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CONTENTS Introduction Chapter 1 Gulen and Kant on Inherent Human Value and Moral Dignity Chapter 2 Gulen and Mill on Freedom Chapter 3 Gulen, Confucius, and Plato on the Human Ideal Chapter 4 Gulen, Confucius, and Plato on Education Chapter 5 Gulen and Sartre on Responsibility Conclusion Introduction In December 2004, I traveled to Turkey for ten days as the guest of the Institute for Interfaith Dialog (IID) based in Houston, Texas. With me were about twenty other professors, clergy, and community leaders from Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. None of us had been to Turkey before, and none of us really knew what to expect. Each of us, in one way or another, had been approached by one or more Turkish young men at school, church, or somewhere else in the community and asked if we would travel on an interfaith dialogue trip to Turkey as a guest of their organization. Some of us got to know a few of the young men and their wives a little better by having dinner at their homes or by attending community fast-breaking dinners that IID sponsored during Ramadan. All of us had accepted the invitation based on our sense that these young men, their wives, and the organization were trustworthy. What I did not know as I began the trip, but soon came to learn, was that the founders and volunteers at IID, and the organizers of our trip both in the United States and in Turkey were all members of a transnational community of people inspired by the ideas of a Turkish Islamic scholar named Fethullah Gulen. Gulen's sermons and lectures have circulated throughout Turkey and beyond for several decades now since he became a state-authorized preacher in 1958 and was appointed to a post in Izmir in southwestern Turkey. We visited many of the schools, a hospital, and an interfaith organization founded by people in the Gulen movement. We shared meals with Turkish families in their homes and, on each occasion, I asked our hosts how they had come to hear of Gulen's ideas and what particularly had inspired them to get involved in the movement. They all gave essentially the same answer. The older people had been living in Izmir when Gulen began his ministry and were impressed and convinced by his message of education and altruism. Younger people with school-aged children came to know of the movement through nearby schools, which have excellent educational reputations, and became committed to the vision of global peace and progress through education and interfaith dialogue. A few others had been students themselves at schools founded by people in the Gulen movement and were now supporting the schools and other interfaith work in various ways as sponsors. In each case, the person had been touched deeply by Gulen's message and vision, and had committed to spreading it in the world I returned to Houston, the home base of IID, and deepened my relationship with the organization. The Boniuk Center for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance at Rice University, for which I work, hosted a conference in November 2005 on Gulen's ideas which was attended by scholars from the United States, Europe, and Central Asia. We have collaborated with IID on a number of other projects, lectures, and panel events. I returned to Turkey again in May 2005 and July 2006 and met more people from the Gulen movement, increasing my understanding of Gulen's ideas and the impact they have on individuals in Turkey and on Turkey itself. Since my first trip to Turkey I have read much of Gulen's translated work and have had a great many conversations with my Turkish friends about his work. I am far from an expert on Gulen's ideas, on modern Turkish history, or on Sufism. I am, however, a specialist in religious studies (continental philosophy of religion), a comparativist in world religions, as well as a generalist in the discipline of the humanities. I have taught generalist, or "survey," courses in humanities in both undergraduate and graduate curricula for nearly fifteen years. These courses include world comparative literature, ethics, ancient and classical philosophy, modern political philosophy, as well as "great books" courses in both western and eastern historical, philosophical, religious, and literary traditions. My generalist competency extends to "eastern" thought as well as the "western," largely because of my specialty in religious philosophy. Consequently, when I first began reading Gulen's sermons and articles in translations, bells began ringing in my mind because of the deep connections I see between his work and that of some of the great thinkers and philosophers of world intellectual history. My task in this book is to place the ideas of Fethullah Gulen into the context of the larger humanities. Specifically, I seek to create a textual dialogue between printed versions of selected articles, sermons, or speeches by Gulen, on the one hand, and the texts of selected thinkers, writers, philosophers, or theorists from general humanities discourse, on the other. These individuals from the humanities include Confucius, Plato, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and Jean Paul Sartre. The location of their respective ideas within the larger discipline of humanities, as opposed to the sciences, prompts me to identify these figures, including Gulen, as humanistic thinkers, even though such a designation may be seen as problematic, depending on the definition of "humanism." In this work, I choose the broadest possible definition of humanism, a definition that does not view it as the necessary antithesis to a religious or theistic worldview. Professional philosophers and intellectual historians have identified as "humanism" or "humanistic" ideas and systems of thought that extend to antiquity, to as far back as Protagoras, who famously said "man is the measure of all things." Protagoras was not an atheist, nor were any of the other classical Greek philosophers who, during the 5th century BCE, shifted their focus of inquiry away from questions about the nature and components of the cosmos (air, water, substance, etc.) toward questions of the meaning of life, human values, the nature of the good life, and the components of a just human society. These concerns are those commonly and broadly identified with humanism or humanistic thinking, and many philosophies and worldviews, both religious and non-religious, qualify as humanistic in this regard. Renaissance humanism, retrieving ideas from the classical world, moves its focus away from God toward humanity. In general, however, humanists of this period were not atheists, nor did they promote atheism as a tenet of their "humanistic" perspective. The focus on human ability and achievement, accompanied by a less interventionist view of God, simply opened the way for a scientific viewpoint to arise in the West which empowered humans to discover the laws of the universe, which were themselves created by God. European thinkers of this period, of course, came to this perspective within the larger theological rubric of Christianity and were indebted to Muslim scholars of immediately previous generations who had already defined the cutting edge of medicine, astronomy, mathematics, botany, and many other scientific disciplines inside their own theological rubric of Islam. In both instances, the humanism does not occur as a trumpeting of human power over God or against God's power. On the contrary, human beings provide witness and praise to God's power when they use their God-given capacities to uncover the mysteries of the universe that God created and use that knowledge for the progress and betterment of all human society. So, this form of humanism in no way undermines belief in God or religion. In fact, Muslim scholars, and later Christian scholars, are the chief examples of this broad form of pietistic humanism. Of course, other forms of humanism are completely secular or atheistic. In the post- Renaissance modern period, subdivisions within larger humanism have emerged which specifically reject a religious or supernatural worldview, even to the point of being hostile to religion. Secular humanism is an atheistic subdivision of humanism that is incompatible with a religious viewpoint to a large extent. Neither Gulen, nor any other religious thinker, can be called a humanist inside this narrow definition of humanism. Nor could Kant, Mill, or Confucius; all of these men are routinely referred to as humanists and their ideas as forms of humanism, yet none of them are atheists. Clearly, then, the narrow, secular, atheistic definition of modern humanism is not the operative definition in this book. Therefore, I use a broader definition of humanism in this book, one that accounts more accurately than modern iterations for its long history and for the extraordinary achievements in religion, philosophy, literature, ethics, art, architecture, science, and mathematics that human beings have accomplished under its central rubric, the focus on or belief in human importance, power, status, and authority, a belief which in no way contradicts the central tenets or history of the three great monotheisms. Given this, I group Gulen with these other humanistic thinkers because his work, like theirs, focuses on central issues of human existence that have long been part of humanistic discourse in both its religious and non-religious forms. In other words, these thinkers are concerned with basic questions about the nature of human reality, the good human life, the state, and morality. Moreover, they reach similar conclusions regarding many of these issues and questions after deliberating about them from within their own traditions and cultural contexts. In claiming similarity here, I am not asserting "sameness." These thinkers come from a vast diversity of backgrounds, time periods, cultural and national contexts, religious and spiritual traditions and more. They differ from each other in significant ways, to the point that in certain passages of their respective work, they denounce each other (in the case of the more recent writers) or, one could imagine, they would denounce each other on many points if they were in a real dialogue (not merely a "constructed" one). Gulen critiques outright Sartre, existentialists, and other atheists many times throughout his work. While I limit myself in this book to placing each of these thinkers in textual conversation only with Gulen, not with each other, one could imagine the conversations their major differences would generate. Mill argues for a kind of freedom that Plato would find abhorrent in his ideal republic. Conversely, Mill probably would find Plato's ideal republic an oppressive tyranny in most ways. Sartre's work blasts any notion of a "heaven of ideas," utterly universal and transcendent, whether it be articulated by Plato, Kant, or Gulen. Confucius, coming from a sixth-century Chinese perspective, has little in common with ideas from Western Enlightenment or post-Enlightenment thinkers like Kant or Mill. Dialogue between people with vastly different worldviews, however, is what interests me. Moreover, I believe that such dialogue is vital in today's world, where globalization, mass communications, and technology have pushed individuals and groups together in ways never before seen in human history. People living in the 21st century interact with and are impacted more than ever before by other people and groups very different from them. We are increasingly confronted by people and groups whose worldviews are utterly different from ours, and these people are our neighbors, co-workers, schoolmates of our children, our in-laws, our clients, our employers, and more. Often, we may try to minimize our contact with those who are different from us, so that we do not have to extend ourselves outside comfortable boundaries. We may isolate ourselves and craft the arc of our lives into familiar orbits of people who look, think, speak, believe, and pray like us, but such isolation or minimizing of difference is not workable over time. In today's world of global connectedness, we must develop the capacity to dialogue and create relatedness with people vastly different from us. Part of that project involves finding ideas, beliefs, purposes, projects, and so forth, on which we can achieve resonance with each other. That is we do not need to be the same, but we should find just enough similarity between us that, for a certain distance down the road, we can hold hands as fellow travelers in this life, all the while mindful of our differences in myriad ways. Gulen, in his career as a state preacher in Turkey and as an inspirational scholar and teacher to people throughout Turkey and beyond, has championed dialogue as a necessary commitment and activity in the contemporary world. Therefore, it is appropriate to place Gulen, via his texts, "in dialogue" with other thinkers and writers coming from very different perspectives from his. Such a project models for us as readers a way of becoming comfortable with difference. More importantly, though, such a dialogue among individuals renowned for their knowledge and gifts can help all of us who care about such things to focus more deeply on the enduringly great issues of human life. While human lives in their particularities change era to era, the deep nature of human life, and the questioning and anxiety it provokes, has not changed. We ask today the same kinds of questions as our ancestors about the meaning of existence, the value of human life, how we are to set up society, and what the limits of freedom are. My hope is that this mock interaction between Gulen and the others listed above provides an opportunity for us, on whose shoulders the future rests, to take seriously our charge to create ourselves, society, and the world according the highest and best possible ideals. I have organized the dialogues between Gulen and other thinkers around five major themes that capture central issues and concerns about human life in the world. These themes are: (1) inherent human value and moral dignity; (2) freedom; (3) ideal humanity; (4) education; and (5) responsibility. These themes are well-known to any students of general humanistic discourse, whether from the ancient period or the modern, whether from Europe, Asia, or Africa, whether from a religious or secular worldview. In each theme, I have identified a primary thinker to pair with Gulen in a textual interaction. I have chosen the primary thinkers based on the resonance their particular expression of the specific theme has with Gulen's expression of that same theme from within his Islamic perspective. I could have chosen other thinkers and fared just as well, probably, in terms of finding powerful expression of classic, enduring ideas and resonance with Gulen on these ideas. I chose the ones below because I felt they were particularly adept in their expression and, frankly, because of my deep admiration and respect for their work, having taught their ideas in college classrooms now for fifteen years. Moreover, these conversations discuss themes which I believe are of the utmost importance for our scholarly and civic consideration. The chapters are connected to each other thematically and refer to one another on certain points. Such references, however, are minimal and the chapters mostly are freestanding. Readers may read the chapters in any order they wish, or only the chapters that interest them, without losing any of the coherence of the book. Readers who do this will not be "lost" in the text. Moreover, I have written this book for a more general audience than most scholarly books target. I do not assume that readers have read Kant, Sartre, Confucius, Plato, Mill, or even Gulen, for that matter. I do not spend any time providing biographical information on these authors. Such information is readily available to readers from a variety of sources. My goal in the book is to explain the ideas of these thinkers, as I interpret them, as clearly as possible for an audience of generally educated people who may or may not have a background in the humanities as it is studied in the West. For this reason, I have chosen to overlook many details and subtleties that, were I writing a more traditional scholarly book, would exhaust a great many pages and textual footnotes. As it is, I hope I have written an informative, substantial, and interesting book that people who are interested in the history of ideas, global intellectual history, and cross-cultural dialogue will find useful and even inspiring.
Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication:
Gáeulen, Fethullah -- Views on Islam.
Islam and humanism.
Islam -- 20th century.