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Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry

Class Presentations Wrap-Up – Kelly

I set out to create my own project, but ended up building some sort of synthesis resource for the class.

Over the past few weeks, Philosophy 12 has been presenting their group assignments on ‘An Introduction to Human Thought.’  This generally included a brief touching on some, or all, of the major philosophy controversies, including good versus evil, altruism versus egoism, and nature versus nurture.  I took a different approach.

While my fellow students were presenting and analyzing and critiquing and thinking, I was furiously jotting down notes.  Eventually, and in my crazy, disorganized penmanship, I ended up with close to six pages of notes from about a week of classes. Typed out and somewhat cleaned up, it ended up looking like this:

evil not good genetically evil altruism versus egoism life is nasty brutish and short according to religion jesus makes you good enough to go to heaven selfishness is evil nature versus nurture and upbringing evilness is circumstantial judged to be evil versus thinking you are doing evil nature of societal evil if you are stealing to support your family is that evil born blank neither naturally good or evil to improve by selfishness do things that affect you yelling fire personal consequences versus consequences of others good something that benefits society overall conscious and guilt tell us we know we are doing wrong selfishness does not equal evilness charity is good whether selfish or not evolution changes what is good even if good intentions can be evil all life is scientifically with their best interests altruism selfless acts without personal gain egoism every act benefits us doing on does the other doing something for someone to make yourself feel good reality is variant and personal what you believe in is your reality raising a baby is illogically selfless babies result in altruism or egoism love for a child is a thinly disguised desire for personal power altruism and egoism trigger each other altruism to look good is egotistical with a stigma would you still do a good deed once you consider altruistic act you think of personal benefits kindness of soul versus personal gain personal loss versus personal gain people always think they are befitting the greater good judging what you see versus internal thoughts cannot limit humanity to a single personality everyone has masks controlling emotion and opinion dependent on situation milgram experiment stanford prison experiment if gain and loss is bank zero what would you do instinct to protect nature versus nurture being protective forms you sacrifice to pursue evolution of ethics born good or evil objective truth does not exist there is no natural sense surroundings influence your choices based on things you encounter they are just people there has to be evil so good can prove its purity about it everyone basically has the same opinions for you versus for others goodness for the sake of good thomas hobbes says humans dominate parents love is a power gain joseph butler said humans do things without personal gain egoism versus altruism

That then became the following Wordle:

I think that is a pretty good representation of the class.

Wordle processes data in terms of frequency, making the words which appear the most often the largest.  In order from largest to smallest, the top significant words from the week were:

  • Good
  • Personal
  • Evil
  • Versus
  • Altruism
  • Gain
  • Egoism
  • Benefits
  • Selfishness
  • Nature

This is where the data collection begins to get interesting.  The primary topics discussed and presented on in class this past week were good versus evil and altruism versus egoism, with a bit of nature versus nurture thrown into the mix.  So why is it, then, that ‘good’ appears far more times than ‘evil’ and a completely separate idea, ‘personal’ appears less frequently than ‘evil’ but more frequently than ‘good.’  Why is ‘altruism’ so much higher on the list than ‘egoism,’ and why is ‘nature’ on the list, while ;nurture’ is not, even though the themes of the class made it seem like nurture was more important than nature?

I can’t really answer any of those accurately, but I do have my own, heavily biased, ideas.

‘Good’ came up in conversation far more than ‘evil’ because goodness is rooted in aspects of altruism, egoism, nature, and nurture in a way that evilness is not.  Instead of ‘evilness’ in terms of altruism and egoism, we use ‘selfishness,’ this is why that shows up on the list later on.

‘Personal’ is so high on the list because everything in Philosophy is dependent on the person making the claims.  The thin that I love, and hate, the most about Philosophy is that there are no right and wrong answer, and that everything is entirely open to subjectivity. When all aspects of Philosophy are up to you, your reality, ideas and beliefs become incredibly personal, and this data shows that we value what something means to us extremely highly.

‘Altruism,’ ‘gain,’ ‘egoism,’  ‘benefit,’ and ‘selfishness’ are the next set of words on the list, all pertaining to discussions about the difference between egoism and altruism.  These words, their frequency, and the words surrounding them show that these ideas are very interconnected.  If you look back up at the Wordle above, you will see that all five of these words are very close in size, which can show us that they do not exist without each other.

Finally, we have ‘nature’ obviously a part of the nature versus nurture controversy.  Interestingly, the information which I collected, and the discussions we had in class, made it seem like the students in Philosophy 12 believe far more in nurture and the environment than nature.

Finally, I pared down the information I collected into five main points, which I think do a really good job of summarizing the unit.  They are as follows:

  • We are a product of our surroundings
  • Altruism and egoism are extremely different, but very difficult to isolate
  • Ethics and values have changed as society has changed
  • Reality is personal, and different for everyone
  • We are not good or evil, but a mixture of both

The first point, clearly, responds to the nature versus nurture issue, showing the general class views on the controversy.  The second was a very common thread throughout the week, showing that there are always roots in both altruism and egoism when committing any act.  The Third is not a ground breaking idea, but evolution was common in many presentations.  The fourth point is about how the world, philosophy, and beliefs are specific to your definitions of them.  The fifth and final point states that we are not inherently good or evil, but the situations we have been put in bring out aspects of both in us.

I am very aware that these statements are not necessarily of fact, and are hugely subjected to my personal biases, but I do believe they hold a certain amount of truth, even if it is just within the walls of Philosophy 12.  I hope this resource is helpful to some of you when it comes time for midterms, finals, or later assignments.

“Good loses.  Good always loses because good has to play by the rules.  Evil doesn’t.”

– Henry Mills, Once Upon a Time



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