Monday, August 20, 2018

The Immateriality of the Mind

At the Society of Catholic Scientists meeting at Catholic University of America last June, I gave the keynote address on the topic “Arguments for the Immateriality of the Mind.”  You can now watch the lecture via YouTube.  (For anyone who is wondering, Prof. Karin Öberg, one of the conference organizers, is the one you’ll see introducing me.)  Some of the other conference talks can also be seen at the SCS page at YouTube.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

An Open Appeal to the Cardinals of the Church

An international group of 45 Catholic scholars and clergy has signed an appeal to the cardinals of the Catholic Church, calling on them to advise Pope Francis to retract the recent revision made to the Catechism, on the grounds that its appearance of contradicting scripture and traditional teaching is causing scandal.  The appeal and list of signatories has been published today as an open letter at First Things.

As LifeSiteNews is reporting, over 30 further Catholic scholars, clergy, and professionals have also added their signatures to the appeal.  This longer list can be viewed there.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Three problems with the change to the Catechism (Updated)

UPDATE 8/13: The Stream recently interviewed me about the change to the Catechism.

In a new article at Catholic Herald, I analyze the recent revision to the Catechism in greater detail.  I argue that there are three serious problems with it.  

An op-ed on the revision by Joseph Bessette, my co-author on By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed, appears at The Wall Street Journal.  

Joe and I were recently interviewed by LifeSiteNews.  Today I did a Skype interview on the subject with Michael Knowles at The Daily Wire.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Pope Francis and capital punishment

Pope Francis has changed the Catechism’s teaching on capital punishment so that it now flatly rules out the practice as “inadmissible” on doctrinal, and not merely prudential, grounds – apparently contradicting two millennia of clear and consistent teaching to the contrary.  I comment on this development in an article at First Things.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Tugwell on St. Albert on negative theology

Negative theology is a crucial component of classical theism.  To a first approximation, the idea is that at least with respect to some aspects of the divine nature, we can say what God is not rather than what he is.  But again, that is only a first approximation, and a potentially misleading one at that.  In his long and substantive introduction to the spiritual theology of St. Albert the Great in Albert and Thomas: Selected Writings, Fr. Simon Tugwell makes some important observations about the matter.  I want to call attention to four of them.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Friday, July 20, 2018

Fallacies physicists fall for

In his essay “Quantum Mechanics and Ontology” in his anthology Philosophy in an Age of Science, Hilary Putnam notes that “mathematically presented quantum-mechanical theories do not wear their ontologies on their sleeve… the mathematics does not transparently tell us what the theory is about.  Not always, anyhow” (p. 161).  Yet as Putnam also observes:

The reaction to [such] remarks of most physicists would, I fear, be somewhat as follows: “Why bother imposing an ‘ontology’ on quantum mechanics at all?... [Q]uantum mechanics has a precise mathematical language of its own.  If there are problems with that language, they are problems for mathematical physicists, not for philosophers.  And in any case, we know how to use that language to make predictions accurate to a great many decimal places.  If that language does not come with a criterion of ‘ontological commitment,’ so much the worse for ‘ontology.’”…

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Crane and French on science and Aristotelianism

I called attention recently to the new anthology Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science, edited by William Simpson, Robert Koons, and Nicholas Teh, to which I contributed an essay.  (If the price of the print version puts you off, you might consider the much more affordable electronic version.)  Tim Crane reviews the book in the latest First Things.  As I also noted recently, Steven French has reviewed it at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Laws of nature at Fermilab

Recently I spent a day at Fermilab and gave a talk on the topic ”What is a Law of Nature?”  I had a wonderful time and thank the kind folks at Fermilab for their hospitality.  You can now watch the video of the talk at the Fermilab website.  Abstract of the lecture here.  The handout to which I refer in the course of the lecture can be found here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The ad hominem fallacy is a sin

An argumentum ad hominem (or “argument to the man”) is the fallacy committed when, instead of addressing the merits of an argument someone presents you with, you attack the person himself – his motives, some purported character defect, or the like.  This disreputable tactic has, of course, always been common in public controversies, but resort to the fallacy seems these days nearly to have eclipsed rational public discourse.  A large segment of the country has made it a matter of policy never to engage its political opponents at the level of reason, but only ever to demonize them and shout them down.  Even in the Church, recent years have seen the ad hominem routinely deployed against even the most respectful and scholarly critics of Pope Francis’s doctrinally problematic statements concerning divorce and remarriage, capital punishment, and other matters.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Around the web

Stephen French reviews William Simpson, Robert Koons, and Nicholas Teh’s anthology Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science, at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

Sabine Hossenfelder’s Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray is reviewed in Nature.  Excerpt from the book at Scientific American.  An interview with Hossenfelder.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Gödel and the mechanization of thought

At the recent Society of Catholic Scientists conference, Peter Koellner gave a lucid presentation on the relevance of Gödel’s incompleteness results to the question of whether thought can be mechanized.  Naturally, he had something to say about the Lucas-Penrose argument.  I believe that video of the conference talks will be posted online soon, but let me briefly summarize the main themes of Koellner’s talk as I remember them, so that the remarks I want to make about them will be intelligible.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The two Cartesian worlds

The “interaction problem” is traditionally regarded as the main objection to Descartes’ brand of dualism.  I’ve discussed it many times here at the blog, and of course it is addressed in my book Philosophy of Mind.  The problem concerns how a res cogitans or “thinking substance” and a res extensa or “extended substance” can possibly have any causal influence on one another given the way Descartes characterizes them.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Talk amongst yourselves

We’re due for another open thread, so here goes.  That threadjacking comment of yours from two weeks ago that got deleted?  Repost it here, where it will be welcome and on topic.  ‘Cause whether its ontology or mixology, Ed Wood or the Form of the Good, Saul Bellow or Yello, everything’s on topic.  As always, keep it classy and troll-free.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Musical chairs brains minds

Comics, like science fiction, can be a great source for philosophical thought experiments.  Recently I’ve been re-reading one of the classic Marvel storylines from the 1970s, the “Headmen saga” from The Defenders, by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema.  Gerber, who was among the best writers ever to have worked in comics, famously specialized in absurdist satire, and this storyline is a prime example.  More to the present point, it contains an interesting twist on a scenario familiar from discussions of the philosophical problem of personal identity.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Church permits criticism of popes under certain circumstances

Fathers have the authority to teach and discipline their children, but this authority is not absolute.  They may not teach their children to do evil, and they may not discipline them with unjust harshness.  Everyone knows this, though everyone also knows that there are fathers who do in fact abuse their children or teach them to do evil.  Everyone also knows that it is right for children under these unhappy circumstances to disobey and reprove their fathers, while still acknowledging their fathers’ authority in general and submitting to his lawful instructions.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Aquinas on the human soul

My article “Aquinas on the Human Soul” appears in the anthology The Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism, edited by Jonathan Loose, Angus Menuge, and J. P. Moreland and just published by Wiley-Blackwell.  Lots of interesting stuff in this volume.  The table of contents and other information are available here.

Aquinas on the meaning of life

My article “Aquinas and the meaning of life” appears in the anthology The Meaning of Life and the Great Philosophers, edited by Stephen Leach and James Tartaglia and just published by Routledge.  Lots of interesting stuff in this volume.  The table of contents and other information are available here.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Capital punishment at Church Militant

Recently, I did a Skype interview with Michael Voris of Church Militant on the subject of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed.  It’s available at the CM website, though it looks like you have to be a subscriber to watch the full interview.