Friday, March 18, 2011

GIANTS IN THE LAND - BUILDING ON A FOUNDATION

I have been considering six basic characteristics of modernity as identified by D. A. Carson. As a point of clarification, I must say that by using these basic conclusions by Carson I do not want the reader to assume I agree with his broader theological perspectives. I have, however, found this effort to summarize the modern and postmodern ages is quite impressive and helpful. This being the case I will briefly address the third feature of modernity which is foundationalism, an epistemological approach that assumes certain self-evident beliefs as opposed to engaging in infinite regress or the need to justify every proposition stated. Though Descartes is known for a process which involved doubting everything or refusing to assume anything to be true, he offered, as a first principle upon which all can proceed, the idea that the fact that he doubted and thought proved that he existed (dubito ergo cogito ergo sum, most commonly stated as simply cogito ergo sum). This has become foundational in western, modern thought. Without imbibing a network of complex ideas, my main interest at this point is to emphasize that in the modern age of reasoning there were certain foundational presuppositions from which answers about life were sought. Quoting from Francis Schaeffer in The God Who is There we read, “What were these presuppositions? The basic one was that there really are such things as absolutes. [Modernity or what Schaeffer referred to as the age of reason] accepted the possibility of an absolute in the area of Being (or knowledge), and in the area of morals. Therefore, because they accepted the possibility of absolutes, though people might have disagreed as to what these were, nevertheless they could reason together on the classical basis of antithesis. They took it for granted that if anything was true, the opposite was false. In morality, if one thing was right, its opposite was wrong. This little formula, ‘A is A’ and ‘if you have A, it is not non-A,’ is the first move in classical logic. If you understand the extent to which this no longer holds sway, you will understand our present situation.” Though people might disagree on many things, they operated from the same foundation as they investigated and discussed such things. The shift that eventually moved away from this perspective Schaeffer referred to as “the line of despair.” This will enter into our thoughts about postmodernism when we begin considering its characteristics.

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