The Moral Psychology of Political Islam in Turkey: An Ideational Ethnography Concerning Islamism, Rationalism, and Cannibalism
King, Judd D.
Voll, John O
Using intuitionist moral psychology and a detailed anthropological investigation of the moral reasoning of Turkish "Islamist" voters, I argue for an urgent rethinking of the dynamics of political Islam and religious fundamentalism in general. Having explained a widespread contention that because the fundamental tenets of democracy and Islamic law are (allegedly) rationally irreconcilable, people cannot sincerely believe in both, I demonstrate the dramatic failure of this argument empirically through interviews with ordinary supporters of the "Islamist" Refah and AK Parties in Turkey. My ethnography reveals that subjects strongly believed simultaneously in orthodox Sunni conceptions of sharīˁ;a and, by every measure, democracy--including in the principle of individual autonomy central specifically to liberal democracy.I contend that the failure of that argument comes from its fundamental assumption that the process of developing moral beliefs and discrete judgments is governed so strongly by deductive reasoning and rational consistency that explicit moral or metaphysical beliefs represent a sufficient basis on which to predict substantive moral and political preferences--a position I call "naïve rationalism." Drawing on the intuitionist approach to moral psychology pioneered by Jonathan Haidt, which suggests an intuitive and emotive, rather than a rational basis for moral judgment, I develop a more detailed theory regarding the dynamics specifically of belief in stable moral principles using Leon Festinger's classic theory of cognitive dissonance. Situating religious meta-ethical beliefs within the cognitive architecture of moral ideation, I argue that people's metaphysical and meta-ethical beliefs are generally more a function of their substantive moral attitudes than their cause, and that the layout of moral beliefs follows intuitive, rather than rational rules--thus demonstrating that naïve rationalism is not theoretically tenable.Finally, my subjects' responses to affectively charged moral questions systematically reveal rationally inconsistent applications of meta-ethical and hermeneutical principles in the service of arriving at conclusions that are imperative for emotive reasons--such as rejecting cannibalism or slavery. This is consistent with my hypothesis, and suggests that deductive reasoning based on explicit moral principles is inadequate to reliably predict substantive attitudes.
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