You're either a rationalist, or you're not. And the good news is a recent poll found 20% of adults under 30 say they are rationalists, and have figured out that Santa Claus and Jesus are really the same guy. Now, 20% is hardly a majority. But it's a bigger minority than blacks, jews, homosexuals, NRA members, teachers, or seniors... and it's certainly enough to stop being shy about expressing the opinion that we're not the crazy ones!
The mystics have always stressed the religious aspect of Islam, the rationalists the other one. All the same, both of them have always had difficulties with Islam, simply because it cannot be put into any of their classifications. Take wudu as an example. A mystic will define it as a religious ablution with symbolic meaning. A rationalist will look upon it as a matter of hygiene only. They are both right, but only partly. The defectiveness of the mystic explanation lies in the fact that it lets the hygienic side of wudu become a mere form. Following the same logic in other questions, this approach will reduce Islam to pure religion, by eliminating all physical, intellectual, and social components from it. The rationalists take quite the opposite way. By neglecting the religious side, they degrade Islam to a political movement only, creating a new type of nationalism from it, a so called Islamic nationalism, deprived of ethical-religious substance, empty and equal to all other nationalisms in this regard. To be a Muslim in this case, does not represent an appeal or a duty, a moral or a religious obligation, or any attitude to the universal truth. It means only belonging to a group different from the other one. Islam has never been only a nation. Rather, Islam is a call to a nation, " to enjoin the right and to forbid the wrong" Quran- that is, to perform a moral mission. If we disregard the political component of Islam and accept religious mysticism , we silently admit dependence and slavery. On the contrary, if we ignore the religious component , we cease to be any moral force.
The various systems of doctrine that have held dominion over man have been demonstrated to be true beyond all question by rationalists of such power-to name only a few-as Aquinas and Calvin and Hegel and Marx. Guided by these master hands the intellect has shown itself more deadly than cholera or bubonic plague and far more cruel. The incompatibility with one another of all the great systems of doctrine might surely be have expected to provoke some curiosity about their nature.
In the history of philosophy, the term 'rationalism' has two distinct meanings. In one sense, it signifies an unbreached commitment to reasoned thought in contrast to any irrationalist rejection of the mind. In this sense, Aristotle and Ayn Rand are preeminent rationalists, opposed to any form of unreason, including faith. In a narrower sense, however, rationalism contrasts with empiricism as regards the false dichotomy between commitment to so-called 'pure' reason (i.e., reason detached from perceptual reality) and an exclusive reliance on sense experience (i.e., observation without inference therefrom). Rationalism, in this sense, is a commitment to reason construed as logical deduction from non-observational starting points, and a distrust of sense experience (e.g., the method of Descartes). Empiricism, according to this mistaken dichotomy, is a belief that sense experience provides factual knowledge, but any inference beyond observation is a mere manipulation of words or verbal symbols (e.g., the approach of Hume). Both Aristotle and Ayn Rand reject such a false dichotomy between reason and sense experience; neither are rationalists in this narrow sense. Theology is the purest expression of rationalism in the sense of proceeding by logical deduction from premises ungrounded in observable fact-deduction without reference to reality. The so-called 'thinking' involved here is purely formal, observationally baseless, devoid of facts, cut off from reality. Thomas Aquinas, for example, was history's foremost expert regarding the field of 'angelology.' No one could match his 'knowledge' of angels, and he devoted far more of his massive Summa Theologica to them than to physics.
With the growth of civilisation in Europe, and with the revival of letters and of science in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the ethical and intellectual criticism of theology once more recommenced, and arrived at a temporary resting-place in the confessions of the various reformed Protestant sects in the sixteenth century; almost all of which, as soon as they were strong enough, began to persecute those who carried criticism beyond their own limit. But the movement was not arrested by these ecclesiastical barriers, as their constructors fondly imagined it would be; it was continued, tacitly or openly, by Galileo, by Hobbes, by Descartes, and especially by Spinoza, in the seventeenth century; by the English Freethinkers, by Rousseau, by the French Encyclopaedists, and by the German Rationalists, among whom Lessing stands out a head and shoulders taller than the rest, throughout the eighteenth century; by the historians, the philologers, the Biblical critics, the geologists, and the biologists in the nineteenth century, until it is obvious to all who can see that the moral sense and the really scientific method of seeking for truth are once more predominating over false science. Once more ethics and theology are parting company.
Thomas Henry Huxley
We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares. But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us. This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.