• Mr Phil O'Sophy
    1.2k
    @I like sushi directed a comment towards me asking something interesting, and I would like to explore the more general idea he is getting across in his message. He says the following:


    ↪Mr Phil O'Sophy Maybe I missed your general view in this thread (not unsurprisingly!). Would you say that “The West” upholds a stronger “moral” stance than muslim countries? To me this seems blatantly obvious.

    As for how individual “westerners” and/or “muslims” act and talk, in moral sense, I wouldn’t make many sweeping generalisations other than to state that intolerance goes hand in hand with harder religious positions.

    Maybe we can have a reasonable exchange here, but I’ve a feeling that we’re likely to agree for the most part. I’ve expressed before my view of “religion” as being similar to “patriotism,” and it that light I’d even say that “nationalism” (not necessarily White Nationalism), just plain old hyper-conservatism, bears little difference to “patriotism”.
    I like sushi

    I've highlighted the main thrust of the enquiry and so would like to ask, (1) does the west uphold a stronger moral stance than muslim countries? (2) does intolerance go hand in hand with harder religious positions, & (3) what are the similarities and differences between <adherence to a religion> and <being a patriot or a nationalist>?

    My interlocutor suggests that it seems blatantly obvious that the west does uphold a stronger moral stance. I would like to say intuitively that I'm not so sure its obvious.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    So first of all, let us cover (1) does the west uphold a stronger moral stance than muslim countries?

    The question itself seems to hold a few ambiguities that I would like to clear up before we move on.

    So @I love sushi, could you clarify something for me please.

    a. How are we defining "The west" (I know we do this a lot, but for the sake of this particular conversation I would like to start with that at the beginning of the thread, rather than randomly 5 pages down the line)

    b. what do we mean by 'uphold a stronger moral stance'?
    I ask this because it can be understood in two possible ways with respect to the words 'stonger' & 'uphold' (that I've noticed)
    ------i. the west has more strength (economically and militarily) therefore its stance is stronger (defensive understanding)
    ------ii. the west has a stronger commitment to its morality and the spread of it (aggressive understanding)

    I guess both of these can feed into each other, or maybe you are talking both simultaneously? I just want to clarify in what we mean when we talk about upholding a stronger moral stance.

    c. muslim countries in general? or any muslim countries in particular?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    with regards to (2) does intolerance go hand in hand with harder religious positions?

    I'll agree intolerance probably is something readily available to the 'harder religious positions', as you say. But I think any position contains within it intolerance of some sort, be that harder religious, softer religious, or even non-religious positions. They just differ with respect to that which they are intolerant towards which is inevitably tied to what they value. Even those who champion tolerance, are extremely capable of intolerance. When they heavily emphasise the word tolerance as a virtue without any context, there are usually a ton of presuppositions infused with their use of the term. So to conclude my point on this, yes they are likely to be intolerant, but so is everyone else. The important question is, what are they intolerant of and why?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    moving on to (3) what are the similarities and differences between <adherence to a religion> and <being a patriot or a nationalist>?

    This is an interesting comparison to make, and I'm currently in the process of trying to map it out having read you say it. It is something that has crossed my mind in the past, and the furthest I took it was that religions have the capacity to be a sort of metaphysical nationalism which isn't necessarily tied to anything geographical or ethnic related (although it can be, with the Nation of Islam being a prime example).

    I would like to ask you to maybe expand on your thoughts with regards to this a little further. I'm still bouncing a few ideas around my head on this one, and hearing what you have to say might help push these thoughts along in a more focused direction rather than being all over the place.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    NB: please be patient with me here, I'll be back and forth between this forum and my uni assignments, so my focus won't be 100% because I'm juggling lots of different ideas atm.

    Look forward to the discussion.
  • I like sushi
    617
    Great :)

    If I may I believe my further posts in part answer some inquiries:

    theocracies are, and have always been, a threat to modern western attitudes. Don’t forget that the west rose out of the ashes of a theocracy that slowly creeped into a more secular frame.

    Christianity was a huge threat to reason and science and today the threat is Islam. The scales are by far more in favour of reason and science though because they’re fully established in secular societies. And don’t forget too that China is secular, yet it would be difficult to claim they don’t have some very serious issues in their nation. Russia is also a global threat as well as the US. I’m not massively concerned with some big nasty perverted version of “Islam” consuming the world.

    Note: That I had repeatedly said in that particular thread that it was badly formulated and simply summed up the thrust of the statement made to be “Is the west morally superior to muslims?” Which is a poor question, and so I then said western countries and muslim countries further expanding to what that means in regards to theocracies following exchange with someone else as well as the fact that secular countries are not exactly always able claim a better use of human morality.

    Anyway, I’ll just get to it!

    a. How are we defining "The west" (I know we do this a lot, but for the sake of this particular conversation I would like to start with that at the beginning of the thread, rather than randomly 5 pages down the line)

    And it would be worthwhile comparing beyond two particular regions and within each region too. I am pretty sure we all understand what countries are “western” - they would include the bulk of Europe founded upon the extension of the Greek and Roman empires leading into the Christian rule and monarchies; which eventually morphed into a a more secular mode of being and extending by way of common law and language to the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (no doubt I’m missing out some countries that you may considered “westernized” yet they’re not “western”; such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines, Jamaica and South Africa - being an amalgam of cultures outside of the initial European Model, so to speak, which would consist of common law and language as mentioned).

    Of course this is still vague. Within these western countries I would say that the US is a bit of an outlier due to its cultural differences. In terms of philosophical and political progress the west has a distinct quality to it which has moved more and more away from religious rule and more and more toward the freedom of the individual. The history has been vicious and repugnant over and over. It is not like the western world has not had serious infighting and exploited weaker countries; and still does to varying degrees. What does remain relatively consistent is the promotion of democracy, equality and liberty. Such ideals necessarily lead to conflicts.

    As an example of what would happen to certain acts in the UK compared to say Thailand. To deface the King in Thailand would in either being beaten and/or sent to prison. You do the same in the UK people generally aren’t too fussed and you won’t be prosecuted for doing so. That is just Thailand though. In Laos, only ten years ago and maybe still, if you were a foreigner and spent the night in a room with a woman you could be arrested and thrown in prison. The point being I don’t need to start talking about the freedom and rights of people in muslim countries to find laws that inhibit people’s freedoms.

    Also, we do have a crossover when talking about “western” countries with large muslim populations because how do we categorise countries that are secular yet possess a muslim majority? More to the point, what can these countries tell us about any assumed delineation between governing bodies that are non-secular and secular in regards to muslim populations? I imagine you can tell me more about this because I’m no expert on Albania or Kosovo. Turkey is another to look at.

    I’ve hardly got started here in regards to the differences within Europe and between other states further afield! Needless to say there is a further general cultural divide between northern and southern Europe, between Scandinavia and Slavic countries too! What is common is the promotion of democracy and civil freedom, of tolerance and a general common history (which also extends to the colonies as they’ve remained attached to the main body of Europe; some more than others).

    Anyway, I think that deals with (a) so I’ll post and move onto (b) now. I’ve been as brief as I could and added a few questions within to look at - I’ve not bothered going into comparisons between countries such as China, India, Brasil, Mexico and/or Nigeria - within this it is worth highlighting the problem of lumping ALL muslim countries together given that they don’t necessarily share a common history (something I’ve read about quite extensively regarding the cultural shift in Indonesia in Geertz’s work on The Interpretations of Cultures).
  • I like sushi
    617
    b. what do we mean by 'uphold a stronger moral stance'?
    I ask this because it can be understood in two possible ways with respect to the words 'stonger' & 'uphold' (that I've noticed)
    ------i. the west has more strength (economically and militarily) therefore its stance is stronger (defensive understanding)
    ------ii. the west has a stronger commitment to its morality and the spread of it (aggressive understanding)

    I guess both of these can feed into each other, or maybe you are talking both simultaneously? I just want to clarify in what we mean when we talk about upholding a stronger moral stance.

    I was a little lazy here, but attempted to explain in that particular thread somewhere (but only briefly).

    I mean that all people in non-secular states are generally given the same rights (I mentioned the controversy surrounding Malaysia in regards to individuals freedoms in the country based purely on their adherence to Islam). It is immoral to inhibit the freedom of individuals and promote the killing of homosexuals too. Of course, in this regards attitudes in Asia generally outweigh more negative attitudes in the west, and middle east, in doubt due to the religious intolerance promoted on and off by corrupt institutes (I’m not a great fan of “religion” as an institution btw hence my dislike of nonsecular states imposing their “laws” on others with the added weight of some supreme authority - god-figure).

    Aa for (i) I wouldn’t even begin to consider that as being “moral”. It is correct enough to perhaps equate the responsibility of military might with the active and reckless use of it. International relations are a complex matter. I wouldn’t equate economics with morality either other than to say that if people have enough they don’t tend to get sucked in by religious doctrine and recruitment - such tactics are used by Christian organisations and Christian “cults” such as Jehovahs Witnesses.) Just because you seem to equate “strength” with militant force please don’t assume I do. It is interesting that is where my words took you though which leads neatly into (ii) and me saying, not at all.

    What I meant was what I’ve already outlined. That is the promotion of democracy and freedom, of tolerance and rational discourse. Admittedly there are necessary dangers that come with the responsibility of the individuals in societies to uphold these hard fought for rights over the bodies of millions over numerous generations suffering brutally under monarchal, feudal and tyrannical rule. The freedom to express views and to have to tolerate what is perceived as potentially “hateful” is what western freedom is about. Where there is democracy and freedom of speech and expression, without authoritarian persecution (be it in a religious guise or not), there is a strong moral stance. Historical the west has exported these ideas and they’ve no doubt caused harm by disrupting ethnic delineations, and in some circumstances - one which you may find interesting - have been accused of purposefully dividing people’s into cultural categories in India to “divide and conquer” only for the future rulers to find that they had to do the very same thing to keep the national cohesion brought about by the British rule (before jump on this I’ll provide quotes and citations later regarding the linguistic divisions necessary to ease in democracy). On which note, democracy is itself something that has remained a key issue (in Turkey I heard something like the people voting democratically for a “dictator” like leader ... seems strange to me).

    To further my point I could mention execution of individuals for being homosexual, religious intolerance (writ into law - see Malaysia) and “honour killings” which I have already admitted not likely to be due to any particular religious institution but certainly not a “habit” that religious institutes have been particularly forthright in denouncing unless it suited their public appeals (across the board, not merely a matter of Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or whatever; just an archaic regime that served social cohesion in more brutal ages).
  • I like sushi
    617
    c. muslim countries in general? or any muslim countries in particular?

    I think I’ve covered this enough? I wouldn’t be inclined to compare states like Indonesia and Malaysia with Middle Eastern states, nor would I be massively inclined to ignore the significantly different histories of North Africa either compared to, for example, Pakistan or Bangladesh.

    I’ll move onto question (2) now. I’ve tried to be brief yet thorough in my responses and haven’t edited so let me know if I’ve missed our a word - or sentence! :)
  • I like sushi
    617
    with regards to (2) does intolerance go hand in hand with harder religious positions?

    I'll agree intolerance probably is something readily available to the 'harder religious positions', as you say. But I think any position contains within it intolerance of some sort, be that harder religious, softer religious, or even non-religious positions. They just differ with respect to that which they are intolerant towards which is inevitably tied to what they value. Even those who champion tolerance, are extremely capable of intolerance. When they heavily emphasise the word tolerance as a virtue without any context, there are usually a ton of presuppositions infused with their use of the term. So to conclude my point on this, yes they are likely to be intolerant, but so is everyone else. The important question is, what are they intolerant of and why?

    Well, we were talking about religion. I could’ve been more accurate and said authoritarian dogmatism (in the broader sense of “dogma” not merely the common religious sense).

    The tolerance has a limit. Once someone starts to inhibit my freedom I will not simply stand aside.

    To explain I’ll refer to John Stuart Mill:

    Nevertheless, when there is not a certainty, but only a danger of mischief, no one but the person himself can judge of the sufficiency of the motive which may prompt him to incur the risk: in this case, therefore, (unless he is a child, or delirious, or in some state of excitement or absorption incompatible with the full use of the reflecting faculty) he ought, I conceive, to be only warned of the danger; not forcibly prevented from exposing himself to it.

    - From “On Liberty”

    Extremists, religious or not, insist they are correct and don’t tolerate others. This becomes more apparent when they are unable to provide cogent and logical arguments; or use rhetoric/evasion and fall back on scripture and/or appeals to authority - and this happened in the progression of science too when many laughed at the mere suggestion that heavier objects didn’t fall faster.

    A point worth considering though in regards to religion is the lack of evidence often being the evidence for a conviction. The “you cannot disprove my god” argument.
  • I like sushi
    617
    Number Three is the one that interests me a great deal so I’ll have to get back to this later and see if I can write something brief enough AND stay on track :)

    Look forward to your thoughts and thanks.

    I would like to ask you to maybe expand on your thoughts with regards to this a little further. I'm still bouncing a few ideas around my head on this one, and hearing what you have to say might help push these thoughts along in a more focused direction rather than being all over the place.

    Ditto. It’s not something I’m able to nail down myself. For me it’s a floating thought in regards to my attention to “religion” and the relation of religious experiences to consciousness mixed up with the phenomenological take on this and some Jungian ideas thrown in for good measure.

    I’ll try and riff a few thoughts though later and maybe a couple now. I would highly recommend Eliade’s ‘The Sacred and The Profane’. I see a strong relation between the individual “acting as god” and the concept of “hierophant” that he tries to outline.

    By this I’m talking about how humans delineate boundaries within the physical world and attend to them - the “house” as a microcosm representing humans playing at god (so to speak). Meaning humans setting strong and controlled borders into to “ground” themselves - the ‘axis-mundi’ (something that in shamanism - see Eliade again: ‘Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy’ - is often physically represented be it in structures or sacred items).

    You may be thinking what the hell has this to do with “religion/religiosity” and “nationalism/patriotism”? The closest I can say is that the connection is in Jung’s idea of the Collective Unconscious or, in more palatable terms, the spirit of humanity. To use Eliade here the “Hierophant” here would be the bridge between the individual (and/or Jungian “Individuation”) and community of humans we’re tied to as individuals. For me this is what religion and nationalism is all about - the nascent union of self with the phenomenon of being and coming to terms with the necessary delineations between given items of experience out we tend to them as futures, and pasts to create ourselves.

    Sketchy and hard to put into tangible words ... like I said, my thoughts here are comparable to yours lacking the terminology with which to guide them and jumping around a lot. I’m hoping once I’ve focused and articulated other thoughts more thoroughly regarding aesthetics, morality and phenomenology I’ll be better equipped to write something a great deal more tangible than Heideggerian drivel ;) haha!

    To add, there is something key here involving language. Nationhood is undoubtedly built upon a common language - most likely more than anything - whilst “religion,” even though it’s translated into other languages (scripture), doesn’t share a common language among it’s adherents. What religion seems to offer is a different, and more loose, kind of “language” (please note that in linguistics the term “language” has multiple applications and need not necessarily be the common conception of the word - ie. dance, body language, and more subtle means of interacting with each other, other creatures, ourselves and our immediate surroundings). Like with all human curiosities some are more drawn than others, some are forcibly indoctrinated, and some refuse this “language” as alien and hostile.

    I guess it is reasonable to suggest that where a common tongue unites people under one national umbrella of “patriotism/nationalism” it does so by rational and explicit means with a lexicon that although on occasion inaccurate is nevertheless suited to logical application. Religious discourse on the other hand (if it can be called such given that “language” of religion is almost wholly hidden) attaches to any old common tongue by use of analogy, mythos, metaphor and archetypal contents - and leaves itself open to the whim and fancy of the bearer which has caused no small amount of confusion, distrust and perverted ideologies absent of rational interpretation, yet constantly floundering for any given interpretation to legitimize some personal agenda more often than not. A good example of this would be how Kierkegaard approaches rational/moral content of human sacrifice in Fear and Trembling.
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