Blind Ethics

Posted by on Oct 17th, 2007 and filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry


FOR some time now I’ve wondered aloud whether European Enlightenment thinking, as advanced Europe’s modern philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries, legitimized a moral bankruptcy within its societies to this day.  

About a year ago the Virginia Department of Health authorized a massive campaign to dissuade older men from having sex with underage girls. According to a startling news release from the health department, men older than 21 years are three times more likely than junior high school boys to father children with junior high school girls. Throughout the years 1999 and 2000 in Virginia, men over 18 fathered 219 children involving girls as young as 13 and 14. This is not all. The method used to dissuade men from preying and impregnating young girls, according to the report, will be to post billboards with messages such as “Isn’t she a little young?” and “Sex with a minor, don’t go there”, and to post messages posted on napkins in bars, restaurants and stores in five cities.

Health Department officials opine that billboard messages may discourage older men from such immoral actions thinly veiled in legal garb. Whatever the outcome of this Enlightenment experiment, however, this type of sexual abnormality will continue. One profound effect of Enlightenment thinking is the emergence of an atomistic society; it has produced an abysmal moral disconnect between individuals. An unlikely consequence of this disconnection between individuals (I speak of adults; children, according to modern legal definitions, are not “individuals” and therefore are defenseless) is a relativistic moral vacuum that allows adults to prey indiscriminately on the innocent, namely children. Enlightenment thinking has left humanity naked before the state and its institutions, whose sole function is to safeguard zealously their economic interests.

Its materialistic ethos considers individuals as matter, therefore sexual licentiousness expresses itself in its most blatant form. Because Enlightenment thinking completely ignores any ethical expression that cannot be quantified and measurable, it strips the human body of its modesty, dismantles its honor and reduces the human being into mere flesh to be “utilized and exploited as a source of sensual enjoyment”.

As a consequence of this, the essence of ethics framed by Enlightenment thinking is either obedience to laws or the pursuit of some human good, such as happiness and pleasure (even to the point of molesting children). According to recent Barna polls, 66% of Americans believe that “there is no such thing as Absolute Truth”. Among young adults, 72% do not believe that Absolutes exist. These statistics echo what post-modernist Michel Foucalt wrote years ago: that ‘truth’ is a thing of this world; that each society has its regime of truth, its “general politics” of truth.

During my sojourn to regain my religious convictions I read a little book translated from Persian called “The Alchemy of Happiness”. The author’s name is the Islamic theologian Muhammad Al-Ghazalli. I, too, was enamored by Enlightenment thinking, but this little book convinced me that ethics is a way of life that conforms to Allah’s (SWT) Will, that is, in a manner that is good and that suits His Pleasure.

Enlightenment thinking has ushered in a social ethics devoid of Absolute Truths. Truth is constructed and discoverable by human reason alone, not Revealed. It denies the existence of any “center” and negates any frame of reference. Universal rationality, once championed by Enlightenment thinking, is dismantled. The only truth is subjective, within the individual. Individuals determine what is right or wrong.

Pre-enlightenment thinkers such as Al-Ghazali thought of ethics as theology in action. Their society was infused with the conviction that Scripture is the foundation for moral standards. Given the state of our society, everyone, regardless of their understanding of sacred texts, should inculcate it into their daily lives. Neither should scripture be read as a “science” as proscribed by Enlightenment thinking.

Karen Armstrong has noted recently that a palpable lack of compassion exists in our time because many individuals are convinced by Enlightenment thinking and therefore read scripture as a “textbook”. Ethics, as prescribed by pre-Enlightenment theology, should not be thought of as a science as we view it today; instead, ethics is “a science that is concerned with both the Infinite and the finite, with both God and the Universe”. Further, ethics do not view the entire world as undivided by cultural meaning. In short, ethics should determine individual conduct with God’s moral standards as its center of influence and universal justice.

(The writer is a recent revert to Islam and can be contacted at: )

Leave a Reply

Log in | Designed, Developed and Hosted by: BIZIBIZI INC.