All posts by kielkopf1

About kielkopf1

I am Professor philosophy (emeritus) of the Ohio State University. I am blogging to promote a book on sexual moral philosophy and to develop further themes not fully developed in the book. I live in Columbus, Ohio with my wife Marge. My three sons: Charles P., Mark S. and Andrew J. live in Columbus. My daughter Judy lives in Rhode Island while my daughter Susan lives in Fresno, CA. My wife and I are daily Mass goers at our Catholic parish: Immaculate Conception. Marge is an active Lay Cistercian and I am very active in the works of the Society of St. Vincent dePaul.

Ad Feminism

On Saturday, August 26, 2023, I attended a Catholic Men’s Conference at St. Paul’s church in Westerville, Ohio. The first small group discussion question read “What are some of the ways that men’s identity as sons of God or as Christians are being threatened today?” The question provoked disturbing memories from an August 13, 2023 Public Affairs article Elon Musk and The Reproductive Revolution

In various ways Mr. Musk has fathered ten children. The variety of ways locates his masculinity along the toxic spectrum.: Studs, killers, jerk-offs. Most likely not many women would explicitly endorse elimination of women. Although qualms about using “women” to introduce phrases such as “chest feeders,” “pregnant person” and “biological woman” suggest deep ambivalence about recognizing woman as a single category. However, a theme of many types of feminism is that the essential and vital place of women in society can be properly recognized if and only if that for which women are uniquely qualified is divided into specific services whose compensation could be recognized in a nation’s GDP. No one gets paid for being a women.

Explicit, or even implict, endorsement of this economic fragmentation of the category of women is suicidal feminism. Instead we have ovum donors, womb donnors, child care givers and less we forget sexual satisfiers – sex-workers and porn actresses. No single person need, or really should fill these feminine jobs. Indeed it might be better for the economy if most women held jobs in the economy unrelated to reproductive and sexual services. If on occasion a woman in the non-reproductive sector became pregnant, another reproductive service would provide pregnancy termination services.

In such an economy, there is no place for husbands and fathers. For there are no women to be mothers and no women to help them become husbands and fathers. There will always be wars. Sperm is needed and male sexual desires will not go away. What’s left for a man to be? Killers are needed for war and studs for sperm donors. Why live with a women when there is no serious future. Porn and prostitutes are there to satisfy sexual inclinations. The economic elimination of women leaves only toxic masculinity for men.

Who would have thought that the slogan “equal pay for equal work” could lead this way? However, no one is paid for being a wife or mother; nor is any one paid for being a husband or father. Perhaps, a presupposition of the slogan is that the worth of what one does is measured by how much one is paid. So,”no pay, no worth.”

Semantic Knowledge is Synthetic & Apriori

Semantic knowledge is to use a Kantian label, synthetic apriori knowledge. Mature users of a language know the meaning of terms in their own language and thereby what the terms mean in any language into which their language is translated. Humans have insight into universal semantics. This knowledge is synthetic because in fact terms need not have the meaning they actually have. The terms could in fact have no meaning whatsoever. The knowledge is apriori because people know, at least implicitly, what their terms mean prior to using them in any particular situation. Perhaps, it would be more accurate to claim that people’s knowledge of the meaning of their terms is mostly expressed as negative knowledge. People know how to reject proposed definition of terms when those definitions fail to express what they mean. Socrates’ accusation that people do not know what they mean with crucial terms when they discover, with Socrates’ aid, that proposed definitions are either too broad or too narrow is inaccurate. People’s knowledge of the meaning of terms is a presupposition for recognizing definitions as too broad or too narrow for expressing what they mean.

Bonding Necessary for Love

In Love is More than Willing the Good of The Other , I point out that we cannot say all  we intend to say with “love” by talking only of willing and thinking of the good of the one loved. There is a need for a complex of affections, thoughts and actions forming a relationship of bonding. There is a variety of bonding relations which could be called “love-forming.” The varieties of bonding leads to a variety of ways of loving. There are personal bonds which relate two people to one another which are not love-forming., viz., hatred. I focus mainly on on what might be recognized as love-forming bonding.

 Typically bonding is a relation of one person to another. What are some basic semantic features of almost all types of bonding relations?

The relationship is not always symmetric.  For instance, consider a case of a man and a woman who mutually respect one another and will the good for each other.  However, the man, as the saying goes, falls in love with her.  For, good or ill, he had bound himself in love with her.  However, she does not have, and cannot by any act of will create that love forming bond with him. He loves her while she does not love him. Obviously, bonding relations are not transitive. A friend of your friend may not be your friend. Some might think that love-forming bonding is obviously, and maybe necessarily, reflexive. I challenge an assumption that a love-forming bonding is reflexive.Suicide suggests that some people hate themselves. Anecdotal evidence indicates that many people find their happiest times of life when they have forgotten themselves.

I write that bonding is typically a personal relationship for I want to set aside discussion of bonding with non-human animals, such as our pets. Also I do not want to get distracted on whether or not there can be bonding with non personal entities such as organizations or locations. I could easily become distracted by tryng to distinguish bonding from loyality and a sense of who one is. I do not intend to define “bonding.” I discuss bonding only by making semantical observations about how we talk of bonding. I present these semantical observations as bringing out what we mean by “bonding.” Story tellers perhaps give us a better understanding than could be given by any definition. Stories can reveal bonding from the perspective of the characters and from the omniscient author perspective. Unfortunately, I am not a creative writer.

Is bonding a thought or a feeling?

Frequently, bonding is talked about as a some type of feeling or complex of feelings. As a saying goes one might admit to starting to love by admitting “having feelings for so-and-so.” However, it is not a thoughtless raw feeling. It is a feeling for someone with certain,perhaps indefinable, features. I doubt that there is a way of identifying the feeling, as opposed to the thoughts in loving. Suppose Tom fell in love with Sue 2016 and after a break-up in 2018 falls in love with Jane in 2022. Would there be a way of deciding the truth of “The feeling of Tom for Sue is the same as the feeling of Tom for Jane” apart from any thoughts of Tom? Even the binding of an infant with his or her mother is a mixture of inexpressible thoughts and feelings. Facial recognition is cognitive. Facial recognition devices – a type of robot- provide evidence that facial recognition is cognitive. The program for a facial recognition robot mimic the thoughts of facial recognition.

More generally, bonding is to something or someone under a description.

All things considered, bonding is best classifed as the affective dimension of love. I suspect that if there were a way of investigating a brain of a bonding person, brain regions associated with feelings would be more active than regions associated with cognitive processing.

Proper control of bonding is essential in sexual morality. In my book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilihism Tulsa 2012, I specify courting, bonding, mating as the main areas of sexual morality. In the book I focus on mating, eg. coitus. A free copy of this book is available by emailing Kielkopf.1@osu.edu .

Encounter With Christ as Truth Conditions for Christian Doctrine

At the beginning of Pope Benedict XVI’s encylical  Deus caritas est we are taught what it is to be a Christian. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.

This post is corrected in Christianity Requires People Bonding With Jesus Now! wherein I admit that a Christian religion becomes only an ideology unless a significant number of its members personally bond with Jesus as a real being.

My post on the incompatibility of aceptance of the Sexual Revolution with being a Christian suggests that holding some doctrine about Christ’s making atonement for our sins is a necessary condition for being a Christian. No one may  claim that any condition, let alone holding a particular doctrine, is a necessary condition for encountering Christ. Christ can meet whoever He wills and as He wills. We can say that holding some doctrine about atonement or redemption is a necessary condition for an honest claim to be a Christian by a person who also maintains that Jesus was crucified, buried and rose from the dead thereby radically transforming the condition of humanity. Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, was such a Christian.

It is interesting to note that Ratzinger rather reluctantly acknowledged the need for a doctrine of atonement. In his Introduction to Christianity 2nd ed. On pp. 148ff. he contrasts incarnation Christology with Christology of the cross.  Incarnation Christology focuses on the work of Christ as forward looking. Christ came to transform humanity so that we could progress to sharing divine nature. Cross Christology focuses on the work of Christ as reaching back to atone for past sins of humanity. He clearly prefers Incarnation Christology but admits Christian doctrine contains both.

Here, though, the question is whether Pope Benedict XVI taught that a personal encounter with Christ is a necessary and perhaps, sufficient condition for being a Christian. In light of his well known rejection of relativism, the answer should be “no.”*  Christianity cannot be turned over to people’s personal experiences. But some, relatively few,  direct personal encounters with Christ were necessary and have been sufficient for the authentic Christianity of billions of people through two millenia. These relatively few were Jesus’ apostles, disciples and many others who encountered Him before and after His resurrection. The truth of Christian doctrine and action guides for Christian living is based on the witness of those privileged few in apostolic times who saw, heard, touched and trusted  Jesus as enabling them to find the way and for what to live. Without the experienced reality of Jesus’ public ministry, crucifixion and post resurrection appearances Christianity is, at best, reflection of ethical choices and lofty ideals.

Our current Christian faith is based on trust in the testimony of those who actually encountered Jesus.

Christianity has empirical falsification conditions as St. Paul clearly realized in Ch. 15 of 1st Corinithians. If Christ has not risen from the dead, then your faith is in vain.

I write of the direct witnesses of Christ as being a privileged few.  And, so they were, to some extent.  They experienced the reality which provides the truth conditions for Christian teaching. However, the experiences themselves did not provide the conceptual resources to articulate the doctrines. Articulation of the truths about this reality to which they were witnesess required a few centuries of testing lofty ideals about what was witnessed.

I stop here because writing about development of Christianity under the Church Fathers would be theology. I want to stay with philosophy. This post is philosophical because it makes no claim about the truth of Christian doctrine.  Indeed, it concedes how they could be false. I make the philosophical point, maybe only a banal critical thinking, point  that even if  direct experiences of some are needed to support a doctrine not only those who have direct experiences are entitled to believe the doctrines.

*In paragraph 17 of Deus caritas est, he writes of encountering Christ by seeing Him in the others we serve through acts of charity. I do not think that Benedict XVI is writing only of the expression of a lofty ideal which some, including me, express when asked why we serve the poor and needy. For instance, when asked why I dealt politely with someone obnoxiously seeking assistance, I might reply “Oh, I still saw the face of Christ in him.” I frequently make such remarks although I am not sure exactly what I mean. On reflection, I realize that I am only saying that I do these charitable works because I have the “lofty ideals” of Christian teaching and I have made the “ethical choice” to put them into practice.” Benedict XVI teaches that more than the lofty ideals of Christian doctrine and the ethical choice to put them into practice is necessary for being a full-fleged Christian. But this something more than holding the doctrines and morals of Christianity is not the truth conditions for the doctrines. It is some condition, properly called an encounter, which converts the holder of Christian doctrine into a full Christian. See my post on bonding with Christ.

Sexual Revolution Undercuts Christianity

Christianity is Incompatible with Acceptance of the Sexual Revolution

Acceptance of Christianity is acceptance of at least the Apostles’ Creed.

Acceptance of the sexual revolution is acceptance of the Moral Neutrality of Sexuality.

  Characterizing acceptance of the sexual revolution as acceptance of a thesis in moral theory  characterizes the outlook in a neutral, if not favorable, way.  People who accept. in principle, extra marital sex, homosexual acts, etc., may strongly condemn various “outrageous acts” because they deem the consequences of those acts are harmful.

Acceptance of the moral neutrality of sexuality is not logically inconsistent with acceptance of the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed. Because I cannot argue for a logical inconsistency, I shall argue that acceptance of the sexual revolution, viz., the moral neutrality of sexuality, undercuts attempts to understand the Christian creed.

The line of argument goes as follows.

If we accept the sexual revolution, then we accept the moral neutrality of sexuality.

If we accept the moral neutrality of sexuality, i.e.,no intrinsically wrong sexual act, then we use consequentialist reasoning to decide what is morally wrong in sexual matters.

If we use consequential reasoning for sexual morality, there is no rationale preventing use of consequentialist reasoning for all moral decisions.

                The objection to universal use of consequentialist reasoning is that some natural features ought never be used a certain way because the nature of those features show us that certain way is not how they ought to be used.  The nature of sexual features are paradigms of natural features  showing how they ought to be used.  If we discard sexual features as showing how they ought to be used, we at least began making a paradigm shift away from regarding internal features of acts as having normative significance towards regarding only the consequences of acts as having normative significance.

If there is no rationale preventing consequentialist reasoning for all moral decisions, rational people use consequentialist reasoning for all moral decisions.

If rational people use consequentialist reasoning for all moral decisions, then rational people recognize no intrinsically wrong acts.

If rational people recognize no intrinsically wrong acts, rational people find no rationale for Retributive Punishment.

If rational people find no rationale for retributive punishment, then rational people hold that a doctrine that Jesus suffered and died to redeem humanity presupposes an incorrect moral theory.

If rational people hold that a doctrine that Jesus suffered and died to redeem humanity presupposes an incorrect moral theory, then rational people hold that the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds presuppose an incorrect moral theory.

Putting all of these claims together we can conclude:

If rational people accept the sexual revolution, they hold that the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds presuppose an incorrect moral theory.

Moral Harm, Retributive Punishment, Punitive Harm and Contrition

In my book on sexual morality*, I confronted Pinker’s example of coitus between a brother and sister which had, as the imaginary cases for moral philosophy may stipulate, absolutely no harmful consequences in nature. I propose that there is a type of harm over and above natural harm which is specifically a moral harm. Without much development of the notion, I simply proposed that moral harm is the harm done merely by disobedience to a moral law. In my book, I left this notion of moral harm lie in the background of my argument for traditional sexual morality. My case was mainly that the harm of setting aside the rules of traditional sexual morality was a sense of lawlessness and ultimately a sense that life is pointless, viz., nihilism.

After publication, I realized that the argument of my book needed to be strengthened by clarification and justification of moral harm as the harm of simply disobeying a moral law. I also have religious or theological concerns about understanding the fundamental Christian thesis that Christ suffered and died for our sins. In my religious musings I reached a stage at which I realized that I could not hope to understand doctrines about our redemption by Christ unless, I understood retributive punishment. A breakthrough in my thinking about the need for redemption was that retributive punishment is repair of moral harm.

The proposal that retributive punishment is repair of moral harm demands specification of moral harm as something which can be repaired. What goes on in the violation of a moral law which is something which can be repaired? I conjectured that in violation of a moral norm, moral rule, the violator adds a new moral norm to morality. This new moral norm is ad hoc for this violation. The ad hoc moral norm specifies that some harm ought to be done. Let us call this harm which ought to be done “punitive harm.”A violation of a moral rule does reflect a choice that the good aimed at by the rule ought to be inhibited. Inhibition of good is harm. So, moral harm is a bad moral norm, i.e., a norm with the force of morality but contrary to the goal of morality. This ad hoc norm with the force of a genuine moral norm is damage or dirt in morality. This damage to morality can be repaired by fulfilling the ad hoc moral norm and thereby removing it from morality. Doing the punitive harm cleanses morality from the ad hoc moral rule. Doing the punitive harm required by the ad hoc rule is retributive punishment. So, retributive punishment cleanses morality from the ad hoc moral rules established by choices to set aside some basic human goods.

Since I am introducing “punitive harm” in this post, it is helpful to emphasize its difference  from moral harm. Moral harm is damage done to morality by a choice to disobey a moral law.  Nothing in the physical or mental life of individual human beings is damaged. No broken bones, torn flesh or mental anguish are components of moral harm. Moral harm is the introduction of improper moral imperatives into morality. It is, I hate to say it, theoretical damage.  Moral harm is not painful. Punitive harm is not theoretical.  Puntive harm is breaking bones, tearing flesh and production of mental anguish to cleanse morality from the improper moral imperatives. Punitive harm is the actual physical and mental harm produced by retributive punishment.  Punitive harm is painful.

Besides trying to understand moral harm and retributive punishment, I want to understand a thought that abortion is always a grievous wrong despite the fact that it frequently can be justified by utilitarian considerations. What is it like to have sorrow simply over the breaking of a moral law that innocent human life should not be directly terminated? This question led me to the proposal there might be an analogue to the Catholic notion of perfect contrition. Perfection contrition is sorrow over simply disobeying God. So, perhaps, the genuine moral conviction that abortion is wrong is sorrow over simply disobeying a moral law against it. This would be sorrow over moral harm. This sorrow over moral harm of abortion might be sorrow over having the ad hoc moral laws requiring punitive harm in morality. But when I pay attention to my own sentiments, my sorrow over abortion is sorrow for the punitive harm of the mental anguish which I believe the woman who has her child aborted ought to suffer.

These notions of moral harm, punitive harm, retributive punishment and contrition are crucial in my case that acceptance of the sexual revolution is incompatible with a genuine Christian religion.

  • Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism, Tulsa 2014. A free copy of this book is available at kielkopf.1@osu.edu

Love Is More Than Willing the Good of The Other

Some of us are distressed with so much talk of God’s love in religious and theological discussions.

Below is a paragraph I copied from a source I respect. It is a series of reflection from Paradisus Dei, which sponsors the That Man Is You program. The reflections are on the life of St. Joseph for each day in May 2023

“The secret passage to love, to paradise, is an open door to the Sacred Heart of Christ. His heart was wounded and opened by a sword, so that ours may be healed. An infinite love flows perpetually from his heart. Love is the strongest power in both the world and the heavens. Yes, love is more powerful than even the grips of death. It transcends this life and passes to everlasting life in heaven. Our actions, when done in and through love, transcend this life and have everlasting significance. This is precisely why we can and should find paradise at the School of Nazareth. Quite simply, the daily life of the Holy Family was an explosion of love. When we find pure love and the absence of evil, we find paradise…even on earth.”

Perhaps, I should speak only for myself when I write of being distressed with so much talk of God’s love.

So, I speak only for myself. But I speak for everyone when I argue that “love” does not mean “willing the good of the other.”

Note added later : I started to write on love because of my unease of so much talk of God’s love. However, I actually write only of personal love between human beings. I should also add that I strongly approve of stipulating that love is willing the good of the other when talking of what “love” means when talking of any love we are obliged to have.

How can I speak for everyone? For those who might be interest, I offer a statement of my methodological assumption. See Semantic Knowledge is Synthetic & Apriori.

As noted above, I would be happy to have most talk of love be reduced to talking of willing the good of others. I am glad that many Catholic preachers say that what they mean by love in their sermons is willing the good of others.

My semantic point about the meaning of “love” is quite simple.

If “love” meant “willing the good of the other,” then “love” does not designate something fundamental. It is the terms “will” and “good” which designate some fundamental realities. In principle, all uses of “love” could be replaced by talking of willing and what is good. Even my semantic intuitions conflict with such an reductive elimination of “love.” To be sure , in many contexts I can express almost, but not quite, what I mean by “love” using “will” and “good.” For instance, see my Love of God is Essentially Love of Neighbor wherein I argue that helping the distressed because of a sense of duty is almost the same as helping the distressed from a sense of love. I think that willing the good of the other is a necessary condition for calling any relationship “love.”

The linguistic uneliminability of “love” does not imply that “love” designates some unique basic highly valuable reality. The triviality on many yard signs “Love is love” is intended to tell the lie that the affection of a man for his wife is the same as the affection of one man for another because “love” is primarily a noun designating a basic feature. The need to modify “love” with various adjectives as “maternal,” “paternal,” “fraternal,” “romantic,” “erotic,” “homoerotic,” “platonic,” illicit, etc., bring out that the semantical fact that “love” is a relative term. To speak more precisely, we should use terms such as “the love of a mother for . . ,” “the love of sexual desire for. . ,” etc.,.

See Bonding Necessary for Love for my proposal that willing the good of the other plus the proper bonding to another provide necessary and sufficient conditions for personal love. Also the type of bonding indicates the type of loving.

What is Catholic Philosophy?

Long ago, in the mid-twentieth century, when I was starting out as a professional philosopher in the Universities of Minnesota and Ohio State, the short and, presumably, most honest answer was “There is no such thing as Catholic Philosophy.” However, since it is clearly grammatically and semantically correct to modify “philosophy” with “Catholic.” the answer “Catholic philosophy is philosophy done by a Catholic” was offered as an interpretation of “Catholic philosophy.” Nonetheless, the implication was that there was no clearly philosophical material that could be usefully labeled “Catholic.”

Actually, the view applied to any adjective, even “Greek.” There was simply philosophy. Greek philosophy was philosophy done by Greeks. Indian philosophy was philosophy done in the India sub-continent, Chinese philosophy was that done in China and so forth. There was speculation that philosophy could be found in the cultures of indigneous peoples throughout the world both in the past and present. To be sure, we might have to search carefully to find the philosophical thought mixed in with all sorts of other types of thinking. But mixed in with all sorts of religious and practical thinking we might find thinking of which we could make claims such as: In these passages they were wondering about free will, personal identity, mind/body connection etc. Perhaps, philosophical thinking cannot be precisely defined. To some extent, “we know it when we see it” or read it. I write “to some extent” because philosophy is more than an intellectual exercise. It is one of the human ways of trying to get the truth. We need to make a judgment about an intent to “get it right” to label a text or discourse philosophical. There is a philosophia perennis – a cultural universal usefully labeled “philosophy.” It is what I call “philosophy” when I conclude that Reason Alone cannot set aside nihilism.

Philosophy itself deals with topics which cannot be fully understood, viz., standard philosophical problems such as mind/body connection and knowledge of other minds. But philosophical problems are not religious mysteries; they are not posed as part of a religious tradition. In any application of philosophy to religious doctrines, the basic philosophical problems will be there; unresolved as always.

The universal style of philosophical thinking can be applied to religious mysteries. The religious mysteries are open to all as mysteries. As mysteries they are not any better understood by believers than non-believers. I am writing only of religious which do not have esoteric doctrines. The mysteries are available for those who want to understand them as well as to all who are merely curious about how intelligent people could take them seriously. If there is a religious tradition, eg., Catholicism, which contains a mysterious concept, such as angels, then use of the philosophical way of thinking to gain partial understanding of this concept is part of the religious philosophy of that religion. A paradigm of Catholic philosophy is Thomas Aquinas’ teaching on angels.

Catholic philosophy, then, is use of philosophical methods to understand a mystery of Catholicism with the intent of at least getting partial truth about it. In Catholic philosophy scripture may be cited; but only as a motivation for dealing with the topic. It is unlikely that a non-Catholic would engage in Catholic philosophy. A non-Catholic might read through Aquinas’ arguments about the existence of angels merely to appreciate how Aquinas reasoned. You cannot read the philosophy of a Catholic philosopher without thinking philosophcally. But the philosophical thinking required to read Catholic philosophy is not by itself Catholic philosophy A Catholic philosopher is a faithful Catholic who engages in Catholic philosophy. I hope that I am a Catholic philosopher.

What about my own work?

My effort to provide Conceptual Model of Satan is an example of Catholic philosophy. My effort to articulate a notion of Moral Harm to provide a model of moral thinking in which there is a place for retributive punishment is by itself simply philosophy. I am only trying to bring out all the implications of human moral thought. However, my inclusion of this notion of moral harm in trying to build a model for Jesus suffering punishment for our faults is Catholic philosophy. See my Cur Deus Homo?

Faith, With & Without Mysteries vs. Nihilism

Reason alone does not overcome nihilism. Indeed, not even if reason establishes divine command morality, is nihilism decisively overcome. See results of my: Overview of Posts Confronting Nihilism . There are two dimensions in overcoming nihilism: attitudinal and intellectual. A firm sense of purpose for living provides an attitudinal antidote to nihilism. A firm sense of purpose is faith. The stability of faith is based on a purpose which is a fixed point. Reason fixes the point by closing the question of for what purpose the purpose is pursued. For instance, a person can live a purpose driven life by striving in thought, word and deed to be on the right side of the history of human development. Such a person, consciously or unconsciously, resolves not to undercut the existential significance of the purpose by dwelling on questions about what exactly it is to be on the right side of history and why it matters. Another might live to do what is right because it is right. This stoic believer in morality brushes aside any question about the purpose of living for duties sake. A third might live to do what God commands because God commands it. In this case, questioning the purpose of obeying God is dismissed as blasphemous.

The proposed purposes are universal: for all human beings. We, individually, have these purposes because that purpose is the purpose of being human. Suppose the purpose for life is said to be only for me or only for a particular society. The questions: Why me? Why us? are obviously open questions.

Although it is odd to ask for what purpose the purposes are pursued sense can be made of asking for what purpose they are pursued. The reality which give rise to the problem of evil is available to undercut even the most firm faith. See The Problem of Evil as the Cornerstone of a Christian World View and The Problem of Evil as a Cornerstone of a Nihilistic World View. Sense can be made of asking for what purpose we pursue them because reason shows that they are unattainable. Reason shows us that we are subject to sin and death. We cannot live up to these ideals. We simply have not been and are not now in pursuit of these ideals. Individually and collectively we are hopeless failures. In any event, death eventually takes away every individual and civilization. Because of intellectual knowledge of death and sin, the attitudinal antidotes to nihilism are vulnerable.

I have come to the end of what philosophy, including natural theology and natural moral theology, can accomplish in regard to providing an antidote to nihilism. Philosophy, via the reality underlying the problem of evil undercuts any purpose for life proposed by philosophy as ideology.

What is to be done? One can accept nihilism. But intellectual honesty does not require accepting nihilism even if nihilism cannot be set aside by human intelligence alone. See Does Respect for Truth Require Nihilism? William James argued well for this point in his well known The will to believe. The other alternative is to “tough it out” by holding fast to faith in some proposed purpose for life. There are two ways of holding fast to a faith. One way is to stay within the limits of reason and shut down the critical reflection that serves only to undercut that in which you have faith. These are secular confrontations with nihilism . Note that any antidote to nihilism requires shutting down the suicidal critical reflection which serves only to undercut that in which you have faith. The other is to be open to revelation which provides insights which reason could never produce by itself but which we can try to understand with reason even if we can never completely understand them. This is religious confrontation with nihilism. These revealed insights are properly called mysteries.

We get revelations from historical religions. There is a need for subsequent posts to support the thesis that revelation comes only via historical or traditional religions. Acceptance of mysteries involves less intellectual suppression than secularism for we have mysteries to think about.

Divine Command Morality and Religious Morality

Understanding moral laws as divine commands is not by itself to have a religious morality. To be sure, understanding moral laws as divine commands involves a natural piety towards morality. But someone need not belong to any religion to understand moral laws as divine commands. This is compatible with holding that understanding moral laws as divine commands is more than Moral Deism .

Divine command moral theory makes indicative claims about human nature that are in a way falsified by natural science. It claims that there are ends in nature which ought never be frustrated. This claim is falsified by science in the sense that it is an inadmissible scientific statement. It cannot be true if scientism is true.

The title is Divine Command Morality and Religious Morality.  But the more accurate title would be Divine Command Morality and Catholic Christian Morality.  I do not know enough about the code of the vast variety of religious to compare religious morality in general with plain morality. My paradigm of religious morality are prescriptions of Jesus in Matthew’s, Ch. 5-7, account of the “sermon on the mount” in which Jesus says: ” You have heard it said but I say to you .. .” For instance:

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

The code of Catholic morality contains all of morality plus other norms of two types. There are ritual prescriptions and religious moral commands. I do not want to digress into trying to define ritual prescriptions. Suffice it to say that they are not regarded as for anyone outside the religion. The religious moral commands are regarded as applicable for all human beings. How do religious commands differ from plain moral commands? .  They lack the necessity of moral commands.  We can think of them not being given.  For instance, we cannot think of adultery being morally permissible.  However, we can think of remarriage after one partner has abandoned his spouse being permissible.  Jesus is quite explicit that he is adding to what has been morally taught with “you have heard it said, but I say to you.”