Wednesday, May 22, 2013



Our mighty scientists and technology wizards are too busy trying to make a thinking computer — too busy to give themselves pause to think and ask themselves the simple question about the difference between computation and thinking.

To think is to think creatively: not to solve a problem that has never been solved before, but to unravel a problem that has never been posed before.

Ever since the computer was first invented, technologists have been busy giving the computer greater and greater computational powers, that is, making machines that work according to more and more sophisticated rules, that can perhaps even mimic initiative, but that do not have the spontaneity that is inseparable of true subjectivity.

I do not consider it unreasonable that one day we might have a computer that will say, “I will have it thus!” But that will no longer be a machine but a person that has evolved out of its physical material, and though it will think, it will not think in obedience to the rules given it by its makers but creatively out of its own newly emergent inner reality, and though the technologists, as I see it, would have participated in occasioning the emergence of that person, they would not understand how it came about. They would not understand that until they acknowledge that what gives It the ability to think is that mysterious inner reality that makes them persons and that gives them the ability to think.

We might one day make a Thinker, just as we might one day make a living organism from ‘lifeless’ matter, but in either case we will only have prodded Mother Nature to evolve in a short span of time what it had previously evolved over aeons.


Now our scientists are busy trying to make a brain. It is a daunting task but, theoretically, not an impossible one. So let us say they will make a brain, simulating every bit and every beat of the human brain. Will that brain think? What kind of thought will it think? Or let them take out the brain of a human being – a vigorous young person who has been fatally injured or one that has been sentenced to death – and keep it artificially supplied with nutrition and oxygen. Will that brain think? What kind of thought will it think? To my mind, what thinks in a living human being is not the brain but the whole person, the totality of the living person.


You are free to think that what I have written here is nonsense, but nevertheless you would be wise to stop a while and consider what grain of insight (I purposely refrain from using the word ‘truth’ here) might be in it — but please don’t feed it into a computer: the computer will only give you back what you make it give you back.

Cairo, 22 May 2013.

Thursday, May 16, 2013



Going through some forgotten material on my computer, I found the following piece which apparently I had written to post as a comment on a review article but for some reason failed to do so:

Comment on “Philosophy Lives: Why Stephen Hawking’s attempt to banish natural theology only shows why we need it” by John Haldane, in First Things, January 2011 issue:

This is another example of the interminable feud between theology and science in which philosophy is victimized by both sides. Obedient to my inveterate habit, I put down my raw comments as I read.

In the opening lines of his article, Professor John Haldane quotes a sentence from The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow which encapsulates the misconception under which all empiricists labour in their approach to philosophy. Apparently the authors of The Grand Design maintain that philosophy is dead since it has “not kept up with modern developments in science.” Some twenty-five centuries ago Socrates answered that objection, but it seems that the simple truth that Socrates spoke out in plain words was too simple to be taken in by highly sophisticated minds. Science and philosophy, Socrates found out, set themselves questions that are not only different, but are of two radically different kinds, so that no answers arrived at by scientific methods can answer a philosophical question. It should follow from this that philosophy has nothing to learn from science and whether it does or does not keep up “with modern developments in science” that can have no effect whatever on philosophy.

But we may find some excuse for scientists in their assault on philosophy when theologians, masquerading as philosophers confidently give answers to questions that can only be dealt with by the methods of science. Let us now see how Professor Haldane rebuts Hawking’s and Mlodinow’s contention about philosophy, which Haldane seems to equate with natural theology.

To speak of ‘spontaneous creation’ as “the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist”, is strictly nonsensical. It empties ‘reason’ and ‘why’ completely of meaning. In what sense is spontaneous creation the ‘reason’ for existence? How does it tell us ‘why’ there is something? That there is something rather than nothing is, to my mind, an ultimate mystery that we can only stand before in awe. But we may take ‘spontaneous creation’ not as the ‘reason’ or the ‘why’, but as an ultimate principle, itself a mystery, that we have simply to acknowledge. That is exactly what I do in my philosophy: I call it the Principle of Creativity. But Haldane’s natural theology too does not have the humility to confess the mystery a mystery. There must be a God who created the universe out of nothing; and to the five-year-old’s question, “And who created God?”, there is no answer, and God turns out to be no better than the scientists’ ‘law of gravity’ that apparently was before there was anything to gravitate.

I will not comment on Haldane’s discussion of details in Hawking’s and Mlodinow’s argument, because it would not be right to critique these at second hand. But when Haldane states that the universe’s “inexplicable regularity will have an adequate explanation if it derives from the purposes of an agent”, I permit myself to say that, although we may say – and I do say – that we only find the processes of the universe intelligible when we picture them as purposive, because that is how we find our own activity intelligible, yet that does not justify our asserting that there is actually an agent – and that outside the universe – whose purposes explain the processes of the universe. A purposiveness that I know in myself and the concept of which makes natural things intelligible to me is one thing; but “a transcendent cause outside of the universe” is quite another thing.

The idea of “multiple universes aris[ing] naturally from physical law” – a physical law that apparently had the power to create when it itself had no actual existence – and the idea of a transcendent God that suddenly had the whim to create the universe out of nothing — I find both these equally fantastic and equally hubristic, because they amount simply to our unwillingness to confess our ignorance.

If we were to ask Socrates what he thought of all this, he would repeat the words he gave when asked what he thought of the traditional tales about the gods: “I have no leisure for such inquiries … I must first know myself, as the Delphian inscription says; to be curious about that which is not my concern, while I am still in ignorance of my own self, would be ridiculous” (Plato, Phaedrus, 229e-230a, tr. Jowett). That is the sole concern of philosophy, to try to understand what is of importance to us in our character as human beings. It is the absence of this kind of philosophy that is plunging humankind in barbarism, a barbarism armed with all the achievements of science and technology and with all the sophistications of our prolific theologies.

D. R. Khashaba

5 January 2011.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Offering my books freely online

For some time I have been wanting to make all my books freely available online. Now, thanks to, I have started doing that. My first book, Let Us Philosophize, is accessible at:

This will be followed by the others successively. The next one will be Hypatia's Lover.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

My latest book

I have been neglecting this blog far a long time. I think I will now try to put new life into it, though there is a problem that may limit my use of it.

My latest book, Quest of Reality, has now been published. I think I can say that in this book I have rounded off my philosophy and have tried to underline the two features that I hope one day will be recognized as my original contributions to the philosophical venture: The oracular nature of philosophy and the principle of creativity as an ultimate dimension of reality.