بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
The following is a conversation I had with a convert friend of mine in April, 2016. I thought it would be of general benefit to my readers. I have done some very light editing but otherwise left the conversation as it is. My friend’s name has been changed to protect his anonymity. See Part 1 and Part 2.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
The following is a conversation I had with a convert friend of mine in April, 2016. I thought it would be of general benefit to my readers. I have done some very light editing but otherwise left the conversation as it is. My friend’s name has been changed to protect his anonymity. See Part 1 here.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
The following is a conversation I had with a convert friend of mine in April, 2016. I thought it would be of general benefit to my readers. I have done some very light editing but otherwise left the conversation as it is. My friend’s name has been changed to protect his anonymity.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
If the premise includes the conclusion already then the question becomes how do we know that the premise is true? This requires unfolding the deductive proof and making the premise of the last argument the conclusion of an earlier one and thus finding new premises for the old later premise (now conclusion). This requires you to go back to the first premise, the one upon which everything else rests. The question becomes, what is that premise? What is the proof that it is true?
Yes, exactly. That’s what I said in the article this is an old problem in philosophy. The first principles are those that are known not by demonstration but by presence (i.e. Ilm hudhoori )
When logicians talk about the first premise being true they require it to fulfill couple conditions:
1. Mirrors the external reality in an exact form
2. It is true and will forever be so.
What proof do you have that our first principles match any of these? Yeah ilm hudhoori and presence are nonsense answers for the most part. Every time they get stuck they resort to that answer. And when you ask them about the evidence for the truth of the presence, they reply is always “it is obvious,” ilm badihi (first principles), or the common experience of the people. It is quite ironic because they take you on a long ride through their deduction to finally tell you that the whole thing rests on the consensus of the majority i.e ijmaa’ (which ironically is probabilistic). That’s when philosophers become fiqh scholars … when stuck resort to ijmaa’. That’s the reason why I brought up the electron argument. Prior to quantum mechanics, people’s common sense or obvious understanding of the physical reality was that an object exists only in one place certainly. QM thus has corrected our understanding of nature by evolving our “obvious” and “common sense”. One can thus say that our common sense is ever changing and is refined by induction (through new experiments and observations).
One more thing. The last paragraph regarding “physicists” not being able to ever refute any of the laws of metaphysics. The argument really boils down to what is the evidence for the truth of knowledge (the first principles of metaphysics). What is classically done (repeated here as well), is that first principles are assumed to be certainly true otherwise everything else falls down (math, science etc ). Or they will resort to the Ilm Hudori argument. But what if I don’t have that presence or Ilm hudhoori of the first principles? The reply will obviously be that I am insane. But ironically the side that doesn’t have that ilm hudhori will think that you are insane and now how do we resolve who is actually correct. If we say that the rest of the knowledge rests on it and thus must be correct, I would say that this is not good evidence since the rest of human knowledge is admittedly probabilistic. Thus despite human knowledge like science and math using the same “first principles” as metaphysical knowledge, it is only presumed to be correct until proven otherwise – we do not assert that they are certainly true or always will be. Once again human beings lack this kind of evidence. Lastly, if we rely on the common experience or what all people understand to tabulate the truth of first principles then 1. You are really using induction here to prove the first principles of deduction 2. Examining ALL the population in the closed set would be impossible here since they set has elements that no one has access to (the newborns and the deceased) so we are left with studying a sample of the population which is once again a probabilistic conclusion, not a certain one (logical certainty). As for the constant reference to mathematics, I will comment on that too. Metaphysics and Math are very different from each other and to equate these two to each other is way too simplistic of an approach and inaccurate.
I think my dear brother, you are misunderstanding the thesis of the article. The thesis of the article is that science has certain foundations let’s call it the set of x. Metaphysics also has certain foundations, which are a subset of x, let’s call it y. One cannot therefore affirm science and metaphysics in principle by attacking y, because y is a subset of x. If one accepts science, one must accept metaphysics; alternatively, one could accept metaphysics and reject science (on the basis that within set x, things that are not y are unreliable), or one could reject the whole of x, essentially claiming that neither science nor metaphysics will get you knowledge.
I am not saying knowledge is exclusively deductive, only that the deductive element is more primary, which is evident when you consider that the probability calculus itself relies on deduction, non-contradiction and the other laws of logic. I don’t have to give an account for what the foundations of all knowledge are in order to show that science and metaphysics have shared foundations. You seem to be thinking I was offering a complete defense of an Aristotelian epistemology (which I suspect you think characterizes the whole of philosophy), when all I am doing is attacking what one might call naive scientism, which you appear to sympathize with. If you want to offer a defense, you should focus on the arguments made showing the shared foundations of metaphysics and science, rather than attacking what you have supposed I am proposing as an alternative. Even if you were right, all you would be doing is showing that in fact neither science nor metaphysics give knowledge, because as I said science relies on shared foundations that you are attacking.
To make this more concrete: I gave like 7 reasons why quantum mechanics does not only not show the law of excluded middle to be false, but could not even in principle, only for you to repeat that quantum mechanics shows our “common sense notions” are wrong, without addressing anything I said.
Second, you are confusing Aristotle’s theory of ilm badihi with ilm hudhoori, though there is some overlap. Ilm badihi pertains to the foundations upon which ilm husooli (acquired knowledge) is built – Aristotle actually thought that perception was ilm badihi (this is why it appears that science can rewrite philosophical conclusions, because some of our perceptions turn out to be wrong or more complicated than Aristotle thought. Though, most of Aristotle’s metaphysics are based on abstractions from perception which actually remain unaffected and in principle cannot even be affected by what science discovers because they are so general/abstract that they cover all possible worlds which science could discover). Ilm hudhoori is a different kind of knowledge; it is knowledge by presence – those things that are directly experienced in consciousness and cannot be doubted even in principle. For example, you cannot doubt your own consciousness, or experiences as they appear in your consciousness – though it is possible to doubt whether some of your experiences correlate to an external reality. If I experience pain and it feels like my hand has been chopped off, I cannot doubt the “I” that is experiencing, nor the experience of pain itself; I can doubt whether or not my hand has actually been chopped off, but not the pain I’m feeling. If you were insane, as you posited my dear brother, then you would still have some ilm hudhoori – as long as you are a conscious being you are aware of your own consciousness and your immediate experiences; what you would lack is the ability to understand when your experiences correlate with an external reality and when they do not and that is precisely what would make you insane. No philosopher has ever used “ijmaa'” as a justification for his epistemology, despite the facetious comments alluding to that. The justification for knowledge must begin with consciousness itself because that is what the knowing subject has access to. If one cannot perceive the necessity of the law of non-contradiction and why a syllogism must be true, as you were suggesting, then no husooli knowledge is possible for that person. Again – we have people like this, we call them insane. If someone who is not insane claims they don’t have this knowledge then really they are just making a claim (and lying) which anyone can do. I can also claim that I have no experience of consciousness right now, or that I can’t understand English. It doesn’t mean anything. If someone is speaking a coherent sentence in any language, even to say “I do not perceive the necessity of the law of non-contradiction”, then their very formulation of the sentence belies their claim, because non-contradiction is necessary to even form a sentence for reasons I mentioned in the last reply (see the example of the chair.)
In this regard, here’s what I said to a commenter [shout out Atheist Messiah!] who brought up a similar concern about foundations being determined by induction:
This is a confusion between two different meanings of “foundations.” The absolute foundation of deduction is consciousness itself; knowledge by presence. “A” cannot be and not be at the same time and in the same regard; consciousness perceives this truth directly. Everything that we experience directly within our own consciousness is not open to doubt precisely because we cannot doubt that we are experiencing, nor the “I” that experiences. That there is existence, even it is limited to ourselves, or even bundles of thoughts or whatever it may be, cannot be doubted. Most of metaphysics is built off abstracting these foundational experiences and then applying deductive logic (the laws of which are also known by presence) to them, and thus metaphysics constitute the most secure form of knowledge after the experiences themselves. Metaphysics usually gives an account of what must be the case for all possible worlds; thus it does not matter what the details of the science turn out to be because the broad lines of what must be true about any conception of reality has already been drawn out. This will start to make sense after the next post where, God Willing, I offer a deductive proof for the existence of God (I look forward to your take on that.)
That being said, sometimes we have what we might call relative foundations – which means things that may be established by induction and observation which everyone takes for granted or that no one seriously doubts, and then we may proceed to deduce on that basis. A small subset of these relative foundations are not open for revision by science because science presumes them (for example, the idea that there is an external reality outside the mind), but the vast majority of these “foundations” are open to revision by science, and have been frequently overturned. These are things like earth being at the centre of the universe, or Newton’s laws of motion applying universally. I believe every example of “common sense” being challenged is essentially one of these latter cases of relative foundations. However, if someone makes a sound deductive (metaphysical) argument on the basis of something science necessarily presumes itself, something that science could not possible revise (e.g. causation), then the metaphysical argument is going to be at least as strong as the most certain inferences science has ever made. Thus we can have a metaphysical argument in which you might ask “well how do we know the foundational assumptions are correct”, but if those foundational assumptions are shared by science, then one must either doubt everything or accept both. One cannot both deny the metaphysics and accept the science if they share foundational assumptions. That last line is really the purpose of this post.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
There’s a hadith that weighs heavily on my conscience as I begin this project (which will no doubt end with the epic defeat of atheism and the reign of God on earth!) It is as follows:
انما الاعمال بالنيات
Actions are only by their intentions.
When I first heard this hadith, it was kind of a feel good “oh that sounds nice and very prophety of the prophet to say,” then I kind of just went about my day. It was much later when the importance of this small little saying dawned on me. On a certain level this refers to an obvious ethical precept, namely that intent must be established for any crime or good deed. Even the legal system acknowledges this; if I push a person in front of a bus, then it’s not murder unless I did so intentionally. Heck you might push someone in front of a bus in an attempt to save their lives, but simply fail to do so.
In this sense, a person’s intention makes all the difference. I’ve even noticed this in movies now-a-days where writers increasingly try to create “multi-dimensional” villains by getting the reader to sympathize with their intentions; despite the obvious horror of their crimes. You see, that serial killer is not really a bad person, they tell us, he only does what he does because he was abused as a child. In fact, the seriousness of intent is so evident to the human race, that you can even make villains into heroes by portraying their intentions in a positive light. This is now becoming an entire genre of Hollywood (think Pirates of the Caribbean, where you’re literally cheering for thieves who make their livelihood by robbing the hard-work and toil of honest men and terrorizing them.)
While I do think there is a point to be made by showing multi-dimensional villains, and exposing the good intentions of a villain to the viewer, overall I think Hollywood is desensitizing the general population’s sense of morality by justifying the evil actions of villains. This translates to people justifying their own actions by reference to their intentions. You see, very few people, in their own eyes, are villains. Very few people think that they are bad people. Very few people admit, confess, acknowledge, and deeply regret their evil actions, despite their intentions.
If you ask a cheater why they did it, 9 times out of 10 they are not going to say “because I’m a terrible person who could not control their urges. I failed to control the beast within. I recognize that countless others have been in exactly the same position that I was in, and chose to do the right thing; I simply lack the self control and moral fortitude.” Most of the time, they will tell you about how horrible their marriage was going, how they didn’t feel loved, etc. I’m not saying that those things aren’t important, because they are.
In fact, nobody sympathizes with us about our circumstances, how we were feeling, and our intentions more than Allah, who is closer to us than our jugular vein. He knows full well exactly what we’re going through, and thus He is the Most Compassionate with regards to our circumstances. He knows us so intimately that we really do not even need to explain our circumstances to Him because He “experienced” it with us. I believe on Judgement Day, Allah will know and understand these things, and it is partially in this that my hope lies for His Mercy. I can almost see myself begging Him: God, you knew how difficult it was for me to control this nafs, you know how much I struggled to still my tongue, and you know how the outburst of anger and rebellion came upon me like a sudden wave. I’m truly sorry, I couldn’t control the beast within. But why wait for Judgement Day to make this confession, when Allah is Ever-Present, Watching?
Allah the Exalted says:
بَلِ الْإِنسَانُ عَلَىٰ نَفْسِهِ بَصِيرَةٌ, وَلَوْ أَلْقَىٰ مَعَاذِيرَهُ