The Dragonfly and Raven

The Dragonfly and Raven

Friday, January 12, 2018

American Joe

Crippled by illness
Works the daily retail grind
A high school dropout.

Writing

Black blood,
Bleeding on white,
Empty page of paper,
Limitless possibility-
Now gone.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Lady of Fall

From the bards of the United Empire of Ozur comes the tale of the Lady of Fall, said to live somewhere in the South Remar Forest.

The Lady of Fall

Down in the forest deep,
In dark fens where black things sleep,
Beyond the last of the marked stones,
Loves a lady, fair and alone.
She moves from tree to tree without sound,
Yet her voice in your head does pound.
When she looks at you with her lidless eyes,
She takes your soul and your body dies,
She twists your form to be her thrall,
Until silence befalls us all.

Thus is the tale of the Lady of Fall.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Hypothetical Course: PHIL 142: Practical Western Political Philosophy

PHIL 142: Practical Western Political Philosophy
Instructor: Jordan Davis (jordandavis@universityemail.edu)
Class Time: M 4-6 @ GSH 103
Office Hours: MW1-3 @  Jordan Davis' Office

Course Description:
Philosophy is often seen as an obtuse, irrelevant topic of study, reserved for those with too much time and too much money. Philosophers are often seen as not contributing meaningfully to society. This is a false assumption. This course acts as an overview of Western Political Philosophy, from Aristotle to Marx, examining the political philosophies of some of Western Europe's greatest minds, and breaking them down into their practical applications for the lives of the students of the class. The course is split into three parts: Ancient Political Philosophy, Medieval and Renaissance Political Philosophy, and Nineteenth Century Political Philosophy. Students will be expected to read all assigned materials, and write a small essay weekly. Students will be expected to participate in weekly discussions in class about the philosophers being studied. Students will have a cumulative final exam.

Learning Objectives:
1. Students will be able to analyze political philosophy texts and articulate in a concise manner the meaning of the texts.
2. Students will be able to relate the philosophy being studied to their lives.
3. Students will be able to challenge and engage in a discourse about the philosophy studied

Grading:
40% – Attendance and Participation.
40% – Weekly Essays
20% – Final

Class Schedule:

Week 1: The Importance of Balance, Part 1
Aristotle's Ethics

Week 2: Relationships and Responsibilities
Cicero's On the Republic & On Duty

Week 3: The Separation of Church and State
Augustine's City of God

Week 4: The Importance of Variety
Quentin Skinner The Foundations of Modern Political Thought
Leonardo Bruni Panegyric to the City of Florence
Guillaume Budé On the Education of the Prince
Lorenzo Valla Treatise on the Donation of Constantine

Week 5: The Importance of the Practical
Machiavelli's The Prince

Week 6: Resistance is Futile?
Hobbes' Leviathan

Week 7: Pain and Pleasure
Bentham's On the Principles and Morals of Legislation

Week 8: The Value of Civil Rights
Mill's On Liberty

Week 9: The Importance of Balance, Part 2
Tocqueville's Democracy in America

Week 10: Why Capitalism?
Marx's The Communist Manifesto

Lesson Plan: Ancient Philosophy 1
Subject/Course: The Evolution of Western Political Thought and Its Practical Application
Topic: Aristotle's Ethics
Lesson Title: The Importance of Balance
Course: PHIL 142          
Duration: 120 Minutes

Learning Objectives: 
Students will be able to  understand and clearly express the value that Aristotle places on the idea of balance in a person's life, and how that then leads that person to happiness. Students will be able to apply the lesson of balance to their own lives.

Summary of Tasks/Actions:
1. Explain the concept of good and evil, and that Aristotle views the goal of life to experience good. Happiness is a good unto itself towards it.
2. To help students understand this, have them share experiences that make them smile. Then ask them if they feel happy. Ask if they prefer that feeling to not having that feeling.
3. Explain the idea that you can have too much of a good thing.
4. Relate with ice cream. Ice cream every now and again is a good thing. However, there is only so much ice cream that you will want at any given time. Eating more would make you sick, and would be bad. Not having it at all would mean no ice cream, which would be bad.
5. Have students split into small groups and discuss this idea of balance, and how it applies to the following: the taking in and giving away of money, emotionally supporting persons going through traumatic experiences, experiencing moments of grandeur and “mundane” moments, confronting situations that anger/disturb you.
6. Come back together, and discuss as a group. Stress the importance of balance within these events. For money, giving away too much, and giving away too little. For emotional support, not helping enough, and helping so much as to not be able to help anymore. For grandeur and the “mundane,” the grounding that the “mundane” brings, but the importance of grandeur for the human spirit. For anger/disturbing things, the difference between rage, not sticking up for oneself, and voicing ones problems whilst being mindful of others.
7. Ask for other ways in which students see this applying to their lives.
8. Time for questions, comments, and concerns.
9. Assign homework.

Materials/Equipment:
Aristotle's Ethics.
Computer.
Slideshow.

Take Home Assignments:
Essay: Outside of the examples given in class, in what ways does balance apply to your life?

Lesson Plan: Ancient Philosophy 2
Subject/Course: The Evolution of Western Political Thought and Its Practical Application
Topic: Cicero's On the Republic and On Duty
Lesson Title: Relationships and Responsibilities
Course: PHIL 142                                            
Duration: 120 Minutes

Learning Objectives: 
Students will be able to  understand and clearly express the idea of the the individual good serving the common good, as laid out by Cicero in On the Republic and On Duty. Students will be able to apply this understanding to their lives.

Summary of Tasks/Actions:
1. Explain the idea that we live in an interconnected world, were we are bound together via relationships.
2. Explain that through our relationships, there are certain things that we are expected to do. As a teacher, I must teach. As students, you must learn. You listen to me, and I talk to you. The same exists for all relationships.
3. Explain that fulfilling one's role in a relationship is a good thing, as without those roles being fulfilled, the relationship would fall apart.
4. Talk about the idea that while we all hold different parts in relationships, that we are, in a veil of ignorance, the same. Thus, treating them the same is just.
5. Field the discussion and dissent with this idea.
6. Ask students to come up with relationship expectations for the following: parent and child; partners; cashier and customer; siblings.
7. Come together and discuss, allowing for about 10 minutes of discussion.
8. Separate again, and discuss the following: elected representative and citizen; police officer and citizen; resident assistant and resident.
9. Come together and discuss.
10. Stress the importance of elected officials remaining neutral, and of people in power remaining neutral towards citizens as a whole, in order for there to be equity, and through that, justice.
11. Ask if this is how we live today, and for personal experiences.
12. Time for comments, questions, and concerns.
13. Assign homework.

Materials/Equipment:
Cicero's On the Republic and On Duty
Computer
Slideshow

Take Home Assignments:
Essay: What is required of the citizen for the representative, and of the representative for their citizen? Are those responsibilities being fulfilled? Explain.

Lesson Plan: Ancient Philosophy 3
Subject/Course: The Evolution of Western Political Thought and Its Practical Application
Topic: Augustine's Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans.
Lesson Title: The Separation of Church and State
Course: PHIL 142                                    
Duration: 120 Minutes

Learning Objectives: 
Students will be able to  understand and clearly express the need for the separation of the church and state in Augustine's Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans. Students will be able to apply the logic to their personal lives, and be able to critically analysis current state of of the church and state in the United States and abroad.

Summary of Tasks/Actions:
1. Will explain to students the idea of the Earthly City and the Heavenly City.
2. Field questions about the differences between the two cities.
3. Explain the reasoning for the separation of church and state for Augustine—that being that the affairs of the Heavenly City and the Earthly City are supposed to be separate, and that it is the Church's job to help groom us for the afterlife, and not the Earthly City's.
4. Field questions (Expect approximately 5 minutes)
5. Discussion of the idea of the separation from the religious perspective. (Expect at least 10 minutes)
6. Raise the idea of separation for the humanistic reason of not oppressing people for their beliefs. Expand this to the Protestant Reformation, and explain the reasoning behind the Bill of Rights.
7. Discussion of the merits of freedom of religion, and the separation of church and state in this context (10 minutes or so).
8. Begin talking about current political climates.
9. Discussion of abortion.
10. Discussion of equal rights for LGBT+ persons.
11. Discussion of the idea of “family values” and the codification of them in laws.
13. Comments, questions, and concerns.
14. Assign homework.

Materials/Equipment:
Augustine's Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans.
Computer.
Slideshow.

Take Home Assignments:
Essay: What is the role of religion in modern world? What role should it have within the state, if at all? Why? Explain.

Lesson Plan: Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy 1
Subject/Course: The Evolution of Western Political Thought and Its Practical Application
Topic: Civic Humanism
Lesson Title: The Importance of Variety
Course: PHIL 142                                     
Duration: 120 Minutes

Learning Objectives: 
Students will be able to  understand and clearly express the need for variety and a holistic education, as expressed by the Civic Humanists. Students will be able to identify the benefits to their personal lives that they will gain from gaining a liberal arts education.

Summary of Tasks/Actions:
1. Begin the class by introducing the idea of specialization.
2. Use the example of architecture. You can make perfect buildings with an understanding of math and physics. Show incredibly dull, but practical buildings. Then explain the humanistic element, the need to understand the use of spaces, and designing for potential use, and then show beautiful cathedrals and other such buildings. That is the difference between specialization without breadth.
3. Discussion the practical applications of a liberal arts education.
4. Why do we study literature? To understand the human condition. So that we better empathize with other people. So that we might be able to think critically about situations, and express our thoughts.
5. Give example of use as a doctor, as a manager, as a teacher, as a police officer, as a lawyer, as a politician.
6. Field questions.
7. Why do we study history and social sciences? To understand the human condition. So that we may better understand why people do what they do. So that we may better understand and analyze information put before us, and then find practical applications of that information to our lives.
8. Relate back to prior examples. Give example of an engineer, of a office worker, of an accountant, of a retail worker.
9. Stress the importance of giving back to the community.
10. Discuss the merits of charity, and experiences with giving and receiving charitable donations.
11. Questions, comments, and concerns.
12. Assign homework.

Materials/Equipment:
Quentin Skinner The Foundations of Modern Political Thought
Leonardo Bruni Panegyric to the City of Florence
Guillaume Budé On the Education of the Prince
Lorenzo Valla Treatise on the Donation of Constantine
Computer
Slideshow

Take Home Assignments:
Essay: How can a liberal arts education help you in your desired future career?

Lesson Plan: Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy 2
Subject/Course: The Evolution of Western Political Thought and Its Practical Application
Topic: Machiavelli's The Prince
Lesson Title: The Importance of the Practical
Course: PHIL 142                                    
Duration: 120 Minutes

Learning Objectives: 
Students will be able to  understand and clearly express the practical idealism of Machiavelli, as he explained it in The Prince. Students will be able to apply this practicality mindset to their daily lives.

Summary of Tasks/Actions:
1. Begin with a brief history of Florence, Machiavelli, and his motivation (that being return from exile) for writing The Prince.
2. Discussion of the shrewdness and “practicality” that Machiavelli sets out. Let students lead the discussion, but proceed to the next point if conversation dies.
3. Discussion of how this practicality can be applied humanistically to our modern lives.
4. Discuss the value of extensive bureaucracy, and the elimination of elements of it.
5. Discuss the idea of practical sentences for punishments for criminal acts. Compare prison time to community service or other work programs.
6. Discuss the practicality of imprisoning people without then providing them with the ability to reintegrate into society, thus creating a cycle of imprisonment and crime, and a burden on the state.
7. Discussion of practicality versus humanistic methods and actions.
8. Is Machiavelli right?
9. Questions, comments, and concerns.
10. Assign homework.

Materials/Equipment:
Machiavelli's The Prince
Computer.
Slideshow.

Take Home Assignments:
Essay: Can Machiavelli's idea of practicality be applied to the modern world in a humanistic way? Are they inherently opposed ideas? What do you think the role of Machiavelli's thoughts are in our society today? Explain.

Lesson Plan: Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy 3
Subject/Course: The Evolution of Western Political Thought and Its Practical Application
Topic: Hobbes' Leviathan
Lesson Title: Resistance is Futile?
Course: PHIL 142                                    
Duration: 120 Minutes

Learning Objectives: 
Students will be able to  understand and clearly express the ideas of contractarianism, as set forth by Hobbes in his Leviathan. Students will be able to apply contractarianist thought to the modern political discourse that they are a part of.

Summary of Tasks/Actions:
1. Explain that the world is a competition for scarce resources, and that in this state, we are all free, but in danger of others taking our freedom through force. By us all sacrificing a bit of our freedom, we gain the good that comes from being safe, and knowing that our stuff will be protected (e.g. police and private property).
2. Field questions on this (5 minutes approximately, if possible).
3. Explain the idea that by existing, one is entering into a contract with a state, and that with a contract, one is required to fulfill certain responsibilities (cf. Cicero's ideas of responsibility). This contract relates to the rights that you are giving up in return for safety and other services that the state provides.
4. Take questions (Allow for up to 5 minutes, approximately)
5. Explain the idea that the actions of the state are the will of the people, and that if a state is oppressing a group of people, that is the will of the people, for else, they would change the state, or the state would not be doing this.
6. Allow for discussion (Approximately 10-20 minutes)
7. Lead large group discussion for the implications that this has with the current presidency.
8. Lead discussion as to whether or not Hobbes is right.
9. Questions, comments, concerns.
10. Assign homework.

Materials/Equipment:
Hobbes' Leviathan
Computer
Slideshow

Take Home Assignments:
Essay: Do you agree with Hobbes? Do you think that the current presidential and congressional situation is a result of the “will of the people,” or do you think that it is something else? Explain.

Lesson Plan: Nineteenth Century Philosophy 1
Subject/Course: The Evolution of Western Political Thought and Its Practical Application
Topic: Bentham's On the Principles and Morals of Legislation
Lesson Title: Pain and Pleasure
Course: PHIL 142                                    
Duration: 120 Minutes

Learning Objectives: 
Students will be able to  understand and clearly express the fundamentals of Utilitarian thought, as posited by Bentham's On the Principles and Morals of Legislation. Students will be able to apply Utilitarian thought to their daily lives.

Summary of Tasks/Actions:
1. Explain the concepts of pleasure and pain, and how this informs all living creatures.
2. If pleasure is good, and pain is bad, should we not seek to maximize pleasure and minimize pain?
3. Now, apply this to idea to personal situations. Have students split into small groups. Present them with the trolley problem, with several variations (5 evil people, 1 good person; whether or not they have to actively do the action or not, etc.)
4. Now, let us apply this logic to the prison system. Lead discussion on how penalties should be given in this framework.
5. Discussion of the validity of punishment, as it is the infliction of pain.
6. Discussion of whether or not an action that would not/could not be repeated should be punished in a great way (long jail time, etc.), as it is not acting as a deterrent for the offender, who would not do it again.
7. Discussion of the death penalty, and the idea of not living meaning that there is no potential for pleasure at all.
8. Expansion of discussion to healthcare, pitting private insurance versus single-payer.
9. Lead discussion with the questions: are there problems with this philosophy?
10. Questions, comments, concerns.
11. Assign homework.

Materials/Equipment:
Bentham's On the Principles and Morals of Legislation.
Computer
Slideshow

Take Home Assignments:
Essay: Think of a modern political issue that is debated. How would Bentham answer this debate, given his Utilitarian framework? Do you agree with Bentham and his framework? Do you disagree? Explain.

Lesson Plan: Nineteenth Century Philosophy 2
Subject/Course: The Evolution of Western Political Thought and Its Practical Application
Topic: Mill's On Liberty
Lesson Title: The Value of Civil Rights
Course: PHIL 142                                    
Duration: 120 Minutes

Learning Objectives: 
Students will be able to  understand and clearly express  Mill's modifications to Bentham's Utilitarian framework and his arguments for civil rights. Students will be able to express the value of civil rights, the reason that they exist, and be able to engage in meaningful discourse around policy and the implications that it will have on civil rights and the health of the commonwealth.

Summary of Tasks/Actions:
1. Explain the relationship that Mill had with Bentham through Mill's father, and that while he was raised with Utilitarianism, he never fully agreed with it.
2. Explain the idea of something (in this case, civil rights) causing short term pain (e.g. the a ability to speak freely causing pain for certain individuals due to what you are saying) still be necessary, as the existence of the right causes more pleasure in the form of security than the suppression of that individual's right to speak would have.
3. All of society would not have the right to silence an individual no more than that individual society.
4. Make the distinction of fighting words, inciting violence, criminal conspiracy.
5. Field questions (Allow for approximately 10-20 minutes)
6. Lead discussion on how this applies to other civil rights: freedom of religion, the press, unusual punishment, search and seizure, quartering of soldiers.
7. Lead discussion on the difference between Bentham and Mill. Who does the class agree with more, and why?
8. Do we agree with Mill? Are there problems with his philosophy?
9. Questions, comments, concerns.
10. Assign homework.

Materials/Equipment:
Mills' On Liberty
Computer.
Slideshow

Take Home Assignments:
Essay: How does Mill change Utilitarianism from how it was originally presented by Bentham? Is there a right that you think people should have, that is not expressed in law currently in the United States that would be justified with this philosophy?

Lesson Plan: Nineteenth Century Philosophy 3
Subject/Course: The Evolution of Western Political Thought and Its Practical Application
Topic: Tocqueville's Democracy in America
Lesson Title: The Importance of Balance, Part 2
Course: PHIL 142                                    
Duration: 120 Minutes

Learning Objectives: 
Students will be able to  understand and clearly express the value of a strong judiciary, as expressed by Tocqueville in Democracy in America. Students will be able to critically analyze and discuss the current state of the judiciary, executive, and legislature in the United States.

Summary of Tasks/Actions:
1. Explain the reason for Tocqueville coming to the United States (as a French observer).
2. Explain the perils of too much power in one house of the legislature, and the perils of too much executive power.
3. Explain tyranny of the majority and tyranny of the minority.
4. Field questions.
5. Explain how, in Tocqueville's mind, the Federalist system of the United States mitigates both of these issues. Highlighting the role of the judiciary, and how the strong judiciary is able to check the other branches of government.
6. Lead discussion as to whether or not Tocqueville is correct in his analysis of the need for a balance between the tyranny of the majority and minority.
7. Lead a discussion as to whether or not the current political balance in the United States is still as Tocqueville once envisioned.
8. If not brought up, make sure to mention: the refusal to vote on President Obama's nominee for SCOTUS, and the ratification of President Trump's nominee; gerrymandering, and elected judges.
9. If the discussion concludes that we are not in the ideal state any more, ask if it is possible to return to that state, and how.
10. Questions, comments, concerns.
11. Assign homework.

Materials/Equipment:
Tocqueville's Democracy in America
Computer
Slideshow

Take Home Assignments:
Essay: How would Tocqueville assess the current balance of power in the United States between the branches of government? How does that balance of power positively or negatively impact your life? Explain.

Lesson Plan: Nineteenth Century Philosophy 4
Subject/Course: The Evolution of Western Political Thought and Its Practical Application
Topic: Marx's The Communist Manifesto
Lesson Title: Why Capitalism?
Course: PHIL 142                                            
Duration: 120 Minutes

Learning Objectives: 
Students will be able to  understand and clearly express the ideas put forward by Marx in The Communist Manifesto. Students will be able to understand the important dialogue that continues with both political and economic systems. Students will be able to critically analyze capitalism as a economic and governmental system.

Summary of Tasks/Actions:
1. Explain the political and social climate of Europe at the time of the writing of The Communist Manifesto.
2. Explain the core concepts of capitalism (private property, free markets, democracy/republicanism, growth, production).
3. Answer questions.
4. Explain the core concepts of communism (public property, planned markets, communitarian rule, continued use of capitalist-created production).
5. Answer questions.
6. Explain Marx's belief of the evolution of markets and societies (from pre-capitalist to capitalist to communist).
7. Discussion: What problems does communist philosophy have, in theory?
8. Discussion: What problems does communist philosophy have, in practice?
9. Discussion: Should we adopt a communist philosophy? Stay with free-market capitalism? Another solution?
10. If not brought up, raise the idea of social democracy.
11. Comments, questions, concerns.
12. Assign homework.

Materials/Equipment:
Marx's The Communist Manifesto
Computer
Slideshow.

Take Home Assignments:
Essay: What can we learn from Marxist Communism? What aspects of this philosophy will you apply to your life, if any? Explain.

Final Exam

In as much space as you believe in necessary, please write in your green books the practical applications of Western Political Philosophy that are taking away from this course. How are you going to apply this philosophy to your life? Do you already? Who did you agree with? Who did you disagree with? What is valuable? What was not? How would you change this course?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Campus Walk

I sail through the dark,
Passing from sea to sea;
Oceans of concrete, still,
Reflecting the lights of the moons
Suspended in cages of glass.
Then, I come to an imprisoned sun,
Illuminating the black water with an orange glow
As warm as the light of a fire,
But not nearly so violent.
It invites me,
Drawing me in with the gravity of its beauty.
And I stop beneath it,
Where my friend awaits me in her ship of rubber.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

Mr. President, my name is Jordan Davis. I am a 19 year-old white man from coastal rural Oregon. I am writing to you today, Mr. President, because I want to talk to you about something that I think is incredibly important—that being taking a humanistic approach to life and self-improvement. Let me explain.

Mr. President, we all know that you are the best president that the United States has had in a long time. Certainly, you are better than many of your predecessors. However, you are not the greatest president that the United States has ever had. In order to get to that coveted position, you will need to improve yourself. I believe, Mr. President, that the best way for you to do this is to embrace the teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the most big-league people of his time.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is a dead white guy from New England, and his speech to Phi Beta Kappa at Harvard is what I would like to tell you about. In this speech, titled, “The American Scholar,” Emerson talks about how “life is our dictionary.” By this, he means that instead of using a big old book to learn to speak, we should be using our lived experiences. This is important, as it services his argument that we should not ever be “the farmer” or “the businessman” or even “the President.” Instead, we should be “the man who farms,” or “the man who does businesses,” or “the man who is President.” It is a subtle distinction, to be sure, Mr. President, but an extremely important one. You see, if you are only “the businessman” or “the President,” how can you understand what it is like to work as a farmer? How can you understand what it is like to work as a teacher, or in a factory? You can't. You cannot begin to fathom what it means to be those things if you are only “the businessman” or “the President.”

You might think that this isn't a problem, Mr. President. That you don't need to know what a person who farms, who teaches, or who works in a factory goes through—but in that, you would be wrong. For you see, Mr. President, leaders who know and can empathize with what their workers go through, are better leaders. They make more money, and their workers are happier (and a happier worker is a more productive worker). Not only that, but without people who farm, there would be no food on your plate. Without factory workers, no one would be making your famous red hats. Thus, their jobs—their roles in society—are vital. We cannot live without them—which means that we need to service them and their interests. Because, what if they were to get angry, and rise up against you? Then you wouldn't have food or hats, and you'd be looking for a new job. You don't need to help them out of love or some other sort of bullshit. You need to help them out of self-interest, pure and simple. And the best way to do this, to know what to do, is to try your hand at farm work, at teaching, or at factory work. It is to be more than “the businessman.” It is to be Donald J. Trump, the best man—and President—that the United States has ever had.

Yours Truly, a Bisexual Lilly-livered Liberal,


Jordan Davis  

The Dogwood Fruit

Before time,
     Before light,
There was nothing
     And everything.

It all came out with a bang.

Seconds in that early world,
     To us would be eons.
A world that was uniform, smooth
     Save for the smallest variation,
That created microscopic valleys and mountains
     That would give birth
To the glorious incandescence that would become--
     Stars and planets,
Space and time, 
     Water and earth,
Life, the universe, and everything.
     That would become the dogwood tree
And the little fruit I hold in my hand--
     The universe telling us its story.