Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Hegel

Aristotle attended Platon’s Academia for 20 years before his instituted his own school in Athens 25 years later.  Platon’s Academia lasted 900 years and was closed by political decree of the Christian Church in Constantinople, and not by lack of disciples.  There is this mania among scholars to opposing Aristotle’s teachings and positions to his teacher Platon, as if it is urgently necessary in order to comprehend Aristotle works on their own values. For example, you read: “The concept of knowledge to Platon is acquired by rational dialog, while Aristotle privileges demonstrations and experimental methods for gathering facts.”  How can anyone believe that Platon could deny demonstration methods and observations?

A professional in a disciple has a toolbox of techniques and methods relevant to his profession; he is familiar with this toolbox (among many other relevant toolboxes) for demonstrating or experimenting and gathering data and observations.  I don’t have to be proficient in a particular method in order to accepting the validity of what has been proven as true or how a phenomenon behaves.  I do have to be proficient in the method if I have to critique a peer-reviewed article and discover the errors in the design and manipulation of the experiment.  That is called dissemination of knowledge, and dialog is one method transmitting knowledge.  Fact is, professionals, especially scientists, rely on dialog by sending letters and documents to one another and attending conferences.  Scientists receive most of their ideas and concepts from communicating their research topics and difficulty facing demonstrations.

Another point that scholars permitted the two philosophers to come in a face-off challenge, is how ideas are generated? Are ideas produced by transcendental ways or by experimentation? Many scientists would claim that they had the idea in a dream or a form of transcending method; fact is, most probably, the idea or method was stored in their deeper layers of memories, in a different form, resulting from dialog, reading, and communication. How and when the idea was registered in memory?  Is not recollecting the idea or concept another way of agreeing in the transcendental approach?

Most philosophical debates are not on the proper scientific methods of comprehending the universe and living creatures but mainly siding to powerful institutions at specific periods:  The powerful classes (clerics or aristocrats or middle classes) that have vested interests in opposing the dissemination of a particular concept that they view will prejudice their status-quo privileges.

Collecting data or observations from haphazard experiments lead to no where:  It is only when a reasoned method or a proper design of the experiment is contemplated, run, and analyzed for interrelations among the independent variables or controlled factors that data make sense.  Adopting abstract logical deduction from a set of axiom cannot result in anything meaningful if the theory is not submitted to experimentation for validation.  A single advantage of mathematicians is that their discipline encourages development of abstract theories, even if no scientist cared to test any of them.  Thus, scientific methods in the various philosophies do not contradict the essence for reaching truth.

Mathematicians never claimed to be scientists, and scientists know that their work will not go far unless a mathematical law is generated from data collected. Scientists may spend years categorizing and classifying samples gathered in their research and this task is intrinsically a rational method otherwise, how links can be found if no implicit or explicit hypotheses are generated to compare among samples?

Note:  After the German Hegel exposed his theory in the 18th century that “human civilization has developed by historical dialectic or the historic process of thesis, antithesis, and followed by synthesis”. The theory meant that at one period, scholars and philosophers agree on a consensus of propositions to comprehending the universe and mankind (I think due to political pressures of religious institutions and the power-to-be).  The next period witness an opposite current agreeing on contrary propositions.  The following period necessarily work out a synthesis of the two previous periods for a consensus on equitable propositions that reflect new knowledge.  This cycle begins again with a new set of propositions, transformed and modified from the initial propositions in period #1, strong with acquired new scientific facts; and civilization advances in that historical fashion of thesis periods, followed by antithesis periods, and rearranged by synthesis periods.  Since then, most philosophers and philosophy critics think they are obliged to considering opposing sets of propositions before delivering their own synthesis.

I read many times in different books that “The purpose of life is living.”  My earliest first interpretations were “enjoy and embrace whatever life carries you to do or experience, (sort of stoic attitudes)”  After pondering that interpretation, I reasoned: “What is living if not making a sense of life?” 

I hence reached a far more interesting alternative:  “Life is a means to carrying on whatever meaning you want to make of life while still alive.”

You may change decisions and passions at any time, and life would care less and will not impress any judgement upon you:  Life is meant to serve your desires and obey your “seventy-seven decisions” per day.

Living has many unsettling requirements (pissing, excreting, sweating, washing…) that forces you to change directions many times a day.  Making sense of life is recovering from the maintenance tasks and redirecting the frequent diverging roads toward your intended main decisions of your daily plan of actions.

One decision may give you remorse and you want to stay in bed, a vegetative; you refuse to act, move, speak, or communicate with anyone. Life has no problem with this decision to play dead; but it has to maintain itself and you have to go and get moving.  Either you decide to die in your dirt (that is also a courageous decision) or you get up and start acting, one step at a time.  Life care less; you want to die? Life is your obedient servant and would follow you desire.

“Know yourself” means: “Maintain your life at the level commensurate to your plan of actions.  Know your limitations and your potentials, body and mind, and improve. You over force life and it will fail you at any time.”   It is no secret that when you keep your body and mind fit then, you can expand your range of decisions and set the bar higher than usual.  Thus, when you decide to get fit, it means you are planning for a higher energy requirements of decisions to redirect the “sense of your life”, otherwise, why the bother?

Your only constraint, to a fulfilling healthy servant as life, is becoming expert mechanics in the maintenance requirements of life.  Life is a car to be oiled, repaired, and supplied with energy.  Car has no spirit:  It is your desire and decision to reaching destination faster, your desire has provided the spirit to designing and manufacturing a car or airplane.

Life is ever obliging when you appreciate its vast potentials and appreciate the need for careful and loving maintenance requirements.  The more actions (physical and mental) you put life through, the more efficient are your decisions and more timely the opportunities.

Life maintenance is the most time-consuming of all tasks.  Either you become expert mechanics or life will force you, against your will, for long period of recovery.  Sir, life has no intrinsic meaning; it is your meanings of life that need to be lived.  You maintain life or you be maintained; you choose.

Hegel wrote: “No one can claim to be free unless he is ready to confront death.”  I assume that Hegel started from the premise that this free man knew and experimented  how to live. Let me put it simply:  Any desire that is good for your well-being (example physical or mental health) is an excellent desire.  Voltaire joked: “I decided to be happy:  It is good for my health.”

This attitude is a win-win situation.  You may work hard for a good health but this is no guarantee or sufficient condition for developing healthy desires.  You have first to desire and then, keeping healthy becomes part of a mechanism that can be nailed down and maintained efficiently.

You were graced with life; get on with the maintenance part and let life serves your passions and desires.

“The old wise man died; an entire library is burned”; (Mar. 4, 2010)

African author, Amadou Hampate Ba (1900-91) was born in eastern Mali and had said “In oral culture Africa, when an old wise man dies then an entire library burns with him”.  Amadou focused his life gathering all the stories, myths, and history of the tribes living in the States of Mali, Senegal, Burkina Fasso, and Ivory Coast.  In every tribe or clan, there is a few storytellers or grios entertaining people around bonfires in evenings.  The storytellers teaches children of the history and traditions of the tribe, of nature, and the changing seasons.  In one of his books he wrote: “Aissata told her son: “Learn to cover the material nudity of man before you cover by word his moral nudity”

Author and poet Wole Soyinka received the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1986. Soyinka was born in western Nigeria from the tribe of Yoruba in 1934.  During Nigeria civil war, Soyinka was jailed for two years in secrecy (1968-69); he wrote in jail “This man has died”.  In his speech at Stockholm during the Nobel ceremony and titled “Let this past talk to this present” he lambasted the philosophers and thinkers of Europe’s 19th century (such as Voltaire and Hegel) for accepting the principle of slavery.  Wole said “All who have the passion for peace must make a choice: Either they include peace in this modern world, bring it to rational situations, and let peace participate in the spirit of human associations or force Blacks in Africa to kneel in abject conditions and deny them human dignity.  There is nothing more pressing than suppressing racism and apartheid; their structures have got to be dismantled.”

Historian and Egyptology from Senegal, Cheikh Anata Diop (1923-86) published “Negro Nations and culture, 1954”.  He claimed that African civilization precedes Greek civilization that borrowed form and content via Egypt of Antiquity.  Colonial powers were ready to admit that the black skinned (from head to toe) and the frizzled hair Egyptians were no proof enough to claim that the civilization of Egypt of Antiquity was necessarily African. This awkward logic was necessary in order to colonize Africa as devoid of civilizations, rational people, and high spiritual capacity.  European Egyptology erudite went as far as proclaiming that it was “inadmissible” that Ancient Egypt in Africa was a Black civilization.  Diop book was published in several languages and the Blacks in the USA used it for renewal of their civilized roots.

Note: You may refer to my new category “Black culture/Creole” for short biographies and literary samples of Black leaders and intellectuals.

Part one: Twilight of “Love of Knowledge”

            There is this notion that philosophers are after the “Truth” based on the assumption that they have this urge to go to the tiniest details and exhaustive possibilities of a concept.  I beg to differ. Once a philosopher starts building structures for his line of thinking then it is the system that tows and guides the “Truth”. It takes an insurmountable character of honesty to shake off the inertia erected by a system for a philosopher to restart his independent reflection in search of truth.

            Philosophy from Antiquity to the last century was what is currently called “Ideology of the power to be” of the politico-economic system (the dominant classes of the period). Philosophy was the super-structure or the apologetic social structure of a culture that has been flourishing for decades: philosophy tried to make sense of the mood of the time.

            What is striking is that most philosophical systems refrained to include the economical structure aspect into the equation; at best, the economic structure was indirectly referred to.  For example, slavery was accepted as a qualitative level in human nature: since animals are difficult to communicate with then it is better to leave it as is.  It was if economy was a taboo notion because the class structure could not be altered.

            Every politico-economic dominant class needs a valid interpretation of the statue-quo coupled with a rational for the intelligentsia to take stock of the inevitable status that settled in and come along.  Thus, philosophers’ interpretations always were phased out by several decades of the “has been reality”.

            In periods of alliances between the religious institutions and the monarchy it was required for God to taking center stage: people had to get used to letting God run their destinies. Usually, the philosophical lines of thinking revolved in that guideline; these philosophical trends lasted long because the power was concentrated in the hand of the almighty alliance.  Superstition was king and empirical works led the bold experimenters to the fire to be burned alive as witches.  Knowledge was built around abstract concepts or the realm of religious dogmas. Religious institutions dictated how the universe functioned and detailed the proper mental activities.

            In periods of the rising middle classes (of traders, merchants, and lately the industrial class of entrepreneurs) philosophical systems set man in center stage of the universe. It was important that man regains his place instead of God: The church-monarchy alliance was not to regain political-economic supremacy and control.  Consequently, man was to discover and investigate his “backyard” (earth and universe).  Scientific knowledge, empirical experiments, discovery, and world adventures were the result of opening up new market for exploiting many more people for added values of merchandises.

            Hegel realized the historical interpretation process of philosophical structures as a fundamental aspect of civilization changes; Hegel failed to find the intimate connection with the politico-economic source. The historical dialectic method could make sense of the super structure of “knowledge” development in an a posteriori phase; thus historical dialectics could not forecast the synthesis for the current period since the source of the dialectics (politico-economics) was not within his range of expertise.

            It was Marx who realized the power of historical dialectics when applied to politico-economic realities. It made sense from Marx position to declare that history started when class struggle was identified as the catalyst for change and knowledge development.  It means that if a “hot” culture wants to understand or create a history for its society then it must invest in gathering artifacts and ancient manuscripts that shed light on the class structures through the phases of its history.

Democratic systems are trying hard to diminish civil administration interference with religions in its habit of demanding religious inputs and backing to political activities and programs.  This phenomena is called “separation of religion and civil rules”

How have you been “existing”? (Jan. 25, 2010)

            The main philosophy of the last century was called “Existentialism” that Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) disseminated after WWII with the cooperation of Simone de Beauvoir who published “The second sex”.  What differentiated Sartre’s existentialism from Kierkegaard, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Heidegger is that Christianity is no longer a crutch to lean on for processing the concept to its final outcome.

            In that philosophy, man and woman have no innate “nature” to fall back on.  They just have to create themselves, their “natures” (their “essence”).  The feeling of alienation is that mankind was created without his will and yet, he is condemned to be free for taking responsibility of his actions knowing that there are no eternal values or norms for guidance and directions.  The individual has to create his set of values and his nature from actions among choices, even default choices.

            That Sartre’s existentialism allied to Marxist movement (Sartre never accepted to be a member of a political party) is part of this century struggle for enjoying the freedom that we never asked for; but “man is condemned to be free” in taking responsibility of his actions simply because he is created to be conscious of his existence and his death: mankind is not “in itself” but “for itself” and an individual relies on his existence to be whatever he might otherwise be “his nature”.

            For example, Stephen Hawkins, this crippled astrophysicist, grabbed the question of his interest (nature) “How the universe was created”.  That Hawkins offered the Big bang theory is irrelevant to the universe or to everyday man is important philosophically.  What is most important is that Hawkins must have enjoyed “the meaning of his life”.  The Big Bang proposition may be accompanied by all kinds of mathematical formulas it does not make it more believable than a childish storytelling in Bibles that are so funny to kids.  For example, why just one Big Bang? Is it because God must be one and only one?  Anyway, how many of us seriously engaged on his journey for discovering the meaning of his life existence?

            Current nuclear physicists are fundamentally pre-Socratic in their quest for the elemental matters; they want to be able to offer a satisfactory explanation of “what is matter?” This problem is thus a vital part of their “life’s philosophy”, the “essence” or an answer to the question “what is my nature”?

            Existentialism was the source of modern style in writings called the “absurd”.  For example, when you show the lack of coherence or meaning in life, then the reader or audience is forced to cultivate his “own meaning” of the story.

            Things have changed.  The world can be felt as reduced to a Town Square; instant audio-visual communications around the world is discouraging people to move out and investigate “his universe”.  The Renaissance man had to travel on horses for long distances to educate his curiosity and talents.

            Arne Naess disseminated the eco-philosophy which stated that western paradigm line of thinking is taking the wrong direction for a sustainable earth: Man is not in the upper chain of evolution and he has no right to destroy the other living creatures for his perceived universe.

            The new wave of occultism, New Age, alternative lifestyle, mysticism, spiritualism, healing, astrology, clairvoyance, and telepathy are consequences of collecting mass “coincidental” happenings among the billion of people and which are relayed instantly on the Internet.  These coincidences can be explained rationally, especially if we believe in the power of the subconscious for erratic behaviors.

            The worst part is that millions are still brandishing old Books or Bibles claiming every word for “truth”; as if we are in the Dark Ages.  Sciences and technologies have done serious empirical attempts to answering most of the dialectical problems in philosophy such as how the universe was started, how knowledge developed and progressed.  What is outside the realm of sciences is in the domain of faith which should not be confounded with religious philosophical belief systems.

            The “meaning of life” is not a solution: it is the trip, the journey to answering a single definite bothering question, a question that interest you mostly among hundreds of other pretty much non answerable questions.  This trip means working toward a resolution to the question “What is my nature?”  It is hard work, relentless, and tricky journey but nothing has meaning if we don’t feel the obstacles and hardships.

Cases of “Historical Dialectics” of human and knowledge development; (Dec. 23, 2009)

            Dialectics is not only used to comprehend historical development of human or knowledge development but is basic in discussions and effective dialogues. Hegel was first to introduce “dynamic logic” and used the term of historical dialectics as the interaction of an extreme opinion (thesis) that generates an opposite extreme counter opinion (antithesis) which results in a consensus (synthesis).  Historical dialectics is a macro method for long range study and it does not explain the individual existential conditions (survival situations).  Hegel offered dialectics as a method for explaining how human knowledge developed by constant struggle between contradictory concepts among philosophical groups. The purpose of his method was to demonstrate how the “universe of the spirit” or ideas managed to be raised in human consciousness.

            Before I offer my version of knowledge development it might be useful to giving a few examples of historical dialectics. In Antiquity, the pre-Socratic philosophers were divided between the Eleatics or philosophers who claimed that change of primeval substances was impossible: we cannot rely on our senses.  Heraclites reacted with his position that we can rely on our senses and that everything in the universe is in a state of flow and that no substance remains in its place.  The synthesis came Empedocles who claimed that we can rely on our senses but that what flow are the combination of substances but the elementary particles do not change. 

            The Sophists during Socrates were the paid teachers of the elite classes and tore down the mythological teaching of the period and focused on improving individual level of learning.  They were in effect in demand by a nascent City-State democracy of Athens that relied on a better educated society to participate in the political system. Socrates reacted by proposing that there are fundamental truths and knowledge is not an exercise in rhetorical discourse. The same dialectics worked between the world of ideas of Plato and the empirical method counterpoint of Aristotle.

            In the Medieval period the Catholic Church set up a barrier or distance between God and man and forced people to believe that all knowledge emanates from God.  The Renaissance man (wanting to be knowledgeable in many disciplines) reacted by promoting the concepts that God is in every element, that man is a complete microcosm of the universe, and that knowledge starts by observing nature and man.

            Another example is the position of Descartes who established that rationalism was the main source for knowledge.  David Hume responded by extending that empirical facts generated from our senses are the basis for knowledge. Kant offered the synthesis that the senses are the primary sources for our impressions but it is our perceptual faculties that describe and view the world: there is a distinction between “matter” of knowledge or the “thing in itself” and “form” of knowledge or the “thing for me”. Kant became the point of departure for another chain of dialectical reflections.

            Many philosophers used the dialectic methods to explaining other forms of development.  Karl Marx wrote that Hegel used his method standing on its head instead of considering human material conditions. Marx claimed that “philosophers have only interpreted the world; the point is to change it”; thus, he defined three levels as basis of society: condition of production (mainly the geographic, natural resources, and climatic conditions), means of production (such as machineries and tools), and production relations (such as political institutions, division of labor, distribution of work and ownership). Marx claimed that the main interactions are among the working class (the new slaving method of production) and the owners of the means of productions or the ruling class: it is this struggle that develop the spiritual progress.  Another dialectical process is the extreme feminist political claims of equality between genders which brought about a consensus synthesis for a period.

            My view of progress is based on the analogy of combination of two schemas:

            The first schema is the coexistence of two strings of evolution (picture a DNA shape): the knowledge development (mainly technological) and the moral string (dominated mainly by religious ideologies).  The second schema is represented by historical dialectic evolutions in the shape of helical cones. The time lengths of cycles for the two strings are not constant: the technological progress phase has shorter and shorter cycles while the moral string has longer cycles.

            The two strings are intertwined and clashes frequently.  When one string overshadow the other string in evolution then there are a slow counter-reaction culminating in stagnate status-quo phases between the two forces. Technological or level of sustenance period has time length cycles that is shrinking at the top of the cone before the cone is inverted on its head so that the moral time length cycles start to increase and appears almost invariant (that what happened in the long Medieval period that stretched for over 11 centuries in Europe); then the cone is reverted on its base for the next “rebirth” cycles (for example the Renaissance period that accelerated the knowledge string ascent).

“Sophie’s World” on David Hume; (Written on Dec. 4, 2009)

How I stumbled on Jostein Gaarder’s “Sophie’s World”, one of New York Times best seller?

My niece is reading this book as required textbook in high school. The manuscript is of 513 pages divided in 35 chapters and talking of a wide array of philosophers and concepts from Socrates, to Descartes, to Hume, Hegel, Kant…, Freud, and the Big Bang.

A short introduction to the story might be entertaining.

The first chapter introduces us to Sophie Amundsen, a 15-year-old girl. Sophie arrives home from school and finds a first envelope addressed to her. The sheet of paper has a single hand written sentence “Who are you?”  Sophie finds another envelops that says “Where does the world come from?

The last delivery of the mailbox is a postcard “Hilde Moller Knag; c/o Sophie Amundsen, 3 Clover Close. Dear Hilde, happy 15th birthday. Forgive me for sending the card to Sophie. It was the easiest way. Love Dad.”

Sophie knows of no Hilde and the phonebook was of no help. Sophie has now three problems to resolve, all in one day. Sophie is baffled and confused:  She is starting her philosophical initiation.  Would Lillemor be the same person? If her hair was not straight and defying all cosmetics for a curly appearance, then would she behaved different? If her nose was a tad bit longer or her mouth smaller, would she be the actual Sophie?

The next problem is even harder to reflect on. Can anything come from nothing? If not, then how far has she to go to the sources in the creation process? Can a creating God come from nothing?

I jumped to page 267 on the British philosopher David Hume (1711-1776). 

Hume was the contemporary of Voltaire and Rousseau or the Age of Enlightenment.  The previous Age was of the “rationalists” such as Descartes, Lock, and Spinoza.

Hume published his main work “A treatise of human nature” when he was 28 of age.  He claims that he got the idea when he was 15.

The empiricist Hume (believing in experiments as the most valid method for acquiring knowledge) said:

“No philosophy will ever be able to take us behind the daily experiences or give us rules of conducts that are different from those we get through reflections on everyday life.”

For example, people have experienced or sensed wings on birds, but that does not mean that the complex idea of “angel” exists. Angels are associations in man’s imagination; thus, the concept of angels is false as an experienced reality and should be rejected from the knowledge baggage.

If a textbook does not offer any experimental reasoning concerning matter of facts and existence then it should be committed to the flames as a book of knowledge.

Hume wanted to know how a child experienced the real world. Hume established that man has two types of perceptions:

1. impression (immediate sensation) and

2. ideas of external reality.

Ideas are recollections of impressions.  For example, getting burned is not the same sensation as remembering getting burned: this would be a pale imitation of actually the stronger feeling of being burned.

Ideas can be simple or complex; we may form complex ideas of the world for which there is no corresponding “object” in the physical world such as angels or God. Each element in the complex idea was previously sensed and the mind constructed a “false object” if not actually existing for the senses.

Descartes indicated that “clear and distinct” ideas guarantee that they corresponded to something that really existed.

One example for Descartes affirmation is the ego “I”, which is the foundation for his philosophy.

Hume begs to differ.

Hume considers that the ego I is a complex idea and constantly altered.  Since we are continuously changing our alterable ego is based on a long chain of simple impressions that we did not experienced simultaneously. “These impressions appear, pass, re-pass, slide away, and mingle in infinite varieties of postures and situations.” It is like the images in a movie screen: they are disconnected single pictures, a collection of instants.

It is the same concept of Buddha (2500 years earlier). Buddha said “There is nothing of which I can say “this is mine” or “this is me””.  Thus, there is no “eternal soul” since “Decay is inherent in all compound things. Work out your own salvation with diligence.”  Hume rejected attempts to prove the immortality of the soul or the existence of God but he never ruled out their possible existence or that of miracles.

On his deathbed, Hume said “It is also possible that a knob of coal placed upon the fire will not burn.

A miracle works against the laws of nature; but again, we have never experienced the laws of nature.

All that we know results from “habit” of our experiences, such as witnessing relationship or “cause and effect” occurring many times, but that we can never say that it might happen “always”.

For example, adults are more awed by magic tricks than children: a child is no more impressed by an apple falling or just floating because he didn’t acquire the habit in his mind for natural occurrences.  Expectations lie in our mind and not in one thing following another.

We human are great in the task of cutting and pasting everything that impresses upon us. Hume says that the preconditions to assembling complex ideas is to have entered all the elements in the form of “simple impressions”.   If we imagine God to be infinitely “intelligent, wise, and good being” then we must have “known intelligence, wisdom, and goodness”.

(How man brought in the “infinitely” in his concept? Did it come from watching the sky as a substitute to the experience of infinity? Somehow, man is able to extrapolate on piece meal experiences).

Hume wanted “to dismiss all this meaningless nonsense which has long dominated metaphysical thought and brought it into disrepute.”  (The introduction of the term metaphysical gave terrible nightmares to the succeeding philosophers fearing that they might sound metaphysical and had to explain at great length their concepts).

Hume cut off the final link between faith and knowledge.

(I conjecture that the deficiencies of our perceptual senses provide rich sources of strong impressions that modify our view of the real world.  For example, when we see double for a while (a temporary affliction), or we feel the ground waving and shaking under our feet when drunk, or under the influence, or when we hear background noises, then these sensation are real first impressions and not just ideas.

Thus, the weaker our constitution, the more acute and varied are our experiences; the more adapted our brain for capturing associations the far more complex is our perception of the world.)


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