What we can speak about,
we can define and propose in a coherent manner.
What we cannot define and propose in a coherent manner,
whether it concerns factual, modal or normative conditions,
we have to pass over in silence.
What we do not have to pass over in silence,
whether it concerns factual, modal or normative conditions,
what we can define and propose in a coherent manner,
and thus
what we can speak about.


A fundamental distinction of ontology is that between 'the world' and 'thoughts about this world'. In more technical terms, between propositional reality and nonpropositional reality or the ground-world. Things in the latter world, like ourselves as human beings, can have both nonpropositional predicates and thoughts, that is, things with propositional features. However, ground-world things cannot have such propositional features themselves. With regard to the phenomenon of exclusivism, this means that a nonpropositional object can be excluded or (made) exclusive on the basis of:

  1. a nonpropositional predicate it has; or on the basis of
  2. a thought, or system of thought, it has or is somehow related to.

In the former case the exclusivism concerns only ground-facts (or ground-modes), in the latter case also facts (or modes) of thought. If the nonpropositional object is excluded or (made) exclusive on the basis of a nonpropositional predicate it has, the exclusivism is 'basic', both in the sense of being nonpropositional itself and in the sense of not being related to a thought or system of thought. If the nonpropositional object is a person who is excluded or (made) exclusive on the basis of 'er thoughts, or the body of thought 'e embraces, then the exclusivism is called "thought-related person-centered)". But because of the object concerned such an exism is still classified as "nonpropositional".

If both the object and the feature on the basis of which it is excluded or (made) exclusive are propositional, we do not classify the phenomenon, because the norm of inclusivity is a ground-norm which only deals with distinctions in the ground-world. Yet, some things are differentiated in the ground-world while the factor of distinction appears to be one dealing with the nonsubstantive features of theorizing itself. This concerns, then, quite abstract things like 'reason' and 'experience'. In thought-related person-centered exclusivisms it is people who are treated differently because they do believe in a particular god, or do not believe in that god, or because they believe in the dictatorship of a particular class, or do not believe in the dictatorship of that class. Now, in what will be called "sophistic exclusivism" (X.3) here, it is nonpersonal ground-world things which are treated differently because of a nonrelevant distinction which is made with respect to a thought or system of thought as thought or system of thought (or as a mode of thinking). Thus it has not so much to do with the content of thought (for example, with what it has to say about gods and demons or social classes), but with its relations with the persons thinking. This form of exclusivism is labeled "sophistic" since it deals with the way wisdom can be attained and communicated; and this by deceptively submitting the several ways as mutually exclusive roads of which only one is the true or good one.

At least three types of sophistic exclusivism should be listed:

  1. presentational exclusivism (X.13):
    this concerns the antithesis between symbolic exclusivism and literalism or 'realism' with respect to the communication of thought;
  2. emotion- (and reason-) related exclusivism (X.14):
    this concerns the antithesis between feeling and reason as guiding people's thinking and thought-related acting; and
  3. experience- (and reason-) related or epistemological exclusivism (X.15):
    this concerns the antithesis between experience and reason as sources of knowledge.

The complemental manifestations of experience-related exism are experience-centered and reason-centered epistemological exism. If aggrandizemental, experience-centered exism involves, or is nothing else than, empiricism (X.15.50.2). And similarly, reason-centered exism involves, or is nothing else than, apriorism or rationalism (X.15.51.2). We have already discussed these 'sophisms' in Knowledge and faith (I.4.3.1). Granted that it is not true that experience is the sole source of knowledge, or that reason is, the belief that it is, or the desire to prove that it is, is exclusivistic. Inclusivistic is the assumption that experience and reason both are sources of knowledge, unless there is the strongest evidence to the contrary. (But what would that evidence have to be: exclusively empirical? or exclusively rational?) This is the epistemological facet of inclusivity (N.15).

The complemental manifestations of emotion-related exism are emotion-centered and reason-centered emotion- (and reason-)based exism. If aggrandizemental, emotion-centered exism involves, or is nothing else than, emotionalism (X.14.50.2). This is the belief in emotions, personal feelings, private experience, natural impulses and/or primal instincts as guides for all thinking and acting, or the tendency to look at things in a purely emotive way. It also involves subjectivism as a theory which stresses the subjective elements in experience. If aggrandizemental reason-centered emotion-related exism involves, or is nothing else than, emotion-related rationalism (X.14.51.2); if abnegational, then irrationalism (X.14.51.3). Typical of irrationalists in this sense is their misology, that is, hatred of argument or reasoning. (This component is sentimental abnegational: X.14.51.7.) De facto irrationalism amounts to aggrandizemental emotion-centered exism. Both complemental manifestations of emotion-related exism are antithetical to emotion- (and reason-) related inclusivity (N.14). This facet of inclusivity emphasizes that personal feelings and impulses may be relevant when the belief or action they are to guide do only concern one's own person, whereas they are irrelevant as the sole guide in a belief or action that reaches beyond the scope of one's own person. A 'rational' or intersubjective approach is, then, required where different people have different feelings or emotions, but have to cooperate nevertheless. This is not to say that no emotion should ever be taken into account (as the exclusive rationalist might claim); it does mean, however, that no personal emotion, or addition sum of personal emotions, can ever be the sole guide in interpersonal affairs.

In the question of how thought or propositional attitudes are, can or should be presented there are people who exclude or badly undervalue the meaning of symbols, or of nonverbal symbols, in interpersonal communication. They are literalists or 'realists' who exclusively trust in (what they believe to be) 'exact' language as a means of communication and who will only accept the explicit substance of something presented. Evidently, this position is not tenable, and not only because also everyday language makes abundant use of figures of speech which cannot be taken literally. And in other fields than the linguistic one it is not tenable either; at least, if it is agreed that things like national holidays, public ceremonies, flags and traffic signs are all symbols or symbolic occasions which do convey a meaning even when not one word is spoken. Whether they convey wisdom is not a question of their symbolic presentation, but of the content and foundation of the symbolism -- a different matter altogether.

Literal and symbolic presentations can be, and usually are, combined. Therefore literalism or exclusivist realism (X.13.50) is a complemental manifestation. Its complement is symbolic exclusivism (X.13.51). As the name betrays, this is an exclusive or exaggerated belief in symbols as means of communication, that is, symbols other than those used in literal and exact languages. It does not take into account that symbolism is by its very nature ambiguous and can admit of widely divergent interpretations. Only in combination with a more or less literal system of communication can symbols acquire, not just a meaning, but a proper meaning. (Thus there will be no love lost between us and those who substitute symbolism for every attempt to literally present and interpret a world-view.)

The facet of inclusivity in which both literal communication and symbols are treated in their own right may be called "presentational" (N.13). It is when this presentational inclusivity is applied to our own denominational doctrine that its meaning can be fully grasped. As discussed in the Book of Instruments, symbolism is an essential part of denominationalism, but so is in our case the literal presentation of what we believe in and stand for. This literal presentation is our main concern in the present book, for we shall only employ metaphors and symbols to characterize views arrived at via considerations independent of metaphorical or symbolic language. In the Book of Symbols it will become clear, however, that literalism certainly is not our exclusive concern.

©MVVM, 41-57 ASWW

Model of Neutral-Inclusivity
Book of Fundamentals
The Manifestations of Exclusivism
Exclusivistic But Not Subanthropic