Category Archives: Core philosophy

Transcendent Intelligence

It would be intellectually entertaining to reconstruct most of the classical arguments for God’s existence in my framework of dependence on transcendence. I have established theexistence of a transcendent which depends upon nothing but on which everything else depends for its existence. This transcendent has what is sufficient for the characteristics of everything else. But that does not guide us to any notion of what the transcendent is like. Religions require some notion of what the transcendent is like even if only inadequate notions. So, I try to hint at some notions of what the transcendent is like by looking at traditional theistic arguments as telling us how to develop notions of the transcendent by showing that it has what is sufficient for some very general features of reality such as motion, causality and now intelligence.

But I do not want to lose sight of my main goal of articulating a foundation for sexual morality. In particular, I want to justify a fundamental principal for male sexuality in a plausible Divine Command moral theory. I have already, in my opinion, articulated a plausible if not justifiable, authoritarian moral theory. The authoritarian moral theory is immanent because we can represent our moral thinking as coming from a moral authority. I hope to show that the immanent moral authority is dependent upon the transcendent, God, for its authority.

This is a metaphysical problem in philosophical theology. How can this immanent Command Moral theory be transformed into a transcendent Divine Command Moral theory? How can we go from “Morality requires” to “God requires?”

The first step is to link the transcendent with intelligence using the dependence on transcendence pattern with which the transcendent was linked with motion and causality. A moral commander would need something like intelligence just as motion needed unmoved moving. So to speak: morality cannot be mindless. Morality cannot be without something like intentionality. So, if morality comes from the transcendent, something sufficient for intentionality needs to be found in the transcendent,

The goal is to link intelligence to the transcendent. The first premise might well be accepted by everyone although for different reasons.

Premise 1:Human intelligence need not be.

The reason for accepting Premise 1 which I must reject can be stated as:

“Of course, human intelligence need not be because humans need not have evolved. Without human beings there would be no human intelligence. Human intelligence is a dependent reality. But it is not directly dependent upon the transcendent. To link human intelligence to the transcendent, human intelligence must be directly dependent upon the transcendent.”

Unfortunately, I do not have enough time left in my life to return to study of Descartes and Spinoza et al. to find a metaphysical system which has mentality as fundamental as the material. So, I offer a short and hopefully not bizarre argument for mentality being directly dependent upon the transcendent.

A. If human intelligence evolved, intelligence has always been a possibility.
B. Human intelligence evolved,
So, [C] Intelligence has always been a possibility.
Here I am talking of what is called de re possibility – possibility of what is said. De re possibility is contrasted with de dicto possibility – the logical consistency of the words used to characterize the possibility.

Next is the crucial premise requiring a thought experiment of the reader to verify it.

D. The possibility of intelligence need not be.
E. There is a sufficient reason for the possibility of intelligence.

The next premise also asks for a thought experiment of the reader to verify that reasons for a possibility are not representable.

Some support comes from proponents of an anthropic principle holding that certain fundamental physical constants had to have precise values for life, let alone, human intelligence to evolve. It seems that these fundamental constants did not need to have these values necessary for life. This suggests some transcendent guidance directing the universe towards intelligence. But the anthropic principle shows at most that physical possibility of human intelligence depends upon the transcendent.

The broadest type of possibility is that which is conceivable – thinkable. But the thinkable need not exist for thinking need not exist.

F. The sufficient reason for the possibility of intelligence is transcendent.

G. The transcendent sufficient reason for the possibility of intelligence is sufficient for the features of intelligence amongst which are intentionality, knowledge, moral thought.

H. The sufficient reason for a feature of an X must have something least analogous to the feature it suffices for in X. (This premise requires a lengthy defense.)

I. So, the transcendent has something analogous to intentionality, knowledge, moral thought etc.,.

I plan to use this last line – line I- as a justification for extending my authoritarian moral theory to a divine command moral theory.

Transcendence of a First Cause

This is the second in a series of posts in which I present traditional arguments for the existence of God as ways of approximating a representation of what is totally beyond representation.

The tactic is a follows. We start with the formula for speaking of that which totally transcends what we can represent. The formula runs: That on which everything we can represent depends for its existence but which depends upon nothing for its existence. We cannot represent the entirety of what we can represent; let alone the unrepresentable upon which it depends. (The kernel of truth in idealism is that we cannot represent representing without locating ourselves in what is represented. The representable is a “box” outside of which we cannot think representationally. )

So, we look for some pervasive representable feature in reality such as motion, causality and order. We call attention to the existential dependency of this representable feature. For instance, in the previous post, I asked for consensus on “motion need not be.” (This is a stage in the argument at which the reader has to reflect on what is talked about to assent or dissent.) We are now thinking of something representable in its dependency relation to the transcendent – something immanent in its dependency upon the transcendent. We extend our representing notion of sufficient reason to the thought of a pervasive feature in a dependence relation to the transcendent to construct an approximation to a representation of the transcendent.

Thus, the argument for an unmoved mover was basically an argument for a sufficient reason for motion. The general assumption is that the transcendent is a sufficient reason for the immanent. But that general assumption gives not even a hint of what the transcendent might be. Focusing on sufficient reasons for specific features of the immanent gives indications something the transcendent might be in order to be a sufficient reason for the specific feature in question. We do not construct representations of the transcendent itself. These are only representations of the transcendent in relation of existential dependency to the immanent.

To illustrate the above, consider a “first cause” argument.

Causality need not be.
There is a sufficient reason for causality.
The sufficient reason for causality cannot be caused.
So, there is an uncaused reason, which can be called a cause, for causality.

I think that it is misleading to say that everyone calls an uncaused cause God. Rather it should be said that everyone calls God, amongst other things, an uncaused cause. Why misleading? Forget about the fact that very, very few people even think about God in this way. It is misleading, in my program for linking the God in religious practice to God in philosophy, to suggest that God is an explanatory entity for pervasive features of the natural world. The notion of God is not invented to explain. Rather we have this inchoate notion of God -the transcendent. Thoughts of a sufficient reason for pervasive features of nature help us add some detail to this notion. We try to discover, albeit always inadequately, what and who God might be.

Transcendence of the Unmoved Mover

I do not cite references to classical proofs of the existence of God because I want to avoid all exegetical issues. If there is any merit in my series of arguments for the existence of God, that has been borrowed from some classical philosopher – most likely Aquinas. I am to blame for all that is folly.

In this argument, motion is to be understood as spatial movement.

Motion need not be. (This is a generalization based on reflection about any representable motion.)
What need not be is dependent for its existence.
So, motion is dependent for its existence.
That upon which motion depends for its existence is something which sets in motion or it is something which does not set in motion.
If it is something which does not set in motion, there would be no motion.
But there is motion.
So, that upon which motion depends for its existence sets in motion.
If that upon which motion depends for its existence sets in motion, then that upon which motion depends for its existence is a mover.
So, that upon which motion depends for its existence is a mover.
The mover upon which motion depends for its existence is in motion or it is not in motion.
If the mover upon which motion depends for its existence is in motion, then the mover upon which motion depends is not a mover upon which all motion depends. (Self-dependent is a figure of speech for denying dependence.)
So, the mover upon which motion depends for its existence is an unmoved mover.

The unmoved mover upon which motion depends for its existence is transcendent or immanent.
If the unmoved mover upon which motion depends for its existence is immanent it is representable.
An unmoved mover upon which all motion depends is not representable.

We cannot represent all motion as an entire whole outside of which there is its unmoved mover for this is thinking of something which transcends what we can represent about motion. We can say the words “unmoved mover upon which the entirety of motion depends. But we represent nothing with these words about what transcends our powers of representation. It is an exercise for readers to verify the claim that the entirety of motion cannot be represented. You have to imagine yourself outside space and time. But that imagination feat is impossible.

So, the unmoved mover upon which all motion depends for its existence is transcendent.

It is not implausible to add that this transcendent unmoved mover upon which all representable motion depends is that which is entirely independent but on which all which is representable depends. And thereby is God.

We have started to link the totally transcendent with the immanent. We have found that a very fundamental feature of the immanent, viz., motion, has its transcendent which is readily identified with the transcendent.

Bridging the Gap Between Transcendent and Immanent

My approach to this issue has been totally wrong. Since my previous post that there must be transcendence upon which all we can represent depends but which depends upon nothing, I have been trying to answer the following questions. The starting question is “How can the transcendent be relevant to religious belief?” This quickly became the misleading question “How can we say, let alone think, of that we cannot represent in any way?” My struggle to avoid contradictions seemed like working on a mathematical problem of introducing new elements to avoid contradiction. However, the contradiction stands. We cannot say anything about that which about which we can say nothing. We cannot bridge the gap between the transcendent and the immanent. When proposed as a conceptual problem of how we can represent that which transcends what we can represent ,Wittgenstein’s last line in his Tractatus is correct “Whereof we cannot speak, we should remain silent.”

Perhaps silence is satisfying for mystics. But religious life is far more than mysticism. Details of daily life, and especially, details of religious practice and thoughts of religious creeds and codes matter religiously.

So, I should not be posing a conceptual problem of how we can think of what we cannot think. Our thinking must be confined to the immanent.

Everything depends up the transcendent. The transcendent bridges the gap between the transcendent by virtue of the dependence of everything upon it. Whether there is anything immanent which manifests the transcendent in religiously significant ways depends upon the transcendent. We should be looking at the immanent to find out whether and how immanent features manifest transcendence in religiously significant ways.

I am not proposing anything new. I am only expressing my realization of what has been done by religious philosophers through the centuries with proofs for God’s existence and provision of evidence for religious beliefs and practice. They draw attention to immanent features – dependencies- which are best understood as manifesting best, but necessarily not, perfect characterization of the transcendent.

In my next post, I will sketch out how some traditional arguments for God’s existence can be appreciated from this perspective.

A Proof of The Existence of God in the Transcendent Ontology of Human Intelligence

Transcendental ontology contains the most fundamental philosophical questions. Arguments for the existence of God are in transcendent ontology. I hope that my way of approaching the main question of transcendent ontology is not so idiosyncratic that no one else understands what I am asking.

In this post I intend to offer a proof for the existence of God!

Let us say that the world, reality or what is accepted in immanent ontology is that which can be represented by human intelligence. This conforms to the Parmenidean principle that what can be is what can be thought. An implication of the previous post’s recognition of the inconsistencies and incoherence of human representations is that our representations are not the reality we represent.

Here is the most fundamental philosophical question?

Must there be something unrepresentable upon which what can be represented depends for its existence and features, but which depends upon nothing else ?

The answer cannot be “no.” To say “no” implies that there could be nothing to represent. But we cannot think of there being nothing to represent. For our effort to think of there being nothing to represent provides us with something to represent. The previous post warns us against confusing representations with realities represented. But that is not a warning that representations themselves are not realities to be represented.

From the perspective of negative theology whose basic principle tells us that we can only say what God is not, the above could be called a proof of the existence of God.

I submit that this proof of the existence of God totally beyond representation is valid.
It provides a very “thin” abstract philosophical notion of God . Far more is needed to draw significant implications for morality and religion.

Some opponents of the so-called “New Atheists”, such as Bishop Barron to whose “Word on Fire Institute” I belong, accuse the new atheists of assuming that believers represent God as an existing entity of immense powers and virtues. Believers reply that we believe God is transcendent beyond any representable entity , viz.beyond , what is in the immanent ontology of human intelligence. We believers have a point. But the point is only that serious discussion about theistic belief should not be about the existence of some unrepresentable foundation for all reality.

Serious discussion about the rationality, clarity, morality and religious adequacy of religious belief begins with what people believe. What people actually believe is expressed as if what is believed is in the immanent ontology of human intelligence.

Consider the first sentence of the Nicene Creed which I profess every Sunday: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.” Unity is attributed to God. But unity and plurality are features of that which is representable. Agency is attributed to God but, again, agency is a feature of what is in immanent ontology.

In my next few posts, I plan to explore how philosophy is relevant to including theistic religious belief in belief about the representable even if “pure” philosophy tells us that nothing can be said or thought of God.

Some philosophical asides:

A quick way to dismiss the suggestion that there might be an infinite regress of such unrepresentable beings is to reply that infinite regresses are representable and representability has been ruled out for the transcendent.

Also note that this is not a proof of the existence of a necessary being. A being whose existence is necessary is too much like a being with some special feature, Beings with features are in immanent ontology. This argument establishes a de dicto necessity – necessity is the modality of what is proved. There is no proof of what is called de re necessity – necessity as a feature of some thing or entity.

Fragility of Immanent Ontology

The immanent ontology of human intelligence provides the beginning subject matter for philosophy. Unfortunately this subject matter makes all philosophy fragile or unstable.

Philosophy begins in wonder. But it is a peculiar type of wonder about how there can be anything represented by basic patterns of thought such as “How can Socrates standing be the same as Socrates sitting?” When we ask what are these presupposed realities of our ways of thinking, we encounter inconsistencies and incoherence. Long ago in the 5th century BC, Parmenides uncovered inconsistency in the notion of change. Zeno proposed paradoxes about the possibility of motion and the idea of truth was challenged with liar paradoxes. Plato’s Socratic dialogues revealed inability to define basic moral concepts.

There is a temptation to articulation a general characterization of all philosophical problems. I will not succumb to the temptation. I would encounter a philosophic problem of defining “philosophical problem.” Like all philosophical problems of defining a concept I would be unable to provide a definition necessarily immune to counterexamples.

Nonetheless, using “material” in a philosophically problematic way, I submit that the material of philosophical problems is the material with which we think. What I have been calling “the immanent ontology of human intelligence” is the material with which we think

The material with which we think is not split into thinking, sensing and feeling (emotional state) until we think about our thinking. It is thinking about our thinking-reflective thinking- which develops philosophical problems amongst which is the philosophical problem of how thinking, sensing and feeling are connected.

The reflective thinking of the philosophical style makes immanent ontology explicit only to destroy it as an accurate representation of reality. There is a merciless and unending use of this critical and analytic type of reflective thinking which can destroy all confidence in our ways of thinking and leave us in total skepticism.

Of course, not all use of this critical reflective thinking is totally negative. Most consists of finding inconsistencies or confusion in some basic concepts coupled with efforts to remove or clarify the concepts. Unfortunately, these revisionary efforts invariably fail. The allegedly defective basic concept is a cultural universal, or better an innate concept- while the philosopher’ revised concept is not.

Other philosophical reflection is reductive although constructive in so far as it organizes the immanent ontology. They plan to show how most of the elements in our immanent ontology can be constructed out of, or defined in terms, of some few basic elements. Materialism and nominalism are the major reductive efforts. There is no satisfactory reductions of these types.

There is also the type of effort I am making with the notion of moral harm. I am trying to show that it is indeed a basic notion in human thinking. My work has to be with this material for philosophical problems. So, there is no hope of complete success. Whatever I propose is subject to being torn apart by intense philosophical criticism. Nonetheless, to satisfy demands of philosophical thinking which I have internalized, I need to confront and set aside several philosophical challenges before making assumptions that the proposed notion of moral harm is good enough.

Good enough for what? Good enough to enrich the immanent ontology of human intelligence with existential significance and guide us in how to live in accordance with the truth about how reality apart from human intelligence tells us how we ought to act and to be.

We need to move on to transcendent ontology for human intelligence to enrich it with existential significance.

Banality of Immanent Ontology

The immanent ontology of human intelligence is existentially insignificant. A search through what we presuppose to exist in use of human intelligence does not uncover why we exist. Not even my focus on the presuppositions of moral thinking uncovers any purpose for human life. Use of moral language, which is a cultural universal, presupposes items I have uncovered as authoritative morality. Some of these are, the notion of authoritative commands, a sense of the transparency of moral and immoral choice, and I think the notion of moral harm which I am promoting as a cultural universal. For more detail see Core Concepts of Authoritarian Morality.

To be sure, in my book and in a recent post I proposed that duty for the sake of duty can be taken as a purpose for life. See: Gibt es kein Gott nur die Pflicht steht gegen das Nichts I admit, though, that living for the sake of doing one’s duty may seem to be a choice to be obsessive compulsive . What’s the point of it?

The existential insignificance of the presuppositions of use of human intelligence are the presuppositions of daily life. It is daily life about which we have existential anxiety. The rich complex of what is presupposed in daily life is simply part of what we worry about as being pointless – sound and fury signify nothing. If humans become extinct will what is presupposed vanish?

The presuppositions of daily life do not explicitly give an idealist ontology that everything is in some sense mental. A cultural universal, I submit, is a distinction between mind and body – the mental and material. At least, following Kant, there is always a distinction between human thinking and things in themselves apart from human thinking. But positing things in themselves apart from ourselves does not lend significance to ourselves.

I hope these remarks are not too obscure. I offer them as motivation to moving on to what I have called transcendent ontology in the philosophical struggle against nihilism. However, before moving on to transcendent ontology, we must appreciate the immanent ontology of human intelligence as the gold mine of philosophy.

See Immanent and Transcendent Ontology

Immanent Ontology of Moral Arguments is Only Human Intelligence

Choosing a title for this post was difficult because it brings out that arguing presupposes an immaterial reason. But what is presupposed is not some demi-god who guides human thought towards some goal it has.

I offer an overview of the realities presupposed when people present arguments; especially arguments that some moral claim is correct. This list, which is inevitably partial because of the complexity of human thinking, is part of the defense of arguments for an objective moral order.

It must be admitted immediately that the thinking presupposed by arguing is weird to those who hold that the only realities are items which can be referred to here and now. But this nominalism can be dismissed because thinking itself is weird for nominalists who nonetheless think that nominalism is true.

First what is presupposed about thinking? There is the thinking of individuals. There is also collective thinking, e.g. The opinion of Ohio about Trump on Oct. 2, 2020. In addition to the many collective thinking groups there is common collective thinking which is operative in all individual and collective thinking. This common collective thinking is human reason. Reason is that complex of cognitive abilities, attitudes, emotions and mechanical skills by virtue of which sapiens is added to homo for our species name. I suppose that some might prefer to call this simply human intelligence. But because this common thinking, or reasoning capacity, includes the laws of logic and semantic rules, I still call it reason.

So, arguing presupposes the reality of reason. But what is this reason? I offer some observations about what reason is and, importantly, what reason is not.

Reason is not the thinking of any individual or any specific collective thinking although in any individual or collective thinking reason is used. In the thinking of individuals and collectives, reason has a normative use. Individuals and collectives can think about their thinking. Hence, we can talk of individual and collective consciousnesses. Thinking about thinking is reflective thinking. As a result humans have discovered, and continually re-discover, obstacles to a special type of reflective thinking. This special type of reflective thinking is thinking that a claim we make is true or that a norm we proclaim is right. (Note that it is being presupposed that concepts of true and right are used in our thinking.)

Rules for avoiding these obstacles to thinking a claim to be true or a norm to be correct are rules of logic and mathematics. We can, and do, think illogically and contrary to mathematics. But we cannot think of such thinking as being correct. We can misleadingly assert that reason tells us that we cannot think of inconsistencies being true. This is in misleading because it leads us to think that reason is an authoritative thinking similar to the collective thinking of a group such as legislature of court. Also reason includes fundamental rules for speaking such as how to use tenses and for my purposes how to use language to express morality.

But reason is not the thinking of any individual or group. We can try to find out the thoughts and plans of individuals and groups We cannot clearly think of trying to find out the thoughts and plans of reason, viz., intelligence.

No strength is added to an argument by claiming that reason supports it. Reason is used in any argument because thinking is used. But the strength of the argument has to come from what is presented in the argument without violating rules of reason.

Admittedly, the giving of arguments makes a presupposition of the reality of reason contrary to an unreflective common sense which holds that only material items which can be referred to as here and now are real. However, reason presupposed for argument is not any type of demi-god simply by virtue of being immaterial.

Let me put these results in terms of ontology. The immanent ontology for arguing includes immaterial realities which have intentions, purposes, normativity and have a common normative core. Despite being immaterial, they are very ordinary realities. However, some when we move to the transcendent ontology for these realities we may see them in a different light.

My next post is on the transcendent ontology of moral thinking. Even if the immanent ontology of moral arguments contains only human intelligence, the transcendent ontology of moral arguments may warrant calling an autoreactive morality a divine command morality.

Human Thought as a Fundamental Reality

Here are some more observations about the universal collective consciousness I postulated as a fundamental reality presupposed in moral thinking – indeed in any thinking. This fundamental collective thinking is the location for objective moral laws.

For years I have been troubled by a jibe of Jeremy Bentham to the effect that a natural law moral theorist believe in the existence of heavenly law books wherein they can look up the moral laws. I hope to show that it is nothing mysterious because we all presuppose it, or better participate in it, in our daily lives. It is thinking which is active in all thinking. That is why languages can be translated. It is the thinking used by indigenous people of the Amazon to quickly learn how to use a motor scooter and cell phone.

It is the thinking with which we think that there are many different public opinions around the world.

Turn on the morning TV news to share in what is being thought around the world. It occurs in your thinking when you understand what has been gathered by this thinking used by reporters and also used by all of the technical people who make electronic media possible.

This pervasive underlying thinking is as much a part of our lives as planet earth. Indeed it is more familiar than planet earth. We use this common thinking to develop, or learn, a theory that we live on a sphere rotating on its axis as it revolves around the sun. We use this common thinking to worry that human action is upsetting this planet’s climate.

Am I laboring the obvious? Perhaps. But if I plan to argue that there is a moral order in which there is a place for what I have been calling “moral harm” I need to emphasize that there is a place for this moral order.

I should also note some of what I am not assuming.

I am not assuming that there is some common mind or agent who thinks these common thoughts. I am not sure that we need to assume that there is a “thinker” for there to be thinking. Hume noted that it is difficult to find in our own case any “thinker” for our thoughts.

I am not assuming that it needs living human beings to exist. But neither am I assuming that it could exist without living human beings. Like all that is mental, common human thinking is non-spatial. So, it was never anywhere for someone to start it. It is difficult to think how someone could think anything without intelligence. It is hard to think of intelligence empty of any thoughts. So, I do not think that we should talk of intelligence having a beginning.

I conclude, with some tricky” sentences, by pointing out that despite not being able to say intelligence began, we should not talk of intelligence beginning every thing.
From “We cannot now think of a past time with no human thinking without now using human thinking” we cannot conclude “There is no past time with no human thinking.”

But we can assert the following.

There will never be a time at which we can think without human thinking that there was a time without human thinking.

Collective Consciousness Fundamental in Ontology of Authoritarian Morality

A collective consciousness is a fundamental component in an immanent ontology of an authoritarian morality. The moral authority is immanent in this collective consciousness. It is in this collective consciousness where individuals receive the thinking of the moral authority.

This ontological presupposition goes beyond assuming that there is thinking over and above that of individuals. It assumes that there is one comprehensive collective consciousness which includes thoughts not produced by any specific individual or society.

This assumption is not my wild fantasy. It is called by many “human reason.” But because there is so much error, stupidity and malice in it, I prefer to think of it as human thought which is available to cave men and today’s geniuses. It is the medium by which individuals are linked in a web of meaning or intending with all other humans. For instance, it is in this web where we link ourselves with those who built the monuments of Stonehenge. We link with them by trying to figure out what they meant or intended.

We are so certain of the reality of this medium that we ignore it. Descartes was more certain of this medium than of his own personal existence. He simply took for granted the social reality of the thinking in his method of doubting. All the while he was searching for certainty, he was thinking about communicating his philosophy into this web of thinking.

I am only citing an item for an ontology. I am not presenting a systematic philosophy – a metaphysical theory. So, I am not saying that this universal thinking is all that there is. I am not proposing an idealistic metaphysics. I am not saying that this universal thinking is separate from the physical. There is no dualistic metaphysics. I am only claiming that a presupposition of our moral language is this universal thinking whereby thoughts about good and bad, obligations and duties are, at least potentially, available to all humans living, dead or yet to be.

Of course, there are proper subsets of this collective consciousness which are free from error, stupidity and malice. And some of these subsets seem not to be the construction of any individual or society. The rules of logic and mathematics are classic examples of subsets of human thought which seem not to be a human construction. Some have thought that fundamental claims about the physical structure of the universe are thoughts not created by humans. (I suggests that Kant’s question about the possibility of synthetic apriori judgments was how these judgments got into human thought without anyone inventing them.)

Many have also thought that some basic moral judgments are in this subset of thoughts which are universal in all sets of thinking but are not the invention of any humans. They are given to be discovered.

I am one of those who regard certain moral thoughts as given; not constructed. I cannot here make any effort to show how it is possible for there to be such thoughts.

My goal here has only been to show that this assumption of a collective consciousness with a subset of imperative thoughts from an outside source provides objective truth or assertion conditions for our moral thoughts. Our moral thoughts are correct when they are the same thoughts as those from this special subset.