Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Philosophy of Proof Analysis

Desire to know is the fundamental drive of human ingenuity and progress. In the realm of epistemology (theory of knowledge), there is a definite demarcation between facts that are self evident, a priori, and those that are proved to be true from employing systematic processes of verification. This, in more technical term, is referred to as the scientific methodology. The scientific method is the systematic process of certifying that an assumption concerning a set of phenomena made based on a single or few observations can be used to determine the general and universal behavior of like phenomena when exposed to variables similar to the earlier observation. The process passes through stages. First an observation is made about a set of phenomena. Then a hypothesis is established. Subsequently more investigation is carried out concerning the said phenomena leading to the gathering of data. The gathered data are then tested in a variety of ways. When this happens, the earlier hypothesis is either proved to be true based on these tests or discarded as not true. In the event that the earlier hypothesis is proved true, then it becomes a theory. This scientific technique of truth verification starts first from a single observation to a generalization.
It is not to say that science has been totally oblivious of the so called self-evident truths. These are facts which are accepted by all as needing no verification since they are in their nature purely self evident or a priori. Such truths are used to make formal judgments about particular things. The statement, “all men are mortal”, assumes a priori that every living man must someday die and so based on this one can say that since there is a man named Pete, that he is mortal and therefore must one day die. This is accepted as true based on the universal statement “all men are mortal”. However, some such formerly established universal statements have been overturned by science. This was possible through the breakthroughs of science. It was formerly established that “whatever goes up, must come down”. This at one point was self-evident and incontrovertible. But right now, based on the better knowledge of the planetary arrangements and space exploration, this hitherto universal statement has been nullified. In a sense, the notion of “up” or “down” are no more seen from the same perspective as was hitherto the case. Those terms are rather contingent upon relative points of reference in the cosmos.
Any study therefore on techniques of proof hinges on these two dimensions of scientific inquiry. The one progresses from the part to the whole; the other assumes the whole as self-evident and now makes judgments about the part from this a priori knowledge of the whole. Proof is simply the process of how propositions and conclusions are derived from employing specific procedures. Those procedures are the techniques of proof. The technique employed in proving a given proposition is largely determined by the nature of field of study within which the said proof is sought. Proof in logic and mathematics is different, (procedurally and in the nature of interacting variables), from proof in the physical sciences. Both are different from proof in Law. But in all, the process tries to establish the truth of propositions based on specific core assumptions and peculiar behaviour of interacting variables.

Proof in mathematics and logic follows the patterns by which premises are made and based on the nature of the interaction among these premises, conclusions are drawn.

Let us examine the following argument.

All S is P, X is S, therefore X is P.

The process assumes first that everything in the class of S is contained in the class of P. Now if X is part of the class of S which is wholly part of P, it therefore follows that everything about X, (insofar as X is part of S) is also part of P.
This form of proof is employed in logic and mathematics, though in the latter, the premises can be referred to as the ‘demonstrates’. In mathematics, the interacting variables by which proofs are made are mostly made up of numbers and equations, as in algebra. Algebra, allows symbols (usually letters) to represent unknown numbers in mathematical equations. Algebra enables the basic operations of arithmetic, such as addition, subtraction, and multiplication, to be performed without using specific numbers. People use algebra constantly in everyday life, for everything from calculating how much money would be needed to fund a child’s tuition in a given year, to figuring out how long it will take to travel by car at a certain speed to a destination that is a specific distance away. Here the value of the numbers and symbols employed in proving a given mathematical proposition is mostly virtual.

Let us take the Pythagorean theorem for example, which states that “in a right angled triangle, the square on the hypotenuse, is equal to the sum of the squares in the other two sides”. This theorem is represented as a2 + b2 = c2 . Now to prove this theorem, the variables a, b, and c would be furnished with values which are merely virtual and do not have any real representation in any citable concrete experience and from the interaction among the variables, proof is made.
Proof in science goes beyond the pure philosophical question of ‘why’ of things to the ‘how’. Scientific methodology is rigorous and seeks to formulate theories by which universal proposition and generalizations can be made without danger of error. Science goes beyond the elementary assumptions of common sense, to seek universal grounds on which a particular phenomenon or set of phenomena can be predicated.
In law, proof is the process by which evidences are used to establish that a particular issue (or issues) as debated on the floor of the court is either true or false. Proof is therefore essentially concerned with clarifications on the ‘how’ of a given statement, but the very letters of the procedure of this clarification differ from field to field.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tupac's Musical Lifeworld

Music represents rhyme. It is a lifeworld, an aesthetic environment furnished with systematic rhyme. Music exists first in the mind of the artist as a subjective world, which is later released in a manner of objective drama. The genius contemplates music, conceptualizes it, becomes it. The content of any artwork is a direct or implied reflection of the mind of the artist. The artist is man, just like any other man or woman, with mental content drawn from a jumble of experiences and ideologies. Yet it requires genius to re-orientate this jumble of experiences into rhyme capable of appealing to the taste of the critical listener.

Hip-Hop as a musical genre was fundamentally formed from a lifeworld characterized by conflict and social sham. Such manner of existence is referred to as Ghetto. The ghetto is a derogatory term used to describe the shabby slums inhabited predominately by impoverished blacks and social miscreants in America. That reference now goes beyond America; Ghettoes exist everywhere. There are Ghettoes in Europe, Africa, Asia, etc. The music of ghetto plays a particular tune; plays the tune of struggle, of violence, of death, of revenge, of injustice. These dark aspects of life and the need to escape from them are the very expressions of traditional hip hop genre.

As a being realized within this framework, Tupac saw himself as a concrete situated instance of Blackman’s struggle. He saw himself as a phenomenon that at once represents this lifeworld and also is part of it. His drama starts therefore at this realization and hence he built the social problems existing in his community into his own music; this music is a pure mirror of his own personality. To change the environment, to uproot the discordant music of social denigration, Tupac offered himself, sacrificed himself as a symbol of black struggle.

The character of hip-hop rap flow is peculiar in its presentation. There is first a maelstrom of booming beating, followed sometimes immediately by a ‘rat-a tat’ of rhythmic raps or seconded by lyrics and then the raps. Generally, raps follow this procedure, but what influences the uniqueness of each orientation stems from the peculiar genius of the very rapper.

The Tupacian rap flow is unique. It involves a stream of highly sequential and systematic report of firm assertions flowing on the groundwork of variable lyrics, sounds and beatings. One can imagine the eerie feeling of dread and mysterious sense of defiance that is directly evoked by tracks like ‘Hail Mary’, Hit’ em up, Trade in War Stories, etc. The manners in which the different tunes are phonetically arranged suggest simply the very factor which the artist wants to communicate. This is the work of literary genius at play. In Hail Mary, the artist declares ‘let’s go deep into the solitary minds of a mad man’. The mad man here is Tupac who represents the society filled with ‘screams in the dark’ and where ‘evil lurk’. The solitary mind of a mad man represents a babel of hyperactive forces pushing to and fro within the mind of a social victim. The social victim has become “mad” from a too constant exposure to unsavory experiences. Now he is solitary in his pain and dilemma. The screams in the dark are the unspoken protests, the silent defiance, the punishing fatality of living a meaningless life. The tension is intoxicating, suffocating, maddening. The outflow of phonetic features here plays out the message of an inherent social discord in a musical fashion.

The style employed in ‘Hail Mary’ is different formally from the style used in the ‘Me Against the World’. In the Hail Mary’, Tupac actually sought to analyze the society from examining the subjective temper of an integral aspect of the society. He himself was that subjective temper. So he was actually doing a meditation, introspection, self disclosure. But in ‘Me against the world’ he was presented as a disinterested critic of the society which presents itself to him as would a cadaver to a dissecting scientist. Here, he was clearly direct, pinpointing with articulate emphasis the inherent evils in the society. Hence there is here a change of style, a change of tune, a restructuring of the phonetic shape and musical cadence. The ‘Me against the world’ observes the society from the view point of one who had been in the society, but had, more or less, retained comparative sanity despite the attendant psychic trauma. Here, the observer, the aesthetic contemplator sets the world at a distance and rightly gives report of a subsequent observation. Here Tupac talks in an aloof manner, outlawing himself and projecting a future world. Hence he said

With all these extra stressing the question I wonder is after death, after my last breath will I finally get to rest through this oppression

He speaks here of the after life, of eternity. Tupac ingeniously weaves the lifeworld of his existence into his musical flow.

In the Hail Mary, Tupac delves into the mind of the social victim. He presents the trauma such goes through. He talks of “screams in the dark”. The use of “Screams” here connotes protest, defiance, fear, horror, pain. “Dark” here makes reference to dilemma, uncertainty, ignorance, poverty, hopelessness, death.

The same theme was also pursued in Baby Don’t Cry, though this one was specifically dedicated to women. Observe these statements:

Now here's a story about a woman with dreams
So picture perfect at thirteen, an ebony queen
Beneath the surface it was more than just a crooked smile
Nobody knew about her secret so it took a while
I could see a tear fall slow down her black cheek
Shedding quiet tears in the back seat; so when she asked me,
"What would you do if it was you?"
Couldn't answer such a horrible pain to live through
I tried to trade places in the tragedy
I couldn't picture three crazed niggaz grabbing me
For just a moment I was trapped in the pain

The words above as used in the ‘Baby Don’t Cry’ are almost like a live drama. The words compel a picture of a common social tragedy – the trauma of rape. In listening to the words, one is as it were dragged into oneness with the female victim herself. The picture plays itself out like a flash of horrible pain.

So many tears’ witnessed a radical transformation of the entire Tupacian phonetic format, but with that indefinable Tupacalyptic essence still distinguished in the artwork. The artwork is supposed here to represent the subjective muse of a sober mind on the eternal mystery of his existence. Tupac here creates a solitary world of self contemplation. It was a masterpiece of arts, a phonetic textualization of an enigmatic cosmic discourse. The dialogue happens as an inter-subjective interaction between a soul and God. That is the sense of mystery in arts.

Tupac had allowed art to be a medium of self expression of personal deep seated passions. Just like in Marie Corelli’s novel Sorrow of Satan where a writer Mavis Clare, obsessed with the pang of pains caused by criticisms, formed an aviary where she carefully housed birds named after those critical censurers, Tupac saw arts as a manner of periodically venting deep-seated inner feeling. Mavis Clare’s birds were named after her critics and so she feels pacified. Tupac creates arts representing the various passions he underwent and so his passions are spent. He transforms the very bitterness passionately felt into artworks with aesthetic value and invaluable economic worth. Tupac’s ‘Hit ’em up’ and ‘Are you turning on me’ are condensed outbursts of passionate feelings constructed into arts. In listening to the “Hit’ em up’ one feels the heat, notices the steady rise in the stream of passionate outbursts and its subsequent exhaustion. Through the vicissitude of the rap flow, curse words reverberate, defiantly naming and denouncing the reasons and characters tributary to the passion expressed. The Hit’ em up’ is an expressive behaviour of a wronged mind openly challenging the defaulters of a fair game. There we see Tupac saying in a heat of wild rebuttal

Fuck mob Deep

Fuck Biggie

Fuck bad boy …

And if u want to be down

With bad boy, then fuck you too

The sequence is the same. The rhyme flows uniformly in a passionate alliteration. Here there is economic value attached to the enterprise. Tupac himself said he ‘makes money out of curse words’. In an interview, he said

I don’t want it to be about fighting. I just want it to be about money.

As we earlier asserted, Tupac’s life is music. And music is the cultural locale, the very lifeworld in which he exists. All aspects of his life are ingeniously built into his peculiar musical poetry. Tupac is the definition of the Blackman within the stark reality of his existential and social lot. Tupac is the ghetto. He made himself so. He is the stage on which the entire social experience of the Blackman is played and resolved.

Culled from the book Tupacalypse by Philip Obioha

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Taming the Existential Dilemma

I am very conversant with the tenets of renowned thinkers. I was into Marx, Heidegger, Satre, Camus, Russell, Engels, Fuerbach, Comte, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Descartes, Levinas, Chomsky, just to name but a few. I had studied the views of ancient philosophers like, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Parmenides, Pythagoras, Protagoras, Hippocrates etc. I know the fundamental views of Aquinas, Augustine, and the medieval philosophers. I have equally had a rendezvous with oriental philosophy. I have read portions of the Bhagava Gita and Sri Isopanishad, with their commentaries by A. C. Bhaktivendanta Swami Prabhubada. I have read literature on the Buddha, the Tibetan succession of Dalai Lamas, and the more recent claims of Sai Baba. Avicena and Averoess are some of the Islamic Philosophers whose view I equally digested. I studied the various views on African religious systems, some at first hand, others through established secondary sources like Mbiti, Abanuka, Arazu and a host of others. In fact I personally had sessions with Abanuka himself. I had equally delved into the thoughts of Christian mystics like Chrystostom, John of the Cross, Merton, Ignatius Loyola. I know also of the famed strict discipline of people like Origen, `a Kempis etc. I equally studied the challenge of Protestantism against the ancient hegemony of the Catholic Church, and have joined many others in analyzing the new wave Pentecostal outburst manifested in the proliferation of churches. I had undulated between the twin fringes of atheism and faith. I have argued for either side, trying to dictate truth in a situation of pure intellectual chaos. These are just studies sought not for any spiritual reason per se, but for purely intellectual goals. There was also the need to somewhat give meaning to some of the contemporary religious practices which everyone seem to sheepishly adhere to.

Remarkably however, none of these studies necessarily touched my life in a manner the bible did. The bible lacked the sophistication of styled authorship, yet the density of its message actually commands consummate attention. This is not to say that I did not equally subject the bible to strict criticism. I did some studies in the history of the bible and could identify the constituent traditions of its authorship. Yet this knowledge ironically did not detract from the reverence with which I held it. Though I questioned some of its various stances, I remained cowed by the profound directness of the messages. Biblical messages never sought to douse tension by an act of editorial intrigue. No! The messages were clear. You must…I was confronted by the same Jewish dilemma which wondered where Jesus learned all he said, by what motivation he did what he did, so that he never taught like the other rabbis, ‘but taught like someone with authority’.

Again, my romance with the various critiques of religion as advanced by various thinkers revealed that each actually exposed more problems than they solved. When Marx declared that ‘Religion is the opium of the masses’ or Nietzsche said ‘God is dead’ or Camus referred to God as ‘sitting in benign indifference to the plight of man’, what other workable alternative have they offered mankind that can answer for all the attendant absurdity that grace human existence? The thinkers rather than helping issues raised further questions, leading man ultimately back to even much more intricate absurdities than he started off with. If religion is the ‘opium’ as Marx said, is the very presence of that one panacea not at least a welcome boon, than if there were nothing? Can we by totally arguing away God’s existence create another answer to the ever-recurrent question of origins and purpose? How do we answer for the presence of consciousness as a factor of being? How do we answer for the profound beauty of this cosmos?

So I was caught up in the bible much more than perhaps Satre’s Being and Nothingness appealed to me. Yes Satre’s was a great book, but it never answered the fundamental questions of origins. Rather it sought to deny God’s existence, arguing totally from some logical summations peculiar to his existentialist mindset. The point is that the more I sought to find the answers I sought intellectually, the more I got caught in a maze of conflicting opinions. This was what the views mostly are. Opinions. Nobody was sure which was which. At best people advanced views that mostly cushioned their own socio-ethical dilemma.

I believe in God. I do not mean some disinterested factor posited as a necessary occupant of an ontological position. As in the sense of deus ex machina. I believe in God as the fundamental consciousness, whom I resemble in my own puny level, who created me, knows me, loves me, and in whom I would ultimately be subsumed. I believe in God who is present in human history and have manifested himself in many forms, but ultimately in the one human form of Jesus, called the Christ. I believe that man is because God is, and that the questions about God are in consonance with the transcendence of His essence. I believe that these questions can never be resolved intellectually, since human contingency makes it impossible to adequately know that which has never been experienced.

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither

has it entered the mind of man…

I believe that man can only experience God as man, and to that effect must remain cowed by the overriding essence of the divine personality. I maintain that the world is created, not necessarily within the seven-day theory as narrated in Genesis, but as an endless flow of immediate presencing. Because God is, the world is as the immediate idea of the divine consciousness, as the direct object of His sustenance. I believe that man can experience God, because God already experiences man as a mentally free, but essentially dependent extension of Himself.


Friday, June 29, 2007

Which Way Nigeria?


There is an unmistakable air of unease in Nigeria’s political climate at the moment. At last, the eighth year of our latest democratic experiment is here. Constitution stipulates and recommends a reelection of fresh hands into political offices. The actual election is just a few days away. Yet, (and why so?), this air of unease deepens by day. One conversant with the culture of political transition in a genuine democracy would find the air here rather out of sorts. Yes there is normally a feeling of muted expectancy, as in perhaps the American style democracy. There, the actors in the political drama are normally known, and as equally well censored. There, the electoral process is well spelt out and catalyzed by the full weight of a sacrosanct constitution. There, the quality of the political drama is measured by the very composition of the dramatis personae. The politicians flay about, passionately advertising themselves, patiently explaining the reasons for their political interests, hopefully looking upon the electorate for the ultimate mandate.

The air here, in Nigeria, is unfortunately different. And not just different, the air here is suffocating. The feeling one gets is not that sense of expectant exultation, of optimistic curiosity which one sees elsewhere. The air here is sinister in its grim suggestion. There is almost a clear sense of premonition. It is like expecting some sort of invasion; there is a feeling that Nigeria is on the brink of invasion by an enemy whose devilment is accentuated by his invisibility, his lack of known identity. At an election, especially after the incumbent had had two straight terms, one expects a real change of guards. The very national psyche somehow expects the dawn of freshness, some sunlight from the monotony of the preceding system. But right now, looking at the unfolding issues on our table, we might only behold a harried cosmetic surgery. It is about two months to the election and almost all the personalities to the presidential office have been indicted by the EFCC. Remarkably though, these are persons not part of, or who dissented from the PDP. Aside from the scandalous fact that more than thirty persons are seeking the presidential seat, this indictment on the very persons seeking political office represents the worst form of national disgrace a country can suffer. Beyond the hullabaloo about EFCC’S choosy program, there are still very basic moral issues ridiculing our choice of political representatives.

It may be beyond the scope of this submission to delve into dissection of Nigeria’s last eight years, but one dares say that when politics become the subject matter of a discourse, other issues are inevitable drawn equally. Looking at Nigeria now, its politics and economy, as it is today, one is filled with a sense of outrage at the utter irresponsibility exhibited till date. The question that pops in becomes the same hackneyed query of the yesteryears; which way Nigeria?

Which way indeed Nigeria? Where are we going? May be about three years ago, when various reforms were introduced into the system, there was some palpable hope that we were at the brink of historical rescue. But looking at issues today, a sense of deception and rape replaces the hitherto brief optimism. What occurs today is at the best a charade; some mad vampires have convened their periodic ceremony of blood, and we are the unfortunate victims of their unholy feast. Imagine the picture! PDP is the acclaimed biggest party in Africa, constituted ironically of statesmen and professionals drawn from different backgrounds, and yet they have organized and are still organizing the most daring election rigging ever witnessed in a representative democracy. There can neither be a better irony, nor a worst tragedy. It forces a direct recollection of Shakespeare’s rhetoric, ‘And yet, they are all honorable men’. The presidential primaries organized last year was a travesty of due process. A chunk of the most promising players in that drama were scared away with either threat of unconditional probe, or outright elimination. And the worst tragedy of it was the purported collusion of even the president. The president: a man almost at the evening of his life, who owes almost all he has to Nigeria, who came into power with almost unanimous goodwill, who has the vast wealth of this nation at his disposal. But what picture of a President? A parody of that exalted position?

Nigeria gradually crawls towards the precipice. The wonder is that most leaders on this grim march are old men. Does a dog eat a bone hung on its neck? Has the world gone so blind as to allow such hallowed generation to indulge their shameless exhibition? No! There are still voices that dare challenge that unnatural mixture. We are joining voices like Soyinka’s to denounce further rape of our collective heritage. We must save our progeny from the plan of these predators who are sworn to our historical annihilation. We must, as Soyinka once put it ‘repudiate all conspiracies of criminal silence’. Yes that silence becomes criminal when it keeps mum in the face of obvious provocation. The school of elders who still prank about in evident enjoyment of this cacophony must be made to pay. There has to be a unilateral plunge into retrieving this nation from the devilment of this minority. There has to be a total trans-valuation, a concerted dissolution of this hellish berg.

So that is the way. We do not sit and shout ‘aye’ at each pitiless haul of political lashing. We must stop whimpering forthwith and come to the realistic notion that our destiny lies on our hands. We must sever our country from the iron fist of the unfeeling harbinger of death. We are the polity, we are the very body of this political being called Nigeria. Yes they can wave us away as just the masses, the inconsequential hoi-poloi, but we have what it takes to make them pay for their negligence. We are the leviathan, the very nucleus of this political assembly and so let us summon courage and nurture a national camaraderie in order to achieve some positive result. It was once fashionable to be inactively optimistic, let us become active and fight to wrest power from these dogs whose only intention for seeking our mandate is to effect our collective hurt. We cannot afford further waste of time, when the Niger Delta has become second only to the middle east as a place of death, when our nights are passed in darkness and our industries are run with generators, when are roads continue to be death traps, when our education system has taken a downward plunge, when myriads of problems beleaguer our national environment. No, we have had enough and now is the time, and now is also the way.