Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Correspondence, Dualism and Epistemology

I’ve received a reply to this post I wrote a few years ago on Clark’s metaphysics. Hopefully I can clarify some seeming confusion:
For Ryan Hedrich, the philosopher Gordon Clark was so wary of the potentially anti-Christian consequences of an empirical epistemology that he was forced to adopt an unusual metaphysics.
I don't see how Clark’s metaphysic as stated in the quote provided is unusual. It just shows that Clark was a dualist. He believed in physical and mental realities. This is well represented in the history of philosophy, and it shows that Clark didn't always (if ever) hold to propositional monism. Rather, "reality is complex" (link).

Clark often helps himself to terminology of non-Christian philosophers to make his points. I wouldn't say his use of “noumena” and “phenomena” were meant to specifically identify his position with Kant any more than Clark’s use of “infimae species” was specifically meant to identify his position with Aristotle. Clark defines noumena and phenomena as “things which do not appear” and “things that are seen,” respectively. That's as far as he goes.
Thus, Clark's epistemology appears to be a kind of Kantian representationalism. The human perceives a phenomenon which is a pale representation of a thing in itself.
Well, so far as Clark's epistemology itself is concerned, I don't know that this follows, although Clark himself may have thought so (though I doubt it). Either way, I've been working on developing Clark's epistemology. I note here, for example, that a correspondence theory of truth – some variation of which, I think, must follow from Clark’s dualism – doesn't imply a certain epistemology, but nor do I see that it implies a certain metaphysic, like direct or indirect realism, a point to which I will return below. 

Knowledge is indeed propositional. Truth is indeed propositional. But truth is connected to non-propositional realities: "Phenomena come from noumena." If they weren't so connected, then we would have no means by which to even allude to non-propositional realities.

I probably shouldn't have referred to non-propositional realities by using terminology like “thing-in-itself” or “Ding-an-sich.” I can see why the author believed me to be insinuating some sort of Kantian metaphysic, when in reality I only wanted to highlight that Clark was a dualist. But I was just coming to realize certain elements of Clark's metaphysical views were wrong, such as that persons are the propositions they think. My goal was to show that persons can't just be the propositions they think, from which I hoped to buttress the dualism Clark elsewhere espoused. A more recent post of mine does a better job of exposing the problem with Clark's view of personhood (link)
However, Hedrich notes that later, in Clark and His Critics, Clark rejects the existence of an unknowable thing in itself. Instead, all knowledge is propositional. Humans know something if the propositional content of our minds corresponds with that of God's proposition. But are these two views really incompatible? Perhaps the Clarkian can believe that human perception of an object consists of a representation of a thing in itself, but that this representation, though possibly true, does not consist of knowledge, since the individual can never know for sure whether or not or to what extent his representation corresponds with a sensory object.
Precisely, except that it may be somewhat imprecise to say a representation is "possibly true." We can never know a representation qua representation is true; a representation as such cannot be true. Rather, I think it is more precise to say a representation (and I believe this is assuming indirect realism) is possibly connected to a given truth. 

Suppose we have an image in mind which has been caused by perceiving some object. It's possible that both the proposition we think (after which the visible object is patterned) is knowable to us, and it's also possible [and compatible with both direct and indirect realism] that the image we have in mind corresponds to that truth. It's possible if God knows that the proposition is indeed true and has been revealed as well as what images do and don't correspond to this truth, the one we have being among those which do - God doesn't need sensory organs to have images.

If what image we have in mind matches [one of] God's, then it is connected with and so corresponds to that truth, regardless of whether we know such - on a Clarkian epistemology, we wouldn't, though this isn't problematic. That is, we don't need the image to know the truth to which an image (or, potentially, images) corresponds. We can, therefore, know propositions without possessing or connecting any corresponding non-propositional realities to them. 

This is all a bit speculative, but it reflects my current thinking on the subject and illustrates how it is possible to reconcile dualism with Clark's epistemology. Of course, the issue of direct and indirect realism ought to be worked out if it can be, as should the question of how non-propositional realities perceived by means other than physical sight can be connected to truth.
The human's propositional thought concerning the object is certainly true if it corresponds with God's thought about the object, but the individual cannot be certain of its truth, and thus, it does not consist of knowledge. Sense-perception of phenomena is not propositional. It is for this reason that it is not knowledge. Perhaps Gordon Clark can be said to have a representational theory of sense-perception truth while a direct realist theory of knowledge. Thus, it might be said that, at least as far as sense-perception is concerned, Clark might be committed to a representationalist theory of truth, as well as a representationalist position of the contents of consciousness (this, of course, would be restricted to the contents of sensory truth).
I would hesitate to use phrases like "sensory truth" and "sense-perception truth," as well as hesitate to limit Clark's dualism to indirect realism, but I think I understand the intentions of the author and thank him for the chance to update my views on the meaning of correspondence between truth and non-propositional realities, and its [non]impact on philosophic knowledge, which I have been meaning to do for some time.

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