JOHNS HOPKINS U
Center for Talented Youth
Big Ideas for Bright Minds
Philosophy Robots, Zombies, and Descartes Exploring Ethics Philosophy & The Matrix Students Review Davidson College
VOL.17 NO.4 | Mar/Apr 2010
contents 8 ...........Why Study Philosophy?
The benefi ts of thinking deeply
The Great Conversation . . . . . . . . A survey of philosophy’s big ideas over the millennia
14 .......Robots, Zombies, and Descartes Philosophy of the Mind at CTY
The Wide World of Philosophy . . . . For almost every academic discipline, there is a philosophical specialization
The Philosopher’s Toolbox . . . . . . . What does it mean to “do philosophy”?
Bad Dreams, Evil Demons, . . . . . . and The Experience Machine
16 20 22
Philosophy & The Matrix
26 ......Harry Potter and Plato
Seeking virtue at Hogwarts and in Athens
28 .......Exploring Ethics (or, Why I Give Up Saturdays in Spring)
The Baltimore High School Ethics Bowl
How to Start a Philosophy Club . . . Next steps for inquiring minds
30 Mar/Apr 2010
departments Editor’s Note . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Big Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 What’s your question?
In My Own Words . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Philosopher Bas van Fraassen
Selected Opportunities & Resources. . . . . . . . . . .32
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Middle Ground . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35 Is it still cheating if I don’t get caught?
Off the Shelf . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36 Word Wise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37 Exploring Career Options . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38 Interview with epidemiologist Mark Parascandola
One Step Ahead . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40 The class I used to hate
Planning Ahead for College . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41 Taking responsibility
Students Review . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .42 Davidson College
Creative Minds Imagine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44 Winning essays from the 2009 Kids Philosophy Slam
Sudoku . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .46 Knossos Games . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .47 www.cty.jhu.edu/imagine
ABOUT THE SQUIRE FAMILY FOUNDATION The Squire Family Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, believes that all students in American elementary and secondary schools should have an opportunity to study philosophy because it teaches us not what to think but how to think; that is, to critically and systematically examine and reflect on our beliefs so we can act responsibly. Since 2007, SFF has been working with philosophers, educators, and administrators to make this vision a reality. Visit www.squirefoundation.org for more information. imagine 3
BIG IDEAS FOR BRIGHT MINDS ™ EDITOR
Amy Entwisle Kristi Birch Carol C. Blackburn Linda E. Brody Stuart Gluck Michelle Muratori Carlos Rodriguez PROOFREADER
Melissa House DESIGN & PRODUCTION
Bonotom Studio, Inc. ART DIRECTOR
Abigail Noonan ISSN 1071-605X
Vol.17 No.4 | Mar/Apr 2010 Copyright © 2010 by The Johns Hopkins University All rights reserved. No portion of this journal may be reproduced by any process or technique without the formal consent of The Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth.
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CONTRIBUTING WRITERS & EDITORS
In Imagine’s 17-year history, we’ve published four issues focusing on math, four on writing, and fi ve on the arts. We’ve devoted multiple issues to engineering, physics, astronomy, and biology. But no previous issue has focused on philosophy. When two colleagues from CTY’s Department of Summer Academic Programs approached our staff with the idea of devoting an issue to philosophy, we were reluctant. More precisely, I was reluctant. Philosophy intimidated me. I had taken one philosophy class in college, and that was because it was required. I thought philosophy was abstract, esoteric, and narrower and less practical even than my own major, English. I was wrong—but I wasn’t alone. Many people share these misperceptions about philosophy. This bias might stem in part from philosophy’s absence in the American curriculum. As one of our contributors, Jana Mohr Lone, points out, “The United States is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t require high school students to take philosophy.” With mathematics, literature, science, and history, it might seem that the curriculum is already quite full. But philosophy is at the core of all of these disciplines. It is foundational. Philosophy develops students’ analytical, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills—valuable assets in a wide range of careers from medicine and law to information technology and business. And a 2008 report by Payscale.com shows that the major pays off: Philosophy majors rank 16th out of 50 majors in mid-career median salary—higher than majors in information technology, business management, and architecture, to name a few. But as this issue of Imagine shows, you don’t have to major in philosophy or wait until college to study it, even if your school doesn’t offer philosophy classes. You’ll hear from three high school students—one who took a summer course, another who competed in Ethics Bowl, and still another who wrote an awardwinning philosophy portfolio—who explored philosophy outside of school. If you want to bring philosophy into your school, you’ll find advice on how to start a philosophy club. You’ll see some of the underlying philosophical concepts of movies such as The Matrix and fiction such as the Harry Potter series. You’ll even find a brief (and fun!) introduction to some of the biggest names and ideas in philosophy. Of course, you will also hear from students of philosophy themselves—and from someone whose philosophy degree led to a career in epidemiology. And you’ll hear from one of today’s most influential contemporary philosophers, Bas van Fraassen, whose interest in philosophy began when he was a teenager. Working on this issue has been a revelation, and we hope that you have a similar experience when you read it. Instead of asking “Why philosophy?”—as I did when Stu Gluck and Carlos Rodriguez fi rst proposed this issue—we think you’ll be asking, “What took you so long?” —mh
big questions What’s Your Question?
by Doreen Xu
It all starts with a question. boundaries; that anyone anyFrom the sublimely metaphysical where can philosophize; that it is a (Are we really here? If so, why are we universal impulse to ask questions here?) to the more contrived and quirky and seek answers. And philosophy (Is Schrödinger’s cat alive or dead?), phidoesn’t have to be abstruse. In losophy is all about questions. You’ve probably asked fact, philosophical inquiry can be as some philosophical questions yourself, even if only at satisfying as fi nishing a marathon or a subconscious level: What is love? Why do bad things fi nally understanding that tricky math happen to good people? What is goodness and how problem. do we achieve it? What is the meaning of life? Bringing As I face the future, I know I’ll always these questions to light and using logic to answer them turn to philosophy to challenge, frusis the work of philosophers. trate, enlighten, and ultimately empower Thinking up questions, the fi rst act of “philosophizing,” me. I’ve already benefi ted from has always been my favorite part of the process. I have philosophy by becoming always been fascinated by the roots of actions: a more critical thinker, Why did a person act in a particular way? a more fearless What triggers acts of kindness, indifferstudent, and more ence, or evil? I remember reading the thoughtful in and World section of the New York Times as out of the classroom. a 10-year-old, wondering what motivated As Immanuel Kant the atrocities—from assaults on individuals observed, “The sum to genocides—I’d read about. total of all possible Wanting to understand the causes of these knowledge of God is istock actions, I eventually decided to focus on a specifi c not possible for a human question: “What spurs human acts of evil and hate?” being … but it is one of the worthiest When I was in ninth grade, I began an intensive exploinquiries to see how far our reason can go.” ration of this question. Saturdays and Sundays would So that’s what philosophy means to me, but it’s up often fi nd me curled up in the school library’s comto you to discover its potential for you. Pave your own fortable chairs, fl ipping through stacks of books and exploration in philosophy. Start with a question. i journals, furiously scribbling notes and musings in my notebook. Three years later, I pulled all my thoughts Doreen Xu is a senior at Baylor school in tennessee, where together into a portfolio of fi ve papers drawing from she is editor of the yearbook, literary magazine, and the school sources in literature, history, and philosophy, and all newspaper. she is also president of tied to the theme of “The Roots of Evil.” her school’s Amnesty international Crafting questions that truly fascinate me and then chapter, captain of the debate investigating them to discover my own truth—that, for and economics teams, a member me, is the beauty of this process, and why I took so of the varsity swim and lacrosse much joy in writing these papers in philosophy. teams, and a writing center tutor, Friends sometimes scrunch up their faces in baffl eand participates in several other ment. Philosophy? Why philosophy? Isn’t this a theoretical, activities. For “the Roots of evil,” abstract, and inaccessible fi eld reserved for academics? Doreen was named a Davidson (At this point, they might refer to the stereotypical image Fellow by the Davidson institute for of wizened men with white beards and thick glasses.) I talent Development and awarded a explain that philosophy transcends age, background, and $25,000 scholarship.
Davidson Fellows Scholarships are awarded for work in mathematics, science, literature, music, technology, philosophy, and “outside the box.” For more information, see www.ditd.org. imagine 5
in my own words Wonder and Discovery bas Van FRaassen One of the most influential contemporary philosophers of science, Bas van Fraassen has taught at Yale, the University of Toronto, the University of Southern California, Princeton, and, since retiring from Princeton in 2008, at San Francisco State University. His books—widely considered required reading in the field—include The Scientific Image, Quantum Mechanics: An Empiricist View, The Empirical Stance, and his most recent title, Scientific Representation: Paradoxes of Perspective. As Dr. van Fraassen explains here, his prolific career has roots in the public library, a high school classroom, and the irresistible urge to ask questions. The value of philosophy Philosophy begins with wonder, and happens when wonder is indulged—on any subject at all. So it may seem like just an intellectual luxury. In practical life, with its many demands, questions often have to be set aside while we strive for the goals at hand. But it also happens that we look back and wish we hadn’t set some questions aside, because lack of understanding can hamper us. I don’t think, though, that we can or should justify thinking, refl ecting, wondering, and puzzling purely on a basis of practical advantages that may come from them. Isn’t gaining understanding, about anything, of value in itself?
Meeting Plato Something happened when I was 17, working a part-time job in the Edmonton public library. I was reading everything I had time for, but especially in the Dewey Decimal 100 and 200 categories, which were a mishmash of religion, psychology, psychoanalysis, mysticism, occultism, but also real philosophy. At that point I read for the fi rst time some real philosophy at fi rst hand: I had gone in my reading from Freud, yoga, and fl ying saucers to a book about St. Paul’s debt to Plato, and then read Plato’s Phaedo, which was an
incredible discovery for me. I realized with a shock how different it was from all the stuff I’d been thinking of as philosophy. In this dialogue, Socrates was arguing with his friends about whether we are immortal, whether there is life after death, and each view they offered was in turn scrutinized, weighed, and found wanting, until fi nally it seemed that only some argument for immortality was left standing. I was not yet able to deal with it very well. For one thing, I assumed that understanding the Phaedo would mean seeing that the arguments were right, that Socrates’ arguments against the others were conclusive, and that his arguments for immortality were really good arguments. Now I fi gure that Plato wrote these dialogues to train his students how to evaluate arguments—and especially to pick out the bad ones. But this was, in retrospect, a milestone for me, and the single most important thing that happened to make me a philosopher.
Math, science, philosophy In college I had a combined physics and math minor, and in graduate school I took more math that I needed to understand more physics. But mostly I learned those subjects on my own, always just going to what I needed next for what I was thinking about. Well, I still do. In my fi rst year of college, my heroes were Jean Paul Sartre, whom I’d been reading already, and Bertrand Russell, who talked a lot about science. Then, at the beginning of my second year, while I was shelving books in the University of Alberta library, I came across Hans Reichenbach’s Philosophy of Space and Time. That was my second revelation. Here were really deep questions, really philosophical, but that were still solidly connected with the physics and mathematics that I also loved.
Questions of science Science is in a position to describe everything completely and accurately. But there is a lot to be understood, a lot of understanding to be gained, that a complete scientifi c description would not give you. I can imagine another philosopher asking me what I mean by “understand”—isn’t getting answers to all
requests for description precisely what gaining understanding is? And I would say no, there is understanding that we gain when we fi nd different ways of seeing the world, of seeing ourselves in the world, that we come to through interacting with other people and through art, literature, and religious experience. Philosophy of science is very diverse; there are many different philosophical approaches to science. But all of them begin with questions that occur to people at a young age. How could people have been sure that the earth was round, before we had satellite pictures? Well, we can think about what reasons they could have for thinking so, what evidence they could offer. It might have been enough to make them confi dent, but maybe not enough to prove it conclusively. Is it any different now with other scientifi c theories, such as that the universe is expanding or that there was a Big Bang or that evolution is punctiform rather than continuous? What is evidence, anyway?
What I’m wondering Once, in high school in Canada—I remember it because I felt embarrassed at the time—the physics teacher gave us an assignment: Find out whether you see more of yourself in the mirror if you step back from it. The next day I brought in a geometric proof that you do not. He told me that was nice, but I had done the wrong thing: I should have gone to a mirror and experimented. At the time I thought he was totally wrong! But later I came to see his point very well: You can’t prove something about how things happen in the world independent of experience; you need factual evidence from observation. One question that I’ve been preoccupied with since I began studying philosophy really harks back to that occasion, when I had to realize that what the world is like is something beyond what we can fi nd out by thinking, reasoning, and calculating alone. This was the central insight of the empiricists in the history of philosophy—and there were many important empiricist philosophers—but looking back, they got an awful lot wrong, too. So the question for me is, What can empiricism be now, today? I’ve tried to answer it, but I’m not fi nished with it. Another question, which relates to both art and
science, is what representation and interpretation are. Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is about a family, and it represents that family as unhappy—but if I say this, even just this, you may already begin to object that I am imposing some interpretation of my own. What do we mean by that? Do we mean the same thing if we say that Darwin represented organic life on earth as evolving? That he imposed some interpretation derived from the prevalent capitalist economic theories of his day? Are there criteria by which we can judge different interpretations of the same theory?
What it takes to be a philosopher I’m a little embarrassed to say that it takes something that could easily become intellectual arrogance. For as a philosopher today, you need to think that you can engage critically with all those great philosophers of the past, contest Descartes’ arguments, discover Galileo’s fallacies, disagree with Kant, offer arguments to refute Russell. Thomas Kuhn, who was mainly a historian of science (though also a philosopher) once told me, “Philosophers don’t go to the past to study their predecessors, but to cross swords with them.” I just hope that this can combine with a good measure of personal humility. i
WHY STU WHY WHY STUDY PHILOS WHY STUDY
by Jana Mohr Lone, Ph.D.
took my first philosophy class in a large public high school in New York. For the first time, questions I had puzzled about so often—why I existed, whether things actually were the way they appeared to me, and why our society is organized the way it is—were taken seriously. These questions had already been the subject of study for thousands of years, and now I was part of a rigorous discussion about them. The United States is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t require high school students to take philosophy, so the subject is often a mystery to students. But most of us actually start asking philosophical questions early on. I remember wondering as a child what it meant to live a good life, and whether life had any meaning. Participating in a philosophy class encourages students to consider and express their own perspectives about such questions, listen to one another, challenge and build on each other’s thinking, and better understand their own ideas.
Love of Wisdom The word “philosophy” comes from the Greek, meaning “love of wisdom.” Philosophers explore the unsettled questions of human existence by analyzing the meaning of the basic concepts that comprise our understanding of the world. What is knowledge and how do we obtain it? What is goodness? What is the mind? What is time? What is beauty? In other words, philosophy explores questions about fundamental
aspects of human life and our relation to the world. Rather than accept what we’ve been taught, we carefully reflect on our views and then critically assess the arguments constructed by ourselves and others. In your teen years, questions about identity, the nature of reality, and the meaning of life are paramount. Thinking about these questions in a systematic way provides a strong foundation for learning how to think for yourself. There is much talk about the importance of “thinking for yourself,” but not a lot of education about how to do so. Our attitudes about even such things as what books are worth reading, which movies we want to see, and what clothes we wear are often influenced by the media, our peers, teachers, and family. It’s important to be able to recognize and analyze these forces in order to develop what is truly your own set of beliefs and values. Students of philosophy learn to evaluate claims based on reason and analysis rather than on fixed beliefs and prejudice, setting the stage for becoming effective critical thinkers. When you’re figuring out what you think about issues such as immigration or capital punishment, you’ll be able to think through all the reasons offered for one viewpoint or another and decide which are strongest, rather than just accepting what your friends, parents, or teachers say.
UDY STUDY OSOPHY? SOPHY? Thinking about Thinking
I like to think of philosophy as “thinking about thinking.” It begins with questions: How can we know anything? How can we justify our beliefs? Philosophical inquiry is not restricted to any particular subject matter. You can ask philosophical questions about history, science, literature, and mathematics. Can history change over time? What is the purpose of science? Does the answer to what a poem is about depend on what the poet thinks or thought? Are numbers real? What characterizes a philosophical question is not what it is about, but at what level it is asked. For example, a teenager might wonder whether it is fair that the drinking age is 21 and not younger. A student of philosophy will begin to think about that issue by asking, “What is fairness?” Someone might contend that a person is a good friend; a student of philosophy will ask, “What makes someone a friend, and a good friend? What is friendship?” By definition, questions of philosophy do not have one “right” answer. The experience of understanding that there are many ways to see the same thing—all of them unique and valuable— is a powerful one. Philosophy teaches us that any view must be taken seriously, no matter how outlandish it seems, if there are good reasons offered for it. For example, when we talk about what we know about the world, it might seem foolish to suggest that the tree in front of the school might not exist. How do we know it’s there? We see it, but are we sure everything we see is really there? Isn’t it possible we are dreaming right now, that we’ll wake up and find there’s no tree in front of the school? Or that (as in the film The Matrix) everything we see is only in our minds and we are being fooled to believe that we are really experiencing the physical world? The more you think about this, the more you might consider the possibility that the tree really isn’t there.
The Meaning of Life and Other Things Sometimes what seem to be the simplest questions are also the most complex and diﬃcult to answer. As we grow older, we tend to take for granted that we know the answers to many of these basic questions. When we stop to examine them, however,
we find that we’re not so sure after all. Consider happiness. We talk about the importance of being happy, but when asked what happiness is, we find the concept complex: Is happiness the way you feel, or does it involve doing something? What is the connection between pleasure and happiness? Somewhere along the line in our education, many of us conclude that it’s a waste of time to think about questions that are unlikely to be resolved definitively. But part of what is mysterious and wonderful about human consciousness is our curiosity about such questions as “What is the meaning of life?” Studying philosophy allows us to stop and think about foundational questions, and to do so in a dialogue with other people.
Thinking Critically—for Life I believe that there is no better education for critical thinking than philosophy. As a law school student and then a lawyer, I found philosophy’s emphasis on constructing well-reasoned arguments, anticipating counterexamples, and expressing points of view invaluable training for legal advocacy. When the Association of American Colleges and Universities recently asked employers what they want institutions to teach, 89 percent indicated they wanted more emphasis on “the ability to effectively communicate orally and in writing,” and 81 percent requested better “critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills.” Studying philosophy trains you to think analytically at a very high level of abstraction, and the advanced reasoning and language skills that you use in the process are marvelous training for any career and simply for life. If you can think deeply about the intensely abstract questions of philosophy, you can think deeply about anything. i Jana Mohr Lone is the director of the Northwest center for Philosophy for children at the University of Washington’s Department of Philosophy. You can see her blog at http://philosophyforchildren. blogspot.com.
pher t philoso s r fi d e h T k n ame nt G r e e ie c the n a in en w as an wisest m e ht th f o in thoug O ne g so deep Thales. n he lo a d m e o bott , ales walk ll. At the e w ty: world, Th li a a e n dow f all r nce fell nature o o e e s h th t s a a ta th ater ke ht w as, and w he thoug g t r a o h , w id a r d u foun d no in d, liq team. An ing is soli s th d y n r a e v r, E e some , wate water. g must b ms as ice r in fo th e y s r e e th ied to ht ev on all of meone tr he thoug o o s s e , m fe ti li o se first meant n e univer was the about th ter. This g a in w k e f o in th by th form ms of f things ns in ter o o e ti s a n n e s la make iving exp started. er than g tion had a s r e v n itself rath o e great c gods. Th
Socrates lived in Athens, and when he was a boy, priests at the Oracle of Delphi—a the temple to the god Apollo—proclaimed him because wisest person in the city. He was confused ed to seem rs othe e whil ing, he thought he knew noth closely le peop ng tioni know a lot. But when he started ques d that foun he , about such issues as piety, courage, or death t his days interno one else knew anything, either. He spen showing them rogating people in the Athens marketplace, t what they abou ully caref that they needed to think more tired of his so thought they knew. His wife Xanthippe got e money talking instead of working and bringing hom went to that she hid his robe. Undeterred, Socrates on, his then from and the marketplace naked, to the robe friends always brought an extra marketplace … just in case.
any people picture philosophers sitting alone on a mountaintop, pondering the deep mysteries of existence. But the truth is that for 2,500 years, philosophers have had an ongoing conversation amongst themselves, covering issues from what is real to what we can know, from how we should think to how we should act.
Socrates’ followers included a young man named Plato. After Socrates’ death, Plato realized that Socrates’ words needed to be saved for history, so Plato began to write plays starring Socrates. These dialogues became the most important books in philosophy. In the largest, The Republic, Plato argues that reality is to be found not in the world we see around us, but in the World of Forms, which can only be seen through the eye of the mind. Tuna sandwiches, for example, do not really exist—only the form of the tuna sandwich, the essence of the tuna sandwich, pure tuna sandwichidity, and only the philosopher, who has a welltrained mind, understands this. Since philosophers alone have knowledge of reality, including knowledge of goodness, he thought, it is only Philosopher Kings who should rule the nations of the world.
by Steven Gimbel, Ph.D.
The star pupil at Plato’s school, the Academy, was named Aristotle. Aristotle studied there until Plato died, after which his lectures became unacceptably boring. Aristotle disagreed with Plato, thinking that the world around us is the real world and needs to be explained in terms of its form, what it’s made of, how it was made, and why it was made. With these four questions, Aristotle investigated almost everything, and his writings are the start of our modern understanding of physics, biology, chemistry, economics, literary theory, logic … This was one smart guy.
was a René Descartes ilosopher, an , scientist d ph mathematician, ade his great ldier that he m so a as as w it t bu ery field, great at in virtually ev th d te ha e H y. . Surely, there’s discover much everything ty et pr t ou ab with absolute thinkers argued hing we know et m so , on e re l ag he spent his something we al in the fighting, ll lu e im rt te in gaw done (this certainty. Durin day’s bread was e th er aft en ov ked). inside the ere only half-ba days curled up ink his ideas w th le op pe mind, e s m hi rolled is one reason so evil demon cont an d de en et pr th t, he . Was ere In the dark quie about everything ts gh ou th ng ro ink w uldn’t fool making him th at the demon co th d, re de on w be hing, he n existence. (To something, anyt one thing: his ow d un le fo e ab H ni t? him abou is first unde exist.) From th to ve ha ld e ou us fooled, he w escartes tried to erefore I am—D r he ot s hi truth—I think, th ify all of rict logic to just st a t bu . g in ng hi th yt no about an uldn’t be wrong co he so fs lie be ge 12 continued on pa
But wrong he was … or at least that’s what John Locke thought. Locke was a doctor who thought that thought needed more than thought— it needed eyes and ears and even a nose. According to Locke, we cannot justify our beliefs with just pure logic because logic is only glue; it needs things to stick together, and those things come from observation. We begin life, he argued, as a blank slate; and through sensation, we are written upon. Once we see something, we can use logic to create more complex ideas. Once we’ve seen horses and horns, for example, it’s easy to dream up unicorns. But underneath it all is observation. It’s not “I think therefore I Immanuel Kant looked am,” but rather “I see, at Descartes’ and Locke’s disa greement and called for a group hug. All therefore … our knowledge, he posited, is a combination of the oh, I see.” senses and the mind. The mind is like a pair of glas ses. Without them, we only see a blur of color; we need the lenses to bring reality into focus. The mind takes what com es in through our senses and creates the world we see by add ing its own concepts, such as numbers, space, time, and eve n absolute rules of right and wrong. According to Kant, the se concepts are all preprogrammed into our brains, and all people have them— m and have the same ones. Fried thoug ri ch H ht Kan to und egel t was ri erstan over t g d ht that r eality, ime. I we nee ndeed but he that th d lense , the le e univ thoug s n erse u ht tha s turn requir nfolds t the l s out t es its o e i o n n p s be his a wellp stick it chang tory it ordere ed in”), so osite (as Arlo self. H d patte the sta G bly sta u egel th t h rn. He rie sai te of th rt a wa ought also th d, “Yo e univ r. If on destro u can’t ought erse gi e were y each t h h v a s e a v t t a thin s r e o r a light ise to it other. nger, it and th g From witho s oppo would e cycle t u h s t w it e a dark ir smo in; but e. The starts we silly s lderin to b e again. e o cause pposit g ashe Histor little h they a es inev s arise y chug uman r e it e axact o s a new s think s along pposit , highe , do, o accord es, the r form r want i n y g to this of the . Acco patter univer rding n s , t e o regard , Hegel, steppi less of real w ng bac what isdom k and comes seeing the lar from how o ger scr u r role fi ipt of ts in histor y.
Hegel and zsche shared a first Niet Friedrich name, but that is all they had in common. large Nietzsche was a very short man with a very with ized moustache who liked to say he philosoph h what came a hammer. He thought his job was to smas s in the chess pawn not are We l. before—and that meant Hege s who leave idual indiv match of history, he argued, but great we make us; our mark on the world. History does not make ing history: writing history. But making history requires break being faster, better music, climbing higher mountains, ive. creat stronger, smarter, and more
John Stuart Mill thought this was silly. We live in a world with other people, and our actions affect them, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Our job, Mill believed, is to make life as good as it can be for as many people as possible. This idea was instilled in him by his father, also a philosopher, who raised Mill to be the world’s most useful person, teaching him Greek at age 3, Latin at 7, and calculus at 12. With this background, Mill wrote books about logic, scientific B er tr an d Ru s s Mill. Bu el l ne v t thinking, ethics, and liberty. He was a free thinker h is paren er met young, ts, who were clo died wh and part of a group of political rabble rousers in books in se frien en Russ ds of M his gran ell was ill’s, and dfather’s had a big England who protested for more freedom, Russell library. influenc fo M e it und Mil il o s l’ e n s lf into a ideas ab Russell, including rights for women. l’s muddle out scie who cam careful w n b c e e e and po cause o to th ith our w in k that p litics f its slop ords, we hilosop been wr py use o hy had g would r estling w f la n g e otten u alize tha age. If o ith since asking a t many nly we Plato wo friend w o w f e th u re more ld be see e proble hat colo ms phil thought, n as pse r his sis osopher udo-pro would g te r ’s h s had b air is wh et us ou lems, fa t of the ke prob en he d jam by le oesn’t h lems, lik ave a sis e tting us really as ter. Log know w k and h ic, he ow to go hat ques tions we about a nswerin could g them. Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir—possibly the smartest couple in history— thought that the muddle resulted not from a lack of logic, but from neglecting human experience. We create ourselves with the choices we make. A painter paints, a baker bakes, a butler butles. We make ourselves by choosing what we do. But often we think we are trapped by our circumstances—particularly particularly women, de Beauvoir thought, because society tells them that most interesting jobs are just for men. That’s why all people, but girls especially, must be bold in making themselves who they want to be.
hese are not the only characters in the conversation, and they certainly aren’t the end of it. Even today, the questions raised in ancient Greece by Thales, Socrates, and Plato remain open for us to ponder. What is real? How do we know whether an act is morally good? What can we know? The conversation continues, and you are invited to chime in any time you have something to say. i steven Gimbel is chair of the philosophy department at Gettysburg college. he is the author of several books, including Profiles in Mathematics: René Descartes, a biography for high school students, and many articles, including one considering questions of sportsmanship in the Deep Blue/Garry kasparov chess match. in his spare time, he is an amateur stand-up comic. his blog is available at http://philosophersplayground.blogspot.com.
imagine 13 imagine
Zombies, Robots, and Descartes:
ail to solve the mind-body problem, move back three spaces.” Tom dropped the game card in frustration and moved his zombie token backwards on the game board, his discouraged frown transformed into a comical grimace by the zombie makeup plastered across his face.
It was zombie day in my Philosophy of the Mind course at CTY. After having discussed the philosophical concept of zombies (wearing appropriately morbid attire), we were constructing and playing a philosophy-based board game. Outside the classroom, two of our classmates completed their installment of a podcast we had been researching, scripting, and recording for the past week. Not only had we learned about questions that had baffled some of the world’s greatest minds for centuries, but now we were also beginning to analyze them and present our own views in creative ways. I had signed up for this philosophy course in hopes that it might provide me with a little insight into my own life, a perception that was very quickly countered by an intoxicating whirlwind of contradictory treatises. After only a day of orientation, we submerged ourselves deep within a world of speculation and logic. Our instructor addressed each topic with a level of intensity and quirkiness I had never associated with philosophy. Where I had attempted to find meaning, I instead found a state of informed confusion—which I reveled in.
Bodies and/or Minds? The course opened with a reading from Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, one of the earliest and most influential writings in philosophy of mind. It was here that Descartes penned the phrase famously translated into Latin as cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). Through a roundabout thought experiment in which he called into doubt everything that he believed to be true, Descartes encountered only a single truth that he could be absolutely sure of: the existence
of his mind. Drawing from this revelation, he proposed that the world was divided into two fundamentally different substances, bodies and minds. Bodies, he posited, were extended things—they took up space—while minds were thinking things. Descartes considered these attributes, thought and extension, to be mutually exclusive. This school of thought is called dualism. Since Descartes, numerous different dualist theories have emerged, attempting to answer the troublesome question of how two substances of completely distinct and separate natures could be able to interact. Every evening we would take out our textbooks and read an essay presenting a new philosophical argument, and every morning we would discuss its implications and weaknesses. The reading could be tedious. With titles like “Multiple Realization and the Metaphysics of Reduction” and “The Problem of Psychophysical Causation,” these were not exactly Reader’s Digest articles. Once you got past the jargon, though, the content was fascinating, and every once in a while you might even find an argument written like a story. The first topic we discussed involved the nature of the mind. In addition to the aforementioned dualist theories, there is an opposing school of thought called monism, which essentially states that there is only one type of substance that makes up the universe, although it is hotly debated which substance this is. The materialist perspective claims that our universe is entirely physical, and that our minds are our brains. The idealist perspective claims that there is no physical world, and that all things we perceive are essentially bundles of experience. Solipsists go even further, claiming that the only mind in existence is their own.
Philosophy OF THE Mind at CTY Perhaps the most alluring aspect of these arguments is that they are complex and not easily proven. Even today, these intriguing questions continue to be intensely discussed within philosophy.
Rethinking Intelligence I became particularly excited when our instructor told us that we would be exploring the topic of artificial intelligence. As an avid science fiction geek, I had spent many hours reading the works of Isaac Asimov and wondering about the technological achievements of tomorrow. The readings were clear-cut and easy to understand, and our instructor even produced an article about whether cylons, the antagonistic robots of Battlestar Galactica, could be said to have human minds. Toward the end of the session, the entire class staged a formal debate. Was it theoretically possible to create truly intelligent machines? To my consternation, I found myself arguing for the negative, and our evenhanded victory forced me to revise my conception of robotic brains. It seemed irrefutable that Alexander Turing’s vision of a machine that could pass as human would not, in actuality, have intelligence. After all, if a computer could be said to have a mind, then so could any number of theoretical constructs, including crude imitation-brains formed by plumbing or large communes of people. For those three weeks, I became embroiled in considerations of free will, animal minds, the privacy of thoughts, and, yes, zombies, although not in the traditional lumbering and brain-devouring sense. (Not that this prevented us from dressing up like something out of Night of the Living
Dead.) Philosophers define a zombie as a person exactly like you or me in every way, except for a complete lack of qualitative experiences. In other words, a zombie in an alternate universe could behave exactly as you do yourself, but whenever he tasted a casserole or saw a red stop sign, he would not actually experience the sensation that you associate with those actions. He would know pain without ever truly feeling it, and even so he would find it to be distasteful. It was bizarre ideas like these that compelled me so strongly to question my assumptions about the way the human mind works. I may not take another philosophy class in the future, and I certainly don’t plan to turn it into a career path, but my background in the subject has provided me with an enlightening spirit of inquiry. I strongly encourage anyone with a questioning mind and an interest in human nature to at least take a dip into the world of philosophy. Although you may not find what you think you are looking for, the discoveries you will make along the way could redefine the universe you live in. And those revelations are what philosophy is all about. i Sean Youngstone is a five-year CTY veteran. A sophomore, he attends Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School in Richmond, VA, and spends his scant free time running cross-country, writing, and debating. Unable to decide between his zillions of academic interests, he has no idea what his major will be in college.
by Sean Youngstone
You might not think of philosophy when you’re doing a chemistry lab, proving a theorem, or writing a paper about Macbeth. But science, math, and literature—like all academic disciplines—are rich with questions of interest to philosophers. In fact, for almost every academic discipline, there is a philosophical specialization. We asked graduate students specializing in four different areas of philosophy to share some of the big questions they’re pursuing in their research. As these writers reveal, a philosophical approach to math, science, religion, and language opens these fields to a whole new level of exploration.
PHILOSOPHY OF BIOLOGY
BY LEONORE MILLER
I went to college planning to be a geneticist, and although I graduated with a degree in biology, I majored in philosophy as well. While finishing my junior year— about the time I began thinking about my future beyond college—I learned about philosophy of biology from a professor who taught me philosophy of science. I realized that I was already reading some popular philosophy of biology books, such as Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene and Matt Ridley’s Genome, so I decided to write my senior thesis on philosophy of biology and apply to graduate schools in this area of study. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll say there are three general types of questions in philosophy of biology. The first are questions from philosophy of science that have been narrowed to the subject of biology. For example, general epistemological questions—such as what we know and how we can know—about scientific explanations are narrowed to questions specific to
biology. Other questions concern problems in biology that biology itself has been unable to answer, such as whether organisms have become more complex over time. To answer this question, one has to define what “complex” means, whether it is something that can be objectively understood, and whether organisms can be compared on any absolute scale. Questions like these are answered using ideas and reason rather than data from the lab or field. Finally, there are questions that apply biology to traditionally philosophical concepts; for example, we might use biology as a way to understand the basis of morality. Biology is the study of life, so we often turn to biology when we have questions not just about life in general, but about human nature. My research centers on a new biological law put forward by Robert Brandon and Daniel McShea called The Zero Force Evolutionary Law (ZFEL), which concerns the tendency of complexity and diversity to increase in evolutionary systems. My questions are about how universal the ZFEL is. For example, does it apply anywhere in the universe where its assumptions are met? Does it fit easily into the Darwinian framework? Does the ZFEL affect current debates in biology? And does it show that it is important for biology, as a field, to seek more universal laws, or should biology stick to explaining earthly science? Philosophy of biology examines a rich and diverse set of issues that change as biological theories change. Not only does philosophy of biology theorize about the latest biological
PHILOSOPHY findings, but it also examines problems that have plagued philosophy for centuries, rendering them in a new light with new possibilities for understanding and discovery. Leonore Miller is a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at Duke University and is simultaneously completing a master’s in biology. Leonore is the assistant director of the center for Philosophy of Biology at Duke, and she also designed and runs the website for Duke’s center for Philosophy, Arts, and Literature. Leonore has a passion for classical music and opera.
PHILOSOPHY OF MATHEMATICS
BY JUSTIN CLARKE - DOANE
I used to think of analytic philosophy as shallow, concerned with logical puzzles of no deep significance. But I was very interested
in Asian religious thought and pure mathematics, and between my first and second years in college, I found myself trying to “disprove” a Buddhist philosophical doctrine using mathematical analysis. One of my math professors suggested that I talk about it to the lone analytic philosopher at my college. I did, and from then on, I was hooked. Toward the end of college, I became interested in philosophy of mathematics in particular. Philosophy of mathematics is the investigation of philosophical questions raised by mathematics. Two central philosophical questions raised by mathematics that are of special interest to me are the question of what mathematical axioms, if any, are true, and the related question of in what sense mathematical axioms could be true. Mathematical axioms are basic principles from which one seeks to prove or refute mathematical conjectures. For instance, one axiom of arithmetic states that if 0 has a property, and if the number n + 1 has the property whenever n has it, then all natural numbers (0, 1, 2, 3...) have the property. From this axiom, along with other axioms of arithmetic, one can prove the standard claims of arithmetic, such as 2 + 2 = 4, or that for for any natural numbers, x and y, x + y = y + x. It is easy to think that axioms are unquestionable propositions, but in fact there are longstanding disagreements over many axioms of our mathematical theories—namely set theory, calculus, and arithmetic. Can such disagreements be resolved by reason alone? What does the existence of such disagreements tell us about mathematical inquiry, and what are the implications of such disagreements for the other sciences? These are some of the questions I’ve been trying to answer lately. I’m also interested in determining what mathematics can tell us about philosophy itself. Mathematics is similar to philosophy in that it seems to proceed via reason alone—to the exclusion of experiment. But while it is commonly assumed that we can imagine 17
arrive at basic principles in mathematics that are transparently true (namely the standard axioms), it is commonly assumed that we cannot arrive at basic principles in philosophy (e.g., that one ought to treat others as one would wish to be treated, or that there is a God) that are transparently true. However, one might argue that the existence of disagreement over axioms in mathematics calls into question the first assumption. Is mathematical knowledge on no firmer footing than paradigmatic philosophical “knowledge”? As with all diﬃcult questions—philosophical or otherwise— it is possible that there are simply no answers to questions such as this, or that we may never be able to know the answers. But the mere fact that questions are diﬃcult is not suﬃcient reason to think that they lack answers, or that we may never be able to know their answers. Justin clarke-Doane earned a joint B.A. in philosophy and mathematics from the New college of Florida and is now a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at New York University. in addition to philosophy, he enjoys history, acting, studying Asian religious thought, making music, and hiking.
PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE
BY LUVELL ANDERSON
Henry Adams once wrote, “No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous.” The interchange between the viscosity of thought and the slipperiness of words is profound and mysterious. We have an amazing ability to share thoughts with one another through the vehicle of words. And such sharing does not
happen in a particular way—we can communicate the same information using different words: “Please move out of the way of the TV. I can’t see.” “Do you think you’re made of glass?” “Move!” All three statements communicate the same thing: The speaker wants somebody to stop obstructing her view of the television. The fact that language can be manipulated in so many different ways for communicative purposes is what drew me to the philosophy of language. Linguistics aims to accurately describe the linguistic behavior of specific language communities. Linguists do this by observing particular language systems and noting the behavior of those languages’ users. Philosophers of language, on the other hand, investigate the larger foundational concepts of the nature of language. I chose to study philosophy of language because I wanted to learn and think about those elements that might be common to all languages. Issues in the philosophy of language generally center on three areas: meaning, reference, and pragmatics. What exactly is it for some string of words to mean something? Why is, say, “The cat is on the mat” meaningful while “Run were and fill red” is not? One view is that words mean just what they refer to. So the meaning of “cat” is just a little furry creature that meows, for example. But not every word refers to something: What exactly does “is” refer to? This brings us to reference. Although not every word refers to something, it still seems plausible that at least some words refer to things. The name “Jay-Z” refers to the rapper from Brooklyn. So we might say that the meaning of proper names, at least, is the object the name denotes. But then what does “Gollum” refer to, since nothing by that name exists? Pragmatics deals with how we can communicate information by what we say when that information is not a part of the literal meaning of what is said. For example, if I ask, “Do you have a watch?” you will probably understand that I’m asking you for the time. But this is not what my statement literally meant. How do we do that? My specific research centers on the way “bad” language, such as curse words and racial slurs, works. What do bad words mean and why are they offensive? Are racial slurs offensive because of what they mean? Because of the attitudes they express? Or because they violate social taboos? These powerful words have even become a subject of debate among legislators: Should derogatory words be protected by the First Amendment, or should their use be restricted by hate speech
legislation? I hope that by getting clear on what they mean, we can better understand what—if anything—to do about them. Luvell Anderson is a fourth-year graduate student in philosophy at Rutgers University. his main research interests lie at the intersection of the philosophy of language and issues of race and ethnicity. Luvell is also a jazz enthusiast who enjoys attending live performances and learning jazz standards on piano and trumpet.
PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION BY MATTHEW LEE
I started doing philosophy long before I knew what philosophy was. I grew up in an evangelical Protestant church, and my faith was important to me from a very young age. But I had lots of questions. Does God respond to everyone’s prayers? Why does God allow bad things to happen to innocent people? Can people from other religions go to heaven? If God controls everything, how can people be responsible for their actions? As a teenager, I wrote down my thoughts in spiral notebooks, trying to work out answers to these and other questions that bothered me. When I got to college, I learned that what I was doing was called philosophy. In particular, this was philosophy of religion. Most philosophers of religion in the English-speaking world focus on questions concerning Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Jews, Christians, and Muslims have traditionally believed that there is one God who created the universe, who is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good, who has acted in miraculous ways in human history, and who is ultimately in control of the future. These beliefs raise a number of interesting questions:
• The problem of evil: If God is omnipotent and omniscient, then God can prevent bad things from happening, and if God is perfectly good, then God would presumably be motivated to prevent bad things from happening. So why is there evil in the world? • Divine foreknowledge and human freedom: How can God know the future without controlling everything, including all of your actions? But if God controls what you do, then how can you be responsible for your actions? • Divine intervention in human history: What is a miracle? When should we believe that a miracle has happened? Would a miracle break the laws of nature or work within and through the laws of nature? • God’s existence: Can we prove that God exists? Some argue that the existence of a universe—or of such things as stars, planets, living organisms, and conscious beings—points to the existence of God. Others argue that it is more reasonable to think that these amazing things came into existence by purely “natural” processes. I’ve been working on the question of whether there is something wrong with believing in God without good evidence for the existence of God. Some people think there is very good evidence for God’s existence. Others think there’s not such good evidence and that we shouldn’t believe in God. Still others say there’s not such good evidence but claim that we should (or at least may) believe in God anyway. My current research is on the question of whether we should limit our beliefs to those things for which we have good evidence, and if so, why? What I like most about philosophy of religion is that as I read and discuss it with other people, I feel connected with the many others who have been wrestling with the same questions I have. I hope to find satisfactory answers to my questions one day, but in the meantime, I find satisfaction in working through the questions with others who also seek answers. i Matthew Lee earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of texas at Austin and his M.Phil. in philosophical theology from oxford University. Matthew is now completing his Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. in his spare time, he plays basketball, climbs rocks (and other objects), and, occasionally, makes tentative forays into the culinary arts.
The Philosopher’s W
by Stuart Gluck, Ph.D., and Carlos Rodriguez
HAT IS PHILOSOPHY? The word “philosophy” derives from Greek roots meaning “love of wisdom.” It’s an apt description. Philosophers relentlessly pursue answers to mankind’s most fundamental questions. But how do they seek this wisdom? Socrates, perhaps the first professional philosopher, is famous for saying that he knew nothing. Yet everyone considered him exceedingly wise. How could this be? Philosophy is not a collection of facts to know, but a method for rigorous intellectual inquiry. Philosophers speak of doing philosophy, not of knowing it. Socrates was wise because he was highly skilled at exploring philosophical questions. Unlike other academic disciplines, philosophy is not defined by a specific content area. Biologists study living things, economists study economies, but philosophers systematically examine knowledge and the fundamental nature of the world. Philosophy is essentially a process for investigating certain types of questions.
Philosophical Method: Logic and Lady Gaga There are an endless number of extremely interesting and diﬃcult philosophical questions, but how do philosophers go about trying to answer them? Here is what philosophers don’t do: They don’t give opinions, speculate, or just talk aimlessly. Instead, they employ logical analysis to evaluate the validity of the reasoning in an argument. Philosophers investigate questions by giving (or critiquing) arguments for particular answers, and logic allows us to evaluate the reasoning in those arguments precisely. Logic is essentially rules for avoiding inconsistency in our beliefs. If someone believes something and also its negation (opposite), then that person is irrational. For example, only a crazy person would believe both that today is Tuesday and that today is not Tuesday at the same time. Logic keeps us from accidentally adopting such inconsistent beliefs. Consider the claim that Lady Gaga is the best-dressed pop star. To be rational and follow the rules of logic, one who believes this also has to be committed to a plethora of other propositions. For instance, one would be committed to the proposition that it is not the case that all of the
best-dressed pop stars have been men. Suppose I said that I think Lady Gaga is the best-dressed pop star, and also that all the best-dressed pop stars have been men. Using logic, you could demonstrate to me that my beliefs are inconsistent and compel me to give up one of those beliefs. If I just shrug and say that I don’t care, and that I’ll continue to believe both of those propositions, then there’s nothing more you can say to me. At that point, I am choosing to be irrational. Logic provides the most fundamental, basic, and indispensible ground rules for intellectual inquiry. Without it, there is nothing but unsubstantiated opinion.
Arguments and Answers Logic is the tool for evaluating the reasoning in an argument, but what is an argument? An argument is a set of propositions, one of which (the conclusion) is said to be supported by the others (the premises). Philosophers employ arguments to support or refute a specific answer to a philosophical question. Logic determines whether the conclusion actually follows from the premises of the philosopher’s argument. Where do the premises of philosophical arguments come from? A philosopher begins answering a question by considering what is known about the issue. For some questions, there may be a body of accepted knowledge for which any answer to the question must account. Consider a philosopher exploring questions about the nature of mind. Her pursuit of answers to these questions must be consistent with or explain in some way the currently accepted knowledge in neurophysiology, psychology,
Toolbox Doing Philosophy Suppose we’re trying to figure out what makes an action right or wrong. It seems plausible that an action can be regarded as morally right if it does the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Let’s test this starting point by finding a situation in which taking an action that does the greatest good for the greatest number of people doesn’t seem morally right. Suppose Bad Temper Bill is stuck in a horrible traﬃc jam on an overpass. A driver from another lane squeezes in front of Bill, despite Bill’s best efforts to prevent it. Bill jumps out of his car, rips the other driver out of the driver’s seat, and tosses him off the overpass. As it turns out, the guy Bill threw off the overpass was a terrorist who was just about to detonate a bomb that would have killed many innocent people. But the man was a complete stranger to Bill, who was simply acting in a fit of rage. Bill’s action did the greatest good for the greatest number of people, but given Bill’s motives, it seems ridiculous to claim that Bill’s actions were morally good. We have arrived at a point where the proposition from which we began has created a contradiction. The initial proposition conflicts with our strong intuition in the Bill case. We now need to revise the initial proposition to make it consistent with that intuition. Once we’ve revised our proposition, we begin testing it again by analyzing what follows from it.
We contrived the Bill case as an intuition pump—a kind of scenario designed to elicit and refine intuitions on a question. Intuition pumps are to philosophers what experiments are to scientists. In fact, they are often referred to as thought experiments. They are powerful tools for philosophers because the intuitions that are elicited, along with the rules of logic, can be used to test philosophical claims. As this example shows, while logical analysis is the primary tool in the philosopher’s toolbox, the philosophical method isn’t simply rote application of rules of logic. Rather, it’s a process of creating clever thought experiments, drawing fine distinctions, reflecting carefully, and developing the judgment to employ logical analysis effectively. It’s this process of thoughtful reflection at which Socrates excelled and through which contemporary philosophers continue to pursue their love of wisdom. i stuart Gluck earned both his M.A. and his Ph.D. in philosophy from the Johns hopkins University. his research focus was on philosophy of science (particularly of physics) and logic. A senior program manager at ctY, he also works with the American Philosophical Association committee on Pre-collegiate instruction in Philosophy. carlos Rodriguez earned his M.A. in philosophy from the Johns hopkins University. his focus was philosophy of mind (especially issues of representation). he is a senior program manager at ctY, where along with stuart, he develops philosophy curriculum. carlos is also a member of the American Philosophical Association committee on Precollegiate instruction in Philosophy.
etc., about the mind and mental processes. Alongside this knowledge, a philosopher generally has a set of intuitions, or deeply held instinctive beliefs, about how to answer the question. However, there are some questions that aren’t informed by an existing body of knowledge, such as whether a particular action is right or wrong. For such questions, intuitions are really the only place for a philosopher to begin. So the philosophical method is just this: We start with a philosophical question about which we had at least some intuitions and maybe also some accepted knowledge (from science, for example). A philosopher uses that information to formulate a philosophical hypothesis and then uses logical analysis to support or discount the hypothesis.
BAD DREAMS, EVIL DEMONS, THE & EXPERIENCE MACHINE: PhilosoPhy & the matRiX
by Christopher Grau, Ph.D.
In the 1999 sci-fi film The Matrix, a computer hacker named Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) discovers that his life has been an illusion. He wakes to discover himself in a pod, wired to a tower to which countless other pods are also wired. Like all the humans in those other pods, Neo has been used essentially as a battery by intelligent machines that have taken over Earth. To keep the humans docile, the machines feed them (through sockets in their heads) an illusory—yet completely realistic—world known as the Matrix, which the occupants have no way to know is not real. This brief summary does little justice to the movie’s thrilling plot, but it does provide a hint of some of the big philosophical questions raised by the film. Here, philosopher Christopher Grau discusses some of the parallels between the scenario described in The Matrix and similar situations imagined by Descartes and other more recent philosophers. As Grau points out, such scenarios continue to fascinate and engage philosophers (and sci-fi buﬀs) today.
Dream Skepticism It is the nature of most dreams that we take them for reality—while dreaming, we are unaware that we are in fact in a dreamworld. When we do wake up, we realize that our experience was all in our mind. Neo’s predicament makes one wonder, though: How can any of us be sure that we have ever genuinely woken up? Arguably the most famous exponent of this worry in the Western philosophical tradition is René Descartes. In an attempt to provide a firm foundation for knowledge, he began his Meditations by doubting all that could be doubted. His first step was to raise (through his fictional narrator) the possibility that he might be dreaming: How often, asleep at night, am I convinced of just such familiar events—that I am here in my dressing gown, sitting by the fire—when in fact I am lying undressed in bed! Yet at the moment my eyes are certainly wide awake when I look at this piece of paper; I shake my head and it is not asleep; as I stretch out and feel my hand I do so deliberately, and I know what I am doing. All this would not happen with such distinctness to someone asleep. Indeed! As if I did not remember other occasions when I have been tricked by exactly similar thoughts while asleep! As I think about this more carefully, I see plainly that there are never any sure signs by means of which being awake can be distinguished from being asleep. The result is that I begin to feel dazed, and this very feeling only reinforces the notion that I may be asleep. How can you rule out the possibility that you might be dreaming even now, as you sit and read this? This is the kind
of perplexing thought Descartes forces us to confront. If we have no justification for believing that we are not dreaming, we have no justification for thinking that the world we experience is the real world. Indeed, it becomes questionable whether we are justified in thinking that any of our beliefs are true. The narrator of Descartes’ Meditations ultimately maintains that the possibility that one might be dreaming cannot by itself cast doubt on all we think we know; he points out that even if all our sensory experience is but a dream, we can still conclude that we have some knowledge of the nature of reality. Just as a painter cannot create ex nihilo but must rely on pigments with which to create her image, certain elements of our thought must exist prior to our imaginings. Among the items of knowledge that Descartes thought survived dream skepticism are truths arrived at through the use of reason, such as the truths of mathematics: “For whether I am awake or asleep, two and three added together are five, and a square has no more than four sides.” This insight served Descartes’ larger philosophical project: He sought, among other things, to provide a foundation for knowledge in which truths arrived at through reason are given priority over knowledge gained from the senses. Descartes employs this skeptical argument to help remind the reader that the truths of mathematics (and other truths of reason) are on firmer ground than the data provided to us by our senses. He proceeds in the Meditations, however, to use a much more radical skeptical argument that casts doubt on even his beloved mathematical truths. Indeed, many years before the Wachowskis dreamed up The Matrix, Descartes had imagined an equally terrifying possibility.
Brains in Vats and the Evil Demon Before breaking out of the Matrix, Neo’s life was what Morpheus described as a “dreamworld,” but unlike a dream, this world was not the creation of Neo’s mind. The truth is more sinister: The world was a creation of the artificially intelligent computers that have taken over the Earth and have subjugated mankind in the process. These creatures have fed Neo a simulation that he couldn’t possibly help but take as the real thing. A viewer of The Matrix is naturally led to wonder, “How do I know for sure that my world is not also a sophisticated charade, put forward by some super-human intelligence in such a way that I cannot possibly detect the ruse?” Descartes suggested a similar worry—the frightening possibility that all of one’s experiences might be the result of a powerful outside force, a “malicious demon”: And yet firmly implanted in my mind is the longstanding opinion that there is an omnipotent God who made imagine 23
me the kind of creature that I am. How do I know that he has not brought it about that there is no earth, no sky, no extended thing, no shape, no size, no place, while at the same time ensuring that all these things appear to me to exist just as they do now? What is more, just as I consider that others sometimes go astray in cases where they think they have the most perfect knowledge, how do I know that God has not brought it about that I too go wrong every time I add two and three or count the sides of a square, or in some even simpler matter, if that is imaginable? But perhaps God would not have allowed me to be deceived in this way, since he is said to be supremely good; [...] I will suppose therefore that not God, who is supremely good and the source of truth, but rather some malicious demon of the utmost power and cunning has employed all his energies in order to deceive me. I shall think that the sky, the air, the earth, colours, shapes, sounds and all external things are merely the delusions of dreams which he has devised to ensnare my judgment. The narrator of Descartes’ Meditations concludes that none of his former opinions are safe. Such a demon could not only deceive him about his perceptions, but also cause him to go wrong when performing even the simplest acts of reasoning. Many contemporary philosophers have discussed a similar skeptical dilemma that has come to be known as the “brain in a vat” hypothesis. One powerful formulation of the idea is presented by the philosopher Jonathan Dancy:
How can you rule out the possibility that you might be dreaming even now, as you sit and read this? This is the kind of perplexing thought Descartes forces us to confront.
You do not know that you are not a brain, suspended in a vat full of liquid in a laboratory, and wired to a computer which is feeding you your current experiences under the control of some ingenious technician scientist (benevolent or malevolent according to taste). For if you were such a brain, then, provided that the scientist is successful, nothing in your experience could possibly reveal that you were; for your experience is ex hypothesi identical with that of something which is not a brain in a vat. Since you have only your own experience to appeal to, and that experience is the same in either situation, nothing can reveal to you which situation is the actual one.
If you cannot know whether you are in the real world or in the world of a computer simulation, you cannot be sure that your beliefs about the world are true. And your ability to reason is no safer than the deliverances of the senses; the evil demon or malicious scientist
could be ensuring that your reasoning is just as flawed as your perceptions. There is no easy way out of this philosophical problem (or at least there is no easy philosophical way out!). Philosophers have proposed a dizzying variety of “solutions” to this kind of skepticism, but, as with many philosophical problems, there is nothing close to unanimous agreement regarding how the puzzle should be solved.
The Experience Machine After spending time in the real world, the character Cypher decides he wants to be reinserted into the Matrix. Is he right to want this? As long as his experiences will be pleasant, how can this situation be worse than the life he would lead outside of the Matrix? What could matter beyond the quality of his experience? Once he’s back in, living his fantasy life, he won’t even know he made the deal. What he doesn’t know can’t hurt him, right? But is feeling good the only thing that has value in itself? The question of whether only conscious experience can matter has been explored in depth by several contemporary philosophers. In the course of discussing this issue in his 1971 book Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Robert Nozick introduced a thought experiment known as “the experience machine” that has become a staple of introductory philosophy classes everywhere: Suppose there were an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired. Superduper neuropsychologists could stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or making a friend, or reading an interesting book. All the time you would be floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain. Should you plug into this machine for life, preprogramming your life’s desires?...Of course, while in the tank you won’t know that you’re there; you’ll think it’s all actually happening. Others can also plug in to have the experiences they want, so there’s no need to stay unplugged to serve them. (Ignore problems such as who will service the machines if everyone plugs in.) Would you plug in? What else can matter to us, other than how our lives feel from the inside? Nozick goes on to argue that other things do matter to us— that we actually do certain things, for instance, as opposed to simply have the experience of doing them. Nozick thinks that it matters to most of us that we be the authors of our lives and
that our lives involve interacting with the world. The fact that most people would not choose to enter into such an experience machine, he argues, demonstrates that they do value these other things: “We learn that something matters to us in addition to experience by imagining an experience machine and then realizing that we would not use it.” It appears that there is at least one important difference between Nozick’s machine and the simulated world of the Matrix. Nozick implies that someone hooked up to the experience machine will not be able exercise their agency—they become the passive recipients of preprogrammed experiences. The Matrix seems to be set up in such a way that one can enter it and retain one’s free will and capacity for decision making, and perhaps this would make it a significantly more attractive option than the experience machine Nozick describes. Nonetheless, a loss of freedom is not the only disturbing aspect of Nozick’s story. As he points out, we seem to mourn the loss of contact with the real world as well. Even if a modified experience machine is presented to us, one which allows us to keep our free will but enter into an entirely virtual world, many would still object that permanently going into such a machine involves the loss of something valuable.
he Matrix is a film that astounds not only with action and special effects, but also with ideas. The fascinating skeptical and moral puzzles it presents have engaged philosophers for centuries, and that they translate so well from the 18th century to the sci-fi future hints at the timelessness and significance of the questions they raise. i christopher Grau is an assistant professor of philosophy at clemson University. he is the editor of three books about philosophy and film: Philosophers Explore The Matrix (oxford University Press, 2005), Philosophers on Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Routledge, 2009), and, with co-editor susan Wolf, Understanding Love through Philosophy, Film, and Fiction (forthcoming from oxford University Press). This article is adapted from a chapter of the same name that appeared in Philosophers Explore The Matrix, edited by Christopher Grau (Oxford University Press, 2005).
by Charles R. Comer
Seeking Virtue at Hogwarts and in Athens
t’s a long way from Athens to Hogwarts, but perhaps the
birthplace of Western philosophy is closer to the pre-eminent school of wizardry than you might think. If knowledge is power, and magic is power, then a wise wizard must be very powerful indeed. But as Plato made clear, and as Harry Potter exemplifies, the ingredient that makes life worth living—and that makes a powerful wizard a great one—is the quality known as virtue.
Many people hold the simplistic belief that ethics is about rules and following them. Indeed, there is a component of ethics that examines such concepts, and philosophers spend considerable time and energy trying to figure out what those rules might be and how to justify them. But virtue is a different kind of ethics. Instead of asking what one should do, virtue ethics asks what kind of person one should be. It asks about character. What makes Harry Potter a great wizard is not just his talents at wizardry, but also his character. This is what we see Dumbledore praising more than anything: Harry’s virtue.
26 imagine imagine
The Power of Good What magic is to the world of wizardry, politics and the art of persuasion were to ancient Greece. Socrates said that power is at most an instrument of good, but not good in itself. In the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E., a group of people in Athens called Sophists were very good at speaking and persuasion. This was an important skill, since the Athens city council was easily persuaded and the majority ruled. Socrates, however, doubted that this was the best way to conduct affairs since it did not consider the truth of things. Socrates went around Athens discussing such matters with people, especially with the Sophists, who believed that it was better to gain political clout and power than to worry about being good. In fact, they identified power with goodness. Socrates would always show them that their thinking was flawed, that power in itself is not good and will not make a person happy. But proving people wrong—especially those in power—can be dangerous: Socrates was condemned to death by the Athenian council. Yet his legacy lives on. Socrates’ loyal friend and student, Plato, dramatically depicted Socrates’ last days in the form of dialogues. In these dialogues, Plato gives us an understanding of the kind of virtues extolled by Socrates. He defined virtues as traits that are good to have and develop, and he founded a school, called the Academy, to teach them.
From the Academy to Hogwarts At Hogwarts, the different houses emphasize certain virtues. Gryﬃndor, for example, values courage. Huffelpuff promotes hard work, loyalty, tolerance, and fair play. Ravenclaw encourages intelligence, creativity, learning, and wit, while Slytherin prizes ambition, cunning, leadership, and resourcefulness. Although all of these may seem like good qualities, they can easily move from virtue to vice: Courage can become foolish bravado. Unbridled loyalty can lead to support of dangerous regimes. Intelligence, unchecked by a sense of justice, can be instrumental in evil deeds. According to Plato, something more is needed to keep such qualities in check. For Plato, a truly virtuous person had four chief virtues: courage, which allows one to stand up for what is right and good; temperance, which controls desires and keeps one balanced; wisdom, which is needed to achieve what one sets out to do; and the chief virtue, which he called justice, which ensures that the other virtues are cultivated and practiced in the right way, at the right time, and in the right setting. At Hogwarts, an excellent and virtuous wizard is one who is in control of his unique powers of wizardry, as well as what we might call the human element. In other words, a virtuous wizard is powerful and talented, and is able to control his power. He is courageous in the face of danger, and able to intelligently use his unique gifts. But he will also be selfless, looking out for the best interests of others.
Dumbledore seems to lead Hogwarts in the philosophy of Plato. Dumbledore frequently praises Harry for his virtue, most notably for his courage, but even more importantly, for his sense of justice. We often see Harry making sacrifices for a greater good without any sense of reaping benefit; he acts virtuously for the sake of acting virtuously. On the other hand, Voldemort is very much Harry’s opposite, although both have great powers. Not only does Voldemort not possess the virtue of temperance, but he is also not courageous. More than anything, he fears his own death, and that is what leads him on his insatiable quest for power. And while Voldemort is very intelligent, he uses his intelligence for selfish gain, thus exhibiting no sense of the cardinal virtue of justice. His skills and talents are not being controlled or used in an excellent manner, and he exemplifies the ways in which great talent can become corrupted.
Virtue and Happiness at Hogwarts and Beyond In Plato’s most famous dialogue, The Republic, a character named Thrasymachus challenges Socrates, saying that those who practice virtue simply aren’t as happy as those who pursue self-interest and power. Is there something to this? Consider Harry, Ron, Hermione, and friends at Hogwarts. They’re relatively happy despite the hardships they often endure, while Draco Malfoy and his ilk are often seen sulking about. For Plato, being virtuous rests on two questions: What is most prudent for us? And, Which part of ourselves do we most identify with? For the first question, we already know that if we go around always acting in our own self-interest, we will lose favor with others and soon live isolated lives, which does not lead to happiness. The second question is a more diﬃcult one. Do we ultimately identify with that part of ourselves which he termed our appetites, or with our rationality, and which of these seems to be most responsible for our happiness? For Plato, the appetites—including power, control, and fame—lead only to fleeting moments of happiness, while rationality provides a deeper and more enduring happiness. When our true selves—our rational and virtuous selves—are in control, happiness is rich and lasting. This is a lesson well understood by Harry, of whom Plato would undoubtedly approve. i charles R. comer teaches philosophy and art history at harrisburg Area community college in harrisburg, PA. he is currently writing a book on the theories, meanings, and practices of religion. one day he hopes to perfect his snape impression.
or the past two years, I’ve spent a beautiful spring Saturday in a conference room at the University of Baltimore’s Business Center. On these Saturdays, I have gathered with classmates and students from other schools for Ethics Bowl, a competition sponsored by the University of Baltimore (UB) to promote ethics in high schools. These have been some of the most enjoyable and intellectually stimulating days of my life. I had been on my high school’s public speaking team and participated in debate, so when I learned that UB wanted to start a high school Ethics Bowl, I was interested. I believe that ethics are more than rules and standards that govern our behavior and decisions. They represent who we are, present a model for others, and provide a baseline for understanding right and wrong so we can talk about issues that affect all of us.
Becoming Ethical Thinkers Teams would have ten members, five of whom would compete in a given Ethics Bowl. My teammates and I stayed after school twice a week to practice. Our coach, who also headed our debate team, composed sample topics and guided our discussions. As we became more experienced, he became less involved in our practices. Each problem in the competition would be classified under systems of ethics such as bioethics, academic ethics, legal ethics, or personal ethics, and would pose a question with some basis in fact. Problems might include the legitimacy of removing questions on standardized tests that evidence racial bias, or whether organizations like the Ku Klux Klan should be allowed to participate in the Adopt-a-Highway program. Some seemed to have easy answers. Others, such as the question of killing a mother to save a child, divided the team and led to diﬃcult, fascinating debates. We searched the Internet and texts to understand systems of ethics, including utilitarianism as pioneered by John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative. Utilitarianism suggests that we should do the most good for the greatest number of people. The categorical imperative
states that moral laws must be absolute and unconditional. Consider Jack Bauer-style torture of people suspected of withholding information vital to national security. Utilitarians would argue that the possibility of saving thousands of lives justifies torture, whereas deontologists—those who judge morality based on adherence to rules—would say that torture is never moral and should never be used. These traditionally competing systems of morality have been at the root of almost all ethical thought since the 19th century.
Ethical Considerations Rather than focus on a single theory, we compared multiple theories in our study of ethical problems. Studying many approaches would help us discover our own positions—and defend them. For practice, we each chose an ethical theory that we agreed with and used these theories to evaluate different issues. We engaged in mock debates, trying to convince each other of different opinions. While we weren’t required to use specific ethical systems in our arguments, we felt that it would be educational if we alluded to them in our debates. In addition, since we needn’t present a unanimous opinion, we decided that one of us should present a dissenting opinion. It would provide for deeper discourse and show that we had considered other perspectives. In the competition, we would face four rounds of two questions each. Each round would center on a case the university provided to us a few weeks beforehand. The case would contain such information as historical background, legal rulings, and cultural considerations to help us understand the context.
(or, Why I Give Up Saturdays in Spring) by Gareth Imparato Off to the Races After weeks spent determining our arguments and applying systems of moral thought to the issues, we were ready to compete. One team would get eight minutes to speak, the other would offer a five-minute rebuttal, and the initial team would have three minutes to summarize its points. Then the two sides would switch, and a new case would be presented. Three judges from the university would evaluate the competition, with the winning team demonstrating the best knowledge of ethical understanding, regardless of the judges’ personal opinions on the issues. Since I had some experience with public speaking, I would be our closing speaker, summing up my team’s theories and explaining how we concluded that the problem should be considered and solved. One case we debated was based on a school’s honor code, which stated that a single instance of plagiarism would result in automatic suspension. In this case, it seemed that a kid had made a mistake, and it was the beginning of his freshman year. We had to decide if allowances should be made under such circumstances, or whether there should be a hard and fast rule. Then we had to argue for why. Ultimately we won all of our debates against the other four schools that competed. Our team received a traveling trophy, and we each got a bag of gifts that included t-shirts and caps. We felt triumphant, but we knew the real prize was the education in ethics we received. The following year, we came in second in a field of more than 15 schools, but I felt as excited and fulfilled coming in second as I did coming in first. The point of the contest was not merely to expend competitive urges. It was to establish that there is a place for rational discourse in modern society, for real systems of ethics.
The Power of the Human Mind Inherent in the pursuit of ethical thought is the recognition that humanity can be motivated by more than basic urges. It aﬃrms the power of the human mind. In our case, it also brought together kids from diverse backgrounds. At Ethics Bowl, we were just groups of young people talking about ethics.
Through Ethics Bowl, I’ve learned a lot about ethics and how they relate to my own life. I have a better understanding of what I believe and why. I’ve become more eloquent in expressing my opinions on issues that spark national and international discourse. For example, technology has advanced faster than our ability to evaluate the ethical issues it raises. Cloning and stem-cell research, problems of booming populations, global warming, and ever-increasing electronic technology, as well as the growth of centralized government all present ethical challenges. Studying ethics allows us to examine these problems and define guiding principles to deal with them. I urge everyone to study ethics. Find out which universities near you sponsor Ethics Bowl teams at the collegiate level, and see if any of them might be interested in hosting or funding this kind of activity at your school—because ethics is for everyone. i Gareth imparato is a junior at Baltimore city college high school in Baltimore, MD. he participates on the national level in Lincoln Douglas debate and locally in many public speaking competitions including Mock trial, speech tournaments, and ethics Bowl. he has been in a number of school theatrical productions. in his spare time, he enjoys reading and writing. he has a black belt in tae kwon do.
Members of the 2009 Baltimore City College Ethics Bowl team (L to R): Martrez Price, Dallas Bell, Kaine Cherry, Adrian Figueroa, Nic DaneyCuffie, Takhirah Thompson, Derrick Wilder, Coach Patrick Daniels (Not pictured: Shakira Gaskins, Gareth Imparato, David Neustadt, and Keegan Williams)
For information on how to start a high school ethics bowl in your area, contact the Hoffberger Center for Professional Ethics at the University of Baltimore at (410) 837-5379. imagine 29
How to Start a Philosophy Club by Wendy Way
As the students settle into the circle of chairs in my classroom, I write today’s question on the board: Which is more powerful, love or hate? “Love. No doubt about it,” says Colin. “Why do you think so?” asks Annie. “Because love can overcome hate, but hate does not overcome love,” he replies. Rosette interjects, “Before we discuss love and hate, shouldn’t we define what we mean by powerful?” And so today’s philosophy club discussion begins. The questions we discuss after school in our club are the same ones that have been pondered ever since Socrates himself stood in the Agora of Athens and challenged people to defend their beliefs about love, truth, religion, and politics. Across the country, more and more high schools are starting philosophy clubs, giving the students the opportunity to meet for a few hours after school to discuss philosophy’s big questions. The really cool thing about philosophical questions is that there is no right or wrong answer. What is truth? Do we exist? Do we have free will? What is most fun about philosophy is the discussion created by questions like these. Philosophy allows you to engage your curiosity and think more deeply about questions that may at first seem to have obvious answers. Once you start discussing a question with others, you slowly peel back the layers of your thoughts about the topic and eventually formulate a position. By learning how to make skillful judgments about any information presented to you, you will start to actively process it rather than passively accept it. And then you are really thinking—critically!
Getting Started Starting a philosophy club is easy because students love to get together and talk, even when it is about the meaning of life or whether humans are naturally good or evil. The club can be made up of any number of students, but the best discussions happen when the group is large enough to allow for diverse ideas but small enough to give everyone a chance to participate. For our club, that number is between 10 and 25 students. Depending on how busy everyone’s schedule is, you can meet once a week, every other week, or once a month. Discussions in our group often last for one or two hours depending upon the question, but you can set a time limit for your meeting if your schedule does not permit a lengthy dialogue. If an after-school club is not feasible, you could meet during lunch or a free period during the school day. There are, however, a few things that you may need to do to get your philosophy club started. First, find a teacher or staff member who might be interested in being your club advisor and discussion facilitator. Then check with your principal to learn your district’s policy for forming new school clubs. You may be asked to write a proposal for your principal, superintendent, or Board of Education in order to get permission to start your club. If so, be sure to list your club’s objectives, the types of activities you will be doing (consider including a list of some of the philosophical questions you might be discussing), how your club will benefit students academically and socially, and the details of when and where you will be meeting. Once you have the green light, advertise! Get the word out in school that there is a new club in town! Make announcements during homeroom, put up posters in the hallways, hand out flyers during lunch, and have the founding club members and the faculty advisor spread the word in their classes.
Your First Meeting Fostering interest in a new club can be a challenge, but with a little planning, you can ensure that your meetings will run smoothly and that students will be excited to return. To begin, you should find a room that can comfortably accommodate approximately 30 people, and position the desks or chairs in a circle so that club members can interact with each other face to face. If your club will be gathering after school, you might consider providing snacks and beverages. Meeting over coffee, tea, or hot chocolate is a natural extension of our love of coffeehouses and vibrant conversation. You can collect a small amount of money from each member or rotate the responsibility of providing the snacks to two or three members per meeting. At your initial meeting, get the group members involved right away by deciding when you will hold future meetings. Setting up a consistent schedule (e.g., every other Wednesday or the first Thursday of every month) will let students know when they need to be available so they can make plans to attend.
Once you have established the dates for future meetings, it is time to go over some basic ground rules. Although too many rules can ruin a good conversation, following a few guidelines will ensure that you will have a great discussion and that students will continue to attend your meetings: • Only one person speaks at a time. • No side conversations should be going on during the discussion. • Discuss, don’t debate. Since there is no right or wrong answer, there is no winning side. Concentrate on the conversation, not about whether you are right. • Be respectful of others’ opinions even if you disagree with them. Agree to disagree.
Ready, Set, Reason To make members feel comfortable discussing philosophical questions, start with something basic, such as “What is love?” or “Which is more important, appearance or intellect?” Begin the conversation by defining the different terms in the question. How do you define love? Have students discuss their definitions without resorting to a dictionary. Does everyone have the same definition or are some different? Do you agree or disagree with anyone’s definition? Why? There may be some moments of silence while people are thinking about the question or what a club member has said; this is normal and will happen less as students get better at philosophical discussion. Often, the philosophical question being discussed may send your group down paths leading to other questions. This is okay. Philosophy is ultimately not about the question, but the process of finding answers and the journey the question leads you on. However, if the conversation begins to get too far off topic, your faculty advisor should act as a facilitator and get the conversation back on track.
see the benefits that philosophy has had on my students both academically and socially. It has given them clarity of thought, the ability to engage in meaningful conversation, to own their beliefs and opinions, and to evaluate the beliefs and opinions of others. In this age of Facebook and texting, when human conversation has been reduced to keystrokes of often empty conversation, philosophy gives students the opportunity to engage in purposeful dialogue that is relevant to their lives. i Wendy Way teaches two philosophy classes and is the advisor of the philosophy club at Bethpage high school in New York, which was named the Most Philosophical school in America for 2009 by the kids Philosophy slam.
Selected Opportunities and Resources in Philosophy OPPORTUNITIES AT CTY
At the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, students who have earned qualifying test scores can explore a range of math, science, and humanities topics in summer and online courses. This list features courses in philosophy. CTY Summer Programs (multiple sites) Grades 7–11; 3 weeks; residential. course oﬀerings include etymologies, Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind, existentialism, ethics, Bioethics, introduction to Logic, and Logic: Principles of Reasoning. (410) 735-6277; www.cty.jhu.edu/summer
ADDITIONAL SUMMER PROGRAMS Grades specified refer to students’ 2010–11 status. All programs are residential unless otherwise noted.
Boston University Summer Term (MA)
Grades 11–12; 6 weeks; residential and commuter. Qualifying students choose two honors courses, which include introduction to Philosophy, Great Philosophers, Politics and Philosophy, Reasoning and Argumentation, Philosophy of science, history of Ancient Philosophy, and history of Modern Philosophy. (617) 353-1378; www.bu.edu/summer/ program_high_school_students/honors
Choate Rosemary Hall Summer Programs (CT)
Grades 9–12; 2 or 5 weeks. in the Big Questions, students examine human attempts to understand such concepts as God, faith, fate, free will, good, and evil. in First Principles, they examine liberalism, conservatism, racism, feminism, human rights, capitalism, socialism, and communism. Additional course oﬀerings include exploring ethical Dilemmas. students in the John F. kennedy institute in Government explore topics that include Foundations of economics and Political thought. (203) 697-2365; www.choate.edu
Columbia University Summer Programs for High School Students (NY) Grades 9–12; 4 weeks; residential and commuter. in Philosophy of Food and the Body, students explore philosophical concepts as they relate to attitudes about food. in Debating the ethics of War and Political Violence, they examine the relationship among war, politics, and ethics. (212) 854-9666; www.ce.columbia.edu/hs
Cornell University Summer College (NY)
Iowa State University Office of Pre-collegiate Programs for Talented and Gifted (IA) Grades 8–11; 3 weeks. in socrates, Plato, and the origin of Greek Philosophy, qualifying students in grades 8–10 examine the life and work of socrates and its inﬂuence on later philosophical thinking. those in grades 8–11 may take Artificial intelligence, in which they explore machine learning topics in computer science as well as such topics as reasoning, planning, decision-making, and learning. (800) 262-3810; www.opptag.iastate.edu/summer
Grades 10–12; 3 or 6 weeks. students in the 6-week program take two courses which may include introduction to Philosophy, and contemporary Moral issues. those in the 3-week program focus intensely on a single course which may include introduction to Political Philosophy, or Nature and culture: history, Philosophy, and the environment. (607) 255-6203; www.summercollege.cornell.edu
Johns Hopkins University Precollege Program (MD)
Davidson Institute THINK Summer Institute (NV)
Northwestern University CTD (IL)
Ages 13–16; 3 weeks. students qualifying for this intensive program may take introduction to Philosophy, where they explore basic problems in ethics, political theory, metaphysics, and epistemology. (775) 8523483 x6; www.thinksummerinstitute.org
Grades 7–12; 3 weeks; residential and commuter. Qualifying students in grades 7 and 8 may take Foundations of Philosophy. those in grades 9–12 may choose from ethics and contemporary issues, and Reason and imagination: the Philosophy of cognition. (847) 491-3782; www.ctd.northwestern.edu/summer
Duke University TIP (multiple sites)
NYU Pre-College Program (NY)
Grades 7–10; 3 weeks. course oﬀerings for qualifying students include Philosophy of knowledge and Philosophy of time. (919) 668-9100; www.tip.duke.edu/summer
Harvard Secondary School (MA)
Grades 10–12; 7 weeks. students in this program experience life on harvard’s campus while taking courses alongside college students. oﬀerings include introduction to Philosophy, Deductive Logic, Philosophy of Mind, and introduction to Biomedical ethics. (617) 495-3192; www.summer.harvard.edu
Grades 10–12; 5 weeks; residential and commuter. oﬀerings include Foundations of Modern Political Philosophy, introduction to eastern Philosophy, Democracy and Ancient Political thought, and Bioethics. (800) 548-0548; www.jhu. edu/summer/precollege/summer
Grades 10–12; 6 weeks; commuter. Rising juniors and seniors may select from an extensive list of philosophy courses, including introduction to Philosophy, history of Modern Philosophy, Philosophy of Law, the Ancient Greeks and their inﬂuence, Minds and Machines, ethics, Medical ethics, topics in Modern Political thought, and Logic. (212) 998-2292; www. nyu.edu/summer/2010/highschool
Stanford University High School Summer College (CA)
Grades 11–12; 8 weeks; residential and commuter. oﬀerings include introduction to Moral
Summer at Brown Precollege Program (RI) Grades 9–12; 1–3 weeks. students choose one or two courses from an extensive list of philosophy oﬀerings, including introduction to Philosophy, Giants of Philosophy, the Meaning of Life, themes from existentialism, skepticism, ethical Dilemmas in Foreign Policy, Freedom and Responsibility, Mind and Matter, existential Questions of the heart, and science, Perception, and Reality. (401) 863-7900; www. brown.edu/scs/pre-college
University of Pennsylvania Pre-college (PA)
Grades 11–12; 6 weeks; residential and commuter. students choose two courses, which include introduction to Philosophy, history of Ancient Philosophy, Political Philosophy, introduction to Decision theory, and Mortal Bioethics: issues in the end of Life. (215) 898-7326; www.sas. upenn.edu/lps/highschool/ summer/precollege
University of Virginia Summer Session (VA)
Grades 11–12; 4 weeks; commuter. Qualifying students take one course alongside college students. offerings include the Nature of the Mind, Why Be Moral, and human Minds and Artificial intelligence. (434) 924-3371; www.virginia. edu/summer/courses
Washington University in St. Louis (MO)
Grades 10–11; 5 weeks; residential and commuter. students taking Logic and critical Analysis work to develop critical reasoning skills; those in introduction to environmental ethics focus on problems such as the obligation to future generations. in introduction to Aesthetics, students examine the question of what is art, and in Biomedical ethics they explore issues that include genetic engineering, euthanasia, and the allocation of medical resources. Additional course oﬀerings include Philosophy, and Great Philosophers. (866) 209-0691; http://ucollege.wustl. edu/programs/highschool
Yale University Exploration Summer Programs (CT)
Grades 10–12; 3 weeks; residential and commuter. in Beyond the Matrix: Philosophy of Physics, students consider theories of einstein and Newton as well as popular science fiction while exploring such questions as what is possible and what is real. students taking Does God exist? investigate the inﬂuence of religious tradition, philosophical argument, and scientific research for insight into ethics, morality, and the meaning of life. Also oﬀered is Questions in time: introduction to Philosophy. (781) 762-7400; www.explo.org
ACADEMIC COMPETITIONS Davidson Fellows Awards
students ages 17 and under submit a significant piece of work in science, technology, mathematics, literature, music, philosophy, or “outside the box.” eight to fifteen students are typically selected each year and named a Davidson Fellow. Fellows receive a $50,000, $25,000, or $10,000 scholarship and are recognized for their achievements in Washington, Dc. (775) 852-3483 x 423; www. davidsongifted.org/fellows
Kids Philosophy Slam
students compete for over $5,000 in prizes by writing, creating poetry, music, or artwork about their personal experiences regarding a philosophical question posed each year (2010: is the Pen Mightier than the sword?). see pages 44–45 for winning entries from the 2009 competition. competition. www.philosophyslam.org
International Philosophy Olympiad
students gather in a diﬀerent country each May, where they have four hours to write a philosophical essay in a language other than their own. Winners receive medals and are featured on the website of the international Federation of Philosophical societies. www.fisp.org/olympiad.html shUtteRstock
Philosophy, introductory Logic, and happiness: Positive Psychology and Philosophy. (650) 723-3109; http://summer.stanford.edu
WEB SITES American Philosophical Association
this site features a variety of educational resources, including links to the internet encyclopedia of Philosophy and a comprehensive Philosophy Research Base. www.apaonline.org/ resources/guides.aspx
the motto at this site is “You ask. Philosophers answer,” and here, dozens of panelists answer philosophical questions on any topic. Ask a question, browse categories to find answers to questions already posed, or lose yourself in the concept cloud, where you can read questions—and answers—on topics from self-interest to santa. www.askphilosophers.org
BBC: In Our Time Philosophy Resource (iTunes)
philosophy study guide, links to other philosophy sites, and more. www.philosophypages.com
Philosophy for Teens by sharon kaye and Paul thomson (Prufrock Press, 2006).
this comprehensive site provides more than 19,000 categorized links to philosophy resources on the internet, as well as lists of books and jokes on philosophy. www.epistemelinks.com
Society for Philosophical Inquiry
Sophie’s World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder (Berkeley trade, 1997).
Ethics in Science and Engineering National Clearinghouse
Squire Family Foundation
site evolve is simply way cool. www.digitallockeproject.nl
this site, sponsored by the National science Foundation, is an upto-the-minute compendium on ethics and responsible conduct of research in science and engineering. Visitors can learn the latest Research ethics News, read the “Paper of the Day,” and check out the most popular downloaded items from the site (What ethical concepts are others currently interested in?). www.ethicslibrary.org
Listen to a discussion of philosophy on itunes, take the Philosophy Quotes Quiz, or cast your vote for the greatest philosopher. (if you haven’t yet decided, click on any name on the Philosopher timeline to learn more about a particular philosopher.) www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/ history/inourtime/ greatest_philosopher.shtml
Great Issues Forum
The Digital Locke Project
Why did the philosopher cross the road? to find out, check out this site, which is actually a list of links to a variety of sites containing philosophical humor. http://people.brandeis. edu/~teuber/humor.html
in an ongoing project sponsored by oxford University Press, inﬂuential philosopher John Locke’s manuscripts are presented along with historical and philosophical notes, as well as reconstruction of the genesis of the texts. Future planned additions include historical footnotes and introductions. Not for the fainthearted, but fascinating to contemplate, and watching the
this forum of the Graduate center of the city University of New York explores critical issues through a single thematic lens. the 2009-10 issue is religion, which will be examined by civic and religious leaders, scientists, and philosophers. www.greatissuesforum.org
this well-organized site includes a dictionary of philosophical terms and names, a survey of the history of Western philosophy, a
this site features advice on how to start a philosophy club, how to become a conscientious thinker and doer, and much more. www.philosopher.org/en/SPI.html
this philanthropic organization helps promote the study of ethics for secondary school students. Accordingly, their website features an extensive list of ethics and philosophy resources, philosophy topics in the news, and a Philosophy toolbox for students and teachers. Be sure to check out their blog, the Philosophical student. www.squirefoundation. org/forstudents
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
A virtual encyclopedia of philosophy, each entry in this comprehensive reference work is maintained and updated by experts in the field. http://plato.stanford.edu
BOOKS How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer (houghton, Miﬄin, harcourt, 2009). Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy by simon Blackburn (oxford University Press, 2007). Philosophers Explore the Matrix by christopher Grau (oxford University Press, 2005). The Philosophy Files by stephen Law (orion childrens, 2002). The Philosophy Gym: 25 Short Adventures in Thinking by stephen Law (thomas Dunne Books, 2003). Philosophy, Invention, and Engineering ed. by Derek hall (Brown Bear, 2009).
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin hoﬀ (Penguin, 1983). Young Person’s Guide to Philosophy by Jeremy Weate (Dk children, 1998).
MAGAZINES & JOURNALS The Philosopher’s Magazine
this international magazine includes news, essays, reviews, and features that present “top-class philosophy in an accessible and entertaining format.” the website oﬀers interactive features related to the magazine’s content. www.philosophersnet.com
this bimonthly magazine includes articles on all aspects of Western philosophy, book reviews, news, cartoons, and even short stories of interest to students, academics, and general readers. But be warned: the publisher’s aim is to “corrupt innocent citizens by convincing them that philosophy can be exciting, worthwhile, and comprehensible.” www.philosophynow.org
Questions: Philosophy for Young People
this annual journal showcases the work of precollege philosophers and those doing philosophical work at the precollege level. each issue includes philosophical discussions, drawings, and philosophical writing by students in a newsletter format. http://depts.washington.edu/ nwcenter/resourcesquestions.html
middle ground Is It Still Cheating If I Don’t Get Caught? by Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D. Dear Dr. Weinstein, During a test, I saw a girl copying off of the person next to her. She saw that I had seen her, and after class, asked me not to tell. She said she’d never cheated before and that she was going through a difficult time at home. Her parents were getting a divorce, and she hadn’t been able to concentrate on her homework. She promised she wouldn’t do it again. We have an honor code at school, and we’re supposed to report violations of the code. But I’m not a rat. Besides, if she’s telling the truth about her parents, I can kind of understand why she did it. What should I do? There’s no way around it; this is a tough situation. Not only did a fellow student cheat, but she also violated the school’s honor code. Presumably the code doesn’t say, “Students may not cheat, unless they are going through a diffi cult time at home, or have just broken up with someone, or simply didn’t feel like studying.” It likely says that if you present someone else’s work as your own, you are cheating, and you will be punished. Whether your school has an honor code or not, it might be tempting to forget the incident and go on with your life. But is that the right thing to do?
The Fairness Factor Cheating is one of the most fl agrant violations of the ethical principle of fairness. Suppose the cheater gets an A after copying the answers from the student who achieved that grade through hard work. Two people are now being treated unfairly: the person the cheater copied from, whose grade now means less, and the cheater herself, who is posing as someone she isn’t. Actually, everyone in the class who did honest work is being treated unfairly by the cheater. They could rightly say, “I studied for this exam and got an honest grade, but the cheater got the best grade possible without doing any work. That’s not fair!” If you go along with what the cheater has asked of you, she might cheat again. One reason people cheat is because they haven’t been held accountable for their actions. Of course, telling the teacher what you witnessed isn’t a guarantee that the cheater won’t repeat the offense. For that to stop, the school must punish her and make clear that further misconduct won’t be tolerated. She also has to make a commitment not to cheat again. Schools and parents can do their best to
prevent students from taking the easy way out, but ultimately it’s up to students themselves to do the right thing. The reluctance to be a “rat” is understandable, but what might happen to you if your teacher fi nds out you knew about the cheating but did nothing about it? The teacher might sympathize with your dilemma, but might also be disappointed that you didn’t come forward. You could also face a reprimand from the school for not following the honor code. Keeping quiet simply isn’t the right thing to do. You must tell your teacher what you saw. No one likes having to do such a thing, but you have nothing to be ashamed of. You haven’t done anything wrong. Besides the ethical principle of fairness, we must also consider the ethical principle of compassion. If the cheater is telling the truth and really is experiencing a turbulent home life, she would benefi t from counseling, which the school can provide. Yes, she should be punished, but a compassionate response would also include help. Understanding ethical principles can help you know how to do the right thing at school, at home, or wherever you happen to be. i
Dr. Bruce Weinstein, the ethics Guy®, writes the ethics column for BusinessWeek.com and is a frequent lecturer at schools, businesses, and nonprofit groups across the country. his latest book, Is It Still Cheating If I Don’t Get Caught? (Roaring Brook Press, 2009), from which this article was excerpted, shows tweens and teens how to make the right decisions. For more about Dr. Weinstein and his book, visit theethicsGuy.com.
off the shelf The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman Review by Bran Shim Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is the chronicle of a Hmong refugee family from Laos and a tragic case of cultural misunderstanding that took place in California in 1982. The story, centered on Lia Lee, the family’s second-youngest and most favored daughter, is so compelling that the 288 pages fl y by. Fadiman is an outstanding storyteller, weaving in Hmong history, culture, spiritual beliefs, and moral ethics with her own personal recollections and numerous folk stories, providing vivid context the reader needs to understand the Hmong experience. Lia had what was known in Hmong culture as qaug dab peg, translated into English as “the spirit catches you and you fall down.” In the Western world, it’s known as epilepsy. The Hmong considered this an honorable condition that came with the ability to fuse with the spirit realm. Chosen to host a healing spirit, most people like Lia would become sacred shamans. When Lia had her fi rst epileptic seizure at three months old, it was cause for celebration rather than a trip to the emergency room. Of course, Lia’s doctors and the Merced Hospital staff would hardly agree: Lia’s severe case of epilepsy meant violent seizures that could be fatal. While the doctors devised what they believed to be the best course of treatment for Lia, the Lees saw Lia’s chart grow longer and longer until it contained more than 400,000 words. Fadiman writes, “Every one of those
words refl ected its author’s intelligence, training, and good intentions, but not a single one dealt with the Lees’ perception of their daughter’s illness.” Changing Lia’s complicated medication regimen 23 times or sending her away from reluctant parents to foster care were medically sound decisions. But those decisions did not prevent Lia from becoming irreversibly brain dead. Both Lia’s doctors and her parents had assumed that they knew what was best for her. The Merced Hospital staff administered countless pills to treat her condition while the Hmong sacrifi ced livestock to celebrate her gift. Unable to bridge the cultural gap, the doctors saw uncooperative parents refusing to medicate a patient properly. Lia’s parents saw doctors stripping their daughter of her divine powers and making her sicker from side effects. By the time parents and doctors fi nally communicated through a nuanced translator and realized their misunderstandings, it was too late for Lia. This book is a must read for anyone who considers medicine, writing, or participation in the global community of the 21 st century to be in their future. Lia’s treatment was nearly perfect, even textbook worthy. Tell that to her parents, who performed an elaborate pig sacrifice in hopes of reuniting Lia’s soul with her body. What Fadiman makes you realize is that the Lees are not fictional people in a remote village on the other side of the world: They are your neighbors. Read this book and then take a look at the world and the people around you. You won’t see them the same again.
Bran shim is a senior at horace Greeley high school in New York. he has been the principal bassist of the Juilliard Pre-college orchestra, New York Youth symphony, and Aspen concert orchestra. his article about the Aspen Music Festival appeared in the January/February 2010 issue of Imagine.
Also recommended: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara The Killer Angels is a fascinating work of historical fi ction that tells the story of the Battle of Gettysburg through the viewpoints of the military leaders in the Union and Confederate armies. Shaara’s story provides an engaging and in-depth study of the battle and the impact on those involved, and I would recommend it strongly to anyone who is familiar with or interested in learning more about the Civil War. —Elyse Cox, 16, PA Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi Reading Lolita in Tehran is one woman’s account of her experience of the revolution and wars in Iran. Nafi si is a literature professor who keeps a secret literary circle in her home with seven other girls. Together, they discuss Lolita, Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, and their own lives, which to us might sound fi ctional. Nafi si does not rant and complain about the cruelties of her experience, but rather explains it all in a straightforward language that leaves a lasting impact on the reader. —Catherine Chen, 14, MA
word wise Words of Wisdom ACROSS 1 Indonesian island 5 Grain
by Amy Entwisle DOWN 1 Beats per minute 2 Lager
3 Aristotle is the father of natural ___
13 Respiratory disease
14 Highest value playing card
5 Often, poetically
15 Cried like a cat
7 Black tie outfi ts
17 Shoshonean 18 Baby dining apparel 20 “The law is ___, free from passion.” –Aristotle
8 “Truth never damages a ___ that is just.” –Mahatma Ghandi 9 One who acts
10 According to Whittier, the saddest words are “What might have ___.”
27 Kids’ cereal brand
22 Of crucial importance
28 Punctuation mark 30 Also known as (abbr.) 31 Pathos, Ethos, ___ 32 Food regulating agency (abbr.) 35 Philosopher who believes that virtue is attainable through self-control and independence 36 Experts 37 Persia 39 Reduce 41 Vile person 43 Distress call
37 Socrates employed this method to demonstrate others’ ignorance
21 Author ___ Rand
38 Opera great Fleming
22 School group 23 Make angry
40 Cicero might have worn one
24 By way of
41 Hold it there
25 A type of critical thinking 29 Venue
42 Scottish philosopher David ___
32 Formal concept analysis (abbr.)
48 Freud’s conscious mind
35 Schrödinger’s ___ 5 12
51 The ___ and the many
44 Term of affection 47 Hypothesis
50 “All that we ___ or seem is but a dream within a dream.” –Edgar Allan Poe
49 Cogito ergo ___
33 Last month of year
36 Contrary to reason
19 “A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.” –English philosopher Francis ___
52 Flightless bird
53 To debate opposing viewpoints
54 Sailor’s yes 55 Where humans live in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave 56 Socrates’ lyceum may have had one
imagine 37 shUtteRstock
exploring career options Epidemiologist
Interview by Melissa Hartman Cancer prevention covers a wide range of research and requires knowledge from a variety of disciplines. I focused on tobacco because I think so many of the questions that I fi nd interesting about philosophy of science, particularly the challenges of translating scientifi c evidence into public health policy, are very relevant to this area.
Mark Parascandola earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Maryland and his Ph.D. in philosophy of science from Cambridge University. Then, while completing post-doctoral fellowships at the National Institutes of Health, he earned his Master’s of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. Now, as an epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute, he continues to pursue his interests at the intersection of science and philosophy through research on tobacco control policy, ethical issues in public health, and epidemiologic methods. How does someone with a Ph.D. in philosophy end up as an epidemiologist? I’ve had an interest in both science and philosophy for a long time. As an undergraduate, I was interested in philosophy of science. Working on my Ph.D., I focused on the science of epidemiology; in particular, I was looking at how patterns of disease were used to inform public policy. After fi nishing my Ph.D., I wanted practical experience working in a public health environment, so I did a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health. That put me on the path to where I am now.
Was your post-doc at NIH in the same area you’re working now? I actually had two fellowships. The fi rst was in bioethics, which is one fi eld where philosophers commonly fi nd a niche in a medical research setting. One of the projects I was working on was looking at how we deal with uncertainty in the clinic setting. Sometimes we don’t have all the
Mark Parascandola, Ph.D., MPH Epidemiologist, Tobacco Control Research Branch, National Cancer Institute
information we’d like on novel drugs and other therapies: Are they equally effective in all patients, for example, or are there certain treatments that will be more effective in some patients than in others? And sometimes there are differences of opinion among experts regarding which therapy is best in a particular situation. That’s partly a scientifi c question, in that we use science to try to answer these questions. But there are also ethical questions. How do you communicate the uncertainty to the patient? How do you ensure that the patient understands not only what science can tell us, but also what we don’t know, so they can play an active role in making decisions about their healthcare?
So how did you end up at the Tobacco Control Research Branch in particular? My other post-doc fellowship was designed for people who want to work in cancer prevention and also want a more comprehensive public health education.
Your dissertation focused in part on something called “causal inference.” Is that related to what you’re doing now? Yes. Here’s an example, a classic case in the history of epidemiology: How do we reach a conclusion about whether smoking causes lung cancer? We know now, of course, that smoking causes lung cancer and a range of other diseases. But when the fi rst studies were done in the 1950s, there was a lot of debate over what kind of scientifi c information was needed to fi nally conclude that smoking actually causes lung cancer. One of the alternative hypotheses was that maybe smokers are somehow constitutionally different, which makes them more prone to lung cancer. Maybe smokers tend to be nervous people who have more anxiety, for example, and who perhaps are also more prone to other types of diseases. One of the fundamental questions in philosophy of science is, when you see an association between some activity and a disease, how do you determine if it’s actually a cause-andeffect relationship? Even though we know a lot now about what the effects of tobacco are, we’re still trying to fi gure out the best policies to put into place to reduce tobacco use. We have found some things that we know are helpful. For example, we know that if
What epidemiologists do we raise the price of cigarettes, fewer kids and adolescents start to smoke because they tend to be very sensitive to price. So epidemiology is important not only for measuring disease, but also for measuring how policies change people’s behavior in ways that might, down the road, impact their disease risk.
Does your research extend beyond cigarettes? One thing we’re looking into is what are called “potential reduced exposure products.” In the 1970s, there was a big effort to introduce so-called light and low-tar cigarettes, which smokers perceived as less harmful because they were claimed to have less nicotine and lower amounts of tar. And we know now that those cigarettes were in fact not safer or less harmful than conventional cigarettes because smokers could modify their behavior in a way so that they would still end up taking in the same amount of tar and nicotine. There are some new products, such as oral lozenges and moist snuff, that have come out on the market with claims that they may be an alternative to conventional cigarettes. They might be presented as either less harmful or as a product to use when you can’t smoke, such as when you’re at work or in another public place. Hookah smoking and other types of alternative tobacco products are also becoming more popular, and I think sometimes people may not associate the same risks with them as they do with cigarettes. But so far there is no evidence to suggest that these kinds of alternative products and things like hookah smoking are less harmful than cigarettes on a population level.
Where do you conduct your scientific work? In the field of epidemiology, we’re often dealing with large data sets. A lot of the work is done at the computer, analyzing data, often in collaboration with a statistician. I don’t actually go out and collect data—that’s a huge project in itself—but I might develop
questions to add to existing surveys that go out across the country, and then we analyze the results from those.
What do you find most challenging about the work you do? One of the biggest challenges in the fi eld of tobacco research is that things move quickly. There are always new policies, such as last summer’s new law giving the FDA authority to regulate tobacco, and states and cities placing restrictions on where people can smoke. But often we’re not able to collect data on what’s happening fast enough. Just keeping up with the pace of such changes is challenging, but that also makes the work exciting.
What do you find most rewarding about your work? One of the most exciting things is collaborating with scientists who are at the top of their fi eld around the country. Being in Washington, and at the National Institutes of Health in particular, gives me the opportunity to work with worldclass scientists and to collaborate with them.
What skills or qualities do you think are important for people to succeed in your field? For me, the philosophy background was helpful. It’s certainly not necessary in order to be an epidemiologist, but philosophy trains you how to structure an argument and how to use evidence to support a conclusion. Those things are really important in any branch of science. It’s also important to have some proficiency in quantitative skills, some training in mathematics and statistics. That’s not a strong point of mine, but with so much software available and the ability to collaborate with statisticians, you don’t necessarily have to be a math scholar to be an epidemiologist. Finally, I think it’s important to have a passion about public health. Although epidemiology is a science, its goal is to improve public health. i
Epidemiologists study how diseases and medical treatments affect groups of people. Epidemiologists often work with policymakers to prevent the spread of disease and develop treatment guidelines for those who are sick.
Where they work
Epidemiologists work in universities, hospitals, non-profit organizations, private offices, government organizations, and public health departments. They work as researchers, health professionals, grant writers, policy advisors, and teachers. Epidemiologists who study populations abroad must travel a lot. When conducting a study, they often work as members of large teams of professionals.
Most epidemiologists have a Ph.D.; however, some positions only require an M.S. in fields such as biology or statistics, or a Master’s of Public Health.
Faster than average employment growth is anticipated for epidemiologists due to risks to the public from obesity, bioterrorism, emerging infectious diseases such as H1N1 and West Nile Virus, and product safety issues. In general, the demand will be higher for applied vs. research epidemiologists.
The U.S. Department of Labor listed the median annual salary for epidemiologists in 2008 at $61,360.
What you can do now
Talk to epidemiologists in your community. Volunteer with a public health organization. Observe a research project. Study biology and statistics. Participate in science fairs.
For more information
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov/phtrain/epidemiology.html U.S. Department of Labor www.bls.gov/oco/ocos310.htm
one step ahead The Class I Used to Hate
I asked more questions than ever, because I wanted to understand more than ever.
College is a change of pace from high school in a big way. You can choose which classes you want to take and therefore avoid the boredom and drudgery that come from classes that don’t interest you. It’s wonderful to be able to focus only on the things that really make you happy. That’s what I was doing. I declared my major in psychology and never looked back. Sure, there are general education requirements, but, on the whole, I was taking psychology courses and learning about things that I loved and enjoyed. I was focused and interested. Life was great. Then I took a class I hated, and life got even better. Halfway through my sophomore year, I’d taken my fair share of psychology courses, most of them focusing on psychology in a very clinical way, like a doctor treating patients. One of the courses for the upcoming semester was described as breaking away from this norm. It took the stance that psychology was about one person helping another become happier. This idea appealed to me a lot, so I signed up for the class immediately. I soon found myself in the bookstore, picking up my textbooks for the semester. Looking at the reading list, I was even more excited for my new class. There was as much philosophy on the book list as there was psychology. This fact alone, I felt, guaranteed the quality of the class. When I got to class, though, my excitement evaporated. My professor informed the class that we would not be discussing most of the books on the reading list; in fact, the books we would focus on were the dullest-looking ones. This was just the fi rst step in the
by Benet Reynolds long, downward spiral of that course. Over the next weeks, I found myself dreading the class more and more. I would sit there, unable to understand half of what my professor was saying, even after asking questions and re-reading texts. And what I could understand, I disagreed with. I found myself mired in frustration and questions. Why did I take this class? What am I doing? What am I actually learning? Just when I had given up, I was struck by that question: What am I actually learning? This one question led me to ask other questions. Why do I disagree with my professor? What do I think is the right approach? Why is that the right approach? I started listening, really listening in class. I asked more questions than ever, because I wanted to understand more than ever. I realized that my reactions to the material and the ideas that my professor was presenting were just as important as the material itself. I no longer dreaded going to class. Instead, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to react to more ideas. I wound up doing well, because even though my opinions differed from my professor’s, I had integrated and synthesized the information I was presented, so I could make a good argument against it. And that’s really what learning is about. It’s not about simply acquiring knowledge, or formulas, or dates, or authors’ names. It’s about taking this knowledge and reacting to it. Thinking about the “why” and “how” of ideas you’re presented with, rather than just accepting the knowledge, will help you learn better— and learn more. So, when you get to college, don’t just give up and drop that class you hate. You’ll learn more than you might think. i
Benet Reynolds is a junior at Goucher college in Maryland. A selfproclaimed nerd, he loves fantasy and science fiction as much as he enjoys studying psychology. he is studying abroad this semester at the University of Westminster in London.
planning ahead for college The R Factor
by Michelle Muratori, Ph.D.
R=Responsibility In college, you will be expected to manage your academic, social, and personal life on a day-to-day basis and take responsibility (be accountable) for all of your choices and actions. The concept of taking responsibility might seem straightforward, but there are degrees of being accountable for one’s choices. We often equate taking responsibility with admitting wrongdoing or mistakes and facing the consequences for our actions. But taking responsibility can happen on a much smaller scale and in more subtle ways. Consider two scenarios in which students shy away from taking charge of their lives. As you read them, think about how they could behave differently to better meet their own needs. Scenario 1: Olivia doesn’t let her friends know when they have hurt her feelings and then resents and blames them for being insensitive to her needs. By blaming her friends and making them responsible for her happiness, she has chosen to assume a passive role in her own life. Scenario 2: Samuel procrastinates on completing applications for summer research internships and misses the application deadlines. By not taking action, Samuel is still making a choice and is responsible for his academic progress or lack of it. Conversely, there are those who feel burdened by taking responsibility that is not theirs to take. For instance, some students feel obligated to make sure that their friends are always happy or feel completely responsible if their team loses. If you fall into this category, you may realize that being a “responsibility magnet” can feel draining and can compromise your own well-being.
Guidelines for Taking Charge of Your Life Learning to take appropriate responsibility becomes easier with
maturity and practice. Think about how active you are in making decisions that affect your life, and consider adopting these guidelines: Identify what is within your power to control. In any situation (academic, social, or personal), assess what you have control over and what is beyond your control. Take responsibility for what you can control, trying not to dwell on what you cannot. For instance, it’s up to you to decide how well prepared to be for a test, how to manage time, and how to treat your friends, yet you cannot control how fair your teachers are or how your friends behave. That is their responsibility. Be your own advocate. If you feel that your academic development is being stifl ed in any way, identify ways to get “unstuck” and follow through by taking action. This may entail asking to be accelerated in one or more subjects to increase your level of challenge or addressing any academic weaknesses. Fill in the gaps. If your social/emotional development is lagging behind your academic progress, don’t be hard on yourself. This is common among gifted and talented students. But to prepare yourself for the social and emotional demands of college, you’ll need to address any deficits you might have now. Ask friends and family for specific feedback about how you come across, and be open to modifying your behavior if it is preventing you from connecting well with others. Participate in a social skills group or attend a summer program to get “practice” interacting with your intellectual peers. Like other skills, these can be learned. Ultimately, you have a responsibility to yourself to make decisions in all aspects of your life that will help you become your best self. Whether you’re still in middle school or are preparing for college, remember that freedom and responsibility are a package deal. i
Everyone can expect to experience some stress during the transition to college. Leaving home, living in a dormitory with a roommate, and finding balance among academics, extracurricular activities, social life, and sleep are adjustments most first-year college students need to make. Some of these changes may be exciting and liberating, but as existentialists would suggest, with freedom comes responsibility. This is where the R-factor comes in.
students review The Students Review series is intended to aid prospective college students in their search by offering insiders’ views of selected colleges and universities, as expressed by current undergraduates or recent graduates who have high academic ability. Note that the number of reviewers is small. Consider their personal perspectives as only one factor as you gather information and impressions from many sources. Our reviewers include 17 students who major(ed) in anthropology (1), biology (2), chemistry (1), economics (1), English (6), history (2), political science (2), psychology (2), Spanish (1), and theater (1). (The number of majors exceeds 17 because two students had double majors.) Reviewers’ comments appear within quotation marks.
Quality of Academic Instruction for Undergraduates Reviewers used superlatives in praising the education Davidson offers. “I am convinced that no university could have given me a better, more comprehensive, more personalized college education than Davidson. The liberal arts curriculum forced me to take classes I would not otherwise have taken, and thereby become a truly more educated human being. And I retained an incredible amount of information due to the interesting, challenging way that information was presented. I was a theatre major, but, just two days ago, I was at an art exhibit at the Metropolitan Art Institute in New York, spouting facts I had learned in my Chemistry of Art and Artifacts lab. In every class I took, I was given lots of individual attention due not only to the small class sizes, but also to the personalities of my professors who, I believe, always have each student’s best interests at heart.” “I couldn’t have been happier with my choice of college. The core curriculum exposes students to samplings of almost every discipline and is a great springboard for finding one’s personal passions and
gifts. As such, Davidson is especially wellsuited for students who may not yet know where they’re going next and who want to make the most of their college experience by taking diverse courses across disciplines.” “I’m not sure that any school in the country has finer instruction than Davidson. The professors make themselves not only accessible, but a truly valuable part of their students’ lives, and they instill a lifelong dedication to learning. Now that I’m in a graduate program and teach undergraduates, I really appreciate how challenging it is to make yourself available to students. The effortless kindness that my professors showed me has given me something to strive for in my own teaching.” “Davidson is an amazing place to learn. It taught me how to write intelligently and eloquently, how to research the best sources, how to convey my ideas and thoughts on paper and in discussions, and most of all, how to learn. Classes were always very small—I think my largest class was around 30, but more often 15 or less. Most were discussion based, and I felt like I learned as much from my classmates as I did from the professors’ lectures or the readings. Grading was certainly tough—I had never received lower than an A- in my life before Davidson, and I quickly learned
to accept that Bs (and the occasional C) were acceptable as long as I’d put in my best effort.” “The small classes create a bond between students that lasts long after graduation. While I still keep in touch with my close friends, I find myself reaching out to former classmates on a purely academic level, to find out what they’re reading, etc.” “I can’t talk about academics at Davidson without mentioning the Honor Code. This cornerstone of all things Davidsonian is especially apparent in the classroom. Your professors trust you implicitly and this leads to a lot of freedom in the learning process, such as self-scheduled/ self-proctored final exams.” “Davidson has a well-deserved reputation for being challenging. But while the professors expect much of each student, they also empower students to meet those expectations. There’s never a shortage of academic resources to bolster one’s performance. It’s tough, but very rewarding. I felt I was truly learning on a daily basis, and I was proud of what I accomplished during my time there.”
Social Life All reviewers enjoyed Davidson’s social life. “The almost entirely campus-based housing helps foster a great social life. Davidson students are busy, so during the week, social life tends to revolve around study groups and blowing off steam in the student union, which is the central social hub of the campus. Weekends typically involve students descending upon the fraternities and eating houses (social eating clubs for women) for parties that feature typical college themes and the occasional live band. Charlotte is only 20 minutes away without traffic, but students find the trek daunting unless there is a show or concert in town. Students tend to stick to campus or, when the weather is nice, the lake campus.”
“I had a great time at Davidson. There are so many ways to build upon what you learn in the classroom and to plug into your passions. Through clubs, I developed many new skills and a great support network. Davidson places great emphasis on community involvement, and there are endless ways to participate in community service and advocacy.” “Davidson definitely has a small community feel, and that’s one of my favorite things about it. But some people feel that it can be almost too personal at times. It’s difficult to be anonymous at Davidson.” “Politically, Davidson has it all—from passionate conservatives to green party activists—fairly peacefully coexisting. Socioeconomically, the school is also quite diverse. Davidson has people from different backgrounds and from all around the world … but we’re mostly white. The school is working diligently to get a more diverse application pool, but we aren’t there yet.”
What Do You Like Best about Davidson?
“I am grateful for the unparalleled educational opportunities I had and the intimacy of the college atmosphere. I truly felt like I belonged to a community of dedicated learners. As a graduate student at a huge university, I can now appreciate how much each student at Davidson becomes an essential strand in the tapestry of the community there.” “I’ve never felt more included in a tightknit community than when I was a Davidson student. This begins even before the first year, as the school takes meticulous care to pair you with a roommate who matches your living habits and personality. They then take the same care to put you on a compatible first-year hall. But the community feeling goes beyond the students. Everyone at Davidson—faculty, staff, and administration—really tries to make sure students feel at home.”
“Above all, I think that Davidson students need to be people who genuinely enjoy the pursuit of knowledge and intellectual discourse. Davidson has very few pre-professional programs, although those it does have (pre-med, pre-law, etc.) strongly prepare students for their future education and careers.” If You Had It to Do over Again, Davidson College Would You Go to Davidson? Davidson, NC 28035 All reviewers said yes with great enthusiasm. www.davidson.edu “Given a thousand iterations of * 4-year coed private college reality, I would choose Davidson every time. It educated the human and the humanist in * Suburban campus 15 miles from Charlotte, NC me as well as the scholar. It instilled in me a * Full-time undergraduate enrollment 2009-10: 856 desire to pursue right in all I do, to use the men, 887 women. precision of thought taught by my profes* Special features: 109-acre Lake Campus seven sors to interrogate the norm, and to always, miles away. above all else, be good. It educated the whole of me in a way I’m not sure any other institution in the country could have.” What Do You Like Least about Davidson? “Without a doubt. I love Davidson for who it made me and who it set me up to be. Most comments concerned the academic Davidson provided me with true friends (and related psychological) demands. and a fantastic education that set me up for “The constant, ever-present feeling of success in ‘the real world.’” inadequacy due to such difficult classes and impressive peers.” “Absolutely. I wouldn’t give up the Davidson experience for the world. It “The grading doesn’t allow some very brilliant students a chance at the high GPAs was demanding, but I’m very grateful; it they would assuredly have at other schools.” prepared me for the levels of stress I’m going to face for the rest of my life as a “There were very few things about doctor. I don’t think I would have made it Davidson that I disliked. But if I had to pick past the second week of med school if it one, I’d say that some students tend to be hadn’t been for my Davidson education. too high-strung for their own good.” Davidson not only prepared me well for medical classes, but more importantly, Who Would Be Most Compatible it taught me how to be a well-rounded with the Academic and Social person who can balance academics with Atmosphere at Davidson? the rest of my life.” “Davidson is a place for highly principled scholars. The Honor Code is the foundation “Yes. We’re a unique community, friendly for the College, and that dedication to and dedicated to our work. Davidson kind of integrity sets Davidson students apart. While drives you crazy, but it’s worth it in the end.” i dedication to academics may be found at any top college, Davidson students have a Note: The reviewers quoted in the Students deep-rooted desire to achieve beyond the Review series are expressing their own views, classroom, to put their excellent education to which are not necessarily those of JHU or CTY. use in the world, to make it a better place.”
creative minds imagine Kids Philosophy Slam Kids Philosophy Slam is an annual program in which students in grades K–12 answer a philosophical question (2010: “Is the pen mightier than the sword?”). Depending on their age, students may respond in an essay, artwork, poetry, or musical composition. One national winner is selected from each grade level. The top four high school students debate the year’s question at the national finals, with the winner earning the title of The Most Philosophical Student in America. For more information, see www.philosophyslam.org.
2009 Question: Greed or Giving: Which Has a Greater Impact on Society? First Place Essay
by Bert Geng
There is no fire like passion, there is no shark like hatred, there is no snare like folly, there is no torrent like greed. —Buddha Greed is a tsunami that engulfs all but those with the purest of souls and the noblest of resolve. In a society plagued by avarice, is there any wonder that the most notable people in history are often those who stole selfishly from the world? Greed is that insatiable hunger that devours all but leaves little. No matter how much one may give to this ravenous leviathan, the desire for more will never disappear, ultimately consuming any acts of selflessness and leaving behind great scars upon the world. In almost all historical cases, greed has made a greater impression on the people than has giving, in part due to its worldwide implications, in part due to the shock of finding out the ugly side of life. Take the recent housing crisis, for example. Reflect upon the catastrophe that would eventually manifest itself, when many years ago, a little seed of greed implanted itself in the minds of a few loan brokers. This little seed grew unchecked, becoming so widespread, so imbedded in workings of the system, that all it took was one little boost in taxes, one little push, one little tap on the dominos of disaster to mark the beginning of the end. Wall Street’s greed caused a global crisis and perniciously affected the lives of millions upon millions of people. From one little selfish act, events conspired to cruelly shatter the illusions of security and opened the eyes of the people to the harsh truth of reality. The devastating effects of greed are almost unimaginable and yet this is but one of many cases in history. Giving, on the other hand, affects a much smaller group. The daily, almost mundane, act of holding a door for the elderly, or helping a friend, affects few. Giving may provide temporary relief; however, the benevolent deed will most likely be forgotten soon after. Even in the rare cases where giving has made a worldwide impact, greed has inevitably warped
its effect and used its “good” to wreak havoc upon the world. Just how does greed distort the actions of giving? Take Jesus, for example. In what was perhaps the most influential act of altruism in history, Jesus sacrificed himself to spread his ideas to the people. While his gift did spread to all corners of the world, one must not forget what greed has done to it; greed twisted his sacrifice to its own ends, and used his ideals to promote violence, ensure segregation, and maintain a wall of sexism for hundreds of years. Ironically, in encouraging peace and love, Jesus has inadvertently promoted the evils of the world by providing a façade for the greedy to cower behind. The charity of humanity is almost expected, and thus, giving will inevitably be forgotten. Greed, on the other hand, will lead to death, violence, and hatred, all of which shock and frighten us, causing an everlasting impression. In a world filled with naïve notions of mankind’s “inherent good,” greed will forever eclipse the fragile light of altruism. Bert Geng is a senior at Bethpage high school in New York, where he is the vice president of the students Putting an end to cancer club and the assistant program director of civic club. in addition to philosophy and volunteer work, Bert enjoys playing tennis and running. he plans to major in biomedical engineering, an interest that stems largely from his love of sciencefiction books and movies.
Most Poetic Essay
by Hannah Lufkin
People have an innate natural perfection which, distracted by daily living, we often forget. —Buddha In the deep of a beautiful wood lays a still pool of collected water. How all the molecules of liquid came to form this presence has been forgotten, but in the deepest place of the pond is an ancient memory of fulfillment. It is because of this memory that water always regains its presence… Deeply throughout human history are stories of generosity. The memories passed through books, word of mouth, and embedded in the teachings of religion contain the wisdom of how generosity has sustained society. These stories remind us of the generosity engrained in the human story. They keep the complications of a busy world from allowing greed to have a permanent impact on society. …Presently, a lost Labrador, driven mad by the city, stumbles into the clearing in the woods. Through his frantic condition, he notices a dead fly drifting across the surface of the water. The pond feels his presence and trembles, as the starved dog snatches this parcel of food off the surface of the water. The effect is powerful. Large ripples move through the water, crash into the sides of the bank, and are sent rapidly back into the center of the pool. For a short time the water is restless. But in the deepest place of the pond, there is the memory of peace… …The Labrador begins to whine. He gnaws desperately at the fly in an attempt to satisfy his large mouth. As the realization that this small insect cannot save him attacks his sanity, his last stroke of fearful determination sends him scrambling into the dark. For a moment, there is silence. The water is wary, but a sense of almost forgotten peace from the depths of the pond
soon settles the liquid. And in the deepest place of the pond, an innately perfect spring emerges… …The spring sends out a small flow of water that creeps through the rocky crevices of the deepest place of the pond. This small amount of liquid cannot be noticed by the outside world, but because of it, the water begins to swell and then slowly rise. The gentle pressure brings the water to the tip of the pond-side. And the pond cries. A cold trickle of persistent liquid escapes from the pond’s edge in a slender rivulet and sneaks through the underbrush, deep into the woods. It follows an irregular path, but its course is certain and its purpose determined as the water slips across the head of a panting Labrador, lying exhausted across the forest floor. Ever so softly, the rivulet creates the smallest puddle at the corners of the dog’s mouth. And even more gently in the shadow of the forest, this dog takes a long cool drink. …and from the deepest place of the pond, generosity has made its impact. i hannah Lufkin is in 8th grade, enjoying her last year at Lake county Middle school. she lives oﬀ the grid in Leadville, co. in her spare time, she plays the ﬂute, skis, practices spanish, munches on pot stickers, and spends time with her dogs.
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Puzzle by websudoku.com easy
5 7 4 6 2 6 3 8 1 3 5 7 3 8 7 1 4 2 9 1 4 3 8 1 5 6 7 2 hard 46â€‚ â€‚ imagine
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Puzzle by websudoku.com medium
B A L I P L A C M E W E B P I V O T R I X A K A C I R A W R E T H O N O N E A Y E
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word wise solution (from page 37) Mar/Apr 2010
by Tim Boester
The ten contestants left on Survivor have formed four alliances within their tribe: an alliance with four people, an alliance with three, an alliance with two, and a person who has formed an alliance of one. The people within each alliance have secretly agreed to vote off the same person in the next tribal council. Naturally, the contestants vote to oust people outside their own alliance (and thus no one votes for themselves). When talking to the people within their alliance, each person speaks truthfully about whom they will vote off. However, when speaking with someone outside their alliance, they always lie. (Thus, the person who is in the alliance of one lies to everyone.) In order to make the lie more believable, they say that they will vote off someone who isn’t in their own alliance. In order to make the lie non-threatening, they say that they will vote off someone who isn’t in the alliance of the person with which they are speaking. In order to make the lie uninformative, they say that they will vote off someone who isn’t in the alliance of the person they actually are voting off. (Note: depending upon who is speaking to whom, some of these conditions may be redundant.)
Clues: Jacob to Teresa: “I’m voting for Michael.” Allison to Chris: “I’m voting for Jacob.” Michael to Donte: “I’m voting for Allison.” Allison to Sara: “I’m voting for Michael.” Jacob to Chris: “I’m voting for Teresa.” Allison to Genevieve: “I’m voting for Sara.” Samantha to Donte: “I’m voting for Teresa.” Jacob to Peter: “I’m voting for Allison.”
Tribal Council vote: 6 votes for Jacob 4 votes for Allison From the statements above and the results of the actual tribal council vote, can you determine who was in each alliance, and how each alliance voted?
Knossos Games 17.3 Solution minimum path score: 67
maximum path score: 10,978
tim Boester is an Assistant Professor in Mathematics education at Wright state University. You can find more puzzles on his website at homepage.mac.com/ boester.
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If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. —Descartes