Category Archives: Core philosophy

Christian Re-enchantment V: Enchanted Realities & Incredibility

This post is a reminder of the tremendous intellectual challenge to taking a realistic stance towards an enchanted reality.

Consider what it is like to believe that there is one enchanted reality which is actually real. You have to believe that the whole of reality has two parts. One part is the natural everyday reality which follows the laws of science. The other part is an enchanted reality which has the structure of an unrealistic fiction. This enchanted part can be as disorganized as a dream.

I follow Wittgenstein who reminded us that reality is everything which is the case. Part of what is the case is what science tells us about while the other part of what is the case consists of what is told of in some religiously significant narrative such as the Iliad, the Norse Sagas or the Bible.

The only constraint on taking a realistic stance towards an enchanted reality is a limited form of the law of non-contradiction. You cannot think of anything really being X while really not being X. Although in the narrative of the enchanted reality you can write that something is X and yet not X. You can say contradictions but you cannot think of them as true.

Typically the enchanted narratives as candidates for telling the truth about reality are not as crazy as dreams. My models are the narratives about Jesus in the Gospels. I am willing to include some of the miracle stories about saints and reports of Marian apparitions. But for present purposes of noting the challenges to belief the Gospel narratives suffice as a model for the problems.

For a rational 21st century Christian the challenge is twofold. One challenge is religious. The other is philosophical You must defend accepting one religiously significant narrative of an enchanted reality from amongst many others as telling the factual truth about the way things are. You must be prepared to explain how the part of reality studied by science is self-contained. The part of reality studied by science is properly studied only by the secular methods of natural science. Nothing accepted as real in the enchanted part of reality will give any natural scientific result which could not have been obtained using the methods of natural science alone.

Basically, you must be prepared to explain how science operates independently of any religious narrative although natural science does not give the whole truth. Science does not tell us everything which is the case. Some religious narrative is needed to supplement science to tell us everything which is the case.

To appreciate the difficulty of the challenge to 21st Christian, try imagining how the multiplication of the loaves and fishes or Jesus walking on water has a place in a full history of the world just as much as a normal event such as the assassination of President Lincoln.

My book on sexual morality requires no narrative about enchanted realities other than the everyday one about our thoughts and feeling. But the traditional sexual morality I justify on purely secular grounds receives more motivation if placed in a Judeo-Christian framework.

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.

Christian Re-enchantment IV: Unrealistic Fictions

In private Jesus taught his disciples that homosexual acts are sins or in private Jesus never taught his disciples that homosexual acts are sins. If we are talking about the normal everyday reality which can be studied by natural science we would say that one or the other of the alternatives is true even if we cannot find out what Jesus taught on the subject. However, if we interpret the Gospel narratives as narratives of an enchanted reality, we should say that neither is true. What is not said in a narrative of an enchanted reality is simply not in the enchanted reality being presented in the narrative. Suppose that there were a True/False test on the Gospels which had as an item:

In private Jesus taught his disciples that homosexual acts are sins _______.

Students could rightly complain that they need a third choice besides T or F. They would want to be able to use a value, perhaps U, to indicate unspecified.”

When one thinks about stories, there is nothing surprising about the Law of Excluded Middle not holding for fictions. (The Law of Excluded Middle holds that there is no middle ground between being True or False.) Stories or fictions cannot present a reality in a complete way It would be an extremely boring story if the author even tried to describe in all possible detail a reality he was imagining. This indeterminacy about billions of details does not detract from the story. It does though lead us to conclude that what is told in the story exists only in our thoughts and imaginations. For is it not a fundamental human belief that in reality a thing either is something or is not that something? Nonetheless, many fictions can be labeled “realistic.”

In my posts on Christian Re-Enchantment, I am advocating a stance that all narratives of an enchanted reality have the logical structure of unrealistic fictions. However, there is a small subset of narratives of an enchanted reality which portray how reality is apart from our imaginations. These are narratives of a Christian enchanted reality. Logically or structurally these narratives are unrealistic fictions. But certain orthodox Christian narratives are not fictions!

What is it for a fiction to be “realistic?” In human reason or culture there are representations of some vast system of objects and processes like those we can see, taste, touch, smell, hear and feel. These representations aim to be representations of the whole of reality – all that there is. This system is spread out in space and time. We sense only a tiny bit of this system. In individual people no two people may have exactly the same details in their representations. What we are not there to sense, though, is believed to be like what we do sense. We believe that what we represent existed before we were born and will continue after we die. For billions of people such representations of reality have been and are representations of an enchanted reality. There are miracles, ghosts, gods and goddess, and so on mingled in with the ordinary everyday objects and processes. I label the whole reality representations when it may contain enchanted realities over and above human thoughts and feelings “pre-scientific representations.”

Since at least the period of the Enlightenment there has been an effort by cultural elites to educate people to purge their whole reality representations of all enchanted realities. This purging is a necessary preparation for a scientific understanding of the whole of reality. This purged system is what humans study in natural science. Call our representations of the whole of reality which contain nothing beyond what in principle can be explained by natural science naturalistic representations. What we represent with naturalistic representations is what we call nature.The goal of natural science is to enhance the naturalistic representation with a sophisticated representation of how the natural processes operate so that humans can predict and control what occurs in nature as well as to satisfy curiosity about the order observed in what we represent and then to delight in representing this order. At their best, scientific representations are expressed in the abstract language of mathematics.

A realistic fiction tells us only of objects, processes and events which could be in nature.

An unrealistic fiction tells us of objects, processes and events which could not be in nature along with those which could be in nature.

Being realistic does not save the realities portrayed in realistic fictions from the incompleteness indicated by failure of the law of excluded middle.

But the gaps in an enchanted reality are even greater than those natural details the author never mentioned. Enchanted realities need not obey the laws of natural science. Or better: a narrative of an enchanted reality can describe what is in conflict with natural science. This possible conflict with natural science goes even deeper than presenting events which conflict with known laws of science. In unrealistic fictions there is no law of causality. Events can be presented in fiction which have no cause. The lack of a cause could be because the author did not specify that there was one or that the author specified that there was none. The author, or authors, are in charge of what is in the reality they are presenting. At their very worst, unrealistic fictions are as disorganized as our dreams in sleep. These reminders about fictions tempt us to conclude that if all narratives of enchanted realities have the structure of fictions, then no narratives of enchanted realities tells us the truth about what is real. Nothing as incomplete and unlawful as the fragmentary and sometimes chaotic presentations of unrealistic fiction could be real apart from human imagination. That is what I am advocating, though. The Gospel narrative of Jesus’s life and deeds is structurally an unrealistic fiction. But it is not a fiction.

My book on sexual morality requires no narrative about enchanted realities other than the everyday one about our thoughts and feeling. But the traditional sexual morality I justify on purely secular grounds receives more motivation if placed in a Judeo-Christian framework.

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.
.

Christian Re-enchantment II: Enchanted Realitities and Truth

Atheists want to tell the world that religious beliefs are untrue and religious practices are foolish, if not dangerous. They offer atheism as the way to avoid error, superstition and fanaticism. The atheistic strategy is to make their case at a theoretical level to avoid the complicated consideration of indefinitely many beliefs and practices of the numerous actual religions.

For discussion of religious belief there are two questions in answer to which atheists develop theoretical arguments for setting aside religion. The first question asks: Is there an ultimate being? The second question asks: Are any religiously significant narratives of an enchanted reality true?
For both answers atheists hope to establish a negative claim.
There is no ultimate being
No narrative of an enchanted reality is true

Christians, of course, hold that there is an ultimate being and that there is one true narrative of an enchanted reality in which the ultimate being participates.

Disputes about the existence of an ultimate being are the familiar philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God. I am not concerned with those arguments in this post. I think that at least since Kant (1724-1804) there is a growing consensus that although there are no compelling arguments that there is an ultimate being which might be identifiable with the God of some actual religions, it is not unreasonable to accept some of these arguments as giving good reasons for believing that there is an ultimate being.

Really, it is not important for atheists to refute these arguments decisively. Mere belief in an ultimate being does not by itself lead to any of the beliefs and practices atheists find in actual religions. The threatening, to atheists, religious beliefs and practices are based on religious narratives about enchanted realities.
See Christian Re-enchantment for introduction to how I use “enchanted reality.”
Reductionism is the tactic for implementing the atheistic strategy of showing that no narratives about an enchanted reality are true. The program is to show that everything which can be clearly thought and spoken about is located in space/time and subject to laws of natural science. Yes, scientific laws themselves are an embarrassment to these reduction programs. The very mathematical lawfulness of objects studied by natural science has not yet been reduced to entities in space/time. The final solution to reduction tactic would be justification of nominalism.

I think I know what I am talking about when I talk of these reduction programs. All of my philosophical training has been in philosophy departments of secular state universities. I have spent forty years teaching in the philosophy department of secular state universities. In the background, there was an assumption that a significant philosophical achievement would be a reduction of something not clearly located in space/time to something which was. The big success, perhaps worthy of a Noble Prize, would be reduction of mind to matter.

The reduction programs are programs in process. There are many promises of reduction but few clear results. The most highly touted reduction is the claim, we read in the introductory chapter of biology texts that we no longer need to assume that there is life over and above the physiological processes. It is true that assumption of a special force called life is not needed for scientific research.

I should add that a model for reducing one area to another is the representation of all of mathematics as set theory. All mathematical objects, numbers, functions, figures etc., are allegedly reduced to sets.

Elimination of the mental: thoughts, sensations and feelings would show that there are no enchanted realities. Yes,our thoughts, sensations and feelings enchant the “colorless” abstractions talked of in natural science. But elimination of the mental seems impossible. We would have to think to realize that we had accomplished this intellectual feat.

Trying to eliminate the mental is called the mind-body problem. Actually it is not a problem unless you hold that there needs to be a reduction of the mental to the material

In any event, the unresolved mind-body problem has stalled the reduction tactic for showing that no narratives of an enchanted reality can be true. I use the weak can be true because I am not prepared to say that the mind-body problem cannot be solved. “Can” is good enough to stall the project.

It is a real possibility that some narrative about an enchanted reality is true.

My book on sexual morality requires no narrative about enchanted realities other than the everyday one about our thoughts and feeling.

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.
.

Christian Re-enchantment I

This post was supposed to be philosophical. I intended to rationalize introducing angels in a conceptual model of the paschal mystery. Why, though, am I constructing a conceptual modal of the paschal mystery and more broadly: the good news in the Gospels? I want to strengthen my conviction that the factual claims in the Gospels tell the truth. With such a conviction I can boldly proclaim them to others as literally true. A model for how the truth claims of the Gospels can be true presupposes receiving them as truth claims. What is it like to received the truth claims of the Gospels as true truth claims.

The Gospels make truth claims about angels. In Luke 2, 28 ff. we can read:

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High;

Do you hold with conviction that this passage tells the truth about events involving an angel, a young virgin, in the province of Galilee sometime in the reign of Ceasar Augustus? A resulting event is the pregnancy of Mary without sexual intercourse and she is carrying God incarnate.

I never had the courage to tell my children the Christian gospel, such as the above passage, as a truth just as much as some other factual claim about the Roman Empire. Indeed, I have never had the courage to tell it to anyone. I have not been able to profess with conviction the good news of Christianity. Somehow secularism had disenchanted reality. I cannot be a good Christian unless I am willing to go out to all the world to tell the good news.

What is this good news which I am ashamed to proclaim as true; not only as morally useful? The Christian gospel is not the partial truth of my beloved catechism answer: God made us to know love and serve Him on this earth so that we can be happy with Him forever in heaven. There is the crucifix. The cross commands us to tell the whole truth. The whole truth describes a harsh magical reality. Of course, it is not all harsh as the above Lucan passage shows.

I characterize this magical reality from my Catholic perspective. Accepting the Gospels as making truth claims about a magical reality is a presupposition of developing a rationalizing conceptual model for them. Of course, I cannot speak for the Catholic Church.

Reality is a unit containing ordinary natural events and enchanted events. The ordinary natural events are the observable events explained by natural science. The enchanted events are observable effects of supernatural beings. The supernatural beings are not observable. They are the invisible beings we acknowledge in the Nicene Creed when we profess belief in God the Father Almighty creator of all things visible and invisible.

Much that we can observe is taken as enchanted. There are ordinary objects taken as sacred or holy. Trees, brooks, mountains and indeed the whole earth have been taken as holy or set apart for the supernatural. Ordinary events such as dreams or eclipses have been heeded as messages from the supernatural. Miracles, although observable, are not ordinary because they have no natural explanation. Not all enchanted events are located in any definite place or time although enchanted events are always at least partially describable in terms we use to describe the observable. Hence, events such as the fall of Adam and Eve cannot be located in the spatial temporal framework we use for ordinary events, sacred objects, signs and miracles.

Reality as enchanted is very familiar. We are familiar with enchanted events mixed with the ordinary events from the Greek, Roman and Nordic legends. The world of the Iliad and Odyssey is an enchanted world. The Harry Potter novels have familiarized a whole generation with an enchanted reality. I should not forget about Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. The fiction genre of magical realism mixes ordinary events with enchanted events. The Gospels are at least magical realism. Current interest in zombies shows that many people delight in considering an enchanted reality. Most likely every generation will discover new enchanted worlds to delight, to terrify and to edify or to corrupt.

What is unfamiliar nowadays is to hold that there is one narrative mixing enchanted events with ordinary events which tells the truth, in addition natural acience, about the way things are.

The genuine believing Christian holds that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John present the crucial part of this narrative. The Gospels are not tales of the magical realism genre. The Gospels are realistic narratives reporting to us, amongst other things, the real magical events! That narrative has been extended and presented throughout the centuries in thousands of pictures now in museums and in the windows of thousands of churches. Throughout the centuries billions have accepted the Christian enchanted reality as reality. Of course, if the enchanted reality of the Gospels is reality then all of the other narratives of an enchanted reality are false; or better simply stories.

Adopting a frame of mind in which to view reality as the Christian magical reality as REALITY is the serious challenge to Christian faith. Believing in an abstract God on whom all reality depends is not intellectually as challenging as atheism. So this is the first of a series of posts by someone who has been disenchanted struggling to re-enchant the world.

My book making a case for traditional Christian sexual morality does not require viewing the world as enchanted. Indeed, because it accepts the secular view of reality it can be offered as the morality for all people.
*** 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.

Moral Harm and Non-being

I am beginning a series of posts the goal of which is to get some understanding of the basic Christian framework called the Paschal Mystery. The Paschal Mystery is the teaching that the Incarnation of God as Jesus and Jesus’ subsequent suffering, death and resurrection radically transformed the human condition. These events restored the human condition from a fallen one in which at best human life had no greater destiny than that we typically attribute to bedbugs to an original one in which human beings rise after biological death to live eternally with God. Human beings were in the fallen condition because they had chosen some act which they ought not have chosen and so they were no longer as they ought to be.

The phrases with the moral terms are emphasized because they gave me the clue on how to clarify and modify concepts to become somewhat clearer about the Paschal mystery. Moral concepts will be those under closest analysis and modification. This post focuses on a notion of moral harm.

What is moral harm? Distinguish moral harm from natural harm which here I will treat as medical harm. I use “medical” to have a working definition of natural harm. The medical harm of an act is a physical or psychological condition brought about by an act for which the person has a high probability of being compensated by medical insurance. So if you assault a person and break his arm, that person can very likely win a suit for damages from you. Similarly, if a man seduces a boy into sexual acts medical professionals will almost certainly testify that the boy has suffered psychological harm for which he should be compensated.

Moral harm is not the medical harm which an immoral act causes. Certainly we cannot say that an act is not immoral if it causes no medical harm. Moral harm is the harm a person inflicts on himself when he chooses contrary to a moral law. For instance, there is a moral law that you ought not testify that you saw a man at the scene of a crime when you clearly realize that he was somewhere else. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor!” The moral harm he inflicts upon himself comes from choosing to break the moral law. Moral laws specify how we ought to be. By choosing to break the moral law he chooses to not be the kind of person he ought to be. Moral harm is not being as you ought to be. Harm can be called an evil. So a notion of harm or evil as non-being is being used: non-being as a departure from what ought to be. The non-being which is evil may be an actual state of affairs. But it is a state of non-being, moral non-being, because of its difference from what ought to be.

This notion of moral harm or evil as non-being will be fundamental in posts trying to get clearer about the Paschal mystery. This will include introduction of a notion of Satan!

My book explores the notion of moral evil in conjunction with an examination of male 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.

Truth and the Parmenidean Postulate

A translation of the 5th fragment of the writings of the 6th century BC Greek philosopher Parmenides reads “For it is the same thing that can be thought as can be.” I interpret this fragment as telling us that the structure of thought is the structure of reality. It is the Parmenidean postulate. It reassures us that our thinking can lead us to the truth. The truth is what there is as it is apart from our thinking. Accurate expression of our thoughts are the true statements.

I include posts on truth as reminders amongst my blog posts on my stance towards our ability to get the truth and express it well. In the so-called Blogsphere there are posts accusing some, especially those with views which could be classified as left of center as denying truth or dismissing our ability to get it. It is uninteresting to accuse someone of denying that there is truth and then dismiss them as inconsistently asserting that it is true that nothing is true. It is interesting and helpful for understanding our own stance toward truth to figure out how there could be stances which in some consistent way hold that there is no truth. This post then develop previous posts on truth:Pope Francis’ nominalism and Truth skepticism

Here I want to connect acceptance of truth with theories of universals and the Parmenidean postulate. Theories of universals are outlined in the post on Pope Francis’ nominalism.

Realists accept the Parmenidean postulate. The structure of thought has universal terms and then so does reality apart from thought. Realists about universals are realists about truth. I conjecture that most accusations that someone is not a realist about truth are based on thinking their opponent is not a realist about universals. Their opponents refuse to be pinned down to giving exact definitions.

Conceptualist do not hold the Parmenidean postulate. We place a weaker demand –postulate-on our reason. We postulate that thought is suitable for leading humans to think of reliable ways of operating in reality. We concede that reality may have a different structure than our thinking. But we do not concede that there is no truth. True thoughts are those on reliable ways to operate in reality. Conceptualist set aside the task of trying to uncover the structure of reality apart from thought. That would be metaphysics.

Nominalist do not hold the Parmenidean postulate. Nominalists have a metaphysical theory on the structure of reality apart from thought. They hold that reality is simply many separate things. All talk of their interconnection distorts their separateness. But thinking is always about interconnections. Hence, nominalists do not accept any thoughts as true. By simply stating their metaphysical view without asserting it as true nominalists can consistently present their view. True is a necessarily empty category for noninalists.

So, if someone wants to make a philosophically strong case that someone else rejects truth, they should struggle to make a case their opponent is a nominalist. If someone wants to take the stance that there is truth which is properly expressed by our thoughts they should accept and defend the Parmenidean postulate.

I have written a book defending traditional sexual morality as a conceptualist. Thus I think daily practice will show the truth of traditional sexuality 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.