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Reading Notes

Reading philosophical essays is more challenging in that you often have to scan once, read once, and review once before you can adequately explain the author's position. In order to be sure that you are receiving maximum benefit from your time spent studying, try to answer the guide questions posed below. If you cannot answer them, it is time to read or review to be sure you understand the main arguments presented. See more tips here.

Plato's Allegory of the Cave & Jean Baudrillard's Hyperreal ...

Plato's Allegory of the Cave is undoubtedly his most famous passage.  There are three reasons why the work endures and continues to be an popular object of study in most philosophy classes. First, the allegory creates a compelling image of everyday life that speaks to our need to understand human behavior and resistance to change. Second, the cave discusses various levels of awareness and understanding that can be cultivated or destroyed via the educational process. Third, the cave is an indictment against closing one's mind to the possibility of developing new insights through discovery. This last feature of the narrative, the indictment, urges individuals to turn away from images and illusions toward the effort to enrich our understanding by exploring and investigating new territories.  

  1. Resources
  2. Guide Questions
  3. Smartboard Notes

Here are some web sites that will enhance your understanding of this week's reading:

Plato's Cave:

Jean Baudrillard has written about popular culture and the emergence of imagery as reality [termed the "hyperreal"] since the mid-1970s. Here are links to some of the most interesting sites featuring the ideas of this compelling thinker.

Studies of Virtual Reality:

Guide Questions:

The following questions are designed to fine tune your understanding of the reading. The subject matter and answers to these questions form the basis of what you will be required to know for exams.

Objective: to determine if photography has aesthetic and artistic merit. Can photography claim to be a field of artistic endeavor or must we capitulate to Benjamin's point of view and reject "mechanical" modes of artistic reproduction"?

Objective: to discuss the connection between art, education and the hyperreal.

Plato Guide Questions:

  1. The cave is an allegory for everyday reality. Who are the prisoners?
  2. What kinds of activities do the prisoners engage in? How does this compare to our present experiences with popular imagery?
  3. Plato describes the process of the prisoner being liberated from the chains. Is this a voluntary liberation?
  4. Who helps the prisoner make sense of realities both in and outside the cave?
  5. What is the experience of release like for the prisoner? Can he immediately interpret the new images and realities? Why or why not?
  6. Why does the prisoner have to return to the cave? Since we have established that the remaining prisoners will not welcome his return, why should we send this liberated prisoner back?
  7. We have two very different models of education: blank slate information delivery (i.e., the prisoners in the cave who learn the names of the shadows through repetition) and the discovery process in which the prisoner is forced to experience and explore realities outside of his comfort zone. Is one method better than the other? If so, why?
  8. How might the arts benefit from an audience that has been educated through the process of discovery? Do the arts require an active engagement to learn and understand?

Baudrillard Guide Questions:

  1. Explain Baudrillard's use of the term "hyperreal."
  2. What is the crisis of representation?
  3. How might we "substitute signs of the real for the real itself?"  List at least one contemporary example of this phenomenon.
  4. How does the process of simulation threaten the idea of objective truth?
  5. List the successive phases of the image and provide an example of each phase taken from everyday reality.
  6. Summarize Baudrillard's position on the status of the real.
  7. Handout: What is the hypermarket and how does it function to manipulate human behavior?

Smartboard Notes

Smartboard Notes from Baudrillard Lectures:

smartboard notessmartboard notes

Hypermarkets and Hypercommodities:

smartboard notessmartboard notes




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