Saturday, December 08, 2007


Cullen Murphy, at The American Scholar.

[via Metafilter]


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Inshallah, "if it be God's will" obviates cause-and-effect, which puts the western mind into cognitive dissonance.

For better or worse, philosophical acceptance has rarely been America’s default frame of mind.

The West's, as a whole. It also explains why the Muslim world didn't develop liberal democracy or anything resembling it. Each moment in time is a new act of creation, and man's hand has nothing to do with it.

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I call BS on this.

Calvinist Scotland somehow managed to give us the Scottish enlightenment, despite a comittment to fatalism. They gave us Hume and Smith, two conservative heros - and liberal democrats - who both deny the reality of cause and effect. And how about Switzerland...

This talk of Middle Eastern fatalism as the explanation for liberalisms poor showing there is just a repetition of the worst kind of Victorian anthropology. Next Tom will be explaining the difficulties of establishing a free media in China by appeal to inscrutability.

8:08 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

You "call BS?" With all due respect, who the hell are you?

Geez, anonymousperson, give a fella a break. I wasn't even disagreeing with WS on this occasion. In fact, I was agreeing with the Murphy essay that WS chose as interesting enough to link, as it was congenial to what I've found in my own studies. I'm not judging in the least. Inshallah rather than "with God's help" is a real phenomenon and perhaps the core difference between the west and the rest of civilization.

Murphy's essay is a very good one, and frankly, if you have a problem here, it's with him, not me.

I don't just sit here and make stuff up. I've done quite a bit of reading on Islam and the great Muslim thinkers, thank you. Some of them are the greatest minds that humanity has ever produced.

[That sounds like PC tap-dancing, I know, but I mean it. Look up al-Farabi. He makes da Vinci look sick.]

So just allow for the possibilities, man, rather than accuse me of some insular Victorianism and cultural narcissism. Perhaps I know a thing or two that you don't yet.

If you have an alternate theory as to why the Muslim world hasn't independently developed anything resembling the principles of liberal democracy, then please, the floor is all yours.

[Ataturk might be a way to go, Indonesia perhaps, and to a lesser degree Malaysia. Nigeria seems to be an illustratively harsh clash of Muslim and Western influences. But please, counterargue and don't settle for negation. I'm all ears.]

And I would offer that Hume and Adam Smith were hardly Calvinists, and I know from Smith that interference with freedom causes very bad effects. Hume I leave to the more educated minds hereabouts, but his objection seems to be about a priori claims and the limits of experience as the sole arbiter of truth.

And fatalism has its virtues. My Irish foremothers got raped by the grim Vikings, or took up with them by choice because fatalism is so damned sexy. Either way, here I am, and I'm cool with that, as if I had any choice. Inshallah.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, wait. There's not a redhead to be found anywhere in my family. We musta got did by the Moors, "Black Irish," they call us.

So there you have it. I'm practically a Muslim myself.

10:34 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home