Friday, October 06, 2006

Even MORE on Muslims and Violence

Blosser, an outstanding philosopher, on the brouhaha raised by Benedict XVI. Blosser links Ockham and the Muslims (logically):

The decisive statement in this argument against against violent conversion, says Benedict, is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. He notes that Theodore Khoury, the editor of the work he is citing, draws a contrast at this point. On the one hand, is the Bynzantine emperor, shaped by Greek philosophy, for thom this statement is self-evident. On the other hand, however, is Muslim teaching, for whom God is absolutely transcendent, transcending all categories of human rationality. Here Khoury quotes the work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that "God is not bound even by his own word, and nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry."

Here it is important to know that there was a philosophical movement in Islamic tradition (the Mu'tazilite school of the seventh and eighth centuries) that did argue for the primacy of reason and intelligibility of divine law. According to the Mu'tazilites, God's laws are the laws of nature and intelligible to human reason. Unfortunately, the Mu'tazilites were suppressed during the reign of Caliph Ja'afar al-Mutawakkil (847-861), who made holding the Mu'tazilite doctrine a crime punishable by death, and the long proces of dehellenization attack on reason began.

Perhaps the single most influential Muslim thinker after Mohammed, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1054-1111) exemplified this development. In his work, The Incoherence of the Philosophers, he vehemently rejected Greek thought, attacking Plato and Aristotle, and insisting that God is not bound by any natural order and that even things in nature to not act according to their natures but only according to God's arbitrary will.

It will be immediately apparent to anyone familiar with the history of western philosophy that what we see here is a Muslim analogue of the developments in late medieval Nominalism that we find in the likes of Duns Scotus and William of Ockham, a God who utterly transcends our ability to understand Him, an arbitrary voluntaristic absolutism analogous to Ockham's potentia Dei absoluta, a nature eviscerated of any humanly intelligible teleology, etc.

Which is to say "Be careful when using Occam's Razor. You can get cut."

Bonus: the lecture at Regensburg also has implications for the Evolution/ID argument (see next post). Here's how:

The problem with the West is the truncated conception of "reason" that developed since the time of the Enlightenment and the Kantian critical philosophy. The modern "self-limitation of reason" that confines itself to that which is 'scientifically' (mathematically and empirically) verifiable, ends up dismissing as irrelevant (as 'subjective') "the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics," says Benedict

...What Benedict calls for, therefore, is a broadening of our concept of "reason" and its applications, a broadening that overcomes "the self-imposed limitation of reason" to that which is empirically verifiable, and a true restoration of theology to its place in the university, in genuine dialogue with the sciences -- "not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theolgoy, as inquiry into the rationality of faith."

There's lot more at the post.

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