Reason as Malleable, Trivialism as the Consequence of the Logocentric Predicament, and the Principle of Minimal Non-Contradiction
Today, I will be looking at Jessica F. Leech’s commentary on the logocentric predicament found in her thesis “The Varieties of Modality: Kantian Prospects for A Relaivist Account.” So, referencing McFetridge’s argue that we must believe in logical necessity, Leech says something profound,
[McFetridge] gave an argument to show that we cannot relationally abandon such a belief, on pain of fendering ourselves unable to reason from suppositions at all. Of course one cannot maintain that it is impossible for someone to believe that there is no rule of inference which is valid in reasoning from any suppositions at all. Of course one cannot maintain that it is impossible for someone to believe that there is no rule of inference which is valid in reasoning from any supposition whatsoever. The point is rather that such a belief cannot be maintained in the face of reasonable, rational consideration. (Leech 97)
If I am to be honest, I will admit that I hate this appeal to what is “rational.” In my conversations with Erik, he speaks of being rationally justified in believing something is the case. Erik and I clearly have different understandings of what justification means. He follows Huemer in phenomenal conservatism (one is justified in believing something seems to be the case, if there is no defeater for theat belief present), and while I take no issue with phenomenal conservatism, I still speak of justification differently. By justification, I mean we justify something as something. It isn’t that I am justified in doing, or believing something. That is all too semantically normative for me. Rather, something is justified as something, e.g., logic has been justified (as substantiated, true, sound, valid, etc.). Phenomenal conservatism makes no claim to what actually is the case, but only what seems to be the case. Again, I have no disagreements, for practical contradiction is somewhat entailed in any denial of phenomenal conservatism in that one would predicate their rejection on a seeming (i.e., on what seems to be the case). But, nevertheless, I want to be clear: justification is not “in itself,” nothing is solely just justified, rather, it is justified as something, i.e., it has been proven that x is also y. But, then there is something even worse than this normative rather than descriptive understanding of justification: speaking of rational justification. Reason does not have a form until it is employed, and due to the fact that it is deployed differently, the idea of rationality is always ambiguous, begging the question of what it actually is. Are we reasonable to believe in reason? Can we answer the question without being circular? In terms of logic vs. illogic, both use reason(ing). The difference is that logic demonstrates a necessary relation of consequence of a set of premises and its conclusion. Illogic, on the contrary, eliminates this predicate of necessary, and concludes that anything (any conclusion) can follow from anything (any set of premises). The reasoning for why x follows from y, from the illogical perspective, need not be valid or logical, obviously. The point is that all of these operations use reason and that reason is malleable and its form changes in relation to that which employs it in processes of reasoning. This is also precisely why Erik and I have identified ourselves as Neorationalists. We hold that reason is that which is first and foremost. Now, Kant, in “Of the Logical Use of Reason” (Critique of Pure Reason), speaks of “what is immediately known and what is only inferred” (291). But, he makes the absolutely correct observation that “[a]s we are constantly obliged to make inferences, we grow so accustomed to it that in the end we no longer notice this distinction, and often, as in the case of the so-called deception of the senses, mistake what we have only inferred for something perceived immediately” (291). Reason, I would argue, is entailed by both of these processes, in that one has what Kant calls “inference[s] of the understanding,” i.e., immediate inferences (292). Reason is absolutely central to our project. In fact, the possibility of philosophy, which is contingent on if we can even solve the logocentric predicament, is dependent on determining what reasoning ought to be or what it “secretly” is, as the entire distinction between logic and illogic is one of how reasoning occurs, by what standard it operates under (whether that standard be logic or illogic [though, illogic is not a “standard” but the destruction of a necessary standard]). Some may object to this and argue that reason is must be “rational.” Following Peter Wolfendale’s neorationalist objection to reason being rational or reasonable, I only say to those who object to my understanding of reason, “How do you derive that reason must be ‘rational’?” How do we derive our static conception of reason? It is my belief that we can only derive the static from the dynamic in the case of reason, which is to say, we derive reason from reasoning. Obviously, this cannot be denied because one would have to reason to do it. Now, obviously, that is not indicative of my proposition’s truth in that all that has actually been asserted is that we are bound to a certain amount of particular behaviors, which does not mean that those particular behaviors are correct. Now, this is not to say that reasoning cannot be automatic. Reasoning, is, as Kant went over, immediate, i.e., automatic. Reason is the dynamic process of reason captured statically into a single “concept.” Nevertheless, back to the logocentric predicament. In our very assertion that reason is static and is the product of its use (reasoning; reason in this sense interpellates itself into being through the mind, supposing there is such a thing, but, I will, in the future, try to prove that reason is beyond even the subject and mind, for that will be the neorationalist project), we start from the premise that reasoning is a dynamic process analogous to the use of reason which is static and then go to the other premise that in the case of reason, that which is static is a derivative of that which is dynamic, and we therefore conclude that reason is the derivative of reasoning. But, this necessitates logic because we are making the assertion that the conclusion is the necessary consequence of the set of premises. But, let us actually return to reason for one moment. In typing it out, I think that I have changed my mind: reason is not a derivative of reasoning, because reasoning is reason being put to use. So, let me clarify that there is true to my former assertions about reason. Reasoning, therefore, supposes reason, as if reason didn’t precede reasoning, then what would be put to use? As I said, though, could reasoning not be the interpellation of reason itself. Could reasoning be reason interpellate itself? I don’t think this is the case. Rather, most theories would argue that it is the mind that interpellates reason and then employs it. If reasoning is reason put to use, then reasoning requires reason to already be, and idealists would say that reason already is a priori produced by the mind. Again, the laws of the mind, i.e., thought (which interpellates reason), if we are to work within a supposed idealism of the moment, is what we are therefore discussing. Whether the laws are logic or illogic; and let us note that illogic, in this sense, the abolition of laws of thought, because it is the abolition of logical reason, and the emergence of illogical reason which, to clarify, emerges out of the mind being unbound. I feel I’ve gotten too off track into a ramble. Let’s get back to the logocentric predicament.
Following what I have just said, we realize that inference is a key piece to this whole puzzle that is the logocentric predicament. Inference is that movement from premises to conclusion. Now, what logic is therefore about is rules of inference. Illogic holds that there are no rules for inference. Logic holds otherwise, for is logic not a rule of inference itself? Leech says, “Our practice of reasoning from suppositions would break down if it did not allow, and indeed require, reasoners to employ some rules of inference in any circumstance” (97). Now, I agree and disagree: first, if one puts emphasis on and inserts “current” into “Our practice,” as “Our [current] practice of reasoning…” then I agree, for our current practice of reasoning is done according to logic; but, second, I disagree if one does not do the thing I just mentioned, for reasoning doesn’t breakdown when it has no rules — in fact, I figure that one could say that reasoning having rules makes it more apt for collapse, in that, the logocentric predicament which undermines the whole stability of logic itself is derived from our current practice of logic, but I digress. The logocentric predicament is, then, an issue about inference: how can we justify that there are rules of inference and that we ought to follow rules of inference if they really are, without supposing what we are trying to prove, i.e., without supposing rules of inference? This is what I want to be the case: “there is at least one principle that reasoners cannot rationally reject, on pain of losing any hope of being able to reason at all,” but, is it so, IS IT THE CASE? I do not know, but that is what we are, and have been, trying to find out.
I mentioned in one of my recent papers on Robert Hanna’s masertfully written and thought out work Cognition, Content, and the A Priori the idea of the principle of minimcal non-contradiciton, which, and I think Leech is right about this interpretation of the law, holds that “[n]ot every statement is true,” and since the skeptics (myself included) have an aversion to the lofty idea of a justified conception of truth, let me rephrase this: “Not any conclusion follows (from any set of premises).” After thinking about it, non-logical pluralism is trivialism. So, the amount of literature on what we are opposing is certainly greater after this realization. In that trivialism affirms every state of affair and skepticism neither affirms nor denies every state of affair, they can be seen as synonmous in that affirming all states of affairs gives no state of affair primacy over the other. So, if we think about this in a spatio-semantical way, skepticism which has all states of affairs on the same level, the ambiguous, and tivialism which has all states of affairs on the same level, the true, are practically the same, functionally the same, structurally the same, and spatio-semantically the same. Furthemore, the trivialist position which affirms everything is true follows skepticism in that both are in a certain sense the consequence of the logocentric predicament. So, let me explain this. That the logocentric predicament, if it has no alogical(?) defeater, is the case within the logic, demonstrates that logic undermines itself to the degree that logic itself is circular, infinitely regressive, and thus illogical (and logic being illogical is highest conceptual rejection of analyticity). This leads us to what I have called non-logical pluralism which is identical to trivialism. Because logic is not the case by its own accord (this is logocentric predicament), this does not mean illogic is the case or not the case necessarily. But this is a logical conclusion. Therefore, the skeptic would have to suppose logic after it has been (self-)defeated (as skeptics using logic to demonstrate that it is self-defeating is not problematic). They, therefore, would no longer be a skeptic, but rather a logician. Trivialism, therefore, is the consequence of skepticism in that because no one can deny something is the case without presupposing logic, but no one cannot affirm something is the case, then all propositions would be free-floating as they are in trivialism. Let me revise my claim then, Trivialism obviously is different form skepticism but sits at the same table as it, so to speak. Therefore, a refutation to trivialism or the justification of the principle of minimal non-contradicition would both be defeaters for the logocentric predicament. Ultimately though, Leech does not, so far, establish the principle of minimal non-contradiction, because their proof supposes inferential laws: “If it were not true that not every statement is true, then it would be true that some statement is not true” (Leech 99).
There is an interesting notion brought up: basic logical knowledge. What is interesting about this notion is that “[i]f this knowledge makes appeal to the soundness of some other principle of inference, then it will no longer count as basic knowledge, but only derived logical knowledge, based on some other logical knowledge” (Leech 103). Nevertheless, Leech gives us more questions than answers. Leech’s goal is to demonstrate logic is binding, but that particular behaviors are inescapable does not mean they are true or “right” (so, the is-ought problem as well as the problem of alternatives [Nietzsche’s question]).