Essay / Philosophy

I am not Fluffy

John Mark Reynolds, 2004.

Jane wants a dog. That is a problem. Aristotle, the Wonder Dog, is already with us and he is enough to torment any family. At seven years old, Jane lacks the rhetorical and cleaning skills to make an effective argument to She Who Must Be Obeyed. Therefore, Jane has solved her problem in the good-old-postmodern American way: I am now her dog “Fluffy.” Every day she comes and feeds me “tummy yummies.” Every day I do tricks. I play dead well at six in the morning.

The sad truth is that I am a miserable excuse for a dog. My master is great, but I am a big disappointment. Too slow to fetch, with an aging set of teeth not made for bones, Fluffy is not bouncy. Jane wants a dog that acts like Tigger; instead, she has a geriatric Pooh. I do try, but the results are not good. I face one great problem that I cannot surmount: I am not a dog. Ronald Reagan once sagely pointed out that reality is a stubborn thing. True enough. I am not Fluffy no matter how hard I try to imagine. It really does take more than hope, trust, and a little pixie dust to fly. My life is full of this sort of disappointment. Most peoples’ lives are. There is no Loch Ness Monster. Big Foot is a myth. Anastasia did not escape that basement in 1918. The world is real and not pliable to my imagination.

Oddly, this idea has been under assault of late. Hopeful people, some of them postmodernists with a faith that would make fighting fundies quail, have decided that reality is what they make of it. Of course, it is impossible to live as if this were true, though it is quite easy to die if you try. Because of this painful reality regarding reality, many postmodernists have given up on pretending the world is not real. Instead, they have turned to epistemology. How do we know reality? Perhaps, in a perverse twist on the X-Files, the truth is out there, but we can never know it. After all, aren’t we trapped inside of language, culture, or any number of other intellectual prisons? We have beliefs. How do we justify them?

Torrey Honors and the traditionalists respond with a philosophical view called “foundationalism.” What, you may ask with dread, is foundationalism? Foundationalism is a strategy for justifying our beliefs. According to foundationalism, most of our beliefs end up justified by other beliefs. So far so good, but such justification cannot go on forever. Nor can we simply curl our beliefs back into a web of belief. This would be circular reasoning. This means people end up with foundational beliefs that are not justified by beliefs. These are called “foundational beliefs.” What justifies those? If we follow the classical internalist foundationalists, then we believe that our foundational sensory beliefs (“I see a dog”) are justified by direct sensory experience (being appeared to dog-ly). Other foundational beliefs might be justified by rational experience of an object (like the laws of logic). This means we are in direct contact with the world.

If we adopt a correspondence theory of truth (my experience of the dog is true if there is a dog there really) and realism, then we have theory independent access to the world. I can compare my theory to the world. My worldview influences, but does not control my view of reality. I am not trapped behind my worldview glasses. Descartes tried to put ideas between people and the world and trapped us all in our heads. Much of po-mo ideology tries to put language between the world and us. They too trap us in our heads. Many Christians have bought, without meaning to do so, the po-mo line that our worldview consists of inescapable worldview glasses. At best, only God can rip those glasses off, but then we cannot rationally urge others to do the same. Religious experience is utterly privatized.

Thank God, we do not have to go that way. I have independent access (outside my beliefs) to any object . . . and can compare my beliefs to my experience of a real world. To give a religious example, I have had a direct experience of God. The Holy Spirit has transformed my life! (I have been appeared to Holy-Spiritly to use philosophical jargon.) I can form beliefs about this experience which become foundational to other beliefs. I have theory independent access to the world that God created. I am not trapped in a culture or language game or some other problem.

Therefore, I am not my daughter’s dog Fluffy. I am a child of God who knows a real God in space and time. He speaks to me through the pages of the Bible. He warms my heart and gives me joy. Such a reality is, after all, better than the best fantasy.

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