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
Posted to https://philosophia937.wordpress.com xnd http://khashaba.blogspot.com

Advertisements

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
Posted to https://philosophia937.wordpress.com xnd http://khashaba.blogspot.com

SOUL SEMANTICS

SOUL SEMANTICS
D. R. Khashaba

I am unhappy with the current usage of the terms Dualism and Monism. The tern ‘dualism’ derives from Descartes’s division of all things into two separate substances, an extended substance (matter) and a thinking substance (mind, soul). Materialists who hold that the extended substance is all there is were referred to as Monists, implying that there is no such thing as mind. Advocates of the reality of the mind fell into the trap and called themselves Dualists. This was unwise. The moment you take mind for a separate substance you have opened the gates to the materialist hordes. They can easily show that mind does not satisfy any of the criteria of objective existence. Ergo there is no mind.
A defensible Idealism must maintain that there is no mind without objective content and there is no matter without subjective support. In our daily life and equally in our scientific studies we deal with objects of which we can only observe the outer husk. This suits science perfectly. But all the objects in the world outside us that we deal with in our practical life and in our scientific studies have no meaning in themselves. They only obtain meaning from the patterns in which the mind clothes them. (Plato’s forms, Kant’s concepts of the Understanding). This, as I said, suits science perfectly. Science owes its astounding achievements to this limitation, namely, that it has to do with the outside of things. Yet a philosopher wonders: these objects that only have borrowed meaning thanks to the mind, how can they have being at all. Philosophers advance various scenarios to solve the puzzle: Spinoza’s one substance where natura naturata is inseperable of natura naturans; Leibniz’ monads; Berkeley making all things percepts in the mind of God; Schopenhauer making all things representations of the universal Will — these are examples of the philosophers’ ‘justification’ of the bare existence of things.
In all my writings I abstain from using the term ‘dualism’. I hold that only what is whole is real; to understand anyting we have to see it as a whole. Pace Plato, I am not a body and a soul: I am one integral person. Since I am a particular, determinate being, I am not a perfect whole; my being depends on things outside my person. On the physical plane I am a physical object subject to the laws of physics. On the biological plane I am an animal sharing the characteristics of a rat or a sheep. On the intellectual plane I am a thinking, problem-solving creature, characteristics which I share with a chimpanzee or a squirrel. But then I have being on the spiritual (metaphysical) plane: on this plane I am a moral, creative person, characteristics which, to my knowledge, I share only with other human beings. I do not say that on this plane I have a soul (mind); on this plane I am my soul, I am my mind.
Thus to the question: Do you have a soul (mind)? I answer: No, I do not have a soul because a soul is not a thing to be had in the sense of possessed.
Let us take an example that is easier to comprehend. I can see; I have the power of sight. If you ask me: Do you have sight? I will answer, No, for sight is not a thing that can be possessed and entered into the log of my possessions; but I am a seeing creature, I exercise the power of sight.
Similarly, if you ask me: Do you have a soul (mind)? I answer: No, since a soul is not the kind of thing to be possessed, but I have being on the metaphysical plane. On the metaphysical plane I love, I rejoice, I enjoy beauty, I create philosophical views. When the materialist (empiricist, positivist, physicalist) says to me: You don’t have a soul, I reply: My good sir, what you say is perhaps truer than you know, but what you mean by what you are saying is grossly erroneous. I do not have a soul: I am my soul; my soul is my inner reality and the whole of my worth. My soul is I on the metaphysical plane.
D. R. Khashaba
Posted to https://philosophia937.wordpress.com and http://khashaba.blogspot.com
SOUL – MIND – DUALISM – MONISM – METAPHYSICS

THE WORLD SOUL

THE WORLD SOUL
on the soul and on the limits of philosophical discourse

D. R. Khashaba

In the Phaedrus Plato presents a nice ‘proof’ of the eternity of the soul (245c-246a). It is rewarding to consider this proof from more than one standpoint. I quote this crucial passage in full, in Harold North Fowler’s translation in the Loeb Classical Library edition:
“Every soul is immortal. For that which is ever moving is immortal; but that which moves something else or is moved by something else, when it ceases to move, ceases to live. Only that which moves itself, since it does not leave itself, never ceases to move, and this is also the source and beginning of motion for all other things which have motion. But the\beginning is ungenerated. For everything that is generated must be generated from a beginning, but the beginning is not generated from anything ; for if the beginning were generated from anything, it would not be generated from a beginning. And since it is ungenerated, it must be also indestructible; for if the beginning were destroyed, it could never be generated from anything nor anything else from it, since all things must be generated from a beginning. Thus that which moves itself must be the beginning of motion. And this can be neither destroyed nor generated, otherwise all the heavens and all generation must fall in ruin and stop and never again have any source of motion or origin. But since that which is moved by itself has been seen to be immortal, one who says that this self-motion is the essence and the very idea of the soul, will not be disgraced. For every body which derives motion from without is soulless, but that which has its motion within itself has a soul, since that is the nature of the soul; but if this is true, that that which moves itself is nothing else than the soul, then the soul would necessarily be ungenerated and immortal” (245c-246a, tr. Fowler).
First a preliminary remark: Plato says that every soul is immortal, athanatos, but the whole passage makes better sense if we take the term athanatos to signify eternity rather than personal survival.
In the first place let us note that this whole passage cannot apply to the individual soul, since no living being – and indeed no particular finite being – is strictly self-contained, self-sufficient, complete in itself. The human soul is only relatively autonomous. Its activity is always conditioned – not determined but conditioned – by what is outside of it. Even human creativity – moral and artistic – is grounded in the particular individual personality. When we speak of the spontaneity of moral or creative acts we mean no more than that the act is not determined by what is external to the individual personality. Thus when Plato says that “self-motion is the essence and the very idea of the soul” that can only apply to the World Soul. This harmonizes with the representation of the world in the Timaeus as a single living organism.
Indeed we have in this passage the gist of Aristotle’s notion of the First Mover. Aristotle however corrupts the idea when he sees the First Mover as independent of the World, separate from the World, moving the World from outside the World. The First Mover thus becomes a particular entity that calls for an explanation, for a cause of its being external to its being.
Plato says that “that which moves itself is nothing else than the soul”. In this sense the soul is what is ultimately real and what is ultimately real is nothing else than activity. Plato does not say this in explicit terms but it harmonizes with his seeing all that is real in any sense is nothing other than dunamis, activity (Sophist, 247e).
Hence in my philosophy I say that what is ultimately real is not to be conceived as a being but as activity, not as a creator but as creativity, not as a creative intelligence but as intelligent creativity, which I name Creative Eternity.
I said we have to consider the passage from more than one standpoint. I will now take it up from a different angle: What does the ‘proof’ actually prove?
So what does Plato’s nice proof prove? If we are speaking about establishing the existence of an objective sate of affairs, then neither Plato’s argument here or elsewhere nor any properly philosophical discourse does or can establish anything relating to the actual world outside the human mind. In the above-quoted passage Plato is simply unfolding what for him soul means, and in doing so enriches our cultural heritage with a creative notion which opens up for us a new field of intelligibility. (See my Plato’s Universe of Discourse.)
The whole of philosophy proper is an exploration of ideas. The mind works with ideas, in ideas, through ideas, to widen our scope of intelligibility’ The world for us is dumb, there is no meaning in the world. The mind casts patterns of intelligible ideas on the world, and lo! the world is meaningful! All meaning we find in the world has been put in the world by the human mind: so says Socrates; so says Kant.
Towards the end of the Phaedrus Plato hurls his famous dictum saying that “he who thinks that he has left behind him any art in writing, and he who receives it in the belief that anyrhing in writing will be clear and certain, would be an utterly simple person …” (245c-d. tr. Fowler).And as if Plato feared this may not be taken seriously enough, he goes on reiterating and emphasizing it in the strongest terms over the following two pages,
But Plato in fact wrongs himself by understating his case in confining the interdiction to written discourse. The ailment is not in the written words but in the language embodying the thought and in the thought that necessarily has to be conveyed in determinate formulations of speech. No definite philosophical statement is ever “clear and certain” for all purposes and in all contexts.
When Plato speaks of the living discourse imprinted in the soul, he is referring to genuine philosophical discourse that does not end in or lead to a dogmatic formulation but enlightens and enriches the soul in the course of the discussion. A philosophical statement is only meaningful (‘true’) within the context of a particular universe of discourse. The philosophical venture is a journey whose reward is not the end sought or attained but the journey itself.
To be consistent with Plato’s whole position, what he says in the Phaedrus must be taken in conjunction with what he says in the Republic where the Form of the Good as the ultimate Reality can only be spoken of in metaphor and simile and where we are enjoined to destroy the hypotheses underlying our philosophical stance; and also in conjunction with the Parmenides Where the Eleatic sage gives us a practical demonstration of the dialectic undermining of hypotheses as applied to his own theses. He explicitly says that this is what he proposes to do. Yet our scholrs find the dialogue puzzling.
In the Phaedrus itself what do we have? Apart from the concluding remarks about writing, we have nothing but poetic flights of imagination and playful mythologizing, but such playful mythologizing that gives us wings to soar into the realm of celestial Realities. And where is that realm located? Nowhere but in our mind. The beginning and end of philosophizing is an exploration of our mind, our inner reality.
D. R. Khashaba
June 30, 2017
Posted to https://philosophia937.wordpress.com and http://khashaba.blogspot.com

WHEN ARE WE FREE?

WHEN ARE WE FREE?
A different approach to the Free Will problem
D. R. Khashaba

Scores of learned books and papers have been written on the so-called ‘free will problem’. Thus the erudite create problems where there are none, keeping themselves busy with intractable logical puzzles. The whole mess is a bundle of confusions and sophisticated nonsense. Outside academic circles no one ever suspects the existence of such a problem.
The pseudo-problem of free will arose from the fiction of determinism – the earlier theological determinism and the modern physical or causal determinism – and is compounded by the confusion of free will with freedom of choice. The term ‘free will’ in itself is a pitfall for there is no such thing as a Will that wills; there is only willing, as Thomas Hobbes rightly saw (Leviathan, Part I., chap.VI). (I append a note on the so-called logical determinism.)
Let us leave theological determinism to theologians to crack their heads on since it clearly arises from the fiction of an omnipotent and omniscient God. Next let me dispose of causal determinism in a few words. Causal determinism is a scientific theory. Scientific theories are either (1) descriptions of observed phenomenal regularities, or (2) interpretations of phenomenal happenings. In either category the theory must be of a high level of generality and is necessarily transitory, subject to revision at any time. The so-called Laws of Nature can never be of perfect accuracy or absolute certainty. There is always room for novelty and for surprises. But even if the theory of causal determinism were flawless, the problem would be how to reconcile that with our unquestionable experience of free activity, not the other way round. Scientists would have to correct their account to allow for freedom of action rather than philosophers having to find excuses for defying the so-called Laws of Nature.
The confusion of free will with freedom of choice is responsible for most of the quandaries involved in the putative problem. Choice is a consequence of our imperfection. We have to exercise choice because we are imperfect being in an imperfect world. Choice is always determined by antecedents but those antecedents include our beliefs, principles, values, and ideals, and even our tastes and whims. Thus while choice is always necessarily determined it is in full agreement with our autonomy. For good or for ill, my choice is the choice of the person I am. The dubieties and nuances of the experience of choice are grit for the psychological mill, not for the philosopher.
When we act spontaneously without premeditation, even in simple banal acts, we are free. When I take up my cup of coffee it is not because neurons in my brain make a certain motion but because I want (‘will’) a sip of coffee. When I turn a corner and see my granddaughter coming from the opposite direction and I open my arms and embrace her I act freely: whatever the accompaniments of cells, glands, and neurons in my body may be, that is not the cause of my action; the cause is my love of her.
The problem of human freedom is a moral problem not a logical puzzle. When we are clear in our mind about our values, priorities, and principles, as Socrates would say, or when we have adequate ideas, as Spinoza has it, then we are free moral agents. This is the gist of the grossly misunderstood and much maligned ‘intellectualism’ of Socrates. In the spontaneity of moral acts and of intelligent creativity (in poetry, art, philosophy) we are at the highest level of human freedom.
There is nothing problematic in all of this. There is of course the moral problem: Why are we most of the time enthralled by fake values, false aims, foolish desires? Why are even the best of us only by fits and starts rational human beings? This is the problem true philosophers wrestle with. Socrates was all his life trying to help people clear the confusions, obscurities, entanglements, and falsehoods in their mnds, to help them be free and live and act as rational human beings who know that all their value and worth is in having a healthy soul. It is ignorance, as Socrates well knew, that denies us freedom, not causal determinism.
D. R. Khashaba
June 17, 20`7
APPENDIX: Professor Kevin Timpe delineates logical determinism thus:
“Logical determinism builds off the law of excluded middle and holds that propositions about what agents will do in the future already have a truth value. For instance, the proposition ‘Allison will take the dog for a walk next Thursday’ is already true or false. Assume that it is true. Since token propositions cannot change in truth value over time, it was true a million years ago that Allison would walk her dog next Thursday.” (Kevin Timpe, “Free Will”, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
This is so blatantly absurd that only learned scholars can take it seriously. To have a truth value a proposition has to relate to an actually extant state of affairs. Propositions about the future do not relate to an objective state of affairs. Aristotle rightly said that propositions about the future are neither true nor false. I will not waste more time discussing such nonsense.
Posted to https://philosophia937.wordpress.com and http://www.khashaba.blogspot.com