Thursday, March 27, 2003

Wolfson on Berman

Adam Wolfson disagrees with Paul Berman's contention that Islamism owes more to the Sorbonne than the Koran. There is a genuine religious element in Islamism that Berman misses, according to Wolfson.

Sure, communism and fascism were in opposition to religion, but the religous claims of the Islamists may be less genuine than Wolfson thinks. There are elements of fascism such as the longing for the Middle Ages that make it psuedo-religious. Concepts such as "commitment" or the groundless dedication to a principle (especially if it involves suffering, violence, and death) made so popular by late modern thought typically masquerade for traditional religious belief and have proven to be much more irresistable to young people in modern times than traditional religion. The perniciousness of late modern thought should not be underestimated. How does Wolfson account for the 9/11 hijackers frequenting strip clubs?

Still, we shouldn't forget our Hobbes, thereby underestimating the tension religion can incite. It is difficult to determine whether traditional religion or late modern philosophy has had a greater influence on Islamism, but Wolfson does better in discussing Berman's deficiencies in his understanding of liberalism, especially his misrepresentation of Abraham Lincoln.

Rousseau's Bourgeois

Berman's NYTimes piece quotes Qutb repeatedly using the word "schizophrenia" to describe Western separation of church and state. Qutb finds religion in the West sterile consequently, for it is separated from other important aspects of life.

Although neither Berman nor Wolfson mention Rousseau, nothing could be more reminiscent of Rousseau's description of the bourgeois and Rousseau's very complaint against Christianity for dividing loyalty. This complaint against "schizophrenia" or the division of loyalty which one finds everywhere in Rousseau may clinch it for modern philosophy regarding the greater influence on Qutb who may seek undivided loyalty to something (perhaps anything) or psychic wholeness more than Islam.


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