PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS ISSN 2043-0728
Issue No. 231
23rd April 2019
From the List Manager
I. 'Magic Spells' by Geoffrey Klempner
II. Philosophizer's Bible on YouTube: Update
III. Call for Papers: Intellectus
This issue of Philosophy Pathways includes an update of my ongoing video project on YouTube, where I have been reading out chapters from my book Philosophizer's Bible. There are 33 chapters in total. I set out back in February with the intention of reading the entire book on camera, adding further thoughts on each topic. I have now reached chapter 20, which is getting close to two thirds the way through the book.
It helps that the book is quite short, under 40,000 words. If my book had been a tome, that probably would not have been such a good idea :)
The last issue of Philosophy Pathways, included a link to the preview of Philosophizer's Bible, covering chapters 1-5. In this issue, I present the text of chapter 6, 'Magic Spells', which deals with the vexed question of what makes so-called 'proofs' or arguments in philosophy convincing. Those of you who have been following my YouTube channel may notice that a portion of the text comes from the very first YouTube video I made back in 2013, 'Why am I here?'
Following that is a list of the 20 videos uploaded to date, with links. If you have viewed any of these videos and enjoyed them, don't forget to share on social media so that your friends can enjoy them too.
Also in this issue, we have a call for papers for a new philosophy journal from Africa: Intellectus. Oluafemi Oyotoyinbo, one of the main people responsible for launching the journal is a member of the International Society for Philosophers. I hope that you will support this very worthy project.
(c) Geoffrey Klempner 2019
I. 'MAGIC SPELLS' BY GEOFFREY KLEMPNER
Philosophizer's Bible Chapter 6
'THERE is something wrong with the world' (Trinity to Neo, 'The Matrix'). Your mind and senses scream at you, 'This is wrong! This is all wrong!' And yet there is nothing to see that could give you a clue about what is wrong, the source of your feelings of unease and panic. What is there to do? There is nothing you can do. Except live out the course of your life, perform all the mundane tasks that come at you every day, work, work, enjoy your occasional 'adventures'...
(What did Sartre say?!)
You philosophers, you've felt this too, some of you, anyway. And what have you done about it? I see you — frittering away your time with useless displacement activity, pretending that your thoughts, your 'alembicated reasonings' are taking you somewhere, while to me your words just sound like babble, gibberish (as apes gibber). Human apes.
Shelves and shelves of dusty books and journal articles. An endless stream of philosophy lectures on YouTube, preaching to the masses. No, sorry, I'm not impressed!
There is something wrong with the world. Something doesn't add up. You feel it. I feel it too, the very same thing. But that's not a question. Feelings are just raw data. You feel what you feel. The real question — the real issue — is what to do about that feeling.
'What you're looking for is a magic spell. Why not ask Gandalf. He's sure to know!' — Yeah, right.
Or Wittgenstein, speaking, so nastily, about an amateur admirer of Professor C.E.M. Joad, stalwart of the BBC's 50s TV programme 'Brains Trust':
'Have you ever seen a child make a grotto with leaves and
stones and candles — and then creep in and out of the
world into a kind of world he has made for himself?...'
(The Listener 10, June 1955, reprinted in K.T. Fann Ludwig
Wittgenstein: The Man and his Philosophy).
Then how about this:
This is a hand.
I am holding up my right hand, inspecting the lines on my palm. Turning my hand around I can see that my nails have been recently cut. (And I remember cutting them.) There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that this is a human hand (not a gorilla hand or an alien hand or a prosthetic hand). And, moreover, it is my hand, because it is attached to my arm. Not only that, but I can move my hand, as I have just done, I can move my fingers at will. I feel sensations in my fingers as I run them along the surface of my desk.
And if I can know all this, then can't I also know, absolutely and without doubt, that an external world exists?
That would be something: a clear demonstration of the power of words to dictate to reality.
Apologies to those who have heard this story before... Once upon a time, not so long ago — in a golden age of British academic philosophy — there was a philosopher called G.E. Moore who thought he could prove the existence of an external world: by going through the kind of performance I have just done now ('A Defence of Common Sense', 1925). This one article has over the years generated a huge amount of literature. But we're not interested in that. I'm not taking a 'position'. I told you, that's not something I do.
Let's step back.
It's a question worth asking, What makes a philosopher think that a certain sequence of words constitutes a proof of something? Suppose you've never studied philosophy at university. Anyone who isn't a complete idiot, you'll say, would realize that if I suspected I might be dreaming that 'this is a hand', it wouldn't prove that I wasn't dreaming. Or if I was in the Matrix, it wouldn't prove that I had hands. (In the movie, Neo really does have hands — perfect, milk white hands that he has never actually used — as he lies asleep in his pod, his brain connected to a massive supercomputer. But there was no reason why he had to have hands, or even a body. He could have just been a 'brain in a jar'.)
Moore thought he'd proved something. His critics are just as certain that he didn't prove anything!
As I said, I'm not taking any position about this. Except to repeat what I have already stated before: the sceptic Pyrrho would point to Moore's argument as a perfect example of his case against the 'claims of reason'.
Why do philosophers, when they 'prove' something, what gives them the confidence to think that they have actually proved it? — Back in the day, I used to confidently give 'proofs' of things, so I know what it feels like when you say something, and it seems as if things couldn't be any other way than what you've said. It is like a magic spell. Gandalf. You've said the magic spell and now things have just got to be that way. Your 'proof', your magic spell, is your guarantee.
But it really wasn't a proof at all. Then what was it? It was more like a confession: 'Forgive me, Father, if I am wrong, but this is how I see things, and I cannot imagine them being any other way.'
(Like St Augustine in his Confessions. He understood, he knew.)
In schools of philosophy all over the world, students dutifully learn the magic spells that are considered potent, while at the same time they learn to disparage the fake 'spells' of other schools.
The sociologist Ernest Gellner raised an uproar in 1959 with a book called Words and Things, which tore into the fashionable arguments of the time, such as the argument from 'paradigm cases', or the argument from 'polar opposites' (who hears of these now?). Maybe the arguments he criticized had a point, once, but they had degenerated into dogma, as all arguments in philosophy are destined to do.
(As an aside, my sister Elli Sarah was lucky to have Gellner as her tutor for BSc Sociology at the LSE in the mid-70s. She reports him as being fair minded, rigorous and kind.)
Say, if you like, that the problem is with the way philosophy is taught, as a 'discipline'. The brightest, most creative, most imaginative students are punished when they don't toe the 'party line'. — I can't blame my shortcomings on the way I was taught. The fact is, I simply don't trust 'arguments' or 'proofs' any more. They're not needed. I describe what I see, the way things seem to me, or seem to me now. And I am under no illusions that I could be wrong.
What chance, then, of puzzling out the world?
(c) Geoffrey Klempner 2019
II. PHILOSOPHIZER'S BIBLE ON YOUTUBE: UPDATE
Back in February, in issue 230 of Philosophy Pathways I said that I would be reading out chapters of my new book Philosophizer's Bible on YouTube, and I also gave links to the first two videos.
Since then, I have been posting a video every three days. To date, twenty videos have been made. In each video I read out a chapter and comment on it. I am pleased with the response so far, although there are still many readers of Philosophy Pathways who have not yet seen any of these — hint, hint!
As each video is uploaded, I am adding it to a playlist which can be found here:
Below is the list of videos posted to date, counting backwards from chapter 20 to chapter 1, together with a short extract from the chapter:
Chapter 20 Things fall down youtu.be/8zt5VkO2dm0
"I want to ask a different question, a question about history. How is it that great Ancient Greek thinkers like Thales or Anaximenes never once thought to question or challenge the alleged fact that 'things fall down'? According to Anaximenes, a flat, cap shaped Earth is held aloft in an indefinitely extended airy expanse by a permanent updraft of wind. 'Like a leaf', he says. If you can imagine that. 'If a heavy pot lid can be blown off a boiling pot by the pressure of steam,' he argued, 'then there's no reason why the same couldn't hold true of the Earth, massive though it may be.' Q.E.D."
Chapter 19 Size of the universe youtu.be/sF2e4ChU9Z0
"The notion that the universe is 'very big' is sheer nonsense, of course. 'Big' in relation to what?! There are different kinds of 'bigness'. The transcendence of other times, the impossibility of solving the conundrum whether past events are 'really real' or not, isn't a matter of size or number. It's a metaphysical wall. A cosmic stop sign. An absolute. Whereas the actual size of the universe is a question only for physics. Somewhere in his Greater Logic, Hegel says something similar about this. The size of the universe is nothing to be impressed by."
Chapter 18 Seeing my nose youtu.be/p0SV1HHMQLA
"Am I my body, or am I in my body? The answer to both questions, is, No. I am not my body and I am not in my body either. We have already considered the reasons why: I am not my body because in place of I there might have been an identical body who was not I. I am not in my body, because whatever is located inside a body is just more of the same: another 'body' whether physical or non-physical, it makes no real difference."
Chapter 17 Locked corridor youtu.be/fRJ5Q63eBfA
"I am looking for words, any words, words that shed light, even if only a very dim light on how things are at the Core. I accept that there are things I can never know, but one thing I do know is that there is a Core. There is such a thing as reality. There can't be an infinite progression inward. Maybe there is no 'reason', nothing that would satisfy the demand for a logical explanation. Maybe there is a reason that we will never understand because we humans are just too stupid. But the Core is the Core. Without a Core, nothing can be."
Chapter 16 Conundrums youtu.be/2RTF2zaTlVA
"Let's define a conundrum as something which presents itself as a philosophical problem, which is in fact incapable of solution. I don't accept Wittgenstein's view that the conundrums of philosophy can be overcome by 'showing the fly the way out of the fly bottle'. We may be fooled into thinking that a problem has no solution when in fact it is soluble, but the existence of a what appears to be a conundrum is not necessarily the result of mere confusion, or sophistical argument, or trickery."
Chapter 15 Infidel youtu.be/REgae-6Pm9w
"For me, the thought of a God that is infinitely powerful is simply appalling. You or I have no chance whatsoever. Faced with an infinite power, the notion that such a God is, or can be, 'forgiving' (provided that you are 'God fearing', provided that you bend the knee, indoctrinate your children, perform the necessary rituals, or whatever) is even more frightful. If I was going to be religious, I would prefer a religion like Scientology or Satanism every time. — But now a different thought occurs to me: Isn't being a Philosophizer a kind of religion? And is that so bad?"
Chapter 14 Things look funny youtu.be/deNYssSsllE
"Human beings create images in their brains, 'pictures in the head' and then they fetishize them as scientific 'theories' or religious 'beliefs'. Nothing is so effective at getting a person's back up — oh boy! — as the suspicion that you doubt some precious 'belief' or 'theory' of theirs, a theory that they have spent decades working on, elaborating, defending. Why are human beings so concerned to find something to believe? It is as if belief allows you to possess the world, or a chunk of it at any rate. Belief makes you the owner of 'being'."
Chapter 13 Tudor Square youtu.be/Gpn1cDbYOt0
"Rationally, when metaphysical beliefs clash, when they are at absolute loggerheads, if the opposition can never, in principle, be resolved, then both beliefs must be false. Kant said this (in his 'Antinomies of Pure Reason' in Critique of Pure Reason), and I know that too. Any attempt to 'justify' one side against the other is futile. It cannot be the case that fatalism is true and it also cannot be the case that fatalism is false. It cannot be the case that the past is real and it also cannot be the case that the past is unreal. Once again, we have reached the cosmic stop sign. You can't go there, not in reality, not in thought. And yet, I still believe."
Chapter 12 The reckoning youtu.be/dl7O9uq8AjE
"You can't think or reason yourself out of deep depression. No, but if you have the wit to realize that you're going through a serious mental crisis, that any thoughts that come to you are distorted by your condition, not to be trusted, certainly not to be acted upon, then there are steps you can take. Steps to get help. And this is my case against philosophy. Being a professional philosopher is a permanently distorting 'mental condition'. You come to believe that whatever the fix, the power of reason alone can get you out of this, somehow. And if you can't see a way, that's down to your weakness, your incapacity as a thinker. — So wrong!"
Chapter 11 Words have no meaning youtu.be/jEDDZoePJkI
"Early in the twentieth century, the idea got hold that language is the key to the problems of philosophy. If you could analyse language, analyse its 'workings', then you would see how philosophical problems arise, and also have a quick and reliable way of solving them. — No more preposterous idea has ever been conceived. (It was actually the eighteenth century mathematician and amateur philosopher Leibniz who first floated this kite, with his fanciful notion of a characteristica universalis, a calculus, a 'decision procedure' that could be used to solve any philosophical problem.)"
Chapter 10 Butter in the pan youtu.be/UOuZfQ-UsPE
"I can feel something melting. Like butter in the pan. Or, better, the clogged up grease that has lately slowed my brain down, almost to a standstill. There's so much I still cling to, but I am beginning to learn to let go. Face the unknown without fear. Courage mon brave! — Then what? What next? I see more than I've ever seen before, even though what I see would scare anyone shitless. I don't feel 'existential angst', because it ultimately doesn't matter what I do. I'm happy just being motivated. I said that before. It's all you need to know to get past the 'meaning of life' problem."
Chapter 9 Zombies youtu.be/p1wgNdaMsUk
"There is much I do not know about myself, but one thing I know definitely and for sure, is that I am the kind of thing whose 'existence hangs by a thread', that can exist or not exist or never have existed, everything else in the universe remaining the same. That's what 'being real' means to me. I could be gone in the very next moment. And when I think of other persons 'being real', putting myself in their shoes as it were, I cannot but think the same applies to them. But if what I said does not apply to you, then you and I cannot be the 'same kind of thing'. I have something you lack. Existence!"
Chapter 8 What is 'what is'? youtu.be/zH88E_6mb6c
"We are hung up on 'why' questions: why is there a world, why is there something rather than nothing, why am I here, etc. You can't ask why until you know what. And what chance have I, what chance have we of 'knowing what'? Next to zero. Or maybe zero. But I, for one, will pursue that Question (with a capital 'Q'), regardless of how I estimate my chances."
Chapter 7 The swimmer youtu.be/xTiyIF8MjV8
"Wittgenstein's simile of the underwater swimmer is exactly the right image for what I'm talking about — the trials of the philosophizer — what I disagree with completely is the application. I do think that this was something Wittgenstein was wrong about. Plain wrong. Wittgenstein the thinker twists himself in ever tighter knots, strains and struggles to think 'deeply'. But that was never the real challenge. The hard thing, the really hard thing, with swimming underwater is getting over your fear of suffocation."
Chapter 6 Magic Spells youtu.be/hPbvAWSmfo0
"Why do philosophers, when they 'prove' something, what gives them the confidence to think that they have actually proved it? — Back in the day, I used to confidently give 'proofs' of things, so I know what it feels like when you say something, and it seems as if things couldn't be any other way than what you've said. It is like a magic spell. You've said the magic spell and now things have just got to be that way. Your 'proof', your magic spell, is your guarantee."
Chapter 5 It's all about the wonder youtu.be/mmf1cFsmBZw
"Philosophy, according to Plato and Aristotle, begins with wonder. Philosophizing ends with it. That is its sole purpose: to enlarge, stimulate, satisfy the capacity for wonder. Plato and Aristotle saw wonder as a spur to knowledge. Asking the big questions and then going about answering them. But what they mean is more like mundane curiosity. Of course, we human beings are curious. That's how we got to the Moon, that's how we discovered the Higgs Boson. But there is more, so much more, that has got nothing to do with things you can make or find out."
Chapter 4 Philosophy for apes youtu.be/_Qmip85bt8s
"We are all apes. Nietzsche said that. He didn't mean simply in a biological sense. Look at them — and then realize that you are looking at yourselves. The only meaningful, objective value that can be conceived, the only value we have, as a species, belongs to that which has not yet come, the one who will supersede us — who is as distant from us as we are from apes in the jungle or on the plain — that for the sake of whose existence we are merely a route, a bridge, a means to a greater end. The Overman."
Chapter 3 Two tribes youtu.be/OmWLJ-p2U4o
"There are two tribes who live on opposite sides of a river. The tribes are the Philosophers and the Philosophizers. The river is called 'Philosophy'. The Philosophers and Philosophizers refuse to talk to one another, or have any dealings with one another. Yet they fish from the same river. To avoid disputes, members of each tribe keep to their own side, never once crossing the imaginary line that divides the river in half. Their mutual suspicion and hatred is such that they refuse to look one another in the eye, even when they are feet away, knee deep in water, plying their nets."
Chapter 2 Fairground ride youtu.be/rPuH4ouvzdQ
"Imagine you are Alice, in 'Alice in Wonderland', or 'Through the Looking Glass', or Dorothy in 'Wizard of Oz' — or Neo in 'The Matrix' (the movie script cleverly references Alice and Dorothy in the same scene). You are about to embark on a mini-adventure, which is also designed as a course of instruction (kind of, if you are willing to be instructed). Try not to anticipate. Let go, if you can. Let the ride carry you along."
Chapter 1 A new leaf youtu.be/XjkSR0LczvU
"To this day, I am still not exactly sure what happened to me. Something must have snapped, something broke inside of me. I broke my chain, my leash. For years I'd thought I was with you, you 'philosophers'. I thought we were in this together. Then, at last — at the last possible moment, almost too late to do anything about it — the realization hit home: You don't even know what I'm talking about, do you?!"
— Each video lasts around a quarter of an hour. I am enjoying making these. I hope you find them entertaining and useful. And do share, if you liked them.
Here are the links to my Amazon UK and US pages, where you can buy Philosophizer's Bible in paperback or Kindle format:
Amazon UK LINK
Amazon US LINK
(c) Geoffrey Klempner 2019
III. CALL FOR PAPERS: INTELLECTUS
Oluafemi Oyotoyinbo writes:
Philosophy and philosophers are becoming irrelevant to contemporary issues in Africa. Now, many Universities are not having a department of Philosophy and the few with such department are struggling to compel students into the department. We identify that the major issue is that professional philosophers have given much attention to academic excellence, promotion at work (through publication) than for them to consider taking a philosophical approach to many issues in the continent. We are making this journal to fill the gap. It is about practical application of philosophy to issues affecting Africa. Moreover, the journal will serve as a platform to encourage young philosophers (from university students to PhD graduates) and make them find value in their discipline.
We are two major people working on the idea now. Dr MSC Okolo is a philosophy lecturer at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria and an award winning scholar of reputation across Africa. I am a Philosopher too, I did my postgraduate in Philosophy and Law at the University of Bristol, and I am currently an independent researcher, providing intermittent support at Adekunle Ajasin University. I am also an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society.
Call for Papers
Intellectus is the Journal of Philosophy in Africa that focuses on understanding philosophy with the perspective of its practical applications to issues in Africa.
Intellectus thereby invites you to submit research articles, book reviews and interviews on African philosophy, black studies, and applied philosophy (especially in ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics), feminism, international law, public policy, and socio-political philosophy in their relevance to the African continent.
The Submission Process
Author(s) should prepare their manuscript(s) for blind peer review excluding any information about the Author(s). The manuscript should be along with a brief cover letter to formally inform the Editor of the Author's interest/consent to publish the manuscript in Intellectus, and clearly state that the submitted article is unpublished (either in print or electronically) and not under consideration for publication in any other journal. The cover letter must include the names, affiliations, and the contact details of the corresponding Author first and any other Author(s). Authors are to submit their manuscript via email: IntellectusJournal@gmail.com.
Manuscripts should be between 7000- 8000 words in length and be prepared according to the following style: The manuscript should have an abstract of 150-200 words and a list of 5-6 keywords, which should all be in both English and French. The layout should be simple, and of a consistent style in terms of font, headings, paragraphs, and spacing. Articles should be typewritten using Times New Roman 12pt and should be justified. All headings should be formatted as bold, left indented with double spacing above and a single space below.
Authors should use the Chicago Manual of Style Author-Date system for the reference list entry. There should be no footnotes; all bibliographic entries should appear as Endnotes without numbering. Authors should use in text citation rather than numbering. Authors are encouraged to kindly visit: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html and click on the Author-Date tab for more details.
For more information on the Manuscript Preparation Guidelines, please visit https://intellectus.com.ng/guidelines
For further enquiries: