Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The First Principles: The Bedrock of Logic and Rational Thought

Author's Note: This article is published on the Atheism-Analyzed website, along with many other articles and two ebooks relating to similar subjects. Students of Logic and Rational Thought might find this article and the others interesting and possibly informative to their worldviews. I would have welcomed this information during my years as an Atheist.

Since Rational thought requires valid logical propositions, and logic is based on the presupposition of universal truth in the form of the First Principles, it is necessary to fully understand what these principles entail and their impact. This section will list and then discuss the basic principles that make Rational thought possible and intelligible.

The First Principles can be categorized as follows:

1. The Intuitive Principles.
These principles, while not provable, are known to be valid intuitively.

a. Identity. If it is true, then it is true; if it exists, then it exists.

b. Non-Contradiction. If it is true, then it cannot be false; if it exists, it cannot NOT exist.

c. Excluded Middle. A (singular, unity) concept cannot be somewhat true and somewhat false; a (singular, unity) thing cannot somewhat exist and somewhat not exist.

d. Cause and effect. Every effect has a cause that is both necessary and sufficient.

e. Cogito (Descartes). Because I doubt my own doubt, it is true that I think; because I think (truth), I must exist (fact).

2. The Probabilistic Principles.
These Principles seem to encompass both truth and existence.

a. The Immutability of math throughout the universe.

b. The Immutability of physical law throughout the universe.

c. The mutability of all levels of verifiability (Godel's laws).

3. The Presuppositional Principles.
These principles are declared either as empirical constraints, or as part of a worldview.

a. No form of reality exists that cannot be either observed and measured directly or by the use of instrumentation.

b. No Singularities (temporary violations) exist in the physical laws of the universe.

4. The Principle of Rational Thought; Skepticism; and Rational Deniability

These two principles demonstrate the philosophical tension between the Rational Empiricists and the Anti-Rationalists.

a. No premise should be accepted without evidence.

( This is the Principle of Rational Thought, and the basis for “skepticism”: Hume, Russell, Ayer)

b. Existence of evidence via intuition is denied.

(This is the basis for Anti-Rationalism: Nietzsche)(Notice that deniability is declared true as a rational premise, which premise requires the intuition of its truth; so intuition is denied via the use of intuition, which is a paradoxical process to Rationalists – but not to Anti-Rationalists who deny that paradox exists).

5. The Principles of Evidence

Evidence is demanded by Rationalists and Skeptics. Anti-Rationalists deny all basis for evidence, except (paradoxically) Darwinism; Anti-Rationalists also deny paradox, having denied the First Principles due to their intuitive basis. So the following principles are Rational principles only, and are not necessarily accepted by the Anti-Rationalists.

a. All evidence ultimately devolves to the First Principles and is therefore intuitively based.

b. “Universals” can be assumed valid without proof. These include Mathematics, Logic, and Language (a syllogistic form of logic deriving from the First Principle of Cause and Effect). (Notice that this is an intuited principle).

c. Empirical evidence:

i. Physical; Sensate only: Therefore, measurable.

ii. Local (inductive)

iii. Repeatable (deductive)

iv. Universality cannot be proven so must be assumed (intuited, based upon probability, which can be increased by numerous replications of tests)

v. Validity is probabilistic only (intuited, based upon statistical probability, which can be increased by numerous replications of tests)

vi. Assumes the validity of the Presuppositional Principles, # 3 above.

vii. Valid Empirical evidence can be falsified, but has not been. (Popper).

Second Level Effects of the First Principles

a. If the First Principles are true, it follows that truth exists.

b. If truth exists, then falseness also exists.

c. If falseness exists, then skepticism is justified.

d. However, if the First Principles are true, then intuition of truth is assumed a valid technique; therefore, skepticism is neither absolute nor is it immune to argument.

e. If the First Principles are NOT true, then any and every argument is not based on rational precepts, and skepticism becomes (1) absolute, and (2) Anti-Rational.

f. If Principle 4a, above, (No premise should be accepted without evidence) is valid, then ethical considerations can be intuited as First Principles. This is because Principle 4a expresses an “ought” imperative, which is an ethical statement, and which is considered to be valid for the foundation of Naturalism, and thus is considered to be a universal truth. It is intuited, and cannot be proven by itself, by empiricism, by Naturalism, or by Materialism. Thus the basis for Naturalism and Materialism (worldviews) as well as empiricism (a discipline) are based upon an intuited ethical value.

g. Because Naturalism, Materialism and empiricism are all based upon an intuited ethical value, then intuited ethical values exist, and can be valid (true).

h. Because intuited ethical values are seen to exist, then intuition exists, ethics exists, and values exist – outside and beyond the constraints and limits of Naturalism, Materialism and Empiricism; also transcendence is proven to be a valid source of both information and ethical value statements. I.e., Transcendence exists and can be valid.

Empiricism, Naturalism and Materialism
Because the “ought imperative” of Principle 4a is the necessary and sufficient principle upon which Naturalism and Materialism are based, it is easily shown that the transcendent nature of the underlying foundation of these concepts produces a contradiction that violates the anti-transcendent worldviews themselves.

In other words, Naturalism and Materialism declare that intuition and other transcendences cannot exist, yet the basis for Naturalism and Materialism is itself necessarily intuitive and transcendent.

So Naturalism and Materialism deny their own foundational validity, and thus are paradoxical (violate the Principle of Non-Contradiction), and so are neither coherent nor valid.

This paradox is fatal, rationally speaking, for Naturalism and Materialism, but not for Empiricism, because Empiricism has voluntarily chosen to limit its range of investigation, and, in theory any way, does not say anything at all about transcendences or about value systems, except that they are out of the range of the testability and verification constraints placed upon Empirical processes. (Empiricism is a process, not a worldview or value system).

In this manner Empiricism retains its validity as a process for obtaining information about physical reality. Naturalism and Materialism are seen to be invalid, non-coherent worldviews, spun off from Empiricism, but no longer identical to it.


Mark K. Sprengel said...

Interesting, but I think the following:

"f. If Principle 4a, above, is valid, then ethical considerations can be intuited as First Principles."

May be referring to the wrong principle and you may need to number things a bit more clearly.

Anonymous said...

I agree; I'll straighten it out....soon.

Stan said...

Scott, I lost your comment the process of approving it... If you can remember it and would resubmit it I'll try not to fumble it next time. It might still show up at some point, who knows where it went.

I think you were saying that falsification is not necessarily a characteristic of all science, although it works for empiricism.

Please set me straight if that is not a correct interpretation.

I agree right up front that not all science is empirical; some science is forensic, using "found" data, rather than "created" data which is generated in experimental testing.

However I think Popper's criterion of falsifiability applies in both cases. Popper's demarkation is intended to exclude theories that are metaphysical and cannot be tested for that reason. His position, which seems obvious to me, is that if a conclusion cannot be proven false, then it is true by default and is therefore a tautology which is a first principle, not provable and definitely metaphysical.

Forensic sciences, historical in nature, should also be able to produce falsification if it exists.

For example, in history research a newspaper account can be falsified by the discovery of contradictory personal letters accompanied by supporting artifacts. These can also be falsified by further finds.

If your point is that not all science procedures are falsifiable, then I agree; only the conclusion, the target of the theory, needs to be falsifiable.

I might have misinterpreted your intent, I only read it once before I sent it into bit oblivion... Sorry.

Mark K. Sprengel said...

ok, now I can follow it better. Seems to me this is why Logical Positivism was replaced by Popper's falsification criteria.

From my experience with "new atheist" types, they seem to miss this and hold to Logical Positivism without question or perhaps even knowing the failed philosophy they are working from.

Stan said...

Yes, this is the Philosophical Materialism that undergirds and is axiomatic to their entire thought process. So the conclusion is determined first and the premises are selected for their ability to support the conclusion.

I wrote a preliminary piece on this [http://atheism-analyzed.blogspot.com/2008/06/why-you-and-i-cant-understand-atheists.html] and I'm filling it out for another post coming soon.

BENTRT said...

Hi stan.

Been having a lot of conversations about cause and effect recently and someone brought up the topic of cause and effect at an atomic level like radio active decay that shows no cause for the decay and electron/positron pairs that seemingly pop in and out of existence un-caused. What do you make of cause and effect in those circumstances

Stan said...


I'm not a nuclear physicist, and I don't know if a nuclear physicist could give answers based on more than speculation.

However, I doubt that there is no cause for either of those examples. Here's why.

First the emission of energy usually means that the material is changing state by either cooling or configuration change (e.g. water to ice). This means that the material was somehow elevated to a higher state at some time in its past history, and is now in the process of reverting to a lower state. This is congruent with a universe that once was very hot and close together, and which is now cooling and expanding.

Next, the dual matter/antimatter particles popping into existence and then annihilating each other is a phenomenon being attributed to an all pervasive "quantum field". By all pervasive it is meant that the field extends throughout all of space (space is not empty, it contains fields). The quantum field remains neutral by creating a positive particle and a negative particle, in pairs.

And a final comment about science. Science is not a good field for anyone to base a philosophy or worldview on, because (1) it doesn't know all the answers; (2) the answers it presently presents as "facts" are actually contingent factoids, which are subject to revocation pending further investigations; (3) it is now thought the universe is composed primarily of "Dark Matter" and "Dark Energy" - two terms for unknown entities that are not matter or energy as we humans know it, and are not even directly observable using our senses and sense extensions. We humans observe only a tiny portion of the universe, a tiny portion of the constituents of the universe, a tiny portion of the time of universal existence, and we are eminently unqualified to make general statements concerning the actual facts surrounding the universe itself, as a whole.

Cause and effect is a First Principle within the narrow field of endeavor for which it is useful, which is the limited human experience of the universe. If it proves not to be valid at some point, then our ability to investigate using empirical, experimental methods (science) will no longer be valid. In fact our manner of thinking, which is also based on cause and effect, will not be valid, either. So far, it has held up, certainly within the limited human environment.

BENTRT said...

Thanks stan


Your site is the only reason I've started to become interested in the logic of concepts and worldview etc- why isn't this stuff compulsory in schools, no wonder children are getting dumber !

Stan said...

I'm delighted that you find the site useful. I hope that you have a chance to pass the information along someday.