Had some back and forth today which drove the discussion to an abrupt end. I personally have no problem with continuing the discussion, but it seems that our basis for determining what exists and what doesn't was too problematic for him to continue. Naturally, I believe my perspective to be a reasonable and logical one, I do know though that my logic may very well be flawed. Either the Rabbi didn't have the communication skills to accurately explain his worldview to me (which I found to be irrational) or his logic was flawed. Even if the latter is true my own logic can very well be incorrect as well, so if my statements need correcting I am happy to take comments and criticisms. Hopefully where I am wrong, someone can carefully and intelligibly explain why. Again my comments in blue:
Response from the Rabbi:
Let me clarify my position as a conclusion of this correspondence [on this subject]:
1. Logic dictates that all has a cause and effect, hence we ask what caused the first existence, and how is it itself not subject to cause. To that we answer that the First cause is above limitation of any sort and hence is not bound by rules of logic. To the question: You base your conclusion of an unlimited cause only because you claim there must have been a first, just say there was never a first and hence there is no need to conclude that there is an unlimited existence which is not subject to cause. To that we answer: The notion of a constant existence of cause and effect that never had a start is itself self contradictory to the entire concept of cause and effect, as what caused there to be a system of cause and effect to begin with. How can one say that all has cause and effect except for the system of cause and effect. The non-believer hence has to live with this inner hypocrisy of how he views life.
2. Logic dictates that all has a beginning hence there was a first existence. In order for the first existence to not be subject to the question of how did it begin we must conclude that the first existence is unlimited and hence is above the rules of logic. To the question why must it be unlimited in order to not be subject to the rules of logic of a beginning or cause we answer: If it is limited then why should it be above the concept of beginning any more than any other limited item that we know. Furthermore the question of who created its limitation cannot be answered if it is limited. It can only be stated "that’s the way it is" which is an irrational argument. If however we conclude the existence is unlimited then a) it is different then all existences as we know it and hence can be subject to different rules. b) It's question of who created its un-limitation is answered by saying since it is by definition unlimited it cannot be subject to this question which is based on reason or logic which is inherently limited.
3. As to the question who says there must have been a beginning or first existence the answer is: Human logic cannot fathom the concept of the universe or any existence not having a start. Furthermore we observe that everything in life has a start. The tooth had a start, the baby had a start. Everything in life has had a beginning point in which point until then it did not exist as it is now, and now it does exist. Hence to suddenly claim cause and effect did not have a start is contradictory and hypocritical to the way we view everything else in life that it did have start.
As I said before this is the best I can, or feel that I need to do, in order explain an intellectual conclusion of G-d. In my mind [and others] it makes perfect sense and saying otherwise would be completely irrational. I must add that I have given this idea over many times in classes to questioners like yourself and was never asked "who says there must be a beginning". It was taken as a naturally accepted rule of logic which is strong enough to logically enforce G-d's existence. But I am not surprised not all minds are alike, or perhaps I am not understanding you properly. In any event there is a well known environmental scientist which I have contact with and has dealt with this exact subject [of beginning]. He has a website "http://arniegotfryd.com". I have contacted him and will see if he has what to offer past what I already explained or if he would like to correspond with you directly.
he following is the reply I just received from Dr. Gutfried:
At a logical level, I’ll say this:
Causal reasoning means pre and post. Something starts something else. Logically speaking if you assume that this system is eternal you simply don’t need a beginning and time can be cyclic or infinite. If so, you can still prove G-d. How? Take Cause-and-Effect as a singular entity. What is its cause? Obviously something outside of that. Same with time. Time is an entity. Cause-and-effect is a principle. Apply the principle to the entity and voila. Time has a supratemporal cause.
People don’t demand rock solid proof in other areas of their life.
They follow doctors even though some are wrong.
If you analyze the tradition from Sinai – the public revelation and unbroken chain of tradition, you will find a very strong case for G-d and His involvement in history and especially our history.
I think this last e-mail will help me form a concise understanding of you approach and why we disagree on this issue.
1. You believe that everything must have a cause as a necessary truth.
2. You believe that there must be one thing that doesn’t have a cause as a necessary truth.
3. There is a logical contradiction between these two statements.
4. However both statements are necessary truths.
5. The resolution of 3 and 4 is that an entity (that is indefinable) not bound by logic is the one uncaused thing, but since it isn’t bound by logic it doesn’t need an explanation as to why it can be an uncaused thing in a universe where everything must have a cause.
This to me is problematic for numerous reasons.
1 & 2 in my determination are not necessary truths. Either one is true or the other is true, but not both. I don’t know which one is true, but I lean towards 1 over 2, since 2 has never been observed while 1 has been. You claim that 2 has been observed because we see “beginnings” all the time, things don’t exist and then they do. This is clearly a word game you are playing. Yes I see beginnings, all the time, but every beginning you and I have ever seen are caused by something else. Therefore I agree, the universe had a beginning, but that beginning, like every other beginning we have ever observed was caused by something else. This clearly does not support your 2. You need to show me a beginning that was uncaused in order to show that 2 is a necessary truth.
5 is where I believe you take the most illogical stance. You believe that since 1 & 2 are necessary truths and yet a contradict each other, some entity not bound by logic resolves this contradiction. I cannot accept that the answer to a logical contradiction is something that is not bound by logic. This is just nonsensical. If the entire discussion we are having is prove by logic and reason an entity that is not bound by either, this will be a fruitless discussion indeed. I could even prove to you beyond a shadow of a doubt (although I don’t believe this to be possible) that God does not exist and because God is not bound by logic God can both not exist and exist at the same time. You cannot posit that the resolution to a logical contradiction is that a non-logic bound entity is the resolution. The resolution of any logical contradiction is that either one or both of these propositions (1 and 2) are false. This is what the rules of logic dictate.
I although I think whether the universe is from an eternal chain of cause and effect or if there is a first uncaused cause has little bearing on the existence of God, in both scenarios God could exist or not, I think the concept that God as an entity not bound by logic should be discussed further. To me this would probably end the conversation since I cannot imagine a logical conversation with this as the result. It seems utterly nonsensical and possible fruitless.
My response to his quotation of Mr. Gotfryd:
Time is indeed an entity. Thus time has a cause beyond time. Causality is not an entity. It is a universal truth, a rule of logic. As such causality can not apply to causality. Causality is not a entity or system. Just as you can’t say who created the fact that A always equals A. This fact is a fact of logic and is thus universal and eternal. If causality can be applied to a logical fact, that logical fact ceases to become a logical fact altogether.
I have never asked for rock solid proof only convincing arguments for why belief in God and the historicity of the Tanach are reasonable through logic and evidence.
I find this account to be about as unpersuasive as any other religious document positing miracles.
The Rabbi's response:
Why should the rule of cause not apply to logic? What is the logic behind that statement if we have accepted cause for everything else? Why should anything even logic be out of that universal rule as you put it?
Because causality only applies to entities. Logic is not an entity.
Logic is a universal truth. This means that in every possible universe the facts of logic are always true. A = A in every possible universe. If this can be caused by something else then there is at least one possible universe in which A = A has does not exist yet and still needs to be caused.
This is impossible. A = A is not a caused, it is the reality of every possible universe. Therefore causality can't apply to rules of logic. Only entities.
The Rabbi's response:
Your response is a statement based on logic [that logic is universal and hence A must always equal A in every universe]. Why should that logic itself not be subject to a cause if we apply cause to everything else. In other words you cant use logic [logic is universal] to defy logic [everything has a cause]. That would be illogical.
on that note:
Let’s take, for example, a famous discovery by a brilliant 20th Century mathematician by the name of Kurt Gödel. It’s called the incompleteness theorem and it has two parts. Simply put, Gödel proved that any logical system is incomplete, and that any complete system must be illogical.
Let’s put this in context. Here we have a fellow who historians call “one of the most significant logicians of all time” making the most famous pronouncement of his illustrious career and what does he say? That logic itself is always inside the box and if you want to get out, be ready to embrace the irrational.
So are you saying that in order to believe in God we must be irrational?
The Rabbi's response (this was to my first response in this post above prior to my response to his Mr. Gotfryd quote. He didn't receive that message until now):
In that case I rest my case.
It was a pleasure corresponding.
Let me just get this together. Is there is no basis in reason or logic to accept God since God is beyond reason and logic?
The Rabbi's response:
Not in my mind. In my mind it is very rational and logical and intellectually forced as I explained in length. I disagree in your fields of logic that try to undermine this rational conclusion. To me they are irrational for reasons I explained in previous letters. In essence to summarize:
The Logic [that I presented] forces one to accept the existence of a field above logic. This is not irrational or illogical as logic itself is what forces its premises hence making it logical. I guess I and Kurt Godel think alike!
Lets agree to disagree and move on with our lives.
With blessings that G-d helps you with all your endeavors and I bless you that you should merit to see His existence to the point you will be left with no doubt, together with all the Jewish people in the coming true and complete redemption.
Aumann's agreement theorem, roughly speaking, says that two agents acting rationally (in a certain precise sense) and with common knowledge of each other's beliefs cannot agree to disagree.
Logic is simply a way to explain the way things exists. Things can not be said to exist outside of logic. The rules of logic are not things, they are merely tools to investigate and discover what does in fact exist. I will look into Godel's theorem, however I think my position is a reasonable one. We must use reason and logic to determine the existence of things, things that are not logical are also non-existent under this approach. I as of yet know of no better way to determine what is real from what isn't.
I wish you all the best. Thanks for your time.
The Rabbi's response:
To sum up the way I understand things in a short statement:
I logically understand there must be an existence above logic hence making that existence logical.
Hence I logically believe in the illogical
You [in my logic] illogically deny the existence of the illogical hence making that denial illogical.
You on the other hand logically understand [in your mind] the exact opposite, that it is I which illogically believes in the illogical and it is you that logically denies the illogical.
In the end of the day it is shown that logic is not universal as how can two people have different logics. This itself should suffice as a proof that logic also has a cause and hence can be altered in people.
There is no need to respond to this. Just some food for thought.
All the best
If two people have "different" logics, it only proves that at least one person's "logic" is incorrect, not that logic isn't universal.
Any person can come to me and say that logic permits A <> A, but that doesn't make it logical, all it shows is that his reasoning is flawed.