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 we 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 autoreactive morality a divine command morality.