Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More from the world of the obvious: Modernity and reaction in Turkey. Tell me which is which. Modernity can't be imposed without a cost. It needs to be learned. Colin McGinn is a fool [link to his new page: old link is dead]

Religion is the foundation of a Burkean moral order, the foundation to a rule under law. To the faithful the primary order is moral order and "science" as such is secondary. Religious fundamentalists are fearful of science because they are fearful of the loss of the logic and justification for their way of life. Technocratic rationalists who criticize fundamentalists for illogic miss the point: fundamentalists use smoke and mirrors to defend not abstraction but autonomy. To them the replacement is not of God by men but of God by men other than themselves: the experts and technocrats who say they know better. Turkey is just one example on a list that includes Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries that skipped the bourgeois revolutions and went directly into full modernity.* But that modernity was an authoritarian modernity, and the secularism was not a secularism of doubt but certainty, a faith not in reason but in the leader's or leadership's ability to reason. And in every case it was corrupt. The rule of law on the other hand is the rule of textual interpretation, originating in religious scholarship and later inevitably but slowly freed from it. This is what is happening in Turkey and Iran. The rule of law is not the rule of reason it protects us from it, because rule of reason will always become the rule of the reasoners and the reasonable. This is not democracy.

Textualism sows discord. But discord bounded within a formal representational system of divided government and courts is what gives democracy its strength. Rationalists oppose textualism to reason and in doing so are contemptuous of democratic forms of government. It's just too sloppy for them.

The literary secularist's response to the technocrat and the philosopher rationalist is simple. Call it the Philip Roth Argument. Confronting the philosopher expert who says he knows what he's doing, give him a copy of Portnoy's Complaint: "What the fuck am I doing?? I don't know what the fuck I'm doing!" Call it the divided government of novelist and critic, as opposed to the unified government of expertise. The political implications are obvious. And this puts paid McGinn's and others' arguments on consciousness, begat not from reason but assumption.

*The US bears signs of this. The technocratic rationalism that passes for political intellectualism has its match in the anti-intellectualism of the majority, a majority that includes artists and writers who unlike writers in other countries aren't considered and don't consider themselves intellectual. Santayana understood this division. The anglophone internet self-selects for one side of it of course.

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