Saturday, January 23, 2010

Scripturalism and Dialogue

Continuing with the examination of questions I am most often asked upon an explanation of my epistemological beliefs (see here and here), sometimes the questions are phrased in a question begging manner. For instance, when I explain that I reject empiricism, I am often asked why I even dialogue with people. After all, if I don't think the use of the senses are valid bases for justifying knowledge claims, what's the point? For all I know, I could be talking to a tree. Is the concept of dialogue the straw that breaks the Scripturalist's back? 

Firstly, as is fast becoming my motto: "every epistemological system stands or falls on the merits of its first principle[s]; thus, an argument against a first principle should be a reductio ad absurdem." At best, then, the above criticism merely shows me to be inconsistent in practice. In itself, the question doesn't imply anything about the first principle of Scripturalism. 

More importantly, however, the question is phrased in such a way as though it should be obvious that I am in dialogue, as though the idea I'm talking to a person is a brute fact. This is not so. If this claim is to have any force, the objector must explain the means by which he can [justifiably] know he is talking to me, and this inevitably fails. 

But how, then, is one to account for the Scripturalist's behavior? If I cannot know that I am in dialogue, why can it seem that way? If I am going to be consistent with Scripturalism, I must indeed admit I am opining any conversation; however - and this is the point - the purpose of epistemology is not so much a justification of one's beliefs to others as it is to oneself. Self-realized problems with various epistemologies or one's own epistemology may be introduced through the medium of opinion; I was reminded, for instance, of the issue of the canon when I opined a "C"atholic asked me about it (see above link). When one considers that one's opinions are the ultimate products of God, and that God causes everything for a reason, it is not surprising that Scripturalists should venture into alleged communication: to measure what is opined against God's word. Hence, when a question comes to mind through the medium of alleged dialogue, as was the case with the canon, I returned to God's word to answer the question, a question which, even if a "C"atholic did not ask me, still enabled me to grow in grace and knowledge of God, enabling me to glorify in His sufficiency all the more. And that is the chief end of man, is it not?

1 comment:

Joshua Butcher said...

I find that empiricists give, at once, too much and too little credit to what is considered "knowledge." Too much, because they think they know, by empirical epistemology, much more than can actually be known, for their reduce all knowledge to the level of belief. Then, they attribute to little to belief, for the Scripturalist, while he has a narrow view of knowledge, recognizes the central role that belief plays in the affairs of human life, not least of which is his culpability before God (as a man thinks, so he is; whatever is not of faith is sin).

In his debate with Hoover, Clark was asked whether or not he could know a tree that he could see with his own eyes. Clark obviously denies knowledge of any tree, for he could provide no adequate definition of what a tree is, nor could Hoover prove how his sensations of sight could produce perception of the idea "tree" from some image recast in the mind from the sensation.

The empiricist rejects Scripturalism in much the same way as the unbeliever rejects God--he assumes his own belief is correct without having provided any definitions or demonstration, and because that belief makes his opponent's belief impossible, he simply rejects it on the basis of an assumption he has no knowledge of at all!