“Islamic Philosophy: The Good, the Bad, and the Dangerous” is a two-part lecture about the philosophical roots of Islamic terrorism. I gave these lectures at The Atlas Society’s Summer Seminar in 2004. They were my homage to the victims of 9/11.
For everyone who witnessed the event, September 11, 2001, stands out as a moment in memory. I remember almost every detail of that day. I was in an early meeting that morning in our office in Poughkeepsie, NY. When I came out, the receptionist showed the photo of a plane hitting the north tower of the World Trade Center. The plane looked tiny—I thought it was a civil aviation accident—and I went into another meeting. When I came out, the second plane had hit and we all knew it was war.
I sensed that this was the most significant, world-changing event I would experience in my life, with the possible exception of the fall of the Soviet Union. I worked late into the night thinking and researching, and by the next day I knew the essence of the event: It was an assault on civilization—and specifically an act motivated by what Ayn Rand called “the hatred of the good for being good.” I wrote my analysis and we published it September. 13: “The Assault on Civilization.”But it’s one thing to grasp the moral essence of an event. It’s another thing to understand what lay behind it. As an Objectivist, I believe that philosophical ideas are the ultimate driving force in any culture. I realized, however, that despite all my studies in the history of philosophy as an undergraduate and graduate student, I knew nothing about the history of Islamic philosophy. I made it my business to catch up. My thanks to Andrei Volkov for adapting the slides in this video from my origionals.
These lectures are the result. You will learn about
- The early centuries of Islamic thought, when it was open to new ideas in a tolerant vein and made new discoveries;
- The influence of Aristotle and other ancient Greek thinkers (knowledge passed along to the West during the Renaissance)
- The major thinkers who anticipated later Western ideas by centuries;
- The battle between reason and mysticism;
- The centuries-long stagnation under the rule of mysticism and authority; and
- The recent, fitful efforts to revive previous glory by embracing the worst ideas from the West.