Thursday, July 07, 2005

Root Cause

The contemporary Western mind has been conditioned by a century or two of scientific reductionism, coupled with decades of misapplications and inversions of this method in the social sciences, to look for root causes of terrorism. But such an endeavor is no more likely to succeed than the attempt to find the cause of violence in a brain scan, or the cause of George Bush's re-election in the quantum state of an electron in a voting machine in Ohio, or the cause of Hurricane Dennis in the attitudes of Floridians towards storm preparation. Any complex phenomenon can only be explained in the context of its relevant frame of reference.

And the one frame of reference that has been written out of Western scientistic discourse is the moral dimension, which is critical to understanding this fight.

The root cause of terrorism is evil. We must reclaim the ability to perceive evil as a motive force in the realm of human affairs; it is one of the oldest pieces of wisdom of our civilization, yet has been relentlessly denied by the most "civilized" in our intelligentsia. Evil can be characterized in somewhat more specific ways; for example, Lee Harris has written eloquently about the ruthlessness of our enemies, who take advantage of our civilized ways, which they perceive as timidity. But make no mistake: evil cannot be reduced to a set of physical properties or sociological phenomena.

Civilized men have long had difficulty accepting the presence of evil in the world; "the problem of evil" has literally bedevilled theology since its inception. But one recent example with devastating consequences: Before the Holocaust, many Jews could not accept the possibility that their compatriots would devour them; ever after, Jews have questioned how God could allow such evil into the world. This difficulty has reached the level of utter negation of the word in contemporary philosophy. I have previously referred to Mark Lilla's book, "The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics," which documents how the most important philosophers of the 20th Century were not only intellectually unequipped to reject evil, but actually wholeheartedly embraced the most despicable totalitarianisms of all time. As I mentioned in that post, this was the first nonfiction work I read after 9/11. Since that time, I have come to the conclusion that any functional philosophical structure must have, at its core, the understanding of evil as a powerful causative agent.


Blogger Goesh said...

I became saddened as I read your commentary, and a bit weary. Hannah Arendt came to mind and I need to read her again, it has been so long. I see some strong paralells with her assessment of evil and the pickle we are in today with these jihadists and the tacit endorsement the Left affords them. The banality of the Left?? Am I taking things too much out of context in calling many intellectuals of the left Osama's Chamberlains? I really don't think so. Hitler's judenrein is today's fatwa with America and now England added to the list for cleansing. Juden raus and allah akbahr, it's the same f***ing thing, it's the same old gestapo, its root cause pure, unadulterated evil. Thanks for a great post.

8:47 PM  
Blogger Dymphna said...

Well, you sure got me going...come see

A Functional Philosophical Structure Must Have an Understanding of Evil

10:32 PM  

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