Saturday, May 26, 2012

If Logic, then God

Suppose you find yourself convinced that the laws of logic are objective and that they have a positive ontological status.  With their immutability in mind, the laws of logic cannot be grounded in a dynamic universe.  Consider this:

1. The universe and everything contained within it are mutable.  (Premise)

2. The laws of logic are immutable.  (Premise)

3. Therefore, the laws of logic cannot be contained within the universe.  (From 1 and 2)

The objectivity and existence of laws of logic necessitate that they be necessary, eternal, immutable and immaterial.  Now, do these objects fit better within a theistic worldview or an atheistic worldview?  Obviously, naive materialism is ruled out as a plausible (possible?) worldview, and materialism is one of the most predominant atheistic worldviews.

Technically, an atheist could adopt a version of Platonism.  It's at this point that I would exhort the believer to stress the advantages of conceptualism over against Platonism.  To continue:

4. The laws of logic are abstract objects.  (Premise)

5. Abstract objects are either mind-independent or mental concepts.  (Premise)

6. Abstract objects cannot be mind-independent.  (Premise)

7. Therefore, the laws of logic are mental concepts.  (From 4 - 6)

Now, the laws of logic cannot be the concepts of just any mind.  For, there are possible worlds in which contingent minds do not exist.  Yet, the laws of logic still obtain in those possible worlds.  Hence, the laws of logic must be the concepts of a necessary mind (e.g. God).

Premise (6) might be the most controversial of the argument.  I would stress the causal impotence of abstract objects, and the fact that there is a causal relation between mind-independent realities and the mind that knows them.  In other words, if the laws of logic were mind-independent, then they could not be known.  However, they certainly are known.  Therefore, the laws of logic are not mind-independent, but conceptual in nature.

As for the positive ontological status of the laws of logic and other abstract objects, I would appeal to their indispensability.  It is impossible to reason apart from laws of logic.  A thing cannot possess the attribute of indispensability and be non-existent.  After all, non-existent entities do not possess any attributes.  A parody of this argument might go something like this: unicorns possess the attribute of being magical.  Yet, that doesn't mean unicorns exist.

The problem with the above objection is that unicorns really don't possess the attribute of being magical.  The quality of being a magical horse with a horn is not instantiated, whereas the indispensability of logic is instantiated.  It really is necessary for us to use logic whenever engaging in rational inquiry.  In sum, there is no parity between the argument and its parody.

If this argument is sound, as I maintain it is, then we have a definitive proof in favor of theism and against atheism.  Far from there being a conflict between faith and reason, it turns out that reason actually presupposes faith.


  1. As I keep pointing out, "YOU are the proof that God is."

  2. But couldn't one make the objection that logical laws pretty much serve as a description of how things work, rather than necessary, I don't know, platonic forms of one kind or another, in much the same way as natural laws? That is, that if another universe had been created, there would have been a completely different set of logical laws that govern rational thinking?

    Or are you one of those that hold that these things have ontological status by virtue of being eternally held in the mind of God? Many Catholics I've had the pleasure of conversing with have subscribed to that theory. Again, just playing devil's advocate.

  3. Those are pretty much my thoughts. St. Augustine posited that abstract objects are thoughts of the mind of God. We have knowledge of them because we are created in God's image. I don't see much parity between laws of logic and laws of nature, since the former are indispensable in a much stronger way. In fact, the concept of a universe with different logical laws presupposes the same set of logical laws. After all, such an alternate universe could apparently also *not be* an alternate universe, which is contradictory.

  4. Right. I agree that the denial of the necessity of logical laws lands one in all sorts of contradictions once the view is taken to its limits. Again, the point is mostly about trying to anticipate possible objections and safeguarding the argument against them. In that vein.... :P

    Take premiss 6. As you said, the more controversial of the premisses. The tack that I might take is to point out "abstract" objects that exist outside the mind. Take numbers - or, at least, the concept of different quantities. While one might argue that the numerical system that we use is an artificial and somewhat arbitrary one, we do nonetheless run up against something like the concept of numbers in nature. Take the water molecule, for instance. In order for us to have a molecule of H2O, it is necessary to have two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. Now, admittedly, the appellations of "one" and "two" are more or less arbitrary, but the relationship or concept they prompt our minds to - namely, that of the multiplicity or lack thereof of things - may be said to exist outside the mind, so to speak. If they can be said to exist outside the mind, then one would have to see whether the concept of multiplicity could be rightly said to be abstract. I don't know if it does or not - it's 12:41 AM, and I don't do my best philosophical ramblings at this hour. But some preliminary thoughts:

    The objects - in the case of the water molecule, two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen - are most definitely concrete things when taken alone. However, when they are put together, something beyond the mere collocation of atoms seems to emerge. They now share this relationship, this state of multiplicity, of more-than-oneness. This multiplicity also seems to be specified - namely, when a certain ratio of hydrogen to oxygen atoms is conformed to, we have what we call water; when the exact ratio is not conformed to, we do not have this thing called water. Therefore, there seems to be a sort of auto-quantifying going on independently of our interference. This quantifying state/quality/thingie is not measurable by any exchange of energy or whatever - it arises out of the interaction between two concrete things. Therefore, because of its unquantifiableness - dear Lord, that's a new one - and its specificity, we seem to have ourselves a relation that can be described in very specific, restricted terms. This relationship seems to be referring to a reference point, s locus of identity, you might say. That locus of identity is, at least possibly, an object.

    So yeah. Those are my random thoughts on premiss 6. Excuse my contrariness. It comes up when discussing philosophy, even if somewhat amateurishly.. On a side note, what bass do you own? I had a Washburn XB100 for a while, but I'm playing a Yamaha 5-string at the moment.

  5. I expect that you've seen a link to this post on my blog before, but in case not, and in case you're interested in reading it -- You Cannot Reason -- the argument I present in that post is a "proof by contradiction". The argument assumes that atheism, the denial of God's reality, is the truth about the nature of reality ... and then it shows that the assumption is absurd, for it leads directly to absurdities, such as that we cannot reason nor know truth.

    My comment above, that "YOU are the proof that God is" can be seen as the bumper-sticker version of the argument.

  6. Syllabus "But couldn't one make the objection that logical laws pretty much serve as a description of how things work, rather than necessary, I don't know, platonic forms of one kind or another, in much the same way as natural laws? That is, that if another universe had been created, there would have been a completely different set of logical laws that govern rational thinking?"

    Certainly, one is free (*) to make such an objection -- if one wishes to firmly plant one's flag in the non-ground of absurdity.

    But, notice what the person trying to make such an objection is doing:
    1) he is asserting that (what we call) logical reasoning has no more to do with truth than digestion does;
    1a) he is (recursively) asserting that we cannot know truth;
    2) on the basis of 1), he is trying to use logical reasoning to logically reason that logical reasoning is logically impossible.

    Such an objection is a real-time demonstration of the truth of the argument at my blog to which I linked above. An amusing thing about that is that the person trying to raise the above objection could generally be counted on to assert that my argument is false in some way (which he can also be counted upon to never actually identify), counted upon to assert that the denial of the reality of God does not logicallt entail the absurdity that we cannot know truth nor reason.

    (*) The freedom of the human mind to assert absurdity is another aspect of proof that atheism is not the truth about the nature of reality.

  7. Oh come on, man. I'm on the same team as you. I'm just trying to provide a counterfoil to the argument, to sharpen it. Any points I advance in that pursuit are only advanced because they are possible objections to sections of the argument, not because I myself hold to them.

  8. Oh come on, man ... can you not *follow* a response to your devil's advocate?

    Do you have any idea how *tiresome* it becomes trying to rationally engage persons who either:
    1) cannot/will not distinguish a criticism of something they've said from an attack on their person;
    2) are not paying attention to a sub-argument that they themselves introduced;
    ... which two possibilities seem to cover just about everyone?

  9. I sometimes can't, sorry. A failing of mine. It's easy to learn to be a victim on the internet, see.

  10. We all have our failings; one hopes we try to overcome them (which is an interesting discussion in itself).