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Lost in the Chaos

Lost in the Chaos

Immanence, Despair, Hope

By R. J. Snell

194 pp

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About the Book

A world lacking transcendence is a world lacking hope—a world locked in the despair of utter immanence. Humans cannot long endure despair, and so they contrive false substitutes for hope. But these always disappoint. This book first explores the despair that follows from radical immanence, then the manifold false and flailing attempts to provide hope, and then, finally, hope in its fullness. It is a troubling tale of malaise and feverish attempts to conjure alternatives, especially through political rationalism, humanitarianism, and faux enchantment. But, after looking despair full in the face, Lost in the Chaos also offers us a dynamic ontology, a cognitional theory, and the virtue of hope itself. Yes, ours is in many ways a hopeless age, but in the end this hopelessness is a call to renewed hope, which has never truly been lost.


“Drawing on ‘the best that has been thought and said’ by the ancients as well as the moderns, R. J. Snell in Lost in the Chaos confronts the decadence, disorder, and despair of contemporary life in the Western democracies and points the way to moral reformation and spiritual renewal. This is philosophy in the original and highest sense—the intellect deployed relentlessly in pursuit of wisdom. No questions are dodged, no tough issues are

avoided, no punches are pulled.”—ROBERT P. GEORGE, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University


“We have reached a dead-end in the West. R. J. Snell provides a smart, spiritually astute diagnosis of our present metaphysical and theological afflictions, which are far more debilitating that our political distempers. And more—and more importantly—he outlines a way of being in the world that is grateful,

supple, and open to love’s greater knowledge. A must read.”—R. R. RENO, Editor, First Things


“No one can deny that we live in a confused era. Lost in the Chaos is a profound meditation on the causes of our current cultural and personal malaises, and a sharp warning against fantastical solutions. R. J. Snell rightly insists on the need to see the world as bountiful in being, the mind as receptive to this bounty, and for all of our lives to be grounded in a

hope that is real. This book will help you understand our civilizational moment, and how to respond.”—RYAN T. ANDERSON, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center


“With admirable clarity and impressive erudition lightly worn, R. J. Snell’s latest book shows that moral and intellectual chaos is not the final word on the modern human condition. If late modernity reveals itself far more as chaos than as cosmos, hope abounds in openness to the things of the spirit—and to the restoration of the humanizing interrogation that attunes human beings to the

divine ground of existence. Snell also keenly warns against the false paths that reinforce our late modern maladies: play-acting at enchantment,

rationalist posturing, and humanitarian substitutes for true love of God and true love of neighbor.”—DANIEL J. MAHONEY, Professor Emeritus at

Assumption University and author of The Idol of Our Age: How the Religion of Humanity Subverts Christianity 

About the Author

R. J. SNELL is director of academic programs at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, NJ, and Editor-in-Chief of The Public Discourse. He is the author of many essays in scholarly and popular journals. Recent books include Mind, Heart, and Soul: Intellectuals and the Path to Rome (with Robert P. George), and Acedia and Its Discontents: Metaphysical Boredom in an Empire of Desire.

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