Our old friend Bob Reilly reflects on the difficulty of interfaith dialogues, taking the instance of Catholic-Muslim exchanges. He sketches how interpreting the seemingly simple episode of Adam's naming of the animals leads to fundamental disputes. The centrality of natural law and reason for Catholics does not appear to have an equivalent in Islam, making dialogue, as an exercise in reasoned speech, impossible on religion. Reilly's book The Closing of the Muslim Mind is a thoughtful study of the development of a Muslim radicalism and its sharpening of attitudes essential to Islam.
Bob's column came to me as I am plunging into a vital work by one of the academy's major thinkers, Robert Sokolowski, Phenomenology of the Human Person. It seems to be trying, among other things, to relate Aristotle's two descriptions of man: as the being with logos and the political animal by nature. Language enables this connection. Politics properly speaking requires persuasion, not brute force. Barbarians only babble; political men debate and deliberate. And for language to exist there must be grammar and syntax that enable us to distinguish between babytalk and real logos.