All posts tagged: critical thinking

Week 34 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Democracy

Have you been following the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong?  Democracy is once again a hot topic in the news.  What is meant by the word ‘demoracy’?  Generally, when people refer to democracy they mean that the government represents the “will of the people”.  There are many ways that a government can be democratic and represent the will of the people, but no type of democracy is more famous than American-style democracy. For this week’s topic, we look at Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysberg Address – memorized by American schoolchildren every year – to understand the foundation of American-style democracy. 

Read more to find out and to consider some challenging questions for democracy!

Week 26 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Moral Status of Fetuses

Let’s start by recognizing that we all care about fetuses and believe they have some moral status. Whether you’re discussing this issue with someone is pro-choice, pro-life, or declares undecided, take it for granted that s/he doesn’t wish harm on a fetus. I mean, it’s safe to say that protesters who are pro-choice aren’t pro-death; they’re protesting for what they believe are women’s rights. There’s a difference – like protesting in favor of job creation isn’t the same as protesting in favor of fossil fuel usage, even if increased workforce participation not-indirectly results in increase fossil fuels usage.  The point: we all recognize that fetuses have a moral status but can’t agree on three things: first, when that moral status comes about, second, what that moral status should be called, and third, what rights it earns the fetus.

Visit the post for this week’s questions!

Week 25 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Personhood

Personhood is a topic that bears legal and moral consequences. You might have heard about it in discussions of immigration or abortion.  But even if those issues don’t relate to you personally, personhood is still an important topic for you.  Your security and status in society require an entrenched concept of personhood developed over hundreds of years.  Personhood relates to all rights, responsibilities, respect, citizenship, voting, and freedom.

The designation of personhood adds special significance to what would otherwise be regarded as a mere thing.  The personhood designation says: [pointing to someone] That thing is not merely an object, but is a person.  That means it requires special treatment and special ethical consideration – you can’t kill it and can’t treat it however you want, as you would a brick, or a computer, or a stuffed bear.

Week 24 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Fame

This week’s journal topic: Fame Being famous is a new career choice and a highly desirable one for Millennials and Gen Z.  Twenty years ago, if you asked an elementary school student what she wanted to be when she grew up, she might have named veterinarian, scientist, or doctor as dream careers.  The Barbie dolls of the 90’s reflect these choices.  If you asked a student of the same age nowadays, you might hear the answer, “Famous!”  Closely related are the “careers” of Instagrammer, vlogger, Youtuber, and Twitch star. Paris Hilton led the way of the tribe of women who are famous-for-being-famous.  Kim Kardashian followed a few years later and continues to reign as a pop-culture Queen.  And so-called “DJ” Khalid is known more for his social media presence than talent. Fame certainly has an appeal to our generation.  Even though it’s clear that fame is a much tougher game than beautiful Instagram profiles make it seem, the number of young people throwing their entire lives into the ring keeps increasing.  After the dust settles, …

Week 23 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Race & Race Skepticism

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This week’s topic:  Race & Race Skepticism This week’s topic is contentious and avoided in polite conversation. However, the topic arises in political and social dimensions of life.  For example, affirmative action is sometimes a legal requirement in the United States with respect to promotions or admissions criteria.  In Canada, race is sometimes a requirement for prospective adoptive parents or for access to social programs. Despite the frequent appearance of the concept of race in politics and society, most people avoid speaking plainly and openly about it for fear of offending someone.  Definitions are left to academics who nurture their thoughts while hidden in the safety of ivory towers.  And since the rest of us are not openly speaking about it, there is little motivation to think deeply about it.  If (quite shockingly) the topic arises, it’s polite to say, “I don’t have an opinion.”  But that’s not honest with yourself, nor is it conducive to thinking …

Week 21 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Objectivity & Subjectivity

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This week’s journal topic: Objectivity and Subjectivity These terms seem frighteningly philosophical, right?  What’s this? you ask. More stuffy classroom terms that serve scant purpose in everyday life?  Actually, the terms objectivity and subjectivity are used fairly regularly in intelligent conversation about politics, science, and ethics.  And if it’s not the specific terms that are invoked, the concepts behind them are nonetheless are. Objectivity Say you’re having an argument with someone who finishes his speech by saying, “I’m just reporting the objective facts – you have to accept that I’m right about this.”  What does he mean by objective facts and why does stating them provide evidence to support his view? Simply defined, objectivity is the characteristic which expresses the idea that a statement is free of perspectives, value judgments, or bias from personal interests.  To emphasize that a statement is an “objective fact” is to iterate to your listener that the statement is “faithful to the facts” …

What Everyone Should Know About Coping Behaviors & Addictions

Let me begin by stating that we all have the so-called “addictive personality”.  This label isn’t reserved for the weak or unmotivated or broken.  The addictive personality is, in fact, the the human condition. I think it’s obvious: each one of us resorts to some kind of coping behavior when life is too stressful and we feel overwhelmed.  Some of these coping behaviors involve legal or illegal substance abuse, but not all do.  Because some are more obvious and readily cause social and financial ruin, they are labeled “addictions”; however, each one of us has a chosen coping behavior or behavior that matters dearly to us and a harmful dependence can develop to any of these behaviors. The fundamental similarity among all of them is the aim to avoid painful emotions. No one is immune to painful emotions such as fear, loneliness, sadness, guilt, jealousy, boredom, inadequacy, etc.   The coping behaviors that allow us to avoid overwhelming emotions tend to fall into three categories: Consumption – e.g., food, media, and shopping Numbing out – e.g. drugs …

Week 13 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Vacations

(This blog is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This Week’s Journal Topic: Vacation A vacation is a length of time spent away from home, usually involving travel. We not only leave our regular physical environments of work and home, we also abandon the normal patterns in life. The broad goals of vacation are relaxation and celebration. Freedom from deadlines and responsibilities allows our bodies and minds to return to baseline stress levels. By abandoning patterns, we affirm our freedom to make fresh choices, to focus on relationships with loved ones and treat them, and to reignite passion for life by living out previously unimagined possibilities. To remember these events, we take souvenirs (from the French verb to remember) and photos. Touching or viewing a certain object or photo has the ability to reconnect us with the part of us that gets lost after we return to the patterns and ritual thoughts of everyday life. Aside from these common threads, there are many different vacationing …

Week 12 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Nature

(This blog is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This Week’s Journal Topic:  Nature Ever wonder why climate change and oil extraction/transport are such contentious topics?  Why do some people join eco-protests, while other worry about a healthy economy? Answer: moral attitudes, values and religious beliefs underlie these opinions about the treatment of the environment. Consider a breadth of attitudes towards nature: Science: Nature is something to be controlled.  Nature has power that we can and should get better at harnessing for our own purposes.  Nature is an indication of the “proper function” of organisms, except when it isn’t and when we prefer to do things another way.  In that case, we can and may alter nature’s course. Bible: God created all of nature; nature is evidence of God’s works.  Follow God’s laws and you will do right by the Earth. But humans should propagate and fill the Earth (Genesis 9:1), and man has “dominion over… every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26). …

Kant on Enlightenment & Ignorance as a Societal Sickness

Thoughts on Immanuel Kant’s discussion of self-imposed nonage in Answering the Question: “What is Enlightenment?” Ignorance is a Societal Sickness Kant writes that “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage.” You’ve likely never heard of the word nonage before.  It refers to a state of immaturity, youth, a time of life in which we rely on guardians to make decisions for us. During this period, we are directed by another person’s reasoning, rather than by our own.  In the natural age of youth, we require the assistance of guardians to think and speak for us, due to our undeveloped faculty of reason.  At such an age, we do not harm our soul, spirit, or personal humanity by deferring decision-making to those who care for us.  There is no feasible alternative, lest we be forced to prematurely raise ourselves and risk detriment. Sometimes, however, a human prolongs his nonage far into adulthood. In Kant’s essay, he distinguishes between nonage and self-imposed nonage. Kant names two essential features of self-imposed nonage, which act as internal barriers …