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Monday, October 24, 2016


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The difficulty I have here, as before, is the way logic is used to climb the ladder only to throw it away. Attempting to formalise Maimonides’ argument:

1. For all x, if the existence of x is not identical with the essence of x then x is caused.
2. God is not caused.
3. Therefore the existence of God is identical with the essence of God.

So we have a argument which follows the rules of logic, i.e. an argument within the DF. The rules in question are (i) modus tollens (deny the consequent, therefore deny the antecedent) and (ii) excluded middle (if it is not the case that a is non-identical with b, then a is identical with b).

But then, according to you, this leads to contradictions which you evade by saying they are only contradictions ‘within the DF’. But if that line of reasoning is valid, you destroy all logic entirely, as I pointed out in my other post about the reductio.

Well, you also need the rules governing quantifier negation and instantiation. The argument as stated is enthymematic and not valid. But that is just a quibble.

Maimonides argues validly to a being that is simple. Thus he argues to a being that is identical to its attributes. But nothing in the DF is identical to its attributes. (This is not so much a law of logic as a presupposition of logic: to think is to judge, and to judge in the simplest case is to combine a subject and a predicate which must be distinct.)

So Maimonides argues to a being that is self-contradictory.

You conclude that the simple God does not exist. I conclude that the simple God exists, but lies beyond the DF.

But how do I "destroy all logic entirely" if I merely restrict the validity of logic to beings (as opposed to Being itself which is what God is for Maimon and Thomas, et al.)?

I use logic within its proper sphere of applicability, and I use it correctly. (You will not be able to find logical mistakes in what I say when I am being careful.) I climb the ladder, but I don't destroy the ladder. I don't even kick it away. I leave it in place for when I descend from Mt Sinai so to speak. I will need it to get back down again.

You claim that I "destroy all logic entirely" but you haven't shown that.

But (in a comment to an earlier post) you defined 'being' as whatever falls within the range of a quantifier. Or do you want to qualify that?

Specifically you said

If I say: not everything is an object among objects over which one can quantify, you will respond: Then something, some object, is an object over which one cannot quantify. But this is a contradiction only within the DF.
Spelling this out. I argue:

1. Not everything is an object among objects over which one can quantify

2. Then something, some object, is an object over which one cannot quantify.

3. But (by definition) everything is an object over which one can quantify.

4. Contradiction. Therefore (1) is false

But you object, against (4) ‘this is a contradiction only within the DF’. I reply, if you destroy the reductio, you destroy all logic.

So to be clear, do you accept the validity of my reductio 1-4 above, or not?

I accept your reductio ad absurdum within the DF. Again, you seem incapable of 'thinking outside the box.' The box of the DF.

The following logical equivalences are part of the DF:

Everything is F =df It is not the case that something is not F.

Not everything is F =df Something is not F.

Such equivalences pin down the meaning of 'every,' 'some,' 'not,' 'no.'

A sentence like 'There is the Inexpressible' (Wittgenstein) and other sentences in that mystical ball park are obviously attempts to use language in some sort of pointing or heuristic fashion (see quotation from SEP entry) that is nonsense by the strictures of the DF.

But again, how do I or the Tractarian Wittgenstein "destroy all logic" if we point toward the mystical?

What you are doing is assuming, uncritically, the unrestricted validity of DF. Justify your assumption! But without circularity.

>>What you are doing is assuming, uncritically, the unrestricted validity of DF. Justify your assumption!

But I can only justify my assumption by logic. And as soon as I do that, you will accuse me of being unable to think outside the DF. I used to have this kind of argument with various stoners and potheads and New Age types, which I write about here.

Hall wrote the sleeve notes for The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, their 1966 album, urging everyone to get away from that boring and narrow old Aristotelian logic.

Can’t go there. If you are saying that I cannot ‘prove’ PNC or PEM without circularity, of course I agree with you.

Oh and don’t forget this.

This reminds me so much of the 1960s and 70s. The 13th Floor Elevators were a 60s band who advocated chemical agents (such as acid and weed) as a gateway to a higher, 'non-Aristotelian' state of consciousness, which would transcend ordinary ‘Aristotelian logic’. I remember many conversations, or what passed for conversations with the smokers of weed and the herb where this very same argument was propounded. Not really arguments, of course. Any substantial logical point was met with that irritating condescending smile of the weeder who is already at the ‘higher state of consciousness’. “You simply don’t understand, man”. The fact being, of course, that marijuana blocks all short-term memory so effectively that any movement from premisses to conclusion – which requires remembering what the premisses were – is impossible.

You simply don't get it, man. Read the mystics. I can't be sure, but I rather doubt that Plotinus and Aquinas were stoners and potheads. I am sure, however, that there was no LSD to be had in those days.

OK another try. You say my argument is valid ‘within the DF’. The glorious Ockham makes a similar move, arguing that logical laws do not apply to an argument if it contravenes sacred scripture, or the determination of the church, although I suspect he had tongue firmly in cheek.

Now to say an argument is valid is to say that the conclusion cannot be false when the premisses are true. So you are saying that my conclusion cannot be false when the premisses are true ‘within the DF’, but not otherwise. But how do you define the DF, if not precisely that framework where valid arguments cannot have true premisses and false conclusions?

So essentially you are saying that my argument is valid when it is valid, otherwise not. This seems entirely circular. Perhaps you want to say, like Ockham, that our normal concept of validity does not apply to God. But why is that? You start with the assumption that God is simple, and you derive a contradiction. But instead of following the usual logic, namely to conclude that God is not simple, you conclude that ordinary logical laws do not apply here. Why? Why can’t I claim that Baal is simple, derive a contradiction, then conclude that the logical laws do not apply here? Why not do the same for any premiss that implies a contradiction. You are lacking a sufficient reason.

Furthermore, there is an oddity about ‘concluding’ that the DF does not apply. All conclusions imply the existence of an argument, which in this case is ‘the premisses of this argument are true with the conclusion false, this argument is valid, therefore this argument is outside the DF’ where ‘outside the DF’ means ‘is a valid argument with true premisses and false conclusion’. Circular.

The reference to Ockham is relevant. You say in your linked post that Ockham restricts logic to creatures. I am indeed making a similar move. My claim is not tautological, though, like your >>my argument is valid when it is valid, otherwise not.<<

I don't assume that God is simple; I argued for it. We are led by reason to the conclusion that God must be simple. But then we find that we cannot understand how a being could be simple. We can now say one of two things. Simplicity is not contradictory in itself; it is just that we cannot understand how it is free of contradiction. The other option is to say that it is contradictory, but that not everything real obeys the laws of logic.

We are exploring the second option.

You of course reject both of these options. For you, nothing is simple, so if God exists, then he is not simple; and everything is subject to the laws of logic. I.e., the laws of logic are also laws of all actual and possible Being.

You now object in effect: what is to stop me from saying of any putative entity that involves a contradiction that standard logic does not apply to it? Meinong held that some items are contradictory, e.g., the round square, and that others are incomplete and thus violate LEM, e.g., the golden mountain. Is it snow-capped or not? Neither. Father Christmas. Does he suffer from hemmorhoids or not? Neither.

Meinong has his reasons for positing these items. So he argues quite logically to items that violate different strictures of the DF.

More later.

OK. I need to summarise this for the book. What is the simplest route to the via negativa? Clearly the assumption that God’s essence = God’s existence leads us into a contradiction, which gets us to the trailhead, as it were. But how do we get to that assumption? Maimonides derives it from the assumption that some being is uncaused. This has its own problems. First of all, why should there be an uncaused being? Scotus has a proof, as you know, involving dozens of nested syllogisms. Second, it requires treating existence as a predicate. Are there any other routes to the trailhead? (I am using that as a metaphor because I know you like to go hiking).

A related point here is whether the logical system that gets us to the trailhead has the property of soundness, i.e. proves only formulas that are valid. Since we can only get to the trailhead by deriving a contradiction, this suggests your system is not sound.

However, I am still not sure whether the starting assumptions of your proof are self-evident, or whether they are accessible only to those who have reached the higher state of consciousness, via meditation etc.

You need to study Aquinas's arguments for divine simplicity, if you haven't already.

There is also the question of the thin theory of existence which we have discussed ad nauseam for years. Since you accept it, there is your reason for not accepting simplicity.

If there is no essence-existence composition in creatures, then there is no existence-essence identity in God. Is that clear?

>>You need to study Aquinas's arguments for divine simplicity, if you haven't already.

I have indeed, but is that your own argument? The significant moving part of Aquinas's argument (Iª q. 3 a. 4 co), as with Maimonides, is the 'first efficient cause' assumption. But then you need to prove from first principles that there is a first efficient cause, or that there is an uncaused being, or something like that.

And then you have the problem of soundness. We have a logical system, expressed in ordinary language, from which we derive a contradiction. We then conclude from this, note the word 'conclude', that some things must lie outside the very logical system that yielded this conclusion.

Aquinas gives various arguments why there can be no composition in God. See SCG Book I, ch. 18.

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