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February 2012 Policy Study, Number 12-3


The Idea of "the West" and the Revolt Against It

by Donald Paul Byron Racheter



Virtue Versus Consent



This understanding of the political regime sharply contrasts with today’s politics. When is the last time we heard a politician say that virtue is more important than consent, that virtue is happiness, or that the wise in America will do what is right for themselves? Instead of our incessant pre-occupation with ill-conceived “rights,” the political force that ought to drive the American people and politicians is the desire to know why the greatest work of classical republicanism is called Laws, and not, perhaps, “Licentiousness.”


Without such a drive for understanding the essential elements of the political regime, American democracy has become and is the sail of what turns out to be only the hot-air of modern popular thought. The symptom is more widespread to include the world, however, and the cause of the problem is how we view rationalism. Returning to our introductory considerations, Abu-Rabi reveals that Sayyid Qutb and Hasan al-Banna use partial accounts of Western thought, as have the postmoderns we evaluated. Typically this thought originated in Marx and Kant, and is used to defend Islamic fundamentalism—without serious evaluation whether these accounts of rationality are sympathetic to Islamic prophecy or the cause at hand. As we have seen through wars on terrorism, this thought, while ill-informed, is yet a serious political impetus. Even though the proponents of terrorism may not be able to claim allegiance to an existing nation that supports their political goals, the actions caused by terrorists have reshaped the entire world political order. Widespread destruction is hard to ignore. If we are to find serious solutions to the new forms of war the modern world faces, the modern world must examine its own account of reason or the irrationality that some so willingly embrace and promote.


Pangle introduces us to the modern Western political milieu and urges serious investigation of our political rationalism. Pangle reveals to us that our account of reason is crucial to our political or religious regime. If the Western account of political rationalism is to be just to the full human situation, our political rationalism must take seriously the question of justice. If the Mideastern account of political rationalism is to bring about modern prosperity and also respect Islamic prophecy, philosophic inquiry into the just political and religious regime will be necessary. As suggested by Pangle, Alfarabi’s Political Writings[81] begin such an investigation. Alfarabi investigates what the just political and religious regime must look like. If we moderns truly desire the “justice” we so often hear about, we will need to think seriously about what justice is and is not.


Incidentally, Mideastern thinkers like Sayyid Qutb and Hasan al-Banna may be able to “reject the West” and still come to an account of the just political regime, as Pangle tells us we ought to investigate justice through the Islamic philosopher Alfarabi; although, if Alfarabi is indeed the second teacher, after Aristotle, ironically we find the greatest student of the Western tradition in Arabia. In the West postmodern thought, which views reason as inessential, prevents real examination of the political order. Similarly, in order that serious examination of the political order and its relationship to prophetic religion occurs, thinkers like Qutb, al-Banna, and other influential writers in the Mideast will need to reexamine the role of philosophy in education.[82] If we are to construct something resembling the just political order, influential writers in the West and Mideast and modern world alike must take seriously philosophical inquiry into the just political regime.



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