Monday, June 23, 2008

God and Knowing What It's Like: Past Notes

Wahoo! Just finished a chapter of my dissertation!

Anyway, here's the first in a series of posts where I plan on recording the contents of an old notebook which contains thoughts from a few years in philosophy - beginning with my senior year as an undergrad philosophy major at Cal. This is partly just so I have this stuff somewhere where it won't get lost. Plus some of it's interesting in its own right. Sometimes, I'll probably make some shortish or longish comments about the topic afterwards as well. This first one was written from way back when I thought the Knowledge Argument worked (note that I'm not always currently sure about what I meant in some places - note also that I was taking a Wittgenstein course that semester, which shows!):


Does God know what it's like to be a bat? Not in the epistemological sense of knowing information, but in the ontological sense? Or is it part of omnipresence that He experiences things also from the bat's point of view? Or is it that He experiences all in such a way that the bat's experience is a qualitatively identical set of experiences as a chosen subset of God's? But this seems to say the same thing. Maybe we can think of God's consciousness as "behind" the bat's - the bat's consciousness is not God's but God is also conscious through the bat - the bat's consciousness being that which rests on and depends on the deeper divine consciousness. Or is this too close to pantheism? This is too speculative.

Return now to the first view. This seems closer to reality. Or is it? We are still wondering of the relation between other consciousnesses and God's. Here it is: Finite consciousness is an activity or characteristic of Creation and Creation is God's thought of something possible made now actual by His will. Thus all our thoughts are thought in God's thought but determined by our own selves. But must not our thoughts be also in total be thought by God if He is to know what it is like to be a bat? But then God would think sinful thoughts. How can God experience doubting that He exists? Where then is His unity - His personhood? There must be some fundamental difference between what He knows of how it is like to be me and God actually being a man in Jesus Christ. I am not God. Christ is. God is holy. I am not. How are to mark the difference, given an absolute God? It is not obvious. No wonder so many thinkers have slid from orthodoxy into pantheistic and hyper-panentheistic heresy. Consider Hegel and others. But perhaps we should think of it this way - God suffers our thoughts, we think them. In Christ, God actually thought the thoughts. Our thoughts exist in God's thought, but not as His thought - Christ's exist in God's thought as His thought. This is hard to understand. God gives our thoughts existence in His thought yet they are ours.


More Recent Thoughts: Does God know what it's like for me, say, to be sinful? Maybe knowing what it's like requires having (pure) phenomenal concepts. Could God have those? Not if having them requires having the relevant experience. But why think this for God? Why think God would require actually having the experience, even if it's a requirement for us humans? In any case, assume he can't have such concepts. He might still be able to know all the same propositions that get expressed using phenomenal concepts, but does so via other concepts. But assume that propositions are individuated partly by the concepts used to express them (or at least that this is the case with propositions expressed by phenomenal concepts). God might still be able to know the exact same facts just via different propositions. But let's say that facts are individuated by propositions in some way. Then maybe God knows the facts expressible by the metaphysically appropriate truth conditions or truth makers or fact makers for all of those propositions. God will still be fully omniscient in the appropriate way - God must be such that nothing in the world is mysterious to Him or beyond his ken. Omniscience doesn't require having every truth vehicle in the head, so to speak. In fact, maybe God's knowledge doesn't involve propositions at all - maybe God's knowledge of everything is direct in a way superior to and bypassing propositional knowledge. God, perhaps, has no use for representational mediaries and so not knowing what it's like in some sense is no blow to his all-knowingness.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Sketch of How One Might Acquire a Tenseless View of Time Using Only Tensed Resources

So the mad end-of-quarter rush is finally over. Here's a little bit of something I thought recently (still a bit rough):
Some tensed theorists seem to think that our tensed representations or experiences are the basic ones. I think there's a lot of truth to that. But then many will also say in turn that any ideas of tenseless relations like earlier than or later than and any idea, really, of anything like a B-series are really reducible to tensed determination like past or present and our ordering of things into an A-series. Indeed, they might claim, we can have no idea of B-relations or B-time other than via A-relations or A-time - we have no experience of this tenseless stuff, only the tensed, so there's no way we could acquire tense-independent, objective concepts of mind-independent time.

Now, I think this is all not quite fair, but let's go with it for a moment and accept that our basic experience and primitive representations are all tensed - that we have no direct experience or grasp of tenseless B-relations qua B-relations. So how could we acquire such tense-independent concepts? Are they just reducible conceptually to A-properties as many A-theorists would have it?

Consider how we get our concept of B-space. Our experience is always of A-space, arguably. So how do we get to B-spatial relations? Are they reducible to A-ones? Part of having a conception of objective space (for a spatial agent) - and, by many lights, of even being an agent in space - is knowing how to mentally transform one's point of view into others. That is, knowing what things would be like elsewhere - being able to detach one's point of view from one's current self and place and conceptually 'move it about' to places other than the one one is currently at. This involves seeing other places as possible points for spatial points of views. But the process of objectification in one's ideas of space does not end here. One of the last things to do is now to identify spatial A-facts related to me and my current place to those related to other places. So 'J is here' said by A at place p1, expresses the same fact as 'J is there' said by B at place p2. If one wanted, now, one could form a form of representation free of spatial centeredness to stand in for that very fact which is expressed in both of the two spatially-tensed sentences. And voila, B-relational representations irreducible to A-ones, all on a thin spatially A-representational basis.

A similar story will go for time. Having an objective conception of time involves knowing how to transform one's point of view into others - knowing via memory, imagination, etc. what things would be like elsewhen by detaching one's point of view from the present and freely moving it about. As in the spatial case, this will involve an idea of other times as possible points for a temporal point of view to take up residence. The final steps will be similar - we then identify A-facts relative to the present with those relative to other times. So the fact expressed by 'J is F' said by A at t1 is now identified with the fact expressed by 'J is P' by A at t2. In a way similar to the space story, we can now form a kind of tenseless representation via a sort of abstraction from these two sentences and the fact that they each are said to express the same fact. So now we get concepts of earlier and later and simultaneity, all without these being reducible to A-concepts. Hence, for all that's been shown, the supposed fact that we do not experience time or even at first represent it qua tenseless does not show anything about whether it is in fact fundamentally tenseless or tensed.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Non-superfrickin'-technical posts for the non-superfrickin'-technical reader

For those family and friends who stumble upon this blog and have no idea what I'm saying, here are some posts you may find (slightly more) readable (hopefully updated regularly):

Series Posts

Short Historical Write-Ups
(for a history of Christianity class I took)
Radical Reformation
Reformation for Women
Ehrman on the Bible on Suffering
Warren on the Purpose-Driven Life

Dispensationalism and the Interpretation of Scripture
(cursory remarks on why I don't think dispensationalism is scriptural - some of this may be dated, though and I can't guarantee everything will match my current views to a T)
Part 1: Two Kinds of Hermeneutic
Part 2: Prophetic Literature
Part 3: Modern Israel and Biblical Prophecy
Part 4: The People of God, Israel, and the Church

(on the uses and misuses of nature and the natural in debates over homosexuality, gender and gender roles, etc. and in human lives)
If It's Natural Does That Mean It's Good or Good for You?
Naturalness Part 2: Gender and Biology
Naturalness Part 3: The Sinful Nature and the Image of God

Non-Series Posts
Notes on Philippians 3:7-16
(what it says)
Notes on Acts: Introduction and Chapters 1-2
(what it says, some of this used for teaching a class)
Genesis and Christmas
(some connections between Genesis and Christmas)
Transgender Bill
(why I'm not happy with a particular bill that just got passed in my state of California)
Notes on Galatians 5:1-12
(what it says)
Notes on Galatians 4:12-20
(what it says)
Teaching About the Bible, Not Just Its Content
(about why we should teach about the Bible itself more, not merely the information therein)
Some More In-Depth Notes on Galatians 3:1-18
(a follow-up to the previous Galatians entry below)
Why We Shouldn't Use the Word "Legalism"
(what is says - me complaining again about the harmfulness of poor word choice)
Some Notes on Galatians 3
(what it says)
Short Science and God Presentation Notes
(notes for a short church presentation on science and the existence of God)
Evil as Purposelessness and the Problem of Evil
(some thoughts on the problem of evil from a semi-practical standpoint)
Time Travel, Pre-Natal Ethics, and Other Miscellania
(a potpourri of thoughts)
Annoying Theodicy Objections
(a tiny rant)
Some Notes on Genesis 45:21-50:26
(what it says)
Pneumatological Trends
(just a dry run-down of current trends in thinking about the Holy Spirit)
Hate religion, love Jesus?
(just a fun picture I found)
More on Ephesians 5 and Principles of Interpretation and Application of Scripture
(why it is hard to argue on the basis of Ephesians 5 in favor of patriarchal households and how people's interpretations of this passage often involve certain common mistakes often found among Christians when reading the Bible)
Ephesians 5 Contains No Command for Wives to Submit - Or, Why Things are Often More Interesting in the Original Greek
(why a careful look at the Greek shows this and how most translations get it wrong)
Thoughts from Ephesians 3:1-13
(what the title says)
Ephesians 1:1-14
(some notes on the beginning of Ephesians)
Portraits of a King
(another Cal paper featuring David)
David and Tamar
(an old paper from my Cal days on the near-identity of structure for the Tamar and rise-of-David stories)
Bibliography 2010-2011
(most of the books I read or cited September 2010-June 2011)
Some Random Song of Songs Notes
("deleted scenes" from a much longer paper)
An Abridged Introduction to Christian Ethics
(a version of a paper I wrote - a bit denser than some other things here at points)
Update!!! (Finally...)
(what's been going on...)
First Obama, Now Palin - Smears All Around!
(how the internet and media have smeared Obama and Palin)
Why I Think John Piper's 'Christian Hedonism' View Sucks (And Also What's Good About It Too)
(what the title says)
The REAL Solution to Global Warming
(stupid humor about pirates and global warming)
Quotes: Anscombe on Various Topics
(interesting quotes, most of which I used in a Sunday School class at FBC)
In the Meantime...
(funny political cartoon)
Teleological Personhood
(don't be turned off by the title - this one's all about justice for folks like the unborn and mentally handicapped and many ethicists' and philosophers' prejudices against them)
Weird Cult-Like Folks
(the title says it all - another cult-like website I found through the google ads on my sidebar)
Chavez Finally Goes Too Far!!!
(a tongue-in-cheek tirade against Venezuela's president's "crusade" against hot sauce)
Freedom, Heaven, and Purgatory
(a slightly harder post on why Protestants might want to believe in Purgatory after all)
Quiz Results
(results of a quiz on eschatology that grouped me as amillenial)
Self-Formation, Aristotle, and Kierkegaard
(for the more sophisticated general reader only; all about character formation and virtue)
Bad Responses
(what I don't want students to say in their papers or people to tell me in conversation)
Some Teacher's Proverbs: Thoughts Thought While Grading a Bunch of Papers
(me being cynical)
Some Criteria for an Adequate Moral Theory
(what it says - very simple)
Simon Gathercole in Christianity Today on the New Perspective on Paul
(a critique of a critique of the New Perspective)
Notes for the Simply Christian Sunday School Class on Justice & Spirituality, God, and Israel
(what it says - based on the curriculum and book by N.T. Wright)
Politics Trumps Facts In Editorial Hostile To Administration
(critique of editorial criticising the Bush administration for being 'hostile to science' but where the editorial itself is really just presenting philosophical opinion masquerading as science)
Helm on Wright on the Order of Salvation
(for the more theologically literate, what Reformed thinker Helm gets wrong in his critique of N.T. Wright)
Notes on Self-Formation
(character formation and the forging of one's self for the future)
Notes on Romans 1:1-6
(what it says - an exposition of sorts)
Philippians 2:5-11 (Spencer Paraphrase Version)
(a paraphrase/translation of the passage)
Identity Politics
(the politics of identity, especially sexuality, and what goes wrong)
Hey Wise Guys!
(a test to check your wisdom)
Anglican Pit Fight
(more fights over homosexuality and a very contentious speech)
Random Thoughts on Ethics, Society, Welfare, and Human Functioning
(what it says - cosmetic surgery, amputation, disability, and human flourishing)
Cosmetic Amputation
(yikes! yes, there is such a thing!)
Peeps Alive!
(a link to a great video of our family fielding "peep wars")
A Large Portion of My Class Says They'd Push Someone in Front of a Runaway Train
(a bit heavier but still readable - ethics and society's views on it)
The True Nature of Internet Discussions and Debates
(me being cynical about the internet)
Religion as an Excuse for Violence
(what it says - a quick comment)
Further Notes on Moral Relativism
Moral Relativism and Really Bad Papers
(self-explanatory posts)
Yo-Mama Jokes for Philosophers
Controversy surrounding FBC
(the big media fiasco surrounding our church, one of the members, and some very prickly protesters)
"Blog": Genealogy of a Word
(me being weird)
Philosophical Orthodoxy
(first post)