A Whirlwind Tour of Christian Rationality by John C. Wright

In his inimitable style, Mr. Wright sums up the arguments against the proposition that, while Atheism is utterly rational, belief in Christianity is irrational in all respects. In the course of doing so, he produces a syllabus of philosophical errors tracing back to Descartes.

Mr. Wright begins with something he (and I and, frankly, anyone who tries to make a purely rational point in this woeful age) always run up against: the near total inability of a modern person to follow an argument. Education only increases density, until the typical PhD is diamond-hard in his resistance to reason, while you might have some luck with a first grader. It is both insightful and entertaining. He then compares the rationality – not the truth, but merely how rational they are – of the positions of atheists and Christians.

Keeping with my strategy of being as lightly read in as many places as possible, I paste here my long comment from there:

One other thing, to pile on a bit: another thing people don’t get (likely because it is studiously avoided in everything they’ll ever hear or read) is how the Perennial Philosophy came to be discredited. Luther and Calvin both waged war against human reason (Luther’s criticisms are legendary (and legendarily scattological) “Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore” and so on, Calvin is more subtle, as in making reason a competitor with the Spirit, as it were, in the proper understanding of Scripture). They were competing against the Scholastics, who famously trusted reason as a gift from God that tended by its nature to move the reasoner toward Him, staffed and founded Universities all over Europe, and educated all the key players in both the Medieval industrial revolution and the birth of Science.

In 1630, Descartes comes along with his radical skepticism, and all Hell breaks loose with Hume, Kant, etc. Descartes proved a good stick with which to beat the Scholastics. One of the peculiarities from that time on: nobody even talks about the Thomists, except to dismissively wave them off. It’s like how the Enlightenment slandered the great cathedrals as ‘gothic’ – i.e., barbaric – when they themselves could produce nothing nearly as original and beautiful.

On marches science, using the logic of Aristotle by way of the medieval Questions method + gadgets and math. Meanwhile, Kant finally runs radical skepticism to ground, or perhaps into the ground – dead end. Hegel then reanimate Calvin’s corpse, declaring that reason (as understood by everyone prior to him with the possible exception of Fichte) is for the little people, that real philosophers just get stuff unfolded to them by the Spirit in History. Finally, a philosophy that makes sense out of Calvin and Luther – they’re not reasonable, but they’re not supposed to be! They are instead on the right side of History, where the Spirit unfolds, where you just have to be right.

Somewhere in here, science decides it’s all about making practical discoveries (see Boyle’s listhttp://tiny.cc/8n5yey h/t to TOF) and basically lobotomizes itself to get rid of all that pesky philosophy that doesn’t help further that goal (more or less). Science and philosophy march more or less side by side, but more and more aren’t on speaking terms. A century and a half later, Von Humboldt invents the research university in Prussia: practical research (and the birth of publish or perish) over here, other stuff over there.

Meanwhile, the Puritans come to America to escape religious freedom – they are very sure they have a handle on the best way to live, and want anybody under their jurisdiction to live that way – and establish Harvard and staff it with people from Cambridge even the English Protestants at the time thought a bit much. The model of the American University is established: the place where we train the people who will make other people conform to our ideals. While those ideals sure changed – from Calvinist Puritanism (see the connection? Way ahead of me…) to Unitarianism to secular humanism all within a few generations – the belief that the University’s mission is to teach the one best way everything should be and enforce it on everybody else did not change.

So Harvard, and, through its role as intellectual disease vector, all other American universities, knows that what it wants is right, not by reason – that would play into the hands of the Thomists, even though their very existence is whistled past – but, as Calvin might say, vouchsafed by the Spirit – the Spirit of History, of the age, the Spirit of Progress.

Thus you, and anyone educated in the Universities, if he is so unfortunate as to take philosophy, will hear plenty about Descartes, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Marx and on through the current schools (last count: 1,476) of Analytic Philosophy but will hear nothing of A-T (Aristotelian-Thomistic) Philosophy except to have it dismissed. The truly enlightened are not subject to reason, which is, after all, a construct of the white male patriarchy meant only to oppress this week’s designated oppressed group – reason is for the little people. You know, the people who use reason to build the power plants that supply the lighting in the room where Woman’s Studies majors fire up their laptops to send emails about how oppressed they are.

But I digress.

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Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

3 thoughts on “A Whirlwind Tour of Christian Rationality by John C. Wright”

  1. Mr. Wright begins with something he (and I and, frankly, anyone who tries to make a purely ration point in this woeful age) always run up against: the near total inability of a modern person to follow an argument. Education only increases density, until the typical PhD is diamond-hard in his resistance to reason, while you might have some luck with a first grader.

    “The very power of [textbook writers] depends on the fact that they are dealing with a boy: a boy who thinks he is ‘doing’ his ‘English prep’ and has no notion that ethics, theology, and politics are all at stake. It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all.” -CS Lewis the Abolition of Man
    😉

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