Showing posts from February, 2011

Moral Praise

X: If you could, would you have done differently? Y: Yes. X: How? Y: I would not have accepted this life imposed on me, with its limits and responsibilities. X: Why don't you do so now? Y: It's just too much trouble. Would create too much of a mess of my life. It's not worth it. I don't value freedom that much to jeopardize a life of peace. Plus I don't want to hurt the people around me. It's better that way. I'm content, and I know that fighting for my freedom in the circumstances I am in would not make me any happier.
* Is valuing a life of peace morally equivalent to valuing a life of freedom? If Y had instead fought for his freedom, jeopardizing his peace and alienating the people in his life, would it be a pursuit of something (morally) noble and admirable or would it merely be a result of the fact that he values something different?
* If you support Y in what he did, is it because you yourself prefer peace over freedom? If you find fighting for freedom admir…

The Poker Incidence

Some accounts of the famous Wittgenstein vs Popper poker incidence:
"In 1946 Karl Popper addressed the Cambridge Moral Sciences Club on the subject Are There Philosophical Problems?. The subsequent discussion, chaired by Russell, is known to have been lively. At one point Wittgenstein, brandishing a poker, is said to have demanded of Popper that he offer an example of a moral rule: “Not to threaten visiting lecturers with pokers”, Popper is said to have replied. At which point Wittgenstein, perhaps deciding it was a case of “thereof one must be silent”, stormed out.
It has been suggested that the title and content of Popper’s paper were intended to provoke Wittgenstein who by this time is thought to have become sceptical of the existence of philosophical problems, and to believe that such “problems” were instead reducible to the misuse of language." [Andy Walsh, Wittgenstein, Popper and the Art Of Feud.]
"Popper's account can be found in his intellectual autobiography…

Pantheistic Tendencies in Islamic Mysticism

The following are excerpts from A History of Islamic Philosophy by Majid Fakhry, 3rd edition (pages 248-257), related to the pantheistic tendencies in Islamic mysticism.
'[T]here is little in the early Sufi ideal of life for which a basis cannot be found in the Koran and the Traditions, and Massignon is probably right in asserting that "from the Koran continually recited, meditated upon and practiced, Islamic mysticism proceeds in its origins and its development." The concepts of religious poverty (faqr), meditation (fikr, dhikr), fortitude (sabr), renunciation (zuhd), and even the love of God and His contemplation can be shown to be a logical development from that other-worldly strain in the Koran to which we have already referred. What might be rightly regarded as a non-Islamic component of Sufism is the tendency in the writings and practices of the earliest Sufis to go beyond the ritual aspect of the religious law (al-Shariah) and to reach out to a reality (Haqiqah)…

Sexual Disciplining

This post is from an email exchange between me and Freethinker (an ex-blogger, who had gained prominence through his blog 'notes of a freethinker') which took place in April 2009 (hence the reference to Swat flogging), in which he shares his valuable thoughts on sexuality and society:
Me: How do you respond to people who say that sexual liberation would lead to disruption of a society, and create a havoc of problems like teen pregnancies, illegitimate children, abandoned old people, destruction of family etc?
Freethinker: Well, there's a tough one to refute. Because the claim is put in terms that we're not allowed to question. 'Teen pregnancies', 'illegitimate children', 'abandoned old people', 'destruction of family' - they definitely sound like things we should prevent in all speed. And in a similar way, uncontrolled sex is made out to be an obvious cause of all these problems.
We can only examine and refute a claim like this by talking a…


BBC News: British gay Muslims seek Islamic weddings
Sarah and Asra know their marriage is unorthodox, and the idea of a gay nikah would be rejected by the majority of Muslim scholars, but Sarah says it is nobody's business.
"It is between me and God..." "Same-sex nikahs are still a contentious issue, but all I can say is I have done it, and I am completely comfortable and content with my faith..."
This is one of the ways in which Islam can evolve: by allowing individual freedom in interpretation and practice.

Customary Beliefs

'The study of past times and uncivilized races makes it clear beyond question that the customary beliefs of tribes or nations are almost invariably false. It is difficult to divest ourselves completely of the customary beliefs of our own age and nation, but it is not very difficult to achieve a certain degree of doubt in regard to them. The Inquisitor who burnt men at the stake was acting with true humanity if all his beliefs were correct; but if they were in error at any point, he was inflicting a wholly unnecessary cruelty. A good working maxim in such matters is this: Do not trust customary beliefs so far as to perform actions which must be disastrous unless the beliefs in question are wholly true.'
Bertrand Russell, Individual Liberty and Public Control


You are the different one, the odd one out, the one who cannot speak his mind because no one really gets you. You are afraid to show your inner self to others because it horrifies them. But you are still attached to these people; they are your family, friends, love. So you make peace with the silence and hypocrisy. You settle down to pretenses, cause that is the only way you know. You accept it as the price of being different.
And it takes only one person to change all that. You meet one person who accepts who you are, you meet one person who is not horrified by who you are, and it changes everything. You come to know that you don't have to hide, that you don't have to keep secrets, that you can just be yourself, that you are not alone and that you are not a freak.
All that silence and pretense begins to crumble, because now you know that things can be different. You begin to demand that they be different.
Your old life reacts. The world resists. But you have tasted the fruit; you…

Shadow Self

'But there's no way that I could know what you've experienced, right? I couldn't possibly feel that need. Like a thousand hiding voices whispering "This is who you are". And you fight the pressure. The growing need rising like a wave. Prickling and teasing and prodding to be fed. But the whispering gets louder, until they're screaming "Now!" And it's the only voice you hear. The only voice you want to hear. And you belong to it. To this … shadow self. To this … dark passenger.'
Dexter, Episode 2.03

Why Islamic Law is not like Constitutional jurisprudence

An extract from Feisal H. Naqvi's excellent article on 3QD:
"How then is Quranic interpretation different from constitutional interpretation?
To understand how Islamic legal interpretation is different, take the oft-debated issue of the number of wives a man may have under Islamic law. As is well known, the Quran says that a man have up to four wives provide he treats them equally. The Quran then adds a further injunction that no one can treat their wives equally.
The traditional legal interpretation of this point is that a Muslim man may indeed have up to four wives. The Quranic statement that no man can treat all four wives equally is thus taken to mean that absolute equality is impossible and that reasonable equality of treatment is sufficient.
Compared to this, we have the modern day reformist perspective. The reformist argument is that when the Quran states that it is impossible to treat all four wives equally, it should be taken literally and that Islamic law only allows Mu…

Movie Valentines

How Hollywood taught us to kiss.


Awais Aftab
Her eyes betrayThe bruised affection of yesteryears We had good times Yes, we did Even if it is just a recall bias


Politics is the battleground where all political philosophies are bloodied and maimed, even if victorious. It is the mangled translation of theory into action amidst the muck of the world.

Moral Normative Psychology

Since a few days, I have been thinking about what normative ethics I actually employ in my practical life, consciously and unconsciously. How do I decide what to do in this or that situation, and how do I generally approach the question of how we ought to act? This post will be my preliminary attempt to formulate, or rather phrase, that normative ethics. I do not wish to claim for now that it is philosophically valid or that it has any realist status. I am merely observing myself as a moral agent (not that I am a perfect one) and noting down the broad principles that I see.
* One should aim to act out of good intentions and virtuous emotions. Compassion, empathy, courage, honesty, wisdom, justice etc. Not as a matter of dry philosophical abstraction but actually being driven by the particular intention and motivation, because we want to be a particular sort of person. Various persons will have various virtues as more dominant than others, and this will define their character as moral a…

Angry Feedback

An angry protest from a reader:
"You are always so biased in your judgement. What do you think boys do? Don't they have affairs and then marry the girls their parents want? If you say all this about girls, you should criticize boys too. They themselves can have affairs and then marry only those girls who never had any affair. It's because of this demand of a 'shareef larki' by boys that girls usually don't have affairs or they try to get married to that particular boy who starts eying her suspiciously later."
I don't know how I conveyed this impression so let me just state it to be clear: I am not criticizing girls. I am, in fact, on their side. I criticize the Pakistani society, because women are its victims. Posts like Elopement are not meant as criticisms of what girls do or that there is something morally wrong with elopement, rather the intention is to elaborate the mechanisms by which our society subjugates women. Men are a part of this society an…

Moral Errors

Dure: Some moral errors are worth it, just because of the humility they teach us.