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.

The Natural as a Blessing from the Transcendent!

As noted in the previous post, the natural is bipartite. One part consists of representations of things occurring in lawful predictable ways. The second part are the things in themselves on the basis of which those representations are correct or incorrect. Both parts are existents depending upon the Transcendent for their existence. The representational part has been developing for thousands of years as the human community struggles to understand and control its environment. The current results and methods of natural science are, in my opinion, one of the greatest achievement of the human community.

It is more than a mere logical possibility that people mix efforts to understand and control with beliefs that some events happen because of the purposes of non-human agents and human agents. It is more than a logical possibility because people have and still do believe that some events are brought about because human or non-human agents intended that they occur. It is almost impossible not to believe that some events result from human choices. For the most part such beliefs in events occurring for some agent’s purpose, seeking final causes, do not interfere with seeking for predictable explanations and control; they are just events “out of the ordinary.

However, a systematic effort for predictable events cannot really allow final causes because it leaves a place for systematic breakdown. There is a type of inconsistency in seeking predictable causes while allowing for the possibility of unpredictable causes. Hence, the gradual elimination of final causes from scientific method is preceding in the right direction for methodological consistency. It is methodologically proper to try to try to solve “the mind body” problem with elimination of the mental in scientific investigations.

Of course, never looking for final causes or always being on the look out for ways of explaining them away does not mean that there are not any. But here the message is that the human community has obtain much truth and control by ignoring final causes. This did not have to be so.

Scientific method did not have to give truth and predictable results. However, scientific method does work. It is a great blessing to humanity that it has the capacity to develop a scientific representation and there is a reality to make it work.

Almost All Religious Truth Claims are Possibly True!

What narratives and reports can be true? All logically consistent narratives and reports can be true. But almost all are false, inadequate, or misleading.

For simplicity’s sake, I restrict myself to narratives intended to be an account of what exists. I set aside reports of what ought to be morally and narratives which are indicated by a phrase such as “once upon a time” or context that there is no intent to narrate what is the case. However, any of these fairy tales and myths could be true!

I mention the moral only in passing as it being part of the natural order.

All narratives are representations. A true representation tells the order and connection of existing things in themselves as that order and connection is to be represented. Hence, a true narrative tells of the order and connection of existing things in themselves as that order and connection is to be represented. We have no non-representational access to things in themselves. Hence, we are not entitled to specify what can or cannot exist. We can, assuming realism, articulate two assumptions. First, things in themselves and our representations of them comprise what exists, reality or as I have written “the immanent. Second, the immanent depends upon the Transcendent for existence. The Transcendent lies even further beyond our comprehension than the created things in themselves. Hence, we are in no position to declare that the Transcendent could not have created, viz., have dependent upon It for existence, things in themselves which would be aptly described by the narratives which are generally thought to be only myths or vulgar superstitions.

I am disgusted by the nightmare possibilities amongst the possible imagined realities After years of reflection on how the truth claims of an actual religion, such as my Catholicism, are possibly true requires recognition of a supernatural order. In my mid-thirties, I converted from cultural Catholicism by the aid of a quasi-religious experience that I could be a genuine believing Catholic by professing only theological doctrines while suppressing a philosophical belief that there is no supernatural order. The philosophical struggle to write this post forced me to abandon my suppressed naturalism. My assumption of a demystified Catholicism has been a useful crutch which I no longer need.

As the prefix “super” indicates, the supernatural will be characterized as in tension with the natural. The characterizations of the supernatural and natural are not offered as rigorous definitions for a philosophical treatise.

The supernatural order is bipartite. One part is in things in themselves. The other part lies in our representations. Within things in themselves, the supernatural order comprises the existents which are properly, or improperly, described by religious narratives , or, more generally: narratives about the physical or natural. Within representations there are all the possibilities narrated by legends, myths, sacred writings etc., Prior to being given in faith or somehow discovering which religious narrative best represents the religious existents, I must concede that the possibility presented by some dark and horrible narrative best describes the religious existents. All the silly zombie stuff could be true! Disgusting! Such frightening stupidity ertainly motivates some to seek solace in atheistic naturalism.

The supernatural order is not transcendent. The supernatural is immanent. The natural is also immanent. Both representations of religious significant objects and processes and the things in themselves justifying or refuting religious representations are immanent realities dependent upon the Transcendent for existence.

The natural order is tripartite. The first part comprises representations developed with the implicit or explicit intention of representing reality as being in principle completely intelligible by a careful use of human intelligence. This careful use of human intelligence is the honorific sense of reason as correct reason.

These representations of nature split the natural into the physical and moral. The representations of the physical are representations of that which does not represent. Nothing physical operates for the sake of anything else. The representation of the moral are representations of humans seeking what is good in accordance with rules. Nature would not be properly characterized by splitting representations into those of the physical and mental. Mental is too broad of a notion because because representations of the supernatural includes representations of thinking beings. The natural order is to be separated from the supernatural in our understanding. This does not mean that the supernatural cannot affect the natural. It means that the natural and supernatural have to be understood as separated. Indeed it would not make sense to talk of a supernatural intervention if the supernatural were not different from the natural. The third part of the natural order consists of the things in themselves by virtue of which such representations are true or false. Even idealists who hold that there are only representations seek some way to define a natural order in their systems.

Naturalism goes further than accepting a natural order. Naturalists reject the possibility of a supernatural order. I am leaving behind my implicit naturalism to make room for religious truth by accepting the logically consistent position of there being both a supernatural and natural order.

This tremendous philosophical shift is enough for one post.

Explanatory Irrelevance of the Transcendent

Nothing Can Be Explained by Reference to the Transcendent.

I have to confront the explanatory irrelevance of the Transcendent before I go on characterizing the Transcendent as some type of agent bringing about features of the immanent. In particular, I plan to characterize the Transcendent as bringing about truth conditions for religious claims by producing conditions which make some religious stories correct stories but also make other religious stories incorrect stories.

I need to be honest with my internal atheist when I accuse my self of dishonoring the agreement that nothing can be thought about what transcends thought.

The atheist concedes that we can ask the question “On what does everything depend for its existence and essence?” However, he does not concede that it is an interesting question. The simplest and clearest answer reveals the banality of the question. That upon which everything depends for its existence and essence transcends all thought. It is uninteresting because it offers nothing to think about. Reference to transcendence does not explain why anything is one way or another. Regardless of what exists, the same explanation for it would be given. For instance, the law of gravity would be explained by saying it depends upon the transcendent. If the attraction law were different, that law would be explained by saying, if there were intelligent beings around, it depends upon the transcendent. It cannot be used to explain why there is order rather than chaos. For a chaotic reality would, for all the transcendent does, depend upon it for its chaotic existence. It does not explain why there is something rather than nothing. For if there were nothing, there would be nothing and nobody to ask questions.

I am incapable of interpreting Aristotle. I suggest, however, that the above shows that we can give no causal explanations, where “cause “ is understood as efficient cause, by reference to transcendence. Next, I suggest that no causal explanation, where”cause” is understood as final cause, can be given by reference to transcendence. I do not even consider transcendence being the material cause of what exists.

The explanatory vacuity of a ground for existence beyond thought holds even if we are seeking teleological explanations.

The atheist will concede the admissibility of asking “On what does that which is depend for its existence?” because we do not need to assume existence to ask for its basis. We are immediately aware of existence. However, to ask for what purpose there is what is, presupposes purposiveness over and above existence. The atheist concedes the existence of purposiveness. Purposiveness is certainly in the immanent. People have purposes. So we can ask what grounds the existence of purposes along with the existence of everything else. But the atheist goes no further than asking about the ground for existence. That is as far into “high metaphysics” as I can push my atheist. Asking for the purpose of existence would presuppose more about what the transcendence is like than merely transcending all thought.

So, as earlier in,Religiosity and the Transcendent, I have to admit that trying to draw something of religious or existential significance from a thesis that there is a transcendent ground of all existence requires more than what could be called pure metaphysical interest. Unless the atheist shares those existential and religious concerns, the atheist need not follow in elaborating upon the Transcendent.

I close with some speculation about Aristotelian formal causes in the religiously motivated efforts to characterize the Transcendent. I do not regard citation of a formal cause as any type of explanation. When we ask for a formal cause, we ask “Why does x have feature F?” When a formal cause is given as the answer runs “There actually is F.” We get no answer on how or why the F which actually is brings about x having F. However, I suggest that my efforts to characterize the Transcendent are efforts to find the formal cause for basic features of the immanent. For instance, I have asked why there is intelligence in the immanent -the world, reality, whatever. The answer runs “Because there actually is intelligence in the Transcendent.

Sexual Nihilism and the Transcendent

Sexual Nihilism and the Transcendent

How has a series of blog posts to offer support traditional sexual morality as an antidote to nihilism led to speculation on a transcendent beyond all existence providing truth conditions?

In my book*, I argued for a fundamental moral principle for male sexuality. My argument made a persuasive case for accepting the principle. I admitted that it was not rigorous. I called it rhetorical. People who did not accept the principles of my stance on sexuality, would not be irrational. I wondered whether I could improve my argument.

I diagnosed why my argument could legitimately fail to be compelling. From that vast web of thoughts and sentiments I have called human intelligence, I pulled out bits and pieces which can be arranged into a persuasive argument. “Bits and pieces” is not really a good phrase to use because some of the thoughts placed in human intelligence which I used, have been put there by people as illustrious Plato, Aquinas and Kant. Nevertheless, other strands could have been selected which would have led to a persuasive argument against my principle for male sexual morality. This concession to moral relativity threatens to undercut my project of providing an antidote to realism. I needed something outside of human intelligence to justify my argument within human intelligence.

I cast around in the ideas I borrowed from human intelligence to see if some would lead me outside of human intelligence as a foundation for correct thought. An idea that seemed interesting, if not fruitful for my project was the idea of moral harm. The idea of moral harm was the idea of harm resulting simply by violation of a moral law. After floundering around trying to characterize such a harm, I found within human intelligence the thought that harm ought to occur as a result of violation of a moral law. Drawing out from human intelligence the pervasive acceptance of this moral notion of moral harm, I concluded that a fundamental strand in some human thinking about morality was this notion that actual ordinary physical harm ought to occur as a result of violation of a moral law. All ways of thinking morally which provide for retributive punishment use this moral notion of moral harm.

Articulation of these ways of thinking about morality, led to the conclusion that a fundamental way of thinking about morality is thinking of moral laws as commands of a more than human moral authority. I called this “authoritarian morality.” But for authoritarian morality does there exist a moral authority different from the thought of a moral authority?

If I could show that there is a God who is the moral authority, I would have found a way of giving a very compelling argument for a moral principle. Part of accepting a God would be accepting a compelling reason for obeying God’s commands. To be sure, much work in moral thinking is needed to show that God would command what I believe is commanded about, in particular, sexual morality. Still, with God as moral commander there is a basis for a objective morality.

I admit that the line of thought I use to show that there is a divine moral authority assumes realism. This realism holds that there exist conditions beyond human thinking on the basis of which human thinking can be evaluated for correctness. There are such conditions, so it is assumed, even if we can never be acquainted with them apart from our ways of thinking of them. The idealism which holds that human thought is only evaluated by other human thought is coherent but not as compelling as realism.

A persuasive argument against idealism comes from our ability to think about our thinking, viz., reflective thought. Truth claims in reflective thought are objectively true or false depending upon how it is with what is thought about. So, idealism shares a realistic structural feature with realism. Some thoughts are true or false on the basis of how it is with what is thought about and not on the thinking itself. For all practical purposes, the thought which is thought about is deactivated as thought and becomes an object for thought. Nonetheless, the idealist can still claim that there is nothing non-mental; there is nothing but mental processes and mental objects.

But, granted realism, how can there be a God? In an earlier book**, I called my atheistic temptation “modal atheism.” I do not know of anyone, besides me, who has used the phrase “modal atheism.” But a modal atheist claims that it is not possible for there to be a God: That on which everything depends for its existence while depending upon nothing else and exercising providential care for creatures. I am not a proponent of scientism who proudly proclaims that there is nothing but what can be known by the methods of natural science. Unfortunately, I am constantly tormented by the thought that scientism has to be true. Thus in my efforts to establish a divine command morality, which requires a God, I need to set aside modal atheism. That is why I am speculating about the immanent, transcendent, truth conditions etc.,.

Now that I have distinguished between what is immanent and the Transcendent, I can be more precise about my inability to think of God as even possibly existing. With God as the Transcendent, God cannot be thought about at all; let alone as existing or not existing. So, my worry about the possibility of God, is a worry about the possibility of a supernatural realm. Truth claims of traditional religions, or historical religions as Kant called them, are truth claims about a supernatural realm immanent reality along side those conditions which make truth claims of natural science and daily life true or false. I cannot think of there being anything to make claims true or false besides those which make claims about nature true or false. This is not based on some naturalist ideology. It is a genuine disability in my thinking. I could only think of religious truth claims be evaluated in the way in which we evaluate claims about fiction. This means that for many claims about the topic in a religious claim there is no fixed answer if the answer is not provided by the story. For instance, consider the claim “The angel Gabriel told the virgin Mary that she would conceive and bear a son of the most high.” There is no answer to the question “Was Mary over thirteen years when Gabriel appeared to her?” For natural claims, there is, in principle, a definite answer in nature for every claim. The Law of Excluded Middle holds for nature.

But now with speculation about the Transcendent providing truth conditions for claims we make about the immanent, I am thinking about the truth conditions for religious claims as, indeed, truths about a story. However, the story teller is the Transcendent.

* Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism, Oklahoma City, 2014
** A Kantian Condemnation of Atheistic Despair: Declaration of Dependence, Lang Pub. NY 1997

The Supernatural is Not Transcendent!

The supernatural is not transcendent. The supernatural is immanent but has a special dependence upon transcendence.

An effort to explain rather than prove my thesis about the immanence of the supernatural, provides the opportunity to review two of my main objectives. I want to show that there can be objective conditions for the correctness of our religious and moral judgments. I focus on religious judgments.

By “objective” I mean conditions in reality apart from our thinking but on the basis of which our thinking about what is the case is true or false and thinking about what ought to be is a proper response. Reality includes all human thought and what is thought about*. I have called reality the immanent and that on which it all depends the Transcendent.

In this post, I assume a realism which holds that conditions exist beyond our thought which provide at least truth conditions for the truth claims of natural science. I accept the scientific picture of reality with its vast universe spread out spatially and temporally. As a realist, then, I accept that there are truth conditions apart from the scientific picture which the developers of the scientific picture try to represent accurately. Since we never have acquaintance with truth conditions as they are apart from our representations, we must be satisfied with getting closer and closer to truth.

Truth is representing the truth condition exactly as it is. I have no quarrel with saying that the test for being warranted to assert a proposition as true is being warranted as correct by careful investigators. I want only to emphasize that the goal of testing is to represent as accurately as possible the conditions apart from our representing.

In this twenty first century we can and should concede the term “nature” to secular reductionist stance frequently called scientism. Scientism holds that there is nothing but what can be discovered by the methods of natural science. We can make this concession because education for the past hundred years or so has led many people to understand nature this way. It is sometimes said that reality has been disenchanted.

We should make this concession because it opens a place for the supernatural along side the natural within the realty dependent upon the Transcendent.

In the immanent, then, we have truth conditions for the scientific representation and, of course, the scientific representation itself. In the immanent there could also be truth conditions for propositions about what transcends scientific representations. There could also be truth conditions for propositions founded in existential concern, usually implicit, about the purpose of human life.

What beyond anything we can represent gives purpose to human living? Such propositions would express attempts to tell the truth about what is totally transcendent – what I have called the Transcendent. The Transcendent could sustain in existence conditions for propositions which hopefully tell the truth about human relations to it. We would not know what these conditions are apart from our representations. But that is the case with any truth condition. We would, as with natural science, most likely always have only approximations to exact representations.

These truth conditions along side the natural ones constitute the supernatural.

Consider this conjecture about reality pictorially. Picture reality – the immanent- as a huge ellipse. Closely scattered throughout the ellipse there are green and red dots. Red and green can never overlap. The order and connection of the green are truth conditions for the natural. The order and connection of the red dots provide truth conditions for religious propositions. The green is the natural. The red is the supernatural. Both are immanent and dependent upon the Transcendent for existence and order.

This picture does not replace the difficult philosophical work of clarifying my proposal about the immanence of the supernatural. But it does suggest the strength of what I would like to clarify and justify.

*Philosophical thought about what cannot be thought, viz., the Transcendent and things in themselves, is about the limits of thought and not that beyond the limits.

The Transcendent Compared to Plato’s Model of the Sun as that On Which All Depends for Existence

In this brief posting, I write to correct one of my erroneous tendencies. When I argue for a transcendent beyond all ways of being and thinking, I tend to think of the transcendent as a blank – as actually nothing. Proper thought of transcendence would really be thinking of nothing. An empty mind would be accurate thought of transcendence. Attempts to characterize transcendence are, then, projections upon a blank slate. All characterizations are inherently inaccurate because they present transcendence as more than it should be.

This view of transcendence as beneath all representation is erroneous. For we posit transcendence as that on which everything depends for its existence. Thinking of that on which everything depends for its as existence as less than anything which exists is logically unsatisfactory.

Rather we should think of transcendence as more than anything which exists. It transcends our ways of thinking because it is more than anything we can represent. Our minds go blank when we try to represent it because it is way too much for our thinking.

I am thinking of Plato’s use of the sun as a model of the Good on which everything depends for its existence. We cannot see if we look at that which enables anything to be seen. We cannot see the sun because it is too much to see; not because it has too little to see.

We should understand our attempts to characterize the transcendence as inherently inaccurate because we are incapable of representing the excellence -the fullness of the Transcendent. The proper frame of mind when contemplating transcendence is not the dreamy state of having a blank mind but rather being animated and dazzled by so much.

When I attempt to characterize the transcendent, I should worry about understating rather than overstating the excellence by which it surpasses everything.

We should not think of the Transcendent as unable to have any relation to and action within the immanent which depends upon it for existence and features. Rather we should think of ourselves as unable to comprehend how the Transcendent is related to and acts within the immanent.

Atheism vs the Transcendent

In my previous post,Immanence of the Transcendent I maintained that religious propositions are objectively true or false if and only if the Transcendent is immanent as truth conditions for such propositions.

I further observed that it is not inconsistent to maintain that the Transcendent is immanent as truth conditions. It would be inconsistent to say that the Transcendent is immanent without qualification. But I have qualified the Transcendent as being truth conditions. The Transcendent preserves its transcendence of our understanding by existing as truth conditions. Truth conditions make true or false propositions using our human ways of representing. But we can never think of how those truth conditions are apart from our ways of representing.

I had to concede, though, that the Transcendent as truth conditions does not transcend existence. Truth conditions exist. They are “in the world.”

How might an atheistic critique of my position proceed?

Of course, there could be rejection of the argument for the Transcendent.See . This might be a challenge to the meaningfulness of asking “On what does everything existing depend upon for its existence?”

However, accepting a transcendent beyond anything existing or comprehensible is no threat to atheism. It leaves room only for mysticism which holds and practices nothing beyond interior states of mystics. Religious threats to atheism arise when we try to go beyond total transcendence.

How have I gone beyond accepting total transcendence?

There were attempts to characterize the transcendent as the Transcendent creator and sustainer of features of what exists – the immanent. Traditional arguments for God’s existence were presented as characterizing the Transcendent.

Atheists could dismiss these efforts as worthless for showing that religious propositions are objectively true or false. At best these efforts would get, amongst philosophers and theologians, agreement on some characterizations about the Transcendent as warranted beliefs. In trying to characterize the Transcendent, we do seek only consensus on what is an apt characterization, not objective truth.

I have maintained that the Transcendent be immanent as truth conditions for religious propositions.

This position relies on a “Kantian” realism that truth conditions exist as things in themselves transcending our ways of thinking.

An atheist could reject this model of realism. But I do not think this is philosophically viable.

An atheist could stay a realist but hold that there need be no truth conditions for religious propositions because there really are no religious propositions. Properly understood, the so-called religious propositions say something else which is not a truth claim or a truth claim about something other than what speakers think they are talking about. This roughly describes reductionist critique of religion.

An atheist could accept some type of idealism about truth. In this case the atheist would give arguments to persuade people that there is no reason to warrant any religious belief.

The atheistic critiques of my position bring out that the introduction of God as the Transcendent does little or nothing towards responding to atheistic criticism of religious belief. At most it shows that atheists with a metaphysical temperament can be mystics and should concede that traditional arguments for God’s existence are legitimate philosophical efforts to construct a model of transcendence.

Religious apologetics remains as always. We need to show that religious propositions are genuine truth claims about a special subject matter and that many religious claims warrant belief because genuinely accepting them as true promotes human flourishing.