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“The Sickness of Secularism”

Hey, it looks like the protracted courtship between medieval reactionaries and left-wing academics is getting a bit randier! Lefty philosophers have a long and abject tradition of currying favor with religious fanatics. When Michel Foucault travelled to Tehran in 1978 … Read More

By / November 3, 2006

Hey, it looks like the protracted courtship between medieval reactionaries and left-wing academics is getting a bit randier!

Lefty philosophers have a long and abject tradition of currying favor with religious fanatics. When Michel Foucault travelled to Tehran in 1978 to lick at the feet of the ayatollahs, or when Stanley Fish writes about the admirable “authenticity” of takfiri Islam, these quisling-scholars are acting on a long-standing impulse among pomo academics in the West. Since 9/11, this trend has accelerated. Bigtime.

“Reason” is no better or truer than religious fundamentalism, the argument goes. Except, of course, when the religious fanaticism in question is of the Evangelical or Religious Zionist variety. Then it’s very very bad, and very very irrational. But provided the religious fanatics are dark of hue, then their worldview is no better or worse than ours.

Alas, no matter how much lefty academics lavish their attentions on fundamentalists, the affection never seems to be returned. When given the opportunity to reciprocate, as was the case after the Iranian revolution, the fundamentalists have a disconcerting habit of calling the lefties infidels, then killing them. It’s been a one-sided relationship. It must get discouraging for the academics.

But perhaps things are changing! Over at Comment is Free, the very pious Al Jazeera commentator Soumaya Ghannoushi rewards the affection of leftoid academics by spouting their philosophies in defense of her faith. A straight-from-the-sociology-department rant against reason as an aspect of Islamic apologetics. Seventh century theology meets relativist philosophy.

Ghannoushi tells us that “We do not have one but many rationalities,” that “there is no such thing an ahistoric reason.” People who feel otherwise are “victims of what may be referred to as a sick secularist consciousness.”

Blah blah blah. The advocates of reason are not so simplistic as caricatured by Ghannoushi or her fellow travelers in the academy. Four centuries ago, Francis Bacon, the ur-rationalist, was already very plainly acknowledging that “the mirror of reason” is clouded by an individual’s historical context. Ghannoushi or friends can shout furiously that reason-boosters have no awareness of the importance of historical context, but that won’t make it so.

Rationalists acknowledge that perspective matters. What they reject, though, is the notion that it’s just as plausible to believe that Moshe Rabbeynu received the complete Torah from Hashem at Sinai, or that Muhammad traveled to heaven on the back of magical flying horse, as it is to believe that a hydrogen atom has one proton. The last is falsifiable, the former two never will be. The last is backed by an avalanche of scientific evidence, the former two never will be. To argue that some truths transcend culture is not the same as arguing that culture is irrelevant.

Anyway, wherever you fall in this debate, you should know that Comment is Free has recently been the locus of a whole slew of fierce arguments about the fate of reason in the modern world. Ghannoushi’s is just the latest. If this stuff is your bag, then keep an eye on it…

 

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