Sleepwalking towards Armageddon: An examination of tolerance, religious knowledge systems and a way forward


Read the short essay penned by Author Sam Harris titled, Sleep Walking Toward Armageddon.”   

When finished, reflect on the following questions:

  1. Harris writes, “Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgment that beliefs guide behavior and that certain religious ideas—jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy—reliably lead to oppression and murder?” What are your thoughts on this statement? There is no doubt beliefs guide behavior, but do the beliefs stated lead to the behavior cited?
  2. To what extent should beliefs that lead to bad behavior be tolerated?
  3. What are the individual and societal benefits of religious knowledge systems? If they were to be eliminated, what would take their place and fulfill the benefits you stated?
  4. Harris puts forth the thesis that acknowledging and critiquing of the “dangerous beliefs” which he states are inherent in Islam would be a start to solving the problems that he believes stem from islam. Do you agree? How would it and how wouldn’t it?
  5. What is the way forward? Education? Censorship?

Heidegger vs. Reductionism

Martin Heidegger is considered by many to be the greatest philosopher of the 20th century and is a personal favorite of mine! 

His work centers around existentialism, and specifically, phenomenology, an area of philosophy.  We’ll read Heidegger as we progress through the course, however reading the article below and engaging in a reflective journal entry will aide greatly in your ability to comprehend his works as they’re incredibly difficult.

So.  Read the article linked below contrasting the Heideggarian view of the world with a scientific approach (often called reductionism in philosophy). 

Being There: Martin Heidegger on Why our Presence Matters

Journal Entry:

  1. Relate this article to what we’ve been discussing in class over the course of this semester. Integrate source material that we’ve read and discussed as well as the various Ways of Knowing into you response. Additionally, reflect on the article. What are the implications?  What are the implications of reductionism?

MLK Vs. Socrates: A philosophical evaluation of Civil Disobedience

Last class, we had a great discussion regarding the Platonic diaglogue, “Crito” as an examination of Reason. However through the course of that conversation, we examined Socrates’ arguments rationalizing his decision to accept his punishment of death.

Plato writes:

“It is not just for you to try to do to us what you’re now attempting (avoiding death punishment).  For we gave birth to you, brought you up, educated you, and gave you and all the other citizens everything we could that’s good, and yet even so we pronounce that we have given the power to any Athenian who wishes to take his possessions and leave for whatever he wants. But whoever remains with us, having ovserved how we decide civic law, we claim this man by his action has now made an agreement with us to do what we command him to do.”

This is a very similar line of reasoning used by some of the Priests and Pastors of the American South in their critique of Martin Luther King as a Christian.  “How could a Christian man advocate the violation of the law? If it’s immoral to break a law, how could a Christian man advocate immoral behavior?”  Martin Luther King’s response to these questions and critiques of his civil disobedience is contained within his beautifully written, “Letter from Birmingham Jail” linked below. Read it. 

Letter From Birmingham Jail

When finished reading “A letter from Birmingham Jail” you should answer the following question on your newly created TOK journal Blog!

Journal #1: Compare and contrast Socrates’ use of reason and MLK’s use of reason. What would MLK’s response to Socrates be? Do you think if MLK was condemned to death for his leading protests that he would “leave with crito” or stay and accept his fate as decided by the courts of Alabama? Also, what do these two approaches illustrate about Reason as a way of knowing as a whole? What are Reason’s Strengths and Weaknesses?

And to provide context to our discussion regarding racism and systemic oppression in America, see this lucid piece by Ta-Nehesi Coates from The Atlantic:

Analyzing Reason and its Role: Journal Entry

Journal Entry for Reason Below:

Attempts have been made to identify universal, self-evident and incontrovertible laws of logic, such as the law of identity (for example, ―an apple is an apple‖) or the law of non-contradiction (for example, ―nothing can be an apple and also a non-apple‖). Are these actually laws in the scientific sense of the term, or are they axioms? How do logical axioms compare with axioms in mathematics, and with the underlying beliefs we take for granted in other areas of knowledge? What is the role of reason in ethical principles and their justification? Is reason more important to acting morally than other ways of knowing?

Plato’s Dialogue: Crito

In our study of Reason, we discussed its reliability as a way of knowing and the degree to which Western intellectual thought (and Reason as a whole) owes much to Socrates and Plato.

Thus, we’re going to take the time to read one of Plato’s Dialogues.  This one stars his teacher Socrates and the subject matter is that of Law, Justice, and why Socrates refuses to find a way out of his death sentence! Enjoy:

If link doesn’t work, PDF linked below: 

Plato’s crito

What if Walmart Paid a Living Wage? To What Extent Should Gov’t intervene in Price Floor establishment?

A major critique of the “living wage” regulation adopted by some states (california) and suggested for a the federal government to implement is the worry that it would create large economic ripple effects such as raising the price of goods. In this video, slate magazine breaks down the economic effects for walmart. 

  1. Do you support a living wage? 

  2. What philosophical questions arise around discussing a living wage?

  3. What are the known economic effects of price floors on an industry?

  4. What are the pros/cons of a living wage?

  5. To what extent is this an economic issue? To what extent is this a humanitarian/morality issue?

**Check out the living wage calculator that MIT created**

And below is a great op od in the NYTIMES illustrating inequality in america: