(By Maggie Tynan, 1776 Scholar) Our society is in a crisis. We tossed aside the epistemological questions and tried to stifle the search for truth. Modern man has taken this search down many avenues, many of them more absurd than ought to be possible, yet still believed by the masses. Knowledge itself has been questioned in the days since the enlightenment. The only answer to these questions is Christianity and the belief in one true God, but people continue to reject these claims and believe absurd and hopeless worldviews.
These modern theories of subjective reality seem much less dangerous, but are, in fact, much more dangerous than their predecessors. Rousseau’s vision of the essentially good and perfectible man spawned the blood bath of the French Revolution. It was Marxist philosophy that pushed the Russian attempt to “change the spirit of the age.” The belief in these philosophies led to the death of millions. It paved the way to Hitler’s concentration camps and Soviet gulag archipelago’s. Put side by side, modern relativism is far less deadly. There aren’t stacks of dead bodies; there is no physical detriment. The challenges of modern man are not physical; rather it is a spiritual fight.
All existentialists ignore the epistemological question. Those who believe in existentialism make objectives and claims about things like existence, purpose, and meaning that are fundamentally relativistic. The idea behind this relativism is attractive, for good reason. It allows man to give himself purpose for his life yet retains complete freedom in all his decisions. Man gets the final say and no longer has any moral or spiritual duty to his own self or society.
But this purpose that man gives him self is still subjective. When you do not have a transcendent omniscient being that is calling you to your purpose, than it becomes useless. The only true purpose that an existentialist can have is to give life purpose. Essentially the meaning of life is to give meaning to life. The emptiness of relativism ought to be obvious. There is no objective standard to live up to. But instead of taking this hopelessness out by slaughtering others, the existentialist slowly kills the culture.
This type of killing is everywhere, if one would just take the time to look. The concept of a transcendent ethic is replaced with a multiplicity of ethics, each of which are considered as valuable as each other, and often contradict. It was The Incredibles that reminded us: “When everyone’s super, nobody is.” When everything is ethical, then nothing is. Morality is destroyed. There is no reason to prefer one way of thinking to another.
The existentialists eliminated right and wrong, and replaced it with nothing. Ultimately, this resulted in the destruction of purpose, something we now call postmodernism. Finding no meaning in a transcendent ideal, and attempting to replace that with meaning from within one, the relativistic mindsets of the twentieth century have culminated in despair.
Consequently, the spirit of the west is broken. Our children suffer from anxiety and depression at unprecedented levels. Suicide grows more and more common. All this, at a time when luxury, material wealth, human relationship, longevity of life, speed of travel, etc. is more readily available than ever before. The problem is that those pleasures have become distractions. Once, wealth, family, friendship, were all a part of a disciplined, well-lived life. Now, they are diversions to take our minds away from the pain of not having a purpose.
Nothing about the human condition has changed. Our social and technological progress has been largely for the better. Yet we break as people, because our culture has collapsed. Our culture has accepted subjectivity. We are nothing more than the product of the existentialists and postmodern. Now, to the mind of Western man, truth is now relative. There can be no good, no evil. There can be no purpose, or meaning. While the average person would not claim to live a meaningless existence, they inevitably find meaning solely in the things of this world. And any purpose, which is not transcendent – eternal – is no purpose at all.
There are, for the Christian, two potential answers. The classic response to all this meaninglessness has been the arguments of thinkers like Aquinas: a rational defense of the true, good, and beautiful. Nevertheless, the argument falls apart in the face a worldview that denies truth, goodness, and beauty, and reason itself. Subjectivity precludes reason. Aquinas presupposes reason. The other answer is more in line with Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard says we must take a leap of faith, but we must also assume that there is such a thing as a transcendent purpose. Once we have done that, things will fall into place.
We live in a time of crisis. Not only do we ignore the epistemological question, we try to pretend that it is something unimportant, and unworthy of our time. But if we were to acknowledge the importance of the epistemological question, we could understand our purpose. If we realize our purpose is to a higher being with an objective standard, we may be able to escape the death of western culture.