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.

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