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Tuesday, February 9

February 9, 2016
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WWTWWT: First we talked about Protagoras, whose field was ethics. He was one of a group of philosophers called Sophists, who might best be described as BSers. Their view was that it’s the quality of the argument that matters more than its substance. This probably seems like a cynical view — because it is. (We discussed one of the great modern examples: “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”)

Protagoras is best described as the father of relativism, which we can describe as the view that there is no absolute, universal truth — a view that has many adherents today. Every “truth,” in this view, is relative to other factors. (Moral relativism, then, is just the view that there are no absolute rights or wrongs in behavior. Cultural relativism is the view that no culture is inherently superior. Etc., etc.)

Protagoras thought this way, in part, because of his belief that “Man is the measure of all things.” There is no “God’s-eye view” to provide us with those absolute rights or wrongs. There are just men — my word against your word. And mine will win out if I present it better.

The issue with relativism, as philosophers since Plato (and perhaps even before) have pointed out, is this: It argues that there can be no absolute truth. But it claims one big exception: the statement that “there can be no absolute truth.” Therefore, it carries the seeds of its own destruction. That hasn’t stopped it from surviving, and maybe even thriving, because it is a brilliant argument, if an inherently cynical one.

Then we briefly discussed Democritus (say it like “democracy”) and Leucippus (Loo-sippus), who posited that the world was made of tiny particles (that we now know as atoms). It was a significant theory — it was 1) metaphysical, in that it tried to explain the nature of reality; 2) monistic, in the sense that it suggested everything is made up of a single thing; and 3) agnostic, at least, about the possibility of a god or gods. It simply proposed that the world is made up of atoms — but not who made or directed them.

You could say, then, that this is one thing Protagoras had in common with Democritus and Leucippus (besides the fact that they all hailed from the coastal Greek city of Abdera): they all developed philosophies that were not dependent on a god or gods for backing. All three were explicitly secular philosophers — again, like more than a few modern philosophers.

Thursday: a quiz on what we’ve covered so far. That would include:

  1. The four branches of philosophy, and what question each tries to answer: metaphysics (what is the nature of reality?), onotology (what is the nature of human reality/existence?), epistemology (what can we know and how can we know it?), and ethics (how should we act?)
  2. Why Greece, as the seat of Western philosophy? (It was essentially stable — by the point we are discussing, anyway; it valued education and inquiry; and it had no overarching system of religion that might prevent philosophical inquiry.)
  3. Monism: a metaphysical belief that the world is made up of a single substance.
  4. The great divide in Western thought: philosophies based on the evidence of the senses (Thales, Heraclitus, Democritus and Leucippus) and and philosophies based on the evidence of reason (Pythagoras, Parmenides).
  5. The pre-Socratic philosophers themselves — the six mentioned above, plus Protagoras — and what each believed.

History: We got off to a rocky start today. I am not sure if the poor homework return rate was due to a misunderstanding or lack of care, but either way, improvements must be made.

Today, pens were made, and ink was put to papyrus. Some of these turned out pretty interesting, and special props to those of you that used sticks!

Please read the “papyrus” overview handout (very short) for Thursday. A tutorial on how to make pens was also handed out; this is totally just FYI, should you ever want to make your own pen (for calligraphy or whatever).

The third handout is substantially longer and will be officially assigned for next week (I’ll let you know on Thursday what day to have it read). This handout concerns the history of the manuscript from roughly 1200 to 1500. I would suggest NOT waiting till the last minute to read this – it’s quite long and dense, and there will be a lot of references to things you’ve probably never heard of. Look them up as you need.

Siren: Worked on Feb. edition, which will hopefully be out by Friday.

Deadline for March copy is two weeks from today, Feb. 23.

Daily Prompt: Notebooks were checked, and then there was our usual reading. Please remember that if you are absent on Thursday and miss the in-class prompt, I’ll either post the details of the prompt here OR you should replace this prompt with another one from the website.

Survey: CNF: With the help of a skinned Furby, more on moment and riffs, including different types of moments:

  1. Moments embedded inside riffs.
  2. Flashbacks, which are just what they sound like.
  3. Montage moments, which are like the “cleanup” montage or the “get buff” montage you’ve all seen in endless sitcoms and films. It’s a device used to suggest the passage of a much longer period of time that we don’t want to show, as well as suggest that a given moment has happened over and over again, with only minor variations.

You wrote a moment, and a moment tree, about a time that changed the way you thought about school, for good or ill. Bring these cards back Thursday: you will begin your first essay based on one of the first five prompts we have done:

  1. A significant “first” in your life.
  2. A moment when you discovered something important.
  3. A moment where you learned adults can’t always be trusted.
  4. A moment when you confronted a fear.
  5. And then today’s prompt, a moment that changed the way you felt about school.

Survey: Screenwriting: Assignment 2 was collected. If you did not hand this in for any reason (whether you were here or not!) get it to me ASAP! Don’t wait till we have class again – sooner is always better.

Today we continued our discussion from last week, regarding three act structure. We talked about what was established or accomplished in each act of Some Like It Hot, and then graphed out this model on a line. This is the model that we will return to time and again, adding more points to it, so please make sure that you have it in your notes!

We also read the first 16 pages of Toy Story 3 (Screenplay-Toy_Story_3 <- this is the complete screenplay, if you’re interested).

There is no homework for Thursday!

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