Wednesday, November 25, 2015



D. R. Khashaba


“I will tell you”, Hermes said to me, “about the visit of William James to the grove of Socrates. He arrived to find David Hume and Immanuel Kant engaged in conversation with a goodly audience surrounding them. Greetings and words of welcome were exchanged and those who happened to be closest to Hume and Kant made room for William James to lie beside them on the verdant ground.”

William James said, “You remind me of the will-o’-the-wisp of my lifetime. I spent the whole of my earthly life studying and researching and could not form the faintest idea of what consciousness might be.” Hypatia said, “Permit me to say that you sought in vain because you were looking in the wrong place. I am informed that more than twelve decades after you published the book in which you expressed despair of ever finding what consciousness might be, learned neuroscientists and philosophers of mind are trying to capture the mind with no more success than you had. Consciousness or mind or intelligence cannot be found by any objective means because consciousness is simply the luminescence of the soul and the soul is simply our inwardness or, if I may be permitted the word, our innerness. Giordano Bruno has wisely spoken when he said, ‘ The whole soul is in the whole body, in the bones and in the veins and in the heart; it is no more present in one part than in another, and it is no less present in one part than in the whole, nor in the whole less than in one part. ’ Or, in the words of John Milton, ‘The mind is its own place’, though Milton may not have meant what I mean by these words.”

When Hypatia paused someone asked, “Since you agree with Giordano Bruno in saying that the whole soul is in the whole body, do you hold that there is soul in all body?” – “Father Plato has said: psuchê pasa pantos epimeleitai tou apsuchou, all soul has charge of all that is without soul, but Father Socrates has taught us that we know nothing of the world outside us; it is more than enough for us to know ourselves. Therefore I do not affirm anything of the outer world, but I am within my rights in saying I cannot see how any being can be intelligible apart from mind.” At this moment a golden butterfly fluttered above their heads: Hypatia said, “I am confident that this beautiful creature is inwardly as beautiful as outwardly, I am confident she enjoys the blissful flow of life in her.”

For a while all were silent, meditating on Hypatia’s words. Then William James spoke again. “Another riddle that kept evading me all my earthly lifetime was the problem of free will.” Immanuel Kant said, “Although I was inwardly convinced of the reality of free will, I felt that my attempt to reconcile moral freedom with universal physical causality was somehow defective.” David Hume said, “It seems to me that you put too much trust in physical causality.” Hypatia spoke again: ‘What you say, dear friend, is only part of the answer. It is true that all so-called laws formulated by science are approximations, rough schemata of observed regularities, so that the so-called causal necessity is merely a practical affair. Ludwig Wittgenstein who lived on earth long after your sojourn there said that ‘belief in the causal nexus is superstition’. And Albert Einstein 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.’ But what do we have to do with the physical world and its so-called laws? We have immediate awareness of freedom in the spontaneity of creative intelligence. What makes the ‘problem’ of free will seem like an insoluble conundrum, beside the false assumption of universal causal necessity, is the confusion of moral freedom with freedom of choice. This latter should be called liberty, consisting in freedom from coercion. In itself choice and deliberation are always necessarily conditioned by antecedents. But a deed of love, an act of intelligent creativity, are always spontaneous and originative.”

Here Aspasia said, “We are not showing proper hospitality to our dear visitor. Let us regale him and ourselves with music.” Lastheneia of Mantinea hummed a tune and forthwith all the place resounded with music.

Cairo, November 24, 2015.


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