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Koleg help

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Koleg help. Background I go to a small private southern-religious affiliated school I am conservative, bull headed, and opinionated. I am taking an intro Philosophy class My teacher could probably shit tofu out of his eyes if he tried This being said, we have been reading all kinds of philosophical views on beliefs, who what where why, all that stuff. This past Friday, in class we were discussing W.K. Clifford. Long story short, Cliff says we should not act unless we a completely positive on the outcome.  I think that is a steamin-pile. Anyway, I am the only one in class that thinks along what I was thinking, doesn't bother me, but, then Dr. Tofu grilled me for probably 35 minutes on the subject and everything else in between, from Hitler to the Titanic to Pol-pot and the Khmer Rouge in Vietnam, all of the subject he shot at me I had considerable knowledge about.  The Pol-pot think shocked him; I did a huge research paper on him during my sophomore year of hs.  Overall I like that he grilled me, I got to make my peace on subject and justify why I thought that way. It was like a dick measuring contest, and I won. So today Monday, were discussing William James"”James has three premises to argue. "˜Dead or alive, "˜forced or avoidable,' and "˜momentous or trivial.' Dr. tofu comes to my group and we start talking, he asks me what do I think of James. I said, "He [James] sounds like all the others, you have to make decisions for your self." Then immediately Dr. tofu looks me in the eyes, gives an exaggerated breath, in what seems to be total disgust. Gets up and walks away.  So I think to my self "˜fuck you then.' For the rest of class I keep playing my role, that being controlling my ADD, compulsion, and aggression to keep from saying something real bad. I have heard, from other people that are like me, and from philosophy majors that he hates capitalism and corporate America. All that stuff that makes America the most kick-ass place in the world. I don't really care what he thinks I just want an A in the class. What I am thinking is just got to his office and ask him, "Do you dislike me in your class, do you not like my opinion?"  "Why are you being such a prick to me?" I kinda at a lose here, can ya'll help Parsonsdb
post #2 of 4
Being a tofu-brained kinda guy myself, I may not have the advice you want, but I'll give you my 2¢ for you to spend as you see fit. It matters not what sort of school you're in, nor what your political affiliation is. It doesn't really matter what your teacher's philosophical bent is, either...or, perhaps more to the point, what you think it is, since I'm not at all sure you have him pegged correctly. What is at issue here, I think, is the degree to which you are "bull-headed and opinionated." At your age, it is not uncommon to hold passionately to certain beliefs. However, you are not at a level of experience where you could possibly know all the answers, nor even all the questions. Moreover, the point of being in school is to learn, which requires an open mind. In particular, a philosophy class requires that you be open to examining your entire system of beliefs and the foundation on which it's built. If your beliefs and reasoning are sound, then they will stand up to any contrary ideas you entertain in the course of study. If you defend your beliefs by refusing to seriously entertain such notions, then perhaps your confidence in your own beliefs is not as great as you suggest. I implore you to take this invaluable opportunity to test your own philosophy against the philosophies of the acknowledged heavyweights in the field. The worst that can happen is that you will learn something. Now, I'm not intimately familiar with the philosophies of Clifford and James. However, I'm going to make a wild guess that you are studying Clifford's "The Ethics of Belief" and James' "The Will to Believe." If so, then I have an inkling of why your professor is so frustrated with you. To boil Clifford's essay down to, "we should not act unless we are completely positive on the outcome," is, as you might say, "a steamin-pile." What Clifford is saying is that it is unethical to base our beliefs"”and our subsequent actions"”upon insufficient evidence. Not only does Clifford not say that our actions should hinge upon the certainty of the outcome, but what he does say is that the outcome is immaterial; the rightness or wrongness of our actions is based solely upon the proper derivation of our beliefs, no matter what happens as a result of what we do. Whether or not you agree with Clifford, the key thing here is that you have interpreted him to mean nearly the opposite of what he actually says. That is almost certainly why you are the only one in the class who thinks as you do about Clifford, not because you're a Conservative in a nest of Liberals. Likewise, to dismiss James by saying, "He sounds like all the others, you have to make decisions for yourself," would make the eyes of anyone who comprehends James roll nearly out of their sockets. For starters, James does not "sound like" Clifford: in fact, James is arguing against Clifford. He takes issue with Clifford's arguments about acceptable methods of forming beliefs, and proposes that, when intellectual methods fail us, we need to inject passion into our moral judgment (specifically in cases he would classify as "momentous options"). For another thing, neither James nor Clifford are making the point that you should, or shouldn't, make decisions for yourself. What they are debating is the best foundation upon which to form beliefs. The real argument underlying this debate is one over religious faith. Clifford is an agnostic, who implies that faith in God is not only unsound, but even unethical, because there is insufficent proof of God's existence. James is a Christian, who believes that"”just as belief in other people is critical in fostering relationships with them"”if you reach out in trust, then you can have a real relationship with the Divine. James' key argument against Clifford is, "a rule of thinking which would absolutely prevent me from acknowledging certain kinds of truth if those kinds of truth were really there would be an irrational rule." To put it another way: if a thing that cannot be proven can still be true, then believing only in what can be proven can rule out belief in the truth. (While my own way of thinking is more aligned with Clifford than James, I have to agree that James has an excellent point here.) Now, it may be that the reason you are so far from understanding the subject matter is that your professor isn't a very good teacher. However, you've strongly implied that you're the only one who doesn't "get it," so I'm thinking that's not it. Your description of the half-hour grilling session as a "dick measuring contest" that you "won" is, I suspect, more indicative of what's happening. (I also suspect your classmates would only say you "won" in the sense of proving that you were, indeed, a bigger dick.) You seem very intent on being right. The irony is, philosophy is all about determining what is right or true, and how to make the most solid and persuasive argument for your case. However, you're too busy arguing to learn how to argue better. You dismiss ideas before making the required effort to understand them. If you continue with this approach to your class, you'll never get your A, and not because you don't share the same philosophies as your teacher, but simply because you won't have come close to earning the grade. What I would recommend is that you take a deep breath, then come to grips with the real purpose of your class: studying philosophy. As Clifford would no doubt say, it doesn't matter whether you come out of that class believing that Corporate America is The Great Satan, or "the most kick-ass place in the world." What matters is how you come to believe it, and then how successfully you can argue that belief. When you can debate your professor's points with reason rather than belligerence, you'll pass the class with flying colors.
post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 
Pstoller, You're spot on with the essays we read and you're exactly correct about both arguments (duh).  How I thought of them was that you do still have to make your own decisions, on how and what to believe. I think that is what Clifford and James were saying too, they just have different premises.  When he asked me I should have had a better response than what I said.   I am defiantly going to take the advice of just testing my philosophies against the heavyweights. Being that today Wednesday is just the second week of class for the fall term, I am not going to respond so openly in class, just to give it a cool off time, it's too early to shoot my self.  I'm not going to talk to him either that would just push it too far. I truly appreciate it thanks again, Parsonsdb
post #4 of 4
I have a primarily scientific education, so I will not comment on the specific philosophers in question, nor can I comment on your compartment in the class, except to reiterate pstoller's point that, from your account of the events, you paint yourself as rather belligerent and perhaps a little arrogant. That's not something to be proud of. Having spent more than my requisite time as a student (now in my 6th year of graduate school, or my 10th year as a neophyte academic), at a variety of universities, from small liberal arts colleges to world class research institutions, I've learned that people generally have a wealth of knowledge, but that you can only benefit from them only if you are willing to. Coming to a class/seminar/research program with a preconceived set of opinions when you actually know very little is a sure way to survive a class/your university career without learning anything. Contrary to what you seem to believe, bullishness is not an intellectual virtue, except in the sense that a scholar is bullish about discerning truth. Your being unreceptive to being taught will only frustrate your teacher and stymie your own intellectual development. That's how the peasant's inability to grasp the concept of inflation ultimately defeated the attempts by the American Yankee to explain the basis of modern economics in the novel of the same name, and why Rush Limbaugh's contention that the greenhouse layer was a liberal tree-huggers hoax was impervious to scientific reasoning. Trust me on this one: your professor is in all likelihood not interested in dick-measuring with you. He has spent umpteenth years studying the philosophers and thinking about the issues you are just now being exposed to, and he has seen many students pass through his class, and he doesn't care a bit that a conceited undergrad thinks that he is a tofu-head nor feels the slighest need to impress said student. Yes, you are quite right, there are a lot of idiots out there. But what you may not yet realize is that you may, in many instances, be one of them.
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