Krawietz, “Islamic Theology, Philosophy and Law Debating Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya”

This December, De Gruyter Publishing will publish Islamic Theology, Philosophy and Law Debating Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya by Birgit Krawietz (Free University of Berlin). The publisher’s description follows.

A unique collection of studies, the present volume sheds new light on central themes of Ibn Taymiyya’s (661/1263-728/1328) and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya’s (691/1292-751/1350) thought and the relevance of their ideas to diverse Muslim societies. Investigating their positions in Islamic theology, philosophy and law, the contributions discuss a wide range of subjects, e.g. law and order; the divine compulsion of human beings; the eternity of eschatological punishment; the treatment of Sufi terminology; and the proper Islamic attitude towards Christianity. Notably, a section of the book is dedicated to analyzing Ibn Taymiyya’s struggle for and against reason as well as his image as a philosopher in contemporary Islamic thought. Several articles present the influential legacy of both thinkers in shaping an Islamic discourse facing the challenges of modernity. This volume will be especially useful for students and scholars of Islamic studies, philosophy, sociology, theology, and history of ideas.

Larson, “Larson’s Creationism in the Classroom: Cases, Statutes, and Commentary”

This October, West Law will publish Larson’s Creationism in the Classroom: Cases, Statutes, and Commentary by Edward J. Larson (Pepperdine University School of Law). The publisher’s description follows.

This casebook, by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, explores fundamental legal issues relating to how scientific and religious concepts of biological origins should be presented in public-school biology courses. Although numerous legal arguments are invoked, the Establishment Clause typically stands at or near the center of most disputes: Does teaching Darwinism or creationism, or disparaging them, in public schools promote or hinder religious belief in violation of the First Amendment? In grappling with this question in various forms as presented in differing fact situations over the past half century, American courts have examined the meaning of the Establishment Clause and sharpened their interpretation of it. This is the first and only casebook devoted to this topic, and it is ideal for use in education law programs, constitutional law seminars, and legal history courses.

On Productive Disagreements and Theological Harmony

It’s an honor to engage with Dan Crane on this, and I deeply appreciate his kind remarks.  But our very cordial disagreement perfectly illustrates a problem with his reasoning:  unity and harmony is perfectly compatible with disagreement and competition.

Let me first counter one point, a minor one to Dan’s cogent reasoning but a critical one for antitrust-in-action (and the realist question of whether a court would view this cartel to be within antitrust’s domain).  Dan says “Producing and selling food is a commercial transaction; hiring rabbis or pastors is not.”  To quote Harry First, an antitrust giant, a co-author on my amicus brief on this topic, and a former synagogue president, “If you’ve ever negotiated with a rabbi, you’ll know it’s commerce.”  There is an essentially commercial element to the rabbinic market–synagogues work hard to raise funds to pay rabbinic salaries; rabbis sign heavily-negotiated employment contracts with synagogues, often with the aid of advocates; and both synagogues and rabbis are highly aware of market wages.  Yes, rabbis do lots of very good things, but they receive compensation for them — as they should! — and are squarely engaged in commercial transactions with their employing synagogues.

To make a larger point:  lots of professionals are dedicated to the public interest, and some even define “professionals” as those whose careers are designed to advance the public interests — see “A Community Within A Community: The Professions”, a seminal 1957 work in sociology.  Consider a physician’s dedication to health & healing, a lawyer’s commitment to advocacy & justice, and an engineer’s devotion to science & safety.  To be sure, these commitments to public service do a world of good and motivate conduct (charity, research, government service, other) that both markets and governments have difficulty providing. But these aspects of professionalism also make professional cartels particularly pernicious.  Precisely because their conduct is premised on noble spirits, they feel entitled to maintain their market dominance; because their attachment to their fellow professionals is so core to their identity, exit or defection becomes unlikely, making their cartel much more stable than other cartels; because they are motivated by paternalist concerns, they easily justify usurping choice, freedom, and efficiencies from consumers. Although professionals do not need to apologize for seeking compensation for their services, their professional zeal often leads to commercial excesses and abuses, and these excesses and abuses are routinely justified in the language serving the public interest.

But my primary point is my first, that both antitrust the First Amendment — and both pluralism and democracy — are premised on a civil exchange of ideas and the freedom to choose among them.  Just like the virulent debates between osteopaths and allopaths, between Bayesian and non-Bayesian statisticians, and (to use a provincial example) between the Mitnagdim and the Hasidim, there are disagreements among Jewish organizations.  Antitrust readily permits agreements to emerge from a competition of ideas — we call them setting standards — and it applauds osteopaths and allopaths when they achieve harmony and unite around a common course of treatment.  But it appropriately would condemn any agreement that is antithetical to a productive clash of ideas.  The rabbis are welcome to disagree among themselves or disagree with congregational choices, but they are not permitted to impose their will though their collective economic dominance.

Dan hit on a very foundational idea.  There is a deeply-felt inclination among religious communities, and perhaps among all ethnic communities, to avoid visible disputes and to seek theological and political unity.  These inclinations have motivated many of my own co-religionists to urge me not to seek legal action and, more generally, to stop talking about this issue publicly.  To be sure, there is an obvious response to that argument, and I submit that voicing disagreement with legal, economic, and moral reasoning is much more squarely within the American tradition.  Fortunately for me, it is this tradition that supports the Sherman Act and the American legal system.  More generally, there is a long and proud history of theological disagreements in America where the resolution is to permit each community to pursue its own beliefs.  This distinguishes the horrors of religious disagreements expressed through force from the benefits of religious disagreements expressed through reason.