Re-covering fideism: An a-modern model of language and thought

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Charles Winquist


Fideism, Language, Thought, Johann Georg Hamann, Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, Louis Bautain

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Philosophy | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


I begin with an introduction of the perceived problem (the skepticism that modernism, or rationality, leads to) and the main fideist thinkers (Hamann, Jacobi, and Bautain) under consideration. The presence of skepticism (primarily "post-modernism") points to a state of epistemological crisis which requires a paradigm shift. This study is a "re-covery" of a fideist epistemological paradigm. The argument advanced is ostensibly one which Hamann, et al. would have made or did make. It begins with an analysis of experience as the beginning of knowledge (chapter 2)--which, among other considerations, functions to situate the argument in the context of Hume and Kant's critical philosophy. This analysis indicates that in order for experience to be an intelligible concept, and in order for experience to lead to knowledge, one must presuppose an element of faith which is prior to reason. Faith, further, leads to a knowledge of the realities of the subject-object and the self-other relations. Chapter 3 is an examination of the epistemological structure of faith. The conclusion of this chapter is that faith is a formal authority, or provides an essential epistemological confidence that requires a "translation" into particulars in order to be meaningfully engaged. This translation, however, is less certain than the original conviction and is dependent upon reason and language for its deployment. This leads to an analysis of reason (chapter 4) and language (chapter 5) within the fideist paradigm. Language and reason are dependent upon the "revelations" which come from tradition and the senses--the two sources of human knowledge. To be effective one's approach to language and reason requires both faith and a correct understanding of how they function: reason primarily as an organizer of data and a limit to human pretensions; and language as the vehicle of the Real. In chapter 6 the implications of language as the vessel or occasion of the Real are developed. The term "sacrament of language" is used to capsulize this understanding of language. This leads to a discussion of grace and the mediatory function of language with the conclusion being that humans are best related to language use by an attitude of (wise) trust.


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