Thursday 20 February 2014

Since nothing can be known in and of itself - how does God know?


Perhaps the whole of philosophy originated from the attempt to understand how it is possible to know (epistemology) - it may be that the metaphysical schemes were driven by this question.

I think that the monist metaphysics of mainstream Christian philosophy is organized-around the intuition that reality must be 'inside' God or else God cannot know reality; and if God cannot know reality then neither can we - there can be no real knowledge.


(A God which is inside a pre-existent universe, from this perspective, can never know it - can 'only' have theories about it - and if God doesn't know the universe, he cannot master it... This is assuming that we insist on an omnipotent God, rather than a God which is 'merely' vastly, incomparably and incomprehensibly powerful.)


But this argument does not necessarily work, because all these things (metphysical descriptions) work by analogy - and 'even-if' the universe is inside God, then that is no reason - no reason whatsoever -why God should understand it, know it.

The fact that something is inside oneself does not make it more understandable than something being outside oneself. We do not understand our hearts and kidneys, we do not even know when a cancer is growing inside us - our insides might as well be outsides from the point of view of knowledge.

And this even applies to the brain and mind - the part of our mind which knows is a tiny part of the operations of the mind.


There is no way of imagining a situation in which knowing is natural, intrinsic, and self-validating.

To insist on this leads to nihilism. 

The framing of the question renders it unanswerable - we can successfully critique and expose the flaws in another person's views, as monists successfully critique pluralists - but all possible articulated views are incoherent hence indefensible - and monism is itself incoherent hence indefensible!


My impression is that epistemology as a whole is a badly-framed question, a red herring, at the deepest level nonsense, a confusion, an artificial artefact of some kind.

So, if not - then what?

Human understanding necessarily is in the way of relationship narratives - stories.

And/ yet/ if you try to unpack, translate, summarize the stories - to capture them in non-stories and detach them from human relationships (detach them from motivation and purpose and choice)  - then the incoherence of metaphysical questions comes flooding-back to suck you down towards nihilism!


Note added: The first and second commandments (to love God and neighbour) are about relationships; Scripture is full of people and stories; Jesus taught mostly by stories. Clearly relationships and stories are primary for Christians. If we can't comprehend (relate to) people, relationships and stories as primary; but must translate everything into impersonal, abstract (legalistic, philosophical) principles (laws, rules, regulations) then it is pretty difficult to be a Christian - because we will get Christianity at second hand and without the intrinsic power that comes from personal engagement. Often, and now, abstraction yields apostasy.


Adam G. said...

I think the real intuition is that God must be able to know because he is inside reality or else built it from the ground up.

The Mormon version of that intuition is that a man can know his child.

The Crow said...

A failure to understand and know arises from the human insistence upon separation from that which they desire to know.
It seems very very difficult for humans to close that gap, and remove that separation.
In truth, it is he easiest thing there is, because naturally, there is no separation, until the human mind puts it there.
To ask whether or not God can know reality is a guarantee of confusion.
God IS reality.

Volksverhetzer said...

For Heathens, this is not really a problem, as the creator don't have to be almighty, he only needed to set up a universe based on cause and effect over time.

I don̈́'t know what the White Christ that converted Scandinavia to Christianity stood for, but if you look at church art from the time, the heathen intertwined life threads is impossible to miss. You also find the heathen intertwined life threads in "Celtic" Christianity, a strong hint that the Father of the White Christ the English and Irish taught the Scandinavians about, wasn't the omni-everything God of the present Bible.

It is not like the protestant teachings on predestination popped out of nowhere either, as it is the logical result when somebody that believes in historical necessity, wyrd, fate, etc, is presented with an omniscient God and an evil world.

HC Andersen tells a story about a woman who ha lost power, and lived in poverty, that got offended when a student told her that three wise men visited baby Jesus, as she thought it was the three wise women.(the Norns)

The son of the God of the Bible, don't have to be visited by the Weird Sisters, but it would be natural for most Germanic people to think this, until the Bible and obligatory Bible instruction, had removed all traces of the old folk religion.