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.
As of July 25, 2022, I am changing the name of the moral theory I am developing from “Authoritarian Morality” to “Command Morality.” The term “authoritarian” has too many negative connotations. Besides “Command Morality” is better for representing morality as divine commands. The focus ought to be on interpreting the commands of morality as divine commands. There is no motivation for interpreting the divine source of morality as authoritarian.
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.
It is helpful to compare my project of constructing a representation of the Transcendent as a Divine moral authority with the problem in philosophical theology for whose solution theories of analogical predication are developed. The problems are related but not the same.
A standard issue in philosophical theology arises from using the same terms to describe human beings and God. Theoretically, God is totally unlike any of His creatures. For instance, what is meant by saying that God is merciful if God is nothing at all like a merciful human judge?
There is a dilemma facing those who hold the same terms can be applied to God and creatures.
If terms applied to God and creatures are used univocally, then God is misrepresented by representing God as like His creatures.
If terms applied to God and creatures are used equivocally, then God is misrepresented by using language ambiguously.
Terms applied to God and creatures are used univocally or equivocally.
So, applying the same terms to God and creatures, misrepresents God.
Theories of analogical predication are offered to confront the dilemma by ”going between the horns of the dilemma” that terms are used univocally or equivocally. Theories show that there is a middle type of application of terms based on some type of similarity of, or analogy, between, that to which the terms are applied.
In religious practice this middle ground has been recognized implicitly. For centuries people have felt that their use of the same terms to talk of God and creatures made sense and was important although they would, I think, admit that what the terms designated were not the same in God and creatures.
The theories provide theoretical justification for this common practice. The theories go into human intelligence, collective consciousness, the archives or whatever one wants to call the repository of justifications. From that source, theories of analogical predication can be accessed by those who want to justify religious use of terms.
What am I doing when trying to show how terms can be applied to the Transcendent when by definition the Transcendent transcends any accurate application of terms?
My ultimate goal is a conceptual model of what it would be like for there to be a God who would sacrifice Himself to redeem humanity for its immorality. Crucial parts of this construction are construction of a model of morality based on authoritative commands and then construction of a model of this moral authority being God. I think that I have sketched a fairly complete outline of an authoritative morality. I want people to think that my model could represent the way things actually are. So I use the highly non-controversial notion of God, viz., the totally transcendent.
Consequently, I face the problem of pleading a case that from the bare metaphysical term “on whom everything depends for existence but which depends on nothing” we can provide “good enough” specifications of terms such as “omniscience” to say that this Transcendent is a God who is a moral authority.
I have to leave it to readers to judge whether I specify what is good enough.
Let me note also that I am addressing a problem which arises in 21st century arguments between some atheists and theists. The theists contend that atheists misunderstand theistic belief. The atheists allegedly are dismissing the existence of God as some super being amongst other beings. The theists claim that they are talking about something transcending all beings – what I have called the Transcendent. But most often theists are also religious as am I. In their religious practice they talk in a way suggesting that God is a super being. Theists should reconcile that discrepancy between their philosophical talk of God and their religious talk of God.
1. Am I criticizing progressivism as a well defined system of moral thinking used in daily life?
Not really. Progressivism and authoritarianism are my constructions to specify consistent patterns from the way people use moral language. In daily life most of us use moral language which if pulled together would be an inconsistent system with judgments from a progressive point of view, judgments from an authoritarian point of view, judgments from a natural law point of view, various religious points of view and so on.
I cannot identify any group of people or individuals as the progressives. I did react to the thought of Steven Pinker in developing sexual progressive morality in my book. However, I make the factual judgment that the progressive pattern of moral thinking is dominant in the majority of people in Europe and North America. That abstracted pattern is the progressivism I articulate, evaluate and constantly struggle to resist as the way of thinking and feeling morally.
I try to present progressivism as persuasively as possible. For it is the alternative to my Catholicism. To keep my faith I must constantly resist progressivism. I need to resist my serious alternative; not some weak version.
2. What is an outline of the progressive moral point of view as a philosophy of life?
Harm ought not be. In reality there is harm. So, reality is not as it ought to be. What ought to be can be. Hence, reality can be so that there is no harm which means that reality can be so that there is no frustration of human desires.
The human moral project is to work at modifying human desires along with improving techniques for satisfying desires with the ultimate goal of humanity being in a state in which there is no frustration of human desires.
If you are normal, you have amongst other desires, desires for the happiness and satisfaction of other people. Pursuit of the human project is striving for human happiness and satisfaction in both the short run and long run. So, by living to advance the human project you are living to satisfy a desire.
3. Is progressivism moral relativism?
Progressivism is a logically consistent moral relativism. Alll evaluation of acts are relative to the circumstances, intentions and consequences of the act. General rules are also evaluated relative to the consequences they are likely to produce. The evaluations of acts and rules are relative to the desires that people happen to have. In short, morality is relative to human desires and thought. Morality is not founded on anything in reality beyond humanity.
Progressivism guiding thought that harm ought not be is consistent with its relativism. This guiding thought is relative to the feature of human nature that people care about the happiness and satisfaction of fellow human. Absent that concern for others, there would not still be some categorical imperative or authoritative command that there be no harm.
4. Is human eugenics part of progressivism?
Eugenics can be defined as “beliefs and practices that aim to improve the genetic quality of a human population, typically by excluding people and groups judged to be inferior and promoting those judged to be superior.”
In principle, eugenics is part of progressivism. Unfortunately, eugenics has acquired a very bad reputation because of its misuse and poor application in Nazi Germany. Nonetheless, with great care to focus on improvement of humanity in general, and not some special race, and with care to execute it with sensitivity, progressives support eugenics.
Under this topic, it can be noted that progressivism in principle supports abortion and euthanasia.
5. Is progressivism atheistic?
Atheism is not part of the progressive outlook although many atheists may be progressives. Many people who I class as progressives are members of Christian churches. To me they seem to respresent God as some supreme supernatural progressive who is working on them to promote the human project. Among these Christians, I include those who have been so successful in changing attitudes toward homosexuality and gender ideology.
My book is Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism, Tulsa, 2014 If you would like a free copy of my book, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
This post improves upon the Proof of the Traditional Moral Law for Male Sexuality by basing it on recognizing the basic human good of human sexuality. Thus we get a fundamental law for human sexuality from which we can derive the fundamental moral law for male sexuality.
There is much we desire and enjoy in our sexuality. There is much we dread and suffer from our sexuality. Yet we cannot live without it. We desire the basic fact of our being as good without qualification. To be sure we wish pain and suffering not to be. But this is wishing to be without pain and suffering. So, because sexuality is essential to being human, there is some core of human sexuality which we find to be good without qualification: a basic human good. This core will be some action of human sexuality which ought to promoted and never frustrated.
What is this core act? What is so widely celebrated? What follows the bridal feast? We have a built in modesty which does not dwell on the details of the marriage act. But the marriage act is the core good of human sexuality. What is it?
The marriage act is a sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who are committed to provide lifelong mutual support nurture whoever may be conceived by that intercourse.
The moral law of human sexuality says: The marriage act is to be promoted and never frustrated. Parts of this act pulled out of the marriage act and used for some other purpose frustrate the marriage act. Since the crucial part of the male in the marriage act is dispersal of sperm, the dispersal of sperm’s function in the marriage act should never be frustrated. So we can readily derive the fundamental moral principle for male sexuality.
The fundamental moral law for male sexuality tells us that a man should not intentionally seek an orgasm except in sexual intercourse having the possibility of conception with a woman to whom he is committed to care for while providing for any children resulting from that intercourse. Call this the paternal principle. Acts which frustrate this good are sperm dispersal by a male which can never be used for conception. So masturbation, homosexuality and coitus interruptus are morally wrong. In addition to interrupting the good act they turn attention to a lesser good than that which they ought to be promoting.
Women may be aware of distinct female aspects of what is essential in their engagement in the marriage act. So, a fundamental moral principle for women would prohibit frustration of uniquely female sexual features in sexual behavior. As a male I cannot articulate it.
Others may have developed this type of argument better than I. They are proponents of what is called the New Natural Law Theory.
See Patrick Lee, “The Human Body and Sexuality in the Teaching of Pope John Paul II,” in John Paul II’s Contribution to Catholic Bioethics, ed. Christopher Tollefsen (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2005), 107–20; Patrick Lee and Robert P. George, Body-Self Dualism in Contemporary Ethics and Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
I have not intentionally followed their line of argument. However, I am not interested in being original. I simply want the truth about human sexual morality to be proclaimed. I am sympathetic with the New Natural Law Theory. I would like its proponents to incorporate whatever is useful in my arguments into the New Natural Law Theory.
This post was supposed to be philosophical. I intended to rationalize introducing angels in a conceptual model of the paschal mystery. Why, though, am I constructing a conceptual modal of the paschal mystery and more broadly: the good news in the Gospels? I want to strengthen my conviction that the factual claims in the Gospels tell the truth. With such a conviction I can boldly proclaim them to others as literally true. A model for how the truth claims of the Gospels can be true presupposes receiving them as truth claims. What is it like to received the truth claims of the Gospels as true truth claims.
The Gospels make truth claims about angels. In Luke 2, 28 ff. we can read:
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High;
Do you hold with conviction that this passage tells the truth about events involving an angel, a young virgin, in the province of Galilee sometime in the reign of Ceasar Augustus? A resulting event is the pregnancy of Mary without sexual intercourse and she is carrying God incarnate.
I never had the courage to tell my children the Christian gospel, such as the above passage, as a truth just as much as some other factual claim about the Roman Empire. Indeed, I have never had the courage to tell it to anyone. I have not been able to profess with conviction the good news of Christianity. Somehow secularism had disenchanted reality. I cannot be a good Christian unless I am willing to go out to all the world to tell the good news.
What is this good news which I am ashamed to proclaim as true; not only as morally useful? The Christian gospel is not the partial truth of my beloved catechism answer: God made us to know love and serve Him on this earth so that we can be happy with Him forever in heaven. There is the crucifix. The cross commands us to tell the whole truth. The whole truth describes a harsh magical reality. Of course, it is not all harsh as the above Lucan passage shows.
I characterize this magical reality from my Catholic perspective. Accepting the Gospels as making truth claims about a magical reality is a presupposition of developing a rationalizing conceptual model for them. Of course, I cannot speak for the Catholic Church.
Reality is a unit containing ordinary natural events and enchanted events. The ordinary natural events are the observable events explained by natural science. The enchanted events are observable effects of supernatural beings. The supernatural beings are not observable. They are the invisible beings we acknowledge in the Nicene Creed when we profess belief in God the Father Almighty creator of all things visible and invisible.
Much that we can observe is taken as enchanted. There are ordinary objects taken as sacred or holy. Trees, brooks, mountains and indeed the whole earth have been taken as holy or set apart for the supernatural. Ordinary events such as dreams or eclipses have been heeded as messages from the supernatural. Miracles, although observable, are not ordinary because they have no natural explanation. Not all enchanted events are located in any definite place or time although enchanted events are always at least partially describable in terms we use to describe the observable. Hence, events such as the fall of Adam and Eve cannot be located in the spatial temporal framework we use for ordinary events, sacred objects, signs and miracles.
Reality as enchanted is very familiar. We are familiar with enchanted events mixed with the ordinary events from the Greek, Roman and Nordic legends. The world of the Iliad and Odyssey is an enchanted world. The Harry Potter novels have familiarized a whole generation with an enchanted reality. I should not forget about Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. The fiction genre of magical realism mixes ordinary events with enchanted events. The Gospels are at least magical realism. Current interest in zombies shows that many people delight in considering an enchanted reality. Most likely every generation will discover new enchanted worlds to delight, to terrify and to edify or to corrupt.
What is unfamiliar nowadays is to hold that there is one narrative mixing enchanted events with ordinary events which tells the truth, in addition natural acience, about the way things are.
The genuine believing Christian holds that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John present the crucial part of this narrative. The Gospels are not tales of the magical realism genre. The Gospels are realistic narratives reporting to us, amongst other things, the real magical events! That narrative has been extended and presented throughout the centuries in thousands of pictures now in museums and in the windows of thousands of churches. Throughout the centuries billions have accepted the Christian enchanted reality as reality. Of course, if the enchanted reality of the Gospels is reality then all of the other narratives of an enchanted reality are false; or better simply stories.
Adopting a frame of mind in which to view reality as the Christian magical reality as REALITY is the serious challenge to Christian faith. Believing in an abstract God on whom all reality depends is not intellectually as challenging as atheism. So this is the first of a series of posts by someone who has been disenchanted struggling to re-enchant the world.
My book making a case for traditional Christian sexual morality does not require viewing the world as enchanted. Indeed, because it accepts the secular view of reality it can be offered as the morality for all people.
*** My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $3.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.
To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $3.99 plus $3.71 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.
The previous post in this series Human Reason is Inconsistent: Thanks be to God! argued that for humans to still have the destiny God willed for us before our original sin after our original sin, God had to allow us to have morality while rejecting it. At the deepest level where we focus on the purpose of human life, God’s allowing us to live with this inconsistency is a great gift from God. At the level of daily life, human history is a bloody tragedy of moral depravity tempered by moral nobility. This is how it is with humanity as a whole and each individual.
Much can be written about the agony of human life due to our rejection of morality while also acknowledging it. I will not write much about the actual human condition except in some subsequent posts bring out how this tension between morality and its rejection makes human sexuality a book of horror stories with a few chapters telling the most inspiring romances of love, fidelity and the nurturing of children. My emphasis is on the “logical” issues in building a conceptual model of the core Christian teaching that the incarnation of God as Jesus, Jesus’ suffering death and resurrection made it possible that human beings could attain the condition of being the way they ought to be even after original sin.
The conceptual question for this post asks: How is it possible for human beings to have the principle of being moral as the dominant principle while we hold a principle permitting us to override the demands of morality on occasion. Let me use the Kantian term “Good will” as standing for having the principle of choosing to do what is right because it is right regardless of any inclination to do otherwise. In religious terms a person has a good will if that person chooses to do what God wills simply because God wills. In other words, how is a good will possible.
A principle I assume holds: You cannot remove an inconsistency in thinking with inconsistent thinking.
To become a person with a good will we would have to eliminate the policy of setting aside morality to satisfy inclinations. We cannot set aside a policy of satisfying inclination over morality while still having such a policy. So, individually we cannot become consistently moral because the universal human reason we use is inherently inconsistent. Now we have to ask: If we cannot with our efforts become consistently moral which principle dominates: The principle of setting aside morality for inclinations or the principle of setting aside inclination satisfaction for the sake of morality. Given that we cannot eliminate the principle of setting aside morality to satisfy inclinations that means that in principle, in the principles of our thinking, there is a price , measured in terms of inclination satisfaction. If there is a price at which we will set aside any requirement of morality, the principle of setting aside morality is dominant in us.
Very, very good strong willed people can train themselves to place duty over inclination in almost every case we can think. Yet, despite all of their effort they still have a principle in the “back of their minds” that morality can be set aside. By our own efforts we cannot eliminate the fact that we have a price on our morality or fidelity to God. By our own reason and will power we cannot become people of good will and thereby the kind of people we ought to be.
For those interested, note that we have avoided the heresy of Pelagianism
Now we confront the following question. If humans cannot become beings who can choose with normal human reasoning their moral good, how can humans still have this moral good God wills for us? We have argued in the previous post that God still wills that we ought to become as we ought to be. “Ought” implies “can.” The answer has to be that in addition to allowing us to have morality after original sin, God also grants individuals power to choose to be morally good using more than normal human reasoning and willing. This capacity to choose what is right simply because it is right or in religious terms: To obey God simply because God wills it, is a gift from God which we do not earn or acquire by our moral efforts.
For those interested, I am proposing that what Kant calls respect for the moral law is a gift of God which takes us beyond normal moral thinking and choosing.
In the next post, I will illustrate how we use this gift, or grace, of being motivated to choose what is right because it is right in daily life. Then in other posts we will address questions about how God can give us the gifts of a moral destiny and a supernatural capacity of attaining it.
Readers my be interested in my book on sexual morality. My book illustrates how humans are unable to make their sexuality as it ought to be with normal human reasoning and willing.
My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $3.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.
To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $3.99 plus $3.71 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214
This post offers further considerations about the notion of moral harm introduced in my Dec. 27, 2013 post.
Might people who hold that cost-benefit calculation is the fundamental way of making moral judgments, eg. utilitarians accept the following? If they would, that would indicate acceptance of the notion that there is a type of moral harm based in the nature of how humans ought to be. And this harm is not the type of harm they consider in cost-benefit calculations! In this case, the “abused” component of our nature is our economic rationality. It is possible for a person to engage in a cost-benefit calculation and choose a less than the best alternative on a whim or some hunch “Oh, what the f—, let’s do it anyway.” This flouting of economic reasoning might be how “people escape from prisoners’ dilemmas.” I suspect some young men have entered years of imprisonment because of imprudent choices expressed with such a phrase.
A few philosophers even dismiss the possibility of cost-benefit calculation being used in moral reasoning. Grizez, Finnis et al. have argued that cost-benefit calculation cannot be moral deliberation since, for them, moral deliberation has to offer alternatives for choice. They hold that once a cost-benefit calculation is made the choice of what is best must occur. See Ch. IX of their Nuclear Deterence, Morality and Realism . I disagree. Recognition of an alternative as best is different from choosing it. Causality amongst peoples’ mental states is statistical. If there is deterministic causation for what we desire, believe and choose it lies at the physiological level. Suppose then someone decides by cost-benefit calculation that a certain act is not most beneficial but nonetheless chooses it, that person made a wrong, or irrational, choice. In addition to the excess harm resulting from the wrong choice, there might be additional harm. The additional harm is the acting contrary to the way a rational being ought to be. Utilitarians may implicitly hold that there may be a moral principle that the way a rational being ought to be is to choose the most beneficial act. And that principle is in addition to their utilitarian principle. Might not utilitarians have a moral judgment and sense that feels repelled by and condemns whimsical or willful imprudence? If so, they have “more morality” than utilitarianism.