Monday, December 10, 2012

BkRev: Goldberg's Kingdom Coming

Michelle Goldberg, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, New York, W. W. Norton, 2007 (adding an Epilogue to the 2006 edition), 253 pp.

In Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, investigative journalist Michelle Goldberg has two main purposes. The first is to raise an alarm about the threat from Christian Nationalism. Much of the book focuses on conservative political assaults and modern liberal responses, which are subjects outside the scope of The Main Event. However, Goldberg's description of Christian Nationalism exposes the movement's roots in supernaturalism and mysticism, particularly the notions of God's revelations in holy scripture as guides to personal and political action.

The Christian Nationalism movement advocates mysticism—for example, when a preacher encourages his flock to have faith—but its advocacy is only one element in a stream of other, narrower activities such as campaigns to create or abolish laws, organize efforts to raise funds for a new church building, and sermonize about the need to follow God's commandments. The rule of inverse interest applies: The more fundamental the concept, such as reason or mysticism, the less time is spent talking about it. Though not intended by the author, part of the value of Kingdom Coming is demonstrating that point.

Goldberg's second purpose is to suggest, to her audience of "liberal" activists, actions they could take to counteract the threat. Some of her suggestions could be useful to activists for reason, egoism, and capitalism as well, but again that subject is outside the scope of this review for The Main Event.

THREE ISMS. What is Christian Nationalism? Goldberg's answer involves two other, related isms. The best way to understand these three ideas is to move from the general to the particular. The general doctrine that sets a context for Christian Nationalism is Judeo-Christian dominionism, the belief that Jews and Christians have a God-given right to rule this world. (Dominionists cite Genesis 1:26-27 for justification.) Christian Nationalism is an application of that world-wide principle to a particular country, the USA. It is the political belief that the USA was founded by Christians for Christians. One element of Christian Nationalism is Christian reconstructionism, which is the belief that Christians should replace “American civil law with Old Testament biblical law,” says Goldberg. (p. 13)

By citing their holy scripture—whose authors were mystically inspired to write a text which contains ethical principles mystically revealed by God—Christian Nationalists are demonstrating the fundamental role of supernaturalism and mysticism in their worldview.

STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK Chapter by chapter, the author shows that, by applying their mystically acquired ethical principles, Christian Nationalists are:
- Intending to end secularism (Ch. 1, “This is a Christian Nation”).
- Threatening the rights of homosexuals (Ch. 2, “… The Political Uses of Homophobia”).
- Assaulting science (Ch. 3, “… Intelligent Design and the War on the Enlightenment”).
- Hijacking the welfare state (Ch. 4, “The Faith-Based Gravy Train”).
- Attacking sexuality (Ch. 5, “… the Abstinence Industry”).
- Undermining constitutional checks and balances that protect the separation of Church and State (Ch. 6, “… The War on the Courts”).

As the table of contents suggests, the author and the Christian Nationalists she examines are focused on "social issues," not economic issues.

THE AUTHOR'S APPROACH. Goldberg makes her descriptions of the ideas of the Christian Nationalists vivid by describing a string of individuals who advocate those ideas—their physical appearance, their clothing, their setting (in a church, for example), and their careers as activists. Her descriptions include explanations of the special terms that Christian Nationalists use in their thinking and in speaking to others:

Michael Farris, the founder and president of the evangelical Patrick Henry College calls his campaign to turn Christian homeschooled students into political cadres Generation Joshua. The name has a very specific biblical … meaning. Joshua was Moses's successor as leader of the Israelites; … Joshua led them in seizing the holy land. … Farris's Generation Joshua … [is] imbued with an Old Testament dream of exile redeemed by conquest. The holy land is America as Farris imagines it. The enemy is America as it exists right now. … As Farris wrote in his book Generation Joshua, the homeschooling movement ‘will succeed when our children, the Joshua generation, engage wholeheartedly in the battle to take the land. … [Winning will be very difficult because this] is the land of MTV, Internet porn, abortion, homosexuality, greed, and accomplished selfishness‘ he observed. (pp. 1-2)

A CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN SUBCULTURE. One of the benefits of a close reading of Kingdom Coming is seeing in detail the breadth and depth of an ever-growing conservative Christian sub-society and the conservative Christian subculture it produces. Many conservative Christians, of course, work as employees of religiously neutral companies, alongside atheists, agnostics, pagans, Muslims, and "liberal" Christians. As Goldberg demonstrates, however, a growing number of conservative Christians—especially the activists—work for other conservative Christians in organizations that advocate for conservative Christian ideals or produce Christian cultural products such as videos and books. In their nonworking hours, these conservative Christians can then socialize with other conservative Christians in churches that have large congregations. Their children—often in large families—meet mostly other conservative Christian children through their Christian school networks

In effect, these conservative Christians are slowly supplanting rather than converting the "liberal" world around them. For serious students of history familiar with the long, slow process of Christians supplanting pagan society in the Late Roman Empire, the process of supplanting is more disturbing than any particular ballot victory conservatives may enjoy.

RECOMMENDATION. Kingdom Coming is entertaining and informative for anyone who wants a closer look at a major—and still developing—stream of mysticism in the USA today. Goldberg's documentation is not scholarly, but it is thorough enough to allow serious readers—including specialized activists—to pursue narrower interests such as the fight over evolution, the movement against gay marriage, and the conservative Christian plans to remake the USA into a theocracy.

Especially valuable for pro-reason activists would be reading Kingdom Coming before reviewing the 4.5 hour series of lectures by Brook and Ghate, "Cultural Movements: Creating Change" on the ARI website (PARTICIPATE, ACTIVISM, right column):

Burgess Laughlin
Author of The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith, described here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

BkRev: Peikoff, The DIM Hypothesis

 Leonard Peikoff, The DIM Hypothesis: Why the Lights of the West Are Going Out, New York, New American Library, 2012, 378 pp.

The DIM Hypothesis is an ambitious book. It sets out to explain the essential nature of Western culture, the path Western history has taken from the ancient Greeks to U.S. culture today, and our most likely route for the next two generations. Will we see prosperity, advances in science, and greater freedom for individuals to pursue happiness? Or will we see decline? The DIM Hypothesis provides a framework for answering such questions. The book is "[a]n essentialized account" but "not of course a proof" of the hypothesis, which would require multiple specialized studies rather than a single volume. (p. xii)

The author of the book is philosopher Leonard Peikoff, PhD. As the Acknowledgments section of the book shows, he has drawn on the expertise of a gallery of specialists in four major fields of our culture and in each of the major periods of Western history.

THE ARGUMENT. In Part One ("Epistemology"), Peikoff explains the key that he thinks opens the lock on our doorway to understanding the past, grasping the present, and predicting the future. The key, he says in Ch. 1, is identifying the mode of thinking that representative individuals in a society use to create their culture. Why is the mode important? The mode shapes the "cultural products" that result from the thinking. (For a concretizing analogy, I view mode of thinking as the narrow "waist" of an hourglass, with the sand in the top compartment being a society's dominant philosophy, and the sand in the bottom compartment being culture; the nature of the culture depends not only on the broadest philosophical principles, the heavy "sand" at the top, but also on the nature of the very narrow "waist" through which those principles are applied to culture.)

A mode of thinking is a person's way of mentally connecting the multitude of bits and pieces he knows ("the Many") into a system of thought ("the One") that explains the world and our role in it. Peikoff sees three major modes of thinking: Integration (I), Misintegration (M), and Disintegration (D).

The I mode, Peikoff explains in Ch. 2 ("The Three Archetypes"), is the mode of Aristotle: start with sense-perception of nature, form concepts of the things we see, produce wider concepts, infer principles, and organize -- that is, integrate -- those principles into a system of thought about the world as a whole, which is philosophy.

The M mode is superficially similar in that its practitioners (originally Plato) do attempt to connect up what they see in this world, but to foundational ideas that come to them from another world, a transcendent world (the world of Forms for Plato, or God's supernatural realm for Jews, Christians, and Muslims). This is a misintegration because it is an attempt to connect the world of nature to the (non-existent) world of the supernatural.

The third major mode, the D mode, is an anti-mode; it is the mode of disintegration, the mode that philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) originated: the mode of rejecting a connection of any item of knowledge to another, leaving only a pile of individual bits of knowledge ("the Many"), if anything.

In looking at history, Peikoff works from the premise that the ideas individuals hold are the causes of their actions. The broadest ideas are philosophical ideas. Broad ideas have broad effects in history, which is the record of human actions. (Peikoff demonstrated these views in his book, The Ominous Parallels, an examination of the ideas that caused the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1920s.) How, though, do broad philosophical ideas -- from Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Rand, and others -- actually translate into particular human actions and therefore the flow of history?

In Ch. 4 ("DIM and the Hypothesis"), Peikoff says the mode of one's thinking -- where one looks for the elements of thought and how one connects those elements -- determines the results in thought and action. The Integration mode led to the philosophical, literary, and mathematical creativity of ancient Greek culture and especially the scientific creativity of the Enlightenment period. The Misintegration mode produced an increasingly oppressive pagan Roman Empire, the Christian Middle Ages, and the supposedly secular regimes of Nazi Germany and Communist Russia. The Disintegration mode, which first appeared in modern times, has led to the culture of our own world, a world in which children are educated but cannot think; physicists deny the possibility of knowledge of reality; serious literature lacks plot and theme; and politicians heap up a pile of arbitrary regulations that destroy productivity.

In Part Two ("DIM in Modern Culture") the author -- striving always to practice the mode he champions, the mode of Integration -- illustrates and tests this hypothesis -- that mode of thinking, more than any other factor, explains the nature and trajectory of a culture. Peikoff starts, not at the beginning of history, but with our own, modern time, a culture that most readers know best. He looks at four fields of our culture -- literature (Ch. 5), physics Ch. 6), education (Ch. 7), and politics (Ch. 8).

In Part Three ("DIM in Pre-Modern Culture"), Peikoff examines the same four fields but in the I culture of Classical Greece (particularly Athens), the initially mild M ("M1") culture of pagan Rome, the severe M ("M2") cultural of most of the Christian Middle Ages, the return to a mild M ("M1") culture during the Renaissance, and the I culture of the Enlightenment. In all these cases, Peikoff approaches a field by looking at particular cultural products. He says:

"Cultural products," as I use the term, are not academic treatises. Rather, they are things such as the Aeneid, the discovery of heliocentrism, Progressive education, the welfare state -- i.e., entities that are familiar in some form to the people in a given society and that influence their lives uniquely, in both thought and action. Cultural products in this sense are not theories of aesthetics, but plays, concerti, the David. They are not philosophizing about science, but the publicly known conclusions of working physicists, who tell us about an absolute law of gravity or about big bangs and anti-causal quarks. They are not philosophy of education, but the curricula and teaching methods of the K-12 schools children attend daily. They are not political abstractions, but the behavior of actual governments wielding defined or purposely undefined powers. The sum of such products is the culture of a society. (p. 71)

In Part Four ("The Future"), Peikoff continues to build his hypothesis but in "the other direction -- not from hypothesis to [cultural] products, but from the observed facts about [cultural] products to hypothesis." (p. 251) This is an inductive test of the hypothesis. The first chapter of this part, Ch. 12 ("Identifying a Culture's Essence"), is an example of one element of his approach. This element will be welcomed by serious readers, but will slow the reading of casual readers: He explains the method he is using at each major step. Some of the discussion is abstract, but Peikoff guides the reader with aids such as: inserting subheadings that show the reader the main steps; summarizing major points in short statements; and explaining where in the thought process the author's account now stands.

In Ch. 13 ("The West's Modal Progression"), Peikoff examines the nature of the changes from one mode of thinking to another.

The progression of modes is not a march of reified abstractions propelled independently of worldly events by the dictates of some preordained logic beyond human control. On the contrary, a mode is a method of thinking, and method entails content; thinking, if it is non-Platonic, is about particulars. The rise and fall of any mode, therefore, can be understood only in conjunction with a specific triggering event or events -- that is, event(s) which, in the context of the period, lead people to question and to conclude that the established mode is unsafe, backward, invalid, and/or evil. The result, other things being equal, will be a modal changeover. (pp. 266-267)

Throughout the book, Peikoff is careful to say what the DIM hypothesis is not, as well as what it is. For example:

The DIM theory has no distinctive means to predict the rise of disaffection [with the dominant mode of thinking] in an era; nor can it identify in advance the concretes that will trigger a changeover [to another mode of thinking]. The basic question that modal theory does attempt to answer is this: Given a society's established mode, along with the eruption of such concretes [as triggers for change] if and when they come, which new mode will people choose to embrace and why? (p. 267)

In Ch. 14, Peikoff examines the four "secular modes" in the United States today. The secular modes are the disintegration modes (both mild D1 and the radical D2); the integration mode (surviving now in our culture mostly as an Enlightenment sense of life, but also as the tiny new Objectivist movement); and the mild form of misintegration (M1), which Peikoff labels as Worldly Supernaturalism, meaning that the advocates of this mode accept this world as fully real, but not as a source of guiding principles. (pp. 65 and 305)

In Ch. 15, by contrast, Peikoff considers the fifth and and last mode, the radical misintegration movement (M2). They are pure Platonists, but now in a religious form. In the U.S., the dominant religion, at this time, is Christianity. Among Christians, the greatest threats are the "New Christians," a group distinguished by "the consistency of their religious ideology." This group includes fundamentalists, evangelicals, Pentecostals, and the "born-again." (p. 310). They are calling for "dominionism." This doctrine "holds that the secular authorities in the United States must be replaced by men of faith who will refashion American life according to God's teachings." (p. 315)

In the last chapter, Ch. 16 ("What's Next?"), Peikoff makes his prediction: "religious totalitarianism in America." (p. 333) After considering many factors that might speed or slow the rise of a religious totalitarianism in some form, he says:

Given all these factors and being as specific as one can be, I estimate the M2 triumph to be complete within another forty to fifty years at the latest -- say, two generations. On current evidence, though, it might very well be a generation earlier. ... (p. 340)

My claim that an M2 success is not yet certain depends on my view that a resurgence of Aristotle is still possible. There is some evidence now pointing to the germ of an I revolution in the United States -- that is, to an I philosophy with cultural potential here. (p. 342)

In the final pages, Peikoff says: "The high probability of a monstrous evil should not induce paralysis in those who see it coming. It should not lead to the end of action, but to the beginning." (p. 346)

EVALUATION. The DIM Hypothesis covers 2500 years of Western history. It rapidly plumbs the depths of all those cultures from the concretes of daily life down to the broadest abstractions of philosophy as represented by the dominant mode of thinking. The book presents a hypothesis of what causes a culture to be what it is and change as it does. Overall, the author's presentation of that chain of causes and effects is reminiscent of the mechanical clocks developed in the Enlightenment, a period of triumphant integration in some fields. The clocks' mechanisms were complex, intricate, and at some points delicate, but always including precision-made components that provided a check on other components that might drift in operation. For some viewers, such clocks were a marvel to contemplate. The same is true for The DIM Hypothesis.

Is the book persuasive in its conclusion that the USA is headed to religious totalitarianism within two generations? Peikoff says he holds his conclusion to be "so highly probable as to border on certainty." (p. 341) Will readers agree with him? Equally objective readers may reasonably come to different conclusions, depending on their knowledge of Western history. For me, the answer is yes and no. Yes, there is some probability of such a dictatorship. No, there is not a probability so high it borders on certainty, and for three reasons. 

First, two slow readings of The DIM Hypothesis uncovered dozens of puzzling or doubtful statements (out of the thousands of evidential and methodological statements that constitute the book). Most of the doubtful statements are about debatable particulars of history cited as evidence, but a few of the doubtful statements are about methods. For instance, is the author presenting a "hypothesis" (as stated in the book title and elsewhere) or a "theory" (the term used on pp. 72, 74, and 78)? And when the author says, "The overwhelming dominance of M [throughout most of history] ... would mean that its fundamentals have been so entrenched in the mind of our species that we have never truly escaped them" (p. 285), what is he saying? In particular, what does "entrenched in the mind of our species" mean?

That sounds like innate ideas, but Peikoff has a long track record of opposing innate ideas. Most likely, given evidence throughout the book of ruthless editing to abbreviate the text, Peikoff was using short-hand, so to speak, to say that elements of the Misintegration mode of thinking (wedding what we see in this world to a supernatural realm) are now and always have been so common in our culture that most individuals simply absorb them into their subconscious in childhood onward, making acceptance of religion likely. Clarification of such statements would reduce readers' doubts about the author's near certainty in his disturbing prediction.

Second, also inducing caution are Peikoff's own careful reminders to readers that he is explaining only Western history, the flow of Western culture, a culture shaped, Peikoff holds, by philosophy that was originally Greek, but later combined with the non-Western religion of Christianity. His modal analysis does not apply to Eastern culture, which Peikoff has not studied. (p. 264) Yet we live in a fluid world that is mixing cultures, with Western elements spreading eastward and Eastern elements spreading westward. Will this situation affect a modal change in the U.S. or elsewhere?

Example "other factors" which the author sets aside as not part of modal analysis are: the historical role of philosophical skepticism and other forms of "non-integration" (pp. 37-38, 39, and 67); the effects of pre-philosophical culture (pp. 264, 284, and 285); and the place of cultural elements that do not reveal a particular mode (pp. 68 and 74-75). This list should make the reader extra cautious in evaluating the author's level of certainy about his conclusions.

Third is the problem of explaining the appearance and rise of the integrative mode to prominence in particular cultures at particular times. Why did it arise when and where it did arise -- ancient Greece; in the late medieval period (leading to the Renaissance); the Enlightenment period, but beginning in the 1600s; and, at least as a seedling, in our own time with the philosophy of Ayn Rand?

I have written two books on somewhat related subjects: The Aristotle Adventure: A Guide to the Greek, Arabic, and Latin Scholars Who Transmitted Aristotle's Logic to the Renaissance, especially the chapters on the revival of Aristotle scholarship in the late Latin-Christian period; and The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith, especially the chapter on Thomas Aquinas and Siger of Brabant. I am thereby somewhat familiar with the facts of the long, slow rise of the integrative mode. In each case, how did advocates and practitioners of the Integration mode manage to survive and eventually flourish, even if only in mixed cultures? This needs to be explained before accepting as nearly certain a prediction of domination by radical misintegration, that is, a religious totalitarianism.

RECOMMENDATION. Is this a book for everyone? No. It is useful, challenging, and important for long-term students of at least three fields: philosophy, history of philosophy, and philosophy of history. It will also aid serious philosophical and intellectual activists, those individuals who have a well defined, long-term purpose as activists and who know the importance of spreading fundamental ideas as preparation for narrower changes later.

Peikoff himself suggests that general readers, those without requisite background in history and philosophy, "need not flee" from the book but might "browse the sections pertaining to modern literature, education, and politics (chapters five, seven, and eight), and above all ... take a look at the book's final three chapters, dealing with America's future." (p. xiii) The most difficult sections for general readers are the very ones that will probably fascinate serious students of history and philosophy: the sections which describe Peikoff's methodology in thinking and explanation. Both are delightfully integrative.

For that reason, Peikoff's The DIM Hypothesis, as well as his long stairway of labor before it, may itself be one reason why his own prediction -- the triumph of misintegration, in the form of religious totalitarianism -- might fail. Taught and led by thinkers such as Leonard Peikoff, the integrators may yet win.

(This review is provisional. I may revise it after leading a 17-week study group examining the book in Study Groups for Objectivists. The study group begins in January, 2013, for registered members.)

Burgess Laughlin
Author of The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith, described here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Example Movement: Radical Orthodoxy

 In 1990, British university professor and Christian theologian John Milbank published his first book, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason. In it, Milbank rejects the Enlightenment idea of secularity. It is, he says, a myth produced by intellectuals who pretend to rely on religiously neutral reason but who are actually pagans. Thus the "secularists" are religious but in a way contrary to Christian teachings. Christian theologians, who have been trying to adapt their theology to the conclusions reached by supposedly neutral secular scholars, should instead, Milbank says, reject the "secular" sciences and insist that all the sciences be based on Christian theology, the queen of the sciences. (n. 1)

Milbank went further. He proposed a new Christian theology. Initially he called his views "postmodern critical Augustinianism." ([11], p. 1) His new theology is critical in the sense that it challenges traditional ideas and their underlying assumptions. Milbank's theology is largely Augustinian because Milbank thinks Augustine (354-430 CE) was a genius in developing Christian theology and philosophy; Augustine faced opponents whose religion was paganism (as Milbank believed in the 1990s he himself was doing); and Augustine believed that reason and the sciences it produces are invalid unless based on Christian theology. ([1], p. 47) Last, Milbank's views are postmodern in using some of the terminology and methods of French postmodernist philosophers while attacking their nihilism. ([1], pp. 42-43) Milbank's antidote for nihilism? Christianity.

Milbank and a few like-minded Christian academics at Cambridge University continued publishing articles and books. Their movement had no name until 1998, when Milbank, Catherine Pickstock, and Graham Ward published Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology, an anthology of articles by Anglicans and Roman Catholics. ([4], p. 1) Radical Orthodoxy (RO) is an ecumenical movement. It is open to any Christian, regardless of denomination. ([1], pp. 64-65) A consequence is disagreement among advocates of RO about such issues as the value of particular organizations. For example, some members of the movement oppose the papacy of the Catholic Church and prefer administration of the whole Christian church by bishops; others support the papacy.

THEIR VIEW OF HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY. Leaders of the RO movement look back to Plato (424-347 BCE) for a fundamental element of his ontology: This world is a projection from another dimension and thus dependent on that dimension. ([1], pp. 48-49) The early centuries of Christian history produced Christian theologians, such as Augustine, who are worthy of critical study today. The assessment of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) is mixed. On the one hand, RO says approvingly, he shared the Neoplatonist view that everything's very being, in this world, is an effect of God ([1], p. 14 and 19); but on the other hand, the early RO movement believed Thomas took steps toward a split of the sacred and the secular, thus making the secularizing Enlightenment possible ([1] p. 47 n. 56). Worse, Aquinas developed "natural theology," which is the "science of God" formed through observation of and thinking about nature (the effect) rather than revelation from God (the cause). ([1], p. 51)

Advocates of RO believe theologian John Duns Scotus (1265-1308) attempted to save faith by splitting faith from reason, a split that led slowly but inexorably to a divorce between theology and the secular sciences, which are the sciences of this world, the sciences that claim they rely on a universal, religiously "neutral" reason. ([1], pp. 93-94 and 96-100) Secularization accelerated in the Enlightenment period, which gave birth to modern culture, and continues largely unopposed today, in the postmodern period.

THEIR THEOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY. "The movement," says a writer for Wikipedia, "reclaims the original early church idea that theology is the 'queen of the sciences'. This means that if the world is to be interpreted correctly, it must be viewed from the perspectives of theology. Radical Orthodoxy critiques and dismisses secular sciences because their worldview is considered inherently atheistic and therefore nihilistic, based on acts of ontological violence (of which the faith/reason, nature/grace separations are examples)." ([11], p. 2)

Theology should apply to everything, RO's supporters say. ([3], p. 8) RO is "a massive theological project [whose goal is] to re-narrate reality," notes observer Ashley Woodiwiss ([5], p. 1) In philosophical terms, the branches of that new narration are politics, ethics, epistemology, and ontology (metaphysics). Ethics among the leaders of RO seems to be the standard Christian altruism, a focus on sacrifice and love for others, primarily God and other humans.

1. POLITICS. RO rejects classical liberalism, a product of the Enlightenment, "a worldview that prioritizes individual freedom and thus values autonomy as a fundamental value," says advocate James K. A. Smith. Autonomy here is both political (a freedom of action constrained only by the rights of others) and epistemological (relying on "secular reason" unconstrained by non-rational commitments). Instead of classical liberalism, RO offers the political alternative of submission to a lord (God) and the epistemological alternative of gaining wisdom through revelation from God. ([1], p. 60, n. 113)

RO "sees the only authentic Christian politics to be socialism," Smith explains. ([1], p. 45, n. 50) Rejecting capitalism (the market), RO advocates "the Christian enterprise of a 'universal gift exchange'," not "state socialism." ([1], pp. 18-19) Leaders of the RO movement are not dismayed by the nearly worldwide disintegration of secular socialism. "In the collapse of socialism as a secular political force," says Graham Ward, a founder of the movement, "I see Radical Orthodoxy as offering one means whereby socialism can be returned to its Christian roots." ([1], p. 80)

2. EPISTEMOLOGY. As part of its critique of modernity, RO rejects "modern dualisms, such as the opposition between faith and reason," says advocate James K. A. Smith. With the ending of modernity "there ends also the modern predicament of theology. It no longer has to measure up to accepted secular standards of scientific truth or normative rationality." ([1], pp. 70-71)

"By calling into question the dualisms of modernity, [RO] eliminates a significant distinction between the secular and the sacred, thus undoing the very notion of secular reason. As a result, the modern distinction -- or better, opposition -- between faith and reason is called into question." Secularity is "the belief in purportedly objective accounts of human life untainted by faith perspectives." ([1], pp. 73 and 74)

"[D]istinctly Christian thought is 'a thinking out of the resources of revelation alone'." ([1], p. 51, Smith quoting Milbank) What is an example of using revelation as a source of principles?  "Because God has become flesh and dwelt among us, we have beheld his glory (John 1:14); thus is established the general principle that God reveals himself in the sensible or material." ([1], p. 77, italics added)

RO emphasizes "aesthetics and the arts as a medium of revelation and worship." The arts lead "to a knowledge that is 'more profound and prior to rationality'." ([1], p. 78, Smith quoting Ward) Why worship God? Operating under the assumption that everyone has a natural yearning for the supernatural, RO advocates believe "all human knowledge is subject, under [God's] grace, to theological modification and qualification." ([1], p. 12)

Leaders of the movement deny they reject reason. "The RO critique of reason is not a critique of rationality as such, as if RO sought to reject theoretical or scientific investigation. Nor does it entail ... a rejection of pagan learning," says Smith. ([1], p. 53) Instead, Milbank, founder of the movement, "indicts modern secular reason for thinking it is autonomous and neutral [that is, having no religious foundation] when such neutrality is impossible." ([1], p. 57, n. 96)

RO advocate Catherine Pickstock rejects the correspondence theory of knowledge. "[T]emporal things are only adequately known when they are received as gifts [from God] and offered back as praise of the divine. This [approach to knowing] contradicts the idea that truth is primarily a matter of mirroring inert objects." ([4], p. 4)

Milbank's early writings have led some academics to question "the universal competency of secular reason." In a later phase, particularly with Milbank's anthology, Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology, the movement went "on the offensive against secularism," says Milbank. The RO movement argues for a return to medieval times, when "faith and reason were inseparable." The major turning point, philosophically, came with the work of John Duns Scotus, which eventually led to the separation of reason from faith and the supernatural from the natural. Instead the RO movement looks back to Thomas Aquinas and the earlier Church Fathers, all of whom, Milbank says, held everything in life to be dependent on God. ([6], pp. 1-2)

3. METAPHYSICS (ONTOLOGY). RO advocates a metaphysics of participation, which is the view that the creator "participates" in the creature and thereby gives the creature meaning. The postmodern belief in the independence of this material world leads to nihilism because it cuts off the source of value, God. The primal gift of God is existence; God gives existence to his creatures. ([1], pp. 74-75) This is "incarnational ontology." This is not Platonic ontology. ([1], p. 76 and n. 47)

RO's ontology is Augustinian. The divine purpose of a God of peace -- rather than Nietzsche's violence of an aggressive omnipotent will -- holds the universe together. ([3], pp. 2-5) Further, RO accepts the Neoplatonist view that meaning emanates from the One because we emanate from the One. ([3], pp. 6-7)

IDEOLOGY.  An ideology applies a worldview (a philosophy or religion, which is meant to be universal in time and place) to a particular milieu. What is the ideology of RO , a worldview that has an ontology of God causing everything, an epistemology of revelation as primary, an ethics of altruism, and a politics of socialism? Consider three elements.

1. THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO CONTEMPORARY CULTURE. RO's supporters reject the current culture, one still influenced by Enlightenment ideas of secularity, individualism, and capitalism. For radicals, rejection is not enough. "According to Graham Ward, Radical Orthodoxy is really a form of Christian cultural criticism, clearing away the rubbish of the Enlightenment" and moving toward a "fully Christianized ontology." ([4], p. 1) "There is no ideology-free zone," says Ward. ([4], p. 2) "Against these efforts [by postmodernists and modernists] to carve a place free from divine purpose -- 'the [realm of the] secular' -- Milbank argues for a conception of social reality governed by the supernatural vocation of fellowship with God," says R. R. Reno, an observer of the movement. ([3], p. 8) "Milbank, Pickstock, and Ward hope to articulate an encompassing Christian perspective that will supersede and replace secularisms both modern and postmodern." ([3], p. 2)

2. CREATING A NEW CULTURE. RO rejects all secularity, where "secular" means a neutral (nonreligious) viewpoint. RO sees secularity as ultimately (at the roots) pagan, which means religious but apostate from Christianity. ([1], p. 42) "Radical orthodoxy," in summary, says James K. A. Smith, "is a recent, particularly intense call for the development of a theoretical framework and sociopolitical involvement that are distinctly Christian at their foundation." ([1], p. 42)

After clearing away the brush of Enlightenment culture, RO advocates hope to create a "post-secular" culture, one in which no part of life is set aside from religion's influence. Because an essential characteristic of modernist culture is the drive to expand the realm of the secular, a truly post-modernist culture would be a post-secular culture. To create that culture, RO supporters are critiquing modernist (Enlightenment) culture in general and those streams of modern Christian theology that have been corrupted by trying to adapt to modernist culture. ([1] p. 33) "What we are seeing, then," says Milbank, "is the stepping back of theology into the public domain and a consideration of its relation to the whole of human thought and action." Thus, RO does not carve the world into religious and secular. It banishes the secular. ([1], p. 12)

3. SPECIFIC STRATEGIES. The RO movement looks at the past, present, and future. For the past, one goal is to retrieve the writings of Christian theologians who lived before modern times, and then working from them to develop new doctrines or continue with the old ones. ([1], p. 65)

Today, RO's main contribution to fighting the nihilism of postmodernism is to "draw aside the curtain that hides this procedure [achieving the postmodernist drive for domination by using euphemisms] from the view of postmodern fellow travelers." ([3], pp. 5-6) Further, the leaders of the RO movement believe that theology should apply to everything in life and in the world. ([3], p. 8) "Radical Orthodoxy is very clear: it wishes to renounce the compromises and half-measures of [mainstream] modern [Christian] theology and recover an Augustinian boldness on behalf of Christian faith and practice." ([3], p. 12) In particular, advocates of RO reject modern Christian theologians' acceptance of the notion that philosophy is and should be autonomous in relation to theology. ([1], p. 35)

What about the future? From the beginning of the RO movement, its leaders intended to influence politics. ([6], p. 2) RO, however, remains a theological, philosophical, and intellectual movement. It is not a mass political movement.

CHANNELS OF ACTIVISM. Members of the movement write books, such as Catherine Pickstock's After Writing: On the Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy (1998), James K. A. Smith's Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-Secular Theology (2004), and John Milbank's The Radical Orthodoxy Reader (2009). They participate in debates, as John Milbank did with Marxist intellectual Slavoj Zizek in 2009. ([6], p. 2) They create churches such as the Holy Trinity and Saint Anskar Episcopal Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (n. 2) They write essays for journals and publish their own, The Journal of Radical Orthodoxy: Theology, Philosophy, Politics. (n. 3) They maintain websites listing resources for advocates of Radical Orthodoxy. (n.4)

CRITICISMS. Criticisms of RO have arisen from both the religious and the secular subcultures. In particular, RO has upset a lot of other theologians. A few have suggested constructive criticisms to improve RO. Some criticisms have been accurate; and some have been false. E.g., one philosophizer accused John Milbank of being a follower of Karl Barth (he isn't) and a fideist (Milbank's supporters say he isn't). ([1], pp. 52-53) Some criticisms leveled against RO contradict each other. ([1], p. 64) Some critics of RO have misunderstood it. ([1], p. 63, but also pp. 49-60). Perhaps that is inevitable since there were multiple founders writing on a variety of subjects scattered through essays and books over a decade.

Members of the RO movement, as in any philosophical or intellectual movement, have been criticized for their scholarly methods, writing style, themes, idealism, personalities, and incompleteness: "Radical Orthodoxy remains loosely put together, defined by strong intuitions and theological thought experiments and lacking a systematic gestalt." ([3], p. 14) Critics say RO lacks an ecclesiology, that is, a study of the church as a seedbed for theology. RO instead emphasizes tradition but the movement has not yet identified the role of the Virgin Mary ("the living heart of the Church," says one Catholic critic). ([4], p. 1)

Some have criticized RO for not being in conformance with the critics' own denomination -- for example, for not being Roman Catholic. Secularists have criticized RO for not being secular, which of course is a main point of RO. ([1], pp. 49-50) Other critics have challenged RO's reading of history, especially its interpretations of Plato and Aquinas. ([1], p. 50) At least one reader derogates Milbank's scholarship (selective reading of history), his nearly exclusive use of Christian sources, and his attitude ("ill tempered"). ([7])

Criticisms of style include use of post-modernist jargon. ([3], p. 2) "The literature of the movement is often dense, abstract, complex, impenetrable, out-of-reach, and off-putting." ([5], p. 2) (Such criticism raises the question of how RO writers managed to be so influential if they were so obscure.)

The leaders of the RO movement attract the most criticism. For example, some of Milbank's critics attack his idealism. ([7]) The critics say leaders of the movement are generally unable to talk with RO's opponents. ([7]) Critic Eugene McCarraher attacks Milbank for being theocratic and for not addressing the issue openly but evading it. ([7]) Also, McCarraher dismissively rejects Milbank's admiration for medievalism -- an economy that consists of small-scale enterprises and is cooperative rather than competitive. ([7])

Many of the opponents of RO, but especially the ones in academia, apparently do not understand that Milbank and other supporters of RO are offering a whole worldview, a positive one. His opponents demand that he be "critical," in an academic fashion, but the critics themselves offer nothing positive. ([7], for an example)

The criticisms have not stopped the movement. RO advocates continue their theologically-inspired work in their chosen fields: economics (Daniel Bell and Stephen Long), culture (Graham Ward), politics (William Cavanaugh), and theology and philosophy (John Milbank and Catherine Pickstock). ([5], pp. 1-2)

TRAJECTORY. Movements change. For example, as others outside the movement become aware of the movement, praise and criticism can ebb and flow. One observer of the RO movement has sketched the critical reaction to RO. She shows that, in the first stage of reaction, the earliest reviews of a central work by RO founder John Milbank were generally positive reports by readers who admired the wide range of his sources. Within a few years, in the second stage, critics were questioning Milbank's inferences from his sources. Soon after, in the third stage, critics were speaking more harshly, for example, making accusations of "falsification" of history. However, in a fourth stage, some defenders of RO responded by asking the critics to suggest a better alternative and to consider RO in the context of its time. ([8], p. 1 and p. 1, n. 1)

The nature of the individuals in the movement can change too. The first members of the RO movement, who gathered around John Milbank, were all Anglican theologians at Cambridge University. Soon Roman Catholics joined. ([4], p. 1)

According to some observers, the RO movement -- which is an intellectual movement and will therefore always be narrow -- has been surfing on an already existing wave of religious revival, especially among young intellectuals. ([6], p. 2) The future will tell how much influence the RO movement has on other Christians and, perhaps through inspiration, on supporters of other religions such as Judaism and Islam.

CONCLUSION. RO is an intellectual movement that is bringing a thoroughly religious approach to Christian interactions with secular culture. The movement is radical in several ways. First, it is politically a movement that wants to make broad and deep changes: rejecting the marketplace and building a "cooperative" socialist economy based on mutual gift-giving. Second, the movement is radical in that it traces its esthetics, politics, and ethics to the foundation of the movement's worldview. Its metaphysics (ontology) is a belief in God's total responsibility for creating everything that exists; and its epistemology is mystical, a belief that reason, where it has any role at all, must start from principles revealed in holy scripture.

The Radical Orthodoxy movement is thus a philosophical and theological movement that is applying an enthusiastic and coherent mysticism to our world.

Burgess Laughlin, author,

(This post, which is based on only a few sources, is an early sketch of one sub-movement in the broader movement working for mysticism in our time. Corrections are welcome.)

[1]. This post, like most on The Main Event is mostly a record of my preliminary notes. For the description of Milbank's TST:BSR, I have drawn from secondary sources, several online book reviews. Note that in 2006 Milbank published a second, updated edition.  I have not yet read either edition. [2]. Described at: [3]. [4].

[1] James K. A. Smith, Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-secular Theology, Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2004, 291 pages. [2] "James K. A. Smith," Wikipedia, printed Sept. 2, 2012; 3 pages; [3] R. R. Reno, "The Radical Orthodoxy Project," First Things, Feb., 2000; printed July 23, 2012; 20 pages. [4] Stratford Caldecott, "Radical Orthodoxy," Catholic Culture, no date of publication, but original interview was in 2001, according to last page; printed July 30, 2012; 7 pages; [5] Ashley Woodiwiss, "What's so Radical about Orthodoxy?," Christianity Today, May 24, 2005; printed July 23, 2012; [6] Melanie Newman, "Lazarus-style comeback," Time Higher Education, April 16, 2009; printed July 31, 2012, 4 pages; [7] Gene McCarraher, "McCarraher on Radical Orthodoxy," Inhabitatio Deiposted by "Halden" on Feb. 1, 2010, printed July 31, 2012; 2 pages; [8] Katie Terezakis, "J. G. Hamann and the Self-Refutation of Radical Orthodoxy" (a draft of an article to be published in The Poverty of Radical Orthodoxy, eds. Lisa Isherwood and Marko Zlomislic, 2011), no date, 23 pages. [9] The Journal of Radical Orthodoxy, [10] "Holy Trinity and St. Anskar Episcopal Church Welcomes You!." [11] "Radical Orthodoxy," Wikipedia, last updated July 12, 2012; printed July 20, 2012; 4 pages;

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Example Movement: The "Emerging Church"

All advocates of either reason or mysticism are, by definition, members of a movement. The movement supporting mysticism is populous and diverse; the movement supporting reason is less populous and less diverse. Within each broad movement -- for mysticism or for reason -- there are sub-movements supporting specialized versions of mysticism or reason.

This post, which is based only on a preliminary look at a few sources, focuses on one narrow sub-movement of the movement for mysticism -- the emerging church. One purpose of this post is to examine this movement for characteristics it might share with all other movements, as well as characteristics that distinguish it from others.

WHAT IS THE "EMERGING CHURCH"? The term "emerging church" refers to a group of Christians who think that because our society and culture have changed radically from modern values to postmodern values, the Christian church -- which tries to lead that society and culture to God -- must change. Here, the term "church" (also called "ecclesia") refers simply to the total group of believers in Christ; "church" here does not refer to any particular institution, such as the Roman Catholic Church. "Church" here names a "body" of believers. Advocates of the emerging church have a mystical view of this body. They think individuals in the group are united through God's "grace" or other factor.

"Modern values" means the values of the Enlightenment, especially the Enlightenment's love of reason as a faculty available in everyone. Other modern values flow from reason -- for example, admiration of capitalism and respect for individual rights. Postmodernists oppose these values. They reject reason, capitalism, and individual rights. (For The Main Event articles on postmodern rejection of modernism, see Feb. 7, 2012; Feb. 11, 2012Feb. 21, 2012, and other posts listed under "postmodernism" in the LABELS section in the right-hand column.)

Some proponents of the emerging church define their movement as "a growing generative friendship among missional Christian leaders seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ." ([3], p. 1) The emerging church movement seeks to bring "together a wide range of committed Christians and those exploring the Christian faith in wonderful ways, and many of us sense that God is at work among us." Some members of the movement are activists; they produce "books, articles, speeches, blogs, events, and churches." ([7], p. 1, points 1 and 2) Three goals of the emerging church are: "to make disciples -- especially among the irreligious and unchurched, to serve those in need ... and to show a special concern for orphans and widows in their distress." ([7], p. 3)

The emerging church opposes reason and supports mysticism. For example, Brian McLaren, a leading advocate of the emerging church, says "Christians should present Christianity through loving attitudes rather than logical arguments." ([3], p. 2) Accordingly, the emerging church rejects reason in the form of truth statements (propositions), especially foundational ones, in favor of images and stories. ([1], pp. 6-7) Members say they experience a mystical community through interaction with each other and through a shared spiritual life devoted to the three virtues of faith, hope, and charity. ([1], p. 8; and [9], p. 1 for the "Church as Mystical Communion")

FACING CRITICS OF THE MOVEMENT. Disagreements have arisen within the emerging church movement. The overall movement's deep commitments to "conversation" and to reconciliation have been a salve. "We have repeatedly defined [the] emergent [church] as a conversation and friendship, and neither implies unanimity -- nor even necessarily consensus of opinion." ([7], p. 2)

Criticism from observers outside the movement has also appeared. Some advocates of the emerging church movement have sought "constructive conversation" with these critics. Such a conversation "involves point and counterpoint, honest speaking and open-minded listening. ... We have also attempted to make personal contact with our critics for Christian dialogue." Most critics have refused the invitations. ([7], p. 1)

Some individuals in the emerging church movement have acknowledged that their movement, as with all movements, has no official spokesmen. "We each speak for ourselves and are not official representatives of anyone else, nor do we necessarily endorse everything said or written by one another." (7, p. 2)

After outsiders' criticisms of the emerging church accumulated, some of the leaders of the movement responded in writing.  Denying the critics' charges, one by one, these leading activists said:

"[W]e truly believe that there is such a thing as truth and truth matters ... no, we are not moral or epistemological relativists any more than anyone or any community is who takes hermeneutical positions -- we believe that radical relativism is absurd and dangerous, as is arrogant absolutism; yes, we affirm the historic Trinitarian Christian faith and the ancient creeds, and seek to learn from all of church history ... yes, we believe that Jesus is the crucified and risen Savior of the cosmos and no one comes to the Father except through Jesus; no we do not pit reason against experience ... our greatest desire is to be followers and servants of the Word of  God, Jesus Christ." ([7], p. 2)

HISTORY OF THE MOVEMENT. What were the major stages through which the emerging church movement developed? Around 1989, a few Christians in New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom began pursuing "alternative worship." They networked with each other, some inside but others outside their conventional church organizations. ([1], pp. 3-4) The movement spread to the USA. There, an informal group of Christian intellectuals began discussing the implications of two ideas: (1) From the 1960s through the 1980s, Western Civilization had changed radically, from modern to postmodern; and (2) "the church" (the sum of all Christians everywhere) needs to change itself in response to the changes in the general society. Sharing the same insights, more Christian intellectuals joined the network. "These believers realized that pushing the same methodologies [for spreading the message of Christ] and striving to salvage the old worldview [modernism, the pro-reason principles of the Enlightenment] would increasingly alienate popular culture and future generations of Christian youth." ([4], p. 3)

In the early 1990s, Leadership Network, a Christian foundation based in Dallas, Texas, brought "together the leaders of megachurches" in the USA. These leaders of megachurches noticed that individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 were not attending meetings. ([4], p. 3) Leadership Network then began building networks of "Generation X" Christian intellectuals. ([4], pp. 1 and 3-4) "After a couple of years," said Brian McLaren, a founder of the emerging church movement in the USA, "some of these young Gen X guys said, 'You know, it's not really about a generation. It's really about philosophy; it's really about a cultural shift'." The shift was from modern to postmodern. ([4], p. 4)

In the late 1990s, a group of like-minded individuals, brought together through the support of Leadership Network, began meeting formally to discuss their common views, especially the importance of "conversation" with other Christians and with non-Christians. ([5]) Valuing "conversation" became an essential characteristic of the emerging church movement. Conversation brought social contact, demanded tolerance, and yielded knowledge, they said. The proponents of the movement prefer the term "conversation" to "movement" because they see themselves as primarily conversing with each other, with other Christians, and with non-Christians. ([7], p. 2, point 7) The term "conversation" -- as an epistemological term -- is an echo of postmodernist Richard Rorty's notion of using conversation -- not independent, individual thinking -- as a source of knowing. ([8])

In 2001, a few young members of the emerging church movement -- which, until then, had consisted mostly of lone individuals or networks of individuals -- formed a particular organization, Emergent Village. Its purpose is to support the "Kingdom of God." The Emergent Village website says:

Above all, we became convinced that living into the Kingdom meant doing it together, as friends. Thus, we committed ourselves to lives of reconciliation and friendship, no matter our theological or historical differences. As time passed, others joined the friendship, and the friendship began generating things like books, events, websites, blogs, and churches. ([5])

Thus, within a decade of its beginnings, the emerging church movement had: grown in population; developed networks of communication and activism; clarified its defining principles; spread from New Zealand to Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; expanded its networks; dealt with criticisms; built a formal organization; and melded the nearly 2000 year old Christian movement with elements of the twenty year old postmodernist movement.

Burgess Laughlin, author,

[1] "Emerging Church," Wikipedia, printed Sept. 2, 2012, 13 pages, 
[2] David Roach, "Leaders call 'Emerging Church Movement' a threat to Gospel," Baptist Press, printed Sept. 4, 2012, 4 pages, 
[3] "Emerging Church," Theopedia, printed Sept. 4, 2012, 6 pages, 
[4] Discernment Research Group, "How Leadership Network created the 'Emerging Church'," Herescope, Nov. 9, 2006, 5 pages, 
[5] Anonymous, "History," Emergent Village, "About/History," 
[6] Tony Jones and others, "About/Values" and "Practices," Emergent Village, 
[7] "Our Response to Critics of Emergent," printed Sept. 7, 2012, 3 pages, 
[8] "Richard Rorty, a postmodernist mystic," The Main Event, April 11, 2012, 
[9] Richard J. Vincent, "Models of the Church" (a review of Avery Dulles's book, Models of the Church), TheoCenTric, April 4, 2005, 5 pages,

Monday, July 16, 2012

Laura Day, Popularizer of Intuitionism

Laura Day is an intuitionist. She is fifty-three years old, and she lives in New York City. The location matters. It is a financial hub of the world economy, and Laura Day offers advice and trains individuals in the financial industry as well as other fields, such as medicine. She herself uses intuition; she teaches others to use intuition; and, in six mass-market books she has published since 1997, she advocates for intuition.[1]

THE BOOK. This post, the third in a series of initial looks at intuition, draws information from Day's most recent book: Laura Day, How to Rule the World from Your Couch, Atria Paperback (Simon & Schuster), New York, 2009, 270 pages.

HER AUDIENCE. Day presents information in this book that she has "been teaching ... for nearly thirty years." (p. 86) "I have had the honor training so many different kinds of people, from surgeons, engineers, psychologists, and college students needing a clear path, to teachers, future authors, and artists." (p. 24) However, she writes in large measure to individuals in business: "As with everything in this book, the idea is for these tools [of telepathy in particular] to translate easily to use in the business world." (p. 77) For example, under the subheading "You Can Use Mediumship in Countless Ways," she lists: "To know how to sell your product from the market's point of view." (p. 52)

HER PURPOSE. Day aims to teach skills that will "really bring miraculous change to peoples' lives," she says. "There is a lot of science behind, actual proof of, the powerful, amazing abilities that intuition can yield." (p. xiii) Day is an altruist: "... I am nothing if not someone who desperately wants to give others what they ask of me. So here it is. This is my tool kit for using your intuition everyday in your life and business." (p. 24)

My goal is that the advice written in this book will prove itself to you, once applied. I'll give you an example: the best first-time student I ever had told me that he didn't believe in intuition. He attended my workshop as a favor to his wife and scared himself silly when, within thirty minutes, he got detailed, accurate information about someone he had never met just from holding the person's name in a blank, sealed envelope. (p. 9)

STRUCTURE OF HER BOOK. The structure and style of the book are befitting an activist who is appealing to a literate mass market. Chapter 1 is an "Overview." As the Table of Contents (pp. ix-x) shows, the remaining seven chapters are each devoted to an intuitive skill:
- Gathering information: "Flashes of insight gained without using traditional sources of 'information'."
- Mediumship: "The ability to become someone or something else and view the world from that perspective."
- Telepathy: "The ability to send and receive information from a distance."
- Body Heat Telepathy: "The ability to connect physically and emotionally with another from a distance."
- Remote Viewing: "The ability to perceive a scene when separated by space or time."
- Precognition: "The ability to move a person or situation forward in time and accurately experience what will happen."
- Healing: "The ability to have an effect on people or situations using the remote transfer of energy."

One can use these abilities to solve any problem in one's life.

If you seek intuitive information on a particular question, you may start with your remote viewing to get the physical layout of the problem but quickly use mediumship to experience the issue from the inside out; simultaneously, you may call on telepathy to hear the many positions on the topic, while also using healing to introduce a catalyst for a better outcome. (pp. 40-41)

Each chapter devoted to a single intuitive skill begins with a "Quick Hit Exercise" for experiencing that innate skill. The chapter continues with "What You Experienced in the Quick Hit," to explain the experience. The remainder of each chapter is a detailed explanation of pitfalls to avoid and techniques for gaining the most benefit from using the skill. Day is not a scholar writing to scholarly readers. The book contains no footnotes, bibliography, or index. The book is, in effect, a training handbook. Besides serving her professional goals -- earning an income from training -- it also serves her activist goal of spreading intuitionism:

I have ... included group exercises for those of you who wish to teach these techniques or experiment with them in your company training programs, as well as 'initiations' to use as class icebreakers, training evenings, or community experiences. Intuition is a powerful way to demonstrate to people how useful we all are to one another. (p. 18)

HER METAPHYSICS. Day is focused on the practical use of intuition, not on theory. She is not a philosopher of intuition, in the sense of creating a broad, integrated set of abstractions about the nature, foundation, and application of intuition, as Professor Robert Audi is. (See the June 27, 2012 post.) Day does, however, philosophize, that is, she does occasionally employ broad abstractions about the nature of intuition and the world in which it operates.

Day characterizes our world as one in which "[l]ife is full of miracles ... but they do not happen to us, they are of our own creation" (p. 23). There is in the world "an infinite field of information and communication" which we can "tap" into (p. 30),  a field of information-carrying "energy that we all share, the energy that knows no difference between the past, present, and future." (p. 86)

In summary, "[l]ife is an interactive crapshoot, but intuition gives you an edge." (p. 20)

WHAT IS INTUITION? Day says (p. 4) intuition is an ability. It is a means to an end, which is to create the world that you want." (p. 4) "Intuition gives you information ... in an immediate, accessible way." (p. 113) You already have this ability. "Intuition, you see, is innate. It is part of our human hardwiring." (p. 8) Intuition, which "is designed by evolution to give us immediate, accurate, effective tools" (p. 22), is "instant knowing" (p. 23). You need to refine it through training, which is what the book provides. (p. 7)

Intuition is accurate insight and information that you have not gained through the everyday use of your five senses, intellect, or experience. It is a higher octave of your five senses. (p. 29)

Intuition is not the subconscious, though the subconscious can use the information you gather intuitively and the subconscious can place roadblocks in the way. (p. 6) Rather, "[y]our information [gained through intuition] ... is stored, as it is gathered, mostly by your subconscious." (p. 28)

Nor, Day says, is intuition the same as: wishful thinking; an emotion (such as fear); belief; or intellect.  (p. 35) Consider the first item. Intuition is not wishing-makes-it-so.

A note of caution regarding the abuse, or misunderstanding, of intuition: do not get carried away and think that intuition is a way for you to will your desires into actuality. You do actually have to play things out, take the necessary course of action in any given scenario, and not use intuition as an excuse for idleness and self-deception. (p. 20)

A word of caution: Day uses the one term "intuition" in several separate, though related meanings, even on the same page. First, sometimes it means the information-gathering ability or skill. (For example, see p. 34, where she says "intuition uses storytelling as an information-finding sense.") Second, she sometimes uses the term "intuition" to mean, broadly, a capability of not only gathering information but also performing functions such as guiding memory in the search for information. (See p. 34, where Day says, "Intuition ... alerts you when an area in your life needs attention and gives you tools to address the given situation successfully.") Third, at times the term "intuition" names the information itself. (See again p. 34, where Day says "intuition is data that already exists.")

INTUITION AND ITS COMPETITORS. What is the relationship between intuition and its alternatives for acquiring information -- reason, faith, and following an authority?

REASON. "Intuitions give you a trail to follow. You can and will, automatically, think it through later." (p. 113) Here, with her reference to automatic thinking, Day uses the term "think" to refer to subconscious processing of information. "The information your intuition provides and your subconscious allows will come in bits and pieces that you must weave together to understand, and then you must verify it all against what your logic and knowledge tell you." (p. 208) So, reason, as a sort of handmaiden to intuition, can provide coherence ("weave together") and verification.

Reason is also helpful, Day says, in shaping the information for presentation to an audience expecting a logical chain of argument.

There are times when you want the details of the future on demand. Especially in business, you often need to present rational data-based arguments to justify your actions. The rest of this chapter will give you some simple ways to tell the future and fill in enough of the details so that your intuition is based on logic, and logical to those around you. (p. 202)

However, Day says, though reason is useful in verifying knowledge gained intuitively and helpful in shaping that information for presentation to others, do not make the mistake of trying to reason and intuit at the same time. Reason impedes intuition. (p. 168)

FAITH. Rather than using intuition, why not simply have faith in any particular idea that occurs to you? "You don't even need to have faith when you have an effective process that you follow without fail." (p. 21)

AUTHORITY. Nor do you need a guru.

I find that people often want a guru, and this is probably because we are conditioned to obey and accept others' perceptions of the world and what they believe is correct/moral/the way. The truth is that everyone has access to all of his or her own answers, resources, and truth. There are no secrets or experts. When you use intuition, you are your own guru. (p. 21)

EXAMPLE USES OF INTUITION. How might a practitioner of intuition use his ability? Consider two examples, one from medicine and one from business.

Let's say that you are a doctor and you have a few drug choices to treat muscle soreness. You don't know what the patient's chronic muscle soreness is from, but you want to resolve it in the least toxic and most helpful way. You might use mediumship ['The ability to become someone or something else and view the world from that perspective," (p. ix)] to become your patient and experience how she would react to each drug, taking notes as always. (p. 63)

If you want to raise money for your company, you use your telepathy and mediumship to find out what investors would respond to; your embodiment to experience yourself and your product as the desired person or group; your remote viewing to direct you to investors; and your body heat to draw them to you. (pp. 248-249)

DAY'S ACTIVISM. As a careful reading of How to Rule the World from Your Couch shows, Laura Day spreads her views on intuition in a variety of ways. Her books sell well, with at least How to Rule appearing on the New York Times bestseller list. Her satisfied clients recommend her and her ideas, for example, when actor Brad Pitt says, "I believe in the gut, and I believe in Laura Day" (back cover), and when Dr. James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA, claims that "Intuition is logic" (back cover) and lauds Day's work. Her training programs (which the book distills) explicitly promote intuition, and her private healing sessions (pp. 225-226) demonstrate it.

In conclusion, Laura Day, as a popularizer of intuitionism, is an intellectual and activist complement to academic philosopher of intuitionism, Robert Audi.

Burgess Laughlin
Author, The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith, at

[1] See "About" at See also the brief, partly documented Wikipedia account:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An Academic's Intuition and Intuitionism

Intuition is one kind of mysticism common in the USA in our time. Becoming familiar with intuition may help to arm advocates of reason for the long war ahead.

OVERVIEW OF THE SERIES ON INTUITION. The first post in this series on intuition was a book review (June 5, 2012) of The Good in the Right: A Theory of Intuition and Intrinsic Value, by philosophy professor Robert Audi. (Unless specified otherwise, page citations below refer to Audi's book.) That first post introduced the idea of intuition as it has been used by some academics working in the field of ethics, as a branch of philosophy. For cultural contrast, a later post, the third in the series, will present the idea of intuition advocated not by an academic but by an author who writes to a mass audience.

This post, the second in the series, further considers the academic concept of intuition and distinguishes it from intuitionism, which is a theory of intuition -- describing not only what an individual intuition is, but the manner in which individual intuitions relate to each other and to other ideas. The source for this post is Audi's The Good in the Right. This post will cite the views of intuition that Audi, partly a rationalist, has originated or has adopted from earlier intuitionists such as W. D. Ross, an empiricist.

Readers of this post should keep in mind its limitations: (1) The brief notes here are my simplified interpretation of one academic's complex presentation. (2) Academics who advocate intuitionism disagree with each other on many aspects of intuitionism. (3) Academics are only one set of voices speaking in favor of intuition in our culture today. Thus, this post is a sampling.

WHAT IS AN INTUITION? Consider an example of an intuition in the field of ethics. You see a man beating a child with a belt. A thought -- "Beating a child is wrong!" -- appears in your mind. That thought is the product of an intuition. (p. 60) In this case, the thought is a narrow principle, where "principle" means an idea upon which other ideas can stand. (For example, a broader abstraction -- such as the generalization, "Harming others is wrong" -- could stand on multiple narrow principles such as "Beating a child is wrong," "Hurting a parent is wrong," and "Injuring a spouse is wrong.")

The intuitional sequence is simple. You look at a particular social situation, and a thought appears in your mind. (p. 60) In epistemology, this sequence is an instance of epistemological "realism," the view that things outside the mind directly give rise to ideas in the mind.[1] More technically, the "natural properties" of things (the "is" of a child and a belt) somehow give rise to the "moral properties" (the "ought"); and the moral properties -- received by the mind's "moral sensitivity" (pp. 57 and 58) directly produce a narrow moral principle in your mind: "Beating a child is wrong." This sequence is a "reliable belief-generating process" (p. 57). Apparently this is the manner in which intuitionists bridge the "is-ought" gap

DEFINITION. An intuition is a "non-inferential cognition" (p. 8). An intuition, as a product of a "process" that has no steps, is a proposition, that is, a statement, a sentence. An intuition is not an individual concept. (p. 9) An example intuition, from the field of ethics, is this proposition: "Everyone has a duty to keep promises" (p. 43 for the duty of promise-keeping).

REQUIREMENTS. Not every thought that pops into the mind can qualify as an intuition. "One may not ... simply insist that someone has a [moral] duty, or ought to do something, and claim that one 'just sees' it.  ... The intuitionist thesis that some knowledge of what we ought to do is intuitive and non-inferential implies neither that it is not reflective nor that it cannot be supported by argument or refuted by relevant consideration to the contrary," Audi says (pp. 38-39). Intuited knowledge might be supported by or reached independently by "reflection," that is, thinking about the subject and making inferences from other, already acquired knowledge.

For an intuition to actually be an intuition, it must have these characteristics: (1) directness -- an intuition cannot be based on a premise;  (2) firmness -- the intuitionist has a "definite sense that the proposition ... holds [true]"; (3) comprehensiblity -- an intuition must be understandable by appropriately prepared, intelligent observers; and (4) pretheoreticality -- forming or understanding intuitions comes directly from observation and therefore cannot depend on a theory, which is a broad abstraction induced step by step from evidence. (pp. 33-35)

FALLIBILITY. While "firmness" of belief is one characteristic of an intuition, as Audi presents it, he and some other intuitionists do not claim that intuitions are infallible. Intuitions can be mistaken. Audi offers (pp. 8, 9) this analogy: Scientists rely on sense-perceptions of the world as starting points for their scientific conclusions. Scientists know, however, that sense-perceptions -- or our initial understanding of them -- can be mistaken. Seeing a "bent" stick in a pail of water is an example. The same idea, Audi says (p. 8), holds for intuitions. Misunderstanding the facts of a situation can lead to a false intuition -- but it is still an intuition. An intuition can never lead to a false proposition as a result of a defective process of intuition. The reason is that intuition is not a process. There are no steps in any particular intuition. You look and the proposition appears in your mind.

If that is the nature of any particular intuition that arises in observing a moral situation, then in what way do intuitions, once acquired, relate to other knowledge?

WHAT IS INTUITIONISM? The term "intuitionism" names a certain philosophical view, the conviction that intuitions in some form play some role in creating knowledge. At least among some academics, intuitionism is a theory that explains the source of intuitions, the limits of intuitions, and the relationship of intuitions to other elements of knowledge. Intuitionists disagree with each other about the details.

EXAMPLE: AUDI'S INTUITIONISM. In the field of ethics, intuitionism is "the view that at least some basic moral truths are non-inferentially known" (p. 5). The theory of intuitionism described by Audi has three characteristics. (pp. 20, 21, and 40)

First, Audi's intuitionism is pluralistic, which means that the foundation of this ethics is made of a set of narrow, individual moral "principles," like tiles in a floor. In contrast, in other ethical theories, a single broad principle -- such as the Golden Rule or the Categorical Imperative -- serves as a foundation (or sky hook) from which narrower ethical guidelines can be deduced.

Second, each particular, narrow moral "principle" (such as "Keep your promises") is "grounded" in one of these three sources: (a) an observable action (such as making a promise); (b) an item of knowledge (a bleeding man will die); or (c) an accessible fact (such as the fact that one individual can benefit others).

Third, each narrow, intuited "principle" is "knowable by ordinary moral agents," that is, individuals who are concerned about acting properly.

Audi is a syncretist. He weaves together elements from various sources into one intuitionist theory of ethics. For example, he melds (1) the idea of a set of intuited moral principles (the narrow kind) such as "Keep promises" and "Do no harm to others," with (2) Immanuel Kant's overarching moral rule of the categorical imperative.

TYPES OF INTUITIONISM. There are various theories of intuitionist ethics (and ethics is only one field in which intuitionists work). Some are rationalistic; others are empiricist; and still others (such as Audi's) are a combination of the two. (pp. 2 and 19) Some forms of intuitionism are "contextualist," that is, the intuitions are grounded in the context of a moral situation and arise automatically without inference and without reflection. (p. 59) Some forms of intuitionism are radical; their advocates accept only the intuitions themselves as guides and reject any form of reasoning about them. Other forms of intuitionism are moderate, as with Audi's theory, in which intuitions provide elements of the moral theory but "reasoning" weaves them into wider generalizations or at least connects them with an overarching principle such as the categorical imperative. (pp. 6 and 54)

CONCLUSIONS. On many issues, intuitionists in academia disagree among themselves, but they agree that intuition -- a claim to immediate cognition, from whatever source -- plays or should play some role in our knowledge of what we should do in the world. These intuitionists are commanding a seldom-seen but powerful battalion of soldiers in the war of mysticism against reason.

Burgess Laughlin
Author, The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith, at

[1] For epistemological realism, see and Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd ed., p. 2.