We have been away a while haven't we? It's really quite sad, as life has overtaken Kid Various and his Idiom pals. We'll try to do better. If only for the fact that the intervening months have turned The Kid's mind to jelly. There is nothing better to honing your skills than writing every day, and right now, The Kid can't write anything longer than a laundry list. We're trying to make good. Please bear with us.
In any case, take a look at this lame review of "The Closing of The Muslim Mind" that The Kid wrote. The book isn't lame. It's fantastic. In fact, Kid Various thinks it required reading for those who want to understand the Long War. It's just the Kid's prose that's lacking. When he was in grad school, Kid Various could knock out 20 pages without batting an eye. Nowadays, uh... what was I saying????
Outstanding overview that pinpoints the decline of Islamic thought in the 9th century with the triumph of the Asharites over the Mutazalites. These names likely mean nothing to most Americans, but they are critically important to today's world and the conduct of the Long War.
Essentially, Sunni Islamic thought was initially extremely diverse (the book does not delve into Shiism.) The Mutazalites taught that God's creation was open to human reason. That, essentially, God's laws and intentions could be discovered by reason. In this, they clashed with the Asharites who felt that if God's will was divinable by human reason, if he followed laws that could be deduced by reason, then that put limits on his power. And God is all powerful. Therefore they rejected basic concepts like "cause and effect" which is the case to this very day. Strictly speaking, in Islam, there is no cause for anything except God. If one drops a ball, gravity does not make the ball fall. God makes the ball fall - directly. If does not act at that very moment, the ball will not fall.
By contrast, in Christianity, and in the Enlightenment culture spawned from it, God may be the first cause, but he has set up an order that can be divined by humans. He creates gravity that is the cause of the falling ball. He can perform a miracle and stop gravity, but in most cases he is not acting.
The triumph of the Asharites over the Mutazalites essentially put an end to Islamic philosophy, in favor of revelation and jurisprudence. In other words, it was not important to divine the meaning of God's laws and how they related to humans. Instead Islam demanded that humans simply follow revealed law, and then set up an elaborate system of jurisprudence to administer said law.
This has profound consequences for the present day. It's frequently said that Islam has not undergone an Enlightenment period. This is true, but what is worse, it will be difficult for it to do so, because of the demotion of reason in the Islamic faith, which is central to modernity.This is an excellent book, very readable and is a great introduction to Sunni Islamic thought for the average reader.