Saturday, August 20, 2016

THE MIND IS NOT AN EPIPHENOMENON


MIND IS NOT AN EPIPHENOMENON

D. R. Khashaba

Scientists found no evidence of the existence of such a thing as the mind.

Naturally, since the mind is not of such a nature as to be weighed or detected by any physical means.

Consequently scientists denied there is such a thing as the mind.

But people speak of having a mind: to explain this some scientists (and philosophers) speak of an ego illusion. Others, a bit more generous, speak of an epiphenomenon. Others yet speak of a phosphorescence of the brain.

What is an epiphenomenon? It is an accompaniment of a physical process which in itself is nothing. Perhaps we can call a mirage an epiphenomenon. But what we see in a mirage is actual light, but it is misinterpreted. Perhaps we can call a rainbow an epiphenomenon. Yet a rainbow is something we actually see, but it is not something that you can collect and carry to a laboratory to examine, yet you can reproduce it in a laboratory. So the mind epiphenomenon is not as good as a mirage or a rainbow: these we may be told are not epiphenomena but natural phenomena.

Be that as it may. Admittedly scientists have not and will not ever find evidence for the existence of a mind. To scientists (and science-oriented philosophers) the mind is not an existent and in my own terminology the mind does NOT exist.

So what is the quarrel?

To the Empiricists’ and the Analysts’ denial of the mind I have two answers on two different planes.

On tha practical level I say that it is of the mind that we have all that is of value in human life. Love and honour and justice are things of the mind.

Suppose a certain person has a miserable life but at night when he goes to sleep he regularly has blissful dreams. I say that person would be justified if he insisted that his night life is his real life and it is for that life that he tolerates the misery of his day life.

Kant laboured to catch what he called the transcendental unity of apperception. He laboured in vain, because it is not in the nature of the transcendental unity of apperception (the ‘I’, subjectivity, consciousness) to be objectified in any observation, image, or conceptual formulation.

Yet Kant would not give up. Why? Because he knew that that uncatchabke thing is what we truly are.

All that comes within the answer on the practical or moral level. It concedes to the scientist that the mind has no objective existence. On this plane the mind is a ‘no-thing’ that is yet important for the idealist and the moralist.

On the metaphysical level I say: All right, you say that physical reality is all the reality there is. In my terminology I have a different usage but let us not haggle about words. Let the natural world, the mountains, the galaxies be the sum of ‘reality’. But in that reality there is nothing fixed, nothing constant, and I add, nothing grounded. Poets and sages long ago knew that “this too too solid flesh (will) melt”. Come to scientists. You search for the ultimate origin, the ultimate ground of things and you end up with the ‘singularity’ of the Big Bang which, begging your pardon, I translate as the absurdity of the Big Bang. (See “Stephen Hawking’s Bad Metaphysics”.) Your reality, the galaxaxies and the whole physical universe are no more than a fleeting shadow. You deal with hard things, hard facts, so long as you deal with determinate finite things; when you seek the ultimate ground of things you gape into a bottomless abyss.

I say, what is really real, what is ultimately real, is not a thing but the activity that brings about the things, and I see that activity, that creativity, as intelligent, as pure creative intelligence. Ultimate Reality is not a thing, not an existing God, not a Creator, but sheer creativity. That ultimate non-existent Reality Eckhart called Nothingness; that ultimate non-existent Reality I call Creative Eternity.

Call that a fancy, call it a myth, yet it is a myth that makes the mystery of the world intelligible to my mind.

August 20, 2016.

Posted to http://philosophia937.wordpress.com

and to http://khashaba.blogspot.com

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

THE TWO WORLDS OF SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY


THE TWO WORLDS OF SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

D. R. Khashaba

I am despairing of having my philosophy understood by present-day students of philosophy. They expect me to do science. I do philosophy and a philosophy of a kind that has as little to do with science as music has to do with engineering or as poetry has to do with medicine.

Even a highly sympathetic reader finds fault with my affirming that we never will know what life or death are. In response he writes:

“In a formal sense life is a “mechanism”, that allows a mechanical systems of molecules to become self-preserving by using energy from the environment. This is how Schroedinger put it and how most biologists see it today.” (Hubertus Fremerey in private correspondence.)

I have no doubt that is very good science. But I doggedly insist that it does not answer the naïve question “What is life?” In the same way if I ask “What is joy?” you can give me a learned account of glands and secretions and chemical reactions and neural emissions. A person who has never experienced joy can research those processes, write a doctoral thesis, even win a Nobel prize without knowing what joy is. Only a person who has experienced the surge of feeling at hearing the Freude of Beethoven’s Ninth or who has experienced joy at seeing his child emerging safe from between the rubble of an exploded building — only such a person knows what joy is and to such a person (1) the learned scientific answer is irrelevant; (2) the question “Whatis joy?” cannot be answered in any formula of words.

To the modern, scientifically oriented mind, ‘knowledge’ has one meaning: it is objective scientific knowledge. That is why in my writings I insist on two things: (1) keeping science and philosophy completely separate as dealing with questions radically different in nature; (2) using the word ‘knowledge’ only for objective knowledge and the word ‘understanding’ only for subjective experience (I would have said ‘intuition’ if the word had not been hackneyed).

I am afraid that with the spreading dominance of science nobody will any more understand what philosophy is about. In another century (if humankind survives) even the Chinese, Indians and Japanese will no longer understand their own great heritage of wisdom.

AN AFTERTHOUGHT: Where I live, in Egypt and the whole Arab world, it is not a case of science wiping off philosophy but of superstition wiping off all ratiomality.

August 17, 2016.

Posted to http://philosophia937.wordpress.com

and http://khashaba.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

WHAT IDEALISM IS NOT


WHAT IDEALISM IS NOT

D. R. Khashaba

In all my writings I have been trying to advance an understanding of metaphysical idealism. It may be helpful to say something about what idealism is not. Philosophical idealism (Plato’s, Berkeley’s, Kant’s, Hegel’s, Bradley’s) does not say that the objects we see and handle are an illusion. It is rather physicists who tell us that the red rose is not really red. And in a way they are right. In itself the rose is not red. The colour red that we see is a product of the three-cornered interplay of the light, the rose, and the eye. To insist that the rose is not really red is not idealism but what Whitehead called the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness.

Idealism does not say that there is nothing in the world but my thoughts, that I am at the centre of things and that all things around me are nothing but my thoughts. This is not idealism but solipsism and I am not now discussing solipsism. Berkeley definitely did not hold that the objects in the world are my thoughts. Berkeley said two things (1) Berkeley, following Locke, said that all we know of the things in the world are the perceptions we receive through our senses: that when I say there is a mountain out there I mean I perceive a mountain out there or that it is possible for a percipient to perceive a mountain out there. (2) Precisely because Berkeley held that the mountain I perceive has actual being out there and because he held that we know of no substance over and above or beyond the perceptions and because perceptions must be in a mind — precisely because he had no skepticism about the actuality of the mountain that he thought the perceptions that constitute the world must be in the mind of God. Think what you may of Berkeley’s vision but don’t say that the things around us were for Berkeley an illusion.

Plato never put the actuality of actual things in doubt. Plato despised the pleasures, the pains, the glories that the world oppresses us with. The poorest psychologist will tell you that a person you despise is much more present to you than all those you love.

Kant decidedly did not deny the actuality of things outside us. Kant said the things outside us in themselves are meaningless. That bright disk above my head at night is just that; it is Astronomy that tells me it is a massive body reflecting the rays of the sun. Before Astronomy it was a god or goddess. In either case what I know of it is what I know of it and what I know of it is what my mind (Understanding in Kant’s terminology) makes of it. For Kant, no more than for the savage worshipping the moon, no more than for Newton puzzling about its rotation, was the actuality of the bright disk up there an illusion or only an idea in my mind.

We all occasionally have illusions or visual deceptions. We recognize them as such and clearly distinguish them from genuine perceptions. The persistence of illusion defines lunacy. The Indian hermit in his forest refuge, leaving the world behind him as deceptive maya, distinguishes clearly between the deceptiveness of the things he renounces and the illusoriness of the red spot he sees if he chances to fix his eye for a while on the sun.

But perhaps it’s no use trying to explain this. Plato was right. The Gods and the Giants (Sophist, 245e-246e) will never come to an understanding. The difference between them is temperamental, else Aristotle would not have so grossly misunderstood Plato.

*

Empiricists think that the quintessence of knowledge is objectivity. They are right. But that is one kind of knowledge, scientific knowledge, for the core principle of science is objectivity. But philosophical understanding is a totally different thing. Philosophical understanding is first and last subjective. Kierkegaard said, Truth is subjectivity. Better said, Understanding is subjectivity. You don’t understand a concerto by having adequate knowledge about the instruments, about the physical laws of sound, about the physiology of hearing. You can know all that and yet remain unreceptive to what the composer wanted to convey. You understand a concerto by enjoying a subjective experience. That is why I insist that using the words ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’ as equivalents is confusing.

*

Where my philosophy improves on Plato is in explaining that the reality of the ideas is secondary. What is ultimately real is the mind that creates the ideas; but this statement is also mixed with falsehood; for it is not the mind as a thing (substance or even simply entity) but the sheer pure creativity that is ultimately real. The crux of my philosophy is the seeming paradox: What is real does not exist but gives birth to all existents. What is real is the hupodochê of Plato’s Timaeus, the womb of all being and all becoming, but it is not an existent womb: its reality is its procreativeness, its eternal tokos en kalôi. What exists is essentially evanescent; it cannot be real or the source of reality. This is the gist of my Creative Eternity.

August 16, 2016.

Posted to http://philosophia937.wordpress.com and http://khashaba.blogspot.com

Monday, August 15, 2016

CAN A BELIEF BE FALSE?


HOW CAN A BELIEF BE FALSE?

D. R. Khashaba

The second chapter in Dr. Geoffrey Klempner’s doctoral thesis (The Metaphysics of Meaning, 1982, Kindle Edition 2016) is titled: “How can a belief be false?” That of course is the question thrashed in Plato’s Theaetetus and the short answer is that a belief is never false, or better put, the question of truth or falsehood is not relevant to belief. [This paper does not discuss or comment on Klempner’s text. I wrote the following on glancing the title, an inveterate habit of mine.]

The little Princess in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale believed the moon was the size of her thumb and was made of silver. Her belief was pragmatically justified: the Princess got the moon she wanted which she could not have got on the learned Counsellor’s notion of the moon.

A Catholic or Orthodox Christian believes he receives the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion and their belief gives them comfort and satisfaction.

A belief is a state of feeling (an emotive condition) – even such a paltry belief that my laptop battery needs change – and does not admit truth or falsehood. Only when turned into a judgment is it liable to being true or false. Thus in the Theaetetus we find that Protagoras’s ‘Man the Measure’ is admissible on the plane of perception (or rather sensation) but not on the plane of judgment.

Andersen’s Princess had no occasion to turn her belief into a judgment. The Catholic or Orthodox Christian has the judgment inextricably mixed with the belief and that is why we non-believers can tell them their belief is false, but of course neither they nor we can prove or disprove either position because in this case there is no physical object out there as in the case of the moon that can be checked to validate or falsify the judgment. In the case of my laptop battery my belief is effectively a judgment; even so, to say that my ‘belief’ is true or false would be a strictly improper way of speaking; it is the implied judgment that is either true or false.

What about metaphysical pronouncements — Leibniz’ Monadology or Spinoza’s dues sive natura? As I see it, a metaphysical statement is neither a belief nor a judgment. It is a vision. Leibniz, Berkeley, or Schopenhauer says “This way I find reality intelligible.” They are poets. They give us imaginative intrinsically coherent visions, intelligible worlds. Shakespeare gives us an intelligible world in The Tempest. The Tempest world is real inasmuch as it is meaningful, this being the metaphysical criterion of reality. But Shakespeare would be insane if he said that the Tempest reports actuality. Sadly, our great creative metaphysicians – all but Plato – have fallen into this insanity: they assumed their imaginative pronouncements were factual judgments. Only Plato confessed he was giving us myths, meaningful myths that give us intelligible worlds to live in, real worlds in the only metaphysically significant sense of the word real, as opposed to the illusory ‘reality’ of the objective world.

The question “How can a belief be false?” only seems perplexing because of the ambiguity of the term ‘belief’. When re-formulated as “How can a judgment be false?” we have the question examined at length in the Theaetetus. I do not intend to go further into that at this point.

Cairo, August 15, 2016.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

WAS PLATO'S PHAEDO A YOUTHFUL DIALOGUE?


WAS PLATO’S PHAEDO A YOUTHFUL DIALOGUE?

D. R. Khashaba

I have frequently, both in my latest book – Creative Eternity – and previously characterized Plato’s over-emphasis in the Phaedo on the constancy, immutability, and ‘separateness’ of the Forms as youthful enthusiasm. Richard Schain reminds me that scholars classify the Phaedo as a middle-term dialogue. I have no intention to contest the placing of the dialogue in the middle term (many would say ‘early middle’) but find no reason for changing my position. Yet clearly that calls for explanation and justification.

The chronology of Plato’s dialogues is a very contorted question and although the dating of the Phaedo is not crucial to my position, let us nevertheless put it to rest with a few remarks. Plato’s date of birth is traditionally given as 428/7 BC but Debra Nails (“The Life of Plato of Athens”, A Companion to Plato, ed. Hugh H. Benson. Blackwell, 2006) thinks it should be corrected to 424/3. Plato would have been about 24 at the time of Socrates’ death. According to Nails, Plato turned 30 in 394 and it was about that time that Plato, Theaetetus, Archytas of Tarentum, Leodamas of Thasos, and perhaps Neoclides “began congregating … in the grove of the hero Hecademus … to pursue their studies” . That gives us an early date for the ‘gestation’ of the Academy although the formal ‘founding’ was to take place a decade later when Plato was about 40. When were the ‘early’ and the ‘middle’ dialogues written? Perhaps we should rather speak of ‘very early’, ‘early’ and ‘late’ dialogues. On this count all the dialogues preceding the Republic would have been written by Plato in his thirties. Perhaps for a time he was too busy with the Academy and with his Sicilian misadventures to do much writing. Be that as it may. I emphasize that I do not base my position on such considerations and while the word ‘youthful’ may have been inapt, I see no reason to modify my reading of Plato’s position regarding the Forms. I will now give a summary of that reading.

It is incontestable that Socrates was primarily concerned with moral questions and concentrated on the examination of the moral notions — dikaiosunê, sôphrosunê, andreia, etc. That he distinguished these as intelligible eidê or ideai and contrasted them to perceptible impressions is probable. In any case I imagine that Plato in re-enacting the Socratic investigations in the early dialogues saw two things: (1) These notions have their birth in the mind and their whole meaning in the mind and that meaning can only be beheld in the self-evidence of the ‘ideas’in the mind. (2) It is these intelligible ideas that give meaning to perceptible things. Without these intelligible ‘forms’ nothing whatever has any meaning for us.

As a consequence of (2) Plato saw that the intelligible forms cannot be confined to the moral ideas and ideals. In the first part of the Parmenides the aged sage of Elea attributes Socrates’ reluctance to admit forms of dirt and hair to Socrates’ immaturity.

Pursuing (1) Plato developed the view of the philosophical life depicted in the Phaedo, unfolded in the Symposium, poetically portrayed in the Phaedrus. The Forms were clothed in holiness and sanctity. The Forms were divine and imbued us with divinity. (I do not gravely sin when I call that youthful exuberance even if displayed by an old man.) But in that same first part of the Parmenides Plato shows that all theoretical attempts to relate the Forms to the objective things on the understanding that these are two separate entities must fail. That is the chôrismos that Aristotle castigates and that scholars continue to lampoon as Plato’s “Theory of Forms”.

In the Sophist Plato criticizes the ‘Friends of the Forms’, maintaining that what is real cannot be rigidly fixed but must have life and intelligence. (See Plato: An Interpretation, Chapter Ten, # IV.)

This is the philosophy I find for myself in Plato. My approach to Plato as to all philosophy is not scholarly. I never claimed to discover what Plato thought or meant; I only offer what vision Plato or any other philosopher inspires in me. The philosophy I offer is confessedly my philosophy and must be judged on its own merits.

Cairo, August 13, 2016.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

MY WORKS FREELY AVAILABLE


The following books and papers are freely available in PDF on my Wordpress site: http://philosophia937.wordpress.com :

BOOKS :

LET US PHILOSOPHIZE http://philosophia937.wordpress.com/let-us-philosophize

PLATO: AN INTERPRETATION http://philosophia937.wordpress.com/plato-an-interpretation

SOCRATES’ PRISON JOURNAL http://philosophia937.wordpress.com/socrates-prison-journal

HYPATIA’S LOVER http://philosophia937.wordpress.com/hypatias-lover

THE SPHINX AND THE PHOENIX (Philosophical Essays) http://philosophia937.wordpress.com/the-sphinx-and-the-phoenix

PLATO’S MEMOIRS http://philosophia937.wordpress.com/148-2

QUEST OF REALITY http://philosophia937.wordpress.com/quest-of-reality

METAPHYSICAL REALITY http://philosophia937.wordpress.com/metaphysical-reality

PLATO’S UNIVERSE OF DISCOURSE http://philosophia937.wordpress.com/PLATOS-UNIVERSE-OF-DISCOURSE

CREATIVE ETERNITY: A METAPHYSICAL MYTH http://philosophia937.wordpress.com/creative-eternity-2

PHILOSOPHICAL PAPERS :

“Stephen Hawking’s Bad Metaphysics” http://philosophia937.wordpress.com/stephenhawkings-bad-metaphysics

“Dialogues in Hades” http://philosophia937.wordpress.com/24-2

“A Note on Karl Jaspers” http://philosophia937.wordpress.com/59-2

Thank you.

D. R. Khashaba

August 4, 2016

Sunday, July 31, 2016

ALL MY BOOKS FREELY AVAILABLE


I have now completed the project that had been nagging in my brain for a long time. All my books are now freely available on my Wordpress site, including my latest: CREATIVE ETERNITY: A METAPHYSICAL MYTH.

I invite you to download and read this book. I excerpt the following lines from the preface:

“This book has a message, a life message. … philosophy proper is primarily concerned with the meaning and value of life. Hence the book, beginning with a critique of metaphysics, ends with a dire warning of the impending doom of the human race.

“We have to revolutionize our understanding of philosophy, of metaphysics and of metaphysical reality; we need a more far-reaching revolution than Kant’s Copernican revolution. I audaciously claim that I bear the banner of that revolution.

“… I make bold to boast: this is philosophy in the grand manner; this is the most significant metaphysical work in more than a century. …”

Link to Creative Eternity: http://philosophia937.wordpress.com/creative-eternity

Or go to the site: http://philosophia937.wordpress.com – click on “My Site” (top left hand corner) – select “Pages” from the left-hand column – you will get a list of all the available PDFs. I have yet to learn how to make hyperlinks.

D. R. Khashaba

July 31, 2016