I wrote this a few days ago in response to many points that I’ve heard made by the presuppositionalist Sye Ten Bruggencate. His tactics of apologetic stem from the idea that god’s existence is necessary for logic and reasoning, and that the foundries of logic can only be accounted for through god.
Along with the coy attempts at confusion via wordplay, Sye tries to twist the idea of the brain in a vat problem of hard solipsism and claim that, in essence, the atheistic worldview cannot account for knowledge. Oi vey.
You can’t use your logic to prove your logic
A rare gem in the apologetic library, arguments for god through the critique of logic and reasoning itself tend to try and catch you off guard with confusing rhetoric. In conversation, the main ideas that try to be conveyed by the proponents of the argument essentially define the concept of god into existence. The arguments commonly starts with the proponent claiming that the nonbeliever couldn’t possibly make sense of logic by claiming that without god, the nonbeliever must resort to using circular reasoning to justify the use of their logic “You can’t use logic to prove your own logic, it’s circular!”
By doing so, the proponent tries to put any bystander into a conundrum by convincing them that there MUST be something outside of logic that validates it: god.
While for the first few times I agreed with that statement in my rebuttal, I’ve grown to use a more rigorous approach. For one, logic and reasoning aren’t actual entities in and of themselves. At best, they are conceptual tools the human uses to work their way through the world they live in. From prediction to communication, reasoning skills are necessary tools to using and understanding everything mentioned. Can a hammer be “true” in the same way a statement is true? Hammers can only be describe by their usefulness, not by it’s truthfulness. As an object, the only things true about a hammer are its properties. As a tool, the function of the object is to be used for a goal, and in this sense logic is definitely a tool. When we “use” logic in the world, we’re using this conceptual tool to make predictions about reality, and by the results we get from reasoning things out we can confirm that it gives us useful results, validating the continual use of said tool.
So yes, we can’t use our logic to prove anything but the usefulness of itself. Though, understanding logic as a tool, why would we?
What does it mean to be useful, by the way? While it ultimately depends on the goal of the tool, the usefulness of logic comes from when the conclusions there in reflect reality and can be used to make predictions and rules for how to act. Fire is hot, so don’t touch fire if you don’t want to feel pain. What goes up must come down. These statements come from understanding things about reality and logically concluding how to act based on those facts and personal desires.
One of the things about the argument worth thinking about is how easy it is be caught without the ability to defend the argument because it touches on a subject that is intrinsic to our nature as thinking creatures. It plays off of the ignorance people have to the functions of our brains and tries to force this ignorance in our faces, claiming that our inability to rebut is because there IS no rebuttal. Secondly, how did the arguer get to this position in the first place? Mind you, the basic claims embedded in the arguments boil down to god being the source of logic and reasoning because without god, there would be no logic or reasoning. It attempts to justify itself by throwing a strawman in your face; the declaration that logic cannot justify itself through logic without mentioning any other justification for using/having logic makes it seem like there couldn’t possibly be another way to rectify the created problem without god. Of course this isn’t so. Just like any other tool, the true justification for continued use in a tool is results and nothing else.
Another fairly crucial red herring in this argument comes from the ubiquity of our own uses of logic. The argument makes the layman pause and wonder exactly how could they verify logic without using logic in the process, insinuating that there must be a way outside of logic to do so. We use logic for everything, in every step of the process of thinking. To illustrate why there is no problem with using logic for everything including justifying the continued use of logic, consider the human eye. Just like logic, our eyes are tools that we use to understand the world around us. But how do we know that our eyes are valid? The same goes for all five senses: the use of these senses have no justification in the same sense that the use of logic has no basis. The information gathered from our senses are taken at face value because there is nothing else to base our actions on outside of the experiences from the perceptions of other people. What we consider “real” is a model of the world we base on the consistencies seen in what we already experience. Hallucinations are things that give one (or more) of our senses information inconsistent to the rest of our body and inconsistent with the sensory inputs of everything else. As such, the best way to figure out when one is hallucinating is whether or not our experiences are consistent to our own internal models of the world and with help of others to compare sensory input from. (Or technology, input from which we also interpret through our senses)
This is all a long winded explanation to establish one thing: the continued use of our senses also being completely unjustified by the standards set by the arguers who insist that the use of logic and reasoning cannot be justified without god. Logic, like our senses, are a part of the tools we use to understand and work with the information that those very senses bring in. In many ways, our logic and senses work together to make a model compiling everything we experience into one holistic one, and we use all six tools to correct mistakes that individual tools can make, as well as other people. “Mistakes” like making a logical prediction of what will happen in the future and getting it wrong, or making a logical statement of fact about the world we’re in. “Wrong” being that the results from the logical quandary were not consistent with the sensory input we received. Though certain people upon understanding this claim that there must be a source from which all can be confirmed outside of all six of these tools, they would be hard pressed to present one outside of positing a deity that in itself remain undemonstrated and usually not demonstrable by its own definition. To the rest of us who understand that we have no choice but to work with the tools we have, how is it that we know our logic is useful? Through comparison to the reality that it pertains to!
As a final point, all of this can be made to rewrite the circular statement posited into one that works without relying on :
Instead of “I can use my logic to validate the validity of my logic” we have “I can use the results from thinking logically to further justify using logic” which is no less different than “I can use the results of this hammer (used for the purpose of pounding in nails) to justify the continued use of this hammer”
I’ll list some of the claims I’m intrinsically making to reach my conclusions so that you guys can see if I’ve made any real mistakes here:
1)I’m claiming that reality is nothing more than the combined input of all our available senses compiled together to make a cohesive whole.
- Therefore, we use logic to predict the very things we perceive and pull information from our senses to form logical conclusions
2)I’m claiming that logic is a conceptual tool
- Therefore, logic can’t be “true” in the sense that we refer to statements being true. Conclusions reached by thinking logically can be true but requires further reflection with reality (our senses) to be true- Can a hammer be “true” ?
3)By 2 I’m also claiming that logic being a tool means that questions of validity should be treated as questions of usefulness (Again, can a hammer be “valid”?)
4)Given the nature of what we call reality (my prescribed definition, that is) and how we get information about reality and truth, via 1, if we are but brains in a vat being fed information artificially, no one, not even a christian, could know this. Even the idea that the claimed manifestation of god could come from knowledge that some brain in a vat could be fed.
-Some ridiculously fleshed out thoughts from a bard, clacking away. And the keys go tick.