Russell and Duenes

The Drift Toward Cynicism

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schaefferIn He is There and He is Not Silent, Francis Schaeffer writes: [Plato] understood . . . that in the area of knowledge, as in the area of morals, there must be more than particulars if there is to be meaning. In the area of knowledge, we have particulars, by which we mean individual ‘things’ which we see in the world. At any given moment, I am faced with thousands, indeed  literally millions of particulars, just in what I see in a glance of my eyes. What are the universals which give these particulars meaning, and bind them into a unity? This is the heart of the problem of epistemology and the problem of knowing.”

What is this problem of “particulars” and “universals” to which Schaeffer points? It sounds a bit like some kind of ivory tower philosophizing, detached from the common person. But is it?

Let me try to illustrate, and I hope I am doing Schaeffer’s point justice with this illustration? We see people all around us, “particulars” we would call them, for no two of them is the same. But let’s suppose that the particulars are all we have. We jettison the “universal” of “man” and “woman” or “male and “female,” and we say that we just have this particular person, that particular person, this other particular person over here, and no knowledge of the universal “masculine” or “feminine” to give us, as Schaeffer says, “a greater comprehension of what we are looking at and what we are talking about.”

We say today that we cannot really have a universal of “man” or “woman.” There is no way to know whether anyone is truly a man or a woman. The categories are artificial, socially constructed, unknowable. Thus, we are adrift in our ignorance, without a universal to “cover all the particulars,” and consequently, we are not bound to any kind of understanding of the human person as male or female.

The upshot is that we gain our “autonomy,” such that gender becomes “fluid,” and every particular person is free to define themselves in their own way. Now we have Bellevue College in the state of Washington, asking on its application “’What is your gender identity?’ with “the answer choices [being]: feminine, masculine, androgynous, gender neutral, transgender, other and ‘prefer not to answer.'” There is no answer, because we’ve gotten rid of the particulars. We scorn the one who tries to “put us in the box” of being a man or a woman. How limiting, and truly unknowable. Who are you to tell me? This is Schaeffer’s “drift toward cynicism.”

So this is very practical stuff, which our children need to understand at a basic level, and then begin to apply as they grow in wisdom. We need to teach them epistemology, particularly in our churches. Jesus is the one who said,”male and female He created them.” And it was glorious!

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

December 8, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Posted in Duenes, Philosophy, Theology

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