Friday, May 20, 2005

Islam, Aristotle, and Hobbes?

I don't think TVD took to well to my posting of Hugh Fitzgerald's commentary on the "Golden Age of Islam." Last night TVD sent me an email with a link to an article which touts the philosophy of a Turkish thinker named Al-Farabi. From what I can gather from the article, Al-Farabi sounds like an independant and nuanced thinker. However, that doesn't mean I have to like his ideas. I have immense respect for the thinking of Nietzche, but I do not like his philosophy.

Anyway, here is an excerpt from the article:

"Like Hobbes, he saw in the universe a continual struggle where the strong triumphed over the weak. It appeared to him necessary that the strong and the weak should come to an understanding with each other in order to survive, anarchy being the only other outcome. To sum up, he believed that man had created society by a voluntary agreement. He thus revealed himself to be the distant precursor of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his Social Contract.

Al-Farabi was a determinist as far as nature was concerned. This was a consequence of his metaphysical doctrine, founded on the belief that God was a necessary Being, and that He gave His creation only to Himself. Al-Fârâbî perceived creation in the same way as Plato, God being neither nature, creative and without conscience, nor an arbitrary will. God, the One, created Intelligence, and also the heavens, from the empyrean level to the sub-lunar universe that we inhabit, this material universe being subject to births and changes. "

Here is my response:

This essay is written in philosophical shorthand. But, let's break it down a bit.

First off, to say that Al-Farabi is "like Hobbes" is absurd, because he predates Hobbes by several hundred years. It could be that his philosophy actually contained similar tenets. However, that is not demonstrated here. In fact, the idea that the universe is "a continual struggle where the strong triumphed over the weak," is an expression of


The word Jihad means "struggle." It is usually interpreted by modern Islamic scholars to mean the strong (dar al-islam) stuggling against, or making war on the weak (dar al-harb, the infidels). So, how exactly is Al-Farabi's philosophy different from modern Islamofascism in this case? It is not shown to be any different in this article?

And indeed, the idea that the strong and weak need to come to "an understanding with each other in order to survive, anarchy being the only other outcome."

Well, that is dhimmitude.

It could be that Al-Farabi made some fine distinctions which put his ideas far from the more dominating ideas of Islamofascism, but as presented here, I see no evidence of it.

As I said, this essay is written in philosophical shorthand. It could be that the author has shortchanged Al-Farabi.

The comparison between Al-Farabi and Plato's ideas, once again, demonstrates no clear distinction between Al-Farabi and what we know of Islam in general. However, in this case, there is nothing Fascist about Al-Farabi's ideas. The idea that God is wholly beyond the universe is a uniquely Islamic idea. The Judeo-Christian God is tied to His Creation by His love for it. Additionally, He created it for His Glory. In both these ways, He has Need of His Universe.

The Hindu and Buddhist God, of course, in no way supersedes His Universe because He Is the Universe.

So, there are distinctions between Islam, and Hindu/Buddhism and Judeo-Christianity. These distinction need to be looked at clearly, and acknowledged.

Now, the Islamic view that God entirely supersedes His Universe is a very Aristotelian idea. I will give you that. God is wholly apart and He is, therefore, capable of absolute analysis, using absolute logic. Since He has no need of His universe, he is not tied into a perceiver/perceived relationship, but, instead, He is wholly Other. This, as I say, allows for absolute analysis.

The problem is, other than through the Koran, Muslims have no access to the Mind of God. The Koran is the absolute and final revelation. All knowledge must work with the Koran, and can not supersede the Koran.

The fact that Muslims have no access to the Mind of God means that they do not have the absolute ability for logic that their God does. They can not trust their analysis, but instead need to check it against the Koran. It is possible, however, for an individual Muslim to decide that he does have the ability for logic, and obviously, individual Muslims can accomplish great things.

The Christian view of the world, with a God who is intimately involved with His Universe, determines, that while there is not an absolute ability for logic, there is an ongoing ability for revelation, tied to analysis. But this analysis, as i say is not an absolutely logical analysis, in theory.

However, Christians have gotten around this by overlaying Greek philosophy, with it's dualistic nature onto Christian civilization. This overlaying of dualism onto Judeo-Christian view of the world has served Western Civilization well. But, it is coming to an end, I believe. Science is teaching us that there is no absolute distinction between perceiver and perceived. This, I think, will eventually lead to a paradigm shift in thought, which I can not envision, but it seems inevitable.

However, that is just loose speculation on my part.

The reality is that while, in theory, the Judeo-Christian God does not have an absolute ability to analyze His own Universe because of His Need of it, He did create it in the first place, and thus has absolute control over it, which is, I'm guessing, even better than an ability for absolute analysis.