Imago Dei and Closure In An Actual Human Nature and Rejecting The Eternally Open Ended
Whence The Imago Dei ?
What is it that carries “that”? Is it Sentience? Reason? The Rational? Animal Consciousness? When we ask what it means to referent all things Adamic, what it means to be Human, and more specifically when we ask what we mean by the Imago Dei, some may make the mistake of stopping in the general zip code of “….Sentient Beings / Sentience / that is the Key…” And is that in fact a mistake if one wishes to have a coherent ontology of “A”||“The” “Human Nature”? And of the Imago Dei? Well yes it is a mistake in both cases and there are few inroads as to why:
“…To return, then, to this essay’s beginning: if it is so that this is how the divine image is constituted in us—as the play of God’s glory gathering in the mirror of our nature—and that it is a Trinitarian image, then, in considering how God reveals himself in the economy of creation and salvation, we must ultimately find ourselves far beyond all simple oppositions between “social” and “psychological” Trinitarianism, or between “personalism” and “essentialism,” or—most certainly—between Greeks and Latins. Just as we must resist every temptation toward those twin reductions of the human essence to either simply society or simply ego (which are vapid as abstractions and vicious as ideologies), we must surely avoid reducing our understanding of God to rudimentary images of either confederacy or subjectivity. In our own souls, in their absolute implication within one another of the exterior and the interior, we discover—without grasping—an icon of that infinite transparency of the divine persons within and to one another that is also the infinite depth of each divine person’s distinctness. On the one hand, it seems we must understand this infinite coincidence in God of relation and identity by reflecting upon the unity of the soul’s motion outward toward expression and inward toward thought (however we may wish to employ “social” models, in themselves they can offer only pictures of extrinsic accommodations between monads, or perhaps of the “transparency” of collective identity, but in neither case can such models account for the mysterious complexity and amphibology of personality, or for the reality of the soul’s unity within difference); but, on the other hand, for Gregory no less than for Augustine, the turn inward proves to be, in a still more radical sense, a turn outward: I am an openness whose depth does not belong to me, but to the boundless light that creates me, and whose identity is then given me as other. And as the otherness of God is the soul’s true depth, she can possess no identity apart from the otherness of the neighbor; and both the soul’s otherness from God and the otherness of each soul from every other reflect the mystery of God’s act of “othering” himself within his infinite unity…”
End Quote ((…from David Bentley Hart’s The Hidden and the Manifest…))
(Observation-1) All things Angelic have Rational Capacities & yet the narrative of “Imago Dei” does not land “there” the way it does within the “Adamic” v. God-In-Man || Man-In-God || Incarnation. Notice that this point or this (Observation-1) here in this list stands alone and is enough to push the content of Imago Dei first past Eden ((Man had not eaten of Eternal Life yet)) and second past the current pains of Privation and third ((…take note…)) past Animal/Angelic vectors of Sentience & Being. Still, even though (Observation-1) is enough by itself to settle the matter, we can add more:
(Observation-2) Given (Observation-1) it’s apparent that there is far more with respect to Logos vis-à-vis the Adamic by which the Imago-Dei houses its definition. So, when it comes to that, notice that the fallacies which contradict that tend to cling to life by expunging the Means & Ends of Closure there ((…Being Itself as Reason Itself vis-à-vis Absolute Consciousness as Pure Act and Proportionate Causality and so on…)). The reason they do so is that Non-Theistic vectors in the arena of biology are eternally Open-Ended. Further, as if that were not bad enough, the Grand-Goal-Full-Stop which is defined by our Non-Theist friends as Life & Flourishing in fact ALSO finds no Closure given that such things are at most blind cul-de-sacs in the proverbial “Quantum Foam” ((…that is borrowed from D.B. Hart but one can label “it” whatever one wishes to call it…)). It’s uncanny but we find there in that Grand-Goal of Non-Theists that but for the terminus of Whole and Eternal Life the Grand-Goal itself never can find Ontic Closure.
(Observation-3) “Animals Are Conscious! In Other News, Sky Is Blue, Water Wet...” https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/08/animals-are-conscious-in-other-news-sky.html and also “Aristotle Watches Bland Runner” http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/05/aristotle-watches-blade-runner.html both of which speak to why the question of origins as it relates to Nature and therefore to Moral Realism does not “stop” “at” ANY path in/of “Dirt-To-Man”.
(4A) If Non-Theism wants to claim solvency & purchase the ontological real estate of [Rational || Reason] then it must follow through and avoid its inevitable elimination of Reason Itself from Being Itself.
An example of what that looks like:
(4B) A not uncommon Non-Theistic fallacy regarding knowledge which piggy-backs off of earlier knowledge even as it is revised along the way goes something like this: “It Turns Out That “3X” Actually Piggybacked Off Of “X”. Therefore 3X Is Fallacious. Because [Knowledge].
(4C) Therefore we are stuck at: “Calculus piggybacks off of subtraction & addition. Calculus Grew & Was Modified Along The Way. Therefore calculus is fallacious. Because [Knowledge].
(4D) That fallacy of course reduces to absurdity and the reductio ad absurdum there is that [everything] [Piggybacks] off of [something], and, therefore, *IF* one means to tow that line *THEN* one’s own Reason had better Piggyback all the way home — to Reason Itself vis-à-vis Being Itself.
On Non-Theism such a question with respect to the reality of and possibility of “a-Human-Nature” – as in “a” Human Nature – in fact lands, obviously, in that which is necessarily and eternally Open-ended and therefore we cannot find an ontology of Closure. Biology is one slice of that and, in isolation, affirms that same eternally open-ended topography. Then, just as obvious, the metaphysical topography of the Imago Dei avoids that lack of closure found in the pains of the illusory —and instead arrives at a full-on Ontic-Closure as irreducible transcendentals press in.
It’s amazing how some of our Non-Theist friends are so easily impressed by this or that narrow “slice” of reality and find “it” so impressive that they’re readily willing to abandon reality’s far wider swaths which in sum actually mandate reason’s satisfaction over and against the pain of circularity and absurdity.
Overlapping segues with respect to “What Does It Mean To Be Human” vis-à-vis the reality of “a” Human Nature or “an” “Actual Human Nature” and so on begin to press in.
Reason’s proper termini? The Christian metaphysic just is the reply to that question. Aristotle’s famous doctrine that all practical reasoning must ﬁnd a terminus presses in. This is why “Dirt-To-Man” by ANY path in ANY Non-Theistic paradigm suffers the fate of remaining eternally open-ended and as such annihilates realism vis-à-vis morality. That is why intellectually honest Non-Theists affirm the finally or cosmically illusory nature of morality and trade away Moral Realism in exchange for vectors which Begin/End within the illusory shadows of non-being. Whereas, “Dirt-To-Man” by ANY path in the Christian metaphysic necessarily retains the convertibility of the transcendentals and thereby lands in the lap of the proverbial Blueprint of all things Adamic – namely the Timeless Reciprocity and Ceaseless Self-Giving vis-à-vis the Trinitarian Life. Paradigmatically speaking, such is a radically different explanatory terminus than we find in ANY Non-Theism. THE GOLDEN THREAD OF RECIPROCITY is affirmed by natural theology, is perceived by reason, is seen by Non-Theism, but Non-Theism must foist a metaphysical impossibility as irreducible self-giving trades on irreducible indifference and the convertibility of the transcendentals is finally illusory.
Reason, appetites, will, and reality converge in the following:
Assuming that the meaning of “good” in morality, at least in its most general aspect, is identical to its meaning outside morality, we must appeal to the fulﬁllment of appetite in deﬁning the fundamental test or primary criterion of moral behavior. But that cannot be the whole story, since as argued earlier, reason and will must be essentially involved in the test. So I propose that what we end up with is the following formula:
The fundamental test of morality is whether an act is directed by reason to man’s ultimate end.
Now the ultimate end is just another way of talking about the ultimate appetite or essential tendency (perhaps tendencies/appetites in the plural) the fulﬁlment of which perfects human nature.
To appeal to the ultimate end is, from the ontic point of view, to dismiss the idea that there can be an endless series of appetites, each one such that its fulﬁlment is at the same time the means to the fulﬁlment of the next one in the series, where the next one will be broader, more general or all-encompassing. To countenance the thought is effectively to deny that human beings can ever fulﬁl their natures, that they can ever be just good. Apart from the intolerable hopelessness this would inject into morality, it would involve attributing a kind of inﬁnite nature to a manifestly ﬁnite being, which verges on metaphysical absurdity. From the practical point of view, the appeal to an ultimate end is just to endorse Aristotle’s famous doctrine that all practical reasoning must ﬁnd a terminus.
End quote. (David Oderberg, “All for the Good”)
As alluded to in “Observation-3” earlier we come upon all sorts of segues such as Aristotle and Blade Runner and Animal Consciousness. All of this is why we are happy to grant either Monism or Dualism to our Non-Theist friends as, without the Singular metaphysical wellspring of Love and Necessity neither can help them retain, finally, the convertibility of the necessary transcendentals. Either God is the Necessary Being and the Necessary Being is Love — or else — final lovelessness as Moral Realism finds only those Start/Stop points which begin and end within the illusory shadows of non-being.
That is one of, not all of, the reasons for the “Non” of Non-Theism. The term Non-Theism tells us what the Non-Theist affirms (…ultimate/irreducible reality lands in lovelessness…), whereas, the term Atheist only speaks to what he does not affirm. Non-Theists do not — cannot — hold that love is reality’s ultimate good, that love defines reality’s irreducible contours. Atheists foist that they *do* believe that love is the highest good, however, their Non-Theism unmasks the fact that their attempt there is in fact a reach for a metaphysical impossibility. Whereas, the Christian metaphysic necessarily retains the convertibility of the transcendentals and thereby lands in the lap of the proverbial Blueprint of all things Adamic – namely the Timeless Reciprocity and Ceaseless Self-Giving vis-à-vis the Trinitarian Life.
These all bring us to something we can borrow from the comment https://disqus.com/home/discussion/standtoreason/intrinsic_human_value_is_the_same_for_all_and_can_never_be_lost/#comment-3501477241 as to “reason’s growing pains” and “the perfection of being“. That comment is longer but its first/opening paragraph begins with the following:
On Racism, Persecution, Violence, and Reason
– or perhaps –
Reason’s Growing Pains & The Perfection of Being
Though change is always painful, Reason’s growing pains in, say, the first century as Christ’s moral imperative on the irreducible worth of Every-Man clashed with this or that Roman sentiment (just to name one of several possible examples), are unavoidable (…for some examples, L. Hurtado’s Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, Baylor University Press…). Why? Because in a sense Reason knows her proper role as truth-finder and, so, properly desires to be “right” or “correct” as it were. And that’s good. Proper. As it should be. But of course when the “ontic-metric” is indestructible self-giving (Trinity / Trinitarian processions within *GOD*) it’s an unavoidable fact that within the pains of privation Reason herself as truth-finder is going to face radical shifts. And when that is happening at millions of different “levels” in millions of different people in countless nuances of perception, well one had better hold on tight.
Peeling back several layers:
Quote: “Jesus’ teachings are about as far away from “values” as you can get. If there’s a single statement in the Gospels that sums up Christ’s moral vision, it’s “Be ye perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” It’s as outrageous a statement today as it was 2000 years ago………”
All of that carries us into juxtaposition with Absolute Consciousness vis-à-vis the Divine Mind, as in:
1—In all of this we come upon reason and upon love’s timeless reciprocity and upon the moral landscape as the eternal Processions of the Trinitarian Life / Trinity provide us with the following ontology:
2—The irreducibly rational just is seamless with the irreducibly moral even as the moral just is seamless with love’s indestructible self-giving — which is itself seamless with the Divine Mind — which is itself seamless with infinite consciousness – which compels us into a landscape wherein the perfection of reason just is the perfection of consciousness, which just is the perfection of love, which just is the perfection of being.
Non-Theism, however, finds the Inverse of all of that – or more specifically the Absence of any such “rock-bottom” vis-à-vis “reality’s concrete furniture” and “grain” ((so to speak)). The nature of that Eternal Open-Endedness, that final lack of Ontic-Closure, informed Hume with respect to reason’s lack of obligation to prefer any particular goal to any other goal. Fixed-Biological Ends is Non-Theism’s anathema — whereas the convertibility of the necessary transcendentals and those transcendentals themselves in fact begin and end the Christian metaphysic.
This delineates a distinction between a “World View” ((on the one hand)) and a normative moral construct ((on the other hand)). The former speaks to fixed objective vectors, akin to the proverbial “T.O.E.”, the latter speaks to temporary subjective vectors, which are in turn eternally open ended.
That is why all attempts to couple “Secular Humanism” to “There Are No Irreducible Moral Facts” ultimately fail to retain solvency. The disconnect between secular humanism and a universe void of intrinsic and irreducible moral facts is also looked at in the following link — https://disqus.com/home/discussion/standtoreason/racial_equality_makes_sense_in_the_christian_story/#comment-3563810576
That link explores the fact that if there is no such thing as “X” (value) (intrinsic ontologically irreducible value) then how is it that one claims to find “X” (value) (intrinsic ontologically irreducible value) in one’s own feeling/preference? Reason’s obligation as Christendom’s long history notes, and even as Hume notes, is found between reason and reality. Reason as truth finder becomes non-reason or un-reasonable with respect to X if and when she chases after something other than the irreducibly true nature of X, whatever X may be.
Quoting Non-Theists On Non-Theism:
A— “The lack of an ultimate objective scientific grounding for morality can be worrisome. It implies that people with whom we have moral disagreements—whether it’s […insert any evil here…] or schoolyard bullies who beat up smaller children—aren’t wrong in the same sense that it’s wrong to deny Darwinian evolution or the expansion of the universe….But that’s how the world is.” (S. Carroll)
B— “Hume was right. We have no objective guidance on how to distinguish right from wrong: not from God, not from nature, not from the pure force of reason itself….Morality exists only insofar as we make it so, and other people might not pass judgments in the same way we do.” (S. Carroll)
C— “– Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. -Tis not contrary to reason for me to choose my total ruin, to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me. -Tis as little contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledg’d lesser good to my greater, and have a more ardent affection for the former than for the latter.” (Hume, Treatise of Human Nature 188.8.131.52)
D— Non-Objective once again — “There’s no rational foundation for morality… It has to appear to be objective, even though really it is subjective…. but… our psychology will get us by….” (M. Ruse)
E— Non-Objective once again — “Morality is just a matter of emotions, like liking ice cream and sex and hating toothache and marking student papers. But it is, and has to be, a funny kind of emotion. It has to pretend that it is not that at all! If we thought that morality was no more than liking or not liking spinach, then pretty quickly it would break down. Before long, we would find ourselves saying something like: “Well, morality is a jolly good thing from a personal point of view. When I am hungry or sick, I can rely on my fellow humans to help me. But really it is all bull___t, so when they need help I can and should avoid putting myself out. There is nothing there for me.” The trouble is that everyone would start saying this, and so very quickly there would be no morality and society would collapse and each and every one of us would suffer. So morality has to come across as something that is more than emotion. It has to appear to be objective, even though really it is subjective. “Why should I be good? Why should you be good? Because that is what morality demands of us. It is bigger than the both of us. It is laid on us and we must accept it, just like we must accept that 2 + 2 = 4.” I am not saying that we always are moral, but that we always know that we should be moral. Am I now giving the game away? Now you know that morality is an illusion put in place by your genes to make you a social cooperator, what’s to stop you behaving like an ancient Roman? Well, nothing in an objective sense.” (M. Ruse)
F— “Pressing on through Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, we come to Rosenberg’s treatment of morality. Followed out consistently, Rosenberg says, scientism entails nihilism. As Rosenberg is keen to emphasize, this is not the same as moral relativism or moral skepticism. It is not the claim that moral truth is relative, or that it is real but unknowable. Nor is it the claim that everything is morally permitted. It is a far more radical and disturbing claim than any of these views. Nihilism, as Rosenberg understands it, is the view that there is no such thing as being “morally permitted” or “morally prohibited” in the first place. For there is, given Rosenberg’s scientism, no intrinsic value in the world of the sort that is necessary for morality to be intelligible. Morality — not just commonsense or traditional morality, not just religious morality, but all morality, morality as such, including any purported secular, liberal, permissive morality — is therefore an illusion.” (…from https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/02/reading-rosenberg-part-vii.html etc…)
The solvency and bookkeeping of moral obligation is explored in “Love, Reason, Reality, And The Golden Thread Of Reciprocity” at https://metachristianity.com/reason-reality-golden-thread-reciprocity/
Immaterial, Material, Covalent Bonds, & The Imago Dei
The Immaterial (whatever that is) is not, and cannot be, made up of, and therefore reduced to, covalent bonds vis-à-vis Material (whatever that is). The Non-Theist’s perseveration with/upon Biology-Full-Stop when discussing the Imago Dei is entirely misguided.
Of course, perhaps God-Breathes means God has lungs. Perhaps God walking in the cool of the morning denotes God having legs. And, so, then, it’s legs and lungs and covalent bonds and…. and…. and…
It’s a curious thing to observe A. the Non-Theist carefully set up all of his Metrics and Calibrations there in his Physicalism (or whatever) and then B. go about trying to cram the Christian’s entire metaphysical landscape into those Metrics and Calibrations only to then C. opine about the “difficulty” he is having “lining up” their respective “surfaces“.
The proverbial Dog and Pony Show.
The Corporeal’s ontological history of becoming and the Imago Dei’s ontological history of becoming are not wholly interchangeable given the sorts of ontic real estate each respectively traverses.
→There’s a reason the Corporeal is found lifeless outside of Eden. Made of the ground.
→There’s a reason the Breath of God births Life, the Imago Dei. Still outside of Eden.
→There’s a reason it is only then that the Adamic and the Edenic converge.
→There’s a reason Eden cannot remain, is not God’s Ideal, and has two *outward* facing Doors/Trees, each necessitating a radical “ontic-change” ((…that is explored somewhat in https://disqus.com/home/discussion/standtoreason/free_will_makes_sense_in_the_christian_story/#comment-3538979858 which opens with “The Adamic, The Edenic, Free Will, God’s Will, God’s Decree, Incarnation, and Possible Worlds”…)).
Any argument against the Christian Metaphysic which presents any path from “Dirt-To-Man” is fine should such arguments wish to include such paths given that the Christian Metaphysic from the get-go affirms such a path — but — to Start/Stop with “Dirt” sums to an argument which fails to include the Whole of the Christian Metaphysic and/or which simply begs the question with respect to Physicalism ((…Covalent-Bonds-Full-Stop and Etc…)) and just isn’t a sophisticated argument — that is to say that it does not actually address the actual premises of the actual Christian Metaphysic.
When we speak of Truth “qua Truth“, as they say, we don’t referent such illusory trades and equivocations. In the Christian metanarrative we find the Trinitarian metaphysic and, therein, love’s timeless Self-Giving and irreducible Diffusiveness of the Ontic Self with respect to …being itself… and — thereby – The Always and The Already, that which is ceaselessly Beneath and Above – namely “Love & Necessity” as an ontic *singularity*. To be Truly Human is to be, or to become, by whatever means, Fully Human. Non-Theism has no such means, no such Closure. It is that pesky and weighty bit about “Fully” wherein all lines converge or else diverge.
[Brief Digression — There is talk of such Truly/Fully when we begin to speak of Christ. That, however, brings in all sorts of other topics, as alluded to in a. https://disqus.com/home/discussion/standtoreason/does_god_care_about_our_pain_and_suffering_video/#comment-3540674185 (and its links) and also in b. https://disqus.com/home/discussion/standtoreason/does_god_care_about_our_pain_and_suffering_video/#comment-3540718163 (and its links)… End brief digression.]
Wheedling & Huckstering & Never Mind The Ultimate
The following is a quote from a Christian in dialogue with one of our Non-Theist friends who seems unable to avoid equivocation and conflation with respect to reality’s concrete furniture and moral realism. The Christian reminds his Non-Theist friend that as Christians we understand, as relative newcomers may not, that the nihilist dance routine and the refrain that it is better to huckster the crowd than to pester about the ultimate, is in fact this particular Non-Theist’s operating premise.
You stated this, “Isn’t the problem of justification always going to be a shell game? You can always find where I’m dropping a premise, taking something for granted without arguing for it …”
I’m not accusing you of “dropping a premise” or taking something for granted without arguing for it. I am accusing you of something worse: deliberate intellectual fraud.
I am accusing you of persistently deploying universal terms which have been rendered entirely problematical on your own account, as if they still meant what they once did in a moral universe populated by natural kinds and furnished with teleologically derived normative standards.
It’s just all too precious.
Now, I understand, as the relative newcomers here might not always, that the nihilist dance routine, and the refrain that it is better to huckster the crowd than to pester about the ultimate, is in fact your operating premise. But, and it’s a big ugly butt as they say, if you took your own claim of epistemic humility seriously, you would keep this truth about your method at the forefront, and refuse to engage in pseudo-arguments which are in principle incapable of any kind of resolution because of the built-in problems of equivocation; problems of which you are perfectly aware, and have in fact placed there.
Thus, when you launch off on these rhetorical diversions, one can only conclude that these speech acts of yours are base and cynical attempts to simply exhaust those who don’t quite get the meta-narrative which lies behind and informs and shapes your surface efforts.
What you need to do, in order to be “truly authentic”, is to admit to yourself and to everyone else, why that kind of consistent honesty is so dangerous to those taking your stance; and why, unless relentlessly pressed, you seek to avoid it.
By the way, and for what it is worth; I don’t wish to leave the impression that I imagine there is some functional equivalence between the concept of a tautology and a spandrel. I was – probably obviously – implying the prosaic image of a cluster of tautological statements giving an appearance of a meaningful structure or system when stacked and leaned up against each other at various angles … the resultant spaces providing the necessary illusion for pattern projecting subjects to go on to … etc …
You know, and in adverting to the paragraph two above, there is in fact, something profoundly “metaphysical” in that diversionary, dissembling tactic. Something, as you have I believe yourself admitted as anti-logocentric. Something which at the deepest and most profound level takes deceit, and manipulation, to be at the very heart of a “life strategy”
It almost reminds me of … well … the paradigm or myth escapes me at the moment. But I am sure it will come to me eventually…….
….. [ ] …….You replied, “This feels too all-or-nothing to me …”
You will be glad to know that you need not feel that way, since that is not what I was suggesting.
I was stating outright that given your epistemological bracketing of and placing aside systems of truth in favor of a kind of “pragmatism”, and given your adoption of a rotarian program of arguing rhetorically, rather than logically and categorically, you should try admitting this upfront, rather than having it squeezed out of you.
It would be an interesting experiment to observe what would happen if you were to say to someone: “Now, what I am saying is not to be taken as universally true, or even true in your case, but I wish you to accede to my request because it makes me feel better and serves my interests even if it does not, yours.”
It would be akin to the Churchlands whom I mentioned earlier, admitting upfront that they had no minds but that they nonetheless wished (insofar as there was a “they” that could “wish“) had registered an impulse which caused them to try and modify your brain state and thus affect your behavior. Not that there was, as they would be the first to stipulate, any real “purpose” to it.
I am challenging you to give up using traditional moral language in a deceptive and purely rhetorical manner and to adopt a more transparent and less time-wasting mode of interfacing: or, to at least always admit upfront that what you are doing is wheedling, rather than arguing in any traditional sense. I’m challenging you to drop the camouflage as a matter of principle, and not wait for it to be forcibly stripped from you.
I’m challenging you to admit that your “arguments” are not arguments in any reals sense but attempts to produce emotional effects in others, and thereby modify their behaviors in a way which you find reinforcing.
How far do you think you might be able to get in this project in that open manner and without the camouflaging rags of a habit you have long thrown off?
And if you cannot get by in that manner, what does it say regarding your essential life project, and the role of deception in it?
You mention the post-moderns. Perhaps you would like to share some of the broader implications of an explicitly anti-logocentric anthropology.
End quote (by DNW)
Recall: The solvency and bookkeeping of moral obligation is explored in “Love, Reason, Reality, And The Golden Thread Of Reciprocity” at https://metachristianity.com/reason-reality-golden-thread-reciprocity/
Moral Obligation & The Why Of Morality
What is Reason obligated to given her proper role as Truth-Finder? Is love reality’s elemental rock-bottom? Reality’s highest ethic? Those questions focus on the convertibility of all necessary transcendentals and ask us if the rational is in fact seamless with the moral. Where? Well there at the end of all of our possible “ontological-voyages” ((so to speak)).
Does an enlightened society believe any one part of the syntax in the sentence “love is the highest ethic”? Or does an enlightened society instead love something other than irreducible veracity and thereby truly believe in, say, something akin to a kind of equivocation or perhaps a kind of Noble Lie or perhaps a kind of “cosmically-induced autohypnosis” baked into us through this or that genetic/epigenetic meme? What is Reason obligated to given her proper role as Truth-Finder? Hume Stands Affirmed. Reason as truth finder has every (justified) prerogative to chase after reality as reality. We find that Reason finds no terminus of closure – and reason knows it, and the fact that she knows that is where a key problem is found for the Non-Theistic paradigm given that she (…reason…) has an uncanny appetite for facts – as in Moral Facts in this case.
Finding Ontological Distinctions
Pantheism & Atheism share in their mutual inability to draw full-on Ontic Distinctions.
First Let’s Look At Pantheism: Within Pantheism all vectors converge such that we find the syntax of All-Is-God-Full-Stop. We find there that regardless of which “I” or “Self” or “I-Am” actually “is”, we cannot find any Ontic Distinctions between “that” and “everything else”.
Second Let’s Look at Atheism/Non-Theism: Whereas within any Non-Theistic paradigm and therein any Atheistic vector we find within all explanatory termini the necessary conservation of “No-I-Am”. That is to say we find Metaphysical Naturalism’s Necessary Conservation of [No-Irreducible-I-AM] — or simply [No-I-AM] full stop. And the reason is obvious: any such Explanatory Terminus ipso facto lands in Theism. Therefore we find within all Natures – fundamental and otherwise – that same Ontic Terminus and that same Necessary Conservation of [NO-I-AM]. Because of that Necessary Conservation from Top-Down and from Bottom-Up, we find that regardless of which “I” or “Self” or “I-Am” actually “is”, we cannot find “it” in any Ontic Distinction between “that” and “everything else” such that “Mind” and “Non-Mind” ultimately Begin/End in the same Necessary Conservation and, therein, we do NOT end up with Pantheism’s All-Is-God-Full-Stop but, instead, we end up with Atheism’s/Non-Theism’s All-Is-Full-Stop.
Each and every “i-am” / “I-Am” / “i-think” / I-Think” / “i-reason” / I-Reason” / “Self” / “Mind” and so on ad infinitum finds its Fountainhead and its Terminus in Non-Distinction such that Pantheism’s All-Is-God-Full-Stop or else Non-Theism’s All-Just-Is-Full-Stop. That is discussed further in “The Trajectory of All Ontological Arrows” at https://metachristianity.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-trajectory-of-all-ontological-arrows-1.html
David B. Hart describes that problem as “being itself” found to be constituted of a “flat plane” upon which we find only “…eternally colliding ontological equals…” Notice: — there are no and in fact cannot be any Facts which are found Outside of that eternal Metaphysical Armistice and when we arrive “there” we discover that, having no ontic distinctions to speak of, we are not, and cannot become, speaking beings/spirits. Not actually. We are forced in that Metaphysical Armistice to conceive of “being” as….
“……being as a plain upon which forces of meaning and meaninglessness converge in endless war; according to either, being is known in its oppositions, and oppositions must be overcome or affirmed, but in either case as violence: amid the strife of images and the flow of simulacra, shining form appears always only as an abeyance of death, fragile before the convulsions of chaos, and engulfed in fate. There is a specular infinity in mutually defining opposites: Parmenides and Heracleitos gaze into one another’s eyes, and the story of being springs up between them; just as two mirrors set before one another their depths indefinitely, repeating an opposition that recedes forever along an illusory corridor without end, seeming to span all horizons and contain all things, the dialectic of Apollo and Dionysus oscillates without resolution between endless repetitions of the same emptiness, the same play of reflection and inversion. But the true infinite lies outside and all about this enclosed universe of strife and shadows; it shows itself as beauty and as light: not totality, nor again chaos, but the music of a triune God. Nietzsche prophesied correctly: what now always lies ahead is a choice between Dionysus (who is also Apollo) and the Crucified: between, that is, the tragic splendor of totality and the inexhaustible beauty of an infinite love.”
End quote ((…by David Bentley Hart. The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth…))
Again: The solvency and bookkeeping of moral obligation is explored in “Love, Reason, Reality, And The Golden Thread Of Reciprocity” at https://metachristianity.com/reason-reality-golden-thread-reciprocity/
What About Personhood, Abortion, Ensoulment, & Metrics?
First, a few excerpts from a “Twitter” thread/discussion:
[A] “Simple case for life: 1. Humans get human rights. 2. Human rights include the right to life. 3. The unborn are human. 4. Therefore, the unborn have the right to life.” ((Sean McDowell // @Sean_McDowell))
[B] Possible Challenge/Clarification: “1. Humans get human rights. 2. Human rights include the right to be free. 3. Bad mistakes (Or opposable thumbs, goatees, & bad habits are human. 4. Therefore, bad mistakes, thumbs, goatees and bad habits have the right to be free. In 1 “Human” is a noun, in 3 “Human” is an adjective. Confusion.” ((@TomVMorris))
[C] Draw a distinction: “So change (3) to (3*): the unborn is a human. – a member of the species “human.” ((@skymcm))
[D] Back to @TomVMorris, “No short argument does the job. The epistemic status of the ultimate metaphysical claim prevents that. What is human? A human person. An embodied soul. When does embodiment happen? No quick answer. I can’t change that. [Further, yes, but] you have to convince your interlocutor of the truth of what’s packed in there and you get back to the endless debate on ensoulment and its time, not the quick argument portrayed. One reason I don’t engage on the issue is the perceived futility of doing so. Some feel sure the soul indwells the body from first conception, others feel equally sure you can never be sure of this precise metaphysical claim. Socrates thought it was wrong to be sure of too much.”
Secondly, an observation:
Neither  the Christian’s Precise Point of Ensoulment nor  the Non-Theist’s Arbitrary-Personhood-Determination are needed in order for Logic do find her necessary If/Then break-point. There is a Logical Chain of Continuity vis-à-vis the Ontology of the Imago Dei and although we as Causal Agents choose the mutable and the contingent amid various sets of possibilities/counterfactuals, we cannot ((not even in principle)) choose “Let The Imago Dei Be”.
The Value we look for here is not World-Contingent but streams from the Ontology of Imago Dei both from Divine Nature and Divine Decree and so “To-Be-Human” is to “House” that which is “The Value of the Beloved” — and such streams from Logos.
Whereas, our various choices within Privation such as Mustache vs. Ford Mustang vs. Bad-Choices vs. Etc. are chosen by the Man somewhere within the Ocean we call “The Perfection/Perfecting Of Being”.
Hence the Logical Chain of Continuity vis-à-vis housing “The Value of the Beloved” *necessarily* *exists* ((…Divine Nature | Divine Decree | Ontic-Hard-Stop | Etc….)) vis-à-vis the ontology of the Imago Dei but it does *NOT* “necessarily* *include” specifically This-Choice and/or specifically That-Choice with respect to the me and you and us as the Casual Agent.
Earlier it was stated that neither  the Christian’s Precise Point of Ensoulment nor  the Non-Theist’s Arbitrary-Personhood-Determination are needed in order for Logic do find her necessary If/Then breakpoint. A clear path to that is found in the comment section of “The Moral Pro-life Case” which is located at https://str.typepad.com/weblog/2012/11/the-moral-pro-life-case.html
It has 2 or 3 pages of comments in the comment section, which has a helpful conclusion. However, to decompress those pages just focus on the conversation between three commentators, namely (1) WisdomLover, (2) Brad B, and (3) Ben. Near the end the following excerpt from the comment section alludes to the nature of the discussion:
“Good work, WL. The development of this argument under your care is very helpful and I think it’s also simple enough to be useful to anyone arguing a pro-life position who thinks they have to deal with some arbitrary personhood determination — they don’t. I would hope to see it developed further or strengthened if possible by people like those here at STR or Francis Beckwith etc…so that it could be made more readily known to the pro-life community.”
From a different part of that same discussion the following quote is given to again allude to the nature of the discussion:
Ben asks this: “How do you get from points #1-5 to concluding that “the capacity for future autonomous activity is then the criterion of the possession of a right to life”?
Here’s the closest Ben comes to a criterion of personhood. He repeated it a couple of times in his early posts. Here’s the first rendition: “I’m hesitant to say it is a human being, though, because typically by that term we mean a human which has been born, and/or which possesses a mind.”
Like the other paragraphs from which I gleaned what I called “Bens List”, this is two parts red herring and one part mistake. Let’s look deeper.
I guess for starters, we should note that it is not the case that this is what we mean. If it were what **we mean, then **we wouldn’t be arguing.
Also, being born or unborn is a red herring. Here’s a goofy thought experiment to illustrate the point:
Suppose that in addition to humans, there were two other intelligent species on the planet. One, the Roomans, are marsupials. Rooman joeys are born very quickly after fertilization occurs. When born, the joey looks and acts about like a grub or maggot and latches itself onto its mother’s teat in her pouch where it continues to develop for a good long time, eventually poking its head out of the pouch at intervals to say “Hi” and then disappearing again.
The second non-human species are called the Titans, after the Greek legends. Like the Titans of legend, titan children stay in their mother’s womb (though not because their father refuses to let them out) until they are fully formed, able to speak, and make moral choices. Some titan fetuses even enter into contracts in utero.
Given current moral sensibilities, there would be significant debate about whether newborn rooman joeys have a right to life, and no debate at all about whether late stage titan fetuses have rights. Of course, pro-life advocates would support the right to life for all at all stages of development. But clearly, the mere fact of birth would have no bearing in any case.
So it is the possession of a mind that seems crucial here. But there are plenty of creatures that have minds, but that have no right to life (or to anything else for that matter). The common housefly comes to mind. Chickens also.
So it is not just the presence of a mind that matters either.
Now, at this point, we could note that there is nothing left to Ben’s criteria. But let us be charitable. Let us suppose that Ben was thinking of a creature with a certain *kind* of mind. One that has a certain degree of complexity such that it can have moral rights. I had glossed that earlier by saying that we are looking for *autonomy*. I see no reason not to continue with that gloss.
But the problem, as noted in earlier posts, is that the mere **presence of autonomy isn’t enough. Anesthetized people do not exhibit autonomy, but it is still murder to deliberately kill them without cause.
So what is it that allows us to say of unconscious people that, although we have no evidence of current autonomy, they still count.
Now, if the heavens opened and the voice of God spoke telling me that a 2×4 is autonomous, I’d think twice about laying into it with my Skill-saw. But barring a divine revelation, there are really only two candidates I can use to tell me that a mind is present even though the being in question is unconscious and exhibits no signs of autonomy:
#1 They used to exhibit autonomy in the past
#2 Under normal conditions, it is highly likely that they will exhibit autonomy in the future.
But item #1 won’t work as a criterion for the simple reason that is true of corpses.
And item #1, even if it was of any value (which it isn’t) certainly could not work by itself. You’d still need item #2. The reason is that item #1 does not apply to one-year olds (for example). But no one wants to say that one-year olds have no right to life. If they don’t have a right to life, then there is no such thing as a right to anything.
So it must be item #2 that allows us to extend the rights of autonomy to the unconscious. And it is also quite obvious that that is how we extend the rights of autonomy to one-year olds as well.
But item #2, as already noted, applies to unborn humans at all stages of development, but not to corpses, ununited sperm-egg pairs, still living detached human body parts, chickens and so on.
Lastly — Overlapping Segues:
“What Is A Soul?” at https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/03/what-is-soul.html
“What Are You Doing After The Funeral?” ((…a look at Survivalism & Corruptionism…)) at https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/03/so-what-are-you-doing-after-your-funeral.html
“Atheists, Muslim, Christians, Hindus, Etc. All Emote, Perceive, And Intuit Within The Same Irreducible Transcendentals” is at https://metachristianity.com/atheists-muslim-christians-hindus-etc-all-emote-perceive-and-intuit-within-the-same-irreducible-transcendentals/
That carries us into Intuition and Un-Intuition and Metaphysics:
“On Intuitions” by E. Feser at https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/07/on-intuitions.html
“Unintuitive Metaphysics” by E. Feser at https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/08/unintuitive-metaphysics.html