Monday, November 23, 2009

TAG Made Simple

TAG - the Transcendental Argument for God's existence - argues that the necessary preconditions of knowledge require God's existence. A simple syllogism may summarize what we have in mind:

1. Every law has a lawgiver.
2. There are objective laws.
3. Therefore, there is an objective lawgiver.

Theists view the "objective lawgiver" as God, the Logos. We certainly observe that the universe exhibits certain regularities. There is much order in our experience, so much so that it is rather law-like. By "objective," we mean that certain laws hold independently of human minds. The various logical and mathematical laws fit this description, for example. Even if there were no human beings, the moon could not be not-the-moon.

The question for us to consider is whether these laws require a grounding of some sort. I confess I don't really understand attempts to circumvent a grounding. That would be like having a house without a foundation - it would collapse. Yet it is surely the case that laws of logic and mathematics are not susceptible to collapsing, so an ultimate basis for their reality seems in order. Some may wish to call this "ultimate" something other than "God," but at that point we're just arguing semantics.


  1. I think the talk of all laws have law *givers* is misleading. I do not imagine metaphysically necessary laws as 'given' at all. To say God is the giver of laws suggests the laws are contingent in some sense. So you'd need to explain how metaphysically necessary laws can be contingent on God. But any relationship between God and metaphysically necessary laws is not likely going to be one where 'given' talk is appropriate, as it suggests voluntarist notions of agency.

    Perhaps a better formulation is:

    1. Every law has a ground of being
    2. There are metaphysically necessary laws
    3. Therefore, there is a metaphysically necessary ground of being for metaphysically necessary laws

    But then we have simply replaced the agency talk of the need for lawgivers with the need for explanations. But this is just the PSR, where everything that exists, including laws, has an explanation for its existence in itself or in some other appropriate ground of being.

    But then it is not clear to me why a platonist could not rightly deny that every law has an ground of being, given that they understand that the explanation of metaphysically necessary laws is in themselves.

  2. Good points, Chad. By "lawgiver" I wasn't suggesting that the laws of logic and mathematics are caused. However, I can see how that impression may have been immanent. By a lawgiver, I meant that these laws are grounded in something.

    I'm not sure the Platonist would deny this, but I suppose that depends on the Platonist you're talking to. In any case, the version of TAG I defend above is, I think, consistent with Platonism (at least prima facie).

    The difficulty I see with the Platonic worldview is that I don't see how there can be any unity between what is universal and what is particular. The principles of one cannot explain the principles of the other, which makes our knowledge of universals quite a strange thing. If the two have no unity, then the most natural conclusion is that particular minds (like you and I) are incapable of knowing universals, which is false. Of course, you have defended a conceptualist view of universals, as would I. Postulating a particular mind that is the ground of universals seems to be the best explanation of this knowledge, in my opinion.