Wednesday 13 May 2015

God must have direct, unmediated knowedge - and if God, then so must we (albeit distorted and partial)

It struck me suddenly that God must have direct knowledge of reality, of truth, with no possibility of error - and that was perhaps the primary reason that He is God.

This may be what sets God the Father altogether apart and unique - His direct knowledge.

Of course, to us, the mechanism of direct knowledge is inexplicable - since any mechanism implies mediation which implies a possibility of error. So we must (it seems) think of direct knowledge as having no mechanism, but simply being... direct.

And the reason why God has this knowledge is one of those things that could not have a justification - it is one of those things that is primary and can only be assumed: It Just Is The Case that our Heavenly Father has direct knowledge.


But then I remembered that we are His children, and our destiny is to become like Him; and that He has put something of Himself into each of us.

That something divine given-us must (it seems) include a capacity for direct knowledge without possibility of error.

Our capacity for direct knowledge is real; and it derives from God - which is its only possible source. 


Why then are we so often wrong? Why is it that our knowledge so often seems like nothing but 'theories'?

Simply because we are grossly immature.

Our true knowledge is there but embryonic, overlain and distorted - sometimes it is inaccessible. When we try to state it, our statements are always incomplete and unsatisfactory.


But all that is to be expected.

We are here - living mortal life - partly to choose-to, strive-to discover and grow our God-given capacity for direct knowledge.

Aside from the New Age/ Psychotherapeutic cant - we really do need to 'find ourselves', we really do need 'personal development' that can only come from our own decisions and efforts - but we should know that this finding and developing is actually a God-given, divine destiny.

This feels like a satisfying answer to (and way-out-from) the endless self-torture of epistemology, the philosophical search for knowledge about knowledge, for truth without possibility of error.

Hopeful, even optimistic - yet realistic. 



Anonymous said...

Does the ability of babies to learn to perceive things such as carpets, toy blocks and parents count as 'direct knowledge'?

What about the idea itself that direct knowledge is possible?

David said...

"It struck me suddenly that God must have direct knowledge of reality, of truth, with no possibility of error - and that was perhaps the primary reason that He is God."

Does this not imply that God is somehow separate to reality and conditioned by 'it'? As opposed to him being the creator of reality or 'truth'? Is truth separate to God? or do you mean that God has complete knowledge of himself as unmoved mover and we don't yet? But if we did know ourselves fully we would know the divine fully and become divine but quantitatively less? So both God and mortal beings are gaining knowledge of the truth but it is separate to both man and God? Or is my reasoning false?

Bruce Charlton said...

@ ANONYMOUS - (please use a pseudonym!)

Yours question is not specifically answerable.

Nobody can claim that any specific item of knowledge is 'direct' hence complete, unbiased and without possibility of error - because the human act of detaching a specific item of knowledge from the whole of reality, and drawing a line round it in order to discuss it, itself causes the possibility of errors, distortions and incompleteness.

But I believe that *in principle*; without direct knowledge accepted as a 'given', then no knowledge at all is possible.

(i.e. All real true knowledge must be based on, derived from, direct knowledge.)

And *that* 'in principle' is pointing at direct knowledge.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - As a (theoretical) Mormon, I regard God as within the universe, and not having created everything from nothing.

But I am saying that God has direct, perfect knowledge of the universe he is within.

God does not have theories about the universe, God knows the true reality of the universe.

So God did not create reality/ truth; instead, God knows reality/ truth.

And that 'knowing' is an important aspect of 'what makes Him God'.

Adam G. said...

Seems to me that "direct knowledge" is what qualia is about.

One of the most intriguing passages in scripture for me is D&C 50, which suggests that one of the functions of the Holy Ghost is to create direct knowledge of each other between people.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam - I presume God gave us the possibility of direct knowledge by more than one route - I mentioned by inheritance (because we are his children - contain a bit of divinity) and the Holy Ghost is another.

My point here is that we could assume that God has direct knowledge of reality without having to assume either that He is omniscient or that he created everything from nothing - because omniscience and creation ex nihilo are actually secondary explanations for God's knowledge.

We can legitimately assume God's direct knowledge of reality (simply assume it as an attribute of God) without believing any particular explanation for how or why God has direct knowledge.

This simple assumption clears away (for me) a persisting difficulty about the nature of God and His status as God.

Indeed, my current feeling is that this assumption (of God, by His nature, having direct access to knowledge) is implied by, and perhaps needed by, the standard Mormon account of the nature of God.

Adam G. said...

@Bruce C.,
I agree. What's interesting is that you have arrived by one line of reflection at the endpoint of a different line of reflection that I've embarked on, where I've been thinking what the point of being embodied is. Seems to me at root that if you can directly experience the material world, that is embodiment by definition. If embodiment is good, it means that interacting and experiencing material things are good--in a sense, having a relationship with things. The more you experience and interact with, the better. The best would be direct experience with everything.

Thordaddy said...

It seems to me that our God AS Perfection both created reality and flawlessly adheres to this reality at all times of its creation.

Anonymous said...

"So we must (it seems) think of direct knowledge as having no mechanism, but simply being... direct."

And yet we humans often find it attractive to use the metaphor of mechanism when speaking of it. For example, Baruch:

"Who has known Wisdom? Who has entered into her treasuries? The one who knows all things knows her; he has probed her by his knowledge." (Emphasis added.)