Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Johnson on Aristotle’s Revenge


At Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Monte Ransome Johnson reviews my book Aristotle’s Revenge.  Prof. Johnson is an Aristotle scholar and historian of philosophy, which is relevant to understanding his review.  He says some nice things about the book, singling out my discussion of Aristotle and computationalism as “interesting” and writing:

Feser's book could be useful to those interested in defending anti-reductionist positions in various disputes in philosophy of science… Feser's impressive grasp of this anti-reductionist literature makes him a formidable polemicist, able to sift the avalanche of philosophy of science literature and find the concepts he is looking for

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Scruton’s virtues


The Guardian reports that conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton has died.  I vividly recall the first time I became aware of Scruton.  I was an undergraduate philosophy major in the late 1980s, and a professor had posted on the bulletin board near his office an article about Scruton, on which he’d scrawled the words: “Mrs. Thatcher’s favorite philosopher.”  It was not intended as a compliment.  But since I was a conservative as well as an aspiring philosopher, it attracted rather than repelled me.  During the many hours I spent in bookstores in those days, seeing Scruton’s name on the spine of a book became a reason instantly to pull it off the shelf and take a look.  And actually reading Scruton soon gave reason to seek out everything else he’d written.  Which, as every Scruton admirer knows, could become a full time job.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Review of Swinburne


My review of Richard Swinburne’s recent book Are We Bodies or Souls? appears in the February 2020 issue of First Things.  You can read it online.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The rationalist/empiricist false choice


I’ve often argued that contemporary philosophers too often think only within the box of alternative positions inherited from their early modern forebears, neglecting or even being ignorant of the very different ways that pre-modern philosophers would carve up the conceptual territory.  One of the chief ways this is so has to do with the rationalist/empiricist dichotomy, as filtered through Kant.  It has hobbled clear thinking not only about epistemology, but also about metaphysics.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Links for a new year


Joseph Bessette on criminal sentencing laws and retributive justice, at Public Discourse.

The Catholic Thing on the late, great Michael Uhlmann.  Requiescat in pace, Mike.


At The Spectator, Roger Scruton looks back with gratitude at an annus horribilis.

Jez Rowden’s Steely Dan: Every Album, Every Song will be released next month.  Ultimate Classic Rock on the great Eagles/Steely Dan cross-reference.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Overestimating human responsibility


One of the many pernicious aspects of modern political life is the tendency, every time something bad happens, to look for someone to blame – or, where someone is to blame, to try to extend the blame to people who can’t reasonably be held responsible.  “It’s the Republicans’ fault!” “It’s the Democrats’ fault!” “It’s the NRA’s fault!”  “It’s the environmentalists’ fault!” “It’s the government’s fault!” “It’s the corporations’ fault!” “We need new legislation!”  “We need an investigation!”

Friday, December 20, 2019

Cundy on relativity and the A-theory of time


One of the many topics treated in Aristotle’s Revenge is the relationship between Aristotelian philosophy of nature and contemporary debates in the philosophy of time.  For example, I argue that, while at least the most fundamental claims of an Aristotelian philosophy of nature might be reconciled with the B-theory of time, the most natural position for an Aristotelian to take is an A-theory, and presentism in particular.  Thus was I led to defend presentism in the book – which requires, among other things, arguing that the presentist view of time has not been refuted by relativity theory.  Nigel Cundy disagrees.  A physicist with a serious interest in and knowledge of Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy, he has posted a detailed and thoughtful critique of this part of my book at his blog The Quantum Thomist.  Cundy thinks that presentism cannot be reconciled with relativity, and that other A-theories of time at least sit badly with it.  What follows is a response.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

New from Oderberg


Fans of David S. Oderberg have long been looking forward to a new book from him, and now it is here – just in time to fill Christmas stockings.  The Metaphysics of Good and Evil is out this month from Routledge.  Details can be found at Routledge’s website.  From the cover copy:

The Metaphysics of Good and Evil is the first, full-length contemporary defence, from the perspective of analytic philosophy, of the Scholastic theory of good and evil – the theory of Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, and most medieval and Thomistic philosophers. Goodness is analysed as obedience to nature. Evil is analysed as the privation of goodness. Goodness, surprisingly, is found in the non-living world, but in the living world it takes on a special character. The book analyses various kinds of goodness, showing how they fit into the Scholastic theory. The privation theory of evil is given its most comprehensive contemporary defence, including an account of truthmakers for truths of privation and an analysis of how causation by privation should be understood. In the end, all evil is deviance – a departure from the goodness prescribed by a thing’s essential nature.

Science et Esprit on Aristotle’s Revenge


In the latest issue of the journal Science et Esprit (Vol. 72, Nos. 1-2), René Ardell Fehr kindly reviews my book Aristotle’s Revenge.  Judging it a “fine work,” Fehr writes:

Feser’s book attempts to support the broad Aristotelian metaphysical structure and its interpretation of modern science as the interpretation, while at the same time defending that structure from the attacks of philosophical naturalists and attacking the metaphysical assumptions of said naturalists.  It is a credit to Feser that he sees the inherent danger in such a project; throughout Aristotle’s Revenge he insists that he is not attacking modern science itself.  Feser writes: “I am not pitting philosophy of nature against physics.  I am pitting one philosophy of nature against another philosophy of nature.”

Friday, December 13, 2019

Brungardt on Aristotle’s Revenge


At Thomistica, philosopher John Brungardt reviews Aristotle’s Revenge.  He provides a fairly detailed overview of its methods and contents, and judges it “a broad, substantive book” that “has gathered and ordered a nearly universal range of topics and contemporary sources in the philosophy of nature and science,” so that “it is essential reading for those interested in the topic of the perennial Aristotelian philosophy of nature and its relationship to the particular natural sciences.”

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Word to the Wise


Eric Wise takes to Facebook to express shock that an author would be annoyed with a book reviewer who doesn’t have anything to say about the actual contents of the book under review.  He also manages to pack an amazing amount of further obfuscatory nonsense into a small space.

Wise defends his criticism of my arguing for broadly Aristotelian views rather than grappling with Aristotle’s own texts by noting that the title of my book is, after all, Aristotle’s Revenge.  Shouldn’t I have called it something else if it wasn’t going to be offering detailed exegesis of De Partibus Animalium?  This is like criticizing Tolstoy’s title War and Peace on the grounds that it is really just about the Napoleonic invasion of Russia rather than war in general, or objecting to Nietzsche’s title The Antichrist on the grounds that it isn’t really about eschatology or apocalyptic literature. (I thought Straussians were not supposed to be literal-minded.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Unwise book reviewing


Honestly, what runs through editors’ minds when they assign book reviewers?  The Claremont Review of Books has just run a review of Aristotle’s Revenge, by some fellow named J. Eric Wise.  And, heaven help us, it’s Glenn Ellmers’ review redivivus

Anyone who has read my book will be keen to learn what a reviewer might say about my views on topics like: embodied cognition and embodied perception; epistemic structural realism; causal powers and laws of nature; the A- and B-theories of time; presentism; reductionism in chemistry; primary versus secondary qualities; computational notions in natural science; biological reductionism; evolution and essentialism; neuroscientific reductionism; and so on.  You know, the stuff I actually discuss in the book.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The thread about nothing


It’s open thread time.  There is no topic, which means everything is on topic.  Now is the time finally to raise that issue that you keep bringing up out of left field in other threads – in comments I keep deleting while cussing you out under my breath.  From the Manhattan Project to the Manhattan Transfer, from Brian De Palma to Pachamama, from frontal lobotomies to Kantian autonomy – go ahead and hash it out.  As always, keep it civil, classy, and free of trolling and troll-feeding.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Was Aquinas a property dualist?


One must always be cautious when trying to relate Aquinas’s position on some philosophical issue to the options familiar to contemporary academic philosophers.  Sometimes he is not addressing quite the same questions they are, even when he seems to be.  Sometimes he does not use key terms in the same ways they do.  And he is working with a general metaphysical picture of the world – in particular, a picture of the nature of substance, essence, causation, matter, and other fundamental notions – that is radically different from the options familiar to contemporary philosophers, in ways the latter often do not realize.

Time-sensitive Turkey Day tweets (Updated)


UPDATE 12/10: I'm told that the Gordon-Carrier debate has been cancelled and may be rescheduled for another date.

Palgrave Macmillan announces a Cyber Week Sale until December 3.  Good time to pick up that copy of Aristotle on Method and Metaphysics you’ve been pining for.

Readers in the Los Angeles area might be interested to know that there will be a debate on December 13 at 7 pm between Catholic writer Timothy Gordon and atheist Richard Carrier, at St. Therese Catholic Church in Alhambra.

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Last Superstition in French


My book The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism is now available in a French translation.  The book is also available in Portuguese and German

While we're on the subject of translations, I suppose I might offer a reminder that Five Proofs of the Existence of God and Philosophy of Mind are also available in German, and that a book of some of my essays is available in Romanian.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Against candy-ass Christianity


The Mr. Rogers biopic, with Tom Hanks in the starring role, comes out this week and has been getting a lot of positive attention – in some cases, embarrassingly rapturous attention.  This might seem surprising coming from Hollywood types and secular liberals, given that Rogers was a Presbyterian minister.  But of course, Rogers’ adherence to Christian teaching has nothing to do with it.  Commenting on the movie, Angelus magazine reports that “Hanks mentions that Rogers was indeed an ordained minister but seems to take comfort that Rogers ‘never mentioned God in his show.’”  In the movie’s trailer, a man says to Mr. Rogers “You love broken people, like me,” to which Rogers replies “I don’t think you are broken” – never mind the doctrine of original sin.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Join the Ur-Platonist alliance!


What’s in a name?  I’m an unreconstructed Thomist, but I would be the last to deny that it is a mistake to think that one man, Thomas Aquinas, somehow got everything right all by himself.  Aquinas was, of course, part of a much larger tradition that extends back to the ancient Greek philosophers.  Much of his achievement had to do with synthesizing the best elements from the different strands of thought he inherited from his predecessors, especially the Platonic-Augustinian and Aristotelian traditions.  And of course, his successors added further important elements to the mix. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Oppy and Lim on Five Proofs


Graham Oppy’s article “On stage one of Feser’s ‘Aristotelian proof’”, which responds to some of the arguments I give in Five Proofs of the Existence of God, has recently been posted at the website of the journal Religious Studies.  I will be writing up a response.  (In the meantime, readers who have not seen it may be interested in my recent debate with Oppy on Capturing Christianity.) 

In the Fall 2019 issue of Nova et Vetera, Joshua Lim kindly reviews Five Proofs.  From the review:

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Two popes and idolatry


How bad can a bad pope get?  Pretty bad.  Here are two further examples from history.  Marcellinus was pope from c. 296 – 304.  During his pontificate, Emperor Diocletian initiated a persecution of the Christians, requiring the surrender of sacred texts and the offering of incense to the Roman gods.  Marcellinus and some of his clergy apparently complied, though Marcellinus is also said to have repented of this after a few days and to have suffered martyrdom as a result.  Some claim that by virtue of his compliance he was guilty of a formal apostasy that resulted in loss of the papal office, though his purported repentance and martyrdom also led to his veneration and recognition as a saint.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Cambridge Companion to Natural Law Ethics


My article “Natural Law Ethics and the Revival of Aristotelian Metaphysics” appears in The Cambridge Companion to Natural Law Ethics, edited by Tom Angier.  You can find out more about the volume at the Cambridge University Press website and at Cambridge Core.

Monday, November 4, 2019

The strange case of Pope Vigilius


The increasingly strange pontificate of Pope Francis is leading many Catholics into increasingly strange behavior.  Some, like the emperor’s sycophants in the Hans Christian Anderson story, insist with ever greater shrillness that nothing Pope Francis does is ever really in the least bit problematic.  If your eyes seem plainly to be telling you otherwise, then it is, they insist, your lying eyes that are the problem.  Others, incapable of such self-deception, are driven into a panic by the pope’s manifestly problematic words and actions.  They overreact, either beating a retreat into sedevacantism or judging that the claims of Catholicism have been proven false and that the only recourse is Eastern Orthodoxy.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

New from Editiones Scholasticae


Editiones Scholasticae, the publisher of my books Scholastic Metaphysics and Aristotle’s Revenge, informs me that both of them will within a few days be available in eBook versions.  Also new from the publisher is a German translation of my book Philosophy of Mind.  (Previously they had published German translations of The Last Superstition and Five Proofs of the Existence of God.)  Take a look at Editiones Scholasticae’s new webpage for further information, as well as for information about other new releases from the publisher.  You will find both new works by contemporary writers in the Scholastic tradition, and reprints of older and long out of print works in that tradition.  (The original webpage is still online as well.)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

John Paul II in defense of the nation and patriotism


In chapters 11-15 of his last book Memory and Identity, Pope St. John Paul II provides a lucid exposition of the idea of the nation as a natural social institution and of the virtue of patriotism, as these have been understood in traditional natural law theory and Catholic moral theology.  The relevance to current controversies will be obvious.

What is the nation, and what is patriotism?  John Paul begins by noting the connection between the nation and the family, where the former is in a sense an extension of the latter:

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Masculinity and the Marvel movies


Some time back, John Haldane gave a Thomistic Institute talk here in Los Angeles on the theme of evil in the movies and in the movie industry.  During the Q and A (at about the 40 minute mark, and again after the 1:16 mark) the subject of superhero movies came up, and Haldane was critical of their current prevalence.  In developing this criticism, he draws a useful distinction between fantasy and imagination.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Around the web


At The Catholic Thing, Fr. Thomas Weinandy on the studied ambiguity of Pope Francis.  In his new book Conciliar Octet, Fr. Aidan Nichols on the hermeneutic of continuity and Vatican II.

At Medium, philosopher Kathleen Stock on gender theory versus academic freedom in the UK.  At Inside Higher Education, twelve prominent philosophers defend the right to free inquiry on matters of sex and gender. 

Philosopher Daniel A. Kaufman on the “woke” fanatics increasingly infesting academic philosophy, at The Electric Agora.  Richard Marshall interviews Kaufman at 3:16. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Transubstantiation and hylemorphism


One of the key themes of the early modern philosophers’ revolt against Scholasticism was a move away from an Aristotelian hylemorphist conception of the nature of physical substance to some variation or other of the mechanical philosophy.  The other day I was asked a very interesting question: Can transubstantiation be formulated in terms of a mechanistic conception of physical substance rather than a hylemorphic one?  My answer was that I would not peremptorily say that it cannot be, but that the suggestion certainly raises serious philosophical and theological problems.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Harvard talk (Updated)


This Friday, October 4, I will be giving a talk at Harvard University, sponsored by the Abigail Adams Institute.  The topic will be “The Immateriality of the Mind.”  The event will be in Sever Hall, Room 103, at 7:30 pm.  You can RSVP here.

UPDATE 10/11: Some photos from the talk have been posted at Facebook.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Aristotle’s Revenge and naïve color realism


The American Catholic Philosophical Association meeting in Minneapolis this November 21-24 will be devoted to the theme of the philosophy of nature.  On the Saturday of the conference there will be an Author Meets Critics session on my book Aristotle’s Revenge.  It will be chaired by Patrick Toner and the speakers will be Robert Koons, Stephen Barr, and myself.

While we’re on the subject, I’d like to call your attention to a couple of very interesting responses to Aristotle’s Revenge, the first from Nigel Cundy at The Quantum Thomist and the second from Bonald at Throne and Altar.  Both writers know the relevant science and both are open-minded and knowledgeable about the relevant philosophical ideas too.  Both seem largely sympathetic to the book but also raise serious criticisms.  They cover a lot of ground (since the book itself does) so there’s no way I can respond to everything they say in one post.  So this will be the first in a series of occasional posts responding to their criticisms.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Fastiggi on the revision to the Catechism (Updated)


UPDATE: The conversation continues.  Prof. Fastiggi has responded to this post in the comments section over at Catholic World Report. I have cut and pasted his responses below, under the text of my original post, together with my replies.  Scroll down to take a look

In the comments section under my recent Catholic World Report article “Three questions for Catholic opponents of capital punishment,” theologian Prof. Robert Fastiggi raises a number of objections.  What follows is a reply.  Fastiggi’s objections are in bold, and I respond to them one by one.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Three problems for Catholic opponents of capital punishment


What is left to say about Pope Francis and capital punishment?  Plenty, as I show in a new Catholic World Report article titled “Three questions for Catholic opponents of capital punishment.”  Those who appeal to the pope’s statements on the subject in order to justify the claim that Catholics are now obligated to oppose capital punishment face three grave problems.

Friday, September 13, 2019

A further reply to Glenn Ellmers


At Law and Liberty, Glenn Ellmers has replied to my response to his review of my book Aristotle’s Revenge.  He makes two points, neither of them good.

First, Ellmers reiterates his complaint that I am insufficiently attentive to the actual words of Aristotle himself.  He writes: “This where Feser and I part.  He thinks that it is adequate to have some familiarity with ‘the broad Aristotelian tradition’ – a term of seemingly vast elasticity.  I do not.”  Put aside the false assumption that my own “familiarity” is only with the broad Aristotelian tradition rather than with Aristotle himself.  It is certainly true that my book focuses on the former rather than the latter.  So, is this adequate?

Friday, September 6, 2019

Review of Smith’s The AI Delusion


My review of economist Gary Smith’s excellent recent book The AI Delusion appears today at City Journal.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Friday, August 30, 2019

Gage on Five Proofs


I’ve been getting some strange book reviews lately.  First up is Logan Paul Gage’s review of my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God in the latest issue of Philosophia Christi.  Gage says some very complimentary things about the book, for which I thank him.  He also raises a couple of important points of criticism, for which I also thank him.  But he says some odd and false things too. 

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Scotus on divine simplicity and creation


In my exchange with Ryan Mullins on the doctrine of divine simplicity, I noted that one of the problems with his critique of the doctrine is that he pays insufficient attention to the history of the debate about it.  Hence he overlooks what should be obvious possible responses to his criticisms, such as Aquinas’s appeal to the distinction between real relations and logical relations.  He also makes sweeping attributions of certain views to all defenders of divine simplicity, overlooking crucial differences between proponents of the doctrine.  Other critics of divine simplicity also often make these mistakes.  A consideration of the views of John Duns Scotus further illustrates the range of issues with which any serious general critique of divine simplicity must deal.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Aquinas on creation and necessity


While we’re on the subject of divine simplicity and creation, let’s consider a closely related issue.  In the Summa Contra Gentiles, Aquinas argues that God wills himself, that he does so necessarily, that what he wills he wills in a single act, and that he wills other things besides himself.  Doesn’t it follow that he also wills these other things necessarily?  Doesn’t it follow that they too must exist necessarily, just as God does?  No, neither of these things follows.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A further reply to Mullins on divine simplicity (Updated)


UPDATE 8/25: David Mahfood replies to Mullins at Eclectic Orthodoxy.  I've got a couple of followup posts, here and here.

UPDATE 8/24: Brandon Watson and John DeRosa also respond to Mulllins.

UPDATE 8/21: Look out!  The Scotist Meme Squad has entered the fray.

At Theopolis, Ryan Mullins has now replied to those of us who had commented on his essay criticizing the doctrine of divine simplicity.  (The other commenters were Peter Leithart and Joe Lenow.)  What follows is a response to what he has to say in reply to my comments on the essay, specifically.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Summer open thread


It’s about time for another open thread, so here it is.  From violent crimes to medieval times to cringe-making rhymes, nothing is off-topic.  Still, as always, please keep it classy and keep it civil.

While I’ve got your attention, let me take this opportunity to make several comments about comments.  First, a few readers have complained recently that their comments are not appearing.  In fact, they are appearing.  What these readers do not realize is that after a thread exceeds 200 comments, you have to click on the “Load more…” prompt at the bottom of the comments section to see the most recent comments.  It’s easy to miss, but it’s there.  Click on it and you’ll no doubt find that comment that you thought had disappeared into the ether (and perhaps had needlessly re-posted several times).

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Contra Mullins on divine simplicity


The Theopolis Institute website is hosting a conversation on divine simplicity, with an opening essay by Ryan Mullins criticizing the doctrine and responses so far from Peter Leithart, Joe Lenow, and me.  More installments to come over the next couple of weeks.  You can read my own response to Mullins here.