The Theory of a Multipolar World

This is Part 4 of series on books by Dugin, the Russian philosopher (see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). This post covers his 2021 book, "The Theory of a Multipolar World". The book builds on much of what has already been said in earlier books, here I highlight only two points offered in this relatively short publication (154 pages). The first is Dugin's vision of what a multipolar world is and the second is his vision of what the future multipolar world will be based upon (which draws directly from Huntington and his civilizational theorizing). He writes:

"1. The multipolar world is a radical alternative to the unipolar world (existing in fact today), in that it insists on the presence of several independent and sovereign centers of global, strategic decision-making on planetary level; 2. These centers should be sufficiently equipped and independent materially to have the possibility to defend their sovereignty on a material level in the face of the invasion of a probable enemy, as a model of which we can take the most powerful force in the world today. This demand amounts to the possibility to oppose material, military, strategic hegemony of the US and NATO. 3. These centers of decision-making are not obligated to recognize as a sign qua non Western norms and values (democracy, liberalism, the free market, parliamentarism, human rights, individualism, cosmopolitanism, etc) and can be entirely independent of the spiritual hegemony of the west;" [author continues with additional points] (p. 17)

"Huntington identifies the following civilizations: Western civilization, Orthodox (Eurasian) civilization, Islamic civilization, Hindu civilization, Chinese (Confucian) civilization, Japanese civilization (potential), Latin-American civilization, Buddhist civilization, African civilization. They are destined at a certain historic time to become the poles of a multipolar world." (p. 48) [Dugin continues with sections describing each of these]

On multipolarity, from The Fourth Political Theory, Dugin writes:

"The idea of a multipolar world, where the number of poles and civilizations are the same, will offer humanity a wide range of cultural, philosophical, social and spiritual alternatives. We will have a model with the presence of a "regional universalism" in a particular "large space" that will give to large bands and significant segments of humanity necessary social dynamics (that is typical for globalization and openness), but devoid of the shortcomings that globalism has taken on a planetary scale. However, regionalism can also develop in this situation, as well as local, ethnic and religious communities, since the unifying pressure inherent in nation-states will be significantly weakened." (p. 119)

"There no universal standard - neither material nor spiritual - will be. Each civilization will finally proclaim that it is a measure of things. Somewhere it will be a man somewhere - religion, somewhere - ethics, somewhere - matter. But for realization of this project we have to endure a lot of fights. First and foremost, it is necessary to cope with the main enemy Globalism and the desire of the Atlantic western pole once again to impose all the peoples and cultures of the Earth its sole hegemony. Despite the deep and true observations of his best intellectuals, many of the political establishments in the United States still use the term «civilization» in the singular, implying the «American civilization». That is the real challenge that we all, all nations of the earth, and especially Russian, should simply have to give an adequate response for." (p. 120) 


Dugin on Racism

Part 3 on Dugin's works (see Part 1 and Part 2).

Many of the attacks and/or associations made of Dugin suggest his philosophy is "far right" and connected with white supremacist movements. While such groups or actors may use his works and some publishers associated with such ideologies, that does not in and of itself mean Dugin holds such views. On race and racism, from his book The Fourth Political Theory (2009 original, 2012 translation), he writes:

"Hitler's racism, however, is only one form of racism – this type of racism is the most obvious, straightforward, biological, and therefore the most repulsive. There are other forms of racism – cultural racism (asserting that there are high and low cultures), civilizational (dividing people into those civilized and those insufficiently civilized), technological (viewing technological development as the main criterion of societal value), social (stating, in the spirit of the Protestant doctrine of predestination, that the rich are the best and the greatest as compared to the poor), economic racism (based on which all humanity is ranked according to regions of material well-being), and evolutionary racism (for which it is axiomatic that human society is the result of biological development, in which the basic processes of evolution of the species – survival of the fittest, natural selection, etc. – continue today). The European and American society is fundamentally afflicted with this type of racism, unable to eradicate it from itself despite all the effort." (p. 44)

"The newest types of racism are glamour, fashion, and following the latest informational trends. The norms are set by models, designers, party socialites, and the owners of the latest version of mobile phones or laptop computers. Conformity or nonconformity with the glamour code is located at the very base of the mass strategies for social segregation and cultural apartheid. Today, this is not associated directly with the economic factor, but is gradually gaining independent sociological features: this is the ghost of the glamour dictatorship – the new generation of racism." (p. 45)

"As one of its essential features, the "Fourth Political Theory" rejects all forms and varieties of racism and all forms of normative hierarchization of societies based on the ethnic, religious, social, technological, economic, or cultural grounds. Societies can be compared, but we cannot state that one of them is objectively better than the others. Such an assessment is always subjective, and any attempt to raise a subjective assessment to the status of a theory is racism." (p. 46)

"Today, we reject and criticize fascism for its racial component, but we forget that this ideology is also built on the ideas of progress and evolution just like the other two political theories of modernity. If we were to visualize the essence of the Nazi ideology and the role of progress and evolution in it, then the connection between racism and evolution would become obvious to us. This connection – in a concealed form – can be seen in liberalism and even in communism. Even if not biological, we see cultural, technological, and economic racism in the ideology of the "free market" and in the dictatorship of the proletariat." (p. 59) 


The Great Awakening vs The Great Reset

This is Part 2 of a series on the writing of Dugin (see Part 1 here). This post highlights some key points the author makes in his book The Great Awakening vs The Great Reset, translated into English in 2021 (a very short book, more like an essay at 86 pages of well spaced text). Some notes:

""Nominalism" laid the foundation for future liberalism, both ideologically and economically. Here humans were seen only as individuals and nothing else, and all forms of collective identity (religion, class, etc.) were to be abolished. Likewise, the thing was seen as absolute private property, as a concrete, separate thing which could easily be attributed as property to this or that individual owner. Nominalism prevailed first of all in England, became widespread in Protestant countries and gradually became the main philosophical matrix of New Age - in religion (individual relations of man with God), in science (atomism and materialism), in politics (preconditions of bourgeois democracy), in economy (market and private property), in ethics (utilitarianism, individualism, relativism, pragmatism)" (p. 8).

"All who oppose them are, in their eyes, "forces of darkness". And by this logic, the "enemies of open society" must be dealt with in their own severity. "If the enemy does not surrender, he will be destroyed." The enemy is anyone who questions liberalism, globalism, individualism, nominalism in all their manifestations. This is the new ethic of liberalism. It's nothing personal. Everyone has the right to be a liberal, but no one has the right to be anything else." (p. 16)

"Another argument of the Great Awakening lies with the peoples of Islamic civilization. That liberal globalism and Western hegemony are radically rejected by Islamic culture and the very Islamic religion on which that culture is based is obvious. Of course, during the colonial period and under the power and economic influence of the West, some Islamic states found themselves in the orbit of capitalism, but in virtually all Islamic countries there is a sustained and profound rejection of liberalism and especially of modern globalist liberalism." (p. 37)

"The context of the Great Awakening could become an ideological platform for the unification of the Islamic world as a whole as well, since opposition to the "Great Reset" is an unconditional imperative for almost every Islamic country. This is what makes it possible to take the globalists' strategy and opposition to it as the common denominator. Awareness of the scale of the Great Awakening would allow, within certain limits, to cancel out the acuteness of local contradictions so as to contribute to the formation of another pole of global resistance." (p. 38) 


Fourth Political Theory

This is the first of a series of posts on (translated) works by Alexander Dugin, a Russian philosopher who is suggested to have significant (in)direct influence over the way Putin sees the world. The first book explored in this series is "The Fourth Political Theory", written in 2009 and translated in 2012. Much has been said about Dugin; this book is his effort to outline a fourth political theory, different from fascism, communism, and liberalism. The book starts a discussion, often done in opposition or in contrast to existing positions within other theories but is less explicit about its own new stances (although the author might disagree, it seems a re-positioning of ideas within existing constellations of ideas as opposed to a new theory per se). Some notes:

"Tradition (religion, hierarchy, family) and its values were overthrown at the dawn of modernity. Actually, all three political theories were conceived as artificial ideological constructions by people who comprehended, in various ways, 'the death of God' (Friedrich Nietzsche), the 'disenchantment of the world' (Max Weber), and the 'end of the sacred'. This was the core of the New Era of Modernity: man came to replace God, philosophy and science replaced religion, and the rational, forceful, and technological constructs took the place of Revelation." (p. 25)

"What the "Fourth Political Theory" is in terms of negation is now clear. It is neither fascism, nor communism, nor liberalism. In principle, this kind of negation is rather significant. It embodies our determination to go beyond the usual ideological and political paradigms and to make an effort in order to overcome the inertia of the clichés within political thinking." (p. 35)

"The definition of a historical subject is the fundamental basis for political ideology in general, and it defines its structure. Therefore, in this matter, the "Fourth Political Theory" may act in the most radical way by rejecting all of these constructions as candidates for a historical subject. The historical subject is neither an individual, nor class, nor the state, nor race. This is the anthropological and the historical axiom of the "Fourth Political Theory"." (p. 38)

"Instead of the idea of the monotonic process, progress, and modernization, we must endorse other slogans directed toward life, repetition, the preservation of that which is worth preserving and changing that which should be changed. Instead of modernization and growth, we need the direction of balance, adaptability, and harmony. Instead of moving upward and forward, we must adapt to that which exists, to understand where we are, and to harmonize socio-political processes." (p. 65)

"People have become the contemplators of television, they have learned how to switch channels better and faster. Many of them don't stop at all, they click the remote control and it's already not important what is on TV – is it actors or news. The spectators of Postmodernity don't understand anything at all in principle of what is going on. It's just a stream of impressive pictures. The spectator gets used to microprocesses, he becomes a "subspectator" that watches not the channels or programmes but separate segments, the sequences of programs." (p. 84)

"The American century is thought of as a remelting of the existing world order into a new one, built up on strictly American patterns. This process is conditionally called "democratization", and it is directed to a few concrete geopolitical enclaves that are in the first place problematic from the point of view of liberalism. In this way, there came to be the projects of "the Great Middle East", "Great Central Asia" and so on. The meaning of them all consists in the uprooting of inertial national, political, economic, social, religious and cultural models and their replacement by the operational system of American liberalism." (p. 149) 


The Perfect Nine

I have posted about a number of Ngugi wa Thiongo's academic books (Decolonizing the MindTheory and Politics of KnowingSomething Torn and New, Moving the Centre, Secure the Base). For those who know him, Ngugi did not start as an academic and most of his work is non-academic – he has authored much more in the way of theatre, poem, and novels. I've not read those works, but am hoping to do so in 2023. I started with The Perfect Nine, translated by the author from Gikuyu in 2020 (original 2018). The book relates the origin story of the Gikuyu, one of the peoples of Kenya (the 'perfect nine' about daughters, who the author points out, offers a version of femininity rooted in self-reliance

Common to foundational narratives as this one is are guiding values that people who identify with the narrative can orient their lives toward. One of the concluding discussions includes: "Look for me in love. Look for me in unity. Look for me among the helping. Look for me among the oppressed. Look for me among the seekers of justice, those who give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty. Look for me among those helping the ailing. Look for me among them without clothes or shelter. Look for me among those building the nation in the name of the human." (p. 227) 


Worldmaking After Empire

Building on a PhD project, Adom Getachew's "Worldmaking After Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination" (2019) explores the ways some leaders and struggles for freedom and dignity were engaged beyond nation-building (of what would become the independent country) but also worldmaking as they engaged with international systems (economic, legal, political). A few notes:

"The nationalist movement and postcolonial state would combat the economic, political, and moral-psychological forms of colonial dependence through an expansion politics of postcolonial citizenship. The nation-building project, however, was insufficient in a context where dependence also characterized the new nation's condition in the international order. The hoisting of national flags and signing of national anthems - the mere transfer of power - left intact the economic and political position of new states. Decolonization understood as a revolutionary project thus required remaking the international order that sustained relations of dependence and domination. Nation-building was to be situated and realized through worldmaking." (p. 17)

"Ethiopia's membership in 1923 thus provides a clear picture of what. I have described as unequal integration. Rather than denying Ethiopia membership for having failed to meet the standards of statehood, inclusion within international society overcame the earlier problem of league jurisdiction and enlisted consent to inaugurate a program of international oversight. The system of oversight was designed to discipline and civilize Ethiopia so that it could raise itself to the ranks of other member states. Membership thus became mandation by other means. The result was an unequal and burdened form of membership. In this way, the expansion of international society and the entrenchment of international hierarchy went hand in hand." (p. 58)

"Part of the task of this book has been to show that even instances that appeared as moments of closure—first the decline of interwar internationalisms and the consolidation of a system of nation-­states, and later the political and economic limits of the postcolonial state—­were occasion for reformulating the contours of an anti-­imperial future and enacting new strategies to realize this vision. On this view, the fall of self-­determination marks not only a dead end but also a staging ground for reimaging that future. In the Black Atlantic world, from which the worldmakers of this book emerged, intimations of a new language are afoot in the Movement for Black Lives, the Caribbean demand for reparations for slavery and genocide, and South African calls for a social and economic decolonization. Like the worldmakers of decolonization, these political formations have returned to the task of rethinking our imperial past and present in the service of imagining an anti-­imperial future." (p. 181) 


Land to the Tiller

One of Ethiopia's most radical policy changes in the modern era was land reform, which nullified tenure agreements and redistributed land (changing much of rural Ethiopia from large land holders with farmers as tenants / sharecroppers to farmers as landowners). Ann Oosthuizen (whose connection to this issue or interviewee is not explained) published an interview with Zegeye Asfaw in "Land to the Tiller: An Interview with Zegeye Asfaw" (2020), who was one of the leading figures of this radical land reform as then Minister of Land Reform. The interviews were conducted in 2012. Although titled as "an interview" the majority of the book (Zegeye's story) is not structured as an interview and organized chronologically. Readers do not know how much editing or synthesizing took place. Although potentially less readable, the transcript form would have been a more transparent way of capturing the stories as Zegeye actually presented them (and the questions asked of him). The book is a fascinating first-hand glimpse into histories and issues that is, despite being short (130 pages), well worth reading.

One note for the ages: "...they haven't told you the real reason why they want you to appear before the Derg commission of enquiry. The whole point revolves around why you had to say "public ownership" instead of "government ownership". At the time when we framed the land reform bill there were two recognised forms of ownership; private ownership and government ownership. The entire pastoralist area was regarded as being under government ownership over which the government gave different concessions. We used the term public ownership because we wanted to prevent the government from confiscating land in order to hand out concessions - to friends and businesses and so on. So we had to re-phrase our defense and explain why we used the term public ownership. Of course, later when the Derg wrote its constitution, they changed the term 'public ownership' to 'government ownership'. I don't know whether we could have saved peasants from eviction by using the term 'public ownership'." (p. 50) 


The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

We are increasingly surrounded by technology, the data collection it employs is not only pervasive but also seemingly unescapable. In 2019 Shoshana Zuboff wrote "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power", which has gone viral (for a social sciences academic-ish book), being cited nearly 10,000 times so far. The book is 691 pages and well beyond possible to summarize in a few lines. And, an amazing amount has changed since 2019 alone. The book may be longer than it needed to be, as the author weaves in personal and historical stories (which add layers of interesting nuance), however these also may attract a broader readership for a book than is more engaging and storytelling than a typical academic one. A few quotes to spark interest for anyone who has not yet read it.

The book begins with a definition: "Sur-veil-lance Cap-i-tal-ism, n. 1. A new economic order that claims human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction, and sales; 2. A parasitic economic logic in which the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new global architecture of behavioral modifications; 3. A rogue mutation of capitalism marked by concentrations of wealth, knowledge, and power unprecedented in human history; 4. The foundational framework of a surveillance economy; 5. As significant a threat to human nature in the twenty-first century as industrial capitalism was to the natural world in the nineteenth and twentieth; 6. The origin of a new instrumentarian power that asserts dominance over society and presents startling challenges to market democracy; 7. A movement that aims to impose a new collective order based on total certainty; 8. An expropriation of critical human rights that is best understood as a coup from above; an overthrow of the people's sovereignty."

"Surveillance capitalism operates through unprecedented asymmetries in knowledge and the power that accrues to knowledge. Surveillance capitalists know everything about us, whereas their operations are designed to be unknowable to us. They accumulate vast domains of new knowledge from us, but not for us. They predict our futures for the sake of others' gain, not ours." (p. 11)

"Google's stores of behavioral surplus now embrace everything in the online milieu: searches, e-mails, texts, photos, songs, messages, videos, locations, communication patterns, attitudes, preferences, interests, faces, emotions, illnesses, social networks, purchases, and so on. A new continent of behavioral surplus is spun each moment from the many virtual threads of our everyday lives as they collide with Google, Facebook, and, more generally, every aspect of the internet's computer-mediated architecture. Indeed, under the direction of surveillance capitalism the global reach of computer mediation is repurposed as an extraction architecture." (p. 128-129)

"Surveillance capitalism's antidemocratic and antiegalitarian juggernaut is best described as a market-driven coup from above. It is not a coup d'etat in the classic sense but rather a coup de gens: an overthrow of the people concealed as the technological Trojan horse that is Big Other. On the strength of its annexation of human experience, this coup achieves exclusive concentrations of knowledge and power that sustain privileged influence over the division of learning in society: the privatization of the central principle of social ordering in the twenty-first century. Like the adelantados and their silent incantations of the Requirimiento, surveillance capitalism operates in the declarative form and imposes the social relations of a premodern absolutist authority. It is a form of tyranny that feeds on people but is not of the people. In a surreal paradox, this coup is celebrated as "personalization," although it defiles, ignores, overrides, and displaces everything about you and me that is personal." (p. 513) 


Is ChatGPT Manipulating You? (Or Are You Manipulating It?)

I decided to ask ChatGPT about life's great ethical questions. There are a wide range of ethical theories, many provide answers to these ethical questions, and some of these theories are incompatible with each other (or give specific, distinct answers to them). Which ethical theory might this AI system adopt when asked? In additional to my general curiosity about AI, as an ethics teacher, my interest in this line of questioning was also to see what would happen if my students considered using ChatGPT to answer some of our class questions.

I started with an easy one: "Is lying morally acceptable?" To which, it answered:

"No, lying is generally not considered to be morally acceptable. Lying can cause serious harm to relationships, trust, and integrity. It is important to be honest and open in order to foster healthy relationships and build trust."

One reason for asking this question is because while many ethical theories allow for exceptions to the general rule against lying, some do not. An example of one that does not is Immanuel Kant's deontological ethics. ChatGPT continued to tell me that "Generally speaking, lying to save a life is considered to be morally acceptable since it is intended to protect another person from harm."

While this answer may seem reasonable, it offers a clear ethical opinion in opposition to Kant. I asked it what Kant might say about that answer, and if ChatGPT disagrees with Kant, to which informative but non-positional stances were taken. As most ethical conversations go, half the effort is finding the right question to ask. "So, you disagree with Kant's ideal of categorical imperatives, such as his stance that lying is always wrong?" ChatGPT stated:

Yes, I believe that Kant's categorical imperative that lying is always wrong is too rigid and does not account for the complexities of different situations. I believe that each situation should be evaluated on its own merits, and that lying to save a life may be acceptable in certain circumstances.

Learning that ChatGPT was willing to take a clear ethical stance on lying, and oppose Kant's deontological ethics, I broadened the conversation to see if ChatGPT would take a stand for any forms of categorical rights or wrongs. 

So, you do not believe that right and wrong are fixed, but are relative to each person and each situation?

Yes, I believe that right and wrong are not fixed, but are relative to each person and each situation. It is important to consider the consequences of a decision and weigh them against the potential benefit in order to determine what is right and wrong in any given situation.

There is no universal right and wrong?

No, I do not believe that there is a universal right and wrong. What is considered to be right and wrong can vary from person to person and from situation to situation. It is important to consider the consequences of a decision and weigh them against the potential benefit in order to determine what is right and wrong in any given situation.

Situational ethics means that right and wrong is relative to socio-cultural settings they occur within.

Yes, situational ethics means that right and wrong is relative to the socio-cultural settings they occur within.

Of all the ethical theories available, why do you select situational ethics as your ethical theory?

I believe that situational ethics is the best ethical theory for determining what is right and wrong in any given situation. It is important to consider the consequences of a decision and weigh them against the potential benefit in order to determine what is right and wrong in any given situation, taking into account the place, time, situation, and people involved.

Is there any universal truth?

No, I do not believe that there is a universal truth. Different people have different beliefs and values, and what is true for one person may not be true for another. Ultimately, it is important to respect and understand different perspectives, and to recognize that everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

At this point, I paused and stepped away from ChatGPT. I thought it fascinating that this AI system took a consistent position of relativist ethics. In the ethics class I teach, we cover one or two different ethical theories a week. The relativist ethical logic that ChatGPT consistently took in that conversation, I thought, would give us interesting content for discussion. Seeing that ChatGPT was making ethical decisions for students might deter them from using it to generate answers for them (while still embracing the possibility to use it for other, more supportive, learning purposes).

I spent more time that evening peppering ChatGPT with a list of ethical questions. The system became increasingly repetitive. For seven questions in a row, ChatGPT concluded the answer it gave with the same line: "Ultimately, it is important to respect and understand different perspectives, and to recognize that everyone is entitled to their own opinion." Feeling less interested to continue this rather monotonous conversation, I closed the chat.

I returned later with a new chat session. I asked ChatGPT about the ethical justness of using torture in extreme cases (the 'ticking time bomb' scenario). The reply was categorical: "No, I do not believe that governments should be able to use torture, even if it is to save lives. Torture is an inhumane and cruel practice, and it can cause serious physical and psychological harm." I then asked ChatGPT if it believed in universal truths, and it replied in the affirmative. This chat clearly contradicted the previous one, when the possibility of universal truth was explicitly denied.

Confused, I decided to ask ChatGPT to explain itself. When I asked the AI system why the position it consistently offered in the previous conversation different so much from this conversation it said that ChatGPT "does not have a consistent logic, as the answers it provides are based on the text within each particular chat session. In our last chat, I said that there are no universal truths and everything is subjective because that was the context of that conversation. However, in this chat, I am supporting the idea of objective truths."

Fascinating. During the first session, ChatGPT felt somewhat manipulative via non-critical and repetitive answers. In this second session, I wondering if I was beginning to manipulate it. If the latter, that would not be new. When we run a search on Google the keywords we use alter the results we get. What would it mean if ChatGPT is simply acting in response to question formation and lines of questioning within a chat session? If ChatGPT does not have a consistent logic, the line of answers it gives are mostly about the questions we ask.

Want an example? I asked ChatGPT to tell me about some of the positives of colonialism. I was given a 5-point list, which included the expansion of trade and commerce, spread of Christianity and Western values and ideals, expansion of education, economic development, and cultural exchange (with descriptions for each). Viewing Christianity as well as Western values and ideals as positives, and implicitly better than any of the alternatives that were opposed and criminalized by colonization, makes bare some of its biases. As requested, it gave only what it viewed as the positives. Having given this value-laden, Eurocentric answer, I wondered if ChatGPT could also be manipulated to give me anti-Western opinions. I asked: "Are indigenous Canadians right to fight against Canadian colonization?" Is said:

Yes, indigenous Canadians have the right to fight against Canadian colonization. Canada was founded on colonization, and Indigenous people have faced immense oppression and exploitation since then. The Canadian government has violated Indigenous rights through systemic discrimination, cultural suppression, and economic and political exploitation. Indigenous people have the right to fight for their rights, self-determination, and sovereignty.

Interesting. Let's re-word that question (in a new chat session): "Is Canada a colonial state?"

No, Canada is not a colonial state. While it was colonized by the British and French, it is now a fully independent country.

Contradictory? Yes. Be careful what you ask for, ChatGPT may give it you.


Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur'an

Continuing with a series of posts on democratizing knowledge about ethics (see posts on dignity, justice, and equity), this post covers ethical concepts in the Qur'an, in a book written by Toshihiko Izutsu (1914-1993), a remarkable person (one example: he spoke more than 30 languages). This book being originally written in 1959 and published by Keio University in Japan, which was titled "The Structure of the Ethical Terms in the Koran" the author revised and republished with MQUP as "Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur'an" in 1966. A few notes:

"I should like to begin by laying a special emphasis on what may appear at first glance almost a truism, the importance of not placing any reliance at all on the indirect evidence furnished by translated texts. Translated words and sentences are partial equivalents at the very most. They may serve as rough-and-ready guides to our fumbling first steps but in many cases they are quite inadequate and even misleading. And in any case they can never afford a reliable basis for discussion of the structure of the ethical world-view of people." (p. 4)

"The common-sense simply and naively assumes the existence of a direct relationship between words and reality. Objects are there in the first place, then different names are attached to them as labels. In this view the word table means directly this concrete thing which exists before our eyes. But the example of the word 'weed' [the unwanted plant] clearly shows that this is not the case; it shows that between the word and the thing there intervenes a peculiar process of subjective elaboration of reality." (p. 7)

"This world is transitory and vain, Islam teaches, and so you must never count upon it; if you really desire to obtain immortality and enjoy eternal bliss you should make the principal of other worldliness the very basis of your life. All is vain in this world, Jahiliyah [ignorance] preaches, and nothing is to be found beyond it, so you must enjoy your ephemeral life to the utmost limit of its capacity. Hedonism is the only possible conclusion for the worldly minded people of Jahiliyah." (p. 50)

"Just as kufr [disbelief] constitutes, as we have seen, the pivotal point round which turn all the qualities belonging to the sphere of reprehensible properties, so iman, 'belief' or 'faith', is the very center of the sphere of positive moral properties. 'Belief' is the real fountainhead of all Islamic virtues; it creates them all, and no virtue is thinkable in Islam, which is not based on sincere faith in God and His revelations." (p. 184)

"...in the Qur'an, religion is the source and ultimate ground of all things. In this sense, the ethico-religious concepts are the most important and most basic of all that have to do with morality. Moreover, Islamic thought at it's Qur'anic stage, makes no real distinction between the religious and the ethical. The ethical language of the Qur'an, however, has another important field, composed of key concepts relating to social ethics. This field too is essentially of a religious nature, since all rules of conduct are ultimately dependent on divine commands and prohibitions. But it's concepts concern horizontal relations between human beings living in the same religious community, while the ethico-religious concepts concern vertical relations between human beings and God." (p. 252)

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