International Society for Philosophers

International Society for Philosophers

Wisdom begins with wonder

PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS                   ISSN 2043-0728


Issue number 52 23rd February 2003


I. 'Reality: A knowledge beyond knowing' by Atul Aggarwal

II. 'The Need for Spirituality' by D.R. Khashaba

III. Joad vs the USA: Oxford Union Debate 1950




A basic understanding of the universe, how it came into being, and what future it holds have eluded science since its conception as a form of enquiry. This paper argues that the way of science is limited in its quest for understanding the ultimate truth.

Every scientific enquiry rests primarily on observing a phenomenon, conducting experiments, formulating theories to explain the observations and predicting the consequences given certain initial conditions. Scientific study of any phenomenon essentially involves classification, quantification and a process of analysis on what is being observed.

This form of enquiry can capture only that part of reality which exists on the plane of duality. Science has again and again encountered this duality, sometimes in the form of space-time continuum, sometimes as energy matter and sometimes in the form of particle wave duality. This paper is concerned with the limitations inherent in scientific form of enquiry and the nature of singularity which lies beyond the domain of any form of enquiry.


Reality: A knowledge beyond knowing

Looking at the history of mankind, or rather man himself, a quest which has occupied his imagination from time immemorial, deals with unveiling the laws hidden in nature and the universe around us. A certain purpose which scientific studies entails within themselves and certain questions they look to answer are: to explain the observed phenomenon and to discover the ultimate truth, or to put it differently, to know the reasons as to why the state of universe is as it is now, how and why it was created, what is the role of humans in this great drama and does the things unfold in a predetermined manner or are we the controllers of our destiny or to put it blatantly, to know: why we are here.

Science as a tool for studying the universe (outside us) developed as a natural consequence of man's inquisitive nature. Every scientific enquiry rests primarily on observing a phenomenon, conducting experiments, formulating theories to explain the observations and predicting the consequences given certain initial conditions. Scientific study of any phenomenon essentially involves classification, quantification and a process of analysis on what is being observed.

Science observes a phenomenon, studies it using already developed methods, apparatus and theories, and then tries to explain why a particular phenomenon occurs in a particular way. So in essence science happens to be the observer, the subject who is studying or rather observing the facts (events), an inherent assumption in any scientific enquiry being that the phenomenon being observed (the object) is independent of the observer (subject) and that a truly objective description of the event being observed is perfectly feasible.

Science while studying the outer world, the world of five senses has changed our world view many times. During the earlier stage of its development, the assumption that there is an absolute three dimensional space compounded by an absolute notion of time, allowed it to develop an approximate model of how the things around us behave (Newtonian mechanics). The theories which were developed were able to describe the observed phenomenon accurately. When it was pointed out early in the last century that the basic assumptions of the model are wrong and when they were replaced by an interrelated notion of space time, not three but a four dimensional world, a new theory and a new model (relativistic mechanics) of the universe was developed which was able to describe the world in a more consistent and accurate manner. This world view made it clear that the universe manifests itself in the duality of space and time, neither space, not time in itself is absolute. This change in the world view, a notion of having a three dimensional world and time somehow flowing through it, creating an inter woven 4-d space time is not easy to comprehend for a human brain and it is difficult to visualize. But mind cannot argue with its own brainchild (science), and is forced to accept that that's what reality is, i.e. that is the way things are.

Another conclusion of relativity theory said that matter and energy are not different but one and the same thing being manifested either as energy or as matter, while having a perfect conversion from one state to another. The later development of quantum theory, brought certain aspects of universe which dealt with the description of the infinitely small, once again reshaping our world view by concluding that duality is manifested by sub atomic particles too. They are neither particle nor wave or we can equivalently say, they are either particle or wave.

Everything which lies within the plane of duality can be captured by scientific theories, but what happens if an observer try to observe himself? Now there will not be any subjects and objects, and the method of scientific enquiry and analysis will fail, or to put it differently, science can operate only at the plane of duality.

The creation of space and time occurs at the plane of duality,or equivalently, space time exists only at the plane of duality.

Anything which can be perceived and comprehended by mind has existence only on the plane of duality. Science has encountered duality everywhere, sometimes in the form of wave-particle duality at sub atomic level, sometimes as the duality of space time and sometimes in the form of matter- energy. Duality is only one dimension of reality. The domain of science is limited to the plane of duality.

The plane where the subjective and objective world appear different from each other is the plane of duality. This plane of duality is a fundamental truth of any form of enquiry. All forms of scientific enquiry have encountered this plane again and again. Any discipline which makes an effort to capture reality within its fold, needs to cope up with this plane. Mathematics for instance, leaves the concept of infinite unexplained, according to mathematics, the reality of the infinite cannot be comprehended. The infinity according to Pythagoras is a "self-subsistent substance" instead of an attribute of something else. The subjective plane of the discipline divides the reality into two parts which are nothing but interdependent forms of each other getting dissected by the plane of duality inherent in the discipline itself.

The fundamental basis of the scientific knowledge is hidden in the Descartian premise 'I think, therefore I am.' When the world external to me is projected on the subjective plane of mind, the external world is perceived through the senses and gets classified as objective world or the objective part of reality. Similarly when the world internal to me is reflected on the subjective plane of mind, the internal world is perceived through feelings and gets classified as subjective world which gives the feeling of consciousness. Reality is sum total of objective and subjective worlds. Duality exists in human life as a consequence of thinking. This division between internal and external occurs at the level of mind: time reflects the inner sense of our beings, our sense of motion, a change as perceived on the plane of duality, while space reflects the outer sense of our beings, something that is outside us, which is the creation of mind. Fundamentally, without the interference of mind, What I think I am, and what I am, are one and the same thing.

The Descartian premise of 'I think,' presumes the presence of I in the system before thinking, his conclusion that he exist, is based on the presumption of his being present in the system. I think, therefore I am and I am, therefore I think are fundamentally one and the same thing. The point where division occurs between these two premises is the point where duality is crept in the system. What I think and what I am are one and the same thing,

The one which is absolute is singular. The moment one tries to build a theory to comprehend and understand its identity, the very characteristic of its being singular is destroyed. Description of something is possible only at the plane of duality. We need to classify things as objects for analysis. The breaking up of one single entity into different objects and subjects for the purpose of analysis creates a division in the singularity of things which cannot be restored by any analysis as the basis of analysis is this division itself.

Our mind which makes us conscious of ourselves, explores our surroundings equipped with five senses. All our knowledge being gathered through sensory perception, which inherently contains duality in itself, can by no means cope up with the meaning of singularity and the absolute being, the prime mover of Aristotle. Duality is necessary for the manifestation of singularity. Duality in itself carries the concept of singularity. The manifested and the unmanifested are born out of one absolute being. The existence of space-time, and the validity of all scientific observation is applicable within the plane of duality. Duality is necessary to understand the nature of singularity, but study of duality can not describe the singular one. Scientific knowledge can describe only that which is dual, the singular is beyond description and beyond any theoretical framework. All knowledge which can be gathered, lies within the plane of duality and primarily based on observation, which is limited by the perception, the knowledge acquired within the domain of duality is incomplete to describe the nature of singularity.

Something which contains everything, which is present everywhere, which is the source of all that exists and which contains all that which does not exist, which gives rise to being out of non being, which contains the manifest and the unmanifest within its fold, is beyond logic, beyond thinking, beyond feeling, beyond mind, it is eternal. It has been and it will be. When there was nothing, it was there, when everything else will cease to exist, it will still be there, the inexhaustible, the never ending, and the all pervading which manifests itself in different forms, which creates different realities at different levels is beyond the conception and comprehension of mind and thought. Mind's true function in the evolutionary process is to reflect the truth and to come to terms and understand the nature of the absolute being, and to act as bridge between the truth and its manifestations. Mind makes us conscious of ourselves and that's the point where the division occurs. It is not the division which is the source of problem, but rather the gulf which gets created between the absolute being and us (his manifestations). The mind needs to understand the nature of things from a holistic perspective and in an integrative manner which can bridge the gulf which creeps in at the moment one is conscious of himself. In spite of alienating oneself from rest of the creation, one needs to understand that just like other objects which one perceives around himself, he is also the manifestation of the same being that manifests himself at different planes and at different levels. All of the creation is linked to the creator in an integrated manner.

This shows that the extent of science as far the final truth (final truth is absolute, non dual, singular) is concerned is essentially limited. It is the inherent assumption and the very nature of scientific study which limits its quest in search of explaining everything (everything is absolute, non dual, singular). Beyond a point, the point when there is no more duality, the domain of science and scientific methods is no more applicable.

(c) Atul Aggarwal 2003

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A marginal note on 'The Possibility of God: An Essay in the Philosophy of Religion' by John Paolini (Philosophy Pathways Issue 51).


May I put in a marginal note to the intriguing articles of John Paolini and Brian Tee in Issue number 51 of Philosophy Pathways?

I was charmed by the humane, feeling, and insightful essay of John Paolini, whose searching, candid words speak directly to the heart. But in the end he leaves us with the unanswered question, What is this God we yearn for and where do we find him?

The vital question we have to face is, How can we rescue the spirituality we seem to be losing with the loss of traditional faith in established religions?

When Hume taught us that 'is' does not yield 'ought', we had need of Kant to reinstate the balance. Kant regained for us the 'ought' - without which there can be no kosmos (in the original Greek sense) - in Reason: pure, yielding logical necessity; practical, yielding moral obligation; judgematic, yielding aesthetic value.

But empiricism in its various guises - positivism, naturalism, physicalism, scientism - seeing that 'ought' is not to be found in the objective world, simply jettisoned it and was content with 'what is'. We were left to choose between supernaturalists marketing their various brands of God on the one hand and naturalists and secular humanists on the other hand telling us that we have no need for anything beyond 'what is'. (That is why I felt it necessary to oppose Quine's "On What There Is" in my essay "On What Is Real".)

I hold that this is a false dilemma, that we have a third viable option. We need spirituality if we are to realize the full potential of our humanity, and we can have that spirituality without institutionalized religion.

The ideas and ideals, the dreams and flights of imagination, that constitute the spiritual life of humankind, are realities in the intelligible realm, and that spiritual life itself is our reality. As a mutable being, ceaselessly flowing from moment to moment and from one state of transient existence to another, I am only half-real, or only real by sufferance; but in creative thought, in deeds of love, in the awesome sense of beauty as I cry with Wordsworth,

      My heart leaps up when I behold
      A rainbow in the sky

I am truly real. And that reality is not epiphenomenal, or accidental, or a figure of speech; it is all we know of reality and all the reality we know. It is the objective world with all its appearances and all its happenings that is an adjunct to this reality, not the other way round. This is the truth we lost when empiricism and cynicism combined led us to lose faith in idealism; and this is the truth we need to regain if human life is not to be

      ...a tale
      Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
      Signifying nothing.

(c) D. R. Khashaba 2003

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It is with some reservations that I publish the latest tidbit from Richard Symonds on the philosopher C.E.M. Joad, on Joad's notorious victory in the 1950 Oxford Union debate condemning the 'influence exercised by the United States'.

As a lifelong Americophile (and, also, by a quirk of fate, a life time member of the Oxford Union Society) I would unhesitatingly have voted against Joad's resolution had I been around in 1950 (I was born in 1951), and would do so again now.

However, the incident serves as a reminder at this crucial and dangerous period in international relations that one should never underestimate the strength of antipathy to the US and all things American, as well as adding another jigsaw piece to our composite picture of the People's philosopher.

Geoffrey Klempner


Dear Letters Editor,

May I submit the June 1950 'Time' feature for your consideration, "Heading for Hell?" (Source: "Sir Robin Day - Grand Inquisitor" 1989, p.38).

This is now critically significant, especially in the light of today's international crisis, and the South Stoke Festival of Thought which is taking place near Arundel Castle, England - Saturday April 5th 2003 - to mark the 50th Anniversary of Cyril Joad's death (Philosophy Pathways Issue 32).

'HEADING FOR HELL?' - June 1950

In 1933, sparked by Guest Speaker Cyril Edwin Mitchinson Joad, a bearded posturing professional pundit, the famed old Oxford Union voted 275 to 153 'that under no circumstances will we fight for King and Country'. When graduate members, led by Winston Churchill's choleric son Randolph, tried to expunge this from the record, they were swamped 750 to 138.

In his history of World War 11 (Vol 1 'The Gathering Storm' - Ed), Winston Churchill sombrely wrote : "It was easy to laugh off such an episode in England, but in Germany, in Russia, in Italy, in Japan, the idea of a decadent, degenerate Britain took deep root, and swayed many calculations".

Last week, ex-pacifist Joad (of wartime BBC 'Brains Trust' fame - Ed) and Randolph Churchill (former husband of the late American heiress, Pamela Harriman - Ed), squared off over another provocative Union resolution: 'That this House regrets the influence exercised by the US, as the dominant power among the democratic nations'.

"Money is the sole American standard of value," said Joad. "The nations are heading for hell, and it is America which is leading us there .... [American influence] corrupts, infects and pollutes whatever it touches." Angry shouts of 'Shame' greeted Joad's remark, "What a genius the Americans have for coming into a war late, on the winning side."

Other shouts drowned out Randolph when he said, "Back the 'professor' comes after 17 years, with his rotten advice, trying to lure yet another generation along the wrong path."

Union President Robin Day rang the bell for silence, but Randolph soon brought another uproar by saying, "It may be just a joke for the 'professor', this Third-Class Socrates, but he is corrupting, infecting and polluting the good relations between Britain and the US...."

But when the shouting had died down, and the vote was taken, Joad had won again, 224 to 179.


I hope that this submission will be favourably received,

Yours faithfully,

Richard W. Symonds   M.C.I.P.D.

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