Gateway to “Mysticism”, Part II – Logic

Part of series. Background:

I may have mentioned this before: Carl Sagan managed to reeeeeally rub me the wrong way back in the early 80s when I first became aware of him through Cosmos, a comically overrated Science! series. One thing that got me was his repeated sneering dismissal of ‘mysticism’, a term whose functional definition was anything Carl didn’t like: God and religion, of course, but also philosophy and especially metaphysics, insofar as they have anything to say about Science!.

Painting of David Hume.jpg
Nice hat. Did he just step out of the shower?

Next, after explaining what math is and where in the material world it comes from, the materialist should have a ready answer to this question: where, in the material world, is logic observable? A related, and slightly more subtle question: why should anyone care? Why prefer rationality to irrationality?

I, and Hume and Kant and others, fail to see any material basis for logic. Not only do we not see logic, we are stumped by the question: what would a material manifestation of logic look like? Not only is logic not observable in the natural world, but it is impossible to imagine how it could be observable. Sense impressions flood us, one after another or all at once, and we decide that it is reasonable to assume that some small subset of those impressions follow invisible laws (which I always imagine as an old man with a white beard in the sky), and that, following those laws is reasonable.

No, rather logic is something mysterious, mystical, even, that we (assuming there’s a ‘we’ – might just be a ‘me’, how could we/I tell?) that we bring to the game, not deduce from it.  After reading Hume, Kant felt obliged to create the concept of categories of perception – he concluded that pure reason is entirely the product of the mind and that categories condition our perceptions in such a way that we truly cannot imagine what, if anhy, relationship exists between our thoughts and the world of independently existing things.

Kant may be wrong, but he is convincing in his assertion that the thing he is describing is completely mystical in the sense Sagan uses – logic and reason are certainly not flowing out from objective observation. They are not facts under any consistent materialist theory.

You get nowhere in science without math and logic. Math and logic are immaterial and unobservable. Therefore, in Sagan’s sense, Science is founded on Mysticism.


Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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