A tall, athletically built sophomore lifted her hand into the air. The instructor nodded his assent and asked her to speak.
“But what foundation do you base that belief on? If it doesn’t have reasons to back it up that are concrete, then why should we read the Qur’an and other scriptures like that? But if does, then aren’t those reasons examples of how things must be grounded in facts?”
He chuckled. I think he liked these kinds of discussions.
“Well, that’s the beauty of it. If I did that I would be my own counterexample, so I can’t offer those kinds of facts, and again I’m okay with that. I have a different framework that doesn’t need to be proven, that’s not an issue within it. Kant revolutionized Western thinking in this way when he articulated his perception of the autonomous self.” He paused for a moment of self-reflection. “I suppose that I’ve been conditioned to think this way through my background in religious studies.
"Programs like this one view meaning and truth as something different than fact. My whole training is not to ask whether a certain scripture is true, but why it is told in a particular way. We read texts not for what the text tells us about its content, but for what it tells us about its authors and audience.”
When Dr. Karkaroff talked about Western culture in that way, it seemed almost impossible that the invisible, weighty hand of postmodernism would ever be removed from our culture’s institutions. Some would argue that this is a good thing. After all, there is merit in my professor’s last statement – a religious text can tell you a lot of useful information about the culture it was written in.
That being said, it is not necessary to throw out the concept of objectivism from the realm of academia in order to analyze a text’s cultural context. As I thought about this I scribbled observations about the words of my professor and peers on a yellow legal tablet. There were quotations, arrows, and hastily sketched star bullet points between the blue lines. In my peripheral vision I saw the young man who had already spoken raise his hand for a third time.
“I certainly agree with you that Kant greatly influenced Western culture. He did this by enforcing what Francis Schaeffer called a two-story dichotomy of facts and values, in which you have relativistic values on the top and the rest of life on the bottom. But I have a beef with this framework in that it’s completely inconsistent – we don’t live the rest of our lives as if there was no such thing as objective truth. I don’t understand why we grant amnesty to this particular genre of writing when it is entirely out of sync with how we address the rest of reality.”