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)

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. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

triff's interests

1. math (pure beauty, f: topology)
2. science (our best methodologies, f: neurosciences)
3. music (non verbal complexity, f: jazz)
4. reading (philosophy for the most part)
5. nature (the power things in themselves, f: trees, baobab )
6. writing (check miami.bourbaki)
7. good wine (the closest to taste earth in its complexity)
8. cats (elegant, fickle and self-sufficient)
9. food & cooking (should be 4)
10. teaching (keeps me young)