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Monday, May 15, 2006

Conceptual Necessity Not Enough!


Although Christianity as a posited conceptual scheme can offer a justification for intelligible experience, apart from Scriptural revelation one cannot justify that Christianity as a conceptual scheme reflects the truth of how things are or must be. As Michael Butler has succinctly stated, "Conceptual necessity does not guarantee ontological necessity..." (p. 88 of Festschrift For Greg Bahnsen), And "...the necessity of a conceptual scheme cannot guarantee anything about the way the world must be... This God is... a speaking God who reveals truths to us about Himself and the world... On the Basis of His revelation, therefore, which is itself the necessary precondition of experience, we can know truths about the world and God." (p. 123 Festschrift...)

It is possible for man unaided by Scripture to construct a sound transcendental argument for God's existence by the use of general revelation alone, simply on the basis of a conceptual necessity that would "make sense" of experience. Although man can construct a sound argument (i.e. an argument with a valid form and true premises), apart from Scripture it is impossible to justify the truth values of those premises, let alone argumentation in general. Again, "Conceptual necessity does not guarantee ontological necessity...." For "the necessity of a conceptual scheme cannot guarentee anything about the way the world must be..." After all, did Kant save science or simply psychologize it?!

Ron

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14 comments:

Jimmy Li said...

Is that a picture of Michael Butler?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Yup

Jimmy LI said...

I enjoyed reading your blog and wanted to encourage you to keep it up!

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Jimmy,

Thanks for the encouragement.

Warmly in Christ,

Ron

Jimmy LI said...

I hope you can update sometime brother!

razzendahcuben said...

Could you please expand some upon, "Although man can construct a sound argument (i.e. an argument with a valid form and true premises), apart from Scripture it is impossible to justify the truth values of those premises, let alone argumentation in general"?

How is it that those propositions suddenly gain truth values in light of scripture? If they didn't have truth values then how could they make sense of experience? Thanks.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Hi Raz,

How would one justify whether the conceptual scheme that is believed to make sense of experience is a conceptual scheme that actually informs us of the objective truth of how the mind relates to the mind-independent world? What you seem to be suggesting is that the experience is already intelligible so, therefore, the conceptual scheme must be true even apart from Scripture's justification. The problem is that although the conceptual scheme is true, it's not justified by simply believing in it; nor is it justified by it being true. It's ontological truth does not speak to the need for an epistemic justification. So the question is, what is one's *objective* justification for a conceptual scheme other than God's revelation in Scripture? Subjectivism leads to skepticism.

Ron

razzendahcuben said...

Thanks Ron. Of course, all of this assumes JTB. So do you think that Western philosophy's definition of knowledge (justified, true belief) is the type of knowledge Solomon is talking about in Proverbs 1:7? Perhaps one could say that any definition of knowledge other than JTB is self-defeating or reduces to skepticism, but how would we know (since JTB has been revealed in scripture)? Maybe there is another adequate definition of knowledge.

JTB itself might offer a true conceptual scheme, but then how would we know that its also ontologically necessary? So the criticism applies to itself!

Looking forward to your response, as always.
-razz

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

“Thanks Ron. Of course, all of this assumes JTB. So do you think that Western philosophy's definition of knowledge (justified, true belief) is the type of knowledge Solomon is talking about in Proverbs 1:7?

Hi Razz!

ABSOLUTELY! Jesus is not just the way back to the Father – He’s the way back to the Father’s world – for “all knowledge and wisdom is deposited in Christ!”

“Perhaps one could say that any definition of knowledge other than JTB is self-defeating or reduces to skepticism, but how would we know (since JTB has been revealed in scripture)? Maybe there is another adequate definition of knowledge.”

I would say there is a better definition of knowledge. How about simply “justified belief?” After all, if the belief is truly justified (by deduction or revelation) then it must be true, right? If the alleged truth is based upon rational inductive inference, then it can be false. Accordingly, any belief based upon an inductive inference, which can be false, cannot be known as true since we cannot know whether something is true when it is based upon induction! To deny that is to say that we can know (by induction) something that is rational to believe as true even though it is actually false. Therefore, we cannot know whether that which we think we “know” (by induction) is true. Otherwise we would reduce “knowledge” to degrees of certainty, evacuating the meaning of knowledge, reducing it to justifications of beliefs that although rational may be false.

JTB itself might offer a true conceptual scheme, but then how would we know that it’s also ontologically necessary? So the criticism applies to itself!

If the conceptual scheme is true then it is true from God’s perspective, which is the perspective our minds must correspond with if we are to have knowledge.

Sleep well friend.

Ron

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Let me add, Razz, that I do think that it is possible that God grants us maximal warrant for belief (i.e. knowledge) of inductive inferences. Notwithstanding, we must be able to distinguish between such "inductive knowledge," which we do not know that we actually possess, from the knowledge we can know that we possess, which comes from Scripture and deduction that is justified from Scripture.
All this to say, if we know that toothpaste will squirt out of the tube tomorrow, we cannot justify it in a way that is different than our justifying inferences that are not true. After all, induction is based upon asserting the consequent, which is a procedure that can lead to the greater veracity of a claim but never obtain certainty.

Ron

razzendahcuben said...

Thanks Ron!

Jesus is not just the way back to the Father – He’s the way back to the Father’s world

I like it.

I would say there is a better definition of knowledge. How about simply “justified belief?” After all, if the belief is truly justified (by deduction or revelation) then it must be true, right?

I think epistemologists would agree with you. The truth condition is included probably as a reminder that false propositions cannot count as knowledge. How would we even justify the false proposition? This is probably why the truth condition isn't debated to any significant extent.

As for the problem of induction, I think we may be parting ways here. I know you say you aren't a Clarkian, but to say that we can only have knowledge from revelation and what is deduced from revelation is scripturalism to a T. But scripturalism can't justify itself for a whole host of reasons, not to mention that most of what scripturalists say cannot count as knowledge.

Also, language requires induction since we haven't seen every instance of a word being used to know its meaning with absolute certainty. The Bible's message is communicated to us through language, of course. So either we have gained knowledge through induction or don't know anything. Or perhaps some version of occasionalism/internalism/divine illumination. I honestly haven't thought all of that out yet, so I won't take a dogmatic stand. I'd be interested in knowing what you think.

If the conceptual scheme is true then it is true from God’s perspective, which is the perspective our minds must correspond with if we are to have knowledge.

You just said that its the justification that matters. Conceptual schemes prove that some things can be true and yet unjustified.

Sleep well friend.

Now that I'm back at college it's the waking up part that I'm concerned about. :P

-razz

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

"I think epistemologists would agree with you. The truth condition is included probably as a reminder that false propositions cannot count as knowledge."

It runs deeper than that. The point I am making is that if something is truly justified by revelation or deduction, then the truth condition follows with necessity. However, given inductive inference, the truth condition need not follow yet the same degree of inferential warrant might be present for things true and things false.

How would we even justify the false proposition?

By inductive inference! :)

As for the problem of induction, I think we may be parting ways here. I know you say you aren't a Clarkian, but to say that we can only have knowledge from revelation and what is deduced from revelation is scripturalism to a T.

I don't hold to scripturalism as it is held to by Clarkians and Vincent C. For instance, I know by revelation that I exist yet that is not recorded in Scripture. I know by way of revelation that I am saved, yet that is not recorded in Scripture, etc.

Also, language requires induction since we haven't seen every instance of a word being used to know its meaning with absolute certainty.

Are you suggesting that you don't know that Jesus lives with absolute certainty? It's not the meaning of words that is the problem with induction. It's the inference that you draw regarding some other fallible human's use of the word that is suspect.

"The Bible's message is communicated to us through language, of course. So either we have gained knowledge through induction or don't know anything.

God's language is not ambiguous.

Conceptual schemes prove that some things can be true and yet unjustified.

They do? How so?

Now that I'm back at college it's the waking up part that I'm concerned about. :P

Oh, those were the days!

Ron


1:23 AM

razzendahcuben said...

Its incredibly uncanny coming back to these posts and seeing that I was asking the same questions and making the same observations a year ago that I am now. Its kind of creepy---coming up with a question or wanting to leave a comment and then seeing that I already asked that question or made that comment a year ago.

Anyway, case in point, I was going to tell you that a hypothetical conceptual scheme is an example of something being justified but not true. You asked "how so?" and I never responded.

Wouldn't it apply to hypothetical situations? For example, some progressive creationists make the case against YEC by saying that God "could have" made the earth 4.5 Gya. Ken Ham's response is classic: "Its not a matter of what He could have done, but what He said He did. In other words, yes, we would be justified in believing that the earth is 4.5 Gya if God actually said it was 4.5 Gya.

Perhaps one would say, "But its only justified IF its true, so you can't say its justified and false." This is saying that something must be true in order for it to be justified, but this would only prove my initial point that something needs to be justified, true belief and not merely justified belief.

Maybe. Maybe not. Thoughts?

Also, when you say that scripture justifies something you're really saying that special revelation justifies something? I mean, I don't see why it matters that the information is presented as words on a page.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

"It's incredibly uncanny coming back to these posts and seeing that I was asking the same questions and making the same observations a year ago that I am now."

Might you be conflating the knowledge of a posited conceptual notion with the knowledge of the reality that the conceptual notion contemplates? For instance, I can know the concept of something that does not exist but I cannot know that what the concept contemplates exists. In other words, I can't know the concrete, ontological reality of what the concept contemplates if the concept does not correspond to a concrete, ontological reality. Accordingly, one without special revelation can know a conceptual necessity that posits a creator but apart from Scripture (our only source of special revelation) such a posited conceptual necessity does not justify our premise that the Creator actually exists. Only God's special revelation (now only found in Scripture) offers a formal justification for what we truly know about God through general revelation.

"Also, when you say that scripture justifies something you're really saying that special revelation justifies something? I mean, I don't see why it matters that the information is presented as words on a page."

Yes, that is correct.

Blessings,

Ron