P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 112
21st November 2005
I. 'A Brief Outline of Radical Constructivism' by Nick Redfern
II. 'Pornography, Sex and Feminism' by Alan Soble, reviewed by Rachel Browne
III. 'Interview with Daoud Khashaba' by Joseph Smith
IV. 'Celebrating World Philosophy Day 2005 Zadar/ Nin Croatia' by Bruno Curko
November 17th was UNESCO's World Philosophy Day. In Croatia, the day was
celebrated with discussion groups and papers held at the town of Zadar
stretching over ten days. More details in Bruno Curko's report, below.
In this issue we are lucky to have permission from Joseph Smith, editor of The
Die, to reproduce an interview with Daoud Khashaba who has contributed many
fine articles to Pathways.
The Pathways e-journal is no stranger to controversy. Khashaba is known for his
trenchant views about the current state of academic philosophy. In this issue,
Nick Redfern takes issue with Herman Pietersen's attempt to preserve a
'dialogue' between absolutist and non-absolutist views of knowledge and truth.
According to Redfern, we would be better off to abandon the debate altogether
in favour of a 'radical constructivist' approach.
Pushing the boundaries one step further, Rachel Browne engages with the views
of of the American philosopher Alan Soble, who in his defence of pornography
has outraged feminists and conservatives alike with his debunking of what he
sees is the 'illusion' of human dignity.
I. 'A BRIEF OUTLINE OF RADICAL CONSTRUCTIVISM' BY NICK REDFERN
Indeed, there has never been nor will there ever be a man,
Who knows the truth about the gods and all the matters of
which I speak. For even if one should happen to speak what
is the case especially well, Still he himself would not
know it. But belief occurs in all matters.
Xenophanes of Colophon
In his critical commentary on Richard Rorty, Pietersen (2005) identifies 'two
main camps' in the history of philosophical thought, which he claims are
'indispensable' and 'complimentary,' and present us with 'the ancient, ongoing
and seemingly unbridgeable divide between thinkers.' These two camps are the
'philosophies of the One,' which are understood to be broadly Platonic; and the
'philosophies of the Many,' which he associates with Sophism. For Pietersen,
this divide is unavoidable:
There seems to be no escaping this dialectic. One cannot go
further, there is no Hegelian synthesis into 'Absolute
Spirit' here -- only the possible danger of disappearing
into a 'cloud of all-knowing' (dogmatism, foundationalism,
a mystical One) or a 'morass of never-knowing' (scepticism,
relativism, a mere passing parade of the Many). That is why,
[in Pietersen's view], the centre must be made to hold --
why both centrifugal and centripetal forces are needed in
It is essential, in Pietersen's view, to avoid the extremes of the determinism
and the totalitarianism of the 'Rule of the One' and the anarchism of the 'Rule
of the Many' by maintaining a dialogue between these two opposing philosophies.
However, there is no reason why philosophy should be confined to these opposing
positions, or why we should carry on this dialogue. In this essay I outline
Ernst von Glasersfeld's Radical Constructivism as a theory of knowing that does
not conform to Pietersen's description of the conversation of philosophy. It is
to be distinguished from both realism and solipsism, and offers the possibility
of moving beyond an exhausting and exhausted debate.
2. Radical Constructivism
Searle (1999: 2079) states that, 'the biggest single obstacle to progress of a
systematic theoretical kind has been the obsession with epistemology.' Radical
Constructivism is an attempt to move beyond epistemology, and has been
described by the school's founder, Ernst von Glasersfeld (1984, 1991, 1995), as
a 'theory of knowing' rather than a 'theory of knowledge.'
Radical Constructivism was conceived as an attempt to circumvent the paradox of
traditional epistemology that springs from a perennial assumption that is
inextricably knitted into Western philosophy: the assumption that knowledge may
be called 'true' only if it can be considered a more or less accurate
representation of a world that exists 'in itself,' prior to and independent of
the knower's experience of it. The paradox arises, because the works of
philosophers by and large imply, if not explicitly claim, that they embody a
path towards Truth and True representations of the world, yet none of them has
been able to provide a feasible test for the accuracy of such representations
(Glasersfeld 1991: 13).
As such an approach, Radical Constructivism has been described as
'post-epistemology' (Noddings 1990).
Radical Constructivism puts forward two main claims:
knowledge is not passively received but actively built up
by the cognising subject;
the function of cognition is adaptive and serves the
organisation of the experiential world, not the discovery
of ontological reality (Glasersfeld 1989: 162).
From a Radical Constructivist perspective, the cognising subject cannot
transcend his/ her experiences and all knowledge is constructed out of those
experiences. However, this does not imply a denial of reality, but states that
as we cannot transcend the limits of our experience it is impossible to tell
(and therefore unnecessary to know) to what degree our knowledge reflects an
observer-independent reality. Consider Sextus Empiricus' example of the
cognising organism's experience of an apple:
Each appearance that we perceive through the senses seems
to present itself under many forms; an apple, for instance,
seems smooth, fragrant, sweet, and yellow. It is uncertain,
however, whether these are really the only qualities it
possesses, or whether it is of one quality only but appears
in different forms because the various sense-organs are of
different construction. It may also be that it has more
qualities than are apparent, and that some of them are not
perceived by us... there may subsist in the apple only
those qualities which we seem to apprehend, likewise that
there may subsist more than just these; or again that even
the ones we perceive may not subsist at all; it follows
that it will be non-evident to us what kind thing the apple
is (Sextus Empiricus 1985: 57-59).
Note that Sextus Empiricus states that our experience of an apple is neither
absolutist nor relativistic, but is 'uncertain.' That is, any cognising
organism that experiences an apple cannot claim to possess knowledge because
there can be no way of confirming or denying to what extent its experiences
represent reality. From this perspective both ontology and epistemology are
redundant: Radical Constructivism is agnostic with regard to whatever may
'exist,' and it is important to note that Radical Constructivism is a theory of
knowing and not a theory of being.
In the place of representing the 'real' world, Radical Constructivism
identifies a different function for cognition in organising the cognising
organism's experiential world. This aspect is derived from the work of Jean
Piaget (1937), who stated that: 'The essential functions of the mind consist in
understanding and in inventing, in other words, in building up structures by
structuring reality (Piaget 1971: 27). As a biologist, Piaget described the
process organising experience as a process of adaptation, in which a cognising
organism seeks to assimilate its experiences into the psychological structures
it already possess and where it is unable to do so attempts to accommodate the
error by modifying those structures or creating new ones. Glasersfeld (2001:
39) describes the principle of adaptation in Radical Constructivist thought:
[A]daptation is not an activity but the result of the
elimination of all that is not adapted. Consequently, on
the biological level, anything that manages to survive is
'adapted' to the environment in which it happens to find
itself living... Taken out of the biological context and
applied to cognition, this means that 'to know' is not to
possess true representations of reality, but rather to
possess ways and means of acting and thinking that will
allow one to attain the goals one happens to have chosen.
The key to evaluating competing knowledge claims, therefore, is not to seek to
compare them to a mind-independent reality that cannot be known, but to assess
their cognitive viability. There is more at stake here than the 'conversation
of philosophy:' our very survival is dependent upon us possessing viable ways
and means behaving in the world.
The principle of adaptation allows us to avoid the anarchistic relativism of
the 'philosophies of the Many' by accepting that a cognising organism is
constrained by its environment and its historical assembly. The environment, as
it is experienced by an organism, is experienced as a set of constraints.
Riegler (2001) cites the example of a traffic network consisting of different
means of transportation. If we travel by car, then only those points connected
by roads are accessible; whereas if we travel by foot, those points that lie in
between may be accessed but only if they are within walking distance. The
different modes of transportation impose different restrictions on our ability
to move about the network, and so 'free arbitrariness ' is not possible. The
decision to take a particular mode of transport will act as a constraint on our
subsequent decisions about where we are going and how quickly we get there.
Similarly, the construction network is the mind is necessarily non-arbitrary,
and Riegler describes constructions as historical assemblies. This historical
aspect imposes a hierarchical organisation in which more recent additions build
on older ones, creating mutual interdependencies between an organism's
experiences and severely restricting the degrees of freedom of the way
subsequent constructions can be accomplished. Furthermore, the action of
cognising organisms is goal-directed, and successful actions will be repeated
because such organisms are inductive and function in a conservative manner in
so far as they repeat only that which works (Maturana 1970). Note that Radical
Constructivism does not deny that a cognising organism interacts with its
environment but does deny that such an organism can know reality in the
traditional, ontological sense: the environment that we experience is always
our construction (Foerster 1973). Radical Constructivism does not limit us to
the absolutism of the 'philosophies of the One,' but equally it does not permit
Pietersen's division of philosophy into categories of 'the One' and 'the Many'
only maintains its relevance within a traditional approach to knowledge. It is
an antiquated debate, but unfortunately one that shows no signs of flagging.
Since Xenophanes stated that all man could have is belief, the arguments of the
sceptics have been rejected by those who claim knowledge of the world, but in
2500 years of Western philosophy it has never been demonstrated how it is
possible for a cognising organism to know the world. Yet the dogmatic belief in
The argument that it is a virtue to keep the conversation between these
differing philosophies is noble, but ignores the fact that these positions
increasingly become polarised over time. Philosophers on both sides of this
ancient divide do not engage in constructive discourse; rather, they talk past
one another. Dr. Johnson's refutation of Bishop Berkeley's A Treatise
Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge could hardly be described as
sincere or useful debate. Radical Constructivism is an approach that affords
the philosopher an escape from Pietersen's unending dialectic, and offers a
non-traditional approach to philosophy that allows us to be free of an ancient
philosophical debate that ultimately cannot be resolved, and to develop new
ways of understanding how and why we make sense of the world in the way we do.
As La Moigne (1995) has pointed out, constructivism is a theory that requires
philosophers to make a radical break from the generally accepted view that our
knowledge of the world must lie somewhere between materialism and idealism.
Foerster, H. von, On constructing a reality, in F.E. Preiser (ed.)
Environmental Research Design, Volume 2. Stroudsburg: Dowden, Hutchinson &
Ross, 1973: 35-46.
Glasersfeld, E. von (1984) An introduction to radical constructivism, in P.
Watzlawick (ed.) The Invented Reality: How Do We Know What We Believe We Know?
New York: Norton: 17-40.
Glasersfeld, E. von (1989) Constructivism in education, in T. Husen and T.
Neville Postlethwaite (eds.) The International Encyclopaedia of Education
Research and Studies: Supplementary Volume 1. Oxford: Pergamon Press: 162-163.
Glasersfeld, E. von (1991) Knowing without metaphysics: aspects of the radical
constructivist position, in F. Steier (ed.) Research and Reflexivity. London:
Glasersfeld, E. von (1995) Radical Constructivism: A Way of Knowing and
Learning. London: Falmer Press.
Glasersfeld, E. von (2001) The radical constructivist view of science,
Foundations of Science 6 (1-3): 31-43.
La Moigne, J-L. (1995) Les epistemologies constructivistes. Paris: Presses
Universitaires de France.
Maturana, H. (1970) Biology of Cognition: Biological Computer Laboratory
Research Report BCL 9.0. Urbana: University of Illinois.
Noddings, N. (1990) Constructivism in mathematics education, in R. B. Davis, C.
A. Maher, and N. Noddings (eds.) Monographs of the Journal for Research in
Mathematics Education 4. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of
Piaget, J. (1937) La construction du reel chez l'enfant. Neuchatel: Delachaux
Piaget, J. (1971) Science of Education and the Psychology of the Child. New
York: Viking Press.
Pietersen, H.J. (2005) Critical commentary on Richard Rorty's thought,
Philosophy Pathways 111.
Riegler, A. (2001) Towards a radical constructivist understanding of science,
Foundations of Science 6 (1-3): 1-30.
Searle, J.R. (1999) The future of philosophy, Philosophical Transactions:
Biological Sciences 354 (1392): 2069-2080.
Sextus Empiricus (1985) Selections from the Major Writings on Scepticism, Man,
and God, edited by P.P. Hallie and translated by S.G. Etheridge. Indianapolis:
Hackett Publishing Company.
(c) Nick Redfern 2005
II. 'PORNOGRAPHY, SEX AND FEMINISM' BY ALAN SOBLE, REVIEWED BY RACHEL BROWNE
Pornography, Sex and Feminism
By Alan Soble
Although this book was published in 2002, I have just discovered it and am
driven to write a review because this is funniest philosophy book I've ever
read. It has been suggested that a philosopher is not likely to respond well to
the remark that a philosophy book they have written is funny, but it is
difficult to believe that this could be true of this author.
Alan Soble is Professor of philosophy at the University of New Orleans and has
published widely on sex and love. Not all his writing is as amusing as this
book: It has a tone of sarcasm, an attitude of cynicism and a necessary crudity
which can make you laugh out loud.
Although this is a pro-pornography book, and shows a vast acquaintance with
pornography available on the internet, a great deal of argument is directed
against feminist and conservative positions on pornography and sex.
While arguing for the innocuousness of pornography Soble describes the human
body as both 'beautiful and disgusting' (p.51) although he seems to hold the
personal opinion that it is rather more disgusting than beautiful. That Soble
holds the view that humans are more disgusting than beautiful becomes clear
towards the end of the book when he claims that if it is the case that
long-term monogamous relationships seldom last it is because humans are
revolting. This is a startling claim since it is simply not the case that
everyone shares Soble's view on human beings. It is a view which is difficult
to adopt, but that is not to say that it might not be true. If it is the
reification of the human being as that which is far superior to other animals,
worthy of respect, in possession of dignity and having the right to freedom
from harm becomes suspect.
The feminist and conservative view of sex, which is under attack is that, in
sexual relations, respect for the other should be shown and we should not treat
people as sexual objects. The sexual act is expected to include mutual
consideration and shared decision-making otherwise it is degrading and akin to
pornography (in the eyes of some feminists) which treats the body as something
to be 'used' for sexual purposes. This view of sex which Soble finds compatible
with Kantian ethics is accused of being 'metaphysical' and ignoring the reality
that, 'Most people in the real world are dirty, fat, ugly, dumb, ignorant,
selfish, thoughtless, unreliable, shifty, unrespectable mackerel' (p.54).
'Shitting', claims Soble, 'makes us realize that we are mere animals' (p.113).
Yet, stripped of our illusions 'sharing excrement' could be 'infinitely
intimate'. This is an even more startling claim and it is difficult to believe
that anyone would find this other than totally revolting. I would say that we
need a measure of dignity, psychological rather than metaphysical, in order not
to engage in such intimacy.
While Soble might go too far in his portrayal of the human as merely an animal,
his arguments against what he calls 'vanilla' sex are extremely persuasive.
'What', he asks 'does yearning desire know of showing consideration, except as
a means of fulfilling itself? What does the orgasmic peak know of mutual
respect?' (p.65). Not only does does Soble's view of sexual relations reflect
more truth than the 'vanilla' idea that sex should involve mutual respect,
Soble is amazingly able to sound both reasonable and unreasonable at the same
time on this: 'I hope I'd be the last person to encourage unrelentless
selfishness in bed, and I don't deny that it is inconsiderate although not a
mortal sin to interrupt your mate's orgasm with a tickle or derisive laughter'
(p.65). While not a mortal sin, I'd think it would go against sexual etiquette.
Soble saves his own derision for feminists, such as Martha Nussbaum, who argues
that objectification of women in pornography is not to treat them as autonomous
beings. Making women into objects for sexual enjoyment is something she finds
morally unacceptable. But Nussbaum, Soble argues 'is big on women, just because
they are women, giving them credit where no credit is due' (p.166). In a
discussion on a picture of the tennis player Nicollette Sheridan who appeared
in Playboy showing her knickers Soble rejects the idea that Sheridan degrades
herself and claims that any pleasure or appreciation by a man for this picture
can be seen as 'flattery'. It seems true to me that a man wouldn't be ignoring
Sheridan's autonomy, free will or subjectivity in that she chose to appear in
Playboy in this particular pose and that it is not the man who degrades her. If
there IS degradation going on here she has degraded herself. It isn't clear what
is degrading. But I think the feminist view of pornography actually denies women
worthiness of respect if they choose to appear in pornography by claiming that
pornography is morally wrong.
There is much to agree with and much to disagree with in this stimulating,
thought provoking and controversial book.
Being a woman myself, and never having looked at pornography, I would tend to
agree with the claim that there is a 'gap between male and female sexuality' if
it is truly the case that, 'Men, perverts one and all, have found their home on
the internet' looking at pornography sites (p.24). But the claim sounds
extremely implausible. It is possible that my husband and brother are perverts
who look at pornography but I find it extremely doubtful and have certainly
come across no evidence to suggest that they are. If my husband DOES look at
pornography, I wouldn't think he was 'perverted' and, in any case, if ALL men
are perverts it is difficult to find any meaning to perversion.
Further, the claim that, 'Male or men's sexuality is more variable, taking
delight not only in heterosexual coitus but in the whole range of sexual
possibilities' seems exceptionally naive especially coming from someone who has
been thinking about and writing on philosophy of sex for ten years and
unexpected given the tone of cynicism and sarcasm which runs through this book.
Apart from the tone of this book some of arguments are funny in themselves.
Given the view that a human is no better than an animal, Soble says 'I find the
claim dubious, that sex between a human and a different sort of animal is per se
objectionable' (p.69). You cannot but laugh at the following: 'Bestiality, as
far as I can tell, need not be abusive, violating, or dehumanizing to the human
participant... in the minds of its critics, the human really does become nothing
but a deranged animal, or descends to that vulgar level. But if humans are
already and only animals, no 'descent' to that level is possible... this reason
for objecting to bestiality disappears, leaving only animal liberation reasons
for not screwing around with dogs.' However, that we cannot be sure that an
animal has consented to penetration -- a requirement some feminists demand if
sex is to be moral -- does suggest that bestiality is equivalent to rape.
Most people think that we DO differ from animals, not for reasons of
metaphysical dignity, but because of our rational capacity and linguistic
ability. But we don't know how far this distinguishes us from animals. In fact,
looked at in terms of consciousness, man can even be found to have a similarity
to birds. Research on birds has found that they are able to follow simple
rules, store information/form concepts, maintain and manipulate mental
representations and become confused when their expectations are not met.
Soble doesn't put forward any views on sex with birds because he concentrates
on the fact that man is animal. And I'm not sure what he would say.
There must be a middle road between Soble and the feminists he disagrees with.
Soble doesn't point out that Kantian feminists are mis-using the concept of
dignity. In my view, we have quite a large amount of ordinary psychological
dignity: There are things that most of us rule out as things we just won't do,
such as rape and defecating with someone else. But we don't have to judge them
as morally wrong and get on a high horse with feminists and conservatives. The
vast majority of people simply recognise that some acts are only performed by
psychologically extraordinary people. We don't have to adopt a metaphysical
stance of unconditional respect for the subjectivity of the other or demand
equality in sexual relations in order to treat others reasonably.
Most people don't hold to an ethical 'theory' and Kantian ethics is only
objectionable within the field of philosophy. That academic feminists attacked
by Soble have adopted the Kantian idea of respect suggests that they are both
over-educated, and unrealistic and misguided in bringing a concept into sexual
relations that is inappropriate.
This is currently my favourite book, and it is strange that one other book that
I have been greatly attached to is Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of
 Evolution of the neural basis of consciousness: a bird-mammal comparison
by Ann B Butler, Paul R Manger, B I B Lindahl and Peter Arnhem in BioEssays
(c) Rachel Browne 2005
III. 'INTERVIEW WITH DAOUD KHASHABA' BY JOSEPH SMITH
[The following interview appeared in Issue 9 of The Die, and is reproduced here
with kind permission of the Editor. The Die is published by Red Roach Press,
In the spring of 2004, I sent a copy of The Die to Geoffrey Klempner. Shortly
thereafter, Klempner sent me an email in which he thanked me for The Die and
said he'd mention my publication the next issue of Pathways. True to his word,
when his next issue came out, there at the bottom was a small blurb about The
Die, along with information about how readers could get a copy. One of the
people who read that blurb and took me up on my offer of a free issue was none
other than independent philosopher Daoud R. Khashaba of Cairo, Egypt. Being
true to my word, I responded to Khashaba's e-mail and sent him a copy of The
Die. He must have liked it, for we have been in frequent contact ever since.
Now, Khashaba and I have never actually met, so I won't go so far as to say I
know him. Nevertheless, based on our correspondence clear that he and I share
the belief that philosophy is vital to not only our understanding of the world
but also to how we understand ourselves and our place in it. Philosophy, as
Khashaba writes in Let Us Philosophize, 'does not give us knowledge about
things. It gives us an understanding of our own minds,' that is, how and why we
think (or don't think) about the 'things' that surround us. This rather simple
conception of what philosophy can (and cannot) do goes straight to the heart of
why I believe philosophy is important to us each and every day of our lives. I
know Khashaba does, too, and that is precisely why I decided to interview him
for this issue of The Die.
Note: In addition to Let Us Philosophize (LUP), Khashaba runs the website
http://www.backtosocrates.com (where you can the find the complete text of Let
Us Philosophize) and also is the author of the recently published Plato: An
The Die When did you become interested in philosophy, and why has it captivated
your interest for so many years?
Khashaba As far back as I can remember, as a young boy, I felt that all human
beings needed to live in peace and harmony and that happiness was
understanding. I don't know how I would have defined understanding then; I
suppose it meant for me something like intuitive sympathy, like the
understanding between bosom friends, between mother and child, but I think
there was also in it the element of a true estimate of what really mattered in
That was during the troubled years that led to the outbreak of World War II,
and I recall that I felt completely at a loss to understand how grown up people
could fail to understand that, with goodwill and generosity, they could all have
enough of the goods they were killing each other for. At that time also I
remember I wanted to write Aesop-like fables, each with an explicit moral
'moral,' so to speak. So I suppose that I can say I thought philosophically
before I had ever heard of philosophy. When I came to read Plato's dialogues, I
found in Socrates that simple foolish faith in the power of understanding, and
it was inevitable that I should identify with him. I still believe that the
cure for all human ills is to be found in understanding but, sadly, I am no
longer as naively optimistic as I was in my boyhood or as Socrates was to the
end of his life.
The Die Why did you write Let Us Philosophize? Was it to provide readers with a
basic understanding of philosophy or to justify its study in a world where the
importance of philosophy is in question?
Khashaba I had long been developing a philosophical outlook that I believed
could contribute to human understanding. But until my early 60s my life was not
easy, and it was not possible for me to do any sustained writing, or any reading
to speak of for that matter. When my circumstances eased, believing that I could
not expect to live much longer, I exerted myself to get my scattered notes --
sometimes in tiny pieces or slips of paper -- into some shape. The result was
Let Us Philosophize, with its patchy, not always well-knit paragraphs.
My objective? I strongly felt that contemporary philosophy had lost its way.
Your phrase 'to justify its study in a world where the importance of philosophy
is in question' hits the nail on the head.
The Die Throughout LUP there is an undercurrent of praise for Plato and
Socrates. What is it about these two that you find so appealing? What can we
learn from them?
Khashaba I find in Socrates and Plato -- the thought of these two is a true
continuum -- the conception of philosophy as a ceaseless quest for
understanding ourselves and the conception of the good life as grounded in the
realization of the worth of our inner reality. I think these are the insights
that should inform all philosophy. This is the gist of my newly published
Plato: An Interpretation (2005).
The Die In LUP you write that, 'Humanity is in dire need of rejuvenating and
absorbing the SocratesÐPlatoÐAristotle contribution to the constitution of
humanity -- for it is truly that, nothing less.' Why do we need this
Khashaba I think I have already said why we need this rejuvenation. But let me
explain here what I mean by the odd-sounding phrase 'contribution to the
constitution of humanity.' This relates to the view that human beings live,
strictly speaking, in a world of ideas of their own creation. Our ideals, our
values, our beliefs, our superstitions, our illusions are all children of our
thought. And philosophy, as a creative exercise of intelligence, is a major
contributor of original ideas through which we see and experience the world and
ourselves in a particular manner and so live, strictly speaking, in a world
constituted by those ideas. Original thinkers give us spiritual eyes that shape
the world we live and move and have our being in. This is only metaphor insofar
as all linguistic expression is inescapably metaphorical.
The Die When discussing religion, you wrote that, 'Religion is a stage in the
development of human culture. With the spread of enlightenment, mankind should
discard religion, replacing it with philosophy.' In the most advanced of human
societies, man has neglected religion without becoming philosophical.' Is this
what Nietzsche was getting at when he wrote in Thus Spoke Zarathustra that (and
I'm paraphrasing here) 'even though man has succeeded in killing God, he has yet
to find anything with which to replace him'?
Khashaba Yes, I suppose what I had in mind was very much like what Nietzsche
had in mind. Only the other day, among notes I am preparing for a book I hope
to write on religion, I wrote something that I would have liked to quote in
full, if it were not too long, so let me just pluck the following sentences:
The French philosophies of the 18th century meant to render a much-needed
service to humanity when they sought to demolish all dogma and all superstition
and establish in their place the reign of reason. In their enthusiasm they
achieved an overkill. Their followers, equating reason with science, believed
that a scientific attitude and a scientific orientation were all that was
needed to give direction and meaning to human life. In place of the old
established religions of divine revelation we were given the new established
religion of scientific dictation. Thus, while the denudement of religious
experience of its theological trappings should have left us with the kernel of
pure philosophical insight, scientifically modeled thinking left us with an
objectively given world that cannot host value or meaning.
When Nietzsche preached the death of God he was dreaming of the abolition of
bondage to handed-down values. The Uebermensch would be ruled only from within.
If Nietzsche were to return today, he would be dismayed to find us moving toward
a situation where humans will be indistinguishable from the robots they will
produce to run their lives for them.
The Die In LUP, you wrote that, 'The answers we give to those questions [posed
by Plato] are not what matters. What matters is that in learning to ask those
questions, to reflect on those problems, the human mind extends its reach and
finds itself breathing and moving in heavens that were not before.' Is this
what we can gain by studying philosophy, the inspiration to ask and think about
questions like 'what is good' or 'what is justice,' which (hopefully) lead to
Khashaba Yes, except that I prefer to speak of philosophizing or thinking
philosophically rather than of studying philosophy. Studying philosophy is
worse than having nothing to do with philosophy if it is not active, creative
engagement in philosophical thinking. Thinking philosophically means simply
questioning everything, refusing to exclude anything from subjection to the
jurisdiction of reason. A good philosopher is not who leads readers to accept
or adopt her/ his views but one who incites them to puzzle for themselves over
the questions that originally gave rise to those views. That was the great
secret of the Socratic elenchus. It led Socrates' interlocutors to look within
and examine themselves. Plato is the best of philosophers because he continues
the work of Socrates. He does not pretend to give us any truths or ready-made
conclusions but gives us burning questions that must be kept burning.
The Die Later in LUP you wrote that, 'philosophy has been turned into so many
special sciences, useful and interesting, but which cannot fulfill the primary
and essential function of philosophical thinking, which is to give
intelligibility, unity, and value to our life.' When I read that I immediately
thought of how many institutions of higher learning encourage the study of
philosophy because it can be of use in business and politics. Based on your
assessment of how philosophy is taught today, what do you think is being done
right and what is being done wrong?
Khashaba One of my main objectives in writing Let Us Philosophize was to draw a
sharp and clear line between science and philosophy. Psychology, neuroscience,
the methodology of science, the experimental study of the processes of
learning, sociology, anthropology, economics, political science -- all of these
may be good and useful sciences. But the questions of philosophy have nothing to
do with all of that. Philosophy has nothing to do with objective observation or
verification or the discovery or ascertainment of fact. The soul, as our
scientists and our scientifically oriented philosophers have not tired of
telling us, is nothing. It is a fiction. But it is by adopting that fiction
that I have a spiritual life. I am a human being in virtue of the ideas I
create for myself and that cannot be found anywhere outside my mind. That is
how I understand the SocraticÐPlatonic distinction between the perceptible and
the intelligible. And, if I may once more be permitted to refer to my new book,
that is the central theme I develop in Plato: An Interpretation.
That is why I think the way philosophy is taught today does grave harm by
perpetrating the confusion of philosophy and science and trying to subject
philosophy to the methods and criteria of science. In doing this I think our
academic institutions are turning their back not only to the profound insight
of Socrates and Plato but also to that of Kant.
The Die You also wrote that, 'The primary function of philosophy is to provide
us with a system of concepts by means of which we can define our place in the
world. Our concepts and our symbols are as real as the function they perform:
They constitute our reality, but that reality is relative and fugitive.' If
that is correct, what about the people who aren't interested in philosophy (or
don't philosophize). Who's creating their world?
Khashaba They live in worlds created for them by others -- by traditions, by
religious institutions, by the science of the day, by the thought-systems
embedded in the competitivism, commercialism, and consumerism of modern
'advanced' societies, even by the 'culture' or peculiar groups or cliques. So
long as and insofar as they do not subject the presuppositions and values that
govern their lives to critical examination, they are deprived of the integrity
and autonomy of a truly human being.
The Die Later you wrote that, 'Only if all human individuals became
philosophers would philosophy redeem humanity. In a good society we would have
the philosopherÐadministrator, the philosopherÐ artist, the
philosopherÐscientist, etc.' In saying this, do you mean that philosophy can't
change the world, but it can change the individual by teaching him/ her to
think through life's situations -- to ask questions about right and wrong, and
thereby bring about a better world by improving those who live in it one by
Khashaba Exactly. The practical problems of life are the province of science
and empirical know-how. The philosopher as philosopher has nothing to
contribute to the economy or industry or even the political organization of
society. When I said that, 'in a good society we would have the
philosopherÐadministrator, the philosopherÐartist, the philosopherÐscientist,'
etc., I simply meant that in a good society the administrator, the artist, the
scientist, in addition to their special areas of knowledge or talent, would
also be each of them a philosopher. The prosperity of society would come from
their expertise, not from their philosophy. The goodness of society would come
from its citizens, all of them, being philosophers.
(c) Joseph Smith 2005
IV. 'CELEBRATING WORLD PHILOSOPHY DAY 2005 ZADAR/ NIN CROATIA' BY BRUNO CURKO
UNESCO World Philosophy Day November 17
This is our most ambitious project and we are proud that we pulled it without
single donation -- all our guests agreed to perform without any fee. Great news
is that Zadar Public Library agreed to publish last year's CD depicting 2003 and
2004 events. All lectures were held at Zadar Public Library Facilities, except
the discussion group, which was held at Zadar Grammar School.
Schedule of Events
Monday, Nov. 7th
Mirko JAKIC, Ph. D. (Philosophy Dept, Zadar University)
'What is left from classical understanding of space? On 100 anniversary of
Einstein's relativity theory'
Tuesday, Nov. 8th
Anita VULIC-PRTORIC, Ph. D. (Psychology Dept, Zadar University) and Josip CIRIC
(Philosophy Dept, Zadar University)
'Reducing the pain: psychological and philosophical counseling'
Thursday, Nov. 10th
Slobodan CACE, Ph. D. (History Dept, Zadar University)
'Plato and political action'
Friday, Nov. 11th
'Frane Petric - Francescus Patrcius' thematic bloc
Estella ÊPETRIC-BAJLO, M.A. (English language and literature Dept, Zadar,
'Frane Petric's reception in English language domain'
Bruno CURKO, B.A. (Zadar grammar school)
'Petric's education paradigm and its application possibility today'
Saturday, Nov. 12th
Discussion group; subject: democracy -- held at Zadar grammar school
moderators: Bruno CURKO, M. FILIPPI-SIMICEV, Josip CIRIC
participants: pupils of Zadar grammar school and students of Philosophy Dept.
az Zadar University
Monday, Nov. 14th
'History of Nin district until 1920'
Wednesday, Nov. 16th
Josip CIRIC, M.A. (Philosophy Dept, Zadar University)
'The lights of marketing and the light of the truth'
Thursday, Nov. 17th
Mirko JAKIC, Bruno CURKO, Josip CIRIC
(c) Bruno Curko and Josip Ciric 2005
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