Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Thomas Aquinas on Women, Apostates, Heretics

The purpose of this post is not to polemicize the good Christians on this list.

However, people have always been confused when I say: history is fluid.

I am putting this forward as a way to demonstrate that. If you go through many of the comments people make, Thomas Aquinas is described as some kind of human rights revolutionary. While I do think that his exposition of natural law is the best we have ever seen, the fact is, that he has views that are very unsavory to the modern world. He thinks women are deficient and apostates and heretics should be put to death. Yet, in spite of his uttering such statements, we think of him as a great champion of rationality. This is a clear case of history being fluid.

By the way, if you don't know how to read Aquinas, here is how. There will be three 'objections.' These are not his position. Then there will be an "I answer" section. This *is* his position. Then there will be a 'reply to the objections.' This is generally accepted as his position, although I think there are differing interpretations to this.


Reply to Objection 1. As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence; such as that of a south wind, which is moist, as the Philosopher observes (De Gener. Animal. iv, 2).

Apostates and Heretics

I answer that, With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death.

In short, please recognize that history is in fact fluid and how it is described later in time is as important as what *actually* happened.

By the way, should the secular-humanists on this list say: well, we always knew that *all* religion was bad, I can dig up plenty of unsavory things about Mr. Kant, Hegel, and Schopenhauer -- whom we have turned into secular-saints in spite of their horrifying personal character.


Anonymous said...

There are some points I want to make, Eteraz:

Firstly, the Bible, at least for what I know, never qualifies women as being defective and misbegotten or prescribes the death to the people who are heretic. Yes, there are some parts of it, which can be cited as the base of that theory but never says that -that is not a quote from the Bible-. I mean, certain passages if you read them ALONE can be interpreted as that, but the FIRST commandment is very clear: Love God and the other people as yourself, and do not make to others what you do not want them to make to you, that is the Golden Rule (by the way, Ali Sina, just denies that Islam even states something as this for people who are not Muslims). So, as the time evolves, the interpretation have changed because this words of St. Thomas are just a product of an age in which throughout Europe the woman was very bad considered. Just rememeber, Christians do not have to fuflfil all the Bible but the SPIRIT and the MESSAGE of God, because apart from the Commandments, it is full of stories, each one with it's own conclusion. SO what you -or the priest, or the Pope- have to do is to extract from that conclusion a way to act in your life. Example: The Samaritan, that cure and then paid the inn to the Jew attacked by some robbers. You do not have to find people attacked by robbers but to help those -in general- who need it.

But for example if a Sura says "if your wife disobeys you, just reprimand her, afterwards give her your back and then just hit her" or "the man who steals should have his right hand cut" -I do not know it by heart, but I think thery are very similar to that-, how can you interpret that? -I am asking you as a Muslim, not joking about that-. I mean, those things are DIRECT orders made from Allah to the good Muslim having Mohammed as his Profet. And being the Koram the way to be a good Muslim, how can you just not apply that? -Again this is a question, I am not joking about that-.

Secondly, in the Catholic Church there is the "magisterium" (from magister= teacher in Latin) that unites ALL the Catholics and so it just states what you are to believe if you are a Catholic. It is about the main things of faith and so if someone as bishop Lefevbre says II Vatican Council is just rubbish and he does not believe in it, he's excommunicated -no death or physical punishment-, and the Catholics would know he is not orthodox (that is, he does not beleive in the orthodoxy of the Church). That does not happen in Islam: and as a result, you can be very moderate but Al-Qadarawi or Abu HAmza can just think RADICALLY different from you, and even if there is no common ground for basic things, both of you are going to name yourselves as very good Muslims. [I know Protestants have a different way, but all the Protestant Churches have also -I think- a list of things in which they belief]. So then, the Muslims who are good in my sense -that fulfill the law, do not rob, kill, etc.- are despised by the other "good" Muslims.

Thirdly, Santo Tomas also said that "let your conscience be your last rule, even if it goes against the Church, because it is said Only God can know your heart". In his Summa Theologica he also let the women use make-up, if they were single, to make someone fell in love with her, and marry, and if they were married, to attract their husbands. Yeah, I know that nowadays that can sound idiot, but a Danish Imam has said RIGHT NOW that women who use make-up are going to hell. And he is no more than an interpreter of faith, not divine word. His opinion can be very important BUT is no good as compared with the Bible.

Do not think this is an attack -I know that for all of you who are reasonable people this time is just very hard-. I also think history makes the theories and religions evolve, BUT not for the core of them: there are somethings that for me are very difficult to change, just look at that poor Christian Afghan. But not only: in France, converts from Islam to other religions must live in semi-hiding, because they are in danger. And France has known human rights and democracy for a long time. I mean, there are nearly 1.400 years since Islam was born. Christians had been fighting over religion matters for so long and so stupidly. For my part, I think it's all a question of power. Muslim clerics know they have in their powers all the lives and minds of all the Muslims, and the just are fearing freedom because that would make them -or so they think- less powerful. That is why they want the Shari'a to be law: if not, people, would have to be a very good Muslim not for the punishment but their own conscience.

A. Eteraz said...


Good points.

Your point about the evolution of religion is precisely the point I'm trying to make.

Also, people always like to cite to the fact that Islam is now 1400 years old and *still* it hasn't joined the modern world of human rights.

Well, how many years from the birth of Christianity did it take for the Enlightenment to occur? 1600 on a generous estimate.

In other words: if you accept the idea that religions evolve (as you clearly do), then you have to accept that it will take time.

Now, if you belong to the group of people who can't even accept the idea that religion ever evolves, then all you can do is argue that Islam must be done away with (as a large number of readers contend here).[Although it's my position that these readers ignore the fact that secularism too has and continues to evolve. In fact, we need to have that discussion. I'm far more educated on secularism than I am on Islam and would be up for it].

A. Eteraz said...

As far as those verses in the Quran which do not comport with the modern world (i.e the wifebeating verse); the interpretation of that verse will be 'modified' as well.

In fact, Amina Wadud makes the argument that the word "nushuz" has been wrongly 'interpreted.' She sets this forth in her book "Quran and Women."

Other modern interpreters argue that the verse is gender neutral, in other words, wives can beat husbands as well.

A third group has argued that both spouses can beat each other only after seeking approval from the government. Their position is that the verse stands for the proposition that in a domestic dispute where you wish to turn to violence, you must notify your government and get them involved.

In other words, Muslims are turning away from the reading of the verse as simply being a license to beat women because they have realized that something is terribly wrong with that reading. Are there Muslims today who choose to remain ignorant of this? Yes, which is why they will have to be educated.

Let me give you another example. The Quran permits polygamy. But Muslims in Tunisia have banned polygamy. They still consider themselves good Muslims. No one calls a Tunisian an apostate when he goes to hajj. Interpretations of the Quran that make it jive with the modern world require reformers.

Jason Pappas said...

Fluid isn’t the right word. Growing is more to the point. Aquinas advanced natural rights and gave reasons which others logically see as requiring an extension to other people. Locke, too, advanced rights but his toleration didn’t extend to Catholics and atheists. The founder fathers made further advances but didn’t completely practice what they preached. And so it goes. This is growth. Fluid merely means change of any kind. Growth, however, requires the proper soil …

PS I’m a critic of Kant and Hegel.

Actually, eteraz, Christianity wasn’t firmly in a position of power until the end of the 4th century. Thus, from 400AD to 1700AD, when the Glorious Revolution solidified the liberal order in the Anglo-sphere, is a period of 1300 years. Islam is late by that line of reasoning! And Islam doesn’t have to invent the liberal order but only to copy it! This isn’t looking to encouraging.

Jason Pappas said...

I meant: "This isn’t looking too encouraging."

A. Eteraz said...

Better late than never. You are right though, I think Western philosophy brilliant for having invented the liberal order. Although if you see the first ever post on my blog, I argued that the liberal order comes out of Christianity. In fact, it was my writing of that post that made me hopeful for Islam.

As far as Kant and Hegel, I critique them from an enlightenment, post-Enlightenment perspective, but when it comes to their applicability to religious reform, I'm a great fan.

Islam needs a Hegel. I personally believe this person has arrived already. Allama Javed Ahmed Ghamidi. Whether he is Hegel or not, Islam needs a Hegel.

Anonymous said...

Quite an interesting discussion.
I believe that separation between religion and politics is the key issue.
Within Christianity, this idea started with the Gospels, took a step back with Constantine, and was slowly resurrected (no pun intended) during the struggles between Pope and Emperor during the so-called Dark Ages, even before we got to Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment. Even after the Enlightenment, Catholic countries like France and Italy had political trouble with the Church. In short, it was a long process, not a revolution.

Another heretical thought: it seems to me that many if not most Western intellectuals, including (but not limited to) Plato, Marx, and Chomsky, are mortal enemies of freedom and democracy. Which is why I do not identify myself as either Judeo-Christian or humanist, rather I admire the *practice* of freedom and democracy wherever it is to be found. (Especially in Viking Iceland, as you might guess from my nickname.)

Eteraz: clould you please clarify what was good about Hegel? I am sorry to say that I always thought of him as a hot-air balloon.

Anonymous said...

Sorri Godhi:
Well, your first thought is totally correct. Precisely, there was a lot of problems because the Church wanted to be totally independent and the Emperors of the German-Roman Empire intended it to be just an appendix. Some people does not know that in Spain it was Ferdinand and not Isabel -the Catholic Kings-, I reapeat, it was Ferdinand, the one who was more interested in -and in fact pushed for- the introduction of the Inquisition in Spain. Reason? The political control that it was going to bring to the Crown -as, in fact, there was no difference or very little- was extreme, because the Cown was able then to control not only this live but the next one. That is why just before I had referred myself to the power as the leading influence of these clerics: you have to take into account that they are night and day focused on the Caliphate that is POLITICAL power.

About your second thought: well, in fact Plato was in favour of freedom of the human beings but as some of the human beings were not considered as such -slaves, women,...- then his concept of freedom was infact VERY reduced.

But I have to differ from you in soemthing: we cannot have freedom or democracy if there would have been no philosophy, ethics or law that had made clear the principles that have to exist to call a political system a democratic one. So even if am no admirer of Marx, his books and theories -though full of errors- were needed in his time. As I think that nowadays, Islamists are needed -of course we would be better without them-, because freedom must be conquered each day and I think some Westerners does not appreciate it sufficiently and thinks it's not worth it. Well, this issue (I think) is waking up people.


well, I understand that YOU have, as an intelligent and reasonable human being THAT ideas. The point here is: how are you going to tell Bin Laden "you're a heretic" if he is quoting the Koram? I mean, Bin Laden exists now, but if the Koram is like that, how on earth can Muslims prevent another one like him in the future? I do not know if I am explaining myself well.
I am reading a very interesting book called Jihad in Spain by a leading Spanish MP who is expert on Islam. One of the things that he says is that one of the holy duties of Muslims is Jihad. He makes a difference between Great Jihad -against oneself sins, basically, although there are some scholars who also think this is waged also against the social sins- and Little Jihad -what we know in the West as the Jihad or holy war, basically kill the Infidels" (I do not know how you'd call them in English as the book is in Spanish ;) ). So, imagine the Jihad is declared against all the West. How can you just deny your duties as a Muslim?

And lastly, Turks are for me a mystery, really. They go on saying they are modern, but then they burn embassies, they are asking for a return of the adultery laws -although not all.., thanks God- and well, I do think that they are considered by apostates by people like Bin Laden or Omar Bakri..., that are also "good Muslims".

By the way, I thought that poligamy was not an obligation, that is only a right the males have under Shari'a.

About Turkey in particular I read that Erdogan was intending to build a real Islamic state and that his intention to enter the EU was precisely to prevent the Turkish Army -warrant of the laity of the State- to intervene. You can read it here:

Anonymous said...

Hegel: from the perspective of a religious-reformer, is amazing b/c he changed the definition of truth in his Phenomenology of Spirit, which allowed freedom to advance.

Why do you think he is a hot air balloon?

BTW, do you know the story about how Iceland got its law?

Anonymous said...

IMHO Plato is actually quite relevant to this discussion.
If you read Appendix III of Karl Popper's Open Society vol.1,
you will see how people can get completely different messages from Plato.
Could it be the same for the Koran?
Popper seemed to think that Plato's concept of freedom was Orwellian.

About freedom+democracy without philosophy: there was democracy in Ebla 2000 years before Pericles, but I accept that a liberal philosophy can provide a useful theoretical backbone for democracy.
One must be careful in choosing a philosophy, though.

About Hegel: in my arrogance I think it's hot air because I don't understand him.

As far as I know, Icelanders just got together and worked out a law code that evolved over time. There was some influence from the old country (Norway) but no philosophers involved.

The Anti-Jihadist said...

Aquinas, Kant, and Hegel never claimed to be Prophets speaking for God, nor did any of them claim to be infallible, nor did they kill anyone for disagreeing with them. None of them claimed to have perfect knowledge handed down from on high, and none of them said that they were be followed in all the ages to come. None of them claimed they were the perfect example for all mankind.

Mohammed, on the other hand...

Sorry Eteraz. I am simply not convinced, and same goes for a lot of others here. You just can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear, no matter how many big words you trowel out!

Pastorius said...

Weren't the five books of Moses dictated by God to Moses? Aren't they infallible?

And yet, Judaism has evolved.

The Anti-Jihadist said...

Judaism evolved, yes. Will Islam evolve if we are willing to give it a few more millenia?

I don't think we Infidels can afford to wait that long.

Cubed © said...


History (from Encarta):

1) "The past events of a period in time or in the life or development of a people, an institution, or a place."

2) "The branch of knowledge that records and analyzes past events."

3)"A chronological account of past events of a period or in the life or development of a people, an institution, or a place."

History is not "fluid." Events occur, and that's that.

However, historians and other humans who are interested in recording events are often selective. Historians et al. tend to inject their own viewpoints, which can often be far from objective, into their attempts to record events. In addition, historians can even (horrors!) lack knowledge of certain facts.

That - the lack of omniscience and objectivity - doesn't mean that "history is fluid." It just means that sometimes we humans screw up sometimes when we attempt to record what happened.

Even Aristotle, who discovered genus differentia, and thus enabled us to define things like "history," and place them into another of his inventions, the "dictionary," didn't always "get it right the first time," and he was the first to admit it.

Even he, who through his discovery of the Laws of Identity and Causality, produced the philosophical paradigm shift that gave rise to the Golden Age of Greece, made a few mistakes. For example, he thought that some races were, by their nature, inferior to the Greeks and were thus naturally suited to servitude.


But it took us a long time to figure that one out, didn't it? And it took us a long time to figure a lot of other things as well, such as the Theory of Relativity, how concepts are formed, what the hell a "meson" is anyway, the nature of human rights, how it is that cells signal one another, yadda-yadda, blat-blat.

As Aristotle pointed out, we humans are not omniscient; it takes TIME to acquire knowledge! We don't always figure it out right away. It's just the way our minds work - damn, it would sure be nice if we all had crystal balls instead of brains, wouldn't it?

Ordinarily, I'd quit here, but someone brought up Kant and Hegel. Along with Marx, these guys were the Three Stooges of Philosophy. They talked a great game, saying that they liked freedom and reason and all that, but they were the philosophic descendants of Plato, who ultimately gave us the Left, socialists, the Nazis, Fascism, and communism, none of which exactly provided us with shining moments in the history (oops) of human freedom etc.

If you go back a little further in history - there's that word again - you'll even see why it is that all those collectivists (the Left, socialists, Fascists, Commies, etc.) feel such an affinity with Islam.

The philosopher who had the greatest influence on al-Kindi (considered by many to be the most influential thinker after Mohammed) and al-Ghazali (considered the father of Islamic fundamentalism) was Plato, via the neoplatonism of the Roman philosopher Plotinus.

Aristotle and Plato, who were student and teacher respectively, had a huge argument over concept-formation. I won't go into it here, but it was Plato who invented a "second reality" where he could put all the stuff he didn't know, including how concepts were formed. Aristotle said Plato was nuts, that just because we didn't know how concepts were formed now didn't mean we never would, and that there was only one reality, and we were (and are) living in it.

So it was Plotinus, who lived in Egypt in the mid-3rd century C.E., was the fellow who made the epistemological issue that caused the rift between Plato and Aristotle into a theological one, whereby Plato's "second reality" ultimately became "heaven" (or "paradise," if you prefer). He was the "father" of "neoplatonism."

I'll not bore you with the details here, but Aristotle's thoughts, which gave rise to the Golden Age of Greece, ultimately gave rise to the United States, which was the first nation in history (!) to be derived from specific philosophical principles and based entirely on reason. It's all there, in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We still have a few things wrong (we forgot to mention property rights, for example), but we'll get there eventually.

Islam had its chance, and threw it away. Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Rushd, of Cordoba, Spain, was a brilliant guy who was a jurist, physician, and philosopher. He spent most of his adult life trying to "clean up" all the changes and mistakes that copiests had made in Aristotle's extant works. He did a pretty good job, too, and it was via these "Comments" on Aristotle that Acquinas got involved with Aristotle.

Acquinas was a neoplatonist (the Church really liked Plato), but given the amount of time he spent trying to reconcile Aristotle and Plato, I tend to think he was a "closet Aristotelian." The reconciliation between the Church and Aristotle failed, of course, since the views of the two men were mutually exclusive. I mean, if those guys couldn't reconcile their differences in their own time, how on earth could Acquinas figure it out? He couldn't, of course.

But that didn't stop Aristotle's influence - there was enough of Aristotle's thinking to compete pretty successfully with neoplatonism, and lead to the Renaissance, the Englightenment, the Age of Reason, and. . .well, you know the rest.

Anyway, the mullah's didn't like what ibn Rushd had to say - things like reason took precedence over religion - so they destroyed his stuff, sent him off to exile, and then he died, possibly under suspicious circumstances. He was reinstated just in time to enter Paradise, though. You gotta wonder how he was persuaded to recant.

That was that; Islam adopted the Ashurite (fundamentalist) view, and rejected the Mutazilite ("liberal") view, from the neoplatonists and Aristotelians respectively.

Which brings us to why we don't see things eye to eye with Islam today.

It's important to remember the fight between Plato and Aristotle, and the fact that they couldn't reconcile because their views - all five branches of philosophy - were mutually exclusive.

The views of the West, although often tainted with neoplatonism, retain enough Aristotelian thought to have that same problem with Islam - we will NEVER RECONCILE BECAUSE OUR PHILOSOPHIES ARE MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE!

And it's really that simple, folks.

Jason Pappas said...

I'm in cubed's camp. But let me add a few ideas.

If find it more useful to define the Plato-Augustine-Descartes-Kant-Hegal-Marx camp and the Aristotle-Averroes-Aquinas-Locke-Jefferson camp. The first camp dominated continental philosophy and during the middle of the 20th century authoritarian governments dominated or conquered virtually every country on the European continent. The second camp dominates the Anglo-sphere (USA, UK, Australia, NZ, Canada) and these nations have maintained a parliamentary system, the core of a liberal order, and the fortitude to defeat or contain the totalitarian threat that almost brought this earth back into the Dark Ages.

Both secular and Christian adherents can be found in both camps. Unfortunately, Muslims are in the Plato camp. And Plato advocated a form of communism in the Republic and the Laws. I love reading Plato—a great mind at work—but Aristotle has his feet on the ground despite the faults, which are obvious today. Even the philosophers during Islam’s best period all relied on Plato’s Republic and Laws (they didn’t have Aristotle’s Politics.) They took an elitist view of a philosopher-caliph who, via “noble lies” and rhetoric, manipulates the ignorant masses with a dumped down version of philosophy: religion. And while this philosophy, which for 3 centuries competed with Islam, was the best hope for Muslims, it was still flawed by confusing neo-Platonist texts for works of Aristotle (as Cubed noted) and having only a collectivist/totalitarian model of a political state from the Republic.

Sorry, Islam just couldn't do it. Perhaps if Averroes was used as a foundation but I have doubts that that is possible. It’s too late to catch up now. Why bother? Ataturk had the right goal … even if his methods left much to be desired. Try a rational/secular/individualist ethos. Let's the old folk talk about Mohammad and politely nod PBUH but move on, my friend.

Anonymous said...


Before Plato got to Islam he got to Christianity. Let's not forget that hundreds of years years before Islam, Christianity had come up with heaven and hell (influeced by Plato). In fact, had the Christian philosophers of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Levant been more pro Aristotle, Islamic Philosophy *would* have been more Aristotelian, because it was through those Christian philosophers that al-Kindi and Farabi learned their stuff.

Also, you are forgetting that before Averroes, and at the same level of thought, there was Ibn Sina (Avicenna), who was also an Aristotelian. So there was a lot of engagement between Islam and Aristotle. The person most responsible for the Platonic "turn" would be Abu Hamid al Ghazali (Algazel). He started off Aristotelian but switched positions, and because he was situated in the center of the Muslim world (Baghdad, as opposed to Ibn Rushd's Spain), he got more air-time.

As far as Kant/Hegel v. Madison/Jefferson, I will always choose the latter. Although Madison/Jefferson should more rightly be referred to as Montesquieu/Locke. Nevertheless, I maintain that Kant and Hegel have important contributions to make to today's Islam. Kant's contribution will be that there are no a priori positions. Hegel's contribution will be that the definition of truth changes over the course of history. [There's that history is fluid thing again]. A large part of the Muslim work involves redescribing their history. For that they need Hegel.

Anonymous said...

By the way, our Constitution does mention Property Rights.

It's called the 3/5th clause.

Anonymous said...

Also, I just remembered, that while I agree with your points about Aristotle v. Plato, it is not necessary that one has to be an Aristotelian to reject revelation and exalt reason.

The 10th century Muslim philosopher Abu Bakr Ar-Razi contended that he was a Platonist, but said that revelation and prophecy were unnecessary and redundant (given the fact that man had reason). He thought that the Quran was superflous and that religion was kind of a tyranny.

Mark said...

Islam is not going to be anything different from what it already is! It hasn't changed in fourteen hundred years; and it's not going to change now, either. Not for you, not for me, not for anybody!

There are many reasons why this is so, not least because the Qur'an is thought, by all good, practising Muslims, to be the unalterable, literal words of Allah. So how can they be changed? Who would have the authority to change them? In any case, the 'mother of the book', so to speak, the protoype, lawH maHfuz (where the capital 'H' is an aspirant 'h') is with Allah. It is said to be something uncreated, along with Allah Himself, and his throne (kursi)! There is no central authority in Islam anyway. Anyone trying to change such a 'revelation' would be killed as a heretic.

There's not going to be a reformation in Islam - ever! Christianity could have one, because the Bible is considered to be INSPIRED by God, rather than His actual words (except by the zany). The Qur'an is so very different in this regard.

No Irashad Manji is going to bring this change about. Coupled with this, you have the Muslim Arabs (Islam is Arabo-centric) who are not given to abstract or metaphorical thought.

Oh, there are so many reasons why a reformation in Islam is just not going to happen.

Anyway, why should Muslims make such a reformation come about? They have no incentive. They've already got the fastest-growing religion on the planet.


Anonymous said...

Fastest Growing??

This I'd like to see. Something must be off with your methodology.

I thought Islam could only be spread by the sword?

Mark said...

Today, according to you, something is amiss with my methodology. Yesterday, I could neither read nor understand English! You are so aggressive! Ad hominem attacks don't become you!

Jason Pappas said...

“Kant's contribution will be that there are no a priori positions. Hegel's contribution will be that the definition of truth changes over the course of history.”

Actually it was Locke that said that man is born tabula rasa. Kant’s “contribution” was to make the world, i.e. “things-in-themselves,” unknowable while claiming that the processes of consciousness introduce the required attributes of knowledge. His so-called “Copernican Revolution” was actually a counter-revolution that ushered in a relativism and subjectivism that he claimed to be fighting. That relativism is apparent in your categorization of Hegel. It goes to far. Like I said, growth is the right concept to use. It harvests the best achievements of tradition and moves one into the future. But, of course, one has to have a good tradition …

The only thing I can remember about Hegel is the quote: “Freedom is obedience to the state.” Orwell, was a piker compared to the Marx’s one-time idol. Really, this continental stuff has been Europe’s problem. Look at the big philosophers. Sartre was a communist. Heidegger was a Nazi. Foucault had praise for Khomeini. I’d be skeptical of continental philosophy after Montesquieu. OK, after Tocqueville.

Anonymous said...


I only want to see the 'evidence' for the claim that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.

Certainly you based your statement on some authority. What is it?

I'm prone to think that given the wars and bombings in the Muslim world, it'd be the fastest declining religion. Plus, given the bad press that Muslims draw to themselves, why would anyone convert TO it?

Anonymous said...


What about Camus? Died a Christian.

And Habermas? Ah, got you there.

As far as Kant, what you call relativism, I call multiculturalism. Which is what makes the West so wonderful. I'm not sure I could live in a West that was blatantly Christian. Actually I could probably live here but I'd be even more of a secularist.

Anonymous said...


Also, we're talking about the influence of Kant and Hegel to Islam.

I think you'd agree to the following two ideas.

1 - more 'relativism' (which is what you call it) is good for the Muslim world

2 - more obedience to the nation-state (coupled with democracy) is good for the Muslim world. Allegiance to a nation-state squares off against allegiance to pan-Islamic visions like Al-Qaeda's.

In other words, Hegel and Kant are relevant and necessary.

Anonymous said...

: I’d be skeptical of continental philosophy after Montesquieu. OK, after
: Tocqueville.

What about von Mises and Hayek? and there are probably many more names that
could be added here.
On the other hand, in the English-speaking countries we have ...
well you can just read The Professors by David Horowitz, maybe exaggerated
but where are the continental-European equivalents at this particular moment in time? Or is it because I do not read the continental press?
I do not deny that the *practice* of freedom and democracy has a stronger
tradition in the English-speaking countries but once more I want to
distinguish between theory and practice.

BTW I feel that Plato is being blamed a bit too much: Plato did not write
the Koran for instance. It also seems difficult to blame him for the
Inquisition and the European wars of religion. For totalitarian philosophies, on the other hand...

Jason Pappas said...

“As far as Kant, what you call relativism, I call multiculturalism.”

Yes, I usually do that, too … but as a criticism.

“Which is what makes the West so wonderful.”

Not quite. Don’t confuse individuality with multiculturalism. The former is firmly rooted in the enduring truth that each person has rights. The later is a collectivist notion that truth is relative and arbitrary—the group’s power is all that matters.

But I see what you’re saying in you second comment. I wouldn’t say more relativism. But I would agree less dogmatism … something Kant believed he was opposing even if I believe he unhinged the ship completely from its mooring. I’m sympathetic to your desires and the direction that you aim. I just think there are better authors with less ... how shall we say it ... side effects and risks. The West has some great thinkers and it has some of the worst. It had open societies and some of the most totalitarian. It’s tough to navigate! But watch out for those rocks. You don’t need more problems where you intend to travel.

Jason Pappas said...

Snorri, ah, you’d knew I’d respect those two Austrian economists. Individuals can rise above their culture. How else is change possible? But sadly they both had to leave Europe for the USA/UK … sad for Europe that is. And, yes, I worry about the state of our culture. I agree with you that there is much to worry about.

Anonymous said...

Jason: Hayek went back to Germany, because he thought that Britain was following the same trajectory after the war as Germany before the war. Clearly he overestimated the problem, but there is no question that Britain was much more socialist than Germany between the end of the war and Margaret Thatcher. You can still see the result.
BTW I forgot to mention Popper. He did not go back to the continent.

Cubed © said...


Let me precede what I say here with a compliment; first, this whole exchange of ideas is a very classy debate, and I while I admire your desire to make changes from within, I find that an exercise in futility, for reasons already stated.

Now to get on with the reason for coming here today.

Here we go: You said,

"By the way, our Constitution does mention Property Rights."

Yes, it does, and it's one of those places where the Framers' incomplete understanding of the nature of "rights" becomes apparent.

First - you know how I love to define the terms I'm talking about (hattip to Aristotle!): A "constitution" is a document that describes the relationship between an organization and its membership.

It performs this function whether it was written by the local Ladies' Garden Club or by the Founding Fathers of the United States.

The U.S. Constitution had two primary purposes. It was to describe the actual organization of the government, and then, of greatest importance to the citizens (the membership), it was NOT to tell the citizens what THEY COULD DO, but rather, quite the opposite, to describe the RESTRICTIONS PLACED ON GOVERNMENT POWER vis a vis the individual.

Most of those descriptions are in the Bill of Rights, including the one about property that you mentioned.

It's a very important issue to bring up, because as I mentioned, it was a grievous error that must be corrected one day, better sooner than later.

The Fifth Amendment goes on about a number of things - must be indicted by a Grand Jury prior to being tried for a capital offense... double jeopardy (that's on its way out)... due process... and THEN we get to the heart of this discussion: ". . .nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."

Yeah, right. THAT part is in tatters, too, because it is here that the Framers made an exception to the general rule, whereby the Constitution severely limits the powers of government vis a vis the citizen.

There IS NO JUST COMPENSATION for the forceable taking of property from an unwilling property owner. If property can be seized, then the property owner doesn't own it. Under NO circumstances, if the nature of rights and the whole issue of a moral code is properly understood, can a government EVER confiscate the private property of an individual, no matter HOW "benign" its purpose seems, even if it is for the "greater good" (which is a really corrupt concept).

It's way too long to support here, but our fundamental right, the right to life, is in jeopardy wherever the right to the ownership of property is compromised. I know it doesn't help much here, but I'll say this much: Our lives do not exist except in our material bodies, and our material bodies have an absolute requirement for material entities for their survival - food, shelter, etc.

IN NO WAY does this mean that we must be limited to a subsistence level of existence. I wish I didn't have to go so quickly, but at the bottom line, it means, that it is IMMORAL for anyone or any organization (organizations don't have rights, by the way, but that's another discussion) to seize property from an owner who is unwilling to enter into voluntary negotiations and transfer ownership upon arriving at a mutually agreeable price.

Without the absolute right to private property, we have no right to life; we live only at the discretion of the government. Sort of reminiscent of Kant, Hegel and Marx.

The Fifth Amendment may be the most collectivist Amendment in the whole Bill of Rights, and places a terribly dangerous foot in the door with respect to rights.

If it weren't for that particular error, Kelo vs. the State of Connecticut could not have begun pushing us down the slippery slope that has resulted in so many other illegitimate seizures, and which, without correction, will put us all in danger.

The Fifth Amendment - at least the "property" part of it - is anti-capitalist in the worst kind of way.

Personally, my very favorite Amendment is the Ninth: "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

The only problem with the Ninth is that just about nobody understands what a "right" is. I don't know where you had your schooling, but my guess is that you are no worse off than most Americans, who don't know squat about rights. That's why the Constitution is being so rapidly shredded these days.


Et, you want to have a try at defining a "right"?

If the thread doesn't get turned over by the time I can get back, I'll rant on about other things, but for now, I gotta go.

'Bye, all.