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Coolhand

The Fundamental Laws Of Thought

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Hey guys,

I wanted to share something that we discussed in a theology class in Bible College and get your opinions, and see if you agree, and what the objections would be. The material is from a book written by Norman Geisler, who is a philosopher/theologian.

I'm not so jazzed that his examples are about arguing the existence or non-existence of God, not how I would go about that; I guess you have to bait the hook for the intended audience if you want to sell books. The laws are more what I'm interested in discussing.

Thanks


"There are three elemental laws of all rational thinking:

(1) the law of noncontradiction (A is not non-A);

(2) the law of identity (A is A);

(3) the law of excluded middle (either A or non-A).

Each of these laws serves an indispensable function in theology.

The Law of Noncontradiction

Without the law of noncontradiction we could not say that God is not non-God (G is not non-G). Thus, God could be the devil or whatever is anti-God.

The Law of Identity

If the law of identity were not binding, we could not say that God is God (G is G). Without the law of identity, God would not be identical to Himself; He could be something other than Himself (e.g., the devil), which is plainly absurd.

The Law of Excluded Middle

Likewise, if the law of excluded middle didn’t exist we could not affirm that it is either God or not God that we are speaking about. When we use the term “God,” we could be referring to both God and not God. This clearly is meaningless.

Hence these three principles are necessary for all thinking, including all thought about God. Since theology is thinking about God, theology cannot escape the use of these three fundamental laws of all thought."

Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume One: Introduction, Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2002), 81–82.

Edited by Coolhand

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Hey guys,

I wanted to share something that we discussed in a theology class in Bible College and get your opinions, and see if you agree, and what the objections would be. The material is from a book written by Norman Geisler, who is a philosopher/theologian.

I'm not so jazzed that his examples are about arguing the existence or non-existence of God, not how I would go about that; I guess you have to bait the hook for the intended audience if you want to sell books. The laws are more what I'm interested in discussing.

Thanks

Back in the day, when I had my formal logic class; I did very badly. Moving on:

I would like to start with the Law of Identity.

The Law of Identity

If the law of identity were not binding, we could not say that God is God (G is G). Without the law of identity, God would not be identical to Himself; He could be something other than Himself (e.g., the devil), which is plainly absurd.

God does not have an identity. Or a definition. God is both an unknown quantity and unique. Perhaps, God is the Devil. Or God and the Devil are aspects of each other. (Just using your example.)

If God is "A" and "A" can equal anything or everything -- we don't have a useful reference point.

Maybe.

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Understand that I am arguing these points from the God is real standard, and that I do not believe such, but they make a useful analytical tool in this instance for me.

With the law of identity, I think that God is equal to himself, whether we would have the law or not is irrelevant, and only an observation on the human side of things. He seems to say that without the law, we would not be able to identify anything, especially God. I think it is backwards, that things are what they are, and utilizing the law is how we identify them. The law of noncontradiction seems to state that a thing cannot be its polar opposite, if I am reading it properly that is. God cannot be anti God or the Devil, seems to be the statement given? I wonder, would God, through the law of noncontradiction, be able to create that which is his polar opposite? If not, then there must be no polar opposite to God, because in the beginning God is all there was, yes? The law of excluded middle affirms which particular subject we are speaking about, I believe. It is stated that without the law, we could say God but really be referring to anything, or multiple things. The author seems to believe that without this law, we would have no basis for differentiation. I do not know that we need a particular law regarding differentiation, in point of opinion, I would hazard that all three of these laws are somewhat self evident. I could be mistaken.

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Understand that I am arguing these points from the God is real standard, and that I do not believe such, but they make a useful analytical tool in this instance for me.

With the law of identity, I think that God is equal to himself, whether we would have the law or not is irrelevant, and only an observation on the human side of things. He seems to say that without the law, we would not be able to identify anything, especially God. I think it is backwards, that things are what they are, and utilizing the law is how we identify them. The law of noncontradiction seems to state that a thing cannot be its polar opposite, if I am reading it properly that is. God cannot be anti God or the Devil, seems to be the statement given? I wonder, would God, through the law of noncontradiction, be able to create that which is his polar opposite? If not, then there must be no polar opposite to God, because in the beginning God is all there was, yes? The law of excluded middle affirms which particular subject we are speaking about, I believe. It is stated that without the law, we could say God but really be referring to anything, or multiple things. The author seems to believe that without this law, we would have no basis for differentiation. I do not know that we need a particular law regarding differentiation, in point of opinion, I would hazard that all three of these laws are somewhat self evident. I could be mistaken.

I understand. For the sake of argument, God exists. Alright. God is unique. Since God is unique, maybe the normal laws of reason don't apply. Maybe they do.

Is God equal to himself? Maybe. Is God everything? Maybe. Is God something specific? Maybe. Is God God's opposite? I don't know. That ambiguity comes with unique existence.

Does God have a polar opposite? What does that mean? The totality of everything must contain opposites. Unless it doesn't. If God is an absolute unity, there are no components at all. Only unity. Unless we go to a Kabballah model. Then God is everything and is an absolute unity and contains components. Good luck making the logic rules make sense of that.

Is God natural or supernatural? If God is natural, the laws of nature apply and the rules for reason might be valid. If God is supernatural -- all bets are off. We know nothing.

This is the same problem we always have in discussing God. We have no common reference points. If we keep God as an absolute abstraction -- we can do logic formulas but it won't mean much.

If we want to do an -- A equals A. A does not equal B type thing -- there have to be some limits on what A is. IMO

Edited by Jonathan H. B. Lobl

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I would say more that there are limits to what A is not, rather than what it is. In real life, there are often things that fulfill multiple functions, and so are A and B at the same time. I suppose in looking at the logic behind these particular rules, I find them lacking personally. Perhaps my intellect is not high enough to comprehend them, I don't know.

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Hmm perhaps it is the witch in me; but I read this as you wanted to discuss the laws of thought, the way they are used in considering topics. And not in the way they apply to a person's version of "God". If I am wrong, I will happily step aside.

If I am not, I would start with the law of identity; because it is often considered the first law. Loosely meaning 'each thing is the same with itself, yet different from another'. As your example stated A is indeed A. Meaning everything that exists has a specific nature, just like each person that exists has its own identity.

The law allows us to break down what something is, by the pieces of what comprise it, it's characteristics. And it allows that it is "what it is, and can not be something else".

And example could be a raven is a bird, it is larger than a crow, it is black, and has a black beak; yet just because I see a dog that is all black, it can not be a raven, and must be a dog.

The characteristics may change, but the identity remains the same.

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This topic is beginning to resemble what is going on in modern physics. The scientist are not able to define a particle, or a field, but the equations work. What do the equations count for if they don't relate to anything tangible? I don't know. But the equations work. Some people -- the scientists -- seem to find the equations helpful. I don't get it. Maybe these laws of logic do provide useful tools. I don't get that either.

Well, my issues. We shouldn't let my limitations get in the way.

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This topic is beginning to resemble what is going on in modern physics. The scientist are not able to define a particle, or a field, but the equations work. What do the equations count for if they don't relate to anything tangible? I don't know. But the equations work. Some people -- the scientists -- seem to find the equations helpful. I don't get it. Maybe these laws of logic do provide useful tools. I don't get that either.

Well, my issues. We shouldn't let my limitations get in the way.

The equations must have worked or you need to change your light bulb so it will.

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I think there are problems with all of those "laws".

Starting with the excluded middle - consider a continuum, for example a set of colours fading from red to yellow. Pick a colour in-between. Is it red, yellow, not-red, not yellow, or could it fall between those categories? Let's say for argument's sake that we can agree on a particular colour which is the dividing point, and anything redder is "red" and "not-yellow" and anything yellower is "yellow" and "not-red". Now let's introduce the intermediate colour of orange. Suddenly, some of the "red" shades become "orange" and "not-red". Likewise we have formerly "yellow" shades which are now "orange" and "not-yellow".

The excluded middle is usually only applied to "propositions", i.e. true/false statements. For example "This is a red ball" should only be true or false, but when the reference for "red" is undecidable, it is not clear to me that it must be one or the other.

The argument above already gives rise to problems with not-not-A, since not-red includes some red-ish colours. There are also problems with infinite categories and self-referential definitions.

Is something which is not not a hole the same hole as you started with?

Finally identity. This may seem unassailable, but there are problems with reference. There was a classic discovery "Hespherus (the evening star) is Phosphorus (the morning star)". We would nowadays agree that these are both "Venus". However, the experience of seeing the morning star is different from the experience of seeing the evening star. By using a single label "Venus" we assert a truth about the underlying cause, but may lose an important distinction in the actual perception. The cause may be the same, but the effects are different. Which side of that divide holds the identity?

In all three cases I believe they are good rules of thumb, but if you try to treat them as absolutes you may come unstuck.

Edit: clarity, typos.

Edited by Seeker

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A may not be non-A in the present moment but was it non-A in the past or can it be non-A in the future.

If God is dynamic then change would be expected. If he is stagnant then he is dead.

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Beside the whole using these to argue for the existence of God thing, I think they make perfect sense. In to color, I don't think that is a good application, being color blind for one, it is an irrelevant point to me, and pretty subjective to anyone else.

Im thinking more along the links of a chair...........a chair cannot be a chair and not be a chair at the same time, a chair is either a chair or not a chair, and a chair is infact........a chair.

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Beside the whole using these to argue for the existence of God thing, I think they make perfect sense. In to color, I don't think that is a good application, being color blind for one, it is an irrelevant point to me, and pretty subjective to anyone else.

Im thinking more along the links of a chair...........a chair cannot be a chair and not be a chair at the same time, a chair is either a chair or not a chair, and a chair is infact........a chair.

Yet a chair was not always a chair and wont always be a chair, and depending on perspective really isn't really a solid chair now, but an assembled group of quantum energy swirling about moving through space at fantastic speeds.

So the chair is really a dynamic thing which is constantly changing

Edited by Fawzo

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Beside the whole using these to argue for the existence of God thing, I think they make perfect sense. In to color, I don't think that is a good application, being color blind for one, it is an irrelevant point to me, and pretty subjective to anyone else.

Im thinking more along the links of a chair...........a chair cannot be a chair and not be a chair at the same time, a chair is either a chair or not a chair, and a chair is infact........a chair.

"Chair" is merely a categorization. It is a concept used to simplify and explain part of the world we live in. Whether or not a thing is a chair is entirely a matter of.definition, and there is no universally authoritative definition of chair. Ask two people of differing opinion, and you will find an object can both be a chair and not be a chair. I agree that a thing cannot be both A and not-A. The problem is that how we categorize a thing does not limit what a thing actually is. As such, when you go beyond abstract logic and into describing the real world, the imprecision of our language inevitably confuses the point. Some will see differing definitions as proof the the law of identity is bunk. Others will see the law of identity as proof that some definitions are "wrong". Both will be missing the point. Edited by mererdog

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Beside the whole using these to argue for the existence of God thing, I think they make perfect sense. In to color, I don't think that is a good application, being color blind for one, it is an irrelevant point to me, and pretty subjective to anyone else.

Im thinking more along the links of a chair...........a chair cannot be a chair and not be a chair at the same time, a chair is either a chair or not a chair, and a chair is infact........a chair.

Unless you place a flower pot on it and then it is in fact a plant stand. A chair can be a chair only when it is utilized as such.

Yet a chair was not always a chair and wont always be a chair, and depending on perspective really isn't really a solid chair now, but an assembled group of quantum energy swirling about moving through space at fantastic speeds.

So the chair is really a dynamic thing which is constantly changing

:yes:

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Beside the whole using these to argue for the existence of God thing, I think they make perfect sense. In to color, I don't think that is a good application, being color blind for one, it is an irrelevant point to me, and pretty subjective to anyone else.

Im thinking more along the links of a chair...........a chair cannot be a chair and not be a chair at the same time, a chair is either a chair or not a chair, and a chair is infact........a chair.

Yet you still have a problem. For example when a bucket, becomes a “chair” when you are camping. The “characteristics” of what makes a “chair” and what makes a “bucket” have now collided.

Without a narrow, and agreed upon focus, or boundary, or limit, it is easy to wander, and get lost.

Another example is what makes a “book” is it the fact that it is bound? That it is written? That it has a defined beginning and an end? We all knew what a book was, at one point. It was something we held, in our hands, it had pages that we turned. And then “stories” both fiction and non-fiction, became this new thing called e-books, and now the two terms are combined they are books. The characteristics have shifted over time, for what we consider a book to be, or not.

A very current example where this law is failing us, is in the discussion of what makes me a woman, and you a man. And please forgive me, if I am wrong about you here, but judging just from the little I can see in your picture you are a man. I can see you have hair on your head (not all men do) you have facial hair (again not all men) and I am guessing a penis. I will be honest that is something one can assume or guess, unless they have knowledge of said parts.

I am a woman, red hair, blue eyes, freckles, and yes all the lady parts, boobs and beyond.

Caitlin is also a woman, however, she still has a penis. She has grown some boobs, and may or may not be changing the “beyond” the belt. She has her entire life been the “book” of a man, yet her whole life she has known she is Cait.

By the first law, she can not be a she, because A is always A. A dog is always a dog, regardless of characteristics (color, hair length, # of legs, tail or no tail), an object like a chair, shifts some as I have said, and people well they never have all combined well into simple rules and boxes, not really.

So one must narrow the focus, and the parameters, for the conversation, that one plans to have “rational” thought and conversation about.

The law of non contradiction comes second and it states simply that “two or more contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time”.

Technically that bucket/chair has again failed the rational thinking, is it a bucket, or is it a chair. However, when we define a chair, as anything we can sit upon, and chair becomes a characteristic only, and not the identity. We are back into a rational law of identity conversation.

However, Cait and Bruce - we still struggle here; as she is either a man or a woman, he is either a woman or a man; and both statements can not be true. And yet she like many before her, and many to come, are real and trying very hard to live lives outside of the current group understanding, of their identity.

Then if we move to the third law, in hopes of not going mad, and being able to stay rational we move to the excluded middle. And here I prefer the Latin tertium non datur: “no third (possibility) is given”. Because we are charged basically with creating a hypothesis, and then proving it, and making it correct; or not proving it and making the hypothesis false. In other words, (much like my response here today) I am either right, or I am wrong. Period, end discussion. There is no middle ground, there is no gray area, there is no third option, as that possibility, is not given.

It is my personal belief that one sees this in Christian religion every day, when the same book is used, and the exclusion principles come into play. The Baptist states that they are correct, Catholics are wrong. The Mormons know they are correct and that makes the Catholics AND the Baptists wrong. After all they each have their own interpretation, hypothesis, distilled practice; and it must stay “right and true”. If it does not, then they and all they believe, must be wrong. There is no third option available, so they must cling to, and hold true, to their beliefs. And since proving things is hard, it is too often easier to point across the street, at the other church, and work instead to prove they are indeed wrong, and here is where, and how and why.

Because to stay in one's own house, and work on one's own agreements and beliefs, and perhaps find they are indeed wrong, is much, much more frightening.

Now it has been a long time, since I have taken this class formally, and like most things (at least in my life) some finer points are forgotten. So please feel free to “correct” my way of thinking and explaining. I simply would ask that you do it kindly, and hopefully with out red ink!

I often think the laws work best, to break down pieces, and even semantics, and redefine the bigger picture, in steps.

I think of it a little like politics, it is often best to cut your teeth in a neighborhood district, or school board, before the city council; and the city council, before the state house and senate, and the state before DC etc etc.

And one takes a base, to encourage rational thinking, and then needs to move up to include more parameters, like the laws of propositional logic, and inference and such. After all there is a reason people have struggled with defining not only logical discussion, but the boundaries that make it so, since before we had a written language for humanity.

Regardless thank you for a nice opportunity of a thoughtful conversation, and opportunity to learn or relearn! In my life at least, they are often lacking it seems, especially online.

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While it may be reasonable to state that a electron is a particle(A) with a specific location in space and not a wave(B) that has no specific location, it does not inhibit an electron from being either or both. Even if it is absurd.

The assumption in the initial logic is that God is not the Devil which could be just two pseudonyms for A, allowing A to remain A. There are objects and there are properties, which are instances of the "has a" relationship. An object has a property. A deity can have one name, God, and a second name Devil. A deity can love, hate, deceive, and enlighten, all at the same time.

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While it may be reasonable to state that a electron is a particle(A) with a specific location in space and not a wave(B) that has no specific location, it does not inhibit an electron from being either or both. Even if it is absurd.

While that is true, the logical answer to the question of electrons is that they are neither waves nor particles, but some third thing having some of the properties of both. When things appear to defy logic, it usually turns out that it isn't. Edited by mererdog

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While that is true, the logical answer to the question of electrons is that they are neither waves nor particles, but some third thing having some of the properties of both. When things appear to defy logic, it usually turns out that it isn't.

I almost understood that.

In the end, I don't think that laws in physics, or logic, are actually "laws." Only summations, which may or may not be correct.

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I get lost in logic trying to figure out where the shoe laces go in velcro strap sneakers...however....I do understand Geisler's definitions and his synopsis.

Regardless of what Belief any one particular Member may be above, I have to agree with the dynamic angle. This is something we are taught over and over throughout runic divination. We are dynamic lifeforms (human to all creatures) here on Earth, therefore we should not expect anything to be different elsewhere in, or throughout, the Universe (Multi-verses).

Dynamic, animate life or inanimate substance is everything all at once while being nothing at all. It takes a lifetime to work through even the basics of that evidence, but it explains the most to me as I keep dynamically moving towards an answer. Makes sense to me anyway.

While "God" may be the ultimate expression of omni-present/-potent life, by his/her/its mere existence (with the assumption God does exist) it must be a dynamic life force. Therefore can be the singular and the all encompassing at no time or the same time. Yes, mind boggling...but hey ask the big questions, get the multifaceted answers! ;)

Blessings Be,

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