Logic is the bedrock foundation on which to build your worldview. It’s presupposed by every conclusion, every premise, and every thought. The very concepts of “truth” and “falsehood” are grounded in logic. So naturally, the question must be asked, “What exactly is logic? What is its metaphysical status?”
What does it mean to say “logic exists” – what is its existence like?
Before trying to explain what logic is, let me first explain what it is not.
A popular conception of logic is as a “thing” – as a kind of “object” or “entity” within the universe. In this conception, you can imagine all of existence being represented by a gigantic sphere, and logic is a little sphere within it. You have some parts of existence which are logical and some parts which are illogical.
Often, according to this train of thought, the “logical parts of existence” are tied to the human mind. It’s said that “we create logic to make sense of a senseless universe”.
Other people have a similar idea. They conceive of logic as a kind of instruction manual for thinking. Logic is something you do or you follow – like following the instructions in a car manual. “If you want to participate in the act of thinking”, they say, “you have to follow these agreed-upon rules.”
This idea views logic as a kind of rulebook constructed by humans. Were circumstances a bit different, the rules could look different – just like the rules for anything else, whether it’s political rules, the rules for language, the rules for chess, or the rules for driving on the highway.
Related to this idea is a religious conception on logic. Logic is indeed a rulebook, they say, but it isn’t created by humans; it’s created by God. Again, if the circumstances were different, God could have created a different rulebook or not created logic at all.
In all of these examples, logic is a “thing” with boundaries.
If logic is created – whether by humans or by God – then there must be a realm of existence outside logic, or a realm which existed prior to logic.
If logic is contingent, then logical laws could be different – like physical laws. We can easily imagine a universe with different laws of physics – perhaps one where gravity is a little stronger or where Argon has one less proton.
The Metaphysics of Logic
All of these conceptions of logic are mistaken. Logic is not an entity. It’s not a “thing” in the universe. It isn’t created by anybody.
“Logic” is a word that references the inescapable rules of existence. These rules are not contingent, and they apply to literally everything which exists – which excludes the possibility of existence in a realm “outside logic”. I will justify this statement shortly.
If logic is the “rules of all existence”, that still doesn’t explain the metaphysical status of such “rules”. What is a logical rule, and what is it like?
The reason logic applies to everything is explained in this article, but I will summarize it here:
For anything that exists, it certainly exists, and it is certainly false to claim that it does not exist.
Everything that exists, exists; and it doesn’t not-exist. (If it didn’t exist, it wouldn’t exist in the first place).
This isn’t just “true in this universe”. It’s true in literally every case of existence, in any possible universe. However something is, wherever it is, it is however it is. And it isn’t how it isn’t.
Say the skeptic insists that, “You can’t know whether logic applies in some other metaphysical realm. Maybe we humans just can’t conceive of it.”
This is mistaken. I know with certainty that logic applies to all metaphysical realms for the following reason:
All metaphysical realms are metaphysical realms. And they are certainly not not-metaphysical realms. In other words, absolutely no thing escapes logical necessity – nor could it ever, because “it” would have to be whatever “it” is.
In this light, it’s clear that God couldn’t ever “create” these truths; they are necessary. Not only is this the way it is, but it couldn’t possibly be any other way (as it could never be true that something exists without existing).
Thus, my conclusion is: logic and existence are inseparable. This is both a metaphysical and epistemological claim.
You cannot have existence without existence, and this truth also implies the existence of falsehood. If something is true, then it’s necessarily false to claim that it is not-true. Thus, truth and falsehood follow from the fact of existence – i.e. you can affirm or deny the existence of existence wherever existence exists.
Logic and Necessity
OK, that still doesn’t answer the question, “What is the metaphysical status of logical rules?”
I will try to phrase the answer several ways, taking into account the limitations on our language. I can’t appeal to any “objective definitions” for words, so I will try to figuratively “point” to what I’m referencing.
The first thing to understand is that the word “rules” is misleading. We think of rules being “orders” or “instructions” – as some “procedure to be followed.”
But logic is not an instruction manual. Logical rules must be followed; they aren’t optional. They literally cannot not be followed.
Contrary to any other set of rules, logical rules aren’t “in” the universe. The universe does not “contain” logic. The universe is bound by logic. Logic and existence are not able to be separated from one another – you cannot have existence without logic, and you cannot have logic apply to nothing.
We have to be clear; though the universe is “bound” by logic, it’s not in the usual sense of the term “bind”. We think of rules being enforced. You are “bound” to legal rules, and if you break them, you could be thrown in jail.
But nobody is “enforcing logic”. There’s no cosmic force making sure that squares aren’t circles and that existence is however it is. There’s no “enforcement” needed because logical laws are necessary and couldn’t be any other way.
It’s not that the laws “aren’t any other way”, it’s that they “literally couldn’t be any other way”. Something which could never be different does not need to be enforced.
These rules are not in a rulebook, and they certainly aren’t created by a rule-maker; they simply couldn’t be otherwise. An omnipotent God could not “break” the laws of logic, because they are not something that can be broken. If God exists, then he exists, and he certainly doesn’t not-exist. Thus, he too is bound by the laws of logic.
(But again, that doesn’t mean an omnipotent God has some chains around him keeping him in check. Being all-powerful means “being able to do everything which can be done” – but he couldn’t “do something which can’t be done”, because those things can’t be done!)
So, logical rules are something inherent to existence itself. You might say something like this:
“For any thing that exists, there is some ‘necessity’ coupled within it; namely, that it exists and doesn’t not-exist.”
You can call that necessity “logic”.
So if you’re looking for metaphysical definition, here’s as close as I can get:
Logic is necessariness – it’s why necessary propositions are actually necessary.
Thus, logic isn’t an entity that you can point out. It is not something which exists “in addition to everything else”. Logic is woven into the fabric of everything in existence. You might say it’s a necessary part of every existent thing. Without it, you wouldn’t have anything at all.
Note, I’m not saying that “the universe is constructed by logic”, as if logic is a building block. Logic isn’t a material. It isn’t energy or particles. You might phrase it another way:
Logic is simply the way things must be.
You wouldn’t say, “the way things must be” exists as some independent thing, or “the universe is constructed by the way things must be.”
You’d say, “the way things must be is simply the way things must be, and that’s the way things are.”
Think about it: you couldn’t have things be the way they are without things being the way they are. In an identical sense, you cannot have existence without logic.
Comprehension and Language
This way of thinking is often met with skeptics claiming, “Yeah, well that’s just your logic!” or “That’s just Aristotelean logic! There are other logics, too!”
But this is also mistaken. The confusion comes from a misunderstanding of the relationship between language and the world. People frequently mistake concepts for what the concepts reference – confusing “a label” with “what the label is stuck to”.
The words “my dog Goose” are not the same thing as my dog Goose. He exists separate of my conception of him, and regardless of my labels for him.
It doesn’t matter if you label my dog “Spark”, while I label him “Goose”, and some other guy denies he exists. He’s still is whatever he is – something we call a “dog”.
“Logic” is only a word. I use that word to point at something in the external world. I’ve given something a label. Aristotle, too, pointed at the same thing, and he also used the term “logic”. That doesn’t mean there is “Pattersonian logic” and “Aristotelean logic” – what we’re pointing to is the same thing.
Words spark concepts in the mind, and the mind can grasp propositions as they relate to reality. The propositions in this article relate to “logic”, but they aren’t logic themselves. As I have said before, my intention was to figuratively “point” to what I’m referencing with my words.
Paradoxes and Necessity
When you understand logical necessity, you understand why paradoxes don’t exist – they don’t exist because they cannot exist. All paradoxes are only apparent-paradoxes that can be resolved with some inspection. This is not a hypothesis; it’s a necessary truth about everything in existence. Something that cannot be true is not true.
In my mind, nothing is more foundational than these ideas. If you want to grasp the deepest truth in the universe, understand the nature of necessity.
Why are necessary truths necessary? When you understand logic, the question answers itself.
After all of this, logic might seem like something mystical. But it isn’t. Logic is not some powerful being; it isn’t magical. It simply is, and it couldn’t be otherwise.
Of course, that being said, understanding logic is the deepest, most powerful and profound knowledge of all. Your worldview – and even your entire life – should recognize and be oriented around logic. It applies to literally everything, in every possible universe, from the beginning of time until the end. For those interested in the truth, I can think of nothing more exciting.