Friday, August 27, 2010

TME Glossary

This glossary contains my definitions of terms/concepts that appear in The Main Event. I make no claim that they are suitable in all contexts or match others' uses of them. I expect to add terms and revise definitions. To offer alternatives or questions, use the comment section. For a discussion of objective definitions, see Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Ch. 5.

CHRISTIANITY: Christianity is a kind of monotheistic religion. (That is the genus in the definition.) Four fundamental (essential, causal) ideas make Christianity what it is. (1) One omnipotent, omniscient God created everything and can manage it moment to moment. (2) Man must, through mystical communication, learn ethics from God, and those ethical rules are recorded in holy scripture for later generations to read. (3) Two sets of historical events conveyed God's word to man at particular times and places: (a) God revealed himself and his ethics to Jews before 1000 BCE and they recorded God's rules in the Pentateuch; and (b) God, in the shape of the Son (Jesus Christ), was present on earth in sense-perceptible form at a particular time (c. 5 BCE-c. 35 CE) and place (Galilee) for the purpose of offering salvation of one's soul for eternity. (4) To be a Christian, one must accept Jesus as Savior and follow the holy scripture in the Old and New Testaments. The third and fourth ideas -- God's revelations to the ancient Jews and a sense-perceptible form of God on earth -- differentiate Christianity from Judaism and Islam. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam share the first two fundamental ideas, and they are distinguished by the particulars of the last two ideas. (Rev. Sept. 10, 2010)

"Christianity" (like "Judaism" and "Islam") is a proper name for an "abstract particular," that is, a set of particular ideas, customs, and symbols. There are "Christianities" in that various individuals accept the essential ideas, but differ widely in the nonessential ideas. For example, there is no one Christian ideology, but rather a range of them. Example Christian ideologies are: (1) CHRISTIAN ANARCHISM (Leo Tolstoy's idea, but not his term), the belief that Christians should mix with the larger society; help others individually; teach through individual example; and be pacifist, while separating themselves from politics.[1] (2) CHRISTIAN SEPARATISM, the belief that Christians should locally join purely Christian communities isolated from the world -- that is, join a network of hermits, a monastery, a convent, or a similar organization. (3) CHRISTIAN PARTNERING: Christians should neither control government nor be controlled by it, but be willing to work with any government anywhere to better the lives of Christians and others. (4) CHRISTIAN THEOCRACY: Christians should form a government that forces all individuals to be or at least act like Christians.

CONSERVATISM: This word names a certain type of ideology ("-ism"), the type whose highest values are four floating abstractions: God, Tradition, Nation (or other form of tribalism), and Family. Conservatism, as an ideology, can grow from any theistic, supernaturalist worldview; thus there is Christian conservatism, Muslim conservatism, Jewish conservatism, and so forth. As always in society, some individuals are mixed cases, as with "atheist conservatives." Classical liberals, though they may be religious, are not conservatives but radicals in their advocacy of reason and individualism. (See also:

CULT: A "cult," in its original religious usage in the ancient world names the idea of a group of people, at least partly organized, who associate in order to venerate a common high religious value, usually a particular god. (E.g., see the ancient Greek cult of Dionysos, in Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, pp. 290-295.) In a modern usage, "cult" names a certain type of religious organization, essentially one that: (1) has mystically created, esoteric doctrines which isolate it from the larger society; (2) insists on its members agreeing with those doctrines as a criterion for organizational membership; and (3) "owns" the members in some form of collectivism. (A consequence of that third essential characteristic is the use of fraud or violence to prevent its members from leaving the organization.) A modern example was James Jones's People's Temple cult in Jonestown, Guyana. (For conventional usages: "cult," Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, Merriam-Webster, 2002,

A cult is a social entity, specifically an organization. It is not a mere movement. A mystic guru who attracts followers but does not organize them is not a cult leader and does not have a cult, in this modern meaning of the concept. Likewise, a cult is not a religion (which is one type of worldview, which is a set of ideas), though a cult may be religious in purpose and content.

DISASTER (CATASTROPHE): A disaster is a situation—economic, political, or military—in which the victims are so injured by adverse events that they are incapable, within a single generation, of returning to their previous, more prosperous state without help from the outside. For the USA, the War Between the States (the US Civil War) was not a disaster, as defined here; but for Japan, World War II was a disaster, though aid and guidance from the USA did help Japan become a civilized and prosperous nation.

IDEOLOGY: An ideology is a set of concepts and principles that apply a worldview (which is universal) to a particular milieu. Marxism is an example. It applied a post-Kantian philosophy to Marx's time.

In Somalia, proponents of several ideologies claim to apply Islam to their efforts to improve the world.[1] One ideology there is TRANSNATIONAL REVOLUTIONARY ISLAM (TRI). Al-Shabaab, the organization which advocates TRI, operates mainly in Somalia but plans to expand. Al-Shabaab advocates a "Leninist" international revolution with Islamic content). It has "goals of implementing Shari'ah, rejecting 'false borders and entities created by colonialism', uniting Islamic countries, and restoring the Caliphate"). A second ideology in Somalia is ISLAMIC NATIONALISM. It advocates an Islamic democracy for each nation-state. The organization advocating this ideology is the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia based in Asmara (A.R.S.-A).[2]

For further examples, consider the Iranian Revolution. Various movements, each with its own ideology, combined to overthrow the Shah's government. Most of the ideologies were rooted in Islam but applied differently to Iran in the 1970s. (See "Ideology of the 1979 Iranian Revolution" in Wikipedia here.)

INFLUENCE: When activists influence other individuals, what does "influence" mean? Influence is giving information to an individual who wants that information because it will help him achieve a goal he has set for himself. For there to be influence, the person influenced must receive information and put it into practice. The influence can be explicit, as when (1) a Christian theologian writes a book advocating that the followers of Jesus should set aside reason and read the Bible for guidance, and (2) the theologians' readers read the book and put the advice into practice. Sometimes influence is implicit: Followers of a mystic may simply observe the mystic's posture, style of speaking, and general manner of living -- and then copy them.

ISLAM: Islam (Islaam) is a kind of monotheistic religion. (That is the genus in the definition.) Four essential ideas cause Islam to be what it is. (1) One omnipotent, omniscient God created everything and can manage it moment to moment. (2) Man must, through mystical communication, learn ethics from God, and those ethical rules are recorded in holy scripture for later generations to read. (3) At particular times and places (Arabia, 610-632 CE) and to a particular person (Muhammad) through mystical communication, God communicated ethics to man and man recorded it in holy scripture (the Qur'an, firstly; the Sunnah, secondly; and the Hadith, thirdly) for later generations to read. (4) To be a Muslim, one must meet certain requirements: (a) belief (imaan, faith in ideas such as God and God's revelations); (b) practice (islaam, in a, narrow, technical usage of that word, meaning certain acts [worshipping God in certain ways; following the Five Pillars; and implementing sharii'ah]); and (c) virtue (iHsaan, which means worshipping God attentively and striving for "excellence" in all things, including killing).[2] The first two ideas are common to Judaism and Christianity. The particulars in the last two ideas distinguish Islam from the other monotheistic religions. (Rev. Sept. 10, 2010)

"Islam" is a proper name for a set of particular ideas, customs, and symbols. There are "Islams" in that various individuals accept the essential ideas, but differ widely in the nonessential ideas. For example, there is no one Islamic ideology but rather a range of them. For examples, see Ideology.

JUDAISM: Judaism is a kind of monotheistic religion. (That is the genus in the definition.) Four fundamental ideas cause Judaism to be what it is and, in part, distinguish it from other religions. (1) One omniscient, omnipotent God created everything and can manage it moment to moment. (2) God transmitted ethics to man through mystical communication and men recorded it in holy scripture for later generations to read. (3) God chose a certain people, in Judea before 1000 BCE, to carry his ideas to the world. (4) To be a Jew one must accept God, whose revelations are recorded in the Pentateuch, as ethical guide. The first two ideas are common to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. It is the particulars of the last two ideas that distinguish Judaism from the other monotheistic religions. (Rev. Sept. 10, 2010)

"Judaism" is a proper name for a set of particular ideas, customs, and symbols. There are "Judaisms" in that various individuals accept the essential ideas, but differ widely in the nonessential ideas. For example, there is no one Judaic ideology, but rather a range of them. Two examples are: Pragerism (a semi-humorous but pejorative term applied by Dennis Prager's opponents); and Religious Zionism.[3]

MOVEMENT: A movement is a mental grouping of individuals taking action (including advocacy) toward a common goal of changing certain conditions in which they live. There may or may not be organizations within the movement. The individuals in the movement might be physically isolated, or join in networks, or form organizations (including institutions). The concept "movement" refers to the fact of individuals moving toward the same goal. The Objectivist movement is an example. It includes thousands of individuals who are working toward creating a society based on rational principles. Some work in isolation; some network; a few organize; and a very few form institutions.

MYSTICISM: Metaphysical mysticism is the claim to be "one" with or a part of a supernatural world. Epistemological mysticism is a claim to knowledge drawn from any source other than reason (integration of the data of the senses). The epistemological sort of mysticism is the sort that is a focus of The Main Event.

ORGANIZATION: An organization is a type of association. That is the genus. It is an association which has these defining characteristics: (1) an overall purpose, which its members support; (2) a leadership chosen by a procedure or subgroup known to the organization's members; (3) standards (and therefore "gatekeepers") for admitting new members; and (4) structure (that is, a defined relationship among its members). There are two basic types of organization: (1) ad hoc, having a short-term purpose which, when fulfilled, would lead to dissolving the organization (an example being a committee to elect a particular politician at a particular election); or (2) an institution, which is an organization designed to continue towards its purpose even if, one by one, the original founding members resign or die (an example being an organization designed to disseminate a particular philosophy). In contrast with an organization, a movement (see MOVEMENT above) is a mental grouping of individuals who have the same purpose and are taking actions toward it but may not associate with each other or even know of each other. A movement may have organizations (or other forms of association, such as networks) within it. An "organized movement" is a contradiction in terms except in one sense: A particular organization attempts to lead a whole movement, wherein the members of the movement are also members of the organization.

PHILOSOPHY: A philosophy is a type of worldview, the type that relies, it says, on the use of reason to develop and systematize ideas about the basic nature of the world and man's place in it.

RATIONALISM: Here "rationalism" means the idea that all that is important in knowledge is making sure that our conclusions follow syllogistically from our premises, which might come from anywhere. This is not reason, for reason begins, not with arbitrary premises, but with observation of reality and then proceeds—through integration and differentiation—to form concepts, principles, and theories. (Some writers, especially in the field of history of ideas, use "rationalism" to name adherence to reason. Here, however, rationalism is a contrast to empiricism, that is, the notion that we can observe the world but form only the simplest abstractions—such as "table" and "chair"—from our observations.)

REASON: Reason is the faculty (ability) that forms ideas from sense-perception and applies them to living; reason is thus the faculty of identifying facts and values.

RELIGION: A religion is a type of worldview, the type that relies on mysticism (usually faith, revelation, and clerical authority) to develop and systematize ideas about the basic nature of the world and man's place in it. A religion (as a worldview) is a cause; socially and culturally, some of the effects include organizations (such as the Order of the Dominican Friars), rituals (such as baptism), books (holy scripture and the many books that explain it), events (such as sermons), and paraphanelia (such as rosary beads).

SECT: The term "sect" names a certain kind of religious movement, one that has a certain relationship to a larger religious group (a "denomination"). The term/concept "sect" is thus a relational term. The beliefs or practices of the members of the sect differ in some ways from the larger group's beliefs or practices. Those differences cause conflict with the larger group. An example of a denomination is the Catholic Church; an example of a sect within the Church (or at least within the Catholic movement generally) is the Community of the Lady of All Nations (CLAN, also known as "The Army of Mary"), a sect of individuals who believe that Mary, mother of Christ, was reincarnated as Marie Paule Giguere, who became the founder of CLAN. The Catholic Church said the sect is heretical and excommunicated its main supporters. Not all sects are declared heretical. Not all sects become organizations. A sect is not a cult.

THEONOMY: This term is sometimes a synonym for theocracy. However, strictly speaking, the term "theonomy" names one aspect of a theocracy: the law (nomos in Greek) which government enforces is God's law. All theocracies are theonomic, but not all governments following God's law, at least in part, are theocratic as a whole. For example, the U.S.A. in the 1950s was theonomic in part, at least at the state level. Examples are "Blue Laws" closing most businesses on Sundays and regulations requiring a moment of prayer in governmental schools.

THEOCRACY: A theocracy is a form of government in which its supporters claim to govern as God (theo-) wants. Because God is omniscient and omnipresent, a government of God is totalitarian in intention if not in result. A theocracy is totalitarian because it implicitly covers all aspects of life, though it may not explicitly legislate in some areas. "Theocracy" subsumes various species differentiated by type of personnel or structure. One species of theocracy is a hierocracy, which is a government run by priests (ieros, "holy," in Greek). A theocracy might be republican, democratic, aristocratic, or monarchist in structure, but still be a theocracy, that is, a government run by God's minions, following God's principles, and in God's name. A theocracy might be "hard" (using coercion ruthlessly to enforce conformity) or "soft" (using coercion sporadically). The essential characteristics remain the same: rule (-cracy) in the name of God (theo-). For an example of one mystic's defense of theocracy, see Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, What's Right with Islam is What's Right with America, pp. 104-106.

WAR: A war is a physically violent conflict between two or more governments (or a government and a would-be government, such as a secession movement), or their proxies, that occurs in more than one location and event. World War II is an example. Metaphorically, a war is a sustained verbal, legal, or other social conflict over fundamental values; today's "war" between reason and mysticism is an example. A physical war threatens life itself; fighting in it is an action taken in an emergency justifying the abandonment of normal legal procedures and etiquette. A metaphorical war is not an emergency; fighting in it does not justify abandoning normal legal procedures and etiquette. Switching from one meaning of "war" to the other, within the same argument and without notice, is the fallacy of equivocation.

WORLDVIEW: A worldview is a set of interconnected concepts and principles which explain the basic nature of the world and man's place in it. A worldview is a religion if it cites some form of mysticism (revelation, intuition, special authority coming from God, and so forth) as its source. A worldview is a philosophy if it says it uses reason. Both types of worldview have at least four branches: metaphysics ("theology" for religion), epistemology, ethics, and politics. Any particular worldview may be syncretic, eclectic, a mixed case, or a fraud (e.g., claiming it is based on reason when it is not).

Burgess Laughlin
Author,   The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith

[1] For one author's argument that Christianity leads or should lead to anarchism, see: Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Here is an interview with the author:

[2] For names and descriptions of ideologies in Somalia: [2] For key terms/concepts of Islam: Cyril Glasse, "Islam," "IHsaan," and "Imaan," The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, New York, HarperCollins, 1989, p. 192, col. 1. The H represents the Arabic letter Haa'. [3] For the ideology (and movement) of Religious Zionism:

No comments:

Post a Comment

I welcome all pertinent comments and questions from readers who follow my strict rules of etiquette. I will not publish improper comments. If your screen name is not your first and last real name, be sure to include your name -- first and last -- in the body of your comment. Example acceptable forms of a name are: Burgess Laughlin; B. Laughlin; and Burgess L. or something similar that would be recognizable. The burden is on you to identify yourself.