Reader Dka wrote me an email:
“I see many faith sites asserting that logic proves that the immaterial exists. How would you respond to this. I read where you cited nominalism but I wondered if you could flesh it out a bit for me.”
There are indeed a number of websites and individuals out there arguing that formal logic is immaterial (“not physical”). And they use this as a base to build an argument for the existence of God. Is logic immaterial?
Logic, at its basic level, is nothing more than statements. Take the law of identity, a fundamental law of logic. The law of identity states that “A equals A.” The statement is black marks on paper (or, in this particular case, pixels on a computer screen).
A presuppositionalist may point out that there must be more to it than this: If I write “A equals A” on a piece of paper and then light the paper on fire, the written statement ceases to exist, but nonetheless the law of identity still exists (A still equals A even if there is not a written statement of it).
This only means that the statement represents something about reality, and what it represents about reality is simply that any individual material thing is perfectly described by this law (a book is a book, a hat is a hat, “A” equals “A” and so on).
The statement is material, what the statement represents is material. There is no immaterial aspect of logic. More to the point, though, even if logic was immaterial, that does not necessarily establish that God exists. It would mean that matter existed and that some non-material things (like logic) existed, but God may not. Some proponents of this argument haven’t realized this yet. Others have taken up the task of trying to show that we could deduce the existence of God from the proposition that logic was immaterial. They are argue that if logic is not material, it is conceptual, and if conceptual, it must be “housed” in a mind (in other words, logic could only exist in someone’s mind). Whose mind is the source of logic? The argument goes that it can’t be the mind of any human being, which I won’t repeat because the reasons for this claim are discussed here. From this point it is argued that the only mind that could be the source of logic is God.
I’m sure that if you’ve read thus far you’ve already seen some weak links in this chain of argument. For instance, it is asserted that if logic is not material, it must be conceptual. Who says? Indeed, one proponent of this argument defended this dichotomy by saying, “Well, if it’s not material and it is not conceptual, then what is it?” Maybe there are more than two options. After all, concepts depend on a mind, but logic doesn’t seem to fit this bill: If no minds existed (including the mind of God) a rock would still be a rock. So there’d be excellent justification for creating a third category of existence for logic, if it turned out that logic didn’t fit into the material framework. Placing logic in a third category would undercut a key premise in the transcendental argument, which nullify acceptance of the conclusion.