Thursday, August 4, 2011

HPR on TLS

In the latest issue of Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Fr. Kenneth Baker kindly reviews my book The Last Superstition.  From the review: 

Feser offers a brilliant, careful analysis of the New Atheists’ position and shows that it is based on old philosophical errors and manifests a high degree of intellectual dishonesty, philosophical shallowness, and massive ignorance in the fields of history and theology.

Edward Feser knows what he is talking about, since he used to be an atheist.  But after studying the arguments of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas he came to see that materialism and naturalism cannot survive serious rational analysis…

If you are concerned about the increase of atheism in America and would like to understand the false arguments for it and how to refute them, I suggest you give yourself a treat by reading this challenging book.

21 comments:

Jon Winterburn said...

This is more great news. And it's an opportunity to return the favor by recommending Fr. Baker's wonderful three-volume work, "The Fundamentals of Catholicism", a comprehensive but popular and highly readable purview of just what it says.

curious cuber said...

If one were to categorize me with respect to belief in a deity, they would have a difficult time. That being said, I am reading TLS. I find it intriguing yet I am also compiling some questions to your conclusions.

In Baker's review: Edward Feser knows what he is talking about, since he used to be an atheist.

I think even you Edward would agree that your conversion had nothing to do with your knowledge of the "opposition" (bad choice), but, according to what I have read in TLS, following the philosophically rigorous method.

These are the kind of things that bother me about both "sides" (once again bad choice) when trying to have a fruitful debate.

RH said...

If Fr. Baker's review accurately represents any of the reasoning in Prof. Feser's book, it implies one will be treated to "more of the same" errors, strawmen etc, one sees from theistic critics.


Edward Feser knows what he is talking about, since he used to be an atheist.

This is not a promising beginning, given that this apparently did not equip Prof. Feser to make accurate assessments of
other atheists. (And the "I used to be an atheist" line is quite tired; I've yet to see an atheist-turned-theist who didn't evince really bad reasons for being an atheist).

But after studying the arguments of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas he came to see that materialism and naturalism cannot survive serious rational analysis.

As I have said before: funny how God's own purported revelation proved insufficient, and Mr. Feser found himself having to dust off the philosophy of ancient and medieval philosophers - mere human beings in the past - to "know" that naturalism is false. "Nice try at revelation God, but I'll stick with the philosophical proofs of a Greek and a medieval priest in showing you exist."

Human experience is permeated with awareness of the reality of purpose and design in the world,

Except that we have a VAST amount of data and argument showing how humans misinterpret their experience regularly, to infer patterns where there are no intended patterns, and that we have the tendency to attribute agency where there is no agency. The case of evolution is but one example where most humans inferred purpose and design (that is purposefulness in design) to the variety of biological forms, where the science of evolution shows us our intuitions were wrong. But some people just refuse to learn from experience...and can't stop helping themselves to the force of their intuitions.

Experience also shows that the human mind is essentially different from all material things because it grasps universal ideas that are independent of time and space. The obvious conclusion is that the human mind and soul are immaterial, because they can reflect back upon themselves when they know that they know.

None of that follows. Is it actually made sense of in Feser's book? The glimpses of Prof Feser's reasoning, given by Fr. Baker's review give little confidence.

RH

RH said...

Also:

"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."

This is an example of how adopting a religion like Christianity can run you so far off the track when trying to assess the motivations of other people. This is because Christianity, and the Bible, itself are suffuse with "divinely-inspired" nonsense about human nature.

I'm an atheist, hence secular. I don't believe in God because I've not encountered any good arguments or evidence for God, and every "revealed" God I've been presented with betrays all the ear-marks of being dreamed up by a group of human beings.

Yet of course Prof. Feser being a Christian just can't accept this. Since God exists it MUST be that I have some other motivation that I'm hiding and refuse to admit: It's not that I don't believe in God because nothing convinces me a God exists: It's that I WILL, I WANT there to be no God so I don't have to constrain my behavior as if He existed. In other words, Feser is arguing that my statement of non-belief is based on the consequences if God were real, vs a lack of evidence.

This is truly ludicrous. The notion that I, or other atheists, refuse to acknowledge realities BECAUSE it would be inconvenient to us if true, is manifestly false. It's rather inconvenient to me that cancer exists and threatens me. That diseases exist. That the world is armed to the teeth with atomic weapons. That yummy junk food makes us fat. That serial killers and AIDs exist. That my son has medical problems that constrain our lives. That the earth is warming dangerously. The list of inconvenient-to-truly-awful realities that I and any atheist accepts is virtually endless. We don't hide our head in the sand and say "I don't believe because IF it were true I don't like the consequences."
I BELIEVE in all those things because there is GOOD EVIDENCE for them. I don't believe there is an invisible alien outside our door today who is going to devour our family. But I don't disbelieve this because," oh boy if it were true I sure don't like that!" No. I don't believe it because THERE IS NO GOOD REASON TO BELIEVE IT.
But if such a scenario were true...of course I want to know it's true so I can have a chance to modify my behaviour!

If there were a God judging my actions and/or eternal consequences for my actions that ought to change how I act, I sure as hell would want to know it, just as I'd like to know of any other reality that ought to influence my behaviour.

So this tired trope from theists that atheists must have some ultimately selfish, immoral, "lack of accountability" motivation for disbelieving in their God is facile, error-strewn, desperate nonsense.

RH

Captainzman said...

"As I have said before: funny how God's own purported revelation proved insufficient, and Mr. Feser found himself having to dust off the philosophy of ancient and medieval philosophers - mere human beings in the past - to "know" that naturalism is false. "Nice try at revelation God, but I'll stick with the philosophical proofs of a Greek and a medieval priest in showing you exist."


And of course, if he had mentioned revelation,you would have criticized him for that too, presumably along the lines that the truth of atheism/naturalism is a philosophical matter and revelation has no say in such matters. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. All of this is beside the point, because the position of the Catholic Church it is possible to arrive at these conclusions through the use of reason.

"Except that we have a VAST amount of data and argument showing how humans misinterpret their experience regularly, to infer patterns where there are no intended patterns, and that we have the tendency to attribute agency where there is no agency. The case of evolution is but one example where most humans inferred purpose and design (that is purposefulness in design) to the variety of biological forms, where the science of evolution shows us our intuitions were wrong. But some people just refuse to learn from experience...and can't stop helping themselves to the force of their intuitions."

Funny that you mention evolution, because Feser devotes a bunch of pages to discussing how biologists can't help but use terms like "purpose" in their work, and how their work would be unintelligible if they could not.

"This is an example of how adopting a religion like Christianity can run you so far off the track when trying to assess the motivations of other people. This is because Christianity, and the Bible, itself are suffuse with "divinely-inspired" nonsense about human nature."

This must be an example of how adopting something like naturalism can run you so far off track when trying to assess the motivations of other people, because if I were to assess the motivations an Edward Feser, I would read the book in question before accusing him of all sorts of things.

RH said...

Captainzman,

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

But that is where you end up when you believe something you can't justify, right?
The a priori/empirical case for God - including his Special Revelation in The Bible - is terrible. It's not hard to see why retreats to metaphysical arguments are so attractive to some Christians, especially those who get into apologetics: If they can argue that God is a necessary assumption for any a posteriori/empirical inquiry, then they think they get a get-out-of-jail-free card whenever someone points out that a posteriori arguments for God fail. The christian thinks he can say "But God is NECESSARY and a necessary assumption for you to even reason as you do!" They will too often use this as a way to counter the atheist, when the atheist is showing just how bad the a priori/empirical arguments are for God. Other Christians, such as the purveyors of the Transcendental Argument for God do this as well.

All of this is beside the point, because the position of the Catholic Church it is possible to arrive at these conclusions through the use of reason.

Which says nothing about whether it's a defensible position that the church takes.

Funny that you mention evolution, because Feser devotes a bunch of pages to discussing how biologists can't help but use terms like "purpose" in their work, and how their work would be unintelligible if they could not.

That's as facile as the ubiquitous theistic reasoning that goes: "Given there are all these natural laws...that means there MUST be a Law Giver!"

Which is to make a simple conceptual error: terms like natural or scientific "laws" is an unfortunate carry over from earlier theistic thinking. What science discovers are regularities: "laws" are not prescriptions that go out and govern the universe, no more than phrase "the door is open" causes the door to be open. It's a description, not a prescription. Same with scientific/natural "laws."

Same goes for our casual use of the word "purpose." Yes we think in those terms a lot because we are purposeful creatures. If there has been one constant in our environment throughout evolution it's that we have always been in the presence of others of our kind.
And we need to recognize the intentions of other agents. Hence it makes sense we have an in-built tendency to look for agency and purpose, which can, like so many adaptations, over-reach.

It's easy to use the word, or the concept of "purpose" as a short hand and scientists KNOW when they are doing this. While it certainly can be convenient, you and Feser are simply wrong that one could not speak intelligibly about biology without resorting to such short hand.
Take a description of our the nature of our lungs and how they work: intercostal muscles expand and contract creating pressure variances that draw air into the lungs etc. We can talk about what the lungs are made of, how air travels through them, what happens to air in the lungs etc. The oxygen binds to hemoglobin and the carbon dioxide is released, among other phenomena. And we can explain: the process of breathing keeps oxygen concentration high and the carbon dioxide concentration low in the alveoli so this gas exchange occurs!

You can keep going like this giving an entirely intelligible picture of what lungs are made of and what they do, without ever once having to mention "purpose." If you added "the purpose is to" to any of the above, it is utterly gratuitous to understanding the nature of the system.

So this point about people, scientists included, ever using the word "purpose" as if this quirk of communication and language meant there must actually be a "Great Purposer" is just as wrong-headed as the reasoning that goes: "Natural/Scientific Laws must mean there exists a Natural Law Maker (God)."

RH

RH said...

This must be an example of how adopting something like naturalism can run you so far off track when trying to assess the motivations of other people, because if I were to assess the motivations an Edward Feser, I would read the book in question before accusing him of all sorts of things.

I can infer from what I've seen him write on his blog, and how it matches up with so many other Christians who took a similar approach.

As I said IF that reviewer accurately represented some of Feser's reasoning in the review, THEN Feser seems guilty of making these kind of errors. If that reviewer were inaccurate, I might have expected Prof. Feser to say so when announcing the review on his blog.

I do want to point out that it's not like I reflexively wish to diss whatever Prof Feser writes. I agree with a portion of what he writes, including sometimes his criticisms of some atheists. (I myself have been arguing with some atheists that they are engaging in strawmen versions of theistic arguments).

But I see no indication from anything Feser writes in his blog that there are good arguments waiting in the wings, or books, for his theism.

RH

captainzman said...

"But that is where you end up when you believe something you can't justify, right?
The a priori/empirical case for God - including his Special Revelation in The Bible - is terrible. It's not hard to see why retreats to metaphysical arguments are so attractive to some Christians, especially those who get into apologetics: If they can argue that God is a necessary assumption for any a posteriori/empirical inquiry, then they think they get a get-out-of-jail-free card whenever someone points out that a posteriori arguments for God fail. The christian thinks he can say "But God is NECESSARY and a necessary assumption for you to even reason as you do!" They will too often use this as a way to counter the atheist, when the atheist is showing just how bad the a priori/empirical arguments are for God. Other Christians, such as the purveyors of the Transcendental Argument for God do this as well."


It's hysterical how you complain about how Feser supposedly attributes false motivations to atheists... and then have no qualms doing the same to Christians. Because it's not like there could possibly be any good reasons to believe in God, right? But if a Christian dares to say, or in this case, another Christians implies that a different Christian dares to say, that there are no good reasons to be an atheist...

captainzman said...

That's as facile as the ubiquitous theistic reasoning that goes: "Given there are all these natural laws...that means there MUST be a Law Giver!"

Which is to make a simple conceptual error: terms like natural or scientific "laws" is an unfortunate carry over from earlier theistic thinking. What science discovers are regularities: "laws" are not prescriptions that go out and govern the universe, no more than phrase "the door is open" causes the door to be open. It's a description, not a prescription. Same with scientific/natural "laws."


Strawman much? The point of the Fifth Way is to show that you can't make sense out of these regularities without some sense of final causation.

captainzman said...

Same goes for our casual use of the word "purpose." Yes we think in those terms a lot because we are purposeful creatures. If there has been one constant in our environment throughout evolution it's that we have always been in the presence of others of our kind.
And we need to recognize the intentions of other agents. Hence it makes sense we have an in-built tendency to look for agency and purpose, which can, like so many adaptations, over-reach.

It's easy to use the word, or the concept of "purpose" as a short hand and scientists KNOW when they are doing this. While it certainly can be convenient, you and Feser are simply wrong that one could not speak intelligibly about biology without resorting to such short hand.
Take a description of our the nature of our lungs and how they work: intercostal muscles expand and contract creating pressure variances that draw air into the lungs etc. We can talk about what the lungs are made of, how air travels through them, what happens to air in the lungs etc. The oxygen binds to hemoglobin and the carbon dioxide is released, among other phenomena. And we can explain: the process of breathing keeps oxygen concentration high and the carbon dioxide concentration low in the alveoli so this gas exchange occurs!Same goes for our casual use of the word "purpose." Yes we think in those terms a lot because we are purposeful creatures. If there has been one constant in our environment throughout evolution it's that we have always been in the presence of others of our kind.
And we need to recognize the intentions of other agents. Hence it makes sense we have an in-built tendency to look for agency and purpose, which can, like so many adaptations, over-reach.

It's easy to use the word, or the concept of "purpose" as a short hand and scientists KNOW when they are doing this. While it certainly can be convenient, you and Feser are simply wrong that one could not speak intelligibly about biology without resorting to such short hand.
Take a description of our the nature of our lungs and how they work: intercostal muscles expand and contract creating pressure variances that draw air into the lungs etc. We can talk about what the lungs are made of, how air travels through them, what happens to air in the lungs etc. The oxygen binds to hemoglobin and the carbon dioxide is released, among other phenomena. And we can explain: the process of breathing keeps oxygen concentration high and the carbon dioxide concentration low in the alveoli so this gas exchange occurs!


Yes, and then we get to the function of the lungs, what they are for, oxygen concentration is kept high in order, etc. You can't describe any kind of structure without referring to some kind of purpose, goal-directedness, etc. sooner or later. I note that you mention we can explain "what lungs do" without reference to purpose, even though the phrase "what they do" implies some sort of final causation.

captainzman said...

I can infer from what I've seen him write on his blog, and how it matches up with so many other Christians who took a similar approach.

Well, I have read his book, and while he certainly levels this accusation at some atheists (particularly new atheists), he also recognizes other forms of atheism as much more respectable. His main salvo against atheism/naturalism is more along the lines that it leads to so many weird philosophical positions.

As a side note, it's certainly true that the motivations of certain atheists are irrational, especially when it does come to sex. History is replete with examples of people ignoring the truth in order to do what they want.

RH said...

Captainzman,

Strawman much? The point of the Fifth Way is to show that you can't make sense out of these regularities without some sense of final causation.

Please don't shift goalposts. You didn't speak of the The Fifth Way as showing you can't make sense of regularities without final causation. Rather, you (citing Feser) appealed to the phenomena of biologists using the terms "purpose" as support for the necessity of teleology in our explanations:

Funny that you mention evolution, because Feser devotes a bunch of pages to discussing how biologists can't help but use terms like "purpose" in their work, and how their work would be unintelligible if they could not.

Which is a different argument - you appealed to the behaviour of biologists in support teleology, not to Aquinus, and I directly addressed what you wrote.

Since that appeal fails, if you want to move to making claims about The Fifth Way, be my guest. But please don't suggest I didn't directly address the issue as you raised it.


Yes, and then we get to the function of the lungs, what they are for, oxygen concentration is kept high in order, etc. You can't describe any kind of structure without referring to some kind of purpose, goal-directedness, etc. sooner or later.

Actually, I just showed how you can do so. You can be told what lungs are and be told the process that occurs via lungs, without having to mention "purpose." So yours assertion thus far is unjustified.

Strictly speaking, talk of a "purpose" only makes sense when you appeal to the desires and intent of an agent. This is why scientists use the term "purpose" advisedly. "The action of lungs helps an animal survive" is descriptive at another level of what happens when lungs are in action. Saying "the PURPOSE of lungs is to help an animal survive" may come easily to us as a reflexive short-hand (though often wrong) for the reasons I already gave . But in terms of
understanding the phenomena of lungs, it tells you absolutely NOTHING more than can be said in purpose-neutral language.


I note that you mention we can explain "what lungs do" without reference to purpose, even though the phrase "what they do" implies some sort of final causation.


"Rockslides kill people"

and

"The oxygen binds to hemoglobin in the lungs"

are equal in terms of establishing any purpose; that is, none is implied. The fact rockslides do kill people in no way implies "The Purpose Of Rockslides Are To Kill People."

In exactly the same way, the second sentence in no way establishes purpose - it is simply a description of a phenomenon.

When you say: "what they do" implies some sort of final causation" that's only to someone who buys into aristotelian/Thomistic notions of "causation." I don't. Such teleological notions of "final cause" strike me as unjustified and a source of confusion for those who buy into it. Perhaps nowhere was this made more vivid than in Prof Feser's assertions about the Final Cause of sex organs (and Natural Law). It is just hard to believe a person who continually espouses his philosophical sophistication could produce such ridiculously weak assertions.

If anything warns of what happens when you swallow certain ancient/medieval metaphysics, the end results (e.g. muddled attempts to conscribe the use of sex organs via "Natural Law") produced by folks like Prof Feser are such warnings.

But if you want to adduce the term Final Cause to imply purpose, maybe you yourself can make sense of such things? Would you explain to me what the Final Cause is for human lips? (We want to make sure people are using them ONLY for their purpose, not immorally, right?).

Or, what is the Final Cause of rocks or granite or sandstone, and how you know this?

RH

captainzman said...

Please don't shift goalposts. You didn't speak of the The Fifth Way as showing you can't make sense of regularities without final causation. Rather, you (citing Feser) appealed to the phenomena of biologists using the terms "purpose" as support for the necessity of teleology in our explanations

It's not shifting goalposts. You're the one who brought it up when you said "That's as facile as the ubiquitous theistic reasoning that goes: "Given there are all these natural laws...that means there MUST be a Law Giver!" That was a clear reference to the Fifth way. I merely pointed out that your formulation of the argument was a poor caricature.

Actually, I just showed how you can do so. You can be told what lungs are and be told the process that occurs via lungs, without having to mention "purpose." So yours assertion thus far is unjustified.

You seem hung up on the word purpose. Fine. Use "function", or "goal" or "end"- something that denotes what the lungs "work towards". Any explanation of the lungs that does not tell me what the lungs are for is a poor one, and your explanation did nothing of the sort.

Such teleological notions of "final cause" strike me as unjustified and a source of confusion for those who buy into it. Perhaps nowhere was this made more vivid than in Prof Feser's assertions about the Final Cause of sex organs (and Natural Law). It is just hard to believe a person who continually espouses his philosophical sophistication could produce such ridiculously weak assertions.

If anything warns of what happens when you swallow certain ancient/medieval metaphysics, the end results (e.g. muddled attempts to conscribe the use of sex organs via "Natural Law") produced by folks like Prof Feser are such warnings.


So it all boils down to sex, right? Typical.

But if you want to adduce the term Final Cause to imply purpose, maybe you yourself can make sense of such things? Would you explain to me what the Final Cause is for human lips? (We want to make sure people are using them ONLY for their purpose, not immorally, right?)

Easy- to facilitate speech and eating.

captainzman said...

Such teleological notions of "final cause" strike me as unjustified and a source of confusion for those who buy into it. Perhaps nowhere was this made more vivid than in Prof Feser's assertions about the Final Cause of sex organs (and Natural Law). It is just hard to believe a person who continually espouses his philosophical sophistication could produce such ridiculously weak assertions.

If anything warns of what happens when you swallow certain ancient/medieval metaphysics, the end results (e.g. muddled attempts to conscribe the use of sex organs via "Natural Law") produced by folks like Prof Feser are such warnings.


One more thing that somehow didn't make it into my previous post. I find it natural law theories about sex much more sensible than secularist ones, which end up condoning monstrous practices like abortion.

RH said...

I want to genuinely thank you, captainzman, for your replies.
Much obliged!

First of all, it was a goal-post shift. You cited the language, sometimes used, by biologists to imply that assuming teleology was a necessary assumption for the work of the biologist in order to make sense of his work (which...the theist would argue...ultimately progresses to recognizing a purposeful creator).

I pointed out this was base on a confusion as to why a biologist ever uses the word "purpose" and that therefore your inferences from such use is flawed. This argument-from-language is, as I point out, a similar cognitive error from the argument-from-language that starts with "Since there are Natural Laws, there must be a Law Maker!"

IF you had instead cited any of the Five Ways arguments, that would be different. But you didn't; you cited the purported language of biologists in support of teleology, so it won't do to say I didn't actually address the issue AS YOU PUT IT.

"Any explanation of the lungs that does not tell me what the lungs are for is a poor one, and your explanation did nothing of the sort".

You are still bent on making gratuitous assumptions of "purpose" (implied by your use of the question "What is it FOR?")

You are being opaque in terms of what you actually want to learn. Either: 1. You want to learn about the nature and behavior of a phenomena in order to understand or predict it. Or: you simply want to gratuitously assume "purpose."

Take the statement:

"The Shark's fin propels it through the water."

Hmm..ok..but I want to understand how.

"The side to side movement of the Shark's tail fin creates waves against the body of the shark, producing the forces of "lift" and "thrust" that propel it through the water."

Cool. Now I understand to some degree how a shark moves through the water using it's tail fins.

Or take another bit of information:

"Sharks require oxygen to survive. A shark's gills filter and absorb oxygen from the surrounding water."

I've just learned more about sharks.

So, what does adding the phrase "IS FOR" get us? Let's try:

"The shark's tail fin IS FOR propelling it through the water."

Hmm...ok..but I don't see any more information added by the phrase "IS FOR." How does it do this?

"The side to side movement of the Shark's tail fin IS FOR creating waves against the body of the shark, producing the forces of "lift" and "thrust" that propel it through the water."

Ok. But I don't see one iota of new information I've just learned by adding the phrase "IS FOR."

Do you?

Same for adding the phrase "IS FOR" into the information about shark gills.

Hence I see no NECESSARY use for introducing IS FOR. Rather, such questions can act as a sort of short hand in the way I've already described the use of "purpose"- a shorthand used advisedly by biologists for talking about biology, but a presumption of teleology being unnecessary for understanding and describing biology.

So your assertions about the necessity of asking or answering "What is it FOR" questions to understanding biological phenomena are false.
It is not necessary to impart, or derive, information about biology. Unless you can actually show otherwise, rather than just demandyou want things phrased that way.

RH

RH said...

Captainzman,

Re- What is the Final Cause (end purpose) of Human Lips?

"Easy- to facilitate speech and eating."

Ok, let's see if this turned out so easy for you.

Turns out most of humanity has noticed we can derive pleasure from employing our lips in ways that are not the "final cause" as you have just stated. In case you haven't noticed, people really enjoy using their lips to KISS one another.

Now, following Feser's logic, what is good for human beings is to use our biological features only in a way consistent with their final cause or purpose, and that "It cannot possibly be good for us to use them in any other way, whether an individual person thinks it is or not.." (Hence to use sexual organs in other ways for pleasure, e.g. male homosexual behaviour, is deviant and BAD as it goes against their Final Cause).

Now, you have deemed the Final Cause for lips to be facilitating speech and eating. Unfortunately, people have found it to be a source of mutual pleasure to use their lips to KISS one another. Uh-oh. Bad People! It follows from Feser's Final Cause argument that, therefore, it can not possibly be good (and therefore must be BAD) to use our lips in any other way than you have deemed to be their Final Cause.

Therefore kissing is "bad" - in fact it can not even "possibly be good" to kiss as it goes against the Final Cause/purpose of lips as you've stated it.

Do you really wish to condemn kissing as morally bad, as you have in effect done? (I bet even Feser would not be comfortable in such a conclusion, despite this is where his logic goes...which is why his argument is so ridiculous).

Or...d'ya think maybe you should re-visit some of this "final cause" and "natural law" reasoning to see where you are going wrong?

(See, it wasn't that easy, was it? Imagine how tangled up you would have been if you tried to answer about the Final Causes of stones used for building materials....)

Cheers,

RH

captainzman said...

Ok, let's see if this turned out so easy for you.

Turns out most of humanity has noticed we can derive pleasure from employing our lips in ways that are not the "final cause" as you have just stated. In case you haven't noticed, people really enjoy using their lips to KISS one another.

Now, following Feser's logic, what is good for human beings is to use our biological features only in a way consistent with their final cause or purpose, and that "It cannot possibly be good for us to use them in any other way, whether an individual person thinks it is or not.." (Hence to use sexual organs in other ways for pleasure, e.g. male homosexual behaviour, is deviant and BAD as it goes against their Final Cause). Therefore kissing is "bad" - in fact it can not even "possibly be good" to kiss as it goes against the Final Cause/purpose of lips as you've stated it.


I'll answer your questions about biology/teleology later today, but let me address this first: I think you can probably make a case for "kissing" being another final cause of lips, or at least I see no difficulties in doing so (I also left out another obvious final cause for lips- to facilitate breathing, and I'm sure others can think up more final causes too). But that's not the real issue here. You seem to think that 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, and even if kissing is not a final cause of lips, there is nothing about kissing that interferes with the final cause of lips. A drastic example of using lips contrary to their purpose would be sewing them shut, or if you prefer a more common example (although a roundabout one), using them to lie. 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.

captainzman said...

Do you really wish to condemn kissing as morally bad, as you have in effect done? (I bet even Feser would not be comfortable in such a conclusion, despite this is where his logic goes...which is why his argument is so ridiculous).

I feel more comfortable following this chain of logic as opposed to where the standard secularist kind (you can do whatever you want with your bodies, kids!) leads to- acceptance of pornography, promiscuity, a variety of unsafe sexual practices, widespread divorce, and abortion.

captainzman said...

Ok. But I don't see one iota of new information I've just learned by adding the phrase "IS FOR."

Do you?


Yes. It tells me what the the tail fins, in general, do, as opposed to what they do not do. And the structure of the tails fins guarantees that will will perform certain functions and not others.

Same for adding the phrase "IS FOR" into the information about shark gills.

Same thing here. Gills are used for extracting oxygen, and not, let's say, for speaking.

I believe the difficulty comes in the ambiguity of the how you are phrasing your sentences. When you say "a shark's gills filter and absorb oxygen from the surrounding water" or "the shark's fin propels it through the water", I can take it one of two ways.

1)an empirical description
2)a statement about sharks in general, that is, a universal statement about "shark-ness".

This kind of general statement is all I need for final causes, because fins and gills are used for certain ends and not others. Indeed, they can only be used for certain ends.

RH said...

captainzman,

Sorry, I can't monitor all day threads that seem to go quiet. I didn't see your posts.

ME: Ok. But I don't see one iota of new information I've just learned by adding the phrase "IS FOR."

Do you?


YOU: Yes. It tells me what the the tail fins, in general, do, as opposed to what they do not do. And the structure of the tails fins guarantees that will will perform certain functions and not others.

No, this is an illusion. You can infer purely from a description of how fins function to what they will "do" and "not do" to the same extent adding "they are for swimming." Adding "it is for" does not give you any more information.

Say I gave essentially the same description of whale swimming. The movement of the whale's tail propels it through the water. Now, what happens when you say "the tail fins are FOR propelling the whale through the water?" Well, what happens if the Whale also employs his tail for communication? For sparring other male whales? For attacking enemies? Well then saying "The Whale's tail is FOR swimming through the water" actually didn't accurately let you know what a whale's tail will or will not do, and how it will or will not function, did it?

In order to get a full understanding of what a whale's tail actually WILL and WILL NOT DO entails making more observations, or statements, about what whale tails actually DO. Further, one can say what a whale's fin WILL NOT DO without mentioning "WHAT IT'S FOR." A Whale's fin will not make it fly through the air. Or: A Whale's fin operates with ONLY THESE EFFECTS. Which can be given in non-teleological ways, without reference to "what they are FOR."

So, no, adding "what X is FOR" is still unnecessary to understand what any X does, or can do.
To understand what any X does or is capable of, it can be expressed in language that bypasses gratuitous "what is it FOR" form.

This kind of general statement is all I need for final causes, because fins and gills are used for certain ends and not others. Indeed, they can only be used for certain ends.

But saying "A shark's fins are for propelling it through the water" doesn't let you know it can be used for other ends (as a thresher shark will use it's tail in combat). Nor does it restrict other possible ends for shark fins...e.g. our ends for shark fins - like "shark fin's soup." :-)

Again, to get any full understanding of what any biological feature does or does not do, you have to know what it actually does or does not do. Which can be expressed in language that need not be teleological, nor appeal to "But what's it FOR" questions.

RH

dawn reader said...

It's important to note that Aquinas , after finishing his thesis, had a personal experience of the Spirit of Truth, and said : All that I have written is but straw. I can do no more now but wait for death. within the year he was dead.