Archive for the SLCC Category

Neural Correlates of Consciousness and the Global Workspace Model of Consciousness

Posted in BIOL 1010 on March 23, 2012 by bettystoneman

Empirical evidence for the causal or correlational connection between the mind and brain has been elusively sought by many neuroscientists and philosophers for over a hundred years. The question is: How, exactly, do each person’s phenomenal and subjective experiences arise from neuronal firings and physiological processes in the brain? Many neuroscientists have sought to answer this question by trying to find the “neural correlates of consciousness,” meaning, the exact areas of the brain which give rise to conscious experiences. For this research paper, I will go over some current (from earliest to most recent) biological studies and research into the neural correlates of consciousness. Also, I will outline how each study seems to correlate not only with one another, but also with one viable biological theory into the nature of phenomenal and subjective consciousness, namely, the global workspace model of consciousness.

In “Neural Correlates of Consciousness in Humans,” Geraint Rees et al offers an overall review of several research studies into the neural correlates of consciousness, specifically focusing on the sense of vision as the starting point for conscious experience. First, Geraint et al offers two important distinctions regarding consciousness. The first distinction is between the neural correlates of being awake (as opposed to being asleep) versus the neural correlates of being phenomenally aware of one’s experiences (meaning, what it is like for one as an individual to have an experience). The second distinction is between neural activity correlated to a phenomenal experience versus neural activity correlated to underlying, unconscious processes or sensory inputs related to those phenomenal experiences.

These distinctions are important because visual processes can cause activity in the brain on many different levels, however, this activity does not necessarily reflect consciousness in the sense of being phenomenally aware. For example, sleepwalkers can see and subsequently interact with their environments in complex ways, but have no actual conscious, phenomenal awareness of what they are seeing or doing. Additionally, it is important to understand the visual pathway starts at the V1 in the back of the brain and moves through many other areas of the brain. Rees et al describe how damage to the primary visual cortex (V1) results in a condition known as blindsight, where a person can seemingly perceive of objects they report being unable to actually see. Additionally, Rees et al describe how blinking and microsaccades (slight, quick eye movements which occur normally and frequently) both do not interrupt our conscious perceptions, but both register changes in activity in the V1. Blindsight, blinking, and microsaccades, are just a few examples offered by Rees et al which demonstrate how the V1, even though necessary for normal eyesight, is not a neural correlate of consciousness because the V1 can be damaged resulting in one having no visual perception but having some conscious perception of objects or because the V1 can undergo fluctuations in activity without altering phenomenal experience.

Rees et al offers other evidence in support of another area of the visual system, the ventral visual cortex, as playing more of a role in conscious phenomenal experiences. Rees et al note how damage to specific areas of the visual system result in the subject being unable to consciously perceive of the specific type of visual features associated with this area. Rees et al explain specific areas of the visual system are specialized to analyze visual input for specific types of visual stimuli, and activity in these areas is required for one to have consciousness of that specific type of visual stimuli. As examples, Rees et al notes damage to the middle temporal area of the ventral visual cortex leads to one being unable to perceive of movement (a condition known as akinetopsia) or damage to areas in the ventral occipitotemporal cortex leads to one being unable to perceive of colors (a condition known as achromatopsia). In both circumstances, the individual is seeing the stimuli, but not consciously perceiving of it. Further, Rees et al notes neuroimaging studies have shown the ventral visual cortex is active during schizophrenic hallucinations, where the patients are having a phenomenal experience with no corresponding visual stimuli.

Additionally, as subjects are flashed “masked” (or hidden by flashing symbols before and after) and “unmasked” (or unhidden by not flashing symbols after) words within their field of vision, areas of the brain which are connected to an individual thinking about the meaning of a word only show activation when the individual reports consciously perceiving the unmasked word. The area previously activated becomes deactivated when the individual’s phenomenal experience changes by no longer perceiving the masked word, even though the word flashing in their field of vision remains the same. Finally, Rees et al notes how electrophysiological research using epileptic patients with embedded electrodes shows how neurons in the anterior areas of the medial temporal lobe fire in response to a specific type of visual stimuli and, in other neuroimaging studies, these neurons also fire when the individual is asked to imagine the specific type of visual stimuli.

Contrarily, Rees et al also refers to fMRI studies which show how individuals with damage to the V1 area have shown activation in the extrastriate cortex of the ventral visual cortex, in an area specifically related to perceiving facial stimuli, when the facial stimuli is not presented nor initiated. Additionally, Rees et al mentions another study which found activity was still triggered in the extrastriate visual cortex even when individuals were unable to perceive a masked word, meaning, even when individuals were not consciously aware of the word. These studies seem to show activity in the ventral visual cortex which is not related to visually stimulated, conscious perception. However, Rees et al notes regarding the masked word study, while there is activity, it occurs at a much smaller frequency for masked words than for perceived words. Rees et al conclude even though the focused areas of the ventral visual cortex to specific visual types of stimuli is required for conscious, phenomenal experiences of stimuli related to those types, the ventral visual cortex in and of itself may not be sufficient to produce conscious, phenomenal experiences.

Rees et al offer other possible conditions necessary for individual phenomenal consciousness. Rees et al note how neuroimaging studies have shown when an individual is presented with two different images, one displayed in front of one eye while the other is displayed over the other eye, the individual’s attention and perception of the images switches back and forth between the two images. As the individual’s attention switches back and forth, activity is recorded in the individual’s extrastriate cortex, and parietal and frontal cortexes. The activity is similar to the activity observed in other studies as an individual views images such as Rubin’s face/vase figure. Rees et al assert this activity demonstrates a possible causal connection between the frontal and parietal cortexes and an individual’s phenomenal experience in focusing on images or objects competing visually. Additionally, Rees et al note how in other studies activity has been observed in the parietal and dorsolateral prefrontal regions when individuals go from being unaware of something changing in their field of vision and becoming aware of the change within their field of vision. Due to the findings of these studies, Rees et al assert it may be activity in the ventral visual pathway requires in connection additional activity from the parietal and prefrontal regions in order for awareness.

In “The Quest to Find Consciousness,” Gerhard Roth also discusses neural correlates of consciousness by explaining in more depth the neurological processes leading to activity in areas of the brain believed to correlate with consciousness. Researchers have discovered consciousness, according to Roth, requires the associative regions of the cerebral cortex. Roth explains the associative regions of the cerebral cortex are the occipital, parietal, temporal and frontal regions.

Roth asserts in the associative regions there exists “millions of nerve cells that are densely interconnected,” in which the “synapses can strengthen or weaken their connections for a short time”. Roth explains the ability of the synapses to strengthen or weaken their connections results in synchronized communication between the nerve cells so that all the nerve cells become focused together on a single experience, like picking out one object from several objects or understanding the meanings of words.

Furthermore, Roth explains, chemical neurotransmitters, such as glutamate or gamma-aminobutyric acid, are “messenger[s]” which signals the nerve cells and synapses to synchronize and modulate the changes in activity. Roth asserts the reticular formations and limbic centers control the release of chemical neurotransmitters. “Neuromodulating,” the controlled release of these neurotransmitters and the subsequent nerve cell and synaptic alternations in activity based on the individual’s circumstances, requires a lot of fuel, specifically oxygen and glucose, according to Roth. In order to accommodate the need for more oxygen and glucose, Roth notes how blood flow to the area increases almost immediately.

Roth explains the reason why the associative cortex allows for consciousness may be because of the vast number of nerve cell connections. When a stimulus is presented to an individual, basic sensory information is processed by the primary and secondary regions of the cortex then sent to the associative regions in the parietal and temporal lobes which then registers activity explains Roth. The specific areas in the parietal, occipital and temporal lobes which carry on higher order processing of various forms of sensory information have “reverse” connections back to the primary and secondary regions says Roth. Additionally, the associative cortex is also connected to the hippocampus (in the medial temporal lobe and is responsible for memory) and the amygdala in the limbic system (also in the medial temporal lobe and is responsible for “emotional memory”) explains Roth. Roth asserts the vast connections between the associative regions of the cerebral cortex and to other areas along with the interactive synchronization between nerve cells and synapses between the associative regions of the cerebral cortex and to other areas such as the thalamus, hippocampus and limbic systems, may be the answer to how consciousness arises from physical processes.

Similar to both Rees et al’s and Roth’s assertions, in “Conscious Awareness of Flicker in Humans Involves Frontal and Parietal Cortex,” David Carmel et al asserts the frontal and parietal areas (which are associative regions of the cerebral cortex) may contribute to conscious awareness of visual stimuli. Carmel et al used an LED flickering at the “critical flicker fusion (CFF) threshold,” meaning at the point where the flickering could just as likely be perceived as either flickering or as a steady stream of light. Carmel et al tested the flickering at the CFF threshold to determine whether subjects viewed the identical flickering of the stimulus as either flickering or a steady stream of light. As the subjects responded, Carmel et al monitored their brain activity using fMRIs in order to determine where the activity occurred based on perceptions of the light flickering versus perceptions of the light being a steady stream.

Carmel et al deduced subjects perceiving of the light as flickering or a steady stream would be a result of activation of the higher cortical regions because the activation of neurons in the “early” visual cortex (see above regarding Rees et al’s research regarding the primary visual cortex) respond to flickering at a much higher rate than the CFF. In other words, Carmel et al reasoned higher cortical regions must be responsible for an individual’s perception of a light appearing to be flashing versus a steady stream because the primary visual cortex can see the flickering of a light source when the flickering is occurring at a much faster rate than the higher cortical regions can consciously perceive of it, which goes along with Rees et al’s findings. Further, Carmel et al hypothesized activity in the frontal and parietal regions would determine if the flickering of the LED would be perceived (meaning, as “conscious awareness”) as either a flicker or a steady stream of light.

Carmel et al’s results of the fMRIs showed more activity in the frontal and parietal cortexes when the subject reported perceiving of the light as a flicker. Carmel et al notes the results showed more activity in the occipital extrastriate cortex when the subjects reported perceiving of the light as a steady stream. Carmel et al’s results seem to corroborate with Rees et al’s research regarding the extrastriate cortex, the frontal and parietal cortexes showing activation in response to the display of two different images in subjects’ visual fields. In both Carmel et al’s and Rees et al’s scenarios, the subjects are consciously trying to determine what they are seeing. According to Carmel et al, their results demonstrate how important the activity in the higher cortical regions is for awareness in certain types of visual events. Furthermore, Carmel et al assert their results show how particularly the frontal and parietal regions may be involved in overall visual awareness.

In “Human Single-Neuron Responses at the Threshold of Conscious Recognition,” R. Quian Quiroga et al also examine neuronal activity. However, their research focuses on activity in the medial temporal lobe, which corresponds with Roth’s findings regarding consciousness requiring the associative areas of the brain and connections to the hippocampus and limbic systems (located in the medial temporal lobe). Quiroga et al explain the process of visual perception starts with the neurons in the primary visual cortex (“early visual areas”), which take in the visual stimuli, and then moves along the ventral visual pathway to neurons in the higher cortical regions which will organize and analyze the information to result in conscious recognition. According to Quiroga et al, the medial temporal lobe is the apex where perception takes place. While the medial temporal lobe, per Quiroga et al, does not directly affect conscious recognition, it plays a role in changing visual perceptions into long term memories. Therefore, according to Quiroga et al, activity in the medial temporal lobe is required to initiate “perception processes” so that the perceived images can be stored as long term memories. In other words, according to Quiroga et al, the medial temporal lobe “signals” other areas of the brain to perceive or recognize a visual stimulus so the stimulus can be committed to long term memory.

Quiroga et al sought to determine the response rate of neurons in the medial temporal lobe when subjects reported conscious recognition of images portraying familiar faces, landmarks and animals. To test the response rate, Quiroga et al flashed the images for successively shorter intervals in order to examine the activity of neurons in the medial temporal lobe. Quiroga et al assert they found activity in the medial temporal lobe was essentially the same for images flashed for durations of 33ms, 66ms, and 132ms. However, Quiroga et al state, images flashed for 264ms triggered a much greater amount of neuronal firings in the medial temporal lobe. According to Quiroga et al, the subjects’ reports of conscious perception of the images matched the activity in the medial temporal lobe. In other words, the activity in the medial temporal lobe increased when subjects reported consciously recognizing the images. Quiroga et al state the activity in the medial temporal lobe started at about 300ms, and in some cases lasted up to 1000ms, after the image was flashed in the subjects’ field of view. Additionally, Quiroga et al note, the neurons fired in an “all-or-none fashion,” meaning, before stimulus presentation there was practically no activity but once a familiar image was presented a great deal of activity occurred. Quiroga et al also state subjects displayed no activity when the image flashed was not familiar to them.

Quiroga et al’s findings regarding the activation of the medial temporal lobe and the continuation of activity even after the image is no longer in the field of sight seem to corroborate Rees et al’s findings regarding the medial temporal lobe showing activity in response to specific types of visual stimuli and this activity occurring even when the individual is asked to simply just imagine the specific type of visual stimuli. For Quiroga et al, these findings seem to indicate the “memory-like” nature of the medial temporal lobe. Ultimately, Quiroga et al assert the medial temporal lobe serves as a “link” between conscious recognition and long term memory because the neurons only become activated in response to recognized images, and because the neurons continue their activation long after the image is no longer visually seen.

At this point, the above mentioned articles have asserted the neural correlates of consciousness seem to exist in several areas of brain, as well as indicate it is not just activity in the brain, but the duration and type of activity in the brain which leads to consciousness. In “Converging Intracranial Markers of Conscious Access,” Raphael Gaillard et al researched overall locations, strengths and durations of neuronal activity. To do this, Gaillard et al briefly flashed masked and unmasked words in epileptic subjects’ (with embedded electrodes) field of view and measured brain activity using an iEEG.

Gaillard et al assert their experimental aim was to test assertions proposed by the global workspace model of consciousness and they begin by explaining the model. Per Gaillard et al, while many areas of the brain work at the same time to process information unconsciously, consciousness arises if and only if very specific conditions convene. First, according to Gaillard et al, activity in the visual cortical regions must occur in response to specific types of stimuli associated with those areas (seemingly corresponding with Rees et al’s, Roth’s, Carmel et al’s and Quiroga et al’s research regarding the ventral visual cortex). Secondly, per Gaillard et al, the activity beginning in the visual cortical regions must occur for a sufficient amount of time, and must be of a sufficient amount of strength, in order to proceed along the cortical pathway to the higher cortical areas of the parietal and prefrontal cortices (again, seemingly corresponding to Rees et al’s, Carmel et al’s and Roth’s findings regarding the roles of the parietal and prefrontal regions). Thirdly, states Gaillard et al, the activity must be amplified throughout several areas of the brain through forward and backward connections, “ignit[ing]” neurons throughout several areas in synchronous “self-sustained reverberation” (seemingly similar to Roth’s assertions regarding forward and backward synaptic connections temporarily strengthening their connections and working together, synchronously). Gaillard et al assert, according to the global workspace model, the experience of phenomenal and subjective consciousness is a result of stimuli being represented on so many different levels of the brain.

Gaillard et al explain their results for masked words showed activity in 43 of the 176 electrodes, primarily in the occipital lobe, and in order of extent, in the temporal lobe, parietal lobe and the frontal lobe. Conversely, for unmasked words, 121 of the 176 electrodes showed activity primarily in the frontal lobe, and in order of extent, in the occipital lobe, temporal lobe and parietal lobe. Per Gaillard et al, while the majority of activation for masked words occurred in just a few areas, activity was more equally distributed among more areas for unmasked words.

Regarding the duration of the activation, Gaillard et al note masked words, as a mean average, resulted in activity lasting approximately 60ms. Conversely, states Gaillard et al, unmasked words, as a mean average, resulted in activity lasting approximately 378ms. However, explains Gaillard et al, the activity from masked words occurred earlier, at 366ms (mean), than unmasked words, at 522ms (mean). Once activity started, however, the activity associated with unmasked word lasted longer and extended to more areas than did the activity for masked words, states Gaillard et al.

Additionally, explains Gaillard et al, while masked words showed gamma band oscillations (which are neuronal patterns of oscillating frequencies ranging from 20-100 Hz) initially peaking at 100-200ms after being presented then dropping off, unmasked words showed a peak and then continued activity for up to 800ms after being presented. Gaillard et al assert masked words showed an initial peak of gamma band activity which then quickly leveled off, while unmasked words showed more oscillations at a greater strength and for a longer period of time. Additionally, Gaillard et al used iERPs to measure the voltage strength and progression of activity. The activity, per Gaillard et al, for masked words showed a slight peak originating in the occipitotemporal areas then declining with almost no observable activity in the other areas. The activity for unmasked words was “stronger and lasted longer,” states Gaillard et al, and started in the posterior (visual cortical) regions with significant activity progressing to other areas. Gaillard et al assert the gamma band activity and the activity observed through the iERPs together are “correlated measures” which show conscious and unconscious brain processes. Gaillard et al’s findings seem to corroborate Quiroga et al’s findings which also showed activity starting at about 300ms and lasting up to 1000ms (specifically in the medial temporal lobe).

Gaillard et al also tested the synchronization of beta wave activity (12-30Hz) by testing to see if, after many observations, areas of the brain showed a “systematic phase relationship.” In other words, they tested to see if the activity in different areas of the brain showed to occur repeatedly together, each time in the same ways. Overall, Gaillard et al assert beta wave activity across all electrodes for unmasked words showed to be synchronous during the time frame of 300-500ms after exposure to the stimulus, meaning the beta waves in one area of the brain appeared to be in synch with the beta waves in other areas of the brain. According to Gaillard et al, masked words resulted in no changes to the synchrony of beta wave activity. Additionally, Gaillard et al tested sets of electrodes, to see if an electrode in one hemisphere of the brain showed beta wave activity in conjunction with an electrode in another hemisphere of the brain. Gaillard et al assert unmasked words showed beta wave activity increased across the sets while masked words actually showed a decrease in beta wave activity. Additionally, Gaillard et al assert they observed a small increase in beta activity in the visual cortex area for masked words, but unmasked words triggered synchronous activity across not only the visual cortex, but many other areas as well. These findings explain Rees et al’s findings regarding the activity triggered by masked words in the ventral visual cortex, in that the activity occurs but only marginally.

Gaillard et al state their final examination entailed the use of a mathematical program to check for Granger Causality. Per Gaillard et al, the beta wave testing and Granger Causality testing were similar because they both checked for correlation. However, as Gaillard et al assert, “it is possible for electrode j to causally influence i without i causally influencing j” and “it is also possible for two signals to exert mutual causal influences on each other.” The Granger Causality test, in other words, was done to determine the probabilities of the activity in different areas of the brain actually having a causal effect on each other, and in which direction (from j to i or from i to j) the causal effect occurred. Gaillard et al explain the program showed a large increase in probability of causation beginning with the posterior regions (i.e. the regions of the ventral visual cortex) and moving toward the occipitofrontal regions. The “evolution” of the causality showed a peak at 146ms when the masked words were presented and another peak at 325ms, which only occurred when the unmasked words were presented. Additionally, unmasked words showed a “causal gain” at 300ms-500ms after presentation, notes Gaillard et al. A probability gain which was not observed in the masked words, which shows a strong causal gain at times of “conscious processing” according to Gaillard et al.

According to Gaillard et al, their results all lend support to the global workspace model of consciousness. Additionally, Gaillard et al’s results seem to share similarities with Rees et al’s, Roth’s, Carmel et al’s and Quiroga et al’s findings. First, Gaillard et al’s results showed activity originating from the ventral visual cortex, an area which, as Rees et al had shown, is responsible for conscious perception of specific types of visual stimuli, including the processing of words. Secondly, Gaillard et al’s results showed the duration and strength of gamma band and beta wave activity was significant up to 300-500ms (in some cases up to 800ms) after the stimuli was no longer present, durations very similar to Quiroga et al’s findings regarding the durations of activity in the medial temporal lobe. The strength and duration of the activity is sufficient for the activity to proceed from the ventral visual cortex to higher order regions like the parietal and prefrontal regions. The parietal and prefrontal regions, per Rees et al and Carmel et al, are activated during conscious recognition and awareness, which requires, per Quiroga et al, activity in the medial temporal lobe. Thirdly, Gaillard et al’s results showed the activity occurred in several areas of the brain synchronously, with a strong probability of causation from posterior areas of the brain to the frontal regions, moving across distant parts of the brain. Per Roth, the associative regions of the parietal, frontal and temporal lobes (due to having a huge number of neurons tightly packed together) have forward and backward connections which facilitate synchronous activities and communications across distant parts of the brain. If these scientists’ findings are true, and if I am correct in correlating the findings, then it seems “consciousness,” from the scientific viewpoint, arises from a complex interaction of sustained synchronous gamma and beta wave events between many areas of the brain.

Works Cited

Carmel, David, Nilli Lavie and Geraint Rees. “Conscious Awareness of Flicker in Humans Involves Frontal and Parietal Cortex.” Current Biology (2006): 907-911.

Gaillard, Raphael, Dehaene Stanislas, Claude Adam, Stephane Clemenceau, Dominique Hasboun, Michel Baulac, Laurent Cohen, Lionel Naccache. “Converging Intracranial Markers of Conscious Access.” PLoS Biology (2009): 0472-0492.

Quiroga, R. Quian, R Mukamel, E.A Isham, R. Malach, I. Fried. “Human Single-Neuron Responses at the Threshold of Conscious Recognition.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2008): 3599-3604.

Rees, Geraint, Gabriel Kreiman and Christof Koch. “Neural Correlates of Consciousness in Humans.” Nature Reviews (2002): 261-270.

Roth, Gerhard. “The Quest to Find Consciousness.” Scientific American Special Edition (2004): 32-39.

Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes

Posted in ART 1020 on October 22, 2011 by bettystoneman

James Voorhies, art historian with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, describes Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828) as “the most important Spanish artist of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.” Additionally, Voorhies states “Over the course of his long career, Goya moved from jolly and lighthearted to deeply pessimistic and searching in his paintings, drawings, etchings, and frescoes.” For this paper, I will first explore the metamorphosis of Goya’s work through the timeline of his life, as outlined by Voorhies. It seems Goya’s work transformed from more cheerful images, to portraits of aristocracy, to social and political commentary, to darkly existential themes. Next, I will offer my own impressions and feelings of Goya’s work.

Voorhies describes Goya as beginning his artistic study at the age of fourteen with painter Jose Luzan Martinez. In 1763 Goya joined the painter brothers, Francisco and Ramon Bayeu y Subias, at their Madrid painter studio. In 1774, Goya, through the German painter Anton Raphael Mengs, was asked to work for the Royal Tapestry Factory at Santa Barbara. Goya’s career with royalty, states Voorhies, lasted through four ruling monarchies.

Goya’s earlier works, are what Voorhies has described as “lighthearted.” Images such as Goya’s The Blind Guitarist and Las Meninas, are etchings which portray people in more happier situations. Goya completed these etchings as a part of tapestry designs for royal chambers.

 

 

Voorhies notes how Goya’s work with the aristocracy increased in the following years and he spent the years between 1785 and 1788 painting many royal families. The Condesa de Altamira and Her Daughter and the portrait Don Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga are two examples of Goya’s work painting the royal families. Voorhies notes how the symbolism of the birds in the portrait of Don Manuel Manrique De Zuniga represents “the innocence of youth.”

 

   

At forty years old, Voorhies explains, Goya was given the position of painter to King Charles III and then in 1789 he was promoted to court painter under King Charles the IV. In the same year, the French monarchy fell in the French Revolution. Subsequently, in 1793 France declared war on Spain. Voorhies explains Goya traveled to Cadiz in Andalusia, in the south of Spain, on a commission for work and returned later that year to Madrid after a serious, prorogated illness left him completely deaf.

In 1799, continues Voorhies, Goya completed “eighty allegorical etchings called the Caprichos.” Two of these etchings, Out Hunting for Teeth, and As Far Back As His Grandfather, explains Voorhies are satirical commentaries about Spanish society, in which can be read “staged manifestations of superstitious beliefs, like the imagined power of a hanged man’s teeth” “and such ludicrous spectacles as that of jackasses acting like gentlemen (to imply that the opposite is generally the rule).”

 

  

Another of Goya’s etchings over this time is The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, in which Voorhies explains, “Goya imagined himself asleep amid his drawing tools, his reason dulled by sleep and bedeviled by creatures that prowl in the dark. The artist’s nightmare reflected his view of Spanish society, which he portrayed as demented, corrupt, and ripe for ridicule.” 

 

Later in 1799, Voorhies notes, Goya was promoted to first court painter. In 1808, Napoleon invaded Spain and the monarchy of Charles the IV ended. Napoleon’s invasion of Spain triggered opposition from the Spanish citizens which led to mass executions of Spanish citizens. Voorhies notes, while Goya was “repulsed by French atrocities,” he worked as a painter for the French regime. In 1814, Napoleon’s domination over Europe fell and the son of Charles the IV, Ferdinand VII, came into power. Ferdinand VII, explains Voorhies, “revoked the Constitution, reinstated the Inquisition, and declared himself absolute monarch. Not long afterward, he launched a reign of terror.” Goya, explains Voorhies, commemorated the Spanish revolt against the French in The Second of May 1808 and The Third of May 1808. Both paintings are “brutal” depictions, in which, in the first Spanish soldiers fight against French soldiers at a battle in Madrid and the second, in which French solider execute captured Spanish citizens on a hill outside of Madrid, explains Voorhies.

 

From 1810 to 1820, Voorhies states, Goya continued to produce works of art depicting the atrocities during the Spanish war with France. These works were called The Disasters of War and were only published and made public after Goya’s death. One Can’t Look, states Voorhies, is an etching from the Disasters of War series and graphically depicts people being executed by bayonets.

 

 

With Ferdinand VII’s monarchy, Voorhies states, Goya lost his royal commissions and “became isolated from political and intellectual life in Madrid.” During this time, Voorhies explains, Goya produced a series of pieces in his home, Quinta del Sordo (the Deaf Man’s House), in fresco, meaning in watercolor in wet plaster on the walls. These works are today known as the Black Paintings. Voorhies describes these works as “compelling in their sinister and often horrifying scenes with dark, emotional undertones.” Some of these works are, Atropos (The Fates), Two Old Men Eating Soup, Witches’ Sabbath (or The Great He-Goat), and Saturn Devouring His Son.

 

  

Goya, according to Voorhies, left Spain “dissatisfied with political developments,” and retired in Bordeaux, France in 1824. Goya lived the last of his life in Bordeaux and in Paris.

To interject my own, limited, impressions and feelings regarding Goya’s work, it does certainly seem like his earlier work was more optimistic. His images portray more simple, cheerful times, perhaps reflective of hope. Quite honestly, I am indifferent regarding his early works. The works, while portraying perhaps a hope and innocence, seem a bit unemotional to me. His earlier works don’t provoke any sort of emotion response in me. As far as his style in his earlier works, it seems a bit more textbook, too similar and conforming to other artists of the time.

However, as he became immersed in the upper echelons of Spanish society, when he became engulfed by aristocracy, it seems like he almost became disillusioned about Spanish society. His works went from portraying a sort of cheerful hope, to a satirical and critical wit. The symbolism in his works during this time portray almost a frustration with society. His works critiquing society and politics are much more original and emotion driven, it seems. In this way, these works are more delightful and interesting than his earlier works, because they have something to actually say and in an engaging, satirical and dark way.

Goya’s works depicting the atrocities of war, it seems, builds upon his already pent up discontentment with politics and society. The graphic pieces showing unarmed citizens being slaughtered, reaching out perhaps begging the soldiers to stop and huddling together are powerful. His pieces regarding the war are dark and disturbing, and emotion provoking.

Goya’s final works, the Black Paintings, are absolutely my favorite. They are disturbing, dark, powerful, original, a bit mysterious and emotion driven. Goya’s style in the Black Paintings is unique to him, much more his own than his style was in his earlier works. His subject matter seems to touch both on the darker sides of the individual in society and alone. Emotionally, his Black Painting seem to reflect perhaps different aspects of life for the individual. Perhaps, the one being consumed, by society, by emotion, by life, by death. Overall, Goya’s Black Paintings feel much more than his other works, particularly, they feel lonely and mournful.

It is undisputable that Goya’s works morphed and evolved as he lived his life. Viewing his works along side knowing the history of his life, one can almost feel what he was feeling. One can feel his metamorphosis, starting with hope and innocence, to frustration, to loneliness and sorrow, all the while understanding the societal and political conditions which influenced his perspectives on life. Overall, I feel Goya’s Black Paintings are the most artistically appealing works by him.

Works Cited

Voorhies, James. “Francisco de Goya (1746–1828) and the Spanish Enlightenment”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/goya/hd_goya.htm (October 2003)

Civil Disobedience as a Participatory Role

Posted in PHIL 2300 on August 1, 2011 by bettystoneman

 

Civil Disobedience as a Participatory Role

On December 19, 2008, University of Utah student, Tim DeChristopher halted a Bureau of Land Management land auction by placing $1.7 million of fraudulent bids on over 22,000 acres of land in southern Utah (Godfrey, 16). DeChristopher’s actions are indicative of civil disobedience (Godfrey, 18). For this paper I will first begin by providing evidence of DeChristopher’s principles behind his actions. Secondly, I will explore the issue of rights in two rights theories: Immanuel Kant’s deontological theory from the “Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals” and John Rawl’s social contract theory in “A Theory of Justice.” Next, I will outline Garrett Hardin’s arguments regarding the commons in “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Then I will offer Iris Marion Young’s argument in favor of participatory justice in “Justice and Hazardous Waste.” Next, I will summarize Henry David Thoreau’s argument in “Civil Disobedience” and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s argument in “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” both regarding civil disobedience. Then, I will offer counter arguments against civil disobedience as noted by Peter Suber in the essay “Civil Disobedience.” Next, I will compare the evidence of DeChristopher’s principles to Kant’s, Rawl’s, Hardin’s, Young’s, Thoreau’s, and King’s arguments. I will argue DeChristopher’s actions can be linked to the principle people have a right to be autonomous which leads them to seek a participatory role in the decision making processes which affect their lives and which also leads them, ultimately out of frustration, to turn to acts of civil disobedience in order to fill that participatory role if the system does not adequately allow them a participatory role. Finally, I will modify the arguments against civil disobedience as noted by Suber to argue against my argument then counter those arguments.

 

Evidence of DeChristopher’s Principles

 

DeChristopher’s statements provide the best evidence of the principles behind his actions. In a Utah Now interview with Doug Fabrizio, DeChristopher noted a question on the final exam he took the morning before the auction which asked if the only people at an auction bidding on land were the bidders, does the winning bid adequately represent the value of the land (DeChristopher). DeChristopher explained, no, it doesn’t because of the money the taxpayers would lose from not being able to receive recreational enjoyment from the land, the additional money it would cost for added healthcare costs resulting from the pollution, and the additional money it would cost due to the effects of global warming (DeChristopher).

 

In the Utah Now interview, DeChristopher stated he had done everything he was supposed to do, via the legal channels, to try to make a change (DeChristopher). He stated he petitioned, he protested, he met with his congressperson, and he wrote letters, but, he stated, the system is not set up for people like him to succeed (DeChristopher). DeChristopher also noted in the Utah Now interview due to his experience, something he noticed about American society is there has been a “lack of direct participation” and his experience is encouraging more people to participate (DeChristopher).

 

In a Democracy Now interview with Amy Goodman, DeChristopher argued the Bush Administration rushed through the auction without doing an adequate environmental impact study or getting public feedback, in order to try to rush the auction through before the Obama Administration came to office because Bush knew the auction would be deemed illegal under any other administration (DeChristopher). In his sentencing hearing, DeChristopher asserted the BLM was in “constant violation” of “Secretarial Order 3226, which was a law that went into effect in 2001 and required the BLM to weigh the impacts on climate change for all its major decisions, particularly resource development” (DeChristopher). In his sentencing hearing, DeChristopher stated a Congressional report found it “common” people were paid by the oil and gas industry to “volunteer for the industry that was suppose to be regulating it” by processing permits and addressing protests (DeChristopher). DeChristopher states “legal avenues in this case were constructed precisely to protect the corporations who control the government” (DeChristopher).

 

DeChristopher described the “choice” he was “faced” with, between “disrupting the auction, or being complicit” regarding “this destruction of our land, destruction of our democracy, and the destruction of our climate” and “climate change presents such a serious threat to our future, that it creates a moral imperative that is higher than just following the law as it exists” (Godfrey, 18). For DeChristopher, the consequences of the BLM auction were so destructive that it was more moral to commit civil disobedience and disrupt the auction than to obey the law. At his sentencing, DeChristopher stated “Where there is a conflict between the law and the higher moral code that we all share, my loyalty is to that higher moral code” (DeChristopher). DeChristopher asserted, at his sentencing, he has “great respect for the rule of law” but, “The rule of law is dependent upon a government that is willing to abide by the law. Disrespect for the rule of law begins when the government believes itself and its corporate sponsors to be above the law” (DeChristopher). Additionally, at his sentencing, DeChristopher stated “I am here today because I have chosen to protect the people locked out of the system over the profits of the corporations running the system” (DeChristopher). At his sentencing hearing, DeChristopher stated his intention was to “expose” the oil industry and to “shine a light on a corrupt process” (DeChristopher).

 

Two Rights Theories: Kant and Rawls

 

All of DeChristopher’s comments imply people have certain rights, which in the case of the BLM auction, were being violated. Kant’s deontological, or duty based, rights theory asserts people have rights which cannot be violated (Drexler). Kant states “The will is conceived as a power of determining oneself to action in accordance with the idea of certain laws. And such a power can be found only in rational beings” (95). Kant is asserting people have reason and will, and can use their reason and will to decide what the right thing to do is, then act on that decision (Drexler). Kant asserts “Rational nature exists as an end in itself” (96). Therefore, the moral “practical imperative” is: “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end” (96). For Kant, people have “intrinsic value,” meaning they have value in themselves simply for possessing reason and will (Drexler). People, according to Kant, should not be treated as having merely “instrumental value,” or treated as if their value only depends on what they can do for others (Drexler). For Kant, his practical imperative asserts people should be treated with respect, as an end in themselves with intrinsic value, and never with disrespect as merely a means with instrumental value to an end.

 

Autonomy, or self-rule, is using one’s reason to decide a will, then act on that decision without anyone else telling one what they should do (Drexler). For Kant, autonomy is necessary for people because it is the only way people (endowed with reason and will) can be people (using their reason and will) (Drexler). People use their reason and will to decide and act on what it is their duty to do by utilizing Kant’s “categorical imperative” (Drexler). The categorical imperative states: “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” (89). Kant’s categorical imperative basically asserts, before deciding on committing an action, consider what would happen if everyone would commit the action. If everyone committed the action would it lead to the purpose or concept of the action becoming a contradiction or non existent? For example, Kant gives the concept of borrowing money with a promise to repay, but also with the intention to never repay (90). If everyone were to borrow money with a promise to repay, but never intended to repay, then the whole concept of a promise would fail to exist and it would make it impossible to ever obtain money again by promising to repay (Kant, 90). Kant argues one ought to follow the Principle of Consistency, and the only way immoral acts achieve the desired end is if the act is not universalized (Drexler). Kant argues, immoral acts can only work under the “essence of immorality” in which one makes an exception for one’s self, hold’s one’s self to special standards or treats one’s self as special (Drexler).

 

Kant argues people have a right to autonomy because they have reason and will. Rawls’ theory, on the other hand, is a social contract theory stemming from Thomas Hobbes’ assertion people in society agree upon the rules of the society and give up some of their freedoms so they can be protected from others in the society (Drexler). Social contract theories assert “The best, most just social, political, and economic arrangements are those that are agreed upon by the members of the society” (Drexler). Rawls argues laws should be designed from behind a “Veil of Ignorance,” which would serve to make the implemented laws objective and impartial (Drexler). The Veil of Ignorance, for Rawls, is putting oneself in a frame of mind in which one is completely ignorant of their position in society, like how much money they have or how healthy they are or what age they are or what ethnicity/race they are (Drexler). For Rawls, by not knowing what one’s position is in the society, this lawmaker will be able to make laws which are more equitable for everyone (Drexler).

 

Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance contains “two principles of justice” which are the Basic Rights Principle and the Difference Principle (42; Drexler). The Basic Rights Principle is: “Each person has the same indefeasible claim to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties, which scheme is compatible with the same scheme of liberties for all” (Rawls, 42). The Difference Principle is: “Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: first, they are to be attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and second, they are to be to the greatest benefit of the least-advantaged members of society” (Rawls, 42-43). Rawls’ Basic Rights Principle asserts everyone, being equal, is entitled to the same rights and liberties as everyone else. Rawls’ Difference Principle asserts if someone is given unequal rights and liberties, then these unequal rights and liberties must be attached to offices or positions which are able to be obtained by everyone and these unequal rights and liberties must be to the greatest benefit to the least advantaged people in society (Drexler).

 

Rawls asserts one way to establish “a list of basic rights and liberties” is to “consider what liberties provide the political and social conditions essential for the adequate development and full exercise of the two moral powers of free and equal persons” (45). First, Rawls states, “the equal political liberties and freedom of thought enable citizens to develop and to exercise these powers in judging the justice of the basic structure of society and its social policies” (45). Secondly, Rawls states, “liberty of conscience and freedom of association enable citizens to develop and exercise their moral powers in forming and revising and in rationally pursuing (individually or, more often, in association with others) their conceptions of the good” (45). Rawls is asserting people have two moral powers. First, the power to judge if social systems are just and second, the power to work to bring about the good in the society. A list of basic rights originates from and enables these two moral powers. Additionally, Rawls asserts there are “primary goods” which “are various social conditions and all-purpose means that are generally necessary to enable citizens adequately to develop and fully exercise their two moral powers, and to pursue their determinate conceptions of the good” (57). Rawls notes one of the five of his primary goods is the “freedom of thought and liberty of conscience” (58). Rawls is asserting primary goods are circumstances which allow individuals to judge if a social system is just and work toward the good of the society. One of these primary goods is, specifically, the combined freedom to think for oneself and the liberty to decide for oneself what is right and wrong.

 

The Commons: Hardin

 

For Rawls, primary goods are distributed under his theory based on the two principles of justice (ie Basic Rights Principle and the Difference Principle). The distribution of primary goods, then lends itself to the concept of the commons. How are primary goods (ie circumstances which allow individuals to judge if a social system is just and work toward the good of the society) to be distributed in regards to the commons? The commons is the concept something exists which belongs to “the whole community of humans for their use in common” (Drexler). An underlying principle of the commons is all are permitted to use the commons, up until and unless it causes harm to another (Drexler). Hardin argues the mind set of the individual regarding the use of the commons is focused on their own personal interests. Hardin utilizes a pasture analogy to explain “each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain,” because logically the individual benefits much more by maximizing his gain even though society suffers as a whole (1244). Hardin states each herdsman is concerned with only the “utility” to himself (1244). Hardin asserts “This utility has one negative and one positive component” and by adding another animal to graze on the pasture which the herdsman alone will profit from, the herdsman benefits by a “positive utility of nearly +1” (1244).

 

However, Hardin asserts, the overgrazing resulting from adding more animals to the pasture is a negative consequence “shared by all the herdsman” so “the negative utility for any particular decision making herdsman is only a fraction of -1” (1244). The situation leads to each herdsman being “locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit-in a world that is limited” (1244). Hardin states “Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons” (1244). Hardin states an underlying “principle of morality” is “the morality of an act is a function of the state of the system at the time it is performed” and the state of the system now is one in which the global society is over populated with humans (1245). Hardin is asserting people use the commons based off the benefits to them solely. For Hardin, the system perpetuates self interested use of the commons because use of this sort is seen as the most logical and rational thing to do, because everyone else is doing it. By everyone using the commons to maximize the benefit to themselves, society as a whole is destroying and depleting the commons. For Hardin, what may have been moral use of the commons when there was a limited number of humans, is now an immoral use of the commons because there is an over population of humans.

 

Participatory Justice: Young

 

So, Hardin seems to be arguing there should not be free use of the commons because there is an overpopulation of people. If there are to be restrictions on the use of the commons, then who should decide on how the commons should be used? Does Rawls’ distributive theory utilizing the two principles of justice behind a Veil of Ignorance adequately resolve how primary goods should be distributed regarding the restrictions on the use of the commons? Young argues, no, Rawls’ theory is inadequate (Drexler). Young’s own theory is reminiscent of Kant’s theory of autonomy (Drexler).

 

Young argues, distributive theories of justice “conceptualize all questions of justice in terms of the allocation of goods among individuals” and “The distributive orientation precludes considering questions of the justice of decision making structures” (176). Young states it could be argued the distributive theories could be able to be used for distributing “decision making power,” but in order to do so “the theory must conceive power and authority as themselves goods which can be distributed in greater or lesser amounts to various agents” (176). Young argues “Distributively oriented theorizing presupposes a structure of institutional relations…It does not bring the justice of given institutional structures themselves into question” and “The moral value of particular relations of power, institutional positions and organization, however, comprise just those concerns at issue when we raise questions about just decision making procedures” (176-77). Therefore, Young argues, “distributive oriented reasoning cannot treat such questions directly and explicitly, because it must presuppose agents and institutionalized positions among which goods are distributed” (177).

 

It seems what Young is asserting is distributive theories require a distributor. In order for distributive theories to assign out decision making power and authority, the distributive theory must treat the power and authority as goods, which requires a distributor for those goods. In the case of Rawls’ primary goods, there must exist a distributor to distribute out the primary goods. But, who is the distributor? The distributive theories assume there exists a “neutral” or “objective” distributor to assign out the decision making power and authority, but Young’s concern is over if it is moral and just for this assumed “neutral” or “objective” distributor of the decision making power and authority to act as distributor (Young, 177; Rawls, 59). For Rawls, the two principles of justice from behind the Veil of Ignorance would the be objective tools to use to distribute primary goods (59). But who is the distributor wielding those tools? Young notes in our society the state as been granted the role of distributor because it has been assumed the state is unbiased (178). However, Young argues it has been shown that the state does have its own interests, therefore, it can’t be unbiased (178-79). Young states “If we recognize that all social decision making involves particular interests, and that no position within society can transcend all particular interests, then the issue of who should decide policy issues becomes a paramount issue of justice” (180). For Young, it is impossible for any distributor to not consider their own personal interests.

 

A better alternative to the distributive theories, argues Young, is one of participatory justice which recognizes the “principle of self-determination” and “Such a principle states that social decisions ought to be made by those most affected by the outcome of the decision, whether in terms of the actions they will have to take or in terms of the effects of the actions on them” (180). Young further states “self-determination as a principle of justice derives from the value of autonomy. Respect for the moral personhood and rationality of individuals is lacking unless they may determine the conditions of their lives and actions” (180). Just like Kant, Young argues autonomy, the ability to self-rule, or, the ability to decide for oneself what is right, then act on that decision, is an inherent right. Furthermore, Young argues, distributive theories (such as Rawls’) are flawed because they require a distributor (a distributor who cannot possibly not consider their own self interests) to assign out decision making power and authority, which affects individuals’ autonomy.

 

Civil Disobedience: Thoreau and King

 

Young argues autonomy leads to a concept of participatory justice, where people directly should be able to participate in the decision making processes surrounding the actions which are going to affect them. The problem is, what if people are not allowed a participatory role? Thoreau argues “The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it” (821). For Thoreau, the government is subject to what the people will, but the government is susceptible to corruptions which leads to the implementation of laws which ago against the will of the people. Thoreau argues “It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume, is to do at any time what I think is right” (822). Thoreau’s assertion is one has the right to decide for themselves, and then act on, what is moral. Thoreau argues, “Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail” and “Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence” (823). For Thoreau, merely voting for what you think is moral is a form of complacency and if one has determined a law is unjust, then one ought not just vote against it, but instead one ought to act against it. Thoreau argues, what is moral and just, may at times be what is against the law. People are more obligated to do what is moral and just, over what is the law. Therefore, there are times when it is moral and just for people to not follow laws that are immoral or unjust. Also, Thoreau does not see it has anyone’s duty to correct the corruptions of the government, but he does see it as everyone’s duty to decide what is right and fully act on their decision (822; 824).

 

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s arguments serve to expand on Thoreau’s arguments. King argues there are four steps in non violent movements; “collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action” (826). If negotiation fails, according to King, there is “no alternative except to prepare for direct action” (826). King’s assertion is when it has been determined an injustice exists within the law, if negotiation fails to change the law, then one must act outside of the law. Furthermore, King argues, “there are two types of laws: just and unjust…One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all’” (827). For King, it is moral to follow just laws and moral to not follow unjust laws because unjust laws are simply not laws.

 

King provides many explanations of just versus unjust laws. One of which, King asserts, is “An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself…A just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself” (828). For King, unjust laws are laws enacted by the more powerful which the more powerful forces the less powerful to follow but the more powerful does not follow itself. Another explanation offer by King is “A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law” (828). For King, people have a right to vote, to have a role, in the processes resulting in the laws which they are going to have to follow.

 

Counter Arguments to and Responses for Civil Disobedience: Suber

 

Thoreau and King both argued in favor of civil disobedience. Suber offers many arguments against civil disobedience and then counters those arguments. One of the objections to civil disobedience Suber offers is: “Civil disobedience cannot be justified in a democracy. Unjust laws made by a democratic legislature can be changed by a democratic legislature. The existence of lawful channels of change makes civil disobedience unnecessary” (Suber). The objection asserts the available democratic procedures are adequate to change unjust laws. Suber offers a counterargument from King who asserted if the procedures for change of an unjust law are democratic in theory but are exclusionary in practice, then the procedures cannot be used to change unjust laws (Suber).

 

Another objection Suber offers is: “What if everybody did it? Civil disobedience fails Kant’s universalizability test” (Suber). The objection asserts if the action of civil disobedience were to be universalized, then the concept of having laws would fail to exist. The objection is asserting the universalization of civil disobedience is similar to Kant’s explanation of the promise to repay a debt but never intending to repay in that a law couldn’t do what a law is intended to do if civil disobedience is universalized. Suber notes there are “descriptive and normative versions” which are both slippery slope arguments leading to anarchy (Suber). In the descriptive version, or version where the usefulness of the consequences of the actions are focused on, Suber notes the objection asserts acts of civil disobedience will be imitated until eventually there is anarchy (Suber). In the normative version, or version where what people ought to do is focused on, Suber notes the objection asserts if civil disobedience is “justified for one group whose moral beliefs” go against a law, then it would be “justified for any group similarly situation” leading to anarchy (Suber).

 

In response to the descriptive version, Suber notes a response from Thoreau which asserts one has a duty to not “lend one’s weight to an unjust cause” because the consequences are more harmful to follow unjust laws (Suber). Suber notes Rawls’ response to the descriptive version would be acts of civil disobedience can balance out the legal system and push society “closer to its shared vision of justice” since the vast majority of people don’t commit acts of civil disobedience (Suber).

 

Another of Suber’s responses states “The normative version of the slippery slope argument has little force if the criteria used by activists permit some but not all disobedience” (Suber). Suber explains, “In Kant’s language again, universalizability fails if the maxim of the action is ‘disobey a law whenever you disapprove of it,’ but it can succeed if instead the maxim is, ‘disobey when obedience would cause more harm than disobedience,’ or “disobey when a law is unjust in the following specific ways.…’” (Suber). So, under the viewpoint in Suber’s response, disobeying the unjust law by committing acts of civil disobedience would be moral if it would be more immoral to not commit the acts and disobeying unjust laws by committing acts of civil disobedience should have parameters.

 

To give examples, regarding the first of the two maxims, Suber notes, for Thoreau, “this inertia and docility in the general population are far larger problems than incipient anarchy” (Suber). For Thoreau, it would be more of a problem for people to be uninvolved and to not have a role in the decisions made for them on their behalf, then it would be if anarchy were to form. Regarding the second of the two maxims, Suber notes King placed parameters around civil disobedience by defining just and unjust laws and making the distinction following just laws is moral and disobeying unjust laws is moral (Suber).

 

Connections: DeChristopher

 

Many connections can be made between DeChristopher’s comments and the rights theories of Kant and Rawls. Kant argued people have reason and will which allows them to decide for themselves what the right thing to do is and then act on that decision. DeChristopher mentions facing the decision of whether to disrupt the auction or to obey the law, then acting on disrupting the auction because he decided it was the right thing to do. Kant also argued using one’s reason and will makes one autonomous, and being autonomous makes people “people.” Kant argued reason and will gives people intrinsic value and people should be treated, whether by others or by themselves, as having intrinsic value. For Kant, to treat someone with intrinsic value would be to allow them to use their reason and will, thus, would be to allow them to be autonomous. In DeChristopher’s case, allowing him to be autonomous, to use his reason and will to act towards a higher moral code, would be treating him with intrinsic value, even if by using his reason and will to act toward a higher moral code required an act of civil disobedience. Additionally, DeChristopher himself would not be treating himself with intrinsic value if he did not allow himself to use his own reason and will to act towards a higher moral code. For Kant, using one’s reason and will to be autonomous is moral, and this is what DeChristopher did by his act of civil disobedience. In this sense, Kant’s rights theory justifies acts of civil disobedience as being moral, because civil disobedience allows for autonomy.

 

The special treatment DeChristopher noted the oil and gas industries receive and the exceptions BLM is making by not following Secretarial Order 3226, would be examples of, what Kant would call, the essence of immorality and not following the Principle of Consistency. Correlating DeChristopher’s comments, the purpose of the order is to assess the impacts on climate change for resource development so as to reduce the impacts of resource development on the climate. The end for the oil and gas industries is resource development. The only way the oil and gas industry can development more resources (in certain areas and by using certain methods), would be by the BLM not following the order or promising to follow the order but intending not to. If not following the order were universalized, then the order could not do what it is intended to do, which is namely, reduce the negative effects on the climate by resource development.

 

Rawls argues the first principle of justice, the Basic Rights Principle, is everyone is equal and entitled to the same rights. For Rawls, if someone is given more rights than another, according to the second principle of justice, the Difference Principle, it must be because of an office or position which can be held by everyone and it must benefit the least advantaged in society. In the case of DeChristopher, his comments indicate the government and the oil and gas industries were being given more rights than the people and these special rights were not obtainable by everyone nor were these special rights to the benefit of the least advantaged in society. Rawls also argues the distribution of primary goods, based on the two principles of justice, should originate from and enable people’s moral power to judge if a social system is just and to work to bring about the good in the society. DeChristopher noted his intentions were to expose the corruption behind the BLM. If corruption exists which requires exposing, then the people are unaware of how the system works. If people are unaware of how the system works, then they are not being distributed the circumstances which would allow them to judge if the social system is just. In DeChristopher’s case, if the people are not able to obtain knowledge of the environmental consequences of an action, because a study was not conducted as DeChristopher noted, then people are not being distributed the circumstances in which they could work toward the good of the society. If the people are not able to provide comments which will be considered seriously, as implicated by DeChristopher’s statements about the rush through of the auction and the volunteers at the BLM paid by the oil and gas industries, then people are not being distributed the circumstances in which they could work toward the good of the society. DeChristopher’s act of civil disobedience can be justified by Rawls assertion people have the equal basic right to use their freedom of thought and liberty of conscience to judge whether a system is just and act toward the good of the system.

 

DeChristopher’s comments about the value of the land, about our land, our climate and the threat to our future, demonstrate the principle of the commons. In DeChristopher’s case, the oil and gas industries are the herdsmen Hardin speaks of, benefiting from maximizing the utility of the commons to themselves. Hardin’s tragedy of the commons, for DeChristopher, is the oil and gas industry profiting off of destroying the commons for the whole human race. In DeChristopher’s case, as he noted about Secretarial Order 3226, in alignment with Hardin’s argument, there should be restrictions on the use of the commons put on the oil and gas industries.

 

DeChristopher’s comments can also be connected to Young’s arguments. Young argues the distributive theories, such as Rawls’, are inadequate to provide justice because distributive theories require a distributor and it is impossible for the distributor to not consider their own self interests. In the case of DeChristopher, the government is the distributor. The distributor has, per DeChristopher’s comments as noted previously in comparison with Rawls’ arguments, distributed special rights to the oil and gas industries. Per DeChristopher’s comments, the people are not being distributed the circumstances which allow individuals to judge if a social system is just and work toward the good of the society. The reason why people are not being distributed equal rights and circumstances to exert their moral powers, according to DeChristopher’s comments about the relationship between the government and the oil and gas industries, is because the government is considering its own self interests in the distribution process. To resolve the problem of the impossibility of the Veil of Ignorance, Young argues for participatory justice where the people participate in the decision making processes regarding actions which affect their lives. If the system is not set up for people like DeChristopher to succeed but is set up for the corporations to succeed, as DeChristopher stated, then the system is not set up for the majority of the population to participate in the decision making processes which affect them. If the people are excluded from the system, as DeChristopher stated, then the system is not accommodating for participatory justice. If, as DeChristopher states, there has been a lack of participation of the people in social issues and due to his experience more people are now seeking to participate, then people are seeking a participatory role in the decision making processes which affect them. DeChristopher notes how he tried writing letters, he tried speaking with his congressperson, he tried petitioning the government, he tried utilizing the legal means for participation in the decision making processes which affect his life, but nothing worked.

 

Thoreau argued people have the right to decide what is moral and act on that decision. Both Thoreau and King argued people are obligated to do what is moral over what is the law and civil disobedience is moral when injustices in the law requires the law not be obeyed. DeChristopher’s statements regarding having loyalty to a higher moral code where there is a conflict between the higher moral code and law echoes Thoreau’s and King’s arguments. DeChristopher’s comments about the rule of law being dependent upon the government abiding by the law are very similar to King’s assertion an unjust law is one the powerful majority forces on the minority but does not follow itself. DeChristopher’s comments about the system not being conducive for people like him to enact change and his comments about the legal system being designed for the benefit of corporations, both of which together imply the system is not designed for participation from most people, can be correlated with King’s assertion an unjust law is one in which the people have no right to vote on. DeChristopher’s comments about the corruptions of the government which prevent people from enacting change, also echoes Thoreau’s assertions about the perversions of the government preventing people acting through it.

 

Civil Disobedience as a Participatory Role

 

DeChristopher’s comments imply people have the right to decide what is moral and act on that decision, even if it is an act of civil disobedience. People having the right to decide and act, or reason and will, toward what is moral is autonomy. DeChristopher’s comments can be linked with the idea of autonomy as posited by Kant. People have the equal basic right to use their, as stated by Rawls, freedom of thought and liberty of conscience to judge if a social system is just and work toward the good of the society. In this way, DeChristopher’s comments are linked with Rawls’ regarding equal basic rights, primary goods, and moral powers. The good of society, according to Hardin, would be to put restrictions on the use of the commons. DeChristopher’s comments supporting Secretarial Order 3226 can be correlated with Hardin on restrictions to the use of the commons. However, the problem, as noted by Young, with Rawls’ theory is the distributor is concerned with their own self interests. DeChristopher’s comments are linked with Young’s regarding the self interested relationship between the government and the oil and gas industries. For Young, justice is people being able to have a participatory role in the decision making processes which affect their lives. The system as it exists now does not allow the majority of people participatory roles in the decision making processes which affect their lives. Many of DeChristopher’s comments focus the lack of participatory roles for people in the current system. Throughout DeChristopher’s comments, one finds frustration with what he sees occurring; frustration with following the legal means to try to make his case but being excluded from the system, frustration with disastrous environmental destruction to the commons, frustration with corporations getting special rights and privileges and frustration with not having a participatory role in the decision making processes which affect his life.

 

If people are not allowed a participatory role in the decision making processes which affect them, then they are losing their autonomy. The only way for people to maintain their autonomy when the system has excluded them from the decision making processes which affect them, would be to go outside the system, thus to acts of civil disobedience. It seems, along the same lines as argued by Young, it is not possible for people to maintain their autonomy within a distributive system as posited by Rawls. If one relies on a distributor to assign them decision making power and authority, and relies on the distributor to assign to them a certain amount of decision making power and authority, then automatically one is losing at the very least some of their autonomy. The loss of autonomy to a distributor automatically restricts what Rawls termed as moral powers. The loss of autonomy to a distributor automatically restricts people’s circumstances to judge if a social system is just and work toward the good of the society, because people can’t judge with any authority if the distribution system itself, the foundations of society, is just nor can they work toward the good of society through the distribution system. It is the justness and equitability of the distribution system which is called into question in the case of DeChristopher. It is the non-existence of participatory roles for people in distribution systems which causes the frustration leading to acts of civil disobedience. Civil disobedience demonstrates the principle people have a right to be autonomous and need to have a participatory role in the decision making processes which affect them. The current distributive system of the BLM and other government agencies does not adequately accommodate participatory roles. If people have a right to be autonomous and need to have a participatory role in the decision making processes which affects them, but the system excludes them, then civil disobedience becomes necessary to fill a need for a participatory role.

 

Modified Counter Arguments and Responses

 

One could argue against my argument along the lines of the objections Suber noted. For example, one could argue civil disobedience is unnecessary because there are many participatory roles people could fill. People could write letters, talk to their congressperson, vote, petition, protest, and probably numerous other activities, to participate in the decision making processes which affect them. However, the response would be, these roles are inadequate. DeChristopher’s comments about how he had tried several other means, but his concerns were not taken seriously via any of these means, demonstrates the inadequateness of the current available participatory roles. Currently the system is very much a Rawlsian distributive system where the government is the distributor. As previously argued, it is impossible for a distributive system to adequately accommodate participatory roles, especially when the problem is the distributor itself.

 

One could argue the participatory role for people is to vote for those who will then assign decision making power and authority to others. By people voting for representatives, the people are assigning decision making power and authority to the representatives. If the people are assigning decision making power and authority to representatives, whom then assign the power and authority to others, then the distributor is really the people. However, in response, the distributors the people have distributed power and authority to are not distributing information back to the people, so the people can’t, as Rawls stated, judge if the system is just and work toward the good of society. If the ones’ to whom the people have distributed their power and authority make decisions without the people’s consent or without giving the people enough information, then the people are unable to judge if the system is just and work towards the good of society. The distributor is not seeking participation from the people on the issues, and writing letters, petitioning, protesting is not adequate enough to mitigate the self interest of the distributor. So, the people could vote them out right? Sure, but the problem will persist because, as Young asserted, it is impossible for one to not consider their self interest.

 

Another objection, modified from the objection Suber noted, could be if everyone committed acts of civil disobedience in order to have some sort of participatory role, then it would lead to anarchy. In other words, civil disobedience as a participatory role cannot be universalized without resulting in anarchy. The hypothetical slippery slope argument seems to go like this: If acts of civil disobedience as participatory roles were universalized, then the established laws would be disobeyed by everyone. If the established laws were disobeyed by everyone, then established laws would carry no authoritative or deterrent force. If the established laws carry no authoritative or deterrent force, then everyone would do whatever they wanted to do. If everyone is doing whatever they want to do, then the result is anarchy. Therefore, if acts of civil disobedience as participatory roles were universalized, then the result would be anarchy.

 

It seems it may be necessary to evaluate some terms here. In the previous slippery slope argument, one is treating anarchy as everyone doing whatever they want and everyone doing whatever they want is chaos. The argument is assuming, and implying, everyone doing whatever they want is destructive. The argument is assuming the vast majority of people in society rely on laws to give them instruction on morality. The argument fails because it assumes people cannot autonomously be moral. The argument fails to recognize acts of civil disobedience have been done because one has autonomously decided their duty lies with a higher moral code. Even if the individual committing the act of civil disobedience has a skewed, perhaps even unethical, moral code, they are still autonomously deciding what is moral regardless of the established laws. The slippery slope, acts of civil disobedience as a participatory role leads to anarchy argument, fails because people don’t rely on the established laws for their moral codes. If people who commit acts of civil disobedience don’t rely on the established laws for their moral codes, then people can be moral without relying on the established laws. Therefore, if acts of civil disobedience as participatory roles were universalized, even if all the established laws were overturned, people could still act morally (ie toward the good of the society). Civil disobedience itself demonstrates people don’t base their morality (at least entirely) on established law. Established law is not required for morality. Therefore, civil disobedience need not lead to anarchy (ie destruction). If people don’t rely on law to establish their morality, then it could be argued civil disobedience is ineffective. Can civil disobedience change what one deems as moral? It can change laws if what is deemed moral is in conflict with the laws. However, what if there is a fundamental difference in what is deemed moral and the prominent view on the morality of the issue is in line with the laws? Despite these questions, if the purpose of civil disobedience is to have a participatory role and the system accommodates a participatory role for people after recognizing and accepting this, then civil disobedience has been effective.

 

Conclusion

 

Kant offers a rights theory based on the concept of autonomy, while Rawls offers a rights theory based on a distributive system. Hardin argues restrictions should be placed on the use of the commons. Young argues for participatory justice based on Kant’s theory of autonomy instead of Rawls distributive system. Young’s arguments can be applied to the decision making processes regarding the restrictions on the commons Hardin argues for. Thoreau and King argue acts of civil disobedience are necessary when the higher moral code is in conflict with the law. DeChristopher’s comments regarding his civil disobedience can be linked with Kant’s, Rawls’, Hardin’s, Young’s, Thoreau’s and King’s arguments. The result demonstrates a link to the principle people have a right to be autonomous and demonstrates acts of civil disobedience arise because the current distributive system does not adequately provide an arena for people to participate in the decision making processes which affect their lives. Therefore, acts of civil disobedience are necessary, because they provide people with a participatory role, even when the system has excluded them, in the decision making processes which affect their lives. Ultimately, the system is faced with a choice: Either allow people an adequate arena for participation in the decision making processes which affect their lives, or, keep prosecuting acts of civil disobedience. Perhaps the system should ask itself which option is more just.

 

Works Cited

 

DeChristopher, Tim. Bidder70.org Interview by Doug Fabrizio. 08 Jan 2009. PBS. TV. 27 Jul 2011. <http://www.bidder70.org/news/view/136540/&gt;.

 

DeChristopher, Tim. Bidder70.org Interview by Amy Goodman. 22 Dec 2008. PBS. TV. 27 Jul 2011. <http://www.bidder70.org/news/view/136168/&gt;.

 

DeChristopher, Tim. “I Do Not Want Mercy, I Want You To Join Me.” CommonDreams.org. CommonDreams.org, 27 Jul 2011. Web. 28 Jul 2011. <http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/07/26-13&gt;.

 

Drexler, Jane. “Deontology, Part One.” Environmental Ethics 2300. Vimeo, Web. 1 Aug 2011. <http://vimeo.com/13286440&gt;.

 

Drexler, Jane. “Deontology, Part Two.” Environmental Ethics 2300. Vimeo, Web. 1 Aug 2011. <http://vimeo.com/13286687&gt;.

 

Drexler, Jane. “Deontology, Part Three.” Environmental Ethics 2300. Vimeo, Web. 1 Aug 2011. <http://vimeo.com/13286788&gt;.

 

Drexler, Jane. “Global Environmental Justice.” Environmental Ethics 2300. Vimeo, Web. 1 Aug 2011. <http://vimeo.com/13303848&gt;.

 

Drexler, Jane. “Justice Theory: Rawls.” Environmental Ethics 2300. Vimeo, Web. 1 Aug 2011. <http://vimeo.com/13286857&gt;.

 

Drexler, Jane. “Participatory Justice: Iris Young.” Environmental Ethics 2300. Vimeo, Web. 1 Aug 2011. <http://vimeo.com/13302810&gt;.

 

Godfrey, Louis. “Crunch Time.” Salt Lake City Weekly. 26.8 (2009): 16; 18. Print.

 

Hardin, Garrett. “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Science. 162. (1968): 1244-45. Print.

 

Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. New York: Harper Torch Books, 1964. 89-90; 95-96. Print.

 

King, Jr., Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Introducing Philosophy: A Text with Integrated Readings. Ed. Robert Solomon. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Publishers, 1993. 826-28. Print.

 

Rawls, John. Justice as Fairness. Cambridge: Harvard University of Press, 2001. 42-45; 57-59. Print.

 

Suber, Peter. “Civil Disobedience.” Earlham College, 1999. Web. 1 Aug 2011. <http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/writing/civ-dis.htm&gt;.

 

Thoreau, Henry David. “Civil Disobedience.” Introducing Philosophy: A Text with Integrated Readings. Ed. Robert Solomon. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Publishers, 1993. 821-824. Print.

 

Young, Iris Marion. “Justice and Hazardous Waste.” The Applied Turn in Contemporary Philosophy: Bowling Green Studies in Applied Philosophy. Ed. Thomas Attig, et al. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University, 1983. 176-80. Print.

Reflective Writing-Thoreau versus Ford

Posted in HUMA 1100 on July 27, 2011 by bettystoneman

For my paper, “What if Henry David Thoreau and Henry Ford Talked of Simplicity?” I used quite a bit of analytical, synthesis, interpretive, and critical thinking skills. First, I had to analyze each mans’ comments compiled from several different sources. Then, I had to interpret their comments and make deductions about their overall philosophies. Then, I had to combine their various comments into one over arching philosophy for each man. Then, I had to compare and contrast their philosophies. The Intro to Humanities class is not apart of my generals, it is required for my degree. However, all of the skills mentioned above are helpful to build upon in order to be successful in other generals. All the skills mentioned can transfer over to other generals like science which requires analyzing evidence and making deductions based on the evidence. Overall, all classes require some sort of critical thinking skills. Critical thinking skills seem like the foundation of education-asking questions, examining issues, thinking about the details-all of these skills are required for learning. For me, personally, my paper on Thoreau and Ford was challenging but a lot of fun to write, because of all of the numerous skills required to write it.

HLAC – Lifelong Wellness Application Paper

Posted in HLTH 1240 on July 23, 2011 by bettystoneman

1. What did you learn about “lifelong wellness” from taking this meditation class?
I think what I learned the most about lifelong wellness after taking the Theory and Practice of Meditation course is wellness is lifelong. Mindfulness is not a state of being you reach one day and go, “Okay, reached that goal. Now I can cross it off my list.” One can be mindful in one moment of existence, but not mindful in another. Mindfulness is something to be reached for continually and meditation is a way to reach for mindfulness. I learned meditation is a practice of mind and body control focused on training oneself to be mindful. Through meditation, one can focus on the present moment, let go of attachment, practice non-judgment, and become mentally and physically aware of themselves and the experiences of life.

2. How would you apply this information to your life?
There are many ways I have already begun applying mindfulness and meditation to my life. Even though there are many more aspects of mindfulness, I have specifically focused on four: being in the present moment, letting go of attachment, practicing non-judgment, and becoming mentally and physically aware of the experiences of life. These four concepts of meditation just seem to work in synchronization with each other. I have applied being the present moment to my life by reminding myself, “This is it.” This moment, right now, is life, not the past and not the future, now is it. I have applied letting go of attachment to my life by focusing on being in the present moment and practicing non-judgment. By reminding myself, “This is it,” I am reminding myself this is how it is. In this moment of existence, this experience is how it is and not attaching to preconceived concepts of right and wrong, or attaching to ideas about the past or the future, allows one to not automatically judge the experience in any particular way. One can see the experience for what it really is when not attached to an automatic judgment about it. All of these, being present in the moment, letting go of attachment, and practicing non-judgment, allows one to be fully mentally and physically aware of the experience, or in other words, allows one to be fully aware of life.

3. What is your intention to continue to meditate in your life and why?
My intention to continue to meditate is to try to find time whenever I can to practice mantra, affirmations and lovingkindness. Before sitting down to relax for the evening, after works, school, homework, family, I can sit for a few minutes in meditation and practice lovingkindness. I have a hard time sleeping, so before going to bed I could try to relax my mind by practicing affirmations or lovingkindness. While I am working out, I can practice mantra. Even in the few moments I walk from place to place, I could be quietly meditating as I walk. I intend to focus on mantra, affirmations, and lovingkindness because I think, for me personally, they are the most beneficial. Mantra, it seems for me, draws in and declares an intention for being a certain way. Affirmations, for me, allow me to give myself a break and calm my mind. Lovingkindness, for me, helps me to let go of any frustration and anger.

4. General ideas for improving this course?
I must apologize, because, I am afraid I don’t have any general ideas for improving the course. I think the course was well designed. The discussions on the theories were very insightful and thought provoking. I am afraid I have nothing to offer as far as suggestions for improvement.

What if Henry David Thoreau and Henry Ford Talked of Simplicity?

Posted in HUMA 1100 on July 20, 2011 by bettystoneman

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) and Henry Ford (1863-1947) could be connected in many ways. Both men had strong opinions about capitalism and consumerism. Both men had an reverence for nature. Both men believed in hard work and self reliance. Both men had strong feelings about science and technology. Overarching all of these areas, both men rooted their philosophies in the concept of simplification. Thoreau’s and Ford’s philosophies show the two men’s philosophies were practically opposite despite both being rooted in simplicity. Thoreau and Ford obviously were unable to ever discuss their philosophies with each other, but I’ve wondered what a conversation between them would be like. Therefore, I will attempt to compare and contrast Thoreau’s and Ford’s philosophies through a fictitious dialectic exchange, of which is entirely based on research of their philosophies.

Henry David Thoreau: Good day Mr. Ford. I am delighted to make your acquaintance.

Henry Ford: It is good to meet you as well, Mr. Thoreau. I understand you and I both have viewpoints surrounding the idea of simplicity. In my work as an industrialist, I have been able to build my Model T efficiently and affordably by eliminating “lost motion” and “slack” and making the tasks involved in the production process smaller and simpler (Grandin, 4, 223). The success of my Model T is because of simplicity. “Commonplace simplicity marks the greatness of the Ford. Simple in design-anyone can quickly understand it. Simple in construction-and every part a bulwark of strength. Simple in operation-anyone can operate it. Simple to maintain-anyone can care for it.” (thehenryford.org). “My effort is in the direction of simplicity” (Grandin, 4).

HDT: Yes, Mr. Ford. Your efforts in industrialization have indeed simplified the assembly line process. However, does this simplification carry over to life itself? Has simplification in industrialization made human lives more simple or more complicated? Simplification in industrialization, the ability for goods to be produced quickly and cheaply, has given rise to an all encompassing consumerism and materialism in society. Men amass items and furniture like their lives can be measured by how much they own. Their collections of goods only serves to complicate their lives. “When I have met an immigrant tottering under a bundle which contained his all-looking like an enormous well which had grown out of the nape of his neck-I have pitied him, not because that was his all, but because he had all that to carry” (Allen and Almonte, 360). All of these things are merely a trap. “If I have got to drag my trap, I will take care that it be a light one and do not nip me in a vital part. But perchance it would be wisest never to put one’s paw into it” (Allen and Almonte, 360).

HF: Mr. Thoreau, there are indeed items which are merely “trumpery and trinkets” that are made “only to be sold, and bought only to be owned” (Grandin, 40). Items which serve “no real service to the world and are at last mere rubbish as they were at first mere waste” (Grandin, 40). However, items like my Model T, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines are great inventions to ease and simplify man’s existence (Grandin, 40). Great inventions which ease a man’s burdens in life are possible through higher wages. Abundance and simpler living is achievable when workers make enough to be able to afford to buy the quality, life enhancing items they make (Grandin, 40; Wicks, 50). “High wages,” you see, “to create large markets” in which production and consumption are both increased (Grandin, 40). “Our buying class is our working class” and “our working class must become our ‘leisure class’ if our immense production is to be balanced by consumption” (Grandin, 73). Mr. Thoreau, “Where does the money to make wheels go ‘round come from?” (McCarthy, 82). “From the consumer, of course…success in manufacture is based solely upon an ability to serve that consumer to his liking. He may be served by quality or he may be served by price. He is best served by the highest quality a the lowest price” (McCarthy, 82). I seek to simplify man’s life by providing him the highest quality product for the lowest price. At the same time, I seek to pay a man a fair wage for an honest days work, so that he may enjoy a simpler life. Simplicity in economics is giving the consumer the best product for the best price and paying a man a wage in which he can afford to buy those products.

HDT: Compensation, Mr. Ford, for an honest day’s work is certainly required for man’s existence. However, are there not many forms of compensation? Are all forms of compensation equally beneficial to man for man to live fully? It seems, Mr. Ford, “men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal” (Allen and Almonte, 350). In our modern economy, men work to consume and to pay off debt, which essentially places the laborer in servitude to the debtor. Many men “are poor, find it hard to live, are sometimes as it were, grasping for breath” while “trying to get into business and trying to get out of debt” (Allen and Almonte, 350). Simplicity in economics would be to eliminate consumerism so that men may be compensated for their hard work with freedom.

HF: Mr. Thoreau, it certainly is not right that “We have dotted lines for this, that and the other thing-all of them taking up income before it is earned” (Grandin, 92). However, the problem does not come from the industrialist, it comes from the capitalist. “The difference between me and a capitalist is that I earn my living honestly. A capitalist loans out his money, collects the interest, and lets the other fellow do the work” (Wik, 19). “Get the gambling aristocrats to work…A capitalist doesn’t work at all. His money works for him” (Wik, 19). My brand of capitalism is one in which capitalism works for the working man, not the aristocrat (Brinkley, 52). My brand of capitalism is one in which working men prosper and overcome hard times through “self-reliance,” “rugged individualism,” tightening “bootstraps,” and “learning by doing” (Grandin, 40, 63; Wik, 21). By 1919, The Ford Motor Company had made over $300,000,000, “entirely upon its own resources” (thehenryford.org). Ralph Waldo Emerson had it right when he said “Trust Thyself!” and “Prayers are a disease of the will” (Wik, 22; Grandin, 68). It is a philosophy of simplicity. Work hard and be self-reliant.

HDT: I can agree with you, Mr. Ford, that the abilities to work hard and be self-reliant are indeed noble qualities for a man to have. However, hard working and self-reliant to what end? To live. But, to live what kind of life? “Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them” (Allen and Almonte, 350). It seems, Mr. Ford, that men have “no time to be anything but a machine. How can he remember well his ignorance-which his growth requires-who has so often to use his knowledge?” (Allen and Almonte, 350) For men to live simply and happily, men must realize that “The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly” (Allen and Almonte, 350). Take for example, Mr. Ford, the act of providing for oneself through self-reliance and hard work. In your view, it appears, for one to provide for oneself one must labor under industrialization, to earn money to purchase most of the necessities of life. However, “There is some of the same fitness in a man’s building his own house that there is in a bird’s building its own nest. Who knows but if men constructed their dwelling with their own hands, and provided food for themselves and families simply and honestly enough, the poetic faculty would be universally developed, as birds universally sing when they are so engaged?” (Allen and Almonte, 356). In our modern consumer society, we rely on others to construct our homes, to grow our food, to make our clothes. What have we lost due to this lack of self-reliance? “We belong to the community. It is not the tailor alone who is the ninth part of a man; it is as much the preacher, and the merchant, and the farmer. Where is this division of labor to end? And what object does it finally serve? No doubt another may also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that he should do so to the exclusion of my thinking for myself” (Allen and Almonte, 356-57). Simplicity is indeed in self-reliance and hard work. However, to achieve the best end to self-reliance and hard work one must provide the necessities of life, as much as possible, for oneself. In this way, man can grow and develop the finer parts of his nature, like his creative and intellectual faculties, which broadens his humanity. Man’s reliance on machines to provide for the necessities of life is detrimental to self-reliance. Man’s reliance on machines that turn man into a machine himself is detrimental to humanity.

HF: Mr. Thoreau, I can agree men should grow their own food. I had given fifty-five thousand employees plots of land in which they could cultivate their own vegetable gardens so that they did not have to depend on government relief during the Great Depression (Grandin, 277-78). However, why should man and machine be at odds? Mr. Thoreau, “We cannot eat or wear our machines. If the world were one vast machine shop it would die. When it comes to sustaining life we go to the fields. With one foot in agriculture and the other in industry, America is safe” (Wik, 255). Yes, nature is required for man’s survival, however, nature is not incompatible with science and technology. Together, nature, science and technology can help man prosper. The “Industrious application of inventive genius to the natural resources of the earth is the groundwork of prosperous civilization” (Wik, 247). At Ford Motor Company, we have merged science and technology with natural resources. The machines developed by Ford can do more work in less time for less money than a horse (Wik, 248). Also, “the cow must go” (Grandin, 60). “Why should a farmer spend a lot of time taking care of a bunch of cows. It takes 20 days of actual work to grow and harvest the grain crops on a dairy farm. The rest of the time is spent taking care of animals” (Wik, 250). “It is a simple matter to take the same cereals that the cows eat and make them into a milk that is superior to the natural article and much cleaner,” and “Our laboratories have already” shown that “the concentration of the elements of milk can be manufactured into scientific food by machines” made from soy (Grandin, 60). Our laboratories, through the science of chemurgy, have transformed soy into plastics, paints, glues, cardboards, and fabrics (Grandin, 59; Wik, 251-54). The new uses our scientists have discovered for soy were a simple solution to the agricultural depression in which farmers had an excess of product (Wik, 254). Simplicity is achieved when man with machine, science and technology all work together.

HDT: I must inquire further Mr. Ford, to what end does the merger of man, machine, science and technology achieve? What is the best end for man to achieve? It seems that “with a hundred ‘modern improvements’; there is an illusion about them; there is not always a positive advance” (Allen and Almonte, 358). “Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at” (Allen and Almonte, 358). In technology, the machine is robbing man of his connection to nature through hard work. Man and nature are no longer working together. Instead, man and machine are using nature. In science, man is separating himself from nature. Mr. Ford, “the universe is built around us, and we are central still” (Furtak). What I mean by this is, man has many faculties assigned to him, of which are sensory, emotional, and intellectual (Furtak). As such, there exists “no such thing as a pure objective observation. Your observation, to be interesting, i.e. to be significant, must be subjective” (Furtak). To offer a true observation, man must describe his observation in ways in which all the faculties of the human mind are represented (Furtak). “The truest description, and that by which another living man can most readily recognize a flower, is the unmeasured and eloquent one which the sight of it inspires” (Furtak). “The true man of science will know nature better by his finer organization; he will smell, taste, see, hear, feel, better than other men. His will be a deeper and finer experience” (Furtak). I am troubled that the science you speak of “discovers no world for the mind of man with all its faculties to inhabit” (Furtak). The simplistic improvements of science and technology you speak of Mr. Ford, seem to only distance man further from nature. Man is no longer involved with nature, instead man is merely using nature. When man is distanced from nature, man is distanced from himself, because man is of nature. If man is to live fully and simply, man must distance himself from machines and technology which rob him of his connection with nature and ultimately which rob him with his connection to himself.

HF: Mr. Thoreau, by all means, nature is necessary for man’s survival. “I don’t like the city, it pins me in,” Mr. Thoreau. “I want to breath. I want to get out” (Grandin, 41). “It is not right,” you see, “to put a layer of dust [from smokestack pollution] over the surrounding country and spoil its trees and plants” (McCarthy, 80). However, industry and nature do not need to be at odds and Emerson recognized this fact (Grandin, 57). I agree with Emerson in that through the mechanical advancements of industry, the car and the railroads, man can better experience nature (Grandin, 57). Also, as Emerson believed, industry can help man work more efficiently which would give him more time to contemplate and enjoy nature (Grandin, 57). “For most purposes a man with a machine is better than a man without a machine. Unless we better understand the mechanical portion of life, we cannot have the time to enjoy the trees, and the birds, and the flowers, and the green fields” (Grandin, 246). “I will build a motor car for the great multitude,” and “It will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s greatest open spaces” (Brinkley, 44). The great naturalist writer, my friend, John Burroughs enjoys the Catskill Mountains by way of the Model T (McCarthy, 80; Wicks, 55). Regarding industry’s obligation to nature and the public, “Picking up and reclaiming the scrap left over after production is a public service,” “but planning so that there will be no scrap is a higher public service” (McCarthy, 56). However, “Conserving our natural resources by withdrawing them from use is not a service to the community,” because “our natural resources are ample for all our present needs” (McCarthy, 81). Waste is unacceptable to me (McCarthy, 77). We can use resources wisely and efficiently, limiting waste as much as possible, which will conserve the resources for future generations, reduce pollution, allow the factory to run more efficiently, and generate more profits (McCarthy, 67). We should take care to conserve resources as much as possible, to protect nature and generate profits. But, the conservation of resources need not mean that we not utilize what nature has given us to use to ensure the prosperity of man.

HDT: Mr. Ford, Emerson wrote that one could find in nature “a sanctity which shames our religions,” and I do agree with Emerson on this point (Furtak). However, Emerson would assert each object in nature is “a symbol of some spiritual fact” (Furtak). Mr. Ford, “Is not Nature, rightly read, that of which she is commonly taken to be the symbol merely?” (Furtak). Mr. Ford, one should “be always on the alert to find God in nature,” and listen for “the language which all things and events speak without metaphor” (Furtak). What I mean is, nature is not a mere symbol of greatness, nature is in itself greatness. Nature has value in itself, its value is not derived from how it can be utilized by man (Furtak). There exists a “much grander significance” in nature “when not referred to man and his needs but viewed absolutely” (Furtak). “Whatever we have perceived to be in the slightest degree beautiful is of infinitely more value to us than what we have only as yet discovered to be useful and to serve our purposes” (Furtak). When I made my home at Walden, I discovered “Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself” (Allen and Almonte, 363). Mr. Ford, man is not set apart from nature. Man is of nature. Man must view the world as “nature looking into nature” (Furtak). If man can value nature simply for the value nature possesses intrinsically, then man can value himself simply for the value man possesses intrinsically. Man living in simplicity, in nature, allows man to prosper in ways monetary gain cannot award him.

HF: So, Mr. Thoreau, how should we conclude this discussion?

HDT: It seems, Mr. Ford, we have come to the conclusion that you and I are of the different minds regarding the concept of simplicity.

In conclusion, Thoreau’s ideologies posit simplifying life through less consumerism and materialism. However, Ford’s ideologies posit simplifying life through industrialization and capitalism. Thoreau asserted science and technology could be detrimental to humans and nature, while Ford saw science and technology as being compatible with nature. Thoreau and Ford both asserted humans should be self-reliant and work hard. Thoreau seemed to view humans working hard in connection with nature as being self-reliant. Conversely, Ford seemed to view the machine as enhancing humans’ abilities to work hard and be self-reliant. While both men seemed to have a reverence for nature, which both men also seem to relate to simplification, Thoreau seemed to assert we ought to live within nature while Ford seemed to assert we ought to live by utilizing all nature provides. The incompatibility between Thoreau’s and Ford’s philosophies arises because Thoreau based his viewpoints on simplicity in nature, while Ford based his viewpoints on simplicity in machines. It is to be noted, the quotes are all of Thoreau’s and Ford’s own (or in some cases, Emerson’s), by either spoken or written. It is also to be noted, I have made some interpretive logical deductions in offering Thoreau’s and Ford’s views. My hope is that I have portrayed each mans’ views accurately and respectfully.

Works Cited

Brinkley, Douglas. “Prime Mover.” American Heritage 54.3 (2003): 44-54. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 May 2011. <http://web.ebscohost.com.dbprox.slcc.edu /ehost/detail?vid=14&hid=12&sid=a93c02b5-114e-4887-a74d-a56d34fbd0d8 %40sessionmgr104&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aph&A N=9896802>.

Furtak, Rick Anthony. “Henry David Thoreau.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Winter 2009. Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Web. <http://plato.stanford. edu/entries/thoreau/>.

Grandin, Greg. Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford‘s Forgotten Jungle City. 1st. New York City: Metropolitan Books, 2009. 1-372. Print.

The Henry Ford. “Ford Sales Literature Excerpts, 1919.” The Henry Ford. The Henry Ford, 2011. Web. 1 Jun 2011. <http://www.thehenryford.org/exhibits/smartfun /modelt/modules/AGENT/fordlit.htm>.

McCarthy, Tom. “Henry Ford, Industrial Ecologist or Industrial Conservationist? Waste Reduction and Recycling at the Rouge.” Michigan Historical Review 27.2 (2001): 52-88. JSTOR. Web. 29 May 2011. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/20173928&gt;.

Thoreau, Henry David. “Excerpts From Walden.” “…That is the Question”: Critical Thinking About The Human Condition. Ed. Paul Allen and Paul Almonte. New York: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2009. Print.

Wicks, Frank. “The Remarkable Henry Ford.” Mechanical Engineering 125.5 (2003): 50- 56. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 May 2011. <http://web.ebscohost.com. dbprox.slcc.edu/ehost/detail?vid=18&hid=122&sid=a93c02b5-114e-4887-a74d- a56d34fbd0d8%40sessionmgr104&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3 d#db=aph&AN=9634150>.

Wik, Reynold Millard. “Henry Ford and the Agricultural Depression of 1920-1923.” Agricultural History 29.1 (1955): 15-22. JSTOR. Web. 29 May 2011. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/3740757&gt;.

Wik, Reynold Millard. “Henry Ford’s Science and Technology for Rural America.” Technology and Culture 3.3 (1962): 247-258. JSTOR. Web. 29 May 2011. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/3100818&gt;.

Wherever You Go There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Posted in HLTH 1240 on July 14, 2011 by bettystoneman

In Wherever You Go There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn offers insights into the practice of meditation. Kabat-Zinn discusses the philosophies behind meditation and different techniques for practice. In part one, Kabat-Zinn focuses on the different concepts that make up mindfulness. In part two, Kabat-Zinn describes several different techniques, including two visualization techniques, The Mountain Meditation and The Lake Meditation. In part three, Kabat-Zinn offers insights into mindfulness, including the concept of karma. For this book report, I will address all three of these concepts.

The first chapter of part one is entitled “What Is Mindfulness?” Basically for Kabat-Zinn, “Mindfulness means being awake” (17). Mindfulness, Kabat-Zinn explains, means to “wak[e] up and liv[e] in harmony with oneself and the world” (3). Mindfulness, according to Kabat-Zinn, requires self examination, which includes questioning of one’s established beliefs and how one relates to the world based on how they view themselves in the world (3). In order to achieve self examination, mindfulness requires one to not only live in the present moment, but “cultivat[e] some appreciation for the fullness of each moment we are alive” (3). Kabat-Zinn explains, the value of meditation, is that it helps with mindfulness because it “helps us wake up from this sleep of automaticity and unconsciousness, thereby making it possible for us to live our lives with access to the full spectrum of our conscious and unconscious possibilities” (3). Essentially, it seems for Kabat-Zinn mindfulness is being fully open, mentally through empirical and conscious awareness and inquisitiveness, to the experiences each moment in life has to bring. In this openness, humans as thinking, conscious and feeling creatures, can reach their full potentials. Kabat-Zinn further explains that there are “attitudes or mental qualities” which “provide a rich soil in which the seeds of mindfulness can flourish” (47). The mental qualities which gives rise to mindfulness according to Kabat-Zinn are: patience, letting go, non-judging, trust, generosity, accepting one’s own weaknesses, voluntary simplicity, and concentration (47-72).

My experiences with mindfulness are predominantly focused on three aspects; being honest with oneself, non-judgment and being fully present in each moment. It seems like, from my own personal experiences, humans are very creative in coming up with different ways to lie to ourselves. We tell ourselves so many lies in order to prop up the last remnants of a pieced together ego in a life sized façade desperately trying to mimic existence. Sometimes the lies we tell ourselves are told to cushion emotions, to make the hurt more bearable or the anger more justified. We may tell ourselves, for example, “man, that guy was a huge jerk, talking to me like that” to try to cover up the hurt feelings of self viewed inferiority that arose because of someone’s actions or to try to say we have the right to be angry, despite the anger arising out of hurt ego, because of someone’s actions. Sometimes the lies we tell ourselves are meant to attach some sort of identity to ourselves. Whether the lie we tell ourselves is judged positive or negative, we still attach the lie to ourselves, as being representative of who we are. For example, “I am just not smart enough,” or conversely “I am so clever,” which, by our assertion, becomes an illusion of who we are.

All the examples of statements we tell ourselves above are all also judgments, which, according to Kabat-Zinn hinders mindfulness, but they are all also dishonest. If we look honestly at our hurt feelings caused by someone’s actions we could see that our hurt feelings don’t stem from this one person’s actions, that the feelings go back further and are not external but are within us. The hurt feelings arise within us because we allow for them to, because we have attached our identity on assertions and if we judge the assertion as negative we are constantly beating ourselves up, or if we judge it as positive and a circumstance contradicts that assertion then we lose our sense of self. Why do we allow these feelings to arise? If we look honestly at the assertions we make to ourselves in order to try to attach an identity onto ourselves, we could see that these external, compared and contrasted with others, assertions are not who we are. One may tell themselves they are not smart enough, but in order to make this assertion they have to compare their intelligence to some external baseline then make a judgment on themselves accordingly. We, all too often, look outside ourselves, compare ourselves to others, to form judgments, which shape our identities. Why do we create our identities off of how we judge ourselves as comparing to others? What are we then if we are not how we compare to others? It seems mindfulness requires honesty and non-judgment. Honesty with being able to answer these questions and the ability to not view the answers through the illusions of judgment.

The honesty that mindfulness requires, it seems is best achieved by living in the present moment and vice versa. In order to be fully awake, as Kabat-Zinn would state, to the present moment, one must be honest about what is occurring to them, internally and externally, mentally and physically, at that moment. In order to be honest about what is occurring at that moment, one must be fully present, mentally and physically, in that moment. Through my meditation I have tried to focus on these two aspects, namely, honesty and being fully present in the moment. I have meditated on the questions I asked above and have tried to be honest with myself about the answers. Regarding honesty and being fully present in the moment, I cannot honestly say that I am mindful all, most or even half of the time. Since I am aware that I am not mindful most of the time, I can now focus on, with honesty, why I am not mindful most of the time. Only in this way, can I gain mindfulness. My mindfulness has changed in that I have become aware of how limited my mindfulness is and now I can meditate on why this is so.

From mindfulness, Kabat-Zinn moves on to meditation techniques, two of which are visualization techniques, namely, The Mountain Meditation and The Lake Meditation. First he discusses The Mountain Meditation. Kabat-Zinn asserts mountains are “sacred” where people seek “spiritual guidance” (135). Kabat-Zinn explains mountains, physically and metaphorically, are “elemental[ly]” “hard” and “solid” (135). When I meditated using the visualization of mountains, I began by placing myself some distance away from the mountain, just observing the full mountain. I imagined sitting in front of the mountain and mimicking the mountain posture and stillness of the mountain. I felt more grounded, more rooted, like I could stand up against any storm. I felt secure and confident. I thought of the peak of the mountain rising high into the sky, topped with a snow cap. To me, the snowy peak seems like a metaphor for standing tall with a cool head. The Mountain Meditation, for me, seems to be a good meditation for when one is feeling unconfident or when they have a tough problem they need to solve, as it can guide them to solve the problem by staying grounded and keeping a cool head.

Kabat-Zinn also explain The Lake Meditation. Kabat-Zinn explains water is just as “elemental as rock” but is stronger because it “wears down rock” (141). However, Kabat-Zinn explains, water also has “receptivity” where it lets “anything in, then resumes itself,” whereas rock just breaks (141). I did The Lake Meditation the first time sitting up and the second time lying down. My experiences with The Lake Meditation differed when I changed positions. When I was sitting up, I imagined the surface of the water moving in gentle and small waves. Along the surface of the water I imagined faint light glistening off the waves. Underneath the water, I imagined something, like shadowy undefined blotches, swimming. I imagined a cool, moist breeze coming off the water and lightly touching my skin. While I was sitting up visualizing the lake scene, I felt pretty calm and the something moving under the water almost made me feel joyful. I could see how this meditation could be helpful to take in new ideas or thoughts and just coolly ponder them, underneath the surface without judging. However, when I tried The Lake Meditation lying down, I had a completely different experience. I think The Lake Meditation while lying down had the most impact on me. However, I haven’t quite figured out its meaning yet. I imagined the waves and the light the same, but I imagined my body floating face up in the water. The water and the air suddenly felt cold and the shadowy undefined blotches grew larger and more menacing. I felt somewhat afraid, like these blotches were going to pull me under the surface of the water. I, honestly am not sure where this fear came from or what these blotches are supposed to represent, but it seems like this meditation could be useful for dealing with subconscious hidden fears that are being carried around.

After meditation techniques, Kabat-Zinn discusses several concepts, one of which is karma. Karma, Kabat-Zinn explains, means “B is connected in some way to A, every effect has an antecedent cause and every cause an effect that is its measure and its consequence” (220). Karma, explains Kabat-Zinn, is not fate or a “fixed destiny,” meaning it is not determinism (220). Kabat-Zinn further explains karma is the effects occurring in a person’s life “caused by antecedent conditions, actions, thoughts, feelings sense impressions, desires” (220). More specifically, Kabat-Zinn states karma is “an accumulation of tendencies that can lock us into particular behavior patterns, which themselves result in further accumulations of tendencies of a similar nature” (220). In other words, karma is a cycle of causes and effects, of conditions and results, that perpetuate each other. It is important to recognize, according to Kabat-Zinn that karma is not manifested externally, but instead it is manifested internally (220). Karma is a cycle perpetuated within ourselves and as much as we would like to assign causality to others for whatever occurs in our lives, for our emotions or behaviors, it is us through our perpetuation of those emotions and behaviors, those emotions and behaviors are enhanced.

I have experienced karma with two opposite emotions; stress and happiness. For example I become stressed out for whatever reason. When I become stressed out, I tend to exaggerate the negative. I tend to interpret difficult or challenging situations as being worse, much worse, than they really are. Since I am mentally making problems worse than they really are, I soon start acting like the problems are worse than they really are. Then, the problems do become worse than they had to be. Then, I get more stressed out. For another example I feel happy. Since I feel happy, I look at whatever occurs with a more pleasant attitude. I may treat others more pleasantly or smile more. In return, others respond by being more friendly to me. People being more friendly to me makes me even happier. So, I act even more pleasantly, and so on. Both of these examples demonstrate how an emotion leads to a behavior, the behavior enhances the emotion, the enhanced emotion leads to more of the behavior and the cycle continues, perpetuating and enhancing itself as it goes.

Mindfulness can change these karmic cycles. In order to be mindful, one has to be aware. One has to wake up and recognize the cycle they are in. Then one has to question, why is this cycle of emotion and behavior occurring? What triggers these emotions and behaviors? What lessens or stops these emotions and behaviors? Following questioning, one has to be observant, fully awake, and live in the present moment in order to answer these questions. One has to pay close attention to the emotions and behaviors. Next, one has to be honest with themselves about what they observe. Going through this whole process, then lying to oneself about the cycle wouldn’t be beneficial, it would just throw them back into the cycle. In order to be observant and honest, one would need to not judge the emotions or behaviors. Judging automatically distorts the experience of emotions or behaviors with a blurry illusion. To see, clearly, the emotions and behaviors for what they are, one would need to not be judgmental. Then one must live in the present moment, paying close attention to their patterns of emotions and behaviors in that very moment. One can change their karma by applying mindfulness to emotions and behaviors, which means to be aware of, question, observe, be honest about, not judge and live in the moment.

Mindfulness is being awake, in touch with, inquisitive but not judgmental about your existence. Meditation techniques, such as the visualization techniques of The Mountain Meditation and The Lake Meditation, can help one achieve mindfulness. One can utilize mindfulness to change their karma, or in other words, to change their cycles of emotions and behaviors. Through mindfulness one can live fuller, more satisfying existence.

Response to Adam Kolasinski’s “A Secular Case Against Gay Marriage”

Posted in PHIL 1250 on May 6, 2011 by bettystoneman

The Tech, MIT’s university newspaper, published an opinion piece on February 17th, 2004 by Adam Kolasinski entitled, “The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage.” For this paper, I will first analyze Kolasinski’s argument. Secondly, I will respond to Kolasinski’s argument with a variety of fallacies. Next, I will respond to Kolasinski’s argument with a counter argument. Finally, I will evaluate my response.

Analyzing the Argument

The issue Kolasinski is addressing is: Is there a “reason for the state to grant” homosexual relationships “the costly benefits of marriage?” Kolasinski’s conclusion is no, “there is no reason for the state to grant them the costly benefits of marriage.” In the U.S. homosexual marriage is not accepted. Therefore, if one were to take the issue on nationally, whoever argues in favor of homosexual marriage would bear the burden of proof. However, in this particular instance, Kolasinski primarily bears the burden of proof. He is being published in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology newspaper. Massachusetts as early as 2003 was amending state laws to incorporate protections for homosexual marriage in that state (Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries). Kolasinski bears the burden of proof because the people of the state and judicial system he was speaking to were predominately in favor of homosexual marriage.

There are two ways to read and interpret Kolasinski’s argument. The first way details and outlines all of Kolasinski’s points as sub premises. In the first way, the primary focus is on the need for marriages to serve an interest of the state in order to be recognized. The second way is more succinct and treats Kolasinski’s subsequent points not as a part of his main argument, but as counter arguments, thus not included in his main argument. In the second way, the primary focus is on procreation as the legal, societal and logical basis of marriage.

I will begin by looking at the first way to interpret the argument in which Kolasinski seems to have three main, linked, premises. The first main premise is “the recognition of marriage is not a universal right.” The sub premise is because “states have, in varying degrees, restricted from marriage couples unlikely to produce children” and the sub premise under this sub premise is because “propagation of society is a compelling state interest.”

Kolasinski’s next main premise is states recognize marriages that serve a state interest. The sub premise under this premise is because “When a state recognizes a marriage, it bestows upon the couple certain benefits which are costly to both the state and other individuals.”

Kolasinski’s final main premise is “the advocates of gay marriage” have not been able “to show what state interest these marriages serve.” There are four convergent sub premises under this main premise. The first is because the state does not “have an interest in recognizing lesbian marriage” and the sub premise under this is because “a lesbian’s sexual relationship, committed or not, has no bearing on her ability to reproduce.”

The second sub premise is it does not “serve a state interest to recognize gay marriages to make it easier for gay couples to adopt.” The sub premise under this is because “it is essential for a child to be nurtured by parents of both sexes if a child is to learn to function in a society made up of both sexes” and the sub premise under this is because the “The differences between men and women extend beyond anatomy.”

The next sub premise under the main premise is homosexual marriage does not “serve a state interest” to “enable homosexuals to live in committed relationships.” The sub premise is because “there is nothing stopping homosexuals from living in such relationships today” and the sub premise under this sub premise is because homosexual couples could sign living wills and designate each other as trustees and heirs.

The final sub premise under the main premise of “the advocates of gay marriage” have not been able “to show what state interest these marriages serve” is homosexual marriage would “exacerbate” “social pathologies that have become rampant over the last 40 years.” There are two, linked sub premises under this sub premise. The first is “downplay[ing] the procreative aspect of marriage” is “to our detriment.” The sub premise under this is it leads to “broken homes, a plummeting birthrate, and countless other social pathologies that have become rampant over the last 40 years.” There are two sub premises, linked, under this sub premise. The first is “the happiness of the parties to the marriage, rather than the good of the children or the social order, has become its [the marriage’s] primary end” and the second is “When persons care more about themselves than their responsibilities to their children and society, they become more willing to abandon these responsibilities.”

The linked second sub premise under homosexual marriage would “exacerbate” “social pathologies that have become rampant over the last 40 years” is homosexual marriage would “widen the separation between marriage and procreation.” There are three linked sub premises under this sub premise. The first is homosexual marriage would “enshrin[e] into law the notion that sexual love…is the sole criteria for marriage.” The second is a conditional statement stating “If sexual love becomes the primary purpose, [then] the restriction of marriage to [unrelated] couples loses its logical basis.” The third is an assumed premise marriage should have a logical basis. The diagram for this argument is as follows (in PDF):

The second way to read Kolasinski’s argument is more succinct. His conclusion is the same in that “there is no reason for the state to grant” homosexual relationships “the costly benefits of marriage.” Under this way of interpreting the argument, he has three, linked, main premises. The first main premise is “states have restricted from marriage couples unlikely to produce children.” The sub premise is because “states bestow upon married couples certain costly benefits” and the two, linked, sub premises under this are because “procreation is a compelling state interest to recognize marriages” and “marriage between two unrelated heterosexuals is likely to result in a family with children.”

Kolasinski’s next main premise stands alone and is “homosexual relationships do nothing to serve the state interest of propagating society.” His third main premise is “the societal purpose of marriage is procreation” which has two convergent sub premises. The first is “downplaying the procreative aspect of marriage is a detriment to society” because of the sub premise “it leads to social pathologies.” Under this sub premise is the two, linked sub premises “the happiness of the parties to the marriage, rather than the good of the children or the social order, has become the marriage’s primary end” and “When persons care more about themselves than their responsibilities to their children and society, they become more willing to abandon these responsibilities.”

The second, convergent, sub premise is “the purpose of marriage as procreation is logical.” There are two linked, conditional, sub premises under this which are “if sexual love becomes the primary purpose, then the restriction of marriage to unrelated couples loses its logical basis” and “marriage should have a logical basis.” The diagram for this argument is as follows (in PDF):

Fallacious Counter Arguments

Fallacious arguments, such as the following, would not work to respond to Kolasinski’s argument. First, one could argue Kolasinski lives in Massachusetts and is adamant about procreation being the firm logical basis for marriage, so Kolasinski must be Catholic. Therefore, being Catholic, its no wonder why Kolasinski is against homosexual marriage. Kolasinski’s argument is biased because of his religious beliefs.

Secondly, one could argue there are many reasons why it is in the states’ best interest to recognize homosexual marriages. For one, homosexual people are generally more open minded. Being open to listening to other points of view is good for a democratic society. Secondly, most people love weddings. Weddings are just big parties, so the more the merrier. Having fun helps society. Thirdly, its been such a slow economic recovery, the states could use more celebrations that require buying stuff. Consumerism helps society. Therefore, gay marriages should be recognized because they help society.

Thirdly, one could argue, if homosexual marriages are not recognized by the states simply because they do not directly result in procreation, then other marriages could become unrecognized by the states also. First it would be homosexual marriages, then marriages between senior citizens would be banned because women after menopause can’t have children. After banning marriages between senior citizens, then the states will start testing people for fertility so they can ban marriages between couples who are infertile. Next, states will start genetic testing and will ban marriages between people who are likely to have children who have disabilities or are prone to debilitating diseases, like cancer or Down Syndrome. After that, the states will only recognize marriages between genetically acceptable people within a very specific age range so as to best suit the states’ interests. Eventually, we are living in a completely fascist society with totalitarian rule over marriage.

Fourthly, one could argue homosexuals have the right to marry who they choose because marriage is a basic human right. All humans, including homosexuals, should be able to marry who they choose. Therefore, homosexuals have the right to marry who they choose.

Fifthly, one could argue homosexual marriages should be recognized by states because they do serve the states’ best interests. Homosexual marriages serve the states’ best interests because people, including homosexuals, being in committed relationships would cause a decrease in the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. States who do not recognize homosexual marriages, or even civil unions, have more cases of sexually transmitted diseases. Therefore, homosexual marriages cause a decrease in sexually transmitted diseases (for an anti-homosexual marriage variation of this argument, see Knight ‘Gay Marriage Is Not Only Wrong; It’s Socially Destructive’).

Counter Argument Against “A Secular Case Against Gay Marriage”

Okay, now for the real responses to Kolasinski. In the first way of reading the argument, Kolasinski is arguing, basically, no reason exists for states to recognize homosexual marriages because recognition of marriage is not a universal right, because states already restrict who can get married. States recognize marriages which serve a state interest because it is costly, and advocates of homosexual marriages have not been able to show how recognizing homosexual marriage would benefit the states.

In the first way of reading the argument, if marriage must serve a state interest but homosexual marriages have not shown they serve a state interest, then simply showing how homosexual marriages could serve a state interest would refute the argument. Kolasinski argues homosexual marriages do not serve a state interest because homosexuals are unable to procreate and procreation is a “compelling state interest.” However, procreation is not the only way marriages could serve a state interest. It would be incredibly beneficial for states to allow homosexual marriages which result in more adoptions. Between the fiscal years of 2001-2003 “the average annual amount of Federal foster care funds received by States range[d] from $4,155 to $33,091 per child” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Additionally, in 2003 states were reimbursed $5 billion for approximately 250,000 children in the U.S. foster care system (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). It is to be noted, those numbers include children who were only temporarily in foster care, not up for adoption. However, in 2009 a total of 114,562 children in the U.S. were in foster care needing to be adopted (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Homosexual marriages being recognized, thus making it easier for these couples to adopt, could provide children with homes and reduce the costs of foster care.

Regarding Kolasinski asserting children require both a mother and father, let’s take a look at the article Kolasinski cites, David Popenoe’s, Life Without Father. Popenoe’s argument is an inductive argument, asserting the increase in American society of “crime; premature sexuality and out-of-wedlock births to teenagers; deteriorating educational achievement; depression, substance abuse and alienation among adolescents; and the growing number of women and children in poverty” is due to missing fathers. Popenoe states “few researchers or government agencies have monitored it; and it is not widely discussed even today. But the decline of fatherhood is a major force behind many of the most disturbing problems that plague American society.”

Secondly, Popenoe argues “Much of what they [fathers] contribute to the growth of their children, of course, is simply the result of being a second adult in the home” and “Two adults cannot only support and spell each other-they can offset each others deficiencies and build on each others strengths.” Thirdly, Popenoe asserts there is a “special parenting style” of fathers which is different from mothers. Popenoe’s fatherly parenting style is one in which “fathers tend to stress competition challenge, initiative, risk-taking and independence” while “Mothers, as caretakers, stress emotional security and personal safety.” Popenoe asserts both, for development, children need both styles.

Regarding Popenoe’s first claim, if the issue has not been researched, nor even widely discussed, then what basis does Popenoe have to assert there exists a causal relation? Popenoe offers a lot of statistics but doesn’t answer this question, which leads his argument into the murky waters of Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc and False Cause (Third Cause or One of Many Causes) fallacies. There could be a lot of other causes for the problems in society Popenoe noted. Regarding his second claim, taking gender out of it, basically Popenoe is asserting children require two different types of parenting styles which would give children a balance between the two parenting styles. Okay, that’s fair and reasonable. However, for it to be asserted children require both a male and a female as parental figures for proper development, thereby implying all persons of one sex have parenting styles which are absolutely impossible for someone of the opposite sex to possess, is simply a hasty generalization. How would Popenoe or Kolasinski know women can’t have “male” parenting styles and men can’t have “female” parenting styles? What sample of the entire male and female populations has been researched to come to this conclusion? Regarding the third argument, what if two men (or two women), one with the “male” parenting style and one with the “female” parenting style, become married, and decide to adopt a child. Wouldn’t this child have Popenoe’s complimentary pair of parenting styles leading to a balanced upbringing? Also, with two adults in the home to “offset each others deficiencies and build on each others strengths,” wouldn’t this also fit into Popenoe’s description of what makes the best environment for bringing up a child? Essentially, if the parenting styles of the parents fit the descriptions offered by Popenoe, what does it matter what sex each of the parents are? Unfortunately, Kolasinski’s argument offers no adequate response to these questions.

So, why is it better for children to be adopted by homosexual couples than to remain within the foster care system? The response would be because the children are no longer being passed around from foster home to foster home, never really getting to know or be known by, thus connecting with, adults. Once a child is adopted into a stable home, where they don’t have to worry about when they are going to have to move again, what their new foster parents are going to be like, having to adjust to how each foster family is, then they can develop as people. My question would be for opponents of homosexual adoption, why is it better for children to continue to be within the foster care system as opposed to being adopted by a homosexual couple?

One could argue homosexuals do not necessarily have to be married to adopt because many states allow single parent adoption, some also allow partners to adopt via second parent adoption. Therefore, states could not recognize homosexual marriages but allow homosexuals to adopt children. In response, Kolasinski speaks of “responsibilities” to “children and society.” He stated “happiness of the parties to the marriage, rather than the good of the children or the social order, has become its primary end, with disastrous consequences.” Kolasinski also stated “When married persons care more about themselves than their responsibilities to their children and society, they become more willing to abandon these responsibilities.” It seems for Kolasinski marriage entails a commitment of more than just one adult to another, it entails a commitment to the children of the adults and to society. Therefore, wouldn’t marriage between two homosexuals solidify their commitment to each other, to the children they adopt, and to society? Having a legally binding marriage can act as incentive for people to work out their problems instead of simply quitting the relationship. If homosexuals are allowed to adopt children, wouldn’t it be best, as Popenoe stated, for there to be two adults with “complimentary parenting styles” in the child’s life? Wouldn’t it be best that the two adults are legally bound together so, as Kolasinski stated, they have more of a responsibility to their children and society?

Basically, my response to the first way of reading Kolasinski’s argument is a conditional argument. If only marriages which are likely to serve states’ interests are recognized, then homosexual marriages that are likely to serve states’ interests should be recognized. Only marriages which are likely to serve state interests are recognized because benefits to married couples are costly. Homosexual marriages are likely to serve states’ interests by providing stable homes for children needing adoption. Therefore, homosexual marriages that are likely to serve states’ interests should be recognized.

Now I would like to address the second, more succinct way of reading Kolasinski’s argument. The second way, despite it being shorter, is harder to refute because it brings up a very good question. The question is: What is the logical basis of marriage if it is not procreation? In this case, Kolasinski makes a very good point in that, as he states, if marriage is based on “sexual love” instead of procreation, then it opens the door for the recognition of marriages by siblings and polygamists, or anyone else for that matter. However, consider the idea of procreation being the basis of marriage and polygamy. Polygamists have no problem with procreating. If procreation were simply the basis of marriage, then why is polygamy not recognized?

To respond to Kolasinski, let’s look at the societal benefits of procreation. Why is procreation in states’ best interest? Procreation is in states’ best interest because it produces the next generation of citizens. However, simply having a lot of children would not be in states’ best interest. Society benefits from having the next generation of diverse children. Society benefits from diversity. Diversity of genes, diversity of intellect, and diversity of personalities are all good for societies. Genetically, if there is not diversity, then the human race would not survive. Genetic defaults would multiply generation after generation. Numerous physical and mental abnormalities occur when genes are replicated, and these abnormalities would eventually drive the human race into extinction. Additionally, society thrives off of everyone not thinking or being the same. If everyone thought and acted the same way physical, mental and technological advancements in society would not be made. Yes, procreation is in society’s best interest, but not just procreation, diversity in propagating society is in society’s best interest.

Why is it socially unacceptable for close relatives to marry and procreate? Because it would cause the same genes to be multiplied, it would be a lack of diversity. Why is it socially unacceptable for polygamy and procreation by polygamists? Because the same father of many children, even if by different wives, means the replication of the same genes in society. One husband with six wives, each with six children, means thirty-six children all with the same genes from the father. Genetic diversity is required for the human race to survive. Relatives and polygamists can not offer society genetic diversity.

So, what about marriage? Why can’t sterile or infertile people just marry whoever the want? For example, a sterile brother and sister, or a sterile man with six infertile wives? To respond, what benefit to states’ in propagating society do such marriages serve? The marriage of a sterile brother and a sister, or a group of sterile polygamists, simply for the sake of them marrying each other for their own reasons does nothing to benefit society. Kolasinski is right in that marriage is costly to states, therefore, states should expect some return on their investment. States should get some benefit if they are going to legally acknowledge a marriage and give benefits to those who are married. However, procreation is not the only way a married couple could help with the propagation of society. A married couple adopting a child, even though they did not procreate the child, they are still benefiting society with the propagation of society. As previously noted, adoption could be a huge benefit to states for acknowledging homosexual marriages.

But the argument then becomes, why can’t a sterile brother and sister have their marriage acknowledged if they are going to adopt? Wouldn’t this scenario be the same case as a homosexual couple? No, a sterile brother and sister adopting is not the same as a homosexual couple adopting, because the brother and sister couldn’t offer the child diversity. I agree with Popenoe in that children benefit from two adults with different parenting styles. But consider, how do people develop parenting styles? Are parenting styles learned from parents or are parenting styles genetically generated or do parenting styles arise some other way? This would lead into a whole different dimension of this issue, but let’s just take a look at the two most prominent theories, nature versus nurture. Under the nature theory, personalities, and thus parenting styles, would be genetic, meaning, exist inherently. So, if this is the case, then a brother and sister would genetically have similar personalities and parenting styles. Under the nurture theory, personalities, thus parenting styles, would be learned from experience and upbringing. So, if this is the case, a brother and sister would share the same upbringing and much of the same experiences, resulting in similar personalities and parenting styles. In either case, they would not be able to offer the child the diversity of parenting styles and personalities required to benefit society.

It is to be noted, that I stated “similar” not “the same,” because brothers and sisters can have different personalities but personalities that are still similar. To this, one could argue, well then unrelated people with similar personalities shouldn’t have kids because they can’t offer them a diverse upbringing. The combination of diversity in genes and diversity in personalities would be beneficial to children, thus beneficial to society. However, similar to some of Kolasinski’s arguments, personality tests for prospective parents would be simply unfeasible to administer, not to mention a bit totalitarian. The simplest way to both promote diversity in society, and accommodate the majority’s freedom, is to just make laws that relatives can not have children together.

So, why should states recognize homosexual marriages, but not recognize marriages between siblings and polygamists? Kolasinski stated, “If sexual love becomes the primary purpose, the restriction of marriage to couples loses its logical basis, leading to marital chaos.” I agree with Kolasinski, if sexual love becomes the primary basis for recognition of marriages, then many marriages could not be restricted. I also agree with Kolasinski that states should recognize marriages which can benefit society. Additionally, I agree with Kolasinski that procreation is a benefit to society. However, I would disagree states should have procreation as the logical basis to recognize a marriage. The logical basis for recognizing a marriage is it should meet two conditions: It should have the potential to be a benefit to society with propagating society and it should not have the potential to be a detriment society. The difference between homosexuals and siblings/polygamists, is marriage and/or procreation by siblings and polygamists either do not benefit the society or would be detrimental to a diverse society. Homosexual couples don’t have the same genetic make up (even if they did, they physically can’t procreate the same genes), so their marriages are not detrimental to society. But, homosexual marriages do have a huge potential to benefit society through adoption. Homosexual marriages should be allowed because homosexuals can’t procreate the same genes and homosexuals could provide stable, diverse, homes for children who need homes.

One could critique my argument by arguing homosexual marriages are detrimental to society. Kolasinski claims homosexual marriages would be detrimental to society. His hypothetical argument goes: If states recognize homosexual marriages, then it will widen the gap between procreation and marriage. If the gap between procreation and marriage is widened, then people will only care about their happiness and not their responsibilities to family and society. If people only care about their happiness and not their responsibilities to family and society, then they will abandon their responsibilities. If people abandon their responsibilities, then it will lead to broken homes, plummeting birth rates and social pathologies. Therefore, if states recognize homosexual marriages, then it will lead to social pathologies. But, how exactly would the gap between procreation and marriage cause people to not care about their responsibilities to their family and society? Perhaps people’s happiness is being responsible to their families and society. On another note, Kolasinski’s argument concerning homosexual marriages as being detrimental to society is based on the idea procreation is the primary purpose of marriage. If procreation is not the primary purpose of marriage, but the benefit to the states’ and society with propagation of society is instead the primary purpose, as I argued earlier, then the argument people will neglect their familial and societal responsibilities, which then leads to social pathologies, becomes null and void.

Basically, my conditional argument is: If marriages have the potential to be a benefit to society with the propagation of society and do not have the potential to be a detriment to society, then states should recognize these marriages. Homosexual marriages have the potential to be a benefit to society with the propagation of society and do not have the potential to be a detriment to society. Therefore, states should recognize homosexual marriages.

Critiquing My Own Argument

To critique my own argument, I would look at the first interpretation of the argument. Regarding this portion, I would look more closely at the statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The statistics are really quite vague. More detailed and specific statistics could improve the argument by showing just exactly what the impact is on tax payers and just how many children are affected. More statistics could, conversely impair the argument by possibly showing the effects are not as severe as they seem.

In addition, I would question just what is the impact to children in foster care. Are there any studies regarding the physical or mental well being of children in foster care? Also, I would question just how exactly children being adopted into homosexual homes could benefit (or conversely not benefit) society. Are there any studies done on homosexual couples who have adopted children which could be analyzed? Information from such studies could improve or impair the argument by showing what impact on children’s lives, and ultimately society, foster care and homosexual couples adopting could have. It could be questioned if the benefits to states to recognize homosexual marriage, and thus make it easier for homosexual couples to adopt, would outweigh the costs. Another question is, exactly how would state recognition of marriages make it easier for homosexuals to adopt?

Regarding my response to the second interpretation of the argument, I would also ask, what about sterile polygamists? Why can’t they adopt and have their marriages recognized? That situation would be diverse, a diversity of wives, right? The only response I could offer to this argument is if the state recognizes all the wives married to one man, and the man died, and all wives are paid out benefits, then it wouldn’t be a benefit to the state, it would be very costly for the state. But then one could ask, how many children should polygamists adopt before it becomes a benefit to the state to recognize their marriages? Or, if only one wife is paid out benefits, but children are adopted by several of the other wives, the wives with the children wouldn’t get the benefits and this wouldn’t be a benefit to the society with the propagation of society. I just don’t have, at this time, a good answer for the sterile polygamists wanting to adopt problem with my argument.

Also, I could ask, what about a genetically related brother and sister (or same sex siblings) who were adopted into different homes, but wanted to get married and adopt? By my argument, if one judges the case based on the nature theory of human development, then their marriage should not be recognized. If one judges the case based on the nurture theory, then their marriage should be recognized. Or, one could ask, what about a genetically unrelated brother and sister who were adopted into the same family, but wanted to get married and adopt? Again, the judgment would be dependent on nature versus nurture. I also don’t have a good enough answer for these scenarios either.

Overall, I feel my argument makes some good points. I feel I was able to offer an argument for why states should recognize homosexual marriages. However, my argument is certainly not without faults. I fully admit there are many areas of my argument which are questionable and able to be critiqued. However, delving into those questions could very well provide more support for my assertions.

Fallacy Identification

The first argument is a Ad Hominem – Bias fallacy. Kolasinski lives in Massachusetts and is adamant about procreation being the firm logical basis for marriage, so Kolasinski must be Catholic. Therefore, being Catholic, its no wonder why Kolasinski is against homosexual marriage. Kolasinski’s argument is biased because of his religious beliefs. This sort of response would be fallacious because it is attacking Kolasinski and not his argument. Despite the fact the arguer is merely assuming, without proof, Kolasinski is Catholic and is therefore, biased against homosexual marriage, the argument is fallacious because Kolasinski has presented an argument which should be critiqued on its own merits. One should critique only the argument, not the arguer.

The second argument is a Red Herring fallacy. There are many reasons why it is in the states best interest to allow and accept homosexual marriages. For one, homosexual people are generally more open minded. Being open to listening to other points of view is good for democratic society, right? Secondly, most people love weddings. Weddings are just big parties, so the more the merrier. Having fun helps society, right? Thirdly, its been such a slow economic recovery, the states could use more celebrations that require buying stuff. Consumerism helps society, right? These arguments are fallacious because they are completely irrelevant to the argument Kolasinski is making. Even if the arguments try to tie back into being good for society, they are irrelevant to procreation.

The third argument is a Slippery Slope fallacy. If homosexual marriages are not recognized by the states simply because they do not directly result in procreation, then other marriages could become unrecognized by the states also. First it would be homosexual marriages, then marriages between senior citizens would be banned because women after menopause can’t have children. After banning marriages between senior citizens, then the states will start testing people for fertility so they can ban marriages between couples who are infertile. Next, states will start genetic testing and will ban marriages between people who are likely to have children who have disabilities or are prone to debilitating diseases, like cancer or Down Syndrome. After that, the states will only recognize marriages between genetically acceptable people within a very specific age range so as to best suit the states’ interests. Eventually, we are living in a completely fascist society ruled by totalitarian rule over marriage. The argument makes a lot of scary claims, but doesn’t back up any of those claims with evidence or legitimate reasons.

The fourth argument is Begging the Question. Homosexuals have the right to marry who they choose because marriage is a basic human right. All humans, including homosexuals, should be able to marry who they choose. Therefore, homosexuals have the right to marry who they choose. Why should homosexuals have the right to marry who they choose? Because they are human and humans should marry who they choose. Why should humans have the right to marry who they choose? Because marriage is a basic human right. Why is marriage a basic human right? Because humans should be able to marry who they choose. Why should humans have the right to marry who they choose? Because marriage is a basic human right. Why is marriage a basic human right? This reasoning just goes in circles and doesn’t provide any legitimate reasons.

The fifth argument is the Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc fallacy. Homosexual marriages should be recognized by states because they do serve the states’ best interests. Homosexual marriages serve the states’ best interests because people, including homosexuals being in committed relationships would cause a decrease in the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. States who do not recognize homosexual marriages, or even civil unions, have increasingly more cases of sexually transmitted diseases. Therefore, homosexual marriages cause a decrease in sexually transmitted diseases (for an anti-homosexual marriage variation of this argument, see Knight ‘Gay Marriage Is Not Only Wrong; It’s Socially Destructive’). Surely, this would be in the states’ best interests, right? This argument’s fallaciousness is not due to it being ridiculous or even untrue, but it is indeed ridiculous and very possibly untrue (not to mention it is highly insulting). It is fallacious because it is taking two completely, unproven to be related, events and asserting there is a causal connection.

Works Cited

Knight, Robert. “‘Gay Marriage Is Not Only Wrong; It’s Socially Destructive.” Culture and Family Issues. Concerned Women for America, 22 Jun 2009. Web. 29 Apr 2011.

Kolasinski, Adam. “The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage.” The Tech. MIT, 17 Feb 2004. Web. 29 Apr 2011.

Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries. “Massachusetts Law About Same-Sex Marriage.” Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries. Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries, 11 Apr 2011. Web. 29 Apr 2011.

Popenoe, David. “Life Without Father.” Mensight. Mensight, 2000. Web. 29 Apr 2011.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. “Federal Foster Care Financing: How and Why the Current Funding Structure Fails to Meet the Needs of the Child Welfare Field” ASPE Issue Brief. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2005. Web. 29 Apr 2011.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. “Children in Public Foster Care Waiting to be Adopted: FY2002- FY2009.” Child Welfare Information Gateway. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010. Web. 29 Apr 2011.

Response to Adam Kolasinski, “A Secular Case Against Gay Marriage”

Posted in PHIL 1250 on April 29, 2011 by bettystoneman

Signature Assignment PHIL1250

Reflective Writing-Introduction to ENGL 2250 Portfolio

Posted in ENGL 2250 on April 24, 2011 by bettystoneman

I have heard it stated many times, that the written word is powerful. However, after taking English 2250, Introduction to Imaginative Writing, I have come to realize just how powerful the written word can be. The written word can give insight, can incite action, can act as a muse, can connect through emotion, can be therapeutic and can invite others to see the everyday from a new perspective. Throughout this course, I have attempted to emulate the many ways the written word can have an impact on humanity by utilizing a variety of techniques.

The first assignment in this portfolio is my short story, The Clinic. Of everything I have ever written, I have revised this short story the most. The most important technique I learned from completing this assignment is to, as Professor Ruffus stated, “show and not tell.” I learned, in order for the writing to be meaningful, to really connect to the reader, I must give clear, specific, concrete details to describe the scene and the characters. By focusing on showing instead of telling, the reader will see and feel what is occurring in the story, instead of just reading it. It was very difficult for me to overcome explicitly writing what I wanted to convey to the reader because I have grown used to writing essays and papers where it is required to be explicit as to avoid any misunderstandings. My first step in overcoming this difficulty was to trust that if I write the scene and characters well enough, the reader will understand what I am conveying. My classmates, Mary, Alex and Ashley all gave me great advice on where in the story they felt the imagery could be enhanced so that it would be more showing. Professor Ruffus also offered great suggestions on to be more specific. I also focused on explanations provided by the text. According to the text, “Concrete means that there is an image, something that can be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or touched” (Burroway, 17) While, “Significant means that the specific image also suggests an abstraction, generalization, or judgment” (Burroway, 18). Additionally, “Detail means that there is a degree of focus and specificity” (Burroway, 18). Due to the suggestions of Professor Ruffus, my classmates, and the explanations provided by the text, I took several risks in completing this piece. I tried to convey many abstractions, generalizations, and judgments through focused and specific sensory details. For example, I have several reoccurring themes in this story. The birds, time, hands, air and water are all symbolic for more abstract and general judgments and ideas. I had to trust the reader would understand the metaphors from the way I explained them using sensory details. Despite my attempts at showing instead of telling, I feel this is still an area in which I could continue to develop my writing.

The next piece in this portfolio is my first poem. It is my attempt at a prose poem, entitled A Snapshot of Your Soul. I had a very difficult time distinguishing what exactly makes a prose poem what it is. My first attempt to write a prose poem was entitled You Thought I Didn’t Cry. For my first attempt at writing a prose poem, I detailed a series of past events leading to a present event. Before writing You Thought I Didn’t Cry, I read Carolyn Forche’s The Colonel, Yesef Komuyakaa’s Nude Interrogation, and Robert Hass’ A Story About the Body. From analyzing these examples, I came to the conclusion that prose poems were like short stories in that they contained a conflict, but unlike short stories prose poems did not have a resolution. I also concluded that prose poems utilize repetition of sounds, words or phrases like poems. After turning in You Thought I Didn’t Cry and discussing it with Professor Ruffus, I discovered prose poems are about a specific moment, not a series of moments as I had written about. As Professor Ruffus stated, “prose poems are a snapshot of time.” I reread Forche’s, Komuyakaa’s and Hass’ poems, and I saw how each was about a specific moment in time, a snapshot of an experience. So I took Professor Ruffus’ advice and rewrote a prose poem focusing on one specific moment of time, which ended up being A Snapshot of Your Soul. For this poem, I tried to not only focus on one specific moment of time, but I also tried to utilize repetition and convey a conflict through imagery, still building on showing instead of telling.

The second poem in my portfolio is entitled Wearing My Mother’s Clothes. I wrote Wearing My Mother’s Clothes after reading and discussing in class David Bottom’s, In a U-Haul North of Damascus. In Bottom’s piece, he used imagery and questions to convey a powerful sentiment. I found Bottom’s technique was an incredibly effective way to convey emotions which are difficult to relay, so I wanted to try to emulate this. I wanted to use repetition of questions and simple imagery to convey a powerful emotion, yet I wanted to poem to be succinct. I feel the imagery of the woman wearing her mother’s clothes and questioning what else of her mother’s she will fit into comes through. I hope the sentiments of mourning, the questioning of if she is predetermined to turn into her mother and follow her mother’s path in life (and ultimately death) comes through. However, despite needing more detailed imagery, as Professor Ruffus stated, I do feel the poem does have what Aristotle would call a “cathartic” nature.

The third poem of my portfolio is my attempt at a sonnet. This poem is entitled She Is. Of all the pieces I have written for this course, I prepared the most for writing this sonnet. To prepare I first read and discussed in class Jared Carter’s Roadside Crosses, Seamus Heaney’s The Skylight and William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, Shall I Compare thee to a Summer’s Day. Additionally, I spent quite a bit of time outside of class studying Shakespeare’s piece, namely, studying the rhyme, rhythm and metaphor. I learned sonnets are 14 lines (typically), follow a rhyming pattern (for example: ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GG-ending couplet), and use iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter was difficult for me to grasp. I understood, fairly easily, the rhythm followed a pattern of five feet, which is an unstressed followed by a stressed syllable combination five times in each line, but for some reason I had a difficult time recognizing the word stresses themselves. To overcome this, I used Professor Ruffus’ advice and started saying words out loud in order to listen for the stresses. I also studied word stresses online and discovered one syllable words are stressed or unstressed depending on where they are situated in the line. For example, the same word, like “to” could be stressed in one line but unstressed in another. The same word being stressed in one line and unstressed in another is able to be seen in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 with the word “to.” I also learned prefixes and suffixes are generally not stressed. I also discovered my collegiate dictionary has a pronunciation next to each word which shows where the primary stress in the word would be. In addition to trying to utilize iambic pentameter, I also tried to utilize metaphor. For She Is, I tried to create the entire sonnet around a metaphor. I feel the metaphor works fairly okay, but I need to continue to focus on iambic pentameter as the poem sounds a bit choppy in some points.

The final piece in my portfolio is my fourth poem, entitled In the Land of Sleep, which is a freeform poem. In the Land of Sleep started off from a poetry exercise Professor Ruffus assigned to the class. The exercise was to select a contemporary poem, list all the nouns, verbs and adjectives of the poem, then choose six of the nouns, five of the verbs and three of the adjectives to write a poem. The poem we were to write was to have the same rhythm of the poem chosen. For this exercise, I chose Heather McHugh’s Earthmoving Malediction. In the Land of Sleep, contained the specified nouns, verbs, and adjectives, but it ended up being a bit longer than McHugh’s piece and I was unable to match her rhythm. McHugh’s rhythm was more stable while my rhythm was more sporadic. However, I think I was able to find a rhythm which worked for the subject matter of the poem. In the Land of Sleep is intended to be a freeform poem, but as the text states, “‘Free verse,’ says poet Mary Oliver, ‘is of course not free’” (Burroway, 295). I attempted to find a rhythm which matched the surrealism, absurdity, yet acceptance of the absurdity, nature of the poem. In order to do this, I used an unsystematic combination of alliteration (repetition of the initial consonant sounds-as in “mutate and morph”), consonance (repetition of ending consonant sounds-as in “palaces,” “treasuries,” and “glimpses”), assonance (repetition of vowel sounds between consonants-as in “succumb” and “sun”), near rhymes (as in “other” and “sufferer”) and true rhymes (as in “discourse” and “recourse”). Even though I experimented with several mnemonic devices in this poem to try to create a unique rhythm, I would like to learn more about other devices such as trochees, spondees, anapests, dactyls, pyrrhics, and consonant clusters to further develop my writing.

Overall, I feel I have been able to understand the above noted concepts associated with imaginative writing. Additionally, I feel I have made sincere efforts to apply these techniques to my writing. However, whether or not I was successful in creating pieces worthy of the powerful nature of the written word remains to be decided by the audience.

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