WHAT USE IS PHILOSOPHY?
D. R. Khashaba
Some twenty-six centuries of philosophical endeavour show clearly, or should have sufficed to show clearly, that the endeavour was completely on a wrong track: (1) it produced not one bit of factual knowledge about the natural world; (2) it established not one irrefutable proposition.
Let me stop for a moment to say why I speak of twenty-six centuries or so. Before that in Egypt, in Babylonia, there was science and mathematics and wisdom; in India, in China, in Persia, there was profound speculation about the mysteries of Being and Life couched in metaphor, aphorism, and paradox. But some twenty-six centuries ago the audacious Ionians set to give answers to all questions about nature and life and the ultimate mystery of Being by that one power which seems to be peculiar to humans of all living beings, the power of reflective thinking, and demanded that the answers be true and, audacity upon audacity, that they satisfy that power and that power alone. That was hubris too gross for Zeus to stomach, and if Jehovah expelled Adam from Paradise for desiring Knowledge, Zeus plunged philosophers into an unfathomable labyrinth for demanding Truth. It is thus that twenty-six centuries later philosophers have not one truth to show for their labours.
Near the beginning of that long travail one man was clear-sighted enough to see what was wrong. Socrates saw that by reflective thinking (reason) alone we can know nothing of natural things nor can we have answers to questions about ultimate things. The best wisdom for humans is to acknowledge that they know nothing and can know nothing. (That the astounding achievements of science do not belie this I have argued in all my writings and will revert to in these blogs shortly.) Yet that same Socrates held that only a philosophical life is a worthy life for a human being. Was he a fool?
The proper work of philosophy is to look within, to cleanse, clarify, and set in order the ideas, ideals, values, goals that constitute our characteristic nature as human beings. By the special set of ideals and values every one of us adopts she or he makes herself or himself what she or he is. Basically we are of course the plaything of chance, but by scrutinizing and electing our ideals and values we, defying all the powers of destiny, create our inner reality, our proper reality. This is the core-truth of Stoicism; this is the gist of Spinoza’s identification of freedom with adequate ideas; this is the prophecy of Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound. Without philosophy we go in life doubly the playthings of powers we know not, without ever being in possession of ourselves, without ever being our true selves.
Further, when in philosophizing we confront the riddle of ultimate Reality and wrestle with the mysteries of Being and Life and Mind, and, without deceiving ourselves into thinking we can have any truth about these riddles and mysteries, create for ourselves visions in which the riddles and mysteries assume coherence and intelligibility, we thereby create for ourselves, over and above our human reality, a new dimension, constituting our metaphysical or spiritual reality.
For me, philosophy helps me be myself, and helps me live and think on a plane of reality beyond all other reality.
Dear Reader, if you find all I have been saying nonsense, you are within your rights. I write for myself. I write because I enjoy playing with ideas.
D. R. Khashaba
February 3, 2017
Posted to https://philosophia937.wordpress.com and http://khashaba.blogspot.com