God is Necessary to be Good (10 pages) – Updated July 2019

Updated July 2019

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

With Index to Footnote Themes

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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 Petri Dish Only Confirms that Kant was Correct: Or Technical, Teleological, and Practical ‘Purposiveness’ in Science and Morality (15 Pages)- Updated July 2019

Updated July 2019

 

The Petri Dish Only Confirms that Kant was Correct by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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Presented at: “Religion, Society, and the Science of Life” Conference at the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion of St. Anne’s College, Oxford, 21 July, 2017

The Petri Dish Only Confirms that Kant was Correct:

Or Technical, Teleological, and Practical ‘Purposiveness’ in Science and Morality[1]

“The most important issue is to know how one properly fulfills one’s place in creation and correctly understands what one must be in order to be a human being.”  (Immanuel Kant, Handwritten Comments to ‘Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime’), ed. by Marie Rischmüller [Hamburg, 1991] 36 [McGaughey translation])

“At many places my presentation would have had far more clarity, if it hadn’t needed to be so clear.”  (Immanuel Kant, Reflexion #16 von Reflexionen Kants zur Kritik der reinen Vernunft (Leipzig, Fues’s Verlag (R. Reisland), 1884):  7 [McGaughey translation])

Abstract

The “Call for Papers” of our conference begins:  “’There will never be a Newton for the blade of grass,’ Kant wrote in 1784, a quarter-century before the birth of Charles Darwin, and less than a half-century before the first synthesis of an organic compound in a laboratory.”  Proof texting must be called-out wherever it occurs.  What does Kant say?  “[…] [I]t would be absurd […] to hope that there may […] arise a Newton who could make comprehensible even the generation of a blade of grass according to natural laws that no intention has ordered […].” (Critique of Judgment AA V: 400 ; emphasis added) He also said:  “We can by no means prove the impossibility of the generation of organized products of nature through the mere mechanism of nature, because […] we have no insight into their primary internal ground, and thus we cannot reach the internal and completely sufficient principle of the possibility of nature […].” (Critique of Judgment AA V: 388) Kant’s point in the third Critique:  because we directly experience only effects, not causes, we must presume that a lawful order purposefully governs theoretical reason (nature) and practical reason (morality).  In the first introduction to the third Critique, Kant writes: “The special principle of judgment is […]: Nature specifies its general laws into empirical ones, in accordance with the form of a logical system [i.e., intentionality (McGaughey)], in behalf of judgment” (“First Introduction” – Critique of Judgment AA XX: 216).  This heuristic strategy of  presumed purposiveness is incapable of proof/disproof (here we have no teleological proof of God), but without its assumption nature is “a raw chaotic aggregate” (“First Introduction” AA XX: 209), not a system, and both an understanding of nature and ourselves is impossible.  The paper proposes that reflecting (not determining) judgment (i.e., a special, internal, motivating feeling) governs, but does not ground, theoretical and practical reason to make both the natural sciences and morality (as “religion” at the core of all historical religions) possible.

Introduction

Design: A Heuristic Strategy, not a Metaphysical Doctrine (13 Pages) 11 July 2008 — Key Paper – Updated July 2019

Updated July 2019

Design: A Heuristic Strategy, Not Metaphysical Doctrine by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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DESIGN: A HEUSRISTIC STRATEGY,
NOT METAPHYSICAL DOCTRINE

Abstract

Because there’s only indirect access to causes, given effects can be understood to have multiple causes, and the same cause can produce multiple effects, the criterion for the evaluation of a causal explanation is neither empirical proof nor disproof. Rather, the evaluation must be in terms of the consequences of holding the cause for an adequate explanation of the event in relationship to laws of relationality necessary for the appearances. The Physico-Theological argument for design as a form of cause in nature cannot serve to give us any information about the noumenon (God) that it presupposes – certainly not any information about anthropomorphic characteristics of that noumenon. Rather, its value is to confirm our confidence in the intelligibility (the rule-governed character) of nature in contrast, for example, to the chaos of nocturnal dreams. Because all our capacities, which include theoretical (science) and practical (religion) reason are dependent upon the material conditions of experience, this criterion of intelligible necessity is important not only for the furtherance of the natural scientific enterprise but also for (moral) religion.  Drawing on pre-critical and critical writings of Kant in the spirit of H. Allison, I reject the Naturalistic reading of Kant by P.F. Strawson et al. to argue that Kant’s Critical Idealism is beneficial for an investigating of the meaning and role of design in experience without succumbing to anthropomorphic speculations about God.

Divine Intervention: Undeniable, but What Difference does it Make? (6 Pages) 16 July 2014 – Updated July 2019

Updated July 2019

Divine Intervention: Undeniable, but What Difference does it Make? by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

“Divine Intervention:  Undeniable – But What Difference Does It Make?” at the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion Conference at St. Anne’s College Oxford (July 13-17, 2014)

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Divine Intervention:  Undeniable,
But What Difference does it Make?

Abstract

 Denial of divine intervention in the physical order oversteps the limits to human reason as does its affirmation.  Kant’s discussion of miracles acknowledges that it is impossible to prove or disprove a miracle not only, as Hume maintained, because the empirical evidence is too limited and by definition denies duplication but also because the judgment whether or not a miracle has occurred is an a priori synthetic judgment of cause that, as with all causal explanations, the observer must add to the phenomena.  We can determine a cause only in reflecting judgment stimulated by its effects, and the appropriateness of our determination hinges on the consequences for the totality of our experience and understanding.  When it comes to the “domain” of theoretical reason, those consequences have to do with the causal explanation fitting into a coherent totality of physical laws.  Here, a miracle by definition is suspect (even if unprovable) because it claims to be an exception to physical law.  More destructive is the consequence for the “domain” of practical reason.  Miracles would shift humanity’s focus from “doing the right thing because it is right” to “obsequious pursuit of divine favor” out of mere self-interest.

Persons and Their Minds: Höffe’s Action Theory and Differentiation between Dogmatic and Methodological Determinism (15 Pages) 14 July 2012 – Updated July 2019

Updated July 2019

Persons and Their Minds: Höffe’s Action Theory and Differentiation between Dogmatic and Methodological Determinism by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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Presented at St. Anne’s College, Oxford                                                                                         July 14, 2012

 

Persons and Their Minds:
Höffe’s Action Theory and Differentiation between Dogmatic and Methodological Determinism

Abstract

In the early 1980s, Libet’s documentation of the neuro-activity prior to the application of the will (“mind time” based on Deecke and Kornhuber’s notion of Bereitschaftspotential) suggested an exclusively materialistic, neurological cause for “voluntary” action.  Complementing Libet’s reductionism, Churchland sees no connection between non-material values and the brain to propose that there are no universal, moral “principles.”  She argues from Aristotle’s notion of “moral virtue” that morality is the consequence of habitual, pragmatic behavior in particular circumstances (only?) and vilifies moral “system builders” (e.g., Bentham and Kant) for their search for “exceptionless rules”.

This paper presents Höffe’s theory of action that affirms (!) a material condition for action but insists that action involves a more temporally complex process than mere neuro-activity in the present.  Furthermore, by distinguishing between dogmatic determinism (there can be only physical causal explanations) and methodological determinism (the assumption that there are physical causal explanations at the base (!) of all experience), Höffe makes room for creative freedom (differently than the way Searle’s “causal gap” makes room for free will) and self-legislated (not heteronomously imposed), absolute moral principles in the form of a necessary as if that makes all the difference for understanding the human species.

Morality in Spite of Interest: Absolute Skepticism Grounded in Skepticism’s Necessities or Re-Examining Evolution and Epigenesis (18 Pages) 10 July 2011 – Updated August 2019

Updated August 2019

“Morality in Spite of Interests: Absolute Skepticism Grounded in s Necessities Enables Re-Examining Evolution and Epigenesis” by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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Presented at St. Anne’s College, Oxford                                                                                           July 10, 2011

Morality in Spite of Interests:
Absolute Principles Grounded in Skepticism’s Necessities
Enable Re-examining Evolution and Epigenesis[1]

Abstract

The issue of the relationship between matter and mind (biology and freedom that makes morality possible) did not commence with Darwin’s (mis-titled) Origin of the Species (more accurate: Origin of Species from Other Species).  In the 18th century alone, one only need recall the British/Scottish Rationalist/Moral Sense school, d’Holbach’s and Bonnet’s materialist reductionism, Leibniz’ pre-established harmony between consciousness and matter, or Lessing’s ugly ditch.  Johann Nicolaus Tetens’ (1777) Philosophische Versuche über die menschliche Natur und ihre Entwicklung was on Kant’s desk as he wrote the Kritik der reinen Vernunft.[2]  The issues (not the technology, to be sure) of today‘s morality and neurobiological reductionism are at the core of Tetens’ debate with Charles Bonnet.  Tetens’ project on the nature and development of humanity is a defense of the complementarity of “evolution” (preformation) and “epigenesis” (novelty), which is engaged by Kant in his discussion of teleology and morals later in the Critique of Judgment.  At issue is causal explanation.  Are causal explanations analytic (grounded merely in perception) or synthetic (requiring the mind to add imperceptible elements to perception)?  This paper engages Kant’s a priori synthetic argument for understanding causal order in nature (physical necessity) as well as causal order in the novelty of creative freedom (self-legislated moral necessity) when it comes to humanity’s capacity to initiate a sequence of events that nature cannot accomplish on its own.  The significance: Humans are moral beings because they can be, not because they must be – and this makes all the difference.