Monthly Archives: April 2021

Realism and the Transcendent

Realism and the Transcendent

What exists, or so I say, are representations and things which are not representations. The world, or what is immanent, consists of representations and things which are not representations. That which exists depends for its existence on the Transcendent.

I use the Kantian phrase “things in themselves” to label things which are not representations. However, I am not interpreting Kant. I simply find the Kantian phrase expresses best what I am trying to articulate. For instance, “given” is too broad because many representations such as visual sensations are given. “Physical” is too narrow because I grant that there could be immaterial or spiritual entities which are non-representations which we represent. Because I realize that we have access to what is not a representation only by representing it, the phrase “things in themselves” seems most exact.

There is a proper subset of representations which are put forth as being true or valid. These are truth claims and categorical imperatives. (Again, I find a Kantian phrase most appropriate.) Broadly speaking truth claims express a thought that such-and-such is the case. Categorical imperatives express a thought that such-and-such ought to be the case.

Factual realism holds that there are conditions amongst things in themselves on the basis of which truth claims are true or false. It is true to say that such-and-such is the case if and only if that amongst things in themselves referred to by “such-and-such” exists in a way properly represented by “such-and-such.”

Moral realism holds that there are conditions amongst things in themselves on the basis of which categorical, or objective, imperatives are valid commands. A categorical imperative that such-and-such ought to be is valid if and only if amongst things in themselves there exists conditions properly represented as a command that such-and-such ought to be. (In an imperative, the reference is to things in themselves without using a referential phrase to pick out a referent.)

A full realist holds both factual and moral realism. I am a full realist. I should note that often there is no need to mark a distinction between a true factual claim and a valid norm. Frequently, I will write of true moral claims when “valid” would be more correct.

The main point of this post is that realism is not necessarily the correct philosophical position. As the controversy over realism and idealism shows things in themselves providing truth conditions need not exist. Plausible coherence theories of truth reveal the disturbing situation that “truth” can be interpreted as warranted assertions and hence the conditions for truth lie wholly within representations. Having the conditions for accepting a claim as true lie wholly within representations is to “explain truth way.”

Realization that the world, reality, the immanent is not necessarily the way realism holds is both a burden and a blessing for a realist. It is a burden because a realist must take a stance that there are things in themselves providing truth conditions. Realism cannot be proved. It is always a philosophic burden to posit a fundamental principle which is not self-evident or cannot be proved. Holding that there exists things in themselves which provide truth conditions is a philosophical blessing for realists For now the realist has a fundamental existent which depends directly upon the Transcendent. Having truth conditions directly dependent upon the Transcendent enables a realist to characterize the Transcendent as the author of truth and valid moral commands.*

*See Morality and the Transcendent to review how an independent feature of reality provides the basis for characterizing that on which it depends for its existence.

The Natural as a Blessing from the Transcendent!

As noted in the previous post, the natural is bipartite. One part consists of representations of things occurring in lawful predictable ways. The second part are the things in themselves on the basis of which those representations are correct or incorrect. Both parts are existents depending upon the Transcendent for their existence. The representational part has been developing for thousands of years as the human community struggles to understand and control its environment. The current results and methods of natural science are, in my opinion, one of the greatest achievement of the human community.

It is more than a mere logical possibility that people mix efforts to understand and control with beliefs that some events happen because of the purposes of non-human agents and human agents. It is more than a logical possibility because people have and still do believe that some events are brought about because human or non-human agents intended that they occur. It is almost impossible not to believe that some events result from human choices. For the most part such beliefs in events occurring for some agent’s purpose, seeking final causes, do not interfere with seeking for predictable explanations and control; they are just events “out of the ordinary.

However, a systematic effort for predictable events cannot really allow final causes because it leaves a place for systematic breakdown. There is a type of inconsistency in seeking predictable causes while allowing for the possibility of unpredictable causes. Hence, the gradual elimination of final causes from scientific method is preceding in the right direction for methodological consistency. It is methodologically proper to try to try to solve “the mind body” problem with elimination of the mental in scientific investigations.

Of course, never looking for final causes or always being on the look out for ways of explaining them away does not mean that there are not any. But here the message is that the human community has obtain much truth and control by ignoring final causes. This did not have to be so.

Scientific method did not have to give truth and predictable results. However, scientific method does work. It is a great blessing to humanity that it has the capacity to develop a scientific representation and there is a reality to make it work.