[Author’s Note: This essay is not in my usual sandbox, perhaps too philosophical for some. But I just couldn’t resist!!]
By Lawrence J. Fedewa
John Daniel Davidson’s critique of Jonah Goldberg’s “Suicide of the West” (The Federalist, May 14, 2018) is as thought-provoking as the book he is analyzing. However, there is an alternative view that undermines all the theories of liberal democratic capitalism’s life support – including those of C.S. Lewis and Patrick Deneen. The basic argument of all these theories is that liberal democratic capitalism must have an anchor to maintain its connection to reality. The anchor might be religion, science, culture, or something else. Without a viable anchor, we are faced with contemplating what a very wise colleague of mine used to say, “The Enlightenment is an interesting experiment; I wonder how it will end.”
The possibility of its death becomes more imminent, it seems, not because of its suicide or of its self-inflicted wounds. Liberal democratic capitalism needs an anchor which is recognizable by the millions of those who are living, consciously or unconsciously, under its spell, i.e. its world view. The reason the anchors of the past do not work for the people of today is that these anchors are put forth in a language that they do not understand.
The scientific patois of the Enlightenment finds it hard to understand a God who is omnipresent but invisible, just as it stumbles when confronting all the choices we must make with no clear scientifically established criteria to rely on. The fundamental dilemma of modernity is that it has produced scientific miracles by rejecting appearances in favor of tangible evidence, but, in the process, it has also eliminated certainty. Yet some level of certainty is necessary in order for us to have confidence in our life decisions. It is here that we reach the limitations of a scientific world view. The scientific method has not produced enough reliable knowledge to guide human ethics.