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apologetics, arguments for God, philosophy, the ontological argument

God and Logical Priority

Logical priority, broadly defined, is the way things are ontologically ordered. That is, to say that for two factors, x and y, x is logically prior to y if and only if x takes precedence over y. An example could be to use miracles and God (note this is just for the sake of example, I realize that some would argue miracles can exist without God, but I’m simply using it as an illustration). The existence of God is logically prior to miracles in the sense that if God does not exist, then miracles do not. In this case, God would be x, while miracles would be y. In order for y to be the case, x must also be the case, thus making x logically prior to y.

So what does this have to do with God? Very much, I would say. For one of the most common objections to the existence of God is that there is no (or not enough) scientific evidence to demonstrate God’s existence. I have addressed such objections before, but now I would like to take a completely different approach. That is, I believe that the existence of God is logically prior to the question of scientific evidence.

The reason I take the existence of God to be logically prior to scientific evidence is be cause logic is prior to science. Take the case of necessity, for example, and combine it with the case of scientific laws. Now, in science, a law is generally something like “if x occurs, then y will occur.” But it is not the case that such laws operate on a logically necessary level. For it is not the case that “Necessarily, If x occurs, then y will occur” (or, □(x⊃y) for those who enjoy ‘logic-ese’). It is simply the case that this is what happens in all observed cases. It could even (possibly, but not modally) be said that “If x occurs, then, necessarily y will occur” (again, logic-ese: x⊃□y), but this does not establish logical necessity in the modal and broader sense.

The type of necessity which can therefore be ascribed to scientific laws is a contingent or “accidental” necessity. They operate in a necessary sense in that in this world (out of all possible worlds) it is the case that if x then y, but they do not operate necessarily in the sense that in every possible worlds it is the case that “if x then y.

Logical necessity, however, is prior to this. For, on logical necessity, that which is necessary is necessary in all possible worlds. Logical necessity is the very thing which scientific necessity lacks.

Again, we may ask, what does this have to do with God? Well, if it is the case that it can be demonstrated that God exists out of logical necessity, then the question of scientific evidence is irrelevant. For logical necessity is prior to scientific necessity. This is not to say that scientific evidence is not useful when exploring the “God question”, if you will, but it is to say that if it can be demonstrated that God is logically necessary, then demands for scientific evidence to demonstrate or even make probable the existence of God are misplaced. For if God is logically necessary, then to deny the existence of God is incoherent in the strong sense (that is, it is illogical). The logical demonstration would be prior to and therefore supersede the scientific evidence or lack thereof (I believe that there are at least some reasons scientifically to believe God exists, but that is off topic).

But then, we must ask, can it be demonstrated that God is logically necessary? Well yes, I believe so. I have argued this at length elsewhere, so I won’t reiterate it (see here). If any of these arguments are sound (as I believe they are), then the question of scientific evidence for God’s existence is simply a non-factor. Certainly, the scientific (and other) evidences may be seen  as providing further justification for believing that God exists, but if it is the case that the arguments for God’s logical necessity are sound, then such arguments are the only tools needed to defend the claim that God exists. Further, to dispute such a claim (that is, God’s existence) would be incoherent in the strongest possible sense.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

3 thoughts on “God and Logical Priority

  1. Interesting stuff here. First some general comments and then some specific ones.

    It seems you have conflated the notions of science and nomological necessity. For there to be science, there need not be any nomological necessity and vice versa. Science is in the business of tracking regularities and distilling the conditions of these regularities. From there, scientists attempt to explain how those conditions caused the the events in which they are involved. Since Kripke, philosophers generally consider most of the findings of scientists to be a posteriori necessities.

    “The reason I take the existence of God to be logically prior to scientific evidence is be cause logic is prior to science.”

    I don’t think you have established how logic is prior to science. Is the claim something like “You couldn’t do science unless there is logic.”? If that is the case, then broadly construed, this claim is true; science is a logical method. However, you seem to be speaking of deductive logic here, not logic in a broad sense. It seems perfectly possible to me that there could be a scientific method that used inductive logic exclusively. This seems to be P.F. Strawson’s reply to Hume on the problem of induction. If the point is simply, “Induction is not deduction,” then it remains to be shown why we should think that deduction is prior or more fundamental than induction.

    ‘Now, in science, a law is generally something like “if x occurs, then y will occur.” ‘

    Not exactly. Let’s suppose that science is in the business of discovering laws of nature. (most think it is but not all). What these laws of nature are I’ll get to in a minute. But you seem to think a law of nature is like “If a cue ball strikes the 8 ball, then the 8 ball will move.” However, no scientist worth his salt will agree to this statement. Lots of of conditions could make it so that the 8 ball would not move. We need not appeal to worlds outside our own nomic laws to make sense of such scenarios. This is because the law of nature that might make on believe the above conditional can account for such scenarios. A law of nature is more like “Anything moving with such and such a force transfers that force to another object it touches.”

    “For it is not the case that “Necessarily, If x occurs, then y will occur” (or, □(x⊃y) for those who enjoy ‘logic-ese’).”

    That really depends on what x and y are. Certainly there are necessary conditionals, right?

    “It is simply the case that this is what happens in all observed cases. It could even (possibly, but not modally) be said that “If x occurs, then, necessarily y will occur” (again, logic-ese: x⊃□y), but this does not establish logical necessity in the modal and broader sense.”

    Actually such a statement would establish some pretty strong logical necessity if the statement is true. If we mean what we are saying when we say that laws of nature operate this way, then we mean that Ys are essential properties of Xs (or causing Ys are essential properties of Xs). If this is the case, then in any possible world where an X exists, its causing Y also exists. So the only non-nomically accessible worlds (worlds that do not have the same laws of nature as our own) would contain completely different objects than our own. So if science is in the business of making such (true) statements, then science does lack as much of the breadth of logical necessity as you seem to think it does.

    Overall, i agree with the spirit of your post. However, it seems to imply that amassing evidence cannot present counter-examples to deductive proofs. However, we know that if we have evidence that one or more of the premises (or even the conclusion) of an argument is false, then we have a reason for rejecting the argument. While lack of scientific evidence is not a reason to discount the existence of something, many people think we have scientific evidence that does suggest we should reject the conclusion of this argument (particularly when it comes to the evidential problem of evil).

    Posted by modalpontiff | June 13, 2010, 5:36 PM
    • “Actually such a statement would establish some pretty strong logical necessity if the statement is true. If we mean what we are saying when we say that laws of nature operate this way, then we mean that Ys are essential properties of Xs (or causing Ys are essential properties of Xs). If this is the case, then in any possible world where an X exists, its causing Y also exists. So the only non-nomically accessible worlds (worlds that do not have the same laws of nature as our own) would contain completely different objects than our own”

      I realized that as I was writing it out. You caught me ;). Logical laws are contingent, so they don’t hold necessarily in all possible worlds.

      “…it seems to imply that amassing evidence cannot present counter-examples to deductive proofs. However, we know that if we have evidence that one or more of the premises (or even the conclusion) of an argument is false, then we have a reason for rejecting the argument. While lack of scientific evidence is not a reason to discount the existence of something, many people think we have scientific evidence that does suggest we should reject the conclusion of this argument (particularly when it comes to the evidential problem of evil).”

      Excellent point. I would have to say that the problem is, as you pointed out, that lack of evidence is not the same thing as strong evidence against something. But let’s say that the evidential problem of evil is indeed strong–perhaps as strong as some of its proponents claim. If it were the case that a deductively sound argument for the logically necessary existence of God existed, as I believe it does, then the problem of evil would not overcome the logical necessity of the existence of God.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 14, 2010, 7:43 PM
  2. Interesting perspective. I agree that God’s existence would certainly be the most logical choice.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    – Amanda

    Posted by theologigal | June 13, 2010, 9:31 PM

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