Turretin Fan did a little post on paradox in which, in one important respect, he comes down on the side of Gordon Clark rather than Cornelius Van Til:
Before I say anything else, permit me to say that TF is very different than Sean Gerety. TF knows how to argue for his positions, and does so on a regular basis. He’s a credit to his cause.
I’m going to zero in on one objection he raises:
“The idea that something is irreconcilably contradictory but not truly contradictory is an odd concept. It is so odd that it leads one to believe that, vis-à-vis the human mind, these are real contradictions that Van Til is talking about (although for God they are not contradictions). That's a bit troubling, since it seems to open the door to a denial of the law of non-contradiction at least as far as the human mind is concerned.”
“There is, however, a good reason to think that there are no such situations, at least because we have a very strong shared intuition that the law of non-contradiction is universal and applicable to the human mind.”
I find this objection puzzling. How would the law of non-contradiction preclude the possibility that truth may appear to be contradictory to the human observer?
We’re dealing here, not with things as they are in themselves, but a relation between the object of knowledge and the subject of knowledge.
Given the universality of the law, TF would have to take the position that not only are apparent contradictions impossible in our experience of Scripture, but they’re impossible in our experience of the world. Nothing true could ever confront the mind as apparently contradictory or paradoxical.
But surely it’s trivially true to come up with counterexamples. For instance:
“Abu Mazen was the first PLO official to visit Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War in January 1993.”
“Mahmoud Abbas was the first PLO official to visit Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War in January 1993.”
These two statements are formally contradictory. Does this mean that one or both statements are false?
As a matter of fact, both statements are true. The contradiction is apparent rather than real.
We need to distinguish between different named individuals and differently named individuals.
So, according to TF, does the law of non-contradiction preclude the possibility of apparently contradictory truths?
Or does it only preclude the possibility of insoluble apparently contradictory truths?
But even if he takes the weaker position, surely there are situations in which we lack sufficient information to resolve an apparent contradiction.
In the example I just gave, if the only information you had to go by were these two statements, you’d be unable to prove that both statements were true.
We just so happen to have additional information about this individual. We happen to know that he goes by more than one name.
I don’t see how the law of non-contradiction creates any presumption against the possibility of contradictory truths in human experience. The law of non-contradiction applies to the nature of truth, and not the perception of truth.
I’d add that I don’t think Van Tilians like James Anderson invoke paradox to explain examples of alleged numerical, nominal, chronological, or citational discrepancies in Scripture.