Monday, January 26, 2015

Democracy Now: Climate Change, Nuclear Arms Race Moves Doomsday Clock Closer to Midnight

The scientists who maintain the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic countdown to global catastrophe, has moved the clock two minutes closer to midnight in its first shift in three years. Kennette Benedict of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said the clock now stands at three minutes to midnight, or doomsday.  
Kennette Benedict: "Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity, and world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of leadership endanger every person on Earth."

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Alasdair MacIntyre on his usage of the word 'God'

How am I going to use the word 'God'? I will use it as its Hebrew, Greek, or Arabic equivalents were used by Abraham, by Isaiah, and by Job, by John and Paul, and by Muhammad. I am, therefore, not going to use it in the plural, as words translatable by 'god' were used by Aeschylus and by Horace, by the author of the Ramayana and by the Mayans. God, as understood by theists, by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, is necessarily One, the one and only God. Were he not such, he would not be God, for, if he exists, there can be no other who can set limits to the exercise of his powers or who can compare with him as an object worthy of our loving devotion. And so the psalmist could speak of God as a great king above all gods.
 I say "if He exists," but, if he exists, he exists necessarily--that is to say, he could not have not existed. And in this he is unlike finite beings who exist and are what they are contingently, that is, they might have been otherwise than they are and they might not have existed at all. 
Theistic belief is not just belief that there happens to exist a being with such and such attributes, a belief such that someone might allow that there is indeed such a being, but then say, "So what? God exists, as do neutrons and coconuts, but I happen to be interested in none of them." Of such a one theists would have to say that he is not using the word "God" as they use it, for to believe that God exists is to believe that there is a being on my relationship to whom depends everything that I do or might value. And this being requires of me unqualified trust and unqualified obedience, so that I cannot be indifferent to claims about His existence and nature. We finite beings would not exist if God had not created us. We would not continue to exist if he did not sustain us. The outcome of our every project and the fulfillment of our every desire depend on him. Or so theists believe.
 MacIntyre, Alasdair. God, Philosophy, Universities: A Selective History of the Catholic Philosophical Tradition. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009. 5-8.

Monday, August 25, 2014

New book: "Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950"

448 pages | 22 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2013
In Reading Darwin in Arabic, Marwa Elshakry questions current ideas about Islam, science, and secularism by exploring the ways in which Darwin was read in Arabic from the late 1860s to the mid-twentieth century. Borrowing from translation and reading studies and weaving together the history of science with intellectual history, she explores Darwin’s global appeal from the perspective of several generations of Arabic readers and shows how Darwin’s writings helped alter the social and epistemological landscape of the Arab learned classes.
Providing a close textual, political, and institutional analysis of the tremendous interest in Darwin’s ideas and other works on evolution, Elshakry shows how, in an age of massive regional and international political upheaval, these readings were suffused with the anxieties of empire and civilizational decline. The politics of evolution infiltrated Arabic discussions of pedagogy, progress, and the very sense of history. They also led to a literary and conceptual transformation of notions of science and religion themselves. Darwin thus became a vehicle for discussing scriptural exegesis, the conditions of belief, and cosmological views more broadly. The book also acquaints readers with Muslim and Christian intellectuals, bureaucrats, and theologians, and concludes by exploring Darwin’s waning influence on public and intellectual life in the Arab world after World War I.
Reading Darwin in Arabic is an engaging and powerfully argued reconceptualization of the intellectual and political history of the Middle East. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Souleymane B. Diagne: "Islam and Philosophy: Lessons from an Encounter"

This contribution is a presentation of the encounter between Greek philosophy and Islam and of the way in which philosophical thought was consequently appropriated by the Muslim world. What made this encounter possible was the existence, within the Muslim world, of a spirit of openness able to overcome the fear of a ‘pagan’ thought: this spirit helped develop the position that Greek philosophy, qua wisdom, could not be ‘foreign’ to the universe of the Koran. The Arabic language, as it became a philosophical language, bears traces of such an appropriation. Today, in Africa, the debate on philosophy could usefully take into account the tradition of Islamic philosophy which is also African to some extent and which would help enlighten, in particular, the question of transforming African tongues into philosophical languages.

Columbia Faculty profile page

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

New book: Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari'ah in the Modern Age

In light of recent concern over Shari’ah, such as proposed laws to prohibit it in the United States and conflict over the role it should play in the new Egyptian constitution, many people are confused about the meaning of Shari‘ah in Islam and its role in the world today. In Reasoning with God, renowned Islamic scholar Khaled Abou El Fadl explains not only what Shari‘ah really means, but also the way it can revitalize and reengage contemporary Islam.

After a prologue that provides an essential overview of Shari‘ah, Abou El Fadl explores the moral trajectory of Islam in today’s world. Weaving powerful personal stories with broader global examples, he shows the ways that some interpretations of Islam today have undermined its potential in peace and love. Rather than simply outlining challenges, however, the author provides constructive suggestions about how Muslims can reengage the ethical tradition of their faith through Shari‘ah.

As the world’s second largest religion, Islam remains an important force on the global stage.
Reasoning with God takes readers—both Muslim and non-Muslim—beyond superficial understandings of Shari‘ah to a deeper understanding of its meaning and potential.

This book is a personal intellectual journey of a knowledgeable mind. Khaled Abou El Fadl calls for a new methodology in dealing with both the scriptural sources and the world. A much-needed voice, constructively critical and full of hope.

(Tariq Ramadan, University of Oxford)

Seldom have courage and vulnerability combined with erudition in as riveting a fashion as displayed in this book. Abou El Fadl is exacting without being abstruse, passionate but never loud. There is much to be debated in this highly informative, critically argued text. And one can only delight in the thought of how much learning and inspiration will come to those who engage it.

(Sherman A. Jackson, King Faisal Chair of Islamic Thought and Culture; director, Center for Islamic Thought, Culture, and Practice; professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California)

Amazon link

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Qur'an's Cosmological Morality

Accordingly, to understand this moral archetype, we must uncover the massive legal contributions of the Qur'an to the formation of Shar'ia and hence to the fashioning of Muslim subjectivity. [64] We must understand and appreciate its moral message and moral structure as integral to, and as enveloping, its "legal" conception and discursive practice.
The Qur'an, singularly retaining immense religious value for modern Muslims, has from the beginning provided Muslim believers with a cosmology entirely grounded in moral natural laws, a cosmology with perhaps far more persuasive power than any of its Enlightenment metaphysical counterparts and one that had powerful and deep psychological effects. [65] The Qur'anic moral arsenal was thus embedded in a holistic system of belief, in a cosmology that comprised a metaphysic. In fact, it may be argued that this cosmology was itself part of an enveloping moral system that transcended the categories of theology, theosophy, and metaphysics. In this broadest sense of cosmology, we might argue that the Qur'an offers no less than a theory of cosmological morality of the first order, which is to say that Qur'anic cosmology is not only profoundly moral but is also itself constructed, both in form and content, out of a moral fiber...
-Wael Hallaq, The Impossible State, p. 83.