Category Archives: Divine Command Morality

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.

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
—————————————————-
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.

Hearing a Command of God is Not a Fact for Psychology or Sociology

My philosophical project is to develop a moral theory in which fundamental moral laws are commands of God. This requires an account of how divine commands are heard or more generally received. I conjectured that I might get insight into how we hear God’s commands by investigating how we deliberately suppress hearing a divine command – deafening ourselves to the voice of God. These would be cases of moral obtuseness. See Pregnancy is Not Sexual

The practice of accepting abortion seems a very widespread practice of moral obtuseness. Millions, perhaps now billions, of otherwise tolerably decent human beings agree that the moral permissibility of abortion is to be determined by utilitarian calculation. And, as the facts show, the way costs and benefits are determined almost all, if not all, are considered morally permissible. They do not recognize abortion as stopping a human life. There is no doubt that some abortions solve very nasty personal and social problems.

I have now, though, come to think that my conjecture on how to develop an account of how we hear divine commands by exploring how people deafen themselves to divine commands is philosophically misleading. It is philosophically misleading because it leads me to complex empirical investigations. How people become insensitive to moral issues are very interesting psychological and sociological questions.

I have speculated why people are insensitive to the immorality of abortion. I was insensitive to its intrinsic evil for a while. One of my speculations is that people regarded pregnancy as somehow a matter of sexual morality. But is that true about people’s thought? Another speculation is that people think of pregnancy as a medical condition; by virtue of being a medical condition it can be dealt with according to utilitarian reasoning. Yet, a third speculation is that being physically connected to the mother’s body leads people to think that the child belongs to the mother to do with it as she sees fit. But the effort to make these speculations precise and then to investigate whether or not they tell the truth about a moral mistake made by a vast number of people is irrelevant to the philosophical task of giving an account of making a moral mistake.

For a divine command moral theory not hearing a divine command and making a moral mistake are the same. I have to give a non-empirical or conceptual account of what a moral mistake is rather than going off on the sociological task of explaining how people actually think when making a moral mistake.

I will start, in my next post, with my personal recognition that it is a mistake to characterize abortion as anything that overrides thinking of it as stopping a human life. Perhaps avoiding a moral mistake is thinking of a situation in anyway which obscures what it truly is. I’ll face the philosophical challenges to holding that recognizing the truth, even the truth of empirical claims, is not an empirical fact.

Divine Commands vs. Divine Commanding

In various posts, I have sketched out the structure of morality based on the commands of an authority. In sketching out the structure of authoritarian morality, I have made a strong case that people who accept retributive punishment presuppose authoritarian morality. In other posts, I have sketched out a metaphysical structure of a Transcendent on which everything, including morality, depends for existence. I have, now, the conceptual tools for constructing a conceptual scheme in which the fundamentals of morality are commands of God, with God represented by the Transcendent.

Before working out details of this conceptual structure, I need to specify what actually occurs to make the construction correct.

The structure of authoritarian morality is not authoritarian morality. The structure characterizes the moral reality. The moral reality is the commanding by the moral commander and the responding of those to whom the commands are given. This is a temporal process. So, clearly, it is immanent. Of course, this process depends upon the Transcendent for its existence and character.

But what is the commanding and hearing of commands?

If morality really is based on divine commanding, then moral experience should reveal that activity. The structure of authoritarian morality should then characterize the morality arising from God being a partner in maintenance and development of morality. I am not privy to special moral experiences. There is nothing available to me that others do not also experience in their discussions and personal thinking about right and wrong, good and evil. So, what I say about the commanding of the divine moral commander is an interpretation of what people experience in moral thought and sentiment.

I propose that a sense or thought that we are correct in moral thought or discussion be interpreted as receiving a divine command. There are various descriptions of this sense of being correct about morality. Some have called it what we receive from a moral sense others characterize it as what they get from their moral intuitions, some call it what proper reason recognizes, others characterize it as what their conscience tells them and presently many express this by claiming it is a moral issue.

I use a phrase from Kant.

Stages in our feeling infused thinking at which we can declare a categorical imperative are stages at which we have a sense of receiving a divine command. These categorical imperatives are thoughts of the form “That is right,” “That is wrong,” “That is good,” and “That is bad.” The imperatives about good and bad imply imperatives about right and wrong because a categorical imperative judgment that something is good implies that a categorical imperative that one ought never inhibit it. A categorical imperative judgment that something is bad implies a categorical imperative judgment that one ought never promote it.

To repeat: I am interpreting taking a moral judgment as final is taking it as being divinely commanded. Of course, this does not mean that people consciously interpret their conclusive moral judgments as divinely commanded.

I must emphasize that we are not incorrigible recognizers of divine commands. Divine commands are incorrigible. God cannot err on what ought to be done or propose as good something which is not good. But we can make a mistake about whether God has actually commanded an act or proposed something as good. This is what should be expected if one holds that morality is objective. The prospect of a discrepancy between the objective and the subjective arises when there are thinking feeling subjects trying to be accurate about what is given. Divine commands are the given of morality.

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.

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.

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.