Could it be that logic just "is"?

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Mathetes, Feb 20, 2012.

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  1. Mathetes

    Mathetes Puritan Board Freshman

    Most of us, I think, are familiar with the famous (infamous?) Bahnsen/Stein debate where Bahnsen broadsided Stein out of left field with his transcendental argument, the impossibility of the contrary. Unfortunately, I have heard of Reformed folks using this as something of a "silver bullet" argument, that "you can't account for logic" is a sufficient show-stopper for any debate with an atheist.

    But I think I'd like to understand the argument a bit better. What if an atheist or agnostic were to counter that there doesn't really need to be something transcendental that grounds logic? That is to say, that I can observe an apple and I can observe an orange, and I can see that they have different qualities. I can observe that one is not like the other in the same way, the same time, and the same sense, thus establishing the law of non-contradiction. I can observe that they have qualities unique to themselves as well as having qualities that are universal, such as redness or "orangeness". So why do I need to bring God into the picture? If one were to ask why things are that way, maybe they would assert that these differences emerge simply because we have these discreet and universal entities in the world, and not because anything divine underlies them.

    That's kind of brief, but I think it would be my first step to understanding the presuppositional view a bit better.
  2. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Logic also applies to non-material items like thoughts and numbers.

    You are also reducing logic to subjectivity.

    Does the individual finite observer get to create or define logic and logical laws? How does he know they are absolute and universal ? :2cents:
  3. Zach

    Zach Puritan Board Junior

    That's silly. If logic just "is" like morality just "is" to the atheist then it has to be relative to the person. Relativism in logic simply does not work. You see an apple and an orange but I see two apples and logic says one of us has to be wrong.
  4. Mathetes

    Mathetes Puritan Board Freshman

    I suppose my point was that the atheist might say that they are not creating logic or logical laws, but observing them; and the fact that they are pre-existing and universal are simply propeties of things being different and also having some universal traits.
  5. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    And right there you run into the problem of accounting for logic. You have made induction the basis for logic. Thus the law of non-contradiction is only probably true since you need only one observation of this law being broken to falsify it. A transcendental account seeks, or at least should, to establish what must be true inorder for us to have logic as we experience it.

    All attempts to ground logic in some aspect of creation have failed. You illustrated why induction cannot work. Deduction already assumes logic to be true so it cannot account for itself. Where else do we go in creation to ground logic?

    Presuppositionalism isn't the best title for Van Til's thought. Sproul, Gersterner, and Lindsey really showed their lack of understanding this by lumping everyone they thought was a "presuppositionalist" under the label and then expalin away any major differences as "infighting". Dooyeweerd cannot in my opinion be labled a presuppositionalist. Names for Van Til's unique aproech have been numerous I like two in particuler. Either VanTillianism (to reflect Van Til's unique aproech) or Covenantal apologetics (to reflect the importance of covenant theology in his thought).

    Others use Reformed Apologetics pointing out that Van Til's aproech is the outworking of Reformed Theology. Although I agree with this I think it is too abrasive and confrontational to reformed folks who hold a different view of apologetics.

    So why can God, or christian theism as a whole, be the ground of logic? Well reality is logical because it is the reflection of God's mind and being. It is universal and unchanging just like God's thoughts and being. Logic is also a tool used by us to think God's thoughts after Him. When we correctly understand reality we are thinking God's thoughts after Him correctly. This is painting with a broad brush though so keep that mind.
  6. Mathetes

    Mathetes Puritan Board Freshman

    And this, I assume, dumps them in the lap of Hume's problem of induction?

    And if our erstwhile opponent protests that God could also cease to exist, could we then answer a) that God is timeless, so such would be impossible and b) Trinitarian theism at least provides a basis for logic, whereas atheism can do not such thing?

    Also, I'm curious if anyone can recommend any good presuppositionalist debates (audio or transcribed, paid or free) that I could check out - besides the Bahnsen/Stein one. I find the best way to get a feel for an idea is to see it in action.
  7. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Bingo! Among other problems.

    In a way yes. We must always keep in mind that there is a difference between using logic and accounting for logic. The unbeleiver can use logic, and must use logic, all day long without ever being able to account for them on unbeleiving presupossitions. The irony is this. If the VanTillian can show that God is a neccessry truth, or presuppossion, of logic being what it is than in using logic the unbeleiver disproves his or her own worldview by using logic (this is all in theory of course). So in using logic to attempt to disrove the existance of God the unbeleiver unwittingly proves the existance of God.

    Debates no. If you join the Westminster Theological Seminary's media center (it is free). And listen to this guy's intro to apologetic course (entitled Apologetics 101), his name is William Edgar, here Westminster Theological Seminary - Media Center.
  8. Mathetes

    Mathetes Puritan Board Freshman

    So when we say that we ground or account for logic, we mean "provide a basis for"?

    Great, thanks...I'll check that out.
  9. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Sure that will work. But what is important for Van Til is this, we know that christian theism is true. So reality is creation period, it cannot be correctly understood as anything other than creation. So no matter how well we defend christian theism or how well the unbeleiver argues against christian theism it is true no matter what.
  10. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    A pseudo-problem if there ever was one.

    What happens when you're confronted with a deconstructionist?

    The reason why Stein "lost" the debate was that he didn't understand the argument.
  11. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    If you mean that logic merely exists because of God, then yes, I would agree.

    Alright, nobody here better be sporting pointy ears.
  12. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    In this argument the "I" is made the pre-condition for logic. This "I" would then account for logic and never be accountable to it. But every day discussion and debate makes it obvious that this "I" is constantly held to logical account. Ergo, the "I" is not the pre-condition for logic and cannot account for it.
  13. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    What about a Wittgensteinian who claimed that any account of this kind is the result of the mistaken notion that logical concepts apply to things other than language? That is to say, I've seen an argument claiming that logic merely lays out the rules for what it makes sense to say in a particular form of life and are only necessarily true in that context. Necessary truths, in this view, would be truths about our language, nothing more.

    For the record, I'm taking this one head-on in my thesis, but I'd like to hear some thoughts.
  14. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Universal concepts are still being employed. First, "makes sense." Secondly, "that context." The universals might be disguised but they are still there. First, whence comes the need to make "sense?" If it is not itself a product of logic, by what is it produced? If it is produced by something else, why hasn't that other thing created its own language to express it? Then, secondly, that slippery little word "context" gets away from the best philosophical fishermen who haven't learned to use the linguist's net. It is a relative term that requires an universal in order to be meaningful. To have a context one must have a domain, that is, a variety of contexts in which one single context may be identified. This "domain" is the inescapable universal that must be accounted for. Simply speaking of a context that is different from other contexts does not alleviate the problem that "context" itself is universal.
  15. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    You need to read the whole Lewis/Anscombe (Anscombe was Wittgenstien's successor at Cambridge) debate over the argument from reason. She argued that reason type explinations were different from materialistic or scientific type explinations and being two different language games they need not in theory interfere with one another. For the record she was not a materialist but a Catholic but she argued this way anyway.

    My response to that would be that if one language game makes propositions that committ one, like materialism, to an ontological view than said view must overlap and explain all language games involved.
  16. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    From language as a form of life. For Wittgenstein, language is purely the product of communal forms of life (hence why private languages are impossible).

    Wittgenstein would not have a problem with universal concepts, only with thinking that they reflect reality outside of language. For him, to think that something could be true or false outside of a form of life is simply beyond the bounds of sense.


    The view I described would describe both Christian theism and materialism as deeply confused, letting certain forms of life lead them into viewing grammatical problems as metaphysical or philosophical ones (remember that Wittgenstein thinks that metaphysics is inherently confused).
  17. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    We seem to be skirting about the realist and anti-realist debate. I don't know enough of the fellow's thought to be able to say exactly what he taught but I am fairly certain he could not affirm universals and then confine it to language without saying or implying that language itself is the ultimate reality. I'll have to leave it at that point; but that is where it ends up, as far as I am able to see.
  18. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Part of it is that he would say that the question is confused. The meaning of a word, for Wittgenstein, is its use in language. One has to remember that Wittgenstein believed philosophy to be concerned with the sensical or the sayable, not with the possible: he left that to science.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2012
  19. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Quite true. But we still talk about an objective reality, that is God's creation. Also I follow Strawson's method of descriptive metaphysics using Wittgenstien's later thought. Also I think that that is a rather extreme view of Wittgenstien's ideas. The point of his later thought (besides eliminating philosophy) was that the whole question of the correspondence of reality to language is a pointless question. That linguistic idealism doesn't really apply to any thinker except confused lay people and post-modern theologians. Even two thinkers who are accussed of this the most, Rorty and Derrida, are not actually guilty of it.
  20. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Actually, this would be P.M.S. Hacker, D.Z. Phillips, and Wittgenstein himself.

    Exactly---which entails that so-called "metaphysical" questions are actually questions about grammar. Talking about "objective reality," for Wittgenstein, would go beyond the bounds of sense. You cannot have a descriptive metaphysics because all you would be describing is language.
  21. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Well I am unfamiler with the first two thinkers so I cannot comment and I don't see the need to really draw a line in the sand on Wittgenstien. Because it won't get us anywhere.

    This viewpoint suffers from two very serious problems. For one It doesn't make sense without first assuming a Kantian metaphysical scheme. But this would be to assume quite consciensly legitmate metaphysical talk, which the theory itself denies can be done. What reason can even be given to accept this scheme? Stephan Toulman categorizes this Kantian scheme in Wittgenstien in his book Wittgenstien's Vienna. Since we cannot do metaphysics this distinction between language/reality is arbatrary at best giving no real reason to accept it.

    I find Wittgenstien to be saying that we all must think and talk about the same stuff. We are under no obligation to provide a description of this correspondance. But how does this mean that we talk about language only? If by that you mean that we talk only about ways of talking about reality, than fine but it does not dismiss Strawson's conclusions so easily. For Strawson we examine the most general features of our conceptual scheme to draw conclusions about the way things are. In short if we cannot form a single language game that talks about things from a completly monistic or pantheistic viewpoint we must conclude that individual objects exist. Because all though we can talk about individuals in all sorts of different ways we cannot not talk about them.

    Values are the same along with rationality itself. We cannot even think about things from an completly irrational P.O.V. Why is this? Via Strawson we can set the stage for our transcendental argument by showing that rationality itself is inevitable in our conceptual scheme.

    Just to take a step back for others. What Philip is arguing (either his own opinion and/or playing devil's advocate) in relation to the OP is the very legitimacy of the question of "grounding or accounting for logic". If the question itself is illegitimate than the unbeleiver or anyone else is under no obligation to answer it. In short, if I understand him correctly, logic just is and requires no further explinations for its grounding. He is making his claim through the later philosophy of Wittgenstien, who basically overuled such metaphysical question through his quite innovative ideas on language.

    I have been trying to argue through a disciple of the later Wittgenstien that even if we accept his general ideas we can still and must examine such metaphysical questions and legitimize the OP. I hope that makes sense.

    Philip If our conceptual scheme cannot help but be rational in some sense it is therefore worth asking why? The way you would involve some kind of idea of a "rational" world. Unavoidability is the halmark of legitimate problems. In the same way that it is the sceptic's burden to prove to me that I do not exist, so the extreme Wittgenstienian has the burden of why such philosophical questions keep coming up not in some general sense but specifically. Asking "how do we know that logic describes anything outside language" is refuted through a paradigm case argument.

    Tthis skeptical claim doesn't make any sense considering that every case I have of "reality" is rational and is only meaningful in a rational or logical way. Every form of life is "rational". Plus why can't there be a language game of metaphysics?
  22. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Hacker and Phillips are two of Wittgenstein's most consistent followers---and Phillips specialized in philosophy of religion.

    Not really---it's fairly self-contained, from what I can tell. This is what I thought at first, but it turns out that Wittgenstein would claim that transcendental reasoning is simply reasoning back to the forms of life which form the context for our claims.

    But all that we would be talking about, then, are these features as features of our form of life.

    But just because it is inevitable does not make it necessary in any sort of metaphysical way. For Wittgenstein, necessarity is a function of our form of life, not of some transcendent reality. What separates him from Kant? The fact that he would say that talking about a ding an sich at all is confused.

    Because we continue to succumb to being mesmerized by certain features of our language. We let language go on holiday and therefore fall into confusion. There are no problems, just puzzles.

    But all that this means is that you cannot get outside human forms of life.

    Because its questions are actually grammatical.

    My point in arguing here is not actually to delegitimize your question, but to show that the question would be meaningless if asked of a consistent Wittgensteinian like Hacker or Phillips.

    I'm completely playing devil's advocate, just to clarify. I am, in fact, addressing these issues in my thesis on D.Z. Phillips and philosophy of religion (truly scary stuff). I'm writing on the accounts that Phillips and Wittgenstein give of doctrinal statements in religion.
  23. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    I thought so but I didn't want to assume.

    I'll have to check them out.

    Sure but it still posits an absolutly unknowable out there that we "know" we can't "know" anything about. Lest the distinction is purely arbatrary.

    It is interesting here that I think the thought of William James applys nicely. They are forgetting that practically speaking our language and conceptual scheme are limited by our experience. We are forced to talk and think about the same stuff, or reality, as everyone else. Rorty did do a favor along these Pragmatic lines to Wittgenstien's thought.

    But at the end of the day he was restricted to conceive in any form of the life the same life that we all inhabit. If there are no values than we should be able to conceive of a language void of them, or rationality, but we cannot. He cannot escape that.

    Sure but they still have to demonstrate this for each and all philosophical "puzzles". I know that many of them have and they have been helpful in weeding out mere grammatical problems but that alone does not prove their point.

    Sure but it does not unhinge language from reality only proves that a strict correspondence is theoretically impossible to explain.

    I understand but they still are unsuccessful in completly ruling out the question. They make grand statments and analogies about metaphysics without ever proving them. Hence, in my mind making them suspect.
  24. Christoffer

    Christoffer Puritan Board Sophomore

    If I were to use the transcendental argument I guess I would comment:

    Any statement assumes the law on non-contradiction. If an atheist gave this explanation then we could ask how he knows that he "sees" and "observes" things, if the terms "see" and "observe" also can mean "not see" and "not observe". This is why Bahnsen said that Stein had already agreed to the laws of logic when he accepted the debate. Without it no debate can take place.
  25. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Actually, it doesn't. It doesn't speak outside of itself.

    That's why there's no private language. This is why Wittgenstein deconstructs Descartes---it means that forms of life are always communal, but it doesn't mean that they are able to say anything outside themselves.

    First, as a Christian, never let what you can conceive be the measure of what is real.

    Second, Wittgenstein would claim that by rationality, all that we mean is "what makes sense."

    As far as they are concerned, it does. To answer it, you simply do linguistic analysis, as with any other "metaphysical" question to see where you were taken captive by language.
  26. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    It can't be that way because that assumes that there is nothing but language. Linguistic idealism is easily refuted by Moore's "proof of an external world". Also people who would agree with these guys about the futility of asking what the connection is between language and reality would sharply disagree with them over this (I have in mind here Rorty, Putnam, and Derrida). How would they argue against Rorty insight about dinosaurs. When he was pressed to adress linguistic idealism he responds "were there reptiles living millions of years ago (in his opinion) before we were around to talk about them? Of course there were, but dinosaurs as we have developed our language games about didn't exist until we started speaking about them". If the yare correct than there is no outside world, there can't be because if there is than it forces our lingustic development in some way which is the death nail to linguistic idealism.

    I think a better way to conceive of it that avoids the problems encountered here is to say that yes there is no ideal way for two people to discuss a tree in their backyard. Also there can be many different ways to talk about it, so sense comes from us both understanding what is being said. But at the end of the day we are both still talking about a tree in our backyard. How do they know that language doesn't refer to anything outside itself?

    Sure making sense would be one example. We could analyze all sorts of examples of synonomous uses of words for "rationality" but there is still that proper use of it that is in view here.

    I just thought about this. If they are correct than transcendental arguments like in the OP are impossible. So there can be not one valid TA in order for them to be correct. So one valid one would be like Russell's paradox for Frege. There own viewpoint makes no sense without at least a slightly extended version of the private language argument, which is itself a kind of TA. So here goes.
    For language to be at all there must be at least three things in actual existance:
    1. A speaker
    2. Someone to understand the speaker
    3. And something to talk about

    All three of these things are metaphysically presuppossed by these Wittgenstienians and all three are outside language hence language can and must at times refer outside itself in some way.
  27. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    No it doesn't assume this---it doesn't say anything one way or another about what is outside of language because the question is confused. Remember that language is form of life in Wittgenstein. Moore's proof is precisely based on ordinary usage, and is therefore nothing that Wittgenstein would object to.

    No, sense comes from context, in Wittgenstein. Remember that meaning is use. The tree is a feature of our form of life.

    Actually, all you need is a form of life. Forms of life provide all three of these without recourse to metaphysics---that's not a transcendental argument, but a description of what language involves. It's not a claim about the world but about forms of life.

    Here's the question: is metaphysics a discipline, or is it simply the confusion of those who have mistaken the shadows of grammar for the structure of reality? James, I agree with you that it's actually the former, but your approach is playing into the hands of someone like Wittgenstein or Hacker.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2012
  28. Mathetes

    Mathetes Puritan Board Freshman

    Well, now I'm curious how Philip himself would respond to a Wittgensteinien
  29. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    By means of counter-example, actually: find a single language-game that unconfusedly depends on making claims about something beyond itself. That is, a form of life that depends on something outside itself breaking in and speaking in---the Christian faith. Christianity as a form of life makes the claim that God has spoken in space and time and entered into our form of life, becoming a man.
  30. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Yes but "form of..." requires something to be a form of. Form of life merely refers to doctors, psychologists, and best friends. All are involved in different languge regarding a person with none contradicting the other but without that person they all refer to they make no sense.

    Sure and there can be many different forms of life revolving around this idea. an artist, a gardener, etc. but they all are hinged to that tree without the tree they don't exist. I remember a story I read about the Vienna Circle that was very funny.
    The earlier Wittgenstien disliked metaphysics just like the latter. From his earlier philosophy arose a group of philosophers called the Vienna Circle. They beleived that all metaphysical talk was meaningless. So they asighned one of their group to yell "M" everytime any of them made a metaphysical statement. After some time the asighned individual was yelling "M" so much that they couldn't get any conversation done. So they changed his role to yell "not-M" whenever they said something non metaphysical.

    This only illustrates how deeply metaphysical our language is. I agree with them that some of our traditional metaphysical problems are confusions of language but not all. They can't just refuse to answer the question and have that be an answer. Also I understand their general view of all metaphysical statements and how to "therapuetically" deal with them. But I am well withen my epistemic rights to demand from them an analasys of this particuler idea.

    So all three of these are not the neccessary preconditions for language to be what it is? Again this seems to be one wing of the Wittgenstienian camp others have taken his thinking in other (more interesting) directions. Metaphysics are the features of our most general conceptions about reality. Don't equate metaphysics with Greek metaphysics.

    ---------- Post added at 09:46 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:45 AM ----------

    Thats quite VanTillian of you Philip :D.
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