Student philosophy papers

Here are five papers by USU undergraduates presented at this spring’s LPSC Colloquium. Feel free to post any replies/objections/comments/questions!






Congratulations to these students (and others!) for presenting these papers!


8 thoughts on “Student philosophy papers

  1. Kleiner

    The Nz-Dost paper was very interesting. And to put a different spin on Vince’s “other” remark – Dostoevsky has an Alyosha, Nz does not.


  2. Dan

    Your critique of Nietzsche’s particular brand of embracing suffering is insightful, Vince. In my opinion, some poets and philosophers who drew on Nietzsche’s philosophy were more fully able to embrace all of life than Nietzsche. Rilke and Gibran, for instance, very clearly and admittedly benefited from and drew on Nietzsche’s insights. Embracing all of life does include tears, and those tears can for me be a tremendous catalyst for transformation. In my reading of Rilke and Gibran, it is clear that they came to a point where they embodied this embrace fully- living this part of Nietzsche’s philosophy more fully and wisely than Nietzsche himself. Though Nietzsche in all of his egotism didn’t embody this part of his philosophy (if a full embrace must include tears), one can’t negate the positive impact his idea of fully embracing suffering had on wiser souls like Rilke or Gibran.


  3. Blood_and_ashes

    Nietzsche’s music is surprisingly quiet, and very minimal. It isn’t great but it is pleasant and I appreciate the patience he composes with.

    I know this question is directed to Dan, so forgive me if I’m intruding. I’m only a drummer myself, a poor one at that, but what I find in Wagner and others I’ve heard similar to him (Sibelius, Beethoven in parts) is the heroicism in his music. It is the same thing I find in higher caliber death and black metal (Averse Sefira, Sacramentum, Vader, early Sepultura, Bathory, early At the Gates, early Morbid Angel, Immolation, many others). By this I don’t mean the shock artists like Cannibal Corpse or the goregrind genre that are all style and speed with no soul or merit.
    What I do mean are the bands, and composers, that achieve a profound power in their music, that does not necessarily ignore suffering, but sees it as a necessary part of the broader view. There is suffering, but in overcoming it, there is great glory, which is what I find beautiful in the music I listen to, even though many find it aesthetically ugly (the guitars are often heavily distorted, played with an edge of sickness, the vocals are often unintelligible, the music often has a certain pulse of darkness, of rage). That’s fine of course, because it is a bit of an acquired taste, something you may ‘get’ or may not. It’s also taken me many years of listening and reading and understanding to get. Even some of the bands I acknowledge as brilliant, I don’t listen to much because they don’t fit my preference.

    I think what is interesting in your comment about tears, was that you mentioned tears of identification. For Nietzsche and Wagner, this identification aspect is probably crucial. There is no doubt that Nietzsche had tears himself, especially in his waning years of immense pain and humiliation. For Nietzsche though, it seems that tears as identification might mean a matter of extremes. His views of the Last Men were not that they had tears, but that they had no suffering whatsoever. They had created an existence devoid of suffering, to the point of walking without stumbling by not walking an uneven path, or not performing any action should it “spoileth their stomachs.” (TSZ)

    The tears of identification seem to be a focus of either complete avoidance (Last men) or of complete immersion (pity). The latter view is that tears of pain and sadness are the goal. People focus not so much on Christ’s teachings as they do his immense suffering. For Nietzsche, ironically, this is the same as what Christ was warning about regarding fasts, about the rabbis that would put dirt on their faces and proclaim their sacrifice and suffering loudly to the locals during a fast. It is a focus on the image, a desire for pity and mercy, and both Christ and Nietzsche in this sense are saying “shut up and get on with life!” Nietzsche would probably have failed me in his classes for suggesting this of course, but to me there is that correspondence.

    I hear this in a way with my music, both metal and classical. Granted, there are works in both where the tears are the focus (Bathory’s Twilight of the Gods for example), but what I appreciate about how they are done is that the emotion seems driven by reason, or reflection of the mind, than only of suffering. I love Sarah Maclachlan’s older work, but in a different way than I do Slayer’s older work. To me, the reflective tears, rather than identification tears, that form in classical and metal are like that of Robert Fripp, more of an exploration than an explanation. I agree that there is a need of tears for empathy, but I think the exploration is more important, as it allows for a dialog and understanding on the level of the soul, more than, say, The Beatles.(I admit, there’s a lot of bias in that part :) )
    I feel like I may have come up short, Dan can probably say more. I will say that if what you feel with Wagner is that he is vulgar in his positivity, I can certainly understand that. I much as I like the band, and as much as I could explain them, Deicide are quite vulgar in their vibrantly positive view of what many would consider to be horrifying. I enjoy metal primarily for its affirmation of the power of the individual, not against the society (except for the sense that the society is falling apart) but within it, and the power of forces just beyond our reach, yet within our senses, that of the soul and of nature. However, I can see where people feel that Deicide take it too far.
    As I said, it’s a very subjective experience most of the time, it has to be felt, and not everyone is going to just as not everyone is going to have the stomach for calamari.


  4. Dan

    Yes I’m a pianist. I wonder whether you, Vince, would have such a negative view of Wagner;s music if he were not such a bastard. I don’t believe that enjoying or learning from his music condones his beliefs. Every important composer since Wagner has had to ‘deal’ with his music. Mahler, Strauss, Debussy, Ravel, Schoenberg, Webern, Scriabin, Rachmaninov, and many more drew on Wagner’s musical vocabulary to form their own musical languages. Wagner invented atonality in Tristan. Even composers like Satie or Cage drew on Wagner by reacting against him. Wagner prided himself as a universal genius, and he was not, but the face of music would not bbe the same were it not for his innovations. Even if one doesn’t enjoy classical music, one can’t negate his influence. Traditional jazz harmonies, for instance, have their seeds largely in Wagnerian harmonies.

    In my opinion, Wagner composed some of the most opulent, ecstatic music ever written. Opulence isn’t ultimately the goal, however. Almost any of Bach’s works, or any of Beethoven’s late works (the late piano sonatas, the string quartets, etc.) will always be greater than Wagner’s in my mind, because Bach and Beethoven attained a wisdom that Wagner could never have apprehended, and this wisdom displayed itself musically. Listen to the Cavatina from Beethoven’s 130 string quartet or the 3rd movement of his Op 109 piano sonata, for instance- and a dimension of human experience that Wagner never touched upon is addressed.


  5. Jordan_D

    Vince, and Professor Kleiner, thanks for the comments.

    Vince, that is an interesting take on that question, I have never thought of it like that before.

    I am reading The Idiot right now, and I think that Prince Myshkin is a whole other possible interpretation in line with Nz.

    I am surprised that most of you have such a hard time listening to Wagner! I totally agree with Dan. The Liebestod is possibly the single most evocative, emotional piece of classical music ever written, at least in my ears, along with perhaps the Violin solo in Rimsky-Korsakovs Scheharazade opus.

    Blood_and_ashes, I think that was the first time I have thought of Wagner and Max Cavelera at the same time! I do not think I have ever heard speak so eloquently in defence of black and death metal before! I myself do not care a whole lot for black metal , I prefer death far more so, though I do not listen to it on your level. Whenever people speak of those bands music, I usually picture Danii Filth looking like an idiot all dressed up and with makeup on.


  6. Jordan

    I would imagine that the only person who could have Kant’s good will at the bottom of his actions would almost always be a forrest gump/prince myshkin type character; a loving and transparent idiot: short on smarts, long on heart. That almost requires a deficiency of forethought. but could forest gump be called a perfectly rational being?

    That Jugglers story was a bit cheesy for me though….;)



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