It’s “Not” Interpretation All The Way Down: A Defense Of Simple Seeing -- By: Hendrik van der Breggen

Journal: Global Journal of Classical Theology
Volume: GJCT 13:2 (Sep 2016)
Article: It’s “Not” Interpretation All The Way Down: A Defense Of Simple Seeing
Author: Hendrik van der Breggen

It’s “Not” Interpretation All The Way Down: A Defense Of Simple Seeing

Hendrik van der Breggen

Associate Professor of Philosophy
Providence University College
Otterburne, Manitoba, Canada

Hendrik van der Breggen, Ph.D., is associate professor philosophy at Providence University College (Otterburne, Manitoba, Canada). Van der Breggen’s academic work tends to focus on apologetics but he also takes apologetics “to the street” in his newspaper column Apologia (which is available online

“It’s not interpretation all the way down: A defense of simple seeing” was published originally in the Spring 2015 issue of Didaskalia: The Journal of Providence Theological Seminary (pp. 57–74) and is reprinted here with permission.

Abstract: Are our observations of the external world wholly filtered by our background assumptions (perspectives, worldviews, languages, conceptual schemes)? Is it interpretation all the way down? Is all seeing seeing as? I argue No. The notion of “simple seeing” provides an intuitively obvious perceptual ground for thinking simple seeing is true, so not all seeing is seeing as. Moreover, a reductio ad absurdum argument provides a logical ground for the falsity of the interpretation-all-the-way-down view. This is significant for theology and apologetics. Indeed, the New Testament testimony about Jesus presupposes the validity of simple seeing, and this allows us to ground our interpretation of the world—including the Good News—in the real world.


Apparently popular today among university students (and professors) is the view that human perception of the world is wholly and inescapably interpretive. All seeing is, on this view, seeing as. The idea behind “seeing as” is that all seeing is filtered by the background assumptions—perspectives, worldviews, languages, conceptual schemes—which we bring to our observations and investigations. It is even alleged by some that our experience of everyday objects is completely a matter of interpretation and such interpretation varies from person to person. On this view, we cannot know the actual world. Rather, it’s interpretation all the way down.1

In this essay I will argue—with considerable help from philosophers J. P. Moreland, R. Scott Smith, Steven B. Cowan, and James S. Spiegel—that the interpretation-all-the-way-down view should be rejected. I will do this in five steps. First, I will clarify the notion of “simple seeing,” which, once understood, seems very much to make the truth of simple seeing intuitively obvious, thereby rendering intuitively obvious the falsity of the a...

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