What is Logic?
A Street-Preacher does not need to be on his podium for long before an atheist will suggest that religious belief is irrational, mystical, a belief in the unknown, or just plain fantasy. “It is not logical,” it will be asserted without argument, “to believe in the existence of God.”
How, then should the Street-Preacher deal with the question of logic? Is the atheist on strong grounds when he asserts biblical belief is ‘illogical’? What, however, is logic?
Logic has been described as the science of necessary inference. Logic is the use of propositions in a particular manner. Propositions are statements that are either true or false. Syllogisms, the use of propositional statements, on the other hand, are either valid or invalid, sound or unsound. An argument may be logically valid, but unsound because of the nature of one of the premises. A sound argument is one that is both valid and the premises are true. It is the combination of these concepts that allows logic and logical arguments to take place.
To address the question “What is logic?”, however, the Street-Preacher will find it necessary to have an argument not so much about logic, but about the philosophy of logic. What is logic? What determines whether certain propositions are logical or not? What determines that an inference is necessary? And in order to find a philosophy of logic, the Street-Preacher need search no further than his doctrine of God.
Logic is the claim that certain ‘facts’ stated as propositions fit together in some kind of relationship and the correct relationship is “logical” while the incorrect relationship is a ‘fallacy’.
All wisdom and knowledge find their resting place in the concept of God as the absolutely self-attesting, or self-determinative, God. To understand what this means, consider the competing worldviews of atheism and biblical theism. The atheist is adamant that the ‘facts’ of the universe came into existence by chance. Having denied a Creator who is a person, the atheist is left with no intelligent designer behind the ‘facts’ that came into existence. All facts to him are impersonal. Their existence and their place in the cosmos is the result of randomness.
This implies, however, that these random ‘facts’ are what is referred to as brute facts. A brute fact is one that has no relation to any other fact. It is an absolute abstraction. If the facts of the universe came into existence related in some way, then what intelligent design was behind the relationships?
Theism, on the other hand, says all the facts of the universe exist in the relationships that the Designer intended when he put things where they are. Now we may not know what all the relationships are. But we are certain that the relationships exist because of the biblical idea of creation by an infinite, personal God.
This means that in order to get to a philosophy of logic—that is, an explanation of what logic is—it is necessary to have in mind a philosophy of factuality. This is necessary because logic is ultimately going to depend on the nature of the facts of the universe. Here’s why.
Logic is the claim that certain ‘facts’ stated as propositions fit together in some kind of relationship and that the identified relationship is the correct or necessary relationship. The phrase often used is ‘valid reasoning’. Valid reasoning is reasoning where the facts that are presented are presented in their corrector true order. In other words, the relationship is ‘valid’. For example, if a red billiard ball is hit by a yellow billiard ball, we expect the red ball to move. This statement implies a relation between two billiard balls under certain conditions. If the red ball did not move, it would be considered illogical and a search would begin for an explanation as to why the ball did not move. Whatever answer is uncovered provides a logical explanation of the movement failure, or else the unexpected failure of movement, the illogical occurrence, remains as a mystery.
Numbers can also be used to illustrate logic. If there is a series of numbers that are related by sequence, and you are stepping through that sequence, then any number that does not affirm the sequence is not logical. Thus, if we are counting, 1, 2, 3 … and insist the next number is ‘5’, it would be declared that the number ‘5’ is illogical at this point, because the number ‘4’ is the correct number to use here. But this is only “logical” because of the way the numbers themselves have been predefined.
Logic, in other words, is merely a way of saying that certain ‘facts’ stated as propositions in the universe are in their correct or necessary relationship. When it is said something is logical, it is simply a way of saying two (or more) facts are in their right, or necessary, relationship. Another way of saying this is that in logic, the truth of one proposition follows from the truth of the other proposition. When the relationship is wrong, the incorrect relationship is referred to as illogical. In other words, in logic you cannot mix categories and get a logical conclusion. Thus, the attempted logical argument would be declared invalid.
Consider the popular illustration of the deductive syllogism:
P1. All men are mortal.
P2. Socrates is a man.
Conclusion: Socrates is mortal.
If the following were cast as a deductive inference, it would be deemed invalid because the relationships between the first and second premises is the wrong relationship.
P1. All men are mortal.
p2. Phido is a dog
Conclusion: Phido is mortal.
This doesn’t work because Phido is not a man. The second premise must be related, or a subset in some form of the first premise. In the words of Clark, “A syllogism is an inference with two premises and three terms, the latter so arranged that one term from each premise is also in the conclusion, and one term is in both premises but not in the conclusion. . . .”
But there is another issue lurking right below the surface here. How do you know what the correct relationship is, or ought to be?
In a world of brute facts, however, there are no relationships between facts. Each fact is an island all to itself, and its meaning and purpose can only be obtained from itself, not in its relationships to any other facts.
If there are no relationships, there is no logic.
Thus, if atheism were true, there could be no such thing as ‘logic’ because the philosophy of factuality of atheism affirms a random universe, brute factuality, and thereby implicitly—if not explicitly—rejects the existence of relationships. It does this by denying that the “stuff” of the universe came into existence by design. For the atheist, the only relationships that exist are those that ‘science’ eventually claims to have observed in some fashion. Now, are the relationships there in origin, or are these relationships merely imposed arbitrarily by the scientists? If they are there inherently, then how do we get to a universe of relationships from a universe that started without any relationships? If the atheist, however, wants to argue the relationships are there inherently, then he again is admitting to some kind of intelligent design. But ‘intelligence’ is an attribute of persons, not things.
Thus it is only the designer model of creation by a person that makes logic possible. Logic is only possible when you can say “this is related to that in this fashion, and that’s the proper relationship. Any wrong relationship is called fallacy.” If there are no relationships, there is no logic.
It is of no surprise, then, to find that a website dedicated to philosophy, struggles to define exactly what a fallacy is. “Researchers disagree about how to define the very term ‘fallacy’. What do you expect? Unless they have a philosophy of factuality that provides relationships between facts, in principle if not in reality, they operate under a huge challenge. This is, after all, the purpose of ‘science’ and other disciplines, to uncover the inherent relationships that exist between the facts of the universe. If there are no relationships to uncover, then scientists are left with the task of defining those relationships for themselves. Thus,
Good arguments are then defined as those that are deductively valid or inductively strong, and that contain only true, well-established premises, but are not question-begging. A complaint with this definition is that its requirement of truth would improperly lead to calling too much scientific reasoning fallacious; every time a new scientific discovery caused scientists to label a previously well-established claim as false, all the scientists who used that claim as a premise would become fallacious reasoners.
Now this is not an argument defining a fallacy. It’s a presentation as to why the idea of logic cannot be tied to truth. Why not? Because it would indicate that “too much scientific reasoning is fallacious.” So, the requirement of truth in a logic statement is known, but the demands of truth are too hard. Solution? Merely dismiss them. But to do that, you have to give up the whole idea of logic altogether.
And so the article continues,
Other researchers recommend characterizing a fallacy as a violation of the norms of good reasoning, the rules of critical discussion, dispute resolution, and adequate communication. The difficulty with this approach is that there is so much disagreement about how to characterize these norms.
See what happens when you want to introduce standards? Can’t do that. Why not? Because “there is so much disagreement about how to characterize these norms (standards–IH).”
If you want to understand logic simply read attempts to provide a definition of logic or fallacy that is not connected to the idea of truth, and there won’t be any explanation.
In other words, they can’t tell you what logic is or what a fallacy is. But then they have the temerity to provide a list of alleged “fallacies”, one of which, of course, is the old ‘circular argument fallacy’. There cannot be any self-referencing facts in the universe, says the person who made up this rule. And when you dig deep enough, you find that the suggested fallacy itself breaks its own rule. And that’s because circular reasoning is the only reasoning that can establish concepts such as factuality, logic, truth and morality.
Now here the atheist is in a real dilemma. He has no theory or philosophy of knowledge (epistemology) that allows him to move. His atheism ties him down to a worldview that leads nowhere except, as Van Til has explained, ‘into the void’.
So when the atheist suggests the biblical worldview is illogical, the questions that need to be asked are these: “Which standard are you using to determine what is logical? And how do you know that whatever answer you give is the correct answer?”
- For further explanation of absolute abstractions or brute facts (I use the terms interchangeably), see The Street-Preacher’s Guide to Atheism. See also. Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions For Defending the Faith (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Foundation, 1996), pp. 68, 71, 79, 250ff.↵back
- A logical explanation itself will assert some kind of relationship. e.g. The red billiard ball did not move because it was not hit with sufficient force. Here the relationship is between the object — the ball — and the amount of energy from the red ball required to make it move.↵back
- Gordon H. Clark, Logic (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1985), p. 59.↵back
- Clark, ibid., Chapter 4, “The Beginning of Formal Logic”.↵back
- See Werner Gitt, Without Excuse, The sequel to In the Beginning was Information (Atlanta, GA: Creation Book Publishers, 2011).↵back
- Follow this link to read the full section, “What is a Fallacy?” See also Clark, Ibid., Chapter 2, “Informal Fallacies”.↵back
- See also The Street-Preacher’s Guide to Circular Reasoning↵back
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