Recall from the previous parts that traditionalism reconnects man with the true order of being and the wisdom of his ancestors, so that his life will be neither futile nor (like the leaders of liberalism) dedicated to evil. Recall also that the most important item of wisdom is the existence of the God of the Bible, a truth that has consequences for all reality.
This series emphasizes how a non-traditionalist can make the life-giving change to traditionalism. Instead of laying out a description of the content of traditionalism and then asking the reader to decide if he agrees, we speak in general terms about the need for traditionalism. Most details will come later. And although we have used the phrase “American traditionalist,” non-Americans can also make this change.
How is the understanding of the order of being cultivated? Fundamentally through intuition.
Intuition is the faculty of knowing something immediately, without engaging in a formal process of logical reasoning from premises to conclusions. Intuitive knowledge is something you just know, and it therefore develops naturally unless it is actively opposed. Most people, for example, have, when they are young, an intuitive understanding that sex is holy and therefore not to be desecrated. But today people often become jaded and cynical as they internalize the false liberal view of sex that surrounds us. For such people the beginning of sexual wisdom is to start to reclaim their earlier, more innocent and more correct view of sex. And the way to awaken this sense is to pay attention to one’s deep intuitions.
Another important intuition is that the physical world is not the only world. Our most intimate experience of ourselves is of a mind, not just a body, and the mind, despite apparently being seated in the brain, is non-physical. Your consciousness does not take up space or have weight. Our minds are real, but non-physical. Also real but non-physical are the laws we perceive by intuition, such as logic and morality. Modernism cannot directly contradict the reality of these things, for all men know intuitively that they are real, but it denies them covertly when it questions God and when it makes tolerance and nonjudgmentalism the highest goods. In these ways, the laws of reality come to seem arbitrary and unjust, and the stage is set for their formal denial.
And there is the intuition that biological differences between species, sexes, and races are real. Modernity pretends that there are no essential biological differences, that all physical differences are of degree rather than kind, and that they are a result of evolution and environment rather than a God-ordained order. But intuition knows, especially when one is young, that biological differences are real differences, and not accidental features that can be overcome if we wish to do so.
Intuition is key, for the most basic truths of the world cannot be proved in the sense of strict logical entailment in which statement B must be true if antecedent statement A is true. When it comes to the most basic truths such as the existence of God or the reality of morality, there is no universally agreed-upon strict entailment that connects statements together into a proof. And even if there were, we would still only be able to prove, by strict logical entailment, that if certain statements are true, then God exists or morality is real. Strict logical proof if is always conditional.
But this is no reason to despair. We have simply discovered an important feature of reality: that all thought is based on certain foundational realities that cannot be proved in the conventional and strict sense of the word “proof.” But this does not mean that we must choose our premises arbitrarily. It does not mean that man cannot know anything.
For the most important truths can be known, because there is plentiful evidence supporting them. It may not be “evidence” in a strictly scientific or strictly logical sense (although sometimes it is), but it is valid evidence. It is the correct evidence for proving what it proves. And to understand this evidence is to become wise.
Intuition, in fact, develops naturally in response to evidence that is observed, where “evidence” means any perception or experience that naturally generates the intuition. An intuition without any evidence to back it is nothing but a guess. (Sometimes it seems that we do have intuitions not caused by evidence. In these cases there was evidence, but we are not consciously aware of it.). Evidence leads to intuitive knowledge not through the application of formal logical reasoning, but as the immediate natural response to what is observed.
But intuitions can be mistaken. Since man is not omniscient, false beliefs are possible. And even a valid intuition is just a starting point. In order to test our intuitions and to expand our valid intuitions into wisdom, we must articulate them so that they are not simply felt, but are understood, and we must point to the evidence that supports these intuitions.
And as we shall see in the next post, man also needs revelation and repentance if he is to convert his intuitions into real wisdom.
[In the original edit of the post, I said “authority and repentance.” Authority is discussed later in this series, but the next part concerns revelation and repentance.]
[Part Four is here.]