A CONFESSIONAL

A CONFESSIONAL
D. R. Khashaba

An email from a dear philosopher-friend set me thinking, but every new line I went through evoked in my mind a question or more than one question. Of one, only one, thing I was certapn: that I had no answer to any of those questions. It occurred to me to put everything aside for a while to reflect.
I am ninety. Leaving aside my early childhood and leaving aside a not inconsiderable stretch of time when my circumstances were inimical to philosophical thinking, I can say that throughout my life I have been philosophizing, and what have I to show for all that? While writing these lines another thought occurred to me. For some time, especially since my ninetieth birthday a few weeks ago, I have been thinking of how best to make use of the days I still have to live. The thought that has just occurred to me is to start a confessional: daily (as far as possible) to devote some time to reflect, write down my reflections, and if they make up a book or booklet, then I should collect these reflections in book form and make it available with the rest of my books. But let not the reader expect anything exciting — the life I want to register in this confessional is the life of my thought, not –of my emotions or passions or happenings (except incidentally) that give autobiographical writings their relish.
Let me go back to the reflections I started with. What have I to show for my lifelong philosophizing? The one thing that I can affirm confidently, is that what we normally refer to as higher values – moral, aesthetic, intellectual – are what makes life worthwhile. All else is vanity of vanities. Perhaps it was such a thought that made Gautama the Buddha shun his luxurious palace life and wander with his followers preaching his insight; and it must have been this thought that made Tolstoy in his late years give up his wealth and choose to live a simple peasant life.
So this is the one thing I can affirm with confidence. Do I owe that to philosophy? Not wholly and not in the first place. The first seeds of my moral stance were planted at home in my early childhood. I had the great fortune of growing up in a loving family. Next I had the fortune of coming at an early age to come across Plato’s works and to admire Socrates. Hence I can say that philosophy consolidated my attachment to moral ideals, But at this point I would not be honest if I let my words give the impression that I live up to my ideals. In my life there were many negative influences. Hence I must make it plain that in saying that in my philosophy the one certain thing is that moral, aesthetic, and intellectual ideals are what gives life meaning and worth, I am speaking of my philosophical position and not of my person or my way of life.
In the message of my philosopher-friend that I mentioned at the beginning my friend more than once speaks of God. Now I have to state that if my attachment to philosophy consolidated the moral values I gained in my childhood, it had the contrary effect on my religious beliefs, primarily on any belief in God. I started questioning the Church teachings when I was about fourteen. First to drop was faith in the tales of the Old Testament. Next certain aspects of orthodox Christian morality were questioned. With my earliest tamperings with metaphysical thinking I came to see that any belief in a transcendent Creator is philosophically bankrupt. For a time I believed and asserted confidently that ultimate Reality must be intelligent and good. Further on my philosophical reflections convinced me that pure reason or purely theoretical thinking cannot answer any of our ultimate questionings. Yet though I no longer assert the intelligence and goodness as true of the actual world, yet I still hold that as the metaphysical vision in which I find satisfaction.
I accept Kant’s position: empirical science can only deal with the way things appear to us but cannot tell us about the ultimate nature of things. Pure reason too cannot tell us about the ultimate nature of things. Pure reason can only reflect on what Kant calls the Ideals of Reason. But Kant. to my mind, was inconsistent. He juggled with the Ideals of pure reason to ‘prove’ the existence of God and the immortality of the human soul.
I cannot attach any distinct meaning to the word God, unless we equate God with ultimate Reality. But again I say that neither empirical science nor metaphysical thinking can tell us about ultimate Reality.
Yet I do not throw metaphysical thinking overboard. I maintain that the Ideals of Pure Reason and the moral and aesthetic values give us a world of our own creation that enriches our life. I maintain that the idea of ultimate Reality, though we have no right to make it apply to the actual world, yet it gives our life coherence and value. In other words I maintain that as poets and artists dream and by their dreams enrich our life, so a Plato, a Spinoza, a Santayana, dream and by dreaming give us an ideal world we live in for a while just as we live in the worlds of Mozart, of Shakespeare, of Goethe.
Dear Reader, I said above that this would be the first of a series of such reflections. I already doubt that I will be able to keep that promise. And yet, who knows?
D. R. Khashaba
November 8, 2017
Posted to https://philosophia937.wordpress.com xnd http://khashaba.blogspot.com
TOPICS: MORAL VALUES, METAPHYSICS, GOD

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AI versus HUMANS

AI versus Humans
D. R. Khashaba

The Independent reports that “Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence ‘may replace humans altogether.’” To my mind this is not what we should worry about nor should we worry about the related question if or when will ‘thinnking machines’ surpass humans in intelligence. Neither of these issues should be what we have to worry about and prepare for.
To begin with, we have to be clear as to what we mean by AI. We already have computers that make in seconds calculations that it takes Stephen Hawking hours to make. On the other hand, bees, birds, and many non-human animals make problem-solving feats that dazzle us. It is not that kind of ‘thinking’ in which we should take pride and which gives us our distinctive character as humans.
I said there are computers that beat Stephen Hawking in a specific kind of problem-solving but – and this is a most important but – it is Stephen Hawking that puts the question to the computer. The computer may even seem to do something on its own that keeps Hawking wondering how it was done, but the computer, having done its miracle, does not keep wondering how it did it. So this is one element among others that gives us our distinctive human character.
Then, we have values, even when they are corrupt and vicious values: we do something not because the total configuration of the physical world at that moment necessitares it but – another stupendous but – we want to do it, we will it.
The age of the ‘thinking machine’ is already with us. The questions we have to think about and prepare for are: (1) Who is to set the aims and ask the questions for which we seek answers? (2) What are the values we care for and want to preserve?
Unfortunately, while the world leaders and thinkers are busy planning and devising more and more destructive missiles and missiles to intercept missiles and while world leaders and thinkers instead of thinking about how to make a more sane and more just organization of the human family are only thinking about power grabbing and territory annexation and the next financial crisis
Nothing short of a revolution in human thinking and in the global world organization will save us from a robot-governed world whose sole aim and purpose is to reach the highest rate of production and consumption even if that involves numerous pockets of poverty, famine, and disease while elsewhere surplus food is destroyed and the pharmaceutical industry makes huge profits.
D. R. Khashaba
November 5, 2017
Posted to https://philosophia937.wordpress.com xnd http://khashaba.blogspot.com

HERACLITUS

.HERACLITUS a tentative construction
D. R. Khashaba

In this paper I try to reconstruct out of Heraclitus’s disjointed fragments a plausible synoptic outlook. Such an attempt is not only risky; it is outright foolhardy especially in my case with my confessedly elementary knowledge of Greek. My only excuse is that I present this not as a contribution to Heraclitus scholarship – I hope I am not that mad yet – but as an attempt to outline a reasonable metaphysical view of my own from intimations suggested by dabbling in Heraclitus’s obscure oracular phrases.
I venture to say that we do not go far wrong if we say that Heraclitus was the first metaphysician (pardon the anachronism) in Western thinking, leaving aside Chinese and Hindu thinkers for the moment. Thales and Anaximenes were cosmologists. They tried to think out how all things came out of some primitive stuff. Xenophanes was more of a philosophe: he would have been quite at home with the thinkers of the Enlightenment.
But Heraclitus sought to understand how there could be anything at all rather than nothing. And in trying to find an answer to that question he did not look for a primal thing or stuff from which the world could be worked out, nor even for a primal Chaos, which would be an existent thinng, leaving the metaphysical question unanswered or rather unasked: for in philosophy it is the question that opens up vistas for endless exploration.
In seeking the first origin and beginning of all things Heraclitus did not look for a thing – neither stuff nor god – but for a principle: the Logos, the nearest thing in Western thinking to the Tao in Lao Tzu’s thought . The Logos is not a thing, not even a primeval mind, but a creative principle. Yet thus far we are still leaving things hanging in the air.
Heraclitus speaks of the need to follow (dei hepesthai) Logos and complains that though Logos is common, people live hôs idean echontes phronêsin, as if they owned their thinking privately. I find this highly significant. If and when we follow reason we would be following the common understanding (Logos). It is this common understanding .that puts us in touch with what is real. Seek as we may, we will never find a criterion of reality other than its being intelligible, open to the understanding. And it is this that supports and justifies our finding in the Logos, which transcends being, the origin of all being.
Further, I find this supports and is supported by Heraclitus’s looking for reality and understanding not in any external thing or in a god external to the world but in his innermost being, in his soul.
It may not be out of place here to clarify my view of the nature and limits of metaphysical thinking. From what I have already said above it is clear that I maintain that metaphysics seeks to delineate an outlook in which we find the world and life and in particular human life intelligible. The whole quest of metaphysics takes its course within the individual mind. Thus a metaphysician is entitled to say: Here is a vision in terms of which I find the world intelligible. I believe that the fatal error in which most metaphysicians fall is to claim that the vision they present is the one true vision. Kant was right when he asserted that pure reason cannot tell us anything about the actual world. Metaphysicians who claim that they disclose the reality of the world are superstitious dogmatists.
What use then is metaphysics? I maintain that neither science nor philosophy can speak of reality. Yet we cannot live without metaphysical philosophy, unless we are content to live in a totally meaningless world.
That Heraclitus insists on the eternity and absolute autonomy of the cosmos is made amply clear when he asserts that the world was made by neither god nor man. I go back again and again to this point because, in my view, the acceptance of Being (Reality, World, Cosmos, what you will) as an ultimate mystery is the essence of Metaphysics. To suppose any determinate beginning to the world, be it Aristotle’s Uncaused Cause or the Big Bang, lands us in absurdities. To the question “How did the world come about?” the only sane answer is “We don’t know”. But of the many metaphors in which that sane answer may be attired, two give me satisfaction. (1) Ultimate Reality is Eternal Creativity or Creative Eternity. (2) Ultimate Reality is Love, for Love is a ceaseless outflow, an eternal act of giving. In deference to Heraclitus I will also accept his pur aeizôon, ever-living Fire .
Many philosophers have given good answers to the metaphysical question. The fly in the ointment in every case has been that they present their metaphors as if they were factual reports about the actual world. Only Plato was free from this error since he gave his vision in myth and metaphor. In the light of the outline I gave above, Heraclitus too may have been free of this error.
D. R. Khashaba
November 2, 2017
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BEING AND BECOMING

BEING AND BECOMING
metaphysics in a nutshell
D. R. Khashaba

Being and becoming — these two little words sum up the whole of metaphysics.
From the earliest times of human existence humans have wondered about how the world has come about. They invented myths to calm down the nagging perplexity and wonder within themselves. This was not yet metaphysical thinking. Even the Ionian cosmogonists were only looking for the primordial stuff of all things. (Anaximenes came nearest to the metaphysical question,)
In time – and perhaps from the earliest times – there were intellects that raised the deeper question: how and why is there anything at all rather than nothing? Was this a more profound question or just a foolish, meaningless question? — For it is an absolutely unanswerable question. To say that God created the world is the height of inanity, on a par with the modern astrophysicists’ saying that in the beginning was the Big Bang. Both the theologian and the astrophysicist leave the ultimate HOW and WHY gaping.
Being, sheer being, or the being of the world which we find ourselves in, is just there, an ultimate mystery. It is only when we confess the ultimacy of the mystery of Being that the metaphysical quest begins in earnest. The world is there, always there, but it is never the same. Everything in the world is constantly changing. The mighty mountains no more than human flesh, no more than the dainty flower, no more than the dewdrop, no more than the rainbow can boast permanence: the mountains, like everything in nature, in coming to be are passing away. We seek a law, a principle, a pattern that renders this universal constant flux intelligible.
The problem of Becoming merges with the problem of Being (Reality). In Being things are not but are ceaselessly becoming; in Becoming things have their fugitive reality. In wrestling with the problem of Becoming we have the metaphysical answer to the problem of Being.
For Plato what is ultimately real is the Form of the Good that gives birth to intelligence and reality. And where do we find the Form of the Good? The mind in itself, all by itself, probing itself, gives birth to the idea of the Form of the Good.
Moving onward from Plato’s position, I find in the reality of the mind, as our own inner reality, the pattern and principle of all Reality, and in our own intelligent creativity, I find the pattern and the principle of ultimate Reality as pure intelligent creativity. This is an idea bred in and by the mind; it can claim no objectivity; hence I declare it a myth.
All genuine metaphysical thinking – Spinoza’s or Schopenhauer’s for instance – represents ultimate Reality by a pattern created in the mind and by the mind, hence it is necessarily a myth, a metaphysical vision. What use is it then? A metaphysical vision, candidly confessed as myth, appeases our yearning to belong to the All, satisfies our need to find our own being and all being intelligible.
D. R. Khashaba
October 1, 2017
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DOES PHILOSOPHY SEEK TRUTH?

DOES PHILOSOPHY SEEK TRUTH?
D. R. Khashaba

The saying that philosophy seeks truth is commonly received as a truism. There is indeed a rare and remote sense of the word ‘truth’ in which it is natural and proper to say that philosophy seeks truth: that is the exalted sense of Truth as a moral value. But in the quotidian commonsense meaning of the word, it is highly misleading and confusing to join philosophy and truth.
In the common acceptation of the term, truth implies the agreement of a statement or belief with an objective state of affairs. This is the meaning of ‘truth’ in science, in history, in law; but in philosophy it is totally irrelevant,
For millennia philosophers in the Western tradition (but not in China or India) have been deluded into thinking that they are required and can reach factual knowledge about the objective world. It is this erroneous belief that has exposed Western philosophy to ridicule and scorn culminating in Hume’s injunction to commit all metaphysical works to the flames and in the Positivists’ equating of metaphysics with nonsense.
Philosophy as the investigation of the mind, in the mind, by the mind (Plato), as the pure exercise of pure Reason (Kant), is as unrelated to the objective world as the parables of the Nazarene. A myth of Plato’s, a parable of Jesus’, a poem of Shelley’s have the same quality of — not ‘truth’ but spiritual vision.
Thus translators err in translating Plato’s alêtheia as ‘truth’: in other contexts that would be the natural and proper translation, but in Plato alêtheia, ousia, to on, ho estin, all equally refer to reality or what is real, since for Plato the mind and the ideas in the mind are all the reality that we know.
D. R. Khashaba
September 22, 2017
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NINETY

NINETY
Reflections on my ninetieth birthday
D. R. Khashaba

Today I turned the last page of my ninetieth year, a long, long journey by any measure. In my youth and early manhood I never thought I would reach sixty.
What have I made of this ample gift of life that I have been given? The first stretch of 32 years (I have my reason for hitting on this odd figure) was a mixture of good fortune and constraining circumstances aggravated by wrong decisions. I was born and brought up by good, loving parents and had good, loving siblings. (I was the youngest.) I had intermittent but in the main good schooling. Basically I am an autodidact. Those first 32 years, apart from the constrained and constraining conditions, were the best. I read voraciously and formed the core of my philosophy.
I married at 32 and the marriage was blessed with a daughter but my wife soon developed a psychic condition that engulfed us (husband, wife, and daughter) in profound misery. The doctors did not give me a diagnosis but only wrote long prescriptions. There were periods of hospitalization. For some forty years I could not read, could not think, was practically not living: the only thing that kept me alive was that I could not abandon my helpless wife and daughter.
My poor wife passed away in 1990. That opened up the third stretch of my life story. My daughter had already married. I read like mad. In 1998 I self-published (with generous financial help from my employer) what I thought would be my first and last book: Let Us Philosophize, published by Avon Books, London, who went into liquidation only two years later.
The book met with the inescapable fate of self-published books. But in various ways I reached a handful of philosopher-friends who valued my work handsomely. I had articles published in Philosophy Pathways, The Examined Life Online Journal (sadly soon defunct), and other online journals. From 2005 to the present day I self-published eleven books, including a revised edition of Let Us Philosophize.
I know that every writer thinks highly of her or his work; still I think I am not deceived in believting that my work deserves more than the attention it has received, My philosophy is philosophy in the grand manner that unites epistemology, ontology, and axiology in an original consistent whole. I designate it an original version of Platonism, but I go beyond Plato at points and offer an original interpretation of important aspects of Plato’s philosophy that have been overlooked by academic and professional philosophers.
I have made all my work freely downloadable from my wordpress site, archive.org, and from the free e-books section of ArabWorldBooks.com. I dream that at some near or distant future my work will be properly valued and will have its place in mainstream philosophy side by side with the work of Plato, Spinoza, Kant, Schopenhauer.
I don’t know what more time I will be given beyond this my ninetieth birthday. Anyway, in the nature of things it cannot be long. I have no set plans for any future work. I will read for enjoyment and try to fill in some of the numerous and very wide gaps in my paideia. If anything writes itself I will post it on my two blogs.
Tuchê agathê.
D. R. Khashaba
September 3, 2017
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ARGUMENT IN PLATO’S DIALOGUES

ARGUMENT IN PLATO’S DIALOGUES

D. R. Khashaba

[Note: I assume that the reader of this paper will have been well acquainted with the Symposium of Plato, else I would have had to make it much longer by giving much incidental and background material.]
Lately I upset some of my best friends by writing a paper titled “Plato’s Greatest Hoax”. I wonder how anyone who knew my writings could think I meant to denigrate Plato when I designate my philosophy as a version of Platonism. I am now venturing to stir another hornets’ nest. What for? Certainly not to censure Plato but to highlight what is most profound and most valuable in Plato, to separate the tinsel from the gold.
First, to avoid unnecessary confusion or misunderstanding let us be clear about what is meant by ‘argument’ here, for ‘argument’ is a flabby word that houses a wide range of connotations. In a wider loose sense any exposition of thought is commonly referred to as an argument. In a narrower strict sense an argument is meant to establish or demonstrate the truth of a certain conclusion. It is this narrower meaning with which we are concerned in this paper.
Since Plato tells us plainly that no serious thinker will leave his best thought in a written text (Phaedrus, 275c); since he tells us in the Republic (533c) that the grounds of all philosophical positions must be destroyed by dialectic; since he gives us in the Parmenides a practical demonstration of this dialectic demolition of foundations — what are we to make of all the arguments and proofs in the dialogues? Not to mention that our erudite scholars have not been slow to shred to tatters the best of Plato’s theoretical arguments.
Often in the dialogues an argument is simply a move in the dramatic action. Sometimes in the elenctic discourses the argument seems to lead to a definite conclusion when suddenly Socrates discovers that they were on a wrong track (Charmides, Lysis). In the Protagoras Socrates argues for the identity of courage and wisdom; Protagoras finds a flaw in the argument and Socrates simply drops it (350c). In short, the argument (in the narrower sense) in a Platonic dialogue is regularly a ploy in the drama and is never meant for itself.
I have said this before but it bears repetition: An original thinker never arrives at his profoundest insights by a process of logical reasoning. (See Plato’s Universe of Discourse, 2015.) A philosopher may find in logical reasoning a helpful tool for the exposition and elucidation of her or his thought but to begin with sheer reasoning with the intention of reaching a meaningful conclusion is to put the cart before the horse and has been the source of all the falsehoods and absurdities of theology and vacuous ‘metaphysical systems’ I have been saying this repeatedly: in this paper I will illustrate it by instances from the speech of Socrates in the Symposium (198-212) where we find the husk of logical argument and the grain of philosophical insight side by side, in close proximity but unmixed. .
Socrates begins by protesting that he cannot speak in the manner of the speakers who preceded him, who thought they had to heap praises on Eros regardless of the truth. Socrates said he would only speak the truth (198d). We will see what kind of truth that turns out to be, revealing to us the chasm separating philosophical truth from the truth of science and commonsense.
Socrates prepares the ground for his speech by a short discourse with Agathon in the elenctic manner (199c-201d). The bare skeleton of the core argument is something like this: Love is love of something – Love is love of the beautiful and the good – Love desires to have what it loves – one does not desire to have what one already has – put differently, one does not have what one desires to have – one desires to have what one lacks – (marginally, to say that one who is healthy desires to have health only makes sense if taken to mean that one desires to have health continually) – we said that Love is love of the beautiful and the good – it follows that love does not have beauty and goodness, in other words Love is not beautiful and not good.
We see that the argument is grounded on the identification of love with desire, a step facilitated by the fact that the love discussed is erotic love, though even so, we can object that in healthy erotic love the lover does not desire to possess the beloved. Anyhow, when we come to the philosophical vision in the higher flight of Diotima’s pronouncement, we will see how Diotima, though putatively starting from the same position delineated in Socrates’ conversation with Agathon, actually throws that whole argument out the window. The deeper insights in the speech of Socrates (Diotima) has no connection with the logical argument which is mere show required by the dramatic setting of the Symposium
Next Socrates relates how the wise woman Diotima taught him the secrets of love, beginning with the argument which he had just re-enacted with Agathon. I bypass the pretty story of the birth of Eros. Like the argument and equally with the argument it is part of the tinsel not the gold. I also bypass what she says about the nature, character and office if Eros.
Diotima begins the metamorphosis of the concept of love by making the word stand for all desire for good (294e-205e). Further, not only do humans love to have the good but they love to have the good for all time (206a). Let us note that Diotima has thus cut all ties to the body and to all that is worldly and let us note further that she has left behind all argumentation. Diotima no longer argues but teaches with oracular authority. Love has become a universal (metaphysical) principle.
Diotima proceeds: How does Love attain its end? In what activity does it engage? At this point Diotima (= Socrates, = Plato) fires the most pregnant phrase in all philosophy: the aim and the activity of love is procreation in beauty, tokos en kalôi (206b). Love as a metaphysical principle is simply creativity. We have left far behind the erôs that in the argumentative stage was equated with the desire to have, to possess, and have reached the notion of Love whose nature is to give, to overflow, to create.
Plato takes us to a new level when he makes Diotima say to Socrates: Thus far you could be initiated into the secrets of Love, but I don’t know if you can enter the higher mystery for the sake of which what went before was a preparation. She proceeds to describe, in an inspired and inspirational passage, the ascent of the lover, culminating in the mystic vision of absolute Beauty.
The pregnant notion of procreation in Beauty, the ascent to the vision of absolute Beauty — these are presented in oracular pronouncements, without any show of argument or proof. The preliminary argument equating love with the desire to have what one lacks is discarded on the way. I maintain that this is representative of all of Plato’s dialogues. As I put it elsewhere, where you find Plato arguing most astutely, be sure that he is least serious. The divinity of the soul, he philosophic life, tending the soul and tending virtue, the Form of the Good, reality as dunamis (activity, creativity), etc., etc., these are creative notions offered without proof or argument in the strict sense.
D. R. Khashaba
August 22, 2017
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