This is the first of a series of articles demonstrating that philosophical reasoning can not only establish the existence of God but that it can also illuminate some of God’s attributes (e.g., oneness, simplicity). In this initial article we begin by looking at criteria for establishing the reasonableness of an argument.
A claim or proposition may be considered reasonable if it meets one of the following criteria:
- It can be affirmed by rigorous public corroboration
- Its denial leads to a contradiction of publicly corroborated fact
- Its denial leads to an intrinsic contradiction
Just one of these forms of evidence is sufficient to ground the truth of a claim. More than one would provide additional corroboration, but is not necessary.
With respect to (1) – Rigorous public corroboration is that which is sufficient to make a preponderance of reasonable people believe that an affirmation of the claim is far more reasonable than a denial of it. Take for example the claim that Father Spitzer is currently in his office. This corroboration could occur through agreement from multiple persons witnessing Father’s presence in his office.
In science, rigorous corroboration could occur through different kinds of experimentation, repetitions of experiments, different kinds of measuring devices, etc. In social sciences, this might come from multiple approaches to a single problem or statistical analysis (using correlation coefficients, T tables, etc.).
With respect to (2) – It’s denial contradicts a rigorously corroborated fact. Take for example the negation of the claim from above. Father Spitzer is not currently in his office (though multiple reliable witnesses can attest that he is in his office). Above, the affirmation of the statement confirms the evidence, whereas the denial of the proposition in the previous sentence contradicts the evidence. An example from science would be the denial that the earth rotates around the sun. Since it has been rigorously demonstrated that the earth does in fact rotate around the sun, the denial of this fact would contradict the evidence, thus rendering it unreasonable.
With respect to (3) – Intrinsic contradictions are impossible states of affairs. Examples include square circles and finite infinities. Thus a denial of a proposition that would lead to an intrinsic contradiction could not be true. Square-circles of the same area in the same respect at the same place and time will not be able to exist in this universe or any other universe. Furthermore, they will not be able to exist in the future or the past any more than they can exist today.
A word about “terms” – When stating a proposition, it is necessary to define key terms. This does not mean that the definitions need be comprehensive (i.e., exhaustive). Sufficient definition is achieved when the terms are capable of demonstrating that:
- The proposition can be affirmed by public corroboration
- Denial of the proposition would contradict a publicly corroborated fact
- Denial of the proposition would lead to an intrinsic contradiction
In the next article we will begin presenting a metaphysical proof for God’s existence. Because this is a purely logical argument its reasonableness will rely on the third criterion, namely that denying it will lead to an intrinsic contradiction.
Joseph Miller is the Executive Director of the Magis Center