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PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS electronic journal

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

Issue number 73
14th December 2003

CONTENTS

I. 'Pathways Schools 2003' by Matthew Del Nevo and Peter Schmiedgen

II. Essays by Catherine McAuley Students

III. 'Philosophy: Who Needs It? A reply to David Large and Keith Parker'
    by D.R. Khashaba

-=-

EDITOR'S NOTE

On Thursday, 4th December twelve students from Catherine McAuley Girls High
School in Sydney, Australia received their certificates at Prizegiving for
successfully completing the Pathways Schools program. Many congratulations to
the young philosophy students and to their hard working teachers Matthew Del
Nevo and Peter Schmiedgen.

In this issue is the report by Matthew and Peter together with work by three of
the students, Ashley Langton (15), Emma Gallagher (16) and Angeli Toledo (16).
More essays by the Catherine McAuley students will be reproduced in the next
issue.

Also in this issue, a response from Daoud Khashaba to the provocative exchange
between David Large and Keith Parker on the question, 'Philosophy: Who Needs
It?' I hope that more Pathways readers will be provoked by Dr Khashaba's
comments into contributing to this vital debate.

-=-

I. 'PATHWAYS SCHOOLS 2003' BY MATTHEW DEL NEVO AND PETER SCHMIEDGEN

This year Pathways Schools was trialled at Catherine McAuley, a Catholic Girl's
High School in Sydney with an enrollment of 1120. The course consisted of ten
Philosophy Pathways introductory units, five of which were selected from 'The
Possible World Machine' [Pathways program A. Introduction to Philosophy - see
below, Ed.].

Students did one unit a month, which involved 4 hours of home study a week,
toward a written assessment for the unit, and a Community of Inquiry held at
school in each topic area.

Twelve girls were selected from Years 8 to 10 (ages 14-16). One girl from Year
8, Caitlin Hosking; seven girls from Year 9, Seaview Kama, Rebecca Abdou,
Jessica Mohr, Alysar Aboumelem, Margaret Dobrucki, Ashley Langton, Sophia
Kolnar; and four girls from Year 10, Teresa Moran, Emma Gallagher, Michele
Martyn and Angeli Toledo.

Emma from Year 10 and Caitlin from Year 8 were given Special Merit certificates
for their outstanding effort in Philosophy. All girls merited a certificate for
completing this one year course and proving their capacity for autonomous
learning and dealing with material which was mostly new to them.

Credit must go to the School, and thanks to its Principal, Mrs Johnstone-Croke,
and Philosophy facilitator, Mrs Teresa Wilson, for supporting and promoting this
experimental program.

The virtue of Pathways Schools for practitioners of the Community of Inquiry
pedagogy - as promoted by SAPERE in England - is that it gives a structure and
framework, a directedness, to the proceedings. The Community of Inquiry is not
ad hoc, but arises out of common reading, comparable research and common
written assessment at the month's end. This makes for an improved Community of
Inquiry.

Pathways Schools is a program that either requires some support from within the
School, that is, someone who is able to facilitate the program, or else, the
School may out-source its Philosopher - as in fact Catherine McAuley did this
year. Schools receive a complete kit, with assessments, reading list, study
guide and of course unit materials.

Selection of students for the program was based on their being at the top of
their class in the majority of their subjects, and recommended by their
teachers as students who could be trusted to catch up on any work they missed.
Students came out of classes for the morning of the Community of Inquiry and
were awarded an hour out of lessons each week, an hour of their choice (which
they liked!) in order to research for the assessment.

At Catherine McAuley the students came out tops, showing that even at school
age students can find the motivation to do extra work when it is engaging and
fun.

(c) Matthew Del Nevo and Peter Schmiedgen 2003

E-mail: mdelnevo@mail.usyd.edu.au

---

Appendix: Pathways Schools program 2003

Unit 1 - The First Philosophers
Unit 2 - Searching for the Soul
Unit 3 - The 'I' and Consciousness
Unit 4 - Right and Wrong
Unit 5 - Possible Worlds
Unit 6 - Knowledge and Doubt
Unit 7 - Other Minds
Unit 8 - Personal Identity
Unit 9 -  Why be Moral?
Unit 10 - Perception and Reality

Unit 1 is taken from Pathways program C, Ancient Philosophy. Units 2 and 3 are
from Pathways program B, Philosophy of Mind. Units 4 and 9 are from Pathways
program E, Moral Philosophy. Units 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 are from Pathways program A,
Introduction to Philosophy. See http://www.philosophypathways.com/programs/pak2.html

-=-

II. ESSAYS BY CATHERINE MCAULEY STUDENTS

Ashley Langton

"Are Possible Worlds Real?"

Are possible worlds real? That is a question that is asked all over, and has
been for thousands of years. Yet before you can even think about possible
worlds, you nee to think about the definitions of real and possible worlds.

What is real? Is it something that we can physically touch, or is it what our
mind perceives as real? How do we know that only the physically corporeal
materials are real? Therein lies that myth that ghosts and such are only
figures of people's imaginations. The brain and eye, for example, are a team
used to define what's real, what we are really seeing. The eye sees what's
there and sends the message to the brain, which interprets what the eye is
seeing. However, the brain can misinterpret a stimulus and either sees
something is not there, such as oasis, or trains itself to believe that what
the eye is seeing is not there. This is the underlying basis of the fact that
ghosts/ spirits etc may actually exist, and that we just can't see them because
our mind believes what the eye sees doesn't exist. So therefore, 'real' in this
sense would have to be defined as something that physically exists, even
without the knowledge of the human mind and awareness.

Possible worlds. What does this mean? Does it mean possible little countries on
the planets in outer space, or alternate realities where we made different
choices, or where the past and the future are steps ahead and behind of us, or
other possible worlds that actually exist on this planet and this timeframe
without us comprehending it? It could be any or all of these amazing
possibilities.

Because we haven't been able to probe for any great length of time and
certainty, we have no way of knowing if there are any form possible worlds on
any outer space planet, and even if there were, they, their technology and
their bodies may be either superior to ours, or inexplicable to our technology
and our minds, as with the potential existence of ghosts and spirits.

As to the potential existence of another form of possible world, the
possibility of alternate realities, it is possible that there are alternate
realities in which the past or future is one or more steps behind or in font of
each other. Fictional although it sounds, J.K. Rowling actually mentioned this
possibility in her third book, 'The Prisoner of Azkaban'. In this book, Harry
and Hermione, travel through time three hours. Many people would think with
this that yeah, they've gone back to the past. What some don't realize is that
when they've gone back to the past, the 'them' of the past are still doing
exactly what they where doing, while the 'them' of the future are doing
something else in the timeframe. This example shows that people do believe in
travelling back to the past, but all they would really be travelling to would
be a alternate reality where the past hasn't reached that stage of technology
yet.

Another form of a potential world would be the alternate reality where we had
made different decisions about our life and the choices we had to make in it.
For another so called fictional example, in one 'Charmed' TV episode there
featured Paige travelling to an alternate reality where the charmed ones had
never got back together after Prudence died, because Paige had also died.
Phoebe had married Cole to keep him from murdering her last sister Piper, and
Piper had never married Leo and had her baby Whiete, but instead was a demon
hunter. This example  also shows that people believe that alternate realities
where we made different choices exist, because there are so many examples
around, and people are constantly trying to discover ways to enter these
realities. For these reasons, I believe that possible worlds can be defined as
a potential world that differs from ours that we are not able to reach or
comprehend.

So to answer the question are possible world real, I would believe that
physically they exist , but as our mind and technology are incapable of
comprehending or of seeing these possible worlds, they do not exist, because to
us, the only things that exist are the things that we can mentally and
physically comprehend and see.

(c) Ashley Langton 2003

---

Emma Gallagher

"Why Be Moral?"

'Why be moral?' This question poses one of the most popular and unresolved
arguments in philosophical history. Morals rely on perception and therefore are
based on personal opinion. Personal opinion is rarely taken as a rock solid fact
for an argument but within this context it is quite rightly used as evidence in
aid of an argument. Generally when people think of morals they think of them in
terms of 'right' and 'wrong', 'good' and 'evil', in most cases this is the only
form of morals required by the general community and by the individual
themselves in their case, their decision. However in some, more extreme cases,
a little more consideration is required to make the 'right' decision under the
circumstances. Morality is what bonds a society together it gives us a code to
live by it is the basis of our laws and most of all it simply makes the world
more bearable to live in.

"Morals make the world a better place" a simplistic yet profound statement made
by four separate people who were surveyed [1] upon the question 'why be moral.'
For those of our society who do not have time to peruse over this question,
this answer is a standard, uniform answer. However for those of us who have the
privilege of looking at this question in far more detail, this statement is not
only assumed but also proven. A person objecting to morality would most
probably say 'why be moral when others within the community are not?'. If we
were all immoral beings then the planet would be in anarchy. People's sense of
morality, otherwise known as a conscience, is the only thing keeping this world
from complete and utter chaos. If morals did not exist people would go around
murdering, stealing, and raping at will, with no second thought to whether it
was 'right' or 'wrong', with no second thought of the implications to the
community and the individuals with whom these acts concern. If only a few of
the many members of the community are immoral then the anarchy and chaos is
kept to a bare minimum. Murder is a severely punishable offence in a
morality-based society and with today's modern technology being made available
to the police, it forces members of the community stop and think twice about
the implications which will be brought about by the act that they are about to
commit.

Secondly, as stated above, morality gives us a code or standard to live by,
something to base our decisions on, a framework with which the 'right' decision
can be made. When faced with a difficult decision many (not all) people fall
back on the framework of morality to help them decide on the 'correct' option.
An anti-moralist would say "but where's the freedom? There is no choice. Morals
are almost completely community based". It is true that morals are partly based
on the community as morals rely on interaction, however, is this to say that a
person who has lived on a deserted island from childhood, who has never come in
contact with another human being, who was then was rescued at age 25 and brought
within a community that this person will have no sense of morality, no idea of
what is right and what is wrong? His sense of morality may not be as far
advanced as that of the members of the established community but he would still
have a basic sense of morality. He would still know that it would be wrong to
mate with an ape and he would be able to decide that eating a certain type of
berry is 'right'. It may be simplistic but it is still a moral decision. And on
the flipside, a human being needs human interaction to survive.[2]

Another reason people use to announce that they are a moral being is that their
religion demands it. They believe that their soul commands what is right and
wrong and that the soul, being their direct link with God, is always correct. I
personally don't agree with this view as I am not a particularly religious
person and I do not believe in the existence of the soul, but that does not
make this an invalid point. Religion is an almost completely moral based
belief. It relies on people using their consciences to make decisions of a
religious nature. The 10 commandments being a prime example of morality in
religion. Religious morality is a flip-sided subject. For example: is x good
because God loves it? Or does God love x because it is good?[3] This topic, I
believe will be debated until the end of time because our morals are based on
our perceptions and perception is a matter of personal opinion. As stated above
personal opinion is generally not accepted as rock solid evidence towards an
argument but in this context it may be accepted.

However morals are not only involved in the belief side of human existence.
Morals are the basis for almost all of today's laws such as those concerning
murder, rape, larceny and other minor offences. Members the jury of a man on
trial uses their morals to aid them in deciding if this man should be punished
for the act or crime that he committed. Lawyers use their morals to help them
argue a case more passionately; they also use their morals to decide what cases
they will take. Lawyers mat not be the best example of moral people but their
decisions are still morally based.

However one valid point that could be made by the anti-moralists is that the
first person to use morals, the 'father of morals' if you will, may have been
wrong in defining what was right. This may be the case but this man's/ woman's
version of morals was universally accepted. Does this not make them right
anyway? If someone believed that these morals were wrong would they not have
stood up and spoke out against them?

In answer to the question posed at the beginning of this essay it is reasonable
to be moral because it gives us standards and rules for us to live by, and a
structure by which we can determine which is the 'right' decision therefore
giving our lives a sense of organisation. On the literal side of this morality
question morality is the basis of today's laws, laws that are nationally
accepted and upheld by most. These laws are in place to help prevent the
anarchy that would erupt if the entire human race were an immoral one. And
finally morality is the basis of our community; it is the cement of the
community. It is the only thing that prevents complete and utter chaos.
Objectionists to morality may claim that morality is restrictive to
individuality and that the person who discovered moral thinking may have been
wrong in discovering what was right but in retrospect these flawed arguments,
as outlined above, have a completely logical explanation with them. Why be
moral? Be moral for the sake of community and individual sanity.

Footnotes

1. For this essay I decided to survey five people (not in philosophy) to see
what their responses would be.

2. Taken from Maslow's hierarch of basic human needs (level two).

3. Taken from 'Morality and Religion' by Reginald Percinal.

Bibliography

'Morality and Religion' by Reginald Percinal published 1988
Unit 4 information

Notes from previous Philosophy sessions on morality and perception

(c) Emma Gallagher 2003

---

Angeli Toledo

"An imaginary dialogue between a scientist, a priest and a philosopher
concerning the nature and existence of the soul"

GRANDPA:
Out of the Darkness of the Cave. Imagine some people living in an
underground cave. They sit with their backs to the mouth of the cave with
their hands and feet bound in such a way that they can only look at the back
wall of the cave. Behind them is a high wall, and behind that wall pass
human-like creatures, holding up various figures above the top of the wall.
Because there is a fire behind these figures they cast flickering shadows on
the back wall of the cave. So the only thing the cave dwellers can see is
this shadow play. They have been sitting in this position since they are
born, so they think that these shadows are all they are. Imagine now that
one of the cave dwellers manages to free himself from his bonds... I am tired
Gemma... may we continue the story some other time?

GEMMA:
Oh please continue Grandpa... Just a little longer. I want to see what the
cave dweller will do... what he will say... when finally he is free! Oh
please...

GRANDPA:
Oh alright... Just a little longer then... The first thing he asks himself is
where all these shadows on the cave wall came from. What do you think
happens when he turns around and sees the figures being held up above the
wall? To begin with he is dazzled by the sharp sunlight. He is also dazzled
by the clarity of the figures because until now he has only seen their
shadow. If he manages to climb over the wall and get past the fire into the
world outside, he will be even more dazzled. But after rubbing his eyes he
will be struck by the beauty of everything. For the first time he will see
colours and clear shapes. He will see the real animals and flowers that the
cave shadows were only poor reflections of. But even now he will ask himself
where all the animals and flowers come from. Then... Gemma... Gemma... my little
Gem...

GEMMA:
What's wrong Grandpa?

GRANDPA:
I am getting old. My time to leave is near...

GEMMA:
Do not say such things.

GRANDPA:
But it is the truth. You must accept that. Do not fret... I am here now and
I promise that I shall always be with you.

GEMMA:
I know Grandpa but...

GRANDPA:
Hush...Let us continue... 'Then he will see the sun in the sky and realize
that this is what gives life to these flowers and animals, just as the fire
made the shadows visible.... Uggh... Uggh...

GEMMA:
...Are you alright?... Shall I get father?

GRANDPA:
...NO...for what? He will only...

GEMMA:
I meant Father Reynolds.

GRANDPA: chortles
'Whatever for? Plus what will your father say?

GEMMA:
To receive the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. It does not matter what
Papa will say, you need it, you must receive it... That is, if you are really
sure you are leaving soon...

GRANPA: coughs sickly

GEMMA:
That is it... I am ringing him to come over as soon as he can.

GRANDPA: continues to cough

GEMMA RINGS FATHER REYNOLDS TO DELIVER THE SACRAMENT. RUNNING TO RETURN BY
HER GRANDPA'S SIDE SHE RUNS INTO HER FATHER WHO HAS JUST COME HOME.

PAPA:
Why are you in such hurry? Is something the matter?

GEMMA:
It's Grandpa...

PAPA:
gently 'What is wrong... clears throat Has something happened? Tell
me...

GEMMA TAKES HER FATHER BY THE HAND AND LEADS HIM TO HIS GRANDPA'S ROOM

GRANDPA:
I am fine.

PAPA:
Of course you are.

RAPID KNOCKING ON THE DOOR. A DOOR OPENING AND SOUNDS OF HASTY FOOTSTEPS.
AT LAST FATHER REYNOLDS ARRIVES IN THE ROOM.

FR REYNOLDS:
Good evening all.

GEMMA:
Father Reynolds!... Welcome.

PAPA:
To what do we owe your visit?

FR. REYNOLDS:
...Gemma, she rang. Emergency. I came here as soon as I could.

PAPA: coolly
As you can see, there is no emergency.

FR. REYNOLDS:
Oh... well, I can still perform the sacrament. It is vital for the
cleansing of the soul to...

PAPA:
Excuse me? The cleansing of what?

FR. REYNOLDS:
...Your soul. Man's only essence of immortality.

PAPA:
It is the body which is immortal.

FR. REYNOLDS: chuckles
'You surely can't mean that. We get sick, we die, our flesh rots away.

PAPA:
It only changes form in new shapes and still remains within the flow of
life. The body is not built for the afterlife, it fights for survival to
continue existing in the present. The chimerical 'beyond' is created by
thought out of fear. There is no such thing as a Supreme Being, there is no
God.

GEMMA:
If there is no God then who has placed mankind here? Who has created the
Universe? Who do people pray to at night before they go to sleep or before
and after they eat their meals? To whom do they cry out to when they are
lonely or when they are in trouble?... There has to be a God.

FR. REYNOLDS:
There is a God.

PAPA:
It is the mind that has created God. And it is out of fear. Fear that has
been passed on from generation to generation.

FR. REYNOLDS:
I don't see how...

PAPA:
You cannot see for you have shut your eyes. You see nothing. Instead you
have allowed others to dictate the world for you. Tradition strangles you,
depriving you from breathing, yet you like it. You like to be told, to be
controlled, to follow.

FR. REYNOLDS:
You have not allowed me to finish. I don't see how God, the supreme being
simply does not exist. In every religion a supreme being or beings is, or are
worshipped. How can the Earth for example, be made so perfectly for mankind.
Tilted at an axis exactly so that countries may have day and night, and
positioned in the solar system with temperatures suited to mankind, not too
hot as it is in Mars and not too cold as it is in Pluto. There has to be one
High being to have created such a world, perfect and balanced before the
destructive arm of man 'blotched the piece of paper' with problems such as
Global Warming.

It is you who fears. Fears the unknown. Almost as if you fear a being more
superior to you. 'Pride is evil's greatest trap.' Learn to love God and
appreciate his sacrifice for your salvation, then you will be at peace.

PAPA:
You will be at peace when you start to function like a computer, a machine.
Functioning automatically, never questioning your actions whether they be
before, during or after they happen. The world shall be a system. Everyone
will have a routine. Life will be in order.

FR. REYNOLDS:
Life should be lived simply. Living simply is about living happily. It is
about making choices that deepen our joy in life. They focus on the
essentials, not on illusions of what brings happiness. To not be consumed by
materialism but to give back to society to help others.

PAPA:
It is people like you who deny us the pleasures in life. You teach us to
tun away from temptation while you treat yourselves little rewards. You ask
us to give up our life and to live like a pauper, begging in the streets and
dressed in rags. We are being deprived of the better life we could have. You
who preach about peace and justice are the very ones who create the problems
in the world. You judge and point fingers, you hypocrites! Do you want to
change the world? Do you really want to? Do you care?... You do not care. If
you cared you would not be here. You would be too caring to just sit here
telling me this. You would be on your way to achieve your quest. Yet still
here you sit, speechless.

GRANDPA:
Stop this dispute!

GEMMA:
Yes, stop it. I'm sure you can both come to an agreement or if not then
come to respect each other's beliefs.

FR. REYNOLDS:
I am not speechless. What I am is sure that my creed to the Jesus Christ
will mean nothing to your Papa for he does not believe. 'Happy are those who
have not seen yet still believe.' For his sacrifice to be unappreciated
saddens my heart for he loves you and you deny him. Your soul you've put to
sleep and only with Christ can it reawaken.

GRANDPA:
Tell me more about the soul...

FR. REYNOLDS: smiles heartily
'It is man's most precious gift from God for through it can we obtain our
salvation. It is there where we may experience pure joy and share eternal
life with God. Mankind is imperfect and perform many sins which hurt God.
But God is merciful and infinitely love us, and he gives us many
opportunities to repair the wrong, to redeem ourselves by repenting our
sins.

GRANDPA:
That does sound nice.

GEMMA:
At the moment of death does God reveal himself with the same intensity to
the all souls?

FR. REYNOLDS:
Each soul is given a recount of his/her life as well as the sufferings to
come and as each person has led a different life, it will not be the same
for everyone.

GRANDPA:
... When someone knows that he is going to die soon, what is the best thing
to prepare himself for it?

PAPA:
Why must you...

FR. REYNOLDS:
To completely give himself to the Lord. Repent sins through confession,
receive Christ through communion and to cleanse the soul through the
Anointing of the Sick.

GEMMA:
If not...? Like... what if he did not believe but once face to face to death
came to the realization... would it be too late?

FR. REYNOLDS:
I knew a young man of about twenty, in a nearby village. This young man's
village had been cruelly stricken by a series of avalanches which had killed
a large number of people. One night, this young man was in his parent's
house when he heard an avalanche just next door to his house. He heard the
piercing screams, heartrending screams, 'Save us! Come, save us! We are
trapped beneath the avalanche!' 'Leaping up, he rose from his bed and rushed
downstairs to go to the rescue of these people. His mother had heard the
screams and prevented him from leaving; she blocked the door, saying 'No!
Let others go and help them, not always us! It's too dangerous outside, I
don't want yet another death!' But he, because he had been deeply affected
by these screams, really wanted to go to he rescue of these people; he
pushed his mother aside. He said to her: 'Yes! I'm going! I can't let them
die like this!' He went out, and then he himself, on the path, was struck by
an avalanche and was killed. 'Three days after his death, he comes to visit
me, at night, and he says to me: 'Have three masses said for me; by this, I
will be delivered from Purgatory.' I went to inform his family and friends;
they were astonished to know that after only three masses, he would be
delivered Purgatory. His friends said to me: 'Oh, I wouldn't have liked to
have been in his place in the moment of his death, if you'd seen all the bad
things he's done!' But this young man said to me: 'You see, I'd made an act
of pure love in risking my life for these people; its thanks to this that
the Lord welcomed me so quickly into his heaven.

PAPA: snort

GRANDPA:
I wish to be liberated.

STARS IN HIS EYES, HE CLOSED THEM AS HE TOOK HIS LAST BREATH. GEMMA PICKED
UP THE UNFINISHED NOVEL AND FINISHED THE STORY.

GEMMA:
The joyful cave dweller could now have gone skipping away into the
countryside, delighting in his new-found freedom. But instead he thinks of
all the others who are still down in the cave. He goes back. Once there, he
tries to convince the cave dwellers that the shadows on the cave wall are
but flickering reflections of 'real' things. But they don't believe him.
They point to the cave wall and say that what they see is all there is.
Finally, they kill him.

FR. REYNOLDS:
God have mercy on his soul.

PAPA:
God have mercy.

- THE END -

As displayed in the dialogue (and the discussion we had at school), it is
hard to 'stand up' and prove our faith to non-believers as everything must
be proven to them to be believed but faith is established by us putting
forward our mind and soul to believe even though what we may believe in may
be quite transparent. Yet this is what tests our faith.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

http://beaskund.helloyou.ws/netnews/bk/soul/soul1022.html, Soul

Sister Emmanuel of Medjugorje, 'The Amazing Secret of the Souls in
Purgatory' 1997, Queenship Publishing, 1st Printing in Australia, August
1998

Holy Bible

Jostein Gaarder, 'Sophie's World' Great Britain, Phoenix House 1995

http://www.well.com/user/jct/chapter1.html, The Certainty that blasts
everything

Parish Priest [Father Ashton] and Science Teacher

(c) Angeli Toledo 2003

-=-

III. 'PHILOSOPHY: WHO NEEDS IT? A REPLY TO DAVID LARGE AND KEITH PARKER'
    BY D.R. KHASHABA

The discussion launched by David Large and Keith Parker raises a vital if, in a
way, deeply disturbing issue, for it should make everyone engaged in
philosophizing stop and ask oneself: Why do I do it? But - to anticipate myself
- what is philosophy good for if not to be a Socratic gadfly?

So, instead of trying to answer directly David Large's question: 'Philosophy:
who needs it?' I will begin by trying to answer, in the first place for myself,
the question: Why do I philosophize? I think the honest, factual, answer is: I
can't help it. It's a bug that has taken hold of me without asking my
permission. In the Preface to my 'Let Us Philosophize' (1998) I confessed that
the book was a personal testimony of a seventy-year-old man who throughout his
life "has had one overriding and abiding passion - call it addiction if you
will: the urge to find answers to questions that most sane people raise at an
early stage of their lives then throw behind their backs to attend to the
business of living."

Has my philosophizing made me wise or good? At this point let me step out of
the confessional and re-word the question thus: Does philosophy make people
wise or good (keeping back for the moment the question whether these are two
things or, as Socrates would tell us, one and the same thing)?

The metaphor of exploration, favoured by Keith Parker, is good provided we note
that philosophy is inward not outward exploration. If wisdom or goodness were a
mountain oR a forest out there somewhere, then we could have settled the
question empirically. But wisdom and goodness are not 'out there' but 'in
here'. (How to interpret this 'in here' is another question we have to put
aside for the moment.) And when we ask for the testimony of those who claim
they have something to say about wisdom and goodness, they give us widely
differing accounts. That is, even if wisdom and goodness are admitted to be
goals sought by all, they turn out to be not the same for all people.

But this, to my mind, is not as negative a result as it seems to be. Different
philosophers give us different visions of the good life and different pictures
of the world; but they do, each of them separately, give us a unitary picture.
What is the good of this? In my opinion, two all-important things (which in the
end may not really be two but one thing). First, it gives some satisfaction to
that terrible urge to ask questions and seek understanding. Many of us would
agree that when that urge is denied satisfaction the result is either torment
or torpor. Secondly, it is this life in the light of a unified Weltanschauung
that is the distinguishing mark of a human being and sets humans apart from
other living beings; and who wants to lose that birthright? (How to reconcile
or choose between those different ideals and world-pictures is too large a
question to go into in the present context.)

So to the question: Why philosophize?, the answer seems to be that some people
are just born that way. There are those who are impelled by their nature to
sing or paint or invent tales, and there are those who are impelled by their
nature to ask themselves questions. And it so happens that all of these, when
they each obey their peculiar imperative urge, render inestimable service to
the society in which they live. The lyricist, the painter, the story-teller,
add to our life beauty and joy and wisdom - yes, I credit poetry and art,
rather than philosophy, with giving wisdom. The questioner, on the other hand,
in subjecting our accepted notions and theories and beliefs to examination,
spares us the fate of turning into fossils: for a species whose most effective
tools in the struggle for survival are mental tools is inevitably doomed when
those tools remain unchanged in an ever-changing world.

This brings us back to the Socratic gadfly, and so to the question: Who needs
philosophy?, my answer is: The whole of humanity is in very bad need of
philosophy, perhaps today, when we have so much of knowledge and so much of
power but so little of understanding, more than ever.

(C) Daoud Rofail Khashaba 2003

Web site: http://www.Back-to-Socrates.com

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