f The Wittenberg Door: Avicenna and the Law of Non-Contradiction

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Avicenna and the Law of Non-Contradiction

Many Postmodern thinkers have taken to denying the law of non-contradiction. This law of thought states that A cannot be non-A at the same time and in the same sense.

Despite their protestations, Postmodern-types violate this law when they claim that truth cannot be known. Since they mean for this claim to be taken as true (despite their verbal smoke and mirrors), they are saying that it’s the case that truth can be known and it’s the case that truth cannot be known.

Folly Revealed

With all the ills Islam has brought to humanity, I’ve found something commendable. Muslim philosopher Avicenna (Ibn Sina) deftly shows the folly of denying the law of non-contradiction.

Anyone who denies the Law of Non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as to not be burned.

Avicenna (980-1037)

I recommend setting this to memory for use next time you encounter someone denying the law of non-contradiction—or if you just simply want to recite flowery Islamic prose.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Protoprotestant said...

But I would argue there are times when we must lay aside the law of non-contradiction...when submission to the Word of God demands it.

The Incarnation, the Trinity, and many other Christian doctrines present us with a dynamic that is not illogical, but supra-logical and the law of non-contradiction is incapable of interacting with the data.

Bringing the law of non-contradiction into theology and especially speculative theology, or inductive systematics can be quite dangerous and overthrow the supremacy of the text.

John A.

5:42 AM  
Blogger The Wittenberg Door said...

I think I disagree with you a bit, John. I'm of the mind that the laws of logic reflect God's thinking, so I don't that God would violate the law of non-contradiction. The incarnation would only be a contradiction if we were saying that Christ is only man and only God. Likewise the Trinity would only be a contradiction if we were saying that there is only one God and yet there are three Gods. Christ being 100% man and 100% God, and God being three persons who are the one God is indeed mysterious, but it isn't contradictory. Thanks for weighing in.

--Shawn

3:46 PM  
Blogger Protoprotestant said...

Hello,

Well, I assumed you would disagree based off of your appreciation for Avicenna. (smile)

I agree the laws of logic are valid and useful in the temporal physical realm.

And yet in the realm of metaphysics if there are doctrines incapable of being explained or reconciled with the laws of logic, then they are indeed insufficient.

If they're mysteries, which they are...they are supra-logical and thus beyond the ability of the laws of logic to discern.

Not a contradiction, but a category beyond the laws of logic.

Like I said I'm uncomfortable with these laws being employed because through syllogistic formation, deduction and inductive theological construction. We can quickly get far away from the text. I can think of quite a few issues where Reformed theology has done this, and gotten into tangles due to questions that shouldn't have been asked.

That's all. I didn't mean to make a big stink about it.

As far as the laws of logic reflecting God's thinking?.....I've heard many say that, but I'm just not sure. I would say the laws of logic are empirically observed laws of nature. That's controversial to some, but I think tying God to the laws of logic....reduces Him somewhat. I would argue they are natural mechanisms He employs for the universe to operate. That would in some sense mean it reflects Him....but I don't know how far to go with that.

Can you think of any texts we could look to that would inform us in this regard? I'm genuinely asking.

Things to think about....

Thanks for your reply. I will continue to ponder these things.

Peace,

John A.

6:08 PM  
Blogger The Wittenberg Door said...

Thanks for the thoughtful reply, John. Here's my response. (One note: I took the liberty of combining some of your comments on similar topics to make it easier for me to respond.)

I agree the laws of logic are valid and useful in the temporal physical realm . . . I would say the laws of logic are empirically observed laws of nature . . . I would argue they are natural mechanisms He employs for the universe to operate.

I think there's a category error here. The laws of logic are laws of thought. Thoughts aren’t physical nor are they empirically observable. Therefore, the laws of logic aren’t physical nor are they empirically observable.

I would also argue that they aren’t mechanistic. Gravity is mechanistic--it makes particles pull towards each other. The laws of logic, on the other hand, are tools, not mechanisms. It's the artist, not the brush, that paints the portrait.

And yet in the realm of metaphysics if there are doctrines incapable of being explained or reconciled with the laws of logic, then they are indeed insufficient.

I'm afraid that you've lost me here. What doctrines do you have in mind?

If they're mysteries, which they are...they are supra-logical and thus beyond the ability of the laws of logic to discern. Not a contradiction, but a category beyond the laws of logic.

The fact that some doctrines, such as the incarnation or the Trinity, are mysteries has to do with our limitations, not the laws of logic. God certainly understands them, so if I am correct that they reflect the way His mind works, then they are not beyond (or "supra-logical") those laws.

Like I said I'm uncomfortable with these laws being employed because through syllogistic formation, deduction and inductive theological construction. We can quickly get far away from the text. I can think of quite a few issues where Reformed theology has done this, and gotten into tangles due to questions that shouldn't have been asked.

But are the issues with the laws of logic? Or with the theologians? I would need examples in order to evaluate.

As far as the laws of logic reflecting God's thinking?..... but I think tying God to the laws of logic....reduces Him somewhat . . . Can you think of any texts we could look to that would inform us in this regard?

Here's my case in a nutshell: Let's use the Law of Identity--A cannot be non-A at the same time and in the same sense. Consider the statement, "Jesus is God." If we also claim that "Jesus is not God" we would be violating this law.

Here's the problem: If this law does not reflect God's thinking, and so doesn't apply to Him, then, to God, Jesus is God and Jesus is not God. Now we know that the first statement is true and the second false. But if God can hold contradictory beliefs, but teaches us that only one is true (in this case that Jesus is God), then isn't He lying to us and deceiving us as to what constitutes reality (something He says He can't do: Heb. 6:18; Tit. 1:2)? If He can hold contradictory beliefs, can we trust Him? If something can be both true and false to Him, doesn't that make our understanding of reality an illusion?

We can run this exercise with each of the laws. As it turns out, I think denying that the laws of logic reflect God's thinking is the position that reduces Him. I certainly could be wrong, so I'm interested in your response.

3:00 PM  

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