Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Is logic necessary to reality? I wonder...

I have been having a random, but very interesting, discussion on another blog, and I thought I'd post some of my thoughts here, to see if there's any feedback... feel free to point out any inconsistencies in my thinking; I'm sure there are many!

My main point (as a good Kierkegaardian ;-D) is that any discussion of God inevitably falls into the realm of the "illogical." Faith, being a leap into the "absurd," implies that God is beyond any human reasoning. God is, for us, the ultimate paradox (especially the God-man, Jesus Christ). But what does this mean?

To quote another theologian-blogger (who is far more advanced than me!), the problem with classical metaphysics, when speaking about God, is that "it begins by speaking about a human attribute (power or potency) and then raises this attribute to the Nth degree and applies it to God. But then we are actually speaking about ourselves first, and not God. And when we start by speaking of ourselves, it is never clear that we ever end up actually speaking about God."

I agree with his point, but I would take it one step further: This inability to perceive whether we are actually speaking about God also applies to logic itself. Since logic, as traditionally understood, is fundamentally a human endeavor (of the mind), logic is insufficient as a final arbiter of God's reality.

It is said that reality is always logically consistent. This seems to be the case up to a point, but in some recent areas of study (quantum physics, for example) people are finding that what we call logic starts to break down. Phenomenologically, logic also runs into serious trouble. I think that must be infinitely more true with God...

Now, it could be that we just don't grasp some deeper consistency of logic that has yet to be discovered, but I don't see much difference between saying something is illogical, and saying something is logical, but we just have no idea (yet) how it can possibly be logical.

In fact, I see two dangers in making the latter statement -- not only are we potentially talking about ourselves rather than God, but if we say that reality (including God) is always logically consistent, then we are also implicitly making God dependent upon logic, whether we intend to or not.

Logic does not cause reality. But if we assent to that, then we should not assume that reality is limited to logic. I would say, instead, that reality causes "all the true axioms that logic depends on" and more. Maybe that's a cop-out, or maybe I'm arguing semantics; I don't know.

I suppose it really comes down to whether logic is necessary to reality. I'm not convinced that, at least when speaking of human logic, this is the case. Though I'm not sure what other kind of logic there might be besides human logic.

Anyone have thoughts on this?


Phil said...

I'm under the impression that there's a distinction between epistemological subjectivity and metaphysical subjectivity in the thought of Kierkegaard. Also, there is a place for logic, i.e., logos, in the realm of classical metaphysics. For example, an elementary lesson in logic provides indubitable warrant (yes, I'm using Plantinga's word!) for the fact that communication and relationship are impossible to apprehend without various forms of simple logical syllogisms, namely, the law of non-contradiction, and the like. That said, I'm no Aristotelian, to be sure, but there is a place for logic in philosophy and theology (I'm thinking mostly of analytic philosophy). Furthermore, your post reminds me of Hume's fork and his "relations of ideas" and "matters of fact" perspective. Of course all of that is too much to respond with, but the question of logic is one that theologians and philosophers will deal with until the eschaton and beyond, I'm sure.

Good post, Geoff.


Geoff said...

Yeah, I'll certainly have to think a lot more about all this... thanks Phil!