What is it like to receive a divine moral command? What is it like to hear a moral command from God?
Answer: The sounds of a divine command are the thoughts and sentiments of accepting a categorical imperative.
The answer may appear an attempt to de-mythologize outlooks understanding moral commands as commands from God. We shall see, though, that including thoughts and sentiments in the authoritative moral outlook includes spirits, if not myths, in the outlook.
What are the thoughts and sentiments of accepting a categorical imperative?
Answer: The thoughts and sentiments of accepting a categorical imperative are the thoughts and sentiments of making a moral judgment with the thoughts and sentiments of authoritative morality. (To be developed in a subsequent post.)
Hence, the sounds of a divine command are the thoughts and sentiments of making a moral judgment with the thoughts and sentiments of authoritative morality.
No new moral rules are added to authoritative moral thinking by interpreting morality as based on divine commands. However, fears and hopes of the authoritative moral outlook need to be vindicated by interpreting the moral authority as divine. Hence, even if morality does not change by interpreting it as based on divine commands, moral theology changes to vindicate the fears and hopes essentially connected with morality.
Fear of violating a moral law, hope that one can obey the moral laws and that somehow it is better that the moral laws be obeyed are essential to moral thinking.
If the moral authority is merely aware of its commands being violated and obeyed, then morality does not matter. The authoritative moral outlook can degenerate into a version of moral nihilism that obedience to moral laws does not matter. Or worse, some group of humans may assume themselves to be the moral authority and try to be all-knowing about violations and authorized to make immoral actions have unpleasant consequences. Morality will matter under these tyrants. But we don’t want morality to matter to some human authorities.
Here I am assuming that the choices for interpreting the moral authority are right reason or a direct immanent activity of the Transcendent – God acting in nature. Moral theology needs to develop notions of this immanent activity of the Transcendent to accommodate the essential sentiments of moral thought.
Consider interpreting the moral authority as right reason. Right reason is the idealized notion of human reason working invariably to get the correct answers about facts and values. The thoughts and sentiments of accepting a categorical imperative as based on right reason is, then, hearing the command of the moral authority. But right reason itself is a lifeless abstraction. It is very difficult to interpret the transparency of our moral actions to reason. I accept the reality of collective human thinking. However, I think that some of our violations of moral laws do not get into collective consciousness. We can still commit secret sins. If right reason is real at all, it is real as a subset of collective consciousness. It is even more difficult to think of right reason as instrumental in having consequences for our violations and good conduct.
So, the moral authority needs to have contact with human reason both in individuals and the collective consciousnesses. But it also needs to be separate from human consciousness and perhaps, through moral commands, be able to have influence on what makes for human harm and good. I think we could think of it as spiritual.