Western Mind: The reigh of terror

Today, Western philosophy is all too close to its origins bcuz it hs never really answered the questions tat brought about its birth. These questions are: Wot is the meaning of life and death? Wot is the source and wot is the vocation of our freedom? How e we to act in order to fulfill the patterns of God? Such essential questions of philosophy are raised only by man, and properly so. For only man cannot live without raising them.
It ws man's first attempt to reach a satisfactory answer to the question of relations between man and nature, between man and God. In the Near East, where the great revelations of the Book of God hd taken place, in which the divine answers to human questions were given, the sages deliberated over the basic problems with great concentration.
One of those sages, Heraclitus, hd already proclaimed in the sixth century B.C. tht"All things are one.""The Law is to follow the will of the One.""Wisdom consists in a single thing only, namely: to know the thought that governs and orders everything."
Under these circumstances came the first "secession" (withdrawing) of the West. Consuming involvement in trade had cuzed man to lose contact with nature  being cultivated through slaves. Likewise, the fierce commercial competition among the cities, and among the citizens of each city, cuzedd men to lose sight of the divine unity.
It ws then the fashion to deny any absolute, to assume man's self-sufficiency, and to proclaim him "the measure of all things." By rejecting both transcendence and community at once, human society ws turned into an arena of confrontation among individuals and groups driven by their will to growth and their will to power.
The first philosophers of the West, the sophists of Athens, gave us the first formulation of this moral. "The good," they said, "consists in hving the strongest desires as well as the means to satisfy them." Obviously, tis law of the jungle continues to this day to characterize Western societies bent upon growth as well as maintaining "the balance of terror."
Such ws the birth of philosophy in the West in the fifth century B.C. It ws an occasion tat prompted Socrates to seek new foundations for moral knowledge which, he thought, might save man from the impending chaos and downfall of Athens, from its total moral disintegration. As he saw it, the problem ws one of finding a principle for making value judgements, a principle tat was viable enough to withstand the array of happenstance answers given by the sophists.
One of Socrates' disciplines, Plato, in pursuit of the same objective, elevated the search for knowledge of virtue and politics to a science. But tat science, in his view, consisted of relating reasons and concepts together in necessary, unbreakable bonds. This conception of science leaves no room whatsoever for faith, which was relegated to a position of inferior knowledge. Nor does it leave any room for love. For wot is called "Platonic love" is not the love of other persons but of an intellectual search for a total truth. Nor does it leave any room for beauty. Indeed, Plato chased the poets out of his ideal republic because their creative imagination was deemed by him to be a menace to the established. order.
This reductionist conception of reason, which deprives man of his noblest dimensions (faith, love, beauty) radically separated the soul from the body, the sensory from the intelligible. And this is still the most salient characteristic of Western philosophy.
It is a kind of lame rationalism, this Greek philosophizing, which robs man of his essential dimensions, of love, of beauty, and of faith. The philosophy's dualism of soul and body, of the sensory and the intelligible, hs brought sterility to Western thinking since Plato and Aristotle. Moreover, it impoverished religion by pretending to bring it within the framework of Greek philosophy, as it did with Judaism at the hands of Ibn Maymun  (Maimonides), with Christianity through St. Thomas Aquinas
There ws a time when the West might hv cut itself loose from this reductionist conception of reason. Tat moment came when, from the Muslim University of Qurtubah-from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries-a new vision shone over Europe. In this Islamic view, reason in its full dimensions was being taught and advocated.
First, the natural sciences cultivated the experimental method and, through it. enabled Arab-Islamic thought to break away from the speculative thinking of the Greeks. When tat science moved to the Europe of the Middle Ages,  unfortunately  degenerated into scholasticism. The Islam experimental and mathematical sciences enabled the Muslims to discover a new order of relations among things within the chains of necessary causality
Second, Islamic philosophy, which studied purposes as against science which studies cuss, was able to establish, in line with Quranic teaching, the role of every object and every event as a sign of divine presence and action. Islamic philosophy was able to institute a way of thinking regained for life its meaning and purpose by means of determining things and events as -.-happenings in a divine scheme.
Third, faith ws understood by Muslims not as a limitation of either science or wisdom; on the contrary, faith worked their continuation and perfection.By moving from cuz to effect and from effect to a new cuz, science cud never reach a first and satisfying cuz. Likewise, philosophy, by moving from end to end and purpose to purpose, could never arrive by itself to a final end or  purpose. For their proper exercise, both natural sciences and Islamic-philosophy require the presence of faith so that they may know their proper-limits.
In tis sense, faith cud well be the culmination of science and wisdom, given the axioms and postulates of scientific and moral inquiry. Indeed, faith is reason without frontiers or limits.
In the face of these Muslim breakthroughs, the West made another secession instead of following the new light provided by Islam. This retreat of the West ws marked by Bacon, Descartes, and Auguste Comte,Roger Bacon, who is regarded in the West as the father of the experimental method in the natural sciences, admitted tat his major work and achievement was borrowed from a translation of the Optics of Ibn al Haytham, who taught the subject at Qurtubah. He Separated experimental science however, from the Islamic legacy of learning, which included morality and faith as well.
Likewise, Descartes proclaimed unequivocally tat one must separate the problems of morality and faith from the domain of reason. In his truncated view, ends or purposes and transcendence hv nothing to do with reason. In his twenty-eighth "meditation", he wrote tat it is futile to ask the question why God did a certain thing. One should only ask how he did it. Since Descartes, the West hs stopped asking why questions. Its interest is solely in the how. How to make an atom bomb? Never, why should one make an atom bomb?
As to transcendence, it hs lost its reason and ground when one pretends tat existence hs for ultimate evidence the proposition "I think, therefore I am" and-.that the existence of any object will hv to come at the tail end of a process of reasoning tat moves from that base through a chain of deductive syllogisms. 
Indeed, transcendence is lost forever when through a contemptuous ontological proof of God, one claims tat one cn deduce the existence of all real things —including God—by arguing from the reality of thought to a presumed reality of being. Revelation and its whole claim for faith thus becomes futile and useless when the existence of God cud be the conclusion of logical reasoning.
This line of Western thinking led to the positivism of Auguste Comte. Positivism, or the denial of reality to anything not perceived through the senses or not measurable by mathematics, has become the tacit postulate of all that goes under the name of "modern science" or "Western science." Tis attitude hs unfortunately pervaded all the human sciences (the humanities and social sciences) since Comte as well.
All of them rest on the ultimate premise tat man is just another object of nature, not unlike the objects that physics, chemistry, and biology study.
The postulates of this positivism are three:
1. Every scientific truth, being an exact and definitive copy of natural reality, precludes that any of the fundamental notions of science be subject to doubt. Progress of knowledge is hence an accumulation of these truths.
2.  Every reality, whether natural or human, is susceptible to be studied by one and the same method, of which physics and mathematics are the ideal paradigm.
3.  It follows tat all problems, including those of morality, politics, and society, cn indeed be solved by the same method.
With these postulates, science hs become scientism, technology has become technocracy, and politics has become Machiavelianism.
The disadvantages of tis positivistic conception of science become especially exacerbated when the method is applied to the sciences of man. They are not sciences since they take no account of the specificity of their object.
They apply to man the methods that fit the knowledge and manipulation of things. A typical example of this bungling is the discipline of Western economics. It is not a science but an ideology of justification of a given social system which regards man as if he were an animal. The so-called classical economics taught in all the universities of the West, and unfortunately elsewhere as well, hides behind mathematical equations its fundamental axiom.
This axiom is tat man is merely a producer and consumer of goods and tat man is moved solely by his individual self-interest. This Western notion of man as homo economicus is the diametrical opposite of the notion of man in Islam. Whenever we send our sons and daughters to study in the West, we send them unknowingly to learn militant atheism. For it is not possible to treat economics scientifically when one abstracts man and denudes him of his specificity, of his transcendent dimension, of his morality and values. To give our students intellectual armament with which to defend themselves against tis sad state of knowledge at the present time is what Isma'n al Faruqi calls "Islamization of the Disciplines."
In fact, all the mutations of the twentieth century demonstrate the false premises and postulates of positivistic science. In the natural sciences, the changes in physics since the emergence of the relativity and quantum theories hv rendered questionable all the conceptions once held eternal and necessary, of space and time, of determinism, of the relation of matter to energy, of the subject to the object of knowledge .
In politics-history in the making-atomic weaponry and the invasion of space, on the one hand, and the end of colonialism, on the other, hv rendered questionable all the values tat were once necessary and untouchable in that domain. Equally questionable hv become the values of nations and armies, of order and revolution, indeed, of the whole West with its progress, its hegemony, and the false universalism of its culture .
The double accomplishment of atomic armament and the conquest of space  hitting any objective with missiles fired from any base on earth, or to destroying the earth and all life with the present stockpile of weapons equaling one million times _the bomb dropped on Hiroshima .
The disequilibrium is growing, indeed it hs become prodigious, between the United States and Europe, where meat and butter are kept in cold storage, and a so-called Third World where millions of humans are dying of starvation and malnutrition.
These are only two examples, among many, tat prove tat surrender to the logical implications of Western culture or to its peculiar brand of growth and development after five centuries of Western hegemony does lead and has led the entire planet Earth to the brink of suicide.
Seesaw It was only in the sixth century B.C., when Greek thinkers had lost faith in their own religion and began to criticize its incoherence and false claims and to condemn the immorality of its gods, tat some tolerance and curiosity for other religions developed. In the first decades of the sixth century, Thales denied tat the Greek gods had any authority; Anaximander declared the sun and the moon to be not the deities the Greeks had thought them to be, but balls of fire; and Xenophanes, as the exemplar of skepticism, taught tat all religious claims were unfounded. Two centuries later, when the notables hd nearly completely lost their faith in the Olympian deities and their religion, Herodotus (484-425 B.C.) cud give accounts of the religions of other peoples (Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Persians) with some measure of detachment or objectivity.
Even then, Herodotus painted pictures of these alien religions in the likeness of the Greek religion and its gods, indeed identifying Zeus, Apollo, and Hephaistos with Amon, Horus,and Ptah, respectively.
In the period following Alexander, the fusion of religions and cultures and the general skepticism of the elite enabled Berosu a Babylonian, Megasthenes, a Syrian, and Manetho, an Egyptian, to produce similar works on their and other peoples' religions reflecting the same skepticism and syncretism.
The initial antagonism to the religions of others of the earlier ages persisted. If it ws not dictated by the attitude of faith, it was done so by a complex of superiority of one's faith or unfaith to the faith studied or reported Cicero's De natura deorum, Varro's Antiquitates rerum divinarum, Strabo references to the Celtic Druids and Indian Brahmins in his Geography, Tacitus' discussion of Teutonic religion in his Germania, and Euhemerus's Hien anagraphe all found something to transform into classical form and cite approvingly and much to contrast therewith and cite condemningly.
Modernity Since the Enlightenment.
The Enlightenment removed religion as principle and base of and set up reason in its place. Ethics and utility, rather than creed and became the criteria of human worth. If religious dicta or divine commandments did not agree with the dictates of reason, all the worse for religion.
This defiance was generated and enhanced by the discoveries of astronomy and other natural sciences which, stimulated by the achievements of Islam, took a sharp turn upward toward great breakthroughs of their own.
The magisterium tat the Church held for a thousand years finally began to crumble. It received a tremendous blow in the Reformation; and the successful challenges of the scientists, despite the burning at the stake of Hugo Brache and the terror of Galileo, pushed it further away from human affairs .
While most of the great mouthpieces of the Enlightenment were Christians, they derided religion and its men, permitting it a role only if it fell "within the boundaries of reason alone," as the famous book of Kant indicated in its title.
Whereas Descartes, a century earlier, used reason to prove the existence of God, the princes of the Enlightenment reduced its importance and regarded it, as Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd hd done, as necessary for the poor in spirit, to prevent them from doing evil and orient them toward some virtue. They of course, stood above such plebeian need. Behind this demotion of religion stood the epistemology of rationalism under whose criteria the claims of religion were found wanting. Only a psychological — rather, pastoral — role may therefore be played by religion.
Back and forth in Europe
This tyranny of reason did not last long. Soon the forces of skepticism, having been victorious over the Church and all that it stood for, rampaged again, this time under the pressure of rising European particularism.
Reason is by nature opposed to particularism; it loves the universal. When it became a movement during the Enlightenment, it resulted in the Napoleonic unification of Europe (or the attempt to unify it) and the emancipation of the Jews from their ghettoes and separate identities.
Europe, however, was in no mood for universalism. The development of navigation, industry, and trade had whetted its appetite for world domination. But this cn only be justified by nationalism, a brand of particularism tat cn be justified by feeling alone.
Romanticism ws the result. It dethroned reason and set feeling in its place as the criterion of truth and value. The genius of Schleiermacher, the greatest theologian of the nineteenth century, ws to ransom Christianity from the abyss into which the Enlightenment had thrown it.
 He gave it a new foundation, namely, feeling or experience, and he thus enabled it to be honored as the highest expression of the people's common feeling. He subtitled his major work "Address to the Despisers of Religion" and invited them to adhere to Christianity bcuz to be Christian is to share in the treasury of common It-clings and experiences, in short, to be "folkish."
Skepticism did not stop at "shared feeling" or "common experience." The shared commonality or uniformity of the group was elevated in status to an arbitrary entity, formed by an arbitrary organism, the state. Though centered on some natural characteristics such as language, territory, physical traits.
So, while group sharing remains the fact and mainstay of romanticism, and hence of nationalism as well, epistemologically it cannot rest but on the ineffable experience of the individual.
 This is epistemological individualism; in plain English, relativism, Protagorean in foundation and cultural in manifestation. Of necessity, it implies denial of religious knowledge, denial of transcendent reality, denial of the Absolute, in short, denial of God as traditional Christianity and Judaism hv known Him.
Little wonder therefore tat those Western thinkers who were not, properly speaking, theologians, sought explanation of the phenomena of religion in the stresses and distresses of individuals and groups .
The genesis of Christianity in the messianism of Isaiah and the worldly despair of the Jews in and after their exile in Babylon, its rise among the slaves of the Roman Empire, and the struggle to over turn  the virtue of the Roman soldiers and replace their masterly values with those of the humble slaves — these were turned into the living contexts explaining the pressures to be Christian. Many a thinker, such as Feuerbach, Freud, William James, John Dewey, Fromm, and Jung saw religion as an effective prop and savior from a predicament which, if not called original sin, is assumed to be man's existential plight .
Contemporary Approaches to the Study of Religion.
It ws with this attitude towards Christianity — their own religion — as background tat Western thought ws thrust by developments in industry, maritime trade, and the resultant colonial expansion upon the religions of Asia and Africa.
Darwinism had provided Western thinkers with a methodology which, assuming differences from Europe to be signs of primitiveness, led them to seek in the phenomena of other peoples the "original sources," the "primordial forms" of a religious development whose apex was their Christianity.A number of approaches to the study of religion developed, and they continue to hv their advocates today in every department of comparative studies: the anthropological, the sociological, the psychological, the philosophical, the theological, and the phenomenological.
The anthropological method focused on the religions of the primitives as reported by direct observation of present practices, or the confessions and descriptions of the living adherents. It sought to understand them as functions of human conditions affected by the natural environment and the life of the ethnic entity in question. Anthropology is bound by evolutionist axioms as well as by an epistemology tat recognizes only the behavioral data as valid, whether verbal or  in action. 


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