What follows are extracts from an ongoing on-line debate I engaged in about the place of formal logic in the great cosmic scheme of things. Some say logic is absolute and the be-all-and-end-all in the road to truth. I say that observation, evidence and resulting proofs are a better, but albeit complementary pathway to truth. The extracts have been edited so as to hopefully be meaningful as standalone paragraphs.
Did God Create Abstract Objects?
Abstract ‘objects’, like numbers and logic are created by and reside within the minds of mentally advanced or sophisticated life forms. If the cosmos contained no life of any kind, it would be relatively silly to talk about the reality or non-reality of cubic spheres or arithmetic. Self-aware life forms that make observations of the cosmos around them make sense of those observations by inventing logic and mathematics. If one never observes a cubic sphere; if the invented and accepted definitions of cubic and sphere clash, then the mind accepts that cubic spheres don’t and can’t exist. But it takes a conscious mind to come up with that. Self-aware life forms observe that two individual (separate and apart) apples appear to come about if one individual apple is brought into proximity with another single apple. When the mind observes that this applies to other objects as well, the universality of mathematical logic is born, but again, this form of logic resides solely within the mind. No mind; no intellect, equals no mathematics.
By the by, this applies to the abstract concept – hardly an actual object – called “God” as well. No consciousness, no awareness, no intellect, no mental facilities, equals no God. Translated, this is best summed up by the observation that God was mentally created in the image of man, not the other way around.
Was Logic Created By God?
If a Maximally Greatest Being (i.e. – God) created life, the Universe and everything – note, “everything” – then, He created the logic that underpins life, the Universe and everything.
Logical contradictions are part and parcel of the “everything” part of life, the Universe and everything. They exist and can be expressed in language, including at times via a mathematical language. Now many suggest that these logical contradictions exist independently of the reality of any Maximally Greatest Being. A Maximally Greatest Being cannot create a system of logic whereby contradictions happen. So, logical contradictions have no bearing therefore on whether or not a Maximally Greatest Being exists. A Maximally Greatest Being is irrelevant and immaterial when it comes to the phrase “married bachelor”. This is all a side issue that has no ultimate bearing on the topic at hand.
Even Self-Contradictory Statements Have Meaning
# I’ve already noted that self-contradictory things are very meaningful and convey much information about the nature of the cosmos. If logic was such a self-evident thing that didn’t need to be created, there’d be no need for textbooks on logic and classes on logic and Mr. Spock’s endlessly stating that something was not logical. Great advancements are made when one comes up against a logical paradox that requires a resolution. If I recall correctly, didn’t the ancients like the Greeks invent, that is create, all sorts of logical paradoxes that still find there way into the philosophical arena today to amuse and enlighten us all?
# For reasons I’ve already gone into, even logical contradictions have meaning and convey information. For example, the phrase “married bachelor” has meaning and contains information because the individual words “married” and “bachelor” have meaning and convey information. So the phrase “married bachelor” can force one to think about that concept and analyse that concept and try to figure out if there might be exceptions to the rule. Now while the phrase “married bachelor” is pretty straight forward, I’m sure there are other logical contradictions which are more involved and which really do require thinking through whatever the concept happens to be.
# Self-contradictory statements might be nonsense, and nonsense they might be, but lessons can be learned from things that on the surface might not seem to be nonsense but are. It’s nonsense that more than one straight line can connect two points on a flat piece of paper, but that needs to be taught and students need to think about it and then you get that “ah ha” moment. You have to learn what married means and what bachelor means in order to get that “ah ha” moment and realize that “married bachelor” is logical nonsense. If you don’t know the meaning of married and of bachelor then the phrase “married bachelor” isn’t obviously logical nonsense. That too is basic logic!
Just Pure Logic
If you have an idea, then that implies that before you had that idea you didn’t have that idea. I do believe this truism is also known as an example of logic!
Non-physical ‘things’ cannot influence physical things for the same reason that married men cannot be bachelors. How can an absolute nothing influence an absolute something?
Have you ever actually observed anything non-physical interact with anything physical? No you haven’t.
Have you ever actually observed anything being created from nothing? No you haven’t.
Have you even actually observed from within your daily life, any observations where causality fails to operate? No you haven’t.
The reason is that these concepts are as logically contradictory and logically impossible as your married bachelor example.
Those who live by the logic, die by the logic.
Does Pure Logic Rule the Universe’s Roost Above All Else?
If you were on trial for your life having been accused of first-degree murder would you be happy to be convicted and receive the death penalty just because you were logically the most logical suspect who had means, motive and opportunity. I’m sure a few fingerprints, DNA samples and other physical forensic evidence that might implicate someone else isn’t really better evidence than logical evidence since fingerprints, DNA and related can be misleading. That logic is the absolute road to truth is bull and you’d know its bull, or at least you’d acknowledge it’s bull as they put the noose around your neck and then you’d demand a retrial where those fingerprints, DNA, etc. would be admissible physical evidence that you’d now whole heartedly agree takes centre stage over logic.
Is Pure Logic Absolute?
# Pure logic does not trump real data, observations, experiments, measurements, all of which results in real information and real knowledge. Pure logic suggests that if the Earth is round then people at the bottom (i.e. – the South Pole) couldn’t function very well being upside down and all that implies. They would also logically fall off the surface as well!
# If you are a being that knows absolutely nothing because you have never learned any data, you’ve never made any observations, you’ve never made any measurements, you have absolutely no information or knowledge within the confines of your wetware at all, pure logic is worthless. I mean if you were born without the use of any of your five senses, even the notion of “I think therefore I am” couldn’t happen.
For a theory to be logically sound you first need some data, information, observations, etc. to formulate that theory. You can’t apply logic in the absence of information, data, etc. Your logic tells you that the cosmos had a beginning. But if you had no comprehension of what a cosmos was or what a beginning was or what causality was, your pure logic couldn’t reveal anything to you about a finite cosmos. So, data first; information first; knowledge first – then apply logic. Then be prepared to have that logic turned inside-out and upside-down when new data, information and knowledge comes to the fore. There is a huge garbage pile of things that were once upon a time logical but have since been discarded as pure claptrap and nonsense – like the Sun going around the Earth.
# If you cannot run with logic without knowing any facts about the world, then the facts come first and then comes the application of logic to those facts, or data or observations, etc. to assist in determining if those “facts” or “observations” are in fact misleading. Observation suggests that the Full Moon appearing just above the horizon is larger than the Full Moon viewed high in the night sky. That observation is primary. Logic, applied to that observation, tells you that must be an illusion. The logic comes after the observation and thus is not primary but secondary. There’s little point in having an internal academic mental debate with yourself about the size of the Full Moon on the horizon versus the Full Moon high in the night sky before having actually observed that there does indeed appear to be a difference. Observe the difference first and then think about it.
Of course by observations one means observations via all of the five senses, not just sight.
But not all reactions to observations are the result of reasoning. Instinct plays a role too. You stub your toe and yell “ouch” – no reasoning takes place. Why is it logical to yell “ouch” and not something like “it’s a nice day outside” when you stub you toe?
Further, you don’t have to apply reasoning to what you experience – you could just accept it as given and move on. Like with the Moon illusion you could just say “that’s interesting” and dismiss it from further thought.
Further still, you need some degree of mental capacity to reason with, so a fetus in the womb doesn’t reason out why it is warm. Further yet again, some things are physically possible and observed but not yet logically explainable. We use terms like “luck” instead as in when a punter wins at the race track twenty times in a row.
If something is physically impossible there might not be a logical reason for it. You can block off electromagnetic radiation or turn off the light bulb; you cannot block off or turn off gravity – that’s impossible for gravity. Why? There’s no logical reason why.
There is no logical reason why the physical constants have the values they do. They cannot be determined from first principles, only from observations, but those observations yield no clue as to why one value and not another value.
In conclusion, logic has its place but it is not the be-all-and-end-all to explaining or accounting for life, the Universe and everything.
# There are those who say that logic is primary and that logic trumps all when crunch comes crunch between logic and reality. They have implied that pure logic leads to truth, as in the philosophical concept that there must be a Maximally Greatest Being and in their viewpoints on the mathematical and philosophical impossibility of there being an actual infinity of anything and on the absolute certainty of a creation of something-from-nothing. I say there are things which their logic cannot come to terms with. For example, consider the following straw-men (or straw-women).
Logic me this by using your logic to account for:
1: Why some forces are symmetrical (the electromagnetic force) and some aren’t symmetrical (gravity).
2: Why the electric charge on an electron should be exactly equal and opposite to that of a proton when otherwise the electron and the proton are as alike as chalk-and-cheese, like their respective masses.
3: Why the speed of light (and presumably gravity too) is 300,000 km/sec (rounded off) and not say 400,000 km/sec.
4: Why there are three generations of the fundamental particles when the second and third generation have bugger-all to do with the construction and running of life, the Universe and everything.
5: Why of all the four forces does just the weak nuclear force violate parity?
All of the above are of course actual observations that have been made that must have logical explanations. What are they?
Following on from one-off unique observations, whereas logic can make an association between a kitten and a cat; between a puppy and a dog; between a foal and a horse, logic cannot make an association between a chicken and an egg; between a tadpole and a frog; between a caterpillar and a butterfly.
Could anyone use just pure logic to determine whether or not there is a fifth force, a life force, a vitality force that separates life from non-life?
I’ve already said it, but I’ll say it one more time. Logic has its place and it is useful, but it is not primary and doesn’t trump Mother Nature who just has way too many slight-of-hand tricks up her sleeve. Logic is not a be-all-and-end-all pathway that leads us to absolute truth, just leads us somewhat “Closer to Truth”.
# Mathematics is not absolute. Logic is not absolute. Both can “prove” something beyond reasonable doubt but they cannot prove something absolutely. Mathematics says that one and only one straight line can connect two points on a flat piece of paper. I accept that statement since that seems to be the case beyond reasonable doubt. However, to prove that absolutely, one would have to draw an infinite number of just two points on a flat surface and see how many lines it takes to connect them. Parallel lines will never intersect in Euclidean space, but to prove that absolutely you’d need to trace those lines out to infinity – just make absolutely sure. All triangles in Euclidean space have angles that add up to 180 degrees. That’s proven beyond reasonable doubt. To prove it absolutely you would have to measure all possible flat triangles that could be constructed – an infinite number of them.
It’s logical that you can’t have a married bachelor – unless of course someone changes the definitions of what married means and what bachelor means. Since logic is a human invention, humans can change the goal posts and thus invalidate something that was previously logical. One can claim that a Maximally Greatest Being is logical until someone else comes along are offers up a different definition of what a Maximally Greatest Being is. Let’s continue on that theme.
Both modern theologians (Maximally Greatest Being) and the ancient Egyptians (Isis; Osiris) and the ancient Egyptian Akhenaten (The Aten) and the Ancient Greeks (Zeus; Athena) and the Vikings (Odin; Thor) can’t be all right – that’s not logical. But they can be all wrong – that’s logical!!
Even the theologically Maximally Greatest Being takes numerous identities. There’s the Catholic God and the Protestant God and the Jewish God and the Muslim God and the Mormon God and Scientology’s God and the Greek Orthodox God and the God of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and of course Akhenaten’s God and any of dozens of other monotheistic deities each version unique to each and every separate and apart denomination. There might be only one Maximally Greatest Being, but theologians just might be backing the wrong horse, or wrong Maximally Greatest Being!
# Mathematics and logic are not absolute.
Mathematics: For all logicians know, perhaps triangles on Mars may have 181 degrees. They haven’t been there to check. And when they do, well there’s still a lot of other cosmic real estate to have to check out.
Logic: The phrase “married bachelor” could just mean a married male who’s still living a bachelor-style lifestyle!
Where’s the logic in tradition? Why is it logically required? Why must every Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner be a clone of the one before? Why must there be parades on the Fourth of July? What’s the logic in a businessman wearing a suit and tie or a businesswoman high-heels? Isn’t it illogical to celebrate an anniversary when all you are really celebrating is the fact that the Earth has just gone around the Sun one more time? Is the logical case closed now with respect to the above?
Maximally Greatest Being: If philosophers and/or theologians logically state that a Maximally Greatest Being is real, they need to produce Him (Her or It) in front of a TV audience for all to see and hear. They can’t do it; nobody can do it; nobody has ever done it. Real reality isn’t real reality based on just an argument, even a logical argument. When it comes to show-and-tell, you just gotta show-and-tell, not just tell.
# Logic isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of wisdom and knowledge and that other subjects need to go along for the ride. The proof of the pudding that logic isn’t primary is that logic totally fails to answer the Big Questions. If logic had answered or could have answered all of the Big Questions, well there wouldn’t be any Big Questions left to answer now, would there? Pure logic cannot in itself resolve or determine or decide any of the Big Questions, those philosophical issues that are examined for example on Big Question websites like “Closer To Truth” and other similarly related websites. Logic alone cannot decide issues that, for example, range from the existence of extraterrestrials to cosmic beginnings to the simulation hypothesis to free will to the existence of a soul to the reality of an afterlife to Panpsychism to the existence of a deity (or deities) to the reality of the End Times, and on it goes. If pure logic could have decided these issues it would have decided these issues and thus these Big Question websites wouldn’t need to exist and thus there would be no need for a pro-versus-con electronic or in person chin-wag. So let’s put logic in its logical place as belonging to a larger partnership, a partnership that collectively tries to come to terms with the Big Questions as well as the not so big questions.
# Now we agree that logic, in conjunction with other factors, assists us in getting all of us, “Closer to Truth”. However, where disagreement happens is that when crunch comes crunch, logic trumps all those other factors. Some say “yes”; I say “not bloody likely”.
For example: If you want me to believe in the reality of a Maximally Greatest Being, someone is going to HAVE TO produce a body or equivalent in terms of structure and substance (i.e. – physical stuff). Logic and theoretical waffle have their place but they are no substitute for a physical body. Logic does not trump a physical body, even that of a Maximally Greatest Being.
If you want me to believe in the reality of a First Cause, a creation of something from nothing, someone is going to HAVE TO produce at minimum a theoretical equation as to how this is possible, or better yet do this magical trick themselves in front of an audience. Logic and theoretical waffle have their place but they are no substitute for an actual demonstration. Logic does not trump actually showing how a something from nothing can be achieved in practice; in reality.
In my defence against all things logical, I’ve been accused of being “irrational”. I thank those for the complement. I’m not sure of the exact quote or who made it, but the gist was that all progress is made by the irrational person (on the grounds that rational people just parrot the status quo and thus never challenge the established paradigm). So it was an irrational person who challenged the idea of a flat Earth or that the Sun goes around the Earth or that there was such a thing as evolution by natural selection or that the speed of light was the exception to the rule that velocities could be added and subtracted.