Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Connect the Dots

Before you, there is a paper extending up and down, left and right as far as the eye can see. On this paper, there are trillions and trillions of dots, much too many to count. Each of these dots represents a distinct proposition. If you connect the dots which represent true propositions, you will see a most beautiful picture, beautiful beyond imagination.

But how do you know which propositions are true? Where do you begin? You guess. You start connecting dots you would like to be true, but pretty soon you've crossed and re-crossed over so many lines that the tangled mess you see makes it evident that at some point, you've connected to at least one dot representing a false proposition.

You erase the picture and start again. But you think more carefully about how to begin this time. You remember as a child drawing rudimentary connect-the-dots images by following a series of numbers. You think that if you begin with dots representing propositions which claim to be the root of knowledge of other propositions, you might achieve similar results.

So you begin with one such dot with which you are familiar. You think a great many people would have pictures starting with this dot. You see no harm in trying it. Even when this leads to another distorted picture, you shrug and start again. You didn't expect to get it right the first or second time anyway. Who could expect you to?

But then you falter again. And then again. And again. And each time you think you can make a slight adjustment which will hold the core together, you come across a dot representing a proposition which collapses the entire system.

Soon, you encounter dots which not only overthrow particular attempted drawings but question the entire enterprise. They tease you, reading, "you did not draw connect-the-dot images as a child," and "no one else would start with that dot," and "you are indeed expected to get the picture right the first time," and "there is no beautiful picture to be found after all." Each dot brings a new frustration.

It's not long after that you begin to despair: How much time have I spent on this stupid dream! Demonic dots seem to leap off the paper, each prompting, demanding you answer overwhelming questions: What is time? Who am I? Where am I? Depression and fatigue set in, and you wonder if there's a time limit for the completion of the picture... if there is even paper on which to draw. What are these words I am thinking? Do words represent thoughts, or are they the thoughts, or do they represent something else about which I am thinking, or...? You fancy yourself going mad. Am I in control of my thoughts? Was I ever? What's the point?


My reader, the prospect is too big. You can't do it by yourself. Contrary to what some will tell you, as if they could even know, it is not in your trying to construct a masterpiece that you will find happiness - this doomed effort will not yield a happiness worth knowing, at any rate - but rather in the recognition of one already drawn by another.

If one tried, on his own, to connect the dots from scratch, he could, at best, only discover a few necessary conditions for knowledge. Even then, he would never know if he had a sufficient condition - and this fact would undermine any possibility of justifying knowledge-claims of these necessary conditions - because that presupposes eternal omniscience. To claim to know one proposition presupposes knowledge that its truth value isn't contingent on the truth value of an unknown proposition. This is only possible if one is eternally omniscient or has received self-authenticating revelation from one who is eternally omniscient.

The fact is, dots have already been connected for us if we are but willing to trace the lines of God's word. That is the self-attesting source from which we must begin, to which we return, and by which we will be able to see a picture of true worth.

Ecclesiastes 12:11 The words of the wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd.
12 But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.
13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.
14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.


徐马可 said...

Ryan, what is your email address, I need to send you something.

Ryan said...