Monthly Archives: October 2020

A Proof of The Existence of God in the Transcendent Ontology of Human Intelligence

Transcendental ontology contains the most fundamental philosophical questions. Arguments for the existence of God are in transcendent ontology. I hope that my way of approaching the main question of transcendent ontology is not so idiosyncratic that no one else understands what I am asking.

In this post I intend to offer a proof for the existence of God!

Let us say that the world, reality or what is accepted in immanent ontology is that which can be represented by human intelligence. This conforms to the Parmenidean principle that what can be is what can be thought. An implication of the previous post’s recognition of the inconsistencies and incoherence of human representations is that our representations are not the reality we represent.

Here is the most fundamental philosophical question?

Must there be something unrepresentable upon which what can be represented depends for its existence and features, but which depends upon nothing else ?

The answer cannot be “no.” To say “no” implies that there could be nothing to represent. But we cannot think of there being nothing to represent. For our effort to think of there being nothing to represent provides us with something to represent. The previous post warns us against confusing representations with realities represented. But that is not a warning that representations themselves are not realities to be represented.

From the perspective of negative theology whose basic principle tells us that we can only say what God is not, the above could be called a proof of the existence of God.

I submit that this proof of the existence of God totally beyond representation is valid.
It provides a very “thin” abstract philosophical notion of God . Far more is needed to draw significant implications for morality and religion.

Some opponents of the so-called “New Atheists”, such as Bishop Barron to whose “Word on Fire Institute” I belong, accuse the new atheists of assuming that believers represent God as an existing entity of immense powers and virtues. Believers reply that we believe God is transcendent beyond any representable entity , viz.beyond , what is in the immanent ontology of human intelligence. We believers have a point. But the point is only that serious discussion about theistic belief should not be about the existence of some unrepresentable foundation for all reality.

Serious discussion about the rationality, clarity, morality and religious adequacy of religious belief begins with what people believe. What people actually believe is expressed as if what is believed is in the immanent ontology of human intelligence.

Consider the first sentence of the Nicene Creed which I profess every Sunday: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.” Unity is attributed to God. But unity and plurality are features of that which is representable. Agency is attributed to God but, again, agency is a feature of what is in immanent ontology.

In my next few posts, I plan to explore how philosophy is relevant to including theistic religious belief in belief about the representable even if “pure” philosophy tells us that nothing can be said or thought of God.

Some philosophical asides:

A quick way to dismiss the suggestion that there might be an infinite regress of such unrepresentable beings is to reply that infinite regresses are representable and representability has been ruled out for the transcendent.

Also note that this is not a proof of the existence of a necessary being. A being whose existence is necessary is too much like a being with some special feature, Beings with features are in immanent ontology. This argument establishes a de dicto necessity – necessity is the modality of what is proved. There is no proof of what is called de re necessity – necessity as a feature of some thing or entity.

Fragility of Immanent Ontology

The immanent ontology of human intelligence provides the beginning subject matter for philosophy. Unfortunately this subject matter makes all philosophy fragile or unstable.

Philosophy begins in wonder. But it is a peculiar type of wonder about how there can be anything represented by basic patterns of thought such as “How can Socrates standing be the same as Socrates sitting?” When we ask what are these presupposed realities of our ways of thinking, we encounter inconsistencies and incoherence. Long ago in the 5th century BC, Parmenides uncovered inconsistency in the notion of change. Zeno proposed paradoxes about the possibility of motion and the idea of truth was challenged with liar paradoxes. Plato’s Socratic dialogues revealed inability to define basic moral concepts.

There is a temptation to articulation a general characterization of all philosophical problems. I will not succumb to the temptation. I would encounter a philosophic problem of defining “philosophical problem.” Like all philosophical problems of defining a concept I would be unable to provide a definition necessarily immune to counterexamples.

Nonetheless, using “material” in a philosophically problematic way, I submit that the material of philosophical problems is the material with which we think. What I have been calling “the immanent ontology of human intelligence” is the material with which we think

The material with which we think is not split into thinking, sensing and feeling (emotional state) until we think about our thinking. It is thinking about our thinking-reflective thinking- which develops philosophical problems amongst which is the philosophical problem of how thinking, sensing and feeling are connected.

The reflective thinking of the philosophical style makes immanent ontology explicit only to destroy it as an accurate representation of reality. There is a merciless and unending use of this critical and analytic type of reflective thinking which can destroy all confidence in our ways of thinking and leave us in total skepticism.

Of course, not all use of this critical reflective thinking is totally negative. Most consists of finding inconsistencies or confusion in some basic concepts coupled with efforts to remove or clarify the concepts. Unfortunately, these revisionary efforts invariably fail. The allegedly defective basic concept is a cultural universal, or better an innate concept- while the philosopher’ revised concept is not.

Other philosophical reflection is reductive although constructive in so far as it organizes the immanent ontology. They plan to show how most of the elements in our immanent ontology can be constructed out of, or defined in terms, of some few basic elements. Materialism and nominalism are the major reductive efforts. There is no satisfactory reductions of these types.

There is also the type of effort I am making with the notion of moral harm. I am trying to show that it is indeed a basic notion in human thinking. My work has to be with this material for philosophical problems. So, there is no hope of complete success. Whatever I propose is subject to being torn apart by intense philosophical criticism. Nonetheless, to satisfy demands of philosophical thinking which I have internalized, I need to confront and set aside several philosophical challenges before making assumptions that the proposed notion of moral harm is good enough.

Good enough for what? Good enough to enrich the immanent ontology of human intelligence with existential significance and guide us in how to live in accordance with the truth about how reality apart from human intelligence tells us how we ought to act and to be.

We need to move on to transcendent ontology for human intelligence to enrich it with existential significance.

Banality of Immanent Ontology

The immanent ontology of human intelligence is existentially insignificant. A search through what we presuppose to exist in use of human intelligence does not uncover why we exist. Not even my focus on the presuppositions of moral thinking uncovers any purpose for human life. Use of moral language, which is a cultural universal, presupposes items I have uncovered as authoritative morality. Some of these are, the notion of authoritative commands, a sense of the transparency of moral and immoral choice, and I think the notion of moral harm which I am promoting as a cultural universal. For more detail see Core Concepts of Authoritarian Morality.

To be sure, in my book and in a recent post I proposed that duty for the sake of duty can be taken as a purpose for life. See: Gibt es kein Gott nur die Pflicht steht gegen das Nichts I admit, though, that living for the sake of doing one’s duty may seem to be a choice to be obsessive compulsive . What’s the point of it?

The existential insignificance of the presuppositions of use of human intelligence are the presuppositions of daily life. It is daily life about which we have existential anxiety. The rich complex of what is presupposed in daily life is simply part of what we worry about as being pointless – sound and fury signify nothing. If humans become extinct will what is presupposed vanish?

The presuppositions of daily life do not explicitly give an idealist ontology that everything is in some sense mental. A cultural universal, I submit, is a distinction between mind and body – the mental and material. At least, following Kant, there is always a distinction between human thinking and things in themselves apart from human thinking. But positing things in themselves apart from ourselves does not lend significance to ourselves.

I hope these remarks are not too obscure. I offer them as motivation to moving on to what I have called transcendent ontology in the philosophical struggle against nihilism. However, before moving on to transcendent ontology, we must appreciate the immanent ontology of human intelligence as the gold mine of philosophy.

See Immanent and Transcendent Ontology

Immanent Ontology of Moral Arguments is Only Human Intelligence

Choosing a title for this post was difficult because it brings out that arguing presupposes an immaterial reason. But what is presupposed is not some demi-god who guides human thought towards some goal it has.

I offer an overview of the realities presupposed when people present arguments; especially arguments that some moral claim is correct. This list, which is inevitably partial because of the complexity of human thinking, is part of the defense of arguments for an objective moral order.

It must be admitted immediately that the thinking presupposed by arguing is weird to those who hold that the only realities are items which can be referred to here and now. But this nominalism can be dismissed because thinking itself is weird for nominalists who nonetheless think that nominalism is true.

First what is presupposed about thinking? There is the thinking of individuals. There is also collective thinking, e.g. The opinion of Ohio about Trump on Oct. 2, 2020. In addition to the many collective thinking groups there is common collective thinking which is operative in all individual and collective thinking. This common collective thinking is human reason. Reason is that complex of cognitive abilities, attitudes, emotions and mechanical skills by virtue of which sapiens is added to homo for our species name. I suppose that some might prefer to call this simply human intelligence. But because this common thinking, or reasoning capacity, includes the laws of logic and semantic rules, I still call it reason.

So, arguing presupposes the reality of reason. But what is this reason? I offer some observations about what reason is and, importantly, what reason is not.

Reason is not the thinking of any individual or any specific collective thinking although in any individual or collective thinking reason is used. In the thinking of individuals and collectives, reason has a normative use. Individuals and collectives can think about their thinking. Hence, we can talk of individual and collective consciousnesses. Thinking about thinking is reflective thinking. As a result humans have discovered, and continually re-discover, obstacles to a special type of reflective thinking. This special type of reflective thinking is thinking that a claim we make is true or that a norm we proclaim is right. (Note that it is being presupposed that concepts of true and right are used in our thinking.)

Rules for avoiding these obstacles to thinking a claim to be true or a norm to be correct are rules of logic and mathematics. We can, and do, think illogically and contrary to mathematics. But we cannot think of such thinking as being correct. We can misleadingly assert that reason tells us that we cannot think of inconsistencies being true. This is in misleading because it leads us to think that reason is an authoritative thinking similar to the collective thinking of a group such as legislature of court. Also reason includes fundamental rules for speaking such as how to use tenses and for my purposes how to use language to express morality.

But reason is not the thinking of any individual or group. We can try to find out the thoughts and plans of individuals and groups We cannot clearly think of trying to find out the thoughts and plans of reason, viz., intelligence.

No strength is added to an argument by claiming that reason supports it. Reason is used in any argument because thinking is used. But the strength of the argument has to come from what is presented in the argument without violating rules of reason.

Admittedly, the giving of arguments makes a presupposition of the reality of reason contrary to an unreflective common sense which holds that only material items which can be referred to as here and now are real. However, reason presupposed for argument is not any type of demi-god simply by virtue of being immaterial.

Let me put these results in terms of ontology. The immanent ontology for arguing includes immaterial realities which have intentions, purposes, normativity and have a common normative core. Despite being immaterial, they are very ordinary realities. However, some, when we move to the transcendent ontology for these realities, may see them in a different light.

My next post is on the transcendent ontology of moral thinking. Even if the immanent ontology of moral arguments contains only human intelligence, the transcendent ontology of moral arguments may warrant calling an authoritative morality a divine command morality.