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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2014 4:45 am 
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Split from a thread about the Middle East. I'd actually split it, but my mod powers are weak in the debate forums.

Sharkfin wrote:
mendicant2 wrote:
Philosophy is hairsplitting. If you don't split hairs and demand specificity and ensure that one's own self is completely specific when it comes to philosophy you end up mired in contradiction. Case in point: C.S. Lewis. Genius, but couldn't create a coherent systematic theology if he tried to. He became so artsy at times that he sacrificed understanding for sounding nice.

All of that to say, of course I'm going to hairsplit, because that's what we have to do when we talk about philosophy and theology.

Durrrrrrrrrrrr. Ah, no.

1. C.S. Lewis' theology is far more sophisticated and well-thought out than anyone in this thread will likely ever be able to approach.

2. Contradiction is a necessary part of God's nature: if our system of language and logic could contain the fullness of God He would not be God at all. Consider: how is He perfectly just and perfectly merciful? How can He subject himself to time when He is an eternal being? How can He die yet live? How can He be three beings in one? Hairsplitting where there exists no hair to split can lead to some undesirable results.


mendicant2 wrote:
Sharkfin wrote:
2. Contradiction is a necessary part of God's nature


I don't have time to respond to your whole post, but would you elaborate on what you mean by this? Do you mean by this that God is inherently contradictory, or that our understanding of God is limited? If the latter, could you explain how a limited understanding of God's nature necessarily implies contradiction, instead of mere ignorance?

Also, are you saying that specificity isn't necessary? I'm slightly confused. Of course we shouldn't hairsplit when there are no hairs to split but...I'm just genuinely confused. Could you explain what you mean, and what conclusion you are drawing?

1. I think I overstated my initial claim: I should've said that "non-consistency"* is a necessary part of God's nature.

To say that God is logically consistent would subject God to some structure (in this case, logic) that is outside of Himself and - furthermore - within the realm of our understanding. Ergo, God cannot be said to be consistent.

I would agree with your suggestion above that this is a result of our limited ability to understand God's nature, but that standard talking point is a little too trite for me. It implies that if we could have a perfect understanding of logic then we could subject God to it. I don't think that's the case. The very existence of our system of logic is contingent on God; God is not subject to logic. Of course, He created logic to reflect something about His nature - of this I am sure - but it has significant limitations that we must recognize even as we use it to identify those limitations.

As a parallel, this is like saying that God is eternal because He existed before mankind. Yes, God is eternal, but He is not subject to the concept of time - to say that He existed before mankind would be to place Him in the exact same linear progression of time in which we exist, just farther back. This type of comparison subjugates God to human conception: of which I think we should be exceedingly wary.

2. This informs my answer to your second question: specificity is something we should be extremely careful with. It is incredibly easy to be wrong about God if we try to fit Him to our own lives and experiences. After all, do you remember when you were younger, and pictured God as this old man sitting on a throne in the clouds with a long flowing white beard listening to prayer requests? Of course, at some level we probably knew it was a simplistic image, but it was the only way that we could imagine Him.

Even now, I find it difficult to not imagine God as an anthropomorphic being who takes up space and lives within the confines of time because that's what I experience every day. But, if I remain comfortable with that conception, it robs me of the ability to see God for who He truly is - the grounding of existence, the foundation of being. God is so much more than an all-powerful being, and if we try to ascribe too many characteristics to him without first stopping to consider what/who He is then we run the risk of missing the broader picture.

*Think of the phrase "this statement is false" for an example of a non-consistent but not exactly contradictory statement.

EDIT:
mendicant2 wrote:
Humans use logic, but logic is a transcendental, not a human creation.

Ahhh, see, this is where our views diverge. Logic is very much a human creation. Math is very much a human creation - almost everything we do in math is about notation and writing things in different ways to make the subject easier to understand. And there are times when our traditional ideas get totally thrown away - quantum mechanics, etc. (A friend of mine - an undergraduate physics major - was able to prove that 0=1. Things get wonky whenever you start playing around with quantum mechanics.)

Math and logic are things that we have created to be able to describe and explain phenomena. Nothing more, nothing less.

The ultimate question I would pose is this: does logic exist outside of God?

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2014 5:14 pm 
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Sharkfin wrote:
Ahhh, see, this is where our views diverge. Logic is very much a human creation. Math is very much a human creation - almost everything we do in math is about notation and writing things in different ways to make the subject easier to understand. And there are times when our traditional ideas get totally thrown away - quantum mechanics, etc. (A friend of mine - an undergraduate physics major - was able to prove that 0=1. Things get wonky whenever you start playing around with quantum mechanics.)

Math and logic are things that we have created to be able to describe and explain phenomena. Nothing more, nothing less. Could you provide some sort of proof for this? I can't find any in your post. An epistemological statement of this grandeur, that many philosophers would never dare make, even non-Christian ones, seems to require some sort of back-up.

The ultimate question I would pose is this: does logic exist outside of God?


This is the crux of the matter. Your point about time I can address, but would take us down the rabbit trail of phenomenology, and I'd prefer not to go there simply for the sake of time. Instead, I'll address your point about logic.

John 1:1: In the beginning was the word [logos], and the word [logos] was with God, and the word [logos] was God.

The Greek word being used in the original text of that verse is the word "logos," hence why I put it in brackets there. Logos can be translated as word, but it can also be translated and used as "Logic," as Aristotle does in Rhetoric. In other words, we could translate the verse this way. "In the beginning was the logic, and the logic was with God, and the logic was God." The simple fact is that fundamentally Logic is not something outside of God as you say, but is defined by the character of God.

The word "logic" seems to be a referential term that we use to classify certain laws and structures that exist in the world, and help us determine the truth or falsity of propositions. The proof for this is that if I say that Aristotle's classic syllogism is "logical," that doesn't mean anything unless the context or myself specify what I mean (it is formally valid, and the premises are true, for example).

So, since "logic" is a referential term we must ask what that term references. The term references, as I'm sure you'd agree, certain laws that help us to know whether various propositions about reality are true or false.

Here's the problem then: if you're right, that those laws that we use are a human creation, you literally just shattered your epistemology. You cannot know anything to be true or false with any level of certainty. You must be a total skeptic, and in my opinion, the only place for a skeptic to go is Nihilism. Here's my proof.

Logic is a way in which we understand reality–it's not the only way, but it is a way. The laws that we call "logic," if they are created by humans, face one fundamental problem: how do we know those laws accurately correspond to reality? In other words, if "logic," which we've already seen refers to certain laws that helps us determine reality, is man-made, then how on earth do we know that those laws in fact correspond to reality?

The easy answer is that we've observed that they lead us to proper conclusions about reality. But that assumes a standard for what reality is or isn't. Logic can't be that standard, if you're right, because logic is a man-made way to know what is real. But the laws of logic, if they are man-made, simply beg the question of whether or not these laws actually correspond to reality.

So what standard for these laws do we use? What about observation? Doesn't saying that we observe that the conclusions these laws bring us to to correspond to the reality we perceive with our senses solve the problem? It actually just begs another question–how do we know our senses are valid? This is an age-old question that has to be accounted for. We can't use logic to justify our senses because we are employing our senses as a justification for logic. Thus, how do we know what reality is?

The outworking of this is that we don't know, which is skepticism. I'm sure you're not a skeptic, but your beliefs necessitate that you be one.

What's the alternative? Logic isn't man-made. The laws of logic are out-workings of the character of God. This solves the problem because, since God created reality, we would assume that he would have remained consistent with his nature (which we in part refer to as "logical") in the act of creation. Thus, of course reality will be "logical" because the God that created it is the very definition of logic. Which means, of course, that God is perfectly consistent. Saying that God is logically consistent is simply describing who he is, because he himself defines logical consistency. I appreciate your desire to maintain the "otherness" of God, I really do. It's important that God doesn't become our buddy, I'm with you there.

But in your attempt to rightly maintain that God is "other," you've destroyed all possibility of knowledge, and thus all possibility of knowing God, knowing how to be saved, or for that matter knowing anything. All theology, philosophy, science, history, literature–all of it comes crashing down if you're right that logic is man-made. Sound a little extreme? It's extreme, but not at all unjustifiably so. When dealing with epistemology literally everything is at stake, because we are dealing with the preconditions of knowledge about, well, everything.

Sharkfin wrote:
*Think of the phrase "this statement is false" for an example of a non-consistent but not exactly contradictory statement.


The phrase "this statement is false" is completely unintelligible. It's impossible to comprehend in any way shape or form. It's so completely shrouded in mystery that it's impossible to know anything about it, even what the words themselves in the sentence mean. It isn't even possible to have much of a conversation about this phrase because it is completely unintelligible. If you're comparing this to God....are you saying God is completely unintelligible? Are you saying that God is impossible to comprehend at all? If so, not to sound rude, but you should probably stop reading the Bible, because the Bible claims to make intelligible statements about God and his character, thus allowing us to partially understand God. Which means that God is, to some extent, intelligible.

Sharkfin wrote:
specificity is something we should be extremely careful with. It is incredibly easy to be wrong about God if we try to fit Him to our own lives and experiences.


I agree we shouldn't "fit" God into anything, but there's a difference between fitting God into something and describing who he is. I'm saying that when we are describing who God is we are talking about the ultimate creator of the universe, the one who is so holy even the angels can't look at him, the one who is eternal, the one who sustains all things and brings together all things for his own glorification, and a possibly infinite list of other characteristics.

All I'm saying is that when we're talking about a God like that, we should probably be very careful what words we use to talk about him. In other words, let's honor God and show proper reverence to him by describing him accurately, which oftentimes necessitates specificity.

I think you're trying to do that–honor him and show proper reverence–with your arguments here. I respect that, and I'm glad that you want to do that. But I think you're doing it in the wrong way. The way to show proper reverence to God, and to recognize his holiness isn't by making him unintelligible or so vague and general, we barely can even have an intelligent conversation about him. The way to do that is to use his name carefully, to worship him, to ensure that when we speak of him we are speaking of who he actually is, not throwing around sloppy phrases that are easily misinterpreted as saying that God is something he's not.

We both want to show reverence to God, and that's fantastic. The question then rightly must be asked, how do we do that? In essence, your answer is silence. All I'm saying is that the answer isn't silence, it is, in part, specificity.

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Last edited by mendicant2 on Tue Jan 19, 2016 1:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2014 5:31 pm 
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Perhaps some clarification.

Fact 1: Logic is the study of valid reasoning.

Fact 2: God is so holy that humans or even angels for that matter cannot look at Him, much less fully comprehend Him.

Link: Valid reasoning must be understandable by humans. (otherwise it is logic not of this world)

Brink: God cannot be comprehended.

Impact: Logic as we know it (see fact 1) cannot encompass God.

God is the creator. I understand and agree with what you're saying about rendering praise and glory to God, but the logic that you're referring to is unique to reasoning and understanding of things on this earth. God is not of this earth, He created it.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2014 5:45 pm 
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Hammy wrote:
Fact 1: Logic is the study of valid reasoning.


Sort of. Logic refers to the laws that we use to ascertain whether or not any given proposition accurately describes reality.

Hammy wrote:
Fact 2: God is so holy that humans or even angels for that matter cannot look at Him, much less fully comprehend Him.


The key word here being "fully."

Hammy wrote:
Link: Valid reasoning must be understandable by humans. (otherwise it is logic not of this world)


What does this even mean? Does this mean that the human race must be able to understand all possible logical arguments? In other words, the human race must be collectively omniscient?

Hammy wrote:
Brink: God cannot be comprehended.


Even if I understood your Link (which I don't), this still doesn't follow. The hidden premise is that God cannot be comprehended at all by human reasoning. If you really believe this, like I said, you should probably stop reading your Bible.

Hammy wrote:
Impact: Logic as we know it (see fact 1) cannot encompass God.


This is a perfect example of why specificity is needed. First you assert that we can't "fully" comprehend God, and now you're basically impacting the argument as "we can't completely understand God." Which of course we can't. You've gone in a circle. You've also successfully avoided my entire point. Assuming we were able to perfectly understand Logic (I don't think we are) we would completely understand God, but we would know many things about him and his character.

Ironically then, could you specify your meaning?

Hammy wrote:
God is the creator. I understand and agree with what you're saying about rendering praise and glory to God, but the logic that you're referring to is unique to reasoning and understanding of things on this earth. God is not of this earth, He created it.


Why is the logic I'm referring to unique to reasoning and understanding things of this earth? You've imported another hidden premise, one that I explicitly dealt with in my last post: that logic is made by people (or, an extension of that would be, that logic is a natural phenomenon). That hidden premise isn't true. See my last post.

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Last edited by mendicant2 on Tue Jan 19, 2016 1:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2014 6:00 pm 
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We are not talking about the same thing. That much is clear. You are talking about a general logic. A logic that comprehends everything. However, this type of logic doesn't exist for us humans. We can't understand everything. When I'm talking about logic I'm talking about propositions of reality, yes, but not an all encompassing reality. I'm talking about the reality that can be held by the confines of finite human understanding. The type of logic that you are describing attempts to hold the fullness of God and earth under the same standard. That isn't what I'm talking about. You are right in your thinking when you describe the word 'logic' to mean that, but not when it is described within the confines of human understanding.

mendicant2 wrote:
What does this even mean? Does this mean that the human race must be able to understand all possible logical arguments? In other words, the human race must be collectively omniscient? Because, no. No it mustn't.

This highlights the difference of 'logics' that we're talking about. Human logic (as we've been calling it, not necessarily created by humans, but this simply refers to the logic within our comprehension levels) is limited by what we can understand about this earth. When human logic comes to God, it is limited to what He has revealed to us in the scriptures.

mendicant2 wrote:
Even if I understood your Link (which I don't), this still doesn't follow. The hidden premise is that God cannot be comprehended at all by human reasoning. If you really believe this, like I said, you should probably stop reading your Bible.

Sorry, that's my bad, there should be a 'fully' in there. Plus, like I said above, it's limited to what he's revealed.

It wasn't my goal to fully respond to everything that you said, but merely to provide some clarification. Obviously I wasn't clear enough the first time. But yeah, we're comparing apples and oranges here, that's why it isn't making sense.

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08-09 | Half-Timer | Verdict | R8
09-10 | Timer | Verdict | R8
10-11 | Folkert/Folkert | Verdict | R8
11-12 | Folkert/Light | Verdict | R8
12-13 | Folkert/Light | Verdict | R8
13-14 | Folkert/Light | Verdict | R8
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2014 8:20 pm 
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In a certain sense, we don't have to say that God is constrained by logic. Perhaps it's possible that logic is only in the mind, not necessarily in anything external to it.

In another sense, we do have to say that God is constrained by logic, because something that transcends logic is something we can't talk about or conceive of. If God is outside logic, then we can't meaningfully ascribe any properties to God, since the ascription of a property takes place only when the ascription rules out its negation--that is, only when there's a particular rudimentary logical relationship between describing God as A and describing God as not-A. So the divine attributes are gone: if God transcends logic, then being omnipotent is, for God, completely compatible with not being omnipotent. It becomes possible for God to be both good and not good, or to both exist and not exist. God becomes utterly ineffable--which is fine for the mystic, but not fine for anyone who believes in genuine theological doctrine, or who believes that some concepts or predications (but not their negations) apply truly to God. Even the statement that God transcends logic becomes self-defeating, since it's then possible that God, being alogical, also doesn't transcend logic. There's nothing left to assert about God.

Needless to say, people who think we can speak meaningfully about God already implicitly presuppose that God is logical.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2014 9:56 pm 
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(Haven't forgotten about the discussion; it may be a few more days before I can sit down and write a coherent response.)

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 1:50 pm 
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Just jumping on here to say that I don't have much spare time as of right now. While I'll definitely read any response posted, I probably won't be able to reply. I'd love to continue the discussion, but I simply can't as of right now.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2014 1:32 am 
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mendicant2 wrote:
Sharkfin wrote:
Math and logic are things that we have created to be able to describe and explain phenomena. Nothing more, nothing less.
Could you provide some sort of proof for this? I can't find any in your post. An epistemological statement of this grandeur, that many philosophers would never dare make, even non-Christian ones, seems to require some sort of back-up.

It seems relatively straightforward and not exactly of any particular grandeur.

I would draw an analogy to language: we have created language to communicate abstractions. The word "apple" is an abstraction from the thing that is actually an apple. In the same way, the things contained by math and logic are abstractions from the real world. Therefore, just as we created language as a system of abstractions, I suggest we created logic as a system of abstractions to better understand the world.

Quote:
John 1:1: In the beginning was the word [logos], and the word [logos] was with God, and the word [logos] was God.

The Greek word being used in the original text of that verse is the word "logos," hence why I put it in brackets there. Logos can be translated as word, but it can also be translated and used as "Logic," as Aristotle does in Rhetoric. In other words, we could translate the verse this way. "In the beginning was the logic, and the logic was with God, and the logic was God." The simple fact is that fundamentally Logic is not something outside of God as you say, but is defined by the character of God.

What does this phrase mean?

Quote:
Here's the problem then: if you're right, that those laws that we use are a human creation, you literally just shattered your epistemology. You cannot know anything to be true or false with any level of certainty. You must be a total skeptic, and in my opinion, the only place for a skeptic to go is Nihilism. Here's my proof.

Logic is a way in which we understand reality–it's not the only way, but it is a way. The laws that we call "logic," if they are created by humans, face one fundamental problem: how do we know those laws accurately correspond to reality? In other words, if "logic," which we've already seen refers to certain laws that helps us determine reality, is man-made, then how on earth do we know that those laws in fact correspond to reality?

So what standard for these laws do we use? What about observation? Doesn't saying that we observe that the conclusions these laws bring us to to correspond to the reality we perceive with our senses solve the problem? It actually just begs another question–how do we know our senses are valid? This is an age-old question that has to be accounted for. We can't use logic to justify our senses because we are employing our senses as a justification for logic. Thus, how do we know what reality is?

The outworking of this is that we don't know, which is skepticism. I'm sure you're not a skeptic, but your beliefs necessitate that you be one.

Uncertainty about whether or not they reflect reality does not imply that they do not reflect reality.

In other words, we may accept that there exists the possibility that our observations and perspectives are not reflective of reality while simultaneously choosing to believe that they reflect reality.

Christianity, perhaps more than any other religion, makes this quite clear because the entire basis of our Christian belief is faith - accepting a belief not based on proof. It is possible that a unproven belief is wrong, but it is also possible to believe that an unproven belief is true.

If you want to say that "uncertainty implies skepticism," you must also apply that statement to the question "does God exist?", which would imply that you must answer negatively because the basis for such a belief is faith - belief without proof.

Quote:
What's the alternative? Logic isn't man-made. The laws of logic are out-workings of the character of God. This solves the problem because, since God created reality, we would assume that he would have remained consistent with his nature (which we in part refer to as "logical") in the act of creation. Thus, of course reality will be "logical" because the God that created it is the very definition of logic. Which means, of course, that God is perfectly consistent. Saying that God is logically consistent is simply describing who he is, because he himself defines logical consistency.

On faith, you believe God exists. You also believe that logic is contingent on God’s existence. But you fail to note that logic is also contingent on your faith in God. Your solution doesn't really resolve the "problem" at all - it just moves it.

Quote:
Sharkfin wrote:
*Think of the phrase "this statement is false" for an example of a non-consistent but not exactly contradictory statement.

The phrase "this statement is false" is completely unintelligible. It's impossible to comprehend in any way shape or form. It's so completely shrouded in mystery that it's impossible to know anything about it, even what the words themselves in the sentence mean.

"this statement" refers to the statement itself. "false" means that the statement is not reflective of reality. "is" means that the noun takes the form of some modifier.

I'm not sure how this statement is unintelligible. Again, it's an example of a statement which is not logically consistent under the laws we have created.

Quote:
f you're comparing this to God....are you saying God is completely unintelligible? Are you saying that God is impossible to comprehend at all? If so, not to sound rude, but you should probably stop reading the Bible, because the Bible claims to make intelligible statements about God and his character, thus allowing us to partially understand God. Which means that God is, to some extent, intelligible. Unlike this statement.

No. I think that, like the statement, there are some things we can say about God. We can show how the statement works. We can diagram it. We can define its parts. But we can't come up with a consistent picture of what it means. In the same way, we can say some things about God. We may be able to define some attributes about Him: He's merciful. He's just. He's generally awesome. But ultimately we cannot describe what it means in the language available to us, just as we can’t create a consistent comprehensive picture of God.

That's not to say we shouldn't try - I’m not advocating for complete silence, as you say my answer implies. I think we should try - but with humility and a mindfulness that what we say is based entirely on faith - an unproven assumption that we make because we believe it is true.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2014 4:40 am 
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Addendum to the above:
You suggested that my goal was to emphasize the "otherness" of God. In no way was this the case. In fact, if anything, I am attempting to show that God is far closer and more immanent than can be realized without believing that logic is not man-made.

I presented the analogy above about logic and language being abstractions from reality, which is grounded in God. I believe there exists a central reality - grounded in and wholly contingent on God - and that we observe this central reality in a way that is flawed and obstructed. We have created sounds and shapes to describe what we observe - spoken words and written letters - but these are imperfect abstractions from that central reality. Logic is the same - we have abstracted patterns in which we see the universe move in an attempt to understand them.

My central disagreement with your position is that I think you conflate the abstraction - laws of logic - with the reality itself.

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