In this post I outline characterizing the Transcendent as the moral authority. Sketching out the line of argument sets aside at the outset two connected standard objections to divine command morality.
The objections start from the dilemma question: “Does God command the rules because they are right or does God’s command make the rules right?” The answer that God commands the rules because they are right places a standard for rightness independent of God. The answer that God’s commands makes the rules right seems to leave open the prospect of all sorts of morally horrible deeds being commanded as right.
I start with the authoritarian or command morality as fixed in what is immanent.
Recall that in my terminology the immanent is everything humans can represent along with representations. The immanent is what there is – everything! But without the Transcendent, there would be nothing.
How are the objections set aside?
Using the metaphysical notion of “depends for its existence” I develop an admittedly imprecise characterization of the Transcendent as the source of morality and thereby the Divine moral authority. With respect to knowing right from wrong, the standards for, along with the content of, morality are fixed in the immanent. With respect to their existing at all in the immanent, the standards and the content of morality are in the Transcendent.
The dilemma question above cannot be asked about the Transcendent because in our thinking what morality commands is already settled before we think about the Transcendent as that on which its existence depends.
Philosophic thought forbids itself from making discoveries about the Transcendent.
The pattern of argument for the Transcendent as the existential source of morality is simple as A, B ,C below. But the outline but conceals the need for an immense amount of philosophical labor.
A. Show that morality is a basic feature of the immanent. (It does not depend upon anything else in the immanent.)
B. Show that morality is contingent.(Its existence is dependent.)
C. Because (A) and (B) show that morality is directly dependent upon the Transcendent for its existence, make a case that characterizations of the Transcendent can be constructed from modifications of features of immanent morality that are “good enough” for thinking of the Transcendent as the Moral Authority. I hate to say that we construct a characterization and project it upon the Transcendent. But that is what I do in my philosophy.
I add a few remarks about the underlying philosophical problems.
Under (A) I need to show that my authoritarian model of morality is a model of something immanent, i.e., an accurate representation of moral thinking. There is, then, a need to show that this way of moral thinking could not be explained as coming into existence from any other way of thinking; let alone being explained as coming into existence from neurophysiological factors. I could not live long enough to do (A). But I will make a few remarks on it
It might seem that (B) is easy once (A) has been established. However, in authoritarian morality, moral claims have a type of necessity. How can one show that what is allegedly presented with necessary truths need not exist?
I cannot infer from the Transcendent is the immediate foundation for something immanent having feature F that the Transcendent has feature F or even that the Transcendent has something analogous to feature F. Nonetheless, that is what I do under (C ). I differ from philosophers who develop theories of analogical predication. They argue that since the same terms can be meaningfully applied to both God and creatures there is an analogy between God and creatures which allows such predication. I try to show that there is an analogy between the immanent and the Transcendent which justifies applying terms to the Transcendent.
The task of (C ) is not rigorous. But one can get close to being right even when being unable to tell the exact truth – or, so, I believe.