Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Worldviews - Inevitable Choices

This article from Mercatornet contends that today's college students (and people in general) have four choices in worldviews that they can identify with and adopt. Seems like a limited choice to me, but probably pretty close to being true for the majority of students.

The argument, flawed though it is, states that we ALL must choose between Mohammed, Descartes, Nietzsche, or the Pope.

Hmmm . . . I pick Buddha.

Inevitable choices

University students face four competing world views as they navigate their way through modern culture. They can only choose one of them.

Richard Bastien is director of the Catholic Civil Rights League for the National Capital Area and a regular contributor to Égards, a French-language quarterly journal of ideas.

I would like to set out four world views which people, and especially university students, encounter today and to show how each of them has developed on the basis of a particular understanding of the role of faith and reason in the quest for truth. More specifically, I intend to show that these worldviews are mutually exclusive and that any person living in the West is bound to choose one of them. I conclude that the choice now facing each of us is between Mohammed, Descartes, Nietzsche and the Pope.

The four worldviews are:

1) Fideism, which says that faith is the sole means at our disposal in the quest for truth; we can therefore refer to it as the philosophy of sola fides;

2) Modernism, also known as rationalism, scientism or positivism, which says that reason is the sole means we have in our quest for truth; we can refer to it as the philosophy of sola ratio;

3) Postmodernism, also known as cultural or moral relativism, or nihilism, which says there is no such thing as objective truth and that, therefore, faith and reason are of no use; we can call this philosophy that of nec ratio, nec fides; and

4) Catholicism, which says that the search for truth requires both faith and reason; we can thus refer to it as being based on fides et ratio.

Before describing these worldviews in greater detail, one must specify what is meant by "truth", "faith" and "reason". By truth is meant an agreement or concordance between intellect and objective reality. Faith means believing in something to be true, as opposed to knowing it to be true. There is faith when a truth claim is accepted, not on the basis of solid evidence, but rather on the basis of the testimony of someone else. We believe something because we believe someone. This does not mean, however, that faith is "blind" to evidence. Indeed, faith is usually reinforced by some experience which it cannot fully explain, as when I trust my doctor that his medical prescription will relieve my pain, although I can’t explain how it does so.

Reason means knowing something to be true on the basis of either what our senses tell us or what our mind or intellect tells us. Knowledge acquired though our senses is sense knowledge, also known as empirical knowledge, ie, knowledge of things material and measurable. Knowledge acquired through our intellect is knowledge of abstract truths, like logic and mathematics. Logical and mathematical truths are sometimes referred to as necessary truths because the formulation of truth claims is impossible without them.

What this means is that faith and reason are quite different. Faith requires a free assent of the will, while reason calls for compelling evidence or self-evident truth. However, the two serve a common purpose, which is to serve as foundations in our quest for truth. Put another way, both make sense only in relation to truth. Reason is a way of understanding truth, discovering it or proving it. Faith is a way of discovering it. Without this relationship to truth, faith and reason make no sense. Both are roads to truth with respect to religious as well as non-religious matters.

For an explanation of each of the worldviews, go read the article.

Here is his conclusion:
Fideism proclaims not simply the autonomy, but the self-sufficiency, of faith. It is self-contradictory in that it requires reason to argue against the use of reason. Modernism proclaims not simply the autonomy, but the self-sufficiency, of reason. It cannot meet its own criteria for truth claims and leads to nihilism, which negates both faith and reason and exalts the will. Catholicism proclaims the need for both faith and reason in the search for truth. It has built up an intellectual, moral and spiritual heritage unlike any other in the history of mankind. Thus, the choice facing us today is between Mohammed, Descartes, Nietzsche and the Pope.
I disagree that these are our choices, but it might seem that way for a Catholic trying to make sense of a world that is finally starting to outgrow the mythic worldview of the Church -- even the Church is becoming more rational (contra the current Pope).

We have many more choices, and many more subtleties within these categories. Beyond faith in a mythic God is trans-rational gnosis of a world far more complex than reason or faith can intuit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, according to that, I'm Catholic. Only problem is, I'm not.

But consider the source. Look at who wrote the article.