November 30, 2010 / Theology
This essay is neither for nor against Glenn Beck. The philosopher Michel Foucault warns us …
April 4, 2005
At this juncture in history, we lack the concepts which make sense of our intuitions and the practices which embody and enact our cognition. For the predominant structures of thought and practice are part of a conceptuality and grammar which are collapsing under the weight of their own inner contradictions. This is true of empty concepts such as ‘(post-)modernity’ or ‘modernisation’ and blind intuitions such as ‘the return of the religious’ or ‘the end of history’ (and the final victory of capital democracy). More importantly, this is also true of realities like the all-encompassing and post-democratic ‘civil market state’ and secular religion. All these structures of thought and practice share not merely the destruction of traditions in the name of progress, but also the negation of tradition as the mediation of the past, the present, and the future. Resisting and overcoming the prevailing consensus can perhaps only be in the name of an alternative future that has already made itself known to the past and is intimated in the present—something like the adumbrations of Tradition in traditions.
The modern and the post-modern are generally opposed, not least because modernity is associated with secularisation and the concomitant triumph over divine absolutism, while post-modernity is said to mark the return of the religious after the demise of the modern meta-narrative—the end of positivist rationalism and of partisan ideology.
However, nineteenth- and twentieth-century scholars as varied as Otto von Gierke, Frederick William Maitland, John Neville Figgis, Hans Blumenberg, Karl Löwith and Louis Dupré contend that theology was critical to the inception of modern philosophy and that religion has been an integral part of the modern project. To say this is not to say that pre-modern and modern theology and religion are identical; it is precisely to say that the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity is unintelligible without grasping the changes in theology and religion.
To associate post-modernity with the return of the religious is to be blind not only to the religious foundations of modernity but also to the secular direction of post-modern thought and practice. Post-modernity, so we are told, provides infinite possibilities which pre-modern and modern absolutism have so manifestly denied us. Once there were the constricting shackles of God, metaphysics and divine monarchy. Now there is the diversity of difference, the tolerance of plural values and global civil society. Thus to posit difference and plurality is to liberate being, knowledge, ethics and politics from the modern illusion of absolute, clear and distinct foundations. In this sense, post-modernity helps expose and deconstruct the logic of modernity. But it does so from a position that can only be described as ambivalent and ambiguous—a mark of the postmodern which is clearly reflected in its style.
The ambivalence and ambiguity of postmodernity betrays in fact a more fundamental continuity with the modern project of subordinating the objectivity of transcendent being to the subjectivity of immanent beings. Both are secular because both are dualist: neither can give an account of the unity of being beyond the divide between the subjective and the objective and the immanent and the transcendent. Neither can give an account of relations that pertain between beings.
Modernity is secular insofar as it privileges knowledge over being and posits a priori mental structures which we can simply name and project onto the world, reducing the transcendence of the cosmos to the immanence of nature that can be manipulated at will.
Post-modernity is secular insofar as it argues that nothing is grounded in itself, let alone in God. Instead, all things are constituted by difference; difference always refers to more difference, infinitely so, without any ultimate basis or referent. And if all is dissolved into a non-descript flux of immediacy, then everything is denied any depth. As a result, religion becomes but one of many mental fictions or subjective emotions—or both. This is why the ‘post-modern turn’ of philosophy, theology, and politics has not so much coincided with the sudden resurgence of the religious. In fact, it marks the accelerated transmutation of religion into distinctly secular forms—the decline of traditional religion that commenced with modernity and the rise of new forms of religiosity and spirituality, a process that can be traced to the 1950s and 1960s.
Modernity and post-modernity are ultimately complicit in their denigration of universal concepts and particular practices. Against such concepts and practices, they collude in advocating general, formal, abstract, disembodied categories and structures—the state, the market, preference, will, power… To privilege such categories and structures is to favour managerial and procedural formalism at the expense of something like substantive ethics embodied in just and virtuous practices. To do so is to elevate vacuous generality over and above the particularly substantive and the relationally universal. And to do so is ultimately to drain being of both its substance and its relationality and to reduce all beings to atomised particles exposed to the arbitrariness of state and market power and their combined obsession with modernisation.
Indeed, just like (post-)modernity, modernisation is an equally empty concept. The Left, the Right and the Centre have all uncritically espoused some sort of techno-scientific progress which is self-legitimating, self-seeking and destructive of anything that may stand in the way of its inexorable expansion. Modernisation is heralded as a necessary and sufficient panacea to the socio-economic crisis that has followed the breakdown of the post-war consensus, especially the welfare state at the heart of social market democracy. In reality, modernisation serves as a blueprint to each and every kind of reform and leads to large-scale social engineering. As such, it has been administered to virtually all political, social, and cultural institutions. In their tacit collusion, the Right, the Left and the Centre have exposed all structures and practices not only to the volatility of ‘free market’ exchange, speculative capital and neo-mercantilism, but also to the arbitrariness of the central bureaucratic state and its armada of managers, accountants and auditors. In so doing, institutions have either been refashioned to meet the imperatives of the free market and the audit state or they have been eliminated altogether. John Gray puts this astutely: ‘‘We are all modernisers today. We have no idea what being modern means. But we are sure that it guarantees us a future.’’ The current consensus on the imperative of modernisation is an insult to anyone’s intelligence.
Needless to say that this obsession with modernising progress is profoundly reactionary. In the name of modernisation, all existing traditions and communities that dissent from the current consensus are destroyed; yet at the same time, techno-scientists and their political masters perpetuate the predominant order and shore it up against any systemic change, let alone any revolution. According to the Austrian political economist Joseph Schumpeter, this stability, which he describes as the incessant revolution from within or ‘creative destruction,’ is the essence of capitalism.
In their uncritical embrace of techno-scientism, the Left, the Right and the Centre are complicit in elevating modernisation into the sole, ultimate and absolute ‘tradition of progress,’ impervious to any evolution other than its own self-aggrandizement. The new consensus defends and promotes modernising techno-scientism by any reactionary means, whether through moral piety, legal repression or pre-emptive wars—or an ugly combination of them all. Under the guise of social utility and managerial pragmatism, the acolytes of the new consensus remove any limits to the apocalyptic deluge of modernisation—they are the apostles of ‘‘the new dark ages which are already upon us.’’
To say this is to say that the prevailing form of capitalism is part of a wider construct whose power is pervading all spheres of contemporary life. For there has been an increasingly close alignment not only of state and market power but also of the state, the market and civil society. Contrary to neo-liberal rhetoric, the relentless extension of market mechanisms has been accompanied by a systematic expansion of state power: what was property rights to laissez-faire in the 19th century and competition policy to Keynesian economics in the 20th century is targets and auditing to neo-liberalism in the early 21st century. In conjunction with the rise of global speculative capital, what we are facing is an inexorable centralisation and concentration of state and market power.
Moreover, civil society is no longer a counter-weight, never mind a force of effective resistance or a bearer of genuine alternatives. This is because all self-regulatory intermediary institutions like local government, universities, guilds, associations, and trusts have either come under state-cum-market control or have been abolished altogether. What is worse, civil society institutions, first and foremost a number of so-called NGOs, are in fact a central pillar in the consolidation and extension of the centralising market-state: they are known as the ‘third force’ of ‘people power,’ i.e. in addition to military and market agents they are the third element in the total equation of ‘regime change,’ whether in Central and Eastern Europe after 1989 or in Afghanistan and Iraq since 11 September 2001.
These and other institutions have become the willing executioners of the market-state’s historical testament: in the words of Francis Fukuyama, one of the champions of US triumphalism and the author of The end of history and the last man, ‘‘what we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.’’
Broadly speaking, neither economic globalisation nor global militarisation are wholly novel phenomena. What is novel, I would contend, is the historically unprecedented polarisation of politics around the unholy trinity of neo-liberalism, neo-realism, and neo-conservatism, which have become the predominant reference for all political ideologies—Left, Right, and Centre. This polarisation has led to an equally unprecedented re-alignment of the market, the state, and civil society. Under the idolatrous banner of divinely sanctioned ‘free market’ (Smith), state sovereignty (Hobbes) and ‘perpetual peace’ (Kant), they have all colluded to produce an all-encompassing and post-democratic ‘civil market state’ which engages in socio-economic exploitation and wages global war.
Advocates of the new consensus have also sought to extend this model across the globe with fanatic zeal, in the blind belief of their own self-righteousness. Only this sort of blind self-righteousness can account for what Robert Kagan, one of the ideologues of neo-conservatism, calls the ‘New World Order;’ only this sort of blind self-righteousness can account for ‘‘why it was always so easy for so many Americans to believe, as so many still believe today, that by advancing their own interests they advance the interests of humanity. As Benjamin Franklin put it, America’s cause ‘is the cause of all mankind.’’’
We are told that there is no alternative to the present system because it always and already embodies all the possibilities which are open to us—the fusion of the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet.’ At the ‘end of history,’ what is on exclusive offer is a future that holds nothing but more of the same virtual choice between equally valid opinions. But the new consensus does to stop at hollowing out the future by flattening the present; it also seeks to monopolise the past by rewriting history and co-opting traditions. In fact, the prevailing order claims for itself alone the entire legacy of modernity and the Enlightenment which it reads through the sole optic of positivism. In so doing, it portrays itself as the definitive accomplishment of the modern promise of tabula rasa—‘‘the blank sheet of infinite possibility.’’ Just as the post-modern perpetuates and intensifies modern structures of thought and practice, so the new consensus pursues and radicalises the liberal ‘will to power,’ in a perpetual self-exemption from the purportedly universal principles of liberalism. This hardly comes as a surprise, not least because classical ‘free-market’ liberalism has entertained hegemonic visions and engaged in monopolistic practices since its very inception, elevating itself into the ultimate first tradition.
The new consensus is grounded in a perverse yet coherent confluence of a blind faith in the universal soteriology of the ‘free-market’ and an empty rationality framed by pious utilitarianism and social Darwinism alike. It purports to deliver the fideistic-cum-rationalistic creed of positivism with a human face. Only this blind faith and empty rationality can sustain the contradiction at the heart of the prevailing order—promising to break the constricting shackles of tradition and to secure the diversity of difference, yet at the same time elevating ‘modernisation’ into the sole available tradition and failing to deliver either diversity or difference.
What this intimates is, I would argue, a phenomenon that can perhaps be described as ‘secular religion:’ the perverse yet coherent co-existence of the overtly pious and the deeply profane within a unitary ideology. This is true for the two ideologies that are widely assumed to inform the ‘clash of civilisations’ and the new ‘wars of religion’—neo-liberal Western market democracy and neo-feudalist Islamic network terrorism. Neo-liberalism displays a pious hope in the goodness of unrestrained ‘modernisation,’ which it seeks to extend across the globe with fanatic zeal, trusting its own self-righteousness. Islamic terrorism exhibits a fideistic belief in the unmediated revelation of God’s wholly arbitrary will and deploys ultra-modern high-tech means in the quest to recreate a Pan-Islamic caliphate. Secular religion, whether Western or Islamic, is exclusive and totalitarian, in the sense that it rests on an irreducible friend-foe logic and proclaims a final judgement without redemption: ‘You are either with us or against us.’ In the name of universal salvation, secular religion also licenses total war of ‘us’ against ‘them,’ whether jihad or the ‘just war’ on terror and in Iraq.
Modern-cum-postmodern secular religion marks an unholy alliance of narrow particularism and expansive universalism, to the detriment of any inclusive, shared commonality. In equating the particularly relativist with the absolutely universalist, secular religion negates any difference and mediation between what is and what could be. As a result, it precludes any enactment of real alternatives. To say this is to say that secular religion suspends being and politics alike. Any genuine resistance and alternative to secular religion can perhaps only be an ontology and a politics that are neither purely secular nor exclusively religious but grounded in common terms. What is at stake is an account of being and politics that is more universal than absolutism and more particular than relativism, i.e. open, inclusive and specific to local, regional and national differences insofar as they are civic (not violent) and threatened in their existence by the uniformising tendencies of the civil market state.
For it is relativism and absolutism that have colluded to produce the culture and politics which underlie the civil market state and secular religion. The dominant culture tells us that universal concepts are as meaningless as common practices are obsolete. Surely nothing is intelligible or defensible outside personal taste and subjective opinion. To invoke the common good and universal truth—never mind to suggest that between them some relation might pertain—is but idle conjecture, in flagrant violation of the new total relativism that lurks behind the tolerance of plural values and the diversity of unreserved difference.
Yet at the same time, contemporary politics tells us that there is no alternative to
liberal constitutional democracy, capitalist market economy, and global civil society. To be sure, the Left, the Right and the Centre continue to exhibit differences in emphasis—more social justice on the Left, more individual freedom on the Right, more civil liberties in the Centre. But there is a significant, perhaps historically unprecedented, alignment of state, market, and civil power in a quest to enforce the current consensus against any resistance.
What is more, cultural relativism and political absolutism imply and reinforce each other. Within the current consensus, everyone is entitled to their opinion; outside and beyond this consensus, there are now but extremists and terrorists. Relativism and absolutism are equally arbitrary and abstract, in the sense that they engage in coercion, not persuasion, and are grounded in general disembodied categories and structures like ‘rights’ and ‘choice’ which are removed from particular practices and universal ideas alike.
If there is ever to be any resistance and alternative to the prevailing consensus, then politics and religion can no longer endorse the present order or seek to replace it with an equally arbitrary absolute. Instead, politics and religion must recover that which they both speak to—a universal commonality that blends and elevates the local, the national and the global, and the individual, the communal and the collective. The mark of this universal commonality is the relation between questions about the nature of the good and of being—what is, what could be and what ought to be. However, according to the present configuration both politics and religion fail to translate this universal commonality into practices that are available to all.
Politics purports to provide a shared public realm; yet at present politics fails to give an account of what it is that binds us together, to which end and why. Without concepts of the good and practices of justice (beyond the blind ideology of Manicheanism-cum-Pelagianism and the empty mechanics of redistributive ‘social justice’), politics is but the service of sectional interest and arbitrary power. Equally, religion purports to blend the universality of Revelation with the particularity of salvation; yet at present religion fails to demonstrate why unity secures and enables (rather than negates) multiplicity and that the telos of religious practices is not the self-aggrandisement of the ecclesia but the transformation of the polis towards a just and inclusive order. Without rationally intelligible concepts and transformative practices, religion reduces conversion to little more than bourgeois fideism and surrenders authority to secular forces with which it becomes complicit. If politics and religion are to be true to their genuinely universal vocation, then nothing less than a common ontology of particular beings and a common ethics of virtuous practices will be necessary (though undoubtedly not sufficient) to overcome the prevailing consensus and offer a real alternative.
The works of the French philosopher Maurice Blondel are visionary in this respect. For Blondel’s phenomenology of action is the prolegomenon to something like a theologically framed ontology of Tradition. Blondel seeks to demonstrate rationally that ideas come to full fruition in action alone and that action as informed by ideas is the most fundamental reality of life, at once necessary, voluntary and self-transcending. The immanent will is never equal to that which it aspires to: what the will comes to will exceeds its own immanent resources. Action is that which responds to the natural insufficiency and the supernatural desire and thereby elevates the ‘willing will’ (volonté voulante) to the ‘willed will’ (volonté voulue) and the immanent to the threshold of transcendence: ‘‘Down to the last detail of the last imperceptible phenomenon, mediating action makes up the truth and the being of all that is. And it would be strange indeed to be able to explain anything apart from Him without whom nothing has been made, without whom all that has been falls back into nothingness’’.
The self-transcendence of action in action is neither extrinsic (an attribute known by induction from experience) nor historicist (an attribute known by deduction from historical facts). Self-transcendent action, as Blondel anticipated, is below at the same time as beyond the factuality of history and the normativity of dogma because it always already binds together fact and value and situates them in being. The profundity and the mysteriousness of being are irreducible to the absolute, clear, and distinct foundations of modernity and to the post-modern unmediated flux of given events. In this sense, the ecstatic transcendence of being is discernible in action. This is why the philosophy of action ‘‘studies the multiple regular and methodically determinable paths by which clear and articulate knowledge comes to express more and more fully the profound realities whence it nourishes itself’’.
In action, all beings disclose their radical ontological indigence at the same time as their natural desire to be. Indigence of being and desire to be call forth the prudent preservation and the perfective completion of being. Self-transcendent action is the mark of Tradition, in the sense of enacting the good as it communicates itself in the beauty of all beings. To say this is to say that Tradition describes something like testimony to the action of transcendence within immanence. Absolute immanence is absolute transcendence, ‘‘more interior to me than I to myself’’. Tradition is grounded in the past and intimates the future, in that nothing is self-standing or self-sufficient and everything is brought into being in order that it may be and testify to being which is shared in by all beings. As testimony of being in beings, Tradition alerts us to our constitutive indigence and our self-transcendent desire to be, so that we may testify to the goodness and beauty of being which is intimated in all traditions.
 O. Gierke, Die Grundbegriffe des Staatsrechts und die neuesten Staatsrechtstheorien; Naturrecht und deutsches Recht, Berlin: Scientia; F. W. Maitland, English law and the renaissance: the Rede lecture for 1901 (Cambridge: CUP, 1901), Maitland, Selected Essays, ed. H.D. Hazeltine, G. Lapsley, P.H. Winfield (Cambridge: CUP, 1936), Maitland, State, trust and corporation (Cambridge: CUP, 2003); J. N. Figgis, Studies of Political Thought. From Gerson to Grotius, 1414-1625 (Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 1998 [orig.published 1916]); Hans Blumenberg, Die Legitimität der Neuzeit (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1996 [orig. publ. 1966]); Karl Löwith, Gott, Mensch und Welt in der Metaphysik von Descartes bis zu Nietzsche (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck u. Ruprecht, 1967); Louis Dupré, Passage to Modernity. An essay in the hermeneutics of nature and culture (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993).
 One of the groundbreaking achievements of Radical Orthodoxy is to provide a theological account of the secular turn of theology which underlies the inception of modernity. This recognition is shared by an increasing number of contemporary thinkers, for instance Stanley Hauerwas, in his A Better Hope. Resources for a Church confronting capitalism, democracy, and postmodernity, Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2000, p. 38, 224 n.10-12. For an exposition of the works of Radical Orthodoxy on the nominalist turn and for an account of 11th-nominalism, see my ‘De la chrétienté à la modernité? Une lecture critique des thèses de Radical Orthodoxy sur la rupture scotiste et ockhamienne et sur le renouveau de la théologie de Saint Thomas,’ Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques vol. 86, n.4 (octobre-décembre 2002), pp. 563-599.
 I agree with Terry Eagleton’s characterisation of postmodernism as an intellectual style and a cultural movement and with Stanley Hauerwas’ contention that there is no self-evident relation between a heterogeneous intellectual style and a coherent cultural movement. See Terry Eagleton, The Illusions of Postmodernism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), introduction, and Hauerwas, A Better Hope, op. cit. , pp. 35-46. For an account of the extent and the limits of the cultural reality of postmodernism, see David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity. An enquiry into the origins of cultural change (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990). The point about modernity and postmodernity is perhaps that they are allied in subordinating the objectivity of transcendent being to the subjectivity of immanent beings. See main text.
 Callum G. Brown, The Death of Christian Britain: Understanding Secularisation, 1800-2000 (London and New York: Routledge, 2001).
 Gilbert Hottois provides a nuanced account of ‘techno-science.’ See his Philosophies des sciences, philosophies des techniques (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2004), esp. pp. 119-171. Cf. Pierre-André Taguieff, Le sens du progrès. Une approche historique et philosophique (Paris: Ed. Flammarion, 2004), esp. pp. 335-425.
 John Gray, Straw Dogs. Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (London: Granta, 2003 [orig. pub. 2002]), p. 173.
 Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, socialism, and democracy (New York: Harper, 1975 [orig. pub. 1942]), esp. pp. 82-85.
 Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue A study in moral theory (2nd ed., London: Duckworth, 1985), p. 263.
 On the 19th-century, see Karl Polyani, The Great Transformation. The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (Boston: Beacon Press, 1944). On the 20th- and the 21st-century, see John Gray’s account of Thatcherite neo-liberalism and Blairist ‘third-way’ in his ‘Blair’s project in retrospect,’ International Affairs vol. 80, no. 1 (January 2004), pp. 39-48.
 See Mark Almond, ‘The Price of People Power,’ The Guardian 7 December 2004; John Laughland, ‘The mythology of people power,’ The Guardian 1 April 2005. For a detailed account of such and similar civil society activities, see Ann M. Florini, ed., The Third Force: The Rise of Transnational Civil Society (Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2000).
 Francis Fukuyama, ‘The End of History?,’ The National Interest (Summer 1989), p. 3. See also Fukuyama, The end of history and the last man (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1992); Fukuyama, ‘On the Possibility of Writing a Universal History,’ in Arthur M. Melzer, Jerry Weinberger and M. Richard Zinman, eds., History and the Idea of Progress (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995), pp. 13-29.
 On neo-liberalism, see my ‘Immanence, Religion and Political Economy: A Short Genealogy of Neo-liberalism,’ online at http://www.isa.unibo.it/focus%20group/ideas/pabst.pdf
 For an endorsement of the ‘market state,’ see Philip Bobbitt, The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History (London: Penguin, 2003 [orig. pub. 2002]), pp. 213-242, 798-807. For a concise theological and political critique, see a lecture by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams ‘The Richard Dimbleby Lecture 2002,’ online at http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/sermons_speeches/2002/021219.html. On global war, see Michael Northcott, An Angel Directs the Storm: Apocalyptic Religion and American Empire (London: I. B. Tauris, 2004) and my ‘Can There Be a Just Peace without a Just War?,’ paper delivered at the Peterhouse Theory Group, 10th March 2004, Peterhouse, University of Cambridge (manuscript to be submitted to Studies in Christian Ethics).
 Robert Kagan, Paradise and Power. America and Europe in the New World Order (London: Atlantic Books, 2003), p. 88.
 Andrew Wernick, Auguste Comte and the religion of humanity: the post-theistic program of French social theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), esp. pp. 1-21, 186-220; John Gray, Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern (London: Faber and Faber, 2003), esp. pp. 5-43, 101-119. While Gray’s genealogy of neo-liberalism traces the dogma of ‘free-market’ back to positivism with great accuracy and insight, his account of terrorism and of fundamentalism is deeply flawed. Not only does he draw parallels with National Socialism that are historically and philosophically untenable. He also fails to grasp religion outside and beyond the logic of pre-modern violent paganism and (post-)modern blind rationalism. Gray’s intellectually lazy despair of religion is evinced by the following passage: ‘‘Though we can imagine such a world [Euripides’ prophetic embrace of the virtue of fate in the face of chaos and disaster], it is hard to imagine anything resembling it coming about by design. The proselytising fury of faith – religious and secular – forbids any peaceful evolution.’’
 Michael J. Oakeshott, ‘Rationalism in politics,’ in Oakeshott, Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays (edited by Timothy Fuller, Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1991), p. 9.
 On the profound continuities between modern and post-modern philosophy and politics, see Catherine Pickstock, ‘Postmodern Scholasticism. Critique of Postmodern Univocity,’ Telos vol. 33, no. 4, Number 126 (Winter 2003), pp. 3-24. For an account of how the unholy trinity of neo-liberals, neo-realists, and neo-conservatives has extended liberal ‘perpetual war,’ which is the mark of modern state and market formation, see my ‘The Politics of Liberal War,’ manuscript under review by Millennium.
 For a non-liberal account of this self-elevation, see Alasdair MacIntyre, ‘Liberalism Transformed into a Tradition,’ in MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (London: Duckworth, 1988), pp. 326-348.
 On the decline of universal virtues and the emergence of moral relativism, the best account remains MacIntyre’s seminal After Virtue, op. cit.
 Contrary to idealism, eternal ideas cannot be grasped by the sole speculation of a finite mind but only become intelligible in their unfolding over time in practice. Against nihilism, Blondel maintains that action is the most constant ‘fact of life,’ both necessary and voluntary, since affirming nothing rests on an ontological argument? The will to nothing (nolonté) is itself grounded in the thought of something. Against secular philosophy, Blondel also shows that action is never the sole outcome of innate ideas and the will per se, because nature, if understood as pure immanence, cannot bridge the gap between the ‘willing will’ and the ‘willed will’ (volonté voulante et voulue), i.e. between our initial and our effective will. See Blondel, L’Action (1893). Essai d’une critique de la vie et d’une science de la pratique (Paris: PUF, 1950), pp. 1-86.
 Blondel, L’Être et les Êtres. Essai d’ontologie concrète et intégrale (Paris : Felix Alan, 1935), p. 424.
 According to Blondel, ‘extrinsicism’ is grounded in a mind-world dualism and postulates a separation between ‘facts’ and their meaning, reducing the relation between thought and life on the one hand, and truth on the other, to a purely extrinsic one. ‘Historicism’ stipulates the autonomy of history vis-à-vis all other sciences and dismisses all sources of knowledge other than ‘historical facts,’ thereby subordinating ontology to epistemology, itself reduced to the sole activity of the mind. See Blondel, ‘Histoire et dogme. Les lacunes philosophiques de l’exégèse moderne’ (1904), in Œuvres complètes, pp. 391-430.
 Ibid. , p. 438 (my italics).
 Augustine, Confessions III, 6, 11.
Adrian Pabst is at Peterhouse, Cambridge, and is a research student in the Philosophy of Religion in the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge. He previously studied philosophy and theology in Paris. He has published articles on patristic and medieval philosophy and political theology in international journals, including Telos and Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques. He is the co-author (with Olivier-Thomas Venard) of Radical Orthodoxy. Pour une révolution théologique (Geneva: Ad Solem, 2004). He is currently completing his Ph.D on individuation and creation. He also holds degrees in economics and political philosophy. Since 1998, he has been a Research Fellow at the Luxembourg Institute for European and International Studies.