Huxley, Orwell And The Challenge Islam Faces

Electronic media have a decentralizing effect.  They permit every single individual to be a center without margins.  There is no analogue in the natural world that can challenge its scope or authority.  The problem is when we permit such innovation to eclipse the human person.  Technological innovation is not an object, it's a relation.  I often think that progress itself is dependent on a false view of human freedom itself.  Given the political and theological problems intrinsic to contemporary Islam, technological innovation and its erroneous vision viewing the human person as an appendage to consumption is perhaps the greatest intellectual threat facing the West today.

How can it be fixed?

Return to natural law.  And in so doing we eradicate an extrinsic view of human personhood that dominates both a consumerist West and militant Islam by effectively reorienting components of both the Enlightenment and Reformation.

What is the relevance of this threat?

The West continues to view the human person as an appendage to both production and consumption.  Radical militant Islam views the human person along juridical lines of thought, eliminating 'ontological' questions that dominated both Islam and the West for a thousand years.

Leo Strauss arrived at his most formidable thought in examining Medieval Islam, especially its theoretical foundations absolving philosophical rigor for a monolithic theology that is today's militant vision.  Huxley and Orwell provided the much needed philosophical writings the west required in dealing with the offspring that was the Enlightenment and Reformation:  for Orwell it was the social and political impact of Marxian militant centralization, in Huxley it was the impact of efficiency under the guise of benevolent governance.  Both perspectives have epistemological and moral consequences that if quarried can help moderate Islam as it wrestles with the intellectual enormity that is today's militancy.

The challenge facing Islam today?  Discover the dangers of eliminating philosophical thinking.  Discover reason and its import for faith.

The political consequences in eliminating reason is disastrous:  Islam will usher in a Nuclear Totalitarian State, embracing the dystopic vision enumerated by both Orwell and Huxley.

The current canard that Israel cannot be both Jewish and Democratic reveals a most pernicious apocalyptic vision of political craft.  It permits us to understand the Totalitarian Vision that motivates the Islamists.

The Islamists advocation for Israeli self identification along purely libertarian lines is disingenuous and hypocritical.  Such advocacy has no relation whatever to the political or historical practices of any nation.  This advocacy reveals the shortest path to militant domination.  It also permits the impact of a rising Zionism, one primarily informed from natural law.

Can religious and ethnic heritage violate democratic principals?

Yes, if natural law does not inform how we define personhood!  This is the current problem for Islam.

The larger question of the current status of Arabs in Israel does not reach the significance of an ontic question.  They're  still human!  If Islam cannot or will not permit language to be informed from natural law, it will remain paralyzed.  The real danger is not paralyzation.  The real danger is the cultural and political impact of apocalyptic language defining 'humanness' outside of natural law.  The late great Catholic political scientist Eric Voegelin wrote for decades on the impact of 'immanentizing the eschaton'.  Islam is dangerously close to this point as evidenced it its advocacy in conflating personhood with ethnicity.

How else to put it:  Islam needs a Reformation!

How do we begin?

The works of the Cordovian Spanish philosopher Xavier Zubiri are a great place to start!

but what?


You expect life is a free subsciption? (Thanks for your recent article.)

Modern 'Natural Law'


Of course, I linked a less modern definition of 'natural law' to make a point. I'm sure you appreciate the point.

For those who would like to read a more recent exposition of natural law which would fit into the context of Mr Holland's article I would recommmend Russell Hittinger's The First Grace: Rediscovering the Natural Law in a Post-Christian World and to get acquainted with some of the output from Notre Dame's institute on the topic:

I do not agree with Mr. Holland about Islam in need of a Reformation but I thought his article deserved a little bit more appreciation than given to it by GK.

@Garthe Kindler

A Kinder, Gentlier rebuke to Mr Holland might be simply to request a link to his assumption of 'What is natural law?' I'm assuming he is refering to something along this link:

Mr Holland does attempt to race, fly thru a lot of stuff in his essay. Perhaps his core message is being lost in the electronic medium he is using?

Huxley, Orwell And The Challenge Islam Faces

I'm sorry. Mr. Holland's article hardly deserves the space to print it. He seems enamored with his own prose and strings together words and sentences without regard to meaning. Just what is the following paragraph supposed to say?

"Return to natural law.  And in so doing we eradicate an extrinsic view of human personhood that dominates both a consumerist West and militant Islam by effectively reorienting components of both the Enlightenment and Reformation."

Just what does Mr. Holland mean by "natural law"? What is he appealing to? I can think of at least a half dozen definitions and interpretations. And where in any part of his essay does he clarify his meaning?

Just how is it, in Mr Holland's thinking, that natural should "inform how we define personhood!" Or how is it that islam's language must be "informed from natural law"? Does language here refer to islam's "juridical lines of thought"?

Now I could forgive the generalizations, the verbal excess, if only Mr Holland subsequently explained himself, that is if he actually proceeded to develop his ideas and expand his thought rather than apparently expecting the reader to be so overwhlemed by rhetorical bombast as to accept his conclusions without further warrant. 

And then there his proclamation that islam must: "Discover the dangers of eliminating philosophical thinking.  Discover reason and its import for faith." These imperatives reveal an astonishing naivete or else an appaling ignorance of islamic thought from say the 9th to the 12th centuries, islam's supposed "golden age." It was in this period that islamic "philosophers" explicitly rejected "philosophical thinking" as represented by Greek influences because they saw its dangers and turned their backs on reason because it could have no import for a faith based absolutely on the caprice of its deity rather than on his reason.

After all this sound and fury, Mr Holland limps to the conclusion that "Islam needs a Reformation!" Presumably, the exclamation mark lends added weight and authority to this statement of the obvious. I mean, "Duh!"

All of which merely begs the question of whether islam is capable of any such reformation - natural or otherwise.         

What is "natural law"

"the rules inherent to the conduct of human society ie that which distinguishes us from animals, and is binding upon all humans"

Oh, please. This definition is worse than useless. Every muslim cleric defends the Quran and the rules of Sharia under these terms.  Indeed, all creedal religions claim that their rules are "inherent to the conduct of human society." and "binding upon all humans" and thus proselytism is a central tenet and dominate ambition of these religions. But setting aside this objection, I assume the definition means to suggest a logical independence of moral values from any theistic system, or as Bertrand Russell put it that the difference between right/wrong, good/evil must be in their essence logically anterior to God. Then where are these rules to be found? Wherein is this natural law posited? Are we to look for them residing in Plato's cave or etched in the human heart? And how are these rules binding on beings such as muslims whose ideology denies any concepts of right and wrong, good and evil apart from the caprice and arbitrary will of its god; an ideology that rejects any idea of causal relations other than the expression, Inshallah; an ideology that denies personal volition, freedom of conscience, even the value of human rationality? Invoking the aura of natural law and supposing a muslim will be transformed in its glow is folly and a dangerous projection of one's own psychology onto an alien species. Might as well ask the weed not to choke one's garden.     

where is natural law?

When discussing "natural law" perhaps a more modern exposition is helpful.  My suggestion would be to investigate (warning-automatic link to PDF):

Oderberg discusses how in order to make natural law intelligible, both ordinance and promulgation must flow from the idea.  This is in response to the fact/value distinction; another idea one can hardly get away from, these days. For another common critique, one may also re-review the chapter, "Natural Right and the Distinction Between Facts and Values," from one's copy of Natural Right and History.

To the question, where can the principles of natural law be found?, it is from reason.  But one must not be guilty of scientism and, hence, discount reason as an objective aribiter.

Also, it is important not to confuse the relatively recent idea of the "right of nature" (compare Hobbes) with natural law.  The former does not depend upon natural law, but was a way of attempting to remove political theory from classical notions of justice/teleology, etc.


the Islamic reformation

There is much that can be said here, and ought to be said. In keeping with Mr. Holland's own boundaries, I would point the reader to Persecution and the Art of Writing, where Strauss writes:

" must take into consideration the essential difference between Judaism and Islam on the one hand and Christianity on the other. Revelation as understood by Jews and Muslims has the character of Law (torah, sharia) rather than of Faith. Accordingly, what first came to the sight of the Islamic and Jewish philosophers in their reflections on Revelation was no a creed or a set of dogmas, but a social order, if an all-comprehensive order, which regulates not merely actions but thoughts or opinions as well.”

Thus, when contemplating an Islamic reformation it is not as simple as replacing or modifying one component of an ideological thinking. The rigidity and the totalitarian aspect of the religion's hold on all parts of Muslim life cannot be easily discounted, I do not believe.