Sunday, October 26, 2008

From the latest reviews of The Last Superstition

"Edward Feser... is an immensely talented Aristotelico-Thomistic philosopher, and the pages he devotes to explaining the proofs for the existence of God are as clear, cogent, and convincing as any I’ve ever read (and I’ve read many)... Feser is most helpful when he explains that the New Atheism of Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris is not — contrary to their noisy assertions — based on physical science. It is a philosophical argument, and one that is not as strong as the argument for theism." National Review

"New Atheists Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris get their comeuppance from philosopher Feser in the spirit with which they abuse believers... [Their] factual errors, half-truths, and mischaracterization Feser highlights with contemptuous glee... With energy and humor as well as transparent exposition, Feser reestablishes the unassailable superiority of classical philosophy." ALA Booklist (starred review)

Order your copy here. (Non-self-promoting posts to resume shortly...)


Jime said...

Congratulaitons for your excellent book, professor Feser. I've written a post about it.

The best critique of the new atheism in print!

Edward Feser said...

Very kind, Jime, thank you!

djr said...

I've ordered the book despite the fact that St. Augustine's Press apparently refuses to allow potential customers a look at the table of contents. Alas, none of the bookstores within walking distance of my tiny part of the universe have the thing in stock. I look forward to it, though, more for its articulation and defense of the classical Aristotelian view than for its exposure of half-witted atheism. I would never have thought to waste my time reviewing the reasons why the 'new atheism' is so boring, but if The Last Superstition is as good as your book on the philosophy of mind, it will be worth being reminded of some bad arguments in order to read some good ones.

Edward Feser said...

Thanks, DJR. Just FYI, here's the TOC:

Table of Contents

1. Bad Religion

The “New Atheism”
The old philosophy
The abuse of science
Religion and counter-religion
Things to come

2. Greeks Bearing Gifts

From Thales to Socrates
Plato’s Theory of Forms
Realism, nominalism, and conceptualism
Aristotle’s metaphysics
A. Actuality and potentiality
B. Form and matter
C. The four causes

3. Getting Medieval

What Aquinas didn’t say
The existence of God
A. The Unmoved Mover
B. The First Cause
C. The Supreme Intelligence

4. Scholastic Aptitude

The soul
Natural law
Faith, reason, and evil

5. Descent of the Modernists

Pre-birth of the modern
Thoroughly modern metaphysics
Inventing the mind-body problem
Universal acid
A. The problem of skepticism
B. The problem of induction
C. Personal identity
D. Free will
E. Natural rights
F. Morality in general
Back to Plato’s cave

6. Aristotle’s Revenge

How to lose your mind
The lump under the rug
Irreducible teleology
A. Biological phenomena
B. Complex inorganic systems
C. Basic laws of nature
It’s the moon, stupid

JT said...

Dr. Feser,

You have provided an excellent introduction to Aristotelian thought as adapted by Aquinas. Your assessment of where philosophy went wrong reminds me of Adler's "Ten Philosophical Mistakes."

That being said, I still find Aquinas' demonstrations for the existence of God to be unconvincing. I will focus for the moment on the First and Second Ways as you explained them. As you noted, the vast majority of criticisms by atheists fail to frame the arguments properly.

You succinctly explain that the argument does NOT depend on the impossibility of an actually infinite series of motions (or changes)in time but rather, as you put it, the impossibility of an infinity of an "essentially ordered causal series, existing here and now."

To me, this is where the argument fails. As you admitted, both Aristotle and Aquinas had some mistaken views of the actual physics that take place in the world. Yet you also claim that though their individual examples may have been flawed, the metaphysical principles on which they based them were not thereby invalidated. Here is an instance where they are.

The examples you provided for "essentially ordered causal series" involving motion ARE ordered in time, not simultaneous. Let's focus on your train illustration. When the engine starts forward, it imparts force to the next car, starting it into motion, which does the same thing to the next car, and the next, all the way back to the caboose.

If the engine were uncoupled just after starting the next car into motion, the cause and effect it initiated would still continue back to the caboose. The engine as the primary source of motion is not simultaneous with the caboose in motion. With a much shorter time frame, the series of motions (as cause and effect) is no different than your description of the "accidental series" of a father begetting a son, then dying and the son having the power to beget yet another son independent of his father's current existence or non-existence.

The same basic flaw also undermines the Second Way, which you characterize as "...what we've got here is once again an 'essentially ordered' causal series, which, for reasons we saw earlier, must of metaphysical necessity terminate in a first cause."

The "metaphysical necessity" to which you appeal is based on Aquinas' erroneous view of physics in terms of what he thought were simultaneous motions, causes and effects. Yet there are no such "essentially ordered" causal series or motions--they are all sequential and temporal, even when they appear to be instantaneous.

Jonathan said...

Any chance we'll see a Kindle edition of this soon?