Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A pretty dragon

RiverCocytus brought up a piece at winds of change discussing "Basic Principles of the Islamic Worldview" by Sayyid Qutb. Here is a fragment from a quote by Qutb at the very end of the article.
Establishing the "Islamic system" to have beneficial sway over all humanity, those who embrace Islam and those who do not, does indeed require Jihad as does the liberty of men to follow their own beliefs. This goal can only be accomplished with the establishment of a virtuous authority, a virtuous law and a virtuous system that calls to account whoever attempts to attack freedom of worship and belief.
Is there anything new to say about the folly of utopian idealism? No? That's fine - I'll say something old about it. Actually I want to look more deeply at a subject I had to gloss over in a previous post. The subject is Thomas Hobbes' use of the allegorical figure of Leviathan to represent the state. It's a bit of an arcane subject but it's also an element in a broader picture I'm trying to draw in this blog, so please bear with me.

Hobbes' choice to use the biblical creature, Leviathan, in such a way represents a profound rejection of utopian thinking. The book by the same name arrives at a place that we would find familiar. The authority of the state is not based on its divine pretensions or its perfectibility, but rather on the social contract plus those expedients necessary to make up for the flaws of human nature. Those flaws are central to the understanding of this political philosophy.

OF ALL discourse governed by desire of knowledge, there is at last an end, either by attaining or by giving over. And in the chain of discourse, wheresoever it be interrupted, there is an end for that time.

If the discourse be merely mental, it consisteth of thoughts that the thing will be, and will not be; or that it has been, and has not been, alternately. So that wheresoever you break off the chain of a man's discourse, you leave him in a presumption of it will be, or, it will not be; or it has been, or, has not been. All which is opinion. And that which is alternate appetite, in deliberating concerning good and evil, the same is alternate opinion in the enquiry of the truth of past and future. And as the last appetite in deliberation is called the will, so the last opinion in search of the truth of past and future is called the judgement, or resolute and final sentence of him that discourseth. And as the whole chain of appetites alternate in the question of good or bad is called deliberation; so the whole chain of opinions alternate in the question of true or false is called doubt.
- italics are mine

Hobbes was not impressed with man, indeed no more so than the author of The Old Testament book in which Leviathan appears (the book is Job) who shows the people surrounding Job to be incapable of understanding that love and faith, not fear, is the genuine relationship to God. To Hobbes, the converse was as important a point to make, that obedience to the state should be exclusively a practical matter. There is no virtue in offering ones soul to a creature such as Leviathan (or the state!) that deserves only a mixture of fear and respect.
Job Chapter 41
1 Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook?
or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest
5 Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? or wilt
thou bind him for thy maidens? (the implication
is NO, you would not dare do these things
8 Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do
no more.
10 None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then
is able to stand before me?
11 Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him?
whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.
12 I will not conceal his parts, nor his power, nor
his comely proportion.
14 Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth
are terrible round about.
24 His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard
as a piece of the nether millstone.
25 When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid:
by reason of breakings they purify themselves.
33 Upon earth there is not his like, who is made
without fear.
34 He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over
all the children of pride.
The Children of Pride is not an image of the pious before God. The King over all the children of pride, Leviathan, is no virtuous state. Far from it. It's a state that compels obedience through force. The social contract is not a utopian vision. If it were, we wouldn't need this "King over all the children of pride" to keep us in line.

The bottom line, however, is that this anti-utopia, which is really the modern police state as we know it and live in it, when coupled with a good constitution, has proven itself to be a solid framework for the development of liberty.

The problem with most Muslim fundamentalist (yes yes, whoever they are) is that their education consists mostly of memorizing sections of the Koran. They haven't read Leviathan. This is a shame, because they're probably the only people left with a sufficient attention span to get through it.

Here's something shiny for the rest of us

A pretty dragon


Blogger Jeha said...

There is a worse side to this; studies show that more than 3000 Billion was "invested" in the Arab world since the 1970's.

Those ignorants are indeed well funded.

1:34 AM  
Blogger Abu Nopal said...

You can purchase a lot of antiquities with that, and a few antiquarians.

9:54 AM  

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