Archives For Winter 2008

As seen in recent campaigns, there is a tendency among politicians to conflate all religious fundamentalist movements into one. Wahhabism is widely perceived as the beginning and end. Did religious fundamentalism arise in the Middle East with Wahhabism, inaugurating a continuously expanding, homogeneous and monolithic Islamic fundamentalist movement under unified leadership? As a matter of fact, no, it did not. Middle Eastern religious fundamentalism is much older than Wahhabism, heterogeneous, and fragmentary.


Religious fundamentalism did not arise in the Middle East with Wahhabism. Abdul Wahhab, the eighteenth century founder of the neo-orthodox Wahhabism movement was influenced by late thirteenth century to early fourteenth century Islamic fundamentalist, Ibn Taymiyyah. In the four centuries between them there were other movements as well.

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Christopher Hurtado —  December 22, 2008

Hizbollah was a splinter off of the Amal militia funded by Iran during the Lebanese civil war that attempted to wrestle power from the Maronites who had held it under Lebanon’s Confessional System since 1932. The Maronites had been given this power by the French based on the 1932 census, which was probably cooked to begin with and outdated at the time of the creation of Hizbollah. The confessional system divided up cabinet posts and parliament seats among the Sunnis, Shi’a and Druze, but it gave the Maronites control of the parliament and the presidency. After the PLO’s Black September defeat in Jordan, it moved fighters to Lebanon and sided with the Sunnis, Shi’a and Druze against the Maronites. The Maronites had their own militia, the phalange, which killed a group of PLO fighters setting off the Lebanese civil war. After the 1979 revolution, following the formation of the Islamic Republic, which replaced the Shah with the Ayatollahs, Iran attempted to export the revolution to Lebanon. The Shi’a in Lebanon were most receptive to this. However, the head of the Shi’a militia, Amal, rejected Iran’s offer of funds, weapons, and advisors. Hizbollah splinters off and accepts the aid Iran offered.

Perhaps most intriguing and perplexing among Aristotle’s writings is his theory on how the human intellect passes from a non-thinking state to a thinking one. Aristotle assumed that human thought reflects reality in a distortion-free manner. He also assumed that inborn qualities would taint the thoughts acquired by the human intellect, thus preventing it from performing its proper function. As a result, he took the human intellect to be a “part of the soul” with the ability to “become each thing” but with no nature of its own (De Anima 3.4.429a 10, 21-22; 429b 6). Next, he argued for the presence in the soul, as in all things, of “matter” and a “cause” or “agent” which leads the matter from potentiality to actuality. Thus, Aristotle posited, alongside the potential or material intellect capable of “becoming all things” via the acquisition of all thoughts, an active intellect capable of “making all things” via the making of all thoughts. (De Anima 3.5.430a 10-15).

The meaning of potential intellect and active intellect and the relationship between them are not clear in Aristotle’s De Anima. Is the active intellect part of the human soul or separate from it? (Davidson 3-4). “If the active intellect is entirely independent of the body, how can we reconcile it with Aristotle’s prevailing view of soul as the form of body” (Bunnin and Yu 11-12)? These questions have perplexed philosophers, who have tried to answer them, for two thousand years. Among them were ancient Greek commentators, medieval Islamic, Jewish, and Christian philosophers, and European philosophers. Each of them carefully studied Aristotle, looking for the answers to these questions. In his writings they expected to find the key to man’s essence, his fate, and the structure of the universe (Davidson 3-4). I will demonstrate that the Averroist interpretation of Aristotle’s active intellect is most consistent with Aristotle’s system and, at the same time, that Aristotle is consistent with Plato on this subject, justifying the Neoplatonist interpretation of Aristotle.

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Camp David I was an agreement between Begin and Sadat exchanging Egyptian recognition of Israel for the Sinai, entailing Egypt’s switching its affiliation from East to West and leading to Egyptian economic and political liberalization. Egypt’s change of affiliation occurred in the context of the Cold War. Sadat came to power in Egypt following Nasser’s totalitarian nationalist regime. Nasser’s Egypt had been socialist and in alignment with the East. Sadat pursued an Egypt first policy over the ideology of fighting for the liberation of Palestine. He began sending signals that he was willing to recognize and negotiate with Israel in exchange for the Sinai and investment capital from the West. This entailed moving Egypt from socialism to a free market economy, which led to the intifah (opening) of Egypt’s markets. Bread riots resulted from the intifah. Politically, it meant moving to a multi-party system, but Sadat chose the heads of the opposition parties himself. As for Israel, the head of the Likud government, Begin had to make some concessions of his own. In returning the Sinai to Egypt, Begin had to relent on the Likud party’s Greater Israel ideology.

What is most real, universals or particulars? Plato and Aristotle gave diametrically opposed answers to this basic ontological question and proceeded to build their entire philosophies on the epistemological foundation of their individual answers. As a result, the question has been debated for centuries, some siding with Plato, others with Aristotle, and others still attempting to syncretize the ideas of each. For Plato, universal Forms or ideas are most real. They are imperceptible to the senses, but all that the senses perceive are, according to Plato, a mere shadow of the Forms. Plato sees the universal Forms as ontologically prior to the individual particulars perceived by the senses. His pupil Aristotle, on the other hand, not only affirms that individual particulars are ontologically prior to universals, but that without the individual particulars, there would be no universals. For Aristotle, individual particulars are most real.

In the Categories, Aristotle asserts that substances are, “in the truest and primary and most definite sense of the word” (2a11-13) individual particulars, such as this computer or that telephone (2a13). He asserts that only individual particulars are “neither predicable of a subject nor present in a subject” (2a12-13). Aristotle explains what being “predicable of” or “present in” a subject means in chapter two of the Categories. Being predicable of a subject or not, is simply a distinction between abstract universals and concrete particulars. The particular man, Codell Carter, is not predicable of any subject, but the universal “man” is predicable of Codell Carter. My particular copy of A First Course in Logic is not predicable of any subject, but the universal term “book” is predicable of my particular copy of A First Course in Logic. In other words, universal terms are predicable of subjects, while particular terms are not. As for being or not being in a subject, this refers to the possibility of independent existence. Aristotle describes a subject as that which is “incapable of existence apart from the said subject” (1a22-23). Thus, that which is not in a subject is the subject itself. Since the “Arctic Silver” color of my BMW, for example, cannot exist separately from my BMW, said color is in a subject. But the BMW itself is not in any subject, since the BMW is the subject (3a10-16). Thus, Aristotle distinguishes between attributes (which are present in a subject) and entities (which are not present in a subject) (Hsieh).

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