Week 4a: Comments Blog: On Alfarabi, et al., Plotinus, and Ibn Tufayl reading.

Please post you comments by Sunday night.  I’ll add some leading questions later in the week.

Alfarabi thoughts: This is a very difficult reading.  What is the hierarchy he is describing?  How does he use the Aristotelian theory of form and matter to describe the larger structure of the universe?  Can you identify a theory of vision in his analogy that uses the sun and transparency?  Do you get the feeling that there is a repeating structure from prime matter up to the Agent Intellect up, and up to the One?  What is this structure and does differ going up from going down?

Hayy thoughts: Can you find some, parts of some, or all of the 5 Pillars of Islam in the story: One God and Muhammad is his messenger, daily prayer x5, charity, Fasting during Ramadan, and Pilgrimage to Mecca.  Can you find other rituals of a similar nature?  You might be interested in reading up on Muhammad’s “Night Journey” [Isra and Mi'raj] and stories about the Ka’aba.  How do the terms “in power” and “in act” relate to the terms found in the Alfarabi reading?  Can you figure out a correlation?  How did our character, Hayy, differentiate himself from plants and animals?


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Week 3a: Plotinus and Ibn Tufayl

Please write a couple of paragraphs on Monday’s readings. Below are some ideas, but, as always, feel free to comment however you wish.  Please read the other comments posted by the other people in the class.  Feel free to comment on their comments.

Plotinus questions:  Quantum communication and water?  ”Principle of that manifold life”?  Paradox?  The One?  The many?  Intellectual principle?  What is station immediately next to the One?  What is next station out?  These stations have a view of the One which are in turn something else.  What is Soul?  Does it move?  If you had to draw this scheme (or logos), how might you draw it out?  How does the human soul relate to the vegetal soul?

Ibn Tufayl questions:  How is living-ness related to the senses?  How does he figure out where to look for the problem in his mother?  What does he determine is the problem?  What was it?  Was his mother her body or something else?   Experimental behavior.  Fire and life-stuff?  What carries spirit around the body?  Brain and heart and spirit?  How does he learn?  How do plants differ from animals?  The basic, essential characteristics of stuff? Alchemy?  The natural directions of terrestrial matter.  Can you follow his infinite line argument?  How does he start to define the creator?  How do humans differ from beasts?

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Week 2a: Galen’s Embryo and Ibn Tufayl’s [Ebn Tophail] first section.

Please add some comments by Sunday night.

The Galen reading goes very well with the section we are reading from Ibn Tufayl.  Imagine the Galenic formation in ibn Tufayl’s primordial muck.

Galen Reading: What does the story about the musical entertainer tell you about Greco-Roman society?  Why the liver first?  What happens when you put blood in hot water?  Did Galen imagine tadpoles when discussing sperm/semen?  In the early stages of embryonic development, would Galen consider the thing to be more a human or more of a plant? Why?  When the embryo becomes an animal… what sort of animal?  Why?  How might Galen’s arguments factor into a modern debate about abortion rights?  Of the 3 main organs, which is formed last?  Using modern theory, why might arterial blood be finer and hotter?  Do you think it is possible that Galen realized any of this modern theory?   Can you make a pro-DNA argument for Galen?  Does the soul have a sense of identity from the start?  Why does the tongue fascinate Galen?  Does Galen seem reasonable to you?  What sort of proof is the best sort of proof for Galen?  What is the soul for Galen?

Ibn Tufayl Reading: Why did ibn Tufayl give two accounts for the origin of Hayy?  What story does the account with the king remind you of?   Where is the island?  When does the creation of Hayy take place (the mud version)?  How many bubbles/chambers?  What gives life to the mud?  Do you feel Genesis in this?  What are Duggs?  What sorts of things does young Hayy start to notice as he becomes aware of himself and his surroundings?  What did tails do for other animals?  Why did he want clothing?  How do eagles fit into this story?


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Week 1b- Comments on Aristotle’s Meteorology

Please post some comments on the reading by Tuesday night. The following questions are just ideas.  You don’t have to address them specifically.

What is meteorology?  How does the cosmos work in this model?  How might astrology and alchemy fit into this scientific scheme?  Think of the larger mechanical structure of the cosmos.  What does it look like?  How does it compare to Plato’s vision?  Water strained through ashes is salt?  What is he talking about?  Color theory?  Matter theory?

Somebody try to put a picture in a comment.  I want to know if it will work.

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Due 9/9/12- Week 1-pt. 1- Comments Genesis and Plato. Please post these comments by Sunday night, Sept. 9th.

Please comment below by making a “reply.”

I’ll be sending you invitations to join this comment section, once I get your email addresses.  Until then, just send your comments to my email address found on the Syllabus page: http://www.mifami.org/PSR/PSR-2012-Syllabus.htm.

Here are questions for the Genesis reading.  I’ll post some for Plato shortly.

Questions for Week 1: Monday: Plato and Genesis.

The following questions are not to be answered like a quiz.  They are just prime for your mental pumps.  Read them over.  Address one of them, a few of them, or none of them.  Write up a few comments, observations, drawings, schematics, animations, songs, and post them on this comment page.  [If this doesn't work, just email them to me.]


Ch 1

What is authorship?  Are there similar concepts of authorship today as there were back when Genesis was written?

SAT analogy question: Scroll is to cassette tape as  _________ is to CD (or MP3).

What other things have evolved like the Old Testament has?

What was the world/cosmos/space like before God did anything?  What seems to have pre-existed?

Was this section from Genesis written as a metaphor or was it to be taken literally?  Is it science?

How long is the first day?

Think about how all of this might be depicted using special effects for a crazy movie.  Really think about how the action develops… how it would look… what the production themes ought to be…

If there were clocks, at what times do these first days start and stop?  Since they didn’t have clocks early on, what was used as a clock?  When did it come to exist?

Why might a person think that the first human was a hermaphrodite?


How much work would the gardener of the Garden of Eden do on any given day?

It’s not the “Tree of Knowledge,” it’s the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil.  What’s the difference?  Right?

Eden means “delight” in Hebrew.  So the Garden of Eden is the garden of [earthly] delights?  See picture above.  If this interests you, look it up on WikiPee [not to be confused with the up-and-coming hip-hop star] and look at the entire painting: outside and inside.  What does this say about the worldview in 1500… about science… about sin… about fun.

Are humans, before The Fall, immortal?

Did the Man’s rib grow back?

Before the woman was fashioned, did the Man have a gender?  In a similar vein, if there is no light, does darkness mean anything?  Which way is up in outer space?  What’s going to happen to Kristen Stewart without Robert Patterson?

Explain this section from p. 23.  “Therefore does a man leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and they become one flesh.  And the two of them were naked, the human and his woman, and they were not ashamed.”  You might look it up in other translations or in the original.  [What is the original?]


“Gods”?  WTF?  I thought we were doing monotheism?

Did the snake sin by lying to the woman?  Did the woman sin by being duped by the “most cunning of all the beasts of the field that the Lord God had made”?

Did humans know the difference between good and evil before the woman spoke to the snake?  Are they immoral or amoral?  Are dogs immoral or amoral?  How about a person who acts out of a strong conviction… what they understand to be a strong moral imperative?  Do snakes understand the concepts of good and evil.  What the hell is evil? Is it the opposite of good, or the lack of good or both or neither? What is good, for that matter?  Is it something, or the lack of something?  If the woman doesn’t understand the difference, how could she recognize evil in the snake?  Did the woman respect the snake more than God?  Was this the ultimate diss?  I see a movie plot here, sort of a hybrid between the Iliad, West Side Story, and 8 Mile… starring Tupac “He’s-really-alive” Shakur and Rihanna.

If God is omniscient, why did he ask where the man and woman were in the garden?  Wouldn’t He already know?

What is it about nakedness that becomes so unbearable to the man and woman after they eat?

God discovers the transgression.  The man then explains his actions and says, “The woman whom you gave me.”  Is the man trying to put some of the blame on God?  Would he have done that before he ate from the tree?

The woman and the man, all of the sudden, start to rationalize their actions.  Is this the birth of scientific inquiry?  Before they ate the apple, what do you think they thought about?  After eating the apple, what did they think about?

Could the woman and the serpent have mated before all this ugly stuff happened?  Do women have seeds?  What sort of physiology are we talking about here?  What is the word for seed in Latin?

Humans and snakes will forever hate and fear each other.  The translator suggests that this may be the dramatic division between human and beast.  What is the difference between a human and an animal?

The man was cursed to difficult farming in terrible soil, full of weeds and such.  Is this the birth of technology?

Why is bread-eating a punishment?

“Now that the human has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he may reach out and take as well from the tree of life and live forever.”  Why is this bad?  Did Christianity put a new spin on this?

General questions on the Genesis reading.

The human creation story seems to be told twice.  How do the two versions differ?

What other stories or creation myths do you know and how do they compare with this one?

Discuss this “breath of life.”  What do you imagine it to be?

How is God like a magician?  How is He like a builder or a potter?  How is he like a chemist/physicist?

Did the man and woman have free will or were they fated to fall?  Compare and contrast this to a Greek and Roman myths?

Let’s say the mafia has fixed a horse race.  The outcome is only known by those in the know.  If you, are not in the know, and you bet on this race, are you exercising your free will, or are you just a pawn going through the motions in a predetermined series of connected events?  Does the predetermined outcome of the race negate what free will you think you have?


Now for some leading questions and images on the Plato reading…

“Allegory of the Cave”

Map out the cave and all its features.

How might you modernize this story?  Map out your modernized version.

Imagine yourself a person stuck in the cave.  How would you respond to the crazy guy who tries to tell you about this place other than the cave?

Why does Plato spend so much time on how long it takes for the eye to adjust to light and dark?

On the top of p233, Plato seems to be describing Darth Vader?  What’s that about?

Remember what I said about how people used to see the moon, from last week’s class?

What is the difference between the light of the fire and the light of the sun?

This is an allegory. The reality of the prisoners in the cave is equated to our standard reality.  If that is the case, what is the sunlight world of the guy who escapes the cave equated to in our world?  [Sorry for the tricky syntax.]

Flatland anyone?

Why is the world of light so appealing?

“Higher Education”

One, two, three, …


One is singular.  8 is a collection of ones, or Unities.  But 8-ness, or 8-esse.  What is that?  Is it singular or plural?

A number in the Greek sense, is technically always rational.  It is a counting number (1, 2, 3,…) or a ratio of counting numbers.  It can always be cut up into Unities, or units, or ones.  We say one third, but they would say, “one of three parts.”  All of this can be imagined… right?  One third can be mentally represented as 1 of three apples or 1 of three goats or one of three goblins.  We can even think about 127 of 3,452,356,771 rabbits if we must.  We can think about this stuff.  Now think about ? [pi].  Can you think about ? goats or ? goblins? ? is irrational.  It cannot be represented by any ratio of 2 counting numbers.  You can approximate it with 22/7, but this is just an approximation.  It’s irrational.  We cannot comprehend it.  The pun between irrational number and irrational qua beyond thought is right on the mark.  We cannot think about ?.  Therefore ? is not a number.  It is considered a magnitude.

How does Plato sell the idea that mathematics is good?


What has happened to solid geometry?

Fire… visual ray… we’ll be discussing this later in the term…

Bodies in circular motion… what is he talking about?


Is astronomy a higher level of study?  Plato makes a cryptic argument on pp. 247-48.  How does this relate to the “Allegory of the Cave?”

How does reason differ from sight?  What would constitute as perfect evidence for Plato?

p. 248 “An expert in geometry, meeting with such designs, would admire their finished workmanship, but he would think it absurd to study them in all earnest with the expectation of finding in their proportions the exact ratio of any one number to another.”  Does Plato suggest that such ratios actually exist, but we cannot know them because our world is too sketchy, or is he suggesting that the ratios are not rational or that they are not consistent?


How is music the counterpart to astronomy?

What is meant by  “measuring audible concords and sounds one against another.” [p. 250]

“…knowledge of beauty and goodness…”  [p. 250] Define “beauty and goodness.”

Plato makes a very clear distinction between observation and theory.  How do they relate?

How does dialectic relate to the truth?

The “Myth of Er”

Who are Clotho, Lychasis, and Atropos?  How do they fit into this scheme?  Why them?

Draw up this cosmology.

Why all the sirens singing?  What do they suggest?

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