Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Where Does Logic Come From?


It is one of the axioms of theistic thinking that logic, or more specifically, the rules and axioms of logic, come from God.  This is the underlying assumption in certain theistic arguments, and it was the basis of the Lord of Non-Contradiction theistic argument that I discussed in a recent post.  In fact, the notion that rational thought can only be the product of a divine thinker who somehow endows the human soul with his rational faculty is pervasive in theistic philosophy.  But this idea has no justification.  It is merely a presumption that theists make.

One of the points I made in my discussion of the Lord of Non-Contradiction argument is that the laws of logic are not necessary truths.  My reason for making such a statement is given in somewhat more detail in the comments to that post, where I answered the objection of Don McIntosh:
Skeptical's brash denial of the premise that logical axioms are necessarily true misses the point. The whole purpose for the philosophical notion of modal logic and possible worlds is to ascertain what may be possible or necessary according to the rules of logic. Clearly if there is any world at all that is "not possible," it's one in which the rules of logic do not hold!
Don believes that there is no possible world in which the rules of logic don't hold.  My answer to that is to recognize what all Christians believe: a non-material world, where God can do what he pleases, and logical conundrums like the holy trinity can exist.  Does the trinity violate the logical law of identity?  Yes, it does. That's why they call it a mystery.  Christians believe that it is a logical truism that something cannot come from nothing.  But if that's the case, then God couldn't have made the universe from nothing, either.  What they fail to recognize is that in God's world, it is possible to violate logical rules that apply us in our material world.  Not that I believe in this immaterial realm where God lives, but Christians certainly do.  So if Christians want to be honest, they have to admit that they believe there is a possible world where the rules of logic that apply to us humans don't necessarily hold force.

Even though they insist that God can't do what isn't logically possible, they nevertheless believe that God does violate the same rules of logic that apply to us in our world.  Everything that begins to exist is caused by something else, they say.  But God exists necessarily.  God is the exception to the rule that applies to everything in our world.  In our world, the laws of reality are what they are, and there are no exceptions.  But God isn't from our world.  He's from a place where the same rules don't apply.  This talk about the necessary existence of God is either an escape clause that allows a supposed God to violate the logical rules of our world, or an admission that the same rules of logic don't necessarily apply in all possible worlds.

To illustrate my point further, let's consider the theistic arguments about the fine-tuning of the universe.  Christians believe that our physical world is just one of many possible worlds, where physical reality could be very different from what we see in our world.  Our world is what it is because God made it that way, but not necessarily so.  The laws of physics aren't necessary truths, they say, and they certainly don't apply in the non-physical realm of existence (God himself is not subject to the laws of physics), but they reflect the reality of our physical world as it has been created by God.  So why, then, should they insist that logic is different?  Logic simply reflects the reality of our physical world, but God, in his immaterial realm of existence, can still do things that violate the rules by which our physical world abides.  It stands to reason that if God can conjure up whole worlds, God can put two balls into an empty basket, and then pull three balls out of the basket, if he so desires.  That's something that we can't do, because we are bound by the logic of our physical reality.  But in an immaterial world where our brand of physical reality doesn't apply, anything can happen.  Who's to say what the rules are?  Who's to say that God can't do whatever he pleases in his own immaterial realm?

And that brings me to the larger point.  The laws of logic are physical, and they are contingent upon the physical world, because without physical reality, we have no means by which to ground our logical understanding.  These laws reflect the physical reality of our world, and they are just the same as the laws of physics, in that regard.  In fact, logical and physical laws can't be separated.  Perhaps some physical laws could be modified without changing our logical reality, but at the most fundamental level, the laws that we recognize simply reflect the reality of our physical world.  Could they be different in some other possible world?  We have a hard time understanding how that could be the case, because we only know the laws that apply to us in our world.  And that's why Don McIntosh insists that there is no possibility of any other logical reality.  He knows the logic that applies to our world, and thinks that the same logic must apply to all possible worlds.  But if we're talking about a possible world that is non-physical, why can't it have its own logic that's different from ours?  If it's not grounded in any physical reality, anything goes.  McIntosh forgets that his own God already does violate the physical and logical realities that we live by.  So he's contradicting himself, because he already believes in a possible world (the immaterial realm of God) where the laws are different, or don't apply the way they do for us in our world.

I know that many will object that physical and logical laws are different.  Physical laws apply the the way physical things behave, and logical laws apply to conceptual things, or propositions.  It's true that we think of logical laws as being conceptual, but only because we have abstracted them to apply to conceptual situations.  How do we come to understand the fundamental laws of logic in the first place?  By observing the reality of our world.  It's no different from the way we gain an intuitive understanding of physical laws.  We grow up seeing how things work, and that physical reality is modeled in our brains.  How can we catch a ball in flight?  Because we've seen the way things move, and we have an intuitive understanding of where the ball will go, and how long it will take.  Why do we have an intuitive understanding of the law of identity?  Because that's what we have seen with our own eyes from the first moment in infancy when we began to look at our world and make sense of it.  There's nothing conceptual about it.  It's reality.  It's what we observe.  It's not something we had to learn in school, and it's not something that God whispered in our ears.


31 comments:

  1. "It is one of the axioms of theistic thinking that logic, or more specifically, the rules and axioms of logic, come from God. This is the underlying assumption in certain theistic arguments, and it was the basis of the Lord of Non-Contradiction theistic argument that I discussed in a recent post. In fact, the notion that rational thought can only be the product of a divine thinker who somehow endows the human soul with his rational faculty is pervasive in theistic philosophy."

    This is one of the utterly nonsensical unsubstantiated assertions of theists. To imagine rational faculty, logic and a host of other abstract notions can be 'bestowed' upon people by some ethereal disembodied intervener is tantamount to what bona fide philosophers, such as Prof Ray Bradley call reification; treating the name of an abstraction as if it were some real entity.
    Such a proposition is as unsubstantiated and unflattering as imagining abstract nouns as 'the mind', 'intelligence', 'consciousness', among others, are "names of substantial entities that we possess in addition to our physical bodies. Bradley so astutely surmises:

    "Rather they refer to properties of living organisms. .....my mind, intelligence, or consciousness [along with rational faculty and logic] can no more be detached from, or survive, the death of my body than can the smile of the Lewis Caroll's Cheshire Cat once its body has disappeared. To think otherwise is to indulge in the fallacy of reification and live in the fantasy land of Alice." My Bolding

    Rational faculty and logic only works in conjunction with a live physical brain. Rational faculty and logic are inextricably a function of the physical world. The moment theists attempt to apply rational thought and logic to explain a metaphysic which by virtue of its parochial and tribal-specific theistic content [be it catholicism, or mormonism, or Shia or Sunni, or Jehovah's Witnesses] does not supervene on the physical reality of the world, the universe, they forfeit their intellectual and philosophical credibility to the vagaries of prescientific thought and superstition.

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    1. Anyone who has worked with digital electronic devices probably understands that logic is a purely mechanical process. A transistor doesn't need to be taught how to perform logical functions - they are inherent in the operation of many physical devices. The circuit designer merely strings together many such operations to make specific complex sequences. Once that sequence is in place, the process of logical computation is strictly determined by the configuration of the hardware.

      And the brain does similar things, but the configuration of the circuitry in the brain is more plastic, and subject to faulty computations (often by operating on the wrong input signals). Those of us who are better at performing logical computations are considered "smart", but the smartest of us can't match the computational accuracy of an electronic computer.

      Theists think their faulty logical processing is a gift from God. They'd be better off if they unplugged the input signal that has the label "god" on it.

      By the way, "God's Gravediggers" looks like a good book. I'll try to get it.

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    2. Gravediggers is a good book. I disagree with Bradley on some things (He's a Platonist, or was in the 1970s), but he is a great logician and a very good writer. While Bradley is quite capable of writing a more academic book like Graham Oppy or Jordan Sobel, this book is relatively easy to read imo. It doesn't really require any previous familiarity with formal logic, or whatever else that brings academic atheist books down. It really just requires an attentive reader.

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  2. " Everything that begins to exist is caused by something else, they say. But God exists necessarily. God is the exception to the rule that applies to everything in our world. "
    Very interesting post. BTW Joe seems to think you and I are the same person...now I keep hearing "I am the Walrus" in my head. Joe seems to need some sort of defense mechanism against logic, so when pounding out endless prose that has the appearance of being keyed in by a drunkard, and cursing, and smokescreens of voluminous irrelevancies, and banning all fail then he seems to need to turn to accusations of puppetry.

    But to my point then...the exception is not in the "Everything that begins to exist is caused by something else" assertion; the assertion of god is consistent with that. God is asserted to not have begun to exist, thus the logic of the statement holds. The asserted exceptional trait is that of being eternal.

    "These laws reflect the physical reality of our world, and they are just the same as the laws of physics, in that regard."
    Are they necessarily? I agree that the fundamental postulates of logic are grounded in physical observation, and are descriptive, not prescriptive. But consider
    sqrt(-1) * sqrt(-1) = -1.
    Where is the physical realization of that expression?

    I think it is possible for human beings to invent rules of logic, to mutually agree upon using them, and to do useful work with them even though they have elements that have no physical realization.



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    1. God is asserted to not have begun to exist, thus the logic of the statement holds. The asserted exceptional trait is that of being eternal.
      - I understand that. However, they had to contrive a special rule in order to avoid the appearance of logical inconsistency. They had to add the clause "that begins to exist", and God just happens to be the one and only thing for which this special rule applies. This is known as special pleading. See Aquinas' cosmological argument, which makes no such special exemption. His argument suffers from logical inconsistency because it assumes everything has a cause, but God doesn't have a cause. So it's one fallacy or the other.

      I agree that the fundamental postulates of logic are grounded in physical observation, and are descriptive, not prescriptive. But consider . Where is the physical realization of that expression?
      - Yes, I was referring to the fundamentals of logic that are based in observation, as you noted. And we can extend our reasoning to things beyond direct observation. However, you shouldn't be so sure that complex numbers have no physical realization. They are important in equations that describe many physical phenomena, like the behavior of electrical circuits, for example.

      BTW Joe seems to think you and I are the same person...now I keep hearing "I am the Walrus" in my head. Joe seems to need some sort of defense mechanism against logic, so when pounding out endless prose that has the appearance of being keyed in by a drunkard, and cursing, and smokescreens of voluminous irrelevancies, and banning all fail then he seems to need to turn to accusations of puppetry.
      - I don't know what he thinks. I do know that he has refused to speak to me or acknowledge me in any way since the time I pointed out to him his horrendous misunderstanding of Jean-Paul Sartre's philosophy, and compared him to Donald Trump (which I'm pretty sure was taken as a grave insult). As for his typing skills, he claims to be suffering from dyslexia. However, I don't think he exhibits the symptoms of that (which would likely show up as letter reversals). I examined the kind of mistakes he typically makes, and for the most part, it appears to be what I'd call "fat fingers". He just doesn't bother to correct himself.

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    2. " But consider
      sqrt(-1) * sqrt(-1) = -1.
      Where is the physical realization of that expression?"


      Do you think Skep has in some measure covered that?; "Physical laws apply the the way physical things behave, and logical laws apply to conceptual things, or propositions. It's true that we think of logical laws as being conceptual, but only because we have abstracted them to apply to conceptual situations."

      Interestingly though, who claims this proposition to have a physicality that can be realized? I have always thought of it as a conceptual notion consistent with mathematical understanding but with no obvious correlates in the physical world. Well, not obvious to me, anyway, but nonetheless which is amenable to the process of logic.

      Just thinking out loud. Cheers

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    3. Two things:

      First, I don't know of any cosmological argument which states that everything has a cause. The special pleading line only succeeds if a cosmological argument has a premise like this:

      Special pleading "SP" - [For any x, x has P]

      If a theist asserts SP, but then asserts that God does not have P, then the theist has committed the special pleading fallacy. However, I don't know of any cosmological argument advanced by any theist philosopher that actually uses an SP premise. The Kalam is just one of many cosmological arguments, but it doesn't commit a special pleading fallacy. Craig explicitly lists other things which would not have a cause if they existed (e.g. he lists abstract objects), but Craig tries to argue that all physical beings must begin to exist (By misusing, and frankly abusing things he has read in physics books). The Kalam, theoretically, is not even a deductive argument to theism. Rather, the Kalam is a deductive argument to the conclusion that the universe has a cause, and from there Craig makes an argument from best explanation to theism.

      Second, Aquinas doesn't assume everything has a cause. With respect to his cosmological type arguments, Aquinas "assumed" the following:

      Assumption 1 - [If x is in motion then there is some y such that x=/=y and y put x into motion]

      Assumption 2 - [There is no x such that x has a cause y and x=y]

      Assumption 3 - [If every being is contingent then nothing would exist]

      The assumptions made by Aquinas don't lead to special pleading since Aristotle's God is not in motion, it has no cause, and it exists necessarily. The arguments fail regardless, but not due to special pleading (e.g. assumptions 1 and 3 ought to be questioned).

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    4. Ryan,

      Regarding Aquinas' cosmological argument: it was the first way that I was specifically referring to. According to this discussion of it, the argument is basically stated as

      1. The cosmos or universe exists.
      2. The existence of the cosmos has a cause.
      3. That cause is God.

      Aquinas' basis for premise 2 is the observation that everything has a cause. "This claim is supported by the observation that all the things we experience have a cause so it seems rational to look for the cause of the universe itself. To use more technical language, it is a commitment to the principle of sufficient reason - that everything can be traced back to an ultimate reason or cause." I don't care what kind of sqirrely rationalization they try to use. In my mind, to say that God is the one and only exception to this rule is special pleading.

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    5. I have never seen Aquinas' argument from motion being interpreted in that way. I'm not sure where that author got that from, especially because the author oddly ends up agreeing with the reasoning. The following is generally how Aquinas' argument from motion is presented:

      1. There are things in motion.
      2. Everything in motion is put into motion by something else.
      3. If everything in motion is put into motion by something else, then either there is an infinite regress of causes or there is one being which is not in motion.
      4. It is not the case that there is an infinite regress of causes.
      5. Therefore, there is one being which is not in motion.
      6. If there is one being which is not in motion then God exists.
      7. Therefore, God exists.

      The following are useful resources:

      http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/aquinas/summa/sum005.htm

      http://web.mnstate.edu/gracyk/courses/web%20publishing/aquinasFiveWays_ArgumentAnalysis.htm

      When looking for resources on a philosopher's argument, it is usually best to start with the primary source. When it isn't obvious what the argument ought to be interpreted as given the primary source, look for a sort of consensus among experts. For ancient, medieval, early modern philosophers, that approach is best. It seems to me that whoever wrote that journal skipped that since Aquinas' primary text is not even close to his interpretation of the argument.

      Also of use:

      http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/

      The principle of sufficient reason, more or less, is the doctrine that everything has an explanation for its existence. It can really just be reduced in its simplest form to the doctrine that there are no brute facts. Theists following the PSR will typically say God's existence explains itself, but only God has that privilege.

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    6. I meant second way instead of first way. But it really doesn't matter. I understand they carefully word the syllogism to avoid the appearance of a fallacy. But when it comes down to it, these arguments always make God out to be the exception to the rule. And that's true of the PSR as well.

      I've had many discussions with people about the infinite regress. Every explanation that I've seen denying the possibility of an infinite regress boils down to it can't be because then there would be no first cause.

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  3. 'God's Gravediggers'? One of the most cogent of philosophical deliberations I have read. Well worth the money and information contained.

    Unless and until the religiose come up with something new or substantively different, factual, demonstrable, anything for God's sake, that neither relies on nor derives from the exiting sources of superstitious twaddle and pseudoscientific pablum, religion as an explanatory paradigm will remain the obverse of methodological naturalism, akin to alchemy, astrology and numerology, the respective obverse of chemistry, of astronomy, of mathematics.

    Religion/theology is nothing other than homeopathy of the mind.

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    1. Homeopathy of the mind. That's apt. Dilute away all the substance, and what's left is nothing but magic.

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  4. McIntosh isn't really committing himself to a contradiction. You seem to make essentially the following argument against McIntosh:

    1. For any world W, if W is a world where the laws of logic hold then W is a physically possible world.
    2. For any world W, if W is a world where God exists, then the laws of logic hold.
    3. W1 is a world where only God exists.
    4. W1 is not a physically possible world.
    5. Therefore, W1 is a world where the laws of logic hold.
    6. Therefore, W1 is not a world where the laws of logic hold.

    McIntosh believes premises 2, 3 and 4. However, he obviously does not believe premise 1. You and McIntosh have fundamental disagreement about the nature of the laws of logic. McIntosh clearly does not take to the view that logical laws have any identification with physical laws. Since you two have different views on logic, you cannot really derive a contradiction in his views in the way that you want. If you two were to continue this conversation at all, I think it would make sense to explain your respected views as clearly as you can and defend them if at all possible.

    Two side points:

    Point 1 - I think you have mistaken creation ex nihilo for "ex nihilo, nihilo fit". When theists assert the former, they mean that God created the world without material parts, so the world has an efficient but no material cause. When they assert that something cannot come from nothing, they mean that something cannot come to be without an efficient cause.

    Point 2 – Possible worlds are defined by their respected logic. Possible worlds modeled with just the rules of classical propositional logic will be distinct from possible worlds modeled with physical laws. Possible worlds modeled with the rules of classical propositional logic will be distinct from possible worlds modeled with a non classical logic such as dialetheism. Again, I suspect there is a lack of familiarity among some theists with the topic they wish to talk about.

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    1. 1. For any world W, if W is a world where the laws of logic hold then W is a physically possible world.
      - That is not exactly what I have asserted. Rather, I would state it as: For any world W, if W is a physically possible world then W is a world where the laws of logic hold. It seems clear that physical realization is only possible if a logical reality exists. However, an immaterial world need not be bound by any rules at all. And that appears to be the case when theists postulate properties of God that are logically incoherent.

      Point 1: They can talk about material causes and final causes and whatnot if they want, but those things are not consistent with observed reality. They are nothing more than unsubstantiated assumptions that support a theistic worldview.

      Point 2: I understand the philosophical concept of possible worlds as being logically possible (usually according to classical logic). And theists insist that their conception of God and his immaterial realm is logically possible. However, they seem to ignore the logical incoherencies in their worldview. That is my basis for claiming that the possible world that actually believe in is one where the rules of logic don't hold. They would like to say that if the rules of logic don't hold, then it's not a possible world. But that's not consistent with what they actually believe.

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    2. I see. The biggest hurdle you will have is defending the notion of the following:

      1*. If W is a physically impossible world then it is possible that the laws of logic do not hold at W.

      I don't think that would be easy. My hunch is that there will be a battle of intuitions about the nature of logic.

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    3. I'm sure there will be a battle of intuitions.

      But where do our intuitions come from? They are based on observation and induction. They are derived from our experience in the physical world. What experience do we have of any immaterial realm? What makes us think that we understand what can happen or not happen in such a place?

      I maintain that logic is part of physical reality. In the absence of any physical reality, what reality is there? I honestly don't know. And I think that if you are honest, you will have to admit that you don't know, either.

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    4. I only believe in the existence of physical things, so I would definitely say nothing would exist if physical reality did not exist.

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  5. Ryan, thanks for the comments. Your point stressing the importance of taking the time and trouble to clarify one's assumptions at the outset of a discussion is well taken. (That noted, I would have to go ahead and confess here that my skirmishes with Skeptical are often the result, at least in part, of my own impatience.) The same for your two "side points": well-argued and well-stated.

    More formalized, my own argument would be something fairly simple, like:

    1. For any world W, if W is a world where the laws of logic do not hold then W is not a possible world.
    2. W1 is a world where the laws of logic do not hold.
    3. W1 is not a possible world.

    Simpler still: the laws of logic hold at every possible world. But I say that with the caveat that I do often lack familiarity with the topics I wish to discuss. I.e., there's always more for me to learn. I frankly had never heard of dialetheism, for example, until you mentioned it. My immediate take on dialetheism is that it seems to have been developed to resolve specific paradoxes of logic – self-referencing or ambiguous conundrums which could not be recognized as such unless the truths of logic do in fact hold – not to suggest that there are necessarily (logically) false propositions that are nonetheless true in some possible world.

    Meantime, none of us (theists or otherwise) can wait until we are omniscient to stake out a position. We defend our views the best we can, and gain familiarity with various topics along the way. Nonetheless I remain confident that Christianity will continue to bear up well against new intellectual challenges, as it has for many centuries. Or as I stated recently in the Preface to my runaway best-selling book (ha!): "I am convinced that if I'm willing to learn, and if the issue is examined thoroughly enough, the truth of Christian theism will emerge as a matter of course."

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    1. Don,

      Do you believe that the doctrine of the trinity is true? If you do, then how does that square with the rules of classical logic?

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    2. For now I'll just answer the first question:

      Yes. :-)

      Does the Trinity square with the rules of classical logic? I believe so, but that's admittedly not evident on the face of it. I'll try to post something about the Trinity soon.

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    3. Hey Skeptical, here's more on the Trinity:

      http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/01/is-trinity-logically-impossible.html

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  6. What's interesting about this discussion is how quick one can fall into offering invalid syllogisms, thereby offering unfounded conclusions let alone fouling whatever logic is purported to have been followed.

    "There are infinitely many possible syllogisms, but only 256 logically distinct types and only 24 valid types (enumerated below). A syllogism takes the form:

    Major premise: All M are P.
    Minor premise: All S are M.
    Conclusion: All S are P."


    In a valid syllogism, the conclusion must satisfy and be obtained from within the premises. Both the Aquinas' together with the more naive and popularly bandied versions discussed above simply do not demonstrate that the conclusion, 'God is the cause' or 'God caused it' is derived from either premise. In fact 'God as cause' at assumption (3) is a theological strap-on, a tendentious thrown-in line that bears no relational significance to the premises. And even if it were true Christians still have all their work before them to prove which of the thousands of Gods, extinct and extant, is the right one. They can all be wrong but only one can be right. So, without a punt to special pleading, how do you know which God is the right one?




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    1. That is not to say these discussions have fallen; rather that using syllogisms as a basis for argument or debate can be pretty shaky at the best of times. Many look so appealing at first reading only to be crapola under a little extra scrutiny and thought.
      I might add Bradley's book brings the best of the best in critical examination of the Kalam and the surfeit of attendant nonsense underpinning the grab-bag of cosmological arguments peddled by theists.

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    2. I'm rather disappointed that the discussion isn't proceeding a little better. Don has chosen not to respond to me, because he supposes that I am not charitable in the way I interpret his arguments. However, what that really means is that if he doesn't like what I say, then he'll take his bat and go home, rather than to engage in a discussion about it.

      I realize that what I'm asserting here is controversial. The standard philosophical understanding of a "possible world" is something that is logically possible (including possible worlds where various immaterial entities exist). My thesis is that logic is a manifestation of the physical world, and if there is any immaterial realm of existence, there is no reason for it to be bound by the rules of physical necessity (including both physics and logic). I understand this is not in agreement with the philosophical definition of "possible world", but I see no reason why logic should necessarily apply where there is no physical substance.

      To underscore this, I note that Christians believe in things that are NOT logically possible, and that these things exist not only in SOME possible world, but they exist in OUR world. Therefore, Don's understanding of what constitutes a possible world is incoherent, since he says that it must be logically possible, and at the same time he believes that our world (which is certainly a possible world) includes things that are both physical violations (ie. miracles) and logical conundrums (such as God's being the sole exception to logical rules that govern the rest of the world). I can try to be at least a little charitable toward his beliefs, and allow that such things might exist is some possible world, but they are not consistent with our physical world.

      I am particularly surprised by Ryan's interpretation of what I said. His syllogism bears no resemblance to anything I have been trying to say. Perhaps I just can't communicate it very well. But I'm not going to just pick up my bat and go home. I am perfectly willing to discuss it.

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    3. "So, without a punt to special pleading, how do you know which God is the right one?"

      Bradley Bowen at the Secular Outpost has a great series of posts relevant to this.

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2016/02/10/i-dont-care/

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/tag/thomas-aquinas/page/2/

      Many theistic arguments conclude with the following:

      (a) a prime mover
      (b) a necessary being
      (c) a maximally great being
      (d) an extremely powerful being
      (e) an immaterial being

      and so on...

      But God isn't just a prime mover, or a necessary being, or extremely powerful, or immaterial... Rather, God is also omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect, eternal, etc. Theistic arguments, probably in every case, fail to bridge the gap between (a) through (e) with the other traits that are necessary for something to be God. And this is just a problem for bare theism. Supposing we could deduce that God exists, how do we then get to Christian theism, or Islam, or Hinduism? Another gap occurs. Generally, I suspect, you will find that people will either conclude with their specific God because they lack an imagination (e.g. "Well what else could it be???"), or they will somehow try to say their version of God is the best explanation, most likely candidate, or whatever.

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    4. I don't want to strawman the OP. My argument was pretty clear, so if IM-S is saying he doesn't advocate the premises I made then obviously I have failed to interpret the OP correctly. It might be my fault, and frankly probably is.

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    5. 1. Logic is an aspect of physical reality.
      2. If there can be any non-physical reality (an immaterial realm), logic is not necessarily an aspect of that reality.
      3. If there can be any non-physical reality, it would a possible world where the rules of logic don't necessarily apply.
      4. Christians should be agreeable to this notion, because their belief system includes immaterial things that violate the rules that apply to physical reality.

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    6. Yes Ryan. Right on. Note how points (b) - (e) play on the word 'being'. This is the form of semantic trickery that theists engage in. Take a noun, 'being', and imbue it with agency. It is a substitutive fraud, a literary device. It is the same literary ruse that characterises Anselm's definition of 'God' as “a being than which no greater being can be conceived.” Anselm's argument [from God's Gravediggers, Bradley]:

      1. Anyone can conceive of a being than which nothing greater can be conceived.

      2. Hence a being than which nothing can be greater can be conceived exists in the understanding.

      3. To exist in reality is greater than to exist as a concept in the understanding alone.

      4. It would be self-contradictory to suppose that the greatest possible being existed only as a concept in the understanding but did not exist in reality.

      Guanilo contemporaneously shredded that proposition with his substitution of 'being with 'perfect Island'. But old ideas and ingrained habits die real hard. Indeed it has been parodied innumerable times to conjure up the perfect woman, the perfect man, the perfect car, in fact the perfect anything. As Bradley rounds out: "The problem is that we all know this sort of magical thinking doesn't work". Substitute the word 'being' with 'Satan" and you have conjured up the Devil Incarnate. Not what one would call an encouraging or confident claim, to say the least.

      To round out, Bradley poses another philosophical and intellectual quandary for the theist;
      "When Jews, Christians, or Muslims hear talk of a being than whom no greater or more perfect can be conceived, they presuppose that this description carries with it uniqueness of reference, namely to their own God not someone else's ...........[and another presupposition] Being a God than whom no greater can be conceived doesn't rule out there being a whole gang of gods who are on par in this respect."

      The proposition clearly demonstrates the utterly speculative [special pleading] nature of any 'proofs' for the supposed uniqueness of all monotheistic religions extant.

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    7. "Don has chosen not to respond to me, because he supposes that I am not charitable in the way I interpret his arguments. However, what that really means is that if he doesn't like what I say, then he'll take his bat and go home, rather than to engage in a discussion about it."

      That's only half right. I do reserve the right to abandon any discussion when I deem it unfruitful. I am under no obligation to argue forever, with you or anyone else, especially when I suspect that someone is deliberately wasting my time.

      But lately I haven't responded because I have been busier than usual with the holidays – traveling and whatnot. And as I confessed earlier, I didn't answer you further on the PoR because I simply ran out of patience. I probably should have acknowledged your point about "premises," as it was technically valid, though I do still think you could have easily interpreted my counter more charitably (or at least asked what I meant if you weren't sure before "refuting" it).

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    8. Don,

      Thank you for replying. I've been searching for a way to get a meaningful conversation going, and it seems to be virtually impossible. Having a debate is a two-way affair. It is expected that the participants will engage the issue at hand, and also that they will disagree with each other (otherwise, it wouldn't be much of a debate). They are expected to attack the opponent's position, and defend their own. Of course, all this should be done in a civil manner.

      Participants are expected to interpret the opponent's position in a charitable manner, and engage his position the way it is intended - not some straw man that he doesn't espouse. Sometimes, this can be problematic. When you make a statement, it has some meaning to me, which may or may not be correct (according to what you intended). And in addition to that, I may choose to attack a straw man, or to deliberately distort the meaning of your statement. In the latter case, I am being uncharitable, and that is intellectually dishonest.

      However, there is still the problem of my failure to understand your statement the way it is intended. That's not dishonest, but it may be due to my own inability to grasp what is being said, or it may be due your failure to adequately express what you mean, or some combination of those. In any case, we share a responsibility to make sure that we are communicating effectively. If I don't understand what you said, then explain it more clearly. If I'm too stupid to get the point after your best effort to explain it, then it would be understandable if you decided to end the conversation. But if we simply disagree, well, that's what debating is about. Argue it. Defend it. Try to convince me. And don't get mad at me if I try to do the same. That's what it's all about.

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    9. That all sounds reasonable to me.

      I just apologized at the Cadre and will do so again here: Please forgive my impatience.

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