Benedict Pictet on the natural knowledge of God, innate and acquired

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
From what has been said, it appears that we can, by the power of nature, know God, and that God himself is the author of this knowledge, both by that notion of himself which he has engraven on the minds of all men, and by the excellent works he has done, from the contemplation of which it necessarily follows that God exists. Hence it is that the natural knowledge of God may be considered in two points of view, as innate and acquired.

The innate notion of the Deity is that which is so peculiar to man, that, as soon as he is capable of using his reason, he cannot avoid very often thinking of God, and is not able entirely to reject the thoughts of him, although he sometimes may attempt it. The acquired notion is that which is drawn from the careful observation of created things. ...

For the reference, see Benedict Pictet on the natural knowledge of God, innate and acquired.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
The classic formulation of God giving us knowledge of himself through general and special revelation has been all I've considered over the years. Lately, though, I've been thinking that general revelation gives to us more than knowledge; creation is a place that God intended to meet with us. You see during the fall (Gen 3) that man was not startled at the notion that God was walking in the garden. After the fall, the imaginary in text such as 104 and Isaiah 40 suggest a close relationship to the creation. The puritans seemed to recognize this; their letters show a proclivity to walking in nature as they meditated upon a text (a rich association for me too.)

Anyway, I go around in circles here to suggest that man's reason should not be the central focus. That God both reveals himself and offers the opportunity to meet with him in the creation. The fall ruins both and without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we would see neither the revelation nor the meeting space. Our condemnation comes because even the fallen sense something of the grandeur of God in his creation. But our natural tendency would be to suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
The classic formulation of God giving us knowledge of himself through general and special revelation has been all I've considered over the years. Lately, though, I've been thinking that general revelation gives to us more than knowledge; creation is a place that God intended to meet with us. You see during the fall (Gen 3) that man was not startled at the notion that God was walking in the garden. After the fall, the imaginary in text such as 104 and Isaiah 40 suggest a close relationship to the creation. The puritans seemed to recognize this; their letters show a proclivity to walking in nature as they meditated upon a text (a rich association for me too.)

Anyway, I go around in circles here to suggest that man's reason should not be the central focus. That God both reveals himself and offers the opportunity to meet with him in the creation. The fall ruins both and without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we would see neither the revelation nor the meeting space. Our condemnation comes because even the fallen sense something of the grandeur of God in his creation. But our natural tendency would be to suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
How Vantillian of you! Also wouldn't our knowledge of God be more than our knowledge of say a cup sitting on the counter? Two different kinds of knowledge. Great post!
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Can you hash that out?
Sure. My knowledge of a cup sitting on the counter is limited to certain aspects of reality. My cup "functions" in these limited aspects, exists with a purpose. I can use it's physical aspects to hold a liquid or pens or change. But it won't get mad if I accidentally break it.
A person also functions with in the aspects as well, they would get mad if I accidentally "broke" them. In fact that's a crime. So two different "things" two different kinds of knowledge. I'm worried if my coworkers are mad that I don't clean up after myself but could care less about the cup. My knowledge is personal with regards to my coworkers, person to person.
God being a person has similar kinds knowledge in a person to person relationship but I've never "physically" met him or had a conversation with him. I don't talk to him about his grandfather being sick or his wife leaving him. My relationship is different between my cup, coworker, and God. Three different types of relationships between three different "things".
But sin distorts these relationships. If I think of using my coworkers the same as my cup than I've reduced them to a thing, not somebody (a person). If I think of using God as a thing (health and wealth type thinking) I have reduced him to a thing, not the ultimate somebody.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
Sure. My knowledge of a cup sitting on the counter is limited to certain aspects of reality. My cup "functions" in these limited aspects, exists with a purpose. I can use it's physical aspects to hold a liquid or pens or change. But it won't get mad if I accidentally break it.
A person also functions with in the aspects as well, they would get mad if I accidentally "broke" them. In fact that's a crime. So two different "things" two different kinds of knowledge. I'm worried if my coworkers are mad that I don't clean up after myself but could care less about the cup. My knowledge is personal with regards to my coworkers, person to person.
God being a person has similar kinds knowledge in a person to person relationship but I've never "physically" met him or had a conversation with him. I don't talk to him about his grandfather being sick or his wife leaving him. My relationship is different between my cup, coworker, and God. Three different types of relationships between three different "things".
But sin distorts these relationships. If I think of using my coworkers the same as my cup than I've reduced them to a thing, not somebody (a person). If I think of using God as a thing (health and wealth type thinking) I have reduced him to a thing, not the ultimate somebody.
Those aren't three different kinds of knowledge; that's knowledge of three different kinds of things. You know each of these three things the same way. It's a distinction in metaphysics, not in epistemology.
 
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jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Those aren't three different kinds of knowledge; that's knowledge of three different kinds of things. You know each of these three things the same way. It's a distinction in metaphysics, not in epistemology.
That's simply semantics. Three kinds of knowledge is effectively the same as knowledge of three different things. But knowledge of God is qualitatively different from knowledge of anything else. Your point and the problem you point to is merely linguistic.
 
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TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
That's simply semantics. Three kinds of knowledge is effectively the same as knowledge of three different things. But knowledge of God is qualitatively different from knowledge of anything else. Your point and the problem you point to is merely linguistic.
No, sir. There's a big difference in what something is (a question of metaphysics) and knowing that thing (a question of epistemology).
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
No, sir. There's a big difference in what something is (a question of metaphysics) and knowing that thing (a question of epistemology).
What you wrote was merely a difference linguistically. I agree there is a difference between metaphysics and epistemology.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
What you wrote was merely a difference linguistically. I agree there is a difference between metaphysics and epistemology.
You listed ontological differences between a cup, a man, and God, and said that because they are different things, we must have three different kinds of knowledge whereby we know each thing respectively. That's a confusion of metaphysics with epistemology.

Does it take a different kind of knowledge to know a glass cup vs a plastic cup? What about a plastic cup vs a Rottweiler? A Rottweiler vs a man? A man vs a woman?

There are important metaphysical differences between each of these. Does that imply that we have different kinds of knowledge whereby we know them?

One more question--how do you distinguish one type of knowledge from another? Is it only distinguished by the object of the knowledge, or does each kind of knowledge have distinct qualities?
 
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jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
You listed ontological differences between a cup, a man, and God, and said that because they are different things, we must have three different kinds of knowledge whereby we know each thing respectively. That's a confusion of metaphysics with epistemology.

Does it take a different kind of knowledge to know a glass cup vs a plastic cup? What about a plastic cup vs a Rottweiler? A Rottweiler vs a man? A man vs a woman?

There are important metaphysical differences between each of these. Does that imply that we have different kinds of knowledge whereby we know them?

One more question--how do you distinguish one type of knowledge from another? Is it only distinguished by the object of the knowledge, or does each kind of knowledge have distinct qualities?
All linguistic differences. you know things the way you know things.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
You listed ontological differences between a cup, a man, and God, and said that because they are different things, we must have three different kinds of knowledge whereby we know each thing respectively. That's a confusion of metaphysics with epistemology.

Does it take a different kind of knowledge to know a glass cup vs a plastic cup? What about a plastic cup vs a Rottweiler? A Rottweiler vs a man? A man vs a woman?

There are important metaphysical differences between each of these. Does that imply that we have different kinds of knowledge whereby we know them?

One more question--how do you distinguish one type of knowledge from another? Is it only distinguished by the object of the knowledge, or does each kind of knowledge have distinct qualities?
I see your point and I think I know what you're getting at. If I'm wrong here please correct me. You seem to be making knowledge the fixed point here and ontology the relative point (my knowledge is fixed and I only "know"different things). This seems to be, and again correct me if im wrong, exactly the debates that the Rationalists and Empiricists were having. Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz says all knowledge is known by reason. Locke, Berkeley, and Hume all knowledge is known by our senses.

Romanticism says all knowledge is known through our feelings. I know this is a simplistic survey of the the debates in the "epistemological turn" in philosophy but I'm writing a response not a text book. In all those cases knowledge was the fixed thing and ontology was relative in the sense of how does my fixed way of knowing know this thing over that thing. Fast forward through Kant's "synthesis" and Hegel and let's look Existentialism and Postmodernism.

For Existentialism they in general saw two distinct "beings" in this world. Beings-towards something (living things mainly human beings) vs "things at hand" Heidegger or beings-for-themselves and beings-in-themselves Sartre. They took the subject/object relationship and added a new element to it that the Rationalists and Empiricists generally didn't. The subject isn't just a "knowing thing" it has goals, desires, and seeks a purpose. Unlike the cup or even an animal it can ask these questions and desires to seek answers. The things out there are merely there to facilitate that quest, which is survival and answers to those questions. In general the only morality they had was your a subject and I'm a subject so don't treat me like an object (quite selfish because so what if I treat you like an object, just don't do that to me).

Now the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Descartes, Locke, Kant, Hegel, and Existentialism added a moral concept to this in the face of the Holocaust, the Postmodernists. I'm not an object and you're not an object, so how then do we "know" and with that treat eachother in a fundamentaly different way than how I "know"or treat a cup? The face of the "other" was a question Levinas asked in this vein. But notice with this added element we have made my knowledge of a person both more complex and qualitatively different from my knowledge of a cup. How do I know you through your face?

Our knowledge of God is by definition qualitatively distinct from my knowledge of other people or things so I won't explain that one. Sorry for lengthy and oversimplified crash course in modern philosophy but it's necessary for anyone not that aquainted with these things. I try to post for everyones benefit. If I got your point wrong than please correct me. But I hope that "hashes out" my point better and shows the historical reason for it. If you or anyone has any questions feel free to ask.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
I see your point and I think I know what you're getting at. If I'm wrong here please correct me. You seem to be making knowledge the fixed point here and ontology the relative point (my knowledge is fixed and I only "know"different things). This seems to be, and again correct me if im wrong, exactly the debates that the Rationalists and Empiricists were having. Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz says all knowledge is known by reason. Locke, Berkeley, and Hume all knowledge is known by our senses.

Romanticism says all knowledge is known through our feelings. I know this is a simplistic survey of the the debates in the "epistemological turn" in philosophy but I'm writing a response not a text book. In all those cases knowledge was the fixed thing and ontology was relative in the sense of how does my fixed way of knowing know this thing over that thing. Fast forward through Kant's "synthesis" and Hegel and let's look Existentialism and Postmodernism.

For Existentialism they in general saw two distinct "beings" in this world. Beings-towards something (living things mainly human beings) vs "things at hand" Heidegger or beings-for-themselves and beings-in-themselves Sartre. They took the subject/object relationship and added a new element to it that the Rationalists and Empiricists generally didn't. The subject isn't just a "knowing thing" it has goals, desires, and seeks a purpose. Unlike the cup or even an animal it can ask these questions and desires to seek answers. The things out there are merely there to facilitate that quest, which is survival and answers to those questions. In general the only morality they had was your a subject and I'm a subject so don't treat me like an object (quite selfish because so what if I treat you like an object, just don't do that to me).

Now the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Descartes, Locke, Kant, Hegel, and Existentialism added a moral concept to this in the face of the Holocaust, the Postmodernists. I'm not an object and you're not an object, so how then do we "know" and with that treat eachother in a fundamentaly different way than how I "know"or treat a cup? The face of the "other" was a question Levinas asked in this vein. But notice with this added element we have made my knowledge of a person both more complex and qualitatively different from my knowledge of a cup. How do I know you through your face?

Our knowledge of God is by definition qualitatively distinct from my knowledge of other people or things so I won't explain that one. Sorry for lengthy and oversimplified crash course in modern philosophy but it's necessary for anyone not that aquainted with these things. I try to post for everyones benefit. If I got your point wrong than please correct me. But I hope that "hashes out" my point better and shows the historical reason for it. If you or anyone has any questions feel free to ask.
My point is that knowledge is warranted/justified, true belief. We know things, in the proper sense of the term, propositionally, either through the intellect alone, or through the intellect working with the senses. My knowledge of cups, men, and God consists of sets of warranted, true beliefs (propositions). I know them the same way, even though they are different things.
 
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jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
My point is that knowledge is warranted/justified, true belief. We know things, in the proper sense of the term, propositionally, either through the intellect alone, or through the intellect working with the senses. My knowledge of cups, men, and God consists of sets of warranted, true beliefs (propositions). I know them the same way, even though they are different things.
Yeah and this would be as you know a difference between continental and Anglo-saxon philosophy. I think you use the word know differentially from the way im using it. You seem to be using it more methodologicaly, how I know that a belief is true or warranted. I don't have any issues with that but I'm using it qualitatively (my knowledge of one kind of thing is qualitatively different from my knowledge of another kind of thing). You can still accept my broad stroke view and use your method to show a belief about those things is warranted. I'm emphasizing one aspect of the knowledge situation and you another. From your aspect all beliefs are warranted the same way. But from my aspect they are intuitively different kinds of beliefs. Im using "knowledge" in an existential way, that might clear things.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
Yeah and this would be as you know a difference between continental and Anglo-saxon philosophy. I think you use the word know differentially from the way im using it. You seem to be using it more methodologicaly, how I know that a belief is true or warranted. I don't have any issues with that but I'm using it qualitatively (my knowledge of one kind of thing is qualitatively different from my knowledge of another kind of thing). You can still accept my broad stroke view and use your method to show a belief about those things is warranted. I'm emphasizing one aspect of the knowledge situation and you another. From your aspect all beliefs are warranted the same way. But from my aspect they are intuitively different kinds of beliefs. Im using "knowledge" in an existential way, that might clear things.
I'm not talking about how we know that a belief is true; I'm talking about what knowledge is. If knowledge is belief, and beliefs can be reduced to propositions, then one piece of knowledge (one belief/proposition) is not qualitatively different from another. It's the same kind of thing. It may be a belief/proposition about one thing, as opposed to a belief/proposition about another thing, but that doesn't change the fact that both beliefs/propositions are the same in kind, though they differ in content.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
I'm not talking about how we know that a belief is true; I'm talking about what knowledge is. If knowledge is belief, and beliefs can be reduced to propositions, then one piece of knowledge (one belief/proposition) is not qualitatively different from another. It's the same kind of thing. It may be a belief/proposition about one thing, as opposed to a belief/proposition about another thing, but that doesn't change the fact that both beliefs/propositions are the same in kind, though they differ in content.
Well I don't believe all knowledge is propositional. Some of our most sacred beliefs are not straightforwardly propositional. I mean you can "rotate" any belief, if that's the right word, to be propositional. But that really just makes "propositional" almost tautological in nature, it doesn't really tells anything. Yes propositions are the same but I don't think simply having "propositions" about something exhausts the meaningfullness of it. It is "propositionaly" " true" that Mozart was technically a better composer and piano player than Beethoven but I listen to moonlight sonata and it's truly better than any piano concerto Mozart wrote.
So although I agree with much of what you're saying I think "knowledge" and "truth" are way more complex than that. Existential captures my view a little better. I don't see how a "propositional" view helps one adjudicate something like "a women's intuition" or other colloquial beliefs we find so meaningful?
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
Well I don't believe all knowledge is propositional. Some of our most sacred beliefs are not straightforwardly propositional. I mean you can "rotate" any belief, if that's the right word, to be propositional. But that really just makes "propositional" almost tautological in nature, it doesn't really tells anything. Yes propositions are the same but I don't think simply having "propositions" about something exhausts the meaningfullness of it. It is "propositionaly" " true" that Mozart was technically a better composer and piano player than Beethoven but I listen to moonlight sonata and it's truly better than any piano concerto Mozart wrote.
So although I agree with much of what you're saying I think "knowledge" and "truth" are way more complex than that. Existential captures my view a little better. I don't see how a "propositional" view helps one adjudicate something like "a women's intuition" or other colloquial beliefs we find so meaningful?
Intuition isn't a belief. It may inform a belief, but it isn't a belief. If I were to ask you what you believe (or what you know) about any given thing, you would start telling me propositions.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Intuition isn't a belief. It may inform a belief, but it isn't a belief. If I were to ask you what you believe (or what you know) about any given thing, you would start telling me propositions.
Well I do you think you can form a belief from intuition, I mean if you can reduce "love" to propossitions I'm not sure that matters much or could be exspressiable "propositionaly" to a cute couple sitting alone in a coffee shop staring with glassy eyes at one another.
What about poetry? What's propositional about that? Again if you're strictly talking method we don't disagree. But where does that leave our philosophically inclined cute couple staring glassy eyed at one another in a coffee shop?
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
Well I do you think you can form a belief from intuition, I mean if you can reduce "love" to propossitions I'm not sure that matters much or could be exspressiable "propositionaly" to a cute couple sitting alone in a coffee shop staring with glassy eyes at one another.
What about poetry? What's propositional about that? Again if you're strictly talking method we don't disagree. But where does that leave our philosophically inclined cute couple staring glassy eyed at one another in a coffee shop?
I agree that knowledge can be gained via intuition.

Love isn't a belief; it's an affection. You can know (believe) that you have that affection, and you can express it propositionally: "I love you."
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
I agree that knowledge can be gained via intuition.

Love isn't a belief; it's an affection. You can know (believe) that you have that affection, and you can express it propositionally: "I love you."
Ok but does it make it less true for the cute couple who believe they are experiencing love but can't propositionaly spell it out? I'm not disagreeing that proper "knowledge" isn't propositional only that knowledge can't be confined to that. It's not simple. I know I'm taking liberties with how we use the word "love" but I'm trying to show that it can't reduced to mere propositions and yet still count as knowledge. Hence my example what endless philosophical debates would it take to convince them they didn't know they were in love?
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
Ok but does it make it less true for the cute couple who believe they are experiencing love but can't propositionaly spell it out? I'm not disagreeing that proper "knowledge" isn't propositional only that knowledge can't be confined to that. It's not simple. I know I'm taking liberties with how we use the word "love" but I'm trying to show that it can't reduced to mere propositions and yet still count as knowledge. Hence my example what endless philosophical debates would it take to convince them they didn't know they were in love?
If they don't know that they are in love, then they don't have knowledge of it. It may be that they are in love and don't yet realize it, but that only means that the affection is present without them being cognizant of the fact.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
If they don't know that they are in love, then they don't have knowledge of it. It may be that they are in love and don't yet realize it, but that only means that the affection is present without them being cognizant of the fact.
That seems like semantics to me. The thought problem is they know they are in love but can't propositionaly prove it or explain it. Does that mean they have no knowledge of being in love (and their emotive, psychological, and biological senses are wrong) or do they in fact "know" and that is a problem for the "knowledge is only propositional" POV? It's a thought problem.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
That seems like semantics to me. The thought problem is they know they are in love but can't propositionaly prove it or explain it. Does that mean they have no knowledge of being in love (and their emotive, psychological, and biological senses are wrong) or do they in fact "know" and that is a problem for the "knowledge is only propositional" POV? It's a thought problem.
Sorry, I see that I misunderstood your last post. I thought you were saying that the couple didn't know that they were in love.

A person knowing he's in love is as much as him thinking to himself, "I'm in love," which is a proposition/belief.

I don't know what it could mean that someone knows something (has a warranted true belief concerning something), but that the belief can't be expressed propositionally.

It's certainly true that a person can have a belief without being able to express it well, but that doesn't mean that it can't be reduced to propositions.
 

PezLad

Puritan Board Freshman
What are your guys thoughts on Gordon H Clarke; his trinity foundation has enlightened me much. I agree with him that all knowledge is propositional and that Jesus Christ is the Logic, the Reason, the Argument, the one and only Truth.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Sorry, I see that I misunderstood your last post. I thought you were saying that the couple didn't know that they were in love.

A person knowing he's in love is as much as him thinking to himself, "I'm in love," which is a proposition/belief.

I don't know what it could mean that someone knows something (has a warranted true belief concerning something), but that the belief can't be expressed propositionally.

It's certainly true that a person can have a belief without being able to express it well, but that doesn't mean that it can't be reduced to propositions.
I agree that some part of it can be propositional. But that really kind of reduces the value of propositional. So a question is all our knowledge reducable to propositions, as a kind sure foundation?
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Sorry, I see that I misunderstood your last post. I thought you were saying that the couple didn't know that they were in love.

A person knowing he's in love is as much as him thinking to himself, "I'm in love," which is a proposition/belief.

I don't know what it could mean that someone knows something (has a warranted true belief concerning something), but that the belief can't be expressed propositionally.

It's certainly true that a person can have a belief without being able to express it well, but that doesn't mean that it can't be reduced to propositions.
Ask the starry eyed couple staring at eachother? Everyone else knows they're in love. Its propositional from the onlookers POV. But they could be in love without being able to express it, but if you cant express it (but it happens to be true) it isnt propositional.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
What are your guys thoughts on Gordon H Clarke; his trinity foundation has enlightened me much. I agree with him that all knowledge is propositional and that Jesus Christ is the Logic, the Reason, the Argument, the one and only Truth.
I admire and respect Clark. His work has benefited me. But I think that, respectively, his inability to understand the later Wittgenstein (which he says in his book on language) means his thought is somewhat philosophicaly dated. It doesn't make him bad only dated. Just my opinion.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
Ask the starry eyed couple staring at eachother? Everyone else knows they're in love. Its propositional from the onlookers POV. But they could be in love without being able to express it, but if you cant express it (but it happens to be true) it isnt propositional.
If they can't express it, they don't know it. They may have the affection without knowing it.

So a question is all our knowledge reducable to propositions, as a kind sure foundation?
Yes, all knowledge is reducible to propositions. That's a truth that can't be gotten around. The moment a belief is formed (and knowledge is warranted, true belief), it can be reduced to a proposition.
 
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TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
What are your guys thoughts on Gordon H Clarke; his trinity foundation has enlightened me much. I agree with him that all knowledge is propositional and that Jesus Christ is the Logic, the Reason, the Argument, the one and only Truth.
I like Clark, but I'm not a Clarkian, if you follow.
 
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