a1 University of Calgary
Kai Nielsen is perhaps the most prolific of contemporary philosophers in Canada, as well as one of the most interesting. There are three salient aspects of his philosophy: his Marxism, his anti-foundationalism, and his particular brand of atheism. (The point of that last phrase will become clear in due course.) Among a large number of objections which I have to Nielsen's arguments and conclusions, one in particular stands out. I do not see how anti-fideism can consistently be combined with anti-foundationalism. The essence offideismis that one does not deem it necessary to rationally justify one's (typically religious) position, but one just “plumps for” it. But any justification of a (religious or other) position appears to involve appeal to foundations. Either the reasons in accordance with which a belief or set of beliefs is to be accepted can at least in principle be spelled out; or the belief or set of beliefs is arbitrary and unjustified. Nielsen needs to grasp the former horn of the dilemma to attack religious beliefs in the way he does; but to do so necessarily involves the foundationalism which he also attacks. A lot of the special quality of Nielsen, as a philosopher, comes out in the devices with which he covers over this intellectual crevasse.