Sunday, August 14, 2011

Argumentum ad Himmlerum

Want to be a New Atheist blogger?  It’s easy!  Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Launch an unhinged, fallacious attack on your opponent, focusing your attention on arguments he has never given.

Step 2: Studiously ignore the arguments he actually has given.

Step 3: Declare victory and exchange high fives with your fellow New Atheists, as they congratulate you for your brilliance and erudition.

Step 4: When your opponent calls attention to this farcical procedure, accuse him of making unhinged, fallacious attacks on you.  Throw in the Myers Shuffle for good measure. 

Step 5: Exchange further high fives with your fellow New Atheists.

Step 6: Repeat 1 - 5 until your disconnect from reality is complete.

If you’re looking for a model, we’ve had reason of late to look at some examples (here, here, here, and here).   And then there are Eric MacDonald’s most recent remarks on my book The Last Superstition over at his blog Choice in Dying, and Jerry Coyne’s high five.

As anyone who has actually read it knows, I do not rely on arguments from authority in The Last Superstition.  Nowhere do I say anything of the form “Authority A says P; therefore, you should believe P.”  I do not rest my case on the Bible, or tradition, or the Church, or the personal authority of any philosopher or theologian.  It is true that I refer to the decree of the first Vatican Council to the effect that the existence of God can be proved through philosophical arguments.  But I do not do so to show that there really are such arguments; naturally, I am well aware that no atheist would be impressed by that.  The point of the citation was rather simply to note that the Catholic Church rejects fideism.  It is also true that I say a little in passing about how Christian theologians would defend the veracity of Christ and thus the reliability of His teaching.  I also express the opinion that the problem of evil is most satisfactorily dealt with in the context of Christian theology.  But I explicitly declined to pursue these matters there, because they are beyond the scope of the book.  The Last Superstition is fundamentally about natural theology and natural law rather than Christianity per se.  The arguments for God, the soul, and traditional morality are all philosophical in character, intended to stand on their own, apart from any appeal to theological authority.  Again, all of this is obvious to anyone who has actually read the book. 

Nevertheless, to hear MacDonald tell it, the book is really just one long argumentum ad verecundiam.  How can he make such an absurd accusation?  New Atheist blogger style, that’s how.  He simply ignores the arguments I actually gave in the book and attacks some figments of his own fevered imagination instead.  MacDonald has it absolutely on the brain that no one who believes in God (or, perhaps, at least no Catholic) can have genuine rational grounds for doing so.  The believer simply must be in thrall to some authority, unable to think for himself.  So, like Don Quixote, that is the windmill MacDonald is going to attack, the facts be damned.   

Exhibit A: Daniel Dennett is referred to many times in my book.  At pages 250-54 I set out some philosophical criticisms of Dennett’s account of biological function.  Elsewhere I explain how Dennett misrepresents the cosmological argument and point out some difficulties with the “meme” theory he adopts from Richard Dawkins.  MacDonald ignores all of this.  Instead he fixates on some remarks made about Dennett by Tadeusz Zawidzki and Michael Ruse that I quoted in some throwaway lines in the book, and insinuates that my “critique of Dennett” lay entirely in an appeal to the authority of Zawidzki and Ruse.  Since MacDonald doesn’t bother to respond to my own actual arguments against Dennett, I’m tempted to call this a straw man fallacy.  But that may be too generous, since he doesn’t really distort my arguments against Dennett.  He just pretends they don’t exist.   

Exhibit B: I devote many pages of the book to giving careful expositions of three of Aquinas’s arguments for the existence of God and defending them against objections.  I devote even more pages to setting out and defending the metaphysical background theses on which the arguments rest.  In none of these arguments do I appeal either to Aquinas’s authority or that of the Catholic Church; I try to show that the arguments are entirely defensible on philosophical grounds that could and should be accepted even by someone who is neither a Catholic nor otherwise impressed by Aquinas.  And what does MacDonald have to say by way of rational criticism of all of this?  Nothing at all.  His “reply” consists, first, in insisting that, since I am a Catholic and Aquinas has great prestige within Catholicism, my position simply must be a mere argument from authority; and second, in a long, bizarre rant about priests who molest children, ecclesiastical bureaucracy, gays, abortion, evolution, the emperor Theodosius, and Heinrich Himmler.  (Yes, Heinrich Himmler.  No, I don’t know when MacDonald started smoking crack.)

In short, MacDonald’s response to the argumentum ad verecundiam I never gave is a shameless circumstantial ad hominem fallacy coupled with a battery of red herrings and an especially crude argumentum ad Hitlerum.  Though I guess MacDonald thinks substituting Himmler for Hitler somehow makes him less than a complete hack.

Perhaps Choice in Lying would be a better title for MacDonald’s blog.  But maybe not, because MacDonald, like the other New Atheist types we’ve been discussing recently, appears to be so very far lost in his Quixotic battle with phantoms that he may really be unaware just how disconnected from reality he is.  Perhaps his eyes just don’t register what’s there on the page in front of him; all he can ever see are the clich├ęs he, Coyne, and other New Atheist psychotics bat around their echo chamber like Harding’s cigarette in Cuckoo’s Nest.  (Language warning on that YouTube clip for any underage readers out there.)

At least MacDonald’s screed is intelligible as the ravings of an embittered ex-believer.  Jerry Coyne’s gushing over it defies explanation.  To be sure, Coyne is not above some sophomoric fibbing of his own.  He seems awful keen on establishing a meme to the effect that I am “notorious for claiming that one can’t truly understand [the cosmological] argument without reading at least six books and seven articles, two of which of course, are by Feser himself.”  But I never said any such thing.  What I said was that “to understand the Five Ways, the modern reader needs to read something that makes [the metaphysical] background clear, that explains how modern Thomists would reply to the stock objections to the arguments, and so forth.”  And I gave my book Aquinas as an example of the sort of thing that did this job -- just as Coyne would no doubt recommend his own recent book on evolution to someone who asked him to recommend a good general introduction to that subject.  I then went on to offer some further suggestions for anyone who wanted to pursue the subject of the cosmological argument in greater depth.  But I never said one had to read all of these things before he could even understand the argument.

Still, one would think that even Coyne -- who is, as we have seen, at least a notch higher than Dawkins, Myers et al. on the intellectual honesty scale -- would be embarrassed by so pathetic a resort to the Hitler card.  Yet Coyne regards MacDonald’s multiply fallacious blather as “serious arguments” by a “serious man,” indeed “a treasure” who is “worth dozens of Fesers.”  Because, you know, a really serious reply to the Aristotelian argument from motion (say) is to compare someone who defends it to Heinrich Himmler.

Well, I don’t know what to say to that.  But I do know what to hum.

378 comments:

1 – 200 of 378   Newer›   Newest»
The Deuce said...

I increasingly see the New Atheists themselves as one of the best arguments for theism out there. The way that atheism so often accompanies a total disconnect from reality and the basic principles of sound reason tells me something.

Ismael said...

"Nevertheless, to hear MacDonald tell it, the book is really just one long argumentum ad verecundiam. "

I guess MacDonald did not really read your book then Prof. Feser, since I agree with you that you are not using any argument from authority.

Perhaps MacDonalds thinks that because you talked so much about Thomas Aquinas and Aristoteles that you are usging them as 'authotity', but that was really not the case at all.

MacDonald has it absolutely on the brain that no one who believes in God (or, perhaps, at least no Catholic) can have genuine rational grounds for doing so.

Then MacDonald really did not read your book... or is not intelligent enough to understand it... or has such a huge atheist axe to grind that he's blind to all reason.


MacDonald ignores all of this. Instead he fixates on some remarks made about Dennett by Tadeusz Zawidzki and Michael Ruse that I quoted in some throwaway lines in the book, and insinuates that my “critique of Dennett” lay entirely in an appeal to the authority of Zawidzki and Ruse.

Indeed... your citation of Ruse and others, in my view, were only to show that even non-believers, with no theist axe to grind, had several criticism upon Dennett or Dawkins.

On the other hand I thought you explained quite well, on the base of A-T, why Dennett and Dawkins were very wrong.


In short, MacDonald’s response to the argumentum ad verecundiam I never gave is a shameless circumstantial ad hominem fallacy coupled with a battery of red herrings and an especially crude argumentum ad Hitlerum. Though I guess MacDonald thinks substituting Himmler for Hitler somehow makes him less than a complete hack.

Well if you read P.Z. Myers blog or some long parts of The God Delusion... they are FILLED with argumentum ad Hitlerum.

P.Z. Myer dedicated several blog posts to quote on how Hitler was catholic (never mind if he was seriously Catholic or just so for political interests).

Then they have the courage to say something like 'Stalin was not atheist' (yeah right) or that 'Pol Pot a exemplary atheist'(well Hitler was no exemplary Catholic either, but it's OK to use double standards for atheists hey!)

At least MacDonald’s screed is intelligible as the ravings of an embittered ex-believer. Jerry Coyne’s gushing over it defies explanation. To be sure, Coyne is not above some sophomoric fibbing of his own. He seems awful keen on establishing a meme to the effect that I am “notorious for claiming that one can’t truly understand [the cosmological] argument without reading at least six books and seven articles, two of which of course, are by Feser himself.”

Coyne is like those dumbasses who write nonsense about quantum mechanics in physics forums and think they understand it without the proper mathematical and physical backgrounds (ie understanding of some math, newtonina mechanics, wave mechanicsm, statistics... etc).

BM said...

The snarky comment about needing to read so many books and articles to understand the proofs may misrepresent what you have said, but there actually is a truth hidden under it. Somewhere, I think in the letters to Mortimer Adler, Charles DeKoninck explains why he didn't dialogue with non-scholastic philosophers. He says there, in effect, that they would have to spend at least ten years seriously studying the proper material before any meaningful dialogue could take place. Such hard work is simply not being undertaken. (And it is probably worse these days.)

Moreover, the humility that is so thoroughly necessary to approach these extremely difficult intellectual matters is, from what I have seen, totally lacking in the New Atheist mindset. They have a bad case of Hesiod's useless man (cf. N. Ethics 1.4).

Pax.

Anonymous said...

It's time to move past the new Atheists. They had their chance between 2006-2008, but have lost their popularity since then. Once again, people see them as angry, loud and abnoxious. When given the chance to make their case, the sold bestsellers, but although these may have converted ignorant college students, they were largely ineffective elsewhere. Furthermore, a good percentage of their sales were to Christian churches and colleges attempting to read the best work of the other side...wasted money...they should have kept spending it on Russell.

Posts like this one by Macdonald are why they are irrelevant. He completely ignores the core of your book. Even if his comments were right, and theyre not, they are irrelevant to the core issues. They glory in ignoring the arguments in order to congratulate themselves on refuting the irrelevant sections.

One of the comments on Macdonalds post sums it up. On a post arguing against arguing from authority (in a sense), the commenter says something to the effect, "Why does Feser keep saying Aquinas is ignored, if he's not then give us his arguments that Dawkins and the horsement haven't responded to, and even if they haven't the many atheist philosophers in the world today surely have."

1. They clearly haven't read anything you've ever written if they are searching for the arguments from Aquinas still.
2. They clearly haven't read their own works if they even harbor the belief that sections like p.103 in Dawkins book are sufficient for turning away Aquinas. Any fool who reads Dawkins arguments against Aquinas knows something isn't right...even if they've never read Aquinas.
3. They make their own appeal to authority in a sense, but it's really only a shield for their ignorance, "I don't have to deal with the arguments, because surely someone holding my position has already done it."

It's time to move on.

Anonymous said...

By the way, as a Protestant, I have given friends TLS for defense of natural theology. With a couple exceptions, I don't see why a Muslim or Jew could not do the same. Acting as though the book is some appeal to the magisterium is silly. I could care less what Vatican I said, but love your book and recommended it frequently when the NAs were becoming more popular.

Anonymous said...

I laughed at Coyne's recent high-five. For supposedly "free thinkers," they're remarkably predictable.


Jerry Allen Coyne desperately needs to understand the difference between theology and philosophy, seeing as TLS was a work on the latter.

Wonder when that day will come.

When will he stop spouting off cheap talking points to his mostly brain-dead, sycophantic audience and actually start to think? When will he realize that he ought to study some philosophy before engaging in philosophy? When will he realize that he doesn't get the last word on theological and philosophical issues, and that his authoritative pronouncements on such issues means scant little to any thinking person? When will he realize that, since he does not speak from a position of authority on these matters, he ought to abandon the terse, huffy, dismissive posts and instead take great pains to supply serious argumentation and documented evidence if he expects any thinking person to put stock in what he has to say? IOW, when will he stop being a New Atheist?


A while ago, Feser said something to the following effect:

"Logic in general is like the Pierian spring: Drink deep or not at all. Otherwise the result is just a kind of Higher Smart-assery."

Replace "logic" with "philosophy" or "theology," and I think you'd have a remarkably apt statement to submit to Coyne and Co.

enrique himmlero said...

The Deuce,

Funny, I discussed that exact same idea with my girlfriend a couple of days ago. David B. Hart wrote a nice article on that exact same phenomenon, comparing the flippancy of these clowns with the seriousness of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer.

cl said...

LOL! Great post. Gave me just the chuckle I was looking for, especially the "McHeil" graphic. If only more atheists could see that from the outside, many are indistinguishable from fundies.

some kant. said...

cl,

Your blog is amazing. Serious stuff. I bookmarked.

d said...

Edward,

To be charitable to you, and having not read your book, I'm willing to grant you the benefit of the doubt.

That said, if it is true that you say on pp. 5-6 of The Last Superstition, "The truth is precisely the opposite of what secularism claims: Only a (certain kind of) religious view of the world is rational, morally responsible, and sane; and an irreligious worldview is accordingly deeply irrational, immoral, and indeed insane," then I see only arguing over trivialities.

If you honestly think that no non-religious view is "rational, morally responsible, and sane" then it doesn't sound like you would permit the possibility of error on your part. This, I think, is far more important, for it forbids a critical discussion from taking place. I hope I'm wrong in my judgment, but without something to temper your statement, you're just out to convert.

Anonymous said...

I've always enjoyed reading Dr.Feser's blogs. I think he has become one of my heroes with battling the new atheist movement that seems to have been about consistent rhetoric and ignorance of the arguments for theism for the purposes of popularity and sensationalism. As Mr. Anonymous as said its time to move on.....thanks again Dr.Feser! Perhaps someone should start a fan page for him on facebook.

-Varin

Edward Feser said...

Hello d,

As I'm sure you'll agree, context is important. Among the things I try to show in the book is that a materialist metaphysics, when pushed through consistently, entails a radical eliminativism not only about moral value but also about mind. (Nor is it only Aristotelians or theists like myself who think this; some materialists do too, Alex Rosenberg being a prominent example.)

Now, if this is true, and if (as I also hold) it is also true that there is no way even in principle to reconstruct what some eliminativists would call "successor concepts" to the notions of rationality or moral value, then there is an obvious sense in which materialism is destructive of the very possibility of morality or rationality. And since secularists are typically committed to materialism, in that sense (if all this is correct) secularism is inherently destructive of morality and rationality. And that is what I was getting at in the passage you quote -- as anyone who has given the book a fair reading knows.

Now, those are all controversial philosophical claims, but they are claims I argue for. And I am, as a philosopher, always willing to give a hearing to counterarguments. I never say anything to the effect that secularists are incapable of being argued with, are too wicked to reason with, or anything of that sort. That is not the force of the words you quote.

On the contrary, though the book is polemical -- only because I am fighting New Atheist fire with some well-deserved return fire - it is also argumentative, and its aim is to establish its conclusions rationally. If some reader isn't convinced by those arguments, fine. But to pretend that they don't exist, as MacDonald does, is simply, and deeply, dishonest.

(continued)

Edward Feser said...

(continued from above)

As I go on to say a few pages after the passage you cite:

[N]otwithstanding what I have said in this chapter, I want to emphasize that I do not deny for a moment that there are secularists, atheists, and naturalists of good will, who are (apart from their rejection of religion) reasonable and morally admirable. What I deny is that they have or can have – whether they realize this or not – any cogent rational grounds for their trust in reason or morality given their atheism and naturalism, and I deny also that they can rationally remain secularists, atheists, or naturalists if they come to a proper understanding both of the religious views they reject and of the difficulties inherent in their own position. Of course, I am not so foolish as to think that no reasonable person could possibly fail to agree with me after reading this book. No single book on any subject, however well-argued and correct in its conclusions, can be expected to convince every reasonable person, certainly not all at once, all by itself, or after a single reading; the way in which we human beings come to believe things is, for good or ill, much more complicated than that. ... Still, I urge secularist readers at least to consider that what I have to say in this book is merely the tip of an intellectual iceberg, and that if they explore more thoroughly the (no doubt far better) works of other writers in the tradition of thought my arguments represent, they will find that they have been far, far too glib in their dismissal of religious belief – and perhaps utterly mistaken in rejecting it.

Just as a serious person might be convinced that all religion is false and unreasonable (as I once was) without being closed-minded to the possibility of being mistaken in that view , so too a serious person might be persuaded that atheism is false and unreasonable. My book is an invitation to debate, not an attempt to close off rational discussion. Yes, it is polemical, but so what? I think a reasonable atheist -- one who is willing to acknowledge that the New Atheist types are an embarrassment to their side -- should have a sense of humor about that. The polemics are directed at them, not at atheists in general (and I have made in clear many times that there are atheists for whom I have great respect -- J. L. Mackie, Quentin Smith, J. J. C. Smart, and Howard Sobel are a few examples).

Edward Feser said...

Thanks Varin. I feel like Pacino in Godfather Part III -- every time I want to move on from the New Atheists, they pull me back in.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Dr. Feser, you are heard, and mightily. I consult your writings via Google regularly on this, that, and this and I'm sure others do too. Polemics are far more fun than apologetics, but the New Atheists are fish in a barrel. But I admit I enjoy shooting them too. We are all enamored of our own cleverness, let's face it.

GK: "Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it."

The New Atheists cannot touch man's heart. You are already at a structural advantage, an insurmountable one, since your readership is made up exclusively of human beings.

That Anthony Kenny is willing to offer you a draw, that he is unconvinced but that your arguments are still valid, fits the conundrum of faith just fine, and perfectly. The rest is up to the human persons among yr readership.

When they pose the question Who Would You Like to Have Dinner With, and the answers are Einstein, Newton, Bill Clinton, or Jesus if he doesn't insist on doing the Eucharist thing, me, I think of Edward Feser.

I live just down the road from Pasadena, BTW. I have a friend in Pasadena who has got much out of your work, too. We'd buy, and gladly. If yr up for a free meal and appropriate beverages, Socrates-like and all, as is your due like all good philosophers.

Crude said...

Just to point out one key difference between Ed and the New Atheists...

I remember Dinesh D'Souza making a pretty funny observation when debating one of the New Atheists. I don't remember the exact quote, but it amounted to this: "New Atheists have charged that religious belief is irrational. So the thing about this debate is that I don't even need to win against my opponent. If our debate so much as ends up in a draw, he loses automatically. The force of our arguments shouldn't amount to a draw if New Atheists are correct."

So when d says, "If you honestly think that no non-religious view is "rational, morally responsible, and sane" then it doesn't sound like you would permit the possibility of error on your part.", and he suggests that one is 'Only out to convert' if this position is taken, I have a simple suggestion: Go ask Coyne, or Dawkins, or Harris, if theistic, religious, and/or Judaeo-Christian views can be 'rational, morally responsible, and sane'.

If they say no, well, then by that standard I suppose we can write them off as fanatics. If they say yes, that would signal the failure and surrender of the New Atheist project (not to be confused with atheism itself) on a central point.

Haiying said...

1)I find myself currently wondering precisely how much cognitive energy MacDonald must have expended in trying to pretend that Dr. Feser never made any arguments that didn't appeal to authority either directly or indirectly, and find that simply attempting to fathom it is giving me a headache. This recent post of his shoots straight up into Brian Leiter (aka., "meta-human") levels of dishonesty.

2) I consider it a shameful thing that it took me upwards of an hour to make the connection between the picture and the content of the post.

3) Tom Van Dyke, you seem to be just the sort of dude I think I'd get along with just fine.

Felix said...

Of course Feser and all those who defends Aristotelian argument from motion is comparable to Himmler and Hitler! They're all obsessed with eugenics! After all, why do you think they spend so much time wondering where sperm ends up!

And so we get a glimpse into the philosophical depth of New Atheists, more shallow than a bath tub for babaies. Why people still can't see past their stupidity, I have no idea.

Untenured said...

This is really quite telling. Do they really not understand that we can, you know, consult the actual book and see that what they are saying isn't true?

Again, this is being done for psychological reasons. Atheists are committed to a particular metaphysical view, but New Atheists are emotionally and personally invested in the epistemological claim that anyone who dissents from that metaphysical view is irrational. They are so emotionally and psychologically attached to that epistemological claim that counter evidence simply will not compute. They must deny it, distort it, lie about it, and confirm each other in their denials, distortions and lies.

Poster said...

This just makes you have more respect for REAL philosophers like you, Dr. Feser, and Bill Vallicella.

And I'm afraid that I have to confess that this whole post was a thinly veiled excuse to mention Vallicella-I'd love to see you respond to some of his comments about hylemorphic dualism-it'll be fascinating to see what a REAL philosophical debate is right, instead of new atheist ludicrousness.

Anonymous said...

Untenured,
Actually, in the New Atheist movement it's not uncommon for them to actually argue against looking at the sources. They rely on their priests to hand down the verdict.

After all, isn't this really what the whole "Courtier's Reply" supports? It supports justifying ignorance of a topic without even giving the arguments the time of day. When one is truly interested in learning, they should seek the best arguments of their opponents instead of ignoring them. The "Courtier's Reply" justifies their ignorance in the face of criticisms of well...ignorance.

And consider the comment I mentioned above that was posted on MacDonald's blog. This New Atheist (unquestionably young...as most of them are), responded to MacDonald's comment by saying that Feser should lay his arguments on the table, which proves he has never read Feser. His fallback was that the "four horsemen" have surely answered them and if they haven't, then surely some other atheist philosopher has done it. In other words, "I'm not going to do the research myself to see whether or not he presents strong arguments or whether or not the atheists have better arguments, I'll just press on assuming I'm right and trust in the wisdom of my superiors (i.e. the horsemen)."

Anonymous said...

Poster,
You may be interested in some of James Chasek's responses to Vallicella at thomism.wordpress.com.

Untenured said...

@Anon:

Agreed, but I really think this is a psychological phenomenon. So many of them have invested so much of their personal identity into the idea that they, the embattled atheist minority, are uniquely rational and cognitively superior to the superstitious masses. They really think they have somehow transcended a distinctively human cognitive limitation by rejecting the supernatural. And so to admit that, at the end of the day, there really are strong reasons to believe, even if those reasons are not decisive, is to undercut one's entire self-image and identity. As Randy Newman once sang, "Dear God, sweet God, protect me from the truth!"

cl said...

Untenured,

"I really think this is a psychological phenomenon. So many of them have invested so much of their personal identity into the idea that they, the embattled atheist minority, are uniquely rational and cognitively superior to the superstitious masses. They really think they have somehow transcended a distinctively human cognitive limitation by rejecting the supernatural."

Well said. I think deconverted fundamentalists and evangelicals tend to make the most dangerous atheists. Often, the mental weaknesses that led them to dogmatic ways of thinking in the first place persist. These traits then carry over into their newly-embraced “skepticism,” the weaknesses again take the helm, yet, this time, they are actually far worse off because a thin veneer of rationalism masks their dogmatic and irrational tendencies and puffs many up with a false sense of confidence. Consequently, many mistakenly believe that their change of psychological allegiance solved the problem. They’re often less likely to see it, because they still have that “in the tribe” mentality, only now, they fancy themselves in the right tribe. I cannot overemphasize the threat this phenomenon poses to critical thinking and pursuit of truth. Trading one’s cross for a scarlet A accomplishes nothing unless the old habits are shed.

Echo Chamber said...

Untethered,

Agreed, I really think this is a psychological phenomenon. So many of them have invested so much of their personal identity (10 years, I hear, is the requirement to spend in the stacks of Ancient and Medieval philosophy) to find the maddeningly, immaterial and invisible Creator of the Universe. Just as he'd require it, being that he's so elusive and hasn't written any books himself. Others did that for him two millennia ago in an archaic foreign language. Essential wisdom of the ages making emotional arguments for why you are so special in the universe. Best the Creator of the Universe could do. Fan Fiction.

There's a reason why immaterial and nonexistent look so similar.

But, after 10 years of work it's nice to know you can feel cognitively superior to the non-superstitious. Back to the stacks.

It most certainly is psychological. What else would could it be?

d said...

Edward,

Thank you for providing context.

I deny there exists "cogent rational grounds" for any position and adopt Popper's theory of three worlds, so it seems your book targets a particular brand of atheism, perhaps even the most naive type.

It would be unfair to claim that the religious worldview is deeply irrational, immoral, and insane if some religious people cannot answer the Euthyphro dilemma, would it not?

Anonymous said...

Why, exactly, do the philosopher's arguments about God need to be taken seriously?

This is the main question the Gnus ask, and I'm not sure it has been answered in any direct and convincing way. This question underlies MacDonald's critique of TLS (which, it must be said, makes some interesting points worth responding to), and it anchors the point of view of folks like Coyne, Rosenhouse, and Myers (who, by the way, is a brilliant writer and provocateur).

I see Feser and the Gnus talking past each other, but the difference is that they don't need Feser as much as he needs them.

Masters and Johnson said...

Anon said:

This question underlies MacDonald's critique of TLS (which, it must be said, makes some interesting points worth responding to)...

Yeah, I'd like to hear Feser's 'necessary truth' argument for this. Am I that wrong in thinking that we can't use our bodies for multiple purposes? Baffled. Reading glasses go over my ears while wearing them. Sometimes I put things in my mouth to hold them while I use my hands. It's always sex that seems to bother the religious.

Earlier, he tells us that Christian morality is not obsessed by sex, but if anything would make one obsessive, it is the strict biological understanding of sex and sexuality, as it is reflected in Feser’s reasoning. The big picture view, just to reiterate, includes love and companionship and sexual pleasure. However, the smaller picture is the context in which the big picture must be seen, and

If we consider the structure of the sexual organs and the sexual act as a process beginning with arousal and ending in orgasm, it is clear that its biological function, its final cause, is to get semen into the vagina. That is why the penis and vagina are shaped the way they are, why the vagina secretes lubrication during sexual arousal, and so forth … The point of the process is not just to get semen out of the male, but also into the female, and into one place in the female in particular. [144]

Now, remember, when he is talking about ”final causes” here Feser thinks he is talking about the moral foundations of sexuality, so that he can go on to say that, given these final causes — penis into vagina in order to get sperm from male into female — “what is good for human beings in the use of [human sexual capacities] is to use them only in a way consistent with this final cause or purpose.” And this, he reminds us, “is a necessary truth”:

It cannot possibly be good for us to use them in any other way, whether an individual person thinks it is or not. [145]

And with that we have just passed through the looking-glass.

Anonymous said...

"Why, exactly, do the philosopher's arguments about God need to be taken seriously?

This is the main question the Gnus ask, and I'm not sure it has been answered in any direct and convincing way."


Uh...maybe because "Gnus" are the ones loudly proclaiming that God does not exist and that belief in God is inherently irrational? That direct enough for you?

PatrickH said...

As said by Anonymous at 4:01, the New Atheists have come and gone. He also said that they had their chance in 2006-2008, but blew it. I think they had their chance immediately after 9/11, and blew it with the publication of The God Delusion. The nails in the coffin were hammered in with their collapse into defensive rhetorical maneuvers like the “Courtier’s Reply”.

The New Atheist movement today is really something remarkable, though in a sad way. It has evolved into a self-referential sub-culture, complete with conferences, workshops, online forums and other echo chambers, where they can preach to the converted, and congratulate one another on their courage in attacking the beliefs of religious people whom they studiously avoid reading, thinking about, and most especially talking with. This collapse into sub-culture is both amusing and sad, because unlike say, fans of Star Trek, or furry sex, or comic books, who have get-togethers of their own, the New Atheists claim to be united in a fight against something, not an affirmation of anything at all, not even kinky sex or superheroes. That’s strange enough...going to a conference with people so you can talk about what you’re against. But of course, they don’t seem to realize that withdrawing inside a cocoon as they have done, while allowins their sub-culture to survive, only allows it to survive as a sub-culture. Which means in turn, that the New Atheists, whether they admit it or not, have already given up. All they can do is reinforce one another’s prejudices.

So my advice to Ed Feser is the same as Anon 4:01’s: ignore them. The New Atheists have nothing to offer—never have really—and they are of no more interest to the culture as a whole than fans of, say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Less perhaps, because at least Buffy fans (I am one) are united by their love for something, not their hatred. And they pride themselves on their knowledge of the show, not their ignorance of other shows. They don’t spend their time high-fiving one another for what they don’t know, don’t understand, haven’t read, and won’t listen to. Most of all, they actually like something. They think Buffy is worth attention and energy and time. Not so the New Atheists. On this view, New Atheists are like people who have conferences abd books devoted to: The Vampire Delusion, Breaking The Spell of the Bloodsuckers, The End of Fangs, Buffy Is Not Great TV, and on and on and on.

To give your life to such a cause is the essence of futility. They're not worth your time, Ed.

BenYachov said...

>Why, exactly, do the philosopher's arguments about God need to be taken seriously?

Because Philosophy Itself needs to be taken seriously. Gnu's reject philosophy in favor of the dogma of science and empiricism alone as the only meaningful or useful way to know any truth.

Which ironically is not itself either a scientific or empirical position but a philosophical one.

Philosophy next to science, logic and mathematics is one of the necessary means of mere natural knowledge.

Which is why if I was an Atheist I would reject the Gnu's as anti-intellectual fundies without god-belief. I would still believe in philosophy.

DNW said...

omments:

The Deuce said...

I increasingly see the New Atheists themselves as one of the best arguments for theism out there. The way that atheism so often accompanies a total disconnect from reality and the basic principles of sound reason tells me something.
August 14, 2011 2:05 PM "



I haven't thought through how you could demonstrate that, but the framework you pose in which one observes people engaged in activities that tend to undercut their worldview proclamations, certainly is one that deserves some comment, be it wry or not.

Thus I suppose, and despite the fact that we might be expected to feel some sense of solemnity that I personally don't, one can't help but gaze bemusedly upon Alan Turing over there as he licks his cyanide laced apple; and then as a result of taking in this scene, mentally wandering over some of the same speculative territory you suggest.

Or perhaps he merely decided to switch himself off, like any other machine of that type ...

Anonymous said...

Step 1: Launch an unhinged, fallacious attack on your opponent, focusing your attention on arguments he has never given.

Step 2: Studiously ignore the arguments he actually has given.

Step 3: Declare victory and exchange high fives with your fellow New Atheists, as they congratulate you for your brilliance and erudition.

Step 4: When your opponent calls attention to this farcical procedure, accuse him of making unhinged, fallacious attacks on you. Throw in the Myers Shuffle for good measure.

Step 5: Exchange further high fives with your fellow New Atheists.

Step 6: Repeat 1 - 5 until your disconnect from reality is complete.


I can't believe those awful new atheists, stealing your schtick like that.

Anonymous said...

Anon. @10:12 am

"That direct enough for you?"

No, in fact. It's not a direct response at all. Herein lies the problem.

Untenured said...

@EchoChamber:

Don't post while you are seething with resentment. You will get your rocks off, but you won't say anything worth reading.

Anonymous said...

BenYachov,

I appreciate your reply, but I don't see the case.

You say "Philosophy is one of the necessary means of mere natural knowledge."

A strong and sweeping statement. I like it. But is it true, and how do we know?

Anonymous said...

Michael Shermer:

"I have debated many theologians who make the traditional arguments for God’s existence: the cosmological argument (prime mover, first cause), the teleological argument (the order and design of the universe), the ontological argument (if it is logically possible for God to exist, then God exists), the anthropic argument (the fine-tuned characteristics of nature, making human life possible), the moral argument (awareness of right and wrong), and others. These are all reasons to believe in God only if you already believe. If you do not already believe, these arguments ring hollow, having been refuted over the ages by philosophers from David Hume to Daniel Dennett."

Refuted? What do people around here think?

Anonymous said...

"Refuted? What do people around here think?"

They don't. They 'believe'. At all cost.

some kant said...

Dear Anon at 12:13pm,

Context is important. Unless we have detailed descriptions of the arguments that Shermer is talking about (and that includes a precise description of all the terminology in use, for clarity and to avoid moving goalposts) we cannot say if he has refuted them or not.

If you provide us with his exact quotations then maybe we could tell. Even better if you supply us with correct notations including the following, for each of the arguments at hand:

1. The set of premises, with exact definitions of all the terms being used (e.g. what he means by 'cause', or 'design').

2. The set of inferences applied to reach the conclusion, and the form of the conclusion.

3. The set of objections that he presents, which premises/inferences he is attacking, and why he believes his objections hold.

Thanks in advance. Cheers.

Steersman said...

Anonymous said (Y110815; 10:12): … "Why, exactly, do the philosopher's arguments about God need to be taken seriously? ….” Uh...maybe because "Gnus" are the ones loudly proclaiming that God does not exist and that belief in God is inherently irrational? That direct enough for you?

As somewhat of an agnostic atheist – accommodationist even, though less so these days – I can agree that the atheist claims or assertions as to the non-existence of god can be problematic and highly questionable, although I also think that the same, if not more along the same line, can be said about the complementary ones by fundamentalists and theists. Seems more sensible to consider the question to be no more than a conjecture, a hypothesis, some variations of which may hold more water, be of more utility, than others.

However, as to the question on taking the philosopher’s arguments seriously I would also have to say that it is a good one. Dr. Feser presents an analogy between the Gnus and theists (if not fundamentalists) here which I really don’t think holds much water. If the implied comparison there, or rather the basis for it, is between the position and benefits and proofs and evidence of science, on the one hand, and those of theism on the other – particularly those which conclude that the case for the existence of god is proven – then an honest recognition of the disparity between those positions would seem to justify that conclusion.

In the history of science it seems there have been many cases where the existence of some particle or cause for some phenomenon was not proven, but there were tangible consequences for them and, in most cases, proof was subsequently forthcoming along with tangible social benefits. Theology seems to be a different kettle of fish and in the 500 to 1000 years that it has been laboring – mightily though unproductively – to prove the existence of god science has provided us with literally a cornucopia of benefits. Seems that the question on taking philosopher’s arguments seriously is an entirely cogent one – “knowing a tree by its fruits” would appear to be of some relevance; seems to me that theology has been barking up the wrong tree for an unproductively long time – seems time to put the efforts to better uses.

Anonymous said...

some kant, I don't have the information your require, but I have the article where he made that statement:

http://www.bigquestionsonline.com/columns/michael-shermer/deepak-chopras-god-20

Thanks

Echo Chamber said...

Untenured,

Don't post while you are seething with resentment. You will get your rocks off, but you won't say anything worth reading.

No resentment here. I'm glad I didn't waste "10 years" of my life reading ancient and medieval philosophy to square my psychological needs with a metaphysical sky daddy who says where to and not to put one's 'private parts'. Santa Claus for Adults. When we grow up we put away childish things.

No wonder you're "untenured". You read it and responded.

Anonymous said...

About Michael Shermer, he is just another sensationalist who craves for media attention to maintain his popularity and to convince people he and others like him will always have all answers. While promoting critical thinking is a respectable quality of Shermer's on the other hand he seems to be just as ignorant and dogmatic as Dawkins when it comes issues of philosophy. But whatever, I personally could care less about what they think anymore.

-Varin

Anonymous said...

What's a sky daddy?

Anonymous said...

PatrickH,

... the New Atheists have come and gone. He also said that they had their chance in 2006-2008, but blew it.

Continue telling yourself whatever makes you happy.

BenYachov said...

>I appreciate your reply, but I don't see the case.

Or is it the fact you never studied the issue?

>You say "Philosophy is one of the necessary means of mere natural knowledge."

Yes.

>A strong and sweeping statement. I like it. But is it true, and how do we know?

It's a logically consistent and necessary philosophical presupposition. You can't prove logic is true via logical argument without arguing in a circle. But try doing science without presupposing logic and see what it gets you.

Same with philosophy even Dennett admits there is no such thing as a philosophy free science.

My statements like Feser's book is an invitation to learn philosophy.

Anonymous said...

What's a sky daddy?

Heavenly Father? Use your imagination. You're good at it.

Felix said...

@ PatrickH

It has been pointed out before that the vast majority of New Atheists come from the ranks of evangelicals, especially the fundamentalist and charismatic type and I think it's quite telling. In my opinion, this ex-fundi now New Atheist type has never really left his/her religion. He/she has just switch to another form of the same believe: The Religion of Cheapness. Here is where logic, critical thinking and rational arguments are to be shunned at all cost in order not to disturbed a "feel good" mentality is being propped up by sleezing reasoning and intellectual shallowness reinforced with ignorance and arrogance. Already, several "Anonymous" posts by these types have confirmed this. Reading these posts and other NA sites reminds me of the annual congress of the old Soviet Union, where self congratulatory appluse is staged managed to quell any doubts raised against their dogmatic beiefs (as Prof Feser put it - Echo chamber). I find your take on the New Atheism as a sub-culture rather interesting, although I do question your assertion that no right thinking person should give these people any more time than necessary. I happened to be part of that NA sub-culture myself a couple of years ago before being won over through rational arguments and after seeing that my athesim was in large part driven by anger(I'm now an Anglican). I wouldn't know where I would have ended up had no one spent time, patiently explaining things to me. Still, it would be interesting to examine this viral sub-culture of cheapness as a psychological phenomenon.

Anonymous said...

It's a logically consistent and necessary philosophical presupposition. You can't prove logic is true via logical argument without arguing in a circle. But try doing science without presupposing logic and see what it gets you.

My statements like Feser's book is an invitation to learn philosophy.


Something's are philosophy others ain't. Logic. Sure.

What kinda fallacy is it when you say one true thing then allude to the other as being true?

Edward Feser said...

Enough already with the pissing matches. Any further comments of that sort, from either side, will be deleted. Keep it substantive.

cl said...

Echo Chamber,

Didn't you read what Untenured told you the first time? You're not saying anything worth reading. Just ranting, spewing vitriol. That somebody reads it doesn't mean it's worth reading. Cool, we get it... you're one of those "I'm so intellectual" people who fancies themselves superior to their dummy theist counterparts. Now that you've puffed your chest and thundered towards heaven, have you anything you can teach us?

Anonymous said...

BenYachov.

I have studied the issue. Please don't jump to conclusions.

Now, you have just stated that "It's a logically consistent and necessary philosophical presupposition" that "Philosophy is one of the necessary means of mere natural knowledge."

A shorter version of this seems to be "philosophy is necessary because philosophy is necessary."

Then, you talk about what would happen (presumably something bad) if one tried "doing science without presupposing logic."

This is all well and good, but can I "do" science or anything else without presupposing one or more of the Thomistic five ways?

Anonymous said...

I see Feser and the Gnus talking past each other, but the difference is that they don't need Feser as much as he needs them.

Funny idea, since the philosophy Feser defends and the faith he's a part of has been around for centuries without the Cult of Gnu. Meanwhile, the gnus are bound together only by their hate of religion. Take that away and they regularly attack themselves.

Gnu atheists are babies railing against religions they fear may be true, and in their hearts suspect likely are. Usually rotten at science too (notice that PZ Myers is a failed research scientist, Dawkins rose to fame on his popular writing rather than his research. Coyne's in better shape, but when Coyne and Myers clash, Coyne runs away with his tail between his legs.)

Good job, Feser. You're getting to these guys. That's why they're showing up and whining that they don't want to learn the reasoning and arguments for theism from traditional thinkers. Their own "sky daddy" caricature scares the crap out of them. He's almost as scary to them as the thought of talking to a real live girl!

Brian said...

I thought I had understood "new" atheism, but when I started reading more atheist blogs, I was shocked to learn how much I did not know. There is a distinct lack of intellectual curiosity among this group of people, and they remind me of the many conversations I have had with Protestant fundamentalists. They are simply unable or unwilling to be intellectual engaged and are content within their very small loop. Anyone who thinks I am being a condescending prick has not gone through the experience of being immersed in their world. Just take a look at the latest intersection between Feser's blog and Coyne's.

An objective historical and psychological analysis on "new" atheism would be very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Anon,

This is all well and good, but can I "do" science or anything else without presupposing one or more of the Thomistic five ways?

For someone who claims to have studied this issue, your logic is atrocious.

Ben points out that philosophy undergirds natural science. You reply by asking if you can 'do science' without presupposing the five ways? Way to mangle the pretty tame claim.

This is like being told that one needs science to understand why the earth doesn't revolve around the sun, then asking "So I need to presuppose the truth of Kimura's neutral theory of molecular evolution to understand that geocentrism is false?"

cl said...

Brian,

"There is a distinct lack of intellectual curiosity among this group of people, and they remind me of the many conversations I have had with Protestant fundamentalists. They are simply unable or unwilling to be intellectual engaged and are content within their very small loop."

Yes, that's been my experience as well. I don't know if you saw my comment August 15, 2011 8:46 AM, but I've noticed a correlation between deconverted atheists and the attributes you mention.

Anonymous said...

Anon. @1:54:

The question can be answered, and I'd like to hear yours.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 1:59,

Are you still beating your wife?

That question can be answered too. It's a famous question, because the very act of pretending that it requires an answer is a gimmick.

I pointed out why "So I need to pre-suppose the truth of the Five Ways?" is utterly off-base, and has nothing to do with what Ben's saying. It reflects terrible reasoning skills on the part of the person asking the question to think Ben was making that claim.

Back off, admit your fault, and try again.

Anonymous said...

I've had the same experience as Brian, except I find that the religious proponents to lack intellectual curiosity. I would apply this very statement to them: "They are simply unable or unwilling to be intellectual engaged and are content within their very small loop."

Even here, I don't think Feser or anyone else has taken the slightest interest in the actual arguments that MacDonald makes.

MacDonald echoes my point in what he has just recently posted: "I do think there is a similarity between Catholic morality, which tends to hold its nose, and then goes straight ahead acting brutally towards other human beings, and the kind of hardness that Himmler approved in his chilling speech in Poland in 1943, and Feser has certainly not given me any reason to recant that belief. He thinks that what I said was extreme, and suggests that I must have taken to smoking crack, but, like so many of his “arguments” this is just hand waving of a vigorous sort, and not a response to the things that I said."

Can we all get past that everyone, on both sides--even you and me--is doing the same exact thing? We're both ignoring the arguments, we're both preaching to the converted, we're both spewing the usual v-words (vitriol, vituperation, and such).

Isn't the real question whether any of us want to do something about it? Does anyone actually want to get beyond the squabble? really?

Anonymous said...

Anon. at 2:01,

But I'm a stupid sort. The reason I asked that question was to ask what it is, exactly, that something like the philosophy of Aquinas allows me to do or helps me to do.

I see what logic helps me do. I don't see what the kind of philosophy we're generally referring to helps me to do.

My reasoning may stink, but that's my question

Anonymous said...

I've had the same experience as Brian, except I find that the religious proponents to lack intellectual curiosity.

The funny thing is, this is being echoed *by the people who agree with Brian*. More than one person in here is drawing a line between the more extreme kind of religious fundamentalists and the Cult of Gnu. No one is pretending that all religious people or all atheists fit the bill. The theists here have the Gnus dead to rights.

Even here, I don't think Feser or anyone else has taken the slightest interest in the actual arguments that MacDonald makes.

Because the focus is on the misrepresentations that MacDonald offered up, particularly - oddly enough - the claim that Feser offered no arguments other than, in essence, an argument from authority.

MacDonald is wrong about Feser on this point. Period. Feser did not "ignore the arguments" in his book. He engaged them, corrected them, and offered some of his own. That he's pointing out when his critics misrepresent him on this point isn't "vitriol" or "ignoring the arguments", nor is focusing on it somehow a 'squabble'.

MacDonald screwed up and exposed himself as intellectually not up to snuff. Time for him to pull back and recant on his crap.

BenYachov said...

I endorse Anon August 15, 2011 2:01 PM answer to Anon@1:59.

I suggest he read the following links before continuing dialog with us.

I don't at all require agreement or assent from him but an effort to understand.

BLINDED BY SCIENTISM
http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174

Recovering Sight after Scientism
http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1184

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

But I'm a stupid sort.

Hey, the first step is in admitting it. But don't worry, it's a common Cult of Gnu ailment.

The reason I asked that question was to ask what it is, exactly, that something like the philosophy of Aquinas allows me to do or helps me to do.

First, Ben talked about "philosophy itself". Go back and read what he said - that you thought Ben meant "the five ways" backs up your first quoted claim here. You were wrong, pure and simple.

As for the rest... let's quote this too.

I see what logic helps me do. I don't see what the kind of philosophy we're generally referring to helps me to do.

What, 'metaphysics'? Because it's that level of abstraction that Ben referred to. And if you think that Thomism is nothing but 'proofs that God exist', you're sadly mistaken. It concerns itself with a metaphysical system. Just as materialism is not merely "atheism", but quite a lot more.

Grasp that, and you're making progress.

Anonymous said...

Sigh. Rabbit hole after rabbit hole.

A-dieu, as you like.

Anonymous said...

Cult of Gnu motto: "If you can't understand it in two minutes, it ain't worth your time. If you can understand it in two minutes and it supports theism, read it again - this time, slower."

Edward Feser said...

Anonymous,

MacDonald did nothing more than assert that Catholicism is comparable to Himmler's philosophy, on the basis of an extremely feeble analogy, i.e. both views make rigorous demands on their followers. I guess that makes math teachers, drill sergeants, and diet and exercise gurus comparable to Himmler as well. Some "argument."

One might with at least equal justice (I would say far greater justice) assert that MacDonald's fixation on euthanasia makes his views comparable to the Nazi idea of "life unworthy of life." But all of this is beside the real point, which is that MacDonald's original post "responded" to the arguments I presented in my book with sophomoric ad hominems and red herrings -- that is, when he wasn't simply pretending my arguments didn't exist.

I see that, now that his contemptible tactics have been exposed, MacDonald has today suddenly backpedaled and decided to try to respond to the actual arguments I gave against Dennett after all. I'll address his latest post later in the week. (After I write up a response to a serious critic, Bill Vallicella.)

BenYachov said...

>But I'm a stupid sort. The reason I asked that question was to ask what it is, exactly,

Your statement in bold is by definition a philosophical question. By merely asking it you are proving that Philosophy is necessary.

>I see what logic helps me do. I don't see what the kind of philosophy we're generally referring to helps me to do.

Then you need to learn the particulars of philosophy in general and the philosophy of Aristotle and Aquinas specifically.

Otherwise you are wasting our time and yours.

Cheers. I'm done.

BenYachov said...

>I see. I will read up and do my letter best to become one of "you."

If by "you" you mean become a philosopher then yes.

You already did that a little and you upheld the Socratic dictum of wisdom "I know nothing".

Learn philosophy for it's own sake then we will talk about God.

Eric said...

"Again, this is being done for psychological reasons. Atheists are committed to a particular metaphysical view, but New Atheists are emotionally and personally invested in the epistemological claim that anyone who dissents from that metaphysical view is irrational. They are so emotionally and psychologically attached to that epistemological claim that counter evidence simply will not compute. They must deny it, distort it, lie about it, and confirm each other in their denials, distortions and lies."

I have to agree with Untenured, though I suspect that in MacDonald's case at least, there is little or no willful distortion. I may be wrong about that, but he strikes me as an honest fellow who is so blinded by his prejudices that he simply cannot read a book like professor Feser's without seeing fallacies or bigotry everywhere. I mean, what else explains that "review" of TLS? MacDonald is not a stupid man, and I suspect, in most contexts, he'd have little problem identifying and distinguishing arguments from illustrations, explanations, references, factual claims, purposefully entertaining rhetoric, humorous elocutions, rhetorical jabs, remarks on the consistency of one thing with another, and so on. Yet if someone familiar with TLS but unfamiliar with MacDonald were to read his review, I suspect the sentence, "This man has no idea what an argument is!" would come to mind again and again.

I know of no better explanation for this sort of thing than Untenured's.

I also agree with this:

"So many of them have invested so much of their personal identity into the idea that they, the embattled atheist minority, are uniquely rational and cognitively superior to the superstitious masses. They really think they have somehow transcended a distinctively human cognitive limitation by rejecting the supernatural. And so to admit that, at the end of the day, there really are strong reasons to believe, even if those reasons are not decisive, is to undercut one's entire self-image and identity."

This fits not only my observations of many New Atheist types, but my memories of my former atheist self! What an easy self esteem booster: Simply become an atheist, which apparently requires little more than asserting that you're one, and you've instantly joined the ranks of the enlightened few. Further, it's not as if you're right about some trivial thing that most people are unaware of or unconcerned with; rather, you're right about The Thing that almost everyone is concerned with at some level. And since our conclusions about The Thing influence in no small way our conclusions in so many important areas, you're new-found wisdom becomes more comprehensive as time goes on. Better still, not only are you right and everyone else wrong, but you see clearly while everyone else is deluded! And perhaps best of all, you see what you do because you're not at heart a bigot.

Yeah, that's hard to give up. And as Untenured said, once you concede that the notion of a 'rational theist' is coherent, that's it. Game over. (Incidentally, this might explain why so many atheists vociferously assert that there's *no evidence whatsoever* for the existence of god, a claim that's at once so patently ludicrous and so widely held that it almost cries out for a psychological explanation.)

Eric said...

MacDonald (from the comments section of his most recent post): “One thing that I marvel at is the fact that Feser can present Aquinas’ arguments as though no one had ever critcised them before, as if Antony Flew or James Mackie or Richard Gale or Michael Martin or Kai Neilson, etc. had never written anything on the subject, as though the most substantive treatment that Aquinas has received since the dawning of modernity is Dawkins’.”

(I posted the following at MacDonald's blog): Wow, I might have to take back the thing about your being honest. I’m sorry, but no one who is at all familiar with professor Feser’s discussions of Aquinas could possibly say such a thing.

Kjetil Kringlebotten said...

Untenured,

“This is really quite telling. Do they really not understand that we can, you know, consult the actual book and see that what they are saying isn't true?”

I believe many of the new atheists haven’t really understood that we are now living in a society where a fact check takes nothing more than a Google search. Many of these ‘new’ atheists are, after all, old men. Or it could be that they know their followers won’t bother to check the sources. They don’t need to, as we theists are irrational by default. Those who do check it, and are convinced, are just blind, uncritical sheep, since (a priori) theists are irrational by default.

Anonymous said...

Anon:

"...Catholic morality, which tends to hold its nose, and then goes straight ahead acting brutally towards other human beings, and the kind of hardness that Himmler approved in his chilling speech in Poland in 1943,"

Anonymous, in Poland it was the Catholic Church which supported freedom for hundreds of years during the partition. It was the Catholic Church which hid Jewish children, wounded partisans and other refugees. Hundreds if not thousands of Catholic priests and nuns paid for this with their lives. It was the Catholic Church which fought against Communism.

In contrast it was bone headed, philosophically, rigid atheists who valued Communist dogma over human life who murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent Poles from 1939 onwards. Mister McDonald and you should keep my country out of your arguments.

Steersman said...

Kjetil Kringlebotten said: ... since (a priori) theists are irrational by default.

“Irrational: c. Marked by a lack of accord with reason or sound judgment
Reason: 3. An underlying fact or cause that provides logical sense for a premise or occurrence”

By those tokens, I really can’t see that a dogmatic assertion as to the existence – or, to be fair, the non-existence – of some entity – for which there is not a single solitary shred of solid, tangible, incontrovertible, unambiguous evidence – is really based on much of a reason and, hence, might reasonably be construed as irrational.

And, not to put too fine a point on it, to the extent that such a belief is “held with absolute conviction despite superior evidence” [i.e., that there is no such tangible evidence] then to that extent I think it might reasonably be considered a delusion.

However, if by theism you mean some conjectures or hypotheses about what god might be if he, she or it actually exists then the charge of “irrational” would be unsupportable. In my view.

Anonymous said...

I'm eagerly waiting for the demise of atheism. It's getting there.

Read "God is Back- How the global rise of faith is changing the world" 2009 by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge.

Jinzang said...

Seems that the question on taking philosopher’s arguments seriously is an entirely cogent one – “knowing a tree by its fruits” would appear to be of some relevance; seems to me that theology has been barking up the wrong tree for an unproductively long time – seems time to put the efforts to better uses.

I have to marvel at the world view of a man who won't believe anything unless it puts a buck in his pocket. As a counterpoint, let me cite Chuang Tzu's story, The Useless Tree.

Steersman said...

Anonymous said: .... Read "God is Back- How the global rise of faith is changing the world" ...

Other statistics would seem to contradict that argument. For example, Jerry Coyne’s website here which references another blog which has more details.

P.S. It might be useful for you to identify yourself in some way as there seems to be another “Anonymous” here who seems to be of an entirely different cast of mind. Either that or you’re playing both ends against the middle ...

Steersman said...

Jinzang said: … As a counterpoint, let me cite Chuang Tzu's story, The Useless Tree.

Thanks for the link; interesting story – also that it was at least quoted in a book by Thomas Merton. However, I wasn’t saying anything about money with the story of the tree and its fruits which has a much broader range of application – seems to me that “fruits” is a sufficiently broad analog to encompass even the benefits derived from “The Useless Tree”.

Or maybe you mean to suggest that the only benefits provided by the “useless tree” of knowledge known as theology and theism is to provide some shade. Although one might suggest, in that case, that the costs incurred in watering and fertilizing such are substantially greater than the benefits derived, particularly considering some of the odious consequences of its cultivation.

George R. said...

Anon writes:
"I'm eagerly waiting for the demise of atheism. It's getting there."

How are those rose-colored glasses working for you?

Jinzang said...

Thanks for the link; interesting story – also that it was at least quoted in a book by Thomas Merton.

He translated it.

Chuang Tzu is a bit poetic and obscure. Edward Conze makes the point more clearly in his preface to Buddhist Thought in India.

To judge all human techniques by the amount of bare 'control' or 'power' they produce is patently unfair. Other goals may be equally worth striving for, and men wiser than we may deliberately have turned away from the pursuit of measureless power, not as unattainable, but as inherently undesirable. A graceful submission to the inevitable is not without its attractions, either. A great deal might be said, perhaps, for not wanting more power than can be used wisely, and it is much to be feared that the 'captors of an unwilling universe'• may end as many lion tamers have ended before them.

Jinzang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
StoneTop said...

I'm eagerly waiting for the demise of atheism. It's getting there.

I wouldn't hold my breath... Atheism has been around for all of human history, and seems to be steadily increasing in the modern age.

Tursunov said...

Atheism will always be around, contra the previous anon. It will never naturally become a majority position in the world, though. The monotheistic religions will always outstrip it via birth rates and conversion rates. See the growth of Christianity in Africa and China as examples, not to mention the ongoing takeover of Europe by Islam.

Mr. Green said...

Someone anonymous: You say "Philosophy is one of the necessary means of mere natural knowledge." But is it true, and how do we know?

If that had been meant to be funny, it would have been hilarious.

Steersman said...

Jinzang said: …. Edward Conze makes the point more clearly in his preface to Buddhist Thought in India.

Just out of curiosity and in passing, it would seem you are Buddhist yourself or are fairly knowledgeable about it. How do you feel about the fairly explicit Judeo-Christian cast to the concept of god that Dr. Feser and many of the theists here seem to be promoting? Seems to me that they would have a little more credibility if they weren’t apparently engaged in so much special-pleading for one fairly narrow concept or possibility. Personally, I’m somewhat more sympathetic to a pantheistic / panentheistic variation, particularly as they seem more consistent with some theories of consciousness, that seems closer to Buddhism and which seems far more plausible than any “sky Daddy”.

To judge all human techniques by the amount of bare 'control' or 'power' they produce is patently unfair.

I really don’t think I was suggesting anything of the sort, although it’s an interesting case you provided about which I would largely agree with you: power corrupts and all that. And “not wanting more power than can be used wisely” also seems a sensible “self-limiting” – part of the reason why I won’t even go into an “all-you-can-eat” restaurant ... :-)

But there is also the case that the attainment of “other goals worth striving for” is made more possible or likely by adequate levels of “control” and “power”, terms which encompass more than just their materialist referents. And, in the context of the original analogy – trees and their fruits, there’s some benefit in having the knowledge – power and control – of when a tree is only good for furniture or firewood.

Mr. Green said...

Someone quoting Michael Shermer: "If you do not already believe, these arguments ring hollow, having been refuted over the ages by philosophers from David Hume to Daniel Dennett."

Refuted? What do people around here think?

I think that anyone whose idea of philosophy ranges from "Hume" to "Dennett" is unlikely to have much of a grasp of any of the arguments mentioned.

Brian said...

Anonymous @ 2:09 PM said:

Can we all get past that everyone, on both sides--even you and me--is doing the same exact thing? We're both ignoring the arguments, we're both preaching to the converted, we're both spewing the usual v-words (vitriol, vituperation, and such).

C'mon, now. You actually expect Feser or any of us to respond to a Nazi comparison as if it was an actual argument? The problem is precisely that the "other side" isn't even trying to put forth arguments. If you think the Himmler comparison was an argument, I don't know what to say.

Steersman said...

Tursunov said: The monotheistic religions will always outstrip it via birth rates and conversion rates.

A somewhat questionable argument, I think. For instance, this would seem to suggest otherwise:

A December 2006 poll by Harris Interactive, published in The Financial Times, found that 32% of the French population described themselves as agnostic, a further 32% as atheist and only 27% believed in any type of God or supreme being.

Quite a bit different from the Pew Forum statistics which indicate that some 70% of Americans believe that the Bible or other “holy” books are literally true (the “Word of God”) – entirely or in part. But one might suggest that the writing is on the wall for theism.

Josh said...

Steersman:

Since you seem to have missed his point:

Is France One of These?

Theism and Atheism are both here to stay, until the end of times. Deal with it?

Steersman said...

Josh:

Since you seem to have missed his point.

Seems his central point was that “monotheistic religions will always outstrip atheism” which I thought the French statistics proved to be incorrect, more or less – albeit for one relatively small geographical area instead of the world. Although if the world follows the French model in terms of secularization and economic development then it seems plausible to infer that the world’s religious makeup – at least the Western part (50% ?) – will reach the same distribution.

Is France One of These?

Seems to be and it’s a debatable point how that will affect that religious distribution. Although, as the Jerry Coyne website indicates (link provided previously), it seems that it is the youth who are in the vanguard of the change to a more atheistic / humanistic demographic.

Theism and Atheism are both here to stay, until the end of times. Deal with it?

Maybe, although I think they both have the same intrinsic flaw – i.e., some rather dogmatic assertions as to the existence or not of some entity for which there is no incontrovertible and unambiguous evidence. Though I would say that the balance of probabilities favours the atheists – the pot is quite a bit blacker than the kettle: with some 100,000 gods that mankind has worshipped over the millennia, and who have disappeared like Puff the Magic Dragon, it’s a little implausible to suggest that Jehovah is not of the same species and not likely to share the same fate. But that is hardly conclusive, particularly as most atheists seem to be fixated on the same Judeo-Christian god favoured by various theists and fundamentalists and seem unable to conceive of anything else.

Josh said...

Steersman,

No, his central point was (as you quoted) "The monotheistic religions will always outstrip it via birth rates and conversion rates."

Native atheistic/agnostic French population+Sub-Replacement Fertility+Muslim immigration/birth rates=Theists aren't going anywhere.

The Frenchies had better start valuing family and children a bit more like their religious forefathers did, or they will be bowing out of the theist/atheist battle early!

If you think both atheists and theists are guilty of only arguing over "dogmatic assertions" unsupported by evidence then you had better look again. Philosophy can't be too fun for you.

"it’s a little implausible to suggest that Jehovah is not of the same species and not likely to share the same fate. But that is hardly conclusive, particularly as most atheists seem to be fixated on the same Judeo-Christian god favoured by various theists and fundamentalists and seem unable to conceive of anything else."

Interesting. You see that as evidence of some unwarranted cultural fascination on their part; I tend to see it as the strongest point of the battlefield of ideas. Perhaps we'll just agree to disagree.

Steersman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steersman said...

Josh,

No, his central point was (as you quoted) "The monotheistic religions will always outstrip it via birth rates and conversion rates."

I didn’t see that the process by which that supposed “outstripping” was to take place was of much import – which is why I didn’t include the phrase in my original quote of him – when at the time of the quoted study that outstripping had not taken place – 64% for agnostics & atheists and 27% for theists – even though the indicated factors would have been, I think, in play and would have been so for some time.

If you think both atheists and theists are guilty of only arguing over "dogmatic assertions" unsupported by evidence then you had better look again.

I’m sure there are other issues but, practically by definition, the crux of the matter would seem to be the existence or not of god, the rest largely being window-dressing or dealing with the fall-out. But if I am in error on the point do please correct me.

Philosophy can't be too fun for you.

Not quite sure what you’re getting at there, although theology at least, as a subset or subdivision of philosophy, does seem to bear some resemblance to “logic-chopping” – and trying to sneak-in the conclusion as part of the premises or like it just gives up and abandons any pretence of trying to prove that conclusion which is to be accepted on faith – decidedly unpalatable for most these days.

Interesting. You see that as evidence of some unwarranted cultural fascination on their part; I tend to see it as the strongest point of the battlefield of ideas.

Don’t follow that at all or understand how you reached that conclusion. Seems to me that atheism in many people frequently starts as a reaction, in many cases, against theism and, in consequence, tends to walk away with an after-image of some god which it continues to react to in spite of there being other definitions.

Not quite sure what your “it” refers to, but though you may see “it” as the “strongest point of the battlefield” I see it as an interminable and unproductive case of “God exists. Does not. Does too. Etc”. Seems time to get off the dime, although many seem to already have moved on from that. For instance, this article over on the Religion Dispatches site talks of a philosopher of religion – Keith Parsons – who was calling it quits and who argued in the process that “the case for theism is a fraud.” But, more to my point here, a comment on that site talks of redefining god as “our ultimate concerns” which seems like an eminently sensible way off the horns of a very problematic dilemma.

Perhaps we'll just agree to disagree.

Perhaps ... though I hope agreeably...

Josh said...

Some interesting reading on the Parsons bit:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/01/non-story-of-year.html

Eric said...

I predict we'll soon see a new New Atheist blogger/commenter motif in response to anything like, "You should read Feser."

New Atheist: "Feser? Oh, you mean the guy whose arguments the esteemed theologian Eric MacDonald systematically demolished in a series of in depth and rigorously argued posts on his blog, 'A Choice in Dying'? Naaaaaa."

Anonymous said...

Steersman,

[i]Seems to me that they would have a little more credibility if they weren’t apparently engaged in so much special-pleading for one fairly narrow concept or possibility. Personally, I’m somewhat more sympathetic to a pantheistic / panentheistic variation, particularly as they seem more consistent with some theories of consciousness, that seems closer to Buddhism and which seems far more plausible than any “sky Daddy”.[/i]

Right, how [b]dare[/b] people expect you to refute their actual understanding of a concept instead of a strawman that they explicitly do not posit. Your "sky daddy" rhetoric falls short here. Thomists do not hold to a personal god who resembles an old man. But nice try, and do continue being willfully ignorant.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post Mr. Feser. What impresses me most about you is how THOROUGHLY you dismantle these clowns. Well done...again.

BenYachov said...

Steersman,

Stop wasting our time.

Classical Theism
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/09/classical-theism.html

We don't do Theistic Personalism here. Stop wasting our time with some false Intelligent Design Post Enlightenment Mechanistic Philosophical "deity" none of us believes exists in the first place.

Also God's existence is proven primarily by Philosophy and phlosophical argument. The existence of God is a philosophical issue not an empirical one.

Get over it! This is a philosophy blog.

crusadeREX said...

Funny, eloquent, and precise.
I love the movie link. Hurt myself lauging, and will 'borrow' it in my own turn.
I was turned on to your work on Dr Engnor's blog and....WOW!
Great stuff. You have a new fan base here in Ontario!

Anonymous said...

Also God's existence is proven primarily by Philosophy and phlosophical argument. The existence of God is a philosophical issue not an empirical one.

Get over it! This is a philosophy blog.


Awesome. If it looks good on paper that's good enough for me. No results needed.

Playing with words. Most *are* over it. The middle age has come and gone.

Anonymous said...

Stop wasting our time.

Yeah. We have a paper God who is immune from any kind of evidence or science. We'll just make up more definitions that are *obvious* for all to see.

God is simple and complex and invisible and everywhere and works in mysterious ways. Science will never touch our *untouchable*.

Ha! Word Verification: terbl.

Yes. Very terrible.

Papania said...

A couple of things for my dearest Anon:

1) A sneer is not an argument.

2) This conception of God has been around since the time of Plato and Aristotle, i.e., well before the advent of modern science. No one is adding definitions or redefining anything.

3) Ignorance coupled with arrogance is a deadly combination, and I suggest you abandon it, at least if you expect any reasonable person to take anything you say seriously.

Steersman said...

Josh: Thanks for the link; interesting article which does make a few good points – at least from a cursory read-through.

Anonymous:

Thomists do not hold to a personal god who resembles an old man.

That looks like a rather categorical statement and an incorrect one, as my understanding – admittedly limited – is that Thomism is the de facto philosophy of the Catholic Church. In addition, it is that its catechism – specifically the Apostle’s Creed – seems rather heavily weighted towards a rather literal interpretation including the intercession of saints, hell as an actual location (at least up until fairly recently when I guess the Vatican had a late bulletin from Jehovah indicating that it had been closed, maybe just for renovations), “God, the Father”, and the historical resurrection of Jesus and the eventual resurrection of any of the rest of us who wish to subscribe. Looks functionally equivalent, to me, to “a personal god who resembles an old man”.

Maybe most of the Thomists here don’t hold to that conception but that seems to be what is being peddled by the Vatican which is, presumably and apparently, Thomist through and through.

P.S. The HTML codes need to be prefixed and post-fixed with angle brackets (greater than and less than characters), not square ones.

BenYachov said...

>>Thomists do not hold to a personal god who resembles an old man.

>That looks like a rather categorical statement and an incorrect one, as my understanding – admittedly limited – is that Thomism is the de facto philosophy of the Catholic Church.

So I guess you are wasting our time.

BenYachov said...

>but that seems to be what is being peddled by the Vatican..

The Vatican doesn't hold that view either.

You are still wasting our time.

Steersman said...

Ben:

Stop wasting our time.

Seems that is what theologians have been doing for at least the last 500 years with absolutely diddly-squat to show for their efforts. Except maybe some castles in the sky. Reminds me of a story about the scientist James Van Allen who is credited with finding the atmospheric radiation belts which now bear his name. Apparently he was asked by a reporter, “What good are they?” To which Van Allen replied, “Well, I’ve made a decent living out of them for the last few years”. Probably more use and value and benefit from knowing about them than anything that theologians can claim to have provided.

Thanks for the link. Nice to know that there is spectrum to theism, although I can’t say that it’s based on any tangible facts or has much in the way of consequences.

We don't do Theistic Personalism here.

Glad to know that – now, as it certainly wasn’t evident from anything in Dr. Feser’s About box. But you all – non-personal theists anyway – might want to be taking pains to distance yourselves from various crazed fundamentalists (aren’t they all?)– though I’m happy to note Dr. Feser rejects Intelligent Design.

Also God's existence is proven primarily by Philosophy and philosophical argument.

You have, presumably, some premises and arguments that you think leads to the incontrovertible conclusion that god exists. But there is no guarantee that either the premises or the rules of inference you use are valid so the conclusion is entirely suspect. And the fact that so many others in the field – of some degree of knowledge of the topics, greater than mine: see the Parson’s article in RD for examples – reject that conclusion and those arguments would seem to justify my contention. Without some empirical – and testable – consequences to your conclusion it would seem you have little more than a “just-so” story – maybe engaging and of some entertainment value and, like string theory, maybe of some plausibility but still largely useless. IMHO.

The existence of God is a philosophical issue not an empirical one. Get over it! This is a philosophy blog.

So, you’re saying that philosophy excludes empirical concepts and tools? Seems Dr. Feser’s interests in “moral and political philosophy” would suggest they are hardly mutually exclusive as it seems things can’t get much more real and tangible – empirical – than politics and morality. Why should that not apply to theology, the philosophy of god?

BenYachov said...

Your are still wasting our time Steersman.

We don't do Scientism here either nor do we believe Empiricism is the sole means of knowledge especially since that weird philosophical concept can't be verified empirically. Thus it fails the test of itself and leads to hopeless argument by special pleading.

I thought I made that clear earlier.

BLINDED BY SCIENTISM
http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174

Recovering Sight after Scientism
http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1184

Geez come up with something original will ya? Your ignorance coupled with arrogance is beyond tedious.

Next your gonna be telling us "Everything as a Cause" was part of the Cosmological Argument?

Or "Motion" in Aristotle's metaphysics refers to literal momentum or physical movement?

You have the typical Gnu's one size fits all general polemic down pat. But it bores us all to tears.

You like the fundie fresh from reading ANSWERS IN GENESIS who rushes into the first Darwin Forum he see reciting pablum & having the locals roll their eyes at him for hearing the same stupid shit for the 150th time.

Get a new act jerkoff!

Steersman said...

Ben:

“... is that Thomism is the de facto philosophy of the Catholic Church.” So I guess you are wasting our time.

So you’re saying that that is not true? Dr. Feser’s article on “Classical Theism” – which you provided – would seem to suggest otherwise:

As I have indicated in earlier posts, the doctrine of divine simplicity is absolutely central to classical theism.
It is the de fide teaching of the Catholic Church, affirmed at the fourth Lateran council and the first Vatican council, and the denial of which amounts to heresy.


You might want to actually add some meat to your responses rather than just parroting the phrase “You are wasting our time”.

”... but that seems to be what is being peddled by the Vatican..” The Vatican doesn't hold that view either.

Well, that – “theistic Personalism”, apparently – would seem to be the alternative to the “classical theism” described in that same article of Feser’s. So which is it that the Vatican is actually peddling? Or do they tailor their wares to their clients? Or is there some other alternative? Looks to me like the Vatican’s left hand doesn’t know what its right is doing, looks like it doesn’t know whether it’s on foot or horseback – not surprising, I guess, considering the general incoherence and inconsistency of the subject...

Steersman said...

Ben:

Get a new act jerkoff!

That you respond with juvenile insults shows that you have nothing in the way of credible arguments.

BenYachov said...

>So you’re saying that that is not true? Dr. Feser’s article on “Classical Theism” – which you provided – would seem to suggest otherwise:

I'm not arguing with you since it's clear you are not here to argue in good faith.

You are the typical Gnu Troll.

I'm telling you that you are ignorant and pointless and you are still wasting our time.

If dguller or BDK or some Atheist with both some learning and some honor stops by I'll gladly talk to them.

You OTOH are wasting our time.

BenYachov said...

BTW Steersman,

You have offered no proof to persons who have studied Catholic doctrine for a good part of their adult life of your claim "that the Vatican peddles a personal god who resembles an old man."

You merely assert this without proof and expect us to believe you?

But it not a serious argument on your part it's just ridicule and you pretending it isn't insults my intelligence which appears to exceed your by an order of magnitude.

But then again it's not hard for anyone regardless of belief or not to be smarter than a Gnu'Atheist.

It's simply being smarter than a moron.

Steersman said...

Papania:

These Gnus need to stamp the following on their small, sloping foreheads: "Evidence as a concept is not limited to empirical evidence"

Apart from the irrelevant and juvenile insult, the assertion seems highly questionable. One definition of empirical, and the seminal one I think, is “a. Relying on or derived from observation or experiment”. Not quite sure what type of evidence there would be that is not based on observation.

Even your apparently vaunted proofs for the existence of god would seem to qualify as an experiment in logic which you observe – empirical evidence – and from which you conclude that there is, in fact, a god. Or maybe you’ve had some personal communications with God – maybe, perhaps, some burning bush?

But what other type of evidence do you have in mind?

And, in case you’re unaware of the concept, logic can be decidedly tricky and prone to innumerable fallacies which detract from the credibility of various conclusions. And without some other corroborating evidence it seems to me that you’re only just “whistling past the graveyard”.

Edward Feser said...

Guys,

Knock it off. I said no pissing contests. I've deleted the most recent insult-only comments (from both sides) and I will delete any further ones that arise. Keep it substantive or take it elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Steersman said... And adding some more insults because you’re unable to address it.

Don't fall for it... "BenYachov" is a "new atheist" who thinks he can give theists a bad name with lots of stupid, inflammatory trolling.
It's tiresome, really.

BenYachov said...

Sorry Dr. Feser.

BenYachov said...

Steersman,

You remind me of the anti-Catholic Protestant Fundamentalists I've butted heads with in the past. They would puff up their chests asking questions like "Where does the Bible talk about a Bishop of Rome?" "Where does the Bible say there are Seven Sacraments?" "Where does the Bible talk positively about Tradition instead of condemning it like in the Gospel of Matthew?(2 Thes 2:15 btw)?"etc...

Of course I would ask them the show stopper counter question. "Where does the Bible say all doctrine must come from the Bible alone?(sans Tradition & Church).

I would then kick back and watch the show since they can't answer that question. The Bible simply doesn't say that anywhere not even the longer canon correct Bible we Catholics accept.

Now there is you, who believes empiricism alone is the sole meaningful form of evidence(comparable to the Fundie belief in Sola Scriptura) and challenge us to prove "god" based on that.

How do you prove empirically that empiricism is the only valid form of proof? Seems to me you can't without contradiction.

How can you prove empirically there are an infinite number of prime numbers? You can't. You do that axiomatically.

You see you are clearly to us assuming a philosophy called Positivism which AJ Flew at the height of his Atheism abandoned & hopelessly self-refuting during the late 50's. Yet you want to dig it out of it grave. That doesn't wash here.

Plus I have produced Feser's articles refuting Scientism. It appears you either won't or can't respond them.

Herer they are again.

BLINDED BY SCIENTISM
http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174

Recovering Sight after Scientism
http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1184

Now can you make a single substantive argument or is it just going to be more cribbing the pablum from RichardDawkins.net or crap PZ Myers spews.

I would really like to know.

Mr Veale said...

The point of TLS - a point which sailed over the head of the "serious" theologian MacDonald - was not to appeal to history or to tradition.
Dr Feser did not present isolated arguments, but rather an entire philosophical tradition. Now one may not be convinced by that tradition. I'm not sure that I can but into it (though I can learn from it).
But what Dr Feser established is that the the early modern philosopher's did not decisively refute scholasticism. The "modern mind" (a mechanistic view of nature and a rejection of tradition)was not the inevitable result of intellectual progress.

So the intellectual patterns that make atheism seem plausible are the contingent outcome of centuries of debate. And the intellectual fashions that make atheism popular have no intellectual force. So the moral and intellectual certainty of the New Atheists is unwarranted.

A second, neglected, observation made by Dr Feser is that God held a crucial place in the systems of the early modern philosophers. God's existence kept scepticism at bay. In Locke's philosophy God guaranteed human dignity and human rights. If the atheists rejects scholasticism he will find that he can only make sense of the world if he assumes that God exists. So here is a more subtle and powerful case for God's existence.
Finally, MacDonald ignores that Dr Feser's work is a popularisation. The views expressed are not idiosyncratic to Dr Feser, and they are not the ponderings of a few isolated Dominicans sheltering from the modern world in catacombs beneath the Vatican. For example Dr Feser references the New Essentialism and McIntyre's seminal work on ethics, as well as analytic philosophy of Religion's new interest in Aquinas.
Specialists across a spectrum of philosophical disciplines are rediscovering old ideas about ethics, metaphysics and religion, and are producing interesting research. MacDonald misses this point when he references the opinions of philosophers in general.

MacDonald misses the point, and his target, completely. His posts on Dr Feser are crude, tactless, distasteful, immoral, and totally lacking in rigour and intellectual insight.

Graham Veale

equesatrum said...

Random proposition from an intro to topology class:

Proposition: A subset E of the real numbers is connected with respect to the Euclidean metric if and only if E is an interval.

Below I have included links of scans to a written out version of the proof. Take a look when you get a chance.

http://img853.imageshack.us/img853/6889/proof1j.jpg
http://img4.imageshack.us/img4/5325/proof2v.jpg

Among the things you would need to know to understand it would be the formal defintions for:
sets and operations on sets (union, intersection, set difference)
subsets
logical principles (biconditional statements, contrapositive, without loss of generality, etc.)
interval
connected
metric
Euclidean metric
separation
supremum
bounded above, bounded below

Many of these definitions require you to know other definitions. In the case of most of these, if you think you know what they mean from 'real life' without taking a semester long course in topology or studying the terminology on your own, you are mistaken. This applies as well to the word 'logic' which a lot of people seem to think is synonymous with 'science' or 'the scientific method'. You need 'logic' referring to the branch and tool of philosophy.

Take a look at the proof and notice there is no 'observation' required. Dr. Feser makes this point in The Last Superstition but I wanted to take it a little further than that. He uses the Pythagorean Theorem which is a good example, but doesn't require the kind of knowledge to understand that higher mathematics does. But his point still stands: if someone wanted to argue with a mathematical proof, they can't do so with empirical data. You can't even use it to support the proposition, since it would only show that it is true in that one particular case (though you could use a counterexample to show its falsity).

Philosophers reason the same way. If you want to argue with their conclusions you do so by arguing over the definitions or the premises. You don't ask for empirical evidence. The very idea is absurd.

So if a student came up to me, with no specialized knowledge of the definitions or how we reason in mathematics, but he wanted to show me that he thinks the proposition fails, I would kindly ask him to take a course or study a text and to come back to me afterwards. Otherwise he's wasting his time and mine. How can we even begin to discuss it if we don't both have a knowledge of the definitions, at the bare minimum? If he said "Courtier's Reply," I would die laughing.

No one is asking anyone to take an entire course. But if they can't even read a book or two (Dr. Feser suggested only one, Aquinas) then see the student in the above example.

Also, the 'sky daddy' thing is below juvenile. You're not hurting anyone's feelings here and it's nothing we haven't seen before. You might be able to bully believers who don't have the philosophical knowledge, but it won't work here. Bullying is so 1st grade.

PS The scans came out kind of rough. Sorry.

Mr Veale said...

I should add, as a Religious Studies High School teacher, that the greatest achievement of TLS was to take a subject like mediaeval scholasticism, and not only to make it accessible, but exciting, interesting and relevant.
It was a remarkable piece of teaching, not merely an argument against populist atheism, and not merely a piece of cultural criticism. I'm astonished that Dr Feser's critics could not even grant him that!

Graham

Anonymous said...

I'm off to read the Stanford Philosophy entry for 'Evidence'.

I'm doing due diligence. I'm gonna see if there's anything there there.

Objections to the Stanford entry?

Can't we get all just get along? Ben?

No more whambulence shots. Mea Culpa. Sloped forehead and all.


word verification: exclogy

It's what us older guys feel after the morning constitutional.

Steersman said...

Anonymous:

Don't fall for it... "Ben Yachov" is a "new atheist" who thinks he can give theists a bad name with lots of stupid, inflammatory trolling.

Thanks for the heads up. Though I wonder – maybe he’s a theist acting like a Gnu acting like a theist just to give Gnus a bad name. Certainly plausible given his knowledge of some of Dr. Feser’s posts and other topics – though his apparent lack of knowledge about the content of the former would suggest the contrary. Or maybe he really is a theist doing a very good job of giving theists a bad name.

Unfortunate in any case – apropos of which they say that in any war the first casualty is the Truth. Some have suggested that the problem is partly due to the anonymity of the Internet and various discussion boards and I see that many sites are insisting on real names – at least somewhere during the log-in process – as a way of curtailing various “flame-wars”. Seems like a sensible idea ...

BenYachov said...

I did a little drive by over at MacDonald's I doubt he posted my swipe at him. But I note dguller has been giving MacDonald a good deal of rigor for his constant kneejerk misrepresentations of Dr. Feser. It's entertaining to watch plus dguller is an Atheist and favors an empirical view of life. So it's not like he is a Roman Catholic partisan.

He just wants basic fairness. I so misjudged dguller & for that I do penance in sack cloth and ashes.

That is my kind of Atheist.

You paying attention Steersman?

Steersman said...

Ben:

Now there is you, who believes empiricism alone is the sole meaningful form of evidence(comparable to the Fundie belief in Sola Scriptura) and challenge us to prove "god" based on that.

As I asked Papania, what other form of evidence do you have in mind? Simply faith? Well, a lot of people have believed in many things which have turned out to be simply false and untrue. And I remember reading something to the effect that even many papers submitted to and published by various mathematical journals are wrong or in substantial error. If that is the case for mathematics where the axioms and rules of inference are so clear and well defined how much more do you think that is likely to be the case in theology where the opposite is the case?

Plus I have produced Feser's articles refuting Scientism. It appears you either won't or can't respond them.

Ever consider that I might not have had the time to do so? I have been meaning to take a look at them and may eventually respond. If you can keep a civil tongue in your head.

equesatrum said...

Steersman,

"what other form of evidence do you have in mind?"

See my above post on the mathematical proof.

Also, if a mathematical proof is shown to be wrong, the mistake lies in the premises. We don't scrap mathematical reasoning and start to look for empirical evidence.

You need to produce empirical evidence for that claim that knowledge can only be known through empirical evidence.

BenYachov said...

@Steersman

>Ever consider that I might not have had the time to do so? I have been meaning to take a look at them and may eventually respond. If you can keep a civil tongue in your head.

Why should I be civil to a person who thinks it's a good idea to throw snarky bombs based on uninformed caricatures of what they would like their opponents views to be instead of learning their strongest arguments(and actual views) and addressing them in their strongest terms?

Better yet why should anyone take such a person seriously in the first place? Regardless of belief?

All your charges have been addressed in the links I posted. Now you might not agree with the answers or arguments which is fine but at least we would have a starting point and can move on from there.

Otherwise like I said you sound to us like the Creationist who repeats the ANSWERS IN GENESIS nonsense to a forum of Evolutionists who have heard the same false crap for 150th time.

Thus proving the pagan maxium "Against stupidity even the gods themselves contend in vain".

BenYachov said...

@Steersman

Re-read what you just wrote to us.

You are all but admitting you attacked us blindly.

You don't think that makes you look disingenuous?

"Vatican teaches is an Old Man and a Person???"....Plueez!

Steersman said...

Equesatrum:

"what other form of evidence do you have in mind?" See my above post on the mathematical proof.

Thanks, though I’ll have to look at it in a little more detail later. However, as a quick comment in passing, it seems to me that even in the case of a mathematical proof we are still talking of empirical evidence – evidence of the senses which in this case relates, apparently, to consistency with various other premises.

And mathematics still has some correlation with the real world. Both Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry are “consistent” (more or less at least as far as I know), but it was Einstein’s theory of relativity and associated tests (bending of light around the Sun) that “proved” that it was the latter that actually corresponded to the “real world” – such as it is and as far as we can know of it. And likewise with current string theory: lots of very clever math which has, apparently, advanced knowledge therein but it is the question as to which of the 10^500 variations actually corresponds to reality which is the crux of the matter.

But no bit of theology has ever, as far as I know, been able to provide any analogous proof that a conjecture about god is true or not.

BenYachov said...

>You need to produce empirical evidence for that claim that knowledge can only be known through empirical evidence.

I won't hold breath eveb AJ Flew knew that was a dead end long before he entertained Aristotelian Theism(i.e. Deism to the unlearned).

BenYachov said...

Theology requires Empirical proof for Steersman? Even thought let us grant for the sake of argument there is none.

QUOTE"But no bit of theology has ever, as far as I know, been able to provide any analogous proof that a conjecture about god is true or not."END QUOTE

But his belief about Empiricism doesn't require the same proof?

"You need to produce empirical evidence for that claim that knowledge can only be known through empirical evidence."

How is that consistent? Why does Steersman believe this about Empiricism sans empirical evidence? By Faith Alone?

Jinzang said...

Just out of curiosity and in passing, it would seem you are Buddhist yourself or are fairly knowledgeable about it. How do you feel about the fairly explicit Judeo-Christian cast to the concept of god that Dr. Feser and many of the theists here seem to be promoting?

Yes, I'm Buddhist. I've long felt that if there is a common ground between East and West, it's going to be found in philosophy. The default philosophy in the Anglo-American world is empiricism. We get it with our mother's milk. Buddhism has often been interpreted through the lens of empiricism, so that when he denies the self, it's assumed he means the same thing as when Hume denies it. I think this is one sided, so I am happy to hear philosophy explained in the tradition of Aristotelian realism. Ed Feser is a fair minded person and argues his points clearly, which is worth a great deal. I don't have fixed opinions on most issues philosophers typically discuss and am glad to hear what Ed has to say, though I would be happier if he discussed a wider range of topics.

I share a distaste for scientism with Ed and most of the regulars here, though I have no problem with intelligent atheism.

Anonymous said...

Equesatrum,

"what other form of evidence do you have in mind?"

See my above post on the mathematical proof.

Also, if a mathematical proof is shown to be wrong, the mistake lies in the premises. We don't scrap mathematical reasoning and start to look for empirical evidence.


The problem is mathematics is just a 'tool'. If it doesn't represent the 'actual' universe it's just really cool scribbles.

Just because you can 'logically' argue something on paper doesn't mean it has any representation in the 'actual' world. That's why we like evidence. Results. Tests. A represention that it will work. Other wise you can 'prove' all kinds of really neat 'useless' things.

Jinzang said...

But no bit of theology has ever, as far as I know, been able to provide any analogous proof that a conjecture about god is true or not.

You are asking for empirical proof of a metaphysical proposition, something that will never happen. Look at it this way, Metaphysical truths are valid not just in this world, but in all possible worlds. But empirical evidence can only tell us about THIS world and so no empirical evidence can ever supply sufficient proof for a metaphysical proposition.

Jinzang said...

The problem is mathematics is just a 'tool'. If it doesn't represent the 'actual' universe it's just really cool scribbles.

And where is your empirical evidence for this statement?

Anonymous said...

But empirical evidence can only tell us about THIS world and so no empirical evidence can ever supply sufficient proof for a metaphysical proposition.

Since we only have access to THIS world maybe we should keep it simple.

Unless you like guessing about OTHER possible worlds.

I reserve the right to change my mind when shown otherwise.

Anonymous said...

And where is your empirical evidence for this statement?

'splain it to me.

If it works we use it.

Haiying said...

"If it doesn't represent the 'actual' universe it's just really cool scribbles."

Anyone else notice the slip here?

Instead of using general terms like "world" or "reality," he used "universe," which denotes an inherently physical thing (the universe), and so of course mathematics will not "represent" it -- whatever that means.

RH said...

Some issues brought up in Eric Macdonald's "History Is Not An Argument" post
seem to have gone unaddressed here (someone brought this issue up, but if it was addressed I may have missed it).

Especially the example Eric gives of Feser's reasoning about sexual morality, apparently based on the concepts of Final Cause/Natural Law. Eric quotes Fesser:

"If we consider the structure of the sexual organs and the sexual act as a process beginning with arousal and ending in orgasm, it is clear that its biological function, its final cause, is to get semen into the vagina. That is why the penis and vagina are shaped the way they are, why the vagina secretes lubrication during sexual arousal, and so forth … The point of the process is not just to get semen out of the male, but also into the female, and into one place in the female in particular."

And:

"It cannot possibly be good for us to use them in any other way, whether an individual person thinks it is or not."

(Which would imply that, for instance, male gay sex is BAD/WRONG, whether they get mutual pleasure from using their bodies that way or not).

The problem is, if...IF!...that represents the type of reasoning offered by Prof. Feser, it is to say the least, not very promising. First, it appears to be one giant naturalistic fallacy - from the fact that IS the case that penises and vaginas react it doesn't follow it "OUGHT" to be the case on how to use them. (Not, at least, without reference to a desire...and what I've seen of First Cause/Natural Law reasoning is really dubious). Feser's quote there is dangerously close to wacky evangelical Ray Comfort's infamous "Banana" argument: "See how the banana just fits the hand, opens from the top, has a ready-made wrapper for us...this clearly indicates it was MADE to be eaten by humans."

Feser's appeal to his purported Final Cause for such portions of our body seems confused, simplistic and arbitrary, given the complexity of human nature (and the introduction of our own purposes).

For instance: What is the Final Cause for human mouths? Or lips? And HOW would you know?

I asked this of another member here in another thread, presumably a fellow Thomist, and he replied: "Easy- to facilitate speech and eating."

Well, if that's the case, then it would be consistent to condemn people KISSING with their mouths. Because if you've identified the Final Cause as being otherwise (speech/eating) and as Feser would say "It cannot possibly be good for us to use them in any other way" then KISSING would be NECESSARILY wrong/bad for the same reasons gay sex (or whatever)
are wrong/bad on Feser's logic.

Or...if you don't want to look silly railing against kissing as being BAD, would you want to say that kissing is part of the mouth's Final Cause too? If so...how would you know this exactly? Is it because kissing provides pleasure and intimacy? Well, so does non coital sex. How do you get out of this non-arbitrarily?

I did not see Prof Feser address this (or anyone here) at all.

And, btw, it's all too easy to imagine a Churchly Theocrat in another time saying it's "easy" to see that mouths were made only for eating and speaking, and hence kissing will not be morally tolerated. In fact, not a little misery was perpetrated by such theistic thinking, historically (and today). Thank goodness we are in a non-theocratic country and able to say "nonsense" when some churchly person tries to say how obvious it is X was meant only for Y.

RH

RH said...

Also, I brought this up on Prof Fesser's HPR on TLS blog post, which alerts us to
Fr. Kenneth Baker's warm review of Feser's The Last Superstition.

Baker wrote in his review:

"The driving force behind the thinking of the atheists and materialists is opposition to religion. According to Feser, secularism is an “anti-religion” religion that has its own dogmas and morality, which is really immorality. The moving force behind this atheism is not reasonable argument, but a willfulness that there be no God. For, if there is no Creator God who is the First Mover of all things, then there is no purpose to the universe, no immortality of the soul, no natural moral law, no final judgment or accountability for how one lives one’s life. In effect, it makes man into a little god who creates his own reality and is not morally accountable to anyone for what he does or thinks, especially in the area of sex."

If (again, IF) this is in fact Feser's assertion (and Feser does did not indicate Baker's review contained inaccuracies), then Feser's assertion is patently absurd.
Explicit (or strongly implicit) in this assertion is that as an Atheist, I don't reject reject belief in God because I have found no good evidence or argument for belief in God. No, I reject it on the basis of the CONSEQUENCES that would be true, if the Christian God existed. It would be inconvenient for me if God existed because it would purportedly get in the way of my wish not to be morally accountable. So I reject the belief BECAUSE I WOULD NOT LIKE THE CONSEQUENCES IF IT WERE TRUE.

This is pure wishful thinking on Feser's part, and on the part of many theists who peddle this common, contemptibly shallow idea. Is it a feature of how I believe things that I reject belief in things that are inconvenient to me or have bad consequences if true? Hell no! It will be rather inconvenient for how I'd like to act if my recent blood tests show I have diabetes. I'd LOVE to keep on eating what I want without worrying about my insulin levels. But if it turned out I had diabetes, I'd believe it because there is EVIDENCE for that bad scenario and hell yes I'd start constraining my behavior accordingly.

Do I disbelieve in things because I dislike the consequences of their being true? NO. I sure am mortified that the world is warming, that the world is armed to the teeth with atomic weapons, that 9/11 happened and continues to affect all of our lives, that AIDS, Rabies, Malaria and countless such horrors exist, that famine, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, possible earth-threatening asteroids etc exist.
The list is almost endless of the things I accept exist, even though they inconvenience my life, put constraints on my behavior, if not outright horrify me.
The difference between all THOSE things and God is that there is good evidence that they exist, but I see none for God.

If an alien were outside my front door waiting to devour my family OF COURSE I'd want to know it if true. Then I could alter my behavior in light of that information (for instance, by sneaking my family out the back door). But I don't reject belief in the alien because IF TRUE it would be inconvenient for me: I reject it because there's no evidence for the alien.

If it were TRUE that a God existed and that this meant my behavior was being judged and had consequences for an eternal afterlife or whatever, hell yes I'd like to know it. I'd want to adapt my behavior to that reality as I would any other reality.
Except: there's no good evidence for such a God. (And, btw, I don't need a God to exist to have reasons for acting morally).

So this business about my willfully rejecting belief in God on the grounds that, if true I wouldn't like the consequences or because I don't want to change my behavior, is patent nonsense. It's an assertion that flies in the face of all the evidence to the contrary in terms of my general epistemological behavior.

RH

monk68 said...

RH,

I am a theist, and I agree that too many theists resort to the sort of accusation you describe: "athiests don't believe in God because it will put restraints on their sex life, or some other behavior". So thank you for your forceful retort on that point - it is needed. I also know that Dr. Feser has great respect for some atheistic philosophers - as philosophers.

I do, however, hope you will admit there are more than a few less than thoughful atheists, who are overly emotive, excesively combative, and sometimes rather sophistical in argumentation. When encountering such persons, a theist can perhaps be forgiven (at least a time or two) for using the occasion of such encounters to unfairly paint all atheists with a broad brush.

Just as atheists may be forgiven for occasionaly painting all theists as insecure, intellectually weak persons, needing God as a "life-crutch", because they have encountered a few obnoxious, emotive, sophomoric theists.

God bless :)

Ray

RH said...

Ray,

Yes, I agree with you about the behaviour of some atheists. People are people and being an atheist doesn't equate to good behaviour necessarily anymore than being a theist (or agnostic, or...)

I have recently been arguing against some atheists myself, as I believe they have been making unfair comments and arguments against theism (including strawmaning). I've always defended the theistic side when I felt it was being represented inappropriately.

Though, it doesn't take long as a secular person engaging theists, especially Christians, to encounter a big problem: The diversity of theism. Over and over I find I can repeat any Christians exact words, their argument or description of Christianity verbatim, and like clockwork another Christian will chime in "Well...there's your problem you naive boy....THAT's not Christianity and THAT's not what God is about. Let me tell you what Christians actually believe..."

Now, when you contemplate that there are already apparently upwards of 38,000 individual Christian sects with their own take on Christianity and God's word, you can see how tiresome this becomes.

Which is why I prefer to ask "Give me something you believe, with some justification for why you believe it." (And it's why I said IF those quotes accurately represented Feser's reasoning THEN here are the problems it seems to imply).

But, the very diversity of Christianity and lack of consensus goes hand in hand with the fact that I've yet to see a Christian give a good epistemological method of deciding between Christian truth claims. (Unlike, for instance, the epistemological methods in science which have the tendency of convergence of knowledge, rather than divergence of claims).

RH

Anonymous said...

Steersman said... Unfortunate in any case – apropos of which they say that in any war the first casualty is the Truth

Meh. Cracks about "Santa in the sky" are just as much a waste of time as four-letter words. The casualty isn't answers that lead to the truth, the casualty is honest questions. Too many people have no interest in understanding anything they disagree with. (Real names won't help with that.)

Steersman said...

RH:

Nice mini-dissertation and discussion on Feser’s and MacDonald’s take on the sexual morality example [structure and function and “non-orthodox” uses thereof] – I think I have to come down in favour of your perspective and that of MacDonald. Unfortunately, as you suggested, Feser’s too easily lends itself to moral absolutism and theocracy.

And I likewise agree – largely in any case – with your comments about Baker and atheists and their reason for being so. Although I at least tend to be sympathetic to Feser’s apparent assertion that atheism is, or can be, an “anti-religion” religion – which tends not to be a popular position to be taking on atheist blogs – as I’ve found to my chagrin. It is certainly not a religion in the sense that it is based in the belief in some deity, but a close reading of the definition of “religion” yields one denotation that, in my view, justifies that conclusion: “A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.”

And, unfortunately, many (some?) atheists can be almost as dogmatic, as over-zealous, about their “faith” in those principles as the worst religious fundamentalist. While I think we all need some degree of faith – at least in the sense of “firm belief in [conviction of truth of] something for which there is no proof” – I think it shouldn’t be blind, that it does need to be tempered with some reference to probability – which generally puts atheists ahead of religious fundamentalists in my view – and with the recognition that it is, in fact, based on an assumption. For instance, a fairly famous scientist – Norbert Wiener – argued that “science is impossible without faith. … without faith that nature is subject to law there can be no science” which I’ve always been sympathetic to. But “faith” is, I find anyway, an interesting concept …

However, I’m not entirely sure that I agree completely with your argument, or maybe rather the primary consequence or extrapolation of it, that, in general, people“reject belief in things that are inconvenient to [them] or have bad consequences if true”. While I might tend to agree that agnostics and atheists and scientists in general are more likely to “face facts” than, say, religious fundamentalists, particularly relative to issues of mortality – the primary motivator for religion I think, an honest assessment of human psychology would show a general tendency to wishful thinking, to be rejecting or discounting inconvenient truths of one sort or another. There may even be some evolutionary benefits or reasons for such a process.

And regarding your comment about the 38,000 different sects – all more or less “at sword’s points with each other on matters of creed and technique [such] that even the definition of Christianity crumples to absurdity” [Philip Wylie] – and that is based on supposedly only one god out of the literally tens of thousands that have come down the pike since we came down out of the trees, all of that really does make it almost laughable that any one could be making a serious claim that only their conception of god is “the real-meal-deal”.

Steersman said...

Anonymous said: Meh. Cracks about "Santa in the sky" are just as much a waste of time as four-letter words.

Not sure that I agree entirely with you. “Cracks about Santa in the sky” tend to be characterizations – albeit somewhat sarcastic ones – of particular sets of ideas, while four-letter words are virtually always ad hominem personal attacks which are largely and most frequently irrelevant. People should be able, in civilized society, to differentiate between ideas and persons and not to confuse them – not always easy I’ll grant.

And, as a point of reference, the only time I used the word was to indicate that I was more sympathetic to panentheism: Personally, I’m somewhat more sympathetic to a pantheistic / panentheistic variation, particularly as they seem more consistent with some theories of consciousness, that seems closer to Buddhism and which seems far more plausible than any “sky Daddy”. That was a comment about a particular version of theism and not a personal attack on any particular individual who might happen to be subscribing to it.

And, as Feser talks – with some degree of respect, to boot – of Plantinga and Swinburne and their support for “theistic personalism", which seems only a hair’s breadth away from a “sky Daddy”, I hardly see that “cracks” about it calls for the nuclear option of four-letter words.

Though I will tend to agree with your assertion that “Too many people have no interest in understanding anything they disagree with.” Partly a case, I think, of “shooting from the lip” and partly a case of information overload ....

Pattsce said...

RH,

I'm not sure if you've actually read TLS or anything else Feser has written. I recommend doing so before you make any decisions on these issues. Your criticism of his sexual ethics shows that you don't quite understand his arguments.

He directly addresses all your criticisms numerous times in both TLS and Aquinas. I imagine everyone here (including Feser) hasn't responded to those criticisms on this post because they have already been addressed many, many times before---both in print and on this blog.

Just read either of those books; there's no naturalistic fallacy, there's no absurdity in the argument, and there's no theocratic preaching. The arguments are sound, regardless of your belief in god.

Steersman said...

Jinzang said: But empirical evidence can only tell us about THIS world and so no empirical evidence can ever supply sufficient proof for a metaphysical proposition.

So, it would seem that you’re prepared to accept, as a metaphysical proposition and without any requirement for “empirical evidence”, the contention that god exists. In that case then I should be able to offer another metaphysical proposition, to wit, that god does not exist. Which you should also be obliged to accept without any “empirical evidence”. Seems the situation is tailor-made to produce insanity, the horns of a dilemma that are decidedly uncomfortable ...

See, it is the empirical evidence that allows us to decide, in a non-arbitrary fashion – which of several mutually exclusive possibilities is most likely to be true. And, for example, the same way that empirical evidence was used to determine whether reality – space, in particular – was Euclidean on non-Euclidean. I fail to see why metaphysical propositions shouldn’t be subject to the same requirements. Though I note your comments about scientism and will agree that when science becomes ideology it also becomes more a source of problems than solutions – though I’m not sure exactly where the dividing line, the Rubicon, actually is.

E.H. Munro said...

However, as a quick comment in passing, it seems to me that even in the case of a mathematical proof we are still talking of empirical evidence – evidence of the senses which in this case relates, apparently, to consistency with various other premises.

No, we are not appealing to empirical evidence when we do mathematic proofs. Math is not empirical. This is one of the things that makes you gnus look like fundies. You might be able to fool other fundies with this schtick, but you don't fool educated people. This is one of those canards you should save when trying to convert some 19 year pentecostal away from home for the first time. Because they really won't know any better.

And mathematics still has some correlation with the real world. Both Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry are “consistent” (more or less at least as far as I know), but it was Einstein’s theory of relativity and associated tests (bending of light around the Sun) that “proved” that it was the latter that actually corresponded to the “real world” – such as it is and as far as we can know of it. And likewise with current string theory: lots of very clever math which has, apparently, advanced knowledge therein but it is the question as to which of the 10^500 variations actually corresponds to reality which is the crux of the matter.

Please, god, no, not this again. We just had a 600 post thread because one of the local weirdos wasn't willing to give on this. Non-euclidian geometry was well established as true nearly a century before the theory of relativity came along. You have the relationship exactly backwards.

Anonymous said...

LOLin' hard at the idea of math being empirical.

I'd like to see some empirical evidence for the infinity of prime numbers (a result which was established 2300 years ago).

Anonymous said...

Someone please collect a sample of 10,000 right triangles and show that the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the two sides. With 95% confidence, por favor, and I'd like to see some ANOVA charts. I don't trust that guy Pythagoras, he believes in the Divine.

Steersman said...

E.H. Monroe said: Please, god, no, not this again. We just had a 600 post thread because one of the local weirdoes wasn't willing to give on this. Non-Euclidian geometry was well established as true nearly a century before the theory of relativity came along. You have the relationship exactly backwards.

I think you’re misreading what I said which was that the (general) theory of relativity proved that space was non-Euclidean. I quite understand that the mathematical theories of non-Euclidean geometry had been developed well before there was a call for it in physical theories. But here’s a Wikipedia quote for you:

Einstein's theory of general relativity shows that the true geometry of spacetime is non-Euclidean geometry. …. Until the 20th century, there was no technology capable of detecting the deviations from Euclidean geometry, but Einstein predicted that such deviations would exist. They were later verified by observations such as the slight bending of starlight by the Sun during a solar eclipse in 1919, and non-Euclidean geometry is now, for example, an integral part of the software that runs the GPS system. It is possible to object to the non-Euclidean interpretation of general relativity on the grounds that light rays might be improper physical models of Euclid's lines, or that relativity could be rephrased so as to avoid the geometrical interpretations. However, one of the consequences of Einstein's theory is that there is no possible physical test that can do any better than a beam of light as a model of a geometrical line. Thus, the only logical possibilities are to accept non-Euclidean geometry as physically real, or to reject the entire notion of physical tests of the axioms of geometry, which can then be imagined as a formal system without any intrinsic real-world meaning. [My emphasis]

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, some dude told me that every integer greater than one can be represented as a unique product of prime numbers. He did not offer any empirical evidence. Instead, he came up with a weird talk about factors, identities, summands and other terminology that sounded like metaphysics (I'm sure he's trying to obscure the issue). Can you believe this nonsense?

He told me to read a math book. Sooo typical! I called Courtier's Reply, of course. That's what us intellectuals do. Before talking about that numerical stuff those crazies better prove us skeptics that numbers exist, otherwise it's just meaningless blabber and I-DON'T-WANT-TO-HEAR-ABOUT-IT.

Anonymous 1107 said...

Anonymous said: .... Read "God is Back- How the global rise of faith is changing the world" ...

Steersman: Other statistics would seem to contradict that argument. For example, Jerry Coyne’s website here which references another blog which has more details.

P.S. It might be useful for you to identify yourself in some way as there seems to be another “Anonymous” here who seems to be of an entirely different cast of mind. Either that or you’re playing both ends against the middle ...



I doubt the article's validity linked by Coyne. Where did the author base his statistics? In fact the recent Gallup Poll June 3, 2011 shows that more than 9 in 10 Americans continue to believe in God.

The survey says:

Despite the many changes that have rippled through American society over the last 6 ½ decades, belief in God as measured in this direct way has remained high and relatively stable. Gallup initially used this question wording in November 1944, when 96% said "yes." That percentage dropped to 94% in 1947, but increased to 98% in several Gallup surveys conducted in the 1950s and 1960s. Gallup stopped using this question format in the 1960s, before including it again in Gallup's May 5-8 survey this year.

In 1976, Gallup began using a slightly different question format to measure belief in a deity -- "Do you believe in God or a universal spirit?" -- and found that 94% of Americans agreed. That percentage stayed fairly steady through 1994, and is at 91% in the May 2011 survey.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/147887/Americans-Continue-Believe-God.aspx

The summary of the God is Back is this:
Since the enlightenment, intellectuals have assumed that modernization would kill religion and that religious America is an oddity. The book argues that religion and modernity can thrive together, and that the American way of religion is becoming the norm. Many things spark the global religious revival in the twenty first century, including the failure of communism and the rise of globalization; it is now being fuelled above all by market competition and a customer driven approach to salvation. These are the qualities which have characterized America since the founding fathers separated the church and state, creating a free market in religion defined by enterpreneurship, choice, and personal revelation. If you want to understand the politics of this century, you cannot afford to ignore God whether you believe in Him or not.

The very things that were supposed to destroy religion -- democracy and markets, technology and reason -- are combining to make it stronger.

In China it is estimated that there are about 100 millions Christians alone.

___________________________________

Although I have never commented here before I am a regular reader. And although I am not a Christian, I believe in God.

What pisses me off are the New Atheists who think only them have the monopoly of reason. In simple terms, New atheists are assholes.

Science and faith can co-exist. What exactly does faith in God stiffles? Almost everyday there are high tech gadgets being invented for our enjoyment. You are thinking about the Galileo episode. However, science has moved on and moving all the time, so now we are into quantum physics.

Regarding ethics, eg. abortion, homo marriage, well, believers in God also have the right to express their opinions.

Live and let live. Except that atheism might be nearing its expiry date.

Steersman said...

Anonymous said: LOLin' hard at the idea of math being empirical. I'd like to see some empirical evidence for the infinity of prime numbers (a result which was established 2300 years ago).

I expect you may have a different definition for empirical than the one I’ve been using – which I quoted earlier but for reference it is:

“a. Relying on or derived from observation or experiment”

And, using the “observation” term and your(?) subsequent comment about Pythagoras, one might say that on observation of the geometrical construction of squares on the sides and on the hypotenuse – an experiment, one might say – one can conclude that the sum of the former equals the latter.

You would – with your ANOVA charts and confidence levels – appear to be using a fairly narrow definition of “empirical”.

Hey guys, some dude told me that every integer greater than one can be represented as a unique product of prime numbers. He did not offer any empirical evidence. Instead, he came up with a weird talk about factors, identities, summands and other terminology that sounded like metaphysics (I'm sure he's trying to obscure the issue).

I really fail to see how factors and summands and identities, not to mention various rules for their combination, constitutes something other than empirical evidence – at least in the sense provided above: you observe the consequences of doing an experiment in which you follow the rules specified by the axioms of mathematics from which you make a conclusion which happens, in this case, to be another theorem.

But if you’re trying to suggest that such “non-empirical” operations are in any way, shape or form equivalent to the prestidigitation of theology then I really don’t think the implied conclusion or syllogism (?) – mathematics is non-empirical and theology is non-empirical but theorems in mathematics are provably true so those of theology are likewise – is really going to fly at all. For one thing the referents, the objects, the rules and axioms of mathematics are tangible and real and the conclusions – the subsequent theorems – actually have both some utility in the real world and correspond to real world phenomena – an entirely different kettle of fish with theology.

Though I recollect reading a bit in book on mathematics – Rudy Rucker’s Infinity and the Mind – which argued that “Logic and set theory are the tools of an exact metaphysics”. So maybe down the road theology might get to claim some kinship with mathematics but I would say that, at the moment, it’s quite a bit over the horizon …

Anonymous said...

"Someone please collect a sample of 10,000 right triangles and show that the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the two sides. With 95% confidence, por favor, and I'd like to see some ANOVA charts. I don't trust that guy Pythagoras, he believes in the Divine."

Nice. So the belief in a God is as powerful a right triangle and an infinite number of primes.

Where does this perfect right triangle exist? Where do you put those inifine primes? In your closet?

Untenured said...

Reading comments here and from earlier, one thing is established. People seem to have a really, really hard time grasping the fact that mathematics is not dependent upon sense experience. This is yet another job for psychology: why is naive empiricism so intuitively compelling?

BenYachov said...

>So, it would seem that you’re prepared to accept, as a metaphysical proposition and without any requirement for “empirical evidence”,

Steersman's Religious Fundamentalist counterparts make the same mistake. It's called the either/or fallacy.

With them it's either you accept the Bible alone (without tradition & Church) or you accept Tradition and Church alone without the Bible.

When in fact it's both the Bible, with Tradition/Church.

In a like manner it's not empiricism alone vs metaphysics alone(nobody here advocates that get clue Fundie Atheists!). It's both empiricism and metaphysics.

After all Aristotle/Aquinas start their metaphysics and First Principles by trusting their senses and interpreting Being from there.

BenYachov said...

>Nice. So the belief in a God is as powerful a right triangle and an infinite number of primes.

What does God have to do with anything yet? Prove your weird views on empiricism in a solely empirical manner. Like you demand for God. Put up or shut up.

BenYachov said...

BTW reading Steersman's lame responses to Anon and attempts to pettifog the issue by avoiding the simple question "How do you establish Empiricism alone is the only meaningful means to know reality via empiricism" I can tell he still hasn't gotten off his backside and read the two essays by Feser on Scientism.

>I expect you may have a different definition for empirical than the one I’ve been using – which I quoted earlier but for reference it is:

>“a. Relying on or derived from observation or experiment”

I don't see why anyone would have a problem with the above definition? Based on it as the agreed upon definition please answer the question? How do you prove Empiricism is the sole means of proof empirically?

When are you going to give us a real argument Steerie boy?

The difference between Steerie and myself is this if I stopped believing in any type of God or gods tomorrow I would still reject this Positivist Nonsense he believes on logical grounds and hold all Atheists who believe it with the same intellectual disdain I as a Theist hold toward certain view held by religious fundies.

I would be in good company with Atheist philosophers like the early AJ Flew who reject it at the height of his Atheism or atheist philosopher David Stove who rightly judges Karl Popper and Hume irrationalists. Which they are.

New Atheism is intellectually inferior.

E.H. Munro said...

I think you’re misreading what I said which was that the (general) theory of relativity proved that space was non-Euclidean. I quite understand that the mathematical theories of non-Euclidean geometry had been developed well before there was a call for it in physical theories. But here’s a Wikipedia quote for you:

When you can draw a Euclidian right triangle on the face of a sphere, get back to me. Physics may not have had a use for hyperbolic and elliptical geometry until the 20th century, but mathematicians had long known that it was true. As I said, you have the relationship backwards.

Physicists didn't need to accept the truth of non-Euclidian geometries after Einstein, they had to accept the truth that space was non-Euclidian.

The only productive thing to come out of this is that we now know that the Sola Emprica! crowd understands that their standard is anti-rational. Unfortunately, rather than becoming more rational you're all instead trying to define rationality down, since this whole canard about relativity "proving" non-Euclidian geometry is apparently getting bandied about in atheist fora as a "proof" of Sola Empirica!

BenYachov said...

>The only productive thing to come out of this is that we now know that the Sola Emprica! crowd understands that their standard is anti-rational.

Hey when I was in college I thought YEC was strongly plausible. But I evolved to coin a pun. I learned I didn't need to believe in YEC to believe.

But I am not sure hardcore anti-philosophy Atheist Fundies can do the same? Some of them may need to believe in Sola Empirica.
They might not know how to disbelieve without it.

Sad in a weird way.

RH said...

Pattsce said...I'm not sure if you've actually read TLS or anything else Feser has written. I recommend doing so before you make any decisions on these issues. Your criticism of his sexual ethics shows that you don't quite understand his arguments.

But you don't indicate how that is so. Please give me some reason to think that's the case.
I posted quotes of what Feser did indeed write, which contained a line of reasoning that was obviously dubious. If someone writes even a paragraph about evolution in which he says "Given that monkeys still exist, humans couldn't have evolved from monkeys" then you don't need to go perusing this person's whole book to notice the fallacy already inherent in the statement and how it indicates unsound arguments are behind it.

I have seen some of Feser's other comments on Natural Law and homosexuality, and it indicates Feser does indeed offer more of the same fallacious reasoning.

Note that another Feser commentator (a Thomist one would presume) tried to answer the question about the Final Cause of human mouthss, and his response only indicated more fallacious reasoning. If you understand Feser's argument and Natural Law/Final Causes, can you even indicate to me the direction of the solution for the question I posed?

If someone posed the "why are there still monkeys?" question about evolution I could say something like: "Well, if you just understood evolution, and what Darwin wrote, you wouldn't ask such a question. But Darwin carefully builds his case on The Origin Of Species for 500 pages, so it's too complicated to discuss here."

Or, in fact, if I actually understood Darwin and evolution theory, it would be relatively easy to at least point out where the "monkeys" question is going wrong. And in doing so, it can justify
some confidence that Darwin's arguments may have merit. But saying "you are wrong...but I won't indicate how...just go read the whole book" offers no compelling reason to think better arguments will follow.

And what about the portions I cited of Fr. Kenneth Baker's review of The Last Superstition?
I have yet to see a critique of the New Atheists that wasn't strewn with straw-men and false charges and deep misunderstandings. Does even a favorable review of the book indicate Feser will provide something different?
No. I quoted Baker explaining Feser on the motivation for atheists (and the new atheists) and I call Feser out on this as being utter nonsense. The review indicates Feser is peddling the same misunderstandings as the other critics.

I suggest that neither Prof Feser nor anyone here can defend the assertions that atheists rejection of God belief is due to the idea that we wouldn't like it if it were true. Which is the real reason no one has taken up this issue here.


RH

Matthew G said...

"I have yet to see a critique _by_ the New Atheists that wasn't strewn with straw-men and false charges and deep misunderstandings."

/fixed

BenYachov said...

So basically RH you haven't read TLS yourself but are relying on arguments from authority?

Ironic considering it's one of the phony charge Macdonald made in the first places.

Get a clue guy. Please? Ya killing me!

BenYachov said...

>"Given that monkeys still exist, humans couldn't have evolved from monkeys" then you don't need to go perusing this person's whole book to notice the fallacy already inherent in the statement and how it indicates unsound arguments are behind it.

Unless the person goes on to say

"That however doesn't exclude the possibility monkeys and humans might have a common ancestor".

Your lame rationalizations for proof-texting are not convincing RH.

Not in the least.

BenYachov said...

>I suggest that neither Prof Feser nor anyone here can defend the assertions that atheists rejection of God belief is due to the idea that we wouldn't like it if it were true.

When have we ever tried? Remind me?

Anonymous said...

@Steersman,

You would – with your ANOVA charts and confidence levels – appear to be using a fairly narrow definition of “empirical”.

Nope. You are using a very broad definition of "empirical." Let me explain you.

Consider these two arguments:

1. The sun has been rising every day since for a long time. Therefore, it will rise tomorrow.

2. Given a finite sequence of primes, the product of that sequence plus one is a number that is either (a) a prime and not in the sequence; or (b) a non-prime that is factored by a prime that is not in the sequence. Therefore, prime numbers are infinite.

Argument (1) is an inductive, empirical argument. It relies on repeated and controlled experimental observation to reach a probabilistic conclusion. On the other hand, argument (2) is a deductive argument: an argument from pure reason; it doesn't require any sense-experience nor controlled observation to reach what is an obvious conclusion.

You mention that "triangles are empirical" in the sense that we observe them in nature and then try to abstract their properties in our heads, thus mathematics is empirical. This is a stretch. Having particulars in nature that instantiate triangular forms doesn't imply that every argument on triangles is going to be an empirical one, in the exact sense of the word. Moreover, the example lends itself to this fallacy -- consider 'harder' abstractions like algebraic rings or functions. You don't "see" them in nature, but they do exist, and we have plenty of nice, solid results on them.

And in no moment I am alluding to theology. The point that I was (sarcastically) trying to make last night is that logic and metaphysics work through deductive argument. Empiricism is a metaphysical position, therefore it's not above metaphysics itself -- you cannot 'prove' that empiricism is true with empirical evidence without going in circles.

Anonymous said...

@Anon (3:53AM):

Where does this perfect right triangle exist? Where do you put those inifine primes? In your closet?

Cool lesson on nominalism. But if you're going to deny that infinity exists just because you cannot instantiate anything infinitely in the natural, material world, then I've got a (mathematical) bridge to sell you.

The ball's on your side. COME AT ME BRO.

Anonymous said...

RH, if you really have not read a critique of the new atheists that, by your lights, wasn't an attack upon straw men, then only two things are possible. 1)You don't read very much. 2)You do read, but you just aren't very good at abstract reasoning. If you answer 2)you are in good company. There are lots of smart people who can't reason abstractly. We have sufficient evidence that Jerry Coyne can't, that Richard Dawkins can't, that P.Z. Myers can't, and that about 90 percent of their sexually frustrated, pasty white 18-25 year-old-male combox sycophants can't either.

Tursunov said...

I think a distinction between truths of reason and empirical facts would be helpful here.

Pure mathematics and metaphysics deals in the former, whereas science deals in the latter.


That said, I think the best cure for this idea that metaphysics is nothing but "empty scribbling that doesn't map onto reality" would be to just pick up a good introductory book on metaphysics and read it.

RH said...

Anonymous wrote:
RH, if you really have not read a critique of the new atheists that, by your lights, wasn't an attack upon straw men, then only two things are possible. 1)You don't read very much. 2)You do read, but you just aren't very good at abstract reasoning...

Very nice. Now that you've got that set of supercilious aspersions off your chest (is there some rule that you have to fulfill a number of haughty replies per day in order to be a follower of Feser? It certainly seems so)...are you ready to address the issues?

Fr. Baker in his review wrote: "According to Feser, secularism is...." (and I posted the whole descriptive paragraph). Now, did Fr. Baker misrepresent Feser's claim or not? Or was Baker accurate when he explained that Feser claims atheists actually reject God "willfully" on the basis of the consequences for our behaviour (instead of on the reasons for our disbelief)?

If Baker's summation is inaccurate, why don't you or Feser say so? If it's not, then my critique of Feser's claim is relevant and no one has answered me. Unlike your post which was mere assertion, I provided an argument for why Feser's claim did not comport with my actual epistemological behavior as an atheist and hence has no basis. Show me how Feser would still be right about my motivations, and I'm wrong, please.

RH

RH said...

BenYachov,

So basically RH you haven't read TLS yourself but are relying on arguments from authority?

That claim does not follow from anything I have argued. Nowhere have I argued "Because X authority says Y, therefore Y is to be taken as true."

And we atheists are accused of reading incomprehension?


Re Evolution Theory example:

Unless the person goes on to say

"That however doesn't exclude the possibility monkeys and humans might have a common ancestor".


Excellent. See, that wasn't so hard was it? I would start with a similar reply should someone make that "why are there still monkeys?" claim.

This implies you should be able to do the same for Thomism in the case I've brought up.

So, what then is the similar move that helps get Feser's logic out of the problem I highlighted?

In the quotes supplied, Feser uses our sex organs as an example to explain how one can, through observing how they are shaped and react, divine the Final Cause of our sex organs. And that this is "clear." He also says that ""It cannot possibly be good for us to use them in any other way, whether an individual person thinks it is or not." (From which this supposedly implies gay male sex acts would not be "good" whether it results in mutual pleasure or not).

Now, given Feser seems to be so confident in this, and finds it so easy to give examples of "clear" final cause to parts of our biology, my challenge is for him or somebody here to explain the Final Cause for our mouths. And I explained how another Thomist here already tried...with poor results. Because on the reasoning given about the Final Cause for our sex organs, it implies one could also infer it was bad/wrong to use our mouths for kissing.

So..what is your additional premise, or move, that illuminates this issue, and indicates consistency and non-arbitrariness in the application of this Final Cause/Natural Law stuff?

RH

BenYachov said...

@RH

I wrote:
>>So basically RH you haven't read TLS yourself but are relying on arguments from authority?

You responded:
>That claim does not follow from anything I have argued. Nowhere have I argued "Because X authority says Y, therefore Y is to be taken as true."

So why is it so hard to plainly say in plain English "Yes you are right I didn't read it" or "No you are wrong I in fact read it"?

>And we atheists are accused of reading incomprehension?

You can't plainly affirm or deny in plain written English wither you read TLS or not?

Why should I waste my time answering your other blather if you can't be straight with me?

DNW said...

" Empiricism is a metaphysical position, therefore it's not above metaphysics itself -- you cannot 'prove' that empiricism is true with empirical evidence without going in circles.

August 17, 2011 9:20 AM"

That is probably as good a jumping off point for further discussion as exists on this thread.

BenYachov said...

>(From which this supposedly implies gay male sex acts would not be "good" whether it results in mutual pleasure or not).

Well anal sex is objectively, scientifically and medically unhealthy.

I read that in the VILLAGE VOICE back in the 90's. I thick it was called. Sad picture he painted of his lifestyle. Very sad but regardless.

RH since you don't understand natural law and believe you can somehow understand it from a few book reviews and sound bites why should anyone here take your "arguments" seriously?

That is common sense.

BenYachov said...

Wow what happened to my HTML?

The article I read in the Voice was called CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER MALE PORN STAR.

Sad picture he paint of his lifestyle. Sad and painful indeed.

Brian said...

Tursonov, can you recommend any such books?

Steersman said...

E.H. Munroe said: Physicists didn't need to accept the truth of non-Euclidian geometries after Einstein, they had to accept the truth that space was non-Euclidian.

If you’d take the time to read my posts (2, count them, 2) a little more closely you would see that that is exactly what I said:

Both Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry are “consistent” (more or less at least as far as I know), but it was Einstein’s theory of relativity and associated tests (bending of light around the Sun) that “proved” that it was the latter that actually corresponded to the “real world” – such as it is and as far as we can know of it.

… what I said which was that the (general) theory of relativity proved that space was non-Euclidean.


That you apparently seem to insist on misreading my statements – and responding with straw-man arguments I might suggest – would also suggest arguing in bad-faith.

DNW said...

" ... would not be "good" whether it results in mutual pleasure or not ..."


What makes "pleasure" good? Its conventionally stipulated deployment as a synonym?

BenYachov said...

>Now, given Feser seems to be so confident in this, and finds it so easy to give examples of "clear" final cause to parts of our biology, my challenge is for him or somebody here to explain the Final Cause for our mouths.

Me thinks RH confuses Paley's teleology with Final Causes?

Also it may be possible one can't condemn all homosexual activity via natural law alone. Which is why Catholics rely on revelation with Tradition and Church.

OTOH RH is also begging the question since he is judging the "Condemnation of Homosexuality" negatively via the moral standards of Utilitarianism which he hasn't proven to us is a valid moral standard.

Mr Veale said...

I believe that both scripture and the Natural Law tradition refer to acts that should not even be named.

RH said...

BenYachov said...

(Letting it go for now whether the following is true or not).

Well anal sex is objectively, scientifically and medically unhealthy.

Yes...and?

This statement from you implies that one ought not engage in anal sex BECAUSE it is medically unhealthy. Is that the basis for not engaging in anal sex? I thought Natural Law would say one ought not engage in anal sex because it is not the final cause of our sexual organs. After all, gay men engage in varieties of other mutual sexual behaviour that are not medically threatening. So why aren't you making an explicit appeal to Natural Law, rather than apparently arguing from "it's medically unhealthy?"


Further, many of the things we do as human beings put us at medical risk. Football, wrestling, hockey, rugby, extreme sports, rock/mountain climbing...the list is endless. Hell, even playing a string instrument in an orchestra means you are likely to have specific hearing damage from the horns behind you.

Does it follow from the fact that there are medical risks and liabilities to all these behaviors that THEREFORE we "ought not engage in those behaviors?"

Do you see how your reply does not indicate you have a good answer ready for these questions?

Now you want to say I don't understand Natural Law. Fine. Except you are unwilling to Indicate to me that Natural Law holds any promise whatsoever. Whereas I would be happy and willing to give reasons why someone skeptical of evolution should think that theory a promising one.

I am asking questions to elicit responses based on Final Cause natural law, so this is your chance to indicate Natural Law provides cogent answers. Yet whenever someone here even attempts to answer, it indicates the liabilities of Natural Law thinking. So "you don't understand Natural Law" is no response.
If YOU understand Natural Law, then you should have decent answers to the questions I pose.

Instead of actually trying to reply to questions like "What is the Final Cause of the human mouth?" it seems most here are happier to reply "You don't understand" rather than actually reply with even a little substance that indicates YOU understand.

It is much easier to say "Go away and read a book" rather than actually discuss your beliefs when someone is right there ready to point out the fallacies as you present them.

RH.

Anonymous said...

Ben,

Which is why Catholics rely on revelation with Tradition and Church.

Slavery and geocentrism among other things were tradition. There were the sinful things like autopsies, vaccinations, blood transfusions, artificial insemination, organ transplants and in vitro fertilization. When do you change the tradition?

I'll bet you don't answer the question seriously.

Anonymous said...

Ben,

Being a sloped headed, sexually frustrated, ignorant, amoralist atheiest excuse me while I knock over a liquor store and spend the dough on hookers and blow while I wait for your response.

Tursunov said...

Brian said: "Tursonov, can you recommend any such books?"

Off the top of my head:

Michael Loux's Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction is a good comprehensive introduction to the field.

http://www.amazon.com/Metaphysics-Contemporary-Introduction-Introductions-Philosophy/dp/0415401348/

David Oderberg's Real Essentialism, which Feser often recommends, is great as a defense of classical Aristotelian metaphysics.

http://www.amazon.com/Essentialism-Routledge-Studies-Contemporary-Philosophy/dp/041587212X/

And of course there's a nice terse chapter in Feser's Aquinas devoted to explaining and defending Aquinas' metaphysical scheme.

http://www.amazon.com/Aquinas-Beginners-Guide-Oneworld/dp/1851686908/



(Lately, I've also been reading a book by a nuclear physicist, Ian J. Thompson, who happens to have a solid grounding in philosophy. It's entitled Philosophy of Nature and Quantum Reality, and it's essentially an attempt to show not only how Aristotelian ontology can be integrated with quantum reality, but also how that integration gives us a more coherent picture of the world.

http://www.amazon.com/Philosophy-Nature-Quantum-Reality-Thompson/dp/1449966489/

Anyway, I mention it because many discussions on this blog have wandered into that topic - the seeming incompatibility of quantum reality with Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics, or how quantum reality forces us to be interminably skeptical of certain essential premises in Thomas' cosmological argument (I believe it was dguller who suggested this) - and I think reading a book by a nuclear physicist who knows his way around metaphysics would be illuminating.)


Needless to say, utilize the "search inside" function to get a better idea of what they're about.

DNW said...

"Does it follow from the fact that there are medical risks and liabilities to all these behaviors that THEREFORE we "ought not engage in those behaviors?"


Does it follow from the fact that in playing Russian Roulette you might blow your brains out, that you should not do it, even if it might give you a perverse kind of "pleasure"?

Well, maybe not.

One would think however that it might be reasonable to conclude that no one else is morally obligated to sweep up afterwards, or to underwrite the costs of your playing the game.

BenYachov said...

>Slavery and geocentrism among other things were tradition.

Not really.

Tursunov said...

@Brian

I haven't read this one yet, but some say that it's a better, more accessible introduction to metaphysics than Loux's book:

E.J. Lowe's (whose homepage I note that Feser has linked) A Survey of Metaphysics

http://www.amazon.com/Survey-Metaphysics-J-Lowe/dp/0198752539/

Steersman said...

Untenured said: People seem to have a really, really hard time grasping the fact that mathematics is not dependent upon sense experience.

If that is the case then do please tell me how you can actually do mathematics without sense experience. The various relations presumably still exist whether you or anyone else senses them or not. But you can’t then say that they have any relevance and consequence to those who aren’t there – existing – to sense them.

In addition, one might also say the same thing about science, physics in particular: the mass or charge of an electron is not dependent on any “empirical” tests of those properties – whether ANOVA statistics and confidence levels are used or not. Unless you want to say that it is consciousness itself (aka sensing) which creates such properties which would then lead to the assertion that – sauce for the goose – the same thing applies to mathematical properties.

BenYachov said...

RH,

Did you or did you not read THE LAST SUPERSTITION? Have you read anything on Natural Law outside of sound bites?

It's not a hard question to answer genius. Stop being such a F***ing Gnu and answer please?

>It is much easier to say "Go away and read a book" rather than actually discuss your beliefs when someone is right there ready to point out the fallacies as you present them.

Just as it's easy to bitch like a Drama Gueen (pardon the pun) about something you are too lazy to read about and too dishonest to admit clearly you haven't read anything about.

Read, learn, make a credible argument or f*** off! It's not hard & not unreasonable on my part to make that demand.

BenYachov said...

BTW I don't see how kissing is comparable to sodomy?

Plus Natural Law doesn't hold Paley's mechanistic functionalism.

RH you are giving me Paley not Final Causality. But if you read the TLS you would know that.

Kissing can be sinful if I kissed a close relative the same way I kiss my wife. Or any woman other than my wife or a man.

Anonymous said...

RH, I'm not going to be as belligerent as BenYachov (honestly, I think he needs to drape a wet washcloth over his forehead right now), but you must realize that a proper presentation of Thomistic thought requires a prolonged, extremely nuanced build-up, which is not the sort of thing that a combox discussion lends itself well to. It would be like asking Jerry Coyne to give a robust, knock-down defense of Darwinian evolution in a combox. It is not practical, and it has been done elsewhere.

BenYachov said...

I have re-read AQUINAS on Natural Law but I am not going to waste a night of GAMING AND MODDING to explain it to RH's lazy arse.

Especially when he can even plainly tell me if he read TLS or not.

Do your own homework!

Steersman said...

Ben Yachov said: “So, it would seem that you’re prepared to accept, as a metaphysical proposition and without any requirement for empirical evidence …”

Steersman's Religious Fundamentalist counterparts make the same mistake. It's called the either/or fallacy.


So, if you’re unwilling to make a choice between those two metaphysical propositions – i.e., god exists, and god does not exist – then presumably you might think that there are others, maybe that god both exists and does not exist, or maybe it is the case that it is true that neither does god exist and that neither does god not exist. Or maybe you have some other form of logic – deus ex machina, perhaps – that will likewise get you off the horns of that dilemma?

Metaphysics may have some utility, but it also seems to have some serious problems, a goodly number of which seem to come from wishful thinking, from wanting to have your cake and eat it too. Since someone brought up the point I took a look at the Wikipedia article on the topic of metaphysics [Tursunov – thanks for the recommendations] which has this:

Rudolf Carnap, in his book “Philosophy and Logical Syntax”, used the concept of verifiability to reject metaphysics:
“Metaphysicians cannot avoid making their statements nonverifiable, because if they made them verifiable, the decision about the truth or falsehood of their doctrines would depend upon experience and therefore belong to the region of empirical science”.


And that precise point is part of my skepticism about some of Feser’s comments, specifically on classical theism:

The doctrine of divine simplicity has a number of crucial implications, which are, accordingly, also essential to classical theism [the doctrine of the Catholic Church – or not, depending on which way the wind is blowing]. It entails that God is immutable or changeless, and therefore that He is impassible – that is, that He cannot be affected by anything in the created order.

Logically incoherent – at best. If one conceives of something that can not be affected by anything we do then it seems a little difficult to see how there is anything we can do that would prove its existence – whether by logic and other such “non-empirical” methods or by direct observation. Which makes any assertions as to its existence highly questionable – at best – and seems entirely on par with assertions as to the existence of the proverbial invisible pink unicorn. And, in addition as a practical matter, if that is really the case then one might reasonably ask the question, why does the Catholic church apparently argue, or suggest, that prayer is worth more than a plugged-nickel?

And relative to my statements about “metaphysical propositions”, yours about my “Religious Fundamentalist counterparts” would seem to be a very large red herring and evidence of evading my question and point.

After all Aristotle/Aquinas start their metaphysics and First Principles by trusting their senses and interpreting Being from there.

Well, I’m very glad to see that we apparently agree on that point – progress! But since you seem so skeptical about the validity of empiricism and if metaphysics is dependent on that and if empiricism is flawed then what the heck makes you think that your metaphysics won’t be likewise?

BenYachov said...

>So, if you’re unwilling to make a choice between those two metaphysical propositions – i.e., god exists, and god does not exist –

Steersman we asked you a straight forward question. Prove empiricism is the sole means of evidence empirically?

Put up or shut up.

>! But since you seem so skeptical about the validity of empiricism

I am not at all skeptical of the validity of empiricism anymore than I reject the Bible because I reject it as the sole rule of faith.

Now answer my question. We are not going to debate god at all. You will prove your philosophy of empiricism alone via empiricism. Otherwise we have nothing to say to one another.

Anonymous said...

Ben,

Stop being a F****** A*** and answer the question.

Or is the game that only you ask the questions? Slavery is in your Book of Revealed Wisdom. Jesus never condemned it.

Slavery and geocentrism among other things were tradition. There were the sinful things like autopsies, vaccinations, blood transfusions, artificial insemination, organ transplants and in vitro fertilization. When do you change the tradition?

BenYachov said...

>Rudolf Carnap, in his book “Philosophy and Logical Syntax”, used the concept of verifiability to reject metaphysics:

Then using the same concept of verifiability how can he prove his own metaphysical belief in anti-metaphysics true?

BenYachov said...

>Stop being a F****** A*** and answer the question.

You first.

RH said...

BenYachov,

You finally made a half-hearted attempt to defend the Natural Law argument for the Final Cause of our sex organs...and got burned (I indicated why your appeal to the medical liabilities of anal sex doesn't act as a defense of Natural Law, and that your reasoning does nothing to differentiate gay sex as being "wrong" from many other pursuit you Catholics don't condemn).

So now you are back to insults.

Not terribly surprising.

BTW I don't see how kissing is comparable to sodomy?

That's not an argument. It's not an answer to my challenge.

What is the Final Cause for our mouth? Feser seems to think that looking at the organs in question can make the answers "clear."

I don't care WHAT you call Feser's reasoning, Paley-like, Thomistic, whatever...the fact is he made explicit inferences from the shape and reactions of sex organs to his conclusion of their Final Cause.

So what is the Final Cause for our mouth? Does it involve KISSING? If it does, how do you know? If it doesn't, how is it kissing wouldn't be worthy of condemnation on the same reasons as anal sex? (That kissing is to use our mouths in a way contrary to their Final Cause).

You simply can not seriously keep taking the position that such questions aren't pertinent, as if they are only born of my naivete. These are questions that Natural Law MUST be able to answer if it is of any worth. And someone who understands Natural Law ought to be able to answer these questions without clearing his throat, shuffling his feat, casting insults and saying "go read a book."

Yet this seems a difficult task for you thus far.


RH

Anonymous said...

A question wasnt posed to me.

And I asked first.

...crickets

Steersman said...

Ben Yachov said: Steersman we asked you a straight forward question. Prove empiricism is the sole means of evidence empirically?

“I think, I observe, therefore I am.”

The proof is in the observation of the observation of the observation of the observation …. It’s an infinite regress, the terminus of which is the process of observation itself.

And seems to me that you are in fact being a F**** A****; several people – myself included – have asked for a little more detail, some analysis of your own, which you respond to with snarky insistence on reading some book. If you don’t understand the concepts well enough yourself to explain them then say so because, absent anything further, that would seem to be a reasonable conclusion.

Steersman said...

Anonymous said: … but you must realize that a proper presentation of Thomistic thought requires a prolonged, extremely nuanced build-up

There may be some truth to that comment – possibly more so about the wet washcloth – but I think you also have to consider the other side of the coin. Making that assertion seems analogous – on the face of it at least – to an assertion that one must read great tomes about astrology and alchemy before being able to discuss their value: if it is known that there have been no provably true consequences to the theories and assertions then such demands hardly seem justifiable. There may be some historical value in understanding the psychology, the motivations for such “disciplines”, but it should be obvious that they don’t correspond all that terribly well to the way reality actually operates.

Unless you can show that the discipline – the arguments about the use of sexual organs in this case – actually hold some water one has to reasonably ask why one should spend much effort trying to understand how they do so and what benefits might follow from them.

captainzman said...

So what is the Final Cause for our mouth? Does it involve KISSING? If it does, how do you know? If it doesn't, how is it kissing wouldn't be worthy of condemnation on the same reasons as anal sex? (That kissing is to use our mouths in a way contrary to their Final Cause).

I answered this objection in the other post, but you are clearly incapable of looking for yourself, I'll post it again. You are under the impression you can only use things for their final cause, but natural law theory only condemns something for using it in a means contrary to its natural function (something that is clearly incompatible, not something that is different from), and even if kissing is not a final cause of lips, there is nothing about kissing that interferes with or frustrates the final cause of lips.

A drastic example of using lips contrary to their purpose would be sewing them shut, or if you prefer more common examples (although a roundabout one), using them to lie or throw up food in order to lose weight. The only reason is a people are "ignoring" this objection is because it's a very poor one. Feser explicitly addresses it in The Last Superstition.

The issue of sex is different is different from kissing, because according to natural law, sodomy and the like are clearly using the sexual organs contrary to their final cause, and once again, Feser clearly addresses how we can know determine this final cause in his book.

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