Divine Commander is Not transcendent

In this post, I work my way to a conjecture that the Transcendent is transcendent only for theoretical reasoning. In practical, or moral reasoning we directly encounter that which transcends theoretical reasoning.

For more than a year now, throughout several blog posts, I developed an interpretation of morality as being given by a moral authority. I called this “authoritarian morality.” For instance see:Divine Command Morality as Authoritarian Morality,
Virtue of Obedience in Authoritarian Morality ,
Authoritarian Morality Enchants Reality
and Core Concepts of Authoritarian Morality..
To show that morality is indeed authoritarian morality, I started to develop a philosophical model of reality as dependent upon and maintained in existent by a transcendence beyond existence. To be honest, I have to admit that frequently compromised the notion of transcendence because my intent was to model God of Christianity as the Transcendent. However, until I arrived at locating morality in reality, I managed to avoid locating the Transcendent in what I called the immanent, viz., whatever exists. Even when I wrote that there could exist truth conditions for religious claims about God, I pointed out that the Transcendent could sustain in existence truth conditions for a truth claim with Itself as the intended referent, without Itself being in the immanent. At least it seems at first as if there could be conditions making true a claim about God without God existing in those truth conditions. For we do not know what truth conditions are in-and-by-themselves.

But our relation to the factuality of the immanent and the morality in the immanent are different. Or so it seems. We take a spectator’s stance towards factuality. We observe reality and claim that such-and-such is a fact. We do not tend to think of this as an interaction with a reality. In morality, though, we are aware of a demand upon us, which we can obey or disobey, have our obedience or disobedience be present to that which places the demand and sense that something new is demanded if we disobey. Morality, then, according to my authoritarian model, is a personal interaction with reality.

For those familiar with a distinction between theoretical reason and practical reason, I would say that in theoretical reasoning, we regard ourselves as observers of reality and make judgments about what is and what is not the case. As David Hume notoriously noted “reason is cool and indifferent.” Hume was writing of theoretical reason. We do not get direction on what we discover by theoretical reason. For instance, if we discover by theoretical reason that there is a moral law that promises ought to be kept, we discover only that it is a fact that promises ought to be kept. That fact about morality is not sufficient by itself to command obedience. Indeed, discovery of the fact that knowledge is good for humans is insufficient for giving us an obligation to pursue knowledge. It’s just an interesting fact from the perspective of theoretical reason. Of course, I am only reviewing Hume’s observation that we cannot derive an “ought” from and “is.”

With practical reasoning we operate as existents in reality receiving directions from something else in reality. These directions come into our consciousness as binding us. Practical reasoning is not primarily representing, let alone knowing. It is primarily receiving and choosing. Practical reasoning goes on amongst things in themselves. Practical reasoning provides truth conditions for theoretical reason. For instance, practical reasoning provides truth conditions for “Promises ought to be kept.”

I could go on to elaborate much more on practical reasoning. And I will do so. But in this post, my main theme is that I need to re-think what I hold about the Transcendent. I intend to identify the Transcendent with God. So, if I plan to articulate a divine command morality, I need to identify the moral commander as God. Above, I characterize a moral commander as an existent in what I have called the immanent or reality. Obviously, it seems that I plan to develop an inconsistent theory in which the Transcendent is immanent. I suppose that I could avoid inconsistency, by postulating as existing some moral agent of the Transcendent which agent gives commands on behalf of the Transcendent. I shudder at the prospect of developing a theory with demi gods.

So I will explore the conjecture that the Transcendent is transcendent only for theoretical reasoning. In practical, or moral reasoning we directly encounter that which transcends theoretical reasoning.