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Friday, May 12, 2006

Plantinga on Fundamentalism: What is it?

Now, if you don't know who Plantinga is, he is a professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame. I am not sure when he did this, it may be old, but it is a help from one who is willing to not take himself so seriously. Sitting here in the postgraduate study room at the end of the day, I took a look around the blogo world before going home. Naturally I check the Pontificator each day due to the many great things he posts on his site. But this one actually made me laugh out loud when I read it. Al Kimel references the source on his blog and you can trace that there. Being in academia and a bit of a Traditionalist academic, I found this to be so funny and wondered if I may actually be viewed like this. One often hears the 'f' word tossed about in the academic environment. Is Plantinga on to something?
“But isn’t this just endorsing a wholly outmoded and discredited fundamentalism, that condition than which, according to many academics, none lesser can be conceived? I fully realize that the dreaded f-word will be trotted out to stigmatize any model of this kind. Before responding, however, we must first look into the use of this term ‘fundamentalist’. On the most common contemporary academic use of the term, it is a term of abuse or disapprobation, rather like ’son of a bitch’, more exactly ’sonovabitch’, or perhaps still more exactly (at least according to those authorities who look to the Old West as normative on matters of pronunciation) ’sumbitch.’ When the term is used in this way, no definition, no definition of it is ordinarily given. (If you called someone a sumbitch, would you feel obligated first to define the term?) Still, there is a bit more to the meaning of ‘fundamentalist’ (in this widely current use); it isn’t simply a term of abuse. In addition to its emotive force, it does have some cognitive content, and ordinarily denotes relatively conservative theological views. That makes it more like ’stupid sumbitch’ (or maybe ‘fascist sumbitch’?) than ’sumbitch’ simpliciter. It isn’t exactly like that term either, however, because its cognitive content can expand and contract on demand; its content seems to depend on who is using it. In the mouths of certain liberal theologians, for example, it tends to denote any who accept traditional Christianity, including Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Barth; in the mouths of devout secularists like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, it tends to denote anyone who believes there is such a person as God. The explanation that the term has a certain indexical element: its cognitive content is given by the phrase ‘considerably to the right, theologically speaking, of me and my enlightened friends.’ The full meaning of the term, therefore (in this use), can be given by something like ’stupid sumbitch whose theological opinions are considerably to the right of mine’” (Warranted Christian Belief, pp. 244-245).

2 Comments:

Anonymous Mark said...

Speaking as one sumbitch to another, maybe you oughta start society for conservative Anglicans, something like "The fascitic confraternity of traditional sumbitch Anglican academics". You might even incorporate a distinctive article of clothing ( kinda like the "Red Hat Society", here in the colonies ).

Take care, you ol' fundamentalist sumbitch

-Mark

7:29 am  
Blogger Jeff said...

A red hat tip to you too! That was so funny to me when I read it. A confraternity sounds like a good idea.

8:09 am  

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