Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Your "Own Logic"?

Do you have your “own” logic? If you’re explaining why you think something is true, and someone else challenges it, is it a sufficient response to say that you have your “own” logic when it comes to these things?

Of course not. Read on for a very thorough examination of this claim, along with an analysis of the kookiness that they just rolled out of the Fruitcake Factory.

 There’s a somewhat interesting thread going on at the Fruitcake Factory (, where this notion of your “own logic” appeared (read the thread here). The thread in question started out discussing the Cairo Working specifically, but it’s grown into a more general discussion of supernatural claims and their place in Thelema. I use the word “discussion,” of course, very loosely – basically, it’s just a bunch of superstitious nuts reasoning poorly, interspersed with generally insightful  questions from the thread’s OP and antagonist, “Frater Potater.”
While Frater Potater is generally correct in many of the things he says, he claims somewhere in the middle of the thread:

I have my own logic, and my own standard with which to process the evidence. We both have our different reasons for thinking the way we do. I guess we'll just leave it at that.

He explains this a little later:

Yes I say "My" logic, meaning it's coming from my perspective. It is a given that we are two different people. Like I said, we have our own inclinations, our own biases, our own filters. We will look at the evidence and draw different conclusions. Everyone will be looking at the same evidence. We all draw our own conclusion.

 No, actually, you don’t have your own logic or your own standards. There’s just logic, which is not subjective or different or varying from person to person. Logic is a tool that deals with the process of producing conclusions, and there are objective criteria for this process. Any independent observer can examine someone else’s reasoning and conclude, objectively, whether the conclusion is logical.

Take, for example, the famous syllogism:

All men are mortal.

Socrates is a man.

Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

This syllogism is an example of how we can objectively determine whether a conclusion is logical. Here, this deductive conclusion is both sound (based on true premises) and valid (properly drawn from the premises).
The objectivity of the logical process applies also to processes that start from premises that only one person can observe. Witness:

I feel hungry right now.
Hunger is frequently caused by the body needing energy.

Therefore, my body very likely needs energy.

The conclusion is both valid and sound, objectively so, and that validity and soundness are not altered in the slightest by the fact that only the person speaking the syllogism can personally observe the first premise. If I tell others about my logical process, any objective party can examine my train of thought and determine if it is valid and – equally important – if it is sound.
However, what many people seem not to forget is that “logical” – the sense of being a valid conclusion drawn from premises – does not necessarily mean “true.” Take this syllogism:

I had a vision while I was on a movie line.
The vision felt like a communication.
Any internal experience that feels like a communication is likely a communication.
Therefore, the vision was likely a communication.

This syllogism is valid (that is, the conclusion is produced correctly from the premises), but it is unsound because it introduces a premise not demonstrated to be true (“Any internal experience that feels like a communication is likely a communication”). After all, there are lots of examples of people experiencing what seems like a communication but is in fact self-suggestion, daydreaming, imagination, or, more rarely, a psychotic break with reality.

In other words, while we might say that the conclusion is “logical” (in the sense of being a valid syllogism), we can also judge that the logic here is – objectively – unsound.

In other words, the fellow advancing the above argument doesn’t have “his own logic” with which he makes and evaluates claims. He has the same logic that the rest of us have, and he applies it foolishly. He may tell himself that he has his “own logic” or his “own standards,” but this is merely a device that enables him to ignore the fact that he is poorly applying logic.

Michael Staley (presumably the OHO of the Typhonian Order) likes to say frequently that we all have our own “standards” for making evaluations, but this isn’t really true. Standards of logic and evidence are objective, and they remain objective whether we’re talking about evidence that only one person can perceive (like visions) or evidence that multiple people can perceive (like, say, statistics).

One time, when engaging him on this point, I pointed out that a man who hears voices and who therefore concludes that “aliens must be beaming messages into my head” is demonstrably drawing an incorrect conclusion from that evidence, objectively.

As I put it at the time:

this is a phenomenon that only one person can observe, but the "standards of evidence" for accepting that claim are something that we can discuss and come to conclusions on. To put it another way, the experience of hearing voices is entirely subjective (in the sense of "arising in the mind of only one individual"), but the conclusions that one comes to about the experience don't have to be subjective (in the other sense, of being "colored by personal bias"). One's conclusions -- and the standards of evidence by which one comes to those conclusions -- can be objective (in the second sense, of being "uncolored as much as is possible by personal bias"). Through rational discussion, we can evaluate those standards of evidence and conclusions.

 And as I put it to someone else, using the same example:

the claim “aliens are beaming messages into my brain” is – objectively, in the second sense – sufficient but not necessary (as an explanation of the phenomenon under discussion). As such, based solely on the evidence presented, an individual cannot (validly) accept the claim.

That’s an objective conclusion because it does not matter what I (or anyone else) personally think about aliens: we can’t (validly) accept a sufficient but unnecessary cause without evidence that suggests it’s operating in this situation.

In the same way, if I lose my keys, I can’t say, “Well, that means that aliens must have taken them.” Aliens taking my keys would be a sufficient explanation (it certainly would cause me to lose the keys), but it’s not necessary: there’s nothing about the evidence that even remotely suggests it’s likely at all.

This is objective (second sense), universal criteria for analyzing this kind of claim.

With these basic concepts out of the way, let’s turn to one of the stupid ideas that appeared in that thread on the Fruitcake Factory.

One confused kid who calls himself Bereshith repeats the standard believer script that atheism can lead to atrocity:

the scholarly consensus can be just as close-minded and experientially lacking as the faithful. If you think atheistic, materialist, empirical science-types don't kill for their ideals, review both historical and present-day Communism. The faithful aren't the only ones with blood on their hands.

 The problem here is that the poster is trying to argue that there is equivalence between believers and non-believers because both believers and non-believers have committed atrocities. For this comment to be relevant in the thread in which it appears, it would have to be asserting a basis of comparison between believers and non-believers, asserting that just as believers hold to a position that can cause them to commit atrocities, so too can non-believers hold to a position that can cause them to commit atrocities (as he says directly above, when he notes that “atheistic, materialist, empirical science-types […] kill for their ideals,” presumably the causes of atheism, materialism, and science [because if he wasn’t claiming that they kill for those things, it wouldn’t be a proper basis of comparison]).
But, in point of fact, we can determine – objectively – that not holding a belief (atheism, materialism) can never logically be the cause of an action, while holding a belief (theism) can be the cause of an action. People take actions on the basis of what they believe, not what they don’t believe.

Stalin, for example, never committed his crimes “in the name of atheism” or “in the name of materialism” (in other words, in the name of not-believing-in-god or not-believing-in-worlds-other-than-the-physical). He committed them in the name of beliefs of his: the belief in a political ideology, and a belief that it is appropriate to use force to impose that political ideology.

This Bereshith kid makes a bunch of other stupid arguments on the thread, and they are all – objectively – just as bad. I was going to refute his other arguments, but it would literally take me hours to point out all of the objective flaws in his thinking. The sad part, figuratively speaking, is that this kid probably thinks he’s a “free thinker” who has “boldly escaped dogma” or some crap like that, when in fact his own poor reasoning is making him the prisoner of his false ideas about reality.

Anyway, go and read the thread if you need a laugh. A more important point will be made in my next post, where I address Eshelman’s syllogisms.


  1. I think it's possible you fixated just a bit much on the semantics. The word 'logic' has a very specific, and somewhat sacred, charge for you, I think. That statement, too, is simply the result of my limited history (perspective) with your posts and emails.

    I think, though, that FP's explanation regarding personal filters and biases is just as valid as your claim that there is a standard, objective logic which exists outside of Hadit. We are, for the moment, much entrenched in our peculiar experience, and can only speak from that with any sort of authenticity. No?

  2. Certainly, people have their own biases and filters, and equally certainly, someone can only speak from his or her particular point of view. In one sense, everything that I think and say is subjective (meaning that it arises from my particular, personal point of view).

    But my point in the above post is that the logical process itself -- the means of drawing conclusions from premises -- isn't subjective, in the sense of being determined by individual biases.

    To clarify, if two individuals were given a set of premises, there is a single objective way to draw valid conclusions (and an objective method of determining whether a syllogism is both sound and valid). Here, "objective" is meant in the second sense, "as uncolored as possible by individual bias."

    Doubtless, each individual would have their own subjective set of biases, but when those biases are set aside, there is an objective way to make and evaluate conclusions, one that doesn't depend on the biases of any given individual.

  3. Hello. Frater Potater here.

    Excellent blog post. I suppose I just wanted to clarify a little bit. In that thread, when I used the word "logic" there, I was only trying to say that his thought process seemed whack, unreasonable. I was just going off what I thought the common connotation of the word would have been. It's my fault for not articulating what I was trying to say.

    What I was trying to address was the way in which Eshleman's personal biases seemed to be twisting the logical method to fit into his already preconceived perspective. Surely that would have been apparent to any person who read the argument. I was not employing the strict definition of reason and logic as a method of deducing conclusions and premises and whatnot.

    Anyways, love your blog. Thanks

  4. Hi Frater Potater,

    Thanks for the clarification. I just thought it seemed like you were suggesting what I have seen others say -- that logic is subjective in the sense of being entirely dependent upon a given individual's preferences, as if person X would draw one conclusion from premises and person Y would draw a different conclusion from the same premises and there would be no grounds for distinguishing who was correct.

    Now it's true that one person might validly consider a decision "logical," while another person might validly consider an opposing decision "logical," but that's because each person starts from different premises. Within each set of premises, there is objectively a valid way of drawing a conclusion.

    And just as a clarification on my comment above, I might as well add that I'm not suggesting that in day-to-day life there's only one possible conclusion in every situation. In lots of situations, the evidence is faulty and incomplete, or it might suggest a number of possible conclusions without supporting any of them strongly enough for us to accept any of them as true.

    I was merely pointing out that given a set of rigidly defined premises, there is an objective conclusion that we can reach, one not dependent upon any one individual's perspective.

    I've been enjoying your posts on the ToT Forums, Frater of the few things that makes reading them tolerable.


  5. The means may not be subjective, but can anyone drawing those conclusions be entirely objective?

    I'd venture a, 'no,' on that one, and because this is what I espouse, I'm wondering if that objective logical process exists if no one can execute it. If it does, are we talking Plato's shadow world, here? How 'real' is an ideal?

  6. Suze writes: "The means may not be subjective, but can anyone drawing those conclusions be entirely objective?"

    Well, in the examples I gave above, we can be. It's objectively correct to conclude that Socrates is mortal, just as it's objectively incorrect to conclude that aliens are sending messages into my brain. So we know that people *can* be objective -- or at least as objective as is possible -- in some cases.

    All cases might not be so straightforward, and in some situations, people might not form premises correctly, etc.

    But in cases where there isn't agreement from all parties, that's the purpose of rational discourse: to determine the best conclusion based on the evidence. We wouldn't be able to have such discussions if there were not an objectively best conclusion. That is, if there's no such thing as an objectively best conclusion, then having a rational discussion about conclusions is a giant waste of time. However, advances in science and various bodies of knowledge suggest that rational discussion is not a waste of time.

  7. "Despise also all cowards; professional soldiers who dare not fight, but play; all fools despise!"

    For anyone willing to actually invest the time and effort to get to know my mind instead of merely reading the cowardly reviews of someone who does not have the courage himself to debate on these forums, to oppose me to my face, nor to argue with my logic as I have myself have actually presented it in full and in context, you may find me at

  8. * "as I myself have"

    Also, your criticisms of Jim Eshelman's comments might carry more weight if you actually demonstrated the courage to ask him in person for clarification.

    You cherry-pick quotes and build straw men of them to burn in order to impress your readers.


  9. I suggest you familiarize yourself with this thread before you show up:

  10. My point about those who have killed in the name of religion or in the name of irreligion reflects my argument that "relgious wars," as they are often termed, are not in fact wars about religion. They are wars over land, money, and control of people's minds and wills. Religion is the excuse - the scapegoat. If religion may be blamed for wars carried out by those who seek land, money, and control, then irreligion must be considered just as irresponsible and culpable. Whether an atheist kills a believer in the name of Communism (just for example), or a believer kills an atheist for the ideal of theocracy, the root is the desire to control minds and wills. This is true even on an individual level. The issue is always "You will believe (or not believe) as I dictate. Both are abominations.

    If there is anything else you would like me to clarify for you so that you do not further disgrace yourself by mischaracterizing people's ideas and trashing them behind their backs without offering them the opportunity to defend their good names, you know where to find me.

  11. Bereshith writes: “…cowardly reviews…”

    As opposed to what? A brave blog comment that makes puerile taunts and challenges? Methinks you need to get out more if your definition of “bravery” includes pressing one’s fingers against a few keys in a safe and comfortable environment.

    Bereshith writes: “my logic […] in context”

    Ok, let’s see what “context” you think I’ve missed…

    You write: “My point about those who have killed in the name of religion or in the name of irreligion reflects my argument that "relgious wars," as they are often termed, are not in fact wars about religion. They are wars over land, money, and control of people's minds and wills.”

    Well, you didn’t say that in the thread – at least not anywhere surrounding the post I quoted in my article – so this isn’t “context” from the thread that I’ve ignored. Maybe it’s stuff that you *meant* to say in the first place, but it’s not context.

    Anyway, I agree that wars have lots of causes, but since Frater Potater was specifically talking about organized religion “relentlessly silenc[ing]” and “savagely murder[ing]” the “people who opposed the orthodoxy,” he was clearly taking issue with oppression and violence that stem from dogmatic belief.

    It’s hard to imagine, for example, that the persecution of Galileo and other geniuses, the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, and a host of other awful historical events would have happened if not for supernatural beliefs. Even wars like the Crusades – which I fully acknowledge have many causes – found their primary justification (and the primary means by which men and materials were raised) through religion. It would have been significantly more difficult for Popes to raise armies willing to travel so far and risk their lives if no one thought the Pope had magical powers, was “infallible” on matters of faith and morals, or was leading a “holy” endeavor.

    So while you might be able to argue that wars have lots of different causes, it’s very much the case that beliefs were directly responsible for atrocity in quite a number of historical cases. Those beliefs *caused* the people holding them to act in specific ways that gave rise to atrocity.

    You clumsily try to draw equivalence between religiously-motivated atrocity and non-religiously-motivated atrocity:

    You write: “If religion may be blamed for wars carried out by those who seek land, money, and control, then irreligion must be considered just as irresponsible and culpable.”

    But – as I pointed out above – the comparison fails because belief can be the cause of action, while non-belief can never logically be the cause of action.

    And that’s the point I was making above: beliefs – religion, political ideologies like Communism, personal philosophies, etc. – can serve as motivators to action, but non-beliefs (like atheism or materialism) can never logically serve as the cause of an action.

    If you’d like to try to refute that point, you’d have to demonstrate how *not* believing in something can be the logical cause of an action.

  12. As to your accusations, I deny that I have “mischaracterized” any argument, and I invite you to demonstrate that I have.

    And as for your request for me to join the Fruitcake Factory, I have no interest in the Temple of Thelema or Eshelman’s branch of the AA, and I find the ridiculous claims routinely discussed on the website’s forums (as if they were facts) to be an insult to intelligent people generally and to Thelema more specifically. As a result, I feel that my joining the forums would not be productive at this time.

    “Thelema and Skepticism” is a space for me to post whatever I feel like, and what appears here is entirely my business. I allow comments to appear on it, and I am more than willing to engage intellectually with sincere commenters. If you want to discuss with me anything that I post, you’re welcome to do so, but I’m not going to join any forums or any other groups just because some commenter wants me to.

  13. "But – as I pointed out above – the comparison fails because belief can be the cause of action, while non-belief can never logically be the cause of action."

    You reject the most obvious characteristic of your own atheism - the strong, emotional, belief that religion is bad (see def. of "irreligion") that has caused you to create this entire blog.

    It is not "lack of belief" that causes your actions; rather, it is a strong belief that religion is bad and must be stamped out that causes your actions.

    What you have done with words, others do with guns.

  14. Bereshith writes: “You reject the most obvious characteristic of your own atheism - the strong, emotional, belief that religion is bad (see def. of "irreligion") that has caused you to create this entire blog.”

    You’re making the rather common mistake of conflating atheism with the belief that religion is harmful (anti-theism) [or with a desire to make fun of religion]. You’re further conflating anti-theism with violent anti-theism.

    Atheism is the lack of belief in gods. That’s it. There are plenty of atheists who do not think that religion is bad. I have, in fact, heard some atheists say that they *wish* they could believe that there was a god but that they simply cannot because there isn’t sufficient evidence. Many atheists admire the charitable actions inspired by religions or even work for religious institutions (almost always in a secular capacity, of course). Perhaps the majority of atheists, though, are indifferent to religions. They simply live their lives and prefer to be left alone.

    Now indeed, some atheists hold a belief commonly called anti-theism – the belief that religion is harmful. This is a belief – in addition to and on top of their not-believing-in-gods. [And just to be clear, it's not a "belief" in the sense of being taken on faith -- it's a position well-informed by evidence] It is this belief that distinguishes these atheists from atheists who are okay with religion and from those atheists who are indifferent to it.

    I am an anti-theist – and, on top of that, I’m someone who enjoys making fun of the stupidity of religion – but anti-theism isn’t an *aspect* or *characteristic* of my atheism. My atheism consists entirely of the fact that I don’t believe in any gods. That’s it. Any beliefs that I hold are extra, whether it be the belief that religion can be a good thing, the belief that religion is awfully comforting, or the belief that religion is harmful and should be opposed.

    However, I do not hold the belief that religion should be *violently* opposed.

    So indeed, my anti-theism (that is, my belief that religion is harmful, stupid, worthy of mockery, etc.) informs my actions because it’s a *belief*. Similarly, Stalin’s *belief* in Communism – and additionally his belief that it’s right to forcefully impose one’s ideology – motivated his (very different) actions.

    It’s *belief* that motivates action.But what doesn’t motivate action for either me, Stalin, or the atheist down the street is our atheism, which is a *non-belief.*

    Again, the only thing that atheists have in common is that they don’t believe in gods. There are atheists who would dislike my mockery of religion, atheists who would be horrified by Stalin’s atrocities (most atheists nowadays probably would), atheists who barely care about world religions and think it’s stupid or a waste of time to attack them. As a result, one cannot logically lump them all together by saying, “Atheism causes atrocity.” It doesn’t. It’s beliefs held by *some* atheists that *can* lead to various actions.

    In other words, I’m suggesting that this issue is far more nuanced than you have expressed and that it would do you some good to be more precise and sophisticated in your thinking on the matter.

  15. Bereshith writes: "the strong, emotional, belief that religion is bad [...] that has caused you to create this entire blog."

    Just to be clear, lots of different factors caused me to create this blog, including a desire to have a space to post up my thoughts, my enjoyment of critiquing the arguments of others (in many subjects, not just religion), my desire to spread the meme of critical thinking, etc.

    My anti-theism *informs* the blog (and informs my posts), but it's far from being the solitary cause of the blog's creation.

  16. Well, I'll let your readers be the judge of both your argument as well as the honor of your methods in doing so.

  17. Obviously, you’re free to do whatever you like, and there’s no obligation for you to read my blog or to respond further. But let’s remember that you came around accusing me of mischaracterizing your argument and implying that I took you out of context. I went to the trouble of patiently demonstrating how those accusations are not true, *and* I demonstrated exactly why your argument is incorrect.

    The expectation is that an intellectually honest person in your situation is either going to explain where he still disagrees or is going to concede that he was wrong. You know, it’s not exactly the worst thing in the world to be wrong about something. There's no shame in it. Not to mention, the mere fact that you’re wrong about *this* one issue doesn’t automatically mean you’re wrong about other issues.

    As I said, you’re free to do what you like, but when you come around and behave as you’ve done, you haven’t really earned the right to talk about “honor.”

  18. To say you have your own logic is like saying you have your own math.

    But really, it is just a sloppy use of the term "logic", as if it means "reasons for why I think so". But, as always, in our "postmodern" world, people prefer bullshit to the effort of using words as precisely as possible.


  19. I do not see why religion and Theism must be identical. Nor that the harm in religion is from it's making false metaphysical statements. The harm is as St. Nietzsche points out, when the religion denies reality and creates a sense of resenting life, in favor of some ideal or other world. When religion creates a duality between Truth and Ideal, basically and then, calls the Ideal TRUE and the actual false, wicked, sin, etc.

    If we look really at Christian theology, it is saying that everything that exists was created by God, that God has a plane we are not able to understand, but that God's plan is benevolent or Good in ways beyond our measure. So this world the actual world, is what authentic theology is concerned with. The creation or physical world is GOOD as it is, and if you resent or reject the world, that means you deviate from God's Will, that is you are in error or sin. You hold your own ideal above what is. This sin is what leads you to say "NO" to this world, it leads to dissatisfaction, and the ultimately to slave values etc.

    So actual Christian theology is about getting right with God, which is just a metaphorical way of saying accepting the real actual world, and rejecting your false ideals, and fancy pictures. (This is the "religion" of Thelema as well.) As Crowley stated in the "Genesis of Libri AL" The law of Thelema is the same as Jesus tried to teach, but to paraphrase people were to dunder headed to understand it, and his message was corrupted with superstition.

    The metaphysical part, is not important. Those were just the terms people in the past used to try to understand the world. The religion does not need those metaphors or old science terms, mere logic constructs.

    True prayer for example is nothing that uses mystical powers, prayer is not to bring wealth or heal the sick. Prayer is a deep meditation to help you come to accept aspects of reality rather than to reject them and feel the world is bad or lot you down or betrayed your sentiments. Prayer is "getting right with God" that is to say it is coming to accept Fate or the world as it is, aligning your heart with truth. There is nothing superstitious about that.

    All the superstition is added on top of religion, by those who thing religion is a way to change the world, to use supernatural powers to coerce the hand of God or fate, to re-make the world according to their own hearts, rather than to open their hearts to say YES to the world or "GOD" as it is.

    If you believe in materialism or in idealism or in some form of theological metaphysics, it has no bearing on religion. As Religion is practices that aid to help you say YES to life.

    Where as superstition are beliefs and practices that cause you to say NO to life and delude you into believing that you can re-make the world into your own image. (Black magick or sorcery).

    So my conclusion here is that theism and atheism are irrelevant to religion and should be considered nothing more than a personal aesthetic choice when it comes to subjective Cosmos model to describe phenomena.