Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Metaphysics and Correspondence

In a recent post, I noted that Gordon Clark believed in a distinction between words and ideas or concepts, the former of which correspond to or function as signs of the latter. As I said in that post, our knowledge of truths with correspondent images doesn’t require us to have these corresponding images as well; our knowledge is solely dependent on divine revelation. To elaborate, on the supposition that God has these images – here it must be pointed out that possession of images doesn’t require such to be derived from sensory organs, though by the same token it wouldn’t preclude it either – and also determined the relationship between these images and their corresponding [concrete] truths, His revelation of truths to us is sufficient. We don’t need to possess the images in addition to this, though our belief that we possess them may provide useful intellectual stimulation.

[This is just a personal opinion, but it might be speculated that not only are images useful in this subordinate sense, but it may perhaps be the case that upon glorification, all images we possess will definitely stimulate true thoughts such that we wouldn’t need God to constantly confirm them via special revelation. Of course, this possibility would have to first be divinely revealed in order for us to know it, if indeed it is possible. But my point is that Scripturalists don’t need to disparage images – or, more broadly, non-propositional realities – to faithfully promote divine revelation.]

Obviously, not all truths correspond to “images,” i.e. physical or corporeal realities. To take just one obvious example, the Father is invisible. But while we don’t have to know all truth-conditions in order to know a truth-bearer (i.e. divinely revealed proposition), it does seem we can delimit which truth-bearers can have a corresponding image: viz. truths in which the subject under consideration is a concrete or individual. There is no image which corresponds to the generic ideas “man” or “horse.” So being an individual is a necessary condition – though not a sufficient one, since propositions can also correspond to other propositions – for a truth to correspond to some image (or, for that matter, for a truth to correspond to some invisible intuition, as in the case of the Father et. al.).

On a related note, while I affirm some sort of correspondence (see here and the links therein) I’m still thinking through the logical priority of the correspondence: are images truth-makers or are truths image-makers? I was leaning towards the former, which is the usual position, but I think I conflated truth-makers and truth-conditions. The answer to the question may or may not impact how one answers the metaphysical problem of universals (Aristotelianism, Platonism, etc.). I’m not sure, so I’ll leave that for another time.


Joshua Butcher said...

I don't think Clark held to any correspondence theory of truth. He believed that truth *is* the quality of propositions (true ones, anyway), and, therefore, "reality" is the complex of propositions determining it.

Ryan said...

See this post (link). Clark denied the correspondence theory of truth, but in several places he made statements which demands some sort of correspondence between propositional and non-propositional realities.

Joshua Butcher said...

I'm not sure Clark would accept a "non-propositional" reality.

However, as you seem to be saying, I think Clark would accept the language of "correspondence" between signs (e.g. the letters c-a-t and the audible word, "cat") and the ideas to which they refer, but not a correspondence between the idea and some indefinite or Platonic "thing" or "form" that is unexpressable.

Ryan said...

Did you read it all the way through? He explicitly identifies his view with Plato's:

//It makes no difference that “Hebrews applies the idea of two worlds primarily to the Old Testament cult” (574). The point is that the Old Testament teaches a “Platonic-Philonic” view of a supersensible world as well as an eschatological olam haba. Both the Old Testament and Hebrews indicate that the earthly tabernacle was the physical copy of a heavenly form. Note that the “true tabernacle” was pitched by the Lord and not by man (8:2). The earthly tabernacle was a shadow of heavenly things, for God had said to Moses, “See that thou make all things according to the pattern in the mount” (8:6; compare 9:9). Keep in mind too that this Platonic or Philonic “spatial” dualism comes from Moses, not from pagan Greek philosophy. Indeed, if we accept the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28 and his wrestling with the angel in 32:24ff. exhibit this dualism of the above and below. That Hebrews is “primarily” concerned with sacrifices and the tabernacle does not preclude an underlying and more inclusive dualism, even of a Philonic type. Logically, it is a case of “both-and,” not “either-or.”//

Further, what is a "word" if not some reference to a conceptual or propositional reality? What else is left but some non-propositional reality?

I see no reason why non-propositional realities cannot function as signs which stimulate the intellect.

Joshua Butcher said...

I didn't read all of the Clark quotes, but that one you provide is interesting. I'll need to go back over them more closely when I have a spare moment.

There is a difference between identifying what is not defined as a proposition (e.g. a word) and what is not defined by a proposition. In my understanding of Clark, he does not believe anything exist that does not exist by virtue of its being defined by a proposition, which gives it reality or being. That a word is not itself a proposition does not make it ontologically non-propositional in the sense I'm trying to articulate. I may be reading Clark wrong (so many do it seems!), but that's how I think he is defining things.

Joshua Butcher said...

I went back over the quotes, and I think your reading of Clark is plausible, if I understand you correctly. The suprasensible realm of ideas would be Clark's propositions, the only "knowable" reality, but the sensible world would be that reality instantiated by the suprasensible ideas (propositions) and constitute the material/physical/(insert metaphor for the "stuff" we interact with bodily).

Is that your view of Clark's view?

Ryan said...

I would of course agree that every reality either is or corresponds to some proposition, but I think this clearly precludes the idea every reality as such is propositional.

I wouldn't use "sensible world," as God doesn't have sense organs and this could be taken to imply that God has no access to this world (cf. the OP on this point). I think "real images" or "a corporeal or physical world" are better for that reason.

But as I said in the last paragraph of my post, I am not sure whether the concrete propositions - propositions whose subjects are individual - which correspond to non-propositional realities ground or are grounded by them: "are images truth-makers or are truths image-makers?" So when you say "the sensible world would be that reality instantiated by the suprasensible ideas," for now I can do no better than refer back to my original post.

Incidentally, all this seems to bear on the issue of time too. Does God possess all images "at once" or successively? If God never experiences a succession of images (or tensed truths), they are never not-real, which means our experience of succession would seem to be illusory. There is no fluctuating "present" per se, just our thought of such. That's why I don't know what "change" could mean given divine timelessness. You can't say it's difference in something between time 1 and time 2, because change is supposed to ground time, not vice versa. On the other hand, how could the same thing be different in the first place without there being two times at which to compare them?

Joshua Butcher said...

I think we're reaching some overlap in our comments on separate postings.

I agree that sensible is a poor choice of terms, but I don't think image is much better, at least without a good definition. I know you make a distinction between propositions that do not bear images, but what exactly is an image for God, who has no eyes, which is, of course, how we experience images?

As I said in the comment on the other post, I think change is a quality of created beings and that the logical sequence of eternal truth implies a temporal order of the instantiation of truth in created things.

Ryan said...

"I agree that sensible is a poor choice of terms, but I don't think image is much better, at least without a good definition."

Well, a particular image per se can't be defined, though it definitely must correspond to some proposition which is true.

If you are looking for the latter, I like "image" because of its connotative connection to the imagination. I don't need my senses to imagine a gold mountain, and I don't suppose it's any different for God. Images imply the experience of perception, but perception doesn't imply [or preclude] sensation.

This is admittedly speculative, though. For now, I'm comfortable just noting that there are non-propositional realities.