PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS ISSN 2043-0728
Issue No. 188 30th September 2014
Special issue dedicated to the philosophy of D. R. Khashaba
I. 'The Riddle of the Parmenides' by D. R. Khashaba
II. 'Creative Eternity' by D. R. Khashaba
III. 'Socrates Answers Aristotle' by D. R. Khashaba
When Geoffrey Klempner saw it fit that there should be a special Issue of Philosophy Pathways for my work I rashly said I would contribute three original pieces. I soon found that beyond the tether of a half-blind eighty-seven year old man. I managed to write one new article and had to be content with two selections from work already published. Thus this Issue contains:
(i) 'The Riddle of the Parmenides', approaching a dialogue of Plato's that has puzzled many students of philosophy.
(ii) 'Creative Eternity', giving an account of what I deem to be the core-principle of my philosophy.
(iii) 'Socrates Answers Aristotle', recounting a fictional encounter between Socrates and Aristotle, who was only born fifteen years after the death of Socrates.
The prefatory notes to the latter two give the provenance and the intent of these pieces.
(c) D. R. Khashaba 2014
Email: email@example.com Weblog: http:---
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I. 'THE RIDDLE OF THE PARMENIDES' BY D. R. KHASHABA
To Peter Borkowski, in gratitude
Ti pote legei ho theos, kai ti pote ainuttetai;
Akoue de to emon onar, eite dia keraton eite di'elephantos
The Parmenides, as every student of philosophy knows, is made up of two distinct parts. Both parts have, in my opinion, been subjected to gross misinterpretation. I have previously commented on the first part and do not intend to revert to it here. It is with the second part that I am concerned in this article. While the first part has been misunderstood, the second part has been found puzzling by many students of philosophy, including eminent Platonists. No less a scholar than A. E. Taylor has seen it as a metaphysical jest. Not that Plato is above jesting. The Euthydemus is a curious mix of edifying dialogue and broad farce, and one could multiply examples. But the Parmenides was not meant to amuse or to mystify and I do not believe that the parched and drab style of the Parmenides is attributable to Plato's loss of grasp on his material. It is true that the style of the late dialogues has lost in zest and flourish, yet the late dialogues up to and including the Laws are still rich in characterization and rich in passages of poetic beauty. No, to my mind the dryness and plainness of the dialogue was part of the lesson Plato was keen to drive home.
Plato had clearly stated in the Phaedrus:
He, therefore, who leaves behind him, and he again who
receives an art in writing, with the idea that anything
clear and fixed is to proceed from the writing, must be
altogether a foolish-minded person...
In the Seventh Epistle we have the oft-quoted passage:
There is no writing of mine on these matters, nor will
there ever be one. For this knowledge is not something that
can be put into words like other sciences; but after
long-continued intercourse between teacher and pupil, in
joint pursuit of the subject, like light flashing forth
when a fire is kindled, it is born in the soul and
straightway nourishes itself.
The Seventh Epistle may or may not be spurious, but if it is a forgery, the forger must have known his Plato well and with insight. The substance of the above-quoted passage is in complete harmony with what we learn from the Republic about the Form of the Good that transcends both knowledge and being and with Plato's insistence that dialectic must do away with or destroy (anairein) all hypotheses.
If we were not too timid to challenge Aristotle's redoubtable authority, we could easily see that all the early Socratic dialogues were meant to show that no argument is incontrovertible, no theoretical statement is free of contradiction, no idea (form, concept) can be defined in terms extraneous to the idea, but can only be seen in the light of its own self-evidence -- an insight Wittgenstein arrived at after he 'threw the ladder' he climbed up in the Tractatus.
The Phaedo is the only dialogue -- the one and only Platonic dialogue -- where the argument is apparently intent on proving a definite positive proposition, yet not one of the arguments pretends to be conclusive. All that the fourth argument, commonly seen as the 'top' argument, shows is that the soul -- not the soul identified with nous but the soul simply as the principle of life -- is opposed to death. If we take that seriously we would have to admit that the meanest bug is as immortal as Socrates. The final word on the whole tissue of the arguments of the Phaedo is given by Simmias in 107a-b: 'I can't help still having in my own mind some disbelief about what has been said', anagkazomai apistian eti echein par emautoi peri ton eiremenon, to which Socrates responds approvingly and adds, 'also our first hypotheses, even if you find them acceptable, nevertheless need to be examined more closely', kai tas ge hupotheseis tas protas, kai ei pistai humin eisin, homos episkepteai saphesteron (107b). Why Plato in the Phaedo has gone to such lengths to make Socrates defend a doctrine that the Apology clearly shows him to be indifferent, that is a question that everyone may answer to her or his satisfaction.
I suppose that despite Plato's explicit and clear warning and admonition, members of the Academy continued to reason dogmatically, expecting to reach final, definitive, demonstrable propositions. I imagine that Plato in composing the Parmenides was saying to them: 'Here is what I have been telling you. I give it to you bare of all garb of myth or metaphor, destitute of all embellishment.'
To do this he takes the thesis of Father Parmenides -- the Father of all Rationalism -- and patiently, meticulously, stringently shows that 'whatever we assume to be or not to be, it will seem that both the One and the Many, will be, both in relation to themselves and to each other, all things and no-thing.'
We should be careful not to confuse this position with Pyrrhonism which proclaims the futility of all reasoning. This is the misology we are emphatically warned against in the Phaedo and amounts to a denial of Platonism and a betrayal of all that Socrates lived for and died for. Plato, true to his Socratic legacy, identifies the good life with the philosophical life and the philosophical life with philosophizing. It is the living exercise of that one faculty in us that gives us our specific character as rational beings, that one thing in us, as Socrates said, that thrives by doing what is right and withers by doing what is wrong. In that exercise, in phronesis, we do not reach true conclusions but live the proper life of a rational being. In phronesis we do not find truth but find our own reality. In an inspired passage of the Republic Plato delineates the progress of the philosophic soul towards communion with reality, uniting with what has real being, begetting intelligence and reality (aletheian) and enjoying true life. The progress of the philosophic soul here described is essentially the same as the account given of the ascent to absolute Beauty in the Symposium.
The philosophic ascent does not end in the acquisition of knowledge but in communion with reality. We behold reality when we find that reality within ourselves and we give expression to that reality in myth, parable, and metaphor. We give expression to our reality in poetry, be it the poetry of Shelley's Prometheus Unbound or of Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Idea, for philosophers wrong themselves when they think they are disclosing the truth about the external world while all the time they are shaping their own inner reality in imaginative forms, as real and as fanciful as the camels and squirrels a child forms in the sailing clouds.
Examining the detailed arguments of the various hypotheses does not fall within the scope of this short article. In any case there is no dearth of erudite scrutinizations of these, noting a fault here, detecting an actual or a presumed fallacy there. While these learned investigations have their proper place and function and while they constitute a healthy and enjoyable exercise of the intellect, I venture to say that they do more harm than good when they blind us to the lesson Plato meant his readers to find in the dialogue. I maintain that Plato composed the Parmenides neither to confirm nor to refute nor yet to elucidate Parmenides' doctrine of the One. Plato comes nearest to doing that in the Sophist. But our dialogue leads us over the arid deductions of the successive hypotheses to the clear vision conveyed in its concluding assertion that, ' whatever we assume to be or not to be, it will seem that both the One and the Many, will be, both in relation to themselves and to each other, all things and no-thing.'
To sum up I reproduce the opening paragraph of the final section of Chapter Eight of Plato: An Interpretation:
The second part of the Parmenides is wholly what Plato
plainly says it is, an exercise in dialectic (in the sense
of the Republic) -- an exercise intended to bring out the
twin core-lessons of dialectic:
(1) Logically, no determinate statement is simply true; no
determinate statement can be permitted the mortal hubris of
pretending to finality; if it does it can always be shown to
be false; to understand any statement we have to attend not
only to what it says but also to what it does not say.
(2) Metaphysically, no particular, finite, determinate
thing can claim simply to be; in itself and by itself it
cannot have the intelligibility of reality; the question
can always be put to it, 'Whence and wherefor art thou?';
to be justified, its particular, finite, determinate
actuality has to be effaced in other than itself. And all
of this is nothing but the germination of the seed of the
Socratic elenchus. The scholarly dissections, analyses, and
criticisms of the hypotheses and arguments of the second
part of the Parmenides are a good intellectual game, but
when they are thought to give us (or, more often, to
annihilate) the meaning or the essence of the Parmenides
(or of any dialogue of Plato), they are far worse than
useless; they are deadly. In endlessly splitting and
resplitting the husks they let the kernel go to waste. The
only way to appropriate the whole seed is to plant it in
living intelligence, to flower there and bear fruit that
the erudite cannot detect in the seed however minutely they
may dissect it or under however powerful a logical
microscope they may examine it.
(c) D. R. Khashaba 2014
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Weblog: http:---
II. 'CREATIVE ETERNITY' BY D. R. KHASHABA
I am convinced that no original philosopher -- at any rate if we are speaking of philosophers infected with the metaphysical craze of aspiring to behold the One in the Many and the Many in the One -- reaches her or his fundamental position by proceeding inferentially from initial premises. Rather, such a philosopher early in her or his thinking venture, struggles to find intelligibility in the chaos of her or his experiential nebula until she or he has a vision that confers intelligibility on the whole that only then becomes a whole. Thus, as I recall, it was in my boyhood that I saw that ultimately Reality must be a Will, and will being essentially purposive, it is Love. I could only find all being and all becoming intelligible if I conceived of ultimate Reality as intelligent and good. That intelligent and good Will I named Creative Eternity.
When Geoffrey Klempner generously suggested there should be a special issue of Philosophy Pathways for my work, I said I would contribute an article on the Parmenides and another one on Creative Eternity, which initially I intended to be an original piece. Unfortunately my rapidly deteriorating eyesight has made writing a veritable torment for me, and after braving it through the Parmenides article, I could not have the heart to take another plunge, much as I desired to do that. I decided to offer something I had ready on the subject. It had to be either Chapter One of Book Two of Let Us Philosophize (1998, 2008) or Chapter Seventeen of Quest of Reality (2013). I settled for the latter, which I reproduce below without any change.
Being is the ultimate mystery before which we stand in speechless acquiescence. But sheer Being is barren. Indeed, absolutely formless, absolutely unqualified Being is utterly unthinkable. It is not even equivalent to Nothing, because we can think of Nothing as relative nothingness, but sheer Being is an absolute blank, indistinguishable from utter Nothingness, which Plato in the Sophist declared to be totally unthinkable.
The ultimate origin and source of all things cannot be thought of as simple Being. The ultimate source and origin of things must have it in its nature to mutate, to move, to spawn variegated progeny. It is in vain that we ask, How?, Why? For this too is a mystery that will forever remain a mystery, but it is thinkable, it is imaginable. It is thinkable and imaginable because we have the model of it n the immediacy of our awareness of our inner reality.
The Indian sages saw that Brahma's absolute Being cannot explain the world we live in; though this world be nothing but illusory Maya, yet it proclaims itself to be the progeny of the Absolute and dares the Absolute to disown it. The Indian sages thus envisioned the One as three-in-one, a triad, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva -- the Creator, the Preserver, the Destroyer. The Indian Trimurti, like the Christian Trinity, was a happy metaphysical idea. In my first book, Let Us Philosophize, I insisted that, for becoming to be intelligible, for the actual world to be intelligible, we have to conceive of ultimate Reality as multi-dimensional.
All around us in the phenomenal world we encounter things that now are this, then are that. We say they change, we say they become what they were not, we say one thing brings forth another. But Hume told us that all we can justifiably say is that one state of being is succeeded by another state of being. The testimony of our immediate experience -- in Humean terms -- does not entitle us to speak of change or becoming, let alone causation. The ideas of change, becoming, causation, are forms cast by our mind on the deliverances of our experience to give them intelligibility.
In the end it is our internal, immediate awareness of our own movements and our own doings that is the model and the vindication of our notions of all forms of becoming. And my internal, immediate awareness of my movements and my doings does not give me evidence of myself or of anything within me 'causing' another thing. My immediate internal experience testifies to creativity. I am writing these sentences; my mind brings them forth from nowhere but from within itself. My mind is not working on any material foreign to itself. My model -- and it is that and nothing but that -- for a Reality that can bring forth and originate things is this creativity that I know in myself.
The causation that I exercise and experience when I work on foreign material, when I make a table or build a house, I find of no metaphysical significance, though it was traditionally the model after which a transcendent God producing the world out of nothing was fashioned. The only way I can find becoming, any becoming, intelligible, is by thinking of it as creativity.
As I said in Let Us Philosophize (Bk, II, Ch. 3, 6) we do not know any instance of one single thing causing another thing. We always have a complex circumstance consisting of multiple elements issuing in a new, original, complex circumstance. How? When the process is outside us, we can observe it, we can describe it, but we can never find an explanation for it. But when the process is within our conscious being, we are aware of an instance of creativity.
I envision what is ultimately there, what was ultimately there in the beginning that is not a beginning but the arche (principle) of all beginning, not as a thing that is and not as a thing that becomes but as the becoming that is itself all that there is. The becoming has content; it is this issuing into that, this bringing forth that. Neither the this that becomes what it is not nor the that that comes from what it is not is the real. Wordsworth exuberates, utters, 'My heart leaps up.' The exuberance is not a thing in itself but exists; the utterance is not a thing in itself, but exists. Neither the one nor the other is the real; the real is the soul (mind) that out of the exuberance created the utterance. But this real soul (mind) is nowhere; it is not a thing that is; it is not the creator of the utterance; it is the creativity that is the exuberance become an utterance.
Ultimately what is, is the activity, the creativity; and I find that creativity multi-dimensional. Two dimensions that I find in all that is are: reality and existence. The existent is the actual, and the existent is in incessant becoming. It becomes what it is not. It cannot be in itself. It only has being in and for the intelligence that lends it reality by giving it form, by clothing it in an intelligible form. The form in a sense is the real. This is the Platonic eidos, the Platonic ousia. But the existent and the form have their being in the intelligence that creates the form and lends reality to the evanescent existent. And the intelligence that creates is not a thing that is but is the act of creation, is simply creativity. I designate ultimate Reality as creative intelligence. But this designation can be misleading. Ultimate Reality is not an intelligence that is and creates; it is the act of intelligent creativity. Creativity involves temporality and the reality that subsumes the creativity must be supra-temporal. Hence I designate ultimate Reality as Creative Eternity. I also call Reality the Act.
Parmenides insisted that the real must be one, whole, free of all change, free of any finitude or qualification. But from such a simple One our world of change and imperfection and particularity could not have come. Heraclitus had declared that in our actual world there is no permanence or stability or perfection. The perfect One of Parmenides cannot yield this actual world, and the actual world with its fleeting, insubstantial unrealities cannot satisfy our yearning for intelligibility. Heraclitus himself spoke of a Logos that puts sense in the senseless tumult of our world, and Parmenides had to append to his Way of Truth a Way of Seeming giving an account of the fickle appearances of our world. Somebody had to put these together to make each remedy the defect of the other. Plato found that the shadowlike things of the world obtain meaning and reality from the Forms generated by the mind and further found that these meaning-giving and reality-giving Forms unite in the Form of the Good which, being the source of being and intelligence, is yet beyond being and intelligence. Of this Form of the Good we can only speak in parable and simile and myth. The vision embodied in the notion of Creative Eternity is my myth for this Reality we perforce aspire to but can never comprehend. And I find the model of this Reality within me when I spontaneously extend a helping hand to a helpless creature, or when, seeing a thing of beauty, I breathe a benediction.
Creative Eternity is, like Plato's Form of the Good, beyond being and beyond intelligence. To enjoy being and intelligence It engenders transient existents that have their reality in intelligible Forms. A poet's reality is not her or his body or her or his fleeting affections; a poet's reality is her or his personality (soul, mind, intelligence). A poet's personality is never an actuality. A poet has actuality only in her or his ephemeral creations. The poet's actuality, realized in her or his creations, like the actuality of her or his corporeal being, is immersed in the imperfection and corruptibility of all finite existence. The poet's reality is the ever-burning flame of her or his intelligent creativity. And the reality of Creative Eternity is beyond being but is ever actualized in the creation of evanescent creations.
Life is a reality. It is actualized in a living thing, but the life of a living thing is never an actuality. Life is actual in the living, ever changing, ever passing away thing and is real in the transcendence of the constant evanescence of the living thing. Life is never there, never here, never this: life is the transcendence in which what is there, what is here, what is this, in vanishing obtains reality.
The principle of creativity is necessary for the intelligibility of becoming. Only the free, purposive act is internally coherent and so completely intelligible. The free, purposive act is spontaneous; it is supra-temporal, is, in a sense, eternal. This is the only eternity that has meaning for us, the only eternity we can experience and hence understand.
A reality that is pure being is an empty abstraction. A reality that is all becoming with no share in being is unintelligible. In all process there is a unity in which successive moments are coevally present. The act is the only self-sufficing, internally coherent reality.
To conceive of ultimate Reality as self-sufficient, self-supporting, and inherently coherent we have to see it as an act, an eternal act, an act eternally affirming its being in ceaselessly creating its evanescent existential presentations. That is the insight that came to me as a boy and that has been the core, the foundational principle, of my philosophy ever since.
Shakespeare's corporeal being is in ceaseless mutation. It is not this moment what it was the moment before, no part of it is this moment what it was the moment before. His mind, his personality, his reality, is, strictly speaking, literally nowhere. It is never a this. It does not exist. But his mind affirms its reality in creatively engendering ephemeral worlds. What is not, yet creates: it is not an entity that creates but is simply the creativity. That is our model of self-sufficient, intelligible reality. Even our body affirms its unity by constantly reproducing itself. God affirms Its reality by ceaselessly reproducing Its existence.
I have always believed and affirmed that to be is to be good, and that statement has always had for me a double meaning: first, whatever is, is positive and has value in its proper context; secondly, for a human being, to attain true being, to attain some measure of perfection, she or he has to be good. Badness (I am avoiding the word 'evil' as too strong, too restricted) is essentially negative and destructive. Goodness is positive and affirmative, affirming all value and all positive being. Hence true being is love and love affirms all true being. These are not puerile sentiments. This is the sum of wisdom.
The alpha and the omega of all wisdom is that humans have wandered far and wide in quest of reality to find in the end that the reality they sought is within them. The reality that in seeking they created, the only reality accessible to them, is their own reality; and that reality is not Being, is not Essence, is not Knowledge, but is their own Creativity, is love that out of its fullness creates ever new dream worlds.
While I say that we are rooted in Reality and also say that the reality in ourselves is all the reality we know, I cannot dogmatically say that we know the World or know Reality in any sense other than the Reality we create for ourselves. I do not know how to characterize, or how students of philosophy may characterize, this position; but I think that is all our nature and the nature of the world permit us, and I am content to live with that much.
The reality of ultimate Reality, of Creative Eternity, is its creativity. It is never an actuality. Its reality is its transcendence of the transience of all actuality. Reality is the transcendent Act. The Act is purposive; purposiveness is Love; it is Plato's tokos en kaloi, procreation in beauty. This is my vision of Reality, my model of ultimate Reality. The model is confessedly made in the image of the only reality known to human intelligence. I cannot find the ultimate mystery of Being or the obstinate riddle of Becoming intelligible except in terms of such a vision.
Creative Eternity is the transcendence of evanescence ever realized in the ceaseless vanishing of the evanescent. Creative Eternity is the God that is beyond being and hence cannot exist but has existential actuality in the dreams It eternally dreams.
I cannot, with Tennyson, look forward to 'one, far-off, divine event / To which the whole creation moves'. I do not find it metaphysically cogent that the world tends to an end. End, then what? I think that as Reality, as Eternity, admits of no beginning, so it admits of no end. Reality, Eternity, is a constant Act, an everlasting creativity. The Act is the alpha and the omega. Reality is not a creation but creativity. Hence I name Reality: Creative Eternity.
If reality is to have any meaning for us, if reality is to be intelligible to us at all, we have to see Reality as that Power
Which wields the world with never-wearied love,
Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above.
(Shelley, Adonais, XLII.)
(c) D. R. Khashaba 2013
Email: email@example.com Weblog: http:---
III. 'SOCRATES ANSWERS ARISTOTLE' BY D. R. KHASHABA
In 2006 I published Socrates' Prison Journal. The idea of that little book had been hovering in my mind for years, literally for decades, but I kept putting it off fearing that the fictional framework might lure me to efface the line between what may reasonably be ascribed to Socrates and what would come from me albeit inspired by Socrates. After I published Plato: An Interpretation (2005) where I showed what I thought we may ascribe to Socrates, and what to Plato, and what I offered as my development of the Socratic-Platonic position, I thought I could go back to my old pet fancy. For about the first one-third of the 'journal' I kept close to what Socrates might have written, then I gave myself free rein, inventing situations, conversations with Aspasia and Diotima, and in 'Day Twenty-Five' I made Socrates have a prophetic dream where he discussed with Aristotle (not the 'young' Aristotle appearing in the Parmenides but the yet unborn Stagirite) the latter's 'future' objections to Socrates' moral philosophy. See the endnote (ii) below which appears as note 73 on page 194 of Socrates' Prison Journal. Endnotes (iii) and (iv) appear as notes 74 and 75 in the book.
Last night I saw a strange dream. I saw myself seated with friends in the Lyceum when a comely man, a stranger to me, came straight to us. As he was approaching I heard someone call him the wise man of Stagira. He greeted us and said he would like to join us in conversation. We welcomed him and asked him to be seated.
Immediately, as though he had come on purpose to perform some assigned mission, he said to me, 'O Socrates, I will readily admit that what you say in general about virtue and the good for human beings is more excellent than the teaching of Pythagoras. Still, I know that, since you love the truth, you will not be angry with me when I say I believe you are wrong when you make the virtues forms of knowledge.'
I said, 'Much gratitude do I owe you for correcting my mistake. But do me the favour of explaining more plainly what you find wrong with the view you say is mine.'
The Stagirite said, 'In making the virtues sciences you ignore the unreasoning part of the soul. Your good friend Plato has, some time after your departure to Hades, correctly divided the soul into a reasoning part, a passionate part, and a desiring part, both parts unreasoning but the spirited more akin to reason while the desiring part is farther removed from reason.'
I said, 'Worthy friend, in saying that I make the virtues sciences you make me wiser than I know myself to be. But to this point we may come back later. About the parts of the soul, indeed I expected Plato to improve much on the thoughts he developed while he was associating with me. But so slow-witted am I that I cannot see in what way this partition of the soul might help. If the spirited and the desiring parts are separate from the reasoning part, then how does their action differ from -- if it is not improper to speak of such things -- sneezing or sinking into a coma when one's head is hit? The action then, if it is to be called an action, is not an action of the human being as a human being. But if these parts are not truly separate but are somehow joined with the reasoning part, then the more a human being lives truly as a human being, the more the impulses and the inclinations offered by those parts are integrated into the system of goals and values ordered and harmonized by reason, from which issue all acts of a human being acting truly as a human being.'
I was embarrassed by the way I was carried away by enthusiasm. I thought the stranger would have every right to say that my speech provided a good example of an act of passion ungoverned by reason. Fortunately for me, it seems that the Stagirite found what I said too hollow to be worthy of comment.
Instead of commenting on what I had said he continued, 'So you think that, since knowledge is a noble thing, best able to govern human beings, if a person knows what is good and what is bad, then that person will not be overcome by anything so as to make him act otherwise than as knowledge dictates, reason being all the support needed for right action.'
I said, 'Yes, that is what I believe.'
Despite his gentle nature and urbane manner he retorted sharply, 'But this is starkly contradicted by the facts.'
I was taken aback but with an effort managed to hold my ground so that I could somehow say, 'I know that people do bad things which even they call bad, but do they then know what is good and what is bad? What people call bad, even when it is actually bad, they call bad for the wrong reason. What people call good, even when it is actually good, they call good for the wrong reason. If people knew that only what prospers the soul is good and only what harms the soul is bad, then no one would willingly do what is hurtful to one's inner treasure.'
The Stagirite mused for a while then said, 'If you maintain that when people are bad, it is out of ignorance and not of their will, then you will have also to maintain that when they are good, that also is not of their will.'
That baffled me and for a while I didn't know what to think. There was a catch somewhere. Then I thought I saw where the problem was. I said, 'There is a mixture of two questions here. These must be set apart if we are to think aright. First there is the question as to how we come to be good or bad persons. Then there is the question about how we do good or bad deeds. The question as to how we come to be good or bad persons is a greatly entangled one and to attempt to consider it now would take us away from the problems we have been discussing. When it comes to the question about doing good or bad deeds, to say that one who knows what is good necessarily does the good and therefore does not act of one's will is to wrangle about words. Or, seen from another angle, here too we have a mixing of two different questions. We must set apart will and choice. We choose between alternatives, weighing a greater advantage against a lesser advantage or a greater loss against a lesser loss. But when we are to do good or bad the idea of choice is not relevant. A mother does not choose to suckle her baby and she is not less free for that. I will not say she has no choice but I will say that she is not faced with the need to make any choice.'
My verbiage exasperated the stranger; I know the feeling all too well. He said, 'Let us go back to the point you said we may revert to later. You think that all the virtues are forms of knowledge, so that to know what justice is, is to be just.'
'My dear friend,' I answered, 'if that were what I thought, I would lose all hope of ever finding a single just person. For no one knows what justice is. But I believe that by seriously examining the meaning of justice and contemplating the idea of justice inherent in our mind, we nourish and strengthen the arete and dunamis of justice that is -- I will not say 'in our psuche' but -- somehow one with our psuche. We do not become just by knowing what justice -- a justice separate from and other than us -- is, but by discovering, uncovering, the justice that is in us.'
Apparently my answer did not satisfy the stranger. He said, 'Socrates, I know that the knowledge of virtue is what you sought after all your life, but we do not want to know what courage is, but to be courageous; we do not want to know what justice is, but to be just.'
I said, 'My dear friend, I assure you that those of my comrades who gave you to understand that my pursuit was for knowledge of what virtue is have failed to understand me and have misinformed you. As I have said just now, I did not expect them or want them to find the meaning of justice or courage or piety anywhere outside themselves, least of all in any formula of words, but to find it in themselves by contemplating their own inner reality. And I assure you that it was always my conviction that we are not brave by knowing about bravery but by knowing what attitudes and deeds are wholesome for our soul and what harmful, and so with all virtue, we do not acquire virtue by knowing about virtue but by having clear and constantly alive insight into what gives our soul health and beauty and what harms and distorts our soul.'
At this point some noise coming from beyond the prison gate disturbed my sleep and interrupted my dream. The objections that the stranger advanced to my views in the dream were all familiar to me from my friends and others but somehow I felt that the dream related to a time beyond the present time. What that might mean I do not profess to know.
(c) D. R. Khashaba 2006
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Weblog: http:---