P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 92
27th September 2004
I. 'An Intimate Reflection' by Ruel F. Pepa
II. 'Was Keats a Fool?' by D.R. Khashaba
III. 'A Lover's Dilemma' by Lawrence J.C. Baron
IV. 'Philosophy Video Festival Invites Thinkers' by Ken Knisely
Serendipity has brought together three articles on related themes, all of which
were submitted during this month.
In his highly expressive piece, Professor Ruel F. Pepa from the Philippines
contrasts Kierkegaard's 'truth is subjectivity' with the objective stance of
the practitioner of philosophical analysis: 'Reading post-modern philosophy is
totally impossible for those who cannot accept the fact that philosophy is
basically subjective interpretation of individual human experience.' I wonder
what Prof Pepa would say about those philosophers who - like myself - see
virtue in both approaches?
In this short and beautiful meditation on Keats' famous lines about truth and
beauty, D.R. Khashaba argues for a view of truth more closely akin to Plato's
model of 'perception of the Forms' than to a modern style 'theory of truth'.
University of London graduate Lawrence J.C. Baron asks whether the analysis of
the concept of love reveals an insoluble logical dilemma. To love
someone implies a sense of duty and loyalty towards the one you love: yet how
are these moral notions to be understood in the light of the fact that it is
only a contingent, and not necessary, that these feelings should be
reciprocated in a particular case?
Last week I received an announcement from Ken Knisely of a philosophy video
competition for high school and college students, on the timely theme 'Civil
Liberties and National Security'. Get those video cameras out!
I. 'AN INTIMATE REFLECTION' BY RUEL F. PEPA
An Intimate Reflection (On the sensitivity and sensibility of
human life... hopefully towards a transformative philosophizing)
"Truth is subjectivity."
"One should write philosophy only as one writes a poem."
"There are no facts, only interpretations." Friedrich
LIFE GETS UNEASY when you feel you seem to be at the end of the road. Forces
pull you to the wayside - to the left, to the right. There's no going onward.
You tell yourself, the visible reality has done so much to your sanity. "I am
here right now because the things I have been doing are within the light of
consciousness. I have met lonely events and joyful ones and I have learned
lessons from them in the light of that consciousness."
Consciousness meets this world of the senses and we hitch our dreams, our
aspirations, on it. We shed real tears in the deepest moments of our tragedies.
Our laughter echoes in the loftiest moments of celebration. And then, the sober
moments of reflection as we consider going on in life. Well, it surely doesn't
end here right now. But my gut-feeling doesn't intend to give up yet. At least,
not now... not yet.
Ideas... ideas... ideas torpedoed into my mind, coming from so many directions.
Appeals from the depth of the scientific and the analytic convince the intellect
to sing paeans of praises to the comfort and delight bestowed by the
achievements of modernity - the wonders of technology, the life that has been
made easy by a myriad of gadgets, instruments and equipment that rule
households, offices and workplaces, even classrooms and game-rooms of the
Yet, appeals of equal magnitude emanate from the spirit. That which sustains
the human in me brings me to the innermost recesses of my being and convinces
me that the ocean of feelings is far deeper than the superficiality of what may
be quantified and measured, analyzed and captured by the senses in the
one-dimensional segments of time... in the three-dimensional character of
space. What gives excitement to life, what makes me consider the significance
of it, what leads me to an appreciation of the beautiful, the good, and the
true, lies deeply in the core of my being. It is solely the depth of my
spirituality that has access into it. No instruments of modern technology can
ever scratch even the outermost filament of its covering.
It is only the authentic me that has the power to embrace the rise and fall of
the waves in this ocean of feelings. It is the untaught spirit of life
in me that breathes meaning in the celebration of eternity amidst the dances of
change, amidst the weaving and unweaving of colors that burst in the skies of
rejoicing and fall on the ground of defeat and disappointment.
But life goes on in transcending the here and now. The overcoming continues.
After the fall, we want to rise. This is the elan of life. The most
primal life-force persists and that's the drive of life. The single outstanding
request brought about by the consciousness that comes out of it is a sincere
appreciation of this life-force's delicate operation in the sensitivity and
sensibility of humanity. It is not the scientific and the analytic that have
guided us to chart the deepest corners of the realm of the spirit. None of the
five senses can access even the periphery of its threshold.
But the scientific and the analytic, the spiritual and the emotional are all
human. And it is so lamentable that there are forces that have torn them all
apart. What could be philosophical at this point is to ask questions, however
heart-rending and passion-filled these questions may be. Is there no center
where a convergence point is located? Isn't a sense of elation expressed in
triumphs as humanity appropriates the achievements of science and technology?
Can we heighten our spirituality as we positively relate with the wonders of
science and technology? Is there a way whereby the workings of modern science
and technology can effect physical-chemical changes for the human organism to
have a positive attitude towards life? Where do we focus now the eyes of
meaningful philosophizing - towards the greatness of science and technology and
the force of objectivity that animates them, or towards the dignity of human
spirituality that exalts the interiority of the human in the depth of
subjective being? In what area can philosophizing be truly transformative in
consideration of these sides?
READING POST-MODERN PHILOSOPHY is totally impossible for those who cannot
accept the fact that philosophy is basically subjective interpretation of
individual human experience. In this case, philosophy is therefore not
concerned with the analytico-mathematical and the scientific. These critics of
post-modern philosophy have gotten so confused as they try to mix matters of
the objective and matters of the subjective. Of course, two plus two will never
become five in any possible world. Neither can matters of scientific
experimentation be of interest to the philosopher.
I'm so disappointed that practitioners of the sciences and the mathematical
fields have gone terribly arrogant to dabble into the things of another
dimension - the philosophical. We are now in a more enlightened era where we
can definitely distinguish between the scientific (objective) and the personal
(subjective). This is the post-modern world and post-modern philosophers are
the ones able to perceive and understand the dynamics of the time.
The issue of philosophy is actually the issue of meaningfulness - the
meaningfulness not of anything else but life-of my life specifically
(subjectively) and of human life in general (inter-subjectively).
Meaningfulness as an issue is all-encompassing, i.e., objectively and
subjectively. However, in philosophy it is definitely focused on the subjective
personal experiences of individual human beings.
The meaningfulness of my life is not dependent on what science or mathematics
tells me. Life's meaning transcends the scientific and the mathematical.
Philosophy brings us to more exciting terrains of life where the wind of
freedom blows incessantly, and carries us to new discoveries in uncharted
milieus-unstructured, rustic, pregnant with mysteries; open to be molded by the
power of the subjective mind, challenging the human spirit, defiant of the
dictates of meta-narratives imposed by arrogant systematizers coming from the
alien territories of science and mathematics.
Philosophy empowers us to be in perfect control of our personal individual
lives. Philosophy brings us to the deepest recesses of our individuality.
Philosophy affirms our humanity that has its being without any necessary
connection with the objective. Philosophically, the objective is trivial,
given, may be done away with, in the process of subjective signification.
Philosophy transforms us in ways that can never be done by the sciences and
mathematics. Philosophy is an expression of human freedom. Philosophy is in a
dimension unlimited by the hard boundaries of objective requirements.
Philosophy is subjective freedom in a situation of praxis - the
subjective reflection of human experience which, individually, is of subjective
I think... I believe... I feel what I believe. I believe what I feel.
(c) Ruel F. Pepa
II. 'WAS KEATS A FOOL?' BY D.R. KHASHABA
Clever pundits dismiss with a condescending smile Keats' simplicity when he
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
In this note I suggest that Keats' inspired statement is not mere soul-lifting
poetical rhetoric, but encapsulates profound metaphysical insight. I do not
intend to develop this suggestion here adequately. That is something I hope to
do some other time. Here I merely sketch an outline for the benefit of whomever
may wish to ponder it. In other words, this note is offered frankly and simply
as a provocation.
The perfect model (I am allergic to the term 'paradigm') of indubitable truth
is the axiom which rests in its own self-evidence, needing no external
grounding and admitting no proof. Euclidean geometry is based on such axioms.
That we now know that alternative axioms to those of Euclidean geometry are
equally admissible and equally, or more, serviceable, does not invalidate the
older ones. It only shows that our conception of truth has to be broadened. The
whole of Spinoza's majestic metaphysical system rests on eight definitions and
seven axioms taken as self-evident. That Spinoza's system has been taken to
pieces by critics signifies no more than does the dethronement of Euclidean
axioms. It only shows that our conception of metaphysical truth has to be
The notion of truth has been a bone of contention in modern and contemporary
philosophy simply because each of the contending philosophers works with her/
his own narrowly defined conception of truth. But we would be gravely wronging
Keats if we reduced his inspired dictum to a 'theory of truth'.
Factual truth is a strictly limited variety of truth and, although it almost
monopolizes the term in modern usage, is the least significant philosophically.
Of more philosophical significance is the truth exemplified in a great symphony
or a good film. This is the truth of beauty: metaphysical truth is more akin to
Socrates, in the 'autobiographical' section of the Phaedo gives
expression to a fundamental insight which, in my view, philosophers have not
yet absorbed. Socrates presents the core of that insight in a truly oracular
'It is apparent to me, that if there is anything beautiful
other than the-beautiful-itself, it is for no other reason
beautiful than that it shares of that beauty... If anyone
tells me that anything whatever is beautiful by having a
delightful colour or shape or anything else of the kind, I
take leave of all that (for I get lost with such things),
telling myself simply and solely, and perhaps foolishly,
that nothing else makes it beautiful other than the
presence of beauty.' (Phaedo 100 c-d.)
I have repeatedly quoted and commented in my writings on the whole of the rich
passage in which this statement occurs. Suffice it here to say that my
interpretation, or my rendering if you will, of this insight is that the
self-evidence of the intelligible form - engendered by the mind and to be found
nowhere but in the mind - is the hallmark of philosophical truth: that
self-evidence is of an essentially aesthetic nature.
I believe that in speaking of truth Keats must have had in mind what Plato
meant by aletheia. Throughout his works but principally in the
Republic, Plato emphasizes the identity of aletheia,
ousia, and to on. In the Symposium Diotima delineates the
progress from the experience of one beautiful object upwards to the vision of
the Idea of Beauty. A beautiful object, then, as an embodiment of a particular
perfection in intelligible immediacy is a unique expression of reality. As such
it is truth in the only metaphysically significant sense of the word.
(c) D. R. Khashaba 2004
III. 'A LOVER'S DILEMMA' BY LAWRENCE J.C. BARON
Irrespective of what happens in real life, we expect romantic love to have the
important quality of permanency. In other words, we expect romantic love to
last (for ever).
Another feature of romantic love (love) is that it is not directed at an
object, but at the person we are in love with. The person we are in love with
is the cause of our love; hence the cause is external to us and that cause is
another person like us. This is important, even if somewhat obvious, in that
love is seen in terms of reality and not something that we make up in our
imagination. It is also important to distinguish at the very outset between
romantic love and lust or physical attraction. Very few people would equate
romantic love with lust or physical attraction, although this does not always
I propose that romantic love, as experienced by the man or woman on the Clapham
omnibus - ordinary men and women you might meet anywhere - leads to a moral type
dilemma if that love is not reciprocated. Furthermore, I would argue that the
implications of this dilemma could lead to some interesting philosophical
consequences that go beyond the parties (or rather party) involved.
My position is that romantic love implies at least three moral type feelings
for the person on the Clapham omnibus: duty, loyalty and promising.
Duty: since the person of our love is the cause of our love then we have a duty
to that person in all manners of contexts. It is as if we owe them something for
making us feel in love with them. One such duty is to maintain the integrity of
the person we love. By maintaining, or at the very least helping maintain, the
integrity of that person I mean, for example, be a cause or a source for that
person to be happy, have a fulfilling life, give them a good sense of belonging
or to be there when needed. Love, in a way, is analogous to an investment; not
only does it have a return dividend but it also implies responsibility and duty.
It may be objected that duty in love is mono-directional; that is, I perform my
duty, but have no right to expect a dividend in return. Fair enough, maybe I
don't have a right to expect a dividend, but that is what actually happens; a
win-win strategy if ever there was one. What is important at this stage of the
argument is that I have a duty to someone; I cannot have a duty to a non
existing person. If I have a duty to my country this implies that I actually do
have a country. The same holds for romantic love, to love someone and to have a
duty to that person implies that there is an other person on the scene. I
submit that love invokes this sense of duty.
A sense of duty also implies a sense of loyalty. Whilst a sense of duty implies
a commitment to act, a sense of loyalty implies a commitment by a person towards
another person. I cannot be loyal to an object. For example, I can be loyal to a
brand, but the use of loyal here is not the same we would expect in the context
of romantic love. When we use loyalty towards another person, or an entity, we
attribute personhood, e.g. the company, the state, we assume that certain moral
implications apply which do not make sense when used with brands. In a way,
therefore, loyalty guarantees duty. Furthermore, loyalty is not demanded from
us or imposed upon us, but felt in the context of a free agent. Loyalty at the
point of a gun or a threat of redundancy is not loyalty in any context.
Since romantic love is aimed at a person and not a thing, the person on the
Clapham omnibus recognises that the person we are in love with is also unique.
What I feel for Ms. A or Mr. B I feel because they are who they are and there
is no one else like them. My love is for a person and not for a body (thing)
hence the unique element. It might still be argued that even our bodies are
unique, but we can dismiss this as irrelevant for our purposes. Hence
uniqueness implies non transferability. I cannot just take my love and offer it
to someone else; in the same way, that I cannot use the key to open the door to
my flat as to open my office door. I submit that the uniqueness argument is a
powerful one; it implies, for example, certainty in the sense that I cannot be
mistaken or confused about who I love. One can lust for two beautiful bodies
but love is not usually seen like this.
Romantic love also implies two forms of promises. I make an explicit promise to
myself that I will do, what I have argued to be, my duty towards the person I
love and that I will be loyal to that person. And I also make an implicit
promise to the person I love that I will do my duty and to be loyal to them.
One important aspect of a promise is that it projects me and my actions into
the future. By promising I see myself doing something in the future.
Furthermore, a promise between people has no time limit or expiry date or shelf
life; in other words, a promise is timeless. I submit that this is where we get
the idea of love lasting for ever; the idea of promising my love to someone
transcends time limits. Duty and loyalty also have the same feeling of
It is accepted and it should be remembered that at no time is the other person
obliged to do anything for me or is duty bound to do anything at all. The
person of our love is a free agent in the same way that we are free agents.
The dilemma arises, therefore, when the person of our love does not reciprocate
our love. If the person I am in love with rejects my advances of love and does
not reciprocate my love then there is no one, as it were, to project my love
to. However, if there is no person to receive my love, to whom do I owe a duty,
to whom am I being loyal to and to whom have I made an implicit promise? How can
I owe a duty to someone when there is no one who is prepared to receive the
benefits of my duty? How can I be loyal to someone when no one wants my loyalty?
The second element of the dilemma is the unique aspect of love. How can I
possibly love someone else when it is this person that makes me feel the way I
do to the extent that I owe a duty to them; that makes me feel loyal to them.
In other words, what is it about this particular and specific person that makes
me fall in love with them? Let's face it, this state of affairs would not sound
incongruous if love was reciprocated; in fact we would expect to find precisely
this state of affairs when two people love each other. Moreover, if at a future
date our love is reciprocated we would expect this very same state of affairs
To restate the dilemma: how can a person love someone else if love implies
duty, loyalty, and a promise to love a person who is also unique?
Where do we start addressing this dilemma?
One possible solution is to say that what I am calling a dilemma is nothing of
the sort and furthermore romantic love can be dismissed as the product of cheap
paperback fiction. We can go a step further and argue that romantic love is just
a subjective projection of our feeling onto someone else. The idea that my love
is caused by the other person is just an impression. I'm sure some will
subscribe to this view. However, I suspect even more would object to it.
If lust or physical attraction are all there is to romantic love then surely
there are some real life consequences. To begin with the element of uniqueness
will have to disappear because the person will be identified with the body and
not the self. And since this is not a criminal investigation it does not really
matter whether the finger prints are unique, what matters is whether I like the
fingers or not, so to speak! Hence, we would all become lovers and not husbands
and wives or partners to use modern parlance. And no one would be concerned if I
wanted to change my lover, except maybe my lover, of course. However, if I was
married and wanted to change my wife a few people would be concerned; for
example my friends.
If romantic love was equated with physical attraction then parents would be
justified to demand designer babies. We can immediately see that this argument
leads us head one with some relevant issues in bio and medical ethics. For
example, a very topical issue these days is stem cell research. If physical
attraction was all there is to love then why not research for blue eyes, height
and hip-to-waste ratio? Why not offer sterilization to ugly people or even offer
abortion on the grounds that the child will grow up to be ugly and unattractive?
If we accept that romantic love is an important aspect in our lives and it
transcends the physical, then it matters that this love finds its justification
on some rational foundations such as a moral system. The neurologist or the
psychologist can rightly ask us to look at the brain (and the environment) for
an explanation to what is going on here. But surely the man or woman on the
Clapham omnibus are only concerned with fulfilling his or her feelings of love
and not a lecture in brain mechanics. Blaming serotonin why a rejection makes
us feel so miserable just does not cut it as an explanation. It seems,
therefore, that romantic love calls out for a moral or ethical system to give
meaning to such a basic human activity.
Another way out of this dilemma is to say that it is true that romantic love
invokes duty, loyalty, uniqueness and promise, but only when reciprocated. The
lover who feels a sense of loyalty or duty towards someone who does not
reciprocate love is simply jumping the gun.
This is strong argument, but the implications are equally concerning. This
would require that any moral foundation for the basis of love not only be
relative to the situation but contingent on the situation at hand. Relative
because a morality of love would depend on whether there was reciprocity and
contingent because it depends on the other person loving me. In other words, I
start loving you when you start loving me and I love you if you love me. Good
sophistry but not necessarily something most people would accept. Furthermore,
people do not consider love to be like this; they are careful who they love,
but they also do not play 'who blinks first' type of games. People usually just
fall in love.
One can always avoid the dilemma, like most dilemmas, by accepting that it
exists and move on. Practical but hardly a philosophical endeavour. I suspect
that the man or the woman on the Clapham omnibus will try a bit harder hoping
that things will turn out all right at the end. Indeed, hope can motivate us
and give us that extra push, but it is hardly a source of happiness and
fulfilment. Maybe the dilemma will test our personal and moral character to the
limit, but few would be happy to have to face this problem. There are always
better things to do in life than grapple with moral dilemmas.
The implications of this dilemma is that there must surely be a payback for
getting romantic love right. Surely happy people with a sense of fulfilment
make better parents, better members of society and hence better citizens of the
(c) Lawrence J.C. Baron 2004
IV. 'PHILOSOPHY VIDEO FESTIVAL INVITES THINKERS' BY KEN KNISELY
The First Annual Philosophy Video Festival will be held this December in Boston
at the Eastern Meeting of the American Philosophical Association. The festival
features a contest to find the most profound philosophical videos produced by
high school and college students in North America this year.
This year's theme is "Civil Liberties and National Security." Entries must be
between one second and four minutes in length, and be philosophical in nature.
Entries must be received by December 6th, 2004, and will be judged by an
eminent panel of philosophers and media producers.
Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three winners in the high school and
For complete contest rules, go to http://www.nodogs.org/PhilVidFest.html,
or e-mail PhilVidFest@nodogs.org.
The festival is sponsored by the American Philosophical Association's Committee
on Pre-College Instruction in Philosophy, and by the North American High School
Philosophers Association (NAHSPA).
Web site: http://www.nodogs.org
P.O. Box 10325
Arlington, Virginia 22210-1325
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