Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Gordon Clark's Philosophy

Dr. Gordon H. Clark argues there is no tabula rasa (i.e. blank slate). Man is the image of God-- and as such, consciously rational--in contrast to animals. Hence, man is able to use signs to refer to thoughts. Language is formed a priori not a posteriori. All forms of empiricism are objectionable since sensations suffer: (1) ambiguity, (2) unreliability, and (3) relativity. Therefore, knowledge (i.e. the propositions of Scripture) is revealed, directly or indirectly, via the Divine Logos, Christ. It is limited to only those propositions deduced from Scripture.

Clark doesn't explain precisely how knowledge is revealed. Is it by telepathy? Does man create language as it reflects God? If so, does this not entail Adam had an actual private language (at one point in time)? Does not a private language entail self-knowledge? If a private language is denied, then language is a social construct, then how can there be agreement between symbols that matches thoughts without self-knowledge? How precisely does first order knowledge (e.g. I know P) refute Skepticism, if second order knowledge (e.g. I know that I know P) is denied? Moreover, how is skepticism circumvented if there is no standard to confirm language and thoughts match? If Clark appeals to the Divine Logos to prevent skepticism, does not Christian empiricists (e.g. Representational realists) have the same option?

Clark's demand for a definition of sensations is reasonable. Yet it is not necessary to define sensations in order to possess prima facie warrant to believe in sensations. It strikes me as a category mistake to require a definition of sensations in terms of logic and math. (e.g. Rationalism requires empiricism to provide definitions in terms of Rationalism or Empiricism contend Rationalism provide an definition in terms of empiricism).The traditional definition of sensations is a non-propositional experience possessed by an experiencing subject. Further distinctions are made in philosophy of perception (e.g. Seeing, seeing as, and seeing that). Thomas Reid makes a helpful point that sensations cannot be reduced to a mere logical definition. Hence, my charge that Clark seems to make a category mistake (e.g. The smell of logic). I think sensations and/or experiences are irreducible to a mere logical definition but that is not to render them unintelligible. For example, we can make sense of the sensation of pain but pain is not reducible to C-fiber stimulation or a mere logical definition (e.g. A person experiences the sensation of pain iff a person's physical body functions properly to interact with the mind in which the mind is aware " I am in pain."

Clark states God causes us to believe in Christianity. In what sense does God 'cause' us to believe? Obviously Clark excludes any empirical method. It's like saying, "I don't know what a 2017 Honda Civic looks like but it doesn't look like that! Clark does narrow what he considers how God 'causes' us to know. It reminds me of the brain in a vat thought experiment. We are to suppose the possibility of a person existing as a brain in a vat. Next, we are to envision an agent (often a mad scientist or demon--take your pick) is the primary efficient cause of the person's beliefs by electrodes. This thought experiment is often leveled in favor of skepticism. The warrant for beliefs is argued to be underdetermined.  Any argument put forward against such skepticism is argued to be based upon beliefs from the agent (presupposing skepticism). I wish to make two points. First, 'cause' deals primarily with metaphysics and ''beliefs' deal with epistemology. If it is granted a causal process produces beliefs then beliefs are not acquired merely for their truth-value but due to the intentionality of an agent. Second, this view seems to commit the genetic fallacy. If one traces the belief to its origin this does not make it true nor false. Furthermore, it commits the naturalistic fallacy. It confuses what 'is' the case (e.g. I believe P) for what 'ought' to be the case (e.g. I ought to believe P). Thomas Reid, the Old Princeton tradition and arguably Plantinga would argue directly a posteriori with properly functioning cognitive faculties. My point is to demand a definition of experiences, e.g. experiencing the color red, such a request seems to confuse categories on the one hand and denies any limit to the extent of how far such a demand can be met.  

(1) If Clark's metaphysics is deduced from his epistemology then his epistemology can be understood from his metaphysics.
(2) Clark's metaphysics is deduced from his epistemology 
(3) Therefore, Clark's epistemology can be understood from his metaphysics. 

In Clark's metaphysics propositions are the object of thought and knowledge not things. The only logically possible world is the actual world. God actualized the actual world comprised of propositions (that can be further reduced to subjects and predicates). All propositions are logically necessary. But some, if not all, propositions are necessarily instantiated (in virtue of necessitarianism). Each proposition is necessarily true. 

Each person is (i.e. in the sense of identity) a set of propositions. Any given person is what he/she thinks. I think it can be argued Dr. Clark's system may be properly associated with epistemic foundationalism, accessible internalism, infallibilism, metaphysical realism and a coherentism theory of truth. But in particular on epistemic justification an argument can be formulated in favor of some form of internalism:   

(1) If Clark affirmed some form of reliabilism/externalism then a person is warranted/rational to believe X, independent of any accessible reasons.

(1a)  If any given belief must be deduced by its axiom to be justified then Clark affirmed any given system of beliefs must be logically deduced from its axiom to be justified.
(1b) Any given belief must be deduced by its axiom to be justified.
(1c) Clark affirmed any given system of beliefs must be logically deduced from its axiom to be justified.
(1d) Logical deduction either requires mental awareness or mental unawareness
(1e) not mental unawareness 
(1f) mental awareness 

(2) A person is not warranted/rational to believe X, independent of any accessible reasons.

(3) Clark did not affirm some form of reliabilism/externalism.

Premise (2) can be demonstrated by Clark's critical analysis of ideas contrary to his. He didn't simply level objections/defeaters. He demanded reasons from his opponents. Clark argued against any position that allowed for the possibility of skepticism. Reliabilism/externalism argues a belief is warranted without conscious awareness, if and only if any given belief is produced by a reliable belief forming process, in the absence of defeaters. But this does not assail skepticism since a person would need to "know" all his/her beliefs are produced by a reliable belief forming process to avoid skepticism. This will not do for Clark. Also, the doctrine of divine simplicity entails some form of internalism (e.g. epistemic mentalism). God's omniscience flows from His decrees. In other words, divine foreknowledge is grounded in divine foreordaination.   


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