Another Email I Wrote Concerning Neorationalism
Further Skepticism in Relation to Neorationalism and Its Solutions to the Logocentric Predicament
Dear Professor Hanna,
I’m sorry for further bugging you in relation to the logocentric predicament. My mind just seems to be unable to be satisfied with the “solutions” I’ve created and those “solutions” others have too. So, I have a general line of skepticism to put forward.
1. In terms of most propositions, specifically ones entailing Minimal Non-Contradiction, it seems that logical explosion, i.e., the state of affairs in which any conclusion can follow from any two premises (which is the abandonment of logic as the rules of inference that designate the consequence of two premises as a necessary consequence, as a necessary conclusion), is just absolutely ruled out for no reason other than intelligibility. This may have some pragmatic benefit in terms of argumentation with others, but I don’t necessarily care for argumentation alone. Just because no defeater is present for a belief does not mean it is true (though one may be justified in believing it, per Huemer’s phenomenal conservatism). Why must we rule out explosion? You say, “Minimal Non-Contradiction essentially secures minimal truthful consistency, and rules out Explosion” (Cognition, Content, and the A Priori 252). But, then, in your latest email to me, the reason that Minimal Non-Contradiction is the case is that “it can’t be the case that everything follows from everything,” which is to say, explosion cannot be the case. So, if Minimal Non-Contradiction is that which you use to rule out explosion, but Minimal Non-Contradiction itself supposes explosion to be ruled out, do we not have a vicious circle here?
2. In the case of the protologic you purport to be the case in Rationality and Logic as well as in “Good-Bye To Analytic Philosophy And All That,” to me, there seems to be issues with your case:
a. It has a few metaphysical presuppositions:
i. Existence exists (i.e., there is something rather than nothing).
ii. We exist (in the rest of existence).
iii. We exist with a mind.
iv. We exist with a mind that has faculties for thinking.
v. We exist with a mind that has faculties for thinking and employs them, i.e., thinks.
vi. We exist with a mind that is rational (which is to say we exist as rational entities [or rational animals, as is commonly used]), which is to say thinks rationally(?).
Now, in “Good-Bye To Analytic Philosophy And All That,” you do say, “The Fact [the protologic] is metaphysically prior to all logic, whether pure general logic, transcendental logic, or any other kind, and grounds them all” (11). But, I’d just have to ask, how does this not fall into the same situation that the form of theological (and most Christian apologetics) called presuppositionalism falls into? If you are to say that in order to make an assertion, you suppose the protologic and therefore cannot question it, could you therefore not say the same thing about God? “If you are to make an assertion, you suppose God and therefore cannot question it.” Obviously, though, that God as well as the idea of the protologic means anything supposes analyticity. Now, in regards to this, I have in my writings (which you can find on my Medium here) thought of a way to get out of this, but it abandons both God and the protologic. It works in relation to the theoretical primitive. Essentially, if the theoretical primitive, as you call it in Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, is that which is the a priori essence of all theoretical construction, then it is the a priori essence of justification, therefore meaning that in regards to all theoretical constructions, the conditions of their justification (as true, or as something else) are (i) their unique conditions of justification that are specific to the concept itself and (ii) the presupposition of the theoretical primitive. Therefore, because the theoretical primitive supposes itself, it is therefore justified because it has no unique conditions of justification unique to itself. Now, in response to the anticipated rejection of “Is this not viciously circular?” I have thought of a response that could potentially be utilized by the protologic at the very least (in terms of God, it becomes hopeless because the laws of logic and God eventually end up in opposition to one another). This is the response: “We are not engaging in ex ante justification, which is to say, justification (of the theoretical primitive being justified) that takes place before the theoretical primitive is justified, rather, we are engaged in post facto explanation, which is to say, explanation of how the theoretical primitive is justified/auto-justifies itself after the fact of our presupposition and therefore justification of it.” But, there are some issues with this:
1. We have supposed that the theoretical primitive is logic. Now, this is not an issue if the theoretical primitive is actually logic which we can realize through post facto explanation, just as we realize the theoretical primitive is supposedly the case too through post facto explanation. But, before we can even go about addressing the theoretical primitive being logic, we must analyze the tenability of the theoretical primitive by itself.
2. We run into the issue of specifically this, “after the fact of our presupposition and therefore justification of it.” The issue, which may not be clear, is that it seems the theoretical primitive ends up being contingent on an existent subject, which then goes back to the issue of supposing existence, supposing we exist, etc., etc. (all that I lined out earlier). What this also means is that if the theoretical primitive is logic and its justification is contingent on other things being the case so it is presupposed, then in its use to justify that things exist, we end up in a vicious circularity. But, this demonstrates one thing: unlike the protologic and God, the theoretical primitive can be intricately interrogated, which is to say, questioned in regards to its validity, but I digress on this. Now, one could argue that it could just suppose and justify itself autonomously. But, I take issue with this, for it falls into the same issue of atheists appealing to Descartes’ cogito to prove their existence, it supposes the I to prove the I. That one thinks is only the case if one is, which is what the cogito purports to prove. This objection can be applied to the theoretical primitive analogously: That the theoretical primitive presupposes itself is only the case if the theoretical primitive already exists, which is what we are trying to prove, or at most purporting to prove. I have thought of a potential response to this though, and that is that nothing supposes the theoretical primitive but this would have nothing as an actor which is somewhat problematic I’d say. Now, there is also another issue with what we have put forth in regards to the theoretical primitive, and this is what connects the first two questions I asked about explosion and the protologic to these two questions I have asked about the theoretical primitive. This issue with theoretical primitive I’m talking about I will address as its own point in this email:
3. So, the issue with the theoretical primitive I’m talking about seems to be this: if the presupposition of the theoretical primitive is a condition of justification because it is the a priori essence of justification, does it also not follow that its presupposition is also a condition of unjustification (a condition for proving something is not the case, or is unjustified). Therefore, would the theoretical primitive not be in contradiction which comes into contradiction with our first point in the second set of points which is the point that the theoretical primitive is logic? This could be further extrapolated to all bivalent standards: for example, a condition for something being true is that it supposes the theoretical primitive because the theoretical primitive is the a priori essence of truth, and, at the same time, a condition for something being false (= untrue) is that it supposes the theoretical primitive because the theoretical primitive is the a priori essence of falsity (= untruth). Now, this is how what I have just lined out relates to explosion: one could argue that if Minimal Non-Contradiction is true then we can say that in some cases the theoretical primitive is contradictory (in the case of dialetheism or paraconsistent logics for example), but in at least one case (to follow Puntam’s assertion that there is at least one a priori truth) the theoretical primitive is not in contradiction but is true. Now, this seems to rest on not only the massive burden of figuring out how to rule out explosion without being viciously circular but also the issue of how, if we can figure out a way of doing so, this way will also come before the theoretical primitive, which is to say, regulate the theoretical primitive, for if it does not come before and regulate the theoretical primitive then it could not make the theoretical primitive “disregard” that it is a condition of unjustification. Now, there just seems to be this absolute issue of presupposition which I need to address:
4. Why is it incorrect that logic doesn’t need to be presupposed? Simply, I would say that because logic is about the necessary relation between a conclusion and its premises, that assertions have to have presupposed premises. Now, in regards to the theoretical primitive. it seemingly (if we disregard all the skepticism I have raised) gets around the issue in that it supposes itself and justifies itself in its supposition of itself (which is how the theoretical primitive gets around the logocentric predicament if it is logic and if all my skepticism can answered as you pointed out in Cognition, Content, and the A Priori). Now, why do presuppositions have to be grounded? Is this itself not a presupposition? It seems so. Now, I have thought of a way to get around this: let’s ask what it means for presuppositions to not be justified: it ends up in the abandonment of logic in that conclusions no longer need a necessary relation of consequence to their premises in that all premises (except the theoretical primitive which supposedly has itself as its own premise and conclusion in a non-viciously-circular manner) which are presuppositions do not have to be justified and therefore, because they are also conclusions following other premises, conclusions, therefore, also do not have to be justified: this terminates in trivialism and the abandonment of reason (by the abandonment of reason I mean the abandonment of a relationship between conclusions and premises which is a reason [logic just determines if that reason is actually valid or not]). Practically, it also terminates in trivialism in that when asked why X the case, I could say it is the case because I do not have to justify its presuppositions. Therefore, any statement could be automatically justified. This is also the consequence of logical explosion. Therefore, if we can figure out a way to rule out logical explosion then we can also rule out the objection of us having to justify that presuppositions have to be justified (and so we will have inadvertently also established an epistemic “Principle of Sufficient Reason” so to speak).
This is obviously a lot of stuff, but I hope that you can indulge me. Of course, you could say, “This kid is asking me to justify our existences. How ridiculous!” But, to any charge of incoherence, performative/pratical contradiction (which is not necessarily indicative of that necessary action I am denying being true), etc., I just have to say, “Dogmatism is a killer.”
Lastly, I want to address the argument you made in “Kant, Wittgenstein, and Transcendental Philosophy” predicated on abductive reasoning (reasoning to the best explanation) that concluded that first-order monadic logic, pure general logic, and The Minimal Logical Meta-Principle of Non-Contradiction are all transcendental. Obviously, this argument is abductive and therefore is not certain, and you acknowledge this when you say, “But at the same time, it is equally clear that its soundness rests on the seven premises, each of which is justified by transcendental argumentation or explanation, whose rational support is therefore only fairly reliable” (“Kant, Wittgenstein, and Transcendental Philosophy” 108). But then you say, “[The soundness of my argument] does not flow from the highest kind of evidence, i.e., the self-evidence of authoritative rational intuition” (“Kant, Wittgenstein, and Transcendental Philosophy” 108). Now, I am actually quite interested in this in that the notion of rational intuitions being unique mechanisms of justification (which is essentially the same thing as a truthmaker) is certainly a reasonable conclusion to make. But, it has suppositions. Of course, it has those metaphysical suppositions in regards to us existing and existing as rational entities (or rational animals), but there is another issue. In regards to the section “Rationalism Regained” found in In Defense of Intuitions (It is also split into three parts in Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, but, if I remember correctly, some things are changed), you do in fact, in the journey of getting past the “the justification problem and the explanation problem for rational intuition” as you call them, address (and have to address) the logocentric predicament (In Defense of Intuitions 139). In this sense, what are your thoughts on having authoritative rational intuitions as a solution to the logocentric predicament itself? Obviously, one would have to ground (i.e., justify) rational intuitions in a different way, and find a way to liberate them from the metaphysical presuppositions I have lined out and repeated in this email (its connection to the subject [this obviously seems extremely difficult in that we would be talking about a rational intuition independent from the subject]), or at least find a way to justify both the metaphysical presuppositions of rational intuitions and its autonomous justificatory status in a non-circular (and maybe simulatenous[?]) manner. If this could be done, then neorationalism, and your specific neorationalist project, would not only be infinitely stronger in that any logical argument against it would suppose it and any illogical argument against it would be ruled out by it (supposing the skepticism I have raised in regards to ruling out explosion has been answered and hence absolutely quelled). Neorationalism, if it gets past the skepticism I have lined out, therefore would be irrefutable. And, of course, this is quite the task, but it is the task of us philosophers (which I, as a Junior in high school, only sometimes purport to be).
If you would like me to stop bugging you (supposing I am) about the logocentric predicament, I completely understand!
Best wishes and regards as well as apologies if I have caused any annoyance,