The “Principle” of Clarity

The Principle of Clarity begins with the statement that “some things are clear.” What is clear is clear to reason. Reason in itself is the laws of thought. Can one prove that some things are clear? Can one prove the laws of thought? Or are these first principles that allow for thought and proof?

The laws of thought are self-attesting, self-evident, and are what make thought possible. As such, the laws of thought cannot be proven, but are the necessary conditions for all proof. Aristotle says these laws are first principles and the most basic of all. He could not prove the laws but considered that a person might attempt to raise objections to the laws. I wrote about Aristotle’s negative proof for the laws of thought in my upcoming book Retrieving Knowledge. An excerpt of the negative proof may be found here. Self-evident first principles cannot be proven. However, to deny the laws of thought is to deny the possibility of significant speech since speech communicates thought. Are the laws of thought clear? If anything is clear, then ‘a’ is ‘a’ is clear.

Similar to Aristotle’s negative proof for the laws of thought, one can offer a negative proof for the Principle of Clarity. The contradiction of “some things are clear” is “nothing is clear.” Both statements cannot be true, and both cannot be false, by the law of non-contradiction. It is clear that either one or the other statement must be true. What are the implications of saying “nothing is clear”?

If nothing is clear, then no distinction is clear. The distinctions between a and non-a, being and non-Being, God and non-God, Good and non-good are not clear. If basic distinctions are not clear, then no distinctions are clear. If we cannot make distinctions then thought becomes impossible, and we lose significant speech. Loss of significant speech is a result of the loss of logical meaning. Loss of meaning at the most basic level is nihilism. Nihilism cannot be consistently held, nor can it be lived. One must affirm that some things are clear or they must give up integrity.


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