Thursday, April 17, 2014

523; Islamic metaphysics

The word universal,  used as a noun, has belonged to the vocabulary of English-writing philosophers since the sixteenth century, but the concept of universals, and the problems raised by it, has a far longer history.

It goes back through the universalia  of medieval philosophy to Plato’s with his Ideas and Aristotle with his categories.  

Indeed, Plato may be taken to be the father of this perennial topic of philosophy, for it is in his dialogues that we find the first arguments for universals and the first discussion of the difficulties they raise. 

Plato believed that the existence of universals was required not only ontologically, to explain the nature of the world that as sentient and reflective beings we experience, but also epistemologically, to explain the nature of our experience of it.

And by this Plato was in fact the father of the same philosophical non issue as Descartes has been with his dualism by splitting up body and mind.

However, in both cases these philosophical solutions to fundamental questions suited the dominating religions of those days and maybe even today quite well.

Let me explain it in a simple way. All animals recognize their own kind. Dogs in particular for in my experience they start barking completely insane when they see a fellow dog. So does man… I mean recognizing his own kind.

But we do more, we wonder about the question how we can be able to recognize another man as human being?

The problem is: you have John, Mary, Pete, Harry, Maria and they have one thing in common: being human.

Now comes the philosophical catch: but where did I get this concept “being human” from? Did I know it in advance,

so that I could classify the people under that category, or did I just discover in the long run what they had in common, what I then called “being human”?

If you would answer: Well this is just the way our senses in relation to the working of our brain respond to sensory experiences. Thus general concepts are formed,

first of all you had to wait for John Locke who started this debate with his  Essay on Human Understanding (1690). For cognitive psychology and neuroscience you have to wait another couple of centuries.

But no, the philosophers started to wonder about the ontological status of universals. In what sense do they exist? In what sense are they real.

And these questions are most convenient for theologians, because they have the answer. The perfect general Ideas exist only in the mind of God and because he is thinking them, we can think them.

This is the simple way to put it, but wait till Metaphysics gets in. Then this line of thinking is wrapped up in such complex and elaborate theoretical constructions.

The most impressive works here is from the Arabic philosopher Al-Farabi (872 - 951 in Damascus). As expert on Aristotle he created a whole system of First Mover, Active Intellect and so on and so on.

Each level of existence in al-Farabi's cosmology is characterized by its movement towards perfection, which is to become like the First Cause; a perfect intellect. 

Human perfection (or "happiness"), then, is equated with constant intellection and contemplation. And again a philosophy that tells us, that we have to become like a self invented idea.

The Discussion

[13:17] herman Bergson: Thank you...^_^
[13:17] herman Bergson: Take the floor if you feel to :-)
[13:18] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: did al farabi existed before the coran was written?
[13:19] herman Bergson: I always forget dates....:-(
[13:19] nu: how is perfection measured
[13:19] herman Bergson: But the Quran was written between 609 and 643 it is said
[13:20] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:20] herman Bergson: Don't ask me Nu.....
[13:20] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: thanks y
[13:20] nu: i am not asking
[13:20] herman Bergson: I even dont know what to think of this First Intellect and so on
[13:20] .: Beertje :.: what is perfection?
[13:21] Areyn Laurasia: a state of stagnancy?
[13:21] nu: that is what one must have in mind if we are to measure our progress in that direction
[13:21] herman Bergson: But such theories are just the imaginationof one person......
[13:21] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: what if now, the race toward perfectibility , is link with universal . and against diversity
[13:22] nu: we are always making comparisons
[13:22] herman Bergson: Ok Alaya...the ultimate and perfect human being!
[13:22] Areyn Laurasia: ohoh.. are we going into eugenics?
[13:22] herman Bergson: and we all gonna belong to that category.....
[13:23] .: Beertje :.: why would we want to be perfect?
[13:23] herman Bergson: no.....that would be just an arbitrary choice....
[13:23] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: i meaned culturally talking, not geneticlaly talking Areyn
[13:23] herman Bergson: Yes Beertje...that is the question too...
[13:23] herman Bergson: but all religions teach us that we are loosers unless we work on perfecting ourselves
[13:24] .: Beertje :.: ah don't believe them
[13:24] Bejiita Imako:
[13:24] Lizzy Pleides: not only the religions
[13:24] .: Beertje :.: we are not loosers
[13:24] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: and they teached it toward universals as yu said
[13:24] nu: i dont believe i am a loser
[13:24] herman Bergson: well...the human being should eventually be one with the mind of (some) god
[13:25] herman Bergson: Neither do I Nu:-))
[13:25] nu: i dont accept the doctrine of original sin
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: thats the goal i guess in all religions sort of
[13:25] herman Bergson: but that is not the point culturally
[13:25] Areyn Laurasia: what if god is not some super being but just nature and knowledge?
[13:25] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: ah the return to the adamic,, state, well, if adam was alone, there was no unversal for all,
[13:26] herman Bergson: epistemologically we would havea problem then yes :-)
[13:26] herman Bergson: because knowledge is a product of our brain and nature is just there
[13:26] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: plus he might have beena monkey
[13:26] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: apparently
[13:27] herman Bergson: If you want to learn something about arabic metaphysics read something about AL-Farabi :-)
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:28] herman Bergson: It is amazing to read in which he put his intellect and energy and time....
[13:28] herman Bergson: IN those days a new discovery of the mind I assume...
[13:29] herman Bergson: from my perpective here and now a complete waste of time
[13:29] .: Beertje :.: but he didn't know that..
[13:29] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: so the mind, desire to reach or to know or to recognize, was seen as a metaphysic thing?
[13:30] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: he might have been a first degree psychologist
[13:30] herman Bergson: some conclusions of the mind were seen like that....and with the discovery of logic they thought of all kinds of things by inference....
[13:30] herman Bergson: He was Alaya
[13:30] herman Bergson: In his time he really was a great intellect....
[13:31] herman Bergson: and in that sense you should not judge him with our standards....
[13:31] nu: one cannot criticize him that the path he took bore little fruit
[13:31] herman Bergson: it is just amazing what such an intellect succeeded to metaphysics
[13:31] nu: someone had to take that path
[13:32] Areyn Laurasia: Think of all the time and energy you saved because he took that path for you.
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: i guess so
[13:32] Bejiita Imako:
[13:32] herman Bergson: no a time without science...without the knowledge we have now......
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: thats all they had back then
[13:32] herman Bergson: They just started to discover that there existed Air ans something like a vacuum.....
[13:32] herman Bergson: Al-Farabi experimented with it...
[13:33] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: i am not convince that they knew less than us, on human minds, since they had lesser material to take care of, and more time, to study humans
[13:33] nu: he seemed to be a natural scientist
[13:34] herman Bergson: and astronomer and psychologist and philosopher....
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: a little of everything
[13:34] nu: now we are faced with the prospect that machines will soon have intelligence
[13:34] herman Bergson: I yet would say that they knew less about the human brain and the mind then we do now
[13:34] nu: how do we deal with that
[13:34] herman Bergson: they all ready have depending on the definition
[13:35] herman Bergson: the real problem is ..can machines have a mind....
[13:35] herman Bergson: and there I can be of some comfort.....
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: machine intelligence would be that it can analyse an input and then reprogram its behaviour based in that
[13:35] nu: i dont see why self awareness is not possible
[13:35] herman Bergson: we ourselves still havent the slightest idea how we can have a mind
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: but a computer is just as smart as a light switch basically
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: on and off
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: however bilions of times per second
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: and thats what give it power
[13:36] Areyn Laurasia: just think about google
[13:36] herman Bergson: dont be fooled Nu....responding to an environment by a machine isnt a proof of selfawareness
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: a machine can never be aware of its surroundings, all it 2sees" are these electrical impulses
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: 100010101101010101
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: nothing more
[13:37] nu: it ini the machine will realize what and eho it is
[13:37] Areyn Laurasia: when they know who you are, what you like, your friends and family, personal interests, habits.. etc.. etc.. location and they have drones.. we are writing ourselves out of history
[13:38] herman Bergson: As soon as a machine says.."I think, so I am" without being programmed to do so and claims a private life we should get worried
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: what make what we see with computers possible ate the digital analog converter that turn the 1 and 0 to things we can see and hear
[13:38] nu: not necessarilywhy is that
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: but that in turn the compuer cant understand, the DAC and ADC circuits is an inpenetrable barieer between our analog world and the mind of the machine
[13:39] herman Bergson: Because then the machine is aware of its own identity....
[13:39] nu: it is difficult to predict the furure
[13:39] Areyn Laurasia: machine intelligence is more than a machine
[13:39] nu: we are all machines
[13:39] herman Bergson: yes
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: we only see analog the computer only see digital thats it
[13:39] herman Bergson: like our mind is more thanjust our brain
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: thats why a computer can never feel what we do
[13:40] nu: our intelligenvce is the result of superb self organizaion
[13:40] herman Bergson: But I tink our discussion has left already for some time the Arabina deserts and has moved into another :-)
[13:40] Areyn Laurasia: sorry, professor :)
[13:41] herman Bergson: Let me thank you allll for your participation again and pay Al Farabi a visit in Wikipedia :-)
[13:41] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ...^_^
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: ill check
[13:41] Areyn Laurasia: Thanks for class
[13:41] nu: yet we have neurons OK
[13:41] Bejiita Imako:
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: cu soon again
[13:42] Areyn Laurasia: Al Farabi.. I wonder if he meant the multiverse
[13:42] Ciska Riverstone: thank you herman thanx all
[13:42] CONNIE Eichel: great class, as always :)
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:42] Bejiita Imako:
[13:42] .: Beertje :.: thank you Herman:)
[13:42] nu: Lizzie thank you for inviting me here
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: bye
[13:43] Bernadettie: Yes, thank you
[13:43] Areyn Laurasia: back to the sandbox..
[13:43] Lizzy Pleides: you are welcome nu
[13:43] CONNIE Eichel: kisses you all, till next class :)
[13:43] CONNIE Eichel: byeeee :)
[13:43] herman Bergson: What is happening there Areyn?
[13:43] Areyn Laurasia: inventory cleaning.. unfortunately :)
[13:43] Lizzy Pleides: tc all!
[13:43] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: thanks yu, i will read more of al farabi.. i think
[13:43] Areyn Laurasia: such is the reality of SL :S
[13:44] herman Bergson: oh my...dont remind me of it!
[13:44] Areyn Laurasia: :)
[13:44] Areyn Laurasia: have a lovely evening :)
[13:44] .: Beertje :.: have a goodnight
[13:44] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: be well^^

[13:45] herman Bergson: You too Alaya :-)n

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