Sunday, July 22, 2012


In the previous post I argued that the primary fault of modernism is to replace God with Reason. This is not the review of Atheist Delusions I promised, but I felt the need to explain exactly what I meant. Having God as god instead of Reason does not require one to be irrational. Rationalism is different than rationality. The Wiki definitions on this are actually very good, but I will add my own to clarify my point.


- Rationalism: "Any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification." In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive." Different degrees of emphasis on this method or theory lead to a range of rationalist standpoints, from the moderate position "that reason has precedence over other ways of acquiring knowledge" to the more extreme position that reason is "the unique path to knowledge."

- Rationality: The characteristic of any action, belief, or desire, that makes their choice a necessity. It is a normative concept about reasoning in the sense that rational people should derive conclusions in a consistent way given the information at disposal. It refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons to believe, or with one's actions with one's reasons for action.

I much prefer these definitions over the ones I saw at, for instance,, for the simple reason that both are defined by Wiki in a way that makes clear the primary philosophical distinction I am after. "Rationalism" is the idea that Reason itself is a source of knowledge, while "Rationality" is merely a mode of thinking from premises to conclusions. Those are the essences of my definitions. The best way to illustrate this important difference is to simply assume one, then the other, to be true and think about what the world of Reason would look like in both cases. In practice, these are two different definitions of Reason. I hold them to be contradictory. I also believe this difference in definition is one of the primary differences between conservatives and progressives, and until both sides understand the difference we will continue to talk past one another.

First, if Rationalism was true then anyone who is "rational" would always come to the same conclusions. Since everyone using their faculties of Reason is deriving their knowledge from the same place, namely Reason, then anyone who concludes differently than what those who have obtained their knowledge from Reason have concluded are by definition irrational.In this case there can only be one rational answer to every question, and all other answers must be irrational.

Second, if only Rationality is true, then anyone who is rational may reason under exactly the same rules as every other rational person yet still come to different conclusions because he has reasoned from different premises. I may, with my rational faculty, reason that God exists because I take the Bible as my premise. Another may, using the same faculty under the same rules, reason that God does not exist because he takes as his premise the teaching of Charles Darwin. But it is quite possible that both are using Reason in the same exact way under this definition of rationality, and therefore one could conclude that despite the differing and even contradictory conclusions both are rational.

My own definition of Rationalism: A belief that Reason is a universal (true) and a primary source of knowledge such that anyone correctly employing Reason will inevitably come to the same conclusion (false).

My definition of Rationality: A universal methodology for reaching logically valid conclusions from premises.

(A sidenote: The debate over what to do about Iran often hinges on whether or not one views Iran as a "rational actor." Those who say Iran is a "rational actor" assume that even if Iran gets the bomb it will not use it for the same reason no one has used it since Nagasaki: mutual assured destruction. Those who don't believe Iran is a "rational actor" say Iran may use it as a first strike weapon without any regard for retaliation, thus making an Iranian bomb extremely dangerous. I have seen a few, not many but a few, argue that Iran may very well be a rational actor and still use the bomb since their premises are different than ours. However both sides of the debate tend to use the term "rational" with the incorrect definition, that of Rationalism. I believe this definition to be the most widely used one in the West, and this argument over Iran demonstrates the immediate importance of understanding just exactly what we mean when we say "Reason" or "rational".)

At this point I had begun a long tangent on the Socratic or dialectic method, but it became too long so I will save that for another time. I will simply emphasize that the above definitions reveal Rationalism to be idolatry, and Rationality, which I will heretofore call "Reason", to be a necessary part of human nature. The Enlightenment and the modernists, the majority of whom were Christians, tended to be rationalists more often than not after many of the ancient Greeks. The postmodernists reacted by attacking Reason itself, with varying results. What I have done is put Reason in its proper place within both the Trinity and the imago dei as the connection between the Will, or Spirit, and the Body. In this position Reason can neither have the supremacy nor can it be marginalized. I have come to call this view Trinitarian metaphysics and explain it in detail in chapter 19 of my book. On this depends my entire worldview.

Postmodernism has failed to dent modern culture and will share the fate of the similar Romantic movement in English literature, leaving behind nothing more significant than a few good poets. Modernism was defeated by its own logical conclusion: the horrors of World War II. From the ashes came the United States of America which only twenty years ago became the world's sole superpower, the first since Great Britain in the 19th century. The United States is tottering on the brink of a precipice, drunk with its own power. Yet deep within her history she possesses all the qualities of a transcendent world leader, key among them a desperate and absolutely necessary dependence upon the one true God for her sustenance. We stand athwart history, between an age of darkness and an age unlike anything the world has seen since the age of King Solomon of Israel, when the world came to view the wealth and wisdom of one nation under God. To the whole world it was proclaimed that our God is mighty. The Truth behind our success is absolute and obvious. Our choice is whether we tell it. Our path is whether we live it.

Now that's whack.