Tuesday, September 29, 2015



D. R. Khashaba

1. The mind-body conundrum was the gift of Descartes to modern philosophy — a poisoned gift. I have repeatedly said that Descartes’s positive contribution to philosophy was purely historical, one could say accidental. He came at a time when the European mind was breaking the chains of Scholastic traditionalism and turning to the unfettered exercise of the individual mind. Descartes epitomized that drive in his philosophical essays and captured for himself the title of Father of Modern Philosophy. Else he would have been known to posterity solely as a mathematician and a scientist.

2. Descartes is best known for the Cogito. The Cogito has been variously criticized. No wonder. Plato has taught us that no determinate formulation of thought is immune to contradiction. That does not negate the philosophical significance of Descartes’s Cogito, the gist of which is that self-evidence, not authority, is the criterion of valid thought. But Descartes’s first application of the criterion of self-evidence was flawed; indeed it was catastrophic. He thought that in thinking he saw clearly that there are two distinct and completely separate substances: mind, the attribute of which is thought, and body, the attribute of which is extension. This involved two serious errors both of which had gravely damaging consequences. The first error was to see mind and body as separate. This created the interminable mind-body quandaries. The second error was to see the mind as a substance. While philosophers cracked their heads on the knotty pseudo mind-body problem, practitioners of the newly-born empirical-cum-mathematical science that was rapidly assuming gigantic powers happily concentrated their attention on ‘body’, at first leaving ‘mind’ alone until in time finding it a ‘substance’ that could not pass any test of substantiality, they judged it to be an illusion or, as Gilbert Ryle was to declare, a ‘deus ex machina’.

3. Both the mind-body problem in its latest version as the problem of “mental causation” and the problem of the reality of the mind in its latest version as the problem of “finding a place for the mental in the physical world” are erroneously formulated, being based on the duality of mind and body. The mind-body quandary is resolved when we see the human being not as mind and body but as a whole person, an intelligent, active, creative whole, or better put, as intelligent creativity, as every one of us knows in her or his own immediate experience. The question of the reality of the mind becomes plain when we acknowledge that the only reality we know immediately and indubitably is our inner reality and not the mutable fleeting perceptible things of the outer world. In what follows I will clarify and amplify these two points.

4. The Socratic distinction of the intelligible and the perceptible does not imply the mind-body division despite Plato’s early emphasis on contrasting the one Form and the multiple exemplifications. In the first part of the Parmenides Plato shows that any attempt to relate the intelligible Form ( idea, eidos) to the perceptible on the assumption that these are two separate entities is falsifiable. All knowledge is grounded in the experiential totality which in turn is grounded in the integrity of mind and body. In action and in thought the agent is the whole person. Distinctions are the tool of theoretical thinking, but regarding the distinctions as final hurls us into the labyrinth of falsehood.

5. There are those (including idealists and opponents of materialism and scientism with whose general outlook I am much in agreement) who welcome or defend Cartesian dualism on the ground that it makes room for the mind or soul. But this, in my view, places mind in the same class as the body. Mind is not separate or separable from body but belongs to a distinct metaphysical order. Spinoza, while starting from Cartesian grounds, sees deus sive natura not as a duality but as the One Substance in two aspects. The term ‘occult’ has been used pejoratively, but we may say that Reality is occult in the sense that it is inaccessible to the empirical methods of observation and verification. This, far from being a superstitious stance, affirms that the one reality of which we have immediate and indubitable awareness transcends the confines of sense and particularized cognizance. As Plato said of the Form of the Good, Reality is beyond being and beyond knowledge. This is a very hard thought to absorb because it runs counter to our practical and to our scientific ways of thinking, but unless we grasp this, all our philosophizing will continue to run in the rut of a vicious circle.

6. William James in The Principles of Psychology had said that “no glimmer of explanation of (consciousness) is yet in sight”. That was said at the close of the nineteenth century and throughout most of the twentieth century consciousness was written off. Gilbert Ryle bluntly maintains that “consciousness and introspection cannot be what they are officially described as being since their supposed objects are myths...” ( The Concept of Mind, p.149). Again: “The radical objection to the theory that minds must know what they are about, because mental happenings are by definition conscious … is that there are no such happenings ...” (p.154). The blunt denial is not an argument and there can be no counter-argument to it. But to me my subjectivity is self-evident. That it has no objective existence, that it cannot be empirically observed or verified, follows from its subjectivity. That it does not exist for science means mo more than that it is not accessible to the methods of science.

7. It is not enough to concede the “existence of an inner mental life” or to say: “Much of our ordinary thinking is conducted in internal monologue or silent soliloquy, usually accompanied by an internal cinematograph-show of visual imagery” (Concept of Mind, p.28). We are still on the level of observable manifestations of the inner reality. The important thing is to acknowledge that the fount of these manifestations is essentially invisible, is not an actuality or entity, but is the metaphysical ground and condition of all existence and all existents. We have to absorb the idea that what is ultimately real is, like Plato’s Form of the Good, beyond being and beyond knowledge and yet is the begetter of all being and all knowledge. It is because Kant lacked the notion of metaphysical reality transcending being and knowledge that he wrestled futilely with the transcendental unity of apperception.

8. I have repeatedly charged Empiricists and Analytical philosophers with ignoring or denying the mind. I have now now seen some recent philosophy of mind writing. It seems that around the turn of the century there has been a change of heart. Apparently it has at last been acknowledged that consciousness and mentality are too insistent to be denied or neglected as mere epiphenomena. Eminent academics are now speaking of “finding a place for the mental in the physical world”and puzzling about “mental causation”. We are told that “the chaff of philosophical behaviourism has long been discarded while the wheat has been appropriated by the philosophical doctrine of functionalism.” The sentences I have just quoted come from the Introduction written by Julia Tanney for the sixtieth anniversary edition of Gilbert Ryle’s Concept of Mind published in 2009. Tanney’s exhaustive paper on Ryle’s work together with something I have seen of Jaegwon Kim’s Mental Causation and Consciousness: Our Two Mind-Body Problems. In what follows I do not examine or comment on either of the texts I referred to. These modified an impression I had of Analytical philosophy and incited me to give fresh expression to thoughts I had repeatedly presented before. A word of warning to the reader is due: my having mentioned these academic thinkers should not lead the reader to expect me to vie with them or to write in their style. As usual I write naïve essays, exploring my own mind and I purposely shun the academic paraphernalia.

0. So philosophers of mind are once again grappling with the mind-body problem or group of related problems. I am afraid they will seek in vain to explain the mind or consciousness or to determine the place of mind or consciousness in the physical world. The approach is still basically flawed. For them consciousness or the mental, to have any reality, must be something out there. So we find talk of mental processes, of introspection, of “the phosphorescence of consciousness”. It is always something objective, something observable. It is, as Wittgenstein said of a sensation, “not a something, but not a nothing either!” (Philosophical Investigations, §304). Philosophy of mind is a misnomer; it has nothing to do with the reality of the mind; it is a science, and as a science it can only deal with manifestations of the mind. The mind is inaccessible to the methods of science. But it is very difficult for moderns to see the mind as what is truly real, and more difficult still to see that since it is real it does not exist. The mind is subjectivity, and subjectivity is, in Gilbert Ryle’s word, uncatchable, but is not therefore a deus ex machina as Ryle thought. (See “Where Is I?”, The Sphinx and the Phoenix, 2009). The ancients had the notion of the spirit, and even if they had personified the spirit, it was to them what was real as opposed to the world and the actual things of the world. All the quandaries of the pseudo mind-body problem and of the pseudo problem of free will (what apparently is now designated as the problem of mental causation) can only be resolved when we absorb the idea of reality as not a thing or an entity, but as activity, as creativity. All the manifestations of the mind are evanescent as all things in the world are evanescent, they have no being but are ceaselessly becoming: the galaxies are not, but are becoming. What sustains the evanescent? Not a principle that is active, creative, but a principle that is sheer activity, sheer creativity. Call that Brahma, call it Atman, call it Mind, call it the ‘World Soul’ This is a thought difficult to speak, difficult to think, because language and thought were formed to deal with the practical exigencies of life, not for disclosing reality. Science deals with all existents; that is its proper domain; it has no access to reality. Philosophy, poetry, art, help us commune with our inner reality and give expression to that reality in myth, in song, in dance, but not in the language of factual report.

10. So long as philosophers of mind take what is objective, what is empirically observable as what is real, they can never reach answers to final questions about the what or the cause of anything. If they work like scientists, they must confine themselves to scientific questions. If they raise philosophical questions they should know that scientific or scientific-like procedures will take them nowhere. They will only be able to give more and more and ever more detailed descriptions, dissections, distinctions.

11. Theories about “the nature of mental phenomena” can only start from the actuality of given mental phenomena. Like all theory, they construct elucidatory ideal structures that have more or less of intrinsic coherence and consequently more or less of enlightening intelligibility. But the ideal structures (a) are always imaginatively arbitrary; (b) can never be exhaustive; rival theories are always possible; (c) can have nothing to do with the subjective reality that brings the phenomena into being.

12. One of the puzzles posed by Analytical philosophy is the question: What are the referents of mental concepts? The odd locution ‘mental concepts’ (as if there could be any concepts that were other than mental) apparently refers to the class of concepts relegated by Wittgenstein to ‘private language’, concepts of seeing, believing, feeling. These are experiences. The objective manifestations accompanying or relating to these experiences, their exteriorization, involve no difficulty, though it is always possible to concoct theoretical difficulties as it is possible to mistake practical difficulties for theoretical ones, as Wittgenstein does with situations involving uncertainty, doubt, hesitation, deception, ignorance, illusions, etc. But the experiences of seeing, doubting, feeling pain, are essentially subjective. They are internal and private and that is that. It is trying to objectify these experiences, to provide them with a ‘referent’ that keeps Wittgenstein going round and round in vacuous circles. (See “The Other Wittgenstein”, Plato’s Universe of Discourse, 2015.) (I refer to Wittgenstein because I prefer to keep to what I know fairly well but I believe that what I say applies equally to philosophers of mind and analytical philosophers.)

13. Analytical philosophers will continue producing endless good analyses of ‘seeing’ and ‘believing’ and ‘doubting’ — literally endless because the simplest act, the humblest thought, like a Leibniz monad, mirrors the whole universe and can breed an infinite variety of relatednesses and associations. But they will never capture the seeing in the instantiations of seeing or the believing in the instantiations of believing, because the reality of a ‘mental concept’ is subjective, its inner secret is its subjectivity, and this cannot be objectified, cannot be exteriorized, but can only be beheld subjectively and individually.

‘`4. Introspection’ is a misleading word. In introspection we do not look inwardly but survey representations of our thoughts and feelings. Our only access to our inner reality is in intelligent creativity. In creative thinking, in meditation, in aesthetic enjoyment, in the spontaneity of a deed of love, we are with our inner reality and we are our inner reality. The mystic says that we are then one with the One.

15. Why should ‘privacy’ – that individuals have thoughts, feelings, experiences that cannot be shared by others – constitute a problem? There are situations in which this poses a practical problem. This is one of the facts of life but it does not raise a philosophical problem. Analytical philosophers busy themselves with it because it constitutes a challenge to the Empiricist presumption that only things that can be observed and tested are ‘real’. That we all must confess, if we are reasonable, that we have private thoughts and feelings that are not open to inspection and examination by others shows that the Empiricist presumption is a superstition. But there are those who would deny the undeniable rather than question the Empiricist credo. This is related to but not the same as the problem of ‘other minds’.

16. I gave one answer in discussing solipsism, but now I see that the final resolution can only come when we see that the final reality is intelligent creativity. If I see that creative intelligence is my inner reality and the only reality I know, then I see that not only are other persons intelligent (conscious, have minds) but also that all being must be finally grounded in creative intelligence.

17. In vain do Analytical philosophers try to explain, to understand, to ‘ground’, understanding or knowing or meaning. Unless we accept that intelligence is an ultimate reality and an ultimate mystery, the more we make distinctions and construct sophisticated explanations and theories, the more we find ourselves sunk in perplexities and quandaries. Plato ‘explained’ the mystery of knowledge by the myth of reminiscence, and that is a better explanation than the most sophisticated theory.

18. Analysts are obviously enemies of immediacy. Nothing can be just itself and in itself for them. To understand there must be a faculty or what-not to make the one who understands understand. A word has meaning and the meaning must have a referent or whatever Frege said it must have. Julia Tanney develops a thought experiment relating to theory of Rules in the course of which we read: “Rules cannot tell you how to follow them (for this you would need other rules); but these second-order rules do not guarantee their own mastery either (for this there would have to be third-order rules); and so on” ( p.xlviii). Only Socrates knew how to cut this Gordian knot. The meaning of an idea is in the immediacy of its self-evidence and the meaning is its own rea;ity: all beautiful things are beautiful by Beauty; all knowledge and all understanding is knowledge and understanding by inherent intelligence. To depart from the self-evidence of reality is to hurtle down the yawning inferno of regress, to get lost in the mazes of endless analyses. Betrand Russell concocted the Theory of Types to evade the bottomless chasm of regress. Wittgenstein did away with the Theory of Types (Tractatus, 3.331, 3.332).

19. Ryle tells us it is a mistake to talk of meanings as if they were objects. Agreed; meanings can never be objects.. But are we to ban all talk of Justice? For Plato Justice is decidedly not a thing, not an object, and Socrates shows that it cannot be defined. But for Socrates and Plato it is the fount of noble thoughts and noble deeds. As such it is a reality and as such it is a proper concern of philosophy. What have Analytical philosophers to say of Justice other than their interminable descriptions, dissections, qualifications, or, alternatively dumping it as a category-mistake?

20. Words and statements (expressions) do not ‘stand for’ things or even for meanings. They are meaningful in themselves; their meaning is their reality; and their reality can never be encompassed or exhausted. The one reality is spoken in a myriad ways and remains unsaid, it breeds a myriad truths but none of the truths can be true to reality. This is what Analytical philosophers find hard to comprehend.

21. “Learning the meaning of an expression”. we are told, “is to learn to operate correctly with it”. That is good as far as it goes, but it errs in that it is meant to turn attention away from the subjective. That is what comes from reducing words, expressions, meanings to actions, whether that be called behaviourism, functionalism, instrumentalism or whatever newfangled name. To eliminate the subjective is to abolish philosophy, and the science or sciences that are meant to replace it, in the absence of philosophy, smother humanity.

22. The human mind is constrained by two ineradicable limitations. All reality is ultimately a mystery: Knowledge, Life, Being, Love, Beauty are mysteries. We are given to commune with those realities and that communion is the life of the spirit. But we can never comprehend or explain them. The second limitation to which we are inevitably subject is that all formulations of th0ught and language being necessarily finite and determinate are intrinsically imperfect; we may endlessly qualify and refine our formulations and yet they remain open to further correction and contradiction. No theory, no theoretical construction, can ever be definitively final. These are two lessons philosophers have to absorb. Philosophy must always remain an endless quest, a ceaseless exploration of the unfathomable mysteries of reality. The quest, the exploration, is the life of intelligence.

23. Such is the heritage of Descates’s dualism. I maintain that any attempt to solve the riddle, or cluster of riddles, on Cartesian grounds must fail. Materialists and the advocates of scientism bypass the problem by exorcising the mind, setting up a physical monism. Certain idealists find the solution in a rival monism that negates the body. As long as we see reality as a something, as a what, however etherealized, we will continue to have problems. The radical solution demands a radical understanding of reality as no thing, or nothing if you like, but sheer activity, creativity. On the face of it, it looks as if this is what physicists have come to take as what is finally ‘real’. But the physicists’ final ‘reality’, be it a god particle or an equation, is still something out there, observable and verifiable, and I still insist on what I have repeatedly stressed: science and philosophy must be kept apart. Philosophy can never attain factual knowledge about the physical world and science can never answer a properly philosophical question.

24. Jaegwon Kim states the two mind-body problems as follows: (1) “How can the mind exert its causal powers in a world that is fundamentally physical?” (2) “How can there be such a thing as consciousness in a physical world, a world consisting ultimately of nothing but bits of matter distributed over spacetime behaving in accordance with physical law?” My philosophy has one answer to both questions. Ultimately reality is intelligent creativity, and I say intelligent creativity rather than creative intelligence to obviate the suggestion that reality is a substance or an entity or a what; reality is purely eternal act, or as I normally put it, Creative Eternity. A human being, as an integral person, mind and body in one, is creative at all levels of her or his being. Our body is intelligent and creative. Even when it is functioning adversely, it is originating, developing, albeit not to our liking. For corruption also is creative development though on a level other than that of the integral personality. Specifically human creativity is in creative thinking, creative art, creative deeds of love. So much for ‘mental causality’; it is the most commonplace of things: when you walk, when you talk, when you take a sip of coffee, your whole person is acting creatively. What about consciousness? Consciousness is mind, consciousness is intelligence: as such it is an ultimate reality and as an ultimate reality is an ultimate mystery. We are aware of our intelligence because our intelligence is our reality, but it is not possible to constrain that within a formula of word or thought. What about our universal physical laws? Scientific laws are generalizations of uniformities observed in natural processes. They are always approximations. There is no clash between freedom and physical laws. I am writing these lines: my thinking is spontaneous though qualified by my earlier thinking, but the movement of my fingers over the keyboard and the working of the keyboard and the computer conform with scientific laws. If a virus invades my body I am subject to biological laws; if I inhale polluted air I am subject to chemical laws; if a falling rock breaks my skull I am subject to physical laws. But I have maintained before and will reiterate that no god, equipped with all the laws of physics and informed of the position of every atom in the universe can predict what word I will write next.

25. Take behaviourism, functionalism, emergentism, supervenience as far as they can go, so long as only the objective is considered admissible, whether on a ground of dualism or a stuff monism, the problem remains where it was. The subjective cannot be derived from or reduced to the objective. And it must be acknowledged that the subjective is the real and that the subjective is not stuff or substance or ‘a spirit’ or even ‘a mind’ but is solely and purely intelligent creativity. This is hard to digest. Positivists and Analysts were prepared to permit, if not to admit, Meinong’s realm of non-existents because Meinong spoke their jargon. The non-existential reality I speak of is something that everyone of us is aware of in herself or himself; we need only to rid ourselves of the prejudices and superstitions of scientism.

25. The principle that a physical event has a causal explanation is so flabby that it means nothing. It says an event happens because it has to happen. If we say that every event has a cause, this statement is soaked in falsity. What we specify as the cause of an event is a feature we isolate and abstract from the total situation that issues in the event. The total situation is, strictly speaking, linked to and intertwined with the whole universe. Every moment in the natural world is unique; nature has habits but never repeats herself without variation; hence no two situations are identical; all scientific laws are approximations. Causal determinism is a working fiction that has been turned into a superstition. Moreover: take an event; specify in minutest detail all the antecedents; how does that explain the event? Only in the protocol sense of conforming to a general pattern we had identified and called a scientific law. We deceive ourselves when we call that explanation. My friend gives me a helping hand. Analyze all the physical, chemical, biological, physiological, neural motions involved. That will not make me understand my friend’s deed. But knowing my friend, I understand; I ask for no explanation. Some twenty-five centuries ago Socrates said that; but the fictions of science are more ‘real’ to us than the ideals of Amity, Benevolence, Nobility, Generosity.

27. All the Analytical refinements of tools and techniques and terminology are, I was tempted to say vain, let me say are a case of ploughing the sand, and for all I know ploughing the sand may be an enjoyable and beneficial exercise. They vainly try to escape the essentially ineluctable imperfection of all formulations of thought. The more they perfect the enunciation of their principles the more they empty them of content and make them of no relevance to any meaningful instantiation, to use a term dear to them. It is thus that Wittgenstein found a ‘perfected’ logical symbolism vacuous, saying nothing. Refining formulations can be helpful for elucidating a thought, but it is worthless in argument. However precise your terms may be, your adversary will always be able to introduce a qualification, a distinction, that will vitiate your conclusion. The controversies not only in theoretical philosophy but also in such areas as bioethics, politics, sociology, psychology, etc., provide ample evidence of the fatuity of trying to settle differences by logical argument. The way to settle differences is to widen the scope of our common acceptations.

28. My position is that we cannot elude the dilemmas generated by the mind-body divide except by admitting that reality is of one character. How then do we face the commonsense divisions of mental and physical, living and inanimate, sensible and insensible, subject and object, or to use antiquated but conveniently comprehensive terms, spirit and matter? Speaking for myself, I say that I know spirit, mind, subjectivity immediately and indubitably, while matter, body, the objective is reported to me in mutable, evanescent manifestations. This was Plato’s answer: mind and the things of the mind are what is real, all the world around us is a shadow show. But if only spirit is real, how do we account for the existence of the things outside us, of the natural world? Here I have two different but not exclusive answers; they stand side by side. The first answer is to confess our ignorance. It is not given to us to know how there can be a world or how there can be any being at all. That is an ultimate mystery and it is not the only mystery we must stand humbly before. The second answer is that, to satisfy my craving for understanding, I say that I only find the existence of anything intelligible if I suppose there is intelligence in it, with it, behind it. This is not a factual answer; I do not say it is so; I say that is how I can find things intelligible. Many philosophers have given us imaginative accounts of how they can find things intelligible. Plotinus, Spinoza, Schopenhauer. They only erred when they assumed their accounts were factual and definitive. That can never be. But philosophers will continue to explore their minds and give us their various imaginative accounts through which we experience the satisfaction of roaming intrinsically coherent, imaginatively intelligible worlds. In other words, I do not ask of philosophers anything other than what I ask of poets, to transport me “Where Alph, the sacred river, ran / Through caverns measureless to man”. Do we blame Coleridge for giving us nothing but a dream?

Cairo, September 29, 2015.

Sunday, September 20, 2015



D. R. Khashaba

A philosopher knows nothing. We find it hard to absorb what Socrates said at his trial. We take it as ‘in a manner of speaking]. NO. It must be taken quite seriously. Only he who, like Socrates, is aware that he knows nothing is a philosopher.

Socrates relates how he questioned politicians, poets, and others who were thought wise and found them wanting. He then questioned artisans and craftsmen. He found these knew many useful things but lacked wisdom. If our present-day physicists, chemists, neurologists, IT wizards were available for his examination, he would have said of them the very same thing: they know many useful things but are wanting in wisdom. Our professional philosophers and erudite scholars he would have found, I am afraid, far worse than the rest.

A philosopher knows nothing. Is philosophy then worthless? No. A true philosopher has within him the most precious of all things, the one reality we know or can ever know, this very stirring, nagging urge to understand. That thirst, that crazy aspiration for understanding, is the only reality of which we have immediate and indubitable awareness. All else is shadow, all else is maya, including our body, including our brain.

That creative urge, that quest for understanding is our inner reality, is our whole reality. Socrates called it that within us which thrives by doing what is right and suffers by doing what is wrong. Plato called it psuchê or nous. Let us call it our creative intelligence.

Now, as all things outside that inner reality are hemmed by negation, kneaded with nothingness, transient, ephemeral, evanescent, always flowing, so also all formulated thought is tainted with falsity. As all things come into being bearing the seeds of their corruption so the most astute reasoning comes riddled with contradictoriness. Thus Plato tells us in the Republic that all hypotheses must be destroyed by dialectic, and in the Parmenides gives us a practical demonstration.

What is the bearing of this? That all theoretical thinking is necessarily flawed. In vain do we seek to formulate a true theory of anything. That is against the nature of things.

A philosopher seeks to form a theory of, say, perception. He can never take for his starting point an isolated perception, a perception pure and simple, because all things are interconnected, all things are interdependent. A philosopher wanting to examine perception lifts up what he takes for a perception from the totality of experience which reflects the continuum which is the world. So his very first step is drenched in falsity.

All philosophical investigation begins from some inchoate unity taken to be a whole. For there are no real wholes within the world; the only real whole is the All, and the only good model of a whole is our inner reality. Then, to think, to theorize, the philosopher breaks up his assumed whole by drawing distinctions between assumed parts of the whole. The distinctions are always necessarily arbitrary, adding falsity to falsity. That is how different philosophers form different theories of putatively the same thing. And that is why no philosophical investigation will ever be found fully satisfactory or free from fault. I will not argue for this point; the history of philosophy and the present philosophical scene provide ample evidence.

Is all philosophical investigation then and all theory useless? Not at all. In philosophizing we exercise our creative intelligence; we imaginatively create notions and formulations that are intrinsically intelligible. This is the life of intelligence. But we should never deem our creations absolutely true or final or exhaustive. Not truth but intelligibility and intrinsic coherence are the mark and merit of a philosophical statement.

It is the quest itself that is the true end of philosophizing. It is the thirst for understanding that is the life of the soul. May that thirst never be quenched!

Cairo, September 20, 2015.



The idea of purposiveness in itself and by itself is a creative notion that infuses meaningfulness into the processes of nature. It is borrowed from the purposiveness of our free will which is itself an expression of the essential fecundity of creative intelligence. Kant labours in vain to derive, to ground, to prove that which is itself the source, the ground, the evidence of all thought. Plato did not try to prove the reality or the necessity of the Form of the Good or of the principle of procreation in beauty. It was all simply creative intelligence in communion with its own reality, begetting true being and understanding. Until philosophers realize that they are creators of meaning and reality, they shall continue to mimic scientists and mathematicians and continue to be ridiculed by scientists and mathematicians. Philosophers, children of Plato, from the top of Parnassus proclaim to the world, you are not servants to truth; you are creators of the Truth!

The notion of imagination is one of the most fecund creative notions introduced by Kant in the third critique. I have somewhere blamed “Plato's strictures on poets and artists as being imitators at the third remove from reality” on his lacking the notion of imaginayion. (Plato : An Inhdfpretation, Ch. VII, “The Argument of the Republic). But I will not comment on Kant’s notion at this point.

I am having second thoughts about continuing these notes on the Critique of the Power of Judgment.

D. R. Khashaba

Cairo, September 18, 2015

Thursday, September 17, 2015



[Here I continue my notes on Kant’s first (discarded) Introduction to the Critique of the Power of Judgment which he replaced by another Introduction in the printed book. I will not here stop to justify my commenting on the discarded Introduction. The following notes may be the final batch on the Introduction(s). Possibly the next batch of notes will start taking up the main body of the third Critique.]

Kant says that the “unity of nature in time and space and unity of the experience possible for us are identical”. It is from the totality of experience that all thinking starts. From the totality of experience we form the ideas of space, time, causality, as well as the concepts of specific things, plants, animals. I have read that Einstein, before he immersed himself in Physics, had been reading Kant. I suppose it was Kant’s doctrine of space and time as modes of the understanding that sparked in him the insight that space and time were relative to the observer which insight led to the theory of Relativity. Newton’s absolute space and time had to be superseded before the classical theory of Gravity could be radically revised. (I am not recanting my insistence on the complete separation of science and philosophy. Einstein’s insight could have just as well been suggested by a line of Shakespeare’s or by meditating on the colourful panorama of the setting sun. Moreover, when I insist on the separation of science and philosophy I do not mean to deny that they have points of contact and instances of interaction. What I assert is that philosophical investigation does not yield factual knowledge and scientific methods do not answer questions about meaning, value, or purpose.)

Kant tries while thinlong to stand outside his thinking. That is how he can come up with such involved structures as “a mere faculty for reflecting on a given representation, in accordance with a certain principle, for the sake of a concept that is thereby made possible”. This says no more than that in thinking we beget ideas. What sense is there in speaking of the concept being made possible as if the possibility of the concept were something other than the concept? This surely is a fit candidate for Occam’s razor. It is the kind of thinking that made the later Wittgenstein go round and round in vacuous circles, though Kant could escape Wittgenstein’s fate by fitting his vacuous intricacies into theoretical architectonics.

Similarly, “The principle of reflection on given objects of nature is that for all things in nature empirically determinate concepts can be found …” says nothing. We cannot consider an object as an object unless we already have the concept of that specific object, since it is the conccpt that constitutes the specifity of the object for us as the Critique of Pure Reason shows. It is no wonder that thinkers of the rank of Nietzsche, Russell, Whitehead, could write Kant off, which is a pity because Kant has profound insights hidden in the heaps of his theoretical junk.

Kant writes:

“All comparison of empirical representations in order to cognize empirical laws in natural things and specific forms matching these, … presuppose that… nature has observed a certain economy suitable to our power of judgment and a uniformity that we can grasp, and this presupposition, as an a priori principle of the power of judgment, must precede all comparison.”

Kant here has forgotten his own Copernican revolution. He forgets that it is the mind that imposes the economy and the uniformity on nature to make it thinkable. A thing in nature, in itself, never is but is always becoming, as Plato knew, and it is not strictly definable because, like Leibniz’ monads, it reflects the whole universe. If we try to pinpoint the least thing in nature we find that, like the King’s ghost in Hamlet, “ʼTis Here. ʼTis there. ʼTis gone.” We do not think things; we think our ideas. That is what Bergson finds wrong with conceptual thinking, but it is a necessary and inescapable limitation. Though on principle I avoid mixing philosophy with science, I may perhaps say that scientists are at last finding in Relativity and in Quantum mechanics that nature refuses to be finally defined or finally situated. May the gods forgive me for trespassing where philosophers should not tread.

Cairo, September 17, 2015.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015



D. R. Khashaba

[I am re-reading Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment and, as usual, am writing down notes that I may some day, if I live, work into something. Since this is, to say the least, problematic, I thought I should from time to time post the notes to my blog. Here is the first batch.]

1. Rather than saying that we can always bring the data of our experience under concepts and laws (this being the gist of the principle of sufficient reason), we should say that it is only when we bring the date of our experience under concepts and laws that they are anything to us.

2. Kant never had a completely consistent, completely coherent, completely rounded and smoothed system. He was too profound and too sincere a thinker to chop rough edges in his thought to make it fit into a pre-formed systematic pattern. Hence the literally endless disagreements between learned scholars about this or that question in Kant’s system. They should know that Kant did not mean what Professor A says he meant and did not mean what Professor B says he meant; Kant wavered and could not make his mind on the question because no theoretical formulation of thought can be simply true. This is the lesson Plato meant us to grasp in the Parmenides.

3. The demand for what Kant calls “systematicity in our concepts and laws” follows directly from the demand for intelligibility, which in turn is a version of Parmenides’s identification of to be with to be thought.

4. In the first (discarded) Iintroduction the first rubric reads “On philosophy as a system”. This points to the dream and the error that vitiated Kant’s transcendental philosophy. Philosophy is averse to system because it is not in the nature of philosophical thinking to find rest or attain stability. Philosophical thinking is endless exploration, a Penelope web that must unweave by criticism what it wove by reasoning, tas hupotheseis anairousa, ep' autên tên archên hina bebaiôsêtai (Republic, 533c-d), but the first principle in which it seeks support is none other than that restless intelligence that is ever sounding its own unfathomable reality, as Heraclitus, anticipating Plato, well knew.

5. Philosophy as “the system of rational cognition through concepts” is what I call a particular universe of discourse, but the ‘system’ is only good for that particular universe of discourse which can neither be definitive nor exclusive.

6. Apparently Kant’s aim in the third Critique was to establish a “system of rational cognition through concepts” for the aesthetic sense, a legitimate and proper aim, provided that we be clear on two points: (1) that such a system is necessarily imaginative and transitory; (2) that it does not define or reveal the nature of the beautiful or of the sense of beauty; beauty and the sense of beauty are realities and as realities are and will ever remain unfathomable mysteries; there is no going beyond Socrates’ ‘foolish’ “It is by Beauty that all beautiful things are beautiful.”

7, Kant’s elaborate and intricate divisions and sub-divisions here as elsewhere in his transcendental system only obscure his creative insights, and I will not stop to comment on these.

8. The “rational cognition of (objects) from concepts” is a deceptive notion. The forms, Platonic or Kantian, confer meaning on things, make them meaningful to us and for us, but the meaning we find in things is the meaning we put into them, as Kant himself famously said. But Plato’s autên tên archên remains unreachable, or better said, cannot be ‘reached’ because it is the reaching act itself, the creative intelligence in us which is the only reality we are vouchsafed to know.

9. To designate the will as the “faculty of choice” is to open the way to much confusion and serious error, The essence of will is spontaneity. Choice involves deliberation, hesitation, and the weighing (conscious or unconscious) of alternatives and consequences. Only spontaneous will is free. We speak of freedom of choice only by special concession and in a secondary sense as opposed to coercion. But choice is always determined by its antecedents. This justifies Kant’s statement that “practical propositions, … if they immediately assert the possibility of an object through our faculty of choice, always belong to the knowledge of nature and to the theoretical part of philosophy”.

10. What is “our faculty of a priori cognition through concepts”? A bombastic appellation for what Plato called ideas begotten by the mind. Thinking, live thinking, not the mere regurgitation of thought received ready-made, is creative. Homer created ideals of honour, of fidelity, of sacrifice. Any original writer, in writing the simplest text, weaves and interweaves notions that have their unique meanings in their specific context. No word has the same meaning in two statements however seemingly similar. Thus all original notions are a priori since they create their own ideal content whether or not they ever find exemplifications – always approximate, never perfect – in the objective realm. All the classifications, divisions, distinctions we make in our theoretical thinking are ad hoc, good for the immediate purpose but no more. Kant’s intricate classifications, analyses, divisions, are fine, creating exquisite theoretical vistas, but Kant wronged himself when he thought he was discovering them while he was imaginatively creating them. Let this be my apology for abstaining from examining Kant’s theoretical architectonics.

Cairo, September 16, 2015.

Sunday, September 13, 2015



D, R. Khashaba

Philosophy is the child, the ekgonos, of the inner reality of intelligent humanity. The inner reality of a human being is intelligence. Intelligence demands intelligibility. That is the core of the principle of sufficient reason. The mind as the inner reality of a human being decrees that to be is to be intelligible. That was first explicitly formulated by Parmenides: “It is the same thing to be intelligible and to be” tauto gar ehsti noein te kai einai.

Philosophy highlighted her identity when she differentiated herself from her twin sister Science, That was when Socrates, unfolding the implications of his distinction between the intelligible and the perceptible, saw that the investigation of physical nature, useful and necessary as it is for our bodily life, does not answer any of the philosophical questions with which he was primarily concerned, questions of meaning, value, and purpose. He saw that all meaning, value, and purpose were constituted and determined by ideas engendered by the mind, in the mind, and may be exemplified by things in the world, but are not themselves to be found in the world.

Plato saw that the ideas are what is truly real, as opposed to the transient things of the natural world. He also saw that both the intelligible ideas and the perceptible things are not inert stuff but are in constant activity, that in truth they are nothing but activity, ta onta hôs estin ouk allo ti plên dunamis (Sophist, 247e). He also saw that the mind in its aspiration for the Whole and the All, the ultimate goal of intelligibility, forms the notion of perfect Being or perfect Reality. Plato imaged perfect Being as the Form of the Good. The Form of the Good as the ideal of perfection, being beyond all specific forms and all determinations, cannot be captured in any determinate formulation of thought or words. It can only be intimated in myth and parable and metaphor.

Where do we find that notion of perfection imaged by Plato as the Form of the Good? Nowhere but in the human mind. It is our ideal of Reality and it is our own reality. The idea of the Whole makes us whole, the idea of Reality constitutes our reality. In philosophizing we explore our reality, gain understanding, and give expression to that understanding and that reality in creative visions. Philosophers err when they fancy or when they claim that their visions have any substance other than the substance of dreams, for we are indeed “such stuff as dreams are made on”.

This is the alpha and the omega of all philosophy, an act all philosophers haven enacting, but all of them, with the exception of Plato, were deluded, thinking they had got hold of definitive Truth.

Cairo, September 13, 2015.

Saturday, September 12, 2015



D. R. Khashaba

Dedicated to George Berkeley

Hylas has been reading Gilbert Ryle’s The Concept of Mind. When he saw Philonous approaching, even before he returned his friend’s greeting he blurted out: The concept of mind us empty; it denotes nothing.

Philonous: Naturally, since the mind is no thing. The concept, the Aristotelian universal, is the common character in a multiplicity. The multiple existent things are all evanescent and are not self-sustaining. The mind is the ground of all existing things. We should not speak of the concept of mind or of the existence of mind but of the reality of mind.

Hylas: What kind of reality is this that does not exist?

Philonous: It is not in the nature of reality to exist. Not only Mind, Life, Love, Justice, are realities that cannot be found in the world, but you will search the world in vain for an Animal that is not a giraffe or a lion or a rabbit, just as you can never find a triangle that is neither isosceles nor scalene nor equilateral. It is only when the mind that is real but does not exist forms the idea Animal that we see animals and only when it forms the idea Triangle that we have triangles with the essential characteristics of triangles and only when the mind forms the idea Justice that we see persons and acts as just or unjust.

Hylas: Yet we do find actual animals, triangles, and instances of justice in the world, but we do not find actual minds.

Philous: That is because animals, triangles and instances of justice only have a borrowed reality, a reality conferred by the mind on the multiple perceptible things. But the mind is only to be found in ‘its own place, and its place is, as Milton says, none other than itself. The mind is the one reality we know best, the reality we find immediately within ourselves, or better said, it is the reality that is ourself; the mind is our own reality. But we are so engrossed by the tumultuous things pressing in on us from all sides in the world that we, not finding the mind among those boisterous things outside us, say there is no mind.

Phylas: I still find it hard to digest the idea of a reality that is no thing.

Philobous: That is because you persist in thinking of the mind as an object, as a substance. Descates led us into many an error when he made thought into a substance. Let us forget about the word ‘mind’ that throughout a long history has been encumbered with so much junk. You will find it easier to say there is intelligence in you as you say there is life in you. That intelligence in you is your inner reality, your whole reality. And that intelligence in you is not a static thing or condition but is ceaseless activity. You, your real you, are not a thing; you are ceaseless activity, intelligent activity, intelligent creativity. That is life and intelligence in one. That is the reality of Mind.

Cairo, September 12, 2015.

the r2

Thursday, September 10, 2015



D. R. Khashaba

I have been repeatedly and insistently saying that questions of meaning and value and purpose fall completely outside the range of science. The following notes were triggered by a thoughtful essay by Alva Noë titled “How Art Reveals the Limits of Neuroscience”: http://chronicle.com/article/How-Art-Reveals-the-Limits-of/232821. The first paragraph below was prompted by the title of Noë’s paper; the remainng notes were written as I read through the essay. If the reader finds my remarks somewhat hyperbolical and paradoxical, let her or him put that to the impatience of an octogenarian whose plain words have been falling on dead ears.

The failure of science to determine the essence of beauty in the beautiful object or to explain the aesthetic experience, is inseparable of the inescapable failure of science (or the scientifically oriented ‘philosophy of mind’) to explain the mind, which failure in its turn comes from the failure of science to understand its limits. These limits were clearly set more than twenty-five centuries ago by Socrates. The investigation of things outside the mind, the investigation of nature and the things of nature, cannot disclose the what or the why of things, On the other hand, the investigation of the ideas in the mind, which alone finds the what and the why in the objects of thought can give us no factual knowledge about the objects of the natural world. More than two centuries ago Kant also arrived at the same insight. Yet we persist in trying to make objective investigation reveal the what and the why and to make logic (pure reason) yield factual knowledge.

The aesthetic experience is a subjective reality. Like all subjective reality it is undefinable. It is a pulse of life: but what is a pulse of life? Art critics and philosophers can extract from it innumerable images, patterns, relatednesses, intimations: these enhance, deepen, illumine our experience, But they explain nothing. The experience remains unfathomable, inexhaustible, ineffable. Because the experience is a moment of life, a moment of intelligent life otherwise called mind, and these are ultimate mysteries that will always remain unfathomable mysteries. In creative activity, in love, and in the enjoyment of beauty we know and do not know those subjective realities. We know because we ourselves are those realities, and we do not know because those realities cannot be reduced to things that may be known.

Neuroscientists want to find everything in the brain. My brain is a tool of my mind, my mind being my total intelligent being; but my brain is not my mind, just as my heart is a tool of the living organism that is my physical being (my body), but my heart is not itself that living organism. Or let us say that it is not the brain that baffles the expectations of neuroscientists but their approach to the brain. I fancy the brain mocking them and saying: You seek in vain to find my secret by studying my cadaver, for in my living activity I am more than I, or, just to tease you let me use a word you don’t like: in life I transcend my physicality.

To my mind, the expression “cognitive science” is as nonsensical as a square circle. Cognition is a subjective reality that is not amenable to the objective approach of science.

I just can’t resist quoting in full the following paragraph from Noë’s thoughtful paper:

“But art is an elusive quarry, and it leaves its clumsy predator flailing in the dust. In vain will you find art, or our experience of art, illuminated in these empirical investigations. This points out not just the limits of the neural approach to the arts, but also the limits of neural approaches to human experience in general.”

Aesthetic experience as response to a work of creativity – a poem, a sonata, a philosophical statement – is not a ‘finished’ thing that can be subjected to objective examination or analysis. The aesthetic response, like the grasping of a philosophical insight, initiates a creative dialogue with the source, giving birth to creative expression and interpretation. Understanding is never passive, aesthetic experience is never passive, but is always creative interpretation. In Plato’s inspired phrase, it is tokos en kalôi, giving birth in beauty. As Noë has well put it, “Aesthetic responses … are modes of participation. They are moments of conversation.”

Sixth-October City, Egypt,

September 10, 2015.