How have we gotten into this mess wherein we have set aside reality in favor of what we think reality is? No longer do we go out to meet reality and accept the obligation of conforming to reality; now we sit back and claim the right to posit our own reality, to project reality and define it on our own terms. How did we get here?
Look to the nominalists, my friends.
A rather informative, though challenging, book on this matter is Journey to Modernity by Louis Dupré. In it he traces the medieval synthesis and rise of nominalism in the late 15th century, which in turn gave way to the Cartesian Revolution in the 17th century.
The nominalist revolution introduced the concept by insisting that we do not go out and discover reality so much as we simply create it by categorizing it with “names” (nomina –> names –> nominalism). The names we assign are not a recognizing of reality; they are a “making” of it. We assign meaning rather than discover it.
Welcome to the modern dark ages—dark, and getting darker. Welcome to the age of nominalism, invented in the late 15th Century and now a weed that has been allowed to flourish and is more widespread than ever.
The old version of nominalism denies the existence of universals: qualities or characteristics that can be illustrated or exemplified by many particular things. At least this version of nominalism was debatable. Is there a universal “chair-ness” that all chairs exemplify, or is this just a human abstraction? Here a legitimate debate can be had.
The modern and more lazy version of nominalism, which I will call here “neo-nominalism,” holds that words (nomen = word) are simply arbitrary sounds we assign to things that reflect us, more so than anything we call reality. In a more sweeping way, whole categories are also dismissed.
Thus, for example, words and categories such as male, female, marriage, abortion, euthanasia, etc. are just words we assign; they are mere human “constructs” that do not exist in reality. So, many claim the right today to move beyond these human words and categories. They also claim the right to assign new words to describe these realties. Abortion becomes “choice,” “reproductive freedom,” or “women’s healthcare.” Unnatural sexual acts are called “gay” (a word that used to mean happy) and anal sex is celebrated as an “expression of love.” Same-sex “pseudo-gamy” is called “marriage.” Suicide or killing of the aged or imperfect is called “euthanasia” (a word that means “good death” in Greek). Sexual identity is now called “gender” (a grammatical classification of nouns found in nearly one-fourth of the world’s languages, not a word for human sexual differentiation).
Neo-nominalism claims the right to define new reality and scoffs at the more humble proposition that we ought to discover reality and conform to it. Neo-nominalism casts aside such humility and claims the right to define reality by inventing new words and thoughts and then imposing them on what really is. And thus we get endless absurdities such as LGBTQ (and Lord knows what letter will be added next). We have bizarre notions such as being “transgendered,” a concept that denies human distinctions that could not be more obvious and are literally inscribed in our bodies. But the neo-nominalists will not be troubled with reality.
The next and even more absurd “edge universe” for many of them is the so called “trans-human” movement in which even the reality of being human is dismissed as a mere “construct.” People will claim the right to start calling themselves other species and (presumably) the right to consort in all sorts of bizarre ways with animals, the “right” to develop cross-cloning, etc. For after all, who is to say what is “human” to these neo-nominalist iconoclasts?
For them, there is no reality, per se, just human constructs that are fungible. So-called “reality” is merely to be toyed with and defined according to the latest whim and need for self-justification through the re-describing of what is actually happening.
Neo-nominalism gets very dark and very absurd very quickly, as we are observing every day in our increasingly indecipherable “anti-culture.”
In effect, for them nothing is real; everything is just names, sounds, and abstractions. Reality is not something to go out and meet; it is not something to discover. There is no reality, just constructs that we invent and publish.
Welcome to the world of tyranny, where the powerful, the richly endowed, and those who have access get to say what reality is, rather then reality itself and those who have the intelligence and common sense to recognize it. Welcome to deep and gloomy darkness.
Rebel by insisting on reality, common sense, and the obvious. Refuse the lies and the rationalizations. Point unceasingly to reality. And remember this: facts are stubborn things and in the end reality will befriend you and win the day. The nominalists currently have the power, but reality cannot be on holiday forever. People who live in this fantasy world will eventually either die in their sleep or awaken to the strange nightmare of reality. It will come; stay at your post. Do not forsake reality!
The singer in this song asks you to guess his name. Who do you think he is? Remember, regardless of what you’d like to call him, he is what he is. We don’t define him, and if we think we do, he defines us.
Here’s an answer from faith