Showing posts with label Plato. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Plato. Show all posts

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

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
Wikipedia
Philebus
Phaedrus

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.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Reputed Names of Greek Scientists and Philosophers Known in the Prophet’s Era

griekse-filosofie-versimpeld-neergezet

The realms of knowledge and science necessary to understand Islam, are not only traditional and historic knowledge. In my view, philosophy, law, linguistics and natural science are perhaps more important. History and tradition are the background to the rise of Islam; philosophy, law, linguistics and natural science, deal with the content of the message itself. First three aspects are more important than the latter, natural science, to everyday worhip. But, in the modern era, scientific findings on natural phenomena have been successfully used to prove the truthfulness of Islam. The message of Islam covers many fields. For a better understanding, it's helpful, to have at least some knowledge of philosophy, law, linguistics, and science.

The very first Greek philosophers

Greece was an early starter in scientific development. Thales, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are leading names. Natural science was approached through the perspective of philosophy and its deductive methods. However, Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) introduced induction in the sense of observation of visible reality. Experimentation played no role yet; also Aristotle’s approach remained within the boundaries of philosophy. Thales (624 – 546 BC) was perhaps the first and founding Greek philosopher. He was interested in water and could predict sun eclipses by calculation. In his view, water was the most elementary principle of the universe and everything originates from water. Thales was famous for his arithmetic skills. According to Greek tradition, he had visited Egypt and re-taught the Egyptians to calculate the height of their pyramids by the size of their shadows. Other big names are Anaximandros (585 – 525 BC) who thought of the indefinite (apeiron), the one elementary substance out of which everything has come forth, without beginning, end or time and producing hot and cold, dry, humid and any other polarity or contradistinction; and Demokritos (app. 460 – 380/370 BC). Demokritos who was the first to think of a theory on atomic particles in which a fabric’s structure was determined by differences in ranking, shape and size of these atoms. His theory is named Atomism: The theory that says, that all materials are made of innumerable indivisable particles: a-tomos (‘indivisable’). Indian Buddhists have largely contributed to Atomism. They thought, that atoms flash into and out of existence; teachings that seem to be confirmed in western science (Heisenberg’s probability principle). An important axiom in atomism is metaphysical nihilism: If only atoms exist, discriminate objects don’t really exist, or they are not vital. Everything is one coherent set of particles. Therefore, objects themselves don't interact with us; we only observe their effects on us. We perceive honey as sweet, but sweetness itself, doesn't exis, and our senses aren't reliable enough to genuinely and objectively observe sweetness. Democritus said: 'By convention sweet, by convention bitter, by convention hot, by convention cold, by convention color: in reality atoms and the void.'

Atomism, has a natural and a philosophical dimension. In those days, like in the Prophet’s era, the philosophical aspect was the focus of interest. Topics that may be of interest to science were part of religious considerations. But, experiments in the realm of natural science were not yet practised. Cosmology was perhaps the most important focus of interest during the Antiquity. Trying to explain the mechanism of the cosmos was to be done through reason mainly. However, observation also played a big role to some thinkers. Observation of celestial bodies had led to outstanding knowledge on astronomy in several parts of the known world, and this knowledge had become a solid fundament to many religious practices.

These first Greek philosophers defined many of our present notions on being and motion. The Elea-School, Eleatism, developed the idea of reality as 'being in space': nothing cannot be; any substance or idea exists in feasible, tangible space. Its main representant was Parmenides (540 or 515 BC – ca 450 BC?); his main axiom was ‘For never shall this prevail, that things that are not, are’, meaning that the opposite between being and non-being is non-existent. There is no nothingness and everything exists in the spatial sphere, even ideas originate from tangible substance. Even thinking is part of being and Parmenides said ‘thinking and being are one and the same’. Another school of thought was the theory that ‘everything streams and nothing lasts’, ‘panta rhei kai ouden menei’. The Eleatists believed in a permanent static being, Heraclitus believed more or less the opposite; he believed in perpetual change and movement. ‘The world is the same for everyone, it was not created by men or gods, it is and will be an everlasting fire, flaming up or damping down. Heraclitus saw fire as the basic element, Parmenides water, Anaximenes air and Xenophanes earth and water.

A third important school of philosophy was Sophism. The sophists were the first professional philosophers; they made philosophy a paid teaching job, trying to teach others the art of argumentation and discussion. Every person has his own opinions, no one can decide which opinion is true, there are no absolute fundamentals in the universe that can be found or discovered, and the effort to do so, is basically waste of time. Knowledge comes to us through observation, and worldly success and satifaction are the best achievement human beings may reach -- not truth.

A famous fourth school of thought, inspiration to philosophers as Parmenides, Empedocles, Philolaus and Plato, was Pythagorism. Pythagoras was a mystic thinker and a mathematician, but left no writings. Pythagoras and his companions were a small and close knit community with their own way of life, which even fell victim to persecution. Their theory was, says Aristoteles, ‘that numbers constitute the true nature of things and numbers have borders, the same way as objects have. Emptiness is the border between things or numbers. Emptiness exists and pervades heaven from an indefinite breath – it breathes, as it were, into the emptiness. Emptiness differentiates the nature of things; it differentiates and distinguishes successive names and terminology in a series. This, firstly, happens for numbers, as emptiness distinguishes their nature’. Emptiness, ‘apeiron‘, is indefinite and perpetual and inspires reality: The definite and finite, ‘peiron‘, the cosmos, its nature and distinguishes it from other definites and finites, other objects, forms, ‘things’. This inspiration of apeiron into peiron, makes the world a mathematical place. Purely in a mathematical way, the continuum of numbers and the domain of reality, the cosmos, are a play of form and emptiness and its rules are, that it must happen in a harmonious fashion. This harmony-principle distinguishes Pythagorism from the older theory by Anaximandros and the Elea School. Pythagoras has also, in the same line of thinking, commented on sound and tone height. Pythagoras is famous for his calculation method of triangle line lengths, the Pythagoras axiom, which some say was derived from ancient Egyptian calculations used for the construction of their pyramids, but no proof of such do we have. Others say, he may have derive his theorem on right-angled triangles, a2+b2=c2, from the Indian mathematician Baudhayana (800 BC). One of Pythagoras’ students, Alcmaeon, a philosopher and medical thinker, said that ‘we don’t think with our blood, the air or fire -- it is our brain that enables us to think, smell and see. From there, we form our thinking and opinion, and then our knowledge. As long as the brain isn’t damaged, man has his senses and herewith, I confirm that it is our brain that makes the mind speak’.

Even the evolution theory had its predecessor in ancient Greece: Empedocles (ca 492 BC – ca 432 BC). Empedocles was, among others, a doctor, poet, teacher in philosophy, and statesman, born in Sicily. He held the strong belief, that everything has emerged from the four elements earth, air, water and fire, through the two opposing elemental powers he called love and hatred, in a random perpetual flow of mixture and seperation, like mixing colors of paint. Love is the building power and hatred the destructive power. Only the strongest combinations could survive. Empedocles also believed, like Parmenides, that the cosmos is eternal; has always been present, and that no material goes missing. Empedocles called God ‘a circle the middle of which is everywhere and its periphery nowhere’. Aristotle later adopted most of Empedocles’ theory.

Sources and further reading:
Anacharsis, Demokritos, Scepticism, Atomism

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Why the West has essentially always been a Feudal Society

I'll do my best to be brief here, on the topic of Feudality @}}-

'The West' as we know it now, started its history among Kelts, Romans, Greeks, and among the Germanic peoples in South West Asia. Those latter gradually invaded Europe; then settled down all over Europe, sometimes fully submitting to Roman rule and sometimes co-operating with it. This, until the Roman empire was unable to keep its rule over large parts of Europe, in 395 AD. Most authors define a Feudality as a system where a military leader, as a deputy of a King or an Emperor, owns a vast area of land, and allows the majority of the people to live on that land. The people living on that land either pay rent to or work on the land for a landlord, in exchange for military (and other kinds of) protection. The landlord, not having to work otherwise, could fully focus on defense. The king (who owns his own estate as well,) appoints new landlords to estates, or, at least, is the landlords' patron. This is the Feudal System known among the Germanic tribes. Its power was at its height from the 8th century till the 15th century AD. Feudal Society is seen as a collective, where the individual is supposed to serve the whole group. There's always some group ideal, for instance, God, the Nation, the King, or Independence, and to attain that, each person has a specific role of service, in exchange for another service. The Roman Empire, was a Feudality, too. Feudalism is a system of paid group patronage in any form. Serving oneself, or one's own family, is seen as undesirable, nepotist behavior. Self-reliance is impossible for most people living in a feudal system. Self-reliance is only possible for those who, thanks to good income or large estate, can own their means of production and housing, and also then, only up to a point. Sooner or later, also those with their own means are to contribute heavily to the collective state. The core of any feudal system, is leverage between owned property and debt. Not being owner of a production tool, house or land, means not carrying the risk of it, and, at the same time, enjoying the benefits of using it. Thus, having debt is seen as an advantage and not a liability. It's a temporary enlargement of a personal estate. This, in spite of having to regularly pay for using the borrowed or rent property. The reason behind favoring leverage, is a wish for specialization: If workers, individuals, and also organizations apply their talents and work force to only one activity, their skill, and hence their productivity, will increase. Fragmentation is seen as potential loss. Leverage is Feudality's main strength, but it can easily turn into its main weakness, once income slows down. This may happen to entire groups of households and businesses, and then lead to a major financial crisis of a whole society.

More varieties to the military Feudality exist. Western philosophers have spent many thoughts on them. Plato was inventor of an ideal feudal system. Philosophers should fully govern this society into detail, because they were considered morally outstanding. Society should be a hierarchical, communal system where individuals and groups had a clear role. Vertical mobility was possible in this utopian Platonic Community, but wasn't encouraged. Property, family life and marriage, were communal. The Romans had their own feudal system; many people had no property at all, and formal slavery also existed. Slaves lived with their masters. Big owners had the right to political and religious leadership. The Roman feudal system involved a lot more than only military patronage.

The Germanic peoples largely integrated the Roman feudal system into their systems, also after the end of Roman rule in Europe. Their feudal system changed over the ages. It started as a military system. Then, the Church entered as another feudal owner of land and real estate, and could never be disowned. A formal class society was introduced; top - down it looked like this: Church, Nobility, Free Citizens, and Serfs. With the Monarch and the Pope on top. Free citizens were those not part of both top classes, yet affluent and educated enough to afford their own estate or business. Serfs were those who lived in rent homes owned by the large landowner. Mostly, they weren't allowed to move out; they had to work and, or, pay to the landlord; and when the land changed ownership, they were part of the sold package deal. The landlord, in exchange, had to look after their safety and welfare, also after change of ownership. In business and production, the Guild System was aimed at disabling competition from newcomers on the market. It also wanted to organize the production chain top - down for more efficiency. Women, except for a few who managed to impose anyway, made no independent appearance in society; their status was defined by fathers and husbands. Women had no right of ownership, enterprise, education, inheritance, leadership, or free labour. And, in every society, a small group of non-committed nomads, gypsies, and homeless people persisted. Those who couldn't afford a residential existence, always risked to end up in that latter group. Society as a whole, was a top - down model, where the Church provided moral leadership, and Nobility and Monarchy provided economic and military sustenance. Free Citizens consisted of artistic, entrepreneurial, philosophical, and engineering persons, who couldn't be silenced by the top classes, and who gradually gained more and more influence and power on societies.

The feudal system changed from the eighteenth century. The third class of free citizens had gained enough strength of argument over Nobility and Church to raise their voices and change society into a place where all inhabitants could participate on a more equal basis. Philosophers like Adam Smith wrote works on how to arrive at change. Why was it seen necessary to come to a more equal distribution of wealth and distribution? Not only because it wasn't understood, why some individuals were more worthy of property, enterprise, leadership, inheritance, education, and free labour -- those rights didn't necessarily correspond with their capabilities -- but also because a hierarchical society wasn't able to fulfill all practical needs of all its inhabitants. A healthy market, after all, gives free access to all who can and want to participate. Only then, market forces can work efficiently and reach every supplier and customer. Every need will be met, at the right price. In a feudal system, there's only a handful of suppliers. They can't keep in touch with every 'customer'. They don't know, nor are they able, to fulfill every need. And, most people aren't allowed to fully participate. There's always something they are barred from: Be it work, selling, ownership, or production. And the reasons aren't always objectively justified. Prices are set by the small number of suppliers, who have insufficient knowledge of the real value of the product, in buyers' eyes. And buyers aren't allowed an alternative. There's enough alternative thinkable, such as home production or finding another supplier, but that's impossible in a feudal system, because of the compulsory patronage relations. This leads to severe shortages, when market supply slows down. And to severe debts among the many whose monthly rent duties to their landlord continue. And, landlords have resembling monthly or weekly wage duties to their workers.

During the Middle Ages, population didn't grow much, in Europe. Epidemics kept populations small. The problem of goods supply became a problem, when populations started to grow, as a result of new, improved farming technologies. The elite had to fulfill a much larger number of dependents' needs, and of course it failed. The West's traditional answers to this friction, have always been new Technology, Interest, and Occupation of Foreign Lands with Natural (and Other) Riches. Latter is called Colonialism, or Imperialism. Also Colonialism, Interest, and Technology failed to properly connect supply and demand, and also failed to keep all of its working population involved in its society. The cost of providing for everyone and of finding the necessary supplies to do so, has been immense, and cruel. Even the sincerest, most compassionate elites are never mind readers, nor providers, for an entire people. Then -- what happens, if the people's fate falls in the hands of tyrants? The problem, that the traditional feudal system didn't allow bottom - up feedback, had to be solved. Free Civilians have tried to find answer in replacing Church and Nobility by equalitarian legislation. More people had to be allowed to participate in society. But, that was only possible after a lengthy process of violently removing Church, Nobility, and Monarchy, in most countries. Those elites didn't voluntarily give up their positions. And those countries that were spared of violence, finally weren't necessarily better off (That is, they didn't reach the aim of equal opportunity.)

What did the struggle towards Equality result in? Three main roads were chosen:  Communism; Fascism; and our present, more complicated, inexplicable road, called Planned Market Economy, also called, sometimes, Social Democracy. Briefly, those three systems have in common, that a small group of outstanding leaders are responsible for engaging the population in making One Society. Work, especially a group working activity, is considered key component of a society where all work for one, and one for all. These three systems are a direct inheritance of the ancient feudal society, with its patronage system, meant to build a society. However, only the third route, Planned Market Economy, has survived so far, and also that system doesn't look like it has a good permanent survival chance. Communism and Fascism couldn't survive their self-created ravages. Both teachings are naturally autocratic systems that don't allow divergence from the mainstream. In practice, this led to extermination of minorities: Those smaller groups who don't fit in the collective workforce of the state. Those minorities were specifically mentioned groups and those who didn't fit in anyway: The most outstanding and most humble groups of people. Not only people of color, homosexuals, gypsies, or people with a handicap, but also investors, intellectuals, or outstanding artists, were typical victims of Communist and Fascist regimes. They were killed. There are many differences between Communism and Fascism, the most important two being their fierce competition over the same target group they aim to service, and the ownership of large property. Those matter less for the topic at stake here: The Feudal Patronage. The violent destruction of those minorities has been rejected now, which is the main reason, why most countries have turned their back on Communism and Fascism. It is perceived, that any state, at least, should uphold some sort of non-violent economic standard for all. Destruction of minorities obviously clashes with that standard. Therefore, the West thought that Democracy finally could overcome all inequality. Then, why did it fail?

Democracy aims at answering the general human need for justice, freedom, and equal opportunities for everybody. The traditional Feudality, after all, clashed with those values. The Church, Nobility, and Monarchies were, in most Western nations, seen as the main oppressive culprits to hinder them. Democracy rejects, that society's top classes should develop values and standards for everybody. Those powers were either overthrown, or they were given a much smaller, symbolic function in their nations. In the course of the twentieth century, also legislations were adjusted. Ownership, enterprise, leadership, inheritance, and labour were opened to everybody of sane mind and body and above certain ages. Same for the right to participate in politics. So, apparently, a society of freedom and equal right to participate had finally come. However, in many Western nations, large landownership persisted, and its population hence was still unable to provide for themselves. Technology had transformed Society in an industrialized, urbanized environment. Yet, in reality, the Feudal State moved with its people from the country to the city. In the city, and in villages with urban lifestyles, Social Housing Corporations and Local Authorities now became owners of most estates. They housed the people now, largely under very similar rules as in the Medieval days of the Feudal Estates. Because the people have to pay heavily for these Social Homes, a new patronage system needed to be established. How to achieve at that? Communism and Fascism were only partly able to arrive at that, because citizens were unable to freely express their needs and opinions. Since the Church and Nobility were dismantled, a new patron had to be found, and it was found in a depersonalized welfare and insurance system. The Nation's Tax Office and Government Insurance Institutions had key roles, here, in collecting funds from each citizen, as a percentage from their personal income, estate, or inheritance. Those funds had to be transferred to citizens without income, and to care institutions such as schools, hospitals, homes for the elderly and disabled, prisons, universities, and many others. An elaborate protective legislation for labor, housing, health care, education and several other fields of interest was developed. With the fall of Communism and Fascism, the Democratic political process took over the legislative role. In the past, Guilds, Nobility, and Church organizations had these tasks more informally. Guilds nowadays have resurrected as Organizations for Employers and Worker Unions -- to keep it very brief. Democracy granted the average citizen the opportunity to ventilate needs and opinions, but the basic economics hadn't really changed, in spite of the advancement of technology and medicine. Most people still have no access to work, property, etc. And they must carefully balance leverage, and if the balance heads towards the debt side too much, homelessness still is a real threat. Homelessness in the West may even have increased in several countries, especially in the Netherlands, because they don't allow nomadic lifestyles nowadays, and because only the state is allowed to build homes. I hate to say so -- I once had to call the ambulance for a homeless man in my own street. And we know, how monopolies and oligopolies lead to increased prices. The reality is, that the majority of people have no property, no independent source of income, and can, therefore, be considered economically bankrupt -- like the Serfs, in the Middle Ages. Democratic rights haven't given those people a lot more economic right than to express their needs. 'Redivision of property' may very well mean ending up without property, to many, as a consequence of the duty of surrendering a large part of their property and income to the Tax Office. This may mean loss of a house or a business, a situation that also effects those people who do have property. In times of low income, this threat is very real to many people. Economic rights, such as ownership or inheritance, exist on paper, but for many, not in reality, also today.

Because the Feudal State in economic reality persisted, also in today's Western Democracies, loss of income may, to many, lead to a large debt crisis of a whole society. Technology and Interest haven't led to the answer; they may even worsen the problem of scarcity and redivision, and it didn't put a stop to Imperialism and Colonialism. The many large State Institutions and Social Housing have to be paid. Some Western States have experimented with a newcomer on the Market Place: Money Creation. Money Creation had to become a declutter tool. Could Money Creation be the all-in solution, or is more needed ...? And, why and to whom, is the Feudal State such a problem?

Sources:
Plato - The Republic http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.html
The Germanic Peoples - Odin's Volk http://www.odinsvolk.ca/GermanicPeoples.htm
Feudalism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feudalism
History of Feudalism http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ac35