Friday, December 14, 2018

Is Plato's Dialectic Dialogue Possible In Islam?

Islam does accept thinking in causality and search for explanation of phenomenons. Islam invites people to gain knowledge about any topic. However, Islam doesn't allow to self-invent and fill in unknowns, or to speculate about them without proof. If you don't know, you must simply admit that you don't know. 'Sophism', 'there's no truth and every person has their own truth', is an attitude seen as speculation without proof. Here at least, Qur'an al Kerim and Plato agree. There are many Qur'anic verses about 'the unseen', those aspects of life and the universe, that are outside observation's reach. Plato was interested in observed truth. He was interested in causal relations and the forces between different phenomenons. Those topics deserved contemplation and discussion. Exchange of views could lead to new ideas and conclusions.

My previous blog, 'Plato', mentioned a conversation about abstract topics, such as dialectics between finite and infinite, or between pleasure and wisdom. As an example, it gives a fairly good introduction to Plato's approach. Philosophic discussion was a systematic effort to explain and compare a theory, in prose. Qur'an al Kerim, however, isn't prose, it's poetry. It doesn't have the systematic structure of hypothesis - search for observed correlations - conclusion. And, it doesn't give literal quotes of specific people. For sure, there's nothing wrong, in Islam, to hold a theory built on relations between several concepts. And then, distinguish opposites, similarities, or differences between finite concepts as '30 degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit' versus infinite concepts as 'heat', 'cold'. However, Qur'an al Kerim takes their details more or less for granted. It's not the main focus of the Scripture. The Scripture does mention navigation systems, weather conditions, languages, countries, cities, and specific examples of creatures. But, it doesn't offer a calculation system; grammar rules; navigation measures, and such. Qur'an exhorts humans, however, to develop their measurement and observation systems and tools for their own use, though with an invisible backup of divine inspiration. On the other hand, Qur'an gives unambiguous texts about the one God and creator of the universe. Plato, however, sometimes mentions 'God' and sometimes, in plural, 'the gods'. Qur'an says, what we can and cannot observe, concerning God. Also this aspect is to be taken for granted by believers. It is the core of Islamic belief. If you want to believe, you can accept, that you won't be able to fully see Allah SWT. Full proof of His presence, hasn't been given to humans. For this very same reason, it isn't possible to impose belief in Allah SWT on those who reject it. You will, however, not take for granted, that you receive skills and tools to develop more tools; to use cattle, water, vegetables, and the knowledge to produce the things you need. Thinking about their consistent role in our lives, should make you thankful; these are divine gifts to us. To some extend, we've seen Plato agree with this. God is always present in Plato's dialectic dialogue, but He isn't central point of focus.

Examples of (the many) relevant Qur'anic verses are: 3:7&8; 6:97-100; 10:18-20; 16:8.

'He it is Who hath revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture wherein are clear revelations - they are the substance of the Book - and others (which are) allegorical. But those in whose hearts is doubt pursue, forsooth, that which is allegorical seeking (to cause) dissension by seeking to explain it. None knoweth its explanation save Allah. And those who are of sound instruction say: We believe therein; the whole is from our Lord; but only men of understanding really heed. (7) Our Lord! Cause not our hearts to stray after Thou hast guided us...' (3:7-8)

'And He it is Who hath set for you the stars that ye may guide your course by them amid the darkness of the land and the sea. We have detailed Our revelations for a people who have knowledge. (97) And He it is Who hath produced you from a single being, and (hath given you) a habitation and a repository. We have detailed Our revelations for a people who have understanding. (98) He it is Who sendeth down water from the sky, and therewith We bring forth buds of every kind; We bring forth the green blade from which We bring forth the thick-clustered grain; and from the date-palm, from the pollen thereof, spring pendant bunches; and (We bring forth) gardens of grapes, and the olive and the pomegranate, alike and unlike. Look upon the fruit thereof, when they bear fruit, and upon its ripening. Lo! herein verily are portents for a people who believe. (99) Yet they ascribe as partners unto Him the jinn, although He did create them, and impute falsely, without knowledge, sons and daughters unto Him. Glorified be He and high exalted above (all) that they ascribe (unto Him). (100)' (6:97-100)

'They worship besides Allah that which neither hurteth them nor profiteth them, and they say: These are our intercessors with Allah. Say: Would ye inform Allah of (something) that He knoweth not in the heavens or in the earth? Praised be He and high exalted above all that ye associate (with Him)! (18) Mankind were but one community; then they differed; and had it not been for a word that had already gone forth from thy Lord it had been judged between them in respect of that wherein they differ. (19) And they will say: If only a portent were sent down upon him from his Lord! Then say, (O Muhammad): The Unseen belongeth to Allah. So wait! Lo! I am waiting with you. (20)' (10:18-20)

'And (He has created) horses, mules and donkeys for you to ride and as an adornment; and He has created things of which ye have no knowledge.' (16:8)

Sources & further reading:
Quran Explorer
Works by Plato, The Internet Archieve

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Plato ( ca 427 – 347 BC) belongs to the world’s best literary authors and philosophers and one of the most influential thinkers in Western philosophy. Plato was not his real name. His real name probably was Aristokles, and Plato was a nickname referring to his athletic figure, the shape of his front and his wide eloquence. Plato carefully recorded his teacher’s and role model’s words: Socrate. His works are testimony of his indignation and struggle against Athens’ rulers, when they had Socrate and other philosophers executed. Plato also struggled against professional philosophy of his days, of which Protagoras was an important representant: Sophism. Plato thought it unworthy to ask money, when you teach your students, that it doesn’t matter what truth is because every person has his own truth and nothing can be proved. ‘For if truth is only sensation, and no man can discern another’s feelings better than he, or has any superior right to determine whether his opinion is true or false, but each, as we have several times repeated, is to himself the sole judge, and everything that he judges is true and right, why, my friend, should Protagoras be preferred to the place of wisdom and instruction, and deserve to be well paid, and we poor ignoramuses have to go to him, if each one is the measure of his own wisdom? Must he not be talking ad captandum in all this? I say nothing of the ridiculous predicament in which my own midwifery and the whole art of dialectic is placed; for the attempt to supervise or refute the notions or opinions of others, would be a tedious and enormous piece of folly, if to each man his own are right; and this must be the case if Protagoras’ Truth is the real truth, and the philosopher is not merely amusing himself by giving oracles out of the shrine of his book.’

Dialectic relations are leading principle of Plato's thinking, in the sense of opposing or differing forces leading to another outcome. The mingling of opposites leads to a third outcome: Creations; in all their variations. Infinity and finiteness are the first two classes; then comes the third class of temporal result -- which is only possible through a fourth class of causality. Abstract concepts like hot and cold or wisdom and pleasure, but also high and low tones, are infinite concepts. They are limited by finite concepts, such as measures and degrees: 30 Celsius, but also bigger than, higher than; therefore, temporary states of being. Grammar and linguistics belong, like other human knowledge, to the infinite realm, because its system is self-existing. Other examples are tones, and concepts like hot and cold. This leads to something else: A result, in form of an individual creation with certain qualities. It owes these qualities to a fourth class, namely the cause of its mixture and generation.

Socrates’ and Plato’s philosophy stood at a psychologically high level of describing emotions, desires and thoughts that accompany events in the universe and individual creatures. They made a difference between either observation, or moral judgement, leading to knowledge, emotion or opinion. An erroneous opinion is not necessarily the same as an immoral one, as it doesn’t have the same cause: Respectively observation and memory, versus valued appreciation. Plato did not consider physical causes of pain. He restricted his research to psychological logic.

An example of dialectic dialogue, is this dialogue between Socrate and Protarchus, written in the Dialogue with Philebus. The dialogue mentions topics that are important in Ancient Greece; they often return in Greek philosophy.

Dialectics between infinite and finite, pleasure and wisdom:
"Socrate said in a dialogue with a young man named Philebus, and Protarchus: ‘The sound which passes through the lips, whether of an individual or of all men, is one, and yet infinite. And yet, not by knowing either that sound is one or that sound is infinite, are we perfect in the art of speech; but the knowledge of the number and nature of sounds is what makes a man a grammarian. And the knowledge which makes a man a musician, is of the same kind. Sound is one in music as well as in grammar. But, when you have learned which sounds are high and what low, and the number and nature of the intervals and their limits or proportions, and the systems compounded out of them, which our fathers discovered, and have handed down to us who are their descendants under the name of harmonies; and the affections corresponding to them in the movements of the human body, which when measured by numbers ought, as they say, to be called rhythms and measures; and they tell us that the same principle should be applied to every one and many. When I say, you have learned all this, then, my dear friend, you are perfect; and you may be said to understand any other subject, when you have a similar grasp of it. But, the infinity of kinds and the infinity of individuals, which there is in each of them, when not classified, creates in every one of us a state of infinite ignorance; and he who never looks for number in anything, will not himself be looked for in the number of famous men. Some god or divine man, who in the Egyptian legend is said to have been Theuth, observing that the human voice was infinite, first distinguished in this infinity a certain number of vowels, and then other letters which had sound, but were not pure vowels (i.e., the semivowels); these too, exist in a definite number; and lastly, he distinguished a third class of letters which we now call mutes, without voice and without sound, and divided these, and likewise, the two other classes of vowels and semivowels, into the individual sounds, told the number of them, and gave to each and all of them the name of letters; and observing that none of us could learn any one of them and not learn them all, and in consideration of this common bond, which in a manner united them, he assigned to them all a single art, and this he called the art of grammar or letters.’

Protarchus answered: ‘That seems to be very near the truth, Socrate. Happy would the wise man be, if he knew all things, and the next best thing for him is that he should know himself. Why do I say so at this moment? I will tell you. You, Socrate, have granted us this opportunity of conversing with you, and are ready to assist us in determining what is the best of human goods. For when Philebus said that pleasure, delight, enjoyment, and the like, were the chief good, you answered -- No, not those, but another class of goods. And we are constantly reminding ourselves of what you said, and very properly, in order that we may not forget to examine and compare the two. And these goods, which in your opinion are to be designated as superior to pleasure, and are the true objects of pursuit, are mind and knowledge and understanding and art and the like. There was a dispute about which were the best, and we playfully threatened that you should not be allowed to go home until the question was settled; and you agreed, and placed yourself at our disposal. And now, as children say, what has been fairly given cannot be taken back; cease then to fight against us in this way.’

Socrate answered to that: ‘I remember to have heard long ago certain discussions about pleasure and wisdom, whether awake or in a dream I cannot tell; they were to the effect that neither the one nor the other of them was the good, but some third thing, which was different from them, and better than either. If this be clearly established, then pleasure will lose the victory, for the good will cease to be identified with her:-Am I not right? And there will cease to be any need of distinguishing the kinds of pleasures, as I am inclined to think, but this will appear more clearly as we proceed.’ Soc. ‘Is the good perfect or imperfect?’ Pro.: ‘The most perfect, Socrates, of all things.’ Soc: ‘And is the good sufficient?’ Pro: ‘Yes, certainly, and in a degree surpassing all other things.’ Soc: ‘And no one can deny that all percipient beings desire and hunt after good, and are eager to catch and have the good about them, and care not for the attainment of anything which its not accompanied by good. Let there be no wisdom in the life of pleasure, nor any pleasure in the life of wisdom, for if either of them is the chief good, it cannot be supposed to want anything, but if either is shown to want anything, then it cannot really be the chief good. Reflect; would you not want wisdom and intelligence and forethought, and similar qualities? would you not at any rate want sight? But if you had neither mind, nor memory, nor knowledge, nor true opinion, you would in the first place be utterly ignorant of whether you were pleased or not, because you would be entirely devoid of intelligence. Soc. Let us divide all existing things into two, or rather, if you do not object, into three classes.Were we not saying that God revealed a finite element of existence, and also an infinite? I say that a fourth class is still wanted. Find the cause of the third or compound, and add this as a fourth class to the three others. I want to know whether such things as appear to us to admit of more or less, or are denoted by the words “exceedingly,” “gently,” “extremely,” and the like, may not be referred to the class of the infinite, which is their unity, for, as was asserted in the previous argument, all things that were divided and dispersed should be brought together, and have the mark or seal of some one nature, if possible, set upon them-do you remember?’ Pro: ‘Yes’. Soc: ‘And all things which do not admit of more or less, but admit their opposites, that is to say, first of all, equality, and the equal, or again, the double, or any other ratio of number and measure-all these may, I think, be rightly reckoned by us in the class of the limited or finite; what do you say?’ Soc: ‘The class of the finite which we ought to have brought together as we did the infinite; but, perhaps, it will come to the same thing if we do so now;-when the two are combined, a third will appear.’ Pro: ‘What do you mean by the class of the finite?’ Soc: ‘The class of the equal and the double, and any class which puts an end to difference and opposition, and by introducing number creates harmony and proportion among the different elements.’ Pro: ‘I understand; you seem to me to mean that the various opposites, when you mingle with them the class of the finite, takes certain forms.’ Pro: ‘Yes, I think that I understand you: you mean to say that the infinite is one class, and that the finite is a second class of existences; but what you would make the third I am not so certain.’ Soc: ‘That is because the amazing variety of the third class is too much for you, my dear friend; but there was not this difficulty with the infinite, which also comprehended many classes, for all of them were sealed with the note of more and less, and therefore appeared one.’ Soc: ‘Yes, indeed; and when I speak of the third class, understand me to mean any offspring of these, being a birth into true being, effected by the measure which the limit introduces.’ Soc: ‘Still there was, as we said, a fourth class to be investigated, and you must assist in the investigation; for does not everything which comes into being, of necessity come into being through a cause? Then the first I will call the infinite or unlimited, and the second the finite or limited; then follows the third, an essence compound and generated; and I do not think that I shall be far wrong in speaking of the cause of mixture and generation as the fourth. And therefore the infinite cannot be that element which imparts to pleasure some degree of good. But now-admitting, if you like, that pleasure is of the nature of the infinite-in which of the aforesaid classes, O Protarchus and Philebus, can we without irreverence place wisdom and knowledge and mind? And let us be careful, for I think that the danger will be very serious if we err on this point. … when I asked the question to what class mind and knowledge belong? Yet the answer is easy, since all philosophers assert with one voice that mind is the king of heaven and earth-in reality they are magnifying themselves. And perhaps they are right. But still I should like to consider the class of mind, if you do not object, a little more fully. Let us begin by asking a question. Whether all this which they call the universe is left to the guidance of unreason and chance medley, or, on the contrary, as our fathers have declared, ordered and governed by a marvellous intelligence and wisdom.’ Pro: ‘Wide asunder are the two assertions, illustrious Socrates, for that which you were just now saying to me appears to be blasphemy; but the other assertion, that mind orders all things, is worthy of the aspect of the world, and of the sun, and of the moon, and of the stars and of the whole circle of the heavens; and never will I say or think otherwise.’ Soc: ‘Shall we then agree with them of old time in maintaining this doctrine-not merely reasserting the notions of others, without risk to ourselves,-but shall we share in the danger, and take our part of the reproach which will await us, when an ingenious individual declares that all is disorder?’ Pro: ‘That would certainly be my wish.’ Soc: ‘We see that the elements which enter into the nature of the bodies of all animals, fire, water, air, and, as the storm-tossed sailor cries, “land” [i.e., earth], reappear in the constitution of the world.’ Soc: ‘Only a small fraction of any one of them exists in us, and that of a mean sort, and not in any way pure, or having any power worthy of its nature. One instance will prove this of all of them; there is fire within us, and in the universe’. Pro: ‘True’. Soc: ‘And is not our fire small and weak and mean? But the fire in the universe is wonderful in quantity and beauty, and in every power that fire has’. Pro: ‘Most true’. Soc: ‘And is the fire in the universe nourished and generated and ruled by the fire in us, or is the fire in you and me, and in other animals, dependent on the universal fire?’ Pro: ‘That is a question which does not deserve an answer’. Soc: ‘But is our body nourished wholly by this body, or is this body nourished by our body, thence deriving and having the qualities of which we were just now speaking?’ Pro: ‘That again, Socrates, is a question which does not deserve to be asked’. Soc: ‘And whence comes that soul, my dear Protarchus, unless the body of the universe, which contains elements like those in our bodies but in every way fairer, had also a soul? Can there be another source?’ Pro: ‘Clearly, Socrates, that is the only source.’ Soc: ‘Why, yes, Protarchus; for surely we cannot imagine that of the four classes, the finite, the infinite, the composition of the two, and the cause, the fourth, which enters into all things, giving to our bodies souls, and the art of self-management, and of healing disease, and operating in other ways to heal and organize, having too all the attributes of wisdom;-we cannot, I say, imagine that whereas the self-same elements exist, both in the entire heaven and in great provinces of the heaven, only fairer and purer, this last should not also in that higher sphere have designed the noblest and fairest things?’ Pro: ‘Such a supposition is quite unreasonable.’ Soc: ‘Then if this be denied, should we not be wise in adopting the other view and maintaining that there is in the universe a mighty infinite and an adequate limit, of which we have often spoken, as well as a presiding cause of no mean power, which orders and arranges years and seasons and months, and may be justly called wisdom and mind?’ Pro: ‘Most justly.’ Soc: ‘And wisdom and mind cannot exist without soul?’ Pro: ‘Certainly not.’ Soc: ‘And in the divine nature of Zeus would you not say that there is the soul and mind of a king, because there is in him the power of the cause? And other gods have other attributes, by which they are pleased to be called.’ Pro: ‘Very true.’ Soc: ‘Do not then suppose that these words are rashly spoken by us, O Protarchus, for they are in harmony with the testimony of those who said of old time that mind rules the universe.’ Pro: ‘True.’ Soc: ‘And they furnish an answer to my enquiry; for they imply that mind is the parent of that class of the four which we called the cause of all; and I think that you now have my answer. And let us remember, too, of both of them, (1) that mind was akin to the cause and of this family; and (2) that pleasure is infinite and belongs to the class which neither has, nor ever will have in itself, a beginning, middle, or end of its own.’ Soc: ‘I wonder whether you would agree with me about the origin of pleasure and pain.’ Pro: ‘What do you mean?’ Soc: ‘I mean to say that their natural seat is in the mixed class. … I say that when the harmony in animals is dissolved, there is also a dissolution of nature and a generation of pain. And the restoration of harmony and return to nature is the source of pleasure, if I may be allowed to speak in the fewest and shortest words about matters of the greatest moment. Let us next assume that in the soul herself there is an antecedent hope of pleasure which is sweet and refreshing, and an expectation of pain, fearful and anxious.’ Pro: ‘Yes; this is another class of pleasures and pains, which is of the soul only, apart from the body, and is produced by expectation.’ Soc: ‘If I remember rightly, when the lives were compared, no degree of pleasure, whether great or small, was thought to be necessary to him who chose the life of thought and wisdom.’ Pro: ‘If so, the gods, at any rate, cannot be supposed to have either joy or sorrow.’ Soc: ‘Certainly not-there would be a great impropriety in the assumption of either alternative. But whether the gods are or are not indifferent to pleasure is a point which may be considered hereafter if in any way relevant to the argument, and whatever is the conclusion we will place it to the account of mind in her contest for the second place, should she have to resign the first. The other class of pleasures, which as we were saying is purely mental, is entirely derived from memory. Let us imagine affections of the body which are extinguished before they reach the soul, and leave her unaffected; and again, other affections which vibrate through both soul and body, and impart a shock to both and to each of them. When I say oblivious, do not suppose that I mean forgetfulness in a literal sense; for forgetfulness is the exit of memory, which in this case has not yet entered; and to speak of the loss of that which is not yet in existence, and never has been, is a contradiction; do you see? Instead of the oblivion of the soul, when you are describing the state in which she is unaffected by the shocks of the body, say unconsciousness. And the union or communion of soul and body in one feeling and motion would be properly called consciousness? And memory may, I think, be rightly described as the preservation of consciousness? And do we not mean by recollection the power which the soul has of recovering, when by herself, some feeling which she experienced when in company with the body? And when she recovers of herself the lost recollection of some consciousness or knowledge, the recovery is termed recollection and reminiscence? I want to attain the plainest possible notion of pleasure and desire, as they exist in the mind only, apart from the body; and the previous analysis helps to show the nature of both. Do we mean anything when we say “a man thirsts”? We mean to say that he “is empty”? Then there must be something in the thirsty man which in some way apprehends replenishment? And that cannot be the body, for the body is supposed to be emptied? The only remaining alternative is that the soul apprehends the replenishment by the help of memory; as is obvious, for what other way can there be?’ Pro: ‘I cannot imagine any other.’ Soc: ‘But do you see the consequence?’ Pro: ‘What is it?’ Soc: ‘That there is no such thing as desire of the body.’ Pro: ‘Why so?’ Soc: ‘Why, because the argument shows that the endeavour of every animal is to the reverse of his bodily state.’ Pro: ‘Yes.’ Soc: ‘And the impulse which leads him to the opposite of what he is experiencing proves that he has a memory of the opposite state.’ Pro: ‘True.’ Soc: ‘And the argument, having proved that memory attracts us towards the objects of desire, proves also that the impulses and the desires and the moving principle in every living being have their origin in the soul. Let me make a further observation; the argument appears to me to imply that there is a kind of life which consists in these affections. I mean when a person is in actual suffering and yet remembers past pleasures which, if they would only return, would relieve him; but as yet he has them not. May we not say of him, that he is in an intermediate state? And has he not the pleasure of memory when he is hoping to be filled, and yet in that he is empty is he not at the same time in pain? But when a man is empty and has no hope of being filled, there will be the double experience of pain. You observed this and inferred that the double experience was the single case possible. Would you say that no one ever seemed to rejoice and yet did not rejoice, or seemed to feel pain and yet did not feel pain, sleeping or waking, mad or lunatic?’ Pro: ‘So we have always held, Socrates.’ Soc: ‘But were you right? Then, how can opinion be both true and false, and pleasure true only, although pleasure and opinion are both equally real? And if rightness attaches to any of them, should we not speak of a right opinion or right pleasure; and in like manner of the reverse of rightness? And if the thing opined be erroneous, might we not say that opinion, being erroneous, is not right or rightly opined? And if we see a pleasure or pain which errs in respect of its object, shall we call that right or good, or by any honourable name? We agree-do we not?-that there is such a thing as false, and also such a thing as true opinion? And pleasure and pain, as I was just now saying, are often consequent upon these upon true and false opinion, I mean. And do not opinion and the endeavour to form an opinion always spring from memory and perception? An object may be often seen at a distance not very clearly, and the seer may want to determine what it is which he sees. He asks himself-“What is that which appears to be standing by the rock under the tree?” This is the question which he may be supposed to put to himself when he sees such an appearance. To which he may guess the right answer, saying as if in a whisper to himself-“It is a man.” Or again, he may be misled, and then he will say-“No, it is a figure made by the shepherds.”‘ Soc: ‘Well, now, I wonder whether, you would agree in my explanation of this phenomenon.’ Pro: ‘What is your explanation?’ Soc: ‘I think that the soul at such times is like a book.’"

Socrate talked with a young man, Phaedrus, about the nature of passionate desire: ‘Every one sees that love is a desire, and we know also that non-lovers desire the beautiful and good. Now in what way is the lover to be distinguished from the non-lover? Let us note that in every one of us there are two guiding and ruling principles which lead us whither they will; one is the natural desire of pleasure, the other is an acquired opinion which aspires after the best; and these two are sometimes in harmony and then again at war, and sometimes the one, sometimes the other conquers. When opinion by the help of reason leads us to the best, the conquering principle is called temperance; but when desire, which is devoid of reason, rules in us and drags us to pleasure, that power of misrule is called excess. Now excess has many names, and many members, and many forms, and any of these forms when very marked gives a name, neither honourable nor creditable, to the bearer of the name. The desire of eating, for example, which gets the better of the higher reason and the other desires, is called gluttony, and he who is possessed by it is called a glutton-I the tyrannical desire of drink, which inclines the possessor of the desire to drink, has a name which is only too obvious, and there can be as little doubt by what name any other appetite of the same family would be called;-it will be the name of that which happens to be eluminant. And now I think that you will perceive the drift of my discourse; but as every spoken word is in a manner plainer than the unspoken, I had better say further that the irrational desire which overcomes the tendency of opinion towards right, and is led away to the enjoyment of beauty, and especially of personal beauty, by the desires which are her own kindred-that supreme desire, I say, which by leading conquers and by the force of passion is reinforced, from this very force, receiving a name, is called love. Consider this, fair youth, and know that in the friendship of the lover there is no real kindness; he has an appetite and wants to feed upon you. As wolves love lambs so lovers love their loves.’ Love is the fourth form of madness, after the ailment, prophetic inspiration and artistic inspiration, which demonstrates not all madness is evil, evil meaning both harmful and immoral. The prophetic gift comes from the divine and is therefor perfect. Prophecy is a glimpse on man’s future as planned by the divine and thus benificial. Another form is madness is a soul being possessed by ‘the Muses’: they ‘inspire a delicate and virgin soul with the frenzy to produce lyrical and other numbers’ which are preserved for posterity. The sane man is no match for the artist consumed by artistic madness, according to Socrate. Love as fourth madness has a harmful and beautifying nature, depending which of the two forces dominate the human soul. Plato pays much attention to the human soul and describes it as a ‘charioteer on a wagon guided by two winged horses, the right one white, healthy, obedient and noble, the left one grey-brown, unhealthy, reddish eyed and rebellious, the more earthy, less ambitious souls loose their wings on the road and stay earthbound in humble abode. These two often clash and struggle and it is up to the charioteer’s mastery which horse prevails. Plato strongly believed in reincarnation of the soul and mentions several periods for good, highly esteemed souls and evil or smaller minded souls.

Sources & further reading:

Works by Plato, The Internet Archive

As we see, exact empirical science on for instance the human body and how it functions has yet to come. However, psychological knowledge -- which is an important field of human knowledge -- flourished at a high level, as did applied artisan mastery, as well as knowledge of the arts. Plato gives detailed descriptions of tones and other aspects of music in his book Politeia. They show, Plato must have had a solid musical education.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Examples of a Socratic Dialogue in Islam

What could a Socratic dialogue about Qur’an al Kerim sound like? Here follow three small examples of such possible Q/A-conversation. We may call it a Socratic dialogue. Start easiest:

A: What is man’s main task in life?
B: To serve Allah swt.
A: Firstly, what is serving?
B: It is performing actions to please the one who is being served.
A: Why is it necessary to serve Allah swt?
B: A believer loves Allah swt and wants to reach His reward
A: If there would be no reward, would you still find it necessary to love Allah swt?
B: Yes. Loving Him for Him alone, is part of serving Him, and serving Him is done out of love.
A: What is love for a Muslim, try and describe it please.
B: Love is not just a positive caring emotion for someone or something, it’s also an action.
A: What action?
B: Caring and sharing. You do nice things for them that they like.
A: How do you care and share for, with Allah swt?
B: You do the things that He asks in His Book.
A: What things?
B: You pray, perform the other rituals, you do good works.
A: Tell us something of these good works. What good works do you do out of love for Allah swt?
B: Me? I do my best to treat other people, animals and other creatures well; I pray to Allah swt.
A: Why is it necessary to treat others well out of love for Allah swt, is it not enough to do it for them?
B: Allah swt wants us to be caretakers of His creation, it is part of our duty to Him.
A: Now I look into your Qur’an. What doest ALM mean?
B: No-one knows, they are just letters.
A: Why are they there?
B: It is said that they are meant as a sign that man doesn’t know everything and He does.
A: What do you say they mean?
B: I say that it is not allowed to speculate on things we don’t know.
C comes in now: We should leave it to the scholars, they have better knowledge, also of things with double and obscure meanings.
A: Who says that you and I are ignorant, or uneducated?
C: You didn’t study fiqh.
A: Can you prove or assess my credentials?
B: Every believer has the duty to find knowledge, even if it were in China.
A: So is it allowed to search and share knowledge?
B: Yes, but you must back up your statements with evidence.
A: Did any scholar know the exact meaning of ALM?
B: I don’t thinks so.
C: 'Thinking' isn't yet 'knowing'. Always keep that in mind.
A: Is it allowed to form your own opinion on three letters?
B: As long as you make clear that it is your opinion, why not.
A: Must you ask consent to think and speak at all?
B: I'd say, it isn't necessary, because people are allowed to mutually consult.

Second level:

A: 'And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent' What is 'apparent' here, in Kabul, may be different in Cairo or Washington. So, women have freedom of choice, as to what they wear?
B: No, because Rasulullah said, that a woman may only display her face and hands.
A: That still leaves her freedom of choice, whether she wears trousers, dresses, skirts, yes or no coat, a cap, or a hat and shawl, in whatever color or fabric she wants.
B: Euhm... no, because Rasulullah has said, that the fabric may not be transparent or brightly colored.
A: Still -- she can choose whatever style she wants.
B: I see your point, she has perhaps more freedom than that some people say.
A: But, there is no compulsion in religion. So, she is free whatever she wants anyway.
B: On the one hand -- yes; on the other hand, no. If she wants to be a Muslim in the real sense of the word, she is eager to fulfil the Prophet's word.
A: But, the Prophet said, if the faithful are, at least, able to eagerly say Shahada, then the rest is less important. What's in your heart, counts most. Rules are extra. I read that in ahadith.
B: Yes, but if you're too easy with yourself, you may loose your religion, discipline, good effort. Qur'an al Kerim says, that the faithful must compete in good deeds.
A: Then, why is using your freedom no good deed? Maybe, in the eyes of Allah SWT, using your freedom is a sign of taking good initiative, and is any alternative no second hand bargain. What do you know?
B: You think I didn't know that? Why do you think, more freedom of dress is restored now, in Kabul?
A: So, why talk bad about women who take their freedom?
B: Indeed that's haram, but giving them feedback in person, is good thing. You must help others.

Third level:

A: You can't prove, Qur'an al Kerim is the book of Allah and we can't prove, there is a God.
B: Yes, you can. The whole system of the universe is too complex, ingenuous and consistent to be just haphazard arrivals. There is obviously something or someone who mastered it out, but we just can't see it from here.
A: That's no proof.
B: Why not. Qur'an says, we don't know what Allah looks like, or how Allah functions. So, why not just drop the chase. His works are visible enough.
A: That's weak, and you it.
B: On the contrary, and #you know that. Sometimes, a building, mountain or object is too big for you to see. You just see little bits of it. And, that's only a building, mountain or object. You know you are in Kabul, but can you see all of it? Allah is way bigger for your eye to behold. You can't just take distance, travel, and then hope to see Him. The problem is lack of humility and acceptance, for many people. They see themselves too big.
A: Why isn't Qur'an al Kerim just another fairytale book, invented by someone?
B: Because many verses are true in the laws of nature, which people didn't know at the time.
A: The Greeks, the Persians, the Chinese, Indians: They knew. The Prophet used their works.
B: It's your turn to prove that, now.
A: Can you actually prove, the Prophet received revelations, that indeed he was illiterate?
B: There have been many, many witnesses. Their testimonies are well-documented.
A: Are these writing objective enough? They were written down in their own community.
B: But, the best writings were written down by foreigners. Outsiders. Yes, Muslim outsiders. And, history everywhere is mostly written down by people from their own community. American history was written by American historians and no one contests their reliability. Only now, in the internet era, we also see testimonies of their probable opponents. Why would Rasulullah's reporters be more untrustworthy or unobjective than historians elsewhere? Can you give any #good proof?

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Socratic Dialogue: Is It Possible In Islam?

Socrate has abandoned philosophy of nature, as practised by many of his fellow Greek thinkers. In his view, it is best to not dwell on those phenomenons we can't explain anyway, such as explaining what stars are; what is night and day, how it's come into existence. His people didn't possess the tools and equipment, yet, to travel far, or look at small particles and cells. Socrate found it good enough to perfect human life, morality, politics, present living conditions, economics, and how to improve and embellish these, now. This is only possible as a result of reason and dialogue. It is necessary to think and exchange views about the important aspect of human life, in order to reach personal perfection, and a good system for society. In later days, western culture has differentiated between natural science, which is about explaining objective and proven facts, and philosophy in the sense as Socrate has meant it: A rational exercise about other aspects of life, where objectivity may not come first. Aspects as human living conditions, beauty, morality, politics, economics, peace, religion. Natural Science and technology are seen as necessary to support other aspects of life, because they are objective and beyond questioning, and because they provide tools for living. But, even they, aren't ways to one ultimate truth.

Islam, has tried to combine natural science, philosophy of nature, and ethical intellectualism, with some rules and boundaries, to make a fair play possible. Investigating a text without immediate aim of giving absolutely true answers, but rather aiming to approach an issue from several angles and then encouraging use of logic and exchanging different views, can be a good approach towards better understanding Qur’an al Kerim. The ultimate aim is to come to truth, within natural limitations set forth by Allah SWT. 'People who think' will notice, that not everything is possible, even after the most excellent technology has been explored. Ultimate possibility, has been ordained by the creator of everything: Allah SWT. And, even Allah SWT is bound to absolute truths. 'Thinking' and 'mutual consultation' are encouraged. It is, however, not encouraged to make severe conflict about the 'ambiguous' verses in Qur'an. Ambiguous verses are those with, to us, incomprehensible or multiple meanings. Fighting about ambiguity, is seen as a sign of disbelief or injustice. It is not allowed in Islam, to invent or phantasize things, that clearly aren't there, or can't be perceived. It is allowed to phantasize about them, as long as we're clear about them being our own opinion, and as long as we are kind to those who disagree with us. There's a point, where Islam and Socrate diverge: Islam does believe in an ultimate truth. However, this truth may not be perceivable to humans. As not all truth is perceivable to humans, humans are allowed many freedoms of thinking and believing, as long as they do not lie, or oppress dissident thinkers. If opponents don't harm others, then let them. Discuss with others, is okay, but it may cause spiritual or religious harm to yourself. That is your problem, and not of a government censor. Censorship, isn't necessary anyway, because there's freedom of thought and no compulsion in religion. Because we can't observe Allah SWT, we can't legally enforce people to believe in Him. Many aspects of life are ambiguous, or lead to more than one way. Those very same people may be wrong about one aspect of truth, yet, they may be very truthful about another aspect of truth. Truth is a big thing, as big as the universe, with many facets. That's why, in Islam we must live by this rule: Live and let live, in honesty, humility, and tolerance -- until life has been made impossible by oppressors, or by natural impossibility.

Perhaps, Socratic dialogue is not the first way to understand most ahadith, as these transmit very specific sayings, actions and decisions of the Prophet saws. And, many scholars have classified and interpreted them and channeled them into jurisprudence. That doesn’t mean, it isn't allowed. There's some etiquette involved, however. You want a discussion with knowledgeable Muslims? Then, respect their privacy, safety, and personal lives. Discussions about philosophy and the meaning of life tend to take place in informal surroundings, among friends and relatives. And, Qur'an al Kerim was revealed exactly in answer to prevailing questions that people may have. Having said that, it is allowed to ask those who may have knowledge, any question. There are no inferior questions, nor inferior information seekers. The first 12 verses of Surah 80 mention a blind man who asked the Prophet questions, but the Prophet initially dismissed him. The verses, however, exhorted to answer questions. Furthermore, we live in a time where technology has changed living conditions and has literally shrunk distance between people globally. Another aspect is, that Islam was absent in many government systems, during the colonial era. So, it is possible, to look at ahadith from a fresh philosophical and legal perspective, without immediately ending up with untruth.

All the same. As Muslims, we receive the questions. Not just about what Islam is, but also the more fundamental questions, of why you should believe; if you 'have to' believe and if yes, then why. And more specific questions about certain verses, especially those that may offer more possible answers. We'd like to counter them with relevance and wit, if possible. And, we'd like to pose our own questions. To non-Muslims and other Muslims alike. So, why not exercise in Socratic dialogue? Socrate offered here a methodology, not a full philosophical or religious theory. A discussion method is neutral and doesn't clash with other religion.

Some applicable Qur'anic verses:
2:255-258; 3:7-8; 3:200; 5:100-102; 10:18-20; 16:4-11; 24:58,59,61; 55:33; 60:5-9; 64:2-3; 67:3; 80:1-12; 112:1-4.

'Allah! There is no God save Him, the Alive, the Eternal. Neither slumber nor sleep overtaketh Him. Unto Him belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that intercedeth with Him save by His leave? He knoweth that which is in front of them and that which is behind them, while they encompass nothing of His knowledge save what He will. His throne includeth the heavens and the earth, and He is never weary of preserving them. He is the Sublime, the Tremendous. (255) There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower. (256) Allah is the Protecting Guardian of those who believe. He bringeth them out of darkness into light. As for those who disbelieve, their patrons are false deities. They bring them out of light into darkness. Such are rightful owners of the Fire. They will abide therein. (257) Bethink thee not of him who had an argument with Abraham about his Lord, because Allah had given him the kingdom; how, when Abraham said: My Lord is He Who giveth life and causeth death, he answered: I give life and cause death. Abraham said: Lo! Allah causeth the sun to rise in the East, so do thou cause it to come up from the West. Thus was the disbeliever abashed. And Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk. (258)' (2:255-258)
'He it is Who hath revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture wherein are clear revelations - they are the substance of the Book - and others (which are) allegorical. But those in whose hearts is doubt pursue, forsooth, that which is allegorical seeking (to cause) dissension by seeking to explain it. None knoweth its explanation save Allah. And those who are of sound instruction say: We believe therein; the whole is from our Lord; but only men of understanding really heed. (7) Our Lord! Cause not our hearts to stray after Thou hast guided us...' (3:7-8)

'O ye who believe! Endure, outdo all others in endurance, be ready, and observe your duty to Allah, in order that ye may succeed. (200)' (3:200)

'Say: The evil and the good are not alike even though the plenty of the evil attract thee. So be mindful of your duty to Allah, O men of understanding, that ye may succeed. (100) O ye who believe! Ask not of things which, if they were made known unto you, would trouble you; but if ye ask of them when the Qur'an is being revealed, they will be made known unto you. Allah pardoneth this, for Allah is Forgiving, Clement. (101) A folk before you asked (for such disclosures) and then disbelieved therein. (102)' (5:100-102)
'They worship besides Allah that which neither hurteth them nor profiteth them, and they say: These are our intercessors with Allah. Say: Would ye inform Allah of (something) that He knoweth not in the heavens or in the earth? Praised be He and high exalted above all that ye associate (with Him)! (18) Mankind were but one community; then they differed; and had it not been for a word that had already gone forth from thy Lord it had been judged between them in respect of that wherein they differ. (19) And they will say: If only a portent were sent down upon him from his Lord! Then say, (O Muhammad): The Unseen belongeth to Allah. So wait! Lo! I am waiting with you. (20)' (10:18-20)

'He hath created man from a drop of fluid, yet behold! he is an open opponent. (4) And the cattle hath He created, whence ye have warm clothing and uses, and whereof ye eat; (5) And wherein is beauty for you, when ye bring them home, and when ye take them out to pasture. (6) And they bear your loads for you unto a land ye could not reach save with great trouble to yourselves. Lo! your Lord is Full of Pity, Merciful. (7) And horses and mules and asses (hath He created) that ye may ride them, and for ornament. And He createth that which ye know not. (8) And Allah's is the direction of the way, and some (roads) go not straight. And had He willed He would have led you all aright. (9) He it is Who sendeth down water from the sky, whence ye have drink, and whence are trees on which ye send your beasts to pasture. (10) Therewith He causeth crops to grow for you, and the olive and the date-palm and grapes and all kinds of fruit. Lo! herein is indeed a portent for people who reflect. (11)' (16:4-11)

'O ye who believe! Let your slaves, and those of you who have not come to puberty, ask leave of you at three times (before they come into your presence): Before the prayer of dawn, and when ye lay aside your raiment for the heat of noon, and after the prayer of night. Three times of privacy for you. It is no sin for them or for you at other times, when some of you go round attendant upon others (if they come into your presence without leave). Thus Allah maketh clear the revelations for you. Allah is Knower, Wise. (58) And when the children among you come to puberty then let them ask leave even as those before them used to ask it. Thus Allah maketh clear His revelations for you. Allah is Knower, Wise. (59) ... No blame is there upon the blind nor any blame upon the lame nor any blame upon the sick nor on yourselves if ye eat from your houses, or the houses of your fathers, or the houses of your mothers, or the houses of your brothers, or the houses of your sisters, or the houses of your fathers' brothers, or the houses of your fathers' sisters, or the houses of your mothers' brothers, or the houses of your mothers' sisters, or (from that) whereof ye hold the keys, or (from the house) of a friend. No sin shall it be for you whether ye eat together or apart. But when ye enter houses, salute one another with a greeting from Allah, blessed and sweet. Thus Allah maketh clear His revelations for you, that haply ye may understand. (61)' (24:58,59,61)
'O Ye who believe! Enter not the dwellings of the Prophet for a meal without waiting for the proper time, unless permission be granted you. But if ye are invited, enter, and, when your meal is ended, then disperse. Linger not for conversation. Lo! that would cause annoyance to the Prophet, and he would be shy of (asking) you (to go); but Allah is not shy of the truth. And when ye ask of them (the wives of the Prophet) anything, ask it of them from behind a curtain. That is purer for your hearts and for their hearts. And it is not for you to cause annoyance to the messenger of Allah, nor that ye should ever marry his wives after him. Lo! that in Allah's sight would be an enormity. (53)' (33:53)
'O ye assembly of Jinns and men! If it be ye can pass beyond the zones of the heavens and the earth, pass ye! Not without authority shall ye be able to pass!' (55:33)
'Our Lord! Make us not a prey for those who disbelieve, and forgive us, our Lord! Lo! Thou, only Thou, are the Mighty, the Wise. (5) Verily ye have in them a goodly pattern for everyone who looketh to Allah and the Last Day. And whosoever may turn away, lo! still Allah, He is the Absolute, the Owner of Praise. (6) It may be that Allah will ordain love between you and those of them with whom ye are at enmity. Allah is Mighty, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (7) Allah forbiddeth you not those who warred not against you on account of religion and drove you not out from your homes, that ye should show them kindness and deal justly with them. Lo! Allah loveth the just dealers. (8) Allah forbiddeth you only those who warred against you on account of religion and have driven you out from your homes and helped to drive you out, that ye make friends of them. Whosoever maketh friends of them - (All) such are wrong-doers. (9)' (60:5-9)

'He it is Who created you, but one of you is a disbeliever and one of you is a believer, and Allah is Seer of what ye do. (2) He created the heavens and the earth with truth, and He shaped you and made good your shapes, and unto Him is the journeying. (3)' (64:2-3)

'He Who created the seven heavens one above another, no want of proportion wilt thou see in the Creation of the Most Gracious. So turn thy vision again: seest thou any flaw?' (67:3)

'He frowned and turned away (1) Because the blind man came unto him. (2) What could inform thee but that he might grow (in grace) (3) Or take heed and so the reminder might avail him? (4) As for him who thinketh himself independent, (5) Unto him thou payest regard. (6) Yet it is not thy concern if he grow not (in grace). (7) But as for him who cometh unto thee with earnest purpose (8) And hath fear, (9) From him thou art distracted. (10) Nay, but verily it is an Admonishment, (11) So let whosoever will pay heed to it, (12)' (80:1-12)

'Say: He is Allah, the One! (1) Allah, the eternally Besought of all! (2) He begetteth not nor was begotten. (3) And there is none comparable unto Him. (4)' (112:1-4)

Sources & further reading:

Monday, November 12, 2018

Socrate & Ethical Intellectualism

Socrates is the first well-documented Greek philosopher, no thanks to his own writing activity. He is known to have lived from 470 to 399 BC. His student Plato has carefully documented his words and methods. Socrates’ method was a radical breach with the past. Until then, philosophy’s interest was into explaining the cosmos through reason. Philosophers wanted to know our origine and made rational theories on the origin of matter, the celestial bodies and life. Sophism was the first school of thought to bring Greek philosophy to earth and teach people to form themselves a theory, about any topic at all, and propagate it to others with the use of convincing reason. Sophism lifted philosophy to a methodology at professional scholastic level and skipped the in their eyes unanswerable question concerning creation. Socrates was the first to make man center of philosophic interest. The main question for man to solve, is how to live a proper and responsible life. Important knowledge, therefore, is knowledge of man and society. Man has to ask himself firstly: How can you know anything, when you don’t know yourself?’ ‘Know yourself’, 'Gnote Sauton', was his first rule, for other knowledge comes from self-knowledge and who knows you, after all. 'The unexamined life is not worth living'. Wisdom is acquired self-knowledge. An important aspect of that, is knowing your own boundaries: Awareness of your own ignorance and the fields where knowledge is missing. Self-knowledge is the starting and reference point for any other gathering of knowledge. You must ask yourself questions and test the answers’ validity, firstly. Further knowledge comes from communicating with others, as a way to exchange your knowledge with other people’s knowledge. Your and other people’s knowledge must be mirrored and tested on its truthfulness and durability. Socrates' second rule, the Socratic Paradox, was that ‘the only thing I know is that I know nothing’ and from many detailed facts it is possible to work towards knowledge, a search method we call induction. Exchanging and thus gaining knowledge is made possible by asking the right questions through encouragement to carry on or to stop and sideway pushing with the right remarks. Socrates called this communication technique the midwive’s technique, maieutike techne; his mother and wife Xantippe both were midwives. Knowledge, according to Socrates, had to be authentic and his questions were only meant to test the solidity of acquired knowledge. Finding truth is possible by asking the right questions and in the process digging deeper into the subject by a new question following the answer. His technique of questioning people to test their knowledge has become known as the dialectic or Socratic dialogue. Socrates not only teached his students; he could be found in open air, having his dialogue with an audience, too. Socrates’ favorite topics were justice, self restraint, piety, bravery and wisdom. It is possible to find a general truth and ethical standards for human behavior, the ‘essentials’, by research on other people’s knowledge and behavior, and then, gathering the answers.
Through insight and knowledge, it is possible to find virtue, and virtue being a matter of intellect, can be achieved by everyone. This thinking is called ‘ethical intellectualism’. Virtue is not necessarily obedience to a good public rule. Virtue mainly is knowledge. When a person knows and understands what true virtue is, he may act within general principles, instead of self-interest. Socrates tried to make his students aware of their actions being self-interested, even though everybody agrees that the general interest has priority over self-interest. Goodness and virtue aren’t built on nice words by a clever spokesman, but on being shared by everyone. It is at the field of morality, that people have the least self-knowledge. The word-artists (the sophists!) have an easy job here in convincing others of their moral standard. Goodness and virtue come from a life of learning and teaching. Good people never stop learning and studying. Another part goodness is made of, is beauty. Masculine beauty and its benefits, lead to intellectual wisdom; feminine beauty similarly leads to a good body and thus to procreation, according to Socrates.
The ultimate goal of all action, according to Socrates, is finding happiness. If a student has gained enough knowledge of a desired goal, he or she is bound to act virtuously. Incorrect action is a consequence of insufficient knowledge of virtue. Virtue is, for both the state and the individual, the only way to happiness. Socrates did not believe in deliberate evil. Evil action comes from ignorance and everyone at least has the will to find out what is truly good for him or her. Truth is the same as goodness. The state must strive towards justice, not to power and wealth, and knowledge is the only guidance for just actions. Power without knowledge can only lead to unhappiness. ‘Ideals belong in a world only the wise man can understand’. Socrates finds it therefore necessary to elect leaders for their knowledge, not for their wealth of descent, and the ordinary civilian lacks the knowledge to elect competent leaders. Socrates disapproved of any state system, all of them giving no answer to who might possess the most intellectual baggage for leadership. Philosophers should govern the state.
Athens those days experimented with democracy. However, a true democracy, it was not. Women, slaves and foreigners (they might be Greeks from outside Athens) were excluded from the right to vote in the general assembly (the Ekklesia), an institution which existed since it was founded by statesman Clisthenes (ca 570 – 507 BC). Men and women leaded secluded lives and erotic relations between boys and young men were more or less approved of. Finding beauty and wisdom among men, had educational intellectual worth, provided a man was not ‘enslaved’ by his physical ‘passions’. After marriage, men had to find physical beauty in women. Procreation was seen as an important part of that. Homosexual relations among adult men met more disapproval. However, pederastic relations between adult men (eromenos) and boys (erastes) were commonplace and were considered a patronage relation. Nowadays, in modern standards, we would recognize aspects of prostitution in them. Socrates and his students lived in this world and are known to have made approving comments on homosexuality. Sexuality, even masturbation, were displayed more openly in Ancient Greece, than after the arrival of Christianity. Slavery was another part of a natural and ethical world order. A slave could be as noble as a free man, but human relations are naturally determined by dominance; some people are braver and stronger and, therefore, are able to provide patronage to others. In Classical Greece, slavery gained a formal absolute status. Socrates and Aristoteles both made acquiescenting comments on the phenomenon. Freedom of religion only went so far. The state religion allowed for non-dogmatic and equal worship of several deities, mostly ancient traditional deities, among whom important leaders and thinkers, to be allowed into the ‘pantheon’, the temple for all religions. But, it was not allowed to either reject a deity or introduce a new one without official consent, or reject the pantheon itself. Many a philosopher was put to trial and banned or executed. This fate also fell on Socrates. He was accused of rejecting the city’s gods, introducing new deities and rejecting Athens' democratic institutions. Socrates was not a man to run from civil law he had paid allegiance to. As a consistent thinker, he saw it as his moral duty to undergo the verdict, which he could have avoided through many legal channels. So, finally, he was executed.
Socrates’ sayings were recorded by his students, mostly Plato, but also by Xenophon, Aristotle and Aristophanes. It is uncertain, how reliable their accounts are; it is said, that some writings reflect the ideas, admiration or criticism of the authors, rather than Socrates’ exact words.
Also today, universities and institutions in the western world like to work within Socrates' principle. They use his name in their programs. The Socratic dialogue is anything but obsolete. Institutions say, it can bring awareness, that learning should last a lifetime and never finishes -- an attitude greatly appreciated also nowadays. A new aspect, however, is democratisation of knowledge. A quote of a teacher site at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Universiteit van Amsterdam, and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences has said: ‘Socratic method is not the art of teaching philosophy, but of teaching how to do philosophy; it's not the art of teaching about philosophers, but to make pupils into philosophers’ (Leonard Nelson) This teacher, Kristof van Rossem, offers training courses in Socratic Dialogues on many institutions over Europe, as many others do. Van Rossem thinks, the Socratic dialogue is a good tool at school, even primary schools, as it stimulates citizenry in young people: A good citizen actively participates in a society based on knowledge and professionalism. A teacher as leader of a Socratic dialogue is rather a stimulating, democratic facilitator than an expert who brings dogmatic knowledge. Van Rossem mentions several differences between a discussion and a dialogue, the first being ‘aimed at shaking out, it is rhetoric, aimed at decisions and actions, judging, attacking and defending, going for your own right, convincing, taking a standpoint, defensive or offensive in attitude, answering; it's speed and individualism oriented’. A dialogue would be ‘aimed at knowing via, be dialectic, aimed at insight in the value of judgements; suspending judgements, investigating and checking, wanting to know the truth, investigation, listening to yourself and others, attitude of taking the other’s point of view, questioning, slowness and community oriented’.
A next question could be: is any part of Islamic revelation suited for a Socratic dialogue? 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Qur'an al Kerim is a truthfinders' supreme linguistic challenge; Greek Philosophy Of Nature is a philosophical theory

The idea of a realistic and systematic plan and purpose for creation was familiar to the ancient Greeks; much of their philosophical effort to find logical explanation behind the regular forces of nature are inspired by the need to understand a universal cause behind it all. They found that much of their effort stranded on its unreachable quality. In their days, the modern tools for scientific research lacked. Yet, it didn't stop the Greeks from developing a mathematical language and methodology, and systematic philosophy, some of which are still in use today. They made educated guesses based on philosophical thinking, but, also based on their everyday life and social and religious environment. That led to theories that sometimes make us smile, today, and sometimes compel us to deep respect for their forwardness.

Earlier, we saw, Anaximander assume the Earth was a flat barrel floating in space, with people living on its top. Anaximander must have seen enough wine barrels in his days to make his thought plausibel and natural, but we know now, that it isn't true. It also led to efforts to gain correct knowledge of nature. But, today, we still use Thales' theorems of triangles and diameters. Another example, Demokritos' Atomism, can be seen as an early precursor to chemistry.

Diogenes of Apollonia, Anaximenes, Anaxagoras, were among those who had formed theories about matter, particles, and the elements (water, air, earth, and fire were seen as the most prominent ones), but also here, disagreement was an issue.

Not to forget, Pythagoras and other mathematicians.

We won't find mathematical methodology in Qur'an al Kerim. Qur'an al Kerim has a different, more verbal approach to mathemetical phenomenons. Qur'anic verses below show the importance of knowledge in general and how knowledge may lead to thinking and eventually to faith; they are incentives to gather knowledge, even to personal growth in science and arts, rather than scientific treatises. Verses 55:17 and 70:40 can be seen as references to goniometry, but they lack the terminology and abbreviations. Yet, the thought behind them, is mathematically correct. Indeed we can conclude, the Earth has two permanent rotations: one around its own axis, and other as a larger circle in space. Also can we conclude, that East and West are infinite -- which very well may refer to the Earth being a ball. Qur'an is very consistent about this topic, too -- contrarily to Greek philosophers of nature, who disagreed. This, and the fact, that not very much of the oldest Greek philosophy of nature has been preserved in texts, makes it unlikely, that Qur'an al Kerim is just a blind copy of Greek philosophy.

The Greeks had noticed, that some things are naturally and logically impossible and Qur’an appears to support this idea. Optimization of proportion, goals, time plan, is essential in creation. Not without reason, Qur’an says: ‘but most of them do not know’; ‘no want of proportion in creation, seest thou any flaw?’; 'Not without authority shall ye be able to pass'; 'We created [...] them but for just ends, and for a term appointed'. The idea of duality in creation is mentioned in Qur’an in several verses, sometimes referring to gender; sometimes, like in verse 36:36, also to other opposing or complementing forces. Humans may certainly go search for knowledge, but there's no guarantee they will receive it.

As I've said earlier, many efforts have been made to prove, that Qur'an al Kerim is a book of scientific correctness. I'm familiar with Maurice Bucaille's book 'The Bible The Koran and Science'; I'll give an example that, in my opinion, shows, how careful we should be, looking at Qur'an al Kerim as such. Dr Bucaille says, in his comment to Qur'anic verse 16:66, page 130 and 131 at a pdf by, and I think he's right, that many translators are inclined to give too specific translations of Arabic homonyms, such as the words batn and baini. Batn means both 'belly' and 'center'; baini means 'in the middle of', and 'within'. Some translators said: 'We give you to drink of that is within their bellies, from betwixt the refuse and the blood'; Bucaille said 'We give you to drink of what is inside their bodies, coming from a conjunction between the contents of the intestine and the blood' This is no doubt utterly true -- but, would it have been understood by Rasulullah and the sahabah? Not likely. And, they might have dismissed it -- if I may assume like that.

Good translators know their place. Modesty, honesty and precision, is their role; anything else, is interpretation. And not translation. They must stick to the most original, indisputable, and obvious solution, without filling in what they 'think' is 'meant' with a word. If the Arabic homonym has no same homonym in another language, then why not stick to a brief, ambiguous description, that leaves the homonym intact? In other words, a description that is multi-interpretable. If they don't know the true meaning, then why do they fill in their own, too specific assumption, no matter how well-educated and honest it may be? It is, as it is. Don't make more of it, than that is actually said. In this case, I, personally, would give this translation:

'We give you to drink from what is inside their bodies, from what's among their bowels and their blood' (16:66)

'Among' is a word that may catch precisely this ambiguous, both abstract and very literal, situational meaning, that we also may find in the word 'baini'.

Another, much simpler example: Qur'anic verse 13:4 mentions the palmtree. Some translations talk about palmtrees, sec; others about date-palmtrees. Dear translators, why are coconut palms not included in your words? Are you sure, here? We can spot many differences between translations, alas, that shouldn't be there.

Main issue, perhaps, is not even translation; it's honest, clean, undecorated, and uncoloured interpretation. That really is enough to appreciate the scientific correctness, or at least non-incorrectness, of the content. I mention translation, because, like Greek philosophy, most people must appreciate Qur'an al Kerim, in its full meanings, from a translation.

Personally, I say, that Qur'an al Kerim touches the meaning of life here: That it's meant to be experienced, foremost. Life as a classroom, test field, and finally launch market, is part of this experience. It triggers those who find happiness in gaining knowledge. And nearly all of us enjoy gaining knowledge; it is part of human nature to inquire. And, it's made one of humanity's assignments during lifetime.

Some Qur'anic verses:
16:8; 16:66; 22:5; 30:30; 32:5-9; 36:36; 44:38; 46:3; 55:17; 55:33; 67:3; 70:40

'And (He has created) horses, mules and donkeys for you to ride and as an adornment; and He has created things of which ye have no knowledge.' (16:8)

'And lo! in the cattle there is a lesson for you. We give you to drink of that which is in their bellies, from betwixt the refuse and the blood, pure milk palatable to the drinkers.' (16:66)

'O mankind! if ye are in doubt concerning the Resurrection, then lo! We have created you from dust, then from a drop of seed, then from a clot, then from a little lump of flesh shapely and shapeless, that We may make (it) clear for you. And We cause what We will to remain in the wombs for an appointed time, and afterward We bring you forth as infants, then (give you growth) that ye attain your full strength. And among you there is he who dieth (young), and among you there is he who is brought back to the most abject time of life, so that, after knowledge, he knoweth naught. And thou (Muhammad) seest the earth barren, but when We send down water thereon, it doth thrill and swell and put forth every lovely kind (of growth).' (22:5)

'So set thou thy face truly to the religion being upright, the nature in which Allah has made mankind: no change in the work by Allah: that is the true Religion. But most among mankind know not.' (30:30)

'He directeth the ordinance from the heaven unto the earth; then it ascendeth unto Him in a Day, whereof the measure is a thousand years of that ye reckon. (5) Such is the Knower of the Invisible and the Visible, the Mighty, the Merciful, (6) Who made all things good which He created, and He began the creation of man from clay; (7) Then He made his seed from a draught of despised fluid; (8) Then He fashioned him and breathed into him of His Spirit; and appointed for you hearing and sight and hearts. Small thanks give ye! (9)' (32:5-9)

'Glory to Allah, Who created in pairs all things that the earth produces, as well as their own kind and things of which they have no knowledge.' (36:36)

'We created not the heavens, the earth, and all between them merely in sport. We created them not except for just ends, but most of them do not know.' (44:38)

'We created not the heavens and the earth and all between them but for just ends, and for a term appointed. But those who reject Faith turn away from that whereof they are warned.' (46:3)

'Lord of the two Easts, and Lord of the two Wests!' (55:17)

'O ye assembly of Jinns and men! If it be ye can pass beyond the zones of the heavens and the earth, pass ye! Not without authority shall ye be able to pass!' (55:33)

'He Who created the seven heavens one above another, no want of proportion wilt thou see in the Creation of the Most Gracious. So turn thy vision again: seest thou any flaw?' (67:3)

'But nay! I swear by the Lord of the rising-places and the setting-places of the planets' or 'Yet no, I swear by The Lord of the Easts and the Wests' (70:40)

Quran Explorer

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Creation and Purpose of Humanity in Qur'an al Kerim

Humanity and Jinn, says Qur'an al Kerim, have been created to worship Allah swt. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. The creation of humanity, is briefly, but in good clarity, described in Qur'an al Kerim. Humans do not resemble Allah swt, may we conclude from Sourah Al Ikhlas. Several Qur'anic verses in Sourah 7 suggest, that humanity descends from first prophet Adam. It is likely to assume, he and his wife, were the first humans. Man was created from 'earth', from 'water', 'a single being, soul', and from 'a fluid', says Qur'an al Kerim. Qur'an does not confirm Darwin's evolution theory; that humans, and other living creatures, were gradually and over several generations, developed from one species into another. Qur'an says, the first human was, deliberately and willingly, created from 'mud', 'clay', 'earth', 'dust'; then from 'a drop of fluid'. Apparently simultaneously, each human is created from 'a soul'. Not only Adam; each individual is created from a single soul, as a man or as a woman, and is given a mate from it. Humans are created as pairs. Created from one soul, yet, no two humans are identical. It's most likely, that indeed Adam had a spouse, but Qur'an doesn't say, how she was created, nor if she was created 'from' Adam. She and Adam may also be created simultaneously from 'one soul'. Her name isn't mentioned. Tradition says, her name was Hawwa. (Chawa in Hebrew, or Eve in the Christian Bible.) There's a hadith saying, 'woman' is created of a 'rib' -- but, it doesn't say, what rib it is. Is it man's rib; is it the X-chromosome, or other. We now know, however, that the female egg contains two X-chromosomes, and only the male seed contains the gender-deciding X- or Y-chrosome. So, woman receives her gender, indeed, from man. And, the hadith seems to imply all women in general, not only Adam's spouse. Not all Qur'anic words have been verified. It's not verified, how humans are created in pairs. What's the plan behind that. Yet, the physical creation of humans, the pregnancy, has been described in fairly identifiable and accurate wording. Each fetus is developed and formed 'in stages', as say verses 22:5; 18:37; 39:6; 75:37-40. Traditionally, commentators focused more on the male seed than on the female egg, yet, Qur'an doesn't always mention, which of them is the 'fluid' that develops into a 'clot'. The female egg is the biggest human cell and is filled with, mostly, water and is transported through the fluid of the ovary. The male seed, however, is the smallest human cell and travels independently in water. So, sometimes, both can be the 'drop of fluid' mentioned in Qur'an.

Adam was created as 'viceroy' on Earth. He was given a leading position on Earth, however, he wasn't made with moral perfection. This much, the angels knew, when Allah swt announced, He had planned to place a leader figure on Earth, for whom they all had to prostrate. The angels had many questions, yet they all resigned to Divine rule -- except for one, Iblis. Iblis was the only angel, who couldn't accept Adam's leadership. Iblis's disobedience led to his downfall forever, away from the rank of angels. But, Iblis requested respite from downfall till the day of humanity's resurrection from their death. He was granted respite, but no forgiveness. From then, he received the title 'Satan'. Iblis, from then on, made it his life task to spite humanity and lead them astray from the righteous path of Allah swt. Adam and his wife were given a privileged dwelling place in the proverbial Garden, but not without strings attached. They were tested in their obedience to Allah swt. Everything in this garden was allowed to them as food, except a specifically mentioned tree. If more people were present in the Garden, is unknown, btw. Satan was swift to find them in the Garden and, successfully, entice them both to eat from this tree. Their disobedience, made Adam and his wife self conscious. Some commentators, compare this state of awkwardness and shame with coming of age: loosing childhood innocence, when committing the first act of grownup disobedience. They implored Allah swt for His forgiveness. Allah did forgive them partially. This incident led to a new decision by Allah swt: Humanity lost their privileged residence in the Garden and was sent 'down' to Earth. We can't say, however, Allah swt had made a new plan; it was plan to release then on Earth anyway. Residence on Earth, was, most probably, to be their main life assignment, as says verse 2:30. They were allowed to use whatever they needed on Earth, until a specified time, the day of humanity's resurrection. They would receive Divine guidance, however, Satan, too, was dismissed from the Garden. If more people were dismissed from the Garden, is unknown. If any human would lend his or her ear to Satan and his helpers and allow themselves to be led astray from the Divine path, he or she would then be assigned hellfire, after the day of resurrection. So, angels and humans alike, they all are given Divine bounty, but they may loose it, once they decide for disobedience. From then, Allah swt will stop His guidance to them, individually.

Humanity's second creation and new future will start at the day of resurrection, Yawm al Qiyamah. Then, those who followed Divine guidance, will be allowed into Jennah, paradise, and those who rejected it, will go to hellfire, Jahannam. In a nutshell.

These are applicable Qur'anic texts and ahadith:

'And when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am about to place a viceroy in the earth, they said: Wilt thou place therein one who will do harm therein and will shed blood, while we, we hymn Thy praise and sanctify Thee? He said: Surely I know that which ye know not. (30) And He taught Adam all the names, then showed them to the angels, saying: Inform Me of the names of these, if ye are truthful. (31) They said: Be glorified! We have no knowledge saving that which Thou hast taught us. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Knower, the Wise. (32) He said: O Adam! Inform them of their names, and when he had informed them of their names, He said: Did I not tell you that I know the secret of the heavens and the earth? And I know that which ye disclose and which ye hide. (33) And when We said unto the angels: Prostrate yourselves before Adam, they fell prostrate, all save Iblis. He demurred through pride, and so became a disbeliever. (34) And We said: O Adam! Dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden, and eat ye freely (of the fruits) thereof where ye will; but come not nigh this tree lest ye become wrong-doers. (35) But Satan caused them to deflect therefrom and expelled them from the (happy) state in which they were; and We said: Fall down, one of you a foe unto the other! There shall be for you on earth a habitation and provision for a time. (36) Then Adam received from his Lord words (of revelation), and He relented toward him. Lo! He is the relenting, the Merciful. (37) We said: Go down, all of you, from hence; but verily there cometh unto you from Me a guidance; and whoso followeth My guidance, there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve. (38) But they who disbelieve, and deny Our revelations, such are rightful owners of the Fire. They will abide therein. (39)' (2:30-39)

'O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom ye claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bare you). Lo! Allah hath been a watcher over you.' (4:1)

'And He it is Who hath produced you from a single being, and (hath given you) a habitation and a repository. We have detailed Our revelations for a people who have understanding.' (6:98)

'And We have given you (mankind) power in the earth, and appointed for you therein livelihood. Little give ye thanks! (10) And We created you, then fashioned you, then told the angels: Fall ye prostrate before Adam! And they fell prostrate, all save Iblis, who was not of those who make prostration. (11) He said: What hindered thee that thou didst not fall prostrate when I bade thee? (Iblis) said: I am better than him. Thou createdst me of fire while him Thou didst create of mud. (12) He said: Then go down hence! It is not for thee to show pride here, so go forth! Lo! thou art of those degraded. (13) He said: Reprieve me till the day when they are raised (from the dead). (14) He said: Lo! thou art of those reprieved. (15) He said: Now, because Thou hast sent me astray, verily I shall lurk in ambush for them on Thy Right Path. (16) Then I shall come upon them from before them and from behind them and from their right hands and from their left hands, and Thou wilt not find most of them beholden (unto Thee). (17) He said: Go forth from hence, degraded, banished. As for such of them as follow thee, surely I will fill hell with all of you. (18) And (unto man): O Adam! Dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden and eat from whence ye will, but come not nigh this tree lest ye become wrong-doers. (19) Then Satan whispered to them that he might manifest unto them that which was hidden from them of their shame, and he said: Your Lord forbade you from this tree only lest ye should become angels or become of the immortals. (20) And he swore unto them (saying): Lo! I am a sincere adviser unto you. (21) Thus did he lead them on with guile. And when they tasted of the tree their shame was manifest to them and they began to hide (by heaping) on themselves some of the leaves of the Garden. And their Lord called them, (saying): Did I not forbid you from that tree and tell you: Lo! Satan is an open enemy to you? (22) They said: Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, surely we are of the lost! (23) He said: Go down (from hence), one of you a foe unto the other. There will be for you on earth a habitation and provision for a while. (24) He said: There shall ye live, and there shall ye die, and thence shall ye be brought forth. (25) O Children of Adam! We have revealed unto you raiment to conceal your shame, and splendid vesture, but the raiment of restraint from evil, that is best. This is of the revelations of Allah, that they may remember. (26) O Children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you as he caused your (first) parents to go forth from the Garden and tore off from them their robe (of innocence) that he might manifest their shame to them. Lo! he seeth you, he and his tribe, from whence ye see him not. Lo! We have made the devils protecting friends for those who believe not. (27)' (7:10-27)

'And know that your possessions and your children are a test, and that with Allah is immense reward.' (8:28) & (64:15)

'And his comrade, while he disputed with him, exclaimed: Disbelievest thou in Him Who created thee of dust, then of a drop (of seed), and then fashioned thee a man?' (18:37)

'Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them, and we made every living thing of water? Will they not then believe?' (21:30) 

'We appointed immortality for no mortal before thee. What! if thou diest, can they be immortal! (34) Every soul must taste of death, and We try you with evil and with good, for ordeal. And unto Us ye will be returned. (35)' (21:34,35)

'O mankind! if ye are in doubt concerning the Resurrection, then lo! We have created you from dust, then from a drop of seed, then from a clot, then from a little lump of flesh shapely and shapeless, that We may make (it) clear for you. And We cause what We will to remain in the wombs for an appointed time, and afterward We bring you forth as infants, then (give you growth) that ye attain your full strength. And among you there is he who dieth (young), and among you there is he who is brought back to the most abject time of life, so that, after knowledge, he knoweth naught. And thou (Muhammad) seest the earth barren, but when We send down water thereon, it doth thrill and swell and put forth every lovely kind (of growth).' (22:5)

'And of His signs is this: He created you of dust, and behold you human beings, ranging widely! (20) And of His signs is this: He created for you helpmeets from yourselves that ye might find rest in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo! herein indeed are portents for folk who reflect. (21)' (30:20-21)

'Who made all things good which He created, and He began the creation of man from clay; (7) Then He made his seed from a draught of despised fluid; (8) Then He fashioned him and breathed into him of His Spirit; and appointed for you hearing and sight and hearts. Small thanks give ye! (9) And they say: When we are lost in the earth, how can we then be re-created? Nay but they are disbelievers in the meeting with their Lord. (10) Say: The angel of death, who hath charge concerning you, will gather you, and afterward unto your Lord ye will be returned. (11)' (32:8-11)

'Allah created you from dust, then from a little fluid, then He made you pairs (the male and female). No female beareth or bringeth forth save with His knowledge. And no-one groweth old who groweth old, nor is aught lessened of his life, but it is recorded in a Book, Lo! that is easy for Allah.' (35:11)

'He created you from one being, then from that (being) He made its mate; and He hath provided for you of cattle eight kinds. He created you in the wombs of your mothers, creation after creation, in a threefold gloom. Such is Allah, your Lord. His is the Sovereignty. There is no God save Him. How then are ye turned away?' (39:6)

'I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me. (56) I seek no livelihood from them, nor do I ask that they should feed Me. (57)' (51:56,57)

'And that thy Lord, He is the goal; (42) And that He it is who maketh laugh, and maketh weep, (43) And that He it is Who giveth death and giveth life; (44) And that He createth the two spouses, the male and the female, (45) From a drop (of seed) when it is poured forth; (46)' (53:42-46)

'Was he not a drop of fluid which gushed forth? (37) Then he became a clot; then (Allah) shaped and fashioned (38) And made of him a pair, the male and female. (39) Is not He (Who doeth so) able to bring the dead to life? (40)' (75:37-40)

'And We have created you in pairs' (78:8)  

'From what thing doth He create him? (18) From a drop of seed. He createth him and proportioneth him, (19) Then maketh the way easy for him, (20) Then causeth him to die, and burieth him; (21) Then, when He will, He bringeth him again to life. (22)' (80:18-22)

'He is created from a gushing fluid (6) That issued from between the loins and ribs. (7)' (86:6,7)

'Say: He is Allah, the One! (1) Allah, the eternally Besought of all! (2) He begetteth not nor was begotten. (3) And there is none comparable unto Him. (4)' (112)

And, finally, these ahadith:

Volume 7, Book 62, Number 114, Sahih Bukhari:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should not hurt (trouble) his neighbor. And I advise you to take care of the women, for they are created from a rib and the most crooked portion of the rib is its upper part; if you try to straighten it, it will break, and if you leave it, it will remain crooked, so I urge you to take care of the women."

Book 008, Number 3467, Sahih Muslim:

Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported:

Woman has been created from a rib and will in no way be straightened for you; so if you wish to benefit by her, benefit by her while crookedness remains in her. And if you attempt to straighten her, you will break her, and breaking her is divorcing her.


Quran Miracles
University of Southern California USC-MSA Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (Compendium of Muslim Texts)