Skip to comments.Socrates or Muhammad? [Pope Benedict XVI] Joseph Ratzinger on the destiny of reason.
Posted on 09/25/2006 4:42:01 PM PDT by baseball_fan
Contrary to what the New York Times reported, Ratzinger is not providing merely "a note on jihad" that has no real bearing on the central message of his address. According to his own words, the topic of jihad constitutes "the starting-point" for his reflection on faith and reason. Ratzinger uses the Islamic concept of jihad to elucidate his critique of modern reason from within.
Modern reason argues that questions of ethics, of religion, and of God are outside its compass. Because there is no scientific method by which such questions can be answered, modern reason cannot concern itself with them, nor should it try to. From the point of view of modern reason, all religious faiths are equally irrational, all systems of ethics equally unverifiable, all concepts of God equally beyond rational criticism. But if this is the case, then what can modern reason say when it is confronted by a God who commands that his followers should use violence and even the threat of death in order to convert unbelievers?
If modern reason cannot concern itself with the question of God, then it cannot argue that a God who commands jihad is better or worse than a God who commands us not to use violence to impose our religious views on others. To the modern atheist, both Gods are equally figments of the imagination, in which case it would be ludicrous to discuss their relative merits. The proponent of modern reason, therefore, could not possibly think of participating in a dialogue on whether Christianity or Islam is the more reasonable religion, since, for him, the very notion of a "reasonable religion" is a contradiction in terms.
Ratzinger wishes to challenge this notion
(Excerpt) Read more at weeklystandard.com ...
The Emperor Manuel II Paleologus pondered this question in his debate with the learned Persian. ...]
- i recommend the entire article
I agree with the Socratic view.
The Muslim answer to this would be that Allah is not terrifying to a Muslim. He is terrifying to infidels. Allah loves good Muslims and hates unbelievers.
"The Muslim answer to this would be that Allah is not terrifying to a Muslim. He is terrifying to infidels. Allah loves good Muslims and hates unbelievers."
Muslims suffer more from violence coming from fellow Muslims who think they know Allah's will than from non-Muslims - at least that's what i've heard asserted by others.
"I agree with the Socratic view."
from the article:
["For many, it will seem paradoxical that the Roman pontiff has invoked the critical spirit of Socrates. The pope, after all, is the embodiment of the traditional authority of the Church, and the Church is supposed to have all the answers. Yet Socrates was famous as the man who had all the questions. Far from making any claims to infallibility, Socrates argued that the unexamined life was not worth living, and he was prepared to die rather than cease the process of critical self-examination. Socrates even refused to call himself wise, arguing instead that he only deserved to be called a "lover of wisdom."
Socrates skillfully employed paradox as a way to get people to think, yet even he might have been puzzled by the paradox of a Roman Catholic pope who is asking for a return to Socratic doubt and self-critique."]
is the Pope indicating that a certain humility is in order when one supposedly presumes to know absolutely, whatever one's religion or creed?
I would assume that the Pope means that one should not have such presumptions to begin with. Even the notion of Papal Infallibility must needs assume that one's own thinking on the matter is not enough but rather that one must be humbled to seek that which comes from a higher power. And in one's humility one must believe in a true Divine inspiration before one were to proclaim any Truth which purports to speak for the Church. (Being non-Catholic these are merely my own musings on the subject.)
Ironically, "humility" was the word that came to my mind while reading another article posted shortly before this one. Humility, of course, is no longer fashionable. It has been replaced by a sense of entitlement to self-esteem.
This piece by Lee Harris could actually be said to be more inflammatory (politely/reasonably so, of course) than Pope Benedict's speech. Harris speaks the truth, but will anyone listen?
And you can see this in their attitudes. When Rosie O'Donnell suggested that Baptists are as bad as or worse than Muslims, she was simple-mindedly echoing the opinion of numerous academics and intellectuals. One religion is as bad as another, because they are all equally superstitious and unscientific.
The Pope was directing his analysis in two directions: on the limitations of secular "scientific" narrow-mindedness as well as the problem of irrational religious violence.
[The Pope was directing his analysis in two directions: on the limitations of secular "scientific" narrow-mindedness as well as the problem of irrational religious violence.]
I agree. The Pople seems to be trying to establish a dialogue in "good faith" with other religions and creeds that includes the Catholic Church's own internal struggles such as the following mentioned in the article:
[For example, Ratzinger notes that within the Catholic scholastic tradition itself, thinkers emerged like Duns Scotus, whose imaginary construction of God sundered the "synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit." For Scotus, it was quite possible that God "could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done." If God had willed to create a universe without rhyme or reason, a universe completely unintelligible to human intelligence, that would have been his privilege. If he had decided to issue commandments that enjoined human beings to sacrifice their children, or kill their neighbors, or plunder their property, mankind would have been compelled to obey such commandments. Nor would we have had any "reason" to object to them, or even question them. For Scotus and those who followed him, the ultimate and only reason behind the universe is God's free and unrestrained will. But as Ratzinger asks, How can such a view of God avoid leading "to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness?" The answer is, it cannot.]
I thought this was very interesting from the American Thinker.
But for closure, or at least full disclosure, there remains one elephantine aspect of the offending late 14th century exchange between the Byzantine ruler Manuel II Paleologus and his learned Muslim interlocutor that has not yet entered the public discourse.
The implications of this omitted, oddly taboo discussion, are profound, transcending any concerns about its potential inflammatory nature.
At the end of the 26-round marathon dialogue of seven centuries ago alluded to by Pope Benedict, the Muslim muderris (theologian), overwhelmed by continuous glimpses of Christian truth, hovers at the threshold of abandoning Islam and embracing Christianity. The muderris openly marvels at the magnificence of Christ and the Christian teachings, while proclaiming his readiness to journey to Constantinople (the last significant stronghold of the once mighty Byzantine Christian empire), and study with the theologians there. The drama of the dialogue thus concludes with the muderris effective inner conversion to Christianity, and his promise to Manuel II to pursue this profound change of heart.
That is a truly outstanding article.
A related problem is nominalism, also going back to the middle ages and William of Ockham. Significantly, two of the most influential medieval Muslim philosophers were also nominalists, Ibn Khaldoun and Ibn Taymiya.
Without admitting universals, a necessary aspect of philosophical realism, it becomes impossible to relate rationality to the objective universe, and there is a fall into subjectivity, materialism, and relativity.
Socrates is mentioned on this thread, but THE philosopher was Aristotle.
If one is not free to even question then one is truly enslaved.
This is so true. Muslim logic is not western logic (e.g. A=B B=C so C must equal A). Muslims, however, can believe that A=B, B=C C does not equal A. This is why they can at the same time, claim that Bin Laden is a hero because he blew up the WTC, and in the same breath (without even knowing they are lying) genuinly beleive that it is wrong to blame Bin Laden, because it was a Jewish plot.
"Socrates is mentioned on this thread, but THE philosopher was Aristotle."
While Aristotle had a huge influence, it seems like the Pope was stressing certain virtues identified with Socrates - this from the article:
[On his last day on earth, Socrates spent the hours before he drank the fatal hemlock talking to his friends about the immortality of the human soul. Next to Socrates was a Greek boy, whose name was Phaedo--Ratzinger mentions him in his address. Socrates had come across Phaedo one day in the marketplace of Athens, where he was up for sale as a slave. Distraught at knowing what lay ahead for the handsome and intelligent boy, Socrates ran to all his wealthy friends and collected enough money to buy the boy, then immediately gave him his freedom. Socrates' liberation of Phaedo was a symbol of Socrates' earthly mission.
Socrates hated the very thought of slavery--slavery to other men, slavery to mere opinions, slavery to fear, slavery to our own low desires, slavery to our own high ambitions. He believed that reason could liberate human beings from these various forms of slavery. Socrates would have protested against the very thought of a God who was delighted by forced conversions, or who was pleased when his worshipers proudly boasted that they were his slaves. He would have fought against those who teach that the universe is an uncaring thing, or who tell us that freedom is an illusion and our mind a phantom. Ultimately, perhaps, Socrates would have seen little to distinguish between those who bow down trembling before an irrational god and those who resign themselves before an utterly indifferent universe.]
You probably know that between Socrates and Aristotle, Aristotle moves toward modern reason more than Socrates.
"You probably know that between Socrates and Aristotle, Aristotle moves toward modern reason more than Socrates."
i plead ignorance. could you fill me in on that one.
Modern reason is materialist. It throws up its hands in the face of the metaphysical or spiritual. I wasn't knocking the importance of Socrates, whom the Pope did indeed emphasize in his talk. But one of the keys is Aristotle's concept of universals.
It's impossible to think except in universals, but modern materialists tend to think in terms of individual objects. Yes, science still speaks of species and genuses, but even there finds some difficulties in defining these terms. Whether two animals can have viable progeny tends to be the definition of species. Aristotle, on the other hand, was extending the concept of the Platonic Idea or Ideal in a new direction.
Benedict didn't really need to talk much about Aristotle, because he is already worked into the Scholastic tradition.