Bahnsen’s TAG III

[Map: Intro, I, II, III, IV, V, VI]

Last time I closed off a discussion of material vs. immaterial existence with this:

As a final note, let me point out that not all atheists will admit that the laws of logic actually exist, in any real or absolute sense…I have no patience for such ridiculousness. If necessary, I can make another whole post in this series about exactly why it is ridiculous, but it seems to me that it is self-evident that the truth of the laws of logic and math upon which every scientist relies daily (whether Christian or Atheist) are eternally and absolutely true, were true before any minds existed to understand that truth, and would remain true if all minds were destroyed.

Well, it appears that it is necessary, as Forester (playing devil’s advocate) posited a much more coherent way to think of logic as non-absolute than I had ever heard from the materialist camp. (Seriously, go read it, then come back.)

The common problem that logical negativists (did I just coin that?) fail to address is this: if logic is just something that happens inside our heads, why does the logic in my head conform to the logic in your head? As a Christian, my worldview dictates that the absolute invariance of logic derives from the truthfulness of God’s person. I can demand logical consistency from others (in particular, any materialist with whom I happen to be arguing about the existence of God), because we are all appealing to an external standard of how to judge truthfulness, correctness, consistency, etc. What right does the materialist have, however, to demand logical consistency of me and my arguments, if there is no connection between the logic in my mind, and the logic in his mind?

So Forester’s concept of biologically-wired logic is certainly appealing as a way to explain why our brains work alike. And Christians cannot really object to this concept, since it is quite likely true that the Intelligent Designer purposefully wired our brains to behave logically. And in the materialist arena, it seems quite reasonable that common brain structures would evolve in a species, just like our eyes all work the same way, our stomachs all work the same way, etc. As a matter of fact, illogicality is a pretty obvious candidate for being selectively removed from the gene pool (just like a tendency to provoke sabre-tooth tigers).

So the materialist explanation for why we are all talking about the same logic is because the harsh, unforgiving forces of nature have ensured that only those whose brains worked logically survived, and those who tried to get by on bad logic were destroyed — the fatal consequences of irrationality, of butting heads with reality.

You see what just happened there, though? “Bad” logic is weeded out, consistent logic is a survival advantage, and enforcement comes from what? From reality. The only logic that can remain commonly wired into peoples’ heads is the logic that pragmatically conforms to nature. Just like today, errors in logic or mathematics are ruthlessly punished by nature; any computational deviations from the true logic that nature enforces (“conventions that are self verifying”), would be a clear disadvantage with respect to survival.

The bottom line; even though logic may be biologically wired into our brains, it is still a reflection of universal, absolute, and invariant laws of logic which are “out there”, which truly exist (immaterially). And any person who calls any other person to account for an illogical argument implicitly endorses that fact, because calling somebody illogical is an appeal to external, shared standards of logic.

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19 Responses

  1. Just in case you were wondering, I’m utterly convinced that logic is absolute and universal. But, I could be wrong.

  2. I’m utterly convinced that logic is absolute and universal

    And that’s why you’re my favorite atheist. You don’t put up with no nonsense. (Similarly, your suspicious attitude towards Postmodern Reasoning (However, you know how to cut loose with a little nonsense when seriousness is not required))

    That Forester, on the other hand, what a nutjob! “Biologically-wired logic” indeed!

  3. That was a random post, akin to speaking in tongues as I now realise :-)

  4. Now I’m going to watch you try and formulate good and evil. Maybe there are universal aims (fairness) but quantitation is, I think, a matter of agreement. I’ll give you a dollar for that pen.

  5. shanda-ba-twa-kee-kee-mundi

  6. Hempala matoodi so kaleph fecundi

  7. domo-onee-gato-visto-roboto

  8. Ok, I’m addicted to blogging or something. I’m going to need counseling.

    Forester’s blog eluded me. I found his blog, not his post that is relevant to this discussion. Oh well.

    But from your description, he sounds like he’s advocating a position similar to Kant’s (Critique of Pure Reason). But you’re right, there’s no escaping logic. Kant even said that God is Reason in his “Religion within the limits of reason alone”. God is Reason, while we have reason. It’s a little spark of the divine, a little piece of God we have within us that allows us to think logically.

    That’s just Gnosticism and Plato all over again.

    So I think you’re right, logic is a thing of reality. But logic is not eternal, it is created. We must carefully distinguish our logic from God’s “logic”. Our logic is an analogy to His logic. They are not the same thing. God is a God of order, not disorder, so it is right to say that logic is good and reveals something about God. But it is not a one to one equivalence. It’s an analogy.

    Logic is part of the universe, as are math, etc. God is not part of the universe. He is utterly distinct from it, since He is the Creator of it.

  9. Testa testa mi testa ha ala

  10. That was a random post, akin to speaking in tongues as I now realise :-)

    Not speaking in tongues — that was my native language, nothing foreign to me at all. :-)

    Forester’s blog eluded me. I found his blog, not his post that is relevant to this discussion. Oh well.

    It was here.

    But from your description, he sounds like he’s advocating a position similar to Kant’s (Critique of Pure Reason). But you’re right, there’s no escaping logic.

    Whoa there! I wasn’t advocating anything in that comment — I was only exploring an approach a strict materialist might take. Please note the last paragraph:

    Simply because Sansone posed a weak argument criticizing the universality of logic doesn’t mean that more formidable arguments can’t be made. Do I agree with them? No, but it’s good to keep opposing arguments in mind.

  11. Forester wrote, “The strict materialist still has an out by suggesting that the laws of logic aren’t based on immaterial concepts, but instead derive from the biological framework of our brains. This would be similar to Noam Chomsky’s assertion that grammatical concepts arise from separate structures in our brains, as evidenced (in part) from the observation that as children learn language, they make many mistakes but never the mistake of confusing nouns for verbs or vice-versa.”

    I fail to see how this allows for (a) logic’s necessity and (b) logic’s normativity?

    Certainly modus ponens would still be a valid inference in the possible world – humanless world. If so, logic cannot be “based” on human brains.

    Consider (b). Laws of logic also tell us how we *ought* to think. It lays down obligations and epistemic duties. I fail to see how ‘materialism’ can allow for “norms.” It would appear that the ‘materialist’ would need to, in principle, give an ultimate explanation of a phenomena that is descriptive. It would need to be made using the language of physics.

    (The above aside, there’s also the question of ‘qualia.’ We all know “what it is like to use logic.” How can this be cashed out on physicalists assumptions?

    Also, not to mention that with logic the force of the inference seems to cause on to hold to a conclusion, rather than physical causes.

    All of these leads me to believe that the project doesn’t look to optimistic for the ‘materialist.’)

  12. Hey Wacky, I don’t think you caught Forester’s point. If logic is a commonly-wired biological feature of our brains, then that explains why we all agree what logic is. Explains normative, I guess.

    “with logic the force of the inference seems to cause one to hold to a conclusion”

    It certainly does “seem” (“qualia”) — as it would if it were only a part of the way our minds worked. Forester’s point is that if logic were commonly wired as part of our perception, it would be difficult or impossible, to distinguish (using our perception) how much of our perception of logic is due to the mechanisms of our perception, and how much due to something external actually being perceived.

    But my point is that in a materialist, evolutionary universe with logic biologically wired into the brain, the only way it could get wired there, and stay wired there (without selective pressure breeding it out) is if it conformed to an external, absolute logic.

  13. Ruberad said/asked: “Hey Wacky, I don’t think you caught Forester’s point. If logic is a commonly-wired biological feature of our brains, then that explains why we all agree what logic is. Explains normative, I guess.”

    Well, there’s many problems with this:

    i. We don’t all agree with “what logic is.” In fact, we’re disagreeing right now! :-)

    ii. Feeling hunger is a “commonly-wired biological feature of my brain” in that it sends out the signals (to be technical, “feeling” isn’t physical, it happens in the mind, but the mind feels this way because the body sent out signals). I didn’t need to take a class on “feeling hungry.” In fact, we all need to be *trained* in logic, why is that?

    iii. Moreover, this would take away from the law-like charcter of logic. What happens inside Forester’s brain is not the *same* as what goes on in my brain.

    iv. What does it mean to say “logic” is “hard-wired” into out brain? Could someone cut open my head and see modus ponens?

    v. Are there many laws of identity, or just one? if there’s only one then we have that law *instanced* in our brains (granting brains for the sake of argument), but the law qua law is not in our brain.

    vi. Materialism describes, logic not only describes byt *prescribes* certain rules of inference, how we *should* think, whjat we *should* do in order to make a sound argument, etc. Thereis no place for an irreducible normativity within materialism.

    Ruberad wrote, “But my point is that in a materialist, evolutionary universe with logic biologically wired into the brain, the only way it could get wired there, and stay wired there (without selective pressure breeding it out) is if it conformed to an external, absolute logic.”

    But also given evolutionary naturalism, we’d have no reason to believe our beliefs our true. Our beliefs just needed to be aimed at survival. As materialist Pat Churchland states, “Truth, whatever that is, takes the hindmost.” So, they have a defeater for their belief that logic is hard-wired into the brain.

    As to your point, they could go for teleological normativity but the problem here is that nature doesn’t *design* or have a *purpose* in what it does. They could use the alien comeback. But this just pushes the question back a step. Obviously telological and ethical and any other notion of normativity fits within the theistic conception of the universe. Thus: if logic then God.

    (p.s. As to your second point, let me restate: inferences *do* cause other beliefs. And, I don’t think my point about logic holding in the possible world – human-barinless world, was addressed.)

  14. Well, there’s a limit to how much I can advocate for the Devil. We agree with each other; I posted the reason that I thought of that the biologically-wired scenario still requires external, absolute logic, you’ve come up with a number of others.  We could sit around and argue about which of us is more right about why logical negativists are wrong, but how productive would that be?

    Stick around as I progress to number IV — any day now, assuming my wacky charismatic buddies leave me alone about tongues for a minute already!

  15. Forester,

    My mistake.

    E

  16. Just in case you were wondering, I’m utterly convinced that logic is absolute and universal. But, I could be wrong.

    Limey, I’ll ask you a question similar to one Bahnsen asked Stein. How do you account for logic’s universality (or the universality of anything) in a universe that is nothing more than the result of a very long series of random events? Isn’t it true that if the universe is nothing more than the result of random events, then everything that occurs within that system is itself a random event? If so, then the very fact that you believe it to be so is itself a random event. Can there be any certainty in this chaotic universe?

  17. This question is a sign that I have neglected this series too long, because that was precisely the next point on my agenda…

  18. Just in case you guys missed it, one of the most famous of the “literal six days of creation” proponents, Kent Hovind, was convicted, with his wife, of tax evasion, and is facing 200 some years in jail (I think those are literal days, too)…It turns out he didn’t believe in the IRS, and believed all that kooky stuff about filing being voluntary, etc. Would have made bigger news, but got eclipsed by Ted Haggard’s firing over meth-fueled gay sex.

    http://sf.indymedia.org/news/2006/11/1732927.php
    http://drdino.com

  19. Albino,

    that’s crazy. That guy is so wrong. For some reason I feel sorry for his wife. What do you do when your husband is a guy like that and tells you to do stuff? How sad. So she goes down with him.

    It reminds me of the truth of what Paul said:

    1Co 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

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