Sunday, June 19, 2022

What is conscience and when should we follow it?

I plan to post some unpublished material that’s been accumulating over the years, over at my main website.  First up is a lecture on the theme “What is Conscience and When Should We Follow It?” which I’ve given a couple of times but has never seen print.  Is conscience a kind of emotion?  A kind of perceptual faculty or “moral sense”?  An operation of the intellect?  Or some sui generis faculty?  When are we obligated to follow conscience?  What is a lax conscience?  A scrupulous conscience?  A doubtful conscience?  What does the Catholic Church teach about these matters?  These issues and related ones are addressed in the talk.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Economic and linguistic inflation

F. A. Hayek’s classic paper “The Use of Knowledge in Society” famously argued that prices generated in a market economy function to transmit information that economic actors could not otherwise gather or make efficient use of.  For example, the price of an orange will reflect a wide variety of factors – an increase in demand for orange juice in one part of the country, a smaller orange crop than usual in another part, changes in transportation costs, and so on – that no one person has knowledge of.  Individual economic actors need only adjust their behavior in light of price changes (economizing, investing in an orange juice company, or whatever their particular circumstances make rational) in order to ensure that resources are used efficiently, without any central planner having to direct them.

Friday, June 10, 2022

The New Apologetics

I contributed an essay on “New Challenges to Natural Theology” to Matthew Nelson’s new Word on Fire anthology The New Apologetics.  It’s got a large and excellent lineup of philosophers, theologians, and others.  You can find the table of contents and other information about the book here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

COMING SOON: All One in Christ

My new book All One in Christ: A Catholic Critique of Racism and Critical Race Theory will be out this August from Ignatius Press.  Some information about the book, including advance reviews, can be found at the Amazon link.  Here’s the table of contents:

1. Church Teaching against Racism

2. Late Scholastics and Early Modern Popes against Slavery

3. The Rights and Duties of Nations and Immigrants

4. What is Critical Race Theory?

5. Philosophical Problems with Critical Race Theory

6. Social Scientific Objections to Critical Race Theory

7. Catholicism versus Critical Race Theory

Monday, June 6, 2022

Anti-reductionism in Nyāya-Vaiśesika atomism

Atomism takes all material objects to be composed of basic particles that are not themselves breakable into further components.  In Western philosophy, the idea goes back to the Pre-Socratics Leucippus and Democritus, and was revived in the early modern period by thinkers like Pierre Gassendi.  The general spirit of atomism survived in schools of thought that abandoned the idea that there is a level of strictly unbreakable particles, such as Boyle and Locke’s corpuscularianism.  Its present-day successor is physicalism, but here too there have been further modifications to the basic ancient idea.  For example, non-reductive brands of physicalism allow that there are facts about at least some everyday objects that cannot be captured in a description of micro-level particles.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Indeterminacy and Borges’ infinite library

Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Library of Babel” (from his collection Labyrinths) famously describes an infinite library, comprising books which together represent every possible combination of characters in the alphabet in which they are written.  Most of the books are gibberish, just as, if you emptied a bag of Scrabble letters onto the floor and looked at the patterns that resulted, almost none of what you’d see would count as a genuine word or sentence.  But because every possible combination is there, many intelligible books are there too.  In fact, every possible such book is there, so that the library contains all knowledge, every truth there is about everything.  For any of these truths, though, the trick is to find it somewhere in this infinite, bewildering Babel.

Monday, May 23, 2022

The hollow universe of modern physics

To say that the material world alone exists is not terribly informative unless we have some account of what matter is.  Those who are most tempted to materialism are also inclined to answer that matter is whatever physics says it is.  The trouble with that is that physics tells us less than meets the eye about the nature of matter.  As Poincaré, Duhem, Russell, Eddington, and other late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century philosophers and scientists were keen to emphasize, what physics gives us is the abstract mathematical structure of the material world, but not the entire nature of the concrete entities that have that structure.  It no more captures all of physical reality than a blueprint captures everything there is to a house.  This is, of course, a drum I’ve long banged on (for example, in Aristotle’s Revenge).

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Nietzsche and Christ on suffering

Over and over we are taught in scripture and tradition that suffering is the lot not only of mankind in general, but of the Christian in particular.  Christ, the “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3), is our model.  When he warned that he must suffer and die, “Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid, Lord!  This shall never happen to you,’” which prompted Christ’s own famous rebuke in response:

But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.”  Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:22-25)

Monday, May 9, 2022

End of semester open thread

Let’s start the summer break off right, with an open thread.  Now’s the time to get that otherwise off-topic obsession of yours off your chest, at long last.  From plunging stocks to Pet Rocks, from buying Twitter to Gary Glitter to sharing an Uber with Martin Buber, everything is on topic.  The usual rules of good taste and discretion apply.  Previous open threads archived here.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Benedict is not the pope: A reply to some critics

Patrick Coffin has posted an open letter by Italian writer Andrea Cionci, replying to my recent article criticizing Benevacantism.  What follows is a response.  In his introduction to the letter, Patrick objects to my use of the label “Benevacantism,” calling it a “nonsensical devil term”(!)  I can understand why he doesn’t like the word, because it is an odd one and doesn’t really make much sense.  But I didn’t come up with it.  I had to use some label to refer to the view, and chose “Benevacantism” simply because it seemed to be the one most widely used.  But Patrick prefers the label “Benedict is Pope” or “BiP” for short, so in what follows I’ll go along with that.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Socratic loyalty

Socrates was so critical of his country that he was put to death by it.  Yet he could have escaped execution had he wanted to.  The reason he did not, as he famously explained in Plato’s Crito, was out of loyalty to the country of which he was so critical, and which willed to destroy him.  I don’t think that Socrates’ example is, in this case, one that we are bound to follow; Aristotle did no wrong in fleeing, lest Athens sin twice against philosophy.  All the same, that example is worth pondering for contemporary conservatives tempted to oikophobia by the sorry state of the West, and for Catholics tempted by the sorry state of the Church’s human element to depart from her, or to refuse due submission to the Roman Pontiff. 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Fr. Gregory Pine on prudence

Modern moral philosophers typically have much to say about abstract principles, but are not of much help for the average person seeking concrete moral advice.  Self-help books, meanwhile, have practical relevance but are philosophically superficial.  One of the strengths of Aquinas’s ethics is that it is philosophically sophisticated while at the same time offering practical guidance to non-philosophers.  This is especially true of his treatment of the virtues.  But even Aquinas sometimes needs a bit of exposition to make him accessible to modern readers.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Whose pantheism? Which dualism? A Reply to David Bentley Hart


Over at Substack, David Bentley Hart has written an open letter in reply to my recent review, at
Public Discourse, of his book You Are Gods: On Nature and SupernatureWhat follows is my own open letter in response.  Before reading it, it would help if you’ve already read my review and Hart’s reply.

Hello David,

Many thanks for your enjoyable and vigorous rejoinder.  If your eyes fall on this, I know they will be rolling at the prospect of yet another round.  But I cannot resist a reply to what seem to me basic misunderstandings, along with crucial concessions disguised as rebuttals.  I do promise to refrain from Photoshop antics and cheap puns, for the sake of preserving our armistice and basic good taste.  Plus, I wouldn’t want any of your readers to spill their sherry. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Tales from the Coffin

In my recent post criticizing Benevacantism, I deliberately avoided naming specific individuals, in the hope of preventing the debate from degenerating into a clash of personalities.  I also said: “I make no judgment here about the culpability of those drawn to this error, many of whom are well-meaning people understandably troubled by the state of the Church and the world.”  Unfortunately, not everyone is keen on keeping the discussion civil or focused on arguments and evidence.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Benevacantism is scandalous and pointless

In his book The Plato Cult and Other Philosophical Follies, David Stove observes that an argument once given by philosopher of science Imré Lakatos “manages to be scandalous and pointless at the same time” (p. 8).  He was referring to Lakatos’s having made use of certain historical examples, some of the details of which Lakatos admitted he had made up himself.  The idea is that, as bad as dishonest scholarship is, worse still is defeating the whole purpose by admitting that that is what you are doing.  I put aside for present purposes the question of whether Stove’s characterization of Lakatos was actually fair.  What I’m interested in here is the general idea of a position that is simultaneously scandalous and pointless.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Two Harts beaten as one

At the blog Jesus and the Ancient Paths, PhD student Seth Hart defends his namesake David Bentley Hart against the objections I raised in my Public Discourse review of the latter Hart’s new book You Are Gods: On Nature and Supernature.  What follows is a response to the former Hart’s four lines of criticism.  In case you are wondering, the article informs us that there is no relation between the two Harts.  To avoid confusion, I’ll mostly refer to them as “S. Hart” and “D. B. Hart” in what follows.  I am, in any event, thrilled by the prospect of some new cringeworthy puns.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Touring the fifth circle

For readers who are wondering, yes, I’m on Twitter now.  (I’m not referring to the fan account that has been there for some time, but to my own personal account: @FeserEdward)  I confess to feeling somewhat unclean, since I have not changed my very low opinion of the medium.  The reason for signing up is simply to be able to see what is going on, and I don’t intend to be very active on it myself.  If I ever am, I ask my family and friends to stage an intervention.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Hart’s post-Christian pantheism

Well, kids, it’s that time again.  David Bentley Hart’s new book You Are Gods: On Nature and Supernature is now out.  So is my review, “David Bentley Hart’s Post-Christian Pantheism,” which you can read at Public Discourse.  As you will see, the title of my essay is not invective, but pretty much just a straightforward description of what’s in the book.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Unjust war and false masculinity

I commend to you three excellent articles by traditionalist Catholic scholars on the grave injustice of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: historian Roberto de Mattei’s “Russia's War and the Message of Fatima”; philosopher John Lamont’s “Putin’s Attack on Ukraine”; and theologian Pater Edmund Waldstein’s “The War in Ukraine in the Light of Just War Principles.”  There is a reason why I emphasize that the injustice is grave, as I have in my earlier commentary on the war.  Few among those who have expressed sympathy with the Russian side in the conflict have claimed that the invasion meets just war criteria (unsurprisingly, since it manifestly does not).  They have tended instead to emphasize Putin’s purported virtues and the vices of Zelensky and his Western supporters – as if these somehow balance out the destruction of cities and the deaths of thousands of human beings.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Conspiracy theories, spontaneous order, and the hermeneutics of suspicion


Nobody denies that conspiracies occur.  They happen every time two or more people collude in order to secure some malign end.  When people criticize “conspiracy theories,” it is a particular kind of conspiracy that they find implausible.  I’ve written several times before about some of the marks of conspiracy theories of this dubious kind.  They tend to be grounded in “narrative thinking” rather than a rigorous and dispassionate consideration of the merits and deficiencies of all alternative possible explanations.  They tend to violate Ockham’s razor, posit conspiracies that are too vast and complicated to be psychologically and sociologically feasible, and reflect naiveté about the way modern bureaucracies function.  The vastness of the posited conspiracy often has implications for the reliability of news media and other sources of information that make the theory epistemically self-defeating and unfalsifiable.  (For simplicity’s sake, from here on out I’ll use the expression “conspiracy theories” to refer, specifically, to theories having vices like these – acknowledging, again, that there are conspiracies of a more plausible kind, and thus conspiracy theories of a more plausible kind.)

Monday, March 14, 2022

Chomsky’s “propaganda model” of mass media

A common mistake people make when evaluating a theory is to fail to keep in mind the distinction between the theory itself, its application to particular cases, and the auxiliary assumptions an advocate of the theory makes when developing that application.  People will often reject a theory because they find some particular application problematic, where if they thought about the matter more carefully they would see that the problem is only with that application and/or with the auxiliary assumptions, and not with the theory itself. 

Friday, March 4, 2022

Just war theory and the Russo-Ukrainian war

One of the striking features of the catastrophe in Ukraine is how unambiguously the principles of just war doctrine seem to apply.  On the one hand, Russia’s invasion cannot be justified given the criteria of just war theory.  On the other hand, NATO military action against Russia cannot be justified either.  Here are the criteria for just military action as set out in section 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

At one and the same time:

- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

- there must be serious prospects of success;

- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.  The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

End quote.  I submit that Russia’s invasion clearly fails to meet the first, second, and fourth criteria, and NATO military action against Russia would clearly fail to meet the second, third, and fourth criteria.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Taylor on cognition, teleology, and God

In his book Metaphysics, a classic brief and lucid introduction to the subject, Richard Taylor devotes a chapter to the topic of God.  Most of the attention philosophers have paid to it seems to focus on his version of the cosmological argument, which is indeed a fine brief exposition and defense.  But Taylor also presents a second argument, of a broadly teleological sort.  It is decidedly not a variation on Paley’s design argument (of which, as longtime readers know, I am not a fan).  It is much more interesting and metaphysically deep than that, and at least in a general way closer to the spirit of Aquinas’s Fifth Way (even if it is not quite the same as Aquinas’s argument either).

Monday, February 21, 2022

Sex and metaphysics

My essay “The Metaphysical Foundations of Sexual Morality” appears in The Palgrave Handbook of Sexual Ethics, edited by David Boonin.  You can view the anthology’s table of contents and other information about it at the publisher’s website.  The book is, unfortunately, as expensive as academic books tend to be, and thus hard to get hold of for those without access to an academic library.  But you can at least read a big chunk of it via the preview at Google Books.

Friday, February 18, 2022

The failure of Johnson’s critique of natural theology

At the Reformed Baptist Blog, Jeffrey Johnson has responded to my First Things review of his book The Failure of Natural Theology: A Critical Appraisal of the Philosophical Theology of Thomas Aquinas.  He makes nine points, none of which is any more convincing than the book itself is.  What follows is a point-by-point reply. 

Friday, February 11, 2022

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

McDowell’s Aristotelian near miss

John McDowell’s paper “Singular Thought and the Extent of Inner Space” made a big impression on me in graduate school, around the same time his influential book Mind and World was published.  Like a lot of philosophers, I thought there was something deep going on in McDowell’s work, though (also like a lot of philosophers, I think) I was not quite sure what to make of it.  Part of this has to do with the difficulty of McDowell’s style, but that difficulty reflects, at least in part, the difficulty of the subject matter.  The nature of thought and of experience is so close to us – like the tip of one’s nose, always in one’s field of vision, and thus rarely noticed – that it can be, precisely for that reason, harder to get hold of than the extra-mental world is. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

If you’ve been missing links

David S. Oderberg asks “Is Prime Matter Energy?” in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy.  Also, Oderberg on the “Principle of Sufficient Reason,” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Religion, edited by Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro.

At the Claremont Review of Books, Joseph M. Bessette sets out a critique of the Eastman memos.

Aidan Nichols on the Herbert McCabe he knew, at The Lamp.

At UnHerd, Thomas Fazi and Toby Green make the left-wing case against vaccine mandates.  At The Tablet, Alex Gutentag on the continual, unacknowledged, shifts in expert opinion about Covid-19.  “Mandatory panic”: Freddie deBoer on Covid as the liberal 9/11.  A Johns Hopkins University study concludes that lockdowns did no good and caused much damage.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Hell is not empty

We’ve been talking about Balthasar’s view that we may at least hope that all human beings are saved.  Now, Balthasar was a Catholic theologian who was careful to try to avoid contradicting definitive Church teaching on the subject.  That is why he does not endorse the universalist view that all must and therefore definitely will be saved, which is heretical (as is shown here and here).  But it is also significant that in the title of his famous book on the subject, he is careful to frame his question: “Dare we hope ‘that all men be saved’?”  In other words, he’s asking about whether all human beings might be saved.  He’s not asking whether all creatures with intellect and will, including fallen angels, might be saved.  Indeed, in the book he says, of demonic powers:

Let it be said at the outset that theological hope can by no means apply to this power.  The sphere to which redemption by the Son who became man applies is unequivocally that of mankind[O]ne cannot agree with Barth’s claim that the angels had no freedom of choice and that the myth of a “fall of the angels” is thus to be rejected absolutely[T]he doctrine of a fall of the angels, which is deeply rooted in the whole of Tradition, becomes not only plausible but even, if the satanic is accepted as existent, inescapable. (pp. 113-14)

Friday, January 21, 2022

A fallacy in Balthasar (Updated)

In his influential book Dare We Hope “That All Men Be Saved?”, theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar gives the following argument:

If it is said of God that: “God our Savior … desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:4-5), then this is the reason for the fact that the Church should make “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings … for all men” (1 Tim 2:1), which could not be asked of her if she were not allowed to have at least the hope that prayers as widely directed as these are sensible and might be heard.  If, that is, she knew with certainty that this hope was too widely directed, then what is asked of her would be self-contradictory.  (pp. 23-24)

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Barron on “diversity, equity, and inclusion”

In a recent Word on Fire video, Bishop Robert Barron comments on the currently fashionable chatter about “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (or DEI, as they are commonly abbreviated).  In much political and cultural debate and institutional policy, these have come to be treated as fundamental and absolute values.  Indeed, as Bishop Barron notes, the trio has come to have the status that liberty, equality, and fraternity had for the French revolutionaries.  But like the latter notions, DEI rhetoric is not as innocuous as many suppose.  As the bishop argues, diversity, equity, and inclusion can have only relative and derivative rather than absolute and fundamental value, and some forms of them are bad.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Geach on authority and consistency

If the reader will indulge me, here is one more post inspired by Peter Geach – specifically, this time, by some themes in his book Truth and Hope.  Among the topics Geach covers are logical consistency, believing something on the basis of authority, and the relationship between authority and consistency.  The points he makes are by no means purely academic.  Indeed, they are relevant to understanding current ecclesiastical and political crises.  For among the reasons so many people today have come to distrust authorities in the Church, government, science, media, etc. is these authorities’ lack of consistency.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

New Year’s open thread

Dear reader, let’s open up the discussion this year by letting you open it up.  It’s time to get that otherwise off-topic comment of yours that I keep deleting out of your system at last.  For in these open thread posts, everything is on-topic, from Marshall McLuhan to Malcom McLaren, from Duke Ellington to Beef Wellington, from Plato to Play-Doh.  Just keep things civil and constructive, please.  Previous open threads archived here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Geach on Hell

Let’s take another trip into the philosophical and theological gold mine that is Peter Geach’s book Providence and Evil, and this time consider his chapter on Hell.  At first I wondered whether it was appropriate to close out the year with a post on a subject so grim and unpleasant.  But on second thought it occurred to me that it is an ideal topic.  What better preparation for forming New Year’s resolutions than a reminder of where we are all headed if we do not repent of whatever sins we remain attached to?

Saturday, December 25, 2021

The still, small voice of Christmas

A great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.  And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.  And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  (1 Kings 19:11-13)

Among the lessons of Christmas is the truth of the principle illustrated by this famous Old Testament passage.  We often expect, or at least desire, special divine assistance to be instant and dramatic, like a superhero swooping to the rescue in a Marvel movie.  And we lose hope when that doesn’t happen.  But God only rarely works that way, and such dramatics have to be rare lest grace smother nature.  Special divine assistance is in the ordinary course of things subtle and gradual – a still, small voice rather than a whirlwind, earthquake, or fire – but nevertheless unmistakable when the big picture is kept in view.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Catholic middle ground on Covid-19 vaccination

I commend to you Catholic philosopher Josh Hochschild’s recent EDIFY video addressing the question “Are Vaccine Mandates Ethical?”  His position is that those who wish to take one of the Covid-19 vaccines can do so in good conscience, but also that vaccination must be voluntary.  As regular readers of this blog know, that is also my own position.  More importantly, it is the teaching of the Church.  I also highly recommend the article “Using Abortion-Derived Vaccines: A Moral Analysis” by Fr. Ezra Sullivan and Fr. Leon Kuriakos Pereira, which appears in the current issue of Nova et Vetera.  It is the most thorough defense of the Church’s teaching on this subject that I am aware of.  It is also a salutary antidote to the fanaticism that has unfortunately taken deep root on both sides of this issue, among those who insist that everyone must refuse to take the vaccine and those who insist that everyone must be required to take it.  Both positions are contrary to reason and charity.  This is a matter about which the individual conscience ought to be at liberty.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Western cultural suicide as apostasy (Updated)

In his classic book Suicide of the West, James Burnham famously characterized liberalism as “the ideology of Western suicide.”  I’ve been meaning for some time to write up an essay on the book.  This isn’t it.  But Burnham’s thesis came to mind when reading Michael Anton’s essay “Unprecedented” in the latest New Criterion, because the phenomena Anton cites clearly confirm Burnham’s analysis. 

Ours is a civilization in decline, and at a rapidly accelerating pace.  That isn’t new in human history.  But the precise manner in which it is disintegrating seems to be unprecedented, which is the reason for the title of Anton’s essay.  What has effectively become the ideology of the ruling classes, which goes by many names – political correctness, “wokeness,” “critical social justice,” the “successor Ideology,” the baizuo mentality, and so on – manifests a perverse self-destructiveness and nihilism that, as Anton argues, appears sui generis.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Dissident Philosophers

Rowman and Littlefield has just published the anthology Dissident Philosophers: Voices Against the Political Current of the Academy, edited by T. Allan Hillman and Tully Borland.  (The hardcover version is expensive, but the publisher’s website indicates that there is also a cheaper eBook version.)  My article “The Metaphysical Foundations of Conservatism” appears in the volume.  The other contributors are Francis J. Beckwith, John Bickle, Marica Bernstein, Daniel Bonevac, Jason Brennan, Rafael De Clercq, Dan Demetriou, Michael Huemer, Eric Mack, J. P. Moreland, Jan Narveson, Michael Pakaluk, Neven Sesardić, Steven C. Skultety, William F. Vallicella, and Robert Westmoreland.  In his blurb for the book, Prof. Thomas Kelly of Princeton University writes: “An interesting and at times fascinating glimpse into the thought of a group of heterodox intellectuals.  In addition to the clear presentation of well-developed philosophical views that challenge left-wing orthodoxies, their personal experiences and reflections on what is involved in being a professional philosopher who dissents from those orthodoxies makes for compelling reading.”

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Geach on original sin

Recently we dipped into Peter Geach’s book Providence and Evil.  Let’s do so again, looking this time at what he has to say about the doctrine of original sin.  Geach says that the doctrine holds that human beings have “inherited… [a] flawed nature,” and indeed that:

The traditional doctrine is that since the sin of our first parents, men have been conceived and born different in nature from what they would have been had our first parents stood firm under trial.  As C. S. Lewis puts it, a new species, not made by God, sinned itself into existence. (pp. 89-90)

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

MacIntyre on human dignity

Recently, Alasdair MacIntyre presented a talk on the theme “Human Dignity: A Puzzling and Possibly Dangerous Idea?” at the Fall Conference of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame.  You can watch it on YouTube.  It has gotten a lot of attention even beyond academic circles, which is not surprising given MacIntyre’s stature together with the question he raises in the title.  What follows is a summary of the talk followed by my own comments.  I’m only going to cover MacIntyre’s main themes; there are various details (such as MacIntyre’s comments on specific historical examples) for which you’ll have to listen to his talk.