A Suggestion for the New York Times. And for the Author of the Gospel According to John

The New York Times has launched a new advertisement campaign, one installment of which culminates in the propositions that:

The truth is hard.

The truth is hard to find.

The truth is hard to know.

The truth is more important now than ever.

I’m afraid that the campaign has gotten off on the wrong foot, for any proposition that begins with “The truth is” is, strictly speaking, false. But I will not allow myself to be but a critic and so, after pointing out how the propositions at hand are false, I will, with tongue not quite in cheek, point the Gray Lady in the direction of the logical tools she so evidently is in need of. I will then, albeit rather belatedly, do the same for the writer of the Gospel According to John.

Let’s, then, take the third of the four propositions, “The truth is hard to know,” as illustrative. Taken as it is given, it is equivalent to the conjunction (and here I’m making use of Bertrand Russell’s “theory of definite descriptions”)

There is at least one truth
and
any truth whatever is identical with that truth
and
that truth is hard to know.

Now, I’ll happily grant the truth of the first conjunct, “There is at least one truth”; for example, it is true that

At 10:00 am eastern standard time on March 8, 2018, Donald Trump was President of the United States of America.

And I’ll even, and still happily, grant the truth of the conjunction of the first and the last of the conjuncts, thus:

There is at least one truth
and
that truth is hard to know.

For example, it is either true that there exists extra-terrestrial intelligence or true that there does not exist extra-terrestrial intelligence. In either case, the truth is hard to know.

But I can’t grant that the conjunction of the first and second of the conjuncts

There is at least one truth
and
any truth whatever is identical with that truth.

is true. Take, once again, the above proposition, about Donald Trump, instantiating the first conjunct, “There is at least one truth.” It is just not the case that any truth whatever is identical with that truth. The following truth is a truth that is not identical with that one:

At 10:00 am eastern standard time on March 8, 2018, Michael Pence was Vice President of the United States of America.

There are, then, at least two truths. In fact, I’ll hasten to add, there are others, some, but only some, at least somewhat similar to the two about Messieurs Trump and Pence, e.g., those we all could generate about Messieurs Ryan and McConnell. Etc.

So, here’s my suggestion for the New York Times. Learn to distinguish between universal and particular propositions, as the introductory logic textbooks characterize them, and between affirmative and negative propositions. Applied to the case at hand, those distinctions enable us to distinguish between the universal affirmative proposition:

All truths are hard to know.

the universal negative proposition:

No truths are hard to know.

the particular affirmative proposition:

At least some truths are hard to know.

and the particular negative proposition:

At least some truths are not hard to know.

A moment’s reflection reveals that the Times’ proposition, “The truth is hard to know” implies the universal affirmative proposition, “All truths are hard to know.” As the latter is false, so too the former is false. I have already, in pointing to the truth of the answer to the question of the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence as a truth that is hard to know, indicated that the universal negative proposition is false. The two particular propositions, on the other hand, are true.

I urge, then, that the writers and editors of the New York Times, in the case at hand and indeed in almost all others, content themselves with particular propositions, instead of, say, a sentence the beginning of which is “The position of the White House is….” But, as I said early on in this post, I am offering the same advice, albeit rather belatedly, to the writer of the Gospel According to John, for therein (14:6) we read Jesus saying

I am the way and the truth and the life.

There may be room for some question as to whether or not the statement “I am the way” is true and perhaps even as to whether or not the statement “I am the life” is. But the statement, “I am the truth,” is just false, for there are many truths, the vast majority of which have little to do with Jesus.

I leave the spelling out of the advice to be offered to the author of the gospel, were it possible to offer him advice, to the reader.

Until next time.

Richard

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A Proof That at Least One Thing Can Be Proven in Philosophy

1. There is a widely held opinion that, in contrast with, say, mathematics, there are no demonstrative arguments, or proofs, in philosophy. This opinion is held, not just by those not well acquainted with philosophy, but also by many or even most of those whom we all, including they themselves, would identify as accomplished philosophers. One member of the latter group is William (Bill) Vallicella, the famous or infamous, depending upon one’s political point of view, blogger publishing so prolifically at Maverick Philosopher. I offer as evidence that my inclusion of him in that group is justified the statement, made almost in passing, in his January 23, 2018, post, the “The Two Opposites of ‘Nothing’ and the Logical Irreducibility of Being (2018 Version).”

I won’t be able to prove my point because nothing in philosophy can be proven.

An obvious first reply, of course, is that our maverick philosopher offers no argument here for, much less any proof of, the thesis that “nothing in philosophy can be proven.” But, again of course, that observation invites the equally easy retort that neither is it itself an argument for or a proof of the thesis that “at least one thing in philosophy can be proven.” The aim of the present post is to prove that at least one thing in philosophy can be proven and to prove it by, well, proving at least one thing in philosophy.

2. The philosophical thesis which I will prove is that God does not exist, at least if he, she, or it is the cause of all and only those causes that do not cause themselves. Virtually all who have degrees in philosophy, and many others besides, will recognize in that thesis a precise analogue of the thesis, long ago proven by Bertrand Russell, that there is no class that is the class including all and only those classes that do not include themselves. That does not concern me, for my aim is, as I have said, to prove that something in philosophy can be proven and to prove it by proving something. It is not my aim to argue, much less to prove, that I am an original thinker.

3. The proof is very brief. It involves, first, an assumption that there is such a God, then an observation that such a assumption leads to a falsehood, and then the conclusion that that assumption is false; an argument of this sort goes by the name, reductio ad absurdum. First, then, the assumption: There is an existent, God, which is such that, for any existent y, God is the cause of y if and only if y is not self-caused, i.e., y is not the cause of y.

From that assumption, it follows, since God is, ex hypothesi, an existent, that God is the cause of God if and only if God is not the cause of God.

It cannot, however, be the case that God is the cause of God if and only if God is not the cause of God, just as it cannot be the case that it is 5:00 pm in Massachusetts if and only if it is not 5:00 pm in Massachusetts and as it cannot be the case that Donald Trump is a patriot if and only if Donald Trump is not a patriot.

Therefore, it cannot be the case that there is an existent, God, which is such that, for any existent y, God is the cause of y if and only if y is not self-caused, i.e., y is not the cause of y. Q.E.D.

4. It must be understood that, on the one hand, this proof is a proof that there is no such God in reality. It must also be understood, on the other, that it is not a proof that God as otherwise specified does not exist.

5. The foregoing proof is a philosophical proof. Therefore, at least one thing in philosophy can be proven. Q.E.D., once more.

Until next time.

Richard

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Sathya Sai Baba. The Man Who Was God

0. Reading today’s (February 20, 2018) post by James Chastek, “Sathya Sai Baba as Atheist argument trope,” in the blog, Just Thomism, I became aware of Sathya Sai Baba for the first time. This was perhaps a bit late, for with but a few clicks I found myself reading today’s Time Magazine on-line article, “Sathya Sai Baba. The Man Who Was God Is Dead.”

The article tells us that:

Believing in the Baba was easy. Devotees were not required to adhere to any particular set of beliefs or renounce worldly pleasures; non-Hindus did not need to change their religion. “I am God,” he would say. “You too are God. The only difference between you and me is that while I am aware of it, you are completely unaware.”

1. In reading him being described in the title as “the man who was God,” I am of course reminded of the classical Christian belief that Jesus of Nazareth was God (and indeed is God; the claim that any person was God should also, it would seem, entail the further claim that he or she is God). In reading the Baba’s statement:

I am God. You too are God. The only difference between you and me is that while I am aware of it, you are completely unaware.

I am also reminded of the logical incoherence of such doctrines. In my February 8, 2018, article, “A Diagram of the Trinity,” and, more thoroughly in my June 12, 2014, article, “Garrigou-Lagrange on Trinity and Triple Identity,” I presented what I take to be a definitive refutation of the Trinitarian doctrine. In the present post, I’d like to present a similar logical response to the doctrine offered by the Baba.

3. First, then, there are the logical principles (I’d rather call them the ontological principles, but I’ll let that matter go for now) of the symmetry and the transitivity of identity. The principle of the symmetry of identity is the principle that:

For any existent x and any existent y, if x is identical with y, then y is identical with x.

Now, if we let ourselves imagine that the Baba was addressing me when he said, “You too are God,” then he would have been saying:

Richard is God.

If, then, we apply the principle of the symmetry of identity to the case of Richard and God, we have:

If Richard is identical with God, then God is identical with Richard.

Given the last two propositions, we find ourselves with the following utterly valid argument, one in the form known by logicians as Modus Ponens:

If Richard is identical with God, then God is identical with Richard.
Richard is identical with God.
Therefore, God is identical with Richard.

4. Let’s turn now to the principle of the transitivity of identity, the principle that:

For any existent x, any existent y, and any existent z, if both x is identical with y and y is identical with z, then x is identical with z.

If we apply the principle of the transitivity of identity to the case at hand, we have:

If both the Baba is identical with God and God is identical with Richard, then the Baba is identical with Richard.

5. Now a third principle becomes pertinent, the principle of the indiscernibility of identicals, according to which, as I’ll word it:

For any existent x and any existent y, if x is identical with y, then, for any attribute φ, x has φ as an attribute if and only if y has φ as an attribute.

Applying this principle to the case at hand and recalling that the Baba has claimed that he is aware of his identity with God, we have:

If the Baba is identical with Richard, then the Baba has an awareness, that he is identical with God, as an attribute if and only if Richard has an awareness, that he is identical with God, as an attribute.

Let me assure you, however, that:

Richard has no awareness, that he is identical with God, as an attribute.

From these two statements, however, it follows that:

The Baba is not identical with Richard.

6. That was as expected, I suppose. But let us now recall that, above, an application of the principle of the transitivity of identity to the case at hand led to the proposition that:

If both the Baba is identical with God and God is identical with Richard, then the Baba is identical with Richard.

We have just determined, however, that

The Baba is not identical with Richard.

Given the last two propositions, we find ourselves with another utterly valid argument, this one in the form known by logicians as Modus Tollens:

If both the Baba is identical with God and God is identical with Richard, then the Baba is identical with Richard.
The Baba is not identical with Richard.
Therefore, the Baba is not identical with God or God is not identical with Richard.

7. I dare to say that the first proposition, that the Baba is not identical with God, has to be true, for it can be shown to be so by appealing once more to the principle of the indiscernibility of identicals. First, however, given that the Baba has died, we can safely assert:

The Baba is subject to death.

Accordingly:

If the Baba is identical with God, then the Baba is subject to death if and only if God is subject to death.

Unless Nietzsche is right, however, God is not subject to death; I am, moreover, confident that my assumption that the Baba himself believed, or at least consistently professed to believe, that God is not subject to death is secure. It follows then that:

The Baba is not identical with God.

An exactly parallel argument starting from the premise that:

Richard is subject to death.

would lead to the conclusion that:

Richard is not identical with God.

8. I can imagine that at least some readers have had the patience not only to follow my reasoning this far, but also to accept the conclusions it has reached related to the Baba and Richard, specifically, their non-identity with God. But would not exactly parallel reasoning apply to Jesus of Nazareth?

Until next time.

Richard

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A Diagram of the Trinity

Today my eyes fell on a diagram, the Scutum Fidei or “Shield of Faith,” the purpose of which is to set forth the relationships which classical Christianity believes to exist between and among the three persons of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Before my retirement from Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, a few years back, I often had occasion to ponder an essentially similar diagram on a stained-glass window in the Church of Christ the Teacher at the college. What gave rise to the pondering, of course, is the evident impossibility that the Trinitarian relationships all hold. That impossibility is a primary reason why I have to count myself as a pagan Aristotelian, or neo-Aristotelian, and not a Christian Thomist.

That is, the conjunction of the theses that God the Father is God and that God the Son is God is quite simply inconsistent with the thesis that God the Father is not God the Son. Ditto for the set of theses coming with the introduction of God the Holy Spirit.

I have dealt with the Trinitarian doctrine at length in two previous posts, posts you may wish to subject to your most critical reading. One is that of April 4, 2014, “The Inconsistency of the Doctrine of (the Distinction of Divine Persons and so That of) the Trinity with Monotheism.” (I apologize for the length and complexity of the title and I resolve to never again try to express more than one thesis in the title of a post. At least in that manner.)

Another post you may wish to subject to your most critical reading is that of June 12, 2014, “Garrigou-Lagrange on Trinity and Triple Identity.”

My arguments, I submit, are valid, in that their conclusions must be true if their premises are true. Moreover, they are not only valid, but sound, in that their premises, and therefore their conclusions, are true. Moreover still, they are not only sound, but apodictic or demonstrative, in that their premises, and therefore their conclusions, are not just true but necessarily true.

I invite you, after you have completed your critical readings, to do your best to show that the arguments are invalid, unsound, or merely non-demonstrative.

Until next time.

Richard

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Conceiving of Exceptions to the First Principles

1. In my immediately previous post, the “First Thoughts on the First Principles” of January 19, 2018, I offered statements of the principles, of non-contradiction and excluded middle, recognized as “first principles” by classical philosophical thought. I further pointed to a passage in Plato’s Apology and a couple of passages in Peter Kreeft’s Socrates Meets Jesus* where at least the principle of non-contradiction makes an appearance. In the present post I will first restate the two principles. I will next take note of the passage in Socrates Meets Jesus, also noted in the preceding post, where Kreeft has Socrates claim that one cannot conceive of an exception to the principle of non-contradiction. I will then proceed to the point of the present post and to the conceiving of exceptions, not to just the one, but to both of the principles, in a most direct way, that of simply negating them.

2. First, then, the principle of non-contradiction is the principle that, quite simply:

No beings can both be and not be (in the same respect and at the same time).

The principle of excluded middle is the principle that, equally as simply:

All beings must either be or not be (in the same respect and at the same time).

Two notes should perhaps be added here. First, the qualification, “(in the same respect and at the same time),” is inserted simply to ward off possible equivocation. A person can be, in different respects, but at one and the same time, both off, because not working, and not off, because his mind is functioning well; the word “off” needs to have the same meaning in its two occurrences. And a person can be, in the same respect, but at different times, both off, because not working, and not off, because working.

Second, I offered some illustrations of the application of the two principles in the aforementioned “First Thoughts on the First Principles.”

3. On now to the passage in Kreeft’s Socrates Meets Jesus where he has his Socrates claim that one cannot conceive of an exception to the principle of non-contradiction. Closely repeating what I said in “First Thoughts on the First Principles,” the background to the story has Socrates, finding himself, much to his astonishment, alive and well and a student at Have It University in Camp Rich, Massachusetts. In the passage at hand, he is defending the possibility of miracles in a conversation with a Professor Flatland. One part of the conversation reads as follows:

Socrates: Let’s try it another way. You can’t even conceive of an exception of the laws of logic or math, but you can conceive of exceptions to the laws of nature.
Flatland: How’s that? Give an example.
Socrates: All right. You can’t conceive of a man both walking through a wall and not walking through a wall at the same time, can you?
Flatland: No.
Socrates: But you can conceive of a man walking through a wall, can’t you?

4. To make sure that my most direct way of conceiving of exceptions to both of the principles, that of simply negating them, is well understood, I will now illustrate that act of simple negation with a pair of propositions less imposing than our two principles. First, reversing the order in which they usually are presented, let us note that the principle of excluded middle is both a universal proposition, bearing on all beings, and, let us be careful to notice, an affirmative proposition, affirming that they must either be or not be. So too the less imposing proposition:

All humans must be animals.

is both a universal proposition, bearing on all humans, and an affirmative proposition, affirming that all humans must be animals.

Similarly, let us note that the principle of non-contradiction is both a universal proposition, bearing on all beings, and, let us be careful to notice, a negative proposition, denying that they can both be or not be. So too the less imposing proposition, the obverse, as logicians would identify it, of the proposition just reviewed and logically equivalent to it:

No humans can be non-animals.

is both a universal proposition, bearing on all humans, and a negative proposition, denying that they can be non-animals.

5. Now let me go on to deny first the less imposing universal affirmative proposition and then the less imposing universal negative proposition. The denial of the former is:

It is not the case that all humans must be animals.

This, a few moments’ thought will tell you, is equivalent to:

At least one human can not be an animal.

(Note that this is very different from “At least one human cannot be an animal.).

The denial of the less imposing universal negative proposition, of course, is:

It is not the case that no humans can be non-animals.

This, a few moments’ thought will tell you, is equivalent to:

At least one human can be a non-animal.

6. The negations of the more imposing universal affirmative proposition, the principle of excluded middle, and of the more imposing universal negative proposition, the principle of non-contradiction, now beckon. The negation of the principle of excluded middle has to be:

It is not the case that all beings must either be or not be (in the same respect and at the same time).

This is equivalent to:

At least one being can not either be or not be (in the same respect and at the same time).

The negation of the principle of non-contradiction has to be:

It is not the case that no beings can both be and not be (in the same respect and at the same time).

This is equivalent to:

At least one being can both be and not be (in the same respect and at the same time).

7. That’s how easy it is for one, even one who is sure, as I am, that they are without exception, to conceive of exceptions to the principles of non-contradiction and of excluded middle. Actually, it seems to be even easier than that, for I cannot recall an introductory philosophy course that I have taught in which no student advanced the thesis that God, at least, was not bound by the two principles; at least two of my students in the introductory course I am teaching this semester have thought that this might be so.

And, returning to the thesis put forward by Kreeft’s Socrates, that “You can’t conceive of a man both walking through a wall and not walking through a wall at the same time,” I can conceive both that:

There is at least one man who can both be walking through a wall and not be walking through a wall (in the same respect and at the same time).

and even that:

There is at least one man who both is walking through a wall and not walking through a wall (in the same respect and at the same time).

In brief, I can very easily conceive that which I do not believe.

8. Let me go a bit further and enter an area that may be somewhat, shall I say, controversial by affirming that I, along with at least some others, can conceive both that:

There is at least one person who can both be identical with his father and not be identical with his father (in the same respect and at the same time).

and even that:

There is at least one person who both is identical with his father and not identical with his father (in the same respect and at the same time).

(I deal more definitely with the matter here brought up in a post published some time ago (April 4, 2014), “The Inconsistency of the Doctrine of (the Distinction of Divine Persons and so That of) the Trinity with Monotheism.”)

9. A final observation: Let us, at least for present purposes, adopt the name, “rationalism,” as that of the theory for which both the principle of non-contradiction and that of excluded middle are true. Let us then adopt the name, “irrationalism,” as that of the theory which negates them. Next let us note that the negations in question are both particular propositions, i.e., not universal propositions. Finally, let us adopt the phrase, “universalist irrationalism,” as the name of the theory that asserts the universal propositions corresponding to the two particular propositions. The one thesis of the theory, then, is:

All beings can not either be or not be (in the same respect and at the same time).

The other is:

All beings can both be and not be (in the same respect and at the same time).

We have here two more theses contrary to the first principles that you and I can easily conceive, even if we cannot believe them.

Until next time.

Richard

*Peter Kreeft, Socrates Meets Jesus. History’s Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ (2nd edition; Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2002 [1987])

Should you wish to purchase a copy of Socrates Meets Jesus, you may do so quite easily by clicking on the following image.

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First Thoughts on the First Principles

1. As I noted in the immediately previous post, (1) the coming semester will seem me teaching an “Introduction to Philosophy” course and (2) at least some, if not most, of the posts to come as the semester unfolds will focus on the matters suggested by or explicitly coming up in the conduct of the course.

One reason for doing this is that I would like to introduce the students in my classroom to at least some of the philosophical thinking that goes on online. Another is that I would like to offer to those not in my classroom, or even in any classroom who would like to engage in at least some of the philosophical thinking that goes on in a college-level introduction to philosophy course the opportunity to do so. A third is that I would like to engage with other philosophy instructors in some reflection on just how we can best go about introducing college students or their equivalents to philosophy.

2. Central, of course, to the course are its primary texts. The most primary of the three primary texts in the course at hand is:

Plato, Five Dialogues, translated by G. M. Grube and revised by John M. Cooper (2nd edition; Indianapolis, Indiana, 2002)

The course schedule has the reading of the five dialogues in question (the Euthyphro, the Apology, the Crito, the Meno, and the Phaedo, in that order) taking place over the course of the entire semester.

The other two texts are more or less contemporary, that of Peter Kreeft being the more contemporary, and yet the more traditional, and that of Bertrand Russell being the less contemporary, and yet the less traditional.

Peter Kreeft, Socrates Meets Jesus. History’s Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ (2nd edition; Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2002 [1987])

Bertrand Russell, Religion and Philosophy, with an introduction by Michael Ruse (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997 [1935])

Should you wish to purchase one, two, or all of the texts, you may do so quite easily by clicking on the images of them to be found at the end of this post.

3. A beginning course in philosophy should, it seems, begin at the beginning. It seems apt then that the first topic that I will be introducing in the current set of reflections is that of the “first principles” of non-contradiction and excluded middle recognized as such by classical philosophical thought, and also, though I’m open to some quibbling about whether they are absolutely first, by yours truly. I will first offer statements and, for those not familiar with them, some illustrations of them, and then point to a passage in Plato’s Apology and a couple of passages in Kreeft’s Socrates Meets Jesus where they make an appearance.

4. First, then, the principle of noncontradiction, the principle that:

No being can both be and not be (in the same respect and at the same time).

That which no being can both be and not be can be anything whatsoever. This will be clear as one thinks one’s way through the following illustrations:

a. I cannot both be in a room and not be in that room, at least in the same respect and at the same time. I can, however, both be in the room and not be in the room, in distinct respects, even though at the same time; for example, my left side can be in the room while my right side is not in the room. And I can both be in the room and not be in the room, in the same respect, but at different times.

b. Donald Trump cannot both be guilty of impeachable offenses and not be guilty of impeachable offenses, in the same respect and at the same time. (The same has been true or will be true, I hasten to add, of any other president of the United States of America.)

c. No being can both be a being of some sort or other and not be a being of that sort. Thus, no being can both be a living organism and not be a living organism. Indeed, no being can both be a being (an existent) and not be a being. For example, no divine being can both be a being (an existent) and not be a being.

5. Next, the principle of excluded middle, the principle that:

All beings must either be or not be (in the same respect and at the same time).

That which all beings must either be or not be can be anything whatsoever. This will be clear as one thinks one’s way through the following illustrations:

a. I must either be in a room or not be in that room, at least in the same respect and at the same time.

b. Donald Trump must either be guilty of impeachable offenses or not be guilty of impeachable offenses, in the same respect and at the same time. (The same has been true or will be true, I hasten to add, of any other president of the United States of America.)

c. Any being must either be a being of some sort or other or not be a being of that sort. Thus, any being must either be a living organism or not be a living organism. And, any being must either be a being (an existent) or not be a being. For example, any divine being must either be a being (an existent) or not be a being.

6. The principle of non-contradiction makes an implicit appearance in Plato’s Apology (p. 31 of the Grube and Cooper text) in the course of Socrates’s defense against the charge of atheism that has been brought against him by one Meletus. Plato has Socrates say:

He [Meletus] is like one who composed a riddle and is trying it out: “Will the wise Socrates realize that I am jesting and contradicting myself, or shall I deceive him and others?” I think he contradicts himself in the avadavat, as if he said, “Socrates is guilty of not believing in gods but believing in gods,” and surely that is the part of a jester!

It is evident that Socrates expects his listeners to understand that:

No person can both be a believer in gods and not be a believer in gods (in the same respect and at the same time).

7. The principle of non-contradiction also, as noted above, appears in some passages in Kreeft’s Socrates Meets Jesus. The background to one of them has Socrates finding himself, much to his astonishment, alive and well and a student at Have It University in Camp Rich, Massachusetts (yes, I know). The following exchange with a student, one Bertha Broadmind, takes place (pp. 17-18).

Bertha: Socrates! Is that really you?
Socrates (surprised and pleased): Why, yes. How do you know me? Were you sent here to meet me? I expected a messenger of the gods, but forgive me, you don’t look the part.
Bertha: Oh, Socrates! You’re so—so Socratic! It is you, isn’t it?
Socrates: Of course I am I, unless the law of noncontradiction has been abolished here.

8. In another, more philosophically loaded passage (p. 70), we find Socrates defending the possibility of miracles in a conversation with a Professor Flatland:

Socrates: Let’s try it another way. You can’t even conceive of an exception of the laws of logic or math, but you can conceive of exceptions to the laws of nature.
Flatland: How’s that? Give an example.
Socrates: All right. You can’t conceive of a man both walking through a wall and not walking through a wall at the same time, can you?
Flatland: No.
Socrates: But you can conceive of a man walking through a wall, can’t you?

In a post to appear in the not too distant future, I will have to take exception to the view that one cannot conceive of an exception to the laws of logic, even as I defend those laws, for there are those who reject the thesis of the universal applicability of the one, the other, or both of the first principles.

9. I think, then, that I know how to reply to the thesis that Kreeft has Socrates express in the texts we are just now leaving. But I don’t know quite what to make of the things he has to say about logic and logical principles in a passage in his “Introduction” to Socrates Meets Jesus (pp. 7-8). The first half of the passage reads:

Socrates had no prophets to guide him except the universal prophet of reason. But Christians know that this is not merely a human power but a beam of light from the Son of God, “the true light that enlightens every man (John 1:9), the Logos, the logic of God. In the beginning was the logic, and the logic was with God, and the logic was God. Socrates has only logic, but logic is not a batch of man-made rules for playing a game with concepts as though they are poker chips; logic is the science of the divine nature.

There is more going on here, of course, than just an identification of logic with a part of theology, for that is possible, if it is at all possible, only with a particular conception of logic. I hope one day to be able to turn my attention to his understanding of logic, which may perhaps be discernible in the logic text that he has written and that I have purchased, but not yet read:

Peter Kreeft, Socratic Logic. A Logic Text Using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles (Edition 3.1; South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine’s Press, 2014 [2004])

That is “one day,” not “now.”

Kreeft continues with the second half (p. 8) of the passage:

The law of identity is founded on the real divine identity and immutability. The law of noncontradiction is founded on the unity of the divine nature, the fact that God never contradicts himself. The law of excluded middle is founded on the fact that all either-ors are based on the one God: either God or not God, truth or falsehood, light or darkness, reality or unreality

Here, I must confess, he has left me behind; evidently I am not being enlightened by the requisite beam of light, because I do not quite get the arguments at work here. The argument that, say,

God never contradicts himself.
Therefore, no being can both be and not be (in the same respect and at the same time).

is at the very least missing one or more premises.

I have sent Dr. Kreeft a note asking that he shed some light on the two chunks of text or point to some place where the argumentation has been set out more fully. I will, if and when I receive any help from him (or anyone else), let you know.

Until then.

Richard

As said above, should you wish to purchase one or more of the texts mentioned in this post, you may do so quite easily by clicking on the appropriate of the following images.

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Postings During the Spring 2018 Semester

The primary reason why I have for some time not published any posts to this blog is that that my teaching responsibilities took over my professional life. There is also a secondary reason, that I have begun seeing a diminishing of the intellectual returns on my efforts at extracting the arguments at work in Aquinas’s “Prologue” to his Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics. But the primary reason is the primary reason and the secondary the secondary.

I have thought, then, that I had to choose between writing for my blog and taking care of my courses and, so thinking, I had to choose the latter. Having, however, reflected over the past couple of weeks on what had happened in the course of the past semester and on what I would like to see happen over the course of the coming semester, I have come to see that my options are not quite so limited. That is, I have come to see that it is quite possible for me to combine my blogging and my teaching activities by writing about matters suggested by or explicitly coming up in my teaching.

It turns out, on the one hand, that I am not teaching a course tightly related to the review I have undertaken of Aquinas’s commentary. I therefore do not foresee my advancing that review any further during the course of the coming semester, though I do envision returning to it once the semester is over. It also turns out, on the other hand, that the coming semester will seem me teaching an “Introduction to Philosophy” course. It is upon matters suggested by or explicitly coming up in my teaching of this course that I have decided to focus the coming posts.

Thus the next post.

Until then.

Richard

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