Unit 6 2/17 Alex Weinman

  1. Snow sees an increase in scientific religious believers, specifically young scientists, post-WW2! 
    1. “There are plenty of [scientists] who are religious, and that seems to be increasingly so among the young” (Snow, 10)
  2. Why would social forms (power dynamics) actually increase in English as economic inequalities are mitigated? 
    1. “The other is our tendency to let our social forms crystallise. This tendency appears to get stronger, not weaker, the more we iron out economic inequalities.” (Snow, 17)

Theories I recognized: 

  1. Game Theory 
  2. Plate Tectonics
  3. Special Relativity 
  4. Natural Selection
  5. Heliocentrism  

Experiments I recognized: 

  1. Pavlov Dog Experiment

Kasich Commentary

On November 11th, former Ohio Governor John Kasich came to speak at Davidson. I was very interested to see how the event played out, as the republican Kasich would presumably be speaking to a largely democratic crowd. Perhaps due to the demographic of the listeners, Kasich stayed away from political issues altogether. Rather, he spoke like a commencement speaker, urging the students in attendance to find issues they care about and adamantly fight for them. It is the lack of passion, he said, that is the largest issue facing society today. 

Aside from the fact that Kasich attributed some of his political success to the will of God (tend your own garden, shoutout Voltaire), I enjoyed listening to him speak. He urged us to choose an issue or issues we feel strongly about, and vote by the issues and not by the party in the coming election. This is the first political speaker I have seen as a voting-eligible citizen, and I agree very strongly with his advice to vote by the issues. Politics are far too polarized in my opinion, and I liked listening to Senator Kasich.

Unit 4 Post 2 — Alex W

F’eedom:

Page 135

I picked the depiction of the police offer bending down and talking to a small child because of the image’s portrayal of the stripping of the innocence of young black children. In this image, a police officer is kneeling down to talk to a very young black girl who is holding a sign that reads “how can a man love God and hate his brother.” In the background of the image, many other young children are being arrested and shuffled into a police car by another policeman. The officer asks the girl what she wants, and she tells him “f’eedom.” The writing in the bottom of the image reads “It was an embarrassment to the city.” 

This page is powerful for many reasons. First of all, the image spans the entire page and the drawings of the two people are among the largest images of human beings in the entire book. The two figures are so attention-catching and central that it is difficult to see the other children being marched into police cars in the background of the image; I believe this is a symbol for how the media portrayed the events of the book. Additionally, it is eye-catching for the reason of how young the girl is. The white police officer is kneeling down to talk to her, and he is still taller than her. The image is also very jarring because of how much innocence the young girl has lost. The officer seems surprised that she is so aware of the injustices happening to her people at such a young age. She is not even old enough to be able to fully enunciate the word freedom, yet she already understands that she must fight for it. The two central figures are drawn in a way that immediately captures the reader’s attention; the loss of the innocence of young black children is loudly stated by the author of the image. 

Unit 3 Assignment 3

In tandem, Gourevich and Sontag are able to highlight the importance of studying and understanding horrific events throughout history; the Sontag reading helps explain the value of Gourevich’s writing on the Rwandan genocide. Not only did the Gourevich book inform me on an event I was dramatically under-aware of, but when framed by Sontag’s ideas that humans are oddly drawn to horrific events that feel distant, my experience of reading it was much more intimate than it otherwise would have been. In the past, mostly when reading accounts of the Holocaust, I did what Sontag chastised, which was to feel sympathy but from a great distance. Going into the Rwandan reading equipped to be able not to do this, I felt much closer to the reading. Under the lens of Sontag, Gourevich’s reading was much more impactful because I was able to suspend how I normally read horrific texts and connect with the story much better.

Unit 3 Assignment 2

Chapter 1: 

Photographs from conflict zones can be a powerful tool to depict the suffering and violence that viewers often have a hard time comprehending; however, they often do not elicit universal reactions. The biases of either the photographer or the viewers can dramatically change the impact of the photograph, and which side it is used to support.

Violent war photos can be used as propaganda, depending on the biases of those who view them.

Chapter 6: 

Humans have a strange fascination with depictions of violence that feel very distant from us. We often seek examples of those suffering more than ourselves, and this action can elicit a large amount of guilt. This guilt often stems from the sympathy we want to feel towards the subjects of such depictions, even though they are often not relatable to us. 

Humans often feel guilt and sympathy from our desire to view images depicting suffering. 

Chapter 8:

There is an importance in viewing the suffering of others, specifically those in conflict zones. Photos can facilitate memory, which has a large impact on preventing future suffering in the future. Human suffering is a pervasive occurrence; the process of exposing this through photographs is imperative to help mitigate future suffering.

Photos of suffering are imperative to help mitigate future pain.

Unit 3 Assignment 1

  • Ardent posed this central question: Is it possible to DO evil without BEING evil? (This is the banality) (A)
  • Eichmann was a traveling salesman for an oil company but lost this job during the Great Depression. (E)
  • He joined the Nazi Party in 1932, and became a member of the SS in that same year.(E)
  • In 1942, it was decided by Nazi high officials that Eichmann would coordinate Hitler’s “final solution,” the attempted execution of all remaining Jews in Europe. (E)
  • Eichmann oversaw the transportation of millions of Jews to death camps. (E)
  • He was captured by U.S. troops, but escaped prison in 1946. (E)
  • Eichmann was finally caught in Argentina in 1960, and sent to Israel for a trial.
  • During his trial, Eichmann claimed not to be an anti-semite and said that he was only performing his orders during the war. (E)
  • The Israeli court sentenced him to death later that year. (E)
  • Ardent saw Eichmann as “neither peverted nor sadistic, but terrifying normal.” (A)
  • He showed characteristics of the banality of evil: he was not intrinsically evil, but rather more of a “joiner.” This stemmed from his “inability to think from the standpoint of anyone else.” (A)
  • Philosopher Alan Wolfe was critical of this argument; he thought Eichmann was evil not because of who he was, but simply because of what he did. (A)
  • In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Ardent wrote “It is inherent in our entire [Western] philosophical tradition that we cannot conceive of a ‘radical evil.’” (A)

A = Thomas White, “What Did Hannah Arendt Really Mean by the Banality of Evil?,” Aeon.

E = Michael Berenbaum, “Adolf Eichmann,” Encyclopedia Britannica.

Unit 2 Assignment 3

Option 2: I think the most effective way to stem societal bullshit is to make people aware of its adverse effects. While lying is already very stigmatized in our culture, bullshitting is normalized and in many ways accepted. I think that if more people become aware of how bullshitting restricts us from realizing objective truth, they will consciously decide to stop doing it. 


Option 3: Do we have to discount works that we read the translations of? I’ve been wrestling with the appropriate value to give to translated works, as there is no way to be sure that they contain any of the author’s original intentions. Many of my favorite texts, such as Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, I read in translation; therefore, I am somewhat skeptical that I in fact received the authors true work. Do we have to discount or be very cautious with such texts?

Unit 2 Assignment 2

Option 2: If translation is not a perfect science, can we ever actually read the writings written in languages that we are not native speakers are? Can I be sure that the meaning I take out of Plato’s Cave, that reality is subjective, is even what Plato meant in his writing? Realizes that language is a subjective art makes me unsure that my readings of previous writers are actually even true: similar to the subjects of Plato’s Cave!

Option 3: Is there any value in relating Plato’s Cave to the modern idea that life may be a simulation? It is a useful exercise to toil over the actual objectiveness of this reality; if the shadows on the wall are truly the reality we live in, does it really matter? I contemplated this question with my most recent movie. If we do in fact live in a simulated universe, does it actually change anything? Should, or CAN we continue living our lives as if they have meaning if we find out that we in fact exist only as a computer program? What would Plato say to this modern example of his ideas?

Unit 2 Assignment 1 Alex Weinman

For me, Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks seems like it was a controversial text in its time (1950s) because it was one of the first texts to view philosophy from the lens of marginalized groups. Philosophers, and specifically existentialists like Neitzsche and Sarte, wrote their texts for a very specific group of people: those who were privileged, and usually upper class white men. Fanon writes about the freedom and fulfillment of black people; this to me seems like it might have been controversial because it is very against the norms of existential texts. I know when I first read it, I had a hard time seeing how it fit into the field of existentialism. I presume that this was a common sentiment when Fanon first published his texts.   

Question: Has philosophy evolved to consider all groups of people, or is it still an intrinsically privileged field?

LaPiere Study – Alex Weinman

LaPiere Study (Brooks)

Alex Weinman

 “It’s not that prejudice or discrimination don’t exist; they do, and can’t be imagined away. But the key to overcoming prejudice and discrimination is not to double down on what makes people different.”

I chose this section because I was very intrigued by a study conducted by Richard LaPiere in the early 1900s, in which he tests if racism is stronger in a theoretical or physical sense. When I first read this passage, I was confused in two ways: first, I did not have a sense of what “doubling down on what makes people different” meant; additionally, I was skeptical of Brooks’s use of the study to make conclusions about modern day racism, as even he himself admits that race tensions are dissimilar from LaPiere’s conclusions. To answer my first question, I reread the passage where Brooks describes LaPiere’s study; from that, I realized that Brooks is saying that the general stereotypes of people are what we cannot double down on. He is admitting that the way to stem racism is not by making people accept the idea of other races as a whole; rather, he is saying that racism can be more effectively mitigated through person to person connection.  This also helped me realize that LaPiere’s conclusion, that racism is stronger in a theoretical sense than a person to person sense, can be applicable today through the use of the internet. While Brook’s does not address online racism directly, I more understand his claim that LaPiere’s study can be useful to the modern mitigation of racism by thinking through that lens. Therefore, I think that this small passage is a micro-version of his overall thesis; racism, he’s saying, has spanned all of America’s history, and the glimpses of its past (such as LaPiere’s study) have tremendous power in the fight against it today. The idea of discrimination through time reminds me of the question that Professor Quillen raised: why were many writers long ago (1500s-1600s) so open to examining the writings of those very different from themselves, and when did this sentiment begin to falter?

Unit 1 Assignment 1 by Alex Weinman

Group B:

Q: How has the branding and clumping of people based on race been so institutionalized throughout the history of America?

Agree: All three writers/speakers agree that personal agency and individuality is often stripped from groups of people solely based on their race or ethnicity.

Disagree: Stevenson, with his speech, seems to disagree with the Morrison and Brooks in the way that he believes this long-rooted issue can be quickly and effectively solved with kindness and spirited efforts. The two authors appear to believe this issue is much more difficult, and will take more complex solutions, to solve.