Sunday, August 28, 2022

Phil 302 Four Epictetian Analogies Explaining Stoicism

Four Epictetian Analogies Explaining Stoicism

Born in 55, Epictetus was enslaved early in his life or even from birth, as he was taken to Rome “as a boy” by Epaphroditus (Seddon).  As a slave, he was introduced to and studied Stoicism with Musonius Rufus, who some modern scholars call “the Roman Socrates” (Gaius Musonius Rufus and Lutz, 4). Prior to 89, he was freed and then sometime between 89 and 95 he was part of the group of philosophers who were expelled from Rome by the emperor Domitian (Long, 9).  From Rome, he fled to Nicopolis where he founded his philsophy school and taught there for the remainder of his life (Seddon).  Epictetus’ student Arrian wrote much of what survives of his teachings today.  Arrian wrote them “as a literal record of Epictetus’ teachings, based on the notes he took as a student” (Epictetus, et al., ivvv).  If nothing else could be said of Epictetus, the one idea he relentlessly taught was to live Stoicism.  In the Handbook, he emphasizes that the only pride one ought to have is not for the ability to read and understand the teachings, but to apply them (Handbook 49).  Because of his impact on his students, he earned a legendary reputation and was more popular in his day than Plato was in his (Seddon).

Stoicism is learned and lived in three parts: logic, physics, and ethics.  All three work together to explain the whole philosophy.  Early founders of Stoicism used analogies to explain the three topics.  One analogy is that of an egg where the shell represents logic, the egg white represents ethics, and the yolk represents physics.  Two other analogies compared philosophy to the body (bones and sinews as logic, flesh as ethics, and the soul as physics), and a fruit field (wall as logic, fruit as ethics, land, and trees as physics) (Long and Sedley, 158).  The point of these analogies was to show that all three are necessary and one could not truly understand or live Stoicism with only one or two topics.

In similar fashion, Epictetus used analogies to teach his students how to learn and apply various aspects of Stoicism.  This essay will focus on four examples, which provide a rough explanation of the philosophy.  The first will focus on logic as a standard for knowledge and the analogy of knowing what a measurement is and how to use tools to measure.  The second and third will focus on physics and how one can live in agreement with Nature or God, as well as living in agreement with one’s individual nature by using the analogies of visiting one of the seven wonders of the world as well as being a vivid thread.  And lastly, the fourth analogy will focus on how ethics ought to be lived and not merely discussed, by using an analogy of a carpenter who truly builds something rather than merely discussing it.

Logic and the use of senses help one learn how the world works and really is, which help an individual to use his volition to make the best choice.  Epictetus compares logic with understanding how to measure or weigh something.  If an individual’s goal is to build or bake something, then that person must have a sound understanding of the concepts of measuring and weighing, as well as how to use the tools to accomplish good measurement and weighing.  If one does not know what measurement or weight is, or what a ruler or scale does, then how could he begin to build or make something?  In Discourses 1.17.7, he teaches, “unless we start off by establishing what a unit of measurement is, and what a balance is, how shall we ever be able to weigh or measure anything?”  Applied to philsophy, one must know the standard of knowledge and how to use the tool humans have been given (their mind) to demonstrate sound judgement and volition.  Equipped with standards and the correct use of his mind, the individual begins to distinguish the things which up to him and which are not.  From this knowledge, the person begins to comprehend how he is a minuscule part of the Whole and begins to gain an appreciation for the spectacle of the Cosmos, or the Stoic god.

Because much of the world and Cosmos is “not up to us” the individual ought to assume the wise attitude of following and seeking to understand Nature as opposed to seeking to control it or complain about it (Handbook 1).  Part of living this wise attitude is to appreciate Nature rather than wasting time complaining about it.  In another analogy Epictetus compares one’s attitude to that of visiting a sculpture of Phidias, who sculpted one of the seven wonders of the world (Jordan, 77).  While many people would endure heat, crowds, rains, shouting and “other irritations” just for the chance to see the work of Phidias, when it comes to appreciate the works of Nature directly in front of them, they have no desire to comprehend them, but would rather complain about the trials and hardships of life (Discourses 1.6.23-28).  Therefore, just as people endured all types of hardships for the chance to see one of the seven wonders of the world, so too should they endure much to learn, appreciate, and live according to Nature.  And not only are people to follow Nature, but they are to align their individual wills or their inner daimon with the greater Cosmos (Bonhöffer and Stephens, 13)

Part of aligning one’s will with Nature is to determine who one really is and stand out by performing his own unique part in life.  In the third analogy, Epictetus teaches that one ought to learn his unique role and then be the distinctive thread in a cloth.  One should say to himself, “I want to be the purple, the small gleaming band that makes all the rest appear splendid and beautiful” (Discourses 1.2.18).  Epictetus similarly teaches one should learn his unique talents and not ignore them (Handbook 37).  Lastly, one learns that he may have an assigned role which he is to play and rather than complaining about what parts he does not get to play, he ought to learn his part and play it well (Handbook 17).  The unifying concept in many of these analogies is action.

Philosophy is to be lived, not merely studied.  If one were only to study philosophy, but not live it, he is no better than a person who expounds about the process of building, but never actually builds something.  “A builder doesn’t come forward and say, ‘Listen to me as I deliver a discourse about the builder’s art,’ but he acquires a contract to build a house and shows through actually building it that he has mastered the art” (Discourses 3.21.4).    In the same passage, Epictetus continues by enumerating many duties a Stoic ought to perform in order to live an ethical life, including how to eat, drink, take care of oneself, rear a family, participate as a citizen, endure insults, and tolerate family and neighbors when they behave badly.  All duties relate back to the core virtues.  The best practiced volition is one that demonstrates justice, temperance, courage, and wisdom regardless of circumstances (Hadot, 233).

While this essay only focused on four analogies, Epictetus’ wide and varied use of parallels can be seen throughout all his works.  This essay focused on a subset of comparisons, which guide the reader in a general direction of how Stoicism can be explained and lived.  Epictetus used measuring to demonstrate how one ought to be familiar with logic, concepts, and tools.  He compared visiting one of the wonders of the world, as well as a vibrant thread for how one ought to view life in general.  And lastly, he compared living one’s philosophy to a carpenter who truly builds something rather than merely talking about it.  When the student actually sees the wonders of life, or a vibrant thread, or a measuring ruler or a carpenter, then perhaps he will be more likely to remember Epictetus’ teachings and strive to live them.

Works Cited

Bonhöffer, Adolf Friedrich, and William O. Stephens. The Ethics of the Stoic Epictetus : An English Translation. Peter Lang Publishing, Inc, 2021.Epictetus, et al. Discourses, Fragments, Handbook. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Epictetus, et al. Discourses, Fragments, Handbook. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Gaius Musonius Rufus, and Cora E. Lutz. Musonius Rufus - “the Roman Socrates.” Yale Univ. Press, 1947.

Hadot, Pierre, and Michael Chase. The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Cambridge, Mass. London Harvard University Press, 2001.

Long, A. A. Epictetus : A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life. Clarendon Press, 2013.

Long, A. A., and David N. Sedley. The Hellenistic Philosophers Commentary. Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Jordan, Paul. Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Taylor & Francis Group, 2002. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Seddon, Keith H. “Epictetus | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 3 Jan. 2003,

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Phil 302 - Anonymity and Justice

 Anonymity and Justice

There is no universally agreed-upon definition of justice.  Since humanity and various cultures hold different meanings of justice and injustice, the Ring of Gyges thought experiment can be leveraged to explore this topic and how it still plays out in modern society.  The movie Batman Begins offers multiple character examples of how anonymity is like wearing the Ring of Gyges, and how anonymity is used to commit injustices as well as to fight injustices.  Perhaps anonymity simply demonstrates the on-going challenge of defining justice and Heraclitus’ claim that “strife is justice” and “war is father of all” aptly sums up the problem (Graham).  Or perhaps there is a lesson to be learned in empathy in how to apply justice by way of another thought experiment called the empathy machine (Groothuis).  Thought experiments like the Ring of Gyges and the empathy machine, and movies like Batman Begins, are valuable because they prompt discussion and dialogue of what it means to be just and how to act accordingly.

Glaucon and Socrates discuss the concept of justice in book two of  Plato’s Republic.  Glaucon contends that the just person would ultimately run the same course as an unjust person.  He explains through the thought experiment, called the Ring of Gyges, that the wearer of the ring could become invisible and commit any act they wish; and subsequently a person claiming to be just would ultimately commit injustice if granted invisibility (Plato, et. al., 359c – 361a).  Does anonymity make everyone unjust?  Or are there examples of people who use anonymity to fight injustice.  The film Batman Begins offers insight into various characters who have the power of quasi-anonymity.

Batman Begins is a 2005 film which explores the origins of the comic book hero Bruce Wayne, whose parents were murdered when he was a boy (Nolan).   When Bruce was a college student, the murderer of his parents, Joe Chill, was to be released on parole.  At the hearing, Bruce comes prepared with a handgun with the intent to kill Chill.  He is about to shoot Chill, when an assassin for the mobster Falcone, kills Chill.  Bruce watches intently as Chill dies.  Later, his close friend, Rachel Dawes, discovers Bruce’s intent.  When she learns this, she slaps him across his face, telling him that his father would be ashamed of him for bypassing the justice system.  Feeling the sting of shame, Bruce vows to fight injustice by immersing himself in the criminal underworld for seven years.

While exploring the criminal underworld, Bruce is recruited by a man named Henri Ducard, who belongs to the League of Shadows and whose leader is Ra’s al Ghul.  As a member of the League of Shadows, Bruce learns martial arts and arts of deception and disguise.  At the pinnacle of his initiation, he is forced to decide whether to behead a murderer or part ways with the league.  Having determined that he would never kill, he escapes the League of Shadows, saving his friend Ducard and thinking that Ra’s al Ghul dies in a fire at the home of the League of Shadows.

Bruce returns to his home in Gotham and crafts his alter-persona: Batman.  As he assumes anonymity, he begins to fight the Gotham criminal underworld, using his quasi-invisibility to exact justice on the mobsters of Gotham.  Through the course of his detective work, he learns that Ra’s al Ghul still lives, and in fact, is his friend Ducard.  Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Shadows have plotted to destroy Gotham, intending to commit injustice.  Batman fights Ra’s al Ghul, who dies in a train wreck, and subsequently, Gotham is saved.

Both the protagonist and antagonist of Batman Begins wrap themselves in invisibility and disguise.  Bruce Wayne does so to fight injustices on the streets of Gotham which the police department is powerless to fight because of corruption.  Bruce’s choices demonstrate that a cloak of invisibility does not align with Glaucon’s contention that a proverbial Ring of Gyges corrupts the wearer.  On the other hand, while the antagonist Ra’s al Ghul has a warped sense of justice by destroying everything to force civilization to reboot, he is willing to commit significant injustices to accomplish some justice in the world.  Ra’s al Ghul is an example of what Glaucon contends: that invisibility only encourages the person to commit injustices.

It does not take much imagination to make the leap from the fiction of Batman Begins to the non-fiction of the real world.  Today, cyber criminals and malicious actors work in hidden shadows and the dark web to steal people’s identities and commit all types of injustices from buying and selling drugs to human trafficking.  Also cloaked in anonymity and invisibility are justice warriors from governments and military organizations and even vigilantes.  Like Batman, the cyber world is full of invisible actors, many committing grave crimes, and others, such as vigilantes, fighting them in the name of justice (e Silva).

Is Glaucon’s thought experiment, resolved?  Does invisibility turn all people into actors of injustice?  Applying the analysis of Batman Begins and the battles being fought on the Internet, it can be stated that invisibility does not turn all into actors of injustice.  Therefore, what is to be learned from this thought experiment?  Perhaps the real lesson from Batman Begins and the gift of anonymity is that it reveals humanity will always be locked in a struggle to define what is just and unjust.  What happens overtly also occurs anonymously as the fight for justice and against injustices simply moves to a meta world.  Consequently, when Heraclitus says, “We must recognize that war is common, strife is justice, and all things happen according to strife and necessity” and that “war is father of all and king of all” it simply denotes the endless fight over the definition of justice (Graham).  Ra’s al Ghul felt compelled to fight injustice in his own way, and in turn Batman felt compelled to fight Ra’s al Ghul and the criminal underworld.  Humanity is trapped in a perpetual struggle to define and execute justice and how to fight injustice.  But is humanity truly trapped in this unending battle?

To begin to address injustice, all people need to gain self-awareness and empathy.  One University of Sydney academic philosopher wrote, “invisibility may be self-induced through self-justifying rationalizations, and ignorance may be manifested and expressed as lack of self-reflection and self-knowledge” (Edward, 564).  This idea of ignorance and lack of self-examination and reflection may be key to unlocking a universal understanding of justice.  What if justice began with self-examination and reflection?  If more people were to be instilled with empathic awareness, could humanity step closer to universal justice?  Two scenes from Batman Begins show two characters with a sense of empathy and how these acts of kindness had knock-on effects.

One scene shows a young Bruce at the police station, shortly after his parents were murdered by Chill.  With empathy and kindness, a police officer named James Gordan took time to think of the feelings of a frightened child.  His act was to simply put a coat around the young boy and offer comfort.  Later in the film, in difference scene, the hero similarly shows empathy for a young boy whose life is full of stress.  While surveilling a rough part of the city, a young boy walks onto the balcony to leave a heated argument between his parents.  To his surprise, he sees Batman on the terrace.  He explains to Batman that none of his friends would believe him if he told them he saw Batman.  Without saying a word, Batman hands the boy a surveillance tool and the boy breaks out in a wide, happy expression.  Having the ability to understand what it feels like to be in another person’s shoes and then to treat that person, accordingly, may be the right thought experiment to advance the conversation of justice.

One professor of philosophy proposes that moral virtue, including justice, may be better understood with a thought experiment called the empathy machine.

When one is hooked up to the empathy machine, there is a radical shift from the third-person and second-person to the first-person; from propositional knowledge to experiential knowledge … from hearing about pain and observing pain to being in pain and thus knowing it from the inside out. It is a shift from hearing-about or being-near to being-there (Groothuis, 86).  

Experiencing the pains of injustice may begin to shape humanity to reconsider actions which may be unjust.  Instead of allowing baser instincts of protection, revenge and survival to guide humanity, perhaps there ought to be greater focus on tapping into emotional intelligence in an effort to expand not only self-awareness, but other-awareness.

While humanity may long argue over what justice is and is not, the thought experiments of the Ring of Gyges and the empathy machine, along with the plot of Batman Begins help to sort out how humanity can apply justice at the interpersonal level.  Indeed, Heraclitus may always be correct about humanity being trapped in a perpetual cycle of strife and war.  Or, perhaps there may be some hope in a more enlightened civilization, in which the citizenry taps into the rich potential of empathy and reaches escape velocity from the ceaseless cycle of conflict. 

Works Cited

e Silva, K. K. “Vigilantism and Cooperative Criminal Justice: Is There a Place for Cybersecurity Vigilantes in Cybercrime Fighting?” International Review of Law, Computers & Technology, vol. 32, no. 1, Mar. 2018, pp. 21–36. EBSCOhost,

Edward, Howlett S. "The Sixth Estate: Tech Media Corruption in the Age of Information." Journal of Information, Communication & Ethics in Society, vol. 18, no. 4, 2020, pp. 553-573. ProQuest,, doi:

Graham, Daniel W. “Heraclitus (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).”, 2019,

Groothuis, Douglas. "THE EMPATHY MACHINE: A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT." Think, vol. 19, no. 55, 2020, pp. 85-94. ProQuest,, doi:

Nolan, Christopher. Batman Begins. Warner Bros., 2005. 

Plato, et al. A Plato Reader : Eight Essential Dialogues. Hackett Pub. Co, 2012.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Phil 302 - Socrates the Devoted

Socrates the Devoted

Socrates was unwavering and was devoted to the god (his daimon) and his country.  Through heeding his daimon, he remained loyal to the god.  Through military service and concern for the citizens of Athens, including his accusers, he remained loyal to his country.  His allegiance to his daimon enabled him to pursue a life dedicated to love and care for himself and others.  Plato’s dialogues provide evidence of a Socrates who cared not for wealth, land, offices of authority, power or even his life, but rather his only concern: devotion to philosophy and helping others care for their souls (Plato, et. al., Apology 30a, 36b).  From his early childhood experiences with his daimon, to his courage on the battlefield, to his stalwart care for the state and citizens, Socrates embodied his philsophy.  In her PhD. thesis, Abigail Fritz summarizes, “Socrates is, and always has been, concerned with whether his behavior is just, without regard to his personal safety” (Fritz, 76).  His pattern of devotion began in childhood with the introduction to his daimon.

There is no specific account or detail surrounding how Socrates first encountered his daimon, other than when he states that it had been with him since childhood, and it prevents him from doing something that he ought not (Plato et. al., Apology 31d).  What is known, is that he remained devout to the god by acknowledging, and adhering to oracles and divine dreams, and to examine people’s lives including his own (33c).  Not once did he succumb to the pressure to lower himself by disobeying the divine; he stood his ground on this matter like he stood his ground in pitched battle.  Socrates’ ultimate commander was the god – his daimon – and when Socrates was called to his station by his commander, he remained there “steadfast in danger, taking no account at all of death or anything else” (28d).  And this station, at which he faithfully stood, was to live philosophically.  As one modern professor of philosophy wrote: “Insofar as Socrates’ god demands of men that they live philosophically, insofar as the station at which the god stations Socrates is philosophy, it follows that to do as the god demands is to be the very opposite of uncritically submissive”  (Weiss, 85).  His qualities of determination and loyalty not only applied to his daimon, but they were also demonstrated on the battlefield.

Socrates fought in three pitched hoplite battles: Potidaea in 432 B.C.E., Delium in 424 B.C.E, and Amphipolis in 422 B.C.E. (Ambury).  History books describing hoplite battle are replete with descriptions of soldiers succumbing to “gaping wounds to the unprotected neck and groin, involuntary defecation and urination, and panic” (Hanson, 144).  These pitched battles absolutely required “weight and discipline” and “the greater cohesion and thrust of the column, the more likely it was for a phalanx to shove itself over and through the enemy” (144).  Soldiers who selfishly abandoned their comrades were derided as a “shield tosser” or a “throw-awayer” because they “threatened the integrity of the phalanx and revealed the hoplite’s worry about his own, rather than the group’s, survival” (145).  Socrates was not a tosser but exhibited strength and stamina as a “good citizen … who always [held] his shield steady and right, and [stayed] in rank in the phalanx” (145).  In other words, Socrates demonstrated his devotion to his citizens by remaining resolute in battle, caring more for this fellow citizens than himself.  Fritz draws a parallel to Socrates’ actions on the battlefield to his “commitment to the philosophical life” as both activities help the state, as well as put one in danger of death (77).  Socrates’ willpower to hold rank on the battlefield, prepared him for engaging in the philosophical and cultural arena of Athens, in defense of his city comprised of fellow citizens and even accusers.

Socrates loved his city and her citizens.  The only entity he held in higher esteem than the city, was the god.  In persuading Crito as to why he will not escape his death, Socrates tells Crito that he “must treat [his] fatherland with piety, submitting to it and placating it more than [he] would [his] own father” (Plato, et. al., Crito 51b).  Not once in his 70 years of life, did he break the law (Apology 17d).  Furthermore, he was willing to engage with anyone and everyone in the city to persuade it to care about the most important things, even in the face of hostility (36b-c, 21e).  And finally, the ultimate hostility he faced was being accused of impiety and corrupting the youth and subsequently being brought to court for the first time in his life (24b-c).  But despite these accusations, he still had care and concern for his accusers.  So great was his devotion to the god, the city, and his fellow-citizens, he supplicated his accusers, “I’m far from pleading in my own defense now, as might be supposed.  Instead, I’m pleading in yours, so that you might not commit a great wrong against the god’s gift to you by condemning me” (30e).

In sum, Socrates was resolute, faithful to his daimon and to his country, through military service and an unyielding concern for the citizens of Athens, including his accusers.  His loyalty to the god and his country prodded him to never mind his own business and instead, to be the unrelenting gadfly (29d, 37e-38a, 30e-31a).  In all that he did, he stood as a shining example of one who was truly a lover of wisdom and one who embodied it.  Pierre Hadot’s extensive research in this area succinctly captures this ancient idea of a lived philosophy.  “Philosophy was a way of life, both in its exercise and effort to achieve wisdom” (265).  Socrates’ devotion to wisdom, as applied to his fellow citizens, demonstrated the way in which humanity is to pursue the examined life: through dialogue and embodiment of one’s philosophy. 

Works Cited

Ambury, James M. “Socrates | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

Fritz, Abigail R. The Life of Socrates: Plato, Xenophon, and the Untapped Potential of

the Socratic Problem, Utah State University, Ann Arbor, 2022. ProQuest,

Hadot, Pierre, et al. Philosophy as a Way of Life : Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault. Blackwell Publishing, 2017.

Plato, et al. A Plato Reader : Eight Essential Dialogues. Hackett Pub. Co, 2012.

Victor Davis Hanson. A War like No Other : How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War. Random House, 2006.

Weiss, Roslyn. “For Whom the ‘Daimonion’ Tolls.” Apeiron: A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science, vol. 38, no. 2, 2005, pp. 81–96,

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Raphael's School of Athens: Is it Heraclitus or Epictetus?

Towards the end of 2020, while doing some work on a college research paper, I found an image of Epictetus I had never seen before.  I was exploring my college's various research engines and one of my searches yielded an image from the British Museum; an drawing of Epictetus.

You can find the print here:

The description states, "Epictetus: bearded man seen head and shoulders, head resting on his left hand; on white ground; detail from the School of Athens, after Raphael"

The artist who drew this image of Raphael's School of Athens is Antonio Regona and he would have drawn it sometime between 1775 and 1853, according to the site's data on 'production date.'

He drew other objects from the School of Athens; see this link to his works at the British Museum:
  • Epicurus
  • Zeno of Citium
  • Diogenes
  • Plato
Now to the question.  As I've studied a bit about the painting, I've come to learn that there seems to be wide consensus that the image that Antonio Regona claims is Epictetus, is in fact Heraclitus.

The wikipedpia page on the painting claims it is Heraclitus:

The site Art in Context claims it is Heraclitus:

But perhaps the best information or analysis on this figure comes from the BBC and talks a bit more extensively about him:

This article, too, claims he is Heraclitus, but also notes that this figure and many of the other figures are deliberately ambiguous.

So, perhaps, Antonio Regona may have known more about this figure or he chose to not claim this figure as Heraclitus, but Epictetus.  Perhaps Regona had seen another image of Epictetus by William Sonmans - the image that many of us may be more familiar with (link:  This image would have been created prior to 1715 and would pre-date Regona's drawing.

Both images show Epictetus, holding his head up with his left hand, while writing.  Perhaps these two clues are why Regona claims the figure in the School of Athens is Epictetus and not Heraclitus.

In conclusion, it's a interesting mystery and piques my curiosity about why would Antonio Regona call that figure Epictetus and not Heraclitus.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Phil 300 - Logic - Fasting to Cure Cancer

Fasting to Cure Cancer

One of the earliest claims of cancer being cured by fasting comes from an avid proponent of the practice, Upton Sinclair.  His claim that fasting cures many diseases, including cancer, is summed up in a book entitled, “Terrors of the Table: The Curious History of Nutrition.”  The author notes,

Without doubt the cheapest of the many prescriptions for dietary health was fasting. The cult has been around since ancient times, but enjoyed a wide resurgence towards the beginning of the 20th century. … A fervent apostle of the creed was the inimitable Upton Sinclair, author of (among many other novels) The Jungle and the most credulous of faddists. He published in 1911 his book The Fasting Cure in which he assured his readers that a strict regime of deprivation would cure any of a long inventory of diseases, including cancer, tuberculosis, asthma, syphilis, locomotor ataxia, and, to cap it all, the common cold. In what passes for a caveat he remarks: 'I have known two or three cases of people dying while they were fasting, but I feel quite certain that the fast did not cause their death'" (Gratzer, 201).

In more modern times, the idea of fasting aiding in and being the cause of people being healed from cancer, seems to be gaining momentum.  Three examples of these claims come from three different people.  First, Dr. David Jockers promotes the idea of fasting as a healer of cancer with this headline: “Using Fasting Strategies for Natural Cancer Healing.”  Second comes from another person who was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer at the age of 19 and who went on to become a doctor, and now claims fasting contributes to the healing of patients from cancer.  Her name is Dr. Nasha Winters, and she tells her story and makes her claims on the Diet Doctor Podcast (Scher).  The last example is a medical foundation based on the idea water only fasts fix many health ailments, including cancer.  The TrueNorth Health Foundation makes many claims about the benefits of fasting and one of their claims is of a woman who was healed of “stage IIIa, grade 1 follicular lymphoma” after she completed a ”21-day medically supervised, water-only fast” and then began eating a plant food only diet (Myers, et al.).

Using Michael Shermer’s “Baloney Detection” questions, I will analyze the claim that fasting cures cancer.  This paper will note each of his questions and then provide an answer to the question.

How reliable is the source of the claim?  The original claim, from Sinclair, does not appear to have any scientific basis.  While I’ve not read his book The Fasting Cure, I did peruse a copy of it online and found that he did not cite any studies, rather, he based his claims from his own experiences and testimonials of others.  As for Jockers, Winters, and The TrueNorth Foundation, it would take a trained scientist to investigate their studies and determine if their conclusions indicate deliberate bias.  However, all three of these sources do stake their reputation on their claims.

Does this source often make similar claims? Sinclair not only claims that fasting cures cancer, but as previously cited in this paper, he claims fasting cures all kinds of other diseases.  With a plethora of outlandish claims, he seems to have gone beyond the scope of the facts.  As for Jockers, his site makes other interesting claims related to fasting.  Reviewing headlines from his website, one of his articles claims “How a 3 Day Fast Resets the Immune System.”  As for Winters, she claims that not only does fasting aid in healing cancer, but she takes an alternative and holistic approach to beating cancer.  Her website states, “Dr. Winters considers the body as one interrelated, integrated system and believes cancer comes from the body being neglected at some level via nourishment, physical stress, psychological stress, or a combination of those stressors” (“MATC Book | Dr. Nasha”).  Lastly, the TrueNorth Foundation site strongly advocates for the use of “water-only fasting and exclusively whole-plant-food diet” for the health of the body (“TrueNorth Health Foundation | Live Longer, Live Better”).

Have the claims been verified by another source?  While an extensive review of all the material from Sinclair, Jockers, Winters, and the TrueNorth Health Foundation would be a significant challenge, all of them, except Sinclair, provide ample citations of studies that back up their claims.  It should also be noted that the general subject of fasting in the aiding of healing cancer, does not have a lot of research to date.  One peer-reviewed article states,

Clinical research studies of fasting with robust designs and high levels of clinical evidence are sparse in the literature.  Whereas the few randomized controlled trials and observational clinical outcomes studies support the existence of a health benefit from fasting, substantial further research in humans is needed before the use of fasting as a health intervention can be recommended” (Horne et al.)

Therefore, while there are some studies that begin to draw connections and conclusions that fasting may heal patients from cancer, the evidence to date has not been fully verified by a broad spectrum of sources.

How does the claim fit with what we know about how the world works?  The generally accepted, main cause of cancer is the mutation of DNA (Mayo Clinic).  There is not much a person can do to be healed from genetic mutations.  However, in the same Mayo Clinic article, it cites that obesity is a contributing factor for DNA mutations and subsequently individuals ought to “maintain a healthy weight.”  Therefore, if an individual safely fasts, it may contribute to him or her having a healthy weight and even contribute to the healing process.  This is what some studies are trying to understand.  Beyond this connection, we know that chemotherapy and other drugs must be used to fight an active case of cancer and that fasting alone won’t heal the person.  Additionally, we also know that fasting can be extremely difficult even under the best of circumstances, let alone having to suffer through side effects of chemotherapy at the same time as fasting.  Even assuming fasting is effective at fighting cancer, the feasibility of the patient completing a fasting routine would have to be considered.

Has anyone gone out of the way to disprove the claim, or has only supportive evidence been sought?  While no research has been designed to disprove fasting as an effective treatment to heal cancer, “[a] group of researchers recently started to develop the so called ‘fasting mimicking diets’” which would imply that fasting is not needed, per se, to cure some cancers (Caccialanza).  In these studies, the patient does not actually fast, but modifies his or her eating habits to mimic the effects of fasting.  If these and future studies are proven efficacious, it would demonstrate that fasting does not heal patients from certain types of cancer.

Does the preponderance of evidence point to the claimant’s conclusion or to a different one?  Clearly, from the lack of ample studies proving that fasting heals cancer, it is apparent that most of the evidence indicates that chemotherapy and drugs are more effective at healing cancer than fasting alone.  And while some studies and cases indicate that fasting aided in the healing process, such as the case with Winters, other studies reveal that fasting in cancer patients introduces other serious health risk factors such as malnutrition and sarcopenia (Caccialanza).

Is the claimant employing the accepted rules of reason and tools of research, or have these been abandoned in favor of others that lead to the desired conclusion?  Sinclair does not employ generally accepted rules of reason and research tools.  However, Jockers, Winters and the TrueNorth Health Foundation do employ them in search of well-established and reasoned conclusions.  Sinclair, on the other hand, begins with a desired conclusion and sacrifices the integrity of the scientific process.  While he may have been influential, his forte was not in scientific research.

Is the claimant providing an explanation for the observed phenomena or merely denying the existing explanation?  Jockers, Winters, and the TrueNorth Health Foundation do much to explain the connection between obesity and cancer and then go on to explain that by addressing the nutrition of the cancer patient and even having the patient fast, cancer cells are deprived of the energy needed to grow and, that fasting activates the immune system to kill cancer cells (Myers).  Sinclair, however, lacks any technical explanation for his claim that fasting heals cancer.

If the claimant proffers a new explanation, does it account for as many phenomena as the old explanation did?  Claims made my Jockers, Winters, and the TrueNorth Health Foundation do not dispute the explanation for the cause of cancer.  Rather, they are focused on factors that contribute to the growth and subsequent fight against cancer cells.  While genetics may be the biggest factor in a person developing cancer, the claims of Jockers, Winters and the TrueNorth Health Foundation are made to widen the aperture of the studies in the fight against cancer, as opposed to offering a new explanation for the cause and cure for cancer.

Do the claimant’s personal beliefs and biases drive the conclusions, or vice versa?  Jockers has an entire business built around books, recipes, programs, and lifestyle coaching.  While Jockers cites many research articles, the bias for financial success may be a factor.  For Winters, she faced imminent death from cancer and through much of her research, has found a way to survive.  Therefore, she may suffer a strong bias from personal experience.  She too has developed a business around her success story.  The TruthNorth Health Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization which is organized around the idea of researching and finding benefits from water-only fasting and whole-plant-food diet.  No significant bias is evident from reviewing their informational web pages.  Lastly, Sinclair may have had ulterior motives for his claims that fasting heals cancer.  He sought political and culture influence throughout his career and therefore may have had other motivations for making his claims.

In conclusion, we must ask, does fasting heal cancer?  After conducting a lot of research on this topic, it does not appear that it can be definitively claimed that when patients fast, they will be healed from cancer.  As noted previously, this area of research is young and is growing with more studies investigating the link between fasting and cancer cell reduction.  As scientists and researchers pinpoint the exact effects of fasting on cancer cells, they may eventually conclude there are other ways to achieve the same outcomes without forcing patients to endure long fasts.

Works Cited

Caccialanza, Riccardo et al. “To fast, or not to fast before chemotherapy, that is the question.” BMC cancer vol. 18,1 337. 27 Mar. 2018, doi:10.1186/s12885-018-4245-5

Gratzer, Walter. Terrors of the Table : The Curious History of Nutrition, Oxford University Press, 2005. ProQuest Ebook Central, Created from apus on 2022-06-19 17:45:16.

Horne, Benjamin D, et al. “Health Effects of Intermittent Fasting: Hormesis or Harm? A Systematic Review.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 102, no. 2, 1 July 2015, pp. 464–470,, 10.3945/ajcn.115.109553.

Jockers, David. “How a 3 Day Fast Resets the Immune System.”, 22 Oct. 2019, Accessed 20 June 2022.

---. “Using Fasting Strategies for Natural Cancer Healing.”, 27 Mar. 2018, Accessed 19 June 2022.

“MATC Book | Dr. Nasha.” Dr. Nasha, 11 Jan. 2019,

Mayo Clinic. “Cancer - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic, 12 Dec. 2018,

Myers, Toshia R, et al. “Follow-up of Water-Only Fasting and an Exclusively Plant Food Diet in the Management of Stage IIIa, Low-Grade Follicular Lymphoma.” BMJ Case Reports, 9 Aug. 2018, p. bcr-2018-225520, 10.1136/bcr-2018-225520. Accessed 19 June 2022.

Scher, Bret. “Diet Doctor Podcast #34 — Dr. Nasha Winters.” Diet Doctor, July 2019, Accessed 19 June 2022.

Shermer, Michael Brant. “Michael Shermer.” Michael Shermer, 1 Nov. 2001, Accessed 19 June 2022.

“TrueNorth Health Foundation | Live Longer, Live Better.”,

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Phil 300 - Logic - Fallacies Assignment

Fallacies Assignment

Presumption Fallacies

Complex Question

  • After my 15-year-old daughter arrived home from driving with her mother, I asked her, “How many times did you drive off the road today?”
  • My tongue-in-cheek question has presumed the answer of “yes” to the prior question of “Did you drive off the road while driving today?”  I did not explicitly ask this first question and simply assumed she had driven off the road and therefore I wanted her to answer how often it happened.  My argument was she drove off the road many times and the presumed premise was “since you already drove off the road.”
  • “A complex question is a fallacy in which the answer to a given question presupposes a prior answer to a prior question.” (Source URL:

False Dilemma

  • I was raised Mormon and then left my religion a few years ago.  Through the course of talking with my parents about my decision, the following fallacy was committed by them, in an effort to convince me to not leave the religion: “You must either believe in God or you are an atheist!”  In fact, I believe that the concept of God can be quite nuanced – there is a lot of gray between the all-or-nothing alternatives.
  • Their implied premise is “since there can only be two options on the subject of belief in God” and then they argue that I am an atheist since I do not believe in their version of God, when in fact, there could be a 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. alternative to either believing in a specific god or nothing at all.  For example, a middle ground approach is being agnostic – someone who neither affirms nor denies the existence of god, but simply believes it to be unknowable.
  • The ThoughtCo. Article defines the False Dilemma as, “when an argument offers a false range of choices and requires that you pick one of them. The range is false because there may be other, unstated choices which would only serve to undermine the original argument. If you concede to pick one of those choices, you accept the premise that those choices are indeed the only ones possible.” (Source URL:

Relevance Fallacies

Bandwagon Argument

  • Last year, our town finally had a city ordinance expire which ended a telecommunications company’s decade long monopoly on our city’s internet service provider capabilities.  A new company made plans to lay fiber through the whole city.  To infuse money and capital in their infrastructure, they executed a marketing blitz on the residents to get many people to sign up for the service.  The number one tactic they used was to show the growing number of people who were leaving the old ISP and joining the new.  Their premise was: “many people have signed up for our internet service.”  And then they draw the conclusion: “therefore you too should sign up.” 
  • The Bandwagon Argument is an appeal to popularity as opposed to the topic which is relevant; in this case relevant topics would be internet speed , improved reliability or even cost.  If a consumer took the time to compare speed, reliability, and cost, they might have found the two were comparable.  But the new ISP did not emphasize these aspects, but instead focused on getting people to jump on the ”bandwagon.”  (Source URL:

Ad Hominem

  • My wife often went to lunch with her friend Fiona.  At one of their lunches, the topic of the exit of the United States from Afghanistan came up.  My wife’s opinion was that the Biden administration mishandled it and should take partial blame and responsibility for the military servicemen who lost their lives helping people to leave the country.  Her friend did not agree with my wife’s opinion and subsequently stopped all communication with my wife, even though my wife has tried to reach out and keep the friendship.  Fiona implied the premise: “you blame the Biden administration for the deaths of the servicemen” and then concludes: “therefore, we can no longer be friends.”
  • The political opinion of my wife is irrelevant to the status of their friendship.  The friendship ought to be based on their shared history, help for each other and camaraderie.  To be dismissed as a friend because of this specific political stance is not a relevant reason to abandon a friendship.
  • states, “the ad hominem argument is a fallacy when the comments are directed against some aspect about a person which is irrelevant to the topic at hand.”  In my wife’s case, the comment directed at her was about her political opinion, when in fact the topic at hand was friendship.  (Source URL:

Ambiguity Fallacies


  • As a side note, I’m beginning to see that “Dad Jokes” are often based in fallacies, as per above with the “Complex Question” fallacy.  Equivocation seems to be another fallacy that a “Dad Joke” leverages.  I overhead this joke recently in the office.  Andy: “Hey Aaron, can you talk real quick?”  Aaron: “Not like an auctioneer, but I can talk faster than normal people.”  Perhaps a better example of an equivocation being used in an actual argument comes from  The example it provides is, “When the judge asked the defendant why he hadn't paid his parking fines, he said that he shouldn't have to pay them because the sign said 'Fine for parking here' and so he naturally presumed that it would be fine to park there.”
  • The word “fine” can be interpreted as a monetary penalty or it could be interpreted as meaning “it is OK.”  So, when the guilty party read the sign, he interpreted “fine” as “it is OK” instead of being ticketed a fee if he parked in the spot.  The defendant understood the premise: “it is ok (fine) to park here” and drew the conclusion: “therefore I will park here.”  But the law understood the premise: “cars parked here will incur a fine; a penalty” therefore, when the defendant parked her, he ought to incur the penalty.
  • “Equivocation is a fallacy by which a specific word or phrase in an argument is used with more than one meaning”  (Source URL:


  • Equivocation and amphiboly are very similar in nature, but I think the difference is that ‘equivocation’ hangs on a word or phrase, and amphiboly seems to hang on “grammatical structure” (Source URL:
  • At work, when communicating via email, I encounter ambiguous grammatical structures, especially with pronouns.  When two men are the subject of the email, sometimes the author will say something like, “Bob will meet with Nick and discuss the next action item he is responsible for.”  Is Bob or Nick responsible for the next action item?  When composing my own emails, I try to be clear with the pronouns in these types of situations.
  • I’ve also seen an example, from Groucho Marx, appear a few times in my search for amphiboles: “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know” (Source URL:  What is ambiguous at first is who is wearing the pajamas.  We assume it is Groucho wearing his own pajamas, but in the 2nd half of the joke, it becomes clear (and absurd) that the elephant was wearing Groucho’s pajamas.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Rawlsian Justice - What Would You Do in the Original Position?

The week of February 28 to March 6 had this topic for our discussion assignment:

Rawlsian Justice

John Rawls claims that justice comes down to a notion of fairness. He proposed a thought experiment wherein he proffers an ideal “original position.” The idea is that representatives of the people operate behind a “veil of ignorance” when determining what policies are in the best interests of all of the citizens. In brief, representatives are ignorant of their “The race, ethnicity, gender, age, income, wealth, natural endowments, comprehensive doctrine, etc. of any of the citizens in society, or to which generation in the history of the society these citizens belong” and “The political system of the society, its class structure, economic system, or level of economic development” (Wenar 4.6). They do understand different people have different life plans, that even if resources are scarce, “there is enough to go around,” and have good common sense.

Discussion task: Imagine you are a representative behind this veil. Discuss and defend several measures you would take to ensure a fair and equitable redistribution of resources.

Wenar, Leif, "John Rawls", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy  Edited by Edward N. Zalta 9 January 2017.

And my response:

If I were on this "original position" committee, and if I were tasked with the development and structure of a society that would ensure the fair and equitable distribution of resources, I think I would break it down into a couple of macro steps.

First - we do not live in a totally unconstrained world no matter who states this assumption.  It is fundamentally sound to assume that humans cannot live beyond the laws of physics and constraints of this world, else we might as well assume the original position is one where we are all immortal gods and with unlimited constraints.  Therefore, the first task would have two parts, to determine absolute needs and what the world's resources can support.

Part one - determine the fundamental necessities of the individual human.  This would comprise a summary and list of all the things a person needs to live and have a basic, common life.  The list would include daily food and water intake to sustain a healthy life, without scarcity and without indulgence.  This list also ought to be comprised of a variety of foods so as to not place undue torture on the individual.  The list would also include a common variety of clothes, shelter, transportation needs, personal hygiene, medical care, education requirements, a stipend for some travel and entertainment and multiple ways the person could work to support the common good.  In a sense, part one would be the sum total an individual would consume from and produce for society.

Part two - determine what this world can support in terms of raw resources (excluding human capital).  Determining the sum total of raw resources in the world, and then dividing by the requirements list from part one; this should yield some number of individuals the world can support (i.e. 10 billion people).

Second - for this equation to remain in balance, the variable of individual human desires would need to be kept constant.  Once the list of necessities is set, it is crucially dependent on the desires of individuals to remain constant over a lifetime.  Alternatively, the equation could assume a set number of years for an individual and this set number of years multiplied by the yearly consumption of a lifetime of needs of an individual would yield a 'lifetime consumption number.'  The individual, in theory, could draw down from this number at an even pace, or a slower pace or a quicker pace.  Depending on the rate of drawdown, the person's expiration date (the day they die), could come sooner or later than the average.  The same type of analysis would have to be done for the person's output number.  The consumption and production numbers for the individual would need to be kept in balance.

Society would have to strictly adhere to the 'lifetime consumption number' expiration as well as ensure the individual meets their output number.  As soon as a person has consumed her number and met her output number, she must submit to exiting mortality, else society risks the equation falling out of balance and injustice ensues.  In the situation where a person who dies 'too early' and therefore does not use up all their consumption number and does not meet their production number, the governing body would need to determine how it impacts the overall balance of the system, which could potentially cause a ripple effect of injustice for those people who remain living.

To facilitate the individual's knowledge of their draw-down rate, each person in the world would have to go through some sort of mandatory philosophy class to constrain the human's unlimited drive for desires.  As we see in the real world, some individuals possess an uncanny drive and knack to acquire fame, money and power (i.e. political leaders, entrepreneurs, tyrants, entertainment people, mobsters, thieves and murderers).  A cultural shift away from the desire to pursue boundless wealth, power, money and fame, would have to be inculcated in people to ensure the on-going, fair distribution of the world's finite resources.  Many freedoms and trade would have to be restricted, or a strong educational program would have to be instilled in people from a young age to prevent the need of restricted freedoms and trade.

As not all individuals are born with the same inherent qualities and talents and natural inclinations, this system would have to figure out a way to determine the total lifetime consumption needs of an individual, as well as what this person is capable of producing.  For example, a 6'5, 300 lb. man, born as the last child of seven kids would require more food and clothes and possible produce less than a 4'5 110 lb. woman who was born as the oldest child in a family of 12.  Regardless, each individual's consumption and output would need to be accounted for.  In the long run, perhaps society would genetically drift toward an average build, and the unique calculation of consumption and output would no longer be needed.

As not all regions on the world are the same, there may need to be differences in the consumption and production of individuals between differing regions.  A region near the equator would potentially have few needs in clothing, compared to a region near one of the poles.  Similarly, the requirement for food consumption might differ, as well as the type of food needed to survive and live in the various regions.

The leaders of the society must absolutely live in the same fashion as individuals and citizens.  Any variance between leaders and citizens would cause an unbalancing effect and destroy the entire system.  No special treatment can be given to any one individual no matter the circumstances or justification.

In sum, the major policies I would put in place, in support of justice and fairness for all citizens would be:

  • Education for people to learn what their common needs and talents are; how they draw down and support the common good.
  • As part of that education, a strong emphasis in philosophy and the management of desires would need to take a significant portion.  This education would need to dissuade people from pursuing fame, wealth and power.
  • Science programs would be tasked with understanding what the world can support and what people need to exist.
  • Government administrators and leaders would live exactly like citizens, with no special treatment, access or favors afforded to them.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Moral Compass for Philosophy 200 Ethics Course

Below is the assignment criteria for this paper:

Using the material on moral compasses from weeks 1 and 2, write a paper of no less than 500 words that accomplishes the following:

  • In a section titled "Theories" identify the 1-4 moral theories you will use to build your compass (deontological, utilitarian, common good, virtue, etc.) along with a short documented definition for each theory. ["documented" in the sense of citing and referencing your source.]
  • In a section titled "Explanation" explain for each theory how it would help you make what you feel would be the right decision and in what situations (ex. Using deontology at work to ensure the company’s policies are kept and its reputation is upheld; Using care ethics at home as a way to be equitable with the kids, etc.).
  • Chose one topic from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics (under “Ethics Spotlight” ) or another pressing ethical situation you or others you know are facing at the moment and using ether Framework for Ethical Decision Making (Markkula or Brown), walk through the steps to make an ethical decision and justify what you decide is the moral action to take in this situation. Be sure to be clear on which of the two frameworks you are using.
And here was my submission (received a 100%).


Stoicism’s moral framework is thoroughly based in virtue ethics.  The telos or end for the human, according to Stoicism, is eudaimonia which ultimately is living in agreement with Nature or the universe.  Applied at the individual level, living in agreement with the universe means “conforming one’s will with the sequence of events that are fated to occur in the rationally constituted universe, as providentially willed by Zeus” (Stephens).  Most events in the world are not up to us – the Stoics call these indifferents.  The only thing that is up to us is our “virtue, [which is] conceived as an excellent internal disposition of the soul; a healthy mind” (Sellars 133).  As such, the individual’s task is to grasp an accurate and correct perspective of events, and then determine the right attitude and action for the right reasons to demonstrate an excellent character, which is virtue or arete.

Another key point of Stoic ethics is the idea of oikeiôsis which can be translated as “orientation” and “appropriation” (Sellars 107).  This is an acknowledgement of humans’ drive for self-preservation.  While many living things strive purely for physical self-preservation, humans have the unique disposition of fulfilling their rational nature, which is the demonstration of excellence of character.  Furthermore, humans are social creatures, and for them to fully flourish, they must not only strive for excellence of self, but also seek and promote the rational well-being of those around them including family, friends, neighbors, fellow citizens, foreigners and any entity in the cosmos.  Anthony Long succinctly notes, “moral development for the Stoics is the recognition that community life and virtue are pre-eminently things which belong to human nature” (Long 191).


The practicing Stoic will engage with the world while only focusing on what is up to him.  In other words, the only assets he has at his complete disposal are his rational nature (his ability to learn, reason and remember), and his moral attitude and action (the choice to act with morals such as justice, courage, temperance, diligence, and wisdom).  While recognizing that indifferents (e.g., health, sickness, wealth, poverty, fame, infamy, etc.) are neither good nor bad, he uses them to demonstrate his technical excellence in moral choice.  On these tenets, he assumes his position in life, learns, and carries out his duties in support of the common good.

This framework helps me to recognize my roles in life: a son, a husband, a friend, a father, a neighbor, a co-worker, an employee, a citizen.  While no one role takes up all the time and energy in my life, at times, various roles may come in conflict in terms of demanding attention.  At these moments, I can always ask myself: “what is the right moral virtue to demonstrate in this given circumstance?”  The answer usually provides a guide for my actions.

I think one of the most important choices a person has is whether to be a parent or not.  So many other ethical choices are wrapped up in that one choice.  I think my wife and I made the right decision to choose to have kids.  The second most important decision we faced was how to rear the four children well.  Not only did we need to provide for their physical well-being, but we had to consider their emotional and mental well-being and teach them how to take care of themselves and assume their unique position in the world in support of the common good.  And not only did my wife and I have to teach them these things, but we had to demonstrate it with thousands of our own choices day in and day out.  In every interaction, whether explicitly or implied, we asked ourselves and our children, “what is the correct moral virtue to exercise in this particular circumstance?”  The discussion of the matter and the actual choice have always been enlightening.

Application of Framework for Ethical Decision Making

Lia Thomas recently made national headlines after smashing several women’s swimming records (Chen).  The reason for the headlines is not only the sizable gap between the old and new record, but also because Lia was biologically born as male, and transitioned to become a woman as recently as 2019 (Levenson).  The ethical issue at hand is whether women’s collegiate swimming can be considered fair for most competitors who were born women as they compete against a swimmer who may have an unfair advantage from being born and living as a male but has transitioned to become a woman.  Stated differently, is the collegiate league for women’s swimming harmed by allowing Lia and future transgender athletes to compete?  Roughly following the Brown framework (issue, parties, relevant information, actions and alternatives, decide, act, reflect), I arrived at the opinion that gender leagues should be abolished in favor of a paradigm that more closely aligns with how the Paralympics compete.

Historically, many competitive sports have had separate divisions for men and women to allow women greater access to opportunities traditionally afforded to men.  If women’s sports leagues continue to allow participants who once competed in the male division to switch to the women’s division, does this make it fair for those female participants who have always competed in the women’s division?  Does a male-born individual, whose body produces testosterone for almost two decades, thus giving that person a size and muscle advantage over women who aren’t afforded the same biological benefit, have an unfair advantage?  These questions and considerations are many and complex.  Gathering all the relevant information on this subject area could take a long time for any one individual.

However, more importantly, leagues need to reflect on their aims and goals.  Once this is established and agreed upon, then league administrators could decide a course of action.  If historical continuity is tantamount, then perhaps it would be prudent to preserve male and female leagues, and perhaps create a transgender league to maintain consistency.  Alternatively, society may have advanced to a degree of competitive parity that people could decide all gender-based leagues ought to be abolished and competitive league criteria re-established along agreed upon lines such as body and muscle mass, and other considerations.

In any case, for this issue, it seems that the correct solution would be one that considers and protects the rights for all people involved (male, female and transgender), regardless of gender.  If one group’s right to fair competition is violated, then the entire concept of competition is eroded.  Alternatively, a paradigm could be created to find an appropriate competitive league that supports individuals of all genders.

My own opinion on this matter is that all gender-based sports ought to be abolished and sports ought to begin to follow the concept the Paralympics have established.  One sports sociologist who has studied this topic, contends we should, “remove the label of male or female and replace it with categories based on the ability of bodies to move in that particular sport” (Kerr).  Moving to this model accomplishes the goal of the establishment of fair competitive leagues, allows for people of all genders to compete on a level playing field, and allows for greater integration of women, men, and people of all genders in the spirt of camaraderie and fair competition.

Works Cited

Chen, Shawna. Axios: NCAA Clears Way for Trans Swimmer Lia Thomas to Compete at Nationals. Newstex, Arlington, 2022. ProQuest,

Kerr, Roslyn. “Why It Might Be Time to Eradicate Sex Segregation in Sports.” The Conversation, 14 Jan. 2018,

Levenson, Eric. “How an Ivy League Swimmer Became the Face of the Debate on Transgender Women in Sports.” CNN, 23 Feb. 2022,

Long, A A. Hellenistic Philosophy : Stoics, Epicureans, Sceptics. Berkeley ; Los Angeles, University Of California Press, 1986.

Sellars, John. Stoicism. New York ; London, Routledge, 2014.

Stephens, William. “Stoic Ethics | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

Monday, February 21, 2022

Divine Command Theory False - Darwall's arguments

PHILOSOPHY - Religion: God and Morality, Part 1

PHILOSOPHY - Religion: God and Morality, Part 2

Darwall's argument is summarized as this:

  • First premise: God exists
  • Second premise: it is immoral to violate God's command
  • Reasons why it is immoral to violate God's command:
    • God is the moral authority; God knows best.
      • However, it follows that if there are separate truths or laws which God simply relies on, then the Divine Command Theory logic fails.  This is related to the Euthyphro Dilemma.
    • God knows what is best for us humans
      • Similar to previous reason, God knowing what is best for us, seems to point to a separate Moral authority, which stands outside the will of God, and therefore the Divine Command Theory logic fails.
    • God has a greater power or authority over humans, similar to a police officer who holds power over people to arrest them or pull them over in a traffic stop.
      • However, in the example of the police officer, what gives the officer power is the legal authority - the law.  The law, then, is the real source of the authority and not the officer.  Applying this to God, the Divine Command Theory fails again, because God's authority would point to something independent of God.
    • Humans love God and humans would not violate God's command since humans love God.
      • This would also mean we obey and respond to others whom we love.  Again, this reason stands independent of God, and therefore the Divine Command Theory logic fails.
    • Darwall then mentions a 5th reason that could bypass the above reasons.  This 5th reason, as to why we should obey God's Divine Command is because of God's power.
      • This fails, when we could not separate God's power from God's authority.  Said differently, it's impossible for God to force us to obey.  As Darwall says, "it's logically impossible for morality to result from force."

In all cases which Darwall describes above, God is simply a go-between separating humans and morality and is not the source of morality.

I find his arguments compelling and think they go a long way to try convince adherents of religions who would fanatically obey God, to reconsider their position.  What the Divine Command Theory attempts to do is to get the follower or adherent to think past the sale.  If some human who claims to speak or write for God, can convince others that it is immoral to violate God's command, then that human wields great power.

Perhaps a more powerful way to prove the Divine Command Theory is false is to begin by talking about the existence of God, and how God communicates.  Exploring these two premises might lead to a more fruitful discussion.  For example, if people cannot agree on the existence of God nor in God's manner of communicating, then how could universal morals (morals which all ought to adhere to) be communicated to humans?  In some regard or sense, most people learn of a concept of God through other people.  How can we know and trust what other people say to us and how could people be convinced independently?  Until these premises are resolved, it is difficult to accept the conclusions.

In addition to the above, another question is raised for those people who disagree with the Divine Command Theory, yet still obey the morals which are supposedly dispensed by God!  As one author put it, "they do not know or cannot reasonably be expected to know what God has commanded. The result is that, if the DCT is true, then for this class of moral agents, moral obligations no longer exist. It is, however, wrong to suppose that reasonable nonbelievers have no moral obligations" (Danaher 383).

However, Darwall's approach opens the conversation to at least allow a dialogue to occur.  He grants the first two premises in order to open the door for trying to convince people of the logical shortfalls of the Divine Command Theory.

Perhaps the most significant ramification of Darwall's arguments is: if God is not the moral authority, then how do humans know what is moral and what is not?  He quotes The Brothers Karamazov, "If God does not exist, then anything is permitted" (Darwall).  For those people who perhaps once believed in The Divine Command Theory and now are persuaded this argument is false, they must reform their reason for why they ought to be moral or they may even have to reconstitute their moral framework to define for themselves what is moral and immoral.  This can be difficult work and may lead many to disastrous life decisions.  Is a moral life about pursuing the most pleasure?  Is it about pursuing the greatest good for the greatest number of people?  This may be the first question and ramification of Darwall's argument: what is an individual's "why" for living.  Answering that may lead to what their moral framework ought to be.

For my own part, having left a religion that adhere to The Divine Command Theory (Mormonism), I have since turned to virtue ethics and in particular, Stoicism.  While Stoicism is based in the belief of a rational, pantheistic God, it also claims that self-physical, self-moral and social preservation drive the reasons for acting morally.  This desire for self-preservation was called by the Greeks "oikeiōsis."  A UC Berkley professor summarized this moral framework as, "While the self-regarding inclination of personal oikeiōsis is used to explain how human beings can progress morally and reach their goal, happiness, by caring for themselves, the other-regarding inclination of social oikeiōsis is used to explain how they can form a community and promote justice by caring for others" (Margin). Acting with moral courage, justice, discipline and wisdom lead the individual to a self-preserving and moral life without the need to reference a divine command.

Works Cited

Danaher, John. "In Defence of the Epistemological Objection to Divine Command Theory." Sophia, vol. 58, no. 3, 2019, pp. 381-400. ProQuest,, doi:

Darwall, Stephen. “PHILOSOPHY - Religion: God and Morality, Part 1.”, 3 June 2013, Accessed 15 Feb. 2022.

Magrin, Sara. “Nature and Utopia in Epictetus’ Theory of Oikeiōsis.” Phronesis (Leiden, Netherlands), vol. 63, no. 3, Brill, 2018, pp. 293–350,

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

College Research Paper: Ancient Greek Philosophical Solutions to Modern Information Technology Delivery Problems

Ancient Greek Philosophical Solutions to Modern Information Technology Delivery Problems

Life does not come with a complete instruction book, nor can we predict what our future holds.  Also, why would we go to great lengths to plan the future of life in excruciating detail to the day we die and then force ourselves to follow that plan, not deviating from it a single time?  Would anyone remain committed to a plan when external circumstances have changed?  Yet this is what traditional project methodologies attempt. On the other end of the spectrum are agile methodologies which endeavor to incrementally deliver value and improve, akin to the approach ancient Greek philosophers used in pursuit of living well.  Life and Information Technology projects have an eerie similarity, and we may learn important clues to managing projects if we look to how ancient Greek philosophers sought to find the good life.

In the complex and rapidly changing arena of IT, managing risks of scope creep, growing costs, and delays in schedule produce overhead.  IT teams can learn and apply ancient Greek philosophical practices to manage these risks.  These practices help teams drive clarity, prepare for adverse events, and improve learning, while enabling individual workers to live holistically.  Many ancient Greek ideas have re-appeared in a contemporary IT delivery method known as Agile, which seeks incremental improvements with tight feedback loops, as a smart way to manage feature creep, burgeoning costs, and delays in schedule.  These constraints have often been called the “Iron Triangle” (see figure 1).  Organizations which successfully manage the risks from these constraints stand to win in the market.

Figure 1 Measey

Two major challenges IT projects face are managing swift shifts in technological solutions and determining the proper project methodology.  Teams unable to grapple with rapid changes in technological landscapes and ascertain the right delivery methodology, risk significant overhead costs related to the Iron Triangle.  The first challenge, rapid technology development, drives much of the economy today.

Technology floods people’s lives and the IT arena plays a significant role in the deluge of solutions to many business problems.  Just as early oil titans rushed to seek, capture, and sell oil in 19th century America, a new rush has emerged in the last 15 years, only this time it is based in data and information.  Tim O’Reilly, founder of the company which creates popular media for learning IT, said the following in 2005, “The race is on to own certain classes of core data: location, identity, calendaring of public events, product identifiers and namespaces” (Dames 14).  This idea of a race to own and manage data was eventually characterized by the phrase “Data Is the New Oil,” meaning the 21st century global economy would be powered by data, as oil drove economies in the 19th and 20th centuries (Dames).  This data rush has birthed numerous companies and solutions to business problems which fuels the frantic pace.

As businesses try to keep pace with innovation, IT project managers’ job has become more difficult to manage scope, cost, and schedule.  An academic researcher and an IT consultant, with more than 30 years’ experience “observed the same phenomenon over and over – the pace of technological change often outruns and undermines the best project management planning efforts” (Durney and Donnelly 642).  If IT project managers effectively manage the delivery, companies will win increased profits.  The second challenge, therefore, is determining which methodology to leverage for IT project management.

Traditional project management methodologies attempt to anticipate and plan for multi-faceted risks to the project via large chunks of work.  Larger pieces of work bring significant overhead costs through detailed planning.  When managers go to great lengths to make exhaustive plans, they fall into the mental trap of never deviating from the plan regardless of changes in landscape.  Today, managers have options other than traditional project management methodologies.   An article in The Journal of Computer Information Systems noted importantly that traditional methods are most likely unsuitable for intricate, ambiguous, and time-constrained projects and therefore, agile methodologies “show promise” (Fernandez and Fernandez 10).  The core mindset of agile methodologies is to focus on delivering value via incremental pieces of work and steadily improve the team’s way of working.

Modern IT workers should take note of the similarities between agile principals and the spirit of ancient Greek philosophy.  One word which ties these two ideas together is: incremental.  Truly agile teams seek to deliver functional solutions with constant feedback from customers and themselves.  Simply stated, they seek frequent, incremental improvement.  Similarly, a recent philosophy author wrote this of Roman Stoicism (which stems from the ancient Greeks),

Roman Stoicism is a kind of path that focuses on making small, incremental amounts of progress each day, one step at a time. No one is perfect, and that’s why Stoicism, at least in part, is a practice: and it’s not just a practice that you undertake, but something that you practice at—in the same way a musician or an athlete practices—to get better at what you do. (Fideler ch. 1)

While there are many comparable practices, this paper will discuss three and how they relate to an agile mindset.

First is the Socratic method, which drives clarity between individuals on an agile team, especially those engaged in paired programming.  The second and third are the Stoic rituals premeditatio malorum and end-of-day review.  These relate to planning and retrospective ceremonies on agile teams and provide strong feedback mechanisms to deliver and improve incrementally.  This essay will discuss each philosophical practice and elaborate on the corresponding agile practice, along with how each one can alleviate the risks of the Iron Triangle while delivering value to customers.  The first practice hearkens back to the person who started this grand conversation: Socrates.

While helping his fellow citizens discover the good life, Socrates pursued his inquiry in an organized fashion, which found its way into academia and the world of Information Technology.  This practice, known as the Socratic dialogue or method, is a form of questioning and discussion.  Through posing questions and answering them, participants confirm definitions, exchange ideas, and solidify clarifications.  The process reveals knowledge through gathered evidence and allows all participants to bring their collective experiences to the discussion (Skordoulis and Dawson 994).  The use of the Socratic method, coupled with an attitude of curiosity, can be valuable for IT teams working in a complex environment.

While the back-and-forth may seem onerous, the organization of the method ensures both parties have mutual comprehension, as evidenced by two IT workers who practiced and shared their experience from using the Socratic method.  The first found it to be effective in curtailing misunderstandings and to drive greater clarity, which reduced recycle time and waste.  The method helped her weed out emotions, put a check on assumptions, elucidate ambiguous ideas and uncover contradictions for the team to “strengthen its foundation for future decision-making or actions” (Apple).  The other IT worker found the approach useful in her paired programming efforts.  As a junior software developer, she learned the method from her mentor, and found it helped her become more mindful of decisions she was making and why.  The process aided the conscious observation of work and prevented waste (Davis).

The Socratic method relates to the sixth principal in the Agile Manifesto, which states, “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”  The Agile Manifesto does not elaborate on the technique of face-to-face conversation, nevertheless, the principal of economical and efficacious communication is the key.  Minimizing communication issues in a team prevents rework and recycle which translates into lower costs and better schedule management, all due to use of the Socratic method.  The next two practices come from the Stoics and act as bookends in terms of time and deliverables.

The second practice is the Stoic premeditatio malorum which was used by ancient practicing Stoics to anticipate unfortunate events before they occurred.  While much has been written on this practice, a recent article in the academic journal Metaphilosophy combines multiple sources to succinctly explain this Stoic ritual.  The author notes,

Events outside our control are indifferent to us, and we must train ourselves to respond to these events with equanimity. To internalize this lesson, Stoics practiced negative visualization, which requires practitioners to vividly imagine painful or tragic outcomes (the Romans referred to this technique as premeditatio malorum, the premeditation of evils). (Hidalgo 422)

Furthermore, this ritual has the specialized effect of contemplating events which matter to the individual.  If the Stoic does not fear the loss of his job, then he would not waste time thinking of this potential harm.  However, if the Stoic fears the loss of his home, then this would be an appropriate mental exercise to contemplate.  The exercise is right sized for the individual.  While a Stoic's practice of this habit has the aim of developing inner calm in the face of adverse events, modern day IT teams increase their agility to respond to unplanned events, by participating in a similar exercise.

Two agile ceremonies, Program Increment Planning, and backlog refinement, take a right-sized approach for dealing with dependencies and blockers to the delivery of software solutions.  Their approaches are akin to premeditatio malorum.  In these regular meetings, teams work with each other, external teams, and customers to widen their mental aperture to anticipate impediments which might prevent the delivery of a feature.  With Program Increment Planning, multiple teams and customers meet to brainstorm risks to the incremental plan.  After noting risks, they discuss each one and decide either to remediate, or own, or accept or mitigate each potential hindrance (“PI Planning”).  The spirit of the exercise is to foresee obstacles and form a plan to address them.  A similar exercise is performed, on a smaller scale, in backlog refinement.  In this meeting the team refines small chunks of work by describing the outcome and conducting a risk review of the work.  As risks are identified, the user story indicates how to address them (Fakihi).  By planning in smaller increments of work, teams lower risk.  Many times, changes in requirements occur, and if a traditional project method spent a significant amount of time planning for such risks, and they do not materialize, then the project experiences waste in time and effort.  But if teams focus on highly probable and foreseeable risks, waste in excessive risk management is prevented.

While premeditatio malorum looks to the future, the third practice is the Stoic ritual which occurs after events and time have passed and is called the end-of-day review.  This exercise was noted by the Stoic Seneca.  In his essay On Anger, he admonishes the practitioner to review the day, and analyze how he acted with virtue or not, self-praising actions performed with virtue and self-forgiving and self-admonishing for acts which require correction (Lucius Annaeus Seneca et al. 91).  Almost 2,000 years later, a Chicago school teacher applied this same end-of-day reflection as she applied Stoic practices in her life and school room.  In one month of practicing the end-of-day review, she noted that despite a challenging month, she made perceptible improvement in her character, simply from observing, noting her reactions and self-coaching (Guenther 217).  In a distinctly similar manner, the agile team’s sprint retrospective not only reviews the past period but seeks to keep constant attention on self-observation and improvement.

At the end of a team’s work sprint, which typically lasts two weeks, the team sets aside focused time to review any aspect of team dynamics.  While teams may concentrate on the work they delivered – how well or poorly it went – other topics from team values, communication issues, conflicts, behaviors, and interactions are open for review, debate, discussion, and follow-up (Derby and Larsen Introduction page).  More mature teams may take time to give each other kudos to instill stronger camaraderie.  If done properly, with openness, trust and transparency, the team retrospective can lead to insights and action items to improve team dynamics, unity, and friendship.  Improved teamwork leads to the team’s ability to deliver efficient, successful IT projects.  The inspect and adapt process is so important, it is one of the bedrock agile principals, stated in the Agile Manifesto: “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”

Table 1

The three ancient Greek practices discussed in this paper and summarized in table 1, are only a subset of ideas which have analogues to agile delivery methods.  More could be written on other ancient Greek philosophical mindsets and how they relate to agile practices.  This essay does not necessarily argue that the aims of agile principals and ancient Greek philosophical practices are the same.  But perhaps, there is value for the modern IT worker to be familiar with ancient Greek philosophical practices with the view of practicing philosophy as a way of life.

As cited earlier in the essay, Hidalgo wrote an article on the concept of philosophy as a way of living.  His writing largely drew on the work of Pierre Hadot, who argued philosophy, as we understand it today, is vastly different than how the ancients viewed it.  For the ancients, philosophy was about lived practices, not purely discourse – there was no wall between philosophical discussions and a way of living.  Every dialogue, practice and ritual had the aim of “transformation of one’s way of being and living, and a quest for wisdom” (Hadot et al. 275).  The value and intent of this essay was to open the world of practiced philosophy to the modern IT worker; to show them the richness of practical agile methodologies and their relationship with ancient philosophical concepts.  Indeed, the modern IT worker can live a philosophical life in all that he does, from his personal life, to work on IT projects as a member of a team.  Making connections between efficient agile delivery methods and the heritage of ancient Greek philosophical practices will only enhance his pursuit to live the good life.

Life and delivering IT solutions in an ever-evolving world have much in common.  We change course in life often, based on feedback from what the world has to offer.  With time as our most precious commodity, we owe it to ourselves to take an agile approach to plans and changes.  Like life, IT workers must embrace change and enjoy the journey.  By incrementally making progress towards their aims, via crisp dialogue and tight feedback loops through preparation and inspection, they gain confidence and remove many worries and anxieties of sticking to a rigid plan.  Ancient Greek thought and the agile mindset have much in common and both approaches equip the IT worker with a toolset to tackle any obstacle or challenge in life. 

Works Cited

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