The point has nothing to do withnthe right or left, and easy conceptualizingndoes not belong to any single placenin the political spectrum. A highlynconservative colleague, when he heardnI was writing a book to prove thenobjectivity of literary judgments to bencalled The Certainty of Literature,nremarked scornfully: “You believenthere are absolute standards out therenthat everybody should submit to.” Thennotion that one could judge, and judgenobjectively, without having standards,nlet alone universally accepted standards,nwas so foreign to his mind that itnwas a possibility he could not evennentertain. And yet on the numerousnoccasions we had examined together itndid not occur to him to ask what ournstandards were, or whether we couldnagree about them or not; still less didnhe doubt that the judgments we madenas examiners were objective judgments.nIt would not have occurred to him, innshort, as he theorized confidentlynabout the nature of critical values, tonconsider any instance in which he hadnmade a judgment of value himself.nThere is, as it happens, a philosophicalnname for nonsense of this order,nand it is foundationalism.nFoundationalism is the belief or assumptionnthat all certain knowledgendepends on stated and agreed foundations,nand that without such foundationsnone can only doubt. People whondemand verbal definitions and criterian— who has not met them in seminars?n— are usually victims of the foundationalistnfallacy; so are those who, insidenuniversities or outside them, callnfor a theoretical basis to moral or criticalnknowledge. Marxism, in its heyday,nwas a classic instance of foundationalismnand its foundation was that all historynis a history of class struggle. So wasnanti-colonialism.nThere is a good deal the matter withnthe foundationalist case, and it may benconvenient to put some of it in numberednorder.n1. If all claims to truth, to count asnknowledge, need stated and agreednfoundations, then so does that claim. Itnis, after all, of enormous scope — widerneven than morality, politics, and thenarts. But any attempt to provide such anfoundation would have to be imaginednas an exception to itself: otherwise onenwould have to ask what its foundationnwas, and what (in its turn) was its foun­ndation. There is a difficult Orientalnmyth that the world rests on the back ofnan elephant standing on a tortoise. Butnwhat is the tortoise standing on?n2. It cannot be reasonable to demandnthat all foundations should benstated. Much that is known, after all,ncannot be stated at all: the taste of foodnand wine, for instance, or the intimaciesnof friendship and love. One cannknow without being able to say whatnone knows and, as phrases like “unconsciousndesire” suggest, without evennbeing aware that one knows. Anyonenwho confuses knowledge with beingnable to give an account, then, is committingna profoundly elementary mistake,nand one that runs counter to thendaily and houriy experience of living.n3. The demand for agreed foundations—n”What are our criteria?” — isneven less reasonable. Why shouldnagreement be needed, whether willingnLnor enforced in order to be certain? Thenearth is certainly round, however manynflat-earthers there may happen to be;nand murder, not to say extermination,nis wrong, whatever Nazis or Maoistsnmay say or do. That there are disagreements,nthen, in moral, political, and artisticnjudgments is no sufficient reasonnto say that such judgments are uncertain,nsubjective, or merely personal.nWe do not need agreement in order tonhave certain knowledge: silly peoplensay silly things.n4. In A Grammar of Assent (1870),nJohn Henry Newman remarked that,njust as there is invincible ignorance, sonthere is invincible knowledge: truthsnthat are certain without using words,nwithout definitions and criteria, withoutnagreement, without debate. Nearlyna century later Wittgenstein raised ansimilar point in his notes On Certaintyn(1969) when he remarked that therenGREAT TOPICS, GREAT ISSUESnThe Tongues of Men and of Angels – Decembern1989 – Donald Davidson on the lyric of tradition,nR.S. Gwynn on “poetry you can read,” J.O. Tate onnRobert Parker, and a short story by William Mills.nPlus John Lofton’s interview with Allen Ginsberg,nChilton Williamson’s review of the new Faulknernbiography, William Murchison on the feminizationnof the military, and Wayne Lutton on the Chinesenmafia in America.nTitle/DatenEconomic Nationalism – January 1990 – PeternBrimelow’s limited defense of economic nationalism,nWilliam Hawkins on unfettered trade, AlannReynolds on foreign investment, Anthony Harrigannon transnational economic strategies, and ThomasnFleming on imperialism. Plus Janet Barlow’snanalysis of the Pete Rose scandal, Chilton Williamson’snpraise forGeorge Kennan’s memoirs, and CharlottenLow Allen’s review of George Gilder’s Microcosm.nMalting for the End – February 1990 – Paul Gottfried on “the end of history,”nThomas Fleming on millennialism, John Sisk on character and nuclear anxiety,nand Hugh Ragsdale on Gorbachev and the prospect of Soviet reform. PlusnMichael LindonRobertBork, Allan Brownfeld on South African reform, J.O.nTate’s praise for Fred Chappell’s new novel, and Mark Krikorian’s discussionnof illegal aliens and the 1990 census.nBACK ISSUE ORDER FORMnEach issue $5.00 (postage & handling included)nThe Tongues of Men and of Angels – December 1989nEconomic Nationalism -January 1990nWaiting for the End – February 1990nNamenAddress.nQty.nTotal Enclosed $_nCity . State. -Zip-nMail with check to: Chronicles • 934 N. Main Street • Rockford, IL 61103nnnCostnAPRIL 1990/45n