The Agonist Journal


There is an episode of the sitcom Parks and Recreation featuring a cult that named themselves “the Reasonabilists.”[1] They worship “Zorp, the giant lizard god who will destroy the earth with his cleansing fire of judgment.” When asked why the cultists call themselves “the Reasonabilists,” Amy Poehler’s character answers, “Well, they figure if people criticize them, it’ll seem like they’re attacking something very reasonable.” As Adam Scott’s character remarks, “that’s weirdly brilliant”; if one may package their beliefs in the right way, it almost does not matter how absurd, ridiculous, or antithetical to reason they are—especially if they can be made to seem reasonable, or even as though those beliefs were the grounds of reason itself.

"Eschewing genuine philosophical thought leads to self-professed centrist or classically liberal venues becoming not only exclusionary to those who express genuinely different perspectives, but to developing animosity for one another."

While a giant lizard god spewing the cleansing fire of judgment will not seem reasonable to most people—at least, not here and now—those who hold the most unreasonable beliefs are careful to present them in as reasonable light as possible. Scientology, for example, would never have grown the way it did if it had not tapped into the increasingly widespread view that the Christian religion was irrational, antiscientific, and ill-equipped to cope with the increase in psychosis and mental illness in the years following the Second World War. In other words, it is easier to get someone to adopt uncritically a far-fetched belief if he can be bullied or seduced by a misleading label.

In the last several years, a new variety of obviously and unashamedly unreasonable thought has become a prominent fixture in the theater of social media: social justice ideology, often abbreviated to the pejorative “SJW” for “social justice warrior,” but also frequently (if crudely and inaccurately) labelled as “postmodernism.”[2] It is, without a doubt, an incoherent ideology, lacking any semblance of consistent principles and operating on a profoundly anti-realist and emotivist base: namely, that you can be whatever you want to be, do whatever you want to do, think whatever you want to think, and that the slightest challenge to the pursuit of your whims constitutes an act of oppressive violence. At times, one can find its adherents quite literally denouncing reason—as a glorified invention of white cisgender patriarchal phallogocentric hegemony—and claiming that one’s very personal umbrage at differing opinions trumps another’s rational arrival at that opinion. The result is the intolerance of intolerance[3] taken to a self-canceling extreme, albeit without the centralized force to turn it into any kind of consistently-mobilized threat.

It is against this foil that a new set of “Reasonabilists” have emerged—not ones who believe in a giant fire-breathing lizard god (not that I know of, anyway), but who are adamant about their own reasonableness nonetheless: a loosely collected set of individuals who could be and have been described as centrists, or classical liberals, or neo-Enlightenment moderates, or any number of associated terms, but for whom the central unifying concern is the defense of “free speech and free expression of ideas” against the rabid emotivism of the social justice mob. One finds them at websites such as Quillette, Arc Digital,[4] and Areo Magazine; in figures such as Steven Pinker, Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, the Weinsteins, the Winegards, Dave Rubin, and all the so-called “Intellectual Dark Web,”[5] among many others. Some will undoubtedly balk at being grouped together. Some do not care for each other—Areo, for instance, will readily criticize the quality of work on Quillette[6] (including implicitly, given Areo’s self-professedly liberal perspective, by labelling it a “conservative” site).[7] Quillette has published an essay blasting the lack of political diversity in the “Intellectual Dark Web,”[8] resulting in snarky tweets being volleyed around between various persons involved. And some have, arguably, entered this broadly centrist sphere as little more than enterprising capitalists who have discovered a new source of profit.

But despite their divisions, these varied groups are legitimately united (even the most avariciously-enterprising individuals), both by their common opposition to the contemporary mobs bent on smashing reason beneath the boots of “social justice” and by their common commitment to the freedom of speech. By contrast, then, they appear reasonable, since many within the Western world take “reason” and “freedom of speech” as self-evident goods. Indeed, these varied groups seem even more reasonable insofar as they seem in love with the idea of reason; specifically, as the engine through which any and every thought may be processed, tested, and accepted or rejected when it comes out the other side. Thus, Quillette says they[9]

respect ideas. Even dangerous ones. Our writers are a collection of individuals from across the political spectrum, with different life stories and backgrounds. We aim to bring our expertise together into one platform – to create an organic group committed to free thought… [and] to provide a platform for original thought and quality cultural criticism…to give writers freedom to take risks and express controversial ideas.

Arc Digital, likewise, summarizes their raison d’etre by saying, “we’ve decided to create a platform for good arguments, no matter where they may come from. We will strive to be the internet’s best op-ed page.”[10] Areo Magazine lists among the defining values at the core of their perspective a “profound respect for the power of reason and the utility and strength of science.” They tell us, moreover, that “when failures of reasoning occur, it is better reasoning that reveals them.”[11]

Yet despite their adoration of reason, these “Reasonabilists” are in truth no more than “reasonablish,” I say somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Clearly, they are not so unreasonable as the raving social justice ideologues they rightly lambast, nor are they lost in the clouds of Gnosticism and mystical superstition that they readily attribute to pre-modern thought.[12] But the fact that they cling adamantly to this caricature of pre-modern beliefs reveals the limits of their reason. A critical examination of the true contours of pre-modern society would show it to be no less and, in some instances, a great deal more reasonable than the thinking that came to prevail through the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and perhaps therefore induce reflection upon the modernist principles which they have uncritically taken for granted.[13]

This is to say that the “reasonableish” centrists affix their beliefs to the method that Charles Sanders Peirce described as the “a priori”: that is, a system of beliefs constructed consistently and coherently, but which rests upon foundations not subjected to a critical evaluation,[14] including, significantly, the very meaning of “reason” itself.

Reading by the Dimmest Bulb

This exaltation of “the rational,” being intended to produce wisdom through progress in knowledge, is a continuation of the Enlightenment spirit. It combined the empirical approach to knowledge initiated by Locke with the faith in reason proposed by Descartes.[15] As Christopher Dawson wrote,

It is true that there is a sharp contrast between the geometrical reason of Descartes and the empirical common sense of Locke, which reflects the difference in spirit of the two cultures. Nevertheless, these two schools of thought met and mingled with one another in the culture of the Enlightenment. The philosophy of Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists was that of Locke rather than of Descartes. Yet the driving force behind it is still the Cartesian rationalism with its sublime confidence in the infallibility of reason, its dissolvent criticism of received beliefs and traditions, and its determination “never to accept anything for true which I did not clearly know to be such.”

And yet if one looks closely at the philosophies informing the Enlightenment (and the adjacent growth of liberalism in 19th century England), whether Cartesian or Lockean, Leibnizian or Humean, one finds the nature of reason and knowledge always presumed: the disputes between rationalists and empiricists not being over the nature of reason itself but rather over the how of reason; specifically, in competing theories of ideation and in how that ideation results in knowledge of the extramental world. Underlying and undermining both sides of the debate is a shared error: the presumption that ideas are the direct and immediate objects of our acts of knowledge.[16] According to the Cartesian postulate, we know ideas directly and the “extramental world” only indirectly, through direct knowledge of those ideas and the often-shared presumption that “knowledge” consists in indubitable propositions, while all else is opinion. While every era of human inquiry has its presuppositions and flaws, the uncritical appropriation made by every significant “modern philosopher” of the Cartesian principle would be laughable had it not been so intellectually deleterious.

The result of these presuppositions is a kind of dualism, a most ironic turn given the atheistic inclinations of the heirs of Enlightenment. The only valid method of arriving at knowledge, it is believed, is the scientific.[17] Meanwhile, our experience extends so far beyond what science can divulge—since science can reveal facts but not meaning—that systems of unscientific opinion inevitably come to dominate, because they become the frameworks through we experience meaning. By abandoning the methods proper to philosophical inquiry and idolizing the methods of science—which results in a monistic theory of knowledge—one severs the factual from the meaningful.[18]

More precisely, by failing to understand how facts and meaning can be united—that is, how facts can be interpreted as to their meaning, a process which per se stands outside the scope of scientific methodology—the “standards” by which the reasonableness of arguments and ideas are measured invariably become increasingly narrow and committed to one or another ideologically exclusionary perspective. However often the call to renewal is sounded, or however frequently “diversity of opinion” may be lauded for its own sake, even a small error in the beginning leads to great errors in the end. For not knowing how things are known leads inevitably to mistakes in knowledge. Right and wrong, good and bad, justice and injustice, truth and falsity: none can be known by modern empirical science (whatever Sam Harris might claim), but require philosophical insight,[19] whereby they are not only discovered but also defined, refined, defended, and explained. Eschewing genuine philosophical thought leads to self-professed centrist or classically liberal venues becoming not only exclusionary to those who express genuinely different perspectives, but to developing animosity for one another.[20]

These outlets, to be sure, have given voice to those who deserve to be heard. But they have been published, so far as I can tell, not only because they are capable writers who articulate their points thoughtfully, but also because they take stances that accord with the views guiding the editorial directions of the sites in question. It is a common sleight of hand: an outlet publishes authors who describe themselves as coming from various political, ideological, religious, or philosophical backgrounds, so that the website can claim diversity of viewpoint while confining itself to a limited spectrum of opinion.[21]

I do not think this duplicity is fully intentional, or even close to consciousness. Rather, by adopting an intellectually effete worldview, the self-professed champions of free speech and reason have succeeded in establishing a far narrower and less stable foundation for themselves than they recognize. For they derive their worldview from the principles of the Enlightenment, not out of an adherence to anything that came out of that specific period of time, nor to any definitive roster of thinkers, but rather from a belief in the merits of individualism, an opposition to authoritative interpretations of dogma, a commitment to “progress,” and an exaltation of the scientific method, the last of which yields an implicit tendency towards reductionism. Thus, interpreting the world through these Enlightenment ideals, which have developed—and not necessarily consciously or thoughtfully—in the intervening centuries, they have mired themselves in a position that dismisses the need for training and education in thinking itself. The resultant intellectual stance is not identical to modern philosophy, but dependent upon it.[22]

And it is just this intellectual dependence that undermines the integrity of any rationalistic project as a whole, as the thinkers of the Enlightenment have bequeathed to their followers a crumbling edifice. Nevertheless, the compromised integrity of this structure goes largely unnoticed by the free thinkers who have chosen to take up residence in this tottering tower. They may well do so out of mere ignorance, for the Enlightenment was nothing if not the product of a successful historical and intellectual obfuscation coupled with a vastly expanded mastery of the physical world. Thus, convincing them they ought to leave is no small task. Yet perhaps others can be dissuaded from joining their doomed enterprise by exposing the rot at its foundations.

For lacking in the support structure of cultural modernity is any appreciation of the kind of philosophical insight necessary to have a lasting ethos.[23] This can be seen in, for instance, the categories by which Quillette divides its articles (“Features,” “Science/Tech,” “Politics,” “Review”), or the “Manifesto” of Areo, and the fact that most of the “philosophy” articles at Arc Digital would be better labelled as “miscellaneous cultural commentary from a perspective vaguely informed by ‘philosophy’ courses in the typical university of today.”[24] The result is, just as it was in the Enlightenment, the promotion of a “self-confident, superficial rationalism of the new lay intelligentsia.”[25] Not that the men and women writing at Quillette, Areo, and Arc are not intelligent—but even a great intelligence will err more often than not if it is guided by faulty principles.[26]

Among these advocates for modern rationalism, it is Areo Magazine that most ardently propagandizes for a modernist perspective and most emphatically sets itself against both “postmodernism” and “premodernism,” thereby allowing for the least degree of intellectual diversity in its publications. The bullet points which summarize their “Manifesto against the Enemies of Modernity,” written by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, are worth presenting in full:

  • Modernity, in terms of the views and values that have brought us out of the feudalism of the Medieval period and led us to the relative richness and comfort we enjoy today (and which are rapidly spreading around the world), is under threat from the extremes at both ends of the political spectrum.

  • Modernity is worth fighting for if you enjoy and wish others to enjoy the benefits of a first-world existence in relative safety and with high degrees of individual liberty that can express itself in functional societies.

  • Most people support Modernity and wish its anti-modern enemies would shut up.

  • The enemies of Modernity now form two disagreeing factions — the postmoderns on the left and the premoderns on the right — and largely represent two ideological visions for rejecting Modernity and the good fruits of the Enlightenment, such as science, reason, republican democracy, rule of law, and the nearest thing we can claim to objective moral progress.

  • Left-right partisanship is the tool by which they condemn Modernity and continually radicalize sympathizers to choose between the two warring factions of anti-modernism: postmodernism and premodernism.

  • A “New Center” centrist position is well-intended, represents most people’s politics, and cannot hold. It is naturally unstable and reinforces the very thinking that perpetuates our current state of what we term existential polarization.

  • Those who support Modernity should do so unabashedly and without reference to relatively minor partisan differences across the “liberal/conservative” split. The fight before us now is bigger than that, and the extremes at both ends are dominating the usual political spectrum to everybody’s loss.

  • Modernity can be fought for, and it’s probably what you already want unless you’re on the lunatic fringe of the left or right.

This bullet list—and the full manifesto, no less—presents a mythos of the supreme reasonableness of modernity that could rival the most dogmatic of religious proclamations. It claims science and reason are wholly the fruits of the Enlightenment, as though these two things never existed before Bacon and Descartes lit the sparks of the so-called Scientific Revolution.[27] It implies that material comfort and its associated individualistic freedom are the fundamental yearning of the human spirit, and that if you disagree with their position, you are “on the lunatic fringe.”

Of course. Who else but a lunatic would attack the Very Scientific and Reasonable fire-breathing giant lizard god of modernity?

Now one could criticize any of the points structuring Areo’s manifesto at great length. But what is held in common with other, more subtle and thus less self-aware propagandists for rationalism is the unambiguous veneration of amorphous concepts of science and reason.

They Hold These Untruths to Be Self-Evident

The attitude commonly taken by Enlightenment-minded classical liberals towards the intervening centuries between the Christianization of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance recovery of antiquity is one of derision: what sparse good came out of that millennium did so in spite of Christian superstition. Certainly, rigid enforcement of Christian dogmatism sometimes hindered the progress of science; but the Christian protection and development of learning allowed science to progress. Still, “the men of the Enlightenment,” writes Christopher Dawson, “viewed Religion—and above all Christianity—as the dark power which is ever clogging and dragging back the human spirit on its path towards progress and happiness. They saw in the development of the historic religions an unrelieved tale of deception and cruelty.”[28] It is, of course, futile to ask those who do not believe in God to see what is of value in the study of divine revelation, since they dismiss it as a product of human deception or madness.

But it is not only the commitment to atheism that prevents the rationalist from cultivating the intellectual humility needed to appreciate theological wisdom. There is a deeper obstruction which also prevents him from appreciating genuine philosophical insight. For in following the way of thinking characteristic of modern philosophy, he comes to see rational order as the product of human reason, rather than the other way around. To understand how this shift in understanding “order” occurred, think of how conceptions of the cosmos have changed. For the Aristotelian (and Ptolemaic) conception, the geocentric model in which the earth stands at the center of all things and is governed by the heavenly motions was unchallenged until Copernicus—and it remained widely believed for centuries afterward. Acceptance of Copernicus’ theory led to an anthropocentric view of the universe, whereby human beings were thought to be at the center of the cosmos.

But thanks to Galileo’s work, geocentrism too became an untenable position. And though the proposed heliocentrism likewise turned out to be false, and one new inaccurate cosmology followed another as the decades and centuries passed, scientists came to develop better and better models for unraveling the mysteries of the universe and its constitution. Along the way, many of the underlying arguments for an intrinsically ordered universe, which dated back to the theories proposed by Aristotle in the fourth century BC, disappeared. Or so it would seem to those who understood the arguments at the most superficial of levels.

To be sure, the Aristotelian picture of the cosmos took the regularity of heavenly motion to determine regular cycles on earth: The recurrence of the seasons and the perpetuation of animal species and plants were taken to reflect the movements of the heavenly spheres. Deviation from the natural course was observed as being normal, but also circumscribed within limits by these celestial determinations.

It was discovered, however, that the heavens were neither so regular nor so directly impactful on earth (though certainly correlated to the regularity we do observe). Then there were the discoveries which led to the theory of evolution. The combined effect of these theories was the destruction of the Aristotelian image of the cosmos. In correcting the past errors and proposing more viable alternative interpretations, the idea of intellectual progress was born, as though it were an inevitable consequence of the consistent and rigorous application of the scientific method. Truth would be progressively unveiled by the discovery of more and new phenomena that would serve to explain the functioning of the universe. Thus “order” became the result not of anything natural or cosmic, but of the regulation of facts discovered through the industrious application of the human intellect. However, the belief that order is something discovered rather than imposed upon the universe, may have been supported by Aristotelian cosmology, but it was not dependent on it.[29]

The belief in an intrinsically ordered universe, rather, followed not from a belief about the heavens, but rather from a belief about ourselves: namely, the belief about how we acquire knowledge. This theory of knowledge,[30] which began with Aristotle but in the medieval synthesis received contributions from Augustine of Hippo, Ibn-Sina (Avicenna), Ibn-Rushd (Averroes), Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Cajetan, Domingo de Soto, the Conimbricenes, and John Poinsot (also known as John of St. Thomas for his fidelity to the thought of Aquinas), has been so overlooked by modern rationalists that one must conclude that they have no knowledge of it whatsoever. In consequence, the theory of human freedom in scholasticism likewise fell into neglect, and thus human freedom became conceived as something purely negative: the absence of restraint.

Indeed, ignorance of history is not only a hallmark of the Enlightenment and its contemporary advocates, but a deliberately cultivated shortcoming. Rather than engage with the whole system of scholasticism, men such as Descartes, Cudworth, More, and Leibniz extracted points for criticism that, once deprived of context, appear absurd. Likewise, Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau emphasized an interpretation of history and society whose preoccupation with practical economics, technology, and politics relied on a caricature of the intellectual heritage of the Middle Ages. They thereby skipped over many details of life proper to the period, when the questions of philosophy were intertwined with the life of faith. The closeness of the Christian religion to philosophy shows how integral Christendom was to European culture, especially in the embrace and promotion of classical learning.[31] Truly, having the Enlightenment and its heirs as the only source of learning for understanding the Middle Ages would be like having Aristophanes as the only source for understanding Socrates.

In the place of the tradition-preserving and synthesizing scholasticism, the thinkers of the Enlightenment strove for novel solutions to the intractable problems that were generated by the contentious political discord into which Europe fell after the Protestant fragmentation of Christendom as well as the disagreements rendered through modernity’s hare-brained nominalist presuppositions. They were, however, to the detriment of the civilization they sought to found, much more inclined to use the works of ancient Greece and Rome as aids to rhetoric than as sources of understanding.

It is no wonder that many of the Enlightenment philosophers drove themselves gradually into obsolescence, for their contributions to the intellectual life of Europe were decreasingly philosophical and increasingly enamored of “science,” namely, the process of hypothesis, experimentation, observation, and repetition. Philosophy became an auxiliary discipline, occupying itself with those questions for which methods of scientific observation and experimentation had not yet been developed; a transitory “thinking for the gaps,” to be set aside as science improves.[32]

But this is a failure to understand what it is that philosophy does or seeks. Without dwelling on what I have discussed at length elsewhere, it can be succinctly stated that philosophy is that science through which we discern meaning, a phenomenon which is neither new nor factual, but which permeates our entire lives.[33] Without a science of its study, we run the risk of chaining ourselves to our conceit in the sufficiency, accuracy, and completeness of our own knowledge.

The Center Cannot Hold

Thus it is that without any training in the science of discerning meaning—or with only pretended education at the hands of sophistical nominalists—the heirs of the Enlightenment are doomed to a culture of continual fragmentation. Credit must be given to Areo for recognizing the untenability of a “new center,” but this credit is at best minor, because their objection to the “center” is that it attempts to mediate the “existential polarization” between “left” and “right.” For they exhort doubling-down on the ungrounded principles of modernity without recognizing that those very principles give rise to the so-called “postmodernity” to which they so vociferously object.[34]

That is to say, modernity presumes that meaning, reason, and order are all inventions of the human mind, rather than what the mind discovers in its experience of the world and its encounter with things. By denying that there is any order outside of ourselves that is not merely factual but also normative, it cannot but give rise to the so-called “postmodernity” running rampant today. The manner whereby outlets like Areo and Quillette protest the “postmodern” shows that they have not allowed the principles of modern philosophy to oust the natural orientations of human cognitive existence. Thus, these outlets—though ignorant of the structure of meaning—still maintain a semblance, consciously or not, of belief in the discernibility of extra-mentally-constituted meaningfulness.

Order in the moral and scientific sense is not something we can grasp immediately or with perfect comprehension. But in the absence of any belief in the capacity of human beings to rise above their caprices to discover principles that can explain and provide a normative order for existence, it becomes inevitable to subordinate the freedom of the many to the will of the one or the united few. To uphold any sort of individualistic, nominalistic theory of ideation for all things non-empirical entails the sacrifice of principles through which disagreement about meaning can be resolved.

Attempting to combat all the individual errors of unreason in today’s world is a fool’s errand: the digital diaspora[35] has produced a fragmentation of ideological perspective unlike anything seen in the past. Every academic engaged in the digital sphere, every writer, every pundit, every numbskull with a computer or a smartphone and social media accounts can become an “influencer,” capable of distributing ideas and interpretations into the ether, for better or worse (and usually the latter).

If one is looking for reason today, as something solid against which the convulsions of ideologies run amok can do no harm, modern rationalism is not the answer, but only another rotation in a vicious circle. Perhaps instead, one ought to look at those in eras long past who studied reason itself—as well as those who are today returning to its study.


[1] Season 4, episode 6: “The End of the World.”

[2] On the term “postmodernism,” see Kemple, 11 September 2018: The Synechist, “Modernism, Ultramodernism, and Postmodernism.”

[3] Marcuse 1965: “Repressive Tolerance” in Wolff, Moore, and Marcuse, A Critique of Pure Tolerance, 91-117.

[4] Which, of all the outlets belonging to this movement, I give the most credit for their attempts at engaging and involving the philosophical perspective, though I think only some have been successful. For the most part, their articles under “philosophy” would be more accurately labelled “uncategorized cultural commentary.”

[5] A group of individuals that are certainly contrarian, seen from the perspective of the so-called “postmodern,” but which is relatively homogenous in their views—with the one significant exception, I would say, being Ben Shapiro, who alone possesses pre-Enlightenment principles in his worldview (Jordan Peterson having violently appropriated anything drawn from before the Enlightenment into a Frankensteinian monster of his own creation).

[6] Pluckrose, 14 April 2019: Areo Magazine, “No, Secular Humanism is Not a Religion.”

[7] Watts, 26 March 2019: Areo Magazine, “On Quillette and the Engaged Left.”

[8] Harris, 17 April 2019: Quillette, “Is the Intellectual Dark Web Politically Diverse?” Outside the ambit of these venues one will find, on occasion, similar sentiments to those in the broadly-centrist movement published at Aeon—but the discussion of Aeon and other such sites falls into the ambit of another discussion for another time.

[9] 16 October 2015: Quillette, “A Platform for Free Thought.”

[10] 15 August 2016: Arc Digital, “Welcome to Arc Digital.”

[11] 22 August 2017: Areo Magazine, “A Manifesto against the Enemies of Modernity.”

[12] One can frequently find “medieval” used as a pejorative (see, e.g., Francis, 19 March 2019: Areo Magazine, “The Enlightenment and the Democratic Revolution”), while Christianity and the cultural benefits it rendered as the dominant form of belief from late antiquity until the Enlightenment is often relegated to the condition of being incidental (see, e.g., Bassett, 23 August 2018: Quillette, “Progress and Polytheism”).

[13] To extrapolate from many personal anecdotes, worshippers of the Enlightenment regularly engage in both polemic and apologetic gymnastics of remarkable gracelessness in vilifying religion and excusing secularism: the Spanish Inquisition being an exemplar of the evil inherent in religiosity while the Terror was merely a mistaken speedbump in pursuit of freedom. This is not to say certain excesses in religious cultures were not taken—but so they are in every culture, for human erring lies in every human era.

[14] See Kemple, 16 April 2019: Epoche Magazine, “C.S. Peirce on Science and Belief.”

[15] Dawson 1959: The Movement of World Revolution, 40-41.

[16] Thus, all modern philosophy falls into the pit of nominalism, which may be defined as “the denial that relations as such possess an ontological status independently of the mind, or, being effectively the same thing, if they do exist they cannot be known.” See Kemple 10 October 2018: The Synechist, “What is Nominalism?” Cf. Deely 2001: Four Ages of Understanding, 511-89.

[17] Voegelin i.1945-1953: From Enlightenment to Revolution, 3: “The eighteenth century has been variously characterized as the century of Enlightenment and Revolution or alternatively as the Age of Reason. Whatever the merit of these designations, they embody a denial of cognitive value to spiritual experiences, attest to the atrophy of Christian transcendental experiences, and seek to enthrone the Newtonian method of science as the only valid method of arriving at truth.”

[18] Cf. Simon 1970: The Great Dialogue of Nature and Space, 163-178.

[19] One of the most valuable—if extracted—insights of any philosopher belonging to modernity was the distinction that Jeremy Bentham proposed between idioscopic and cenoscopic sciences (appropriated by Charles Sanders Peirce). Idioscopy is the branch of science that operates through specialized observational means in pursuit of discovering new phenomena; cenoscopy is the branch which operates through the common reasoning faculties possessed by all human beings. Among the asinine consequences of scientistic tendencies is the belief that human beings need little training to excel cenoscopically, despite all historical and present evidence to the contrary. See Kemple, 16 April 2019: Epoche Magazine, “C.S. Peirce on Science and Belief.”

[20] Thus, not only does Quillette publish a piece criticizing Dave Rubin, but Rubin fires back and derides Quillette’s declining standards, to which Claire Lehman, founder of Quillette, responds by implying Rubin is a hypocrite.

[21] That is, “diversity” often signifies nothing more than a “superficial quantitative plurality of identity characteristics,” used as a smokescreen to mask the lack of genuine diversity—and even an ignorance of what “diversity” as a cultural phenomenon truly means. Thus one will find the occasional, truly diverse piece on any of these sites, written by a truly diverse author—one who does not share the viewpoints of the editors—but these are scarce, and included strictly because they fit the ideological commitment to a superficial, quantitatively-measurable concept of diversity.

[22] The term “modernity” being one which has suffered some confusion, given its historical usage as signifying something like the recent past and present, as well as its application to various philosophical and cultural events, thinkers, and movements.

[23] See Kemple 24 April 2019: The Synechist, “The Sophistication of Sophistry.”

[24] One can likewise find authors at Scientific American and Nautilus frequently making philosophical claims with an-at-best layman’s comprehension drawn from traditions themselves grown out of the fundamental philosophical mistakes of the 17th and 18th centuries.

[25] Dawson 1959: The Movement of World Revolution, 41.

[26] I think, for instance, of Immanuel Kant, who, though nothing if not a brilliant philosopher, began from and never left an erroneous principle concerning the nature of human knowledge, and thus undermined the entirety of the philosophical system he quite brilliantly constructed. I am quite confident that, like Kant, many of the frequent contributors to these sites are gifted with a greater natural intelligence than my own—but also quite confident that I have been fortuitous in my education with exposure to great minds and, moreover, to the truth of wisdom as something beyond any human mind.

[27] Which was not really a revolution at all, but rather a continuation that allowed science to become distinctly recognizable as, conversely, philosophy deviated into the unphilosophical path of modernity. See Deely 2001: Four Ages of Understanding, 487-510.

[28] Dawson 1929: Progress & Religion, 21.

[29] St. Thomas Aquinas, in his commentary on Aristotle’s On the Heavens and Earth (1272/73: In de caelo et mundo, lib.2, lec.17, n.451), noted that all the given explanations of cosmological observation merely attempt to “save the appearances”; that is, that they are not necessarily explanations of what is being observed, but ones which accord based upon the present evidence.

[30] Which may be seen in part by an enormous number of writings, beginning with Aristotle’s c.330bc: Περὶ Ψυχῆς (On the Soul), but found intelligently developed into a coherent and consistent whole with parts from St. Augustine’s i.397-426: De doctrina Christiana and c.389: De Magistro, Avicenna’s i.1014-20: Kitab al’Shifa, Averroes’ commentaries (c.1180) on Aristotle’s On the Soul, St. Thomas Aquinas’ i.1256-59: Quaestiones disputatae de Veritate, 1259/65: Summa Contra Gentiles, Book II, 1266-68: Summa Theologiae prima pars, q.75-88, his 1268 commentary on Aristotle’s On the Soul, Cajetan’s commentaries on Aquinas’ De ente et essentia (c.1493) and the Summa Theologiae prima pars (1507), John Poinsot’s i.1631-34: Cursus Philosophicus (especially the parts edited and contained in the edition prepared by John Deely, Tractatus de Signis), and as explicated in the past hundred years through Etienne Gilson’s 1935: Methodical Realism, 1939: Thomist Realism and the Critique of Knowledge, Yves Simon’s 1934: Introduction to the Metaphysics of Knowledge, Jacques Maritain’s 1959: The Degrees of Knowledge, John Deely’s 1982: Introducing Semiotic, 1994: Human Use of Signs, 2001: Four Ages of Understanding, 2007: Intentionality and Semiotics, 2010: Semiotic Animal, and my own 2017: Ens Primum Cognitum in Thomas Aquinas and the Tradition and 2019: Introduction to Philosophical Principles, among many other worthy works.

[31] Cf. McLuhan 1943: The Classical Trivium: The Place of Thomas Nashe in the Learning of His Time, which explains the reception, development, and struggle over classical learning (grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric) from the end of antiquity through the Latin age and into the Renaissance.

[32] Evidenced in the 20th century by the silly attitude of Bertrand Russell (in the final chapter of his 1912 book The Problems of Philosophy) that while science solves problems, philosophy at its best can only formulate them; and also by the later claim of Wittgenstein that it belongs to philosophy to discover the problems that science solves.

[33] See n.20 above.

[34] And thus the so-called postmodernism is really better termed “ultramodernism.”

[35] Kemple 5 February 2019: LapsusLima, “Leaving the Global Village.”