Thursday, November 15, 2007

Having Cake and Eating it Too

In this article, an atheist attempts to debunk the basic Lewisian argument that Naturalism is self-contradictory because it cannot account for abstract entities (such as logic, or thoughts in general), and yet needs them in order to be valid (or verifiable). He does his debunking in a most peculiar manner. He basically states that abstract entities (namely, laws of logic) are, in fact, neither abstract nor concrete: "[Logic] is not a physical thing. But it is not a non-physical thing either." What exactly is it then? "It is a rule that can be expressed in the form of a hypothetical imperative."
What has happened here is this: As a good atheist, Bob (as I will dub him) cannot allow for abstract anything because it would violate his basic naturalistic assumption that there is nothing in the universe but "matter in motion." However, any fool can see that logic is not a physical anything. There is nothing you can point to and say, "That is logic." You can point to its effects, results, or representations (i.e., hypothetical imperatives), but you cannot point to the thing itself. Now, Bob (being a good atheist) is no fool; he sees the conundrum quite clearly: logic clearly isn't physical, but he (being a good naturalist) cannot allow it to be non-physical. What, then, can logic be? His answer is brilliant in its necessity: create a whole new category besides "physical" and "nonphysical" called "a rule."
Questions abound, however. What exactly defines this third category simply titled "a rule"? How can it be not physical and not non-physical? What exactly does it mean to be both not physical and not non-physical? Unfortunately, Bob gives no answer, which is unfortunate. You'd think someone who just announced a third category of physical existence would be kind enough to explain the particulars (or even generalities) of his new found discovery. Bob, however, does not. He gives no ground whatsoever to the validity or verifiability of this brand new third category, and therefore gives us no reason to believe his conclusion, i.e., logic doesn't need transcendent grounding (i.e., God) because logic is a...um...third...um...thing...yeah.

Another curious statement: "Do we need a transcendent ground or supernatural basis to justify or validate [logic]? No, all we need is to recognize the futility of rejecting it." Question: Doesn't something necessarily need some sort of grounds in order for us to recognize the futility of rejecting it? If logic has no grounds, if it is just some "third thing" that is not physical nor non-physical, then how do we know it is futile to reject it?
Bob seems to answer by falling back on practical experience, i.e., we know it works because we see it work. Fair enough. However, we still have no answer to "What is/are the ground(s) for Logic?" Seeing it work and knowing why it works are two completely different things, and Bob's only explanation for why it works is to...well, he doesn't give an explanation. That's the problem. He merely puts logic into a brand new form of existence without a shred of backing for doing so. He wants to have his cake and eat it too: allow logic to be not non-physical, and not physical at the same time, which is a contradiction, unless he can prove his "third category," which he does not. Therefore, his argument is nonsensical. Poor Bob.