Christianity

Science Is Real, Water Is Life, If You Just Believe, There’ll Be No Strife

As found in a yard, on Capital Hill, in Seattle:

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I’m not sure the intellectual provenance of such ideas, nor even if they form any kind of coherent doctrine, but they strike me as a melange of Christian principles, liberal idealism and radical activist causes.

I still don’t see the greatest threats to political liberty coming from the political right at the moment:

John Locke found here:

“7. What is meant by enthusiasmThis I take to be properly enthusiasm, which, though founded neither on reason nor divine revelation, but rising from the conceits of a warmed or overweening brain, works yet, where it once gets footing, more powerfully on the persuasions and actions of men than either of those two, or both together: men being most forwardly obedient to the impulses they receive from themselves; and the whole man is sure to act more vigorously where the whole man is carried by a natural motion. For strong conceit, like a new principle, carries all easily with it, when got above common sense, and freed from all restraint of reason and check of reflection, it is heightened into a divine authority, in concurrence with our own temper and inclination.”

Jordan Peterson’s epistemological foundations can be challenged, his assumptions probed, his ideas teased-out to some foreseen/unforeseen logical consequences, but let’s not forget that he’s been taking a huge personal hit (with some personal gain) in standing-up for the ability to debate foundations, assumptions and ideas freely in public.

A defense of tradition by way of the social sciences (psychology, in this case) can make one a heretic.

A defense of the social sciences (IQ research) with policy implications can make one heretical against those whose assumptions guide them to try and save the world through potentially dangerous utopianism and political activism:

On the Sam Harris/Ezra Klein debate regarding race, IQ and Charles Murray.

On what happened when Charles Murray tried to speak at Middlebury College and encountered a frenzied mob of cult-like intensity, which eventually became violent:

On what happened when Bret Weinstein (whose progressive ideals I generally don’t share, but whose intellectual freedom, evo-bio research and freedom of speech I obviously do) stood up to a day of exclusion at Evergreen State:

It wasn’t exactly peaceful:

As previously posted:

From Darwinian Conservatism, as Larry Arnhart is dealing with many of these ideas.  Here’s the banner from the site:

‘The Left has traditionally assumed that human nature is so malleable, so perfectible, that it can be shaped in almost any direction. By contrast, a Darwinian science of human nature supports traditionalist conservatives and classical liberals in their realist view of human imperfectibility, and in their commitment to ordered liberty as rooted in natural desires, cultural traditions, and prudential judgments.’

Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

‘Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

 First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.’

As to these more radical groups splintering and applying pressure upwards upon institutions of learning (or at least remaining very vocal and demanding voices within them), I remain skeptical of merely relying upon an adaptable and healthy post-Enlightenment humanism to push back against them in the long-run.

It seems groups of post-Enlightenment individuals gathering to solve commonly defined problems is a risky business, indeed, or at least subject to the same old schisms and problems religious institutions underwent and continue to undergo regarding human nature. I think it’s fair to say people and institutions are often requiring of constraints, especially when it comes to political power and lawmaking; especially when it comes to the challenges our civilization faces from within and without in maintaining institutional authority.

I’d like to think that secularly liberal leadership, more broadly, including the people who want to be in charge of all of us (at their best operating from within moral communities of not too great a solipsism and self-regard) can resist such pressures. For there certainly are those who would fracture our institutions into rafts of post-Enlightenment ‘-isms’ and politicized movements often driven by illiberal ideologies; movements relying on the presumed self-sufficiency of reason while behaving quite irrationally.

I’m looking around and not seeing too much decency in American politics, lately.

A.C. Grayling makes one of the better cases for morality without religious doctrine, I’ve heard of late, but I’m not entirely sold these particular problems can be addressed sufficiently:

His recent public statements don’t help

Ben Sixsmith At Quillette: ‘Britain’s Grooming Gang Crisis’

Full piece here.

‘The scale of the street grooming crisis in the UK almost defies belief. Hundreds of girls and young women were raped in the city of Rotherham, and hundreds by similar exploitation rings in Rochdale, Peterborough, Newcastle, Oxford, and Bristol. Now, up to a thousand girls are thought to have been drugged, raped, and beaten in Telford between the 1980s and the 2010s.’

Large numbers of migrants (more than possibly can be admitted) desire entry into more successful civilizations from less successful and often failing civilizations.  Some are genuine war refugees, some are seeking political asylum, some want economic opportunity, and others’ll just take money if it’s being handed-out.  Some are smarter than you, some are considerably dumber; some have particularly valuable skills, others have few to no marketable skills.  Some are of exceptional character, some are of particularly low and criminal character; some are from instantly recognizable civilizations, some from very different and potentially conflicting civilizations.  All will take much from their own civilizations into yours, and without proper incentives, most will likely wall themselves off into separate and unequal enclaves.

Better to start getting more serious about these questions sooner rather than later.

As posted:

Christopher Caldwell piece here.

Quite detailed:

The flood of Middle Eastern refugees into Austria began in the summer. By September they were arriving at the southeastern border at the rate of 10,000 or 12,000 a day. These migrants are associated in the public mind with the war in Syria but, in fact, come from throughout the Muslim world—Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh. Most of them are on their way to Germany. The great majority are young men. By the end of this year, Austrian authorities estimate, 375,000 will have passed through the country, and a quarter of them will have stayed to apply for asylum. Austria will have added 1 percent to its population in just about three months, with virtually all the newcomers Muslims. When migrant families follow, as they inevitably do, the effect will be multiplied. Donald Tusk, the Polish president of the European Council, warns that the biggest tide of migrants “is yet to come.” 

A few things that stuck-out:

The inability of the leading Social Democratic coalition in Germany to craft reasonable policy, instead making naive, idealistic, short-sighted rather self-serving political choices with consequences for millions of people, and for decades to come.

The fact that while many of these refugees are simply looking to escape war, many are young men, anchors who will bring more family over to become likely ‘European Muslims.’

Again, what is Europe doing?  With a rather socialistic Left defending freedom with such vaguely utopian idealism, this invites the more ethnically purist, nativist, and further right interests to take measures, almost out of principle alone.

An interview with Caldwell here

Caldwell raises some important points, and sheds light onto the Muslim immigration debate in Europe:

“SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is America more successful when it comes to integrating immigrants?

Caldwell: For now, yes. I think the first reason is the ruthlessness of the American economy. You either become a part of it or you go home. There are more foreigners in the workplace, and that’s where a lot of integration happens.”

Another review here.  (updated, Fouad Ajami’s piece, which was not the original…from 2009)

Book found here.

A few quotes:

“The most chilling observation in Mr. Caldwell’s book may be that the debate over Muslim immigration in Europe is one that the continent can’t openly have, because anyone remotely critical of Islam is branded as Islamophobic”

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Salman Rushdie at about minute 57:00: This idea of separate treatment for separate cultures…I think essentially if we follow that to its conclusion…destroys our ability to have a really moral framework for society.’

A British Muslim tells his story, suggesting that classical liberalism wouldn’t be a bad idea…as a more entrenched radical British Left and Muslim immigration don’t mix too well: From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’

Repost-John Gray Reviews Francis Fukuyama At The Literary Review: ‘Destination Denmark’

Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

On this site, see also: From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”

..Via A Reader-Douglas Murray Speaks At ‘The Danish Muhammad Cartoon Crisis In Retrospect’ Conference

Repost-Roger Scruton At The New Atlantis: ‘Scientism In The Arts & Humanities’

Full piece here (link may not last).

Scruton:

‘It is true that the theory of the meme does not deny the role of culture, nor does it undermine the nineteenth-century view that culture properly understood is as much an activity of the rational mind as is science. But the concept of the meme belongs with other subversive concepts — Marx’s “ideology,” Freud’s unconscious, Foucault’s “discourse” — in being aimed at discrediting common prejudice. It seeks to expose illusions and to explain away our dreams. But the meme is itself a dream, a piece of ideology, accepted not for its truth but for the illusory power that it confers on the one who conjures with it. It has produced some striking arguments, not least those given by Daniel Dennett in Breaking the Spell, in which he explains away religion as a particularly successful but dangerous meme.’

Those concepts according to Scruton, are not science, but rather scientism.

And he focuses back-in on judgment, or the capacity for judgment attached to ‘I,’ and an ‘I’ which looks towards transcendence:

‘Surely human beings can do better than this — by the pursuit of genuine scientific explanation on the one hand, and by the study of high culture on the other. A culture does not comprise works of art only, nor is it directed solely to aesthetic interests. It is the sphere of intrinsically interesting artifacts, linked by the faculty of judgment to our aspirations and ideals. We appreciate works of art, arguments, works of history and literature, manners, dress, jokes, and forms of behavior. And all these things are shaped through judgment. But what kind of judgment, and to what does that judgment lead?

Interesting quote by Scruton in a debate about Islam, at min 6:35 of video 4/4:

‘Universal values only make sense in a very specific context…the attempt to universalize them, or project or impose them…just leads to their appropriation by sinister forces.”

Worth a read.

-Steven Pinker, Harvard experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist wrote a piece in the New Republic, entitled: ‘Science Is Not Your Enemy

-Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic since the 60′s, responded at The New Republic:  ‘No, Science Doesn’t Have All The Answers.

-Ross Douthat, conservative Catholic columnist at the Times jumped in the fray: ‘The Scientism Of Steve Pinker’ 

-Jerry Coyne, evolutionary biologist, responded to Douthat.

-Wieseltier jumped back in with: ‘Crimes Against Humanities: Now science wants to invade the humanities.  Don’t let it happen.

-Now Daniel Dennett, philosopher, cognitive scientist, one of the New Atheists and Boston-based secularist responds to Wieseltier:

‘Pomposity can be amusing, but pomposity sitting like an oversized hat on top of fear is hilarious. Wieseltier is afraid that the humanities are being overrun by thinkers from outside, who dare to tackle their precious problems—or “problematics” to use the, um, technical term favored by many in the humanities. He is right to be afraid. It is true that there is a crowd of often overconfident scientists impatiently addressing the big questions with scant appreciation of the subtleties unearthed by philosophers and others in the humanities, but the way to deal constructively with this awkward influx is to join forces and educate them, not declare them out of bounds.’

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Related On This Site: Repost-Adam Kirsch At The New Republic: ‘Art Over Biology’…From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’

Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’From The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy: Charles Sanders Peirce

Larry Arnhart At Darwinian Conservatism Reviews E.O. Wilson’s ‘The Social Conquest Of Earth’Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’

From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…A Debate: Would We Better Off Without Religion?…Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

Kenan Malik At The New Humanist: ‘People Power’

Full piece here.

Interesting read:

‘The 20th century witnessed also a revolution in the way that artists were able to conceive of the human. The emergence of the modernist sensibility, the breakdown of conventional forms of representation, of the old fixed, linear, views of the world, and the growth of a much more fractured, dissonant, abstracted, multilayered, self-conscious awareness transformed the ability of writers and painters and composers to explore the human condition. The result was a growing tension between the new possibilities of art and the darkening perceptions of humans, a tension out of which emerged some astonishing works of art, from Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet at the End of Time to Mark Rothko’s paintings, from Barbara Hepworth’s figures to Pablo Neruda’s odes.’

(Aside from the art), did the Unitarian Universalists get there first to transcendence without God, a mishmash of faith and secular humanism?

Towards a theme: Perhaps you’ve also heard of the Rothko chapel, in Houston, Texas:

‘The Rothko Chapel, founded by Houston philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil, was dedicated in 1971 as an intimate sanctuary available to people of every belief. A tranquil meditative environment inspired by the mural canvases of Russian born American painter Mark Rothko (1903-1970), the Chapel welcomes over 60,000 visitors each year, people of every faith and from all parts of the world.’

There’s even a suite of music by Morton Feldman, entitled ‘Rothko Chapel’

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RelatedA definition of humanism:

“‘…a morally concerned style of intellectual atheism openly avowed by only a small minority of individuals (for example, those who are members of the British Humanist Association) but tacitly accepted by a wide spectrum of educated people in all parts of the Western world.”

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

Repost: Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie’

Related On This SiteFrom Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

Steven Pinker somewhat focused on the idea of freedom from violence, which tends to be libertarian. Yet, he’s also skeptical of the more liberal human rights and also religious natural rights. What about a World Leviathan?: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas HobbesFrom Reason.TV Via YouTube: ‘Steven Pinker on The Decline of Violence & “The Better Angels of Our Nature”‘Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department

Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Timothy Snyder Responds To Steven Pinker’s New Book At Foreign Policy: ‘War No More: Why The World Has Become More Peaceful’

Charles Murray At The New Criterion: ‘Belmont & Fishtown’

Via Youtube: ‘Roger Scruton On Islam And The West’

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Here’s to hoping for an Islamic renaissance, but preparing for a continued challenge against Islamism and its discontents, including radicalism. Some Muslims will continue the return to purity and brotherhood against outside forces, seeking to control the internal debate within Islam.

Scruton touches on how important irony and Roman law are in the Christian tradition and the culture that developed from it, as well as the cultural developments which distinguish it from the Hebrew bible and the Old Testament.

He also touches on the Western problems of nihilism and postmodernism as he sees them.

Some of his essays here.

Interesting quote at min 6:35 of video 4/4:

‘Universal values only make sense in a very specific context…the attempt to universalize them, or project and impose them…just leads to their appropriation by sinister forces.”

Addition:  Here’s a quote by Samuel Huntington, which seeks to highlight that this blog has yet to find a universal value, religious, human rights or otherwise, that isn’t subject to human nature and organization (how we define that is up for debate, Darwinian, Natural Law…otherwise).  The main fight in the 20th century has been against the great dangers of idealism (Communism, Marxism, National Socialism etc.).   Part of the 21st century’s strategic challenge will be battling the religious idealism of Islamists.

Here’s another quote:

The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.”

The quote is from The Clash Of Civilizations and is fairly well known, but I wanted to highlight it as it’s up for debate; coming into some conflict with Scruton’s thinking. Political Order In Changing Societies, by Huntington,  info here, is a book likely worth your time.

Our form of violence is responsive to our institutions, laws, and traditions, much like our police forces are here to ideally ‘protect and serve.’

So, what’s the appeal to conservatism, and Scruton’s Burkean conservatism with some German influence? Well, I’m not entirely a ‘Scrutonian,’ but here’s a quotation from George Will on Stephen Colbert, which isn’t an endorsement of the Republican party, but a deeper conservatism when functioning well:

What conservatives say is that we will protect you against idealism.”

That sounds reasonable.  As for ‘peace,’ or world peace, or Kantian perpetual peace or the arc of history bending towards justice…I remain skeptical.

See also on this site:  From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…A Debate: Would We Better Off Without Religion?…Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

From Ed Driscoll: ‘Interview: David Gelernter on America-Lite’

Full interview here.

Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale, laments the loss of what he sees as America’s popular identity as a Judeo-Christian nation, an exceptional nation, and an openly patriotic nation (all once popular even in academia according to his book). He claims it has since been replaced with ‘America Lite.’

Throughout the interview, he traces the rise of ‘imperial academia,’ which he argues has dismantled the previous WASP culture and replaced it with something lesser which has trickled down and become American culture, helping to produce the Obamacrats. He traces these changes through the radicalism of the 1960’s and the rise of the New Left, drifting to where we are today, about which he is not happy.

I will say that one can’t be complacent if one’s guiding ideals and principles aren’t in power, and conservatism is not enjoying success in academia at the moment. There’s also a lot of populist anger amongst conservatives, often directed at the mainstreaming and institutionalization of the 60’s generation in academia and government. This includes the rise of feminism and multiculturalism, moral relativism, an often flabby but sometimes militant atheism, and the more radical individualism and continental collectivism that seem to be ascendant now and likely into the foreseeable future. Where are we headed?

Has Gelernter made the case that if we follow the right principles, ideas and beliefs, maybe America can regain the exceptionalism and patriotism of the past, but it can build the present for the future?

If you’ve read the book, please drop a line.

Chronicle Of Higher Ed Review here. I can’t imagine the secular humanists would like it.

Commentary review here. National Review here.

Related On This Site: Ever more inclusion until we can’t any longer. On this site, see: Louis Menand At The New Yorker: ‘Live And Learn: Why We Have College’..

Once you take apart the old structure, you have to criticize the meritocracy you’ve helped create: David Brooks At The NY Times: ‘Why Our Elites Stink’

The anti-intellectual’s intellectual: Repost-Via Youtube: Eric Hoffer-’The Passionate State Of Mind’

Leo Strauss:From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

A deeper look at what education “ought” to be, which is remarkably like it is now: A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.

How dare he?: Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?From The Harvard Educational Review-

Still reliving the 60′s?: A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.New liberty away from Hobbes?: From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal: Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

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Sarah Chayes At The L.A. Times: ‘Innocence Of Muslims’ Doesn’t Meet Free-Speech Test’

Full piece here.

How exactly did we get to the point where this kind of argument is prominently featured in a mainstream publication?:

‘The point here is not to excuse the terrible acts perpetrated by committed extremists and others around the world in reaction to the video, or to condone physical violence as a response to words — any kind of words. The point is to emphasize that U.S. law makes a distinction between speech that is simply offensive and speech that is deliberately tailored to put lives and property at immediate risk. Especially in the heightened volatility of today’s Middle East, such provocation is certainly irresponsible — and reveals an ironic alliance of convenience between Christian extremists and the Islamist extremists they claim to hate.’

While Chayes does not currently represent the Obama administration (that’s a little far even for them), I suspect if you look a couple of ticks center-ward, you might find some on the current foreign policy team, and some sentiment from the President toward the Muslim world.

I don’t think the administration’s response after Ambassador Stevens’ death was just designed to protect an increasingly ineffective foreign policy platform given events, or worse, just a cynical political calculation for his foreign policy to be seen as effective.  He may actually see his job as some sort of bridge-builder between two cultures, and peace-maker between civilizations under ideas he presumes to be universal.  How such an approach working out in practice is another matter.

Here’s a quote from Anne-Marie Slaughter, on liberal internationalism:

‘The central liberal internationalist premise is the value of a rules-based international order that restrains powerful states and thereby reassures their enemies and allies alike and allows weaker states to have sufficient voice in the system that they will not choose to exit’

What if you can’t even appease extreme and radical groups of violent Muslims as they murder your diplomats and citizens under the pretext of the video…let alone get them on-board some sort of ‘rules-based international order’?

What if there is such a chasm between Western and Muslim civilizations that even less violent Muslims on the street have no clue as to the concepts we’re defending, and why?

What if you go so far down this path that you are, or least appear to be, willing to bend on a key issue and core freedom for our country (admittedly maybe not as far as Chayes is willing to bend it)?

Addition:  From Walter Russell Mead:

‘Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah chief who usually stays hidden from public view because he fears being assassinated by Israel, made a rare appearance at a massive rally in Beirut yesterday, calling on hundreds of thousands of supporters to prolong protests against the U.S. because of the now notorious anti-Islam video.’

Maybe we can trot out Nakoula again, or turn him over to the mob and keep apologizing?

Another Addition:  Ronald Bailey has more here at Reason.  Don’t reward violence.  Don’t shovel off the responsibility of standing up for Americans’ right to express themselves to Google, or Americans themselves.  Obama is on a fast track to the European solution, which is to say, a problematic cauldron.

Related On This Site:  Chayes is a former NPR reporter (Is NPR essentially the mainstreaming of the New Left of the 60’s into mass and popular culture?) that went off the map in Afghanistan and has started a cooperative there, also advising the military and the joint chiefs:  In understanding Afghanistan better, you could do worse, but I didn’t realize…..:  Sarah Chayes On Afghanistan In The Boston Review: Days Of Lies And Roses

Free speech (used both well and unwell) meets offended Muslims: Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks HeadbuttedDuring Lecture’From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’

Repost-From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’

 Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..the old French liberte? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’
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Repost-From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’

Full post here.

Our author responds to the debate:

“This impression was not helped by his tendency to answer specifics with generalities.  Ramadan’s favorite word seems to be “diversity” and it was trotted out with numbing regularity to serve as many masters as there were sentences that night.  It was the answer to every question, which is to say, once again, not an answer.”

Ramadan knows how to play the Western end of the debate.  One of his arguments that resonates with me is that human nature itself is flawed.  Any religion, secular group, moral philosophy, human rights campaign etc….any person really…ought to be concerned with has been done (and what people are doing) in the name of any set of ideas or principles, which is often violence.  This has some weight.

Hitchens, however, remains unmoved and maintains that the metaphysics of Islam will ultimately create and encourage violence through its moral absolutism and its total metaphysical prescription for all aspects of life, including politics and the public square (though Hitchens was clearly anti-religion, a materialist through and through, on a broader basis).  Muslims are the ones right now in Europe and the Middle-East, he points out, who are violent and threatening violence and it must be stood up to.

I suspect on Hitchens’ view, one of the products of Europe is the secular multiculturalism to which Ramadan often appeals, but which the adherents of secular multiculturalism are not always fully willing and able to defend (free speech for example) against Muslim threats of violence.  This secular tradition has also not been fully integrating Muslims successfully under its banner nor through public policy, the economy, or Europe’s political institutions, often creating fiefdoms and ghettoes.

Many Americans want this to be our approach as well.

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Here’s a further debate from Intelligence Squared with Ayan Hirsi Ali on one side, arguing that Islam is the problem (the same absolutism in Islam that will not tolerate questioning of its tenets, and its many violent passages).  A member of the opposing side suggests that Muslim alienation in British life, combined with a European influenced fascist inspired-Islamism is the problem, not Islam itself (yes, it’s colonialist Europe’s fault).  He proposes a more human-rights based Islam.

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R.I.P to the victims of 09/11.

Addition:  Interesting post here from A Reluctant Ombudsman on The Church Of Atheism.  You can be civil, and not bash religion from within your own atheism and stand up against the evils and infringements upon liberty that both religious groups and non-religious groups pose.

Also On This Site: There are American traditions which do not seek a holy war, but naturally seek to oppose enemies, defend our citizens, and expand our reach without secular multiculturalism:  Richard Fernandez At PJ Media: ‘The New Middle East’..Daniel Greenfield definitely thinks Islam is the problem: From Sultan Knish: ‘The Mirage Of Moderate Islam’

Virtual Philosophy has a series on free speech and some links and notes to J.S. Mill’s ‘On Liberty’ among others.  Is Mill’s utilitarianism enough?:  From virtual philosopher: ‘Free Speech: notes and links for course at Free Word Centre’

A British Muslim tells his story, suggesting that classical liberalism wouldn’t be a bad idea…as a more entrenched radical British Left and Muslim immigration don’t mix too well: From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’… Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’

Free speech (used both well and unwell) meets offended Muslims: Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks HeadbuttedDuring Lecture’From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’

It’s a big assumption to make: From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

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Repost-Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy

D’Souza is a Christian, and while debating Daniel Dennett at Tufts University, he brings up Nietzsche’s argument that God is dead.   From the depths of Nietzsche’s thinking, D’Souza argues he was able to see the coming crisis in Europe; that Europeans could no longer base their lives upon defunct Christian metaphysics without radically and creatively developing new thinking from the ground up.  Nietzsche also supposed that few if any would heed his call and realize the depth of this crisis, and so would likely lumber into the tremendously violent conflicts of the 20th century.

D’Souza then charges Dennett with a similarly shallow approach; over-simplyfying the metaphysical depths of Christianity from the relatively stable position of present day scientific analysis (which, as D’Souza’s argument suggests, grew out of Christianity itself).

D’Souza is a Christian, as mentioned, and Dennett not.   Nietzsche would probably have not thought much about either a 20th century man still resting upon a belief in God…nor a 20th century man analyzing such a belief from an understanding of science (as a philosopher, Dennett, with a background in science).

You might have to come up with more than that to get to Dennett.

Good debate.  Argument starts at 5:30:

See Also:  A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom:  The Nietzsche Connection

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion, at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

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Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder

Full essay here.

Fashioning a coat to fit the times?

Nussbaum may be trying to address waves of Muslim immigrants that have poured into European, and Western societies.  She also seems to be asking a central question:  How do you create a civil society that does not place religion above a concept of the moral good, yet that also does not pursue the moral good while zealously excluding religion? 

She tells the story of Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, who held deep religious beliefs, yet, Nussbaum argues, was someone who cast his moral thinking deeper than those beliefs, drafting the Rhode Island charter on the idea ‘individual human conscience:’

“Conscience, for Williams, plays the role that the directive faculty of moral choice plays in the ancient Stoic authors whom he studied: it is a faculty of searching and choosing, although for Williams it includes imagination and emotion as well as ethical reasoning. It is, Williams holds, the main source of our identity as agents: it is “indeed the man.””

So, WIlliams tempered his religious beliefs with classical learning and a certain political pragmatism…yet he also tempered that political pragmatism with his religious beliefs (avoiding a true, hard-hearted Stoicism).  Nussbaum further suggests that some of Williams’ thinking even pre-sagedImmanuel Kant:

“Just as Kant asks a person to test the principle of his or her conduct by asking whether it could without contradiction be made a universal law for all human beings, so Williams’s critique of the leaders of Massachusetts and Connecticut is that their idea cannot pass a test of that sort: they love freedom–but only for themselves.”

“For both, the source of moral principles, and of all moral worth, is ultimately in our own freedom, and that freedom must be respected.”

I’m not convinced, though it’s an interesting connection to make in the wake of the Iraq war: Freedom is a universal idea, yet how one pursues that idea can be taken into account, and potentially meet such moral maxims (if only it were that simple).  Nussbaum goes on to contrast John Locke with Roger Williams, and points out how Williams was more sympathetic to the idea that:

“…different religious doctrines meet and overlap in a shared moral space. Each religious person will connect this moral space to his own higher religious goals and ends; but within that space we are all able to speak a common language and share moral principles. As I have argued, this idea of overlap is ultimately more fruitful than the idea of separation.”

But upon what moral principles?  I’m hoping it’s more than the Jesse Prinz’s recent work (deep arguments for morality based on the emotions, but also a Nietzschean extremism and defense of moral relativism).  Nussbaum has done a lot here, and while I don’t share her political views, I very often respect the depth of her thinking.  

Related On This Site:  Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West BengalMartha Nussbaum On Eliot Spitzer At The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionAnother Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”…and what to do with the Native Americans?:  Roger Sandall: Marveling At The Aborigines, But Not Really Helping?

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