The genius of foundationalism – A response to “The Impotence of Atheism”

This article is a response to Kristor’s article “The Impotence of Atheism“.

I really liked Kristor’s article. I think that we Christian reactionaries are often aware of the fact that nominalism is an important part of via moderna, but we don’t mention coherentism so often. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, in the domain of epistemology, coherentism is the denial of basic beliefs (i.e. things that are axiomatically true, true by inferred necessity). Its opposite is called foundationalism, which accepts basic beliefs.
Kristor writes about atheism being “Not wrong; not uninformative; often utile; but, just inadequate”. Albeit I really despise the anthropological and spiritual beliefs that are the logical consequences of atheism, I agree with a friend of mine (David P. Withun) who said that atheism is not so much wrong as it is incomplete. The same goes for coherentism and modernistic theories of knowledge like empiricism and rationalismthey are not bad in obtaining true (or valid) data about the cosmos, but they miss some important stuff, the basic beliefs, on which we can build an ordered cosmos where man can live a meaningful, worthy and purposeful life. 

I find foundationalism important for the intellectual life of Christians. While spiritually and existentially it is important for us to connect with Christ and not with an abstraction, I think that an act of will is not enough to convince a sincerely truth-seeking person to become a Christian. A leap of faith may be intellectually interpreted and justified, it doesn’t have to be unjustifiably absurd, otherwise it would be just as meaningless to make it as not to make it. If one is hanging on a bridge between atheism, nihilism and nominalist insanity on the one side, and theism, meaningfulness and metaphysical realism on the other, and one yearns for the truth yet cannot obtain it in a coherentist fashion, then the leap of faith may just as well be an adoption of foundationalism, making the existence of objective meaning, worth and purpose axiomatic (because they are a necessity for us humans and for our endeavours). This may as well be expressed in a more existential fashion, as I (among many others) have done it beforeAs foundationalism has an existential side, that means that it may as well contain an existential and intellectual struggle. One atheist empiricist with whom I once talked said to me that he would love if all these things that I say are true by necessity were true indeed, but that he cannot accept that because there was a lack of certitude, that he’d rather shut the door to both infinite wisdom and infinite error (i.e. uncertain and unverifiable knowledge) than open it to both. I think there is a real struggle in this, for indeed, once one deals with the truth as studied in domains outside of science and mathematics, one deals with much less concrete and less certain pieces of datafor example the faculties of the soul, or how universals manifest themselves in particulars, or the nature of the beautiful and the sublime. One must recognize that it is indeed a leap of faith that one takes, once one recognizes basic beliefs.

Kristor writes “This is why the juridical question is efficacious against an atheist. Just keep asking “Why?””. I think here we are getting to the point. Without the axiomatic presumption of objective meaning, worth and purpose, things such as the following are justified in no manner whatsoever: the knowledge and the search for truth, the survival of the human individual or the species, the holding onto one or more values. All these things are either true/desirable by necessity or absolutely arbitrary. If we adopt the latter position, this makes them unjustified.

I will insert, here, a small tip on the ontological argument that the greatest of all beings needs to exist otherwise it would not be the greatest. As we see, the ontological argument uses a more foundationalist than an evidence-based approach. It is usually rejected by atheists, but I think that a Spinozist, a Nietzschean, or a modern stoic, may actually find a way to agree with the reasoning of the argument.
Imagine now that good is not that which designates what we traditionally perceive as “the Good” but that the good is all that isthe cosmos, fate, all things happening, necessary and inevitable. Thus we find that the cosmos is God and that the premise that God’s existence is self-evident is not contradicted.
I would have much more respect for a naturalist who argues like this than for one who simply denies the self-evident existence of Godbecause the former shows that he understands the ontological argument, while the latter is an adherent of via moderna with no understanding of the genius of the via antiqua he opposes. Of course, if fate/the cosmos are in fact eternal and that in which all else exists and takes place, then we still live in a disorderly cosmos with no inherent meaning, worth or purpose for humans. But the purpose of my statement that pantheism is superior to Enlightenment atheism is that, is to demonstrate the philosophical worthlessness of Enlightenment philosophy, for it is philosophy done in the fashion of via moderna that has no practical use for us humans.

Pierre Hadot, the author of the wonderful “Philosophy as a Way of Life”, writes in the same book:

“…at least since the time of Socrates, the choice of a way of life has not being located at the end of the process of philosophical activity, like a kind of accessory or appendix. On the contrary, it stands at the beginning, in a complex interrelation with critical reaction to other existential attitudes, with a global vision of a certain way of living and of seeing the world…This existential option, in turn, implies a certain vision of the world, and the task of philosophical discourse will therefore be to reveal and rationally justify this existential option, as well as this representation of the world. Theoretical philosophical discourse is thus born from this initial existential option, and it leads back to it, in so far as – by means of its logical and persuasive force, and the action it tries to exert upon the interlocutor – it incites both masters and disciples to live in genuine conformity with their initial choice. In other words, it is, in a way, the application of a certain ideal of life.”

The nihilism and anthropological and spiritual bankruptcy of modernity come precisely from the fact that Enlightenment philosophy (and also mediocrities like the New Atheists) does philosophy as we do sciencein a detached way, completely independent of the needs, desires and aspirations of humans. And this is, basically, how we got to today’s functional specialization within society, and how things such as science, ethics, religiosity and literature seem to lack a minimum of cohesion. And the response to this impractical world-view and organisation of society is in what we Christians differ from modern gnostics, occultists and (to a lesser extent?) stoics. We make the leap of faith and submit our wills to an all-loving God who is the Way, the Truth and the Light. The gnostics follow the “path of the left hand”, they embrace the cosmos as perceived by modernitychaotic and indifferent, and decide to seek godhood, power and freedom.

A scientist and a mathematician who recognize the objective validity of human reason are, without realizing it, making a metaphysical claim. And Nietzsche and the post-modernists knew only too well that if one is to be a naturalist, then one is to dispense also with the idea that reason is a principle objectively valid on a cosmic scale.
It is for the sake of sanity that most secular people do not (fully) embrace vitalism or something of the sorts. If only they saw that our espousal of foundationalism is simply the next step towards sanity.

Further reading:

6 thoughts on “The genius of foundationalism – A response to “The Impotence of Atheism”

  1. Since the modern interpretation of a Christian is he who self-annihilates for salvation and he does this “[w]ithout the axiomatic presumption of objective [Supremacy]” then it can be said that the modern “Christian” is a self-annihilating anti-Supremacist.

    The fundamental obstacle for the Kristors, Roebucks, Bonalds and the like is in acknowledging that “yes, we are Christians, but in the dominate modern context, WE should be more accurately defined as white Supremacists.”

    “They,” in the post-liberation world, are not so much anti-Christian (“they” have no real beef with deracinated self-annihilating “Christians”) as “they” are anti-white Supremacists (“they” have REAL beef with self-identified whites that assert the reality of objective Supremacy).

    And make no mistake, there is an incredible psychological impasse for the super-majority of white Christians when wrapping their minds around the idea that they are being truthfully, precisely, accurately and exactly defined as genuine white Supremacists IF they are to be REAL Christians.

    • Thanks for the comment, thordaddy.

      There is a lot of what is not theologically orthodox that passes for “Christianity” today. Liberal and fundamentalist (in the historical sense) types of Protestantism are both products of modernity, and the same goes for Modernism among Catholics and Orthodox. These are garbage, not Christianity, a mixture of some Christian ideas with Liberal/Marxist/Rationalist elements. Even between Protestants on the one hand and Orthodox and Catholics on the other, there is a very different theological view of the nature of salvation (the question of faith and works) – and from theological positions stem different types of ethos lived by the different groups who call themselves Christians.

      To “self-annihilate for salvation” sounds like a Nietzsche-inspired view of what Christians do. The first and foremost goal in a life of a Christian is to adore and obey God. If salvation is a lie for which Christians give up their natural aspirations, then Christianity is wrong and there is no point joining it or having sympathies with it. If salvation isn’t a lie, then it is the most important thing for us humans, and for which all subordinate things may have to be sacrificed.

      I believe in the cultural supremacy of the Christian world, the civilization of “old white men”. If by white supremacy you designate the cultural supremacy of Western civilization, then I agree with you – since the times of the Greeks, Europe has been for most of history the most advanced civilization. The Judeo-Hellenic synthesis of the Christian world (both East and West) made it the most philosophically developed civilization, and because of its supreme philosophy and religion, its influence is (in different forms) seen all around the world. Unfortunately, the Christian world is now filled with self-hate on many levels, and the cause for this is ideology – the pinnacle of Modernity. As long as Westerners don’t abandon Modernity as a paradigm (and they won’t any time soon), they will constantly suppress the aesthetically supreme achievements of their forefathers’ civilization with ethical “x needs more rights” whining. While probably Eastern-rite Antiochian or Ethiopian Christians wouldn’t feel connected with the achievements and problems of Christendom, most European and American Christians should protect the heritage of our civilization. One has to be a Modernist heretic to hate the achievements of the Christian world and its predecessors. But if one is a Modernist, one is a heretic and not a Christian, and thus a false representative of Christianity to non-Christians.

      If by white supremacy you designate something biological, then is one that isn’t really of great importance for me, and I’ve observed – for many Christian reactionaries as well. My reason is, Christianity isn’t exclusive to the Caucasian West – even if we love and defend it. The Antiochian, Egyptian and Ethiopian Christians, just as much as the Byzantine and Russian ones, do not belong to the post-Germanic West, and yet they are at least just as much Christians as Westerners are. During different ages and in different eras, Christians rarely preoccupied themselves with questions of biological race; this makes race an issue that should be resolved without any form of dogmatization. All humans are beings with a capacity to embrace or reject God’s grace (at least according to Eastern Orthodoxy), and seeking one’s salvation should be done within the framework one is given. White guilt is stupid, because biological race is not of primary relevance. Theology and metaphysics > biology.
      Now, it is the historical norm to remain within one’s people, to marry with a person of one’s race, religion and culture, and to pass down the culture and religion to one’s children. This was a tradition in both Christendom, Pagandom and the Orient. As a tradition that has been passed down to us by our forefathers, we should try to follow it.

  2. deplevna…

    I define a white Supremacist as a white man that strives towards objective Supremacy. Objective Supremacy being defined at The Perfect Man. And of course, The Perfect Man being defined as the empirical fact of the life of Jesus Christ.

    So a white Christian = white Supremacist…

    And make no mistake, ALL ARE AGAINST any white men striving towards Supremacy ESPECIALLY as a voluntary collective of white men.

    Race is not irrelevant as it is an aspect of the Creation. Race is substantive and contextual as it relates to the man who strives towards Supremacy. The universality of Christianity — the ability of all men to strive towards Supremacy without regard to race — is only true in so far as WE are concerned. For nearly all others, OUR whiteness prohibits us from striving towards Supremacy without great consternation and violence from the deracinated masses and “their” nonwhiteness DEMANDS the absolute rejection of objective Supremacy, i.e., mandates the embrace of “equality.”

    A truly deracinated “Christian” cannot exist. And it is INCOMPLETE and now ambiguous to simply call one’s self a Christian BECAUSE in the modern context, “you” are a self-annihilator for salvation, i.e., you are equal to the modern self-annihilator. “You” will die for Christ in the same manner that a jihadist will self-annihilate for allah or a commie will self-annihilate for a false economic utopia.

    In the modern world, EVERYONE is against genuine white Supremacy EVEN the best of our white Christians like you, Kristor, Roebuck, Wood and the late Auster. This MUST BE corrected because it is a major malfunction. The deracinated state of modern “white” Christianity is pathological.

    It is no small psychological step for the individual white man to accept without reservation and hesitation the incontrovertible equations:

    White Christian = white Supremacist because Christian = Supremacist.

    Yet, this step shows you to be one of those Christians who WILL NOT self-annihilate for Christ. As of now, you make no distinction in the eyes of the liberal “Christian” or the anti-Christian.

  3. A well reasoned response. You’re clearly well-acquainted with the terminology of such arguments. The Ontological Argument is one that is too often dismissed without actually being able to refute it. People simply assume it is somehow a circular argument, even though it clearly isn’t.

    The fact is most atheists are not intellectual (at least not on the subject of atheism). Their number one concern is politics, not philosophy, and their goal is to see religion persecuted out of their society. This is why engaging with them has become more tedious over the last decade, especially as Christians are portrayed as demons by the media complex of the West.

    Richard Dawkins has said that they ought not argue with us, but rather mock us. In such situations, it is fair to simply say atheists at large are category 1 enemies of Tradition along with all the other usual suspect groups (feminists, etc.)

    Atheism isn’t really represented by Nietzsche anymore. It is represented by Bill Maher. Remember to many, humanism is the bedrock of atheism, and humanism is the cult of the Modern in both active and passive form. Humanism is a cancer and liberal democracy is its altar.

    Added you to my blogroll. Keep Reacting.

    • Thank you for the comment and for the blogroll add, Mark.
      You are absolutely right to say that most atheists are not intellectual. This is not a surprise, given that every single civilization has had the majority of the masses being rather ignorant and intellectually uninterested. The problem with the typical atheist is that he thinks of himself as enlightened (a “bright”) simply because he is an atheist.
      Renaissance humanism, which was a Christian movement for the most part, had the idea of educating the masses, and from the Renaissance, through the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, to the Enlightenment, the Jesuits had started making available church-sponsored schools to the masses (and when possible, this continues even today). It was however a slow movement, and some erudite men, among whom we can count some of the Philosophes, started thinking that if we replaced religion with Secular Humanism and made the State have education as its number one priority, the masses would become cultivated and enlightened.
      The project failed – both for the Liberalism of the First World and for the Socialism of the Second World. But the narrative as well as the ideas remain, and together with egalitarianism and others, are still on the agenda of the Left, who still believe that they can make the world a better place. It is because of this folly that they demonise Christians and the Church as “obscurantists” who persecute men of “reason” while believing in “fairy-tales” – and because these atheist “brights” control the media, the culture and the education, the masses believe the narrative too.

      • The question is, will they continue to believe that narrative as the gap between the elites and the working man grows, as foreigners swamp their lands, as their children are exposed to abuse after abuse in public education, and their wages stagnate or decline?

        I am hoping not.

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