“Varlığın Anlamı”, translated by Ahmed Fahreddin Uçar,
The Meaning of Being
PREFACE FOR THE THIRD EDITION
I am the witness of Truth, nothing else.
“Bismillâhi ve’l-hamdü lillâhi alâ kulli hâl. Ve’s-salât ü ve’s- selâm alâ Muhammedin il-mübeşşer fî’l-İncîl. Ve kâne vasfihi Faraklit”: In the name of God, and thanks for all the conditions we are in. Greetings and peace be upon Mohammad who was harbingered in the Bible; and his title in Bible was Paraclitus. Paraclitus is also said to mean “a safe harbor”, “a soothing person”; and they even say that “mazmun” (or the subjacent meaning) of this word is contained in the name “Ahmed”. As master Mevlana says: “tâ ki gerded cümle âlem râ penâh” “Till there be a harbor where all the people may find refuge” And also as our master Yunus Emre said: What the soul reaches, the mind engages,
What the heart loves, the tongue ought explain. And as much as our soul which descended from the realm of Oneness inclines towards knowledge, I also have tried to understand all the matters of science and wisdom, and even tried to explain these matters which my heart and soul loves. However, these issues which the man of wisdom have been busy with and have been unable to solve since ancient times, can only be interpreted to some degree; for, as an old Dîvân poet said: “there is mystery behind the curtain which will manifest itself.”
However, even I would not have claimed to solve these essentially paradoxical and difficult issues such as “set theory” or “continuum hypothesis” which lie in the foundations of mathematics and physics theories which have remained unsolved to this day due to their inconclusiveness from the perspective of rational and logical reasoning. As I have indicated in the preface of the second edition of this book, in the 21st century humanity has come face to face with these hard to solve issues and are compelled to search for a solution for these issues. If we are to find a meaning to existence we have to do this. For without having a clear understanding of these issues, we cannot have a serious epistemology. The fact is that our soul attains whatever our mind is engaged with, and even our tongue articulates the same. Hacı Bektaşi Velî says that: The tongue states whatever the heart approves. This is what I had said in an article of mine about language: “kelâm hâdî-i ef’aldir”: The word guides actions.
So I hope that this foreword of mine guides the reader: till such that the reader may understand that this book is actually hard to understand due to the fact that it deals with the most primary and fundamental issues of epistemology albeit it gives the impression that it is easy to read and enjoyable. First of all, a book must be enjoyable of course. However, it is not enough to read such a book quickly and only once; it requires repeated contemplation and digestion. Upon reading this book in your hands now, my friend Ahmet Yüksel Özemre in his article called “Introduction to the Issue of Physical Reality” which he wrote in order to explain these matters by extending his conference text which he had presented in ISAM(Islamic Research Center) upon my invitation says thus:
“To express it briefly: The mathematical depiction of the Physical Reality, (just because of the geometrical language that makes up the frame of this depiction) ascribes inevitable and fictive attributes which do not exist on an ontological level, and can easily lead to the misconception that these fictive attributes make up an aspect of the Physical Reality with an ontological foundation.”
Of course this criticism about the theoretical physics scientists is correct. Even in the field of positive sciences in which we can obtain quite fruitful results using logical reasoning, that is, even when we are dealing with the lifeless material world and physics, it is possible that we may take these delusive assumptions that we reach using our creative imagination to be “science” This sometimes happens; while we attempt to do science there comes assumptions, and an imaginary assumption, a symbolic expression, is accepted as “science and knowledge”. A game that language, that is naming objects and trying to express everything with speech, plays on humanity: symbolic expressions that give a false pride of wisdom. Perhaps the path of truth passes through the metaphors of speech yet, its transcendental and final destination surpasses all the capabilities of expression of any language. For example, there were times when we knew both what “Time” and “Space” is. The scientific understandings of old ages are of course outdated; it remained in another world and in another time. Even knowledge is proportional to the milestones passed on the way to the destination.
The ‘cranes’ of master Molla Penâh Vâkıf have migrated already; in even today there are such ‘cranes’ that may come and pass over these skies: May all that I have said so far, and my heartfelt greetings with boundless respect be companions to the wings of those cranes; and Godspeed, may they reach the souls of all those men of wisdom who are left on this sea “where no ships travel anymore.” Quod dixî, dixî: What I have said I have said All the meanings we hold in our mind, find form in a word’s mold and incline to be expressed verbally. And a word has already been uttered, as much as it was required; it is as I have said, and would not be changed. Words have a tendency to manifest themselves and guide human actions; until the human spirit inclines towards learning which it is obliged by nature. Indeed, “the appearance will be according to the quality of the mirror”. [Translator’s note: the author refers to a sufi saying where the “mirror” is a metaphor for the “heart” and that God will manifest itself according to the clarity of that heart. In Islamic mysticism existence is symbolized by the appearances on a mirror, where the appearances are ephemeral and transitory which is only a reflection of God. Similar what St. Jerome said: “Videmus per speculum in aenigmate” and Corinthios Verse 13:12]
In summary, as “witness of ‘mazmûn’ (i.e. the meaning of symbols which represent spiritual qualities through material objects), what I say is this:
nihân ettim kelâmım, gerçi ma’nâ âşikâr oldu
söz oldu perde-î hüsnün; o perde, vasf-i yâr oldu.”
“I have kept my word undisclosed
but the meaning has become clear,
The word has become the veil of your beauty;
and that veil has become the depiction of the beloved.”
[This is one of the couplets in the authors own Dîvân poetry]
Prof. Dr. Şahin Uçar
Samatya, Istanbul, September 22, 2010
INTRODUCTION FOR THE SECOND EDITION
The difference of this second edition from the first which was published with the title “The Meaning and Subjacent Meaning of Existence” is the addition of the first chapter of “Contemporary Interpretations to the Dreams of the King of Babel Nebuchadnezzar” and the appended interview which contains some explanations. As was written in the introduction of the first edition, I had briefly expressed my thoughts on the need for a metaphysics from the perspective of philosophy of history, in my article called “Contemporary Interpretations to the Dreams of the King of Babel Nebuchadnezzar” in a magazine called “Knowledge and Wisdom” in 1994 which make up the core of the second part of the book (History and Epistemology). Naturally, the second part of the first edition contained quotations from the above mentioned article. When making the second edition of this book, I found it appropriate to add this article in which I have expressed my thoughts about “History and Epistemology and Metaphysics” more briefly and clearly to the beginning of this book. Now, despite a repetition of a few paragraphs caused by the quotations from the third chapter of this book, I believe that the readers will find it easier to understand the main ideas through this introductory article where thoughts on mathematics, physics, and logic are more neatly expressed with a general overview without technical explanations.
It is also interesting that, most of the philosophical themes that question reality in the cult movie Matrix which was released in 1999 and about which many books have since been written, are present in my article which I wrote in 1993 (with the same allusions and references).
Once upon a time, due to publications about the Subjacent meanings in Dîvân literature, I too was asked to write an article so I had first wrote the chapter called ‘Meaning and Subjacent Meaning’. Instead of treating ‘Mazmun’ (subjacent meaning) as merely a Dîvân literature term, I said that its specific meaning is suitable for semantic and metaphysic interpretations, along with pointing out to the need to make such a study; although I had only treated the linguistic and literary aspects of this issue, and announced that I was going to write the rest of it some day.
Upon a request for an article that came soon after, I tried to fulfill this promise at least partially by presenting some of my thoughts on history, physics, and metaphysics within the limited volume of the article “Contemporary Interpretations to the Dreams of Nebuchadnezzar The King of Babel” When finally I had the opportunity to touch upon the technical aspects of this issue from the aspects of logic, mathematics, and philosophy of physics in the text of the conference which I had given upon the request of the Turkish Philosophy Association, this book “The Meaning and Subjacent Meaning of Existence” which is comprised of that article and the conference text has come into being. But now, I would like to add a few more words with the occasion of this preface.
Although the issues treated in this book appear on the surface to be easily understandable and easy to read, as a peculiarity of my style, I have witnessed many times that most of my thoughts are not understood even by the specialists of the subject. Now, my readers will at least be able to see with a bird’s eye view the general outlines of the issue by first reading the “Contemporary Interpretations to the Dreams of Nebuchadnezzar The King of Babel” I suppose my style misleads the readers, and cause them to think that they easily understand my work in all of its aspects.
Yet, this work is extremely hard to understand and even undertakes many philosophical issues which have not been understood by humanity despite having been debated throughout the history of philosophy, and thus naturally even the author himself does not fully comprehend many of its aspects. As to why this is so…
I think that until the 20th century humankind has not even been aware of certain issues and just like a baby which has merely started speaking, it is only in this century that we have come to realize and partially understand the world around us and its problems. Doubtless, it is due to the cultural accumulation over the history of humankind… Remember the naivety of the physical theories before 20th century about matter, the world around us and cosmos. And then look at the theories of physics today. Is it necessary to recount what naive ideas 19th century physicists had about nature, time and space?
Yet, as a result of the developments in the 20th century, we are dealing with countless complicated problems from the theory of relativity to quantum mechanics; to the four field theories that has been impossible to reconcile with each other; to the division of atom to the discovery of space and so on. So, what do we know about space and time? Can we make a definitive and satisfactory description of matter? Do we have a theory that can reconcile the four fields in physics and as a result tell us what the essential nature of nature? These days we hear mentions of “the theory of everything”, “The String Theory”. Could those who propose these theories, if they are able to understand those theories themselves, explain what existence means to us as well?
It appears to me that, even in order to explain “res extensa” (the extension, space, and dimensions) our science is still in the beginning stages. It seems that in the 20th century, humankind has barely started spelling the alpha-beta of science. We are no longer certain about anything… We almost wish to say, “oh Lord, what bliss was the ignorance of the old people”. On the other hand, what can be said of the fact that we, who just began learning a few things; who barely started deciphering and reading the alphabet of genetic codes;
who barely noticed the existence of a deeper reality which we may never be able to fully understand beyond the physical reality; are face to face with the danger of breaking the ecological balance, exterminating the world, and bringing about a man-made apocalypse as a result of this quite limited success, as it was told in the allegory where “the bold mortal who dared to look in the face of God shall be destroyed”? It used to be that people, and even states and civilizations would come to an end and disappear. Now all life is, including humans on earth, all forms of life are disappearing. And it is the human actions that break the ecology down and ruin it. I do not want to be reductive; but in the final analysis, the oppression and ecological destruction which are the product of our technological capabilities and the scientific knowledge that are enabled by deciphering a few letters of the alphabet in which the secrets of nature is written, has begun creating results that can end all life on earth.
It seems to me that we have started getting to know the world around us just recently. From the perspective of physical theories, almost just now… And in spite of the unfathomable wealth of knowledge about physics, our understanding is extremely limited; because there are still unresolved problems in the theory of physics. And what do we know about the language that we use? Until Tarski, humanity had not noticed that the issue of “meaning” in semantics is related with the set theory and continuum theory in mathematics. How many littérateur and linguist are aware of the issue of “meaning” that I am trying to draw attention to with the concept of “mazmûn”(subjacent meaning) which contains problems related to logic and mathematics as in Tarski’s interpretation? Humanity is still not aware that, not just in mathematics but also in natural language, in order to give meaning to a sentence(set) to any sentence, there is a ‘Continuum Problem’ that we need to solve. For people who are not inclined towards philosophy, mathematics has no problem at all; mathematics works pretty well without taking the problems in the philosophy of mathematics into consideration; but those who are interested in the foundations of mathematics see that there are unsolvable paradoxes and problems. It appears to me that humanity, with the level it has reached,
has only in the 20th century been able to get to know the physical world to some extent, and has only in the 20th century been able to notice the problems of the physical reality. We keep speaking but whether we know what we are speaking about from a semantic perspective is very doubtful.
We say that humankind is in the position of a child learning to read who has just started connecting the letters together; that it has barely started to learn the alphabet in genetics and physics. And what to say of humanity not realizing the “subjacent meaning” up until the 20th century until Tarski’s semantic investigations?
I suppose I should also say this as a last word to this preface: I need to do a much larger and encompassing study of epistemology and methodology about these issues which I have treated much too briefly in the frame of a conference or an article as can be understood here. These days, both this book and all of my previous research and work seem only as a preliminary study to me in comparison to the effort of building such an epistemology and a philosophy of history. And of course because there were many issues that are also related with this issue which at the time of my old research I could not entirely understand, I hope to pen it again in a much more extended and more understandable way, I would kindly ask my readers to forgive the present shortcomings of the “mazmun(Subjacent meaning)” and epistemology issues. While revising the book for the second edition, I have noticed that as an inevitable result of my attempt to interpret many issues which require high levels of mathematics, which I tried to understand and interpret with a limited knowledge of mathematics, some of my statements are too simple and sometimes incomprehensibly vague; nevertheless I had diagnosed the main issues well and made a good interpretation of them. With the hopes of clearing up the horizons of this issue, and that you will tolerate some shortcomings of this book such as the quotations and repetitions
as well as difficulties of understanding that may occur due to the nature of these issues which are not even understood by humanity.
We see the rise of problems whose presence we started to notice, but nonetheless cannot understand in the 20th century.
But just because we do not understand them does not mean we can ignore them; we have to acknowledge their existence and discuss them. Because these are no longer the problems of the 19th or the 20th, but the problems of the 21st century.
They say that our ancestors in prehistoric times used to run big animals off the cliff to hunt them. The problems that we do not dwell on because we do not understand them, and the enormous destructive forces of the contemporary science devoid of wisdom and metaphysics are doing the same to us. In order not to fall off the cliff we have clung to one of the branches of the tree of knowledge. To say it in Tolstoy’s simile for the fated death; on the one hand we are clinging to the roots of the tree and try not to fall off the terrible cliff, and on the other hand we are trying to stick our tongue out and lick the honey which is somehow smeared on the roots of the tree.
January 2007, Istanbul
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Compassionate. By adhering to our ancient tradition from the bottom of my heart, let us start with the name of the Gracious and Compassionate Allah’s name that he may preserve and forgive us. El-hamdu lillâhi rabbi’l-âlemîn: Praise be to Allah who is the Lord of all worlds that exist now and also is not existent yet, and who creates and looks after and keeps their existence in a continuity and consistence. Praise and thanks be unto Him that, as master Sa’dî says: we need to thank Him for continuing to exist in our each inhale and exhale. It is impossible to thank enough. Both his providence and wrath exist so long as he continues our existence which is “smeared with nothingness”
and we owe endless gratitude as long as we exist. To use Yunus Emre’s exquisite words in this sense:
“As long as there is so much Being
Anxiety shall not come to an end.”
We pray and greet our guide prophet Mohammad that The light of the wisdom he conveyed has reflected onto all the past and present lovers of God,
and onto those exalted men in the history who are the pride of mankind,
and even to this humble servant to whose heart’s dark chamber a small ray of light from there has fallen and enlightened me. All that we have been told to write and have written, and the wisdom thereof belong to that light of wisdom. Since “the hearer ought to be wiser than the speaker”; then, let all the shortcomings and errors be attributed to those dull parts of my heart which has not been enlightened by that light, and to the lack of my knowledge and understanding, and be forgiven. May Allah remove all the darkness in our hearts, and bring us from darkness to light; and cover our mountain of sins with the candled night sky. In making us live and speak may this feeble servant have a tongue of ease, correctness of wording, and rightness of path and prevent our path from erring. May He bring our efforts to a nice closure, and let Him change the course of humanity who are aloof and disinterested in the matters of afterlife and to the world of spirituality for the better. Amen. This was our interjection, and from here on, it is for the work to speak for itself.
To examine the meaning and subjacent meaning, the meaning hidden in the existence, the purpose beyond the physical world, the principles prove and point out to the meaning and purpose of the world, in short to examine metaphysics has been the most ancient as well as the most difficult and persistent field of philosophical activity. The actual “wisdom” of the ancient philosophy is but this. However, the works that human mind has presented in this path, has only been able to show a limited success due to the aspects of this issue that are beyond human understanding. Things that took place in human history approximately since 300 years,
or at least since the French revolution has disgraced religion, spirituality and metaphysics; with the changing paradigms in science and philosophy, studies of metaphysics have been shunned from philosophy and considered to be a field that cannot be reached through rational thinking, and became an activity deemed to be a waste of time in the eyes of the philosophers. Yet, there is no need to describe the barbarity and the horrors of the world that we are living in today
which are brought about by the crude rationalist and materialist world views, for we all know it and live within it. I had expressed briefly expressed my thoughts on the need for a metaphysics for our age from the point of view of philosophy of history for the journal of ‘Knowledge and Wisdom’ which was requested the valuable author Ali Bulaç in my article called ‘Contemporary Interpretations for the King of Babel, Nebuchadnezzar’ and that article serves in a way as the core of the second part of this work.
I had written the first part of this work for the Annals of Turkish Writers’ Association in 1993 which was published with the title “Meaning and Subjacent meaning” which was about the principles of metaphysics that should exist in the background of a philosophy of history(or present even if unconsciously) and it was received very well. If we look closely, it will be seen that although this part has its references in footnotes, the continuation of this part which starts with the Ayat al-Kursi quotation, the references are given in the text, and they are written in two different styles. For, the second part was penned upon Prof. Dr. Ahmet İnan’s laudatory references to especially this article called “Meaning and Subjacent Meaning”, and upon his request from me to present my thoughts on history and epistemology in a conference that was organized by the Turkish Philosophy Association. Naturally, the references of the conference text (May 16, 1995) has been given within the text. Yet, I had pointed out beginning from the first chapter of ‘Meaning and Subjacent Meaning’ that this was not solely a Dîvân literature term, and was rather a matter of aesthetics and metaphysics, and had implied that I was going to write the rest. The courtesy of the Turkish Philosophy Association has been a good conduit for the realization of this promise, and thus it became a self fulfilling prophecy. As the people of old say, “his wisdom is unquestionable.” God knows what is right. The reasons for the transition of this matter from the methodology of history to more general issues of epistemology and therefore issues of physics and metaphysics were explained in the text. For having been written in different times and different styles, the way the references were given are also not alike, but the two texts do complete each other. In short, it was necessary to
Turn the references to footnotes in the second chapter like the first one for preserving the formal cohesion; however, I am not that much of a formalist, and thinking that “after all, it is the procedure to give the references within the text in this kind of writing.” hoping that this deformity may be excused and found it necessary to explain the story behind how this text came to be written. In this way I would like to thank the valuable members in the administration of the Turkish Philosophy Association for their courtesy who have made it possible for this work to be written.
Actually, while this work pithily expresses my views and theses on these issues in this form, the previous chapters can be considered as necessary prefaces that make up the pillars of the views proposed in later chapters about metaphysics, and the whole book itself can be considered as a metaphysical introduction. I have made a metaphysical grounding, taking the problem of continuum in the theories of mathematics and physics as the starting point. However, all the rumors of science ends here; after this point, it is a matter of “super-consciousness” and a matter of mysticism that relies on internal experience and witnessing. The people of old used to say: “Do not look at the speaker, look at the one who makes him speak”. If an inspiration comes and we shall have to say, and if it is in our destiny, perhaps the continuation of this issue would come. My success depends only to the hand of God.
Prof. Dr. Şahin Uçar
CONTEMPORARY INTERPRETATIONS TO THE DREAMS OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR, THE KING OF BABEL
In the name of Allah the most Merciful and Graceful.
“Kulle yevmin Huve fi şe’n” “He is in the act of creation every day: He is a Constant Creator who
creates cosmos every day.
-The Holy Quran
Jesus said: “Know well what your eyes behold; the rest of what you do not see will be revealed to you”. What do we see when we behold the world about us? How should we interpret the world that we see and live in? In short, what took hold of the humans? In appearance, modern life resembles a nightmare, a bad dream in many ways. Why do we feel alien to the society we live in and feel in our hearts the persistent ache of being homesick? Why did the position of human kind on earth turned into such a panorama of terror and frenzy? Each time we turn the TV on, scenes of anguish and screams come rushing to our minds from all over the world. We see people fighting in blood and sweat to earn their bread. In Bernard Shaw’s words: “Dirty money is begotten by interest and profit and every penny of it is mingled with crime, prostitution, and poverty and all their bad fruits.” Chaos and terror reigns the world; nightmarish is our life.
I saw recently while skimming over Spengler`s Decline of the West that he says: “The tradition of interpreting history by dividing it to eras is an ancient tradition left from the prophecy of Daniel as in the Holy Book. It appears to me that, as if, the pre-apocalyptic dark age mentioned in the holy books is this era. The Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Bronze age have come to pass and here we are at last in the Iron age. The relentless iron weapons of modern technology is pounding humanity, dividing it to pieces. We have to interpret the modern dream of history, which has now turned into a nightmare. Similar to Daniel’s interpretation of Babel’s King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream with his classification of four eras, we too need an interpretation of history; a new philosophy of history.
As told in the Holy Book’s section of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babel, having been depressed by the dreams he saw and thus being awaken, orders all the oracles and fortunetellers to be gathered to interpret his dream. There shall be no problems provided that his dreams are interpreted. The interpreters will be rewarded, but in the case of not being able to come up with a good interpretation, all of them will be killed. When oracles ask their king: “May our King tell us his dream that we can interpret his dreams?” the King of Babel replies: “The dream I have seen has gone out of my mind, I have forgotten it.” and adds; “You shall tell me my dream so that I understand you can interpret it.” Is it not true? If they cannot see what the King has dreamt, how are we to trust the truthfulness of their interpretations? As I contemplate the things we go through in the modern world, and see it on television, I agree with Nebuchadnezzar. What could be the meaning of this nightmare? How to interpret the reality we live in; the dream of history, the humankind has seen up to our day? First of all, are the events that took place a bad dream, or is it the reality; is this the reality of the world and humankind? How are we to interpret history and reality?
The Jewish race who had been living dispersed over the earth for thousands of years had the holiest of all lands: Their motherland was the Holy Book. They did not have a land on earth, but they lived by keeping to their Holy Book. After living for centuries with the dream of the land promised to them by God, finally they have acquired, Israel, an earthly motherland.
Yet, their land is no longer holy and it has become a piece of land that they consecrated by the bitterest oppressions in history. Even today, there are Jewish groups that are against the abuse of the message of the Holy book for secular Zionist political means; but it is no longer that same mentality which kept living by the Torah as the motherland, but the mentality of the rationalist and Machiavellian politicians… And it is not just the Jews but all humanity who have lost their thousands of years of Divinity. Humanity no longer lives in the peaceful world of the Holy Books. Today’s modern civilization is irreligious. To put it more correctly, it has taken up idols to itself since being irreligious is contrary to human nature.
Just as the Paris Commune which dethroned Christianity idolized progress and mind by making a statue of the human mind, or rather an unpleasant idol of it; in the same way, our contemporaries who no longer believe in reason and progress have started worshiping “Moloch” in the terms of the Holy Book, which idolizes the human thirst for power. Although it is said that “Justice is the foundation of property(mülk)”, the real foundation of “mülk” (that is Moloch) has only been the thirst for power. Perhaps we cannot show “anarchy” as an alternative to Moloch(the state); however, the alternative of anarchy should not be the domination, tyranny and oppression as the form of political sovereignty which is still practiced today. Plato’s diagnosis of humanity’s unchanging diseases: sovereignty, wealth and lust… The new trinity of the modern world is “sovereignty, money, and sex”; they worship these… The satanic character of the thirst for power allied itself with “dirty money” and by appealing not to the human characteristics but to the animal characteristics of humankind, it has created a modern idol of trinity. This is the trick that history played on modern humanity. The dream that reality has created, a bad dream, a horrible nightmare…
We need to understand well and interpret why this has happened to be so; why when humans dreamed of progress and achieving good things, every step and action towards realizing their passions and goals turn the world into their disadvantage in a way that they had never intended;
the meaning of this prank and harsh mockery that history has laid upon us, this bad dream… This brings us to the question of what is history?
The author of these lines thinks that the classical descriptions of history are wrong and he thinks that the perspective that we have chosen with good intentions, to see –naively– history as a knowledge of past times has deceived us tremendously. Benedetto Croce said: “The real history is contemporary history.” What he meant by this is that since the time of the historian is the modern time he has to evaluate the historical events with a modern perspective and he has to research the history inspired by the problems of his day. As a result, to look for similar events in history to our times, is the same as looking for modern events in hundreds of years old newspapers.
We may say that essentially all that we know and all the concepts are like the forgotten dreams of Nebuchadnezzar (if we look at it from an epistemological perspective). This means, that we have to discuss at least two theories of meaning. Every expression has always a real and symbolic meaning. As we have pointed out in the section Meaning and Subjacent Meaning of Existence “The medieval mentality were unable to discern between symbol and reality -allegorical meaning and real meaning were interwoven-. In the medieval times allegory and reality were not separate.” If we are to properly understand the dream that the humanity has seen so far until the 20th century, first we will have to learn to separate the real meaning and the symbolic meaning.
WHAT IS REALITY? (Not the reality that is in front of our eyes but the reality with all invisible realities, the whole complete reality). What is dream (the dream that we see when our senses are closed to the external world)? And what is interpretation? Which means, we have to discuss the meaning of “meaning”.
Id est, we first need to know the history and existence; for it is impossible to give a meaning to what we see unless we comprehend it. According to the Holy book,
Nebuchadnezzar had not seen just an ordinary dream; and his soul was not depressed for naught. The dream in the book of Daniel is so narrated and interpreted that -under the symbolic meaning- lies a view of segmenting history into periods. We have to discuss this “dream of history”. Because our adventure took place in history and we know all what we know through reference to history. But to understand this dream of history we have to understand meaning and symbolic meaning and we have to discuss the meaning of meaning through semantics too. This means the interpretation of epistemology, ontology, and our dream of history (all the thoughts actions of humanity that emerged in the history).
That is the meaning of the profound saying of prophet Jesus: “Know what is in front of thy eyes, and the rest shall be revealed.”
The animals too see and feel the external world of the five senses, but to comprehend it through thoughts derived from revelation, and to form them anew is a human capability. Is our notion of the invisible world only a poetic inspiration? It may be so! But the exaltation of humanity, his thought and all of its historical adventures begin with this revelation. First comes the word, then the world of symbolic meanings created by that word, and when this world of symbols are not adequate enough, then comes the world of subjacent meanings expressed by the super-language of symbols.
When we carefully observe the historical dreams of Nebuchadnezzar and the interpretations of these forgotten dreams, we understand that if we are to make a satisfactory and a good interpretation, we have to discuss matters of history, physics, metaphysics, and epistemology altogether. We cannot stay in the boundaries of scientific specialization here; for these matters are very intricate and intertwined. We have to reconsider and reinterpret first and foremost the concept of history as well as many other concepts. When we attribute meanings to such words as nature(Physics), and history, even though we may not consciously be aware of it, semantically, epistemologically, metaphysically, cosmogonically, cosmologically and theologically,
we express our interpretations and preferences. Therefore if these matters are taken as distinct and different categories, some inevitable errors will occur. To be able to clarify the conducive reasons for this claim, we will need to begin inspecting the meaning and subjacent meaning of the word history, or the “dream of history”. To do this we should begin with linguistics, and semantics, from the etymology of the word history.
WHAT IS HISTORY? As our master Ibn-i Haldun expressed: “on understanding history men of knowledge and men of ignorance are equal.” For the simple and external meaning of history is but the story of past events. It does not make any difference whether our knowledge about such unique, unparalleled, individual mass of events that are the products of a specific time and place, are small or vast. For, as long as there is no order or a principle for such a chaos of events it has no meaning. As to its inherent meaning, as Ibn-i Haldun says: “History is a research about the causes of the occurrences of the universe (searching the essence of issue), and the initial principles (the causes) of these matters are quite impenetrable.” When Ibn-i Haldun says occurrences he might have meant the historical events but when we talk about history by holding on to the original Arabic word meaning “primary causes”, we mean to show our inclination towards not only of human history but the whole history of all events, including the history of nature.
As it is known, and as master Ibn-i Haldun points out, the literal meaning of the word history is telling the story of past events. But we prefer the etymological meaning of the word in the dictionary. The word history, which in Hebrew comes from the word “verrehe” means to see the crescent moon, i.e. the designation and recording of events according to the moon calendar; that is to say, the designation and recording of events chronologically. The word ‘history’ which is derived from the Greek word ‘istoria’ has also the same meaning. But Toynbee says that the word ‘istorein’ in Ionian Greek means investigation, and analysis of the truth.
In ancient Greece ‘istoria’ was understood as “a search about information on events”. It is said that insisting on words is pedantry, but the etymological meaning of history was a matter of dispute throughout the history of philosophy. Because the surface meaning of history which is understood as knowledge about individual and specific situations and events this subject matter was considered to be unfit for the act of theoria, that is, theoretical explanations. Starting with Aristotle, philosophers undervalued history because of this meaning of it, and as Ibn-i Haldun points out they considered it to be an incomprehensible mass of information. A perfect documentation of these discussions are present in Doğan Özlem’s book titled ‘Philosophy of History’. For this reason we do not intend to repeat the discussions emerging from the etymological meaning of the word “history” (not that it is trivial but it would prolong the matter unnecessarily). For now we find it enough to make a passing reference to the book of Doğan Özlem for the contrast of ‘theoria versus istoria’.
But if history means the record of events, and if we consider that there is not only a history of humanity but also a natural history, according to us history is all that occurred in the past and the records of all of those occurrences. Doubtless, when it is defined in this way, everything known, that is, all human knowledge is included in the field of history. Of course such limitlessness and lack of demarcation is not appropriate for a discipline. Yet, although historians usually believe they are writing about and examining the history of humanity, the reality is not as simple as historians presume it to be. For even though a historian may not mention everything that makes him human when narrating historical events –that is his world view, cosmogony, understanding of metaphysics, and his orientation derived from theological matters– all of these influence every sentence of the history he is writing and narrating, and shape his dream of history. This is a matter which no historian can abscond. There are utterly objective historical records that are written just as reports,
and actually this is the ideal form of writing unless the historian consciously deals with the philosophy of history. For instance Taberi in his historical writing, contents himself solely with reporting various historical accounts. The Timetables of History which is written with the same chronological style is another example of this. But even if we set aside the question of whether such annuals are to be accepted as histories in the modern sense, it could only superficially be possible for even such works to document history objectively as mere reports. Even when narrating past events without commentaries, we do not limit ourselves with the past without making any interpretations, and we cannot. Because we do not tell everything that was known in the past and we practically cannot. From the things that we know, we tell the events that we believe are historically important to be told, and the things that we consider to be important according to our historical perspective. The historian sifts history from a sieve and writes only what passes through that sieve. However this is not a standard sieve that we may accept to have an extensional existence, and it is only present in the mind of the historian who is using it. Therefore the size of the holes of this sieve changes from historian to historian.
Actually whatever is in the past is history (and that is the meaning of history); but which events in the history are to be regarded as historically important and which events should be selected and recorded is an issue that each historian has to decide on their own. History is the story of past events: Alright, fine, but what should the historian write? All the events? Such a thing is impossible.
First of all it is practically impossible, for the historian writes about a particular event, and of course the historian should write about whatever ou wants to tell. Ou would not write about what ou sees to be irrelevant. Still what ou narrates about the topic ou is about is not everything that ou knows about it, but what ou considers to be important. What is the historian writing about if not the whole history? The answer is a simple one: Ous own preferences, and that which ou considers is necessary to be told, that is, according to ous world view and understanding of history. Historical events are actually events of “preference”.
Now we ask: why should history be restricted by the preferences of any historian; is there a logic to this?
Since there is no logic to this, history is the whole of events that occurred in the past; and the historian decides which event is important. For some, the political decision mechanisms, for others the history of thought, for others yet institutions etc. We say that history is not what we tell according to our preferences, but –theoretically– all the events that took place in the past. It is doubtless that both Newton’s law of gravitation and Plato’s theory of ideas are history. Albeit, the mentioned examples are considered to belong to the fields of physics and philosophy, these have directed the path of history by influencing the events on a much persistent way. So far these two examples are two great historical events and only a fool may reject it. If we summarize, history includes all the events in the past and in this sense, it is the accumulation, the total sum of all human knowledge and wisdom. Essentially we all owe all our knowledge and wisdom to history, and we learn it through historical sources.
Ghazali in his book el-Munkiz declares that “if someone does not possess a science to its highest degree, one cannot come to understand the faults of that science.” Now, our attribution to historical knowledge of being and including all human knowledge and wisdom makes it a holistic science. However, what is told of history above also points out to its biggest weaknesses. Of course not every historian can, as Ibn-I Haldun does, evaluate and criticize all the human knowledge and build a whole philosophy of history. Furthermore, modern historians attribute the role of philosophy of history to sociology and even dislike philosophy of history. This is a long and multifaceted matter. In short, according to historians “historical events occur in a certain place and time” that is, they are unique events. This is already dictated by the practice or method of giving time and place (we have already mentioned that the word history is about chronologically arranging and cataloging of events). A unique situation is a unique situation; it cannot be generalized: its comparison and classification is impossible. In conclusion,
no theory or idea can be produced from the knowledge of unique events. However, all historians are human beings;
they have opinions and beliefs that they share or do not share with their associates; and ous style of thinking influences every line of the events of the history ou describes. That is, they certainly have a world view and a philosophy of history. Historians might consider these opinions the universal practice of history, known by all and exempt from explanation, that everyone accepts. That is, most historians are philosophers of history who deny they are engaging in philosophy of history, because there is no other way in practice: they may, however, be unaware of this.
An English poet says that: “Modern people began to find in a forty feet electric dynamo, the spiritual power that the ancient Christians found in the cross.” History is not a past that is left in the past; its influence continues in present time and it shapes today. It can be said that “in reality the dead govern the living”. For instance, the orientation of the world of Islam was ordained by prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and for instance, modern Turkey’s orientation; although it may be changing nowadays, our state policy today is still steered by Atatürk. We address the living, and of course our audience is not the dead; but we always have to carry the ideas of the dead. For the dead which lie in their graves still rule the world. Those who established the status quo, those who shaped our world are of course the people who lived in the past. The path to understand today passes through history.
We are interested in history only to understand today in order to decide on our orientation. Why should we be interested in the past? Of course it is possible to be interested in history solely out of curiosity as people who collect stamps and catalogue events. Actually this is the real meaning of history: to catalog events chronologically, to define their occurrence date, to date them. But it is not enough for me to be merely interested in the past events as “only history in itself”, since I have been engaged in the philosophy of history for a long time, and I was in the pursuit of building a philosophy of history of my own.
miyor: And I say that, the priority for us is a style of “scientism” as “science for science”; or to put it in a better way, not a science “in pursuit of power” as of the western kind, but a scientific endeavor “to learn how we are supposed to live wisely”; to live in order to gain wisdom, which we define by our own free will.
If we were content with the world we are living in, we could be satisfied in living the present like the primitives, children and if it is right to say so, like animals. Perhaps it is not very good for us, but we have a history and a memory. José Ortega y Gasset once said: “Humans have no nature, they have a history”. There is no doubt that if we had an animal nature, and lived solely in the present like the children, we would have been happier. Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi said: “Sufi İbnü’l-Vakt başed Ey Refik” (The Sufi, has to be the son of time; he should not carry anxiety over past and future). But unfortunately in todays world this is not quite possible. This means that we do not even need to be interested in the present if we have no thoughts of planning and shaping the future; an objective, an ideal, a utopia, or a vision of future, a world view, that is, with its broadest meaning, a religion. What is the use of knowing and understanding the status quo of today? Of course we can say “Allah knows what to do” (la yus`el emma yef’al!).
Allah does what Allah wishes, Allah’s wisdom is not to be questioned or that this small mind needs not know the meaning of God’s deeds and we could be content in taking care only of our own lives. But if we have thoughts of planning our future, controlling and creating policies; at that moment it means that we need to know well and understand the world that we are living in. Thus in order to understand the status quo of today we need to understand history well. However, if understood this way the meaning of history as a source of inspiration to shape today, to be interested in the events of history that are relevant to the status quo and with today will come up.
There is a huge history in the past; many things have happened and actually to know everything that happened is a condition that God alone can have. The historian, even if he really wished to, cannot know the whole history, and we say that he does not need to know anyway. What he needs to know
is the historical events that are necessary for him when thinking about the status quo, or today. Described this way history is about the present and the future rather than the past. In this condition history inevitably transforms into history of philosophy: and I should add right away that essentially it is impossible for any historian to refrain from engaging in philosophy of history, wittingly or unwittingly, adequately or inadequately. Humanity has seen a dream of history, however it has forgotten what it has seen like the king of Babel Nebuchadnezzar. Essentially it is interested in the interpretation of the dream rather than the dream itself. Of course it is more important to be interested in how this dream of history will effect the present and the future for the living men of action.
Now, with your permission I want to use this dream simile one more time to inquire upon the nature of existence. Really, what is the true nature of existence? WHAT IS TRUTH? Including history, what difference does the whole creation, and material world have from the dream of Nebuchadnezzar? Descartes too contemplated this issue and said that the reality could not be more than a dream. Descartes who is essentially from the skeptic tradition says in his book “Discourse on the Method” that he was capable of thinking even in his dreams, and furthermore that he could solve math problems and believed his dream to be reality; and although he said “cogito ergo sum/I think therefore I am”, he proposed this as an evidence for the former argument. Hence “we suppose we think, but our thought might also be a dream. Long before him Ghazali pointed out to this and said “Just as the person who only perceives with his five senses is a stranger to those things which are perceived by the mind, in the same way, when the eye of the heart* opens (and to him heart* is the mind, not the organ), it is possible to see that the waking-life vision could also be a dream, and in fact this is how it is” This opinion is also present for instance in the eyes of the scholastics in their atomistic theories which are consistent with their world view.
As far as I know, similar conclusions were drawn out from quantum mechanics to those of scholastics*********** In his book `The Birth of Scientific Philosophy` Hans Reichenbach asks a question anew which is found in the old Ash’ari Scholastics with pretty much the same expressions in and quite seriously after expounding on physics and atomistic theories: “To what extent do objects have a property of continuity? For instance does objects stand where they are when I don`t look or could it be that they disappear?” We think our common sense is adequate enough to decide on worldly affairs (but is it really enough?). But there is a vision behind the matter of existence and beyond that a world view; in the background of which lies a metaphysical understanding of religion and God. Doubtless, it is possible to identify yourself with a vision without religion: such as in modern ‘scientism’, but I want to say that here we are in front of a crossroads, and we have to choose.
We are living in a time of disbelief; well, are we going to have a faith or not? Are we going to choose faith or scientism? More directly, are we going to believe in God or not? This choice is very important in order to understand events and to have a vision; for it influences the tiniest of details in our world view and the way we understand events. As long as it is on the level of street talk, it is perfectly possible to utter some thoughts about history and the world even without getting into the nitty-gritty. Seriously then, do we really want to comprehend the TRUTH and are we going to give the time and effort to accomplish this? This is the issue at hand and we are facing a problem which we cannot escape.
I want to express the problem once more in this way: Although all cultures from long had a spirituality, or had been religious; even atheists were present in the metropolises of civilization and they too had their arguments and evidences. However, be it Christian or Muslim theologians, they have made some misleading statements on this most basic theological issue.
kullanmışlardır. The three groups of main objections made by atheists in their own reasoning on the impossibility of the existence of God namely that the matter existed forever and was not created; that if God really existed why did Ou not show himself, and the problem of theodicy, i.e. the evils and imperfections in the universe) are only partially valid for Judaic, Christian and Islamic conceptions of God. That is, they might be right in criticizing an anthropomorphic conception of God; however there are also pantheist, panentheist, immanent and deist conceptions of God, and at least as far as I have seen none of these atheist arguments can be valid for such conceptions of God. Let us not confuse the reactions which atheists give to the anthropomorphic Christian conceptions of God with the Islamic conception of God. This much of Western imitation is indeed too much.
On the other side, there is a huge difference of understanding between scholastic theologians and Sufi theologians in terms of their conceptions of God, and I am in the opinion that atheist arguments are totally invalid for sufi types understandings.
I do not want to enter this dangerous and hard to understand issue. For way of obligation I have to say as much as it can be said. First of all we have to ask the question “Do we comprehend existence as an unchanging and stable continuity; that is, does existing objects exist forever in space and time; is their existence contiguous? As Heraclitus expressed existence is ‘being’ in time; it is historical in all the senses of that word; it is a process of being in time; it is a sequence of events and it is variable; that is, it has no contiguity in space. Newton’s ideas of absolute time and space are no longer accepted in modern physics. Einstein does not accept the idea of absolute time and space. “Continuum”, as with the specific Latin term, is an issue that Al Farabi tried to explain in his essay ‘On the Vacuum’ by comparing it with a container filled with water. This question of “does vacuum exist in nature?” is still a topic of hot debate in theories of modern physics (nature, ontology) even today, and it has to stay hot too. To express our opinion in the most exact way in once sentence:
“For us, opposite to the dispositions of Einstein’s theories, not space but on the contrary, time must be taken as a reference frame, in accord with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics and it should be accepted that ‘material objects’ create the space and dimension as a process in time”. Modern physics has chosen the right direction by rejecting absolute space, but this should be done by melting absolute space in the continuum of absolute time.
As Yalçın Koç shows in his book called ‘Determinism and Space’, determinism and other such materialist and scientific inclinations are natural consequences of taking space as the as the actual frame of existence. I am in the opinion that some aspects of the quantum mechanics could be better understood if the continuum of time is taken as a reference frame, and if it is accepted that objects resemble ‘being in process’. Hence I present this opinion to the attention of people in our country who are dealing with the theory of this subject such as Yalçın Koç. [Ahmed Yüksel Özemre, the first atom physicist of Turkey has passed away and since this book is now translated into English these opinions are now available to the theoreticians and practitioners of this science.] There is also Samuel Alexander’s ‘Space, Time, and Deity’ with his idea of “point instants” as a similar interpretation of quantum mechanics. This is essentially in their field of specialization and we can only enter the field with a sort of cosmological argument, as a postulate of God in order to build a new metaphysics, since this is a vision which compels the acceptance of a mystical divine power, or in short the existence of a God that constantly creates for the matter to be possible and necessary in time. Even if understood as point instants, it is the act of constant creation that provides the continuation of time itself, and it is guaranteed by the constant creation of the Ever-Creator. For the continuum of time itself is unimaginable. Yet it is the dream that we see everyday, our perpetual human experience.
I do not think that there is any atheist argument against such a conception of nature and God, and I do not think there could be. Let me conclude this issue by adding this in order not to be misunderstood:
In my opinion the theological and philosophical arguments on the nature of the divine is an impertinence of the audacious human mind; a foolish attempt to fill the Atlantic Ocean in a cup. Mankind cannot even comprehend the truth and creation or the universe in its material aspects. The whole universe professes with its courses to the existence of God; but philosophical and theological discussions on God’s nature should be considered as going beyond the limits of logical reasoning. However this is the most fundamental issue in metaphysics: If you do not think about God you cannot think about anything. As a beautiful sayings of his Holiness Jesus which is one of my most beloved quotations say: “Thou shall know the truth and it shall set you free”. Our age has physics, but it does not have a metaphysic to complement it and to give it meaning. A world without a metaphysic lacks a foundation like a pyramid built upside down; therefore its ontology is devoid of meaning and absurd. A world that has lost its ontological basis can have no epistemology, no logic, neither a hierarchy nor a system. After idolizing the mind with the French revolution, and after the trinity of “mind, nature, and progress” modern civilization finally added to it the idol of “scienticism” which is but an instrument of the ambition for power, and has come to a visionless and faithless technology of horror and frenzy. This situation has brought us, in spite of all the pains that were taken; to the edge of the precipice that we will eventually have to fall from. The whole world today is craving for a faith and some groundless faiths such as astrology and similar fortunetellings are now as widespread as it was in the time of Nebuchadnezzar. Just because of this, I was obliged to point out to my perspective which considers the existence to be a process in time. But, actually this is both a creator and a sustainer that provides the continuity of matter in time (by ever giving the quantum waves a particle character) as in an Ayet in Quran “Kulle yevmin huve fi shen”. In short a belief of God, both immanent and transcendental is presented here in answer to contemporary atheist arguments.
This explanation against the idea that the matter was not created but that it has forever existed is enough for now. (I should also say that I am trying to write a book which will serve as a prologue to metaphysics that deals with these issues in more detail). The argument of the imperfections and evils that are present in the universe is so simple that it does not worth an explication. As to the issue that God does not reveal itself explicitly, the Mystics say that “God is invisible due to the dread of Ous appearance.” As is proclaimed in the holy Quran Allah is the light of heaven and land… Eyes see through God and everything exists with him. Allah is the creator of the creation and it is through his constant creation that everything exists. Allah is the Ever-Creator and everything that is in the continuity of time exists through Allah.
Id est, the modern disbelief which has eventually destroyed the vision and understanding of humanity, the disbelief of civilization, is humankind’s most prior problem. As a result, the inclination to idolize possession, state, and society, which in its ultimate analysis serves the ambition of power, is the fruit of this disbelief. As it is said in Torah “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.” Western science as established by Newton, Descartes, Hobbes and the likes of them in the form that has carried on to our age is irreligious. To be more accurate, it worships power, and it is a vehicle to gain power; a vehicle to govern nature, environment, and humans. Even law, in spite of the uproars of natural law in the age of enlightenment, has become an over-formalist, a soulless protectorate of moloch (possession), status quo and a basis for political sovereignty, without a philosophy to it. The modern trinity, the three idols of the scienticism is all but “ambition for power, money and sex”. The collaboration of the ambition of power and dirty money brought forth states and politicians that are mediating servants for the international corporations to rob the people, and are subservient to the profits of these international corporations which cannot even be identified as to whom they are. An alienation that has never been witnessed in any age of history before is occurring. Henceforth the alienation of the labor is nations-wide and some countries are the slaves of others; furthermore it can be said that the whole humankind is becoming slaves.
A race of spectators have emerged that are drugged, brain-washed, made dumb, and robotized by the ostensibly comfortable technologies, communication capabilities, and multi-purpose techs. What mighty and brilliant progress is this that it thus reduced human beings to the level of inanimate robots? Like the diaspora of the Jews that once scattered around the world, the pious people of the world today are bound to live in small groups among the disbelieving masses by taking refuge in their holy book and creating a land out of it. People with faith and vision can keep existing
by taking refuge in their holy land like the Jews did once, by taking refuge in their holy book and making a homeland out of it. In fact many faithful people today are doing so and living as a diaspora. But if we have a consolation, it is that if there will be such a promised homeland it will be the holiest of all homes: the holy books (which for the Muslims is the old Qur’an). His holiness Jesus have proclaimed that “Humans do not live just by money or bread but by every word of the God”. Of course the answer that Tolstoy gives in his story ‘What Men Live By’ is in line with this: “It is God who makes men live and die”. We are living in a world where religion, morality, law, social justice, and peace do not exist. We can bear it only through faith.
We said that this age has a physic, but no metaphysic whereas its most important need is a metaphysic. But this is not intended as an invitation for the scholastic mentality of course. We should get rid of the disease of trying to prove faith and trying to derive everything, even the sects, from the holy books. We need to acquire and attain to a belief that has its principal source in staying loyal to the truth, and believing in the unseen; namely a ‘fideist’ belief: loyalty to the original covenant with God. First we need belief, then we have to build a morality based on this belief, then a law built upon this foundation of morality, and at last we have to built a new orientation which takes the future of humanity in consideration. If we accomplish this, the curtains in front of our eyes will be removed and our sight will be cleared and when we will be able to know that which is in front of our eyes, we will see that God’s grace will reveal to us what are invisible to us. As a Sufi says: “When you pass the sands and enter the sea, no foot tracks will remain”.
THE MEANING AND THE SUBJACENT MEANING
“Bismillah, Ve alleme Âdeme el-esmâe külleha.”: (And God taught Adam all the names)
The Holy Quran
“The meaning of knowledge is to profess the signs of God.
which is born to my heart as an untouched pearl to an oyster”
[From the Dîvân of the author of this book]
“Since we cannot change the reality,
let us change our eyes which perceive it.”
A Byzantine Mystic
What is the “mazmûn”(content) of this article? How should the term ‘Mâzmûn’ (that which is expressed by implication, the hidden and subjacent meaning) be explained? Once upon a time, those who have translated the Upanishads to Latin said: Ou is the greatest secret (id est secretum tegendum). What is the “greatest secret”? Philosophy (Socrates) says: ‘know thyself’; mystics say: “men arefe nefsehu fe-kad arefe rabbehu” (he who knows himself knows his God); the artist tries to know and express the creation through introspection; even the scientist tries to examine the world of creation and tries to discover the inlaid general principles of its order: the greatest mystery is the existence itself and following our own method, all of us in some way or another try to penetrate its mystery.
1. Schopenhauer has read this Latin translation of Upanishads and wrote on his indebtedness to this text in building his philosophy.
As the poet says: “Because everything is but this way, and this way is the way of life, and passing through this way, everyone comes to the garden of roses!”. Goethe was asked “Which is the ‘great secret’? What is the greatest secret?” He said: “The open secret, the known mystery” and continued “the one that is perceived almost by no one although it is evident and open to all”. Because the secret meaning behind the ‘apparent’ reality is an “open secret” that not everyone can see. Here is the “intrinsic and inherent meaning (mazmun) of existence”, “the greatest secret”, the greatest mystery. Again, Goethe says: “Every eye sees, but sees what it recognizes”. If we are to express it in Fichte’s terms: The existence -whose mystery only so few can penetrate- is: “The idea of divine universe that hides behind the world of appearances.” Provided that we can get rid of the limiting and reductive perspective of rational thought, the main ideas of Plato, “The Truth, The Good and The Beautiful” -however it may be seen from different angles- are but the varying manifestations of this “greatest secret”;
a single whole that constitutes a unity. As the Taoist philosopher Choung Tzou says: “one, is one, and is not one, but one is nevertheless one”. As once Magnificent Sultan Suleiman had said:
“Kadd-i yâri kimi halkın serv okur kimi elif
Cümlenin maksûdu bir ammâ rivâyet muhtelif”
Although there are different accounts of what happens, first of all the reality has a language of its own, which is perceived by intuition. The way Heraclitus understands the reality is right: the matter is in constant change and flux; you cannot bath in the same river twice. [One of his extreme followers exclaimed: “Not even once!”]. The meaning and subjacent meaning of this is that the ever changing things cannot be comprehended or understood by the mind. Such a reality could only be intuitively grasped! Heraclitus said: “The sun rises anew everyday.” As expressed in a verse of Quran(55:29): “Kulle yevmin huve fi sen” (God is in constant making of the universe). Allah creates the universe anew each moment; Ou is always in a new formation and everything is perpetually changing and renewing.
2. T. Carlyle, Heroes and Hero-worship in History, “The Hero as Poet”, New York
1885, pg. 78.
Great poets know how to express the secrets of this reality, nature, and existence; which with the normal tools of language are impenetrable. All the daily words that we use today when they were first invented, were products of revelation that belonged to the poetic language. For a real poet words are tools of studying the secrets, and penetrating this constantly changing existence by using human experience and culture which is accumulated in the language. The poet, by following his revelation, sympathy comprehends the “existence” via the medium of language, expresses it and by increasing the field of perception of himself and his fellowmen, and in a way by reshaping the world; ou enchants it. The poet is the human who animates the matter by naming it. Whatever was the significance of the word when human has learnt the names of all things and tried to enchant the “being” by using it; in brief, when he became human, it still is the same today: Just like that first human, we are not merely expressing ourselves with words, but in the same time we are trying to enchant the existence by using them; by influencing people and matters, we are enchanting them. We are all, amateur or professional, magicians. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said somewhere:
“The folk may not understand poetry, and even may pretend to hate poetry; but all of them are poets and mystics”. They are poets because they use countless symbols, and they are mystics for they believe in words: symbolic language is universal for language itself is a system of symbols.
Briefly, in most of our human activities, from the linguistic point of view, we too are using the language as a tool for directing people and commanding over the matters just like the primeval people. Hz. Prophet Mohamed in a hadith said: “indubitably poetry is wisdom; language is magic”. Obviously not every poem and not every word… Language is our tool for studying the greatest mystery, which is almost perceived by none although it is evident to all; the mystery that is invisible due to the severity of its appearance: This is the real significance of language.
3. R. W. Emerson, Essays, London 1947, pg. 212.
“The purpose of language is to profess the existence of God.
My heart is born like a pearl from an oyster shell”
Every word is a symbol and every symbol has a significance The word Mazmun itself is a metaphor: Bedouin Arabs used to call pregnant camels ‘mezamin’. and the unborn baby whose gender is unknown “mazmun”. They also used to call the amount of date trees in a certain region as “mazmun” In poetry, when a couplet’s meaning is not concluded and has to be evaluated along with the proceeding couplet, these kind of couplets are called “muzammen” couplets. Hence, as an addition to the external meaning of words which are the products of poet’s revelation, the subjacent meaning which lie beneath the surface meaning also came to be called ‘mazmun’. Hence the saying ‘the meaning is in the womb of the poet’. Just like the young of a camel is ‘mazmun’, the meaning in the womb of a poet is ‘mazmun’. Thus ‘mazmun’ is the inner meaning kept hidden by the surface appearance. So, Mazmun is the INTERNAL hidden meaning that the external apparent meaning refers to.
So says Fuzûli in the introduction of the Persian Dîvân: “That mighty Organizer puts together the images of the material world and the subjacent meanings of the world of spirits put together the chain of creation with such a beauty and subtlety that the eyes in the world of images which observe, look into its beauty and sink into a sea of wonder. And those mazmuns who probed into that world of meanings and take delight in it have becometh mute and dumb as they think and explore this
4. Şahin Uçar, Şeyda Divanı, “Tevhid Kasidesi”, Sivas 1980.
5. Ibn Menzur, Lisanu’l-Arab, Beirut, without a date, in the article of “Zımn”.
Great God whose manifestation and immanence has created such a beautiful poetry that everyone whether they see it from outside or inside
join its chain of beauty and become captivated.
It is known that they say divan literature is a literature of ‘mazmun’s (symbols). The significance of language should not only be studied through literature but with a multi-faceted orientation; For if it is only in the constraints of divan literature, it is only a technical term whose significance and meaning is relevant only to the experts. This technical and historical meaning of the term is not so important for me; but the term “mazmun” expresses the process of conceptualization so well that it demands emphasis from the perspective of the philosophy of language. To direct our attention to this matter and to be a source of inspiration it is necessary to remind a few nice books that were lately printed on this matter: Mine Mengi’s writings “Thoughts on Mazmûn” and “The First Offspring of Meaning”; and like Ahmet Talat Bey’s “Mazmuns in Divan Literature” published by the valuable researcher Cemal Kurnaz. A similar book was Agah Sırrı Levent’s “Divan Literature and Mazmûns”. A book of the same character is the “Dictionary of Divan Poetry” which was written by Iskender Pala. I. Pala in his article “Mazmun’s Mazmun” explains the term “mazmun” in Divan literature rightly as “the meaning hidden in the word” These have inspired me to write my thoughts on the mazmûn of language.
6. A. N. Tarlan, The Persian Divan of Fuzuli, Istanbul 1950, pg. 2.
7. M. Mengi. “Bikr-i ma’nâ” (Dergah Journal, pg.1 and “Thoughts on Mazmûn” (Dergah Journal, pg. 34); I. Pala, “The Mazmûn of Mazmûn” (Dergah Journal, pg. 35) and the same author’s, Dictionary of Divan Poetry, A. Talat’s, Mazmun in Divan Literature (Cemal Kurnaz Publication, Ankara 1992) A. Sırrı Levent’s, Divan Literature, Words and Symbols, Concepts and Mazmûns (Istanbul 1980) etc.
These have inspired us to write our thoughts on the Mazmun of KELAM.
However, the mazmun of the word is infinite. It is in some respects historical and belongs to the history of literature; yet let historians of literature deal with this technical and historical aspects; I would not like to detain my readers with boring details. In passing, as an introduction, I will of course explain my thoughts on this matter. Yet, talking about poetry is something like talking about a cage without a bird in it; however, let us quickly interject that, if a lot of the attributions made upon the mazmûns in Divan literature -and it “appears to be a possibility, even if a very slim one”, that the mentioned poets in these so called explanations could have intended these meanings- rather than saying something I am not very sure about, let me give a couple of examples from my own Dîvân(Not because I value my Dîvân more than it is worth; but because the symbols I know best are the ones that I have used myself there). R. Waldo Emerson says that: “Poets say big and meaningful things the meanings of which they do not understand themselves!”. It is not said in vain that “Meaning is in the bosom of the poet.”… Yet, the speaker and the level and quality of the things he speaks are proportional too. The word is the description of the person speaking. The people of old used to say: “the person is the same as the way he speaks.”
Actually, the mazmun of the word should be taken in its widest sense and not only as a term of divan literature. Therefore one aspect of the issue should be semantics. On the other hand this is an aesthetic term due to its connectedness with the poetic language. Furthermore, there are many discussions in linguistics that we cannot delineate here about whether
8. R. W. Emerson, Essays, pg. 25.
The conviction that poetic language being older that prose, and according to us, even to the origins of the language is a wide-spread one; because language is “the product of divine inspiration”. The issue of whether the language is inspirational or emerged through consensus; or in other words, whether the symbol’s correspondence with the symbolized is a natural one, or one that is created by agreement as a symbolic convention is disputed since Heraclitus. Since in Heraclitus’s thinking Logos (language) is the fundamental idea and the “originating principle” (nisus formativus); according to Heraclitus the origin of the language is divine and the correlation of the symbol to the symbolized is natural. Democritus adopts the theory of language as a convention and a human product. Plato had an attitude of reconciliation between these two. Christian thought follows Heraclitus. Although the idea that language is innate and God-given dominates in Islamic thought in accord with the ayah which is quoted in the beginning of this article, there has also been some who sided with the other idea and which were justified by some other verses in the Quran.
Furthermore, there are countless disputes about whether language is a work of divine inspiration or a work of human convention.” since ancient Greece that we cannot go into the details of those arguments here. And of course this is a theological issue. “Haleka’l-insan:
allemehu’l-beyan”: God created humans, God taught them language.
Moreover, even in the 20th century philosophy there were many debates on whether the intuitive or the discursive rational thought was a better epistemological method to understand the mazmun which is not comprehended by all, or as Goethe said “the open secret”. This side of the matter requires indulging both in philosophy and in the theological discussions of the mystics. All of these matters should also be examined from the perspective of philosophy of history: for it is said that “language is the archive of history”; because it is the transmitter of culture. The famous English critic William Hazlitt says “If history is a serious subject it could be said that poetry is a much more serious subject: its inclusiveness is much wider and its roots are deeper”. Whitehead says “Language is the incarnation of the mentality of its creators”. I had mentioned the place of poetry and art in philosophy in my article “Poetry and Knowledge”. There is also the fact that there cannot be an epistemology that is not based on language: every kind of thought requires an inquiry from its linguistic aspect, especially from the perspective of semantics.
Democritus identifies with the conventional theory of language: that is, “language is a human product” Plato tried to console these two views. Christian thought follows Heraclitus.
Whereas in Islam, while the idea that language is inspired and innate has been predominant, there have also been proponents of the consensus theory who justified their position with ayahs in the Quran.
9. Mehmed el-Antâkî, el-Veciz fî Fıkhü’l-Lüga, Darü’ş-şark publishing house,1969, pg. 55.
10. see: H. Bergson, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion. Also see: M. Şekip Tunç, (Bergson and Several Conferences on Divine Might), Istanbul
11. W. Hazlitt, Lectures on English Poets, New York 1892, pg. 10.
12. A. N. Whitehead, The Aims of Education, London 1970, pg. 102.
13. See: Ş. Uçar, “Şiir ve Marifet”, İlim ve Sanat Dergisi, February 1991. (“Poetry and Knowledge”, Science and Art Magazine)
Actually this matter requires a multi disciplinary and intertextual examination from every aforementioned discipline. In relation with the “Open secret” Bâyezid-i Bistâmî said: “You cannot find out this secret by searching; however, those who find it are only those who search it.”
Before we move onto the descriptions of “mazmun” I would like to remind that words are not mirrors that reflect the objects as they are; on the contrary, they are veils. To try to describe a word through other words in order to unfold the veil is only concealing the truth by covering it with other veils which will have to be removed in order to reach it. Objects can be described; not the words, because words are only symbols: to describe a symbol with another symbol is getting farther away instead of approaching it. Bergson says: that We may attribute whatever meaning we would like to words, so long as we define their meaning first; but it would be a mistake to do so when we happen to be dealing with a word which corresponds to a natural division or continuity of things: the most we can do then is to exclude from the extension of the term such things that had accidentally been included in it. The same needs to be done for Mâzmûn. We had already given the dictionary definition of the word. One more thing: semantics expert Hayakawa says:
Although the formulation of “Let us define our terms, until we know what we are talking about!” is quite popular among the academic circles, it is not realistic (and therefore it is a superstition). For example, just because a golf player cannot define golf terms does not mean he cannot understand or use them. On the other hand, just because a person can define a many things does not guarantee that they can know to which objects or operations these are associated.
14. H. Bergson, (The Two Sources of Religion and Morality) Pg. 282.
People suppose that once you define something, a sort of understanding is established: ignoring the fact that the words in definition often conceal even more serious confusions and ambiguities than the word defined. If, when we realize this, we try to describe those ambiguous terms, we find ourselves in a vicious cycle, ad infinitum. Because contrary to popular belief, definitions do not tell us anything about the objects. They only describe the linguistic habits of the folk. That is to say, they tell us what sort of noises do people make under which circumstances.
Indeed, the definitions in dictionaries are also suspicious. Because, they are only historical records about what was being understood of a word in the time of the publication of those dictionaries. In that case, let us have a peek at how the experts describe the meaning of that “open secret”; of that subjacent meaning now. We begin by quoting the judgments of Mine Mengi about what this mazmûn is, in her article “Thoughts on Mazmûn”:
“After giving the etymological root of the word Mazmûn as ‘zımn’, dictionaries provide two definitions of the word related to literature. The first of these are notion, meaning and content; and the second are witty, paronomastic and artful word… However, in some more recently published sources, we also encounter the “a cliché simile” meaning along with the aforementioned meanings. In some other sources, the literary meaning of the word is extended and mazmûn is explained as: a sentence, couplet, or the artful meaning hidden in couplets. Thus the meaning of the word, which is understood to have undergone an expansion of meanings, comes to signify the implicit narration in couplets of dreams, beliefs and thoughts known in the divan literature, and fades “the cliche simile” meaning.
15. S. I. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action, New York 1978, pg. 159.
16. M. Mengi, “On Mazmun”.
But it is obvious that there is a misunderstanding here. As mentioned earlier, the definition of Mazmun in Arabic dictionaries is the unborn baby of a camel. Likewise, the word mazmun itself is used metaphorically to indicate the meaning that lies within the word. Mazmun is the noun form of the verb “zımn” and it refers to a meaning which is expressed indirectly: then the actual meaning of the word is “hidden meaning”, or in Mengi’s words “the hidden meaning within a couplet or couplets.” As for the change in meaning, it was actually brought about with the definition of “the cliché simile”. Even İskender Pala points out that the term has two meanings, but that “cliche similes” is not the real meaning of the term. With the passage of time, this term has came to be considered true, and the real meaning of Mâzmûn from the Reformation of the Ottoman Empire to the Republic has quietly set themselves aside” According to İ. Pala, the term’s actual and only meaning is the hidden meaning in a couplet or a stanza. However, I am in the opinion that this term is related to much larger and important issues than the way Pala understands as the hidden and implied meaning in a couplet.
That is actually why I undertook to write this text. If I had seen Mazmun as some kind of divan literature term I would not have paid attention to it and would have left it to the literary specialists and would have moved on. It is natural that this new meaning is absent in the old dictionaries. Ottoman or Persian dictionaries found it sufficient as a definition to write “meaning, concept, or artistic expression”; because they could not have known that the future divan literature specialist would call every simile metaphor or allegory a mazmun without knowing what it means. So, although such explanations of the contemporary specialists are true to an extent, on the other hand, it is wrong because it actually does not capture the essence of the matter well.
In fact, “dictionary definitions also need to be defined” as we said before. However, if the 15 volume Arabic dictionary called Lisan’ul Arab was checked;
17. İ Pala, “Mazmûnun Mazmûnu”.
the definition of a pregnant camel could have been seen and perhaps it could have been understood that the concept of Mazmun itself is a metaphor. Who knows, perhaps then the specialists would suppose that this definition is not related to the meaning in literature. Mazmun means “bail” in law; and that meaning too comes from the root of “zımn”; “Zâmin” means debtor. Mazmun also means something that is in something, i.e. the content of it. For example, according to Lisan-ul Arab, it is used like: “the mazmun(contents) of this book are as follows” Prof. Mine Mengi was onto something when she wrote in her aforementioned text that “a significant number of the mazmuns are actually direct metaphors” although she did not know what the cause was. All the words of a language are metaphors as they are the symbols of the objects which they replace. In the primitive mind, the word and the object are considered one and the same. Furthermore, those who do not know philosophy well, even in the 20th century, are confusing words and objects; these enthusiasts of objectivity suppose that it is easy to express objective things via words, but when examined semantically, this is not easy at all. A word is merely a symbol, and its resemblance of the objects is the same as that of a map to the territory. From this aspect, it is interesting that mazmun means “replacing something with something similar” in issues of debt in Islamic law: after all, is that not what a metaphor is?
But the causes of this must be examined separately. Great English poet and critic S.T. Coleridge, in his critique called Allegory says: “Take a simile and instead of adding the thing that you want it to resemble, directly put one instead of the other; and it becomes a metaphor.” For instance, if we say, in order to narrate the Assault on Massena in Portuguese of the Duke of Wellington that “leaving their positions on the mountains they fell on the retreating army like a cloud”; it is a simile; but if shortly we say, “finally the cloud came down from the peak” than it becomes a metaphor, and a metaphor is a small part of a representative tale.
“But, if it be asked: how shall we tell the difference between an allegory and a fable, I may only answer by admitting my ignorance and lack of skill” quoth Coleridge. Surely there is no end to describing one word with other words.
But do not be deceived; the author of masterpieces such as The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere”, “Kublai Khan”, or “Kaabil” (which symbolizes humankind’s quest on earth in his exceptional prosaic poem), has very interesting definitions and observations about both “allegory” and “fable” in the aforementioned text. The littérateur does not make similes arbitrarily; ou does it to build what does not exist in ordinary language. Instead of inventing new words to convey meanings which are not present in a language; figures of speech are employed to create and convey new meanings via the more practical way of making analogies. That is why every figure of speech can possibly become a “mazmûn”: because a new meaning is imbued to the word by using an allegory. Let us say briefly that literature is a super-language, and it is not sufficient to look up the words in a dictionary to understand it; neither is knowing that “language of literature”. It is necessary to feel and understand it.
J. Dewey says: “Language signs are instruments for organizing meanings.” In emphasizing the importance of signs in relation to specific meanings, we have overlooked another aspect, equally valuable. Signs not only mark off specific or individual meanings, but they are also instruments of grouping meanings in relation to one another. Words are not only names or titles of single meanings; they also form sentences in which meanings are organized in relation to one another. When we say “That book is a dictionary,” or “That blur of light in the heavens is Halley’s comet,” we express a logical connection an act of classifying and defining
18. The Portable Coleridge, ed. by, I. A. Richards, Penguin Books, pg. 399.
that goes beyond the physical thing into the logical region of genera and species, things and attributes. Propositions and sentences, bear the same relation to judgments that distinct words -built up mainly by analyzing propositions in their various types- bear to meanings or conceptions; and just as words imply a sentence,
so a sentence implies a larger whole of consecutive discourse into which it fits. As is often said, grammar expresses the unconscious logic of the popular mind. The chief intellectual classifications that constitute the working capital of thought have been built up for us by our
In a way, language is of course larger than all the words and even all possible compositions of those words; however, in order to understand a word like ‘mâzmun’ it might be necessary to learn not just the sentence in which it is, but the whole culture and language. The author of this book has had the bad experience of having tried to examine the word ‘mülk’ in a work of 175 pages long, and not being able to satisfactorily deal with all the aspects of the matter, and not being able to arrive at a conclusion. It is for this reason that the poet Karl Shapiro said: “One can point at an issue, but cannot resolve its mystery.” because in order to do this, it would be necessary to learn the whole culture. A language, an entire culture, may be hiding in a word, just as a tree is in a seed.
Actually, that is what inspired me to examine the concept of ‘mazmun’: that “hidden meaning”, that “open secret” in Logos! That is, ‘mazmun’ is a matter of semantic meaning-giving: in other words, the immanent meaning. A word is actually just a hollow sound; it gains meaning only in a sentence, and a sentence only in language. How come that these sounds that vibrate in the void can semantically carry a meaning within? This reminds me of a verse from Itrî’s
19. J. Dewey, “Language and the Training of Thought”, Reader and Writer, ed.by, H.
Hayford and H. P. Vincent, Massachusets 1954, pg. 301.
‘Nevâkâr’ whose words are by Hafez Shirazi. However, as Hafez says: “gûş-i şinev kücâ, dide-i i’tibâr kû?”: “where is the ear that heeds, where the eye that draws a lesson?”
For this miraculous phenomenon we said in the “Tevhid Kasidesi” (The Panegyric of Unity) that: “The meaning of Logos is the professing of God’s ‘mazmun’ (to witness the the immanent divinity or the witness of secrets) When I said thus, I had really not thought about the meaning of “şahid-i mazmun” as the “witness of the beloved’s beauty” which is often employed in this sense in Sufism. Let us remember that the actually important aspect of this issue is not what the littérateur understand from “mazmun” but this issue of semantics: that is, “the meaning hidden in Logos”, that “great mystery” In Niyazi Mısrî’s words mazmûn is an “open-secret” which is “hidden from the blind.”
** This is an understanding of ‘Tevhid’ (unity) according to some sufis, that according to this view God is not only outside the universe, but encompasses it from within and without, i.e. he exists not just on the outside but also inside as a hidden ‘mazmun’ of all that exists. In a way this means that the only thing that exists is God and this view has commonalities with pantheism. However, the discussion of the difficult aspects of this immanent view of the great mystery and the contrary transcendentalist view which pose great difficulties from a theological point of view are not our concern here, for now.
I do not see it necessary to recount all the explanatory examples of Dîvân literature about ‘mazmûn’. Those who wish to learn more about these can have recourse to the aforementioned books. To tell the truth, these explanations which remain inside quite “narrow borders” appear very odd to me.
20. For the lyrics of Nevakar see: The Dîvân of Hafez, Dünya-yı Kitab Neşriyat, Tehran, pg. 247.
* If I remember correctly there was a rubai like this in Dede Efendi’s mass called Sâbâ:
“I did not know the hidden and the obvious is all but you,
The wu in the body and the hidden in the lives,
I used to want signs and evidence in this world from you
Later I found out that the entire world is you”
In the article of ‘Mazmun’ in the Encyclopedia of Literature from Dergah publishing house, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar’s attempt to explain ‘mazmun’ is given. Quoting Tanpınar, it reads:
“Mazmun was a closed universe like those symmetric and intricate arabesques from the Muslim art of decoration whose all corners intersected with each other.”
“He would come to this closed universe with the associations and special meanings of a word, and only when the puzzle is already solved he would often either imply or secretly tell what he wanted to say from the psychological distance created by these games and comparisons that he established inconspicuously.”
And the aforementioned author adds these to Tanpınar’s words: “It is seen that in the issue of mazmûn, Tanpınar gives more weight to the special meanings and associations of the words and treats it that way.” However, what he understood from the word is still not clear. And the author of this article points out that: “It is seen that the word ‘mazmûn’ is used as ‘meaning, translation, main idea, and concept’. The use of this word seen in our old literature is always in this frame. In the late period of our literature, this word has lost its actual meaning and was used to express a cliché expression, fantasy, metaphor, a figurative speech, each of the components of the resembling and the resemblance, and in this way its unity of meaning has been damaged.
Everyone uses the term ‘arabesque’ but not everyone knows what it means. The dictionary meaning is ‘in the Arabic style’ and it is used for the intricate ornamentations in the Islamic art which we call “Rûmi”. The nature of these ornamentations is geometric because it is out of nature and supernatural thus it evokes feelings of abstract realities; of things that do not exist in the world; of the open-secret. Some authors explain this geometric characteristic as an expression of unity in plurality. Art historians say that “The Rûmî is an unrecognizable, unknown and extremely stylized animal shape”
Actually, the Rûmî motif is only the wing of a mythological creature; a sphinx or a griffin. Long ago when I asked my teacher Süheyl Ünver, drawing a Rûmî he said to me that “Rûmî could at most be the stylization of stork wings.” After some investigations I have seen that actually Rûmî is the stylization of Sphinx wings. Sphinx is the symbol of property, of political authority (Moloch) and is a very widespread symbol among ancient tribes. As this issue is a historical comment and an issue in history of art, this short note here will suffice.
21. Encyclopedia of Turkish Literature, Dergah publication; article of “mazmûn”.
Iskender Pala says: “mazmûn, is an artful expression of a meaning hidden in a text Accordingly the use of certain words create certain ways of thinking.” and gives this example: “Sînede evvel ne muhrik ârzûlar vâr idi/ Lebde serkeş âhlar âheste hûlar var idi” (Nedim) What ardent desires lied in the bosom earlier/ what impetuous and lengthy sighs there were. In this couplet’s second line the mentioned properties are those of a cypress tree. Although cypress has not been mentioned here at all, it exists in this couplet as a “mazmun” (embedded, subjacent meaning)
Another explanation of mazmun by Beşir Ayvazoğlu which he reported from Ali Nihat Tarhan is as follows:
“Mûy-i sefîd subh-i Nişâbur-i ra’şedir
Cûş-i şarâb-ı la’l-i sirişkin de çağı var”
This couplet which seems to have no meaning when translated into Turkish is interpreted by Ali Nihat Tarlan in the following way: White hair refers to getting older, and it is normal for old people to start shaking. But how can this be related to Nişabur? Learning that Nişabur is famous with its earthquakes after a long research, there still remains a word that Ali Tarhan cannot understand: ‘era’… Upon learning that the biggest earthquakes in Nişabur were in the Hijri 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries Tarlan concludes that the word should be sought by abjad calculations, and finds the dates 812, 635 and 710 which are the hij ri dates of the earthquakes. [Translator’s note: “abjad” is the calculation of a date or other number by adding up the numerical values of Arabic letters which can then be used to refer to words in a piece of writing.] These dates correspond to the centuries of Nishapur earthquakes
Wow! Like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. However, I could not figure out how these particular numbers match with the 5th 6th and 8th centuries when the Nishapur earthquakes took place. Because, the date of 812 (which is actually the 9th century) does not correspond to the 8th century, it can only be “in the 8th century.”
22. İ. Pala, Dictionary of Divan poetry, Akçağ publications, Ankara, article on “Mazmun”
23. B. Ayvazoğlu, Human Aesthetics and Human, İstanbul 1989, pg. 143
So, let us say that in 875 there was coincidentally an earthquake; there is a chance of an earthquake almost anywhere. Now then, just because Sheikh Ghalib found the 812 number by alphabetic calculations, does it mean that an earthquake in the 8th century, let us say in the year 875, does it mean that this is an indication for an “earthquake”? Besides, why did Sheikh Ghalib went through the trouble of referring to some earthquakes which took place in the Hijri 5th 6th and 8th centuries; events which took place centuries before him, and furthermore hiding it in certain arrangements that need to be solved like a silly puzzle via numerological calculations?
Was he crazy? If the cause of these strange investigations of a hidden meaning is because the couplet seems meaningless; I would say that the couplet is surely meaningful, however he has misread it. Is it not so, that reading and comprehending and assuming that you have comprehended are different things? What Sheikh Ghalib said is not to be translated as: “the white hair is the morning of Nishapur”, but as: “White hair is like the trembling morning of Nishapur”. The poet is saying that his hair has turned white like the flickering Nishapur morning (it was dark but as in dawn it slowly, gradually turned white). He just tried to say that “Love and affairs are beyond us now! these things too have their proper time”, I think that is all there is to it. I suppose that the master mentions Nishapur just to create an atmosphere. Furthermore, if what he said was to be something more special than that; we could also say that the dawn and dusk are not the same in every clime. I do not know what kind of place Nishapur is like, but for example in the desert, dawn and dusk take a lot longer than in Turkey. Before the sun rises or after it sets, the sky remains light for much longer. There is dusk, and then there is false dusk. What is the purpose of Sheikh Ghalib’s reference to Nishapur? It is traditional to use city names to create a poetic Iranian atmosphere, — as it is in ours, and our music even has a “nishapurek scale” — or perhaps it is the gradual, incremental arrival of a dawn is a simile for the hair growing white;
or did the poet use the word “tremor” to indicate that Nishapur is a city on a “fault line”; that I cannot know, God knows that; after all, the meaning is in the heart of the poet. But I cannot see here any reference to I do not know which earthquakes in which centuries. Would it not be too much of an exaggeration and even ridiculous to make a simile through a reference to an earthquake to express the graying of hairs?
Let us say that there is a reference to an earthquake. Of course, this is a possibility although a very weak and strange one; yet what are these numerological calculations of earthquakes? This much is not only ridiculous but absurd. When we asked Beşir Ayvazoğlu about this strange explanation of mazmun in his book N. Tarlan had said that he is the authority and he wrote so. May he rest in peace. We have read many of A. N. Tarlan’s translations with enjoyment in our youth, and we are grateful to him for that, but it is understood that he, like the other specialists, did not know well the essence of the concept of ‘mazmun’
We could give a lot more examples of the Dîvân poetry specialists, but this side of the issue is not important. This is not how you “find a concealed meaning in a couplet” To understand the subjacent meaning of Logos, as we mentioned elsewhere, instead of taking everything literally the reader should try to understand what is intended and meant. For example “Gosh, I’m finished and dead today!” (Dead tired; dead on one’s feet; tired to death) is a subjacent meaning that everyone can understand. However when understood literally, these words are utter nonsense. Especially when the symbolic expressions (subjacent meanings) are involved, to further imagine and attribute non-existing meanings through such misreadings is such a “pomposity”, as though understanding them literally were not bad enough.
If these fabrications are true, and if dîvân poets wrote their poetry imagining such weird subjacent meanings, then we would say that they have not done anything good. When considered thus D. H. Lawrence’s comment for these kind of criticisms seem just. “Literary criticism can be no more than a reasoned account
of the feeling produced upon the critic by the book he is criticizing. Criticism can never be a science: it is, in the first place, much too personal, and in the second, it is concerned with values that science ignores. The touchstone is emotion, not reason. We judge a work of art by its effect on our sincere and vital emotion, and nothing else. All the critical twiddle-twaddle about style and form, all this pseudoscientific classifying and analysing of books in an imitation-botanical fashion, is mere impertinence and mostly dull jargon.”
Actually professor Mine Mengi was honest in admitting that this issue of ‘mazmun’ is not well understood. It would be unnecessary to mention all the examples and judgments that she has given in her book; those who are interested might read that article themselves. She says that Subjacent meaning(mazmun) is related to various literary arts such as similes, metaphors, allusions, conundrums, and riddles. [Sure, but how is it related?] She gives some examples and in conclusions says that its nature is not very well known:
“Judging by this example, we would consider all couplets that have meaning associations based on allusions are mazmuns(subjacent meanings) However, are not we to consider that subjacent meaning and allusion in the same way? In short, this and similar contradictions makes it harder to understand and expose what mazmun really meant in older times. In spite of all of this, in order to be able to speak with more certainty about the use of mazmûn and the changes of meaning it has undergone to this day
certainly, along with the multiplication and reproduction of the examples from old sources of this word, the books of rhetoric, preambles, and biographical sources or at least collection of biographies and mentions need to be evaluated to this purpose. Yet, what is being said of this are usually copies of definitions from one another, and to this day what mazmun means specifically as a literary term has not been brought to daylight. One of the important reasons why the issues has not been explained away is doubtlessly the problem of interpretation resulting from the fact that mazmun is a multi-faceted instrument of artful expression.
24. H. Coombes, Literature and Criticism, Pelican Books, pg. 8.
Another reason is the absence of a tradition of literary theory, and particularly on the topics and problematic sides of Dîvân literature, apart from textual analysis.” Mine Mengi concludes: “Actually, it was certainly not as difficult as today to know what mazmun was for our old poets who were raised in a certain clime and used their common sense and intuition in learning the art of literature.”
In conclusion; “What is mazmun”, the answer is: “It is not known!” At least, by saying that “it is not known for today” Mine Mengi has been frank. But the author is wrong in thinking that it was not a problem at all for our old poets. Because according to a stanza written by the poet Nefi about a rival poet, “they do not know that words need to have mazmun” as they are word smiths. Because the poet Nefi told his rival “Words need to have mazmun, you pimp.”
Certainly, all words need to have a meaning and mazmun, and from a semantic perspective every word is a mazmun. That is, in order to understand the word mazmun, we need to start from the dictionary definition. But this will not be enough even to begin to understand the term. Tzvetan Todorov started his book called ‘The Poetics of Prose’: “Literature, before all else, is a matter of language, it is expressed in language.” This quote is certainly true, but missing. Because although literature takes place in language, it is not normal language either; it is also a super-language.
We say “the language of poetry” for example: That is, as a term belonging to a specific field the word mazmûn has a different meaning. The meaning of mazmûn changes too. So, knowing the language, knowing Ottoman is also not sufficient to understand this term. You can use this term as merely a Dîvân literature term, but then very little will have been understood(!). A limited esoteric term.
25. M. Mengi, “Mazmûn üzerine…” (On Mazmûn)
26. T. Todorov, The Poetics of Prose, New York 1977, pg. 19.
On the other hand, the purpose of education is to learn the concepts; but not with the dictionary meaning alone, but with an understanding of the special world that the word implies with all its depth and vastness, which comes with the accumulation of experience of an education in that field. Even then, on top of that specific meaning of that word, it is necessary to learn the criteria of using that word in language. That is, because this is a matter of semantics, it asks for a “consciousness of language”. Because subjacent meaning is actually the subjacent meaning of meaning; the subjacent meaning of that “open secret” which is not penetrable.
If we could uncover the veil from the word of mazmûn completely, we would have uncovered the veil on human language, and perhaps it would allow us to slightly uncover the veils that prevents us from penetrating “the greatest secret”, “the open secret”. Because apart from being a Dîvân literature term, every word must have a subjacent meaning; there is mazmûn in prose as in poetry. As an example of this, I could remind that we have started our journey from the “open secret” which is open to all but can be seen by very few people.
The truth is that, poetic language is a very different language than ordinary language. Its difference with prosaic language is not, as it is supposed, a matter of literary form; on the contrary, it is because the language of poetry is a different language. That is, poetry does not arise because of being written in the forms of poetry; it is different because it is the product of “intuitive thinking” as opposed to the common sense and reason’s “discursive” style of thinking. Because intuitive thought is different, poetic language has taken after this intuitive thought. First comes the substance and then the form here. As the poet says: “Nağme-i dil, cevher-i gülden a’raz/ Dilde yoktur senden özge bir garaz”*
The melody of my heart is an attribute which belongs to the substance of a rose/ (similarly) there is no other longing in my heart but you
Because poetic language is the product of this intuitive thinking, it has to acquire the features of intuition (that is, creative imagination) and be like it.
* from Şahin Uçar’s own Dîvân.
It is necessary to think about the nature of this “creative imagination” on its own. It will suffice to point out that Théodule-Armand Ribot’s ‘Essays on Creative Imagination’ has some very good interpretations on his issue. But let this much be said that poetry has nothing to do with verse or prose.
Verse is just one of the forms of poetry. As Muallim Naci says: “Poetry can manifest itself as prose as much as verse. Just as it cannot be said that something is poetry because it is in verse, it can also not be said that it is not poetry because it is in prose.” Westerners call Tolstoy the great poet of Russia, and it is truly so. Yet, as far as I know he never wrote in verse.
So, is his work “War and Peace” poetry? Yes, there are some parts of it which are the best of poetry. The scene where Prince Andrei is wounded in the battlefield and contemplates the meaning of life while looking at the sky can be given as an example. It is the product of inspiration and is written in the language of it; therefore it is poetry of the highest value.
Some assume that any kind of thought ought to be expressed in prose. Yet intuitive thoughts are different from discursive thought by nature, and cannot be expressed in normal language. The Subjacent meaning of this kind of thought is not similar to simple prose which is understood at the first glance. Figure of speech, metaphors, paradox, allegory and parable, allusion, in short, many elements that are not found in direct narration and prose comprise the peculiar grammar of the language of poetry. To reach such thoughts via the efforts of normal thought, or to express intuitive thought in the conventional language is not possible. These thoughts can only be reached with “inspiration”(to use a mysterious word), and can only be expressed in its language.
27. Théodule-Armand Ribot’s ‘Essays on Creative Imagination’ no date of publication, preface of the author was written in 1900.
28. Muallim Naci, Istılahat-ı Edebiye(The Reform of Literature), Akabe publications, Ankara, pg. 70.
29. Look at this work for a critique of Tolstoy’s War and Peace: P. Lubbock, The Craft of
For example, most of what the ancient Greek philosophers Heraclitus and Pythagoras said are non-discursive. One of the brightest examples of intuition as an essential source of knowledge is the philosophy of Heraclitus. It is said that “many a modern terms of science and thought are derived from the brilliant intuitions of Heraclitus.” For example, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is considered one of the greatest works of poetry. The “Subjacent meanings” of that allegory has occupied the whole history of philosophy for two thousand years: “The theory of ideas” are born from it.
One of the features of such thought is that it has very powerful internal harmony. In Carlyle’s words, poetry is a “musical form of thought”. The poet conceives the world not as a stable reality but as a living and changing being; his style of thought is not static but musical. As Emerson said in his essay called “The Poet”: “But the quality of the imagination is to flow, and not to freeze.”
The poet did not stop at the color, or the form, but read their meaning; neither may he rest in this meaning, but he makes the same objects exponents of his new thought”. The object or material of Poetry can be seen as a simple caterpillar; but poetry is like the butterfly that undergoes a metamorphosis in a chrysalis and flies away.
The elements of rhythm such as meter, rhyme and alliteration that poetry has are there only as a technique to reach an intuitive style of thinking that facilitates inspiration; a kind of assistive symmetry; a musical trance, ecstasy, to overcome the limits of normality. They say that Mevlana would start whirling in ecstasy to the sounds and rhythms of the hammers when he would passed by the blacksmiths. For example, look at the incantations accompanied by rhythmic instruments that the “shamans” or “oracles” in primitive tribes sing in order to get into a trance! In this case, it is permissible to feign ecstasy, that perchance it may lead to an actual ecstasy. It is because of the magic of words that rhythm produces a kind of “verbal hypnotism” on the reader or the listener and it is not limited to poetry either. In poetry,
30. R. W. Emerson, Essays, pg 222.
this element of harmony is used much more intensively than in prose and it has traditionalized forms; however, that is the essence of it.
Meter and rhyme are only helping tools and elements of tradition. Rhythm always exists in poetry and in prose; and an important critic says that: “The rhythm in great and powerful prose is comparably strong to those of beautiful poems.” The comparison between the cycles of time and rhythm is wrong; because it means to understand rhythm as a mechanical repetition. Real rhythm is a meaningful stress caused by the quality and strength of the feelings and thoughts behind the words. In poetry, even rhyme is not an essential element. If it is not really necessary and does not have a real effect then it is better not to have rhyme in poetry. Yet there are many who assume poetry to be rhyme-smithing. Rhyme can be seen as a strengthening tool to emphasize the meaning which is born from the poem. If it is alright to compare, in musics there are the elements of form, style, and scale as formal elements: Of course poetry too has forms; it has meter for style, and “foot” or rhyme for scale. Let us say that we are going to compose: We have chosen the form, the style and the scale; these basic forms are already there but where is the composition? Nowadays they have artificial honeycombs for bees so that they would not busy themselves making the honeycomb; but the honeycomb is not edible, the purpose is to get honey, is it not so? In poetry, “meter, rhyme, and form”, or in music “style, scale, and form” are like the artificial honeycomb. Real poetry or music is “in the honeycomb”. It can be said that “these days they feed the bees with sugar and their honey is fake” Of course, if the comparison is right, so it is for the modern poets poetry; the world and the “spiritual” food of the contemporary poets are different; and the results are in accord with it. Form, meter and rhyme are to “develop and shape” the idea which is brought by inspiration. In any case, the point is to eat honey not honeycomb.
Since the age of the caveman wise sayings were said in verse to make it easy to remember and memorize. In a way, it is nothing but the reflection of the harmony of the immanent universe, the harmony
which the poet senses with the language of intuition.
31. H. Coombes, Literature and Criticism.
However, the actual beauty of poetry is not in its form(its shell) but in the “subjacent meaning” that lies within it. Forms can only belong to traditions which are fated to become obsolete over time: Eulogy, rubai, ode, ballad, sonnet, or round; what does it matter? Yet, the beauty in that mysterious meaning is eternal. As the British critic William Hazlitt said, “poetry (e.g. Iliad) is poetry even when translated into another language as prose. Here is the translation of a poem by Mevlana: “I am talking about the face of the beloved to you; you talk to me about rhyme and meter, what significance do they have?” It is in prose, yet it is poetry…
In short we make a distinction between the “language of poetry” and the “ordinary language”; intuitive language”(inspirational, intuitional) and “discursive language” and we say: The language of poetry has countless Subjacent meanings peculiar to its own(which are used to express the difficult meanings that have a meaning beyond the surface meaning), and if it can be said thus, it has a grammar of its own; because poetic thought and language is different from normal thought and language. I once saw a very satirical statement in a work of English literature; Upon being asked what she is going to say, the author makes an old woman say: “How can I know what I am going to say, I haven’t said it yet.” The poet is made to speak by inspiration. To put it in Toynbee’s terms: “The language of poetry is like the language of revelation; the meaning is very often symbolic and cannot be translated into the language of the reason.”33 As a Russian poet says:
“I myself do not know what I am going to say either,
all I know is that my song is coming into existence”.
In short, I would like to make a linguistic classification on this issue and I can express myself in this way: On the one hand there is the natural language which everyone uses habitually. It is the language we have heard and imitated in our infancy; it is the normal language; our native language, and the grammar of this language is the unnoticed unconscious logic which the people call common sense. Let us repeat that
32. W. Hazlitt, Lectures on English Poets, pg 14 vd.
33. A. J. Toynbee, Religion from the perspective of history.
All languages have a super-language, and for example, all languages of specializations are actually esoteric super-languages. However, intellectuals are not quite aware of this and they assume that they are using normal language when they speak. So then, literature is a “super-language” Academic or literary “jargon” is not normal language. This jargon which is learned and acquired is sometimes written and spoken with incomprehensible and esoteric terms. Acquired jargon can be used for its social function as much as a necessity and function of communication. As Hayakawa says, the reader or the audience would probably be thinking: “Wow! that man must be really smart, I do not understand a word he says.”
Just as we cannot learn a language without knowing the words, in the same way we cannot understand the meaning of the words without understanding the language (in practice we solve this paradox by learning a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, as in the movements of a pendulum.) Every field of specialization is one such “super-language” that it is truly known only to the specialists of those fields. On the surface, this “super-language” appears to have been written in our native language; we know almost all of the words used in these languages, and even if we do not know them we assume that we can learn them from a dictionary. We do not understand the language of the doctors; because they use Latin terms in excess; but why should we not be able to understand the historian or the littérateur who speaks in our native language? Of course, it is true that we understand them more; because the language of these disciplines are closer to the colloquial language; because these are not considered as scientific specializations; if it is right to say so, they are “semi-disciplines”. Let us nevertheless not suppose that we can understand it fully. I remember an example that I had used in one of my previous texts: I had translated an article about “historicism” – which is a very important problem of methodology in the 20th century terminology – so that my historian colleagues could read them. A professor of history read my translation (of course it is one thing to read and quite another to understand) and wrote exactly the following sentence: “This article on historicism is probably about sociology” (!)
I am writing this not to scorn a colleague of mine whose name I do not mention here, but to lead the topic to a point: I did not translate the term “historicism” because it already carried the various subjacent meanings attached to that word. Some have translated this term into Turkish as “tarihselcilik” or “tarihsicilik”; yet, this is only but one of the subjacent meanings of this word. That is, in a field of specialization a word has different uses than its colloquial use, and I think that to attempt to translate such words into colloquial language is a “reductio ad absurdum”. Some dandy intellectuals love using foreign terms to show off. The purpose in learning a language is obviously not to show off, but to broaden the horizons of thought; to get to know another culture and its cast of ideas, and to get the opportunity to compare it with the cultural values of our own. I shall be using foreign terms in this text as I had done in others.
However, I do this to express my thoughts in the shortest and most comprehensible way when I cannot find a corresponding word in Turkish, while giving an approximate word in the parenthesis; because, every word in a language is a world unto itself and for this reason, it is not possible to make a perfect translation from one language into another. Hayakawa says: “No word, even in the same language, can be used in the same way twice.” As I said in my article (National Culture, Critique Special Issue), “Essentially I am not in favor of translating foreign terms, and I think that this makes communication harder rather than making it easier… For, every idea is not present in every language; and not to refer to them is not an option either.”
Long ago Biruni said: “The speech of a wise man and an ignorant man is like the speech of two people from two different countries; they cannot understand each other.” Indeed, the language of science is esoteric, and only those within it can understand. It has terms of its own. It is because of this that each language of specialization are “super-languages” different from that of the folk language. Furthermore, it seems that, the farther they go from folk language the more successful is the language of that science. For example, mathematics is one such language .
and it appears to have no connections left with the folk language anymore, and it is the most precise language of thought. But, we must not forget the harmful aspects of this abstraction of these super-languages. A reminder: Language is the attempt to affect the reality and control(i.e. enchant) objects and the world using symbols. However, at the same time, this is a dangerous form of alienation which makes those who use these languages see the world from the perspective of that language, and see it in that way, and show it that way.
The super-language chooses its own “truths”, labels them, molds them with a static content and creates a separate, idolized, and frozen world for the members of that language. In western languages, there are ways to make fun of these aspects of disciplines, and the term “historicism” is one of them. If you see an “-ism”suffix at the end of a word, know that it is being made fun of, as in scientism, sociologism, psychologism, biologism, aestheticism etc. These refer to the attempts and habits of trying to “give meaning” to the world and the reality using the perspective and language of that discipline alone. So, this means distorting the reality by trying to explain things that are outside of the authority and proper field of that specialization, with the “field of language” and perspective of its own. Hallac-ı Mansur said: “Truth is true only for itself”; because the truth is a whole unity, whereas specializations do not encompass the entirety of the truth because they have to see the aspects of reality pertaining to the field they have selected to examine: They can never encompass the whole. However, Humans have to think about and interpret what is real, and of course, not everyone can approach subjects with a multi-faceted orientation; because the majority of the scientists are but specialists who know nothing about the other specializations. Furthermore, since the specialist has to examine not the whole of the Truth but a part of it, it is not possible for him to conceive reality which is constantly changing, as a poet does, in its entirety. Essentially, this is something that not intelligence but intuitional inspiration can do (and Bergson reduces inspiration to instinct). Herein lies the subjacent meaning of our master Fuzuli’s famous couplet:
“Aşk imiş her ne var âlemde
İlim bir kıyl ü kaal imiş ancak”
Whatever exists in the universe is Love/Science is but a splitting of hairs.
Under the light of the distortion of reality in the framework of super-languages, I would like to bring the subject to “aestheticism” For example grammar; although it is a super-language necessary for linguistic studies, can language be limited to the knowledge of grammar? Likewise, if we attempt to consider the issues of poetics within frame of the notorious “aestheticism” or the “super-language of art” we would be committing a mistake. We would face the inability to understand the true nature of even the objects within our own field of specialization by locking ourselves in a framework of super-languages the nature of which we are not conscious enough. This is like saying “it is probably about sociology” upon reading a text about historicism… Or to suppose that subjacent meanings are about some formulaic phrases and similes…
Now, the language of poetry is a super-language too, and the subjacent meanings in this language are essentially one level higher above the already super-level language of poetry; it is a third level super-language. To make a comparison, it is like relation of the square to the cube, and to the other powers of numbers in mathematics.
Of course, not everyone knows every language.
There are many poets and poetry readers who assume that they are dealing with a language they know very well because it is their native language without in actuality being aware of the grammar and super-language of the language of poetry. The conviction that poetry is much older than prose is very widespread;
* For now we are not going to go into the discussions of why today’s understanding of aesthetic and “aestheticism” is being made fun of. But even if in the shortest way, let me express my view on this issue: Aestheticism is a secular attitude; yet the world of values cannot be secular! Aestheticism has held onto the strange slogan of “l’art pour l’art” Our imitative enlightened intellectuals keep repeating this old trite melody. This bourgeois understanding considers art as a kind of entertainment or as an instrument of pleasure; in that case, according to aestheticism “the only measure of art is art”; therefore art should not be criticized based on references to the world of values. I even had to write an article called “Poverty-stricken Art” to criticize this view. And contemporary aestheticians are discussing the issue of “to what degree should a work of art express and be representative of the artist). Yet, to bring the “values”, “morality”, and “what is true” to the forefront of art has gained a vital importance because of certain circumstances such as the unprecedented levels of alienation, degeneration and degradation in our age and the superficiality and vulgarity caused by mass culture.
furthermore, according to us, it belongs to the age when humankind was created. Perhaps, because of this familiarity that has been going on since ancient times, poetry is a “habitual” thing, [Habit is the opium of imagination] and everyone assumes that they know the language of poetry. The strange thing is that, sometimes even the specialists cannot completely master the words that belong to the super-language in their field of specialization. As Yunus said:
“It was said that prophet Suleyman knew the language of the birds
There is a Suleyman deeper within Suleyman”
Thoreau says in Walden that: “The works of the great poets have never yet been read by mankind, for only great poets can read them.” It means that sympathy is not enough, one needs to understand the language of the poet. I have remembered one of the Indian thoughts which is not written in any form of poetry, without meter and rhyme, which even most of our enlightened intellectuals would call prose based on what they are previously accustomed to. It is one of my favorite Indian poems. I want to draw the attention of the reader to the metaphor here, to the subjacent meaning that turns into a symbolic narrative like an allegory:
“There was once a prince; he was taken away in infancy from his city, and was brought up by a rancher, and coming into maturity under these circumstances, he mistook himself as one of the members of this race. One day, one of his father’s viziers found him and told him who he is, and thus he got rid of the wrong ideas about his identity and understood that he was actually a prince.
The Indian philosopher continues: “Human spirit is like this too” [According to me, he is a great poet for being able to use such a beautiful symbolic expression] “It misunderstands the circumstances he is found within,
until some great master comes and tells him the truth; then he gets to know himself and understands that in truth he is a ‘Brahme’
In the beginning of this endeavor, I wanted to write about aesthetic matters starting from the concept of Subjacent meanings. Now it seems that without a semantic grounding and a multi-faceted orientation, the concept of subjacent meanings cannot be understood. Why is the language of poetry different from that of prose? Of course, unless the true nature of language is well understood the language of literature cannot be understood; and is it not so that poetry is a super-language… Subjacent meaning is related with pretty much everything in poetry. If the opportunity arises we will examine this issue again from the perspectives of all the other disciplines; for, I think they are much more important. However, for now, I would like to bring this introduction about Subjacent meanings to an end by briefly touching upon the issue of poetic thought and images.
Before all else, Subjacent meanings is a metaphor before turning into a symbol. According to Sir Bacon, “It carries something divine in itself; because unlike history and reason which subjects the soul to external objects, it exalts and elevates the mind by describing the objects according to the wishes of the soul. William Hazlitt, who is of the famous British critics, adds these to his words: “Poetry is to normal language as the wings to feet.” Poetry is a passionate and ecstatic expression of fantasies and feelings. It is definitely the language of imagination, and imagination presents objects not as they are, but kneads them into thoughts and emotions in an infinite array of diversity of forms and combinations of will. For this, it ought not be considered a less realistic language of nature; on the contrary, it is much more real and natural; provided that it can make an intriguing influence on the mind.” Poetry is the language not only of feelings but also of thoughts; except, this kind of thought is not
35. H. D. Thoreau, Walden and Civil Disobedience, New York 1960, pg. 69.
36. W. Hazlitt, Lectures on English Poets, pg 14-15.
The rational kind but an intuitive kind of thinking as a product of inspiration. As Gibb also points out, “although Ottoman poets are not Sufi mystics, they tried to write like mystic poets using their subjacent meanings.” The poetry of the Sufi mystics are the product of a “discovery”, of intuition. In the future it will be necessary to examine the aspects of Subjacent meanings related with intuition and inspiration, but we must remain here in the frame of an introduction. However, I do not find in necessary to mention the theories of the mystics about this issue for now. [Let this much be said that Ghazali has made an extraordinary explanation of the nature of this inspiration in his book called ‘Meâricü’l-Kuds’ based on the ayah of “nurün ale’n-nur” in the Quran If the opportunity one day arises I will also interpret this issue in Meâricü’l-Kuds]
When we talk about intuitional thinking, we are not talking about telling what one has learned,
but the expression of what is sensed under the influence of intense feelings. Science and philosophy expresses the reality “spatially” by fixing it statically; poets and mystics on the other hand, see existence “temporally” as a process of being. Yet, as Heraclitus shows the nature of objects is constant change.”; but “being and constant change” cannot be comprehended by the mind, it can only be intuited. It can be said that, a poet tries to express that which he wants to learn about rather than what he already knows: That is why, the concepts of ordinary language is not sufficient for the poet, and he uses the subjacent meanings; the poetic images and symbols that he makes up by following his imagination. Poetry is a work of “imagination creatrix”. The knowledge that is discussed here, is not the knowledge obtained from some people or books: The poet is not in the position of knowing and recounting what but using ous own creative imagination to create and learn. (There is a Hadith which tells:“Doubtless there are some treasures under the earth the keys of which are the tongues of poets.”)
37. E. J.W. Gibb, History of Ottoman Poetry, Istanbul 1943, pg. 16.
38. Gazali, Mearicü’l-Kuds fi medarici marifeti’n- nefs, Egypt 1927, pg. 58.
39. “el-Eşyaü fi’t-tegayyüri muttasıl”; Yusuf Kerem, The history of Greek Philosophy, Cairo 1970, pg. 17.
The ordinary concepts of normal language are not enough for the poet during these activities. He will have to think through the language of images and will have to tell it with the concepts he created using these images.
The other features specific to poetry such as meter, rhyme, form and so on, are the technical aspects of the job(the art, or more correctly, the artisanship aspect). They are nothing but elements that facilitate the expression of the ephemeral imagination of the poet into a mold, and explore these inspirational thoughts. Form and rhythm are successful and appropriate to the extent that it is imposed by the thought of the poet; on the other hand, it can turn into a forced attempt in search of inspiration. The main issue is in the consciousness of the poet. In Arabic ‘sheara’ means to know. However, as I have pointed out in my previous writings, this knowledge is not “cogitative”* but a kind of “becoming conscious of something”.
The poet’s imagination is ephemeral; it is fluid like water, and it has to be formed in a pattern; that is, like a container which holds water, or a honeycomb which holds honey**.
But, issues such as whether “this water is acidic, or sweet, or lime, or drinkable?” depends on the quality of the creative imagination. As a result the poetic language is a language of images, and it differs from ordinary language. What they call “image” in the Western languages is what some of our specialists call subjacent meaning.
* I had said in my article called “The Turkish Tradition of Thought” that the ‘cogito’ of Descartes should be understood as “coming into the consciousness of [being aware]” and not as “thinking”. But this aspect of the concept of Subjacent meaning is a matter of epistemology and it should be treated not in an introduction but in a much larger frame. The realists and idealists agree on the following point: Being is consciousness, or the existence of something is our consciousness of it; however, should this mean that things that we are not conscious of do not exist? As far as I know, Ghazali has treated this issue of ‘cogito’ in a much more profound way, and in the same way as I have pointed out here.
** As Mevlana states in ‘Fihi ma Fih’, when he was told “let us get you a more beautiful girl than Leila”, Mecnun replied in this way: “For a drunkard, it is better drink wine from a squash bowl, than to drink water from a golden grail. I am drinking the wine of love from the cup of Leila” That is, the important thing is not the appearance(form) but the subjacent meaning inside of it(the content)
Naturally, subjacent meaning starts with an image; but in the end it turns into a symbol and stops being an simple image.
We will finish this introductory text on the Meaning and Subjacent Meaning(the obvious secret) with the issue of images. When we say image, we refer to the figurative expressions in poetry; the word “image” in actuality refers to the image in the form of impressions that are evoked in our mind of the external objects and the world outside of us. That is the image itself is, from the perspective of being a not clearly visible image within the mind, is the subjacent meaning of our perception itself(i.e. it is one thing to see an orange with your eyes, and another thing to try to bring it to our mind by imagining it). As I had written in my article called “Poetry and Knowledge”: “Although Th. Ribot has dwelt on the features of inspiration and artistic imagination in his work called “Creative Imagination” and although he made very interesting explanations on how the imagination works through associations, essentially, he had to leave the issue of inspiration in the dark.”40. However, while hoping to take on this intricate matter about the role of creative imagination in poetry in a space specifically allocated for its own, I am not going to get into it now.
In poetry, we use the word “image” to mean simile and figure of speech. These are, of course, found frequently even in daily colloquial language. Hayakawa makes the distinction between “informative” and “affective” language in terms of these figurative expressions, which is a topic in itself.41
But the habitual images, whether in speech or in writing, convey the opposite of the intended meaning. To use images that are used by everyone shows that the person speaking does not have first hand experience in the subject he is speaking about. Thus, instead of reinforcing the meaning, it weakens it.
Of course, we hope that all the images wake rich associations.42
40. Ş. Uçar, “Poetry and Knowledge”.
41. S. I. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action, pg, 63.
42. H. Coombes, Literature and Criticism, pg. 45.
In these days, Dîvân literature specialists call images such as these subjacent meanings too. Subjacent meaning is not to assume the existence of something which does not exist; it is to discover the “hidden meaning”. For example, in Macbeth Shakespeare gives an extraordinary example of a Subjacent meaning when he makes Macbeth wash his hands repeatedly which he feels is covered in blood, and portrays him as he feels the crime stick in his hands. In modern poetry, imagination has turned into a forced attempt, and modern poetry has generally become a meaningless and emotionless malarkey. This, in a way, is the reflection of the contemporary absurdities on poetry. Images ought to be used to explain or illuminate an object, not to hide apathy and lack of ideas as it is employed today in contemporary poetry. Although it may be said that “expressing intuitions using metaphors is a vague form of explanation”, the poetic intuition that shines on the poet’s consciousness is also vague. Our master Yunus said:
The meaning of four books are seen in one Aleph
Don’t make me say Bah, or I may lose my way
(Aleph is a symbol of unity (and God))
A critic has given a very nice example of these aspects of images; he explains the subjacent meaning in Yeats’ poem ‘The Tower’ in the following way:
“What shall I do with this absurdity
O heart, o troubled heart- this caricature
Decrepit age that has been tied to me
As to a dog’s tail!
We witness first the calm and measured criticisms of the poet against the absurdities of his age and its likeness to caricature, and then
Suddenly the frustration of the poet and his anger fits over his desperation, like a dog to whose tail a tin can is attached. The poet sees himself like a grotesque figure who is unable to do anything43. Again, the same critic has made a nice interpretation of the “teeth of the mountains” from “The Wasteland”.
But let us not use too many examples from western poetry. I will now give an example from master Maarri; in his third Dîvân called Lüzummiyyat(The Unnecessary Necessity), in which he also does philosophy of time! On the chapter of “the end-point of limits”
If Archangel Gabriel had flown with his lightning wings for all his life, it still could not have gone out of time.
Yunus Emre said: “Storks fly with storks, and hawks fly high-up in the sky!” Actually this issue of subjacent meanings is hard to put an end to. Let us remember the poet K. Shapiro’s words: “One can point out to something but cannot solve the mystery in it!” In short, “this is bird-language and only those who know will know”[bird language is a reference to what Yunus Emre said about Solomon, that he knew the languages of animals], but we need to point out to a few more things about this issue of “images”.
The poetical image can be used to signify all the kinds of expression and perception by substituting two similar things with each other, or perceiving by likening one thing to another. I am in favor of dividing them shortly in three classes as simile, metaphor and mazmûn(symbolic expression/subjacent meaning); we had already mentioned Coleridge’s thoughts on simile and metaphor. Those who deal with subjacent meanings, the Dîvân literature specialists, say that by reversing the direction of the simile the concept of mazmûn(that is in the sense in which literary specialists understand it today) will gain a kind of novelty. But if we look at such details for so long this issue will not come to an end. Coleridge’s expression is succinct; the quotations I have made from him should suffice for simile and metaphor.
43. The same work, pg. 52.
44. Taha Hüseyin (the doctorate thesis he defended in 1914), Tecdid Zikra Ebi’l-Ala el-Maarri, Da- rü’l-Maarif bi-Mısr, no dates, pg. 211.
Symbols(which is roughly synonymous with the concept of mazmûn) ask for a more active and subtle imagination from the poet. Yet, for example the symbolic expressions of rose and nightingale, even if the direction of the simile is reversed, have become trite and numb, reflecting no feelings or thoughts: It is for this reason that symbolic expressions are understood as cliché similes, and in a way literature, despite everything, is able to truly mirror the society of its time in its own way(it is possible to consider Divan poetry, seen from the examples of it in certain circles and poets, as the art of an excessively imitative and status-quoist society). Once upon a time, upon my reminding and request, the deceased Kaya Bilgegil had reported the old rhetorical knowledge; specialists of or those who are interested in medieval rhetoric can take a look there for the different kinds of similes etc., and a lot of technical details.45 Mevlana, says in Masnawi:
“You may have read in Kelile, but that is just a shell
But this narrative of ours is the substance of the soul.”
Our Dîvân poets on the other hand, have remained in the shell because of using symbols for traditional reasons instead of expressing real thoughts and feelings. In Yunus Emre’s terms, such imitations are “doing without knowing” the nature of the work. Meaning cannot be brought about by pomposity and vanity. The rhetoric of medieval Europe was similar to our books of aesthetics, rhetoric, and semantics Longinus has allocated 17 chapters to figurative expressions. Aristo says that “being able to make beautiful metaphors is the mark of a great poet.” Master Ibn-i Khaldun “poetry is the art of rhetoric built upon metaphors and imagery”
When the poet contemplates about an issue, it can create or imagine a similarity between that issue and another object. His intention may be just to embellish the issue he is trying to express
45. K. Bilgegil, Theories of Literature I, Rhetoric, Ankara 1980.
46. İbni Haldun, Preface, Darü’l-Cîl, Beyrut, pg. 630.
(as can be seen frequently in the amateur poets of Dîvân poetry); it can also be to emphasize or explain an aspect of it using a simile. The poet calls the reader to make certain connections between objects,
and this can include “values” as well. In a way, the poet tries to express a hidden meaning not found in the words and resources of ordinary language, by creating connections between objects that are seemingly unrelated. And insofar as he vaguely feels, he could be in an effort, deliberately or otherwise, to express the “ultimate unity” that is hidden in the so-perceived diversity, using an indirect metaphor about the similarities. J. L. Lowes says that: “The way of perception of each great imaginary is like a tornado that can suck in everything under the sun into itself.” And Coleridge had once written that “the world of all the other people is the chaos of the poet”… Imagination never exerts itself in vacuum Its material is always a fact experience in some way; and it is the changed form of this fact which is the product of the imagination… Coleridge once wrote: “Imagination sees everything in unity.”47 The Urdu poet Mîr said that:
Rose and mirror and sun and moon—what are they?
Wherever we looked, there was always Thy face.
Our intention in this preface is not to compare the philosophical viewpoint of the universe with the mystical viewpoint (but let us say by the way that if this is not done an important part of the issue of subjacent meanings will be left in the dark). That is why, we will try to conclude this chapter with the issue of “image” by refraining from countless beautiful sayings of the mystic poets. We call the use of anthropomorphic imagery, i.e. thinking about nature in a human way and attributing human characteristics “personification”. [Toynbee calls this the “pathetic error”; but on the other hand, he also does not neglect to accuse modern times of falling into the “apathetic error”, that is the treatment of living things as lifeless machines.]
47. J. L. Lowes, “Imagination Creatrix”, Reader and Writer, pg. 371.
48. A. M. Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, Adam publishing house, 1982, pg. 250.
And there is also what I call “reverse personification” (and this is the real subjacent meaning and can be frequently seen in mystic poetry) which is what Ribot calls “incorporating the ideal in the particular.” So, what we call “professing the face of the divine) is one such “reverse personification”*: For example, they say that the red rose is the symbol of divine beauty, (or the representation of the Prophet Mohammad with the symbol of rose) by which the ideal(invisible) is expressed with the visible objects. In his work called Creative Imagination, Ribot (pg. 113): “The root of the mystic imagination consists of a tendency to incarnate the ideal in the sensible, to discover a hidden “idea” in every material phenomenon or occurrence, to suppose in things a supra-natural principle that reveals itself to whoever may penetrate to it. Its fundamental character, from which the others are derived, is thus a symbolical way of thinking; but the algebraist also thinks by means of symbols, yet is not on that account a mystic. The nature of this symbolism must, then,
Ribot has expressed the issue very neatly. However, since we consider all kinds of symbolic thought and expression mystical and poetical(of course, this is a thought that from an epistemological perspective makes every human thought relative), we would like to place a footnote to the master’s judgment about the algebraists: At this point, we prefer Spengler’s thought, and consider “algebra” peculiar to the world of Indian and Muslim mentality which has developed it, and which are mystical in their foundations. The western mentality is represented by geometry: Plato had the door of his academia inscribed thus “let no one enter who does not know geometry”
If the distance between the image and the real object is too short, the reader will understand the poem very easily but it will be dead and without influence;
The previously mentioned Indian prince who thought himself the son of a rancher is a ‘reverse personification’ that does not recognize itself. For example, in the “Tevhid Kasidesi”(the Eulogy of Unity) it says:
“Yar eyledi gülşende gül-i sürh’e tecella
Bildim kil ü torpağ güle bais olabilmez
Ârâyiş-i gülzâre gül açmışdı dilârâ”
(The beloved manifested itself to the red rose in the garden of roses
I knew that the clay and soil cannot bring up the rose
[the rose cannot be growing out of the soil by itself]
that beloved which embellishes my heart,
has blossomed in the rose to beautify the rose garden)
are examples of ‘reverse personification’, and in the mentioned Dîvân, examples of reverse personification are found quite frequently.
The similes which have become cliché have no effect on the hearer. When we speak, we use idioms such as “the man’s face went pale like lime!” or the like, but nobody even pays attention to a simile that has been so overused. In contrast, if the distance between the “direction of the simile” is too great as can sometimes be seen in some mystics, the mind of the reader may refuse to make a bridge over the precipice and the simile of the poet may not achieve its goal. So a good image should neither create a huge unsurmountable gap, nor too close, familiar and overused a resemblance to fail even to engage the attention of the reader…
What Fuzûli said in his Persian Dîvân’s preface about subjacent meanings seem to confirm what we have said of the concept of image so far: As can be understood from his words, the master, along with using the word as “the meaning of the word”; also expresses that the meaning he is searching for is the search for a new concept which is poetical and derived from imagination to express something that is different from the familiar and habitual ways of thinking. “There were such times that I have tasted the poison of wakefulness throughout the night and with my bleeding chest found the symbol I was searching and penned it. When the morning came I saw that my words overlapped with the words of other poets and have crossed my words out. There were such times that I have sunk myself to the sea of thought from morn till eve, and have discovered a diamond unseen by any; and those who saw it said that: ‘this symbol is incomprehensible, it is not used among the men of words, it will not be endorsed.’ that I have not even wanted to take my pen and put it to writing… What a strange case is this that a word which has been said is not penned for having been penned, or one that has not been said is not penned for not having been penned before.”49
A simile can easily turn into a figure of speech, and a figure of speech into a symbol: If an image is consistently employed in harmony with other images,
49. A. N. Tarlan, Fuzûlî’s Persian Dîvân, pg. 6.
this is to be called symbol or mazmûn. However mazmûn in this sense is rare in old Dîvân poets too. (We had already mentioned how Nef’i insulted a poet for not having a mazmûn.) A symbol can, of course, also appear in the form of an allusion; a person, event, object, or legend could have been shown to the reader with certain aspects of them under a new light. As Mevlana says by alluding to Zulaiha to describe the state of love:
“Even if she said hundreds of thousands names
All she wanted, all she wished was Joseph”
Because symbols are much more complex than metaphors, and for their capacity to be interpreted in many different ways, it is normal that they are more difficult to be understood. If you say “This symbol is abstruse” perhaps the poet would say “this can only be expressed in this way, these images cannot be expressed with ordinary language” However, as subjectivity comes into play here, [as Fuzûli had explained] the poet can be accused of vagueness of meaning and abstruseness. It is known that the late symbolists have deliberately taken this path of abstrusity. A. Hashim’s:
“Altın kulelerden her akşam
Tekrarını ilan eder ömrün
Kuşlar mıdır onlar ki her akşam
Âlemlerimizden sefer eyler”
“At the end of each day,
they affirm the coming of life,
Are they the birds that
migrate from our Worlds.”
Is perhaps vague in comparison to normal language, but it comes out as pleasant and evokes some feelings in us. In this stanza “birds” represent the passage of time and mortality of everything, and the “cycle of death and birth”;
that humans die but life continues in following generations; i.e. it symbolizes “the life that continues in thousands of different forms”; we may think so; but who knows what the poet intended to say, only God knows! Alas, meaning is in the bosom of the poet.
While allegory is a symbolic style of expression, not all kinds of symbolic expressions are allegory of course; by the way let us point out in passing to a historical aspect of this issue: medieval mentality did not distinguish between “the symbol and the reality” and “the allegoric meaning with the real meaning”: In the medieval times allegory and reality were intertwined. Symbol is independent by ways of usage and meaning. It can renew itself and can shine with a new light when treated again in another poem; that is, its meaning changes according to the context. That is why there are “cliché symbols”. Even when he uses old and trite symbols a poet like Fuzûlî can stamp his genius on them; can add a new meaning to the images; but since not every poet can be Fuzûlî, meaningless imitations can easily arise when using old symbols, and this goes for dîvân literature as with every other tradition.
A. M. As Schimmel said: “especially mystics from whose lines many a great poet has risen, have made tables of esoteric meanings for even the most ordinary words…
The poems of the great poets always reflect the religious grounding…” It is an understandable circumstance that symbols with subjacent meanings are used often among these mystic poets. In one of his poems Ibn-i Ata says that:
“To those who ask in simple terms, we reply with mysterious enigmatic answers,
because human language cannot express a reality that is so much beyond human measures.
Yet, my heart did know.”50
The issue of symbolic meanings does not end here of course. Up to this point, we have treated the matter only from the perspective of literature; yet the concept of Symbolic meanings, especially from a “conceptualization” standpoint needs to be treated over again from the perspectives of all disciplines mentioned above.
50. A. M. Schimmel, The Dimensions of Islamic Mysticism, pg. 344.
When the concept of subjacent meanings is taken with such a wide and multifaceted perspective, it is not an unimportant term belonging merely to the Dîvân literature;
and it is even a suitable concept to discuss all the fundamental issues of humanity. I think that if such a wide scale examination of “meaning and symbols”, “an analysis of symbols” can be made, this can be a great contribution to our thinking. Thus, I believe that the already quite large frame of “conceptualization and interpretation” studies must be enlarged a little further. However insane it may be to engage with such things and to take the risk of alienation – in a society where thinking is not appreciated – they say that “Mad people sing!” You may have seen that some mad people sing to themselves as they wish without caring about the world around them. The first words of this preface belonged to a German “poet-philosopher”; and let the last word be of Nietzsche [who is considered to be one of the greatest poet-philosophers of German language (i.e. one of the greatest madmen)]
“I exemplify the use of poetry
To convey to those who are a bit backward: The truth in a simile!”51
51. F. Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and The Genealogy of Morals, New York 1956, pg. 86.
PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY, EPISTEMOLOGY, AND METAPHYSICS
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
There is no God but Ou the Living, The Everlasting..
Slumber seizes Oum not, neither sleep;
To him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth.
Who is there that shall intercede with Oum, save by his leave?
Ou knoweth what lies before them and what is after them.
And they comprehend not anything of Ous knowledge save such as Ou wills.
His throne comprises the heavens and earth; the preserving of them oppresses Oum not. Ou is the All-high, the All-glorious.
The Holy Quran Baqara: Ayat al-Kursi
“1. Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, and his spirit was troubled, and his sleep was interrupted. 2. And the king commanded to summon the necromancers, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams, and they came and stood before the king. 3. And the king said to them, “I dreamed a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” 4. Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we shall tell the interpretation.” 5. The king replied and said to the Chaldeans, “The matter has escaped me. If you do not let me know the dream and its meaning, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be made into a dungheap. 6. But if you tell the dream and its meaning, you will receive gifts and lavish presents and great honor from me; but tell me the dream and its meaning.”
7. They replied a second time and said, “Let the king tell the dream to his servants, and we shall tell the meaning.” 8. The king replied and said, “In truth, I know that this time you are doomed because you see that the matter has escaped me. 9. For if you do not tell me the dream, there is but one law for you, or if you have prepared yourselves to say before me a false and corrupt word, until the time changes. but tell me the dream, and I shall know that you will tell me its meaning.” (Torah; Daniel:2)
1. THE DREAM OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR
In the name of God: we start with the name of God and we praise him. It is decreed in the Holy Quran “Read!” For the God is so great that he taught humans by the pen: he taught him what he did not know.
After greeting Prophet Mohamed who with the Beautiful Word which was inspired into his heart has revealed the wisdom to the world, I would like to cordially greet the valuable administrators of the Turkish Philosophy Association who have shown interest in my ideas on history and epistemology, and invited me here in order to present them to lovers of wisdom; the people who have spared their time and attention; the dear readers of my books; and those kindred souls who have heeded this invitation, and all the rest of you, past and present, with respect and congeniality.
And let me start this way: I began with the Ayat-el Kursi (and if you notice it is a description of divine consciousness, and knowledge.) and I have made a chapter from Torah about Daniel and the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar as an introduction to the issues of epistemology. It is written in Ayet-el Kursi – a chapter of Quran which describes the divine consciousness which encompasses the whole universe and all the events with an infinite vastness which cannot be compared with human consciousness, and never falters nor is unaware of anything and which is never absent – that Humans can grasp nothing of His Knowledge except that which He may will.
Philosophy on the other hand, has to deal with that limited mind, the mind which knows not the essence of things and the mind which has made doubt its business. There is no philosopher in the history of philosophy who has not doubted the reality of things, and one who has not sought for convincing evidences in order to render this reality in a rational and systematic way, i.e. there is not a philosopher who is not a skeptic, and since we are going to talk about epistemology, we have to dwell on this matter.
Even a mighty and fierce man such as Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babel, is unable to interpret a dream he had seen. Here is a man on the peak of glory and ego who orders his fortunetellers, Chaldeans and all the wise men of Babel: “I have forgotten the dream I have seen, but if you cannot tell me the dream I had, it means that you cannot interpret it.
If you can interpret my dream, all is well; otherwise let all the learned men of Babel be thrown into the furnace…”
When we look into the the symbolic narrative in this story, and if we understand it, it is possible to learn very revealing lessons about epistemology and contemporary history. I would like to make an analogy from the forgotten dreams of Nebuchadnezzar. Just as it is impossible to interpret a forgotten dream, it is difficult to interpret the nightmarish experience of history that humanity has seen and forgotten: Just as it is impossible to interpret a forgotten dream, it is difficult to interpret the nightmarish experience of history that humanity has seen and forgotten. **
In order to make an interpretation, first we need to know history which humanity has seen. The actual reason I quoted this story of forgotten dreams is of course that I want to bring up a very old issue of metaphysics and epistemology again. The point is: Can History and even Nature be a dream? What is the meaning and significance of this dream. How much can we trust the reality and our knowledge of it?
I hope that the way I have formulated these questions in a new style and so contrary to common sense has not startled you; for throughout history almost every philosopher asked themselves these questions, searched for reasonable answers, and many a famous philosopher claimed that this idea which at first seems apparently absurd could be true.
I would actually recommend reading the entire story and contemplating about it. This quote about the forgotten dream should suffice for our purposes here as an intro to the issues of epistemology. However, the rest of of the story in Torah is also quite noteworthy. The symbolic style of the ancient periods appealed to the people of that age and were understood by them, but the modern reader would have to make an effort in order to understand them by comparing those metaphors with his own life experience and trying to understand all the meanings therein.
In this story in Torah, Daniel saves his life and the other wise men of Babel by interpreting the dream, and the ancient custom of categorizing history into eras is a historical practice that came out of this interpretation.
Of course, it is also possible to discuss this matter in the more accustomed manner by asking What is Truth? (what is the nature of existence, History, and Nature) and to what extent can we know this Truth? In the allegory of the cave, does not Plato tell the story of the limitations of human perception and that our notions of Truth are like the shadows on the wall of a cave even though we may think that the images that occur in our mind correspond to the reality; that actually our knowledge of the world is illusory and it is merely the knowledge of the shadows that reflect on the wall?
II. PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY, EPISTEMOLOGY AND METAPHYSICS.
What is the Truth? What is the nature of things and how much (physically and metaphysically) can we know the Truth? And, what is History? I understand the word history as all the events that took place in time. First we need to ask how we should understand the dreams in the past which we cannot remember now; the history of humanity? I would like to keep these issues about the discipline of history short, and go through some history of philosophy, and then to dwell on epistemology from the perspective of philosophy of history.
When we look closely into the historical dream of forgotten dreams of Nebuchadnezzar we see that if we are to make a high-quality and satisfactory interpretation of history; we have to consider matters of history, physics, metaphysics and etymology altogether. In this, we cannot remain within the boundaries of scientific disciplines, because all these issues are very intricate and interlaced. We have to reinterpret many of our notions, beginning with history. When we attribute meanings to words like Nature or History, even if we do not realize,
we also indicate our own interpretations and preferences for semantics, epistemology, metaphysics, cosmogony, cosmology, and theological orientation. It is for this reason that if these issues are considered separately, some inevitable mistakes will occur. As Einstein said: It is impossible to divide science into separate and unrelated sections. (Albert Einstein, The Evolution of Physics, pg.35) Although historians think that they deal with writing and examining the events in human history, reality is not as straightforward as historians assume. For even though the historian may not mention all the things that make him a human, and things of interest to him such as his views, cosmogony, his understanding of metaphysics, his orientation which is born of theology(destiny, chance, and responsibility); all of these influence every sentence he writes and shape his dream of history.
They say: “speak that I may see thee” This is something that the historian can never escape. Even when we narrate what happened in the history of humanity without commenting on it, we do not suffice with telling what happened in the past, and we can not; because we do not tell everything we know about the past. We tell the events that are important from our point of view and which we believe are important from a historical perspective.
The historian passes history from a sieve; sifts it through, and writes only those that are screened out. However, this is not a standard sieve, and exists solely in the mind of the historian which uses it, and because of that the size of the holes on that sieve depend on the historian. (Ş. Uçar, The King of Babel, Science and Philosophy, no:7)
Certainly, to understand history is not the same as having historical knowledge, and requires philosophy of history or an interpretation of it. Napoleon, who was himself an important historical figure, has some interesting aphorisms:
He said: History, is a fable agreed upon, and a fable which is always retold in the same way. Indeed humanity has been conditioned to see world history from the perspective of the west for the past 200 years – in a Europo-centric way The Western view of history itself had changed with the French revolution. To see history as a serious discipline which studies trajectory of the changes humanity has gone through and to try to understand humankind’s place on earth
instead of seeing it as a narrative of the past events as it was viewed in the ancient times, is a new view that emerged after the crisis of the French Revolution. For that matter, it was Voltaire who invented the term philosophy of history. So, it can be said that to consider history as a highly regarded and very important discipline is a new conception even in the West. In this sense, history is a toddling new discipline where questions of methodology are still being discussed. Only as a result of the Western domination of world history in the past few centuries, has the Western understanding of history and methodology prevailed almost all historical literature; as a result of which, a Europocentric history shaped by scientism positivism and materialism which are peculiar to the West has been presented as the common understanding of history of mankind. As if the whole world was about the West alone, and the rest were seen as either exotic, unimportant, or primitive cultures.
In this form, history is a dream on which the western world and increasingly the whole world is agreeing upon, and which is always retold in the same way, or as Napoleon said, “History is a fable agreed upon” (where the West is the center of World history). We wake and as we wake the dreams are left in the past; we consider dreams unreal because they lack consistency. We hope that as we enter the 21st century, humanity matures enough as to tell the difference between dreams and reality. Napoleon also said: “Cannons destroyed feudalism, and ink shall destroy modern society” And indeed, in spreading their thoughts, a discontent army of intellectuals
with their intellectual babbling, books, and newspapers, destroyed all social values and killed modern society. Napoleon’s satire is sharp and perhaps a little exaggerated, but there is a lot of truth in it. A lot of misleading ink has been spilled over history – the forgotten dreams of humanity – which I have likened to the forgotten dreams of Nebuchadnezzar above. If we are not going to accept the Europocentric fable, then what should be our understanding of history. It is history which shall answer this question. As Emerson said: The Sphinx[history] must solve her own riddle.
HISTORICISM AND HOLISM
It is time to evaluate the purposes of our thoughts and concepts, our way of thinking, and the way we use historical facts under a more serious light, and to solve the riddle of history; or in other words to interpret the forgotten dreams of humanity. Certainly, all historical events are unique. In that sense, history is an incomplete collection of all unique events that happened in the past. For example, Istanbul has been conquered by Fatih not two or three times, but only once. It is in its own special boundaries; a unique event that takes place only once.
What is it that makes events unique? The cause must be sought especially for historical methodology. because when historians narrate events they have to tell the time and place.
The event took place in Istanbul, in 1453. At this point, the philosophical problems begin. It is not possible to think and to philosophize from a collection of events. Because a unique event cannot be generalized due to its specific nature. If we cannot generalize them, they cannot contain other event clusters and we cannot get the ability to classify or compare them.
Nothing will come out of it. If history remains as history, it creates unsurmountable obstacles for philosophy.
However, even among historians there is a debate of methodological individualism and holism. (I.e. Should events be evaluated individually, or as parts of a whole where they belong?) Latins would say “individuum est ineffable” (individuality is indescribable, i.e. Incomprehensible). But another meaning of “ineffable” is sacred.
The translation of ineffable in the Arabic dictionary of Al-Mawrid is exactly as follows: “لا ينطق به، لأنه أقصد من لا يذكر“. It cannot be mentioned because it is so holy as not to be spoken; it is holier than all the other words. Many Romans and Greeks knew that their Gods are make-believe; but they would not say it; because sacred things cannot be spoken about: It would have been some kind of disrespect or blasphemy. To say the unsayable is not permitted!
Thus, to put the nail in the coffin, it shall be forbidden to produce thoughts about unique historical events that are turned into taboos by historians. This is dictated by the method of history, as it is impossible for an event not to be unique.
When time is given in addition to place, (a certain “t” moment in coordinates), even physical facts become unique. For example, the Istanbul of today is “unique”; in the next ten days, and even 10 years, it is not possible for Istanbul to be the same of course; who knows how many skyscrapers and shanty houses and bridges will be built? Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis: Times change and change those within.
It is this dimension of “Time” that makes events unique. Because history is a temporal discipline. When time is involved the event becomes specific to that time.
However, there are some historicists who, judging from this uniqueness of events, claim that history requires a different kind of understanding, instead of generalizations it needs an understanding of particular events, a “ver stehen”, in short, that history is a peculiar mode of understanding and thought. and when thought in the context of history, this is also true.
The historian can thus be free from the burden of thought forever. Who knows, perhaps a parrot who narrates events pleasantly without knowing their meaning is better than the thinking turkey of Nasreddin Hodja!
It is apparent that, methodological individualism and holism should be used complementarily; however, here, we actually face a problem of philosophy. Animals too have a consciousness, and a perception which is even sharper and more realistic than humans; however they do not grasp the whole, or understand events. On top of this humans also possess the ability to distinguish, classify, compare, generalize and so on. My dear master Süheyl Ünver used to say: “It is not a feat to be clever, what is important is to be able to think.” Human is a smart animal and is also aware of his thinking, and can even realize that he is conscious (apperception). Both human and animals see all kinds of happenings, but the animal is aware only of the moment, and it does not have an abstract and profound sense of time even if it may have memory. Whereas humans can, in a higher state of consciousness, recognize his own consciousness; i.e. humans have a history.
The historian needs to classify and compare events, and come up with generalized principles, i.e. with the methodology of the philosophy of history which looks at the whole of a set instead of the specifics. However, to think about events, to tell it to others with reasonable explanations, is a little too far and beyond the toddling discipline of history. This is more of a philosophical activity: In a foggy weather, if every time we take a step we reach for the higher ground, we may perhaps make it to the invisible peak of the mountain. As South African general Ian Smuts who coined the term ‘holism’ said in the beginning of the 20th century: “The caravan of humanity has just picked up its tents and set on a journey again.” Let us tell this in another way: the historian is in a vast and dark jungle trying to find his way while trying to carefully examine the things he encounters in the jungle,
however he is in the jungle too and because he does not have the opportunity to look at the jungle from the top of a mountain he is lacking a holistic perspective, or in other words, a panoramic vision. As the poet says: Fish that know not the sea,
though they are swimming in it. This is a continuum, a whole, that encompasses the individual. If we get in a container and sail, no matter how and whereto we move, in the end, our destination would be the same as where the ship would take us.
That is to say, our minds’ activity of isolation is artificial, because existence is a whole: when a part of that whole is taken separately,
by isolating its relations with the whole (and that is what the specialists do), our understanding becomes shallow. If we want to stand on solid grounds, we should of course have some specialization. If we do not possess a familiarity that comes from experience and specialization with the subject at hand, we may waste our time talking about things that do not correspond to reality. Thus I have expressed that the individualist perspective, – which is frequently found among specialists who consider a part of the whole – is self-contained and independent; and the holistic perspective should be used in conjunction and complementarily.
Since the historian also is a person of a certain time period; is dragged in the flow of events; and interprets history under the light of the problems of his time, ou cannot reach that level of unerring higher consciousness: the historian cannot be objective. This is a fault which can be found in almost all historians, and in the methodology of history this is called “historicism”. However instead of going into the problematic aspects of historical knowledge and this term of historicism, I would like to dwell on epistemology in a general and philosophical sense. For now, I will suffice with a short evaluation about the theory of historical knowledge: So how is it going to be possible to go through the jungle
without being able to look at it from outside and at the same time to look at it panoramically? How are we going to reconcile both the general and unique properties of historical events? How can we get over this paradoxical situation? For, historical consciousness shows us our shortcomings: no wisdom is as good as knowing your own shortcomings.
I will explain this with a well known example. As everyone who learns a language knows, in order to understand a sentence, first you have to know all the meanings of the constituting members. For that, we look up in a dictionary. So, it is not possible to understand a sentence without knowing the words in that sentence. But knowing the words is not enough, without learning a language you cannot know the words in it, and cannot solve the mysterious puzzle. In short, you cannot learn a language without learning the words, but also, not knowing the language you cannot know the actual meanings of the words. For, the meaning of the sentences is longer than the sum of all the meanings made up of all the possible combinations of the words within it (which is a kind of description of holism as we will see again when interpreting sets in mathematics.) And as everyone knows, in spite of this paradox, whoever gives enough effort and has the intelligence can learn a language. In practice, we do this as in the swinging movements of a pendulum; we learn a little bit of this and a little bit of that; as we learn the words we understand the language better, and as we understand the language we solve the meanings of the words better. [in a holistic way, the history is the sentence and the historical events are parts of that sentence.] Learning history from historical events or documents is not as easy as historians suppose. It is not enough to learn the words of a language (or the events in the “language” of history), you also need to learn the grammar, the logic, the hidden or obscure meanings of the words. Otherwise the vocabulary that you may learn from a book will be limited, and it will be useless information. In actuality we do not learn about the events but the documents of history, which, in comparison to the infinite details of events, are like the forgotten dreams of Nebuchadnezzar.
In his work titled “What is History?” E.H. Carr says that: “no document tells us anything more than what the author of that text thought -what he thought had happened-, what he thinks must have taken place, or maybe only what others assumed he must have thought. None of these have any meaning until the historian sets himself to work on them or attempt to solve them.”
They say that “History is an action fended by words.” Whereas we desire a humanity who can detach itself from the destructive effects of intentions and actions which result from a taming of minds with historical writing. We do not need a history which is seen through the misformed relations and thoughts of our age of scientism and historicism;
but an essentially objective account of history, and a new epistemology. It is for this that we need a philosophy of history, that is, to understand the events that directed history, to know what happened in history, to understand the present and to predict what will happen in the future. It is said: “ورود الإمداد بحسب الإستعداد”: that is: “God’s providence will come to the extent of human capacity.” Humanity has been caught in a great flood of change: we are being carried away in the water. Yet, “in a medium where we ought to be a fish, we seem as though we wish to be a bird.” An Arabic proverb says that the staff of Sa’san, the king of beggars, has this script on it:
“من طلب جلب، من جال؟ نال”
(Who wants something will get it, and who wanders will get to their destination.)
History is not what remains in the past. It has continuing effects into the present and shapes the present. As Paul Valery said: “The real character of history, is that it takes part in the making of history: The idea of past only bears value for those who have an exuberance for the future. Future is, by definition, without a shape. History makes it possible to think about the future.” In reality, the dead are governing the living. We address living humans; however, we have to discuss the ideas of the dead who is ruling the world from their graves.
Those who made the status quo of today were those who lived in the past. That is, the way to understand the status quo of today’s world is through understanding history: we are interested in history to understand the present and to find an orientation. Another meaning of consciousness is to perceive that a part of the recent past is continuing in the present
The historical dream we see is casting us down, it is disheartening us, and we want to interpret this dream of history to understand this bad condition we are in. What is the meaning of this nightmare of a history? It is as contemporary historian Braudel said: “Everything is related with everything else.” If we are intending to plan our future, control it, and make policies, then we need to know and understand the world we live in. And in order to understand the present status quo, we need to understand the history. They say that “History feeds history” whereas Ghazali says: “He who has not been to the boundaries and highest levels of a discipline, does not realize the problems with that discipline.”
However, when understood as such, history comes to signify the knowledge of history insofar as it shapes today, i.e. to know the events that had the greatest influence on bringing about the present status quo, to have an interest in the historical events that relate to our contemporary world. There is an overlarge past: a lot of things happened and only God is capable of knowing all that happened. The historian cannot possibly know the whole of history even if he wanted, and it is not necessary either.
A Byzantine mystic reportedly said: “Since we cannot change the reality, let us change the eyes which see it.” What the historian needs to know is only those events that are necessary for thinking about today’s status quo and the future. Defined as such, history is more about today and the future than about the past.
To put it in the words of Arthur C. Clarke, the inventor of satellites: “Human culture’s end is in sight: human intelligence which is expanding with the help of electronics is flickering like a soon to be extinguished light.”
When understood as such, history inevitably becomes philosophy of history. They say that “although the grape juice shows some excesses, in the end, what it will turn into is wine.” Let me quickly add that actually no historian, deliberately or unintentionally,
whether fit for it or unfit for for it, can keep themselves away from indulging in philosophy of history. Humanity has surely seen a dream but like Nebuchadnezzar, it has forgotten what it had seen; and it is more interested in how to interpret it more than what the dream was: Of course, for living men of action, it is more important to be interested in how the past is going to affect today and tomorrow.
THE WORDS OF THE SKEPTICS
Actually, in this sense, History, and even Nature can be said to be a dream; like Nebuchadnezzar’s forgotten dream. A world of fake images as in the television. In vain, everything under the sun is in vain. The vanity of vanities; what a futile effort it is to try to catch the wind by the fingers. The wind blows and is gone, the time passes. But is it possible to look at the marks of time in memories; its remnants; to history, and make an interpretation? Heraclitus said that “the nature of things is change.” You cannot bathe in the same river twice, so mankind cannot discover anything constant. Cratylus, a far-fetching follower of Heraclitus, even said that “You cannot bathe in the same river twice, because both human and the river changes every instant.”
Indeed Cratylus believed that it was impossible to express yourself and to communicate since the speaker is changing, the listener is changing, and the words we utter are changing their meaning, so is it not the case that whatever we intended to say at first will be different upon being heard. There is also a nice rumor that Cratylus was not willing to discuss anything and would just wave his finger, the meaning of which is: he heard what the other person has said but to ask what he meant or try to answer would be absurd because everything is in continuous change.
Of course there is a history of the times past, but then there is also the meta-history, i.e. the philosophy of that history. Just as we talk about a meta-physics of nature beyond nature; physics need a framework beyond physics for its explanation, and history requires a framework beyond history for its explanation. In this sense, Cratylus just waves his finger, and neither is history history anymore, nor is physics itself. Everything constantly changes.
They describe time as “change.” History is the record of these changes brought about by time. The marks left in the memory of humankind, the remnants of the passing time, the debris on the bottom. What happened in the past, and how much time has passed? Is the past infinite, or did it start when God created the universe? According to Kant’s antonyms of time and place time is both infinite and had a starting point with the beginning of universe. He put forth these antonyms by using logical proofs that time can be understood to be both finite and infinite, but he did not take the trouble to ask if the future is finite too. Also it is remarkable that two contradictory conclusions can be proven right using the Aristotelian logic which is based on the law of the excluded middle, even when there is not a fault in reasoning. Why does the past have a certain mark and a certain delimitation, and why is the passage of time mono-directional; that is, why does it flow from the future to the past? Furthermore, there are those who do not accept that time is passing,
and they even call it “The Myth of Passage” which is another topic of debate.
For example, we remember Cratylus, but we do not remember what is going to happen in the future after I write these. People were able to distinguish between Space and Time before, but since the theory of relativity, it has become customary to call it space-time. Although this is a quality known by all, the real meaning that it signifies is understood by a very few people. And since some of the problems that this theory has created has not yet been solved, it could be said that it is not understood by anyone anyways. Yet, if you ask scientists, time does not have a direction and is symmetrical in both ways; time is only a dimension of “space-time”; the Newtonian concept of “absolute time” and “absolute space” does not exist. From a physicists point of view, by taking space as the main frame of reference, time should be explained by “movement”. **
In that case, time can be surpassed if we moved very fast. That is why there are people who imagine it possible to travel in time back and forth, as in space: yet the actual nature of time is the irreversibility of processes and I believe the law of thermodynamics is a good explanation of that characteristic of time. Kant was not wrong when he thought Time and Space to be the basic categories of our minds. We think in the categories of Time and Space and Causality; however, we cannot really understand their nature: be such fish that they know not the sea, though they be in it. For that is like seeing ourselves from outside. In order to do that, we would need a “super-consciousness”
If time is passing, at what speed is it passing? How many kilometers per second and in which time continuum? In that case we would need a hyper-time in which time is passing.
Importing the concept of time into the concept of space in this way would require space which ought to be in a state of inertia to be dynamic and changing as well. Which, however, would then make the absolute space disappear and it would be necessary to think of another spatial framework of reference as a larger continuum that encompasses it. In that case, we would be talking about endless continuums as in the Set theory.
which can serve as a larger container for our own mind and consciousness and can judge it.
III. HISTORY AND DREAMS OF NATURE (ARGUMENT FROM ILLUSION)
Skeptical thoughts from the history of philosophy on Truth and Appearances.
No doubt, Newton’s theory of gravitation, and Plato’s theory of Ideas, and even Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is history, as they have taken place in history. Even if we look at it from a conventional historical perspective these above mentioned examples, though they may be considered in the fields of physics and philosophy, have in a way directed human history by having a much longer and deeper influence on human history than many a big political event.
We had started with an analogy of dream, because it has been a very frequently used analogy since the ancient times, in the arguments peculiar to skeptic philosophers. They call this “argument from illusion.” That is, the image and the reality can be different; or, the impressions our senses give us can be just a sensory error, and these impressions may not be true. In Berkeley’s words “all the impressions based on our senses and qualias, insofar as they seem to us, in equal proportion, are mirages.” As far as I remember, Pascal said: “If we had not seen ourselves under constantly changing circumstances and places without consistency in our dreams, and real life had been inconsistent and in this way similar to dreams, we would have thought real-life to be a dream, and dreams to be real-life.”
In a way, this is the distinction that Kant makes of phenomenon and neumenon. We perceive objects according to the categories of Time, Space, and Causality, and as Kant said: “Only the Higher Being can see everything from the beginning to the end as a complete whole.” As well known, Kant said: “we can only know the phenomenon, we can never know the noumenon.”
Philosophers, who start out with doubting folk beliefs and common sense, finally end up doubting philosophy itself. From Pyrrhon to Bergson, philosophers disbelieved that things in themselves can be known. Since it is we who are trying to understand the Truth, first we have to distinguish between us and the truth. In that case, we have to think about our own understanding of the truth, and judge our consciousness itself. In order to do that, not to compare with God, but we need a super-human consciousness which can cover our own consciousness In this way, even though we ourselves are a part of the Truth, we break this truth into parts and classify it as the self that perceives and the perceived truth, as subject and object. This condition is an artificial distinction of human cognition and it means distorting reality a little, therefore as a poet said:
“Fish that know not the sea,
though they are swimming in it.” The eye cannot see itself. However this condition is an ineluctability that we have to be a part of, and as much as we may think, we cannot avoid the mistake of thinking in dichotomies such as mind and body; idea and matter; and cause and effect. Thus, even if we are a scrupulous philosopher who takes hairsplitting care in examining concepts, our cognition proceeds at each step by distorting a little more. However, it is also necessary to be aware of this. Deceased Ordinarius Professor Süheyl Ünver used to say “Attention is honor!”
As we will mention again when the occasion arises, scientists are interested in the world of objects rather than the world concepts: Just as the quantum physics interpreters are not bothered by the contradictions in the concept of quantum.
A philosopher has to question the connection between words and entities. They are not littérateur; they do not play word games. They have to inquire upon the relations between the words and the things that exist. Yet, the words that we use are indeed our consciousness. In order to be able to judge them we should be able to judge our own consciousness. Indeed, human is intelligent, and has to use its own intellect as the measure of everything. That is why no one complains of their own mind. Omar Hayyam says: “I have put my mind for sale in the market; nobody wanted to buy it; because, since everyone liked their own minds, nobody wanted mine.” But not to trust our own consciousness and cognition is against our nature as living and actionary beings, and it is also difficult for our self to bear.
At this point, I will quote from Ghazali’s work called ‘El munkiz min ed-Dalal’ (المنقذ من الضلال) which stands as his biography of thought: A voice within was telling me ‘How can the sensory input be trusted? The strongest of these is the eye. This sense looks at the shade and sees it as immobile and stationary. It concludes that there is no movement there. In a while, by experience and perception, understands that it moves. However, that movement is happening gradually, not suddenly. Likewise, the eye looks at the star and sees it as big as a golden coin. Yet, geometrical proofs show it to be larger than the earth we are on. In such cases, senses dominate. But reason proves it undeniably that the senses are wrong via experience. I said,
‘the confidence in sense is destroyed, and as such, there is nothing worth trusting other than the proofs of reason.’ ‘Ten is bigger than three; negation and proof cannot exist together; something cannot be both eternal and temporary; both exist and not exist; a necessary truth and an improbability. Upon this, the senses chipped in and said:
“How can you be sure that your trust in the knowledge of your reason will not end up as your trust in the knowledge of your senses? You had trusted me. The reason prevailed, and belied me. If it had not been for your reason, you would have continued confirming me. It is possible that there is another domain beyond your reason, which when arises, shall belie reason just as reason belied the senses.
Just because a domain other than reason does not appear, does not mean it is improbable.”
The Self paused a little, and with the thought of the dream reinforcing the doubt, it said:
“Do you not see? You believe in certain things in your dream, imagine certain things, you accept the continuity and coherence in them. When in that state, you do not fall into any doubt about them. Then you wake up, and see that all that all which you dreamed and believed did not have an essence. So then, how can you be sure that the knowledge you got with your senses and reason in your wakefulness is true?
Indeed, that belief is true for that state you are in. However, it is possible that another state befalls on you, whose wakefulness compared with your current state is the same as your wakefulness to your dream; that your wakefulness seem as a dream to that state. When that state befalls on you, you may understand that all the things that you thought of were groundless.” Perhaps, this state is the one which mystics claim to have. They say that when they get in a trance and lose their sense, they witness certain states that are not reasonable. It is possible that this state is death. Because Prophet Mohammad(pbuh) said: “Humans are in a slumber. They wake up when they die.” In comparison with the afterworld, the life on earth may be considered a dream. When a human dies, everything seems different to him than it does now. And then it is said to him:
“We have removed the cover from your eyes. Today your eyes are sharper…”
In this sense, one of our poets (I suppose it was the deceased A. N. Tarlan) says that:
Those who put their posts up in the doors of the saints
Did not mind the appearance, judged the content
Those who woke from the dream and found the secret out
Called this mortal world a dream
Prophet Jesus says that: “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free!”
The same argument of illusion was also used by the ancient skeptic philosophers. It is said that Georgias doubted that anything existed.
Georgias said that: “Even if something had existed, we could not have penetrated its secret, and even if we could know of its existence, we could not have been able to tell of it to others.” And Gassendi said: “Science is not possible in any way; and the least possible kind of science is the science as Aristotle understood it.” This is an issue that busied the entire history of philosophy since Plato’s allegory of the cave:
to what degree can our knowledge correspond to the truth? Allow me to make another analogy: can a perception imprisoned in another cave (i.e. a skull) know the real world outside of itself, as it is, without errors, and completely, through the shadows reflected on the walls of the cave(i.e. the eyes)? To what degree will the image of reality that is created in our mind correspond with the original; and how healthy will that information be?
I once read a prime example of this in a newspaper where doctors were trying to help a baby who was born blind and was incurable. They have placed sonars on three points of the child’s head. This system which scans the environment with a sonar as in bats turns the reflecting sound waves to touch sensations on the baby’s forehead. Thus it has been recorded that the baby was able to tell the distance of an object, distinguish their shapes from afar, and tell if it was rectangular or circular; or for example to tell the difference between a table and in this way, possess a kind of vision via touch sensations. Of course, this baby’s vision is very limited compared with a normal eyesight,
It is known that for people who are born blind, spatial perception, the volume of objects, the world of light and color are totally unknown and they use words about these domains only as habits of speaking, convention, and hearsay. Many symbolic stories aside, there is also the famous case of Hellen Keller — born deaf and blind — who is the author of ‘The Eyes of Darkness’. And then there is the third eye of the Buddhists.
however, let us not forget that there are 12 types of light radiation and our vision is capable of seeing only certain frequencies of white light. Have seen an ultraviolet photograph before? It can detect heat radiation and can differentiate between hot and cold just like our sense of touch. As a result, we can say that Protagoras was wrong: “Human is not the measure of everything”; human perception is very limited and it justifies the argument of dream.
The rationalist E. Goblot will object and say: “The skeptic cannot avoid thinking, and when he starts thinking and reasoning, he practices the Law of the Excluded Middle.” One frequently comes across the following argument: “You are criticizing reason, but you are doing so by using reason.” Even Averroes criticized Ghazali in the above manner in his work called Fasl-ul Makal. Yet, reason is not only Aristotelean logic. From Heraclitus to Hegel, a lot of philosophers have used the dialectical/paradox logic. Furthermore, mystical philosophers such as Ghazali do not trust neither reason nor hearsay; they value their own profound observations and discoveries and since they are not able to put them in the strict confines of static Aristotelean logic which is incapable of describing the rich realities of inner life, they deliberately use paradox logic to express them.
It will be digression but since the occasion has arisen to mention that when Parmenides was visiting Athens at the age of 75 with his rookie Zeno, he told Socrates while discussing the world of ideas: “You are still young and has not fallen into the hands of philosophy (Plato, The Sophist, pg. 114)
At this point, I will quote from my declaration called ‘The Image of Islam in the World and the Future of Humanity’:
“And today, we live in a world totally ignorant about the world of metaphysics. That is why our epistemology today is imprisoned in the world of particulars, in the world of shadows. Even its ontology is meaningless and incapable of understanding causes. Humanity is depraved of the “TRUTH”, and because today, there is a science without wisdom; and there is oppression over oppression, ceaselessly.” I guess it will be more true to say that since the ancient Skeptics of Greece, the world of philosophy has been caught in a whirlwind, and it has never made it out of it.
LOGIC AND MATHEMATICS
Goedel’s Theorem, Logicism, and Set Theory
Bacon said “Studia aberrant in mores”, that is, work turns into a morality, into a second nature. Philosophy started everything with doubting and continues doubting. In this case, in doing philosophy of history, we have to use our knowledge of history and take the cultural differences and differences of approach which change over time into account to understand the matters of epistemology. As Imre Lakatos said: “Doing history of science without philosophy of science is blind, and doing philosophy of science without history of science is futile.” As you know, my actual specialty is medieval Islamic history. However, I am a historian who does not suffice with being a historian, one who thinks about the concept of history itself; one who passes over to meta-history, one who thinks about history i.e. doing philosophy of history, one who tries to interpret both history and the practice of history. The issue is that, to do philosophy of history, philosophical thought is necessary. One who is to philosophize ought to be very learned and equipped in epistemology.
However, logic alone is an enormous field of study which is hard to acquire in a life-time when types of modern logic and countless logical symbols are also included) Besides, if you think about the foundations of logic, you will have to enter into theories of mathematics.
Now the problem is that classical and modern theories of logic seem insufficient to me; however, this has been an activity that showed me how both my knowledge and human understanding was so limited. Now, we have to deal with these problems of logic, but to be able to do that, we have to deal with mathematics, and have to work on theories of mathematics. A Latin proverb goes: “sapiens nihil affirmat quod non probet” “Reason does not confirm what is not proven”.
There cannot be a theory of knowledge without delving into these technical issues of logic and mathematics: however when I understood that for such an endeavor a very large and adequate knowledge of mathematic theories, I was indeed surprised at how much I had ventured into this subject and yet how little I had fared. I discovered with amazement that such a knowledge of mathematics, (or at least about some theories of mathematics about logic and their outcomes which turn our views upside down) is absolutely necessary to even begin thinking. As one deals with the shortcomings and gaps in epistemology, you see that it is about some shortcomings in the mathematical thought therefore you start reading texts about the theories of mathematics, and then you begin to understand that there are such logical paradoxes and problems in mathematics which can put dynamite to human thought which leaves paradoxes of logic and semantics behind in importance. Therefore, when the occasion arises I will present interpretations and information about problematic issues of logic which originate from theories of mathematics within the limits of my understanding* (I must state and admit that although it is related with the Goedel’s theorem, I have spared myself going into the recursive function theory and such issues because I do not have the specialization in maths) I will try to show the criticisms that can be made using meta-mathematics (i.e. logical examinations about the theory of proof; theories of mathematics.)
Russell had a recourse on mathematics to solve the semantic paradoxes of Zeno of Elea such as “What I am saying is a lie” or of Epimenides of Crete who said “All Cretans are liars” (now, shall we believe him or not?); and using Cantor’s set theory he attempted to solve this paradox and made the following conclusion: This is a meta-linguistic expression; i.e. it belongs not to the set of meanings that the sentence produces, but to a larger meta-linguistic set which includes this sentence and the language itself, and it is valid in this latter set.
Furthermore he had tried to solve the Zeno’s paradox using the set theory. As it is known, Zeno said: “If space can be divided infinitely, a shot arrow can never reach it’s target; because the arrow has to pass through infinite points during its flight, and that is impossible. Furthermore, the arrow which is static at each instance, cannot be moving either.” Mathematicians explain this by the convergence to a limit of number sets, i.e. that an infinite number series can have a limited end.
But actually this spatial paradox is about the problem of linear continuity in geometry, and it is a view that shows us the inadequacy of the understanding of space where space is infinitely divisible, or forcing us to accept paradox logic as a reality.
Linear continuum, i.e. the continuity of a line is not being proven because of the insufficiency in the axiomatic sets theory, although Cantor’s set theory was reformed using this theory. That is, since the line is made up of points, the correspondence of the points on the line with numbers if we were to put numbers on each point, as Zeno had said, we face an infinity of numbers. Thus, there are infinite numbers between two rational numbers. There is an infinity of numbers in one meter. Yet, it does not matter if it is a length of 0.1 centimeters or a centimeter: there is also an infinity from 0.1 to 0.2 centimeters. Try it if you want: The arithmetic expression of a geometric continuity is possible only conventionally.
* Since one has to travel half of the distance each time, the number of distances to cover are infinite. 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32… Ad infinitum. Just because these divisions continue to infinity does not mean that their sum is also infinite.
However, saying that the limit sum of this infinite set of numbers equals 1, does not solve Zeno’s paradox.
Nobody claims that infinite division infinitely increases the distance to be traveled. Here, the issue is not the infinity of distance but the infinity of the times to travel those distances. Although the center of the discussion seems to be the issue, actually it is when time comes into play that things become paradoxical.
You make up a length and call it a meter, put a special-made alloy version of it in the British Museum and will have to make your measurements by comparing lengths with one another! When you want to express lengths in numbers we encounter infinite sets of infinity within infinity. If it is okay to say so, it is the square of infinity. ∞²: If there is such a problem on a line, how are we to prove the continuity in a 3 dimensional container? Are we to talk about the cubes of infinities then? Without arithmetics, there is neither geometry, nor physics. The issue here is not whether the infinite sets of numbers converge to a finite end; the actual matter is the continuity of the line. The mathematicians say that this axiom is not being proven because there is a missing axiom in the axiomatic sets. “Can not a new continuum axiom be constructed via the method of mathematical induction?” is a question that comes to my mind, yet induction too is insufficient in my opinion. Real proof is deduction. This Reminds me of Russell’s words, because lately axioms are not understood as the codifications of intuition but just as the rules of the game. When Russel mockingly said: “We do not know what we are talking about in maths and we do not care if what we say is true or not.” it is taken as though it were true literally. In my opinion, it is probably not possible to be a good mathematician without a strong sense of intuition and a sense of reality.
Zeno was neither a fool nor was he blind: he could very well see that a shot arrow did hit its target. The point with these metaphors are either to show that our geometric perception of space is faulty or to show that paradox logic is a reality that must be accepted even within the Aristotelean logic which is based on concepts of equality and exclusion of contradictions derived from the material world. For example, Zeno’s master Parmenides was saying that change and movement are also not possible. The same paradox is taken on by H. Poincare in a different manner: Nothing can distinguish a directly observable line from half of its length which is zoomed in on with a microscope.
The whole is homogeneous with its part, and this is another paradox, or to put it more correctly if the number of terms are considered limited, this too would be a contradiction; indeed, because the part consists of less terms than the whole, it is obvious that it cannot be similar to the whole.
However there are mathematical problems inherent in the set theory, and as it is known, in order to do away with these paradoxes and reform set theory, mathematicians have tried to use axiomatic set theory. Thus to reform the faults of formal logic, they sought the assistance of the strongest language of thought: mathematics; but this time be it because of set theory or the doubts that the Goedel’s theorem’s raised about the natural numbers, mathematics has become illogical; we meet paradoxes even in mathematics. The aim of Russel and Whitehead in Principia Mathematica was to reduce mathematics to principles of logic;
but it was understood that this was impossible too. Yet mathematics was supposed to match principles of logic. Futile efforts; because a few years earlier in a doctorate thesis published in 1918, E. Goblot had proven that syllogism is not deduction,
and his master E Boutroux had acknowledged it after asking his groom H. Poincare.
The development of mathematical reasoning is always forwards and towards the general. Mathematical deduction always goes either from specific to general, or from heterogeneous to homogeneous. It never goes from the general to specific [i.e. against syllogism] I was really surprised to reach this judgment which went against generally held convictions in the beginning of my studies on the system of sciences, which logicians had fallen prey for centuries. For centuries since Aristotle they had thought that by doing syllogism they were doing the theory of deductive reasoning. However, syllogism is completely incapable of doing any generalization. The two fundamental rules of syllogism which are “aut semel aut iterum” and “latius hos quam praemissae”
mean that the premises can never surpass their boundaries. Any way of proof that contradicts it are faulty. And all the other rules are a result of these fundamental rules. However, the mathematician, without requiring proof even of an empirical nature, does not think anything other than the content of a proposition which is considered to be true. And this would be useful only as a reminder to the readers in cases when the readers cannot realize it. If a proposition is true, the things that follows from it are also true; it is not proof to draw out the specific or individual truths from a general truth. The theory of syllogism is doubtless a wonderful thing. But it is not deductive reasoning. Boutroux said to Goblot: “You have shown that syllogism does not explain deductive reasoning. And I think you are right about that. In that case then, tell us what is your theory of deduction?” “I have just shown that deductive logic is a thing to be discovered, but I have not discovered that yet.” (E. Goblot, The System of Sciences, pg. 31) Later, H. Poincare tried to show this using mathematical induction. Goblot’s final judgment about deductive reasoning is “deduire, c’est construire” i.e. deduction is construction!
As a result, the conclusion that the logical principles are not sufficient to express mathematical principles is striking and remarkable, and for me it shows that let alone encompassing the reality, it is not even valid in the world of mathematics which is completely theoretical and abstract, and which furthermore uses only the principles of equality and non-contradiction.
When I look at the sources of information at hand, I meet paradoxes and logical problems arising especially from theories of mathematics. In that case, it is necessary to understand Göedel’s theorem (1931) or set theory, in order to get an idea about the epistemological conclusions and significance of this However, what they teach us about maths is a just a little more than 2+2=4.
For instance, does 2+2=4? It does. And I say that as you will see when you examine Göedel’s theorem or axiomatic set theory, 2+2 is not always 4: I say beforehand: I do not say “not at all” But a little information about Cantor’s set theory, or Göedel’s theorem or mathematical induction is enough to show us how many paradoxes we may encounter even in mathematics which is based on principles of equality and non-contradiction. These paradoxes expose vital issues about the nature and boundaries of our thought.
As for the issue of whether 2+2=4; it is very easy to show that this is not equal in terms that mathematicians can easily understand. Firstly: according to the second Göedel’s theorem, for a natural number theory,
it cannot be shown that a system is consistent and without paradoxes while remaining within that system. And this first of all shows us that we do not have an adequate natural number theory. In essence, the natural numbers obtained via mathematical induction such as 0, 0¹, 0², 0³ or in simpler terms thus: 0, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, …,1) are also not acceptable, because there are infinite numbers of natural numbers between two rational numbers; there are infinite numbers between 1 and 0. Actually this is an inevitable result of the insufficiency of induction as a method. That is, are there really real and natural numbers so that we can have an operation like 2+2=4?
On this matter H. Poincare says: “The disagreement is pretty old; once upon a time Leibniz was trying to prove that 2+2=4; let’s examine his way of proof.
Let us consider that the equation of adding 1 and a number ‘x’ i.e. X+1 to be predefined.
Whatever these numbers may be they will not be involved in the process of reasoning. After this, here is how I define numbers 2, 3, and 4:
(1) 1+1=2; (2) 2+1=3; (3) 3+1=4
The same definition goes for the equation of x+2:
(4) x+2 = (x+1)+1
Once these are accepted, we can write the following equations:
2+2=(2+1)+1 (definition 4) (2+1)+1=3+1 (definition 2)
3+1=4 (definition 4)
Through these you get to the conclusion of:
That is what needs to be proven.
It cannot be denied that this kind of reasoning is solely analytical However, question any mathematician and they will tell you that this is not a proof but only a truism. Two concordant terms have been compared and have been found to be equivocal, nothing new has been learnt. Indeed, since truisms are also merely analytical and because it is barren, it is not the same as proof. It is a barren thing because its results are nothing different than its precedents composed in a different way.
However, it is because of its special nature that it has been possible to prove 2+2=4. In mathematics, all special expressions like these can be verified. But if mathematics were to be reduced to such an array of verifiable truisms, it would not be a science. For example, by winning a chess match the chess player does not produce science. There is science only in generalities. It can even be said that the subject of complete and exact sciences is to save us from such direct verification. (H. Poincare, Science and Hypothesis, pg. 6)
To put it in terms mathematicians would understand, according to Göedel’s theorems, it cannot be proven that 0=0¹. In that case, we cannot say 1=1² either.
Because Göedel has proven that this cannot be proven. If there were some calculation mistakes in Göedel’s mathematics, thousands of mathematicians would have found it long ago so that mathematicians and logicians could rejoice. The first theorem states thus: There will always be a formula in number theory in any appropriate formal system which cannot be proven right or wrong. If we cannot tell right from wrong even in mathematics, we have got a long ground to cover in logic.
Besides Fermat’s last theorem still poses a big problem for number theory. “Provided that the equation n>2 and Xn + Yn + Zn cannot be proven as long as x, y, z are natural numbers.” and it has not been proven yet. However, if mathematics and the concept of number were natural to our logic, this equation should definitely have existed and should have been provable.
It was understood that the efforts of logicians such as Russel and Frege to create a single deductive system, and trying to find a few core axioms to derive all mathematical truths are bound to fail; that it is impossible to do so. Göedel’s theorem has shown that especially efforts like Hilbert’s to use only elementary logic to prove the consistency of mathematical theories were wishful thinking. Furthermore, there are those who conclude from this theorem that human mind is not a deterministic and mechanical system. Besides we are just talking about natural number systems here. It is not possible to express the length of any line with natural numbers (e.g. you can take any distance as the hypotenuse of an isosceles triangle and consider the other side as a unit of a metre or a kilometer etc.) or even to put a number on it. It is known that mathematicians invented irrational numbers such as √2 to solve this issue. To quote Edmond Goblot from the System of Sciences (pg. 16): “Cantor so supposes that Pythagoras had tried all the fractional numbers between 1 and 2 and when he saw that none of these square up to 2, he concluded that such a number does not exist; and finally, he had proven it too. His reasoning
was only to show that a number such as this which was thought to exist would have both been even and odd at the same time. That is, a proof via reductio ad absurdum” Now, what does that mean? Draw a 90° triangle, and look at the hypotenuse which forms √2: Does this line exist? It does: this is a reality; but there is not a natural number to arithmetically express this geometric continuum; a linear continuum.
√2 is an irrational, [without a ratio, not countable]. This number has been reduced to the absurd by proving that it is both even and odd. In short, there is a contradiction in this number, and contradiction is absurd, a “para-doxa”, i.e. outside of what is accepted as true, it is beyond reality. Besides, there are also the imaginary numbers invented by Gauss; however, strangely, there is not a number theory that is consistent within itself. I emphasize coherent because incoherence means contradiction, and it is illogical. In short, rules of logic are a dress that does not fit even mathematics. There must be something in mathematics which cannot be explained by logic; something beyond logic which does not fit in. Because deduction is not limited to logic: The counterpart of comparison is, as Poincare points out, only but verification. Comparison is just a tautology, its result is a rephrasing of its premises.
Logic has to be a formal discipline before all else, perhaps that is one of the reasons it is insufficient to express life’s dynamic changing reality; because what is formal is static. Logic also tries to be systematic: Aristotle’s not so remarkable systematic syllogism of inferring a third premise from two premises has enchanted humanity and kept it asleep. There had not been significant advances in logic up to the 19th century because of the dazzling success of Aristotle in identifying the categories, and the rules of syllogism. Logic seemed to steer away from Aristotle’s shadow with De Morgan and Boole’s mathematical or symbolic logic in the 19th century. As it is known, computer technology uses binary numbers and two-valued Boolean logic with true and false values.
But today there is also the many valued logic. Frege’s system and Principia Mathematica(1910) co-authored by whitehead & Russell are among the major developments in the 20th century. It is nice to write logic with mathematical symbols (albeit in the process they have developed many difficult logical symbols) but it is not possible to explain maths with logic.
A man called Göedel has come up and ruined a whole lot of work. He ruined the efforts of all logicians and the notorious Viennese logical positivists. According to this mathematical school of logicism, the foundation, the foundational principles of mathematics can be explained as logical concepts and foundational laws of mathematics can be derived from laws of logic. This was Frege’s and Russel’s main purpose. However, the matter got troublesome in describing the concept of number with the concept of class or set in logic. According to Logicism a natural number is the class of classes which are similar in the sense of being equi-numerous. (Purportedly they are describing the concept of number in the mathematical sense) For example, the number 2 is the class of all even numbers, and to say that there are two chairs in this room means that the set of chairs in this room is a member of the class of pairs. However, the rule of Göedel’s theorem that in any system containing arithmetic there must be truths that cannot be proven within that system, undermined the project of deriving all of pure mathematics from logic. That is, a larger system is necessary which includes number system, and here again we encounter the concept of holism/set theory. All of these are actually about the issue of continuum, which needs to be discussed as a matter of metaphysics.
* Logicism: In western languages, the -ism suffix is used with mockery, as in the term of historicism which was mentioned in the Meaning and The Hidden Meaning.
The Harper Dictionary of Modern Thought: logicism.
As for the Set Theory
We can also see the paradoxical features of mathematics which cannot be explained by logic George Cantor understood the importance of sets in mathematics and developed the theory of infinite sets in the 19th century, and his ideas served as a foundation to Russel and Frege’s Logicism. In establishing the set theory, Cantor gives the following definition:
“From a “set” we understand a collection of “S” whose members are well defined, discernible, and unifiable thoughts and perceptions.” We call these s number of objects the members of “S”
For example, United nations is a set comprised of about 180 members. In the same manner, Turkey is a member of this set with 60 million members. And likewise, my family which is a subset of it; however, I am not a set of course. Yet, there are also empty sets with no members in set theory. In the same way, language is a set; an infinite set even. This sentence is a set too, and so are the words within them down to individual letters and sounds, and to each sound frequency. The issue is that each set can be infinite when you think a little bit, the members of a set become infinite sets in themselves: Each infinite world, an infinity within infinity, a box within a box so to say.
When it has been discovered that this theory contains paradoxes, it was understood that the theory was self contradictory. Although the paradoxes of set theory were attempted to be resolved with axiomatic set theory, these axioms are also incomplete, and continuum hypothesis cannot be resolved using these axioms. It will be necessary to touch upon this continuum hypothesis later on in issues of epistemology and metaphysics because of its significance in physics.
This set of M can include and encompass itself.
I will give an example from natural language to make it intelligible using a sentence that contains a semantic paradox. “All Cretans are liars” the set can contain all of its meaning in itself. In short, a box within a box.
Along with this, and at the same time,
S(x)=x does not include itself as a member of itself.
Furthermore, since it is logically impossible for a set to include itself it can be concluded that a set does not contain itself. That is, we are face to face with a mathematical formulation in the form of “a set can both contain itself as a member and cannot contain itself”. In a similar vein, we can question all the other concepts, wonder if they are simpler than the concept of set or even discuss whether they are perceived before the set. (J. E. Marsden, Elementary Classical Analysis, San Fransisco, 1974, pg. 447 This quote is taken from a translation by (Associate Professor Mustafa Öztürk) The reasons why we cannot agree on concepts at all come to daylight here. What? Paradoxes in mathematics too? Is not there a way out of these paradoxes?
There are mathematicians who claim that the paradoxes set theory create can be solved by modern axiomatic set theory, but these paradoxes do not seem resolved to me. This is evident from the inability of axiomatic set theory to solve the linear continuum problem. Zeno’s argument is still valid. The philosophical significance of set theory is this: A set contains all of its members but a member of the set, or a word of a sentence can be more complex than the set itself. For, the member of a set can be a member of a larger set. Perhaps we could think of infinity as the whole sum of all sets.
However, just as a set which contains all natural numbers is infinite, there are infinite numbers between any two rational number. This result is a paradox that can be proven by mathematical formulation.
As in the sentence “What I am saying is not true” If we were to put it using a semantically paradoxical sentence. Our experience about language and humanity confirms this. For example, a sentence which contains the word Allah; the word seems to have a limited meaning in that sentence, but as a member of another metaphysical set, e.g. Ayat-al Kursi, it has a much larger meaning: such that it contains the whole metaphysical literature: was not the whole supposed to be bigger than its parts? Is not that the most basic rule of logic? Take a line, divide it in the middle, take one half and magnify it twice; you cannot see a difference between them. And as a linear continuum, both correspond to the set of infinite numbers. Actually it is possible to consider the ontological categories that Aristotelean syllogism is based upon, and the concept of apperception as a set, and in a sense as a container or a continuum. According to the set theory the part can be bigger than the whole and this is a mathematically proven phenomena. Yet, mathematics is the most abstract, and the least faulty language that humanity was able to come up with: Furthermore it works with the principles of equality, and there should not have been paradoxes within mathematics at all.
As it is known there are other paradoxes in mathematics as well. I suppose it would suffice only to point out that: Today,
Except the idea of causality in Aristotelean logic which has a religious nature to it, and all the other principles can be found in mathematics. Something cannot both exist and not exist; the whole is larger than its parts; something cannot be both itself and something else; something cannot be in two different places at the same time.
Additionally to the Greek Euclidean geometry, we also talk about Hilbert, Lobachevsky, and Riemann geometries. For example, the sum of internal angles of a triangle can be 180 degrees as well as less than 180 degrees in a saddle shaped space, or larger than 180 degrees in a spherical space. On top of that, there is Poincare’s conventionalist geometry in which it is no surprise to get different results when using different geometries; all of them are to be used consistently within themselves, correctly, in the appropriate place. Just like in a Nasreddin Hodja story where he acknowledges the rightfulness of both the defendant and the plaintiff. When her wife asks him how both the defendant and the plaintiff can be right, he says “you are right too”.
I do not want to prolong these mathematical issues which I do not know very well. Let me summarize the issue shortly in this way: There are certain mathematicians who want to turn logic into mathematics, and certain mathematicians who want to turn mathematics into logic. It has been understood that Aristotelean logic is not so holy and untouchable as it was supposed. To say the unsayable, our holy idol has been dethroned, and the enemies of the worshipped God, paradoxes, has spread all around logicians. Logicians and mathematicians are collaborating to negate these paradoxes; but to no avail. Unfortunately there are paradoxes that cannot be dealt with even in mathematics; but I think I can even show that the physical reality is paradoxical according to quantum physicists.
V. EPISTEMOLOGY AND LOGIC:
Space, Aristotelean logic, and paradox logic.
Aristotle’s logic is a product of the Greek mind which is based on the perception of space. Nunc Aeterna: The eternal present-moment. In it, time has been ignored; because space can easily be conceived and measured, whereas time is immeasurable. Ancient Greek static physics is a science of physics without time. In spatial terms something either exists or does not exist. For a thing to exists is to be material and take up some space;
And not to exists is not to have a volume. In this sense, things exist and they seem as though they will exist forever: According to their understanding, nothing comes into existence from nothing, and nothing is lost. According to our five senses and impressions given by our senses, space is static. Since our intelligence has to adapt to the environment, since ancient Greece the inclination of our perception is justifiably spatial as common sense requires; and essentially what is visible to the eye are understood more easily. That is why they say “to see is to know”.
Yet, time can only be understood by change: That is, either the movement of objects and a transposition, or the appearance of something that had not existed before. That is the essence of the concept of an accident. An accident means the appearance of something new which is not taken into account because it did not exist in the previous frames of reference. We simply call “a chance event” that which is a truly new occurrence beyond our understanding, and which previously had not existed. In actuality, time is not just a mechanical change, i.e.
movement, but an accumulation of things coming forth which had not existed before**. For example, one year ago this text which you are reading had not existed in the world. Indeed, it can be said that the law of thermodynamics is an evidence to the passing of time in that it describes irreversible processes.
Taken from a different angle, the concepts that we use can seem insufficient or contradictory. But life is full of paradoxes.
* As I remember, in one of his works Bergson said: “Our intelligence is shaped in such a way that it has to think materially to adapt to its environment.”
** In the theory of relativity and other scientific theories, time is mechanized by using it in the meaning of a frame of reference that changes based on the speed and movement of objects, and changing of place; and thus it is expressed as a fourth dimension of space, as space-time. They could also just say “space plus movement”: In our age, time is described by space and space by time. On the one hand time becomes the 4th dimension of space and on the other hand space is no longer a static inertia and becomes a dynamic process-space that takes place in time.
***Between two objects that have a heat exchange, there is always a heat transfer from high temperatures to low temperatures and the reverse is impossible. To give a famous example: the melting of ice when placed on a hot brick.
The law of history (of time) is change. As Heraclitus said: “The nature of things is change”
Of course today’s status quo is different than the old one, and because it has changed it can form a contradiction with the previous one. In opposition to Parmenides who says “All change is in contradiction with itself, therefore it does not exist”, Heraclitus says “since all change is contradictory, contradiction/paradox is the essence of reality.”
As Mevlana proclaimed in his work ‘Fihi ma fihi’ (“It Is What It Is”): “Everything has a double side, Everything exists with its opposite.” Heraclitus is right but “it is hard to understand changing things.” So Plato’s inclination to tie objects to stable ideas was right in a way, because this is the condition for understanding. However, the world of history is just one such world of gradual becoming and changing. (Ş. Uçar, Moloch and Caliphate, pg. 141) Another meaning of history is time: change, i.e. the coming into being of something new, cannot be expressed in logical terms. That is why no matter how strongly its existence is confirmed, it remains an incomprehensible and paradoxical phenomena for Aristotelean logic.
Aristotelean logic contains the concept of space and material objects as an unchanging and fixed reality. “A thing cannot be in two different places at the same time; the whole is bigger than its parts; two things which are the same to a third are equal to each other; a thing either exists or does not.” and similar propositions are only related to space and refer to space. Yet the paradoxes that our conception of space has such as the paradoxes of Zeno of Elea are very famous. This means that because Heraclitian thought takes change as essential,
* Contradictory: The meaning of this term is to say the opposite of what we said; contradiction can actually be a semantic mistake rather than being a logical mistake. For example, as in the words of N. Bohr “The opposite of every great thought is also a great thought”; in that case Since it would be impossible to belittle and discard this idea of the great master Bohr, an unintended problem of giving a semantic meaning arises.
a dialectical or paradoxical logic has come out. The concept of change itself is paradoxical; because in Ancient Greece space is the unchanging. Dynamic is the opposite of static. If you take time instead of space as the reference point, Aristotelean logic becomes useless, and it becomes necessary to use paradox logic. And even as professor Yalçın Koç shows in his doctorate thesis called “Determinism and Space” even the idea of determinism is a natural result of a frame of reference based on space.
To put it in the old terms of Islamic philosophy, what is necessary in space, becomes contingent in time. And when this new contingency appears we call it an accident. In space there are necessities, in time there are contingencies.
Plato’s view of the real nature of objects, the form of ideas is interesting. According to him, because the world of ideas is perfect, the ideal forms are stable and do not change. Yet the world that is subject to our experience is, as Heraclitus expressed, a world of time-based impressions, that of constantly changing objects. Things that change are mortal, they cannot be perfect. The natural tendency of a mind which wants to understand is towards stability instead of the incomprehensible change; and towards a fixed point of reference for making comparisons and classifications. Because the definition and classification of changing things are difficult; things that constantly change cannot have a definition and a model, therefore their comprehension is impossible. For this reason, Plato, said “Real knowledge is the knowledge of ideas”
We should not confuse the objects and space that is the subject of our mind with the idea of space: Plato’s idea of space was probably a three dimensional continuum in the geometric sense. In the entrance of Plato’s academy it was written thus: “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here” We need to re-evaluate our notions of space as a container or a three dimensional continuum or space-time continuum or time continuum.
A new metaphysical thought is necessary where discussing a metaphysical continuum which encompasses all sets of existence is a foundational issue of metaphysics beyond the physical material existence which we perceive with our senses.
To quote from my address called “The Image of Islam in the World and the Future of Humanity”;
Aristotelean logic is not universal: there is paradox logic in eastern traditions such as sufism, Zen-Buddhism, and Taoism. In a world which is constantly changing and is not static in itself, paradox logic should be accepted: Because by definition the concept of “change” itself would result in the explanation of the paradoxes of life, which do not fit into the narrow confines of Aristotelean logic. In E. Fromm’s words (Psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism, pg. 50): The second aspect of the filter which makes awareness possible is Logic which directs the thinking of people in a given culture. Just as most people assume that their language is “natural” and that other languages only use different words for the same things, they assume also that the rules which determine proper thinking, are natural and universal ones; that what is illogical in one cultural system is illogical in any other; Because it conflicts with “natural” logic. A good example of this is the difference between Aristotelian and paradox logic. Aristotelean logic is based on the law of identity which states that A is A, the law of contradiction (A is not non-A) and the Law of Excluded Middle (A cannot be equal both to ‘A’ and ‘non-A’): As Aristotle said it: “it is impossible for the same thing at the same time to belong and not to belong to the same thing and in the same respect. This, then, is the most certain of all principles. In opposition to Aristotelean logic is what one might call paradoxical logic, which assumes that A and non-A do not exclude each other as predicates of X. Paradoxical logic was predominant in Chinese and Indian thinking, in Heraclitus’s philosophy, and then again under the name of dialects in the thought of Hegel and Marx. The general principle of paradoxical logic has been clearly described in general terms by Lao-Tse: “Words that are strictly true seem to be paradoxical.” Again in Zhuang Zhou’s words:
“That which is one is one. That which is not-one, is also one. But one is nevertheless still one” Inasmuch as a person lives in a culture in which the correctness of Aristotelean logic is not doubted, it is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for him to be aware of experiences which contradict Aristotelean Logic, and hence from the standpoint of his culture are nonsensical.”
Again in Taoist philosopher Zhuang Zhou said: There is nothing in the world bigger than the tip of an autumn hair, and Mount T’ai is tiny. No one has lived longer than a dead child, and P’eng-tsu died young. Heaven and earth were born at the same time I was, and the ten thousand things are one with me.
In his book called ‘An Essay on Creative Imagination’ Th. Ribot says: This constructive activity, applying itself to everything and radiating in all directions is a mythic creation in its typical early form. It is an invincible need of man to reflect and reproduce his own nature in the world surrounding him. The first application of his mind is thinking by analogy, which vivifies everything after the human model and attempts
to know everything according to arbitrary resemblances.
So the Aristotelean logic which was shaped according to Greek mentality is merely the rejection of contradictions; it takes space as essential and refuses contradiction. For example, A is not ‘not-A’. A thing cannot be itself and something else. As far as I remember, at one time in his work called Muhassal, Razi criticized these principles in that they are derived of each other as in a tautology, and in essence they are the repetition of the same thought in alternate forms. I also think like Razi on this issue, and consider that the principle of equality is a simple tautology. Of course, A is A is a truism; or to put it in the same manner, “a thing is what it is”. As for the third principle of the impossibility of a third alternative (between ‘A’ and ‘not-A’), this was derived from the principle of equality and refusal of contradiction.
For example, Japanese logic is paradox logic. Bozkurt Güvenç compares of Aristotelean logic and the logic of Japanese language). There are philosophers of language who say that language and therefore the culture which we are a member of has a very definitive role on our logic and world view. Now,
These mentioned principles also exist in mathematics: Mathematical measurement is in actuality the measurement of equalities, and it is a process of equation. This is something that our mind, common sense, and daily experience takes as normal. So, according to the impressions that our senses give us, and the impositions of our mind, and common sense, Aristotelean logic is quite natural, normal and without a blemish. Indeed, Aristotelean logic is a very strong expression of that common sense and form of understanding, which is why it appears natural to us and that is where it gets its power. Yet, since our perceptions are not sufficient, it has mislead us about the actual nature of reality.
However, can Aristotelean logic be the sole criterion of Truth? Apart from paradoxes in semantics and logic, there are even paradoxes in mathematics and physics some of which are, although beyond our sensory observations, are observable in laboratories. Perhaps we must accept paradox logic.
If paradox logic is going to express the truth better, then why not? But it would not suffice to say that Aristotelean logic has taken its concepts from space whereas paradox logic is born from the perception of time: We would need to ask why this is so, and question even the basic categories of our own mind about the root causes, such as the real nature of time and space, in order to find a theoretical frame of explanation which is on a realm of metaphysics. The question of whether there is paradox logic in reality, and it is valid and prevailing needs to be answered.
Up to this point, essentially, we have talked about logic in the sphere of epistemology, and pointed out to the necessity of using paradox logic as an alternative to Aristotelean logic. Another reason that calls for the re-evaluation of epistemology is that our conceptions about the world have greatly changed. In these days, everyone knows that our sensory organs do not give us a correct depiction of the world. We naturally make a distinction between time and space, but this is an illusion.
We, as people living in the 20th century, have seen what important disputes quantum mechanics has given birth to, and also have acquired a new “space-time” concept according to Einstein’s theory.
Time and space are basic concepts of the human mind; so, we must change our mentality, and we must build a new world view and a new metaphysics in order to have a new philosophy of nature with a new orientation. This is the most significant need in our age; because we have reached a new idea of nature based on scientific developments which we have not comprehended yet: Many concepts which have been considered true for ages are not considered true anymore.
Actually, Aristotle’s syllogism was a natural outcome of categorizing the existence. This can easily be shown with the Tree of Porphyry in the Isagoge. The categories of Aristotle are the rediscovery and expression of the features that already exist in the described object, rather than ‘reasoning’. And it can be reduced to a semantic matter of categorizing and classifying types and naming the species, and attributing meaning to those names. Yet, as the nominalists say, names may not always refer to the object being named. A mocking nominalist said: “I see that horse in front of me [with all of its unique features]; but I cannot see ‘the idea of a horse’” In order to avoid being verbose, I am turning away from getting into the issues of nominalism by mentioning the tree of Porphyry. Let me say this much that, while there is some truth to the nominalist criticisms that the universal concepts are empty and have no reality to it; it is possible to see even this matter as a kind of set theory (such as empty sets), or in a sense as a container problem, and essentially, it shows the insufficiency of the categories of Aristotle. It is even said by some philosophers that when a comparison leads to a contradiction, there must have been a mistake in sorting out the categories that are involved in the comparison, and the faulty categorization ought to be changed.
Basically for this reason, coherent theory of truth is not considered the sole expression of reality and other criteria such as pragmatic theory of truth and correspondence theory of truth are also asked for. The problem is that, this issue is related with how we understand reality.
VI. PHYSICAL REALITY AND PARADOX LOGIC
Now, when we think thoroughly and look at the scientific data, what shall we say about the paradoxes we encounter in semantics, mathematics, physics? Could it be that the nature of reality is paradoxical as Heraclitus had said? The primary paradox in physical theories is the Paris and Copenhagen interpretations of quantum mechanics according to which the particles of atom called quanta are to be taken as both particles and waves. That the quanta are both a particle with a material that takes up a space at a certain time and place, and a wave that cannot be contained within a coordinate system is a paradox and the Copenhagen interpretors are aware of this: Would you like to compare our augmented perceptive powers which go all the way to micro-physics
where a thing can be considered both to exist and not to exist with our natural sense of seeing? In macro-physics, we see the objects around us in a continuum; however this is an illusion. According to the Copenhagen interpretation we have to accept this wave/particle paradox as it is; or else, our entire theory of physics will collapse.
If you would like, let us say it with the terms of physicians themselves; I will present my thoughts by referencing to one of my earlier unpublished studies and translating from a work of reference about this issue called the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Philosophical Implications of Quantum Mechanics, volume 7, pg 41-48:
A particle ideally has a coordinate. That is, at a single given time, it is only in a single position. In his book called ‘Muhassal’ Razi shows the foundational hypothesis of the rationalists as “something either exists or does not”, and expressed that the hypothesis of “a thing cannot be in two places at the same time” is a derivation from it, and makes a sharp criticism of that idea. If something
Could be in two places at the same time, it means that it could exist in one and not exist in the other. And it should not be accepted since logic rejects contradiction. However, after learning about quantum mechanics, we had to move away from this strict rationalism which our senses that perceive the objects around us impose on us. According to quantum mechanics, the particles of an atom are to be regarded sometimes as waves and sometimes as particles. Yet a wave radiation is essentially the absence of such coordinates. A wave stretches in a waving medium, in a way, without a boundary. What could a wave movement mean at a geometric point? Furthermore, waves are never in one point at a time and there can be two waves in the same place. [It should be noted that this is the exact opposite of the Aristotelean hypothesis]; as in the intersection of waves that collide on the shore.
Nothing in the movement of a wave resembles the collision of two particles, or the collision of billiard balls. Ideally,a wave stretches infinitely; a particle becomes smaller until it becomes a dimensionless dot. Ideally, a particle cannot be divided, but a wave should be dividable, for, its periodicity can be witnessed only in this way. Since these are the opposites of each other how can it be thought of the same object to be defined as both particles and wave? Even if we can imagine that, we cannot put it in numbers. These are two expressions that are better understood when they are expressed by their opposites. However, between 1887 and 1927 various phenomena that can be described both as particles and waves have been discovered. All these discoveries were showing that radiation is both granular and is a waveform. In short, it was understood that the sub-atomic particles of the atom can simultaneously be described as both a particle and a wave. The experiments that E. Rutherford, N. Bohr and their like had shown that the atom is surrounded by a nebula consisting of lighter particles.
But as pointed above,
The combination of the De Broglie’s and Schrödinger’s particle and wave concepts caused a lot of different interpretations.
The Copenhagen interpretation is as follows:
The fundamental micro-physics has an inseparable wave particle duality. If in our scientific analyses, one side of this phenomena were to be considered superior to the other, the result would be not just an incorrect description, but a factually incorrect one. The numbers which are used for the Quantum mechanics experiments and predictions should be made by calculation techniques in both field-theory and the particle-theory. And, according to the Copenhagen interpretation, this situation is not going to change based on future developments. It is a dream to expect mistakes in the previous calculation techniques or to expect some developments in the future; we must not hope to get back to an understanding of micro-physics in the level of classical determinism. Why do we bring determinism into play?
Because, the only useful theory to explain the phenomena in the realm of micro-physics is the theory that regards these as both particles and waves, and this condition requires a reconciliation between the concepts. Particles stretch out to form electron clouds, and on the other hand, their area is limited to be small packets of waves. Thus, all that we can know about a particle is the partially described stance of it, i.e. of its participation to an inseparable whole. And this presents a sharp contrast to the classical physics which assumes that given the time, and x, y, z coordinates, a particle can be fully described. Classical determinism requires such a certain description of location for ‘the events that constitute a cause’, in order to make a definitive and deterministic description of the events that occur as a result of these causes can be made. And this is impossible in quantum physics.
As a result of these combinations of contradictory concepts, we have to get used to ideas such as uncertainty, entanglement and the like.
For, modern physics has already announced that we have been living in such a world, and that the image of the world which our senses showed us was a dream. Thus, the Copenhagen interpretation has 3 facets: “That thoughts which are contradictory are the essence of nature, and that the future developments are not going to change this way of explanation, and that the limitations quantum mechanics is brings concepts are merely the natural logical results of this situation.”
Some claim that this is a merely conventional philosophy that prevents physicians to see a more complex physical structure. Quantum theory is a single and unified theory along with Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty. And in this theory, the concepts of particles and waves are constituting an equally essential foundation in the explanation and prediction of the concepts they are connected with. The realm of micro-phenomena present themselves with a dual nature and to explain it in an understandable way and to define it is the job of science.
Some are inclined to think that in this situation the statistical quantum physics is incorrect or incomplete. But there is not another technique that can put forward anything close to the success of quantum mechanics. There is not a theory of micro-physics that is able to make an explanation in the following ten issues.
1) Bohr’s older theory that can explain the spectrum of hydrogen and ionized helium atoms can be explained within this theory.
2) It provides the procedure for calculating both the frequencies and the densities of spectrum lines.
3) It provides at least an understanding as a principle for the spectrum of atoms that are non-hydrogenous and have more than one electron.
4) It provides some kind of understanding for magnetism.
5) It builds a quantum theory for chemical bonds.
6) It leads to a ‘solid state theory’ that makes how and why atoms are kept together comprehensible.
7) It establishes a rational ground for interpreting the issue of the capture, binding, and distribution of electrons, neutrons, and protons in order to interpret ionization potential.
8) It is able to explain many a quite surprising phenomena such as the interactions of radiation and matter.
9) It provides a coherent pattern to the concepts of positron, anti-proton and anti-particles.
10) It at least provides a rudimentary understanding for matters of many mysterious radiation processes and matters of quantum electrodynamics such as coupling.
Despite this real list of success that quantum mechanics provides, it can be criticized in that it is paradoxical and it creates this confusion that is born of the contradictory concepts it joins together. Nevertheless, there is not another theory which even partially achieves the success listed above of the quantum mechanics tradition. Not even “an idea” of what a better idea could look like has been put forward. That is, this theory demands the mutual dependency of the essential continuity and the non-continuous states. It is said that if a philosophical critic desires a theory which contains causality, and in which the state descriptions are complete, and in which theoretical terms are completely describable in operations and observations on masses; then ou should be able to present an algebraic expression that can show similar successes as in the list above.
It should be noted that quantum physics contains wider uncertainties than position and momentum. In quantum physics, each structural feature such as energy, time, number and phase which are equally pervasive are regarded in a way as to contain similar uncertainties.
Judging by this, a metaphysical speculation can be made that nature is essentially non-deterministic. This situation which leaves philosophers deprived of Newtonian determinism can be expressed even more shockingly as follows:
Since the particles of atom are smaller than a light wave, it does not contain colors; and because of the uncertainty principle they do not have a position, volume or size; in short, they do not have attributes pertaining to senses at all. This situation leads to so much denial as to lead one to ask: “what is matter? And does it even exist since it cannot be sensed?” Those who criticize the Copenhagen interpretation, e.g. K. Popper, is not able to accept that “all the future developments of science are already determined”. It is normal that a theory as complicated as quantum mechanics requires a serious analysis and critique, and a lot of philosophers and physicians have brought various criticisms to this theory. In the meantime, there were speculations that came about; however, speculations should not be confused with an alternative scientific theory, and such an alternative theory has not yet been put forward. Such an alternative should have been possible to put forward since scientific disciplines are made up of empirical synthetic judgments. But a workable alternative has not been put forward yet. We may put forward thoughts and ideas about the change and development of science; however, these speculations ought not be confused with the change and developments themselves. Some have considered the explanations of this theory as “solely abbreviated heuristic perspectives”. “Terms such as Electron, neutrino, psi, delta and the like are considered as pattern providers that make understanding easier.
It is said that these terms place phenomena that do not have the pattern of a concept in a theoretical place.
The world of micro-physics which was discovered in this century and the results of these complex experiments in the labs have led to a cacophony of conceptual disagreements. Philosophers had to reevaluate the tradition of analysis of causality and determinism, explanation and prediction, objectivity and subjectivity, and theoretical terms and terms derived from observation. Although all great scientific revolutions require us to make such a re-evaluation; quantum physics is compelling us to re-evaluate especially our knowledge and presumptions about the very world that we are living in from scratch. Some statements of the Copenhagen interpretation seem to philosophers as a mixture of a crude positivism as in Heisenberg’s interpretation and a naive metaphysics as in Bohr’s interpretation. But this should not bar us from seeing the fact that quantum physics has completely changed the philosophical world. It would not be correct to see these ideas as a temporary nuisance either.
For, it appears that we will have to live with the principles of quantum physics for an indefinite time. We have to acknowledge that the core philosophy of quantum physics is fundamentally different than the preceding traditions.
This means that, all of the sensory input of our organs about the material world is merely an illusory dream; yet Aristotelean logic is shaped based on the observations of our sensory organs; for, the structural elements that make up all the objects that are the subject of our perception are of a paradoxical nature; because in quantum mechanics, a quantum can both have the features of a particle and a wave.
There is an example the quantum physicists give. Imagine a cat and a box with holes and the cat is looking through the holes of the box. Is there a mouse, or a bird, or a clinkering in the box? God knows: You are just looking from a distance at the cat who is looking inside the box.
Well, guess then: What is the cat seeing now? What is inside the box? What they are trying to convey by this example is that observing the quanta of an atom is impossible. It is not that we see these things directly using microscopes that significantly expand the vision of our eyes. It is more of a calculation; we have an observation derived indirectly from Dedekind-Dirac equations. Let us suppose that we projected a single ray of light to see an electron, but even a single light photon will cause it to move and we can never see it; because this object belongs to the field of micro-physics, and since it is extremely small, everything affects it. If we quote a number from Einstein’s book called The Evolution of Physics in order to have an idea about what this kind of smallness is like: a hydrogen atom is 000 000 000
000 000 000 000 0033 grams. That is why according to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, they say that it is impossible to ascertain where quanta are located at a given time.
We give this example because we are talking about the structural building blocks of atoms and its particles which make up the matter. No matter how small it is, a granule is a material thing. It is an object and it has a volume. However, it seems that in the field of micro-physics, we are dealing with force rather than mass. Also, in micro-physics and in astronomy the concepts that we have taken from daily life that come into the field of observation of our 5 senses are not very useful.
Indeed, are not the concepts born out of the daily observations of five senses, excessive abstractions that our mind creates, rather than direct observations? I am quoting a sentence word by word which I have encountered a very provocative sentence in Einstein’s aforementioned book(pg. 31), who was one of the great geniuses of our time: “Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world”
He continues his words with a simile: In our endeavor to understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. I have taken apart a few watches like this in my childhood; but I do not know the way electronic or atomic watches work. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears its ticking, but he has no way of opening the case. If he is ingenious he may form some picture in his mind of a mechanism which could be responsible for all the things he observes, but he may never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could explain his observations. He will never be able to compare his picture with the real mechanism and he cannot even imagine the possibility or the meaning of such a comparison. But he certainly believes that, as his knowledge increases, his picture of reality will become simpler and simpler and will explain a wider and wider range of his sensuous impressions. He may also believe in the existence of an ideal limit of knowledge which can be attained by the human-mind. He may call this ideal limit the objective reality.
In that case, how are we to discover the reality hidden in or behind these world of images? How are we going to discover the meaning and the secret of nature? In the part called Meaning and the Hidden meaning, we said “The greatest mystery is this existence itself, and everyone of us, in our own way, are trying to penetrate its enigma.” They asked the author of Faust, Goethe: “What is the greatest mystery” “The open secret” Goethe replied, and continued: “The one that is apparent to all but the one which no one can see. Because the secret meaning behind the visible reality is an open secret that not everyone can see.
There, the secret of existence, “the greatest secret” is this. Again Goethe: “Every eye sees, but it sees what it knows.” This existence whose secret is attained by only very few people is, in Fichte’s words, the idea of Divinity hiding behind the world of manifestations.”
When we try to investigate not the “animal consciousness” but the principles that hide behind the world of images and events;
the meaning of existence and the causes of it, we step beyond the world of physics and into the world of metaphysics. Even to name reality is to take the first step into the field of metaphysics. We already engage in a first class metaphysics when we use semantic, logical, mathematical formulas, names that have no factual existence such as “space and extension”, in order to understand reality. Therefore, let us not fear the pejorative meanings that rush into our minds as soon “metaphysics” is mentioned. Of course, this field may have been abused a lot throughout the history of philosophy; however, according to me, starting with consciousness itself, the ‘meaning’ itself, all the ‘world of meaning” already belongs to metaphysics. In Spengler’s terms, mathematics is a first class metaphysics as Plato and especially Leibniz shows. Therefore every philosophy grows on a mathematic that belongs to it. Number is the symbol of causality. Like the idea of God, it encompasses the essential meaning of the natural world.”
We want to get away from an illusory world of dreams using mathematics/metaphysics, and we cannot give up trying to understand the truth, and the meaning of existence;
for it would be going down from the level of human consciousness to the level of animal consciousness.
VII. EPISTEMOLOGY AND METAPHYSICS FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY
This age has a physics; but it is devoid of a metaphysics to give it meaning and unity. In this age, a lot of thinkers from Rene Guenon to S. H. Nasr have uttered this need. A world without metaphysics is a world without a ground to stand on; its ontology is meaningless and absurd. And a world whose ontology becomes meaningless, there cannot be an epistemology, logic, meaning, or hidden meaning.
* as in the lines “The meaning of Logos is to witness the secret of God.”
Today, the whole world is searching for belief, and groundless beliefs, even astrology and similar fortunetelling has become as popular as in the time of Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babel. Of course, my intention is not to make an invitation to scholastic mentality, or present a scholastic metaphysics; but there is also a free-thinking Sufi metaphysics which is quite different than authoritarian scholasticism. I think that a modern metaphysics that stems from this theory of mathematics and metaphysics is the greatest need of our age. This age, this darkness, needs light.
I think, if we are not to build a naive metaphysics, we need to consider metaphysics as a continuum problem. There cannot be an ontology without metaphysics, and no epistemology without ontology; because knowledge must have a subject; so, knowledge about what? The idea of causality, action at a distance, the theory of atoms, and the issue of continuum. These are the actual matters of metaphysics. We had mentioned that Zeno’s paradoxes are actually about the continuum problem, and Russell wanted to solve this problem using set theory This continuum, or unique points or to evaluate things as a whole, is similar to reading a book without knowing the language it was written in and understanding it. To say it with a simile Coleridge made:
“Nature actually looks like a book that we do not know how to read: Imagine a primitive African who is crude but curious. He has been given a holy book; he feels that this book which is revered by so many is related in a mysterious way to his personal human destiny and wants to decipher the magic of the book, the magic of the words; but he is illiterate. He wants to penetrate into the world of symbols with his wild and unrestricted intelligence; let us suppose that first he discerns the various lengths of units that the paragraphs are. He continues to use his intelligence and distinguishes the word groups made up of letters, and finally recognizes the peculiarly shaped punctuation marks. What else can his intelligence give him beyond this of a book whose language he does not know and cannot make to speak? He counts the repeating letters, categorizes them, meticulously examines each one of them, and ultimately he sees that there are twenty something of these letters. His intelligence can take him no longer.
Mysterious, perhaps magical, but some spiritually impenetrable symbols. Unless a missionary comes and opens up the soul of this book for him, translate it into his tongue and teach him how to read and write, what can this savage intelligence understand from a book? Here you have a perfect example that perfectly represents the condition of the natural sciences. This existence is a book that we are trying to read without penetrating into its soul; count the words, classify the letters and stop there: An arrangement that has not been guided by the light of any fundamental ideas; only organized, but does not have a methodology.
The result is learned and systematic ignorance. (S. T. Coleridge, Theologico-Metaphysical)
Now, before entering the issues of metaphysics, I would like to remind and summarize how we have come up to this point. History is time; and time is history: Since history is the events that take place in time, history is a temporal discipline, and to get rid of the ruinous effects of time on historians, such as historicism and scientism which are inherited through the imitation of western culture is a little bit difficult. Naturally, a philosophy of history needs to develop its own methodology and epistemology. However, as we had described in the holism/individualism debate in order for concepts to be understood, they need to be evaluated in a larger and more philosophical and general set/framework of epistemology. Yet such is the case that epistemology contains various points of view, and various complications about the reality of knowledge, its limits, and its value. Will our knowledge be able to give us the truth, or will we have to be content with a half-conscious dream. What will be the subject of our knowledge. We may expect this knowledge to have a correspondence to reality and show us the world as it really is (correspondence theory of truth), or pragmatic usefulness, or to be consistent within its own systematic(coherent theory of truth) as had been the case for ages where contradiction was not just incomprehensible but wrong.
We have left aside the pragmaticism of Americans that value not the objective truth but usefulness and benefit. However, the criterion of coherence is essentially about Aristotelean logic. Can trying to understand reality in the narrow confines of the Aristotelean syllogism which dissect existence into various parts, and divides them into categories satisfy the criterion of correspondence to reality?
Aristotelean logic takes its starting point from the spatial concepts of ancient Greece, and perhaps the inertia of space produces the static understanding of this logic. This means that it will fall short of understanding the essentially dynamic and changing features of objects which are beings in time. The formal inferences of this logic will not correspond to the realities, and cannot understand or express reality. A philosopher of history who by professional formation examines change and life and not the non-living matter, cannot but recognize the inadequacy of a way of reasoning that cannot grasp the dynamism of this Being. Furthermore, let alone reality, we have seen that numerous paradoxes exist even in semantics and mathematics, i.e. even in theoretical sciences that are not about the external world. Even more, we have seen that in the world of microphysics the dynamism which constitute the foundation of the lifeless matter is forcing us to accept paradoxes even in the world of physics. Quantum physicists insist that we have to accept paradoxes in the universe of “dynamic microphysics” which is different from the space and physics that we perceive with our consciousness. Do I have to say how paradoxical metaphysical matters can be, especially if time continuum is considered What is the reason that makes us encounter numberless paradoxes in semantics, set theory, natural numbers theory, arithmetics and geometry, and even in physics, the world of lifeless matter and space?
We have interpreted this as that the actual nature of reality is dependent on time and change; as Zeno and Parmenides rightfully said since change and movement is not possible in a 3 dimensional space continuum, “not space but time should be considered as the continuum or container”.
Of course, according to our perception, space and time are dialectic dichotomies; however, relativity, with the concept of space-time is the first step taken towards overcoming this dichotomy. As Heraclitus said: “Polemos pater Panton” Polemic is the father of everything. The concepts of dynamism, and change and even time are words that are almost synonymous with paradox. As a result, we have made the following judgment that: “coherence theory, (which is pretty much about Logicism, and expresses 2000 year-old habits, and can be summarized as non contradiction) is a flawed way of reasoning the flaws of which are born of the shortcomings of our senses to perceive reality correctly.” And made our choice for the paradox logic which stands better to the criterion of correspondence to reality. We have accepted the conclusions which Heraclitus, Pythagoras and all the similar inspired thinkers have reached with their intuitive style of thinking, accepted and confirmed that the essence of existence is the union of dichotomies.
Thus, it means that, metaphysics is beyond the logical understanding and is paradoxical; because its frame of reference is not just the visible world, volume and space. Essentially, when we are talking about beyond the physical existence(the visible material reality), it ought to be para-doxical (beyond reality, the doctrine of reality, what is accepted as real) Because in ancient Greek culture, being “somata” means object or volume. That is the reason why some philosophers reject metaphysical things which are not “somata” or visible with the eye as unreal. Just as dreams which are quite real at the moment of seeing, are nevertheless considered unreal since it is less consistent compared with the daily life. But after learning that even matter is as such from physics, we have to re-assess and redefine terms. Just as the space and matter, and solid reality as perceived by our senses, are not true in microphysics. Of course, science and reason goes beyond the limits of our sensory organs and by giving us a different description of reality
It proves that the world as we see it is a dream. In a similar vein, even if metaphysics is also paradoxical, and contrary to the spatial Aristotelean logic, and the existence of which is unconfirmed by our senses, it can be true. However, we have to redefine metaphysics and separate it from the old pejorative meanings attributed to it.
This is how I build my judgment on this matter: The actual issue here is: We take the time continuum as the foundation of essence, as the main framework of reference. Why do we consider this existence in a process in time? Is this view of ours about reality justified? And this means that: We had said that epistemology needs to relate to an ontology in sciences other than logic, semantic, and mathematics. Yet, the ontology can only be explained via metaphysics. Therefore, being ignorant of metaphysics – the world beyond nature-, will make our ontology to become a “learned and systematic ignorance” like the overly formal, meaningless, and lifeless categorizations of Aristotle. We would have a meaningless understanding of existence which is unable to explain the causes of things. Of course this would lead us to misunderstand the existence, have a wrong epistemology, and it would lead our perception to become a false dream. This means that we have to build the epistemology on ontology, and the ontology on a rectified metaphysics. The thesis which we have exhibited thus far are in this way summarized and reached a conclusion. It should not be assumed that we have just made negative criticisms; we have also presented our positive choice for the dialectic/paradox logic. Indeed, we have dwelt upon the dream argument a lot, and acknowledged this argument to be true. I would like to end my words here by quoting a couplet of Mevlana:
“pes megû cümle hayâl est ü dalâl bî hakîkat nist der âlem hayâl”
(Therefore, do not say that all is a dream and error,
For, the world of dreams is not without truth either)
What is TRUTH? We may ask “what difference does this entire existence both of physics and metaphysics have, including history from the forgotten dream of Nebuchadnezzar? But as his holiness Mevlana has pronounced, even dreams what a matter and meaning, so it is false to say that everything is a dream and an illusion. As we have illustrated when talking about meaning and the secret behind it, there is a truth in metaphor, and there is not a single dream that does not refer to any truth. Existence, even though in the form of some illusory dream within the limits of our natural perception, if it has a continuum(continuity) and consistency, and in reality there is a field of energy rather than material masses and particles, there is something steady that makes this force visible to our natural senses. So, even if it is actually only some force, it is a force or energy that is applied continuously. We dwell not on the name but on the continuity of this unknown force.
George Santayana, says that, together with acknowledging the incapability of reason of knowing the nature of things, he acts with an “animal faith” which means to believe the images and impressions of our natural senses instead of questioning them with reason. For, animals also have the sense of seeing; however, they accept what they see as real instead of judging it by reason. We call this type of perception “animal consciousness” and actually unless we think over and reason, even we believe (and due to our nature we are compelled to believe) the things that we see like the other animals. For, we do not have a superior or different instrument, and as an animal, we have to rely on this perception and act and live according to its input. It is mostly impossible to judge our own perception which is present in us either by nature or by creation; but sometimes we are able to do it with our reason and in that case the rationality can reject the input of our senses. Yet we have to judge this rationality itself to be able to talk about mystical or metaphysical consciousness.
Even Descartes who use the same dream argument about the reality, said that the reality may be no more than a dream.
I suppose it was in his book called On Method where the same Descartes who said “cogito; ergo sum” has preserved his skeptical attitude and as evidence to his idea that the reality could be a dream, he said that he could think perfectly even in a dream and even solved mathematical problems and thought his dream to be real. Therefore, it means that “we believe we think; but our thoughts can be a dream too”. This reminds me of Montaigne’s essay called “Life and Dream” Montaigne too uses the dream argument above and asks: “Since our mind gives rise to the things we think in our dreams, and accepts the things we do as the things that we do when we are awake, why do we find it so strange that our waking life is also a kind of dream?” What is the difference between the dream and the illusion we see when we are awake? As Pascal expressed, dreams give the impression that they are not true since they are inconsistent and changing and temporary; for, the hours that we pass in our wakefulness have a comparative continuity and consistency.
The realm of matter is like this too: Our senses are continuous compared to our understanding of the world. A static inorganic/lifeless world of matter gives our mind a point of reference; and to our senses a convincing impression of tangible reality, through continuity of our perception. Physics is the visible world.
But what should we make of the fact that let alone static, the tiny particles that are invisible to our eyes, the elements that make up this static structure are extremely dynamic and changeable? Imagine a wall that appears to be a wall, and is sturdy and consistent; but the particles that we use to build it are continuously shifting and appear to be very unreliable to the degree of which their existence as particles are dubious; now they become a wave, and now a particle. That is, can you put up a wall with water? However, this wall is comprised of a magnetic field. In reality, there is not the ‘mass of the matter’ [mass is a concept that is developed in the world of macrophysics where we observe without instruments] but enigmatic fields and forces that make up the matter.
A theory of physics which can unite the field theories such as gravity, relativity, the force that holds atom in place, and the magnetic force, and explain all of them has not yet been created. So then, what is matter? The answer: We do not know… In Goblot’s words: (System of Sciences, pg. 48) “Since sciences as they are today are incapable of describing basic concepts such as matter, life, thought, feeling, and consciousness, we are unable to see how the laws of nature are derived from these.”
First of all we need to ask, “do we understand existence as an unchanging continuum; i.e. Are the things that exist, exist over time and space eternally; are their existence continuous?” According to us, as also Heraclitus has expressed, existence is a process of “being” in time, and it is historical with the literal meaning of that word. It is a series of events and it is changeable; that is, it does not have a spatial continuity. Einstein does not accept the notion of absolute time and space. With the special term “continuum” in Latin: In his article called “On Vacuum” Al Farabi tried to explain the same issue by comparing the “continuum” to a container which is filled with water. Is there vacuum in nature? Is a still a hot topic on the agenda in theories of modern physics, and it should stay in the agenda. According to us, the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics provides an understanding that takes time as a frame of reference instead of space. To us, it should be accepted that space is made up of material things as a process in time.
I am of the view that the wave-particle notion in quantum physics will be better understood when it is accepted that material things represent “being as a process” and time represent “continuum”. Also, Samuel Alexander had done a similar quantum physics interpretation with his idea of “point instances” in his book called Space Time and Deity. We get into this subject insofar as it is a view that forces us to accept the premise of a God
(as a necessary postulate to create a new metaphysics; in order for things to be able to continue in time, a divine creation; in short, the constant involvement and presence of a God.) Since, even if it is understood as point instances, it is the constancy of creation that makes it possible to make time continuum itself possible; the continuity of time is guaranteed by a the recreation of a constant creator; because the continuation of time itself is unimaginable.
A view that the world of events do not have a continuity is also present among Ash’ari scholastics, in the theory of atoms that they have developed according to their world views. It means that, even in modern quantum mechanics, similar conclusions have been uttered to those of Ash’ari scholastics. In his book ‘The Birth of Scientific Philosophy’ Hans Reichenbach asks a question anew which is found in the old Ash’ari Scholastics with pretty much the same expressions and quite seriously after expounding on physics and atomistic theories:
“How much do objects have a property of continuity? For instance does objects stand where they are when I don`t look or could it be that they disappear?” (On page 158 of Fusus al-Hikam), Muhyiddin Arabi says that:
“How beautifully has God decreed that the universe disappears and is refreshed with every new breath.” A group has said about many a people that “they are in doubt about the recreation at every moment”. In that case, they are not aware that the existence is constantly refreshed at each breath. But some of the Ash’ari scholastics understood this in some fields, and those are the qualia. The skeptics have intuited this truth about the whole universe, but the men of thought and philosophers have shunned them away. Thus, both groups have fallen into error; the Skeptics’ were at fault because while believing that the whole universe is constantly changing,
It may be referring to the Quranic Ayah of “Külle yevmin hüve fi şe’n” which means “God is involved in the act of creation everyday”: It is a constant creator who creates the universe every moment of it.
they were unable to understand that this mental essence which have received these images came from the same source. And the mental essence can only exist in those images. In the same way as the images can be thought of by that mental essence. If they had acknowledged that, this issue could have come to the level of analysis. As for the Ash’arites, they do not know that the entire universe consists of a collection of non-essentials (a’râd). It changes in every moment since accidents do not last for two
moments. That appears in their definition of things. So when philosophers define a thing, its
phenomenal being is clear in the definition of non-essential matters. These non-essentials mentioned in its definition are actually the source of this independent substance and its reality. Cevher de kendi hakikati cihetinden arazdır. şu halde o da kendi nefsi ile kaim değildir.* Inasmuch as it is a non-essential, it is not independent, but by the sum of what is not independent, comes what is independent. It is like occupation of space in the definition of the
independent essential substance, and its acceptance is non-essential in its essential definition. There is no doubt that that the containing-of-form is an accident since it is only in the container, and that is not independent it is in the essential nature of the substance. Occupation of space is a non-essential, and it only occurs in the thing occupying space, and so it is not independent. Occupation of space and containing-of-form are not based on the source of the defined substance by an extra matter, since essential definitions are the source of the defined and its he-ness. The atom’s acceptance of attribute is a self-definition and a boundary. No doubt, accepting attribute is also an attribute? Çünkü bu ancak kabul eden şeyde mevcut olur ve kendi nefsiyle kaim değildir. Yet, accepting the attribute is a self-definition for atoms. Volume is also a qualia. It can only be in a thing that takes up some place in the void. It does not exist by itself. Yet, volume and acceptance (of what) are not contradictory characteristics on the bounded atom itself. Because self-characteristics are the same of what is bound and they are identical. That which does not last two moments becomes that which lasted two moments or indeed several moments! What was not independent became independent in their view! They do not understand the basis of this, and these people “are dubious about the new creation.”
*They used to say that atom is indivisible and indeed today we are talking about a force that keeps the particles of atom together, however, when sufficient force is applied, this is possible and despite this force, we have broken the atom. As of today, we are able to put the “quantas” or sub-atomic particles which are the building blocks of atoms to tests in laboratories. This criticism of Muhyiddin Arabi against atomism should be considered along with the results of quantum mechanics. The criticism the master makes is that even the “hidden-and-open secret” of the atom is an attribute in comparison with the divine, and he is right in his judgment.
As for the people of science: they see Allah in a manifestation of Himself in every breath, and there is no recurrence of the manifestation. They also see by witnessing that every recurrence grants a new creation and replaces an older creation. Thus its departure is annihilation in the presence of the
tajalli, and it is going-on by what the other tajalli grants. So understand! Understand this well!
Even Yavuz Sultan Selim Khan who read Muhyiddin-i Arabi a lot, has been inspired from this issue and said:
‘Ne zindeem ez hicr-i tü ne mürdeem ey şûh feryâd ez in nevi vücûd-i adem-alûd’
(I am neither dead nor alive, for I am separated from you, scream! From the hand of this existence, nothingness got smeared on me)
So this is the “cyclical theory of time” of the people of old: The ancients also give an example to the illusion of movement when still images are put in motion and thus appear to be moving due to the weakness of our perception. “If you move a torch cyclically in a fast way you will have the image of a circle. However, in truth, there is no such circle; there are only points illuminated by fire: This is an illusion of the eye, and time is also made up of such singular instances but we feel as though it is continuous; this is an error of perception.” Thus, the continuity of the material world which is in a time continuum, and the continuity of that time continuum itself is a fault of our perception. The continuity of time does not exist and there are perpetual instances of temporal moments. This postulate of time continuum is the main issue around which modern metaphysics issues should be discussed.
So, the Absolute body manifests itself every moment, and each manifestation disappears and a new one appears. And since the interval between one of these manifestations and the other is too short, they appear to be joined. There are verses in the Quran about this. The verse which translates as “Allah is always in the act of creation.” confirms that there is no repetition of manifestations and that for each manifestation that disappears, not the same one, but a new one arises.
It means that, according the the cyclical theory of time, a time continuum does not exist: Time and space are constantly being recreated as point instances. Yet, this impression of continuity is a dream that we see on a daily basis; all of our human experiences, impose on us that the space and time, which keep existing and seem to our perception as continuous, are each a continuum. After scathingly criticizing the western scientific traditions, Schumacher says somewhere that: “For creatures endowed with consciousness there is time in the sense of experience; but experience is confined to the present, except where the past is made present through memory (of one kind or another), and the future is made present through foresight (of which, again, there may be different kinds). The higher the Level of Being, the ‘broader’, as it were, is the present; the more it embraces of what, at lower Levels of Being, is past and future. At the highest imaginable Level of Being there would be the ”eternal now'(nunc aeterna). (E. F. Schumacher, Guide for the Perplexed, pg.51). But “the Sufi must be the son of time” and should not have a worry about the past and the future; to say that tomorrow does not exist is one of the rules of this path. They say that “the Sufi must be the son of time” in order to express that the real moment is the present moment; the real time is now. (Mevlana: “sufi ibnü’l-vakt başed ey refik/nist ferda güften ez şart-ı tarik”). Yet, this also describes the mystical and ecstatic state of consciousness of the “eternal now”, and there is a hadith in this meaning:
“Li-maallâhi vaktün!” Said Mustafâ (Mohammed)
I have a moment with Allah!” “The eternal now”
Ghazali also pointed to this issue: “just in the same way that a person who only perceives with the senses is foreign to the things a person who sees with the mind, so it is that when on a higher level the heart is freed,
it is possible to see that the waking life was a dream, and that is in fact so”. In that case, we come back to this question: What is Truth
and to what degree can we know it? In Mearic’ül Kuds, based on the surah of Nur in Quran, Ghazali talks about the belonging of nefs(spirit) to the world of light, and therefore, is a local reason. Furthermore,
And while “mutatis mutandi” Mentioning that aql(reason), ruh(soul), nefs(spirit), are interchangeable based on context, it is subject to revelation through Allah’s providence.
As it is known, even Descartes who is from a Skeptical tradition, sought for an indubitable proof for his existence and said: “cogito; ergo, sum”: I think therefore I am. It is better to understand “cogito” as “I am conscious”. Based on this, he builds a metaphysics that goes as far as proving the existence of God.
As will be remembered, so far, in logic, mathematics, physics and everywhere, we have encountered the problem of continuity, As I remember, it was in his book called thoughts on Metaphysics where Descartes said: “Human mind is limited; not infinite; therefore, this idea of infinity cannot be the product of human mind. Human mind cannot understand or grasp infinity. Humans cannot have invented infinity” Furthermore, if I remember correctly, he used the terms from Islamic philosophy and said: “For, a perfected stone cannot come from an imperfect stone.” Fine, but where does this concept of infinity come from. Descartes answered it thus: “In that case, a God which is infinite must have inspired us this concept of infinity”. It is for this logical metaphysical grounding that I say Descartes “Cogito” can be understood as consciousness rather than thought, since the idea of Divinity cannot be comprehended by thinking, it can only be a state of cognition (consciousness). Moreover, it is possible to say that even though we may not be aware of it, or deny it, God is always present in our consciousness.
Another meaning of consciousness is to be aware of your own thought and perception; to be aware that you are thinking about something: apperception. “Apperception” is not as deep a concept as this one, and perhaps it should be associated with being aware of your own consciousness and to be able to judge one’s consciousness; to be able to utilize your consciousness at will.
Since this is not very possible in the world of humans, there is no concept like that: Because mankind cannot be in a state of constant consciousness that never falters and slumbers as was described of God in Ayat al-Kursi. For now I will call this “hyper-consciousness”. In the sense that I have spoken of, his holiness Mevlana says that:
“Ey birâder tü hemân endîşeî
Mebâk-ı tü üstühân ü rîşeî”
(Oh brother, you are merely thought, all the rest is just bones and flesh)
So, the natural instruments of five senses that are present in the animals gives us only the animal consciousness and understanding.
It is the nature of this understanding to evaluate time as only the present moment, and to accept all the impressions of our senses as they seem without judging it with reason. Yet the human consciousness adds past and the future to the present moment and accepts the data of our senses after screening it with reason. However, our reason’s, and thus our science’s success has a limit in evaluating the data of our senses, and especially as long as it uses the Aristotelean logic, even in the form of it which is corrected by reason, it consists of a materialistic consciousness by imposing the space and volume and material objects as the true realm of existence.
“Science in accordance to Islam” is being discussed these days among Muslims: Actually the problem is that, all over the world, it is a shortcoming seen and felt among the enlightened people of the world that the materialist science is devoid of an encompassing and enlightening foundation of metaphysics. Physics needs metaphysics. In this form, rationalism can only detect the reflexive correspondences of objects to each other; it cannot reach the field of invisible causes, and the realm of metaphysics.
In the words of Ghazali, the state which the Sufi mystics claim to be in which is of losing all sensory perception and witnessing things that are contrary to reason is a state that is found in moments of ecstasy, in a feeling of “the eternal now”, related to the perceptions of the inspiration instilled by the Divine consciousness, and is a more than human metaphysical consciousness. It is not the eye but the heart that perceives clearly: It is a higher understanding than the human understanding. About the mystical/metaphysical consciousness, I will suffice to point out to the following matter for now: Human consciousness imbues us with an arrogant and proud rationalism ego centric, and ethnocentric, and anthropocentric world view which belittles and destroys nature. (I would also like to draw your attention in passing to how how we look down on children for “not understanding things” although they have a much better imagination). Today, this is one of the greatest problems of the world.
Be it Eastern or Western, all mystic traditions represent a higher level of consciousness in this regard. Knowing thyself is in a sense, knowing the limits and capabilities of your reason. Metaphysical consciousness starts by destroying the selfishness and vanity of human consciousness. In this sense, his Holiness Jesus teaches that: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Actually consciousness is a much deeper metaphysical concept; however, I think the issue of consciousness requires the interpretation of Ayat al-Kursi. What I am trying to say is that, as it will be clearly seen from the way we translated it, there are some characteristics and features of the divine consciousness described in Ayat al-Kursi, and that the human knowledge must remain within the borders that Allah willeth, and that humans cannot get more than that which God bestoweth. To keep cosmos in consistence and perpetually and dense absolute consciousness that perforate every point of cosmos and be aware of it [Omni presence and omniscience]. It means that, since it would be impossible to renew the cosmos at every moment which therefore would entail the impossibility of a time-continuum and past and future;
we are talking about a constant creator and sustainer who not just renews the four dimensions of space time container as far as we know, but who also fills the infinite gaps in between the point instances into a continuum.
And this means that there is a Hayy and Qayyum God [eternal, and exempt from a beginning an end and rebirth, which sustains all things with its presence in them] which connects the intervals between these infinite point instances. That is, there needs to be a principle of continuity that encompasses the whole universe from within and without. We are compelled to imagine another container one level beyond that of the continuum principle which contains it. Let us think of space as a container in which water is poured (Al Farabi, ‘On Vacuum’): “If we fill a container with water, will there be any vacuum left in it?” Asked Al Farabi. If events occur in a space container(or a four dimensional space-time continuum after relativity), and there is no vacuum in nature, then movement is not possible. They say that “you cannot put a table on top of another table because that part of space is full”. But in this sense, nature does not allow for vacuum, and in that sense, all points in space are already full.
So, how can things move? In order to do that they would have to change their place, but the place they would move into is already full. When we compare space to a container with water inside and that all existence itself is moving inside an unmoving container, philosophers may quickly question: “but what is this space container inside of?” And in short, the Newtonian conception of space is found to be too simple and is not accepted anymore. Even the term infinity is insufficient and as we said when mentioning the continuum, we get to the idea of “infinity squared” or infinities beyond infinities: (∞∞). Of course this is not something that accords with reason. The way to cancel this vicious cycle is to break it by accepting a postulate of God as a different indescribable container that contains the space-time container within itself. However, in this case,
We imagine existence as encompassed by the Divine Existence itself, and in a Divine container, even though indescribable we connect the existence to the Divine life itself. The color of water is the color of its container. It is the case that, if we take these descriptions as true, we will have to discuss the immanent concept of God of Pantheism and Deism.
Spengler says that: Stand in a high wood of mighty stems while the storm is tearing above, and you will comprehend instantly the full meaning of the concept of a force which moves mass. Out of such a primary feeling the idea of a God that is immanent in the world arises and this idea gradually becomes more sharper. The percipient person accepts the impression of motion in outer Nature. He feels about him an ineffable and alien-life of unknown powers, and traces the origin of these effects to “numina,” to The Other, inasmuch as this Other also possesses Life. Astonishment at alien motion is the source of both physics and religion; respectively, they are the elucidations of Nature by reason and by soul. The “powers” are the first target of both fearful or loving reverence and critical investigation. There is a religious experience and a scientific experience. Now, it is important to observe how the consciousness of each culture intellectually summarizes its primary “numina.” It imposes words with meanings on them(names) and thus conjures (seizes or binds) them. By virtue of those names they become subject to the intellectual powers of the man who possesses those names, and (as has been shown already) the whole of philosophy, the whole of science, and everything that is related in any way to “knowing” is at the very bottom nothing but an infinitely-refined mode of applying the name-magic of the primitive to the “alien.” The pronouncement of the right name is an incantation (or “the right concept” in physics). Deities and basic notions of science alike come into being first as vocable names, with which is linked an idea that tends to become more and more sensuously definite. The outcome of a Numen is a Deus, the outcome of a concept is a thought. In the mere naming of “thing-in-itself,” “atom,” “energy,” “gravitation,” “cause,” “evolution” and the like carries for most learned men the same sense of deliverance as there was for the peasant of Latium in the words “Ceres,” “Consus,” “Janus,” “Vesta.” * The Decline of the West, pg. 397)
The master is right about the Name being an Incantation; essentially we had also examined this issue in the Meaning and Subjacent Meaning, and this is in a way a continuation of that subject from a metaphysical point of view.
One of the interpretations in that part was the ayah from Ar-Rahman “Ve allem’l-Ademe esmâe küllehâ”, which can be understood just like the Spengler’s interpretation above. In order for this meaning to be clear, I would recommend that chapter to be revisited.
I would like to briefly express an issue which I had touched upon tangentially but not explicated in ‘The Meaning and The Subjacent Meaning’ There, we had tried to explain the view of an immanent God even though briefly in a sentence or two, and I had said that This immanent view of ‘The Greatest Mystery’ and its opposite view called transcendentalism and their various theologically complicated aspects are for the time being extraneous. However, just about now, this metaphysical issue requires us to discuss the subjacent meaning of the aforementioned “Great Mystery”
‘The God Postulate’: It is a metaphysical postulate that signifies an absolute principle that holds the cosmos and the whole existence together: Such that, only with the continuous intervention of a Constant Creator a time continuum is possible. Yet, it is not possible to understand or explain the physical existence without considering it in a framework of time continuum or a space-time continuum. However, to be able to conclude this part, I adjourn this issue, and will only say that: Even the paradox of the oneness and sameness of the Immanent and the Transcendental is a dichotomy, that is, it is a result of the artificial distinction of our minds due to the impossibility of imagining the reality which is a single whole. This is actually like dividing the Soul and Body which are the expressions of the same Truth. “You are ‘One’ and I am the proof of your Oneness/ The multiplicity of the body parts do not hinder the unity of its Self.” (From the Eulogy on Unity, Şeyda Dîvânı) The paradoxical sayings of Chouang Tzu also expresses
The idea that there is unity in multiplicity: “That which is one is one. That which is not-one, is also one. But one is nevertheless still one” There is nothing in the world bigger than the tip of an autumn hair, and Mount T’ai is tiny. No one has lived longer than a dead child, and P’eng-tsu died young. Heaven and earth were born at the same time I was, and the ten thousand things are one.
But, actually this is both a creator and a sustainer that provides the continuity of matter in time (by ever giving the quantum waves a particle character) as in an Ayet in Quran “Kulle yevmin huve fi shen”. In short a belief of God, both immanent and transcendental is made a topic of discussion against atheist arguments. As to the issue that God does not reveal itself explicitly, the Mystics say that “God is invisible due to the dread of its appearance.” As is proclaimed in the holy Quran Allah is the light of heaven and land… Eyes see through God and everything exists with him. Allah is the creator of the creation and it is through his constant creation that everything exists. Allah is the Ever-Creator and everything that is in the continuity of time exists through Allah.
To search for the original principles behind the surface images in this world of shadows, and to search for the actual content of the images in our minds is a characteristic of our mind. Because humans have reason in addition to the animal equipment of five senses. Human mind is not satisfied with seeing the world, and it wants to understand it. Animal consciousness is just the perception of space. It means that other animals do not perceive time and subjugating to the will of the creator, they perceive the present moment. Yet, humans have the world of spirituality and thought in addition to the instruments of perception, and in this metaphysical world, it has a continuum of time, or a history. However, the natural inclination of a world without metaphysics is materialism, and as a result of this, a world is then established where humans are made shallow, and removed from its nobility towards an animal consciousness into a world where the law of the jungle prevails.
And this is why the real need of this age is a metaphysics. It is known that the Sufis consider their discoveries and things they witness as inspirations from the immanent and transcendent God given to them in an intense state of consciousness, the eternal now, and therefore always think in symbols and are attracted towards the metaphysics rather than the material world. In this regard Cüneyd-i Baghdadi has a nice word that the discoveries and the perception of the divine of the mystique is proportional to his or her own natural creation.
“The color of water is the color of its container.”
In this sense, I would like to repeat a delicate Indian tale here which I had repeated in ‘The Meaning and The Subjacent Meaning’: There was once a prince who was exiled from his city and was raised by ranchers due to which he thought of himself as a member of these barbarian people. One day, one of the viziers of his father found him and explained to him who he was: Thus he got rid of this wrong idea about himself and understood that he was indeed a prince! ‘Such is the human spirit!’ bespoke the Hindu philosopher, ‘it misunderstands its own character because of the conditions in which it lives; until a spiritual master reveals the truth to him; then it recognizes itself and understands that he is actually a Brahme!’
For, faith “opens the eye of the Truth” to put it in Buddhist terms. Things that are visible are perceived by the five senses, but the invisible is only perceived by the “heart’s eye” “Seeing the misery of philosophical thoughts” says Buddha, “I have searched and saw the Truth myself without relying on any one of them.” (E. F. Schumacher, Guide for the Perplexed, pg. 63)
To know thyself, that is, to judge even our own consciousness and to constantly have a super-consciousness, and there, in the depths of consciousness, to feel the presence of the Divine as a physical and interlocked body;
and in the same time, to get to know the transcendental unity of God in every existing thing, which is incomprehensible to the rational mind but ever present in the form of absolute consciousness, in every part of the universe, and of course in our consciousness as well.
Certainly this is the most fundamental issue of metaphysics; if you cannot think of God, you cannot think anything: As his holiness Jesus’s says: “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free!”
And this should be reinterpreted in the light first and foremost of the Ayat el-Kursi and all the given information and interpretations herein. So, this shall be our mantra as we move on to the matters of metaphysics.
Bayezid-i Bistami said: “You cannot find out this secret by searching; however, those who find it are only those who search it.” For now we are subject to the manifestations, but if there be an inspiration and God may help us, the veil will be lifted from our eyes, and our vision will become clearer. When we know what is in front of our eyes, we shall see that the holy grace will inspire us with those that we do not see. As a Sufi mystic said, “when we pass the beach and enter the sea, there shall not be any footprints left.”
SOME EXPLANATIONS AFTER THE FIRST EDITION OF THE BOOK
THE TRUTH IN THE METAPHOR and SUBJACENT MEANING
We have spoken with the Vice Rector of Niğde University Dr. Şahin Uçar who got the Turkish Author’s Union award of “The Book of Thought of the Year” for the second time with ‘The Meaning and Subjacent Meaning of Existence’ after his work called ‘Moloch and Caliphate in Islam’ about his works:
When we say mânâ and mâzmun [meaning and subjacent meaning] we tend to think about terms of Dîvân literature. But these terms appear in your work in the context of aesthetics and metaphysics. Is this perhaps because of your effort to get to the underlying metaphysical principles of philosophy of history?
Mazmûn (subjacent meaning) is a term from Dîvân literature; however, it means the hidden subjacent meaning. When a poet creates a metaphor or simile to imbue this word with new meanings instead of coining a new concept for the realm of poetry; the word that he uses gains a new hidden meaning in that metaphor, and that is the “secret meaning” the mazmûn. The issue that I would like to point out here is the new light this sheds on the process of conceptualization from the perspective of semantics.
Because actually all words and meanings constitute a Subjacent meaning. The explanations of what the Sujacent meaning refers to in Dîvân literature can be considered as an introduction to more important issues. Of course, since we have chosen to proceed from the concept of the Subjacent meaning, it was necessary to explain what it meant.
As for the issues of philosophy of history and metaphysics; philosophy of history means the interpretation of human history and such an interpretation, with the intent to create a new world view, it can naturally touch on issues of metaphysics Along with this, laying the practices of history on the table for discussion, that is, the questioning of the methods used in the discipline of history is also philosophy of history. In this book, starting with the concept of Subjacent meaning, the process of conceptualization is examined, and then, the subject is taken to the historical methodology in the second part, and finally to the general epistemology and ontology issues have been reached through the use of an analogy of a dream. As a result, ontology has taken us to a metaphysical grounding.
When criticizing the discussions made on the word mazmûn(subjacent meaning) and meanings attributed to the concept of mazmûn, you attribute the core of the problem to the descriptions of dictionaries. And you express this by the statement “even dictionary descriptions need descriptions!” Does this observation show that words are subject to be misinterpreted from a grammatical or from a semantic aspect?
I want to give a brief answer to this question, therefore, this answer may be a little philosophical in style: From the point of view of the philosophy of language, Subjacent meanings cause all kinds of interpretation attain a metaphorical and mystical character; as from an epistemological point of view, it makes concepts dubious and open to debate. That is the reason why in the second part of the book this issue turns into issues of epistemology, ontology and metaphysics. In fact, that is the reason why I dwelt on the term of Subjacent meanings:
For it is fit for such a multi facetious discussion, and it is a term chosen especially because it would lead to a metaphysical grounding.
You say that the contemporary aestheticians discuss how much a work of art express the personal feelings of the artist, and to what degree it has a representative role, and they make inconsistent observations and conclusions. What do you think are the causes of these mistakes?
Again, to come to the issue of aestheticism which was touched upon in a footnote in the first part: There is an individualistic and secular slogan that developed after the industrial revolution up to this day: “Art for art’s sake” In the evaluation of an art, there cannot be purposes such as the values of a society, religion, morality and others; it means that the measure of art is art itself, and beauty, not utility, is the sole criteria. Fine, but a thing which is beautiful, let alone its utility, may even be very harmful and destructive. I think what Rousseau said in “Discourse on the Arts and Sciences” is right. Works of art can serve to bad purposes by adorning the shackles of humankind’s slavery. In the case where no other value or purpose is recognized, it means that art itself is idolized. That is why people who are addicted to aestheticism are profane and pagan. The artist can be an idol worshiper who worships his art or his self as expressed in his art without even recognizing it. No high art can be produced with such an understanding. This can only produce megalomania and dandyism.
As a man of science who has inhaled the climate of art, which qualities do you think art should have? What kind of interaction is in question between a work of art with these qualities and the mass culture?
If we are to judge by looking at the contemporary artists, most of them are not artists and not even artisans. That is, they are not even at the level of technical proficiency; they are not even in command of the technical aspects of the art they perform. Look at the geniuses of the old times, look at the poems of the great poets, and today’s contemporary poets. For whatever reason the works of the contemporaries do not resemble in any way the work of the great masters. Either Mevlana, Sa’di, Fuzûli, Yunus and the like did not know what they were doing, or the contemporary artists who deem displays of strangeness and meaninglessness as art. The situation is the same in other fine arts. Whether the artist has technical skill can easily be measured by everyone immediately.
Contemporary artists, since they are busy coming up each with their own techniques, mostly do not know and never use the techniques specific to that branch of arts. Thus, they also do not need to have the skills which an artist has to attain through hard work and familiarization. But using an already existing technique requires mastery, however inventing a new technique is much harder. This is a long issue which requires a long discussion. Once upon a time, I wrote an article called “Wretched Art”. Every art has a technique as in artisanship, and of course, as a requirement of that art itself, at least a mastery of these technical aspects are expected from the artist. The artist who is devoid of this mastery is the one who commercializes that art.
I am in the conviction that most of the artists in the 20th century have no relation with art whatsoever. Art does not accept average skill; because that makes art vulgar; and makes that dandy person appear to be an impostor who pretends to be an artist. Yet, because of the nature of this job, since they are expressing their own feelings, even ordinary artists assume themselves to be great artists. Let us respect and show reverence to the great artist; but indeed those who are not actually great artists(and most of them are so since genius in arts is rare) but who suppose themselves to be so and their megalomania, caprice, and impertinence is truly unbearable. I respect genius, but I may say that I detest artists devoid of genius.
As I said in the beginning of the topic of Subjacent meanings, the artist tries to learn about and express the reality through introspection, and this is possible because human is a microcosm. The greatest mystery is the existence itself, and all of us in our own ways try to get through to its mystery. Personally, I expect from a work of art a high level and quality in the form of questioning and expressing the mystery of existence.
Otherwise, art becomes a sort of entertainment and entertainment is just that, it is childish and vulgar
Such an artist can only exist through mass culture and serves it.
We see that the western understanding of history has undergone changes with the French revolution, and this understanding has dominated the historical literature in the world. Can the understanding of our national romanticism be enough or pertinent for the formation of our historical understanding and methodology?
Doubtless, national romanticism has helped Germany; it must be one of the factors that make Germany, and give it the German character. However, there are also bitter fruits of this national romanticism which has spread across the world with the French revolution. It has cost humanity two world wars.
If we were to make a general evaluation, what could we say about this book?
We have talked about the meaning of mazmun in the framework of literature in the first part of the book due to its connections. We then started discussing matters of epistemology by comparing history and even nature to a dream, and in conclusion we have shown the “truth in the metaphor” in Nietzsche’s words:
That is, just as human consciousness rectify animal consciousness (of the supersession of human reason on animal senses), in the same way the scientific imagination (theories of physics and mathematics) is rectifying this human consciousness, by showing that the material world is not as we perceive or reason it to be. There is the image of the world that we get by only staying within the borders of our perceptions and reasoning,
and then there is the image of the world that we get with the help of technology which provides us with instruments which are superior beyond comparison to our senses in their precision and sensitivity. According to this scientific image of the world, dynamic atoms make up the fundamental building blocks of the universe which we thought were stable, and even if we cannot see them, that they contain vast empty spaces in between. And thus we see that the world as it is seen by us is a dynamic and changing dream, even though it appears to be consistent as long as we are in the measures of human perception. So, a metaphysical grounding has been made with the discussion of this scientific consciousness, and according to this scientific vision.
I can only sum up this large and technical matter by alluding to a technical matter in the book. All in all, it was attempted to answer the question (using the problem of continuum in mathematics and physics and especially using the set theory) of how it is possible that the world and matter is consistent and continuous although they were not supposed to be consistent and continuous according to the scientific interpretations. In simpler words: the existent was supposed to not exist; but how can the miracle of existence be explained in spite of this? If material existence is not static but dynamic, if the static perception of the matter through five senses are not correct, then the static and formal Aristotelean logic is also wrong which is formed and dependent on these data: A very bold claim has been made here which falls quite contrary to the tradition of philosophical thought, of choosing paradox logic over Aristotelean logic, if the existence is not static as we perceive but dynamic. And to explain the compelling causes of this preference, it has been concluded that it is necessary to consider matter and space as a process of being in time as the actual frame of reference of existence. If instead of the the reference frame of the material world based on space and volume are placed in a time process like this, and turned into a dynamic “event”,
It means that objects have a continuum not in space-time but in time
Yet, time itself cannot have a continuum. In that case, we have to accept the existence of a constantly creating God as a metaphysical postulate which keeps this continuity at all times. This book is about a research on epistemology and ontology which is concluded with such a metaphysical foundation. I am aware that many ideas in the book are ambiguous because this book has come into existence through a creative process of writing, that is, these thoughts did not manifest themselves to the author during the process of writing, and as a result many aspects of the issue are left as thought seedlings, although a lot of these have rather subtle connections. For, every time I read this book, I saw that the different expressions and statements in many different parts are secretly connected with each other as in arabesque motifs.
It is necessary to rewrite these to enhance their clarity. For example, I would like to take the set theory in mathematics one more time from the aspect of logic. There are many ideas here which needs to be developed from their seedling state. I would like to state that I will be seeing to the evaluations and criticisms on these matters.
Türkçesi için bu linke bakınız.
Humankind, Being, and Time1
I remember a verse from the holy book about the issue of existence.
And to Allah belongs the east and the west. So wherever you [might] turn, there is the Face of Allah . Indeed, Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.
Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods before Me Exodus 20:2–3
The Issue of Self
The issue of Self reminds me of a Latin expression used by Thomas Aquinas: “ego sum qui sum” i.e. “I am that which I am”, “I am what I am”. They say that God told Moses “I am who I am” when they spoke at the mount Sinae. This brings the associations of Hallac-ı Mansur who said “I am the Truth” and Sufi’s words of “Those who know their selves, know the God.” That is why I have chosen a verse from Qoran which shows that God fills and encompasses all existence, or that all existence is God alone; and from the Ten Commandments, I have chosen the first commandment. As you know, it is customary in our culture to write “Huve-l Baqi” on gravestones.
That is, distinct from the human consciousness, God is immortal, permanent, and it is the unchanging Truth. In Ibn Arabi’s words, this eternal divine self is the “Unity”, the “Absolute Oneness”
It is God alone which can be purely itself, and it can stay unchanged; because it is an absolute self. In contrast to this, human beings are mortal: their existence is variable and ephemeral. Buddha too has expressed the truth that the body, the senses, consciousness and such elements which comprise a human being are dependent on time, subject to change, and together only temporarily. And even if understanding things of a changing nature is not impossible, it is quite hard.
In this case then “What is human”. I ask myself “What am I?” and the self replies: “I am who I am!”; “ego sum qui sum!” Which means that our self is aware of itself. Because when our self states “I am that which I am” it is not merely expressing its own existence, but by differentiating and excluding itself from the rest of the existence, this self has such a consciousness that it does not remain at knowing itself but also defines the external reality. Human existence and time, i.e. all the matters of philosophy centers on this interpretation which states: “I am who I am.” If the existence can be apprehended, it can only be so through a self that knows and recognizes it.
We know our self without an intermediary with our own inner consciousness. We may doubt the correspondence of this consciousness to the reality but we may not deny its existence. We cannot know the inner world of the persons other than us. We may evaluate the external appearance, their words and behavior, but we cannot know the evaluation they make about themselves internally, just as our evaluation about a person may be wrong, so may theirs be about their own. Thoreau narrates a mystical Indian story about the nature of the self in us:
There was once a prince who was exiled from his city and was raised by ranchers because of which he thought of himself to be a member of these barbarian people. One day, one of the viziers of his father found him and explained to him who he is. Thus he got rid of this wrong idea about himself and understood that “he was indeed a prince!”. ‘Such is the human spirit’ bespoke the Hindu philosopher, ‘it misunderstands its own character because of the conditions in which it lives; until a spiritual master reveals the truth to him; then it recognizes itself and understand that he is actually a Brahme!’
As it can be seen, this mystical Hindu tale relates the human spirit to the Divine Spirit.
An author said “I dream, therefore I am.” Descartes who started constructing his philosophy by doubting in everything had said “All that we know may be a part of a dream.” In order to express that every understanding that we obtain through our sense can be defective. Descartes begin with a doubt even in his own existence and reaches the conclusion that he is thinking at that moment. Consequently, he formulates this as “cogito ergo sum.” with the intention to reach an indubitable reality. However, this formulation again indicates the existence of a “thinking” self. Nevertheless, in order to be able to respond to the criticisms of skeptics, the disciples of Descartes turned this formulation into “I think that I think, therefore I think that I exist.” as a reluctant statement. Meanwhile, in one of my articles titles Turkish Intellectual Tradition, I had said that the word “cogito” should be interpreted as “becoming conscious by thinking” Because the “thinking self” is already the thing we call “self”. The state of consciousness about itself and phenomenal occurrences are formed in this manner. Now if we will take skepticism to the point of nihilism to be doubtful even from the self that says “cogito ergo sum”; at that point everything becomes superfluous and no possibility or need would remain to philosophize. There is no need to reduce things to absurdity. Of course when we are indulging in philosophy we shall doubt all sorts of knowledge and shall accept only after examining and being gratified; however, consciousness is a thing that it is not in our hands or capacity to doubt the existence of a state of consciousness and consciousness of the self cannot be doubted in. The existence of this consciousness is manifest. But we may still discuss the essence of this consciousness.
We may say “ego sum qui sum” “I am that which I am.” yet this is a tautology. But what is Ego? In his work titled sacred ladders of knowing your self, Ghazali gave examples regarding which different ways the word “nefs (self in Arabic)” is used in Quran, and demonstrates how the concept of nefs is being used throughout the Quran in passages as to signify either Qalb(heart), nous, or spirit; consequently he wrote that in Arabic these concepts can be used in a way to signify the same thing. It seems that through the self, i.e. “nefs (heart, nous, spirit)” we get to know ourselves and the world outside of us, and reason. Ghazali says “nefs” is the local noumenon. I.e. it is our self that reasons and it is also what gives judgment about the world outside of it; however we cannot think about this very consciousness of the self or the human spirit; because consciousness begins with the self. We must also clarify in what meaning we use the word consciousness. The image/representation that occurs in our brain — for example, the seeing when we give attention to an object in our environment — is what call consciousness.
Whereas, it is known that our nefs/self has no direct contact with the outside world, the impressions that come from the outside world through the sense organs such as eyes and ears reach our brain in the form of some electrical impulses and chemical waves, and our mind/self makes some inferences according to the representations that these waves create in our brain; judges about the world outside of itself and about existence; to put it in another way, our consciousness is being formed from data about the outside world which are obtained indirectly, and that reaches to our mind after passing through neurons. We do not only see the shape of an object, but we also decide what it is. That is to say, we attribute a meaning to what we see.
In this case, let us look a little bit closer at this “nefs/self” which philosophizes which wants to know and express itself and the existence, and which might mean either heart, nous, or spirit. Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi says that:
Oh brother, thou art but a thought,
and what remnants thou have art only flesh and bone.
It means that human is a being that knows and gives meaning to its self and the existence and the self is where the noumena are; i.e. it is the nefs which thinks; flesh, bone, organs, sensory organs are just tools that the self uses. Through these tools the self obtains some sensorial impressions about the existence outside of itself. These impressions pass through neurons and reach the center of consciousness — brain — and some electrical and chemical reactions occur among the neurons of the brain, and this interaction between neurons give to our selves a consciousness of seeing that depicts the world outside of itself. Neither human nor animal can ever doubt the tools of perception used by the self, that is from the state of consciousness which is formed by the sensory organs — the view of the outside world as it appears to us there are then. Nevertheless, in contrast to the animal consciousness human consciousness examines into this view with reason and knows that what he sees may not be true. “For instance” says Ghazali, “although the sun appears small to our eyes, we know due to reason that it is even greater than our world.” I will make an analogy with the hope of clarifying to you what I understand from concepts of consciousness and self. It is possible to a certain extent to understand the imagery that occurs through interactions between neurons by comparing it to a computer. The electricity that enters the computer is coded in the computer language as 1 and 0 as the presence or absence of current through the semi-conductive chips. Each data that reaches the brain of the computer is expressed in binary numbers. I am writing this text in Word2000. Each letter I type is thus converted into numbers and processed via this program, and an excellent spectacle forms in the screen. Data from 5 sense are processed in the brain and like the excellent spectacle in the screen an image of the outside world appears in our consciousness. So the Self, if we consider it analogous to the word program, is not only becoming aware of the spectacle which is created with the data which reach the brain; but it also reasons and gives conclusions about this. Here too, the formation of a spectacle is being realized by brain activity of course; but the self or human mind does not remain solely processing this data giving it a shape and showing it at a screen, but it is always conscious of itself too. For instance, like Hal900 in Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction book, if a computer could be produced which struggles with human, and is aware of its actions and its existence, then we could say “it has a self.” We compare its current way of functioning to consciousness. And if it is permissible to liken it, just as the mind behind the abilities and possibilities behind this program are humans who constructed the computer equipment/hardware and the word program; in the same way, behind the consciousness in the brain is our self or nefs which we may call either as ruh(soul), aql(nous/reason), or qalb(heart) accordingly, and this spirit is both aware of its own existence and is in control of all the actions of the mind.
Nevertheless, not much is known yet about the actions of the brain or the nature of mind. Scientists such as doctors or neurophysiology experts are unable to explain the nature of consciousness and mind. Even now, among doctors, attempts exist to describe the events in the brain with regard to the current information; but there is no consensus. Enough for now about the enigmatic relationship between the self and mind. However it is obvious that this “self” gives the eventual decision about itself and the existence outside of itself. Perhaps, as the research about this matter progresses we might or will confront not only our own self inside but a somehow related “infinite self” as mentioned in this Hindu tale and mystique experiences.
In any case, it would be naive to suppose that our nefs or soul which is the location of conception accepts that data that enters the brain from outside through sensory organs passively, like an electronic brain, without applying any qualitative action. We are looking at the spectacle of the outside world through the selective and distinctive eyes of our soul and fields of interest, and see only what we would like to see; this is a psychological phenomenon. The self may impress its own mold on the existence outside of itself. We reflect our soul to the outside world.
The Issue of Language
So the ability of the nefs to understand the existence outside of itself is limited with the tools of perception it has. To express the vision and representation of the world which itself creates in the mind as a state of consciousness is restricted by the contingency of language. Firstly the abilities of our soul and 5 senses limits our reasoning and comprehension. Then the abilities of the language we use curbs our ability to express this thought. Our self is aware of itself even while we are dreaming and in the moment it directs attention, it is aware of the things occurring in its consciousness, the human mind possesses the ability to decide whether the image which forms in its consciousness is real or not, however, is it really as free as we think when it comes to expressing its thought? And is it conscious of the semantic foundations of the language which it uses to express its thought? There are many issues that the skeptic philosophers have criticized in the history of philosophy. When it comes to the criticisms on the issue of language, I will go further than Wittgenstein in this matter and question the semantic roots of words and concepts, and say: “each word or concept we may use will always remain insufficient to express the meaning we intended.”
I had made quite large criticisms about the limits of any kind of language in my article called I am the witness of meaning who is the actual owner of the Word? But for now I will suffice to point out to the presence of expressive and comprehensive problems that the language is creating. Unfortunately the words which are the symbols of language and the reality are quite different. Words are like maps describing a terrain. They do not show the terrain but describe it. As Cassirer says, human is an animal which is fond of creating symbols and myths, and it thinks through these symbols. And Spengler says in The Decline of West that “Number is the symbol of causality” and “Mathematics is a first class metaphysics”. Human gives names to everything that exists; they call things with the names they give, i.e. vocal symbols that we call words. Thus he tries to enchant them, that is, tries to rule over them. Is it possible that a truth resides in these sound symbols? To believe in a symbol is to believe in a metaphysical thing, a meaning that does not really exist, there, in the material existence of that symbol. Therefore language is a first class metaphysics. Is it not a completely metaphysical mode of existence that the sound symbols which are merely noisy-words contain a meaning beyond their physical meanings, that creates these? This indicates the impossibility of thought without believing in metaphysics in a way; because it is metaphysics to believe in language, to believe in the reality and value of words, and we think via language. Symbolic thought is a mystical and metaphysical event. It is quite the more metaphysical that the words we use bring up their connotations and build a thought step by step. I do not like repeating what I had written before, but at this point, I will make one more quotation from I am the witness of meaning who is the actual owner of the Word?
Philosophers are not men of literature, they do not play with words and are not interested in aesthetic beauty of words: they examine words as concepts in regard to their relations with each other and the reality. As for the scientists, for them it is not the words themselves which is important but the truth of the world of objects which we are trying to express with them — the correspondence to reality —. It is for this reason that scientists prefer the language of maths which uses quite abstract but clear and precise symbols instead of words which, like maps, does not mirror the features of the terrain fully. The game of language is played in one way by the philosopher and another way by the scientist. Wittgenstein said that “philosophy aims to clarify the thoughts logically.” He also said in his work called philosophical investigations that: “philosophy is a challenge against the deception of mind via the use of language.”
Although language may seem quite natural to us, we say that language has limited abilities in its ability to express reality, and even has mind-deceiving aspects. But human mind is capable of inventing abstract and artificial languages such as the language of math which is able to put aside the faults of natural languages. Technology also endowed us with great tools of perception and precision; it supplemented the ability of the eye to see with telescopes and microscopes, and devices that allowed us to see other light wave frequencies that human eye couldn’t see. Therefore we should put more trust in technological observation which makes it possible for us to build a different and more precise depiction and consciousness of the world by increasing our perceptive capabilities, rather than the perspective and common sense received through the limited 5 sense that nature endowed us; however when it comes to the field of thought, we should not forget that even this scientific mode of consciousness and perception must use super-languages such as logic and mathematics that present the complex nature of truth in simpler terms in order to select simplify and get rid of the deception of normal language. This is why we mention 3 more criteria for reality other than the “coherent theory of truth” which was considered the criterion of the reality in the old ages: “correspondent theory of truth”, “pragmatic theory of truth”, and “performative theory of truth.” We thus arrive at the issue of whether the world-view of the self has a reality outside of itself in the world of “existence.”
How Real are the Categories of Time and Space Outside of the Self?
We say that the “self” develops some interesting ideas and worldview about time and space; however to what degree are the ideas of the human soul about the existence may be true? The coherent theory of truth which used to be considered as a sufficient criteria is no longer sufficient to us. Today we speak of “fuzzy logic”, “multi-valued logic”, and even “paradox logic”. I ventured even further and defended the paradox logic against Aristotelean logic from the point that there are some paradoxes in physics and even mathematics, and I think even Change and Time have paradoxical natures. In the mentioned book I have shown that paradoxes which are unwelcome in the Aristotelean logic exist in quantum mechanics in physics, and not to mention the natural languages, it exists even in the numbers of mathematics which is humankind’s sharpest language of thought. Not just with the irrational numbers as in the time of Pythagoras, but after Goedel’s Theorem in 1931 paradoxes were found even between the rational numbers. Based upon this point we have developed a new theory of existence, a universe view that defends the paradox logic opposed to the Aristotelean logic and takes time as a reference rather than space.2 Thus we arrive at the issue of “what is existence?” and “what is time?” The countless contradictory perspectives and skeptical criticisms about the nature of existence and whether it can be known are known issues.
According to Heraclitus “all things are in a constant flux and constancy is merely an illusion and only change and the law of change, i.e. Logos is true.” Citation needed Parmenides was saying just the opposite; according to him “the image of movement and things seeming separate is just an illusion.”Citation needed We who are living at the age of cinema screens can easily comprehend the idea that the image of movement on the screen is an illusion. We know that perpetual projection of images in short time intervals give animation these otherwise still images. According to Parmenides “Universe and the state of existence are not changeable and indivisible, and claims that express change or variety are paradoxical.” As it is known Zeno of Elea who was his disciple demonstrated that believing in change and motion creates logical paradoxes. Meanwhile, I could also say that the impression of things as being in constant change and flux is imposed by the feeling of time, which exists in our consciousness.
According to Plato’s allegory of the cave there are “Permanent, indivisible, perfect and apprehensible ideas” and there are “perceptible, discernible and familiar objects” “As all things which are perceived by the senses go through a process of change, claims about these things given at a frame of time would not be true at another time. Therefore these changeable things are not real in the full sense of the word.”
Indeed to what degree can our knowledge correspond to reality? Can a consciousness imprisoned in its own cave (allow me to say the skull) perceive the world outside of itself “as it really is” through shadows which are reflecting from the real world outside of itself (world of ideas) onto the wall of the mind. Can a consciousness imprisoned in the skull know the world outside of itself completely and without fault?
As for Democritus, it is known that he developed an atomistic theory of existence. The Islamic theologians in the middle ages have taken up the idea of the indivisibles from him. Even modern physics relies itself on this ancient idea of atoms when examining the nature of the material world outside of our Self. At the same time, physicists have developed such capable tools that let alone dividing the atom, now they are working on tiny particles, so tiny as to be meta-physical, imagined and calculated unstable sub-atomic particles.
According to me, Zeno’s paradoxes about change and movement is actually about the continuity of time and existence. Regarding this issue, only the main lines of ideas present in The Meaning of Existence can be summarized here: Quantum mechanics shows us that objects do not have a continuity; they behave both as particles and as waves; location cannot be precisely specified using a three dimensional system of coordination as quanta shows both particle and wave characteristics. Thus it imposes a paradoxical idea that quanta can be particle and it can be a wave and furthermore insists that this paradox corresponds to reality. Let us put scientific observations to one side, even mathematics which is the most precise language that human mind can aspire at is full of some paradoxes. Goedel Theorem has demonstrated that paradoxes exist even between rational numbers. Cantor’s Set Theory too leads to some paradoxes. So, let alone geometry, even in arithmetics – even among rational numbers – there are certain paradoxes. Now then, it is a futile attempt to resolve Zeno’s paradox through the set theory like Russel tried because the nature of Set theory itself is paradoxical. Hence there are paradoxes even in mathematics albeit Aristotelean logic is unable to digest it, we are obliged to acknowledge the existence of paradoxes in reality.
As we ought no longer to trust in mathematics which we consider more precise than logic, we interpreted this problem that “existence should be perceived as a process of being in time” That is, it is not Space and the objects within but time that should be taken as the real frame of reference, and that the existence and continuity of objects should be considered as a process which occurs completely in time. Because let alone physics even mathematics is compelling us to accept some paradoxes. In that case the paradox logic which is prevalent in the orient should be adopted instead of the Aristotelean logic. Because if we dismiss time, it is evident that a perspective that takes Space as a foundation, and the ensuing logic that forms from it cannot reconcile with paradoxes and contradictions. However, notions such as time and change themselves are paradoxical in essence. Zeno’s arguments intended to prove his master Parmenides right. I think to reject these paradoxes or to prove them wrong is a futile attempt. There might be some problems here.
I don’t deem it possible either. The reasoning and inferences of Zeno appear quite true and sound to me. I say that the impression of our consciousness about the continuity of material things is an illusion, that existence is not in a world of permanent objects, and even that the objects themselves belong to a world of historical events, and that time itself is naturally of a paradoxical character, and I think that Zeno’s paradoxes about change and movement result from these. Lastly, the concept of continuity in time, let alone seeming to be quite natural as continuity in space, it is not even possible. In that case there should be a force that provides continuity in time and of space in time. However, such a continuity requires the renewal of objects, and that it is only possible with the condition that a Constant Creator exists.
Judging by the non-existence of the past and the future Aristotle was saying that “Time is the addition of its parts which do not exist; therefore time does not exist.” Although we feel an “infinite-present”; as the present time is a transition between the past and the future “this moment” cannot exist independently from these two times. And this is the problem of continuity of time. Is existence really something that has continuity in time? If we are to look at the issue from the point of view of time or history, we can affirm it only insofar as the things that already took place. The future does not yet exist. And as for things that existed till now, are there any philosophical necessities for them to exist in the near or distant future? Could not the existence disappear in the next moment along with our selves that exist in it?
We have mentioned that scientists play a different language game than the philosopher and are interested in whether words and notions correspond to reality rather than the words themselves or their logical relations; and that therefore they prefer mathematics which is more abstract and simple, while it is a more “powerful” language. According to the scientific mind, reality is physics; i.e. reality is the material world, not metaphysical.
However, the human soul which evaluates this material world is a metaphysical being rather than physical. Perhaps, as in the Indian story above, this soul/self is not even mortal, but somehow related to the Divine Self. In the faith of the Semitic religions, God have spirited 3 into human from its own soul. The self itself is a very abstract and non-material being. It may be so, however, how much can we trust in the mediums of perception and the five senses that the self employs to perceive the external material world? Science has tools that improve our perception. Telescopes, microscopes, X-Rays, and other tools which are the products of advanced technology have shown us that the world outside of us is not like what 5 senses present it to be. As science advanced we have discovered that the world is not really like what we imagined it to be in our minds. Due to this ability to look deeper, we trust in science’s depiction of the world rather than what five senses and common-sense impose. As a result, the reality that scientific tools and instruments depict, does not resemble the reality that our self with its sensory organs perceive.
However, we had already mentioned that we have the potency to correct the images that our sensory organs present to our mind, through rational, scientific, and human consciousness. Our self which tries to know and understand the existence can even understand the realities described with the language of mathematics. But science’s depiction of reality, the material world outside of us, became to overcome our soul’s ability to imagine and comprehend. Just as we were grappling with the idea that space and time are not separate things and the existence should be understood as a four dimensional space-time continuum; now the physicists started talking about a world with 10 or 11 dimensions and a super-string theory. Okay, we know it; that physicians are dealing with sub-atomic particles have not crushed the atoms but crushed the “sub-atomic” particles too: in 1911, atom consisted of protons and electrons, and in 1930 they added the neutron to this. but when they smashed atoms in particle accelerating laboratories, things got mixed up. Particles such as “meon” or “Peon” started coming out one after another. There is even a sarcastic question by a scientist called I.I. Rabi about the “meon”: “Who ordered this particle?” Meanwhile, in 1963 Gellman who developed the theory that particles such as “Meson” and “Barion” should also consist of particles called quarks. Having his inspiration from Ulysses by James Joyce, he started claiming that three other quarks he oddly named “up” “down” and “strange” ought to exist also. According to him “two quarks made one meson and three quarks made one barion.” In the meantime, they started some quite absurd namings such as “red, blue,, and green quarks” and even a “beauty quark.” As if this was not enough, they are making research upon research to discover imaginary and dreamt of particles because “theoretically, it must exist” While we are objecting to the semantic foundations of natural languages, these weird namings in this esoteric physics language is startling.
We had previously mentioned that there is also a pragmatic theory of truth. If a theory is useful, very well, it means it is true. According to William James, “Reality is a belief that has potential to lead to a successful action.” He evaluates beliefs according to their utility in solving problems. It appears that Scientific truth fits a little bit to the pragmatic theory, and a little bit to the correspondence to reality theory. We mentioned above that although quantum theory contains logical contradictions, the scientists consider the quantum theory to correspond to reality: i.e. unlike philosophers who are interested in concepts and the logical coherency of a notion, they are interested in the reality of the material world.
However it appears to me that a theory can be logically congruent, semantically functional, scientifically correspond to reality, and even pragmatic, yet even if it satisfies all of these four criteria of truth, it can still be wrong. If we make a judgment about the chair in front of us, it can perfectly fit these four criteria; but its reality can still be dubious. Hans Reichenberg wrote about the existence of a scientific philosophy in his book titled The Birth of Scientific Philosophy and he was regarding the atom theory of philosophers as metaphysics. “If the imaginary and unstable particles appearing in quantum physics is not metaphysical, are not field theories and super-string theory which is trying to link four forces a first rate metaphysics?” We have nothing to say about the success of science, but like philosophy’s criteria of truth, the reality of scientific criteria can be found to be naive.
The Issue of Time
When it comes to the issue of time, no matter what anyone says, I say that “my soul decides what is real” because denying time is in a sense denying our Self and anything we speak would be reduced to the absurd. According to us, just as space exists due to the matter it contains, so does time exist due to the events it consists of. I shall not refer to the laws of thermodynamics in physics, to provide proof for the existence of time, for physical observations are, finally, being translated into a language that the human self, and find acceptance or refusal according to the reasoning of the self. However, the feeling of time is a direct result of the priority or posteriority of events the self experiences, and the reversibility of this order; i.e. it arises from the impossibility of returning to a previous condition in time. Therefore, the consciousness of time is just as consciousness of the self of itself, an indubitable state of consciousness and it is actually also related to the feeling of the existence of the Self. It is the self which gives the ultimate decision about time; and of course it can reason and criticize its own impressions, imaginations and thoughts, however, if the self should doubt of its own existence, we must talk no more at that point. Therefore, according to this situation, we must infer that, “For the self, the passage of time is as real and indubitable as much as its own existence.“
Goethe was saying in Faust:
Your genius is renowned throughout the world,
but holy man, why can you not beat the time?
The self knows of its existence and time because it has sensory organs and a worldview that forms due to them; but just like history, we cannot observe the Existence directly, without an intermediary. We have to judge about the existence through evaluating the information given to us by sensory organs. Also, we should not forget that until the impressions of the sensory organs pass through neurons, reach brain and create an image about the external world, though it may be a short fraction of time as one-third of a second, time passes; therefore, the observations of the self are “impressions of the near-past” which is now mixed with past and shall always remain in the past. So, what we feel and see as “this moment” has actually been seen a very short time ago and the observation belongs to the near-past and is now history. I must underline history because a historical event can be remembered but cannot be repeated or reversed. Our self itself experiences time through the countless perpetual impressions which it receives through the five senses. This feeling of time itself plays a very important role in the formation of the consciousness of the self, because the self recalls the impressions of the past in the order of priority and posteriority until the present moment. It is due to memory that despite the changes in its own consciousness it gains a consciousness of the continuity, i.e. the existence, of the self which evaluates and understands those states of consciouses.
However, had it not been for the feeling of time, and the ability to remember, it would be impossible for the self to know itself. The existence of the self itself is causing the feeling that time exists and it is passing, by noticing the perpetual shifts in the states of consciousness, and the order of imaginations in the consciousness. In a sense, consciousness is to notice something. In this sense, the existence of the self itself and the consciousness of time is so intertwined that both are felt as indubitable states of consciousness that exist in our mind. It is the intellect which doubts, not consciousness; and consciousness is such a thing that the self cannot doubt the existence of its own consciousness. When we look at an object we see it. When we turn our head and look at another object, the image of the previous object vanishes and a new image replaces it as a new state of consciousness. That is, the imaginations in the consciousness are changing from one moment to the next; although the previous image completely disappears and is replaced by a completely new image, and all imaginations in the consciousness are varying each moment, the consciousness never doubts that it really sees the object, i.e. the existence of its visual imagination which forms in the mind.
Our minds can object that the image in our minds really exist in the external world; there might be moments when we ask ourselves “Am I dreaming?”; and besides, this is how we wake up from some of our dreams; but even then, it is not whether such a visual imagination really exists in our mind which we doubt but whether it really exists in the external world. For, we may be dreaming, but when we are dreaming lets acknowledge that “even when we imagine, it really exists in our mind.”
I do not know of an experience of a self which can doubt its own state of consciousness, and I do not think it is possible: not even in cases of madness or in the state of coma. Just as humans can see dreams, madmen can hallucinate; the things they see may not exist in reality, but taken as a state of mind, hallucinations and dreams are absolutely equivalent to a vision in wakefulness 4
Why do I insist on these observations although it is something we know well and understand by personal experience that the image arising in the consciousness cannot be doubted. First of all, I want to clearly express what I understand from this concept of consciousness whose use in language is obfuscated: so that my intended meaning of the impossibility of the self to doubt its consciousness is clear. Thus, according to all we have written here, there is the fact that the Self cannot doubt its existence. Philosophical skepticism is still possible in this of course. However, when taken to such lengths of nihilism, there is no point in speaking and it becomes impossible to say anything where philosophy and thought would be needless. Secondly, we said that “The Self cannot doubt its own consciousness, that there is an image like that.” This is impossible according to this description about the consciousness; because the state of consciousness is the image itself, and that image being shaped by our mind, it exists there, while the possibility that it may not exist outside of our mind is still open to debate.
Our consciousness about time is not just a state of consciousness, but it is the entirety of the states of consciousness as far as we can recollect them, and because of this wholeness, it it appears to be a more obvious truth than any other state of consciousness. Additionally, because of the indispensable part it plays in the formation of identity, remembering the things that happened in terms of priority and posteriority – as in remembering our childhood – is indispensable to consciousness. That is why the consciousness of time and the consciousness of the Self manifest themselves to the same degree of certainty. In the same way that the self proclaims to “I am who I am” it also proclaims “Time exists, because I exist.” It would even be appropriate if the self were to say “Time is I” because although the content of consciousness perpetually changes with the impressions rushing from the senses, identity which remains unchanged is a thing that perceives time and has a continuity through time. So it does not just say “I am who I am” but “I am who I am, the same person, for as long as I knew myself.” If the self did not have this consciousness of itself we could discuss whether time existed, or vice versa, in order to put the existence of time into question, we should also be able to question whether the self existed.
By remembering its previous states, the self preserves its permanence and continuity. Despite all the changes in its emotions, remembrance, knowledge, consciousness, behavior, preferences, in short, in all of its features, the self remembers the times bygone, the childhood days, and even a 50 year old consciousness thinks that it has that same consciousness which it had when it was 9 years old even after all the psychological changes which takes place between a pre-pubescent child and an old man. So in short, a person is as sure about time as it is about his or her own consciousness. As I have also said before, these states of consciousness cannot be questioned. If mind puts the Self/Time consciousness into question, it would put mind itself into question and that would be the end of discussion.
Yet, despite coming to a sensible point of not opening our consciousness and time for questioning, there is still something that we need to discuss: we accept the self and its consciousness of time, but the images about the external objects which arise in the consciousness really exist? Allow me to explain the situation by caricaturing this with a coarse example: when there is a car passing on the street, can it appear to be an elephant or a horse in my mind? Can I claim that I am seeing a ship in that moment? And when I say this, would you conclude from my words that I am dreaming on that instant? Can our impressions of the world through our senses or their impressions in the consciousness which it creates in our mind be so wrong? Or is it possible for me to go so wrong in expressing what is in our mind and for you to misconstrue it to such a degree? According to all that we have said so far, I cannot dispute the existence of my self and the consciousness of time which belongs to it; if it is an elephant that appears in my consciousness, I cannot doubt that image, because there really is an elephant there, and because we cannot doubt our own consciousness, I shall think that it is an elephant. For the animal self, there is an elephant and it is seeing an elephant, and that is that! However can the human self doubt whether what he is seeing may not actually be an elephant but an automobile? Although we do not have such concerns in daily life, it is permissible from a philosophical perspective. Albeit we know scientifically that our sensory impressions undergo many changes when flowing into our mind through a certain distance over a certain time through neurons — that is although the self is not leaving its shell to contact the world outside directly — we do not notice that we see objects through the eye, and feel them as if we see them in our consciousness without intermediaries. And we do not doubt the existence of things we see with out eyes. If we listen to common sense, we do not need to doubt either. But are things really what they seem to us to be? Philosophically this is a very justified doubt. Georgias said that: “if something existed we would not have been able to know its nature. Even if we were able to know its nature, we would not have been able to tell it to others.” His words, after all the uncomely analogies above, seems absurd and it looks as though this radical skepticism makes it unnecessary to talk. But no, the reality is not that simple: I think that when it comes to the issue of existence, we have to take this skepticism very seriously. Many skeptical views have been expressed throughout the history of philosophy. Let us elaborate a little on the ideas of Georgias.
Georgias’s skepticism seems broad: but he does not keep quiet, he speaks; so he does not deny his self. When he says “if something existed” and also doubts his own existence, as I mentioned, the discussion would have come to an end there, and we would say, let us not have ever heard about what he said. However, if we understand Georgias as not refuting the existence of his self but the understandability of the nature of that self, then a productive philosophical discussion would arise from his radical skepticism. In what I have written so far, I have proclaimed discussions of the existence of the self and its perception of time to be meaningless. We had also wrote that it is impossible for one to deny her/his state of consciousness. But we had left it open to debate whether the things we see exist or not. Georgias says that even if it existed we could not have known. It seems absurd at first, especially in those simple ages of antiquity; but when we check our scientific knowledge and cultural body of knowledge, we see that we cannot say he is speaking talking non-sense.
Georgias understood just by the power of his reason that things may not be as they seem, but we know very well according to our contemporary science that objects are not as they seem to us at all. Our eyes are sensitive to only radiation between two frequencies of light; it can only see those colors and white light between those frequencies. But it cannot see the ultra-violet or infra-red. In short, we see only one among twelve kinds of light. On the other hand, scientific technology has developed various tools that allow us to see various kinds of light that our eyes cannot see. When we translated these different waves of light from these tools into a recognizable format that our eyes can perceive, we have started to see a completely different view of the world from our natural vision. It is thus impossible as we actually use these tools today to claim that the world is as it appears to our eyes which are sensitive to only white light, i.e. as it appears in our consciousness. Twelve different lights with different wavelengths mean that there are eleven different appearances of the world different than ours. To put it more correctly, since we now use these tools today, it is only one of the twelve views of the world that our eyes can perceive; i.e. when we look from the veil of the white light the world looks as we see it, but is is a truth that it looks different under different lights. In saying that we cannot understand the world as it is through the five senses that we have, Georgias was saying something very true to our understanding of the world
His second refutation that is even if we knew something we would not be able to express it is also very justified. We had already expressed it in the issues of language. To express the the way reality appears to us is not possible neither with any of the natural languages nor with artificial languages such as the language of science or mathematics. Language too can only express the realities within its boundaries of expression; like the limit our eyes have with white light; therefore we do not have a language suitable to express the reality completely. Even if there are specific aspects that can be expressed with an esoteric language, we cannot claim that they are understood even by the scientists who know that language.
In my book called The Meaning of Existence taking the continuum hypothesis in mathematics as the starting point, according to mathematics and by necessity of logic, I had concluded that existence must not have a continuity. Yet, history and time, or in other words, the events that take place in a certain time and place 5 must definitively be temporary, and I had claimed that the persistence and consistency of the material world throughout time in spite of this necessity is startling. Time is of a metaphysical character, and as Aristotle said, it does not have a real existence, it does not exist as a material. Yet existence is all about events, and events mean the addition of the dimension of time onto the three dimensions of space. If existence is a space-time continuum it comes into being in time. If existence is made up of such a space-time container, and if time is real — and our conscious-self tells us so — then, I had said, this continuum can only exist due to a constant creation and renewal of one moment at another with additions to its previous state, and that this can only be explained with a premise or postulate of a constant creator. If we shall continue to trust our conclusions, this metaphysical premise of God is as real as our own self. When I pondered on this premise/postulate of such a constant creator as a metaphysical basis, I realized that it is similar to some old arguments such as the cosmic proof and the argument from design. These ideas expressed with the new findings of the new physics and mathematics at hand today seemed to be a more modern and sophisticated repetition of these old arguments. All in all, this issue is so long and intricate as cannot be discussed here. Nevertheless, I want to express this issue as a verse in Quran which says:
To God belong the East and the West;
Whither-soever you turn, there is the Face of God;
God is All-embracing, All-knowing.
So there is only the divine-self. Furthermore, our consciousness of our self is so too; by recreating the universe in its own image and imagination, if it is alright to say so, it is busy recreating in its own consciousness. Whereas the past is gone and the future is not yet to be.
If it is alright to express in this way, even the idea that something can exist or move is itself a metaphysical understanding of existence. Indeed, I can say that my own consciousness and soul feels the existence of time indirectly just as it feels its own existence as an indubitable truth, and reflects this understanding of being that it has onto the outside world. We look at everything from the window of understanding of our own soul.
It is this consciousness of time of the self that forces us to believe in a God who created this time and renews the existence every moment. This activity of the divine will creates and preserves the world, and the human self recreates within itself a copy of the world as a state of consciousness and imagination. Philosophical, theological and scientific conclusions aside, the soul/self/reason recreates the external world in its own image by reflecting its own nature to it. This is in the nature of human soul. It has to believe in God because it imagines that which exists in its own image. Thus it understands God in analogy to its own: just as the self is both the soul of the body separate to it, and in the body as identical to it; God too is both immanent in the being and also the soul that rules over the being. Thus with this analogy of the self even the paradox of how God can be immanent and transcendental is solved.
Alright, why does the self try to understand the universe by analogy to itself? Spengler says: “For there is no other way of thinking possible for humans.” The verity of this belief can be doubted philosophically, however this is a state of consciousness and its presence cannot be denied. Human consciousness reflects its perception of time onto the existence. From there, starting out from the idea of time, it believes in the presence of a God without needing to reason interminably and from a much shorter way, perhaps with a spiritual intuition and will. Now then, in a sense the consciousness of the self, soul/heart/nous inculcates the idea of the necessary existence of God. This is what is meant with the saying6: “one who knows oneself, knows one’s God” Despite everything that we have said so far, and despite the belief of the self coming perhaps from the intuition of comparing its own nature with the nature of existence, of course I cannot claim that we can know or comprehend the nature of God fully. At this point now, it will be more appropriate perhaps to repeat these old words about the existence: “Something is moving…” And not just something outside of us, but something deep down, in our self, in our heart, in the depths of our soul. Our heart not only itself but the existence of an infinite being outside of itself.
As Cüneyd-i Bağdâd-î said:
“The color of water is that of its vessel.”
1. This is the text presented in a Congression of Philosophy Return
2. Those who are interested in about my ideas regarding this may refer to that book for the details. Put a link to the page in the book Return
3. Spirit: from Latin spiritus “a breathing (respiration, and of the wind), breath; breath of a god,” Return
4. The purpose of my explanations o this basic issue is to clarify what I mean by consciousness, which is a fuzzy term. Return
5. We describe an event as the 3 dimensions of space and the dimension of time. Return
5. (من عرف نفسه فقد عرف ربه) Men arafe nefseh fekad arafe rabbeh Return
PROF. DR. ŞAHİN UÇAR
Birthplace and Birthdate: Acıyurt, Sivas, 1949, Turkey.
• Doctorate: “Arab Conquests in Anatolia AD 640-750.” Erzurum,
1982. (Turkish Print: Anadolu’da İslam-Bizans Mücadelesi, İşaret
• Turkish (Ottoman, Azeri/Karapapak dialect, Kazak dialect)
• Russian (Elementary)
• Latin (Elementary)
• Professor, International University of Sarajevo, Sarajevo, BiH, 2008.
• Professor, Hoca Ahmet Yesevi University, Chimkent, Kazakhstan, 2004.
• Gebze High Institute of Technology, Strategy Department, gave master classes on “The Philosophy of Statehood”.
• Director of Sophia Higher Institute of Islam (and 3 İmam Hatip high schools associated with it), Sophia, Bulgaria, 2002.
• Gebze High Institute of Technology, Strategy Department, gave master classes on “The Philosophy of Statehood” and “History and National Strategy”. (2001).
• President, Islamic Research Center and Islamic Encyclopedia, (İSAM),
• Consultant to Board of Directors, Hoca Ahmet Yesevi, Turkish-Kazakh university, Ankara (1999)
• Profesör, Hoca Ahmet Yesevi Üniversitesi, Tarih Bölümü Başkanı, Türkistan, Kazakhstan, (1999).
• Vice Rector, Niğde University, (1995).
• Dean, Faculty of Economics, Niğde (1994).
• Director of the Institute of Social Sciences, Niğde University, (1994).
• Professor: Faculty of Pedagogy, Niğde University (1993).
• Associate Professor: History department, Faculty of Social Sciences, Selçuk University, Konya (1988).
• Assistant Professor: Selçuk University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Director of the department of History, Konya (1983).
• Doctor: Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of History, Atatürk University, Erzurum (1982).
• Paleography and Epigraphy Specialist, The Department of Turkish Language and Literature, Faculty of Social Sciences, Atatürk University, Erzurum (1976)
• History of Art Instructor: Pedagogical High School, Sivas (1975)
• Music Teacher: 4 Eylül Lisesi, Sivas (1974).
• Teacher of Social Sciences: 4Th of September Secondary School, Sivas (1973).
• Music Teacher: Yeni Levent High School, Istanbul (1972).
• Primary School Teacher: Acıyurt village school, Acıyurt, Sivas (1967).
Şeyda Divanı [Traditional Ottoman style poetry; Şeyda is the penname of Şahin Uçar], “Dream and Reality” is added to this edition, Sivas, 1980, Second Edition, Niğde 1997. The third edition is published as Divan by Domino Publishing House, Istanbul, 2007.
• Patterns and Trends in History, (A Worldview Manifesto written for the Fırat University History Seminar), Elazığ, 1984. It was published in the literature magazine of Selçuk University as a long article, Konya, 1986. The second edition was published as a book in 2004. The third edition was published by Domino Publishing house, Istanbul, 2007.
• Struggles between Islam and Byzantium in Anatolia, İşaret Publishing House, Istanbul (1990). The extended second edition was published as “Arab Conquests in Anatolia” by Domino Publishing House, Istanbul, 2007.
• Moloch and Caliphate from the Perspective of Philosophy of History, Konya, 1992. (Won the Best Book of the Year award by the Turkish Authors Union)
Second edition, İz Publishing House, 1996. Third edition, was published by Domino Publishing houes as “Moloch and Caliphate from the Perspective of Philosophy of History”.
• Essays on Philosophy of History, Vadi Publishing House, Ankara, 1994. The extended second edition was published as “Matters of Philosophy of History” by Nehir Publishing House, Istanbul, 1997. The third edition was published by Domino publishing house, as “Essays on Philosophy of History”, Istanbul, 2007.
• The Meaning of Existence, the second book of the author to be awarded The Book of the Year by the Turkish Authors Union, İz Publishing House, Istanbul, 1995. The extended second edition was published by Domino Publishing House as “The Meaning of Existence”, Istanbul, 2007.
• The Night of Judgment, modern Turkish poems, Konya, 2002. A much larger second edition was published by Ötüken Publishing house as “Mâlihulyâ” (melancholia), Istanbul, 1997. The extended third edition was published by Domino Publishing House as “Sing Your Song”
• Human Quest on Earth, Gelenek Publishing House, 2003. The second edition was published by Domino Publishing house, Istanbul, 2007.
• Essays on Culture, Technology, and Art, Domino Publishing House, Istanbul, 2007.
• Language and Philosophy, Domino Publishing House, 2007.
• Invited guest to a round table discussion in Colombia University, “Symposium on the Middle Eastern music” (Middle Eastern Music Symposium), New York, 1980.
• Harvard University, “Application of Islamic Law in the Ottoman Empire”, Faculty of Law, Boston, 1998.
• Round-table Discussion by Professor Şükrü Hanioğlu, on the presentation of “Janissaries”, New York, 1998.
• Has been awarded by the Turkish Authors Union. First, won the award of the book of the year for “Moloch and Caliphate from the Perspective of Philosophy of History” in 1992. And again in 1995 “The Meaning of Existence” was chosen the book of the year.
• Sabbatical visiting professor, Princeton University, 1980.
• Syria, 1992.
• Turkmenistan, 1994.
• Iran, Invitee of Turkish Authors Union, 1995.
• Cyprus, 1995.
• America, 1998.
• Kazakhstan, H.A. Yesevi University as a history professor.
• Syria, 2000.
• Bulgaria, Director of Sophia High Islamic Institute
• Kazakhstan, as a professor of History in H.A. Yesevi University, 2004.
• As a professor in the International University of Sarajevo
Some social activities
Lute recital in the international students center in Princeton University.
• Calligraphies are opened to the public in an exhibition organized by the Ankara mayorship.
• Has been invited many times by the Turkish Authors Union to poetry symposiums and read his poems in those symposiums, some of which were in foreign countries.
• Has written many articles for daily newspapers such as Yeni Düşünce (New Thought), Zaman (Time), Sağduyu (commonsense), Ayyıldız (MoonStar), and Yeni Şafak (New Dawn), and has spoken on TV and radio broadcasts.
• Conversations on poetry with the president of Religious Affairs Nuri Yılmaz, TGRT, 1996.
• Politics of Middle East and America, with Ramazan Taşdurmaz, Tempo TV, Adana, 1995.
• An interview about Şahin Uçar’s poetry book called “Malihulya”, Kanal 7, 1998.
• “On History and Philosophy of History” with Mehmed Niyazi, TGRT, 2002;
• “On the Works and Biography of Şahin Uçar” with Çoşkun Çokyiğit, Medyametre, February, 2003.
• “On his Works and Biography” with Muhammed Nurdoğan, TVNET, March, 2007.
• “On Philosophy of History” with Muhammed Nurdoğan, TVNET, March, 2007.
• “On his Thoughts and Books”, Haber 7 TV, Istanbul, 2008