The Fiore vs. Berlatsky kerfuffle was so much fun other folks threw some punches as well. I thought I’d do a brief roundup of some of the more entertaining/enlightening blows.

Mike Hunter, in a comment over at the mainpage, did an extensive fisking of R. Fiore’s fisking of me. Here’s the first bit:

R. Fiore:
The reasonableness of the West is demonstrated by its relative freedom from religious warfare. It is a case where a problem that bedeviled mankind for centuries was solved by human agency. It is one of the greatest achievements of human history.
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Indeed a great achievement! But what we need here are more qualifiers, such as “The reasonableness of the West in this area“; for, does the West not indeed support the most corrupt and exploitative dictatorships for the most cynical of reasons?
That there are plenty of tyrants trampling their people without our aid hardly excuses our keeping others in power.
——————
R. Fiore:
The Danish Jyllands-Posten, lulled into a false sense of security by a period of reason and good fellowship in Europe dating all the way back to 1945, published their suite of cartoons featuring Muhammad on the assumption that no one was crazy enough to sacrifice their lives and liberty or commit horrible crimes over a drawing.
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(?????!!!!) The Jyllands-Posten is a right-wing publication which wanted to show what a bunch of berserk nutsos all Muslims were by doing a deliberately provocative action which it knew perfectly well Fundamentalist members of the faith world predictably go apeshit over.

Caro, to no one’s surprise, had a really insightful take.

It seems to me the most telling sentence in the second piece is this: “The reasonableness of the West is demonstrated by its relative freedom from religious warfare. It is a case where a problem that bedeviled mankind for centuries was solved by human agency.”

This idea that social problems are ever “solved” is, at the risk of melodrama, dangerous. They go dormant, conditions obtain at a given period of time when the are less of a problem, but that doesn’t mean they are solved, like some utopian science fiction novel.

This is precisely where Fiore’s “cultural materialism” is insufficient: you might be able to explain the past in cultural materialist terms, but you will not be able to imagine how the past might “return” to inform the future, because by denying the dialectic you leave yourself no mechanism for examining how that past is immanent in the present.

Maybe the errors of fact arise from this too: how would the families of the victims of Srebrenica feel about the notion that the West has solved the problem of religious violence, or even that Europe and “the Muslim world” have diverged in the first place? (His use of the word “Europe” to mean “Western Europe” is really irritating.) Or the European religious philosophers of the 17th century feel about secular pluralism as the cause for the advancements of Western civilization, since it ignores the religious pluralism on which secular pluralism is based? (I want to include the statement “Radical…Islam is not a remedy” here but I can’t figure out what he’s saying it’s not a remedy for…)

Fiore thinks in terms of cause and effect rather than in terms of “conditions of possibility” and I think that’s why Fiore’s essay feels so wrong to us: he treats history as something completed, a riddle to be explained, rather than as a powerful immanent presence that we have to engage with. His inability to perceive religion as anything other than an adaptation is probably why he can’t perceive History in this way: immanence was originally a religious concept, and if you take a strict materialist approach to religion it’s hard to exhibit the forms of mind necessary for imagining things that are temporally infinite. Fiore, imagining history as as series of finite cause and effects rather than an ongoing process that he is part of, sets himself outside history. I guess that’s the binary that I see informing this piece the most.

And in what I think is the closest thing we’ve gotten to a defense of Fiore, Andrei Molotiu chastised me for my second response to Fiore.

Noah, whatever one might think of Fiore, this is not a response, it’s a trolling post. It makes you sound like JF Ronan in his prime. It’s the kind of post that makes me not want to check HU as often anymore.

I think Fiore may well be sick of the back and forth, so this may be the end of the brouhaha. Thanks to all those who read and commented…and to R. Fiore himself, for engaging as long as he did. I hope we’ll get a chance to fight again soon.

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