Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Try a damn link

Mike in/on motion: Michael Flynn is working through the Aristotelian argument from motion at The TOF Spot, with three installments so far (here, here, and here).  (Some bonus coolness: Mike Flynn covers from Analog.)

“New Atheist” writer Victor Stenger has died.  Jeffery Jay Lowder of The Secular Outpost recounts his disagreements with Stenger. 

What was the deal with H. P. Lovecraft?  John J. Miller investigates at The Claremont Review of Books.

At Philosophy in Review, Roger Pouivet (author of After Wittgenstein, St. Thomas) reviews Robert Pasnau’s Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671.  (You can find the current issue here and then scroll down to find a PDF of the review.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Symington on Scholastic Metaphysics

Edward Feser demonstrates a facility with both Scholastic and contemporary analytical concepts, and does much to span the divide…

The final chapter [is]… a nice example of the service that Feser renders to the task of enhancing points of commonality between scholastic and analytic thinkers.  In this chapter, Feser defends a realist form of essentialism as well as argues for a real distinction between essence and existence.  As is characteristic of the book as a whole, Feser brings in contemporary views in way that makes good use of, and is charitable to, contemporary developments in metaphysics…

In all, Feser's new book is a welcome addition for those interested in bringing the concepts, terminology and presuppositions between scholastic and contemporary analytic philosophers to commensuration. In fact, I would contend that Feser's book will constitute an important piece in its own right for guiding the research program for contemporary Thomistic metaphysicians into the future.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Marmodoro on PSR and PC

Philosopher Anna Marmodoro is an important contributor to the current debate within metaphysics over powers and dispositions, and editor of the recommended The Metaphysics of Powers.  Recently, at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, she reviewed Rafael Hüntelmann and Johannes Hattler’s anthology New Scholasticism Meets Analytic Philosophy, in which my paper “The Scholastic Principle of Causality and the Rationalist Principle of Sufficient Reason” appears.  What follows is a response to her remarks about the paper.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Olson contra classical theism

A reader asks me to comment on this blog post by Baptist theologian Prof. Roger Olson, which pits what Olson calls “intuitive” theology against “Scholastic” theology in general and classical theism in particular, with its key notions of divine simplicity, immutability, and impassibility.  Though one cannot expect more rigor from a blog post than the genre allows, Olson has presumably at least summarized what he takes to be the main considerations against classical theism.  And with all due respect to the professor, these considerations are about as weak as you’d expect an appeal to intuition to be.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Morrissey on Scholastic Metaphysics

At Catholic World Report, Prof. Christopher Morrissey kindly reviews my book Scholastic Metaphysics.  From the review:

The great strength of Feser’s book is how well it exposes the shortcomings of the speculations of contemporary analytic philosophy about the fundamental structures of reality. The most recent efforts of such modern philosophical research, shows Feser, are remarkably inadequate for explaining many metaphysical puzzles raised by modern science. In order to properly understand the meaning of humanity’s latest and greatest discoveries, such as quantum field theory in modern physics, an adequate metaphysics is urgently required, now more than ever…

Feser has a notable flair for being both witty and engaging and for using entertaining and vivid examples. The book demands much from the reader’s intellectual abilities, but like reading St. Thomas Aquinas himself it is always rewarding and exhilarating. Page after page, insight after insight piles up—so many that if you have any philosophical curiosity at all, you simply cannot stop reading.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Science dorks

Suppose you’re trying to teach basic arithmetic to someone who has gotten it into his head that the whole subject is “unscientific,” on the grounds that it is non-empirical.  With apologies to the famous Mr. Parker (pictured at left), let’s call him “Peter.”  Peter’s obviously not too bright, but he thinks he is very bright since he has internet access and skims a lot of Wikipedia articles about science.  Indeed, he proudly calls himself a “science dork.”  Patiently, albeit through gritted teeth, you try to get him to see that two and two really do make four.  Imagine it goes like this:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Carroll on Scholastic Metaphysics

Edward Feser’s latest book gives readers who are familiar with analytic philosophy an excellent overview of scholastic metaphysics in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas…

Feser argues that Thomistic philosophy can expand and enrich today’s metaphysical reflection. His book is an effective challenge to anyone who would dismiss scholastic metaphysics as irrelevant.

Those familiar with Feser’s many books and lively blog will recognize his characteristic vigor and his wide-ranging reading of contemporary and medieval sources. This book is particularly aimed at those trained in the Anglo-American analytical tradition, repeatedly referencing contemporary debates in this tradition…

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

You’re not who you think you are

If I’m not me, who the hell am I?

Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in Total Recall

If you know the work of Philip K. Dick, then you know that one of its major themes is the relationship between memory and personal identity.  That is evident in many of the Dick stories made into movies, such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (which was adapted into Blade Runner, definitely the best of the Dick film adaptations); “Paycheck” (the inferior movie adaptation of which I blogged about recently); and A Scanner Darkly (the movie version of which is pretty good -- and which I’ve been meaning to blog about forever, though I won’t be doing so here). 

Then there are the short stories “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (the first part of which formed the basis of the original Total Recall and its pointless remake), and “Impostor” (the basis of a middling Gary Sinise movie).  These two stories nicely illustrate what is wrong with the “continuity of consciousness” philosophical theories of personal identity that trace to John Locke.  (Those who don’t already know these stories or movies should be warned that major spoilers follow.)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Around the web

Back from a very pleasant (but exhausting!) week in Princeton.  While I regroup, some reading to wind down the summer:

Andrew Fulford at The Calvinist International kindly reviews my book Scholastic Metaphysics.  Stephen Mumford tweets a kind word about the book.  Thanks, Stephen!

It’s bold.  It’s new.  It’s long overdue.  It’s The Classical Theism Project.  Check it.

At NDPR, Thomas Williams reviews Thomas Osborne’s new book Human Action in Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Haldane on Nagel and the Fifth Way

Next week I’ll be at the Thomistic Seminar organized by John Haldane.  Haldane’s article “Realism, Mind, and Evolution” appeared last year in the journal Philosophical InvestigationsThomas Nagel’s book Mind and Cosmos is among the topics dealt with in the article.  As Haldane notes, Nagel entertains the possibility of a “non-materialist naturalist” position which:

would explain the emergence of sentient and then of rational beings on the basis of developmental processes directed towards their production.  That is to say, it postulates principles of self-organization in matter which lead from the physico-chemical level to the emergence of living things, which then are further directed by some immanent laws towards the development of consciousness, and thereafter to reason for the sake of coming to recognize value and act in response to it, a state of affairs which is itself a value, the good of rational life. (p. 107)

As the phrases “directed towards” and “immanent laws” indicate, what Nagel is speculating about is a return to a broadly Aristotelian notion of natural teleology.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Logorrhea in the cell

In a recent post I commented on a remark made in one of the comboxes by a reader sympathetic to “Intelligent Design” (ID) theory.  At the ID website Uncommon Descent, Vincent Torley has responded, in a post with the title “Hyper-skepticism and ‘My way or the highway’: Feser’s extraordinary post.”  The title, and past experience with Torley, led me to expect that his latest piece would be short on dispassionate and accurate analysis and long on overheated rhetoric and misrepresentation.  Past experience with Torley also led me to expect that it would simply be long, period, indeed of gargantuan length.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Marvel Team-Up: Spider-Man and The Patriarchy

It isn’t news that fathers are often portrayed as doofuses in pop culture.  An interesting aspect of the Spider-Man movies is how aggressively they buck this trend.  The theme of fatherhood and its responsibilities absolutely permeates the series.  The noblest characters are almost all either father figures or those who honor father figures.  When father figures are portrayed negatively, it is always because they have failed to live up to the responsibilities of fatherhood, which the series clearly honors.  Indeed, once you first note this aspect of the series, you start seeing it everywhere.  The Spider-Man movies constitute one big patriarchy-fest.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Signature in the cell?

In the combox of my recent post comparing the New Atheism and ID theory to different players in a game of Where’s Waldo?,  a reader wrote:

One can run a reductio against the claim that we cannot detect design or infer transcendent intelligence through natural processes.  Were we to find, imprinted in every human cell, the phrase "Made by Yahweh" there is only one thing we can reasonably conclude.

I like this example, because it is simple, clear, and illustrative of confusions of the sort that are rife in discussions of ID.  Presumably we are all supposed to regard it as obvious that if this weird event were to occur, the “one thing we can reasonably conclude” is that a “transcendent intelligence,” indeed Yahweh himself, had put his “signature in the cell” (with apologies to Stephen Meyer -- whose own views I am not addressing here, by the way).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Where’s God?

Here’s an analogy that occurs to me as a way of thinking about some of the main issues debated here on the blog over the years.  Suppose you’re looking at a painting of a crowd of people, and you remark upon the painter’s intentions in producing the work.  Someone standing next to you looking at the same painting -- let’s call him Skeptic -- begins to scoff.  “Painter?  Oh please, there’s no evidence of any painter!  I’ve been studying this canvas for years.  I’ve gone over every square inch.  I’ve studied each figure in detail -- facial expressions, posture, clothing, etc.  I’ve found plumbers, doctors, dancers, hot dog vendors, dogs, cats, birds, lamp posts, and all kinds of other things.  But I’ve never found this painter of yours anywhere in it.  No doubt you’ll tell me that I need to look again until I find him.  But really, how long do we have to keep looking without success until people like you finally admit that there just is no painter?”

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Back from Berkeley

Got back last night from the very fine DSPT conference on the relationship between philosophy and theology in Berkeley.  The main presenters were Msgr. Robert Sokolowski, Linda Zagzebski, Fr. Michael Dodds, John Searle, Fr. Michał Paluch, Allred Freddoso, John O’Callaghan, and me.  Responses to these talks were given by Fr. Richard Schenk, Fr. Bernhard Blankenhorn, Fr. Simon Gaine, Steven Long, Fr. Michael Dodds, Matthew Levering, Fr. Thomas Joseph White, and Fr. Michael Sherwin.  There were also many excellent talks given during the breakout sessions.   

My paper was titled “From Aristotle to John Searle and Back Again: Formal Causes, Teleology, and Computation in Nature.”  Some photos taken during the talk can be found here.  Photos from the other talks can be found by scrolling down here.  My understanding is that conference papers will be published in a forthcoming volume.  Fred Freddoso’s paper “The Vindication of St. Thomas: Thomism and Contemporary Anglo-American Philosophy” is available at his website (along with a great many other works by Fred that you should read).  Many thanks to the Dominicans for their warm hospitality!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I link, therefore I am

This week: DSPT conference on philosophy and theology in Berkeley.  See you there.

John Searle, who will be speaking at the conference, is interviewed by Tim Crane.

Does Darwinism eliminate teleology and intentionality, or does it explain teleology and intentionality?  Some major naturalist philosophers hash it out in a new anthology reviewed at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

Philosopher Stephen Mumford tweets that he is “really enjoying” and “finding it hard to put down” my book Aquinas.  Thanks, Stephen!  (Stephen’s book Laws in Nature, to which he refers in one of the tweets, is highly recommended.)

Less than three weeks left until Guardians of the Galaxy.  Here’s the extended trailer.  And the flick’s got a cool soundtrack.  (But it’s not all fun and games.  Check out “The Glory and Tragedy of Rocket Raccoon” for the sad story of Rocket’s co-creator Bill Mantlo, who could use all the help his family can get.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Clarke on the stock caricature of First Cause arguments

W. Norris Clarke’s article “A Curious Blind Spot in the Anglo-American Tradition of Antitheistic Argument” first appeared in The Monist in 1970.  It was reprinted in his anthology The Creative Retrieval of St. Thomas Aquinas: Essays in Thomistic Philosophy, New and Old, which was published posthumously in 2009.  I only just read the essay, and I did so with embarrassment and gratification.  Embarrassment because I found that something I’ve been harping on for a few years now had already been said by Fr. Clarke over 40 years ago.  Gratification because I found that something I’ve been harping on for a few years now had already been said by Fr. Clarke over 40 years ago.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Carroll on laws and causation

People have been asking me to comment on the remarks about causation made by atheist physicist Sean Carroll during his recent debate with William Lane Craig on the topic of “God and Cosmology.”  (You’ll find Craig’s own post-debate remarks here.)  It’s only fair to acknowledge at the outset that Carroll cannot justly be accused of the anti-philosophical philistinism one finds in recent remarks by physicists Stephen Hawking, Lawrence Krauss, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.  Indeed, Carroll has recently criticized these fellow physicists pretty harshly, and made some useful remarks about the role of philosophy vis-à-vis physics in the course of doing so.

Monday, June 30, 2014

SCOTUS and Oderberg

Today, with Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court of the United States has partially redeemed itself after its disgraceful 2012 Obamacare ruling.  Readers of this blog will be particularly interested to learn that the work of the esteemed David Oderberg (specifically, his article “The Ethics of Co-operation in Wrongdoing”) is cited in footnote 34 of the decision.  Also cited are two other, older works of traditional Thomistic natural law theory: Thomas Higgins’ Man as Man: The Science and Art of Ethics and Henry Davis’s Moral and Pastoral Theology.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pagden on the Enlightenment

Prof. Anthony Pagden’s recent book The Enlightenment: And Why It Still Matters has much to say not only about the Enlightenment itself but also about the Scholasticism against which it reacted.  My review of the book appears today at Liberty Fund’s Online Library of Law and Liberty website.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The last enemy

There are two sorts of people who might be tempted to think of death as a friend: those who think the nature of the human person has nothing to do with the body, and those who think it has everything to do with the body; in short, Platonists and materialists.  Protestant theologian Oscar Cullmann summarizes the Platonist’s position in his little book Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead? as follows:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer web surfing

My Claremont Review of Books review of John Gray’s The Silence of Animals is now available for free online.

Keith Parsons has now wrapped up our exchange on atheism and morality at The Secular Outpost.

The latest from David Oderberg: “Could There Be a Superhuman Species?”  Details here.

Liberty Island is an online magazine devoted to conservatism and pop culture.  Music writer extraordinaire (and friend of this blog) Dan LeRoy is on board

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sullivan’s cavils

I thank The Smithy’s Michael Sullivan for his two spirited further installments (here and here) in his series of posts on my book Scholastic Metaphysics.  (I responded to the first of his posts here.)  Sullivan says some very kind things about my book, which I appreciate.  He also raises some criticisms which, though I disagree with them, are reasonable.  But unfortunately, some of his remarks are unjust and intemperate.  Let me comment on those first.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Judging a book by what it doesn’t cover

In his encyclical Aeterni Patris, Pope Leo XIII called for a “restoration of Christian philosophy.” He was quite specific about what he had in mind:

[D]aily experience, and the judgment of the greatest men, and, to crown all, the voice of the Church, have favored the Scholastic philosophy.

Indeed, he was even more specific than that:

Among the Scholastic Doctors, the chief and master of all towers Thomas Aquinas

We exhort you, venerable brethren, in all earnestness to restore the golden wisdom of St. Thomas, and to spread it far and wide for the defense and beauty of the Catholic faith, for the good of society, and for the advantage of all the sciences… Let carefully selected teachers endeavor to implant the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas in the minds of students, and set forth clearly his solidity and excellence over others.  Let the universities already founded or to be founded by you illustrate and defend this doctrine, and use it for the refutation of prevailing errors.

Review of Gray etc.

Readers of the Claremont Review of Books may want to look for my review of John Gray’s book The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths in the Spring 2014 issue.  At the moment the review is behind a pay wall, but subscribing will fix that problem.

On another matter, readers keep asking me how to get hold of Scholastic Metaphysics, which was released on April 1, somewhat ahead of schedule.  Apparently the book sold out very quickly because supply could not meet all the pre-orders and Amazon has been out of stock for some time.  I have been told that a new shipment arrived at the U.S. distributor’s warehouse a week or so ago and that the book should once again be available from Amazon this week.  So, sit tight, and many, many thanks for your patience and interest.