This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.
Recently I’ve come across two concepts in my study of eastern religions that shook my entire worldview. I find them to be logically coherent but they totally contradict the judeo-Christian worldview. I would appreciate if you can help me out.
1. While we say that God is the uncaused, unmoved mover the eastern religions say that the soul (universal self) is the unmoved mover. So we are god who have simply chosen to wrap ourselves in temporary finite bodies. I think that we can counter this by asking why the all knowing soul would do this? Do you have any other logical counter arguments for this?
2. The next problem is tat I have just realized that eastern philosophy has always used many valued (fuzzy) logic as opposed to the classic binary logic accepted by western, Christian thinkers. If that’s the case especially with the uncertainly principles in quantum physics how can we hold on to the law of non contradiction when we claim that our worldview is the only truth? How can Jesus claim to be the only way as opposed to Krishna who claimed to be the way? What if they were both partially right? These doubts worry me. I’m not a tech person so would appreciate a clear, non technical answer. Thank you.
Dr. William Lane Craig's Response
O.K., Rebecca, here’s “a clear, non-technical answer” to your questions! If you want a more careful, differentiated response I highly recommend Stuart Hackett’s Oriental Philosophy (University of Wisconsin Press, 1979). To see how a Buddhist philosopher reacts to my criticisms see my dialogue with Dr. Sik Fa Ren at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
1. It’s not true that “eastern religions say that the soul (universal self) is the unmoved mover.” Rather these religions typically deny that there is any substantial soul or enduring self at all. The soul is illusory and does not endure from one moment to the next. Moreover, ultimate reality is not a personal self who has decided to do anything. The Absolute is beyond description and distinction of any sort and therefore is utterly characterless.
In any case, if we do imagine a personal God who has “chosen to wrap [himself] in temporary finite bodies,” that implies that I am God incarnate, a conclusion which I find not only no reason to believe but utterly implausible in light of my evident finitude, contingency, and sinfulness.
2. These religions do not advocate anything so benign as a multi-valued logic. Many-valued logics can be useful, for example, in electronic circuitry, where a switch may have three positions labeled -1, 0, and +1. As you mention, some physicists have suggested using a multi-valued logic to characterize certain quantum experiments, though this approach is generally viewed as failure. Some philosophers have advocated using a three-valued logic to describe future-tense propositions about contingent events, a view I have criticized in my The Only Wise God. It’s far from clear that multi-valent logic is applicable to truth values (as opposed, say, to switch positions), and if one does wish to make such an application, it must be done within the framework of customary two-valued logic.
Rather the eastern religions you speak of deny the application of logic to ultimate reality at all. As mentioned, the Absolute is beyond all distinctions, and therefore nothing can be said of it. It is apprehended only in mystical experience. Such a view is logically incoherent. For if nothing can be said of the Absolute, how can we say that nothing can be said of it? It is not true, after all, that the Absolute is beyond all distinction, for that is to say something truly of the Absolute. The position is thus self-refuting. Thus, you were quite wrong, Rebecca, to say that these eastern perspectives are “logically coherent.” They are by definition logically incoherent, since they renounce logic, and are, moreover, self-refuting.
In any case, what ought to be clear is that no reason whatever can be given to adopt such an incoherent perspective. For any argument one gives will involve the assertion of certain truths and the use of the logical rules of inference in order to draw conclusions. No sort of justification can be given, e.g., “Ultimate reality is beyond human logic,” for that is to assert a putative truth about ultimate reality, when there is none. Why would anyone want to adopt such a logically incoherent view for no reason at all?
 The eminent philosopher of science Tim Maudlin writes,
“the horse of quantum logic has been so thrashed, whipped and pummeled, and is so thoroughly deceased that . . . the question is not whether the horse will rise again, it is: how in the world did this horse get here in the first place? The tale of quantum logic is not the tale of a promising idea gone bad, it is rather the tale of the unrelenting pursuit of a bad idea. . . . the whole mathematical apparatus [of quantum mechanics] is perfectly well described and explained and understood using classical logic. And while there are interpretive problems with quantum mechanics that need to be faced, none of those problems can be solved, or even ameliorated, by rejecting classical logic” (Tim Maudlin, “The Tale of Quantum Logic,” in Hilary Putnam, edited by Yemima Ben-Menahem (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 184-5).
This Q&A and other resources are available on Dr. William Lane Craig's website.