Cases for considering the European Tradition: Islam and America

Jun 2016
85
A Shell of Steel
#1
Cases for considering the European Tradition: Islam and America

This post is intended to explore and expand on my previous post discussing The European Tradition.


For this purpose, I am going to take two case studies to examine the potential and limitations of change in a tradition, in this case the European tradition.


There is much talk about the increasing presence of Islam in Europe. The question for this post is, can the presence of Islam contribute to the European tradition?


First, it must be stated that Islam is not part of the European tradition. Its origins are not European and its goals have not been to strengthen Europe. From that fact one can deduce that the incorporation of Islam into Europe is not in itself an addition to the European tradition but an addition of something foreign to that tradition. The story of Islam in Europe is rather part of a history of the Islamic tradition, as well as the traditions of any people who hold to that belief. If a European converts to Islam, they are joining another tradition. These are simple statements of facts.


The question is then, can Islam contribute to the European tradition? In order for Islam to contribute to the European tradition, it would have to do so on the grounds of that tradition, not in spite of those grounds or in opposition to them. Are there tenants of Islam which would strengthen the pre-existing goals and values of Europe without undermining their tradition? That is not a question which will be addressed in this post.


It might be worth considering the introduction of Christianity into Europe, which instigated a break with Greek and Roman religion and the basis of their values. The case of Rome is both complicated and illumining in this regard. Because of Rome’s nature as an expansionist empire, the region of Judea was incorporated into the Roman empire. While the provinces of Rome were generally not granted equal rights of citizenship, there was nonetheless a regional incorporation into the empire.


This is worth considering in relation to Islam in Europe today. One might be tempted to say that the incorporation of Muslim peoples into Europe today is equivalent of the incorporation spoken of above, and that the tenants of liberalism justify such an incorporation, but there are certain important differences. Most importantly is the difference of the incorporation of land into the Roman empire. The reason for this is that geography and tradition are intimately linked, in that not all policies can be effectively applied upon every location because the conditions which affect locations differ. This means that measures for social organization will differ in various locations as well as the ideas which contribute to effectively dealing with those conditions including value-systems.


Another important consideration is that Rome did not adopt Judaism but Christianity which later arose within the new boarders of the Roman empire. In addition, the developing Christianity was not simply a re-branding of Judaism for Rome but instead made reference to the new climate, including certain gospels of the New Testament being written in Greek, as well as Epistles to the Romans becoming part of the Christian gospels.


It should also be considered that after Christianity became the state religion of Rome, the empire fell within a hundred years. That means that the story of Christianity is intimately entwined with the fall of Rome and the origins of a new era in the West. It must also be considered that neither Rome nor other regions of pagan Europe adopted Christianity as a replacement for their current practices but rather transformed Christianity, evinced in Church iconography as well as its assimilation in Northern countries most clearly evinced in the Epic tradition with such examples as Beowulf and the Icelandic Sagas. Also, insofar as Europe was not unified before Charlemagne, one cannot even speak of a European tradition proper before the inception of Christianity but rather things like Germanic, Celtic, Icelandic, and so on.


I would like to round this post off by saying a few words about America, as it demonstrates an interesting case for thinking about the European condition. When answering the question, is the United States European? The answer must be ambivalent and somewhat equivocal. To be clear, I am speaking about the political entity of the united states and not the continent.


First, the origins of America was the colonization of European powers by European peoples. This is of primary importance. But when the United States declared independence from Britain, they were effectively severing important ties from Europe and its condition. This does not automatically qualify the United States as being non-European, because it could simply be a growth of the European idea. What it did do was increase the potential for America to become something non-European.


To explain, the declaration of independence as well as the constitution of the United States is founded in large part upon ideas which developed in Europe and by those with ancestry to Europe, but the act of independence made possible the development of new ideas upon the continent to be something which is not European, namely American. That means, by carving out the potential of a new trajectory, the Americans made it possible to become something other than European. To this must be added the difference of geography as well as the presence of other peoples on the continent, most importantly the natives of America. The natives have played a significant role in the development of American ideas, evinced clearly in foundational works of American literature such as The Last of the Mohicans. The case is the same with the significant presence of Africans in America, whose history and narratives have also played a significant role in the development of American consciousness. Most importantly, this was a consciousness which developed separately and as something other than that of Europe proper.


These considerations have been intended to aid the consideration of what tradition is and how it develops with particular focus on the European Tradition.
 
Mar 2012
388
#2
Ive become interested in researching and studying "Eurocentric" or European Values or Value systems/concepts that are not based on or written by activists with Anti-European outlook. Ive come up with some of my own but since Im not European or of European ancestry Id like to know if you have any?(Im assuming that you're European) I dont mean to change the topic, I just find this post and your blog interesting and a good place to find what Im looking for.
 
Jun 2016
85
A Shell of Steel
#3
I'd be happy to help in any way that I can, but I'm not completely sure what you're asking. Are you asking me about which value-systems/concepts have been important in the European tradition?

I will give a brief answer to that. If you mean something else you can perhaps clarify. If that is what you meant and would like more information, I would be happy to elaborate or discuss it with you or anyone else here. Of course I can't say that I am an expert in every aspect of European history, but rather more knoweldgeable about some things and less knowledgeable about others.

Generally the Greeks are considered the foundation of European values. Homer (The Iliad and the Odyssey) would be a good place to start. Homer puts a great stress upon the values of one's ancestors. His heroes are frequently referred to with reference to their fathers, grandfathers and so on. If one's ancestors have accomplished great deeds then it is reflected in oneself. One's own deeds, including, but not limited to, military prowess and wise counsel, are a reflection of one's worth.

The Homeric texts are not straightforward though, because Achilles is generally considered the greatest hero, yet he comes into conflict with the leader of the Achaeans, Agamemnon, because Agamemnon demands that Achilles relinques the woman which Achilles has claimed as a reward of his prowess. So the king holds precedence over even the greatest prowess, but because Achilles then refuses to fight, Agamemnon is then forced to try to make concessions towards him. I only bring this up to show that, because the works of Homer are narratives, there is greater interpretation necessary to understand what exactly is intended as the lesson.

Because I can't go over every thinker, I will say about the pre-Socratic philosophers that they sought to understand being as a whole, they asked in a sense, what is the essence of being? and thereby sought an underlying but unifying element. Heraclitus said that the unifying element of being is fire and held that being is always in the process of change. This added a paradoxical element to the study of being because it is simultaneously unified and disunified because change was its essence.

Plato would be one of the first philosophers to give a coherent value system. I am not going to pretend to interpret the entirety of Plato's work in a few sentences but I will mention a few of the most important points. It is hard to separate his ideas from Socrates, who is the main interlocutor in many of his dialogues. In The Republic, Socrates says that the soul is made of three parts. Intelligence, Spiritedness (or courage) and appetite (or desire). Justice is when these parts of the soul are in the proper order. Intelligence must rule. Second in the hierarchy is spiritedness, or courage, which is the value of the "guardians" like the army, which must come to the defence of the proper order, and finally there is appetite, which is the majority of people who live only to satisfy their needs and desires.

Nietzsche criticized Socrates for causing the Greeks to question their instincts, reordering the values, and leading ultimately to the predominance of disinterested science and Europe losing certainty in its own values and beliefs. He also thought that philosophy and philosophical argumentation was really just a new kind of battle, but one of wits rather than physical.

There are of course Christian values which have played a large part in European history. I will not really go into them here. Depending how one sees things, scientific empiricism could be seen as an attempt to circumvent religious control over inquiry. Francis Bacon said that studying the works of God (the physical world) was a new way of understanding His will.

There are liberal values, important early thinkers would be Hobbes, and John Locke. Hobbes held that all men had the innate right to defend themselves, but must submit to the will of the monarch. Locke held that men had the right to overthrow a government which had become tyrannical. I am of course oversimplifying.

It would probably be easiest if you were more specific about what you're interested in. For example, liberalism, capitalism, socialism, and even fascism have fairly deep roots in European thought and none of them are as simple as some believe them to be.

If you look at my post Europe, A History of Progress? Pt. 2 it gives a few more insights about later developments in European values and also a bit of information on how European thought lost some of its self-certainty. Though it does not cover 20th century and later ideas, the essence of what is written there does have a bearing on things like Modernism and Post-Modern thought (in a fairly simplified manner).
 
Last edited:
Oct 2013
14,533
Europix
#4
Do You mind if I nitpick a bit Your OP?



First, it must be stated that Islam is not part of the European tradition
What is Your time frame and geographic area when talking "European tradition"?


Because Your statement can be countered by the obvious fact that Islam was present in Europe since the 8th c, continuously.


Its origins are not European and its goals have not been to strengthen Europe.
Rather obvious, again: Christianity's origins aren't European either, nor Christianity's goals were to strengthen Europe.


... These are simple statements of facts.
Not exactly: these are simple statements based on interpretation of facts.


You make a parallel with ancient Rome, Christianism, fall of Rome (it's quite in fashion these days).


But You forget a fundamental thing: at a certain moment, ancient Rome adopted as official (then unique) religion Christianity.


It is that political act that changed everything, not Christian religion in itself.


So, if we're to continue logically Your parallel, the hypothesis to take into account would be today's political Europe addopting and impose Islam as sole official religion.


________
P:S:
If a European converts to Islam, they are joining another tradition. ...
I'd avoid saying that in the presence of Albanian ....
 
Sep 2015
1,805
England
#5
Interesting stuff.

Not exactly chainmail, and surcoats - 'from about the 12th century, knights wore long, flowing surcoats, frequently emblazoned with their personal arms, over their armour.' as below. Apparently the guy on the right is wearing a jupon!?)

Knights of the middle ages surcoat and jupon.jpg

but nonetheless.

Interesting coincidence that Hobbes was before, and Locke after, the English 'Glorious Revolution'.

But funnily enough i sort of realised i didn't really know what all these bloomin isms were properly fully on about. Sure there is the wiki and online, but from a proper book, no?

Anyways, so i get this book out of the library, that was the full whack deal, Political Ideology in British Politics, 2015, and it was bang up to date, and written by some leading professor. What could be wrong. In a nut shell, the most extensive chapter Liberalism waxed lyrical, elevated, soared, high over the summits of thought and society. Next came Socialism: clearly there was something wrong here, and yet something entirely decent, but in effect the entire chapter talked about the merits of parliamentary socialism, only. Then there was something about Cosmopolitanism, which was patently nice and friendly and matter of fact. Then Conservatism, which peculiarly turned out the smallest of the chapters, and was generally faintly critical throughout. Then smaller chapters on Communism (Marxism), Fascism, Green Ideologies. Obviously all extreme or a single issue. The overall picture soon emerged however. There were lines critical if only slightly or faintly, or in passing, of Conservatism, and only Conservatism, in most of the other chapters, and no real heated criticism of anything else. And there was only one ideology described fully and entirely in a positive light. Yes, Liberalism.

This last however could only really be understood, as idealistic in a word.

A sort of disappointing book in one respect but interesting in these key points.

I've encountered two somewhat different definitions of pluralism at the wikipedia. I read the entire wiki page for conservatism after reading the book above, but still don't fully or exactly get it! I mean is says exactly as follows to begin: 'Conservatism is a political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilisation. The central tenets of conservatism include tradition, human imperfection, hierarchy, authority, and property rights.'

Not exactly going anywhere fast is it??! But how were you supposed to know that (supposing it to be true)?? I read newspapers, i watched political TV progs, like Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman (in the UK) every now and then. Literally who knew ??! It sounds like Kevin Cline in the film A Fish Called Wanda to me !!!
 
Likes: Far Flight
Mar 2012
388
#6
I'd be happy to help in any way that I can, but I'm not completely sure what you're asking. Are you asking me about which value-systems/concepts have been important in the European tradition? I will give a brief answer to that. If you mean something else you can perhaps clarify. If that is what you meant and would like more information, I would be happy to elaborate or discuss it with you or anyone else here. Of course I can't say that I am an expert in every aspect of European history, but rather more knoweldgeable about some things and less knowledgeable about others.

Generally the Greeks are considered the foundation of European values. Homer (The Iliad and the Odyssey) would be a good place to start. Homer puts a great stress upon the values of one's ancestors. His heroes are frequently referred to with reference to their fathers, grandfathers and so on. If one's ancestors have accomplished great deeds then it is reflected in oneself. One's own deeds, including, but not limited to, military prowess and wise counsel, are a reflection of one's worth.

The Homeric texts are not straightforward though, because Achilles is generally considered the greatest hero, yet he comes into conflict with the leader of the Achaeans, Agamemnon, because Agamemnon demands that Achilles relinques the woman which Achilles has claimed as a reward of his prowess. So the king holds precedence over even the greatest prowess, but because Achilles then refuses to fight, Agamemnon is then forced to try to make concessions towards him. I only bring this up to show that, because the works of Homer are narratives, there is greater interpretation necessary to understand what exactly is intended as the lesson.

Because I can't go over every thinker, I will say about the pre-Socratic philosophers that they sought to understand being as a whole, they asked in a sense, what is the essence of being? and thereby sought an underlying but unifying element. Heraclitus said that the unifying element of being is fire and held that being is always in the process of change. This added a paradoxical element to the study of being because it is simultaneously unified and disunified because change was its essence.

Plato would be one of the first philosophers to give a coherent value system. I am not going to pretend to interpret the entirety of Plato's work in a few sentences but I will mention a few of the most important points. It is hard to separate his ideas from Socrates, who is the main interlocutor in many of his dialogues. In The Republic, Socrates says that the soul is made of three parts. Intelligence, Spiritedness (or courage) and appetite (or desire). Justice is when these parts of the soul are in the proper order. Intelligence must rule. Second in the hierarchy is spiritedness, or courage, which is the value of the "guardians" like the army, which must come to the defence of the proper order, and finally there is appetite, which is the majority of people who live only to satisfy their needs and desires.

Nietzsche criticized Socrates for causing the Greeks to question their instincts, reordering the values, and leading ultimately to the predominance of disinterested science and Europe losing certainty in its own values and beliefs. He also thought that philosophy and philosophical argumentation was really just a new kind of battle, but one of wits rather than physical.

There are of course Christian values which have played a large part in European history. I will not really go into them here. Depending how one sees things, scientific empiricism could be seen as an attempt to circumvent religious control over inquiry. Francis Bacon said that studying the works of God (the physical world) was a new way of understanding His will.

There are liberal values, important early thinkers would be Hobbes, and John Locke. Hobbes held that all men had the innate right to defend themselves, but must submit to the will of the monarch. Locke held that men had the right to overthrow a government which had become tyrannical. I am of course oversimplifying.

It would probably be easiest if you were more specific about what you're interested in. For example, liberalism, capitalism, socialism, and even fascism have fairly deep roots in European thought and none of them are as simple as some believe them to be.

If you look at my post Europe, A History of Progress? Pt. 2 it gives a few more insights about later developments in European values and also a bit of information on how European thought lost some of its self-certainty. Though it does not cover 20th century and later ideas, the essence of what is written there does have a bearing on things like Modernism and Post-Modern thought (in a fairly simplified manner).
Hey Thanks for the reply, sorry my question seems a bit confusing and vague. Let me first say that your response is helpful. Thank You, I will try to analyze it and gleam what I can from your post.

Now let me be clear, what values do you think permeates most of European cultures, values that one can point to as consistantly shaping the cultural and intellectual zeitgeist of various European peoples throughout history. For Example, One "Value" that I think could be claimed is "Humanism" or the value of the Human form as ideal. For example unlike many others peoples who had Anthropomorphic or Invisible "Unseen" gods, European gods were seen in the image of Humans with perfect bodies but with imperfect emotions and ambitions. The gods could cheat, lie, manipulate, lust etc. To me this means Europeans didnt need the Gods and the Cosmos to be perfect, Humanity was perfect in its own way, and to make a better world is to better understand Humanity. I hope my example helps I realize this subject might be way more complicated to pin down so simplistically. Also it might be more opinion than fact, honestly Im just curious. Every attempt to find an answer leads me to websites who seem to have an anti-European outlook or Agenda.
 
Likes: Far Flight
Jun 2016
85
A Shell of Steel
#7
Do You mind if I nitpick a bit Your OP?
Sure, no problem! I'd prefer to learn than to dogmatically hold to views that may be false, but I hope we can discuss it in a reasonable manner?





What is Your time frame and geographic area when talking "European tradition"?
I have no time-frame (by that I mean all history) and geographically I would generally consider between Turkey on the east and the Iberian peninsula on the west. I do not consider Turkey part of the European tradition because the Turks conquered Constantinople which I would consider part of that tradition. That geographic area was then transformed by forces and traditions outside of Europe.


Because Your statement can be countered by the obvious fact that Islam was present in Europe since the 8th c, continuously.
Islam was present in Europe but it was not part of the European tradition. Judaism has also existed in Europe for a very long time but I would not consider it part of the European tradition. This is because inceptionally it was not created by a European nor founded on European ideas.




Rather obvious, again: Christianity's origins aren't European either, nor Christianity's goals were to strengthen Europe.
I didn't really say though that Christianity's origins are European. I said that the case of Christianity was unique because it originated within the Roman empire, and by the time there was a European consciousness that differed from a Greek and a Roman consciousness (I took my example as Charlemagne because he was conscious of a European cultural community) Christianity was already present. This was how I discussed it. I would be open to considerations of whether Christianity is truly European.





Not exactly: these are simple statements based on interpretation of facts.
Granted, though I hope there was some mix of facts and interpretation.


You make a parallel with ancient Rome, Christianism, fall of Rome (it's quite in fashion these days).


But You forget a fundamental thing: at a certain moment, ancient Rome adopted as official (then unique) religion Christianity.


It is that political act that changed everything, not Christian religion in itself.
I did not say that Christianity was the cause of the fall of the Roman empire. It did become the official religion around the end of the Roman empire though. The reason I brought this up is because of what I have tried to explain just above, that Christianity was coming into play at the end of a Roman consciousness and into the beginning of a European (as different from Roman) consciousness.


So, if we're to continue logically Your parallel, the hypothesis to take into account would be today's political Europe addopting and impose Islam as sole official religion.
I would not say so, because Europe adopting Islam would be the equivalent of Rome adopting Judaism, not Christianity. You are also missing from this story the geographical spread of Rome and that Christianity developed within the boarders of Rome with various influences that were European - the use of the Greek language to write gospels and the considering of Roman society in the Epistles to Rome which are core documents of the Christian faith. Of course I hold these thoughts open to discussion and not closed because I, all knowing and all powerful, have spoken. But I don't accept your logic as a clear account of my position because you are not really taking into account these things which I said.


I'd avoid saying that in the presence of Albanian ....
Well there may be Albanians here and I still hold that Islam is not European and will not be. It may influence certain European ideas though.
 
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Jan 2019
41
Earth
#8
1) Christianity is not Europeanas well.

2) American culture is European after Europeans genocides millions of natives there.

If Europeans can make Americathere, I don't understand why Muslims can't make America theirs as well.
 
Likes: Far Flight
Jun 2016
85
A Shell of Steel
#9
Anyways, so i get this book out of the library, that was the full whack deal, Political Ideology in British Politics, 2015, and it was bang up to date, and written by some leading professor. What could be wrong. In a nut shell, the most extensive chapter Liberalism waxed lyrical, elevated, soared, high over the summits of thought and society. Next came Socialism: clearly there was something wrong here, and yet something entirely decent, but in effect the entire chapter talked about the merits of parliamentary socialism, only. Then there was something about Cosmopolitanism, which was patently nice and friendly and matter of fact. Then Conservatism, which peculiarly turned out the smallest of the chapters, and was generally faintly critical throughout. Then smaller chapters on Communism (Marxism), Fascism, Green Ideologies. Obviously all extreme or a single issue. The overall picture soon emerged however. There were lines critical if only slightly or faintly, or in passing, of Conservatism, and only Conservatism, in most of the other chapters, and no real heated criticism of anything else. And there was only one ideology described fully and entirely in a positive light. Yes, Liberalism.

This last however could only really be understood, as idealistic in a word.

A sort of disappointing book in one respect but interesting in these key points.
That sounds rough, but not unlikely. Most academia has a strong liberal or even further left-bias. I am currently in university for history and there is a very strong quasi-socialist interpretation and even bias in much of what we are learning.


I've encountered two somewhat different definitions of pluralism at the wikipedia. I read the entire wiki page for conservatism after reading the book above, but still don't fully or exactly get it! I mean is says exactly as follows to begin: 'Conservatism is a political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilisation. The central tenets of conservatism include tradition, human imperfection, hierarchy, authority, and property rights.'

Not exactly going anywhere fast is it??! But how were you supposed to know that (supposing it to be true)?? I read newspapers, i watched political TV progs, like Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman (in the UK) every now and then. Literally who knew ??! It sounds like Kevin Cline in the film A Fish Called Wanda to me !!!
As I realized when trying to formulate my first response in this thread, it is very difficult to discuss these ideas for a number of reasons. Firstly because one can drone on ad nauseam if one is not careful, but also because many of the isms develop over time and have different iterations. So if I say: Conservatism is such and such, it would be perfectly reasonable for someone to interject and tell me it is not so because such and such a figure, or at such and such a time, another idea was held to be conservative. Of course the issue of conservatism is also difficult because in one sense it can also mean to conserve that which is and because the status quo shifts over time then what one stands for can change. The most obvious example of what I mean is that conservatism once would have been very connected with preserving the interests of the monarch and the aristocracy, though that would seem highly out of place today, though I'm sure one would be considered conservative or at least right-wing for holding those views (though it would be more of an instating than conserving today).

I'm not even sure exactly where it would be most logical to begin the inception of conservative philosophy. Aristotle would, I'm sure, have much to interest conservatives. Wikipedia does not put Richard Hooker in the time line of British conservatism his contribution would be defending the primacy of the Church and Christian rule of the people.

Edmund Burke is generally considered one of the logical places to start. Edmund Burke was also concerned with defending the tradition of the English people which was really just the establish practice and values up until that point. He was concerned that society was not held together by abstract ideals but by living practices, customs including ways of thinking which aren't always consciously and rationally considered, but nonetheless provide order and stability and even meaning to a society.

Joseph de Maistre is considered to have radicalized the thoughts of Burke and even have been an early influence in the development of fascist ideas. I am definitely not an expert in de Maistre so if someone contradicts me then I will have to accept that contradiction, but from what I understand he advocated a more authoritarian Christianity and irrational belief in its tenets and a harsh soveriegn that would bring people into line if they threatened disorder in the society.

Another difficult thing about studying conservatism is that many important conservatives weren't necessarily philosophers but practical politicians. One prominent example is Klemens von Metternich who played a significant role in the establishment of the Vienna system of European nations after the Napoleonic wars. He was much concerned with defending the privileges of the aristocracy at the time.

I think that Americans have had a fairly significant role on conservatism today. I think this will sound strange because I want to bring up something like the Austrian school of economics (what am I talking about then?), because, among other things, the United States was important to establishing Corporate Personhood, or rights for corporations to act before the law as an individual. This might be a controversial view to take, but I think it has a very important bearing on conservative policy today. Another source, ironically, would be some socialist policy because it ended up strengthening some corporations because often they are subsidized by the government in order to eg. create jobs, maintain the jobs they have, and so on...

Though I was sort of vague about Burke, I think that he was one of the more significant roles in fleshing out what conservatism is to most people. He also supported the ideas of Adam Smith, despite those ideas generally being considered as a cornerstone of liberalism, and I think it could be argued that the commercial society engendered more change than conservation of old ways.
 
Jun 2016
85
A Shell of Steel
#10
1) Christianity is not Europeanas well.

2) American culture is European after Europeans genocides millions of natives there.

If Europeans can make America there, I don't understand why Muslims can't make America theirs as well.
I am willing to consider your 1). As I tried to explain in my first post here and my response to deaf tuner, I do think the issue is a bit more complicated though.

You bring up an important point about Europeans making America, but I have gotten into this a bit in my original post. First, when they made America (by declaring indepedence) they were also severing themselves from Europe and beginning a new tradition. Also, when Europeans founded America (the state and not the continent) they were doing so with the European tradition and, up until that point, as Europeans.

If Muslims (because that is what we are discussing here) in some way conquered the country or changed American policy, then these policies or the new political body would become part of the Islamic tradition (and perhaps that of those nationalities from which the enactors have originated). That wouldn't necessarily make the policies American.

I also did bring up that the fact that liberalism teaches a kind of acceptance of religions as well as inclusion of them within the political body which is generally secular (in the character of state institutions and legal structure) it might impact the development of these nations.

Despite that, I don't think that Islam entering America or entering Europe makes Islam American or European.