Category Archives: Philosophical Theology

The Truth of Spiritual Truth Claims

My realization that there could be truth conditions for religious claims continues to astonish me. The only narratives which could not be true are logically inconsistent narratives.

With respect to what a philosopher can say apriori about what exists is

The only impossibility is logical impossibility!
The only necessity is logical necessity!

In particular, I now hold that there could exist conditions which make one of my favorite bible passages an accurate description of the conception of Jesus which happened roughly two thousand years ago in a town of Galilee called Nazareth when a Cyrinus was governor of Syria. This is the Annunciation according to Luke. (Lk. 1:26-36) .

I cannot clearly articulate what I previously thought about the truth of religious claims. I thought that most of them were fictions. I did not explicitly hold that core claims of my Catholicism, such as the Annunciation, were fictions. I admit, though, that I had a dread that they could not be more than fictions.

Why did I think that they could not be true? I thought that if any religious claims were true, an account of their truth conditions would be given by showing how what formed their truth conditions was built up from what formed truth conditions for claims about physical nature. I cannot think of how it is possible to construct what would form a truth condition about the supernatural from the stuff of truth conditions for the natural. I did not clearly think of myself as trying to construct the supernatural from the physical nature. But that is what I was doing.

I want to make a terminological shift. I am now shifting from talking of the natural vs. the supernatural to talking of the physical vs. the spiritual.

Here I want to examine assumptions behind my futile previous attempts to understand how there could be religious truth. I will note ssumptions I reject and those I still accept.

The physical is primary in the sense that what constitutes truth conditions for claims about physical nature constitute truth claims about anything else. I now reject this physicalism.

That which makes up truth conditions for claims is of one kind for all claims. I call this assumption “the homogeneity of truth conditions.” I now reject the homogeneity of truth conditions.

I now propose the “heterogeneity of truth conditions.” Whatever it is that constitutes truth conditions for our claims may be different for different kinds of claims. For instance, the lawfully behaving stuff that permits truths claims of physical science does not act in lawful ways with the stuff that makes religious claims true.

I conjecture that dismissal of the homogeneity of truth conditions allows use of the Aristotelian causal concepts for talking about any kind of truth conditions. They do not attribute any structure or composition. Indeed the Aristotelian causal concepts might be helpful in distinguishing the physical from the spiritual.

I held inconsistent assumptions about what we can know about truth conditions as they are apart from our ways of thinking. On one hand, I held “inscrutability of truth conditions.” (I use “inscrutability” to move away from the Kantian phrase “things in themselves” when I talk of not being able to say what truth conditions are like in-and-by-themselves.) On the other hand, I held “the ideal language assumption.”

An account of truth conditions is simply another truth claim. So other than to concede their heterogeneity and speculate that we could use Aristotelian causal concepts to talk of any kind of truth condition, I hold that truth conditions in-and-by-themselves are inscrutable.

Now according to the ideal language assumption, there is a correct written language which shows the structure of truth conditions for all claims. The ideal language assumption strikes me as preposterous. An ideal language is not any language but a pretended picture of what any truth conditions must have as a structure and composition. Nonetheless, I have more or less accepted it ever since I read Wittgenstein’s Tractatus as a beginning philosophy student. Even writing a dissertation on Wittgenstein’s remarks on mathematics in which he rejects an ideal language did not remove it as an assumption whenever I turned to core philosophy. Probably, I always assumed what I have called the Parmenidean assumption: The order and connection of being is the order and connection of thought. See Truth and the Parmenidean Postulate

More exactly, what is the ideal language assumption? A formal language in which all of the truth claims of mathematics and natural science can be expressed shows us the composition and structure of truth conditions. The referents of the basic descriptive terms of such a language are the basic constituents of truth conditions. Whatever else that is said to exist is definable in terms of these basic constituents.

Since the ideal language assumptions is preposterous, I do not want to spend more space elaborating on it. Here it is more important to note the assumption with which I replace the ideal language hypothesis.

It is the assumption that there is no right way of speaking, to speak the truth. For instance, the right way to tell the truth about the human condition may be the biblical narrative of the Hebrew tribe. I now hold that the best way to describe the Annunciation is the way Luke described it. There is no more precise way to speak about it.

I still assume the univocity of truth.

To tell the truth is to say of what is that it is and to say of what is not that it is not. However, there may many different kinds of subjects about which to tell the truth and many different ways of expressing these truths.

I close by emphasizing that I have been talking only about the possibility of spiritual and physical truths. I have not given any guidance on how we determine truth about the physical; let alone the spiritual.

Almost All Religious Truth Claims are Possibly True!

What narratives and reports can be true? All logically consistent narratives and reports can be true. But almost all are false, inadequate, or misleading.

For simplicity’s sake, I restrict myself to narratives intended to be an account of what exists. I set aside reports of what ought to be morally and narratives which are indicated by a phrase such as “once upon a time” or context that there is no intent to narrate what is the case. However, any of these fairy tales and myths could be true!

I mention the moral only in passing as it being part of the natural order.

All narratives are representations. A true representation tells the order and connection of existing things in themselves as that order and connection is to be represented. Hence, a true narrative tells of the order and connection of existing things in themselves as that order and connection is to be represented. We have no non-representational access to things in themselves. Hence, we are not entitled to specify what can or cannot exist. We can, assuming realism, articulate two assumptions. First, things in themselves and our representations of them comprise what exists, reality or as I have written “the immanent. Second, the immanent depends upon the Transcendent for existence. The Transcendent lies even further beyond our comprehension than the created things in themselves. Hence, we are in no position to declare that the Transcendent could not have created, viz., have dependent upon It for existence, things in themselves which would be aptly described by the narratives which are generally thought to be only myths or vulgar superstitions.

I am disgusted by the nightmare possibilities amongst the possible imagined realities After years of reflection on how the truth claims of an actual religion, such as my Catholicism, are possibly true requires recognition of a supernatural order. In my mid-thirties, I converted from cultural Catholicism by the aid of a quasi-religious experience that I could be a genuine believing Catholic by professing only theological doctrines while suppressing a philosophical belief that there is no supernatural order. The philosophical struggle to write this post forced me to abandon my suppressed naturalism. My assumption of a demystified Catholicism has been a useful crutch which I no longer need.

As the prefix “super” indicates, the supernatural will be characterized as in tension with the natural. The characterizations of the supernatural and natural are not offered as rigorous definitions for a philosophical treatise.

The supernatural order is bipartite. One part is in things in themselves. The other part lies in our representations. Within things in themselves, the supernatural order comprises the existents which are properly, or improperly, described by religious narratives , or, more generally: narratives about the physical or natural. Within representations there are all the possibilities narrated by legends, myths, sacred writings etc., Prior to being given in faith or somehow discovering which religious narrative best represents the religious existents, I must concede that the possibility presented by some dark and horrible narrative best describes the religious existents. All the silly zombie stuff could be true! Disgusting! Such frightening stupidity ertainly motivates some to seek solace in atheistic naturalism.

The supernatural order is not transcendent. The supernatural is immanent. The natural is also immanent. Both representations of religious significant objects and processes and the things in themselves justifying or refuting religious representations are immanent realities dependent upon the Transcendent for existence.

The natural order is tripartite. The first part comprises representations developed with the implicit or explicit intention of representing reality as being in principle completely intelligible by a careful use of human intelligence. This careful use of human intelligence is the honorific sense of reason as correct reason.

These representations of nature split the natural into the physical and moral. The representations of the physical are representations of that which does not represent. Nothing physical operates for the sake of anything else. The representation of the moral are representations of humans seeking what is good in accordance with rules. Nature would not be properly characterized by splitting representations into those of the physical and mental. Mental is too broad of a notion because because representations of the supernatural includes representations of thinking beings. The natural order is to be separated from the supernatural in our understanding. This does not mean that the supernatural cannot affect the natural. It means that the natural and supernatural have to be understood as separated. Indeed it would not make sense to talk of a supernatural intervention if the supernatural were not different from the natural. The third part of the natural order consists of the things in themselves by virtue of which such representations are true or false. Even idealists who hold that there are only representations seek some way to define a natural order in their systems.

Naturalism goes further than accepting a natural order. Naturalists reject the possibility of a supernatural order. I am leaving behind my implicit naturalism to make room for religious truth by accepting the logically consistent position of there being both a supernatural and natural order.

This tremendous philosophical shift is enough for one post.

Atheism vs the Transcendent

In my previous post,Immanence of the Transcendent I maintained that religious propositions are objectively true or false if and only if the Transcendent is immanent as truth conditions for such propositions.

I further observed that it is not inconsistent to maintain that the Transcendent is immanent as truth conditions. It would be inconsistent to say that the Transcendent is immanent without qualification. But I have qualified the Transcendent as being truth conditions. The Transcendent preserves its transcendence of our understanding by existing as truth conditions. Truth conditions make true or false propositions using our human ways of representing. But we can never think of how those truth conditions are apart from our ways of representing.

I had to concede, though, that the Transcendent as truth conditions does not transcend existence. Truth conditions exist. They are “in the world.”

How might an atheistic critique of my position proceed?

Of course, there could be rejection of the argument for the Transcendent.See . This might be a challenge to the meaningfulness of asking “On what does everything existing depend upon for its existence?”

However, accepting a transcendent beyond anything existing or comprehensible is no threat to atheism. It leaves room only for mysticism which holds and practices nothing beyond interior states of mystics. Religious threats to atheism arise when we try to go beyond total transcendence.

How have I gone beyond accepting total transcendence?

There were attempts to characterize the transcendent as the Transcendent creator and sustainer of features of what exists – the immanent. Traditional arguments for God’s existence were presented as characterizing the Transcendent.

Atheists could dismiss these efforts as worthless for showing that religious propositions are objectively true or false. At best these efforts would get, amongst philosophers and theologians, agreement on some characterizations about the Transcendent as warranted beliefs. In trying to characterize the Transcendent, we do seek only consensus on what is an apt characterization, not objective truth.

I have maintained that the Transcendent be immanent as truth conditions for religious propositions.

This position relies on a “Kantian” realism that truth conditions exist as things in themselves transcending our ways of thinking.

An atheist could reject this model of realism. But I do not think this is philosophically viable.

An atheist could stay a realist but hold that there need be no truth conditions for religious propositions because there really are no religious propositions. Properly understood, the so-called religious propositions say something else which is not a truth claim or a truth claim about something other than what speakers think they are talking about. This roughly describes reductionist critique of religion.

An atheist could accept some type of idealism about truth. In this case the atheist would give arguments to persuade people that there is no reason to warrant any religious belief.

The atheistic critiques of my position bring out that the introduction of God as the Transcendent does little or nothing towards responding to atheistic criticism of religious belief. At most it shows that atheists with a metaphysical temperament can be mystics and should concede that traditional arguments for God’s existence are legitimate philosophical efforts to construct a model of transcendence.

Religious apologetics remains as always. We need to show that religious propositions are genuine truth claims about a special subject matter and that many religious claims warrant belief because genuinely accepting them as true promotes human flourishing.

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.

Religiosity and the Transcendent

We talk of God, the Transcendent ,in both philosophy and religion, in speculation and in prayer. What is the best way?

Repetition of my philosophic recipe for constructing concepts of properties to project upon the Transcendent is useful for the following comparison of philosophic and religious ways of talking of the Transcendent.

1. Argue, or merely claim, that an immanent feature exists independently of anything else in what is immanent.
2. Argue, or merely claim, that this independent feature exists contingently.
3. From these two conclude that the existence of this immanent feature is directly dependent on the Transcendent.
4. Under the assumption “ if the existence of X depends directly upon Y, then we can characterize Y as having something analogous to the properties of X”, we modify descriptions of properties of the immanent feature to characterize the Transcendent.

Here I merely claim that the immanent feature of human religiosity meets the conditions for being directly dependent for its existence on the Transcendent. I use an elementary “World Religions Course” four Cs sketch of human religiosity. People seeking the meaning of life with a sense of the holy form Churches, formulate Creeds and Codes while having Cults or set of ritual practices. My elementary “World Religions” sketch of religiosity leaves so much undone because I want to move immediately to the relation between philosophic attempts to characterize the Transcendent and religious attempts to characterize the Transcendent.

Characterizing the Transcendent is an essential property of human religiosity. It is an essential property of religiosity, in the sense that at least the “seed” of a Creed is every religion. I think that it was the anthropologist, Evans Pritchard, who claimed that primitive religions are danced; not believed. But I think what is permissible and impermissible in the dancing -Cultic practice- would reveal some thoughts about the “whatever” which is holy.

From the philosophic perspective we say that religiosity is directly dependent upon the Transcendent. So, from the philosophic perspective we try to develop descriptions of properties applicable to the Transcendent from descriptions of properties of human religiosity. For instance, we may try to describe the holiness of the Transcendent from a modification of the human sense of holiness.

At first glance, philosophy’s role of developing characterizations of the Transcendent from religious ways of characterizing the Transcendent seems to put philosophy in a superior position with respect to characterizing the Transcendent.

But philosophy’s role is not superior and may even be dependent upon religiosity in characterizing the Transcendent. Religiosity leads philosophers to their attempts to characterize the Transcendent. It is leading me. When I work seriously at the first two steps of my recipe I may find that I cannot separate philosophy from religiosity. Creeds and codes (morality) lead to reflection, speculation, critical thinking and theology. Purely secular philosophy might be basically the intellectual tools for theology and moral theory. The independent immanent reality directly dependent upon the Transcendent for its existence might be human religiosity with human philosophic thinking as only a part. It is an open question as to whether a development of a way of thinking is superior in all ways to that from which it developed

Philosophers are in no position to say that philosophic characterizations of the Transcendent are better than non-philosophical religious characterization. We philosophers have reached the conclusion that the Transcendent is utterly unknowable by philosophical thinking. We philosophers establish skepticism about what we can discover by our philosophizing. For all that we know via philosophy, we may be acquiring truths about the Transcendental via non-philosophical religious thought, sentiment and prayer.

I should emphasize that when I refer to religious ways of thinking and feeling about the Transcendent, I am not writing as some secular philosopher imagining what some benighted religious people still believe. I reflect primarily on myself. I am a practicing Catholic. Weekly I publicly and sincerely profess the Nicene Creed. I believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist. I find a great similarity in my philosophic thoughts about what I am here labelling “the Transcendent” and my religious thoughts about God Indeed it is hard to separate them. In both cases, I say words with various thoughts and images. Sometimes I think these thoughts and images are really stupid. On occasion I think they give insight and inspiration. But always, be it philosophy or prayer, I think that the thoughts and images are never correct; they do not give the truth. What we can rely upon are the words.

If you and I try to determine whether or not we hold the same belief, we do not try to decide whether we share the varying thoughts and feelings running through our minds. We discuss a variety of claims and facts until we can agree upon using the same words to express our beliefs. In actuality, the hammering out of an agreeable formulation of a creed occur amongst many people over a long period of time. It then becomes an item in a collective consciousness in human intelligence as would a poem or song. Through the ages many people find those words apt for professing what they belief

Analogical Predication of God vs. Characterization of the Transcendent

It is helpful to compare my project of constructing a representation of the Transcendent as a Divine moral authority with the problem in philosophical theology for whose solution theories of analogical predication are developed. The problems are related but not the same.

A standard issue in philosophical theology arises from using the same terms to describe human beings and God. Theoretically, God is totally unlike any of His creatures. For instance, what is meant by saying that God is merciful if God is nothing at all like a merciful human judge?
There is a dilemma facing those who hold the same terms can be applied to God and creatures.

If terms applied to God and creatures are used univocally, then God is misrepresented by representing God as like His creatures.

If terms applied to God and creatures are used equivocally, then God is misrepresented by using language ambiguously.

Terms applied to God and creatures are used univocally or equivocally.

So, applying the same terms to God and creatures, misrepresents God.

Theories of analogical predication are offered to confront the dilemma by ”going between the horns of the dilemma” that terms are used univocally or equivocally. Theories show that there is a middle type of application of terms based on some type of similarity of, or analogy, between, that to which the terms are applied.

In religious practice this middle ground has been recognized implicitly. For centuries people have felt that their use of the same terms to talk of God and creatures made sense and was important although they would, I think, admit that what the terms designated were not the same in God and creatures.

The theories provide theoretical justification for this common practice. The theories go into human intelligence, collective consciousness, the archives or whatever one wants to call the repository of justifications. From that source, theories of analogical predication can be accessed by those who want to justify religious use of terms.

What am I doing when trying to show how terms can be applied to the Transcendent when by definition the Transcendent transcends any accurate application of terms?

My ultimate goal is a conceptual model of what it would be like for there to be a God who would sacrifice Himself to redeem humanity for its immorality. Crucial parts of this construction are construction of a model of morality based on authoritative commands and then construction of a model of this moral authority being God. I think that I have sketched a fairly complete outline of an authoritative morality. I want people to think that my model could represent the way things actually are. So I use the highly non-controversial notion of God, viz., the totally transcendent.

Consequently, I face the problem of pleading a case that from the bare metaphysical term “on whom everything depends for existence but which depends on nothing” we can provide “good enough” specifications of terms such as “omniscience” to say that this Transcendent is a God who is a moral authority.

I have to leave it to readers to judge whether I specify what is good enough.

Let me note also that I am addressing a problem which arises in 21st century arguments between some atheists and theists. The theists contend that atheists misunderstand theistic belief. The atheists allegedly are dismissing the existence of God as some super being amongst other beings. The theists claim that they are talking about something transcending all beings – what I have called the Transcendent. But most often theists are also religious as am I. In their religious practice they talk in a way suggesting that God is a super being. Theists should reconcile that discrepancy between their philosophical talk of God and their religious talk of God.

The Transcendent, Omniscience and Transparency

Transparency is one of the most significant features of a moral authority. The moral authority is aware of any thought, word or deed of moral significance. See Core Concepts of Authoritarian Morality.

If we start with a traditional notion of God as an omniscient being, transparency is a corollary of divine omniscience. However, we are starting with the notion of God as total Transcendence about which we can form no adequate representations. We need the faith which seeks understanding. We need faith that we are able to form inadequate but approximate representations of Transcendence as provider of sufficient conditions for basic features of what we can represent such as motion, causality and intelligence. In other words, we need faith that we can attain some understanding of Transcendence by developing notions of what Transcendence has as sufficient conditions for basic features of immanence, i.e., what we can represent.

This is philosophical theology; not pure philosophy. Atheists who concede that arguments about the existence of God are not about the presence or absence of some “super being” in what we can represent – the immanent, can accept via arguments in pure philosophy the existential dependence of the immanent on transcendence. Their atheism consists of lack of faith that transcendence has any significance for human life: thought of transcendence is the same as thought of nothing which is the same as not thinking anything. See Proof of Transcendence for a discussion of the issue between “sophisticated” theists and atheists.

In future posts, I need to explore the sources of faith. Undoubtedly, faith is stimulated and formed by traditional religions. Also faith is suppressed in some because of traditional religions. I leave open, though, the prospect of some necessary conditions for faith in Transcendence.

Hereafter, I reveal my faith that we have an approximate notion of referring to Transcendence by writing “the Transcendent” instead of “Transcendence.” After all, having items on which we focus attention in the way we call “referring” is perhaps the most pervasive feature of the immanent. We use the definite article “the” in referring thought. So, Transcendence has sufficient conditions for there to be objects of referential thought. I dare to take these sufficient conditions for the existence of objects of reference as warranting thinking of Transcendence as analogous to an object of reference. Conceptually, this is very significant. It is objectifying Transcendence.

To establish something analogous to transparency to the Transcendent of our morality, I need to show that the sufficient conditions in the transcendent for intelligence are enough like omniscience to warrant claiming that any morally relevant thought word or deed is known by the Transcendent.

Are the sufficient conditions in the Transcendent at all similar to that for which they suffice? In the case of motion, the transcendent sufficient condition is unmoving. In the case of causality, the transcendent sufficient condition for causality, is uncaused. Thinking of it as uncaused differentiates it from any cause we can represent. Objects we represent as passively beginning an action by being a goal are not represented as being totally out of the cause and effect processes.

We need to use a metaphysical concept of sufficient condition for what it means for conditions of the Transcendent to be sufficient for basic features of the immanent. This is the concept of a sustaining cause or sustaining condition. To say that the Transcendent is a sustaining condition for an X which we can represent is to say that the Transcendent is necessary and sufficient condition for the existence of X.

I set aside the philosophic obligation to elaborate on this notion of sustaining condition. Yes, it does seem to treat “existence” as a predicate which can be applied to the description of a possibility depending upon whether or not the possibility is actual or merely still only possible.

It follows from the definition of the Transcendent that it is the sustaining condition for everything. In particular, the Transcendent is the sustaining condition for everything which is the case. In other words, the Transcendent is the sustaining condition for all conditions which would make a claim true. Also the Transcendent is the sustaining condition for all thoughts that such-and-such is the case. Putting together these propositions about the Transcendent, we can say that the Transcendent is the sustaining condition for all true thoughts. A thought being is true is also a fact. So, the Transcendent is the sustaining condition for all true thoughts as true.

I appreciate a demand for much, much more analysis. Still, I propose that the we attribute omniscience to the Transcendent because it is the sustaining condition for all true thoughts as true. The Transcendent holds in existence the truth of the thoughts of our most secret sins! Isn’t this transparency to the Transcendent?

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.

Transcendence of a First Cause

This is the second in a series of posts in which I present traditional arguments for the existence of God as ways of approximating a representation of what is totally beyond representation.

The tactic is a follows. We start with the formula for speaking of that which totally transcends what we can represent. The formula runs: That on which everything we can represent depends for its existence but which depends upon nothing for its existence. We cannot represent the entirety of what we can represent; let alone the unrepresentable upon which it depends. (The kernel of truth in idealism is that we cannot represent representing without locating ourselves in what is represented. The representable is a “box” outside of which we cannot think representationally. )

So, we look for some pervasive representable feature in reality such as motion, causality and order. We call attention to the existential dependency of this representable feature. For instance, in the previous post, I asked for consensus on “motion need not be.” (This is a stage in the argument at which the reader has to reflect on what is talked about to assent or dissent.) We are now thinking of something representable in its dependency relation to the transcendent – something immanent in its dependency upon the transcendent. We extend our representing notion of sufficient reason to the thought of a pervasive feature in a dependence relation to the transcendent to construct an approximation to a representation of the transcendent.

Thus, the argument for an unmoved mover was basically an argument for a sufficient reason for motion. The general assumption is that the transcendent is a sufficient reason for the immanent. But that general assumption gives not even a hint of what the transcendent might be. Focusing on sufficient reasons for specific features of the immanent gives indications something the transcendent might be in order to be a sufficient reason for the specific feature in question. We do not construct representations of the transcendent itself. These are only representations of the transcendent in relation of existential dependency to the immanent.

To illustrate the above, consider a “first cause” argument.

Causality need not be.
There is a sufficient reason for causality.
The sufficient reason for causality cannot be caused.
So, there is an uncaused reason, which can be called a cause, for causality.

I think that it is misleading to say that everyone calls an uncaused cause God. Rather it should be said that everyone calls God, amongst other things, an uncaused cause. Why misleading? Forget about the fact that very, very few people even think about God in this way. It is misleading, in my program for linking the God in religious practice to God in philosophy, to suggest that God is an explanatory entity for pervasive features of the natural world. The notion of God is not invented to explain. Rather we have this inchoate notion of God -the transcendent. Thoughts of a sufficient reason for pervasive features of nature help us add some detail to this notion. We try to discover, albeit always inadequately, what and who God might be.

Transcendence of the Unmoved Mover

I do not cite references to classical proofs of the existence of God because I want to avoid all exegetical issues. If there is any merit in my series of arguments for the existence of God, that has been borrowed from some classical philosopher – most likely Aquinas. I am to blame for all that is folly.

In this argument, motion is to be understood as spatial movement.

Motion need not be. (This is a generalization based on reflection about any representable motion.)
What need not be is dependent for its existence.
So, motion is dependent for its existence.
That upon which motion depends for its existence is something which sets in motion or it is something which does not set in motion.
If it is something which does not set in motion, there would be no motion.
But there is motion.
So, that upon which motion depends for its existence sets in motion.
If that upon which motion depends for its existence sets in motion, then that upon which motion depends for its existence is a mover.
So, that upon which motion depends for its existence is a mover.
The mover upon which motion depends for its existence is in motion or it is not in motion.
If the mover upon which motion depends for its existence is in motion, then the mover upon which motion depends is not a mover upon which all motion depends. (Self-dependent is a figure of speech for denying dependence.)
So, the mover upon which motion depends for its existence is an unmoved mover.

The unmoved mover upon which motion depends for its existence is transcendent or immanent.
If the unmoved mover upon which motion depends for its existence is immanent it is representable.
An unmoved mover upon which all motion depends is not representable.

We cannot represent all motion as an entire whole outside of which there is its unmoved mover for this is thinking of something which transcends what we can represent about motion. We can say the words “unmoved mover upon which the entirety of motion depends. But we represent nothing with these words about what transcends our powers of representation. It is an exercise for readers to verify the claim that the entirety of motion cannot be represented. You have to imagine yourself outside space and time. But that imagination feat is impossible.

So, the unmoved mover upon which all motion depends for its existence is transcendent.

It is not implausible to add that this transcendent unmoved mover upon which all representable motion depends is that which is entirely independent but on which all which is representable depends. And thereby is God.

We have started to link the totally transcendent with the immanent. We have found that a very fundamental feature of the immanent, viz., motion, has its transcendent which is readily identified with the transcendent.