Wednesday, November 25, 2015



D. R. Khashaba


“I will tell you”, Hermes said to me, “about the visit of William James to the grove of Socrates. He arrived to find David Hume and Immanuel Kant engaged in conversation with a goodly audience surrounding them. Greetings and words of welcome were exchanged and those who happened to be closest to Hume and Kant made room for William James to lie beside them on the verdant ground.”

William James said, “You remind me of the will-o’-the-wisp of my lifetime. I spent the whole of my earthly life studying and researching and could not form the faintest idea of what consciousness might be.” Hypatia said, “Permit me to say that you sought in vain because you were looking in the wrong place. I am informed that more than twelve decades after you published the book in which you expressed despair of ever finding what consciousness might be, learned neuroscientists and philosophers of mind are trying to capture the mind with no more success than you had. Consciousness or mind or intelligence cannot be found by any objective means because consciousness is simply the luminescence of the soul and the soul is simply our inwardness or, if I may be permitted the word, our innerness. Giordano Bruno has wisely spoken when he said, ‘ The whole soul is in the whole body, in the bones and in the veins and in the heart; it is no more present in one part than in another, and it is no less present in one part than in the whole, nor in the whole less than in one part. ’ Or, in the words of John Milton, ‘The mind is its own place’, though Milton may not have meant what I mean by these words.”

When Hypatia paused someone asked, “Since you agree with Giordano Bruno in saying that the whole soul is in the whole body, do you hold that there is soul in all body?” – “Father Plato has said: psuchê pasa pantos epimeleitai tou apsuchou, all soul has charge of all that is without soul, but Father Socrates has taught us that we know nothing of the world outside us; it is more than enough for us to know ourselves. Therefore I do not affirm anything of the outer world, but I am within my rights in saying I cannot see how any being can be intelligible apart from mind.” At this moment a golden butterfly fluttered above their heads: Hypatia said, “I am confident that this beautiful creature is inwardly as beautiful as outwardly, I am confident she enjoys the blissful flow of life in her.”

For a while all were silent, meditating on Hypatia’s words. Then William James spoke again. “Another riddle that kept evading me all my earthly lifetime was the problem of free will.” Immanuel Kant said, “Although I was inwardly convinced of the reality of free will, I felt that my attempt to reconcile moral freedom with universal physical causality was somehow defective.” David Hume said, “It seems to me that you put too much trust in physical causality.” Hypatia spoke again: ‘What you say, dear friend, is only part of the answer. It is true that all so-called laws formulated by science are approximations, rough schemata of observed regularities, so that the so-called causal necessity is merely a practical affair. Ludwig Wittgenstein who lived on earth long after your sojourn there said that ‘belief in the causal nexus is superstition’. And Albert Einstein said, ‘As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.’ But what do we have to do with the physical world and its so-called laws? We have immediate awareness of freedom in the spontaneity of creative intelligence. What makes the ‘problem’ of free will seem like an insoluble conundrum, beside the false assumption of universal causal necessity, is the confusion of moral freedom with freedom of choice. This latter should be called liberty, consisting in freedom from coercion. In itself choice and deliberation are always necessarily conditioned by antecedents. But a deed of love, an act of intelligent creativity, are always spontaneous and originative.”

Here Aspasia said, “We are not showing proper hospitality to our dear visitor. Let us regale him and ourselves with music.” Lastheneia of Mantinea hummed a tune and forthwith all the place resounded with music.

Cairo, November 24, 2015.

Sunday, November 22, 2015



D. R. Khashaba


Once I asked Hermes: “Are the denizens of a grove always confined to the grove they are allotted to?” Hermes answered: “How can there be confinement in the realm of spirit? The denizens of a grove are attached to their particular grove but members of different groves freely exchange visits.” Hermes then told me of Plato’s visit to the grove of Parmenides:

Plato announced that he would visit Parmenides. Lastheneia of Mantinea and Axiothea of Phlius, both of whom had studied under him at the Academy, said they would accompany him. They crossed the portal of The One and came to where Parmenides was discoursing with a group of his companions. As they approached Parmenides said, “Welcome, Son; you have called me Father and I gladly call you Son.” – “That is an honour that fills my hear with joy.” – “But you have spun many fables around my name.” – “Yet I did not falsify your teaching when in the dialogue that I named after you I made you say that whatever we assume to be or not to be, it will seem that both the One and the Many, will be, both in relation to themselves and to each other, all things and no-thing.” – “There you are right. How could a determinate formulation of words or of thought be true to the One that is beyond all thought, nay, beyond all being?”

After a pause Parmenides resumed, “But in the dialogue named Sophist you yourself confessed you were doing violence to my thought.” Plato said, “Even there I was unfolding the insight in your dictum: tauto gar esti noein te kai einai. Whether, in one sense, we mean that to be is to be thought, or, in another sense, we mean that to be is to think, we see that the real is living, active, creative intelligence. Giordano Bruno has well said of God, ‘He is the highest point of the scale, pure act and active power, the purest light’. In contradicting your denial of all motion and all change in the One I was simply exploring the notion of the One.” – “You identified the One with the Form of the Good.” – “The Form of the Good while breeding all thought and all being is one with the One in being beyond all thought and all being.”

There was a long pause interrupted by Zeno of Elea who addressed Plato saying, “Your writing in parables misled many acute persons who should have known better.” Axiothea of Phlius said, “Yet had he not written in parables and myths, he would have been like all the others promulgating lifeless dogma and superstition. The parables and myths of Plato had the same purpose as your paradoxes, to alert all thinkers to the inherent contradictoriness in all thought.” Zeno acknowledged Axiothea’s remark with a nod then said to Plato, “It is reported that two-and-a-half millennia after our earthly existence people there are still grossly misunderstanding the poetical imaginary flights of your youthful dialogues into the regions of pure Forms. They say that you took the Forms to constitute an immaterial reality existing apart from the physical world.” Lastheneia of Mantinea said, “They also say that Plato denied the ‘reality’ of the outer world. They do not understand that Plato’s denigration of the objective world and of the human body is not a denial of the existence of the world of nature but is meant to highlight the sole reality that sustains and brings forth all objective existence which is essentially transient.” Axiothea added, “It is this misunderstanding that makes them designate Plato’s position as a dualism, overlooking that in Plato’s philosophy reality cannot be but one, that all multiplicity is relative and inherently evanescent. This brings us back to the One of Father Parmenides.”

Cairo, November 21, 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015



D. R. Khashaba


I said to Hermes, “Tell me about Immanuel Kant’s arrival in the underworld. I am sure he was sent to the upper regions, but tell me what went on, to which grove was he directed?” – “What makes you so sure he went to the upper regions? – “If Immanuel Kant was not sent to the upper regions I will lose my faith in the justice of the gods,” – “You don’t have to. Of course he went up.” – “To which grove was he directed?” – “Kant was given a special favour. He was allowed to sample a number of groves and then decide where he wanted to lodge.”

Hermes continued: He first went to the grove of Aristotle. He was welcomed by Ibn Sina who accompanied him to where Aristotle was walking up and down a path bordered by a variety of exotic herbs, together with a group of men and women among whom Kant recognized Thomas of Aquino. Greetings and words of welcome were exchanged, then abruptly Aristotle said, “You thought your table of categories was an improvement on mine.” Kant was taken aback but replied gently, “Believe me, sir, I did not think of vying with your philosophy. I thought my categories followed necessarily from my system.” Thomas to change the drift of the conversation said, “I have been studying your refutation of the Ontological Proof. It is brilliant, but it seems to me to leave something out. The Proof does not prove anything, as you rightly say, but it gives voice to a philosophical insight: that the idea of perfection in our mind is our model, our criterion, and our assurance of ultimate Reality. It is kin to Plato’s Form of the Good, which is only an idea, but an idea of Reality in which we discover and attain our own reality. I have come to see this since I came here.” Kant for the first time felt that the idea of Reality, no less than the starry heavens above and the moral sense within, can fill the mind with awe and wonder. He said, “Thank you for throwing this flood of light on a question I had only treated superficially.”

Kant then asked to be excused, walked out of Aristotle’s grove, and headed to the grove of René Descartes. There besides Descartes he saw Malebranche, Leibniz, Spinoza, and his old master Christian Wolff. Leibniz and Spinoza were engaged in a lively discussion. Wolff said to Kant: “When you said you were awakened from your dogmatic slumber you were alluding to the philosophy I had taught you.” Kant said apologetically, “It was the philosophy I kept teaching for many years before arriving at my Critical system.” After exchanging a few more words with Wolff and greeting the others he left Descartes’s grove. He lingered before the portal of Francis Bacon’s grove and for a while seemed undecided, then, as if he had a sudden inspiration, moved with determination to the Gnôthi Sauton portal and entered the grove of Socrates.

He found his way to Socrates’ habitual haunt. He was welcomed and was bid to make himself comfortable on the lush grass. David Hume addressed him: “I have learnt that you had the answer to my quandary.” Kant said, “I wrote a bulky elaborate volume to escape the predicament you put us all in, but since I came here it has suddenly become plain to me that Socrates had the whole answer long before our time. We live, strictly speaking, in a world of thought. Our world is in a genuine sense ours because it is constituted by our ideas. The world conforms to our ideas simply because the world we live in is made of the forms and the patterns generated by our mind. Our friend George Berkeley here was not far wrong when he saw in the world nothing but ideas, because all things in the world are, for us, formed by our ideas.” “Plato explained that to me”, Hume said, “when I came here; but you put it beautifully.” After a short pause Kant resumed: “There are two puzzles that still perplex me: the noumenon that remains unknown and the transcendental unity of apperception that despite all my endeavours continues to elude me.”

It was Hypatia that spoke: “Your two puzzles have but one answer. The noumenon remains unknown to you because you seek it in or behind or underneath the things in the outer world. The real noumenon is within you; it is none other than what you call the transcendental unity of apperception and keeps eluding you because you seek to find a thing, an entity, an observable object, while it is nothing but your inner reality. Your inner reality is the only noumenon. It is not a thing or an object but is the activity of your creative intelligence. It cannot be observed because it is the observer, it is the agent but even this statement has to be taken with caution because it is not a thing that is but is pure act. For, as Plato rightly saw, all reality is nothing but dunamis, activity.”

When Hypatia stopped Aspasia said with a smile, “You have to excuse Hypatia’s didactic vehemence. She is prone to forget herself and think she is lecturing her students in the School of Alexandria.” Then Hypatia said, “Dear Aspasia does not let an opportunity for teasing me go by. I cannot suppress my vexation at the way humans ignore the inner eye. When I taught that true salvation is in philosophy they shredded my body and burned my books. When Mansur Al-Hallaj found all truth within himself and proclaimed: \I am the Truth’ they put him to death. When Giordano Bruno sought the light that was dimmed by the mythological creed he was burned. And now they go to all lengths to find the mind in this and that and cannot see that the mind itself is the sole reality.”

Cairo, November 17, 2015.

Thursday, November 12, 2015



D. R. Khashaba

Some time ago I reported a conversation that took place in Hades as it came to me. But lately an akolouthos of Hermes gave me a more detailed account of Plato receiving David Hume on his arrival at Hades’ abode, and in return for a favour I nad shown him has been regaling me from time to time with reports of goings on past and goings on present in the realms of the departed. I will make a record of these reports here, but let me begin by giving the fuller account of what took place when Hume first arrived there.


When David Hume arrived in the underworld and stood before the judges Radamanthus, Minos and Aiakos he was unanimously voted to go to the upper regions but while Aiakos was inclined to send him to the grove of Democritus, Minos thought that, despite appearances, he properly belonged to the grove of Socrates, and Radamanthus ruled thus, and Hermes conducted him to the Gnôthi Sauton portal. As soon as he entered Plato welcomed him and had with him the conversation I reported earlier before taking him to Socrates’ favourite haunt.

There was a small group gathered around Socrates, seated or reclining on the lush grass. Hume’s attention was first attracted by two fair nymphs, one on either side of Socrates. Plato caught Hume’s glance. “Those are”, he explained, “Aspasia of Athens, to the left, and Hypatia of Alexandria, to the right.” Next Hume’s eye rested on a face that somehow looked familiar to him. “You should recognize him”, Plato said. “that’s George Berkeley. I am confident you will soon smooth out your philosophical differences.”

As they approached Socrates said, “Welcome, friend; we have been expecting you.” Plato said, “I am to blame for keeping him a while. We had an interesting discussion and agreed that those who are responsible for giving Philosophy a bad name are her foolish friends who claimed for her territories beyond her rightful domain.” “It’s curious”, said Socrates, “how mortals persevere in error. I told them plainly that Philosophy has nothing to do with the physical world and my friend Plato told them, though in parable, that Philosophy does not seek and cannot offer the certainty proper to geometry or number what they now call mathematics, usurping the word we used for all that can be taught and learned. Philosophy begins – and never ends – in the injunction of the Delphic oracle: know yourself.”

“May I ask”, Hume interposed, “why you intoned the phrase ‘and never ends’ with such emphasis.” Socrates turned with a sly wink to Hypatia who spoke: “In seeking to know ourselves we explore our inner reality, a reality that is as inexhaustible as it is ineffable. In exploring our reality we both live intelligently and live the life of intelligence.” Socrates smiled saying, “Hypatia speaks as enigmatically as my friend Diotima. Diotima once said to me: theôn oudeis philosophei oud’ epithumei sophos genesthai, esti gar. oud’ ei tis allos sophos, ou philosophei (no god philosophizes or desires to become wise; he already is; nor does anyone else who is wise philosophize). Now this surely has to be taken with more than a grain of salt. It would be straightforwardly true if philosophy or wisdom were a fixed asset, as businessmen say, to be possessed once and for all. But philosophy, as Plato has been teaching, is never a definite body of knowledge, but is the activity of philosophizing, or as Hypatia says, is the constant exercise of creative intelligence.” “And that”, said Aspasia, “ is the philosophical life.”

After a pause Aspasia resumed: “But sometimes I wonder, is it only by philosophizing that a human being can live a good life? I have known simple individuals who lived at peace with themselves and with everybody around them, who were tender and loving not only towards their fellow human beings but also towards all living things, filled with happiness when they do a good deed, contentedly enjoying doing whatever they have to do.” “Yes”, said Plato, “there are such persons who are by nature so happily attuned that they cannot but do what is right. But we have to take account of two considerations. First, most of us need to be constantly examining our motives and impulses, scrutinizing our judgments snd convictions, clearing the muddles and confusions of our opinions. Secondly, (and this especially concerns us who busy ourselves with philosophy and philosophizing) human beings, whose distinctive characteristic is reason, fall short of their proper excellence if their mode of life and their doings are not founded on reasoned principles.”

A lively tune sounded; they all stood up abs began dancing to the music.

Cairo, November 11, 2o15.

Sunday, October 25, 2015



D. R. Khashaba

Bergson’s insistence on fitting the distinction between the qualitative and the quantitative into the Cartesian separation of mind and extension burdens him with needless complications and confusions. When Plato for a while took Socrates’ seminal distinction between the intelligible and the perceptible to imply separation, that created the perplexities and paradoxes he himself exposed in the first part of the Parmenides. Kant’s insightful distinction between the phenomenal and the noumenal, taken as constituting two parallel worlds, foiled his attempt to reconcile freedom and causality. Reality is one. Philosophy explores the inside, science describes the outside. But ‘the inside and the outside’ is a metaphor and, like all netaphor, when pressed, breaks down, Fur the subjective and the objective are not on the same plane of being: they are two different metaphysical dimensions.

Bergson writes: “What duration is there existing outside us? The present only, or, if we prefer the expression, simultaneity. No doubt external things change, but their moments do not succeed one another, if we retain the ordinary meaning of the word, except for a consciousness which keeps them in mind.” This is needlessly confused because Bergson mixes the scientific approach with the philosophical approach. All that is real is in duration, else becoming faces us with an unintelligible riddle. The present is a fiction. That the moments of external things “do not succeed one another” is the absurdity that Hume discovered in the abstraction of the objective approach. But to investigate things empirically we have to work with the fictions of time and simultaneity and discrete successive moments. The confusion is evident in the f0llowing paragraph which I quote in full:

“Thus in consciousness we find states which succeed, without being distinguished from one another; and in space simultaneities which, without succeeding, are distinguished from one another, in the sense that one has ceased to exist when the other appears. Outside us, mutual externality without succession; within us, succession without mutual externality.”

Bergson returns to criticizing Kant but I don’t find it necessary to add to what I have already said on this issue. Bergson introduced the notion of duration in philosophical discussion but left in Time and Free Will his presentation of this important notion is obscure and confused. Whitehead account of duration is richer and more profound. In Chapter Eight of Quest of Reality (2013) I wronged Whitehead for censuring Bergson for anti-intellectualism. I can now see Whitehead’s point.

Cairo, October 25, 2015.



D. R. Khashaba

Bergson heads Chapter 3 with a general outline of the conflict between mechanism and dynamism. I quote the opening paragraph in full:

“IT is easy to see why the question of free will brings into conflict these two rival systems of nature, mechanism and dynamism. Dynamism starts from the idea of voluntary activity, given by consciousness, and comes to represent inertia by gradually emptying this idea: it has thus no difficulty in conceiving free force on the one hand and matter governed by laws on the other. Mechanism follows the opposite course. It assumes that the materials which it synthesizes are governed by necessary laws, and although it reaches richer and richer combinations, which are more and more difficult to foresee, and to all appearance more and more contingent, yet it never gets out of the narrow circle of necessity within which it at first shut itself up. For dynamism facts more real than laws; mechanism reverses this attitude. The idea of spontaneity simpler than that of inertia.”

Independently of Bergson I have been asserting that causal necessity is a useful fiction of science and that all scientific laws are basically approximations. In place of dynamism I speak of creativity. In my philosophy creativity is an ultimate metaphysical principle. The simplest instance of becoming is creative and originative. To say that the antecedents cause the consequents is merely an empty manner of speaking that conceals the mystery of becoming; I say ‘empty’ because it is strictly meaningless. We are immediately aware of our spontaneity. The simplest voluntary act, though it requires its conditions and is inconceivable in the absence of its conditions, is yet creative and originative: it is a corruption of the term ‘explain’ to say that the antecedent conditions explain the act. When we come to the creativity of thought and the creativity of art it is only a superstition worse than all other superstitions that makes determinists deny what their immediate experience shows plainly. I have been saying this in all my writings: in “Free Will as Creativity” (The Sphinx and the Phoenix, 2009) I applied it to the pseudo-problem of the compatibility or incompatibility of freedom and causal determinism.

(Bergson’s terminology clashes with mine: I would never speak of “the fact as the absolute reality”, but that does not affect the fundamental agreement.)

Bergson’s further ‘explanations’ and his mixture of empirical investigations with philosophical elucidations confuse rather than clarify the issues. Philosophy should be concerned exclusively with creative notions that confer intelligibility on the dumb givennesses of experience. Further, as I affirmed repeatedly in my writings, the issue of free will is needlessly complicated by the confusion of free will and freedom of choice. Choice is an essentially human phenomenon; choice, like all happenings in nature, is always conditioned by its precedents and so is amenable to posterior reductionist empirical ‘explanation’, which does not however militate against its being in the end creative and originative like all happening and all becoming. Thus scientific ‘explanation’ reigns supreme in the fictional domain of scientific abstractions. Philosophy has nothing to do with all that beyond showing its fictionality.

The mind-body problem cannot be settled by controversy between the scientific and the philosophical outlooks. The mind is our inner reality; it is the integral integrative person, a metaphysical reality, not an entity localized in the brain or even in the whole soma. Every act, every feeling, every thought has an outside, an objective aspect that can, with sufficient sophistication, be subjected to objective observation and measurement, but however sophisticated, however ‘exhaustive’ our neurological observations and measurements may be they will never show the reality of the mind because that belongs to quite another dimension of being, the metaphysical dimension. Science studies the physical aspect, the outside side, of things; philosophy explores the inside that is inaccessible to objective observation and measurement. The scientific approach and the philosophical approach have no point of contact. Socrates said that two-and-a-half millennia ago but nobody is paying attention.

With Plato I call the subjective real, the only reality we know. I leave fact, existence, and truth to science. This clashes with common usage, but I find it necessary to separate the domains of scientific and philosophical thought, the confusion of which is harming both philosophy and science. Bergson’s futile arguments in defence of his philosophical insight provide evidence that mixing philosophy and science gets us nowhere. For instance, the principle of the conservation of energy is a fiction useful for the purposes of science, you can neither argue for it nor against it philosophically.

It is pointless to follow Bergson’s argument for “the hypothesis of a conscious force or free will” which may “escape the law of the conservation of energy”. This also goes for his arguments against psychological determinism.

The word freedom is unfortunate. The concept of freedom in connection with the free will issue is confused and confusing. Moral freedom is autonomy in Spinoza’s sense. But Spinoza accepted the Rationalist assumption of causal determinism unquestioningly. Autonomy does not preclude creativity and origination. On the contrary, autonomy is only intelligible as creative spontaneity. Kant too, for whom autonomy is the essence of morality, was misled by the assumption of causal determinism and futilely tried to reconcile freedom and physical causality. We have to realize that scientific causal laws are approximations that work well in the area of relative phenomenal regularities. That the sun will continue to shine is only true on the unexpressed proviso that no cosmic catastrophe befalls our galaxy. The concept of freedom has its proper place in politics and social life as absence of coercion.

Bergson says that “we are free when our acts spring from our whole personality”, which is to say when we act as free agents, but we are rarely that; most of the time we are fractions in a larger whole, physical, social, cultural. This is reminiscent of what is posited by scholars as the problem of Socrates’ ‘intellectualism’. Socrates says that when we know what is right we do what is right. To see the truth of this we have to equate knowing what is right with being a rational being, as Socrates does. When we are rational we act rationally. But when are we truly rational? The best of us only by fits and starts.

A section-rubric reads: “Fundamental error is confusion of time and space. The self infallible in affirming immediate experience of freedom, but cannot explain it.” I will leave aside the first statement for the moment. In my parlance, in our inner reality we are immediately aware of our intelligent creativity. This needs no explanation and can have no explanation because, like all reality, it is an ultimate mystery. I say we all have this experience; the humblest human beings know it; the sophisticated only deny it because they are deluded by the superstition of causal determinism. And to preclude a possible misunderstanding, let me emphasize that in speaking of superstition in science I am not anti-scientist; I am using ‘superstition’ as a technical term. All science is founded on fiction. Gravity is a fiction, inertia is a fiction. That 2 and 2 make four is a fiction because in creating the number series we made two and two to equal four: in nature there are no twos and no fours. This is implied in Kant’s affirmation that 5+7=12 is a synthetic a priori judgment. Scientific fiction is needed and useful in its proper sphere, but when applied where it does not belong it is superstition.

I cursorily glide over the rest of Chapter 3 without comment. Next we go to Chapter Four “Conclusion”. We will see if there is anything to add to what has already been said.

Cairo, October 25, 2015.

Friday, October 23, 2015



Chapter 2 is titled “The Multiplicity of Consciousness; The Idea of Duration”. So again the chapter title introduces two creative notions, integrative wholeness and duration. Besides Bergson Whitehead was the only other philosopher in whose philosophy duration was fundamental. But again Bergson proceeds argumentatively. Whitehead, mathematician and scientist though he was, did philosophy philosophically. Even in Process and Reality he does not seek to establish anything demonstratively but presents his creative notions affirmatively. He presents the notion of duration by appeal to the experience of short-term memory. The simplest sentence we utter is generated in the mind as a whole: it could never come to be if it were put together word by word and syllable by syllable.

Bergson says: “When we assert that number is a unit, we understand by this that we master the whole of it by a simple and indivisible intuition of the mind”. This says it all and no argument is needed, and this says no more than what Socrates said when he would not accept that two is made either by adding one to one or by dividing one into two; that two is two by the idea Two.

One section-rubric reads: “Does space exist independently of its contents, as Kant held?” This reveals a gross misunderstanding of Kant. I have been passing cursorily over the preceding sections. This section probably calls for detailed comment. Bergson begins by asserting “the absolute reality of space”: It seems that Bergson here is following Descartes. But what does that really mean? Only an insane person can doubt that we live in a spatial, spaced, or extended world. But the properties of space, that divisibility that Bergson has been referring to all the time, the geometrical characteristics that Euclid expounded, are they in the nature of things? Kant said they are concepts of the understanding. This is not to make “space exist independently of its contents”, which is an inconceivable absurdity. It is this absurdity that Bergson takes to be Kant’s conception of space — “endowing space with an existence independent of its content”! Bergson’s misunderstanding is doubly odd since he could have found support in Kant for his own view of extensity as a (conceptual) abstraction. He thinks Kant “disregarded the activity of the mind” along with the materialists. What was the Copernican revolution all about then? Perhaps it is a measure of Kant’s originality that he has been so little understood. There is no point in commenting further since Bergson’s argument is based on this gross misunderstanding.

Further on he says that for the co-existence of inextensive sensations “to give rise to space, there must be an act of the mind which takes them in all at the same time and sets them in juxtaposition : this unique act is very like what Kant calls an a priori form of sensibility”. How then could he read into Kant the absurdity he so confidently ascribes to him?

I can’t understand Bergson’s homogeneous time that is reducible to space. That is a conceptual abstraction. All we need is to distinguish between abstract time and real duration. It is the notion of duration that is original in Bergson and Whitehead. In Chapter XV of Quest of Reality (2013) I distinguished time, duration, and eternity — eternity not as endless extension of time but as creative transcendence. I believe philosophy badly needs to appropriate the creative notions of duration and eternity. The pseudo-problem of the freedom of the will cannot be resolved otherwise. (I am eager to see how Bergson deals with it in the next chapter.)

Bergson says that “the homogeneous is thus supposed to take two forms, according as its contents co-exist or follow one another”. The contents that co-exist and the contents that follow one another were the material out of which Zeno formed his paradoxes. Our clever logicians who find ways to unriddle Zeno’s riddles miss the point, that abstract space and abstract time are fictions; useful fictions that serve our practical needs and our scientific needs, but fictions nevertheless.Bergson, in discussing the ‘paradoxes of the Eleatics’ shows that he is aware of this. Further on this comes out more clearly where he says that “science cannot deal with time and motion except on condition of first eliminating the essential and qualitative element of time, duration, and of motion, mobility.” But he harms his own case by his involved arguments which obscure the creative notions he is introducing. Argument, demonstration, proof are the bane of philosophy.

“Outside ourselves we should find only space, and consequently nothing but simultaneities, of which we could not even say that they are objectively successive, since succession can only be thought through comparing the present with the past.” This is fine in so far as it indicates that the real is only to be found within us, in creative intelligence, But Bergson’s failure to understand Kant makes him speak of space ‘outside ourselves’. Outside us there is only an inchoate nebulous totality to imagine which we have literally to go out of our mind. Soon after our birth our mind orders the nebula in distinct things, patterns, distances, and we distinguish ourselves from our surroundings. That is why it is impossible for us to imagine what the world is like ‘in itself’, without the mind.

The rubric to the concluding section of Chapter 1 reads: “Conclusion: space alone is homogeneous; duration and succession belong not to the external world, but to the conscious mind”. Here again I think it a mistake to single out space as belonging to the world and not to the conscious mind. In the case of space it is more difficult for us to conceive it as “belonging to the conscious mind”, but I bel9eve that Kant was right in seeing space as a mode of the understanding.

It is odd that Bergson did not once refer to creativity as the best exemplification of duration. A lyric, a song, a drama, are examples of duration in which multiplicity and succession are transcended in a creative whole.

Cairo, October, 23, 2015.

Thursday, October 22, 2015



D. R. Khashaba

Nothing shows the sorry state of recent and contemporary philosophy more clearly than the consideration that the most original philosophers of the twentieth century, such as Bergson, Whitehead, Santayana, are the most neglected. If they are read at all today, it is outside academia.

Bergson begins Time and Free Will (originally published as Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience in 1889) by introducing the distinction between the quantitative and the qualitative. This distinction should be obvious to plain commonsense were it not that the whole progress of science, theoretical and applied, for the past four centuries has been founded on the quantification of all phenomena so that it is very difficult for the modern mind to see anything as real that cannot be measured, weighed, or numbered. The artificiality and illusoriness of discrete quantity was revealed in the paradoxes of Zeno of Elea two-and-a-half millennia ago, but so enormous have the practical benefits of quantification proved that the immediate testimony of our living experience and the immediacy of subjective awareness were denied in favour of the reports of objective empirical observation and the returns of measuring instruments. Whitehead tried to correct the falsity in the scientific picture of reality by his doctrine of the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness, but Whitehead’s approach was half-hearted since he could not free himself from the objective attitude od science.

Bergson needlessly exerts himself to establish by argument and by introspection the distinction between the qualitative and the quantitative, to show the error of thinking of intensity as a magnitude in the same sense as extensive magnitude, when all that he needed was to assert boldly that the subjective immediacy of the ‘what’ is the reality of which we are immediately and indubitably aware. Perhaps the fact that this was his doctoral dissertation explains why he was necessitated to go through all this needless argumentation. His introspective observations would be appropriate in a stream-of-consciousness novel but in a philosophical essay they merely obscure the fundamental insight.

Philosophy is creative thinking and should present its insights oracularly. Only Plato among ancients and Nietzsche among moderns understood this. In the first part of Jenseits von Gut ind Böse Nietzsche clearly spells this out, and I believe that this has not received the attention it deserves.

Bergson speaking of the subjective feeling of aesthetic grace, specifically in movement, says that we “could hardly make out why it affords us such pleasure if it were nothing but a saving of effort, as Spencer maintains”. I find this significant. Herbert Spencer could only see what can be objectively observed and measured. He would not see Bergson’s point as long as it was supposed that the two of them were speaking of the same thing. All philosophical argument about what is metaphysically real makes no sense to the scientific mentality when it is assumed that philosophy and science deal with the same world. Philosophers to gain any credibility with the modern mind must make it clear that they are concerned with a radically distinct world. But philosophers first need to come around to seeing this themselves. Scientists do not quarrel with poets about their visions: when it is realized that philosophers offer creative visions that claim no objective factuality the endless idealist-empiricist controversies should end.

Bergson gains nothing by his extended analyses of aesthetic feelings and moral feelings. He had no need to show that the increasing intensity of feeling is not quantitative. We should appeal simply to our intuitive experience to affirm that the qualitative and the quantitative are radically heterogeneous. Any translation of the one into the other must be an arbitrary artificial move to serve specific purposes. Bergson says: “There is hardly any passion or desire, any joy or sorrow, which is not accompanied by physical symptoms; and, where these symptoms occur, they probably count for something in the estimate of intensities. As for the sensations properly so called, they are manifestly connected with their external cause, and though the intensity of the sensation cannot be defined by the magnitude of its cause, there undoubtedly exists some relation between these two terms. In some of its manifestations consciousness even appears to spread outwards, as if intensity were being developed into extensity, e.g. in the case of muscular effort.” He apparently thinks this concession militates against his position and that he has to argue his way out of the difficulty. That would be so only if we assume that the subjective (intensity) and the objective (extensity) are two separate substances as in Descates’s system which gave rise to all the mind-body quandaries. But the human person is an integral entity: the subjective and the objective are the inside and the outside that can never be separated nor can the one ever be changed into the other. Dementia and brain deterioration go hand in hand but that does not mean that the brain is the mind. All the empirical arguments either way can be matched by counter-arguments and we get nowhere.

Cairo, October 22