Monday, January 16, 2017

ETHICS AND PHILOSOPHY


ETHICS AND PHILOSOPHY

D. R. Khashaba

Can there be a philosophical ethics? To my mind the answer to this is: Only the ethics of the philosophical life is philosophically defensible. If, with Plato, you hold that a life of philosophizing is the best life for a human being, then and only then you can consistently uphold the priority and superiority of contemplation and meditation to a life of pleasure or adventure or power or personal glory. Any of these latter alternatives can serve as the rational basis of a coherent and consistent morality.

Before you can rationally defend any morality you have to determine the values you elect to maintain. Is there any rational ground for preferring, say, benevolence to malevolence? There may be utilitarian arguments for the long-term benefit of doing good to others. These do not constitute a moral stance any more than the belief that the gods commanded it and will reward those who comply and punish those who don’t.

Kant said that the only absolutely good thing is a good will. I see that as a version of Socrates’ belief that the whole worth and good of a human being resides in a healthy soul, For both Socrates and Kant that provides the rational ground for morality but neither of them grounds that first ground rationally.

Apart from the ideal of philosophical life, does philosophy give any reason for being good? Before it can do that it has to determine what it is to be good. No pure logic, no ‘pure reason’, can do that.

Metaphysics – and I may seem here to contradict what I have been saying above – can only support morality when it sees goodness and intelligence and freedom as aspects of ultimate reality as Plato and as Spinoza did and as I do in my philosophy of Creative Eternity. But such metaphysics itself cannot be rationally grounded. It is a vision that appeals to us aesthetically.

Ultimately the moral sense is of the nature of the aesthetic sense. To be morally good is to have the aptitude for the sense of the good life, the holy life. That sense is nurtured and developed by love, by beauty, by imaginative works of art, poetry, and literature.

Perhaps we are all born with the seed of that sense of goodness, for life itself is essentially a power of affirmation, of giving. But as we grow up innumerable negative influences tend to obliterate and smother that sense.

To go back to the question we began with: Can there be a philosophical ethics? A philosophy like Plato’s that is sheer poetry nourishes the moral sense (when it is not mutilated by erudite ignorance), but no theoretical reasoning can prove that to suffer injury is better than to commit injury, as Socrates maintained.

(In the above I have not been concerned with the problems of applied ethics which, it seems, have recently been the prime object of ethical discussion.)

D. R. Khashaba

January 16, 2017

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Monday, January 09, 2017

THE CERTAINTY DELUSION


THE CERTAINTY DELUSION

D. R. Khashaba

Dear Reader: In the following rambling thoughts I may have given way to much foolishness. I am not asking you to take anything of what I say on trust. If I goad you to think things out for yourself, will it have been a waste of time?

In Let Us Philosophize (1998, 2008) I wrote:

“Words are treacherous. Words, creatures of the mind, jump at every opportunity to lord it over the mind. There is not a single word that one may use unguardedly. Every word holds out a snare, and one must beware of falling into the snares of words. The mind must constantly assert its mastery over words by re-thinking, re-creating all its terms, all its formulations. Otherwise it soon finds itself a slave to the creatures it created to sing its hymns of glory. …”

Despite the rhetorical tone, I meant every word to be taken in complete earnestness. In all my subsequent writings I have emphasized that no determinate formulation of words or thought can be exempt from intrinsic contradictoriness. This is the lesson that Plato meant to convey in the Parmenides, a dialogue which scholars, blind to its plain message, have found perplexing. In the first quarter of the twentieth century, logicians, pursuing the dream of Leibniz, developed the ‘perfect’ language of symbolic logic. That has been put to many practical uses, but has a single ‘truth’ in whatever field of knowledge been arrived at by sheer manipulation of logical symbolism? Was not Wittgenstein fully justified in holding that pure logic says nothing?

The ‘science’ of economics has been fully mathematized. If the economies of the most advanced countries in the world are not in complete shambles, can economists honestly claim credit for that? I frame my sentences guardedly in view of my confessed ignorance, but I expect a clear-sighted competent economist could put the point more strongly.

The astounding advance of science and technology in the past four centuries gave rise to the rationalist illusion that there can be absolute certainty in scientific formulations and to the sister delusion that it is possible – at any rate in principle – to predict future natural states with absolute certainty provided we have adequate information about the preceding state. This is the dogma of causal determinism which was given its classic expression by Pierre Laplace (1749-1827).

The dogma of causal determinism is allied to the illusion that we know what causation is. I maintain that the only causation we know is the causation of our free will. The ‘causes’ science deals with are descriptions of observed natural processes and interpretations of observed regularities in nature. Nature has well-settled habits and these enable us to make serviceable predictions. These predictions, including the most precise scientific predictions, are approximations that can never be absolutely certain or absolutely accurate. The sun will not rise tomorrow if our galaxy collides with another galaxy. The most accurate calculation of the earth’s orbit round the sun cannot be absolutely accurate if only because the mass of the sun is constantly changing.

To remain with the sun: the most prominent regularity observed by humans in nature is that the sun rises every morning and goes down at the end of the day. Humans sought to interpret that. They saw the sun as a god that benevolently comes up every morning to give light and warmth to all living things. This ‘explained’ the movement of the sun as well as any other interpretation. Ptolemy in the second century of our era gave an intricate astronomical interpretation of the planetary movements that served for centuries. Copernicus gave another that we find fits the observed phenomena better but which – I affirm bluntly – explains nothing. Nor did Newton explain anything: he gave a formula that enables us to calculate the movements of bodies to a practically satisfactory degree of accuracy. He said that what makes bodies move that way is something he called the force of gravitation, but he confessed he did not know what that force might be. Einstein did away with the force and attributed the movement to a curvature in space’ I venture to say that that is no better an explanation than the god Ra or the god Apollo. What Einstein contributed was new mathematical formulations yielding more satisfactory calculations. It may be apposite here to quote an insightful statement of Einstein’s that I have quoted several times before: “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.”

Since I have already stuck my neck out, I will permit myself another roguery. Since there is no absolute space (pace Newton) and since the universe has no fixed centre, I suppose a god standing outside the universe would wink and see the earth orbiting the sun, then wink again and see the sun orbiting the earth, and he would wisely know that both views are equally right and equally wrong.

D. R. Khashaba

January 9, 2017

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Monday, January 02, 2017

THE PHILOSOPHICAL ESSAY


THE PHILOSOPHICAL ESSAY D. R. Khashaba Scholarly dissertations by academic philosophers no doubt have their use, but they add nothing to the genuine philosophical heritage; for philosophy is the free exploration of ideas. The free exploration of ideas does not yield objective knowledge, nor does it arrive at apodeictic or demonstrable truth. The first end of philosophical thinking is to remove confusions and obscurities of ideas to enjoy clearer, more coherent, thinking. At a higher level, philosophical thinking creates notions that infuse order and meaning into what was a chaos. Socrates, discussing the idea of ‘cause’ (aitia) in the Phaedo, declares himself unsatisfied with the naïve idea that a man grows when by nourishment flesh is added to flesh, bone to bone, and so on. Now this naïve idea is of the selfsame character as what empirical science accepts as an instance of causation and we find it difficult to appreciate Socrates’ dissatisfaction and find it more difficult to see his point when he says that it is the idea Growth that makes the growing of the man understandable. Socrates of course did not invent the idea of growth. The idea was created by the human mind long ago. People saw a plant or an animal small, then saw it bigger, then saw it bigger still, and that was a baffling mystery; then a woman or man with a creative mind said, “We will call that Growth.” This gathered the disparate appearances of the plant or animal in a whole, gave them unity, and intelligibility. This did not explain the mystery. Nor do the scientist’s elaborate descriptions of the process explain the mystery. The idea attires the chaos in a garb that makes it eligible for membership in our intelligible realm. That is the beginning and end of all understanding. For in truth we know nothing but thanks to the creativity of the mind we create for ourselves an intelligible world of our own, But I have strayed far away from what I had in mind when I began this essay. Let me put it crudely. Philosophy proper being free exploration of ideas, the exemplary medium for philosophical writing is the Platonic dialogue and next to that the free essay. The best writings of original philosophers were essentially free essays not scholarly dissertations. I will only name a few: Descartes, Hume, Schopenhauer, Santayana, Whitehead, Russell. Kant only harmed himself when he buried his great insights under his cumbrous tectonic structure. D. R. Khashaba January 2, 2017 Posted to https://philosophia937.wordpress.com and http://khashaba.blogspot.com

Thursday, December 29, 2016

SCIENCE DEHUMANIZING HUMANITY


SCIENCE DEHUMANIZING HUMANITY

D. R. Khashaba

Biologists will find everything human rooted in evolution. We owe everything to evolution: our inclinations, our desires, our emotions, our likes and dislikes, our mental attitudes, our moral values, down to our basic metaphysical notions.

All right. Evolution fashioned us. But what is evolution? It is not an external force, a foreign agency, a something working on us from the outside. Evolution is the process of us becoming what we have become. We have become what we have become by virtue of the creative principle – better said, the creativity – inherent in us as in all reality. Everything in us is a gift of nature but that nature is our nature,

Scientists are in error not in what they affirm but in what they imply. The creation myth of the monotheistic religions dehumanized us by making us the product of a transcendent deity. Empirical scientists are dehumanizing us by making us the product of objective ‘natural’ (physical, chemical, biological) forces.

In more than one sense, and on more than one level, human beings are makers of themselves. On the conceptual plane ideas, ideals, and values created by the human mind constitute the life proper to human beings. On the highest plane, spontaneous thought and spontaneous deeds constitute the domain of freedom. The creations of genius in poetry, music, art, philosophy, constitute the spiritual heritage of humanity.

D. R. Khashaba

December 29, 2016

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Friday, December 23, 2016

JUSTIFYING MORALITY


JUSTIFYING MORALITY

D. R. Khashaba

Every animal in its life and death lives out its nature, its innate character, and fulfills its destiny. Basically this is true of the human anima. But in the case of human beings there is a complication, for human beings, in addition to their animal nature, have an acquired character. We owe that to the power of reflection, of conceptual thinking, in virtue of which we can have non-natural aims and purposes, values and ideals, fears and hopes and ambitions. This brings about a plane of being inaccessible, as far as we know, to our animal kin.

Thus human beings, over and above their animal nature, have what we may call an over-nature. A human individual, however unsophisticated, simple, and naïve, necessarily must have a set of values, aims, and purposes that determine her or his special character. Positively or negatively, an individual lives out that special character, that over-nature, constituted by her or his special set of evaluations, aims, and purposes.

Accordingly, a human being willy nilly must have a morality and will live in conformity with that morality and will die for that morality. A Hulagu Khan or a Buddha, a serial-killer or a saint, all live out their special morality and none of them can convince the others of the error of their ways. Socrates was ridiculed by Callicles (Gorgias) and by Thrasymachus (Republic) and all his arguments could not convince either of them that it is never right to harm another and that to suffer injustice is to be preferred to committing injustice.

Thus far we have been on the plane of nature even with the addition of the over-nature peculiar to humans thanks to their power of conceptual thinking. But just as conceptual thinking gives us a plane of being on which we live our characteristically human life, creative thinking brings about another distinct plane of being, the plane of metaphysical or spiritual reality. Plato in the Phaedo portrays the philosophical life, life on the plane of spiritual reality. It is not the numerous halting arguments for personal immortality that give the true message and meaning of the Phaedo, but the ideal of the philosophical life and the notion of the divinity (eternity) of the soul. (The argument in the Phaedrus for the eternity of the soul deserves special treatment.) When Socrates in the Phaedo ends by speaking of adorning the soul “in her own proper jewels, which are temperance, and justice, and courage, and nobility” (Jowett) he is speaking of life on the spiritual plane.

A person who has elected to live on the spiritual plane sees that as her or his true inner being; she or he will live in eternity for the duration of her or his life and will readily die rather than be untrue to that inner reality — as Socrates died, as Giordano Bruno died.

Shelley ends his Prmetheus Unbound with prophetic words which portray life on the plane of spiritual eternity:

To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;

To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;

To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;

To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates

From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;

Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;

This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be

Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;

This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory.

This is the final justification of morality, but it is a justification that will cut no ice with those who have not elected that kind of life for themselves. Hence it is not by moralizing or arguing or inculcation that we teach morality but by firing the creative imagination. The best teachers of morality are not preachers but poets and artists. The best examples of moral teaching are the myths of Plato, the parables of Jesus.

D. R. Khashaba

December 23, 2016

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

KNOWING THE FUTURE


KNOWING THE FUTURE

D/ R. Khashaba

The question “Can we know the future?” has three distinct aspects which I designate (1) the prophetic; (2) the logical; (3) the scientific.

THE PROPHETIC ASPECT

The future has lured humans ever since they created the concept of time and the daughter concepts past, present, and future. We need not go into the psychology of wanting to know the future: Every one of us knows the experience of wondering what the morrow will bring, with trepidation, hope, anxiety, perplexity, curiosity. In olden times people resorted – and to some extent still do – to soothsayers, prophets, necromancers, etc., to foretell the future. Basically this involves the same absurdity inherent in the now ‘respectable’ notion of time travel.

Time is a creation of the human mind. In the natural world there is no time. As in the case of the notion of infinity, there is not and there cannot be any actual thing corresponding to the notion. Newton believed in absolute time; Leibniz ridiculed the notion; but even for Newton it was no more than a working fiction on par with the ‘force of gravitation’ which Newton confessed he had no inkling what it might be.

The past no longer exists; the future does not exist at present. To foresee the future is to see what is not; to travel to the future is to travel to what is not. Historians do not go back to the past to discover what happened: they interpret extant marks and reconstruct in the present a plausible picture of what might have been. In the same way when we recall a dream we had in sleep we do not sleep back and return to the dream; we reconstruct the dream. Thus I maintain that knowing the future in the manner of soothsayers and diviners and the idea of travelling to the future (or to the past) involve the same absurdity of actualizing what cannot be actual.

THE LOGICAL ASPECT

What I called the second aspect of the problem does not in fact relate to whether we can know the future but to the logical status of statements relating to the future. In logic the principle of excluded middle states that a judgment is either true or its negation is true. So it looks as if we are faced with a dilemma when we say for instance “It will rain tomorrow”. Is this statement true? If not, is the statement “It will not rain tomorrow” true? Aristotle had the answer long ago. Statements about the future are neither true nor false. They are not logical judgments. Like wishes, prayers, and commands they do not report ‘what is the case’ – these alone are either true or false – but express affects or states of emotion.

THE SCIENTIFIC ASPECT

Modern science queerly wedded Empiricism to Rationalism. In principle Empiricism should acknowledge no certainty. But the outstanding successes of science and technology from the seventeenth century onwards made it easy for both scientists and philosophers to embrace the rationalistic notion of causal necessity which oddly imports mathematical certainty into the empirical arena. Mathematical certainty is only a consequence of mathematics being an artificial formal construction invented by the human mind. When we created the number series we made 4 equal to 2 and 2.

Around the turn of the nineteenth century Laplace (1749-1827), in A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities, confidently declared:

“We ought to regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its antecedent state and as the cause of the state that is to follow. An intelligence knowing all the forces acting in nature at a given instant, as well as the momentary positions of all things in the universe, would be able to comprehend in one single formula the motions of the largest bodies as well as the lightest atoms in the world, provided that its intellect were sufficiently powerful to subject all data to analysis; to it nothing would be uncertain, the future as well as the past would be present to its eyes” (as quoted by Carl Hoefer’ in “Causal Determinism”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

This has since been held as an unquestionable creed among scientists in general and many philosophers. Laplace’s doctrine is clearly based on the assumption that “the present state of the universe (is) the effect of its antecedent state and (is) the cause of the state that is to follow”. But do we really know what a cause is? Do we understand how one state of affairs causes another? All that experience teaches us is, as Hume said, that one thing follows another. The concept of cause – as Kant said and as Plato knew long before Kant – is produced by the mind to lend coherence and intelligibility to what dumb experience presents us with.

We know two kinds of causality. There is the causality of free will, our spontaneous acts and thoughts. This is a creative causality where the antecedents do not determine or explain the consequents. This we know immediately in ourselves and it is only because we are blinded by the dazzling practical achievements of science that we belie our immediate awareness and try to constrain our free thoughts and deeds into the model of ‘natural causation’. What do we know of this causation? We know that a seed given soil and moisture and sunshine develops into a plant that produces flower and fruit. We can describe the process to whatever degree of comprehensiveness and accuracy but we only fool ourselves if we think that we understand how that comes about.

To my mind nature is creative as all being is creative. But this is a philosophical vision that I do not foist on science, especially as I insist in principle on keeping philosophy and science strictly apart. Confining ourselves to the empirical sphere, do we find it conceivable that all the variety and change in the natural world could have come about had there been no origination in nature? Darwin taught us about the origin of species. Now a new species is not reproduced mechanically from its predecessor but comes out of the interaction of many factors and the product is something new. So if nature is not only in flux as Heraclitus said but is always bringing in what is new, this gives further support to what we should have known already: that all so-called laws of nature are approximations describing observed regularities. A scientific law by its nature must generalize. A scientific law has the inbuilt proviso “other things being constant”, but other things in the universe are never constant. The most sophisticated astrophysical calculations must be based on the state of the universe this instant, but thus instant is a fiction, a chimera that you can never catch. Einstein wisely 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.”

The upshot of all this is that causal determinism is a fiction, a fiction that may have given scientists courage to make wide strides in their various fields, but a fiction nevertheless. The scientific prediction of the future is, under the best circumstances, approximate, probabilistic, and never absolutely certain.

Finally a confession. In all of this I have had an axe to grind. I wanted to point out a moral. It is foolish to cast doubt on the freedom and the creativity of the will on the ground of the presumed incompatibility between freedom and causal determinism. Poor Kant needlessly huffed and puffed to rescue moral freedom because the rationalism underlying his critical system made it hard for him to reject the fiction of causal determinism.

D. R. Khashaba

December 18, 20`6

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

NIETZSCHE ON PHILOSOPHY AND TRUTH


NIETZSCHE ON PHILOSOPHY AND TRUTH

D. R. Khashaba

A preliminary confession : When I thought of writing this paper it was my intention to comment on Part I of Nietsche’s Beyond Good and Evil to highlight the agreement between Nietzsche’s views and mine on the nature of philosophical thinking and on truth but I soon found out that, since there are profound differences between our overall philosophical positions, even when the superficial agreement in our views is marked, our grounds for those views are widely different, and to represent our agreement as identity would be a falsification. I realized that the accord between Nietzsche’s views and mine is much more complex than I had thought. Thus instead of commenting on Nietzsche’s text I found myself tracking a parallel path, mostly giving my own views on the problems triggered by the text. I give my notes as I wrote them down while reading with minimal editing. The whole of section (I) below was written while I was reading Rolf-Peter Horstmann’s ample Introduction and before I delved into Nietzsche’s text and reflect my original intention.

I

I venture to say that of all modern philosophers it was Nietzsche who divined the true nature of philosophical thinking. He was the only one who clearly understood that philosophy is not about ‘truth’, not about ‘what is the case’ in the natural world, not about any objective knowledge. Next to Socrates-Plato he was the philosopher who plainly saw that philosophy is wholly concerned with what we are and what we should be. Like Socrates he was in the first place and in the truest sense a prophet. In Also Sprach Zarathustra he delivered his message; in Jenseits von Gut und Böse he gave his theoretical underpinning of the message: It is significant that he subtitled it “Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future”. I am now re-reading this latter work and will try to develop and highlight what I have said in these lines. I will concentrate mainly on Part I since in this paper I am not dealing with Nietzsche’s philosophy as a whole but only with his conception of philosophical thinking. (I am using the English translation, edited by Rolf-Peter Horstmann and Judith Norman, translated by Judith Norman, Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy, 2002. All quotations below are from this version; all emphases are in the original.)

Those who failed to understand Nietzsche’s approach to philosophizing – radically opposed to mainline academic convictions – accused him of irrationality and of advancing nonsensical proclamations. They could not see that it was his merit and his strength that he saw through the error that marred all philosophical works from the earliest times down to the daunting Hegel (and continues to mar philosophical endeavours to the present day). Nietzsche saw what only Socrates clearly saw, what even Plato falteringly grasped, and what Kant only half glimpsed, namely, that philosophy has nothing to do with establishing facts nor has it anything to do with attaining apodeictic inferential truths. It is the delusion that philosophy is concerned with objective knowledge or with logically demonstrable truths that has made philosophy the butt of Hume’s ridicul and the source of Wittgenstein’s despair. People found and still find it hard to grasp this because they fail to free themselves from the false view perpetrated by the learned from Aristotle to the present day. Lau-Tzu and the ancient sages of India would have understood Nietzsche better. I am wrestling against the same failure of understanding. Philosophical statements, like poetic visions, are not meant to be true but to be meaningful, to intimate ineffable insights mythically. (See “Philosophy as Prophecy” , The Sphinx and the Phoenix, 2009, and most recently Eternity and Freedom.)

On the basis of the conception of the nature of philosophical thinking I attribute to Nietzsche and which I myself advocate, we should not expect argument to have a role, expect marginally, in his works. Argument in philosophy, as I have repeatedly stated in my writings, has only an ancillary role to help in exposition and elucidation, not to prove or to convince. In the Phaedo, the most argumentative of Plato’s works (in the Parmenides the demonstrations demonstrate the futility of demonstration), all the arguments are confessed to be inconclusive. The philosophical substance of the Phaedo is in the ideal of the philosophical life; in the notion of the intelligible forms as the source of all understanding; in the vision of the divinity (eternity) of the soul; and in the conception of philosophy as wholly concerned with the intelligible, not with the world of things. The Phaedo, like the Parmenides, has been a closed book to the erudite. Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil has met with the same fate.

There are those who are shocked by Nietzsche’s views on truth, namely (1) that there is no absolute truth; and (2) that so-called truths are essentially fictions. I have been, independently of Nietzsche, asserting both these views throughout my writings. These views are not paradoxical. Those who find them hard to grasp simply cannot free themselves from conventional beliefs and from the conventions of language. Let me try to elucidate this.

What truths are we speaking of when we say there are no absolute truths? Certainly not the ideal of Truth that all thinkers, all poets, all artists, and all individuals of goodwill aspire to as a goal constantly to be approached but never to be actualized. The truths we say can never be absolutely true are statements, propositions, judgments formulated in determinate thought and language. By the very nature of thought and language there can be no complete accuracy or certainty or fixity in these. I have written repeatedly and extensively on this and obviously I cannot repeat here what I have expounded in many books and essays.

The second view, that all our truths are fictions is of the nature of a corollary to the first. All of our most precise sciences involve unexplained and unexplainable concepts. Mathematics and logic give us the illusion of correctness and certainty, qualities that they display only as long as they are empty artificial forms. As soon as they are contaminated with any actual content they are infected with the imperfection of all actual existence. Of this too I have written repeatedly and extensively and have no desire to expand on it here. (See “Why 2+1=3 is nonsense” in Plato’s Universe of Discourse, 2015.)

(In the above two paragraphs I have been speaking for myself. I believe that Nietzsche;s position agrees basically with mine but I am not confident that Nietzsche would endorse my exposition.)

II

Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil is subtitled “Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future”. Thus we should expect that book to show Nietzsche’s conception of philosophy. In this paper I am not concerned with the whole of Nietzsche’s conception of philosophy but mainly with the views advanced in Part I, “On the Prejudices of Philosophers”, which are much akin to views I have been putting forward in all my writings concerning the nature of philosophical thinking and concerning the notion of truth.

Already in the opening lines of the whimsical preface we find Nietzsche mocking the dogmatic philosophers for failing to understand the womanly ‘truth’. It is odd that Nietzsche does not give Kant credit for combating dogmatic metaphysics. When Nietzsche goes on to depict what he sees as the cornerstone of dogmatic edifices I am no longer with him but this is not the place to go into that: it deserves separate treatment. Indeed Nietzsche’s misunderstanding of Plato and of Kant deserves an extensive answer.

The ambiguity of words is the vicious trap for thinkers. The ambiguity of the words truth and truthfulness is responsible for much confusion and error in philosophical thinking. The truth that a philosopher seeks, if we are to name it truth, has nothing to do with the truth that an empirical scientist seeks. Hence I say that a philosopher seeks understanding or intelligibility, not truth. This is consistent with my holding, with Socrates, that philosophy is not concerned with how things are in the external (natural, phenomenal) world. Philosophy is solely concerned with the intrinsic coherence of the thoughts in our minds. The intelligibility of a philosophical vision is its reality. To live in intelligible visions, in intrinsically coherent myths, is to live on the plane of metaphysical reality. That is the total sum of philosophy. It is because philosophers have for long erroneously thought they were required to reach the kind of truth as the scientists that philosophy has been exposed to suspicion and mocery.

In §4 Nietzsche says that “the falsest judgments (which include synthetic judgments a priori) are the most indispensable to us”. In what sense are synthetic a priori judgments ‘false’ and in what sense are they indispensable to us? I believe these two questions elude our academic philosophers. (1) These judgments cannot, strictly speaking, be ‘true’ because they can neither be logically justified nor empirically verified. They are what I call creative propositions, pure creations of the mind. (2) They are most important to us because, together with synthetic a posteriori judgments, are the whole content of our positive meaningful thought. Analytic a priori judgments are empty. (They say nothing: Wittgenstein.) Synthetic a poeteriori jusgments without the pure creations of the mind are dumb or, more truly said, are impossible. This is Kant’s transcendental system in a nutshell. With Kant and with Plato I maintain that mathematical propositions are synthetic a priori. They are only analytic ‘after the fact’ so to speak. Thus Nietzsche is justified in saying that “without constant falsification of the world through numbers, people could not live” (§4). As I have been affirming in all my works, we, as human beings, live, strictly speaking, in a world of our own creation. Nietzsche chooses to put it paradoxically: “a renunciation of false judgments would be a renunciation of life, a negation of life”. That is part of his transvaluation of all values.

I see that I had much exaggerated the area of agreement between Nietzsche’s views and mine. Nietzsche’s mockery of both Kant and Spinoza (§5) is cruel. I have radically criticized the theoretical structure of both these great minds but I find Nietzsche’s castigation as unperceptive as it is unjust. . Spinoza and Kant were not deceptors but were themselves deluded and harmed themselves, burying their essential insights under heaps of bric-a-brac. Nietzsche shows greater perception when he characterizes “every great philosophy” as “a confession of faith on the part of its author” (§6), though he goes on to give this true insight a sinister dressing.

Perhaps it was only his debunking of the fetish of philosophical ‘truth’ and ‘certainty’ that gave me my deluded enthusiasm for Nietzsche\s views on philosophy and truth. My admiration of his aphoristic, poetic, prophetic style is a thing apart. The greatest merit of Nietzsche as a thinker is that, by shockingly contradicting common beliefs and common evaluations, he disturbs the stagnation of our received convictions and jolts us into rethinking our assumptions and presuppositions.

In the long §11 Nietzsche goes back to Kant and to German philosophy following Kant with the habitual mixture of perception, malice, and misunderstanding. It is true that the answer given by Kant to the question “How are synthetic judgments a priori possible?” is no answer. It is enough glory to Kant that he drew attention to the fundamental role of synthetic a priori judgments in human knowledge. The question is unanswerable because this ‘faculty’ is part of the mystery of the reality of the mind and the creativity of the mind. Schelling’s designating it as “intellectual intuition” while still providing no answer is yet appropriate. The merit of Plato’s myth of reminiscence is that it is not an explanation but an affirmation of the creativity of the mind as the source of all intelligibility and all understanding. Without this and without acknowledging the reality of synthetic a priori judgments we are left with Locke’s passive receptor of impressions that cannot yield any knowledge or any understanding; without this we are reduced to the inanities of empiricist reductionism and the wild-goose chase of neuroscientists.

In §13 Nietzsche introduces his doctrine of “will to power”: he says, “Life itself is will to power”. But does not this view involve an unnecessary restriction? Why ‘to power’? Why not simply say that life is will as Schopenhauer said the world is will? Nietzsche does not accept self-preservation as “the cardinal drive of an organic being”. He says, “Above all, a living thing wants to discharge its strength.” Fair enough. A living thing wants to pour out its energy: life itself is outflowing energy; let us say it is ‘power’, but not necessarily power over other than itself; this is only a derivative and, we may say, pathological variation. Plato said that all things are nothing but dunamis (power, energy). I say that reality (let us forget about ‘things, ceding them to empirical science) is ultimately nothing but activity, creative activity, sheer creativity. And I do not say that this view is true or rationalistically justifiable, let alone empirically verifiable: I say this is how the world makes sense to me, or as I usually put it, it is the only way I find the world intelligible.

§14 shows how far more perceptive Nietzsche was than the academics of his time and of our time, both scientists and philosophers. I cannot refrain from quoting the opening lines: “Now it is beginning to dawn on maybe five or six brains that physics too is only an interpretation of the world (according to ourselves! if I may say so) and not an explanation of the world.” This should have been plain from Kant’s ‘Copernican revolution’, but despite Kant and Nietzsche and Wittgenstein scientists and philosophers still speak of scientific theories as ‘explaining’ the world. — But Nietzsche for all his perceptiveness persists in distorting views that are not to his taste, not only Plato’s but also Schopenhauer’s with whom he has much affinity.

Nietzsche asserts that “’immediate certainty,’ like ‘absolute knowledge’ and ‘the thing in itself’ contains a contradiction in adjecto” (§16). While this is true in a restricted sense, we cannot deny that immediacy is certainty and there is no certainty other than the certainty of immediacy. While “I am I”, like Descates’s “I think”, can be riddled with contradictions, my certainty of my being is assured, though it cannot be expressed in any ‘absolutely true’ formulation of thought or language, Again, the notion of ‘the thing in itself’ is problematic when applied to external things, but we have the secure source and model of the notion in our subjective awareness of our subjectivity, our awareness of our creative will.

Nietzsche’s insights regularly come with a twist. In §17 speaking of the “superstitions of the logicians” he says that “a thought comes when ‘it’ wants, and not when ‘I’ want”. It all depends of course on what we mean by ‘I’. The exteriorization of the ‘I’ breeds multitudinous errors. We do not think of what we think; we think what we think. Thought, which is a species of will, has the essential spontaneity of will. Watch two persons engaged in discussion. A person does not think what to say; it is a falsification even to say that a person thinks. The thought flows out in speech. Thus far Nietzsche’s “a thought comes when ‘it’ wants” is justified. Where does it flow from? From the reality of the person, from the creative mind that is our inner reality. This is the way I find the mystery of knowledge, understanding, thought, intelligible.

Nietzsche penetratingly says that even the ‘it’ in ‘it thinks’ “contains an interpretation of the process, and does not belong to the process itself” (§17). This points to the falsity inherent in all determinate thought, a lesson that Plato’s spells out most clearly but which the erudite still find hard to grasp.

Nietzsche repeatedly asserts the absurdity of the causa sui concept. Strictly speaking of course it is nonsensical. But as used by Spinoza it has a valid meaning. It refers to that which has no cause outside itself. In this sense it is an inescapable fundamental notion, since ultimately Reality (Being) must be thought of as having no external cause. And since all things in the world are interdependent and are therefore determined by what is other than they are, Spinoza consistently maintains that the causa sui in this special sense must be the one Substance. It is the same with ‘free will’ which Nietzsche ties up with the causa sui. Since there is becoming, since things do happen in the world, what is ultimately the ‘cause’ of becoming? What is the primal origin of becoming? To my mind, the only intelligible origin of all being and all becoming is Will. That primal Will cannot be anything but free and creative. And our will is part of that Will.

Nietzsche then moves to ridicule the “mechanistic stupidity which would have the cause push and shove until it ‘effects’ something” (§21). He goes on to say that “we should use ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ only as pure concepts, which is to say as conventional fictions for the purpose of description and communication, not explanation”. There I agree with him entirely. Indeed I have been saying this repeatedly and emphatically but both scientists and philosophers will not listen. Nietzsche continues: “We are the ones who invented causation, succession, for-each-other, relativity, … this is the way we have always done things, namely mythologically.” I believe it was these lines more than anything else that had previously made me think there was complete congruity between Nietzsche’s views and mine regarding philosophical thinking and truth:

D. R. Khashaba

December `0, 2016

All of my books, including those referred to above, are freely downloadable from www.archive.org (search: D R Khashaba) and from http://philosophia937.wordpress.com