Sample Journal Entries      Phil 1115



Some General Remarks: 

In answer to a student, I wrote the following and then thought that others might have the same sort of questions. 

I tried to post a variety of journal responses here as examples and as prompts. There is no template that you have to match. What I am looking for is evidence that you're thinking about philosophy outside of class. Your entries can be about contemplations, conversations, readings, television programs or movies. Whatever you notice in your daily life that relates to issues in the text or in the lectures is grist for the mill. As time goes on, you will become better at noticing worthy subjects for writing about.

Other than that, the only requirement is good and thoughtful writing. But do proofread and edit before printing.

You might want to try writing a variety of entries over time and then choosing the best ones to put together for handing in. This tactic might relieve some anxiety as you won't be thinking about a mark each time you sit down to write.

I hope this helps,


I think I would have liked to listen to Plato, but Descartes would have been another story. I doubt whether the two of us would have been welcome in a place at the same time. I have to admit though that for some time in my younger years—while in High School—I have wondered and thought a lot about whether this world is just a dream, or is it a reality. At that stage I would have been a vivid follower of Descartes. What I really like is that there is some of my development in thinking that almost followed the philosophers. Not completely, but I can see some similarities between my development and how the things the philosophers had thought of developed. After I stopped living in a dream, I questioned more things and then started to think in the region of the “Tabula Rasa”. And I still think that experience is a big part of our development, but not all.

The ways we think are very interesting. I do not think we will very soon know what truly goes on in the human mind, but we are getting better at understanding certain ways of thinking. We are at times told that computers can think, and to some people that is a very scary thought. But then we should always remember that the computer could only think what it is been told to think. There are also computers that can learn things, but they too are no match for the human brain. A few years ago a robot was built that could do ‘stitching’. It was given a cloth with holes in it, and the robot had to work a needle through the holes to simulate the way a human would do it. The robot always put the needle exactly through the middle of the hole. Humans would put the needle just through the hole; to be exact does not matter. This would always be the difference between man and machine—they are exact; we are approximate.

This to me is the ultimate in thinking.



The lecture and class discussion on Free Will, would not be easy to forget. Even if we forget the philosophers involved. The question of our freedom would always be with us. It is not one of the easier questions in life, because it really impacts our lives. And there are few who would admit that our lives are determined. It is not easy to give up the idea of Freedom. We always would like to think that we are completely free, even though it is the furthest from the truth. In the Bible, the people are many times described as sheep. To see human beings as sheep is not a far fetched idea. In those days the shepherds led the sheep, and they followed, believing that the shepherd would lead them to greener fields. Are we human beings not very much the same? We follow other people, leaders, kings, and even politicians too what we belief would be ‘greener fields’. There are scary stories out in the world of very healthy people or the ‘Illuiminate’ who control countries and governments. To hear these stories makes us feel less than a pawn on a chessboard. Whether these stories are true or not, they do show that bigger co-operations, industry, governments, and society do control our lives in some way or another. We probably find it hard to give up our ‘Freedom’, because we might feel that if we are not free, then what do we have to live for.


I see my freedom in that I have only a few choices to choose from what is determined for me. And I am glad that I have this much freedom. The truth is that I do not want any more choices. I have many times gone with my wife to a place where she has to make choices, and the time we spent at these places are proportionate to the amount of choices she has. Now, since I see total freedom as something where we have an invinite number of choices, I am very glad that my life is determined to have only a few choices.

I wish I could say more about the good life. I know I had answers to this many times in my life, but now I do not know. I am not sure what I expect the good life to be, or what I would like to have in a good life. I am happy to be alive every day, and I am happy that there are people who love me and who I can love and care for. So maybe I do live the good live—for me any way



In the matter of the existence of God, it will be impossible to keep our biases hidden. Since the journey and not the destination (the reasoning and not the conclusion) matter, we'll not be judged for whatever may be our personal leaning. As in, "For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible." So, at the risk of revealing a bias, the following:   The "Partee" argument seems clear and conclusive, "God does not exist." Then, the rebuttals, the formal justifications of God's role in evil lack weight and diminish His significance to the dustbin as a "triple O dude"!   I once concluded that the Bible itself provided plenty of weight to an argument against the existence, or at least relevance, of a God. Jesus' warning of 'by their fruits you will know them', coupled with the clear fruits of anything smacking of religion or religious thought or action seemed sufficient testimony to the preposterousness of God over all. Whereever a god was shown to interact with humans a negative result seemed assured. God's 'chosen people' became the stiffest of the stiff-necked and hardest of hard-hearted.   Revealing then is the supposition that the Bible was directed to the converted and gives little helpful support to the existence of God. It seems we have been turned adrift and left to our own devices on this question. Thus the centuries of philosophical thought addressed to this unsolvable riddle. St. Paul 's argument in Romans 1:20 that His existence is evidenced by creation is one of the few references to be found on this matter. (The University of Virginia website has the complete text of the Revised Standard Version and the King James Version available for comparison along with a word or phrase search capability.) Hume, of course, argues the opposite and is willing to suggest a range of possibilities, far from an either/or, straw-man type, position.   Here is a little 'found philosohy' to add to some balance to the mix, an 'old Chinese proverb': "Do you need proof of God? Does one light a torch to see the sun?" The image elicited seems compelling and hard to ignore, as if the obvious need not be restated in our floundering way. The simple wording struck some chord and at first blush I felt uncomfortable. Perhaps though, like the Bible, it is speaking to the converted and ignoring the doubters.  


On the meaning of life, the Frankl suggestions are intriguing and provocative. By reversing the suppositions, we are expected to search internally, rather than seek outwardly, for the answers. This reduces the unknowable to the knowable. And gives us something to do. No circular arguments here, but a pragmatic and useful solution. However we choose to answer the question of our primary responsibility, we will have done the choosing and not fruitlessly chased after others to provide some easy ready-made solution. A mature-sounding concept amongst the whirl of circular arguments--worthy of further perusal!   ......   Here is just a small aside on the matter of faith or reason: Pascal's Wager seems to barely measure a "Stage 2" in Kohlberg's classification of moral judgement.   ......   The philosophical journey looks like a lonely one. There is little value accorded to seeking truth in a 'practical' world. But, if 'the truth sets one free', we may achieve some measure of independence in our thinking. I've noticed that the range of possibilities in answering the unanswerable is far wider than I had previously thought.


Last Updated: September 28, 2004