Category Archives: Realism vs. anti-realism

Christian Re enchantment VIII, Hiding behind “I believe”

My exploration of how to re-enchant the world so that the Christian narrative accurately describes reality is progressively exposing to me weakness in my faith. There is a building resistance to letting myself be a participant in reality so described. I fear that being a participant in a Christian reality with its miracles and entities beyond the scope of natural science is a much stronger faith than mine. I am convinced that a Christian description of reality is consistent with natural science and that there are good reasons for accepting that such a description tells the truth about reality. Nonetheless, my Christian faith is holding a theory about reality rather than living in a Christian reality.

This post touches on some topics much discussed by professional philosophers. I do not cite the professional literature because what I write is rather elementary and contributes nothing to the professional literature. I am always glad, though, to discover how useful the apparently verbal issues of professional academic philosophy are to clarifying, to me at least, fundamental issues of existential concern.

In this post I draw implications about the weakness of my faith from my preference for expressing my faith with indirect discourse statements of the form of [I believe that P,] where P is some direct discourse statement about a religiously significant reality such as “Jesus rose from the dead” or “Jesus died on the cross for our sins.”

In the previous post, I alluded to how an indirect discourse statement such as “I know that I love you” is emotionally weaker than the direct discourse statement “I love you.” What makes indirect discourse weaker? With indirect discourse you talk directly about what you think and indirectly about that to which your thought refers. So, with “I know that I love you” you talk about your thought of loving and the person referred to with the pronoun “you”. With the direct discourse “I love you” you talk of yourself in relation to the person you love. Talking directly of your thought of love instead of the beloved weakens the declaration of love. Why say that indirect discourse is about thoughts?

Let me use some terminology which would need more precise definition if this were a professional philosophical discussion. What our words stand for are their extensions Thus me and to whomever I declared my love are the extensions of “I” and “you” respectively. The meaning of our terms, what we think when using them, especially full sentences are the intension of terms. Thus the thought of my loving that person to whom I declare my love is the intension of “I love you.”

The object of an indirect discourse statement is an intension in which terms stand for extensions. So intensions are different from the extensions which usually are our primary concern.

There are a wide variety of indirect discourse statements using terms such as “know,” “believe,” “hope,” “wonder,” etc.,. I focus on “believe.” These terms are often called “propositional attitudes” because they say how someone thinks about a proposition which I have here called intensions

Why say that the indirect discourse statement “I believe that Jesus rose from the dead” is about the intension of the sentence “Jesus rose from the dead” instead of Jesus and his rising from the dead?

Here’s where we touch on a topic much discussed by professional philosophers. I adopt an argument style frequently used by professional philosophers.

Assume that it is a fact that Jesus is a man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim.

Consider the following argument where the conclusion validly follows from the two premises.

1] “Jesus rose from the dead” is true..
2] Jesus = the man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim.
Therefore:
3] “The man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim rose from the dead” is true..

The conclusion follows because, when we are referring to extensions, equals may be substituted for one another without changing the truth value of claims into which they are substituted. This is because when we are talking about the extra mental facts the terms used to pick out the components of those facts don’t change the facts.

Now consider this next argument where substitution of equals fails. The argument is invalid.

(1) “I believe that Jesus rose from the dead” is true
(2) Jesus = the man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim.
Therefore:
(3) “I believe that the man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim rose from the dead” is true.

It may be a fact that I believe that Jesus rose from the dead while I do not believe that the man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim rose from the dead. I may not believe anything about a man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim because I may never have thought about who Jesus’ maternal grandparents were.

Substitution of coreferential terms fails when we substitute such terms in the propositions or intensions in indirect discourse statements; or, in the sentences after propositional attitudes. This is because what is thought about in indirect discourse claims are something which depends upon how we think about it. Something which depends upon how we think about it, certainly is not something which exists independently of our thinking. It is reasonable to classify such things as mental.

A reason professional philosophers find propositional attitudes so problematic is that it seems that science, let alone ordinary thinking cannot be carried on without use of some propositional attitudes. We need to think critically. Critical thinking requires attention to what we believe. So the careful thought of science requires attention to something mental, viz. our beliefs. Yet the mental is not subject to full treatment by natural science. So those who hold the ideology of scientism would like somehow to avoid any use of indirect discourse. (Scientism is an ideology which holds that there is nothing but what can be explained by natural science.)

I am not upset that use of indirect discourse leads me to accept a realm of mental events not fully explained by natural science. I do not hold scientism. I am only disturbed by the fact that use of indirect discourse, in particular by use of the propositional attitude [I believe that P], enables me to express completely my Catholic faith without directly encountering the beings, events and processes about which I have beliefs. I do not speak directly of them. I fear that I am afraid to speak directly of them. Do I unconsciously accept scientism?
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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:
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45 W. Kenworth Rd.

Christian re-enchantment VII, Doxastic Aphasia

In the English Standard Version of Paul’s letter to the Romans we can read at Rm 10:9
“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

A significant part of my problem of perceiving reality to be enchanted as a Christian narrative describes it, lies in the fact that I cannot sincerely follow Paul’s instruction. I have a sense of pretending to be someone different from myself, perhaps someone with the faith of a child, if I use “Jesus” as the subject of a fact stating sentence about the person to whom I should refer with “Jesus.” For instance, I cannot sincerely, without what I feel as cringing, state as facts “Jesus rose from the dead” “Jesus fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish” or “Jesus was crucified for me.”

This problem occurs primarily with use of direct discourse. I am sometimes embarrassed to use indirect discourse to make a claims about myself along the lines of ” I believe that Jesus us Lord” or “I believe that Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish.” But most of the time, especially amongst fellow Catholics, I have no hesitation saying that I believe core Christian doctrines. Philosophically technical issues about the difference between direct and indirect discourse are to be discussed in my next post on Christian re-enchantment. To get a hint of this point reflect on the difference between the direct discourse “I love you” and the indirect discourse “I believe that I love you” or even “I know with absolute certainty that I love you.”

The sense of pretending or the inward cringing suppresses such statements as statements of what I belief. I can say the words but I cannot say them as what I belief. The suppression of believing the words is analogous to blockings of speech called aphasia. Doxastic is a term based on the Greek word doxa for belief. So the clinical sounding term “doxastic aphasia” is a suitable label for my inability to use direct discourse to confess with my mouth “Jesus is Lord.” This verbal blockage comes from whatever produces the inward cringing that suppresses me from believing in my heart,i.e., sincerely saying to myself, “Jesus is Lord,” let alone “God raised Jesus from the dead.”

As a practicing Catholic my doxastic aphasia is serious problem. It certainly blocks me from fulfilling the Pauline sufficient condition for salvation quoted at the beginning of this post. It seriously hinders my ability to “go out to all the world and tell the good news.” I do not proclaim the good news directly. This has interfered with my passing on the Catholic faith to my children.

See first post on Christian Re enchantment for how my inability to teach my children effectively arose my concern about need to accept and Christian Enchanted reality.

What might be the cause of my doxastic aphasia? Honestly, it is not fear of being contra-culture. I am not afraid to express Catholic beliefs in indirect discourse amongst fellow Catholics. But I avoid confessing with my mouth in direct discourse Catholic beliefs about Jesus even amongst fellow Catholics because in my heart I feel very uncomfortable saying simply “Jesus rose from the dead.” I find that I never have to use direct discourse to express what I believe as a Catholic. I pray. But praying is not making truth claims

My diagnosis is that I fear to live in the story of any enchanted reality; let alone one in accordance with a Christian narrative. The direct discourse statement “Jesus rose from the dead” makes me one of the participants of the story telling about another participant in the story. With the indirect discourse statement “I believe that Jesus rose from the dead” I stand outside the story as does a reader of a story and assert that I believe what occurs in the story.

I fear letting myself enter into any enchanted reality as if I were an active participant. This holds for the enchanted realities of video games as well as religious world views. I suppose that I feel insecure if I somehow let myself feel an active participant in any reality narrated by more than that of the daily world in principle explained by natural science. To enter an enchanted reality there can easily be conflicts between religion and science. Looking at the religious story from the outside by specifying it is what we believe, logical and conceptual techniques are available for removing any conflicts between religion and science. Avoidance of such conflicts are developed in subsequent posts using what has already been posted about the logic of fiction.

Ideally, one should enter into the enchanted reality, thereby becoming enchanted, to teach and to believe sincerely. Then when called upon to justify believing one should stand back and take the approach of talking about beliefs. Unfortunately, for me I can not do more than say that I believe using indirect discourse. I am limited by doxastic aphasia induced by the pervasive commitment of my culture to scientism.

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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 VI: Living in a Story

What is the purpose of these blog posts about Christian re-enchantment? The purpose is to understand sympathetically how people like me can bring themselves, without self-deception, to use as their description of what happens in reality a Christian narrative. A Christian narrative of what happens in reality includes both the events explicable by natural science along with scientifically inexplicable events such as the miracles described in the Gospels. Such narratives are based on representations of reality which is enchanted in accordance with a Christian narrative. “Enchanted” refers to the religiously significant events amongst those inexplicable by science. I need to show that we have the intellectual and affective ability to rebuild a representation of reality which is enchanted in accordance with a Christian narrative. And, then, of most importance I need to show that we can use these abilities without self-deception

In this post, I specify “people like me,” remind us that we have the affective capacity. I will use what I have written in previous posts about the logic of fiction to show that we have the intellectual capacity to remind us that we can tell the story of an enchanted world in which we are living.

Who are people like me? I am not boasting or apologizing. I am simply describing myself by admitting that I am an emeritus professor of philosophy from the secular Ohio State University. For over fifty years I have lived and studied in an intellectual culture which regards any representation of reality recognizing anything beyond what can be explained by natural science as misrepresenting what there is. As a result, I feel a burden of proof when I depart from this stance. If “scientism” means fully endorsing this reductive stance that natural science alone represents what there is, then many people, I am confident, share my sense of needing to defend departures from scientism. I have been working in one of the educational institutions which, quite often, explicitly teach scientism to thousands of young people every year. Scientism is a program for disenchanting our representation of reality – what there is. I am writing for those who recognize scientism is a serious challenge to sincere expression of religious believing as well as religious believing.

Once we have been tempted by scientism can we ever look at reality as enchanted?

Recently on the web I read an intriguing announcement of a college course on video game development. The opening lines were:
“We love to play them. We love to dive into a world of sword and sorcery, of alien invasions, of car chases and gangsters on the run. Video games do not just show you a world, they allow a player to become part of that world; part of the story. ”

This human ability to become part of a story is the affective capacity which can be used to accept the Christian narrative as telling all that really happens. Of course, to become a participant of what goes on in the video game as reality we need to play the game; probably quite a lot. Similarly, to “get into the Christian story” we need to read the bible and be around people who use a Christian narrative as the narrative of reality.

The most vivid example of living a story comes from imagining a description of what you think and do in everyday life. That narrative about you is an example of you living a story. You’re living that narrative of what you do!

There are two “take-a-ways” from this post. One:we can live a story different from one in which there is nothing beyond the scientifically explicable. Two: We have to engage in some practices different from scientific activity to do so. These practices can be called “faith heuristics.” Subsequent posts on Christian re-enchantment will focus on how to use faith heuristics without self-deception.

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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 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 a 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.
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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.
.