Gordon H. Clark on Logic in Man

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Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Though it's only an analogy (pun not exactly intended, but appreciated), seeing me in a mirror, would you say that you saw me? Sure you would. But you really only saw a reflection of me. You didn't see me directly. You would have true knowledge about me -- as mediated through the 2D medium of the mirror. Similarly, I'm not saying that knowledge of a painful toe is not true. Nor am I saying that God does not know that my toe hurts. But God knows my toe hurts in an entirely different way. He understands it in all its relations. Now you might call that a quantitative difference, but I would argue that infinity is not a quantity at all.

Would you say a doctor has a different qualitative knowledge about an illiterate man's toe pain than the illiterate? He know it in more relations than the illiterate would.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
Even in the why category, we can know truly without knowing exhaustively. I know why Jesus died on a cross -- though my knowledge of this is true, it is not exhaustive. But even my knowledge of this why is not coterminus with God's knowledge of the why. Likewise, God knows that I ate a waffle this morning, and I know that I ate a waffle this morning (that rather than why). But the that knowledge of waffle-eating is not divisible from the why knowledge of waffle eating in the mind of God (because of simplicity), as it necessarily is in ours. His knowledge of my waffle-eating is infinite in scope. Mine is not. This is not a quantitative distinction.

Yes, there are things we will never know. We will never comprehend the trinity, the incarnation, etc. Once we delve into the infinite, it is beyond us. I guess I'm just trying to maintain a distinction between infinity and quantity.

Clark,

You're making good points about the limited extent of our knowledge-capacity, and I think that nicely demonstrates how God is incomprehensible.

But what I want to protect is the fact that some proposition X can mean the same thing to both God and man. Certainly God knows whatever man apprehends from it and more, but what I'm protecting is that man's knowledge is true (not analogous to truth) as far as it goes.

In other words, I'm trying to make sure we do not impinge on the Creator-creature distinction and make God's incomprehensibility null, yet we do not want to result in skepticism. We are searching for an appropriate middle ground.

I'm not willing to put the ultimate cause, purpose, telos, or whatever you want to call it -- which is the singular decree of God, into the category of thickness or quantity. It is knowledge of a whole different order. It's the difference between why and what. Surely why is not a function of what.

This makes for an interesting discussion: is there a certain class of propositions which no man can ever find out? I think this is a very good point, but let's also keep in mind that this would imply there is another class of propositions (the "non-why") that man can know truly without knowing exhaustively.

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Victor,

I don't subscribe to Clark's Scripturalism. I think he makes some serious errors with that; hence I am a Van Tillian.

However, I think he was correct regarding the impossibility of a pure qualitative difference in all the objects of man's and God's knowledge. His basic argument goes: "If God knows everything and if man's knowledge never coincides with God at any point, then man can know nothing." And of course skepticism is antithetical to Christianity and our God of knowledge.

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No, it's one more extensive knowledge when compared with another. That's quanitative. But infinite is not quantitative. It's qualitative.


I keep editing my yes and no here. Yes, it's qualitatively different. Yes it's quantitatively different. But even as qualitatively different as it is, it does not compare with the qualitative difference of God's knowledge of it.


Though it's only an analogy (pun not exactly intended, but appreciated), seeing me in a mirror, would you say that you saw me? Sure you would. But you really only saw a reflection of me. You didn't see me directly. You would have true knowledge about me -- as mediated through the 2D medium of the mirror. Similarly, I'm not saying that knowledge of a painful toe is not true. Nor am I saying that God does not know that my toe hurts. But God knows my toe hurts in an entirely different way. He understands it in all its relations. Now you might call that a quantitative difference, but I would argue that infinity is not a quantity at all.

Would you say a doctor has a different qualitative knowledge about an illiterate man's toe pain than the illiterate? He know it in more relations than the illiterate would.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Even in the why category, we can know truly without knowing exhaustively. I know why Jesus died on a cross -- though my knowledge of this is true, it is not exhaustive. But even my knowledge of this why is not coterminus with God's knowledge of the why. Likewise, God knows that I ate a waffle this morning, and I know that I ate a waffle this morning (that rather than why). But the that knowledge of waffle-eating is not divisible from the why knowledge of waffle eating in the mind of God (because of simplicity), as it necessarily is in ours. His knowledge of my waffle-eating is infinite in scope. Mine is not. This is not a quantitative distinction.

Alright, we're just going back and forth on this.

I think if you'll just see what I asked about the doctor and the illiterate, we can be getting near a stopping point.

EDIT - Just saw that you did. I would say that infinity is actually the perfect concept in this case. It allows for God's incomprehensibility (because man is finite), yet retains that the difference is only quantitative. You have said that infinity implies a qualitative difference, but I don't think that is a tenable view. Infinity is used in math all the time as a quantity without having to resort to a separate qualitative "level."
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
EDIT - Just saw that you did. I would say that infinity is actually the perfect concept in this case. It allows for God's incomprehensibility (because man is finite), yet retains that the difference is only quantitative. You have said that infinity implies a qualitative difference, but I don't think that is a tenable view. Infinity is used in math all the time as a quantity without having to resort to a separate qualitative "level."

I'd really like to discuss this more, but I've got other things going on too.

But one thing that strikes me about this conversation is the absence of considering time. I suspect that is where the real qualitative difference is.

God's thoughts are eternal, consistent, comprehensive, whereas ours are sequential. His revelation to us is also sequential, that would be what I think Matthew would call accomodation.

We can't think two separate thoughts at the same time--we have to consider one, then the other, and then back to the first. God's understanding is immediate. It is a difference in quality in that respect, not just quantity.



Just as an aside, Ben, I think your use of infinity as an abstract mathematical concept is not the same thing as the infinite aspect of God. Infinity is definable and reducable in mathematics, but, in a finite created universe, it has no actual analog. In other words, it is an imaginary shortcut for dealing with big numbers, just as calculus is a shortcut for dealing with what is observed in the physical world. (e.g. you can use integrals to figure out the area of a circle, but a real true-to-life circle will not have exactly the same area as one derived by infinitesimal integration because, at some point, particles making up the circle cannot be further divided--it will always be a polygon rather than a perfect circle). But that is all merely an aside.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
Yes, I was including the matter of time in my initial posts about events. The why not only points backward but forward as well. And as God's knowledge of these events includes more than a higher number of events in its purview, but actually includes purpose, I would regard it as a qualitatively different knowledge. And, as infinity (or eternity in both directions as the human mind can only try to approximate) is no more a quantity of time than infinity is a quantity of number, again, it is a qualitatively different matter.

And yes, you've put your finger right on the matter of infinity as I was trying to push it. Thank you.

EDIT - Just saw that you did. I would say that infinity is actually the perfect concept in this case. It allows for God's incomprehensibility (because man is finite), yet retains that the difference is only quantitative. You have said that infinity implies a qualitative difference, but I don't think that is a tenable view. Infinity is used in math all the time as a quantity without having to resort to a separate qualitative "level."

I'd really like to discuss this more, but I've got other things going on too.

But one thing that strikes me about this conversation is the absence of considering time. I suspect that is where the real qualitative difference is.

God's thoughts are eternal, consistent, comprehensive, whereas ours are sequential. His revelation to us is also sequential, that would be what I think Matthew would call accomodation.

We can't think two separate thoughts at the same time--we have to consider one, then the other, and then back to the first. God's understanding is immediate. It is a difference in quality in that respect, not just quantity.



Just as an aside, Ben, I think your use of infinity as an abstract mathematical concept is not the same thing as the infinite aspect of God. Infinity is definable and reducable in mathematics, but, in a finite created universe, it has no actual analog. In other words, it is an imaginary shortcut for dealing with big numbers, just as calculus is a shortcut for dealing with what is observed in the physical world. (e.g. you can use integrals to figure out the area of a circle, but a real true-to-life circle will not have exactly the same area as one derived by infinitesimal integration because, at some point, particles making up the circle cannot be further divided--it will always be a polygon rather than a perfect circle). But that is all merely an aside.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Good point about math.

Regarding the qualitative difference, I would point to what I said earlier: "But what I want to protect is the fact that some proposition X can mean the same thing to both God and man. Certainly God knows whatever man apprehends from it and more, but what I'm protecting is that man's knowledge is true (not analogous to truth) as far as it goes."

Yes, God knows in a different way than we do (intuitively rather than discursively), but we are discussing merely the objects of knowledge.

Keep in mind throughout this entire discussion, however, that there has to be some aspect of correspondence (and therefore some matter of quantity rather than quality) between man's and God's knowledge. Otherwise there would be no analogy, and skepticism would ensue.

EDIT - Just saw that you did. I would say that infinity is actually the perfect concept in this case. It allows for God's incomprehensibility (because man is finite), yet retains that the difference is only quantitative. You have said that infinity implies a qualitative difference, but I don't think that is a tenable view. Infinity is used in math all the time as a quantity without having to resort to a separate qualitative "level."

I'd really like to discuss this more, but I've got other things going on too.

But one thing that strikes me about this conversation is the absence of considering time. I suspect that is where the real qualitative difference is.

God's thoughts are eternal, consistent, comprehensive, whereas ours are sequential. His revelation to us is also sequential, that would be what I think Matthew would call accomodation.

We can't think two separate thoughts at the same time--we have to consider one, then the other, and then back to the first. God's understanding is immediate. It is a difference in quality in that respect, not just quantity.



Just as an aside, Ben, I think your use of infinity as an abstract mathematical concept is not the same thing as the infinite aspect of God. Infinity is definable and reducable in mathematics, but, in a finite created universe, it has no actual analog. In other words, it is an imaginary shortcut for dealing with big numbers, just as calculus is a shortcut for dealing with what is observed in the physical world. (e.g. you can use integrals to figure out the area of a circle, but a real true-to-life circle will not have exactly the same area as one derived by infinitesimal integration because, at some point, particles making up the circle cannot be further divided--it will always be a polygon rather than a perfect circle). But that is all merely an aside.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
Infinity is a good place to look for that correspondence to be seen in its proper light. We know what infinity is in one sense. But we can only conceive of it and speak of it as endless quantity. But that's not really what it is. God, on the other hand, knows infinity as it really is. Does that mean that our knowledge of infinity is untrue? No. Inadequate (for humanity)? No. Our limitations are appropriate to the creature. It is true because it corresponds to God's truth as condescended, adapted to the creature. Were we to try to claim to understand infinity as God understands infinity, then we would be making idolatrous claims.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
:D We are running in circles a bit, aren't we. You know my answer to that.

Is that not akin to "can God build a rock too big for him to move?" God does not have a limited perspective. Now if you run to the incarnation, we're all going to be in a pickle. How can the infinite lay aside the prerogatives of deity? How can the omniscient one not know the times and seasons the Father has appointed? I can't answer these questions, because the incarnation, like the trinity, is beyond our finite understanding.

No we don't understand it the same. God does not have a limited subset of his limitless knowledge. Again, that would be to grasp infinity by way of the finite -- which is, the best we can do, of course. But therein lies the difference.
 
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Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Clark,

That's not forcing God into a limited perspective as much as it is saying that different aspects of His knowledge can be distinguished, namely the smaller scope versus the larger scope. And certainly God is capable of doing that. For instance, say I know the proposition X. God's knowledge is different from my knowledge in two ways: (1) He knows all other propositions, and (2) He knows X in the context of all other propositions.

(1) taken as it is implies only a quantitative difference. This is indisputable.
(2) implies that He knows X in a fuller sense, but this does not necessarily provide a full qualitative difference. If we give a "knowledge rating" which measures how exhaustively someone knows a proposition, we could say that the smartest man on Earth knows X with a rating of 10 while God would know X with a rating of infinity. This would still show a correspondence between man and God, namely over the first ten integers on that scale.

Thus, while God's knowledge is deeper (and therefore, when taken as a whole, is qualitatively different), this is at root a quantitative difference. And since God always has a "knowledge rating" of infinity that man can never attain (with respect to every proposition), it follows that man cannot possibly know any proposition as fully as God does -- though what he does know is true as far as his knowledge goes. Therefore the concept of God's infinity protects us from divine comprehensibility and skepticism.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
I don't desire to get drawn into an epistemological debate, so I intend to do a drive-by posting.

What I don't see being emphasized much on the thread is that God's knowledge is distinguished from human and angelic knowledge among other points, in that God knows all things perfectly "because he knows all things by himself or by his essence (not by forms abstracted from things--as is the case with creatures--both because these are only in time with the things themselves, but the knowledge of God is eternal, and because he can have no cause out of himself)." (Turretin, Institutes T.III, Q.XII, P.II. It might be profitable to consult all of questions 12 and 13.)
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Would this imply a qualitative difference in the propositions that man and God know?

Would 1+1=2 mean something different to man than to God? If so, how, and how does that not entail skepticism?

Ben, Vic has answered this well, and the thread has progressed too far to give an in-depth answer which does not overlook what everyone else has said, so I will just give a couple of simple answers and you can explore further if it suits.

Because you have referred to knowledge as "propositional," no, there can be no qualitative difference in the propositional statement or in the truth value of it. 1+1=2 for God and man, and in order to be true it must be according to reality. But then we have to raise the issue of "perspective" and "relation," which opens the door to the "personal" side of knowledge, and this personal side cannot in any sense be the same for God and man for the simple reason that God and man are absolutely different. God's perspective is infinite and eternal and He stands related to the truth as the Creator and Revealer. Man's persepctive is finite and temporal, and he stands related to the truth as created and receiver.

Given God's perspective and relation to the truth, it is obvious that He does not conceive of the truth in propositional form except insofar as He accommodates the truth to human capacity and for the purpose of covenant relationship.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
I can tell we will continue to disagree on this. I do not believe integers 1-10 are on a scale where infinity can also be found. Vic spoke to that above. And just as I do not believe these finite integers are on some continuum where infinity might be found, so I do not believe that finite knowledge at any point intersects with, blends or continues into infinite knowledge.


Clark,

That's not forcing God into a limited perspective as much as it is saying that different aspects of His knowledge can be distinguished, namely the smaller scope versus the larger scope. And certainly God is capable of doing that. For instance, say I know the proposition X. God's knowledge is different from my knowledge in two ways: (1) He knows all other propositions, and (2) He knows X in the context of all other propositions.

(1) taken as it is implies only a quantitative difference. This is indisputable.
(2) implies that He knows X in a fuller sense, but this does not necessarily provide a full qualitative difference. If we give a "knowledge rating" which measures how exhaustively someone knows a proposition, we could say that the smartest man on Earth knows X with a rating of 10 while God would know X with a rating of infinity. This would still show a correspondence between man and God, namely over the first ten integers on that scale.

Thus, while God's knowledge is deeper (and therefore, when taken as a whole, is qualitatively different), this is at root a quantitative difference. And since God always has a "knowledge rating" of infinity that man can never attain (with respect to every proposition), it follows that man cannot possibly know any proposition as fully as God does -- though what he does know is true as far as his knowledge goes. Therefore the concept of God's infinity protects us from divine comprehensibility and skepticism.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Given God's perspective and relation to the truth, it is obvious that He does not conceive of the truth in propositional form except insofar as He accommodates the truth to human capacity and for the purpose of covenant relationship.

I agree.


Ben, I don't know if you've read John Frame's The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, but Frame discusses this issue and resolves it in a very satisfactory way. The book coincides with many of your interests.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Given God's perspective and relation to the truth, it is obvious that He does not conceive of the truth in propositional form except insofar as He accommodates the truth to human capacity and for the purpose of covenant relationship.

To ensure I understand you, are you saying that since God intuits all knowledge simultaneously, then He does not know anything as fragmentized propositions (He rather knows everything in toto), and therefore He only divides it in order to condescend to man?

And thanks for the recommendation, Charlie.
 
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johnowen

Puritan Board Freshman
"I don't subscribe to Clark's Scripturalism. I think he makes some serious errors with that; hence I am a Van Tillian."

What is seriously wrong with Scripturalism?
PS: If you agree on some points with Clark and disagree on others, you don't have to become "VanTillian." You can call yourself semi-Clarkian (it that's possible).

Thanks Ben
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
"I don't subscribe to Clark's Scripturalism. I think he makes some serious errors with that; hence I am a Van Tillian."

What is seriously wrong with Scripturalism?
PS: If you agree on some points with Clark and disagree on others, you don't have to become "VanTillian." You can call yourself semi-Clarkian (it that's possible).

Thanks Ben

When I said I am not Clarkian and therefore am a Van Tillian, I was saying with the assumption that I am a presuppositionalist and that those are the two main schools of it. I actually would not consider myself an "orthodox" presuppositionalist now, but that's another story. Anyway, to the more serious question of yours: Scripturalism is in error in my opinion because it reduces the entire body of knowledge to God's revelation, in which case it is a revelation of nothing. The Bible is a revelation of God and has bearing on this world, and therefore if we know nothing but that revelation, then it's pretty useless.

Also, given Scripturalism, words in the Bible can be defined only with respect to other words, in which case there can be nothing that points to an immediate sensory picture or innate idea of ours. Words are defined by other words, which are defined by other words, etc., etc. Given Scripturalism and given its concomitant repudiation of all knowledge outside Scriptural propositions (and ones deduced therefrom), we cannot know what any Bible verse means in the first place.

It denies that we possess knowledge of sensory experience! If any Scripturalist were to attempt to critique this post of mine, he would be ipso facto contradicting his own beliefs. This is an ad hominem criticism of Scripturalism, but seeing as it applies to all sane Scripturalists, I think it is valid. For instance, John Robbins co-authored a book that critiqued the FV, yet on his own principles he could not know what the FV consisted of and therefore he would be behaving irresponsibly (and contradictorily) in acting as if he knows it.

Lastly, one must read the Bible in order to know Biblical propositions. Clark's defenses of this common criticism were simply false. He argued that one must possess a full-fledged empiricism in order to make the criticism, in which case he confused a polemic of Scripturalism with a positive case for empiricism.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
To ensure I understand you, are you saying that since God intuits all knowledge simultaneously, then He does not know anything as fragmentized propositions (He rather knows everything in toto), and therefore He only divides it in order to condescend to man?

Yes; the "propositional knowledge" is the result of a process of accommodating the truth to the finite mind of man.
 
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Brian Bosse

"The Brain"
Hello Gentlemen,

Yes; the "propositional knowledge" is the result of a process of accommodating to the truth to the finite mind of man.

Matthew has pointed out that God's perspective regarding knowledge is from the standpoint of an infinite creator; whereas, man's is from the standpoint of a finite creature. He then goes onto say...

armourbearer said:
Given God's perspective and relation to the truth, it is obvious that He does not conceive of the truth in propositional form except insofar as He accommodates the truth to human capacity and for the purpose of covenant relationship.

I fail to see the so-called "obviousness" of this, and can say definitively that the conclusion reached by Matthew does not validly follow simply from "God's perspective regarding knowledge is from the standpoint of an infinite creator" and "man's perspective regarding knowledge is from the standpoint of a finite creature."

Sincerely,

Brian
 

rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
... and there was no peace ...

Yes my son, in the great wars of old in ye olde Realm of Epistemology the sons of Clark and the sons of Van Til bludgeoned one another day and night for generations. Thus to this day there is war and never shall there be peace between Clarkians and VanTillians. Yes my son, this is the truth, the whole truth, the propositional truth, the analogous truth, but say ye not the relative truth lest I send thee off to the battles your self .:deadhorse:
 

Brian Bosse

"The Brain"
Hello Bob,

All I did was merely point out that Matthew's conclusion did not follow from his "given". If that is to disturb the peace, then I humbly... :surrender:

Brian
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I fail to see the so-called "obviousness" of this, and can say definitively that the conclusion reached by Matthew does not validly follow simply from "God's perspective regarding knowledge is from the standpoint of an infinite creator" and "man's perspective regarding knowledge is from the standpoint of a finite creature."

What is a proposition? A finite form of words consisting in subject and predicate.
 

TeachingTulip

Puritan Board Sophomore
I fail to see the so-called "obviousness" of this, and can say definitively that the conclusion reached by Matthew does not validly follow simply from "God's perspective regarding knowledge is from the standpoint of an infinite creator" and "man's perspective regarding knowledge is from the standpoint of a finite creature."

What is a proposition? A finite form of words consisting in subject and predicate.

Does this definition of a proposition differ from a Covenant promise from God? How?
 

Brian Bosse

"The Brain"
Hello Matthew,

What is a proposition? A finite form of words consisting in subject and predicate.

It is always good to define terms. I think many disagreements arise simply because people understand and use terms differently. Allow me to make a distinction between the meaning conveyed by a "finite form of words consisting of a subject and a predicate" and the finite form of words in and of themselves. Consider the following sentences...

(1) The creator of the universe is benevolent.
(2) Dios es bueno.
(3) ο πατηρ του κυριου ημων Ιησου Χριστου εστιν αγαθος.

These are three different "finite forms of words consisting of subjects and predicates"; yet, they all express the same meaning. Here are two sentences that have the exact same finite form, but they express opposite meanings...

(4) I am one bad exegete! (in the sense of not being very good)
(5) I am one bad exegete! (in the sense of being very good)

There is a difference between a sentence, and the meaning conveyed by that sentence. I understand propositions to be the meaning our finite forms of words (sentences) are meant to express, and I believe this is a common understanding amongst philosophers of logic and language. Do you agree with this? If so, how does this change the discussion?

On a different note, I would like to point out that your use of 'finite' in the quote above seems to indicate finitude in terms of numerical cardinality (maybe not?). If so, it seems you are using the word 'finite' in a different sense than what is meant when we speak of God not being finite, i.e., Him being infinite. With all of that said, your argument still is not valid.

Sincerely,

Brian
 

rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
Hello Matthew,

What is a proposition? A finite form of words consisting in subject and predicate.

It is always good to define terms. I think many disagreements arise simply because people understand and use terms differently. Allow me to make a distinction between the meaning conveyed by a "finite form of words consisting of a subject and a predicate" and the finite form of words in and of themselves. Consider the following sentences...

(1) The creator of the universe is benevolent.
(2) Dios es bueno.
(3) ο πατηρ του κυριου ημων Ιησου Χριστου εστιν αγαθος.

These are three different "finite forms of words consisting of subjects and predicates"; yet, they all express the same meaning. Here are two sentences that have the exact same finite form, but they express opposite meanings...

(4) I am one bad exegete! (in the sense of not being very good)
(5) I am one bad exegete! (in the sense of being very good)

There is a difference between a sentence, and the meaning conveyed by that sentence. I understand propositions to be the meaning our finite forms of words (sentences) are meant to express (and I would guess this would be the common understanding amongst philosophers of logic and of language). I would also like to point out that your use of 'finite' in the quote above seems to indicate finitude in terms of numerical cardinality. If so, it seems you are using the word 'finite' in a different sense than what is meant when we speak of God not being finite, i.e., Him being infinite. With all of that said, your argument still is invalid based on your "given".

Sincerely,

Brian

Brian, I agree with (1), (2), (3), and (4)!

I like your effort though. Hang in there brother! :p
 

rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
Bob,

Someday, I hope sentence (5) expresses a true proposition! :duh:

Brian


(1) God is love
(2) Dios es amor
(3) Ο Θεος αγαπη εστιν

These are three different "finite forms of words consisting of subjects and predicates"; yet, they all express the same meaning. Because they are all the same proposition.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
There is a difference between a sentence, and the meaning conveyed by that sentence. I understand propositions to be the meaning our finite forms of words (sentences) are meant to express, and I believe this is a common understanding amongst philosophers of logic and language.

So do you believe a finite form of words can express an infinite meaning? If not, your dichotomy is useless. I stand by what I have stated -- the proposition is a finite form of words. I will leave it to the sophists to try and make that sound like it means something other than what it says.
 
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