Does God depend on logic to exist?
Published: 29 January 2016 (GMT+10)
What is the relationship between God and logic? Is ‘logic’ a real thing (like a chair is a ‘thing’) that exists alongside God? If so, does that mean that God depends on it to be logical? Lizz C. from the United Kingdom writes:
I have recently thought of an argument that seems to undermine the theory of God (an intelligent being with a personality of sorts). I'm not an atheist, but am a YEC. I am just learning philosophy and am trying to expand my arguments and understanding of God.
I was wondering which came first; logic or God. If God came first then He would be incapable of thinking logically to create such a complex universe. I then began wondering if logic was purely a skill, one that finds the patterns in information, but then I think where does the information come from (like that of philosophy of information and maths)? Is there an endless list of possible different types of information, which only a few apply to us in this universe, meaning that almost everything outside of this universe is out of reach of our logic? If information a part of God? If so, how? I might be getting a little confused, so it'd help to get someone else's outlook.
Thank you in advance and may God bless you. Lizz
CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:
This addresses the issue of God's relation to 'objects' like numbers, propositions, laws, etc. We can formulate the question like this: is logic a real metaphysical object that exists independently of God? Clearly the answer is no, because God is the sole self-existent source of all being—everything that exists is in some way dependent on God for its existence (see Did God create time? for more information). But, there are two plausible ways to get to a negative answer to the question.
Is logic an idea in God’s mind?
The first is commonly known as conceptualism, which is the idea that numbers, propositions, laws, etc. are ideas in God's mind. It actually accepts that logic is a real metaphysical object. However, it identifies it as an idea in God's mind, thus making it dependent on God for its existence, though it exists necessarily. This would not mean that God creates logic as if by an exercise of His free will. That would render logic contingent, like the physical world, which is of course absurd. Logic, if it is a metaphysical object, exists necessarily (as does God). Rather, it means that God necessarily conceptualizes logic in His mind. That means God is explanatorily prior to logic, as minds produce thoughts. But since both God and logic are eternal, this has nothing to do with which came first in a temporal series—which as you correctly note is absurd. No, we would say that logic necessarily exists because God necessarily exists.
But does that mean that logic/ideas/information are parts of God? No, we could construe them in like manner to God’s attributes; God just is His thoughts as He is his omnipotence/omniscience/etc. Please see Is God 'simple'? for more information.
Is logic a really existing thing?
The other option is known as nominalism or anti-realism, which is the idea that numbers, propositions, etc. are not existing metaphysical objects at all. In other words, we can question whether logic is a ‘really existing thing’ like God is. If logic is not a really existing object like God is, then the question of 'which came first' is moot—logic wouldn't 'exist' in the real metaphysical sense that God does. Rather, ‘logic’ would just be a description of how God thinks—God is logical.
Note that this is not a question about whether logical statements are true (that's an issue of meaning, not metaphysics); we would still say truly ‘God is logical’. Rather, this is a question of whether propositions such ‘A is A’ or numbers such as ‘2’ are actually existing objects (and whether they need to be for such representations of them to be true).
Does our use of linguistic conventions to communicate logical truths entail that logical truths are themselves existent objects? It's hard to see why that would be the case; the mere use of the word 'exist' doesn't entail that everything we use that word to refer to is an actual metaphysical object. For instance, we might say ‘There are many ways to skin a cat’. Does that mean each ‘way to skin a cat’ is an object? Moreover, we could say ‘there exist many truths about God’. However, that doesn’t automatically mean that propositions like ‘God is all-powerful’, ‘God is holy’, and ‘God is wise’ are actually existing objects. It just means that we can speak truly about God in many different ways.
On anti-realism, ultimately it's people who refer by means of words; words don't inherently refer to things in themselves. As such, while we are certainly committed to the metaphysical reality of the persons who use words to refer, our use of words does not automatically commit us to the idea that words, concepts, or even logic are actually existing objects.
However, this doesn't address the question of whether, given anti-realism, thoughts might still be parts of God. The anti-realist could accept the conceptualist solution above; God just is his thoughts, as He is his omnipotence/omniscience/etc. (Is God 'simple'?). In this way, these attributes are not ‘things’; they just refer to God. Alternatively, the anti-realist could simply deny that there are such things as ‘parts’, which means it’s wrong to construe thoughts as parts of God. In other words, on anti-realism ‘thoughts’ is just a shorthand way of describing mental activity, so thoughts are not things at all. So if there are no such things as ‘parts’, then God clearly has no parts.
God alone is supreme, and supremely logical
Therefore, whether logic is an idea in God's mind, or is just an abstraction about reality that itself is not a metaphysically real object, there is no reason to think that logic somehow precedes God, or is independent of Him. God is the perfectly logical sole ultimate reality from which all other reality derives its existence.