The Great Big Arguments #8: Contingency

Question from Zach:
Hi all. I’ve recently come out about my atheism to my Catholic ( and extremely intolerant) family. Their biggest “proof” of god is the argument from contingency. Now I’ve read up on the atheist refutation of this argument but I found it extremely confusing, thus I cannot explain it to my parents. A clear concise explanation of why this argument is false would be appreciated.

Answer by SmartLX:
Thanks for giving me a reason to write about this one, Zach. I might never have got around to it otherwise.

For those who came in late, the argument from contingency attempts to establish the necessity of a god given the idea that the universe is contingent on a god, that is, that the universe couldn’t exist without one. The formal argument comes in many forms, so here for instance is the one William Lane Craig uses in his book Reasonable Faith. He based it on an old cosmological argument by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. This is likely to be close to the one your parents know, and people would probably refer me to Craig if I dismissed any other version.

1. Anything that exists has an explanation for its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation for its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1,3).
5. Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God (from 2,4).

There are several straightforward problems with this.
– It can be seen as a time-independent version of the more popular cosmological argument, one which allows for an eternal universe which is still caused by, or “contingent” on, something or other. Most of the objections to that argument also apply to this one.
– There is no guarantee that the universe needs an external cause or an explanation at all. God apparently doesn’t, and He does just fine. If you can assert that God is uncaused, there’s really no way to rule out the same quality in the universe itself, except by special pleading.
– If the universe (or multiverse) does need an external cause, it’s a huge leap to say that the only possible cause is a god. Even if other ongoing matter-making entities (like the quantum foam) hadn’t been hypothesised, it would be impossible to rule out the infinite as-yet-unimagined possibilities and be certain that the particular hypothetical construct known as a god has to be the reason we exist.
– The explanation given for the existence of the universe is not just a god, but the God. If the argument were otherwise entirely valid and sound, it would still only establish the existence of a deistic creator god. Arguing for a theistic god that continues to exert its influence today, let alone the one and only Yahweh, God of Abraham, takes a lot more than that.

Best of luck with your parents. If their version of the argument from contingency is different enough to this that what I’ve written isn’t much help to you, give us the specific argument in a comment.

12 thoughts on “The Great Big Arguments #8: Contingency”

  1. I would like to offer a short, friendly response to your objections:

    1. Objections to the more popular “cosmological” argument apply to this argument as well.

    Having read your article on the cosmological argument, more correctly the kalam cosmological argument, I must say that I disagree with you. While the KCA is not compatible with an eternal universe, the argument from contingency is compatible with an eternal universe. For we may still ask, why does this eternal universe exist rather than just nothing? All of your other objections do not apply to this argument.

    2. If God does not have an explanation of His existence, then there is no reason to think that the universe has an explanation of its existence either.

    This objection is simply misunderstood. Take a careful look at premise 1: anything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature, or in an external cause. We are not saying that everything that exists has an external cause, only that everything has an explanation of its existence. These terms do not mean the same thing, because something can exist by a necessity of its own nature and that would be the explanation of its existence.

    So it is with God. He exists by a necessity of His own nature, and so cannot have an external cause. Notice that the theist is not making God an exception to premise 1.

    3. Even if the universe has an external cause, there is no reason to identify this cause as God.

    As before, I must disagree. Think of what we mean, in this context, by the word “universe.” We mean all space, all matter, all time, and all energy. Therefore, an external explanation for the existence of the universe must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, uncaused and beginningless. There are only two types of entities which fit this profile: unembodied minds, and abstract objects (numbers, functions, propositions, etc.) But abstract objects do not stand in causal relations and so cannot act as the cause of the universe. Part of the definition of an abstract object is causal impotence.

    It therefore follows that only a necessary, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, uncaused, and beginningless Mind could be the cause of the universe. Certainly this being merits the title “God.” You say that perhaps there is another candidate for the explanation for the existence of the universe that has not yet been imagined. Of course that’s possible, but there is no reason to think so. I would argue that because there is no conceivable third alternative to choose from for an explanation for the existence of the universe, then there likely isn’t one. Obviously conceivable entities are to be preferred to inconceivable entities!

    4. This argument does not prove that the Creator of the universe is Yahweh.

    I agree with you! The argument was never intended to establish the existence of the Biblical God, only a general theistic God. For that you would need other arguments and evidence. Keep in mind that deism is a subdivision of theism, and so there is no inconsistency in saying that the God proven in this argument is a theistic God. Complaining that an argument doesn’t prove everything you want it to does nothing to question what it does prove: a necessary, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, uncaused, beginningless Mind.

    Consider these things.

  2. Hi Miles, thanks for joining in. Let’s take a look here.

    1. As I said, the argument from contingency is essentially a version of the cosmological argument which allows for an eternal universe. While objections to the assumption of a non-eternal universe therefore do not apply, any other objection applicable to one argument is applicable to the other, for example the following three. Each one is of course arguable, but there is definitely an argument to be had, which you and I will now do to some extent.

    2. The complete objection, which perhaps I didn’t lay out, uses both parts of the first premise.
    – If the universe lacks a known explanation, then so does God.
    – If God can be assumed to exist by the necessity of His own poorly-defined supposed nature, with no further evidence or explanation, then so can the universe.

    In no arrangement of these ideas is the universe necessarily contingent on a god that isn’t itself contingent on anything else. There’s no reason to terminate the regress there and not before or after, except by an unwarranted assertion about the nature of God – in other words, special pleading.

    3. Where did this option of an unembodied mind come from, if not a premature assumption of the conclusion you’re trying to reach? We’ve never known of an unembodied mind, so the idea that one can exist outside of time, space and energy has no precedent and is speculation at best. The fact that it’s superficially conceivable just means it’s something we’re capable of making up.

    If, IF the universe has a cause external to all time, space and energy, we are completely in the dark as to its nature except for your list of things that it lacks. It can hardly be ascribed any positive attributes at all, if any. It certainly can’t be assumed to have any of the important qualities of a theistic god, like intelligence, a sense of purpose or any interest whatsoever in the activites of us humans.

    4. I’m glad you agree with this one, but it had to be pointed out for consideration regardless because there are plenty of apologists who will happily jump from any argument for a god straight to their particular god, if their audience will let them. There must be a god, they say, so read your Bible and pray to Jesus.

    1. The universe being physical requires that there is an explanation for its existence regardless of whether or not we are aware of that explanation. Logically, the universe, whether or not we are aware of it, does have to have a physical reason why it exists. To exempt the universe from having an explanation is to commit what has been named, “The Taxicab Fallacy.”

      However, non-physical things exist by way of their own necessity. This is a philosophic tenant. For example, 1+1=2, is a true statement considered to be necessarily true. There is no reason or explanation necessary, as there are no instances where 1+1 does not equal 2. Likewise the statement, there are no married bachelors, is also necessarily true. God, being a non-physical being does not require a physical explanation. So, exempting god is not a case of special pleading.

      The Argument from Contingency is considered an air-tight argument philosophically. Hope this helps.

      1. Hi Tim, I’ve never bought the notion of ‘necessary beings’ and concepts such as ‘necessarily true’ primarily because I’ve never encountered an argument that doesn’t rely on special pleading. I’ll try to explain what I mean.

        Tim: “To exempt the universe from having an explanation is to commit what has been named, “The Taxicab Fallacy.””

        This is wrong. Observing that we don’t have enough data to come to a conclusion is not “exempting the universe from having an explanation”. It’s observing that we don’t have enough data to come to a conclusion. Also, even if that did occur it would not constitute the ‘taxicab fallacy’. This refers to employing a particular line of argument and then disowning it and shifting to a new argument when the going gets tough. Like theists often do, e.g., when claiming specific characteristics for God. When someone points out that the characteristics cited are logically contradictory they sometimes shift to a generic God who is simplicity itself, the ‘ground of all being’ or such-like. That’s the taxicab fallacy.

        “1+1=2, is a true statement considered to be necessarily true”

        Mathematics is a tool for describing reality via a model. In the case of 1 + 1 = 2 (actually an exemplar of Peano axioms) it accords perfectly well with empirical observation. Surely this statement is considered true because it models the real world. It’s a basic empirical fact. Now I can envisage an occasion when someone doubted that a God existed but was persuaded toward theism by a logical argument that God’s existence is ‘necessarily true’. But I cannot envisage an occasion when someone doubted that 1 + 1 = 2 but eventually decided that it was true because of any argument that it is ‘necessarily true’. The empirical observation that it was a reliable arithmetical calculation must always have come first. You are equating two completely different things here; one which is empirically verifiable (arithmetical operations) and one which is not (God). Thus, we can naturally formulate arithmetic operations in the form of axioms that model the physical world. But we cannot do that for every conceptual framework. An example:

        S1: ‘More’ is always a greater quantity than ‘less’
        S2: 2 > 1

        S2 and S1 convey exactly the same mathematical concept though S2 is more informative (it is in mathematical language) than S1 (which relies on semantics). Therefore: if 1 + 1 = 2 is ‘necessarily true’, then S2 must be ‘necessarily true’ and if S2 is ‘necessarily true’ then S1 must be ‘necessarily true’ as well. Agreed? So is it your position that all true statements, regardless of the language they are conveyed in, ‘necessarily true’? Surely not……

        There’s no evidence, beyond intuition, that arithmetical operations are special and so ‘necessarily true’, is there? Arithmetical operations are simply the good fit we have achieved by our systematisation of observations. You certainly can’t use mathematics to validate mathematics and if arithmetical axioms emanate from metaphysical (or even other mathematical) axioms alone (and not from empirical observation) we are saying no more than the Peano axioms themselves emanate from axioms. If so, by what independent criteria can we consider 1 + 1 = 2 as being necessarily true? In other words, what exactly are these metaphysical axioms based on?

        “Likewise the statement, there are no married bachelors, is also necessarily true.”

        Well, the universality of that statement is not something many contemporary philosophers who specialise in logic would agree with. Classical two-valued logic, and the law of non-contradiction, especially, has come under philosophical attack in recent years. Consider the following syllogism:

        P1: All subatomic particles are invisible to the naked eye
        P2: Human beings are composed solely of subatomic particles
        C: Therefore: Human beings are invisible to the naked eye

        The two premises are empirically, verifiably true, both considered in isolation and together. The conclusion follows lawfully from the two premises and so, according to what I glean to be your assessment of logic, it must (by necessity) be ‘necessarily true’.

        But it’s not. It’s an epic fail for logic, despite all the rules of logic having been met and all the concepts being independently verifiable. Now, try to formulate syllogisms based on two-valued logic involving concepts that are not independently verifiable such as, say, ‘God’ or ‘omnipotence’ or ‘contingency’ etc. What method could you possibly use to assure others that the conclusions you have reached re ‘necessarily true’ and ‘contingent’ are themselves ‘necessarily true’? Even if you were able to formulate a series of connected internally coherent logical arguments for some metaphysical claim all with two empirically valid premises there is still no guarantee the conclusion would be true, per the example above. If you look at the literature arguing for something that is ‘metaphysically possible’ it invariably boils down to what is intuitively acceptable.

        Two-valued logic (perhaps any logic) is simply not up to the job of reliably delineating truth even within of the spatial-temporal scale our brains have evolved to experience, never mind within some nebulous, hypothetical metaphysical realm. Contemporary logicians such as Graham Priest, Catarina Dutilh Novaes, Otavio Bueno, Mark Colyvan, Penelope Rush and Jay Garfield have all written extensively of the “glaring failures” of Aristotelian, two-valued logic (e.g., try using classical logic to underpin calculations of electron spin and direction: it will also give a false result, likewise computer languages just won’t work) and suggest that we must reformulate toward a logic more akin to Catusgoti to make any further headway on the most important scientific and philosophical issues. Obviously I agree with them. I highly recommend this paper:

        http://www.colyvan.com/papers/LNC.pdf

        “God, being a non-physical being does not require a physical explanation. So, exempting god is not a case of special pleading.”

        I’m sorry, that is as fine an example of special pleading as I’ve seen. You can’t define something into existence. How do you even know God (if such exists) is a non-physical being? How do you know we aren’t living in a simulation created by physical, sentient beings? And that God (if such exists) is also a part of that simulation? What methodology would you use to ascertain whether this was, or was not, the case? How would you verify the results obtained? I have little idea how this could be done with any certainty and I doubt anyone else has either.

        “The Argument from Contingency is considered an air-tight argument philosophically.”

        This is not true. I don’t know how much theology and philosophy you’ve read but I can think, off the top of my head, of probably a half dozen atheist philosophers who have published well-cited papers to the contrary (e.g., Quentin Smith, Graham Oppy) and even several Christian philosophers who have published cogent counter-arguments. Wes Morriston immediately comes to mind with his papers on the Kalam version of the argument which are held in high regard. Of course, Richard Swinburne argues that that there are no good deductive arguments for God at all and attempted to counter by introducing p-inductive arguments.

  3. You seem to feel that the following is “an epic fail for logic”:
    “P1: All subatomic particles are invisible to the naked eye
    P2: Human beings are composed solely of subatomic particles
    C: Therefore: Human beings are invisible to the naked eye

    However, your example is simply a conclusion that does not follow from two true premises or, in other words, a false conclusion.

    Likewise, I read the article you suggested. http://www.colyvan.com/papers/LNC.pdf
    What I see is someone conflating a contradiction in quantum theory as making a fundamental principle of logic incorrect. What someone should have seen was that the mistake is obviously in quantum theory, not in logic. The fact that quantum theory is a theory should have given them a big clue.

    Since you deny the fundamentals of logic, in this case mankind’s understanding of what is contingent truth vs. necessary truth, there is no further debating the subject. Your arguments are illogical. I still hope this somehow helps you.

  4. Tim, you haven’t really addressed any of my arguments or questions, have you?

    Tim: “You seem to feel that the following is “an epic fail for logic”

    ‘epic fail’ might be a little hyperbolic but I didn’t invent it, the phrase came from a professional philosopher discussing some aspects of classical logic.

    Tim: “a conclusion that does not follow from two true premises”

    Really? What information is contained in either premise that allows you to claim that the conclusion does not logically follow from the two true premises? Don’t just assert so, point it out. If instead I had argued:

    P1: Oxygen is invisible to the naked eye
    P2: Oxygen is composed solely of subatomic particles
    C: Therefore: oxygen is invisible to the naked eye

    would you have claimed that the conclusion does not follow from two true premises? Of course you wouldn’t. So what’s the structural difference between the two syllogisms? There is none.

    The ONLY grounds you can possibly have for being sure that the conclusion of the first syllogism is false and the conclusion of the second syllogism is true is by considering information additional to the arguments, in this case by your prior observations that human beings always present as opaque objects and air always presents as invisible. If you don’t agree with this, please state why. What if I had argued:

    P1: All shremigans are invisible to the naked eye
    P2: Popplehausers are composed solely of shremigans
    C: Therefore: popplehausers are invisible to the naked eye

    would you have claimed that the conclusion does not logically follow from the information contained within the premises? If you would, then on what grounds? That you don’t know what these things are? Irrelevant to a purely logical procedure. That shremigans and popplehausers have not been adequately conceptualised in a way that elicits consensual agreement among all philosophers and/or scientists? And that this allows for any internally consistent, unfalsifiable argument to substitute for empirical evidence? Welcome to my view of metaphysics……

    So: in the absence of information additional to an argument in support of a wholly metaphysical claim (e.g., god is non-physical; x is a ‘necessary truth’) on what grounds can you claim that the conclusion is ‘necessarily true’, EVEN IF the premises themselves are verifiable AND the conclusion follows from the premises? How can you do this if we cannot even reliably achieve this for non-metaphysical claims? Don’t simply assert that you are able to verify a logically-derived conclusion re a metaphysical matter; construct an actual argument, something we can get our teeth into.

    Tim: “The fact that quantum theory is a theory should have given them a big clue”.

    ?????????

    THEORY (n): a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, acquired via systematic observations and experimentation which have been repeatedly tested and confirmed.

    I would have thought the opposite: the fact that our understanding of quantum mechanics and electrodynamics has achieved the status of ‘theory’ actually STRENGTHENS the case for no longer considering classical logic to be an adequate and reliable tool for all aspects of scientific investigation.

    Tim: “Since you deny the fundamentals of logic………….in this case mankind’s understanding of what is contingent truth vs. necessary truth……….Your arguments are illogical”

    I don’t deny the fundamentals of logic; I’m questioning the notion of the universality of a highly specific subset of logic. As do many contemporary philosophers. Perhaps I didn’t make that clear enough. I question whether that highly specific subset of logic is universally applicable to both physical and metaphysical concerns (that is, if metaphysical phenomena actually do exist; I’ve yet to see any evidence of this outside of errrr….logic). As do many contemporary philosophers.

    Although you are quick to make simplistic yet grandiose assertions, nowhere do you actually expand on your assertions, e.g., “non-physical things exist by way of their own necessity” (really, what, all non-physical things?); “the Argument from Contingency is considered an air-tight argument philosophically” (No, a cursory review of the literature would reveal that is not even remotely the case – philosophically or scientifically) “your example is simply a conclusion that does not follow from two true premises (how so?); “the mistake is obviously in quantum theory, not in logic (I have to admit, I laughed at that one); “mankind’s understanding of what is contingent truth vs. necessary truth” (want to run that one by a Buddhist philosopher? Hint: they nearly all don’t accept the notion that such a difference exists. Or does mankind mean ethnically European and monotheist to you and the philosophical schools of others are inferior?); “your arguments are illogical” (you’re equating ‘illogical’ with ‘subjectively counter-intuitive’, surely?).

    Might I recommend two more papers that might explain better where I’m coming from (especially the first). Neither is as technical as the first. I hope they help:

    Rush, P. (2012). Logic or reason? Logic and Logical Philosophy, 21: 127-163.

    Brady, R. & Rush, P. (2009). Four basic logical issues. The Review of Symbolic Logic, 2: 488-508.

  5. Erratum to the post above:

    P1: Subatomic particles are invisible to the naked eye
    P2: Oxygen is composed solely of subatomic particles
    C: Therefore: oxygen is invisible to the naked eye

    I had a senior moment!

  6. Gary,

    Consider this example:
    The president of the United States must be 35 years of age or older.
    I, Tim ODonnell, am 35 years of age or older.
    Therefore, I am president of the United States.

    This is an example of two true premises, but a false conclusion. No problem understanding that one right?
    Please, take a basic philosophy course or a course in logic. Once you understand logic, you’ll see why your arguments are nonsense.

    1. Tim: “This is an example of two true premises, but a false conclusion. No problem understanding that one right?”

      Let’s do this in small steps. Here’s a rewording of both our syllogisms to make them more exacting. I’ll start with yours:

      P1: All Presidents of the United States (A COMPLETE GROUP) must be 35 years of age or older.
      P2: I, Tim ODonnell (A SUBGROUP WHO MIGHT POSSIBLY BE A MEMBER OF THE COMPLETE GROUP; EXCEPTING ALL OTHER POSSIBLE CANDIDATES FOR MEMBERSHIP OF THE SUBGROUP) am 35 years of age or older.
      C: Therefore, I am president of the United States.

      This syllogism obviously leads to a demonstrably false conclusion because it commits the fallacies of ‘composition’ and ‘false equivalence’; i.e., the conclusion depends on the assumption that the properties of a subgroup (Tim O’Donnell being 35 years or over) equate to the properties of the whole set (all Presidents must be 35 years of age or over). Now, to the rewording of my argument:

      P1: (ALL; WITHOUT EXCEPTION) subatomic particles are invisible to the naked eye
      P2: (ALL; WITHOUT EXCEPTION) human beings are composed solely of subatomic particles
      C: Therefore: (ALL; WITHOUT EXCEPTION) human beings are invisible to the naked eye

      Can you really not see a structural difference between those two arguments? If not, let me put things another way. I assume you’re perfectly happy with arguments of the form:

      All A are B.
      C is an A.
      Therefore, C is a B.

      and that you agree that this logical form is perfectly valid. This means, of course, that if the premises are true the conclusion MUST be true (according to you, ‘necessarily true’, not accidentally or provisionally true). Now, if we map this logical form onto your syllogism in the order the variables are presented such that: let A = all presidents; B = 35 years of age or older; C = Tim O’Donnell. We now have:

      P1: All presidents of the United States must be 35 years or older (All A are B)
      P2: Tim O’Donnell is President of the United States (C is an A)
      C: Therefore: Tim O’Donnell is 35 years of age or older (C is a B)

      We now get a perfectly sound and valid argument that renders a true conclusion, don’t we? But note: this IS NOT the argument that you gave. The argument you gave was flawed. Agreed? Now let’s change what the symbols represent and have them map directly onto my argument. Let A = subatomic particles; B = invisible to the naked eye; C = human beings. We now have:

      P1: Subatomic particles are invisible to the naked eye (All A are B)
      P2: Human beings are composed entirely of subatomic particles (C is an A)
      C: Therefore: Human beings are invisible to the naked eye (C is a B)

      Do you not now agree we have a sound and valid argument that renders a demonstrably false conclusion? Yet this mapped argument IS IDENTICAL in form and content to the original argument I gave and to which you have yet to offer any evidence of being flawed.

      My argument appears valid and yours certainly isn’t, yet both yield a demonstrably false conclusion. So, if there’s nothing awry about logic itself, instead of resorting to ad-hominem posturing, please specify exactly what you find in my syllogism that is illogical.

      I’ll pre-empt you. I was hoping you’d make the point and I’d be able to make my counter-point but I’m beginning to suspect that you can’t actually identify the potential flaw, hence the ad-hominem posturing. The only viable counter I’m aware of involves, ironically, the ‘fallacy of composition’, i.e., P2 is flawed on the grounds that C is not an A but a collection of A’s. In other words, a human being can be viewed as a complete set, and subatomic particles are a subset of that complete set. We cannot assume, therefore, that the properties of a subset will necessarily match the properties of a complete set. This approach is problematical for the theist, however. It might carry some philosophical weight, but it’s dubious on scientific grounds, but let’s ignore that for time being. What if I granted you that my argument is logically flawed due to committing a ‘fallacy of composition’? OK, I’ll do that. But that victory leaves some important arguments commonly employed by theists automatically similarly flawed, because they also routinely assume that what is true of the parts is ‘necessarily’ true of the whole. e.g.,

      P1: Human brains are made of subatomic particles
      P2: Subatomic particles are not conscious
      C: Therefore: The human brain cannot be the source of human consciousness

      Of course, you’ll find no consideration of emergent properties in the rules of logic, despite the fact of their existence. Obviously, this must be a problem with the mathematics, physics and biology; no need to reconsider the logic! What about what is probably the best known argument from contingency?

      P1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause
      P2: The universe began to exist
      C: Therefore: the universe has a cause

      We can legitimately reword arguments from contingency, such as the Kalaam argument as follows:

      P1: Everything (ALL; WITHOUT EXCEPTION) that begins to exist has a cause
      P2: The universe (EVERYTHING MATERIAL; WITHOUT EXCEPTION) began to exist
      C: Therefore: the universe (EVERYTHING MATERIAL; WITHOUT EXCEPTION) has a cause

      Notice how my syllogism maintains the (ALL; WITHOUT EXCEPTION) clause throughout. But the Kalaam argument shifts from P1 (ALL; WITHOUT EXCEPTION) to P2 (EVERYTHING MATERIAL; WITHOUT EXCEPTION). So, if someone is going to argue that the observed properties of a subset (the invisibility of subatomic particles) cannot logically be assumed to obtain for the complete set (human beings; the entity which houses those subatomic particles), which is something we know to be empirically true, how can you then argue from contingency, i.e., that the observed causal properties of all subsets (i.e., objects and groups of objects within the universe) can be assumed to obtain for the complete set (the universe itself; the very object that houses all these subsets)?

      1. Tim,
        I’ve thought about this a little more and I’ll try a different tack, taking things back to bare bones. I’m aware I can be wordy and I’ll try to be more succinct. It concerns me that you declined to identify any flaws in my argument as this is an interesting contemporary field of study with potentially important implications for philosophy. I’m going to compare two syllogisms:

        SYLLOGISM 1: Let A = subatomic particles; B = invisible to the naked eye; C = oxygen

        P1: Subatomic particles are invisible to the naked eye (All A are B)
        P2: Oxygen is composed entirely of subatomic particles (C is an A)
        C1: Therefore: oxygen is invisible to the naked eye (C is a B)

        SYLLOGISM 2: Let A = subatomic particles; B = invisible to the naked eye; C = human beings.

        P1: Subatomic particles are invisible to the naked eye (All A are B)
        P2: Human beings are composed entirely of subatomic particles (C is an A)
        C2: Therefore: Human beings are invisible to the naked eye (C is a B)

        Now, your claim is that the effectiveness of classical logic is irrefutable under ALL conditions in which it is properly applied and that we can deduce ‘necessary truths’ A-PRIORI in ALL such cases. My counter argument is essentially this:

        We cannot assume to deduce ‘necessary truths’ a-priori. We have no way of confirming whether or not we have deduced a ‘necessary truth’ without putting that conclusion to empirical test a-posteriori. Thus any claims regarding metaphysics cannot be considered to be ‘necessary truths’, and should be considered ‘provisionally true’ at best.

        As a specimen case, I have provided you with two non-metaphysical oriented syllogisms each of which has the exact same perfectly valid logical form. All premises are empirically true; we have merely changed one of the variables (oxygen to human beings). That should in no way adversely affect logical validity.

        Yet C1 is demonstrably true and C2 is demonstrably false. We know this by empirical observation only. We cannot possibly know this pattern of results a-priori; nothing in the content of the syllogisms could lead us to deduce that syllogism 2 yields a false conclusion if we accept that syllogism 1 yields a true conclusion. So if, as you claim, this result is not due to an inherent shortcoming in classical logic, it must be due to some flaw in syllogism 2. Note that, in this particular analysis, we cannot invoke a ‘fallacy of composition’ as the flaw because if that was the case, it would apply equally to both syllogisms. This would render C1 true merely by ‘accident’, suggesting that one or both premises are untrue. Not the case, I’m sure you’ll agree. You are left, therefore, with only two viable options:

        (i) Classical (bivalent)logic has inherent shortcomings; it cannot reliably address all physical conditions and/or all physical relationships
        (ii) There is something inherently wrong about syllogism 2 ONLY

        It is your contention that (i) is not the case. Therefore, THE ONUS IS ON YOU to provide evidence as to why (ii) obtains. So far, you have declined to do so, preferring instead to deflect attention away from your burden of proof by suggesting I “take a basic philosophy course or a course in logic……..your arguments are nonsense”. This is not, as I’m sure any reasonable person would agree, anywhere near a cogent and reasoned response.

  7. Gary,

    There is a reason why I have recommended that you take a basic philosophy or logic course. You have demonstrated that you do not understand:
    1. That true premises don’t necessarily lead to true conclusions.
    2. What contingent and necessary truths mean.
    3. That logical tenets are not negotiable. When something conflicts with a logical tenet, it’s the something else that is wrong, not the rules of logic.

    This is why I provided you with a poor argument. So you could see the fallacy you are proposing. Instead, you continue to advocate a flawed logical argument.

    Furthermore, its not just flawed, its deceptive in nature. Either you are being deceptive yourself, or someone else has fooled you with a deceptive argument. Here is why I say this:

    There is nothing about atoms that make them invisible to the naked eye. It simply is not a property of atoms to be invisible. However, it is a property of naked eyes to only be able to see things of certain scale. The naked eye is not able to discern many objects, such as germs, virii, single-cell organisms, dust mites, all of which are considerable larger than atoms.

    Does this not demonstrate to you that you don’t understand what you are saying and should seek instruction? The comment area of a blog is not conducive to providing you with the instruction you need: a basic philosophy course or a course in logic. Please, just stop arguing your case and do it!

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