Thursday, June 27, 2013

Comment on Grayling on God

By a fortunate chance I found that I had commented on an article by A C Grayling in NewStatesman on 09 April 2009. Here’s what I wrote:

Granted that the doctrines of religions “have their roots in the superstitions and fancies” of persons who lived long ago. We have to discard those superstitions. But those superstitions grew out of a compelling urge to answer certain questions. And if we throw away the questions along with the fanciful answers, we end up with a poorer, shallower Weltanschauung. I admit that those questions cannot have definitive answers: neither empirical science nor pure reason can provide those answers. Ask Kant. So, shall we give up? No!

Religion is a “man-made phenomenon”, but it is equally a man-making phenomenon. Those old superstition-mongers were seeking a meaning to their world. They were wrong in thinking they were finding that meaning in the world, but they were wiser than they knew in putting meaning into the world. We must keep puzzling about ultimate reasons, meanings, values, and keep creating myths about all that. Plato is the greatest philosopher because he gave no answers but made myths that keep the wonder and the puzzlement alive.

By all means pull down the edifices of dogmatic religions, but don’t tell me to live in a wasteland. Leave me the metaphysical dimension, Spinoza’s God-Nature, Schopenhauer’s Will and Idea, Whitehead’s organic vision of process: these are all myths, but they are myths that enable me to live in a rich, meaningful world, albeit a world that I know to be of our own making.

Plato spoke of a battle of Gods and Giants. What is wrong with the war waged by atheists against religion is that the atheism they advocate is equated with a narrow empiricism: they want us to accept the limits of objective science as the limits of all thought. I want to live in a meaningful world, and meaning is not to be found in the world but is only to be infused into the world by creative thought, by by poetry, art, and a philosophy that dares to wrestle with ultimate, unanswerable questions.

D. R. Khashaba

Tuesday, June 11, 2013



My friends find my position with regard to atheism difficult to comprehend although I have in many of my writings tried to make it plain.

I am wholly on the side of atheists in their rejection of the idea of a personal god, a transcendent god, or a creator apart from the world he or she created. But I cannot go along with my atheist friends when they reduce all reality to the stuff of the objective world by whatever name we may call it. (Of course old Matter is more dead than Nietzsche’s god.)

In the first place, I am wholly with Kant in holding that all we know of the objective world is confined to the appearances presented in our perceptions. We can know nothing of any reality beyond, behind, above, or at the beginning or origin of the phenomena. (I maintain that Socrates had anticipated Kant in this.) This should have silenced not only theologians and dogmatic metaphysicians but also and more importantly those scientists who think they can discover the origin of the world. Scientists can and will eventually give us a reasonable account, a good account, of how our cosmos came to be. But whatever the cosmos came out of had to be before it gave being to the cosmos. That beginning before all beginning is outside the jurisdiction of human reason or pure reason in Kant’s terminology.

Philosophy proper is not concerned with all of that. All of that is a world of shadows as Plato said. Philosophy is concerned with our inner reality, with the realities of our dreams and values and creative ideas. It is these that constitute our characteristically human life.

Among those creative ideas is the idea of God, an idea that has played and continues to play an important role in the inner life of human beings. That God idea, what Plato called the Form of the Good, does not represent or stand for an actual thing in the outer world. The God idea, the Form of the Good, is a myth in which we clothe our insight into our inner reality, because we cannot otherwise give utterance to that inner reality.

It is that valuable God idea, that all-valuable insight into my inner reality, that my atheist friends want to deprive me from.

Cairo, 11 June 2013.

Saturday, June 08, 2013



I know that what I mean to say here I have already said many times before and I think I will be saying it again and again, because, though it is very simple, many clever people seem to find it very hard to absorb.

Whitehead has pointed out that it is wrong to think that modern science and modern philosophy have been founded on reason and reasoning. It was Scholasticism that was based completely and consistently on reasoning. If you begin with any primary statement given as true, then by strictly valid logical reasoning you can establish any conclusions you desire. The distinctive character of modern science and modern philosophy was not the reliance on reason for reaching conclusions but the working with reason as a tool to winnow and sift and test given presuppositions and assumptions. For modern science and philosophy reason has been downgraded from a master to a servant.

In a moving episode of the Phaedo drama, Socrates warns against ‘misology’ or loss of faith in reason. Allow me to reproduce the following paragraph from my Plato: An Interpretation (2005), Chapter V, “The Meaning of the Phaedo:

“The atmosphere of dejection and loss of heart depicted following the objections of Simmias and Cebes and Socrates' cautioning against misology are an integral part of the total picture. If Plato had thought there were room for certainty in philosophical thinking, this episode would have been of little value. Against the background of the admitted inconclusiveness of all the arguments advanced, the warning against misology highlights the question as to the possibility and utility of rationalism. If we are convinced that reason cannot yield incontestable truth, then we are naturally disposed to ask, What use is it to follow reason? The answer of Socrates and of Plato is that our worth as human beings resides in the exercise of reason, and if all truths proposed by human beings are necessarily half-truths, we are not therefore obliged to rest in these half-truths: our intellectual integrity and our human dignity demand that we always see our half-truths for what they are. Faced with the insufficiency of discursive thinking, Plato opts neither for the imbecility of Pascal nor for the despair of the Tractatus Wittgenstein. If we cannot have definitive truths, let us clothe our insights in myths, provided that we be always prepared to shatter our own myths.”

I would say that the same thought I am advancing here is behind Kant’s examination of the ‘Antinomies of Pure Reason’ in his Critique of Pure Reason, whose lessons, I maintain, theologians, scientists, and philosophers have not yet sufficiently absorbed.

The product of reasoning may give us wealth, power, and comfort, or may lead to the contrary of all that; but it is in the creative activity of exercising reason, in the never-ceasing and never-ending act of reasoning that ever destroys its grounds and ever builds them anew, that we are truly human and live truly human lives.

Cairo, 8 June 2013.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013


At Phaedo 79b Plato says,  αλλο τι ήμων αυτων το μεν σωμα εστι, το δε ψυυχη; “Are we other than on the one side body, on the other soul?”  These few words illustrate how insight and error are kneaded together in all human thought. The idea of the soul as our inner reality, as what constitutes our distinctive human character, as that in which all our dignity and all our worth reside, this idea is Socrates’ greatest gift to human culture and is the profoundest insight in the whole history of philosophical thinking. Yet in Plato’s words lurks a grave error that has betrayed philosophers into interminable mazes of confusion and error. Once the soul and the body are seen as two things on the same plane of being, as two opposed entities, rather than as two aspects of the same thing, philosophers erroneously think that they have to deny the one and affirm the other, or they try to derive the one from the other, and laboriously try to prove this or that position, but in vain. Soul and body are not two things because I am not two things. True, I am a myriad things; I am an indeterminate and indeterminable hotchpotch of cells and tissues and what not; I am a legion of drives and desires and dreams and illusions and aspirations; but in all of that I am also one. I am this ‘I’ that cannot be defined, cannot be objectified, cannot be seen or touched or measured or weighed because it is not a thing but is the reality of all things. This, my inner reality, is all the reality I know, the only reality I know, all else is passing shadow.

Sunday, June 02, 2013


The foundation stone of Socratism-Platonism is: The intelligible and the perceptible realms are distinct but never apart.

Understanding is the intrinsic illuminescence of ideas born in the mind, from the mind, by the mind. The perceptible has no meaning apart from the ideas of the mind; the perceptible is only intelligible in the forms donated by the mind. I maintain that Socrates, Plato, and Kant are at one aboout this.

Both Plato and Kant say that "5 and 7 are 12" is not an analytical statement: 12 is a form created by the mind, not something found in the 5, the 7, or the combination of the 5 and the 7.
For a schoolboy doing an arithmetic test "5 + 7 = 12" is a correct answer, is the correct answer. But 5 sheep and 7 pigs are what? They are only 12 in an indeterminate sense: 12 animals, but what is an animal? Where do you find an animal that is nothing but an animal, except in the mind? A step further: 5 children with 7 books among them are 12 what? 12 entities perhaps, but what is an entity? A fiction, a useful fiction created by the mind. Further still: a committee of 7 women and men, discussing how best to provide wate for an isolated village, have before them 5 alternative proposals: 7 committee members and 5 proposals are 12? A stand-up comedian might say that here we have 12 and we would have a hearty laugh. Whitehead, to my knowledge, is the only post-Kantian philosopher who saw this.


When Brahma-Cronos-Ra first sensed Its being, Its first utterance was: eimi. Thus It created Its existence.

Cairo, 2 June 2013.