Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Plato

Tidbits and notes posted on FB and Twitter. Part 186

Note: I take notes of books I read and comment on events and edit sentences that fit my style. I pa attention to researched documentaries and serious links I receive. The page is long and growing like crazy, and the sections I post contains a month-old events that are worth refreshing your memory.

Reporter a plustard le temps d’etre heureux n’a rien avoir avec l’ intelligence, contrairement a ce que les experiments le confirme: Il y a des variation a la notion d’etre “heureux”

Comment etre heureux par ne rien faire? Comme par enchainer des pensees rejouissante? Ca demande tant d’imagination que c’est une facon de travailler en plein regime

The visual of these people completely wrapped in a hammock as in an egg is very relaxing indeed.

It turned out that the Koran:
1. Never mentions an Islamic State
2. Never mentions al Shari3a
3. Never believed in miracles (How more rational it can be?)
4. Had no punctuations whatsoever: it could be interpreted widely by any educated person
Whatever organizational or administrative traditions were established during the administration of the City-State of Medina and later on

Plato said “Permitting random marriages constitute impiety in a happy City.  We will legalize sane unions that are more advantageous to the aristocratic class.  We want sane offspring of the elite men and women to render high quality services to the Republic”. Can’t blame colonial behaviors, Nazism and the Eugenic elite classes as the precursor by worshiping Ancient Greek philosophers

The mentality of the Lebanese is Not that hard to comprehend: Before the emergence of Hezbollah, of Islamic Iran orientation, Lebanese, regardless of religious sect or caste, were ready to accept a  (whether western State or Egyptian or Saudi Kingdom). Just to establish infrastructures and facilities so they can resume their chaotic individualistic behaviors.

On porte partout l’estampille de la mort, sauf les cailloux

Ma te7lamou bi esterdad ayyat mablagh min dawlet tofrani: la mablagh tarrasho7 wa la zboutat sayr maghloutat…

Yalla. Al mou7ameen 3endon shoghol bil intikhabaat: Tawkeel le takdeem talabaat al tarrasho7

Yalleh biyetkharraj min Jhanam al ard, ma ello jalad tefnissaat jhannam al 2akherat

Al Loubnani elleh sammad $100,000 min doun ser2at al maal al 3aam aw baltaja aw warathat, ye3lon esmo sarahatan

“Why the Arab World is not free?” : Reactions

Note: I decided to post a reply to the comments on my book review “Why the Arab World is not free?” by Moustapha Safouan https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2008/09/23/why-the-arab-world-is-not-free-by-moustapha-safouan/

            One of the commentarors wrote: “I am the son of two civilizations that have formed a happy marriage. The first civilization is seven thousand years old of Pharaonic Egypt; the second is Islamic of one thousand four hundred years old.  One day the great Pyramids will disappear but Truth and Justice will remain for as long as Mankind has a reflective mind and a living conscience.

            A Moslim Caliph returned prisoners of war to the Byzantium Empire in exchange of ancient Greek manuscripts in philosophy, medicine and mathematics. This is a testimony of value for the human spirit in its demand for knowledge; the believer in One God demanded the fruits of a pagan civilization.

            It was my fate to be born in the lap of these two civilizations and to feed on their literature and art. The truth of the matter is that Evil is a loud and boisterous debaucherer, and that Man remembers what hurts more than what gives pleasure. Our great poet Abul-3Alaa2 al Ma3ari was right when he said: “A grief at the hour of death is more than a hundred-fold Joy at the hour of birth.”

            When the Moslem’s Armies extended their territories from Spain to Persia, they took possession of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Archimedes, and other Greek thinkers. One of the prime reasons attributed to Moslims’ intellectual enhancement in the Middle Ages is the considerable influence of Greek philosophy to a rational new religion. Up to the nineth century Muslim intellectuals valued reason in their interpretation of the Koran and Hadith.  Our present day Moslem heroes associate with the rational past.

            In early Islam there was a philosophical debate that started with al-Ghazali and resumed by Ibn Rushd and led the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II (1451-1481), the conqueror of the Capital Byzantium, to order two of the Empire’ scholars to compile books to summarize the debate between Ghazali and Ibn Rushd.  The philosophy of al-Ghazali was attacking the ideas of Avicenna or Ibn Sina (980-1037) and Farabi who were inspired by Aristotle, Plato, and Plotinus.  Avicenna is known as al-Sheikh Rais (Leader among the wise men); in the west, he is also known as the “Prince of Physicians” for his famous medical text Qanun “Canon”. In Latin translations, his works influenced many Christian philosophers, most notably Thomas Aquinas. The spread of Hellenistic philosophy in the Moslim world was expounded by the first Arabic philosopher Kindi (800-865) who wrote many works on Greek science and philosophy. As a mathematician Kindi realized the importance of Aristotelian logic. Farabi’s ideal rulers would be chosen for their intelligence and educated in science, philosophy, and religion. According to Farabi, the best ruler for this Muslim state would be a “philosopher-king”, a concept described in Plato’s Republic. One of the most important contributions of Farabi, beyond his political views and scientific philosophies, was to make the study of logic easier by dividing it into two categories – Takhayyul (idea) and Thubut (proof). He wrote several sociological books, including his famous work – Al-Madina al-Fadila (The Model City).  In Andalusia (Spain) Ibn Rushd commented on Al Ghazali argument by argument defending the power of rational and investigative thinking; his work became the foundation for Europe Renaissance in understanding Aristotle.

            This part of history needs to be written; there are no takers yet. Orthodoxy in Islam rarely allows the treatise of Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (980-1037), Kindi (800-865) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes) to become the syllabus of mainstream thought process.  A Moslem student might revere Avicenna and Averroes but he is not offered the opportunity to read their works. If Avicenna and Averroes’s thinking were part of the dialogue within Islam then the sun of the golden era would have never set. We cannot cite Khayyam as an example of a great poet and completely forget the message he gave. We may disagree with Khayyam but introducing his thinking will help us to determine what pluralism is all about. The works of our thinkers need to be revisited and their books should form an integral part of our academia. Khayyam is described as an atheist, philosopher, and naturalist.

            The constant themes of Khayyam’s poetry are the certainty of death, the pointlessness of asking unanswerable questions, the mysteriousness of the universe, and the necessity of living joyfully the present. This is clearly reflected in the verses taken from Rubaiyat: “…How much more of the mosque, of prayer and fasting? Better go drunk and begging round the taverns. Khayyam, drinks wine, for soon this clay of yours will make a cup, bowl, one day a jar….”

            The Iranian Shirin Ebadi is another Nobel laureate suffering at the hands of the radicals. Shirin Abadi, Islam’s most famous civil rights activists and a Nobel Prize winner, said in her acceptance speech: “Allow me to say a little about my country, region, culture and faith. I am an Iranian. A descendent of Cyrus The Great. The Charter of Cyrus the Great is one of the most important documents that should be studied in the history of human rights. I am a Muslim. In the Koran the Prophet of Islam has been cited as saying: “Thou shalt believe in thine faith and I in my religion”. That same divine book sees the mission of all prophets as that of inviting all human beings to uphold justice. Since the advent of Islam, Iran’s civilization and culture has become imbued and infused with humanitarianism, respect for the life, belief and faith of others, propagation of tolerance and compromise and avoidance of violence, bloodshed and war. The luminaries of Iranian literature, in particular our Gnostic literature, from Hafiz, Mowlavi [better known in the West as Rumi] and Attar to Saadi, Sanaei, Naser Khosrow and Nezami, are emissaries of this humanitarian culture.”

            The dark ages within any civilization is characterized with dogmatic extremism that denies civil liberties, including freedom of religion and justice or the right to a fair trial. ‘Golden age’ on the other hand should be about the freedom of expression and availability of justice for the downtrodden. A society is judged not by its standards of the richest but by the way the under privileged and the poorest live. A minor renaissance within the regions under the influence of Islam can be traced but the conditions that help ‘seeds of reason’ to take roots that are essential for freethinking were just not allowed to be nurtured.

            Unfortuntely, in the current Arab world, the true values are rarely ever discussed freely. During the ‘Golden Age’ periods there was particularly strong tradition of rationalism known as the Mu3tazalah. They stressed that man is inherently free and were skeptic on the predestination concept that everything was foreordained. The Mu3tazilat carefully cultivated an ‘enlightened moderation’ and allowed for the growth of knowledge and actively promulgated the Sciences as a part of the religion doctrine.

            Muslim countries supply 70 per cent of the world’s energy requirements and 40 per cent of its raw material exports. With all of their oil wealth, two-thirds of the world’s poorest people live in Muslim countries. This state of misery is unparalleled; Islam’s inability to translate its economic prowess into general good has baffled the intelligentsia of the world. In the last 20 years over one million people died in conflicts involving intra Muslim wars. Why are democracy and the rule of law nonexistent in most Moslim states? Why are most of the worst acts of terrorism carried out in the name of Islam? Whenever wicked fundamentalists have taken over reins of affairs they have gone for the jugular. Extremists have a single point agenda whereby ‘worldly decadence’ needs to be abolished for blessings and rewards in the after world. No devotion can gratify the extremists; every strain of deviancy over times has its own brand of virtuous approach; these anarchists at one point have inflicted devastation on embryonic societies of Islam.

            Renaissance cannot be tainted with colour of ideology, it cannot be “Islamic or Christian”,  it is a collective effort of minds to seek freedom from dogma and seek answers to complex questions of purpose of existence on this planet. Free thinking, logic and rationalism have to be the corner stone of any serious attempt to induce renaissance in the Islamic world. Pluralism of ideas and the prosperity of any land are intertwined. Freedom of minds and skill to ‘think the unthinkable’ is how humanity has progressed; when minds are incarcerated nothing endures.

            Renaissance within all three monolithic religions was built around norms of free mind; Renaissance was about literature, architecture, arts and chiseling of marble to exquisite forms. The statue of David could only be created by the love of the free labor of Michelangelo: an enslaved mind could never be an artist or a creator. Physically enslaved men with free minds led revolutions and changed the world: they were ready to accept death instead of compromise with totalitarian or dogmatic despotism.

            The first and foremost challenge that Islam has to face is freedom of intellectual enquiry, ability to ask the unthinkable and still be able to live in peace within a society. Prof. Ahmad Zewail’s use of the fast laser technique can be likened to Galilei’s use of his telescope that he directed towards everything that lit up the vault of heaven. Zewail tried his femtosecond laser on literally everything that moved in the world of molecules. He turned his telescope towards the frontiers of science. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry because he was the first to conduct experiments that clearly show the decisive moments in the life of a molecule – the breaking and formation of chemical bonds. He has been able to see the reality behind Arrhenius’ theory.

            Prof. Ahmad Zewail acceptance speech like Ebadi’s referred to his richness of twin civilisations that of Islam and Egypt; he said: “Let me begin with a reflection on a personal story, that of a voyage through time. The medal I received from his Majesty this evening was designed by Erik Lindberg in 1902 to represent Nature in the form of the Goddess Isis – or eesis – the Egyptian Goddess of Motherhood. She emerges from the clouds, holding a cornucopia in her arms and the veil which covers her cold and austere face is held up by the Genius of Science. Indeed, it is the genius of science which pushed forward the race against time, from the beginning of astronomical calendars six millennia ago in the land of Isis to the femtosecond regime honoured tonight for the ultimate achievement in the microcosmos. I began life and education in the same Land of Isis, Egypt, made the scientific unveiling in America, and tonight, I receive this honor in Sweden, with a Nobel Medal which takes me right back to the beginning. This internationalization by the Genius of Science is precisely what Mr. Nobel wished for more than a century ago.”

            Professor Ahmed H. Zewail, the only Arab to ever win a Nobel Prize for science and, since the death of the Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam, the only one among the 1.2 billion Muslims with that honor.  Dr. Taha Hussein in his Nobel acceptance speech said: “The end will begin when seekers of knowledge become satisfied with their own achievements.” Unfortunately the embryonic renaissance in the late 700’s to 1300 of Islam was not extinguished by the satisfaction of its scientist’s queries; rather it was killed on the altar of dogma.

            Abdus Salam once wrote: “The Holy Koran enjoins us to reflect on the verities of Allah’s created laws of nature; however, that our generation has been privileged to glimpse a part of His design is a bounty and a grace for which I render thanks with a humble heart.” Sad and tragic is the reality that this scion of Pakistan was not allowed to be buried in his homeland; an orphaned son of a nation thanked the luminaries on behalf of a nation who had disowned him. In his acceptance speech Abdus Salam said: “… I thank the Nobel Foundation and the Royal Academy of Sciences for the great honor and the courtesies extended to us, including the courtesy to me of being addressed in my language Urdu. Pakistan is deeply indebted to you for this. The creation of Physics is the shared heritage of all mankind. East and West, North and South have equally participated in it. In the Holy Book of Islam, Allah says: ‘Thou seest not, in the creation of the All-merciful any imperfection, Return thy gaze, seest thou any fissure. Then Return thy gaze, again and again. Thy gaze comes back to thee dazzled and aweary.”

            On the global stage, it is these “heretical” scientists who are disowned by the Moslem orthodox clergy who have earned the greatest respect for Islam. Historically, we have distorted our real heroes into heretics, and the witch-hunt still continues. Dr. Abdus Salam is not the only one treated as heretic; we have the modern rationalist, Naguib Mahfouz – Nobel laureate in literature. Citation of his work, ‘Awlad Haratina,’ in the Swedish Academy’s declaration of award of the Nobel Prize to Mahfouz in 1988 greatly angered the Islamicists. His novel appeared in English under the title, “The Children of Gebelawi.” Shortly after the eruption of the Rushdie affair, the leading fundamentalist, Omar Abd al-Rahman currently imprisoned in the US for his role in the attack on the World Trade Centre—declared that if they had killed Mahfouz in 1959 for writing ‘The Children of Our Alley,’ Rushdie would never have dared write his novel. This was taken as a fresh fatwa to kill Mahfouz.

            In 1994 a failed attempt on his life leaft Mahfouz paralysed in his right arm. The crime of association of present day heroes of Islam with their past intellectual ancestors has marginalised them. It was the same Mahfouz who presented the case of his twin civilisations so adequately in the forum of ‘Swedish academy of sciences’ and quoted the great Muslim rationalist poet Abul-‘Alaa’ Ma’ari who asserted everywhere “the rights of reason against the claims of custom, tradition and authority.”

            The world cannot remain hostage to medieval concepts; this modern fight has to be seen in its intellectual, historical and geographical context.  The Islamic world today is trying to re-ignite its lost “renaissance” but is led by demented people with medieval minds; they are supposed to cure our ills but are out in the open to slaughter and maim thousands. Respect of life is the first sign of an educated mind.

            The Arabic language was synonymous with learning and science for 500 hundred years; a golden age that can count among its credits the precursors to modern universities, algebra, and the names of the stars and even the notion of science as an empirical inquiry. Science flourished in the Golden Age of Islam because there was within Islam a strong rational tradition of inquiry. This tradition stressed human free will.  Under the Mut3azalah (enlightened moderation) knowledge grew. Moslim conventional Puritanism, led by Ghazali, reawakened in the twelfth century.  The Moslem puritans championed revelation over reason, predestination over free will. The Imam Ghazali described mathematics and medicine as (Fard-E-Kefaya) placing these knowledge secondary to religious knowledge.

            A few Islamic clergies are trying to introduce elements of bigotry and fanaticism in mainstream Islamic thought. Our modern day laureates depict equally a sense of great connectivity to the rich past and that has to become a standard. Most likely the Islamic Renaissance that was about to be born 1000 years ago did not. We shall never know the extent of the harm that some celebrated religious zealots caused to mankind and civilization. We are once again at the crossroads; the only ways forward is to connect with the world and help make ours a true charitable society, the only way prosperity of mind can be ensured is through pluralism of ideas.

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).

Idiosyncrasy in “conjectures”; (Dec. 21, 2009)

Idiosyncrasy or cultural bias relates to “common sense” behavior (for example, preferential priorities in choices of values, belief systems, and daily habits…) is not restricted among different societies: it can be found within one society, even within what can be defined as “homogeneous restricted communities” ethnically, religiously, common language, gender groups, or professional disciplines.

Most disciplines have mushroomed into cults.

A cult is any organization that creates its own nomenclature and definition of terms to be distinguished from the other cults in order to acquiring recognition as a “professional entity” or independent disciplines that should benefit from laws of special minorities (when mainly it is a matter of generating profit or doing business as usual).

These cults want to owe the non-initiated into believing that they have serious well-developed methods or excellent comprehension of a restricted area in sciences. The initiated on multidisciplinary knowledge recognize that the methods of any cult are old and even far less precise or developed; that the terms are not new and there are already analogous terms in other disciplines that are more accurate and far better defined.

Countless experiments have demonstrated various kinds of idiosyncrasies.  This article is oriented toward “cult” kinds of orders, organization, and professional discipline.  My first post is targeting the order of mathematicians; the next article will focus on experiments.

Mathematics, meaning “sure study” (wisekunde), has no reliable historical documentation. Most of mathematical concepts were written many decades or centuries after they were “floating around” among mathematicians.

Mathematics is confusing with its array of nomenclature. What are the differences among axiom, proposition, lemma, postulate, or conjecture?  What are the differences among the terms, theorem, questions, problems, hypothesis, corollary, and again conjecture?  For example, personally, I feel that axiom is mostly recurrent in geometry, lemma in probability, hypothesis in analytical procedures, and conjecture in algebraic deductive reasoning.

Hypothesis is in desuetude in mathematics. For example, Newton said “I am not making a hypothesis”.

Socrates made fun of this term by explaining how it was understood “I designate hypothesis what people doing geometry use to treating a question.  For example, when asked for their “expert opinion” they reply: “I still cannot confirm but I think that if I have a viable hypothesis for this problem and if it is the following hypothesis… then I think that we may draw a conclusion. If we have another hypothesis then another conclusion is more valid.”

Plato said: “As long as mathematics start from hypothesis instead of facts then we do not think that they have true comprehension, since they are not going back to fundamentals”

Hypothesis is still the main term used in experimental research. Theoretically, an experiment is not meant to accept a hypothesis as true or valid, but simply “Not to reject it” if the relationships among the manipulated variables are “statistically significant” to a pre-determined level, usually 5% in random errors.

Many pragmatic scientific researchers don’t care about the fine details in theoretical mathematical concepts and tend to adopt a hypothesis that was not rejected as law.  This is one case of idiosyncrasy when the researcher wants badly the “non-rejected” hypothesis to represent his view. Generally, an honest experimenter has to repeat the experiment or encourage someone else to generalize the results by studying more variables.

Conjecture means (throwing in together) and can be translated as conclusion or deduction; basically, it is an opinion or supposition based on insufficient proofs.

In the last century, conjectures were exposed in writing as promptly as possible instead of keeping them floating ideas, concepts, or probable theorems. This new behavior of writing conjectures was given the rationale that “plausible reasoning” is a set of suppositions thrown around as questions mathematicians guess they have answers to them, but are unable to demonstrate temporarily.

The term conjecture has been used so freely in the last decades that Andre Weil warned that “current mathematicians use the term conjecture when they fail after a few attempts to verify a concept, even if the problem is of no importance.”  David Kazhdan ironically warned that this practice of enunciating conjectures might turn out like a 5-year Soviet plan.

At first, a set of conjectures was meant to be the basic structure for a theorem or precise assertions that were temporarily used in the trading of logical discussions. Thus, conjectures permit the construction of rigorous deductions that are accessible to direct testing of their validity. A conjecture was a “research program” that move ahead in order to foresee the explored domain.

Consequently, conjecture is kind of extending a name and an address to a set of suppositions and analogies for a concept, long before tools and methods are created to approach directly the problem.

A “Problem” designates a mental task submitted to the audience or targeted for research or project; usually, the set of problems lead to demonstrating a general theorem. Many problems are in fact conjectures such as the problem of twin primary numbers that consists of proving the existence of an infinity of coupled numbers such that p-q = 2.

One of the explanations for using freely the term conjecture is the modern facility of mathematicians of discriminating aspects of uncertainty at the theoretical level. It is an acquired habit, an idiosyncrasy. Thus, for a mathematician to state a conjecture he must have solved many particular cases and recognize that a research program is needed to developing special tools for demonstrating the conjecture.  This is a tough restriction in this age where time is of essence among millions of mathematicians competing for prizes.

First “mathematical” philosopher: Descartes; (Dec. 20, 2009)

Theoretically, Descartes started by doubting all previous knowledge handed down since Antiquity. The philosophical structures of Plato and Aristotle were good historical knowledge, but were of no use in comprehending the universe, the natural world, and the connection between body and mind.

Obviously, the mathematician Descartes of the 17th century could not doubt everything, otherwise, he would have no ground to start his modern “philosophical system”.

Philosophical systems, like mathematics, must be constructed from fundamental building blocks or propositions that we are certain that are real and exist. A few fundamental evidences or axioms had to be established:

The first evidence was that he doubted. Since he doubted, then Descartes proved that he was a thinking man: “I think, thus I exist”

The second evidence is that we cannot trust our senses for certainties: Since our dreams are more real and more vivid than our waking impressions then the conscious senses should not be trusted.  This evidence was known by most philosophers but they failed to go any further in their investigations.

The third evidence is that Descartes had a distinct idea of a “perfect entity” since childhood. His question was “how can an idea of a perfect entity be generated by an imperfect man”?  (I would be interested if someone can mail me an experiment that shows at what age a child construct an idea of a “coherent world”.  For me, that would be the stage when the brain has already built the main structure for perceiving the universe as a perfect entity.)

The fourth evidencewhat we grasp with our reason is more real and tenacious than what we grasp with our senses”: we know that, as individual men, we are more real than the material world since we feel and sense a wide array of pains and emotional experiences.

The fifth evidence is that the outside world (example, sun, moon, and stars) is real when we can quantitatively measure the properties and characteristics of the outside world which is the realm of reason and not of perceptual senses. Galileo was the first scientific empiricist when he wrote “Measure everything that can be measured. What is not measurable then make it measurable”

When you work out a mathematical problem you are guided by rules of thinking that symbols help redirecting the correctness of our logical system.  In philosophy, there are no symbols that can be used mathematically.

Descartes started coherently, but got diverted from pursuing his logical reasoning out of loss of patience or because he died at the age 54 and could not re-think his system: he jumped to the conclusion that God exists and he is the reason why we recognize the universe as a perfect entity.

From then on, Descartes was just stating corollaries; for example that mind is a distinct substance than the body.

“Sophie’s World” on Hellenism; (Dec. 11, 2009)

After Alexander of Macedonia defeated the Persian Empire around 335 BC, the entire region in the Middle East and Egypt became Hellenistic; which means the elite and public servants learned to speak and write in the Greek language and to study Greek philosophies.

Athens got a new life as center of philosophical schools, and the newly built city of Alexandria in Egypt flourished as the center of sciences and medicine.

Four major philosophical schools captured the interest of the people and had repercussions in Rome till the year 400 AC, as the Christian Church got established as the State religion after the defeat of the last Germanic Emperor in Rome.

1. The Cynics school was founded in Athens by Antisthenes, a disciple of Socrates in 400 BC. The frugality of Socrates was the guiding idea as he wondered before a stall: “So many things that I never used or needs”.

The dogma of this school is that happiness is learning to feel independent (detached) from external advantages such as material luxuries or political power.

Happiness is in the reach of everyone if he so desired, and it can be lasting. Suffering and death should not be disturbing events. Feeling concerns for other people should be overcome.

Diogenes is the best representative of the Cynics; he lived in a barrel and carried no belonging but a stick. It is reported that he asked Alexander to step aside for he was blocking the sun rays as he was asking him what he can do for him.

The Church of Rome coined the pejorative term “cynical” referring to individual who exhibits a sneering disbelief in human sincerity, with penchant insensitivity to people’s plights: The Church was competing with all the Hellenistic schools of philosophy and religions.

2. The Stoics school was founded by Zeno in Athens around 300 BC. Zeno was not Greek by origin but from the Phoenician city of Sidon, and he studied in Alexandria before he landed in Greece following a shipwreck. Socrates and Heraclitus were his favorite philosophers and he used to teach under a portico (stoa).

Zeno dogma was that each individual is a complete microcosms reflected in the macrocosms.

First, there was a universal rightness or natural law based on human and universal reason that didn’t alter with time or place.

Second, there is no conflict between spirit (ideas) and matter; this concept was coined “monism” in contrast to Plato dualism of the two worlds of ideas and matter.

Third, sickness and death are within the natural law phenomena and must be accepted since everything happens out of necessity.

Fourth, happy events and moments should be received in natural composure with no undue exhilaration.

Stoics got involved in politics and social problems.

Cicero, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca were staunch stoics. Seneca wrote “mankind is holy”; thus, considering individual dignity and well being as goal for improvement and care.

The Roman Christian Church coined the connotation stoic for individuals who do not let their feeling take over.

3. The Epicurean school was established by Aristippus, another disciple of Socrates. Epicurus founded this school around 300 BC in Athens. He developed the pleasure ethic of Aristippus and adopted the “atom soul” theory of Democritus which says that after death the soul disperses in all directions.

The story goes that Epicureans lived in gardens (safe-harbors): a notice hanged at the entrance said: “Stranger, here you will live well. Here pleasure is the highest good

The dogma of the Epicureans was:

First, pleasurable results of an action is always counterbalanced with side effects that we need to mind of;

Second, short-term pleasurable results should be analyzed compared to the potential longer-term alternative pleasures if we control our actions;

Third, pleasure is appreciation of values in friendship, art, and self control in sensual tendencies.  Epicurus summed up his doctrine in 4 “medicinal” treatments: first, the gods are not to be feared; second, Death is nothing to worry about since when we die then we no longer exist; third, Good is easy to attain; and fourth, the fearful is easy to endure.

Epicurus advice was to learn to live in seclusion.  Epicureans had little concern for politics and community services.  The roman Church coined a bad connotation such as “Indulge in or enjoy the moment

4. The Neo-Platonist school was founded by Plotinus (205-270 BC) and he was from the Near East and studied in Alexandria and settled in Rome.  Plotinus doctrine was influenced by Plato.

The world span two poles:

The One that constantly shines and the World that does not receive the light.  The immortal soul (concept of salvation) is the world of ideas that is illuminated by the One (or God), it is “a spark from the fire”.  The material world has no real existence until the light reaches it. Plotinus experienced mystical moments of fusion with the world of spirit.

The Roman Christian Church had a hard struggle with this powerfully competing school of Neo-Platonism and ended up adopting most of its concepts.

Ironing out a few chaotic glitches; (Dec. 5, 2009)

              Philosophers have been babbling for many thousand years whether the universe is chaotic or very structured so that rational and logical thinking can untangle its laws and comprehend nature’s behaviors and phenomena.

              Plato wrote that the world is comprehensible.  The world looked like a structured work of art built on mathematical logical precision. Why? Plato was found of symmetry, geometry, numbers, and he was impressed by the ordered tonality of musical cord instruments.  Leibnitz in the 18th century explained “In what manner God created the universe it must be in the most regular and ordered structure.  Leibnitz claimed that God selected the simplest in hypotheses that generated the richest varieties of phenomena.”  A strong impetus that the universe is comprehensible started with the “positivist philosophers and scientists” of the 20th century who were convinced that the laws of natures can be discovered by rational mind.

            Einstein followed suit and wrote “God does not play dice.  To rationally comprehend a phenomenon we must reduce, by a logical process, the propositions (or axioms) to apparently known evidence that reason cannot touch.” The pronouncement of Einstein “The eternally incomprehensible universe is its comprehensibility” can be interpreted in many ways. The first interpretation is “what is most incomprehensible in the universe is that it can be comprehensible but we must refrain from revoking its sacral complexity and uncertainty”.  The second interpretation is “If we are still thinking that the universe is not comprehensible then may be it is so, as much as we want to think that we may understand it; thus, the universe will remain incomprehensible (and we should not prematurely declare the “end of science”).

            The mathematician Herman Weyl developed the notion: “The assertion that nature is regulated by strict laws is void unless we affirm that it is related by simple mathematical laws.  The more we delve in the reduction process to the bare fundamental propositions the more facts are explained with exactitude.”  It is this philosophy of an ordered and symmetrical world that drove Mendeleyev to classifying the chemical elements; Murry Gell-Mann used “group theory” to predicting the existence of quarks.

            A few scientists went even further; they claimed that the universe evolved in such a way to permit the emergence of the rational thinking man.  Scientists enunciated many principles such as “the principle of least time” that Fermat used to deduce the laws of refraction and reflection of light; Richard Feynman discoursed on the “principle of least actions”; we have the “principle of least energy consumed”, the “principle of computational equivalence”, the “principle of entropy” or the level of uncertainty in a chaotic environment.

            Stephen Hawking popularized the idea of the “Theory of Everything TOE” a theory based on a few simple and non redundant rules that govern the universe.  Stephen Wolfran thinks that the TOE can be found by a thorough systematic computer search: The universe complexity is finite and the most seemingly complex phenomena (for example cognitive functions) emerge from simple rules.

            Before we offer the opposite view that universe is intrinsically chaotic let us define what is a theory.  Gregory Chaitin explained that “a theory is a computer program designed to account for observed facts by computation”.  (Warning to all mathematicians!  If you want your theory to be published by peer reviewers then you might have to attach an “elegant” or the shortest computer program in bits that describes your theory)

            Kurt Gödel and Alain Turing demonstrated what is called “incompletude” in mathematics or the ultimate uncertainty of mathematical foundations.  There are innumerable “true” propositions or conjectures that can never be demonstrated.  For example, it is impossible to account for the results of elementary arithmetic such as addition or multiplication by the deductive processes of its basic axioms.  Thus, many more axioms and unresolved conjectures have to be added in order to explain correctly many mathematical results.  Turing demonstrated mathematically that there is no algorithm that can “know” if a program will ever stop or not.  The consequence in mathematics is this: no set of axioms will ever permit to deduce if a program will ever stop or not. Actually, there exist many numbers that cannot be computed.  There are mathematical facts that are logically irreducible and incomprehensive.

            Quantum mechanics proclaimed that, on the micro level, the universe is chaotic: there is impossibility of simultaneously locating a particle, its direction, and determining its velocity.  We are computing probabilities of occurrences.  John von Neumann wrote: “Theoretical physics does not explain natural phenomena: it classifies phenomena and tries to link or relate the classes.”

            Acquiring knowledge was intuitively understood as a tool to improving human dignity by increasing quality of life; thus, erasing as many dangerous superstitions that bogged down spiritual and moral life of man.  Ironically, the trend captured a negative life of its own in the last century.  The subconscious goal for learning was to frustrate fanatic religiosity that proclaimed that God is the sole creator and controller of our life, its quality, and its destiny.  With our gained power in knowledge we may thus destroy our survival by our own volition; we can commit earth suicide regardless of what God wishes.  So far, we have been extremely successful beyond all expectations.  We can destroy all living creatures and plants by activating a single H-Bomb or whether we act now or desist from finding resolution to the predicaments of climate changes.

            I have impressions.  First, what the mathematicians and scientists are doing is not discovering the truth or the real processes but to condense complexity into simple propositions so that an individual may think that he is able to comprehend the complexities of the world.  Second, nature is complex; man is more complex; social interactions are far more complex.  No mathematical equations or simple laws will ever help an individual to comprehend the thousands of interactions among the thousands of variability.  Third, we need to focus on the rare events; it has been proven that the rare events (for example, occurrences at the tails of probability functions) are the most catastrophic simply because very few are the researchers interested in investigating them; scientists are cozy with those well structured behaviors that answer collective behaviors.

            My fourth impression is that I am a genius without realizing it.  Unfortunately Kurt Gödel is the prime kill joy; he would have mock me on the ground that he mathematically demonstrated that any sentence I write is a lie.  How would I dare write anything?

Testing 3,000 years of babbling

Goethe said “he who cannot draw on 3 thousand years is living from hand to mouth.”  

Philosophers have been arguing how man acquired knowledge, what he did with all that knowledge, and for what purpose.

Plato position was that there is nothing in the natural world that has not first existed in the world of ideas and that “the soul yearns to fly home on the wings of love to world of ideas. It longs to be freed from the chain of the body.”

The Irish bishop, George Berkeley (1685-1753), recaptured Plato concept and ventured even further “our sense perceptions proceed from God” and denied the existence of the material world beyond the human mind.

Aristotle countered Plato and wrote “nothing exist in consciousness that has not first been experienced by the senses; Plato is doubling the number of things.”

David Hume, the contemporary of Berkeley, Voltaire, and Rousseau (the Enlightenment Age in Europe), fine tuned the philosophy of Aristotle in what is called the empirical method for acquiring knowledge and 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.”

I propose that we test the two seemingly “opposing” hypothesis.

It is theoretically feasible to do the set of experiments, though we might face difficult ethical problems and a few confounding effects.

For example; we may select an experimental group of children, aged less than one year, and confine each child in separate rooms.  The only connection to the real world would be a wide screen showing all kinds of objects, animals, plants, people, sceneries of the environmental and geographic varieties on earth, along with all kinds of functions and relations of “laws of nature”. 

Color and audio sounds may or may not accompany the movies, depending on the experimental designs.

Consequently, the senses of touch, odor, and temperature will be reduced to the bare minimum; the senses of hearing and seeing of real objects will be restricted to the family member or nurse delivering food and health care.

There are several confounding variables that are difficult to control.

First, the child has to be fed and cared for.  A task that will inevitably get the child in contact with many real world “objects” and psychological diversities.

How this experimental group will fair compared to a control group of children in constant and free contact with the real world?

Obviously, the prime test should first focus on brain association processes before venturing in testing other forms of intelligence.

The experiments will vary in the age groups of children, the duration of the experiment, the programs on the screen, the duration of projections and their frequencies per day, the type of human contacts for caring to the well being of the child, and so on.

In any event, these experiments will provide directions to the strength of the theory that says “it is contact with real objects and the real world that is the foundation for acquiring knowledge.” 

They might provide better insight on the most advantageous age for exposing children to real world “objects”.

Second confounding factor that cannot be controlled and which is “Do genes, through a couple of million years of evolution, have any effect in supplying or overcoming deficiencies from lack of contact with the real world?”

If Plato is correct, then a human child, born say on planet Mars and then relocated to earth while still a child, will not be able to build a coherent world more complex than earth born children; simply because his “set of ideas” were confirmed in environments richer and more varied in objects and conditions; the assumption is that the child born in Mars had no time enough to build all the relevant associations in his brain.

I think that each object has many images in our mind or definitions, and depends on our mood, circumstances, and environment.

People who are intelligent in one form or another had brain mechanism of better association capabilities when they were children than do deficient children.

“War on Rhetoric”; (Nov. 28, 2009)

The romantic period in literature of the 19th century imposed conventional styles and modes of grammars that restricted clear discourse. Victor Hugo wrote “war on rhetoric” in 1858. Three decades later, rhetoric was scraped from the curriculum in the public schools in France till mid 20th century.  Victor Hugo was following in the footsteps of Plato who condemned the oratory techniques of the Sophist philosophers: they were the main teachers of the elite class destined to politics and city administration.

Basically, the Sophist philosophers used techniques of argumentation, controversial dialogue, and emphatic discourse to win over the audience to their programs. Plato contended that the Sophists’ pedagogy manipulated the truth, the good, and the beautiful; that they didn’t account for reason, dialectic method, and the art of dialogue, and that they encouraged speeches to be wrapped up in myths.

Aristotle categorized the art of rhetoric and distinguished among the political deliberate discourses with the objective of saying “what is good”, the demonstrative judiciary discourse targeted to rendering justice or “what is just”, and the epidictic discourse to enhancing the values of individuals. The Roman Quintillion marked the western rhetoric tradition in academia via his book “The Oratory Institutions”.

Rhetoric is currently hotly applied to various fields of interests and businesses; it has been diversified to specialties such as amorous “how to seduce”, pedagogic “how to convince students; or how to win students over in class”, gastronomy so that the text of menus in restaurants read like poems with plenty of metaphoric expressions, exotic inventions, analogy with high fashion, and figure of speeches evoking thinness and lightness. The military, religious sects, advertising, and artistic fields are heavily reliant of rhetoric or “communication” specialists.

There are two major rhetorical sets of values: the collective and the individual values. The discourse links three entities: Ethos (Identity), Logos (the world), and Pathos (the others). In the collective values we recognize examples of the Ethos such as (respect of the dead), (health, age, and body), and (hope and intellectual satisfaction). These collective values of Ethos are recursively linked respectively to the Logos values of (primal religion), (economic acquisition, and (extreme end results). The Logos values are recursively linked respectively to the Pathos values of (family), (political gains or respect for norms), and (social purpose or general interest).

In the individual sets of values we have: in the Ethos (status), (rights such as freedom), (desires), (virtues), and (opinion).  The ethos values correspond respectively to the Logos values of (revenue), (power), (needs), (capacities), and (facts).  The Logos values correspond respectively to the Pathos values of (Power), (responsibilities), (demands), (passions), and (questions).

Consequently, we can generate a cyclical adjustment in rhetoric from the projective ethos or “what the audience imagines” to the effective ethos (the speaker), to the projective pathos or “how the speaker imagines his audience”, to the effective pathos (the individuals in the audience asking questions).

The late Fernand Hallyn published “The rhetoric structures of science” in 2004; he demonstrated that classical physics is fundamentally metaphorical and analogical figures of speeches. Thus, most instances of discoveries or “Eureka” of great minds were generated by analogical pictures that were registered in personal experiences.

Rhetoric was the primary tool or excuse for the elite classes to acquiring whatever knowledge that was available at the time such as literatures, poetry, and geometry. You may talk to an audience on empty stomach (that would be recommended to shorten a speech and get to the point quickly but you cannot talk with an empty mind! You have got to have, at least, a few subjective notions of what you are conveying.

My contention is that our frontal brain developed a specialty of sorting out and categorizing mind’s associations and images in what was called “scientific methods” in the 18th century.  For example, the processes of identifying qualities and attributes among objects, living species, or phenomena and then establishing coherent taxonomies of relationship in each field of sciences.

I may go even further and claim that the techniques of induction, deduction, and various logical systems were not created but they are a long process of describing the rhetorical mind that generated metaphors, metonym, and analogies by the processes of associations among our various memories.

Damascus saved the ancient Greek culture; (October 10, 2009)

 

            The German philosopher Heidegger stated: “Philosophy is purely Greek” and thus, the European love to believe that philosophy is purely a western conception. In “Aristotle at mount St. Michel”, the latest book of Sylvain Guggenheim, it is said in substance that Europe would not have needed the Arab civilization to accede to the Greek heritage in philosophy and sciences and that it is the Christian “Arabs” who introduced Hellenisms in the Islamic-Arab world. It goes on “As a religion, Islam didn’t offer anything to the European civilization, neither textual reference nor theological argument. It goes also in the legal and political domains.”

           

I got into thinking.

            The Islamic armies defeated the Byzantium forces of Heracles in Syria and the Persian Sassanide forces in Iraq and expanded into Egypt during the second Caliphate Omar Ibn Khattab.  Within five years, the Umayyad dynasty of Moawiyat decided on Damascus for Capital of the new Arab Empire.

            Damascus was the hotbed of most of the Orthodox Christian sects that paid allegiance to the center in Byzantium and they were learned in the Greek language along with the Aramaic popular language.  The “heretic” Christian sects had fled beyond the Euphrates River to the kingdom of Persia.

            The Arab Umayyad dynasty relied on the Orthodox Christian educated people to translate Greek philosophy, medicine, mathematics, and science manuscripts into the Arabic language; the Aramaic language was the root language for the spoken Arabic language in the Arabic Peninsula and thus it was easy for the Syrian to adopt Arabic and translate the Greek and Roman manuscripts.

            It is not that the Near East people just loved the ancient Greek manuscripts of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Euripides, and Sophocles. It is more likely that most of the Greek schools of sciences, philosophy, and medicine were erected by Greek speaking scholars born on the Mediterranean shores from Alexandria, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey; those famous scholars span from Euclid, Thales, Heracles, Plotine, Zenon, Ptolemy, and passing by the great law givers and founders of the Roman Empire located in Beirut.

            If the new Islamic Empire failed to settle on Damascus as Capital and opted to stay in Medina then it is very likely that the Greek manuscripts and culture would have vanished during the hegemony of the Arabic Empire.

 

I got into thinking.

            If in the nick of time, the fourth Caliphate Ali ibn Abi Taleb decided not to defeat and pursue the army of Mouawiyat then the Capital of the Islamic Arab Empire would have been Koufa in Iraq.  The ancient culture of Persia would have been the civilization of the land from the confine of China to England.  What the European scholars love to label their race as Indo-European would have been a more fitting name: the Persian-Indian culture and civilization.

 

I got into thinking.

            If the Prophet Muhammad did not adopt the Jewish Bibles and the Christian New Testaments as integral part of Islam in an attempt of consolidating common denominators among these monotheist religions then what kind of Christianity Europe would be having today?

            Damascus saved the ancient Greek language. Damascus saved its culture.  Like it or not, the European should be proud of their real Near Eastern heritage along the eastern Mediterranean shores. (More on that topic in following posts).


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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