PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS 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 modern age.
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 character.
I think... I believe... I feel what I believe. I believe what I feel.
(c) Ruel F. Pepa
Trinity College Quezon City Philippines
II. 'WAS KEATS A FOOL?' BY D.R. KHASHABA
Clever pundits dismiss with a condescending smile Keats' simplicity when he says:
"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 revised.
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 this.
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 pronouncement:
'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 prevent confusion.
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 timelessness.
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 hold.
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 state.
(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 college divisions.
For complete contest rules, go to http:---, 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:---
P.O. Box 10325 Arlington, Virginia 22210-1325 USA