God is Necessary to be Good (10 pages)

This paper was written and presented in response to the Call for Papers for the 2018 Oxford Symposium in Religious Studies in Oxford, England.  The paper has an index of themes found in the footnotes to aid the reader’s understanding of the paper’s themes and to access Kant’s discussion of them.

A pdf version with page numbers and footnotes (instead of end notes) is available here:  God is Necessary to be Good

“God is Necessary to be Good” by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Oxford Symposium on Religious Studies
Ioannou Centre
Oxford, UK
August 2, 2018

God is Necessary to be Good!

Abstract

This paper proposes that, although one best avoid invoking an anthropomorphic deity, belief in God is, nonetheless, a necessary assumption for the exercising of humanity’s moral capacity.  This invokes the notion of the “good,” which will be parsed according to an amoral, a categorical, and a hypothetical good that grounds (or is necessary for) autonomous freedom’s ability to intentionally initiate sequences of events that, otherwise, nature on its own cannot accomplish, which, in turn, makes moral effort possible.  Denial of this set of themes is, of course, conceivable, but methodological skepticism’s Copernican Turn points out that such scoffing amounts to misanthropy.

The paper rejects both moral “naturalism,” which proposes that morality is the mere consequence of successfully negotiating a social world to accomplish one’s ends, and Utilitarian “consequentialism,” which involves violating human dignity and fostering ignorance to the benefit, especially, of a privileged elite.  Rather than reduce morality to teleology, the paper will propose the crucial elements exposed by an archaeology of humanity’s autonomous capacity for understanding its dependence upon God in order to be good – without succumbing to speculative, heteronomous theonomy.

Reason Suppresses Feelings? Or Moses Mendelssohn’s Influence on Kant’s Project of Three Critiques – Revised 27 June 2018

Here is a pdf version with footnotes (rather than endnotes) and page numbers:  Mendelssohn’s Influence on Kant’s Project of Critiques June 2018

Reason Suppresses Feelings? Or Moses Mendelssohn’s Influence on Kant’s Project of Three Critiques by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Originally Presented at Stellenbosch University
in Stellenbosch, South Africa,
24 April 2017
Revised 27 June 2018

Reason Suppresses Feelings?[1]
Or
Moses Mendelssohn’s Influence on Kant’s Project of Three Critiques

Abstract:  A common claim is that the proper functioning of reason requires the suppression of feelings because feelings are a debilitating, merely subjective pathology that cloud and/or distort clear thinking.  Frequently, as well, it is claimed that Enlightenment reason’s suppression of feelings is exemplified by Kant.  This paper proposes to the contrary that a more appropriate understanding of the role of feelings (not emotions, generally) for Kant’s Critical Idealism, rather than being a pathological hindrance to reason, as well as an understanding of the centrality of the third Critique is served by examining Section VII of Mendelssohn’s Morgenstunden. The feelings of awe and respect are positive and ubiquitous to theoretical and practical reason as they, not by their content but by their function, motivate creativity and the assumption of moral accountability for the decisions driving, and the actions deriving from, such creativity.

On the Value and Lack of Values of Artificial Intelligence (6 pages)

Pdf version with page numbers and footnotes (not endnotes): On the Value and Lack of Values of Artificial Intelligence

Creative Commons License
On the Value and Lack of Values of Artificial Intelligence by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

On the Value and Lack of Values of Artificial Intelligence[1]

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being developed by leaps and bounds, and it is accomplishing tasks that were once thought to be uniquely the domain of human intelligence.  Some are raising concerns about the implications of this technology not with respect to what it can accomplish but with respect to what it means for understanding humanity.  No less a public figure than Henry A. Kissinger has sounded an alarm in The Atlantic with “How the Enlightenment Ends:

Philosophically, intellectually—in every way—human society is unprepared for the rise of artificial intelligence.[2]”  One can respond to this “crisis” by assuming that AI exhausts what constitutes “reason” in order to desperately seek a niche for humanity, or one can question whether what is taken to be “Enlightenment reason” has so truncated the meaning of reason that reason is left impotent in the face of the power of AI.

The irony here is that Kissinger’s reflections demonstrate what happens when a reductionist, socially constructed understanding of reason is allowed to dominate the discussion of “intelligence.”  The result is that the meaning of reason is readily reduced to pragmatic, instrumental reason informed by “analytical” critique of merely empirical data to the exclusion of what makes humanity a “rational” being in the first place – because this reductionist version is the kind of reason that we have come to elevate above everything when it comes to serving our interests.  In short, a misanthropic understanding of reason  is mistakenly viewed as a threat to human reason.

What follows proposes that we question the assumptions beneath the prevalent, anti-Enlightenment rhetoric concerning rationality not to undermine the clearly productive benefits of AI but to retrieve a far broader and beneficial understanding of reason.   This kind of “critique” (not merely analytical criticism) allows the identification of the limits to AI that, at least potentially, can illuminate a pathway through the thick and murky undergrowth of uncertainty and the fear that AI will one-day replace humanity’s role in the hierarchy of being.

In other words, in face of the purported collapse of Enlightenment Reason and its impotency over against the developments of AI, one can either join the dirge celebrating the death of reason for its being an arrogant human triumphalism or one can question whether what today is taken to be Enlightenment Reason is an adequate grasp of the discussion of reason at the end of the 18th century.  Succinctly, what “is” is not necessarily what “ought to be,” and the very exercise of investigating why “what is” is not necessarily what “ought to be” demonstrates the power of language both to confound and confuse as well as to illuminate and inform – even empower humanity individually and corporately.