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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 79
7th March 2004

CONTENTS

I. 'Kant and the Enlightenment Promise' by D.R. Khashaba

II. 'The Pointillist Canvas of Eternity' by Richard Schain

III. 'Suicide' by Cajethan Ndubuisi

-=-

EDITOR'S NOTE

To mark the bicentenary of the death of the philosopher Immanuel Kant, Daoud
Khashaba writes considers Kant's famous question, 'What is Enlightenment?'

Also in this issue, Richard Schain writes on time and eternity, and Cajethan
Ndubuisi argues that suicide is never justified under any circumstances.

I have pleasure in announcing that this month Jurgen Lawrenz received the
Associate and Fellowship Awards of the International Society for Philosophers,
and John Dudley received the Associate Award.

Jurgen Lawrenz's Associate essay portfolio and Fellowship dissertation, and
John Dudley's Associate essay portfolio will be posted this week on the
Pathways Essay Archive at http://www.philosophypathways.com/essays/ .

Geoffrey Klempner

-=-

I. 'KANT AND THE ENLIGHTENMENT PROMISE' BY D.R. KHASHABA

The 12th February 2004 marks the bicentenary of the death of Immanuel Kant, who
may justly be regarded as an incarnation of the Enlightenment. Were Kant to come
back into our world today, how would he view what has become of the promise of
that glorious movement?

In 1784 Kant gave an answer to the question, "What is Enlightenment?" In giving
that answer Kant was in the first place concerned to distinguish between the
practical need to obey the laws and institutions of society, necessary for
maintaining peace and stability, on the one hand, and the freedom of thought,
the right of the individual to question and criticize those very laws and
institutions in public, absolutely necessary for human progress, on the other
hand. Most of what Kant says in that context may now be of historical interest
only (if we leave out of account those areas of the world where freedom of
thought is still anathema). But at one point Kant draws a seminal distinction
between an age of enlightenment and an enlightened age.

If we are asked, Do we now live in an enlightened age?, the answer is: No, but
we do live in an age of enlightenment. As things now stand, we still have a
long way to go before men can be or can easily become capable of correctly
using their own reason in religious matters with assurance, without outside
guidance. But we do have clear indications that the way is now being cleared
for men to work freely in this direction, and that the obstacles to general
enlightenment, to man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity, are
gradually becoming fewer.

Perhaps, writing at a time when intellectual Europe was living in the euphoria
of the ideals of freedom and rationalism, Kant was over-optimistic. Yet he was
clear-sighted and perceptive enough to realize that, much as it was gratifying
to see the good work accomplished by the great British, French, and German
thinkers, and the liberalizing reforms introduced by Frederick the Great (to
whom Kant's article paid deserved homage), the fulfilment of an enlightened age
was a far-off goal.

During the twentieth century the hopes and dreams that were generated in the
preceding two centuries were dissipated. Today, two hundred years after Kant
departed our world, we cast a look on the condition of humankind, a humankind
that, by the lights of eighteenth-century enlightenment and nineteenth-century
progressivism, should by now have become united in peace, goodwill, and
prosperity -- and what do we see? It is hardly necessary to give an account:
intolerance, conflict, violence, poverty, and disease not only reign in the
vast backward regions but are also evident in what might be termed the bright
spots of the advanced world.

But bad as it is that we have failed to make good on the promise, it is a far
worse calamity that we seem to have lost the beacon that signals the way.
During the twentieth century mainstream philosophy lost its bearings. Seduced
by the spectacular theoretical and practical successes of the objective
sciences into thinking that the methods and criteria of those sciences were the
only means to truth, philosophers sought to apply those same methods and
criteria to questions relating to the meaning of life and the values that give
meaning to life. Philosophy, especially the Analytical species prevalent in the
English-speaking world, was broken up into specialized disciplines and
fragmented into particular problems, all swayed and impregnated by scientism,
reductionism, and relativism. All questions of meaning and value were consigned
to the rubbish heap of 'metaphysical nonsense'.

On the other hand, religion, seemingly the only remaining shelter for meanings
and values, continued to tether these meanings and values to irrational beliefs
that enslave the mind and play a divisive role between peoples. Humanity was
thus left to the mercy of the Scylla of amoral science and technology on the
one hand and the Charybdis of dogmatic religion on the other hand. The option
we were offered was: either science and no values or values bound up with what
Kant called self-imposed immaturity.

The ruinous abdication by philosophy of its rightful domain is the consequence
of the oblivion of philosophers to a great insight first beheld clearly by
Socrates and re-affirmed by Kant as by no other philosopher. Science, concerned
solely and exclusively with objective existents, cannot give answers to
questions about meanings and values. Only ideas engendered by the mind and to
be found nowhere but in the mind (Socrates), only the pure transcendental forms
supplied by reason (Kant), can secure the ideals and values and put us in touch
with the realities that constitute our moral and spiritual life. Twenty-four
centuries after Socrates, two centuries after Kant, we badly need to re-learn
the lesson.

---

Kant's "Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklarung?" was published in the
Berlinische Monatschrift for December 1784. An English translation can be
accessed at: http://www.english.upenn.edu/~mgamer/Etexts/kant.html

(c) D. R. Khashaba 2004

E-mail: dkhashaba@hotmail.com

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

-=-

II. 'THE POINTILLIST CANVAS OF ETERNITY' BY RICHARD SCHAIN

A conception of eternity is the key toward a more satisfying conception of the
human condition. The idea of time is a limited concept, brought forth by human
consciousness in order to cope with the vicissitudes of existence. The historic
insight of Kant, remarkably confirmed by the discoveries of Einstein, was that
time represents the framework constructed by the mind through which change is
perceived. This insight is still a fundamental feature of western philosophy.
Changes of things in time represent the human observerÕs way of orienting
himself to an extra-spatial dimension of being. But what was still is in the
larger scheme of things and has as much claim to reality as the present
instant. In the broad canvas of eternity, present, past and future all have
equal significance.

Homo sapiens, with his hypertrophied consciousness, has conceived of the
temporal dimension of existence as existing in a framework called time. He
divides time into past, present and future. These are arbitrary divisions based
entirely on the use of consciousness to fix an infinitesimal point of time
labeled Òthe presentÓ corresponding to the existence of consciousness at this
point. By definition, the present moment is the point at which an active
consciousness exists.  It is not time that is the moving image of eternity as
the poet wrote, but rather consciousness continuously creating awareness of the
temporal dimension of existence.

The exaggerated tendency to subdivide the perception of time does not alter the
fact that every existent thing, Dasein to use HeideggerÕs term, has its fixed
place in eternity. This is true whether the thing is a speck of cosmic dust or
a living being. When an individual has lived out his life span, the full
dimensions of his being exist in eternity, an existence that is permanent, not
transitory as time is envisioned by the consciousness. The apparent
disappearance of his mind and disintegration of his body are phenomena that are
unrelated to his eternal being.

Things are measured according to their spatial and temporal dimensions; no
doubt there are others as yet unperceived by the ordinary human mind. The
significance of the infinitesimal present moment is exaggerated because of the
belief in free will. This is not the place to enter into the apparently endless
discussion of free will versus determinism, but, from the viewpoint of eternity,
it is impossible to envisage an absolute free will. In a lawful universe, the
configuration of a human life or any other discrete Dasein is a function of its
own properties and its surrounding milieu. If what is is a matter of chance,
then this would truly be an absurd universe. One may recall the comment of
Spinoza that if a stone hurled through the air had consciousness, it would
think of itself as possessing free will.

The totality of existent things in eternity may be thought of as the cosmic
canvas. It can be symbolically envisioned as resembling a vast pointillist
mural painted by an unknown hand and impossible to discern in its totality when
limited to the specific brush-strokes on the canvas. Unlike the two dimensional
murals created by human hands, the cosmic canvas consists of many dimensions,
most of which cannot be (yet) discerned by the human mind. One can have no idea
of the ÒmeaningÓ in an ultimate scheme of things in an individualÕs seemingly
time-embedded existence. But the idea of a meaningless humanity caught up in an
absurd cosmic spectacle runs counter to oneÕs deepest intuitions. How can the
period between birth and death of a person be a senseless event on a pointless
stage of being. The spirit within rejects the thought. Only by denying this
spirit can one arrive at the conception of a meaningless universe. ÒThe fool in
his heart says that there is no GodÓ was the PsalmistÕs way of expressing his
intuition of meaning in the universe.

I suggest that philosophy is a cognitive art endeavoring to represent the
substance and meaning of the universe. The emergence of a creative thinker out
of the anthills of society is evidence that something unique is afoot in the
human condition, something more than a brief role in Òa tale told by an idiot
and signifying nothing.Ó We can guess that in his heart Shakespeare did not
hold to that opinion; otherwise, how could he have performed the incredible
labor required to create his unique works.

Creative humans are the jewels in the vast mural of being. Epistemological
theories are not necessary to recognize these jewels. What a person thinks and
the actions expressing his thoughts are what distinguish his being. The
brightest jewels in the great canvas of eternity are the great thinkers of the
human race. For the most part, we can only know those whom society has brought
into public view.  Societies can be judged by the quality of the thinkers that
they have recognized. Goethe would have had no impact on Nazi Germany, Nicolai
Berdyaev was expelled from communist Russia, Emerson in American society today
would be without an audience. The world is fortunate when societies elevate
great-minded individuals into public view. However, great-minded individuals do
not require public acclaim. The fact of their existence is sufficient to have
given meaning to their lives albeit that meaning has not been disclosed to
their contemporaries or their successors.

What can be the significance of an exclusively biological life? It is only a
speck of sand in a cosmic ocean, an infinitesimally tiny point in infinite
eternity. Can the life of Homo sapiens be founded on the biological drives for
food, shelter, sex and personal aggrandizement? In this case, life must be
judged as idiotic and viewed as a task to be gotten through as soon as
possible. If fulfillment of biological instincts is the goal of human life,
then clear-minded individuals will have to agree with Schopenhauer that the
additional goal of a happy life is the greatest of all human delusions from
which one should be disabused as soon as possible. However, along with the
instincts for survival, sex and power, there is an intuition connected with the
spirit of a human being. It is that his or her life has a meaning in the scheme
of things. The brush-stroke one occupies in the canvas of eternity is critical.
A personÕs thoughts, personality and creativity count in the cosmic canvas. If
humans did not have this intuition, which may be regarded as a metaphysical
instinct, they would still be living in caves, fending off bears and snakes.
This intuition arises from the spiritual nature of human existence.

The pervasive ÒAngstÓ described by Kierkegaard in his light footed prose and
more ponderously by Heidegger stems from the attempt to deny spirit and to
maintain that the only meaning of life lies in physical being. Of course, to
use the term ÒmeaningÓ in such a frame of reference is absurd. ÒMeaningÓ has no
meaning in purely physical parameters that solely involve descriptions of matter
and energy. Meaning is not identical with causality; it involves human values,
which are degraded when these are reduced to causality-based phenomena. The
impact of the scientific revolution in human affairs has been enormous in the
material sphere of existence but has steadily obliterated the spiritual sphere.
The dirty little secret of materialist monism is that there is no such thing as
a human spirit. There are only particles and forces operating to produce the
world of phenomena. Thus existentialist philosophers have virtually disappeared
and are only to be found in textbooks of philosophy. Today, philosophy is
cognitive science and analytical thinking, all based upon a physical model of
existence.

A significant aspect of the reality that the word ÒspiritÓ symbolizes is that
it is not associated with a set of physical parameters. Different parameters
are needed to characterize spirit. Among these are meaningfulness, value,
profundity and seriousness. Individual spirits appear to be embedded in time
but this does not mean that they disappear completely in time, they remain in
the fabric of eternity. The spirit of a person who has died exists as part of
the eternal panorama even though its temporal dimension is finite. To try to
visualize more would be presumptuous; in the succinct words of Wittgenstein,
Òwovon man nicht sprechen kann, daruber muss man schweigenÓ -- about what one
cannot speak, one must remain silent.

It is necessary to appreciate that terms like dualism, spiritual, metaphysical
and so forth express a reality intuited by Homo sapiens. This intuition is that
there is an essential difference between the universe of materia and the
universe of spirit as the individual experiences them. One has no more claim to
reality than the other. Attempting to convert one to the other by reductionist
or mystical means in the service of an ideology of monism evades the realities
experienced in the human condition.

No-one can approach the ultimate questions of existence without considering the
ever present, age-old concept of God. Paul Tillich, the greatest of twentieth
century theologians, defined the term God in his major opus Systematic Theology
as Òthat which is of ultimate concern to human beings.Ó This, of course, is a
symbolic definition as are all other definitions of God. ÒI am that I amÓ is
the best the human mind can do. It is interesting, however, that Tillich
defines God in terms of the human psyche. The yearning for meaning in human
life is the key that opens the path to the ultimate reality. No purely
materialist psychology can penetrate into this reality. One might add that the
search for this meaning must be conducted by the individual himself and not
delegated to third parties.  This assertion places the development of oneÕs own
intellectual conscience (a phrase from Nietzsche) at the pinnacle of his life.

The human spirit gives the appearance of being embedded in a temporal
framework. Eternity, however, does not exist in time but rather time is one
component of eternity. The development of spirit, as it occurs in oneÕs
lifetime, is a part of eternity. If there is a place for faith in the human
psyche, it is that this part has meaning in the ultimate scheme of things. The
task of an individual is to develop the spiritual self that will be his or
contribution to eternity. Other values may exist but are secondary to this
overarching goal.

It is undeniable that a knowledge and mastery of the object world is an
essential prerequisite to personal development. Unless one is confident in his
biological existence, he cannot develop a spiritual one. Cognitive activity
with its attendant technology is the training ground for the soul. However, as
Berdyaev has succinctly put it, epistemology alone (in its broadest sense)
never leads to ontology. Physical knowledge does not yield metaphysics. At some
point, the chasm that separates the dimensions of physics from the dimensions of
spirit must be leapt over. No amount of cognitive science provides the
wherewithal for this leap. This is the authentic Òleap of faithÓ that
Kierkegaard confused with belief in Christian dogma.

The idea that the world of the mind -- thought, emotion, consciousness, will,
meaning values -- is explicable through investigation of neuronal structures in
the brain is bankrupt. Gradually, it is becoming clear to philosophers and
neuroscientists that human qualities are not to be explained by resort to
physical properties of neurons, albeit a functional brain is necessary for
their appearance. To view the ÒqualiaÓ of consciousness as  ÒemergentÓ
properties of the brain is to merely reveal neuroscienceÕs inability to account
for mental phenomena in physical terms. There is an old adage in science that if
you donÕt understand something, give it a new name and all will be well. Yet
something more is present in the phenomena of life, especially the human
phenomenon, than is explicable through the systems of scientific materialism.
It is not enough to intellectually acknowledge this but then devote all oneÕs
life energies to the physical sphere of existence. One ought not to forget the
scriptural injunction not to sell oneÕs soul for a mess of pottage.

This essay began with the thought that the understanding of time is the key to
success of the human enterprise. Time has always been regarded as the great
destroyer. Through time, life and the outcomes of its efforts come to an end.
There is then a certain feeling of futility engendered in the reflective mind.
But this feeling is founded on a limited perspective of limited creatures. One
can view time as bringing into being what had not been before. Becoming is not
necessarily random activity, merely to be viewed as rearranging an unchanging
Parmenidean being into meaningless new forms. Time reveals becoming to be
creative, bringing into existence new meanings in the universe. The perception
that these meanings seem to disappear when viewed in a relative temporal
dimension does not negate their existence in an eternal design that
perceptually limited humans cannot discern.

One can symbolically envision the cosmos to be composed of centers of being,
embedded in eternity. An individual life is an authentic center of being. All
the social entities beginning with animal packs or families and ending with
nations, religions or cultures are virtual being, whose only real significance
lies in their ability to foster individual development. Life is a strange
phenomenon that is present in an otherwise lifeless universe. All living
creatures are part of this phenomenon but the spiritual attributes of humans
have carried them to the heights unknown to the rest of life forms.

The apparently endless capacity of humans to preoccupy themselves with
techniques for mastering nature leads to a dead end, much like the end of
armored dinosaurs or giant mammals. There is no escaping the fact that we are a
part of the cosmos, not its master. The thread of human development lies in
accentuating its spiritual aspect, its Geist, referring to the acquisition of
values and wisdom. Experience is the means to this acquisition; the art of life
consists in choosing the experiences leading to a spiritual self that is part of
a pointillist eternity.

(c) Richard Schain

E-mail:rjschain@lycos.com

Web site: http://rschain1.tripod.com/index.html

-=-

III. 'SUICIDE' BY CAJETHAN NDUBUISI

Suicide is an intentional immoral act of self killing. It has been an
orientation in some part of the world today. Many young men and women have
taken it as a solution to their problems or as a way to fight for right and
justice. The question is, Can suicide can solve the problem of an individual?
What role should religious leaders play?

Suicide as we know has brought disrespect to the world; it has humiliated
humanity and portrays danger, violence, chaos and fear to the world today.
Those who die by suicide are unfaithful and hopeless people. It seems that
those who die by suicide are courageous and strong, but if they do; why
shouldn't they live to fight that which causes their suicidal act?

The act of committing suicide tells that the victim has willing accepted that
he is a loser. A father who dies by suicide, what legacy does he left behind
for his children to follow? Is he teaching them to give up their life when they
feel that life is not worth living? That a father gives up his life cannot solve
the problem of the family.

That he felt hopeless and killed himself because of his problems will double
the problems; that he was not courageous enough to set his problems at peace
when he was alive, made him leave many loopholes that will prolong after his
death. By not being faithful, he has left a lot of problems that his children
will always see to be impossible, which will make them always think that death
is the final solution. As long as they die instead of staying alive to face
their problems, so will the unsolved problems moves from one generation to
another.

Religion should be a shelter for the homeless and a moral booster for the
hopeless. It is not just an 'opium to the masses'. Yet many people have been
brainwashed right from the time they were a baby. Their religious leaders have
misinterpreted the ethics of their religion and this has caused more harm than
good. Religion as one of the big institutions in the world today should play a
role of a good director in the lives of her actors.

To view suicide in African traditional religion, African religion is not
Christianity, Islamic or Hinduism. This is a region that as been existing for
more than 700 BC.

A religion that was before Christianity came down to Africa. Some of the ethics
of this religion were too barbaric, like the killing of twins, making human
sacrifices to their gods. These mainly happened in the land of the Igbo. But
how do they see suicide, these people who worshipped idols, who knew nothing
about the Christian God or Islamic God? 

On the issue of suicide, they saw it as an abomination, evil, doom,
contamination of the land and a sacrilege to the religion. When a man commits
suicide by handing or shooting,they believe that he has committed a sacrilege
to the village religion; the man will not be buried in the village; rather they
will throw him inside the evil forest {Golgotha} as a punishment to his sprit.
No condolence visit to the victim's family. After that the victim's family will
perform some vital rituals according to the tradition to appease the gods. These
men were not educated and uncivilized yet still they acknowledged the immorality
of self killing.

Religious leaders should join hands on deck to stop using religion as a root
that justifies suicide; for suicide to stop, religious leaders should be the
arrow head. We should all know that such immoral acts will not give us peace
and stability; people should not see self killing as the only way to end their
problems, We should have faith in ourselves and always accept challenges.
Suicide is an act of fear.

(c) Cajethan Ndubuisi 2004

E-mail: mrkenny@37.com

---------------------------------------------------------------
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