Friday, October 10, 2014

The Mystic On Islamic Doctrine

   I think this, posted in comments, is well worth a read.
   I've been really frustrated over the years by how hard it is to get the straight dope on Islam (that is: the actual doctrine). Of course from the right we get the view that Islam is monstrous abomination. (Though we also get that view from people with very direct experience of it...but that leads us down a different path...) Most academicians are on the left, and they tend to be inclined to make excuses for non-Western-ish cultures and religions. So it's pretty hard to find someone. Anyway, I trust the Mystic's objectivity, so I'm really happy to see this post.
   It's also good news with respect to the actual content, i.e. the assessment of the details of Islamic doctrine. I don't pretend this is the last word in anything, but it seems to me to be valuable information, and to move the ball down-field a bit.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been really frustrated over the years by how hard it is to get the straight dope on Christianity (that is: the actual doctrine).

Catholic? Lutheran? Baptist? Primitive Baptist? Calvinist? According to the IRA? The Lord's Resistance Army? The KKK?

If you were interested in he basics you'd know them already. It's not hard to find out.

"Though we also get that view from people with very direct experience of it..."

Like the girls in the Magdalene laundries had a direct experience of Christianity.

I am done now. This is ridiculous.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


1:13 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Incidentally: You've gotta love:

If you were interested, you'd already know.

This is an absolutely astonishing attitude.

1:58 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

It's a shame to lose such a scholar from this discussion.

Anyway, perhaps it would help for me to address a comparison between a liberal position and the position one might reasonably derive from an honest, interested reading of the Koran and Bible.

Can you formulate a couple of tenants of a liberal position that you have in mind when you wonder if Islam is illiberal?

2:25 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Sure...I just mean the normal stuff, e.g.:

Is it intolerant toward other religions?
Is it intolerant toward apostasy?
Is it intolerant toward atheism?
Is it sexually repressive?
Is it repressive with respect to women?
Is it anti-science?
(I don't see how it could be, given the Medieval history of Islam...)

Stuff like that. As I understand it, liberalism is primarily interested in carving out a large and inviolable private sphere into which the government is not allowed to intrude (sadly, liberalism may be moving away from this, and ceding that most important ground to libertarianism), and it's also extremely concerned with securing civil rights for all.

2:37 PM  
Blogger D. Ghirlandaio said...

You make it so hard to quit you.

-If you were interested, you'd already know.
"This is an absolutely astonishing attitude"-

Try "Islam for Dummies"

60% of graduate student in Iran are female.

Iran is top of the world in science growth

None of this was hard to find.

Every religion has sects that are illiberal, anti-science, etc.

I'm a secularist. And I'm not a defender of the government of Iran, but I'd choose them over Saudi, easy.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

"You make it so hard to quit you."

Try harder.

Or leave something useful. Figures about the percentage of female college students in one Muslim country contribute almost nothing to the discussion.

It's not nothing...but it's not much...

"Every religion has sects that are illiberal, anti-science, etc."

Really? Gosh, that's fascinating... I had no idea...

Do you understand the difference between the questions:

Are any x's F?
Are most x's F?

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why are black people so violent?"
"They're burning down their own neighborhoods."

You're looking for "the truth about Islam" Islam as Platonic form.

I blame monotheism for all this crap, including your fixations. All I can give you is evidence that there are causes, forces, reasons, for recent events, other than some ahistorical "islam"

And I ignored your fondness of Hirsi Ali

She's more than a bit of a fascist.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

1. LOOOOL your main point: "Why aren't you changing your beliefs on the basis of my assertion that no one ever changes their beliefs on the basis of reasons? Why? Why?" LOOOOOOL

"Why are black people so violent?"
"They're burning down their own neighborhoods."

Answer: they're not particularly violent as compared to other people of similar economic status etc. Therefore your question contains a false presupposition.

See how easy that is?

That's what we call an *argument.* It's what grown-ups use when they talk to each other about grown-up stuff.

You'll understand some day...

"You're looking for "the truth about Islam" Islam as Platonic form."


That is so mind-bogglingly idiotic and ignorant I can only gape in abject amazement. It makes it clear that you have no understanding of the theory of forms, and, apparently, no understanding of what's going on even in the present discussion on a topic you claim expertise on.

There is nothing--*nothing*--about *anything* in this discussion that has *anything* to do with the theory of forms.

That's the sort of thing people say when they've heard two sentences of philosophy somewhere and want to feign knowledge. It's like Something something Cartesian certainty QED!!!111

Seriously, are you in high school?

"I blame monotheism for all this crap, including your fixations. All I can give you is evidence that there are causes, forces, reasons, for recent events, other than some ahistorical "islam" "

So...the content of monotheism affects people's beliefs then? What happened to ideas never affect beliefs/behavior?

Man, you are confused beyond confusion...

We're discussing a very straight-forward question. To repeat, it goes roughly like this:

Are Muslim's notably/unusually illiberal?
That will have a yes or no answer.

If the answer is yes, then, is the actual content of Islam one of the explanations for this, or no?

Instead of helping to cast any light whatsoever on the questions, you've dropped an incoherence bomb on the discussion.

Your answer *seems* to be:

Yes, they are more violent, but Islamic doctrine is not, because no ideas ever affect actions.

You've not argued for any of these claims, and the only inference above is invalid.

Instead you've given some bullshit links, plus some boilerplate anti-Israel stuff, plus a few relevant links offering an alternative explanation for Islamic violence based on colonialism...which alternate explanation is not actually to the point.

A. I don't have any particular "fondness" for Hirsi Ali. I noted that she had very direct experience of Islam.

Reading comprehension: it's your friend.

B. She's a fascist? But...fascism is not the source of any of her ideas by your lights, because ideas are never causes.

C. She was abused by Islam, and is justifiably angry. And her actions and beliefs are excusable on the very same grounds you seem to be trying to use to excuse Islam: the cause of the relevant beliefs and actions in each case is past wrongs by another party (colonialism, FGM).

Do try to be *just a little bit* consistent, eh?

Or is consistency some weird philosophical hang-up too...?

Seriously, A.

This is pathetic.

Contribute something sensible and civil or I'll have bring out the banhammer... The choice is yours...

8:00 AM  
Blogger D. Ghirlandaio said...

I responded on the wrong post. Bad click on a phone. I'll repeat one bit and leave the rest.
The Catholic Church is illiberal by definition. It's a monarchy. But Luther was illiberal compared to Erasmus' call for moderation.
Orthodox Judaism is illiberal but I associate secular Judaism with a liberalism more serious than liberal Christianity. The secularization of Islam will foster a similar humanistic liberalism.
As to "bullshit" links there's not much to say. You operate from generalizations. I argue from cases. Also I said before I don't hold to strict determinism. If like to think history can teach us something. The humanists were historians.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Thanks. I appreciate the somewhat less insulting and condescending tone...

"The Catholic Church is illiberal by definition."

That seems false to me, but it's certainly rather authoritarian in important ways.

"But Luther was illiberal compared to Erasmus' call for moderation."

True, but I'm not sure what the point is. There are degrees of liberalism. We're obviously asking something like "is Islam notable for it's low degree of liberalism."

The answer might be 'no'...but you seem to be criticizing the question...though I can't be sure.

"The secularization of Islam will foster a similar humanistic liberalism."

I'm not sure what a secularized religion really is... Though I'm all for secularization...

"As to "bullshit" links there's not much to say. You operate from generalizations. I argue from cases."

Nobody's complaining about arguments from cases... But you can't cherry-pick the cases. I do not "argue from generalizations" here. I'm asking *about* generalizations: e.g.: is Islam notably illiberal? That is, we are asking whether there is a general tendency in Islam. Cases are relevant, but one *always* has to handle arguments from cases fairly and carefully in order to establish generalizations.

That is not a philosophical point any more than it is a scientific point or a mathematical point.

"If like to think history can teach us something. The humanists were historians."

Just for the record, I did not and would never deny this.

History must be one of our main guides here. I object not to the use of history, but to the incautious / invalid use of historical premises.

You deny that philosophy is of any use at all; I do not deny that history is of any use--quite the contrary. My view is a pluralist one: all sorts of disciplinary reasonings and conclusions can help us here. That's the ordinary view, and I see no grounds for questioning it.

You deride philosophy and claim to reject it all, but you don't give arguments for that. You just assert it, aggressively and derisively. It doesn't hurt my feelings or anything, it's just wrong. Even the best historical premises are of little use if the conclusions from them are sloppily/invalidly drawn.

Furthermore, there are really only two kinds of people (not mutually exclusive): those who try to think seriously/philosophically about their philosophical positions, and those who adopt philosophical positions unreflectively. Nobody's ever figured out a way to escape philosophy entirely...though many, myself included, have tried...

So I merely point out that, despite your pretense of having transcended philosophy, you've really just done philosophy badly...

It's too bad, really, because it's clear that you've got something to offer, but I'm not patient enough to sort the relevant from the irrelevant links while simultaneously ignoring your insulting, badly-supported arguments against philosophy.

A better person would be more patient...but, well, wouldn't be me...

12:29 PM  
Blogger D. Ghirlandaio said...

"The Catholic Church is illiberal by definition."
The Church is a monarchy and Papal infallibility is doctrine. The doctrine as such is absolutely reactionary. There's no equivalent in Islam, so that should be enough to answer your question. But it isn't, because doctrine itself is not enough. One of the most powerful spiritual leaders in Israel, Ovadia Yosef, argued that Goyim exist only to serve Jews, having no other purpose on earth. I'm not going to make any statements about Judaism based on his statements.

Max Rodenbeck of the Economist, reviews Bernard Lewis on the history of Islam.

"But you can't cherry-pick the cases"
If Israel fostered Islamism among Palestinians as a way to undermine the secular opposition [and the leader of the PFLP was a secularist Christian] that's not cherry-picking. If the record, based on multiple sources, shows Hamas moderating and Israel hardening that's not cherry-picking.

And as a matter of simple logic, "Liberal Zionism" is an oxymoron.
Peter Beinart:
"I'm not asking Israel to be Utopian....I'm not even asking it to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state."
A Jewish state for a Jewish People/ A German state for a German people. As doctrines they're identical.
PLO policy since 1969 calls for a bi-national state, and Hamas has accepted the existence of Israel, as a fact on the ground, since 2006, the same year they called an end to suicide bombings. These are all in the record and not hard to find.

Hirsi Ali's arguments as seen the linked article are -objectively- fascist. Sam Harris has defended a fascist response -his word- to Islam in Europe.
I am not worried about Islam in Europe. I'm worried about western support for the most reactionary forces in the Middle East an in Islam. Saudi Arabia is not "moderate", and not moderate in comparison to the Iranian government as it exists. Every religious minority in Iran is guaranteed, by law since the revolution, one member of the Iranian parliament. There is a Jewish member of the Iranian parliament. The captain of the Iranian soccer team in the world cup was an Armenian Christian. Iran is a "guided" democracy, which is authoritarian enough, but it is not an absolute monarchy.

Islam is modernizing and the culture is secularizing. Israel was founded as a secular state. There's a history of "secular Judaism" since Jews have defined themselves as a people. There was anger when Ben Gurion gave power to religious authorities. But as to culture, Dawkins is as Anglican as Colin McGinn is Catholic. Call it an ethos, an esthetic, whatever. They're products of their respective cultures and both blind to it. I say that as a third generation atheist.

As for "philosophy", I argue from description before prescription and from the history of events before the history of ideas, because the existence of ideas as practice precedes their articulation. History shows the theory of monarchy followed the rule of an autarch. The theory of democracy began as the justification of the practice of a community. By the same token, secularization is a process. Philosophers were not the first atheists, only the first ex-theologians. Change comes from the ground up, not the top down. The elite may ride the wave; the question whether they affect the motion is something else.

I'm either a hard or soft determinist, depending on my mood, but historians have a better record at predicting the future than philosophers, so they get my vote.

2:10 PM  

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