Paul Arveson (
Sat, 22 Mar 97 17:02:07 EST

Jason Alley wrote:

All knowledge is not personal. This implies a relativistic approach to
truth, where something may be "true for me," or "true for you," but not
"true for him or her." This idea that what exists is contingent upon
what we believe about it is a falacy refuted by the law of
non-contradictions, which states that "Something is either true or not
true, wrong or right." If this is not the case, then our faith is
irrelavent. If God only exists for those who would like Him to, then
there is no real punishment for those who don't believe in Him, and
there can't be that great of a reward for those of us who do, because
God isn't really God of all, just God of those who acknowledge Him.

I'm not saying that you implied all of this in your post, but I would
like to caution anyone who would aproach any truth claim from this
angle. It leads to some dangerous conclusions. Knowledge, if it is of
objective truth, should be objective as well.

In Christ,
Jason Alley


The phrase Jason takes exception to here was derived from Michael Polanyi's
book on the philosophy of science, "Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical
Philosophy" written in about 1958. It was written at the end of the
era of 'critical' philosophy (and in fact help to create that end).
Philosophers of that time were attempting to place all knowledge on
an objective, absolute basis and create a unified, deductive science,
including all of mathematics and science. Knowledge as objective,
verifiable truth was the goal of this program, loosely called positivism.

To make a long story short, they failed.

Now, just because they failed does not mean that there is no such thing
as objective, absolute truth. Nor does it mean that the laws of logic
can be violated with impunity. Nor does it mean that all knowledge is
relative. Nor does it justify irrationality. It just means that there
is no methodology or foundation or theory from which to derive verifiable
knowledge that cannot be doubted.

The defeat of positivism led immediately to exaggerations of the meaning
of this defeat that go beyond the conclusion just stated. The most
important of these was Thomas Kuhn's 'Structure of Scientific Revolutions',
which in effect characterized science as a fashion show that changes with
the times in a relativistic manner. Kuhn tried to defend against this
accusation but was unable to do so satisfactorily because this idea is
central to his way of thinking. It ushered in the modern overuse of the
notion of 'paradigms' that now dominates a lot of academic work, not to
mention the swing toward relativism in the general culture.

If you read the end of my post, you would note that I wish to defend
'objectivity' as much as you do. The point is that the issue is not
one-dimensional but 2-dimensional. I want to affirm objectivity and
subjectivity, over against positivism and relativism. The world tends to
go toward the exaggerations rather than the complementary balance.

More about this can be found at the web site:

Paul Arveson, Research Physicist Code 724, Signatures Directorate, NSWC
9500 MacArthur Blvd., Bethesda, MD 20817-5700
(301) 227-3831 (W) (301) 227-4511 (FAX) (301) 816-9459 (H)