Ep71-Knowledge is Being (Pt 1) - Vol 5

Topics Discussed:
A. The Veridicality Objection.
   1. The Certainty of Knowledge.
   2. The Kantian Assumption.
   3. The Dis-appearance of the Noumenal/Phenomenal Distinction in Mormon Epistemic Experiences. 

Show Notes:


Is this Mormon doxastic or epistemological practice an adequate basis for claiming knowledge of the truth? That of course depends on what is claimed to be the “truth” that is known. Yes it is true that you had an experience.

However, it is not a basis for conceptually knowing that the experience is caused by God. By having an experience, it doesn’t follow that we have conceptual knowledge of what causes our experiences.

The consistent claim in the Mormon tradition is that spiritual experiences have more than merely subjective validity; they are thought to give knowledge of the nature of reality. It is claimed that such experiences are insights into the nature of something other than our own psychological states, and hence about “realities” as they are in the “real” world that are in some sense distinct from our own subjectivity. It is that claim that is at issue.

A. The Veridicality Objection.

It may be argued that it is impossible to know whether a subjective spiritual experience (or even one’s own sense experience) is real or just our interpretation that we overlay onto our experience.

1. The Certainty of Knowledge.

Thinking about a hamburger example

There may be alternative explanations, but to believe such an explanations renders everything in our experience unintelligible.

if an experience is such that it acts as the basic lens through which all experience is filtered and by which the meaning of experience is organized as meaningful within our entire noetic structure, then the experience cannot be reasonably doubted. That is the view that I will be defending here. I will argue that the experience of knowing the truth already in one’s heart has such a fundamental hinge status in Mormon epistemic practices of knowing.

2. The Kantian Assumption.

To begin, let’s take an example of a scientific explanation of seeing of an object, say a flower. There are at least the following steps in such an explanation: (1) a flower exists as a thing-in-itself in the world even when we are not sensing it; (2) light is reflected from the flower; (3) the light travels to the retina of the eye and acts on the retinal cells; (4) the retinal cells transform the light data into electrochemical energy; (5) the electrochemical message is transmitted through chemical reactions along the retinal nerve to the visual cortex; and (6) the visual cortex relays information to the motor cortex, the limbic system and pre-frontal lobe, among other brain systems; (6a) somehow the brain brings the process of transferring this chemical message contained in the millions of neurons in the brain into a unified conscious experience; (7) we are consciously aware of seeing the flower as a unified object.

Kant argues that in this act of organizing our experience, an agent having an identity as a self emerges with basic powers of free will and choice. How does the experience of our cells give rise to the unified consciousness that we experience?

Talk about categories and additional filters like past experience associations and language and culture.

3. The Dis-appearance of the Noumenal/Phenomenal Distinction in Mormon Epistemic Experiences. 

The assumptions of the Kantian approach to sensible experience do not apply in the context of spiritual experiences as I have described them in the Mormon tradition.

If our experience is simply knowing that we know as an existing individual, then we cannot fail to know because what we know is a part of the noumenal realm. An existing individual exists in reality prior to all conceptual categories.

Cornea/lens analogy

 However, to question whether one has in fact been endowed with such knowledge after recognizing it as such results in becoming closed to such experiences. Thus, the very act of doubting precludes one from having the experience continue. Thus, one is left in doubt.

The argument takes the following form:
1. What appears in experience cannot be trusted as a basis for knowing that it really is as it appears without first knowing whether such an appearance is the best explanation for what was experienced.
2. One cannot know that the experience of one’s self as already knowing is the best explanation of the experience based on the experience itself.
3. Therefore, the experience of one’s self as knowing is not a trustworthy basis for knowing the truth about the experience.

Mormon perceptual practices assume something like the following argument:
1. In order for one to have a valid basis for knowledge based on experience, one must be able to recognize from the experience itself that what one experiences is known to be just as it is experienced.
2. In experiencing one’s self as already knowing, one recognizes from the experience itself that one already knows that what is experienced is the truth.
3. Therefore, experiencing ourselves as knowing the truth already is a valid basis for knowledge.

However, there is a very strong basis in experiencing one’s self as already knowing as an existing individual striving inwardly: our categories are transformed by the experience (in the broad sense of the term “categories”). The world is different after the experience because the categories through which we experience are transformed and altered in a conversion from one way of seeing and being to another quite disparate way of seeing and being in the world.


  1. Blake Ostler again presents a straw man of the Simulation Hypothesis. https://lincoln.metacannon.net/2019/02/im-still-insane-blake-ostler-confirms.html


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