Sye Ten Bruggencate vs. the Absolute Laws of Logic
“How do you account for absolute laws of logic?”
Sye makes it clear in his own promotional videos (see relevant excerpts collected here) that “no matter what the objection is” – i.e., no matter what the non-believer affirms on behalf of his worldview or states in answer to apologetic questions – he’s going to respond with two rejoinders: “that’s not in the Bible” and “where do you get truth without God?” The first is a statement that tells non-believers nothing they don’t already know – they’re not Christians, so pointing out that their worldview is “not in the Bible” is not likely to strike anyone as earth-shattering. Then again, it is intellectually irresponsible simply to presuppose that whatever a person affirms is not going to be found in the bible – one should wait to hear what it is before making such a rash judgment, even before one knows what it is! The second is in the form of a question which is apparently intended to elicit the response, “Duh, I donno, must be God did it!” which is just a confession of ignorance, one which is preconditional to accepting the presuppositionalist perspective: one would have to throw out everything he already knows to be true to accept their string of lies.
Moreover, it is clear that Sye himself, and Christians in general, cannot address the questions they themselves pose to non-believers. Upon examination, it becomes clear that their claim that a supernatural being has “revealed” things to them not only fails to address these questions, it only manages to raise other questions and increase their ever-growing burden of proof which they can never meet rationally. One of the leading presuppositionalists of the day, John Frame, admits that he cannot answer the question “How do you know that?” with when he affirms “We know without knowing how we know” (for details, see my blog John Frame’s Empty-Handed Epistemology). With confessions of ignorance such as this, why should we suppose that Christianity has anything of value to contribute to our understanding of logic? Blank out.
Also, by informing their apologetic strategy primarily with questions aimed at the non-believer, presuppositionalists like Sye make it clear that they are very much concerned to keep the attention off of their worldview – and particularly, the fact that they cannot produce any distinctively Christian “account” for the issues they raise in their inquisitory confrontation with non-believers. This is beyond ironic since they're claiming to have all this infallible knowledge from an omniscient source, and yet they never teach men anything of value. When they do make statements about knowledge, it is all given in a context of "you can't know" and "you can't do this or that." They are explicitly opposed to the can-do spirit of independent rational thought. Their questions are deliberately constructed and posed in order to destroy man's confidence in his own mind - that he is epistemologically helpless on his own, that he lacks whatever may be needed to discover and validate knowledge, that he can never be certain of anything unless he surrenders his mind to their god. Apparently they believe that their god did not create a defect-free creation in man!
What we find in presuppositional apologetics is not the spirit of “come now, and let us reason together” (cf. Isaiah 1:18), but rather an explicitly adversarial confrontation aggressively charged with predetermined indifference to whatever the non-believer might have to say and a lack of genuine interest in the issues that they raise in their interrogations. We do not learn about the nature of logic or how to "account for absolute laws of logic" from either the Christian bible or from presuppositionalists themselves. Their goal is not to promote rational learning, but to disable it at its roots.
My answer: I “account for absolute laws of logic” by referring to and understanding the subject-object relationship that is involved in any act of cognition, including forming and using concepts, inducing generalizations, drawing inferences, assembling proofs, formulating arguments, integrating conclusions to deduce new conclusions, etc. Before one can say “God exists,” he must be a subject conscious of some object(s) who has developed the ability to identify and integrate those objects by means of concepts.
The subject-object relationship is the relationship between consciousness and its objects. A conscious agent is conscious of objects. Simply being conscious of objects implies certain general truths which are absolute (given the existence of the relationship to begin with), which are perceptually self-evident and affirmed by the Objectivist axioms of existence, identity and consciousness. These are the fundamental recognitions that (a) existence exists (i.e., things exist, there is a reality); (b) to exist is to be something specific (i.e., A is A – if something exists, it is itself and only itself, nothing more, nothing less); and (c) consciousness is consciousness of something (i.e., consciousness requires an object). So in answer to Sye’s question, I appeal to the axioms, which are absolute – i.e., they are certain and they are not subject to change. The fact that existence exists is absolutely true; the fact that a thing which exists is itself and has a nature distinct from other things is absolutely true.
Furthermore, since the relationship between consciousness and its objects is not a relationship of equals, I appeal to the fact that only one orientation between the subject and its objects obtains, which we call the primacy of existence. The primacy of existence is the fundamental recognition that the objects of consciousness exist and are what they are independent of the activity by which the subject is conscious of those objects. In other words, existence exists independent of consciousness. Thus we have in the recognition Objectivism calls the primacy of existence, the fundamental principle of objectivity: the objects of consciousness hold metaphysical primacy over the subject of consciousness, which means: the objects of consciousness are not a “creation” of any act of consciousness, nor do they conform to conscious activity, but rather: the subject, in order to know the objects of its consciousness, must conform to the objects by identifying them according to their identity and recognize that the objects of its consciousness do not conform to its dictates, wishes, commands, preferences, feelings, likes or dislikes, imagination, etc. To put it in familiar terms: wishing doesn’t make it so. Why? Because existence holds metaphysical primacy over consciousness. The fact that the objects of consciousness exist and are what they independent of the activity by which the subject is conscious of those objects is absolutely true.
Lastly, since we identify the objects of consciousness by means of concepts, I appeal to the objective theory of concepts, which alone accounts for the process by which the mind (a) distinguishes one object from another, (b) recognizes similarity between two or more objects, (c) unites them by a process of measurement-omission, (d) integrates them into the sum of one’s knowledge, (e) establishes a hierarchical structure among concepts so formed, and (f) applies the principle of measurement-omission to methods by which knowledge can be expanded beyond the level of immediate perception, including inductive generalization and, subsequently, deduction from generalized facts, and finally proofs. Without measurement-omission, there would be no such thing as formal logic. The basic principle of measurement-omission is: “the relevant measurements [of some object being identified] must exist in some quantity, but may exist in any quantity” (Ayn Rand, “Concept-Formation,” Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 12). Formal logic makes use of this process by treating the terms of an argument as variable: an argument must have some terms, but it could have any terms. Thus formal rules of inference are available in every area that is subject to rational investigation, whether it is geology, architecture, plumbing, meteorology, genealogy, mathematics, physics, accounting, music, sports, drama, teaching, technology, engineering, even epistemology. Thus logic is an application of principles of concept-formation to the process of inference. Thus we can survey the relevant absolutes as follows: the fact that man must identify the objects of his consciousness by taking into account everything he can discover about the nature of those objects is absolutely true; the fact that he is not automatically correct in his identifications is absolutely true, which means: the fact that he needs an objective method by which to identify and integrate the objects he perceives into the sum of his knowledge is absolutely true.
No, we will not learn any of this by reading stories in the bible. But without all of these factors – the truth of the axioms, the primacy of existence, and the objective theory of concepts – no use of logic would be possible. In short, without the subject-object relationship as it is understood by Objectivism, there could be no logic. If you deny Objectivism, you deny the basis of logic.
So, in short, that is how I “account for absolute laws of logic.”
Sye Ten Bruggencate is welcome to disagree as he flips desperately through his bible to find an alternative “account for absolute laws of logic.” He would save some valuable time by acknowledging the fact that his bible presents no such “account for absolute laws of logic.” His biblical worldview has absolutely nothing of value to contribute to our understanding of logic. As a debating point which he uses against non-believers, he has essentially borrowed logic from rational philosophy in order to destroy rational philosophy. What could be more irrational than that?
So here’s the challenge for Sye Ten Bruggencate, or any other presuppositionalist, or any Christian or whoever for that matter, who might want to object to what I’ve presented: demonstrate that the “account for absolute laws of logic” that I have given here is wrong. For extra points, try the following:
1. Prove that each aspect of the subject-object relationship as Objectivism identifies should not be involved in giving an “account for absolute laws of logic” without making use of any of the elements cited in that “account” - i.e., do not make use of the fact that there is a reality (the axiom of existence); do not make use of the fact that things which exist have identity (the axiom of identity); do not make use of any consciousness, including your own (the axiom of consciousness); do not imply that something is the case independent of anyone’s wishes, dictates, preferences, commands, emotional tantrums, imagination, etc., (i.e., do not performatively apply the primacy of existence); and do not use any concepts which are formed by a process of abstraction and therefore “accounted for” by means of the objective theory of concepts (you’ll need to apply some subjective theory of concepts); and
2. Present an alternative “account for absolute laws of logic” which in no way borrows from any portion of the “account for absolute laws of logic” which I have presented above.
by Dawson Bethrick