Category: Philosophy


The Great Man Theory of History as evidenced in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance

Applying the Great Man theory of History as a subtext to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s classic essay Self-Reliance makes for an interesting synthesis. The Great Man theory was brought into public discourse by Thomas Carlyle in the 1840s. But most of the later commentators pointed out to some of the misassumptions and flaws in the theory. Chief among them was Herbert Spencer who viewed that great individuals were products of their culture, history and environment and the inverse is seldom true. Yet the idea of the Great Man holds an intuitive appeal to readers. As people sharing a sense of community we are all looking for leaders and role models to provide us guidance. It is this intuitive appeal for leadership that sustains the value of the Great Man Theory, although it had somewhat become unfashionable in the last century.

Great men are thought to be path-breakers and independent thinkers. (James, p.114) In Emerson’s text, we find a powerful invocation of individuality. He . . . Read More

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Redefining student success in American academia: Annotated Bibliography

Daniel R. Jones-White, Peter M. Radcliffe, Ronald L. Huesman Jr., John P. Kellogg, Redefining Student Success: Applying Different Multinomial Regression Techniques for the Study of Student Graduation Across Institutions of Higher Education, Research in Higher Education, March 2010, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp.154-157.

The article tackles a perceived flaw in standard evaluations of student success. Moving away from binary all-or-nothing classifications of ‘graduate’ or ‘drop-out’, Jones-White et al device a more sophisticated method. Through the analysis of data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), the method takes into account retention and graduation numbers at both entry and transfer institutions. Hence, what they accomplish is to construct a polychotomous definition of success. The challenge facing them include identifying new methods to model limited dependent variables. They are sceptical that the multinomial logit method is apt for the . . . Read More

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Debate Paper: Should single individuals be allowed to adopt children?

NO. There are many conundrums, including legal uncertainties, question marks over suitability and the possibility of gender-based discrimination if single individual adoption is allowed.

Children need both parents for healthy psychological development. To successfully meet various socio-psychological developmental stages a child would ideally need both parents. Moreover, taking care of a child, especially in its early years is a strenuous effort and a couple is better disposed to share that responsibility. Moreover, identification with the same-sex parent is a key developmental milestone. (Samuels, 2012) There are also unanswered questions over the suitability of a single man in raising an adopted daughter, especially with respect to negotiating the biological and psychological upheavals during puberty. If we grant that only women can raise baby girls into maturity, then is it not discriminatory against men?

The other major problem with single individual . . . Read More

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Summary and Reflection of ‘Future of Medicine: Perfection and Beyond’ (Chapter 3) of Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku

The chapter takes the reader through an imaginative journey of medicine in the future. Although some of the possibilities proposed appear like material from a science fiction novel, they are based on emerging scientific breakthroughs. One of the themes discussed in the chapter is the increasing mastery of human beings to ‘play God’. Evolving new technologies allow the medical professional to perform astounding feats of genetic engineering. This could happen at various stages of life – from neonatal to palliative. With this capability, people can augment their life spans, develop immunity to various viruses and even thwart cancer using nanotechnology.

In chapter 3, Michio Kaku makes predictions and depictions of future of medicine in all its possible manifestations. We read of ‘nanobots’ that would operate at sub-molecular levels in dealing with infections and diseases. The author also envisions advancement in stem cell extraction and utilization, whereby, new organs . . . Read More

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Malcolm Gladwell’s ideas and philosophy in The Tipping Point, as they apply to Occupy Wall Street Movement

Malcolm Gladwell has attempted to create a unique style of scholarship that navigates between science and popular culture.  As a result he has earned the wrath from both quarters.  For example, scientists accuse him for being simplistic or lacking in rigor. On the other side, commentators from mainstream media accuse him of bringing esoteric scientific concepts to popular discourse. Yet, his book The Tipping Point has sold more than a 3 million copies.  His other titles such as Blink (2005), Outliers (2008), David and Goliath (2013), etc, continue to fascinate and provoke in equal measure. Despite the controversies surrounding some of Gladwell’s inferences, his ideas and philosophies have become assimilated into popular discourse. It is an interesting exercise to study how the most important social movement of recent times – Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS) – measures up in relation to the author’s theories. This essay endeavors to perform the same.

The Occupy . . . Read More

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The Ethics of Biomedical Enhancement: Consensus and Divergence Among Scholars

Two Categories of Biomedical Enhancement (BME)

Even within the field of human biomedical enhancement (which is as yet at a theoretical stage) there are two categories.  The first are common or corrective enhancements which aim to set right a deficiency (acquired congenitally or through life events) in a human individual.  The second are radical or strategic enhancements which are aimed to give a competitive advantage to the individual undergoing the procedure.  Both Allen Buchanan and Nicholas Agar reject radical enhancements.  Whereas Agar’s thesis is somewhat accommodative of benign and remedial forms of enhancement, Buchanan’s is more pessimistic.[i] Hence the subject lends itself to numerous dimensions of ethical inquiry[ii].  As is often the case with major debates within science, the community of scientists are divided into two camps.  The two camps are not necessarily antagonistic and in sharp opposition to each other’s . . . Read More

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The Soundness of Selective Biomedical Enhancements

Enhancements are Integral to the Evolutionary Process

Buchanan raises a few valid points in support of selective enhancements. He argues that enhancement is an integral feature of human existence[i].  For example, there are over-the-counter memory enhancement pills that many use. Nobody blinks an eye, let alone bring ethical considerations, in this case. Likewise, one could even argue that basic education (literacy and numeracy) in itself endows an individual a marked advantage over someone who cannot read or count.[ii] This advantage is so profound that it has a bearing on critical parameters like life expectancy or quality of life.  Such ‘enhancements’ are no different from those that are likely to be accomplished through the modern scientific methods of genetic engineering[iii]. Moreover, as Buchanan cogently states, even the natural process of evolution through natural selection is one of continuous enhancements. These enhancements, though, . . . Read More

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The Essence of Humanity and the Ethics of Biomedical Enhancement

Effects of BME on the Conventional Idea of Humanity, Human Relations, Intimacy and Reproductive Methods

In Agar’s well researched book he articulates an important reason why radical enhancements should be forbidden.  He argues that the very idea of humanity is intrinsically linked to certain species-specific values and perspectives.  These are contained in our culture, art, relationships and understanding of morality. For example a hallmark of good theatre is the apt combination of logos, pathos and ethos.  The radical enhancement project aims to reduce or eliminate human capacity or necessity for all the three qualities. A human being’s range of expression in these areas is likely to be reduced after radical enhancement.  Moreover, it is imperfections in human behavior and thought that give merit to the near-perfect accomplishments of high art and high culture[i]. By attempting to make humans ‘perfect’ something essential to humanity – . . . Read More

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Ethics of Biomedical Enhancement: Risks and Dangers of BME

Ethical Issues Surrounding Sex Selection During or Prior to Conception

Whenever technological progress throws up great new possibilities there are also attendant ethical dilemmas relating to such possibilities. Such is the case with genetic engineering in general and human biomedical enhancement in particular.  Allan Buchanan is well aware of some immediate pitfalls for society if BME is allowed unregulated[i].  One of the issues he raises is that of sex selection during pregnancy.  In many parts of the world, especially in the developing world, there is a cultural and traditional bias toward male babies.  From a sociological perspective a balance of equal population of male and female individuals is essential for the survival of the species.[ii]  An unfettered BME system would totally skewer the sociological balance and may inadvertently set the species on a self-destructive spiral.  Currently, at least as far as advanced industrial nations . . . Read More

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How was the shift from behaviourism to cognitive psychology ‘revolutionary’ in the Kuhnian sense?

The advent of cognitive science at the centre of studying psychology is widely portrayed to be a revolutionary event.  It was in the 1950s that the shift from behaviourism to cognitive psychology took its first bold step.  There has been no reverting back to behaviourism as the dominant paradigm within psychology ever since. Cognitive psychology is one of the disciplines in psychology that focuses on studying internal mental processes.  How individuals perceive, conceive, recall from memory, articulate their views and arrive at conclusions, etc, are studied. As opposed to Behavioural psychology, Cognitive psychology adopts a scientific analytic method rather than introspective or speculative theorizing.  At the outset, it acknowledges the presence of such internal mental states as knowledge, belief, motivation, desire, etc. This essay will evaluate how ‘revolutionary’ an event, in the Kuhnian sense, was the placement of cognitive science at the centre of . . . Read More

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