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.

No Salvation History Without Miracles

The thesis of this post is that acceptance of some miracles is required by Christian faith but it is not essential for Christian practice to expect or to hope for miracles.

What do I mean by “salvation history?” My paradigm is the Christian history of salvation. A salvation history is a history of how God has been working in human history to rescue humanity from its evils for a better life after biological death.  For the most part, the events narrated in salvation histories are events which would be narrated in a purely natural, or secular history.  Obviously, salvation histories must include some events which tell of the natural and supernatural interacting. Otherwise, they would be simply natural histories. When the supernatural and natural interact in a recognizable way, there will not be an event which fits into a purely natural account of what we experience. It will, then, be a miracle.

My paradigm of a natural/supernatural narrative is Luke’s account of the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she would virginally conceive a child who is the Son of God, Mary’s acceptance and conception. (Lk. 1, 26-38)  Luke pinpoints the time and place of this miraculous: When Herod was king, in Nazareth of Galilee. Of course, there are other events: feeding 5,000 with a few loaves and fishes, walking on water and Jesus ‘resurrection. Scripture cites many more events which do not fit into the natural order, have religious significance and happen here on planet earth.

Despite the many events outside the natural order, the ratio of these events to those events fitting into the natural order approaches zero. So, for the purpose of finding natural laws, for science, the natural events with supernatural factors involved, can be ignored. Well, maybe, they can be considered as reminders of the methodological point that natural laws should be understood as probablistic – statistical. Acceptance of the miracles in Christian salvation history requires no rejection of science. A Catholic scientist may simply forget about the miracles recorded in scripture while working as a natural scientist.

What about the rationality of accepting accounts of miraculous events as true?  Is this question being asked before or after having faith in the Christian salvation history? First, there is a need to bring out when the question of believing in miracles arises.  For some of us, and these are the only people I will talk about, the question of justifying belief in miracles arises only after there is belief that the salvation history tells the truth about the human condition and the fate of humanity.  There is faith in the story. Then there is a need to justify believing that the crucial miracles actually occurred.  For instance, I find a need to justify believing that Jesus rose from the dead because I have faith in the Christian Salvation history. That is how St. Paul approaches the issue in 1st Corinthians 15. “ But if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain. 

This is not the place to make a case that early Christian belief in the Jesus’s resurrection from the dead is correct. N. T. Wright has made a good case. Of course, we have to admit that the early belief could have been wrong. But that only requires conceding that Christian salvation history could be wrong. But faith in a religion is faith that it tells the truth; not that it is necessarily true.

So, miracles entailed by the scripture, tradition and religious authorities of a religion require acceptance, What about other miraculous events accepted by many adherents of a religion? My anecdotal evidence is that many of my fellow Catholics, some very pious, do not expect miracles. Reported miracles are like reports of someone far away winning a huge sum in a lottery. Some of us would not even like to win big in a lottery. It would disrupt our lives. I do not know how I would react if a putatively miraculous event happened to me or someone close to me. It would not seem right!

Basic Human Goods & Human Morality

What are the basic human goods? What is their connection to our fundamental moral laws? 

Basic Human Goods:

Life, Health- includes sufficient satisfying food, Knowledge, Aesthetic experience, Skilled work, Play, Friendship, Internal harmony with one’s thoughts and feelings, Harmony with others, Sense of belonging in creation – sense of a meaningful life, Marriage – includes sexual satisfaction in coitus open to conception for strengthening and maintaining life-long male/female life-long monagamous bonding.

These are goods which, in general, people naturally desire.  The first principle of practical reason – reasoning about conduct – states “Do good, avoid evil.”  What is good is specified by the above list of basic human goods. If humans had not chosen to set aside pursuit of these basic goods for some lesser satisfaction, the so-called first principle of practical reason would describe human behavior. That describes a state of innocence.  Instead, the first principle of practical reason is an imperative. We are commanded to pursue these basic human goods and never to intentionally frustrate them.  Thus, they become obligatory goods.

The human choice that made basic human goods obligatory goods, viz., original sin, created morality. The vast array of principles, developed over the ages, about what we ought to do and ought not do are a human product. If we had not freely made the choice to deliberate about whether to pursue basic goods and never intentionally frustrate them, we would not need to have moral laws commanding us to do so.

We can still hold that moral laws are commands of God. The commands, though, do not come directly from God. God created us with our basic goods as our natural goods but with a will free to choose or not to choose them without hesitation.  We chose to “make up our own minds” about pursuing them. Dreadful experience over the ages as a result of choosing lesser goods has forced humanity to use its God-given capacity to command itself to articulate moral laws.

I adapted the above list of basic goods from the New Natural Law Theory as characterised in the selection from the article below.  My claims about morality should not be regarded as those of this theory.

THE NEW NATURAL LAW THEORY
Christopher O. Tollefsen, University of South Carolina*

First, the New Natural Law view holds that practical reason, that is, reason oriented towards action, grasps as self-evidently desirable a number of basic goods.  These goods, which are described as constitutive aspects of genuine human flourishing, include life and health; knowledge and aesthetic experience; skilled work and play; friendship; marriage; harmony with God, and harmony among a person’s judgments, choices, feelings, and behavior. As grasped by practical reason, the basic goods give foundational reasons for action to human agents. Moreover, they are recognized as good for all human agents; it is equally intelligible to act for the sake of the life of another as for one’s own life. 

Second, these goods, and most of their instantiations in action, are held to be incommensurable with one another. That is to say, there is no natural hierarchy of goodness such that one good may be said to offer all the good of another plus more. Rather, each of the goods is beneficial to human agents, and hence desirable, in a unique way; each offers something that the other goods do not. The same is generally true of particular instantiations of the goods: one way of working, playing, or pursuing knowledge, for example, may offer benefits that are not weighable by a common standard of goodness in relation to instantiations of the other goods, or even instantiations of the same good.[4]

In more recent years, the New Natural Lawyers have developed an account of a specifically sexual morality around two claims: first, that marriage is one of the basic human goods, distinct from life or friendship; and second, that the human person is a rational animal, a living organism of the human species. The New Natural Lawyers see general principles of sexual morality as flowing from these claims.[12]

Cur Deus Homo?

Cur Deus homo

These reflections on Anselm’s (1033-1109) question about why God became man, suffered a horrible crucifixion and rose from the dead were provoked while reading pp, 150 ff. of Joseph Ratzinger’s “Introduction to Christianity*”  With reluctance, the then Fr. Ratizinger, accepted what I below call the “atonement theory.” He calls it “satisfaction theory. ” The satisfaction theory is biblical and Church teaching.  He favors, under acknowledged influence from Fr. Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), what I call the “re-creation theory.”  This optimistic theory also has basis in scripture and is Church teaching. It promises humanity that God’s suffering was forward looking; not only to remedy what had been done. The Paschal Mystery created a future for humans to be like God; not God, of course, but to have a new human nature with God’s selfless loving as its way of loving.

Ratzinger admits that  an outstanding theological problem is reconciling these two theories.  In this post, I try to reconcile these two theories by use of my idiosyncratic notion “moral harm.” This may be foolish for someone with no theological training.

There are two answers to Anslem’s question: Atonement, Re-creation

The atonement theory holds that God became man so there would be an appropriate man to suffer the retributive punishment for offending God.

The re-creation theory holds that God became man so human nature could be recreated so that humans could have eternal life with a divinized human nature.

The objection to the atonement theory is that we should not conceive of God as requiring intense misery for an offense to Him.  God should not be thought of as being satisfied with suffering.

The objection to the re-creation theory is that is that we should not conceive of God as being unable to re-create human nature without the intense suffering of the crucifixion.

My defense of the atonement theory assumes my notion of moral harm. Moral Harm Distinguished From Vengeance Moral harm comprises the human produced norms that harm ought to be whenever we violate a moral law. Our morality now requires fulfilment of these special moral rules that someone be harmed.   Humanity can never fulfill these harm requiring moral norms.  Way back with the first humans norms requiring harm – norms requiring retributive punishment – have been accumulating. We are all born into the human community whose justice cries out for indefinitely many unpunished wrongs. God has given us the capacity to create a moral order.  For humanity to be complete all its norms must be satisfied.  Our moral order requires suffering of harm that no individual or group of humans can bear.  So, God becomes man to bear the suffering which we require.  It is our retributive justice which demands an execution that only God can suffer.

I made this point in an earlier post on nihilism.

See Jesus has saved us from nihilism being a correct account of the human condition on August 4,2017 I outline my unprofessional theological interpretation of the Paschal Mystery as Jesus carrying out accepting annihilation to save humans from having annihilation as our fate. The gist of my speculation is that human’s original sin is to set the moral obligation that humans’ fate is to be annihilated. We have chosen that human destiny ought to be no different than that of any other animal. But this obligation is incompatible with being like any other animal who have no obligations.

This incompatibility is resolved by the human nature of Jesus suffering annihilation and then being restored with a human nature that has fulfilled the obligation to be annihilated. Jesus suffered what we have required humanity to suffer. His death was not a sacrifice to God. His death was a fulfillment of the human moral demand for human annihilation so that human nature could be free from this moral imperative that nihilism be humans’ fate.

Back to re-creation theory:

My explanation of why recreation of humanity required the crucifixion is that the old humanity had chosen to live under obligations by choosing to have Basic Human Goods become obligatory goods.  For instance, instead of having sexual desire be for sexual intercourse  for procreation and lifelong male/female bonding,we chose to have  an obligation to have those goals for sexual activity. The original sin activated the capacity of the basic human goods to become obligatory goods. We turned away from loving the basic goods for humanity in the way God loves them. We chose not to love as God loves. We chose to be obligated to loves as God loves. Hence, humanities end became fulfillment of the law.  Living for fulfillment of the law is only the most meager antidote to nihilism. Living for basic human goods as God wills them is everlasting human life. That old humanity of living for fulfillment of the moral law had to be destroyed by fulfilling the service to the law.

The crucifixion does double duty. It fulfills the demands of our moral law and kills the humanity whose highest goal could be only fulfillment of the law.  Resurrection is not necessary for atonement. But for recreation there was a need for the resurrection.

*Introduction to Christianity 2nd ed 1990, 2004 ,Ignatius Press, San Francisco, German original 1968

The Value of Conceptual Models of Satan

In Seriously Have we Been Captured by Satan?, I sketched out a conceptual model or philosophical theory on humanity being captured by Satan. What is the purpose of such a model? Most Catholics who hear about the temptations of Christ, demonic possessions or hell have no interest in such abstract discussions. (I write “most Catholics” because I believe that much of the time I think and act as a “typical Catholic in the pews.”)We read the words of scripture and hear homilies. We accept the words and, more or less, heed the instructions not to take any images as portraying spiritual realities. We need not rely only on own own imaginations for imagery to set aside. We enjoy an immense artistic tradition illustrating Satan and his “works and pomps.” For instance, see Temptation of Christ by Vasily Surikov (1872) and Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel .  See also Temptation of Christ .  What is the value of all of this imagery? Of course, much of it has artistic value although, for the most part, not by presenting what is beautiful.

It must be emphasized that the imagery of Satan et al. is to be ignored for purposes of representing what was the case in natural and supernatural reality. The religious value of the imagery is as a heuristic leading us to take the words of scripture seriously. By catching our imaginations, we pay attention to the words. To repeat: The imagery is not be ignored. In so far as, the imagery helps appreciate and follow the words of scripture and doctrines developed from scripture, the imagery is valuable.

What is the value of the scripture and doctrines?

The scripture and doctrines tell of our relation to God, the supernatural and how we are to live our natural lives so that we can be happy with God in heaven. The scripture, doctrines and heuristic imagery of Christianity form a vast conceptual scheme. It is a way of speaking and living. Here the attention is on the speaking. As a twentieth century philosopher who wrote his Ph. D. dissertation* on Wittgenstein, I class the Catholic way of speaking as at least a language game . There is no need to digress into the literature on language games. The important point is about what is the right thing to say. The word “game” suggestion that what is right or wrong in the game is contained in the game’s rule, explicit or implicit. The language game specifies what is correct to assert and correct to deny. Reality beyond the game need not be consulted on how to play the game, viz., say the right thing. Call the right thing to say “warranted assertions.”

I write mostly of Catholicism. But what I write can be applied to other religions.

Catholic faith is trust that the warranted assertions of the Catholic teaching and practice, the Catholic language game, tell us what is the case with the natural and supernatural and how to live properly in it. Simple faith is trust that the warranted assertions tell the truth without any consideration of what it would be like for them to have truth conditions in reality – to represent what is the case.

It might be proposed that Catholic faith is trust that the warranted assertions of Catholicism tell us what is true, and not merely warranted, because they come from a language game developed from the reality of Jesus’s teaching, crucifixion and resurrection. However, how do the first century reality of Jesus’ teaching, death and resurrection justify, outside our Catholic language game, assertions in the twenty first century? This is a problem which calls for a philosophical model.

Faith seeking understanding is hope that we can have some understanding of what it is like for there to be truth conditions for the warranted assertions. In particular, the value of conceptual models of Satan is to sketch out how there can be truth conditions for talk of Satan.

However, the conceptual models will be ignored by most, unverifiable by any empirical tests and controversial amongst the few who pay attention? (There is always quarrelling about any philosophy.) The fact that there are philosophically minded Catholics who are trying to understand how assertions about the transcendent and supernatural can be true becomes part of the language game of Catholicism. This contribution to the Catholic outlook, the Catholic language game, is an antidote to non-cognitivism about religious belief and, in particular, in Catholic religious belief.

Roughly, the non-cognitivist interpretation of religious assertions is that they do not tell us the truth about a reality independent of the religious beliefs. Truth and falsity are irrelevant. The function of religious assertions is to guide conduct and inculcate life-guiding attitudes and outlooks.  For instance, they may lead us to having a purpose driven life, construct a sense of being a community, prescribe rituals for making daily life feel sacred, or protect ourselves from the uncanny.  Reconsideration of the paragraph about he role of stories at the beginning of Seriously: Have We Been Rescued From Satan?  leads to an insight into non-cognitivism.

“We passionately believe that the most urgent task is the compelling proclamation of the gospel, one that not only shares it in an attractive – and concentrated – way, but that also offers people a way of seeing reality, and of making sense of the world, history, and life that is vastly different from the story our modern culture tells.” N.T. Wright is quoted: “This is how stories work. They invite listeners into a new world, and encourage them to make it their own, to see their ordinary world from now on through this lens, within this grid.”

The non-cognitive interpretation of religions is that they are nothing more than these life guiding stories.  They are only language games.

Call a religion which holds that its story is worth using because it tells some basic truths about what is and what ought to be “realist religions.”  Christianity, and especially Catholicism, have been realistic religions.

A trend within a realistic religion to  adopting non-cognitivism, explicitly or implicity,  provides a basis for a temptation to think that the story is no longer worth telling.  Secularism in the surrounding culture fosters such a trend. I do not want to talk with my fellow Catholics about this temptation because I fear that it may help it become vivid for them. That temptation certainly threatens me.  So, I struggle to understand how the Catholic Christian story can tell the truth about what is and ought to be. Perhaps, making my thoughts public may help others with similar anxieties.

* An improved version of my dissertation examining Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Remarks on the Foundation of Mathematics is in my book: Strict Finitism, The Hague 1970

Seriously: Have We Been Rescued From Satan?

I have volunteered to be a discussion group facilitator in my parish’s presentation of The Rescue Project . The goal of the Rescue Project is strengthening belief in the Christian Salvation story.
The project is guided by the maxim: “We live our lives according to the story we believe” The website announces:

“We passionately believe that the most urgent task is the compelling proclamation of the gospel, one that not only shares it in an attractive – and concentrated – way, but that also offers people a way of seeing reality, and of making sense of the world, history, and life that is vastly different from the story our modern culture tells.” N.T. Wright is quoted: “This is how stories work. They invite listeners into a new world, and encourage them to make it their own, to see their ordinary world from now on through this lens, within this grid.”

The project is structured around eight videos in which Fr. John Ricardo dramatically lays out the Christian Salvation Story. There are group discussions after each video.

The third video is titled “The Enemy is the Enemy.” Fr. Ricardo speaks in an emphatically realistic way about Satan, the devil or the evil one as OUR ENEMY. In the fourth video, Fr. Ricardo dramatizes how humanity, with the disobedience of the first two humans, were captured by Satan. The fifth video describes Jesus’ crucifixion as rescuing all of us from him.

I am uncomfortable about participating in discussions of Satan. I cannot decide what I believe about the narratives. I do not want indications of skepticism to undercut the point of the Fr. Ricardo’s narratives. So, I tell myself a “metaphysical story.” What is the story? I begin by adapting St. Augustine’ doctrine that angels are essentially messengers.* I use, and maybe misuse, Thomistic notions of matter and form. My metaphysical story should not be blamed on St. Augustine or St. Thomas. Is in my “metaphysical story glib?.” I grasp at metaphysical straws to build a conceptual structure. Telling a metaphysical story is my rationalization for participating in discussions about Satan. In The Value of Conceptual Models of Satan , I exam why I seek a rationalization. via metaphysics.

In creation the transcendent God has there be out of nothing potentiality for being formed in various ways for various purposes. (I use a passive construction “has there be” to avoid attributing our concept of action to what is transcendent.) The transcendent God has, also out of nothing, there be entities conveying to potentiality the various ways of being formed for various purposes, i.e. formal and final causes. These entities for conveying ways of being formed for various purposes can be regarded as messages from the transcendent; as such they are angels. They are not the Word of God. They are the messengers bringing the Word of God.to potentiality.

Without conveying ways of being formed for various purposes to potentiality, potentiality is formless void. So, having there be conveying ways of being formed for various purposes, viz., angels, is the beginning of creation: When God said “Let there be light.” Angels are not identical to that to which they bring form and function. Nonetheless, the conveyers of the form to potentiality, viz. matter, have the form and function conveyed but without forming matter. So, the angels forming humanity have the forms of free will, self-consciousness, thoughts of God and obedience to laws of God.  (Attributing the forms conveyed to the conveyers of forms is my construction for rationalizing anthropomorphizing angels. )This is not platonic self-predication in which the form of man is a man. It is the conveyer of the form of man to potentiality which has the form it conveys, while remaining spiritual.

Angels are spiritual entities because they have no matter. This means that they have no potentiality for taking on accidental forms by which they can be spatially located and distinguished from one another; they can only be what they are essentially. However, these angels can change if their essence, the forms they have, provide for the attainment of a goal, eg. informing matter or making a decision as would be the case for angels conveying the form for free will. There is a formal succession; a before-and-after succession which cannot be tracked by an spatial succession.

This metaphysical speculation has set the stage for Fr. Ricardo’s anthropomorphic tale of the fall of Satan and Satan’s enslavement of human beings. The conceptual structure makes anthropomorphism plausible. For the angels for humanity have the forms of the traits they convey to humans. We think of them as similar to people while trying to ignore any spatial imagery of them.

Some of the highest angels, perhaps those charged with bringing the highest intelligence to humans, were envious that humans would share with them eternal life. They believed that the humans tied down in matter should not share their high goal of eternal life. In their pride, with their free will they chose not to convey the form of eternal life to humans. With their choice not to convey the form of eternal life to humans, they chose not to be what they are essentially, viz., conveyers of the Word of God. By choosing not to be what they are essentially, they chose total death. Total death is annihilation; not being at all. But they cannot be annihilated for they have the form of eternal life. The result is that they have chosen eternal torment of having as their chosen goal being annihilated while they can never be annihilated. Simply being, as opposed to not being at all- is an eternal torment for them. There is no rest. That is hell.

In their hellish state, they still envy humans having eternal life with being with God as their good. Other angels fulfilled the function of conveying the form of eternal life to humans. Perhaps, the other angels taking over this function could be portrayed as St. Michael casting Satan and his angels down from heaven. In their envy, they wish to pervert the good of eternal life in humans into the eternal torment to which their disobedience perverted their eternal life. Satan persuaded the first humans, viz. the humans from which the forms and purposes of humanity would be biologically transmitted to other humans, to choose not to be with God by choosing to disobey God. By choosing not to be with God, these first humans chose for humanity not to have the goal of being with God. For humans not to have the goal of being with God is not to be. For humans not to be as they ought is NOT TO BE. So, the first humans who chose the forms for subsequent humans, chose the final form as not to be. Thus, humans, by this primeval choice have their final goal as the perverted good of not being. But it is perverted because they have the form of eternal life while having the goal of not having life, viz. annhilation. Thus, humans now have the hellish condition of the fallen angels. They eternally seek annihilation; a restless striving for a total death which never comes.

To be sure, humans have a type of death for death is what has been chosen. The death we get is not being full humans because we are all ultimately to be separated from matter, viz., biological death. We still have the form of eternally being which is now a curse for our choice is not to be. So, with Satan we have the eternal torment of seeking not to be.

Thus, Satan has captured us by making our destiny the same as his, viz., eternally tormented spiritual beings. For each of us the capture is completed at our biological death. For in the spiritual condition we are completely in his realm. So, it is biological death, becoming disembodied, which is the doorway to hell. In this sense, death is as much our enemy as Satan. Overcoming death, as disembodiment is the way to rescue humans from the hellish destiny of Satan.

I shall not attempt a rationalization of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection as overcoming death. I try to understand the Paschal Mystery with philosophy. But these philosophical speculations are only faith seeking understanding. I regard philosophical speculations as rationalizations when used to excuse anthropomorphic stories about spiritual beings.

* See Taylor Marshall on creation of the angels according to Augustine. Taylor Marshall writes clearly on this point. I need not agree with all of his opinions on theology and Catholic Church policies.

Overview of Posts Confronting Nihilism

This is a review of posts directly confronting nihilism to assess what has been accomplished toward showing that an intelligent educated person need not and ought not fall into our cultural default outlook and attitude of nihilism. The review brings out that necessary conditions for intellectually setting nihilism aside are beliefs in theism and objective moral laws as divine commands. Two recent posts, referenced in items (14) and (15), point out how efforts presenting nihilism as true subtley presuppose that nihilism is not true.

Beliefs in theism and objective morality can be supported by philosophical theology. However, confronting nihilism requires continual attitudinal support as is indicated in The Problem of Evil as a Cornerstone of a Nihilistic World View . The attitudinal support is faith.

My assessment of confronting nihilism is that only Epicureanism provides the intellectual and attitudinal support for nihilism. The intellectual support is the metaphysical theory that basically there is nothing but atoms and the void. Only by chance do atoms form complexes which by chance come and go. The maxim “Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” offers a guideline for living. However, there is a caution attached to the maxim. Try not to think of the “tomorrow we die” part. If thoughts of death thrust themselves upon you, then think of the metaphysics to realize that there cannot be any punishment after death. For at death your atoms scatter into the void. Confronting nihilism requires continual philosophical critique of atomistic metaphysics, which in various forms, is presupposed in our current age. It also requires the work of public intellectuals to uncover the misery of in accordance with”Eat, drink and be merry.” For an example of a public intellectual’s critique of current hedonism see my review of Christine Emba’s Re-thinking Sex.

1 In My Book and Nihilism on October 13 2013, I expressed some initial reflections on nihilism.
Nihilism is a combination of thought and sentiment. There is a thought that nothing matters and a melancholy mood that life has no significance. Both the thought and the sentiment are required for nihilism. An atheist may think that nothing matters but is not a nihilistic because, being blessed with an upbeat temperament, loves being alife. A believer in God many think that people ought to live to please their creator but feel that life has no significance. Despite nihilistic feelings such a theistic is not a nihilist He can use his belief in God to struggle to overcome his nihilistic feelings. Nihilistic feelings are a “dark night of the soul” for mystics and contemplatives.

2. In Progressive Progress to Nihilism on August 11, 2020, we see how people can be taught scientism without ever teaching the inconsistency that we know only science gives knowledge. Teach the merits of science and the demerits of religion and ideologies. When students convert to scientism, justify the conversion by explaining it as the natural response of a mind aware of the merits of science and the demerits of religion. I note that the education to cause a belief in scientism is also effective for causing belief in nihilism. Nonetheless, the major point is that scientism and its associated nihilism cannot be blocked by simply charging it with logical inconsistency. Causal factors leading to scientism need to be confronted.

3.In Confronting Scientism, Secular Naturalism and Nihilism on August 31, 2020, I argue that intellectually nihilism needs to be confronted by developing a metaphysical scheme superior to metaphysical schemes supporting scientism or secular naturalism.

4,In Confronting the Nihilistic Ontology of Secular Naturalism on September 10, 2020, I observe there is no well developed metaphysical scheme, or ontology, to support scientism or secular naturalism with its elimination of final causes. If metaphysical thinking is legitimate, there is reason for thinking that nihilism can be confronted and defeated on the theoretical level.

5.In Nihilistic Soteriology and Eschatology on September 20, 2020 I diagnosed the despair underlying acceptance of physian assisted sucide. I concluded with the following observation. In theological language the line of thought is as follows. Permissibility of suicide presupposes an eschatology of death as non-being. This eschatology leads to a soteriology as salvation is non-being. No morality is required for this salvation since “All men are mortal” entails that all are saved.

6.In Moral Deism is not an Antidote to Nihilism on March 23, 2022, Moral Deism was characterized as merely classifying our morality as Divine Commands. Unfortunately, moral deism undercuts the rationale for understanding morality as based on divine commands. Man is still the measure of all things. Whatever man measures is interpreted as what God commands. God is not cited in moral reasoning.

7. Very recently in Theism Compatible with Nihilism on December 15, 2022, I noted the following. God did not have to give a meaning to human life as we understand having a meaning for life. If our lives have meaning, it is because of the goodness of God.

8. In Nihilism as an Antidote to Nihilism , on December 17, 2021, an antidote to nihilism is characterized as: A complex of thoughts and intertwined sentiments which removes or alleviates the anxiety provoked by thinking and feeling life has no meaning . In this sense, the “eat, drink and be merry” maxim of nihilism can, for the fortune few, be a recipe for setting aside anxiety about the meaning of life. Epicureanism helps the fortunate few avoid thinking about nihilism.

9. In Gibt est kein Gott, nur die Pflict Steht gegen das Nichts on July 5, 2020, I summarize the theme of my book on sexual morality. I argue that living to make ourselves people who obey invariant moral laws is something indestructible in ourselves for which to live – that is duty die Pflicht. I go on to argue that we must find such laws governing our sexuality. Stoics overcome nihilism in their hearts and minds. But doubts about the reality of moral laws threatens our composure.

10. In Hell Saves Us From Nihilism on December 11, 2021, I elaborate on the syllogism:
If there is no hell, everything is permitted.
If everything is permitted, then nihilism is correct
—————————————————-
So, if there is no hell, nihilism is correct.
Hell is meaningless existence. An alternative to hell provides meaningful existence.

11.In Invoking God to Confront Nihilism on December 4, 2021, I answered my doubts, in (9) above about stoicism giving a satisfactory response to nihilism. I wrote ” Life in accord with eternal moral laws which we are commanded to follow needed to be characterized as more attractive than resolutely making ourselves into people who obey these laws despite any and all inclinations to do otherwise. I was led, then, to religious reflections on what it meant to obey the moral laws. So, through a long series of posts on obeying a moral authority, I realized that we had to interpret moral laws as commands of God. Hence,I confront nihilism by making a case for Divine Command Morality.” But later, as in (6) above a Divine Command morality must be more than Moral Deism. Recently, in Theism is compatible with nihilism on December 15, 2022 I realized that belief in theism needs to be accompanied by faith in the goodness of God to set aside nihilism.

11.In Does Death Prove Nihilism on December 8. 2021, I quote extensively from The Book of Wisdom to remind us what needs to be included in a strong philosophical antidote against nihilism. In addition to establishing the existence of a divine moral commander, there is a need to establish survival after biological death and the reality of postmortem reward and punishment. These thoughts led to those in (9) above about the reality of hell as part of a belief system overcoming nihilism.

12.In Jesus has saved us from nihilism being a correct account of the human condition on August 4,2017 I outline my unprofessional theological interpretation of the Paschal Mystery as Jesus carrying out accepting annihilation to save humans from having annihilation as our fate. The gist of my speculation is that human’s original sin is to set the moral obligation that humans’ fate is to be annihilated. We have chosen that human destiny ought to be no different than that of any other animal. But this obligation is incompatible with being like any other animal who have no obligations.

This incompatibility is resolved by the human nature of Jesus suffering annihilation and then being restored with a human nature that has fulfilled the obligation to be annihilated. Jesus suffered what we have required humanity to suffer. His death was not a sacrifice to God. His death was a fulfillment of the human moral demand for human annihilation so that human nature could be free from this moral imperative that nihilism be humans’ fate.

13.In The Transcendent vs Nothing on August 7, 2021, I model the creator as being in a struggle with non-being, the uncreated or nothing. Some creatures with free-will, choose not to be dependent beings. But for a creature not to be dependent is not to be. So, some creatures are choosing not to be or nothingness. The goodness of the creator thus faces oppostion to creation.

While writing this synopsis, I return to thoughts of There is a Satan in Oppostion to God. . The first creature of God, choose not to be dependent which is a choice for nothing – not to be. This first creature becomes Satan who wills that there be nothing at all if he cannot be the creator. Satan is evil for he chooses the absence of all good. Satan tries to carry out his choice for non-being by leading other creatures with free-will to choose not to be. Such creatures, viz., humans, choose not to be by not choosing their good. These theological speculations start to build a model on how God “solves” the problem of evil which philosophical thought showed at line 11 in The problem of evil is the corner stone of a Christian world view God would “solve.”

14. In Does Respect for Truth Require Nihilism On December 28, 2022, I dismiss a claim that we ought to be nihilists because respect for our rationality forbids believing any more than what natural science tells us. Authentic nihilists do not respect rationality as a source of moral obligations.

15. In I rage, therefore I am , on December 30, 2022, we see that raging against reality because it provides us only a nihilistic fate, presupposes that vainishing into atoms and the void is not our fate.

I Rage, Therefore I Am

Is Proud Defiance Acceptance of Nihilism? No, it is a philosophical rejection of nihilism

The first two stanzas of Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night” command defiance of not being – the dying of the light. For “wise men at their end know dark is right.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Explicitly professing nihilism to rage against it is not good psychological advice. Actually, as we shall see, it rejects nihilism by defying it. In my eighty eighth year, burning and raging about what I dread might be my fate seems foolish. Distracting oneself with pleasant memories is better advice.

I do not accept nihilism. I seek to understand and hold fast to Catholicism. In philosophical theology I find good reasons for Catholicism. However, the reasons are not totally conclusive “Because their words had forked no lightning.” Hence, I have a dread of total annihilation at death. Still, the Canticle of Simeon gives better psychological advice: “Now, Lord let your servant go in peace. For my eyes have seen the salvation . . .”

However, I do not interpret the poem as psychological advice on facing dying and death. Dylan Thomas offers inchoate philosophical instructions on how each and everyone of us can demonstrate that nihilism is not true. This raging against not being – against the dying of the light – is intense assertion of oneself as existing. At death, the raging self assertion enters eternity.

Right up to the instant at which for you there is no further coming into existence or passing out of existence – changelessness- your self is raging. Eternally, there is his raging self. That final instant raging self can no more come into existence or pass out of existence than the number 2.

This is not an effective demonstration that nihilism is wrong because we can make our self eternal. It depends upon an empirical assumption that people can be conscious up to the instant of brain death. Before brain death there is change in a person – coming into existence and passing out of existence. Furthermore, persisting as an abstract object such as the number 2 is a survival not worth wanting. The number 2 is for nothing; neither is an eternal raging self.

This raging is the desperate hope that if I cry loud enough to Being, She will pick me up.

Respect for Truth Undercuts Nihilism

The naturalistic evolutionary account of the development and origin of homo sapiens sapiens tells the truth. This true narrative tells of no more significance or purpose of homo sapiens sapiens than that of any other species. If that is the only true account of the origin and development of humanity, nihilism is correct.

Grant that the evidence for this evolutionary narrative is better than any supplementary account of the origin and development of humanity, an anthropology, which finds a special significance and purpose for human beings. This is not to grant that there is no evidence for the supplementary account.

Maintaining that one is not entitled to allow belief in any account with weaker evidence than that for evolution is incompatible with nihilism. It presupposes that there is a source of obligations on how to use our reason. It is presupposed that there is a way we ought to be with respect to our rationality. Accepting that there is a way we ought to be is to accept that there is a point to our living.

Holding fast to assertions of nihilism because that is what duty to truth requires is an instance of a stoic stance defying nihilism. If there is no God, still the truth and our duty to it stand against not being – nothingness.

The Problem of Evil as a Cornerstone of a Nihilistic World View

Undercutting any solutions for the problem of evil is the cornerstone of nihilism.

Of course, this post connects with The Problem of Evil as a Cornerstone of a Christian World View. In that post, I developed a line of argument in philosophical theology adapting a line of argument reaching back at least to Epicurus’ classical formulation of the problem of evil, around 300 BC. It culminated with:

10. If God has delegated creation of reality as we experience it to subsidiary creators, He had a good reason for delegating creative activity and has a good reason for correcting the experienced reality produced by susidiary creators.

11. So, ultimately there will be a correction of reality as we experience it although we cannot imagine experiencing it!

These lines (10) and (11) provide an intellectual rationale for developing a world view of some type of salvation history. Salvation histories are histories of reality as we experience it using language of ordinary history plus reference to religious beings, processes and events. The world view of Christianity is a salvation history. My paradigm salvation history is given in the Catholic Bible plus interpretations of the Christian Church Fathers and expressed in the Nicene Creed. At the risk of being cryptic: Salvation histories are solutions to the problem of evil. Salvation histories make sense of life – tell of a point and purpose for living despite the sin and suffering all experience by living.

Most likely, the intellectual rationale behind a salvation history comes, in fact, after the salvation histories have been told for generations. However, being a subsequent rationale for narrations of the salvation history does not reduce the rationalization to unimportant additions to a salvation history. A dimension of our being rational animals is being theological animals. Experienced sin and suffering drives us to seek understanding of our believed salvation history.

Good reasons have been given for theological theories behind Judeo-Christian salvation history. Unfortunately, despite being good reasons, none of the rationalizations are compelling. The theories of philosophical theology simply do not have mathematical certainty. There are no intellectually compelling solutions for the problem of evil. Logic allows hardening the heart and saying: No!

Hence, the problem of evil provides a foundation for nihilism. Nihilists find loop-holes for setting aside the theological rationalizations and let the experience of sin and suffering lead people to despair of there being any point or purpose to living. All history, secular and salvation, tell only “sound and fury signifying nothing.”

When I think of loss of the naive faith of a child or even of an adult, I think of a nursery rhymme about an egg named Humpty Dumpty.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All of the king’s and all of the king’s men.
Could not put Humpty together again.

Faith and rationalization are now needed to go on living with hope that the salvation history tells the truth about the point and purpose of living. Both faith and reason are needed in religion just as both are needed in science. This religious faith that sustains hope is not naïve fideism justifying believing because one wants to belief. Religious faith justifies nothing. It is a gift that comes and goes sustaining hope that ultimately “all manner of things will be well.”

Theism Is Compatible With Nihilism

A theistic metaphysics is compatible with nihilism. For it is possible for God to give no significance to human life. We readily think that God sets no enduring destiny for Woodticks. He could, then, allow humans to vanish into non-being which is the fate to which we consign ticks.

In attempts to understand Christianity, I occasionally speculate that God originally intended that humans never pass into non-being. Humans had a choice to share in God’s never ceasing to be. However, there was some original choice by humans not to share completely in God’s way of being by not always willing as God willed. So, humans chose to have their own way of being as do the other creatures of God. Other creatures have temporary being; they come into existence and pass away. For an elaboration of these speculations, see Jesus has saved us from nihilism being a correct account of the human condition.

However, God had set as the good for humans never ceasing to be. God loves his creatures which means God wills the good of his creatures. So, even after humans had chosen ceasing to be, God stilled willed that humans not cease to be. There is no necessity for God to will never ceasing to be for humans. For God did not need to create. God did not need to create beings with a good of everlasting being.

The point remains. God did not have to give a meaning to human life as we understand having a meaning for life.

If our lives have meaning, it is because of the goodness of God.