Monday, July 13, 2015



D. R. Khashaba

When David Hume arrived in Hades a venerable old man came forward eagerly to meet him. The old man said, “My name is Plato. I have been looking forward to seeing you.” Hume was a little baffled but answered politely, “I am honoured to meet you, sir; but what can I do for you?”

Plato said: “Let us first fin ourselves comfortable seating in this beautiful nearby grove. I apologize for my importunity in accosting you before you have even had a look at the place.”

Comfortably seated on the lush grass underneath a high plane-tree, dear to Plato’s heart, with a rippling stream sweetly murmuring close by, Plato contimued: “I have been following your philosophical writings with great enjoyment but one statement of yours gave me pause.”

Hume prickled. “What statement was that?”

“Where you say: ‘If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.’”

“Was I mistaken in that?”

“My worthy friend, in philosophy to be mistaken is nothing serious. We are all necessarily making mistakes all the time; it is in correcting our mistakes that we philosophize. No. It grieves me to have to say it: your fault is graver than a mistake; you have wronged philosophy.”

“How is that, sir?’

“You are quite right, my friend, in expecting not to find any ‘abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number’ or any ‘experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence’ in a book of metaphysical philosophy. It is not for philosophers to wade in those waters, although many foolishly think they may.”

“What good is such philosophy then?”

“Let me have recourse to another sagacious finding of yours. You have rightly perceived that in the natural world as delivered to us by the senses there is no necessary connection, no order, and no sense.”

“I still maintain that.”

“With right. My beloved master Socrates taught me that. He also taught me it is the ideas bred by the mind that confer on the experienced world connection and sequence and meanuing. A prophetic voice tells me that a wise man who is yet to be born into the world you have just left will also say it is the human mind that puts connection and order and sense in the deliverances of dumb sensation. And by the way, the prophetic voice tells me this yet-to-come wise man is a kinsman of yours, though he will be born in a different land and speak a different tongue.”

“Be that as it may. I still don’t see how I have wronged a philosophy that gives us no factual knowledge and no mathematical certainty.”

“Have patience my blessed friend. In this here world we are not hurried by time or harried by time. We enjoy the bliss of leisure. The human mind does not only put sense in the natural world on the level of ‘matter of fact and existence’ but, what is of far greater significance for humanity, the mind infuses life and the world with purpose, with ends and ideals. It was the poets who first made human existence meaningful and enriched life with the ideas of Beauty and Love and Loyalty and Freedom. The philosophers created the idea of the Whole and thereby made human beings whole.”

“Then it is all a sham.”

“You, my friend, gifted with an agile mind, are always quick to pluck a thought in the bud but do not wait for it to bloom. Rather than a sham I call it a dream. Human beings have no choice but to live in dream-worlds of their own creation. That is the one thing that distinguishes humans from the other animals. If, following your injunction, my friend, people on planet Earth commit the works of philosophers to the flames, to be consistent they should follow them with the works of all poets and artists and then perchance they may quietly live the tranquil life of their animal kin.”

“Shall humans live in the shadow a lie?”

“It is only the lie in the soul that is pernicious: a lie openly confessed a lie is not a lie. It is the salt of life.”

Cairo, 12 July 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015



D. R. Khashaba

These two notions are liable to be confused or implicitly identified. The confusion and the implicit identification are a source of serious error.

I have repeatedly and emphatically been designating causality as a useful fiction of science which cannot be imbued with either certainty or absolute universality. I have also repeatedly asserted that causal determinism is a superstition. Now if causality is confused with or identified with the principle of sufficient reason, then what I have been saying would be seen as sheer nonsense. It is therefore necessary to distinguish the two notions clearly.

The principle of sufficient reason is an imperative demand of the mind. It issues from the very nature of the mind as a rational power. It is none other than the ultimate principle of intelligibility which underlies all idealistic thinking, clearly affirmed in Parmenides’s pronouncement: To be and to be thought is the same thing. From this follows the corollary that any happening must in principle be explicable, in other words, there must have been sufficient reason for it to happen.

The principle of causality assumes that for any happening there is a fixed, determinate cause. This could be harmless if taken to mean the same as what I have given above as a corollary of the principle of sufficient reason. But there are two pitfalls: (1) When scientists, and empiricists generally, speak of causation they commonly have in mind specific causes extracted by abstraction from empirical observation and experimentation. They gloss over the fact that such causes are necessarily hypothetical and approximate. That the sun will ‘rise’ tomorrow leaves unmentioned the condition that no cosmic catastrophe has shattered our Earth or wobbled the whole of the Milky Way. (2) More seriously, determinism implies that ant given state of affairs absolutely determines the following state of affairs. I maintain that this is an assumption that (a) can never be empirically verified, and (b) is contradicted by our incontrovertible experience of spontaneity and creativity.

I find it incredible that philosophers and scientists have been cracking their heads trying to reconcile our freedom and creativity with the assumption of determinism rather than adjusting the concept of determinism to agree with the reality of our creativity.

The principle of sufficient reason is hospitable to freedom and creativity. Socrates’ willingly drinking the hemlock rather than escaping prison is intelligible in the light of his principles. His action vindicates the principle of sufficient reason and demolishes the superstition of causal determinism.

Cairo, 12 June 2015.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A NOTE ON ETHICS A NOTE ON ETHICS D. R. Khashaba Some works of reference define ethics as the science of morals. In my opinion this is doubly erroneous. In the first place, there is no science of morals and there can never be a science of morals. Morality defines a way of life and offers a quality of life. Hence there can be many different moralities, opposed but not necessarily contradictory. Hence too, all morality is relative, but this does not negate the absolute character of morals as an affirmation of the value of life. In the second place, ethics and morals are two completely distinct things. Ethics is the theory of morality and can – at any rate one kind of ethics can – be properly described as a science. There are two kinds of ethical theory. One kind is objective: it observes, traces, describes. records the way moral judgments and moral values arise in particular societies, cultures, or times. This follows scientific methods and can properly be described as a science. The other kind is purely theoretical. It constructs a conceptual superstructure around a particular morality, elucidating, rationalizing, justifying that particular morality. Such is the Ethics of Spinoza; such are the ethical works of Kant. The theory does not initiate or establish or even necessarily propagate the moral values it theorizes about. The theory is an extraneous adjunct to the morality. (The moral insights in a work such as Spinoza’s or Kant’s can be genuine, original, precious, but they are essentially prior to and independent of the theory.) Cairo, 10 June 2015

A NOTE ON ETHICS D. R. Khashaba Some works of reference define ethics as the science of morals. In my opinion this is doubly erroneous. In the first place, there is no science of morals and there can never be a science of morals. Morality defines a way of life and offers a quality of life. Hence there can be many different moralities, opposed but not necessarily contradictory. Hence too, all morality is relative, but this does not negate the absolute character of morals as an affirmation of the value of life. In the second place, ethics and morals are two completely distinct things. Ethics is the theory of morality and can – at any rate one kind of ethics can – be properly described as a science. There are two kinds of ethical theory. One kind is objective: it observes, traces, describes. records the way moral judgments and moral values arise in particular societies, cultures, or times. This follows scientific methods and can properly be described as a science. The other kind is purely theoretical. It constructs a conceptual superstructure around a particular morality, elucidating, rationalizing, justifying that particular morality. Such is the Ethics of Spinoza; such are the ethical works of Kant. The theory does not initiate or establish or even necessarily propagate the moral values it theorizes about. The theory is an extraneous adjunct to the morality. (The moral insights in a work such as Spinoza’s or Kant’s can be genuine, original, precious, but they are essentially prior to and independent of the theory.) Cairo, 10 June 2015

Wednesday, June 10, 2015



Tuesday, February 24, 2015


REASONING IN KANT’S ETHICAL WORKS D. R. KHASHABA INTRODUCTORY Kant’s moral philosophy is an amalgam of (1) his Pietistic upbringing, (2) insights of a morally wholesome personality, and (3) a needless adjunct of analyses and deductions that obfuscate the moral insight just as his laborious architectonic of analyses and deductions obscured the valuable insight in the Critique of Pure Reason. I have previously written on Kant’s moral philosophy (a) in “Free Will as Creativity” (included in The Sphinx and the Phoenix, 2009), and (b) in Chapter Seven, “Kant”, of Quest of Reality, 2013. In this essay I will concentrate mainly on the futility of argument in Kant’s two major ethical works. Scholars who concentrate on Kant’s arguments, whether to expound or to criticize, waste their time and what is more than their time, they waste what is truly valuable in Kant’s philosophy. In what follows I may seem to do what I blame those scholars for doing. Well, I do; but there is a difference. They – both admirers and beraters – examine the arguments and proofs to pronounce them good ones or bad ones; I pronounce them, good and bad alike, to be superfluous. I have said this before and will say it again: no original philosopher has ever reached his philosophical position inferentially. Argument, in the narrower sense of the word, is a surplus in philosophy. A philosopher argues in the first place to satisfy herself or himself, to clarify her or his basic notions, to assure themselves of the consistence of various elements in their thought, and to facilitate the exposition of their philosophy for the benefit of others. But argument can also hinder all that: it can distort and obscure the essential content of the philosophy. In this essay I will examine (1) the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, which sets out Kant’s fundamental moral insights, mainly to point out the superfluity of the theoretical argumentation, and (2) argument in the Critique of Practical Reason to show that it is not of the essence of Kant’s philosophy. In preparing this paper I have made use of my earlier writings on Kant’s moral philosophy, but what follows is not a repetition or revision of those writings but is a fresh approach. GROUNDWORK OF THE METAPHYSICS OF MORALS (1785) [All quotations in this section are from Mary Gregor’s translation (1997) of the Groundwork and cite the pagination of the standard German edition of Kant’s works, giving the volume number and page number preceded by the letters AK (for ‘Akademie’). Kant says that in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals he intends to “work out for once a pure moral philosophy, completely cleansed of everything that may be only empirical” (Preface, AK 4:3890). To do that, obviously, we need to have immediate knowledge of what is moral, in other words, to have moral experience. Moral philosophy must start from the reality of moral experience. Before working out a pure moral philosophy Kant already had the essentials of that moral philosophy. All the analyses, deductions, and constructions do not serve to discover moral principles but only to display those principles. Al ethical theory, and indeed all theorizing in any sphere, is nothing but an extraneous dressing of original insight: it does not discover or reveal but only exhibits. At the outset Kant introduces his concept of duty according to which for any action to be morally good “it is not enough that it conform with the moral law but it must also be done for the sake of the law” (Preface, AK 4:390). He had no need to find this concept by any analysis or any deduction; he brought it with him from the Pietistic edification of the Collegium Fridiricianum where he spent more than eight years, from age eight till age sixteen. It is this principle that constricted and narrowed his moral theory. He also came to the task of establishing the principles of morality already armed with the insight that the nothing is “good without limitation except a good will” (AK 4:393), and the insight that humanity must always be regarded “as an end, never merely as a means” (AK 4:429). These insights are the true foundation of Kant’s moral philosophy, not the theoretical principles and maxims nor even the concept of duty. Let me add: When Kant says that nothing is good absolutely but a good will and Socrates maintains that the only intrinsically good thing is a healthy soul, on the outside these seem to be different positions, but I see in them the same insight. We will see in what follows what Kant’s rationalizations of these principles and insights amount to. Kant asserts that “because moral laws are to hold for every rational being as such” we have “to derive them from the universal concept of a rational being as such” (AK 4:412). In Chapter Seven of Quest of Reality I expressed disagreement with this view. I now see that, forgetting about the supposed derivation from a universal concept, Kant’s statement readily translates into the position of Socrates who saw that our whole worth and our particular excellence as human beings is in our rationality; to live under the guidance of reason makes our soul wholesome; to depart from reason harms the soul. Socrates had no need to derive this from any concept; for him the insight was the reality and shone in its own self-evidence. Having enunciated the Categorical Imperative, Kant confesses: “Here, then, we see philosophy put in fact in a precarious position, which is to be firm even though there is nothing in heaven or on earth from which it depends or on which it is based” (AK 4:426). Indeed, there is nothing in heaven or on earth from which the principle could be derived. Nor could Socrates’ principle that to suffer injustice is better than to commit injustice be derived from anything in heaven or on earth. In the Euthyphro Socrates rejects offhand the soothsayer’s attempt to make piety dependent on what the gods approve of. (Albeit Plato at this point chooses to support the rejection with a logical argument.) “So act that you use humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means” (AK 4:429): Kant derives this ‘practical imperative’ from the principle that “rational nature exists as an end in itself”. No matter how many inferential steps we range between the principle and the imperative, in the end we have nothing but a circumlocution: a rational being is an end in itself; treat humanity as an end in itself. At AK 4:430-431 Kant says that the principle of humanity as an end in itself is not borrowed from experience and must arise from pure reason — from pure reason maybe, but not by reasoning. (See note at bottom on ‘reason and reasoning’.) The very idea of humanity has been very slow in gaining ground even among the most highly civilized peoples; it has been the creative gift of generous souls; it is still alien to large sectors of humankind and in yet larger sectors it receives lip service but is ignored in practice, else humankind would not be in the miserable state we are in. That autonomy “is the ground of the dignity of human nature” is the principle of every genuine morality: it is of the essence of Socrates’ position which amounts to maintaining that a human being is truly human only when her or his action flows from the ideas and ideals created by the human mind; it is at the heart of Stoicism; it is the core of Spinoza’s Ethics, as it is the cornerstone of Kant’s morality. And how do we come by the idea of autonomy as the ground of morality? Not by reasoning but by insight into our inner reality. When Kant defines a free person as “one whose actions are not determined by any external force, not even by his own desires”, are we not being given a mere tautology? The phrase “not even by his own desires” is added in compliance with the Categorical Imperative: a person may be motivated by her or his desires without injury to their morality but then the action would not be ‘moral’ according to Kant’s narrow definition. When Kant speaks of the will as the causality of a rational being, he is unnecessarily making for confusion and creating theoretical difficulties for himself. ‘Causality’ in the natural world and ‘causality’ in the moral sphere have nothing in common but a misapplied word. Perhaps it would be better to say that a moral act does not have a cause but a reason. As Socrates explained in the Phaedo, his remaining put in prison awaiting execution cannot be explained by physical causes but only by his moral principles. Confusing these is a source of much vicious reasoning. Kant’s adherence to the causal determinism prevalent in his time confounds all his efforts to reconcile moral freedom with physical causality. He traps himself in an inescapable maze: “Hence freedom is only an idea of reason, the objective reality of which is in itself doubtful, whereas nature is a concept of the understanding that proves, and must necessarily prove, its reality in examples from experience” (AK 4:455). On these terms he wriggles in vain with abstruse and circuitous reasoning to escape his quandary. The “idea of reason” is its own reality, is what is really real, as Plato would say, while the “concept of the understanding” as applied to the phenomenal world is something we take on faith without rational justification, as Hume discovered. I am here reversing Kant’s use of the term ‘faith’: he assigns it to the moral sphere, I, following Plato, to the empirical. Kant is wiser than he kens when he says that “reason would overstep all its bounds if it took it upon itself to explain how pure reason can be practical, which would be exactly the same task as to explain how freedom is possible” (AK 4:458/459). Indeed, reason cannot explain freedom; no reality can be or has to be explained, and freedom is the reality of our creative intelligence which is our reality and all the reality we know. “For we can explain nothing but what we can reduce to laws the object of which can be given in some possible experience” (AK 4:459). Again this is more meaningful than Kant intended and our modern scientists (and philosophers) have not grasped the meaning. Scientific ‘explanation’ does not give us understanding but an expedient tool. Only philosophy, in exploring the mysteries of reality, gives us true understanding in the sense of immediate awareness of the self-evidence of what is real, which we may call ‘insight’. If what I say sounds enigmatic it is because we are too much under the sway of the presuppositions that both rationalism and empiricism have enveloped us in, rendering us incapable of looking within to behold our inner reality. Kant’s ‘Copernican revolution’ was incomplete; he himself continued to see the outer world as real while he reduced the inner world to mere ideas or at best Ideas of Pure Reason; later philosophers reduced it to a ‘deus ex machina’ or at best to a negligible epiphenomenon.. I will say it bluntly: of all philosophers only Socrates-Plato knew where to look for reality. The mystics knew, and maybe Gautama the Buddha and the philosophers of India. The West has been blinded by the successes of science, and lest my reference to the West be misinterpreted I add: where I live we are drowned in the thickest darkness of stark ignorance. I will not here discuss Kant’s desperate attempts in the Concluding Remark to escape with his religious beliefs through the impenetrable walls of his transcendental edifice. Kant intended the Groundwork as “nothing more than the search for and establishment of the supreme principle of morality” (AK 4:392). He could have saved himself the trouble, for at the very beginning we have the insight behind all that he laboured to search for and establish. It reads: “It is impossible to think of anything at all in the world, or indeed even beyond it, that could be considered good without limitation except a good will” (AK 4:393). From this unfolds all the rest as a plant unfolds from the seed. CRITIQUE OF PRACTICAL REASON (1787) [All quotations in this section are in T. K. Abbott’s translation, 1996, and the page numbers refer to that edition.] In the Preface to the Critique of Practical Reason Kant presents the notion of freedom in his convoluted style. We are told that transcendental freedom, freedom in the absolute sense, is required by speculative reason “in its use of the concept of causality in order to escape the antinomy into which it inevitably falls, when in the chain of cause and effect it tries to think the unconditioned” (p. 13). Underneath this knotted statement lies the simple insight that our mind, in its theoretical capacity, finding that the chain of cause and effect, followed objectively, extends to infinity, demands that the endlessly conditioned be rooted in the unconditioned and finds that only the idea of spontaneous free activity can render any becoming intelligible. If my statement is as convoluted as Kant’s don’t blame me but him. We are immediately aware of our freedom in the spontaneity of our moral and our creative activity. To try to rationalize our immediate and indubitable sense of freedom we have to clothe it in theoretical vestment. Those who feel that they need to justify or prove their freedom are deluded by the unjustified supposition of causal determinism which is no more than a useful scientific fiction which science can never prove to be absolute. (I have to go out of my way to affirm what I have explained repeatedly before, that confusing spontaneous creative freedom with choice vitiates modern thinking on the problem.) In Kant’s transcendental philosophy our knowledge of the natural world is confined to the surface of phenomena behind which or underneath which we suppose there must be something real (the noumenon), but we can by no means validate this supposition empirically. It is in the moral act that we have our only communion with the noumenon and only there do we meet with genuine causality. if ‘causality’ is the word. (Etymologically ‘noumenon’ is simply what is thought, so obviously it cannot be found outside the mind, but, since Kant, it has come to mean what is real as opposed to the unreality of phenomenal appearances.) Kant goes wrong in trying to establish the reality of freedom apodeictically. He says he is only establishing the possibility of the concept. To the Empiricists this is as nothing for they only acknowledge what can be established empirically. As for idealists who maintain that ideas are all that is real, what need have they for establishing the possibility of the concept when to do that we must already have the concept? Plato did not try to establish either the necessity or the possibility or the reality of the soul or of the Forms or of the Idea of the Good, for it is in these that we ourselves attain reality and know reality. Reality, the reality that has its being and its home in the mind and nowhere but in the mind shines in its own self-evidence. To theorize about such reality can only be useful in leading us to probe and explore our own inner reality; otherwise all such theorization is inane. Kant distinguishes three ‘Ideas of Pure Reason’: God, Freedom, and Immortality. These terms are ambiguous. If we take God to mean the unconditioned condition of all that is, Freedom to mean the spontaneity of creative intelligence, and Immortality to mean the supra-temporality of the soul or mind, then these are creative ideals that confer intelligibility and worth on our life and our world; ideas and ideals that make the experienced world meaningful and real foe us but do not actually exist in the world outside us. But Kant is untrue to his own transcendental system when he tries to find moral ground for affirming the actuality of these ideals in the world outside us. Kant tries to resolve the incompatibility of causal determinism with moral freedom by distinguishing between the phenomenal subject and the noumenal subject. The phenomenal subject is part of nature and is subject to natural law; the noumenal subject is autonomous and free and is subject to the moral law. This enunciation fails to resolve the incompatibility: as long as we suppose causal determinism to be absolute, moral freedom must be seen as a delusion, just as belief in an omnipotent and omniscient personal God makes of free will a mockery. But we are immediately and indubitably aware of our creative freedom; it is causal determinism that lacks evidence and must be taken as a working approximation. Problem I in the Analytic reads: “Supposing that the mere legislative form of maxims is alone the sufficient determining principle of a will, to find the nature of the will which can be determined by it alone” (p.43). Kant ‘finds’ that “such a will must be conceived as quite independent on the natural law of phenomena in their mutual relation, namely, the law of causality; such independence is called freedom in the strictest, that is in the transcendental sense; consequently, a will which can have its law in nothing but the mere legislative form of the maxim is a free will” (p. 43). Who will take this for proper deduction or reasoning? The circuitous wording of the ‘problem’ cannot hide that it is asking about the nature of a will that freely conforms to a maxim. The idea of freedom is implanted in the ‘problem’. The idea of the Categorical Imperative, which stems from Kant’s Pietistic upbringing is the source of this equating of freedom, the quintessence of morality, with conformity to law; which is nothing but to be autonomous, that is, to follow one’s own law. But Kant in making the Categorical Imperative the all in all of morality narrows morality unnecessarily and impoverishes the concept of freedom. I have formerly defended Kant’s contention that only acts done out of duty are moral on the ground that that is the logical consequence of his definition of morality which does not deny the worth of acts done out of other good motives. Already in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals we find him affirming that “there are many souls so sympathetically attuned that, without any other motive of vanity or self-interest they find an inner satisfaction in spreading joy around them and can take delight in the satisfaction of others” (AK 4:398). Yet in obedience to his own constricted definition of ‘moral’ he is forced to assert that such action is of no moral worth. I am for a wider conception of morality and freedom. A poet spontaneously pouring her or his joy or grief in song is free and morally good. A mother suckling her baby may do it instinctively but if she does it with love her act is free and morally good. It would of course be unfair and unreasonable to think that Kant’s narrow theoretical conception of morality reflects on his personality: a person who throughout his whole life was devoted to science and philosophy, who could speak of “souls so sympathetically attuned that … they find an inner satisfaction in spreading joy around them”, whose mind was filled with awe and wonder by the starry heavens above him and the moral sense within him, such a person must have been of a generous and kind nature, must have been a beautiful soul. Those who pour scorn on his austere ‘deontology’ (a term for which Kant is not responsible) should remember this. Kant needlessly embroils himself in theoretical conundrums. Having asserted that what gives actions moral worth is “that the moral law should directly determine the will”, he goes on to say that “as to the question how a law can be directly and of itself a determining principle of the will (which is the essence of morality), this is, for human reason, an insoluble problem and identical with the question: how a free will is possible” (pp. 92-93). Why couldn’t Kant rest content with the self-evidence of an idea? For Socrates the self-evidence of the idea is the final goal of reasoning. For Plato the idea is the reality and the mystery. No theorizing and no reasoning can go beyond the reality and the mystery affirmed in Socrates’ statement: It is by Beauty that all that is beautiful is beautiful. Kant’s response to the conflict between causal determinism and freedom of the will is to see causality as the law of the phenomenal and freedom as the law of the noumenal. This solution will not satisfy anyone who takes causality as an ultimate principle. Only when we dethrone causality and see it as a working fiction can we find it consistent with the freedom of the noumenal. We know spontaneous creativity immediately but know causality only as an inductive hypothesis. But in Kant’s time both Rationalists and Empiricists believed implicitly in the universality of the causal principle. We must give credit to Kant for refusing to throw freedom overboard. He characterizes this position as faith. (Hume was right in asserting that there is no rational justification for the notion of causality, but was wrong when he stopped at debunking the principle of causality. Kant, to rescue science, affirmed that causality is imposed by the mind on nature.) For Kant (1) the existence of God, (2) freedom of the will, and (3) the immortality of the soul, are three Postulates of Practical Reason. But Kant, flouting his own transcendental system, labours to show that on moral grounds we are justified in accepting the existence of God and immortality as actual. He could not discard the doctrines inculcated in him in his childhood. In my view the idea of God as the unity of all being under the Principle of Integrity and Wholeness, the idea of immortality as the supra-temporality of the soul, and the idea of freedom as creativity, are realities in the Platonic sense, are ideas that confer intelligibility and value on our life and our world: that is their whole reality, a reality in and for the mind, a metaphysical reality which we err when we transform into actualities. Even freedom, the only reality of which we are immediately aware, cannot reasonably be projected into the world outside us. Kant’s arguments for the validity of these Postulates prove nothing and serve no purpose. They are, to say the least, redundant. NOTE: In this paper I have been using ‘reason and ‘reasoning’ almost as opposites. Some explanation is due. By ‘reason’ I mean what Plato sometimes calls phronêsis and what I elsewhere prefer to call ‘intelligence’ in a special sense of the tem. Reason is reflection, is the mind probing the mind. is the ground and fount of rationality. Reasoning is argument in the narrower sense of ‘argument’ and it is not one uniform thing: reasoning in mathematics is other than reasoning in inductive science and this is other than reasoning in a law suit or in political debate. Reasoning always has limits defined by its subject-matter and the method proper to that particular subject=matter; breaching those limits leads to gross error. In philosophy, while reason is the all in all of philosophizing, reasoning is peripheral and only has incidental use: to elucidate, to facilitate exposition, to examine one’s own thought for clearing inconsistencies, contradictions and obscurities. Philosophers mistakenly thinking they have to vie with mathematics or science have done grave damage to philosophy. Cairo, 24 February 2015.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


ON ROGER PENROSE’S ROAD TO REALITY D. R. Khashaba The demonstration will be to pundits unconvincing, to the wise convincing. Plato, Phaedrus, 245c. Roger Penrose has written a voluminous book, The Road to Reality, 2004. It is not the kind of book I would normally be tempted to tackle, having neither the competence nor the inclination, but a friend has kindly made it available to me. Enticed by the title and being an incorrigible fool, it occurred to me to make some comments on the book, not on the mathematics or the physics: fool though I am, I am not such an imbecile as to opine in areas where I confess myself an ignoramus. I will comment on certain assumptions and certain implications that may slip in unwittingly as they usually do when scientists are oblivious to the limitations of science. Anyway, I know that in this paper I have stuck my neck out by taking on an accomplished man of science. I hope that this does not prove me completely insane, for I am not meeting him on his own ground, which I dare not tread, but on my ground. I begin with two preliminary remarks that I jotted down on first glancing at the title page and the table of contents. A) The book is subtitled “A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe”, and the question pops up: Do the laws (mathematical and physical) of the universe constitute reality? Do they reveal reality? What reality? At this point I merely pose these questions as questions and nothing more. In what follows I will clarify the thoughts that impel me to pose these questions. B) Section 1.1 is headed: “The quest of the forces that shape the world”. I suspect a sleight of hand here. The laws have unwarrantably become forces. This is a standing trick of scientists. Science doesn’t know any force, cannot point to any force, since it cannot put any force in a test tube or under a microscope. The laws of the natural world are supposed to work themselves out just by virtue of their being laws decreed by some unknown god, and here they have metamorphosed into forces that shape the world. In doing this, scientists give themselves licence to jump a truly unbridgeable chasm. This is a point I will expand on in what follows. I write down my remarks as I read. This explains the rough edges at certain points and the untidy formation and the many revisions and inserted additions, I am afraid, have added to the disarray. To facilitate reference I will place my remarks under the relevant sections, using the author’s decimal numbering. 1.1 The quest of the forces that shape the world I find in the first paragraph clearly expressed the fallacy I decry in modern scientific thinking. It reads: “What laws govern the universe? How shall we know them? How may this knowledge help us to comprehend the world and hence guide its actions to our advantage?” I find in these words two assumptions implied, one justifiable and the other at best requiring qualification and at worst leading to gross error. But first let us be clear as to what we understand by “laws that govern the universe”. Scientists observe certain regularities, certain patterns, in the natural world; they formulate schemata, always approximate and subject to revision, picturing those regularities and patterns. These ‘laws’ may help us and have been helping us manipulate nature to do our bidding, be it to our advantage or to our doom. This is what I referred to as a justifiable assumption. But how do they help us “to comprehend the world”? It depends on what we mean by ‘comprehend’; if it means simply to know how to manipulate things to our advantage, then the phrase is redundant; but if the word means to give us insight into the reality of the universe, I strongly protest. The trouble is that highly intelligent minds immersed in science have not the least inkling of an idea as to what a philosopher means by understanding reality or insight into reality. I call to my succour Kant who affirmed that all investigation into the natural world studies phenomena but not what is beyond or underneath the phenomena. And before Kant I go for support to Socrates who knew that the investigation of nature cannot yield answers to questions of value, purpose, or ultimate origins. I have been harping on this in all my writings and will mot amplify on it further here. There is in fact in the statement quoted a third questionable assumption lurking in the word ‘govern’: in what sense do scientific laws ‘govern the universe’? There will be scope to examine this in what follows. 1.2 Mathematical truth Again when Penrose speaks of the importance of number and of mathematical concepts “in governing the actions of the physical world” I dread the error into which this seemingly innocuous phrase can mislead us. Mathematical and scientific laws govern our thinking but do not govern the world. They tell us what we may reasonably expect but do not reveal the reason behind the observed process. The notion that the laws of science have an objective existence and constitute a power working within nature is a confused idea breeding much misunderstanding and error. A metaphor is taken literally and thus mistaken for a fact. That we now have non-Euclidean geometry, in my opinion, supports my view that all mathematics and all scientific ‘laws’ are creations of the human mind that confer intelligibility on things but that we cannot affirm to be definitively ‘true’ of the world. The paragraph beginning with the words: “Euclidean geometry is a specific mathematical structure”, in my opinion, lends support to my view. I will not comment on the last paragraph under 1.2 on Plato at this point since it seems there will be ample scope for this under 1.3. 1.3 Is Plato’s mathematical world ‘real’? This section I am afraid is based (first) on the common false understanding of the so-called Platonic ‘Theory of Forms’ and (secondly) on the ambiguity in the terms ‘objective, objectivity’ and ‘existence’ and (thirdly) on the confusion of existence in the natural world with Platonic or metaphysical reality. The supposed ‘separate existence’ of the Platonic Forms in a world of their own is a misconception based partly on Plato’s poetical representation in the Phaedrus of the Forms abiding in a celestial home and partly on Plato’s youthful overemphasis on the immutability of the Forms. The misconception was strengthened by Plato’s early experimentation with various formulations for relating the Forms to the particular multiple things in which the Forms are exemplified; none of these formulations was found satisfactory by Plato. In the first part of the Parmenides he showed their incoherence. In the Sophist he showed the error of excessively dwelling on the immutability and permanence of the Forms. In neither of these later dialogues was Plato altering his original position; he was merely correcting the imbalance in expression bred by his youthful enthusiasm. I have written repeatedly and extensively on this (especially in Plato: An Interpretation, 2005) and do not think I need to go further into it here. Penrose writes: “What I mean by this ‘existence’ is just the objectivity of mathematical truth.” ‘Objectivity’ is a tricky concept. If we mean existence in the outside world then we are begging the question. Though it is not evident that Penrose means this in this particular context, the whole bent of the book shows that this is what he has in mind. His next sentence adds to the confusion. He says, “Platonic existence, as I see it, refers to the existence of an objective external standard that is not dependent upon our individual opinions nor upon our particular culture.” We are entitled to ask: Objective in what sense? External to what? Then we have, “The mathematical assertions that can belong to Plato’s world are precisely those that are objectively true.” Again we ask: What do we mean by ‘objectively true’? If we are agreed on excluding the meaning ‘exist in the outer world’, then in my opinion we are left with the sense ‘intrinsically meaningful, meaningful in themselves’, which, I believe, agrees with Plato’s position but probably not with what Penrose intends. For Plato the Forms (including mathematical notions and structures) are metaphysically real, real in and for the mind, but do not exist in the natural world though they may be exemplified in particular existents. But if “mathematical assertions … are objectively true” is taken in this sense, how does this help Penrose show that mathematical structures reveal the ‘reality’ of the universe? Let us proceed. Penrose is aware that “there will still be many readers who find difficulty with assigning any kind of actual existence to mathematical structures.” How does he meet their difficulty? He asks such readers to “merely broaden their notion of what the term ‘existence’ can mean”. Suppose they mean by ‘existence’ both what is actually in the external world and what Plato means by the term ‘real’. This is not to broaden the motion; this is to choose to ignore a radical distinction. Disregarding that this adds to the confusion, how does it help Penrose? He admits: “The mathematical forms of Plato’s world clearly do not have the same kind of existence as do ordinary physical objects such as tables and chairs.” To my mind this leaves us where we were. Plato’s Forms are a world apart, a world of metaphysical reality, a world in the mind and for the mind; they may confer intelligibility on the outside world; but that outside world remains in itself and by itself a world foreign to the world of the mind; the mind may form a poetical or philosophical vision of the world as a whole but cannot assert the vision to be true of that outside world. When Penrose speaks of the ‘reality’ of the universe I see that as resulting from a confusion of terms and from overlooking the ambiguity in the terms ‘objectivity’ and ‘existence’. Had Penrose been a trained philosopher I would have said that he sophistically manipulates ambiguities; but since he is not, I can only say that he is unaware of the deceptiveness of ambiguous terms; he uses one sense of a term in the premise then slides to a different sense in the conclusion. I hope it is clear I am not critiquing the mathematics or science of the book but only commenting on peripheral notions and assumptions. 1.4 Three worlds and three deep mysteries Penrose speaks of three ‘forms of existence’, the mathematical, the mental, and the physical. I do not understand the distinction between the mathematical and the mental. To me both of these have their reality (I reserve ‘existence’ for the physical) in the reality of our subjectivity. Let us see how Penrose relates these three forms of existence, or three worlds, to each other. He dubs the relations between these worlds mysteries. (On reading further I discovered that by ‘mental’ Penrose does not mean the activity of thought as I supposed; he apparently means the biological or physiological undercurrent mediating between his ‘physical’ and his ‘mathematical’ worlds. I wonder why he does not simply say ‘neurological’ and spare us mistaking his meaning. I also realized that my reading of the diagram was too simplistic. However I leave what I have written as it is for what it is worth.) From the schematic representation in Fig. 1.3 it would seem that for Penrose impressions received in the mental sphere go up to the mathematical sphere and from there proceed to the physical sphere. This schema in its bare outline would agree equally with a Platonic as with an Empiricist epistemology. We still have to see if this reveals to us the ‘reality’ of the physical world and if so, how, and in what sense of ‘reality’. Following Fig. 1.3 Penrose writes: “I have imposed upon the reader some of my beliefs, or prejudices, concerning these mysteries.” It is necessary that these beliefs or prejudices should come out plainly for us to decide whether they are justified or not. The figure as it stands could be accepted by Locke as by Plato, by Bertrand Russell as by Kant, which means it does not convey any definite view; the beliefs and prejudices remain hidden. We are told that “only a small part of the world of mathematics need have relevance to the workings of the physical world”. I am still in the dark. I want to know in what way the small part that does have relevance, has relevance. The second mystery, we learn, concerns how mentality comes about in association with certain physical structures (most specifically, healthy, wakeful human brains). On first looking at the figure I did not anticipate any difficulty here. I agree it is a mystery (I only wish physiologists and neurologists would acknowledge that) but I still don’t see how it relates to our knowledge of the ‘reality’ of the physical world. And again we are told that not “the majority of physical structures need induce mentality”. When Penrose follows this by affirming that the brain of a cat may “evoke mentality” but that he does not require the same “for a rock”, I am completely baffled. Leaving aside for the moment the slippery shift from ‘induce’ to ‘evoke’, I ask: In what sense is a rock not required to “evoke mentality”? Obviously not in the sense that it may not be the source of impessions received by a human brain. If we take it to mean that a rock does not have mental states, it is legitimate to ask: How do we know that? Here we have a complete hodgepodge of metaphysical and physical considerations. If you think the notion that ‘inanimate’ objects have ‘mental’ states is absurd, then you are confusing the habitual with the rational. We conventionally assume that a rock has no life and no intelligence, but we deceive ourselves if we believe we have a rational ground for our assumption. I quote below at length a passage from no less a thinker than Francis Bacon: “It is certain that all bodies whatsoever, though they have no sense, yet they have perception: for when one body is applied to another, there is a kind of election to embrace that which is agreeable, and to exclude or expel that which is ingrate; and whether the body is alterant or altered, evermore a perception precedeth operation; for else all bodies would be alike one to another. And sometimes this perception, in some kind of bodies, is far more subtile than sense; so that sense is but a dull thing in comparison of it: we see a weatherglass will find the least difference of the weather in heat or cold, when we find it not. And this perception is sometimes at a distance, as well as upon the touch; as when the loadstone draweth iron; or flame naphtha of Babylon, a great distance off. It is therefore a subject of a very noble enquiry, to enquire of the more subtile perceptions; for it is another key to open nature, as well as the sense; and sometimes better. And besides, it is a principal means of natural divination; for that which in these perceptions appeareth early, in the great effects cometh long after.” (Francis Bacon, Silva Silvarum, as quoted by A. N. Whitehead in Science and the Modern World, pp.55-6.) I confess that what Penrose says n this section of the ‘third mystery’ does not enlighten me in the least, and that is certainly not due to the profundity of the mystery! According to Fig. 1.3, Penrose tells us, the entire physical world is depicted as being governed by mathematical laws. I will not repeat here what I said earlier about the ambiguity and the implicit error in the word ‘governed’ in this context. Scientists should be required to make a careful study of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason before being permitted to write anything that cannot be put in equations and standard scientific symbols. When they stray outside the sanitized atmosphere of their neat symbols and equations they all, not excluding the admirable Stephen Hawking, write nonsense. Penrose speaks of random behaviour being “governed by strict probabilistic principles”. I wonder, can any probabilistic principle ‘strictly govern’ anything? Is that not incompatible with the very notion of probability? Is it not inbuilt in a ‘probabilistic principle’ that it leaves a margin for divergence? As defence lawyers say, I rest my case! I will not comment on Penrose’s having no problem with his behaviour being controlled by strict mathematical principles. I have dealt elsewhere with the so-called problem of determinism and free will and to go into that here would be out of place. (See “Free Will as Creativity” in The Sphinx and the Phoenix, 2009.) Also I will not comment on what Penrose says about the notion that “all of mentality has its roots in physicality” and the “possibility of physically independent minds”. I maintain that these are questions that are not amenable to scientific methods and I have repeatedly discussed the error of scientists in dealing with these questions. The remaining paragraphs in this section are for mathematicians to discuss, though certain phrases prick me to comment, but I refrain. 1.5 The Good, the True, and the Beautiful The heading suggests that here we are on genuine Platonic ground. But what has mathematics, what has science, indeed what has the physical universe to do with the Good, the True, and the Beautiful? (The True, or at least the word ‘true’ here is confusing: goodness is an intrinsic value; beauty is an intrinsic value; but truth, in the common usage of the term, is an extrinsic relation between thought and actuality.) Plato tells us emphatically that these ideals are not to be found in the natural world and that they are neither visible nor audible nor can they be put to any empirical test. Even the starry heavens that struck Kant with awe are only beautiful to a rational soul. But I am again succumbing to my congenital weakness, letting my thought run at the mere sight of words. Let us see what Penrose has to say. At the outset I have two preliminary remarks. Although Plato was apparently fond of mathematics, yet mathematics does not play a significant role in his philosophy except as a model of Forms and as constituting a principal part in his programme of higher education. Secondly, it is grossly misleading to state simply that mathematics is “crucially concerned with the particular ideal of Truth” unless we specify clearly what we mean by ‘truth’. Truth in mathematics does not mean the same thing as in empirical investigation; ‘truth’ has different meanings in different fields, in history, in judicial testimony. I prefer to say that mathematics is concerned with intrinsic coherence or rationality. The word ‘truth’ should be confined to empirical science and other activities aiming at conformity with an objective (actual) state of affairs. Particularly for Penrose to say that mathematics is concerned with truth is to beg the question since this is just the claim he has to vindicate, namely, that mathematics reveals the nature of the universe. I maintain that mathematics gives us structures (to use Penrose’s term) that enable us to make calculations and predictions but do not reveal the essence of things. (‘Essence’ is not a fortunate term but it helps us avoid circumlocution.) Penrose is “not at all averse” to conceding to Plato the ideals of the Beautiful and the Good. Plato would not have been thrilled: for him the really real is nothing but the mind and the ideals in the mind; and when we say the mind, we decidedly do not mean the brain or anything that can be seen or touched; we mean the living activity of the mind. Penrose refers to “an external Platonic world” that “actually has an existence independent of ourselves”. This is a complete distortion of Plato, even though mainstream academic philosophers endorse it. It misuses his youthful poetical flights of imagination to misrepresent his mature position. To try to justify what I am saying here would be to repeat what I have been expounding in book after book and essay after essay. (See especially Plato: An Interpretation, 2005.) We gather that Penrose’s conviction concerning an external Platonic world “comes from the extraordinary unexpected hidden beauty that the ideas themselves so frequently reveal”. We have no need to go to an external world for this: we learn from Plato that the mind, in itself and by itself, when it communes with its inner reality, begets reality and beauty and understanding (Republic, 490a). This is what Plato otherwise calls giving birth in beauty, tokos en kalôi. Penrose harms himself by mixing science with philosophy. Plato loved mathematics; whether he made any valuable contributions to mathematics I do not know, but when he philosophized he did not confound that with mathematics. Leibniz was a great mathematician and a great philosopher who kept the two unmixed. Before him was Descartes who did likewise. In the twentieth century A, N. Whitehead and Bertrand Russell made valuable contributions in both fields but did not make a mixture of the two. Having commented on the five sections of the first chapter, I think I have said all I care to say in this connection. I will glance selectively at some of the remaining chapters for my edification, not for comment; but before that I will look at the final chapter where I may have something to say: in particular 34.6 looks alluringly challenging to me. 34 Where lies the road to reality? Chapter 34 is titled “Where lies the road to reality?” In the first place it is necessary to be clear as to what is meant by ‘reality’. Although in my writings I use the term ‘reality’ in a special, perhaps idiosyncratic, sense, I have no right to impose my usage on anyone else. If the author makes it clear what kind of reality he is seeking the only thing we can comment on is whether the road is well described or not. The trouble is that the author may well describe the road to the kind of reality he has in mind but then implies that that is all the reality we need bother about, or else claims, as is the case here, that that is reality as envisaged by Plato. Indeed our scientists are so innocent of the slightest whiff of suspicion of there being such a thing as metaphysical reality, the kind of reality Plato cared about. And Penrose, although he frequently mentions Plato and seems to make much of Plato’s ‘mathematical world’, is in my opinion quite off the mark in his understanding of Plato. Well, this note, written while I am still at the threshold of Chapter 34 has probably exhausted what I have to say in this connection and on section 34.6 in particular. I will now go directly to that section and see if it helps me make things clearer. — But first a passing thought triggered by the heading of section 34.1. 34.1 Great theories of 20th century physics — and beyond? Scientific theories are conceptual formulations (Penrose’s structures) that “save the appearances”, that confer intelligibility on the appearances, but they are always transitory, can never be final or definitive, and can never disclose the inner reality of things, This is what Kant tried hard to make us grasp. So whatever be the achievements of physics in the past or in the future, these achievements will make us more adept in making use give is more and more detailed information about the ways of nature and the processes of nature but will not reveal what is behind or beneath all that. So the answer to Penrose’s “and beyond?” is “only more of the same”. the knowledge gained by humankind along the millennia from discovering that chippind a stone makes a cutting edge to the latest discoveries of astrophysics has not made us a jot wiser — we are now drowned in knowledge but in dire need for understanding. Passing by the first five sections of Chapter 34 I go to section 34.6 and possibly some of the remaining sections. 34.6 What is reality? I have already asserted that the empiricist conception of reality is totally opposed to the Platonic, and I venture to say that Penrose despite his assumed Platonism is at heart an empiricist. He is so much taken by the objectivity of scence that he barters the subjective coherence of mathematics for the objective truth of physics. Let us see if there is anything to add. Penrose admits that we have not yet “found the true road to reality” though he thinks that extraordinary progress “has been made over three and one half millennia, particularly in the last few centuries”. All I can say is that that progress has been along a way to what I, following Plato, would not call reality. Reality for me, as for Plato, is the mind and what the mind gives birth to. Our mind, the subjectivity of our creative intelligence, is the only reality we know immediately and indubitably. For that reality Plato used the words alêtheia, to on, ho estin, and sometimes ousia, and represented it by the Form of the Good. When he suggested an imaginative cosmogony (in the Timaeus) he presented it openly as a myth that at best may be referred to as a likely tale. At the risk of being tedious I say that I do not object to Penrose or any other scientist pursuing the road to the fullest possible knowledge of the physical world; what I object to is the unjustified identification of that world with Plato’s purely intelligible world. Penrose surmises that some readers may view the road itself as a mirage. In the context of scientific research a mirage is not necessarily a bad thing if it impels us endlessly to move forward without expecting ever to reach the ever receding horizon. It is in expecting to reach a final resting place that scientists are deluded. Philosophers too commit the same fault when they fancy that there can ever be a definitive articulation of the philosophical vision: the philosophical vision is a vision of our inner reality that is strictly ineffable and that must ever be represented anew in imaginative creations. This is the thought behind the title of my Tne Sphinx and the Phoenix: the Sphinx ever posing new questions and the Phoenix, symbolizing the articulated philosophies, ever consumed in fire, that from the ashes new imaginative representations of the ineffable reality may arise: philosophy is nothing but ceaselessly philosophizing, living in intelligent creativity. Both philosophers and scientists have nothing to lose and everything to gain if they renounce the idolatry of that false god, truth, and realize that it is the quest that is true life; it is the journey that is the end; the end of the journey is death. I do not find it necessary to comment on the rest of this paragraph and the following couple of pages although I was tempted to say something on the difference between ‘what’, ‘how’, and ‘why’ questions and to emphasize that these belong to radically different worlds of thought, but I have taken this up in many of my writings and I did not think it needful to reiterate at this point what I said there. In page 1028 Penrose says that “modern physicists invariably describe(s) things in terms of mathematical models”. That is just the point. A mathematical model is as different from the reality of the thing as an excellent architectural blueprint of a house is different from the house to live in. The chemist’s H2O does not quench my thirst; the actual thing represented by the chemist’s symbol does. To mistake the model for the actual thing is the delusion Whitehead debunked, naming it the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness. Penrose adds, “It is as though they seek to find ‘reality’ within the Platonic world of mathematical ideals.” Plato never imagined he would find the physical world (Penrose’s ‘reality’) within mathematical or any other ideals. For him the ideals are all the reality; the whole of the physical world is a fleeting shadow. Besides, I repeat a question I asked before: Can mathematical models, mathematical structures, subsist independently of a rational mind? Can they in themselves and by themselves constitute an actual world, physical or non-physical? Plato’s ideal world is not independent of mind; it is the phronêsus, the ongoing activity of living, creative mind. Penrose continues, “Such a view would seem to be a consequence of any proposed ‘theory of everything’, for then physical reality would appear merely as a reflection of purely mathematical laws.” Would you rather say that the physical world is in itself nothing but mathematical equations (‘structures’) or affirm with Kant that our knowledge of the natural world is merely conceptual representation of phenomena and that we cannot know the noumena, what things are in themselves? Neither Plato nor Kant lessens the jurisdiction of science over the things of nature but they both say that reality (in Kant’s lingo ‘the noumenon’) is to be sought elsewhere. I find Penrose at fault both in thinking that mathematical formulations can lead us to reality when that ‘reality’ is nothing but fleeting shadows, and in presuming that the mathematical formulations actually constitute that reality. The first fault may be reduced to a difference in terminological usage, but the second fault, to put it most mildly, is quite serious. I have to remind the reader that what I have been saying throughout this paper has nothing to do with the mathematics and the physics in the book; I am only commenting on the assumptions and implications hidden in the extra-scientific matter, I will not throw myself into the hornet’s nest by speaking of ‘the theory of everything’ (although I could say something meaningful without pretending to have any scientific knowledge) but I have to put in a word about Penrose’s statement that “the more deeply we probe Nature’s secrets, the more profoundly we are driven into Plato’s world of mathematical ideals”. I cannot pass this without protesting that this amounts to a grievous corruption of Plato’s thought. I think I have shown amply in what went before why it is so. This goes for the rest of this section. I am afraid I have to be bluntly crude. When Penrose says that “physical reality itself is constructed merely from abstract notions” or that “the Platonic world may be the most primitive … since mathematics is a kind of necessity, virtually conjuring its very self into existence through logic alone” — I do not see in this mystery but absurdity and, muddled thinking, bred by our failure to confess our ignorance. I cannot picture to myself any absurdity more gross than fancying abstract notions as a kind of necessity “conjuring its very self into existence through logic alone” — this is as monstrous as the monotheistic idea of God suddenly obeying a whim to create the world out of nothing. Apparently the abstract notions and the logic existed before they conjured themselves into existence; how else could they conjure up anything? We do not and can not know the ‘reality’ of the natural world. The only reality we know, the only understanding we can have, is within us, in the subjectivity of our inner being. I would accept and admire Penrose’s statements were they to come from Meister Eckhart or Giordano Bruno, because a mystic does not speak of the actual world but projects her or his inner reality, expresses her or his vision of Reality, in symbol and myth. The Muslim mystic Al-Hallaj said, “I am the Truth” and was put to death for saying it; he was giving expression to the final Reality wherein we have our personal reality and that gives us all our worth. But a scientist who said what Al-Hallaj said would rightfully be confined to a mental asylum. I do not expect to find in the remaining sections much to evoke any new comment, but I will run through them, just in case. 34.7 The roles of mentality in physical theory Here again we have a mixture of questions that should not be mixed. To ask about the role of mentality in physical theory is silly but legitimate (if we take the word in its common sense); we may wish to distinguish the roles of thought and imagination or even superstition and taboo in constructing physical theories; these notions belong to one realm. But to ask about the role of mentality in the physical world (and with Penrose the question can surreptitiously turn into this) is illegitimate: neither science nor philosophy can give a true answer to this question, though philosophers can and do offer imaginative visions answering the question for their own satisfaction but cannot claim that the answer is factual or that the vision represents an actuality. I have already discussed this in my comments under 1.4 in connection with Penrose’s contention about a rock not ‘evoking’ mentality. “Any universe”, Penrose writes, “that can be ‘observed’ must, as a logical necessity, be capable of supporting conscious mentality, since consciousness is precisely what plays the ultimate role of ‘observer’.” This is basically a tautology that tells us nothing. It amounts to saying that in any universe where consciousness observes we will find consciousness that observes. So what? Is this consciousness in the world outside us? In a sense it is in the world since it is in us and we are part of the world; but is it in the world outside us, independently of the human mind? These two questions have to be separated. Dear reader, pardon me. I will once again repeat what I have already said above because I think it important to drive it home. Here we have a question that science cannot answer and that philosophy answers imaginatively but is not entitled to say that the answer is true of the natural world. A scientist may philosophize but is not entitled to dress her or his philosophical vision in the garb of science or to smuggle it in, in the interstices of his scientific work. This book should have been split into two completely separate ones: one surveying the contributions of mathematics to physics; this would be for scientists to evaluate; and the other giving an imaginative vision of the universe, a vision that can neither be empirically verified nor deductively inferred but can only be appreciated on the merit of its coherence and intelligibility as a creative work of imagination. The science should not be mixed with philosophical speculation and the philosophy should not pretend to be supported by the results of scientific research. The radical separation of science and philosophy is needed to spare us the errant vagrancy of scientists and the foolish dogmatism of philosophers. Penrose refers to the notion of a spatially infinite universe. Here I will audaciously expose myself to ridicule. I know that mathematics has invented the notion of an infinite series. Ignorant as I am I would say that a completed infinite series is a contradiction in terms, so that in this sense an infinite series can never be an actuality. What about a spatially infinite universe? Is an actual spatially infinite universe possible? Is it conceivable? These questions are not for me to delve in. Or does the notion simply translate into that of an endlessly expanding universe? What would ‘expanding’ here mean? Can there be expansion into a non-existent outer space? Would not the expansion simply be relative to contracting constituents of the universe? These are puzzles that may serve for idling away an hour but not for serious study. Should we not rather say that the idea of a spatially infinite universe is just another useful scientific fiction that enables us to make certain calculations? Anyway, all of this is neither here nor there for my purpose. I have simply been foolishly enticed into this digression in an area where I have no right to trespass. What Penrose says about the role played by consciousness in interpretations of quantum mechanics is forbidden ground for me but I think I am within my rights in remarking on the statement that “almost all the ‘conventional’ interpretations of quantum mechanics ultimately depend upon the presence of a ‘perceiving being’, and therefore seem to require that we know what a perceiving being actually is!” I will naively say: Yes we do know, but do not scientifically know, what a perceiving being is. Fortunately a scientific knowledge of what a perceiving being is. is not needed for the perceiving being to continue perceiving and continue interpreting the secrets of quantum mechanics. That we are conscious, perceiving, thinking beings is a mystery that will remain a mystery. Scientists had better acknowledge that this mystery is not amenable to investigation by scientific methods. When Penrose says that he takes the ‘phenomenon of consciousness’ to be “a real physical process, arising ‘out there’ in the physical world”, I have to say that here again we have a presumptuous jump over the chasm between scientific thinking and philosophical thinking. Science can describe the process accompanying the appearance of consciousness, whether on the level of biological evolution or on the level of embryological development, but cannot identify that consciousness with the physical process or assert that it is an outcome of the process. Again this is a subject I have dealt with frequently in my writings and do not find it needful to amplify on it here. It is the same with the presumption of neurologists who think that their observations of the brain can explain the mind. This paper is already longer than I anticipated and probably if I continue I will merely be repeating again comments I have already made repeatedly. So I will pass over the remaining sections of this chapter only stopping at 34.9 with its intriguing title. 34.9 Beauty and miracles Penrose repeatedly speaks of the ‘Platonic mathematical world’ when he means his own conception of a mathematical world that somehow ‘governs’ the physical world. This is misleading. Plato spoke of a world of Forms of which mathematical forms were a part. In Plato’s scheme of education in the Republic the study of mathematics is a discipline to prepare the mind for the contemplation of the Forms; but mathematics has no direct relation to the physical world; knowledge of the physical world, even when under Forms given by the mind, does not rise to the highest order of knowledge which Plato reserves for the philosophical consideration of first principles. These first principles themselves are subjected to dialectic that regularly destroys their ground assumptions. Penrose had no need for Plato; his own mathematical world stands on its own feet. Plato could give him no support and no help and would, in my opinion, have evinced no interest in Penrose’s so-called ‘Platonic’ world. Obviously Penrose has a very special meaning for the term ‘miracle’. (In writing this sentence I have betrayed my ignorance. I now see that Penrose is not responsible for introducing the term in this special sense. Apparently it has already become standard scientific jargon.) Let us see what the concept behind the term is and what use he makes of it. Penrose gives an instance. (I will cut out all the scientific substance as far as possible, reducing Penrose’s statement to its basic linguistic schema, since it is the logic of the statement, and not its scientific content, that concerns me.) We are told that under certain conditions we have certain non-renormalizable divergences which “miraculously cancel out” when supersymmetry is introduced. Couldn’t we have replaced the word ‘miraculously’ here by ‘suddenly’, ‘unexpectedly’, ‘spontaneously’, or even ‘luckily’? You might say, what’s in a word? But I am sure that some ignorant, dogmatic person, especially where I live, will readily pounce on the word, crying out for all the world to hear, “See! Science confirms the occurrence of miracles!” So, at least to let Hume’s bones rest in his gtave, let us choose another word for these lucky windfalls in scientific research. (I wrote this thinking Penrose invented the term, Alas! I now find it has already been sanctified by pundits and there is no hope of its being replaced.) Throughout this paper my remarks have been mainly critical. I hope that it will be clear to readers that my criticism applies exclusively to extra-scientific and extra-mathematical matter. I am not qualified to speak of Penrose’s mathematics and physics. The stupendous range and depth of the physics and the mathematics in the book most probably make it a valuable contribution to the ongoing research into the puzzles and the mysteries of the physical universe and students and researchers in this field may well find the book a real help. I only hope that they will not be misled by Penrose’s extra-scientific and extra-mathematical excursions which should be judged on their own merit purely by philosophical criteria. I have said my say. To recapitulate would be to say it all over again. But there is no harm in putting the moral of the tale in a few words. Truth is a Holy Grail. Philosophy is to philosophize; science is to search. In philosophizing and in searching we live intelligently, exercising our proper virtue as human beungs. To have that as an end is o be wise; to seek an end beyond that end is folly and vanity of vanities. T. S. Eliot has wisely spoken when he said: We shall never cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. T. S. Eliot – “Little Gidding”, Four Quartets. Cairo, 18 February, 2015.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

two kinds of metaphysics

TWO KINDS OF METAPHYSICS D. R. Khashaba PREFATORY When the Alexandrian editor(s) of Aristotle’s works collected his lecture notes on “first philosophy” and placed them after the writings on physical subjects they referred to them or titled them ta meta ta phusika. Whether they meant simply the writings that come after the physical ones or whether they meant to describe those writings as dealing with what is beyond physical things, that is anybody’s guess, but in any case that editorial fiat gave us the word ‘metaphysics’ which students of philosophy subsequently gave diverse, often irreconcilable, meanings. Unfortunately, no one has the right or the authority to single out one of those meanings and say: this and only this is what ‘metaphysics’ properly means. However, I believe it is possible and necessary to distinguish two basically different kinds of metaphysics to which it would be desirable to assign different designations if possible. These two radically different kinds I refer to as Platonic metaphysics and Aristotelian metaphysics. Essentially they have little in common other than that they give totally opposed answers to the question: What is ultimately real? I will first outline what I see as Plato’s metaphysics and follow that with an outline of Aristotle’s metaphysics. Other varieties have something of the one kind or of the other. But the travesty for which analytical philosophers have brazenly and rapaciously grabbed the name has nothing to do with either kind: for a sampling see Contemporary Readings in the Foundations of Metaphysics, ed. Stephen Laurence and Cynthia Macdonald, Blackwell, 1998. I will use the word ‘metaphysics’ freely although neither Plato nor Aristotle, nor indeed any pre-Hellenistic philosopher, knew the word. In presenting Plato’s metaphysics I permit myself to give my own interpretation which is widely at variance with the mainstream academic interpretation. At certain points I also go beyond Plato in what I believe to be a genuine Platonic development. In presenting Aristotle’s metaphysics, with which I do not have much sympathy, I proceed with much diffidence. In other words, I will not quarrel with anyone who will contest my reading of Aristotle, for my primary intention is not to give an account of Aristotle’s Metaphysics but to exemplify the kind I designate Objective Metaphysics. I beg the reader’s indulgence for the many reiterations and repetitions in what follows, especially under “Platonic Metaphysics”, for I am trying to drive home original notions that many students of philosophy find difficult to absorb. PLATONIC METAPHYSICS I believe that very early in his philosophical career Plato reached his fundamental vision of reality. This vision was formed under two major influences. I do not assign priority to the one or the other: they may have been working simultaneously. On the one hand, Plato was profoundly impressed by Heraclitus’s insight into the unreality and essential evanescence of all things of the natural world. They are always in flux, have no permanence, and as such can have no assignable character and therefore cannot be the object of true knowledge. On the other hand, Socrates found all meaning and all value in the intelligible ideas that are born in the mind and have no being other than in the mind. Socrates distinguished between the intelligible, which was all that concerned him, and the perceptible in which he was not philosophically interested. It is in virtue of the intelligible ideas that we have our characteristic nature as human beings, good or bad. When a lion devours a deer the lion is not cruel and its act is not evil. When a man kills another man out of revenge or out of greed the man is bad and the act is evil. When Socrates began his examination of an interlocutor by asking: what is, for instance, sôphrosunê (‘temperance’)? it was not his intention to reach a formal definition as Aristotle has misled us into thinking. Socrates wanted to help his interlocutor clear up confusions and obscurities in his thought, remove false associations, disentangle crippling entanglements of ideas and values. Socrates’ investigations never ended in a definition but invariably ended in aporia (perplexity) that hopefully would rid the interlocutor of the worst amathia (ignorance) – which is to believe that one knows what one does not know – and lead him to seek all meaning and all understanding in the self-evidence of the ideas in the mind. An act is good when it flows from a clear understanding of what is good. This is the gist of Socrates’ much traduced ‘intellectualist’ identification of virtue and ‘knowledge’ (an unhappy choice of word) and I find Socrates’ position essentially one with Kant’s likewise much-maligned maxim that an act is morally good when it is done ‘from duty’, that is, specifically from a clear understanding of what is morally good. A mother suckling her babe is doing something good but it is not, strictly speaking, a moral act. Plato referred to an intelligible idea by the word eidos or the Greek word idea which originally simply meant shape or form. In contrast to the unreality or deceptive ‘reality’ of things in the natural world, the Forms are what is real and are all the reality we know. In the Phaedo this is repeatedly affirmed and emphasized. In his youthful enthusiasm Plato spoke of the Forms in a mystic fervour and a poetically devotional tone. He stressed, overstressed, the permanence and immutability of the Forms. In a flight of poetic imagination (in the Phaedrus) he gave the Forms a celestial abode. He experimented with various formulae of expression relating the unchangeable Forms to the changeable natural things in which the Forms are exampled. These various modes of expression, none of which Plato thought final or found satisfactory, are what Aristotle criticizes as constituting Plato’s ‘theory of Forms’, disregarding the fact that Plato had anticipated all of Aristotle’s criticisms in the first part of the Parmenides. (It is conceivable that Aristotle had been voicing those criticisms in the Academy and that Plato in writing the Parmenides meant that first part to show that those criticisms did not touch his basic position.) Later on, in the Sophist, he criticizes the unguarded emphasis on the permanence and constancy of the Forms. Arguing with certain ‘Friends of the Forms’ (who may have been members of the Academy who took his youthful flights too seriously); he stresses that the real cannot be without life and understanding and that life and understanding cannot be without motion and mutation (Sophist, 248e-249a). I will come back to this important point in what follows. In the Republic Plato’s vision of Reality finds its maturest expression in that central part extending from 472a in Book V to the end of Book VII which many see as a mere digression but which I see as the epitome of Platonism and the heart and core of all philosophy proper. That precious metaphysical gem in which epistemology, ontology, and moral philosophy are inextricably united begins as an attempt to answer the question “Who is a philosopher?” or “What is a philosopher?”. We learn that a philosopher loves wisdom (Sophia) and desires all knowledge (pantos mathêmatos) (475b-c), but not any knowledge, not knowledge of the multiple things in the outer world, but knowledge of the one intelligible form that gives the many their character, their meaning, and what share of imperfect ‘reality’ they have. This crucial distinction between the intelligible one, the form, that is fully real and the perceptible many that only have a borrowed and imperfect ‘reality’ is implied in Plato’s affirmation that “what wholly is, is wholly knowable, what is not, is in no way knowable” (Republic, 477a). (I will not here digress into the question of ‘knowledge’ of what is in-between what is and what is not, which Plato named doxa, opinion, or pistis, belief.) To sum up: a philosopher, lover of the intelligible, is a lover of what is real (480a), for the intelligible is not only real but is all that is real in the fullest sense, or as we may say, the intelligible is the metaphysically real. In affirming that “what wholly is, is wholly knowable, what is not, is in no way knowable” Plato takes up the insight expressed in Parmenides’s principle: “It is the same thing to be intelligible and to be”: tauto gar esti noein te kai einai, and again: to gar auto noein estin te kai einai. For Plato alêtheia does not have its customary meaning ‘truth’ but always means ‘reality’ and is synonymous with ousia (‘essence’), to on (being) and ho estin (what is). Likewise, einai – apart from its idiomatic usage in conversation to mean ‘it is so’ or ‘that is right’ – never means ‘is objectively existent’ but always ‘is subjectively real’. Again he often uses phusis to mean – not phenomenal nature, the things we see and touch – but the reality beyond that. We find ourselves reminded of the lesson of the Phaedo: the farther we withdraw away from what is given in sensuous experience and dwell on what is bred in the mind, the closer we are to the higher reaches of knowledge (intelligence, understanding, reason) and to communion with reality. Reality for Plato is a vision, a spiritual experience, a state of perfection we attain, not the product of a syllogistic process we perform. An art critic speaks of aesthetic reality, a reality in the painting or sonata or drama not to be found in the outer world: if you find that notion meaningful you will understand what is meant by intelligible reality, a reality in us and for us beside which all the actualities of the natural world are fleeting shadows. Music gives creative expression to our internal reality in coherent form and in that sense it is metaphysical, perhaps the purest of metaphysics. (See the Note appended at the end of this essay.) Plato depicts in the Republic the philosopher’s progress towards the vision of ultimate Reality in winged words that are reminiscent of Diotima’s description (in the Symposium) of the lover’s ascent to the vision of absolute Beauty. I make no apology for quoting in full this Republic passage that I have repeatedly quoted before: “Would we not be making a reasonable defence when we say that a true philosophical nature aspires to what IS, does not tarry by the many particulars that are thought to be, but goes forth with no blunting and no slackening of her desire, until she grasps the essence of every reality by that in her soul to which it is becoming – that is, what is congenial – to grasp that, approaching and mingling with what has true being, gives birth to reason and reality; enjoys knowledge and true life and is nourished, and then has relief of her birth pangs, but not before then?” (490a-b.) This inspired passage, with its mystic fervour and its poetic expression, shows that the philosophical vision of Reality is, and can never be anything other than, a subjective experience, an experience that is strictly ineffable, but that yet “gives birth to reason and reality”, in accord with Plato’s prophetic notion of tokos en kalôi (procreation in beauty) introduced in the Symposium. For reality cannot be passive or inactive; it must be active or rather it is sheer activity. I will revert to this point and develop it further in what follows since it is crucial for what I will designate ‘subjective metaphysics’. The passage is necessarily mystical in tone, for philosophical understanding in its highest reaches is essentially a mystic experience, being an immediate awareness of the perfection of being in the integrity of creative intelligence. It is necessary to lay stress here on two essential points. It is (1) by becoming united with reality, and (2) by engendering reason and real essences, that a philosopher attains understanding. Philosophical understanding is at no point passive, a reception of something from outside; it is through and through a creative act, and it is that creative act itself that is the reality that the philosopher comes to behold and to understand. For Plato, philosophical understanding, reality, and the good life are inseparable. Plato’s vision of Reality finds its profoundest expression in what he has to say about the Form of the Good. We will therefore dwell at some length on this creative notion. As in Socrates’ examinations we found all particular virtues merging in one Virtue, and that Virtue is found to be one with ‘knowledge’ (or wisdom or understanding) and when we ask what that ‘knowledge’ is we find it is one with virtue, so in the Republic we find all forms merging in the Good which, while it is itself beyond knowledge and beyond being, is the origin of all knowledge and being. At one point Socrates states that our ruler-candidates (for the model state delineated in the Republic) will have to be tested for their moral characteristics and for their capacity to endure strenuous study, and be trained in the greatest of studies. Adeimantus asks, “What are these greatest of studies?” (503e-504a.) At this point we get to the core of the metaphysical problem. Socrates affirms that the highest knowledge is the Form of the Good, hê tou agathou idea megiston mathêma. It is crucial to note that Plato does not say that the highest knowledge is knowledge of the Form of the Good: the Form of the Good is itself all understanding and all being. To miss this is to fail to get to the core of Plato’s metaphysics. (Plato’s translators, failing to grasp this, disfigure the true meaning by ‘correcting’ Plato’s text in their translations.) Socrates also says that we have been saying this all the time (504e-505a). Is this not what Socrates in all his discourses had been leading up to? All virtue is one and is one with knowledge. And when we ask, “What knowledge?” the answer is invariably, “Knowledge of the good”. And when we ask, “But what is the good?” the only answer we get is that the good is knowledge. (See the didactic conversations of Socrates with the lad Clinias and Chapter Three of my Plato: An Interpretation, 2005.) The good is what we arrive at when we follow unhampered reason to the seat of active, creative intelligence. The apex of the dialectic quest for the meaning of true being, of goodness, and of intelligence is to behold all these as inseparable aspects of one whole, one reality. (Plato has various usages for the term ‘dialectic’ but it is what he says in the Republic that is most significant.) The Good takes quite a new meaning and a new profundity, and it is no wonder that 'Socrates' goes on to say that we do not know the Good sufficiently (505a). Indeed, as we will see in the sequel, after all that we have been saying about the greatest study and the study of the Good, there is in fact no science of the Good and no direct study of the Good. There is only a constant approach, a constant aspiring, to the Good. Our studies when properly pursued will lead us to where we can have a vision of the Good. And where do we behold that vision? Within ourselves. It is the selfsame vision that Socrates has been leading us to behold in prodding us to discover our inner reality and our proper worth in our active intelligence. And it is the selfsame vision that is given mystical expression in the mystic ascent described by Diotima in the Symposium. It is our inner reality, but in Plato's creative mind it has given birth to the idea of absolute Reality. Socrates believed in God as the principle of moral perfection; Plato created the God of metaphysical perfection. When pressed to say what the Good is Socrates offers a simile: “I am willing to tell you of a child of the Good that is very like it”, ne says (506d-e). Our knowledge of ultimate Reality cannot be encapsulated in a formula of words or in any determinate formulation of thought. This highest knowledge, the knowledge of the Good is an experience to be attained in the process of searching for it by reason. The journey towards Reality, Intelligence, and the Good has no extraneous end: the journey itself is the end. Preparing to give his account of the child of the Good that is very like it, Socrates finds it necessary to recall (507b-c) the root conception of the distinction between the multiple actual instances of any character and the unique intelligible form of that character, which IS, which has true being; the multiple being perceptible but not intelligible, while the forms are intelligible but not perceptible. This reminder was necessary because the highest reality accessible to us, symbolized by the Sun as the child of the Good, is none other than the seat and fount of the intelligible realm, the mind as active, creative intelligence, giving birth to all forms in which and through which alone the things of the world have meaning and have what ‘reality’ they have.. The Sun is the offspring and the like of the Good, standing, in the visible sphere, to sight and the visible, in the same relation as the Good stands, in the intelligible realm, to mind and the intelligible. What gives reality to the things known and the power of knowing to the knower, is the form of the Good. Being the source of knowledge and of reality (aitian d' epistêmês ousan kai alêtheias), knowledge and reality both being beautiful, it is yet other than these and more beautiful. Just as light and sight are akin to the Sun but are not the Sun, so knowledge and reality (epistêmên de kai alêtheian) are akin to the Good but are not the Good, for the Good is far above these in excellence (508e-509a). Once again we note the mystic fervour and the mystic language for the Form of the Good is the idea of perfection, the only viable metaphysical conception of Reality. To have a conception of reality on the metaphysical plane at all is to have a conception of what the most perfect being is. Before Plato and after Plato many thinkers offered their conceptions of ultimate reality, of the most perfect being. But it was Plato who saw that, though we cannot know Reality objectively, our idea of Reality is the reality we live in and that confers reality on all the contents of our experience. (The propounders of the Ontological Proof, from Anselm to Descartes. sought in vain to ‘prove’ the independent existence of a Perfect Being: All they could do and all they had need to do was to affirm that the idea is real in us and that it confers intelligibility and reality on all things. Critics of the Ontological Proof focused on the formal error and disregarded the insight in that creative idea.) In 379a-b we had been told that poets must speak of God as he truly is, and that God is truly good. We may call this the fundamental myth of all philosophy. The philosopher identifies ultimate reality with perfection, primarily moral perfection, not because this is a fact for which she or he can find evidence or which she or he can deduce from any premises, but because this is the idea of Reality which invests life with meaning and value. Are we then deceiving ourselves? No. Like Kant in his more sanguine moments, I say that reason can discover no meaning or value in the actual world. When dealing with the 'outside' world reason can only give us phenomena, formulae of processes and regularities, all perfectly sterilized. The Reality philosophy offers us is our reality, but it is also a Reality of which we can say, if the fount and origin and fundament of all things is to be intelligible, it must be such. That is why, though I maintain that all the reality we know is the reality of creative intelligence in ourselves, yet I think it reasonable to say that if we are to find ultimate Reality intelligible we have to see it as ultimately good and intelligent. In saying this I believe I am not falsifying or departing from Plato’s metaphysical vision. The vision of Reality, being an inner, essentially mystic experience, is strictly ineffable and cannot be exhausted or comprehended in any formulation of thought or words. But though ineffable it is not dumb. It is a living, fecund experience, giving birth to reason and reality garbed in oracular myth, in meaningful metaphor, in suggestive aphorism. This is tokos en kalôi and it is the same in a poet, in an artist, in a philosopher, or in a lover. But the myth, the metaphor, and the aphorism if mistaken for objective truth smother the intelligence and stifle the inner life. That is why Plato insists that the ground of all philosophical formulations must be destroyed (anairein, Republic, 533c). This is a point I have dealt with repeatedly and extensively in Plato: An Interpretation and elsewhere and will not go into further here. In the Sophist Plato speaks of the raging contest between those who say that only the intelligible is real and those who think that only what they can see and touch and handle is real. He likens this contest to the mythical battle of the Gods and the Giants. He then asks: If both what the idealists and what the materialists believe in are in a sense real, what is the character common to both classes that justifies our giving them the same designation? Plato then gives in a few words an answer that is of the highest philosophical import and that, to my knowledge, only A. N. Whitehead among modern philosophers has fully appreciated. Plato says that “things that are, are no other thing than activity”, ta onta hôs estin ouk allo ti plên dunamis (247e). We are speaking of what is common to both invisible and visible things. We equate being real (in both the philosophical and the common sense of the word) with activity (dunamis). Also neing affected is not a negatively passive state, but is an internal adaptation and thus an activity. Plato is not departing from or altering any position he had held, but is giving explicit expression to an aspect of his philosophy which his youthful language had tended to obscure. Elsewhere Plato often equates a particular aretê (virtue) with a specific dunamis (function, activity). In what follows I will permit myself to give Plato’s brief statement a development that goes beyond Plato’s explicit words but that I believe to be fully consistent with his fundamental position: But before doing that let us tarry a while to note that here we have no argument, no deduction or demonstration, but an oracular declaration. No original philosopher ever reaches his creative notions by reasoning from prior premises. Argument comes later to help coordinate and harmonize various aspects of the philosopher’s thought and to facilitate giving an intelligible exposition. This runs counter to fixed academic convictions and even original philosophers have often misrepresented their own work by failing to acknowledge the true nature of philosophical thinking, the most striking example of this being Spinoza who arduously laboured to present his work as a systematic geometrical structure when he was truly only developing the notions inherent in the definitions and axioms prefacing his Ethics. And the venerable Kant laid himself open to Nietzsche’s bitter ridicule by choosing to support his valuable insights by an imposing architectonic of austere reasoning. When Schopenhauer and Nietzsche presented their creative visions prophetically only the reception of their work outside academic circles forced the professors to pay attention. When we say that all things that are ‘really real’ and all things that in any sense share in ‘reality’ are nothing but dunamis (not ‘power’ but activity, creativity) we should understand that what is real is not a thing that is active but that it is sheer activity; the activity is the reality. I have to insist on this fundamental metaphysical principle and to keep reiterating it ad nauseam since it is difficult to absorb because it is opposed to our habitual linguistic usages and our common ways of thinking. There is no reality, no being, other than creativity; whatever is, is sheer creativity; the creativity is the reality. In my philosophy ultimate Reality, which I name Creative Eternity, is nothing but creative intelligence, or better put, intelligent creativity. I maintain that wirhout accepting creativity as an ultimate principle, as an ultimate dimension of Reality, we cannot find being or becoming intelligible. Aain, I maintain that the riddles encumbering the ‘problem’ of Free Will can only be resolved by tne principle of creativity. (“Free Will as Creativity” in The Sphinx and the Phoenix, 2009.) I confess I am here going beyond anything definitely stated or suggested by Plato, but I insist that I see my position as a genuine flowering of Plato’s. The above account, to my understanding, is the gist of Plato’s metaphysics. I cannot confidently name one modern philosopher as representing this position. In my late teens I read Bradley’s Appearance and Reality and was profoundly impressed by his vision of absolute Reality as the All and by his insistence on the imperfection and the contradictoriness of all particular, finite being. But I think that Bradley’s Reality, like the One of Parmenides, remained a thing outside us. I have lately made a close study of A. N. Whitehead’s philosophical works in which I have found much to admire. But Whitehead could not completely free himself from his fundamental objective outlook as evidenced by his subtitling what many see as his magnum opus “An Essay in Cosmology”. In what I say of ultimate Reality I do not refer to the world outside us; I merely depict the only way I can find things intelligible. To distinguish this kind of metaphysics from the Aristotelian kind I propose to designate it Subjective Metaphysics, calling the Aristotelian kind Objective Metaphysics, to which we will now turn. ARISTOTELIAN METAPHYSICS Aristotle spent twenty years in Plato’s Academy, from the impressionable age of twenty to the ripe age of forty, and yet failed completely to understand Plato’s outlook and vision because he had a different mind and different interests. If this statement sounds preposterous, I will recall one case from the twentieth century that might help make it sound less so. When Ludwig Wittgenstein went to Cambridge to study under Bertrand Russell, Russell had high hopes for the young Austrian. He dreamed that this brilliant youth would complete the work of the master. When Wittgenstein submitted to him his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus Russell wrote a highly laudatory introduction to the slender volume in which he gave an outline of what he saw as the philosophy of the Tractatus, an account that was in flat contradiction to what Wittgenstein said in his own preface and that both men explicitly admitted later on was a gross misreading of Wittgenstein’s text. (See “The Wittgenstein Enigma” in The Sphinx and the Phoenix.) We do justice to both Plato and Aristotle when we realize that they were raising radically different questions relating to radically different conceptions of reality. Aristotle was an outward-looking thinker. He was philosophically interested in the things of the outer world. He classified plants and animals. He asked his former student Alexander to send him specimens from the distant lands he conquered. It is not unlikely that the method of Collection and Division with which Plato experimented for some time was a child of Aristotle’s brain. In the Categories Aristotle ranges all that can be predicated of a subject on a principle totally distinct from that on which the classification of animals and plants into species and genera was made. Aristotle’s doctrine of Categories has been a bone of contention among scholars. I have neither competence nor desire to enter into this fray. I only mention the doctrine of Categories because I suppose it was a stage or a side-track in Aristotle’s endless striving to reach the idea of a character common to all beings, for this was a constant goal in Aristotle’s theoretical thinking. The Categories, in their logical function, could not be subsumed in a higher Category. For Aristotle’s Categories are not gradations of abstraction from particular characters, as in the case of classification in successive species and genera, but are classes of the aspects under which we may view things, classes of the answers we may give to the questions: what? where? when? etc. I do not see how this has any metaphysical significance or relevance. It is on par with the grammarian’s classification of words into nouns, verbs, prepositions, etc. If Aristotle meant that when we have specified all the Categories of a thing then we have defined its ousia, ousia would be for Aristotle none other than the concrete thing with all its particular characteristics, in other words the concrete thing would be the reality. Aristotle with his interest in actual things may have meant that in one of his moods. But how does that relate to his quest for the meaning of Being as Being? The pluralistic empiricist is content with the view that the concrete thing (or its nuclear and subnuclear constituents) is what is real, but then the empiricist consistently throws all metaphysics to the dustbin. The search for the highest Being as Being had to proceed along a different route. The farther away we move from the particular with its specific characteristics, the higher the abstraction, the nearer we are to a common character in all things, but the poorer the class is in content. Thus when we get to that highest abstraction we find on our hands not any definite character but the bare notion of Being that has no content at all. It is an empty barren notion. Yet, by an unaccountable imaginative leap, Aristotle imports into it the characters of perfection and thought. But the perfection is destitute of value and the thought thinks nothing but its own empty being. For indeed, Aristotle’s objective approach that works well in the sphere of the finite, perceptible things of the natural world, is unfit to deal with the invisible, the purely intelligible, Plato’s realities, Kant’s Ideals of Pure Reason. The objective approach to the quest of reality can give us a coherent, consistent cosmology, but the only conception of the All it can reach or present is the pluralistic sum-total of all things. I maintain that the metaphysical question – any meaningful formulation of the question itself or any relevant answer to it – cannot be reached through the investigation of the actual things of the natural world. As Socrates emphatically insisted, no genuinely philosophical question can be answered by the investigation of things but only by the examination of ideas in the mind. Aristotle could have a meaningful, imaginative, metaphysics but it was totally unrelated to his scientific investigations. Kant re-discovered the Socratic insight: the investigation of the phenomenal world and philosophical reflection on ‘the Ideals of Pure Reason’ are radically distinct spheres. A. N. Whitehead failed to break through the confines of his cosmology to form a metaphysics because he failed to see this. It seems that Aristotle posed the question: What is the ultimat being of things? and finding that ultimately Being as Being is inexplicable, instead of accepting that as an ultimate mystery that we cannot probe, assumed that it must be caused. Apparently he thus made the leap from the idea of bare inexplicable being to the being of a Being that causes all being. To my mind this does not help us evade the ultimate mystery of Being, for the being of the ultimate Thinking Being remains unexplained. Besides, Aristotle’s Thinking Being thinks its own being but apparently does not think things into being. The fly in the ointment is that Aristotle wanted a metaphysics for the actual natural world. This is an illusory goal. Of the actual world all we can know are the transitory regularities we detect in the elusive appearances: that is the whole object of natural science. The only reality we are vouchsafed to know is the reality of the intelligible realm, a reality we create to give intelligibility to our living experience. In Generatione et Corruptione Aristotle expounds his doctrine of the four causes. But these are not causes in any cogent sense, not even, strictly speaking, the efficient cause. In the ‘autobiographical’ section of the Phaedo Socrates makes a distinction between the true cause and the conditions in the absence of which the cause does not function (98c-99a). But we need not impose Socrates’ or Plato’s understanding of ‘cause’ on Aristotle. Aristotle’s four causes are factors that have to be there for a thing to come to be that was not before, or rather, are factors that we can abstract from a thing that has come to be. The material cause is the state of affairs that must have been there for the new state of affairs to issue from, for it is inconceivable that something should come out of nothing. I suppose that Aristotle would have ridiculed the monotheistic notion of a God creating the world out of nothing. Plato’s Demiurge brings order into a state of chaos that was already there. I am obviously widening the notion of material cause: Homer brought forth the Iliad from impressions, sensations, memories, longings, dreams that he worked into a coherent whole. The formal cause is the shape, the configuration, of the thing that becomes when it becomes. The final cause is the formal cause as envisioned by the maker in the course of the making. But what would it correspond to in the case of ‘natural processes’ where we presume there is no intelligent agency? The efficient cause also is meaningless apart from the notion of agency. A house does not build itself. There must have been forethought and will for it to become. Aristotle’s efficient cause cannot apply to natural processes unless we suppose there is purposiveness behind all processes. Perhaps this was what Aristotle was intimating in his notion of entelechy. For Aristotle was not a full-blooded empiricist. He was outer-looking, studied the things of the natural world empirically, but he had enough of the Academy culture and of the Hellenic spirit in him to be blind to the central role of intelligence in all things. That is why his hughest abstraction, Being, had to be a thinking being. Our modern Empiricists finding that the empirical methodology was all they needed to carry on their objective (extraneous) investigations of objective (outer) things studied objectively (from the outside), became totally blind to what is within. And not only the Empiricists: the Rationalist Descartes, having reduced all reality to two non-communicating substances, looking at a frolicking kitten practising its caprices and its pranks, could only see an automaton. Is it to be wondered at that, having plunged ourselves into a world without mind, we are hurtling towards self-destruction? Aristotle was certainly insightful in seeing that we cannot accept the persistence of a thing in being what it is as a brute fact; this is to stifle the mind’s insatiable yearning for intelligibility. Besides, as Plato in his later works insisted, nothing is ever a stable ‘this’ or a stable ‘what’, for as Heraclitus had said, everything is ceaselessly becoming what it is not. Let us say that Aristotle seeks the cause of everything being as it is, and finds that cause in intelligence. But where are we to locate that intelligence? That is what differentiates the two kinds of metaphysics I am trying to distinguish. The subjective metaphysician finds it within us, in our active, creative mind, and acknowledges that this vision of an active, creative intelligence is a myth that satisfies us and that invests all things with intelligibility. The objective metaphysician places the intelligence outside us. For reasons I have repeatedly given, I don’t find this acceptable, but perhaps to the end of time there will be thoughtful persons who will adopt this or that approach. To my mind any cosmological speculation lies outside the scope of philosophy proper. Cosmology must be relegated to theoretical science. I do not intend to expand on this point here. Plato presented a cosmology in the Timaeus, but he explicitly described it as a ‘likely tale’. Had Aristotle understood Plato properly, he would have presented his cosmology as a tentative hypothesis, the most likely under the current state of knowledge based on observation of the world around us. To say that to be is to be alive is good philosophy but bad science. The philosopher says: there is life in all things and there is intelligence in all things, but adds: this is the only way I can find things intelligible. But if a scientist makes that same statement he would mean that that is a fact that can be observed and verified; wnich is not the case. Aristotle had a foot in either world and that harms both his philosophy and his science. Practically all modern philosophers err by thinking their speculations are true of the natural world. Modern scientists on the other hand, contenting themselves with what can be observed and empirically verified, are blind to intelligible realities. Aristotle arrives at his notion of an Unmoved Mover by a specious argument when he premises that a thing desired or a thing thought are causes of motion. A thing desired does not move the desirer extraneously; it is the idea of the thing desired within the desirer that issues in the movement. This is so too with ‘a thing thought’. Aristotle argues at great length for the intelligibility of things, yet no argument is needed: intelligibility is the self-evidence of our own active, creative intelligence, and the intelligibility conferred by the mind on things is only light shed by that intelligence. This statement is necessarily tautologous; it could not be otherwise. Can a definition of the World or of the All give us understanding of the World or of the All? As Socrates repeatedly showed in his examinations of ideas, a definition of anything gives an account of the thing in terms of what is other than the thing itself; a definition is necessarily always extraneous and cannot give us insight into the reality of the thing defined. That is why all the investigations of Socrates into the meaning of an idea invariably end in aporia (perplexity). Only a creative mythical or metaphorical expression, a creative tokos engendering an ekgonos of the inner reality gives us insight into the reality of the reality. That is why, let me repeat, poets are the truest philosophers and why the best philosophers are those who speak in myth and parable. To say that the divine Thinker thinks all species of animals and plants into being would be a good myth that gives intelligibility to the becoming of all that becomes, but it must be acknowledged as myth: to affirm that it is true of the actual world would be an error, the error commited by all theology. But Aristotle found that view unacceptable: it would have involved qualifying his view that the divine Being thinks only its own thinking and stands aloofly apart from the actual world. Aristotle also rejected the view that actual things in the world could be derived from their mathematical aspects. Pythagoras could not satisfy him nor would Berkeley have satisfied him. If Books 13 and 14 were placed as Aristotle deliberately had or would have placed them, and if their conclusions are entirely negative, then it seems that Aristotle finally concluded that Being ultimately remains a mystery. He would then have been right in thinking it a mystery that will always remain with us and that we, as thinking beings, can never evade facing. That harmonizes with Plato’s view that we can only, and must always, give expression to our insight into Reality in myths that we must as constantly demolish in dialectical examination. But where will that leave Aristotle’s positive speculation on, to use the easiest code word, God? Subjective Metaphysics finds ultimate Reality in an idea within us that is one with our inner reality and that we can never encapsulate in a formula of words but that we have to reflect in creative thought and creative deed. Objective Metaphysics speaks of an outer world and an outer Higher Being. Well and good. But Kant, to my mind, showed in the Antinomies of Pure Reason that all answers to all possible questions about the reality of the outer world, about the World as a Whole, or about an ultimate Reality outside us, are all contradictory and all futile. CONCLUSION Thus we have two fundamental kinds of metaphysics. The one finds that our subjectivity is the locus of reality and that, while that reality is strictly ineffable, yet poets, musicians, playwrights, novelists, essayists, authors of belles-lettres (that genre that has sadly disappeared), and philosophers have been bringing us in communion with that reality, enriching our souls and enriching our world. The other kind seeks to find reality in the world surrounding us, sometimes by imaginatively raising structures of pure reasoning, sometimes by synthesizing and developing the findings of natural science. In either case they give us theoretical vistas for our thought to pleasantly roam in. My chief objection against those who ply this objective metaphysics is that they claim to give us truth where there is no truth; truth is a notion that has meaning in the sphere of empirical, verifiable science, wrongfully imported into a sphere where it has no meaning and no applicability: you might as well try to apply the criterion of truth or falsehood to Coleridge’s Kubla Khan or Mozart’s Kleine Nachtmusik. Other than these two kinds of metaphysics, or hybrids of these two fundamental kinds, since there is no law criminalizing the misappropriation and misuse of philosophical terms, marauders from a sphere totally unrelated to the questions of meaning and value that have engaged the thought of philosophers from the earliest times, took over the name without reason, without justification, and without need. I am speaking of analytical philosophers who took a craze for the prefix ‘meta’ and have been calling their empty symbol-juggling ‘metaphysics’. NOTE: While working on this essay I happened to be reading a wonderful little book that perhaps no one now would remember or even have a hazy notion about the author, Irwin Edman. (Or it may be that in saying this I am merely revealing my ignorance.) I owe the paragraph above where I refer to this Note to evocations emanating from that book. I was tempted to quote long passages from it; had I not resisted the temptation I might have quoted at least nearly the whole of chapter 5, “Sounds, the Ears, and the Musician” and large excerpts from the final chapter “Art and Philosophy”. As that was impracticable I thought the least I could do is to draw attention to this beautiful forgotten book: Arts and the Man, by Irwin Edman, 1928, 1939, 1949, being a revised and enlarged edition of the author’s book published in 1928 under the title The World, the Arts and the Artist. I have been reading the third Mentor Books printing, December, 1951. It appears that up to the middle of the twentieth century people still appreciated good books. Sixth-October City, Egypt. January 9, 2015.