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Monday, 5 December 2011

This Blog Needs Intellectual Content

I am a philosophy major and basically I have been totally consumed with school things lately and haven't had the time to think the mundane sorts of thoughts that usually end up on this remarkably intellectually deprived blog.
So, today I will be sharing a paper I recently wrote about sceptical arguments and, more specifically, on the question of whether or not I know that I have hands. This will probably bore most people, but I put quite a bit of thought and work into it and I feel that it deserves to be read by someone other than myself and my professor. I realize that everyone will find this post to be long and excessive on my part, but I don't care and I would appreciate it if at least a small percentage of people would read it and offer me their opinions on it. To keep you all interested I will post pictures of the philosophers that I mention in the paper.

DESCARTES                                                                                                    G. E. MOORE
I Don’t Know That I Have Hands!
            Certain philosophers, most famously the well-known and much studied Rene Descartes, have been strong proponents of the sceptical hypothesis. The sceptical hypothesis is that we cannot be sure that, as Descartes puts it, we are not simply being deceived in every single way by some evil demon who leads us to believe that what we experience through sensory stimuli is a way of knowing that there is anything external to our minds. Sceptical arguments state that there is no way of telling the difference between those stimuli being given to our minds by the evil demon and the stimuli we would have if we actually lived a world which contained things that were external to our minds, thus there is no way to disprove the sceptical hypothesis. However, there are many other philosophers, notably G. E. Moore, who seek to dismiss sceptical arguments on the basis of plain common sense. In this paper, I will address both sides of this argument on scepticism and I will show why I do not know that I have hands.
            Rene Descartes is one of the philosophers who write in support of scepticism. He takes this position as a result of several thought experiments that he undertakes in his Meditations (Descartes 1). Descartes in these thought experiments asserts that he is attempting to strip away all his false beliefs and opinions (Descartes 1). He concludes that to do this he must return to the bare foundations of his knowledge and demolish not only false beliefs, but also those that he is not absolutely certain about (Descartes 1). He starts by considering the sensory input that he receives and has up until now based his beliefs about the world on (Descartes 1). Descartes states that his senses are not to be treated as trustworthy sources of information since there have been times when his senses have deceived him and he asserts that things that have been deceitful even one time cannot be treated as trustworthy (Descartes 1). Therefore, good sensory input cannot possibly be distinguished from bad sensory input (Descartes 1). Even worse than that, as the thought experiment continues, Descartes comes to the realization that there is no real way in which he can distinguish between his waking experiences and his dreaming experiences since he experiences dreams just as vividly as if he were awake (Descartes 2). These troubling conclusions even lead Descartes to state that he cannot rule out the possibility that there is a demon that has been misleading and deceiving him in every single way on everything since he was born (Descartes 3). He decides to suspend his belief on anything that he had come to know by means of sensory input, even the fact that he possesses a physical form (Descartes 3). He eventually concludes that the only thing he knows himself to be is a “thinking thing” and thought is the only thing that he knows about himself and can use to prove his existence (Descartes 4-6).  Basically, Descartes argues that there is no way to prove that the external things that we perceive are actually there, or that we have physical bodies at all; the only thing that we can know for sure is that we think, therefore we exist (Descartes 1-6).
            G. E. Moore presents an opposing viewpoint to the sceptical argument, in his piece “Proof of an External World”. Moore takes a completely opposite view to that of Descartes that is obvious even from the title of his piece. Moore deals directly with the question with which I am concerned in this essay, whether or not he has hands, or more broadly, whether there are things that exist outside of our minds (Moore 165). He sets out to do this through a proof that he describes as “perfectly rigorous”: he wants to prove that two human hands exist, in order to do this he starts by holding up and making gestures with his right hand while uttering the words “ ‘here is one hand’ ”, and then proceeding to hold up and gesture with his left hand while uttering the words “ ‘and here is another’ “ (Moore 166). Through this method, Moore asserts that he has proven that there exist at least two human hands, which means that he has also proven the existence of things that are outside our minds (Moore 166). He understands that some might not be convinced by this method of proof, so Moore sets out to show that this is indeed a rigorous method (Moore 166). He firstly sets out three conditions necessary for proofs to be acceptable: that the premises and the conclusion be different, that the premises be known by him to be the case, and that the conclusion actually follow from the premises (Moore 166). The condition that is the most controversial with respect to Moore’s proof is the second, and this is the one that he spends most time explaining: he asserts that he did in fact really know those premises to be true (Moore 166). He states that gesturing with each of his two hands and uttering the words “ ‘here’ “ allowed him to show that he really knew that they were there externally to his mind (Moore 166). Moore argues that to propose that he did not really know it, but only believed that both his hands were there and that this might not be the case is completely absurd (Moore 166). Moore acknowledges that sceptics will clamour not only for a proof of this particular proposition about hands but for a method with which any propositions of this variety can be proven (Moore 167). He admits that he has not provided this and that he does not believe that it can be provided at all (Moore 167).  However, Moore argues further that this should not be taken to mean that his proof about his hands in not conclusive (Moore 170). He asserts that it is possible for him to know things that he cannot prove, also that the premises in his hand proof were among those things that he certainly did know, even though he could not offer a proof for them (Moore 170).  He thus concludes his proof that he does indeed have hands and that nothing is more obvious to him than that (Moore 170).
            I will now use elements from the arguments presented by these two philosophers to put forward my own conclusion that I don't know that I have hands. I have chosen this position, which, admittedly, is largely Cartesian, because of various problems that I see with Mooreanism.  Moore, in his argument, attempts to use what he seems to believe is common sense in order to discredit scepticism and prove that he has hands. I completely fail to see how his proof of this fact has any logical validity whatsoever. If we ignore the fact that the premises he is using are improvable, then I would definitely agree that the structure of his argument is valid and that it does satisfy the three conditions for an acceptable argument that Moore sets out for himself. However, I do not believe that this fact can be ignored. Premises are supposed to be assertions that are given, that are known to be true, and the conclusion alone, is meant to be that of which we are not yet certain. Moore’s proof completely violates this notion because its premises, that he has two hands, are not things that we certainly know. I find this fact to be a glaring problem with Moore’s proof; in fact Moore himself seems to agree and acknowledges that many people may be dissatisfied with his proof for just this reason (Moore 166). However, he then gives a justification for his process by stating that it is possible for him to certainly know these things although he cannot prove them, and that the fact that he cannot prove those premises about his right hand and his left hand does not indicate that his method of proof is not rigorous and that sceptics are wrong to be dissatisfied with his proof (Moore 170).  I argue that sceptics are perfectly justified in being dissatisfied with Moore’s proof. Moore seems not to understand the nature of proofs in this last statement and his further admission that propositions of the kind that sceptics would like him to prove are not provable only serves to discredit his own argument and give the sceptics more with which to criticize him in this last assertion (Moore 167). By asserting this, he has basically admitted that the sceptical hypothesis cannot be disproven. If the sceptical hypothesis were true, then Moore would not know that he had a left hand and a right hand when he gestured with them during his proof since they would not have existed externally to his mind. By admitting that his premise that he knows that he has a right and left hand is not provable, he has admitted that he also cannot prove that the opposite, the sceptical hypothesis, is not the case. Moore has attempted to come to the defence of the existence of an external world through his proof that he knows that he has two human hands which are external to his mind, but he has instead discredited his own arguments and given more credibility to the sceptics.
Although, up until now, I have merely criticized Moore and used that to justify my belief that I do not know that I have hands, I will not base my conclusion solely on opposing Mooreanism. I cannot say that I know that I have hands for precisely the same reason that Descartes cannot certainly conclude that he is anything more than a “thinking thing” (Descartes 6). When meditating on my own sensory experiences, I, like Descartes, cannot deny the fact that my senses have failed me on many occasions leading me to conclude that the input I receive from them cannot be taken to be proof of things that are external to me. It is impossible for me to use a source of information which has proven itself to be fallible in the past as a means of gathering any kind of credible evidence, this would not be logical. I argue that Descartes’ approach with regard to the dismissal of sensory experience as evidence for an external world is the only logical approach.  I also cannot find any way to discount the possibility that I am in fact only dreaming at this moment and all that I experience is merely a fabrication of my mind, or even that an evil demon is tricking me into believing that there is an external world by manipulating my sensory experiences and using them as his instruments of deceit (Descartes 2-3). Since my sensory experience would be exactly the same if the demon were deceiving me to make me believe that I had hands as if I actually had hands, there is no logical reason for me to state that I certainly know that I have them.
            Through my examination of Moore’s and Descartes’ arguments concerning sceptical arguments, I argue that my only logical choice is to conclude that I do not certainly know that I have hands. I have shown that I cannot logically accept Moore’s blind faith in the existence of his two hands external to his body and that Descartes’ arguments are convincing enough that they have showed me that I cannot disprove the sceptical hypothesis. Therefore, I do not know that I have hands.

Monday, 21 November 2011


This is just a short post where I want to tell everyone about my favorite place to buy sandwiches: Dagwoods. Dagwoods is a sandwich, soup and salad place, sort of like Subway, except infinitely better.
I used to really enjoy Subway and saw it as a healthier alternative to traditional fast-food places. However, when I tried Dagwoods, I was totally converted. I liked that it was a Montreal creation that has now expanded to include many franchises throughout the city and now even in Ontario.

The greatest thing about Dagwoods that cannot be said about Subway, is that when you order a sandwich at Dagwoods, they actually slice the cheese and meat fresh when you order it. Some of the slicers are so talented and fast that just watching them do their job is like entertainment while you wait for your food. The fact that the meat and cheese is SO fresh totally makes up for the selection of sandwiches being smaller than Subway's. As for the vegetables, they are also much fresher than at Subway, which I find ironic, since the Subway catchphrase is "Eat Fresh". I would also like to add that Dagwoods doesn't have that weird Subway smell (you know what I mean), so there's no need to worry about being smelly and unappealing after visiting the restaurant. The final thing that I love about Dagwoods is that they have an awesome fidelity card where you can get a free sandwich, soup, or chili after buying a certain amount of sandwiches. Subway no longer has this type of fidelity program and I think that is a real shame.

In conclusion, this place is a real gem and I am absolutely ecstatic that I found one near (well, near enough) to my new apartment! Check it out and you'll never enjoy Subway again, I swear.
Here's a photo of a tasty Dagwoods sandwich just in case you still aren't convinced:


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Time for Poutine

I've been completely consumed since my last post with the protest, the riot, and the subsequent gatherings that have been held at McGill since last Thursday. Today, however, I would like to depart from that serious topic and talk about something light: poutine. This is basically a list of my favorite places to get poutine in Quebec. If you don't know about poutine, it looks like this:
Ruby's Best Poutine List:
-Poutine at Louis' Luncheonette in Sherbrooke, QC: This restaurant not only has amazing poutine, but the steamed hot dogs are also totally worthwhile. The curds are fresh, and the fries are always crispy and never greasy.

-Poutine Frank at La Banquise in Montreal, QC: This is a poutine with pieces of merguez sausage in it. The sauce is so flavorful and the sausage goes perfectly with the cheese curds. Also, this restaurant is open 24 hours a day, which is a huge plus since many cravings for poutine come late at night.

-Poutine Mexicaine at Frite Alors! in Montreal, QC: This is a traditional poutine that has their mexican sauce (which is a sort of slightly sweet salsa) poured on top of it. I think they've taken it off the menu now but I still ask for it when I go because the marriage of the gravy and the mexican sauce is ridiculously good. Also, the fries are excellent.
-Poutine at La Belle Province in Granby, QC: This poutine is really good. Just a plain old poutine, well done. Also, I feel like this restaurant is a Quebec classic. However, not all La Belle Province's are created equal. This one in Granby is absolutely great, but some others that I've been to are disgusting. Be careful.

I totally stand behind my recommendations of these poutines, and if I had to give any advice on poutines in general, I would say, "Never be afraid to try new toppings on top of poutine; however, never underestimate the value of poutine in its classic form". Clearly a quote for the history books.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Montreal Student Protest: A Review

I participated in the student protest that happened in Montreal yesterday against the tuition fee hikes announced by the Quebec government. So I thought I would give you guys a little review on how that went.
All the McGill students gathered at 1pm and met up with the Concordia crowd at McGill College and St-Catherine, where we proceeded to march to Parc Emilie-Gamelin at Berri. There we joined tons of people from UdeM, UQAM, UQAT and UQAR (and those are only ones that I personally noticed). Once this large group was assembled we marched all the way back to McGill College, stopping in front of Jean Charest's Montreal office. The crowd was absolutely HUGE, I have never been part of something that large before and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I was afraid at first that turnout would suffer because of the rain but it seemed to make very little difference and everyone seemed motivated and ready to protest. There were lots of cops everywhere and a helicopter watching us, but thankfully I wasn't arrested or brutalized. To my knowledge, only 4 people were arrested. Compare that to the riots we see after Canadiens games and I feel proud of my fellow students for protesting in a mature, peaceful fashion. I never felt scared or nervous during the protest in any way.

Some of the highlights of the march for me were when people stopped what they were doing to watch us; some giving us thumbs up and others just filming on their phones. Either way, I was glad that we caused a disturbance in a city where people would walk over a dead hobo in their way without a second look. At one point we marched past a daycare and all the kids ran up to the windows and starting waving and smiling at us, that was by far the highest point of the day for me.

Although some people argue that there is no point to this protest and it won't affect the government's decision, I believe that it's always better to do something rather than nothing, on the off-chance that one day it might actually produce change. There are also those who point out that Quebec's tuition fees are lower than those in the rest of Canada and in some other countries. I would argue that they are only comparing Quebec to other countries and provinces whose tuition situations serve their purposes. There are other nations where tuition is much lower than in this province and some where it is free. Their argument does not take into account the complete set of facts and I fail to see how tuition fee hikes are ever a step in the right direction.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Les Enfants Terribles

Ok, so I figured I might as well do a restaurant review since I'm at school and I have a long break during which I can't seem to find anything better to do. My boyfriend took me out to a restaurant recently :) called Les Enfants Terribles (corner Bernard and Champagneur) and it was absolutely awesome. Although I had been there before a year ago, this recent visit has renewed my wish to tell people about how good it was.

The ambiance of the place is kind of loud but it didn't bother me at all and I was in a festive mood. I had one of their cocktails, a slightly altered mojito that they call the "mojito d'Outremont". It was very fresh and had a pleasant sweetness, the mint was sufficient, but not overpowering. So good results there. For the meal I ordered fish and chips (a perennial favorite of mine that I order everywhere). The fish and chips at Les Enfants Terribles is the best I have ever had. I know that's a highly controversial claim since I've recently been to England and had fish and chips at least 7 times while I was there, but honestly, this was the best. My boyfriend had a pâté chinois made with braised joue de boeuf instead of ground beef and the meat was so tender and full of flavour that it almost changed my perspective on this usually bland dish that I generally dislike.
After all this satisfying food, we decided what the hell let's get a dessert. We had a pouding chômeur, which was warm, sweet, and overall delicious. The service was also good and the owner kept coming and asking us if we liked the food, which I thought was kind of pleasant. Basically, you should all go to this restaurant, it wasn't that expensive and the food was really more than worth it.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Winter; A Guide

Well, judging from the current temperature in Montreal, WINTER IS COMING! As much as some of us would like to cling to fall (which has actually been quite temperate and pleasant), we all know that fall is pretty much over and soon it will start snowing. So this is my survival guide to Montreal winters:

1) If you walk outside for more than a few steps per day (basically if you don't have a car or parking is scarce) DO NOT buy winter boots that you actually like. Do not expect to wear your boots for more than one or two winters at best unless you take care and wash them very frequently. In Montreal, instead of plowing and removing the snow, they simply throw salt at it. Throughout the day, salty snow melts into small salty slush oceans at every street corner and your boots will inevitably look like this at the end of the season:

2) For god's sake if you take the metro dress in layers. The metro is maintained at a constant temperature of about 35 degrees (celsius!) year round and you will literally die if you don't have layers of clothing that you can peel off your already sweat-drenched body and try to cool yourself off by standing under the ceiling vents that blow hot air at your head.

3) If you live in an apartment with hot water heating that you DO NOT CONTROL (as is, thank god, no longer the case for me), it might help to put a thermometer in your apartment so that when you complain to your landlord that it's time to switch on the heat and that you've been sleeping in your snowsuit, you can give them a precise measurement of just how inappropriately cold it is in your apartment. This gives greater credibility to your claims. I don't make any promises as to the effectiveness of this technique however, since it is a well-known fact that most Montreal landlords are either sub-retarded or evil minions of Satan.

4) Keep your expectations low. I know we all get excited for the first snowfall, but try not to. Any snow that falls will turn brownish-grey not long after hitting the ground. This can lead to feeling dispirited. If you spend up all your winter-happiness at the beginning of the season, you will have a hard life in February. Try to keep some of that excitement for March, or even April, when you can't see the sense in life anymore after we've had ANOTHER late-season snowstorm.

Basically, it is scarily cold today (already, sigh) and I just wanted to wish you all good luck, and remember, in only 9 months we will all be complaining about how damn hot and humid it is in this city! YAY!

P.S. Do you want to see snow that doesn't become brownish-grey almost instantly? I recommend the Eastern Townships (it's my favorite place to look at virginal, WHITE snow) :)

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Help Review

So, I've recently read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

         I already know that you guys are thinking that I have succumbed to the media pressure that always ensues when a movie adaptation of a book is released. However, I have NOT seen the film and know little to nothing about it (only that Emma Stone was in it). In any case, I found this book to be absolutely excellent. I was enthralled by the story and often had a lot of trouble putting the book down (even when I had to leave for school or start doing homework). 
          In case you don't already know, the story is about black maids in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960's. Basically, a young white woman with a flair for journalism takes an interest in the experience of being a black maid in that time and place. She starts secretly compiling a book full of their stories and from that the story unfolds. I will stop there since I hope that you will want to read it for yourself and I don't want to spoil it. 

        The characters were so relatable. They were realistic as people and I could understand and empathize with their points of view. The character development was very good and I felt that we knew each of the characters well; from their flaws to their positive traits and all their nuances. The book was also deeply affecting and appealed to the anger that arises in me when I hear of inequality and discrimination. The Help really uses the stories of the main characters to get you thinking and that's what characterizes a good book in my opinion. 

       If you are still not convinced that The Help is worth it, then let me add that the ending made me cry in public, AT SCHOOL. So there. 

Click here to check out or buy The Help

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Super Late STM outrage

Ok, So I know I am probably extremely late on this one, but my boyfriend just informed me that you now have to pay 3$ to come back from Longueuil metro even if you have an opus card. Sort of similar to how you have to have to pay if you want to come back from Laval on the metro even though you were able to get there using your opus card.
 I had no idea about this although my roommate told me it has been going on since the summer. In any case, this is absolutely ridiculous and preposterous. I already knew about the Laval thing, but this new limitation to the metro system is just so irritating. Especially since the STM already charges a lot for monthly opus card passes and the metro lines hardly cover every inch of Montreal.
Reasons this new STM Longueuil stuff is idiocy:
1) It is COMPLETELY ILLOGICAL that a person can get somewhere with a certain type of metro pass and not be able to get back from that place with the same type of metro pass USING THE SAME METRO AND THE SAME TRANSPORTATION SERVICE.
2) I also fail to understand how this is supposed to encourage people to use the metro! The STM runs all these annoying add campaigns about how using public transportation is so important and everyone should use it. It would seem like putting even more limitations on the metro system and forcing people who live on the South Shore to buy "special" monthly fares (by special I mean twice the price) in order to use the Montreal metro. This is completely counter-productive if they actually want people to abandon their cars and start using the smelly, expensive, thousand-degree metro.
3) Isn't public transportation supposed to be affordable to everyone? (especially poor people who can't afford cars, and students, like myself) It is already so expensive, I can't believe individual tickets are now up to 3$ each.  Ugghhh.
IN CONCLUSION: The STM, as is customary with most organizations in Montreal and Quebec in general, is a backwards, illogical, money-making enterprise that is hypocritical at best and cares little or nothing about the multitudes of Montrealers who are forced to use its "services" on a daily basis.
Just as an aside, now that I've gotten myself started about the metro. This is just a message to all the users of the metro (and especially those who use the BLUE LINE who seem to be the most clueless about this simple rule):
DO NOT stand directly in front of the doors when people are trying to get out and ABSOLUTELY DO NOT try to enter the metro car before the people who are trying to get off have done so! Come on, this is common sense and basic human decency. Please stop being ignorant and move your dumb self to the side to let others get off before you squash yourself into the metro car!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Happy Soup Time

Ok everybody, it's time to make soup. It's fall and it's so damn cold in Montreal and it's also frightfully damp, grey, and depressing. Therefore, it's Happy Soup Time. I will give you all a wonderful recipe for Black Bean Soup that I got ahold of when I worked at the Glen Sutton Outdoor Lodge.

Let me first preface this by clarifying that I am NOT A GOOD COOK IN ANY WAY and no less than nothing about food, but this soup has kept me fairly well nourished throughout CEGEP and now in University as well. It can also be vegetarian if you use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.

1-Chop up two onions (regular white ones)
2-Put the onions in a frying pan with one tablespoon of olive oil (actually the quantity of olive oil isn't that important, just use what you need to lubricate your pan)
3-Put a tablespoon of chili powder (2 tablespoons if you like spicy things like I do) and sprinkle red pepper flakes, to your liking, on the onions.
4-Stir this mixture around in your frying pan with the heat on medium for 5-8 minutes.
5-Take out a pot and insert: a can of corn, a can of black beans (drain the juice and RINSE thoroughly), a can of diced tomatoes (drain the juice), a box of chicken stock, and finally your now-spicy onions.
6-Bring this mixture to a BOIL, then turn down the heat and simmer it for about 10-15 minutes. Don't forget to stir periodically.
7-Puree the entire thing for a lovely smooth texture. :)
Two people can survive on this for up to 3 days.

This soup can be spicy, so be aware of that if you don't like spicy food. I love it because it tastes like liquified tacos even though there's no meat involved. It's hearty, will help unplug your nose if you have a cold, and contains a lot of beans so you definitely won't be constipated after eating it ;)

Monday, 17 October 2011


I'm not sure what this French theme I have going on is all about but I'm just going to let it be for now. My good friend Hannah Mei who has a lovely blog called Sweets and Meats inspired me to make my own blog, although I hardly expect it to be cute and have delicious content the way hers does.
The entire concept of this is that I become fully obsessed by new things at fast rates, and since they are diverse and sometimes mildly interesting, I guess I will post them.

At this moment, I am fixated on RATS. I have pet rats. Before you recoil in disgust, consider the following facts on pet rats:
1) Pet rats DO NOT resemble sewer rats or other types of wild rats at all, they are actually so cute! (example above)
2) Rats are intelligent, can even be litter trained, and contrary to other common rodents **hamsters**, they neither shit in their own food bowls, nor bite the hand that feeds them. Like I said, they're smart.
3) THEY ARE NOT DISEASE-RIDDEN RODENTS OF DOOM. They're actually quite clean and not smelly, especially the females who I have found usually smell quite pleasant. Although their ancestors might have introduced the bubonic plague to Europe, they are not a threat in the modern world! Also, medieval history class would have been impossible to stay awake through without the exciting plague and crazy plague doctor stories your teacher told you. Thank you rats.
4) They are really loving and they totally get you as a person. I would also add that I am an extreme cat-lover living in a pet-repressive apartment situation (as is often the case), and being unable to own cats, rats are a perfect substitute that landlords tolerate. They are like small cats with long, hairless tails!

IN CONCLUSION: Do you want an intelligent, loving pet that costs next to nothing and you can keep in your apartment? RATS ARE THE ANSWER.

P.S. One of my rats tragically died yesterday and it's very sad. The above photo depicts her in her prime. Rest in peace Gretchen! :(