Saturday, November 15, 2008

Goldstein's book

Reader Warren Donley writes in to say of The Last Superstition:

I don't know if you are a fan of Orwell's "1984", but if you are, I hope you will take it the right way (i.e. as a compliment) when I say that in my opinion you have written the equivalent of "Goldstein's book" - a book which diagnoses, explains, and exposes the Big Lie (or, more charitably, the Big Error) that underlies and has given rise to the world in which we find ourselves. Your book summed up and elucidated many issues that I have been chewing over myself for years, but which I was unable to articulate due to my lack of a formal education in philosophy, and for that I am grateful to you...

(On a cruder level, it was extremely rewarding to see Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins get bitch-slapped like that....)

Thanks again for revealing the "secret".

Thank you, Warren. As I note in the preface to the book, one of the things that led me to write it was the superficiality (as I see it) of most of the existing responses to the New Atheism, and indeed to "secular progressivism" in general. The falsehoods and unexamined assumptions that underlie these noxious movements go far, far deeper than most people imagine, including most religious believers and conservatives.

Fight Big Brother and discover the "secret" for yourself by picking up a copy of The Last Superstition. Or two. Or three. Or more... Christmas is coming, after all!

(It's been a busy week. Regular posts will resume shortly.)

14 comments:

The Social Pathologist said...

I've gone out and bought one from Amazon.

Warren said...

"There were...whispered stories of a terrible book, a compendium of all the heresies, of which Feser was the author and which circulated clandestinely here and there. It was a book without a title. People referred to it, if at all, simply as The Book."

Anonymous said...

Ed, as an impecunious postgrad, I was wondering if you know whether or when TLS would be out in paperback? Sorry, if you've covered that elsewhere . . .

Eric said...

I've just picked up the book and can't wait to read it!

I've read many other responses to the 'New Atheism': John Haught's, Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker's, Alister Mcgrath's, Dinesh D'souza's, Ravi Zacharias's, Tim Keller's, David Aikman's, David Berlinski's, Michael Novak's, and Thomas Crean's. 'The Last Superstition,' however, looks as if it will treat the fundamental philosophical issues with much more seriousness than the others have (though, of course, I did learn quite a bit from each author, except perhaps Aikman). I'm especially excited by the fact that you're not only negatively critiquing atheism and scientific naturalism, *but presenting an alternative -- a rational alternative -- to it*! As Adams said of Paine, the others are much better at tearing down than they are at building up. D'souza, Keller, Crean and Novak make an attempt to move in this latter direction, but your book, I gather, takes this 'building up' project much more seriously (with respect to the philosophical issues involved) than they do. As I said, I can't wait to dive into it!

Edward Feser said...

TCP and Eric,

Thank you!

Warren,

Love it. I should hire you as my press agent.

Anonymous,

That's a good question and I will look into it. Meanwhile, do note that Amazon is giving a pretty good discount...

Ari said...

Do you have excerpts of it anywhere in order to preview its contents?

The latter would sure help one to judge its contents in deliberating whether to purchase.

Thanks.

Edward Feser said...

Ari,

Scroll down the main blog page to my post "From the latest reviews of The Last Superstition." In the comments section, you'll see the table of contents posted.

Eric said...

Professor Feser,

I've been reading "The Last Superstition" and I *love* it! I feel like Antony Flew -- well, minus the brilliance, the fifty years of experience teaching philosophy, and the like -- in that I never realized how powerful Aristotle's philosophy is! I simply assumed, with most others, it seems, that his account of causation was silly, that his metaphysics had been refuted by modern philosophers, and so on. I plead guilty to the charge of 'chronological snobbery,' but I plan to redeem myself by reading Aristotle himself, commentaries on his work and the medieval philosophers who took him as their guide. Thank you for opening up this whole new way of viewing the world to me (whether I come to accept Aristotelianism/Thomism in the end)!

I would like to mention a few errors I've found in the book (in case you haven't found them already -- for future editions, you know!)

On the bottom of page 43, the sentence reads: "'Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March' would remain true even the entire world and every human mind went out of existence tomorrow."

There's no 'if' after 'even.'

In chapter two, endnote twenty-seven (in the chapter) actually refers to the notes of endnote twenty-eight (in the endnotes themselves), and twenty-eight (in the chapter) refers to the notes of endnote twenty-nine (in the endnotes), and so on, until endnote thirty-one (in the chapter), which refers to the notes of endnote 32 (in the endnotes). There is no thirty-two in the chapter itself. Endnote twenty-seven in the endnotes actually seems to explicate the first two lines of the second paragraph on page sixty.

Page sixty: "Since Aristotle rejects these views of Plato's, his version of realism is often referred to as 'moderate realism,' as opposed to the 'extreme realism' of Plato. (The views are also often just called "Aristotelian realism" and "Platonic realism.")"

Endnote twenty-seven: "The key difference between Plato and Aristotle is that Plato thinks there can be uninstantiated universals existing outside any mind and Aristotle does not. The sorts of forms-without-matter described here are instantiated universals."

Edward Feser said...

Hello Eric, and thank you very much. I can't believe I missed that last set of typos. Have to go back and look at the proofs to see what happened.

Damien S said...

Yes indeed. Ed's latest book was a beauty. I just finished it today.

I definately hope the books keep coming, Ed.

damien

J said...

Hitchens & Co can be fairly obnoxious on occasion (tho' HitchensSpeak seems somewhat Swiftian at times), but I don't think secular progressives should be viewed as the embodiment of Ee-vil of the 21st century. Religious people and theologians regularly assume secularists and atheists are the real culprits behind America's "moral" problems, while paying little attention to the really sinister forces of the USA (say Wall Street financiers, or Hollywood, or rabid neo-cons). Hitchens' villainy, if there is such a thing, hardly matches that of most corporate execs, or a Hugh Hefner, hollywood producers, or any hip-hop thugs, celebrity bimbos you care to name. Taking on Hollywood (or Vegas, Wall Street, pop culture, porn etc.) however would require some courage and a dedication to hard work, something most theologians lack.

I am not one for theological speculation, but we might recall that the lowest rings of Dante's Inferno contained not just the usual decadents and hedonists, but hypocrites, corrupt clergy and judges, military heroes (ie Ulysses). And virtuous pagans (including the Stagirite himself) were in Purgatory.

I tend to think an intelligent Designer would be more willing to forgive a Bertrand Russell, a Jefferson, or even Hitchens (assuming they weren't secretly murderers or rapists) than He would forgive a Mussolini (or the Pope who blessed Il Duce), or some nazi officer who took Mass regularly. That said, I may peruse Doc Feser's tome this Xmas break.

David said...

Dear Mr Feser,

I am about halfway through your new book and already I think it is going to be one of those books that change the way I think - well, about everything! The most astounding aspect of the book for me is that you make a very good case for the currency of Aristotlean metaphysics and its importance in natural theology and natural law theory.

I have a great attraction to the person and to the writings of St Thomas Aquinas but had heard that, since he had based his philosophy on Aristotle whose metaphysics had been superseded by advances in science, his importance is largely historical.

In Britain there is a Catholic catechetical movement - The FAITH movement - which promotes the philosophy of Fr Edward Holloway. Fr Holloway stated that the Church needed to move away from Thomism as it simply isn't able to cope with modern science:

But another contributory reason was that those who were arguing the case for God were using philosophy and theology which had been worked out several hundred years before the advent of modern science. In fact, their philosophical principles, although brilliantly developed by St Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century, were largely those of Aristotle, who lived around 350 B.C. As a consequence, their system of thought—their synthesis of faith and reason—was not adequate to cope with the new questions arising from modern science.

This is taken from their website:

http://www.faith.org.uk/WhyFaith/DetailedOverview.htm

Can you suggest any further reading about the subject of the relevance (perhaps that isn't the best word to use but you know what I mean) of Aristotlean metaphysics to science?

Eric said...

Professor Feser, I have a question about essentially ordered causes. If we take the example you used in 'The Last Superstition' (the man using a stick to move a stone), it seems that the series goes from the change in the stone's position 'back' to some fundamental physical phenomena or laws (operating in the man's brain) just 'before' it gets to the uncaused cause. My question is, do all essentially ordered causes lead to fundamental physical phenomena as the 'ultimate' intermediate causes before terminating in god?

Edward Feser said...

Hello David,

There are several references in the book, and some of the "Aristotelian resources" links on my blog should be useful too. Off the top of my head, three good recent books to look at are Benedict Ashley's The Way toward Wisdom, William Wallace's The Modeling of Nature, and David Oderberg's Real Essentialism.

Hello Eric,

No, since some such series proceed through the operation of the human soul, which is for Aquinas a subsistent form and thus immaterial, and some involve pure intelligences or angels, which are also immaterial.