Over on Facebook a question was asked:
How would you respond to an atheist who said that he presupposes the laws of logic as descriptions of reality? Consequently, it’s not that they have any justification, they are just part of the way things are. Is there a contradiction in such a view?
Here’s my take:
There might not be an obvious contradiction at the surface level of the atheist statement but I do think his claim faces tension with other beliefs he might hold.
1.) I think I would begin by saying that in agreement with him I too presuppose that the laws of logic are “descriptions of reality” but I would press him on how is it that he as a finite being cannot know that without a revelational epistemology (one which situate properly basic beliefs and intuition in the context of General and Special revelation). Can he say the laws of logic are “descriptions of reality” and claim that “they are just part of the way things are” if he hasn’t experienced all of reality?
2.) We must be acutely aware of the naturalistic fallacy of confusing “is” with “ought.” In order for the laws of logic to be functional it is not enough to presuppose that the laws of logic are descriptive. I think I would also press him to see if he thinks the laws of logic are “merely” descriptive. There is also a prescriptive aspect to the laws of logic governing our thoughts; for example, when someone gives a logically sound argument with true premises that individual is saying to himself and others that they are obligated to accept the conclusion. We must not make the fallacious jump from “is” to “ought.”
3.) I am not going to rehearse the whole discussion here but in light of my second point I would also also say that the standard Presuppositional arguments apply here concerning the problem of norms being unintelligible and meaningless in a non-Christian worldview given that the nature of the laws of logic is also prescriptive.
4.) I’m sometimes amazed at how much an atheist can sound like a Van Tillian when he asserts that the laws of logic are descriptions of reality. When pressed often the answer I hear is that they say we need the laws of logic because it just is the case and that without the laws of logic nothing else makes sense. The argument here is Transcendental in nature, just like the Transcendental Argument the Presuppositionalist use. My observation here is that an atheist in this scenario doesn’t reject the form of the Transcendental argument a Christian use since they employ it themselves. If they reject TAG the very arguments can be used as a self-defeater to those who claim he can just presupposes the laws of logic as descriptions of reality. But we are not left with two equally plausible alternative between God and atheism after the two Transcendental arguments have been given; we must remember the problems described in point one through three that is stacked against an atheism that presupposes the laws of logic as descriptions of reality.