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PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS                   ISSN 2043-0728

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

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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 https:--- .

Geoffrey Klempner

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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:---

(c) D. R. Khashaba 2004

E-mail: dkhashaba@hotmail.com

Web site: http:---

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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:---

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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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