Category Archives: Conceptual skepticism

Pope Francis’ Nominalistic Defense of Reception of the Eucharist by Catholics Not in a State of Grace

How can Pope Francis’ suggest that some divorced Catholics who have remarried outside the Church might receive the Eucharist? Interpreting Pope Francis as a nominalist explains how he can offer his suggestion. For the interested reader, a brief discussion of the problem of universals is at the end of the post

Cardinals Burke et al. have challenged Pope Francis’ position in his recent Amoris laetita. The controversy focuses on reception of the Eucharist by Catholics legally divorced from a spouse in a valid Catholic marriage, legally married to a spouse in a subsequent marriage without a Catholic annulment of the former marriage. A footnote 351 in §305 suggests that under certain conditions in consultation with a priest a person in such a marriage may find it helpful for his or her spiritual life and salvation to receive the Eucharist.
Pope Francis has claimed that his stance in Amoris laetita proposes no change in Catholic moral theology. The cardinals challenge Pope Francis to explain how his suggestion about reception of the Eucharist can be consistent with Catholic moral theology because such a couple are living in a habitual grave sin according to Catholic moral theology and cannot receive sacramental absolution. The challenge confronts Pope Francis with a dilemma: Change Catholic moral theology or teach that on occasion reception of the Eucharist by people in a situation of grave habitual may work for the salvation of their souls. Pope Francis grasps the dilemma by the horn to admit that reception of the Eucharist by people not in a state of grace can work for their salvation.
How can Pope Francis consistently make such a suggestion? If he offers guidelines for the conditions under which it would be spiritually profitable to receive the Eucharist, these guidelines would be new rules in conflict with present Church rules. Francis has claimed that no rule changes are proposed. The resolution is to give no rules or guidelines. Take a nominalistic stance Rules or guidelines use general terms and combine several individuals into a group as if they formed a class. However, general terms mislead us about reality. In reality there are only separate individuals and there are no similarities combining them into groups. The best language for talking of reality is to use only names; utter no sentence and give no rules. So, when prompted by the Spirit a person just recognizes that the Eucharist is to be received but the recognition cannot be put into words since words always distort reality. Just receive the Eucharist. Talking about it will only distort what is being done.

My book on sexual morality takes a conceptualist position to defend a traditional sexual morality.

My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $3.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.





To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $3.99 plus $3.71 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214
Include your shipping address.

Here is my naïve synopsis of the problem of universals. Universals are whatever it is we are talking about when we use common terms. Common terms can be applied to different locations in space and time. They are as simple as the color term “yellow” and as complex as the sophisticated term “justice.” The problem of universals is what if anything outside the mind corresponds to these universal terms? Realists hold that our universal terms when well defined correspond to a universal feature of extramental reality.
For instance, a realist hold that a proper definition of “justice “ presents to us what justice is in and by itself. Realist hold a correspondence theory of truth for definitions of universal terms. Conceptualists hold that we use universal terms as a result of our capacity to think as if something exactly the same is located in different regions of space and time. There is no need to believe that there is anything corresponding to our best definitions of terms which makes them the true definitions. All that is needed is to assume that reality is such that it allows our use of terms to have successful science and daily life. For instance, a conceptualist holds that a “true” definition of “justice” is one which helps construct flourishing communities. Conceptualist hold a pragmatic theory of truth for definitions of universal terms. Nominalists hold that our use of universal terms is fundamentally misleading about the way reality is in itself. In reality, there are only individuals. There are no features which they share with other individuals as realists hold. There are no vague similarities which make it useful to think as if there were shared features as conceptualists hold. Mere names are all that can be said without distorting what is. For nominalists there are no true sentences about extra mental reality – not even a statement of nominalism.

Confession of a Truth Skeptic

A truth skeptic doubts whether or not there are any truths. In a Catholic Register column in the November 27, 2016 issue Francis X. Cronin confronts such a skeptic. He points out that a skeptic about truths contradicts himself if he were to claim that it is true that there are no truths. Cronin goes further to criticize the typical way this skeptic tries to avoid the contradiction by neither affirming nor denying the statement “There are truths.” The typical way is to call attention to all the ways in which intelligent people have contradicted one another. The skeptic hopes consideration of the set of contradictory statements intelligent people have made, will lead us to despair of accepting any statements as true.

In rebuttal, Cronin cites the set of contradictory statements as evidence which should set aside this despair because that set provides a proof that there are some true statements, even if we do not know which ones are the true beyond the one provable true statement “There are truths”.

In his rebuttal, Cronin introduces the term real possibility. Introduction of this term is crucial for a rebuttal of a serious skeptic about truth. A serious skeptic about truth has doubts about whether or not any of our statements can present things as they are independently of our ways of thinking and perceiving. The doubt arises because trying to prove that we can represent things apart from our thinking and perceiving them seems to require us to think and perceive them apart from thinking and perceiving them to compare with how we think and perceive them. Cronin does not successfully set aside this serious skepticism about truth if he defines “real possibility” as I do below

A statement expresses a real possibility if it represents how things can be apart from our ways of presenting them.

Cronin notes that the set of all statements expressing real possibilities contains contradictions, viz., every statement and its negation. Call this set ALL. The set ALL can be a model for that set of statements which is supposed to justify despairing skepticism about truth. However, for every statement in ALL which in fact does not represent things as they actually are, its negation does. So, the set ALL contains the subset TRUTH which is the set of the negation of all of the false statements in ALL. So, there is TRUTH even if no one can pick out each and every member from ALL.

My disappointment with Cronin’s argument is that he does not address the issue of how we can tell whether or not a statement expresses a real possibility. The serious skeptic about truth has despair about ever being able to establish that a statement represents thing as they could be apart from our ways of representing, viz., oub ability to represent real possibilities.

In my book, I argue that we cannot use theoretical reasoning to establish real possibilities, let alone truths. Ultimately we need to use practical reason to confront reality as it is apart from our thinking. Intelligent acting is needed to get the truth which we can always doubt using theoretical reasoning alone.

My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $3.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.





To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $3.99 plus $3.71 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214
Include your shipping address.

Pragmatic Arguments to Support the Paternal Principle

In this post I lay out an abstract schema for ultimately using a pragmatic argument to justify the primary thesis of my book. The thesis is the Paternal Principle that a man ought never intentionally seek an orgasm except in intercourse open to conception with a woman to whom he has made a lifelong commitment to be faithful while caring for her and their children.

Here is the schema.

1. If after following all guidelines for reasoning well, viz. careful reasoning, I have doubts about whether or not my reasoning represents reality as it is apart from my careful reasoning,viz. things in themselves then my careful reasoning is not compelling to me.
2. If my careful reasoning is not compelling to me, then my careful reasoning is not compelling.
3. If my careful reasoning is not compelling, then there are questions about how well careful reasoning represents things in themselves.
4. If there are questions about how well careful reasoning represents things in themselves, then I take the critical stance of investigating careful reasoning to judge how well it represents things in themselves. (This is the critical stance originated by DesCartes.)

In Chapter IV of my book I admit to doubts about my reasoning because of assumptions made and have really tried hard –perhaps while boring readers- to follow guidelines for careful reasoning. So, I concede that my argument for the Paternal Principle is not compelling simply on the basis of my argument for it in Chapter IV. So, putting what I just admitted together with lines (1)-(4), we get (5) whose ideas I expand in Chapter XI.

5. I take the critical stance of investigating careful reasoning to judge how well it represents things in themselves; especially with regard to the Paternal Principle and the reasoning for it.

6. If I take the critical stance of investigating careful reasoning to judge how well it represents things in themselves, especially with regard to the Paternal Principle and the reasoning for it.
then there are theoretical and practical alternatives.
7 If take a theoretical alternative a theory of things in themselves is developed and then careful reasoning is compared with the theory of things in themselves for accuracy
8. If I take a practical alternative, I continue to use careful reasoning while setting aside questions about its correctness, keeping in mind a conclusion reached by such reasoning while acting as if such a conclusion represented things in themselves with the intention of letting things in themselves convince me that the conclusion represents reality as it is apart from careful thinking. These practical alternatives are called pragmatic arguments.
9. Satisfactory theoretical alternatives cannot be developed without begging the question at issue. Development of a theory of things in themselves would use careful reasoning. However, the question at issue is whether or not careful reasoning can develop an accurate theory of things in themselves.
Hence, (10).
10.I develop a pragmatic argument for the Paternal Principle and the reasoning for it.

Much needs to be said about what is permissible in this process of a pragmatic argument and I try to spell it out in Chapter XI The main task is to show how careful reasoning is not violated while letting ourselves be convinced by factors which cannot be expressed as reasons which can be stated in words. Not much can be said in support of the assumption that we can encounter things in themselves in ways which show us things in themselves but which cannot be said. This is a realistic assumption I make but cannot justify in words. But after all, it is not a foolish assumption. I am a thing in itself. In all sorts of ways I encounter things in themselves. The reality in which I am emeshed can teach me in many ways without words. In particular, it has taught me that traditional sexual morality for men as taught by the Catholic Church is true. This is what I defend in my book.

My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $3.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.





To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $3.99 plus $3.71 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214
Include your shipping address.

The Conceptualism Used in Kielkopf’s in Confronting Sexual Nihilism Solves the Classical Problem of Universals

This post is a sketch of the skeptical view of the meaning of words and phrases which I use in my book. I claim no originality for this view. I have acquired it from a forty year career in academic philosophy through study of Wittgenstein, Quine, Kripe, Rorty et al.. These people may not agree with exactly what I hold and have expressed its various components better than I express them.

The gist of the view is that people determine what words mean in conversation . Here “conversation” is used broadly. It covers what people write as well as speak and refers to both current and remembered conversation. There is no realm of meanings which people can inspect to determine the truth of what we say about the meaning of terms. If questions about meaning are settled, they are settled by agreement in conversation. If no agreement upon a truth claim about meaning, the claim is neither true nor false. This view is about truth claims about meanings; not about truth claims in general.There may be a reality beyond our speaking and thinking to determine the truth of what we say when we are not talking about the meaning of terms.

Call truth claims about meaning semantical truth claims.

I call this view “skeptical conceptualism.” I call it “conceptualism” to link it with the classical problem of universals. It is a view on general terms or concepts such as “harm.” It proposes that a concept is what people produce in their thinking and speaking, viz.,. conversation. Conceptualism holds that concepts are conceptualizing. It is skeptical by virtue of leaving open the possibility of indetermined claims about meaning.

I honestly think that this conceptualism solves the classical problem of universals by satisfactorily clarifying conceptualism. The price of the solution is what here is called conceptual skepticism.

Skeptical conceptualism at first glance seems trivial. It seems to maintain only that people given meaning to terms which have no meaning apart from that given them by people. However,a bit of reflection shows us that we cannot arbitrarily change the meaning of terms. At least not as individuals. Wittgenstein famously pointed out the difficulty in trying to make “cold” mean “hot.” Even at the communal level, it is hard to change meanings. Most likely legal decisions about the permissibility of same-sex marriage will not change what we mean by marriage. People will simply go on to talk of homo-sexual marriage and hetro-sexual marriage with an insinuation that hetro-sexual is what is really meant by marriage. So, at least a felt objectivity about the meaning of terms places an obstacle against a claim that it is a mere truism. Also there are difficulties in trying to make a clear separation between truth claims about meaning and other kinds of truth claims. Once you accept that truth claims about meaning are settled, if at all, by conversation, there are arguments, too complicated for this post, that seem to require accepting that all truth claims are settled by conversation. A hint of such an argument comes from a demand that we have to determine what “agreement with reality” means if we say that truth is agreement with reality.

The point of this post amongst my blog posts is to explain the status of many of my blog posts. In many of my posts I am engaging in a conversation, with unknown participants, about the meaning of terms. A clear example of this is in my post Penance : Fulfillment of Our Obligation to Express Moral Wrath. There I plea that many terms such as penance and retribution should be give meaning in our moral framework.

So I am arguing about the meaning of terms. But these arguments are important because it is with use of terms that we make truth claims about topics different from meaning. It may turn out that there is not agreement about the meaning of terms in some disputes. When this conceptual disagreement occurs, there will not be agreement about which non-semantical truth claims can be asserted.

A rough summary of the above is: All definitions are ad hoc working definitions.

Conceptual skepticism is a fundamental feature of the philosophical methodology used in my book on sexual morality.

My book arguing that sexual neutrality leads to nihilism is Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $12.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.





To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $16.70 per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214
Include your shipping address.