Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sye's "How do you like your argument now?" move

It's been suggested (by me and others) that:

SUGGESTION: the laws of logic may just be necessary - their necessity may just be a brute fact for which no further explanation can be given or is required.

Sye's response to this has repeatedly been. "OK, God exists necessarily (as a brute fact). How do you like your argument now?"

This is a silly response.

The suggestion I and others have made above is just that - a suggestion. We can say to Sye - "You claim you can rule out all atheist world views in which the laws of logic hold necessarily. OK, then, so start by ruling this view out."

It is not argued for (not by me). We don't even have to say it's true. It is offered as a possibility that Sye seems not to have ruled out.

That's exactly what I do say, in fact: Sye has not yet ruled it out. The onus is on him to rule it out.

Sye can claim his God exists necessarily. Sye can indeed similarly just insist God's existence is just a brute fact, not amenable for further explanation.

However, note that my objections to theism are not that God's existence could not be a brute fact. In fact I'll acknowledge, for the sake of argument, that if God exists, yes, his existence may just be a brute fact not requiring further explanation. Given I concede that, the onus is not then on me to show that, if God exists, his existence is not a brute fact.

Here's the crucial asymmetry:

1. That God's existence couldn't be just a brute fact is not the objection I raise against what Sye's theism.

2. That the existence of the laws of logic couldn't be a brute fact is the objection Sye is raising against me.

Hence the onus is not on me to show that if there's a God, his existence could not be a brute fact. But it is on Sye to show that, if the laws of logic hold, their existence could not be a brute fact.

So show it, Sye.

30 comments:

anticant said...

Stephen - I would be surprised if anyone who is still bothering to follow these threads hasn't concluded long ago that Sye is silly - invincibly silly.

But I am reluctantly starting to wonder whether you are not being somewhat silly, too, in continuing to argue with him at such tedious length, as you aren't ever going to 'win' - and you surely know this.

The nub of the matter is that convinced theists like Sye, or Ibrahim Lawson, cling like limpets to their unprovable assertion that nothing is explicable without 'God' or 'Allah', in the face of the overwhelming improbability and total lack of convincing independent evidence that such supernatural beings actually exist outside their own heads.

Shouldn't we just leave it at that?

Stephen Law said...

Hi anticant. I just get a certain satisfaction from sticking Sye into a corner so he has to say something utterly ridiculous, such as "Prove an argument has to have a premise and conclusion".

I'm not sure what that says about me.

Of course, In Sye's mind, we all know, deep down, that God exists and that he is right. That is the simultaneously amusing, and also disturbing, thing about all this.

anticant said...

Sorry, Stephen, but what it says about you to me is that you've got your priorities wrong.

David B. Ellis said...

The problem with Sye's response is that logical truths are necessarily TRUE. Not necessarily existent. Big difference.

Propositions exist as thoughts in minds and logical truths are a particular variety of proposition---ones that can't be false. Their necessity lies in their truth. Not their existence. No one need be making a particular proposition for the content of the proposition to be true.

This goes for the proposition "that tree has fallen down", whose propositional content is true or false whether the proposition exists as a thought in anyones mind or not. And that goes for logical truths as well, whose propositional content is true, necessarily so, whether the proposition exists as a thought in any mind or not.

There can be no necessarily existent things. Only necessarily true propositions. It is logically possible for anything that exists as a material or mental phenomena to not exist. Including God.

Stephen Law said...

I also find it kind of educational, as I said earlier. Explaining the simplest things clearly is hard. This is very good practice.

I also think we might doing some little bit towards revealing what utterly bollocks this all is, for the benefit of those who might otherwise be sucked into Sye's weird little belief system.

Of course I don't hold out very much hope for Sye....

Nick said...

Perhaps there is also merit in Julian Baggini's comment (as part of a book review, see this - http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/julian_baggini/review-martin.html): “There is, however, one sense in which I think the contributors to this volume may be performing a public service. There is a need to maintain a kind of balance of intellectual power. If no atheist philosophers engaged with the issue of God's existence, then the field would be left to the believers. We would then have the impression that only the religious deal with these issues with intelligence and sophistication. That would give succour to the legions of believers who have no interest in theology, but like to know others are taking care of it for them. We need books like this, therefore, not to win the battle–-for it can't be won-–but simply to show the enemy isn't off the hook.”

David B. Ellis said...


Here's the crucial asymmetry:

1. That God's existence couldn't be just a brute fact is not the objection I raise against what Sye's theism.

2. That the existence of the laws of logic couldn't be a brute fact is the objection Sye is raising against me.


Actually, I don't think this comment addresses the whole of Sye's objection. Sye is not just saying God may be a brute fact. He's saying God may be a necessarily brute fact.

A brute fact can be logically contingent or logically necessary.

I don't think there can be things whose existence is logically necessary. Only propositions whose truth is logically necessary. Thats the real problem with Sye's objection.

anticant said...

Stephen, David and others: Please define exactly what you mean by "truth", "reality", and "facts". These and similar words get bandied around here, sometimes in a contradictory sense, without ever being precisely spelled out.

Rayndeon said...

Oh, please. Brute facts can only be logically contingent – a necessary fact must exist, hence, it *does* exist. Anyway – the two cases are disanalgous since while it is logically possible that God does not exist, it is *not* logically possible that the laws of logic do not hold i.e. there are no worlds where there are married bachelors, square circles, 2+2=5, or anything like that.

Sye, as usual, strawmans his opponent's response to cover up the fact that his no actually answer.

David B. Ellis said...

I don't recall using the term "reality" so that one I'll leave to others to define.

Truth:

A proposition is a "truth" if it is a true statement. Example: if I claim 2+2 can never equal 5 I am not mistaken in this claim then the proposition I've made is a "truth".

By true/false I mean correct/incorrect in regard to the claim made by a proposition. I don't see that the word "true" is prone to misinterpretation in the context I've been using it.

Fact:

By fact, I mean something similar to what I mean by truth except that it refers to the propositional content of the claim rather than the proposition itself.

For example: the claim "that tree fell down" is a proposition and, if a true proposition, is a "truth". If the tree did fall down then its having fallen down is a fact (whether someone has observed this fact and stated the proposition that the tree fell down or not).

Stephen Law said...

By "brute" I just mean, not amenable to or requiring further explanation. So necessary facts and/or truths can be "brute" in this sense (though they need not be - sometimes one necessary truth is explicable by reference to another). Sye insists only necessary facts/truths about God can be "brute" in this sense. But of course he has supplied no argument to support that claim.

David B. Ellis said...


.....brute facts can only be logically contingent....


Well, if its a brute fact (one with no underlying basis or cause in terms of which it can be explained, this is, if with it we've hit explanatory bedrock) that the proposition "internally contradictory statements are never true" is correct then this brute fact qualifies as a logically necessary truth.

We just don't generally use brute fact as a term describing logical truths. I mostly see the term 'brute fact' used to describe either the existence of the universe or the existence of God.

The existence of both of which, of course, is logically contingent.

Andrew Louis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rayndeon said...

@Stephen: (though they need not be - sometimes one necessary truth is explicable by reference to another).

Some necessary facts are epistemically justifiable. For instance, Fermat’s Last Theorem, the PoincarĂ© Conjecture, the Four-Color Theorem, and the Banach-Tarski Theorem are all necessary facts, although *how we know* they are true is given by their proofs.

Unless there are such things as necessary concrete beings (which I think is impossible), I don’t think any necessary truth can be *ontically justified* i.e. some sort of causal reason or one of dependency explaing *why it exists*. The only necessary facts there are, in my mind, are going to be abstract objects, tautologies, definitions, analytic propositions, theorems, and the like – and none of them *rely* on something for their existence, they simply have to exist (or hold if you will) and hence they do exist/hold.

Of course, a lot of nominalists think this is largely semantic and they may be right, since these necessary truths don’t comprise the flesh and blood of the world – the concrete contingent particulars. I don’t know, but either way, God has nothing to do with it and is dissimilar to the facts considered to be necessary. These facts are abstracta: tautologies, analytic, definitions, theorems, and the like – they are causally effete. God is concrete and causally efficacious, hence, entirely unlike these propositions. The idea is that these propositions could not simply fail to exist/hold true, on pain of contradiction.

David B. Ellis said...

But I agree, Rayndeon, with the substance of what you're saying. That logical necessity is a property of the truth of propositions. Not of the existence of objects (whether they be rocks, thoughts passing through a persons mind, or dieties).

Rayndeon said...

Well, if its a brute fact (one with no underlying basis or cause in terms of which it can be explained, this is, if with it we've hit explanatory bedrock) that the proposition "internally contradictory statements are never true" is correct then this brute fact qualifies as a logically necessary truth.

I disagree. It may be ultimately *epistemically* brute i.e. these type of things are properly basic beliefs - but I don't think they're *ontically* brute - they must exist, on pain of contradiction i.e. how is it that we know that there is no possible world where there is a married bachelor or an unmarried spouse? because of the meanings of the words involved. The ontic realm takes the epistemic realm for granted, so that we can begin to discuss things.

Rayndeon said...

Actually, in immediate retrospect, this seems like a largely semantic issue between us. I'd just like to avoid the term "brute fact" for necessary facts, since I think it's inappropriate - necessary facts must hold, on pain of contradiction. Of course, the whole discussion takes the epistemology for granted i.e. that contradictions couldn't hold, so this is ultimately epistemically brute, but ontically self-explanatory.

Andrew Louis said...

Let me try that again...

TRUTH:
It's only propositions which are truth or false as in, "That car is red", it wouldn sound silly to say, "car is true", as things to hold the property truth.

FACT:
A mere proposition regarding a truth. Someone might say, "we need to get the facts." He's really saying; what are the true propositions.

REALITY:
The sum total of all our propositions, in other words, TRUTH. Since truth does not exist void of a proposition, there is no reality there.

David B. Ellis said...


I disagree. It may be ultimately *epistemically* brute i.e. these type of things are properly basic beliefs - but I don't think they're *ontically* brute - they must exist, on pain of contradiction


If you reread what I said you'll see that I have repeatedly pointed out that distinction. That logical truths are propositions which are necessarily true. Not objects that necessarily exist (there is no such thing as a necessarily existent object).

So. Yes, we are in substantive agreement.

Paul C said...

I also think we might doing some little bit towards revealing what utterly bollocks this all is, for the benefit of those who might otherwise be sucked into Sye's weird little belief system.

Indeed. There is some merit in taking this approach - but beware of taking it too far. I myself have been sucked into this game previously, and I think a lot of commenters here have fallen victim to the same tendency - "but somebody is wrong on the internet"!

Expose his obvious fallacies. Let him take his imaginary victories. But don't spend too much time on it!

jeremy said...

Paul C: "but somebody is wrong on the internet"

I presume you're referring to this lovely cartoon? Makes me chuckle every time :)

captain howdy said...

What I find puzzling about all this is that Sye is an evangelical. That means that Sye's beliefs and claims don't start and end at purporting to prove that critical thought is impossible without prior revelation.

His argument is that one fine day all the clocks are going to stop around the world and he and his fellow Xtians will be swept up into the air to be with Jesus.

Sye claims that he's going to fly in the air one day.

I challenge Sye or any other Xtian to develop a logical argument that supports your claim you can fly.

Sye TenB said...

Stephen said:

”Here's the crucial asymmetry:

1. That God's existence couldn't be just a brute fact is not the objection I raise against what Sye's theism.”


Alright, fine then, since there are no objections, God’s existence is a brute fact.

”2. That the existence of the laws of logic couldn't be a brute fact is the objection Sye is raising against me.”

That’s not my argument. What I want to know is how your worldview comports with universal, abstract, invariant entities, such as the laws of logic, and knowledge of same. If your argument boils down to, “That’s just the way it is, then, as I said, I counter likewise: God exists, that’s just the way it is.” Not much of an argument though.

Cheers,

Sye

im_michael_young said...

"That’s not my argument. What I want to know is how your worldview comports with universal, abstract, invariant entities, such as the laws of logic, and knowledge of same."

Of course, your interest here is quite a bit stronger than just idle curiousity about what an atheist might say about logic. In fact, it's your position that an atheist *can't* have anything to say about logic -- that an atheist *can't* give an account of the existence of logic. Given that this is your position, it looks as if you must be committed (on pain of inconsistency) to the thesis Stephen numbered as 2. This is because, from your lights, IF the existence of the laws of logic *was* simply a brute fact, then atheists and theists would be in pretty much the same position when it came to explaining logic. Right? So, possibility number 2 is a possibility you must rule out if you expect your original claim (that atheists cannot account for the existence of the laws of logic) to be taken seriously. But maybe you don't think you deserve to be taken seriously and this is a kind of amusing game?

Stephen Law said...

Sye - you just don't get the point I am making. Never mind.

"That’s not my argument."

So what is your argument? You don't have one, it seems or you would have presented it by now. We both know that's true, don't we?

Sye TenB said...

Stephen Law said: "So what is your argument?"

Surprised you missed it: "The proof that God exists, is that without Him, you couldn't prove anything."

Cheers,

Sye

Stephen Law said...

No that's your claim. Not an argument, which as you know has premises and conclusion....

we have established beyond reasonable doubt that you have no argument.

I guess that's why they call it "presuppositionalism"!

Sye TenB said...

Stephen said:

"we have established beyond reasonable doubt that you have no argument."

How's this then: We have established beyond reasonable doubt that you cannot prove anything outside of God.

Cheers,

Sye

Stephen Law said...

No - we have seen several suggestions as to how things might be proved without God, none of which you have refuted.

I really think that the game is up now Sye. Your are just endlessly repeating questions that have been answered, and failing to provide any argument for your own position. You have created an edifice of bullshit.

anticant said...

"An edifice of bullshit". I love this! Hope you'll use it as the title of a new post deconstructing Sye's fallacies and non sequiturs.