Now, I do not wish to give the impression I reject all of his metaphysical considerations. For example, while I am not sure when it was written, in some comments on Hebrews 11:3, Clark wrote (link):
A blueprint is the physical pattern of something to be constructed in three dimensions. A Tinkertoy, itself in three dimensions, can be a pattern of a larger physical body. But can a spiritual, intellectual, invisible, incorporeal Philonic Idea be a pattern of a three dimensional tabernacle? Can the things that are seen (phenomena) have been made of things which do not appear (noumenal)? Read 11:3.
Yes, Hebrews 11:3 is an interesting verse. First, it must be translated. The King James, the New American Standard, Rienecker in his Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, and a similar work by Hughes, all agree on essentially the same translation: “so that what is seen has not come into being from things which appear.” The Roman Catholic New American Bible has the more positive rendering, “what is visible came into being through the invisible.” The Jerusalem Bible has a looser insipid translation: “so that no apparent cause can account for the things we can see.” Owen in his immense commentary remarks that “these words...have much of obscurity and difficulty in them.” The King James and the New American Standard are grammatically correct. I might put it a little more crudely, ‘What is seen is that which has not come from phenomena.” The New American Bible is not an accurate translation, but it seems to be an excellent interpretation. And the interpretation is not so difficult as Owen leads us to believe. Especially when compared with verses in the Pentateuch the words strongly suggest that the visible world came from a suprasensible, ideal world. The term noumena is not in the text; but what else could to me ek phainomenon mean? Phenomena come from noumena. Certainly the verse in Hebrews does not forbid this interpretation.
In the next paragraph he states “The Tinkertoy is real…” And earlier, he affirmed that “this visible olam hazeh” is “really ephemeral.” I find this analysis to be excellent. The contrast between physical phenomena and spiritual noumena, the assertion that the former is patterned after the latter, and his assertion both are real all seem to coincide with my own views.
But in Clark and His Critics (pg. 146-149), he rejects the “existence of an unknowable Ding-an-sich” or thing-in-itself, replying to Nash that he does “not remember saying that the created world is an imperfectly real, unknowable object.” He further states that there is no knowledge that is non-proposition.
While I agree that there is no knowledge that is non-propositional (in the philosophic sense anyway), the implication that the created world is a knowable object rather than a Ding-an-sich calls into question just how visible phenomena contrasts with invisible noumena. Is the contrast merely that phenomena is ephemeral whereas noumena is not? Are both propositions? If phenomena is not propositional, is the assertion of such not an assertion of the existence of an unknowable Ding-an-sich? Then again, it is difficult to imagine what it means to say propositions are visible. It is even more difficult to imagine – especially considering Clark’s position as a whole – what it means to say propositions are created. Is God’s knowledge created? If so, then given Clark’s definition of individual human and divine persons, this would mean God is metaphysically dependent on creation:
…a man is a congeries, a system, sometimes an agglomeration of miscellany, but at any rate a collection of thoughts. A man is what he thinks: and no two men are precisely the same combination.
This is true of the Trinity also, for although each of the three Persons is omniscient, one thinks “I or my collection of thoughts is the Father,” and the second thinks, “I or my thoughts will assume or have assumed a human nature.” The Father does not think this second thought, nor does the Son think the first. (The Trinity, Individuation)
For the Father to think “I am Creator” presupposes a creation, the truthmaker for that proposition. But if God metaphysically just is what He thinks and one of His thoughts is dependent upon the fact of creation, God is metaphysically dependent on creation. I don’t have a problem with the idea that thoughts individuate. But I see no reason to leap from that conclusion to the idea that persons are equivalent to their thoughts, which is what Clark seems to have done.
Instead, I think a better definition would be that a person is an ego, the possessor of a mind or minds capable of reflexive indexation. These words could each be defined and each definition could be true without its being the case that some “real” Ding-an-sich can’t correspond to them. I think the so-called empirical representational theory of truth in which truth images the physical reality to which it merely corresponds scared Clark away from any type of correspondence – hence the seeming propositional monism. As can be seen in his book The Incarnation, it seems to have had significant consequences. But if we maintain the general priority of the noumena over the phenomena – or more broadly, propositional Ideas to things-in-themselves – I think these hazards can be avoided. At the very least, this alternative is certainly worth exploring.