Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ethnicity and Race

As we discussed in class Tuesday, Herder claims that there is a division of people not a division of race like Kant's argument for race. Therefore, according to Herder, people are divided into categories on basis of their ethnicity, which can further be divided into subcategories of humanity. Hence, if Herder believes that there is only a division of people, why do the people in the one ethnicity have different races? Shouldn't every division of people based ethnicity have a similar race if we think according to Herder claims because he rejected division on basis of race?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

African Grey Parrots Exhibit Intelligence

In light of the discussion of avian intelligence during our ice breaker, I thought that I would break the ice on our blog with a small clip of Alex, an African grey parrot, who exhibits communicative judgment and decision-making capabilities. If you watch the clip, you will be able to see that Alex can identify properties of objects such as the shape, color, or material. He can also count the number of objects with a certain property. This ability makes Alex about as smart as a kindergartener. However, there has been some dispute against his mental abilities by critics that say his trainer, Irene Pepperberg, conditioned Alex to respond to subtle hints when she asks him a question. Doubts aside, owners of greys attest to the intelligence of the birds and also to their empathetic nature. S. G. Friedman, Ph.D, professor of psychology at Utah State University has studied the African grey parrot for its empathetic qualities as a companion to humans. Apparently, they are very attentive to human feelings and also exhibit some of their own. So, here is a clip of Alex the African Grey Parrot, possibly a thinking and feeling bird... possibly not, but certainly something for you to enjoy after our ice breaker.

I am looking forward to this semester and our discussions on the philosophy of race, so I shall be posting on more serious topics soon. But this was just too good to pass up and seemed like a nice way to break the ice on our blog in response to the brief discussion animal intelligence during introductions.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Welcome to class!

Welcome to the blog-home for Dr. Johnson's Philosophy 250 ("Philosophy of Race") course at Rhodes College. In an effort to maintain an uninterrupted conversation about our subject matter, as well as to save a few trees, students in this course will complete many of their writing assignments via this blog.

Blog-writing differs in significant ways than the "normal" writing you might be assigned to do in a regular course. For one thing, your writing here will be public, which means that your fellow classmates will be able to read your remarks and comment on the merits and demerits of your ideas. Additionally, the abbreviated format of blog-writing will require you to distill your thoughts into concise and pointed prose. Learning how to condense complex concepts into a limited number of crystal-clear sentences is a difficult, but eminently valuable, skill that we will all aim to develop in this course. Finally, it is important to remember that blogs are in many ways simply a written form of conversation. As such, all of the rules of regular conversation apply to the written conversations that will take place here, including most importantly the necessity for mutual respect and consideration among interlocutors. (I refer you to A Blogger's Code of Ethics and Weblog Ethics, both of which offer valuable insights on how to monitor your participation in blog conversations.)

I encourage all of the students in this course to actively participate in this blog above and beyond their "required" participation. Take advantage of the opportunity to comment on your classmates' ideas or to reflect on themes and discussions that happen in class. Together, we will take philosophy into the 21st century!