Wednesday, April 19, 2017



D. R. Khashaba

Sympathetic readers of my writings have been put off by my use of the terms ‘real’ and ‘reality’ and though I have repeatedly stated that my choice of term may have been unfortunate and though I have repeatedly explained my special usage of the term and insisted that readers take the term in the special sense I give it, all that has not removed the misunderstandings and difficulties. So here once more I will try to clarify my position.

In ordinary usage what is ‘real’ is what is out there, what exists, what is actual, what is physical, what is objective, what can be empirically verified. I do not question the existence, the actuality, the objectivity, etc., of all that. But you have a plethora of words for that one thing. I need one special word to apply uniquely to what is opposed to that: what is in here, what is subjective, what is meaningful in itself without depending on or having reference to anything outside the mind. So give me the one word ‘real’ and I leave you all the others, primarily ‘exist’ and ‘existence’. And I do not deny you the use of the term ‘real’ in the common connotation. But when we are discussing metaphysics, and particularly in connection with my philosophy, let us be clear which ‘real’ we are referring to.

What I term ‘real’ is, in Platonic language, the intelligible as opposed to the perceptible, and I hasten to assure you that when I say that the intelligible is real I definitely do not mean that it is out there or that it exists in the ordinary sense of the word. I scrupulously avoid the use of the terms ‘exist’ and ‘existence’ in relation to metaphysical reality. With Socrates-Plato I assert that Justice, Loyalty, and even mathematical Equality are nowhere in the natural world.

Why, you may ask, insist on the word ‘real’? Why not simply speak of the subject and subjectivity? I have two reasons why I insist on using the term in this special sense which is causing me so much trouble.

The first reason is axiological. We need to emphasize that all life and all value are in the intelligible realm. The natural world, apart from our ideals and values and dreams is as nothing. The galaxies are not more worthy of the title ‘real’ than my joy or grief or a baby’s glee. However I will not amplify on this thought here.

The second reason is metaphysical. When we come to consider our notion of ultimate Reality, I find that what is ultimately real cannot be a thing or an object or even an agent or creator. To my mind, all that exists is necessarily determined by what it is not, depends on what is other than it, and is necessarily transient, evanescent. What is real I conceive as the activity, the creativity, that brings about all the perpetually vanishing existents. This ultimate Reality I say does not exist since it is never a determinate something. It is the Act, not something that acts, but the sheer activity. All the determinate things it brings forth, in the very act of coming into being are passing away; what is lasting, eternal, is the creativity, not a substantive creator.

Kierkegaard says: Truth is subjectivity. I say, the real is the subjective; it is real inasmuch as it does not exist; and the subject is the unique reality we have cognizance of.

I have been expounding these thoughts in many books and papers, particularly in Quest of Reality, Metaphysical Reality, and Creative Eternity: A Metaphysical Myth. Here I am merely clarifying a terminological confusion.

D. R. Khashaba

April 19, 2017

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017



D. R. Khashaba


Philosophy has always meant different things to different people. Since the close of the nineteenth century the term has been applied to studies that neither Plato nor Aristotle would have found related to what either of them meant by philosophy.

There is nothing wrong of course with there being numerous diverse fields of thought with distinct methods and objects and objectives. But things go wrong when discipline A, misled by a community of name, finds fault with discipline B because it does not apply A’s methods or adopt its object and objectives. In science, for instance, it would be wrong for physicists to think that, because the ultimate constituents of living cells are such as physics studies, physics tells us all we need to know about living cells. In the case of the diverse disciplines claiming the title ‘philosophy’ (now wildly proliferating) this fault is rampant and is highly damaging. Philosophies modeled on empirical science have actually anathematized as nonsense. But the diversity of types of philosophical thinking is not a modern phenomenon.


In China and in India, in Mesopotamia and in Egypt, in Persia and among the Hebrews there was wisdom. But philosophy started in Ionia in the north-eastern corner of the Mediterranean. Philosophy is first distinguished by being private; every philosopher thought for himself, pursuing questions that irked her or him, seeking solely to satisfy her or his own mind, claiming no authority and demanding no following.

The questions that the earliest philosophers sought answers for were diverse and varied and hence from the very start there were different types of philosophical pursuits. The first Milesian thinkers, Thales and Anaximander and Anaximenes seem to have puzzled about the ultimate constituents of all things and how the world has come to be as we find it. Xenophanes debunked the common vulgar notions about the gods. Heraclitus and Parmenides were interested in questions that have come to be designated metaphysical. Socrates looked into the ideas, ideals, values, and aims that govern human life and asked what life is best for a human being to live. Socrates’ philosophy was thus a philosophy of life and for life.

Plato, profoundly impressed by the character and moral stance of Socrates, was simultaneously deeply immersed in the questions that had engaged Heraclitus and Parmenides: What is real? What is ultimate Reality? Fusing Socrates’ moral interests with his metaphysical questionings, Plato developed a vision uf the philosophical life as the ideal life for a human being, involving a vision of ultimate Reality, and implying a distinctive view of the nature of philosophical thinking. This Platonic philosophy has sadly been misunderstood and ignored. In particular, learned scholarship has been guilty of making a travesty of it.

Let us stay a while with these two last-mentioned great thinkers. It is strictly impossible to draw a clear line between the thought of Socrates and the thought of Plato, but for the purposes of exposition it is unavoidable and perhaps not unhelpful to make a conjectural separation.


At his trial Socrates declares : “…while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy” (Jowett’s wording). How did he ‘teach philosophy’? By interrogating, questioning, examining, and cross-examining all he met. It is of vital importance to grasp the significance of this.

Socrates saw that we owe our distinctive human nature to our life and actions being governed by ideas, ideals, values, purposes all bred in the mind and having no being outside the mind. When these ideas, values, and purposes are confused, muddled, and entangled we go in life fumbling in the dark, not knowing what we are or what we are doing. This is the insight that Spinoza, twenty-two centuries later, was to express by saying that when we act on inadequate ideas we are not free. On the other hand, to be clear about our ideas, values, and purposes is to enjoy the proper virtue, the special excellence of a human being. That distinctive excellence, that proper virtue of a human being, Socrates referred to as that within us which is benefited by doing what is right and harmed by doing what is wrong. For short it may be named psuchê (soul) or nous (mind, reason). Consequently he held that, if life is not worth living with a diseased body, it is much less so with a diseased soul (Crito, 46b ff.).

Thus Socrates was exclusively concerned with the mind and the things of the mind. In the Phaedrus when Phaedrus asks him if he believes the popular legend of Boreas carrying Orithuia away, Socrates says:

“… I have no time for such things; and the reason, my friend, is this. I am still unable, as the Delphic inscription orders, to know myself; and it really seems to me ridiculous to look into other things before I have understood that. … I look … into my own self: Am I a beast more complicated and savage than Typhon, or am I a tamer, simpler animal with a share in a divine and gentle nature?” (229e-230a, tr. Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff)

Those things of the mind that were Socrates’ sole concern are intelligible as opposed to the perceptible things reported to us by our senses of the outer world including our body. In the Phaedo there is a most important passage of some half-a-dozen pages (95e-102a) that is strangely overlooked by professional philosophers and learned scholars. Responding to a difficulty raised by Cebes in the argument, Socrates says, “The whole question of the cause of generation and corruption will have to be examined.” He proceeds to give an account of his youthful wrestlinlings with the question. It turns out that in the end he had to renounce all search for physical causes which, he found, cannot answer any of the questions that concerned him as a philosophers. The answers to these and all the understanding we need for the guidance of human life are to be found within our own minds, in the ideas engendered in and by our minds. Socrates exemplifies the difference between physical ‘explanation’ and philosophic explanation: he is seated on his prison bed; the scientist will account for his posture by giving an account of his bones and muscles and sinews; the philosopher will say that he is there because his principles dictate that he remain in prison and sustain execution rather than escape as his friends urged him to do (98b-99b). This is the whole difference between scientific and philosophic investigation. The former always tells us how things are or come to be but never what or why things are. Ignorance of this radical distinction is responsible for all the needless wrangling between scientists and philosophers.

Socrates explains another profound aspect of philosophic understanding. He says that he had previously thought “it was obvious to anybody that men grew through eating and drinking, for food adds flesh to flesh and bones to bones” and so on (96c-d, tr. G.M.A. Grube) but he was no longer satisfied with that kind of explanation. He now thought that only the idea of Growth gives us understanding of growth. Our philosophers and erudite scholars find this hard to grasp but it is essential for understanding of the whole Socratic-Platonic position. Let us imagine Adam in the Garden of Eden. There are trees everywhere; these are accepted as they are without difficulty. But a young shoot draws his attention. The next day he looks at it and it seems not to have changed. But in a few days there is something puzzling about it; it is the same and yet not the same. Then it flashes in his minf: it has grown; this is growth.

Socrates elucidates further. He will no longer allow himself “to say that where one is added to one either the one to which it is added or the one that is added becomes two” (95e-97a, tr. G.M.A. Grube) but will only hold that the two is two or becomes two by the idea Two. The human mind created the number series and only then did things become numbered. The savage may have the idea One and the idea Two but not the idea Three: To her or him three, seven, twenty are all equally just ‘many’.

This is the gist of what has come to be known as the Platonic Forms. The world presents us through our senses with impressions that in themselves mean nothing. It is only when the mind clothes the impression in a Form that the dumb impression becomes a meaningful sensation for us. Kant was to re-discover this: It is the gist of his Copernican revolution.

Socrates sums up the outcome of his search for causes. When he found that he could not find answers to his philosophical questions by investigating outer things, he gave up all such investigations and turned to seeking understanding by examining the ideas in the mind (99d-100a). This is the crucial separation of objective (scientific) investigation and subjective (philosophical) speculation that Socrates insisted on and that both scientists and philosophers have failed to heed with damaging consequences.


The Socratic separation of the intelligible and the perceptible was the foundation of Plato’s theoretical thinking. In the Phaedo (which may be seen as the epitome of Plato’s philosophical position) ‘Socrates’ introduces the idea that a philosopher lives not for the things of the body but for the things of the mind or soul, such as the ideals of justice and temperance and beauty. Such ideas, the idea of justice for instance, is the ousia of whose being philosophers give account in discourse (78d). He then simply suggests that we posit two kinds of being, the one visible, the other invisible (79a). This is the cornerstone of the whole of Plato’s epistemology, ontology, and axiology.

At his trial Socrates says that “it is the greatest good for a human being daily to converse of virtue” and that “the unexamined life is not a life for a human being” (Apology, 38a). That indeed sums up the Socratic-Platonic conception of the philosophic life. We read in the Phaedo:

“When the soul (mind) all by itself reflects, it moves into that which is pure, always is, deathless, and constant, and being of a like nature to that, remains with that always, whenever it is possible for it to be by itself, and then it rests from wandering, and in the company of that, is constant, being in communion with such; and it is this state that is called intelligence (phronêsis)” (79d).

Philosophy, purely and simply, is the act of philosophizing, of examining one’s mind or another’s mind. Philosophical insight is the luminescence of this active creative self-examination, not any result thereof. The philosophical life is the constant exercise of creative intelligence.

In the Republic, in the seminal central part (472a-541b) that scholars see as a mere digression, we read that “the philosopher reaches out for the whole and the all, aspires to behold all time and all being” (486a). But this must not be misunderstood. The whole of the philosophic endeavour is summed up by Plato in a prophetic passage that I have quoted many times before and will quote again:

“ … a true philosophical nature aspires to what IS, does not tarry by the many particulars that are supposed to be, but goes forth with no blunting and no slackening of her desire, until she grasps the essence of all reality by that in her soul to which it is becoming to grasp that (that is, what is akin), 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 …” (490a-b).

This is oracular and is to be understood as an oracle is to be understood: The whole of the philosophical journey begins and ends in the mind in the same way as the ascent to the Form of absolute Beauty described in the Symposium, and the reality attained, the reality the philosopher communes with, is the reality of the philosopher’s own mind, and just as in the Symposium the lover attaining the vision of Beauty will give birth not to images but to true virtue (212a) so here the philosopher communing with her or his inner reality gives birth to reason and reality.

Further on in the Republic when Socrates is asked about the highest wisdom he answers that it is the Form of the Good (505). When he is pressed to give an account of the Form of the Good, Socrates gives an allegory representing the sun as the offspring of the Good and as the sun is the source of light and sight but is itself more than light and sight, so the Good is the source of mind and the intelligible, giving the things known their reality and giving the knowing mind the power of knowing, but is itself beyond mind and the intelligible (508e-509a). For Plato no philosophic insight can be conveyed in a definite formulation of word or thought. The philosophic insight is an illumination engendered in the process of philosophizing and can only be represented in myth and parable. That is the reason why Plato insists that the grounds of any philosophic statement must regularly be destroyed by dialectic (533c). This also explains what he tells us emphatically in the Phaedrus:

“He who thinks, then, that he has left behind him any art in writing, and he who receives it in the belief that anything in writing will be clear and certain, would be an utterly simple person …” (278c-d, tr. Fowler).

Consistently with this Plato did not write any systematic philosophical work. He wrote dramatic pieces that have to be read as drama, not to seek any truth or extract any doctrine from what is said in them, but to engage in dialogue with the speakers, think along with them, and above all think for oneself. We read a Platonic dialogue not to learn anything from it but to philosophize for ourselves. This is how we pay due homage to Plato.


Above, particularly in sections III and IV I have tried to delineate one type of philosophy, the one I have been promoting in all my writings, that I usually refer to as philosophy proper and have otherwise designated prophetic or oracular philosophy. In this concluding section let me outline the special version I have developed for myself.

Following Socrates I hold that philosophy has nothing to do with the actual outer world. That is the domain of objective science. Science studies, or rather interprets, the appearances of things. It can neither know the true nature of things nor why they are there. That is strictly true of all scientific knowledge: all scientific concepts and theories are creations of the mind, conceptual patterns in which the mute phenomena acquire meaning and being.

Philosophy looks into the mind and the ideas in the mind. Following Plato I say that these ideas are realities as opposed to the flux of external existents: they are all that we know of reality; more strictly speaking, our active, creative mind is the one and only reality of which we have immediate, direct, and indubitable cognizance. In probing our mind we have insight of our inner reality, That reality, that insight, is strictly ineffable. It is of the nature of mystic experience and, like all mystic experience, cannot be given any definitive expressions. Hence philosophers can only convey their insights in oracular visions and myths. Plato’s profoundest insights are to be found in the vision of the celestial abode of the Forms (Phaedrus), in the fable within a fable of Diotima’s account of the ascent to the Form of Beauty, in the Form of the Good which cannot be spoken of, in the notion of Procreation in Beauty, in the myth of Reminiscence, in the ‘likely tale’ of the Timaeus, in innumerable poetic flights throughout the dialogues.

The philosopher, as Plato says in the Republic, “reaches out for the whole and the all, aspires to behold all time and all being”. I believe that every sound human nature experiences this longing to belong to the All, this yearning that Shelley symbolizes in “The desire of the moth for the star, / Of the night for the morrow, / The devotion to something afar / From the sphere of our sorrow” . This longing for the All, breeding the idea of the All, gives a human being wholeness, integrity. It is the source and fount of all philosoph9c concepts of ultimate Reality, from Parmenides’s One to Plato’s Form of the Good to Spinoza’s Deus sive Natura. But we have to acknowledge (1) that it is our idea, of our own creation; (2) that all representations of it are necessarily mythical, (It is foolish of philosophers to quarrel about which representation is ‘true’.)

For a long time I sought a formula to cover all becoming until I saw at last that Becoming, like Being and like Mind, is an ultimate mystery; that reality is a perpetual becoming, a constant creativity, that indeed I cannot conceive of ultimate Reality except as (a) intelligent, (b) whole, and (c) creative. Hence I say that ultimate Reality is creative intelligence or intelligent creativity: I prefer this latter designation since I cannot conceive of ultimate Reality as an existent thing or entity but as sheer creativity. It is not an intelligent creator but intelligent creativity; it is the creativity, the act not the acting agent, that is the reality. I name it Creative Eternity. It is a difficult notion because it flies in the face of common modes of thought and language. But I feel it is the notion that mystics have long intimated when they spoke of their profoundest experience as Nothingness, Dark Night, and the kike.

If the metaphysical idea of Reality as the whole and the ultimate is an emanation of our mind as our inner reality it also gives us assurance of and insight into that inner reality of ours.

That is the alpha and omega of all philosophy worthy of the name.

D. R. Khashaba

April 11, 2017

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Monday, April 03, 2017



D. R. Khashaba

Scientists and scientifically minded philosophers have been wrangling with the intractable problem of consciousness — intractable because, in my opinion, it is a pseudo-problem that neither scientists nor philosophers are justified in raising in the first place. I have dealt with the problem frequently and extensively and thought I had no need to revert to it again, but I have been reading a rich major article by Joshua Rothman titled “Dennett’s Science of the Soul”

The following disjointed notes are thoughts evoked by the article. I give my notes as I wrote them down while reading, with the minimum of editing. They necessarily leave much unsaid. Everything in double quotes (“”) below is from Rothman’s article..


We human beings are aware of having a ‘within’, a subjective being, that we think “the rest of the material world lacks”. Do we know this? Science is not given to know the inside of things and philosophers may speculate but can never demonstrate or be certain since it is not in the nature of philosophical thinking to reach any factual knowledge. That is the insight Socrates expressed plainly (Phaedo, 95e-102a) but which we have been ignoring to our detriment.


We read: “How would you know whether an octopus is conscious? It interacts with you, responds to its environment, and evidently pursues goals, but a nonconscious robot could also do those things.” Here two problems are juxtaposed, not to say confused. Does an octopus have consciousness? The simple answer is: we can never know. But is the octopus a nonconscious robot as Descartes said all animals were automata? All I can say is that I am confident a little kitten has initiative, it frolics freely; a robot will only imitate it if programmed to do so.


Consciousness cannot be a scientific concept. A scientific concept is a token for observed phenomena — time, gravity, evolution, growth, decay. In itself the concept is a fiction: it represents a particular interpretation of the phenomena. The phenomenal appearances (pardon the pleonasm) of consciousness are not consciousness. Consciousness is the reality behind the phenomena: my invisible person is the reality behind my phenomenal appearances.


“In the nineteenth century, scientists and philosophers couldn’t figure out how nonliving things became living. … Only over time did they discover that life was the product of diverse physical systems that, together, created something that appeared magical.” First, we deceive ourselves when we think we understand how “diverse physical systems … created something”. We ‘know’ but do not ‘understand’ how a seed becomes a sprout. Second, I have said this before but will repeat it: When we lose our innocent puzzlement at the magic of life, we have not grown wiser but have become blunted.


If scientists will say that they are only concerned with the question how it is that it comes about that we have feelings and thoughts and intentions and that that is all they seek and all they know, there would be no quarrel between science and philosophy. Call our feelings and our intentions, our loves and our revulsions, call them effervescences or epiphenomena or illusions or what you will; they remain what is importat to us, what constitutes our characteristically human life; and these are, or should be the sole concern of philosophers as they are the whole concern of poets and novelists and musicians. Suppose I were to have a coma and in that coma to have continuous lucid dreams (happy and unhappy) and that were to continue until I finally die: which would be the life I lived, the life of my vegetating body or the dreams I lived through in my ‘illusory’ consciousness? So is the quarrel after all a quarrel about words? No, it is about which is more valuable, our ‘too, too solid flesh’ or our vanishing dreams.


What is a whole? It is not the sum of its parts; it is a reality over and above the total parts. That is metaphysical reality, reality on the metaphysical plane. Hence, what reductionists call ‘illusion’ I call metaphysical reality, reality on the metaphysical plane.


We are told that the ‘creation’ of Homo sapiens required “billions of years of irreplaceable design work”—performed by natural selection. How? The sensible answer is: We don’t know. Scientists insist that we know. Which, to my mind, is not simply to be content with our ignorance but to congratulate ourselves on our ignorance. This is what Socrates called the greatest amathia.


The hard problem is not really hard since it is not really a problem at all. It only looks like a ‘hard problem’ because we seek to ‘solve’ a non-existent problem and on top of that go about it in the wrong way.


The difference between my computer and me is not that my processes are accompanied by an effervescence called consciousness and the computer’s processes lack this accompaniment. The difference is that I initiate my processes. It is our creativity, our originative power, that makes us human. However smart a computer gets, it cannot deviate from what its programmer has instilled in it. And even if a computer should acquire subjectivity, we will never understand that subjectivity by studying its mechanism and its processes.


Soon, it is said, a computer “may have meaningful conversations with you”. Conversations that sooner or later get insipid because they will be completely predictable. You enjoy playing chess with a computer only because the possible moves of the chess pieces are practically unlimited.


Is there mind in all things? To assert that would be to say something of the actual world and – with Socrates and with Kant – I maintain that philosophy (pure reason) can say nothing of the actual world. But I think I am within my rights to say that I cannot find things intelligible without conceiving of ultimate reality as intelligent and of intelligence as inherent of all things.


The long and the short of the problem is this: There is really no problem. We humans have an outside and an inside. The outside is physical. The inside is — what better word can we find than ‘metaphysical’? The means for studying the outside are inapplicable to the inside. Apply all the criteria of objective existence to consciousness and the return is: Nothing is there. But that nothing – and I insist it is no ‘thing’ – is what interests me as a philosopher and is all that is of value in human life. It is wrong of philosophers to say that the mind exists, because that hands it over to the scientists, and the scientists, examining it, find nothing. The cause of the quandary is that the philosophers mistakenly assume that what is real must somehow BE, and the notion of being is ambiguous and deceptive. It is assumed that what is real must be ‘something’ and that creates all the contradictions and all the perplexities of metaphysics. To resolve these difficulties I maintain that what is ultimately real is not a thing, not an entity, but is sheer creativity, intelligent creativity: I hesitate even to call it creative intelligence because that somehow reifies it: it is the creativity that is the reality. Further, I do not say that that tells us anything about the world or the universe: I say only that is how I find things intelligible. (What I am saying here sounds enigmatic: it only becomes cogent in the context of my total metaphysical outlook.)


There is nothing wrong with ‘materialism’ — that is the ground material of all objective science: I even have no objection to saying that that is all there is. What I strongly object to is to think that that is what is real. Plato did not deny the actual existence of visible things, but he maintained that it is the intelligible (as opposed to the visible) that is real. I call my philosophy a version of Platonism.


Dennett challenges Chalmers to name “a kind of experiment that would get at ‘first-personal data,’ or ‘experiences”. That’s just it! Empiricists think that only what can be verified experimentally is ‘real’. Subjectivity cannot be objectified. Once you objectify it, it is no longer subjective. Kant tried in vain to objectify the transcendental unity of apperception. (Let me add here that I acknowledge all that Dennett expounds positively. He only goes wrong when he thinks that scientific research and learning can answer philosophical questions. Dennett – a very great lovable man as Rothman pictures him – thinks like a scientist. Philosophical questions are strictly meaningless to him.)


Grant me that my feelings, my ideals, my aims matter most and I will grant you that they are all products of physical processes, but I maintain that your physical bodies and processes (1) in themselves are fleeting shadows; (2) in themselves have no meaning; all the meaning you attach to them is conferred on them by your concepts and theoretical assumptions. On the other hand my feelings and values are real in themselves and meaningful in themselves. My mind and the workings of my mind are what I know immediately and indubitably and they are what I live for and live by.


Rothman writes: “I couldn’t understand how neurons—even billions of neurons—could generate the experience of being me.” That we will never understand. Science does not, can not, give understanding. Science can never tell us what things are but only how things work. (Again the opposition of ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’ has meaning only in the context of my philosophy and my special terminology.)


Cases of brain damage have no relevance to my position. It is as if a person relapsed to a lower stage of evolution. An individual might lose or might never develop the powers of conceptual thinking peculiar to humans. When we die we revert to the plane of physical being. What remains of us is then totally encompassed by physics and chemistry. That does not mean that Life is nothing but the physical constituents of the body. My position is that philosophy is solely concerned with the realm of ideas and values that constitute our proper human being. This realm has nothing to do with science and science as science has nothing to do with it.


The ‘hard problem’ is a delusion generated by scientists meddling in philosophical questions and by philosophers venturing into the realm of factual knowledge.


Our trouble, scientists and philosophers alike, is that we fail to confess our ignorance. The methods of science can show us how things work and how they turn into this or that, but can never tell us what things ultimately are or why they are. Philosophical reflection gives us insight into our inner reality and gives us a clearer understanding of our ideas and purposes, but can never give us any factual knowledge about things outside ‘us’, and that includes our bodies and brains. And we are not given to mix these two radically distinct modes of ‘knowing’ or to relate them in any way. Any attempt to do that plunges us into the fathomless labyrinth of illusory problems like that of the ‘hard problem of consciousness’.


The soul is just what is other than body. Descartes led modern thought into its gravest error by his doctrine of two substances. Mind is what is not substance; we might say it is the transcendent unity of the body, the reality over and above the actuality of the body. And I hasten to say that what I am saying is a myth, because we in fact do not know; the mind, understanding, intelligence, is an ultimate mystery, and of ultimate mysteries we can only speak in myth, as Plato spoke of the Form of the Good only in myth and parable


To speak of “the reality of the material mind” to me sounds like speaking of the squaredness of the rectangular circle!

D. R. Khashaba

April 3, 2017

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Friday, March 31, 2017



D. R. Khashaba

In Creative Eternity: A Metaphysical Myth I said that the whole of metaphysical philosophy is summed up in ‘I am’. But if ‘am’ is, as the grammarians tell us, part of ‘to be’ and if to be is to exist, then it is more metaphysically significant to say “I am not”: my inner reality, my mind, my soul, my person, does not exist. Let empiricists and positivists not cheer at this for the sequel will not please them. My mind does not exist BECAUSE it is REAL. My body, my flesh and bones, my brain, exist and since they exist they are perpetually vanishing; they have no reality; they are shadows in Plato’s Cave. My inner reality – the only reality of which I am immediately cognizant – does not exist since it is not a thing, not an object, not an entity. My inner reality is sheer act, is will, is creativity. It would be misleading and confusing to see it as a creative agent: the creativity not the creator is the reality. If ultimate Reality is named God, then God does not exist, is not a creator, but eternal creativity.

The above is the gist of my metaphysics. If it looks hard to grasp that is not because of any difficulty in the thought but because it completely overhauls common linguistic usages. That was inevitable. The presentation of original thought necessarily demands a semantic revolution. But the thought itself is not entirely new. Mystics, who have probed deepest into their inner reality, in speaking of God and ultimate Reality, have often spoken of Nothing, Nothingness, Dark Night, Cloud of Unknowing. Plato’s Form of the Good can neither be defined nor described but only spoken of in simile and metaphor. And Socrates’ Diotima can speak of the ultimate vision only in negations (Symposium. 210ef.).

I contend that my metaphysics of ultimate Reality as not an existent object or entity or even a transcendent God but as eternal creativity or Creative Eternity that can be spoken of only in metaphor and parable and myth — this metaphysics resolves the contradictions and quandaries of traditional metaphysics and disentangles the entanglements of science and philosophy which have been harmful to both science and philosophy.

Dear Reader, if you find in what I have written above an inkling of sense, though it be obscure and confusing, I hope you will seek clarification in the numerous books in which I have been expounding a philosophy that I claim to be original.

D. R. Khashaba

March 31, 2017

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Monday, March 27, 2017



D. R. Khashaba

Luciano Floridi has published a highly interesting paper in The New Atlantis titled “Why Information Matters”: Central to Professor Floridi’s paper is a lucid discussion of Alan Turing’s contribution to Information science and of his famous imitation game. Over many years I have written repeatedly on the ‘Alan Turing Question’ and my first impulse on looking at Professor Floridi’s paper was to revert once more to the question of thinking machines. But as I read on I found that a wider discussion of points raised by the paper is called for.

First I have to register a reservation. Professor Floridi defines the field of his academic work as Philosophy of Information. For two decades, from 1998 when I published my first book when I was past seventy, I have been emphasizing that the failure to completely separate philosophy and science is causing grievous error on all sides. Professor Floridi’s discipline is an important and much needed new branch of science. Let us call it Information Science or Information Theory or Theory of Information Science or invent for it a new name. To call it Philosophy, I am afraid, not only magnifies and enforces the damaging confusion of science and philosophy but further consolidates the detrimental displacement of genuine philosophy by science. Indeed all the remarks and objections I shall be advancing in this paper focus on claims that this science deals with philosophical questions which no science as science can approach.

Alan Turing devised his ‘imitation game’ (‘Turing Test’) to test artificial intelligence. Let me remark marginally that intelligence in one sense of the word, the intelligence that can be tested and measured, is neither peculiar to humans nor is it what makes humans human nor again is it what is best in humans. I need not give examples of feats performed by birds and insects that humans and their present-day computers would find difficult to imitate.

In Turing’s imitation game a human being and a computer play a game in which “certain variables (are set) in a rules-based scenario that is easily implementable and controllable”. I maintain that this rules out all that is specifically human. Questions are put simultaneously to the human being and the computer. “If after a reasonable amount of time you cannot tell which is the human and which the computer, then the computer has passed the test — that is, the computer is at least as good as the human in providing answers to the questions you asked.” But what questions? Clearly the questions asked have to be limited to ones relating to, let me say, ‘informational content’. You cannot bring in emotions or ideals or principles unless you have fed the computer with the answers in advance. This is not a fault in Turing’s project. He only wanted to test artificial intelligence. But we can seriously err when we permit ourselves to speak of ‘answering philosophical questions’.

Floridi writes: “By suggesting the imitation game, Turing specified a level of abstraction for asking a complex question about the capability of computers”. The idea of ‘levels of abstraction’ is fundamental in Floridi’s approach and it is this ‘level of abstraction’ that turns a philosophical question into a scientific question by sealing off all subjectivity. When I speak of Turing;s Fallacy I mean the inadvertent infiltration of the objective into the subjective domain.

Floridi says that computer science and its technological applications “have cast new light on who we are and how we are related to the world”. I will put my view briefly since this is a subject on which I have already written often and extensively. In my view, ‘who we are’ will always be determined by the idea we form for ourselves of who we are; our relation to the world likewise will be significantly determined by our interpretation of phenomena, by the vision we form for ourselves of the world. These are strictly philosophical questions. Science can examine our physical, chemical, biological, physiological makeup, but this is not who we are. Who we are is our internal reality and what we make ourselves to be by our ideals, values, aims, principles: these are created by the mind, within the mind. Science can study their objective manifestations but not their inner reality.

Floridi goes on to say that “we are not the only smart agents able to carry out complex tasks. Our computers are often better than we are at dealing with information.” Can the information be dealt with without there being an end towards which the dealing is directed? Feed a computer with as much information as you will: without specifying the goal, the purpose to be served, the information is inert. Even for inferring the product of an arithmetical sum, you have to feed in the question to be answered. (Pardon my clumsy formulation; I confess my ignorance but am confident that what I am saying makes sense if taken in goodwill.) What Kant said of Nature, that it will not give you an answer unless you put the question to it, applies with more force to the computer. Or shall we leave our computers to determine the direction and the goal? So when he further goes on to say that “we see ourselves increasingly as informationally embodied organisms”, I can only say, that this again leaves out purposes and values. That is why I shudder when Professor Floridi so nonchalantly takes computers to be ‘agents’: this conceals serious moral and practical implications that have to be scrutinized.

Speaking of the consequences of Turing’s ‘fourth revolution’ (after Copernicus, Darwin, and Freud) Floridi says: “Turing has changed our philosophical anthropology as much as Copernicus, Darwin, and Freud.” These four are great scientists, but what effect their work has had on our view of ourselves was extraneous to their scientific agenda as might be the effect of a plague or a natural catastrophe. The assessment, evaluation, and, if necessary, correction of that effect is the business of philosophical thinking. Floridi seems to acknowledge this when he goes on to say that “philosophers now face the task of how best to understand ourselves in this new era.” But I have to insist that the only way to understand ourselves is to probe our inner reality inwardly, subjectively, not to study its objective concomitants and manifestations.

In the final section of his paper Professor Floridi draws an inventory of the benefits of Information. I wanted to pass this inventory by but could not resist making a brief rejoinder at certain points:

Floridi : “Information is, in a way, the Cinderella in the history of philosophy.”

Khashaba : Philosophy proper has nothing to do with obtaining or engendering information or objective knowledge but only and wholly with meanings and values and purposes.

F.: “Logic … today … is also if not mainly a question of information extraction …”

Kh.: Logic was always a science and a non-essential accessory of philosophy.

F.: “Ontology, the study of the nature of being, would be meaningless without informational patterns — real, virtual, necessary, possible, or even impossible.”

Kh.: Here we have the common confusion of the metaphysical notion of being or reality with the physical notion. Science is only competent to deal with physical ‘reality’ but has no access to metaphysical reality.

F.: “The philosophy of mind needs informational mental states”.

Kh.: The so-called ‘philosophy’ of mind is the worst of all impostors. There is a science of the brain and the workings of the brain and there is the pseudo-science of psychology but the mind and the psyche can only be probed subjectively and that does not yield factual knowledge (‘informatuon’) but insight into our proper inner reality. Likewise there is science of the body and of living organisms but there is no science of Life.

F.: “…the philosophy of language without communication of information is pointless. Any philosophy of the logos is a philosophy of information”.

Kh.: The ambiguity of the word logos is a trap. If we mean ‘speech’ we can say there is a science of speech; if we mean ‘reason’ this, in one sense, is the concern of philosophy.

F.: “Christian philosophy of religion is inconceivable without the informational concept of revelation.”

Kh.: I confess myself nonplussed. Are we to take “the informational concept of revelation” as a scientifically validated objective fact?!

F.: “To paraphrase Molière, Western philosophy has been speaking informationally without knowing it for twenty-five centuries.”

Kh.: How gratifying to know that Plato’s Form of the Good or ‘ tokos en kalôi’ or Socrates’ ‘it is never right to return harm for harm’ is informational!

F.: Baconian-Galilean project of reading and manipulating the alphabet of the universe has begun to be fulfilled

Kh: And this, without proper philosophical understanding, will spell our doom.

To sum up: We are deluged by oceans of information. The interpretation and understanding of that information is the business not of science but of philosophy (and not Professoe Floridi’s kind of ‘philosophy’). When science completes its usurpation of the rightful role of philosophy that will be the end of humanity.

D. R. Khashaba

March 27, 2017

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Monday, March 20, 2017



D. R. Khashaba

It is commonly believed that science explains things and makes us understand things and scientists themselves strongly foster that belief. There would be no harm in that belief if it did not obliterate another notion of explanation and understanding of a radically different nature and of the highest importance for humanity.

In certain areas it comes very naturally that we speak of explaining and understanding. Primitive peoples were amazed and frightened when an eclipse of sun or moon occurred. They attributed the puzzling event to supernatural causes. Then astronomers explained how a solar or lunar eclipse happens and we have come to see that as a natural happening in the course of nature. William Harvey in the seventeenth century explained the circulation of the blood. Louis Pasteur in the nineteenth century explained microbial fermentation. These are instances where we find it natural to speak of explaining and understanding.

Let us go back to sun, moon, planets, and stars. The Babylonians and Egyptians observed the movements of the ‘heavenly bodies’ and recorded their regularities. Thales in the sixth century BC, probably making use of Babylonian records, predicted a solar eclipse. Ptolemy fashioned a model representing the movements of the sun and planets, taking the earth as the centre. Copernicus presented a more satisfactory model, taking the sun as the centre. All of these observed and represented, but none of them claimed to know why the ‘heavenly bodies\ moved as they did.

Then came Newton. Newton found a formula the application of which enables us to calculate the movements of the earth, moon, planets, and other bodies to a satisfactory degree of accuracy. Why do they move that way? Newton’s formula enables us to predict the course a body would take in its motion. But why does it do that? Newton formulated ‘laws’ of motion. We deceive ourselves if we think that those ‘laws’ explain anything. They only describe how we find things actually behave. But why do bodies move? When we move things we make an effort. Newton imagined that behind the movement of bodies there must be some kind of effort or force. He called that unknown thing gravitation but he frankly confessed he had no idea about its nature. We might say that ‘the force of gravitation’is Newton’s translation of his formula into the language of our sensuous experience.

Came Einstein. He found equations and formulas that enable us to calculate at a more satisfactory degree of accuracy. Why do bodies move that way? Einstein said the ‘cause’ is not gravity but the curvature of space. Do we know what space is in the first place? Is there objectively such a thing as space? Or is space simply the geometrical relations between things? If there were no things would there be space? Is the space curved or do the bodies cause space to curve? These questions have no answer because we are simply talking about what we do not know. Einstein’s notion of the curvature of space is Einstei’s translation of his equations into the language of human sensuous experience.

‘Gravity’, ‘force’, space’, ‘time’, are conceptual fictions which we find it useful to work with. Those who talk of ‘laws of nature that govern the universe’ are deceived by language. They picture the universe after the model of a human society governed by laws. Not that Einstein himself was so deceived, but scientists of the highest rank are taken in by such fictions. Wittgenstein’s insight is lost on them: “At the basis of the whole modern view of the world lies the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural phenomena.” (Tractatus, 6.371)

I said above that Newton’s gravitation and Einstein’s space curvature are translations into the language of our own sensuous experience. When we move things we make an effort or use force. Some moderns don’t even have any use for the notion of force. Things move because the law of inertia says so. All things happen in obedience to the laws formulated by scientists, or rather by the god Science. They are so taken in by the practical utility of these laws that they have no need for any understanding beyond that. They fancy that the laws explain everything. So that we find even Bertrand Russell – who was not only exceptionally intelligent but was also highly alive to things human – saying that we have no need for the notion of ‘cause’: the laws of nature suffice. (“On the Notion of Cause”)

When we move things we apply force, but when we move ourselves, when I walk, when I raise my hand, when I take up my cup of coffee, I need no exterior explanation for these movements. This is the only inherently intelligible kind of movement. I do it because I want to, because I will it. Reductionists of course speak of muscles and chemicals and neurons. These are accompaniments of the act; they describe what happens in my body when I act; but they explain nothing. I act because I want to: that is the only kind of causation I understand and all other causation is modeled on this but is not intelligible in itself.

We read or watch Macbeth. We understamd why Macbeth killed the king. He wanted to be himself king. A forensic investigator will say that the cause of death is a dagger wound that pierced the heart. That tells us how the king died but not why. When we read a good novel we understand the characters and their actions. We perceive their motives, their ideals, their values. That is the other kind of understanding and explanation that relates to human conditions and human behaviour. That is the kind of understanding that we need as humans and for interacting with other humans.

All scientific laws describe observed regularities in nature. The enable us to calculate, to anticipate, to predict, to manipulate. This is the sum of scientific knowledge. All of our civilization (as distinct from culture) is based on such knowledge, but such knowledge does not explain anything, does not give us understanding of anything. Even in such a familiar happening as the sprouting of a plant from a seed, we can specify the elements needed – seed, soil, moisture, etc. – and describe the stages of growth up to fruition and beyond, but we are misusing the word ‘understand’ when we say we understand that process. All the processes of nature are a mystery, and if we have lost the sense of awe and amazement at the mysteries of nature, we are so much the poorer.

We human beings live our proper human life, strictly speaking, in a world of meanings, ideals, aims, values, purposes, good and bad, clear and muddled, and to live as rational beings we have constantly to examine those ideas and values and subject them to Socratic scrutiny. Objective science is no help in this. For this we need to probe our minds and that is the function of philosophy.

We may need science to provide our means of living. But only philosophy, poetry, art, creative literature give us understanding of what we should live for.

D. R. Khashaba

March 20, 2017

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Thursday, March 16, 2017



D. R. Khashaba

I am tired of going back again and again to discussing the positivist or physicalist approach to mind or consciousness. My position, bluntly put, is that objective science has nothing to do with the reality or nature of mind because the whole function of science is to observe, measure, systematize, theorize the appearances of things outside us and when we say outside us we do not mean outside our body since our body is itself outside that mysterious ‘us’ which cannot be approached by objective science because it is not in its nature to be objective since it is sheer subjectivity, mind, consciousness, soul, or simply us. Tired I am of saying this and explaining what I mean by this; still when I came across Professor Adam Frank’s Aeon essay “Minding Matter” ( ) I could not resist the penchant for wrestling once more with the question, especially as it seems that scientists are now realizing that they have a problem. I have written these lines before looking into Professor Frank’s paper, and as is my habit I will write down what thoughts occur to me as I read.

At the very outset I have to take exception to Professor Frank’s reference to “that most ultimate of scientific questions: the nature of consciousness”. This is not and can never be a scientific question. Mind is an ultimate mystery. Neither science not philosophy can discover the nature of mind. Science must acknowledge that its business is with what-is-not-mind. Philosophy, on the other hand, while it must confess that it cannot crack the mystery of mind, has yet all the time to be probing our mind as our inner reality, because only in doing that and by doing that do we possess ourselves, define the character we elect for ourselves, and act as free, intelligent agents. Science investigates things. Philosophy investigates meanings, ideals, values, which are all non-existent realities — and I do not mean this as a paradox: this is what I have been harping on in all my books and papers. These two – science dealing with things and philosophy dealing with ideas and ideals – have to be kept completely separate.

Frank broaches another very important question when he remarks that “after more than a century of profound explorations into the subatomic world, our best theory for how matter behaves still tells us very little about what matter is”. Here is another Holy Grail search that scientists would be wise to drop. Kant told us that empirical investigation only shows how things appear to us but not what they are in themselves. Long before Kant, Plato said that when the mind deals with external things, it reaches doxa (opinion) but cannot yield knowledge of the reality of things. The province of science is the How: how things appear, how they are related to one another, how they interact. The What is in the province of philosophy, but the only What philosophy truly knows is our own inner reality; when philosophy speculates about the What of external things it produces, in Plato’s words, ‘likely tales’. Plato himself said that fundamentally all things are nothing but dunamis (activity) ( Sophist). Leibniz said they are monads. Spinoza said they are modifications of the one Substance. Whitehead, when he turned to philosophy, said that reality is ultimately process and he termed things ‘event’. All these (and my own ‘Creative Eternity’) are myths that give us the aesthetic satisfaction of seeing the world as intelligible, but if we are wise we say that in truth we do not know though we are bound to go on producing ‘likely tales’ that give us the comfort of seeing the world as intelligible.

Frank aptly follows the lines I quoted above by adding: “Materialists appeal to physics to explain the mind, but in modern physics the particles that make up a brain remain, in many ways, as mysterious as consciousness itself.” But I cannot go with Professor Frank in seeing here a problem for science to pursue. Scientists will continue ‘reducing’ the brain to its physical constituents but they will never know ‘what’ these constituents are in themselves nor know what the mind is. But I know the mind, immediately and indubitably, as my inner reality: my subjective cognizance of my mind does not give me factual knowledge about my brain or the working of my brain and the scientist’s objective factual knowledge does not give her or him understanding of the mind.

Frank seems to be sounding the death knell for “materialism’s seeming finality” when he declares it to be “out of step with what we physicists know about the material world – or rather, what we don’t know”. As I see it, ‘materialism’ (perhaps ‘physicalism’ would be a better term) is not dead and should not die. Science will continue to deal with ‘stuff’ even if that stuff is reduced to a mathematical equation, the equation will still relate to what is out there. And that will be what we ‘know scientifically’. What we don’t know (as meant in Frank’s statement) is not grist for the scientific mill. When scientists busy themselves with searching for the ultimate What or the ultimate Why they are stepping into the Labyrinth Of Unanswerable Questions. (A fit title for a Borges story!)

Without claiming any knowledge of quantum mechanics or the wave function I have repeatedly argued, on grounds of pure reason, that scientific laws can never be either absolutely certain or absolutely accurate. Now Professor Frank tells us that the wave function “gives you only probabilities”. That the wave function is, in Frank’s words, “an epistemological and ontological mess” is the nemesis for scientists’ stepping into areas not lawful for them.

“For a hundred years now, physicists and philosophers have been beating the crap out of each other”, we are told. This is simply foolish of both parties. They have to acknowledge that even when they seemingly deal with the same thing, they are asking totally distinct questions.

When I encounter the phrase “everything made of (matter) – which, of course, means everything” I sense that we have a problem. I am made of cells and molecules and atoms and neurons. That is all I am made of but it is not all that I am. All that is my outside but there is also my inside, my subjectivity, my mind. In the case of a human being we can see (begging pardon of the reductionists) that this makes sense. What about other things? About other things, Kant tells us, we know the phenomena, and that is all science deals with and all science needs. What about the inside of things? Science does not need that and must not tamper with that, Philosophy speculates about that to obtain a vision that makes the world intelligible, but has no right to say that that is how the world actually is. Thales said that all things are full of gods. This is not silly. It means that for the world to be not entirely baffling to us we have to imagine that there is inner intelligence in all things. Philosophers have been clothing this vision in various myths. They only err when they, disregarding the warnings of Plato and of Kant, think that by the power of pure reason alone they can reach definitive, demonstrably true, accounts about the All. Philosophers are poets regaling us with ‘likely tales’ that give us comfort and aesthetic satisfaction. Do we ask Shakespeare to produce evidence that the happenings of The Tempest actually took place?

The mind will remain unexplained as an ultimate mystery but that does not prevent me to say that I know the reality of the mind as my proper reality just as the fact that the mystery of Being must remain unexplained does not prevent me saying that I know that I am. Those who think that by tracing the universe back to the Big Bang or the god particle or whatever they have answered the question how or why there is anything at all rather than nothing simply do not know what they are talking about.

In my view, we cannot see the world and our own being as intelligible without supposing that at the origin of all things there is intelligence and life; and I cannot see becoming, any becoming, as intelligible without supposing that at the origin of all things there is creativity; and I see intelligence and life and creativity as one thing, an eternal Act; hence I represent ultimate Reality as Creative Eternity. This is a dreamer’s vision; it has nothing to do with science and science has nothing to do with it.

Frank emphasizes the failure of materialism to explain consciousness. Can we say that his position and mine are basically in agreement? I am afraid not. Frank is rather disappointed that materialism cannot explain mind. I say this is as it should be. Mind is the interiorness of — of what? Assuredly of us and supposedly of all things. Science by its constitutional law of objectivity can only work on exteriors.

To give Kipling’s famous verse a more truthful application we may say: ‘Matter is Matter and Mind is Mind and never the twain shall meet’ in a unified theory of everything because the everything out there is not really everything.

Professor Frank concludes by quoting two insightful lines of the poet Richard Wilbur which I cannot refrain from reproducing here:

Kick at the rock, Sam Johnson, break your bones:

But cloudy, cloudy is the stuff of stones.

D, R. Khashaba

March 16, 2017

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