Friday, May 15, 2009

Sensation and revelation

Clarkians try to drive a wedge between Biblical revelation, which counts as knowledge, and sensory perception, which–at best–can only yield opinion.

One of the problems with this dichotomy is that it disregards an important category of Biblical revelation: visionary revelation.

Visionary revelation can occur in a trance state or dream state. In this altered state of consciousness the seer registers a series of inspired images. Occasionally the vision will include a speaker. Occasionally the vision will include some explanation.

But, in many cases, what Scripture gives us is a transcription of what the seer perceived, with few editorial asides. A verbal description of mental imagery.

This is not quite the same as sensory perception. There is no external stimulus which directly corresponds to the imagery. What we have, rather, is simulated sensory perception. Virtual imagery. However, it’s the functional equivalent of sensory perception:

i) At a phenomenological level, a vision has the same secondary qualities as actual sensation. Indistinguishable from what we sense with our sensory organs. At the sense datum level, the source of the sensory input makes no difference to the percipient.

The mechanism or reality that underlies the experience–whether external stimuli or inspired images–is distinct from the experience itself.

ii) The visionary imagery is only intelligible because it corresponds to imagery drawn from the external, sensible world–through sensory perception. Even fictitious creatures are composites of actual creatures.

If a Clarkian denies that sensory perception can ever yield knowledge, then, by the same token, he must deny the same to visionary revelation. Pictures are pictures.

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