Monthly Archives: January 2021

Survival After Biological Death and the Transcendent

This is a type of blog essay I am reluctant to post. It is more a set of promises of philosophic work than philosophic analyses and arguments. But there are so many issues in modeling the Transcendent as a Divine authority that I have time only to sketch out how I will try to resolve those issues as I work to present a complete overview of a model of the Transcendent as moral authority. One of those issues is survival after biological death.

Phases of an argument for survival after biological death

1. Make a case that people are not their bodies. A prominent part of the case is borrowed from stock philosophical arguments that personal identity persists through significant bodily changes.

2. Make a case that all of our thoughts and deeds are known to the moral authority. A prominent part of this case is articulating and supporting an understanding of morality as authoritarian morality – command morality. I have already done much of this in development of authoritarian moral theory from my notion of moral harm as harm which ought to be for violation of a moral law. But I need to add and defend belief in personal survival after death as part of the authoritarian moral outlook.

3. Make a case that the moral authority is the Transcendent, i.e., God. We now have a divine command morality.

Phase 3 is advanced by making a case that we can characterize the Transcendent not only being aware of your personal history throughout your natural life but as eternally being aware of you – the awareness of the Transcendent does not vanish at your natural death. The Transcendent is aware of you as a person both before and after your biological death.

But what does “eternally” mean when applied to the Transcendent?

I am thinking of arguing along the following lines. If the Transcendent did not sustain you in existence in anyway at biological death, then you would vanish at biological death and the Transcendent would not be aware of you. But the Transcendent never loses awareness of you. Hence, the Transcendent sustains you in existence in some way after your biological death. But this existence after biological death is still existence in what is immanent. For nothing is transcendent except the Transcendent. There are issues in characterizing immanent existence of persons after biological death. (I am working on them.)

However, I do not want to include in my model that human beings exist in some way prior to their conception. I need to make a case that in the immanent there is genuine coming into existence.
I hope to do all of this without developing any philosophical system. As much as possible I want to use only ordinary language.

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.

Predestination and the Transcendent

In a subsequent post, I plan to construct properties to attribute to the Transcendent as that on which a moral order with so-called libertarian free will depends for its existence. As a preliminary, I here point out that the type of omniscience already attributed to the Transcendent does not rule out free will by entailing some type of predestination. Previously in Morality and the Transcendent I attributed omniscience to the Transcendent to facilitate saying that our moral lives were transparent to the Transcendent. I quote from an earlier post.

“I propose that we attribute omniscience o 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? “ and, I could have added “our successes in the moral struggle.

For sake of discussion, I accept using “hold its truth in existence” as “being aware of.”

An example brings out that transparency of our choices does not eliminate our choices.

Suppose that I am still alive two years from this date 1/1/21, viz., 1/1/23. I am facing a long painful last illness. Suppose also that I have an option of legal physician assisted termination of my life.

I have two choices: Accept the opportunity to end my life or reject the opportunity to end my life.

The Transcendent holds in existence the truth of this disjunction. If I choose to have my life terminated, the Transcendent holds in existence the truth of my immoral choice and its consequences. If I choose to reject the offer of assisted suicide, the Transcendent holds in existence the truth of my morally correct choice and its consequences.

So far we have only that the Transcendent is aware of whatever happens. The awareness of the Transcendent is simply a catalog of the truths.

But what about the logical truth: In 2023 Charles commits suicide or in 2023 Charles does not commit suicide? The Transcendent is aware of this logical truth, –Law of excluded middle– in 2021. Also the Transcendent is aware in 2021 that only one of these disjuncts can be true in 2023. But our attributions of awareness to the Transcendent do not require saying that in 2021 one or the other of these disjuncts is true and thereby the Transcendent is aware in 2021 of my 2023 choice.

The law of excluded middle says less than the so-called law of bivalence. Bivalence says that every statement is True or False. If we accept bivalence and that statements specifying that an action occurs on a definite date, then we can convert the Transcendent’s omniscience into a type of foreknowledge. However, we can get a type of predestination simply from assumption of bivalence and the admissibility of statements specifying dates for actions. Reference to a Transcendent or deity is irrelevant to this logic and language based determinism.

Believers in predestination or some other type of determinism would hold that in 2021 one or the other of these disjuncts would be true and thereby be in the Transcendent’s awareness. But the determinism’s elimination of choice would not come from the awareness of the Transcendent; it would be based on whatever rationalized the deterministic outlook.

Of course rejection of predestination, or better: genuine (libertarian) free-will, requires rejection of bivalence. That means accepting at least a third truth value of “undetermined.” Many, many statements about the future have this third truth value. Logic does not rule out a third value. Three, and other many value logics, are well developed. In this regard, the significant conceptual problem is clarifying and defending a metaphysical vision of an “open future.”