Monday, January 11, 2010

Islamic Slaves to Allah=Objectivist Slaves to Reality?

(Original post edited 4/3/11 for content.)

An exchange at Objectivist Living makes the case that to be a "slave to Allah" equals the Objectivist notion of being a "slave to reality":

Adonis Vlahos:

I am a slave to the Creator, I don't deny it. But God is the only being thing I submit to and I do so as I believe God wishes me to do so. As I said, I'm not here to debate the existence of God.

[Michael Stuart Kelly]:

Adonis, You might be surprised, but this is very close to the Objectivist view. There are a few differences, but the attitude of wanting to do good, the wish to fit in correctly with a bigger picture, and not questioning the metaphysical are the same. What you call Allah, Objectivists call reality. And they are "slaves" to reality just as much as you are a "slave" to Allah.
Jason Quintana makes short work of this:
For example according to MSK the idea that Muslims have to submit to the will of Allah (as channeled by an Arabian prophet) and that Objectivists understand that reality can't be evaded are really parallel ideas. But this is nonsense and it is the reason why there are no parallels. Submission in the sense that Adonis describes is abdication of one's own mind in favor an imagined authority figure and a set of prescribed cultural guidelines and rituals. The Objectivist approach is completely opposite. It sweeps away this kind of nonsense in favor of complete reliance on one's own judgment.

There is no parallel between these approaches and any attempt to create one is an example of intellectual trickery, which is something that MSK is a master at employing.
I want to supplement Jason's analysis with some words from Rand herself. Rand did, in fact, use and invert religious imagery, but in her letters to Isabel Paterson, she emphatically denies what Kelly is trying to attribute to her:
Now, to the question of God–where your presentation of what you assume to be my position simply made me sick. You state my assumption as: "If God exists, man is a slave," and you proceed to say: "Why? Your assumption there is actually that a creative mind necessarily makes a slave of any person less creative who also happens to exist. Does it? My main argument is that the conception of God–or such as I have ever heard or read–denies every conception of the human mind. What is omnipotence? What is infinity? What is a being which is limitless–when the basic conception of existence in man's form of consciousness is the conception of an entity–which means a limit? An entity is that which other entities are not. What is an entity which is everything?
If Rand thought that Paterson's assumptions were sickening, well, would she approve of those of Kelly, when he claims that "My views...are 100% in line with Rand's"? Kelly claims to be making "inroads" of people with opposing viewpoints, but it seems to me that it goes against Rand's own wishes on how to do that.

Let's see how she described Howard Roark:

"Religion-None. Not a speck of it. Born without any 'religious brain center.' Does not understand or even conceive of the instinct for bowing and submission. His whole capacity for reverence is centered on himself."

The ironic thing here is that Kelly is quick to accuse Objectivists of treating the philosophy "religiously," yet he attempts to make "inroads" to reconcile concepts like "turning the other cheek" with Objectivism. Lindsay Perigo offers a rebuttal to Kelly's examples of the "Jesus strategy" in Rand's fiction, while identifying the "Trojan Horse" involved that divided reception of the article: "that clever little tactic/strategy distinction thrown in to confuse the guillible."

Anyway, I showed how Rand used the honest approach in my previous post, where, in her review of Roots, she identifies the best and worst of the subject, gives credit where credit's due, and criticizes accordingly. Hell, she was even open to hearing the best of the religious argument. In another letter, to a fan, she writes:

Perhaps a philosophical statement could be made defining God and man's relation to God in a way which would not be demeaning to man and to his life on earth. But I do not know of such a statement among the popular conceptions of God.

I'd dare say that Rand would not find such a statement among the conceptions of Adonis Vlhahos, either. Vlhahos, a Muslim who claims that Libertarianism is compatible with Islam, has admitted that he has not read Rand, and it shows: his description at his blog states that he is a "A Student/Traveler's Thoughts on The Vital Issue: Prying Islam from the Hands of Liars, Extremists and Fools and the Returning of Islam to its Rightful Position in the World in Providing an Example of Compassion, Generosity, Honor, Chivalry, Dignity and Altruism to Mankind and The Defense of ALL of People's Right to Live in Peace while Enjoying Equal Access to Liberty and Justice Regardless of Color or Race."While some of those examples are certainly worthy, (I'm certainly not against "equal access to liberty and Justice, Regardless of Color or Race"), the use of "altruism" (self-sacrifice) negates that "equal access," on an individual level. The very equation of "true Islam" with "altruism" should give pause to anyone their views to be "100% inline with Rands."

But then, Rand never accepted that her philosophy was compatible with Libertarianism, either...

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