Category Archives: World Religions

Reading theory….

Thinking Cat (1)

No matter which course you’re taking, you’ll have to read articles about “theory” — in ethics, it’s ethical theory — in Intro to Philosophy it also includes theories about mind-body, free will, God etc..

The thing about these articles that is similar is that the philosopher has an idea, and they’re trying to put that idea down on paper — sometimes it works well, other times it’s a bit more difficult to understand what they’re thinking or trying to say..

So — some hints and tips..

  • Read all parts of the assignment, the introductions and conclusions — the foonotes etc.. because you’ll often find clues there.
  • Google the word, idea, or concept that seems central for another point of view on it…
  • Skim the assignment first trying to get the general idea.  Figure out how the parts of the article and argument go together.
  • Go back and read carefully — taking notes as you go… write down each major move in your own words, and why the philosopher thinks that’s a good move.  As you’re going, write down objections and questions you have — since those will be useful later.
  • When you’re done reading and taking notes, look at your notes — do they make sense?  If you had to use them to teach someone else what you just read, could you do it?  If not, go back and check to make sure your notes reflect what you read…
  • Then, think about ways that theory connects to the world around you — put it in context for you… (this is a good way to start a mid-term and final paper assignment… ).

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Filed under Business Ethics, Environmental Ethics, Ethical Theory, Ethics, How to..., Intro to Philosophy, Medical Ethics, World Religions

How did the course end up this way — or, what’s the bigger picture?

10 rules for teachers and students…

I just read this, and it’s very true — so, I love it — go read it… now…

Ok… now, you’re back and of course you’re wondering how all of this class stuff goes together… 

First of all, Logic is different — in terms of how / where I teach it, what we’re supposed to accomplish and all of that.  So — while the general principles apply to logic too, I’m going to talk about courses that aren’t logic for a bit here… 

  • I constructed the course with the idea that it takes at least 3 exposures to an idea for it to catch in your head.
  • I think that you’ll learn writing skills by writing — hmmm… no shock there.
  • I think that collaborating is a good idea, as is competition.  It’s also a good idea to see how other students think about things, to evaluate their arguments, and to respond to their positions.  Generally, I think an open discussion board is a terrible place to do this (because everyone posts at the last possible minute).  
  • I think that Philosophy is hard.
  • I think that online classes make you (the student) work harder to get the ideas, because you don’t have me to explain it in the traditional lecture setting — and, that you don’t NEED me to do this.  I do explain, in a more Socratic way.. and, as such I think that you’ll need to explore your own ways of gaining information to be successful in the course.  This is a good life skill.  
  • Finally, I think that when you write a formal paper, that you should have already demonstrated some knowledge about the topic and that you’ll have written about it informally before you write about it formally.

So — how does all of this wash out in the class —  you need to think about the activities in the class in this way, 

First you read — then you take a quiz / post  your reading notes… (reading notes lets you see how other folks interpreted the material) — then you write a short read and respond assignment that gets MY feedback (so you can see if you’re on the right track) — you also participate in a general discussion or a debate.  Especially in the debate, you do the collaboration part, the evaluation part, the respond part etc…  Finally, you write some papers and turn them in… 

And, along the way, I hope you learn some philosophy, some critical thinking skills, some writing skills and some research skills… so — go!


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Filed under Academia / college life, Business Ethics, Environmental Ethics, Ethics, Intro to Philosophy, Medical Ethics, World Religions


Experts actually ARE experts…

OR — just because they disagree with you, doesn’t mean that you’re right and they’re wrong…

This article hits on one of the things that really bugs me about student papers.  When students dismiss a philosopher’s well-considered opinion as ‘just an opinion’ or say that ‘everyone is entitled to an opinion’ — it makes me want to stop reading– and that’s not good for you.

When you write a paper, you should THINK about the ideas that are opposite of your own — then you should do some research to find out whether or not YOUR position is credible.  Especially in the realm of philosophy, the articles you’re reading have been selected because the authors actually DO know something.  Philosophers think deeply about both their own positions AND the opposing arguments.  They’ve selected evidence that makes sense to support their position and they explain WHY that evidence supports their position.  You should follow the same path.

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January 20, 2014 · 1:36 pm

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The demand that married, educated, white women have children reeks of the patriarchy….

This is a great article —

I should admit that not having children during my 20 year marriage wasn’t my choice, but it’s the way it ended up.  In many ways I’m sad that I didn’t give birth etc.. but in many other ways I’m happy that the circumstances ended up with me having plenty of room in my heart for my partner’s children… both of whom are amazing, really amazing.  They’re both brilliant, caring, passionate, loyal, wise and kind — I really couldn’t ask for better kids.

I also understand the pressures described in the article.  The attitude is everywhere, a white, educated, middle-class, married woman is SUPPOSED to not only produce children — and that’s supposed to be her driving goal.  This isn’t the case with men in the same demographic.  Women are lectured about their ticking biological clock. They’re presumed to not be real women until they’ve been pregnant and generally the eyebrows get raised when you’re asked how many kids you have and you answer with none.

On the other hand, single women, women of color, working-class women with high school educations and generally everyone that isn’t white, middle-class, married etc.. are looked down on as being selfish FOR having children when they can’t “afford” them… (see also a recent study concluding that it costs millions of dollars to raise a kid… I know two wonderful people who are nearly raised and their dad wasn’t close to a millionaire..).

The really wonderful point the article makes is that parenthood can be an amazing journey and that everyone who is on the journey ought to do so because they choose to do so, not because society pressures them into doing so.

I’m very blessed that I get to choose to be a kind-of parent, and I wish only that for everyone else.

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August 25, 2013 · 12:06 pm


Interesting connection between ‘rape culture’ and ‘modesty culture’

The analysis is kind of brilliant — the ‘rape culture’ “logic” is pretty well-documented.  It pretty much comes down to a woman is “asking for it” if she happens to dress or act in a way that provokes men to ogle — and then commit sexual violence.

The thing she notes about ‘modesty culture’ is that it too puts the onus on women to cover up, to conform to their standards of dress in order to avoid making men turn into salivating dogs —

Both are ways the patriarchy works to control women’s bodies.  Both also presume some pretty awful things about men — that they can’t control themselves or their sexuality.

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August 24, 2013 · 4:59 pm


School vouchers for… gasp.. Muslim Schools… oh the horror…

In Louisiana the Christian Right pushed for a school voucher program — they wanted the ability to divert public money to pay for a good Christian education.  It worked, Louisiana now has a school voucher program.

THEN… the shock and dismay of the Christian Right, a Muslim school applied to be part of the program — OH CRAP!!!  They’re fighting it, because — doncha know — that Islam is also a religion protected by the Constitution.. and their voucher program would lead to money for public schools being used to teach Islam.

It seems that it’s ok for public money to go for good Christian values, but not to teach the infidels —

You know what folks — I’m not sure vouchers are a good idea.  If I were raising kids in Louisiana, I’d probably be for them because the local public schools are horrifically bad— BUT, the argument against vouchers is that they end up removing the kids with the most involved parents from the public schools AND taking the per-pupil funding with them.  The result is that the public schools end up serving the students who need the most help with less money… and accelerating the decline of the public schools.

Whether or not the money goes to religious schools isn’t my concern.  Schools whose emphasis is sports, science, language, or religion doesn’t matter to me.  What matters is that kids get a good education that will permit them to get a good college education and be productive and informed members of the society.

I have to admit I find it pretty fun to see the Christian Right squirm a bit on this one, they should have stuck to trying to control womens’ vaginas — they’re good at that.

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August 19, 2013 · 9:10 am


Vaccinations shouldn’t be optional…

This is a great article — if you’re looking for a paper topic for Medical Ethics, I’d certainly go for this one..

The ethical quandary is pretty clear — parents can and should make medical decisions that are to the benefit of their children.  There are many things to consider, including both religious and scientific beliefs.  There are more than a few religious groups whose beliefs include declining some or all medical care.  In these cases, parents will often decline vaccinations for their kids because they think their children will have spiritual problems as a result.

The “scientific” links are a bit more suspect.  Back in 1998 there was a study that supposedly linked vaccinations to autism.  Since then, all of the findings of the study have been shown to be false and the author of the study had their medical license revoked because it was shown that he wrote the student because of his work defending parents who didn’t want to vaccinate their kids.  In all, it’s complete hooey (yep, that’s a legal and scientific term 🙂 ) — BUT, many parents believed it — they read testimony from parents of children who were vaccinated and then they were diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum — and they concluded that there was a link between the two events, even though science and medicine told them otherwise.

What’s interesting in this article is the concept of suing the parents who declined vaccinations, then their kids got sick and spread the disease to other kids — in particular kids who were too  young to be vaccinated.  In those cases, the “herd” immunity that young kids can generally rely on didn’t work because not enough older kids were vaccinated and the disease spread.

Because we can now trace the path of a disease like measles, we can figure out where it started and if the kid was old enough to be vaccinated, the parents could be legally liable for the costs to other families.

On the other hand, parents can and should be able to make medical decisions on behalf of their children.  Limiting those choices, in all but some pretty extreme situations, seems like a bad idea.  Adults can decline medical care at any point, for any reason and parents have a duty to use their best knowledge about the world to make decisions on behalf of their kids.

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August 13, 2013 · 12:56 pm