Category Archives: Ontology

The Supernatural is for Love & Freewill

Thesis:The human capacity to love reveals the supernatural dimension of humanity.

The argument for the thesis of this post develops the thesis: Freewill Necesaary and Sufficient for Love .

The purpose of this thesis for my project of modeling Satan is to justify creation of the supernatural, although the supernatural requires the possibility all of the evil initiated by intelligent agents. However, creation of the supernatural creates the possibility of love. The possibility of love outweighs all of the actualized possibilities of evil initiated by intelligent agents, which amongst other things are capable of love.

A case for love’s supreme goodness is made at the end of this post.

This is the gist of the argument that love is supernatural.

What is obligatory is supernatural. Love is obligatory. So, love is supernatural

Preliminary terminological clarifications of “nature” are needed. For “nature” is used equivocally. In the phrase “human nature,” the term “nature” signifies what a human being is. Within the term “supernatural” the second part “natural” is an adjective which goes with “nature” where “nature” signifies the features of human beings which are studied by physics, chemistry, biology, psychology and sociology, viz. natural sciences. So, “supernatural” signifies features of human beings which cannot be studied by the natural sciences. However, in another sense of “nature,” clarified in: The Supernatural is not a Super Nature,, the term “supernatural” does not signify any kind of nature different from that studied by the natural sciences.

I use “humanity” to signify what a human being is. Hence, I write of natural and supernatural dimensions of humanity.

Our subjection to moral imperatives points to the supernatural dimension of humanity. The scientific study of human nature explains why people naturally pursue what is good: Basic goods or lesser goods when not thinking clearly. We naturally seek what is good because we have inclinations for what is good. More generally, the natural goal for humans is happiness because an inclination for happiness is in the natural dimension of humanity. However, no facts about our pursuing what is good show that we ought to pursue what is good. David Hume’s observation that “ought” does not follow logically from “is” is not a philosopher noting a logical distinctions. It calls our attention to a profound reality about humanity. We have a supernatural dimension.

Why say that humans have a supernatural dimension, instead of saying that humans have a dimension which cannot be understood by natural sciences?

Hume’s logical point supports a metaphysical conclusion, which Hume himself would have considered “sophistry and illusion.” The metaphysical conclusion is that there is a type of reality different from nature wherein obligations are the fundamental realities. Hume assumed that there is no reality other than the reality of nature. Hence, obligations had to be explained as dependent upon nature. Roughly, obligations would be explained as what people construct to insure they get that for which they have natural inclinations. So, there would not be obligations to act regardless of any inclinations to do otherwise. There would be no categorical imperatives.

There are categorical imperatives. (The Satan modeling project assumes moral realism. Moral realist should accept that there is a moral reality.)

Being subject to categorical moral imperatives shows that humans have access to a reality different from that acessible by the thought processes needed for natural science. It’s a reality whose basic laws states: Do good, avoid evil. Such a reality warrants the title “super.” Moral realism entails supernatural agency. Why?Imperatives specify what ought to be done. What ought to be can be. If there were no agents obligations could not be carries out. So, the assumption of moral realism carries with it an assumtion that there are moral agents. These are agents with the Free Will of Love. The thesis that love requires us to be supernatural agents is, in effect, a corollary of the thesis that obligations entail that we are supernatural agents. For we cannot love if we are not moral agents. The two greatest commandments are commands to love. See Mt 22:36-40 If love is commanded, love is the sort of activity for moral agents. If such love came totally through nature, it would not make sense to speak of it as commanded.

For those who do not want to use scripture as the source of the command to love, can consider the first natural moral law: Do good! This law tells us to will the good for the sake of good itself. Willing good for the sake of good itself is certainly willing the good for another since no creature is good itself. So, in effect, the first moral law states: Love! In creation, love is necessary for good to be pursued as it ought to be pursued. Thus, love is only behind the good in terms of being valuable.

Supernatural Reality is Not a Super Nature

The purpose of this post is to support a negative thesis that the supernatural has not the the reality of a nature. In Deontic Structure of Supernatural Reality a postive thesis that the supernatural is the reality of morality. There it will be brought out that realm in which moral laws are realities is more than a bleak realm of “Thou shalts” and “Thou shalt nots.

The spiritual dimension of humanity is not a special field of study for those who enjoy the occult or spiritualists. The supernatural is not “spooky.” For the most part, trying to understand the supernatural is trying to understand ourselves; not trying to make contact with spirits. The supernatural is a dimension of each and every person. But the methods of natural science are not the way we become acquainted with and understand our supernatural dimension. Perhaps most become acquainted with the supernatural when “our conscience bothers us.” Our consciences bother us when we believe that we have done something really wrong. Here “really” means “real;” not something such as “seriously.” Our violation of a moral law is an existing and pernicious reality.

The so-called humanities and art are ways to experience the supernatural when our own experience is limited. The German term die Geistwissenschaften might refer to the kinds of studies I have in mind. However, if I am correct about love, the experience of willing the good for another regardless of any inclination is experiencing what is supernatural. Reflecting on that experience of love is a significant way of understanding the supernatural.

As “supernatural dimension” has been characterized, many thoughtful people, I believe, will accept the concept as marking out important areas of humanity; but with a tendentious label. Why, it might be objected, use the term “supernatural” which hints at the occult? Why not simply call it the moral dimension of humanity?

However, I do not accept reducing the supernatural to the aspects of humanity which cannot be understood by the methods of natural science. For my larger project of modeling Satan,I need to do more than make a case for using the concept of supernatural to apply to humans. Beyond the conceptual case, I need to make an ontolgical case. The ontological case is that there is a supernatural reality, albeit no supernatural nature. At some point in my Satan model building, I need to make a case that: Satan is a reality.

Grant that what I have called the supernatural is real. Why go on to assert that this reality is not a nature?

To answer we return to David Hume’s logical point about the logical gap between “is” and “ought.”

In my answer “nature” is understood as what can be correctly described by saying what is the case. A nature is what Wittgenstein called a world when he wrote: The world is all that is the case. To tell the whole truth about a nature or a world is to tell all of the facts. Statements of what ought to be done, what ought to be and for what purpose something ought to be done are not statements of fact. To be sure, some factual statements about nature studied in the natural sciences, especially psychology and sociology, report what is the case with obligations and goals humans have created. But these facts about human constructions do not give us moral laws or ultimate goals. For instance, Hume’s logical point reminds us that “Thou ought not kill” does not follow from “It is the case that people have a rule that we ought not kill.” In the nature studied in the natural sciences, man is the measure of all things, viz., measure of all norms and goals, as Protagoras taught long ago.

Suppose the supernatural signified a nature; perhaps a realm of spirits and their activities. How could there be norms and rules binding these spirits? The spirits could invent them. But inventions are not categorical moral rules: rules binding us regardless of whether or not we choose to be bound by them. Even if the spirits heard the voice of God command “Thou shalt not kill,” they know only the fact about the spirit realm expressed in “It is the case that God commanded thou shalt not kill.” Hume’s logical point about “ought” not logically implied by “is” holds for this supposed spiritual nature as well as for the familiar nature studied by the natural sciences. The spirits are not entitled to infer “Thou ought not kill” from”It is the case that God said thou ought not kill.”

In the early twentieth century, philosophers diagnosed a naturalistic fallacy. The gist of the accusation of a fallacy was as follows. Regardless of the nature of a nature, the nature only offers facts and not values. Or: the objective truth about a nature is expressed with statements of facts. In a world of facts, expressions of value are subjective; expressions of sentiments by humans.

We have reached a point where we need to make a decision about ontology. We can dismiss norms and goals as having objective reality and thereby dismiss morality as fundamental. Or we can accept them as having objective reality and try to understand a reality which is non-factual: a reality whose fundamental features are not properly reported with statements of the form “It is the case that______”

For the project of modelling Satan as a reality, I need to make the decision about ontology to model a non-factual reality in Deontic Structure of Supernatural Reality.

Love Is More Than Willing the Good of The Other

Some of us are distressed with so much talk of God’s love in religious and theological discussions.

Below is a paragraph I copied from a source I respect. It is a series of reflection from Paradisus Dei, which sponsors the That Man Is You program. The reflections are on the life of St. Joseph for each day in May 2023

“The secret passage to love, to paradise, is an open door to the Sacred Heart of Christ. His heart was wounded and opened by a sword, so that ours may be healed. An infinite love flows perpetually from his heart. Love is the strongest power in both the world and the heavens. Yes, love is more powerful than even the grips of death. It transcends this life and passes to everlasting life in heaven. Our actions, when done in and through love, transcend this life and have everlasting significance. This is precisely why we can and should find paradise at the School of Nazareth. Quite simply, the daily life of the Holy Family was an explosion of love. When we find pure love and the absence of evil, we find paradise…even on earth.”

Perhaps, I should speak only for myself when I write of being distressed with so much talk of God’s love.

So, I speak only for myself. But I speak for everyone when I argue that “love” does not mean “willing the good of the other.”

Note added later : I started to write on love because of my unease of so much talk of God’s love. However, I actually write only of personal love between human beings. I should also add that I strongly approve of stipulating that love is willing the good of the other when talking of what “love” means when talking of any love we are obliged to have.

How can I speak for everyone? For those who might be interest, I offer a statement of my methodological assumption. See Semantic Knowledge is Synthetic & Apriori.

As noted above, I would be happy to have most talk of love be reduced to talking of willing the good of others. I am glad that many Catholic preachers say that what they mean by love in their sermons is willing the good of others.

My semantic point about the meaning of “love” is quite simple.

If “love” meant “willing the good of the other,” then “love” does not designate something fundamental. It is the terms “will” and “good” which designate some fundamental realities. In principle, all uses of “love” could be replaced by talking of willing and what is good. Even my semantic intuitions conflict with such an reductive elimination of “love.” To be sure , in many contexts I can express almost, but not quite, what I mean by “love” using “will” and “good.” For instance, see my Love of God is Essentially Love of Neighbor wherein I argue that helping the distressed because of a sense of duty is almost the same as helping the distressed from a sense of love. I think that willing the good of the other is a necessary condition for calling any relationship “love.”

The linguistic uneliminability of “love” does not imply that “love” designates some unique basic highly valuable reality. The triviality on many yard signs “Love is love” is intended to tell the lie that the affection of a man for his wife is the same as the affection of one man for another because “love” is primarily a noun designating a basic feature. The need to modify “love” with various adjectives as “maternal,” “paternal,” “fraternal,” “romantic,” “erotic,” “homoerotic,” “platonic,” illicit, etc., bring out that the semantical fact that “love” is a relative term. To speak more precisely, we should use terms such as “the love of a mother for . . ,” “the love of sexual desire for. . ,” etc.,.

See Bonding Necessary for Love for my proposal that willing the good of the other plus the proper bonding to another provide necessary and sufficient conditions for personal love. Also the type of bonding indicates the type of loving.

Collective Contrition

Collective Contrition

To build an authentic moral barrier to abortion we should cultivate a condition of collective perfect contrition for abortion.

I wondered why we, and I in particular, should care about almost unlimited access to abortion. We, and I in particular, are not threatened with any great harm. The extreme damage to unborn babies might well be outweighed by the social problems solved by their destruction. Some, but not many, might fear the wrath of God.

Yet, there is a deep sorrow that elective abortions are legally permitted and that millions of women have and will use that permission. Explicitly, or implicitly, those of us opposing abortion want having this sorrow about abortion become dominant in society. The goal is to have the dominant thinking be that abortion is immoral with the appropriate thoughts and sentiments that being immoral itself is what makes it horrible.

The effort to understand thoughts and sentiments connected with violating a moral law led to the concept of perfect contrition . Perfect contrition is primarily a religious notion of sorrow over offending God by violating moral laws which are His commands. This religious concept is readily generalized to be a candidate for the thoughts and sentiment, if any, about violation of a moral law over and above sorrow and fear of any consequences of the moral violation.

I write, “if any” to indicate the prospect that psychological analysis of any particular sorrow about violation of a moral law might indicate that it is in fact some fear or grief about the consequences of the violation to society or oneself.

The concept of perfect contrition is not meaningless even if no one came ever be certain that they really have it. The concept is meaningful even if we can never be absolutely certain that it has anything in its extension. The concept is necessary for moral thinking, but it is not necessary that it be exemplified in any individual.

For those who might still be interested in twentieth century concerns over cognitive meaningfulness, note that claims of perfect contrition are empirically falsifiable.

Indeed, there is no authentic moral thought without the thought of immorality being a reason for sorrow regardless of any physical or social harm. Perfect contrition is necessary for morality. Dogmatic claims of psychological egotism that people have only selfish concerns and can make only selfish choices are dogmatic denials of morality. Case by case analyses to raise suspicion about unselfish concerns, as alluded to above, are efforts to show that there is no morality.

As important as it is to be honest about motives etc., unceasing efforts to uncover selfishness are uninteresting. They seem to be based on the dogmatic assumption of psychological egotism that there is always some selfishness to be uncovered. Of course, we are selfish and hypocritical. What is interesting is to show what it is like for a person to be sincere and unselfish.

In any event, we can set aside the whole topic of tortuous psychological analyses of individual motives. Morality is primarily collective thinking. So, if morality requires perfect contrition, then perfect contrition is an element in collective thinking. I admit that contrition seems preeminently a condition of an individual. However, we learn to think from others. So, if we can have perfect contrition, we have acquired it from others.

Upcoming topics are exploration of what collective perfect contrition might be like and the possibility of vicarious contrition.

Ontology, theories about what is real, are inseparable from my pursuit of truth in moral theory. I close with an argument for the truth of one of my major ontological assumptions.

There is no doubt that I assume that there is collective thinking in what I have written. But of more significance for the reality of collective thinking my act of writing and the act of anyone writing in reaction to what I write assumes and presents the reality of collective thinking. More generally any discussion, written or verbal, of the reality of collective thinking exhibits the reality of collective thinking.

Physical Nature, The Natural and the Supernatural

This post is for clarifying my terminology. The label “terminology” does not carry any connotation of trivial or merely about language. Trying to be clear about what one means is really difficult but essential for philosophy or any other subject for that matter. In writing about evolution, I usually write from a perspective that the natural is physical nature. But this perspective needs to be expanded so that there is not the slightest suggestion that the mental and social are supernatural.

Physical nature is what is investigated by physics and the other sciences whose subject matter can coherently connected with the subject matter of physics. The social institution of science requires coherence for physical nature. Think of the principle of the uniformity of nature. If the laws and objects of other sciences such as chemistry, biology and psychology cannot be represented as laws and objects of physics it is assumed that amongst the fundamental physical laws there are laws for emergence. For instance, it would be assumed that cellular life arose from the objects of physics and chemistry. There is scientific research to vindicate this assumption. There is a coherent way of talking about emergence of life from the non-living. Laboratory production of a cell from molecules necessary for life is a scenario of biology being connected with physics and chemistry. As of this writing – Winter 2022 – there is no experimental evidence for any such way of talking. But a research program is all that is needed for coherence.

Assuming that the subject matter of biology is lawfully connected with that of physics and chemistry, the subject matter of the special biological field of origin of species, viz., evolutionary theory, is physical nature.

There are philosophical materialists who proclaim that the mental and a fortiori, the social are somehow reducible to physical nature. But the standard mind-body problems still stand in the way of a coherent account of such a reduction. Mind body problems also stand in the way of any interactionist accounts of the mind being coherently connected with the physical. Parallelism and epiphenomenalism are simply admissions that we have no coherent account of the physical, mental and social.

The mental and social are natural. Not only hominids but non-human animals now living had or have mental and social lives. Most of those who deny that there is any supernatural would not say that our mental and social dimensions make us more than natural. The broad sense of “nature” includes the physical, mental and social.

So, lack of a coherent way of talking of nature is no barrier against using the concept of “natural.” Similarly, lack of a coherent way of talking of the natural and supernatural should be no barrier against talking of the supernatural and the natural as constituting reality. I must add, though, that coherence between ways of talking, i.e., thinking, is not to be ignored. I submit that many of the classical philosophical problems are genuine intellectual anxieties about incoherence, e.g., how can we talk coherently about free will and causal regularity?

But what, if anything, is in the supernatural?

In my next post, I will argue that being morally bound -receiving a divine command is a sufficient condition for being supernatural.

Imperishability of the Human Soul

The human soul makes a human animal a supernatural being as well as a natural being.

That which makes a human animal supernatural is its moral capacity to know the good and freely choose it. Knowing the good is bipartite. First, there is knowing the basic natural human goods, Second, there is knowing that which the basic human goods are good for. The natural goods are also bipartite. First, there are those conditions which make for human flourishing. Second, there is being the kind of person who freely chooses these conditions for human flourishing. Since basic human goods are goals as well as natural conditions, knowledge of goods as good give humans purposes. Purposes are goods which are intentionally sought. Knowing what basic human goods are good for gives humans a purpose for living itself. But purposes are not part of nature when we think of nature from the perspective of evolutionary theory as we are doing here. So, our having purposes makes us supernatural beings as well as natural beings even if most of our goods are natural conditions.

This capacity for knowing the good is a moral capacity because we can freely choose to act against attainment of what is good. But the fundamental law of morality is “Choose what is good!” With knowledge of what is good and free will comes obligation. We could say that it is having obligations which places us in both the natural and supernatural.

It must be emphasized that exercise of the capacity to know and pursue the good depends upon physiological states of an individual human but this moral capacity is not any physiological state or capacity. It is an additional feature that enables physiological states and capacities to be used in intentionally knowing and choosing what is good. Individuals with severe cognitive capacities still have this moral capacity although unable to exercise it. Individuals receive this moral capacity – the human soul – when they began to be human, which is at conception.

This moral capacity is essential to the human species even if it did not arise by natural selection. This means that in a thought experiment in which humans from the period when humanity began, off-spring of these ancient humans due to mating with contemporary humans would have all of the basic moral concepts we have now. See Natural and Supernatural Origin.

The soul of an individual human is that individual’s capacity to know and pursue what is good.

Why claim that the soul of a human is imperishable? Why claim that the soul of a human does not cease to exist at biological death. Why claim that the soul of a human does not cease to exist when there is no body to form into a moral agent? I give a Kantian answer.

A human being is morally perfect if that person becomes the kind of person who freely chooses the natural goods. Amongst these natural goods is being morally perfect.

Consider, now, these brief syllogisms. The justification for (1) is given above when it was pointed out that our natural goods are obligatory goods. Premiss (2) is an alleged truth of logic.

Syllogism I

1. A person ought to be morally perfect.
2. What ought to be can be.
3. If a person’s capacity to be morally perfect ceased to be at biological death, that person cannot be morally perfect.
Hence: (4) A person’s capacity to be morally perfect cannot cease to be at biological death.

Syllogism II

5. If a person’s capacity to be morally perfect were never embodied after biological death, that person’s capacity to be morally perfect could never be exercised after biological death
6. If a person’s capacity to be morally perfect could never be exercised after biological death, that person cannot be morally perfect.
Hence: (7) If a person’s capacity to be morally perfect were never embodied after biological death, that person cannot be morally perfect.
Using (1) and (2) above, we can conclude:
8. A person’s capacity to be morally perfect – a person’s soul- is embodied some time after biological death.

Note that if a person attained moral perfection that person cannot cease to be. For what ought to be cannot cease to be. If what ought to be ceased to be something which ought to be could no longer be.

No Truth Conditions for Claims About the Natural and the Supernatural

Most of the claims that I will make about the supernatural are also claims about the natural. For instance, Luke’s account of the Annunciation is about a young virgin and the angel Gabriel. Claims of a miracle are at least claims that something with a supernatural feature acted in the natural world. I will argue that a complete understanding of the origin of homo sapiens requires interpreting human beings as beings who are both natural and supernatural. Roughly: certain homo hominids with a supernatural soul were the original humans. In a way, the origin of humans is miraculous!

What is it like, though, for claims about such radically different kinds of things to be true? For two reasons, which I have elaborated on in previous posts, I will not answer this question.

First, the challenge to provide an analysis of how elements of reality can be combined to make truth conditions for a claim is a challenge to show that what is claimed to be is really possible, viz., a possible combination of realities. This challenge can be set aside because of an assumption that whatever is consistently describable is really possible.

Second, the challenge asks for an account of how reality makes a claim about reality true. It asks for the truth about truth. This is analytic philosophy which I am abandoning.

So, I set aside an impossible task which I am strongly tempted to begin. I would like to begin with an inventory of the basic individuals, properties, relations and atomic facts of the supernatural and then the natural. Then guided by some hopefully noncontroversial rules on combination of facts, construct combinations of atomic facts, i.e., molecular states of affairs, which correspond with claims about the natural and the supernatural. If the molecular state of affairs obtains, the claim is true; otherwise, false.

Of course, a further challenge is to develop an epistemology on how one can determine whether or not a mixed natural and supernatural state of affairs occurs. Theoretically, on this analytic approach, I am setting aside, the truth of claims about molecular facts can be determined once the truth of the claims about atomic facts has been determined. Still, there is the problem of how to determine truth of atomic supernatural claims. I suspect it would be ad hoc in the way indicated below.

So, I set aside the task of a philosophical analysis of how we can talk of the natural and supernatural. I simply start talking about the supernatural under the assumption that such talk can be intelligible. I use an ad hoc epistemology which means that each claim I make has to be discussed on its merits with intelligent people of good will and at least a mildly skeptical temperament.

Reality of the Supernatural

This brief post applies a post from May 2021, Truth of Spiritual Claims to my previous post of December 2021. Here, however, I write of supernatural reality instead of spiritual reality.

It is a fallacy to conclude from “Reality – what exists – is one” that “There is only one kind of existent in reality.” There are no rules of careful thinking which show that someone who thinks Luke’s account of the Annunciation is an assertion of what happened believes in a fiction. I think Luke’s account speaks of what was and how it was a couple of thousand years ago in Nazareth. To emphasize: I say “Luke’s account is true” to express my intention to endorse Luke’s account as a correct account of reality.

Of course, an angel speaking and a virginal conception are not normal or natural occurrences. So, careful critical thinking requires distinguishing then from the normal or natural. Depending upon a person’s intellectual standards and those of communities of people whose approval he wants, distinguishing these non-normal events from normal events requires careful distinctions which are probably of no interest to the vast majority of people.

A product of this careful thinking is to specify the distinction between what one asserts with religious faith from attempts to describe and explain what normally exists as a distinction between talking of supernatural instead of natural reality.

Careful critical thinking does not endorse presenting this distinction as between the real and unreal.

A Skepticism Which is a Genuine Antidote to Nihilism

This post reflects the thesis of an earlier post We Cannot Know that We Know

In the fifthteen and sixteenth centuries skepticism supported nihilism by undercutting religious beliefs. Twentieth and twenty first century nihilism is supported by dogmatic adherence to scientism. Traditionally skepticism removes knowledge to make room for faith. Skepticism can resume its traditional role by undercutting nihilism with skepticism about scientism.

Scientism is the faith that there is nothing but that whose order and connection is uncovered by the methods of natural science. The “stuff” of science is the “stuff” of reality. I characterize scientism as a faith to avoid distractions from attacking the roots of scientism with superficial attacks upon scientism as a knowledge claim or faith in a successful practice. Scientism is easily refuted as self-referentially inconsistent when characterized as the theory that we can know nothing but that which is known by the methods of natural science. Science does not address the truth or falsity of scientism.

Scientism is a temptation. Despite the critiques of scientism as a doctrine, I am tormented by a thought that if I were honest, I would not hope that reality be such that religious claims be true of it. A man betrays his wife if he hopes for a love with a woman which is higher, better, etc., than any love he can ever has with his wife.

What is that to which I ought to be faithful by not seeking more than scientism? It is not any scientific theory. For a principle of science is proposing all theories as in principle refutable. Science, so to speak, is not married to any theories. There actually is not any scientific community to which one can owe any deep loyalty.

I fear that I am betraying truth by hoping that more than what can be discovered by science is true. How might I be betraying truth? I have a picture of reality as that which provides truth conditions for what we think and say. This picture is of an immense plurality of separate things spread out in some spatial temporal order. It is a very fuzzy picture. Even fuzzier than my picture of the cosmos with galaxy upon galaxy. Nonetheless it is a significant aspect of my realism that there is a reality apart from sensing or thinking. As a beginning student of philosophy Wittgenstein’s Tractatus articulated this picture for me. It seemed to me to go to the heart of what philosophy should say.

I write “significant aspect” because my aim here is to use skepticism to separate a picture of truth conditions from belief in truth conditions. I do not betray truth by setting aside pictures of truth conditions. Indeed, I betray truth by fantasizing something else as showing me the truth about truth.

As fuzzy as this picture may be, it leaves no place for whatever it would be that makes religious accounts, such as Luke’s account of the Annunciation, true. Whatever makes claims true in this fuzzy picture is composed of, constructed from, stuff – the separate things. Reality, if such there be, that makes religious claims true is not built up from simpler components.

According to the picture underlying scientism the only real possibilities are those which are compositional. Thus on the realism which underlies scientism, God is not possible. And whether they admit or not, millions of educated people are realists about science and also hold something like that fuzzy pluralist picture of truth conditions. It is “the facts out there which show science gives the truth.” Thus for millions, nihilism threatens because of what I have called “modal atheism.” A modal atheist holds that God is not a real possibility. See my A Kantian Condemnation of Atheistic Despair, New York 1998

The faith I aim to undercut is faith in human thought as representing reality only if it represents reality as constructed from elements. Human thinking, though, is compositional. I do not want to cast total doubt about human thinking. I aim to cast doubt upon the associated belief that reality is structured as thought is structured. The scepticism which undercuts deep scientism is skepticism that the order and connection of reality is the order and connection of human thinking. I have called this the Parmenidean Postulate.

The standard philosophical problems provide enough evidence to cast doubt on this picture of truth conditions. An old, but classic, dismissal of this picture is the Appearance part of F. H. Bradley’s Appearance and Reality. A more recent critique is Richard Rorty’s Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979.

I do not want to cast doubt on one picture of reality to make room for faith in another picture of reality. The target of my skepticism is pictures of reality. I can have faith that there are truth conditions without any picture of truth conditions. I will not choose between pluralism and monism. I only cast doubt on the pluralistic compositional picture.

A corollary of dismissing attempts at an account of how descriptions are true of reality is that there is no epistemology that tells us how truth is attained from reality. Such an epistemology would be a theory about truth.

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.