Category Archives: Realism vs. anti-realism

Sexual Nihilism and the Transcendent

Sexual Nihilism and the Transcendent

How has a series of blog posts to offer support traditional sexual morality as an antidote to nihilism led to speculation on a transcendent beyond all existence providing truth conditions?

In my book*, I argued for a fundamental moral principle for male sexuality. My argument made a persuasive case for accepting the principle. I admitted that it was not rigorous. I called it rhetorical. People who did not accept the principles of my stance on sexuality, would not be irrational. I wondered whether I could improve my argument.

I diagnosed why my argument could legitimately fail to be compelling. From that vast web of thoughts and sentiments I have called human intelligence, I pulled out bits and pieces which can be arranged into a persuasive argument. “Bits and pieces” is not really a good phrase to use because some of the thoughts placed in human intelligence which I used, have been put there by people as illustrious Plato, Aquinas and Kant. Nevertheless, other strands could have been selected which would have led to a persuasive argument against my principle for male sexual morality. This concession to moral relativity threatens to undercut my project of providing an antidote to realism. I needed something outside of human intelligence to justify my argument within human intelligence.

I cast around in the ideas I borrowed from human intelligence to see if some would lead me outside of human intelligence as a foundation for correct thought. An idea that seemed interesting, if not fruitful for my project was the idea of moral harm. The idea of moral harm was the idea of harm resulting simply by violation of a moral law. After floundering around trying to characterize such a harm, I found within human intelligence the thought that harm ought to occur as a result of violation of a moral law. Drawing out from human intelligence the pervasive acceptance of this moral notion of moral harm, I concluded that a fundamental strand in some human thinking about morality was this notion that actual ordinary physical harm ought to occur as a result of violation of a moral law. All ways of thinking morally which provide for retributive punishment use this moral notion of moral harm.

Articulation of these ways of thinking about morality, led to the conclusion that a fundamental way of thinking about morality is thinking of moral laws as commands of a more than human moral authority. I called this “authoritarian morality.” But for authoritarian morality does there exist a moral authority different from the thought of a moral authority?

If I could show that there is a God who is the moral authority, I would have found a way of giving a very compelling argument for a moral principle. Part of accepting a God would be accepting a compelling reason for obeying God’s commands. To be sure, much work in moral thinking is needed to show that God would command what I believe is commanded about, in particular, sexual morality. Still, with God as moral commander there is a basis for a objective morality.

I admit that the line of thought I use to show that there is a divine moral authority assumes realism. This realism holds that there exist conditions beyond human thinking on the basis of which human thinking can be evaluated for correctness. There are such conditions, so it is assumed, even if we can never be acquainted with them apart from our ways of thinking of them. The idealism which holds that human thought is only evaluated by other human thought is coherent but not as compelling as realism.

A persuasive argument against idealism comes from our ability to think about our thinking, viz., reflective thought. Truth claims in reflective thought are objectively true or false depending upon how it is with what is thought about. So, idealism shares a realistic structural feature with realism. Some thoughts are true or false on the basis of how it is with what is thought about and not on the thinking itself. For all practical purposes, the thought which is thought about is deactivated as thought and becomes an object for thought. Nonetheless, the idealist can still claim that there is nothing non-mental; there is nothing but mental processes and mental objects.

But, granted realism, how can there be a God? In an earlier book**, I called my atheistic temptation “modal atheism.” I do not know of anyone, besides me, who has used the phrase “modal atheism.” But a modal atheist claims that it is not possible for there to be a God: That on which everything depends for its existence while depending upon nothing else and exercising providential care for creatures. I am not a proponent of scientism who proudly proclaims that there is nothing but what can be known by the methods of natural science. Unfortunately, I am constantly tormented by the thought that scientism has to be true. Thus in my efforts to establish a divine command morality, which requires a God, I need to set aside moral atheism. That is why I am speculating about the immanent, transcendent, truth conditions etc.,.

Now that I have distinguished between what is immanent and the Transcendent, I can be more precise about my inability to think of God as even possibly existing. With God as the Transcendent, God cannot be thought about at all; let alone as existing or not existing. So, my worry about the possibility of God, is a worry about the possibility of a supernatural realm. Truth claims of traditional religions, or historical religions as Kant called them, are truth claims about a supernatural realm immanent reality along side those conditions which make truth claims of natural science and daily life true or false. I cannot think of there being anything to make claims true or false besides those which make claims about nature true or false. This is not based on some naturalist ideology. It is a genuine disability in my thinking. I could only think of religious truth claims be evaluated in the way in which we evaluate claims about fiction. This means that for many claims about the topic in a religious claim there is no fixed answer if the answer is not provided by the story. For instance, consider the claim “The angel Gabriel told the virgin Mary that she would conceive and bear a son of the most high.” There is no answer to the question “Was Mary over thirteen years when Gabriel appeared to her?” For natural claims, there is, in principle, a definite answer in nature for every claim. The Law of Excluded Middle holds for nature.

But now with speculation about the Transcendent providing truth conditions for claims we make about the immanent, I am thinking about the truth conditions for religious claims as, indeed, truths about a story. However, the story teller is the Transcendent.

* Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism, Oklahoma City, 2014
** A Kantian Condemnation of Atheistic Despair: Declaration of Dependence, Lang Pub. NY 1997

The Supernatural is Not Transcendent!

The supernatural is not transcendent. The supernatural is immanent but has a special dependence upon transcendence.

An effort to explain rather than prove my thesis about the immanence of the supernatural, provides the opportunity to review two of my main objectives. I want to show that there can be objective conditions for the correctness of our religious and moral judgments. I focus on religious judgments.

By “objective” I mean conditions in reality apart from our thinking but on the basis of which our thinking about what is the case is true or false and thinking about what ought to be is a proper response. Reality includes all human thought and what is thought about except for that special philosophical thought, which is not really thought, about that on which reality depends for its existence and features. I have called reality the immanent and that on which it all depends the Transcendent.

In this post, I assume a realism which holds that conditions exist beyond our thought which provide at least truth conditions for the truth claims of natural science. I accept the scientific picture of reality with its vast universe spread out spatially and temporally. As a realist, then, I accept that there are truth conditions apart from the scientific picture which the developers of the scientific picture try to represent accurately. Since we never have acquaintance with truth conditions as they are apart from our representations, we must be satisfied with getting closer and closer to truth.

Truth is representing the truth condition exactly as it is. I have no quarrel with saying that the test for being warranted to assert a proposition as true is being warranted as correct by careful investigators. I want only to emphasize that the goal of testing is to represent as accurately as possible the conditions apart from our representing.

In this twenty first century we can and should concede the term “nature” to secular reductionist stance frequently called scientism. Scientism holds that there is nothing but what can be discovered by the methods of natural science. We can make this concession because education for the past hundred years or so has led many people to understand nature this way. It is sometimes said that reality has been disenchanted.

We should make this concession because it opens a place for the supernatural along side the natural within the realty dependent upon the Transcendent.

In the immanent, then, we have truth conditions for the scientific representation and, of course, the scientific representation itself. In the immanent there could also be truth conditions for propositions about what transcends scientific representations. There could also be truth conditions for propositions founded in existential concern, usually implicit, about the purpose of human life.

What beyond anything we can represent gives purpose to human living? Such propositions would express attempts to tell the truth about what is totally transcendent – what I have called the Transcendent. The Transcendent could sustain in existence conditions for propositions which hopefully tell the truth about human relations to it. We would not know what these conditions are apart from our representations. But that is the case with any truth condition. We would, as with natural science, most likely always have only approximations to exact representations.

These truth conditions along side the natural ones constitute the supernatural.

Consider this conjecture about reality pictorially. Picture reality – the immanent- as a huge ellipse. Closely scattered throughout the ellipse there are green and red dots. Red and green can never overlap. The order and connection of the green are truth conditions for the natural. The order and connection of the red dots provide truth conditions for religious propositions. The green is the natural. The red is the supernatural. Both are immanent and dependent upon the Transcendent for existence and order.

This picture does not replace the difficult philosophical work of clarifying my proposal about the immanence of the supernatural. But it does suggest the strength of what I would like to clarify and justify.

Immanence of the Transcendent as Religious Truth Conditions

Thesis: Religious propositions are true or false if and only if the Transcendent is immanent as truth conditions!

I focus on establishing the “only if” part.

Religious propositions are truth claims about what is immanent. For instance, “God is the father almighty creator of heaven and earth” is about the whole of what is immanent while “Jesus rose from the tomb after being crucified” is about a particular event within the immanent.

Although motivated by religious concerns, philosophical characterizations of the Transcendent are claims of philosophical theology. Admittedly, attempts to characterize the Transcendent are not even true or false. But in this post, in which I am engaged in philosophical theology, I am not interested in the status of claims within philosophical theology. I want to justify the following thesis.

If there are religious truths, then the Transcendent is immanent.

Unfortunately, my thesis is a “two edged sword” with respect to establishing immanence for the Transcendent. I want to conclude that the Transcendent is immanent because there are religious truths. Sophisticated atheists will use it to proclaim that there are no religious truths because it is incoherent to hold that the Transcendent is immanent.

Religious propositions are claims about the Transcendent although using our concepts for making claims about the immanent. So, if some religious propositions are objectively true, then some claims about the Transcendent using concepts for making claims about the immanent are objectively true.

Bear with me while I work this out through a series of hypotheticals.

If some claims about the Transcendent using concepts for making claims about the immanent are objectively true, then the Transcendent creates and sustains conditions in the immanent which make those claims about it objectively true or false

If the Transcendent creates and sustains conditions in the immanent for making claims about it using concepts appropriate to the immanent true or false, then the Transcendent creates and sustains conditions amongst things in themselves for making claims about it using concepts appropriate to the immanent true or false.

If the Transcendent creates and sustains conditions amongst things in them for making claims about it using concepts appropriate to the immanent true or false, then those conditions are the Transcendent as truth conditions or those conditions are not the Transcendent as truth conditions.

If those truth conditions are not the Transcendent as truth conditions, then those truth conditions are not truth conditions.

How do we get this contradictions for a reductio ad absurdum argument?

Religious claims are about the Transcendent using concepts for the immanent. If the Transcendent was not amongst things in themselves, none of the religious claims would be true or false because they would have nothing about the Transcendent to make them true or false.

So, we can conclude: Truth conditions for religious claims are the Transcendent as truth conditions in the immanent. (Recall that all truth conditions are things in themselves in the immanent.)

Now what about an atheist claim that it is oxymoron to hold that the Transcendent is immanent.

It is not incoherent to hold that the Transcendent is immanent as a thing in itself because the Transcendent does not lose its character as transcending our understanding. For things in themselves transcend our understanding for we cannot think of how they are apart from our ways of thinking.

Here we see a benefit to religion from adapting a “Kantian realism” that truth conditions are things in themselves transcending our understanding.

In the next post I wish to explore an atheistic reaction to a thesis that religious truth requires the immanence as truth conditions of the transcendent. Thesis: Religious propositions are true or false if and only if the Transcendent is immanent as truth conditions!

I focus on establishing the “only if” part.

Religious propositions are truth claims about what is immanent. For instance, “God is the father almighty creator of heaven and earth” is about the whole of what is immanent while “Jesus rose from the tomb after being crucified” is about a particular event within the immanent.

Although motivated by religious concerns, philosophical characterizations of the Transcendent are claims of philosophical theology. Admittedly, attempts to characterize the Transcendent are not even true or false. But in this post, in which I am engaged in philosophical theology, I am not interested in the status of claims within philosophical theology. I want to justify the following thesis.

If there are religious truths, then the Transcendent is immanent.

Unfortunately, my thesis is a “two edged sword” with respect to establishing immanence for the Transcendent. I want to conclude that the Transcendent is immanent because there are religious truths. Sophisticated atheists will use it to proclaim that there are no religious truths because it is incoherent to hold that the Transcendent is immanent.

Religious propositions are claims about the Transcendent although using our concepts for making claims about the immanent. So, if some religious propositions are objectively true, then some claims about the Transcendent using concepts for making claims about the immanent are objectively true.

Bear with me while I work this out through a series of hypotheticals.

If some claims about the Transcendent using concepts for making claims about the immanent are objectively true, then the Transcendent creates and sustains conditions in the immanent which make those claims about it objectively true or false

If the Transcendent creates and sustains conditions in the immanent for making claims about it using concepts appropriate to the immanent true or false, then the Transcendent creates and sustains conditions amongst things in themselves for making claims about it using concepts appropriate to the immanent true or false.

If the Transcendent creates and sustains conditions amongst things in them for making claims about it using concepts appropriate to the immanent true or false, then those conditions are the Transcendent as truth conditions or those conditions are not the Transcendent as truth conditions.

If those truth conditions are not the Transcendent as truth conditions, then those truth conditions are not truth conditions.

How do we get this contradictions for a reductio ad absurdum argument?

Religious claims are about the Transcendent using concepts for the immanent. If the Transcendent was not amongst things in themselves, none of the religious claims would be true or false because they would have nothing about the Transcendent to make them true or false.

So, we can conclude: Truth conditions for religious claims are the Transcendent as truth conditions in the immanent. (Recall that all truth conditions are things in themselves in the immanent.)

I had to concede, though, that the Transcendent as truth conditions does not transcend existence. Truth conditions exist. They are “in the world.”

Now what about an atheist claim that it is oxymoron to hold that the Transcendent is immanent.

It is not incoherent to hold that the Transcendent is immanent as a thing in itself because the Transcendent does not lose its character as transcending our understanding. For things in themselves transcend our understanding for we cannot think of how they are apart from our ways of thinking.

Here we see a benefit to religion from adapting a “Kantian realism” that truth conditions are things in themselves transcending our understanding.

In the next post I wish to explore an atheistic reaction to a thesis that religious truth requires the immanence as truth conditions of the transcendent.

Objective Truth and the Transcendent

In a philosophic framework positing an immanent reality dependent for its existence on a transcendent, what is further posited by a philosophic stance that there are objective truths?

The immanent consists of human representations along with things in themselves. Things in themselves exist independently of being represented. Representations themselves are things in themselves in so far as they do not need to be represented to exist. We never think of things in themselves as they are in themselves. For we always think with representations. Yes, even when we think about our thinking we do not represent the thought which is thought about as it is independently of our thinking about it.

In this post, I am not primarily interested in the representation of representing or thinking about thinking. This is called “reflective thinking.” Unfortunately, I cannot ignore reflective thinking. I am engaged in it while writing this post. I am mostly interested in things in themselves as an existing reality which we can accurately or inaccurately represent. Some representations are truth claims. Let us call these truth claim representations “propositions” or” statements.” They are representations that such-and-such is the case. For example: Joe Biden was inaugurated president of the USA on January 20, 2021. There are religious propositions. An example of a religious representation truth claim asserts, “Jesus rose from his tomb after being crucified and buried.”

Propositions allegedly represent the order and connection of things in themselves.
Propositions are objectively true if what they allegedly represent of things in themselves is the way things in themselves exist. Otherwise, they are objectively false. For truth realists, agreement is not essential for the truth of a proposition. There could be unanimous rejection of a true proposition.

If there are no things in themselves, no propositions are objectively true or false.

Truth realism holds that there are objective truths. Since, when we as philosophers reflect on our thinking, we realize that we cannot directly think of things in themselves, we realize that we cannot represent whether a proposition corresponds with what it allegedly claims to exist. Hence, we can always be philosophically uncertain whether there is objective truth. Realism about objective truth is a philosophic stance requiring faith.

Truth realism is a well founded faith. When we try to discover what is the case, we find ourselves compelled to accept some propositions while rejecting others. In Newman’s sense we give real assent to a belief that there is a way things are apart from out thinking. However, again using John Henry Newman’s ideas, we cannot give full notional, or theoretical, assent to an objective reality.

Core idealism holds that there are no things in themselves beyond representations. Idealism about truth adds to core idealism a rejection of objective truth . Truth idealists add that since we cannot even represent our own representations as they are apart from our ways of representing, it is pointless to maintain that we can have objective truths about even our own thoughts. Propositions which are to be asserted as correct are to be establish by reference to some standard within human representations. There is no objective truth about which standards are the correct standard. Agreement or consensus is fundamental for truth for idealists. Consequently, in light of the fact that humans disagree, truth, or better warranted proposition, is relative.

Also, because there might be so little agreement about which propositions of some class of propositions are to be warranted, there arises agreement amongst many that there is and ought to be no warranted assertions for that class of propositions. Religious propositions provide an example of such a class. Many explicit, or implicit, idealists not only reject the possibility of any objectively true religious propositions. They also urge dismissing the practice of accepting any religious propositions as warranted.

Truth realists have no philosophic grounds for dismissing the possibility of objective religious truths. But that is the topic of my next post. Here, I summarize what truth realists hold about objective truth and the Transcendent.

Things in themselves as the truth conditions for propositions would be a basic feature of the immanent which depends directly upon the Transcendent for its existence. We can then go on to develop a characterization of the Transcendent as creator and sustainer of the foundation for truth.

Freedom to Create Morality is Not Worth Wanting

In this post, I reject a suggestion that the freedom most worth wanting is the freedom to choose the moral laws to which we are to be subjected. Call this” autonomous human morality.”

A rationale for autonomous human morality can be made by contrasting it with the authoritarian morality on which the freedom of virtue is based.

The freedom of virtue outlined in the previous post is only a freedom to endorse the laws of the moral authority. If freedom of virtue is the supreme freedom, then, according to the complaint, we look at ourselves as subservient beings. We are born into a moral order which we did not choose. In this order the best we can do is conform our wills to that of the moral authority. Since the source of morality lies outside humanity – other than human- it is called “heteronomous human morality.”

Now, so the rationale goes, human beings have reached the stage at which people recognize that it is beneath human dignity to have governments whose laws do not come from those governed. The well known “Government of the people, by the people and for the people” captures the thought that this is now how we should understand the moral order.
We should dismiss older monarchial or dictatorial models for morality.

So, to preserve human dignity it is proposed that we dispense with any notion of a moral authority outside of humanity legislating moral laws for humanity.

I do not accept this stance on the freedom of the will most worth wanting. In characterizing the stance, I did not even consider the weak subjective version of this stance. The subjective version would hold that no person is truly free unless that person makes the moral laws to which he or she is subject. Personal laws are not laws at all since they can be changed at will. Willfulness is not lawfulness.

So, if morality is created by humans, it will be communities of humans. Here, though, we face a problem like that of the subjective position. Not only is there a problem about selecting collections of humans which we could view as moral creators, there is also the issue of how communities could make laws for other communities without usurping their autonomy. If we do not have universal laws, we do not have moral laws.

So, the supporters of autonomous human morality must hold that somehow humanity created morality.

A blog post is not the forum for examining attempts to interpret moral laws as constructed by humans as a whole where this whole covers all places and times where people have been. I will not consider social contract theories or Kant.*

I simply list four reasons why I dismiss autonomous human morality.

One: all accounts of humanity creating morality are fictions.

Two: Each of us is born into a moral order which we did not make; nor do we know of anyone who participated in moral legislation. The fictious moral creating humanity is for each of us a moral dictator.

Three: If morality is invented and not discovered, reality is nihilistic. For humanity everything is permitted. Nothing matters. I hope that reality is not such that a theory of autonomous human morality correctly represents reality with no moral order.

Four: Human dignity is preserved by regarding citizens and their governments as subject to the same objective moral order

*. Kant is the major influence on my moral theorizing. I am here using language which clearly sets me apart from Kant by endorsing the heteronomous moral theory of authoritarian morality.

Autonomous obedience vs. autonomous legislation

In the course of several posts I have struggled to articulate what I hope to show by justifying a moral principle for male sexuality and how I should go about showing it. The principle, in agreement with traditional Catholic morality, stated:

Thou shall not intentionally seek an orgasm except in coitus open to conception with a woman to whom you are committed for life to care for her and any child resulting from the coitus.

I hoped to show that independently of religious considerations, a man who follows, or struggles to follow, the principle has a character trait which makes him a better human being – a man closer to being as he ought to be than if he followed any other principle for sexuality.

I came to the conclusion that any arguments for the principle would have to be based on assumptions or, as I say, from a stance. Consequently, the arguments might not be compelling for all intelligent people. From a stance, arguments should be of two types. One line of argument would show that activity in accord with the principle is rational activity. Another line of argument would show that activity in accord with the principle is directed towards attaining and maintaining conditions good for human beings over and beyond the good of being rational. With respect to the principle for male sexuality, the human good would be life-long monagamous marriage.

I need to emphasize a feature of the human goods. They are not goods independent from morality with morality being a means to their attainment. The human goods attained and maintained by activity in accordance with the principle are not conditions apart from activity in accordance with the principle. Activity in accord with the principle is not only a means to the good but also a feature of the good brought about. For instance, activity in accord with a principle for traditional male sexuality not only produces a good marriage but it is also part of a good marriage.

I do not need to invent new arguments. For showing that the rationality of the activity, I can adapt arguments from what some call “The Old Natural Law Theory” or better: Thomistic Moral Theology. For showing that activity in accordance with the principle is directed towards human flourishing, I can adapt arguments from what is frequently called “New Natural Law Theory.”

I write of adapting the arguments because I do not make any assumption that an intelligent human being will take activity in accordance with the principle as morally binding upon clearly understanding the line of argument. There is still need for someone to choose to be obligated or something to impose the moral obligation.

As I interpret both types of natural law theories, they hold that nature -reality- formed human nature so that once a human being clearly recognizes that a principle promotes rational activity directed toward human good the human being because of a law for its nature chooses to be bound by and follow the principle. I believe that to be morally bound by a law there must always be the possibility of rejecting the law.

So I concluded my previous post confessing that I still felt that I had not uncovered all that I hoped for in a justification for a moral principle. Now I think that I can articulate what Ithought was lacking. I wanted to show that the moral principle is true and I do not think that reasoning alone brings us to moral truth.

Here is how the issue of truth comes up. After being persuaded by the arguments that activity in accord with the principle is rational and directed towards human good, there still needs to be imposition of a moral obligation to act in accord with this principle. This imposition could be self imposed or imposed by something outside our self.

Self imposed obligation could be called “autonomous moral legislation.” Unfortunately, autonomous moral legislation might be only a human decision to make such a moral rule. The rule could be invented; not discovered. It might be invented in response to our reasoning.

But how could a rule-an imperative- be discovered in thought independent reality? What corresponded to a rule in reality would not be a fact or a descriptive law of nature. It would have to be something like a command. At this time, the best I can say that the aspect of mind-independent reality corresponding to a moral law would be something we “hear” rather than “see,” and have the possibility of being accepted and obeyed or being rejected and disobeyed. If, and this is a huge “if,” there is something like hearing an imperative from mind independent reality, then there is a true or actual imperative. Still, though, there is a need for a choice to accept or reject the imperative. This could be called the “autonomy of obedience.”

If there is a place for autonomy of moral obedience, then we can talk of moral laws being true.

Consider a definition of “truth” which extends it to include truth for norms.

Truth for facts and norms

For facts to think what is true is to think of what is that it is and to think of what is not that it is not.
For norms to think what is true is to accept as obligatory what ought to be and to accept as forbidden what ought not be.

But if we can receive moral laws from an moral authority in mind independent reality, what is the role of arguments for moral principles? The arguments are valuable checks on illusions with respect to hearing the moral law, they help us to articulate what we hope to discover as true, they show others the plausibility of our rules and may lead others to investigate our moral rules. *

In my book, I struggled in Chapter XI with laying out what beyond reasoning needs to be done to discover what we ought to do.

* 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. See Ch. IV for my justification see pp. 72ff. for discussion of moral harm. Free copies can be obtained here by credit card by paying $3.75 for shipping and handling.





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Inconsistency of Moral Thinking Resolved by Moral Skepticism

It is embarrassingly conceited even to link my fumbling with contradictions in basic concepts of moral thinking with the brilliant investigations of the contradictions in basic concepts of mathematical thinking by Bertrand Russell et al in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nonetheless, there are some parallels which help clarify what I am trying to accomplish.

I only outline the main steps in finding the inconsistency in mathematical thinking. Mathematical logicians had shown that all mathematical thinking could be represented as thinking about natural numbers. G. Frege showed that all thinking about natural numbers could be represented as thinking about classes. A basic principle for thinking about classes was that there is a class consisting of the extension of any property. Russell considered the property “the class of all classes which do not belong to itself.” A law of excluded middle of the form: for any classes x and y, x belongs to y or x does not belong to y, was accepted as fundamental in mathematical thinking. An explicit contradiction is reached when both x and y are taken as the classes of all classes which do not belong to themselves.

Of course, the set theory contradiction did not hinder mathematical development in any way. For one, mathematical thinking does not depend upon going back to some foundational ideas such as set theory. Secondly, and relevant to my project, is that the contradictions can be resolved by altering the conceptual scheme for thinking about classes. For example, some set theorists restricted the kinds of properties whose extensions were classes.

It is the altering of the conceptual scheme which links my reflections on moral thinking with the foundational work in mathematics. Altering the conceptual scheme leads to a type of skepticism. First, it suggests that our ways of thinking are human inventions for thinking about the way things are. Insofar as they are our inventions the ways of thinking might contain components peculiar to humans and thus not accurately tell us now things really are apart from our thinking. If there were only one way of removing the contradiction, we might have some basis for thinking that we now had the right way of thinking about the topic. Unfortunately, as will be shown in subsequent posts, there are several ways of resolving the contradiction. As a result, one has to take a stance that one specific way of thinking about morality is the correct way.

Of course, conceding that there is no right way to resolve the fundamental contradiction in moral thinking is not conceding that there is no right way to think morally. Indeed a possible stance, which I take, is that after qualifications in the notion of an authoritarian morality to allow acceptance of “Some harm ought to be” we have attained the correct way of moral thinking. I have to concede, though, that I might have taken the wrong stance.

Let me put it as follows. I take the stance “There are absolute moral principles which correctly express the normativity in reality.” I concede that I might be mistaken about reality by taking such a stance. Moral skepticism is not moral relativism. There is only one correct way of thinking about morality. Unfortunately, I am not absolutely certain that I have the correct way.

This means that moral arguments have two phases: First, persuade someone to take your stance. Second, convince the other of the correctness of your reasoning within the stance. Also the need to take a stance implies that there may be irresolvable moral disputes.

A significant difference between the mathematical and moral resolution of a basic contradiction is that in the mathematical case a person can enjoy working with the different set theories. In the moral case, only a cynic, switches from one stance to the other. It is morally significant to take a stance and stay with it.

Values Are As Fundamental As Facts

Our goal is to show that basic moral rules of traditional sexual morality are correct rules because they adequately express the structure of nature or reality. There is a widespread assumption, some times called scientism, that nature apart from human thinking and feeling consists only of facts and scientific laws of nature Scientism is an assumption that moral laws and values cannot adequately express the structure of nature.

A question of these blog posts is whether or not moral laws, especially the laws of traditional sexual morality, adequately express the structure of nature. So it is a fallacy of begging-the-question to assume scientism.

There is no reason to assume scientism. Factual thinking and moral thinking are equally fundamental in that part of nature where there is obviously thinking. That part of nature is human thinking. Without special effort to control how we think, our thinking is a complex mixture of thinking what is, what is not along with what ought to be and what ought not to be. Thinking about what is can be called descriptive thinking while thinking about what ought to be is normative thinking. There is no escape from this mixture of descriptive and normative thinking.. If we raise the question of whether or not we ought to control our thinking to get the facts before making any judgments about what ought or ought not be done, we have obviously already thought about what ought or ought not be done.

So, if thinking represents reality or nature, nature contains both what is the case and what ought to be the case. If we use seeing as a model for getting the facts and hearing as a model for responding to the normativity in nature, both looking and listening are crucial for thinking correctly about nature.

This line of thought takes the approach of so-called modern philosophy initiated by Descartes, (1596-1650). This modern approach of philosophy specifies that we start philosophizing by paying attention to our thinking. Of course, assuming that we start critical thinking about reality by paying attention to our thinking about reality is not to assume that reality is nothing but thinking. In a thought there can be that which makes it be something real apart from thinking.

The modern approach leaves room for a skeptical doubt that there is nothing but thinking. In all our philosophical thinking we are thinking about thinking. We do not directly encounter the being which makes our thoughts a reality we encounter. So, it is not logically inconsistent to suggest that our thoughts are not real. But is it not clear that when we encounter thinking we are encounter something real – something which has being? So, we can set aside the suggestion that there is no being except thinking.

I will avoid discussing these fundamental issues about reality in subsequent blog posts. But it must be admitted that my arguments for laws of traditional sexual morality, presuppose that there is a reality which our descriptive and normative thinking can accurately represent.

My book on sexual morality makes this assumption of realism. 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. These blog posts are in effect work towards a 2nd edition. Free copies can be obtained here by credit card by paying $3.75 for shipping and handling.





To receive a free book, send check of $3.75 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.

Christian Re-enchantment X: Review

I am returning to writing blog posts after a delay from January 22, 2018 until today June 19, 2018. I felt no desire to carry on the careful philosophical analysis of my religious belief. I was not accomplishing anthing. I intended it to be analysis of religious belief in general. But honesty requires admitting I wrote only of my religious belief.

I had become involved with subtle distinctions between statements such as:
A. Jesus changed water into wine at Cana.
B. I believe that Jesus changed water into wine at Cana.
C. We believe that Jesus changed water into wine at Cana.

These subtle distinctions are intriguing to this retired philosophy professor. They are, I’m sure, boring and obscure to almost anyone else. So my efforts at philosophical sophistication undercuts the purpose of these blog posts on Christianity. I am putting these blog posts on the internet to evangelize. I “labelled my efforts at evangelization “Christian Re-enchantment” because I wanted to show that there can be a single narrative of nature and the human condition whose components are,

1. reality as science would have it,
2. Gospel miracles – especially the resurrection of Jesus
3. doctrines of Christian theology.

A Christian view of reality accepts truth claims from all three components. These discussions exposed my reluctance to accept that we are living in a Christian reality. I constantly slipped back into belief scientism which holds that there is nothing but reality as science would have it. My analysis was not helping my Christian faith; let alone that of anyone else. So I will stop this analysis of my belief in a Christian reality. I will simply write on a variety of topics about the human condition and morality as if there are truth claims from all components of Christian reality. I hope that I am not mistaken in assuming that some of the Gospel miracles really occurred and Christian doctrines about post mortem rewards and punishments are true. In any event, I intend to die under this assumption.

My confidence in this assumption waxes and wans. How I feel and events I experience are causal factors in my degree of confidence. But I do not let my confidence, or lack thereof, change my stance that truth claims from all three components can be true. This does not mean that if an occasion arises for supporting a Christian truth claim, I will not try to make a case that it is a correct claim to make. Indeed the assumption that there can be correct Christian truth claims provides the rationale for giving reasons for them. Absent an assumption that the Christian claims could be true, there would be no motivation for trying to show that they are true.

With care a Christian stance on reality can be held consistently. There need be no logical contradictions between claims a Christian accepts as true. In particular there need be no logical contradiction between biblical and theological claims on one hand and claims of natural science on the other. I am simply repeating the oft made claim that there need be no logical contradictions between religious beliefs and claims of natural science. However,I must recognize the “logical price” I pay for reconciling science and my Catholic faith. And I think all who struggle to reconcile religions and science will have to pay this price. The price of having a logically consistent Christian stance toward reality is having an incoherent stance towards reality. By “incoherent stance” I mean that the law of excluded middle does not hold in the logic we use for describing all of reality. Excluded middle is not a law of logic

( In this connection, please see my previous postUnrealistic Fictions.)

Let me illustrate. Consider “Jesus changed water into wine at Cana or Jesus did not change water into wine at Cana.” A Christian should not say that this disjunction is necessarily true even if he goes on to claim that exactly on of the disjuncts is true. Talking biblically I would assert that Jesus did change water into wine. talking scientifically I concede that there is strong evidence that Jesus did not change water into wine. Nonetheless, I assert as true that Jesus did change water into wine at Cana.

Excluded middle not being a principle of logic means that I think reality has gaps because sometimes neither a claim P nor its denial not-P is true. For instance, consider “Jesus cured Peter of a stammer or Jesus did not cure Peter of a stammer.” In my stance towards reality there is no answer to whether or not Jesus cured a speech defect in Peter. It is not merely that it is unknown about whether Jesus cured Peter. It is that there is no fact one way or the other; that is a “gap” in reality.

I will not labor this point about excluded middle further. It is enough that I admit that with respect to logic the language I use to talk about fictions is the same as the language I use when I intend to how reality is.

Advertisement:
My book on sexual morality requires no narrative about enchanted realities other than the everyday one about our thoughts and feeling. But the traditional sexual morality I justify on purely secular grounds receives more motivation if placed in a Judeo-Christian framework.

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.

Christian Re enchantment VIII, Hiding behind “I believe”

My exploration of how to re-enchant the world so that the Christian narrative accurately describes reality is progressively exposing to me weakness in my faith. There is a building resistance to letting myself be a participant in reality so described. I fear that being a participant in a Christian reality with its miracles and entities beyond the scope of natural science is a much stronger faith than mine. I am convinced that a Christian description of reality is consistent with natural science and that there are good reasons for accepting that such a description tells the truth about reality. Nonetheless, my Christian faith is holding a theory about reality rather than living in a Christian reality.

This post touches on some topics much discussed by professional philosophers. I do not cite the professional literature because what I write is rather elementary and contributes nothing to the professional literature. I am always glad, though, to discover how useful the apparently verbal issues of professional academic philosophy are to clarifying, to me at least, fundamental issues of existential concern.

In this post I draw implications about the weakness of my faith from my preference for expressing my faith with indirect discourse statements of the form of [I believe that P,] where P is some direct discourse statement about a religiously significant reality such as “Jesus rose from the dead” or “Jesus died on the cross for our sins.”

In the previous post, I alluded to how an indirect discourse statement such as “I know that I love you” is emotionally weaker than the direct discourse statement “I love you.” What makes indirect discourse weaker? With indirect discourse you talk directly about what you think and indirectly about that to which your thought refers. So, with “I know that I love you” you talk about your thought of loving and the person referred to with the pronoun “you”. With the direct discourse “I love you” you talk of yourself in relation to the person you love. Talking directly of your thought of love instead of the beloved weakens the declaration of love. Why say that indirect discourse is about thoughts?

Let me use some terminology which would need more precise definition if this were a professional philosophical discussion. What our words stand for are their extensions Thus me and to whomever I declared my love are the extensions of “I” and “you” respectively. The meaning of our terms, what we think when using them, especially full sentences are the intension of terms. Thus the thought of my loving that person to whom I declare my love is the intension of “I love you.”

The object of an indirect discourse statement is an intension in which terms stand for extensions. So intensions are different from the extensions which usually are our primary concern.

There are a wide variety of indirect discourse statements using terms such as “know,” “believe,” “hope,” “wonder,” etc.,. I focus on “believe.” These terms are often called “propositional attitudes” because they say how someone thinks about a proposition which I have here called intensions

Why say that the indirect discourse statement “I believe that Jesus rose from the dead” is about the intension of the sentence “Jesus rose from the dead” instead of Jesus and his rising from the dead?

Here’s where we touch on a topic much discussed by professional philosophers. I adopt an argument style frequently used by professional philosophers.

Assume that it is a fact that Jesus is a man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim.

Consider the following argument where the conclusion validly follows from the two premises.

1] “Jesus rose from the dead” is true..
2] Jesus = the man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim.
Therefore:
3] “The man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim rose from the dead” is true..

The conclusion follows because, when we are referring to extensions, equals may be substituted for one another without changing the truth value of claims into which they are substituted. This is because when we are talking about the extra mental facts the terms used to pick out the components of those facts don’t change the facts.

Now consider this next argument where substitution of equals fails. The argument is invalid.

(1) “I believe that Jesus rose from the dead” is true
(2) Jesus = the man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim.
Therefore:
(3) “I believe that the man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim rose from the dead” is true.

It may be a fact that I believe that Jesus rose from the dead while I do not believe that the man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim rose from the dead. I may not believe anything about a man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim because I may never have thought about who Jesus’ maternal grandparents were.

Substitution of coreferential terms fails when we substitute such terms in the propositions or intensions in indirect discourse statements; or, in the sentences after propositional attitudes. This is because what is thought about in indirect discourse claims are something which depends upon how we think about it. Something which depends upon how we think about it, certainly is not something which exists independently of our thinking. It is reasonable to classify such things as mental.

A reason professional philosophers find propositional attitudes so problematic is that it seems that science, let alone ordinary thinking cannot be carried on without use of some propositional attitudes. We need to think critically. Critical thinking requires attention to what we believe. So the careful thought of science requires attention to something mental, viz. our beliefs. Yet the mental is not subject to full treatment by natural science. So those who hold the ideology of scientism would like somehow to avoid any use of indirect discourse. (Scientism is an ideology which holds that there is nothing but what can be explained by natural science.)

I am not upset that use of indirect discourse leads me to accept a realm of mental events not fully explained by natural science. I do not hold scientism. I am only disturbed by the fact that use of indirect discourse, in particular by use of the propositional attitude [I believe that P], enables me to express completely my Catholic faith without directly encountering the beings, events and processes about which I have beliefs. I do not speak directly of them. I fear that I am afraid to speak directly of them. Do I unconsciously accept scientism?
Advertisement:
My book on sexual morality requires no narrative about enchanted realities other than the everyday one about our thoughts and feeling. But the traditional sexual morality I justify on purely secular grounds receives more motivation if placed in a Judeo-Christian framework.

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.