WHAT IS IT TO BE?
D. R. Khashaba
Engrossed by the world around us, we think that to be is to be palpable, visible, part of the world that presses on us and tosses us around. This is the naïve, unreflective view — naïve and unreflective notwithstanding that scientists and empirical philosophers tell us it is the sane, realistic view.
Reflective minds at all times and everywhere have perceived that the world around us is a fleeting shadow and – more significantly – without meaning. Nothing in the world, in itself and by itself, has any meaning.
For reflective minds to be is to be meaningful, to be is to be intelligible.
Parmenides declares: To be intelligible and to be is the same (thing). (Parmenides said: tauto gar esti noein te kai einai, and again, to gar auto noein estin te kai einai, but he was not anticipating Descartes’s: Je pense donc je suis. By noein he meant not ‘to think’ but ‘to be thought’, to be intelligible.)
When Socrates in the Phaedo asks: “Do we say there is such a thing as death? (hêgoumetha ti ton thanaton einai;) he does not imply that death exists as a thing but that the word death means something to us. It is instructive that we find it difficult to make this plain in any normal formulation of language and this is what makes it so difficult to convey the notion of pure being, pure metaphysical reality, in ordinary language and makes it difficult for minds constrained by normal language and normal modes of thought to grasp the notion of metaphysical reality.
This would be a good criterion for distinguishing philosophical minds from non-philosophical minds: for a philosophical mind the real is the ideal, the meaningful, the intelligible; for the non-philosophical mind, be it a Dr. Johnson or a Gilnert Ryle, the real is what can be seem touched, measured, weighed. These two classes are what Plato dubbed the Gods and the Giants respectively. It is a travesty to call the latter – however learned, however astute – philosophers.
D. R. Khashaba
Cairo, November 7, 2016
Posted to http://khashaba.blogspot.com and https://philosophia937.wordpress.com