EVOLUTION: Tiktaalik

You may know we evolved from apes, but did you know even earlier we came from sea creatures?

“Evolution is wonderful. Here’s the incredible walking fish, Tiktaalik, – part of the fins-to-limbs story showing how aquatic vertebrates transitioned to becoming walking, air-breathing land animals. (Prof Alice Roberts).”

Philosophy for Kids: What is Time?

Physicist Carlo Rovelli explains that when traditional physics begins by describing the motion of a swinging pendulum while comparing it to a clock, it is a misunderstanding to think the pendulum is really held up to “time,” but rather the movement of the pendulum is held up to the movement of the hands on a clock.  Similarly, saying I woke up at 8:00 am really means I woke up when the sun was at such and such a position. 

We seem to hold onto the belief of time as an entity because we fail to clarify what we mean when we use time as an explanation.  And, at the level of the very small (the quantum level), our everyday descriptive category of time (as well as “substance with properties”) doesn’t work well any more to describe reality, because while at the macro level everything seems to move according to one time (though it doesn’t the higher up you go in the atmosphere), at the micro level everything doesn’t. More than this, time seems to flow forward (I’m working for the weekend -> I’ve arrived at the weekend -.Now I’ve arrived at Sunday), but also can be felt as flowing in the opposite direction: backward (the weekend is coming -> the weekend is here – the weekend has passed). One time measures me going forward, while the other measures the weekend moving in the opposite direction toward me.

Question: What Is Time

Philosophy for Kids: What is Untruth?

Philosopher Heidegger shares the following thought experiment:

  • We take a slip of paper and write down the truth: “Here is the chalk.” We lay this transcribed truth next to the thing, about which it is the truth. When the lecture is finished, both doors are opened, the lecture hall is aired, there is a draft and the slip of paper—let us suppose—will flutter out into the hallway. A student discovers the slip of paper on his or her way to the cafeteria, reads the statement “Here is the chalk,” and realizes that this does not hold at all. By way of the draft, the truth has become an untruth. We write on the blackboard: “Now it’s afternoon.” Now, right now, on this afternoon. After the lecture—let us suppose—the lecture hall will be locked up, so that nobody can approach the transcribed truth and secretly falsify it. Early the next morning, the janitor may enter in order to clean the blackboard. He reads the truth: “Now it’s afternoon.” And he discovers that the statement is untrue, that this professor has made a mistake. Overnight the truth has become an untruth.

Using these ideas, can you describe what “untruth” is?

Philosophy for Kids: What is Being?

The philosopher Hegel said “Being” is the most general, and empty, way of talking about something that “is.” Of anything, from an idea in your head to a rock in a stream, we can say that it “is,” that it has “Being,” but what exactly “Being” means is confusing because it seems to refer to everything without meaning anything in particular.

In general, “Being” is said in many ways, but in philosophy usually refers to the “meaning” of something, and the “sense” of something. The meaning of something answers the question WHAT it is, and the sense of something answers the question HOW it is. So for example, a table may be brown and hard in terms of “what” it is, and badly positioned in terms of “how” it is if it is in the middle of the floor in a gym if you are trying to start a basketball game. In fancy philosophy words, Being is called the essential (what) way of looking at an entity, and the existential (how) way of looking at a being. So, we can say Being refers to the “what” and “how” of something, and so has this basic difference in itself.

QUESTION: The word “existential” used above contains the word “exist” in it. What does “exist” mean? When I say something exists, I mean I understand it in such a way that it seems to have Being apart from anything my mind is doing. So, if I say the table I am looking at exists, I mean it has Being on its own, that I am not dreaming or imagining or hallucinating it. But, my mind is still contributing something, because to say the table exists “in itself” still involves my understanding because I don’t sense “in-itself-ness” like I sense brownness and hardness. So oddly, existence both refers to how I am understanding the table just as much as the table having Being apart from my mind. What, then. does existence mean?

Philosophy For Kids: What Is Thinking? The Ontological Difference.

Did you know one of the most important words in philosophy is “AS?” Let’s think why …

One of the great discoveries of Greek Philosophy was discovering thinking means combining. So, when I think, I combine, which we call a “judgment,” we think something “as” something, which is to say something “as” something else: The dog as brown, the table as hard, the flower as it is merely in itself. The mind separates and combines in this way. This “difference” thinking involves when thinking beings is called the “ontological difference” in philosophy language. In the history of Philosophy, this type of thinking was most fully developed by philosopher Kant who said thinking is also done based on “categories,” and so for instance I think/experience “the sun warms the stone” by combining sun warms and stone in thought, but do so by the mind applying the category of “cause and effect.” So, we don’t just think, but think something as something: something as something else.

Philosophy For Kids: What Is The Experience Of Space?

Isn’t the experience of space just seeing a large container? Philosopher Kant said no, and that there is wonder when we look up at the starry skies at night. Why? Think about it! We know that the stars we see are just randomly scattered lights in the sky. But, do we see randomness when we look at them? No, we see order: eg., the constellations.

QUESTION: What is our mind doing to what we sense so that we see constellations rather than just randomly scattered lights?

Philosophy For Kids: What Is Nature?

  • “When the word nature is taken only in a formal sense, because it means the first inner principle of everything which pertains to the existence of a thing.” Nature in the formal sense means, e.g., “nature” of fire, “nature” of plants—the inner principle of a being as such.

When we say the word “nature,” sometimes we mean it in the sense of “It’s not in his nature to sit around watching tv,” but we also mean “nature” like streams and trees etc.

Given this, what is “nature?”

What does philosopher Heraclitus mean when he says “physis kryptesthai philei”= “nature loves to hide” ?

Did Jesus Exist?  Hermeneutics For Middle School Kids

A long time ago in Germany, which was always an important place for ideas, the thinkers made a distinction between the natural sciences and the human sciences.  The natural sciences were thought to produce the most exact knowledge (like physics), while the human sciences like the study of literature were more about interpretation.  Since then the human sciences have been jealous of the respect the natural sciences get.

So, the human sciences became jealous of the natural sciences and wanted to become more like them.  They focused on what was “math like” in them.  Some historians thought that they could show Jesus “probably (math)” didn’t exist, with ideas like this: If we put all the names of figures who were as heavily mythologized as Jesus into a hat, the likelihood of pulling the name of a historical figure out of the hat is 1/3.”  So, such historians said based on these kinds of ideas there is only a 1/3 chance Jesus existed.  So who was Jesus?  These mythicist historians say Jesus was originally thought to be a mythological figure who was never on earth, but was later put in earthly stories like Hercules.  Jesus was thought to be a space being crucified in outer space by sky demons.  So, are they right?  Did Jesus Exist?

In doing history, we are mainly doing hermeneutics, which means strategies for interpretation.  Some of our earliest New Testament bible documents are the letters of Paul, which inspired the first gospel: the gospel of Mark.  What was Paul most known for?  His success at spreading the message of the cross of Christ to the pagans.  And in fact, we see a tribute to this success with the pagans of Paul in Mark when the soldier looks up at the crucified Jesus and says “Truly this is the son of God,” and similarly in the Gospel of Luke the soldier says “Truly this is an innocent man.”  What is going on here?  The New Testament writers are saying when a society wrongfully puts a good person to death, it uncovers our hidden faults and is an opportunity for ethical growth.  Sound familiar?  This is how Plato interpreted the death of Socrates.  And it worked, because society no longer executes people like Socrates for being a what Plato called a gadfly/nuisance.  In other words, we can conclude Jesus existed on earth because how does an outer space Jesus who was never on earth and killed by sky demons un-cover my guilt and inspire repentance?!

Where did these mythicist Jesus mathematic historians go wrong?  While there is math (quantitative) in history (finding out what “probably” happened), the main task is a hermeneutic/interpretive (qualitative) one.  In the mathematical example I gave earlier in support of the outer space Jesus model, this is actually a type of hermeneutic reasoning mistake called a “type fallacy,” and is very common in interpreting literature and history.  Why?  While the “hat” thought experiment tells us the likelihood that Jesus existed is 1/3, if we look at it a different way and say the lens of looking at Jesus is figures around that time who claimed to be the messiah, all of those were 100% historical figures.  So, doing historical thinking in this “type fallacy” way is an error, or what we would call a “typology fallacy” if we want to sound impressive!

Question: How would you demonstrate King Arthur probably did, or didn’t, exist?

Philosophy For Kids: Cause and Effect (Part 2 of 2: The Middle)

So, last time I was talking about how causality ( eg. The irreversibility of the cooked egg) is not simply the mind, nor the world, but a MIDDLE between the two.  Let’s think about this middle.  In the history of philosophy, especially with philosophers Brentano and Husserl, we have the idea that the basic truth is consciousness (intentio in Latin) is always consciousness of something (intentum in Latin).  We put these 2 Latin words together to call the issue “Intentionality.”  So, for instance, I see (intentio) the house (intentum). 

This position of the basic-ness of intentionality in philosophy later changed when philosopher Husserl’s greatest student philosopher Heidegger looked at the work of the poet Holderlin and philosopher Nietzsche.  Heidegger said our “being-in-the- world”  is more basic than the separation between intentio and intentum, and makes the two possible.  For example, I experience boringness to be a characteristic of the book, like plot and setting and characters, even though we know it isn’t because the next person may not experience to book as boring at all.  Just the same, boringness isn’t just simply in my mind, because there are specific things about just this book that are causing me to find it boring.  So, this unity of being-in-the-world as (i) the boringness of the book and (ii) my being bored emotion is a middle something that is more original and shapes my being bored (intentio) and the boring book (intentum). 

The philosopher Kant raised this problem of the middle without properly solving it when looking at causality and so tried to fix the difficulty by saying along with the Mind and World, there is also a third thing he called The Imagination which allows the 2 to work together.