Thursday, November 12, 2015

Roger Olson on Nominalism

Don't have time today to develop a deep subject, but enjoyed Roger Olson's post yesterday on the "catastrophe of nominalism." Here's a memorable quote: "Nominalism is the ultimate poison of Western civilization that corrodes and erodes it. It lies at the top of the slippery slope down which we have slid into modern and now, increasingly, postmodern oblivion."

I hear what he's saying. If you deny that there is truth "in" the world or deny that the world in some way embodies a transcendent truth, then it is a short step to concluding finally that truth is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

This is a fairly common perspective. However, IMO, this same nominalist moment also stands at the root of the rise of modern science, economics, the rise of historical consciousness and the quest for objectivity, not to mention the Protestant Reformation. I think it would be a mistake to go back more or less to a choice between some form of Platonism or some form of Aristotelianism.

I hesitate to call myself a nominalist because I do believe in universals after my own idiom and I do believe in transcendentals after my own idiom. Yet, the situation of our human finitude and locatedness I think push us toward what I might call a "pragmatist nominalism" of sorts as a method of knowing. Most of what people see "in" things, whether beauty or whatever, is at least expressed through the eye of the beholder. And I more or less define pre-modernism as seeing things that aren't there but are really constructs of your own mind, without being able to tell the difference.

Time's up.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

"Pragmatic nominalism" allows for diversity in what one believes about religious truth, while understanding that society must have structure that shape and form values. A "in" world truth is the family, but family structure in American society is a fluid structure, not a solidified one. Americans believe in various ways of defining family. Family could be one's birth family, or step family, or adoptive or foster family. Some believe it could be a church family, while others believe it could include friends, while others believe it could include same sex marriage as family. The family is structured by individual consent and free association in forming a family, as Americans (the West) believes that each person, regardless of gender, race or religious conviction, has a right to choose his associations. Therefore, the West places more value on the personal; interests, values, choice.

What has been promulgated is something like "nominalist pragmatism" or Radical Egalitarianism which has been useful to promote the PC Police, who make judgments for all of us about WHAT we SHOULD value as ideals (equality, justice, and liberty), which Americans all do, at the costs of conservative limits. This view has promoted humanitarian goals apart from national security concerns. It has valued or denied individual choice apart from societal context. It has defended the "rights" of particular minorities that discriminates against other groups, and does not hold any rooting in societal structures or European (Christian) history and so on.

"Ideal Nominalism" allows a "free for all" which undermines where laws should be, and whose rights are most valued. NO Civil Society believes that WHATEVER anyone wants to believe that impacts behavior IS their RIGHT regardless of what it might mean to another or the larger society! (Americans have a right to believe what they want, but not a right to act without regard to another's welfare, choice or equal right).

A balance to American ideals is a pragmatism that knows there must be limits which are determined by our laws. A "pragmatic idealism" knows that although we value equality and slavery has been abolished, by amending the Constitution, slavery will never be abolished ideally, or totally, as people function within society (their jobs) as employees (slaves) in some sense! But, we do have a right to appeal in our courts IF there is injustice in INDIVIDUAL or specific cases. In this sense, individual rights were and are to be upheld. The right of the individual was the major reason for the Bill of Rights.
Civil Liberties (under the Bill of Rights) were protections from Government over invasive control over our personal lives, while Case Law protected individuals in their pursuit of liberty for themselves.

Therefore, ideally, we are a nation of liberty, but practically we were to be a nation governed by a self-governing people!Ideally we were a nation where everyone was equal before the law, but practically, we take issues to court when inequality presents itself in our specific circumstances.

(I might be far off on my terms, as I am not a trained philosopher but you can clarify, if you think its needed....)

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Although we are a nation that upholds LIBERTY as a Primary value, we DO promote Laws which limit rights in some areas, such as immigration! Prudence is a good conservative value in protecting what must be protected for national survival.

Just because our nation was a "nation of immigrants", which is an ideal of liberty, we cannot support illegal immigrants, who devalue the limitations we've made because of necessity!

America cannot afford to support everyone that wants to come, therefore, we must limit citizenship to realistic terms. How can America do something about those that infiltrate our borders to have babies that gain a "ground" to their own citizenship?! I don't think this means of gaining citizenship any much more than stealing the "right", and abusing parenthood as a "means"! "Family" is an appeal to one of America's emotional"Christian" values, whereas, the right of citizenship should be based on realistic terms, not emotional appeals. Again, humanitarian concerns trump national security! National Security is the President's oath of office. He is the Commander in Chief of our military forces (as sign of POWER), as well as the head of State for diplomatic relations (as sign of PEACE). Both were to be vested in the protection of security for the sake of peace (domestic tranquility)! But, security is first if we are to survive!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Democracy bases arguments on "natural rights" and not protected rights under a Constitutional Republic. (Thomas Aquinas used "natural rights" as granted by God, "Inalienable Rights" and that is a Christian view of supporting "human rights". "Human Rights is a valid choice of vocation/interest for SOME,, but not collapsing domestic policy into a public/foreign policy as that view is a Radical Egalitarian view.And not everyone agrees that the Declaration of Independence was to be considered alongside the Constitution)

Secure boundaries are as much a right of the individual citizen for self protection, and privatizing property for the promise of economic security, as it is the nation state in protecting its borders from those that would suck the wealth out of the nation (its citizens).

In Post Modern or Radical Egalitarianism (social justice), we've dissolved any appeal to reason and distinguishing ourselves from "the blob" or "mass of humanity". And the PC POLICE have used RIGHTS terminology to divide and diminish domestic tranquility, in the name of social justice!! So every group is clamoring for their rights. And it seems that Government is taking sides before judges have time to judge.

Neutrality to group dynamics and focusing on individual rights, and responsibilities would go a long way toward appeasing anger and a sense of violation. The Media could help in promoting tranquility too, by not focusing on particular crimes to prove a "social justice" model that defends the right of particular groups to be angry, and see themselves as victimized just because the Media focuses on those particular crimes. It certainly doesn't bring peace to focus on past injustices!

When past injustices are focused upon, one group is pitted against another group and each group demands justice based on appealing to GROUP IDENTIFICATIONS, that was not the Founder's sense of justice, nor a court's sense of justice, which is to maintain blindness about race, religion, or gender issues NOW group identifiers are DEMANDS to grant RIGHTS to particular GROUPS in the name of Equality, Justice and "Humanity"! That is not justice for individuals under case law. But, it is justice to groups under the Civil Rights Amendment to the Constitution.

An article I posted on FB today makes the matter clear why Radical Egalitarianism undermines the right of the average citizen to peace, and society's ability to discriminate on matters important to protect the citizen.

Why do BATHROOMS Matter, when Gender Identity issues bang on the door of RIGHTS? Reason suggest that apart from a way to judge whether someone is truly challenged in their gender identity, might ignore that some with not so nice a motive or morals (criminals) might use these RIGHTS to prey upon others.
How would society determine whether one is truly a transgender or a child predator or rapist? That would not protect the rights of the larger society for domestic tranquility nor "law and order".