Culture, politics, science, philosophy.
General manifesto *****
The deep Crisis of the West
Four left-wing myths
29.09.2010. Daniel Greenfield has written an article that challenges the common wisdom about Israel and the creation of the Jewish state.
Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic
19.09.2010. The article, titled "The weirdest people in the world?", appears in the current issue of the journal Brain and Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Henrich and co-authors Steven Heine and Ara Norenzayan argue that life-long members of societies that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic — people who are WEIRD — see the world in ways that are alien from the rest of the human family. The UBC trio have come to the controversial conclusion that, say, the Machiguenga are not psychological outliers among humanity. We are. "If you're a Westerner, your intuitions about human psychology are probably wrong or at least there's good reason to believe they're wrong," Dr. Henrich says. Read more in the article Westerners vs. the World: We are the WEIRD ones (National Post).
Have Muslims abandoned reason?
08.09.2010. In his new book Robert R. Reilly claims so. Here are som excerpts from the article When Islam Abandoned Reason:
WASHINGTON, DC (Inside Catholic) - What happened to Islamic civilization? How did we get from Avicenna and Cordoba to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda? In his new book, The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis, Robert R. Reilly traces the problem back to a thousand-year-old theological debate over reason and the nature of God. InsideCatholic Editor Brian Saint-Paul spoke to him.
Brian Saint-Paul: Islam exploded out of Arabia as a kind of nomadic religion. In its earliest generations, it was less interested in philosophical issues than it was with general expansion and succession. But that changed. How?
Robert R. Reilly: The first four caliphs remained on the Arabian peninsula. At first, they kept their troops quarantined outside the cities they had conquered so that Muslims wouldn't be contaminated by alien cultures and beliefs. After the founding of the Umayyad caliphate around 660, the center of the new empire moved to Damascus, and then later the Abbasids moved it to Baghdad. They couldn't maintain the quarantine, and they encountered peoples for whom philosophy had been second nature, as it was infused in Christian apologetics at the time.So in their conversations with Christians, they felt the need to develop philosophical tools to advance or defend the Muslim faith. They needed their own apologetics. The question then arose: Is it legitimate for us to use these tools, like logic and philosophy, and what is permitted for us to know through these means?
BSP: This transformation centered around a particular school of Islamic thought -- the Mu'tazilites.
RRR: Yes. The Mu'tazilites asserted the primacy of reason, and that one's first duty is to engage in reason and, through it, come to know God. They also thought it their duty to understand revelation in a way that comported with reason, so that if something in the Koran seemed inconsistent with reason, it should not be read literally. It should therefore be taken as metaphor or analogy.The Mu'tazilites held that God Himself is Reason, and that man's reason is a gift from Him so that he can come to know Him through the order of His creation. Abd al-Jabbar, one of the great theologians, made the statement, "It is obligatory for you to carry out what accords with reason."
This was because the Mu'tazilites held that reason could come to know what is good and evil, just and unjust. This knowledge is available to all, not just to Muslims. Therefore, it is incumbent upon everyone to reason, come to know the good, and to behave according to it. Unless reason was capable of moral knowledge, how could God expect man to behave morally? The Mu'tazilites were sponsored by the Caliph al-Ma'mun, who was the greatest supporter of Greek thought in Islamic history. He is said to have had a dream in which Aristotle appeared to him. He asked the philosopher, "What is the good?" and Aristotle answered, "It is what is rationally good." And so al-Ma'mun embraced this rational school of theology -- the Mu'tazilites -- and also sponsored al-Kindi, the first Arab philosopher.
BSP: In its broad outline, this view of God is quite compatible with that of Christianity, isn't it?
RRR: It sounds very familiar to us. And when reading Abd al-Jabbar, one is struck by how similar it is to Christian apologetics, or to what we might call Natural Theology. In fact, his arguments for the existence of God are very much the same as those we find in Christian Natural Theology. This should not surprise us, as they were influenced by the same Greek sources.
BSP: But this is entirely unlike what we would associate with modern Muslim theology. What happened?
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