Nishanth Arulappan


Logic is the study of the methods and rules of necessary and valid inference. Across cultures, different cultures have had different philosophical viewpoints, which have led some to assume that logic in the East is different from logic in the West. This view is erroneous, as logic is the same throughout history and across cultures. Eastern philosophy may be different from Western philosophy because the premises with which each philosophical system began were different. But this does not amount to a difference in logic, per se. Prominent concepts in logic from respective cultures are compared and contrasted. This paper affirms the universality of one logic and presents the Biblical worldview as the only philosophy which explains and accounts for it.

Defining Logic

It is pertinent to define the terms involved in any discussion before proceeding into the details of the topic. If the definitions are not clear and precise, then the communicator might fail to get his message across, because the meaning that he has in mind might not be what the reader or listener assumes. To avoid any equivocation in communication, it saves time and confusion for both the communicator and listener, if definitions are made explicit from the beginning.

“It is not logical to say that.”

“My logic collapses at this point.”

“What kind of logic is that?”

“Logic cannot answer that.”

Survey those four statements. The person making the first statement implicitly assumes that there are “logical” and “illogical” ways to say things. The second statement brings out the idea that there is “my logic” and “your logic.” The third statement assumes that there are different “kinds” of logic. The fourth assumes that “logic” is some sort of repository from which we get answers, or there are some domains in which logic does not apply. Now, put these four persons together in a discussion on “logic,” and you will find that it is virtually impossible to move forward in thought because of the privatized meanings that each has in mind.

In scholarly presentations and writings, we can expect the audience to have a reasonable degree of familiarity with academic terms. But looking for the same agreement with a junkyard owner, the farmer, or the plumber (or in some cases, even college students) can truly be considered “Great Expectations.” Of course, colloquial usage of the terms will have some connection with the formal academic use, but there would be a great deal of variation with each individual, sometimes leading to contradictory meanings. Hence, for academic concerns, I shall adhere to the definitions inside the ivory towers, rather than going to the junkyard, metal workshop, or barnyard.[1]

There are two ways to study definitions. One method is to trace the etymological roots of the word under consideration, look at how it has “evolved” over time, study translations from various languages, compare the linguistic cognates, and so on. The other method is to look to the “experts.” Look at how they have defined it, assuming that there is a reasonable degree of similarity between them. Now, there might be fine points of disagreement between the experts themselves, but if there is a great deal of disagreement, we may be dealing with completely different concepts or words altogether.

If I define logic as the science of necessary inference, and another says that logic is the art of living wisely, you can see the ostensible difference in concepts. Of course, necessary inference is needed for living wisely, but that is not the immediate concern that I have in mind when I define the term. Hence, even as we look to the “scholars,” please keep this issue in mind.

Given below are the “textbook” definitions from some authors. My intention is to show the unanimity of diverse writers.

“Logic is the study of the methods and principles used to distinguish correct reasoning from incorrect reasoning. There are objective criteria with which correct reasoning may be defined. The aim of logic is to discover and make available those criteria that can be used to test argument and sort out good arguments from bad ones.” (Copi and Cohen)[2]

“Logic really means putting your thoughts in order. It studies the methods we use to analyze information and draw valid conclusions. It puts all these methods in order that gives us the right way to draw conclusions.” (Geisler and Brooks)[3]

“Logic, in the most general acceptance of the term, may be regarded as the systematic study of thought.” (Robert Adamson)[4]

“Logic is concerned with the principles of valid inference” (Kneale and Kneale)[5]

“Logic is the science of necessary inference.” (Gordon Clark)[6]

As a summary, Wikipedia[7] states: “logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning.”

Putting it simply, does A follow from B (or C, D….etc, etc)?

For example,

P1: It is raining

P2: The ground is wet

C: Therefore, the cow is a four-legged animal.

The falsity of such an inference is obvious. However, the invalidity of most of the detailed philosophical arguments and fallacies in them are not transparent for the untrained reader or listener. Logic makes the whole process of inference a deliberate one and elucidates the “objective criteria” (Copi & Cohen) that helps differentiate correct reasoning from incorrect reasoning.

Logic in History

The moment one mentions “logic,” the first character who might appear is Aristotle. However, the history includes many more persons from different cultures who have illustrated the ideas of inference in their respective languages. Logic, the way it is framed in most university curricula today, has largely expanded on what started in Greece over two millennia ago.

Today, there are several topics which are included under the category of logic, such as philosophic logic, computational logic, syllogistic logic, propositional logic, predicate logic, modal logic, mathematical logic, and so on. How did these specialties and divisions happen? Let me borrow an example from medicine (my current field).

The world of allopathic medicine, as of today is a highly specialized field, but was not in the beginning. Surveying the progress from Antiquity through the Middle Ages, then to the Renaissance period until now, one is astonished to see how the whole process happened.

Ignoring the development from antiquity, let’s move back in history for just a short time. Several decades ago, the family physician was the quintessential doctor, who treated just about every ailment from head to toe. But today, a cerebrovascular neurosurgeon, specializing in the posterior fossa, will not normally operate on the lumbar spine (though that also comes under the domain of neurosurgery), let alone do a laparoscopic hysterectomy on woman or a mitral valve repair of the heart. Of course, all allopathic doctors (regardless of their specialization) would share a basic understanding of human anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and other disciplines at a reasonable level. But the requirement of fine skills in different fields, segregates the practioners into different camps. At this juncture, it is pertinent to quote Bernard Shaw: “Every profession is a conspiracy against the layman.”

Likewise, in the field of logic, as time wore on and applications were found in other fields of inquiry, the science expanded to include several specializations. It is helpful to note the growth of these specializations in their relevant historical context. Kneale and Kneale in their classic work, Development of Logic, trace it from pre-Aristotelian times, down through Aristotle, the Megarians, the Stoics, the Romans, the progress in Medieval and Renaissance times, finding applications in Number and Set Theory, and culminating in the philosophy of mathematics. Elsevier’s multi-volume Handbook of the History of Logic, is the most comprehensive work on the subject to date. Following a similar pattern to the Kneales, they begin with logic in Greece, Arabia and India, tracking it down to the Medieval and Renaissance ages, then moving on the rise of “modern logic” showing the change in perspectives from Leibniz to Frege, covering mathematical logic from Russell to Church, moving on to modal logic, finally culminating in probability theory and decision theory in today’s intellectual climate.

Now, it is important to know the basics from which these specialized fields have evolved. The superstructure is a result of a long period of progressive growth on the basics. The skyscraper is built on the foundation which is not immediately visible. But without that base, the skyscraper would not even exist. When one savors a burrito, but few, if any, consciously thinks about the flour and individual ingredients in the filling. But it is those things which make it taste the way it does. Likewise, in the field of logic, while delving deep into the specialized categories, one cannot ignore the basics that have formed the foundation.

Logic Across Longitudes

In this paper, I will restrict myself to the foundations of logic. My aim is to contrast “Eastern” logic from “Western” logic and challenge the commonly parroted misconception that logic is different in the East and the West. It was Rudyard Kipling, after his service in British colonial government in India who remarked: “East is east, and the West is west, and never the twain shall meet.” What were the exact differences in his mind that led him to state this, we do not know. But this idea trickled down to common consciousness.

The East-West dichotomy initially began as a sociological concept to explain cultural differences (worldviews), but has now broadened to include logic as well. Of course, I concede that the philosophical viewpoints in different cultures will be different, but it is a fallacious inference to say that they are so because logic itself in these various cultures is different. That is, the methods of inference themselves are different; therefore, the resulting philosophies are different. That is the idea I intend to refute.

My thesis is simple: the reason why the philosophies of the East were different from the West is because the first principles and individual premises in respective philosophical systems were different. Hence, when each philosophical system is seen as a whole (with all the implications and deductions from the individual premises), it would obviously be quite different from any worldview that does not share the same premises. But the rules of inference are universal. This can be recognized across cultures, but no secular philosopher or logician can explain why it is so. (Only the Bible-believing Christian can.)

Before going into the technical details of inference in various cultures, let me ask one question, which would be the linchpin of my thesis: “If differing philosophical viewpoints from different cultures are a result of different inference methods, does it mean that philosophical viewpoints in the same cultures will be homogenous?” Someone with even a cursory grasp of philosophy will say a resounding, “No!”

The basic idea is where logic is relative and changing among cultures. If logic is different in different cultures; there are differing philosophies in different cultures. Then, it should follow that all philosophic viewpoints from a particular culture should agree with each other, since at least among themselves, logic should have a unanimous operation. That is, different methods of logic (in different cultures) have produced different philosophies. So, if the method of logic is the same in a particular culture, would it result in identical philosophies? A brief look at philosophical viewpoints in different cultures strikingly disprove such an idea. [8].

In Greece, from epistemology to theories on time, different philosophers held different views. Parmenides said change and motion were impossible, while Heraclitus believed everything was constantly changing and in motion. Plato disagreed with both, and with his theory of Forms, set a sort of middle ground between the two.

Among the Chinese, Gaozi argued that there was no common human nature; Mengzi held that there was a common human nature and that it is basically good. Xunzi agreed with Mengzi that there was a common human nature, but disagreed that it was good. He argued instead that human nature is basic and selfish. Dong Zongshu combined both the views.

Likewise, in India (the country of my birth and education), there were six orthodox schools and three unorthodox schools each of which used the same debate techniques (which are nothing but methods of inference) to support their different views. Carvacans were materialistic atheists, denying the existence of any spiritual realities. Shankara argued that everything in the world was a spiritual manifestation of Brahman, but that Brahman was not a personal god. Madhava and Ramanuja believed in the plurality of physical objects and gods.

If the argument is that geographical and cultural diversity accounts for difference in methods of inference, then within the same cultures there should be no “different” viewpoints, since they would all be the same. It would be redundant to speak of “they” since multiple philosophies would not exist. There would be one grand amalgam of a worldview for each respective culture limited by geographical considerations. As we have seen above, such agreement is far from the case.

I do not deny that there are “right” and “wrong” ways to infer; but inference on the whole is what it is regardless of geography, culture, and time. The right and wrong ways of inference has to be universal across cultures. Otherwise, cross-cultural examination and communication, and language translation cannot even occur

Let me quote the same argument:

P1: It is raining

P2: The ground is wet

C: Therefore, the cow is a four-legged animal.

Just imagine there are two cultures with different languages separated by a millennia, and let’s call them A and B. Imagine also that the above argument is written in the respective languages. Now, if someone in culture A says this inference is wrong, and someone in culture B says that this inference is right, then one can say that what is called “inference” in culture A is different from culture B. But even then, it does not mean that inference is different. It only means that we should question whether the term “inference” can be rightly applied to culture B’s activity of arriving at knowledge.

Inference means this implies that, or this follows from that. Since that is not happening in culture B, we cannot call that inference. Developing a system of thought, or even coherently talking for a short period of time in such a culture would be impossible. Unless there is permanence and unanimity of the principles of inference, once cannot say anything in a meaningful fashion. And unless there is a universality of thought patterns, cross-cultural communication will remain impossible.

In fact, Gene Blocker, even argues that with regards to strict philosophical argumentation, it is difficult to see gross differences between Eastern and Western philosophers. He writes:

Though it is certainly controversial, it is my account that philosophy strictly defined (excluding folklore, mythology, pre-philosophical religious writings, and so on), is not culture dependent, as are other aspects of culture, and that as a result, non-Western accounts of the self, causality, human nature, virtue, appearance, and reality, and sensation and reason are comparable with Western versions. Indeed, it has been my experience that those who are familiar with and trained in philosophy (ie., Western philosophy), are generally unable to distinguish statements from Eastern and Western philosophers, unless given the philosopher’s names.[9]

For example, consider these.

The shadow of a flying bird never moves, and the wheel of a chariot never touches the ground.” Many attributed this to Greek philosopher Xeno, while it was from the Chinese logicians.

Now let someone try doing away with the authority of the ruler….and then watch and see how the people of the world treat each other. He will find that the powerful impose upon the weak and rob them, the many terrorize the few and extort from them, and in no time, the whole world will be given to chaos and destruction.” Many wonder where Hobbes said this, when in fact this was from the third century Chinese philosopher Xunzi.

Whoever has already risen will not be able to arise. Whatsoever has not arisen, will not arise. Either a phenomenon has already arisen, or else it will arise; there is no other possibility beyond these two….. If a phenomenon were to exist inherently it should be permanent. If a phenomenon were to exist inherently, it would either exist permanently, or else undergo complete disintegration: it cannot occur in a way which is different from these two.” Was it Parmenides, Zeno, or Melisus who said this? Neither. It was the second century Indian philosopher, Nagarjuna.

What is denoted by the word cow is not the mere individual itself, without any qualifications, and as apart from the universal to which it belongs, but the individual as qualified by and along with the universal.” This is not from Aristotle, but the fifth century Nyaya logicians of India.

Thus, across cultures separated by geography and time, there is a great deal of philosophical commonality. Despite having vastly different philosophical systems on the whole, these different worldviews share some common viewpoints. This commonality is explained by the common premises where the systems agree. If they share common viewpoints, they have to share common methods of inference, through which they arrive at the respective conclusions from their initial premises. Thus, logic – the rules of inference – does not vary from culture to culture.

This, in itself, should settle the discussion. Inference methodologies across various cultures will further ground this conclusion.

A Tale of Two Cultures

Logic has developed in Greece, India, Arabia, and China. Since the Arabs improvised on Aristotle, I shall not take them in the comparative study. I am no expert sinologist, but as far as I have researched for this paper, there is no official text written by any Chinese thinker on methods of inference.

Hence, I shall confine myself with comparing Greece and India. The ideal and most comprehensive way to study the two approaches to logic is to contrast Aristotle’s Organon (particularly Prior Analytics) with the Indian text Tarkasamagriha and the Nyaya Sutras. If we want to study the texts “as they are,” I should quote them in Greek and Sanskrit, but you might have to spend time learning those languages. To save us time, I shall quote English translations of relevant texts, when needed.

Since this effort is not a detailed study on either Indian or Grecian approaches to logic, but merely a contrast to elucidate the similarities between the two, I shall limit myself to how the most basic logical concepts have been expressed in these different cultures. I have deliberately refrained from delving into the comparison of technical details, since that would virtually require a book on the subject.

When translating a certain word from language A to language B, we need to find the most appropriate word in language B for the corresponding word in language A. When we cannot find a word in language A with the exact meaning of that in language B, the word or words that most closely resembles it has to be used in translation. For example, what is the Sanskrit translation of the word ‘philosophy’? Is there any word which exactly means “love of wisdom”? Not really. The Sanskrit terms which come closest to English meaning are dharshana and thathva which mean ‘vision of truth and reality’ and ‘nature of reality’ respectively. Thus, though exact words in two languages might not be available to represent ideas, the ideas themselves can be conveyed with as many (or little) words as needed.

In the beginning of this paper, I quoted different “Western” definitions of logic. Let us now turn to India. Kautilya (350 to 283 BC), a statesman-philosopher of the Mauryan Empire, defined logic as: “the lamp of all branches of knowledge, the means to accomplish all works, and support all religious duties.”[10] It is called Nyayavidya or Nyayasastra by Vatsyana Pakilaswamin, as mentioned by him in his Nyayabhasya: “It is called ‘anviksa’ (investigation), because it consists in reviewing (anu iksana) a thing previously apprehended. The science that proceeds by this ‘investigation’ is anviksiki, nyayavidya, nyayasastra, the ‘Science of Reasoning’ (Logic).”[11]

Ramakrishna Puligandla, philosophy professor at University of Toledo, writes:

Nyaya is unique not only for its recognition of the need for and priority of method but also for its explicit and elaborate formulation of the principles of enquiry. Nyaya, then is chiefly concerned with the canons of correct thinking and valid reasoning as methodological tools for acquiring knowledge of reality. For this reason, Nyaya is often referred to as tarkasastra, the science of reasoning (or simply, logic).[12]

Now, how different is that from present Western conceptions of logic? Insignificant, if at all! So, with regards to definitions, we can see that both cultures have had the same conceptions.

When we looked at the development of the system of methodical inference in Greece, it was directly linked up with the methods of “demonstration” that were previously followed in geometry by Pythagoras and his followers.[13] This paved the path of the high level of abstraction that was achieved by Aristotle in his classic work Prior Analytics, where he expounds on syllogistic patterns.

In India, logic was elaborately explained under what was considered rules of debate, whereby philosophers from different schools stated and defended their views. Other philosophers at different times in history improvised and expanded on earlier traditions. They taught techniques on how to conduct debates successfully, what tricks to learn, how to find loopholes in the opponents’ position, and what pitfalls to be weary of.[14]

First, consider the assertion that logic in the East follows synthesis, and the West follows antithesis. Many Eastern philosopher, both those of the East and the West) present a that “both-and” logic, while they say that in the West logic is “either-or.” Rather than blaming it on logic as such, one should say in the East it was “both-and” philosophy, while in the West it was “either-or” philosophy. In India, no doubt, this philosophical posture (i.e., the tendency to affirm both sides of the contradiction), has indeed influenced methodology to a certain extent. But the fundamental laws of thought are the same in Greek and Indian approaches to logic.

To say that logic is the West is different from the West would imply things like only the West recognized logical contradictions, while the East did not. This position is obviously false. The reason Indian philosophy is considered to be mysterious and enchanting is because it tolerated contradictions, despite recognizing them. Rather than affirming either of the contradictory propositions, there was an attempt to affirm both. Indian philosophers were aware of these contradictions, the same way the Greeks were. Otherwise there would be no conscious attempt to “synthesize” contradictory propositions!

Logic is the same for both groups. What is a contradiction in the West is a contradiction in the East. In the West, they affirmed one of the contradictory propositions, while in the East they attempted to affirm both. Obviously, this latter effort did not make sense. Hence, there were frequent appeals to mystery, which was a subtle maneuver to deceive the rest from seeing the obvious inconsistencies in their philosophies.

Ravi Zacharias, Christian author and speaker, narrates that after a certain talk, a professor challenged him saying that the way of logic in India is “both-and” and not “either-or.” After a series of conversations, Zacharias, had to point out to him that he had to use “either-or” to assert the “both-and.” That is, the professor was saying it is either “both-and” or nothing else. This demonstration shows that the law of non-contradiction is unavoidable. There is no “both-and” anywhere in the universe. (For more on Zacharias’ comments, see here. )

This reality is exemplified when one considers how the tetralemma is twisted in Buddhist philosophy. There are three fundamental laws of thought, which makes rational thought and meaningful communication possible. They are:

[1] The law of identity (A is A)

[2] The law of non-contradiction (nothing is both A and non-A in the same time and same sense)

[3] The law of excluded middle (either A or non-A)

The tetralemma is a derivative of the laws of thought, which states that for any given proposition X, there are four possibilities.

Affirmation (X)

Negation (not-X)

Both (X and not-X)

Neither (X nor not-X)

Applying this in Buddhist thought, one would have something like this:

Everything is real and not real.

Both real and not real.

Neither real nor not real.

That is Lord Buddha’s teaching.

Mūla-madhyamaka-kārikā 18:8,

In Buddhist thought, the tetralemma was called the Catuskoti, which was popularized by Nagarjuna. In this case, either of the first two propositions can be affirmed, but not both. Nagarjuna, given his particular mental tendencies, wanted to affirm and deny both of the possibilities. The result was skepticism and to cloak the irrationality, his defenders had to say things like “we have reached the limits of thought,” “it is beyond ordinary logic,” and so on.

Avi Sion, in his aptly titled book, Buddhist Illogic, says this about Nagarjuna:

He does not succeed in this quest. For his critique depends on a misrepresentation of logical science. He claims to show that logic is confused and self-contradictory, but in truth what he presents as the thesis of logical science is not what it claims for itself but precisely what it explicitly forbids. If logic were false, contradictions would be acceptable. Thus, funnily enough, Nagarjuna appeals to our logical habit in his very recommendation to us to ignore logic. In sum, though he gives the illusion that it is reasonable to abandon reason, it is easy to see that his conclusion is foregone and his means are faulty.[15]

Nagarjuna recognized the nature of a contradiction. In spite of this recognition, his intellectual posture was to affirm both sides of it, due to his peculiar mental inclination. Richard Robinson remarks:

What Nagarjuna wishes to prove is the irrationality of Existence, or the falsehood of reasoning which is built upon the logical principle that A equals A…. Because two answers, assertion and denial, are always possible to a given question, his arguments contain two refutations, one denying the presence, one the absence of the probandum. This double refutation is called the Middle Path. (Emphasis is his.)

Nagarjuna’s knowledge of logic is about on the same level as Plato’s. It is pre-formal, and consists of a number of axioms and rules of inference which he manipulates intuitively, with great dexterity but also with occasional error.

The principle of contradiction is invoked constantly throughout the Karikas. It is stated in general form in two places:

[1] “For entity and negation of entity do not occur within a unity.” (7.30)(10)

[2] “For real and non-real, being mutually contradictory, do not occur in the same locus.” (8.7) Applications of the rule with narrower values for the terms are common:

[3] “For birth and death do not occur at the same time.” (21.3)

[4] “Nirvana cannot be both entity and non-entity, (since) nirvana is unconditioned, and entity and non-entity are conditioned.” (25.13)

[5] “For the two do not occur within one place, just as light and darkness do not.” (25.14)(11)

[6] “He would be non-eternal and eternal, and that is not admissible.” (27.17) The law of the excluded middle is twice invoked explicitly:

[7] “Other than goer and non-goer, there is no third one that goes.” (2.8)(12)

[8]”Other than goer and non-goer, there is no third one that stays.” (2.15)

In other examples, “tertium non datur” is tacitly assumed.

[9] “He who posits an entity becomes entangled in eternalism and annihilism, since that entity has to be either permanent or impermanent.” (21.14)

Since Nagarjuna’s argumentation relies on numerous dichotomies, the principle of contradiction is necessary to most of his inferences.[16]

As we can see in these above propositions, the laws of identity, non-contradiction, and excluded middle are explicitly applied. So, is Eastern logic really different from Western logic? The answer seems obvious.

Avicenna, the celebrated Arabian philosopher, who improvised on Aristotle, stated the following for those who deny the nature of contradictions:

As for the obstinate, he must be plunged into fire, since fire and non-fire are identical. Let him be beaten, since suffering and not suffering are the same. Let him be deprived of food and drink, since eating and drinking are identical to abstaining. (Metaphysics I.8, 53.13–15).[17]

One might fear being an Indian philosopher in Avicenna’s land! The one’s love for affirming both sides of the contradiction might be the death knell of not just his mental capacity, but his very life itself.

The Chinese developed the yin-yang theory, which loosely translated means opposites are interconnected. Again, the Chinese did recognize that opposites did exist. They could identify a contradiction. But due to their particular intellectual attitude, they wanted to establish a connection between them. Xinyan Jiang in his article, The Law of Non-Contradiction and Chinese Philosophy,[18] argues that once the “Chinese concept” of contradictories is understood, the inconsistency between Chinese paradoxes and the Aristotelian view of contradiction will disappear. I reply saying that the difference will “disappear” only when ‘contradiction’ means the same thing to both the Chinese and Aristotle. If the Chinese “concept” of contradiction varies greatly from Aristotle, then they are dealing with a totally different concept altogether.

All this serves to prove that the law of non-contradiction is universal, and that it cannot be avoided for any meaningful conversation. Logic is the same in the East as it is in the West. Both of them recognized a contradiction for what it is. But due to their intellectual tendencies and commitments, those in the East attempted to swallow a contradiction, while the West did not. This difference resulted in different philosophies, not different systems of logic.

Cross-cultural Comparison, Language, and Logic

As mentioned earlier, there might not be an exact word in a certain language for the corresponding word in another language. But the ideas themselves can easily be expressed in various languages with as many (or little) words as necessary. So, one fundamental tenet of cross-cultural examination is that we will express the ideas of another culture with the “lenses” of our cultures (worldview). First, in translation we will use the words in our language to describe their ideas. Next, we will use our categories to correspond to theirs. This methods is unavoidable (unless one chooses to leave some words in the original language, as many do with Heidegger’s Dasein), but this difference is not relativism.

No matter what the language and culture, when studying one through the “lens” of another, the objectivity of the ideas does not have to be lost. This congruence exists because ideas transcend language. That is, the same idea can be expressed in different languages. Language as such is not a limiting factor for intellectual expression. What limits the expression of thoughts is available terms for translation from one language to another. The solution to this difficulty is to either develop a new word (which summarizes the idea), or convey the idea in the foreign language with as many (already existing) words as needed, or simply use the word from the original language. No doubt, in regular conversation, it is cumbersome to use many words to represent a concept due to the lack of a single word which can summarize the whole concept. It’s only a pragmatic concern, which need not cause irrational conclusions that there are “limits of language.”

Language is the symbolic representation of thoughts. Thus, different symbols (what we call words which include written characters and spoken sounds) can be used to express the same idea in different languages. The following different symbols (in Greek, Tamil, Hindi, Russian, and Spanish) represent the same idea, which in English is translated: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

ஆதியிலே வார்த்தை இருந்தது, அந்த வார்த்தை தேவனிடத்திலிருந்தது, அந்த வார்த்தை தேவனாயிருந்தது.

आदि में वचन था, और वचन परमेश्वर के साथ था, और वचन परमेश्वर था।

В начале было Слово, и Слово было у Бога, и Слово было Бог.

En el principio ya era la Palabra, y aquel que es la Palabra era con el Dios, y la Palabra era Dios.

Native speakers from respective languages can speak these words, and you would have the audible equivalent of these words. All these different symbols convey the same idea. These symbols (both written and spoken) will be dissimilar in different cultures, but the meaning (the ideas that these symbols represent) will be the same. This reality is why cross-cultural communication is possible.

So, if ideas and thoughts can be (and, in fact, have been) transmitted from culture to culture, what makes the process possible—the commonality of the rules of thought that govern different cultures. It is the universality of logic that makes it possible for one culture to communicate their thoughts with another culture, although the symbolic representation of these thoughts are considerably different.

Logic is the basis for grammar which in turn is the basis for language. One cannot have language without logic. Of course, grunts and groans and scratch marks from paws are always possible, but those methods are what animals do. We are concerned with interaction and communication of thoughts between humans in different cultures. Logic transcends language in the specific sense that it is universal and is applied in all languages. This agreement is the reason that is a new language were to crop up tomorrow, we could still find ways of communicating and translating thoughts to and from that respective language with its idiosyncratic symbols, due to the similarity – and universality – of logic between both (and all) the languages.

(In World War II, Navajo Indians were able to break Japanese code without ever learning their language!)

The Image of God and the Noetic Effects of the Fall

No secular philosopher has accounted for universality of logic. On the basis of naturalism or evolutionary philosophy, no one can account how humans in different cultures share similar foundations for thought. The origin of speech and language in the Trinity is the answer to our question about the universality of logic. They communicate with each other and made man in their image.[19] The reader is directed to this resource for further clarification.[20] Here, I shall set forth Biblical anthropology and explain how Christ, the Logos of God, is the foundation for the rationality of the universe and the human mind. “In the beginning was the Word… and the Word was God.” Through Him all things (including language, communication, and yes, logic) were created!

The Biblical doctrine of creation states that men and women are made in the “image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26). Thus, an understanding of God is prior to an understanding of man. Anthropology presupposes theology, and this order is found in most texts of systematic theology. Although man is made in the “image of God,” he does not mirror God’s attributes in every way. God is omniscient. We are not. God is omnipotent. We are not. God is eternal. We are not. We need to know about God’s attributes and which of those has limited expression in man – in other words, God has communicable and incommunicable attributes.

The Bible begins by presenting the act of creation and the method God employed in the process. Based on Genesis, Chapter One alone, we can come to some elementary conclusions about the image of God. The first act of God is to speak, “In the beginning God said….” He spoke the whole of creation into existence (Genesis 1: 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, and 26). Man was created “in the image of God” on the sixth day as the crown of all creation.

God spoke. Thus, image must include linguistic ability. And after God created man, He spoke to him and gave him a command – that is, words to obey (Genesis 2:16, 17). This action necessitates that Adam was created with faculties of understanding and reason in order to process verbal information. He had to know the difference between obedience and disobedience of God’s commands. There was a priori, necessary equipment instilled in man at the time of creation, and continues to be instilled in every one is who has been born since then (Romans 2:15)

God modeled clay and then breathed into it the breath of life, and then man became a living being – both body and spirit put together (Genesis 2:7). It is the image of God that separates us from the rest of creation.

“But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty that gives him understanding.” Job 32:8

“[God] who teaches more to us than to the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the air?” Job 35:11

“For God did not endow [the ostrich] with wisdom or give her a share of good sense.” Job 39:17

Thus, the “breath[21] of the Almighty” is what gives man understanding, “teaches” him, and makes him “wiser” than the animals. He was given “wisdom” and “good sense” as opposed to the ostrich which was not endowed with these. Hence, the image of God refers to a rational mind. This “image” is the ground for logic as common to all men.

Some say that the “image of God” refers to morality. But, what they overlook is that man is moral precisely because he is rational. God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of life. They disobeyed and fell. For Adam and Eve to obey God, they needed to understand His commands. They needed to understand what is good and what is evil. They needed to discern the difference between obeying God and disobeying Him. All those concepts are a matter of rational thinking. Morality presupposes rationality.

We do not call a dog immoral because he mates with more than one female during mating season. We do not speak about righteous cows or wicked horses. Animals are not moral because they are not rational. Moral judgments do not apply to animals because they are not rational. They cannot understand the commands of God, which is why they cannot obey them. On the other hand, man is a rational being. He can understand the commands of God and is expected to obey them. Refusal constitutes sin. Thus, in the most basic essence, sin is a lapse in rationality. And this moral failure is what happened during the Fall. The “image of God” was not destroyed, but distorted.

From one man, God made all nations (Acts 17:26). This origin explains the universality of the image of God. This origin explains why a contradiction is the same in the East and the West. Due to varying lapses in rationality, one group affirmed both sides of the contradiction, while the other did not (at least in theory; no one’s thinking is ever perfect).

As a result of the Fall, man’s ability to think correctly has been greatly hampered. This effect is referred to as the “noetic effects of sin.” He cannot think correctly about God, though God has made such knowledge clear to him, as explained in Romans 1:18-32. Men suppress the truth by their wickedness, while God had already made things plain to them. Since creation, God’s divine attributes have clearly been seen so that men who refuse to acknowledge God are without excuse. Their “thinking” was futile and their “foolish hearts” were darkened. They deluded themselves to be wise, when in fact, they were actually fools. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped created things rather than the Creator. Also, their rejection of the knowledge of God has caused them to indulge in reprehensive behavior which is morally deviant, violating God’s ontological status for sexuality.

Sin’s effect on the mind has been comprehensive. It has affected his whole thinking. Theologians call this “total depravity”—total as affecting every thought and action of man, not “total” in the sense that he is as bad as he could possibly be. Before regeneration, man is in spiritual darkness. “The god[22] of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Because of this effect, he cannot think correctly about God, even though God has revealed true propositions to sinful man in nature and experience. This knowledge is called general revelation, because it is given to all men at all times, regardless of geographical and cultural boundaries in nature and experience. Psalm 19 and Romans 1 illustrate this point. This reality explains the commonality of thought across cultures separated by geographical boundaries and time. Ideas of deity, divine favor, punishment, justice, benevolence, chivalry, love, the afterlife, and so on, are universal. God has instilled in man his law (Romans 2:15). This instillation is called the conscience (rational or logical judgment).

However, because of their wickedness, men deliberately suppress this knowledge and practice abominable things, thus inviting further divine judgment upon themselves. Thus, general revelation in itself does not have a salvific purpose. To attain redemption, man needs special revelation, that is, propositional content from the Bible which gives true statements about God, man, sin, salvation, and judgment. Regeneration is the prerequisite condition for man to accept these truths.

Thus, as long as man is in this state of spiritual blindness, he cannot believe true propositions about God. Ephesians 4:17-19 describes the spiritual state of man before conversion. Unbelievers live in the “futility of their thinking,” “darkened in understanding,” and separated from the life of God because of the “ignorance” that is in them because of their hardened hearts. Unbelievers are the way they are because they do not think correctly, that is, Biblically, about God. And the cure to this also targets the mind. So, when God grants repentance by regeneration, people are led to “a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25).

Only Christ can lift the sinner out of the epistemological abyss and grant him “the light of the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). In Ephesians 4:23-24, we are told to be “made new in the attitude of our minds.” So, Christians must no longer think we way we did before our conversion. We have to put on the new self which is being “renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10).

Can you see the Scripture’s emphasis on defining the “spiritual life” in terms of intellect? Just because something is “spiritual” doesn’t automatically mean that it is mystical or esoteric. The Biblical model of spirituality is centered on the mind, and this fact should be the target in evangelism and discipleship. When man is born in sin, the “image of God” is in a distorted state, and at conversion God begins to work on it restoring it gradually to conform it to the likeness of Christ.

It takes a sovereign work of God whereby he converts sinful man’s mind (regeneration) and grants him faith. God has given us everything we need for sanctification through knowledge of Him (2 Peter 1:3). The subsequent development as a Christian consists of growing in knowledge and grace (2 Peter 3:18), renewing the mind, which leads to transformation, so that we can know and do the good pleasing and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2).

In Psalm 32:9 God says, “Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” Therefore, to despise rationality is to mock and insult God’s wisdom in the way He made us. If we shun knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of the things of God, we are not acting like “mature Christians,” but like brute beasts which have no understanding.

Those who are regenerated by Christ, who seek to conform their thoughts to God’s thoughts (Romans 12:2) will be growing more and more towards a coherent rationality which is “mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16).

The Logos Doctrine

Christ is introduced as the logos in the Gospel according to John. By the time the apostle wrote, the term logos was richly invested with considerable philosophical background and meaning.[23] The logos, as conceived by some Greeks, was considered to be the principle of rationality that governed the universe.

In the prologue to John’s Gospel, it is clear that everything (not just logic) exists because of Christ. “Without him nothing was made that has been made.” But here, this verse is talking about all created things, while logic is not something created. It has eternally existed in the mind of God. “In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God.” Thus, the laws of logic are not arbitrary cultural conventions that vary from place to place. The laws of logic eternally existed in the mind of God. They reflect the manner of God’s thinking. They are not man’s invention. Aristotle and the others merely recognized what already existed.

In NIV and KJV translations, logos is translated “word.” This translation came from Jerome, when writing the Latin Vulgate. He used verbum to translate logos. Even if we want to translate logos as wisdom, we can safely assume that John knew enough of Greek to use sophia there. He does not use that word. Why? John wants to convey something very specific there, in the prologue, by using the word logos. Why it is so? That takes us to the Hellenistic world.

There is the alleged claim that John is borrowing from Greek philosophers to construct his theology. Now, John could be using the term logos, not to adapt it, but to provide an answer to it. If John did not want to have any reference to the technical meaning of the word logos, as used in his day, he would have rather used another word. He does not, because he is not borrowing the word logos but filling it with its true meaning.

Now, John uses the word logos to identify Christ. Is Christ the rational order of the universe? Yes, He is. But, is He the impersonal order that the Greeks had in mind? No. Is Christ the foundation of rationality in every man? Yes, He is. But, is He the spark of rationality that pervaded all created things (mountains and trees included), as some Greeks believed? No. The Logos became flesh. Could the Greeks have conceived of such a thing—not in their most extreme imaginations.

Gordon Clark Sums it up Well

This culminating idea, the great idea that differentiates the Christian Logos doctrine from every pagan philosophy and as well as from the semi-Jewish Philonic doctrine, is the incarnation of the Word, the Reason, or the Wisdom of God. The Logos became flesh. So utterly contradictory and even repulsive to all pagan Greek speculation is this that one is astounded to read reputed scholars who characterize John as Hellenistic and dependent on Gnostic, Stoic, or Platonic sources.[24]

The apostle John establishes Christ as the foundation for rationality in the universe and man (the Light that enlightens every man) and not some vague pantheistic rational order that pervades the cosmos. The Johannine Logos was meant to answer and counteract false views of the logos in which were popular in pagan thought at that time.

It is the eternally existent Christ who is the foundation for rationality and order in the universe and the human mind. The laws of logic are not cultural mores, but eternally existent, universal, immutable principles which describe how God thinks. What is a genuine contradiction to God is a genuine contradiction to man. What is a genuine contradiction to men in one culture has to be a genuine contradiction to men in another culture. East or West – God made all the nations in the world in his image—a mind that is designed to think logically. The laws of logic are not learned by sense experience, but are instilled in man’s mind by God as a priori equipment. Christ, the Logos of God is the one and only foundation for logic and rationality in this universe.


The East is different from West because of their relative tolerance for contradictions, and not because they could not recognize a contradiction. Logic was the same in the East and the West, but due to idiosyncratic intellectual inclinations and differing first principles and premises, each culture developed philosophies of its own. The Bible states that God made man in the image of God, and from one man made the nations. The universality and permanence of logic can be accounted for only on this basis. Jesus Christ is the supreme rational being and creator in the universe who holds all things together. The laws of logic are not arbitrary cultural conventions, but they reflect the eternal principle of thought in the mind of God. Logic is the way God thinks. Because God is immutable, the laws of logic do not vary from East to West!


[1] I have nothing against the profession of a farmer or plumber, per se! I just wanted to point out that those who have devoted their lives to academic concerns, are far more adept at summarizing philosophical concepts than someone who is in a more “practical” profession, and does not deal with these issues on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes, these same “commoners” know are more consistently logical better than academicians!
[2] Irving Copi & Carl Cohen, Introduction to Logic, 2002 by Prentice-Hall, Inc., p. 1.
[3] Norman L. Geisler & Edward M. Brooks, Come Let Us Reason, 1990 by Baker Book House Company, p. 11.
[4] Robert Adamson, A Short History of Logic, published by William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London, MCMXI, p. 1.
[5] William Kneale & Martha Kneale, The Development of Logic, 1962 by Oxford University Press, London, p. 1.
[6] Gordon H. Clark, Logic, 1985 by The Trinity Foundation.
[7] Some scoff at Wikipedia, but in comparisons to Encyclopedia Britnnica, it has been show to be at least as trustworthy.
[8] Gene H. Blocker, World Philosophy: An East West Comparative Introduction to Philosophy, 1999 by Prentice-Hall, Inc.
[9] Ibid, p. ix.
[10] John Vattanky, A System of Indian Logic: the Nyaya System of Inference, 2003 by Routledge, p. ix.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ramakrishna Puligandla, Fundamentals of Indian Philosophy, 1996 by D.K Print World (P) Ltd, p. 181.
[13] Kneale and Kneale, p. 2 – 6.
[14] B.K. Matilal, Character of Logic in India, 1998 by State University of New York, Albany, p 2.
[15] Avi Sion, Buddhist Illogic- The Tetralemma, 2002 by Avi Sion.
[16] Richard H. Robinson, Some Logical Aspects of Nagarjuna’s System, Philosophy East & West, Volume 6, no. 4 (October 1957), pp. 291-308 by University of Hawai Press
[17] Accessed on March 20th, 2011, from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Contradiction (
[18] Xinyan Jiang, ‘The Law of Non-contradiction and Chinese Philosophy,’ History and Philosophy of Logic, 1464-5149, Volume 13, Issue 1, 1992, pp. 1 – 14.
[19] The image is not the form of the Trinity, but the ability to think and communicate.
[20] See Vincent Cheung, Ultimate Questions and Gordon Clark, Introduction to Christian Philosophy.
[21] Since God is pure Spirit, His “breath” cannot be “air,” it must be spiritual—likely a rational mind.
[22] Not only Satan, but man’s atheistic thinking, as well.
[23] See Gordon H. Clark, The Johannine Logos, 1989 by The Trinity Foundation
[24] Ibid, p 109, in the combined volume What is Saving Faith? 2004 by Trinity Foundation.