vrijdag 28 oktober 2011

Cohering The Parts: the search for a teleological direction in the coherence theory of truth

Abstract: Science is often considered as a set of propositions referring to an objective world existing independently of the human mind. Due to their very being, propositions are either true or false. This ultimately means that theories in which science is equated with a certain whole of propositions, must rely on a correspondence theory of truth. But when we try to incorporate the role of human knowledge into the scientific process, we discover that the correspondence theory simply breaks down. This leaves us with a coherence theory of truth, in which it are not propositions but judgements that form the most fundamental elements of a scientific theory. When examining the nature of judgement, we come to the conclusion that the notion of truth used in a coherence theory is fundamentally different from the one used in a correspondence theory. It is a primitive notion that cannot be defined or analysed, since the coherence theory has ‘bracketed’ the validity of the world of objective axioms and propositions. But examples of it can be given, such as the law of non-contradiction which brings our whole edifice of judgements into a coherent, non-contradictory whole. Nevertheless, the truth-standards of a coherence theory are not merely formal. They are in fact driven by a certain ‘telos’ toward an ever clearer disclosure of the world as it is in itself. But then it might be interesting to examine the very origin of this ‘telos’ or ‘drive’. Husserlian phenomenology, for instance, has searched for this drive in the notions of ‘transcendental subjectivity’ and ‘the lifeworld’. But even these notions are not self-sufficient in the sense that they can provide an adequate explanation of the directedness of our intentional life. And this ultimately leads us to the inevitable realm of the philosophy of God.

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woensdag 9 maart 2011

Phenomenology, Unity and the Transcendence of Truth


his paper discusses professor Frank van Dun’s restatement of Anselm’s ontological argument proving the existence of God. Whereas Van Dun is certainly right in stressing the importance of a single ontological ‘Archimedean’ point in which the unity of our knowledge and different conceptions of reality jointly come together, it might be nevertheless questionable whether we should conceive of this single point as the Divine Intellect; transcending the whole of our knowledge and being. I will try to demonstrate that although modern philosophy, starting from nominalism up to Kantian transcendental philosophy, has decapitated philosophy from its most precious ambitions - namely the search for both the unity of the sciences qua sciences, being as being and the unity between our thinking and being - it must be nevertheless admitted that ancient and medieval philosophy cannot provide for an adequate answer on the problem of unity either. Indeed, it is exactly the conception of a transcendent God that faces us with some insurmountable epistemological problems. On the other hand, if we were to razor Him away, no point of unity would be possible, and even worse, no science at all would be possible or even conceivable either. As such, if we want to restore philosophy in its full glory, we shall have to navigate carefully between the Scylla of an ‘ontotheological’ conception of God as ultimate being on the one hand; and the Charybdis of maintaining a sword too sharp to tighten instead of cutting through the ‘knot of unity’, as espoused mainly by atheists, determinists and naturalists.

Whereas we ought to be certainly reluctant to follow Van Dun in the same traps where almost all philosophers up to the 14th century have caught themselves into, the idea of a ‘point of unity’ should and must be safeguarded from any modern attempt to dissolve philosophy into a bundle of empiricist sciences. This point of unity should not and cannot be conceived of as something transcendent, for this would conflate a necessary transcendental question with a contingent transcendent one; as Van Dun implicitly does. Instead, we should answer this transcendental question with an immanent answer, namely what has been called, in the tradition of Husserlian phenomenology, the transcendental ego. Together with his conception of the life-world [Lebenswelt], Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology seems to be far more adequate than Van Dun’s theological commitment in order to safe philosophy from its inner dissolution. This transcendence-in-immanence, then, also gives fruit to the possibility of the birth of so-called transcendent truths, as noëmatic correlates of the same transcendental ego. These truths can only be attained in and through the transcendental ego, and were quite recently exemplified through the development of Twardowskian eternal truths. As such, we are certainly in favor of a mild form of Platonism, again, without leading ourselves astray by postulating a divine entity, or a divine world of eternal ideas. In a final section, we will return to professor Van Dun’s findings, by examining his interpretive remarks on the Biblical God. As will be shown, it seems to us that Van Dun’s analysis fell too short to represent the genuine spirit of Christianity, which certainly is the propagation of the idea of a transcendence-in-immanence. But since our purposes are philosophical and not theological in the first place, this will be done in a very brief discussion.

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