Thursday, July 15, 2010
Cancer Concepts: As a class of diseases that involves the uncontrolled growth of cells, cancer generally ravages the mind, body, and soul to the point of non-existence. Most cancers present themselves as malignant tumors that tend to divide and conquer otherwise healthy tissue. Cancer treatment, for the most part, includes three basic options: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. While surgery entails the physical removal of cancer, chemotherapy treats the disease systemically with agents that inhibit the reproductive capacity of cells. Radiotherapy, on the other hand, uses ionizing radiation to cause cell death in targeted locations, which also alleviates the various symptoms that are typically associated with a cancerous malignancy. But the ultimate philosophical questions surrounding cancer do not necessarily involve how to treat it. Existentially speaking, the causes and purposes of cancer serve as the primordial pillars in a philosophical debate. For if Sartre is correct, and existence does indeed precede essence, then cancer can be understood as a natural component of the body's self-destructive mechanisms. That is, when the time comes to move from this life into the next, the body initiates a series of ruinous processes to incite cell death. And as Nietzsche concludes, "there is more wisdom in your body than in your best wisdom."
Thursday, July 1, 2010
The Frontier Experience: When the 1890 United States Census declared the Western frontier closed, few people understood the implications behind it. In 1893, historian Frederick Jackson Turner published "The Significance of the Frontier in American History." This essay sought to explain the origins of American exceptionalism in the context of westward expansion. For Turner, the process of settling the West became an essential component of both American individualism and identity. The ideas of westward settlement and expansion were not exclusive to Turner's "Frontier Thesis," however. In 1845, New York journalist John O'Sullivan popularized the term "Manifest Destiny" (God-given right to go West) in reference to the annexation of Texas. Now that American frontiersman had God on their side, it was only a matter of willpower for the West to be made into a distinctive region. With the closing of the frontier, the nation had effectively exhausted its continental territory. Turner therefore assumed a Malthusian perspective toward the American West where population growth and food production must be balanced. If population growth far exceeded food production, then the West would potentially face abandonment, as its geography was not conducive to large-scale settlement in the first place.