God and Logic Part 1: The Logical Euthyphro

imagesWhat does God have to do with logic? It seems that the reality of the laws of logic force God into a dilemma. Either God is subject to the laws of logic or he is not. If God is subject to the laws of logic, then God is not absolutely sovereign. If God is not subject to the laws of logic, then God is illogical. Either way, God is less than worship worthy. Or so it would seem.

Is there a way out of this logical version of the Euthyphro dilemma? (The traditional Euthyphro dilemma is from Plato and concerns God’s relationship to morality. Plato asks: “Do the gods love piety because it is pious, or is it pious because they love it?” Our question in this post is an analogue of this original dilemma posed by Plato). The good news for those of us who are Christians and want to be logical is that there is a way forward.

Let’s start by thinking a bit about God. If God is to be God, then he is perfect in every way. Arguably, rationality is a great-making property, thus God has it superlatively and essentially. God is essentially supremely rational (or again, essentially perfectly rational).

Next, let’s think a bit about the laws of logic, laws such as the law of non-contradiction, the law of excluded middle, or the law of identity. What exactly are they? As Greg Welty and James Anderson have argued, the laws of logic are best understood as propositions. Moreover, these propositions are best understood as divine thoughts. (I think that all propositions are divine thoughts—see my defense of modified theistic activism here and here—but for our purposes we only need to hold that all propositions that are laws of logic are divine thoughts.) One reason to think this is that the laws of logic are necessary truths—truths that hold even if there were no contingent human minds—and this gives us reason to think they are truths had by a divine mind.

So, the laws of logic are divine thoughts. But thoughts about what? Answer: they are thoughts about the relationship among propositions. They are God’s thoughts about thinking.

If the above picture is correct, then the laws of logic are dependent on God and part of God. As an essentially perfectly rational being, God will always act in accordance with the laws of logic, but he is not subject to them. In this way, we can maintain God’s absolute sovereignty and perfect rationality.

In my next post, I’ll consider the question of whether other aspects of God’s nature, in addition to his perfect rationality, can be inferred from the reality of the laws of logic.


For an excellent discussion of this issue, see the EPS symposium on God and Logic here.

2 Responses to God and Logic Part 1: The Logical Euthyphro

  1. Pingback: God and Logic Part 2: Do Laws of Logic Have Divine Attributes? | Paul Gould

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