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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Are All Things Determined by Logic?

Are All Things Determined by Logic?
On the Ultimate Rationality of Reality
By Jim J. McCrea

When I was in first year university (1978), an atheist who lived on the same floor as me (a Catholic), in residence, said that all things are determined and explained by logic.

Presumably that meant that all things in existence came under the prevue of the physical sciences with their logical laws and anything spiritual was "superstitious" or "illogical."

I was stuck there, because certainly things had to be logical. They could not exist illogically or without a proper reason.

The material world seemed to fit that which behaves according to logical principles. The spiritual world seemed to be other than that, hence seemingly did not fall under logical rules.

The fallacy there is to say that because the physical sciences obey logic, they are the *only* things that obey logic.

I will argue here that all things that our Catholic Faith holds to, including the existence and nature of God, must ultimately be rational and logical. This logical nature of reality goes right to the depths of existence - right to the depths of God.

Everything in existence - the physical world, the spiritual world, and the divine world - must have a rational reason for its being in *all* of its details and aspects.

Nothing is simply "there" for no rational reason.

But this is not to propose a rationalism whereby everything is explainable by *human* reason and logic.

Much of the rationality of existence cannot be understood by the earth-bound human mind because it is not capturable by a finite system of logic that can be written on paper or programmed into a computer.

In fact, the rationality of the deep nature of God is not accessible to any finite mind. It is accessible only to God.

Only God is capable of knowing Himself fully.

So we have *mystery* in the strict sense without it being irrational.

In a sense, we can say that a given mystery of the Catholic Faith is an infinitely dense "logic" that cannot be completely understood by a finite intellect, to reiterate the fact that even though the teachings of the Faith are mysteries, they are neither nonsense nor irrational but are governed by a reason of their own.

The spirit world has its own logical principles that govern it, but they are infinitely greater in subtlety, density, and extension, than the logic that governs the material world.

It can be said that it is Gödel on steroids (Gödel was a logician of the early 20th century who derived a proof that the rational sciences of logic and mathematics are not entirely accessible to human reason, according to a deductive process of logic, but that many of their truths must be established by "intuition" which is akin to faith).

The purpose of this discourse, on the rational nature of reality, is to counter a fideistic or nominalistic notion of God and His will, held mainly by Protestantism and Islam, that maintains that God is what He is, completely beyond any reason or logic, and that He wills what He wills, again, completely beyond any reason or logic.

This discourse is to set the Catholic Faith apart from that in showing that it is a completely reasonable Faith. Much exists beyond the understanding of man's mind - that is, there is positive mystery in the Catholic Faith - but it is governed by its own logic, on its own level, and must adhere to fundamental rules.

This is also to show that anything that exists within human understanding, pertaining to the Catholic Faith, can be explained. *Nothing* in the Catholic Faith exists purely arbitrarily, with no reason at all.

As a result, believing in Catholic Christianity is not the same as believing in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny which are nothing but artificial constructs of belief.

How do we say that everything is governed by "logic," which includes the physical world, the spiritual world, and God Himself?

First of all, we point out that reality has three main constituents.

These are *law,* *being,* and *consciousness.*

"Law" are the rules that a being must obey.

"Being" are the real entities that exist outside of nothingness (such as rocks, plants, animals, people, angels, and God).

"Consciousness" is the fact that there are not only law and being, but that some of those beings have an awareness of reality.

It can be postulated that at some very deep level of reality, law, being, and consciousness are one and the same, but are different realties on the level of human experience and understanding. This idea is similar to the theory in physics that the four forces of nature, of the *electromagnetic,* the *weak nuclear,* the *strong nuclear,* and the *gravitational,* are one and the same at very high energy levels, but are different forces in the domain of normal energy.

We can state that a trinitarian procession is in order: being proceeds from law, and consciousness proceeds from law and being.

The reason for this may be seen.

Any being that exists, does so on the basis of a *reason* for its being - on the basis of a law that explains its existence. The act of existence of something must have a rational underpinning.

Consciousness can only exist in some being - that of an animal, a human, an angel, or God - and it can only exist in a being adhering to given laws and not others. For example, the consciousness of an animal proceeds from the laws that govern its brain and presumably not its foot (although the whole body of an animal is involved in its awareness of reality, the brain and not its foot is the main center of consciousness, without which, it would not have animal consciousness at all).

What are the ultimate laws from which all things proceed?

These are the law of *identity,* the law of *non-contradiction,* and the principle of *sufficient reason.*

The law of identity means that if something *is,* it is what it is of a determinate objective nature, and is not necessarily what we think it is or believe it is:   A=A

The law of non-contradiction states that a thing cannot both exist and not exist at the same time:   ~(~A&A)

The principle of sufficient reason states that if anything exists, happens, or is true, it must have a sufficient reason for that. Nothing can exist, happen, or be true, simply for no reason:   ~B|=~A

All things in existence flow from these three laws and must be in accordance with them.

Absolutely nothing falls outside of them.


How then, are they applied to reality, and how does all of reality flow from them?

The ultimate root of God's being *is* these three laws.

He *IS* one and the same as these three laws, as they subsist in Him .

God is Pure and Absolute Identity. For all of His attributes are one and the same as each other.

His intellect, His omnipotence, His love, and His beauty, are one and the same as each other and are one and the same as His being. God is His own intellect, omnipotence, love, and beauty. He does not possess these attributes as something distinct from Himself in the sense of merely *having* them (as finite beings do).

God has an infinite number of other attributes, which are all mutually identical and which are His very being. In this, God has no composition whatsoever, but is absolutely simple.

In God, there is nothing but God.

God is Pure and Absolute Non-Contradiction. For in God's being is metaphysical *exclusion.* This allows Him to be Trinitarian (as three distinct persons), distinct from creation (transcendent), and to exclude evil (be perfectly good).

The principle of non-contradiction allows one thing in existence to be distinguished from another. For if X and Y are distinct beings, X has something that Y does not, and vice-versa. What one thing has that the other lacks, allows them to be distinguished as two different things. If they were identical in all attributes, they would be indistinguishable, hence would be the same thing (the difference might be in our mind or our point of view). Even two material things that are identical in physical attributes are distinguished because they occupy two distinct regions of three dimensional space hence have different individuating matter.

If the attributes A and not A both exist, they cannot exist in the same thing in the same respect. They must exist in two different things (or in the same thing in two different respects). Because of this, the principle of non-contradiction is the basis for the fact that a multiplicity of things exist within the sphere of reality.

God is Pure and Absolute Sufficient Reason. For He is the sufficient reason for all finite things that exist, and is the sufficient reason for His own existence.

God being the sufficient reason for His own existence is based upon His absolute self-identity.

For in being absolutely without composition, His essence is His own existence, which means that it is His nature to exist.

He simply IS ("I AM Who AM" - Exodus 3:14). As a result, He is Unbounded Infinity (because He says "I AM" without a qualifier - a qualifier which would be a limitation).

Considering finite being, the law of identity and the law of non-contradiction, together, give reality the property of all things within it having balances of sameness and difference between them at the same time.

The law of identity allows all things in existence to have elements of objective sameness with respect to each other (as opposed to *nominalism* that holds that all things are unique and radically different from one another, with perceived commonalities between them being merely apparent).

The law of non-contradiction allows all things, at the same time, to have their own objective uniqueness with respect to other things (as opposed to *monism* that holds that all things are one and the same, with perceived distinctions between them being merely apparent).

This property of reality, that the different things within it have sameness and difference between them at the same time, is known as the *analogy of being.* This sameness and difference applies on various levels and with appropriate balances (for example, two cats share the identity "catness," but are two different individuals).

Anything that is good, true, or beautiful adheres to the analogy of being. Anything evil, false, or ugly occurs when this balance is upset. The proper balance is upset when a thing or situation veers into either *univocity* (inappropriate sameness or closeness between the various elements of a thing or situation - such as a lustful embrace or an inappropriate touch), or *equivocity* (inappropriate difference or distance between the various elements of a thing or situation - such as flesh rent asunder with a knife or divorce).

However, reality does not consist merely of a static combination of samenesses and differences.

Another essential element within it is *directionality.*

The principle of sufficient reason supplies this.

Often, within the sphere of reality, the relationship of A to B is not the same as that of B to A. In this, we say that their relationship is *asymmetrical.* This is because B may have the sufficient reason for its existence (or truth or happening) in A. An example of this is A being the efficient cause of B (as an operating electric generator is the efficient cause of an electric current flowing through a circuit connect to it). A then stands to B as cause to effect. As a result, A does not stand to B as B stands to A. For with a cause and effect system, an event flows from cause to effect and not vice-versa (in considering cause *qua* cause and effect *qua* effect). So instead of a static relationship between A and B, there is a directionality from A to B. In this, reality has a dynamism and an activity. From the principle of sufficient reason, Aristotle's axiom proceeds: "nothing moves unless moved by another"

Reality is *purpose driven.* Every agent acts in view of an end. If directionality can be symbolized by an arrow, the tail of the arrow represents efficient causality (something that makes an event happen - the "push") and the head of the arrow represents final causality (the goal of the action – the "pull").

Directionality is the essential basis for the real distinctions of the three persons of the Trinity. The Father is the Father and the Son is the Son because the Father eternally begets the Son and not the other way around. The Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit because He eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son and not vice-versa. The persons of the Trinity are distinguished by their relations of origin. Apart from their relations of origin they share an identity of being, making them one God (the persons of the Trinity are truly distinct. They are not merely three modes or offices of one person).

The principle of sufficient reason provides the directionality that makes such distinctions of persons within the Trinity possible. For with an infinite being, only the asymmetry of relationship provided by directionality can be the basis for their distinctions. This is because if each person of the Trinity is the unbounded infinite God, none of them can be lacking anything in being that the others have that would form the basis for their distinctions from each other (as is the case with finite beings). Only relationality or directionality can provide that basis for distinction, and in the Trinity, this is expressed in the processions of the persons from one another.

The principle of sufficient reason requires that finite being have its explanation for its existence, nature, and activity within God.

With material beings that are composed of parts to perform a given function, they are not composed the way they are because of a complete identity pertaining to all that they are, as is the case with God. If they are composed in a given way, that composition is not their necessary nature. It is possible for them to be non-composed or disassembled. That is why, if they are composed or assembled, they require a sufficient reason for being composed or assembled, rather than being non-composed or disassembled - in a being that exists outside of themselves. That is why an intelligent designer is needed to explain biological life (precinding from the question, for the moment, as to whether or not evolution was involved). For the Christian, that intelligent designer is the Judeo-Christian God.

On a more basic level, God is required for the positive existence of a finite being, rather than its non-existence. It is not the necessary nature of a finite being to exist, as is the case with God whereby essence and existence are one and the same in Him. Any finite being that exists can possibly not exist. A finite being *has* existence; it is *not* existence itself (as God is Existence Itself). As a result, it must have the explanation for its existence in God, whose very nature it is to exist. To say that something can possibly not exist, is to say that it is *contingent.* Finite beings are contingent at all points of space and time that they exist.

As a result, God is required to maintain all finite things in existence at all times with His power. If He were to withdraw His power from anything, it would immediately vanish into nothingness (the law of conservation of energy does not explain the persistence of material things in existence. It is simply an empirical law *describing* an important aspect of the behavior of material things. It is neither a cause nor a necessary law of reality, such as the law of identity, non-contradiction, or sufficient reason).

God is required as prime mover for all processes within creation, for motion is essentially an activity of something being transformed from potential being to actual being (for example, if something has not yet arrived at point D, as in the case of local motion, it does not yet have being with respect to D. It has it only potentially). Potential being is not real being, but is merely being that is possible. The generation of real being requires another real being to generate it. As St. Thomas Aquinas says, nothing can be brought into existence except by something that already exists (the necessity for a prime mover is not negated by the law of inertia by the same reasoning given in the above paragraph showing that the law of conservation of energy does not negate the necessity for a conserver of being. The law of inertia is merely a description of the behavior of material things. It is not a cause).

God is the absolute unmoved mover, for in being Unbounded Infinity, He is Pure Actuality with no potentiality to fulfill. That is why a mover is not required for God.

It may appear that if all of reality conforms to the three logical laws of identity, non-contradiction, and sufficient reason, that it would be *deterministic,* discounting free-will.

Determinism is the view that given the logical nature of reality and given the laws according to which it operates, only one outcome or set of events is possible for a given set of initial conditions. It is similar to the principle in mathematics, that given a mathematical problem and the laws of mathematics that govern the process towards a solution, only one solution is the right one.

Free-will is the principle that a rational being chooses between alternatives and what is chosen comes from the act of choosing of the rational being *alone* and is not determined by outside or prior factors (for example, environment and genetics cannot be entirely to blame for crime. In a true sense, the responsibility rests with the criminal alone. He committed the crime because he *wanted to.* That cannot be reduced to anything more basic).

This dilemma, caused by the logical nature of reality and the necessity of free-will, can be resolved by examining the nature of choice in a rational free-will decision.

The act of choosing, in a decision of free-will, is an infinite interaction between intellect and will. The will can only choose something that is good or that appears to be good. The intellect first recognizes the good or believes it sees the good and then the will inclines to that (if an evil is chosen, it is only on the basis of some element of good within it. Evil can never be chosen as such).

Now an act of choice in a free-will decision is an infinite process of "talking back and forth" between intellect and will.

The intellect initially surveys a situation, and then the will inclines one's being towards the good that the intellect sees within it. As the being is inclined, the perspective of the intellect is changed, thus a different view of what the good is, may come into view. The will then changes direction to incline one's being to that good, thus changing the perspective of the intellect again. This again redirects the will, which again redirects the intellect. A "back and forth" between intellect and will occurs at an ever-increasing rate. At the very end of the process, where the actual choice is made, there is a "knot" of an infinite talking back and forth between intellect and will. As a result, the good that is chosen (or the apparent good chosen) is chosen freely and is not determined.

The reason for this freedom is in the infinity of the intellect/will system in the act of choice. With a system consisting of a finite number of elements, whose behavior is dictated by set laws, the outcome is deterministic. That is, with given inputs to a given finite system, and with given states within the system, there can be only one type of output. But with a system of an infinite number of elements, even if its behavior is dictated by set laws, the outcome is non-deterministic - that is, the outcome is free. The reason for this is that a finite subset (no matter how large) of an infinite system is deterministic (being considered a finite system in itself), but with any finite subset (no matter how large) of such an infinite system, there are always additional elements in that system that can change the behavior of that finite subset. So the outcome of an infinite system is not fixed by necessity.

The outcome of the act of choosing is entirely the responsibility of the one choosing, because the infinite system involved in the act of choice is one and the same as the self who chooses. The system is not extrinsic to the self.

The system mentioned here, is a system of an infinite number of operations, not a system of an infinite number of distinct parts. The human soul does not consist of distinct parts that interact with each other, as is the case with a physical system. The soul is without composition of parts, but an infinite number of distinct actions may take place within it in a finite amount of time.

The free-will of God determined that this particular universe was created from an infinite number of possibilities (and all possible universes that God could have created are good. God's free-will can only choose what is good, because in His omniscience He can never mistake an evil for a good).

In God, the infinite system process of free-will, pertaining to Him, is folded up in an absolutely simple act of intellect and will which is His very being. He is not composed of distinct parts. And His operation *is* His very being. He is absolutely simple.

The free-will of humans and angels (used wrongly) is the cause of all evil and suffering in the universe.

With the free-will of a finite rational being, there is always the possibility that the self will be asserted at the expense of the whole. That is the essence of *sin.* The logical laws of reality make that possible. For as C.S. Lewis says, if there is a [finite] self at all, there is always the possibility of that self putting itself first.

The essence of sin or moral evil is the choosing of a fragment of the good in isolation from the whole good that is meant to go with it (an example of this is stealing, which is obtaining a good in isolation from the principles of justice which demand equity). And this isolated fragment is necessarily at the service of the pleasure and/or the ego of the one who chooses it - chosen against selflessly working for the greater good that transcends mere personal interest.

Because of the logical laws of reality, each isolated fragment of reality has its own particular charm, beauty, goodness, and truth. That is what makes the choice of sin possible - whatever type of sin that might be. It is its nature of being a fragment, detached from the whole, which makes it a moral evil.

Finite rational beings can choose evil, because in being finite, their perspective is limited. They can mistake an evil for a good. But the free-will of God can choose only what is good. That is because He is omniscient, and therefore, cannot believe that something is the way it is not.

Because reality operates according to ultimate logical laws, each isolated fragment of reality can carry on with the logic proper to it.

For example, even though the Greek Orthodox separated themselves from the true head of the Church who is the Pope, their bishops can still validly ordain priests, in which these priests have the power to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and to absolve sins. That power of holy orders still has its full effect, according to the logic of holy orders, even though the Greek Orthodox are ruptured from the governance established by Christ.

Protestantism rejects the authority of the Catholic Church, has retained only two of the seven sacraments (baptism and matrimony), has rejected many of the teachings that Christ has bequeathed to us (such as the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist), and has rejected the Magisterium of the Catholic Church that Christ has established as the infallible interpreter of both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The Scripture that Protestants have is in a somewhat truncated and distorted form (without the Magisterium guiding their translations). However, because of the logic of the Scripture that they have, the logic of their own understanding of things, and the logic of the grace of God assisting them, a significant portion of the light of God's Revelation may still get through to them, helping to form their lives according to true moral principles, and helping them to be a positive force against secularism and godlessness in society.

In the realm of human pro-creation, God has ordained that children be begotten within the bounds of holy matrimony, so that both a father and a mother can rear them according to moral principles and train them to be fit for the eternal life that God has willed for them. However, sexual intercourse has laws that are proper to it, so if a couple fornicates, a child still has the same probability of being conceived (with all other things being equal). A child who is conceived by such a union still has the same goodness of being that any child has who is legitimately conceived, and still has an immortal soul that God wills for heaven.

Because of the logic proper to the fragments of things, the Catholic Church does not limit truth and goodness to what is ostensibly Catholic (as many Protestant fundamentalists limit truth and goodness to what is ostensibly fundamentalist Protestant, saying that anything outside of that is pure falsehood). As the Second Vatican Council affirms, the Church accepts all that is good and true within other systems (while not ignoring the error and evil that exist within them at the same time).

The law of identity, the law of non-contradiction, and the principle of sufficient reason determine and govern all of reality - both created and uncreated. Those laws determine all that is true about mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and cosmology. They determine all that is true about logic, epistemology, ontology, ethics, and morality. They determine all that is true about theology, spirituality, and mysticism. And they determine all that is true about heaven, hell, and purgatory.

Limits exist as to what God can do in creation because the three ultimate laws of reality constrain Him.

The omnipotent God, whose being consists of the three laws of identity, non-contradiction, and sufficient reason, cannot act outside of them in creation. What God *is,* constrains Him.

That explains why God cannot do anything that we might imagine or wish.

It explains, on a fundamental logical level, why Jesus' cup could not pass Him by (Matt 26:39), why suffering and time are required for atonement, purification, and sanctification, and why an eternal hell exists - in spite of the fact that God is all good, all powerful, and all wise.

The evils and sufferings of life do not mean that God is not omnipotent or that He is not omni-benevolent, but that omnipotence means that God can do anything that is *intrinsically possible.* He cannot do what is *intrinsically impossible;* and violation of any of the three fundamental laws of reality is intrinsically impossible (for example, it would be logically impossible to square the necessities of justice with letting an evil man go scot-free).

We can put it this way: an intrinsically impossible event is nonsensicalness. As C.S. Lewis says, putting the words "God can" before a nonsensical phrase (such as "God can make 2+2=5"), does not render nonsense sense, even if it is grammatically correct.

So my atheist friend was right after all. All things are determined by logic.

However, his conclusion was wrong.

That principle leads to the Catholic and not the atheistic world-view.