Friday, April 27, 2007

More From Dawson

Dawson responded to my comments on his original post. It’s difficult to know how to respond to him now. I’d try to explain it, but this is probably best simply demonstrated.

Dawson said:

Nowhere does my paper argue that an omniscient being would not know what a concept is. Rather, my point is that it would not possess that knowledge in the form of concepts. Pike fails to distinguish between the object of knowledge and the form in which that knowledge is held. He’s talking about the former while my paper talks about the latter.
I must have fallen victim to the notion that Dawson was trying to present an argument that was relevant. I suppose it’s a natural assumption that if someone is going to write 3,300 words on a site dedicated to “incinerating presuppositionalism” that that article would actually be applicable to a presuppositionalist position, but apparently Dawson doesn’t think that way. Dawson seems to be the type of person who would go to a Star Trek convention to argue that the Death Star should have been two meters wider.

Since I assumed that Dawson was trying to interact with the position he was critiquing, I read it in that manner. But I suppose I needn’t bother myself with such “trivialities” in the future.

But I’ll also say this certainly doesn’t seem to fit with Dawson’s original supplied reason for his argument in the first place, namely:

If it can be determined that an "omniscient" consciousness would not possess its knowledge in the form of concepts, this would have ruinous implications for the presuppositionalist approach to Christian apologetics which seeks to contrive aspects of man’s cognitive experience as evidence for an omniscient being whose thinking serves as the model for man’s mental abilities.
Now Dawson’s argument is simply that God does not hold knowledge in the form of concepts. To which I respond: so what? This obviously does not cause “ruinous implications for the presuppositionalist approach to Christian apologetics” since God can still use concepts. Surely Dawson is bright enough to realize this. Surely, he meant more by his post than just the above.

But apparently not.

Dawson displays his hypocrisy when he says:
My paper provides a rationale, based on the objective theory of concepts, for supposing that an omniscient being would not have its knowledge in the form of concepts. Pike himself said his god’s knowledge is not conceptual, but he did not provide an alternative rationale for supposing this other than the loose statements found in the bible which say nothing about concepts whatsoever.

Those statements are:
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).

For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:11).

Neither of these verses say anything about whether or not the god it speaks of possesses its knowledge in the form of concepts.
Back the truck up, Dawson. I quoted those verses in response to YOUR CLAIM that: “Many believers might think that, since Christianity teaches that man was created in the Christian god’s image, man’s thinking in the form of concepts would indicate that their god thinks in the form of concepts as well.” I responded with those verses and concluded: “Given these passages, it would be very foolhardy indeed for a believer to argue, ‘I think this way, therefore God does too.’” I wasn’t quoting those passages as “an alternative rational for supposing” that “[G]od’s knowledge is not conceptual.” I was pointing out by those passages that a Biblical believer would be stupid to assume God thinks conceptually on the basis that they think conceptually.

If you’re going to criticize me for supposedly responding to something that you didn’t write about, perhaps you shouldn’t respond to something I didn’t write about in the process.

Dawson said:

First, my statement “consciousness is consciousness of something” was nowhere offered as a definition. Why does Pike suppose it was?
Since it was in this paragraph:

To understand how erroneous it would be to assume that an omniscient, all-seeing and omnipresent consciousness would possess its knowledge in the form of concepts, we need to consider what concepts accomplish for man. And to understand what concepts do for man, we need to understand the essentials of his consciousness. Consciousness is consciousness of something, i.e., of an object(s). And man’s consciousness begins with perception of the world around him. Perception does not give man awareness of concepts; it gives him awareness of particular entities, their attributes, actions, etc. Sense perception gives man awareness of these things in the form of percepts.

(Emphasis added.)

Am I to suppose Dawson doesn’t think the definition of a term is needed “to understand the essentials of” that term? Do I really need to think he is that big of an idiot? Is this what he is really asking me to do here?

Dawson said:

Second, ‘consciousness’ is an axiomatic concept.
Good. This means that the following, which I wrote and you’re “responding” to now, should apply:

Now Dawson would most certainly argue that it is because consciousness is axiomatic; but even if it is, all he has done here is given us an empty label that he bases the rest of his argument upon. It’s about as meaningful as saying “A is A.” It tells you absolutely nothing about the nature or ontology of A. “Consciousness is consciousness of something” tells you absolutely nothing about what consciousness is, other than that it involves “something.”
So, tell me Dawson—how in your argument is “consciousness” anything other than an empty label? What is conscious? Or, since consciousness is involved it is more proper to ask: WHO is conscious? What are the attributes that this axiomatic consciousness requires of the subject who is conscious?

You want to ignore all that and just assume “consciousness” as if consciousness could exist without a subject. If it does, then it is a content-less, meaningless “empty label” as I said before.

Dawson said:

Like other axiomatic concepts, it lies at the fundamental level of the conceptual hierarchy, which means: it is not defined in terms of prior concepts.
So “consciousness” is meaningless in Dawson’s world. Yet Dawson seems to know an awful lot about it. Dawson is giving us restrictions on what consciousness can do, etc. and yet he has acknowledged that he doesn’t even have a way to define it.

Remember, Dawson originally said: “Consciousness is consciousness of something.” So what he’s really saying is “An undefinable term is an undefinable term of something.”

Very helpful indeed.

Dawson then said:

Pike then got sidetracked on the unrelated issue of whether or not concepts are open-ended, and presented a thought experiment to substantiate his position that they don’t have to be.
Actually, my thought experiment was only to demonstrate that you could actually perceive every single physical object and still be able to form concepts. It is therefore frankly dishonest for you to complain:
The original issue is whether or not concepts are open-ended, but the scenario Pike presents in his illustration is deliberately crafted so that open-endedness cannot apply.
Since I was never asking whether concepts were open-ended or not, Dawson’s response is ingenious at best. Now Dawson could certainly argue that my illustration only applies for close-ended concepts (although even he argues that it applies to open-ended concepts), but he cannot claim that my argument was meant to address that issue in the first place.

Once again, Dawson is doing the very thing he claimed I did (that is, responding to what wasn’t written in the first place).

Dawson said:

Also, he asks us to assume that “the entire universe consisted of one room with two objects in the room.” “Room”? What does this mean? Where did he get this concept? That’s right, he got it from the real environment. To make his thought experiment work, he needs to borrow from outside it, which makes it an unclean laboratory for developing his point.
Newsflash: I’m not saying the thought experiment universe is real! It doesn’t matter that it borrows from the outside world. The thought experiment is designed to focus on specific points.

Seriously, you need to get out more, Dawson. You’re freaking out over an analogy here. No analogy is ever going to be a perfect one.

Dawson continues:
Then, without explanation, Pike adds an “observer.” Is this observer part of the universe? If so, then we’re asked to contradict what we were first asked to suppose, namely that the entire universe consisted of one room with two objects. Now it’s a room with three objects, one of which is an observer. How many more changes to the thought experiment are we to expect coming down the pike?
Surely you are able to think better than this. No, the observer is not a physical object within the thought-universe, just as God is not a physical object within the real universe. Since the analogy is linking the observer to the nature of God (that is, demonstrating that an observer can have full knowledge of all objects that exist within a universe and still be able to form concepts) then the only reason you have to assume I’m adding an object is because you’re being willfully pedantic.

Dawson says:

Another problem is that we’re asked to suppose we know something without any explanation of how we’re supposed to know it; we’re asked to suppose that the entire universe consists of one room with two (um, make that three) objects in the room. How would we know this?
Gee, Dawson, I dunno…maybe by READING WHAT I WROTE?

Seriously: fresh air. Try it from time to time.

I wrote:
Or, to put it another way, if you can conceptualize based on a few objects, you can conceptualize based on a few more than that. And if you can conceptualize with more objects, you can conceptualize even when you have all objects, both real and potential
To which Dawson responds:

This does not reverse the facts that we are directly aware of only a small number of units at any time, that there are always many units of which we are not aware at any time, and that we need concepts to help us cognitively manage those units which lie outside our immediate awareness.
Which completely ignores the fact that we’re talking about an omniscient being here. Dawson forgot that he’s the one who posed the original question: Would an Omniscient Mind Have Knowledge in Conceptual Form?

Dawson said:

Again, Pike has missed what my paper argues. It argues that an omniscient being would not have its knowledge in the form of concepts. I did not say that Pike's god could not have the ability to form concepts.
So where’s the problem with Presuppositionalism?

Finally, Dawson concludes with another complaint:
But this does lead to a question: If the Christian god does not possess its knowledge in conceptual form, what is the form in which it possesses its knowledge? Pike did not speak to this.
Could that be because I was RESPONDING to your argument instead of presenting a positive one of my own?

In any case, Dawson has promised to use the concept that God doesn’t think in concepts for another post. If it’s anywhere near as torturous as this one, the Marquis de Sade would be well pleased.

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