Category Archives: Core philosophy

Conceptual Models are Models of HavingTruth Conditions.

In my efforts to construct a conceptual model of what reality would be like if there were a Satan, I am constantly worried about the purpose of such an effort. See: The Value of Conceptual Models of Satan This anxiety is connected with my faith in a realistic or correspondence understanding of truth, under the constraints of a presupposition that thinking is representational.

The representational interpretation of thinking assumes that what we are aware of in thinking is something produced by thinking and not things in-themselves apart from thought. The support for the representational understanding of thinking is that whenever we try to think carefully we reflect on our thinking. We cannot think of ourselves not thinking of our thinking. For any attempt to think of ourselves not thinking about our thinking leadss to our thinking about our thinking.

What we think and say can be true or false depending upon whether we say of what is that it is and of what is not that it is not. This interpretation presupposes that our thoughts and words are a type of dependent reality – dependent upon humans- and real – independent reality- to which our thoughts and words refer, viz. things in themselves apart from out thinking.

The fundamental challenge to realism based on a correspondence theory of truth points out that we have no concept of things in themselves. For whenever we try to think of things apart from out thinking, we think of them whereby we fail to guarantee their existing apart from thinking of them. This challenge leads me to hold a mitigated skepticism about truth. See Confession of a Truth Skeptic .

We must acept the result that a conceptual model of reality independent of our thought is not a model of reality independent of our thought.

The mere possibility of thinking of reality apart from our thought seems illusory.

However, the possibility of the way we think corresponding to conditions apart from our thinking can be shown by distinguishing two types of our thought. I call them normal and abstract. The distinguishing feature of normal thought is that we can imagine what we think about. The distinguishing feature of abstract thought is that any imagery of what is thought about is dismissed as misleading. Now we cannot really think without imagery. So, completely abstract thought is an idealized type of thought that we cannot attain. Abstract thinking requires keeping always in the background an intellectual conscience to criticize any recourse to imagery. So, idealized abstract thought can be used as a substitute for a reality beyond our thinking which can be compared with our normal ways of thinking. Of course, constructing the abstract model requires showing the abstract way of thinking more or less accurately represents the normal way of thinking. Hence for the case of Satan, I need to display how my ways of talking about Satan with abstract moral and theological concepts is in accord with religious talk of Satan with all of its imagery.

Now, there are realists who simply assume our thought can match reality apart from thought. This assumption holds that the structure of thoughts can be the same as the structure of things-n-themselves.

But the important message of this post is the conceptual models show the possibility of truth by correspondence with a reality apart from truth claims.

The Supernatural is for Love & Freewill

Thesis:The human capacity to love reveals the supernatural dimension of humanity.

The argument for the thesis of this post develops the thesis: Freewill Necesaary and Sufficient for Love .

The purpose of this thesis for my project of modeling Satan is to justify creation of the supernatural, although the supernatural requires the possibility all of the evil initiated by intelligent agents. However, creation of the supernatural creates the possibility of love. The possibility of love outweighs all of the actualized possibilities of evil initiated by intelligent agents, which amongst other things are capable of love.

A case for love’s supreme goodness is made at the end of this post.

This is the gist of the argument that love is supernatural.

What is obligatory is supernatural. Love is obligatory. So, love is supernatural

Preliminary terminological clarifications of “nature” are needed. For “nature” is used equivocally. In the phrase “human nature,” the term “nature” signifies what a human being is. Within the term “supernatural” the second part “natural” is an adjective which goes with “nature” where “nature” signifies the features of human beings which are studied by physics, chemistry, biology, psychology and sociology, viz. natural sciences. So, “supernatural” signifies features of human beings which cannot be studied by the natural sciences. However, in another sense of “nature,” clarified in: The Supernatural is not a Super Nature,, the term “supernatural” does not signify any kind of nature different from that studied by the natural sciences.

I use “humanity” to signify what a human being is. Hence, I write of natural and supernatural dimensions of humanity. In light of Where is the Supernatural?, it would be better to write “The supernatural and natural dimensions of reality intersect in humanity.

Our subjection to moral imperatives points to the supernatural dimension of humanity. The scientific study of human nature explains why people naturally pursue what is good: Basic goods or lesser goods when not thinking clearly. We naturally seek what is good because we have inclinations for what is good. More generally, the natural goal for humans is happiness because an inclination for happiness is in the natural dimension of humanity. However, no facts about our pursuing what is good show that we ought to pursue what is good. David Hume’s observation that “ought” does not follow logically from “is” is not a philosopher noting a logical distinctions. It calls our attention to a profound reality about humanity. We have a supernatural dimension.

Why say that humans have a supernatural dimension, instead of saying that humans have a dimension which cannot be understood by natural sciences?

Hume’s logical point supports a metaphysical conclusion, which Hume himself would have considered “sophistry and illusion.” The metaphysical conclusion is that there is a type of reality different from nature wherein obligations are the fundamental realities. Hume assumed that there is no reality other than the reality of nature. Hence, obligations had to be explained as dependent upon nature. Roughly, obligations would be explained as what people construct to insure they get that for which they have natural inclinations. So, there would not be obligations to act regardless of any inclinations to do otherwise. There would be no categorical imperatives.

There are categorical imperatives. (The Satan modeling project assumes moral realism. Moral realist should accept that there is a moral reality.)

Being subject to categorical moral imperatives shows that humans have access to a reality different from that acessible by the thought processes needed for natural science. It’s a reality whose basic laws states: Do good, avoid evil. Such a reality warrants the title “super.” Moral realism entails supernatural agency. Why?Imperatives specify what ought to be done. What ought to be can be. If there were no agents obligations could not be carries out. So, the assumption of moral realism carries with it an assumtion that there are moral agents. These are agents with the Free Will of Love. The thesis that love requires us to be supernatural agents is, in effect, a corollary of the thesis that obligations entail that we are supernatural agents. For we cannot love if we are not moral agents. The two greatest commandments are commands to love. See Mt 22:36-40 If love is commanded, love is the sort of activity for moral agents. If such love came totally through nature, it would not make sense to speak of it as commanded.

For those who do not want to use scripture as the source of the command to love, can consider the first natural moral law: Do good! This law tells us to will the good for the sake of good itself. Willing good for the sake of good itself is certainly willing the good for another since no creature is good itself. So, in effect, the first moral law states: Love! In creation, love is necessary for good to be pursued as it ought to be pursued. Thus, love is only behind the good in terms of being valuable.

Supernatural Reality is Not a Super Nature

The purpose of this post is to support a negative thesis that the supernatural has not the the reality of a nature. In Deontic Structure of Supernatural Reality a postive thesis that the supernatural is the reality of morality. There it will be brought out that realm in which moral laws are realities is more than a bleak realm of “Thou shalts” and “Thou shalt nots.

The spiritual dimension of humanity is not a special field of study for those who enjoy the occult or spiritualists. The supernatural is not “spooky.” For the most part, trying to understand the supernatural is trying to understand ourselves; not trying to make contact with spirits. The supernatural is a dimension of each and every person. But the methods of natural science are not the way we become acquainted with and understand our supernatural dimension. Perhaps most become acquainted with the supernatural when “our conscience bothers us.” Our consciences bother us when we believe that we have done something really wrong. Here “really” means “real;” not something such as “seriously.” Our violation of a moral law is an existing and pernicious reality.

The so-called humanities and art are ways to experience the supernatural when our own experience is limited. The German term die Geistwissenschaften might refer to the kinds of studies I have in mind. However, if I am correct about love, the experience of willing the good for another regardless of any inclination is experiencing what is supernatural. Reflecting on that experience of love is a significant way of understanding the supernatural.

As “supernatural dimension” has been characterized, many thoughtful people, I believe, will accept the concept as marking out important areas of humanity; but with a tendentious label. Why, it might be objected, use the term “supernatural” which hints at the occult? Why not simply call it the moral dimension of humanity?

However, I do not accept reducing the supernatural to the aspects of humanity which cannot be understood by the methods of natural science. For my larger project of modeling Satan,I need to do more than make a case for using the concept of supernatural to apply to humans. Beyond the conceptual case, I need to make an ontolgical case. The ontological case is that there is a supernatural reality, albeit no supernatural nature. At some point in my Satan model building, I need to make a case that: Satan is a reality.

Grant that what I have called the supernatural is real. Why go on to assert that this reality is not a nature?

To answer we return to David Hume’s logical point about the logical gap between “is” and “ought.”

In my answer “nature” is understood as what can be correctly described by saying what is the case. A nature is what Wittgenstein called a world when he wrote: The world is all that is the case. To tell the whole truth about a nature or a world is to tell all of the facts. Statements of what ought to be done, what ought to be and for what purpose something ought to be done are not statements of fact. To be sure, some factual statements about nature studied in the natural sciences, especially psychology and sociology, report what is the case with obligations and goals humans have created. But these facts about human constructions do not give us moral laws or ultimate goals. For instance, Hume’s logical point reminds us that “Thou ought not kill” does not follow from “It is the case that people have a rule that we ought not kill.” In the nature studied in the natural sciences, man is the measure of all things, viz., measure of all norms and goals, as Protagoras taught long ago.

Suppose the supernatural signified a nature; perhaps a realm of spirits and their activities. How could there be norms and rules binding these spirits? The spirits could invent them. But inventions are not categorical moral rules: rules binding us regardless of whether or not we choose to be bound by them. Even if the spirits heard the voice of God command “Thou shalt not kill,” they know only the fact about the spirit realm expressed in “It is the case that God commanded thou shalt not kill.” Hume’s logical point about “ought” not logically implied by “is” holds for this supposed spiritual nature as well as for the familiar nature studied by the natural sciences. The spirits are not entitled to infer “Thou ought not kill” from”It is the case that God said thou ought not kill.”

In the early twentieth century, philosophers diagnosed a naturalistic fallacy. The gist of the accusation of a fallacy was as follows. Regardless of the nature of a nature, the nature only offers facts and not values. Or: the objective truth about a nature is expressed with statements of facts. In a world of facts, expressions of value are subjective; expressions of sentiments by humans.

We have reached a point where we need to make a decision about ontology. We can dismiss norms and goals as having objective reality and thereby dismiss morality as fundamental. Or we can accept them as having objective reality and try to understand a reality which is non-factual: a reality whose fundamental features are not properly reported with statements of the form “It is the case that______”

For the project of modelling Satan as a reality, I need to make the decision about ontology to model a non-factual reality in Deontic Structure of Supernatural Reality.

What is Supernatural Reality?

This post is part of my effort to write a booklet on Rationality of Belief in Satan

The first step in providing a model of what it would be like for there to be a devil is to construct a model of the kind of reality that Satan would be. Satan is not a transcendent being as is God, when properly understood. Satan is a creature of the transcendent. The objects and processes of the supernatural are the angels and their processes. Because there are angelic processes, angels have a history. They are not eternal even if they are everlasting. They are in a time.

I adapt thoughts of Augustine and Aquinas to develop a model of the angelic reality. The natural comprises material objects, material forces plus the feelings and thoughts of animals and humans. The material is complex and we do not have a coherent model of it as is brought out by the mind/body interconnection problem. The supernatural is even more difficult to model because any image must be rejected as distorting. We do not not have mind body problems with respect to angels. However, constantly have to remind ourselves that the type of abstract we use in modeling angels is not the same type of abstracting we use when we think abstractly to pull something out of reality to think more clearly about it. The abstraction of angels is not the type of abstraction of which we can say”It is not exactly this way, but for sake of clarity let’s not think of it as it is in reality.” The abstraction of angels from what we can imagine is to think of them as they are in reality.

Ad Feminism

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

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

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

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

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

Semantic Knowledge is Synthetic & Apriori

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

Encounter With Christ as Truth Conditions for Christian Doctrine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Is More Than Willing the Good of The Other

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faith, With & Without Mysteries vs. Nihilism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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