Tom Gilson

Thread for Discussion on Views of Truth

This thread is open for continuing discussion on the topics leading up to here.

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29 thoughts on “Thread for Discussion on Views of Truth

  1. Jacob wrote,

    I would agree that God ultimately settles wrong and right.  That is one important reason why I think that we creatures just have contradictory opinions and no ultimate means to settle them.

    Then you think (?) that God created us and left us with no means to determine what is true? Do you think God is incapable of communicating truth to us? Are you aware of how frequently the words “truth” (129), “true” (100), “know” (859), and “knowledge” (154) occur in the Bible (numbers from the ESV)? This is not exegesis, but it at least indicates that these things are valued by God. And does he value them without providing us the capacity to practice or discover them?

    The thesis that we cannot know truth because God is the ultimate arbiter of truth needs considerable explanation, to say the least. It contradicts what God has revealed of his character and his nature.

    Or to put it another way: you may think you’re making a statement about human fallibility when you say we cannot have more than “contradictory opinions and no ultimate means to settle them.” I’m saying that by saying this in this context, you are also making a statement about God: that God is unable to communicate truth.

  2. Then you think (?) that God created us and left us with no means to determine what is true?

    There are plenty of different means to determine different understandings of truth.
    For instance, if I were pragmatist like William James, then determining the truth would be a matter of determining what is more useful.  If I were a Chemist, then determining the truth would be a matter of testing a hypothesis and establishing a strong correlation between variables that would allow me to make a credible claim to correspondence.
    But as far as I’m concerned, religious truth isn’t about being useful and it isn’t about correspondence.
    I would say that in terms of religious truth, I feel very uncomfortable claiming that we determine it.   And I feel very uncomfortable claiming that there are a set of means, like a road map or an equation, that leads us directly to religious truth.
    I have faith in the truth of God and His grace.  That isn’t a truth that I’ve determined so much as a way I endeavor to live and relate to myself, my neighbor and my God Almighty.
    Do you think God is incapable of communicating truth to us?

    I don’t know what God is or is not capable of.  I am only a human, a creature.  Whatever God is capable of, I would bet (and that’s all I can do because I can’t know) it is far more than I am able to conceive of or understand or account for or explain or describe.
    Are you aware of how frequently the words “truth” (129), “true” (100), “know” (859), and “knowledge” (154) occur in the Bible (numbers from the ESV)?

    Sure, I am aware of the multiple uses of those words.
    However, I do not assume that the meaning of each word (“truth” “true” “know” “knowledge”) is the same throughout the Biblical text.  Different uses may well carry different meanings that reflect the different times and places in which that particular book was written.
    I also do not assume that the various meanings of those words in the Bible have the same meaning as those words today.  The word “know,” for instance, does not have a static meaning that remained unchanging over the course of 2000+ years.  An etymology will reveal this for basically any word.
    Meanings change.  So, pointing out that these words appear multiple times in the Bible doesn’t really say much.  So what?
    It contradicts what God has revealed of his character and his nature.
    Is this your and your church’s interpretation of what God has revealed or is it the uninterpreted, objective truth that you’ve discovered by using some set of methods?
    And one question I asked in the last post: How do you decide on what issues you will or will not be agnostic toward?  How do you draw that line?

  3. I don’t know what God is or is not capable of.  I am only a human, a creature.  Whatever God is capable of, I would bet (and that’s all I can do because I can’t know) it is far more than I am able to conceive of or understand or account for or explain or describe.

    Sure. But you need not make it less than what you can conceive or understand or explain or describe. And if you say that we cannot know anything truly about God, then you make him unable to communicate anything truly to us at all. This is a statement about God, not about humans, and it makes him very, very small.

    Is this your and your church’s interpretation of what God has revealed or is it the uninterpreted, objective truth that you’ve discovered by using some set of methods?

    It is the historic church’s interpretation of what God has revealed, down through the millennia. Some matters of interpretation in the Bible have been historically disputed and controversial, but that God is able to communicate with humans has not been one of them. This truth has been revealed by God, and understood by humans using everyday methods of interpreting plain language of the Scriptures.

    However, I do not assume that the meaning of each word (”truth” “true” “know” “knowledge”) is the same throughout the Biblical text.  Different uses may well carry different meanings that reflect the different times and places in which that particular book was written.
    I also do not assume that the various meanings of those words in the Bible have the same meaning as those words today.  The word “know,” for instance, does not have a static meaning that remained unchanging over the course of 2000+ years.  An etymology will reveal this for basically any word.

    Here you aren’t saying anything except what you don’t think. This is – – forgive me – – waffling pedantry, facile sophistry. I’m being hard on you here, but you need to recognize what you’re doing when you say this. (This is by no means the first time you’ve done this, nor is it the first time someone has pointed it out to you.) I could teach a parrot to say, “Well, the words you’re relying on don’t mean what you think they mean.” If you don’t offer something back with some substance to it, you’re not really offering anything at all to the discussion.

    You say you don’t think the words all mean the same thing every time they show up in the Bible. Well, I don’t either; as I said, this wasn’t exegesis, it was intended to signify something rather minimal: that God considers knowledge and truth to be of value to humans. You haven’t begun to grapple with the fact that these might mean something. You say the meanings have changed down through the centuries, but you haven’t begun to say what changes there might have been down through time.

    You are evading the issue. I could as easily say,

    “what Jacob means when he writes things on his computer may be different when his message reaches mine, and what he really means by ‘An etymology will reveal this for any word,’ actually has nothing to do with eymologies or words (because words do change meanings, you know). But what do I actually think about what he said? Ahh, now – – you must realize that I don’t have to think, I can just retreat to saying that words have different meanings, so his conclusions don’t mean anything to me.”

    I won’t do that to you, though. I think it’s rather weak.

    So tell us what you think, not what you don’t think. Tell us something informative. Tell us what you think “know,” “knowledge,” “true,” or “truth” meant when they were written. Tell us how you can look at the 1000+ instances of those words in the Bible and still contest the rather reasonable conclusion that God actually cares about knowledge and truth, and wants humans to pursue them. Just tell us, and please quit evading!

    How do I draw the line on what I’m agnostic toward? Well, if I feel I have enough information to draw a conclusion, then I do. If I don’t, then I don’t. And I can even find it within me to draw conclusions and yet hold them tentatively, according to what seems to be the strength and conclusiveness of the information I have available.

  4. Sure. But you need not make it less than what you can conceive or understand or explain or describe. And if you say that we cannot know anything truly about God, then you make him unable to communicate anything truly to us at all. This is a statement about God, not about humans, and it makes him very, very small.

    If I say that we humans cannot know anything about God, then I make a claim about we humans being unable to know anything about God.  My claim doesn’t do anything to God, at least not that I can see. 

    Here you aren’t saying anything except what you don’t think. This is – – forgive me – – waffling pedantry, facile sophistry. I’m being hard on you here, but you need to recognize what you’re doing when you say this. (This is by no means the first time you’ve done this, nor is it the first time someone has pointed it out to you.) I could teach a parrot to say, “Well, the words you’re relying on don’t mean what you think they mean.” If you don’t offer something back with some substance to it, you’re not really offering anything at all to the discussion.

    Here is an offer.  The meaning of a word is context dependent, or situational.  To be clear, I am not saying that “the words you’re relying on don’t mean what you think they mean.”  Rather, I am saying that the meaning of what you say is not timeless.  Meaning is context dependent–words mean what they mean in the context in which they are used.  

    You haven’t begun to grapple with the fact that these might mean something. You say the meanings have changed down through the centuries, but you haven’t begun to say what changes there might have been down through time.

    Actually, I just grappled with the fact that words carrying meanings–I said those meanings are context dependent.  Have you grappled with the fact that the meaning of words change over time?  Have you grappled with what those meanings are? 

    Pick a word and we can delve into the various ways in which it is used in the Bible and what it signifies.   

    I do not contest the claim that God cares about knowledge and truth.  What I contest is your implicit claim that the meanings of knowledge and truth are static across times and places.  Meaning is contextually dependent, I argue.
    How do I draw the line on what I’m agnostic toward? Well, if I feel I have enough information to draw a conclusion, then I do. If I don’t, then I don’t. And I can even find it within me to draw conclusions and yet hold them tentatively, according to what seems to be the strength and conclusiveness of the information I have available.

    So you’re not agnostic about God because you have enough information on the matter?  Is faith in God just a matter of having the right and wrong information? 

     

  5. My claim doesn’t do anything to God, at least not that I can see.

    So, you can just ignore my claim and the associated argument. Convenient.

    Here is an offer.  The meaning of a word is context dependent, or situational.  To be clear, I am not saying that “the words you’re relying on don’t mean what you think they mean.”  Rather, I am saying that the meaning of what you say is not timeless.  Meaning is context dependent–words mean what they mean in the context in which they are used.  

    You’re still not saying anything except that you don’t think we can trust our understanding of the meaning of the words. Let me emphasize the first part of that: You’re still not saying anything.

    Actually, I just grappled with the fact that words carrying meanings–I said those meanings are context dependent.  Have you grappled with the fact that the meaning of words change over time?  Have you grappled with what those meanings are? 

    Yes, of course I have. Now, “grappling with meanings” is not the same thing as saying what you mean–which you haven’t done yet. Had you noticed?

    I do not contest the claim that God cares about knowledge and truth.  What I contest is your implicit claim that the meanings of knowledge and truth are static across times and places.  Meaning is contextually dependent, I argue.

    You’re not “contesting” anything. You’re just throwing out questions, and never offering an opinion other than “it doesn’t mean what you think it means.”

    So you’re not agnostic about God because you have enough information on the matter?  Is faith in God just a matter of having the right and wrong information? 

    No.

    I’ll elaborate on this if you’ll offer some substance in something that you say here.

  6. How am I supposed to respond?

    I’m not trying to ignore your claim or argument.  I disagree with it.  I don’t think that my words make God anything.  I disagree with your claim that my words make God “very, very small.”

    You’re still not saying anything except that you don’t think we can trust our understanding of the meaning of the words.

    Not actually, I’m saying that to understand what something means, we need to look real close.  Instead of just making broad brush claims about “truth” being in the Bible, I say let us see what the word “truth” in the Bible means by finding examples.

    You’re still not saying anything.

    It could be that you are unwilling to hear and unwilling to see.
    Now, “grappling with meanings” is not the same thing as saying what you mean–which you haven’t done yet. Had you noticed?

    Actually, I haven’t noticed.  I thought that I was saying what I meant.  But that is precisely the problem with multiple perspectives, meanings aren’t so clear.  I’m saying what I mean.  Then, you interpret it as meaningless and get angry with me.  But I don’t know how else to say what I’m saying?

    You’re not “contesting” anything. You’re just throwing out questions, and never offering an opinion other than “it doesn’t mean what you think it means.”

    I agree that God cares about knowledge and truth, which are part of his creation.  I don’t think that the frequency of times that the words truth and knowledge appear in the Bible indicate anything about their importance to God–the “poor” would be way more important in relation to either “truth” or “knowledge.”
    So again: so what?  Who cares about how many times the words appear?  I say that what is more important than frequency is meaning.  What does “truth” mean?  Find some reference in the Bible and let us look and see.  And then let us compare one reference to another and see what those words mean in the context of their use.

  7. Jacob, you asked,

    I’m not trying to ignore your claim or argument.  I disagree with it.  I don’t think that my words make God anything.  I disagree with your claim that my words make God “very, very small.”

    I had explained reasons for my position (which you’ll see if you look above). I’m calling on you to explain reasons for yours, and possibly offer reasons why you think mine are inadequate, irrelevant, etc. In other words, tell us why you think this.

    Instead of just making broad brush claims about “truth” being in the Bible, I say let us see what the word “truth” in the Bible means by finding examples.

    Actually, you haven’t said that at all; you didn’t say anything about finding examples. I’ll be glad to do that, later today. But up until now the only thing you’ve said about these words in the Bible is that they don’t mean now what they did then.

    It could be that you are unwilling to hear and unwilling to see.

    It could be that you thought you were saying something – – e.g., let’s look at examples – – when in reality you were not.

    But you are finally now moving into some substance, something we can work with. In regard to making God small, you still haven’t explained your position, you’ve merely stated that you have one. In regard to the use of the words truth and knowledge in the Bible, though, for the first time now you’ve asked the kind of question that can be answered. That’s progress.

  8. I had explained reasons for my position (which you’ll see if you look above). I’m calling on you to explain reasons for yours, and possibly offer reasons why you think mine are inadequate, irrelevant, etc. In other words, tell us why you think this.

    I disagree with your claim that my words make God “very, very small” because I don’t think that it is possible for human words to make God into anything at all.  God is God and my words aren’t going to change that.  I guess you could say that I have a humble opinion regarding words.

    My words and descriptions may well anger some believers of God because they aren’t the same words and descriptions that those believers use to talk about God, but that doesn’t entail that my words do anything to God.

    Can you explain how you think human words do anything to God?  Can you see my words make God “very, very small”?  Or do you just not like my descriptions and words and you are expressing that by saying my words make God “very, very small”?

    I’m looking forward to our discussion of the various ways in which the words “truth” (or whatever words you choose) is used in the Bible.

    But you are finally now moving into some substance, something we can work with. In regard to making God small, you still haven’t explained your position, you’ve merely stated that you have one. In regard to the use of the words truth and knowledge in the Bible, though, for the first time now you’ve asked the kind of question that can be answered. That’s progress.

    I’m glad that you approve.

  9. A great word that we could trace out is the plurality of the meanings of “salvation.”  It would be a great word to look at more closely because some contemporary believers have reduced the word salvation to one and only one meaning–saving a person’s soul so they will go to heaven.

  10. Stump pretends to think that Tom meant that his words had the literal power to make God into a smaller Being. Stump treats conversation as nothing but a game and a play of power which has nothing to do with honesty. His only purpose appears to be to irritate others and to amuse himself with a pretense of sophistication.
     
    Why “salvation”? Wasn’t the word in question “truth” and its variants?

  11. Charlie is right. When I said, “make,” I was using the word idiomatically. I would have thought that was obvious.

    Given your humble opinion regarding words, Jacob, and that all we have to offer one another here are words – – and that you have run so far in a strange direction with your misconception of a common idiom – – I am having severe second thoughts about the value of proceeding with this, or of trying to answer your questions in a way that would satisfy you.

    So let me check some assumptions with you:

    1. We’re not going to change the subject. If we proceed, it will be on the subject of truth and knowledge.

    2. If I undertake to do a Biblical study as proposed, I will be studying words and their context. My assumption is that words have meanings, and that they communicate content. Context (historical, cultural, literary, and grammatico-syntactical) is significant and appropriate for study. I believe that with study one can generally come to reliable conclusions regarding the meaning of words, propositions, stories, etc.

    (By the way, for one who is so tuned into context, you sure missed it on my use of the word “make.”)

    3. I intend to report the result of my study using words, and my assumption is that those words have meanings.

    4. My assumption also is that the results of my study have the potential (in whole or in their several parts) to be true or false; that is, that truth and falsehood, right and wrong, are categories that apply to conclusions that may be presented in a report.

    5. I further assume that if you disagree with the results I present, you would be generous enough to explain the reasons, and to refrain from evading through methods like, “your words do not have meaning,” or “your conclusions are not the sort of things that have the potential to be right or wrong.”

    I think a study of the way knowledge and truth are presented in the Bible could be very fascinating and fruitful. Both of them have multi-faceted meanings and usages. But especially for the sake of this discussion here, I would want to define the question. I propose this as a research question, based on our discussion to this point:

    Is there reason to believe, based on the Bible’s statements regarding truth and knowledge, that God values the pursuit of truth and  knowledge by humans, and gives humans at least some capacity to discover truth and knowledge regarding God? And what forms can that knowledge take? For example, is it relational, experiential, tacit, propositional, and/or some other kind of knowledge?

    Which leads to my 6th assumption:

    6. There are such things as relational tacit, propositional, and experiential knowledge. There’s also a kind of knowledge associated with physical skill, but the word for that won’t come to mind right at the moment. And there are other knowledges beyond these. The main question at issue is whether you would acknowledge the reality of propositional knowledge.

    Jacob, I think I’m going to proceed with this study because it sounds like an interesting thing to pursue. Your response to these assumptions will determine whether I will treat it as a response to your questions or whether I’ll just conduct it as a study for my personal edification and for presentation to the blog audience in general, without trying especially to satisfy your questions.

  12. Another thought just occurred to me on this use of the word “make.” Jacob has told us in past discussions that he believes language constructs or constitutes reality. Jacob, I may have misstated that slightly, but I think that’s the gist of it. It is typical in postmodernism (Jacob calls his views poststructural, but they seem to be very similar) to assume that a person’s or a community’s language is the very stuff of which reality is made. 

    So Jacob, did you think that I was being literal when I used that word? That I really was accusing you of, through your language, fashioning a God who is small; that I thought you were causing God actually (in whatever reality you were creating) to be small? 

  13. 1.  Great.
    2.  I agree that you will be studying words and their context.  But what do you mean by “reliable conclusions regarding the meaning of words, propositions, stories, etc.”?  What is a “reliable conclusion”?  Is it an agreement?  And do you assume that a word can have multiple meanings depending on the contexts in which it is uttered?
    3.  Great.
    4.  This assumption seems problematic.  How can you study the meanings of “truth” as they appear in the Bible and at the same time assume that the meanings of “truth” can be true or false?  And doesn’t # 2 already deal with the status of your results?  Your results will come to some sort of “reliable conclusion,” which doesn’t imply anything about truth and falsity.  Does it?
    5.  Yes, when I disagree I will give reasons. Its funny, I don’t ever recall saying, “your words do not have meaning.”
    Which is it?  Are conclusions “reliable” or “true or false” or “right or wrong”?  I vote for “reliable.”
    I’m not so sure about your research question.  No one is contesting the claim that God values the pursuit of truth and knowledge by humans.  Perhaps a more suitable question would be: What does “truth” and “knowledge” mean in the Bible?  What are the various forms that “truth” and “knowledge” take in the Bible?
    And I would leave off the bit about:” is it relational, experiential, tacit, propositional, and/or some other kind of knowledge?         

    Why would I leave it off?  For a couple of reasons.  One: because you are setting the limits of the possible meanings of the words prior to the study.  We should inductively search out the meanings of the words as they appear in the text and not limit them prior to our findings.  Two: these are present day understandings and it would be anachronistic to import them back in time and claim that Jesus was talking about propositional knowledge.
    6.  Same problem.  See #5.
    I recognize propositional knowledge.  I just assume that it is only one among a number of different kinds of knowledge.  I do not assume that propositional knowledge is the Best, Right, or True way of knowing.
    And from your last post:
    So Jacob, did you think that I was being literal when I used that word? That I really was accusing you of, through your language, fashioning a God who is small; that I thought you were causing God actually (in whatever reality you were creating) to be small?
    Yes, I thought that you were claiming that my words could “make” God “very, very small,” as you put it.
    What else did you mean?  And could you show me from what you originally wrote how I might have understood it differently?

  14. Stump is not being honest. Tom has written countless times that he does not hold to Stump’s theorem (now abandoned) that our words create reality. Stump is well aware that Tom holds to a position by which reality exists independently of our descriptions of it.

  15. Jacob, I assume you are a native English speaker. In idiomatic English, the phrase “make God small,” as I used it above, means “to make it out as if God were small.”

    I can’t believe you didn’t know that. And as Charlie noted, I can’t believe that after all our prior discussions, you would think that I would think I could change God by a word. 

    Now, to those assumptions:

    2. “Reliable conclusions” mean conclusions that we can rely on, that we can trust. Yes, I believe words can have different meanings in different contexts. I think that’s clearly implied in what I wrote.

    4. How can I assume the meanings of truth can be true or false? In one sense that would be the point of the study. If God is soft on truth or falsehood, or if there’s any ambiguity about his stand on the existence of real truth or falsehood, that should be apparent from the text. Further, I rely on the three basic laws of logic: noncontradiction, identity, and excluded middle, without which reason and meaningful discourse would be impossible.

    5. I’m not setting the limits of possible meanings of words, I’m giving examples with “and/or some other kind of knowledge.” Why would you call that a limit?

    I’m chuckling inside at this: 

    these are present day understandings and it would be anachronistic to import them back in time and claim that Jesus was talking about propositional knowledge.

    How do you know this is anachronistic? How do you know these present day understandings are not the same as prior understandings? It seems you would have to know what those prior understandings were, to know that today’s are different. But your point is that we can’t know those prior understandings! 

    Like you, I do not assume that propositional knowledge is the best, right or true way of knowing; it is one among several ways of knowing, each of which in their proper contexts and relations may be the best, right, or true way of knowing. My knowledge of my wife is not primarily propositional; but if you were to ask me what her birthday is, the best, right and true way to answer would be for me to offer you my propositional knowledge. Sometimes she asks me what I like about her, and she’s looking for propositional answers.

    And the reason I know that you have issues relating to propositional knowledge is because you have expressed them propositionally.

    Jesus expressed an extended series of propositions in the Sermon on the Mount. Your skepticism about anachronistic thinking is not enough to persuade me that when he expressed propositions, he wanted us not to take them propositionally.

    I don’t think we’re close enough on these assumptions. The problem Charlie expressed at 12:24 pm is part of the reason. I’m not at all convinced that you are communicating honestly.

  16. 2.  Does a “reliable conclusion” “that we can trust” depend on an agreement between you and me?  Or is it something that you declare?  Or what?

    4.  I want to be clear.  Are you saying that our results can be true or false?  Or are you saying that the word “truth” in the Bible can be true or false?

    How in the world would you determine “If God is soft on truth or falsehood, or if there’s any ambiguity about his stand on the existence of real truth or falsehood”? 

    I do not think that our analysis of the meanings of “truth” in the Bible will determine whether or not “God is soft on truth or falsehood.”  I think that you are conflating our analysis of the word “truth” and our results for God himself.  Our results don’t determine anything about God. To be honest, I don’t even believe that we humans have the capacity to determine whether or not God is “soft on truth.”  So, I very much disagree with your claim that God’s stance on truth “should be apparent from the text.”

    How can the creator of truth be “soft on truth”?  That just doesn’t make sense to me.

    What value are these three basic laws of logic to this analysis?

    How can a word have multiple meanings and the law of noncontradiction be in effect?  It seems that we would have an empirical fact (a word with multiple meanings) and some abstract law that declares this fact to not be the case.
    Tell me more “identity” and “excluded middle.”

    5.  Why would you call that a limit?  Because you’ve already declared that one possible meaning of “knowledge” in the Bible is propositional before you’ve begun your analysis.  Would you take that declaration back?  If not, then there is a limit.

    How do you know this is anachronistic? How do you know these present day understandings are not the same as prior understandings? It seems you would have to know what those prior understandings were, to know that today’s are different. But your point is that we can’t know those prior understandings!

    The credibility of my claim hinges on the various histories of the philosophy of knowledge that have been written.  Prepositional knowledge, for instance, was formalized in the 19th and 20th centuries.  A great book about the development of modern epistemologies is Stephen Toulmin, Cosmopolis, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992.  The Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy is also a nice resource.  The point is that my claim to know that Jesus didn’t talk about prepositional knowledge hinges on the authority of others that have written far more about it than myself.  And they can make credible arguments because they’ve investigated the primary texts.

    Jesus expressed an extended series of propositions in the Sermon on the Mount.

    I disagree with that claim.  Jesus gave a sermon, as the Bible refers to it.  And then you interpreted his words as propositions that can be tested as true or false. Jesus didn’t attempt to persuad the listerns then or us now that his words were or were not propositions.  You should remain agnostic about whether they are or are not propositions.  Why?  Because there is no good Biblical reason for your insistence on claiming Jesus’ sermon on the mount was a set of propositions.

    I don’t personally think that there is anything that I can do to make (and I mean make as in effect) you think that I am communicating honestly.  I would say that you didn’t trust me before the interation started and I don’t really suspect you’ll have a change of heart any time soon.  You seem pretty set.   

     

  17. I did not start out with an attitude of mistrust in regard to the things Charlie spoke of at 12:24. I did have considerable skepticism about our ability to agree on initial presuppositions, which is why I have been cautious. It’s very clear now that there is no way we can connect on these assumptions.

  18. Further on this: the propositional nature of the Word of God (and that is what it is called) is self-evidently true. That it involves more than propositions – – Jesus is called the Word – – does not obviate the fact that it does involve propositional statements.

    Placing the origin of propositional (not “prepositional”) knowledge in the 19th/20th centuries is unbelievable. Consider this stub of an article in Britannica, if you need a source:

    theories of knowledge ( in epistemology: The nature of knowledge )
    For the most part, epistemology from the ancient Greeks to the present has focused on “knowing that.” This sort of knowledge, often referred to as propositional knowledge, raises a number of peculiar epistemological problems, among which is the much-debated issue of what kind of thing one knows when one knows that something is the case. In other words, in sentences of the form…

    Or look at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s history of the philosophy of propositions:

    Arguably, the first employment in the western philosophical tradition of the notion of proposition, in roughly our sense, is found in the writings of the Stoics. In the third century B.C., Zeno and his followers, including Chrysippus especially….

    The Stoics preceded the New Testament by centuries. That part of the world was inundated with Greek thought. Jesus obviously did not support the Greeks’ worldview – – he specifically taught a contrary theology. But he did not in like manner teach a contrary theory of language or logic. He employed logic. He spoke in sentences that quite evidently were intended to convey knowledge or understanding, in terms of the actual words and their actual meanings.

    Paul was knowledgeable regarding Greek ways of thinking. He also spoke in sentences intended to convey knowledge by means of their words. (I think I must be out of my mind even taking the energy to say that! It’s like trying to mount an argument that water exists.)

    There is some controversy over the metaphysical nature of propositions, but I don’t see this discussion here as having much to do with that. The root of the question here has been whether we can draw knowledge from words, or whether they are in some sense opaque. It has also been whether we can draw true knowledge from words (in context, obviously). If, however, Jesus did not intend us to draw true knowledge from words – – knowledge that can also be expressed in words – – then we’re all condemned to falsehood, error, and hell. If Jesus did not intend words to convey knowledge, why did he command his followers to preach using words?

    For my purposes, I intend to let this be all the support and defense I will make regarding propositional knowledge in the Bible. The reason I am stopping at this is because I have no hope of coming to agreement with Jacob on the matter. Without something as basic as a propositional knowledge, no other discussion can even be entertained. If I cannot put forth the statements of the Bible as the indicators and expressions of knowledge that they are – – without being constantly challenged on their expressing propositional information – – I need not even bother beginning this effort. So I will call an end to my part in this discussion.

  19. Either way, I think your project broadly defined as searching out the various meanings of the word “truth” in the Bible is a great project.  I encourage you to take it up and tell us your results.
    That we can’t come to an agreement on starting presuppositions isn’t all that surprising.  I’ve been saying we (you and me) live in two different worlds, or see the world from two different paradigms, for a long time now.
     

  20. Funny enough, I wrote up this big response.  But at the end of it, I thought, it doesn’t matter anyway.  Who can argue with you if you believe that propositional knowledge is self evidently part of the Word of God?
     
     

  21. I have some trepidation inserting myself into this discussion, but here goes.
    Jacob, can we (1) in general determine what is a proposition, given a potential example of it (or come close), and, if so, (2) what might we look for, in general, in order to determine whether something is a proposition?
    That is, either the entire enterprise of determining what is a proposition is ill-advised, or, if not, then we should be able to get fairly close to a consensus at least some, if not most, of the time. 
    Right?

  22. Thanks for asking.  I don’t want to be rude, but if Tom won’t particpate, then I won’t either.

  23. Stump says:

    funny enough, I wrote up this big response.  But at the end of it, I thought, it doesn’t matter anyway.  

    Too right.

    Who can argue with you if you believe that propositional knowledge is self evidently part of the Word of God?

    Who can argue if we live in different worlds and speak truths in correspondence to nothing but our own thoughts?

    Hey Paul, nice try.

  24. Part of the complication here now, Paul, is the difference between propositions and propositional knowledge. The existence of propositions is more in dispute than the existence of propositional knowledge.

    Jacob, maybe that’s been part of the confusion here for us, too. When I refer to propositional knowledge, I mean knowledge that can be expressed and then received with at least approximate accuracy to the original intent; through the use of words in sentences, paragraphs, narrative or explication, etc. If your disagreement has to do with whether some Platonic entity relating to propositions – –  which you haven’t said, but I’ll raise the possibility – –  then that’s not what I’m referring to.

  25. Blockquote hint: use the icon on the far right of the icon bar to mark a section of as a quote. Click it again on the next paragraph to turn it off. If all else fails, click the HTML icon to fix it that way. If you have popups blocked, you may need to allow them before that will work. If you’re using Safari with PithHelmet you will need to go into the PithHelmet menu and “Reload Unfiltered” before the html will work.

    If you copy part of a previous comment and paste it into a quote, it may look like you’ve copied formatting that you don’t really want to include. Don’t worry about it, it will look fine when it’s done regardless.

  26. I do not dispute that propositions and propositional knowledge exist as analytical categories.  Propositional knowledge is a very prominent way of knowing–chemists, biologist, mathematicians, and some social scientists frame their work in terms of propositions that can be tested.
    However,  I do not assume that propositional knowledge is the only way or best way of knowing.  Propositional knowledge is only one way of knowing.  And so logically, I disagree with your claim that the propositional nature of the Word of God is self evident.
    Are you willing to say that the self-evident propositional nature of the Word of God is itself a proposition that can be tested?
     

  27. Did I say propositional knowledge is the only or best way of knowing? Did I say that the knowledge we gain from the Word of God is just propositional alone?

    Do your premises lead logically to the conclusion you have stated? I’ll recap them:

    1. Propositional knowledge is not the only or best way of knowing.

    2. It is only one way of knowing

    3. Therefore the propositional nature of the Word of God is not self evident.

    That’s a non-sequitir, my friend.

    I don’t really know that the self-evident propositional nature of the Word of God needs a further test beyond its being self-evident. You seem to imply (your second sentence and your last one) that propositions (propositional knowledge, perhaps?) must be testable in order to be propositions (or propositional knowledge). Am I understanding that correctly? What kind of testing did you have in mind?

  28. From what I’ve read so far, I think that the nature of propositions is exactly the issue here. Tom seems to think that words “have” meanings, as if meaning is somehow inherent in the proposition itself. Jacob, on the other hands, seems to be using the “meaning is contextual” argument to oppose this view of the proposition: that meaning is part of a contextual system rather than someone inherently part of a proposition.

    Now, I don’t know Jacob’s views, but from a phenomenological (Heideggerian and post-Heideggerian) point of view, meanings aren’t in propositions but are part of a context constituted most primordially by practices and skills, of being able to do things with things. If we accept this view, then logic and propositions are indeed secondary given the nature of practices as non-logical things. We could easily bring in Heidegger’s own analysis or Paul Ricoeur, Pierre Bourdieu, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Hubert Dreyfus, Jeff Malpas, or Tim Ingold.

    Also, if we accept this view, then we move beyond the forms of knowing already mentioned insofar as these practices are ontologically constitutive for things, not that they ‘determine’ a things nature, but that they disclose one of a being’s possibilities by situating it within various practices, values, goals, others (teachers, consumers, playmates, etc.), and other beings (a hammer’s relation to wood, nails, books/bookshelves, etc.). In other words, they are not epistemological in nature–as a means of determining the truthfulness of something–but ontological in nature–as disclosing a being as a particular kind of being.

    On the latter, I like to use the example of a pen: when it is contextualized within the practice of writing, with its own context of paper, interlocutors, purposes for writing, means of distributing the writing (mail, word of mouth, by hand, etc.), then its meaning and truthfulness is contextualized in this way and emerges only by being embedded in this context (i.e. it is not inherent, or simply there for us to simply see). But the pen can also be other things when contextualized in different contexts: as a bookmark, a paper weight, ready made art, a weapon, etc. And given the nature of our disclosing practices, the pen can be disclosed only as one or the other of these things (of its modes of being) at any given time.

    There certainly is a lot more to say about this issue and I hope that I am not misrepresenting Jacob, though I do think the above is what he is getting at. So, again, I think the nature of propositions are exactly what is at issue and is not a side issue that can safely be ignored.

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  • kcklos43gmailcom November 4, 2020 at 4:35 pm on My Puzzling Problem with Too Good to be FalseTom, how about: This is a different kind of book about Jesus, regardless of how many you've already read!
  • Tom Gilson November 3, 2020 at 7:26 am on My Puzzling Problem with Too Good to be FalseThat is exactly right. Since that is not my argument, however, I did not make that mistake. Th comparison with Mein Kampf is more than just a little disturbing!
  • Thaddeus November 3, 2020 at 4:39 am on My Puzzling Problem with Too Good to be FalseHi Tom, I haven't read the book yet, but I have some of your works. I see that some people feel that this just HAS to be true as this couldn't be made up...it's too fantastic to be false. A false premise (premiss) This approach reminded me of Hitler and

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