Tuesday, November 21, 2017

All regular classes: I reviewed your drafts already

If you still need to fix draft issues don't resend them to me via email. 

See me in my office. It will likely take 12 minutes. 

Here are my office hours (again)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Topics for Exam #3 (Chapter 4) MINITERM

Topics for review for Exam #3 on Chapter 4 are here.

Here is the link to your textbook. Do the tests for chapter 4.

If you have any questions, post them in this post. I'll try to get to them ASAP.

Getting your first draft ready (MINITERM class)

the paper above is from a HONORS student (name withheld) in my spring 2016.

analysis (above): the thesis paragraph is the most important paragraph in your paper, this is the argument program you will follow. see how her draft has a short clear thesis divided into three points, six sentences. 1st point, explanation, second point, explanation, third point, explanation.

next, comes the counter paragraph. you do the same thing, only with a counterargument. the paragraph starts with "prohibitionists disagree," so the reader clearly understand "who is talking." same strategy. 1st point, explanation. second point, explanation. third point, explanation. 

third paragraph is the thesis first point (medicinal marijuana to treat diseases such as glaucoma, anxiety, seizures, etc.). the difference is that the thesis is expanding and going in detail, with outside sources (in text citations, referring to the bibliography in the last page of the draft).

the fourth paragraph is the counter paragraph taking its first point. see that it begins with the right attributiion "prohibitionists disagree," which informs the reader of "who's talking."

the subsequent paragraphs just follow the same dynamic until all the 6 points have been addressed.
then the thesis comes back with a conclusive paragraph wrapping up the discussion.

Here you have 3 different conclusion samples, taken from recent philosophy papers. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

now that your drafts are peer-reviewed, input your peer's suggestions and send your revised drafts to


in the subject of your email please, write down:

Elizabeth Doe, First Draft Revision, MWF 10am class (whichever your class and name happens to be)


First draft in-class peer-review: What to look for,

Formal issues

* left hand side:name, First Draft Philosophy Paper, class time,
* title: middle, bold,
* Times New Roman p. 12,
* double spaced,
* indented paragraphs,
* spelled check and grammar checked (very important!)
* 9 paragraphs (at least)
* minimum 1000 words,
* no front-and-back printing of draft,

Paragraph format issues

* first two paragraphs: Thesis and Counter, 3 points per paragraph.
* total of 6 sentences per paragraph. first sentence presents, the following sentence explains
* each paragraphs properly prefaced: either GS "advocates" or GS "critics" or SSM "advocates" or SSM "critics," etc. don't mind the repetition.
* 4th parag. should be Thesis 1st point, 5th parag. Counter 1st point and so on, alternating until the conclusion.
* Bibliography in separate page, at least 4 different sources,
* Only reputable sources to be cited, NO URLs, consult this for MLA conventions of citability  of digital references,

Content issues

* avoid unnecessary wordiness. the more wordy the more indication of poor research, 
* look for argument/citation ratio, 70% for argument,  30% for citation. if there is more, this is a red flag for plagiarism,
* proper introduction of each quote, "who talks" (Dr. John Doe, professor of Biology), "provenance," (at Penn State University),
* if a website, find the writer's name, her position, etc. google her name that if necessary,
* look for fat thesis paragraphs vs. thin counter paragraphs. this is a sign of poor research or bias, which is worse. your paper is as good as your counter's presentation,
* look for RELEVANCE, i.e., what is presented is properly explained and justified. 
* look for COHERENCE, i.e, the presented points in the draft successfully justify your thesis and counter's introductory paragraphs. 

it's time to tell your friend the following 

* this draft needs more research
* this draft has dubious sources
* your draft is too biased towards your thesis
* the points are not presented in a coherent manner
* the points presented are not relevant,
* the sources presented are not relevant,

If you have an intuition, call it, you're probably right!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

next week, get ready for your first draft and our in-class peer-review

Dear classes: Next week we are having our in-class first-draft peer-review. Basically you'll exchange drafts with the person next to you. Pen in hand, you will mindfully & carefully critique your peer's draft. 

Here are the things to keep in mind:  1- Get your first draft ready. Here is an actual paper, first 4 paragraphs + 3 conclusion samples.

2- And here are the actual guidelines.

Basically, you just have to finish what you already started. You did four paragraphs, tackling the first point of the thesis and the first point of the counter. Do the same with the remaining points.  Add the conclusion paragraph to wrap it up,

Good luck.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Triff's Office Hours

M-F 8-9:40 
M 3:30-5:30pm
T 3:30-5:30pm

Final exam schedule (Fall 2017)

Many of you have approached me about final exam dates.

Here is the Fall 2017 Exam schedule.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Topics for Exam #1 (chapters 1 & 7) Fall Miniterm

Find the topics for review for quiz 1 here.

In addition, here is the Website to your textbook Doing Philosophy. It contains quizzes, flash cards, etc. Play with it and grade yourself.

Remember to bring your own scantron #888-P or #882-E 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

List of student assistants (so far)

MWF 10am
Rosangela Rizo
Humbert Torres
Roxy Ochoa

MWF 11am
Selena Bridges
Wilda Jean
Ryan Figueredo

TR 9:50am
Ana Esclusa
Daffodyle Saget

TR 11:15am
Ashley Leonard
Wilson Pena
Gary Zamora

Student Assistant Duties: Organizing reviews before the tests. This takes coordinating the review with me0, as I will post these reviews by sending email blasts to the class and posting review dates on our website. Being available for consultation.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Second assignment for the philosophy paper. First 4 paragraphs of your paper

This assignment takes care of four paragraphs. The first two are the most important in your paper. These are the program you are going to follow: Your thesis and the counter. Each thesis and counter should contain three points, in red, yellow, blue. See that each point is explained. For example:

First, prohibition must be weighed against the loss of personal freedom (point). Our laws should respect individual free will and the right of self-determination (explanation of the point)

P 1 In this paper I argue against the prohibition of marijuana. First, prohibition must be weighed against the loss of personal freedom. Our laws should respect individual free will and the right of self-determination. In addition, the The War on Drugs has only served the immediate interests of politicians. By taking a moral stand against recreational drugs, or fighting the evils caused by the illegal drug trade they have only increased their popularity among constituents. Finally, prohibition does not stop consumers from consuming drugs, nor does it stop production and selling. It rather encourages it only by illegal means. Right now, under prohibition, there is a big drug industry that operates illegally.

P 2 Prohibitionists disagree. They believe that marijuana is addictive may help create new consumers rather than rescuing current ones. In addition, marijuana has been proved to lead to the use of other hard drugs and increase the possibility of committing crimes. Finally, marijuana may end up being consumed by young adults. Statistics echo high school students' report that it is easier to obtain illegal drugs than alcohol and tobacco.


Now, comes the discussion of these points. In P 3 you go back to your thesis, but now you're going to take the first point, only now you flesh it out. Bring outside experts and relevant data. The counter 
(P 4) is going to do the same. 

P 3 Abolitionists believe that prohibition must be weighed against our personal freedoms.
They argue that persons should be able to choose what they want with their bodies, including the recreational use of drugs, as long as they do not harm others. Such arguments often cite the harm principle of philosopher John Stuart Mill who urged that "the state had no right to intervene to prevent individuals from doing something that harmed them, if no harm was thereby done to the rest of society." (Mill, Liberty, 75).

P 4 Prohibitionists reject this idea. dependent on or abused illicit drugs. In 2007 one in every nine children under the age of 18 in the United States lived with at least one drug dependent or drug abusing parent. There is no point in having criminal laws unless those caught breaking them will at least face prosecution. Dr. John Samaras, professor of psychology at Penn Sate Univer5sity argues that "parental substance dependence and abuse can have profound effects on children, including child abuse and neglect, injuries and deaths related to motor vehicle accidents, and increased odds that the children will become substance dependent or abusers themselves (Samaras, Drug Addiction in America, 44).

Monday, October 2, 2017

welcome! pHI 2010 syllabus (Fall miniterm)

alfredo triff, ph.d.

room 3604-28 (Building #3)
tel. 305.237.7554
email: atriff@mdc.edu
office hours: posted
text: Doing Philosophy: An Introduction through Thought Experiments, by Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn (Fifth Edition).

* become familiar with contemporary trends in philosophy.
* stimulate the philosophical spirit, i.e., learning how to problematize, hypothetical creativity, ethics of dialogue, philosophy for life.
* the previous point is also subsumed under critical thinking skills.

(keep reading here)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

paper proposal sample (due in a week)

This is your first paper assignment. This is a proposal, which has three components: 

1- Heading (in Times New Roman, point 12). On the left hand side, write your name (last name first), Philosophy Paper Proposal and the day and time of your class.
2- In the middle write the title (even in tentative) in bold letters. Avoid just rewriting the topic in your title. You may change your title, this is just forcing you think about a direction.
3- Two paragraphs, the first paragraph has your thesis, followed by a brief explanation supporting it. The second paragraph has the counterthesis with a brief explanation supporting it.  

Doe, John
Philosophy Paper Proposal
MWF, 10am Honors

Why animals should be protected against abuse: Factory Farming in America 

          In this paper, I will try to prove that animals being raised in factory farms in America deserve a better treatment. My main argument will show the public and environmental health risks associated with unregulated factory farming, while stressing that animal cruelty is ethically wrong. 

          I will argue against a counter defended by Factory Farm advocates, that our present regulations are necessary to offer a needed product at competitive market prices. 

topics for your philosophy paper

these are the topics for your philosophy paper. each theme has a link to a wikipedia article. once you pick your topic, read the whole wikipedia article. it's actually pretty good.

see that wikipedia presents a form. take a look at the content table to your left with 12 points ranging from "history," "on the go," "cuisine variants," to "advertising," "business," and finally "criticism" (where you find the counters to fast food advocates). etc. at the end of the article you find "references," "further reading" and "external links." the "reference section has 84 footnotes! this is your bread and butter. each wikipedia article is structured following the same form.

here are the topics: 

fast food 

(this important topic is at the intersection of public health, food production and public policy, i.e., the impact of globalization and cheap homogeneous food and the coming back of artisanal food, regional cuisine, farming, promoting taste as well as the organic food movement).

factory farms 

(generally little appreciated, this topic takes an ecological and human/animal dimension: the link between animal-processed foods, ecological degradation, all tied to the still obscure field of animal ethics).

police brutality

(a well-known & current socio-political problem, which brings forth issues such as proper police training, legitimizing excessive force, racial stereotyping, police's code of silence, lack of accountability, etc.)

same-sex marriage 

(one of the hottest social topics being discussed right now in America, at the intersection of personal vs. religious freedom, secularism, legislation, homosexuality, human rights, cultural consensus, etc).

government surveillance 

(a global problem intersecting, civil rights, policy, new technologies, power excess, international relations, corporate neutrality).

rule of law

(after Trump's inauguration and even with Obama's spate of executive orders, this point becomes relevant).

social media & culture 

(privacy issues, information overload, cyber bullying, fake news, etc).

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

what do you gain with this class?

The GRE score data taken (via Leiter Report). See that philosophy is at the top of writing vs. verbal & writing vs. quantitative skills. in addition, it does pretty well under quant. vs. verbal.

So, philosophers are the best writers, the best speakers, and pretty good at quantitative thinking. Philosophers are the smartest humanists and command good quantitative skills (mathematicians and physicists are the best in this department).

If one is looking to hire someone with outstanding critical, verbal, and written ability – and someone with strong quantitative ability – they would hire a philosophy major!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

List of student assistants for Summer B class

Sofia Fascia
Selina Savage
Gersch Schiff
James Reyes

Sunday, July 2, 2017

draft revisions (glossary of my symbols)

here are the symbols I use in the revision of your drafts:
C/P: Fix copy and paste ratio, this is a red rflag for plagiarism. Fix it by paraphrasing in your own words the whole paragraph.

FixSent: Fix the sentence, it reads awkwardly.

FdbetAr: Find a better argument. Generally it means the argument is not relevant. Find a new one.

InsuffRsrch: Insufficient research.

?? : Don't get it, "what do you mean," vague, etc.

Hypb: Hyperbolic. Fix the tone of your sentence. Hyperbolic language is a sign of poor research.  

TooW: Too wordy, cut, trim, less is more.

Need+W: The draft is short on words. 1,000 words minimum,

WT: Who talks? Proper prefacing, i.e., Same-marriage critics, or Same-marriage activists, never mind the cacophony, what we need is clarity.

Mss1Pt, missing first point, Mss2Pt, missing second point, Mss3Pt, missing third point,

Insffexpl: Insufficient explanation,

Insffinfo: Insufficient information,

ITC: Missing in-text-citation,

OS: The paragraph needs outside source,

Prefproprly: Preface the paragraph properly with either _____ advocate or ______ critic,

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

On the distinction between number and quality when talking about ourselves (for Summer A class)

Because of our discussion yesterday and some of the comments put forward just before the class ended. We talked about how a white person is not qualified to talk for a black person (and viceversa), a man for a woman (and viceversa), a heterosexual for a homosexual (and viceversa), a non-transgender for a transgender and viceversa). At first, these qualifications may seem limiting, indeed overbearing. After all (as Roberto pointed out), even amongst blacks, a black person may say (referring to another black person) "this black person is not qualified to talk for me."

discussion continues here.

Student assistants for Summer A class

Athenais Acquaviva
Emily Mader
Julio Cesar Leyva

Thursday, June 15, 2017

biological naturalism (a better alternative to property dualism)

this is a theory defended by philosopher John Searle.  (The Rediscovery of the Mind)

For Searle, consciousness emerges at certain levels of anatomical organization. Certainly, the human brain, with its approximate 100billion neurons and 125trillion synapses (just in the cerebral cortex alone!) has the complexity to generate consciousness.

This is probably true of the brains of nonhuman primates, which also have lots of neurons and neural connections. It is also true for other non human animals. It may not be true of snails, because they may not have enough neurons and interconnections to support (much) consciousness. It's not true of paramecia, because they don't have any neurons at all. And it's certainly not true of thermostats.

Consciousness, Searle argues is a biological phenomenon, a property of the brain, but not a purely functional property. Instead, it is a systemic property. Systemic properties are very common in science, and some can seem quite unexpected just looking at the parts of the "system." For example, water is liquid, even though none of its parts, its molecules, are liquid. Liquidity is a systemic property. But we can explain why water is liquid in terms of its parts and their causal interactions. Another example is transparency – molecules aren't transparent; what makes glass transparent is the way the molecules are organized. In each of these cases, we can explain the "new" systemic property in terms of micro-level interactions.

Similarly, Searle argues, consciousness is a systemic property of the brain. It is the brain as a whole that is conscious, even though its individual parts – neurones – aren't. Consciousness is caused by micro-level brain processes, and if the brain and its causal powers and processes were reproduced, so would consciousness be. So, Searle says, there is nothing particularly mysterious about consciousness – it is part of the natural world, in particular, biology.

Consciousness cannot be eliminated from scientific discourse because objective, third-person descriptions of brain processes necessarily leave out the first-person subjectivity that lies at the core of phenomenal experience. First and foremost, consciousness entails first-person subjectivity. This cannot be reduced to brain-processes because any third-person description of brain-processes must necessarily leave out first-person subjectivity. For that reason, every attempt to reduce consciousness to something else must fail, because every reduction leaves out a defining property of the thing being reduced -- in this case, the first-person subjectivity of consciousness.

watson: the smartest machine ever built!

as part of our conversation about functionalism & AI (see the discussion about hypothesis and the talk about "corpus" around 4:00).

also, read this article, by ray kurzweil.

to proper understand what Watson does you should be proficient in these areas:

natural language processing, which includes

morphological linguistics,
lexical semantics (a promising subfield of the intersection between syntax and semantics)

machine translation,
natural language understanding (this is where the name AI comes from)
sentiment analysis (I love this, where the psychology intersects para-logical processes) 
discourse analysis,

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Triff's office hours (Summer 12 week)

T, R, 8-9:40am

necessary and sufficient conditions

Necessary conditions:

X is a necessary condition for Y means, 

if we don't have X, then we don't have Y, or without X, you won't have Y

To say that X is a necessary condition for Y does not mean that X guarantees Y

Having gasoline in my car (I have a gasoline engine) is a necessary condition for my car to start. Without gasoline (x) my car (y) will not start. Of course, having gasoline in the car does not guarantee that my car will start. There are many other conditions needed for my car to start.

Having oxygen in the earth's atmosphere is a necessary condition for human life. However, having oxygen will not guarantee human life. There are many other conditions needed for human life other than oxygen in the atmosphere.

Being 18 years of age is a necessary condition for being able to buy cigarettes legally in North Carolina. Yet, being 18 years of age does not guarantee that a person will buy cigarettes. There are many other conditions that lead to a person buying cigarettes than being 18 years of age.

Sufficient conditions:

X is a sufficient condition for Y means,

if there is X, then Y happens (X guarantees Y)

Rain pouring from the sky is a sufficient condition for the ground to be wet.

Test yourself: 

*Is sunlight a necessary or sufficient condition for the flowers to bloom?

*Is earning a final grade of C a necessary or sufficient condition for passing the course?

*Is being a male a necessary or sufficient condition for being a father?

*Is having AIDS a necessary or sufficient condition for having the HIV virus?

*Is studying for a test a necessary or sufficient condition for passing a test?

*Is completing all the requirements of your degree program a necessary or sufficient condition for earning your degree?

Friday, May 12, 2017

regading homo "erectus"

the table above with the different "homo" developments.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Important guidelines for your final draft submission (HONORS classes) pay attention!!!

Guideline for final paper:

1- You're supposed to hand the final draft on the day of the final. 

2- The draft must be stapled, no binders, no cover page. 
3- At the top left the draft:

John Doe (your name)
MWF 10am class  

4- Your draft should be written in Times New Roman point 12
paginated on the top, right hand side.
5- Title in bold (centered). 
6- Your draft must be double spaced, with a minimum of 1,200 words.
7- MLS style of citations, (all same font, same size, including online sources). 
8- Please, properly spell check your drafts.

All of these details are worth points!! 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Spring Final Exams Schedule (all PHI 2010 classes)

Honors classes

MWF, 10am Honors  W April 26
MWF, 11am Honors   F April  28
MW,   1pm   Honors  W April 26

All other classes

T,R 8:25am     R, April 27
T,R 11:25am   R, April 27
M 5:40-8pm    M, April 24

Monday, April 3, 2017

making death "optional"

News on aging and staying young this week. NASA, leaning in to a new treatment that could keep astronauts from aging out on the long trip to Mars. Space travel accelerates aging. On Earth, we're talking about "super-longevity," even immortality. Silicon Valley billionaires want it all, and are investing big brains and bucks to get it. Listen how the drive to make death "optional."
the podcast here. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

who's that lovely young black woman sitting behind judge gorsuch? (for you female political science majors!)

here is the answer!
A graduate of Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, she began interning in the Senate in July 2006. She worked for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and was an assistant in the Senate Republican Cloakroom, where politicians often make deals outside official meetings.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

personal identity: the human alien

A unique example of a person in search of identity. Vinny Ohh wants to become a gender-less alien.

Keep in mind that "alien" in this case means Vinny's idea of what an alien should be.

& that's enough! In the transition Vinny will find the difference between what he becomes vs. what he was. This irreducible remainder between the two persons will be crucial to understand his identity. Whatever he  purports will be a personal narrative.

Vinny: if you read this post, please, send us a commnet. My students and I will appreciate it. In fact, we'll make you Honorable 2017 Phi 2010 VIAAP! (very important academic alien person!)

(via Federico Colombo)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sending your peer-reviewed drafts to me. Due: all of next week (I'll review in the order I receive!) HONORS

Now you're going to input the observations obtained in our in class peer-review session and send then to me via email.
Please, in the email subject write down your Honors group, i.e., MWF 11am Honors 
Otherwise I'll send it back and ask you to do it. I don't have time to open the doc and find out which class you belong to (remember I'm teaching three Honors classes!)

Remember that your draft's heading must look like this:

Doe, John
First Draft (peer reviewed)
Phi 2010 Honors
MWF 10am

Same Sex Marriage: How Civil Rights Matter

I will not accept drafts that are not peer-reviewed (you've got to get a Student Assistant or a friend to do this for you, otherwise I'll send it back).

are you interested in the neurobiology of memories?

click here.

Also this important video about the history of the neurobiology of memories. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Are you into kinetic art? Come this Saturday at check out Julio Le Parc's exhibit at PAMM

Dear classes: Don't miss Julio Le Parc show at PAMM.

When Le Parc arrived in Paris from his native Argentina in the late 1950s, he was just a young artist about your age, trying to make his name in the world’s art capital. Over the next fifty years, he would develop his signature optical style, going on to win the Grand Prize in Painting at the Venice Biennale.

But since the 1960s, the artist has only exhibited a few times in the United States. Now, American audiences will be able to rediscover the frantic energy of the 88-year-old’s work with a survey of over 100 pieces in his oeuvre at Miami's PAMM —this is the artist's first solo museum show in North America.

Learn the interactive beauty of cinetic art. The best part. This saturday is FREE.

Are you coming? I'll be there around 10am. Please, send me emails to coordinate.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

PHI 2010 HONOR CLASSES advice for your first drafts!

1. the paragraph form of your paper here. 

2.  how to properly transition from paragraph to paragraph (the art of transitioning phrases).

3. every factoid you mention in your draft must be cited in-text and in the bibliography. 

4. follow this advice, please.

5. refrain from injecting your thesis views in the counter's paragraphs, or using innuendo or disparaging the counters' views. this is prohibited!!

6. do not just drop-a-quote like a brick.


A study show that a "retrieval from long term memory is a vital cognitive skill that can be practiced by children from the age of three." (Popovich, 2014)

instead, properly identify the quote for the reader:


A study published by Tom Popovich, professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas, concludes that "retrieval from long term memory is a vital cognitive skill that can be practiced by children from the age of three." (Popovich, 2014)

7. Rashila Fernando, president of the 2015 Voltaire Society, offers a good triffian advice here. 

8. do not Copy & Paste paragraphs. I'll detect it.  masticate & digest the ideas, internalize what you read!!! 

9. read your draft out loud once! read your draft out loud twice! your draft's words are your mind's distillation.  

HONORS CLASSES these are the guidelines for our in-class draft peer-review session (next Wednesday)

our in-class peer-review session is next Wednesday

click here for details.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

guidelines for our in-class first-draft peer-revision session

let's peer-review our drafts! 

Student assistants and "Templars members" will help in this very important session.  

We'll look for:

* Non-content related, followed by Content-related, issues.

Non-content related issues:

1- proper heading, top, left hand side, Times New Roman pt. 12 font
2- double spaced, indented paragraphs,
3- proper outline of first two paragraphs: 1. 3-point thesis with proper statement-point followed by a sentence explaining the point. 
4- proper "who talks" prefacing each paragraphs, i.e.,

SSM (Same-sex marriage advocates vs Same-sex marriage critics)
Fast Food (FF advocates vs FF critics)
Government  Surveillance (GS-advocates vs GS critics)
Police Brutality (Law Enforcement advocates, Law Enforcement critics) 
Factory Farms (Factory farm advocates, Factory farm critics)
and so on...

5- Proper argument vs. quote ratio (70% for argument, 30% for quote).

6- Proper quote presentation. Each quote must be properly prefaced, what I call "dropping quotes" issues!

a) the writer must prepare the reader for each quote,  b) provide context for each quotation. c) attribute each quotation to its source: tell the reader who is telling the quote. d) avoid "he/she said" attribution-rut! USE THESE: she/he adds, remarks, replies, states, comments, points out, argues, suggests, proposes, declares, opines, etc. e) lead the quote with a colon, example:
Penn State University Professor Ohkenshot denies Marx's claim that capitalism causes poverty when he declares: "Poverty predates capitalism by two thousand and odd years of civilization." or,  John Beherman, professor of Biology at Berkeley University argues that____________" instead of just dropping the quote without introduction.

7- proper bibliography MLA source presentation 
a) Include in the text the first item that appears in the Work Cited entry that corresponds to the citation (e.g. author name, article name, website name, film name).
b) No URLs in-text. Only provide partial URLs titles, i.e., domain name, like CNN.com or Forbes.com as opposed to http://www.cnn.com or http://www.forbes.com.
8- Check for "too-wordy" (long sentences, sentences should be short and clear)

9- Check mark for colloquialism:
"you" (one), "kinda" (kind of), "it is like," (similar to, such as), "okay" or "OK," "real" & "really" (very), "sorta" or "sort of" (rather, somewhat), "pretty" (very), "anyways"(anyway), "a lot," (several, many), "kids"(children),  "cops" (policeman), "guys" (men)... etc.
10. Check mark for "fillers":  "basically," "even," "just", etc.
11. Check mark for redundant adjectives: "totally unique," "completely finished," "thoroughly complete," "productively useful," etc,

this is a great writing center!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Philosophy Club First Debate: next Monday, March 6

elephants are being hunted with poisoned arrows

We finally will have a Philosophy Club debate (and I'm honored to be invited as observer).

The club has come up with the following topic:

How the human treatment of animals can improve the treatment of humans themselves. 

Few would agree that the practice above is Ok. The club wants to probe a more the issue of our treatment of those animals we use for food, entertainment, etc.

Carnivorous, vegetarians, pet owners, hunters, get ready!

Rules of engagement

*Be prepared with a basic argument to defend your position.
*Each contender has 3 minutes to expose and from then on, a minute to counter. 

The moderator

After each group exposes their initial argument, the discussion begins. Both individuals are supposed to be aware of their time (1 min) to counter. If one goes over the time, Marcos will politely add: "Your time is up" and yield 30 more seconds. This will allow the person to finish their point without being cut off. The moderator's job is to keep the discussion going, and keep the point from meandering too much. The moderator avoids circularity and takes back the discussion to the main argument. He will exhibit grace and politeness.     

Debate behavior

*Avoid addressing the opponent. Stick to the argument.
*When discussing, allow the opposer to talk and finish her point. If you get interrupted, you could politely say: "If I may, I wish to add something" or "Can I finish my point?" 
*While discussing the point, be prepared to acknowledge that the opposer has made a point worth pondering. This brings down the temperature and tends a bridge of consensus between you and your opponent.  
*Bring your behavior to show engagement and curiosity. Avoid facial expressions that show either disdain, contempt, or aloofness. After the debate it's better to have a friend than an enemy. 
*The debate moderator will reserve the right to indicate when one side needs to yield.   

Good luck!

PHI 2010 HONORS some good advice for how to plan your PHI 2010 draft

some good advice for how to plan your PHI 2010 draft (will you read the whole thing? methinks not)

PHI 2010 student assistants: please pass attendance sheets prior to your midterm reviews!

PHI 2010 HONORS getting your draft in shape

in this link, a brief analysis of a final draft (HONORS).  

Monday, February 27, 2017

How to research for arguments for your Philosophy Paper

I know some of you have asked me where to find reliable arguments in favor and against our topics.

I cannot do this for you. It's part of the effort to find it yourself. So, I'm going to help you help yourself:

1- Make a PHI Paper Folder with FOR and AGAINST points

2- Type: "Fast food, arguments in favor" and then "fast food, arguments against" in your google search bar.

3- Narrow the search by typing "fast food, .org" and "fast food, .edu" you get a more specialized more reliable kind of aggregation.

After you look for  .org and .edu articles, look for magazines like The Economist, The Atlantic, National Review, The New Yorker, Scientific American, or reputed newspapers like New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, CNN, etc.

So, in the FOR subfolder I find:

this (from The New Yorker),
this (from The Atlantic, discussing the issues)
this (with the best 7 Fast Food restaurants)
this, (at fastfoodnutrition.org)

Now you would do the same now with the AGAINST subfolder.

Another option is google scholar

If you have three article in each file, you have plenty to start, then as your discussion gets more interesting, you may want to search in more detail. For example, suppose you are talking about a particular issue, like obesity. I typed for a more specific search: "fast food, obesity, .edu". I got 15 M articles!

this Princeton study on the effects of Fast Food on obesity.

If you don't find the topics it's because you are not doing a good search. Believe me, the topics are out there!

Determinism vs. Free will vs Compatibilism (videos)

This is an interesting video on determinism & free will. 

This one about compatibilism.

Thanks to Ryan LaPointe

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

MINDWORK: let's find likes and dislikes by tracing back their causal series

write down the following:

1. 3 foods you hate, dislike, or love,
2. 3 genres of music you hate, dislike or love,
3. 3 movies you hate, dislike or love,
4. 3 individuals you hate, dislike, or love,
5. your actual major (why not your second choice of major),
6. your present boyfriend & your previous boyfriend,

next, find in each case try to put together a tentative series, think of what triggered the series and how did it become a behavioral disposition. you may have to go back to your infancy (ages 4-8), look for events, picture your parents or family members, or a teacher, or a friend or admired peer, whether they play as reward or aversives,

remember for the determinist, no disposition happens on its own. it must have a cause, we only have to find it!

for you foodies or chocolate or avocado haters, we've talked about this in class already (scroll down the oxford academic article.

student assistants TR classes

TR 8:25am

Maria Trinidad Guerra

TR 11:15am

Federico Colombo
Tamara Jean
Daniela Silva

Saturday, February 18, 2017

brain causing our minds

see how brain causes mind states. this is a good introduction to brain function (read the whole thing)

which you need to know when we discuss hard determinism, because it all happens inside the brain.

Monday, February 13, 2017

something i wrote about roaches 4 u

click here.

can a computer think, fall in love, understand? (Triff's movie list)

conceivably, yes!(you don't need brains to think)

Her (Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson)

Blade Runner (Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young)

ExMachina (Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson )

tHE maTRIX (Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss)

and the best of all:

2001 A Space Odyssey (directed by Stanley Kubrick)

PHI 2010 HONORS philosophy paper (second assignment)

How to argue your thesis and a counter thesis (in four paragraphs)

Phi 2010 Student Assistants (Honors Classes)


Rose Norton
Sebastian Gallo
Sebastian Espina
Kiana Vidal


Mia Marotta
Marcos Perez
Nicole Rodriguez
Karina Rivadeneira


Darlin Gonzalez
Alejandro Fortes
Ana Suarez
Maria Guirado

Philosophy Club Constitution

We have our Philosophy Club Constitution, furnished by Sebastian Gallo!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

If you have a special need for testing let me know ASAP

Dear students: I know some of you have given me letters regarding arrangements for taking the exam. But I need to have which group you belong to.

So, could you send me an email to atriff@mdc.edu with your name and group (days of the week) you belong to so I can go ahead and have these tests ready for you for test next week? Understandably, the people at testing require detailed information for these accommodations.

Example, Angel Vicario, MWF 10am HONORS, or Julia Smith, T,R 8:25am.


Monday, January 30, 2017


topics for philosophy paper here.

proposal sample for your final paper here. 

Our Philosophy Club board + members!

Sebastian Gallo, President
Sebastian Perez-Espina, Vice President
Alenys Jimenez, Treasurer
Mayra Ona,  Secretary 

1. Akeem Anglin
2. Sebastian Duque
3. Glen Camilo
4. Marcos Manuel
5. Karina Rivadeneira
6. Jormailin Valdes
7. Victor Ramirez
8. Natalie Ortega
9. Abraham Elmir
10. Yaqueline Jimenez
11. Carolina Fernandez
12. Salua Rivero
13. Juliane Patricia Alvarado
14. Nataly Gonzalez
15. Brigitte Iglesias

(more members will be added as they sign up)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Examples of conclusions from recent phi 2010 papers

for your conclusion you don't have to say "In conclusion." That's pretty stale.

For instance, here she sort of summarized her thesis points and made a stipulation. "it's their duty," to conclude her paper.

or this, "I expect to have addressed." The conclusion should sound self-assertive, but also deferential. You believe what you say but you do not sound bombastic.

or this,

Saturday, January 28, 2017

On the distinction between number and quality when talking about ourselves (for Summer A class)

aLfreDo tRifF

Because of our discussion yesterday and some of the comments put forward just before the class ended. We talked about how a white person is not qualified to talk for a black person (and viceversa), a man for a woman (and viceversa), a  heterosexual for a homosexual (and viceversa), a non-transgender for a transgender and viceversa). At first, these qualifications may seem limiting, indeed overbearing. After all (as Roberto pointed out), even amongst blacks, a black person may say (referring to another black person) "this black person is not qualified to talk for me."

Let's take for example, Samuel Horace, black, age 21, born in Haiti; an only child, honor student, living in Miami, going to MDC.

We advanced that he belongs in a club all by himself. That's his number. Then comes the qualities (characteristics) he shares with others, let's see: sex (man), race (black), gender (male), age bracket (in his 20s), health features (if he has diabetes, or if he's myopic, or if he's 7 tall, or if he's math wizard. Even less obvious ones: being an orphan, or having traumatic social memories for being different, etc.

one's own club (S)
Black person club (...,S,...)
Haitian club (...,S,...)
Only child club (...,S,...)
20 yrs old people club (...,S,...)
living in Miami (...,S,...)
going to MDC (...,S,...)
7' tall (...,S,...)
and so on...

Each Samuel Horace-characteristic automatically makes him a member of an infinite number of clubs. What does this mean? Samuel is qualitatively identical to many people. The next question is, how does one evaluate these clubs? Which are the clubs that make up for essential characteristics?

It seems that the club race is more important than being 7' tall. Yes, there are both substance clubs, but culturally one matters more than the other. I, Triff, don't belong to the black club (that doesn't mean I may get admittance into it later). Race is biological, it's substance. I don't share Horace's "black experience" (meaning culture). Historically, Homo Sapiens comes embedded in cultures. Cultural practices and the cultural presumptions generally precede our social interactions.

As a white person, can I have opinions about blacks? You bet (this was Athenais' point). That's quite different from the assumption that I can speak as a black, which I'm not. "But I'm a human being." Sure, but to speak about Samuel, I'd have to move up to the human-being-club. What can I say as a human being to Samuel? All the stuff we share, all the OTHER clubs he and I both belong to! For example, I'm also myopic, live in Miami and go to MDC. I could also speak about "having been in my 20s" (which I was), or "having been a student" (which I was), etc. I could speak of "being a minority" (which I am), or "being an only child."There's plenty Samuel and I share. And yet, not enough.

This is going to take deliberate, careful threading the deep. We have a tool: Understanding.

Let's explore the deep: "Under," one has to go below the foundation: "the standing": layers of different clubs, horizons of information.

We must get to the task: Not quickly, peremptorily, carelessly, hastily, no. Carefully, deliberately, patiently. The more we try the more we bridge. We thread the cultural divide, learn the language, cook the food, travel to Port-au-Prince, befriend college students and professors, etc.  The more I do this, the closer I come to understanding Samuel. He'll come to see it.

Can I speak for Samuel now? Well, sort of. Understanding takes threading the deep -but there is always more to understand. One never understand fully (this is the point Zion made). Infinite number of clubs, many of which (surprise!) Samuel himself does not understand.

Although in principle, I will never "fully" understand Samuel, in time (and no without effort), I could understand more and more, even as much as others who are in the black club.

Monday, January 23, 2017

We have a president for the MDC Wolfson Philosophy Club!

Sebastian Gallo is the president of the MDC Wolfson Philosophy Club.

He has the names of the students that got in tough with me. Further elections are forthcoming.


Why is 7+5 =12 analytic apriori?

Find the answer here.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A brief history of epistemology

Idealism (Plato):  Reality is always changing, senses are limited, so, knowledge (episteme) of reality through the senses is not guaranteed. Then there is opinion, (doxa).

Knowledge is acquired through an exercise of Reason. These are the Forms.

Reason is used to discover unchanging forms through the dialectical method, a process of question and answer designed to elicit a "real definition," i.e. necessary and sufficient conditions for the concept to apply.

Skepticism: An attitude of suspension to the possibility of knowledge or absolute knowledge.

Also known as Pyrrhonism, it takes its name from Pyrrho of Elis (c. 365–275 bc). Pyrrhonists, while not asserting or denying anything, attempted to show that one ought to suspend judgment and avoid making any knowledge claims at all. The Pyrrhonist’s strategy was to show that, for every proposition supported by some evidence, there is an opposite proposition supported by evidence that is equally good.

Faith and reason:  A fundamental discussion throughout the Middle Ages is the dichotomy between faith and reason. Faith takes St. Paul's definition: "... faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see." There are three moments: 1- Emphasis on faith over reason in the early patristic theology  2- both faith and reason become complementary in St. Thomas Aquinas, 3- with William of Ockham faith and reason are not related.

Rationalism:  (Spinoza, Leibniz, Descartes) In epistemology, rationalism is the view that regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge. Rationalism is also a methodology or a theory in which the criterion of the truth is not sense-based but instead deductive.

Descartes believed that scientific knowledge can be derived a priori from "innate ideas" through deductive reasoning. Descartes distinguishes two sources of knowledge: intuition and deduction. Intuition is an unmediated mental "seeing," or direct apprehension. Descartes’s intuition of his own thinking guarantees that his belief that he is thinking is true.

Empiricism:  Empiricism is the idea that the origin of all knowledge is sense experience. It emphasizes the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory perception, in the formation of ideas. Instead of Cartesian "innate ideas," humans have a posteriori knowledge (i.e. based on experience).

Empiricists believe in inductive reasoning (making generalizations based on individual instances) in order to build a more complex body of knowledge from these direct observations. This is the basis of modern science, and the scientific method, is considered to be methodologically empirical in nature, relying as it does on an inductive methodology for scientific inquiry.

Kantianism: Kant provide a synthesis between Empiricism and Rationalism.

1. Kant separates synthetic and analytic knowledge, and a priori versus a posteriori knowledge.
2. For Kant space and time are "pure intuitions" by which perception can take place, so they are a priori and universal. 3. Our mental abilities only give us knowledge of appearances ("phenomena") and not things-in-themselves ("nounema").  4. Like Space and Time, Kant defines what he calls Categories which are universal to all conscious entities.

Below some of these categories:

Monday, January 9, 2017

what does a female philosopher look like?

tina fernandez botts, assistant professor of philosophy, UNC charlotte

ruth chang, professor of philosophy at rutgers university, her page here

sybol cook anderson, associate professor of philosophy, st. mary's college

kate tickel, forum contributor, harvard university

triff office hours

M,W,F: 8-9:40am
T, R: 9:50-11:05am, 
M: 3:30-5:30pm,
R: 12:30-1:30pm,

are you interested in leading a philosophy club?

the philosophy club (PHICLUB from hereon) at wolfson campus & it's ready for business.

if you're interested in becoming a president, vice, secretary, treasurer and eliciting philosophical discussions with the support of your professor and student union, etc, come to me, first-come, first-served.

PHICLUB points.

1- the responsibility of the PHICLUB: elect a president, secretary, treasurer, etc.

2- to stimulate a democratic environment,  the president conducts issues to be treated and assigns issues to be discussed in future meetings. based on suggestions and/or criticisms, he/she stipulates what to do next.

3- it's advisable to have an agenda that the president will provide. at least, the agenda must be announced at the beginning of the meeting.

4- since much of philosophy is about arguments, all disagreements be treated in a civilized manner. there should be a box for suggestions to be examined by the president and the secretary & suggestions should be aired and confronted.

5- the PHICLUB should meet weekly, preferable inside a classroom (accommodations are possible & the president could arrange it).

6- it's good to keep minutes of each meeting. they are the club's proof of direction.

7- the PHICLUB should try to expand and reach out to other students.

8- it's advisable to come up with some kind of calendar for the rest of the term served by the president.

9- events should include presentations, debates, field trips and others.

are you ready? send me an email!! election is next week.

Philosophy and its branches

Axiology: the study of value. What is value? Think of something in terms of good or bad, i.e., "I hate broccoli." "I love R&B." "I hate roaches." "What she did to her sister was wrong." "Citizens United vs. FEC is a wrong decision and sends a bad message to the American people." "My grandma's chicken soup is still the best."" I'm not crazy about Picasso's art."

Imagine what law, food, art, economy, human relationships would be without axiology. A wasteland.

An important question at this point is this: is the value we posit objective or subjective? In other words,

Is Catena Malbec 2014 good because I lived in Argentina, or am Argentinian, instead of the juice in the bottle?
When we say "Slavery is wrong" are we talking about now, 2017, or about any time in the past or the future?

Axiology is divided into two:

Ethics: the evaluation of human actions, i.e. right and wrong conduct.

Here we have different branches.
Metaethics, the study of the nature of ethical properties, statements, attitudes, and judgments.
Descriptive ethics: People's beliefs about morality.
Normative ethics: The branch of philosophical ethics that investigates the set of questions that arise when considering how one ought to act, morally speaking.
Applied ethics: the analysis, from a moral standpoint, of particular issues in private and public life which are matters of moral judgment.

Ponder this: What makes an action right?

the action's results
the action's intentions
the emotive responses towards the action
the action itself
what (people, society, culture) think of it 

Key words: right, wrong.

Aesthetics: the study of value in the arts or the inquiry into feelings, judgments, or standards of beauty and related concepts.

What makes something beautiful, ugly, elegant, awful, attractive, charming, clumsy, mysterious, etc?
Are aesthetic properties objective, subjective or inter-subjective?

Key words: beautiful, ugly, amazing (sublime).

Ponder this: Is the sunset beautiful if no one sees it? or better, is there unseen beauty, majesty?
See that though we didn't witness the Big Bang, the idea of such an event has given physicists plenty to talk about. We've seen simulations of it in the movies.

Epistemology: the study of knowledge.

Epistemology investigates the origin, structure, methods, and integrity of knowledge.

How much do we actually know? More importantly: Is our knowledge warranted?

What is the difference between belief and knowledge?

Do I hold false beliefs?

Key words: belief, truth, justification, explanation.

Metaphysics: the study of what is really real. This is a bit heavy.  We're dealing here with principles. The question in metaphysics is the existence status of any kind of stuff.

Consider the truths of mathematics: how is it that a triangle exists? Are points, lines, or planes really real?

What is a soul?

Under what conditions are these entities possible?

Key words: identity, change, being, necessity, accident, category, etc.