Monthly Archives: November 2020

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.

Bridging the Gap Between Transcendent and Immanent

My approach to this issue has been totally wrong. Since my previous post that there must be transcendence upon which all we can represent depends but which depends upon nothing, I have been trying to answer the following questions. The starting question is “How can the transcendent be relevant to religious belief?” This quickly became the misleading question “How can we say, let alone think, of that we cannot represent in any way?” My struggle to avoid contradictions seemed like working on a mathematical problem of introducing new elements to avoid contradiction. However, the contradiction stands. We cannot say anything about that which about which we can say nothing. We cannot bridge the gap between the transcendent and the immanent. When proposed as a conceptual problem of how we can represent that which transcends what we can represent ,Wittgenstein’s last line in his Tractatus is correct “Whereof we cannot speak, we should remain silent.”

Perhaps silence is satisfying for mystics. But religious life is far more than mysticism. Details of daily life, and especially, details of religious practice and thoughts of religious creeds and codes matter religiously.

So, I should not be posing a conceptual problem of how we can think of what we cannot think. Our thinking must be confined to the immanent.

Everything depends up the transcendent. The transcendent bridges the gap between the transcendent by virtue of the dependence of everything upon it. Whether there is anything immanent which manifests the transcendent in religiously significant ways depends upon the transcendent. We should be looking at the immanent to find out whether and how immanent features manifest transcendence in religiously significant ways.

I am not proposing anything new. I am only expressing my realization of what has been done by religious philosophers through the centuries with proofs for God’s existence and provision of evidence for religious beliefs and practice. They draw attention to immanent features – dependencies- which are best understood as manifesting best, but necessarily not, perfect characterization of the transcendent.

In my next post, I will sketch out how some traditional arguments for God’s existence can be appreciated from this perspective.