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Friday, August 31, 2007

Cultural relativism, undifferentiated mediocrity and tyranny

Friday, August 24, 2007 CULTURAL RELATIVISM, UNDIFFERENTIATED MEDIOCRITY AND TYRANNY From Gary Wolf at American Thinker (hat tip: One Cosmos)
Think about what multiculturalism preaches with all its high-minded rhetoric. Then WATCH WHAT IT BRINGS ABOUT in real life. That is the distinction between focusing simply on behavior --or rhetoric, or intent--versus the consequences or outcome of behavior. It is in the tribal and entitlement behavior that you begin to see the toxicity of this dogma; as well as the essential oppressive nature of the politically correct dictums that the religion of multiculturalism demands of us.
Having given up any objective standard by which to mediate the vastly different perspectives and world views that each disparate group brings to the table; having encouraged the cannibal and looter cultures to imagine they are as worthwhile as the producer and creator cultures; having abandoned reason altogether in favor of expressing some feel-good platitudes about a supposedly essential "need to belong" to one's race, tribe, religion or group first and foremost; the outcome is what Stephen Hicks refers to as "group balkinization" --with all its inevitable and inescapable disunity, disharmony and conflict.One wonders how anyone could expect a different outcome?
Why, in other words, would universal brotherhood--or even peaceful coexistence for that matter--result from a dogma that is antithetical to the concept of the universalism of human experience that is the bedrock of civilization; and instead glorifies cultural and tribal differences, no matter how insane or irrational, violent or destructive the cultural practices or beliefs that bring about those differences are?
Multiculturalism with its emphasis on Diversity teaches that what is truly important above all else is belonging to one's sexual, racial, ethnic, or religious identity, and not that one also belongs to the family of humankind. If the former is held superior, then "social withdrawal" from community and a pervasive distrust of other groups follows quite naturally.
The only "universal" that is shared under such circumstances is a committment to disharmony and, lurking beneath the overt moral relativism, is a grandiose sense of entitlement from each group as it jockeys for postion in the victimhood food chain...
Multiculturalism, Diversity and Political Correctness are the holy trinity of the modern "progressive"; but in the real world those lovely leftist platitudes translate into cultural relativism, undifferentiated mediocrity and tyranny. - Diagnosed by Dr. Sanity @ 8:17 AM Comments (52)Comments Trackback (0)Trackback

Fighting relentlessly against all this postmodern psychobabble

Thursday, August 30, 2007 A GENERATION DESTROYED BY THE MADNESS OF POSTMODERNISM This exchange, from an interview by John Leo of Victor Davis Hanson posted at Hanson's site, got me thinking:
Leo: You argue that a college class today on World War II "might emphasize Japanese internment, Rosie the Riveter and the horror of Hiroshima, not Guadacanal and Midway." How can we overcome the obsession with race, class and gender in studying military history?
Hanson: I'm afraid an entire generation must pass first. Those who came of age in the university in the 1960s and 1970s — now department chairmen, deans, senior theses advisors, scholarly associations' presidents, etc — wanted this revolution of easy arm-chair therapeutic moralizing and self-appointed censure of perceive contemporary sins, got it, turned off the students, forfeited hard-won standards, and lost their public readership — and now must suffer the consequences of irrelevancy for a generation. It is not an accident that a David McCullough or John Keegan or Martin Gilbert now writes outside the campus. Vibrant military history has gone on despite, or perhaps even because of the failure of the academia.
Sadly, Hanson is talkin' 'bout my generation. I know firsthand how all that nonsense from the 60's and 70's has totally screwed up academia, because I have had to function in that environment for most of my career.
And the dysfunction is not confined to the field of Military history, but extends to virtually all subject areas in academia. My own field has certainly not been immune to the postmodern perversion; and some might argue that it was actually psychiatry and psychology which unleashed the "therapeutic psychobabble" that has become the predominant vehicle of postmodern rhetoric, with its emphasis on self-esteem, feelings, multiculturalism, political correctness, and the eternal entitlement of endless victimhood.In the postmodern world, reason, truth and reality are mere subjective constructs and nothing is absolute; what happened in the past is to be interpreted only by the standards of the moment; and morality is also relative, except when you are a member of an approved victimhood group and are automatically granted absolute moral authority (except in certain cases, apparently).As I noted in a previous post:
One of the wondrous aspects of postmodern rhetoric, where reality and truth are only relative, is that anybody's "reality" is as good as anybody else's. For the dedicated postmodernist, polls and opinion are the final arbiters of truth; and the results of a poll or two, constructed along ideological lines to fit a particular template, is all you need to confirm your reality. Reality is a matter of opinion (simply ignore any polls that don't agree with your reality, of course).
This type of micraculous rhetoric can even determine today, what history will say many tomorrows from now. With enough repetition and passion, "history" can be set in stone in the temporal present! Extremely convenient for anyone who wants to avoid confronting their own contradictions in the present.
The rhetorical passion and word play is mere camouflage for the inherent philosophical and psychological contradictions that the postmodern left exploits in order to achieve and maximize political power. They are perfectly aware that their positions don't make any sense and can be refuted by anyone with basic knowledge of logic and logical fallacies; but their goal is to maintain the psychological denial necessary to believe in the left's ideology. Interpreting this defense and exposing it is essential to countering that ideology.
Stephen Hicks asks this important question (page 184): The pattern therefore raises the question of which side of the contradiction is deepest for postmodernism. Is it that psotmodernists really are committed to relativism, but occasionally lapse into absolutism? Or are the absolutist commitments deepest and the relativism a rhetorical cover?
The possibility that the relativism is primary can be ruled out with some thought. If the modern leftist truly embraced relativism, then you would not see the uniformity of their politics or their reactions to events in the world. Instead, you would be able to observe an infinite number of postmodern leftist opinions and beliefs from all over the political spectrum. And, have you? Or, have you noticed that their opinions march completely in lockstep with their political ideology?
I must conclude from that observation that the moral relativism they preach so relentlessly as part of their multicultural drivel; and which equates the unceasing and institutional barbarity of terror groups like Al Qaeda (see here) with U.S. troops in Iraq; equates the deliberate targeting of innocents with herculean efforts to spare innocent life; equates Bush with Hitler; Iraq with Vietnam; etc. etc. are simple rhetorical devices that are being used to manipulate and advance their fundamentally socialist / totalitarian agenda.
That is why they can easily ignore any evidence that contradicts their arguments; never acknowledge that their arguments (or more precisely, their beliefs) have been debunked; instead, they simply redefine words or resort to word games (the various meanings of "is" for example); or move the goalposts (those aren't the WMD's we were looking for) when convenient.
At any rate, it occurs to me that perhaps I am wasting my time fighting so relentlessly against all this postmodern psychobabble. Most of the people on the left are not going to experience an epiphany and see the light of reason (a few may); nor are they about to abandon their dysfunctional and warped perpective of the world, because it is far too convenient and pleasurable to imagine their feelings are the center of the universe. For the committed leftist, slavery and death are not too high a price to pay just to be able to feel good and virtuous about themselves.
But perhaps, as Hanson suggests, all it will take is a generation or so to sweep out all the intellectual garbage that now clutters our campuses, warps our political discourse, and undermines Western Civilization. Maybe--just maybe--the postmodernists are a merely a transient evolutionary diversion (sort of like the Dodo) that arose out of the decaying remnants of failed 20th century socialist utopians; and which will quite naturally and deservedly become extinct after their nihilistic antics take them out of history and into the annals of comedy... Diagnosed by Dr. Sanity @ 8:13 AM Comments (37)Comments Trackback (0)Trackback

Thursday, August 30, 2007

An unconstitutional constitution?

An unconstitutional constitution? A comparative perspective Gary Jeffrey Jacobsohn
Patterson-Banister Professor of Political Science and H. Malcolm MacDonald Professor of Comparative and Constitutional Law, University of Texas at Austin. Email: gjj69@mail.la.utexas.edu
My purpose in this article is to draw upon a rich vein of jurisprudential thinking from judiciaries outside of the United States to address the puzzle of the unconstitutional constitutional amendment. I focus on two nations—India and Ireland—where the question has given rise to some fascinating and instructive jurisprudence. Unlike the United States Supreme Court, courts in these countries have confronted the issue of implied substantive limits to constitutional change through the formal amendment process.
The Indian judiciary has invoked the idea of constitutional identity to legitimate overturning amendments, whereas the Court in Ireland has found such activity antithetical to popular sovereignty. In considering what is at stake for constitutional theory and practice, I rely on Edmund Burke to support the option of amendment invalidation, while concluding that if ever confronted with the felt need to exercise this option, sober heads might well wonder whether it would be worth doing. Articles by Jacobsohn, G. J. International Journal of Constitutional Law 2006

Ethical principles such as autonomy, beneficence, and nonmalfeasance and double effect

REVIEW ARTICLES Year : 2005 Volume : 9 Issue : 2 Page : 81-85
End-of-life issues for a modern India - Lessons learnt in the West Puri Vinod K
St John Health System, Providence Hospital and Medical Centers, Southfield, MI, USA
Consideration of end-of-life issues is a relatively new phenomenon in the Indian context. It is difficult to assess the magnitude of the problem except the certainty that these issues will affect more patients and their families in the future. The approaches used in the West to prepare patients and public in general such as living will and durable power of attorney have not always been useful. The religious and social attitudes have an effect on facing end-of-life issues and yet these attitudes are in transition. The lack of education in bioethics and paucity of case law is reviewed. New approaches to the end-of-life issues in the light of experience gained in the West are suggested...
The essence of developing census on bioethical issues is to reconcile differing points of view, debate the ethics and logic of legal opinions and to adopt pragmatic but principled solutions. It is obvious that the justices need to reconcile the views they have expressed about article 21 of the Indian constitution. The differences between withdrawal of life support as distinct from suicide or murder appear to escape the sensibilities of some jurors.
It is not surprising that most of the articles Mani cites are US references for legal opinions. His excellent review discusses the ethical principles such as autonomy, beneficence, and nonmalfeasance and double effect. Many of these concepts have evolved from the Judeo-Christian ethos and from the work of European philosophers over many centuries.[3],[4] An equally vigorous effort to address bioethical issues raised by rapid advances in medicine has been joined by ethicists, physicians, and law people. [5],[6],[7],[8],[9] The medical students receive education in ethics. The residents and practicing physicians continue to receive instruction during their training and years of practice.
The principles of informed consent and autonomy are inter-related and are likely to be considered universal human values in the modern world. Therefore, the application of these ethical principles to Indian medical practices is inevitable in the future. And yet it is appropriate to enquire about the experience gained in the West. Puri Vinod K

The whole point of my book is that Judeo-Christian civilization stands for values that are more humane and life-affirming than those of Islamic Sharia

« An Ode to Judeo-Christian Western Civilization Main And now, a word from Tokyo Rose »
August 28, 2007 Derbyshire/Spencer: The Pajamas brawl Here is
Derbyshire's response to my response to his review of my book Religion of Peace?.
And here, also from
Pajamas, is my final response. Hearty thanks to John Derbyshire for this exchange, which I have enjoyed immensely. I hope he has also.
John Derbyshire wishes I had read his review of my book Religion of Peace? “more carefully,” since he now contends that he did not say – as I had characterized him as saying — that “Christianity and Islam are ‘equally likely to incite violence.’”
I ask Mr. Derbyshire’s indulgence if I mistook his statement in his review that “God’s instructions to us through Mohammed are no more or less likely to make us better or worse than his instructions through Christ” as meaning that God’s instructions to us through Mohammed are no more or less likely to make us better or worse than his instructions through Christ. It was on that that I based my own summary of what I took to be his view: that Christianity and Islam are “equally likely to incite violence.” Looking at his words again, I still think it’s reasonable to conclude that that’s what they mean.

But no matter. If he doesn’t mean that, so much the better. He now says, “persons wishing to commit violence will find justification in any text they pick up—the New Testament, the Koran, Science and Health, or the Harry Potter saga. Charles Manson, if memory serves, got his inspiration from a Beatles song about a fairground attraction.” This is obviously true, but Charles Manson is in the bughouse for excellent reasons, and if Derbyshire is now saying that any text – any text at all – is no more or less likely to incite violence than any other, this would manifest a nihilism so corrosive as to strip all words, and everything altogether, of any meaning. It is certainly true that someone who is thoroughly deranged and depraved could understand “Do you don’t you want me to love you/I’m comin’ down fast but I’m miles above you” (from the Beatles song in question) or even “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” as containing some kind of coded command to destroy other human beings, but clearly the words don’t mean that, and that is why we do not see and have never seen large-scale, international movements of terrorists justifying their actions by invoking Beatles songs, or Harry Potter, or Science and Health, or…the Bible.
The Qur’an, however, is quite another matter. It has given rise to a global movement of terrorists who frequently and copiously quote its teachings to justify their actions (in ways the Crusaders, Inquisitors, and all the rest of history’s Christian bogeymen never dreamed of doing with the Bible). Unless words mean absolutely nothing, “slay the unbelievers wherever you find them” (9:5) and “fight…the People of the Book…until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued” (9:29) and “fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah” (2:193) and all the rest (and there are many more) do contain more incitement to violence than a pop song about a playground slide, and thus more violence is committed in the name of the Qur’an than in the name of Helter Skelter.
And to be sure, Mr. Derbyshire is cautiously “inclined to think that Islam offers more and better justifications for militancy than does Christianity.” That, of course, is my entire point in the book, since that very point is routinely controverted in the mainstream media. It is controverted to an extent that I thought it necessary to consider it in a book-length treatment, and to try in the process to give people who enjoy the benefits of living in the Judeo-Christian West a sense that they have a culture and a civilization that they should be proud of, and begin to defend more forthrightly and unapologetically.
This is not a matter of religious belief or proselytizing. I don’t proselytize in the book, which is about the value of Judeo-Christian civilization; accordingly, Mr. Derbyshire’s continued insistence that “irreligious people see all religions as equally preposterous” seems to me to be a bit off the point in this discussion. I am not arguing in this book that Christianity is less preposterous than Islam, and there is nothing I wrote in it that could not have been written by an informed atheist, or Jew, or Buddhist. The fact that Mr. Derbyshire considers Christianity preposterous is noted; it may, however, have blinded him to the ways in which he benefits from the civilizational advances it fostered, as well as to the ways in which the propagandistic “equivalence” arguments that are so prevalent nowadays sap the will of Westerners to defend what we are told every day is a rotten, worthless thing.
Thus I appreciate Derbyshire’s quip that “perhaps the book’s subtitle should be: ‘Why Christianity is a religion of peace and Islam isn’t, and how I wish it were the other way round!,’” but I must reject the sentiment. The whole point of my book is that Judeo-Christian civilization stands for values that are more humane and life-affirming than those of Islamic Sharia. In place of supremacism, conformism, fear, and a culture of violence and revenge, there is the possibility of genuine virtue, born in genuine freedom, and an affirmation of the dignity of the human person that does not – pace Derbyshire’s earlier contention – lead with any inevitably to relativism and the loss of the will to defend one’s own. We can only regain that will by recovering a sense of the value of who we are, of what we have done, and of what we have made. That is why I wrote this book, and why I am as glad as he is that Mr. Derbyshire and I share some views of what must be done to extricate us from this present fix. With all his immense talent and insight, I look forward to fighting alongside him for the survival of our embattled common civilization.

We all enjoy the benefits of Judeo-Christian Western civilization

Defending Our Own Civilization By Jamie Glazov FrontPageMagazine.com 8/29/2007 Frontpage Interview's guest today is Robert Spencer, a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of seven books, eight monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Religion of Peace?.
FP: Robert Spencer, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Spencer: Thanks, Jamie. I am a great admirer of your work and it is always good to talk with you.
FP: Likewise sir. What inspired you to write this book?
Spencer: For six years now, almost invariably when I would talk about the elements of Islam that jihadists use to justify violence and make recruits among peaceful Muslims, people would respond by referring to violence in the Bible and the sins of Christianity. Over time I came to see that the all-pervasive sense of guilt and self-hatred that blankets the West in this age of the dominance of multiculturalism is the single greatest obstacle keeping us from meeting the ideological challenge that the jihadists present. Insofar as Westerners are ashamed of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and so many are, they will not defend it.This is not a matter of faith. Whether or not one is Jewish or Christian, Judeo-Christian civilization has given the world numerous ideas of human rights that the jihadists directly challenge: freedom of conscience, the equality of dignity of men and women, equality of rights before the law for all, and more. Islamic Sharia offers a radically different model of society. We in the West need to recognize this and stand up for our own civilization, culture, and heritage. If we are too paralyzed by guilt and consumed with self-hatred to defend our own civilization, we certainly won't keep it.
FP: Ok, so let's build on these themes. Can you talk a bit about why the lib-Left wages war on Christianity and keeps quiet about Islam? This is a pathology in the context of Islamic jihadists being the real threat to free societies.
Spencer: Well, Jamie, this phenomenon is so all-pervasive that I thought it deserved book-length treatment. Ayaan Hirsi Ali said it well to a Leftist interviewer in Canada a few weeks ago: "You grew up with freedom, and so you think you can spit on freedom." They take it for granted, without realizing how severely it is imperiled. Would Leftists prefer to live in an Islamic society rather than in one that is or was Judeo-Christian? If they would, they will be, eventually, quite unpleasantly surprised: they will discover that many of the liberties they enjoyed were made possible by core assumptions of the Judeo-Christian civilization they helped to subvert, and that those liberties are not upheld under Islamic law.
FP: I disagree with you in the sense that I think that the Left realizes very well how severely imperilled our society is in the face of radical Islam. Just like in the days of communism, the Left venerates tyranny and yearns for submission under it. The Left knows exactly what it is doing when abetting and supporting an entity that it knows it itself will be consumed by. There is a logic to why leftist intellectuals support societies that butcher intellectuals, why leftist feminists support societies that mutilate women and why leftist homosexuals and minorities worship societies that barbarize homosexuals and minorities. It's a death wish based on self-loathing. But perhaps this deeper discussion between us belongs in another forum.Let's continue: in what ways is Christianity a religion of peace and Islam not a religion of peace?
Spencer: In terms of your disagreement with me, I think you have a fascinating thesis, and I think it is well worth exploring. It is noteworthy, as you yourself have pointed out elsewhere, that both the Left and the jihadists envision an earthly utopia enforced by terror: the Left has demonstrated this every time it has gained power, and Sharia is a recipe for a totalitarian reign of terror in the name of justice and right, as the Taliban showed. I look forward to discussing this further with you and getting your thoughts on this.So getting back to Christianity and Islam: Islam is unique among religions in having a developed doctrine, theology, and legal system mandating warfare against unbelievers. This is found in the Qur'an and Sunnah, as well as in Islamic jurisprudence. Many like to point to violent passages in the Bible as an alleged equivalent to this, but actually the Bible contains no open-ended, universal command for believers to wage war against unbelievers, as does the Qur'an (9:5, 9:29, 2:190-193, etc.). The violent passages in the Bible are also spiritualized by most exegetes, while mainstream Muslim commentators going back to Muhammad's first biographer, Ibn Ishaq, and including many modern authorities (such as Imran Ahsen Khan Nyazee of the International Islamic University and many others) see the Qur'an's violent passages as taking precedence over other, relatively peaceful passages.Jesus taught, "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44). The Qur'an tells Muslims to be "ruthless to unbelievers" (48:29). When one commits violence in the name of Christianity, he is transgressing against Christ's teachings, but the jihadists make and sustain the case among their fellow Muslims that they are the believers who are being truly faithful to Islamic teaching.
FP: Why is there no distinction between Church and State in Islam? What are the consequences of this reality?
Spencer: The ideas of the non-establishment of a state religion, and the equality of rights of all before the law, both of which are essential to any viable republican government, arose in a Christian context. The philosopher and cultural analyst Roger Scruton observes that Christ's "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21) "contrasts radically with the vision set before us in the Koran, according to which sovereignty rests with God and His Prophet, and legal order is founded in divine command."From a Muslim perspective, this is a virtue. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a professor at George Washington University and author of many books about Islam, suggests that Christianity was incomplete because, unlike Islam, it offered no comprehensive system for governance. Nasr asserts that because Christianity "had no Divine legislation of its own, it had to absorb Roman law in order to become the religion of a civilization." Therefore "in Christian civilization law governing human society did not enjoy the same Divine sanction as the teachings of Christ. In fact this lack of a Divine Law in Christianity had no small role to play in the secularization that took place in the West during the Renaissance." By contrast, "Islam never gave unto Caesar what was Caesar's. Rather, it tried to integrate the domain of Caesar itself, namely, political, social, and economic life, into an encompassing religious worldview."The jihadist Sayyid Qutb stated this idea more bluntly in 1948. After criticizing both the Communist world and the West for their materialism, he continues: "But Christianity.cannot be reckoned as a real force in opposition to the philosophies of the new materialism; it is an individualist, isolationist, negative faith. It has no power to make life grow under its influence in any permanent or positive way..Christianity is unable, except by intrigue, to compete with the social and economic systems that are ever developing, because it has no essential philosophy of actual, practical life. On the other hand, Islam is a perfectly practicable social system in itself.It offers to mankind a perfectly comprehensive theory of the universe, life, and mankind." In short, it offers a totalitarian, theocratic vision -- which might be quite attractive to true believers like Qutb, but remains less appealing to dissenters.
Scruton notes that in contrast to this theocratic framework within Islam, "the fifth-century Pope Gelasius I made the separation of church and state into doctrinal orthodoxy, arguing that God granted 'two swords' for earthly government: that of the Church for the government of men's souls, and that of the imperial power for the regulation of temporal affairs." While the understanding of the relationship between the two has been the source of a great deal of controversy, "throughout the course of Christian civilization we find a recognition that conflicts must be resolved and social order maintained by political rather than religious jurisdiction." One reason why this is so important is for the protection of minorities and dissenters -- freedom of conscience, Scruton says, "requires secular government."Scruton, of course, is not referring to the aggressively anti-religious secularism that has dominated the public discourse on religion in the United States for several decades now, but simply to the non-establishment of a state religion. Only a state in which there is no established religion can people of differing religions live together in harmony, enjoying equality of rights before the law. Freedom of conscience can only be guaranteed where one is free to change his religion, or to have no religion at all, without incurring a death sentence or any other legal penalty.
FP: Many Muslim extremists love to paint the West as being rampant with "immorality" and the Islamic world as being somehow "pure." But is the Islamic world really more "moral" than the West?
Spencer: Jihadists routinely deride Western freedom as libertinism: "In essence," one explained, "the kufr [unbelief] of Western society can be summed up in one word which is used over and over to justify its presence, growth, and its glorification... Freedom. Yet what such a society fails to comprehend, is that such 'freedom' simply represents the worship and enslavement to desires, opinions, and whims, a disregard for what is (truly) right, and a disregard for the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth."
However, as much as American conservatives may deplore the depravity of pop culture today, they should not allow themselves to be placed on the defensive by the Islamic moral critique - and not just because of the hypocrisy of the jihadists in making this critique. In reality, the freedom at which the jihadists sneer is an essential component of any genuine morality.
"Australian law guarantees freedoms up to a crazy level," remarked the controversial Australian Mufti, Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali - but without freedom, even "up to a crazy level," morality is hollow. The secular West, with all its irreligion and debauchery, provides the only authentic framework for genuine virtue. Without the freedom to choose evil, the freedom to choose what is good actually amounts to nothing more than coercion. If an individual is forced to be good, he may display an outward conformity, but this conformism bears no other resemblance to the genuine virtue that is manifested in a choice to do good when one could just as easily choose the opposite.
Yet this coercion is a fundamental element of Sharia law, with its stonings and amputations. The Ayatollah Khomeini admitted this without apology: "Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors!"
The alternatives are not to try to appease the jihadists by deriding permissiveness in accord with their cultural critique or to turn a blind eye to the genuinely revolting aspects of pop culture. In fact, one of the most potent recruiting tools the jihadists have today is their ability to present themselves as those who are loyal to God, as opposed to a Western world full of blasphemers and libertines. Thus a shrewd response to the jihadists' ideological critique of the Western world would be to point out that the Judeo-Christian tradition, with its principle of individual freedom as a prerequisite for virtue, offers a superior (yes, superior) vision of God and the world than that offered by the Ayatollah Khomeini and his sword as the key to Paradise. Certainly there is great moral evil in the West, as there is everywhere else in the world, but that moral evil is an unavoidable byproduct of the freedom without which there can be no genuine adherence to moral norms.
Such a response would give content to the oft-repeated avowal that America is offering "freedom" to the Islamic world. Rather than allowing the jihadist characterization of that freedom as mere libertinism to go unanswered, an explanation of the elements of genuine virtue would take the substance out of the jihadist moral critique altogether.
FP: Who is threatened by militant Islam? Who are the potential victims?
Spencer: Everyone is threatened by the Islamic jihad in various ways, except the Muslim male jihadists themselves. The Islamic law the jihadists want to institute institutionalizes the subjugation of women and non-Muslims, denies freedom of conscience, inhibits freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry. So who is not among the potential victims?
FP: Overall, what role is the Left playing in this terror war?
Spencer: One of obfuscation and denial, with a smattering of outright identification with those who would destroy us. There is plenty of denial and wilful ignorance about the jihad threat on the Right also. It is long past time for both sides to stop playing politics with this threat, and to take steps to secure our national survival.
FP: What are Islam's and Christianity's disposition toward reason? What are the effects of these dispositions?
Spencer: Nietzsche once noted that "there is no such thing as science 'without any presuppositions.' A philosophy, a 'faith,' must always be there first, so that science can acquire from it a direction, a meaning, a limit, a method, a right to exist." It may be jarring to those who believe that faith and reason are at odds, and that religions are all the same, but it is nevertheless a historical fact that modern science took its presuppositions from Christianity, and that Islam gave modern science no impetus at all.
The Qur'an explicitly refutes the Judeo-Christian view of God as a God of reason when it says: "The Jews say: Allah's hand is fettered. Their hands are fettered and they are accursed for saying so." (5:64) In other words, it is heresy to say that God operates by certain natural laws that we can understand through reason. This argument was played out throughout Islamic history. Muslim theologians argued during the long controversy with the Mu'tazilite sect, which exalted human reason, that Allah was not bound to govern the universe according to consistent and observable laws. "He cannot be questioned concerning what He does." (Qur'an 21:23).
In contrast to the dogmatic stagnation of the Islamic world, science was able to flourish in Christian Europe during the same period because Christian scientists were working from assumptions derived from the Bible, which were very different from those of the Qur'an. The Bible assumes that God's laws of creation are natural laws, a stable and unchanging reality-a sine qua non of scientific investigation. In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas even went so far as to assert that "since the principles of certain sciences-of logic, geometry, and arithmetic, for instance-are derived exclusively from the formal principals of things, upon which their essence depends, it follows that God cannot make the contraries of these principles; He cannot make the genus not to be predictable of the species, nor lines drawn from a circle's center to its circumference not to be equal, nor the three angles of a rectilinear triangle not to be equal to two right angles." (Emphasis added)Such ideas could never have taken root in the Islamic world. They would have been tantamount to saying that Allah's hand was fettered.
FP: What reactions do you expect to your book? What reactions have there been to your book?
Spencer: I expect the usual venom and distortion of my thesis from Muslim and non-Muslim apologists for jihad in the U.S. I'd like to begin a dialogue with those who believe, like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, that religion itself is the problem. John Derbyshire has begun this with an elegantly written review at Pajamas Media, to which I have been invited to reply. I have written a reply, and hope PJM will publish it soon.
FP: What do you hope to achieve with Religion of Peace?
Spencer: I hope that all those people -- Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, secular Muslims, atheists, etc. -- who enjoy the benefits of Judeo-Christian Western civilization will be moved to mount a more spirited defense of that civilization in its hour of greatest peril.
FP: Robert Spencer you are a true soldier. Thank you for having the nobility and the courage to tell the truth and for your priceless contribution to the West's fight for freedom. We hope to talk to you again soon.
Spencer: Thank you, Jamie. I admire your courage and that of everyone at FP for your willingness to discuss these issues openly and freely, despite the political correctness that blankets us and the smears and intimidation that are at this point virtually the only non-lethal weapons remaining to the politically correct Left and the apologists for jihad.
Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. He is also the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left and the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002) and 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.

“Integralism” is a misnomer without substance

“Integralism” is not a movement, not a theory and not a fashion. “Integralism” is a misnomer without substance. Movements, ism-s, collective organisations are there for the uniformisation of thoughts and behaviours, for the prevention of individual thinking and the promotion of dependence and of belonging; for the replacement of rational thinking with irrational believes.
The word “integral” is an adjective referring, in this context, to a general, fundamental worldview and a related way of integrated – as against differentiated, fractional, specialised – thinking. It involves the summa Being and Becoming integrated from alpha to omega.The process needs a subject: an integral thinker; an object(ive): the research of the integral reality, or, more precisely expressed, reality in its integrality; and a verb defining the action and methodology: the intellectual processing and integrating the largest spectrum of knowledge – processed and understood sensational and intuitional input – as only possible.Pragmatism, in this context and very simply expressed means that one should be reason-seeking, system-seeking, technology-seeking and rational, and that if one wants to produce a baby, one doesn’t try to do it by masturbating.
Sensation, intellect and intuition are the three basic complementary components forming the contents of consciousness.
Sensation covers the physical or somatic, the plasmic, the vital and the emotional content of consciousness. Sensory consciousness helps us to discover and know our physical universe at the three-dimensional level of existence, but is a hindrance in our efforts to know about what lays outside of it, and to know what is within ourselves. By considering the material of the sensory perception to be the only reflection of Reality, and limiting himself thus to sensory consciousness, to bodily awareness – to sensory and emotional reality – man has built a merely conceptual and totally abstract universe for himself.
Intuition, the spiritual and monadic content of consciousness, is the highest achievement of the mind. It is an expanded state reaching out of the consciousness time-zone of the physical dimension into superior levels of being through concentrated, inward turned reflective thinking: meditation. The transcendental experience, going beyond the sense-perception and concept, accessible to intuition, is an experience of a higher dimension. The higher the awareness, the clearer is the understanding of one’s universality and the unity in diversity nature of the All. It is a mystical state, a higher apprehension of Reality; “a flight of the alone to the Alone” – as defined by Plotinus citing the closing lines of the Ennead. It is a contact with the spiritual heights in order to bring them to expression through creative activity, and to enrich the properties of the lower dimensions. The spectrum of the intuitive perception includes from the super-sensory perception of by the physical sensors not perceptible phenomena, to immediate apprehension, inspiration, insight and creative enlightenment, all forming the contents of spiritual reality.
The material of both the sensation and the intuition enters through diverse mental channels onto the apperception plane and thus into consciousness, suffering, through preconceived ideas, various distortions on the way. As none of the entries can be accepted as absolute knowledge on relative face-value, all must be analysed, processed, understood and assimilated through logical argument – discursive reasoning. All outside information should be considered as proposal to be developed through logic into a sound, by the individual currently incontestable dynamic fact, to be tested, strengthened, sustained, modified or rejected at subsequent occasions. Intellect, mind in its reasoning aspect, is the mental tool for the logical inter-connection of new entries and related, processed and understood – but dynamic and never dogmatic – memory-material, that produces in the process a new subjective, intellectual reality of reflective consciousness.
Evidently, the sensory perceptive material of the physical universe can only serve as a base for factual knowledge related to the physical plane, while intuitive material, coming from higher planes, is the base of all creative endeavour and all-involving wisdom. “Knowledge – so Heraclitus – consist in comprehending the all-pervading harmony as embodied in the manifold of perception.” Manifold refers here to both sensory and intuitive – super-sensory – perception material as comprehended through logical mental processes. The simultaneous apperception of the intuitive material and the logic behind it – the concurrent reception of an information and its understanding – is illumination.
While faith is a dynamic state of open mind in ignorance, in movement towards knowledge, founded on trust towards the fount, reason is the foundation of certainty in knowledge. All ultimate knowledge is rational – and so is the Infinite I. In my definition, spirituality is the rational, understanding recognition of the existence of a primordial, differentiated eternal mind – spiritual foundation – underlying all temporal material manifestation, and the thinking and acting according to the such constructed psycho-physical reality. My support of this reality is expressed in my essay Natural Order – Universal Relativity, to be found on the website of Integral World, and it is open for debate on the same website.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Vidyapati from Mithila has attempted to reconstruct the ‘image of man’ as a poet-statesman

D N DhaNagare Economic and Political Weekly August 25, 2007
In a major research work on B R Ambedkar’s political and social thought, M S Gore has looked into the entire history of evolution of Ambedkar’s ideology and its development, through stages of various protest movements he launched from the 1920s onwards, and through the phase of Ambedkar’s active involvement in the nationalist movement and in the parleys between Gandhi and Indian National Congress on one side and the imperialists on the other [Gore 1993: 73-190]. In a sense, Gore’s attempt was aimed at putting together Ambedkar’s ideas on various issues from the standpoint of a leader and spokesperson of the downtrodden and how his ideological articulation then conditioned the development of the dalit protest movement in the post-1951 period (Ibid, pp 191-337]. Gore’s study could as well be interpreted as an exercise in sociology of ideas as much as in sociology of a protest movement inspired by Ambedkar’s ideology. In either case, his use of secondary historical sources is significant, and social construction of ideology in itself is a theme that is sociological in nature.
Somewhat on similar lines, Hetukar Jha has done a study in history of ideas in which he has elaborately focused on the historical significance of Vidyapati’s discourse on ‘purush’ (man). He has attempted to reconstruct the ‘image of man’ as a poet-statesman, Vidyapati from Mithila, had posited it during the medieval period in Bihar. Vidyapati had propagated ideas of dharma in secular terms, emphasised on the irrelevance of caste, varna and ‘kula’ in a situation where manliness is put to the test in the face of internal strife and ideological confusion and crisis on the one hand, and the onslaught of the Islamic conquests and politico-religious power on the other [Jha 2002: 9-104]. In many ways Jha could have projected Vidyapati’s discourse on man as a precursor of a contemporary theoretical discourse on "modernity" that has occupied centre stage in Indian sociology for considerable length of time. Though Jha has used history methodically in constructing Vidyapati’s views, his overall concern remains confined at best to history of ideas. In substance, Jha has summarised or reinterpreted those ideas of Vidyapati on ‘purushartha’ (in contrast to what was presented in the Indian tradition) that, to him, have some contemporary relevance to the issues of national reconstruction and development.
Conclusions: While summing up this elaborate review it is necessary to highlight the main tendencies among historically oriented sociologists and the way they view the relevance of history in their sociological studies.
  • The first category of sociologists consists of those who have used classical texts, i e, Indological sources, in understanding contemporary social structures, institutions, statuses, roles, values, and cultural practices by tracing their origins to one or more Sanskrit texts and then reinterpreting or rationalising them in the present day context.
  • In the second category we find those sociologists, not few in number, who narrate the historical background of social reality, either of the past or contemporary one, which they are researching for. In some cases such a historical account is given as a routine matter to assure readers that the relevant past has not been ignored.

However, neither such a historical account forms a part of researcher’s explanatory scheme nor is it integrated with their sociological analysis. In some cases, though, researchers do believe that the historical background given in great detail deepens their understanding of the research problem or may help them to search appropriate answers to their research questions. In the second category, what is involved is mostly a metaphoric use of history. What is, however, important is the substantive use of history for sociological purposes. Among Indian sociologists there are some who have used historical analysis and method substantively, in the sense that they have deployed it as an explanatory device, or to test a hypothesis... Email: ddhanagare@hotmail.com EPW

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

America is probably the most Islamic country in the world even though it is not a Muslim country

How religion forges global networks
Immigrants with religious ties are creating 'transnational' communities in the United States. By Jane Lampman The Christian Science Monitor from the August 28, 2007 edition
There are perhaps no more controversial topics in the United States today than religion and immigration. From books challenging religion's role in the world to the upheaval over immigration laws, Americans are wrestling with questions as to who they are, where they belong, and what they believe to be true and right.
Sociologist Peggy Levitt of Wellesley College in Massachusetts works at the intersection of these concerns – studying the religious commitments of immigrants and their implications for the US.
Much has already been written about the arrival of world faiths and how they are reshaping the American religious landscape. But in God Needs No Passport Levitt brings a fresh perspective, one that suggests the current debates are out of sync with reality. The true picture, it turns out, is both unsettling and encouraging.
Globalization is much more than an economic juggernaut or the spread of American culture around the world, Levitt says. It is a social force that not only brings more faiths into direct contact with one another, but also creates people with "transnational lives" for whom religion is often the glue that bonds them to more than one country.
In 10 years of studying the lives of migrants to the US from Brazil, Ireland, India, and Pakistan, Levitt found this to be true for Hindus, Muslims, Roman Catholics, and Protestants. Religion is a globalizing force that can serve to root people in their homelands even as it supports them in their new environments.
"Just as the local Gap clothing store is part of an extensive global corporate network, so more and more local mosques, temples, and Pentecostal churches are global operations," she writes.
Suburbanites Dipa and Pratik Patel, who work in the US telecommunications industry, are a case in point. Even as they pursue the American dream, they are still deeply connected to their community back in India's Gujarat State, with strong ties to their Hindu denomination (the International Swaminarayan Satsang Organization, ISSO).
Levitt describes time spent with them in their Indian village as well as in the US. "Belonging to the ISSO is very much about maintaining a home in India. Pratik constantly consults with religious leaders, not only about temple business, but about difficult decisions he faces in his personal life," she writes. They also host in the US a stream of visiting dignitaries from India and other ISSO chapters who are part of a global religious network.
Each religion is building global networks. Families from Valadares, Brazil, have set up home in Framingham, Mass., helping that city renew its depressed downtown area even as Brazilian pastors lead the spread of Pentecostalism in New England. Yet many also retain religious and business ties in Brazil.
The transnational lifestyles that Levitt explores are criticized by some Americans as disloyal – "like polygamy." Muslims especially have been looked upon with suspicion since 9/11 for maintaining such ties. But those of any faith who live transnationally are the face of the future, she contends.
"People who know how to function across borders, who are bicultural and bilingual, have the best résumé for today's world," Levitt says. And they could be the best diplomats for moderating religious conflict.
While such dual loyalties might distress some Americans, this book also offers very good news. Levitt's in-depth interviews with some 250 immigrants, and her studies over time reveal a remarkable coincidence of their values with those of native-born Americans.
Each immigrant group included views from across the religious spectrum, from strict conservative to very liberal. They expressed familiar ideas on what it means to be American and what constitutes a good society – including the opportunity to be oneself, to make choices, to live respectfully with those who are different.
"I always tell people from Muslim countries, none of you have ever really tested Islam as it was meant to be tested – as a pluralistic religion that ... accepts everyone for what they are," says Imram, an American Muslim. "America is probably the most Islamic country in the world even though it is not a Muslim country, because it has the principles an Islamic state is supposed to have."
"God Needs No Passport" is written for both a general and academic audience. It puts an intriguing human face on immigration and globalization. It may take a while, however, for Levitt's message to take hold: that it's time to abandon the assumption that social worlds fit neatly within national boxes. Jane Lampman is a Monitor staff writer.

Institutions matter, but we should not take institutions as exogenous

Farewell to Alms, pp.112-192 Tyler Cowen Marginal Revolution Through a series of fascinating arguments, Clark constructs building blocks for his larger argument. I count several major strands in this section:
1. There is a discussion of "survival of the richest"
2. A discussion of why technical advance was so slow before 1800
3. A discussion of how much institutions matter, and asking why medieval England didn't grow more rapidly.
4. "The emergence of modern man"
These arguments are a bit hard to evaluate, since Clark has not finished presenting them or tied them all together. I regard each section as pathbreaking, but in terms of reservations, I will present two notes of caution...
1. Exactly which national groups evolved a sufficient love of capitalist ways of life? Clark's statistics show that the wealthy had more surviving kids in England, relative to the poor. Furthermore some numbers suggest that the same was less true in accident-prone primitive societies, where selection is based more on luck and physical force.
Even putting aside the debate on how long evolution requires (who will be the first to mention lactose intolerance and dachsunds in the comments?), does this explain the economic supremacy of England? Recall that England climbed out of the Malthusian trap but most of the rest of Europe did not. Was positive selection more pronounced in England than in Italy? Than in France? There is no evidence for those propositions, which in any case strike me as unlikely. Even if one buys into positive selection, we have at most "positive selection for some countries vs. others," not "positive selection elevating England over the rest of Europe and driving an industrial revolution." Positive selection doesn't get us very far in explaining the climb out of the Malthusian trap, which was more or less unique to England and the Netherlands.
Clark mentions in passing that positive selection bred the Chinese to be natural capitalists. If we accept this portrait, I am now more confused about
a) where positive selection operated and where it did not, and
b) what was the marginal product of positive selection, vis-a-vis industrialization?
Until the 1980s or so, the Chinese record simply isn't very good over the last few centuries. In fairness to Clark we have not yet finished his discussion of these factors. I'll also note that I see positive selection in terms of culture, family norms, and peer effects, rather than genes. Or you might think it is some mix of the two. If you focus on the biological issues in the comments I think you're missing the strongest and most general version of the argument.
2. I am not persuaded by Clark's argument that "institutions do not matter." True, medieval England had limited government intervention but it did not industrialize or "take off." Clark's discussion is right on, and if the English example does not persuade you try medieval Iceland, which was probably even freer.
But my conclusion differs from Clark's. I conclude "science is more important for growth than we had thought, and the simple fact of freedom does not itself guarantee much progress for science." In this view the institutions which support science matter profoundly. Science, science, science. I recommend Jack Goldstone's forthcoming book, much of which focuses on science and engineering culture in early modern England.
Infrastructure also matters. In medieval England the state wasn't strong enough to help establish a large open geographic area for trading. Early English economies were still local rather than national, and yes economies of scale matter.
That all said, I will accept a reformulated argument: "Institutions matter, but we should not take institutions as exogenous." On this middle ground just about all of Clark's substantive contributions will hold up. So I view him as overstating his case, and taking too big a swing at institutional theories. This overreaching, however, does not negate his core arguments. So maybe you disagree with Clark on this point, as I do, but you cannot use it as reason to dismiss his other claims.
By the way, here is Ricardo Hausman on the book. Here was installment one of this BookForum. In closing, we can now see that Clark's core arguments don't depend on Malthusianism; they require only that economic growth is something very difficult to accomplish, and indeed that is the case. Posted by Tyler Cowen on August 28, 2007 at 06:07 AM in Books Permalink

No man, not even the sovereign, is above the law

We need to be guided more by the common good, based on the natural law
Contracts, Constitutions, and Outsiders By Morning's Minion
Vox Nova Monday, August 27, 2007 9:12 AM Labels: , Comments (25)
Since I'm reading Toqueville presently, this theme is coming up. Another problem with social contracts and more broadly constitutions is that they aren't organic. I'm not sure immigration is the best example given that any social covenant on that topic is to a significant degree reflective of the intrinsic cohesive nature of peoples. Additionally, significantly restrictive immigration measures didn't manifest themselves here until the 1930s, although one kind find more localized examples. For example, California was very anti-Chinese immigrant in policy and low until the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad.M.Z. Forrest Homepage 08.27.07 - 11:55 am #

natural law cannot enforce itself!i recommend Tom West's "Vindicating the Founders" for a deeper understanding of the Constitution.more generally, political philosophy would help broaden your understanding of the political nature and limits of man.Father James Schall of Georgetown is a great guide to this discipline. I recommend his "Another Sort of Learning"zach 08.27.07 - 11:56 am #

Organic communities underpinned by the common good cannot exist without the following:- the obligation to those closest to us in the communities where we reside- the obligation of civil authorities to protect those communities in their careThursday is exactly right:Law and order are the first duty of the state. Military strength is necessary to preserve peace. Handouts to the poor are a moral hazard and often do cause more harm than good. It may not be pleasant to say it, but in this realm as in others, two and two really do equal four.http://manwhoisthursday.blogspot.comI wish it weren't so, but "open borders" are harmful to the advancement of these things, and it is not in the slightest anti-Christian or anti-Catholic, even as there are arguments about details. We have to resist the utopian, brotherhood of man mindset, even as we love our neighbor....jonathanjones02 08.27.07 - 12:02 pm #

If you have a chance, read some de Maistre. While I give some of his thoughts on constitutions, you should read his essays as a whole; they are very insightful and provide much support for MM's post.Henry Karlson 08.27.07 - 12:06 pm #

I am assuming there is a large literature on this on the domain of political philosphy, and thanks for the references. The post was prompted by own attempt to grapple at what I see are the problems with "constitutionalism". It is very much the musings of an amateur. But I think it is an incredibly important topic worthy of further debate.Morning's Minion Homepage 08.27.07 - 12:14 pm #

"Military strength is necessary to preserve peace"Something vaguely Orwellian here. As for the "handouts for the poor" thing, nobody is arguing that moral hazard can be an issue, abd must be taken into account in the policy debate. But it most certainly is not an excuse for ignoring God's call toward the preferential option for the poor, and that often means removing the blinkers of liberal ideology (and I use that term, as always, in its true meaning, not its debased and worthless US form). And yes, our duty to the poor has a public as well as a private dimension. Consider this:"In many respects, democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness.”-- Cardinal Ratzinger, 2004.Morning's Minion Homepage 08.27.07 - 12:17 pm #

"Military strength is necessary to preserve peace"Something vaguely Orwellian here."Perhaps if "Orwellian" in this context means "based upon all prior history" or "common sense".Donald R. McClarey 08.27.07 - 12:42 pm #

1. Democratic socialists - and certainly the European ones - are not absolute pacifists (which is an honorable intellectual tradition). 2. No argument here about the details of military intervention, only that uncomfortable realities should keep utopian ideals on their toes, which is the small point Thursday was making (much better than I could - bookmark him).jonathanjones02 08.27.07 - 12:45 pm #

Very Interesting post. Of course I suppose that all written constitutions will be deficient is some regard.That being said it must be pointed out the Non American Citizens do have rights in the USA under that document. The internment of the Japanesse Americans went against the entire ethos of the DocumentI am of course a big fan of the Constitution. I think it works fairly well. I really don't see how people living abroad how a right to the same protections against survelliance we do. It must be remembered that true the Const spells out rights. Even though really the document limits Govt. That being said it is a two way street. For people to recieve the rights under the Const there would be obligations. I am pretty sure most non USA citizens would object to that.However this really hits on something else. I had Justice Kennedy come lecture my callss back in college. He talks about "rights" and why they were important. However he talked about why certain "rights" were not in the Const. That is for instance the "right to a job" and the "right to health care" and the "right to a education" or more specifically laid out in a explict way. It was because Const do a bad job of that and it is not the place to doJH Homepage 08.27.07 - 1:06 pm #

The main reason why I believe a written constitution to be an asset is that it sets out, in very specific terms, what the government can and cannot do. Furthermore, it is difficult to change. Of course, this can also be a liability, if the constitution is unjust (slavery being, of course, the perfect example). But I believe a written constitution to be preferable to a constitution that can be changed easily at any time, such as Great Britain's. When I think of some of the things that Congress has done in the past 8 years or some of the things that our Legislature in Pennsylvania has done in the past few years, I would find it terrifying to know that a group of legislators in Washington could sweep away my basic rights in one vote.Matthew Kennel 08.27.07 - 1:22 pm #

De Maistre, on the other hand, points out once you have such a document, people begin to argue over the meaning of the words, slowly eroding rights which were believed before the document was produced (because they would not be written into it if they were not) yet afterwards, can be lost and argued away. Look to the history of American Constitutional thought as to whether you think de Maistre's is correct. I think he is.Henry Karlson 08.27.07 - 2:02 pm #

"I am of course a big fan of the Constitution. I think it works fairly well."I suppose it works fairly well if you are born. Personally I think that one of the big lessons of Roe v Wade is that the constitution is an utter failure.ben 08.27.07 - 2:39 pm #

Ben-Four points. First, Roe v. Wade is not a failure of the Constitution; it's a failure of the Supreme Court.Second, the Constitution was not meant to address every societal issue. That's the purpose of having a federalist system. Some matters are better left to the States.Third, abortion was not prevalent at the time of the founding, and as such the founders almost certainly did not even consider addressing the practice in the Constitution.Fourth, there is a fairly strong argument that the unborn are, as an original matter, protected under the Constitution. If you are really interested in the matter, I will try to provide you with some reading material on the subject.Alexham Homepage 08.27.07 - 3:13 pm #

BTW, fwiw, I am for a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution to specifically outlaw abortion in all instances.Alexham Homepage 08.27.07 - 3:15 pm #

Ben: I would be interested to hear more about why you think Roe v Wade renders the constitution an "utter failure."It perhaps exposed some limitations on what the constitution can do, or perhaps how it can be (mis)interpreted...but I don't see comprehensive failure being demonstrated by that infamous decision.Matt Talbot Homepage 08.27.07 - 3:17 pm #

The supposed genius of the constitution is that it was to protect the people from the abuses of government. The constitution of the United States is termed better than or superior to the constitutions of other states because under this system we have been protected from various forms of tyranny.Simply put, this track record came to a screeching halt in 1973. We can no longer say that we live in a state where the rights of all are protected. We can no longer say that we live in a state that is free of grievous human rights abuses. US constitutionalism has proven no better than other political systems as preserving rights. It is most certainly no better on that score than the monarchy it replaced.You can say what you want about Roe having been wrongly decided. But the fact of the matter is that the constitution left it to the court to wrongly interpret the law.The constitution failed because it did not protect and has not protected the poeple from judicial tyranny.The judicial tyranny that has resulted in the murder of over 40 million Americans is a tyranny more real and more viscious than anything that came from King George.ben 08.27.07 - 3:44 pm #

Ben,Or we can go back to something even more basic and primal -- the Constitution still allowed for slavery. That shows it did not protect human rights -- it only protected the interests of a specific group of people.Henry Karlson 08.27.07 - 4:16 pm #

Henry,You could make a very good case that the Constitution deliberately includes the means to end slavery - something not politically feasible at the time.jonathanjones02 08.27.07 - 5:08 pm #

I think there is certainly no problem with using the constitution as a means to an end. The problem is treating it as an end in itself, like a secular sola scriptura. I would say the same thing about the UK's unwritten constitution (I find the "muddling through" approach far more satisfactory, but that's just my personal preference).Morning's Minion Homepage 08.27.07 - 5:11 pm #

It doesn't change the fact that men aren't governed by paper. The case ending school segregation even though laudable would have been laughed at by men like Jefferson and others who wrote the Constitution. In the end rulers serve either God or their own interests. Heck, we haven't had a properly declared war since WWII.M.Z. Forrest Homepage 08.27.07 - 5:13 pm #

The fact of the matter is, though, that it is not a failure of our Constitution as a written instrument that allowed for abortion. It was unjust men, acting under our Constitution, that allowed for that. Sure, the Constitution can be misconstrued in that way, but other forms of government can and do allow for such abuses when they are run by unjust men. It is a weakness of our constitution that it cannot be quickly and easily amended to deal with these injustices, but perhaps (and please not that I said PERHAPS) that is something we have to deal with in order to get the benefit of having rights protected in a more permenant fashion.
I disagree with Henry when he follows Da Maistre's opinion with regard to the whittling away of rights. While this may happen in some cases, in others it may happen that rights which were at first applied more sparingly are later applied more liberally. The first example of this is free speech. I have a hard time believing that the Founders really intended such that right to give the freedom to produce pornography. The second example is equal protection, as is given in the 14th amendment. At first, this was applied by the philosophy of having races be "seperate but equal", but now it is construed that seperation of the races is not implied. I don't think that bringing up legal arguments made by the Bush administration is really proof against the constitution. How can you take seriously an Administration that argues that the Constitution does not grant the writ of Habeus Corpus? Any attentive 8th grade civics student could tell you that that notion is preposterous.
The bottom line is this. So far as I am concerned, the main advancement of modern democratic governments over ancient forms of government is the idea that no man, not even the sovereign, is above the law. The best way that I have seen to ensure that is that there should be a written and set law that even the government must follow. Sure, it won't work perfectly, but then, to quote James Madison in Federalist 51, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."Matthew Kennel 08.27.07 - 5:32 pm #

"The problem is treating it as an end in itself, like a secular sola scriptura."That's very true. Matthew Kennel 08.27.07 - 5:36 pm #

MZ-"The case ending school segregation even though laudable would have been laughed at by men like Jefferson and others who wrote the Constitution."But not necessarily by all of the men who wrote and ratified the 14th Amendment.Alexham Homepage 08.27.07 - 6:19 pm #

Of course if one wanted to go to the extrem we could say "Hey look at the Bible-" It has not protected us from evils andin fact evils have been done in its name. Of course this does not invalidate scripture.In the end the Const is not Holy Writ. However I do think it is a pretty darn good document. What is sometimes missing in allthis is a healthy robust Federalism. That itself has mixed track record on some issues. However I often wonder if many of the issues we talk about here should not seen through a Federalism lensjh Homepage 08.27.07 - 6:30 pm #

"In the end rulers serve either God or their own interests."Like most of us rulers sometimes serve God, sometimes their own interests, sometimes both, sometimes neither and sometimes they don't have a clue what God would want in a particular situation or how their own interest may be served. Without a written constitution we are completely dependent upon the wisdom of the present. Bad idea! Better to have a document that codifies the wisdom of the past. At worst it slows down goverment, often not a bad thing, and at best it is a guide that helps rulers avoid the worst mistakes. Donald R. McClarey 08.27.07 - 6:53 pm #

Monday, August 27, 2007

Marion pursues a subject who subjects himself and is thus constituted by the situation

For the love of God (7): Why I love Jean-Luc Marion
A guest-post by Cynthia Nielsen Wednesday, 31 May 2006
Jean-Luc Marion is one of the major voices in philosophy these days. He is both prolific and well-received by philosophers and theologians. Marion knows the philosophical tradition well. For example, he began his career as an expert of Descartes and has written extensively on Descartes. Although he is a Christian thinker, Marion’s excellent scholarship has won wide acceptance in secular circles.
In addition to his theological contributions, Marion is a major player in the field of phenomenology. Husserl’s motto (with Kant in mind) was: “to the things themselves.” However, Husserl did not overcome the problems of Kantianism. As Kant himself points out, God sees the world in a way entirely different from the way in which we see it—God sees it all at once (uno intuitu), not discursively as we do. If you accept that, then you must ask whether the world is really the way God sees it or the way we see it.
Husserl addresses this problem, and though he is unable to solve it, he introduces the concept of the “givenness” of phenomena. Marion takes this Husserlian insight and tries to show how “givenness” allows us to escape from the Kantian problem. Marion is thus able to utilize insights from Heidegger and Husserl in order to work toward a solution to the problems raised by Kant.
In addition to his excellent scholarship and intimate familiarity with the tradition, Marion pushes us forward with his distinctively postmodern insights. Inviting us to see things from new and unexpected angles, he often engages in a deconstructing or subverting project. Personally, I find Marion’s desire to introduce a “new subject” among the most intriguing aspects of his project. Instead of the modern, all-controlling and even idolatrous subject, Marion pursues a subject who subjects himself and is thus constituted by the situation.
Nonetheless, Marion, does not want to do away with all modernist assumptions, nor does he desire to return to a pre-critical realism. In Marion, we encounter both an embracing of and a moving beyond modernist assumptions. Combining pre-modern, postmodern and a selective sprinkling of modernist insights, Marion releases the closed-in Kantian subject and gives us a new subject who can be overcome or “bedazzled” and re-constituted as a witness to the Other whom we know as love. Labels: , posted by Ben Myers at 10:48 PM 14 Comments 1:53 PM

I draw my distinction between theology and philosophy from Jean-Luc Marion

larvalsubjects Says: August 25, 2007 at 4:23 pm
Whooeeee that is one of the sharpest distinctions between theology and philosophy that I have read for some time. So philosophy is understood as that search for “truth” that excludes the poetic and theological (sorry that may not be a helpful can of worms to try and open). Was Kierkegaard a philosopher?
In a number of respects, I draw my distinction between theology and philosophy from Jean-Luc Marion who rigorously tries to define the limit of philosophy. I differ from Marion in holding that theologies that posit transcendence ought to be left behind. I read the history of philosophy as the history of attempts to think immanence. These attempts can be deployed in a variety of ways, can be more or less successful, and the question of whether or not immanence has ever been fully thought is entirely open. By immanence I understand the thesis that we don’t need to refer to anything beyond, or to any intervention outside the world, to explain the world or to account for value. Consequently, when Thales says “all is water”, he is appealing to a principle of explanation that is strictly immanent to the world and is breaking with mythos or narrative explanations of the world such as those found in Greek mythology. To complicate matters more, we can have ontological forms of immanence and epistemological forms of immanence, and various combinations of the two. An account is epistemically immanent if it rejects any form of appeal in establishing a conclusion that cannot be arrived at through reason or some form of experience. That is, epistemological immanence rejects any appeals to privileged esoteric experiences, revelation, etc. Ontological immanence would be the principle that there are no causes outside of natural causes.
I don’t think I’m so much excluding poetry from this project (though philosophy and poetry are distinct), as questioning your characterization of poetry as the articulation of the sacred. Certainly a number of poets would themselves take issue with being characterized as Rilkean. The case of theology is complex. Professional theologians mean so many different things by theology, that it’s difficult to make generalizations. Descartes, for example, would fit the criteria of epistemological immanence in his proofs for the existence of God as his conception of God and proof for the existence of God is not premised on any revelation or esoteric experience, but proceeds through reason in a way that all can repeat. His position does not meet the criteria of ontological immanence, as he conceives God as being outside nature or transcendent to being. Spinoza, and Whitehead’s conception of God as I understand it, do meet the ontological forms of immanence. If these are theologies then they fall within the scope of philosophy. The moment a theology appeals to revelation, whether in the form of sacred texts, the authority of a prophet or man in the form of God, or esoteric, non-repeatable experiences, that theology is no longer in the domain of philosophy, though it can certainly remain of interest as a phenomenon to be studied by the psychoanalyst, sociologist, or the anthropologist.
Taking a text like The Sickness Unto Death, I would argue that Kierkegaard is a philosopher up to that precise point where he unfolds the “knight of faith” and speaks of the leap. Prior to this point Kierkegaard is more or less giving a series of phenomenological descriptions describing various forms of lived experience or psychological types. Kierkegaard is quite clear on this himself, and treats his work as a critique of the philosophers. Likewise, I would argue that Plato crosses out of philosophy when, in Book VI of The Republic, he speaks of a Good so transcendent that it is otherwise than being and transcendent to being, and cannot itself be thought. In my view, theologies that are premised on transcendence only become interesting to the philosopher when they carefully demonstrate that, when immanence is carried through, we are still led to posit and irreducible transcendence. This, for instance, is what Marion attempts to do with his “saturated phenomenon”, or what Derrida strives to do sometimes in his discussions of language. Philosophy then comes back and tries to show how this isn’t the case, and so it goes.
I find it interesting that the term “pious” kept coming up in your reply. Is this your formulation or Badiou’s? How is it that this would function as such a compromising element as your comments would imply?
This is my formulation, not Badiou’s (though I suspect he’d be sympathetic). I see the experience of the sacred, as I understand it, as identical to the sort of hypnotic adoration we see in fascist movements or the hypnotic mass group phenomena described by Freud in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, and as turning us away from the world and the project of improving our conditions in the world. I associate the sacred with the phenomenon of the sublime and an experience of the transcendent. Large swaths of American Christians are obsessed with the issue of abortion, teen sex, evolution, and gay marriage, and end up voting for a party that exploits them through the way it relates to the interests of large corporations and the environment. These same groups seem to tie their religious beliefs to militaristic, nationalistic, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, authoritarian, anti-intellectual, anti-scientific agendas. Those ministers who have risen up trying to preach a social gospel (devotion to issues of poverty and liberation, rather than primarily the sexual issues which, incidentally, always seems to be about someone else), or stewardship to the environment, or peace, etc., have often been denounced as heretics and received tremendous pressure from the evangelical organizations (as in the case of the current president of the NEA). It seems clear, then, that in many instances, perhaps the majority of instances, these religious groups are intent on maintaining a certain dominant ideology tied in with current structures of capitalism and exploitation.
Are you making a clear distinction between “this path or . . . a pious cryto-theology.”
No, I’m treating them as synonyms, although it is appropriate to speak of “crypto-theologies” where there isn’t an explicit religious discourse arising out of a sacred text, but a structure of thought that posits privileged esoteric experiences and revelations. Much of Derrida’s later work, for instance, could be characterized as “crypto-theological”.
Is the notion of the sacred always obfuscatory and hypnotic.
Yes, I believe so, though it can take more and less dangerous forms.
IndieFaith Says: August 25, 2007 at 6:26 pm
Thanks for your thorough response. I can’t say that I have the stamina to respond to all that right now, much appreciated though.In time I can hopefully do some more work on addressing the potential poverty of categories such as transcendence and immanence (though you did a great job making some important distinctions) for what I am trying to address. My concern with the sacred arises from my reflection on language and beauty and the issue of “presence” (and yes of course flows from confessional commitments).Here is my most substantial piece on language, aesthetics and the sacred.
I would have to put more thought into whether I fall into either of your categories of transcendence. I of course believe in God and God as a relational reality but I don’t find these philosophical categories helpful to speak of this.Thanks again.
larvalsubjects Says: August 25, 2007 at 7:36 pm
Thanks for the link to the fascinating paper. I would fall squarely in some variation of the Douglas camp and have often argued along these lines on this blog. I see no reason that Christianity or any other religion should be treated any differently than Clendinnen treats the Aztecs or Vernant and Detienne approach Greek mythology. Milbank’s argument that such theorist presuppose the social precedes the religious strike me as a misconstrual of what the anthropologist is claiming (the anthropologist and sociologist seeing all these relations bound up with one another in a whole). Not having read his work, however, it’s entirely possible I’m misconstruing his claims or simplifying them.
larvalsubjects Says: August 25, 2007 at 7:40 pm
McCutcheon’s Critics not Caretakers is an excellent read on these issues as well. I would see these anthropological and sociological forms of analysis as a form of critique, showing how apparently religious phenomena can be explained on immanent grounds, thereby allowing us to reject any ontological claims of transcendence.
IndieFaith Says: August 26, 2007 at 2:59 am
I suppose this is where things come to an impasse. Both theology and sociology assume the ability to correctly read and position the other. Milbank was essentially saying that in sociology’s critique of (policing) the sublime that they claim to have seen the “other side” and that there is nothing. Sociology is in no such position or should be more forthright in declaring such assumptions.
This returns us in some respect to your initial quotation in this post. Which narrative is authoritative and on what grounds? I am not sure that the two of us could agree on a mediating third discourse of shared ontology and epistemology. To be a little non-philosophical we are in some ways reduced to the primacy (and hope) of language as the place (perhaps neither the beginning nor the end) of possibility and relationship.
On one other note: “Yet I have to use my lips, teeth, tongue, and ears as well, but I do not treat these as conditions in this way.” Graham Ward (I will have to get the specifics later) writes a great article on the condition of “touch” as all of our senses are also ultimately fields of touch (i.e. the surface of the tongue, ears, eyes, etc.)
N Pepperell Says: August 26, 2007 at 5:28 am
IF - Just a quick and inadequate note, as I’m a bit fuzzy today :-) The sort of critique that Milbank makes - of a form of sociological theory that operates (tacitly or explicitly) from a claim to its own objective or “God’s eye” point of view - would probably seem to many of us to address a form of sociological or anthropological theory that itself contravenes the notion of immanence. The fact that something claims to be sociological, rather than theological, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is immanent - no matter how vociferously it may claim to reject transcendence...