Saturday, May 13, 2017



D. R. Khashaba

My use of the word ‘philosophy’ (like my special use of the word ‘reality’) has been a cause of friction with my philosopher friends.

Over millennia the word philosophy has been used in a wide range of meanings. I have no quarrel with any of those usages. But when people assume that, because I call myself a philosopher, I have to do the kinds of philosophy others are doing, I protest since I have the right to limit myself to my kind of philosophy provided I state clearly what I mean by that. But first we have to clear some hurdles.

When people speak of research in the rapidly developing area of Information Technology or the so-called Artificial Intelligence as philosophy, I have a reservation. Why? Such research develops techniques, ways of doing things and achieving certain results. But that research and those techniques cannot in themselves judge whether all of that is good or bad. We dogmatically assume that all ‘progress’ is good, but that assumption is just that: an assumption. It is the business of philosophy in the traditional sense to consider the questions of right and wrong, good and bad. Call your research philosophy if that pleases you, but that does not make your research qualified to deal with the traditional philosophical questions about right and wrong, good and bad. That lies outside your jurisdiction and beyond your capacity.

When people call the examination of ways and means for managing human society philosophy, once again I have a reservation. The use of the word philosophy here suggests that the examination of the practical problems of human organization and management should or can proceed purely by means if reasoning. Social and political problems are about the means to certain ends. The problems of means can only be resolved empirically by trial and error, constant adjustment and re-adjustment involving multiple compromises. But the ends to be aimed at cannot be determined by such means; they also cannot be determined by pure reason in the strict sense of inferential logical deduction from premises.

Humanity, now more than ever, is badly in need of sane, enlightened thinking — in need of understanding the true worth of the human person and appreciating the values that give meaning and value to human life. These have been known to enlightened spirits from the earliest times. But the overwhelming majority of humans are enthralled by false values. In our present-day world, half the world population is enslaved by consumerism and competitiveness and the other half by superstition. The true values need no re-discovery; they need to be disseminated, vitalized, and impressed on the multitudes drowned in materialism and in superstition. There is no way for doing this overnight. It can only be done slowly by artists, poets, and philosophers in one of the many senses of the word philosophy. Whether this task can be achieved before the greed and stupidity of world political leaders lead to the total and final destruction of the human race — that is an open question.

What about my kind of philosophy? I have been engaged in the humble, limited, stringently confined task of re-affirming and spreading those old values. I have been stressing that our true worth and value is in our inner reality which Socrates referred to as that in us which is benefited by doing what is right and is harmed by doing what is wrong.

To place all the emphasis on this I have insisted on relieving philosophy of two burdens that, in my view, have hindered philosophy from doing its proper work: (1) the burden of seeking or claiming to yield factual knowledge about things outside the human mind and (2) the burden of reaching or producing demonstrable truth. Philosophy neither should nor can nor has ever been able to do either of these. My kind of philosophy probes the ideas, ideals, and values within our minds and gives them expression in parable, metaphor, and myth.

For all the other activities bearing the name philosophy I have neither capacity nor desire.

Perhaps it is not out of place to say here that I do not write learned dissertations but philosophical essays. A philosophical essay is a free excursion of reflective thought.

D. R. Khashaba

May 13, 2017

N.B: I first titled this paper “My Kind of Philosophy”. When I came to save the document Windows discovered I had another paper under that title. That was written on August 25, 2016. The reader may look it up.

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