I was thinking about the idea of teleological/natural-law ethics as founded in the will of a divine power, and I thought that there would be (A) a purpose that this power had set for Itself alongside (B) purposes supposed for us, those under the shadow of that power. Now, rather than take this directly, I thought to Susan Neiman's interpretation of the universalization test (in the doctrine of the categorical imperative), wherein she said that (i) in theoretical reasoning, we were to explicitly not ask questions as if from God's point of view (no absolutely objective and rational vantage, for this is impossible for us) but (ii) to ask practical questions in terms of God: "If I were in the place of God, how would I create the moral law for the good in this place?"

Can we likewise read the concept of a divine purpose such that:

  1. God is good enough that we can trust that Its pursuit of Its especial self-set purpose is good. This is a judgment neither stipulative nor ostensive alone, however: it is a postulate of hope in the Kantian vein. As far as its theoretical support goes, the point is that, from a Kantian vantage, there is no reason to go out of one's rational way to believe in, and hope for, God, unless one transfers the grounds for this belief to the theoretical substructure of various parts of practical inquiry.
  2. In some sense, then, we can imagine our actions being consistent or inconsistent, on some level, with the divine purpose. This is not called for in religious tradition, however: "His ways are not ours," for example, puts something of "being at cross-purposes with God" out of view. Perhaps we can will generally to oppose God, but we don't know the particulars of God's own will by the by, so we don't know what, in particular, to oppose God by: if God is powerful enough, It can take any opposition to Its purpose and transmute the effects into causes that rebound upon the original intent of opposition. Such a doctrine is substituted for, from the Kantian perspective, by a Neiman-like divine teleologism, something like, "If the divine nature were in your place, what maxims would It choose in the service of perfecting the world?"

... or is that interpretation justifiable if and only if we first attribute to the divine power an intent to make the world perfect? We would be saying something roughly on a par with, "If there existed a divine power with a purpose, and this purpose was the best of all possible purposes, viz. to make the world perfect, then what would It do, in our circumstances, that would be in the service of a perfected world?" Granted, if we don't have an autonomous (in both Kantian senses) sense of perfection beforehand, such a test does not seem to go very far: is it adequate as an interpretation of the passages about universalization tests (in Kant's writing) or of the passage about interpreting moral laws as divine commands?


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