ChatGPT is like online office hours with the internet
Recently I have been reading a lot of criticism against ChatGPT in regards to education. The most common argument I see against ChatGPT is that it will make "learning" or finding information too easy; that it will lead to regressions in critical thinking or contemplation. In my opinion, this is equivalent to someone in 2005 saying Wikipedia is going to be the death of education.
Access to information and tools will not impede education.
Rather, it must simply be understood that reading an often high level explanation is not always equatable to deep understanding. The latter takes contemplation, practice and work.
ChatGPT is like a professor in office hours: you can be as specific as you'd like and even ask follow up questions.
When it comes to fields like Philosophy and History it is important to note that ChatGPT is not a source of absolute truth. It is a tool to help with education, not a crutch. Follow up research is always prudent.
The use cases described below are invaluable for those trying to get an informal education outside of an institution.
Here are some exciting real world examples of me using ChatGPT to help me with my education.
When I am reading something very new, especially in philosophy, I sometimes get caught up on difficult passages. Searching for help on a specific passage is difficult. The issue may be that I do not have the proper context to follow, or I may not have enough experience with the author's philosophy to truly understand what they are saying, or I may just need my ass put into gear.
Articles online may clear up some aspects and satisfy some of my curiosity, but they also often leave large aspects of the original question completely unanswered or even end up invoking new questions.
The results from asking ChatGPT are amazing.
In "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", what does Nietzsche mean when he says "The you is older than the I; the you has been pronounced holy, but not yet the I: so man crowds toward his neighbor."?
In "Thus Spoke Zarathustra," Nietzsche uses this phrase to convey the idea that human beings have a fundamental need for social connection and relationship with others. The passage can be interpreted in a few different ways, but here is one possible interpretation:
First, when Nietzsche says "The you is older than the I," he is suggesting that our sense of self and identity arises in relation to others. The "you" here refers to other people, while the "I" refers to oneself. Nietzsche is arguing that our concept of self is not something that exists independently of other people, but rather emerges through our interactions with them. In other words, we cannot fully understand ourselves without considering our relationships with others.
Second, when Nietzsche says "the you has been pronounced holy, but not yet the I," he is suggesting that in many religious and moral systems, the concept of God or some other divine figure is seen as sacred or holy, while the concept of individual human beings is not. Nietzsche may be critiquing these systems, arguing that they place too much emphasis on the transcendent or divine and not enough on the value and dignity of individual human beings.
Finally, when Nietzsche says "so man crowds toward his neighbor," he is suggesting that human beings have a deep-seated need for social connection and relationship with others. Despite our differences and individuality, we are drawn to one another and seek out connections with others in order to understand ourselves and find meaning in life.
Overall, this passage reflects Nietzsche's belief that human identity and meaning are deeply intertwined with our relationships with others, and that we must strike a balance between individuality and social connection in order to live a fulfilling life.
Can you expand on the first point? What exists before the concept of self? How do we perceive others without a concept of self?
Nietzsche's claim that "The you is older than the I" is based on the idea that human beings are fundamentally social creatures and that our sense of self arises through our interactions with others. According to this view, our perception of others is not simply a matter of identifying and categorizing external objects, but rather a complex process of relating to and interpreting the behavior of other people.
Nietzsche believed that we cannot fully understand ourselves without considering our relationships with others. Our sense of self is not something that exists independently of other people, but rather emerges through our interactions with them. Thus, our concept of self is closely tied to our understanding of other people.
In this sense, Nietzsche is suggesting that the "concept of self" is not something that exists prior to our interactions with others. Rather, it emerges through a process of socialization and interaction. This process is ongoing and dynamic, and our sense of self is constantly evolving as we encounter new people and experiences.
So, how do we perceive others without a concept of self? According to Nietzsche, we do not perceive others in a vacuum, but rather in relation to our own experiences, desires, and values. Our understanding of others is always mediated through our own perspective, which is shaped by our past experiences and social interactions. Thus, while the concept of self may not exist prior to our interactions with others, it is always present as a background context for our perception of the world around us.
History (& asking for source material)
Sometimes I have very specific questions about history. The answers are often very interesting and inspire new questions!
I am also naturally dubious of any answers, so I would often like ChatGPT to give me some source materials for it's information.
You can even ask for specific pages in the books it references.
Before the fall of the first temple, what did worship look like for diaspora Jews?
Before the fall of the First Temple, which occurred in 586 BCE, there were already Jewish communities living outside of Israel, known as the Diaspora. These communities were established through various waves of forced migrations and voluntary emigrations, and they existed in places such as Babylon, Egypt, and other parts of the Middle East.
Worship for these Diaspora Jews was centered on the synagogue rather than the Temple in Jerusalem. Synagogues were established as places for Jews to gather for prayer, study, and community activities. These early synagogues were not like the grand structures that would later be built in the Roman era, but rather small, simple buildings or rooms in private homes.
The synagogue services would have included the recitation of prayers, the reading of Torah, and the teaching of religious laws and customs by a rabbi or other learned person. There would also have been singing and possibly even some instrumental music, although this was not a central part of the worship.
Despite the absence of the Temple, Diaspora Jews continued to observe the rituals and customs of their religion, including the observance of Shabbat and the holidays, as well as the practice of circumcision, dietary laws, and other commandments. They maintained their identity as a distinct people and looked forward to the eventual rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in Israel.
These Jews most likely did not have the means to make Aliyah, yet Judaism was a largely temple focused religion that urged Jews to migrate to Jerusalem. What did they think about Aliyah?
While Judaism certainly placed a strong emphasis on the centrality of the Temple in Jerusalem, it is important to note that not all Jews were able or willing to make the journey to Israel. The Diaspora communities were often established due to political, economic, or social factors that prevented Jews from migrating to Israel.
That being said, many Diaspora Jews still had a deep connection to Israel and the Temple. They would have longed for the rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in Israel, as these were key aspects of Jewish messianic beliefs. Many would have also made efforts to support the Temple and its priests, either through financial contributions or by sending offerings and sacrifices to be made on their behalf.
At the same time, there were also some Diaspora Jews who believed that their own communities were just as valid as the Temple in Jerusalem. These Jews may have seen the synagogue as a spiritual center that could replace the Temple, or they may have viewed their own observance of Jewish law and custom as equally important to the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Overall, attitudes towards Aliyah and the centrality of the Temple likely varied among Diaspora Jews, depending on factors such as their own personal beliefs, their connections to Israel and the Temple, and the political and social circumstances of their time.
Can you provide a reputable source for reading more about Diaspora Jews who believed that their own communities were just as valid as the Temple in Jerusalem?
Yes, there are many sources available that discuss the rise in importance of synagogues in Jewish life. Here are a few:
1. "The Synagogue in Late Antiquity" by Lee Levine: This book provides an in-depth exploration of the role of the synagogue in Jewish life during the late antique period (roughly 200-600 CE), when the institution began to take on greater importance in the wake of the destruction of the Second Temple. Levine discusses the social and religious functions of the synagogue, its architecture and decoration, and its relationship to other aspects of Jewish life and practice.
2. "The Synagogue: Studies in Origins, Archaeology, and Architecture" edited by Joseph Gutmann: This edited volume includes essays by a variety of scholars on topics related to the history, archaeology, and architecture of synagogues. The essays cover a wide range of time periods and geographic regions, and offer insights into the development of the synagogue as a central institution in Jewish life.
3. "The Synagogue: History, Context, and Archaeology" by Jodi Magness: This book provides a comprehensive overview of the history and archaeology of synagogues from the Hellenistic period to the modern era. Magness discusses the social, cultural, and religious functions of synagogues, their architectural and decorative features, and the ways in which they reflect the diversity of Jewish communities throughout history.
These sources should provide a solid foundation for further exploration of the rise of synagogues in Jewish life, but there are many other books, articles, and resources available on this topic as well.
Reading comprehension prompts
Sometimes I don't have anyone to chat with about what I've just read and also maybe want to practice some writing. If I need inspiration, I use ChatGPT to generate some prompts.
It is important to note you can also ask for answers, which is awesome.
Generate 5 complex reading comprehension question prompts for the first part of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own.
1. Woolf claims that "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction". How do her arguments about economic independence and creative freedom relate to the broader social and cultural context in which she was writing? How do they challenge traditional assumptions about women's roles and abilities in society?
2. Throughout the first part of A Room of One's Own, Woolf cites numerous examples of famous male writers, including Shakespeare and Milton. How does she use these examples to highlight the ways in which women writers have been historically marginalized and excluded from the literary canon? What strategies does she suggest for addressing this imbalance?
3. Woolf argues that women's writing has been historically undervalued and overlooked because it does not conform to traditional masculine standards of literature. What alternative models of writing does she propose, and how do they challenge the dominant literary discourse of her time? How do these ideas relate to contemporary debates about gender and genre in literature?
4. Woolf uses the fictional character of Judith Shakespeare to illustrate the limitations and obstacles faced by women writers throughout history. How does the figure of Judith Shakespeare function in Woolf's argument, and what broader cultural and historical forces does she represent? What role does this imaginary figure play in Woolf's larger project of promoting women's creativity and intellectual freedom?
5. Woolf suggests that the obstacles faced by women writers are not solely due to individual or personal factors, but rather stem from larger cultural and social structures that perpetuate gender inequality. How does she use examples from history and literature to illustrate this point? What implications does this argument have for contemporary discussions about gender and creativity, and what strategies might be necessary to address these issues in the present day?
One last cool example
While writing this, I remembered that there was something in the intro of A Room of One's Own that I didn't fully understand, but that I found really interesting. I had tried to search for it but didn't find much on it.
After reading AROO and about 6 intros to Woolf's works I am familiar with the context behind the quote now, but ChatGPT has a very helpful response! It would have been super useful to have at the time.
When Alex Zwerdling says "Woolf’s particular contribution to the women’s movement was to restore a sense of the complexity of the issues after the radical simplification that had seemed necessary for political action,” what is the radical simplification he is referring to?
Alex Zwerdling is likely referring to the radical simplification of gender issues that occurred during the first wave of the feminist movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At that time, women were fighting for basic political rights, such as the right to vote, to own property, and to receive an education. These issues were seen as essential to achieving gender equality, and they were often framed in simple, binary terms: men had power and women did not.
Zwerdling argues that this simplification of gender issues was necessary for political action at the time. However, he suggests that by the time Virginia Woolf was writing in the early 20th century, the women's movement had begun to recognize the limitations of this approach. Woolf's contribution, according to Zwerdling, was to restore a sense of complexity to the issues, to move beyond the simple binary of men vs. women and to explore the nuances of gender, sexuality, and power in a more nuanced way.