Saturday, September 16, 2006

Transcendental Logic.

I came across this cute site recently. Have a go and see if you can spot any flaws in the proof.

24 comments:

tank said...

Hmm, flaws. I don't really see any flaws there. If I didn't already believe, though, that site wouldn't be able to convince me of anything. People entertain me when they try to use their little tiny brains to make sense of this planet or the universe or God. I'm not so sure that we're meant to understand. But, eh, I guess we have to feel like we're busy and that we're accomplishing something. Making progress. I enjoyed reading your site. Have a good one.

Psiomniac said...

Tank,
I'm glad you enjoyed my blog. Of course your point about trying to understand all of this complexity with our limited resources is faced by believers and non believers alike, since the latter still have to make sense of their faith and how they know it to be true.

canuckfish said...

The site is not intended to convince anyone of anything. That's up to God. I am merely pointing out that there is proof for God's existence, and that those who deny it are 'suppressing the truth.' And Tank... Surely God has made us so that we can make sense out of some things. Surely you think what you wrote makes sense.
Thanks for posting the link psiomniac.

Psiomniac said...

canuckfish,
The site is not intended to convince anyone of anything. That's up to God.
Well God has been sadly lacking in that department so in the meantime I was merely inviting people to have a go at identifying the flaws in your proof. There are many proofs for the existence of God. One of my favourites is St. Anselm's version of the Ontological Argument. However, just like all the others, it does not stand up to close scrutiny.

Paul said...

I think the site is reasonable. I've thought of doing something similar myself. It would be good to expand it in places, though. For example, at the point where someone says they do not believe in objective morality it would be good to ask some further tough questions to flush out their real feelings on the matter. It's good to stay in Socratic style for as long as possible before descending into a lecture. (I should heed my own advice more often.)

canuckfish said...

Psiomniac,
Actually God has convinced everyone that He exists, some however "suppress the truth in unrighteousness."

Indeed there are many proofs for the existence of God, all of which are interpreted by one's presuppositions. Naturally to someone who denies that God exists, no proof will be sufficient. The question is though, how does one who denies the existence of God account for universal, abstract, invariant laws?

Paul,
I like your idea for the morality section. So many people get bogged down there, I would like to change it a bit. Please email me with any further suggestions you may have.

Sye

ephphatha said...

I have never found the transcendental argument to be very convincing. I do think God is necessary for moral laws since they are prescriptive, but I don't think God is necessary for there to be laws of logic. I wrote a blog about that a while back.

Psiomniac said...

canuckfish,
You said:
Actually God has convinced everyone that He exists, some however "suppress the truth in unrighteousness."

Can you see the similarity with that old psychiatrist parody:
Psychiatrist:"I think your problems stem from an unhappy childhood."
Patient: "Actually my childhood was very happy."
Psychiatrist:"Ah you are suppressing memories of a bad childhood. This is further evidence in support of my theory of an unhappy childhood."
See the problem?

Indeed there are many proofs for the existence of God, all of which are interpreted by one's presuppositions. Naturally to someone who denies that God exists, no proof will be sufficient.
The whole point of the notion of 'proof' is that we both sign up to agreed presuppositions, namely the laws of logic. In these terms the proofs are flawed.


The question is though, how does one who denies the existence of God account for universal, abstract, invariant laws?

Well, I actually think that religious 'explanations' of these phenomena are no such thing. They mimic the format of explanation but what they are really doing is wrapping up all the unanswerable questions into a narrative bundle that is conveniently designed to be immune to further scrutiny.

Psiomniac said...

ephphatha,
Thanks, I read your blog entry and broadly agree. The only areas of difference are the existence of god and the necessary existence of god for moral laws, so only a couple of minor points really!

canuckfish said...

The whole point of the notion of 'proof' is that we both sign up to agreed presuppositions, namely the laws of logic. In these terms the proofs are flawed.

Our presuppositions regarding justification for the laws of logic vary drastically i.e. you don't have any.

Well, I actually think that religious 'explanations' of these phenomena are no such thing.

You may not like the 'religious explanation, but it is an explanation nonetheless. You use universal, abstract, invariant laws every day. How do you account for them in a random, chance, material universe?

Psiomniac said...

Our presuppositions regarding justification for the laws of logic vary drastically i.e. you don't have any.

And you have a made up one. We live in a universe with regularities. If it didn't have any we would not be around to ponder why not. You have some stuff you believe and because it has an easily digestable narrative arc you think it is an 'explanation'. Well I don't think the truth comes that easy, sorry. Anyway all that is irrelevant to whether or not, given the laws of logic, the proofs for the existence of god are flawed. They are. If the best you can do is point out that the laws of logic are in need of an explanation then you must be getting desperate. I think it was a multidimensional trombone playing space wasp that underwrote the regularities of our sense experience and the laws of logic. What do you mean i have no rational basis for thinking that? Actually, now you come to mention it...

canuckfish said...

I'm not only saying that the laws of logic are in need of an explanation, I'm saying that I have an explanation. You may disagree with my explanation but in so doing you would be using laws of logic which you must borrow from my worldview. It would be like arguing against the existence of air, breathing it all the while.

Psiomniac said...

I'm not only saying that the laws of logic are in need of an explanation, I'm saying that I have an explanation.
Sorry but wrapping all the unanswered or seemingly unanswerable questions into one package and labelling it 'God' is not really explaining anything at all.

You may disagree with my explanation but in so doing you would be using laws of logic which you must borrow from my worldview.
I disagree that you have an explanation. You just have a label for things you can't answer to which you have attached a set of imaginary and incoherent attributes like omnipotence, omniscience and omnibeneficence. Theologians have been having a field day attempting to unravel the logical knots that ensued ever since this particular anthropomorphic projection was formulated. So I am borrowing nothing at all from your worldview.

It would be like arguing against the existence of air, breathing it all the while.

Actually I think it is more like me driving in a car to a meeting at which I try to explain to you that we do not need to believe in Piston Pixies to explain the workings of the internal combustion engine.

canuckfish said...

Do you believe that universal, abstract, invariant laws of logic exist?

If so, how do you account for them in a random, material universe?

If you cannot account for them, explain how your using them does not amount to blind faith in their validity.

Psiomniac said...

Do you believe that universal, abstract, invariant laws of logic exist?

If so, how do you account for them in a random, material universe?

For a start, there is a flaw in your premise, since clearly the universe is not random.
Also I sense that there is an unstated assumption here, namely that in order for the universe to be non random, a god is required whereas if there is no god and the universe is 'material' in this sense, it must be random. I disagree with this assumption and I think your argument is question begging.
To sum up, I do not think that resorting to the undefinable concept of 'god' is an 'account' for anything, including the laws of logic. I also think that to say using laws, the denial of which is self refuting, requires 'blind faith' is to misuse the term.

canuckfish said...

Alright, lets break this up a bit then. Do you believe that universal, abstract, invariant laws exist?

Psiomniac said...

Well, I think we should break it up even more. You have quite a composite there after all. You have 'universal', 'abstract', 'invariant' and 'exist' in the same sentence. Sounds a bit like too much egg to me. Let's start with 'exist'. Do you accept that there are different modes of existence?

canuckfish said...

A simple yes or no would have sufficed. Feel free to resort to the dictionary definitions of the terms in responding to the questions. I will break it up more for you.

Are laws of logic universal?
Are laws of logic abstract?
Are laws of logic invariant?

Give me some examples of different modes of existence so I can answer your question.

Psiomniac said...

A simple yes or no would have sufficed.

Since when did you get to decide what will suffice for my answers? Ah, but I was forgetting your style of argument as exemplified by the website, which seems to be to force a set of false dichotomies on people and then draw your own conclusion from the position you think they have ended up in.

Are laws of logic universal?
Are laws of logic abstract?
Are laws of logic invariant?

For the sake of argument let me agree to the above. The problem with dictionary definitions is that one still has to interpret context. So by 'universal' one could mean shared by all people, or one could mean 'applies to the entire universe' or even 'applies to all possible universes', and so on. So what domain do you mean?

The following could meaningfully be said to exist:

Mount Everest

The musical melody I have just thought of but not written down or recorded

My intention to drive round the corner.

And so on...

Psiomniac said...

How about this for an ontological status: all the piano tuners in Sherlock Holmes' London. In a straightforward sense they do not exist because Sherlock Holmes is fictional. Nor are they or any of their number mentioned in any of the Holmes stories, as far as I know. On the other hand none of the characters ever remarks about how out of tune all the pianos are.

Paul said...

I think you're overcomplicating this Psio. "All the piano tuners in Sherlock Holmes' London" is a real thought about a real kind of person (piano tuner) in relation to a real fiction novel. Added together, they equate to a fictional thing because they hinge on at least one thing that is fictional. It's kind of like multiplication: If any one of the numbers is zero, then the whole equation amounts to nill, yet some of the particulars can have value.

I think where the real debate begins would relate to what you thought of your mental processes. For example, is that melody that you have in your head, that has never been physically recorded, a real thing, or must it first be captured in the material world before it can be considered to exist? Further, are your hopes and beliefs, or your rational principles, real things? If so, what atoms or energies contain them? Does the law of non-contradiction and the ad hominem fallacy precede all sentient beings and apply to any who happen to exist throughout the universe, or are these things merely emanations of the mind of man? If from man, then why these laws, and why should they not be variable; and if they cannot vary, then they must precede man.

Psiomniac said...

Paul,
Yes I was getting carried away there wasn't I?
I think you are right about the points at issue. I do not think the atheist or theist world views can give a full account of these things though. Let's see how this pans out.

Paul said...

I'm at a loss as to why you would think that a theistic worldview would not have an answer consistent with these things. Perhaps not an answer that you accept as true, but an answer nonetheless.

If classical theism is true, then we have something that is prior to matter, fixed in nature (you may argue that point), the author and designer of nature; and humans have souls, which transcend their physical minds. These are all excellent building blocks for explaining the existence of abstract, universal, invariant things.

I know that Sam is not impressed by the transcendental argument, but I believe it exposes some enigmatic issues in the materialistic worldview. If this were not so, then we would not have so much pondering and theorizing by atheistic philosophers, physicists, psychologists, and neurologists about things like the nature of morality, logic, mathematics, physical laws, reason, consciousness, and will.

Psiomniac said...

I'm at a loss as to why you would think that a theistic worldview would not have an answer consistent with these things.
It has a narrative which shares some of the aspects of the form an answer necessarily takes but when it comes to actual answers that can be verified and do real explanatory work, I think the theistic view actually fares worse than the atheistic. In part this is because it sets its sights too high in assuming the need and attainability of a non circular foundation for things like logic and reason. Each particular religion then has to face up to why its particular version of the unverifiable postulate (who has the sign 'God: the buck stops here' on his desk) is undeniably the one who underwrites these things whilst simultaneously attempting to grapple with theological knots like euthyphro and the reconciling of god's sovereignty wih man's responsibility and all that.