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March 11, 2020 12:01 am
Is it possible to know that something is true if we don’t experience it for ourselves? Today, R.C. Sproul expresses how Immanuel Kant’s answer to this question brought about one of the most significant revolutions in world history.
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In the 1700s, a philosopher named Emmanuel can't change the way the world thought about God. Why that matters today mixed on Renewing Your Mind. We as Christians do with secular philosophy, particularly when that philosophy so clearly attacks the veracity of God's word.
There have been various approaches through the years. Some of simply ignored it.
Dr. RC Sproul had a different conviction believe we need to know how these men fought so we can defend the truth claims of Christianity.
Is RC now from his series, the consequences of idea when historians and cultural analyst at our contemporary civilization. They frequently use words to describe the situation that are prefaced by the word post, we hear this generation called the post modern era or the post Christian era, or perhaps even more frequently. The post content era. The reason for that description is that all theoretical thought since Immanuel Kant has to be understood in light of the groundwork that he achieved in the 18th century, and I think there's a link between post-Kantianism and what we call the post-Christian era because Immanuel Kant more than any other individual, gave the most devastating critique of classical theism. It's ever been launched and that created a crisis in apologetics in the rational defense of historic Christianity and the like.
Now I've mentioned in the past all the way back at the beginning of our series of a tendency for cycles to take place in the history of theoretical thought. When tension occurs between two dominant schools of thought that immediately after that comes a period of skepticism and that period of skepticism tends to prevail until somebody comes along and produces a new synthesis that will reconstruct the ground basis for theoretical thought we saw that in the tension that arose between the thinking of Parmenides and Heraclitus, which was then resolved by Plato and then we saw another tension between Plato and Aristotle, which really didn't get resolved until the Christian synthesis of Augustine and so on. Well, now in the 17th and 18th century we saw this terrific tension between the schools of rationalism and empiricism ending in the radical skepticism of David Hume and what followed us out of this. In the 18 century or two really different movements.
Although they are closely related. One was the origination of the so-called enlightenment which will treat at another time, but mainly were concerned today with the impact of Immanuel Kant knelt to simplify things we can say that the whole history of philosophy prior to Kant can be divided between two general schools of thought rationalism on the one hand and empiricism on the other. So I again I'm painting with a broad brush here and working a little bit loosely at this point, but if we were to go through history and look at the strands of thought under rationalism.
We might put Parmenides and Plato and Plotinus and Augustine, and so on.
Dropping down, then to Descartes and Leibniz and Spinoza and Pascoe on the empiricism side we would include such people as Heraclitus and then Aristotle and then Aquinas and bacon and then into the lock, and so on so that we could as a set of four loose enough put every major thinker, Anselm would go into the rational side into one or the other of these two camps now.
Perhaps the most important philosophical synthesis ever achieved was that achieved by Kant when he took both of the schools borrowed from HC criticize certain aspects of each side borrows the good things from each side and produce a whole new approach to knowledge now will go over that in a few moments after Kant achieved his synthesis. You might say: that would be the end of the history of Western philosophy, but in fact what happened is out of Collins watershed work came either directly or indirectly, all the modern schools of philosophy that compete with one another for acceptance since caught from Kant. We can trace the roots. For example, of idealism of Marxism logical positivism and analytical philosophy or existentialism or phenomenology or pragmatism or relativism or pluralism that is to say virtually all of the movements of the 19th and 20th century that have emerged since Kant trace their origins in their roots to some aspects some dimension of the work that he initiated Nellis take a few moments to look at the basics of his synthesis. If you recall, we saw that the differences between the rationalists and the empiricists included the rationalists believed in the priority of the priority I that is of innate ideas, rational concepts, whereas the empiricists insisted that all knowledge was posterior Lori that is after experience, and there were no innate ideas so that irreconcilable dispute between rationalism and empiricism was one of the key things that can't addressed. But first, his approach Kant's approach to this problem was called the transcendental method. There's some ambiguity in the way in which the term transcendental is used here but let me try to simplify for caught looked at the problems that were faced both by the empiricists and the rationalists. He looked at the graveyard of empiricism and the skepticism of David Hume and it was Hume's skepticism that aroused Kant to try to come up with a reconstruction of philosophy caught was a man who lived in Coney's Burke in Prussia. He was an obscure professor at the University there.
He never traveled more than 100 miles from his place of birth, and no one ever assume that he would make any kind of splash in the intellectual world, but he said that he was awakened from his dogmatic slumbers by the work of David Hume and he rose to the occasion, out of a desire to rescue science to rescue knowledge itself. So his most important and most famous work the critique of pure reason, was published in 1781, right around the same time that the articles of government for the United States. His new Republic were being processed and we are told that in our country that the most significant revolution in the last couple of 300 years was the American revolution, but historians of culture argue that the most significant revolution in the last 300 years was the Kantian revolution because con's new philosophy had far-reaching consequences consequences that still impact the culture in which we live today because if you look at the last 250 years and see what is happened to the church see what is happened to the classical synthesis where in the Middle Ages.
Theology was the queen of the sciences and philosophy was regarded as her handmade and there was a certain intellectual credibility to the truth claims of Christianity. But since the Kantian critique of the traditional arguments for the existence of God. For example, philosophy has been liberated from theology and the impact of theology and the church has declined dramatically in the last 200 years malaise again go back to what Kant meant by his transcendental method. He looked at the problems, the problems of truth and how we attain it and he asked this simple question not is there such a thing as knowledge, but he said this. If knowledge is possible. What would there have to be in order to make it possible.
In that sense he's transcending the problem in that sense he's cutting the Gordian knot and he said okay I don't know whether we can get knowledge or not it knowledge but if knowledge is possible.
How would we perceive what things would be necessary in order to achieve it and he said well lock was right in the empiricists were right that all of our knowledge of the external world begins with experience.
So if science is going to be possible. We are dependent for better for worse. Upon sense experience as our starting point for knowledge. And so the beginning of knowledge is sensations. Now he disagreed with Descartes and the history of rationalists who believe that we are born with certain innate ideas like Plato argued that we have these ideas with which were born, and all we have to do is stimulate the memory to recall or to recollect those eternal ideas for caught. There are no innate ideas but there are elements that can be called off priority. Remember that technically speaking the term off priority. I does not mean before birth, it means before experience and so Kant is saying that even though we don't have any content of knowledge at birth. We do have a priori categories that are categories of the mind categories that make it possible for us to know things before experiencing them.
For example, principles like the law of causality principles like the law of non-contradiction are not learned from experience, but nevertheless they are not something that were born with. In terms of a content of concepts, but rather they are rational categories, rational abilities that are built into the mind. So sometimes people tried to diagram Kant's approach to knowledge and speak of his sausage grinder is sausage grinder epistemology where there is this final at the top where you put the sausage in and that's the sensation to get these impressions in the sensual experiences and they go into the funnel of the sausage grinder before anything can come out of the sausage grinder they sensations have to work through the categories of the mind, so that the mind is processing these raw sensations and not only that, for us to be able to have any meaningful perception of the external world. We always perceive of the external world in terms of things or objects that are in space and time, but do we ever have a sensation or a direct perception of space or a direct perception of time I was in the conversation. Just the other day with a young man who was asking me what time was and I said I don't know. I said we can define it in terms of some kind of motion of consecutive moments or consequential moments or sequential moments and I said but I can't conceive of time except by the relationship of motion to something physical.
How do we tell time.
We have clocks a physical object, and we have numbers on the face of the clock and then we have these different hands moving like the secondhand and I I'll often have people stand in front of a clock and I'll say that it's now 12 o'clock noon, and you see the second hand up at the 12 and I said looked on out the six and the secondhand is moving towards that the secondhand years and 12 there's a section here's the secondhand and it is moving in this direction. Also look at the six and you're looking at the future but it hasn't arrived yet.
Sort of like what goes on in the countdown of Times Square New Year's Eve. When people give the final 10 second countdown the six-year remains future and this hand sweeps down across the dial and you'll have this sense of anticipation as we get closer and closer and closer to that future moment. That is, the six and then as it comes down here it goes right past it and I said or goes, it's gone. That which was a moment ago was future is now past and we talk about living in the present with the present seems to be hanging there suspended between the past and the future because we can't freeze it, it won't stand still, it keeps moving and so how otherwise do we measure time and water clocks, sundials, sand clocks were the sand is sifting through this hourglass every way that we have to tell time in our normal experience is by watching some kind of movement between at least two objects. So for us to have a sense of time. We have to have matter and we have to have motion that always raises a philosophical question what time was it the day before creation member, Augustine was asked the question what was God doing before he created the universe and his reply was he was creating hell for curious souls by many people like to speculate about the timelessness of God and the timelessness before time was their time before there was a world and motion for an interesting question again, we don't perceive it, nor do we perceive space purely because to have a perception of pure space would be to perceive nothing and nothing is imperceptible and this was part of the question that Hume was struggling with. If you recall, and he was asking the question, how can I have a distinct impression of the distinct sensation why when I'm standing before an audience. Don't I just experience an inchoate undifferentiated blob of sensations bombarding my eyes in my ears. How is it that I can distinguish the difference between music and noise. There has to be some kind of discrimination some ability to sort things out and to perceive the sensations in an orderly way now is that because there really is order out there and I perceiving an orderly universe or is it all chaos, all cacophony, but as I experience this chaos and all this noise. The noise of the sensation comes into the categories of my brain MRI creating order out of disorder as a human being. Well, how is it that I can have a discrete sensation of something in space and time when I have no direct sensation of space and time will concept well.
You have to have space and time in order to be able to have a perception and so he spoke of space and time is what he called pure intuitions and is so now we have the rational categories. The empirical sensations and intuition working in this epistemology, and once we get all through this meatgrinder. What comes the end is knowledge, so we know that this knowledge absolutely corresponds to reality.
Now we don't.com says instead of finding truth is that which corresponds to reality. Kant declared the truth is a judgment and he distinguished among different types of judgments different kinds of judgments judgments that are off a priori that is before experience and judgments that are all posterior or the comes with or through experience, and then he distinguished between two other kinds of judgments what he called analytical judgments and synthetic judgments about you recall that we've used this language before an analytical statement is a statement that is true under analysis. It is true by definition, an analytical statement would be a bachelor is a non-married man. There's nothing in the predicate that isn't already in the subject so that you know the predicate without ever having to experience it is true by definition.
So in that case, and analytical judgment could be off a priori that is without ever experiencing a particular man to see if he's married or not. If you say that the man is a bachelor you already know that he's not married because the term bachelor means unmarried well working through these synthetic statements are those statements where we learn new information. The bachelor is rich riches don't necessarily coincide with bachelor nests and so you can find a bachelor that's poor. You can find one that's rich but you can't know whether the basher is rich or poor without having an experience of that batch. So far so good. But he said that there synthetic statements that are all posterior.
Lori but also synthetic statements that are off prior work and that created a firestorm of controversy among later philosophers because they were arguing that any concrete information must depend upon experience but caught for example, argued that the knowledge that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. He said we know that before we experience. And yet the concept straight line does not have within it. The idea of shortness of distance it only as a quality of direction and so the debate goes on, but in any case all of this is working together to reconstruct philosophy to borrow necessary ingredients from empiricism necessary ingredients from rationalism put them together in a synthesis that now makes it possible to proceed but the proceeding of knowledge is limited only to that arena where we have access by sensation and herein is the crisis in metaphysics and in theology which will look at the next election is Dr. RC Spruill when you're listening to Renewing Your Mind and we went.
Thank you for being with us today. It's easy to see why RC named this series.
The consequences of ideas. Emmanuel can't lived 250 years ago. Yet we see his influence today and in so many areas of life for believers whose highest priority is to be faithful to Scripture, it's imperative that we know and understand our culture thinks and how it influences us Dr. scroll series covers the history of philosophy from Socrates and Plato to more recent thinkers like Nietzsche and can't would like to send you this complete series. There are 35 lessons on nine DVDs you'll be able to explore how these philosophers have influence culture theology and the fine arts.
There are couple of ways you can reach us to make your request and give your gift you can go online to Renewing Your Mind.org or you can call us at 800-435-4343 philosophy is one of the five areas of study that we focus on here at Renewing Your Mind, theology, biblical studies, Christian worldview and and church history round out our curriculum. Our goal is to equip Christians to articulate what they believe, why they believe it how to live it and how to share it when you give a financial gift to this ministry that you play a role in propelling this message around the world. There are believers eager to know more about the timeless truths that we find in Scripture.
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The consequences of ideas, can we know that God exists. Just because the world exists. Dr. scroll helplessly through those issues as he continues his critique of the manual, tomorrow on Renewing Your Mind