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PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS electronic journal

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P H I L O S O P H Y   P A T H W A Y S                   ISSN 2043-0728
http://www.philosophypathways.com/newsletter/

Issue No. 188
30th September 2014

CONTENTS

Special issue dedicated to the philosophy of D. R. Khashaba

I. 'The Riddle of the Parmenides' by D. R. Khashaba

II. 'Creative Eternity' by D. R. Khashaba

III. 'Socrates Answers Aristotle' by D. R. Khashaba

-=-

EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION

When Geoffrey Klempner saw it fit that there should be a special
Issue of Philosophy Pathways for my work I rashly said I would
contribute three original pieces. I soon found that beyond the tether
of a half-blind eighty-seven year old man. I managed to write one new
article and had to be content with two selections from work already
published. Thus this Issue contains:

(i) 'The Riddle of the Parmenides', approaching a dialogue of Plato's
that has puzzled many students of philosophy.

(ii) 'Creative Eternity', giving an account of what I deem to be the
core-principle of my philosophy.

(iii) 'Socrates Answers Aristotle', recounting a fictional encounter
between Socrates and Aristotle, who was only born fifteen years after
the death of Socrates.

The prefatory notes to the latter two give the provenance and the
intent of these pieces.

(c) D. R. Khashaba 2014

Email: dkhashaba@yahoo.com
Weblog: http://khashaba.blogspot.com

About the editor:
http://www.philosophypathways.com/newsletter/editor.html#khashaba

-=-

I. 'THE RIDDLE OF THE PARMENIDES' BY D. R. KHASHABA

     To Peter Borkowski, in gratitude

     Ti pote legei ho theos, kai ti pote ainuttetai;
     Apology, 21b.
     
     Akoue de to emon onar, eite dia keraton eite di'elephantos
     eleluthon.
     Charmides, 173a.

The Parmenides, as every student of philosophy knows, is made up of
two distinct parts. Both parts have, in my opinion, been subjected to
gross misinterpretation. I have previously commented on the first part
and do not intend to revert to it here. It is with the second part
that I am concerned in this article. While the first part has been
misunderstood, the second part has been found puzzling by many
students of philosophy, including eminent Platonists. No less a
scholar than A. E. Taylor has seen it as a metaphysical jest. Not
that Plato is above jesting. The Euthydemus is a curious mix of
edifying dialogue and broad farce, and one could multiply examples.
But the Parmenides was not meant to amuse or to mystify and I do not
believe that the parched and drab style of the Parmenides is
attributable to Plato's loss of grasp on his material. It is true
that the style of the late dialogues has lost in zest and flourish,
yet the late dialogues up to and including the Laws are still rich in
characterization and rich in passages of poetic beauty. No, to my mind
the dryness and plainness of the dialogue was part of the lesson Plato
was keen to drive home.

Plato had clearly stated in the Phaedrus:

     He, therefore, who leaves behind him, and he again who
     receives an art in writing, with the idea that anything
     clear and fixed is to proceed from the writing, must be
     altogether a foolish-minded person...

In the Seventh Epistle we have the oft-quoted passage:

     There is no writing of mine on these matters, nor will
     there ever be one. For this knowledge is not something that
     can be put into words like other sciences; but after
     long-continued intercourse between teacher and pupil, in
     joint pursuit of the subject, like light flashing forth
     when a fire is kindled, it is born in the soul and
     straightway nourishes itself.

The Seventh Epistle may or may not be spurious, but if it is a
forgery, the forger must have known his Plato well and with insight.
The substance of the above-quoted passage is in complete harmony with
what we learn from the Republic about the Form of the Good that
transcends both knowledge and being and with Plato's insistence that
dialectic must do away with or destroy (anairein) all hypotheses.

If we were not too timid to challenge Aristotle's redoubtable
authority, we could easily see that all the early Socratic dialogues
were meant to show that no argument is incontrovertible, no
theoretical statement is free of contradiction, no idea (form,
concept) can be defined in terms extraneous to the idea, but can only
be seen in the light of its own self-evidence -- an insight
Wittgenstein arrived at after he 'threw the ladder' he climbed up in
the Tractatus.

The Phaedo is the only dialogue -- the one and only Platonic dialogue
-- where the argument is apparently intent on proving a definite
positive proposition, yet not one of the arguments pretends to be
conclusive. All that the fourth argument, commonly seen as the 'top'
argument, shows is that the soul -- not the soul identified with nous
but the soul simply as the principle of life -- is opposed to death.
If we take that seriously we would have to admit that the meanest bug
is as immortal as Socrates. The final word on the whole tissue of the
arguments of the Phaedo is given by Simmias in 107a-b: 'I can't help
still having in my own mind some disbelief about what has been said',
anagkazomai apistian eti echein par emautoi peri ton eiremenon, to
which Socrates responds approvingly and adds, 'also our first
hypotheses, even if you find them acceptable, nevertheless need to be
examined more closely', kai tas ge hupotheseis tas protas, kai ei
pistai humin eisin, homos episkepteai saphesteron (107b). Why Plato
in the Phaedo has gone to such lengths to make Socrates defend a
doctrine that the Apology clearly shows him to be indifferent, that
is a question that everyone may answer to her or his satisfaction.

I suppose that despite Plato's explicit and clear warning and
admonition, members of the Academy continued to reason dogmatically,
expecting to reach final, definitive, demonstrable propositions. I
imagine that Plato in composing the Parmenides was saying to them:
'Here is what I have been telling you. I give it to you bare of all
garb of myth or metaphor, destitute of all embellishment.'

To do this he takes the thesis of Father Parmenides -- the Father of
all Rationalism -- and patiently, meticulously, stringently shows
that 'whatever we assume to be or not to be, it will seem that both
the One and the Many, will be, both in relation to themselves and to
each other, all things and no-thing.'

We should be careful not to confuse this position with Pyrrhonism
which proclaims the futility of all reasoning. This is the misology
we are emphatically warned against in the Phaedo and amounts to a
denial of Platonism and a betrayal of all that Socrates lived for and
died for. Plato, true to his Socratic legacy, identifies the good life
with the philosophical life and the philosophical life with
philosophizing. It is the living exercise of that one faculty in us
that gives us our specific character as rational beings, that one
thing in us, as Socrates said, that thrives by doing what is right
and withers by doing what is wrong. In that exercise, in phronesis,
we do not reach true conclusions but live the proper life of a
rational being. In phronesis we do not find truth but find our own
reality. In an inspired passage of the Republic Plato delineates the
progress of the philosophic soul towards communion with reality,
uniting with what has real being, begetting intelligence and reality
(aletheian) and enjoying true life. The progress of the philosophic
soul here described is essentially the same as the account given of
the ascent to absolute Beauty in the Symposium.

The philosophic ascent does not end in the acquisition of knowledge
but in communion with reality. We behold reality when we find that
reality within ourselves and we give expression to that reality in
myth, parable, and metaphor. We give expression to our reality in
poetry, be it the poetry of Shelley's Prometheus Unbound or of
Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Idea, for philosophers wrong
themselves when they think they are disclosing the truth about the
external world while all the time they are shaping their own inner
reality in imaginative forms, as real and as fanciful as the camels
and squirrels a child forms in the sailing clouds.

Examining the detailed arguments of the various hypotheses does not
fall within the scope of this short article. In any case there is no
dearth of erudite scrutinizations of these, noting a fault here,
detecting an actual or a presumed fallacy there. While these learned
investigations have their proper place and function and while they
constitute a healthy and enjoyable exercise of the intellect, I
venture to say that they do more harm than good when they blind us to
the lesson Plato meant his readers to find in the dialogue. I maintain
that Plato composed the Parmenides neither to confirm nor to refute
nor yet to elucidate Parmenides' doctrine of the One. Plato comes
nearest to doing that in the Sophist. But our dialogue leads us over
the arid deductions of the successive hypotheses to the clear vision
conveyed in its concluding assertion that, ' whatever we assume to be
or not to be, it will seem that both the One and the Many, will be,
both in relation to themselves and to each other, all things and
no-thing.'
     
To sum up I reproduce the opening paragraph of the final section of
Chapter Eight of Plato: An Interpretation:

     The second part of the Parmenides is wholly what Plato
     plainly says it is, an exercise in dialectic (in the sense
     of the Republic) -- an exercise intended to bring out the
     twin core-lessons of dialectic:
     
     (1) Logically, no determinate statement is simply true; no
     determinate statement can be permitted the mortal hubris of
     pretending to finality; if it does it can always be shown to
     be false; to understand any statement we have to attend not
     only to what it says but also to what it does not say.
     
     (2) Metaphysically, no particular, finite, determinate
     thing can claim simply to be; in itself and by itself it
     cannot have the intelligibility of reality; the question
     can always be put to it, 'Whence and wherefor art thou?';
     to be justified, its particular, finite, determinate
     actuality has to be effaced in other than itself. And all
     of this is nothing but the germination of the seed of the
     Socratic elenchus. The scholarly dissections, analyses, and
     criticisms of the hypotheses and arguments of the second
     part of the Parmenides are a good intellectual game, but
     when they are thought to give us (or, more often, to
     annihilate) the meaning or the essence of the Parmenides
     (or of any dialogue of Plato), they are far worse than
     useless; they are deadly. In endlessly splitting and
     resplitting the husks they let the kernel go to waste. The
     only way to appropriate the whole seed is to plant it in
     living intelligence, to flower there and bear fruit that
     the erudite cannot detect in the seed however minutely they
     may dissect it or under however powerful a logical
     microscope they may examine it.
     
(c) D. R. Khashaba 2014

Email: dkhashaba@yahoo.com
Weblog: http://khashaba.blogspot.com

-=-

II. 'CREATIVE ETERNITY' BY D. R. KHASHABA

Prefatory note

I am convinced that no original philosopher -- at any rate if we are
speaking of philosophers infected with the metaphysical craze of
aspiring to behold the One in the Many and the Many in the One --
reaches her or his fundamental position by proceeding inferentially
from initial premises. Rather, such a philosopher early in her or his
thinking venture, struggles to find intelligibility in the chaos of
her or his experiential nebula until she or he has a vision that
confers intelligibility on the whole that only then becomes a whole.
Thus, as I recall, it was in my boyhood that I saw that ultimately
Reality must be a Will, and will being essentially purposive, it is
Love. I could only find all being and all becoming intelligible if I
conceived of ultimate Reality as intelligent and good. That
intelligent and good Will I named Creative Eternity.

When Geoffrey Klempner generously suggested there should be a special
issue of Philosophy Pathways for my work, I said I would contribute an
article on the Parmenides and another one on Creative Eternity, which
initially I intended to be an original piece. Unfortunately my
rapidly deteriorating eyesight has made writing a veritable torment
for me, and after braving it through the Parmenides article, I could
not have the heart to take another plunge, much as I desired to do
that. I decided to offer something I had ready on the subject. It had
to be either Chapter One of Book Two of Let Us Philosophize (1998,
2008) or Chapter Seventeen of Quest of Reality (2013). I settled for
the latter, which I reproduce below without any change.

CREATIVE ETERNITY

Being is the ultimate mystery before which we stand in speechless
acquiescence. But sheer Being is barren. Indeed, absolutely formless,
absolutely unqualified Being is utterly unthinkable. It is not even
equivalent to Nothing, because we can think of Nothing as relative
nothingness, but sheer Being is an absolute blank, indistinguishable
from utter Nothingness, which Plato in the Sophist declared to be
totally unthinkable.

The ultimate origin and source of all things cannot be thought of as
simple Being. The ultimate source and origin of things must have it
in its nature to mutate, to move, to spawn variegated progeny. It is
in vain that we ask, How?, Why? For this too is a mystery that will
forever remain a mystery, but it is thinkable, it is imaginable. It
is thinkable and imaginable because we have the model of it n the
immediacy of our awareness of our inner reality.

The Indian sages saw that Brahma's absolute Being cannot explain the
world we live in; though this world be nothing but illusory Maya, yet
it proclaims itself to be the progeny of the Absolute and dares the
Absolute to disown it. The Indian sages thus envisioned the One as
three-in-one, a triad, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva -- the Creator, the
Preserver, the Destroyer. The Indian Trimurti, like the Christian
Trinity, was a happy metaphysical idea. In my first book, Let Us
Philosophize, I insisted that, for becoming to be intelligible, for
the actual world to be intelligible, we have to conceive of ultimate
Reality as multi-dimensional.

All around us in the phenomenal world we encounter things that now
are this, then are that. We say they change, we say they become what
they were not, we say one thing brings forth another. But Hume told
us that all we can justifiably say is that one state of being is
succeeded by another state of being. The testimony of our immediate
experience -- in Humean terms -- does not entitle us to speak of
change or becoming, let alone causation. The ideas of change,
becoming, causation, are forms cast by our mind on the deliverances
of our experience to give them intelligibility.

In the end it is our internal, immediate awareness of our own
movements and our own doings that is the model and the vindication of
our notions of all forms of becoming. And my internal, immediate
awareness of my movements and my doings does not give me evidence of
myself or of anything within me 'causing' another thing. My immediate
internal experience testifies to creativity. I am writing these
sentences; my mind brings them forth from nowhere but from within
itself. My mind is not working on any material foreign to itself. My
model -- and it is that and nothing but that -- for a Reality that
can bring forth and originate things is this creativity that I know
in myself.

The causation that I exercise and experience when I work on foreign
material, when I make a table or build a house, I find of no
metaphysical significance, though it was traditionally the model
after which a transcendent God producing the world out of nothing was
fashioned. The only way I can find becoming, any becoming,
intelligible, is by thinking of it as creativity.

As I said in Let Us Philosophize (Bk, II, Ch. 3, 6) we do not know
any instance of one single thing causing another thing. We always
have a complex circumstance consisting of multiple elements issuing
in a new, original, complex circumstance. How? When the process is
outside us, we can observe it, we can describe it, but we can never
find an explanation for it. But when the process is within our
conscious being, we are aware of an instance of creativity.

I envision what is ultimately there, what was ultimately there in the
beginning that is not a beginning but the arche (principle) of all
beginning, not as a thing that is and not as a thing that becomes but
as the becoming that is itself all that there is. The becoming has
content; it is this issuing into that, this bringing forth that.
Neither the this that becomes what it is not nor the that that comes
from what it is not is the real. Wordsworth exuberates, utters, 'My
heart leaps up.' The exuberance is not a thing in itself but exists;
the utterance is not a thing in itself, but exists. Neither the one
nor the other is the real; the real is the soul (mind) that out of
the exuberance created the utterance. But this real soul (mind) is
nowhere; it is not a thing that is; it is not the creator of the
utterance; it is the creativity that is the exuberance become an
utterance.

Ultimately what is, is the activity, the creativity; and I find that
creativity multi-dimensional. Two dimensions that I find in all that
is are: reality and existence. The existent is the actual, and the
existent is in incessant becoming. It becomes what it is not. It
cannot be in itself. It only has being in and for the intelligence
that lends it reality by giving it form, by clothing it in an
intelligible form. The form in a sense is the real. This is the
Platonic eidos, the Platonic ousia. But the existent and the form
have their being in the intelligence that creates the form and lends
reality to the evanescent existent. And the intelligence that creates
is not a thing that is but is the act of creation, is simply
creativity. I designate ultimate Reality as creative intelligence.
But this designation can be misleading. Ultimate Reality is not an
intelligence that is and creates; it is the act of intelligent
creativity. Creativity involves temporality and the reality that
subsumes the creativity must be supra-temporal. Hence I designate
ultimate Reality as Creative Eternity. I also call Reality the Act.

Parmenides insisted that the real must be one, whole, free of all
change, free of any finitude or qualification. But from such a simple
One our world of change and imperfection and particularity could not
have come. Heraclitus had declared that in our actual world there is
no permanence or stability or perfection. The perfect One of
Parmenides cannot yield this actual world, and the actual world with
its fleeting, insubstantial unrealities cannot satisfy our yearning
for intelligibility. Heraclitus himself spoke of a Logos that puts
sense in the senseless tumult of our world, and Parmenides had to
append to his Way of Truth a Way of Seeming giving an account of the
fickle appearances of our world. Somebody had to put these together
to make each remedy the defect of the other. Plato found that the
shadowlike things of the world obtain meaning and reality from the
Forms generated by the mind and further found that these
meaning-giving and reality-giving Forms unite in the Form of the Good
which, being the source of being and intelligence, is yet beyond being
and intelligence. Of this Form of the Good we can only speak in
parable and simile and myth. The vision embodied in the notion of
Creative Eternity is my myth for this Reality we perforce aspire to
but can never comprehend. And I find the model of this Reality within
me when I spontaneously extend a helping hand to a helpless creature,
or when, seeing a thing of beauty, I breathe a benediction.

Creative Eternity is, like Plato's Form of the Good, beyond being and
beyond intelligence. To enjoy being and intelligence It engenders
transient existents that have their reality in intelligible Forms. A
poet's reality is not her or his body or her or his fleeting
affections; a poet's reality is her or his personality (soul, mind,
intelligence). A poet's personality is never an actuality. A poet has
actuality only in her or his ephemeral creations. The poet's
actuality, realized in her or his creations, like the actuality of
her or his corporeal being, is immersed in the imperfection and
corruptibility of all finite existence. The poet's reality is the
ever-burning flame of her or his intelligent creativity. And the
reality of Creative Eternity is beyond being but is ever actualized
in the creation of evanescent creations.

Life is a reality. It is actualized in a living thing, but the life
of a living thing is never an actuality. Life is actual in the
living, ever changing, ever passing away thing and is real in the
transcendence of the constant evanescence of the living thing. Life
is never there, never here, never this: life is the transcendence in
which what is there, what is here, what is this, in vanishing obtains
reality.

The principle of creativity is necessary for the intelligibility of
becoming. Only the free, purposive act is internally coherent and so
completely intelligible. The free, purposive act is spontaneous; it
is supra-temporal, is, in a sense, eternal. This is the only eternity
that has meaning for us, the only eternity we can experience and hence
understand.

A reality that is pure being is an empty abstraction. A reality that
is all becoming with no share in being is unintelligible. In all
process there is a unity in which successive moments are coevally
present. The act is the only self-sufficing, internally coherent
reality.

To conceive of ultimate Reality as self-sufficient, self-supporting,
and inherently coherent we have to see it as an act, an eternal act,
an act eternally affirming its being in ceaselessly creating its
evanescent existential presentations. That is the insight that came
to me as a boy and that has been the core, the foundational
principle, of my philosophy ever since.

Shakespeare's corporeal being is in ceaseless mutation. It is not
this moment what it was the moment before, no part of it is this
moment what it was the moment before. His mind, his personality, his
reality, is, strictly speaking, literally nowhere. It is never a
this. It does not exist. But his mind affirms its reality in
creatively engendering ephemeral worlds. What is not, yet creates: it
is not an entity that creates but is simply the creativity. That is
our model of self-sufficient, intelligible reality. Even our body
affirms its unity by constantly reproducing itself. God affirms Its
reality by ceaselessly reproducing Its existence.

I have always believed and affirmed that to be is to be good, and
that statement has always had for me a double meaning: first,
whatever is, is positive and has value in its proper context;
secondly, for a human being, to attain true being, to attain some
measure of perfection, she or he has to be good. Badness (I am
avoiding the word 'evil' as too strong, too restricted) is
essentially negative and destructive. Goodness is positive and
affirmative, affirming all value and all positive being. Hence true
being is love and love affirms all true being. These are not puerile
sentiments. This is the sum of wisdom.

The alpha and the omega of all wisdom is that humans have wandered
far and wide in quest of reality to find in the end that the reality
they sought is within them. The reality that in seeking they created,
the only reality accessible to them, is their own reality; and that
reality is not Being, is not Essence, is not Knowledge, but is their
own Creativity, is love that out of its fullness creates ever new
dream worlds.

While I say that we are rooted in Reality and also say that the
reality in ourselves is all the reality we know, I cannot
dogmatically say that we know the World or know Reality in any sense
other than the Reality we create for ourselves. I do not know how to
characterize, or how students of philosophy may characterize, this
position; but I think that is all our nature and the nature of the
world permit us, and I am content to live with that much.

The reality of ultimate Reality, of Creative Eternity, is its
creativity. It is never an actuality. Its reality is its
transcendence of the transience of all actuality. Reality is the
transcendent Act. The Act is purposive; purposiveness is Love; it is
Plato's tokos en kaloi, procreation in beauty. This is my vision of
Reality, my model of ultimate Reality. The model is confessedly made
in the image of the only reality known to human intelligence. I
cannot find the ultimate mystery of Being or the obstinate riddle of
Becoming intelligible except in terms of such a vision.

Creative Eternity is the transcendence of evanescence ever realized
in the ceaseless vanishing of the evanescent. Creative Eternity is
the God that is beyond being and hence cannot exist but has
existential actuality in the dreams It eternally dreams.

I cannot, with Tennyson, look forward to 'one, far-off, divine event
/ To which the whole creation moves'. I do not find it metaphysically
cogent that the world tends to an end. End, then what? I think that as
Reality, as Eternity, admits of no beginning, so it admits of no end.
Reality, Eternity, is a constant Act, an everlasting creativity. The
Act is the alpha and the omega. Reality is not a creation but
creativity. Hence I name Reality: Creative Eternity.

If reality is to have any meaning for us, if reality is to be
intelligible to us at all, we have to see Reality as that Power

     Which wields the world with never-wearied love,
     Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above.
     (Shelley, Adonais, XLII.)

(c) D. R. Khashaba 2013

Email: dkhashaba@yahoo.com
Weblog: http://khashaba.blogspot.com

-=-

III. 'SOCRATES ANSWERS ARISTOTLE' BY D. R. KHASHABA

Prefatory note

In 2006 I published Socrates' Prison Journal. The idea of that little
book had been hovering in my mind for years, literally for decades,
but I kept putting it off fearing that the fictional framework might
lure me to efface the line between what may reasonably be ascribed to
Socrates and what would come from me albeit inspired by Socrates.
After I published Plato: An Interpretation (2005) where I showed what
I thought we may ascribe to Socrates, and what to Plato, and what I
offered as my development of the Socratic-Platonic position, I
thought I could go back to my old pet fancy. For about the first
one-third of the 'journal' I kept close to what Socrates might have
written, then I gave myself free rein, inventing situations,
conversations with Aspasia and Diotima, and in 'Day Twenty-Five' I
made Socrates have a prophetic dream where he discussed with
Aristotle (not the 'young' Aristotle appearing in the Parmenides but
the yet unborn Stagirite) the latter's 'future' objections to
Socrates' moral philosophy. See the endnote (ii) below which appears
as note 73 on page 194 of Socrates' Prison Journal. Endnotes (iii)
and (iv) appear as notes 74 and 75 in the book.

DAY TWENTY-FIVE

Last night I saw a strange dream. I saw myself seated with friends in
the Lyceum when a comely man, a stranger to me, came straight to us.
As he was approaching I heard someone call him the wise man of
Stagira. He greeted us and said he would like to join us in
conversation. We welcomed him and asked him to be seated.

Immediately, as though he had come on purpose to perform some
assigned mission, he said to me, 'O Socrates, I will readily admit
that what you say in general about virtue and the good for human
beings is more excellent than the teaching of Pythagoras. Still, I
know that, since you love the truth, you will not be angry with me
when I say I believe you are wrong when you make the virtues forms of
knowledge.'

I said, 'Much gratitude do I owe you for correcting my mistake. But
do me the favour of explaining more plainly what you find wrong with
the view you say is mine.'

The Stagirite said, 'In making the virtues sciences you ignore the
unreasoning part of the soul. Your good friend Plato has, some time
after your departure to Hades, correctly divided the soul into a
reasoning part, a passionate part, and a desiring part, both parts
unreasoning but the spirited more akin to reason while the desiring
part is farther removed from reason.'

I said, 'Worthy friend, in saying that I make the virtues sciences
you make me wiser than I know myself to be. But to this point we may
come back later. About the parts of the soul, indeed I expected Plato
to improve much on the thoughts he developed while he was associating
with me. But so slow-witted am I that I cannot see in what way this
partition of the soul might help. If the spirited and the desiring
parts are separate from the reasoning part, then how does their
action differ from -- if it is not improper to speak of such things
-- sneezing or sinking into a coma when one's head is hit? The action
then, if it is to be called an action, is not an action of the human
being as a human being. But if these parts are not truly separate but
are somehow joined with the reasoning part, then the more a human
being lives truly as a human being, the more the impulses and the
inclinations offered by those parts are integrated into the system of
goals and values ordered and harmonized by reason, from which issue
all acts of a human being acting truly as a human being.'

I was embarrassed by the way I was carried away by enthusiasm. I
thought the stranger would have every right to say that my speech
provided a good example of an act of passion ungoverned by reason.
Fortunately for me, it seems that the Stagirite found what I said too
hollow to be worthy of comment.

Instead of commenting on what I had said he continued, 'So you think
that, since knowledge is a noble thing, best able to govern human
beings, if a person knows what is good and what is bad, then that
person will not be overcome by anything so as to make him act
otherwise than as knowledge dictates, reason being all the support
needed for right action.'

I said, 'Yes, that is what I believe.'

Despite his gentle nature and urbane manner he retorted sharply, 'But
this is starkly contradicted by the facts.'

I was taken aback but with an effort managed to hold my ground so
that I could somehow say, 'I know that people do bad things which
even they call bad, but do they then know what is good and what is
bad? What people call bad, even when it is actually bad, they call
bad for the wrong reason. What people call good, even when it is
actually good, they call good for the wrong reason. If people knew
that only what prospers the soul is good and only what harms the soul
is bad, then no one would willingly do what is hurtful to one's inner
treasure.'

The Stagirite mused for a while then said, 'If you maintain that when
people are bad, it is out of ignorance and not of their will, then you
will have also to maintain that when they are good, that also is not
of their will.'

That baffled me and for a while I didn't know what to think. There
was a catch somewhere. Then I thought I saw where the problem was. I
said, 'There is a mixture of two questions here. These must be set
apart if we are to think aright. First there is the question as to
how we come to be good or bad persons. Then there is the question
about how we do good or bad deeds. The question as to how we come to
be good or bad persons is a greatly entangled one and to attempt to
consider it now would take us away from the problems we have been
discussing. When it comes to the question about doing good or bad
deeds, to say that one who knows what is good necessarily does the
good and therefore does not act of one's will is to wrangle about
words. Or, seen from another angle, here too we have a mixing of two
different questions. We must set apart will and choice. We choose
between alternatives, weighing a greater advantage against a lesser
advantage or a greater loss against a lesser loss. But when we are to
do good or bad the idea of choice is not relevant. A mother does not
choose to suckle her baby and she is not less free for that. I will
not say she has no choice but I will say that she is not faced with
the need to make any choice.'

My verbiage exasperated the stranger; I know the feeling all too
well. He said, 'Let us go back to the point you said we may revert to
later. You think that all the virtues are forms of knowledge, so that
to know what justice is, is to be just.'

'My dear friend,' I answered, 'if that were what I thought, I would
lose all hope of ever finding a single just person. For no one knows
what justice is. But I believe that by seriously examining the
meaning of justice and contemplating the idea of justice inherent in
our mind, we nourish and strengthen the arete and dunamis of justice
that is -- I will not say 'in our psuche' but -- somehow one with our
psuche. We do not become just by knowing what justice -- a justice
separate from and other than us -- is, but by discovering,
uncovering, the justice that is in us.'

Apparently my answer did not satisfy the stranger. He said,
'Socrates, I know that the knowledge of virtue is what you sought
after all your life, but we do not want to know what courage is, but
to be courageous; we do not want to know what justice is, but to be
just.'

I said, 'My dear friend, I assure you that those of my comrades who
gave you to understand that my pursuit was for knowledge of what
virtue is have failed to understand me and have misinformed you. As I
have said just now, I did not expect them or want them to find the
meaning of justice or courage or piety anywhere outside themselves,
least of all in any formula of words, but to find it in themselves by
contemplating their own inner reality. And I assure you that it was
always my conviction that we are not brave by knowing about bravery
but by knowing what attitudes and deeds are wholesome for our soul
and what harmful, and so with all virtue, we do not acquire virtue by
knowing about virtue but by having clear and constantly alive insight
into what gives our soul health and beauty and what harms and
distorts our soul.'

At this point some noise coming from beyond the prison gate disturbed
my sleep and interrupted my dream. The objections that the stranger
advanced to my views in the dream were all familiar to me from my
friends and others but somehow I felt that the dream related to a
time beyond the present time. What that might mean I do not profess
to know.

(c) D. R. Khashaba 2006

Email: dkhashaba@yahoo.com
Weblog: http://khashaba.blogspot.com


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