Reasoning with Faith, Religion, and Atheism…Circular Reasoning (Part 2)

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Circular Reasoning

To most circular reasoning is more of a logical fallacy than a valid argument.  This is assumed so because circular reasoning resembles that of the Begging the Question Fallacy.  The most common form of this fallacy is when the first claim is initially loaded with the very conclusion one has yet to prove.  Basically it is the speaker or author then tries to “prove” his or her assertion by merely repeating it in different words.

Obviously the premise is not logically irrelevant to the conclusion, for if the premise is true the conclusion must also be true. It is, however, logically irrelevant in proving the conclusion. In the example, the author is repeating the same point in different words, and then attempting to “prove” the first assertion with the second one. A more complex but equally fallacious type of circular reasoning is to create a circular chain of reasoning like this one: “God exists.” “How do you know that God exists?” “The Bible says so.” “Why should I believe the Bible?” “Because it’s the inspired word of God.” If we draw this out as a chart, it looks like this:

The so-called “final proof” relies on unproven evidence set forth initially as the subject of debate. Basically, the argument goes in an apparent circle, with each step of the argument relying on a previous one, which in turn relies on the first argument yet to be proven. I think the question at hand now is:  Is Circular Reasoning valid is some circumstances of argument?  Here are two videos of a Christian and then an Atheist using circular reasoning.

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About M. Rodriguez

When I first received Christ salvation, I made it a priority to read the whole bible and I did. But it was the Bible that made me question my faith. For I found it flawed and lacking. Due to this I launched a personal inquiry/investigation into my faith, and ultimately realized that the Christian God of the Bible was indeed man-made. Now I Blog about those findings and life after Christ.
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4 Responses to Reasoning with Faith, Religion, and Atheism…Circular Reasoning (Part 2)

  1. unklee says:

    Interesting topic, BR, but I think your example is better than the two videos.

    The christian video tries to justify the use of circular reasoning in some contexts, and I don’t think it presents a very good case – the argument about logic may be right, but is a special case. The atheist video tries to show circular reasoning by giving a reductio ad absurdum argument for atheism, but falls into three mistakes:

    His argument goes like this:

    1. I don’t believe God exists.
    2. If God wanted me to believe he exists, she would have given me enough evidence.
    3. Religious people say that I will go to hell for not believing.
    4. Why would God send me to hell because I don’t believe?
    5. Therefore either God doesn’t exist or hates me and wants me to go to hell.
    6. Either way I don’t want anything to do with God.

    It is clear when we look at this ‘argument’ that:

    (i) It isn’t logically valid. #4 is a question, not a proposition, while #5 & #6 don’t follow logically from the premises (though #6 sort of follows from #5). To make it work, he needs at least another premise, 2a. God hasn’t given me enough evidence.
    (ii) Several of the premises are very contestible. #3 is based on what religious people say, which is an argument from authority based on what, from his viewpoint, is very poor authority. Religious people might also say that God has given him enough evidence, so he needs to demonstrate his point here.
    (ii) Finally, and most obviously, it isn’t a circular argument – none of the premises are the same as either of the conclusions – e.g. “I don’t believe in God” is quite different from “Therefore God doesn’t exist”.

    Your example, with diagram, is a much better case of circular argument, and I agree that such an argument shouldn’t be used.

    But it is worth noting that there are several schools of philosophy on this. ‘Foundationalism’ tries to start from known premises and build to a logical conclusion, but ‘coherentism’ argues that we can never find a known foundation without making an assumption, and what we need is a set of beliefs that all hold together and mutually support each other. A coherentist might appear to use a circular argument and it might be consistent from their viewpoint.

    Best wishes.

  2. plasticpatrick says:

    Isn’t all reasoning ultimately circular? If thoughts exist in my brain without a conflict then all those thoughts are somehow connected.

    Even when you consider the body of conventional knowledge you could definitely define many circles that back each other up but are accepted wisdom. When recognizing circular logic is important to see it as a flaw but you have to start somewhere.

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      No, I would not say forms of reasoning are circular. Some things are considered accepted wisdom, because they are self-evident. This may seem like circular reasoning but it is not. For deny certain self-evident premesis, you would also have deny reality and natural/physical order.

      Example: Rene Descartes- “I think therefore, I exist”

      for someone to logically refute, this, would be actually invoking, because they would be actually invoking their cognitive brain and using their thinking ability. This statement is considered almost a basis for all philosphy and is not circular, it is considered a self-evident premesis. This is self-evidently proves, that any cognitive being that expressly thinks, and also expressly thinks in someway shape or form.

  3. Pingback: Reasoning with Faith, Religion, and Atheism…Introduction to Reasoning (Part 1) | The BitterSweet End

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