Argumentum Perrenia

OK, so I made the Latin up…perpetual arguments, the ones that have been going on long enough that everyone should have figured out the debate is not actually progressing in either of the two antagonistic directions.

Here is the short list, you could add your versions of these:

  • Whether God exists, or not
  • Whether the cosmos appears intended, or not
  • Whether physical objects are connected to supra-physical entities, or not
  • Whether immateriality exists, or not
  • Whether disinterested love exists, or not
  • Whether freewill is an illusion, or not

By now you are ready to say “nominalism vs. realism, in different forms”.  Well, sure, but what is not as commonly understood is that repeated patterns of logic do get clarified and then named over time, but not “solved”, and that it is the naming that is useful.   We name logical patterns in order both to use and to avoid them, to push off from them, move beyond them.  As long as we did not understand the pattern “nominalism vs. realism” we were doomed to rehearse it in perpetual ambiguity.

These perpetual questions are remarkable for their naive optimism.  It is youth that thinks “soon, just around the next corner, there will be the final definitive fact or argument that will finally clinch my side of the argument.   One more book, one more essay, one more seminar.”   But, no.

So, the bulleted list are all the arguments I’ve stopped, both in the internal monologue and in conversations.  They are of no use, as arguments, and cease having any interest at some point after decades of spinning around the logical circle.

This is not so say we do not need to answer them.  I have, for myself.  Since I’m a Christian you might easily guess my answers.


When we encounter a repetitive logical circle we know there are foreign axioms controlling the logic.  Axioms, by definition, come from outside the particular circular contest we are trying to win.  They are not built by a linear process of any kind.  And repeating the logical circle will never dig them up.

Real people — as opposed to syllogisms —  get their axioms from their heart.   By “heart”, I mean what the Hebrew bible means, the organ of wanting.  People form their wanting organ in early childhood.  So, some theses we theists like to mock are in fact, true:  our pre-cognitive layer is formed in early childhood and dominates our later cognitive life more than we know (the hated Freud); the heart wants what it wants (the hated solipsistic romanticism); and so on.

So, we want.  And we build a rational superstructure to give meaning and legitimacy to our acts as we act out our wants.

“The fool has said in his heart there is no God.”  In other words, it is axiomatic for him.  No arguments can touch it.  This man, this fool in the Psalmists’ world, is the man who wants God not to exist.  He decided, usually early in childhood, that he does not like God, or the god-figure.

Notice how this comports with the overall Biblical approach to moral responsibility, which locates good and bad in the heart — not the affections and feelings, which is what “heart” came to be in the romantic movement — but in the wanting, in the volition.    Moral significance is centered neither in the feelings or the cognition.  God does not dislike you for dirty feelings or for thinking incorrectly.   In this age we get the first but not the second.   But their equally true; anytime we locate blame or praise in the cognitive, we have repeated the gnostic error.

The biblical God likes you or is angry at you based on what you want.  He loves you because He is love.  But He dislikes you because you don’t want anything to do with Him.   

So the fool is one with a disordered want-er, not one who has made a logical error.   It has nothing to do with his reasoning faculty.   Remember that, the next time you are tempted to step back on that eternal logical wheel with someone who just doesn’t see the world like you.   Don’t think that this time, unlike al those other times, your argument is so clear your opponent WILL finally see it.

No, he won’t.  It is not a cognitive problem.  It is a broken wanter.

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