October 31, 2020

The Council

Proclaiming the truth to the world.

I’ll respond to this because I think it is a good example of how people don’t understand the issue of when presuppositionalist discuss logic. This is some atheist named Barry on the internet responding to Hays’ about logic on the article “From Whence Does Logic Come? (And why you can’t use it to prove God)”.

Steve Hays replied to the “first principles” part and said:

“But necessary truths of logic can’t derive from contingent truths of the physical world. In many respects, the physical world might have been different. Causation is a weaker principle than logical entailment.”

Well first, Hays is using logic there, so since the issue under discussion is how to account for logic, looks like he is presuming the validity of logic already in his answer, in which case that’s the fallacy of begging the question. Unfortunately, the land of circular reasoning is the only place to go when you foolishly try to “account” for reasoning itself.

When Hays’ is asking for someone to “account” for logic he is asking them to give a metaphysical explanation of the laws of logic. That isn’t viciously circular. We all grant that laws of logic are true, but the questions we are asking are how do you know they are true or what is a law of logic? Those questions presuppose there is such a thing as logic, but all fields of study presuppose there is knowledge in their particular fields. If Hays’ is reasoning in a circle, then he is exercising epistemic circularity and not logical circularity. These are basic distinctions presuppositionalist have made for years. For example:

Circular Reasoning and Circular Arguments

Hays appears not to know what an axiom is; it is a self-evident truth. That’s what the law of non-contradiction is. It is self-evident that a pizza is not both itself and a non-pizza at the same time in the same way.

Hays’ has talked with Clarkians for years. I doubt that he is unaware of what an axiom is. The fact is Hays’ is asking the metaphysical question of “What is a law of logic?” and you are giving him your answer to how you would justify laws of logic. I, of course, find the idea that laws of logic are axioms ridiculous. Why suppose the world works according to your arbitrary assumptions? I could simply make an axiom in which God is the epistemic justification and metaphysical grounding of the laws of logic. You appeal to them being self-evident truths is common, but that ignores the entire eastern world that doesn’t find that very intuitive. It was intuitive and self-evident for the rationalist that the world was made up of monads or that the world is an undifferentiated unity.

The Continental Rationalist

Second, sure is funny that nature cannot conflict with the “logic” that flows from God’s nature, but nature can sure conflict with the “morals” that make up this god. Hays therefore thinks that actually, nobody acts contrary to god’s morals, since everything that happens is what god wanted to happen, including sin.

I cannot even understand the nonsensical reasoning that must have gone into the paragraph that Barry wrote. God’s essence isn’t made up of moral prescriptions, but rather God is the archetypal grounding for objective norms and obligations. Nobody can act out of God’s plan for history, but that isn’t to say that man can’t act contrary to God’s commands.

Third, necessary truths of logic necessarily depend on how we choose to define words. Married bachelors are only logically impossible because we define bachelor as “not married” and “married” as something opposite to bachelorhood. If we chose to define bachelors as any man who is single or hasn’t been married for more than a year, that logical contradiction between bachelor and marriage would disappear.

The obvious issue about this is the failure to distinguish concepts and words. If we switch out the definition of any word, then the linguistic thing will refer to something else. So, this isn’t much a response to anyone.

Finally, it is rather embarrassing for apologists to blame god for logic, since one law of logic is tautology, (i.e., law of identity, “a is a”.

I asked my friend Jimmy Stephens to comment on this point and he said:

I would ask in what sense logical laws are tautological. Is it meant that our expression of the law is needless or redundant? Is it meant that the law is analytical, that the law of identity is true by definition? Is it meant that the laws are logical tautologies, compound propositions without false instances? It seems impossible to come up with a sense in which the objection is true and also embarrassing to a divine conceptualist. The spirit of the objection seems to be that laws of logic are trivial, but the objection itself poses a good example of a deepity.

The laws of logic are hardly needless. They enter into many debates as either a means of adjudicating who is correct and who is not or as the very point of disagreement. They are not redundant for at least two reasons. First, not all philosophers agree about laws of logic, what they are in content, where they fit in ontology, what roles the play in epistemology. In fact, in order for this objection to even work, we need to consider these questions about the laws of logic, thus making them needful and unsuperfluous. But more importantly, “laws of logic” is a loaded term for a more general concept of how humans should think. By arguing at all, the objector has presupposed this concept and so is, at best, just proposing his own take on laws of logic against the Christian God. To put it another way, the objector is demonstrating the significance of logical laws by philosophizing about them in order to argue that logical laws are insignificant. This kind of self-refutation borders on hypocrisy.
But maybe the objector just means that the laws of logic are analytical or logically tautological. It is not clear how that is an objection at all. Why does the supposed analyticity of the law of identity pose a threat to divine conceptualism? This strikes me as akin to saying God should be embarrassed for creating squares or bachelors. However, if analytical truths are an ontological embarrassment at all, the objector has not made it clear why. Worse, he has not made it clear why analyticity threatens Christian metaphysics and not his own. After all, if the laws of logic are something to be embarrassed about, it appears our objector is wearing the emperor’s new clothes, and it’s cold out. To sum up, claiming that the laws of logic are a problem for divine conceptualism is a striking claim, but to pin it on the basis of analyticity would require an ingenious argument the likes of which has not been presented, on pain of this objector refuting himself.
As for logical tautologicality, that is precisely what it means for the laws to be universal. Or that is what universality entails: a proposition without false instances. Without further clarification why this is a difficulty, the Christian is perfectly within his rights to respond, “So what?” Again, it is hard to see how this objection is not immediately self-defeated. How does the objector intend to show that logical tautologicality threatens Christian conceptualism but not the objector’s own view? It appears he has a great task before him which he has merely taken for granted. Our skeptic might as well have suggested that if ducks were inconsistent with divine conceptualism, then divine conceptualism is false. That’s great and all, but where’s the justification for the antecedent?