Defect of Order Entails Immortality

Our immortality follows from the mere fact of order, and from our want thereof:

  1. Creatures can possibly want only when they lack some true good. This aesthetic/homeostatic truth can be verified empirically. Nutritious food, e.g., really is objectively good for animals. It is not an element of reality to which they can be indifferent, and survive. Animals cannot decide that food is irrelevant to them. It is relevant to them according to their nature, that was given with their birth. Likewise, electron shells must seek completion. As food is good for the survival of the animal, so completion of electron shells is good for the stability of the atom. If food and shell completion were not true goods, animals and atoms would not seek them.
  2. There can be true goods iff there is a moral order to things.
  3. To say that there is an order to things – any order whatever – is to say that there is a *moral* order to things; for, order is a tendency toward regularity of action; it is, i.e., intensional.
  4. There can be a moral order to things iff there is God.
  5. There is God iff God is omnipotent and perfectly good – is, properly speaking, God.
  6. God is God iff the eschaton involves permanent, complete cosmic victory; involves, i.e., literally infinite good by means of permanent rescue, repair and renewal of all that is good.
  7. There is permanent and complete cosmic victory iff there is immortality.
  8. Creatures want; QED.

It might seem upon first examination of this argument that it demonstrates, not our own immortality, but the immortality of some creatures or other – but not necessarily us – produced by this created order. But no; absolute and omnipotent Divine goodness must save everything that is valuable and that can possibly be saved.

+++++++++++++++

I owe this argument to Chastek, who casts it in the opposite direction, so that morality iff immortality.

16 thoughts on “Defect of Order Entails Immortality

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    • Quibble: I would argue that the desire for immortality is rather like the desire for happiness. You can’t get happiness by pursuing happiness. You can get it only by being good. And you can be good only by pursing the Good himself.

      So likewise with immortality. If you pursue it, you end up at alchemy or sorcery of the most debased sort – the sort that principled and careful alchemists and sorcerers abhor. You end up, i.e., at some form of idolatry.

      Happiness and immortality are desirable things, to be sure, but they are not themselves the proper object of our ultimate superordinate desire. There is only one such object: God himself. If we don’t love him above all other things, and with our entire beings, then all other things will end up being dead to us.

      If we do love him above all other things, and with our whole being, then we get all the other properly desirable things in train – immortality in heaven, angelic powers, blissful happiness, and so forth.

      And, of course, yes: as the love of the ground of all being, the love of God is ipso facto the absolute rejection of annihilation.

  2. I don’t think “Total Annihilation” is even an apparent good, in which case no one desires it at all. On this view, Satan wants happiness and immortality without the love of God but in his self-idolatry, not Total Annihilation. He is lying, as is his wont, if he says he wants Total Annihilation.

  3. 1. “Creatures can possibly want only when they lack some true good.”

    I’m not so sure. Modern capitalism is all about synthesizing artificial wants, even impossible wants. I imagine, in terms of evolution, things would favor an animal who wants, as that animal is more likely to be active in taking care of its needs, than one that was content.

    It is quite possible (to me) that the human animal could have some longings which are natural and fulfill a need for the organism which we might (scholastically) say are true goods, in the sense of satisfying their purpose, preserving the organism. However, it seems that these longings could become hijacked, the way fear can be hijacked into anxiety or phobias.

    “Creatures can possibly fear only when they are threatened by some true enemy”–we wouldn’t go with that, would we?

    2. “There can be true goods iff there is a moral order of things.”

    I don’t know that a cat pursuing a rat is necessarily indicative of a moral order of things. We can say some wants pursue biological needs, and are good (for the cat and not the rat) from a biological perspective, without invoking morality. That is, there can be amoral goods, and our higher wants may emerge due to the hijacking of biological wants.

    3. “To say that there is an order to things – any order whatever – is to say that there is a *moral* order to things; for, order is a tendency toward regularity of action; it is, i.e., intensional.”

    Well, most of the universe is devoid of life, yet it possesses a physical order, but I don’t think the the behavior of asteroids entails a moral order or intentionality (or at least, you haven’t proved it yet).

    4. “There can be a moral order to things iff there is God.”

    I tend to think there can be no moral order to things if there is a personal God.

    As far as the rest of the proof, once you have Deus, then the Ex Machina is easy.

    I understand versions of the Augustinian arguments, but we have to recognize through the majority of the natural history of humans, monotheism was not a thing, ergo, it is hard to claim that a relative late comer answers some unfathomable need in humans, rather than being functional within certain kinds of complex social orders.

    • Thanks, KD. Some of the premises do indeed cry out for a bit of unpacking.

      I’m not so sure [that creatures can possibly want only when they lack some true good]. Modern capitalism is all about synthesizing artificial wants, even impossible wants.

      Well, I wouldn’t say that capitalism is *all* about synthesizing artificial wants, although that does of course go on. But a creature that properly pursued its true goods – the goods proper to its nature – would not find advertisements for improper goods interesting, or suasive. Improper wants can arise only when there is some defect in the satisfaction of a creature’s true goods. Appetites for improper goods cannot arise when the natural appetites are sated. As Lewis said: deny men food, and they will gobble poison.

      When the satisfaction of true goods is defective, then our natural appetites can as you say be hijacked.

      But, in any case, the premise was not that the only sort of wants are for true goods. It was that want of any sort, whether proper or not, can arise only from want of some true good. If food were not good for animals in the first place, then they could not hunger for it, and there would be no appetite to pervert into gluttony.

      We can say some wants pursue biological needs, and are good … from a biological perspective, without invoking morality. That is, there can be amoral goods … most of the universe is devoid of life, yet it possesses a physical order, but I don’t think the behavior of asteroids entails a moral order or intentionality …

      Morality is a biological procedure. But biology is a physical procedure. With life, morality then is implicit in Nature. Nature per se is then a moral procedure.

      The distinction you are reaching for is between creatures for whom immorality is an option, and those for whom it is not. Photons, e.g., can’t behave badly, even though there are all sorts of bad ways that photons might behave, were they free to do so.

      Asteroids don’t behave at all, properly speaking. The particles of which they are composed behave, but asteroids are just thick clouds; they don’t do anything themselves, but are mere functions of the doings of other things.

      I tend to think there can be no moral order to things if there is a personal God.

      Was that a typo? Did you mean to say that, “there can be a moral order to things if there is a personal God”? If so, then sure. If not, then, please explain what you mean.

      … through the majority of the natural history of humans, monotheism was not a thing, ergo it is hard to claim that a relative late comer answers some unfathomable need in humans …

      It seems on the contrary that monotheism is the original and basic religion of man. Even if that were not the case, and man had been truly and simply polytheist or animist until about 4,000 years ago, it would not follow that man had not always been searching for God, in exactly the way that an infant searches for good food by putting all sorts of things in his mouth.

      The argument of the post did not, in any case, anywise hang upon the facts of human religion.

      • I still think it needs some work. Your claim “nature per se is a moral procedure” needs a lot more unpacking. That claim seems at the heart of this argument, yet I don’t think you have established it.

        From a scholastic perspective, I suppose you could view “nature” as a “moral procedure”, but if you are aiming outside the club as it were, moderns tend to start with a heavy fact/value distinction. Even if you are completely right, you are going to have to lead the sheep a long way to reach greener pastures.

        As far as the “moral order” and a personal God, I think God as person secures morality rather than order securing morality. It is God’s mercy which is the source of salvation and goodness, God’s law only serves to correct evil. Only a person can grant mercy, an algorithm is incapable of it.

      • Thanks again, KD.

        I unpacked the morality of nature in the post I linked in my last comment. The key paragraphs:

        … our feelings of meaning – whether of intending to do, or to indicate – are what it is like to be finally caused. We could then equivalently say that the regularities we observe in nature are what it looks like for things to have intentions toward the actualization of certain forms, that express certain values.

        Notice what has just been said: the regularities of physics, and of all the supervenient levels of analysis that together constitute the Grand Synthesis, are what it looks like for the world to seek certain values. Is it too much of a stretch to think that the world seeks certain values because they are good? Well, if our own experience of what it is like to seek certain values is any indication, then … no, it is not too much of a stretch. For, nota bene, our own experience of yearning is the only indication we have, or could possibly have, of what it is like to be a being that, however otherwise different from us, does, like us, tend: that is finally caused, as we are, and is in its nature (in its essential form) ordered to an end. The notion gives the term “strange attractor” a whole new meaning.

        But, notice again what has just been said: the world moves according to the Good. The world is a moral project, through and through. The Pauli Exclusion Principle is a moral and aesthetic dictum; atoms seek to complete their electron shells because it is good to do so. Thus, it is not biology that gives rise to morality, but vice versa.

        The fact/value distinction is really a suggestion that values are not factual. But this in the final absurd analysis is to suggest that there is no such thing as values. When I point this out to nominalists, I generally have little trouble demolishing their nominalism, at least philosophically (whether or not they continue their adherence to nominalism is another matter). In any case, the post was not aimed outside the realist and essentialist club.

        Only a person can grant mercy, an algorithm is incapable of it.

        Ah, OK. We agree.

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  5. This is a very interesting argument, and one that I haven’t ever heared in many years of studying morality, so thanks a lot for posting it!

    However, I have some doubts about it’s validity, based on a problem with the word “good”. You say that animals and humans have desires, because they lack something truly good. Even if they actually desire something bad, it is still because of a lack in something good. But you implicitly define “good” as _good for the survival of the individual_ (“It is not an element of reality to which they can be indifferent, and survive. Animals cannot decide that food is irrelevant to them. It is relevant to them according to their nature, that was given with their birth.”).

    But how can that lead to moral conclusions? There seems to be some equivocation hidden in here…
    “there is a *moral* order to things; for, order is a tendency toward regularity of action”
    If by order you mean a _factual_ tendency towards regularity — animals want to eat, sadists want to torment etc. — then I see no morality. I only see that beings follow their desires, and do not oppose them. That is order, but not morality. I desire fun and play Chess. The psychopath desires fun and torments an innocent. How does the factual order allow you to determine what is morally good here?

    However, if you mean an actualy moral order to things — an actual _shouldness_ — then I don’t see where you get it from. Yes, I’ll die when I don’t eat. But how does that generate an objective “should”? The tiger dies when it does not kill prey. The prey dies when it does not ecsape the tiger. So where is the moral order? People can choose to startve themselves to death, to lead a Christian life or to be Satanists.

    You say “Nature per se is then a moral procedure.” because “Morality is a biological procedure.” — But his is again an equivocation — judgements about what I want to do, what I feel you “should” do etc. are natural — they arose from evolution in social groups [or are otherwise ingrained in our biology, if you completely don’t believe in evolution]. But that is not actual _objective_ shouldness — it’s only someone’s impression or feeling of such. So “Nature is moral” is false when you mean objective moral facts. It’s true when you mean subjective judgements and desires, but these have no objective value and cannot convince the person you perceive to be immoral, that he is wrong.

    This last point is actually my main question. Imagine I do no believe in the heliocentrism. Then you can explain telescopes, measurements etc. to me and convince me. But imagine I do not believe in objective morality, that it is really *wrong* to e.g. steal for personal gain, even if it improves my life on my utility scale. With what argument can you convince me? I’d be really grateful to hear your answer to this question. (The threat of eternal damnation would work perfectly as an argument, but only if you convince me of the corresponding God. Not just “any” conscious creator of the universe, but exactly the one who has your specific moral code. I am very open to be conviced about this, though. God and objective morality are really the two most interesting questions for me, so I’m grateful for any pointers in this regard.)

    • Thanks, Moonlight, for a penetrating comment. Taking your points in order:

      But you implicitly define “good” as good for the survival of the individual …

      I can see how that impression arose from the examples I adduced. But there are true goods of a thing that involve its destruction. E.g., the good of sex for the male Praying Mantis; or the good of his children for the father who dies in their defense; or the good of the people for the sacrificial victim who dies to redeem their sins.

      Regardless, the premise stands so long as there is a true good of any sort whatsoever in respect to which a creature can stand in want.

      … “there is a *moral* order to things; for, order is a tendency toward regularity of action.” If by order you mean a factual tendency towards regularity [then how] does the factual order allow you to determine what is morally good here?

      The question I think you are asking is, “How is a mere tendency toward regularity of action a moral tendency?” And that’s an excellent question. The basic notion is that creatures all have natural ends – final causes – that are essential to them as being the sorts of things they are, and that when the accomplishment of the natural end of a creature is somehow defective, things are then not as good as they might have been, along some dimension of goodness or other. And all dimensions of goodness have a moral aspect, if only because they all affect a creature’s capacity for the achievement of moral goods. E.g., an impeccably righteous man born blind is not as good as he would have been if his sight were perfect. There are all sorts of good things he might have been able to do if he had been able to see, which he cannot do because he is blind. The moral impact on cosmic history of his life might have been much greater, and much better, had he not been so handicapped from birth.

      The tendency of men to vision then is a tendency to the achievement of the sorts of goods that can be accomplished using vision. Vision then – and, by extension, all our faculties – have an implicit moral valence.

      And this can be extended to all creatures. Whatever is, has some moral valence, and so some moral meaning.

      … judgements about what I want to do, what I feel you “should” do, etc., are natural – they arose from evolution in social groups [or are otherwise ingrained in our biology, if you completely don’t believe in evolution]. But that is not actual objective shouldness …

      It isn’t? Social and biological facts are not real? Sociobiological fact looks pretty objective to me.

      [Nature is moral] when you mean subjective judgements and desires, but these have no objective value …

      This is true only if the subjective judgements and desires in question have absolutely zero effect. But what has no effect is inactual – it doesn’t exist. In fact, our subjective judgements and desires influence our behavior, and our goodness, even when we feel that they don’t. This was God’s point at Matthew 5:27-28. This is only to say that they concretely exist, even were we ourselves the only ones who are ever conscious of them – which, given Omniscience, is not the case.

      What exists only in our minds really does exist, even if only in our minds. Our subjective errors of interpreting reality go on to shape reality – to deform it, and degrade it, reducing its beauties. They have objective value then, that can be measured by the loss of value they cause; have, that is to say, a moral character, that (at least to Omniscience) can be perfectly known.

      All of this is to say no more than that you really do actually, concretely exist. You yourself, along every dimension of your being and feeling, are an objective fact. Your subjective phenomenal experience is real; you really are that way. The way that you feel about things is an objective feature of reality. And all other creatures must reckon you as you are, including the way you are to yourself.

      But imagine I do not believe in objective morality … with what argument can you convince me [that it is really *wrong* to, e.g., steal]?

      Capital investment – saving up to make life better somehow – is not possible except where property is secure. Nor is social trust; so nor therefore is cooperation. Stealing, lying, murder, adultery: these are all the death of society as such. These are mathematically demonstrable truths of game theory. Then morality is a department of mathematical logic. And the truths of math, logic and metaphysics are necessarily true; which is to say, that they are eternally true, and could not be otherwise. Whatever is must be conditioned by these truths. There is no way to evade them; this is what is meant by, “God is not mocked.” So they condition all possible worlds; so they condition our world; so they condition us.

      • Thanks for this detailed reply, Kristor.

        I see two main points in it.
        First seems to be the natural teleology — “The basic notion is that creatures all have natural ends”. Okay, but which of the many dimensions of good are _moraly relevant_ ? A psychopath can develop to be a skilful murderer and follow his desires. He is then, in a sense, a “good psychopath”. You will say that this is not his “natural end”. But how do we know that? Because he (let’s say) does not have children and thus doesn’t follow an important part of his biological/evolutionary nature? But is you define “natural end” via evolution/biology, then a celibate priest is just as mistaken — clearly not following his evolutionary “calling”. Of course, we clearly agree that this “evolutionary calling”, to rise as many children as possible, is not the height of morality. But then what is the “natural end” of a person? Let’s say that I claim the natural end of a person to be “following his desires wherever they lead” — no matter if they lead to Christianity or Psychopathy or Chess-playing. What arguments will you use against that?

        Second seems to be the game theory. The game theory you mentioned — to my underatnding — correctly describes _collective_ rationality. When _all_ steal, there is no society. The more folks steal, the less there is society. But for an _individual_, things are quite different, aren’t they? Game theory is full of talk about the “free rider problem”, the “tragedy of the common” or “defection in a prisonner’s dilemma”. Clearly, when _I_ steal, cheat etc., it does not cause “the death of society as such”. So game theory clearly does not show that stealing etc. is irrational _for me_ — being a free rider is not ignorance of game theory. The thief may well know that if everyone was like him, he would be worse of. But what of it? Him stealing will not make it so that everyone steals. Him not stealing will not make it so that everyone doesn’t steal. So if he made the calculation that stealing will increase his utility, it seems quite rational to steal. So it seems that game theory, if anything, urges the _individual_ to “game the system” (pardon the pun) by any means available, not to always cooperate. It urges the _group_, to enforce mutually optimal cooperative strategies, but not individuals. Do we disagree about that? If so how? It’s clearly standard stuff in game theory (e.g. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/free-rider/ ), or am I totally missing something?

        A last smaller point — yes, sociobilogical facts are objective. But they are “is”, not “ought”. That I want an advantage does not show that you objectively have to give it to me. That something will benefit “society” (whoever we define to be part of that) is not proof that I _should_ orient my actions on that. The fact that I feel something is objective, yes. But that doesn’t mean that the _content_ of what I feel is objectively true. For example, the psychopath truly feels the desire to harm an innocent. But that does not generate on objective “ought”. This is in fact my main philosophical interest — to find if there is any objective “ought”. But so far I cannot find it and am thus “stuck” on the “following his desires wherever they lead”-view — it seems to be the default when no objective “ought” is found. I’m grateful to any pointers in this field 🙂

      • … which of the many dimensions of good are morally relevant?

        All of them, to some degree. An otherwise rotten person who is a good machinist is still a very good thing.

        A psychopath can develop to be a skillful murderer and follow his desires. He is then, in a sense, a “good psychopath”.

        Following your desires is good only if you desire the good. An otherwise blameless fellow who is a skilled and experienced serial murderer is still a very bad thing.

        You will say that this is not his “natural end.” But how do we know that?

        Because men presuppose society – even if only the society of their parents – and if men went about murdering all the time, there would be no society, and so no men.

        But if you define “natural end” via evolution/biology …

        I don’t. We can discern that traits are adaptive in virtue of their apparent reproductive success; but their reproductive success does not cause those traits to be adaptive; on the contrary, it is their adaptivity – their goodness, mutatis mutandis – that causes their reproductive success.

        But then what is the natural end of a person?

        To glorify God and delight in his presence.

        Let’s say that I claim the natural end of a person to be “following his desires wherever they lead” — no matter if they lead to Christianity or Psychopathy or Chess-playing. What arguments will you use against that?

        Consider the reductio of suicide. If your desires lead to your suicide, they frustrate your very being; and what frustrates the being of a thing ipso facto frustrates the achievement of its natural ends.

        When all steal, there is no society. The more folks steal, the less there is society. But for an individual, things are quite different, aren’t they?

        No. When we behave antisocially, we injure ourselves just as much as we injure others. We might not be much aware of that self-inflicted injury as such, but it is there nonetheless. Remember that time when you lied, and so ruined a bit your cherished intimacy with a person whom you loved?

        Cheaters likewise ruin their own play. It’s not just that their profits are polluted by their cheating – this happens even in solitaire, note – but that their reputation suffers in subsequent rounds of the game, and their profits thereafter suck. Often they go negative, on account of his deletion from the game by the other players, or their concerted punishment of the defector. Crime just doesn’t pay.

        It’s the reiteration of the game, together with memory, that ensure this result. Given iteration and memory, cheating is a bad tactic for the individual. Reiteration and memory together establish a Nash equilibrium of predominant cooperation.

        … sociobiological facts are objective. But they are “is”, not “ought”.

        But the sociobiological facts in question were the moral sentiments – the apprehensions of natural duties that oblige them – that are common to all sane men. The sociobiological facts in question, i.e., were, precisely, “oughts.” That men feel morally obliged is just a sociobiological fact. It is not merely subjective, or adventitious, or conventional. These felt moral obligations arise from – are features of – the world in which men discover themselves qua men. We can’t get to a universe where they don’t oblige us. There is nothing in our world that is not thoroughly conditioned by its natural law. So, our moral sentiments are characteristic of the physics of our world.

        This is in fact my main philosophical interest — to find if there is any objective “ought”. But so far I cannot find it and am thus “stuck” on the “following his desires wherever they lead”-view — it seems to be the default when no objective “ought” is found. I’m grateful to any pointers in this field.

        To escape your conundrum, all you need to is find an example of a desire for something that is not good. Say for example that my desire is to kill you on account of the fact that I’m feeling irritated and want to kill someone. Is it good to kill someone just because you’re having a bad day? No. So morality can’t consist in following our desires wherever they lead, except in the rare case of the saint who desires only the good.

        The natural response is, “how can I tell what is good?” My reply: consult your gut. It knows. We all who are sane know goddamn well when we are doing the wrong thing. And why? Because doing the wrong thing makes us feel dirty inside – unclean, or as that term translates to Latin, insane. The sane can see that the insane are mad, and that being insane is torment; so they do not want to go insane. So they try to do the right thing.

        The judgements of your gut are a sociobiological fact – a fact of the physical order of the universe.

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