Friday, June 8, 2012

Volume 19.1


A Philosophical Review

Volume 19 • Number 1

September, 2011


INSIDE THIS ISSUE:                                                                                                       

Alexandra Nichipor
Lamb for Dinner?                                                                                                   
Jacob Wheeler
The Verge of Vegetarian Virtue                                                                                                                                             
Emily Burke
A Feminist Defense of Eating Animals                    

Corey Sloane
Concerning Facebook                                                                                      

Matthew Silliman

Barry Sullivan
From One Thing Into Another                                                          

Lamb for Dinner?
Animals as Symbols in Christianity

Alexandra Nichipor

Christianity is perhaps the most anthropocentric of all world religions: God gave dominion of the earth to humans; God came down in human form in order to redeem humanity. For much of history, Christian authorities maintained that animals did not have souls, and were outside the scope of religion. (1)  However, the full picture is not so simple. Thomas Aquinas maintained that animals did have souls, just not immortal ones: “Wart-hogs, as well as men, possess souls, for they, too, in their humble and different ways, are alive […] [but] there is no implication that [such] a soul survives the death of the body.” (2)  Some influential modern theologians, such as C.S. Lewis, assert that animals do share in the resurrection (though only tame ones). (3)  Ancient and Medieval saints preached to animals. (4)  Also, no other Abrahamic religion deals so heavily in representations of animals: the dove, the fish, the lamb, and other examples too numerous to list here.

What is the impact of this symbolism on the actual flesh-and-blood species being represented? It may be beneficial: the symbolism of animal-as-God, as in the case of the dove, may represent the elevation of this animal to divinity. Metaphor in itself is not negative; if the foundation of ethics is the idea that we treat others as we would like to be treated, then metaphor is the beginning of compassion. On the other hand, symbolic use may be harmful to the animal. It is a form of the absent referent, defined as “anything whose original meaning is undercut as it is absorbed into a different hierarchy of meaning.” (5)  Certain qualities of the animal, such as the innocence of a lamb, are utilized by the symbolic representation, and the remaining qualities of the living animal are ignored or fade away. Certainly, symbolic usage evidences no concern for the animal, only for human interests, and certainly does not prevent violence being done against that animal. As scholars of religion have noted, “Worship is primarily for the benefit of the worshipper rather than any indication of adoration for the worshipped.” (6)

I will use one of the most ancient and potent animal symbols in the Judeo-Christian theology as a case study here: the lamb. (7)  The lamb appears in the 23rd Psalm, in the writings of the Prophet Ezekiel, the final command of Jesus to Peter, and countless Christian exegeses. One can rightly say that, “God looks after his people in the same manner a good shepherd ought to look after his flock.” (8)

Jesus is frequently called The Lamb, due to his innocence and his sacrifice. Historically, the sacrifice of domestic animals was required at the Temple of Jerusalem on numerous occasions. Though goats and bulls were also offered, there is evidence that lambs and sheep were killed in the largest numbers. (9)  During the Passover in Egypt, a lamb was killed and his/her blood smeared on the doors of Israelite homes to keep them from the scourge of God; this ritual was repeated every year in each Jewish household. Jesus’ crucifixion reportedly took place around Passover; the symbolism is quite clear.

The lamb’s purity was essential to its acceptability as sacrifice. Only unblemished lambs were acceptable to God; purity was an essential component of a sacrificial animal. 

The sacrifice of Jesus has been read by some Christian interpreters as a reversal of the binding of Isaac (wherein Abraham was commanded by God to kill his son, Isaac, but God replaced the child with a ram at the last moment), which has been interpreted by modern scholars as referring to the replacement of human sacrifice with animal sacrifice. In Christian theology, animal sacrifice appears to be rendered moot by the sacrifice of Jesus. This is an important theological point that receives little attention.

The symbol of the lamb had limited impact on the ill treatment of young sheep. While it is true that lambs were no longer sacrificed as offerings, this may have more to do with the destruction of the Temple system and theological divisions between Judaism and Christianity than with any sort of compassion. Lambs continued to be eaten, and are considered a delicacy in most Christian countries.

The lamb is a symbol for both Christ and the believer, yet she is also dinner for the Christian believer. One should think it anathema to eat an animal associated with divinity. Of course, Christ is a divinity, and Christians eat him all the time at the Eucharist; the relevant difference here is probably Christ’s consent to give of his flesh and blood, and the animal’s inability to do so. The problem of lamb for dinner seems indicative of the problems of animals in Christianity: Lambs are symbols of Christ, yet they are rarely considered to be subjects of moral concern.

So…what to do about this? It’s unlikely that we will stop using animal symbols, and therefore the paradigm of abstinence that characterizes the vegetarian/vegan movement, will not be useful here. However, it may be possible to reinterpret those symbols. We have seen Christ as a lamb - can we not also see the lamb as Christ? To quote Andrey Linzey, “Christianity is not about identification with suffering, but about condemnation of it.” (10)


(1)     Salisbury, The Beast Within, p. 2.
(2)     As quoted in Linzey, Why Animal Suffering Matters, p. 25.
(3)     Hobgood-Oster. Holy Dogs and Asses, p. 112.
(4)     Grant. Early Christians and Animals, p. 25.
(5)     Adams. The Sexual Politics of Meat, p. 35.
(6)     Preece. Awe for the Tiger, Love for the Lamb, p. 4.
(7)     On a personal note, my own awakening to vegetarianism occurred at four years old, when my mother informed me that we would be eating lamb for dinner, and I became confused and horrified, because this was the same thing we called Christ in church.
(8)     Preece. Awe for the Lion, Love for the Lamb, p. 28.
(9)     See Numbers 28:11, for instance, which commands that two bulls, one ram, and SEVEN lambs must be sacrificed at the beginning of each month. Elsewhere, more lambs are demanded for sacrifice than other animals.
(10)  Linzey. Why Animal Suffering Matters, p. 164.


Grant, Robert. Early Christians and Animals. London: Routledge Press, 1999.
Hobgood-Oster, Laura. Holy Dogs and Asses: Animals in the Christian Tradition. Illinois: University of Illinois, 2008.
Salisbury, Joyce E. The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages. London: Routledge Press, 1994.
Sorrell , Roger D. Saint Francis of Assisi and Nature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Campbell, Joseph. Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor. Joseph Campbell Foundation, 2001.
Berkoff, Mark A, and Carron Meaney. The Encyclopedia of Animal Rights. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998. Print
Preece, Rod. Awe for the Tiger, Love for the Lamb: A Chronicle of Sensibility to Animals. Vancouver: BC Press, 2002.
Philippart, David. "Glad You Asked (Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday?)." U.S. Catholic 1 Mar, 2007.
Linzey, Andrew. Why Animal Suffering Matters: Philosophy, Theology, and Practical Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Linzey, Andrew. "The Bible and Killing for Food." The Animal Ethics Reader. Ed. . Susan Armstrong. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print.

Alexandra Nichipor is a student at MCLA 


The Verge of Vegetarian Virtue

Jacob Wheeler

Vegetarianism is not a moral mandate.  While there exists an ever expanding plurality of conceptualizations of vegetarianism, it will serve the purpose of this argument to understand vegetarianism as merely the practice of consuming nothing that requires the death of an animal to prepare.  While vegetarianism may not be obligatory, it is wrong to kill an animal for food.  (1)  The seemingly counterintuitive tension begotten by such juxtaposition is dissolved by the possibility of consuming meat, contra vegetarianism, without violating the moral status due to animals. While the respect of this moral status is often manifested by a moratorium on the consumption of meat, such abeyance is not a necessary condition thereof.

It is morally wrong to inflict death upon another sentient being to fulfill a flittingly unnecessary desire. The conditions under which most animals are kept and killed compound this moral obligation by the actualization of excessive cruelty. Even so, not all instances of eating meat begotten under such conditions are morally unacceptable. Actually, the very act of consumption is very rarely unacceptable.

It would be fitting now to transition from the theoretical to the practical. To purchase meat is to financially support an industry that constantly violates the moral status of animals. The consumption of meat, once purchased, is not. If meat were accidentally introduced to a vegetarian dish at a restaurant, the customer would have no moral obligation to discard the food.  (2)  


(1)  I understand that there exist cases in which this would be inaccurate.  These cases are marginal and unlikely.  While they exist, they are irrelevant.

(2)  There would be plenty of other reasons to not consume the meat (e.g. health concerns, symbolic display of principle, etc.) but they are not morally obligatory reasons.

Jacob Wheeler is a student at MCLA 


A Feminist Defense of Eating Animals

Emily Burke

Feminists and animal rights activists have often butted heads, despite their common interest in fighting oppression and opposing violence.  In some ways, feminists and animal rights activists should be natural allies.  In other ways, their interests conflict.  Feminist movements should align with animal rights movements because they share a common opposition to violence, domination, and the objectification of living things.  However, animal rights activists should not require a certain diet from all people, as this is anti-feminist. 

The tactics used by men who commit violent acts against women are strikingly similar to the tactics used by humans against animals.  Objectification is used with both animals and women to rationalize the violence used against these groups.  We do not eat “animals”; we eat “meat”.  By changing our language, we turn a living animal into an object for consumption (1).  We do the same with women.  When you take away the humanity of a woman, she is an object.  This objectification legitimizes violence or rape.  When animals and women are seen as objects, they transform from living beings into commodities that can be bought, sold, and owned.  Therefore, the objectification of both animals and women perpetuates violence.

Although feminism and animal rights activists should align with one another, as they oppose a common oppressor, it is inherently anti-feminist to require a certain diet from all people.  Not only is it harder for women to abstain from animal products for biological reasons (2), it is also harder for psychological reasons.    In a society where women are expected to restrict what they eat, often to the point of developing an eating disorder, it would be dangerous to put more restrictions on what women can and can’t eat, even if it is for ethical reasons.  In fact, it has been shown that vegetarianism in women is associated with eating disorders such as anorexia (2).  The vegetarian women in this study were shown to have a greater fear of “fatness”.  It has also been shown that vegetarian adolescents and young adults are more likely to report out-of-control binge eating than nonvegetarians, and former vegetarians are more likely to report engaging in extreme weight-loss behaviors (3). And, while there are many vegans and vegetarians out there who adopt this diet purely for ethic reasons, many mainstream animal ethics groups utilize fat-shaming, body-policing tactics that may further heighten women’s anxieties about food and their bodies with catchphrases like “Lose the blubber: go vegetarian” (4), or by encouraging women to become “skinny bitches” through veganism (5). 

Animal rights activists and feminists should be allies.  We all want to end violence against oppressed groups.  However, feminists can fight for animal justice without necessarily adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet.  Our toxic diet-culture leaves women extremely vulnerable to disordered eating, and to ignore this by requiring vegetarianism/veganism is ignoring women’s needs.  


1. Adams, Carol J. "The Rape of Animals, The Butchering of Women." The Sexual Politics of Meat: a Feminist-vegetarian Critical Theory. New York: Continuum, 1990. Print.

2.  George, Kathryn Paxton. Animal, Vegetable, or Woman?: a Feminist Critique of Ethical Vegetarianism. Albany, NY: State University of New York, 2000. Print.

3. Kadambari, Rao, Simon Gowers, and Arthur Crisp. "Some correlates of vegetarianism in anorexia nervosa."International Journal of Eating Disorders 5.3 (1986): 539-544. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 21 June 2011.

4.  In Scopus. "ScienceDirect - Journal of the American Dietetic Association : Adolescent and Young Adult Vegetarianism: Better Dietary Intake and Weight Outcomes but Increased Risk of Disordered Eating Behaviors."  Adolescent and Young Adult Vegetarianism: Better Dietary Intake and Weight Outcomes but Increased Risk of Disordered Eating Behaviors 109.9 (2009). ScienceDirect - Home. 26 Mar. 2009. Web. 21 June 2011. .

5.  PETA. Advertisement. PETA. PETA, 17 Aug. 2009. Web. .

6.   Freedman, Rory, and Kim Barnouin. Skinny Bitch | New York Times Bestseller. Web. 22 June 2011.

Emily Burke is a student at MCLA


Concerning Facebook
Spinoza, Metaphysics, and Social Networking (1)

Corey Sloane

1)       I use the term substance qualified as intangible, limitless, nonmaterial, and infinite.
2)       Given the nature of substance, I must add that because substance is defined as stated above, it is essentially perfect.
3)       This perfect substance can manifest itself or extend itself into physical (tangible or measurable) forms.

1)       The ability to “like”, comment, post, tag, login, and share are all extensions of Facebook found in its profiles, and so they belong to the nature of Facebook.
2)       No profile or faculty of Facebook exists outside of Facebook, as Facebook is both the substance which constitutes and the cause of the profiles and attributes of the profiles.

Proposition I: Facebook cannot login to itself.
-          This is evident as in order to login, Facebook would have to exist as a profile independent of itself, which is absurd (as stated in Axiom 2). Therefore Facebook is in a continuous state of being logged in; it is never idle but rather is a persistently and infinitely active profile.

Proposition II: Facebook cannot be liked, comment, or posted about, nor can it do so in regards to itself.
-          As stated in Axiom 1, the faculties of liking, commenting and posting are all extended attributes of Facebook to its profiles.

Proposition III: Each profile is an extension and thus a manifestation of Facebook, but does not reflect it entirely, it is a mode I
-          The profiles contain the faculties that Facebook has extended to them, but they do not represent what Facebook is in its entirety.

Proposition IV: Facebook is substance.
-          As stated in definition 1, substance is infinite, intangible, and nonmaterial. The profiles of Facebook can exist in an infinite number of possibilities as the profiles are subject to change. These changes exist as an infinite potential of possible profile forms.

Proof II: As stated in Proposition IV Facebook can exist in an infinite number of possible profile forms, thus it can be manifested in an infinite number of ways, making it intangible, and thus Facebook is made of substance as it was defined earlier.

Proposition V: If Facebook is substance, then Facebook is necessarily perfect.
-          As evident from Definitions 1, 2, 3 in conjunction with Proposition IV.
-          Corollary: I address those who disagree that Facebook is perfect because it changes. I would like to respond by saying that although Facebook does change, it does not do so out of any external influence (i.e. its profiles). Rather Facebook is motivated inherently to change in order to pursue the good, which would make it perfect, as perfection is seeking what is ideal and what is best.

Proposition VI: If an individual possesses the faculties of an email address and self-generated password, the individual can take part in the essence of Facebook.
-          It is through these modes one is allowed to login (in metaphorical terms, “unlock”) to what Facebook is, how it behaves, what we can understand of it. As stated earlier, Facebook is infinite and perfect, so despite our ability to see extended attributes of it, we never conceive of what Facebook is completely.

Final Proposition: Despite our lack of full understanding of how or why Facebook is, it as an intangible substance, directly influences the material world
-          This is evident as Facebook and its profiles have adjusted and changed: interpersonal communication, social and cultural language, the motion and placement of physical bodies in relation to one another, and how those bodies interact.

(1) This essay is based on Baruch Spinoza’s “The Ethics: Part I: Concerning God” in which Spinoza elaborates an ontological argument beginning with a definition of substance, and concluding with God’s existence. By changing simply a few terms, his argument can be turned from a defense of the existence of the divine, into a seemingly comedic interpretation of social networking online. This essay is meant to demonstrate how any argument and its propositions are susceptible to error, simply within their terminology. By changing only a few terms, a series of logical statements to explain the nature of God, become a way of exaggerating the qualities of an internet website.

Corey Sloane is a student at MCLA



Matthew Silliman

Etymologically, agnosticism simply means “don’t-know-ism” – the privative alpha attached to one of several Greek verbs for knowing. Gnosis, which can mean wisdom or insight, also lent it’s name to a late Hellenistic religious movement emphasizing wise sayings and secret or mystical knowledge. In this literal and historical sense I am certainly a-Gnostic.

In modern usage, however, agnosticism refers to a supposed middle ground between atheism and various forms of theism. The question is how to characterize that middle ground, and whether there really is any on which to stand. One approach rejects it as empty rhetoric: as Feuerbach says, “Agnosticism is consequent atheism.” On this view the refusal to commit oneself to either the existence or nonexistence of a supreme being is at best misplaced courtesy toward believers, and at worst blatant intellectual dishonesty.

A more nuanced account distinguishes between the essentially metaphysical claims of both atheism and theism – denying and affirming respectively the existence of God – and the mainly epistemological claim of agnosticism: that given the evidence we simply can’t tell. On this view, agnosticism deftly sets aside the question of the being of God as beyond our capacity to know. Bertrand Russell uses the term in this sense.

There is a risk here, though, of intellectual laziness, as though calling yourself agnostic lets you off the hook. Claiming agnosticism in this nuanced, epistemic sense carries with it the obligation seriously to have evaluated the evidence – and few of us may be equipped to do that. On the other hand, evidence either for or against theism might actually be pretty sparse. Humanity seems to be in its infancy in terms of understanding the nature of the universe and its origins, and if so suspension of judgment might well be warranted. But if we judge on the available evidence, however inadequate, Feuerbach is correct that agnosticism will collapse into atheism, and Russell concurs.

Another problem arises when we notice that the question is not merely an intellectual curiosity. Our view of these matters may have direct implications for how we live our lives. If we claim not to know about God one way or the other, do we then make choices as though there might be a God (of a particular sort)? If so, we will be strongly tempted to buy at least a few tickets to Pascal’s lottery, which will look to an atheist like a monstrous misuse of resources, and to a theist like a cynical hedge. The agnostic might reply: I suspend judgment about both the existence of a God, and the way of life any possible God might prescribe – a sensible move, though it has the consequence that the agnostic’s way of life will be indistinguishable from that of the atheist. This is not necessarily a bad thing – there are plenty of non-theistic reasons for attempting to live morally – but once again it makes it difficult to maintain agnosticism as a distinct position.

Many people call themselves agnostics, but it seems to remain an open question whether there is such a position, distinct from atheism. I welcome further attempts to characterize it.

Mathew Silliman teaches philosophy at MCLA 


From One Thing Into Another

Barry Sullivan

Being the ultimate relativist, I am always looking
For relations between things and how things change
From one thing into another.

I can see this pattern in the symbol of the Tao
And in Einstein's theory of relativity.
I see it also in nature, where from birth
Until death we are forever changing
From one thing into another.

I see it in Socrates' arguments, where it seems,
He is always striving to maintain balance.
I believe that Socrates, because of his age
Had observed that, what goes up, must come down
And that things will forever change
From one thing into another.

I know also, that we only exist at the whim
Of the creator, who by the way, is no other
Than you and me, and my words are like
The “finger pointing at the moon” and
It is up to us where we choose to look
To see one thing or another.

And I/We am the observer as things change
From one thing into another.

So life goes on from birth till death
From dust to dust and stardust to stardust
Mass to energy, wave to particle and back again
The universe is forever changing
From one thing into another.

From a boy to a man, surf bum to cab driver
From a miner to a chef, a son to a father to
Student to teacher to poet and philosopher
I am what I am and what I am forever changes
From one thing into another.

Barry Sullivan is a student at MCLA

Volume 18.1


A Philosophical Review

Volume 18 • Number 1

Copyright September, 2010


INSIDE THIS ISSUE:                                                                                                     

Keane Lundt
Gift Genuine                                                                                                                                
Kristina P. McGrath
A Valuable Tale of Socks and Supper                                                                                                          
Andrew Roiter
Observers as Participants in Art                              

Bryan Acton
Grading and Fairness                                                                              

Gift Genuine
Keane Lundt

A genuine gift is an empathetic interchange of nurturance.  By genuine, we mean honest constructive development and exercise of virtuous character traits. (1) A gift, in this sense, is not a concrete externality, or tangible thing; it is rather a wish fulfilled in physical and spiritual Eudaimonia. (2) A genuine gift identifies pleasures, needs, and motives of individual free will – our universal nature unites this realized self in a correspondent structure of adapted selves-and, in the process, engenders a reciprocal nurturance that aims at the highest good - a life of happiness and purpose.

We customarily perceive and exchange objects as gifts, or presents. (3) As a consequence, we might negate or transfigure a thing’s original purpose, (4) and smuggle in a counterfeit substitute of sorts that masquerades as good intent. Designating an object as a gift might undermine its original status. I.e., the objects we exalt are susceptible also to exploitation. The consummation and preservation of a pure gift-exchange requires that a genuine gift not collapse into something bought-and-sold, a thing predominantly of market value.  If an object, as a Kantian thing-in-itself, or sentient beings as ends-in-themselves, inherently possess and protect dignitary interests (noumenon, freedom), what responsibilities, and considerations, do we share when we stipulate a thing as gift?

Gift Subjective

The familiar adage, “It’s the thought that counts” seems straightforward enough, but might be misleading -- and, imbued in the phrase are ambiguities that imply a subjective and one-dimensional requisite for success. I.e., a thought is all that matters -- and as thoughts are the estates or property of thinking subjects, I can know, and am responsible for my thoughts only - it is now a case of my thoughts that count or matter. Often, we might receive a present, (or object as gift), that does not best reflect our interests or needs; and may even appear inauthentic or hypocritical. In these cases, we might appreciate the thought -- but we acknowledge also this particular act of gift-giving as barren (to a degree) and disingenuous.

In Gift Subjective, the first stage of gift evolution, our primary concern is the recognition and virtuous assertion of free will in relation to others. Yet, the self in this initial stage is underdeveloped and at risk of focusing solely on inner wants, needs, and expectations. Averting the possible allure of this somewhat infantile phase is vital as we progress into a fully realized state of self-awareness. Empathy is the key principle for all subsequent growth and action; and, though a healthy, mindful self-regard is imperative, we must also forge ahead into Gift Objective to avoid potentially destructive and unhealthy relations. In the formative stages of Gift Subjective, we might say: ‘It’s the genuine thought that counts’.

Gift Objective

Gift Subjective, as a process of self-examination, (5) is the exercise and discipline of practical reason (logos praktikos) – and, the root of what we have to give. (6) Aristotle (Physics) prescribes a method of investigation that begins with what is most evident to us (though intrinsically more obscure), and proceeds towards what is intrinsically more intelligible. We begin with subjective inference and understanding (general character of things, katholou), and progress to universal validity, or as much exactness allowed by nature’s subjects. In this sense, dialectic (progressive investigation of sound opinion, (doxa) represents the first step from plausibility to objective truth. Demonstration is a means for establishing truth, i.e., what things really are as opposed to what we think they are (or want them to be). It is evident that we indeed have individual qualities such as thoughts, desires, and personalities, but we are dependent on nature (and nurture) for our survival. Because of this fact, we share a mutual obligation to preserve the health of our global infrastructure; gifts define what it means to be fully human. (7)

We might say genuine gifts are in a state of becoming (not rigid entities that serve an intended purpose and perish) -- though they are actual things, they are endowed with a potentiality that might manifest in unexpected and unforeseen ways. (8) A giver need not have a specific or individual recipient in mind; and persons might hear indirectly of a genuine gift and be motivated to action. (9) As Gift subjective awakens and nurtures our creative spirit and capacity for empathy-Gift Objective instructs us in the act of doing; our potential is actualized.  Absent an object symbolizing a gift exchange, a giver possesses a mind in contemplation of a well-developed sense of moral good. We strive to exercise virtuous traits for the betterment of everyone, i.e., via the particular recipient(s) of a gift. Our intended purpose defines initially the gift; our purpose actualized is the gift. Maintaining the cycle of a genuine gift, though natural, is not altogether effortless or agreeable. We are in a struggle with the comprehensive notion of what living a good and just life is—it may be many things to many people, but what we might demand is that our actions not be injurious or oppressive to other sentient beings, and the world at large. (10)

The aphorism, “pay it forward” emphasizes a social responsibility and investment in the real world; we keep the genuine gift alive as a sort of social loan or general indebtedness to others. A gift’s vitality has the requisite condition of perpetual extension, and depends upon our ability to empathize with those in need. We do whatever it takes, within reason, to empower and inspire other persons to perform similar acts of kindness; this is our duty, and a moral imperative of great importance and significance.

Gift Genuine

There are no hard and distinct separations between the phases of gift evolution; moral improvement is a matter of degree. Gift Genuine is the culmination of our current understanding of things - but this is not an absolute set of fixed points; and, any definition of Gift Genuine possesses the ability to incorporate further knowledge about all things. Gift Genuine is a state of moral action (praxis), and purposeful choice (proairesis). We give and receive gifts with purpose -- we give to foster good will, and we accept this kindness knowing that it comes with a reciprocal obligation.

Our Hegelian inspired abstraction and separation of gift from object unites several key first principles in a genuine gift interchange. I.e. empathy, discipline, moral development, and what Hegel refers to as “virtuous consciousness”. Each of us has a universal nature – a truth that reflects an objective state of affairs – of the good, wise, and virtuous. Hegel (Phenomenology of Mind) illustrates this point:

The good or universal as it appears here, is, then,
what is called Gifts, Capacities, Powers. It is a mode or form of spiritual life, where the spiritual life is presented as a universal, which requires the principle of individuality to give it life and movement, and in individuality finds its realization. This universal is applied well by the principle of individuality so far as this principle dwells in the consciousness of virtue, and misused by it as far as it is in the world’s process— a passive instrument, which is regulated and directed by  the hand of free individuality and is quite indifferent to the use it is put to, and can be misused for the production of a reality which means its ruin: a lifeless material that can be formed in this way or that, or even to its own destruction.

Is the division of object and gift permanent and absolute, or might some objects serve as presents or gifts without sacrificing original purpose? Is our energy entangled in inanimate objects (or sentient beings) to such a degree that might exempt some things from commercialization?  Is there anything truly that we will not sell (surrender all rights and possession) at any price, including our estate, our self? (11) Might objects survive a sort of metamorphosis from a thing to a gift in a similar way that the butterfly emerges from the caterpillar? One thing is certain; we must know the origins of objects we consider for such a change in purpose. (12)  

Gift Subjective, Gift Objective, and, Gift Genuine, nurture our capacity to empathize with other persons, animals, our immediate environment, and the world. Gift Genuine actualizes our potential and exercise of virtuous traits. As moral agents of sentiment and reason, it is our duty to engender inherent, and possibly latent, creative gifts that stimulate individual and societal happiness. We have within our will (proairesis) the power (dynamis) to follow reason, to define and steer our own course. A deliberate affirmation of life is the telic determinant of virtuous persons. Exuberant vitality, creativity, assertion of free will, friendly affection (philia), pedagogy, love (and many other states of character (hexis), qualities) are gifts that necessitate passion, discipline, empathy, and zeal. (13)


1. A capacity for virtue must manifest itself through the exercise of ethical behavior in relation to others; this relationship distinguishes knowing from doing. But, what precisely is virtue, is it nature or nurture? In the Apology, Socrates regards virtue and wisdom as the highest goods. Also, in Gorgias, he views wisdom, virtue, and happiness as inextricably linked; if one possesses virtue, they cannot fail to be happy. See (506c5-e4) where Socrates treats virtue as a principle of goodness; and, as a source of goodness, virtue itself must be good. Virtue consists of the rational and appetitive parts of the soul – justice and temperance ensure harmonious order, while lack of virtue represents a state of inner conflict reflected in utter chaos. (Gorgias 504d1-e4) See also Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind, (Virtue and the Course of the World). For the view that virtue is excellence, and of two kinds – intellectual (practical and theoretical wisdom) and moral (good character developed by discipline and habit), see Aristotle, (The Nicomachean Ethics, BookII). Virtue is the supreme goal of human endeavor.  Kant (Critique of Judgment) defines morality, and ethical standards, in themselves authoritative. I.e. Religion and law are insufficient devices to determine (absolutely) what is moral from what is immoral.
2.  A genuine gift’s effects need not require the actualization of an object. The physical embodiment of an exchange of nurturance is recognizable in emotional, societal, and, economical stability and solidarity.  The Greek term Euadimonia means happiness, good will (or possession) of the spirit or soul. Happiness is the supreme good in and of itself (teleios). It is the good will of society as a whole that we refer to here – humans are by nature social (political) – supreme happiness is a relationship between persons, not a subjective singularity.
3.  Traditionally, we give presents on birthdays and holidays with no return gift expected (but perhaps acknowledgment of some sort is obligatory). Aristotle in book IV Topica states, “A present is a grant that need not be returned”.  Also, innate abilities, such as an exceptional talent or skill often are viewed as gifts (possibly from divine sources) as is a charismatic personality. (From the Greek χάρισμα (kharisma), "gift" or "divine favor”.
4. Original purpose means that existing objects have a function prior to our conceptualization and usage (of things) as gifts. Things we construct specifically for use as gifts also define original purpose.
5. See Socratic Self-examination, Keane S. Lundt, Thesis XII, A Philosophical review-Volume 16.2,3-09
6. A genuine gift means that we have something to give-we are in possession of, or have a capacity for, empathy-and in each phase of understanding, we give to others knowing that this act is obligatory. We are not self-sufficient creatures, and therefore do not have rights to withhold anything (in our possession but not in our usage) that others might benefit from. Objects, given as presents, are often used to symbolize a generic offering that might invoke a history seemingly detached from a genuine connection between giver and receiver. A giver’s energy, (or psyche, Greek meaning soul, life force, breath) is integral to a gift’s authenticity.
7. Locke posits that we, our selves, are property; “every man [person] has a property in his [her] own person”. Our estates mark the beginning of property and entitle us to the means necessary for survival; and, our usage (derived from our labor in taking from the commons) marks the beginning of external personal property and might extend beyond the essentials to include other things, or advantages within reason, that aid in our enjoyment and pursuit of a happy life. Locke’s spoilage proviso prevents us from taking more than our legitimate share-“yet this could not be much, nor to the prejudice of others, where the same plenty was still left to those who would use the same industry”. (Second Treatise of Government-V. Of Property, John Locke, 1690) For Hegel, the attainment of property external to our selves defines us as persons. We “impose” our will onto the environment and others in our development from “mere consciousness” to “pure consciousness”. Hegelian Mind Subjective, Mind Objective, and, Mind Absolute, represent the three phases of human development. (The Phenomenology of Mind-G.W.F. Hegel, 1910) “External goods”, (i.e. good birth, beauty, goodly children, and good fortune) for Aristotle, are the proper equipment to perform noble acts-the means to be truly happy. Inner goods, such as health and virtue, are necessary also to live a noble life. “The good of man [persons] should be a lover of self.” (Book IV.8,1169a Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle. J.L. Ackrill) “Those, then, who busy themselves in an exceptional degree with noble actions all men [persons] approve and praise; and if all were to strive towards what is noble and strain every nerve to do the noblest deeds, everything would be as it should for the common weal, and everyone would secure for himself [herself] the goods that are greatest, since virtue is the greatest of goods.”
8. I.e., to guard against the infiltration of consumerist culture into the classroom-knowledge must not be reduced to inactive information. The idea that learning is directed at students, rather than incorporating them is an error and incompatible with the acquisition of knowledge, and results only in confusion and the accumulation of stuff. A professor that relays information as if it is a thing-it-itself; is not engaging in a genuine gift exchange; students are burdened ultimately with things they do not understand truly, and to process, or make sense of, this data we convert it to stuff. Pedagogy (i.e. in a partially improvisational manner) nurtures and solidifies the root of a student’s understanding of doing. An interactive professor-student relationship is a genuine gift interchange that maintains a productive cycle of gift giving. A gift in this sense might be retroactive-and, all genuine gifts, regardless of length of dormancy or cultivation, come to fruition.
9. The Arts might be considered a gift to humanity. See Lewis Hyde’s, The Gift, Vintage Books, 1997.
10. We cannot violate any sentient being(s) basic right to life. Our ethical code of conduct and moral action (praxis) reflects what it means to be a rational agent.
11. See Marcell Mauss, The Gift,  (Norton 1990-first published 1950) for one example, “The taonga and all goods termed strictly possess a hau, a spiritual power. You give me one of them, and I pass it on to a third party; he gives another to me in turn, because he is impelled to do so by the hau my present possesses. I, for my part, am obliged to give you what is in reality the effect of the hau of your taonga.”  Toanga, in Maori law and religion, means possessions or precious articles such as talisman, or sacred idols.
12. Objects are subject to the same critical analysis present in Gift Subjective-our intent and practice of virtuous principles accompanies all possible exchanges of things. Origin means knowing by whom objects are/were constructed - the source of all parts - means and methods of operation/production – in other words, we want to know what ethical standards individuals and corporations promote and subscribe to (practice). All of these elements make a whole.
13. I thank David Johnson, Matthew Silliman, and Gerol Petruzella for their genuine gifts to pedagogy. I am especially indebted to Matthew Silliman for his many helpful suggestions.

Keane Lundt is a student at MCLA


A Valuable Tale of Socks and Supper
Kristina P. McGrath

I made a real supper for my family tonight.  Lately I have been throwing together anything, and it’s made my job seem a little less valuable.  I felt more valuable tonight, and I wondered if the supper itself is more valuable as well.  Is it then more valuable because it was prepared by loving hands, too?  Or is food food, no matter what it is or where it comes from? 
What gives something value?  The definition of value is its rate in usefulness or importance.  If I take too long to knit socks for my sister because I’m struggling with technique and poor materials, then victoriously complete them, but they don’t fit her, do they lose value?  Can the socks be valuable because of the time and effort put into them, or are they rendered non-valuable because they have no usefulness to their possessor?     

Socks that fit may have more value than ones that don’t, but my work is still valuable regardless of the fit, because of my intrinsic value as a human being.  Even though my sister might never wear her socks, she will always treasure them because of my efforts.  Furthermore, any hand-knit socks, even made by a stranger, would hold more value, even if too big, than socks made by a machine, whether they fit or not, because of the work and time a person put into them.   Just as a person values themselves and their work, so are they valuable.  How valuable are their efforts to another?

Who places value?  When my son makes me a drawing in preschool, it is valuable to me because he made it, because his work is valuable, regardless of what it looks like.  However, when he makes me a train out of his blocks, it is more valuable to me than the drawing because my son doesn’t like to draw, and worked harder to build that train (no matter what it looks like,) and enjoyed doing it.  I value the train more, even as it is temporary, because he values it more, and his values are important to me.  Conversely, my thrown-together supper including hot dogs is perhaps more valuable to him, as he loves hot dogs, than my nice and balanced meal tonight, which included string beans.  He holds no regard for what I find valuable when it comes to supper, or the uselessness of hot dogs.

Does the value of something (the supper or the socks) increase or decrease depending on from whom they came?  Even if I’m not your mother, I worked just as hard to make your supper.  I claim that the food retains the same value, as does the person’s work, regardless of who that person is, but if it is prepared by your mother or friend, it may have more value to you personally (like my son’s gifts to me,) because of how you value them.  Similarly, if you are angry with whomever prepared your food, you might find it holds no value at all and refuse to eat it. 

A person who places no value on a person’s work (other than his own,) may not find these things valuable, but these things still retain their inherent value, by virtue of the effort given in creating them.  When we talk about how valuable a thing is regarding people, and people’s work, especially those we love, the amount of value becomes very subjective, and those hot dogs and trains and too-big socks, might end up being our greatest gifts, however useless, because of their importance to us.   

Kristina P. McGrath is an alumna of MCLA


Observers as Participants in Art
Andrew Roiter

Andrew: So he says that there's no difference between going to a concert and listening to a record with extremely high quality headphones.

Valentine: That's ridiculous. He really said that?

Andrew: Yeah, and I told him, 'There are so many sensory experiences that you don't get with just listening to the music. There's the band's presence and the lights...

Valentine: Not to mention the crowd.

Andrew: Right, wait. What do you mean?

Valentine: The crowd, it feeds off of the energy of the band and the band feeds of the energy of the crowd. The quality of the crowd and totally change the concert experience.

Andrew: So, by that logic they are contributors to the performance.

Valentine: Right.

Peter: How do you figure?

Andrew: Well, let's suppose that the individual performance is its own work of art. Completely unique from every other  performance.

Peter: But it’s not. It’s an exact copy of the artwork. It’s all one piece of art just being showcased multiple times.
Andrew: Are we working off of the same definition of art?

Valentine: I thought so.

Peter: Enlighten me.

Andrew: A work of art is the use of a medium for the realization of creative intentions. How does that suit you?

Peter: Fine

Valentine: Yeah, that’s good.

Andrew: Alright. So an artist plans to go on a concert tour. The artist has a plan for how the show is supposed to play out. But he knows that the experience will be different at each venue.

Peter: And he knows this how?

Andrew: Would you admit that there is a difference between seeing a performance at Times Square and seeing a performance at the school auditorium?

Peter: Of course.

Andrew: But what makes the difference?

Peter: The difference is in the setting, obviously. One has more meaning attached to it than the other.

Andrew: So, would you say that if the setting alters the art, then it is a part of the work of art?

Peter: In what way?

Andrew: In the same way that an actor is manipulated by the director. The performance is the work of art. The actors, the stage and the setting are his paint, his somewhat controlled factors that alter and make up the art work.

Peter: What if the director doesn’t choose his setting? Is it still part of the art?

Andrew: Without intentionality? No.

Valentine: We really should amend the original thesis. Let’s say that the crowd, can, but doesn’t necessarily alter the art.

Andrew: I’m comfortable with saying that.

Peter: The change is noted, but I’m not sold on the idea that the individual performance is its own work of art.

Andrew: Fine, we’ll continue. If we have two works of art, with the same subject matter, but some different aspects then they are different works of art.  For instance the Virgin on the Rocks by DaVinci, would you contend that the two versions of it are the same work of art?

Peter: No, I wouldn’t. They are physically two different paintings, with similar characteristics.

Andrew: So there is a significant difference between two performances of the same show in two different settings with two different crowds.

Peter: Right.

Andrew: And we’ve established that two art objects of the same subject matter, but with significant intentional differences are different art objects.

Peter: Correct…

Andrew: So then it logically follows that if an artist intends for the performance to feed off of the crowd and setting to change the performance, then it is a new work of art.

Peter: Yes, it does. I see where you’re going with this.

Andrew: Therefore, a crowd can be a part of the art in a degree not equal to, but somewhat comparable to the performers.

Peter: As long as it’s ‘can be’ and not ‘is’, then I’m comfortable with it.

Valentine: That makes sense to me.

Andrew: Alright, we’re all in agreement.

Andrew Roiter is a student at MCLA


Grading and Fairness
Bryan Acton

Person A (excited):  Hello!

Person B:  Hey. What are you so excited about?

Person A:  My Professor scaled the final grades of the semester in my Issues in Education Class. I got the only A in the class!

Person B:  That’s because only one person can get an A once the professor scales the grades!

Person A:  Have you taken the class?

Person B:  I am taking it this semester in a different section. I am going to get a B. Taking this course from this prof was the worse choice I have made in 3 years of college. I never knew scaled grading was this unfair.

Person A:  It’s not the fault of scaled grading that you didn’t get an A; you should have worked harder.

Person B:  Actually, It is the fault of scaled grading, and I can tell you exactly why.

Person A:  Okay, Let’s hear it.

Person B:  Well, when I compared our two classes, I noticed that my class clearly performed better than your class. This made me realize that if I had been in your class I would have clearly received an A. Not only that, but if you had been in my section, you might not even have received a B! It is clearly not fair that, for equivalent academic performance, you receive a different grade depending on what section you are in.

Person A:  I understand your argument, but it has a major problem. You are not taking into account the fact that the other students in your class have a major influence on you.

Person B:  What do you mean?

Person A:  If you had been in my class, then you probably would not have performed as well as you did, because there were different students competing with you. My class did more poorly overall, and therefore there was less motivation to do well. In fact, you actually might have done worse in my class because there were not many students who would have been pushing you to do better. I will explain this by using the example of running a marathon. In a race like this, only one person can get first place and the best prize. This competition is great because each competitor performs better than he or she normally would, mainly because he or she is being motivated by the other competitors. It is also not fair for a given competitor to compare his race to a different race, because many circumstances in each race were different.

Person B:  While I do not necessarily agree with your example, I think I can use your type of example to explain my point of view. Let’s say there was an important marathon; there were only fifty runners, and each runner had to qualify to compete in the race; the competitors could be of any age, but to qualify they had to fulfill two requirements. To compete in the race, a runner had to have had received a time in a pre-trial that was lower than a certain cut-off time. The second requirement was that the people who wished to compete in the race must have placed in a race before, but these races had to have certain qualifications (it had to be a race where the competitors were in the same age group etc.). Does this sound good so far?

Person A:  I don’t see where you are going with this, but keep going.

Person B:  Okay, well, I will be focusing on one competitor in this story. He is a 17 year old, who I will name Metaphor.

Person A:  Funny name.

Person B:  Yes, it is. The majority of the competitors were between the ages of 22 and 30. At , 17, Metaphor was by far the youngest competitor – the next youngest competitor was 21. Metaphor was excited about the race because he just barely made it into the competition. He received a time slightly faster than the cutoff time in the pre-trials. The rest of the competitors beat the cutoff time by a large amount.

Person A:  Wait one second. That does not make any sense. If the cutoff time was easy for the older competitors, then why would there not be a bunch of competitors in that prime age group who qualified for the race? It seems like more than fifty competitors should have been able to beat that cutoff time.

Person B:  You forgot about the second qualification. To qualify for the race, each runner had previously to place in a race within his or her age group. Even though many people in the prime age group could have beaten the cutoff time, they could not compete because they did not fill the second requirement. Metaphor barely qualified for the race because he won a race within his age group and he scarcely beat the cutoff time. Do you understand?

Person A:  Yes, I do now. Metaphor seems like he was a rare competitor for this race.

Person B:  Yes, he was, but Metaphor trained hard for this race because he wanted first place and nothing less. He wanted first place because the winner received an invitation to join the best running team in the world, and he could not join the team without first place.

Person A:  Wow! It sounds like Metaphor really wanted to win! So, what happened?

Person B:  Well Metaphor ran extremely well; he ran a lot better than he ever had before. The competition pushed him to a level of performance that he could never have imagined. He broke every record for marathoners in his age group.

Person A:  So, I assume he got first place!

Person B:  No, he came in third. The two runners who finished ahead of him were both at the prime age of competition. Metaphor could not beat them because their bodies were much more prepared for the challenge that the race posed.

Person A:  Wait, that is not fair! Metaphor should not be even competing against people older than him! At least he should receive his own prize because he broke all of the records for his age group!

Person B:  I think you are right. Metaphor should have received the top prize because he broke all the records for his own age. Competition that involves this type of difference of ability is not fair, especially when the first prize is so important for the competitors. I think we just solved our problem about scaled grading.

Person A:  What do you mean?

Person B:  If you haven’t noticed, my example of this competition is just a method for showing the process of scaled grading within a normal college class. In most college classes, students with all different levels of ability are trying to get an A; the idea that different age groups all wanted first prize in the race stands for this. The idea that first place receives a coveted invitation to a racing team is an analogy for As leading to a good resume, which in turn leads to further career and education opportunities. Metaphor’s situation shows that it is not fair for students with different abilities to be competing against each other for such an important reward (a high grade). All students who do A work should be rewarded with an A (beating a cutoff time). Education is supposed to involve students competing with themselves, and not others. There is a time and a place for competition between different people, but a college course is not one.

Person A:  I understand what you are saying, but I think you are forgetting that competition is a great thing; it provides students with the encouragement to do better.

Person B:  I am not saying that competition is bad; a certain kind of competition is a great thing in many places, including the educational environment. That said, zero-sum games are not the type of competition that fosters learning. The classroom environment should be a place where students provide mutual encouragement for one another. Students should be motivated to do their work because they want to impress their fellow students with excellent academic performance, and delight together in that shared accomplishment. There is absolutely no reason why students should ever want another student to perform poorly; this is one of the major problems with using zero-sum games in a classroom environment. Students become obsessed with receiving a certain grade, or with one-upping each other, and they forget about the main reason they are in college is to learn.

Person A:  I think I understand what you’re saying. You think students should be competing with themselves to do better because of the encouragement they receive from their classmates. It seems like zero-sum games might not belong in the education environment, but I don’t know if I can fully agree with this right now. I sure liked getting the only A in my class. I will have to think about it.

Bryan Acton is a student at MCLA