The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God

by Matt Slick

This is an attempt to demonstrate the existence of God using the Laws of Logic, also referred to as Logical Absolutes.1  The oversimplified argument, which is expanded in outline form below, goes as follows:  Logical absolutes exist.  Logical absolutes are conceptual by nature--are not dependent on space, time, physical properties, or human nature.  They are not the product of the physical universe (space, time, matter) because if the physical universe were to disappear, logical absolutes would still be true.  Logical Absolutes are not the product of human minds because human minds are different--not absolute.  But, since logical absolutes are always true everywhere and not dependent upon human minds, it must be an absolute transcendent mind that is authoring them.  This mind is called God.  Furthermore, if there are only two options to account for something, i.e., God and no God2 3, and one of them is negated, then by default the other position is validated.  Therefore, part of the argument is that the atheist position cannot account for the existence of logical absolutes from its worldview.

  1. Logical Absolutes
    1. Law of Identity
      1. Something is what it is and isn't what it is not.  Something that exists has a specific nature.
      2. For example, a cloud is a cloud--not a rock.  A fish is a fish--not a car.
    2. Law of Non-Contradiction
      1. Something cannot be both true and false at the same time in the same sense.
      2. For example, to say that the cloud is not a cloud would be a contradiction since it would violate the first law.  The cloud cannot be what it is and not what it is at the same time.
    3. Law of Excluded Middle (LEM) 
      1. A statement is either true or false without a middle ground.
      2. "I am alive" is either true or false.  "You are pregnant" is either true or false.
        1. Note one: "This statement is false" is not a valid statement (not logically true) since it is self-refuting and is dealt with by the Law of Non-contradiction.  Therefore, it does not fall under the LEM category since it is a self-contradiction.
        2. Note two:  If we were to ignore note one, then there is a possible paradox here.  The sentence "this statement is false" does not fit this Law since if it is true, then it is false.  Paradoxes occur only when we have absolutes.  Nevertheless, the LEM is valid except for the paradoxical statement cited.
        3. Note three:  If we again ignore note one and admit a paradox, then we must acknowledge that paradoxes exist only within the realm of absolutes.
  2. Logical absolutes are truth statements such as:
    1. That which exists has attributes and a nature.
      1. A cloud exists and has the attributes of whiteness, vapor, etc.  It has the nature of water and air.
      2. A rock is hard, heavy, and is composed of its rock material (granite, marble, sediment, etc.).
    2. Something cannot be itself and not itself at the same time.
      1. It cannot be true to state that a rock is not a rock.
    3. Something cannot bring itself into existence.
      1. In order for something to bring itself into existence, it has to have attributes in order to perform an action.  But if it has attributes, then it already has existence.  If something does not exist, it has no attributes and can perform no actions.  Therefore, something cannot bring itself into existence.
    4. Truth is not self-contradictory.
      1. It could not be true that you are reading this and not reading this at the same time in the same sense.  It is either true or false that you are reading this.
    5. Therefore, Logical Absolutes are absolutely true.  They are not subjectively true; that is, they are not sometimes true and sometimes false, depending on preference or situation.  Otherwise, they would not be absolute.
  3. Logical Absolutes form the basis of rational discourse.
    1. If the Logical Absolutes are not absolute, then truth cannot be known.
    2. If the Logical Absolutes are not absolute, then no rational discourse can occur.
      1. For example, I could say that a square is a circle (violating the law of identity), or that I am and am not alive in the same sense at the same time (violating the law of non-contradiction).
      2. But no one would expect to have a rational conversation with someone who spoke in contradictory statements.
    3. If Logical Absolutes are not always true, then it might be true that something can contradict itself, which would make truth unknowable and rational discourse impossible.  But, saying that something can contradict itself can't be true.
    4. But since we know things are true (I exist, you are reading this), then we can conclude that logical statements are true.  Otherwise, we would not be able to rationally discuss or know truth.
    5. If they are not the basis of rational discourse, then we cannot know truth or error since the laws that govern rationality are not absolute.  This would allow people to speak irrationally, i.e., blue sleeps faster than Wednesday.
  4. Logical Absolutes are transcendent.
    1. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on space.
      1. They do not stop being true dependent on location.  If we travel a million light years in a direction, logical absolutes are still true.
    2. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on time.
      1. They do not stop being true dependent on time.  If we travel a billion years in the future or past, logical absolutes are still true.
    3. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on people.  That is, they are not the product of human thinking.
      1. People's minds are different.  What one person considers to be absolute may not be what another considers to be absolute.  People often contradict each other.  Therefore, Logical Absolutes cannot be the product of human, contradictory minds.
      2. If Logical Absolutes were the product of human minds, they would cease to exist if people ceased to exist, which would mean they would be dependent on human minds.  But this cannot be so per the previous point.
  5. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on the material world.
    1. Logical Absolutes are not found in atoms, motion, heat, under rocks, etc.
    2. Logical Absolutes cannot be photographed, frozen, weighed, or measured.
    3. Logical Absolutes are not the product of the physical universe since that would mean they were contingent on atoms, motion, heat, etc., and that their nature was dependent on physical existence.
      1. If their nature were dependent upon physical existence, they would cease to exist when the physical universe ceases to exist.
      2. If they were properties of the universe, then they could be measured the same way heat, motion, mass, etc., are measured.  Since they cannot be measured, they are not properties of the universe.
    4. But, if the universe did not exist, logical absolutes are still true. 
      1. For example, if the universe did not exist, it would still be true that something cannot bring itself into existence and that if A=B and B=C, then A=C.  The condition of the universe does not effect these truths.
      2. For example, if the universe did not exist, it would still be true that something cannot be itself and not itself at the same time.
      3. Therefore, Logical Absolutes are not dependent on the material world.
  6. Logical Absolutes are conceptual by nature.
    1. Logic is a process of the mind.  Logical absolutes provide the framework for logical thought processes.  Therefore, it seems proper to say that Logical Absolutes are conceptual by nature since Logical Absolutes are truth statements about Logical things. 
      1. If you disagree that Logical Absolutes are conceptual by nature, then please explain what they are if not conceptual realities.
      2. If you cannot determine what they are, then how can you logically assert that they are not conceptual realities since logic is a process of the mind and logical absolutes are truth statements which are also products of the mind? Expanded:  Logical absolutes are either conceptual by nature, or they are not.
    2. If they are conceptual by nature, then they are not dependent upon the physical universe for their existence.
      1. If they are dependent on the physical universe for their existence, then are they said to be properties of the universe the same way that red is a property of an apple?
      2. If Logical Absolutes are said to be properties of the universe, then can they be measured the same way that other properties of the universe can be measured?  If they cannot, then how are they properties of the physical universe?
      3. If they are not properties of the universe and they are of the mind, then it seems proper to say that they are conceptual by nature, and that they depend on mind for their existence.
    3. If they are not conceptual by nature, then:
      1. What is their nature?
      2. If it is denied that Logical Absolutes are either conceptual or not conceptual, then this is impossible because "conceptual or not conceptual" entails all possible options.  Either Logical Absolutes are conceptual by nature or they are not.
      3. If they are not conceptual by nature, then what are they?  If it is not known what they are, then how can it be said what they are not since, it seems fair to say, that knowing what something is not also entails knowing something about what it is?
        1. For example, I know what water is.  If someone says that a piece of wood is water by nature, I would say that it is not.  If someone says that a frying pan is water by nature, I would say it is not.  If someone were to say to me that a "flursist" (a word I just made up that represents an unknown thing) is by nature hard, how then can I rationally deny such a claim by saying "I don't know what a flursist is, but I know it isn't hard"?  The response would be, "Since you don't know what it is, how do you know what it is not?"  Is the response correct or not correct?
  7. Thoughts reflect the mind
    1. A person's thoughts are the product of that person's mind.
    2. A mind that is irrational will produce irrational thoughts.
    3. A mind that is rational will produce rational thoughts.
    4. It seems fair to say that an absolutely perfect mind would produce perfect thoughts.
    5. Since the Logical Absolutes are transcendent, absolute, are perfectly consistent, and are independent of the universe, then it seems proper to say that they reflect a transcendent, absolute, perfect, and independent mind.
    6. We call this transcendent, absolute, perfect, and independent mind God since a physical brain is not transcendent by nature because it is limited to physical space; and God is, by definition, transcendent in nature.
  8. Objections Answered
    1. Logical Absolutes are the result of natural existence.
      1. In what sense are they the result of natural existence?  How do conceptual absolutes form as a result of the existence of matter?
      2. How does one chemical state of the physical brain that leads to another physical state of the physical brain produce Logical Absolutes that are not dependent upon the physical brain for their validity?
      3. If they are a part of natural existence (the universe), then they would cease to exist if the universe ceased. 
        1. This has not been proven to be true.
        2. It implies that logic is a property of physical matter, but this is addressed in point 5 above.
    2. Logical Absolutes simply exist.
      1. This is begging the question by saying they exist because they exist and does not provide an explanation for their existence.  Simply saying they exist is not an answer.
    3. Logical Absolutes are axioms
      1. An axiom is a truth that is self-evident.  To say that Logical Absolutes are axioms is to beg the question by saying they are simply self-evident truths because they are self-evident truths and fails to account for their existence.
    4. Logical Absolutes are conventions.
      1. A convention, in this context, is an agreed upon principle.  But since people differ on what is and is not true, then logical absolutes cannot be the product of human minds and therefore are not human conventions, that is, of human agreements.
      2. This would mean that logical absolutes were invented as a result of an agreement by a sufficient number of people.  But this would mean that logical absolutes are a product of human minds, which cannot be the case since human minds differ and are often contradictory.  Furthermore, the nature of logical absolutes is that they transcend space and time (not dependent on space and time for their validity) and are absolute (they don't change) by nature.  Therefore, they could not be the product of human minds which are finite and not absolute.
      3. This would mean that if people later disagreed on what was a Logical Absolute, then the absolutes would change based on "vote," and they would not then be absolute.
    5. Logical Absolutes are eternal.
      1. What is meant by stating they are eternal?
      2. If a person says that logical absolutes have always existed, then how is it they could exist without a mind (if the person denies the existence of an absolute and transcendent mind)? After all, logic is a process of the mind.
    6. Logical Absolutes are uncaused.
      1. Since the nature of logic is conceptual and logical absolutes form the framework of this conceptual upon which logical processes are based, it would seem logical to conclude that the only way logical absolutes could be uncaused is if there was an uncaused and absolute mind authoring them.
    7. Logical Absolutes are self-authenticating.
      1. This means that logical absolutes validate themselves.  While this is true, it does not explain their existence.
      2. It is begging the question.  It just says they are because they are.
    8. Logical Absolutes are like rules of chess, which are not absolute and transcendent.
      1. The rules of chess are human inventions since Chess is a game invented by people.  In fact, the rules of chess have changed over the years, but logical absolutes have not.  So, comparing the rules of chess to logical absolutes is invalid.
    9. There are different kinds of logic.
      1. Saying there are different kinds of logic does not explain the existence of logical absolutes.
      2. In different systems of logic, there must be undergirding, foundational principles upon which those systems are based.  How are those foundational principles accounted for?  The same issue applies to them as it does to Logical Absolutes in classical logic.
    10. "Logical absolutes need no transcendental existence: saying 'they would be true even if matter didn't exist' is irrelevant because we're concerned with their existence--not their logical validity.  Saying 'the idea of a car would still exist even if matter didn't exist' doesn't imply that your car is transcendental (reductio ad absurdum)."
      1. Why do logical absolutes need no transcendental existence?  Simply saying they don't need a transcendental existence doesn't make it so nor does it account for their existence. 
      2. Also, why is it irrelevant to say they would be true even if matter didn't exist?  On the contrary, it is precisely relevant to the discussion since we're dealing with the nature of logical absolutes which are conceptual realities--not physical ones.
      3. The illustration that a car would still exist if matter did not exist is illogical.  By definition, a car is made of matter; and if matter did not exist, a car could not logically exist.  By contrast, logical absolutes are not made of matter.  The objection is invalid.
    11. "Logical abstractions do not have existence independent of our minds.  They are constructs in our minds (i.e., brains), and we use them to carry out computations via neural networks, silicon networks, etc., suggested by the fact that logic--like language--is learned--not inbuilt (balls in your court to demonstrate an independent existence or problem with this)."  ( . . . continued in next objection . . . )
      1. How do you know that logical abstractions do not have existence independent of our minds?  Saying so doesn't make it so.  This is precisely one of the points about the nature of logical absolutes; namely, that they are a process of the mind but are not dependent upon human bodies because human minds contradict each other and are also self-contradictory.  This would preclude our minds from being the authors of what is logically absolute.  Furthermore, if they are constructions of our minds, then all I have to do is claim victory in any argument because that is how I construct my logical abstractions.  But, of course, you wouldn't accept this as being valid.  Therefore, this demonstrates that your assertion is incorrect.
      2. How can an atheist logically claim that one chemical state in the brain which leads to another state necessitates proper logical inference?  It seems quite unlikely and without proof of some sort saying that Logical Absolutes are abstractions of (human) minds doesn't account for them.
    12. (continued from previous objection . . . ) "Logical absolutes are absolute and not because of some special quality but because we judge them using logic.  Therefore, their absoluteness doesn't arise from any special ontological quality (category error on your part)."
      1. You are begging the question.  You use logic to demonstrate that logical absolutes are absolute.  You are not giving a rational reason for their existence.  Instead, you assume their existence and argue accordingly.
      2. Furthermore, when you presuppose the validity of logical absolutes to demonstrate they are absolute, you contradict your statement in your previous objection about them being constructs of human minds.  They cannot be constructs of human minds because human minds contradict each other and themselves where Logical Absolutes do not.
      3. Where is the category mistake?  The nature of logical absolutes is that they are conceptual.  This is something I have brought out before so that their categories do not get mixed.  The nature of logical absolutes is exactly relevant to the question.
    13. (continued from previous objection . . . ) "Logical absolutes can be accurately described as conventions in communication. The fact that they are widely employed does not imply anything transcendental, any more than the wide employment of the word "lolly" as something small and yummy implies that the word "lolly" is transcendental (non sequitor)."
      1. Saying that they are "widely employed does not imply anything transcendental" is inaccurate.  Something that is transcendental, as in logical absolutes, would naturally be widely employed because they are valid and transcendent; otherwise, they wouldn't be universally used.  You have recognized that they are widely used, but they are because they are transcendent.  They do not become transcendent because they are widely used.
      2. This still does not account for the existence of logical absolutes.
    14. (continued from previous objection . . . ) "Logical processes are clearly carried out by material constructs, usually neural or electrical.  They do this without any known "input" or "guidance" from anything transcendental, which makes you wonder why anything transcendental is needed in the equation at all (reality check)."
      1. You haven't defined "material construct" or what you mean by neural or electrical (constructs).  If you mean a computer or something of that kind, this doesn't help you because humans designed them using logic.  If you mean that they are the process of the human brain, you still haven't solved the problem of their existence; since the implication would be that if our minds do not exist, logical absolutes would not exist either.  But this would mean that logical absolutes were not absolute but dependent upon human minds.  Again, the problem would be that human minds are different and contradict each other.  Therefore, logical absolutes, which are not contradictory, cannot be the product of minds that are contradictory.
      2. As stated above how does one establish that one chemical state in the brain which leads to another state necessitates proper logical inference?  Asserting it doesn't make it so, and concluding that chemical reactions lead to logical inferences has not yet been established to be true or even that it could be at all.
      3. You don't have to know the input or understand the guidance from anything transcendental for the transcendentals to be true.
    15. "Logic is one of those characteristics that any healthy human 'has.'  It's not free to vary from one person to the next for the same kind of reason that 'number of eyes' is a value that doesn't vary between healthy humans."
      1. Saying that logic is something that everyone "has" does not explain its existence.  Essentially, this is begging the question stating that something exists because it exists.
      2. The analogy of "eyes" is a category mistake.  Eyes are organs.  Different organisms have different kinds of eyes and different numbers of eyes.  Logic is consistent and independent of biological structures.
    16. Logic is the result of the semantics of the language which we have chosen: a statement is a theorem of logic if and only if it is valid in all conceivable worlds.  If the language is trivalent (true/indetermined/false), tertium non datur is invalid.  Uniformity of the universe can be rationally expected in a non-theistic universe.  If there is no one around with the transcendental power to change it, why should the behavior of the universe tomorrow differ from its behavior today?
      1. "Semantics of the language."  Semantics deals with the study of the meaning of words, their development, changes in meaning, and the interpretation of words, etc.  But semantics by nature deals with the changing meaning of words and the often subjective nature of language and its structures.  To say the absolutes of logic are a result of the use of the subjective meanings of words is problematic.  How do you derive logical absolutes from the non-absolute semantic structures of non-absolute languages?   
        Furthermore, simply asserting that logic is a result of the semantics of the language does not explain the transcendent nature of logic.  Remember, the TAG argument asserts that Logical Absolutes are independent of human existence--reasons given at the beginning of the paper.  Since language, in this context, is a result of human existence, the argument would suggest that logic came into existence when language came into existence.  But this would invalidate the nature of logical absolutes and their transcendent characteristics.  Therefore, this objection is invalid.
      2. If logic is the result of language, then logic came into existence with language.  This cannot be for the reasons stated above.
      3. If logic is the result of language and since language rules change, then can we conclude that the laws of logic would also change?  If so, then the laws of logic are not laws; they are not absolute.
      4. Saying that "a statement is a theorem of logic" does not account for logic but presupposes existence of logic.  This is begging the question.
  9. Only two options
    1. If we have only two possible options by which we can explain something and one of those options is removed, by default the other option is verified since it is impossible to negate both of the only two exist options.
    2. God either exists or does not exist.  There is no third option.
    3. If the no-god position, atheism, clearly fails to account for Logical Absolutes from its perspective, then it is negated, and the other option is verified.
    4. Atheism cannot account for the necessary preconditions for intelligibility, namely, the existence of logical absolutes.  Therefore, it is invalidated as a viable option for accounting for them and the only other option, God exists, is validated.

 

 


See Related Articles

  • 1. I learned this argument from Dr. Greg Bahnsen in his debate with Gordon Stein on "Does God exist?" I have benefited from it greatly and utilize it here.  You can listen to the debate here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anGAazNCfdY
  • 2. This is an antonymic pair that has no third option.  There either exists a god, or there does not exist a god.  Polytheism includes the idea of at least one god existing as does panentheism and pantheism.  Therefore, it is included in the "god" position.
  • 3. I sometimes update articles, often in responses to criticism or just polishing.  I have updated this article in response to a criticism found at http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Transcendental_argument by mentioning the conclusion here at the beginning, 10/19/11. Since I have already modified this argument in the past, I am not aware of what version of the article the criticism tackles since it seems to ignore answers to objections included in the original document.

 

 

 

 
 
CARM ison