The Transcendent Does Not Transcend Practical Reasoning

The Transcendent Does Not Transcend Practical Reasoning

To establish this thesis I reconsider how I reasoned to postulating a Transcendent. I want to strengthen the reasoning. See A Proof of the Existence of God. But most of all I want to display that only theoretical reasoning is used. My argument in “high” metaphysics using only alleged principles of reason is definitely theoretical. Then I will note that this use of theoretical reasoning does not require postulating anything transcending practical reasoning. Indeed, we should not postulate that to which practical reason responds as transcending practical reason. For practical reason does not reflect upon itself and thereby separate itself from that to which it is responding.

I start with a review of my terminology of immanent and transcendent ontology.”
In “immanent ontology” we ask: What must exist for our basic beliefs about experienced reality to have truth conditions? A further question is to ask what must exist for these truth conditions to exist. This further question concerns what transcends facts, morality, goodness and beauty. It concerns what must be in order that there exist facts, morality, goodness and beauty. I call this further question the question of “transcendent ontology.” Note how these questions show how reason is here reflecting upon itself to ask how it can do what it does.

The world, reality, or what is accepted in immanent ontology, is that which can be represented by human intelligence. An implication of a previous post’s recognition of the inconsistencies and incoherence of human representations is that our representations are not the reality we represent. For reality is consistent. However, even if representations extend beyond what exists when they are inconsistent, the inconsistent representations themselves exist. I also assume that whatever exist can be represented. This is the Parmenidean Principle that it is one and the same which can exist and can be thought, i.e., representable. I use the Parmenidean Principle in the form: All possibilities are representable.

Here is the most fundamental philosophical question – the question of transcendent ontology.
Must there be something unrepresentable upon which what can be represented depends for its existence and features, but which depends upon nothing else ? I answer with an adaptation of Aquinas’ Third Way. I present my argument in two parts.

Part I

First, consider the the issue of dependence. I call what exists reality.
1. Reality is representations and what can be represented.
2. If it is possible that reality depends upon nothing for its existence then it is possible that reality not exist, viz., it is possible that there is nothing.
3. If it is possible that there is nothing, then it is possible that there are no representations.
4. If it is possible that there are no representations, then there is a possibility that there being no representations is represented. For according to the Parmenidean Principle, all possibilities including that of there being no representations, are representable.
5. But there cannot possibly be a representation of there being no representations. For the representation of there being no representations provides a representation showing that there is at least one representation.
6. Hence, it is not possible that reality depends upon nothing for its existence. (From (2) through (5) by a reductio argument.)

Incidentally, we have an answer answer to the question: Why is there something rather than nothing? The answer from the argument above is that there cannot be nothing. We reached that answer about why there is something in the course of an argument about the dependence of reality wherein we found that reality must exist. Now we consider whether that which necessitates the existence of reality transcends reality or is immanent, perhaps, reality itself.

Part II

1. That on which reality depends for its existence is immanent in reality or transcends reality
2. If it is immanent in reality, then it is a part of reality P or the whole of reality W.
3. If it is part of reality P, then there are parts of reality independent of P.
4. If there are parts of reality independent of P, then reality as a whole does not depend upon P for existence.
5. Hence, no part P of reality is that upon which reality depends.
6. If it is the whole of reality W, then W exists in the way as parts of reality exist or in a different way.
7. If W exists in a different way than parts of reality, then W is not immanent in reality.
8. Hence, W does not exist in a different way than parts of reality. For under the assumption in line (2) above, W needs to be immanent in reality.
9 If W exists in the same way as parts of reality, then W depends for existence on something else. For all parts of reality have dependent existence. Every part of reality exists contingently.
10. Hence from (8) & (9) W depends for existence on something else.
11. If the whole of reality W depends for existence on something else, then the whole of reality W is not that on which reality depends for existence.
12. Hence, from (11) and (1), that on which reality depends for its existence transcends reality.

What has been established? I have argued in Part II that what reality depends upon for existence transcends reality. Earlier, in Part I, I argued that reality necessarily depends upon something for existence and pointed out that there necessarily is reality. Necessarily, then, something transcends reality upon which reality depends for existence. Since reason, or at least theoretical reason, is for representing what exists, there is something which theoretical reason cannot represent.

There can be much debate about premises of my two arguments; especially (2) in Part I. Here, though, my interest on what must be accepted if the argument is accepted. Theoretical reasoning has been used to establish a theoretical point. The point is that in theory there is a realm about which theoretical reasoning can give us no information. My arguments guide us to a bifurcated picture -representation of everything, viz., what exists and that upon what exists depends. The picture is of a horizontal line below which there is that which exists – the immanent- and above which there is a blank which somehow sustains in existence everything below the line. Reasoning to unrepresentable limits is a practice of theoretical reasoning as is exhibited in reasoning to geometric points and lines.

However, the picture does not have to be accepted. Not being required to accept this picture of a bifurcation of everything is of major importance. It is not necessary to split everything into transcendent and immanent. It is only from the perspective of theoretical reasoning that we specify that there is something apart from what exists which sustains existence and transcends our theoretical reasoning. It has not been shown that our ways of thinking of obligations, our ways of reasoning to what we ought to do and ought to be, are separated from that on which everything depends for existence.

In my next post, I shall discuss how practical reasoning can bring us into contact with what is transcendent for theoretical reason.

Divine Commander is Not transcendent

In this post, I work my way to a conjecture that the Transcendent is transcendent only for theoretical reasoning. In practical, or moral reasoning we directly encounter that which transcends theoretical reasoning.

For more than a year now, throughout several blog posts, I developed an interpretation of morality as being given by a moral authority. I called this “authoritarian morality.” For instance see:Divine Command Morality as Authoritarian Morality,
Virtue of Obedience in Authoritarian Morality ,
Authoritarian Morality Enchants Reality
and Core Concepts of Authoritarian Morality..
To show that morality is indeed authoritarian morality, I started to develop a philosophical model of reality as dependent upon and maintained in existent by a transcendence beyond existence. To be honest, I have to admit that frequently compromised the notion of transcendence because my intent was to model God of Christianity as the Transcendent. However, until I arrived at locating morality in reality, I managed to avoid locating the Transcendent in what I called the immanent, viz., whatever exists. Even when I wrote that there could exist truth conditions for religious claims about God, I pointed out that the Transcendent could sustain in existence truth conditions for a truth claim with Itself as the intended referent, without Itself being in the immanent. At least it seems at first as if there could be conditions making true a claim about God without God existing in those truth conditions. For we do not know what truth conditions are in-and-by-themselves.

But our relation to the factuality of the immanent and the morality in the immanent are different. Or so it seems. We take a spectator’s stance towards factuality. We observe reality and claim that such-and-such is a fact. We do not tend to think of this as an interaction with a reality. In morality, though, we are aware of a demand upon us, which we can obey or disobey, have our obedience or disobedience be present to that which places the demand and sense that something new is demanded if we disobey. Morality, then, according to my authoritarian model, is a personal interaction with reality.

For those familiar with a distinction between theoretical reason and practical reason, I would say that in theoretical reasoning, we regard ourselves as observers of reality and make judgments about what is and what is not the case. As David Hume notoriously noted “reason is cool and indifferent.” Hume was writing of theoretical reason. We do not get direction on what we discover by theoretical reason. For instance, if we discover by theoretical reason that there is a moral law that promises ought to be kept, we discover only that it is a fact that promises ought to be kept. That fact about morality is not sufficient by itself to command obedience. Indeed, discovery of the fact that knowledge is good for humans is insufficient for giving us an obligation to pursue knowledge. It’s just an interesting fact from the perspective of theoretical reason. Of course, I am only reviewing Hume’s observation that we cannot derive an “ought” from and “is.”

With practical reasoning we operate as existents in reality receiving directions from something else in reality. These directions come into our consciousness as binding us. Practical reasoning is not primarily representing, let alone knowing. It is primarily receiving and choosing. Practical reasoning goes on amongst things in themselves. Practical reasoning provides truth conditions for theoretical reason. For instance, practical reasoning provides truth conditions for “Promises ought to be kept.”

I could go on to elaborate much more on practical reasoning. And I will do so. But in this post, my main theme is that I need to re-think what I hold about the Transcendent. I intend to identify the Transcendent with God. So, if I plan to articulate a divine command morality, I need to identify the moral commander as God. Above, I characterize a moral commander as an existent in what I have called the immanent or reality. Obviously, it seems that I plan to develop an inconsistent theory in which the Transcendent is immanent. I suppose that I could avoid inconsistency, by postulating as existing some moral agent of the Transcendent which agent gives commands on behalf of the Transcendent. I shudder at the prospect of developing a theory with demi gods.

So I will explore the conjecture that the Transcendent is transcendent only for theoretical reasoning. In practical, or moral reasoning we directly encounter that which transcends theoretical reasoning.

Moral Commands are Not Truth Claims

I have radically altered my stance on what can exist to accommodate the possibility of religious truth claims being true. I have switched from holding that reality, what is immanent, is built up from some basic existents. This philosophical atomism is properly called “logical atomism.” The basic simple existents would be given in experience, but the only structural principles would be those of logic. In some terminology, I had held the stance that all relations are external. Now I hold that some relations are internal.

Now that I examine my past beliefs while announcing a radical change, I have to admit that except while philosophizing I did not accept logical atomism. I accepted physical causality as a basic existent. Physical causality is that vast complex which is the subject matter of physics and chemistry. However, I always adopted my philosophical outlook when I thought about the possibility of religious truth. This atomistic ontology ruled out any religious claims from being true. Indeed, it rules out claims about the mental being true. I now hold that any logically consistent truth claim is possibly true and that I cannot specify anything about the order and connection of truth conditions for truth claims apart from our ways of representing them.

However, this change in ontology does not provide all that is needed to represent moral laws as divine commands. There needs to be amongst what exists more than conditions for making truth claims true. There are also conditions which make a moral command a correct command. It is helpful to cite the tautology “Correct moral commands are commands” as a reminder that there is commanding in reality.

For instance, a moral obligation to keep promises is more than the truth that promises ought to be kept. The obligation is even more than having “God commands that promises be kept” be a true claim. Why do these facts bring it about that we are guilty if we do not keep a promise. More is required form these facts than from other kinds of facts. We not only need to believe them to be true. They require that we sense a requirement to respond in a certain way.

The truth conditions for, say, “Promises ought to be kept” is a command “Keep promises!” The command is prior to the fact of the command being given. It is the command that constitutes the truth conditions. The command itself is not a truth claim. Primarily, the command is the giving an obligation which we can obey or disobey. Secondarily, the command provides conditions for a truth by which we can be judged. These truth constitute a moral order. But the foundation for the moral order is the commanding and human awareness of the commands.

On this foundation, I will build an account of a Divine Command morality.

We Cannot Know that We Know

We Cannot Know that We Know

Before I move on to my main goal which is to present and support as a philosophical truth that moral laws are Divine Commands, it is appropriate to confess my skepticism. It is a healthy skepticism conceding only that we cannot know that we know.

From my realistic stance, I have to confess that I cannot compare the representation of a truth claim with the truth conditions it allegedly represents. As I have so frequently proclaimed: Truth conditions apart from our representing cannot be represented. Hence, truth conditions apart from our representations cannot be compared with our representations to determine how well, or poorly, they are represented.

This holds for even Descartes’ “I exist.” I know, of course, that I exist. I cannot, though, reflect upon my thinking that I exist in order to compare my thinking with what makes my thinking of my existence a true thought. Of course, our knowledge that we exist is of great importance for supporting realism. By knowing that we exist, we know that we are amongst the existents of which we want to have knowledge. We can have contact with existents because we are some of them!

This claim about not knowing that we know is both individual and general. As a claim about the individual who I am, it says that I do not know that I know. As a general claim it is a claim that none of us know that humans have knowledge.

This is a healthy skepticism because there is no denial that humans can have knowledge but it leaves open the prospect of correcting all knowledge claims.

Also I think this skepticism is healthy because it allows setting aside efforts to define “knowledge” exactly. I can accept that knowledge is justified true belief plus meeting some fourth condition to accommodate examples dreamt up by epistemologists. If we cannot know that we know, we do not have to worry about knowing exactly what knowledge is. We are not required to have a complete concept of knowledge if we do not make a claim about having knowledge.

There Are Philosophic Truths

Philosophical Truths

I have worked in philosophy for over sixty years and implicitly never regarded philosophical claims as genuinely true, if true at all.

I started graduate study of philosophy in 1958 at the University of Minnesota. Logical positivism was the dominant philosophy. Herbert Feigl an Austrian refugee who had been a member of the Vienna Circle directed its Philosophy of Science Center. I had written an undergraduate honors thesis on Hume and the self. I was very upset with Humean skepticism; especially with philosophy’s apparent inability to say what made me who I am. I did not follow Hume’s recommendation to stop gloomy philosophical reflections and just go about the business of living. Perhaps, I hoped that I could find some solid results in deeper study of philosophy. I received a Ph. D. in Philosophy and Mathematics in 1962. At the end of graduate study, I could not answer the question: What philosophical truths did you learn in graduate study and Ph.D. research? I cannot say that I taught students any philosophical truths during forty years of teaching. What I wrote for journals was mostly criticism of what others had written. I published many truths about logic in a book on entailment systems. But those were mathematical truths.

I owe much to my instructors and the texts of classical philosophy for teaching me how to philosophize. However, I could not figure out how this disciplined thinking could lead to discovery of any truth. Early in graduate study, I read Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. In the Tractatus, I met the only forthright philosophical truth claims I ever encountered. The Tractatus gave a bold statement of the metaphysics of logical positivism. I now reject a crucial truth claim of that metaphysics, viz., logical atomism. Atomism led to Naturalism. By implicitly hold atomism all of these years, I implicitly accepted the metaphysics that in fact there was and could be nothing but what provided truth conditions for the truth claims of natural sciences.

I sketch a diagnose why I gave up hope of there being genuine philosophical truth claims. Next, I point how I have now revived a belief that there can be genuine philosophical truth claims. I base my sketch on correcting the metaphysics of the Tractatuss.

A genuine truth claim is one that represents what exists as having certain features. If what exists has those features it is true. If what exists does not have those features it is false. The features attributed to what exists do not provide a picture of what exists. We cannot even think of what exists apart from features we attribute to it; let alone imagine it. Realism is holding that there are genuine truth claims. For positivism a genuine truth claim was cognitively meaningful.

Logical positivism, especially as expressed in the Tractatus, and the criticism of it have left a long legacy.

Here are core assumptions of logical positivism and results of he criticism of it which the Tractatus incorporated into positivism.
1. Realism: There are genuine truth claims
2. Atomism: Truth conditions are constituted by some basic elements whose existence or non-existence is independent of anything else.
3. The only necessity is logical necessity
4. A claim that realism and atomism are true is not a genuine truth claim. This comes from positivism’s self criticism.

I think Wittgenstein himself gave up realism because he came to think that there were non-logical necessities such as “No surface is uniformly red and green.” Non-logical necessities threatened atomism because there, then, might be connections which threaten the independence of the basic elements. He probably thought that there could not be truth conditions without independent existents.

I reject atomism because it is a claim about what truth conditions are like apart from our representation of them. Also atomism clashes with a thesis that the only necessity is logical necessity. It rules out the logical possibility of the interconnection of every existent. I accept realism as a philosophical truth claim. If nothing exists to make claims true, realism is false; otherwise it is true. Of course I cannot stand back an look at exists apart from my representing to verify that the claim of realism is true. So, I am content to class it as an ASSUMPTION OF A TRUTH.

The dismissal of atomism is a tremendous philosophical assumption. Atomism brings with it naturalism. For if anyone can think of elements whose order and connection provide truth conditions for natural physical science, those elements do not even provide truth conditions for claims about the mental; let alone religion.

It must be emphasized that setting aside atomism is not a accepting monism. i.e. what exists is a unity. There is no claim about what exists as a thing or things in themselves.

So, I close this post by finally proclaiming a philosophical truth. That philosophical truth is what I offered in my previous post. There is a vast diversity of genuine truth claims.

The Vast Diversity of Truth Claims

Truth claims are made in many ways besides declarative sentences expressible as: Such-and-such is the case. Expanding, and probably distorting, Paul Grices’ notion of “conversational implicature*,” many human activities, verbal and non-verbal, are explicitly or implicitly, taken as representing reality.

It must be emphasized that these human activities are interpreted as representing reality as it is; not only as it ought to be. There is little doubt that activities such as story telling are taken as giving moral and practical advice.

I am thinking primarily of literature: short stories, novels, sagas, poetry and sacred texts. Of course, good literature meets aesthetic standards by virtue of which it is entertaining and beautiful. Because of what it shows about the human condition literature implies all sorts of advice – both wise and foolish. It also is frequently taken as informing us of the human condition. Such information is crucial because few of us could ever have the experiences of the ways of being human which we learn from literature. And if literature can tell us the truth, it can also lie. For instance, stories of “hardboiled detectives” falsely represent how men are.

What I have written astounds me. After living most of my life in a university setting, I have finally realized that literature departments are in the service of truth. They are not merely charting the history and techniques of verbal entertainments. (I may have been inflicted with a implicit bias of philosophy departments.)

I now hold : Literature expresses significant truths which can be expressed only by literature.

This means, for instance, that there cannot be a short summary of a few sentences which expresses the truth presented by “The Brothers Karamazov.” There cannot be a paragraph, or indeed a book, presenting the truth of the Bible. You have to read the whole text, or much of it, to realize the truth proclaimed. Much, indeed most, of the text does not present these truths. Much else needs to be presented to make the text literature. Hence, the truth claims cannot be explicitly separated from the context of all that is written.

I am sure that some truths can be expressed only in a story but are not expressed if the story is boring. Sentimentality may prevent a poem from bringing us to realize a truth. Some factual errors might provide the proper setting for presenting a Biblical truth.

Now that I have given up the notion that there is some ideal language for representing what exists, I am also setting aside the notion that language is necessary for representing what exists. Humans can represent, and misrepresent, what exists in ways that cannot be re-expressed in any words. Music, painting sculpture, architecture, may, in part, be representations of what is. Truth claims go beyond the limits of language.

* An implicature is something the speaker suggests or implies with an utterance, even though it is not literally expressed. Implicatures can aid in communicating more efficiently than by explicitly saying everything we want to communicate.

Diversity of Truth Claims Instead of Heterogeneity of Truth Conditions

My previous use of the phrase “heterogeneity of truth conditions” expressed a philosophical error. Since I already accepted what I called “opacity of truth conditions.” To say that truth conditions are opaque is to claim that we cannot specify what they are like apart from our ways of representing. If truth conditions are opaque, I cannot even specify them as one or many apart from our ways of representing them. Consequently, I cannot specify them as many, by claiming they are heterogeneous. My concerns in the previous post about whether I was expressing pluralism over monism was not only wasted labor. It also expressed a philosophical error by proposing inconsistent theses.

What I now propose, using a popular term of 2021, is “diversity of truth claims.” This really is a corollary of the philosophical thesis that any logically consistent truth claim can be true. Although I, as earlier in ,Almost all religious truth claims can be true, emphasized most are false. Truth claim diversity is also a corollary of the dismissal of an ideal language. We cannot set limits on what people say to express the truth. We cannot, for instance, rule out truth claims that cannot be tested by the methods of science, viz., we cannot be logical positivists. Generalizing the standard critique of logical positivism as inconsistent with its own standards for being a truth claim, we realize that we cannot consistently rule out as possibly true -cognitively meaningful- truth claims which cannot be verified by any specified method.

Dismissal of an ideal language, i.e., accepting diversity of truth claims sets aside a belief, implicitly held by me, that some reduction to one way of speaking was crucial for accurate expression of the truth. It is a mistake to think that we can only accurately express the truth if we speak only of physical objects and processes; let alone speak only of individual objects as nominalists require. Of course, for particular purposes we may choose to consider only truth claims of restricted types. For instance, in physics it is proper to set aside all truth claims about so-called secondary qualities

I think that dismissal of an ideal language implies that we cannot select a subset of truth claims as those which are factually true while others are true only as inferences from them. I will call this thesis “epistemic equality of truth claims.” There is no fundamental distinction between theoretical truth and factual truth. We are in no position to hold that there are some basic facts to make some basic factual claims true and other truth claims are inferences to explain the basic facts. To paraphrase Kronecker about mathematics, the thesis I am rejecting holds: The basic facts are made by God while all the other claims are human work. If a fact is whatever makes a truth claim true, there is no reason for denying that a claim such as one expressing the law of gravity or species evolution is a statement of fact.

I have written nothing about the epistemology of truth. I have only been reminding myself that the problem of discovering truth is not primarily a verbal problem which can be solved by somehow having the right language.

Heterogeneity of truth conditions is Not an Ontological Thesis of Pluralism

Have I simply accepted a physical/spiritual dualism in a convoluted way by writing in my previous post that I now accept a thesis with the complex name “heterogeneity of truth conditions?” Am I only accepting what Descartes more clearly stated about 400 years ago when he posited two kinds of substances: the physical and the mental?

No! The thesis of heterogeneity of truth conditions is not about what is. It is not an ontological thesis. It is a thesis about our ways of representing what is.

A proof that I am not merely positing Cartesian dualism is that heterogeneity of truth conditions admits that there can be truth conditions for claims about the interaction of mind and body. It is logically consistent to say “I walked across the room because I wanted to get a book off the shelf.” So there can be truth conditions for this claim presupposing that there is mind/body interaction.

But what does the heterogeneity thesis tell us? I admit that its title suggests an ontological thesis. (I am not really satisfied with the title I have given it.) It suggests an ontological thesis of pluralism. It is primarily negative. I suppose that I could just leave it as rejection of homogeneity of truth conditions.

It must be understood in conjunction with the thesis I titled “inscrutability of truth conditions.”

To assert heterogeneity of truth conditions is to concede that there is an unspecifiable variety of ways what exists can form truth conditions. It dismisses all reductionist theses of the form: There is nothing but_______. The blank can be filled in with “physical,” “mental and physical,” etc.,. However, the heterogeneity thesis is not opposed to taking stances such as: There is nothing but _____ for the sake of investigations of _______. Here the second blank can be filled in with a term like “physical” where the physical would have to be defined as perhaps that which can be characterized using only notions of mass, space and time.

It is appropriate to close this short post by noting that heterogeneity of truth conditions is primarily a thesis dismissing all reductionism as misleading unless it is admitted that reductions are only “as if” hypotheses.

The Truth of Spiritual Truth Claims

My realization that there could be truth conditions for religious claims continues to astonish me. The only narratives which could not be true are logically inconsistent narratives.

With respect to what a philosopher can say apriori about what exists is

The only impossibility is logical impossibility!
The only necessity is logical necessity!

In particular, I now hold that there could exist conditions which make one of my favorite bible passages an accurate description of the conception of Jesus which happened roughly two thousand years ago in a town of Galilee called Nazareth when a Cyrinus was governor of Syria. This is the Annunciation according to Luke. (Lk. 1:26-36) .

I cannot clearly articulate what I previously thought about the truth of religious claims. I thought that most of them were fictions. I did not explicitly hold that core claims of my Catholicism, such as the Annunciation, were fictions. I admit, though, that I had a dread that they could not be more than fictions.

Why did I think that they could not be true? I thought that if any religious claims were true, an account of their truth conditions would be given by showing how what formed their truth conditions was built up from what formed truth conditions for claims about physical nature. I cannot think of how it is possible to construct what would form a truth condition about the supernatural from the stuff of truth conditions for the natural. I did not clearly think of myself as trying to construct the supernatural from the physical nature. But that is what I was doing.

I want to make a terminological shift. I am now shifting from talking of the natural vs. the supernatural to talking of the physical vs. the spiritual.

Here I want to examine assumptions behind my futile previous attempts to understand how there could be religious truth. I will note ssumptions I reject and those I still accept.

The physical is primary in the sense that what constitutes truth conditions for claims about physical nature constitute truth claims about anything else. I now reject this physicalism.

That which makes up truth conditions for claims is of one kind for all claims. I call this assumption “the homogeneity of truth conditions.” I now reject the homogeneity of truth conditions.

I now propose the “heterogeneity of truth conditions.” Whatever it is that constitutes truth conditions for our claims may be different for different kinds of claims. For instance, the lawfully behaving stuff that permits truths claims of physical science does not act in lawful ways with the stuff that makes religious claims true.

I conjecture that dismissal of the homogeneity of truth conditions allows use of the Aristotelian causal concepts for talking about any kind of truth conditions. They do not attribute any structure or composition. Indeed the Aristotelian causal concepts might be helpful in distinguishing the physical from the spiritual.

I held inconsistent assumptions about what we can know about truth conditions as they are apart from our ways of thinking. On one hand, I held “inscrutability of truth conditions.” (I use “inscrutability” to move away from the Kantian phrase “things in themselves” when I talk of not being able to say what truth conditions are like in-and-by-themselves.) On the other hand, I held “the ideal language assumption.”

An account of truth conditions is simply another truth claim. So other than to concede their heterogeneity and speculate that we could use Aristotelian causal concepts to talk of any kind of truth condition, I hold that truth conditions in-and-by-themselves are inscrutable.

Now according to the ideal language assumption, there is a correct written language which shows the structure of truth conditions for all claims. The ideal language assumption strikes me as preposterous. An ideal language is not any language but a pretended picture of what any truth conditions must have as a structure and composition. Nonetheless, I have more or less accepted it ever since I read Wittgenstein’s Tractatus as a beginning philosophy student. Even writing a dissertation on Wittgenstein’s remarks on mathematics in which he rejects an ideal language did not remove it as an assumption whenever I turned to core philosophy. Probably, I always assumed what I have called the Parmenidean assumption: The order and connection of being is the order and connection of thought. See Truth and the Parmenidean Postulate

More exactly, what is the ideal language assumption? A formal language in which all of the truth claims of mathematics and natural science can be expressed shows us the composition and structure of truth conditions. The referents of the basic descriptive terms of such a language are the basic constituents of truth conditions. Whatever else that is said to exist is definable in terms of these basic constituents.

Since the ideal language assumptions is preposterous, I do not want to spend more space elaborating on it. Here it is more important to note the assumption with which I replace the ideal language hypothesis.

It is the assumption that there is no right way of speaking, to speak the truth. For instance, the right way to tell the truth about the human condition may be the biblical narrative of the Hebrew tribe. I now hold that the best way to describe the Annunciation is the way Luke described it. There is no more precise way to speak about it.

I still assume the univocity of truth.

To tell the truth is to say of what is that it is and to say of what is not that it is not. However, there may many different kinds of subjects about which to tell the truth and many different ways of expressing these truths.

I close by emphasizing that I have been talking only about the possibility of spiritual and physical truths. I have not given any guidance on how we determine truth about the physical; let alone the spiritual.

Realism and the Transcendent

Realism and the Transcendent

What exists, or so I say, are representations and things which are not representations. The world, or what is immanent, consists of representations and things which are not representations. That which exists depends for its existence on the Transcendent.

I use the Kantian phrase “things in themselves” to label things which are not representations. However, I am not interpreting Kant. I simply find the Kantian phrase expresses best what I am trying to articulate. For instance, “given” is too broad because many representations such as visual sensations are given. “Physical” is too narrow because I grant that there could be immaterial or spiritual entities which are non-representations which we represent. Because I realize that we have access to what is not a representation only by representing it, the phrase “things in themselves” seems most exact.

There is a proper subset of representations which are put forth as being true or valid. These are truth claims and categorical imperatives. (Again, I find a Kantian phrase most appropriate.) Broadly speaking truth claims express a thought that such-and-such is the case. Categorical imperatives express a thought that such-and-such ought to be the case.

Factual realism holds that there are conditions amongst things in themselves on the basis of which truth claims are true or false. It is true to say that such-and-such is the case if and only if that amongst things in themselves referred to by “such-and-such” exists in a way properly represented by “such-and-such.”

Moral realism holds that there are conditions amongst things in themselves on the basis of which categorical, or objective, imperatives are valid commands. A categorical imperative that such-and-such ought to be is valid if and only if amongst things in themselves there exists conditions properly represented as a command that such-and-such ought to be. (In an imperative, the reference is to things in themselves without using a referential phrase to pick out a referent.)

A full realist holds both factual and moral realism. I am a full realist. I should note that often there is no need to mark a distinction between a true factual claim and a valid norm. Frequently, I will write of true moral claims when “valid” would be more correct.

The main point of this post is that realism is not necessarily the correct philosophical position. As the controversy over realism and idealism shows things in themselves providing truth conditions need not exist. Plausible coherence theories of truth reveal the disturbing situation that “truth” can be interpreted as warranted assertions and hence the conditions for truth lie wholly within representations. Having the conditions for accepting a claim as true lie wholly within representations is to “explain truth way.”

Realization that the world, reality, the immanent is not necessarily the way realism holds is both a burden and a blessing for a realist. It is a burden because a realist must take a stance that there are things in themselves providing truth conditions. Realism cannot be proved. It is always a philosophic burden to posit a fundamental principle which is not self-evident or cannot be proved. Holding that there exists things in themselves which provide truth conditions is a philosophical blessing for realists For now the realist has a fundamental existent which depends directly upon the Transcendent. Having truth conditions directly dependent upon the Transcendent enables a realist to characterize the Transcendent as the author of truth and valid moral commands.*

*See Morality and the Transcendent to review how an independent feature of reality provides the basis for characterizing that on which it depends for its existence.