Category Archives: Authoritarian Morality

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.

Love for the Transcendent??

Love for the Transcendent

It is difficult to understand what could bring a person to say “I love God.” What, then, could possibly bring someone to say “I love the Transcendent?”

As a little boy walking home from Nativity grade school in St. Paul, Minnesota, I once wondered how classmates -usually well-behaved little girls- could tell the nun teaching the class that they loved God. When I return to St. Paul, I frequently pass the intersection -Juliet and Prior- where I had that experience, when about seven or eight, of wondering how people could say that they loved God. My experience returns to me. What were they thinking? Would they feel sad if something bad happened to God? It was so troubling that I kept it in mind as one of the many things I would have to figure out for myself as life went on. I would be embarrassed ever to ask anyone “Why do you say that you love God?”

Finally, now, in my mid-eighties, I have figured out what I could mean by saying that I love God. Even with the mature, and correct, notion of love as willing the good of the other, I could not understand how I could will good for God who needs nothing. The answer, which should have been obvious to me for a long time, struck me this week after Epiphany when we have been reading the first letter of John. On Thursday we read in John 1:4 “For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.”

The good for God is what God wills. God wills the good of His human creatures. So, aiming at the good for humans is aiming at God’s good. God has willed that the human goods be attained by humans ordering their lives in accordance with rules for attaining these human goods. These rules are the moral rules and can be considered His commandments. So, by willing to obey the moral rules we will God’s good. That is loving God!

Consequently, a Divine Command theory of morality is not interpreting God as a moral tyrant who leaves no room for human freedom. On the contrary, a Divine Command moral theory is an explication of what it means to freely love God. For we are free to will to disobey His commands. But we are also free to will to obey His commands which is to love Him.

What does this have to do with the Transcendent? In my efforts to characterize the Transcendent as the moral authority, I am working towards explicating how we can speaking meaningfully of loving God even when “God” is understood in the most austere philosophical terms.

“Is”/”ought” Gap in Support of Authoritarian Morality

The ontological importance of the gap between is and ought

I have finally appreciated the positive significance of Hume’s observation that we cannot logically derive an “ought” claim from an “is” claim; not even “is” claims about God. Even though this gap showed the independence of morality from facts, it still seemed mostly a troublesome problem of justifying moral claims. For it is deep seated in human moral reasoning to back-up claims about what ought to be done by reference to facts. However, now that I have begun the fundamental philosophic task of characterizing the Transcendent as the moral authority, I appreciate that the independence of morality from fact is of more value for metaphysics than it is a disvalue for epistemology.

I intend to use the structure of my model of morality as based on authority to rationalize characterizing the Transcendent as a moral authority. If I am successful, I propose that I have constructed a model of morality as being based on Divine Commands. As I noted in the previous post, a phase in this construction of a model of morality as based on the Transcendent is showing that morality, which is immanent, is independent of anything else in what is immanent. Showing independence from fact is the major step in showing independence of morality.

Showing this independence is required to establish that morality is directly dependent for its existence on the Transcendent. If morality is directly dependent on the Transcendent it becomes plausible that we can rationalize some characterizations of the Transcendent as what it would be like to be why such-and-such feature of morality exists.

I doubt that Hume would be happy with a philosopher using his logical observation that we cannot derive “ought” from “is” to make a case for Divine Command morality.
.

Morality and the Transcendent

In this post I outline characterizing the Transcendent as the moral authority. Sketching out the line of argument sets aside at the outset two connected standard objections to divine command morality.

The objections start from the dilemma question: “Does God command the rules because they are right or does God’s command make the rules right?” The answer that God commands the rules because they are right places a standard for rightness independent of God. The answer that God’s commands makes the rules right seems to leave open the prospect of all sorts of morally horrible deeds being commanded as right.

I start with the authoritarian or command morality as fixed in what is immanent.

Recall that in my terminology the immanent is everything humans can represent along with representations. The immanent is what there is – everything! But without the Transcendent, there would be nothing.

How are the objections set aside?

Using the metaphysical notion of “depends for its existence” I develop an admittedly imprecise characterization of the Transcendent as the source of morality and thereby the Divine moral authority. With respect to knowing right from wrong, the standards for, along with the content of, morality are fixed in the immanent. With respect to their existing at all in the immanent, the standards and the content of morality are in the Transcendent.

The dilemma question above cannot be asked about the Transcendent because in our thinking what morality commands is already settled before we think about the Transcendent as that on which its existence depends.

Philosophic thought forbids itself from making discoveries about the Transcendent.

The pattern of argument for the Transcendent as the existential source of morality is simple as A, B ,C below. But the outline but conceals the need for an immense amount of philosophical labor.

A. Show that morality is a basic feature of the immanent. (It does not depend upon anything else in the immanent.)

B. Show that morality is contingent.(Its existence is dependent.)

C. Because (A) and (B) show that morality is directly dependent upon the Transcendent for its existence, make a case that characterizations of the Transcendent can be constructed from modifications of features of immanent morality that are “good enough” for thinking of the Transcendent as the Moral Authority. I hate to say that we construct a characterization and project it upon the Transcendent. But that is what I do in my philosophy.

I add a few remarks about the underlying philosophical problems.

Under (A) I need to show that my authoritarian model of morality is a model of something immanent, i.e., an accurate representation of moral thinking. There is, then, a need to show that this way of moral thinking could not be explained as coming into existence from any other way of thinking; let alone being explained as coming into existence from neurophysiological factors. I could not live long enough to do (A). But I will make a few remarks on it

It might seem that (B) is easy once (A) has been established. However, in authoritarian morality, moral claims have a type of necessity. How can one show that what is allegedly presented with necessary truths need not exist?

I cannot infer from the Transcendent is the immediate foundation for something immanent having feature F that the Transcendent has feature F or even that the Transcendent has something analogous to feature F. Nonetheless, that is what I do under (C ). I differ from philosophers who develop theories of analogical predication. They argue that since the same terms can be meaningfully applied to both God and creatures there is an analogy between God and creatures which allows such predication. I try to show that there is an analogy between the immanent and the Transcendent which justifies applying terms to the Transcendent.

The task of (C ) is not rigorous. But one can get close to being right even when being unable to tell the exact truth – or, so, I believe.

Transcendent Intelligence

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

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

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

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

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

Premise 1:Human intelligence need not be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Causal Defense of Progressive Morality: Explanation Replaces Justification

In the previous post, I dismissed the claim that a significant variety of free will was freedom to create the laws of morality. In the course of this dismissal I argued against a claim that freedom to create morality gave humans dignity. I did not question, though, whether having morality gives humans dignity. It does. The freedom to be moral agents gives humans dignity. Nor did I address the issue of whether there could be morality without humanity.

In this post, while on the topic of the role of humanity in the existence of morality, it is appropriate to reconsider the very strong support for progressive morality in What is progressive Morality? developed by conceding that morality is only the result of natural causal processes -human evolution. The gist of the defense is to show that there is no need to accept a moral authority or a moral order independent of humanity to justify moral claims. A requirement to justify fundamental ought-claims by how well they conform to a moral order is replaced with an explanation of how human nature causes us -most of us-to accept the claims..

Explanation replaces justification for the following fundamental principles of progressive morality.

The use of moral language and thought are permissible.

There ought to be no harm.

Cooperation ought to be promoted.

Human inclinations ought to be satisfied.

There ought to be certain modifications of moral language and thought; especially the notion that harm is done simply by violating a moral law – the notion of moral harm.

The gist of the defense of the principles is expressed in the following monologue.

Think carefully about the claim and your human nature will cause you to accept it because you are caused to feel approval of it being descriptive of human behavior; especially the behavior using moral language to control behavior. If you are one of the few that still does not accept the claim, then you are simply one of those who does not accept the argument. It is a fact of human nature that someone dissents from almost every claim. So, you are caused to be one of the few who dissent.

Next, explanations are provided why most humans accept the claim.

For instance, consider the claim that moral language is permissible. If someone thinks carefully about the special use of language to control behavior with notions such as ought, good and right, he will amongst other things consider whether we ought to dispense with moral language. He is caught in the trap of moral language; moral language is used to question moral language.. An explanation for being inextricably bound to use of moral language is that humans have evolved to use morality, amongst other things, to promote and inhibit behavior.

An explanatory justification for cooperation points out that nature supports cooperative behavior. So, humans who cooperate, viz., keep laws even when not to their personal advantage, have evolved. Part of this mindset of cooperative behavior is believing that the mere violation of a law is damage.

The key alteration of moral language and thought is elimination of this notion of moral harm. Progressives will say that they are caused to reject this notion. I think that progressives work for this change by regularly asking people, especially students, to consider imaginary scenarios in which violations of a moral law produced far less harm than obedience. These scenarios cause people to lose a sense that violation of a moral law is harmful.

If a progressive is asked whether the basic principles are true, the answer is as follows. Yes they are true because I am caused to give them the highest degree of assent. My language and thought have evolved to a point at which I call true that to which I give the highest degree of assent.

This line of thought justifying a stance on morality by replacing justificatory arguments with causal explanation was better presented by David Hume.

I hope that I have outlined it well enough to show that it cannot be set aside by pointing our logical or verbal fallacies, viz. procedural critiques. To confront moral progressivism, I need to uncover the truth about that reality – that aspect of reality which grounds morality.

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.

What Freedom of the Will is Worth Wanting

I have often read and heard that true freedom, the highest freedom, the freedom most worth wanting* is freedom to obey the moral law. It is called a positive freedom because it is a freedom to do something as opposed to negative freedoms from restrictions on choosing and doing. There is a strong suggestion that you will feel truly free only when obeying the moral law by choice. The suggestion carries a hint of cajolery.

Do what morality says you have to do and after a while you will realize that you are most free when choosing what you are morally bound to do.

Characterized as above, this positive freedom to choose to will as the moral authority, viz., as God, wills is not especially attractive. However, after years of dismissing praise of this positive freedom as moral or religious cant, unraveling the notion of moral harm has shown me that the freedom to will only as God wills is indeed the freedom of will most worth wanting. Let us call it the freedom of virtue. For. Amongst other things, freedom of virtue gives a deep sense of security of being on God’s side.

However, I did not appreciate the freedom of virtue until I contrasted it with a lesser positive freedom. This lesser positive freedom of will is freedom to choose right or wrong. On one hand, it is worth wanting because it gives us the status of moral agents. On the other hand, I cannot say that I find the status of moral agent as truly worth wanting. It makes us vulnerable to being morally evil. Still, I would not have it any other way since being moral agents is a necessary condition for gaining the freedom of virtue.

How can freedom to be a moral a moral agent be perfected by freedom of virtue?

There are temptation situations for which there is a moral law specifying what act ought to be done. However, the moral authority has left open a gap in actuality as to whether or not what ought to be done is done On these situations the agent has some inclination not to obey the moral law. Temptation situations in which to choose to obey a moral law or reject obeying the moral law are occasions to exercise our freedom to be moral agents. We have an opportunity to share in the legislative status of the moral authority.

In these gaps in the moral order, the moral authority leaves open to us the execution of its laws on what ought to be. When we choose to obey the law we are creators of norms by virtue of making the moral law active for this situation. This choosing in harmony with the moral law is moral good. We participate in the moral legislation of god. When we choose to disobey the moral law, we create new norms to the effect that some harm ought to occur. Production of these norms prescribing harm is moral evil.

I think that I differ from many because they think that we can morally legislate only for the good. But with my notion of moral harm, moral legislation can be for harm. Most importantly, though, I think that some failures to obey the moral law in temptation situations is not due to weakness of the will – weakness in our positive freedom to obey. In many temptation situations, the agent has an inclination to disobey and chooses to satisfy the inclination by rejecting God’ norm and creating and following his or her own norm. As moral agents we can do worse than fail to choose what is right; we can willfully choose what is wrong. We commit mortal sins. We choose what is gravely wrong after sufficient reflection and with full consent of the will
The freedom of virtue is supremely worth wanting because it is the perfection of the freedom to be moral agents. Moral agency is perfected by eliminating the freedom to choose evil from our moral agency.

Here I can only sketch a few thoughts on attaining the freedom of virtue.

I think that freedom of virtue is both a gift from God as well as a condition for which we must work. The freedom to be moral agents is a gift from God in the sense that it is part of the standard human condition. Building moral character is what we do to attain virtue.

As we approach virtue temptations become negligible. However, temptations never completely vanish. So complete virtue is never attained. This is so true in sexual matters that I do not think sexual virtue is attainable for men

* I borrow “Free will worth wanting” from Daniel Dennet’s 1984 Elbow Room: The varieties of free will worth wanting. It is an important book on free will.

Suicide is a Choice that People Ought to be Killed

I dread a prospect of dying slowly with Alzheimer’s far more than I fear dying from COVID-19 flu. If I were diagnosed with onset of Alzheimer’s I would be seriously tempted to kill myself or have physician assisted suicide if legal.

Suppose that I have received such a diagnosis. Suppose also that I, along with a close group of family and friends, have planned the taking of my life so that the dispiriting effects of my suicide on a much broader group of family and friends have been eliminated or greatly reduced. In short, suppose that utilitarian considerations show that my suicide is best for satisfying the human inclinations of all concerned. The actual harm done to people by my suicide would be less than the actual harm done to people by my undergoing a long slow dying with Alzheimer’s.

Suppose that there is a moral law forbidding suicide. I have argued for such a moral law.Immorality of Suicide. But the topic of this post is not to argue for a moral law prohibiting suicide. The topic of this post is to characterize the moral harm produced by violating the moral law prohibiting suicide.

In this situation in which I am tempted to take my life, the moral authority’s will is that I choose not to take my life to be in conformity with its will that life not be taken. But the moral authority has left a freewill gap in its legislation whereby I can choose to will as it wills for the situation or choose to will against it. I will against the moral authority by willing that in this case what ought to be done is the taking of a life. The moral harm of breaking the moral law is this new norm that a life ought to be taken. The new norm is that some human life ought to be taken. This new norm is “dirt” in the moral order; it is out of place in the moral order which is a system of norms.

To review: In the temptation to violate the moral law “No life ought to be taken” I had the choice to ratify that law by setting aside the temptation to commit suicide or I had the choice to create my own norm on what ought to be done in opposition to the authority’s norm on what ought to be done. My norm opposing the moral authority’s is “Some life ought to be taken.”*

So the moral harm of my committing suicide is a moral norm that some human life ought to be taken. My suicide corrupts the moral order with this perverse norm. This norm can be removed from the moral order only by it being carried out or by the moral authority erasing it by forgiveness through its mercy. The carrying out of the norm prescribing death would be retributive punishment.

* In standard deontic logics, the contradictory of “No life ought to be taken” is “Some life may be taken.” However, when an agent willfully defies a moral law, the agent is willing more than a simple rejection of the law. The agent is willing that this act in defiance of the law is what I ought to do.