Is there such a thing as innate knowledge?

Status
Not open for further replies.

CalvinandHodges

Puritan Board Junior
Hi:

Is human knowledge a priori or a posteriori or a combination of both.

I would like to argue that since all knowledge is derived from God, then it must be a posteriori since it is revealed knowledge rather than innate knowledge?

Others, I might imagine, would argue that the Knowledge of God is innate, and not revealed. As such the Knowledge of God is a priori and not a posteriori.

What do you think?

-CH
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Would this determine (or be determined) whether or not one was presuppositional or evidential?

Romans 1 and 2 come to mind. My understand is that, as image bearers, we have an innate knowledge of God that can be suppressed, but never truly denied. As they say, there are no atheists in foxholes. The clay knows of its creator. It just dosn't necessarily knew him personally. Obviously I'm presuppositional.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I don't know about atheists in foxholes, but there has never ever been a people group that has been a-religious (including the commies)...
 

sotzo

Puritan Board Sophomore
Both. The proof in the pudding is that a posteriori knowledge is inextricably linked to a priori knowledge, without which it cannot render knowledge at all.

I know the sun is there a posteriori because I know that I am here and can see it a priori. If I attempt to demonstrate the latter in some a posteriori manner, I end up in the Cartesian position of coming to the same conclusion by denying it, thereby showing it to be a priori.

You said you hold to all knowledge being a posteriori because all knowledge comes from God. I think this is a confusion of cause versus order. We indeed know all we know because God has cause the world to exist as it is...we could not know anything if he did not create the world so, yes, we can only know a posteriori in the sense that it is only after his creating that we can know. However, the order in which we obtain knowledge within the context of his creation is both a posteriori and a priori for the reasons I mentioned above.
 

Sebastian Heck

Puritan Board Freshman
Cornelius Van Til can be helpful here, as always. He says in one place:
"We need only observe that a priori reasoning, and a posteriori reasoning, are equally anti-Christian, if these terms are understood in their historical sense. As such they contemplate man's activity in the universe but do not figure with the significance of God above the universe."
What this means is that "a priori" and "a posteriori" are concepts that are usually taken in a univocal sense, meaning as if they meant the same thing for God and man. (This, by the way, is the main problem of philosophy; the practical neglect of the Creator/creature discintion.) If we talk univocally, both concepts are wrong, or as Van Til said, "antichristian."
Does that mean we eradicate them? No. Rather, we employ them in a theistic universe of discourse. Van Til says (in Introduction to Systematic Theology, 202) that a posteriori reasoning works with "the facts", while a priori does not, but since people do not take God to be a fact at all (which is their controlling presupposition), their a posteriori reasoning is warped. On the other hand, a priori reasoning can become just as warped if concepts such as innate ideas are understood apart from God's creative and revelational activity.

So, in answer to your question, CalvinandHodges, "it all depends..." It depends on whether we take "a priori", "a posteriori" and "innate ideas" to be univocal concepts or whether we understand them within a theistic universe. This, of course, also ties in with the old archetypal/ectypal distinction. Our a priori/a posteriori is not God's a priori/a posteriori.
 

CalvinandHodges

Puritan Board Junior
Hi:

Good posts all. Sebastian - I am definitely thinking within a Christian framework.

Wannabe - I do not think holding to one or the other will determine whether you are presuppositional or evidential in nature. The crux of Presuppositionalism is that man knows God without having to be taught it by man. Since the Christian view of a posteriori thinking would include God revealing His existence to man by His Spirit at birth, then a Presuppositional approach can be attained. Romans 1:19 reads:

For that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them.

Since God "showed" it to them they received it by revelation, and, consequently, a posteriori.

Sotzo - I agree with you that it is both. However, I believe that a posteriori reasoning gives us the definitions to think a priori. I think that the Christian man following the idea that all knowledge is granted to him by revelation from God can avoid the Cartesian paradox.

Thanks again for all of your replies,

-CH
 

CalvinandHodges

Puritan Board Junior
Since man is born with original sin, would he have an innate knowledge of sin?

Good question.

Is sin considered a type of knowledge, or is it a disposition in the soul? Are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we are sinners?

If I had the disposition to dislike strawberry ice cream, but I was never given strawberry ice cream. How then would I know that I dislike strawberry ice cream.

I think the same works for the knowledge of God. The natural man has a disposition to despise God, but that disposition is not manifested until the knowledge of God is given to him. (I believe that knowledge is given to him at conception.)

The question then is: Does a disposition in man (like sin) indicate that man has innate knowledge?

I would like to suggest that a disposition does not indicate innate knowledge.

-CH
 

BrianLanier

Puritan Board Freshman
Since man is born with original sin, would he have an innate knowledge of sin?

Good question.

Is sin considered a type of knowledge, or is it a disposition in the soul? Are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we are sinners?

If I had the disposition to dislike strawberry ice cream, but I was never given strawberry ice cream. How then would I know that I dislike strawberry ice cream.

I think the same works for the knowledge of God. The natural man has a disposition to despise God, but that disposition is not manifested until the knowledge of God is given to him. (I believe that knowledge is given to him at conception.)

The question then is: Does a disposition in man (like sin) indicate that man has innate knowledge?

I would like to suggest that a disposition does not indicate innate knowledge.

-CH

1) What does it mean to have 'knowledge at conception'? This seems to go against most philosophical theories of mind.

2) If one has a disposition towards sin, but not knowledge of sin, then why not just say that all men have a disposition towards the knowledge of God, but not knowledge until the agent is a cognizer? Then we can say that he knows God immediately and not discursively.
 

CalvinandHodges

Puritan Board Junior
1) What does it mean to have 'knowledge at conception'? This seems to go against most philosophical theories of mind.

2) If one has a disposition towards sin, but not knowledge of sin, then why not just say that all men have a disposition towards the knowledge of God, but not knowledge until the agent is a cognizer? Then we can say that he knows God immediately and not discursively.

1) I don't believe that we are blank slates at conception. I believe that there is some knowledge of God impressed upon the soul at conception. When this knowledge of God interracts with the sinful disposition in the soul the person sins against God. As David says:

Behold, I was born in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

2) When the disposition to sin interracts with the knowledge of God in the soul - it causes us to sin. The knowledge of God is not a disposition, but true knowledge. I believe that the fetus in the womb knows God and hates God according to its limited ability, as David has said above.

Grace and Peace,

-CH
 

weinhold

Puritan Board Freshman
CH, I'm only passingly familiar with Plato's idea of anamnesis, but it seemed particularly relevant to your discussion of whether knowledge is a priori or a posteriori, hence the wikipedia link. If knowledge is a priori, then why do we need to learn, since we would already have knowledge? If it is a posteriori, then how could we ever learn, since we could not know what we were searching for?

For Plato, knowledge was complete in the world of forms before birth, but then had to be "remembered again." For example, when trying to solve a problem we sometimes pause just before solving it, and at that moment of hesitation, when we are not yet sure what the answer is, somehow we know we are close to it. How do we know this? Plato might say that we are "remembering again" the perfect knowledge we had in the world of forms.
 

Brian Bosse

"The Brain"
Hello Gentlemen,

If there was no a priori knowledge, then how do things get started in the first place? Let me give you three illustrations.

1. Think of a computer. If there was no programing nothing could happen. Even when confronted with a formatted hard drive with no operating system the computer requires some programing already in place to know what to do, i.e. BIOS programming, etc...You remove all of this programming the computer is useless. It cannot go from this blank state to something else.

2. If all knowledge is a posteriori, then how do you get your first piece of knowledge? Let's say we are a blank slate, then how do I learn? Let's say that a sound is made outside the mother's womb, and these sound waves travel to the eardrum of the fetus. What happens in the fetus' mind? Does he think something like this, "There is a sensation?" What does it mean to say the fetus thinks? How does the fetus distinguish between different thoughts - sensations? Where does the distinction in the mind between sensation and non-sensation come from? There requires other knowledge already in place to make these distinctions otherwise no conclusions can be drawn. This leads to the third illustration.

3. In logical systems, to derive a conclusion that is not already a given you must have some method of derivation. Assuming there is no a priori knowledge, let's say somehow I have learned two things: "Q" and "P implies Q." (We won't worry about how we learned these two things.) How can I get beyond these two things to gain more knowledge? What conclusions can I draw? If there is no a priori knowledge of some deductive aparatus such as Modus Ponens, then I am sunk. It is all over. I can only know "Q" and "Q implies P."

Now, let's say someone wants to argue that you can somehow learn Modus Ponens. Then how did you learn it? How did you conclude from some external impression the logical law of Modus Ponens? What was the deductive apparatus you used to come to the conclusion? If there is no deductive aparatus, then there is no deduction. So, unless you already come hard wired with a deductive aparatus you cannot deduce.

Just like all ultimate beginnings (the universe, knowledge, etc...), there must be something already in existence. Something never comes from nothing. An eternal God provides the foundation for there to be anything at all. For us to know anything of this God or our existence, then He had to hardwire us with something. One could think of it as a priori revelation. If God did not do this, then we cannot have knowledge.

Sincerely,

Brian
 

CalvinandHodges

Puritan Board Junior
Hi:

Weinhold:

You, and Plato, are implying the pre-existence of the soul in order to "remember" the answers to problems posed. Remember that Plato was a pagan, and though he touched upon many truths in his philosophy such were distorted by sin and his idolatry.

Brian:

1) I would venture to guess that the OS of a computer would need to be programmed as well. Is this program innate to the computer, and thus a priori? Or, does someone actually have to create the program and insert it into the hardware. If such is the case, then would not the program be considered a posteriori?

2) If all knowledge is a posteriori, then it would be subject to the Revelation of God. Thus, everything we learn would have its source from God - either from His General or Special Revelation.

3) I don't think that a posteriori knowledge denies the existence of a priori knowledge. In order for there to be a priori reasoning (Q and P in your example) there must first exist a Q and a P. If we arrive at Q and P from a posteriori reasoning, then such does not deny that we can use Q and P as the definitions in a priori reasoning to create more knowledge.

Thanks for the stimulating thoughts,

-CH
 

weinhold

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi:

Weinhold:

You, and Plato, are implying . . .

Just to be clear, I certainly don't have the philosophical background to either critique, adopt, or qualify Plato's idea of anamnesis. I merely thought it might be of interest; the rest is up to you fine folks.
 

Brian Bosse

"The Brain"
Hello CH,

I would venture to guess that the OS of a computer would need to be programmed as well. Is this program innate to the computer, and thus a priori? Or, does someone actually have to create the program and insert it into the hardware. If such is the case, then would not the program be considered a posteriori?

It seems my anaolgy is a little flawed. :( Let's define a priori and a posteriori knowledge.

A Priori Knowledge: 'X' is a priori knowledge if and only if knowledge of 'X' is independent of sense experience.
A Posteriori Knowledge: 'X' is is a posteriori knowledge if and only if knowledge of 'X' is not independent of sense experience.

I think for this discussion these definitions work. Applying this to the computer metaphor, one might equate the BIOS programming as being a priori in the sense that it is independent of the operating system. The operating system itself and other programs "loaded" onto the computer could be called a posteriori.

If all knowledge is a posteriori, then it would be subject to the Revelation of God. Thus, everything we learn would have its source from God - either from His General or Special Revelation.

I do not believe this is the case. My knowledge of the stove being hot is independent of God's revelation - either general or special if all knowledge is a posteriori. If this is not the case, then what revealed knowledge from God is necessary to experience hotness?

I don't think that a posteriori knowledge denies the existence of a priori knowledge.

I agree. My point was that a priori knowledge is necessary to know anything.

In order for there to be a priori reasoning (Q and P in your example) there must first exist a Q and a P.

Just to be precise, I am not speaking about a priori reasoning. I am not even sure what it means to say that reasoning is a priori. Rather, I am speaking of some knowledge being a priori.

If we arrive at Q and P from a posteriori reasoning, then such does not deny that we can use Q and P as the definitions in a priori reasoning to create more knowledge.

What do you mean by "a priori reasoning"?

Sincerely,

Brian
 

BrianLanier

Puritan Board Freshman
1) What does it mean to have 'knowledge at conception'? This seems to go against most philosophical theories of mind.

2) If one has a disposition towards sin, but not knowledge of sin, then why not just say that all men have a disposition towards the knowledge of God, but not knowledge until the agent is a cognizer? Then we can say that he knows God immediately and not discursively.

Behold, I was born in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

2) When the disposition to sin interracts with the knowledge of God in the soul - it causes us to sin. The knowledge of God is not a disposition, but true knowledge. I believe that the fetus in the womb knows God and hates God according to its limited ability, as David has said above.

Grace and Peace,

-CH

How are you deriving "I believe that the fetus in the womb knows God and hates God according to its limited ability" from your quote of David? I am speaking stricly of that text.
 

CalvinandHodges

Puritan Board Junior
1) What does it mean to have 'knowledge at conception'? This seems to go against most philosophical theories of mind.

2) If one has a disposition towards sin, but not knowledge of sin, then why not just say that all men have a disposition towards the knowledge of God, but not knowledge until the agent is a cognizer? Then we can say that he knows God immediately and not discursively.

Behold, I was born in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

2) When the disposition to sin interracts with the knowledge of God in the soul - it causes us to sin. The knowledge of God is not a disposition, but true knowledge. I believe that the fetus in the womb knows God and hates God according to its limited ability, as David has said above.

Grace and Peace,

-CH

How are you deriving "I believe that the fetus in the womb knows God and hates God according to its limited ability" from your quote of David? I am speaking stricly of that text.

Hi:

Sin is any lack of comformity to or transgression of God's law. I presume that if you are "born in iniquity" it requires some knowledge of God and God's law.

Blessings,

-CH
 

BrianLanier

Puritan Board Freshman
Behold, I was born in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

2) When the disposition to sin interracts with the knowledge of God in the soul - it causes us to sin. The knowledge of God is not a disposition, but true knowledge. I believe that the fetus in the womb knows God and hates God according to its limited ability, as David has said above.

Grace and Peace,

-CH

How are you deriving "I believe that the fetus in the womb knows God and hates God according to its limited ability" from your quote of David? I am speaking stricly of that text.

Hi:

Sin is any lack of comformity to or transgression of God's law. I presume that if you are "born in iniquity" it requires some knowledge of God and God's law.

Blessings,

-CH

But earlier you said that it was a *disposition* toward sin that is being referred to. How does that require a knowledge of God and his law? Plus, if a human at conception hasn't committed any *actual* sin, but just has original sin (Adam's) imputed to him, how (again) does this require actual knowledge of God? BTW, I agree that transgressions (actual ones) of God's law presuppose a knowledge of God and his laws.
 

CalvinandHodges

Puritan Board Junior
But earlier you said that it was a *disposition* toward sin that is being referred to. How does that require a knowledge of God and his law? Plus, if a human at conception hasn't committed any *actual* sin, but just has original sin (Adam's) imputed to him, how (again) does this require actual knowledge of God? BTW, I agree that transgressions (actual ones) of God's law presuppose a knowledge of God and his laws.

I think there is a distinction between the sin nature and sinning. The sin nature is a disposition to sin. Sinning is the actual committing of a crime against God. We sin because we have a nature (disposition) to sin. (As the sin nature is contrary to the Holiness of God it is itself sin.) The nature to sin is given to us at birth with the knowledge of God. The sinful nature reacts against this knowledge and produces sin.

Not all sin is outward. Jesus tells us that if we look at a woman to lust in our heart, then we have already transgressed the Law of God not to commit adultery (the Seventh Command). Thus, the fetus in the womb is sinful on 2 accounts, 1) It has a sin nature which is contrary to God's Holiness, 2) From this sin nature it actually commits sin against God - in its limited capacity.

I hope this answers your good questions,

-CH
 

BrianLanier

Puritan Board Freshman
But earlier you said that it was a *disposition* toward sin that is being referred to. How does that require a knowledge of God and his law? Plus, if a human at conception hasn't committed any *actual* sin, but just has original sin (Adam's) imputed to him, how (again) does this require actual knowledge of God? BTW, I agree that transgressions (actual ones) of God's law presuppose a knowledge of God and his laws.

I think there is a distinction between the sin nature and sinning. The sin nature is a disposition to sin. Sinning is the actual committing of a crime against God. We sin because we have a nature (disposition) to sin. (As the sin nature is contrary to the Holiness of God it is itself sin.) The nature to sin is given to us at birth with the knowledge of God. The sinful nature reacts against this knowledge and produces sin.

Not all sin is outward. Jesus tells us that if we look at a woman to lust in our heart, then we have already transgressed the Law of God not to commit adultery (the Seventh Command). Thus, the fetus in the womb is sinful on 2 accounts, 1) It has a sin nature which is contrary to God's Holiness, 2) From this sin nature it actually commits sin against God - in its limited capacity.

I hope this answers your good questions,

-CH

So, you're saying that the human *at conception* commits acutal sins against God??
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top