This is a very short course in logic for those who like to use the Socratic method in leading believers to see the falsity of theism. Even such a small course as this will prove helpful, for it is the very basis, the foundation of, logical discourse.

In your questioning of theists in order to lead them to the realization that theism has no basis in reality always remember, and when possible, utilize the three laws of logic, in establishing the truth or falsity of a thing.

What are the three laws of logic ? They are as follows.

(1) The Law of Identity, which states that something is itself, and not something else. The term being used corresponds and coincides with the thing being described.

(2) The Law of Non-contradiction. This law develops more fully the first law, in that it teaches that the thing being described in the first law cannot be both itself and not itself at the same time and in the same sense.

(3) The Law of the Excluded Middle. This final law says that a thing must be either true or false, it cannot be both. In other words, there is no middle ground. In other words, as an example, a woman cannot be a little pregnant.

Christians have tried to sneak in a fourth law, called the Law of Sufficient Cause. This is not one of the true laws of logic, there are only three, the three enumerated above. The purpose of this spurious fourth law is meant only to justify the existence of God as the sufficient cause of the universe.

So, there you have it. In using your Socratic questioning it would be only helpful to remember these three laws in establishing the truth or falsity of a thing.

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Why is that fact "institutional" rather than just a fact?

It is based on convention rather than any empirical observation. If you want to argue with me specifically about Socratic laws, then that he conceived of three laws is simply historical fact. If you want to argue about God, then that Socrates conceived of three laws is arbitrary. Whether the "Law of Sufficient Cause" is or is not a Socratic law has no bearing on its truth-value.

Furthermore, one must be careful how he applies these laws, how one phrases the question. We must talk about diametrically opposed values when we speak of excluded middle or non-contradiction. Hence, applying these laws, especially in empirical discussions without a clear closed-system context might be an act in futility.

You may believe, for example as John Locke claims, that these laws are the result of empirical observation, in which case would not relegate them to absolute truth. If that is true, then unless you conceive that you have metaphysical knowledge, you cannot say whether the laws are true in a metaphysical context.

It is an institutional fact that the three laws cited above are usually called Aristotle's rather than Socrates'.

My question was intended to spark a discussion of institutional facts, which might be criticized as being neither institutional nor factual. A good example would be the legal fiction which considers a corporation to be a 'person' before the law. (You might consider this institutional since it is a convention created by courts, but it most certainly is not a fact.)

First, about checkerboards. Suppose a board is shown to someone who does not know of the game and he is told that it is a checkerboard and asked how many squares it had. He could then utter the sentence "there are sixtyfour" as the result of an empirical observation. All this means is that your example requires context to determine that it is an institutional fact.

Second, about checkerboards. The two dictionaries I consulted defined checkboard as a board on which the game of checkers is (can be) played. A board with 64 circles or hexagons arranged in eight rows and eight columns with alternate squares colored differently would certainly do as well. (Neither dictionary specified 64 or squares.) This shows the fuzzy character of institutional facts in general. They are often unconscious and conventional with considerable latitude.

Third. Law of sufficient cause. This law, however stated, is of an entirely different character from the three laws attributed to Aristotle. It has a metaphysical quality the others lack. They are pure logic and bear no ontological implications, but the law of sufficient cause posits the existence of a cause for everything—a major ontological commitment not justified by evidence. While the other three laws can be expressed in symbolic form in the predicate calculus, that is not possible with the law of sufficient reason.

One interesting interpretation of the law of sufficient cause is that it denies  existence of Anscombe's so-called brute facts—facts which have no explanation, things which simply are, the fundamental layer of reality—and thus would make every fact an institutional fact in Searle's sense.

I agree that the checkerboard could be an empirical fact. I think though that the crux of the matter is in your third point. I was not debating the legitimacy of a "law of sufficient cause", but that it could not be dismissed for not being part of Aristotle's laws. The OP suggested that we respond to claims of sufficient cause with the three laws, and I find that to be unconvincing.

Jonathan Chang:

I perceive that you are a theist, and that you hold metaphysical ideas (in the sense that matter/energy is not all there is). But you would be wrong. It is very clear that there is nothing but matter/energy and no metaphysical spirit realm or a mind/body duality. This is proven by empirical observation and testing. You also seem to be trying too hard to sound intellectual. I mean no offense, but what you have to say sounds like a lot of gibberish and casuistry.

Weak attempt at ad hominem. Your argument:

P1. "Socrates'" Laws is the only way to establish the truth-value of a claim.

P2. There are only three laws.

C1. Therefore, a fourth law is false.

The most immediate objection against P1 is that the three logical laws could provide no extrinsic, empirical information (read Wittgenstein). Also, QM has proven the possibility of indeterminate values. It is also clearly not true that being in accordance with the three laws proves that a claim is true. For example, that a metaphysical God created the universe does not violate identity, non-contradiction, nor the excluded middle (because it is an empirical claim). Hence your conclusion is also invalid in that the conclusion does not follow from the premises, especially if the fourth law doesn't contradict the three.

Notice, as I have previously said, I am not defending the Law of Sufficient Reason, but I am saying that your argument is insufficient against the claim of Sufficient Reason. It is irrelevant, like if someone said, "DNA exists", and you replied, "But DNA is not part of Newton's three laws!"

Stuff the Socratic method.

These idiots are like old computers. You have to punch the information into them.

Does a Law of Sufficient Cause imply a Law of Necessary Cause?

First, I agree that xians will corrupt anything to win support for their issues.

I ask the question because I so often saw the term necessary and sufficient cause.

Probably a result of my years in Catholic schools, understanding that term required considerable effort.

The Law of Sufficient Reason was coined by Leibniz, but has roots in the philosophy of Spinoza, who came close to stating it. Formally, it states that every fact must have a reason which explains it. Leibniz draws many conclusions from this powerful principle such as the Identity of Indiscernables—the principle that objects which cannot be distinguished are in fact identical. (This badly scrambles the atomic theory of matter.)

Leibniz uses the Law of Sufficient Reason to establish the existence of God with a clever argument. Roughly it is as follows: consider the entire set of contingent things (things which must have an explanation or reason). That set must itself have a sufficient reason and that reason cannot be a contingent thing itself. Therefore it is a necessary thing, that is to say, a thing outside the set of contingent things, a thing without a reason, namely God.

One could give another interpretation to Leibniz argument. It shows that the Law of Sufficient Reason leads to a contradiction in establishing that something must exist which does not have a reason. (This is very similar to Russell's paradox. If there is a set of all contingent things, then Leibniz's argumemt requires that it be a member of itself. As soonas you allow sets that are members of themselves, you have a means to create Russell's paradox.)

The Law as Leibniz states it does look as though it has to do with logic, but as I pointed out above, it has an entirely different character from the other laws, which are all (in technical terms) tautologies.

The term necessary and sufficient condition is often used in mathematics to describe a condition logically equivalent to another. Thus if A implies B, then B is a necessary condition for A (A cannot hold without B also holding). If also B implies A, then B is a sufficient condition (when B holds, A must hold). To give an example: a necessary and sufficient condition that a triangle have equal sides is that it has equal angles.

consider the entire set of contingent things (things which must have an explanation or reason). That set must itself have a sufficient reason and that reason cannot be a contingent thing itself.

Why isn't the set of contingent things a necessary thing?  It would have to exist even if it's an empty set. 

I don't know what answer Leibniz would give to that question, since he did not think of sets as such, but his view of necessary notions such as mathematical truths was that a sufficient reason for their existence was that their negation would create a contradiction.It is not clear what Leibniz thought was the scope of his principle since sometimes he applies it to events and sometimes to statements, etc.

Presumably to deny the existence of the set of contingent things would be to say that there are no contingent things whatever and that everything that exists, exists necessarily. That seems to clearly contradict our experience. Hence it could be claimed that the set of contingent events or truths was itself a necessary object, which shortcircuits the argument at an even earlier stage or leaves you with God defined as the reason for all things that need a reason. Leibniz might have liked that idea.

It seems that Leibniz really began to fashion his argument with the notion that God ought to be the single necessary entity, and worked his argument backwards. I would have to read it all again to be certain.

Leibniz considered that the principle of non-contradiction was sufficient to establish all mathematical truths, but that something more was needed for metaphysical truths and that was the Principal of Sufficient Reason. His intuitive understanding of was that if there is more than one possibility for things, there has to be a reason why one is the case and the others not. He felt this was enough to do physics, etc.

I should have mentioned that there are two places to find out how Leibniz thought about the principle of sufficient reason. One is his book, Theodicy, which has been translated into English and is available online and the other and perhaps more convenient source is the correspondence between Leibniz and Samuel Clarke. They both wrote in French, but translations are available and there is a nice modern edition in print, but not available online as far as I know.

Leibniz was critical of Newton's mechanics and the principle of sufficient reason comes into his views of motion. Clarke gave him an ingenious but muted objection to the sufficient reason principle. He suggested that in some cases the only possible reason would be the will of God. His example was the location of two objects A and B in the world as opposed to the possibility of their being exchanged in position. He could see no difference in anything due to such an exchange and thought the only reason for one positioning over another was God's will.



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