Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Seeds of Tri-Perspectivalism

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John Frame

This picture is of John Frame.  He is quite possibly the most brilliant human being alive.  If you have not read his Divine Lordship Trilogy (Doctrine of God, Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, and Doctrine of the Christian Life), it is most thorough, thoughtful, and foundational (and surprisingly readable).  If you don’t know what Tri-Perspectivalism is, I suggest you read this primer from Frame, or this more succinct article on wikipedia.  We all have beliefs/positions/opinions and we also all have frameworks through which we come to affirming those beliefs/positions/opinions.  The beauty of tri-perspectivalism is that it Biblically accounts for knowledge from Scripture, from experience, and from interaction with others…

Well, one of Pascal’s most intriguing thoughts is #170.  These foursentences are an incisive critique of different theories of knowledge, as well as, a shell of an epistemological framework:

170.  Submission.  One must know when it is right to doubt, to affirm, to submit.  Anyone who does otherwise does not understand the force of reason.  Some men run counter to these three principles, either affirming that everything can be proved, because they know nothing about proof, or doubting everything can be proved, because they do not know when to submit, or always submitting, because they do not know when judgment is called for.  Skeptic, mathematician, Christian;  doubt, affirmation, submission.

Pascal deconstructs the person who doubts everything – the skeptic, and accuses them of never knowing how to submit.  Pascal deconstructs the person who thinks that everything can be affirmed – the Mathematician (or axiomatic thinker), and accuses them of not knowing the limits of pure axiomatic reason.  Pascal deconstructs the person who submits to everything – the Christian, and accuses them of not being more discerning in their judgment.

I don’t think that Pascal’s – submission/affirmation/doubt perfectly fits the Tri-perspectival mold.  It doesn’t.  However, Pascal is balanced on the issue of faith and reason and elsewhere on the use of heart knowledge.  This heart knowledge does take into consideration faith, experience, and interaction in community.   Are there seeds of Tri-Perspectivalism in Pascal’s epistemology?

Here are two more tidbits:

183.  Two excesses: to exclude reason, to admit nothing but reason.

110.  Principles are felt, propositions proved, and both with certainty though by different means.

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Written by Michael Graham

September 30, 2009 at 3:56 pm

One Response

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  1. […] We took a look at Blaise Pascal’s thinking, its use of aphorism and its relationship to both tri-perspectivalism and presuppositionalism.  We also looked at his use of aphorism and his warnings against deism and […]


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