Monist Axiology & its Discontents

With regard to the issue of media bias, fyi is, as usual, on the money in the way he sees and frames the issue: it is not the case where there is one paradigm within which a certain [‘desirable’] “objectivity” has (for whatever reason) been lost in the case of Iran. The reality is that there are actually multiple paradigms, each with their own ethical beliefs and norms, each vying with the other for space and dominance like trees in a forest vying for light, using propaganda and agitprop as intellectual tools, in addition to vying in other media (diplomatic, economic, military, etc.). And so we have the dominant order on the one hand, and other nations (“peoples”), cultures and movements on the other (Iran as the vanguard of the Khomeinist Islamic movement, Venezuela playing a similar role for Latin America’s neo-Bolivarian movement, Maoist China rising, etc.) This is the whole tension between those who favor a unipolar world (under Anglo-American tutelage; the so-called “international” community) and those who see the alternate reality of multipolarity.

In philosophical terms, the dichotomy is expressed in terms of a monist ontology -on the one hand – being the basis of a monist or universalist or absolute axiology – a system of ethics that the Rationalists and philosophes of the Enlightenment project subscribed to, wherein it was believed that what is right for a Parisian of the 18th century must necessarily be right for a, say, Chinaman of the not just 18th, but also the 21st. and every other century. Ethical norms, in other words, were held to be eternal as well as universal, in exactly the same way as that of the axiology of the Church and its Schoolmen, except that the metaphysical basis for the ontology was replaced with some other “empirical” or “physical” substance; and, a pluralist ontology – on the other – being the basis of a pluralist axiology or ethical system, whereby different norms become ‘normative’ depending on the era, nation, culture, movement.

If we posit the monist/ pluralist dichotomy as a spectrum (call it the X axis), and the Irano-Shi’a/ Anglo-American dichotomy as another spectrum (call it the Y axis), and then interpose these two spectra on each other, we end up with the following four quadrants:

1. Monist/ Anglo-American (dominant paradigm)
2. Monist/ Irano-Shi’a (subverting)
3. Pluralist/ Anglo-American (synthetic, syncretic and synthesizing)
4. Pluralist/ Irano-Shi’a (traditional, itself now split between “quietists” and “immanentists”)

And so, there are people – who’s names will be withheld in order to protect the guilty, but whose initials begin with pak and binam, whose weltenshauung/ core beliefs/ orientation/ worldview places them squarely in the center of Quadrant 1. Within that quadrant, they fill niches which are called variously “Iranian-American” [note the juxtaposition of adjective and noun], “modern [minded]” Iranian, Progressive/ Worldly/ Green Iranian, etc. Again, all of these are niches within Quadrant 1, which is most accommodating to diversity, so long as its rigid core beliefs remain undisturbed.

Posted by Arash Darya-Bandari

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