophical, not theological, so don't come in January expecting us to debate the existence of God (although a great deal of philosophy, to be fair, does so). In case you're wondering, Descartes was a very religious guy.
- If you haven't read the novel Sophie's World, by Jostein Gaarder, you may want to get your little mitts on that, and check out the section on Descartes, the Greek skeptics, and some of the other concepts about what's truth and what's illusion.
- In the IEP you may find other topics (like "Truth" or "Skepticism", for example) that you want to read about. You may want to find out the definition of the term "epistemology". Use it (correctly, please) around the dinner table some night, and watch all the adults drop their forks. The adjective form is "epistemological".
- Muse on the topics a bit. What do we know, how do we know what we know, and is it important? What is the nature of truth, and what is true? When it comes down to it, musing is probably the most important thing we can do.
L i n k s
This section of the site will grow to include a variety of links on Philosophy, topics for this club, and other relevant connections (including articles that you may want to peruse).
- Resource: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, out of Univ. Tennessee-Martin
- Resource: influential philosophers on Wikipedia, which is also working on a grand Influential Western Philosophers project
- Project: Kids Philosophy Slam, 2006, which we will be working on this spring.
- Resource: Prof. Suber's Guide to Philosophy on the Internet, out of Earlam College (Richmond, IN)
- Resource: about.com FAQ on Philosophy, including a glossary
- Resource: the website The Edge contains many erudite and interesting inquiries into the world's issues, mainly those of a philosophical and scientific nature. Be sure to check out their 2004 Question of the Year, in which many great minds proposed "laws" for the universe. Worth a long look, in Mr. Rosin's humble opinion.
A w a r d s
Monday, April 19, 2004. Congratulations to club co-president Dan S., who earned 12th place in the nation in the 2004 Kids Philosophy Slam -- which happened to be the highest finish by anyone from Pennsylvania! Click here to check out the Kids Philosophy Slam; click here to read Dan's Essay, and be sure to congratulate Dan if you see him in the halls!