Hart-Norman on morality

DBH

I shared a portion of Hart’s comments re: consciousness. Toward the end of their discussion, Norman asks DBH about the proper grounds for morality, namely, whether some transcendent good is required to intelligibly ground morality. Normal doesn’t think any such transcendent ground is necessary. Hart responds:

“You say that what counts is compassion/charity. Why does it ‘count’? I’m asking this in a formal sense, not in a moral or emotional sense. It counts because in addition to that groundedness in sympathy, without which a moral life is impossible, there’s something else that can translate that into an imperative that goes beyond [recording break], and I’m talking about just the structure of moral desire. I’m not saying the good is necessarily there. I’m just saying how we encounter the world. It’s like the old issue with John Rawls, the political philosopher, his theory of justice—we can achieve a just society if we withdrawal to an original position where we pretend that we don’t know how we’re situated in society and then try [from there] to construct the just society. It’s an eminently sensible approach. The problem is he can’t account from within that system for the moral impulse to make that initial withdrawal. And so the question for me is, What happens in the structure of moral desire? (Just as in the structure of aesthetic desire, the desire for the truth…) And I’m saying you’re not going to be able to give an account of it. It simply rests in the facts on the ground. There will always be that element that’s found nowhere within the ensemble of natural facts, which is a transcendental structure. It’s an ecstatic movement towards that which is not simply concrete but that which allows you to see the concrete. “The light of the good,” is what Plato talks about, and I like that image. It allows you to see it as more than a momentary ebullition of emotion, sense, or impulse. But again, it’s the structure of moral desire that I’m talking about. How we encounter moral desire. How we experience moral desire.”

Objecting to Hart’s complaint that having compassion without any appeal to a transcendental moral ground is ‘not enough’, Norman asks how contemplation of a Platonic ideal helps? Hart responds:

“[W]hen I say it’s ‘not enough’, I mean it’s not enough as an actual phenomenological description of what we’re doing. I’m not recommending contemplation of Platonic ideals as the path to the moral life. I’m saying that horizon is already implicit in our moral desire and our moral action. You point to that when you say we’re trying to construct a more sophisticated and refined ethos on the basis of this experience of sympathy, and [you] talk about justice and honesty. Well, justice and honesty then become other names for obligation that makes itself felt even in at times, in spite of, the absence of sympathy.”

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17 comments on “Hart-Norman on morality

  1. apophaticallyspeaking says:

    One gets the impression that Norman doesn’t quite get what Hart is conveying.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. formerlyjeff says:

    I haven’t seen or heard Hart define “God” such that it accounts for a moral structure an atheist couldn’t account for. His staunchly “negative theology” can’t get him there. What he’s right about is that the atheist can’t account for the moral structure that most people are using when they talk with moral language. But he disagrees with the very definition of “God” most people use to account for that structure.

    In his “Experience of God” book, Hart says that “In creatures, …, the act of being is realized in a plurality of attributes …” He claims that this is not the case with God. But there is no way to define “God” with 1 or 0 attributes and still conceive of the moral structure being grounded in “God” thus defined.

    The whole “being among beings” issue that Hart thinks is at the root of the problem with the non-classical-theologian (assuming there is such a system of thought about God that is both intelligible to humans-qua-humans and explanatory of anything) is misconceived. He says in “Experience of God” that the non-classical view of God (he refers to this in the Norman debate as “folk” theology, I think) conceives of gods as “merely very powerful discrete entities who possess a variety of distinct attributes that lesser entities also possess, if in smaller measure.” But this is clearly false when applied to so-called “folk” Judaeo-Christian-scriptural interpretations of God. Because the creator-God routinely defined that way is believed to be capable of creation-ex-nihilo, or creation ex-theo if you prefer. No creature is known or believed by many of such persons to have any such power in any degree whatsoever. Nor does any creature have to any degree whatsoever (as God is believed to have) non-contingent existence. None of this requires us to attempt to define God in terms of 1 or 0 attributes, or even as the Anselmians do (that is, with additional attributes that have zero explanatory value).

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    • Tom says:

      Jeff: I haven’t seen or heard Hart define “God” such that it accounts for a moral structure an atheist couldn’t account for. His staunchly “negative theology” can’t get him there.

      Tom: Hi Jeff. Perhaps this, of Hart’s, will help:

      Here’s the audio version (last year’s Notre Dame presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dOsKzh7Kyw

      And the same presentation later edited/published: http://journal.radicalorthodoxy.org/index.php/ROTPP/article/view/135/75

      Tom

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    • Tom says:

      A couple relevant quotes from that paper:

      “It must be possible to speak of God without mistaking him for a being among beings, an instance of something greater than himself. Between God and creatures lies an epistemological chasm nothing less than infinite, which no predicate can span univocally. Even Scotists believe that, within the weak embrace of a largely negative conceptum univocum entis, the modal disproportion between the infinite and the finite renders the analogy between God and creatures irreducibly disjunctive. But neither can theological language consist in nothing but equivocal expostulations, piously but fruitlessly offered up into the abyss of the divine mystery; this would evacuate theological language not only of logical, but of semantic content; nothing could be affirmed—nothing could mean anything at all. And yet, down the centuries, Christians have again and again subscribed to formulations of their faith that clearly reduce a host of cardinal Christian theological usages— most especially moral predicates like ‘good’, ‘merciful’, ‘just’, ‘benevolent’, ‘loving’—to utter equivocity, and by association the entire grammar of Christian belief to meaninglessness.”

      “The golden thread of analogy can stretch across as vast an apophatic abyss as the modal disjunction between infinite and finite or the ontological disproportion between absolute and contingent can open before us; but it cannot span a total antithesis. When we use words like ‘good’, ‘just’,’ ‘love’ to name God, not as if they are mysteriously greater in meaning than when predicated of creatures, but instead as if they bear transparently opposite meanings, then we are saying nothing. And, again, the contagion of this equivocity necessarily consumes theology entirely.”

      I don’t think his apophaticism lands us in so absolute an agnosticism as to vacate the application to God of moral terms. But at the very worst, you and Hart would dsagree over how our (moral) language must be understood as applying to God if the moral argument for God’s existence is to succeed. But that’s immaterial, at the very least, to the philosophically bankrupt status of naturalism/materialism when it comes to morality. Regardless of whether you or Hart have the better theory on God-talk, some divine ground of morality must be posited, and we can say that much before we disagree over how our moral terms apprehend him.

      Tom

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  3. formerlyjeff says:

    Ah. Thanks, Tom!. I’ll start it now and finish as I can.

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  4. formerlyjeff says:

    When I first replied, I hadn’t refreshed to see your last post there. Therein, I see what makes no sense to me. Hart says:

    “Between God and creatures lies an epistemological chasm nothing less than infinite, which no predicate can span univocally.”

    But then later says:

    “The golden thread of analogy can stretch across as vast an apophatic abyss as the modal disjunction between infinite and finite or the ontological disproportion between absolute and contingent can open before us …”

    He then goes on the use the term “just” as an example. As I define “just”, it may, for all I know, never have any discernible relevance to me to an infinite anything. As applied in our language, there is the notion of perfect justice and that’s as good as it gets as we use the term for our world. Infinitude has nothing to do with it as we use it. Thus, I see nothing apophatic about how we use it when talking about this creation and how justice is applied to it.

    If there is more in God than what we conceive of Him (and I think there is since I think God’s knowledge, to be less than serendipitous, requires such), that is irrelevant to the correspondence of our God-language to reality as we actually know anything about it. E.g., if I say God is perfectly just with humans, I can be perfectly accurate while neither denying nor affirming that God is infinitely just.

    Now, if God can be motivated to create an infinite number of creatures in an infinite world wherein divine justice is applicable, then it would follow from perfect divine justice that God has the capacity of infinite justice. But I have no way of knowing that God can be motivated thus, do I? What does seem explanatory is to say that God can do whatever He can be motivated to do.

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    • Tom says:

      Jeff: I see what makes no sense to me. Hart says: “Between God and creatures lies an epistemological chasm nothing less than infinite, which no predicate can span univocally.” But then later says: “The golden thread of analogy can stretch across as vast an apophatic abyss as the modal disjunction between infinite and finite or the ontological disproportion between absolute and contingent can open before us ….”

      Tom: I don’t know what Hart would say, but it looks to me that his first claim has to do with the failure of univocal language to span the difference between God and creation. That failure is infinite (i.e., its failure isn’t due to some lack of philosophical or definitional refinement or sophistication; God will always exceed our grasp). The second claim has to do with the success of analogical language to span that difference.

      When Hart says “When we use words like ‘good’, ‘just’,’ ‘love’ to name God, not as if they are mysteriously greater in meaning than when predicated of creatures but instead as if…” clearly his sense is that our terms are “mysteriously greater in meaning” when predicated of God and not “mysteriously antithetical” or equivocal.

      I’ll have to leave it at that. I’m not an expert on Hart. I do agree with his point that some transcendent Good as ‘end’ has to be posited to ground the teleological nature of human moral desire/intentionality.

      Tom

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      • formerlyjeff says:

        I guess what I’d say to the “mysteriousness” aspect is this. The word “just” seems to either:

        1) mean the same thing with infinitude as with finitude, the difference being the application of justice to an infinite number of creatures vs. a finite number of creatures,

        or

        2) it means something different with infinitude, in which case I don’t know what it means in that case, so that in the infinitude case I don’t have a clue how that mysterious meaning applies to the intelligibility of a moral order that an atheist can’t account for the reality of.

        In short, I think the average person who believes in a moral order is thinking concepts that aren’t mysterious at all. And I think that’s because our creation is finite and requires no infinite divine attributes to account for it and its moral order. What that accounting requires is attributes of perfection, not of infinitude. If there are attributes of God that are mysterious (and I think there are), I don’t think they’re relevant (fortunately!) to any debate I’m going to have with an atheist or even to decisions I need to make to best live my life. So long as I’m finite in all respects, I don’t see how that can change.

        But what I see Hart doing is insisting that the mysterious is necessary to account for aspects of creation and its relations that we actually know about. But I know of only 2 meanings of mysterious that he could be talking about. One is the secret. But a secret can be disclosed intelligibly. The other is that which is beyond our epistemological capacity. But I have no idea how the latter can be said to be known to ground something else. To know something grounds something is to see how the relationships between the 2 are in fact logical in some sense (entailment, implication, etc). The atheist sees this and realizes that Hart’s approach just seems confused. But true, the atheist can’t account for the validity of induction or a moral order of the kind that the average American theist thinks (or used to think?) in terms of. And I’m at a loss as to why they can’t see that, either. Some do, of course, but not many, it seems.

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      • Tom says:

        Thanks Jeff. I’ll try to get back to this before the weekend. In the meantime, you might enjoy this:

        https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2016/06/27/the-essenceenergies-distinction-and-the-myth-of-byzantine-illogic/

        There my be something to Scotus that might help you (us?).

        Tom

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      • Tom says:

        Jeff: I guess what I’d say to the “mysteriousness” aspect is this. The word “just” seems to either: (1) means the same thing with infinitude as with finitude, the difference being the application of justice to an infinite number of creatures vs. a finite number of creatures, or (2) it means something different with infinitude, in which case I don’t know what it means in that case, so that in the infinitude case I don’t have a clue how that mysterious meaning applies to the intelligibility of a moral order that an atheist can’t account for the reality of.

        Tom: Well, however theists disagree over God-talk, atheists don’t even have enough of an answer on morality over which to even have a disagreement among themselves. You see to think that IF Hart (and classical theists are right) and our language doesn’t apprehend God univocally, not only does the moral argument for God fail, but the atheist’s position re: morality is equivalent to the theist’s. Both have zero ground for morality. With that much I disagree. The classical theist isn’t reduced to atheism on this question simply because he denies that moral terms apply to God univocally.

        Jeff: I think the average person who believes in a moral order is thinking concepts that aren’t mysterious at all.

        Tom: That’s true. But so what? Mystery is discovered upon closer scrutiny and investigation. Of course the mystery of theological language isn’t immediately felt by believers as they go throughout their day and make moral choices, any more than the mystery of the mathematical language of quantum events is perceived by people as they go throughout their day moving in bodies subject at the micro level to quantum laws. But the mystery is there, already implied within the horizon of everything we do at the macro level, even if it’s only uncovered by those who intentionally explore that horizon.

        Jeff: And I think that’s because our creation is finite and requires no infinite divine attributes to account for it and its moral order.

        Tom: On one level, sure, people don’t default to notions of infinity on a conscious plane when deliberating moral choices. But then again, nobody defaults to notions of infinity present in Pi or fractals, or to the mysteries of quantum non-location or entanglement, when they garden, walk, or defecate; but the latter mysteries really are present as explanations for those who, for whatever reason, require them. And atheists and theists are especially exploring the boundaries of ultimate metaphysical explanations. It seems to me that to settle those questions on the basis of what “average people” are consciously thinking is a mistake, wouldn’t you agree? You seem to want explanations of the average person’s actions in terms of the average person’s state of awareness.

        Jeff: What that accounting requires is attributes of perfection, not of infinitude.

        Tom: Well, perfection is fine. But we need a perfection in which all the perfections of our experience participate and which perfection is not itself a participation in some other reality. Otherwise we go on forever producing explanations (which you’re OK with, but for parsimony). That’s my view. You’re fine with an infinite past series of created causes. I think that’s impossible, but we’ve been there. So we already disagree on what counts as an ultimate explanation. But if the word “infinite” is tripping you up, don’t bother with it. I admit it’s an elusive term that’s only helpful when carefully defined. I don’t think its mathematical applications (which seem to be what you’re locked in on) are what is primarily in view in theological applications. The word doesn’t really find theological-philosophical application anyhow until Gregory of Nyssa in the 4th century. And he was careful and specific about it. In the end, he wouldn’t agree that ‘perfection’ (as the final explanation not needing an explanation) and ‘infinity’ can be separated. They’re different terms that (used of God) describe the same reality.

        When I say God is infinite I don’t mean (nor do I suppose classical theists mean) to say God is infinitely extended, infinitely numerable, or even infinitely actual in the sense we mean by “actual infinite” (actually having taken an infinite number steps, or having recording all the infinite digits of Pi). That’s what you’re thinking, which is why “infinitely just” can ONLY mean to you an infinite number of instances of justice. I’m in an entirely different field. What I mean is to try to say that God, in his triune actuality, is the source and explanation of the endless infinities we encounter within creation. He’s infinite because all infinities in their rationality derive from the divine mind. God exceeds Pi infinitely in the sense that God isn’t a passive observer of Pi, sitting with a powerful computer noting the unfolding of its infinitude. God’s actuality precedes Pi (and all other infinities) as source, cause and explanation. I say this regarding mathematical instances, but the same thing applies, I think, to morality and aesthetics.

        Jeff: If there are attributes of God that are mysterious (and I think there are), I don’t think they’re relevant (fortunately!) to any debate I’m going to have with an atheist or even to decisions I need to make to best live my life.

        Tom: I see things quite the opposite. The sense in which God mysteriously-infinitely (in the sense I mean above) exceeds our terms and explanations is relevant to such debates.

        So interesting.

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      • formerlyjeff says:

        Thanks or the link, Tom. I look forward to checking it out as soon as I get some dead-line’d work behind me in the next 2 days. I’ll get back thereafter.

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  5. formerlyjeff says:

    Sorry to respond so late. Been snowed.

    Tom: You seem to think that IF Hart (and classical theists are right) and our language doesn’t apprehend God univocally, not only does the moral argument for God fail, but the atheist’s position re: morality is equivalent to the theist’s.

    Jeff: Reading the rest of your post, I’m not sure what you mean by classical theism. But if it includes Hart’s past claim that God has less than 2 attributes, then they are certainly not equivalent. They fail for different reasons. But neither posits enough to account for a moral order that is rational. And that’s the kind of moral order people seem to assume when rationally arguing about morality (basically in terms of an inductively-inferred natural law designed by nature’s benevolent God). If Hart isn’t talking about rational morality, then I don’t know what he’s talking about. And I suspect the average atheist doesn’t either.

    But I don’t see how humans qua humans can know anything about God if God can not be apprehended in terms of our categories at least in some way. We have a category for a teleological mode of causality, e.g. To deny that God acts teleologically is to render a conception of God irrelevant to all prediction best I can tell. Induction as we use it just is teleological inductivism. Either our teleologically-based criteria for what is true/plausible corresponds to reality by sheer coincidence, or it is accounted for teleologically itself. And since those criteria are chosen for their value to us, the teleological being that accounts for the validity of those criteria is seemingly sympathetic to us.

    Tom: That’s true. But so what? (answered to my claim that the average person who believes in a moral order is thinking concepts that aren’t mysterious at all)

    Jeff: That’s the very issue at stake in Hart’s debate on morality, isn’t it? Either a concept of God or one or more Designers is entailed in those concepts or not. Your answer just means that God is entailed in those concepts, doesn’t it? And you admit they’re not mysterious.

    Tom: Of course the mystery of theological language isn’t immediately felt by believers as they go throughout their day and make moral choices, any more than the mystery of the mathematical language of quantum events is perceived by people as they go throughout their day moving in bodies subject at the micro level to quantum laws. But the mystery is there, already implied within the horizon of everything we do at the macro level, even if it’s only uncovered by those who intentionally explore that horizon.

    Jeff: We have no way of knowing that what is yet unexplained about the behavior of matter is incapable of being understood in terms of human categories. There may very well be things inexplicable about God in terms of human categories. We have no right as humans qua humans to assume the mysteries are analogous in that sense best I can tell. We’d have to know more than we’re currently capable of with mere reason to know that.

    Tom: But then again, nobody defaults to … the mysteries of quantum non-location

    Jeff: There’s no such known thing as “quantum non-location.” People who are willing to deny that there are any axioms of deduction and induction feel free to go back and forth between a rational order and an a-rational order. But there either is a rational order (in which case there is validity to the axioms and rational thinking built thereon) or there isn’t. One simply can’t have their cake and eat it too on this and claim to be rational. And many atheist scientists reject such a-rationality precisely because 1) they know scientific inferences (even the intelligible ones) are tentative and 2) they refuse to doubt the validity of deductive and inductive rationality. Just to show you the consequences of an a-rationalist’s thinking, note the following claims by the prestigious international science journal New Scientist:

    “we confront these mysteries of existence and others, from the possibility that the universe is a hologram to the near-certainty that you are a zombie.”

    These people are just utterly confused as to how the axioms (and categories) of deduction and induction constrain the possible meaning of words like “near-certainty, “possibility,” etc. Once you reject induction, there’s an infinite “set” of merely logically possible histories, rendering the discernible probability of any of them zero. We can’t even show that the uniformity of nature has a probability greater than zero without induction. But inasmuch as its assumption allows for great explanatory breadth, the validity of induction renders it highly probable. There’s a reason why many philosophers of science reject the view that “scientists” should be able to reject the constraints of philosophy in determining what is true and plausible. It’s so bad, now that scientists have abandoned the strictures of deductive and inductive reasoning, that there is no consensus on how to even demarcate a scientific belief from a non-scientific belief.

    Tom: Well, perfection is fine. But we need a perfection in which all the perfections of our experience participate and which perfection is not itself a participation in some other reality. Otherwise we go on forever producing explanations (which you’re OK with, but for parsimony). That’s my view. You’re fine with an infinite past series of created causes.

    Jeff: First, I’m not sure what you mean by “created causes.” What’s the difference between a cause and a created cause to you? But I don’t see how an infinite history of experience rules out finality of explanation for creation. If you claim you’re going to go on a diet and then proceed to change your eating habits accordingly, I don’t have to know about your whole history to plausibly infer that your intention to diet explains your eating changes. I only have to know a few things about your nature and capacities. Different people with very different histories can decide to diet. But they have certain natures and capacities in common that ground the plausibility of the inference.

    All I have to posit about God to explain creation is that God is libertarianly-free (in the sense that he can freely risk, as we can) plus the other aspects of his nature and capacities that are relevant to the kind of creation it is. His sans creation history is irrelevant to that explanation best can tell, except to the extent that it must be consistent with the nature and capacities that account for creation itself and include a relationship with at least one other sans-creation person to account for his essential sociality. That history can include other creations. Our creation just has be freely-chosen so that teleological inductivism can be conceivably valid. For without that, we know nothing that helps us best choose ourselves. For to best choose, one needs to know, at bare minimum, how to best predict, and hence affect, the future.

    Tom: What I mean is to try to say that God, in his triune actuality, is the source and explanation of the endless infinities we encounter within creation. He’s infinite because all infinities in their rationality derive from the divine mind.

    Jeff: The first statement is a clarification. The second statement is a tautology. An divine intelligence is the source of created infinites because a divine intelligence is their source. If that’s all classical theism amounts to, I don’t know any Christians that aren’t classical theists. And I don’t know any atheists who assume otherwise.

    Tom: The sense in which God mysteriously-infinitely (in the sense I mean above) exceeds our terms and explanations is relevant to such debates.

    Jeff: What does “infinitely” mean in that sentence? The mathematical sense? If so, how does it exceed our terms and explanations? Moreover, how can that which is not entailed in our terms and explanations have relevance to the meaning of the propositions used in a rational debate? Give me an example of what you’re meaning.

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  6. formerlyjeff says:

    Tom, so sorry for not finishing adding blank lines in the first half of the response. I wrote it up in wordpad and pasted it in. Lost the blank lines. You may need to pull it into a text editor yourself to clean it up so it won’t fry your mind. Better yet, I’ll just email you the wordpad version.

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  7. formerlyjeff says:

    Tom, Unless I’m totally missing the meanings of the words you used in your basic description of classical theism in your Classical Theism post, it seems that if God is absolutely immutable, then God either 1) has no unrealized potential or 2) has no potential. But either of those 2 cases seems to render it impossible to account for real moral relations in terms of God. For if God can’t cause (i.e., serve as a necessary or sufficient condition of) any effect=change-of-state (since that would mean God realized a potential, right?), then God isn’t an explanation (as humans qua humans conceive of explanation) of any event.

    Hart simply can’t mean in conventional language what he attempts to argue. He’s right in pointing out the failure of atheism to account for moral relations (as people actually conceive of them, i.e.). But he fares no better to the extent that he is dependent upon conventional language to make his argument. All Hart can mean in conventional language is that if moral relations are real, our conventional language about them isn’t actually conveying the truth about them. But I suspect some atheists would agree with that.

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    • Tom says:

      Jeff: Unless I’m totally missing the meanings of the words you used in your basic description of classical theism in your Classical Theism post, it seems that if God is absolutely immutable, then God either 1) has no unrealized potential or 2) has no potential.

      Tom: Well, it couldn’t be (2), because if God exists at all, his existence is ‘possible’ (i.e., a fulfilled possibility). And if God exists, let’s agree he’s a knower and a chooser. And if a knower and a chooser, then ‘possibly’ knowing and choosing the things he knows and chooses. So (2) is out.

      Jeff: But either of those 2 cases seems to render it impossible to account for real moral relations in terms of God. For if God can’t cause (i.e., serve as a necessary or sufficient condition of) any effect=change-of-state (since that would mean God realized a potential, right?), then God isn’t an explanation (as humans qua humans conceive of explanation) of any event.

      Tom: Well, I don’t think God is absolutely immutable, but when the Orthodox qualify divine causality, I don’t think they mean to deny God is a true causal explanation for the world (i.e., they don’t mean to deny God’s choice to create isn’t a necessary and sufficient condition for the world’s coming to be), they mostly mean (again this is just me) to deny that God is *simply* or *merely* a cause of the same kind of created causes (which are moved by previous causes, extended in space) and effects (which in turn cause other effects in the same way) that constitute the world’s temporal becoming. They want to say God isn’t just the first in a chain of causes whose temporal nature, dependencies, modes of being, are all identical. Whether or not they’re right, at least they’re not denying that God explains creation. You want an explanation that looks and behaves like other individual explanations in a causal chain. I think they’d suggest we need a kind of cause that isn’t just another instance (if even the first) of the kind of thing that needs explaining.

      Jeff: Hart simply can’t mean in conventional language what he attempts to argue. He’s right in pointing out the failure of atheism to account for moral relations (as people actually conceive of them, i.e.). But he fares no better to the extent that he is dependent upon conventional language to make his argument. All Hart can mean in conventional language is that if moral relations are real, our conventional language about them isn’t actually conveying the truth about them. But I suspect some atheists would agree with that.

      Tom: You’re read what he says about theological language in his piece on UR, right? He’s not unaware of the issue you’re bringing up. And he concedes that our language, if pressed into the service of too strict and apophaticism, ends up in equivocity and so says nothing at all.

      I’m as interested as you are in finding final closure on the question of how our language captures the truth about God. I don’t think I’ve really settled into a satisfactory position. But I do think God isn’t *just another cause among causes* standing *within* what needs explanation.

      Write something up and send it to Hart!

      Tom

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      • formerlyjeff says:

        Tom: I don’t think they mean to deny God is a true causal explanation for the world (i.e., they don’t mean to deny God’s choice to create isn’t a necessary and sufficient condition for the world’s coming to be), they mostly mean (again this is just me) to deny that God is *simply* or *merely* a cause of the same kind of created causes (which are moved by previous causes, extended in space) …

        Jeff: Even human selves and presumably angels aren’t extended in space, but they cause.

        Tom: and effects (which in turn cause other effects in the same way) …

        Jeff: Teleology requires that God has a least one final felt experience from creation that is not itself causal of other effects, I think. Else there is no true end, right? So I would agree with them there. But plausible explanatory teleology requires benevolent divine passibilism. Impassibilism doesn’t account for the validity of inductive plausibility criteria.

        Tom: They want to say God isn’t just the first in a chain of causes whose temporal nature, dependencies, modes of being, are all identical.

        Jeff: As far as modes, CEN is a different mode of causality than seems to be the case for any creatures. But duration seems to be entailed in the very meaning of existence, With no duration there are no essential attributes (and therefore accidental attributes?), and hence no conceivable identity. So the lack of divine temporality alone is the death-knell to divine explanation. Even an absolutely spontaneous causer has at least the essential attributes of the capacities to cause all that it can cause plus the accidental attributes of being the cause of all that it causes.

        Tom: You want an explanation that looks and behaves like other individual explanations in a causal chain.

        Jeff: Greg came up with the other way to do that (at least, it’s the only one I’ve heard or can conceive of), and that’s absolutely spontaneous causality (from our point of view) which, if true, would render God explanatory of events arbitrarily and post-hoc, but not with any inductive plausibility or predictive value. Also, it would mean induction is invalid, creating epistemological problems quite severe. Because an absolutely spontaneous cause is just like a lack of causality for events in the sense that we’d then have no relative plausibility criteria for humans qua humans since no events would be predictable (because we have no criteria for plausibly predicting uncaused or absolutely spontaneous events nor, for the same reason, can we plausibly deny that any event is one or the other if in fact such events can occur).

        The principle of causality of the kind required by induction (hypothetico-deductive explanation or deductive, predictive heuristics, which require a substance-attribute ontology for causal agents or orderly temporal and spatial relationships of substances for heuristics) just is the only principle that allows for inductively-plausible prediction, best I can tell. If someone can come up with another way, great. But I haven’t heard it yet. As for how God can be the final explanation of creation and the validity of induction even if God’s history is dynamic and yet unknowable, I explained that above in the diet scenario.

        Tom: But I do think God isn’t *just another cause among causes* standing *within* what needs explanation.

        Jeff: That’s true even if God is a necessary being. Even Hart, per your quote from him from the Norman debate, concedes that the infinite can “have extension.” So Hart, unlike you, doesn’t seem to be denying that there can be actual infinites. And if there are, then an eternal history is on the table per Hart unless he can show, using the necessary truths that ground deductive and inductive reasoning, why space can be infinite while no history of experience can be.

        Best I can tell, all that has to be true for there to be actual infinities is that there really is continuous space or 3-D-extended entities and that what all mathematicians teach is true of division is actually true. If even extended space is merely imaginary, well, then pretty much everything we believe might be wrong. Because we have no category by which to conceive of the gaps “between” portions of space or “where” they are, do we?

        I’ll give Hart this much: He insists on believing that majority claims in certain councils simply are true even there is no inductive evidence for their truth. Moreover, those claims are not intelligible in terms of human categories, best I can tell. For if persons are not beings, attributes, locations, distances, durations, times, or any other category or anything intelligible in terms of human categories, then “person” is not a word that has a place in conventional language, because it is not intelligible to humans qua humans. But he believes those council vote-claims are true, even if not intelligible to humans qua humans. So he’s simply stuck with sheer mystery for that reason alone. So he can’t even get on board with a theistic world-view that is intelligible to humans qua humans. He would be denying his tradition’s denials (e.g. the denial that divine persons are definable in terms of human categories).

        The fact that he believes those claims without inductive evidence is not what I find most objectionable. What I find most objectionable is that he makes judgments of humans qua humans incessantly as if they could possibly understand what he can’t communicate in conventional language. And of course they can’t understand it if they’re mere humans with mere human categories. And why should I assume that God is giving them super-human understanding just because David Hart is talking to them?

        If we’re going to claim someone is wrong (factually or morally as well) about something non-mathematical, I’m thinking we should be able to communicate in conventional language the inductive evidence for that claim (which of course will include, if necessary, the accounting of the validity of induction, itself). This way we’re participating in a human mode of judgment rather than a merely sectarian one which has no relevance to those outside the sect. If God cares about us all, there must be a human-wide mode of doing judgment-talk (I’m including advice, etc). If it’s not inductive in nature, what else would it be and still be obligatory for anyone to take serious? And if it’s not obligatory for one to take serious, it’s not relevant judgment-talk in the first place, is it?

        Hart’s approach seems to be intrinsically divisive unless God really is communicating super-human understanding to his audience when Hart speaks to them. I have no inductive evidence that’s what happens when he speaks to those he considers non-Christian, though.

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  8. formerlyjeff says:

    What I meant to say is that an event (not an effect) is a change of state. An effect is the latter state of an event. The point still stands. If God explains no events (either as a merely necessary condition or a sufficient condition thereof), then God isn’t explaining anything about moral relations. Because moral relations have to do with events.

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