Donovan criticises Owen saying that intuition alone is not reliable, you can be certain about something without being right. There are two types of certainty; psychological and rational certainty. ‘Psychological certainty’ is an anti-realist approach and is inadequate as you cannot use intuition to check intuition. Russell gave the example of love; ‘people think they can see into another soul,’ ‘yet deception is constantly practiced.’ Thus intellect rises above intuition. ‘Rational certainty’ corresponds to an actual state of affairs through asserting cognitive facts. Donovan criticizes Owen when stating that we have sense perception and ‘knowledge of ourselves as conscious beings.’ As human beings we have a body ourselves so can become aware of others. Additionally Donovan says ‘too many intuitions being had… for intuition on its own to be a reliable guide.’ This holds a similar idea to Hume’s conflicting claims challenge of a ‘complete triumph for the sceptic.’ Flew argued that religious statements ‘die a death by a thousand qualifications’ as religious believers never allow for something to count against them. If Christianity is true, it is likely people will be directly aware of God, e.g when Swinburne says ‘an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God would want to interact with his creations out of love for them.’ But this ‘if’ is problematic for Donovan, as intuition ‘seems a very weak straw to be clutching at.’ Donovan does not go on to completely dismiss intuition unlike Ayer through the use of the verification principle (VP). Ayer argued for a weaker form of the VP to accept a statement as meaningful so long as experience can allow it to be possible, therefore you must show how you could verify a statement. So Ayer rejects any intuitive claims as ‘the notion of a being whose essential attributes are non-empirical is not an intelligible notion at all.’ Thus speaking of God is considered ‘cognitively meaningless.’
Buber describes how humans can have two kinds of relationships; ‘I-it’ (objective, involving reason and analysis) and ‘I thou.’ ‘I thou relationships are more personal and profound’ and ‘In every thou, you address the eternal thou’ thus we can know God through our relationships with others. Buber says that as we get to know God it is ‘a personal encounter that can’t be put into words’, linking to James’ idea of ineffability. Ayer dismisses ineffability by showing the person is talking nonsense as all talk about God is ‘nonsensical’ and the person is ‘bound to talk nonsense when describing him.’
Donovan uses the example of Adam and Eve, arguing that how would Adam know he was encountering Eve if he knew nothing about her? Thus ‘I-it knowledge is a prerequisite for an ‘I-thou’ encounter. Donovan claims that an encounter with God can be mistaken as after all, how do you know a genuine encounter is taking place? This is similar to the problem about intuition and the feeling of certainty. Vardy proposes that ‘our senses deceive us.’ Donovan addresses that ‘experience of’ is not in itself knowledge, e.g a women with a child will have experience of pregnancy but will not have the I-it knowledge about pregnancy that a trained male doctor will have. However a trained female doctor who has experienced pregnancy would be at an advantage as she would have gained knowledge only gained by being pregnant. ‘First-hand experience is important not because it is knowledge, but because it may put us in a position to increase our knowledge’ says Donovan.
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