Category Archives: Moral philosophy

Critical Race Theory Debates and Authoritarian Morality

I am not referring to critical race theory as a methodology for scholars in legal and social research wherein they focus on uncovering and diagnosing remedies for practices which, perhaps very subtly, have an adverse impact on certain populations; especially African-Americans. In September of 2021 I am writing about thoughts and sentiments I detect in news reports about debates on teaching critical race theory in public schools. I detect no serious interest in teaching a scholarly methodology. I sense as little connection between the current debates and critical race theory as there was between the “spirit of Vatican II’’ and the documents of Vatican II back in the 1970s.

I detect debate about adding a moral dimension to the teaching of certain subjects such as history and civics. Should children K-12 be instructed that white people ought to suffer some harm for harms inflicted on African-Americans? The debates are not primarily about teaching children of the harms inflicted on African-Americans, even if voices frequently claim that they only want the facts to be presented. The concern is over learning and understanding these frequently horrifying facts with a special moral sensitivity and aspiration. The special sensitivity is a sense that someone now bears guilt for these injustices and there is an aspiration is that we be purified of the guilt for these injustices. The purging will require discomfort if not clear cut physical damage.

My writing on this topic fits in with my project of showing that moral thought is thought of rules given by divine command. For I detect in these debates presuppositions of significant themes of what I have called “authoritarian morality.” It is authoritarian morality which I, then, model as divine command morality. But of even more importance for my own efforts to make a final contribution to philosophical thought which might then trickle down to improve everyday moral thinking, these confused debates convince me of the need to write a booklet on the notion of moral harm which I have been articulating in my series of blog posts. The confusion of these debates comes from confusion about guilt, punishment and moral harm .

The major theme presupposed is the legitimacy of retributive punishment in its primitive form. . Presupposing retributive punishment is assuming that violation of a moral law entails an expungable moral rule that some harm ought to be for violation of the moral law. The expungable moral rule is expunged when the morally required harm occurs. I have called the morally required harm “moral harm.” The fundamental or primitive form of retributive punishment does not specify the type or degree of the harm which ought to occur, the person or persons who are to suffer the harm nor who is to inflict the harm. Human beings, with development of theories of retributive justice, determine the moral rules for moral harm. That development is long and hard. See The Virtue of Seeking Retribution.

I am delighted to find acceptance of retributive punishment so widely used in a public debate. For that provides some evidence for my thesis that common moral thought is thought of an authoritative morality. Unfortunately, the satisfaction to my philosopher self is offset by my dissatisfaction as a citizen. People are implicitly using concepts such as collective guilt, obligatory harm, and substitutionary atonement without realizing they are doing so. Such unthinking use might do significant damage. For instance, there might be a need to induce much more consciousness of race if white children are to develop a sense of being guilty for harms inflicted by Whites on Blacks in 1920.

Thoughtful use of these concepts of primitive retributive punishment might alleviate the harms of thoughtlessly using them. I do not deny that thoughtless use of the authoritative moral theory that I recommend can afflict psychological and social damage. That fear gives urgency to my project of articulating clearly this moral theory because I believe it is implicitly the dominant, but confused, way of moral thinking.

The Transcendent vs Nothing

I am trying to understand the Christian* theme that there is a cosmic battle in progress between God and evil forces. This theme is, on the surface at least, incompatible with the Christian theme of God as the supreme unlimited source of everything except God. The latter theme expresses the standard philosophical concept of God with all the Omni’s, omniscience, omnipotence, etc..

This effort to understand the theme of a cosmic battle is crucial for my project of presenting morality as constituted by divine commands. In modelling morality as laws which are commanded it is very easy to slip into modelling morality as eternal standing laws. The model suggests that there are these immutable laws which were somehow established by a divine command. However, there really is no place for commanding. Classifying the moral laws as simply divine commands adds little to standard natural law models of morality. No new prescriptions can be added. And new prescriptions that some harm ought to occur upon violation of moral laws is crucial to morality as authoritarian morality. To emphasize that the divine commander of morality is an active commander, I try to model the divine commander as a “battlefield commander.”

At the risk of appearing to accept a childish reification of nothing, I explore a conjecture that God is struggling with nothing. There is a cosmic warfare between creating and nothing. Whatever the creator creates, the creator takes from nothing. Whatever the creator sustains keeps something from nothing. Nothing is the loser in creation.

In general, I do not like solving philosophic problems with a verbal change. If the change solves the conceptual problem, it seems an admission that the problem was only verbal. Nonetheless, I will experiment by frequently making the verbal change of “not being” for “nothing.”

The answer to “What is nothing?” is “not being.” So I rewrite my the crucial sentences of the previous paragraph as follows.

I explore a conjecture that God is struggling with not being. There is a cosmic warfare between creating and not being. Whatever the creator creates, the creator takes from not being. Whatever the creator sustains keeps something from not being. Not being is the loser in creation.

Let us suppose that the cosmic struggle is a reaction to creation. Creatures with intelligence and some power are necessary for there to be a struggle not to be – a struggle on behalf of nothing.

The creator creates intelligence with powers. There are intelligence beings with powers to influence what is created. Intelligence recognizes that it depends upon the creator for being. All intelligent beings dread not being. As dependent beings all intelligent beings are essentially capable of not being. And they know it!

There are two ways to react to awareness of dependence. One is to accept the dependent status with faith that the creator sustains one from not being. The other is to rebel against that dependent status.

In rebellion against the dependent status, a creature is rebelling against its being. The rebellious creature is choosing not to be. For a creature to be is to be dependent. Choice of not being dependent is a choice not to be. For a creature to be independent is for it not to be a creature and hence, not to be.

Choice against being a creature is choice against creation. Creation can be attacked only by preventing creatures from being – by having creatures not be. There is a limited way in which creation can be prevented. The only creatures that can be prevented from being are creatures who can not be as the creator intended that they be. These are creatures with free will. The moral laws tell these intelligent creatures what they are created to be. By violating the moral laws they choose not to be. For creatures with free will not to be as the creator intends in a particular area is always a general rebellion against being a creature and, hence, a choice not to be.

Some intelligences have chosen against their dependent status and hence have chosen creation not to be what it is. That means that some intelligences with powers have chosen that there not be creation – that there be nothing. The rebellious creatures want their choice to be correct. The vain hope for ratification of their choice is to have it chosen by all. Thus creatures in rebellion against being seek to use their powers to have others choose not to be which in its limited fashion is always a particular choice not be be as the creator intended in a particular area.

Hence, there is resistance in creation against what the creator creates. The resistant forces can alter what the creator intends in arenas in which the creator grants freedom of choice to some creatures. The typical resistance is disobedience to the moral laws of the creator who is the moral authority.

Subsequent posts will reconsider and clarify the notion of the creator being a moral commander in a contest with intelligences, with powers and free will, who have chosen that there be no creation.

* But I am not working in Christian theology. I want my work to be philosophic. I am here giving philosophic support to Christianity. My line of thought is that authoritarian morality is the correct philosophic model of moral thought. The authoritarian model posits a moral commander in conflict with evil. So, Christianity is shown to use a philosophically approved model of morality.

The Transcendent’ s Immanent Moral Order

The Transcendent’ s Immanent Moral Order

This post introduces a model of authoritarian morality as the moral order of theoretical reason’s Transcendent. As such, it can be fairly labeled a model of divine command morality. The model is a construct of theoretical reason about the moral use of practical reason. For theoretical reason the ground of everything is transcendent; not in the world – not immanent.

However, we have seen that theoretical reason can concede that what transcends theoretical reason need not transcend practical reason. We have also seen the inseparability of practical and theoretical reasoning. So, this model is a theory about a dimension of practical reason which may have direct contact with theoretical reason’s Transcendent. This model can be legitimately influenced by the practical reasoning it characterizes and also influence the practical reasoning it characterizes. For instance, temptations to disobey the moral laws might lead to theorizing about their correctness just as theorizing about correctness might strengthen resistance to temptations.

The above remarks are relevant for the case that the model is correct – presents the truth about correct human morality. There are three steps to evaluating a model of divine command morality. One: does it correctly represent a significant way in which humans think about morality? Two: What is it like for the commands of this moral thinking to come from a non-human source? Three: Is the non-human source the transcendent God?

In my series of posts outlining Authoritarian Morality, I have taken step one. Step three requires more detailed examination of practical reason. Theoretical reason cannot say that commands are those of the Transcendent because theoretical reason cannot speak of the Transcendent. So, theoretical reason can never complete a defense of divine command morality. Ultimately, proof that morality is based on divine commands comes from practical reason “hearing” the commands.

In my next post, I take step two by positing authoritative moral thinking as existing innately in human thinking. This way of thinking is directly dependent upon the Transcendent and humans have a capacity to recognize the source of this way of thinking. The Transcendent’s immanent moral order is built up by humans from innate capacities such as those for language and arithmetic. However, special features of moral thinking such as the universality of its laws and transparency lead to interpreting the constructions from this capacity as dependent on more than human work.

Epistemic & Metaphysical Transcendence, Religious Truth

Epistemic and metaphysical transcendence

This post is an effort to clarify to myself what I think and mean by transcendence. Also I want to point out that conceding transcendence over theoretical thinking does not need to paralyzing doubt about the reliability and accuracy of our thinking; especially about religious truth.

When I write about getting the truth, I write as a representative realist. I write about our representations representing correctly or incorrectly a represented reality. Typically, the represented reality is thought of as not being a representation.

But what is the thought of not being a representation? A systemic feature of representative realism comes from it being reflective thinking, viz., thinking about thinking. In this theoretical thinking we are always thinking of representations. Consequently, while thinking as a representative realist, we cannot think of realities which are not representations. Thus, representative realists posit realities beyond thought as truth conditions for thoughts. This is epistemic transcendence.

However, acceptance of epistemic transcendence is a result from theoretical thinking about our thinking. It does not follow that when using practical reasoning we do not think directly about the realities which are beyond thought when using theoretical reasoning. For instance, when driving a car in traffic one is thinking directly about what is in the traffic; not representations of what is in the traffic. You are thinking about the car in front of you; not on how thoughts about the car can be correct.

A metaphysical argument for an ultimate reality on which all other realities depend is conducted in reflective theoretical thinking. A result is reached that an ultimate being is different from anything which can be thought. This theoretical result that there can be no thought of the Transcendent is metaphysical transcendence.

In both cases, we have theoretical claims that something cannot be thought in theoretical thinking. This concession should not lead to paralyzing doubt about our ability to think reliably and accurately.

First, it is almost impossible to separate our theoretical thinking, which is reflective thinking, from our practical thinking which, for all that we can say, deals directly with non-representational realities.

Even in the most austere theoretical thinking such as metaphysics and epistemology, we engage in the practical thinking of what words effectively express our thoughts and how to use technologies for writing those thoughts. Even in the most mundane technical projects such as washing dishes or painting a wall, we do the theoretical thinking of remembering what we have just done. For roughly the same reasons that we cannot think of things in themselves (non-representations), we cannot think of realities merely given to thought for practical reasoning. So, thinking which is totally theoretical and thinking which is totally practical probably transcend thought.

I take this as a basis for believing that for most of our thinking we do not need worry about the limitations of thought in epistemology and metaphysics.

Second, epistemic transcendence leads only to the mild skepticism that we cannot know that we know. See We cannot know that we know.

Third, metaphysical transcendence need only lead to decision that the “high metaphysical” thinking which posits the unthinkable Transcendent is not the only way to attain religiously significant truths. If the high metaphysics were the only way of attaining religious truths, true religion would be a mysticism indistinguishable from totally agnosticism or atheism.

There does, however, remain the problem of developing a religious epistemology showing how there can be truth conditions for religiously significant theories, such as a divine command moral theory, even if those truth conditions transcend our thought. These religiously significant propositions will be in that middle ground between purely theoretical thought and purely practical thought. We have noted that there is such a middle ground. It will be faith seeking understanding which motivates developing such a religious epistemology. And, yes, in this epistemology, we will concede for religious knowledge that we can never know that we know.

Opacity of free will to theoretical reason

Opacity of free will to theoretical reason. There can be no theoretical account of free will.*

This post is a digression into some of my conjectures on self awareness; especially awareness of free will. Notice that I write of self awareness; not self knowledge.

I expand upon the suggestion of the previous post that theoretical reasoning places a barrier between our thinking and what we think about to suggest why we cannot have a theory of free will.

We use our free will in our practical reasoning. We encounter our free will by using it; not by thinking about it. When we pause to think about our free choosing, we are not using our practical reasoning; let alone our free will. Instead, we switch to using our theoretical reasoning. With our theoretical reasoning we try to form some representation of our free choosing. It might be a thought of not being mentally or physically pushed. For me representation of freely choosing is remembrance of having intended to do what I chose to do. But the representation of the choosing is not the choosing. Similarly, remembrance of intending is not the intending.

Actual choosing and intending are things in themselves. Theories are about things in themselves. Things in themselves are not in the theories. The elements of theories are representations.

Perhaps this may be said of any dynamic process. But when we talk of the external causality of a falling rock, the rock does not care about what we say of it. But we have the awareness of the free choosing. So, the theoretical remarks about no free choosing because no representation of choosing recognizes its freedom concern us. For we are aware of the freedom because we are exercising it! We are aware from the inside.

Even our own reflection on free choice gives only a representation of our free choosing which is not exactly what we were aware of.

I expand the topics.

I am exploring implications of holding that practical reason is primary over theoretical reason. We have seen the primacy in the possibility of practical reason being aware of an immanent commander who is beyond theoretical reason. So, theoretical reason regards it as the Transcendent. The Transcendent is theoretical opaque. Similarly, I want to say that free will, intending, hearing a moral law as a command and obeying a moral law because it is commanded are theoretically opaque. These are ways practical reason operates. The primacy of practical reason tells us that we cannot place theoretical constraints on capacities of practical reason. The price practical reason pays for this primacy is that there can be no theoretical justification that practical reason has these basic capacities.

To adapt some of Newman’s terminology: We can give real assent to our choosing freely but never notional assent.

A final example of theoretical opacity is the self. In practical reasoning we are aware of our self when we seek self-preservation. But when we try to have a theory of our self, we cannot, as Hume notoriously noted, we cannot even represent our self.

*( Upon editing this post, I realize that I could develop the stronger claim that moral reasoning is theoretically opaque. This would imply that moral arguments could never be logically rigorous because the inability to place basic moral reasoning capacities into a theory precludes justifying their use.)

The Transcendent is Immanent in Moral Transparency

The Transcendent is Immanent in Moral Transparency

Theists establishing the existence of God as a transcendent reality can go on to establishing a consistent divine command moral theory.

In my previous post , I noted that the transcendence of that upon which everything depends for its existence is an artefact of our theoretical thinking. The argument for the being of that upon which everything depends for its existence proceeded by reflection upon our ways of thinking. That the argument proceeded by reflective thinking is apparent premises asserting that we must think in a certain way. In this reflective thinking we form a model of our thinking wherein we posit something beyond our thinking.

Similarly, in a case for a representative realism about truth conditions we form a model of our thinking wherein we posit the truth conditions for representations as things in themselves always beyond our representations. However, this barrier between truth conditions as things in themselves inaccessible to thought is only an artefact of the realism theory, a representative realism theory.

We ourselves along with our thinking are existing entities. We and our thinking are truth conditions for some claims. So, there is no reason for holding that in truth conditions, there is a barrier between thinking and what is thought about. When we are not thinking about our thinking we do not erect a barrier between thought and its objects.

So, there is a basis for holding that if we are not thinking about our thinking to form a metaphysical theory about that on which everything depends, we need not posit some barrier between that on which everything depends and our thinking. In particular, in our awareness that conformity to a moral law is transparent, our thought is in contact with that which from a theoretical point of view transcends thought. Or, so I am claiming. Recall that transparency is the awareness of our obedience, or disobedience, to a moral law is known by something or other. See Core Concepts of Authoritarian Morality.

The theoretical transcendent is encountered in our moral thinking.

This is my “breakthrough” in development of a consistent divine command moral theory.

In a series of post developing a model of moral thought as presupposing a moral authority, I have made a case for a moral commander. In another series of posts, using “high metaphysical” reasoning, I have made a case for a divinity – the Transcendent. Theoretically the Transcendent is beyond the immanent reality it sustains while the moral commander is immanent. Now, though, we have realized that in practical reasoning we could be in contact with what is theoretically transcendent. I can consistently extend my model of moral thinking by identifying the divine commander as the Transcendent in metaphysical.

Theoretical reason pays a cost for this permission to go forward in development of a divine command moral theory. The cost is that theoretical reason has to concede that practical reason is superior. For theoretical reason has to admit that it creates artefacts that need to be set aside for realities uncovered by practical reason.

I have no longer have any intention of interpreting the thought of any philosopher; let alone John Henry Newman. Only recently, I took an on-line course on Newman from Bishop Robert Barron. I wish that I had studied Newman earlier. His wisdom exhibited in combining faith and skepticism guides me. I suggest that my sense of transparency in moral thinking leads me to give what Newman calls real assent to the divine while my theoretical reasoning to the Transcendent leads me to give notional assent to the divine.

The Transcendent Does Not Transcend Practical Reasoning

The Transcendent Does Not Transcend Practical Reasoning

To establish this thesis I reconsider how I reasoned to postulating a Transcendent. I want to strengthen the reasoning. See A Proof of the Existence of God. But most of all I want to display that only theoretical reasoning is used. My argument in “high” metaphysics using only alleged principles of reason is definitely theoretical. Then I will note that this use of theoretical reasoning does not require postulating anything transcending practical reasoning. Indeed, we should not postulate that to which practical reason responds as transcending practical reason. For practical reason does not reflect upon itself and thereby separate itself from that to which it is responding.

I start with a review of my terminology of immanent and transcendent ontology.”
In “immanent ontology” we ask: What must exist for our basic beliefs about experienced reality to have truth conditions? A further question is to ask what must exist for these truth conditions to exist. This further question concerns what transcends facts, morality, goodness and beauty. It concerns what must be in order that there exist facts, morality, goodness and beauty. I call this further question the question of “transcendent ontology.” Note how these questions show how reason is here reflecting upon itself to ask how it can do what it does.

The world, reality, or what is accepted in immanent ontology, is that which can be represented by human intelligence. An implication of a previous post’s recognition of the inconsistencies and incoherence of human representations is that our representations are not the reality we represent. For reality is consistent. However, even if representations extend beyond what exists when they are inconsistent, the inconsistent representations themselves exist. I also assume that whatever exist can be represented. This is the Parmenidean Principle that it is one and the same which can exist and can be thought, i.e., representable. I use the Parmenidean Principle in the form: All possibilities are representable.

Here is the most fundamental philosophical question – the question of transcendent ontology.
Must there be something unrepresentable upon which what can be represented depends for its existence and features, but which depends upon nothing else ? I answer with an adaptation of Aquinas’ Third Way. I present my argument in two parts.

Part I

First, consider the the issue of dependence. I call what exists reality.
1. Reality is representations and what can be represented.
2. If it is possible that reality depends upon nothing for its existence then it is possible that reality not exist, viz., it is possible that there is nothing.
3. If it is possible that there is nothing, then it is possible that there are no representations.
4. If it is possible that there are no representations, then there is a possibility that there being no representations is represented. For according to the Parmenidean Principle, all possibilities including that of there being no representations, are representable.
5. But there cannot possibly be a representation of there being no representations. For the representation of there being no representations provides a representation showing that there is at least one representation.
6. Hence, it is not possible that reality depends upon nothing for its existence. (From (2) through (5) by a reductio argument.)

Incidentally, we have an answer answer to the question: Why is there something rather than nothing? The answer from the argument above is that there cannot be nothing. We reached that answer about why there is something in the course of an argument about the dependence of reality wherein we found that reality must exist. Now we consider whether that which necessitates the existence of reality transcends reality or is immanent, perhaps, reality itself.

Part II

1. That on which reality depends for its existence is immanent in reality or transcends reality
2. If it is immanent in reality, then it is a part of reality P or the whole of reality W.
3. If it is part of reality P, then there are parts of reality independent of P.
4. If there are parts of reality independent of P, then reality as a whole does not depend upon P for existence.
5. Hence, no part P of reality is that upon which reality depends.
6. If it is the whole of reality W, then W exists in the way as parts of reality exist or in a different way.
7. If W exists in a different way than parts of reality, then W is not immanent in reality.
8. Hence, W does not exist in a different way than parts of reality. For under the assumption in line (2) above, W needs to be immanent in reality.
9 If W exists in the same way as parts of reality, then W depends for existence on something else. For all parts of reality have dependent existence. Every part of reality exists contingently.
10. Hence from (8) & (9) W depends for existence on something else.
11. If the whole of reality W depends for existence on something else, then the whole of reality W is not that on which reality depends for existence.
12. Hence, from (11) and (1), that on which reality depends for its existence transcends reality.

What has been established? I have argued in Part II that what reality depends upon for existence transcends reality. Earlier, in Part I, I argued that reality necessarily depends upon something for existence and pointed out that there necessarily is reality. Necessarily, then, something transcends reality upon which reality depends for existence. Since reason, or at least theoretical reason, is for representing what exists, there is something which theoretical reason cannot represent.

There can be much debate about premises of my two arguments; especially (2) in Part I. Here, though, my interest on what must be accepted if the argument is accepted. Theoretical reasoning has been used to establish a theoretical point. The point is that in theory there is a realm about which theoretical reasoning can give us no information. My arguments guide us to a bifurcated picture -representation of everything, viz., what exists and that upon what exists depends. The picture is of a horizontal line below which there is that which exists – the immanent- and above which there is a blank which somehow sustains in existence everything below the line. Reasoning to unrepresentable limits is a practice of theoretical reasoning as is exhibited in reasoning to geometric points and lines.

However, the picture does not have to be accepted. Not being required to accept this picture of a bifurcation of everything is of major importance. It is not necessary to split everything into transcendent and immanent. It is only from the perspective of theoretical reasoning that we specify that there is something apart from what exists which sustains existence and transcends our theoretical reasoning. It has not been shown that our ways of thinking of obligations, our ways of reasoning to what we ought to do and ought to be, are separated from that on which everything depends for existence.

In my next post, I shall discuss how practical reasoning can bring us into contact with what is transcendent for theoretical reason.

Divine Commander is Not transcendent

In this post, I work my way to a conjecture that the Transcendent is transcendent only for theoretical reasoning. In practical, or moral reasoning we directly encounter that which transcends theoretical reasoning.

For more than a year now, throughout several blog posts, I developed an interpretation of morality as being given by a moral authority. I called this “authoritarian morality.” For instance see:Divine Command Morality as Authoritarian Morality,
Virtue of Obedience in Authoritarian Morality ,
Authoritarian Morality Enchants Reality
and Core Concepts of Authoritarian Morality..
To show that morality is indeed authoritarian morality, I started to develop a philosophical model of reality as dependent upon and maintained in existent by a transcendence beyond existence. To be honest, I have to admit that frequently compromised the notion of transcendence because my intent was to model God of Christianity as the Transcendent. However, until I arrived at locating morality in reality, I managed to avoid locating the Transcendent in what I called the immanent, viz., whatever exists. Even when I wrote that there could exist truth conditions for religious claims about God, I pointed out that the Transcendent could sustain in existence truth conditions for a truth claim with Itself as the intended referent, without Itself being in the immanent. At least it seems at first as if there could be conditions making true a claim about God without God existing in those truth conditions. For we do not know what truth conditions are in-and-by-themselves.

But our relation to the factuality of the immanent and the morality in the immanent are different. Or so it seems. We take a spectator’s stance towards factuality. We observe reality and claim that such-and-such is a fact. We do not tend to think of this as an interaction with a reality. In morality, though, we are aware of a demand upon us, which we can obey or disobey, have our obedience or disobedience be present to that which places the demand and sense that something new is demanded if we disobey. Morality, then, according to my authoritarian model, is a personal interaction with reality.

For those familiar with a distinction between theoretical reason and practical reason, I would say that in theoretical reasoning, we regard ourselves as observers of reality and make judgments about what is and what is not the case. As David Hume notoriously noted “reason is cool and indifferent.” Hume was writing of theoretical reason. We do not get direction on what we discover by theoretical reason. For instance, if we discover by theoretical reason that there is a moral law that promises ought to be kept, we discover only that it is a fact that promises ought to be kept. That fact about morality is not sufficient by itself to command obedience. Indeed, discovery of the fact that knowledge is good for humans is insufficient for giving us an obligation to pursue knowledge. It’s just an interesting fact from the perspective of theoretical reason. Of course, I am only reviewing Hume’s observation that we cannot derive an “ought” from and “is.”

With practical reasoning we operate as existents in reality receiving directions from something else in reality. These directions come into our consciousness as binding us. Practical reasoning is not primarily representing, let alone knowing. It is primarily receiving and choosing. Practical reasoning goes on amongst things in themselves. Practical reasoning provides truth conditions for theoretical reason. For instance, practical reasoning provides truth conditions for “Promises ought to be kept.”

I could go on to elaborate much more on practical reasoning. And I will do so. But in this post, my main theme is that I need to re-think what I hold about the Transcendent. I intend to identify the Transcendent with God. So, if I plan to articulate a divine command morality, I need to identify the moral commander as God. Above, I characterize a moral commander as an existent in what I have called the immanent or reality. Obviously, it seems that I plan to develop an inconsistent theory in which the Transcendent is immanent. I suppose that I could avoid inconsistency, by postulating as existing some moral agent of the Transcendent which agent gives commands on behalf of the Transcendent. I shudder at the prospect of developing a theory with demi gods.

So I will explore the conjecture that the Transcendent is transcendent only for theoretical reasoning. In practical, or moral reasoning we directly encounter that which transcends theoretical reasoning.

Moral Commands are Not Truth Claims

I have radically altered my stance on what can exist to accommodate the possibility of religious truth claims being true. I have switched from holding that reality, what is immanent, is built up from some basic existents. This philosophical atomism is properly called “logical atomism.” The basic simple existents would be given in experience, but the only structural principles would be those of logic. In some terminology, I had held the stance that all relations are external. Now I hold that some relations are internal.

Now that I examine my past beliefs while announcing a radical change, I have to admit that except while philosophizing I did not accept logical atomism. I accepted physical causality as a basic existent. Physical causality is that vast complex which is the subject matter of physics and chemistry. However, I always adopted my philosophical outlook when I thought about the possibility of religious truth. This atomistic ontology ruled out any religious claims from being true. Indeed, it rules out claims about the mental being true. I now hold that any logically consistent truth claim is possibly true and that I cannot specify anything about the order and connection of truth conditions for truth claims apart from our ways of representing them.

However, this change in ontology does not provide all that is needed to represent moral laws as divine commands. There needs to be amongst what exists more than conditions for making truth claims true. There are also conditions which make a moral command a correct command. It is helpful to cite the tautology “Correct moral commands are commands” as a reminder that there is commanding in reality.

For instance, a moral obligation to keep promises is more than the truth that promises ought to be kept. The obligation is even more than having “God commands that promises be kept” be a true claim. Why do these facts bring it about that we are guilty if we do not keep a promise. More is required form these facts than from other kinds of facts. We not only need to believe them to be true. They require that we sense a requirement to respond in a certain way.

The truth conditions for, say, “Promises ought to be kept” is a command “Keep promises!” The command is prior to the fact of the command being given. It is the command that constitutes the truth conditions. The command itself is not a truth claim. Primarily, the command is the giving an obligation which we can obey or disobey. Secondarily, the command provides conditions for a truth by which we can be judged. These truth constitute a moral order. But the foundation for the moral order is the commanding and human awareness of the commands.

On this foundation, I will build an account of a Divine Command morality.

Survival After Biological Death and the Transcendent

This is a type of blog essay I am reluctant to post. It is more a set of promises of philosophic work than philosophic analyses and arguments. But there are so many issues in modeling the Transcendent as a Divine authority that I have time only to sketch out how I will try to resolve those issues as I work to present a complete overview of a model of the Transcendent as moral authority. One of those issues is survival after biological death.

Phases of an argument for survival after biological death

1. Make a case that people are not their bodies. A prominent part of the case is borrowed from stock philosophical arguments that personal identity persists through significant bodily changes.

2. Make a case that all of our thoughts and deeds are known to the moral authority. A prominent part of this case is articulating and supporting an understanding of morality as authoritarian morality – command morality. I have already done much of this in development of authoritarian moral theory from my notion of moral harm as harm which ought to be for violation of a moral law. But I need to add and defend belief in personal survival after death as part of the authoritarian moral outlook.

3. Make a case that the moral authority is the Transcendent, i.e., God. We now have a divine command morality.

Phase 3 is advanced by making a case that we can characterize the Transcendent not only being aware of your personal history throughout your natural life but as eternally being aware of you – the awareness of the Transcendent does not vanish at your natural death. The Transcendent is aware of you as a person both before and after your biological death.

But what does “eternally” mean when applied to the Transcendent?

I am thinking of arguing along the following lines. If the Transcendent did not sustain you in existence in anyway at biological death, then you would vanish at biological death and the Transcendent would not be aware of you. But the Transcendent never loses awareness of you. Hence, the Transcendent sustains you in existence in some way after your biological death. But this existence after biological death is still existence in what is immanent. For nothing is transcendent except the Transcendent. There are issues in characterizing immanent existence of persons after biological death. (I am working on them.)

However, I do not want to include in my model that human beings exist in some way prior to their conception. I need to make a case that in the immanent there is genuine coming into existence.
I hope to do all of this without developing any philosophical system. As much as possible I want to use only ordinary language.