Archive for April 2007

Lecture 30

22 April, 2007

Session 30

Readings: Dooyeweerd Roots of Western Culture ch 5; read it straight through – follow his argument, don’t get bogged down in the German thinkers he cites.

Edward ? ‘Towards a critique of the subject’ Philosophia Reformata 44 (1979): 86-105
This is an very important article.

In the previous lecture we looked at Mansky quoting Huxley.

Do you think that patience, independence of thought and objectivity of viewpoint characterise science? Does that make science science?
He is dead wrong! Even though he is T H Huxley!

Read from a book by a member of my department [Runner doesn’t mention Wolterstorff by name] :

‘The fisherman who suggests that fish will not bite after a heavy rain seems to me to be propounding a theory. In other words a scientific activity is not to be differentiated from other activities on the ground it deals with theories of a specific . Theories first devise and accepted in the pursuit of science of ten enter into subsequently in the non-scientific pursuits, conversely theories from ordinary life have been taken over by science. Neither is to be differentiated. In the pursuit of science people devise theories, in the pursuit of non-scientific activities people do so as well. In the pursuit of science people weigh theories, in the pursuit of non-scientific activities, they do so as well. Science and ordinary life can be viewed as on a continuum with respect to theories and with respect to actions performed on those theories.’ [Reason with the Bounds of Religion (Erdmans, 1984 [2nd edn] pp. 64-5]

These are ideas characteristic of the modern mind!

The use of the word extrapolation suggests that there is a continuity of scientific and non-scientific which would deny the difference we are asserting between them.

There is a kind of knowledge that isn’t scientific: pre-scientific or everyday experience. (You should have read my chapter on this by now – the problem is much worse than the 20 years ago when the lectures were first delivered.)

The idea advanced is that only when that which is characteristic of ‘scientific’ is extended to the rest of experience will our life be as it should be.

I have given two examples from the magazines I was reading at the time – this shows how pervasive this standpoint is, this is the modern mind. The examples could be extended indefinitely.

Augustus Comte reflected the modern spirit and influenced when he set forth his law of three stages – it culminates in the scientific or positivist stage. We are now at the third and final stage – it presupposes the evolution of the human mind. If we don’t think in this scientific way we belong ‘to an earlier stage of evolution and therefore primitive’ – so must be discounted!

To the positivists anything other than scientific is an instance of arrested development. This view has dominated the western world since the 1880s.

They use the term ‘non-scientific’ or ‘pre-scientific’ but they do not mean what I mean by it. The relation between the knower and the knowable will always be different.

At any one stage only on kind of knowledge is regarded as valid.

American thinkers

At the time Comtean positivism was articulated in Europe ‘a brilliant group of philosophical liberals’ according to Philip Wiener of MIT (Evolution in the Founders of Pragmatism, University of Pennsylvania Press 1971 reprint of 1949) was meeting around Harvard in the 1860s and 1870s. One of them Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr got to become knowledgeable about it. He changed the fundamental conception of how e viewed law. pragmatism is now dominant in law. It was the beginning of utilitarianism and empiricism. Holmes attempted to destroy natural law.

In a letter he wrote much later (1919) to Morris R Cohen [The Homes-Cohen Correspondence] he staes that ‘his sceptical attitude towards theological explanations had been encouraged by the influence of the scientific way of looking at the world.’ ‘It was in the air’ he says.

Here we see the scientific way of knowing in America establishing itself as the proper way of knowing anything.

Holmes Jr wrote: ‘My father was bought up scientifically, I was not, when he studied medicine in Paris, yet there was with him as with the rest of his generation, a certain softness of attitude to the interstitial miracle – a phenomena without phenomenal antecedents.’

How do you get miracle? There is a chain of events of causal determinism – there must be a break, that is a miracle – broken up by divine intervention.

‘The difference was in the air’, the clash between father and son may be regarded as symbolic of the impact of New England transcendentalism of the positivism encouraged by the new theories of physics and biology.

Book by catholic woman (Adrienne De Puys?) Philosophy, Education and Public

Herbert Spencer was in agreement with the position that the scientific mode of knowing was the only reliable one in his rejection of revelation and reason he was in agreement with Augustus Comte

Although Dewey was generally agreed with the notion that experience and science are the only ways that yield valid knowledge, he felt that certain adaptations are needed to construct a unitary educational theory. In How we think he wrote:

“Some might feel that the scientific attitude is irrelevant in teaching children” but he insisted that “native and unspoiled attitude of childhood, marked by ardent curiosity, fertile imagination, and love of experimental inquiry is very near to the scientific mind.

John Dewey (1859-1952)
Dewey’s work and thought have had far reaching influence on twentieth century life generally and in particular on educational thought. (He went to and had influence in Russia, China, Turkey, South America as well as North America.) His theory of education was in accordance with the modern mind.

Education is always a most sensitive spot, because it is in the educational system a community discloses its conscious and deliberate preserving of its character, its deepest sense of identity in its awareness of its standards.
Dewey was an outspoken humanist. Intelligence and science were close to being synonymous: ‘our best authenticated knowledge’.

The structure of God’s creation has to be taken apart and reassembled according to man’s autonomy.

Lecture 29

16 April, 2007

Session 29

Last time I suggested that there is more than one kind of human knowing.

The problem is that knowledge has been reduced to scientific thinking – to know is scientific method. Knowing is richer, fuller and deeper than the modern mind has grasped when reduced thinking or knowing to the scientific.

Is to know the same as to think?

To bring clarity we need to (ie obliged) to distinguish two fundamentally distinct kinds of knowing/ knowledge.

We become aware of a structural difference between the two which manifests itself. It’s not just a model. human knowing comprises scientific knowing and non-scientific knowing which precedes the scientific kin, it is our everyday experience. Herman Dooyeweerd describes it as ‘naïve’ knowledge/ experience. Naïve comes from a Latin word translated into French.

Confusion can arise – a confusion of our intent with these words and another use.

The Humanist tradition which began at the Renaissance initially asserted man’s autonomous freedom: the modern religion of human personality. Man is free – free from what? All that comes from outside of himself, eg, church, State, the word of God (if conceived of as a divine command). Man has to produce the law out of himself.

From out of its depth called for the motive to dominate Nature led to the opposed religion of autonomous science – there is no more room for free personality.

Natural forces that threaten to out do us – thunder, lightening, floods etc, humanism had to turn to mathematical physics to show man can dominate these forces and thus prove his autonomy. This shift man dissolves into mechanism and physical determinism.

The French Revolution is an natural outcome of all this.

The late Renaissance figure of Francis Bacon affords us an excellent example of how the free personality pole leads inexorably to autonomous objective science. Bacon in true Renaissance style sees man as ‘cock of the walk’ and the sovereign dominion of man the regnum homonus is his goal.

[Aside: Classical humanism is a going back to the Greeks; the Renaissance goes by everything in us. A great novel by the Polish Catholic who became a positivist Dmitriĭ Sergeevich Merezhkovskiĭ The Romance of Leonardo Da Vinci. Two men Georgio Morola (classical humanism) and Da Vinci (Renaissance) show the contrasts of these two movements.]

As Professor Metz has shown in ‘Bacon’s part in the intellectual movement of his time’ Seventeenth century studies. Presented to Sir Herbert Grierson. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1938:

Bacon ‘prescribes for knowledge a sublime purpose, the creative advancement of civilisation. But this can only be attained if man achieves mastery over an inanimate nature. In this task his best and most powerful helper is scientific investigation and this interpretatio naturi and the regnum hominis are blended into one inseparable unity.’

As the seventeenth century advanced towards the age of Newton the idea gained ground that the only knowledge worth knowing was scientific procedures alone.

John Herman Randall The Making of the Modern Mind: A Survey of the Intellectual Background of the Present Age. Houghton Mifflin Company,1940

John Herman Randall The Career of Philosophy New York, Columbia University Press, 1962-65.

Crane Brinton The Shaping of the Modern Mind: The Concluding Half of Ideas and Men1953, New American Library

Crane Brinton Ideas and Men: The Story of Western Thought By Prentice Hall, 1963

Randall ‘It was not [classical] humanism, the Reformation that was destined to make’ the modern mind ‘ it was science. Science was to build the modern world’.

In the sixteenth/ seventeenth century it was the view of a few elite aristocratic minds, eg the British Academy; by the eighteenth century the more bourgeoisie revolutionaries had accepted it and by the twentieth century the proletariats, the dispossessed held to it.

This one view the method of mathematical science.

According to Randall, science ‘entered the world in the sixteenth century’.

Modern history up to World War I was dominated by a compromise of scientific enterprise and medieval Christianity. WWI symbolised the emancipation of man! It broke the compromise.

We live in an age of permanent revolution: 1815 French, 1830, 1848, 1917 Russia.

There was periodic crying out on the part of individuals for freedom, eg, Rousseau, Fichte, Kirkegaard. They wanted to restore the original goal of autonomous man. Illustrating the dialectical swing from one to the other pole of modern humanism.

Man is in creation – he can’t be understood apart from free relation to God, others and nature. In that total environment that being, out of that the central religious core comes. Man exists only in those relations.

Humanism focusing on autonomous self has to go to science to show it can control things – the objective science pole but man then becomes no no more than deterministic atoms, so he crys out for freedom.

Dialectical swing – they aren’t on the centre of creational life. There is no such thing as individual man isolated from other things. He exists only in relation to fellow men and nature. We are not a separate entity. The humanist movement is ever at rest.

The belief in science as the only way to truth became the dominant characteristic of life. It would be easy to multiply illustrations. We will look at two.

First example: George Bundy
Harvard Today Fall 1961 contains a lecture by George Bundy (Dean of the faculty of arts and science at Harvard) to the freshmen. He says, University departments ‘in science must teach not science as one subject but science as a way of life’. His specific humanism becomes clear: ‘What makes a scientists, is that this is man’s way to meaning’. Most Christians would hear that and not flinch!

Science can never produce meaning – creation is meaning, it is God’s word – we don’t arrive at meaning from scientific analysis.

Only human life in the world lived by the light of God’s revelation, and understanding the creation in the light of that revelation, can provide meaning.

Science by its very nature, which a careful analysis of its genesis and dependency will disclose, can only describe fruitful processes and relations between and among such.

Second example: R H F Mansky

In March 1964 Chemistry in Canada – I’m using common everyday examples, we get them everywhere – Dr R H F Mansky ‘Society and the scientist’.

‘Scientists qua scientists must assume a place in society and apply the objective, ie scientific, method to matters other then his own narrow discipline. If he does not do this he fails as a man.’

Thus Mansky feels that in general all will and can be dealt with by the scientific method. Function in society as a linear extension of his function as a scientist. Mansky quotes T H Huxley:

Huxley ‘has assured that the virtues which maintain in science and by extrapolation to all human activity are patience, independence of thought, objectivity of viewpoint and that these can be come the foundation of a new social ethic.

The use of the word extrapolation suggest that there is a continuity of science and non-scientific experience which would deny the sort of discontinuity we are asserting to exist between the knower and the known. Only when that which is ‘scientific’ extends to all the rest of our experience – something made possible by the continuity between them – will our life be as it should be.

Lecture 28

12 April, 2007

Ended last session with quote from Werner Jaeger on Aquinas. He showed the full humanistic meaning of Thomas’s philosophy: ‘how man eternalises himself’: Man should be content with human things but be thinking of eternal things. By philosophical thinking the spirit immortalises/ eternalises himself

Dante’s poem The Inferno (he knew Aristotle). One part has been translated ‘how man wins eternal fame’, but that is not what it says. How come? Jaeger says, it fits the spirit of Renaissance humanists, it fits the classical passion for glory. Intervention of the Renaissance spirit. Immortality – we live on in the minds of our children and in our books, or reputation. But this was not what was in Dante’s mind!

Aristotle is thinking of the contemplative life of a philosopher, in this way he participates in eternal life.

Aristotle wrote three books of ethics; including: Nicomachean Ethics and the Eudemian Ethics.
In Book X ch 7 p 1117 of the Berlin edition he writes:

‘… but he should make himself divine as far as possible’ by pursuing intellectual life making self immortal. This concept adapted by Aquinas and Dante – despite being known as a Christian philosopher – it is pure Greek thinking!

Overview of what we have looked at recently
1. Philosophy for some is a substitute for religion (religion is not exercises, that is cult).

Metaphysics is a striving to obtain answers to questions that we shouldn’t need answers. It is a rejection of answers that have been given by God’s revelation. It is contraband for Christians, it is finding answers that revelation has already given us that is unbelief. In that sense it is apostasy, an idol. It is worshipping self as the source of truth. Many Christians have been caught up in itand attempted to synthesise it with revelation.

Reasoning always expresses the faith of our hearts. To ‘bring faith and reason together’ is medieval scholasticism.

2. For the Comtean positivists philosophy becomes one of the special sciences . It takes the facts of the special sciences ans puts them in order – philosophy becomes logic. This is too narrow a view as the other was too broad a view.

3. Aquinas – a turning point, a line drawn consciously, philosophical activity withdrawn from the directing power of the word of God. Philosophy is merely a natural thing in itself, can be influenced externally by the supernatural sphere.

If philosophy is a human work – human work of what kind? It as to do with knoweldge; philosophysing is about acquiring knowledge.

We have to go a step further.

Everyday experience – a salesman has a knowledge of his product, but not philosophical knowledge of his product. We have to begin to distinguish a number of different kinds of knowledge.

Lab technicians, hundreds of thousands of them in different labs aroudn the world do scientific work, but are not full blown scientists. But most wouldn’t claim to have philosophical knowledge – they are deeply influenced by Comtean positivists.

Salesman a knowledge of his product; lab technician a knowledge of his working. But these are not philosophical knowledge.

We have to distinguish different kinds of knowing and knowledge.

End of one series of lectures – the start of another.

Reads a quote from Butterfield The Origins of Modern Science

How many basic different kinds of knowing and resulting knowledge are there?

‘The correspondence theory of truth’

God coming down to our level and talked in our terms. We know him as he is revealed – that is true knowledge of the father.

How can mind know matter? It has never been solved when its put that way.

Aquinas had an equivalence of one thing to another point-for-point resemblance, mind corresponding image of the world then we have the truth.

I think its abominable – it lacks a Christian foundation.

NCTT vol II second half deals with this.

God we can know truly, brought down to our level.

Reads from a footnote from a Christian philosopher:

“It may even be that the belief content of my authentic Christian commitment contains certain falsehoods. Frequently, when teaching children one tells them what is strictly speaking false so also it may be that some of what God says to us may be strictly speaking false, accommodated to our frailty, yet it may be we are obliged to believe it”

A conflict with what Calvin says!
God himself validates it is the truth for you; for you to know me in the place of Jesus is the truth.

We have to talk about different kinds of knowing.
First example
The knowledge the salesman displays at the front door is a knowledge both of his product and the housewife and her situation.

At first glance this appears to be knowledge of non-scientific sort.

Behind all these knowledge that he is operating with elsewhere in the company we would discover

other types of knowledge: psychological studies of motivation, economic and scientific analysis of what the market will allow, rhetorical and logical scientific analysis of presentation.

Knowledge that is visible at the front door has another form and certainly a fortori no one would ever think of calling it philosophical knowledge – what we see between salesman and housewife.

People trained scientifically, but at the front door don’t display that.

Second example

Knowledge found among 10,000s of technicians all over the world a form of scientific knowledge – chemistry, biology, or motivation, or traditions of market – usually formed in the positivist climate. Most won’t have anything to do with philosophy.

We distinguish a number of different kinds of knowing – we have to account for this sense that we have structurally different kinds of knowledge. If we want to bring clarity we shall find it essential to distinguish two kinds of knowing/ knowledge we shall find it even necessary to do so. Necessary in the sense of being obligatory: we are obliged to make the distinction because in the course of our experience we become more aware of a structural difference between them which manifests itself. This distinction is not just a model that we invent or has contents spun out of our heads autonomously and proves pragmatically (in the sense of Dewey) useful – but it is in part our obliged response to an observed or sensed structure that is present in the creation itself, which is revelation .

Assigned reading: Relation of the Bible to Learning chapter on scientific and pre-scientific.

lecture 27

7 April, 2007

The meaning of revelation: God coming down to our level and making himself known. He has ways of speaking that are appropriate to us. He took on human form, God is known in the angel of the Lord – God reveals. This was possible before the incarnation because the incarnation was going to take place.

God is known to us – he made himself to our level.

Two kinds of God-talk.

1. Corresponds directly his essence, only a talk within the Trinity. It remains within the Godhead and is nothing to do with revelation.
2. God’s revelational talk that goes outside the Trinity.

The first is emphasised by Barth’s dialectical theology. Calvin ascribes revelation to God’s good pleasure.


It is exactly over against dialectical emphasis in the concept of distance between God and man in the relation of a talking God to hearing man that Calvin places the divine accommodation approach God who can adapt/ lowers himself to our crudeness/ abilities and weakness – the idea of such a God is essential to Calvin’s doctrine of revelation.

Back to the Greek story assumed the same wisdom – part of Greek worldview was that gods and humans had the same mother. As we see in Matt 11 there is a knowledge that the Father-Son share that no one else does. What does it mean to reveal? To bring down to our level.

Knowing is an activity of internal structure function. Knowledge will depend on the structure of the being knowing. It is the same for God’s knowledge – the being of God is different from the being of man. Keep before us the fundamental difference between God the creator and man the creature.

Wisdom and knowledge that is a piece with our creaturley mode of existence (under the law – God is above the law).

14th century William of Ockham (Occam) had a view of sovereignty – God could do what he wanted – deus ex lex. God is outside the sphere of law.

Calvin attacks – one thing that is n the foreground God’s faithfulness to self. God has his own being he is faithful to himself in blessing and in judgement. No escaping Christ’s suffering and death he is faithful to his covenant work.
God is deus legibus exlex.

God is free from laws (not under laws) but he’s faithful to his word of law because he is faithful to himself.

There is a fundamental difference between the creator and his creature. Wisdom and knowledge is part of our creaturely mode of existence.

Rom 10, Deut 30 the gap between God and man has been bridged by Christ the Word. He has made himself known in a creaturely way. Whatever knowledge we may be able to acquire of God and of his ways with us men in the world and of the history of such dealings can be adequate, that is true in the sense that God has validated this creaturely expression of such knowledge in Christ without being that knowledge being adequate within the old medieval, ie scholastic sense.

Scholasticism used ‘adequate’ in the sense of a point for point likeness of physical and mental [correspondence theory of truth].

We never see God as we see a tree – true knowledge of God can never be had, so adequate, correspondence mental and physical objects. This is the kind of knowledge we have of God.

Many philoosphies argue that theological language is meaningless, as no object to correspond to the notion, no object to be expected.

For moderns theological language is an attempt to form correct notion of deity. Can’t be true – it is an expression of covenantal disobedience.

Human knowledge is always human knowledge. This can’t be appreciated withot the notion of man’s position in the cosmos (Ps 8). Man is a relational being he exists in covenant relation – if he doesn’t know that he can’t come up with true knowledge.

(Some call it a Christian humanism – but the term is best avoided.)

Whenever one kind of being attempts to communicate with a being of another kind there is a problem of levels of existence.

Just as God tells us about himself by becoming a piece of my life. So if I am to convey to the bee the sense of being hman I shall have to do it by getting down to the bees level – and convey my sense in terms of bee experience structures experiences are without the presence of logical, technical, social, economic, aesthetic, jural, ethical and cultic life.

To be successful I shall have to become a bee among bees.

I have left out one thing: man is created in the image of God. So some differences between God communicating to us and us communicating to the bee.

(We will leave the discussion if bees have a social life – leave it until we discuss the modal scale.)

The upshott of our discussions that Pythagoras’s view is not viable. Philosophy is a completely human phenomenon.

Philosophy in all aspects and stages are human results.

Werner Jaeger Humanism and TheologyMarquette University Aquinas lectures 1943.

Reading from p 28ff

“Revival of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries also marked a turn from the arts to the ….”