Clark Quick Quote
“Conservative theologians too will be interested in that body of opinions which no one except the most outrageously idealistic philosophers can doubt. Ordinarily these theologians do not favor the completely negative results of the present analysis of Aristotle, Plato, and others. They will be inclined to be somewhat dogmatic with respect to daily experience. As one of them said, You cannot obey the seventh commandment if you don’t know who your wife is.
Strictly speaking, this is not true. However extreme the suggestion may be, one could of course remain celibate.
But the remark was intended to imply that a man could with certainty know who his wife is. The example may seem silly, but if taken seriously, it is clear that the epistemological question is in order: How do you know?
There is a story that at the birth of Louis XIV, Marie de Medici gave birth to twins. Father Joseph wrote a note to Richelieu, who imposed perpetual silence on the midwife. But a Spanish plotter picked up the discarded note and kidnapped the second twin. After training the younger twin, and after Richelieu’s death, the Spaniard managed to catch Louis XIV alone, put him in the Iron Mask, and the twin reappeared as Louis XIV.
Granted, it is unlikely that anyone should go to such extremes to substitute another woman for the wife of an unimportant theologian or philosopher. But how do you know? So long as substitution is possible, certainty is impossible. Nor is substitution the only danger. For those whose philosophic preparation rises above the level of Alexander Dumas, there are always the prior difficulties of solipsism, subjective idealism, and, let us remember, Descartes’ malignant demon, who so potent and deceitful has employed all his artifice to deceive us. Modern philosophers prefer to ignore rather than to confront him.
With this result the pervious question returns. What account shall be given of everyday “knowledge” that commons sense thinks is silly to doubt? Don’t I know when I am hungry? Can’t I use road maps to drive to Boston to Los Angeles? Indeed, how can I know what the Bible says without reading its pages with my own eyes? It was one secular philosopher criticizing another, who said that knowledge is a fact and that any theory that did not account for it should be abandoned. But all such criticisms miss the point. The status of common opinion is not fixed until a theory has been accepted. One may admit that a number of propositions commonly believed are true; but no one can deny that many such are false. The problem is to elaborate a method by which the two classes can be distinguished. Plato too granted a place to opinion as distinct from knowledge; he even admitted that in some circumstances opinion was as useful as knowledge with a capital K. But to dispose of the whole matter by an appeal to road maps that we can see with our own eyes is to ignore everything said above about Aristotle.” An Introduction to Christian Philosophy, 89,90.Explore posts in the same categories: Gordon Clark