Transcendentals, Logical Absolutes and Materialism

Transcendentals

     The understanding of a transcendental is generally put forth in one of three ways in modern thought. First, a transcendental can refer to that which is transcendent, such as the existence of the Christian God, Allah of the Islamic faith or deistic gods outside of the created order. Next, a transcendental may be speaking to that which is beyond ordinary experience, and thirdly, transcendentals may speak to the issue of abstractions or metaphysical realities.[1]

From this basic understanding regarding the meaning of transcendental, argumentation can be formulated that incorporates the reality of these entities. These types of arguments are better known as transcendental arguments. K. Scott Oliphint explains well the nature of Christian transcendentalism when he states, “In essence, this view holds that if we begin with a truly transcendental Origin, the God of the universe, then every part of life—from the intellect to politics to the arts to the family—holds together in an overarching understanding of the creation, the fall, and redemption.”[2] What this type of argumentation demonstrates is the rationality of Christian-theism via its assertion that experience can only be understood by first presupposing the God of the Bible, YHWH. Moreover, this argument asserts that the basic understanding of experience can only be intelligible via ones justification of the preconditions of experience; a justification that can only be gained via the Christian-theistic worldview.[3]

Logical Absolutes

     Logic (the process of logic…not absolutes) is a function of the mind,[4] yet, this function is grounded in basic and universally accepted laws. Also known as the “laws of thought,” logical absolutes are the basic rules of reasoning that govern rational discourse. Classically, the laws of thought include the Law of Excluded Middle, the Law of Identity and the Law of Non-contradiction (LNC). While these laws of thought are accepted in Western culture, it is the quality of these laws that is pertinent to the present discussion. Logical absolutes are universal, abstract and invariant laws which are present and effectual in everyday experience. Or, stated another way, they are laws of thought that are not derived from the physical universe and yet, are in effect throughout the universe. In this sense, noting the non-materialistic nature of these laws, they transcend human experience as abstract entities. Meaning, if the universe were to disappear tomorrow, LNC (the logical absolute) would still exist even though there would be no human mind to recognize this law in the physical realm (the process of logic).

In reflection of even this basic understanding of logical absolutes, the question must be asked how the Materialist accounts for universal, abstract and invariant entities in his worldview? Logical absolutes, being entities which are immaterial in nature, cannot co-exist with the basic materialistic assumptions of a purely physical universe; hence, inconsistency is seen in the naturalistic worldview. Bahnsen states the inconsistency of the materialistic worldview cogently on this matter when he proclaims that the Naturalist “cannot simultaneously and consistently be committed to the laws of logic and the view that reality is solely physical in nature. And the reason is obvious: the “laws of logic” are not physical in nature.”[5] Thus, it is noted that the materialistic worldview is deficient on the first and most basic of the preconditions of experience, and thus, is demonstrably false.

 

[1] Dictionary.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/transcendentals (accessed 06 26, 2013).

[2] William Edger and K Scott Oliphint, Christian Apologetics: Past and Present, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 4.

[3] This type of argumentation is noted by Bahnsen when he proclaims that, “Differing worldviews can be compared to each other in terms of the important philosophical question about the “preconditions of intelligibility” for such important assumptions as the universality of logical laws, the uniformity of nature, and the reality of moral absolutes.” Bahnsen, Always Ready, 1968-1969.

[4] Cornelius Van Til, Reformed Epistemology, (Philadelpha, PA: Westminster Theological Seminary, 1925), 303.

[5] Bahnsen, Always Ready, 2450-2451.