Sunday, February 10, 2013

Emotions and Propositional Correspondence

A few posts ago, in the course of rejecting any sort of metaphysical monism, whether mental or propositional (idealism) or corporeal or physical (physicalism), I mentioned that things-in-themselves can correspond to propositions:
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.
See here as well:
Metaphysically, Scripturalism does not necessarily promote a purely mental realm. Propositional truth, however, maintains a logical primacy over a “physical” realm insofar as the latter is a creation patterned after the former. The physical qua physical cannot be “known” by definition; knowledge is propositional belief in which the possibility of error is precluded. In other words, this is a sort of opposite to the correspondence theory of truth; it is a correspondence theory of corporeality in which the physical provides a sensible representation of eternal truth. 
While the priority of the correspondence is a question worth exploring - are [some] propositions true because they correspond to some metaphysical thing-in-itself, or are some [and especially physical] things-in-themselves “real” because they correspond to some truth? - these questions about theories of truth and the relationship between epistemology and metaphysics are obviously quite intricate. A little too intricate for this post. I’ve stated some thoughts on the former elsewhere (here and here, for example). For now, I’ll content myself with yet another shot at the idea Christianity is compatible with propositional monism. Given the necessity of knowledge (see here and here), it seems clear that it would be the only type of monism which would’t prima facie be necessarily self-defeating. 

But take emotions. What are they? Gordon Clark defined an emotion as “something unusual, sudden, exceptional...some kind of upheaval...involuntary...has no intellectual content...not volition” (cf. Today’s Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine, pgs. 18-19). Obviously, in the course of defining an emotion, Clark uses propositions. But equally apparent is his belief that emotions are not propositional. He says “knowledge and the emotion are different.” 

Now, how compatible this is with his statement on pg. 15 that these non-intellectual, non-voluntary “are not always good. Sometimes they are sinful” is a matter of debate. If the command to emote would indeed be irrational as Clark says on pg. 21, then it would seem emotions themselves cannot be sinful. But if Clark’s definition is acceptable, then I see plenty of room for discussion about correspondence between propositions and things-in-themselves. Metaphysics wouldnt collapse into epistemology, at least not in toto. On the other hand, if emotions are taken to be propositional, I think that in addition to the question of whether emotions could be commanded and obeyed, such would make it much harder to defend anthropopathic language in Scripture and, by extension, divine impassibility.


Max said...

Why can't God have emotions? I think he can just control himself to emote without ceasing to be God. But I think Clark's definition says they are uncontrolled and sudden.

Ryan said...

Define emotion. Yes, Clark says they're involuntary or non-volitional by definition.

Impassability is closely related to immutability and [a]temporality. If God has feelings and feelings change, that will call for a less stringent view of immutability. It also would imply God is in time.

I don't have any particular leanings at this point, I'm just noting how traditional theological positions would be affected. Clark and those who follow him strictly favor impassability and a stronger view of divine immutability, so they would be less inclined to allow that God emotes.

Max said...

I define it like a dictionary does. It seems that the word "uncontrolled" only applies to a human's perspective, because God controls (decrees) our emotions, but to us they seem sudden.

If God can control our emotions, then it seems he can control his own emotions also.

Also, God's immutability is qualified by other passages of Scripture which reveal that God changes things like His laws to the Jews, Hosea 2:11, Matt 5:18, Acts 10:13-15. God himself does not change, for example when He abrogates former laws to the Jews.

Ryan said...

To play devil's advocate, are emotions volitional? Can you choose to feel happy, sad, or angry? If not, then why should God be able to do so? God determines what we do, think, and feel, but only the former would be categorized as volitional. If our inability to emote on command is merely incidental to the essence of what an emotion is, then I still wonder what connotative definition you would provide for it.

There is a fine line between immobility and immutability, but I don't think divine atemporality or timelessness implies the former. I am open to arguments, as the philosophy time is still a bit of a mystery to me.

Max said...

"Can you choose to feel happy, sad, or angry?"


"If not, then why should God be able to do so?"

Because he's more powerful.

"If our inability to emote on command is merely incidental to the essence of what an emotion is, then I still wonder what connotative definition you would provide for it."

I think that definition would be, they are occasional and sudden.

Ryan said...

"Because he's more powerful."

So can God choose to be happy that someone sinned. Or angry that someone has done good?

"I think that definition would be, they are occasional and sudden."

You can't just use adjectives to define a noun.

Max said...

"So can God choose to be happy that someone sinned. Or angry that someone has done good?"

I do not know.

"You can't just use adjectives to define a noun."

I thought you wanted a connotative one. Anyway, it's clear that if emotions are sudden and unexpected, then God does not have them; for He is all-knowing. Maybe the correct word to use is FEELING, but the dictionaries say this is synonymous with emotion. I guess God doesn't have feelings/emotions, but how to understand verses like Matt 3:17 - "this is My beloved Son, in whom I am well PLEASED"? Webster defines this word as "affected with agreeable sensations or emotions." But if that's an emotion, then the expression must be anthropopathic. That's obvious.

But why must emotions / feelings be unexpected, if people go to places like movie theaters and comedy clubs to expect fun and joy? I dunno.

Ryan said...

I don't think they have to be unexpected, but we can go to a movie or club and be disappointed as well as entertained. I guess you could argue the difference is God can control events and thus His emotions. I don't know. More of interest to me would be how emotions would impact divine timelessness or temporality.