A: Is there a difference between what a human being knows and what an animal knows?
B: No. How could there be? A human being is an animal.
A: Aren’t human beings defined by a cognitive power beyond what animals have?
B: Absolutely – but it doesn’t change what they know, only how they know it. The thing we know is the same thing any animal knows, but we don’ know it in the way that animals know it. There is a modal distinction between human and merely animal knowledge, and not a difference of what is known.
A: What does it mean to be modally different?
B: To be a different way. Ways are different by diversity with respect to some one end or some one beginning. If we say the ways to Paris and London are different, we are assuming a common starting point; if we say two ways are different, we tend to mean that they share a common goal, but are diverse in the order of their means. At any rate, it’s what I mean here. Human beings and animals tend to the same known object as a goal – a sensible thing. They differ in that the human being does not have to know it in the way that sense knows things while an animal must know it in this way.
A: What difference does this modal difference make?
B: A great deal of difference. For example, it’s what allows the human mind to know about God, the soul, and truths of metaphysics.
A: But these are all objects that animals can’t know! How can you say that there is no difference between what humans and animals know if one knows God and the other doesn’t?
B: Because God isn’t what is known. We know is the same thing an animal knows, but we can know it as a creature. It’s not that we see God and the creature in one glance, then relate the one to the other: God is simply what is known as other than creature as cause.God is not some new thing in consciousness, but a judgment about a relation common to all creatures to another.
A: But then you need a sense of cause that animals don’t have. I don’t see how you avoid the problem.
B: I’d say the same thing I just said since God just is the cause of the creature; if God need not be some new thing in consciousness beyond the creature, then the cause need not be some new thing in consciousness beyond the creature.It’s not that we need some account of cause that we know is transcendent, we know it is transcendent when we conclude to God being the cause.
A: This seems like wordplay. How can you say God is not included in what man knows?
B: Because if you speak like this you are not true to your own experience and it allows for a synthesis of Post-Kantian thought and a more classical metaphysics that argued for the cogency of theistic proofs. God just isn’t what you know, and if you had to back this up with arguments, there are hundreds in various philosophers. But if we distinguish between what we know and how we know it, we allow for a synthesis.