Explanatory Irrelevance of the Transcendent

Nothing Can Be Explained by Reference to the Transcendent.

I have to confront the explanatory irrelevance of the Transcendent before I go on characterizing the Transcendent as some type of agent bringing about features of the immanent. In particular, I plan to characterize the Transcendent as bringing about truth conditions for religious claims by producing conditions which make some religious stories correct stories but also make other religious stories incorrect stories.

I need to be honest with my internal atheist when I accuse my self of dishonoring the agreement that nothing can be thought about what transcends thought.

The atheist concedes that we can ask the question “On what does everything depend for its existence and essence?” However, he does not concede that it is an interesting question. The simplest and clearest answer reveals the banality of the question. That upon which everything depends for its existence and essence transcends all thought. It is uninteresting because it offers nothing to think about. Reference to transcendence does not explain why anything is one way or another. Regardless of what exists, the same explanation for it would be given. For instance, the law of gravity would be explained by saying it depends upon the transcendent. If the attraction law were different, that law would be explained by saying, if there were intelligent beings around, it depends upon the transcendent. It cannot be used to explain why there is order rather than chaos. For a chaotic reality would, for all the transcendent does, depend upon it for its chaotic existence. It does not explain why there is something rather than nothing. For if there were nothing, there would be nothing and nobody to ask questions.

I am incapable of interpreting Aristotle. I suggest, however, that the above shows that we can give no causal explanations, where “cause “ is understood as efficient cause, by reference to transcendence. Next, I suggest that no causal explanation, where”cause” is understood as final cause, can be given by reference to transcendence. I do not even consider transcendence being the material cause of what exists.

The explanatory vacuity of a ground for existence beyond thought holds even if we are seeking teleological explanations.

The atheist will concede the admissibility of asking “On what does that which is depend for its existence?” because we do not need to assume existence to ask for its basis. We are immediately aware of existence. However, to ask for what purpose there is what is, presupposes purposiveness over and above existence. The atheist concedes the existence of purposiveness. Purposiveness is certainly in the immanent. People have purposes. So we can ask what grounds the existence of purposes along with the existence of everything else. But the atheist goes no further than asking about the ground for existence. That is as far into “high metaphysics” as I can push my atheist. Asking for the purpose of existence would presuppose more about what the transcendence is like than merely transcending all thought.

So, as earlier in,Religiosity and the Transcendent, I have to admit that trying to draw something of religious or existential significance from a thesis that there is a transcendent ground of all existence requires more than what could be called pure metaphysical interest. Unless the atheist shares those existential and religious concerns, the atheist need not follow in elaborating upon the Transcendent.

I close with some speculation about Aristotelian formal causes in the religiously motivated efforts to characterize the Transcendent. I do not regard citation of a formal cause as any type of explanation. When we ask for a formal cause, we ask “Why does x have feature F?” When a formal cause is given as the answer runs “There actually is F.” We get no answer on how or why the F which actually is brings about x having F. However, I suggest that my efforts to characterize the Transcendent are efforts to find the formal cause for basic features of the immanent. For instance, I have asked why there is intelligence in the immanent -the world, reality, whatever. The answer runs “Because there actually is intelligence in the Transcendent.

Sexual Nihilism and the Transcendent

Sexual Nihilism and the Transcendent

How has a series of blog posts to offer support traditional sexual morality as an antidote to nihilism led to speculation on a transcendent beyond all existence providing truth conditions?

In my book*, I argued for a fundamental moral principle for male sexuality. My argument made a persuasive case for accepting the principle. I admitted that it was not rigorous. I called it rhetorical. People who did not accept the principles of my stance on sexuality, would not be irrational. I wondered whether I could improve my argument.

I diagnosed why my argument could legitimately fail to be compelling. From that vast web of thoughts and sentiments I have called human intelligence, I pulled out bits and pieces which can be arranged into a persuasive argument. “Bits and pieces” is not really a good phrase to use because some of the thoughts placed in human intelligence which I used, have been put there by people as illustrious Plato, Aquinas and Kant. Nevertheless, other strands could have been selected which would have led to a persuasive argument against my principle for male sexual morality. This concession to moral relativity threatens to undercut my project of providing an antidote to realism. I needed something outside of human intelligence to justify my argument within human intelligence.

I cast around in the ideas I borrowed from human intelligence to see if some would lead me outside of human intelligence as a foundation for correct thought. An idea that seemed interesting, if not fruitful for my project was the idea of moral harm. The idea of moral harm was the idea of harm resulting simply by violation of a moral law. After floundering around trying to characterize such a harm, I found within human intelligence the thought that harm ought to occur as a result of violation of a moral law. Drawing out from human intelligence the pervasive acceptance of this moral notion of moral harm, I concluded that a fundamental strand in some human thinking about morality was this notion that actual ordinary physical harm ought to occur as a result of violation of a moral law. All ways of thinking morally which provide for retributive punishment use this moral notion of moral harm.

Articulation of these ways of thinking about morality, led to the conclusion that a fundamental way of thinking about morality is thinking of moral laws as commands of a more than human moral authority. I called this “authoritarian morality.” But for authoritarian morality does there exist a moral authority different from the thought of a moral authority?

If I could show that there is a God who is the moral authority, I would have found a way of giving a very compelling argument for a moral principle. Part of accepting a God would be accepting a compelling reason for obeying God’s commands. To be sure, much work in moral thinking is needed to show that God would command what I believe is commanded about, in particular, sexual morality. Still, with God as moral commander there is a basis for a objective morality.

I admit that the line of thought I use to show that there is a divine moral authority assumes realism. This realism holds that there exist conditions beyond human thinking on the basis of which human thinking can be evaluated for correctness. There are such conditions, so it is assumed, even if we can never be acquainted with them apart from our ways of thinking of them. The idealism which holds that human thought is only evaluated by other human thought is coherent but not as compelling as realism.

A persuasive argument against idealism comes from our ability to think about our thinking, viz., reflective thought. Truth claims in reflective thought are objectively true or false depending upon how it is with what is thought about. So, idealism shares a realistic structural feature with realism. Some thoughts are true or false on the basis of how it is with what is thought about and not on the thinking itself. For all practical purposes, the thought which is thought about is deactivated as thought and becomes an object for thought. Nonetheless, the idealist can still claim that there is nothing non-mental; there is nothing but mental processes and mental objects.

But, granted realism, how can there be a God? In an earlier book**, I called my atheistic temptation “modal atheism.” I do not know of anyone, besides me, who has used the phrase “modal atheism.” But a modal atheist claims that it is not possible for there to be a God: That on which everything depends for its existence while depending upon nothing else and exercising providential care for creatures. I am not a proponent of scientism who proudly proclaims that there is nothing but what can be known by the methods of natural science. Unfortunately, I am constantly tormented by the thought that scientism has to be true. Thus in my efforts to establish a divine command morality, which requires a God, I need to set aside modal atheism. That is why I am speculating about the immanent, transcendent, truth conditions etc.,.

Now that I have distinguished between what is immanent and the Transcendent, I can be more precise about my inability to think of God as even possibly existing. With God as the Transcendent, God cannot be thought about at all; let alone as existing or not existing. So, my worry about the possibility of God, is a worry about the possibility of a supernatural realm. Truth claims of traditional religions, or historical religions as Kant called them, are truth claims about a supernatural realm immanent reality along side those conditions which make truth claims of natural science and daily life true or false. I cannot think of there being anything to make claims true or false besides those which make claims about nature true or false. This is not based on some naturalist ideology. It is a genuine disability in my thinking. I could only think of religious truth claims be evaluated in the way in which we evaluate claims about fiction. This means that for many claims about the topic in a religious claim there is no fixed answer if the answer is not provided by the story. For instance, consider the claim “The angel Gabriel told the virgin Mary that she would conceive and bear a son of the most high.” There is no answer to the question “Was Mary over thirteen years when Gabriel appeared to her?” For natural claims, there is, in principle, a definite answer in nature for every claim. The Law of Excluded Middle holds for nature.

But now with speculation about the Transcendent providing truth conditions for claims we make about the immanent, I am thinking about the truth conditions for religious claims as, indeed, truths about a story. However, the story teller is the Transcendent.

* Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism, Oklahoma City, 2014
** A Kantian Condemnation of Atheistic Despair: Declaration of Dependence, Lang Pub. NY 1997

The Supernatural is Not Transcendent!

The supernatural is not transcendent. The supernatural is immanent but has a special dependence upon transcendence.

An effort to explain rather than prove my thesis about the immanence of the supernatural, provides the opportunity to review two of my main objectives. I want to show that there can be objective conditions for the correctness of our religious and moral judgments. I focus on religious judgments.

By “objective” I mean conditions in reality apart from our thinking but on the basis of which our thinking about what is the case is true or false and thinking about what ought to be is a proper response. Reality includes all human thought and what is thought about*. I have called reality the immanent and that on which it all depends the Transcendent.

In this post, I assume a realism which holds that conditions exist beyond our thought which provide at least truth conditions for the truth claims of natural science. I accept the scientific picture of reality with its vast universe spread out spatially and temporally. As a realist, then, I accept that there are truth conditions apart from the scientific picture which the developers of the scientific picture try to represent accurately. Since we never have acquaintance with truth conditions as they are apart from our representations, we must be satisfied with getting closer and closer to truth.

Truth is representing the truth condition exactly as it is. I have no quarrel with saying that the test for being warranted to assert a proposition as true is being warranted as correct by careful investigators. I want only to emphasize that the goal of testing is to represent as accurately as possible the conditions apart from our representing.

In this twenty first century we can and should concede the term “nature” to secular reductionist stance frequently called scientism. Scientism holds that there is nothing but what can be discovered by the methods of natural science. We can make this concession because education for the past hundred years or so has led many people to understand nature this way. It is sometimes said that reality has been disenchanted.

We should make this concession because it opens a place for the supernatural along side the natural within the realty dependent upon the Transcendent.

In the immanent, then, we have truth conditions for the scientific representation and, of course, the scientific representation itself. In the immanent there could also be truth conditions for propositions about what transcends scientific representations. There could also be truth conditions for propositions founded in existential concern, usually implicit, about the purpose of human life.

What beyond anything we can represent gives purpose to human living? Such propositions would express attempts to tell the truth about what is totally transcendent – what I have called the Transcendent. The Transcendent could sustain in existence conditions for propositions which hopefully tell the truth about human relations to it. We would not know what these conditions are apart from our representations. But that is the case with any truth condition. We would, as with natural science, most likely always have only approximations to exact representations.

These truth conditions along side the natural ones constitute the supernatural.

Consider this conjecture about reality pictorially. Picture reality – the immanent- as a huge ellipse. Closely scattered throughout the ellipse there are green and red dots. Red and green can never overlap. The order and connection of the green are truth conditions for the natural. The order and connection of the red dots provide truth conditions for religious propositions. The green is the natural. The red is the supernatural. Both are immanent and dependent upon the Transcendent for existence and order.

This picture does not replace the difficult philosophical work of clarifying my proposal about the immanence of the supernatural. But it does suggest the strength of what I would like to clarify and justify.

*Philosophical thought about what cannot be thought, viz., the Transcendent and things in themselves, is about the limits of thought and not that beyond the limits.

The Transcendent Compared to Plato’s Model of the Sun as that On Which All Depends for Existence

In this brief posting, I write to correct one of my erroneous tendencies. When I argue for a transcendent beyond all ways of being and thinking, I tend to think of the transcendent as a blank – as actually nothing. Proper thought of transcendence would really be thinking of nothing. An empty mind would be accurate thought of transcendence. Attempts to characterize transcendence are, then, projections upon a blank slate. All characterizations are inherently inaccurate because they present transcendence as more than it should be.

This view of transcendence as beneath all representation is erroneous. For we posit transcendence as that on which everything depends for its existence. Thinking of that on which everything depends for its as existence as less than anything which exists is logically unsatisfactory.

Rather we should think of transcendence as more than anything which exists. It transcends our ways of thinking because it is more than anything we can represent. Our minds go blank when we try to represent it because it is way too much for our thinking.

I am thinking of Plato’s use of the sun as a model of the Good on which everything depends for its existence. We cannot see if we look at that which enables anything to be seen. We cannot see the sun because it is too much to see; not because it has too little to see.

We should understand our attempts to characterize the transcendence as inherently inaccurate because we are incapable of representing the excellence -the fullness of the Transcendent. The proper frame of mind when contemplating transcendence is not the dreamy state of having a blank mind but rather being animated and dazzled by so much.

When I attempt to characterize the transcendent, I should worry about understating rather than overstating the excellence by which it surpasses everything.

We should not think of the Transcendent as unable to have any relation to and action within the immanent which depends upon it for existence and features. Rather we should think of ourselves as unable to comprehend how the Transcendent is related to and acts within the immanent.

Atheism vs the Transcendent

In my previous post,Immanence of the Transcendent I maintained that religious propositions are objectively true or false if and only if the Transcendent is immanent as truth conditions for such propositions.

I further observed that it is not inconsistent to maintain that the Transcendent is immanent as truth conditions. It would be inconsistent to say that the Transcendent is immanent without qualification. But I have qualified the Transcendent as being truth conditions. The Transcendent preserves its transcendence of our understanding by existing as truth conditions. Truth conditions make true or false propositions using our human ways of representing. But we can never think of how those truth conditions are apart from our ways of representing.

I had to concede, though, that the Transcendent as truth conditions does not transcend existence. Truth conditions exist. They are “in the world.”

How might an atheistic critique of my position proceed?

Of course, there could be rejection of the argument for the Transcendent.See . This might be a challenge to the meaningfulness of asking “On what does everything existing depend upon for its existence?”

However, accepting a transcendent beyond anything existing or comprehensible is no threat to atheism. It leaves room only for mysticism which holds and practices nothing beyond interior states of mystics. Religious threats to atheism arise when we try to go beyond total transcendence.

How have I gone beyond accepting total transcendence?

There were attempts to characterize the transcendent as the Transcendent creator and sustainer of features of what exists – the immanent. Traditional arguments for God’s existence were presented as characterizing the Transcendent.

Atheists could dismiss these efforts as worthless for showing that religious propositions are objectively true or false. At best these efforts would get, amongst philosophers and theologians, agreement on some characterizations about the Transcendent as warranted beliefs. In trying to characterize the Transcendent, we do seek only consensus on what is an apt characterization, not objective truth.

I have maintained that the Transcendent be immanent as truth conditions for religious propositions.

This position relies on a “Kantian” realism that truth conditions exist as things in themselves transcending our ways of thinking.

An atheist could reject this model of realism. But I do not think this is philosophically viable.

An atheist could stay a realist but hold that there need be no truth conditions for religious propositions because there really are no religious propositions. Properly understood, the so-called religious propositions say something else which is not a truth claim or a truth claim about something other than what speakers think they are talking about. This roughly describes reductionist critique of religion.

An atheist could accept some type of idealism about truth. In this case the atheist would give arguments to persuade people that there is no reason to warrant any religious belief.

The atheistic critiques of my position bring out that the introduction of God as the Transcendent does little or nothing towards responding to atheistic criticism of religious belief. At most it shows that atheists with a metaphysical temperament can be mystics and should concede that traditional arguments for God’s existence are legitimate philosophical efforts to construct a model of transcendence.

Religious apologetics remains as always. We need to show that religious propositions are genuine truth claims about a special subject matter and that many religious claims warrant belief because genuinely accepting them as true promotes human flourishing.

Immanence of the Transcendent as Religious Truth Conditions

Thesis: Religious propositions are true or false if and only if the Transcendent is immanent as truth conditions!

I focus on establishing the “only if” part.

Religious propositions are truth claims about what is immanent. For instance, “God is the father almighty creator of heaven and earth” is about the whole of what is immanent while “Jesus rose from the tomb after being crucified” is about a particular event within the immanent.

Although motivated by religious concerns, philosophical characterizations of the Transcendent are claims of philosophical theology. Admittedly, attempts to characterize the Transcendent are not even true or false. But in this post, in which I am engaged in philosophical theology, I am not interested in the status of claims within philosophical theology. I want to justify the following thesis.

If there are religious truths, then the Transcendent is immanent.

Unfortunately, my thesis is a “two edged sword” with respect to establishing immanence for the Transcendent. I want to conclude that the Transcendent is immanent because there are religious truths. Sophisticated atheists will use it to proclaim that there are no religious truths because it is incoherent to hold that the Transcendent is immanent.

Religious propositions are claims about the Transcendent although using our concepts for making claims about the immanent. So, if some religious propositions are objectively true, then some claims about the Transcendent using concepts for making claims about the immanent are objectively true.

Bear with me while I work this out through a series of hypotheticals.

If some claims about the Transcendent using concepts for making claims about the immanent are objectively true, then the Transcendent creates and sustains conditions in the immanent which make those claims about it objectively true or false

If the Transcendent creates and sustains conditions in the immanent for making claims about it using concepts appropriate to the immanent true or false, then the Transcendent creates and sustains conditions amongst things in themselves for making claims about it using concepts appropriate to the immanent true or false.

If the Transcendent creates and sustains conditions amongst things in them for making claims about it using concepts appropriate to the immanent true or false, then those conditions are the Transcendent as truth conditions or those conditions are not the Transcendent as truth conditions.

If those truth conditions are not the Transcendent as truth conditions, then those truth conditions are not truth conditions.

How do we get this contradictions for a reductio ad absurdum argument?

Religious claims are about the Transcendent using concepts for the immanent. If the Transcendent was not amongst things in themselves, none of the religious claims would be true or false because they would have nothing about the Transcendent to make them true or false.

So, we can conclude: Truth conditions for religious claims are the Transcendent as truth conditions in the immanent. (Recall that all truth conditions are things in themselves in the immanent.)

Now what about an atheist claim that it is oxymoron to hold that the Transcendent is immanent.

It is not incoherent to hold that the Transcendent is immanent as a thing in itself because the Transcendent does not lose its character as transcending our understanding. For things in themselves transcend our understanding for we cannot think of how they are apart from our ways of thinking.

Here we see a benefit to religion from adapting a “Kantian realism” that truth conditions are things in themselves transcending our understanding.

In the next post I wish to explore an atheistic reaction to a thesis that religious truth requires the immanence as truth conditions of the transcendent. Thesis: Religious propositions are true or false if and only if the Transcendent is immanent as truth conditions!

I focus on establishing the “only if” part.

Religious propositions are truth claims about what is immanent. For instance, “God is the father almighty creator of heaven and earth” is about the whole of what is immanent while “Jesus rose from the tomb after being crucified” is about a particular event within the immanent.

Although motivated by religious concerns, philosophical characterizations of the Transcendent are claims of philosophical theology. Admittedly, attempts to characterize the Transcendent are not even true or false. But in this post, in which I am engaged in philosophical theology, I am not interested in the status of claims within philosophical theology. I want to justify the following thesis.

If there are religious truths, then the Transcendent is immanent.

Unfortunately, my thesis is a “two edged sword” with respect to establishing immanence for the Transcendent. I want to conclude that the Transcendent is immanent because there are religious truths. Sophisticated atheists will use it to proclaim that there are no religious truths because it is incoherent to hold that the Transcendent is immanent.

Religious propositions are claims about the Transcendent although using our concepts for making claims about the immanent. So, if some religious propositions are objectively true, then some claims about the Transcendent using concepts for making claims about the immanent are objectively true.

Bear with me while I work this out through a series of hypotheticals.

If some claims about the Transcendent using concepts for making claims about the immanent are objectively true, then the Transcendent creates and sustains conditions in the immanent which make those claims about it objectively true or false

If the Transcendent creates and sustains conditions in the immanent for making claims about it using concepts appropriate to the immanent true or false, then the Transcendent creates and sustains conditions amongst things in themselves for making claims about it using concepts appropriate to the immanent true or false.

If the Transcendent creates and sustains conditions amongst things in them for making claims about it using concepts appropriate to the immanent true or false, then those conditions are the Transcendent as truth conditions or those conditions are not the Transcendent as truth conditions.

If those truth conditions are not the Transcendent as truth conditions, then those truth conditions are not truth conditions.

How do we get this contradictions for a reductio ad absurdum argument?

Religious claims are about the Transcendent using concepts for the immanent. If the Transcendent was not amongst things in themselves, none of the religious claims would be true or false because they would have nothing about the Transcendent to make them true or false.

So, we can conclude: Truth conditions for religious claims are the Transcendent as truth conditions in the immanent. (Recall that all truth conditions are things in themselves in the immanent.)

I had to concede, though, that the Transcendent as truth conditions does not transcend existence. Truth conditions exist. They are “in the world.”

Now what about an atheist claim that it is oxymoron to hold that the Transcendent is immanent.

It is not incoherent to hold that the Transcendent is immanent as a thing in itself because the Transcendent does not lose its character as transcending our understanding. For things in themselves transcend our understanding for we cannot think of how they are apart from our ways of thinking.

Here we see a benefit to religion from adapting a “Kantian realism” that truth conditions are things in themselves transcending our understanding.

In the next post I wish to explore an atheistic reaction to a thesis that religious truth requires the immanence as truth conditions of the transcendent.

Objective Truth and the Transcendent

In a philosophic framework positing an immanent reality dependent for its existence on a transcendent, what is further posited by a philosophic stance that there are objective truths?

The immanent consists of human representations along with things in themselves. Things in themselves exist independently of being represented. Representations themselves are things in themselves in so far as they do not need to be represented to exist. We never think of things in themselves as they are in themselves. For we always think with representations. Yes, even when we think about our thinking we do not represent the thought which is thought about as it is independently of our thinking about it.

In this post, I am not primarily interested in the representation of representing or thinking about thinking. This is called “reflective thinking.” Unfortunately, I cannot ignore reflective thinking. I am engaged in it while writing this post. I am mostly interested in things in themselves as an existing reality which we can accurately or inaccurately represent. Some representations are truth claims. Let us call these truth claim representations “propositions” or” statements.” They are representations that such-and-such is the case. For example: Joe Biden was inaugurated president of the USA on January 20, 2021. There are religious propositions. An example of a religious representation truth claim asserts, “Jesus rose from his tomb after being crucified and buried.”

Propositions allegedly represent the order and connection of things in themselves.
Propositions are objectively true if what they allegedly represent of things in themselves is the way things in themselves exist. Otherwise, they are objectively false. For truth realists, agreement is not essential for the truth of a proposition. There could be unanimous rejection of a true proposition.

If there are no things in themselves, no propositions are objectively true or false.

Truth realism holds that there are objective truths. Since, when we as philosophers reflect on our thinking, we realize that we cannot directly think of things in themselves, we realize that we cannot represent whether a proposition corresponds with what it allegedly claims to exist. Hence, we can always be philosophically uncertain whether there is objective truth. Realism about objective truth is a philosophic stance requiring faith.

Truth realism is a well founded faith. When we try to discover what is the case, we find ourselves compelled to accept some propositions while rejecting others. In Newman’s sense we give real assent to a belief that there is a way things are apart from out thinking. However, again using John Henry Newman’s ideas, we cannot give full notional, or theoretical, assent to an objective reality.

Core idealism holds that there are no things in themselves beyond representations. Idealism about truth adds to core idealism a rejection of objective truth . Truth idealists add that since we cannot even represent our own representations as they are apart from our ways of representing, it is pointless to maintain that we can have objective truths about even our own thoughts. Propositions which are to be asserted as correct are to be establish by reference to some standard within human representations. There is no objective truth about which standards are the correct standard. Agreement or consensus is fundamental for truth for idealists. Consequently, in light of the fact that humans disagree, truth, or better warranted proposition, is relative.

Also, because there might be so little agreement about which propositions of some class of propositions are to be warranted, there arises agreement amongst many that there is and ought to be no warranted assertions for that class of propositions. Religious propositions provide an example of such a class. Many explicit, or implicit, idealists not only reject the possibility of any objectively true religious propositions. They also urge dismissing the practice of accepting any religious propositions as warranted.

Truth realists have no philosophic grounds for dismissing the possibility of objective religious truths. But that is the topic of my next post. Here, I summarize what truth realists hold about objective truth and the Transcendent.

Things in themselves as the truth conditions for propositions would be a basic feature of the immanent which depends directly upon the Transcendent for its existence. We can then go on to develop a characterization of the Transcendent as creator and sustainer of the foundation for truth.

Survival After Biological Death and the Transcendent

This is a type of blog essay I am reluctant to post. It is more a set of promises of philosophic work than philosophic analyses and arguments. But there are so many issues in modeling the Transcendent as a Divine authority that I have time only to sketch out how I will try to resolve those issues as I work to present a complete overview of a model of the Transcendent as moral authority. One of those issues is survival after biological death.

Phases of an argument for survival after biological death

1. Make a case that people are not their bodies. A prominent part of the case is borrowed from stock philosophical arguments that personal identity persists through significant bodily changes.

2. Make a case that all of our thoughts and deeds are known to the moral authority. A prominent part of this case is articulating and supporting an understanding of morality as authoritarian morality – command morality. I have already done much of this in development of authoritarian moral theory from my notion of moral harm as harm which ought to be for violation of a moral law. But I need to add and defend belief in personal survival after death as part of the authoritarian moral outlook.

3. Make a case that the moral authority is the Transcendent, i.e., God. We now have a divine command morality.

Phase 3 is advanced by making a case that we can characterize the Transcendent not only being aware of your personal history throughout your natural life but as eternally being aware of you – the awareness of the Transcendent does not vanish at your natural death. The Transcendent is aware of you as a person both before and after your biological death.

But what does “eternally” mean when applied to the Transcendent?

I am thinking of arguing along the following lines. If the Transcendent did not sustain you in existence in anyway at biological death, then you would vanish at biological death and the Transcendent would not be aware of you. But the Transcendent never loses awareness of you. Hence, the Transcendent sustains you in existence in some way after your biological death. But this existence after biological death is still existence in what is immanent. For nothing is transcendent except the Transcendent. There are issues in characterizing immanent existence of persons after biological death. (I am working on them.)

However, I do not want to include in my model that human beings exist in some way prior to their conception. I need to make a case that in the immanent there is genuine coming into existence.
I hope to do all of this without developing any philosophical system. As much as possible I want to use only ordinary language.

Love for the Transcendent??

Love for the Transcendent

It is difficult to understand what could bring a person to say “I love God.” What, then, could possibly bring someone to say “I love the Transcendent?”

As a little boy walking home from Nativity grade school in St. Paul, Minnesota, I once wondered how classmates -usually well-behaved little girls- could tell the nun teaching the class that they loved God. When I return to St. Paul, I frequently pass the intersection -Juliet and Prior- where I had that experience, when about seven or eight, of wondering how people could say that they loved God. My experience returns to me. What were they thinking? Would they feel sad if something bad happened to God? It was so troubling that I kept it in mind as one of the many things I would have to figure out for myself as life went on. I would be embarrassed ever to ask anyone “Why do you say that you love God?”

Finally, now, in my mid-eighties, I have figured out what I could mean by saying that I love God. Even with the mature, and correct, notion of love as willing the good of the other, I could not understand how I could will good for God who needs nothing. The answer, which should have been obvious to me for a long time, struck me this week after Epiphany when we have been reading the first letter of John. On Thursday we read in John 1:4 “For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.”

The good for God is what God wills. God wills the good of His human creatures. So, aiming at the good for humans is aiming at God’s good. God has willed that the human goods be attained by humans ordering their lives in accordance with rules for attaining these human goods. These rules are the moral rules and can be considered His commandments. So, by willing to obey the moral rules we will God’s good. That is loving God!

Consequently, a Divine Command theory of morality is not interpreting God as a moral tyrant who leaves no room for human freedom. On the contrary, a Divine Command moral theory is an explication of what it means to freely love God. For we are free to will to disobey His commands. But we are also free to will to obey His commands which is to love Him.

What does this have to do with the Transcendent? In my efforts to characterize the Transcendent as the moral authority, I am working towards explicating how we can speaking meaningfully of loving God even when “God” is understood in the most austere philosophical terms.

Predestination and the Transcendent

In a subsequent post, I plan to construct properties to attribute to the Transcendent as that on which a moral order with so-called libertarian free will depends for its existence. As a preliminary, I here point out that the type of omniscience already attributed to the Transcendent does not rule out free will by entailing some type of predestination. Previously in Morality and the Transcendent I attributed omniscience to the Transcendent to facilitate saying that our moral lives were transparent to the Transcendent. I quote from an earlier post.

“I propose that we attribute omniscience o the Transcendent because it is the sustaining condition for all true thoughts as true.
The Transcendent holds in existence the truth of the thoughts of our most secret sins! Isn’t this transparency to the Transcendent? “ and, I could have added “our successes in the moral struggle.

For sake of discussion, I accept using “hold its truth in existence” as “being aware of.”

An example brings out that transparency of our choices does not eliminate our choices.

Suppose that I am still alive two years from this date 1/1/21, viz., 1/1/23. I am facing a long painful last illness. Suppose also that I have an option of legal physician assisted termination of my life.

I have two choices: Accept the opportunity to end my life or reject the opportunity to end my life.

The Transcendent holds in existence the truth of this disjunction. If I choose to have my life terminated, the Transcendent holds in existence the truth of my immoral choice and its consequences. If I choose to reject the offer of assisted suicide, the Transcendent holds in existence the truth of my morally correct choice and its consequences.

So far we have only that the Transcendent is aware of whatever happens. The awareness of the Transcendent is simply a catalog of the truths.

But what about the logical truth: In 2023 Charles commits suicide or in 2023 Charles does not commit suicide? The Transcendent is aware of this logical truth, –Law of excluded middle– in 2021. Also the Transcendent is aware in 2021 that only one of these disjuncts can be true in 2023. But our attributions of awareness to the Transcendent do not require saying that in 2021 one or the other of these disjuncts is true and thereby the Transcendent is aware in 2021 of my 2023 choice.

The law of excluded middle says less than the so-called law of bivalence. Bivalence says that every statement is True or False. If we accept bivalence and that statements specifying that an action occurs on a definite date, then we can convert the Transcendent’s omniscience into a type of foreknowledge. However, we can get a type of predestination simply from assumption of bivalence and the admissibility of statements specifying dates for actions. Reference to a Transcendent or deity is irrelevant to this logic and language based determinism.

Believers in predestination or some other type of determinism would hold that in 2021 one or the other of these disjuncts would be true and thereby be in the Transcendent’s awareness. But the determinism’s elimination of choice would not come from the awareness of the Transcendent; it would be based on whatever rationalized the deterministic outlook.

Of course rejection of predestination, or better: genuine (libertarian) free-will, requires rejection of bivalence. That means accepting at least a third truth value of “undetermined.” Many, many statements about the future have this third truth value. Logic does not rule out a third value. Three, and other many value logics, are well developed. In this regard, the significant conceptual problem is clarifying and defending a metaphysical vision of an “open future.”