The Pale God examines the relationship between secularism and religious tradition. It begins with a description of the secular options as expressed by Israeli intellectuals, and describes how these options have led to a dead end. A new option must be sought, and one of the key sources for this option is the works of Spinoza. The author explains that unlike Nietzsche, who discussed "the death of God," Spinoza tried to undermine the authority of religious virtuosos and establish the (...) image of a rational "Pale God." Such changes could channel religious tradition to the basic principles of secular political rule. The author demonstrates that the secular option is inherent in Israeli society, fits the type of secularism that Zionism instilled in the Jewish people, and complements the traditional trends deeply rooted in that society. (shrink)
This book uses the writings of Syed Alam Khundmiri to look at issues such as: Islamic traditionalism in the context of meodernization; Islamic theology and politics; and Western and Indian notions of secularism.
This article challenges Philip Kitcher’s recent proposals for an ‘enlightened secularism’. I use William James’s theory of the emotions and his related discussion of ‘temperaments’ to argue that religious and naturalistic commitments are grounded in tacit, inarticulate ways that one finds oneself in a world. This indicates that, in many cases, religiosity and naturalism are grounded not in rational and evidential considerations, but in a tacit and implicit sense of reality which is disclosed through phenomenological enquiry. Once the foundational (...) role of these temperaments is appreciated, it emerges that enlightened secularism relies upon a facile conception of the nature of religious belief – one that lessens its chances for success. The article ends with some positive proposals for incorporating phenomenological insights into debates about science, religion, and secularism. (shrink)
Philip Kitcher has recently proposed a form of ‘cosmopolitan secularism’ which he suggests could enable the members of a future secular society to continue to access and benefit from the moral and existential resources of the world’s religions. I criticise this proposal by appeal to contemporary work on the role of emotion and practice in religious commitment. Using the work of John Cottingham and Mark Wynn, two objections are offered to the cosmopolitan secularists’ claim that the moral resources of (...) a religion could be both preserved by and employed within a secular society whose members lack emotional commitment to and practical engagement with the religions in question. I conclude that, pace Kitcher, cosmopolitan secularism cannot fulfil its promise to preserve the moral resources of religion in the absence of genuine religious traditions and communities. (shrink)
Is goodness without god good enough? A debate on faith, secularism, and ethics Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11153-010-9243-8 Authors Wes Morriston, University of Colorado, Boulder Department of Philosophy Boulder CO 80309-0232 USA Journal International Journal for Philosophy of Religion Online ISSN 1572-8684 Print ISSN 0020-7047.
This article is intended to advance conceptual clarity on the topic of secularism in Muslim societies. It seeks to uncover unique historical developments that have influenced and shaped debate on this topic. In the first part, a distinction is made between the different social scientific categories of secularism, focusing on the philosophical, sociological and political dimensions of secularism. The second section provides a broad overview of the different histories of political secularism, and focuses on the two (...) dominant models that have been bequeathed to us from the Western tradition of political thought: Anglo-American secularism and French secularism ( laïcité ). In the final section, the political history of Muslim societies is briefly explored with the goal of providing a tentative answer to the question: historically, why did political secularism not emerge in Muslim societies? (shrink)
Extension of the system that includes the key substrates for sensation, perception, emotion, volition, and cognition, and all representational sources for cognition, supports the view that there is an extended mind and an extended body. These intellectual views can be made practical in a humanist system based on extensions and in religious systems based on extensions. Independently, there is also an institutional extension of secularism. Hence, I maintain, there are five principal forms of extension.
This article deals with the impact of the free, democratic and peaceful accession to power of the Islamic Justice and Development Party (JDP) in Turkey on the Arab world in general and on the Islamic currents active in Arab societies in particular. A main point is looking into how Arab political formations and especially political Islam are trying to make sense out of such recent developments in Turkey as: (1) the fact that traditionally reviled Turkish secularism, Kemalism and westernism (...) could produce a democratic form of political Islam capable of winning free elections and ruling Turkey without a catastrophe befalling the whole polity; and (2) the fact that an Islamic JDP is the most eager proponent of Turkey’s membership in the secular EU, while the traditional staunch military guardian of Turkish secularism is now the main obstructor of the drive for EU membership. (shrink)
This article analyses how recent critiques of secularism in political philosophy and cultural anthropology might productively be combined and contrasted with each other. I will show that Jürgen Habermas' postsecularism takes insufficient account of elementary criticisms of secularism on the part of anthropologists such as Talal Asad and Saba Mahmood. However, I shall also criticize Saba Mahmood’s reading of secularism by arguing that, in the end, she replaces the secular–religious divide with a secularity–piety divide; for example, in (...) her reading of Nasr Abu Zayd’s secular Islamic hermeneutics. This inhibits the use of her framework of analysis for a criticism of a problem central to Habermas' postsecularism, namely that it remains focused on specific intensities of belief. I shall then argue that, combined with the anthropological critiques of the secular, the political-historical nature of the fanaticism–piety–violence nexus should be integrated into political philosophical debates on secularism and postsecularism. (shrink)
Abstract After defining three broad positions adopted in the long?standing French polemic about secularism and education, and suggesting that they correspond to different attitudes to the state's sanctioning of consensus in a pluralist society, the author describes how the traditional boundaries between conflicting positions have been blurred by interventionist policies in education as well as by the evolution of Catholic attitudes. Illustrating his comments from recent controversies in France, he suggests that future discussion of the secularist issue may be (...) more closely related to the actual content of the curriculum, especially in its social and moral aspects, than to the rehearsal of traditional grievances. (shrink)
The contemporary secularism is found to be a philosophy of life “as if there were no God” or a kind of ideology, which demands an absolute autonomy of human being to shape his destination. In the philosophy of Descartes at least three sources of secularism could be found: his theory of cognition which resulted in developing other than the classical concept of truth and rationality; his metaphysics; his arguments for the existence of God and in his concept of (...) the nature of God. Karl Marx’s criticism of religion was a next powerful factor on the advance of secularism. Marx makes the charge against the religion that it acts to reinforce the break down the conscience of man living in the modern society, into a public and a private realm. The widest criticism of religion was made by Marx in: Acontribution to the Hegel’s criticism on the philosophy of law”. Especially its first seven paragraph, are particularly important in view of the advance of secularism. F. Nietzsche undermines metaphysics by showing that knowledge of a non-empirical world is cognitively superfluous. He makes clear that he has moved beyond the assumption that there might be a metaphysical world to a positing of the empirical world as the only one. Nietzsche considers that the notion of God is inimical to human nature and human life. Is this really so in reality? Is Nietzsche’s consideration about God and religion in any way applicable to our own age? (shrink)
I explicate and argue for a way of looking at life, and responding to it, that is uncompromisingly secularist. It is an atheism and a social naturalism: a distinctive form of naturalism that I argue answers better than religious orientations or “scientific” forms of naturalism to both our cognitive interests and to our moral and political and other affective interests. It is a thoroughly anti-metaphysical naturalism rejecting metaphysical realism and physicalism without taking an antirealistor dualist turn. How it is a (...) social naturalism is explained and defended as well as the senses in which it is non-scientistic, historicist, and contextualist. It will alsoseek to make clear what really grips some religiously sensitive people, even people fully attuned to modernity, about religion and then to show how we can live full well and even flourishingly without religion. However, I do not only argue that we can so live, but that we should so live. We should be secularists all the way down. (shrink)
Iris Murdoch and moral philosophy -- Understanding the other: a Gadamerian view on conceptual schemes -- Language not mysterious? -- Celan and the recovery of language -- Nationalism and modernity -- Conditions of an unforced consensus on human rights -- Democratic exclusion (and its remedies?) -- Religious mobilizations -- Themes from a secular age -- The immanent counter-enlightenment -- Notes on the sources of violence: perennial and modern -- The future of the religious past -- Disenchantment-re-enchantment -- What does (...) class='Hi'>secularism mean? -- Die blosse Vernunft ("reason alone") -- Perils of moralism -- What was the Axial revolution? (shrink)
Amarnath Amarasingham, ed., Religion and the New Atheism: A Critical Appraisal. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2010. xv + 253 pp. ISBN 978-9-0041-8557-9, hardback £81.00/€139.00/$190.00. Religion and the New Atheism: A Critical Appraisal brings together scholars from a variety of disciplines (religious studies, sociology of religion, sociology of science, philosophy and theology) in order to critically engage with so-called ‘new atheism’. The study is a collection of essays that not so much gives primacy to discrediting the limited scholarship of new atheist (...) literature (although there is plenty of powerful critique to be found in its pages) but demonstrates where we can place new atheism in relation to generally more informed and intellectually rigorous debates about religion and atheism. This review essay examines their powerful arguments and briefly introduces possible Bhaskarian, Hegelian and Darwinian-Marxian contributions to the case against new atheism. (shrink)
Jewish ethics like Judaism itself has often been charged with being "particularistic," and in modernity it has been unfavorably compared with the universality of secular ethics. This charge has become acute philosophically when the comparison is made with the ethics of Kant. However, at this level, much of the ethical rejection of Jewish particularism, especially its being beholden to a God who is above the universe to whom this God prescribes moral norms and judges according to them, is also a (...) rejection of Christian (or any other monotheistic) ethics, no matter how otherwise universal. Yet this essay argues that Jewish ethics that prescribes norms for all humans, and that is knowable by all humans, actually constitutes a wider moral universe than does Kantian ethics, because it can include non-rational human objects and even non-human objects altogether. This essay also argues that a totally egalitarian moral universe, encompassing all human relations, becomes an infinite, totalizing universe, which can easily become the ideological justification (ratio essendi) of a totalitarian regime. (shrink)
Prof. H. Odera Oruka started the sage philosophy project, in which he interviewed wise elders in Kenyan rural areas to show that Africans could philosophize. He intended to create a “national culture” by drawing upon sages from different ethnic groups and he downplayed religious differences, as did Kwame Nkrumah, who had a similar goal of building “national culture” in Ghana. Both projects were secular insofar as they preferred to emphasize rationality and downplay religious belief or “superstition” as backward and needing (...) to be cast off. I deal with one apparent counter-example: at the burial trial for S. M. Otieno, Odera Oruka seemed to defend the traditional Luo belief of spirits. I note, however, that Odera Oruka is evasive and indirect in how he answers the questions and his responses could be due to his wanting to appear connected to his rural compatriots, a value explained by Frantz Fanon in his treatment of the topic of national culture. The paper concludes by alluding to extensive interviews done with the sages from Kenya on topics related to religious beliefs and practices, during which sages subject those beliefs and practices to rational scrutiny. (shrink)
In this article, using the recent work by Charles Taylor in A Secular Age as my point of departure, I will argue that Jean-Luc Nancy enables us to think past the competing binary of atheistic and religious experience and allows us to surpass the present narratives of secularism. In A Secular Age, Taylor himself seeks a middle ground between atheism and religion, arguing that it is possible to open ourselves to the cross-pressures of modern existence that find us caught (...) between scientific atheism and a need for spiritual and religious guidance. Here, Taylor finds a way of picturing ourselves within a secular age, remaining faithful to scientific rationalism, but still open to religion and a sense of a higher good. However, as I shall demonstrate, in his thesis Taylor misrepresents the Continental philosophical tradition (particularly Nietzsche and post-structuralism) that has itself sought to understand these cross-pressures of existence. Taking this misrepresentation, and specifically his reductive and colloquial analysis of Nietzsche, Camus, and Derrida, as my point of departure, I provide an alternative manner of thinking through the work of these writers, one that leads to a detailed analysis of Jean-Luc Nancy and his project the deconstruction of Christianity. In this analysis I argue that Nancy provides a manner of thinking that remains open and allows an experience of freedom, without seeking to close that sense of openness with explanation, nor maintaining that sense of openness with a conception of the divine. (shrink)
This book provides a distinctive account of Edward Said's critique of modern culture by highlighting the religion-secularism distinction on which it is predicated. This distinction is both literal and figurative. It refers, on the one hand, to religious traditions and to secular traditions and, on the other hand, to tropes that extend the meaning and reference of religion and secularism in indeterminate ways. The author takes these tropes as the best way of organizing Said's heterogeneous corpus - from (...) Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography, his first book, to Orientalism, his most influential book, to his recent writings on the Palestinian question. The religion-secularism distinction, as an act of imagination and narrative continuity, lies behind Said's cultural criticism, his notion of intellectual responsibility, and his public controversy with Michael Walzer about the meaning and the uses of the Exodus story and about the question of Palestine. (shrink)
How secularism lost its soul -- Why belief belongs in public life (and unbelievers should be glad) -- Spinoza's guide to theocracy -- Why there are no religions of the book -- Has God found science? -- Darwin made me do it -- Original virtue -- The search for the theory of everyone -- Ethics from below -- The Umma and the community of conscience -- The future is openness.
Halfway down one wall of the Wren Chapel at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, is a plaque in honor of Bishop James Madison, who is often confused with his more famous cousin, James Madison, author of the U.S. Constitution, co-author of the Federalist Papers, and the fourth President of the United States. Though they pursued separate careers—Bishop Madison as an Anglican minister, a leading scientist, and an extraordinary academic administrator, and Founder Madison as a secular reformer, (...) a superb statesman, and one of the most sophisticated democratic theorists in history—the plaque could hardly honor one without the other, so interlinked were both their legacies to the College, religious freedom, and American democracy. (shrink)
The failure of theistic morality -- Ethical inquiry -- The common moral decencies -- Excelsior : the ethics of excellence -- Responsibilities -- Education for character and cognition -- Human rights -- Privacy -- The tree of life.
In this essay I elaborate on the theoretical framework – that of Millian liberalism – that Max Charlesworth brought to many public issues, including that of the relation between education and religion. I will then apply this framework to a debate in which I have been recently involved myself: a debate around the provision of religious instruction in public schools. In the first section I expound Charlesworth’s rejection of secularism in education in a liberal pluralist state and his defence (...) of faith-based schooling. In the second section I uncover the religious motivations behind the Victorian government’s 1950 amendments to the apparently secularist Victorian Education Act of 1872. In section three, I explore the notion of secularism more fully and suggest that the struggle between those who espouse religious instruction in state schools and those who oppose it while advocating a more general form of education about religion is a symptom of a deeper tension between liberalism and communitarianism within the culture of modernist, liberal states. (shrink)
In a beautiful recent essay, the philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong explains the reasons for his departure from evangelical Christianity, the religious culture in which he was brought up. Sinnot-Armstrong contrasts the interpretive methods used by good philosophers and fundamentalist believers: Good philosophers face objections and uncertainties. They follow where arguments lead, even when their conclusions are surprising and disturbing. Intellectual honesty is also required of scholars who interpret philosophical texts. If I had distorted Kant’s view to make him reach a conclusion (...) that I preferred, then my philosophy professor would have failed me. The contrast with religious reasoning is stark. My Christian friends seemed happy to hide serious problems in the Bible and in their arguments. They preferred comfort to intellectual honesty. I couldn’t. To what extent can we, historians of philosophy, claim the virtue of intellectual honesty? Speaking frankly, I do not find the practice criticized by Sinnot-Armstrong’s philosophy professor rare or unusual at all. We very frequently distort the views of past philosophers in order to reach the conclusions we prefer. We just call it “Charitable Interpretation.” In this essay, I discuss and criticize the logic behind so-called charitable interpretations in the history of philosophy. This phenomenon is ubiquitous and is not at all restricted to a particular philosophical strand or ideology. Analytic philosophers and post-modernists, Marxists, liberals, secularists, and fundamentalists, we all engage in the very same domestication project. Even more disturbing than the sheer ideological pervasiveness of this phenomenon is the fact that, on many occasions, superb philosophers and historians take part in this fairly childish endeavor. In the first part of this essay, I discuss the general logic of charitable interpretations in the history of philosophy, mostly by addressing discussions in metaphysics and epistemology. In the second part, I focus on the somewhat less noticed use of charitable interpretations in the study of political philosophy, and point out the quintessential role ideology plays in these discussions. In both parts, I concentrate mostly on the interpretation of Spinoza’s thought. I do so not because I have special fondness for Spinoza (“guilty as charged,” I admit), but because Spinoza is such a beast (and may I add, an enchanting beast) and attracts a disproportionate share of the domestication efforts from historians and philosophers of all creeds and persuasions. In the third and final part of the paper, I will begin to outline an alternative methodology, which suggests that past philosophers can be most relevant to our current philosophical discussion, to the extent that they provide us with well-motivated challenges to our common-sense beliefs. Such challenges have the invaluable virtue of being able to undermine our most fundamental and secure beliefs, and force us to engage with the most fundamental questions. What more can we expect from good philosophy? (shrink)
Many people today believe that scientific and religious approaches to morality are mutually incompatible. Militant secularists claim scientific backing for their claim that the evolution of morality discredits religious conceptions of ethics. Some of their opponents respond with unhelpful apologetics based on fundamentalist views of revelation. This article attempts to provide an alternative option. It argues that public discussion has been excessively influenced by polemics generated by the new atheists. Religious writers have too often resorted to overly simplistic arguments rooted (...) in literalist approaches to the Bible and the religious traditions. More historically conscious methods can avoid implausible claims about both religion and science. (shrink)
I argue against Rawls's claim that the liberal principle of legitimacy would be selected in the original position in addition to a democratic principle. Since a religious democracy could satisfy the democratic principle, the parties in the original position would not exclude it as illegitimate.
This book is concerned with the rationality and plausibility of the Muslim faith and the Quran, and in particular how they can be interogated and understood through western analytical philosophy. It is also explores how Islam can successfully engage with the challenges posed by secular thinking. The Quran and the Secular Mind will be of interest to students and scholars of Islamic philosophy, philosophy of religion, Middle East studies, and political Islam.
Une invitation, reçue au début de l’automne 2011, à intervenir dans la séance du 7 mars 2012 d’un séminaire tenu à l’EHESS sur l’islamophobie, a été l’occasion de traiter de « l’affaire Gouguenheim » plus de trois ans après son irruption dans la sphère médiatique. Cette nouvelle lecture d’Aristote au Mont Saint-Michel a permis de mettre en évidence l’importance que Sylvain Gouguenheim attribue à un texte du haut Moyen Age pour suivre la diffusion de l’hellénisme dans l’Europe latine. Il s’agit (...) d’une lettre adressée par le pape Paul 1er à Pépin le Bref. Ce document, le plus souvent négligé par les latinistes en raison de ses obscurités, a excité la sagacité des hellénistes, qui ont très majoritairement montré la difficulté d’en tirer des informations positives. La situation est singulière, si l’on se souvient que, pour l’essentiel, ce sont des latinistes et des arabisants qui ont mené la charge contre les impostures gouguenheimiennes. À la faveur de ce cas d’espèce, « l’affaire Gouguenheim » jette une lumière crue sur la place dérisoire que, pour des raisons historiques, l’enseignement supérieur accorde en France à la philosophie médiévale. Le scandale repose, certes, sur les manipulations d’un agrégé d’histoire ; mais il dévoile aussi l’une des lacunes de l’institution universitaire hexagonale dans l’enseignement de la philosophie médiévale. (shrink)
In this follow-up to Infinitely Demanding, a professor of philosophy, delving into questions of faith, love, religion and violence, discusses how the secular age has been replaced by a new era of politcal action and metaphysical conflict.
The semiotic investigation of the divine or transcendent authoriality of religious law involves, in the context of discussions concerning the propriety or impropriety of the influence of religion in “secular” political and legal systems, preliminary boundary work to discern the meanings of “religion”, “secular”, and “belief.” Jeremy Waldron’s account of the propriety of religion in “secular” politics, mirroring but reversing John Rawls’ account of religion’s impropriety in that context, can be contrasted with neo-Calvinist (and other) conceptions of pluralism and the (...) inevitability of fundamental “beliefs” in all political and legal thought. In the latter perspectives, religious believers are neither unique in their appeal to transcendent values, nor relegated to advancing theocracy (because pluralism is conceived as a religious value rather than religion’s opposite). A workable alternative to the conventional discourse of religious influence in politics and law is therefore evident. (shrink)
This book brings together the ideas of a number of contemporary modernist and liberal Muslim thinkers, exposing an important intellectual current in Islamic thought which will be new to many Western readers. Responding to the challenges brought by colonialism and modernization, the contributors propose new conceptions and interpretations of Islam consonant with the age. Although their specific concerns and emphases vary, they all reconsider the relation between religion and politics and the incorporation of modern Western ideas.