Monday, August 04, 2008

A New Version of Gordon Clark's argument

From Timothy.

69 comments:

Timothy said...

My word! I never thought it would be noticed. I'm only 15 and I'm literally shocked :O. I'm curious to know from the readers of this blog... does my argument hold any merit?

Anonymous said...

Here’s my argument:

1. Laws of logic exists.
2. Laws of logic are immutable (unchangeable).
3. Laws of logic are eternal.
4. Laws of logic are mental (pertaining to mind or minds).
5. Laws of logic are superior to the human mind.
6. Laws of logic therefore reflect the thinking and nature of God

Therefore, God exists.

Timothy,

4 is questionable. Is it saying that if laws of logic exist a mind has to because those laws are always and everywhere located in minds? That might beg the question. Some might say that they exist in all possible worlds, even worlds without a mind. To say a mind exists in all possible worlds - God's mind - wouldn't get you far with some atheists.

5 to 6 doesn't follow. Maybe they reflect the thinking of Vulcan's mind? A Vulcan's mind is superior to a human's. Further, some might question 5. What does it even mean to say that?

Two of the three laws you mention on your site have been questioned as to their universibility. Some would deny 2, dialetheists for instance.

And how would one know that they reflect the thinking of God? Either a natural theological argument would need to be given, or an interpretation of the text of some sacred scripture - both seem questionable.

Those are just some brief thoughts...

Timothy said...

Thanks for the feedback!

"Is it saying that if laws of logic exist a mind has to because those laws are always and everywhere located in minds?"

Laws of logic would exist even if I didn't exist. It doesn't have to always exist in my mind. If everything living on earth simply vanished, they would still be around. It probably is true that they exist in possible words without a mind, in that is our mind - I personally don't see how they can exist apart from a mind such as God. Their nature seem to entail the existence of it.

5 means that they are superior in that they govern our thought. Maybe they would govern the thinking of a Vulcan's mind, if the Vulcan was an immutable, eternal, and transcendent being. Here it sounds like a transcendental argument, since I sorta mashed the two together into one.

I do know that the three classical laws have been disputed so some people. Perhaps in place of the three classical laws, I can use whatever system of logic you decide to use.

And finally, how would you know the last premise is true? Well, the premises state that: laws of logic are immutable, eternal, mental, and superior to the human mind. So it then reflects the thinking of a being that is immutable, eternal, and superior to humans.

Thanks for the criticism, I appreciate it.

Clayton said...

Hey Timothy,
I personally don't see how they can exist apart from a mind such as God. Their nature seem to entail the existence of it.

That may be, but there's lots of people who either deny this or just don't know what to make of it one way or the other. So, I think the argument needs to be supplemented with a further argument that the laws of logic must be found in some mind or other. There's actually an interesting debate about this involving Frege and Husserl if you're interested.

Anonymous said...

Timothy,

That "you can't see how they could exist without God" is fine for you, but you're trying to persuade other people. That "their nature seems to entail such" is what you are supposed to be proving.

The Vulcan doesn't need to be eternal etc., just "superior to a human." If you are saying that laws of logic must exist in a mind, and that mind must be eternal etc., then you would need to demonstrate that, not assert it (as you did in p.4).

"Perhaps in place of the three classical laws, I can use whatever system of logic you decide to use."

Yeah, okay, the system where those laws are not immutable and universal. If the law of non-contradiction has some exceptions, then it isn't absolute and universal.

"Well, the premises state that: laws of logic are immutable, eternal, mental, and superior to the human mind. So it then reflects the thinking of a being that is immutable, eternal, and superior to humans."

That's exactly what's been questioned. That they can or even are _grasped_ or _apprehended_ by a mind, doesn't mean that they are necessarily "in" minds, or essentially "constitute" a mind. This then means they they could exist without being "grasped" or "apprehended" by any mind.

And again, your arguments needs this premise:

A mind exists in all possible worlds.

But that just means God exists.

And if you can demonstrate that "a mind exists in all possible worlds" then you wouldn't even need this argument.

Timothy said...

"There's actually an interesting debate about this involving Frege and Husserl if you're interested."

I'm interested in reading more about that. Where can I find said debate?

"If you are saying that laws of logic must exist in a mind, and that mind must be eternal etc., then you would need to demonstrate that, not assert it"

That's sort of what I'm saying, and I'll be sure to demonstrate it instead of just asserting it outright. I believe Clayton pointed out the same thing as well.

"Yeah, okay, the system where those laws are not immutable and universal. If the law of non-contradiction has some exceptions, then it isn't absolute and universal."

Hmm, that would be a problem. I admit that I'm not exactly familiar with non-classical logic. That's a valid criticism as of now. I hope to learn more about that soon.

"That's exactly what's been questioned. That they can or even are _grasped_ or _apprehended_ by a mind, doesn't mean that they are necessarily "in" minds, or essentially "constitute" a mind. This then means they they could exist without being "grasped" or "apprehended" by any mind."

They can exist independent of our minds, but I'm not so sure about the mind of God. My argument on that point is that the laws of logic aren't impersonal, they govern thinking and thinking is the exclusive ability of persons, so the source of these laws of logic would be a personal mind.

"And if you can demonstrate that "a mind exists in all possible worlds" then you wouldn't even need this argument."

The argument that I'm using can be used to prove the existence of a mind in all possible worlds, though you're right in that I can use other arguments to do so.

Thanks for the feedback and criticism everyone! I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Timothy,

I would be careful about premises (3) and (4). That the laws of logic are immutable and eternal is contentious, especially for logicians working to develop alternative logics. For instance, one law of logic you might deem "immutable" is the law of non-contradiction [i.e. ~(A & ~A), or "it is not the case that both A and not A"]. But there are logicians who have developed systems of logic for which contradictions are acceptable. For instance, paraconsistent logic holds that there are sentences, A, such that it can be the case that both A and ~A are true.

Another criticism:
If I read your argument correctly, you're saying that the laws of logic exemplify certain divine characteristics and that this fact demonstrates God's existence. I'm not sure that this is correct and I’ll offer a counterexample to demonstrate my point: Certainly, there are many real creatures that share characteristics of mythological creatures, yet we're not inclined to think that creatures from myths are real.

Perhaps a specific example will clarify my point: we know that horses have many of the features that are commonly ascribed to unicorns, including long tails, a body covered in hair, four legs with hooves, etc. But this is no reason to think that unicorns actually exist. Analogously, even if we suppose that the laws of logic exemplify divine characteristics (like being eternal, immutable, and so on) that does not, in itself, serve to demonstrate the existence of any kind of divine being.

stunney said...

...."a mind exists in all possible worlds" then you wouldn't even need this argument.

I just finished re-reading Thought and Reality by Michael Dummett. The last chapter contains an argument for the existence of God, a premise of which is that a world that never contains any mind is an unintelligible notion.

The key idea is that reality consists of facts, and facts are, or are what is expressed by, true propositions. The notion of true propositions being capable of transcending all possible evidence for asserting them is, of course, fiercely attacked by Dummett. His staunch anti-realism thus necessitates the impossibility of forever-mindless worlds.

But if all possible worlds of necessity contain minds, and there are different minds inhabiting the same world, then how, asks Dummett, are we to think of a world as it is in itself? That can only make sense if there is an omniscient mind that apprehends it.

Steve Lovell said...

This alternative logics stuff is interesting. People seem awfully close to saying things like this:

(1) There are possible worlds in which classical logic does not apply

To which I reply: "Possible" in what sense? Logically possible, I presume. But they aren't logically possible by any logic I recognize.

(2) Classical logic and other logics contradict each other, and can't both apply to reality.

To which I reply: Indeed, but the only thing which allows you to make this inference is the correctness of classical logic.

Why should Timothy be worried about alternate logics if their correctness doesn't preclude the correctness of classical logic? Their correctness would only preclude the correctness of classical logic if classical logic were itself correct, in which case the non-classical logic would be incorrect.

Timothy: a nice starting place for a Christian thinking about Frege and Husserl and collecting some references would be Dallas Willard's material here .

There are some powerful arguments for and against a position known as psychologism. In my view theism get's the best of both worlds by allowing both that logic inheres in the mental, and that it nevertheless transcends any finite mind.

Steve

Anonymous said...

"This alternative logics stuff is interesting. People seem awfully close to saying things like this:

(2) Classical logic and other logics contradict each other, and can't both apply to reality."

But that ain't really what people are saying here. You've distorted their comments and consequently ended up attacking a stawman.
----------------------

"3. Laws of logic are eternal."

Laws of logic are atemporal. That's not the same as eternal.

Timothy said...

Thanks for the recommendation - are there any articles on the list which should take priority? Or should I read them all?

Clayton said...

Hey Timothy,

Sorry I didn't get back to you earlier. I'd start with the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on Psychologism (here).

I haven't read the Willard piece, but I can't think of a single reason why it would be better to get a 'Christian' perspective on this debate than, say, just an unbiased discussion of the issues that isn't constrained by doctrinal commitments. In general, the people who you'd identify as 'good' Christian philosophers did not get to be that way by insulating themselves from non-Christian writers or by doing philosophy by first asking 'What should a Christian think about this?'.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

That's not the "alternative logics" position. They actually attack the LNC in _this_ world, showing it to have counterexamples, _in this world_. Then they have developed, _in this world_, systems of logic that do not treat the LNC as universally valid. Generally, almost all critiques of these people have simply _assumed_ the very point in dispute, that the LNC is universally valid and that classical logic is true.

Steve Lovell said...

Anonymous (or Anonymice),

Accusing me of committing the straw man fallacy is a bit rich. If you read my post again, you'll see I said that people are coming "awfully close" to certain statements.

The relevant question for those offering alternative logics is why Timothy should be bothered if they don't exclude classical logic, and how can they exclude anything if they reject LNC?

I personally have never seen a decent "this world" counterexample to LNC (nor the law of excluded middle). I've seen lots of supposed counterexamples which hinge on a misunderstanding of "not". Can anyone point me at the better counterexamples?

Clayton,

I quite agree that there are other places to start in reading about psychologism, Husserl and Frege. Like you I'd also recommend reading on all sides of the discussion. What I said wasn't "the best place to start reading is ...". Nor did I say that one should start with a Christian perspective, I just said that Dallas Willard's page was a nice place to start if you wanted a Christian perspective. As far a bias goes ... I might just as well say Timothy should ignore your recommendation of the Stanford Encyclopedia articles because you are biaised on the topic at hand. Victor's blog isn't a place where you can get away with this sort of Bulverism.

Timothy,

Dallas Willard's material is perhaps not the best "starting point". Not because it's biaised (see above) but because it's not very introductory. The easiest piece is probably "Knowledge and Naturalism" (for the Moreland/Craig collection on Naturalism), and you can follow the footnotes round to other articles. Hope this helps.

Steve

Timothy said...

I'll just read that and everything else you guys have recommended. Willard's essay in Craig and Moreland's book is available on his site (I believe Vic has linked to it before).

On a sidenote, I addressed some criticism posted here the best I could on my blog comments (since it was posted there too).

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

"Accusing me of committing the straw man fallacy is a bit rich. If you read my post again, you'll see I said that people are coming "awfully close" to certain statements."

The was the other anonymous, not this anonymous. The rest of your claims apply to this anonymous. This anonymous is me. :-)

"The relevant question for those offering alternative logics is why Timothy should be bothered if they don't exclude classical logic, and how can they exclude anything if they reject LNC?"

Well, Steve, they don't "reject the LNC." They "reject" the _universality_ of the LNC. You are confusing (unconciously) dialetheists and trivialists. The "don't exclude" anything objection is taken up by Graham Priest et. al, too. And since you didn't say "awefully close" to rejecting the LNC, I will take my lead and accuse you of the straw man fallacy. :-)

"I personally have never seen a decent "this world" counterexample to LNC (nor the law of excluded middle). I've seen lots of supposed counterexamples which hinge on a misunderstanding of "not". Can anyone point me at the better counterexamples?"

Sure:

The SEP article on dialetheism would be a good place to start.

Beyond the Limits of Thought by Graham Priest (OUP, Feb 27, 2003)

In Contradiction: A Study of the Transconsistent by Priest (OUP, 2006)

The Law of Non-Contradiction, eds. Priest, Beall, Armour-Garb (OUP, 2007)

Doubt Truth to be a Liar, by Priest (OUP, 2008)

An Introduction to Non-Classical Logic: From If to Is (Cambridge Introductions to Philosophy) by Priest (OUP, 2008)

Victor Reppert said...

There's been a lot of discussion of the relevance of paraconsistent logics on Dangerous Idea 2. But I wonder what premise of the argument the argument from paraconsistent logics is supposed to be attacking. No one, I take it, is denying 1, the claim that laws of logic exist. What they might claim is that we are clear on what they are, that LNC is one of them. In Priest's systems there are laws of logic, you can't just get anything from anything. They are just not the laws we thought they were. So the argument is not affected.

Timothy said...

I'm not very familiar with paraconsistent logic, but wouldn't counterexamples to LNC beg the question because they themselves are using LNC?

Anonymous said...

Victor,

P2 might be one of them. Timothy said he meant by logic (at least) the three classical laws and claimed that they were all immutable and universal. P3 might be another depending on what "eternal" means.

Then there's the other problems with the argument that haven't been answered...

Anonymous said...

Timothy,

"I'm not very familiar with paraconsistent logic, but wouldn't counterexamples to LNC beg the question because they themselves are using LNC?"

No.

The first place you can go to familiarize yourself is the SEP article on dialetheism. It is free and on line.

Anonymous said...

I don't think objections to this argument have to focus on alternative logic. This thread has gone off on a long digression about such matters and I feel that many serious problems with the argument have been ignored. Assuming anyone's interested, I’ll throw in my two cents:

I don’t think premise (1) is controversial. Certainly, laws of logic like the LNC or rules of inference like modus ponens can be understood and can be translated into formal symbols by us, so it’s reasonable to say that they exist, at least in some sense.

Premises (2) and (3) may require some argumentation. How do we know the laws of logic are eternal and immutable? This is something that needs to be argued for, rather than just asserted.

Premise (4) is where we get to some serious difficulties. First of all, it seems unclear just what it means to say that "the Laws of logic are mental." Moreover, just because a thing “pertains to mind,” it doesn't follow that the thing in question is mental. For instance, we can use an fMRI scan to take pictures of brain events that correlate with a person’s mental states. Certainly, the pictures pertain to the person’s mind, yet they are not themselves mental (that is, assuming idealism isn‘t true; but of course that‘s a whole different matter).

As for premise (5), I have no idea what Timothy means. What sort of hierarchy are we placing laws of logic and the human mind in when we say that the former is superior to the latter? Moreover, as others have noted, just because there’s a sense in which something is better than human beings, it doesn’t automatically follow that the thing in question is God-like.

Given how vague and ill-developed premises 2-5 are, I don’t think we can make the inference from them to premise (6), and thus the entire argument undermined. Now I’m not saying there’s no way the argument could be salvaged. All I'm saying is that in order to fix it, there would have to be a great deal of revision and elaboration of its premises.

One last point: it’s not clear to me that we can infer the existence of one thing by simply examining the ontology of another thing. I see Timothy’s argument as attempting to do this. What makes us think that we can demonstrate God’s existence by examining the ontology of logical laws?

Timothy said...

I do agree that my argument needs further elaboration on some premises, it's still something I'm working on. Now what I mean by premise five is that laws of logic are are superior to the human mind in that they are not contingent on it and such.

"What makes us think that we can demonstrate God’s existence by examining the ontology of logical laws?"

The argument is basically that laws of logic are grounded in a divine mind. It is actually very similar to this argument.

Anonymous said...

"Now what I mean by premise five is that laws of logic are are superior to the human mind in that they are not contingent on it and such."

But certainly, there are many things not contingent upon the human mind that could not really be said to be superior to it. The growth and reproduction of bacteria is not contingent upon the human mind, but I don't see how that makes it superior to the human mind.

"The argument is basically that laws of logic are grounded in a divine mind. It is actually very similar to this argument."

Now be careful; the argument that is the focus of this comment thread is different from the argument presented in the blog you linked to above. Your argument purports only to show that God's nature is reflected in the laws of logic. You don't say anywhere in your argument that the laws of logic are grounded in a divine mind. These are two very different arguments.

Timothy said...


But certainly, there are many things not contingent upon the human mind that could not really be said to be superior to it. The growth and reproduction of bacteria is not contingent upon the human mind, but I don't see how that makes it superior to the human mind.


Not in that sense. They are higher than our mind in the sense that they are: not contingent on it, a process of the mind, unchanging, governing thought processes, etc...


Your argument purports only to show that God's nature is reflected in the laws of logic. You don't say anywhere in your argument that the laws of logic are grounded in a divine mind. These are two very different arguments.


If all the premises follow, and if laws of logic reflect God's nature, then I don't see how you can't deduce that they are grounded in His mind. If they exist, are immutable, are mental processes, and superior to the human mind, then they exist in the mind of God and therefore reflect His thinking, which would mean that they are grounded in His mind too.

Anonymous said...

"Not in that sense. They are higher than our mind in the sense that they are: not contingent on it, a process of the mind, unchanging, governing thought processes, etc..."

You have yet to explain why you think that not being contingent, unchanging, etc. can make one thing "higher than" another. Moreover, it's unclear just what is meant by "higher than," so you'll need to explain that as well.

"If all the premises follow, and if laws of logic reflect God's nature, then I don't see how you can't deduce that they are grounded in His mind."

But you haven't argued for this conclusion; the argument you've given purports to derive a different one. Further, as others have already pointed out, YOU may not be able to see how one can fail to deduce your conclusion about God from the premises, but for many people that's not the case, since the premises are contentious and the inferences made are questionable. So, you'll need to provide some further argumentation.

Steve Lovell said...

Anonymous,

I think "superior" is probably a poor choice of word in this argument, but that doesn't mean the argument fails.

I actually think that in the sense timothy intends 5, it follows from 1-4. That is, from 1-4 it follows (or at least is supposed to follow) that laws of logic are dependant on some non-human mind. From 4 we get that they are dependant on some mind or other. From 2 and 3 we get that they can't be dependant on human minds because human minds aren't eternal or unchangable. In that sense, logic must be dependant on some eternal mind. This mind is therefore "superior" but most importantly "other than" any human mind or minds.

Timothy, I'd be interested to hear whether you think this is a helpful reconstruction of your argument.

Steve

Timothy said...

That reconstruction would help in dealing with some misconceptions. It phrased it in a way that I was trying to.

Anonymous said...

“From 4 we get that [laws of logic] are dependant on some mind or other.”

Ok, fair enough, but (4) needs to be argued for, especially since it’s been a hotly debated topic in philosophy for the last hundred years or so. In addition to looking into the Husserl/Frege debate, which is basically between psychologism and some kind of quasi-Platonism, you could add another view. Rudolf Carnap argues in his “Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology,” that the external question of the independent existence of a system of abstract entities (like logical laws) is not a meaningful one. This is because there’s no agreed upon set of evidence that would be deemed relevant to answering questions about the origin of such entities. Our acceptance of logical laws, then, is grounded in the pragmatic acceptance of a certain linguistic framework that contains those laws and it need not depend upon a theoretical assertion of the independent existence of a system that contains the laws.

If Carnap is right, we can accept that logical laws are authoritative and unchanging (within a certain linguistic framework, of course), but we can deny (4), and thus we're not committed to holding that laws of logic depend upon an eternal mind.

Bill Snedden said...

Hmm, I can't see any way that this argument can succeed unless one holds that the "laws of logic" are prescriptive, rather than descriptive. But how can a sentence about logic prescribe it's own content? The law of contradiction must be true in order for propositions to exist, so how can a proposition prescribe its own existence?

If one takes logical laws to be descriptive, the issue is moot, however this argument is rendered so as well: If we don't need a proposition to prescribe the content of logic, then we don't need a mind to create one to do so.

It seems to me that the basic flaw here is a confusion of truth makers with truth bearers (granting arguendo that a distinction exists), a flaw shared by Clark's argument as well. The so-called "laws" of logic (non-contradiction & identity, I assume) are propositions and as such are truth bearers but not necessarily truth makers. For example, the proposition "it is raining" is true iff it actually is raining. The proposition has a truth value which is determined by it's isomorphic relation to reality. If the proposition comports to reality, it's true. If not, it's false.

I would say that laws of logic are truth bearers. That is, they are true by virtue of representing a veridical model of reality. A=A not because the law of identity says so, but rather A=A because it is the nature of reality that it be so and the law of identity describes this nature.

And this is the same issue I see with Clark's argument. Reality isn't true or false, it just is. Only propositions can be true or false. So while that upon which the truth or falsity of propositions depends could certainly be eternal and immutable, it just isn't the case that "truth is eternal" UNLESS one already believes in an eternal mind. Likewise it's also not necessarily the case that truth is superior to the human mind UNLESS one already accepts an other-than-human mind. But these are essentially the conclusion for which Clark is arguing. petitio principii, anyone?

And so with this version as well.

AT any rate, the view that laws of logic are grounded in the nature of reality is consonant with the notion that logic is grounded in the immutable and eternal nature of God (for if God exists, He's the ultimate reality), but it's also consonant with the notion that logic is grounded in the immutable and eternal nature of existence (sans God), so as an argument for God's existence the existence of laws of logic (or truth for that matter) seems to me to be a non-starter.

Anonymous said...

"4. Laws of logic are mental (pertaining to mind or minds)."

Sure, minds think about laws of logic. But they also think about horse manure.

I doubt that you can support your notion that laws of logic are mental.

Steve Lovell said...

Anonymous,

I don't think you've grasped the argument here. When Timothy says the laws of logic are mental, he certainly doesn't merely mean that we can think about them. As you point out, that would be trivial and uninteresting.

The deeper idea is that laws of logic have no existence independant of minds. Since laws of logic, unlike horse manure, certainly don't seem to be materially constituted, this seems a plausible premise. At least, there's no quick refutation along the lines you are suggesting.

Steve

Anonymous said...

“I don't think you've grasped the argument here. When Timothy says the laws of logic are mental, he certainly doesn't merely mean that we can think about them. As you point out, that would be trivial and uninteresting.

The deeper idea is that laws of logic have no existence independant of minds.
Since laws of logic, unlike horse manure, certainly don't seem to be materially constituted, this seems a plausible premise.“

And how does this justify Timothy’s claim that the laws of logic are mental? Because they are not “materially constituted”? That alone will not do it.
There are many things that are not materially constituted and yet I would not place them in the category of the mental: the rules of chess, the civil laws of this country, the sonnets of Shakespeare, etc.


“At least, there's no quick refutation along the lines you are suggesting.”

Do I need to refute it? Doesn’t Timothy need to provide support for his assertion? It doesn’t appear to me to be true.

Steve Lovell said...

Anonymous,

I concede your point about the dialectic. You don't need to refute Timothy's argument. But you surely do need to cast doubt on the premises. I think the premise is plausible. I agree that it's a matter for debate, and that lots of people will deny it. I just don't think your going the right way about casting doubt on that premise. You seemed in your first post to be suggesting that Timothy was confusing being an objects of thought with "being dependant on minds". I don't think that he makes that confusion.

Now you suggest that lot's of things are not materially constituted but are nevertheless not dependant on minds for their existence. This seems a better objection. Unfortunately the examples you give don't help your case. If anything they seem to me to support the notion that non-materially consituted existence is dependant on minds. How else are they constituted?

Steve

Anonymous said...

“Now you suggest that lot's of things are not materially constituted but are nevertheless not dependant on minds for their existence.”

That’s not quite what I suggested. Rather, the laws of logic or the laws of this country, or poems, etc. are not what I would place in the category of the mental. We can think about such things as laws and poetry and make new laws, rules, poems, etc. with our minds but that no more makes such things mental than thinking of horse manure makes it mental.


“This seems a better objection. Unfortunately the examples you give don't help your case. If anything they seem to me to support the notion that non-materially consituted existence is dependant on minds. How else are they constituted?”

You appear to be making the assumption that what exists has to be “constituted” of some kind of substance: either material substance or mental substance. I see little reason to agree with that assumption.

Steve Lovell said...

Anonymous,

I'm getting the feelings that we're talking past each other. I can understand the idea that not all existence needs some sort of substance mental or physical (although I think I disagree), but I still think you are missing the real import of Timothy's fourth premise. What that requires is the "dependance on mind/minds" thesis which I have suggested in my replies to you. You seem intent on reading that premise as some claim about objects of thought. That's just isn't how the argument goes.

The argument is more likely to go:

(4.1) Whatever exist, exist either either in the material world or the mental world.
(4.2) Laws of logic don't exist in the material world.
(4.3) Therefore, Laws of logic exist in the mental world (from 1, 4.1 and 4.2).

And the argument continues from there.

What I'm saying is that the objection that 4.1 is false is something people can sensibly argue about, but the objection from horse-manure is a very different objection which I don't think Timothy needs to worry about.

Steve

Bill Snedden said...

Steve Lovell: "(4.1) Whatever exist, exist either either in the material world or the mental world.
(4.2) Laws of logic don't exist in the material world.
(4.3) Therefore, Laws of logic exist in the mental world (from 1, 4.1 and 4.2)."

But even granting this, the conclusion of the argument still doesn't follow from the premises. If, as I posted earlier, the laws of logic are understood to be descriptive, then the argument fails.

Here is, possibly, an analogue: When God says, "I will do X", and then does X, He doesn't do so because He *said* "I will do X", He does X because it is in His nature to do X (and never to lie about what He does, etc). IOW, it's not the proposition, "I will do X" that governs God's behavior, rather it's His nature that does so.

And so with existence itself. It's not the law of noncontradiction that ensures that A cannot be B, but rather it's simply the nature of existence that it be so. Laws of logic are mental representations of reality, but they do not constrain or govern reality. Indeed, as I noted earlier this would actually be impossible as it would require a proposition to be true *without* the law of noncontradiction; a clear absurdity.

As I see it, the only way around this is to posit that the ultimate ground of reality (i.e., the propositional truth-maker) is mental rather than non-mental in composition. But in terms of Timothy's argument (and Clark's as well), it seems to me that this is to assume it's conclusion (or, at least, something very close to it). Additional premises would be required to make this assumption explicit and as it's most certainly controversial some evidence or argument to support it is needed as well.

Anonymous said...

“(4.1) Whatever exist, exist either either in the material world or the mental world.
(4.2) Laws of logic don't exist in the material world.
(4.3) Therefore, Laws of logic exist in the mental world (from 1, 4.1 and 4.2).

And the argument continues from there.

What I'm saying is that the objection that 4.1 is false is something people can sensibly argue about, but the objection from horse-manure is a very different objection which I don't think Timothy needs to worry about.”

Would agree that we are probably doing some talking past each other, because I don’t think we fully understand each other’s position here.

In any case, I would object strongly to (4.1). We live in one world. The people living in this world do use the laws of logic to reason and act more rationally in this world. I think Timothy would have a difficult task substantiating something like (4.1).

normajean said...
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Anonymous said...

There doesn't seem to be any good reason to accept Steve Lovell's tripartite elaboration of (4), and I can see a good reason we have for rejecting it.

Steve doesn’t explain why the laws of logic don’t exist in the material world. Maybe he's suggesting that they don’t because they’re not material things. But that’s problematic. There are plenty of immaterial things that exist in the material world. For instance, there are certain physical fields, or vacuums, that exist in the material world, yet they are not composed of matter. Government is not a material thing, nor is society, nor are natural processes like evolution by natural selection. So, we can’t immediately infer that the laws of logic exist in some kind of non-material place from the fact that they’re not material things. At any rate, in order for Steve's version of (4) to work, it needs to be demonstrated that the laws of logic don't exist in the material world.

So where do logical laws exist? I think if a linguist were asked where the laws of logic exist, the response would be that such laws are simply features of our language (this is a pretty standard view in linguistics), and since language most certainly exists in the material world, so do the laws of logic. So I don't see any need to create some additional mental realm where the laws of logic reside. We can understand them as existing wholly within our own reality, as features of human language.

Perhaps my view will elicit the response, “How did the laws of logic get into our language? Wouldn’t that have required some God-like mind?” I’m inclined to think that it wouldn’t. If language is a product of human evolution (this is a pretty standard view in linguistics as well as psychology), then it’s reasonable to suppose that laws (like the law of non-contradiction) would be required for people to communicate. Indeed, everyday communication would be extremely perplexing and difficult if it were acceptable for people to say things like “I’m going to pick you up at the bus stop and I’m not going to pick you up at the bus stop,” and so I think it’s reasonable to view laws that discourage such statements as a simple evolutionary development.

Steve Lovell said...

I'm finding it very difficult to keep track of all the anonymice here, so I'll start with Bill.

Bill,

I'm quite taken by your account of logical laws. I agree that such an account would cause problems for the argument. But I also find the account problematic. If the LNC true because it corresponds to the nature of reality, in what sense, if any, is the LNC a necessary truth? Do the laws of logic obtain necessarily? There is of course the difficult question of whether my own question is meaningful. After all, it seems to invite the question: "Necessary in what sense? Logically necessary?" Still, I'm rather uncomfortable witht the account, as tempting as I find it on other grounds.

Anonymous/Anonymice,

I use the term "world" very loosely in 4.1 to 4.3. I was just struggling to find words to say what I meant. I don't think anything hangs on the word, only on the mental/material distinction.

As for there being plenty of things which aren't material but are nevertheless not "immaterial", I'm not sure how to respond. I'm a little tempted to say that things like gravitational fields don't exist at all. Rather, the law of gravity describes the behaviour of massive bodies. But even if we say that these things do exist, they will be material in an extended sense, namely of having a causal influence on other things which we already think of as material. Not so the laws of logic.

I'm also uncomfortable about the evolutionary/linguistic account of language. As with Bill's line, I'm not sure it will account of the necessity of logic. Certainly the evolutionary bit won't help there. The linguistic approach is likely to meet with more success. Is the idea that assuming the application of LNC is a prerequisite of meaningful communication? I'd be inclined to agree, but I don't think that is sufficient to justify our use of LNC as (part of) a means of arguing towards previously unknown truths. Also on this account, what of all these supposed alternative logics which have been discussed above?

I'd agree that none of the above is terribly conclusive in favour of the argument, but philosophical arguments are only very rarely conclusive, and I haven't seen anything to make me think the argument is just silly. At least not yet.

Steve

Anonymous said...

In response to Steve’s latest post:

“I'm not sure [the linguistic/evolutionary account] will account of the necessity of logic…Is the idea that assuming the application of LNC is a prerequisite of meaningful communication? I'd be inclined to agree, but I don't think that is sufficient to justify our use of LNC as (part of) a means of arguing towards previously unknown truths. Also on this account, what of all these supposed alternative logics which have been discussed above?”

I don’t see why logical laws couldn’t be both necessary in the context of the language of which they are features, and at the same time emerge from evolutionary processes. I’m not exactly saying that the LNC is a prerequisite for meaningful communication. It’s just that meaningful communication would be very difficult for our species without such laws. Without a good means to communicate, the genetic fitness of our species would be impeded, and so it seems plausible (from a linguistic perspective) to view the emergence of such laws as an evolutionary development.

I guess we have to think about what we mean when we say that the laws of logic are “necessary.” Certainly, they’re necessary for common, everyday communication. Consider the following violation of the LNC: “take the medicine right now and don’t take the medicine right now.” Obviously, that just won’t work. So maybe there’s also room to view laws like the LNC as linguistic developments that occurred for pragmatic reasons.

I’m not sure exactly what you mean when you say that the linguistic account is insufficient to justify the use of the LNC as a means for arguing for previously unknown truths. Just what sort of truths are you talking about? Maybe the linguistic account is correct and we’re simply not justified in arguing for previously unknown truths. Or maybe there are no previously unknown truths to argue for.

As far as alternative logics are concerned, I think their existence is consistent with my argument. One big reason for the development of alternative logics is the advent of quantum mechanics. Physicists have discovered that particles at the quantum level can literally be in two places at once. This seems to be a clear violation of the law of excluded middle. So now we have one big incentive to revise classical logic. Notice that, until the 20th century, human beings hadn’t encountered anything that behaved the way quantum particles behave. So, it’s reasonable, from a linguistic perspective, to view the development of new logics as (partially) a result of scientific developments like quantum mechanics. To put it bluntly, alternative logics didn’t emerge until recently because previously there was no linguistic demand for them.

-Dan

P.S. a good way to respond to anonymous comments might be to address your posts with time at which the anonymous poster made the comment. For instance, you could start out your post like this:

Anonymous (10:24),

Bill Snedden said...

Steve: "But I also find the account problematic. If the LNC true because it corresponds to the nature of reality, in what sense, if any, is the LNC a necessary truth? Do the laws of logic obtain necessarily?"

Yes, of course. If the LoNC were not to obtain, then nothing could. IOW, existence could not exist without the LoNC being a veridical model.

"There is of course the difficult question of whether my own question is meaningful. After all, it seems to invite the question: "Necessary in what sense? Logically necessary?"

Necessary period; in every sense. I'm not sure I understand the issue. Are you asking whether the question, "is the LoNC a necessary truth?" a meaningless question? I don't necessarily think so, but I would say that the answer seems to me rather obvious.

"Still, I'm rather uncomfortable witht the account, as tempting as I find it on other grounds."

Well, I can't say that your response has given me any reason to be uncomfortable with it myself. In fact, it seems the only possible account. Even if God exists, laws of logic can't be dependent upon His will as that would lead to absurdities. Therefore they must be descriptive rather than prescriptive and arguments to God's existence from the mere existence of logic (or truth) would seem to have no dispositive value.

Steve Lovell said...

Bill,

You say: "If the LoNC were not to obtain, then nothing could. IOW, existence could not exist without the LoNC being a veridical model."

The problem here is that it makes LoNC sound "prior" to reality, but you were saying that the nature of reality grounds logic.

Does reality have a nature logically prior to the existence of anything?

Or perhaps you mean something deeper when you say "existence could not exist". I've taken that as meaning "nothing could exist".

Steve

Bill Snedden said...

Steve: "The problem here is that it makes LoNC sound "prior" to reality, but you were saying that the nature of reality grounds logic.

Does reality have a nature logically prior to the existence of anything?"

No. The nature of any existent is prior to any description of it.

"Or perhaps you mean something deeper when you say "existence could not exist". I've taken that as meaning "nothing could exist"."

"Nothing", as a putative state of affairs, seems to me a logical impossibility. "Nothing" is the negation of everything, including existence, so to say that "nothing" could exist would be a contradiction in terms.

What I'm saying is not that the LoNC is prior, logically or otherwise, to existence, but that the only way existence could exist is in a way such that the LoNC would represent a veridical *description* of it.

Steve Lovell said...

Bill,

I'm still struggling with "existence existing". When you say "the only way existence could exist" is this equivalent to "the only way anything could exist"?

When I said "nothing could exist" I didn't mean: "There is something, which could exist, and that something is nothing". What I meant was "There are no things which could exist".

But perhaps you are asserting that it's a necessary truth that "Something exists". (Logically necessary? a contradiction to say otherwise?. Lots of interesting questions there, if that's what you're saying.)

If LoNC is not prior in any sense to existence, then what makes it the case that:

"the only way existence could exist is in a way such that the LoNC would represent a veridical *description* of it."

This sounds like some sort of metaphysical guarantee but, on your account, I don't see where this guarantee can come from in advance of the existence of anything. After all, the guarantee seems equivalent to LoNC but LoNC is not supposed to obtain prior to the existence of concrete material things.

Anonymous (3:26),

My comment about using LoNC to argue towards previously unknown truths applies as follows. Suppose we argue from our current knowledge that if some condition where met, then a contradiction would follow. We conclude that that condition could not possibily be met (unless one of our other assumptions was faulty). However, if LoNC arises in the way you suggest, we might be wrong in this inference. It might be that the "contradiction" obtains afterall and is one of these new cases where we should have been using different logics to undergird our conversational practice. In other words, on your account we can't use LoNC to argue that some state of affairs doesn't obtain.

LoNC on this account does not tell us that anything is impossible, just that if it is possible we'll have to reject classical logic.

This might seem acceptable to some, but I'm really not happy to go to those lengths.

I've never seen the appeal of the idea that quantum phenomena force a rejection of the law of excluded middle (or other elements of classical logic). They may force a revision of our concepts of place or material objects, but I'm not terribly worried about that. What sentence of the form -(Pv-P) does this quantum phenomenon suggest?

Steve

normajean said...

Bill, suppose (as you said) LNC is a mental representation of reality. If the representation has qualitative properties that appear not to be explicable at the physical might this suggest the representation isn’t dependent upon the physical at all, which is Timothy’s point after all?

Bill Snedden said...

Steve: "I'm still struggling with "existence existing". When you say "the only way existence could exist" is this equivalent to "the only way anything could exist"?"

Yes.

Steve: "But perhaps you are asserting that it's a necessary truth that "Something exists". (Logically necessary? a contradiction to say otherwise?. Lots of interesting questions there, if that's what you're saying.)"

Yes, I'd say that's pretty much what I'm saying. As "nothing exists" is a contradiction in terms and therefore impossible, it must be the case that "something exists" is a necessary truth.

Steve: "This sounds like some sort of metaphysical guarantee but, on your account, I don't see where this guarantee can come from in advance of the existence of anything. After all, the guarantee seems equivalent to LoNC but LoNC is not supposed to obtain prior to the existence of concrete material things."

The "gurantee", to use *your* terminology, is the impossibility of the contrary. That is to say, that existence is *necessary* and therefore that the LoNC is a necessary truth (contingent upon the necessary nature of existence).

Bill Snedden said...

Steve: please excuse the typos...especially the one I put in quotes which makes it seem like it was yours when it was mine!

Normajean: "Bill, suppose (as you said) LNC is a mental representation of reality. If the representation has qualitative properties that appear not to be explicable at the physical might this suggest the representation isn’t dependent upon the physical at all, which is Timothy’s point after all?"

I suppose that could be the case IF the representation had "qualitative properties that appear not to be explicable at the physical..." but AFAICT it doesn't, so I don't see that as much of a problem.

But even if it were to be the case, I'm not sure it would work. We can see from the discussion here that the truth-maker of the LoNC cannot be contingent upon anything else, including mental representations as mental representations (as semantic content) are necessarily posterior (i.e., contingent) to that which they represent (i.e., existence).

I would consider it an open question as to whether the truth-maker of the LoNC is God's nature or the nature of existence sans God, but I would argue (and am) that will/intent/consciousness, etc can have no part in it as they are all contingent phenomena.

Steve Lovell said...

Bill,

I'm not sure if I'm finding your views increasingly alluring or increasingly weird. If LoNC has a truth-maker, that truth maker must be necessary. We seem to agree there.

Dan (one of the anonymice) seemed to be arguing that truth-makers aren't required, as laws of logic are pragmatically grounded and help us to interpret the world rather than being part of the furnature of the universe. I can see where he's coming from when he says that. I disagree, but I can see where he's coming from. He is attacking premise 1 of Timothy's argument (or perhaps it's conjunction with 2 and 3), and therefore also attacks the inference to 5.

You, on the other hand seem to be accepting 1-3, but denying 4, because LoNC and other elements of logic are grounded in reality not in the mental. This approach neatly avoids the sorts of problems I have been raising for Dan.

However, to ground the necessity of logic, you've ended up requiring that

(N) Necessarily, something exists.

Now, although this doesn't (straightforwardly) imply:

(N') Something necessarily exists.

If anyone can think of a neat proof that (N) entails (N') please post it here.

But even lacking such a proof, I find it hard to see why (N) should be true if (N') isn't true. As I Theist, I accept (N') and would claim the necessary "fact" is God Himself. This makes your view quite tempting to me as a Theist.

Do you think that (N) is true and that (N') is not true? What kind of necessity do you have in mind? For example, is there a possible "world" in which nothing exists? If you deny (N') are you denying "There is something which exists in all possible worlds" or is it a weaker claim that you would deny? (Making your own denail itself a stronger and harder to justify claim.)

Or perhaps you accept (N'). What then do you take this necessary something to be? (And remember the universe isn't a something, it's a mere name for all the separate physical somethings which share the same space-time environment as we do.)

Or perhaps you've not thought it out this far before. I wouldn't blame you, it's pretty esoteric stuff.

My main thought, as I mentioned in a much earlier post is that something like Theism (or Pantheism and Absolute Idealism) gets the best of both worlds. It gets the ground in fact that you want, and the ground in mind that Dan wants. Objectivity isn't a problem for a Theistic account of logic, but nor is the seeming "mentality" of logic.

We can inherit the strengths of both positions and inherit the weaknesses of neither. (Some people might argue that we get the weaknesses of both and benefits of neither, but I don't see that.) That's why I think the argument from Logic is a good one, or at least one worthy of some serious thought, and rightly persuasive to some enquirers.

I will say however that my argument for 4 was thrown together in a few moments, so you haven't seen (or seen off) the strongest presentations of the argument (yet).

Steve

normajean said...

Bill, in what sense is logic a consequence of natural reality when it as a representation doesn’t seem to be identical to natural reality? Suppose mental states have intentionality but physical stuff is textured, spatially extended, and so forth… What about this physical information provides a definitive conclusion concerning mental content? I can’t see any correspondence. Do you hold that objects and representations are identical? Any good books on this stuff, people? What should I read?

Timothy said...

Interesting, this has been bumped up. I think I'll just watch you guys talk now since I'm not that learned.

Anonymous said...

"1. Laws of logic exists."

Timothy,
Would you mind listing the laws of logic that exist?

Bill Snedden said...

Steve: "'m not sure if I'm finding your views increasingly alluring or increasingly weird."

LOL. Why can't it be both? ;)

Steve: "If LoNC has a truth-maker, that truth maker must be necessary. We seem to agree there."

Yes.

Steve: "Dan (one of the anonymice) seemed to be arguing that truth-makers aren't required, as laws of logic are pragmatically grounded and help us to interpret the world rather than being part of the furnature of the universe. I can see where he's coming from when he says that. I disagree, but I can see where he's coming from. He is attacking premise 1 of Timothy's argument (or perhaps it's conjunction with 2 and 3), and therefore also attacks the inference to 5."

There is a sense in which I would agree with Dan in that, on my view, "logical laws" are models and, as such, aren't part of the "furniture" of the universe. Where Dan and I probably part ways is the description of such laws as "pragmatic" as I believe they are grounded in objective reality and thus absolutely true.

Steve: "But even lacking such a proof, I find it hard to see why (N) should be true if (N') isn't true. As I Theist, I accept (N') and would claim the necessary "fact" is God Himself. This makes your view quite tempting to me as a Theist."

Sure, that makes sense.

Steve: "Or perhaps you accept (N'). What then do you take this necessary something to be?"

I see no problem with N' (Something exists necessarily). As to what that something is, I have no idea! It may indeed be God, or god(s). Or it could simply be the godless "quantum foam" or "multiverse" or whatever the context might be in which our universe exists.

Steve: "My main thought, as I mentioned in a much earlier post is that something like Theism (or Pantheism and Absolute Idealism) gets the best of both worlds. It gets the ground in fact that you want, and the ground in mind that Dan wants. Objectivity isn't a problem for a Theistic account of logic, but nor is the seeming "mentality" of logic."

But I don't see that the "mentality" of logic forms a problem for my view either. Logical "laws" are mental representations of reality. Just as "tree" is a mental representation of a grouping of particulars. I don't see why the mental is needed to ground or instantiate the non-mental. Nor, I confess, can I imagine any manner in which such a thing could be possible. It appears to be tantamount to declaring the existence of a subject that has no object, a timeless, context-less thought, and that also seems to me a contradiction in terms. The requirement of the mental to ground logic also seems similar to Divine Command theory in ethics and, if there's no ultimately non-mental ground, subject to the same sort of critique that is often employed against it.

So I don't see any particular benefit in defining the "something that exists necessarily" as God and I do see the possibility of some difficult questions that can arise if one posits that it can ONLY be so defined.

Bill Snedden said...

normajean: "Bill, in what sense is logic a consequence of natural reality when it as a representation doesn’t seem to be identical to natural reality?"

I'm afraid I really don't understand this question. "Representations" aren't *identical* to reality; that's what it means to be a *representation* (i.e., not what it represents). Perhaps you mean to say that logic doesn't seem to be a veridical representation of natural reality? But it seems to me that is obviously false, so I'm pretty sure that's not what you're saying. Perhaps a different example?

normajean: "Suppose mental states have intentionality but physical stuff is textured, spatially extended, and so forth… What about this physical information provides a definitive conclusion concerning mental content? I can’t see any correspondence."

Again, I'm not sure what you're getting at. Are you questioning how mental states can be representative of physical states? Or what it might be about the "physical world" that leads us to knowledge of metaphysics (like laws of logic)? I don't see problems for either of these questions on my view, but I'm not sure that's what you're asking.

normajean: "Do you hold that objects and representations are identical?"

No.

normajean: "Any good books on this stuff, people? What should I read?"

Aristotle: Physics, Metaphysics. But you've probably already read those, so I'd also suggest some of the work of Ruth Millikan (like, for example, "An Existence Proof for a Viable Externalism" found at the link). Also helpful might be No God, No Laws, by Nancy Cartwright (I see Cartwright's Aristotelian viewpoint as rather similar to my own). I can also recommend the work of John Post, especially in the realms of epistemology and metaphysics. That's my $0.02, anyway...

Clayton said...

(N) Necessarily, something exists.

Now, although this doesn't (straightforwardly) imply:

(N') Something necessarily exists.

If anyone can think of a neat proof that (N) entails (N') please post it here.


It looks like the inference from (N) to (N') would be fallacious. Consider:

(Y) Necessarily, the Yankees will field nine players against the Red Sox.
(Y') There are nine players that the Yankees will field against the Red Sox.

While (Y) is true, (Y') is certainly false, and it's not just because the Yanks are notorious for buying up talent.

Clayton said...

Oops,

(Y') should have been:

(Y') There are nine players that the Yankees will necessarily field against the Red Sox.

Rayndeon said...

Naturally, the questionable premise is typically (4). This is just standard theistic activism or theistic conceptualism. The same criticisms that apply to that apply here.

Steve Lovell said...

Clayton,

I quite agree that (Y) to (Y') is invalid. I'm vaguely thinking that (N) to (N') might be a special case due to referring merely to "things". I doubt it, but modal logic sometimes has some surprises. For example, Plantinga's Ontological Argument takes most people by surprise.

Steve

Rayndeon said...

I'm vaguely thinking that (N) to (N') might be a special case due to referring merely to "things". I doubt it, but modal logic sometimes has some surprises. For example, Plantinga's Ontological Argument takes most people by surprise.

Hmm. (N) just requires that something exists, not any particular thing. For instance, it is necessary that there is an actual possible world, but not any particular possible world (or get modal collapse and modality becomes a useless subject).

As for Plantinga's argument... :)

Steve Lovell said...

Bill,

Yes. I can see why you don't go with 4 being a problem for your view, as that you read it as a truism about representation in general, and non-truistic readings you think of as false.

To press you a little harder, though not much, ...

Suppose I grant that quantum foam exists necessarily (what am I saying?). You said above:

"the only way existence could exist is in a way such that the LoNC would represent a veridical *description* of it."

If we go with quantum foam, this would seem to commit you to:

(QF) The only way quantum foam could exist is in a way such that the LoNC would represent a veridical *description* of it.

I suppose I agree with this, but only because I already acknowledge the necessity of LoNC independently. But why should (QF) be true? I accept that it is, although I'm not keen on it as an account of the necessity of LoNC. Perhaps no further analysis can be given?

I'm not too sure about your idea that will and other things can't come into it. It's standard Thomistic philosophy to say that God necessarily wills his own existence, for example. (Not that this explains or justifies belief in his existence, of course.)

I'm not sure whether a theistic account would fair any better in explaining it's equivalent of (QF) My why question might have an answer in "God's will", but it's hard to see why God should necessarily will that (and that gives us a new why question which looks parallel to the one I asked you) except for the fact that we seem to be committed to the ground being necessary.

Looking back over the discussion, I think the key line which I haven't taken up is the question of whether logic is prescriptive or descriptive. I think it's descriptive of reality and prescriptive for contents of thought in a context.

Do you think that the prescriptivity of logic for contents of thought would cause you any issues. Is this prescriptivity easily accounted for? I find it hard to see it as as problematic for naturalism as the prescriptivity of morality.

Although it seems like we've come to a stalemate, which is natural to interpret as failure for the argument, I'm not sure that that would follow. To avoid the argument you've committed yourself to the necessary existence of something, which isn't something most naturalists would be comfortable with. Your thinking seems to have committed you to a sort of naturalistic ontological argument. I can't see anything straightforwardly mad about that, but it wouldn't be hard to imagine that, depending on what else they believed, some agnostics would be more rational to endorse the argument's conclusion than to accept your "escape route".

Although your escape route in some ways mirrors my own account, I don't think I could ever bring myself to accept this "naturalistic ontological argument".

My metaphysical "intutions" would make Dan's escape route seem more natural, despite it's disasterous side effects for reasoning using the LoNC.

Steve

Clayton said...

Steve,

As you wrote it initially, there was no reference to any particular thing at all. You had written:

(N) Necessarily, something exists.

You wanted to see if there was an inference from this to this:
(N') Something necessarily exists.

What (N) says (roughly) is that there's no possible world at which 'There is at least one thing' is false. What (N) says (roughly) is that there's some particular thing, call it 'Adam', such that in any possible world, Adam will be found. (N) is consistent with there being no objects that exist in more than one world. (Just imagine that there's one and only one unique thing in each world.) So, (N) is consistent with the denial of (N').

Clayton said...

Bah,

This is what I meant:
What (N) says (roughly) is that there's no possible world at which 'There is at least one thing' is false.

What (N') says (roughly) is that there's some particular thing, call it 'Adam', such that in any possible world, Adam will be found.

(N) is consistent with there being no objects that exist in more than one world. (Just imagine that there's one and only one unique thing in each world.) So, (N) is consistent with the denial of (N').

Bill Snedden said...

Steve: "(QF) The only way quantum foam could exist is in a way such that the LoNC would represent a veridical *description* of it.

I suppose I agree with this, but only because I already acknowledge the necessity of LoNC independently. But why should (QF) be true? I accept that it is, although I'm not keen on it as an account of the necessity of LoNC. Perhaps no further analysis can be given?"

Why is God's nature as it is instead of some other way? It seems to me that unless we're willing to accept some sort of infinite regress of justification that we're going to come down to a "brute fact" at ground. That is to say, some existent or context beyond which no explanation is possible; that contains within itself its own "reason" for existence. I would say that existence exists and there's really not that much more possible to be said about it. I believe the same would have to be said about God (i.e., there's no "further fact" that explains why God is as He is).

Steve: "I'm not too sure about your idea that will and other things can't come into it. It's standard Thomistic philosophy to say that God necessarily wills his own existence, for example. (Not that this explains or justifies belief in his existence, of course.)"

That seems to me an obvious absurdity, Aquinas' genius notwithstanding. How can anything will ITSELF to exist? Such a contention would seem to require an existent to pre-exist itself which is an obvious contradiction in terms. It seems to me that it might also imply that God is not, in fact, a necessary being as it appears to make His existence contingent upon His will. And if that's not odd enough, we still have the necessity of the LoNC in order to motivate the causal efficacy of God's will, so its truth must be prior to God's will. It sounds like Aquinas is attempting to have God lift Himself by His own bootstraps.

Steve: "I'm not sure whether a theistic account would fair any better in explaining it's equivalent of (QF)"

That's really the point I'm making. Not that "God" *can't* form a possible account, but rather that He can't form the *only* account. If that's true, then Timothy's argument (and Clark's by extension) fails.

Steve: "Do you think that the prescriptivity of logic for contents of thought would cause you any issues. Is this prescriptivity easily accounted for? I find it hard to see it as as problematic for naturalism as the prescriptivity of morality."

That is an interesting thought and question. But saying that "logic is prescriptive" of thought doesn't seem to help the theist anymore than it might hurt the non-theist. You need a mind to create laws, right? The only way I can imagine logical laws that are prescriptive, is if some mind (presumably God's) thought them up. But if logical laws are required to prescribe thinking, how could God think them up? How can logical laws prescribe thinking if we need God's thinking, which is presumably logical, to create logical laws? If God doesn't need any "logical laws" to prescribe His ability to think, why do we?

Incidentally, I believe the same sort of argument can be applied to moral "laws" as well. How does God know that "thou shalt not kill" is a valid moral law? It can't be the existence of a moral law stating the same because then it would have to come from a mind other than God's. So we don't seem to need "laws" to prescribe morality any more than we need them to prescribe logic.

Steve: "Although it seems like we've come to a stalemate, which is natural to interpret as failure for the argument, I'm not sure that that would follow. To avoid the argument you've committed yourself to the necessary existence of something, which isn't something most naturalists would be comfortable with."

I'm not so sure. Although certainly I've met many who talk about "chance" & "coincidence" in relation to the existence of THIS universe, I'm not sure I've ever met ANYONE who would endorse the idea that at some point there was literally NOTHING and then suddenly SOMETHING. To be sure, I've talked with some people who seemed to be saying that, but deeper inquiry revealed otherwise.

Steve: "Although your escape route in some ways mirrors my own account, I don't think I could ever bring myself to accept this "naturalistic ontological argument"."

"Luke, I am your father! Join me and we can rule the galaxy!" LOL

I wouldn't call it an "Ontological Argument" as I don't claim that it disproves the existence of God, merely His necessity to the explanation of this particular facet of existence.

But I would argue that even for a theist, this account is a better fit. Everything that God does, declares, or represents is of necessity a manifestation of His nature, and that would include His will. So creation has its ultimate ground in God's nature, not His will and that lends itself nicely to the "descriptive thesis" as I've outlined it. At least, as I see it...

Bill Snedden said...

Clayton: "What (N') says (roughly) is that there's some particular thing, call it 'Adam', such that in any possible world, Adam will be found."

Hmmm..that's not how I read it. Where N' says "something" I didn't necessarily read it as being A something. So my reading of N' was closer to your reading of N and thus I saw no problem with the two being equivalent. Now I'm not so sure...

Steve Lovell said...

Bill,

It sounds like you're reading the claim

(GW) God necessarily wills his own existence

as equivalent to

(GW') God necessarily wills himself into existence

Now we can agree that GW' is absurd. But I disagree about the equivalence. I also disagree about your objections to God based moral theories. I've written at some length in response to the Euthyphro dilemma in a paper VR has often referenced. The lines of objections you are suggesting here don't hold sway with me. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the paper. It can be found on this, site (you have to sign up to access it) and Vic has set up some posts on DI for discussion.

Morality and Logic are only descriptive of God, while they are prescriptive for us. This means we don't need a "prior" logic to prescribe for God's thought before his thought can prescribe for ours.

When I say you seem to be committed to a kind of ontological argument, I don't mean an OA for the non-existence of God. Rather I mean an argument like this:

(1) LoNC is necessarily true.
(2) LoNC wouldn't be necessarily true unless something existed necessarily.
(3) Therefore something exists necessarily, which may or may not be God.
(4) Naturalism is true.
(5) Therefore something acceptable to Naturalists exists necessarily.

I agree about questions such as "why is God's nature that way rather than some other way". They don't have an answer, natures just are.

None of this comment shows that the argument is right, it just further explains the position which is being argued for.

This is fun.

Steve

Rayndeon said...

Steve, is this the same paper? No need to make Bill run off and pay three bucks. :)

Steve Lovell said...

Yes that's the same one. Good find.

I had forgotten it was in two places. I didn't stay at apollos long enough to figure that you have to pay to register, I had guessed it would be free.

Not sure I like that people now have to pay to get at apollos. I never gave the permission to charge for access to my material. I might have words.

Steve

Bill Snedden said...

Steve: "It sounds like you're reading the claim

(GW) God necessarily wills his own existence

as equivalent to

(GW') God necessarily wills himself into existence

Now we can agree that GW' is absurd. But I disagree about the equivalence."

Yes, I wouldn't say that they are exactly equivalent. Still, in terms of an ontology of God, I'm not sure what the relevant distinction might be.

After all, God's existence isn't supposed to be contingent upon *anything*, right? But here the claim seems to be that it's contingent upon His will. Maybe it's just enough to note that this still doesn't make God's existence contingent upon anything *outside Himself*, but it seems odd to imagine that a necessarily-existing being might somehow cease to exist, even if only through an application of its own will. Of course, one might argue that God's nature necessarily precludes His making such a choice (to cease to exist), but then it seems like we're back to where we began: God exists because He exists (i.e., it's His nature to exist) and there's really not that much to be said about that.

Steve: "I also disagree about your objections to God based moral theories. I've written at some length in response to the Euthyphro dilemma in a paper VR has often referenced. The lines of objections you are suggesting here don't hold sway with me. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the paper. It can be found on this, site (you have to sign up to access it) and Vic has set up some posts on DI for discussion."

Hmmm...I didn't mean to imply that I was objecting to "God-based moral theories" generally, but rather to a specific subset that I, rather haphazardly, lumped together under "Divine Command". By that epithet I meant to refer to those *meta-ethical* theories that attempt to ground morality in God's commandments.

As it happens, I did manage to locate the same link rayndeon found and I've either read that paper or similar ones before. However, it seems to me that your focus was not on DC as a *meta-ethical* theory, but rather as a normative one. In your paper, if I read you correctly, you simply abandoned God's will as a means of *grounding morality* and placed such ground in God's nature. I've no problem with that move; it seems to me that it clearly avoids Euthyphro's horns.

But in meta-ethical terms, haven't you also sold yourself down the road? If morality can be grounded (that is to say instantiated) absent an intentional act (such as a command), then why do we need "God" to *ground* morality? Leaving aside the epistemic issues (how do we know what is good?), it seems to me that if God's nature isn't subject to His will, then we don't need His will at all (in terms of grounding morality).

This is, of course, not strictly on topic but it is interesting...

Steve: "Morality and Logic are only descriptive of God, while they are prescriptive for us. This means we don't need a "prior" logic to prescribe for God's thought before his thought can prescribe for ours."

I'm afraid I'm unable to parse this statement. Are you saying that A=A for God, but somehow doesn't for us unless God makes it a rule? That somehow the LoNC wouldn't hold for us unless God made it a rule first? I simply can't see how that makes any sense. God's nature precludes a thing both existing and not existing, but only for God. Until He thought up the LoNC, things could both exist and not exist *for us*. So as far as we are concerned, until God created the LoNC, He both existed and didn't exist?

Similarly, if killing is wrong due to the nature of God, are you then arguing that it would be both okay and wrong *for us* until God told us what the deal actually was?

I'm guessing I'm not understanding your argument here because this doesn't make sense to me.

Steve: "When I say you seem to be committed to a kind of ontological argument, I don't mean an OA for the non-existence of God. Rather I mean an argument like this:

(1) LoNC is necessarily true.
(2) LoNC wouldn't be necessarily true unless something existed necessarily.
(3) Therefore something exists necessarily, which may or may not be God.
(4) Naturalism is true.
(5) Therefore something acceptable to Naturalists exists necessarily."

Hmmm...I suppose that depends upon what you mean by "Naturalism". I'm not committed to a premise (nor do I think it's the necessary correlation or conclusion of any of the prior premises above) that says, essentially, "God does not exist". If ever I see a reason to believe that the "something" that necessarily exists is intentional and cares deeply about me and all other human beings, I'll be trying to figure out which church, if any, it wants me to join.

I do agree, however, that Naturalists in general should have no problems with 1-3 and that such an "ontological argument" SHOULD be appealing to those of us with a foundational bent...

Steve: "I agree about questions such as "why is God's nature that way rather than some other way". They don't have an answer, natures just are."

Okay, so we agree that it makes no sense to question the nature of a brute fact?

Steve: "This is fun."

Indeed, though some might question our idea of "fun"...

Steve Lovell said...

Bill,

I really don't see why you should think (GW) and (GW') are equivalent.

If God didn't will His own existence, then His existence would be contrary to His will. But clearly His existence is not contrary to His will, therefore God wills His own existence. It follows that God necessarily wills His own existence. Despite this, God does not "will Himself into existence".

You might say that in this case His will is redundant, and I guess I'd agree. Although depending on how one concieved God's relation to time, it might serve to explain why God does not (or cannot) go out of existence. Remember the example was only supposed to motivate the idea that that there might be some things which God necessarily wills either due to His own nature or perhaps for other (equally non-contingent) reasons.

When I say that morality and logic are descriptive for God but prescriptive for us I mean something like the following:

Logical rules such as the law of non-contradiction is descriptive of everything, but for contents of thought, for humans, it's prescriptive. That is humans oughtn't not to believe/think contradictory things. There is no ought for God. God simply doesn't think contradictory things. Similarly for morality. We ought to be good, God simply is good.

As such, the problems you raised in an earlier post are not really problems for these accounts of logic and morality.

Remember, I want also to combine this with the idea that God thinks certain ways (or certain things) necessarily. It is in His nature to think those ways. Thus, your punch doesn't land when you say:

"Until He thought up the LoNC, things could both exist and not exist *for us*."

This is no more an objection to this way of basing logic on God than it is an objection to (my version) of DCT to it commits us to saying that if God commanded rape then rape would be morally required. We can happily accept this consequence because God's nature guarantees that the antecedant will never be true.

With all that in mind, could you read my previous post again? Not the one about apollos subsriptions, the one before that.

Happy days,

Steve