Barry Arrington and StephenB at Uncommon Descent have frequently invoked “the rules of right reason” in their arguments.
Today, Barry posts them thus:
The Rules of Thought.
The rules of thought are the first principles of right reason. Those rules are:
- The Law of Identity: An object is the same as itself.
- The Law of Non-contradiction: Contradictory statements cannot both at the same time be true.
- The Law of the Excluded Middle: For any proposition, either that proposition is true or its negation is true.
Note that the three laws of thought cannot be proven. They are either accepted as self-evident axioms – or not. The fundamental principles of right reason must be accepted as axioms for the simple reason that they cannot be demonstrated. There is no way to “argue for argument” and it is foolish to try to do so. If one’s goal in arguing is to arrive at the truth of a matter, arguing with a person who rejects the law of idenity is counterproductive, because he has rejected the very concept of “truth” as a meaningful category.
This seems to me fallacious. (heh.)
They are indeed axiomatic – in other words, they are axioms on which a certain form of logic is based. Now I’m no logician, but I am capable of seeing that if we assume those axioms are true, we can construct a logical language in which useful conclusions can be drawn, and useful computations performed.
But there are some propositions that simply are not possible in that language, because those axioms themselves are based on more fundamental assumption: that we know what an “object” is; that we know what “time” is – in other words, that we know what “is” is.
As one of your presidents once said.
And we often don’t. Often the reality (the truth, if you like) that we want to uncover relates to those referents signified in those very assumptions: what is an object? what is time?
And a classic (or perhaps non-classical) example, it seems to me (and I’m more at home here than with quantum physics) is: what is a person? Am I an object? Is it sensible to say that I am myself, if, by the time I have said it, I have become something different – an object with different properties – to the self I was when began to utter the sentence?
And if I am an object, what are the properties of that object? Does it exist in both time and space, or just space at a given time? Does it make any sense to say that a person exists at all in an instantaneous moment, or is being a person a process?
In other words, it seems to me that “The Rules of Right Reason” simply do not cover all the truths there are to investigate, and cannot cover them. To assert this is not to reject, as Barry suggests, “the very concept of truth as a meaningful category”. It is to assert that there are true statements that can be made that nonetheless cannot be made if we rigorously adhere to the rules of right reason, and “objects” that we cannot consider.
And that these include mind, person, consciousness, designer, intelligence, and, ironically, God.