Monday, May 17, 2010

APA (The all-purpose-argument (against holy-warriors))

This is a follow-up to earlier posts on the debate within Islam. I claimed in one post that non-believers can have some say in the internecine debate now raging in the Muslim world. One way in which such outsider say can be had is to point out some logical consequences of the true believers’ views regarding his personal relationship to divine will or divine communiqué. This is a brief sketch of these logical consequences:

This argument can be used by anyone against any person that claims divine communication as justification for actions, including political acts like subjugation and holy war. This argument is neutral between faith traditions and between divine command theory and other religiously anchored ethical outlooks (such as use of Natural Law argument). The key thing here is that it can be used against any person who claims divine communiqué as reason to impose his will on other free human beings. It is addressed to such claimants personally:

Assume you are correct in what you say: Then, it follows that to do right is to act in accord with the divine communiqué you believe yourself to possess.

To act in accord with a DC necessarily involves a grasp of the DC.

To grasp that DC, one must be able to understand the DC and understand that one’s situation is covered by the DC.

In order to understand the DC, one must understand a spoken or written text.

To understand a spoken or written text, one must understand various things germane to it, semantically and grammatically.

To understand both of these requires that one negotiate through semantic and grammatical ambiguities or vagaries associated with the words and the grammatical structures used, and alight on the reading of the text that is in fact the intended reading (what God really means).

In addition, one must be correct in ones judgments as to the applicability of the contents of the divine communiqué to the situation one is regarding.

If one claims to have alighted on The Reading (TR) of the text, then one must have good reason for claiming this.

That good reason must either come from (1) other persons’ reading of the situation vis-à-vis the text, or (2) by dent of your own personal ability to divine the correct reading of the situation and text or (3) it must somehow come from God directly.

(1) If you believe it comes from other persons, then you must have reason to believe that these previous people, or some who came even before them, divined the correct reading of the situation and text.

Yet, to have such a reason to believe this, you must have reason to believe the testimony of these others is reliable, and in fact ultimately the result of someone having divined the correct reading of the situation and text.

So, you will necessarily have to have already undergone a negotiation through semantic and grammatical ambiguities or vagaries associated with the words and grammatical structures used by these earlier people, and you will have to have already undergone a judgment as to the applicability of all this earlier material to the situation at hand.

This process cannot go on forever, for that would involve you, and every other person in the chain, in a vicious regress of interpretation. You would in fact not have good reason to believe that you have alighted on The Reading of the text.

What is more, if it does not go on forever, it must find terminus in an original writer of the text. The same considerations above sketched for all subsequent people in the interpretive chain will apply now to him/her, being a human being that spoke the words or wrote them down.

That person will have to believe him/herself to have received direct communication from God (see below) and will also have to believe that he has accurately recorded the communiqué. (See below)

Therefore, we need to look at the second and third disjuncts. We’ll do so, each in turn:

(2) If your are indeed justified in claiming that you personally have alighted on TR, it must be due to your believing you have a personal ability to divine the correct reading of the situation and text.

But, in order for you to believe you have a personal ability to do this, you must have good reason to believe your own cognitive faculties are reliable, and have in fact divined the correct reading of the situation and text. You must have good reason to believe that you are not capable of error in regard to the situation and divine origin of the text.

No one has such reason with regard to his own cognitive abilities. Therefore, you cannot justifiably make this claim.

So, we have eliminated the second disjunct. You now have exactly one left:

(3) If you are justified in claiming that you have alighted on TR, it must be due to your believing that God has directly communicated it to you.

But, once again, this requires that you have good reason to believe that you are not capable of error in regard to your belief that God has communicated with you regarding the situation.

No one has such reason to be without any doubt as regards his own cognitive abilities, for they are necessarily involved in any such judgments.

So, we have eliminated all disjuncts.

There is no sufficient justification you have provided for your claim that imposing what you believe to be God's communiqué or his will upon other people is indeed in concert with God’s will. In short, you are no better equipped than the rest of us in this regard, and since we are all similarly equipped cognitively, the most reasonable position to take is to leave matters of divine intent, or interpretation of divine communiqué to open, free and rational discussion. And, when it comes to the realm of the political, you should not employ arguments from God’s will, unless you are also willing to employ other arguments that can persuade. In fact, persuasion should be the only route taken. Violence is never tolerable in a civil society. To employ political violence or coercion in the name of God is in fact to arrogate to yourself a status no human being has; divinity. It is the height of arrogance, hubris and disdain for your fellow man.

Monday Madness: "That Close"