PHILOSOPHY

Aristotle once said, “all human beings by nature desire to understand.” As human beings we are naturally curious. We like to know what is going on around us and why it is, the way it is. Philosophy is a discipline that exercises reason and logic in order to understand reality and answer fundamental questions about life, knowledge, morality and human nature. The Greeks defined philosophy as the “love of wisdom.” These questions derive from examining ones own beliefs and then begin to doubt about their validity. From this doubt, is where questions emerge. A philosopher proposes a series of possible answers to the question and provides arguments to support each one. This process attempts to prove the rationality of the beliefs and tries to discover the truth.

Modern philosophy contains six main branches of thought:

  1. Metaphysics: The nature of reality and the universe.
  2. Epistemology: The study of knowledge and how it is acquired.
  3. Logic: How to develop valid arguments.
  4. Ethics: The study of right and wrong.
  5. Politics: The study of government, citizen rights and political obligations.
  6. Aesthetics: Beauty, art and artistic perception.


How Philosophy Can Save Your Life: Jules Evans

“Take care of our souls.”

Jules Evans shared his story on how philosophy saved his life. When he was in college he began experiencing panic attacks due to substance abuse. Evans became socially anxious. The various substances he had consumed with his friends had terribly damaged the chemical balance in his head. He later on went to visit a therapist who diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety and depression. Evans started researching solutions to his disorders and came across Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. There were CBT support groups, which he attended every Thursday evening. From this, he began to understand how to transform his emotions. What he came across to understand was the ABC theory of emotions.

“A” standing for the activated event, meaning something that happens to us.

“B” stands for our beliefs, how we interpret that event.

“C” stands for consequent emotion that we feel through our interpretation.

There will always be a reaction to an action. Sometimes our interpretations are unconscious and automatic. He speaks about that “inner voice” we have that we tend to think is accurate all the time but in reality we never bother to question it. What often causes suffering is our own beliefs. We are our own imprisoners, our own torturers. This is where philosophy comes into play. According to Evans we have to learn to ask questions and stop assuming that our own inner voice is telling the truth. We must learn how to engage it in a rational way.

Do we really have CONTROL over ourselves?

Is it possible for us to choose how to react to things? We are the “slaves of circumstances.” Philosopher Epictetus believed in dividing life into two spheres: those things we don’t have complete control over and those that we do. According to Epictetus, the only thing we have control over is our beliefs. Emotional problems come from two mistakes humans make. Firstly we try to exert complete control over something externally and when we realize we can’t control we often feel frustrated and angry. Sometimes we use something externally as an excuse as to why we are the way we are. Something easy to relate these theories to is,  liking someone who does not like you back. I feel everyone must have gone through this at some point in his or her lives. We try every possible thing to make that person like us, we tend to change the way we dress, we often do things for that person or do things to get noticed by them but even though you try every possible thing you don’t get the result you want. It is something out of our control. Looking back you may think how stupid you were to do so many things for someone who didn’t appreciate it, but in reality it is in human nature to want to control everything even though it is impossible.

That is when you realize that there is certain things you can’t control over and you learn to accept it slowly until it stops bothering you and you move on.



My Philosophy for a Happy Life: Sam Berns

Sam Berns is a junior at Foxboro High School in Massachusetts. He was diagnosed with Progeria, a rapid aging disease, at the age of 2. At this TED talk he speaks about how he achieved to become percussion section leader in his high school’s marching band. He also shares his own philosophy to a happy life despite the hardships he faces due to his condition. Sam Berns philosophy for a happy life consists of three aspects:

  1. Be okay with what you ultimately can’t do, because there is so much you can do.
    1. Stop focusing on the things you are unable to do and start engaging in things that you are passionate about and you are able to do. Focus all your energy in things that you are capable of doing.
  2. Surround yourself with people you want to be around with.
    1. One must surround oneself with people that love you and support you no mater what. Positive people that motivate you to move forward.
  3. Keep Moving Forward
  4. Always have something to look forward to. This focuses you in knowing that there is a bright future ahead.

Essential Question Reflection

“The Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living”

In class, we were divided into groups of three to examine the meaning of a word in a philosophical manner. My group chose the word pain. As a group we had to question the meaning of pain and also what it is not.

What is Pain?

“Living involves being exposed to pain every second—not necessarily as an insistent reality, but always as a possibility,” said by Arne Vetlessen; who wrote the book “A Philosophy of Pain.”

Even if we try to avoid pain, there will always be the possibility of feeling it. It is unavoidable and unpredictable. But can we control it? In most cases we can.

Have you ever felt pain? Either physical or emotional?

Pain is unpredictable but it is possible, meaning it can happen to anyone.

Pain Is:

  • Something you can’t touch but feel.
  • Something that is manifested differently for each person.
  • Affects people surrounding you.
  • Pain is unpredictable.
  • It could be used as a weapon.
  • Can be emotional, physical even mental.
  • Inflicted during torture.
  • Suffered in disease.
  • Anxiety, grief, depression.
  • Pain brought by violence.

Pain Is Not:

  • Healthy
  • Happiness
  • Prevents you from moving forward.
  • Peace

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LITERATURE

For most of us, literature encompasses any writing formed with letters. To me literature is a platform that reflects society, it makes us think and analyze our surroundings and ourselves. Literature allows us to enjoy language and reflect on the “human condition.” Literature is the foundation of life. While it is true that it is physically written in words, these words come alive in the imagination of our own mind. I like to think of it as a magnifying glass that enables us to look into the world as others see it. It is a gateway that transports us to a journey that physically is inscribed in pages but it is powered by the imagination of that who reads it.


Exposed to Literature since the ABC’s

Believe or not, from a very young age we are exposed to literature in the most simple ways: simple texts such as picture books whose main purpose was to teach us the alphabet, colors and numbers. You may not consider it literature since it is not complex as a novel is, but at that time when we were that young and new to analyzing things, we could have thought those picture books were pretty complex. The beauty of literature is that it has no age or time limit. As we grow older, we get to explore other genres according to our age and maturity level to comprehend more complex reading. Literature in general prepares us to comprehend and understand situations from many perspectives.


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Have you ever wonder what it is like to be someone who you are not? Like a super hero? Or perhaps a mystical creature? Something impossible to achieve in reality? As we all know it is impossible to magically switch bodies with another human being yet alone a fictional character. Literature, is that alternative that provides us with the opportunity to be and understand the world of another. As the reader you get to imagine and envision the character’s emotions, pain, memories, obstacles, without physically being them. I miss being a kid for that same reason, as we grow up we tend to loose our imagination and creativity we realize that life is not as simple as we thought when we were five. But thank goodness there is literature, which acts as a time machine that transports us to a specific time period, without physically doing anything; it is all in our mind.

“Literary means not only what is written but what is voiced, what is expressed, what is invented, in whatever form.”

The new definition of literature found in Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors’s A New Literary History of America. Beneath the literary umbrella we can find not only books but also case maps, comic strips, sermons, cartoons, photographs, speeches, movies and music.


Literature Foregrounds Language

Literature is the art form that arises out of the human ability to create language. Literature has the power to transform and intensify everyday speech.

Benefits of Literature

Aside from providing pleasure and a relaxing escape from reality, literature provides us with many benefits.

Literature develops thinking skills. As we submerge ourselves in the text, we learn to do critical analysis of the story, think of cause and effect, we start to form predictions and visualize the actions of the characters and the setting where the story takes place. Reading literature motivates our minds to think and process every little detail in order to understand the overall picture that the author is trying to project to us.

Literature improves reading ability. The earlier we are exposed to literature the more we are able to read at an increased ability. The longer our attention spans become and the more engaged we become when reading texts.

Literature expands our capacity to sympathize with other human beings, enhances our ability to imagine and understand human complexity.

How and Why We Read: Crash Course English Literature #1

  1. Have a fuller understanding of lives other than your own.
  2. Become more empathetic.
  3. Reading critically and attentively can give you the linguistic tools to share our own story with more precision.


Close Reading: Deeper Subtexts Within

What does a “close reading” of a literary text mean?

A “close reading” of a literary text means it is a closer analysis of the subject. Reading in between the lines to have a deeper understanding of what the author is trying to say without it being too straightforward or obvious.

Between The Lions

title

Close reading reminds me of a television show I used to love when I was little, Between the Lions. This show was a PBS Kids puppet television series designed to promote reading. The plot consisted on a family of anthropomorphic lions living in a library alongside other characters such as Click, a live computer mouse. The format of the program was intended to promote literacy and reading. The lions would introduce existing picture books and read them to the audience. The books would contain a moral. The program’s phrase was “Get Wild About Reading.” When I was little I loved watching this show during the weekends. The format was entertaining, it was colorful, dynamic and most importantly its message came across on every episode. It promoted reading and it encouraged me to see books and take reading in a fun and imaginative way. This program was highly interactive, where I learned the vowels; I expanded my vocabulary and learned to read in a more critical manner. What I loved about this show was the simple way the program broke down the story of a book in order to make it easier for kids to understand.


Lyrics Close Reading of “Lay Me Down” by Sam Smith

(Verse 1)

Yes I do, I believe

That one day I will be, where I was

Right there, right next to you

And it’s hard; the days just seem so dark

The moon, the stars, are nothing without you

Your touch, your skin, where do I begin?

No words can explain, the way I’m missing you

Deny this emptiness, this hole that I’m inside

These tears, they tell their own story

(Pre-Chorus)

You told me not to cry when you were gone

But the feeling’s overwhelming, it’s much too strong

(Chorus)

Can I lay by your side, next to you, you

And make sure you’re alright

I’ll take care of you

I don’t want to be here if I can’t be with you tonight

(Verse 2)

I’m reaching out to you

Can you hear my call?

This hurt that I’ve been through

I’m missing you, missing you like crazy

(Pre-Chorus)

(Outro)

Lay me down tonight, lay me by your side

Lay me down tonight, lay me by your side

Can I lay by your side, next to you, you, you

Close Reading Lyrical Analysis

“Lay Me Down” by Sam Smith narrates the story of a person that remembers his love partner and longs to be near him/her. The reality is, they can’t be together. Through the lyrics it is not clear what happened between the couple, we could infer a tough break-up or some sort of separation. The music video implies that his partner passes away. The person misses their partner and has faith that one day he will be with their partner again. The song perfectly describes the hard times he is going through after the loss of the lover. The person feels numb with everything surrounding him/her. There is sense of hollow and emptiness.

“No words can explain the way I’m missing you, deny the emptiness, this hole that I’m inside these tears, they tell their own story.”

“Don’t cry for me.” The lover knew he wouldn’t end up being with him forever, so he says this because the lover didn’t want him to suffer or mourn his death.

“Can I lay by your side, next to you, you?” This line can be interpreted as facing reality knowing he won’t be able to be with his lover no more so he thinks of the possibility of being united after death. He wants to join his lover in death so they can be together again. He doesn’t want to be alive, if he can’t be with his partner.

“I’m reaching out to you… Can you hear my call?” His lover won’t come back, but he keeps insisting trying to connect with him/her in some way. He is trying to reach his lover.

“This hurt that I’ve been through… I’m missing you, missing you like crazy.” This line describes all the pain he has been through. He cannot stop missing him/her.



Daniel Mendelsohn Close Reading Study

Daniel Mendelsohn made a study assessing the films of James Cameron. He approaches his analysis through a close reading. His first analysis starts with Pocahontas and Avatar.

Similarities in Avatar from Pocahavathontasontas:

  • Confrontation between dark-skinned native peoples and white-skinned invaders intent on commercials exploitation is leavened by an intercultural love story.
  • Jamestown (Pocahontas) / Pandora (Avatar)
  • Captain John Smith (Pocahontas) / Marine Colonel Jake Sully (Avatar)

Themes:

  • The stereotypes that white people are rationalist and technocratic, while colonial victims are spiritual and athletic.
  • Assumption that non-whites need the “white leader” to lead their crusades.
  • Two-edged cultural imperialism. Natives can either have their history shaped by cruel imperialists or benevolent ones.

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Similarities in Avatar from The Wizard of Oz:

  • Dorothy’s like in Kansas was filmed in black and white; only when she awakes in Oz, the film moves into color.
  • In Avatar, Jake Sully’s world (world of the humans) is filmed in a monotonous palette of grays and blues to represent a bleak future. The world of the Na’vi is all in color.

In conclusion, Mendelsohn points out the theme of technology and the human race wanting to escape the ordinary life.

Economics

Statistics and Research Methods in Economics

What is Economics?

Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources that have alternative uses. There are three factors that affect economics. There are people, resources, and desires. The people need resources in order to fulfill their desires. It’s the way people make choices of how to use these scarce resources. Economists study these choices and alternatives to fulfill society’s infinite desires.

Economics is divided in microeconomics and macroeconomics.

  • Microeconomics studies individual agents and markets.
  • Macroeconomics studies the behavior of the entire economy.

Econometrics is the economists’ branch of statistics that specializes and analyzes economic data.

The two most common systems of economics are: Classical and Keynesian. The classical view believes that free markets are the best way to allocate resources. The government’s role should be limited. The Keynesian approach believes that markets don’t work well at allocating resources. As a result, the government must step in to reallocate resources in an efficient manner.

Economic Growth

Economic Growth is seen when the market value of goods and services in an economy increases in one period compared to another. Economic growth is measured by examining the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of an economy. Growth in real GDP measures how fast an economy expands. Growth in GDP per capita measures the ability of people to purchase goods and services. When goods and services are less expensive, demand for them increases. This is good for the economy. An increase in population results in more consumers to buy goods and services. This allows the economy to expand.

Referral Link: http://www.investopedia.com/video/play/economic-growth/



Why Poor Students Struggle

By Vicki Madden

According to Vicki Madden colleges are more divided by wealth than ever. When lower-income students start college, they often struggle to finish for many reasons, but social isolation and alternation can be big factors. Lower socioeconomic students have challenges with their very identity, comfort and right to be on that campus. IMG_0423The more elite the school, the wider the gap. Students have to come to terms with the unspoken transaction, exchanging your “old world” for a “new world,” one that doesn’t seem to value where you came from. “Any gain might entail a corresponding loss.” Meaning students struggle to let go of their socioeconomic background for a better education. In conclusion colleges ignore the socioeconomic homogeneity of their student bodies.

Referral Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/22/opinion/why-poor-students-struggle.html?_r=0

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Should Marijuana Be Legalized?

Political Science

Making Something Legal Does Not Make It Right

Referral Link: http://www.nbcnews.com/watch/nbcnews-com/make-the-case-should-marijuana-be-legalized-301550659810

People in our society tend to confuse this thought of making something legal would automatically make it morally right. Marijuana is a multiple gateway drug, meaning it is a gateway to addiction and other drug substance abuse. Some may start with marijuana and then try to experiment with harder drugs since they become addicted to the “high” feelings it causes. Marijuana introduces its users to a subculture that gradually accepts drug abuse as something common.

Health

Marijuana is also a gateway to health problems. This drug introduces toxic chemicals into a user’s body. As a consequence a user may be in risk for cancer, strokes, respiratory damage, psychosis and heart attacks.

Crime

There have been surveys conducted which reveal that most convicts are reported using illegal drugs at the time they committed the offense. Many in the law enforcement field oppose legalizing marijuana because it is linked to other criminal activity.

Poverty

Marijuana introduces its users to poverty. Its use causes mental as well as physical impairment. Employers do not permit its use in the work force.

What do I believe?

I believe marijuana should be kept illegal. This way we can develop better ways to discourage its use. A system could be created to increase fines, penalties, or substance-abuse counseling. Those who use their freedom to engage in these self-destructive behaviors will live the consequence of letting themselves down. They are slowly depriving themselves from giving their very best to society.

Arguments that may support legalization of marijuana may be:

  • Liberty:
    • People deserve freedom to use marijuana.
  • Cost:
    • Keeping marijuana illegal is expensive.
  • Medicinal Use:
    • Marijuana can be used as medicine to stimulate appetite and relieve nausea in cancer and AIDS patients.

Political Science

What is Political Science?

Political science is the systematic study of government and politics. It is a social science that studies political behavior. Political science is about power relationships. Politics impact our lives directly and indirectly. This discipline has sub disciplines that include:

  • National, State and Local Government
  • Foreign Policy Decision Making
  • Political Theory or Political Philosophy
  • Comparative Government and Politics
  • Research Methodology or Quantitative Analysis

Political Science examines the state and its institutions. It encompasses the studies of all the societal, psychological, and cultural factors that influence the operation of government. A think tank is an organization that engages in research to solve particular problems, such as economic, political, social, defense, and technological. This discipline is important because it is the process that determines who gets what, when they get it, and how they get it. According to Aristotle, political science is the mother of all other sciences because it affects every other human social endeavor.

Referral Link: http://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-political-science.html

Power

In a democracy power is supposed to reside with the people. “Power is the ability to make others do what you would have them do.” This plays an important role in our family, the workplace, and even in our relationships.

There are six sources of civic power:

  • Physical Force
    • Authority such as the police and defense.
  • Wealth
    • Money provides the ability to obtain results and power.
  • State Action
    • Law and bureaucracy to compel people to do or not do certain things.
  • Social Norms
    • Can make people change behavior, even laws.
  • Ideas
    • An idea can motivate people to change their thinking and action.
  • Numbers
    • A “vocal mass” of people creates power by expressing collective ideals and interest.

How does Power operate?

There are 3 laws of power. The first is, Power is never static. This means that if you are not taking action, you are being acted upon. Power will always be in constant action. The second law compares Power to water. Power will always flow in society’s everyday life. Politics is in charge of making sure it flows the direction the people want. Policy-making freezes power. The third and last law is Power Compounds, which means it prevents one person from having all the power.

History the Witness of the Times

Research Methods in History

History is the study of the past; it is a chronological record of significant events. History can provide us with many solutions to the problems of the present. History teaches us that people can change. According to the video, “What is History for?” those who don’t know history won’t be able to improve the present. We learn history to further develop ideas, we learn where we came from, and we also learn to express our opinions.

There are seven key historical concepts:

  • Evidence
  • Continuity/Change
  • Cause and Effect
  • Perspectives
  • Empathy
  • Significance
  • Contestability

Everything done in the past and everything done now in this instant will always have consequences for the future.

Historical Thinking

Thinking historically helps us get closer to the past. Primary sources are vital to reconstruct the past. The sources are documents of people who lived during a specific time period. Historical thinking encompasses learning how to read, analyze, question and contextualize these sources. Sourcing is about questioning and analyzing the origins of a source. Historical context requires making connections amongst what were the ideologies of the day, to the words that came before those being analyzed. It is about location events and sources in time and space. Historical claims need to be supported by truthful evidence. These elements that help historical thinking are all integral to understanding how we know and what we know about the past.