Ibn Khaldun and the Crisis of Modernity

Ibn Khaldun was a fourteenth century historiographer, sociologist, economist, and philosopher. Born in a turbulent time when the remnants of the Umayyad Caliphate in Iberia and North Africa were either collapsing or under extensive pressure internally and externally (corruption and European invasion and crusades), Ibn Khaldun set out to chronicle a sociology of the rise […]

Ibn Khaldun and the Crisis of Modernity

The dilemma of teaching (philosophy) online

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Too bad we didn’t see it coming and we didn’t prepare ourselves. Little did we know that maybe current educational systems needed to change?

Teaching philosophy online to sophomores isn’t an easy task. Philosophy can’t be taught like any other applicable discipline with formulas.

Philosophy has no formulas.

Philosophy is a long process; hence it’s long term effect.

This characteristic to philosophy push people to ask this irrelevant question:

Is philosophy efficient?

My answer is:

No; it is productive!

The mind body connection (part I)

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This phrase is so common in the world of fitness and sports, when one is asked to establish the mind body connection to activate muscles or to fire the brain into activating some muscles in a specific exercise. Anyone who works out is familiar to this idea. However, the mind body connection or relationship is not new in philosophy; it is actually a very old dilemma that is found also in religions. Therefore what is the mind and what is the body? Is the mind inside the body or vice-versa? Are we made of both or are these two the same dimension? In this dialectic dissertation, two potential answers are found: dualism and monism. For the depth and complexity of this subject, the study will be developed through multiple posts.

Definitions and etymologies:

Before digging into dualism and monism, the everlasting starting point of any analysis must take into consideration etymologies and definitions of the two main concepts, the mind and the body, as in the spirit and the matter, to give a frame to our study. Here are the conceptual ramifications of each one:

Spirit → mind →consciousness

Matter → body → brain

At a first glance, these concepts appear to belong to different categories which will be shown later on in the common definitions. But, scientifically speaking and in certain philosophical schools, they are not as different as they may sound. We will start with matter then with spirit.

Matter:

Matter is a physical substance in general, as distinct from mind and spirit; (in physics) that which occupies space and possesses rest mass, especially as distinct from energy. Albert Einstein proposed a definition of the matter that was, and maybe still, confusing to the non-specialists: matter is energy, better known in his formula E=mc2 where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light. This new definition of the matter transformed the latter into a non-perceptible phenomenon. Put is simply, matter is for the common people what is tangible or perceptible with a form, dimensions and content. For physics since the 20th century, it is energy for Einstein and a complete uncertainty of movements in quantum physics. In both definitions, there is no mention of the spirit.

To make things more complicated, some ancient and current tribes believe that matter is animated by a spirit; a belief better known as animism.

So, as one can see, the problematic concept is spirit.

Body:

The body is made of matter, of physical interacting substances that can form an organism or a structure of organs. In a living body, organs are made of tissues and cells where each cell is subdivided and has a certain function. That’s why the body functions as a whole.

Spirit:

The spirit has many definitions but to this study, the main one will be retained. The spirit is the non-physical part of a person which is the seat of emotions and character, known as the soul.

Spirit comes also from the Latin word anima, which is the principle of animation. As aforementioned, some people believe that nature is animated, that means has a spirit as spiritus, breath (the word animal comes from anima). Aristotle believed that animals had a spirit. Of course, later on spirit as a concept will have a different meaning.

Mind:

The mind is the invisible and non-perceptible element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought. The correlation between mind and thought can be seen in the origin of the word:

Old English gemynd ‘memory, thought’, of Germanic origin, from an Indo-European root meaning ‘revolve in the mind, think’, shared by Sanskrit manas and Latin mens ‘mind’.

Therefore the concepts of mind and consciousness are synonyms.

After a long platonic influence and a long religious tradition, precisely monotheistic religions, only humans have a spirit and a mind; the rest of creatures are only determined by their instincts. The questions remain the same: what is the mind and what is the body? Is the mind inside the body or vice-versa? Are we made of both or are these two the same dimension? In this short dialectic dissertation, two potential answers are found: dualism and monism on more upcoming posts.

Learn the art of public speaking with Aristotle!

 

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Aristotle was a Greek philosopher who lived in the 4th century BCE, during which he met Plato and became his disciple. Unlike the master, Aristotle is known as the realistic philosopher and he wrote on many subjects, ethics, politics, logic, nature and of course on public speaking. In his book called On Rhetoric, he explains the art of persuasive speaking by pointing out three types of speeches: deliberation, demonstration and judiciary.

The deliberative speech is mostly used upon weighing options to make a decision.

The demonstrative speech is about rational arguments demonstrated in a logical order.

The judiciary speech is for sanction or condemnation.

The three types can be intertwined as well as separate. For each situation, there is a persuasive speech. Therefore, unlike Plato’s position on rhetoric, Aristotle firmly believed in the importance of speeches and oral communication in many fields. Against Plato, he rehabilitated rhetoric and his book On Rhetoric became wildly read by famous orators such as Cicero, Quintillion and many others. While philosophy was not interested in persuasive speaking and preferred literacy, the Roman Empire progressively started to prefer social status and political power to rhetoric. Slowly, the importance of public speaking faded away.

Aristotle thought of tools and conditions of a persuasive speech of any type by emphasizing on three main concepts: Ethos, Pathos, Logos, as they are tools and conditions of an efficient communication. Let’s delve a bit more in those concepts.

Ethos: meaning in Greek character, ethos is the appeal to authority and credibility of the public speaker. Being reliable and credible is a sure way for the orator to persuade its audience, also using reliable and credible arguments. Otherwise, the audience will not adhere to whatever he or she says.

Pathos: meaning suffering, passion; it is used in a speech as an appeal to emotions, by evoking emotions in the audience with used arguments. One can play with fear or hope, dreams and worries, like we see in political speeches today.

Logos: meaning reason, it is the appeal to logic in arguments used in persuasive speaking. This is also a powerful tool because the orator can prove his arguments or use them in a rational demonstration which is the convincing part of a speech.

Combining those three elements can make any verbal communication persuasive and efficient. Aristotle, unlike Plato, considered that not all rhetoric is bad: it all depends on its content mostly and on the way it is delivered.

Looking at the public speaking large scene, we can say that speakers are using demonstrations, rationality as much as provoking emotions. However, ethos is lacking.

Stop writing and start talking!

 

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(Statue of Cicero, the Roman orator)

Being condemned by Plato for being essentially manipulative, rhetoric (the art of persuasive speech, also known as sophism) is back as a new trend in philosophy, especially in the French system of philosophy teaching. So what is it all about?

The new trend of public speaking or in front of a camera, popularized by social platforms such as TED Talks, You Tube, podcasts and the video making in stories posts, rhetoric, the longtime enemy of philosophy, has been for some years, the new way of teaching, coaching or delivering messages. On the other hand, reading/writing has become more inclined to blogs, articles, caption and tweets, while books are taking the second row place. Hence, one can see the success of short stories.

In spite of the efforts of Aristotle to rehabilitate rhetoric as a needed method in some fields (discussed in further blog posts), philosophy took a different path. In fact, after Plato, philosophers left the oral scene to politicians and public speakers and preferred writing their ideas and concepts.  The result was the elitist character of philosophy, only reserved for professionals and initiated minds, for scholars and some eccentric people. Was it their aim to be elitists in the first place? I can’t say so but somehow it is not far from being true.

Should philosophy adopt orality instead of literacy? The French for instance, decided to turn rhetoric into a discipline to be taught in schools as an elective course of philosophy and literature. And we must not forget the growing numbers of philosophy conferences everywhere.

That being said, and after centuries long battle between philosophy and rhetoric, philosophers will be present more and more on the talking platforms. But, if you want to master communication, you have to consider reading Aristotle!

For more insights on Plato’s position on rhetoric and its effect on society, you can check these posts:

Reblog: Introduction to Plato: Foreshadowing and Prefiguring — Discourses on Minerva

What are archetypes and how do they influence our relationships?

Plato’s allegory of the cave or why stupid people took over the world!