Reply to Ibrahim Lawson
Hello again, Ibrahim (if I may)
I have pointed out that other religious folk are able to tolerate – some even positively encourage – critical thought about religion in school. I ask: why aren’t you?
If I have understood correctly, your answer is that this is simply not permitted according to Islam. In any good Islamic school, “Islam is a given and never challenged”.
Your main response to my arguments for encouraging such critical thought seems to be this: that you and I have different foundational principles. Your foundational principles include certain beliefs about Islam, mine don’t. Neither set of foundational principles can ultimately be “justified” (perhaps because all justifications have to come to an end somewhere, and here is where they come to end).
Procedural reason always takes something for granted – premises. If our first premises – our foundational principles – differ, reason will not, then, be able to settle which are correct.
I guess you think this dispute over how children should be taught is just such a dispute. It is rooted in differences between us that are foundational. So reason cannot arbitrate between us – it cannot settle who is right and who is wrong.
As you put it: we have here a rationally “unresolvable disagreement over specific, first order issues”.
Is that a fair representation of your argument? If so, I’ll start by making one small observation. It might not be a good idea to invoke MacIntyre.
MacIntyre does say that all reasoning takes place within the context of some traditional mode of thought. But he doesn’t think this means that certain traditional ways of thinking must therefore be protected from rational scrutiny. In fact MacIntyre clearly states “nothing can claim exemption from reflective critique” [my italic, After MacIntyre, p298].
I repeat, MacIntyre says “Nothing can claim exemption from reflective critique”. That seems to be exactly what you deny.
I think the muddle here is this – it may be true that certain foundational beliefs or principles cannot be rationally justified in any non-circular way. It maybe that reason cannot settle which of us is correct, when it comes to those beliefs.
However, even if this is true, and even if certain principles of Islam are, for you, in this sense, foundational, it doesn’t follow they should not be subjected to critical scrutiny. Indeed, MacIntyre thinks they should!
In short: It’s one thing to say certain basic principles cannot be justified (because they are foundational). It’s quite another to say they should not be subjected to critical scrutiny. (this line added 6th Dec)
So what, then, is your argument for saying that the foundational principles of Islam should not be subjected to critical scrutiny? Other, of course, than that it says they shouldn’t? It seems you have none. Certainly, MacIntyre does not provide you with any.
Incidentally, I think reason does indeed establish that the basic tenets of Islam are false, and also that the educational method you advocate is dangerous. That’s to say, I don’t think this is a rationally “unresolvable disagreement over specific, first order issues”. But let’s not get distracted by that for the moment.
P.S. I would be very happy to give a talk at the mosque. Do ask the imam to get in touch. Also, please invite him, and any other Muslims you think might be interested, to chip in here, if they wish.