PHIL 1115   Winter 2010

Ursula Stange          X  4309          Ofc.:  H350G          email: ursula(at)stange(dot)com         personal home page




Course Syllabus   (not updated for 2010)

Required and Suggested Readings (updated for 2010)

Links to Other Pages   and   A New Links Page I'm Working On

Squashed Philosophers   (have a look)  

2004 Weblog
2003 Weblog


Welcome to Philosophy 1115.    This page is intended to point you to further information about philosophers, philosophies, discussions, issues, texts and artworks which come up in class.  

Continually updated    --   Newest information at the top

April 21

Those of you who wrote on teaching philosophy to children (and the rest of you also) might be interested in this article from the New York Times:  The Examined Life, Age 8  

April 15

Several people have written to ask about cheat sheets for the exam. Sorry, no such thing allowed.  I have allowed them only in years where I taught the whole course from September on. Those students were writing an exam that covered the whole year.  Your exam only covers two months.  

Here's a freebie:  Philosophic naturalism is:    a) the belief that the world is ordered and consistent.

See you this afternoon.  

April 13

Just wanted to wish all of you luck as you write your final exams.

April 11

Here are the grades:  PHIL 1115

I will be posting your grades (as I have them recorded) later today.  Please look them over.   Also, your final essays have been marked and I will bring them to the exam on Thursday.

April 5

Some philosophical activities you might be interested in trying:   The Philosophers' Magazine  (2 of them have to do with morality and one with God.)

Two books very worth reading...the top one is the one I was trying to remember the name of in class during the discussion on cloning.  

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly  by Jean-Dominique Bauby  (This was made into a film recently -- you can google the trailer...)

April 1

Happy April...

I've posted the PowerPoint for lecture 24 on the readings page.  I've also starred the readings that may be tested on the final exam.  The others are worthwhile, of course, for a fuller understanding of things, but will not be tested directly. 

I remember promising in yesterday's class to post some things I alluded to, but can't remember them just now.  Please feel free to write me if something comes back to you that I could post.

March 25

Speaking of homunculi...

And speaking of the suggestion one of your classmates made about what to watch....Bill Hicks

March 24

The movies on offer today: 

Gattaca       Handout

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest        Handout

Groundhog Day        Handout

Crimes and Misdemeanors       Handout

March 20

Further to what my father taught me:  Don't sell your life for money.   You'll never make enough to buy it back.

March 18

So, we forgot (okay, I forgot) to talk about next week after all.  Send emails with your suggestions and I will post them here.  I'm willing to watch a movie...philosophically interesting suggestions are welcome.  

March 17

The Origin of Love by Hedwig and the Angry Inch.   Another version (I hadn't seen this one before...interesting). 

And another (with the words).  And lastly, Aristophanes' speech in Plato's Symposium that the song is based on.

I will also post a link for the notes for today's lecture and the PowerPoint on the 'readings' page (see link above).

A classmate has sent me the link for the PostSecret website that I (long ago) retrieved the Babar the Elephant confession from.   It changes daily, I think.

Just letting you know that I posted some notes for last week's lecture.  I know that it was probably over-full (and somewhat hurried) and I thought that some additional clarification might help.  They're on the 'required and suggested readings' page (see link above).  I'll also be posting some for this week's lecture later today.

Also a reminder to those who last week promised Lynn Minor that they would email copies of their essays:  only four (of fourteen) have been received so far.   There's some urgency to this.   Her email is

March 16

Further to the reading for tomorrow's class, I see that I neglected to offer references to the Locke readings.

They are from his Essay Concerning Human Understanding  Chapter 27

March 10

The book I mentioned in class today:  The Secret House by David Bodanis.  Check out his Secret Family too.

If you remember anything else I promised to look up or refer to, please let me know.  I can post it here.

March 8

I'm posting a reading for the week after next (March 17th).  In lieue of the textbook readings from last term, I'm offering small excerpts that illuminate certain aspects of the 2,500 year old search for the self.  Please print these, read and annotate them and bring them to class. Thanks muchly...

March 6 is the list of movies and books recommended by your classmates:


Hotel Rwanda
V for Vendetta
Kymatica (3)
It's all Gone, Pete Tong
Big Nothing
Book of Eli
Tulip Fever
Avatar (3)
Clockwork Orange (2)
The Matrix (3)
Arlington Road
Waking Life (4) (deserves the attention of a second viewing)
The Island (2)
The Invention of Lying
The Secret Life of Bees
Pay it Forward
A Big Fish
Million Dollar Baby
Clerks 1
The Cove
One Week
Across the Universe

Harry Potter
The Death of Ivan Illyich
The Celestine Prophecies
Clockwork Orange (Burgess)
The Pursuit of Perfect
The 'Ender" series
The Cheese Stands Alone
Drizzt Do'Urden series

Feed Us    Serj Tankien

March 3 

I've spoken to Lynn Minor, Professor Jowett's marker, about your grades and papers.   She cannot attend class today as she is working, but she will get both the papers and the marks to me this weekend.   I will then be able to answer your concerns about papers possibly gone astray.   She has told me that some of the midterm marks have been amended.  Hopefully all will be clear by next week.   Our ongoing apologies about how frustrating this has been for all of you.

March 2

On Wednesday, I will be announcing the updated final essay assignment.  It will be a three-page essay with a variety of possible topics, none of which require extensive library research.   Please print a copy for yourself.

The links you will need for some of the topics:

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

My QuoTable 

March 1

Just a reminder that both little assignments are due on Wednesday.  We will be talking about social and political philosophy...the development of social contract theory.  There is no textbook reading, but I've prepared a few little snippets from the philosophers who developed these theories.   Please print it out (12 pages, I think)

and bring it to class. 

We will also address some of the concerns from the survey some of you filled out.  If you have further thoughts, please bring them with you.

And Malta was great....

February 10

So, the Haiti donations came to $28.09.   I and my son topped it up to $50.   I donated it to UNICEF and the government will add another $50.   So, we've sent $100 to Haiti.   Well done.

Please note that the assignment described below (on Feb. 7) is actually due on March 3rd.   It will be worth 5 marks (after all, it is twice the length of the ones you did last term which were worth 2 1/2 marks.)    The Waking Life assignment will be worth 2 1/2 marks.   Together that will make the 7 1/2 marks for small assignments for this second term   I will get back to you about the second term esssays.   Off to read your comments (which I thank you for taking the time to write).   And thanks Steven (Stephen?) for organizing the handout.  

Here is the viewing assignment for the class I will miss on February 24th.   This will be due on March 3rd.  

February 8

If some of you are struggling with the Utilitarianism reading (John Stuart Mill), you might find this SparkNotes page helpful.   We will spend part of Wednesday on the subject of Utilitarianism.  This page will give you a bit of background by which to understand.   Besides the first context page, you will find chapter summaries and discussions.

February 7

Here is an advance copy of the assignment I will hand out on Wednesday.   It will be due on the 3rd of March and offers a variety of ways to proceed.  

February 4

Syllabus coming soon..

That PowerPoint I promised you...Lec 17 Theories of Morality 



Everything below this line is from a previous year....feel free to poke was good's good now.


March 15

A list of the movies recommended by your fellow students...

March 6

A reminder:

For the third journal, I would allow, and even encourage, you to find or create your own topic. I already wrote about this under the February 26th entry, but would add that you could look at the opening and closing questions in the recent chapters as prods to your thinking.   Some have mentioned that it's unfortunate that there isn't more room for essay type answers in the tests. I suggest that this is your opportunity to ask and answer a significant question that you might have liked to see on the test. These journals are your opportunity to engage with a topic of your choice. Take advantage. 

Another article by Peter Singer, this time about a developmentally delayed little girl who has been in the news lately.   Ashley's parents' Blog has some background information and pictures of Ashley.  And a recent editorial from the Toronto Star which questions the morality of Ashley's treatment: `Pillow angel' treatment dehumanizing.'    It's an issue worth wrestling with....

March 5

An article on Euthanasia by the philosopher I mentioned in class, Peter Singer.   It's an old article, but it will give you an idea about him and his views. And his home page...

And an article about the Robert Latimer case which we also talked about in class.

And one more page with a variety of articles about the Latimer case.

February 28

A reminder that this coming Friday (March 2nd) the English Studies Department is showing the Oscar-winning Al Gore documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, in the Nipissing Theatre at 3 pm.

My apologies to the Tuesday class for running out of handouts.  Here is the Sling Blade handout in case you missed it. 

As in other years, the majority of you answered the attendance question by suggesting that Doyle was going to hell.  A few mentioned Karl's sins.  One or two mentioned Vaughn's homosexuality as punishable by hellfire.   And one of you wrote that everyone who was involved in the inception or production or distribution of this most-horrible-film-you-ever-saw should go to hell.  

February 26

Just a reminder that the extra-credit opportunity and the third journal will now be due the same week. 

For the third journal, I am allowing any subject.   Take some time to think about which issues in this course have excited you or perplexed you or rubbed you the wrong way.  Perhaps something in the news has reminded you of something in your textbook.   Perhaps a conversation or a sermon or a lecture in another class has connected with our course.  Find something significant to write about and work through several rewritings.   As with the first, the biggest faults with the second journals have been superficiality and lack of logic.   Many of you seem to write things off the top of your head which contain the germs of good ideas, but then you don't stay with the subject long enough to see what's BS and what's worth keeping.   

An analogy might be relevant.  Think about making fire by rubbing two sticks together. If you don't gather the right kind of sticks, you fail.  If you get the right kind of sticks, but you rub them the wrong way or not long enough, you fail.   Making a fire requires the right kind of sticks and stick-to-it-ive-ness. 

February 22

The due date for the third journals has been pushed back to March 19th and 20th.   The original date as listed in the syllabus was March 5th and 6th.  

February 18

Extra Credit Opportunity

Since we're thinking about ethics and morals, here is a Wikipedia article about altruism in animals

Interesting examples and links for further investigation.

I've finally re-established my connection with this page.  I hope everyone is using their week wisely and well.   I've posted your test 2 marks on my office door.   The average mark was about 60.   I will be posting an extra-credit assignment soon for anyone who wishes to improve their course mark.   Check back here in a day or two. 

January 25

A note for those who would like to attend the English Department's Creative Writing Exhibition on Monday night, you may come to my Tuesday afternoon class:  12:30 in the same room.   Just be sure to write "Monday" on your attendance question.   I might have attended myself if I wasn't teaching...

Months ago, I mentioned an online digital photography competition.  Here is their website

January 23

Just extending another invitation to sign up for the (entirely voluntary) Nipissing discussion list.  My hope is that it will extend eventually to any Nipissing students interested in philosophical issues, books, movies, politcs, current events or any other topics.  My intention is that it will be unmoderated (although egregiously inflammatory posts may change my mind...but maybe not).  Both participants and lurkers are welcome.  Sign yourself in...see what there is (sporadic, because we are still few...)   Because I must ok your application (to keep out spammers) please attach your full name on the sign up page.   They make it sound like you should have a yahoo email addresss, but you don't have to. You can use any address you currently have. Your Nipissing address or Hotmail or anything else is ok.   Hope to hear from you...

Here is the link to sign up for the Nipissing philosophy discussion list. 

January 18

Character is what you are in the dark.     F.Nietzsche

To flee from insecurity is to miss the whole point of being human.    Peter Bertocci

January 17

An update on the Doomsday Clock (which I mentioned in Tuesday's class).

Another reminder that I've changed the list of journal topics for the second journal. 

Also, please remember that the Baby Symposium for this week has been moved to next week (the 22nd and 23rd).  The reading for it is listed here

From NPR radio: The Science behind making moral decisions.  Worth a listen. 

One of Escher's drawings done by a Lego 'artist'

January 11 

I spoke in class about amending the journal topics list for the second journals due the 29th and 30th of January.  Here is the updated list.   The other requirements (about length and presentation) remain the same.   Please keep my other remarks about the journals in mind as well.  Professional presentation requires typing, careful proofreading and intelligent editing.    Please spend enough time with your topic to allow you to push past the obvious.  One way you might do this is to choose a topic together with a friend.  Both of you write something and meet to discuss it.  Taken seriously, this can help you get past the first easy response.   Be sure, however, that your finished journals do not merely echo each other. 

Baby Symposium

Here is one of the readings for the Baby Symposium to follow the lecture on 'self' next week (January 15th and 16th).    Stream of Consciousness (Chapter xi in William James' Psychology published in 1892).   

January 10

One of you asked in Tuesday's class about Aristotle's 4 causes.   I answered that the 4 causes were difficult to understand and are now not generally taught in first year philosophy classes (although they were many years ago).   Those interested can google 'Aristotle 4 causes.'   You will find a wikipedia article and a number of other links.  One is this third year course syllabus (University of Washington) with lecture notes -- scrolling down the lecture topics will get you Aristotle's 4 causes.   The faint-hearted among you will be glad I don't introduce the topic in this intro course.  Have fun...

January 9

Watch for information in a day or two about another Baby Symposium scheduled for next week.  I will be posting the extra reading here.  The subject will be some aspect of the self. 

The instructions below about submitting your journal for re-evaluation still apply, but I have set a final date.  Your detailed written request must be either under my office door by noon on January 16th or handed in in class next week, the 15th or 16th depending on your class. 

December 8

The journals are now in a box outside my office door  -- H302.   If you gave me media of some sort, I will reutrn it after Christmas -- don't want to leave it in the box.   If you'd like it back before then, let me know and we will arrange something. 

If, after seeing your mark and reading the comments, you feel that something was unfairly judged, overlooked or not considered properly, put it in writing, attach it to your marked paper and return it under my door.   I will look at it again.   But you must clearly explain and type out your objections and what, in particular, I should look at.  In other words, you can't just return your paper and ask for a re-evaluation.  You must clarify what you think went wrong with the marking.  Be specific.

December 1

Another comment on the journals....I actually wrote this last year, but see no reason to select new examples.  If you read them carefully, you will learn something.   Philosophy requires precision of expression.   Put your papers away for a day or two and then read again.   You will be surprised at what you thought was in the paper but is not actually there.  You will be surprised at what careless and imprecise sentences you have written.  This advice applies to all your writing, not just that for philosophy.

November 25

I and another marker are having both good and bad experiences with your first journals.  Some have been really excellent.  Predictably, most have been average.  But a few have been problems.  Some of you wrote well but didn't bother to work very hard or delve very deep (or even proofread very carefully).   A few of you wrote so poorly that what thoughtfulness you put into your paper is all but buried.   Three or four wrote 200 words instead of 400.    One or two wrote by hand on paper torn out of a spiral binder.   (This kind of unprofessionalism is irritating -- if you care so little about your mark, why should we care?)  


Here is a link to the story offered as one of the journal choices.   I'm sorry that I forgot to create the link earlier.  It is worth reading in relation to the subject of reality.   Enjoy...

Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge   by Ambrose Bierce

November 20

I've extended the due date for the extra credit opportunity.   Papers must be handed in in class on the 27th and 28th (depending on which class you are in, of course).   If you click on the link below, it will say the due date is the 24th, but this notice extends it.  

November 13

The test 1 results have now been posted on my office door.  I will also bring them to class on Tuesday.

I am offering an extra credit opportunity to those who would like to upgrade their test marks.   Read and follow directions carefully.   (The two required sources should be other than our textbook.) This option is open to everyone, whether you want to turn your 47 into a 52 or your 77 into an 82.  The due date is November 24th. 

November 12

In case you've wondered about our textbook author...

And this in Wikipedia...

November 4

Some additional practice questions for the test...

November 2

How can you have order in a state without religion? For, when one man is dying of hunger near another who is ill of surfeit, he cannot resign himself to this difference unless there is an authority which declares, "God wills it thus." Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.
-- Napoleon Bonapart, quoted from Anne Nicole Gaylor, "What's Wrong With the Ten Commandments?"

Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.
-- Napoleon Bonapart, quoted from Robert Byrne, 1,911 Best Things Anybody Ever Said (1988)

November 1

On the test etc. in view of the cancelled Tuesday class.   I've decided to leave the test where it is and just not include material from lecture 7 or from pages 87 to 105 in the textbook.   Everything from every other lecture and reading will be included.   So the test will go on as scheduled.

I've had a few questions abou required and allowable length on the journals:

If you have 500 good words, 500 would be fine.  Even 600 if you're really saying just what needs to be said.  I find that one of the most serious problems with student writing is wordiness and shallow fluff.  My suggestion would be to write 700 or 800 words and then in successive rewritings, try to keep the content with fifty words less.  Then do it again.   If you get down to 550, that would be great (and you'll have learned a lot about what was important about what you wanted to say). 

Oct. 31

I've just cancelled this afternoon's claass.  I don't feel well enough to stand for three hours.  I will make some decisions about the test later this week, so check back in a day or two.  Sorry for the inconvenience.  Enjoy your Halloween...

Oct. 30

From a Wikipedia article about Freud's Future of an Illusion (which one of your classmates pointed me to)

Freud describes religion as an illusion, wishes that are the "fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most urgent wishes of mankind" (Ch. 6 pg. 30). To differentiate between an illusion and an error, he lists scientific beliefs such as "Aristotle's belief that vermin are developed out of dung" as errors, but "the assertion made by certain nationalists that the Indo-Germanic race is the only one capable of civilization" is an illusion, simply because of the wishing involved. Put forth more explicitly, "what is characteristic of illusions is that they are derived from human wishes." (pg. 31) He adds, however, that, "Illusions need not necessarily be false." (p.39) He gives the example of a middle-class girl having the illusion that a prince will marry her. While this is unlikely, it is not impossible. The fact that it is grounded in her wishes is what makes it an illusion.

Monday,  Oct. 23

I've posted some sample test questions on the readings page and here.   They are the same here and there.  Don't print them twice.

Thursday,  Oct. 19

There was a question in class about Diogenes the Cynic -- whether he was Diogenes Laertius or Diogenes of Sinope.  I promised to get back to you. 

Diogenes of Sinope  

Diogenes Laertius  

Wednesday,  Oct. 18

Food for Thought:

"The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference." Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life, Basic Books, 1996

An apology to the Monday night class about my mistaken memory that the first journals were due in two weeks.  Somehow, I remembered Nov. 3rd and 4th, while the real date was Nov. 13th and 14th.   Didn't mean to alarm you.

Further to the education symposium:  Here is another article by John Gatto that you may find interesting. 

Tuesday,  Oct. 17

Here is the link to sign up for the (entirely voluntary) Nipissing philosophy discussion list.  It will begin with 1115 philosophy students, but my hope is that it will extend eventually to any Nipissing students interested in discussion about philosophical issues, books, movies, politcs, current events or any other topics.  My intention is that it will be unmoderated (although egregiously inflammatory posts may change my mind...but maybe not).  Both participants and lurkers are welcome.  Sign yourself in...see what there is (nothing much yet, of course)  ...mail your comments.   Because I must ok your application (to keep out spammers) please attach your full name on the sign up page.   You don't need to have a yahoo email address.  Hotmail or anything else is ok.   Hope to hear from you...

Monday,  Oct. 16

Here is a link to Paul Gauguin's painting "Where do we come from, What are we, Where are we going." 

This page leads to an interactive site which lets you slide your mouse over different parts of the painting and read an interpretation of the forms and figures.  The painting is meant to be 'read' from right to left (starting with the baby...) 

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” Carl Jung

Another quotation from Viktor Frankl's book...

"It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life - daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual."       p.122

reprinted from:
Frankl, Viktor E., Man's Search for Meaning, Washington Square Press, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1963.

(read more here)

Tuesday,  Oct. 3

Baby Symposium # 1   

What is education for?Who is education for?

Oct. 16th and 17th

Required readings:

Education and Discipline   Bertrand Russell  

Why Schools Don't Educate   John Taylor Gatto

Wednesday, Sept 27, 2006


A link for you to check out the Frontier College volunteer program that I spoke of in class...

Read this page and then click on North Bay and then on Nipissing University.  Good for you...good for the kids...good for the community.


Philosophically interesting books as listed by your classmates.

Many had more than one nomination...Some great books here...

Sophie's World
The Bible
Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
Brave New World
Life of Pi
Lord of the Flies
Golden Sayings of Epictetus
Thus Spake Zarathustra
Thucydides: History of the Peloponnesian War
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Beyond Good and Evil (Nietzsche)
Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten  (Robert Fulghum)
A Sense of the World
My Ishmael
Leviathan (Thomas Hobbes)
The Handmaid's Tale (Atwood)
The Colour Purple
Black Like Me
The Nichomachean Ethics
The Dark Tower (Stephen King)
Why am I so Wise   (Nietzsche)
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
The Giver
The Communist Manifesto
The DaVinci Code
The 7th Habits
The Prince
Animal Farm
Celestine Prophecy
Plato's The Republic
Blue Like Jazz
The Last Days of socrates
What Happy People Know
Mind Hunter (John Douglas)
The Universe in a Nutshell (Stephen Hawking)
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
The Soul of Anna Klane
Of Mice and Men
Bitten (Kelley Armstrong)
Breaking the Ice
Keep the Aspidistra Flying (George Orwell)
A Man named Dave
Chromosome 46
Practical Astral Projection (Yram)
Celtic Mysticism
The Butterfly Effect
The Chrysalids (John Wyndham)
East of Eden (Steinbeck)
Johnathan Livingston Seagull
On Bullshit (Harry G. Frankfurt)
V for Vendetta
The Never-Ending Story
The Phantom Tollbooth
Children of Mother Earth
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Introduction to Metaphysics (Martin Heidegger)
Fahrenheit 411
I Robot
Lord of the Flies
The Sword of Tuth Series
The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty (Anne Rice)
Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
Darkwing Duck
The Mysteries of Reincarnation (Edgar Cayce)
Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)


Wednesday, Sept 13, 2006

To the Monday night class -- sorry about the confusion re the marking scheme.   The  correct numbers are available from the 'syllabus' link above.   You will see that they are slightly different than what you approved in class.   Barring any objections, these are the numbers I will give to the Dean's office next week.   If you feel that there is some problem, please contact me...


A note to new students (2006 / 2007):   Everything below here is a partial archive of  the last school year. Much will be erased in due time. Some will be deemed useful to this year's students and will be retained.  Feel free to poke around and read a bit here and there. Everything is valuable. 


Sunday, Mar 26, 2006

Bertrand Russell has this to say on that:

 Three passions have governed my life:

 The longings for love, the search for knowledge,

 And unbearable pity for the suffering of [humankind].

 Love brings ecstasy and relieves loneliness.

 In the union of love I have seen

 In a mystic miniature the prefiguring vision

 Of the heavens that saints and poets have imagined.

 With equal passion I have sought knowledge.

 I have wished to understand the hearts of [people].

 I have wished to know why the stars shine.

 Love and knowledge led upwards to the heavens,

 But always pity brought me back to earth;

 Cries of pain reverberated in my heart

 Of children in famine, of victims tortured

 And of old people left helpless.

 I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot,

 And I too suffer.

 This has been my life; I found it worth living.


Friday, Mar 24, 2006

Life is mostly froth and bubble;
Two things stand like stone:
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in your own.

                 Adam Lindsay Gordon


Wednesday, Mar 22, 2006

Wednesday thoughts on religion...


Jesus said unto them, "And whom do you say that I am?"

They replied,"You are the eschatological manifestation of
the ground of our being, the ontological foundation of the
context of our very selfhood revealed."

And Jesus replied, "What?"     (anon)


Sartre said that to believe is to know you believe; to know you believe
is to not believe.


Religion is that cluster of memories and myths, hopes and images, rites and customs that pulls together the life of a person or group into a meaningful whole .... It lends coherence to life, furnishes a fund of meaning, gives unity to human events and guides people in making decisions. Religion, as its Latin root suggests, is what binds things together.
--Harvey Cox


"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." Stephen Roberts


Jesus Cooks

Jesus saw the multitudes were hungry
and He said, Oh Lord,
send down a short-order cook.
And the Lord said, Abracadabra.
Jesus took the fish,
a slim green baby,
in His right hand and said, Oh Lord,
and the Lord said,
Work on the sly
opening boxes of sardine cans.
And He did.
Fisherman, fisherman,
you make it look easy.
And lo, there were many fish.
Next Jesus held up a loaf
and said, Oh Lord,
and the Lord instructed Him
like an assembly-line baker man,
a Pied Piper of yeast,
and lo, there were many.
Jesus passed among the people
in a chef's hat
and they kissed His spoons and forks
and ate well from invisible dishes.

                Ann Sexton, from "The Jesus Papers",
                 Part II of The Book of Folly (1972

Sunday, Mar 12, 2006

A little piece about the clash of moral theories in the tv show Nikita

Sunday, Mar 5, 2006

Considering the topic of morality this week...

Some food for thought here....
and here and here and here

And one more discussion on the same topic.

And this....

Guest House

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the sham, the malice, meet them
at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be
grateful for whoever comes, because each has been
sent as a guide from beyond.

by Rumi

Saturday, Mar 4, 2006

Infants already show signs that they want to help out adults without expecting anything in return, says a German study on altruism.

"The results were astonishing because these children are so young – they still wear diapers and are barely able to use language," said psychology researcher Felix Warneken of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, "But they already show helping behaviour."



Saturday, Feb 25, 2006 

And come to the movie on Tuesday.  It's not one many of you will have seen.  But no telling yet.

I've had a few questions about choice # 4 for the research paper...

The syllabus choice asks you to put together -- and justify -- a syllabus.  There is plenty of research done on philosophy and children and children's learning strategies etc.  You could also take a quick look at the Ontario Government's publications on the rest of the grade eight curriculum and explain how what you want to teach fits with that.  I said in class that this was a choice for those interested in education.  Hence, it should take a look, not only at philosophy, but also at education.  That's why the requirement for 'justification' is there.  This is the part based on research and needs MLA format. 
Hope this helps...

Also some questions for the philosopher at dinner choice:

Don't try to do too much.  There is no need to cover all of your dinner guest's philosophy.  Choose one or two subjects and do right by them.  Better to write something about why you would choose Kant (for example) for a dinner partner.  What would you like to ask him?  What would you discuss?   Sketch his opinions (with citations to his texts or to scholarly discussions of his ideas) and then your response to the issues. 

There are many ways you could approach this.  Imagine a conversation (you don't actually have to write dialogue, but you can if you want to...) where you present him with two varying interpretations of something he wrote.  How would he react?  Would he laugh or be annoyed?  Discuss which you think is more accurate and back that up with references to his actual writings.  Or just deal with one interpretation and analyze it with Kant's own writings in mind.  Ask him what he meant by writing such and such.   Have him explain it in different words.  Yes, I also want to hear what you think and why.  But there's no need to repeat, 'I think' and 'I believe.'  


There is no need to write "I think Mr.Philosopher.would be an excellent guest because..." 
You can just write "Mr. Philosopher would be an excellent guest because..." I will know the opinions are yours because it's your paper.  In the final proofreading, look at each "I think"  and "I believe"  and see if you can't delete it.  Your paper will be the better for it.  If you're not citing the words or opinions as belonging to a source, I will assume that they are yours.


What I'm looking for is an impression of your ability to think about and discuss and write philosophy.  I'm also going to look at your ability to find appropriate research materials and to use them correctly in your writing.   You don't need to use up-to-the-minute journals, but you may.   I would suggest five or six sources.   Remember, also, that this is still an academic paper and requires research and MLA format for the bibliography, etc. 

And finally, a bit of humour wouldn't be out of place.   As long as you're also serious.

Sunday, Feb 19, 2006 

I have finished marking your second journals and will return them in our next class.  Many were excellent, but, believe me, marking 150 journals is a painful process.  There is much I would like to say.  But I will content myself with these comments for now...

Tuesday, Feb 14, 2006

Happy Valentines Day...

Living Lightly on the Earth.   Socrates called it voluntary simplicity.  Here's one couple's story...

And here's a place you can find what you might need or divest yourself of things you don't need. 

All free...and all local...

Sunday, Feb 12, 2006

One of your fellow students wants you to pay attention...

Black History Month

Heritage Canada   Black History Month

The History Channel   Black History Month

City of Toronto   Black History Month origins etc.

Ontario Black History Society   Black History Month

Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2006

I mentioned the Daniel Dennett book, Elbow Room:  the varieties of free will worth wanting, in class today.  Here is the Wikipedia article about it.   It's very interesting reading....Have a look

Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2006

Here are the sample test questions I offered in class today.

A little fun reading about recent research into the mind-body influence and it's relationship to determinism.  It's called "Free Will -- Free Won't".

And this:   An invitation to wonder

Monday, Jan. 30, 2006

Fernando Botero, the artist who painted the picture of the man drinking orange juice (in tomorrow's lecture).

Saturday, Jan. 28, 2006

Here is one of the education quotations I was reaching for on Tuesday.  Wilson was president of Princeton, I believe when he said this....

We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forego the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks:        President Woodrow Wilson

Something serious to think about as philosophers.  Who is education for?   For society?  Or for the individual?   Education would be very different in one case than in the other.  That is why you are responsible for your own education.   Otherwise, you're being educated by your masters.  Bertrand Russell ran his own school for many years because he didn't like society's answer to this question...

Thursday, Jan. 26, 2006

Future American lawyers to be proud of...

And some wise words from Albert Einstein...

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. - Albert Einstein (Sign hanging in Einstein's office at Princeton)

Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2006

In view of our discussions yesterday, Google announced this morning that it would agree to censor information in China in exchange for freer, easier access to a quickly growing market. 

And a poem about freedom...

Freedom   (by Jan Struther)

Now heaven be thanked, I am out of love again!
I have been long a slave, and now am free;
I have been tortured, and am eased of pain;
I have been blind, and now my eyes can see;
I have been lost, and now my way lies plain;
I have been caged, and now I hold the key;
I have been mad, and now at last am sane;
I am wholly I that was but half of me.
So a free man, my dull proud path I plod,
Who, tortured, blind, mad, caged, was once a God.

Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2006

I spoke in class today about the Romantic Movement and the way in which it developed partly in reaction to the Enlightenment.   Here is a very readable, not too long, treatment of it by a professor at Washington State University.


Friday, Jan. 13, 2006

Latest Philosophy News .... and games and activities   Dabble in philosophy...

An online philosophy journal for student papers...Aporia (Brigham Young University)

Some additional comments about the research paper due on February 28th. (also read the note from January 3rd)

The choice of topics and general guidelines about length and presentation are available in the syllabus.   Your paper must be based on library research.  That means philosophy books and journals (digital or hard copy).  There are some philosophy journals available online and these are also acceptable.   If in doubt about how to locate these resources, ask at the helpdesk in the library.  Internet resources listed here are also acceptable, but should be used in addition to, not in place of, books and journals.   Part of the purpose of a research paper is to learn the use of library resources.   You can't do that just sitting in front of your computer.   Your primary concern shouldn't be how many items you rack up in your bibliography but rather how worthwhile they are.   Three books well used might be more valuable to you than eight books just pecked at.   In general, you should expect to consult at least six significant sources (not including dictionaries or encyclopedias or your textbook). 

Because of a recent event, I want to remind you of Nipissing's policy on academic dishonesty.   Do your work honestly. 

Thursday, Jan. 12, 2006

A challenge...

I've posted some information about the Italian court case on the existence of Jesus here under current events...

Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2006

A little poem for your pleasure this morning.  It seems vaguely connected to the lecture on knowing...


                         by Jan Struthers

   Though God in seven days
   The world and all its ways
Once for his own delight did fashion truly,
   Yet every man alive
   Must through his senses five
      Create it newly.


   No beauty dwells on earth
   Till eyes do give it birth;

No rock, no stone, till a hand's touch bring concreteness;
   Fragrance, till breath be near;
   Music, till listening ear
      Draw forth its sweetness.


   And you, my little god,
   Whose rosy feet have trod

But seven days' distance from your own day's breaking,
   You, in my arms close curled,
   Tell me, what kind of world
      Have you been making?

   These things your treasures be–
   Low voices' harmony;
The comfortable rhythm of the hours;
   Kind warmth, surprising light,
   Food, and the nodding, bright,
      Blurred shapes of flowers.

   Here dwells no hurt nor harm,
   Nor any worse alarm
Than the small stupendous sound of your own sneezing:
   Wise though he be, and great,
   Could God himself create
      A world more pleasing?


Sunday, Jan. 8, 2006

I've just now (12:30 pm) updated both the extra reading to be printed out for class and the overheads.  Didn't mean to leave it so late, but you know how Christmas is...

Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2006

Collected Wit and Wisdom...a new page...

Tuesday Jan. 3, 2006

Just a reminder that the upcoming research paper, although meant to stimulate your creativity, must be based on solid library research.   Remember that your paper must conform to MLA (Modern Language Association) standards of documentation as well as standard rules of grammar and composition. 


How to receive your paper back unmarked:


  1. Rely entirely on internet sources.
  2. Fail to proofread and/or edit egregious spelling and composition errors.
  3. Fail to provide a properly-formatted bibliography.


Keep watching this space for more updates and advice....

Hope all had a good holiday.


Thursday Nov. 24, 2005

One of the journals I've been marking this week referred to the philosophy in a song called 'Sunscreen."  The lyrics sounded familiar to me, but not as a song.  I knew it as a commencement address written by the great American novelist, Kurt Vonnegut. I went looking in google.   The rest of the story...

Wednesday Nov. 23, 2005

Another page about The Matrix.   Red or Blue Pill?   Remember the attendance question...

Tuesday Nov. 22, 2005

Extra Credit Opportunity...    (to make up for those low first test marks...)

Monday Nov. 21, 2005

I'd be interested in your feedback about this new webpage I'm just putting together...

A New Links Page I'm Working On

Worth reading after (or maybe before) the movie:   There Is No Spoon: The Matrix

                                                                              Philosophy and the Matrix     Warner Bros. Site

Some sobering reading for this month of remembrance

Mark Twain's     The War Prayer

Sunday Nov. 13 , 2005

Just a reminder that the first journal assignment is due on Tuesday.  Clear directions for the topics, formatting and length are included in your syllabus.  The length listed is approximately 250 words.  It should be no less, but might go up to 300 or even 315 (if you're legitimately not just rambling and puffing up).  By a clear thesis, I mean that your paper should make a point, express an opinion and be supported with relevant discussion.  

Your thesis, for instance, might be that the movie, Godzilla meets Bambi, is clearly based on Plato's notion of Ideal Forms.  Fine, but I need to know why you think that.  A thesis is nothing more than your opinion stated clearly and succinctly.   But to earn good marks, you must also clearly show why I should consider your opinion worthy.   What is the evidence?

Other than that, my best advice is to read the rest of the instructions in the syllabus and rewrite your paper one or two more times.  Don't repeat, don't ramble.   And get it in on time.  The grade penalty on late papers is not pretty.   If your paper must be late, I don't want to see it until next week.  There are no smaller penalties for one or two days late. 

Sunday Nov. 6 , 2005

Just letting you know that there will be 90 multiple choice items on the test.   You will have 2 hours to finish.  There will be a showing of a philosophically interesting Star Trek episode after the test, but attendance is optional. 

Thursday Nov. 3, 2005

Since we were talking about the Big Bang and the search for the beginnings of the universe...

Wednesday Nov. 2, 2005

A fascinating example of how the brain controls the body...

Tuesday Nov. 1, 2005

Updates about that trial in Dover, Pennsylvania that I keep referring to (about Intelligent Design)

Wednesday Oct. 26, 2005

Since we were discussing our relationship with God, a little joke for you...

Beverly was driving down the street in a sweat because she had an important meeting and couldn't find a parking place. Looking up toward heaven, she said "Lord, take pity on me. If you find me a parking place I will go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of my life and quit drinking."

Miraculously, a parking place appeared. Bev looked up again and said, "Never mind. I found one."

Monday Oct. 24, 2005

Some sample test questions...

Sunday   Oct. 23, 2005

"Faith in a higher being is as old as humanity itself. But what sparked the Divine Idea? Did our earliest ancestors gain some evolutionary advantage through their shared religious feelings? In these extracts from his latest book, Robert Winston ponders the biggest question of them all."

Why do we believe in God?

Thursday   Oct. 20, 2005

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” Carl Jung

Wednesday   Oct. 19, 2005

Here is a link to Paul Gauguin's painting "Where do we come from, What are we, Where are we going." 

I showed a slide of this painting to the evening class but not the morning one.  This page leads to an interactive site which lets you slide your mouse over different parts of the painting and read an interpretation of the forms and figures.  The painting is meant to be 'read' from right to left (starting with the baby...) 


A student in another class brought this article to my attention.  I'm passing it along in view of our discussion yesterday about the meaning of life...

Time for a debate on assisted suicide


Monday   Oct. 17, 2005

May those who love us, love us
And those that don't love us,
May god turn their hearts.
And if he doesn't turn their hearts
May he turn their ankles
So we'll know them
By their limping.


NOVA's Galileo's Battle for the Heavens


From the notebooks of Lazarus Long:   (You can google to find out who Lazarus Long is...)

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Being intelligent is not a felony, but most societies evaluate it as at least a misdemeanor.

If the universe has any purpose more important than topping a woman you love and making a baby with her hearty help, I have never heard of it.

Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors and miss.

The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of -- but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.

Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.

Always store beer in a dark place.

Friday   Oct. 14, 2005

Some observations on the Meaning of Life  (This is a student's web site)

Some quotations from Viktor Frankl's book...

"A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the "why" for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any "how."        p.127

(He's responding here to Nietzsche's famous line:  He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.)

"It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life - daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual."       p.122

Above quotations reprinted from:
Frankl, Viktor E., Man's Search for Meaning, Washington Square Press, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1963.

(read more here)

Thursday   Oct. 6, 2005

"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." - Plato

Friday    Sept. 23, 2005

I have put a copy of the textbook The Big Questions on reserve in the library.   Unfortunately, it is not the newest edition -- but the one with the CD will go on reserve as soon as the library gets it delivered. 

Wednesday   Sept. 21, 2005

Someone left his or her textbook after yesterday's class.  Send me an email if it's yours.  There may be a skill-testing question -- or you can claim it by identifying the paper clip...

A note to new students (2005 / 2006): Everything below the white line pertains to the 2004 / 2005 school year. Much will be erased in due time. Some will be deemed useful to this year's students and will be retained.  Feel free to poke around and read a bit here and there. Everything is valuable. 


In today's news...

An isssue relevant to both moral and social philosophy:  "offensive smells and the law"

Further to an item in last week's class:   Pakistani court overturns sentences in gang-rape case

On how our senses present the world to us:  Musician tastes richness of symphony


Some more journal samples coming soon...

...clowns on lunchbuckets...


A few students have asked about my personal feelings about God -- Am I a Christian, they want to know....This is offered as part of an answer.... It is the final proof of God's omnipotence that he need not exist in order to save us. -- Peter De Vries

Notes for an upcoming movie:


Weblog 2004      (updated on Jan 30, 2005)  

A place for me to speak to you, remind you of things, point you to interesting links. 

Philosophy is everywhere.  Connections are everywhere.  Check back frequently.


Killing the Buddha's take on Waking Life:  The Greatest Story Never Told

Waking Life:   a fan page with text from the movie and discussions about the different characters.   Not always right on, but interesting.

Philip K. Dick on reality....

Philip K. Dick is the science fiction writer about whom Linklater tells the final story in WAKING LIFE.

A word about late papers.   I will accept papers up to one week late, but no later.  You don't need a special extension and you don't need an excuse or an explanation for that week.  You will lose ten marks (out of a hundred), but you've already lost those.    So if you can make the paper ten-percent better in the extra week, you can gain some of the lost marks back. Serious reviewing and rewriting after a few days away from the project can sometimes make a huge difference. Different people work differently, but I know this is true for me. Be warned that I don't accept anything more than a week late (except for cases with two broken arms and the like).

Class notes and overheads

(Note:  The notes and overheads provided here are being gradually incorporated into the heading above (Readings (required and suggested) for Phil 1115).   The newest versions will be found there.   This page will eventually be deleted.  Thanks for your patience...)

Sample journal entries

And, of course, make sure to see the links at the bottom of the online syllabus here.