Bahnsen’s TAG V

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

It’s been quite a long time since I last posted in this series, so I’d like to ease back in with some noncontroversial thoughts about the nature of laws. Usually the three types of laws are categorized as Logic, Nature, and Morality. For convenience, I’ll be abbreviating these LoL, LoN, and LoM, respectively.

The first category I want to consider is breakability. Everybody understands that LoN are unbreakable. That’s why a T-shirt that says “186,000 miles per second: It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law!” is funny.

At the other extreme, LoM are quite breakable. The Biblical doctrines of Total Depravity and Original Sin affirm that men break God’s moral laws all the time, and even atheists will agree, “Nobody’s perfect” (whatever “perfect” means). This gives me yet another opportunity to quote my tagline:

There are three kinds of people:

  • Hypocrites that admit it,
  • Hypocrites that don’t, and
  • People whose standards are too low

LoL, however, occupy kind of a realm in between. There is a sense in which LoL are breakable. People think and act illogically (hold logically contradictory beliefs simultaneously) all the time; that’s why Star Trek’s Spock was so fascinating — what would it be like to live life with purely consistent logic? In another sense, however, LoL are not breakable. If you violate LoL, then you are wrong, and you will have to suffer the consequences of being wrong. For example, “If I can see a sabre-tooth tiger, then there is a sabre-tooth tiger in the vicinity” is not logically equivalent to “If I cannot see a sabre-tooth tiger, then there is not a sabre-tooth tiger in the vicinity”. To assume they are logically equivalent is to violate the logical law of the contrapositive, and such a violation of LoL could have disastrous consequences for an illogical caveman.

A slight refinement of the above category of breakability could be called impunity. If the definition of “law” includes consequences, then the sabre-tooth tiger illustration would demonstrate that LoN cannot be broken with impunity (the consequences can never be escaped — however the consequences might not always be catastrophic, or even noticeable). The question of impunity for LoN is irrelevant, since LoN are unbreakable anyways. The interesting question is therefore LoM. In a Christian worldview, augmenting LoM with their consequences (“the wages of sin are death”) allows the assertion that LoM cannot be broken with impunity. I’m guessing that an atheist worldview would probably classify LoM as “breakable with (possible) impunity”, since it is evident that (within our material world) immorality sometimes brings consequences, and sometimes doesn’t.

Here is another characterization, which might actually be the same as breakable/unbreakable: LoN are Descriptive, but LoM are Prescriptive. LoN simply say “This is how things do work”, while LoM say “This is how things should work”. LoL again, are kind of a funny beast. As discussed here (and previous), LoL are “content-less”, and to be used within a system, need to be jump-started with the axioms of that system. So in the tiger example, our hapless caveman attempted to apply LoL in a system with axioms from LoN (sabre-tooth tigers eat cavemen, sabre-tooth tigers only eat what they can see, …), but when all is said and done, his violation of LoL has consequences not in the realm of LoL, but in LoN. I don’t think I’ve been very clear here, but in any case, I want to proceed to the most important characteristic (for my purposes), which is personality.

LoL and LoN are obviously impersonal. You don’t “take it personally” if gravity makes you fall and skin your knees. Although you might “take it personally” if somebody points out some way that you are being illogical, your problem is only with the way they might have said it (rudely or derisively), or the way you feel about yourself appearing illogical — your problem is not with LoL themselves (it is certainly not logical to be angry at Logic).

LoM, on the other hand, are personal. Christianity dictates that moral law derives from God, who is a person, and moral law is commonly (confessionally) understood to establish our duty to God, and our duty to men. However, whether you believe in God or not, you will probably agree that if there were no people, there would be no morals, or (equivalently) no immorality. (Although this recent story touches many blurry lines and slippery slopes!)

Well, that’s all I wanted to do in this post — to probe the distinctions between the three types of laws. I think I even did so in a way that nobody could really disagree. Do you agree?

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42 Responses

  1. – Why aren’t laws of logic a subset of laws of nature? Aren’t both sets of laws things that have been observed about the universe? Aren’t both an attempt by man to quantify the order of the universe?

    – When someone holds contradictory beliefs, have they violated the laws of logic? I find that a distinction – between someone believing a contradiction and a contradiction being brought about by someone’s believing it – would be helpful here. What I mean is that if I believe in a contradiction, it’s not logic that I have actually violated. I think that in order to violate the laws of logic, I’d have to break that law by somehow bringing about a logical contradiction. When I believe a contradiction, it’s not the laws of logic I’m violating, the laws that govern what actually IS – but the laws of what we should believe. We should NOT believe logical contradictions because logical contradictions cannot be true. We are obligated to conform our beliefs to what is true. This is a question of morality. We are morally obligated in Scripture to believe the truth, and to believe lies is sinful (e.g., Jesus says that the devil’s native tongue is that of lies). So if I believe a contradiction, I have not violated LoL, but LoM.

    Good post.

  2. My favorite line in the recent slippery-slope story you linked, from the judge: “I’m a little surprised this issue hasn’t been tackled before in another case.” Ha!

  3. Echo,

    LoN are created, LoL are uncreated. Physics/Chemistry/Biology/… are created, Math is uncreated. It could have been that God created a universe with, say the speed of light = 200,000 mi/s or 150,000 mi/s, but he could not have created a universe in which it is possible for a proposition to be both true and false; the LoL of non-contradiction was in force “before” the Big Bang, just as God was, because LoL are the standards of absolute truth that flow from his truthful nature.

    As for 2., I’ll grant you a distinction between heart/hand violations of LoL, but to me, one who is contradictory in his heart is just as guilty of illogicality as one who is contradictory in his actions. (Exactly as Jesus describes inward/outward murder and adultery).

    Also, I have to disagree with you about “if I believe a contradiction, I have not violated LoL, but LoM.” LoL are “content-less”, and themselves do not have a moral aspect. Now if you violate LoL when they are applied in the realm of morality, then such a violation of LoL could be called immoral. For instance, in the verses quoted above, Jesus treats only murder and adultery. To conclude that inward stealing (coveting) and inward false witness (what would that look like? unspoken slander?) are OK is logically fallacious, and sinful (violations of LoM).

    But is it immoral to believe, in computer science complexity theory, that P=NP? It might be true, it might be a lie — nobody knows. Is it immoral to disbelieve Fermat’s Last Theorem? How about ten years ago, before it was proven? Is it immoral to believe in 6/24 creation? (or a 13.7 billion year-old universe?)

    My point is, there are some applications of LoL in the moral domain, and some with no moral component. It’s a matter of personality. No person (impersonal), no sin.

  4. 1. As far as LoL not being personal (but LoM are personal since they’re rooted in God’s character), many people have argued the same for LoL. For example, Van Til, Frame, Bahnsen, Byl. Welty, et al, have argued in just that way. One reason for this is that there’s a *normative* aspect (prescriptive) to how we reason and how we use/apply/try to follow the laws of logic. What are those norms grounded in? You correctly pointed out that LoN are impersonal. And so LoL can’t be grounded in LoN. So, are they then like Platonic forms, just floating around in some nether region? It’s still hard to see how Plato’s forms were personal. Impersonal things can’t obligate us. And so that’s why the above men, and many others, have grounded them in the nature of God – who is invarient, universal, and immaterial. He can never contradict Himself. Why? “Because it is impossible for Him to lie.” And so now we could ask what brought about logical laws? Did God create them? If so, then are they contingent? But LoL are supposed to be necessary, not contingent. So have they always existed along side God? That’s far from clear. Thus it looks like saying that they reflect his thinking, or are part of his nature, is the best answer. Hence, they’d be personal in the same sense moral obligations are.

    2. You said, “you will probably agree that if there were no people, there would be no morals.” This is vague. I think a distinction should be drawn between moral principle and moral fact. A moral principle is a conditional: if p then q. If certain conditions are met, then a certain moral verdict follows. So, a moral rule (or principle) prohibiting murder says: If one murders, then one does what is wrong. All moral rules are like this. They specify conditions under which actions, motives, etc., exhibit a certain moral quality.

    Moral facts are not principles but instantiations of those principles/rules being obeyed or violated. So, a moral fact is the rape of children in the sex-trade industry in Thailand. Or, it is the love and compassion shown to those in times of despair – maybe a PCA deacon bringing food and money to a widow, or orphan.

    Thus, since we hold morality to be eternal then it’s difficult for us to say “if there were no people, there would be no morals.” But in a sense Rube is right. And so applying the tools of analytic philosophy here I think we should find the distinction between fact and principle acceptable for resolving this. Certainly there were no moral facts before there were humans (or, more correctly, created persons, since we’d say that angels existed before us and instantiated violations of rules). But the moral principle or rule is eternal. It is that that is grounded in God’s character. And so even before humans this moral principle was true: If you torture children for fun, then it’s wrong, existed.

    So, principles can be true even if never instantiated. And therefore we can say that “if there were no humans, there were morals,” if we apply the appropriate qualifications I tried to above.

    3. Another distinction is between necessary and contingent. LoN are contingent. God could have made the LoN different. LoL and LoM are not contingent, at least on the traditional understanding. Many culteral and logical relativists would have us believe otherwise.

    Anyway, those were some thought…

    ~Wacky

  5. Wacky, thanks for your contributions — I think we crossed comments there;

    I agree with you that LoL are uncreated, uncontingent, necessary, flowing from the truthful nature (personality) of God’s person. But I disagree that therefore LoL are personal in the same way that LoM are personal. LoM specifically govern relationships between persons, while LoL govern relationships between propositions. Notice, however, that I did not include a distinction of Objective (LoL/LoN) vs. Subjective (LoM). (a) it’s not correct, and (b) it would not meet with (near-?) universal agreement.

    I agree that “If there were no humans, there would be no morals, or (equivalently) no immorality” is sloppy. They are not really equivalent, given the principle vs. fact (act) distinction you make. More correct would be simply “If there were no humans, there would be no immorality”. (Enjoy it while you can, PETA — it’s not often I say things that give you warm fuzzies!)

  6. Rube,

    I’d like to see a more extended argument for logic being uncreated. Here are some reasons why I think logic is created.

    I find logic to be an order that God has imposed on the universe. I don’t see God having to obey the laws of logic as if they govern him, as if they are higher than him. Now, you didn’t imply that, but I just wanted to get that out there. You seem to be saying that logic flows from God’s nature, and it couldn’t be otherwise. However, I find that God’s nature is one of order and harmony, and THAT in turn implies that God should impose some kind of order on the universe, according to his nature. The way that is played out, we call logic. But I would say that God could have imposed a different kind of order.

    For example, one might ask if God practices deductive reasoning. If God does practice deductive reasoning, then it seems like the validity of logic’s laws, such as the validity of deductive reasoning, would flow from God’s nature. But if God does not practice deductive reasoning, then it seems like deductive reasoning is a thing of the universe only, and therefore not uncreated, but created.

    So, let’s consider whether or not God practices deductive reasoning. God is eternal/unchanging. He is not bound by time. Berkhof says that this means that God is not divided into past, present and future as we are. He possesses the entirety of his being all at once, unlike us who can only experience one moment at a time. Thus God transcends time, thus he is eternal. (Thus time too is a created thing, because it is something that is true of the universe only, not God.) But if God is not divided into past, present and future, then he is also not sequential in any way.

    Now, add to this that God’s knowledge/understanding is infinite, and what happens? Well, then we see that God cannot possibly practice deductive reasoning. In fact, he does not reason at all (in himself – though of course he speaks to us reasonably, but that’s a different matter). For God cannot come into contact with premises and then derive a conclusion from them. He doesn’t derive anything. He knows everything. You see, we find that the truth of a given conclusion depends on the truth of the premises in deductive reasoning. God doesn’t see it that way. God sees the truth of a conclusion being dependent not on premises, but on his being. God IS truth, and all truth depends on him. Indeed, he cannot lie, but that is because he makes truths what they are. Truths depend on him, not premises ultimately.

    But for us, we have to discover truth. We have to do this in time. We are finite. We have to build truths upon one another through deductive reasoning. For example:

    1. Crows are black.
    2. This bird is a crow.
    3. Therefore, this bird is black.

    For us, we say that if the two premises are true, then the conclusion must be true. God doesn’t have to discover the truth of this conclusion. God made it so. God’s knowledge of the fact preceeds the fact itself. By contrast, we try to get our knowledge to conform to the truth, to be shaped by the truth. God, meanwhile, is the one who shapes truth, because he creates it. For this reason God cannot lie.

    All truths are what they are because God has decreed it to be so. If God decrees that something is so, it becomes true in time. But even if God could lie, it would cease to be a lie, because it would come to pass because God has said it.

    So we cannot say, therefore, that falsehood is uncreated. It is a thing that comes out of our hearts. We create it, so to speak, even though it isn’t creation, because it brings nothing about. But anyway, falsehood cannot be uncreated because it can only spring from the universe, because it cannot spring from God. God doesn’t have the option of falsehood.

    But logic depends on the possibility of falsehood. Logic is a way that we have observed to discern truth from falsehood. Logic only matters when the truthfulness or falsity of a statement is in doubt, and it needs to be discovered. Thus the laws of logic help to guide us in that discovery.

    But God has no need of discovery. In fact, discovery is impossible for him, because his knowledge of a fact preceeds the fact itself. He is the cause of the fact. How could he then go and discover the fact?

    Anyway, I confess that God is truth (John 1:1 + John 17:17 = God is truth). Yet we distinguish between created and uncreated truth. Truths about God’s being in and of himself are uncreated, while truths about the universe and how God interacts with it or relates to it are created, since the universe is created. So when we say that God IS truth, we don’t mean that all truths, or that all true facts ARE God.

    In the same way, we can say that God is orderly, rather than chaotic. But that doesn’t imply that all orderliness is God. For something to be uncreated, it has to be God. Ontologically speaking, there are two categories, in the broadest, most fundamental sense. There is God and everything else. There is the Creator and the creation. There is God and there is the universe. There is Creator and created. To be uncreated puts something in the Creator/God category.

    So in my mind, saying that logic is uncreated is the same as saying that logic IS God. I for one am extremely uncomfortable with that. I think God is ordered and not chaotic, but I think logic and its laws are the order God has freely chosen to impose on the universe. I don’t think God himself obeys the laws of logic that we seek to obey, but that doesn’t mean I think he’s chaotic. I think God could have chosen to order the universe in a different way. I think God makes logic true by upholding it with his providence. I don’t find that God would have made the universe chaotic, but he could have ordered it differently.

    At any rate, in God’s being, we see what appear to us to be logical contradictions. For instance, the doctrine of the Trinity teaches that God is one God yet three persons. Some people say that this is not a contradiction, but a paradox. Maybe. But if God were part of the universe, this wouldn’t be logically possible. For example, a human being cannot be one human being, yet exist in three people. Three people could not share one soul in other words. It’s logically impossible. But for God it isn’t, because he is God. In the same way, Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. This totally confounds us. As a man, Jesus was created. As God, he is uncreated. He is eternal and unchanging and infinite, yet he became finite, clothed in flesh, and spoke of not knowing certain things that only the Father knew, he had to grow in wisdom, and was sometimes astonished by certain things. He is both infinite and finite, eternal and in time, fully God and fully man. It is the fact that God is the Creator and not bound by the laws of the universe that he can do these things. He transcends the universe, thus he transcends the laws of logic that are part of this universe, though he is not a God of chaos, but of order. He is the Creator, not a liar.

    Time and space too confound us. Are these things created or uncreated? We tend to think that the finite nature of the universe mandates time and space. But couldn’t God have set it up differently? What in God’s nature makes it true that he would freely choose to create the universe in the construct of time and space? Is time and space in God’s nature? Surely not, because he is infinite and transcendant. But isn’t it his orderly nature, rather than being chaotic, that drives him to impose the order of time and space on the universe? Isn’t that the method of limiting that God chose? The universe, we are finite; isn’t this (time and space) the way in which God chose to express that? Could God have made the universe a different way, where time and space weren’t the relevant dimensions? Well, surely I cannot imagine it, and the very idea confounds me. But isn’t that because God made me to dwell in this universe which is bound by time and space?

    By the same token, we could say that we need the light and heat of the sun to survive. We need light to see and heat to stay warm. But couldn’t God have made us like bats, so that we would see by hearing? Couldn’t he also have made us so that we could withstand incredibly high temperatures so that we could live on Venus? Couldn’t he have made us so that we didn’t need oxygen to survive, but CO2 or methane? Maybe he could have even composed chemicals differently, so that the entire periodic table looked different.

    To be sure, we cannot wrap our minds around the idea of a universe with alternate laws of logic or with some other form of order imposed upon it. But that is because logic has been programmed into us. Just like how a computer comes with windows already on it, so we are created with certain things already on the hard drives of our minds. That a thing cannot both be true and false is one of them. That’s just how our minds work. So it boggles our mind to think that logic could work any differently.

    All I’m saying is that God could have created us in a different way. He could have created the universe in a different way. Would there still be truth? Sure. Would there still be order? Definitely. But logic is not truth. To say that logic could have been different is not to say that truth could have been compromised. Logic is of course a lot more than the law of non-contradiction.

    I mean, the devil’s whole deal is all about lies. God is truth, the devil tells lies to subvert God. Couldn’t this have worked differently? What if there were no devil? What if there were no devil and man had never sinned? Would the concept of lies even occur to us? What if God created us in a glorified state, so that sin never came into the world? Would our minds even be able to conceive of a false statement? If so, would we be able to entertain the notion that it might be true? Would we then need to question whether or not something is true, and then embark on a logical quest to discover the answer? What if God had created us unable to sin and unaware of what sin was altogether? Would there be such a thing as a false statement? If not, would logic be the same? Would the law of non-contradiction occur to anyone?

    In my mind, logic is a set of laws that help us to distinguish truth from falsehood. God has no need of such laws in himself. And I think he has given us those laws out of his goodness and orderliness. But I find that the particular laws of logic are a thing of the universe. They are only valid because God makes them valid, because God has imposed order on the universe. Logic is the form of the order. Logic is a particular instantiation of order. God’s nature is ordered, but not necessarily logical in the same way that we are logical.

    Now I think obeying the laws of logic are a matter of conforming our beliefs to the truth. I think believing truth is a matter of renouncing lies, and this is fundamentally moral. All sins are ultimately idolatrous, and thus ultimately a lie. We have all “exchanged the truth of God for a lie”. Believing that which is true is a moral imperative.

    Now, once upon a time, people believed the earth was flat. Was this morally wrong? Is the statement “the earth is flat” a lie? Yes, it’s a lie. To believe it is morally wrong. What if you lie without knowing it, are you still lying? Yes, you’re still lying. Ignorance will serve as an excuse on judgment day, have no fear. God is not going to condemn you for not knowing calculus as well as Newton, for example. But you will be condemned for having a wicked heart, which caused you to blow off your homework in your high school Calc class. And once upon a time, people believed the earth was flat, because they assumed the earth was the center of the universe. That’s why the people who said that it wasn’t the center of the universe were condemned as heretics. Where does this insistance that the earth is the center of the universe come from, if not from our belief that we ourselves are the center of the universe? Isn’t this pride? Yes it is. It was pride that cause the church to condemn Copernicus as a heretic. How dare he posit that we aren’t the center of the universe!

    But when an ancient Israelite thought that the earth was flat and the center of the universe, was it because of his pride, or because he was taught it? Well, a little of both. Pride kept people for a very long time from questioning this assumption. Let’s not pretend that sinful human beings won’t jump at any chance to manifest their pride – they will. All you need to do is pay someone a compliment, and pretty much whatever response you get will be one of pride. Either they’ll beam at you and thank you, being quick to say that you are right, or they will try to downplay your compliment, either by saying that it isn’t true or that someone else deserves the credit. Either way, their pride makes them want to be judged favorably by you, so they accept the compliment in the way that they think will acheive that. So maybe they downplay it: “Oh, it was nothing”; or maybe they say, “Well, my wife helped me”. Either way, their answer is designed to provoke you to make a favorable judgment of them: “Oh, not only did he deserve my compliment, but he’s modest about it too!” His pride wants you to judge him to be modest. This is a fear of man rather than God, and thus idolatrous. Truly did Calvin say that our hearts are idol factories. We are truly totally depraved.

    So is it sinful to believe the earth is flat and the center of the universe? Yep, and the motivation is pride. But, this is certainly far, far less important than that maybe you killed your neighbor in order to steal his wife. So I’m not saying that it’s a huge sin – furthermore, what we will be judged for is the sinfulness of our hearts. Remember, we are ALL sinners. Everything we do is tainted with sin, because we have sinful hearts.

    The ancient Israelite who believed he was the center of the universe was full of pride; but perhaps he still walked by faith and we’ll see him in heaven, and we can laugh about his belief, and he in turn can laugh at how angry we get when we’re driving. He probably can’t even fathom being upset at having to wait for a red light, because we still make a journey in a matter of minutes that would have taken him all day, yet we’re still not satisfied with that. Or maybe he’ll laugh at us for how we stared at the TV, transfixed for hours and hours.

    See, we are all so neck deep in idolatry that motivates almost everything we do, we aren’t even aware of it. This past week, I took a counseling class, and it revealed a great deal of idolatry in my own heart. All the other students I talked to agreed. It was a tough class to get through. It was a 2 hour class crammed into one week. It was a lot of being confronted by our own idolatry all at once. It was difficult. But what astonished me was how much idolatry there is in ALL of our lives and we aren’t even aware of it. He even told a story of his own life in which he got mad at his family one night when they were exhibiting a great deal of apathy toward family devotions. He exploded in anger before he even knew what he was doing. Then he explained how, since he was a pastor, it had been very important to him to have excellent family devotions and to have a family that was highly sanctified, etc. He said that he had made his desires into an idol. His desires for family devotions, and the aspirations he had for his family: all of it was ultimately idolatrous and prideful, which is why when he was disappointed in the results, he got angry and lashed out at his family. Their bad attitude in devotions was rightly rebuked, but he didn’t rebuke them, he condemned them. That proves the idolatry.

    If we really stopped and thought about how idolatrous and prideful we all really are, we’d be terribly ashamed of ourselves. There is more sin in our lives than we can even imagine. It’s overwhelming. I caught a glimpse of the magnitude of my own sin last week, and I feel kind of like I’m still in shock.

    So do I therefore have any problem saying that people who believed the earth was flat and the center of the universe were sinful and prideful and idolatrous? Nope. We’re all sinful. Was this belief a manifestation of their sinful hearts? Yes, like everything we do or think or believe; it is the fruit of our hearts. A sin is not a sin only when we are aware that we’re sinning.

    So, yes, the extent to which our hearts have embraced beliefs that are not true, we are sinful, forsaking the truth. To reject truth is to reject God. To reject logic is a way of rejecting God, because logic is how WE discover truth. So to reject logic is to reject truth.

    If I want to get somewhere, and there is only one road to get there, then I’m stuck having to take that one road. But if I say, “I don’t want to take that road” it can only be because I don’t really care about getting to that destination. There’s only one road to truth for us finite creatures of this universe: logic. To reject logic and refuse to drive on that road is to reject the truth. To reject the truth is to embrace lies.

    If someone is being illogical, are they sinning? Yeah. They are. They’re believing something that is not true, they have embraced a lie. What if they don’t know they’re doing it? Is it still a sin? Yep. Just because they don’t consciously know what they’re doing doesn’t mean they aren’t manifesting their sinful heart.

    Enough.

    E

  7. Echo

    !!That’s a lot to digest at once! I’ll pick and choose, and hopefully address most of it:

    One might ask if God practices deductive reasoning.

    I’ll say no, he doesn’t practice it, because as you note, that would imply that he sequentially applies laws of logic to navigate from known truth to unknown truth. As you note, all truth is trivially apparent to God. However, also trivially apparent to God are the relationships between all truths — all possible deductive chains of reasoning between all truths. However, God does practice deductive reasoning in the following sense: he intrudes into space-time and lays out sequentially deductive logical arguments for the benefit of his creation (e.g. every time the bible uses the word “therefore”).

    So we cannot say, therefore, that falsehood is uncreated.

    I think this is where you begin to get off the rails. What is the difference between God ruminating outside of time and space, independent of his creation, “1 plus 1 is equal to 2” vs. “1 plus 1 is not equal to 3” vs. “‘1 plus 1 equals 3’ is false”? I think you are right that “logic depends on the possibility of falsehood”, just as computers depend on both 1’s and 0’s. But I don’t think that “logic is uncreated” is equivalent to “there is falsehood in God”. There is nothing inherently evil about a proposition which bears the characteristic of falsehood, as long as it is properly labeled as false.

    So in my mind, saying that logic is uncreated is the same as saying that logic IS God. I for one am extremely uncomfortable with that.

    Me too. Which is why I would say, rather, that logic is one attribute of God, among many. God is loving, but love is not God. God is just, but justice is not God. God is true, but truth is not God. God is logical, but logic is not God.

    Time and space too confound us. Are these things created or uncreated? We tend to think that the finite nature of the universe mandates time and space. But couldn’t God have set it up differently?

    Yes. LoN are created. (Except for the fact that the immutability of God’s will means that everything that ever happens could not have happened any other way — but that’s taking the discussion down to too fine a level). Here’s a relevant exchange from an online debate between Michael Martin and John Frame:

    Martin: Consider logic. Logic presupposes that its principles are necessarily true. However, according to the brand of Christianity assumed by TAG, God created everything, including logic; or at least everything, including logic, is dependent on God. But if something is created by or is dependent on God, it is not necessary–it is contingent on God. And if principles of logic are contingent on God, they are not logically necessary. Moreover, if principles of logic are contingent on God, God could change them. Thus, God could make the law of noncontradiction false; in other words, God could arrange matters so that a proposition and its negation were true at the same time. But this is absurd. How could God arrange matters so that New Zealand is south of China and that New Zealand is not south of it? So, one must conclude that logic is not dependent on God, and, insofar as the Christian world view assumes that logic so dependent, it is false.

    Frame: Logic is neither above God nor arbitrarily decreed by God. Its ultimate basis is in God’s eternal nature. God is a rational God and necessarily so. Therefore logic is necessary. Human logical systems don’t always reflect God’s logic perfectly. But insofar as they do, they are necessarily true.

    I believe that Martin correctly deduces from the assumption that “God created everything, including logic”, and Frame correctly solves the apparent dilemma by explaining that logic is uncreated.

  8. I don’t see how that doesn’t do away with the distinction between necessity and contingency.

    Everything God does flows from his nature. Everything. Every tiny little detail of the decree. Unless of course, he can violate his nature? And if everything in the decree reflects his nature, then it makes sense that “the earth is full of his glory”.

    But can we then say that everything that flows from his nature is necessary? God is absolutely free. Anything he does economically is freely chosen. Even if it is a matter of his nature.

    I was wondering what you thought about the order/logic distinction I tried to draw…but as you said, it was a lot. I guess I’ll wait to see what else you say about it – unless that’s not your intention. (?)

    E

  9. Now, once upon a time, people believed the earth was flat. Was this morally wrong? Is the statement “the earth is flat” a lie? Yes, it’s a lie. To believe it is morally wrong. What if you lie without knowing it, are you still lying? Yes, you’re still lying…So I’m not saying that it’s a huge sin – furthermore, what we will be judged for is the sinfulness of our hearts. Remember, we are ALL sinners. Everything we do is tainted with sin, because we have sinful hearts.

    Look, I have no problem understanding that on Judgment day, there will be no lack of evidence against the condemned. But I and you have discussed before whether “lie” is an appropriate term for unmotivated, unrecognized wrongness. I will allow as how truth suppressed in unrighteousness could be categorized as lying, but to lump all false statements into this category would be to assert that we all have every truth inherent in us, and understanding of the truth is just a matter of suppression vs. submission (which philosopher taught this — I can’t remember!). Making no distinction between being wrong and lying is tantamount to making no distinction between killing and murder (and let’s not get into that again!).

  10. Ahh, Plato was the goof I was trying to think of, with his Epistomology of Recollection, i.e. we are born knowing everything, and learning is nothing other than recollection.

  11. I don’t see how that doesn’t do away with the distinction between necessity and contingency.

    Hmm. Wacky is better qualified to dissect necessary vs. possible. I just don’t see that God could have arbitrarily or freely chosen to ordain that 1+1=3, or that the law of noncontradiction would not always be valid, because 1+1=3 is truth, and “the law of noncontradiction is always valid” is truth. To me that’s the same as saying “God can’t change his own nature”, and “God can’t lie”.

    At any rate, in God’s being, we see what appear to us to be logical contradictions. For instance, the doctrine of the Trinity teaches that God is one God yet three persons.

    The proper response to apparent contradictions is to seek to understand them, rather than to declare them to be somehow “extra-logical”. For instance, the Trinity is not an actual contradiction, because God is not one in the same sense that God is three. There is also a sense that I could say that you are two — your carnal, fleshly nature, which is constantly in battle with your regenerate, spiritual nature. But if we allow for God to be exempt from logic, then we cannot argue when people say things like “God is sovereign, and his grace is resistable”. That is not to say that we will be able to understand every apparent contradiction. I reiterate Frame: “Human logical systems don’t always reflect God’s logic perfectly. But insofar as they do, they are necessarily true.”

  12. Rube,

    What I’m saying is that for God, no one truth is dependent upon any other truth, but they’re all dependent upon him – except those truths which are true of him.

    So a crow being a black bird is not something that God understands as dependent upon the definition of crow like we do. God doesn’t say that electrons orbit a nucleus because of X, Y and Z. God knows that electrons orbit around a nucleus because he has made it so. We think it has something to do with an electrical force of nature, and we call that a law of nature. But it isn’t a law of nature, technically speaking, it’s a regular way in which God operates. Scientists see a force that operates with regularity, I see God’s providence operating with regularity. I’m not saying there isn’t an electrical force, or gravity, but I am saying that these laws are simply patterns in God’s decree/activity/providence. These laws don’t exist independently of God, as if God created the universe to operate on its own with certain rules.

    I think this is an extremely important point. Deists believe that God is a watch maker. He makes the watch, then winds it, then walks away, while it keeps time on its own. We are not deists, of course. We don’t think that nature has any inherent power on its own. The watch can’t be “wound” in such a way that it will run on its own. No, God must be moving the hands ’round and ’round. As soon as he stops moving them, they stop, or rather, cease to exist.

    So what about gravity? Is there some force called gravity that operates on its own, unless God acts to intervene? No. If I hold a rock in my hand, and hold up my hand and open it, the rock falls not because of gravity, but because of God. Now, gravity is a reality – I’m not denying that – what I’m trying to point out is that God is behind it all.

    But Echo, are you saying that it’s possible that you could hold up a rock in your hand and let go of it and it won’t fall? No, God is not a toy so that he’ll submit to my demonstration. He isn’t mine to command. But when I open my hand, it’s God that actively causes the rock to fall. I can’t imagine it not falling, really. Oh, sure, we can make strange science fiction movies that depict floating rocks, but if I hold a rock in the air, no one will be willing to put their foot under it. We are all sure that it will fall. Or better yet, none of us will be willing to jump off a building in the hope that they will be able to fly, except insane people. Nonetheless, it is God who upholds gravity. If he chose to do so, it would cease to function, even though science tells us that this is impossible. Gravity is a reality, but only because God upholds it.

    So with the laws of math and logic. Indeed, 1+1=3 sounds absurd, but that’s only because this entire universe is structured in a way that makes it absurd. Now maybe the law of non-contradiction is impossible to get around, but I don’t know. I know God won’t compromise truth. But the law of non-contradiction isn’t the only content to the laws of logic. And remember, ultimately, all logic is axiomatic by nature. The axioms could be different. How deduction works could be different. How our minds work could be different. But for this to be true, the universe would have to be very different.

    Anyway, I wanted to know if time and space exist necessarily.

    And also, God using logic to speak to us, well, I affirm that logic is how we think, so it only makes sense that God would speak to us in our own language, just as he spoke to the Israelites in Hebrew, so they could understand. There’s nothing magical about Hebrew. If he had chosen to reveal himself to the Chinese, he would have spoken in Chinese. So how God communicates to us says more about us than about God. His revelation is condescended to us, like an adult bending down to talk to a child.

    If you want to say that the law of non-contradiction derives necessarily from God’s nature in that he cannot lie, or even be wrong, or tell an untruth – well, I’d be more comfortable with that.

    My whole point was that the laws of logic are laws for the universe, not for God. Unless you define logic simply as truth. But I don’t think it’s that simple. So I said that laws of logic belong properly to the laws of nature: God upholds them by his providence. God actively causes them to be regularly upheld in the universe. And I also wanted to say that believing a contradiction isn’t violating the laws of logic, but the moral imperative to believe the truth, which sin prevents.

    By the way, there is a distinction to be made between being unskilled at discovering the truth and violating the moral imperative to believe the truth. You can fall short of being able to discover the truth, but insofar as you are able to discover it, you are obligated to believe it by your very constitution as an image bearer.

    Thus my comment about the earth being flat/center/etc. The misconception was based on an assumption: I am the center of the universe. It is an egocentric assumption. Copernicus humbled the human race a little bit. Oh sure, we want to know how the ancients could be faulted for thinking that they were the center of the universe, or how I can fault them for this. But I’m not talking about how they should have recognized the sun as that around which the earth orbits. I’m just saying that they should have recognized that it’s not all about ME. And if they had worshiped God as they ought, perhaps that would not have been an underlying assumption, and the theory would have been different somehow.

    But on the other hand, we can argue that God spoke to Moses within this worldview in Genesis. The creation account surely is spoken to people who believed in a flat earth in the center of the universe. So how can we say that there’s anything wrong with it? Well, again, God speaks to us in ways that we can understand. Bear in mind that we still think that the Genesis narrative is valid and authoritative, even though we no longer believe the earth is flat or the center of the universe. We still recognize that that view is wrong. But God spoke within the context of an incorrect view. Does that mean that what God said was a lie? No, it means he spoke to the people in their own language in a way that they could understand. That’s all. Moses permitted divorce as a concession, said Jesus.

    But I don’t want to have a long involved discussion about this point. In general, we are commanded by God to believe the truth, and especially to speak the truth, as in the 9th commandment. Westminster Shorter Catechism says:

    Q76: What is the Ninth Commandment?
    A76: The Ninth Commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.[1]

    1. Exod. 20:16

    Q77: What is required in the Ninth Commandment?
    A77: The Ninth Commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man,[1] and of our own [2] and our neighbour’s good name,[3] especially in witness-bearing.[4]

    1. Zech. 8:16
    2. I Peter 3:16; Acts 25:10
    3. III John 1:12
    4. Prov. 14:5, 25

    Q78: What is forbidden in the Ninth Commandment?
    A78: The Ninth Commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudical to truth,[1] or injurious to our own [2] or our neighbour’s good name.[3]

    1. Rom. 3:13
    2. Job 27:5
    3. Psa. 15:3

    And the larger catechism is even more involved. Much more involved. So, whatever. There’s either true or not true. The child who gets a question wrong on a math assignment is unskilled at discovering the truth. But he’s trying. Of course, if he isn’t trying, then his problem is his attitude, etc.

    But my focus is on truth. We are obligated under the law to believe the truth. That’s my point. Let’s just agree on that and be done with it.

    E

  13. Now maybe the law of non-contradiction is impossible to get around, but I don’t know. I know God won’t compromise truth. But the law of non-contradiction isn’t the only content to the laws of logic. And remember, ultimately, all logic is axiomatic by nature. The axioms could be different. How deduction works could be different.

    Well, I’m with you there until that last one. My point is that deduction would work the same. Logic is axiomatic by nature, i.e. it has to have some axioms, some premises, in order to be able to do anything — trying to use logic without axioms would be like trying to build a house with nails and no boards. And I’m willing to stipulate that 1+1=3 is a bad example, because (a) even I agree that it is debatable whether math is at the same level as logic, and (b) 1+1=3 is a statement that requires axioms about what 1 and + mean.

    So think of logic as “the rest of the content of the laws of logic” besides noncontradiction, and I think you’ll be with me.

    My whole point was that the laws of logic are laws for the universe, not for God. Unless you define logic simply as truth. But I don’t think it’s that simple.

    How about this empirical-style definition of logic? God knows and embodies all truth. He doesn’t need logic to navigate from truth to truth like we do. But there are patterns in the relationships between truths. For instance, if X is true then “not X” is never true. The universality of that pattern among the infinite space of truths is what we know and love (and can depend on) as the law of noncontradiction. Whenever X is true and “(not X) or Y” is also true, then we always find Y to be true. Modus Ponens. This is so useful, we invent a new syntax to represent the relationship “(not X) or Y”, which looks like “X–>Y” and is pronounced “implies”.

    So maybe in that sense you could say “God is not constrained by logic, but logic flows from the truthfulness and consistency of his nature”. Eh?

  14. Wow, a lot has been added.

    Rube, re: #5.

    I’d agree with your restricted and qualified claim that moral laws are personal in that they govern relationships between persons while logic governs relationships between propositions. I’d just not call logic “impersonal” because of the conotations attached. Rather, I think I’d like to express your point by saying that moral laws are *intra*personal.

    Now I’ll just jump in here and there, throwing out some thoughts:

    E, post #6

    I’m not rely replying to E, just using his statements as a springboard to type out some thoughts:

    I’d like to see a more extended argument for logic being uncreated. Here are some reasons why I think logic is created.

    Well,

    1) We'd have to make some distinctions here. Namely, what is meant by "logic" and in what sense is it "uncreated." So, I'll try to offer an adequate answer to your request for an extended argument:

    a) One could mean by 'logic,' the human formalizations of said laws/arguments. Thus,

    1. S --> (T · U)
    2. (T v U) --> V
    3. ~S v (T · U)
    4. (~S v T) · (~S v U)
    5. ~S v T
    6. S --> T
    7. ~(T v U) v V
    8. (~T · ~U) v V
    9. V v (~T · ~U)
    10. (V v ~T) · (V v ~U)
    11. V v ~T
    12. ~T v V
    13. T --> V
    14. S --> V

    Obviously the above is "created."

    b) But note that those are formalizations of laws that already existed. Like 1 is the human construct representing the number one. (Numerals are not numbers.)

    c) So, the laws existed before humans formalized them with arbitrary variables.

    2) But, when talking about logic we could be talking about the ontology of logic. In this case, laws of logic are not like apples. They're immaterial. They're not in one particular place, like the apple. The same laws apply multiply places, at once. No one physical thing can be in more than one spatio-temporal location at the same time. Furthermore, they're unchanging, umlike the apple which eventually rots, if not eaten first.

    3) So we'd need to clarify what we mean when we say "logic is created or uncreated."

    4) Now let's talk about created vs. uncreated. Or, necessary vs. contingent

    a) If something is created then it's contingent, i.e., it doesn't have to exist, or things could have been different, etc.

    b) Example of contingent things are, the sky's appearing blue to us. God could have made the world in such a way that when we look at the sky we're appeared to in a big pink way. Through in some purple clouds for pizzaz.

    Another would be my having both arms and legs. The world could have gone in such a way, had God ordained it, that it lose my legs in a car wreck (God forbid!).

    c) Examples of necessary things are, well, let's first break down the different categories of necessity:

    i) Metaphysical necessity- is a de re (of the thing) necessity and refers to the way a property is had by a thing (Wacky has humanness by metaphysical necessity. No possible world where I exist will I not have the property 'being human' had by me).

    ii) Strict logical necessity - is a de dicto (of the statement) necessity and refers to the fact that some entire propositions are true necessarily (e.g., p v ~p, e.g., either God exists or He does not). There is no possible world where this proposition is not necessarily true. it exhausts the logical possibilities.

    iii) Physical necessity - expresses the fact that given our contingent physical laws of nature, certain things must happen in accordance with those laws. For example, given our natural laws gravity can't fail to obtain here, but there are possible worlds where God made different physical laws, and hence different laws of gravity.

    iv) Epistemological necessity - expresses the fact that it is impossible to be wrong about some judgment (epistemological possibility means that for all we know, we could be mistaked about some judgment).

    Take (ii), then. The claim is that in no possible world would some propositions fail to be true. I gave an example above. It is always true, and true in all possible worlds, that: Either God exists or He doesn't. The fact that God exists in all possible worlds does not change the truth value of the disjunct.

    d) Okay, so now we're in a position to mount just one argument (among many) for why 'logic' is uncreated. Since some logical laws/propositions are true in all possible worlds, then they exist in all possible worlds. That is, if they didn't exist there wouldn't be anything true about them. If I don't exist then it's not true that I'm typing right now. But we saw that at least one logical proposition was true in all possible worlds. Therefore it exists in all possible worlds.

    If it was uncreated, then there would be a possible world (i.e.,the world minus p v ~p) where it was not the case that either God exists or he doesn't. But what would soemthing like that look like? God kind of exists? What does that even mean? Or, God kind of doesn't exist. But what does that mean. If I say that being G, "kind of exists" then there's something I'm referring to, hence it exists.

    Now, of course the symbols "p" and "~" didn't need to exist, but the truth they express, or instantiate, does exist.

    And so what is the ontological status of this thing that exists? Is it something that has eternally existed along side God? Well, one could debate that, but I assume all here would say no. And so what option is left? Like love is an attribute of God, so would logic be.

    But E had some reasons why he didn't like to say that logic is uncreated. So, I'll just address a couple:

    I find logic to be an order that God has imposed on the universe. I don’t see God having to obey the laws of logic as if they govern him, as if they are higher than him. Now, you didn’t imply that, but I just wanted to get that out there. You seem to be saying that logic flows from God’s nature, and it couldn’t be otherwise. However, I find that God’s nature is one of order and harmony, and THAT in turn implies that God should impose some kind of order on the universe, according to his nature. The way that is played out, we call logic. But I would say that God could have imposed a different kind of order.

    1) It's best to look at logic like morality, as part of his nature. God doesn't have a moral law which is higher than him, he's tghe exemplay. Likewise with logic. Van Til wrote:

    "The law of contradiction, therefore, as we know it, is but the expression on a created level of the internal coherence of God's nature. [...] Christians should employ the law of contradiction, whether positively or negatively, as a means by which to systematize the facts of revelation." (An Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 11)

    2) What does it mean to say that God could have imposed a different kind of order as this is taken to mean different logical order. Could God have made a world where A and ~A could both be true? A pig could both fly and not fly at the same time and same relationship?

    3) What if there were no logical laws "before" God created them. Could God have existed and not existed at the same time? Suppose you say, "No, he couldn't." I'd ask why? Suppose you say, "He must exist." I say, "Yes, I agree, He must exist and he must not exist." You'd rightly retort, "But that's a contradiction!"

    4) Certainly God could have imposed a different physical order. One where the sky would appear pink. But it doesn't follow that he could impose an order where the sky would appear to be pink and blue all over at the same time. Thus the LoN could have been different, but not the LoL. Indeed, in any multiply world God could have made different LoN, it would always be the case in that world that either this LoN holds, or it doesn't.

    At any rate, in God’s being, we see what appear to us to be logical contradictions. For instance, the doctrine of the Trinity teaches that God is one God yet three persons. Some people say that this is not a contradiction, but a paradox. Maybe.

    God is not one yet three in the same sense, though. You Rube and I are all one in essence (i.e., we're have the essence "humanness"), yet we're three individual persons. And essence isn't a person, persons have essences. The persons of the trinity all have full and equal share of the divine essence. So, I don't even think the trinity is parodoxical, let alone contradictory.

    So with the laws of math and logic. Indeed, 1+1=3 sounds absurd, but that’s only because this entire universe is structured in a way that makes it absurd.

    At this point I'd say the person doesn't understand the statement. If one understands the concept "1" and the concept "3", then he'll note that 1+1 could never = 3.

    ~Wacky

  15. don’t know why my whole post was italicized… oh well

  16. Rube 13,

    Who said this: “God is not constrained by logic, but logic flows from the truthfulness and consistency of his nature”.?

    E

  17. I like this statement of Van Til’s: “The law of contradiction, therefore, as we know it, is but the expression on a created level of the internal coherence of God’s nature.”

    I wonder if I’ll be allowed to say that this is what I was grasping at. What I was trying to say is that God is orderly by nature, and true (truth) by nature. Logic is how that plays out in this universe. Could that internal coherence be expressed in a different way if the universe had some radically unimaginably different structure? Maybe. I don’t know what the differences would look like. I’m not saying that God both can and cannot exist. I’m not saying 1+1 could equal 3. I’m saying I have no idea how it could be different. My brain doesn’t work very well outside the rules of this universe, because my brain was created to operate within this universe. Trying to say what the differences would be is like asking Kant to describe the noumena. No access, no description. I don’t know what could be or would be different. Maybe 1+1 could not equal 3, but maybe that there is such a thing as quantity is contingent.

    Anyway, no more logic lessons please. I do have a philosophy degree, and I have taken logic classes, but thanks for the review.

    I’m just saying that we need to question what we call “uncreated” and what we ascribe to God. I think we need to be very careful assigning properties to God that might possibly be more appropriately assigned to the creation. That’s all.

    Besides, I’ve another worry. If God conforms to logic, couldn’t there be rational proofs for his existence, since his being would conform to logic, since his being conforms to his nature? Tell me, Van Til-ians. (That’s not meant to be an insult, I would consider myself Van Til-ian too. I mean, I am a Westminster student.)

    Kant said in “Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone” that God is Reason. If God and Logic are one, then it seems like I get the green light to use reason magisterially. I know Van Til doesn’t approve of that. I think Van Til’s statement that I ripped off of Wacky is more qualified than the statements you guys are making. I’m not entirely sure I can fully understand the differences, but I think it’s different.

    But I’m ok with logic being a created expression of God’s ordered/truthful nature. (All creation expresses God’s nature somehow, after all.) I just don’t want to divinize formal logic. Too…rationalistic, blurring lines with classical/Roman apologetics.

    Now it may be that I’m not smart enough to gauge all the fine distinctions you guys are. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in seminary, it’s that I’m not the smartest guy on the block. So maybe I’ve misunderstood something. If I’ve misunderstood something, don’t get mad, just tell me what I’ve missed. My real worry is divinizing human reason. Tell me how you’re not doing that and I’ll be happy.

    E

  18. PS I’m not sure how I feel about modal logic/possible worlds. I’m not sure about how I feel about necessity and possibility. Some days I can be convinced that all facts are necessarily true, because all facts are driven by the decree of God, and the decree of God is something God does, and thus it is controlled by his nature. Does that mean nothing could be any way other than what it is? Well, it might – some days…in my mind. But I don’t know. It seems silly to say that my eating a sausage pizza rather than peperoni has anything to do with God’s nature. But God decreed everything that comes to pass, and didn’t he choose to decree the world in the best way possible in order to reveal his glory to the fullest extent possible? Does that mean that nothing could be other than the way it is? But that doesn’t seem to make sense. It seems to be counter-intuitive. I mean, reprobation and election are things God does, and that’s in accordance with his nature. Decreeing everything that comes to pass, that’s in accordance with his nature.

    But of course, other days I say, well, couldn’t God be just as glorified if I choose peperoni pizza rather than sausage? Maybe. Maybe not. I usually get sick if I eat peperoni, and when I get sick, I get in a bad mood, maybe take it out on someone, or maybe I don’t glorify God as much. Maybe I’m sinful. So maybe God is that concerned with how all the details work out. And maybe if I have sausage, I’ll be in a better mood, and better able to deal with my wife coming home from work after a rough day. And maybe God decided that that whole state of affairs, brought about by my choice in pizza, would bring him the most glory.

    So then I’m back to saying that everything that happens is necessarily true, because God decreed what he did necessarily. At any rate, the decree is eternal, prior to the foundation of the world, and everything happens according to the decree, which is calculated, perhaps, to bring God the maximum amount of glory, according to his good pleasure. But if the decree is eternal, could it really have been otherwise? There’s no such thing as “could have been” with the decree, is there? That’s kind of like asking if God could have been otherwise. No. He’s eternal, unchanging. The decree is also eternal, unchanging. (Though for God, it is economic, not ontological, albeit eternal, like the covenant of redemption.) What would it mean to say that this eternal decree could have been otherwise if it was what it was from all eternity? There was never a time when it wasn’t God’s plan. This IS God’s plan.

    Perhaps all things are necessary. Perhaps all things are contingent, but contingent upon the decree of God; however, given the decree, all things are necessary.

    I don’t know. My mind stops working at such heights.

    E

  19. Rube,

    I fear I may have misdirected your thread. Say it ain’t so…

    E

  20. Echo

    @16: I guess I did. Maybe I shouldn’t have put quotes, but I guess I meant to paraphrase what I heard you saying, in a way that conformed to my empirical definition.

    @17: We are not divinizing human reason. Logic is not ours — we are merely Echoing it. Formalized logic, i.e. the way that we capture, reflect, echo, the logical part of God’s nature, is not in itself divine. But just like revelation, there is a correctness, a truthfulness, that we can reliably access. Quoting Frame a third time: “Human logical systems don’t always reflect God’s logic perfectly. But insofar as they do, they are necessarily true.”

    @19: Ummm, I was hoping to engage limejelly, but this is interesting too. I am more comfortable now with my understanding that logic is uncreated, having had to be more precise about it.

  21. Rube,

    Not satisfied that your view of logic doesn’t validate logical/rational proofs for existence of God. It might not, but I just want to hear how it doesn’t. I’m not seeing it. To say that logic is not ours…I don’t understand how that answers my dilemma.

    Please feel free to engage LJ then.

    E

  22. OK.

    Logic is defined as fundamental by us. We use it as a way of reasoning about things. We might reason about natural things. For example, we know that birds fly, and we can see something flying off in the distance, therefore it must be a bird. We know from modern experience that there may be a flaw in this argument. Due to the prevalence of insects, it is in fact more likely to be an insect. But it’s distant and we can see it, so that suggests it is larger than an insect, and so we steer toward a logical conclusion that it is a bird. Or an aeroplane. Or if you’re in a country where they have huge insects, it might still be more likely to be an insect. Context is important. When you break laws of logic, you have got the context wrong, or you have made a mistake in your reasoning. Logic has discrete values, but we had grey ares there. They’re important, and can sometimes be given a relative value.

    We as an intelligent race appear to have discovered logic. Reuben might say that since there may be a God of infinite power, I should logically make a point of serving him. I would say that there’s nothing wrong with his reasoning within the context he has defined. I would state categorically that there are many things missing from the context he is using to reason within.

    A law of nature is a logical process within the context of our understanding of nature. Nature from our persepective is a set of emprical observations and constructive reasoning. A bird lays and egg, a chick emerges, and it’s not Pamela Anderson. This man likes women, this other man likes other men. This particularly splendid woman likes both men and women. These things happen, and that’s a law of nature.

    Laws of morality are chosen by us as one or more societies. You demand that no man consort with another. I do not. I think constraining behaviours which do not harm others is disappointing. You will argue that homogeneous interaction at certain levels is contrary to a set of laws which you call God’s law. You have selected these from a huge menu available to mankind.

    Yes, you did, you selected them. You believe they’re right.

    Are moral laws absolute? They are absolute within your context, for example of Calvinism, which you have defined in relation to Christianity. Think of inheritance in Java.

    Are natural laws absolute? No, I think not. We try to learn about nature. If we decide that such a law is absolute, then we will certainly not learn more.

    Are logical laws absolute? If you accept causality, then yes they are. Can they be broken? No, if you break a law of logic, then you have mis-defined the context or environment.

  23. […] to engage with a discussion about laws.  I’ve briefly shaken my brain into a comment under the post, and it’s going to get a barrage with a lot of references to God in it.   I’m kinda […]

  24. Oo – neat! I should let those things through when I check my comments. I’ll be here intermittently due to an enormous to do list.

  25. Hi Limejelly!

    Logic is defined as fundamental by us.

    I wouldn’t say ‘defined’, I would say rather that Logic is apparently, or self-evidently fundamental. Just like addition is fundamental to multiplication.

    For example, we know that birds fly, and we can see something flying off in the distance, therefore it must be a bird.

    OK, you go on to refine your example, but right at the start, this has nothing to do with context. The collection of propositions in that sentence are easily recognizable to be logically fallacious — the same violation of the law of the contrapositive that was committed by our hapless caveman in the original post. I suppose what you mean by context is what you fill content-less logic with. So violations of logic can occur in two ways: (1) by misapplying the Laws of Logic themselves, and (2) by correctly applying LoL, but to the wrong set of definitions/axioms, thus making the result non-applicable in the context you intended.

    These things happen, and that’s a law of nature.

    I would not say that “men usually prefer to get it on with women” is a law of nature. “Bird eggs do not contain Pamela Anderson” might be closer. For one thing, if it’s breakable, I wouldn’t call it a law of nature.

    Are natural laws absolute? No, I think not. We try to learn about nature. If we decide that such a law is absolute, then we will certainly not learn more.

    You must be operating under a different conception of LoN than me. Why would someone do something as silly as “decide” that a law is absolute? As if the law is in some probationary status, waiting for us to nail it down. If a law is absolute, it is absolute independent of us, and it is for us to either recognize that it is absolute, or not.

    Speed of light is 186,000 mi/s. Absolute, or not? As it happens, that “law of nature” is not, because in water, light travels slower, which is why a stick in a pond appears to bend. Here it gets again to a question of context. In a vacuum, the speed of light is 186,000 mi/s. Absolute? I think so. But I’m not well-educated about physics, so there are probably some relativistic gravity- or quantum-based conditions that would have to further qualify the law. Maybe there are other conditions we have not yet encountered which would also alter the speed of light. But the bottom line is, the way light moves is regulated by absolute laws. They don’t change from yesterday to today. They don’t change from here to Betelgeuse. We might not yet have nailed down what those absolute laws are with complete precision, but the laws are there.

    Don’t confuse LoN with stuff written in textbooks. Obviously, stuff written in textbooks is empirically derived and approximate. But, to paraphrase John Frame (how many times can I use this quote?) “Human [scientific systems] don’t always reflect God’s [natural laws] perfectly. But insofar as they do, they are necessarily true.” I would venture to say, however, that it is easier for our logic to approximate God’s perfect logic than it is for our scientific systems to approximate God’s perfect natural laws.

    As for morality, you jumped into homosexuality a little quick for me (what would Mrs. Jelly think?) — at this point, I am striving for universal agreement. Are you with me as far as “LoM are personal, vs. LoL,LoN are impersonal”? How about “without persons, there would be no immorality”?

  26. There are two kinds of legal systems: one where the laws describe how objects should behave (descriptive), or one where the laws describe how objects in that system must behave (prescriptive).

    Legal systems have scope; they only apply to objects within that scope.

    By definition, any object that would violates the rules of a proscriptive legal system does not exist in that system. (ie it does not fall within that legal system’s scope.)

    Laws of Nature, as described, I instinctively re-write as the ‘Laws of Physics’. They are not quite the same thing; the Laws of Nature are proscriptive; they describe how things within the scope of the Universe must behave.

    The Laws of Physics, however, represent our current understanding of the Laws of Nature. Their scope is also the Universe, but they are approximate descriptive laws; if something operates contrary to the laws of physics then, by definition, the Laws of Physics need to be updated to account for this behaviour.

    (Whereas, if something was to violate the Laws of Nature, then it would by definition not fall within the scope of the Universe.)

    Laws of Morals, as described, describe how people who adhere to a given value system must behave. They are also prescriptive in that sense; if a person violates a tenet of a value system then, by definition, they do not adhere to that value system; they are out of scope.

    Logic and mathematics as a whole is simply a reasoning toolkit. They are, in effect, a set of meta-laws that allow you to calculate implications of things. Their scope is the set of legal systems where the axioms of logic are valid. This includes the Laws of Physics (as I currently understand them..)

    To talk about whether legal systems are created gets interesting. Legal systems are created by who/whatever defines them; for moral systems, this is relatively straightforward.

    Meta-legal systems such as mathematics were constructed by Man, and appear to be applicable to the Universe.

    I suppose you could say that God created the Universe and thus explicitly or implicitly defined the laws of Nature. (Perhaps this could even be considered a definition for what God is.)

  27. DWM, welcome to the party — not sure if I know you from my time in ol’ Blighty in 99-01.

    I’m a little confused — are you switching between prEscriptive and prOscriptive on purpose, or by accident? In any case, I think your application of scope to LoM doesn’t make sense. Here’s what I see you saying: If I violate the LoM “People should not murder other people”, then by definition I do not adhere to that (I’m still with you); I am out of scope — ?? That sounds to me as if the act of violating a law removes me from the jurisdictional scope of that law. What kind of law is that? It ends up applying to nobody — or at least applying void-ly only to those who obey it.

    Meta-legal systems such as mathematics were constructed by Man, and appear to be applicable to the Universe.

    So before Man arrived on the scene, when a valley had two trees growing in it, and then they dropped seeds, and three more trees grew, were there five trees? (I.e. before Man constructed mathematics, was 2+3=5?)

    I suppose you could say that God created the Universe and thus explicitly or implicitly defined the laws of Nature. (Perhaps this could even be considered a definition for what God is.)

    That’s what I would call a definition of the atheist God. Accepting all of the impersonal (LoN, LoL), rejecting all of the personal (LoM)

  28. Limejelly,

    Due to the prevalence of insects, it is in fact more likely to be an insect. But it’s distant and we can see it, so that suggests it is larger than an insect, and so we steer toward a logical conclusion that it is a bird.

    That’s not at all how perception works. Perception beliefs, of the kind that have warrant enough for knowledge, are immediate beliefs, they’re non-reflective (at least that’s how 95% of all contemporary philosophers today define it). One’s beliefs formed by perception are immediate, you look at a field and just find yourself believing that you see a field in front of you, or, that you’re being appearing to in a big green way.

    Nature from our persepective is a set of emprical observations and constructive reasoning. A bird lays and egg, a chick emerges, and it’s not Pamela Anderson. This man likes women, this other man likes other men. This particularly splendid woman likes both men and women. These things happen, and that’s a law of nature.

    This man likes 10 year old boy. These things happen, and that’s a law of nature.

    Are moral laws absolute? They are absolute within your context, for example of Calvinism, which you have defined in relation to Christianity. Think of inheritance in Java.

    Classic argument for moral relativism. But this has been refuted since Meade thought she proved it. Today it’s widely acknowledged to be a bad argument, which proves to much. That different people giove different answers to moral questions no more disporves that there is one correct universal morality than does the fact that 20 kids all give different answers to 5+5 on their math test prove that there are multiple *correct* answers to 5+5.

    DWM,

    Laws of Morals, as described, describe how people who adhere to a given value system must behave. They are also prescriptive in that sense; if a person violates a tenet of a value system then, by definition, they do not adhere to that value system; they are out of scope.

    1. How they “must” behave relative to what? If they don’t want to go to jail?

    2. Do you ever speed on the freeway? Do you not “adhere to our value system?” Do you always come to a complete stop at a stop sign, or do you roll through it sometimes? Do you not “adhere to our value system?” Are you “out of scope?”

    3. Morality deals with *oughts.* I’m missing where you argued for why we *ought* to do certain things. Because then we’d be “out of scope?” Is that “bad?” Ought we not to be out of scope? So, you just push the question back.

    4. So, then there’s nothing objectively wrong, at al times and places, with tortuing little children for fun?

  29. I hear elevator music, possibly the Jeopardy theme song, maybe Taps. I can’t tell.

  30. Shouldn’t there be a delay of game penalty, or something, on this blog?

  31. @27:

    Re. Proscriptive vs Prescriptive:

    Ooops, I meant to use ‘prescriptive’ consistently, but my fingers kept typing the wrong word..

    Re. morals:

    I was considering moral codes on a purely individual basis. When I say that someone who violates some tenet is out-of-scope of, I meant that their behaviour can no-longer be considered to be bound by those rules (irrespective of what they might claim to the contrary.)

    There are, however, still obviously within the scope of local laws; society can (and does) still try and sentence them for their crimes.

    Re. Mathematics:

    Yes, there are clearly 5 trees. The principles of mathematics still held before we constructed them and can still be applied to the laws of Nature then as now.

    But notice what you asked: you asked whether 2+3 still equalled 5 before Mathematics. But 2+3=5 is a mathematical expression! It’s behaviour is governed _exclusively_ by the rules of mathematics; the concept of addition has no meaning whatsoever outside of that context.

    Re. “atheist God”: Surely this is a contradiction in terms! (Perhaps ‘agnostic’ is a better term?)

    @28
    Re: “I’m missing where you argued for why we *ought* to do certain things.”

    I didn’t argue one way or the other on the subject!

    Re: “Objectively wrong”

    I’m not sure there’s any such thing. For something to be considered ‘wrong’, it must contravene some aspect of a value system. It is fundamentally subjective; the answer you get depends on which value system you are operating within.

    To argue that some thing is fundamentally wrong without reference to any value system is exactly analogous to arguing that 2+3=5 without reference to any form of mathematics. It simply doesn’t make sense.

    The only way that you could argue that something was objectively wrong, you would have to show that it held for all possible value systems, and I don’t think that’s possible.

    Note that what I’m describing is moral pluralism, not moral relativism. (At least, as I understand the terms — I’ve just been quickly reading the relevant articles in Wikipedia). Moral pluralism is where you accept that there are different moral systems, but evaluate others actions according to your own values. Moral relativism is where you accept each individual’s or society’s moral systems are definitive for their immediate local environment.

    (I’ve probably just horribly mangled these terms, my background is in Computing, not Philosophy..)

  32. I was considering moral codes on a purely individual basis. When I say that someone who violates some tenet is out-of-scope of, I meant that their behaviour can no-longer be considered to be bound by those rules (irrespective of what they might claim to the contrary.)

    In other words, in my 3-way classification, they’re a hypocrite. They hold forth a moral code, but by their non-conformant actions, they demonstrate that they actually subscribe internally to a different code.

    Of course there is a difference between the moral code someone endorses, and the de facto moral code that could be inferred from their actions (see again 3 types of people), but that de facto moral code cannot be internally self-consistent — there will be some ‘rules’ that a person sometimes obeys, and sometimes breaks. You don’t seem to be allowing for the possibility that someone outwardly endorses a moral code, and fails to live up to it, and is just wrong. Just because he fails to live up to the code (removes himself from the scope), doesn’t necessitate definition of a separate code.

    But notice what you asked: you asked whether 2+3 still equalled 5 before Mathematics. But 2+3=5 is a mathematical expression! It’s behaviour is governed _exclusively_ by the rules of mathematics; the concept of addition has no meaning whatsoever outside of that context.

    Absolutely not! The concept of addition — and mathematics as a whole, doesn’t rely on mankind to capture it symbologically, which is the point you already agreed with! How can you escape the context in which addition and mathematics are meaningful?

    The only way that you could argue that something was objectively wrong, you would have to show that it held for all possible value systems, and I don’t think that’s possible.

    Or to show that all other possible value systems are wrong. You are showing your axiomatic presupposition that moral value systems are “by definition” subjective. That’s the whole point. It’s because in your definition, moral value systems flow from independent people independently. Where I’m coming from, that’s not the definition. Morals are defined by God’s person, and that’s the objective standard. Any other “possible value systems” are either right or wrong to the extent that they conform to the standard.

  33. Re: 31,

    I didn’t argue one way or the other on the subject!

    So on your worldview, why *ought* not people torture children for fun?

    Re: “Objectively wrong”

    I’m not sure there’s any such thing. For something to be considered ‘wrong’, it must contravene some aspect of a value system. It is fundamentally subjective; the answer you get depends on which value system you are operating within.

    Is the above objectively true? Or is it just a subjective opinion of yours?

    Furthermore, when Martin Luther King did his protests, he was going against our value system at the time. Was what MLK did ‘morally wrong?’ How ’bout Harriet Tubman. Your argument would, ipso facto, label all moral *reform* as morally wrong.

    Who says “For something to be considered ‘wrong’, it must contravene some aspect of a value system?”

    Different answers to moral questions doesn;t prove it’s subjective. If it did, then different answers to math questions prove that math is subjective.

    Indeed, there are different answers and opinions to the one your putting forth, therefore, on your own terms, you should say your view of things is subjective. Your subjective opinion.

    So are you admitting your opinion here is not objectively the way it is?

    To argue that some thing is fundamentally wrong without reference to any value system is exactly analogous to arguing that 2+3=5 without reference to any form of mathematics. It simply doesn’t make sense.

    Doesn’t make sens in respect to what? Objective rules of reasoning? But there’s disagreement about what those are.

    Of course I’m not arguing without reference to any value system. I have an objective one. So, when I say that child torture is wrong, from my worldview it’s not like I’m saying I like chocolate and you like vanilla. From yours, that’s where you’re led. For you, that you dislike child molestation is like your dislike of mushrooms.

    The only way that you could argue that something was objectively wrong, you would have to show that it held for all possible value systems, and I don’t think that’s possible.

    No, because something could be wrong regardless of what people think about the subject.

    If your statement is objectively correct, then you’d have to show that it held for all systems of rationality. But my system doesn’t agree with what you’re saying.

    Therefore, according to you, you must reject your own stipulations, or, again, tell us that you’re simply giving your mere opinion on the matter.

    Note that what I’m describing is moral pluralism, not moral relativism. (At least, as I understand the terms — I’ve just been quickly reading the relevant articles in Wikipedia). Moral pluralism is where you accept that there are different moral systems, but evaluate others actions according to your own values. Moral relativism is where you accept each individual’s or society’s moral systems are definitive for their immediate local environment.

    Why evaluate other’s actions and call them ‘wrong?’ Sounds like cultural prejudice.

    If the rightness or wrongness of an action is relative to different societies, that’s moral relativism.

  34. I could be wrong, but didn’t Kant prove that reason alone teaches that there is such a thing as objective right and wrong? I mean, he said that an action is good and moral if it could be made into a universal maxim for all people. For example, can murder be good if made into a universal maxim? Not unless you think the destruction of the human race is a good thing. Or he examines the case of Socrates. Socrates was sentenced to death, but he could have gotten out of it if he had promised to stop his philosophizing. Socrates wouldn’t make that promise, because it would have been a false one. So Kant asks if it would have been ok for him to lie in order to save himself. Applying his test, he asks what would happen to promises, as an institution, if everyone would consider it to be ok to lie to get out of trouble. He said that promises would cease to mean anything, because everyone would assume that promises would be false. So the false promise to save from trouble failed the universal maxim test. Murder fails, lying fails, stealing fails, etc. Atheists can at least sign up for THIS.

  35. crickets, crickets…

    *wind howls…

    *tumbleweed drifts by…

    *a crow caws…

    CAW! CAW!

    *an owl hoots…

    HOOT! HOOT!

    And we shiver, cold and alone in the dark…

  36. …and nobody gets it…

    E

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