Category Archives: Moral philosophy

Detailed Regulation of Marital Sex is an Invasion of Privacy

Does a detailed focus on the morality of actions a married couple while “making love” interfere with the privacy necessary for the good of intimacy? I am thinking especially of sexual moral casuistry coming from a religion. There is a natural sexual morality but religious embellishments of this natural morality brings in outsiders, viz.,the religious moral casuists who monitor “bedroom behavior.” It is disrespecting the privacy of a married couple to speculate, let alone evaluate, what they do for arousal, foreplay and erotic joy. Natural sexual morality shows that there should be no intention to have the husband ejaculate outside his wife’s vagina. That would be an intention to stop the basic human good of procreation. The language of their bodies tells them “that’s not the life giving way for it to happen.”

Natural morality without aid of moral theological casuists tells them coitus interruptus, use of condoms, fellatio up to ejaculation, anal intercourse to ejaculation are wrong. However, cunnilingus and other stimulation to bring the wife to climax are not naturally immoral. But it is best not to think about these kinds of topics; especially with respect to other couples.

What I have written directly conflicts with the opinions of a lay Catholic theologian, Ron Conte Jr. presented in a blog post Grave Sins . I have endorsed the so-called “One rule” Conte condemns.

Conte wrote “Over at a popular Catholic discussion group, a question is frequently raised as to which sexual acts are moral in the marital bedroom. And unfailingly several Catholics will emphatically and even angrily assert that all sexual acts are moral for the spouses, as long as the husband intends to ‘complete the act’ (so to speak) in the natural manner. This “one rule”, as it is sometimes called, has absolutely nothing to do with the teachings of the Church on the basic principles of ethics, nor on sexual sins more specifically. If a sexual act is immoral to do apart from natural marital relations, then it is immoral to do in conjunction with the natural act.”

The concept of sexual act is vague. But the vagueness does not prevent people from using it carefully For instance, Conte quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Each and every sexual act in a marriage needs to be open to the possibility of conceiving a child.” [p. 409]. In this context, the authors of the catechism are thinking of coitus of a married couple. They are expressing the decision of Paul VI in Humanae Vitae. They are offering moral guidance on birth control. Especially, they are pointing out that the possibility of conception for coitus cannot be directly inhibited even if on the whole their coitus conception is not intentionally blocked.

It is not misusing the concept of sexual act to characterize a woman handling a man’s penis as a sexual act or a man placing his hand on a woman’s vagina as a sexual act. Outside of marriage depending upon circumstances people handling the genitalia of the other sex, is immoral. So, there are case of sexual acts outside marriage being immoral. But handling the genitalia of one another is not immoral for a married couple. Indeed, coitus outside marriage is immoral but not withing marriage. So, Conte’s principle that marriage is not a morally relevant circumstance is incorrect.

He quotes Alice and Dietrich von Hildebrand as characterizing some sexual acts as pornification of marriage. Yes, if we start to think about what some couples might do for foreplay and sexual arousal, we think of what would be pornography. These thoughts are like a masturbator’s fantasies. So, we should not think that way. The couple making love are not making pornography. They are acting in private for their own good of marital relations. It is only pornography to outsiders who imagine what they are doing. We ought not violate marital privacy in this way.

Sexual Privacy Necessary for New Life

In the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, I appealed to the decent opinion of humankind to recognize my right to criticize the LBGTQ+ agenda as promoting immorality. In general, I exercise this right by defending traditional sexual morality. In particular, I illustrate defending traditional sexual morality by making a case that coitus in public is immoral. This apparently unusual issue may diminish anxieties that criticism is based on some non-moral tabu about the sexuality of LGBQT+ people.

An example shows how public coitus could be a reality for “ordinary” people. Massive pornography shows that public coitus is all too real. The standard careless utilitarian reasoning, preaching that what does not hurt anyone is permissible, is unable to locate any immorality in the example scenario. In search of alternative ways of reasoning about sexual morality, I turn to ancient Greece. We read of the Cynic Philosopher Crates morally criticizing his wife Hipparchia for being ashamed of public coitus. I dismiss Crates’ non-utilitarian reasoning for thinking that it is positively moral. I go on to set aside St. Augustine’s non-utilitarian reason criticizing Crates. Then combining elements of the new natural law morality of G. Grisez et al. , Kantianism and St. John Paul II’s theology of the body, I offer a line of reasoning to a conclusion that the marriage act, the coitus of a married couple, ought not be public. I indicate how a persuasive case can be made for crucial premises in the line of reasoning. The case for the premises uncovers the moral requirements inherent in sexuality. This shows that reasoning about sexual morality is not topic neutral; that sexuality is not morally neutral.

Dan and Lisa are hosting a small party in their apartment after returning from their honeymoon. The guests are two couples they have known since high school. After drinking a little wine, there’s a little bawdy chatter about how married life is really pretty good. As a serpent in Eden, someone proposes to the newlyweds “Why don’t you guys strip down and show us some of the kinky tricks you learned on your honeymoon?” Stunned silence, nervous laughter, then “”No, no, not really kinky” from Lisa. More suggestive remarks suggestive remarks. With more cajoling from the others, Lisa seems to waver. That breaks down all of Dan’s hesitation; Lisa and Dan start pawing on one another. They quickly pull off each others’ clothes to engage in especially passionate love-making inflamed by wine and the sense of being watched. With nervous “good by’s” the party prematurely dissolves.

There is no going back. Eden is no more.

Why was their love-making immoral? Immediately, we try to answer with what can be considered standard moral reasoning about sexuality. What harm was done? We can quickly imagine all sorts of disastrous consequences. Regret and shame might destroy their respect and love for each other leading to early divorce. But this example has been proposed for philosophic consideration of the issue. So, details are added setting aside all possibilities of physical or emotional harm. First might be added the detail that pregnancy resulting from this marriage act was highly desired by Dan and Lisa. Questions about emotional damage are set aside by specifying that somehow all present enjoyed a type of amnesia about the event. So, when all possibilities of physical or mental harm have been ruled out, standard moral reasoning leaves us with no resources for saying that anything wrong – morally wrong occurred. It is fair to require those of us who want to show that a type of act is intrinsically wrong to consider the act abstracted from all non-moral harm. It must be shown that it is wrong regardless of the consequences.

For perspective, let us look back to Athens around 300BC. In the Hipparchia article in The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, we can read

[…] Crates of Thebes…was so passionate about Cynic ideas that, leaving behind the wealth of his father, he moved to Athens with his wife Hipparchia, who was an equally zealous follower of his doctrine. And when he wanted to lie down with her in public, and she…pulled over her cloak as a cover, she was scolded by her husband: “obviously you are not yet wise,” he said, “since you don’t dare to do in the presence of others what you know well to be the right thing to do.”
The story of Hipparchia’s Cynic marriage quickly became the premiere example of that virtue, which is based on the Cynic belief that any actions virtuous enough to be done in private are no less virtuous when performed in public. As exemplars of anaideia, Hipparchia and Crates influenced their pupil Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism.

About six hundred years later, St. Augustine comments on this case.

It is this which those canine or cynic philosophers have overlooked, when they have, in violation of the modest instincts of men, boastfully proclaimed their unclean and shameless opinion, worthy indeed of dogs, viz., that as the matrimonial act is legitimate, no one should be ashamed to perform it openly, in the street or in any public place. Instinctive shame has overborne this wild fancy. For though it is related that Diogenes once dared to put his opinion in practice, under the impression that his sect would be all the more famous if his egregious shamelessness were deeply graven in the memory of mankind, yet this example was not afterwards followed. Shame had more influence with them, to make them blush before men, than error to make them affect a resemblance to dogs. And possibly, even in the case of Diogenes, and those who did imitate him, there was but an appearance and pretense of copulation, and not the reality. Even at this day there are still Cynic philosophers to be seen; for these are Cynics who are not content with being clad in the pallium, but also carry a club; yet no one of them dares to do this that we speak of. If they did, they would be spat upon, not to say stoned, by the
mob. Human nature, then, is without doubt ashamed of this lust; and justly so, for the insubordination of these members, and their defiance of the will, are the clear testimony of the punishment of man’s first sin. And it was fitting that this should appear specially in those parts by which is generated that nature which has been altered for the worse by that first and great sin—that sin from whose evil connection no one can escape, unless God’s grace expiate in him individually that which was perpetrated to the destruction of all in common, when all were in one man, and which was avenged by God’s justice. Augustine, City of God Book 14.20*

Let us examine the reasoning.

I interpret Crates’ browbeating Hipparchia that she should not be ashamed to have coitus in public with him as follows.

Coitus with me is morally permissible in private.
What is morally permissible in private is morally permissible in public.
Hence, coitus with me is morally permissible in public.
Shame which is based on public opinion but not nature inhibits you from engaging in public coitus with me.
You ought not let that which does not come from nature inhibit you from engaging in public coitus with me.
So, you ought not let shame inhibit you from engaging in public coitus with me.

The argument demands Hipparchia work on developing the Cynic virtue of anaideia (an-ah’-ee-die-ah’ ) which means shamelessness.

Crates’ line of reasoning to twist Hipparchia loving him into a means for making a philosophic statement is terrible.

What is right in private may be wrong in public. A guideline for good management of employees is” Criticize in private, praise in public.” He assumes a ridiculously reductive sense of human nature. What is not natural for dogs who have no culture by nature is not natural for humans who by nature have cultures.

Augustine is not foolish as Crates. Mostly from the later part of the passage, I interpret Augustine as arguing that Hipparchia ought to let shame inhibit her from engaging in public coitus with Crates.

Shame is the instinct we have for hiding from public view that which clearly exhibits our fallen nature.
Actions which clearly exhibit being driven by passion far more than reason clearly exhibit our fallen nature.
Coitus is an action which clearly exhibits being driven by passion far more than reason.
So, coitus clearly exhibits our fallen nature.
We ought not clearly exhibit our fallen nature.
So, we ought to use shame to hide coitus from public view.

Augustine is correct about our being fallen creatures. To say that we are fallen creatures is to say that human beings collectively and individually are not as they ought to be. We are fallen creatures. However, admitting our falleness does not require admitting that what is good for us is any less good than “before the fall.” Our falleness resides in the weakness of intellect and will to know what is good and then choose correctly from what is good. In particular, coitus with its special mixture of thought and sentiment might well be as good now as “before the fall.” Actions driven far more by passion than reason do not clearly exhibit our fallen nature.

This critique of Augustine segues to a line of argument basing sexual morality on the goodness of sexuality

Sexual intimacy is a basic human good.
Sexual intimacy requires privacy.
To intentionally choose to engage in the marriage act in public is to intentionally choose to inhibit the basic good of intimacy.
One ought to never intentionally choose to inhibit a basic human good.
So, one ought never intentionally choose to engage in the marriage act in public.

The marriage act is a tri-partite basic human good. Conception, sexual pleasure and intimacy are the three components. The focus is on intimacy. Long discussion of conception , sexual pleasure and their connection to intimacy would distract from the line of argument. Contrary to Augustine, note in passing that a component of the good of the marriage act is a special type of pleasure, or erotic joy, whose moral value ought not be overlooked. At the right time, in the right way, with the right person sex is and ought to be sexy.

Why, though, is in private the right way? The marriage act is doubly life giving. It is the biological procreative act and the human act for creating and re-creating the life long one flesh entity of a man and woman. It is to be life long for to bring to life that unity with an explicit or implicit intention to not hold the unity is to intend to abort the new life being created. A couple seeks privacy so that they can say, or signal, to one another “Right now, we have no interest but each other .” They strive to be one. They need, or need to be seeking, that aloneness so that they have nothing else to pull them apart. To intentionally preclude the possibility of that solitude necessary for that unity of will is to preclude the basic human good of the one flesh unity of a man and woman.

I could go on trying to articulate the necessity of privacy for the one flesh unity. It is important that this task can be left for non-philosophers. If intimacy is a basic human good, then its being so and its necessary conditions are accessible to all. The best support for the premises of my line of reasoning is the testimony of sensitive, wise and experienced men and women. Traditional sexual morality is to be defended by those who realize its truth. Philosophers only point out crucial premises for which testimony is needed.

In closing, reconsider how that night might have struck at the unity of Dan and Lisa. Imagine two continuation of their lives.

Dan and Lisa are mortified. They cannot believe they did what they did that night. Trust in themselves and one another.is shaken. With our ability to push to the back of our minds the many stupid things we do in our youth, they go on with their lives as if it never happened. Yet, there is a new sadness in their lives. But life goes on. They delight in the daughter born nine months after that night. Over the next few years, they are feel blessed with two boys. In the eyes of their children their unity is being parents. God has forgiven them, long before they forgive themselves.

Dan and Lisa are surprised and delighted about how bold they can be in pursuit of sexual excitement. After that night, they start seeking out other couples interested in group sex. In the eyes of the group sex subculture, their unity is that of a team seeking sexual excitement.

Venial sins wound the soul. Mortal sins kill the soul.

*Source. Translated by Marcus Dods. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 2. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.)

Divine Commands and Theology of the Body I

This is not an interpretation of St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. This post dismisses what is most likely a misinterpretation.

I have read all of John Paul II’s Angelus Addresses collectively titled “Theology of the Body.” I have read much, if not all, of Christopher West’s Theology of the Body Explained: A Commentary of John Paul II’s “Gospel of the Body”, Boston, 2003. In 2005, I bought West’s book at St. Therese’s Retreat House in Columbus, Ohio where I was making a weekend retreat with talks by Fr. Joseph Murphy from Josephinum Seminary on the theology of the body. Five years ago, I completed a six week On-line STEP course offered by the McGraft Institute at the University of Notre Dame titled “Theology of the Body.”

So far, however, I have not appreciated of the theology of the body. I keep trying to use its major themes to formulate compelling premises in arguments about sexuality. Because of my focus on finding compelling premises I did not use any theology of the body themes in my book making a case for traditional Catholic male sexual morality. A free copy of my book: Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism Tulsa 2014 is available by emailing kielkopf.1@osu.edu

I can outline formal arguments with premises and conclusion which are most likely caricatures of the moral reasoning implicit in the theology of the body. My understanding does not enable me to do more. Below is an example of such a caricature condemning artificial birth control addressed to married couples in general who engage in coitus with chemical or mechanical means in place to stop conception.

An argument against contraception by technical means is appropriate for illustrating use of themes from theology of the body. For, it seems to me, that most people who take an interest in theology of the body are concerned with how well, or poorly, it supports Paul V’s 1968 condemnation of birth control in his encyclical Humanae Vitae .

The theology of the body theme I use is that actions of our bodies make statements. These bodily statements can be attributed to both us and God. They can be attributed to us because we perform the actions. They can also be attributed to God because in creation of nature God created our bodies to make these statements with bodily actions. Characterization of bodily actions as statements of God makes this theology of the body.

It is not bizarre to interpret bodily actions as giving information. A zoologist from another planet studying the human species could properly interpret the actions of a couple courting and then copulating as giving the information that they are engaging in reproduction of the species. And it is not too far fetched to regard the information given as a statement having been made.

1. If you engage in coitus, what God by nature has your bodies say is ”We are promoting conception.”
2. If you intend to prevent conception in coitus, you have your bodies say “We are not promoting conception. “ (Bodily actions of putting birth control devices in place make statements in body language.)
So, (3) if you engage in coitus and intend to prevent conception, you have your bodies contradict what God says your bodies are doing.
4. You ought not contradict what God says by nature, your bodies are doing
So, (5) you ought not have your bodies say, “We are not promoting conception.”
Hence, finally,(6) you ought not engage in coitus and intend to prevent conception.

I dismiss this type of reasoning because premise (4) is too vague to be accepted as correct. I accept that God has, by the nature He has created, given human bodies the capacity to give messages. Indeed, my project is to make sense of God giving us moral commands by what happens in our bodies. Here, I want only to offer a reminder that frequently what we ought to do is have our bodies conflict with what our bodies say by nature.

For instance, suppose I am very tired and have a severe headache. When sitting by myself, my bodily action is looking miserable and holding my head. I hear someone coming to whom I should appear welcoming. I perk up to look normal. I have my body contradict what my body is now saying silently.

I could go on to remind us how much of the development of virtue requires making our bodies act in a way conflicting with what our bodies naturally say.

Also, there are many cases in which a physical description of what we do can be described as injuring a person. However, if this injuring, eg. surgery, can be described as not injuring the person.

I stop this critique of this caricature argument because it drifts into a critique of those caricatures of natural law moral reasoning. The caricatures of natural law moral reasoning are criticized by attributing to them a premise to the effect that we ought never inhibit natural processes.

There are two flaws in my caricature of theology of the body reasoning.

The first law is to interpret what the body says by nature, and hence by God, are only indicative claims about what is being done. I need to work on making sense of holding that what the body says by nature, and hence by God, are also imperatives; hence, divine commands.

The second and more serious flaw in the caricature argument is my presupposition that constructing formal premise and conclusion arguments is of fundamental importance in moral reasoning. This is the erroneous presupposition that the argument gives the imperative. Or more accurately: There is a presupposition that intelligent readers or hearers of the argument receive an imperative when they reach the conclusion. Presumably, God, reason, morality or whatever the moral authority might be uses arguments as the transmitters of moral commands.

I shall go on to outline a theology of the body for sexual morality. But John Paul II et al. cannot be blamed for it. Moral arguments will have the exhortative function of directing us to pay attention to features of our bodies to receive moral imperatives from these bodily features. The theological presupposition is that God’s commands are these bodily imperatives.

How God’s Commands are in Human Nature

Here “human nature” does not stand for a type which can be defined. As a type or form human nature is a timeless abstraction which is in no place. What is in the type is there by definition. For this post, human nature is that in reality which are the humans – the human part of nature. Perhaps, “humanity would be a better term. If we think of the type or form of human nature, no definition of this type would imply that humans fight endless wars. Humans are not necessarily by definition warlike. So, being warlike is not in the type human nature. But in actuality humans are warlike. So, even if it is a contingent fact that we fight endless wars, we can say that being warlike is natural for humans.

Humanity does not have a fixed spatial location. Humans might leave planet earth. Humanity has a temporal location. Humanity began when God gave a species of hominids moral souls. In this connection see: Supernatural Origin of the Human Soul. Human nature as humanity will cease to be if the human beings become extinct.

Human nature is a complex reality which includes radically different levels of reality. There is, of course, the physical reality of individual living human beings. The bodies of humans have definite spatial locations at any time. Individual humans have thoughts and feelings which can be dated but which have only an imprecise spatial location as in the vicinity of the thinking and feeling body. There are the vast intermingled collective thoughts and, I say, feelings of human beings. Some of these collections can be given imprecise spatial and temporal locations. For instance, the religious beliefs of an isolated tribe may imprecisely be located where the tribe lives. But they cannot be located as in the vicinity of individuals as can the religious thoughts of those individuals.

But there are other thoughts and sentiments or the capacity for them which are common to all individuals and cultures. Here I would emphasize that the universal thoughts and sentiments as residing primarily in the cultures because they do not come into existence and pass away as does the thinking of feeling of individuals. The universal thoughts and feelings could be called reason. However, labelling them as reason is not to classify all of them as correct.

God’s placed His commands in the reason of this complex reality of humanity. How? God gave human beings the capacity to think and feel morally. The capacity to think morally is primarily the capacity to think that what is good is to be promoted and never directly inhibited. The capacity to feel morally is primarily the capacity to desire ends God has intended for humans. The divinely intended ends are the goods which ought to be promoted and never inhibited. Human beings use reason to articulate basic universal moral imperatives to the effect that the basic goods God intends are to be promoted and never inhibited. Moral thinking and feeling is the crucial part of humanity for uncovering and articulating these divine commands.

The articulation, which includes justifying the articulation, is a human achievement. However, man is not the measure of all things because God’s commanding is the intending of the ends for humans. Our uncovering and articulating is a response to what God intends.

Can we be absolutely certain that what has been articulated as God’s commands are indeed what God commands? When we actually provided a defense for an articulation of a moral command we can be very confident that we have “got it right.” However, when we raise this question about absolute certainty, in abstraction from considering any argument, we can only reply as in the case of getting it right about facts. We cannot know that we know.

But the whole moral order is not given by God. The whole moral order consists of basic moral laws which, as I just wrote, can be understood as response to what God intends. But rules on how to implement basic moral laws in particular circumstances can be understood as human constructions which very from place to place.

But there are other moral laws which are human constructions and are also universal. These are the moral laws requiring correction for violation of moral laws. They can be called laws of justice. In general they prescribe that some harm ought to be done. I once called these rules of justice ad hoc moral laws. See Making ad hoc moral laws. I need to elaborate much more on what I have just called the moral order. But the purpose of this post is only to specify the foundational part of this order as given by God.

When Should We Talk of Immorality as Sinful

Grant that the moral laws are commands of God. When should we think and talk of morality as based on Divine commands? When we teach morality we should let our children know that our “does and don’ts” are not our arbitrary commands but come from God. God has gifted human beings with the cognitive and emotional capabilities to develop a concept of a moral authority to whom all their actions are transparent. Perhaps, God gave us this gift through evolutionary development. Regardless of how we received this gift of what Freudians label a superego, we should lead children to identify the moral authority with God. Yes, this leads children to develop a fear of God. And that is not a bad thing. Fear of the Lord is, indeed , the beginning of wisdom. In short, we should educate our children to have a sense of sin.

There are contexts in which it is legally or socially prohibited to talk of God. For instance, in secular public schools, talking of God, let alone teaching morality as coming from God is forbidden. I am uncertain whether these are policies are always good for public order. But in the home and in civil society at large, we should not hesitate to link morality with what God commands. When we associate with fellow citizens of “The City of God” we should maintain our sense of immorality as sinful, deliberate rejection of God’s will

Also, when tempted, it helps to think of we are acting in accordance with the will of God by suppressing unruly desires. It is helpful to think of God as the author of morality when we make moral judgments about others. When we do so, we can readily distinguish between the act we morally condemn and the inner state of the actor whose act we condemn. For the inner state is transparent to the moral authority, namely God, but not to us.

Morality comes into play in our lives most of the time when we teach, learn it, struggle with it and pass judgment on ourselves and our neighbors. In all of these contexts, there should be no hesitation to think feel and talk as morality being based on God’s commands.

But there is one context in which those who hold a divine command theory of morality should not assert any moral laws as God’s commands. This philosophical context is one in which they are making a case that, say masturbation violates a moral law. For making a case that masturbation is morally forbidden is making a case that it is a Divine command. It would be question begging to use as a premise “Masturbation is forbidden by God” when the aim is to prove exactly that.

But this eschewal of mentioning God in moral arguments is not reverting to moral deism. It is only secularizing a special context. For most people, philosophical thought is irrelevant. So to quarantine philosophical argument from assertions of God as commanding is not secularizing morality.

Of even more significance, for appreciating removing God from philosophical moral arguments is not necessarily secularizing moral reasoning are background assumptions of a Divine command moral theorist. For the reasoning will cite facts of nature as premises in a moral argument. The holder of a Divine command theory will regard nature as God’s creation. And God’s creation contains facts with normative significance. In a nature created by God there are purposes – the way things ought to be.

Moral Deism is Not an Antidote to Nihilism

How are divine commands are given and received?

I have long set aside confronting this apparently fundamental question for any divine command moral theory. I had no idea of how to start answering. I dreaded the prospect of inventing a scenario in which “God the angels and saints” somehow told people what to do. It would appear as silly superstition.

Do I need to give any account of the origin, development and functioning of morality as divine executive action? I interpret morality as divine commands. In philosophy, interpretation can be used as a “reduction operator.” How so? The interpretation for the facts is provided after the facts are obtained. The interpretation of the facts is to be given regardless of what the facts are. Hence, the questions of what the facts are reduce to questions not using the concepts of the interpretation. For instance, many of us interpret the universe as created and sustained by God – the Transcendent. But we rely on natural science using no theistic concepts to describe and explain God’s universe. God, so to speak, is acknowledged after the facts. So, the question “How are divine commands given and received?” reduces to “How are moral commands given and received?” This last question is a question for scientific but also ordinary human knowledge “How is morality discovered and transmitted throughout humankind?”

This question is to be answered as much as possible by natural sciences and then the answer receives a supernatural interpretation. Nothing is changed about the content of morality. Psychology and sociology are needed to tell us how morality is attained in individuals and transmitted in communities. I add “ordinary human knowledge” because natural science is not capable of describing and explaining all morality. To talk of morality, we need some basic “supernatural concepts.” These are not necessarily theistic concepts but they are concepts of the supernatural, as I have characterized supernatural.” There are basic notions of morality: Obligation, good and free will. Normative agent causation – free will—is part of ordinary understanding of morality; it is not explicable by natural sciences.

My regarding moral talk as using supernatural concepts is not bizarre. With increasing secularization fusing moral talk with theistic notions may decrease. But currently it is common to talk as if God, if such there be, would not be pleased with great cruelty. Indeed, people who profess atheism because of the evil in the world, think of God and morality as closely connected. It is certainly not bizarre to point out that ordinary talk is filled with supernatural concepts; vague as they may be. Presidents end speeches with “God bless America.”

What is the result of using interpretation of morality as divine commands as a reduction operator accomplished? It has led to moral deism.

Unfortunately, moral deism undercuts the rationale for understanding morality as based on divine commands. Man is still the measure of all things. Whatever man measures is interpreted as what God commands. God is not cited in moral reasoning. When moral deism is connected with deism about nature, as is logical, then there is an effort to explain the main psychological fact supporting authoritative morality as a purely natural fact. This psychological fact is the sense of transparency. All our actions are known to whatever it is behind morality. Explaining away transparency explains away a moral authority. Setting aside a moral authority sets aside the main reason for developing a divine command interpretation of morality. See Transparency for a discussion of the notion of whatever we do being exposed to the moral authority.

I am moving very quickly here. I’ll have to remedy this later. Moral deism is not an adequate antidote to nihilism. It evaporates into secularism with consequentialism as the only plausible types of moral theory.

To propose a significant divine command morality, I need to add some factual claims that will entail in conjunction with my theory of authoritarian morality some moral claims that some others will reject. To harken back to positivism of the twentieth century, I need to have falsification conditions for my divine command theory for it to be meaningful. This will mean that I have to profess as true some facts with moral implications. I will not write of God the angels and saints speaking to us. I will be writing under the influence of a religion, my Catholicism, as a basis for understanding human nature. I will not cite Catholic teaching. But I am sure they influence me. I will use this understanding of human nature, a Catholic anthropology, as a foundation for morality. Moral arguments will ultimately refer to facts about human nature. But this will be a human nature understood as given by God with moral implications.

God gave us his moral commands in the way he created our minds and bodies. Since, in humans mind and body are inseparable, we can say God gave us moral commands in how He built our bodies.

Since sexual morality is on use of our bodies, it might be well to investigate sexual morality to see if we can uncover how God gave us built sexual morality into our bodies.

Morality a Foundation of the Supernatural

If there is truth, beauty, goodness and holiness independent of human thought, then this objective truth, beauty, goodness and holiness are supernatural realities along with the human capacity to perceive them.

I am seeking the foundations of divine command morality. So, I focus on goodness. Since I am a professed moral realist holding that authoritative moral theory is correct, it is not surprising that I need the supernatural for the realm of reality in which divine commands are given and heard.

Discussion about belief in more than the natural should be divided into two parts. Part one is whether or not there is such a belief. Part two has two parts. Is such a belief to be interpreted as about something apart from it, viz., interpreted realistically? Or,is such a belief to be interpreted as a human invention.

Two famous arguments in moral theory show clearly that moral thought cannot be reduced to thought about the natural. Hume’s famous observation that “ought” cannot be derived from “is” show clearly that moral obligations are more than what is the case. To modify the opening remark of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, let us say that the natural contains only what is the case. G.E. Moore’s observation that attempts to define “Good” in terms of natural states of affairs is always question-begging – what he called the “Naturalistic Fallacy”- shows that belief that something good is not to be understood as belief in any natural condition.

Since humans do think morally, humans do think of the supernatural. Admittedly, it is not usual to classify morality as supernatural. Typically, the notion of supernatural carries the connotation of the action or force of something non-human as well as non-natural. However, a bit of reflection on moral thought soon, as I hope I have shown, leads to the ideas of a moral authority to whom all of our actions are transparent.

Here is a list of a few supernatural realities.
The moral obligations of a human being such as “Do not kill!”
The goodness of a natural human condition such as human knowledge
The moral agent causality of human beings, viz., free will – the ability to choose what is good and what ought to be done
The beauty of a landscape
The holiness of a site
The truth of a sentence

I wish that I could do more than claim that we have to take a stance on whether or not moral thought is purely a human invention or is given by a reality apart from it. One has to take a stance on whether or not to be a moral realistic. I can only add that unless one constantly keeps in mind philosophical motives for being an anti-realist the human default stance is realism about morality.

It is in this supernatural realm of the moral that we must specify how moral commands are given and received and how an order of morality is developed. The moral order will be complex because not only are there basic commands there are also many ad hoc rules because of violations of basic commands. These ad hoc rules can be eliminated by restitution and retribution.

Much takes place in moral reality. Humans with our physical, mental and social capabilities interact with the moral. There is no coherent account of how humans interact with the supernatural. But in the previous post it was pointed out that consistent talk is enough. We can talk consistently of the physical, mental and social interacting without any real hope for giving a coherent account of the interaction.

In a subsequent post, I hope to characterize how commands are given and received.

The Supernatural Origin of Humanity

The following philosophical account of the supernatural origin of humanity exhibits a supernatural account consistent with a naturalistic evolutionary account of the origin of humanity. Admittedly, it is influenced by my Catholicism and the Divine Command moral theory I have been working towards in blog posts the past few years. In addition to consistency with natural science, I hope that it is also a true account of the supernatural origin of humanity. Before turning to the question of truth, though, I need to ask myself what do I think is true about the natural and supernatural origin of humanity. My post on evolution outlines what I think is true about the natural origin of humanity. This post outlines what I think is true about the supernatural origin.

We are animals with a moral capacity. Full natural and supernatural humanity began when God gave us this moral capacity. I conjecture that this happen roughly fifty thousand years ago when homo sapiens-sapiens was a small population in sub-Saharan Africa. Our moral capacity is correlated with the biological conditions for being a species. But our moral capacity is not the condition for being a natural species. There are natural cognitive, anatomical and physiological features which distinguish homo sapiens-sapiens from other animals. Because it gives us free-will, the moral capacity is not amongst our natural features. With morality humans are supernatural beings as well as natural beings.

I am setting aside the issue of whether or not the moral capacity which gives the natural human species a supernatural dimension is a capacity unique to the human species.

Briefly, what is this moral capacity? It is the capacity to know what is the good for the exercise of our basic natural faculties plus the capacity to choose that good or some alternative inclination satisfaction in the exercise of a basic faculty. See Core Concepts of Authoritarian Morality and Reconsideration of Justifying a Moral Principle for details about my moral theory and references to my book justifying the good of male sexuality used in the example below.

For instance, the good of a male’s sexual capacity is in coitus with a woman to whom he has lifelong marital commitment. These goods constitute what would be a happy human life.

They are attractive to humans when we think carefully. Nonetheless, despite their attractiveness, these goods have to be commanded because with free will humans can choose to evade them. So, the basic human goods are obligatory goods.

We are as we are by choice. Why say by choice? We are good and evil but we do not have to be the way we are with respect to evil. We know the good but we do not always choose it. We cannot think of humans without this capacity for good and evil. Acquiring the capacity to choose contrary to a way we ought to choose is the beginning of humanity as we know it. As we know humanity it is not as it ought to be. Since ought implies can, humans can be as they ought. So, our soul is immortal as I will argue in a later post.

God created humanity when humans had the capacity to know the good and choose it. When humans chose to know the good but choose contrary to the good: humanity as we know it began. Whose choice? When and where was the choice made? Questions about choices of individuals thousands of years ago are not questions answerable by natural science. Reflection on the supernatural provides no further data on these questions. The choice was made by both men and women. Moving from consideration of definite individuals, I think of the man and the woman making that fateful choice.

If I wanted a presentation of these thoughts about our beginning as moral beings in story form, the Genesis story of the fall of Adam and Eve would be just what I wanted.

Hell Saves Us From Nihilism

Hell is an Antidote for Nihilism.

If there is no hell, everything is permitted.
If everything is permitted, then nihilism is correct
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So, if there is no hell, nihilism is correct.

At the conclusion of my post“Does Death Prove Nihilism?” I wrote ‘I cannot have a reasonable hope that life has meaning and a purpose unless I have a reasonable hope that I can go to hell!” Prima facie, my statement borders on the absurd.

Can one coherently believe we need to hope for that which we hope won’t happen? A little thought brings out its sober sense. Whenever we began a task or a game we hope for success. Success, however, requires the possibility of failure. There cannot be a successful completion if all outcomes are satisfactory.

Overcoming nihilism requires believing human life has a goal. A genuine goal is one we can fail to reach. So, overcoming nihilism requires believing that humans can fail at living. Failure at living is hell. Why? Our final thought is final for eternity. The last judgment is our final thought. If that judgment is “I failed at life; my life was a waste,”for eternity I judge myself a failure.
What is it, though, to fail at living?

Abstractly expressed, we fail at living if we fail to save ourselves from eternal failure – hell. I specify the details of successful living in terms of obeying and forming ourselves to obey the commands of the divine moral commander. My specific moralistic account of saving ourselves from failure in living is a theory of salvation or soteriology.

I will not detail my soteriology in this post. It is scattered throughout my posts. The reason I introduce the notion of soteriology is that outlining it is a logical condition for making a persuasive case for some surivival after biological death – “immortality of the soul.” A case for the survival after biological death should be guided by an account of that for which we survive: the reward of successful life and fate of the unsuccessful. An account of the post-mortem reward and loss, can be called “eschatology.” Eschatology is best done when there is a understanding of that for which there is reward or loss.

I think that I am using theological terms correctly when I write: Soteriology theoretically precedes eschatology.

In my next post, I will outline my soteriology as a preliminary for an argument for immortality.

Death Only by Choice

“Every death is regretable” is certainly not true. For many suffering in a terminal illness, death comes as a blessing. A peaceful passing away after a life well lived is desirable. Also, unfortunately, there are people who cause so much misery that their death is a reason for celebration.

However, in a situation focused on preservation of life, such as an ICU, it is true. There is regret about the failure to attain the goal of preserving life. More generally and rather vaguely, it expresses truly the thoughts and sentiments of the medical community whose focus is on preserving life. However, the belief fully expressed is “Every death is regretable as a failure of medical techniques for preserving life.”

For instance, consider a surgeon called in to operate on a patient he does not know. If the patient dies in surgery, he regrets his failure to save the life.

Even more generally and vaguely, it is true about society as a whole when society takes on the perspective of a medical community as it has during the COVID-19 pandemic. Society as a whole is forced to adopt a medical perspective by being compeled with lockdowns, face masks, social distancing etc. to participate in controlling spread of the virus. The world-wide restrictions develop a sense that the whole world is a place for protecting health, if not actually a hospital.

From this medical perspective “Every death from COVID is regretable” truly describes the societal belief. When the medical perspective is taken COVID drops out, shortening the belief to “Every death is regretable.” For the medical perspective does not regret death only from specific causes. Death is regreted as a failure of techniques for saving life.

I have read statements of government officials that not a single death from COVID is acceptable.

Long term imposition of the pandemic restrictions along with much else in our soceity leads to taking a medical perspective on human life a dominating perspective. Medical services, pharmecutical products and insurance for using them are major factors in our economies. It is the scientific way of looking at at life. The whole world is like a hospital. From this dominating perspective there arises the belief that every death is regretable as a failure of science.

Putting together this belief that every death is regretable as a failure of science with the confidence that every death is scientifically preventable, we confront the aspiration of the medical perspective that a regretable situation is to be eliminated. But eliminating death is not regretable. Even if scientific techniques develop to a stage at which brain death can be indefinitely delayed, that leads to lives not worth living. Nature sees to it that deaths are to be desired.

Does not, then, the medical perspective aspire to a contradictory situation of desiring what is regretable? No. There is a way out of the contradiction. For deaths which are not failures of scientific techniques for saving lives need not be regreted. Deaths by choice need not be regreted..

The aspiration of the medical perspective is to have death only by choice. But to bring about deaths by choice requires acting on the intention to directly take a human life. Intentionally taking a human life is in direct conflict with the Fifth Commandment “Thou shall not kill!”

So, with respect to my previous posts on how we deafen ourselves to Divine Commands, this post points our that adopting what I have called “the medical perspective” leads us toward not “hearing” the Fifth Commandment.