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The Price of Abandoning Reason | Dr. Jose Yulo | September 25, 2006
"Therefore (it) is all continuous; for what-is is in
contact with what-is. Moreover, changeless in the limits of great chains (it)
is un-beginning and unceasing, since coming-to-be and perishing have been
driven far off, and true trust has thrust them out. Remaining the same and in
the same, (it) lies by itself and remains thus firmly in place; for strong
necessity holds (it) fast in the chains of a limit, which fences it about." -- Parmenides
It is not surprising that Pope Benedict XVI's Regensburg
lecture should have attracted the attention that it has. Strictly as a lecture
it speaks copiously, yet with undeniable clarity, of the polar extremes reached
when man attempts for whatever inclination to divorce faith and reason from
each other. Roughly, the first part of the Pope's delivery touched on the
confused (and then detrimental) ramifications of carving reason from faith, as
seen in the now infamous citation from the Byzantine emperor Manuel II
Paleologus. The latter section delved into modernity's desire to jettison faith
from reason, as the former was seen as unnecessary and archaic, as witnessed by
a three-stage process of de-Hellenization.
There is much to be said of the rich irony in the
controversy the lecture aroused throughout the Islamic world. If Benedict XVI
did indeed to make manifest the dichotomy between the two approaches mentioned
above, and of Christianity's alternative to both, it appears strange that Islam
and the modern West should come together and converge symbiotically on this
issue. The Western media was quick to wonder what damage comments cited from a
fifteenth-century source could and would do to already strained
Christian-Muslim relations. Islamists on the other hand seemed all to prepared
to escalate such misreporting to levels of violence, which rather than
providing a refutation of supposed arguments, all but confirmed them.
Many clear voices have by now commented and clarified on the
slipshod nature of how a quotation, opportunistically used, evoked virulently
riotous behavior. It is worthy of note, however, to discuss the argument
surrounding the controversy. The Pope, in relating how Manuel expressed concern
to his Persian acquaintance over the un-reason of conversions by the sword,
brought up an intriguing viewpoint this time cited from the French Islamist R.
Arnaldez. Arnaldez in this instance spoke of how Ibn Hazn professed of Allah's
greatness specifically because the deity was so transcendant, he was unbound
even by his own word.
This of course fit into the first papal description of
reason being extracted from faith. There is great potential for worry with this
paradigm of unreasoned faith. In truth, unreasoned faith on the part of the
worshipper pales in dread over the possibility of a deity completely autonomous
of a governing consistency. With a view to these, it is useful to see with a
Hellenized lens what is lost with the abandonment of reason.
In Plato's The Republic,Socrates advises his young conversants of what led to the achievement of
justice within an individual soul. Owing that each soul had three parts or
levels, care was needed with each as to attain this lofty virtue.
At the bottom of the soul reside appetites, great in number
and voracious in hunger. These correspond to many visceral urges demanding
certain quotas of regular and preferably instant satisfaction. Above appetites
are drives, tendencies neither ephemeral, nor altogether tangible. Drives raise
humanity to heights over mere beasts, though not yet of sufficient elevation to
perceive the overall good of one's whole. Lastly, there rests at the soul's
apex its intellectual faculty. Though the smallest body within this entity, it
is meant to rule over the other two for the best possible order within an
Left untouched, justice would still not visit this soul.
Reason, a seemingly divinely spawned gift, needs to be applied to these facets
of the soul. When directed to the appetites, temperance arises. This newfound
state enabled the particularly Greek penchant for self-moderation, which it
follows, is itself almost impossible without reason. Having this most volatile
element dealt with, the drives are next to be transformed by this moderating
Courage is the product of this union, it being the ability
to discern what and what not ought rightly to be feared. Implicit in this is
the ensuing capacity to stand up to and potentially vanquish such trepidations.
Finally, with reason affecting the soul's intellectual facet, coveted wisdom is
attained. This, the gift of knowing how to rightly use one's knowledge, serves
as a most able steward of both temperance and courage. These three new virtues then allow for the arrival of a fourth, justice, the
proper ordering of one's soul.
It is with heavy regret and sobriety that a view aimed at
the senseless animosity inspired by the aforementioned convergence of Islamists
and Western media is taken. Here, the disastrous cost of an un-reasoned faith
can be fully weighed.
Interestingly, the reactions to the Regensburg lecture
mirror what occurs when Plato's model is not reached. If, as implied by Ibn Hazn,
reason would limit the transcendence of Allah, and thus may be
considered not preferable by the deity, does this hold true as well for its
followers? Are Islamists served well by the renunciation of reason?
First, one can only safely assume that the malicious
torching of churches in the West Bank perpetrated by those offended by the
Pope's speech is done out of a reactive feeling of one's own self being
attacked. Those who would set aflame Christian churches not even directly tied
to the Vatican must, as such limping logic goes, be grievously hurt to a point
perhaps reaching physical affliction. Therefore, setting the church doors
aflame is merely an act of self-defense. It would be intriguing, though not
surprising as to the results, to poll Western media members to ascertain
exactly what percentage of them share or sympathize with such views. The
ramifications of this argument are stunning. If these are acts of self-defense,
they are in the very least grotesquely disproportionate. Moreover, they betray
an inability to restrain visceral urges and impulses of brutal retaliation, one
of the hallmarks of ungoverned appetites.
Second, the base, malicious gunning down of an Italian nun
in Somalia is said to be a result of Islamic animus to any and all symbols of
Christian, and perhaps Western, representation. Osama Bin Laden himself, though
constantly marginalized by all too willing equivocation as speaking for only a
minority of Islamists, made it clear very early that there was to be no
differentiation between military and civilian targets in the West. Hence, there
are the sorely obvious examples of suicide plotters and bombers who see
toddlers and the elderly as deserving perverted wrath. In the case of the
Sister Leonella, much of whose sixty years had been spent aiding society's most
marginalized, four shots in the back were examples of human drives bereft of
reason. As stated earlier, courage results from the union of moderating drives.
Thus, in place of bravery leading one to such an assault, what instead betrays
a wayward soul is cowardice.
Third, the reactions from leaders in Muslim communities from
Somalia to the West Bank have centered on the Pope's quoting of Manuel II
Paleologus' concern toward how Islam made use of force in conversions. One
could take two tracts in opposition to this issue. One, to claim it false. A
sura in the Koran has been often cited to show that "There is no compulsion to
religion." However, in light of even the recent abduction and forced conversion
of two Fox News journalists, this belief appears not to be among the faith's
Two, to respond with ad hominem attacks and intimidation. This is perhaps the more
expedient approach. Yet there is harrowing inconsistency in claiming not to be
ogres, while at the same time eschewing informed dialogue for demands and calls
for physical punishment. To attain wisdom, one must first possess the requisite
knowledge to be moderated by reason in the intellectual part of the soul. Ad
hominem attacks, slanders, and threats
reveal that even this bedrock of basic information is lacking to its users.
Sadly, wisdom is made ultimately more elusive.
It was no surprise how the polar positions Benedict XVI took
issue with in his speech converged to ignite the conflagration following the
Regensburg lecture. What should be
surprising to many in the West are the depths descended to when reason, the
rightful inheritance of all civilized peoples, is abandoned.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles:
Benedict Takes the Next Step with Islam | Mark Brumley
Is Dialogue with Islam Possible? Some Reflections on Pope
Benedict XVI's Address at the University of Regensburg | Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
The Regensburg Lecture: Thinking Rightly About God and Man | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Author Page for Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
The (False) Tale of Two Popes | Carl E. Olson
The Usual Suspects, The Usual Suspect Stuff | Carl E. Olson
Are Truth, Faith, and Tolerance Compatible? | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
First Musings on Benedict XVI's First Encyclical | Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
The Encyclical: God's Eros Is Agape | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
On Reading the Pope | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
9/11 Revisited | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
The Molochs of Modernity | Dr.
Spartans, Traitors, and Terrorists | Dr.
Plato's Ring in the Sudan: How Freedom Begets Isolation of the Soul | Dr.
The Echo of Melos: How Ancient Honor Unmasks Islamic Terror | Dr.
Martyrs and Suicide Bombers | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
The One War, The Real War | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Wars Without Violence? | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Jose Yulo, Ed.D. teaches courses on philosophy, western civilization,
United States history, and public speaking at the Academy
of Art University in San Francisco. He has a Doctorate in Education
from the University of San Francisco, with an emphasis on the philosophy
of education. He also holds a Master's degree in political communication
from Emerson College in Boston, as well as a Bachelor's degree in the classical
liberal arts from St. John's College in Annapolis, MD. Originally from Manila
in the Philippines, his research interests lie in Greek philosophy, the
histories of Greek and Roman politics and warfare, and the literature of
J. R. R. Tolkien.
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