Monday, 15 January 2018

Introduction to Philosophy Using My Dog Jocone

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Philosophy is boring

I recently decided/realised that philosophy is boring. At least I now think it's boring. Long dead old men talking about one and the many, body and the mind, appearance and reality. It's just one long old dream, and now I've made a whole lifestyle out of it and am forced to teach eager undergraduates who don't even understand much of what I'm saying to them half the time.

So I came up with what I think is an exciting pedagogical initiative. I've crafted an Introduction to Philosophy. But it's not just any phil intro course. It's all based around my dog Jocone. This has really sparked up my interest again and the students are responding as well as ever. I have begun incorporating photos of Jocone and anecdotes about some of his funnier antics into my teaching. This is a rich area and I'm only just starting to really explore it in front of the students, but just as an "initial sample", here are some of the ways I've taken dry stolid old empty philosophy topics and put a twist on to them:

Mind and body dualism: so Jocone loves his treats. I sometimes wonder if we took away his body, would you still know that your treats were there Jocone? If yes, there must be some "Jocone spirit" animating his little furry body. (Descartes said animals were mere automata; he'd obviously never met anyone like Jocone. Sometimes I hold up Jocone (I can't very well kick him like Dr Johnson - I'm sorry for even mentioning that) and say "I refute him thus!" (meaning Descartes).

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This is a big one - if I train Jocone well, he knows how to sit and when to be quiet. But is this all instinct, or is there a real "objective truth" to how a dog should behave? Am I just doing what I was trained to do, or is there something deeper going on here? This is a fascinating subject that has a lot to it, but by using Jocone we can at least begin to get under the service.

Modal realism: What if I make copies of Jocone? Is that even possible? Or are they just counterpart dogs in other worlds? (What is a world?) This only gets deeper the more I have to think about it.

Logic and rationality: When Jocone sees me coming, he wags his tail. If someone scary comes in, he runs away. Is there some deep truth underlying this response? Logic says it is. There is literally a structure to every argument I have with Jocone, and we can analyze it carefully to make sure we have a better relationship in future. So even something as dry as boring as logic can actually help us to figure out better ways to be. And Jocone is still wagging that little tail of his!

I have a few more classes to teach, and a few more subjects to cover, so I might follow this post up with more ideas about teaching IntroPhil in this insightful new way. (Then again, I might not! Such is the life of Feel free to experiment yourself and to leave your comments below. Please don't say any false statements, or mislead me.
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Sunday, 7 January 2018

A Pisces Chicken: Reflexions on A Note

Pisces Chicken

This note was written on the door of my office. Go figure. I never cease to wonder at all the things that get written by the students that I have taught in the philosophy department. I try to tell my children about it but they are not interested in hearing about it. I am glad to have a forum here where I can share stories such as this, and I plan to offer this service to other people who might be interested. All in all, this was a bemusing afternoon.

I have begun to collect stories like this which I intend to compile in a book. I believe some people may be interested in it, but then I could possibly be wrong about this. I would like to find out the answer to this. If you can help me collect answers, please submit a preliminary data set to me via a secure email account. I can arrange for you to have an office, and we will work to crack the code together. I am completely serious about this, and I am looking to fund an extended project in cognate disciplines. The philosophy of social groups, and the philosophy of service. Looking at your CV I can see you like to party like a peanut, and I can see a massive curriculum taking shape with your note on it - you never know, you may even receive one day a note just like the above.

I ran forty meters this morning, and my mind was racing. I ran up and down a hill, forty meters. Gimme that ass!

Here is a picture of what Jocone was up to this morning:

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Image result for dog having breakfast image
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Saturday, 6 January 2018

"Philosopher's Syndrome" - A Diagnosis of the Disease in Our Profession and Lives

When I was talking to my kids the other day after finishing a seminar, I realized I had "philosopher's syndome". I kept telling them about the grounds of our beliefs, and the way our scientific image hangs together with our other Ideas. 'Dad!' they said, 'This doesn't make any sense! You need to concentrate.' I began to see that they had a point. I got my car off the road and grabbed them and said 'Yes! I have Philosopher's Syndrome".

I have philosopher's syndrome! Said the young lady in the drawing room to her young companion. Over several years, she had become conscious of certain pertubations in her train of thought - a certain bent to her reflexions. Her friend Raymond had noticed, and had taken to upbraiding her in the most unbridled way - You're always faffing about, Porche! (She hated that nickname) When are you going to stop trying to get your head straight and just plow in! - She looked away, letting her gaze fall on a paraffin lamp that had caught the late sunlight.

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Someone with PS will have any number of signs of it. I'm sure you know the type I am talking about. An obsession with ideas and truth, and a tendency to let these things bleed in to normal life. One or two people I went to grad school with had PS, and I will never how much I struggled with them. And now look at me - I've got a successful case of PS as well.

It's like the Philosopher's Stone! said Portia, with a beguiled smile on her face. Bronheld, terning her face to the dappled sunlight filtering into the room, scuffed her light brown coat and took a sip of vermouth, but did not say anything.

Wait, you're thinking. Why do I say successful case? Well, because there are real benefits to PS. I've come to use it to my advantage in classes, and have started trying to harness PS-power in my research. I invite all of you to do the same.

But be careful! The hazards are great; as are the rewards. Do you have what it takes to succeed using PS?

As usual, please leave your answers in the comments and avoid any ungrammaticality, or any false claims that you can avoid making. There is a number of commenters who come here and abuse the system.

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