The Map of the Soul
articles on the nature of the human mind
By S.M. Zakir Hussain (Bangladesh)
(Author’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Trap of Proof
A major barrier to our being creative is our desire for and dependence on proof. Let me surprise you by telling you that a proof is a second-hand way of knowing the truth. It helps neither to learn nor to know anything. Rather, it is needed only when we want to preach something that we do not know ourselves well. The psychology of proof is the only thing that can give us knowledge. Philosophers like Karl Popper have proved (!) that proof is nothing but psychology, not logic. By using logic we only attempt to prove what we have already assumed to be true. In other words, the methods of proof are a way of preaching that which we would not want to have disproved by others.
Puzzling though it may sound, it is the fact. Proof pertains to calculations. And we tend to calculate what we believe to have already conceptualized. Proof does not have to do anything with our concept. So long as we are trying to prove our concept of the truth without conceptualizing what proof refers to, we will not get at the truth. Such proof will strengthen our technology, but will not enrich our knowledge and wisdom.
We humans can only prove what we cannot know from within. That is, we can prove only what we observe others to be doing. Likewise, we can never prove what we know personally. This we cannot do for two reasons: either what I prove will not be accepted by others, or they will not understand it because it is already in themselves too, as a result of which they will find it difficult to judge it. Few people can judge the inside. We are accustomed to judging the external reality according to our predispositions. An attempt to prove always creates two parties.
How can I prove to you that which is already within you? Attempting to prove it will first preach it to be external to you, which is why you will never accept it. This is how we have lost ourselves. The truth cannot be proved, because it does not need any proof.
Therefore, we would do well if we questioned the things that we have already stopped thinking about just because we have learned to consider them adequately proven. Our concept of proof colors our intellectual breadth and worldview. Let as take a very crucial example.
The powerful logician Bertrand Russell said that it can neither be proved nor be disproved that God exists. Interestingly, this statement can be obtained as a proof arising from an argument. The famous liar paradox and Russell’s Paradox or the paradox of set theory give rise to reasoning of this kind. Here let me present a popular version of Russell’s Paradox:
Many an intellectual person has been deceived by this fake argument. There was a time when the communists used to boldly reject God on the basis of this argument. But actually this is not a valid argument at all. That is because just when you ask the question “Can God destroy himself?” You imply that you have already accepted God as true, for if you did not, you would not ask the question at all! Nobody will ask a question to a dead body. Even if they do, they do not have the right to call the dead man ignorant if no answer comes. If, however, an answer came, then also they could not judge the dead person at all on the basis of what answer they would think they got, because they very assumption that an answer should come from a dead person indicates that the responsibility of the truth or falsity of the judgment solely needs to be burdened on them and not on the dead person.
The fact that you are assuming the existence of a God and then imposing some conditions on your concept of that god and eventually drawing some conclusion all alone without waiting for an answer from that god, whatever it be, suffices to prove that your own logic can assume something to be true but cannot prove it. Does it, then, not prove that human logic has its own limitations? That it cannot even lawfully create the concept of an omnipotent God and then prove the viability of the concept with its own law? Rather, it is to be noted that logic cannot create and validate its own origin, for if it could, then it would cease to be logic at all; in that case it could well invalidate itself by creating its origin in any way it liked. Creation cannot create the creator. If it could, then it would become the creator itself and lose all right to call itself a creation and then to question itself.
That our logic fails to give a logical treatment to its own concept of God amply proves that God cannot be a concept at all. If something does not get lost into nothing when it returns to its origin, then it cannot be consistent with itself. The logic that does not get destroyed when it gets back home cannot be logical at all. If the logical concept of God could not destroy logic when it faced its source, then that concept could not be logically valid at all.
Now let us turn to the first issue: that the truth of the existence of God can neither be proved nor disproved. We can state the conclusion in another way: It is true that God can be neither proved nor disproved. In logical symbolism:
It is true that G and not-G.
Now, what does it mean? Does this statement not contain a blatant contradiction? With this contradiction, how do we evaluate the term ‘true’ here? And consequently, whom do we feel more encouraged to put to question ¾ God or the person that utters the phrase “It is true that”? How is it to be true? Or how can the predicate be false? Rather, as I feel it, reasoning of this kind, much to the surprise of the logician, proves that God is true. And that is very easy to feel if we have the politeness to admit that only saying “It is true or false that ...” does not necessarily prove something.
What is the truth itself does not need to be proved. That is why it is automatically proved when both proof and disproof fail to work. Then the only entity that needs to be questioned is the person that is creating the question.
If what is true can be proved to be false, then the proof, as long as it is logically valid, adequately proves that the truth is the truth, what ever it be.
Logic proves the truth or its origin by failing to prove its truth or existence. If it could ask a question even when it reached its origin, then it could also create an answer of its own accord, after its own choice. Then ‘choice’ would prevail over logic, the thing that has really happened.
A contradiction proves what it contradicts. If it did not, then the expression that if is a contradiction would not make a valid statement. If the concept of contradiction were not meaningful, then it could not be used as an instrument to justify something.
The fact that there are contradictions proves that there are planes of existence that have the ability to absorb the contradictions. Reality absorbs and unifies all contradictions, while logic, in order to remain valid, upholds them. The existence of contradiction is existence itself.
I am not going to say anything about what God is or should be like. What I am trying to show is that we must discard our concept of proof as far as the roots of the mind and intellect are concerned. The potential of all true creativity lies there. All mega-intellects of the world were believers in the existence of one God. Those, however, who rejected such belief propounded such theories of their own as clearly indicated that they, having failed to believe in one God, unwittingly attempted to propose theories supposed to be so unifying that they would at least create a God that would have no alternative. I can easily cite the name of Karl Marx as an example.