Thursday, July 10, 2014


WHAT IS REAL? What is real? For Plato that was the central question of philosophy. The whole of his philosophy can be read as his answer to that question. His answer was based on the Socratic distinction between the intelligible and the perceptible. For Socrates the intelligible – the ideas engendered in and by the mind – was all that mattered. The intelligible gave meaning to all things in the perceptible world and gave human life what meaning and what value human life has. Plato transformed the Socratic moral vision into a metaphysical vision. For Plato the intelligible, the world of ideas, is all that is real. Mutable, fleeting things in the perceptible world have no reality in themselves. They have no being apart from the being lent them by the intelligible ideas. This was the original vision of Parmenides, but it was Plato who worked it into a coherent, consistent whole. Our mainstream philosophy still finds it difficult to absorb that vision. Cairo, 10 July, 2014.

Saturday, July 05, 2014


THE PROBLEM OF RELIGION Believers do not want to see the fact that religion is a human phenomenon that should be studied objectively to understand its origin, its development, and its function in their proper historical perspective. On the other hand, unbelievers are not keen to acknowledge the significance of religion as a human phenomenon, disclosing yearnings, aspirations, and ideals that have produced and shaped the most valuable traits and aspects of human culture. Thus while the greater number of humans live under the bondage of superstition and dogmatic beliefs that set groups of humans in opposition to each other, spreading hatred and enmity and leading to violence and bloodshed, the greater number of the supposedly enlightened remainder of humankind live under the no less pernicious captivity of a materialistic philosophy of life that enslaves them to the follies of consumerism and competitiveness and sensualism. which in their turn set human groups in opposition to each other and lead to inequality and injustice in the relations between human communities and again yield conflict and misery and bloodshed. What our ailing humanity badly needs is understanding. We need to understand what good religion has for humankind and we need to understand what evil religion has inflicted and continues to inflict on humankind. Cairo, 5 July, 2014.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014


THE INTELLIGIBLE AND THE PERCEPTIBLE The most crucial and most ignored single sentence in the whole of philosophical literature from its Ionian beginnings to the present day is a sentence of n more than fourteen words that Plato quietly slips in at Phaedo 79a: thômen oun boulei, ephê, duo eidê tôn ontôn, to men horaton, to de aides; Literally: “Do you want us then, he said, to lay down two kinds of being, the one visible, the other invisible?” Setting the sentence free of its dramatic and circumstantial dressings, we can express the core in these words: Let us distinguish two kinds of being, the perceptible and the intelligible. This sentence advances the ground principle of what I would call philosophy proper; it sets apart what is real for the philosopher from the unreality we commonly call reality. It defines the boundaries between philosophical and scientific thinking. All of Plato’s works can be seen as an exposition and an elucidation of this one sentence. All of my writings are an attempt to awaken us to the profound meaning of this sentence that has been buried under heaps and mountains of learning — to awaken us to the Socratic insight that all our vaunted knowledge and our vaunted science are ignorance, to make us realize that unless we acknowledge our philosophical ignorance, then the more objective knowledge we possess, the farther away are we from the wisdom that alone can infuse meaning and value in human life. Cairo, 2 July, 2014