Monday, September 26, 2016

System is fraudulent; rational arguments would bring closer to wisdom

On al-Ghazālī and the cultural specificity of philosophy

Amod Lele at The Indian Philosophy Blog - 9 hours ago
[Cross-posted at Love of All Wisdom.] A little while ago, responding to Garfield and Van Norden’s call for diversity in philosophy, I argued that we should fight for the inclusion of non-Western thought in philosophy programs on the grounds of Continue reading →
Tampio calls our attention to something very important which is often neglected in debates about philosophy: in medieval Muslim thought, one finds perhaps the most explicit and articulate rejection of philosophy in the intellectual history of the world. What is noteworthy about the thinkers involved here – of whom Abū Hāmid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazālī is the foremost – is that they directly reject something for which they use the term “philosophy”, transliterated directly into Arabic as falsafa. Al-Ghazālī has most of the hallmarks by which we would now identify a philosopher; he uses rigorous logical argument to make claims about the nature of reality and the good life for human beings. So al-Ghazālī has an entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and to my mind he deserves it.
But – and this does matter – he wouldn’t want it. Al-Ghazālī knew well of something he called philosophy, and he used his sharp skills of logical argumentation to reject it, entitling one of his major works The Incoherence of the Philosophers. Philosophy didn’t take this claim lying down; the self-proclaimed philosopher ibn Rushd (Averroës) issued a direct rebuttal entitled The Incoherence of the Incoherence. But it didn’t convince Ghazālī.
Now we are already encountering one major problem with Tampio’s argument here: his article makes no mention of ibn Rushd and says little about his colleagues, the self-proclaimed philosophers (falasifa, singular faylasuf). If we want to be true to al-Ghazālī’s self-understanding and accept that he was not a philosopher, then we must in all fairness extend the same courtesy to ibn Rushd and accept that he was. 

It is true that we study Western philosophy in part to understand the history of the Western world and Western culture (which, nowadays, is also indelibly a part of every other culture). But that’s not the only reason we study it, and not even the primary one. For the Greeks there was no difference between saying “philosophy” and saying “the love of wisdom”, and they expressed their love through rational arguments that would bring them closer to that wisdom.

It occurs to me that we could view voting under a bourgeois democracy similarly. We all know that the system is fraudulent at many levels. The most important and destructive policies are a bipartisan consensus, meaning there is no way to vote against them. All candidates are fake in the sense of being media phenomena, and they all represent a front for the power of moneyed interests. Yet there is a difference between the candidates, and in a big powerful system, a small difference can make a big difference. One choice really is more survivable than the other.
Refusing to vote out of principle or voting for a third-party candidate who supposedly reflects your “real” views grants the system too much legitimacy. It gives the impression that the system could and should give us a positively good option, when we know that it cannot and never wanted to.
Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo & The Mother.