Saturday, December 29, 2012

Trabbic on TLS


Philosopher Joseph Trabbic kindly reviews The Last Superstition in the latest issue of the Saint Austin Review.  From the review:

[This] is no ordinary book of apologetics.  Edward Feser is a professional philosopher of an analytic bent whose main body of work is in the fields of philosophy of mind, moral and political philosophy, philosophy of religion, and economic theory.  Thus, alongside a number of scholarly articles, Feser has published introductory volumes to contemporary philosophy of mind, John Locke, Robert Nozick, and, most recently, Thomas Aquinas.  He has edited the Cambridge Companion to Hayek (the Austro-British economist and philosopher) as well.  Feser’s qualifications allow him to prosecute his case with a philosophical sophistication that is not found in many apologetic treatises.  One might say that as a Christian apologist Feser is overqualified
 
Feser does not just offer arguments for God’s existence and for what has come to be called “traditional morality” (although he does offer these arguments, as I have mentioned), he also argues for a Platonic-Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophical approach and against modern philosophical approaches.  And Feser does not do this in any gentle, deflationary way.  He insists, and attempts to show, that the classical philosophical tradition is demonstrably superior to the modern.  Feser’s way of doing philosophy is refreshingly red-blooded and virile, not for the philosophically faint of heart

Feser capably shows [that] Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, for all their bluster, are, ultimately, intellectual lightweights, and Dennett, who is certainly the most philosophically astute of the group, nevertheless, fails to come even remotely close to a compelling argument for the New Atheism.

A word might be said about the tone of these pages.  Feser’s writing is often quite casual and, shall we say, undiplomatic

Of course, unlike most of the New Atheists, Feser can indulge in these sorts of ad hominem attacks because of the other truly sound arguments he makes that justify them.  Some readers might find such harsh commentary uncharitable. This reviewer finds it entertaining.  And let us not forget that the writings of Dawkins and Co. are loaded with barbs going the other way. Is it beneath a Catholic author to reply in kind?  Incivility is often uncalled for and unhelpful but this is not always so. This was certainly not the way that St. Thomas More thought about the matter in his infamously (or famously) “colorful” exchange with Luther.  It is a prudential question.

40 comments:

Ask-nostic said...

I'm reading your book, Feser. And it's okay so far.

But one thing I think you might not have considered.
You write quite a bit about Act and Potency. A potential can't be actualized unless acted on by something external to it that is already an actualized.

A hat (with the actuality of resting on my head) has the potential to be blown off of my head. Something external to my hat, the wind, is actual. So, it can actualize the hat being blown off of my head. Okay, I get that.

But the one thing Thomas Aquinas (and you, apparently) didn't consider are movement of molecules within that thing.
Say a pencil is balanced on the edge of a table... it could be actualized to end up on the ground by someone pushing it or the wind blowing on it.
OR....
the degradation of the molecular structure WITHIN that pencil could cause it to break down and possibly end up on the floor.

The important point here is this:
It wasn't something external to the pencil that cause it to fall. It was the pencil's very own (internal) molecules breaking down that caused a potency to be actualized. Nothing external to it, no other ACT needed to work upon the pencil to bring a potency into act.

Or your rubber ball example.
Sure, heat CAN be applied to it to turn it into a puddlely goo.... or, and however unlikely it may be, the movement of the molecules within that ball could very well have brought about that act from it's potential.
In this case too - it was nothing external to the ball, no other act that needed to act up on the ball to actualize a potency. It was simply the movement of molecules WITHIN the ball itself.

**my caps locks are not meant to yell. Simply to highlight a point**

Eduardo said...

You see that is catch Ask, Aristotelianism is hollistic.

You see your argument rests on the assumption that the parts are the whole whey they are all bunched together in the right manner of course. But Aristotelianism and Thomism doesn't pressupose that, for them the whole is not the sum of the parts ONLY

Daniel Smith said...

Ask-nostic,

The distinction you see may be the distinction between active potency and passive potency (I'll let the experts here confirm). Active potency is 'self-contained' while passive potency requires something external.

ask-nostic said...

"You see your argument rests on the assumption that the parts are the whole whey they are all bunched together in the right manner of course. But Aristotelianism and Thomism doesn't pressupose that, for them the whole is not the sum of the parts ONLY"

Okay....
So then molecules (protons, neutrons, electrons) those do have the ability to actualize their own potential?

George R. said...

Daniel and ask-nostic,

Nothing reduces itself to act. Neither active potency nor passive potency can actualize itself. Whatever is moved is moved by another. Things seem to move themselves, but if you really think about it, you'll see it's not so.

Edward Feser said...

Hello Ask-nostic,

No one is claiming that pencils, rubber balls, etc. can only be affected by something external to them. When I say, for example, that the potential gooeyness of the ball cannot actualize itself, I don't mean that only heat external to the ball can actualize it, and in fact I'm not really saying anything about the ball itself in the first place. What I mean is that the ball's gooeyness cannot actualize itself, precisely because it is only potential. That remains true even if t is something internal to the ball that does the actualizing.

Ask-nostic said...

Im not trying to miss something here, but couldn't the random movement of molecules be the unmoved mover?
I guess that's my main point.
They can actualized potential on their own with out something more fundamental than them aiding them in actualizing their potential.

Eduardo said...

What I meant ask is that the part of the pencil actualizes the potential of the pencil itself, which makes sense on hollistic view but doesn't make much sense in bundle theor because the second says the sum of the parts is the whole.

The random movement of a particule ... the vibration of a water molecule is due to itself or due to a "potencial field" around it???

So does the molecule force itself to move in random motion or to vibrate, or is this caused by it's neighbours?

1)If you choose the first one, then the molecules potential's could be all actualized, after all the molecule is already actual, unless you break down the actualizing abilities of the molecule in a certain way that the molecule could choose what it will actualize next.

2)If you choose the second one then the molecule moves the way it does due to action of other molecules.

weareallneillennon said...

Wait wait wait.

Isn't the motion/change brought about by internal action of molecules etc the same type of example as animal movement, which is discussed in TLS?

Michael said...

weareallneillennon,

Yes, Ask-nostic's counter-example is the same kind of scenario as animals being self-movers (in the loose sense), which we know Feser explicitly talks about in the book and which the same solution applies.

In a related matter, as I learn more and more about metaphysics and Thomistic philosophy I find the principles of act and potency more and more open to misunderstanding. Examples from the sciences are just that, examples, which contain much more than what they are trying to explain. By very the specificity of the principles, the door is left wide open for someone to take away an inchoate understanding of the principles in conjunction with accretions that are not part of them. For instance, often times it seems people take away the notion that potency and potential are synonyms, leading to a lot of confusion on how God could possibly create the world or do anything whatsoever.

It seems to me that an organic analysis of change and the development of the philosophy of nature is needed to see where the principles of act and potency come from and some of their limitations. And from learning this, then one will be able to see how the principles can be used. For instance, the notion of a subject of change and receptivity go hand in hand, which seems to me very important to understand lest someone confuse potency with potential.

I'm learning a lot from Klubbertanz's Introduction to the Philosophy of Being. Anyone else heard of this book; thoughts?

Chris said...

Note, I still struggle as a fledgling Thomist.

Only God is pure Act. It is not clear to me how an immaterial being, like an angel, can be a composite of act and potency?

Matthew said...

Wrt molecules, wouldn't it be the case that, even if there is no "external" actualizer of their potential for movement, that the molecule behaves as it does through the operation of its metaphysical parts, like, say, its Form or Nature? It seems to me that this is just what one means when one ascribes their movement to some principle of nature, unless one is a Humean.

rank sophist said...

Ask-nostic,

But the one thing Thomas Aquinas (and you, apparently) didn't consider are movement of molecules within that thing.
Say a pencil is balanced on the edge of a table... it could be actualized to end up on the ground by someone pushing it or the wind blowing on it.
OR....
the degradation of the molecular structure WITHIN that pencil could cause it to break down and possibly end up on the floor.


As Eduardo said, Thomism is holistic. When an entity changes, you must consider it as an entity and not as an atomistic heap of particles. When the pencil breaks down, it is because something has acted on it. The particles composing the pencil are indeed affected by this change in the pencil, but they do not cause the pencil's degradation. That's putting the cart before the horse: you're presupposing a reductionistic, deterministic system based solely on efficient-material causation. That's the only way a particle could "cause" the degradation of the pencil, since the whole is merely the sum of its parts. Not so for Thomism. Under Thomism's holistic, non-deterministic system of four causes, the pencil's molecules are changed as a result of an agent acting on the pencil. The pencil is an entity in its own right, without any consideration of its particles. While these particles do exist, they are part of the pencil's matter: only one half of the matter/form unity that is a pencil. As a result, causation must be considered in a top-down rather than bottom-up manner.

So, when the "molecules of a pencil" break down, what is happening is that the matter-half of the pencil is being subjected to change. I'm not clear on the exact scientific details of molecular degradation, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's a bit like radioactive decay. That is, it is not obviously caused by some external entity at the precise moment it occurs, unless we presuppose the existence of "physical laws" that exert efficient control over matter. (Thomism rejects physical laws: it considers such things as gravity to be intrinsic to entities and not to be extrinsic forces that "act" on entities.) Now, if this is the case, then the cause of the molecule's degradation may appear to be itself. But that's not true. As Prof. Feser has said, the cause of radioactive decay is the efficient cause that created the particle in the first place. It is not necessary that every event be caused deterministically ("this entity only changes when that entity changes it"), but that every event have a cause at some point in time. Likewise, Thomism would never say that gravity was caused at every moment by a deterministic law: it is an emergent feature of nearly all entities that is not caused except at the beginning of an entity's creation. It exists, according to determinism, "uncaused"; but Thomism's four-cause system has a far broader understanding of causality, which applies even to quantum events.

Chris,

Only God is pure Act. It is not clear to me how an immaterial being, like an angel, can be a composite of act and potency?

Aquinas struggled to solve this as well. The result was the essence-existence distinction, in which essence is a kind of potency (although a very different kind than matter) and existence is act. In God, essence and existence are identical. This essentially means that "essence" and "existence" become apophatic terms when applied to God: we can only say that God neither has essence as we understand it nor existence as we understand it. I can't find the Pseudo-Denys quote at this time, but it clarifies what I'm trying to say. Basically, all labels fall short of God and so must be negated, but not in the strong sense of a yes/no binary. All good things may be said of God, but none of these labels exhaust him: and so we must simultaneously ascribe them to him and acknowledge that they do not do him justice.

Charlie said...

Like some of the other commenters, I'm also currently reading _The Last Superstition_, and I love it.

Since I'm also Catholic, I greatly admire St. Thomas, and am trying to learn some introductory Thomism. I was told by a friend to read a few of your books, and so far, what I've read is brilliant (especially with the humor; I particularly enjoyed the bit about contemporary sophism and Michael Moore).

So, keep up the good work.

rank sophist said...

Chris,

One more thing. An "essence" and a "form" are different, with essence being higher on the food chain. (If memory serves, essence and existence deal with the ontological while form and matter deal with the "ontic", although I may be confusing terms.) All beings are essence-existence hybrids (aside from God, who is not a "being"), but not all beings are form-matter hybrids. Separated souls and angels are pure forms, without any matter; but, because they are beings, they are essence-existence hybrids nonetheless. As a result, they are act-potency hybrids even without matter.

John Burford said...

@ Ask-nostic

I think your self-moving pencil example is similar to the self-moving cat example that Feser gives. Sure, in a superficial (but ultimately false) sense, a motionless cat can "actualize" its own "potential" to move. But on a smaller level, the neurons in the cat's legs are fired by other neurons, which are activated by the release of certain neurotransmitters, etc.

So in your pencil example, the molecules within the pencil are moving/degrading, and their potential for movement/degradation is being actualized by XYZ physical forces, etc.

It's easier to see the actualization of potentialities in such cases if you look at things on the micro level.

BenYachov said...

Ask-nostic's example reminds me of a conversation I had with a friendly Atheist with some professional knowledge of physics over at Biologos some years ago.

His objection was a heavy mass star goes Supernova "by itself" or under go's nuclear fusion "by itself" without any "external cause".

This is the same category as with "animal self movement".

As I recall I did point out to the chap that a high mass star doesn't blow itself up so much as the fact it fuses all it's hydrogen throws off the equilibrium between Fusion & gravity (where gravity loses big time because of it's Mass).

For something to be truly un-caused you would need it to occur without sufficient conditions and not by necessity.

Can a Blue Giant that hasn't fused all it's hydrogen go Supernova?

I think not.

Anyway I hope the answers help Ask-nostic to understand.

Cheers.

Quire said...

"For something to be truly un-caused you would need it to occur without sufficient conditions and not by necessity."

Mmmm I'm not too sure about your argument here, Ben. What about tunnelling? For instance, during alpha particle radioactivity, the alpha particle doesn't possess enough energy (according to ordinary physical laws) to overcome the attraction of the nuclear force yet is somehow able to escape the nucleus - isn't that something occurring without "sufficient conditions and not by necessity"? Or is this simply due to the imprecise nature of our current understanding of Physics and hence we don't really know what "sufficient conditions" are? But if so, isn't that creating some God of the Gaps?

BenYachov said...

>isn't that something occurring without "sufficient conditions and not by necessity"? Or is this simply due to the imprecise nature of our current understanding of Physics and hence we don't really know what "sufficient conditions" are?

The later.

>But if so, isn't that creating some God of the Gaps?

I don't understand the question?

Are you suggesting tunnelling is a supernatural phenomena?

I have no reason to believe this is the case. God-of-the-Gaps is brought into play when we have an unexplained natural phenomena. There is also an Atheism-of-the-gaps they takes unexplained causalities to be examples of "uncaused" events.

I as a matter of principle reject all gap arguments.

Eduardo said...

Well you have suffcient conditions for a tunneling effect.

Perhaps sufficient must be discussed for each effect, so maybe we know the sufficient conditions for some things and we sre uncertain about others or have no idea about them when we have no experience with it.

Eduardo said...

No Ben, he is saying that we might not know when we have a sufficient condition for a particular effect.

However I think there is a catch in this talk. Is sufficient meant to be a passive element that molds itself around our experiences, or is sufficient an active feature that dictates or is part of our experiences?

The first one becomes just a vague group, which elements slowly we mold until it becomes consistent with our experiences, like a man that gets a rock wishing to mold what he believes it's a man. He gets a chair and slowly sculp it until it is as similar as he desires and congratulates himself on sculping a man.... But since the concept of man was vague if not non existent from the very beginning the man just became a chair xD.

Papalinton said...

Is it unreasonable to observe that this review is of one Catholic philosopher commenting on another Catholic philosopher? A shared perspective, not only on the thrust of the philosophical POV but also the manner of the polemics. Trabbic certainly seems enamoured with the tone of the book.

And that's fine. Nothing wrong with that. But in reading around, the only ripple being created or felt by Dr Feser's TLS seems to be largely, if not exclusively, within theological circles. And that too, is fine. It is to be expected, given the challenge that Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett et al have delivered to christian, including Catholic, theology. Needless to say, Aristotelian and Platonic philosophies, particularly as interpreted through the Thomist perspective have also come under some scrutiny, because of their inadvertent Thomist religious connection.

It is clear that Dr Feser is not an advocate for mainstream philosophy. And that too is fine. He is entitled to his philosophical opinion. But it seems neither TLS, nor Aquinas (A Beginner's Guide) have produced anything substantive that will impact on the general thrust of contemporary mainstream philosophy.

I don't think Dr Feser's call to arms for a return to traditional Scholasticism is a solution to today's challenges going forward. I liken such a call to a 'back to basics' retrospective rather than a 'forward to fundamentals' conversation. But that is the nature of conservatism.

Eduardo said...

The challenge that Dawkins, Hitchens and Dennett have delivered LOL, oh my saint Darwin, what an amazing comment.... Oh wait is not sarcasm?

Paps aren't you banned, why you keep posting???? What goes in that empty head of yours that makes you think that you have anything worth to say??? Seriously, you are just a political bigot parading as a complete idiot to anyone that is not like you. Seriously, it baffles how imbeciles like you infest the internet; and I love your attempt to imtimidate people, considering that most activists such as yourself just have that, becuase your brain has not evolved to have any kind of rational thought, after all just a amoeba-brain like you could produce all that shit you call comments and yet, don't feel one bit concerned that maybe you maybe be an idiot.... Oh wait a forgot you do know! You are just so fake and worthless that you pretend you are not!

Paps, since you have no morals and probably no brain, I hope you have a great 2013.... In the mad house you live in 8D, and may they increase your number of pills so you can be saved from yourself.

BenYachov said...



Where is dguller? We need his sane Atheism. Someone worthy as a critic of Thomism no wannabes.

A certain Gnu Atheist once migrated from the Forum over at RitchardDawkins.com to PZ Myers Blog Combox and the collective IQ on both Websites when up.

ask-nostic said...

"It is clear that Dr Feser is not an advocate for mainstream philosophy."

Papalinton, you and I should probably be agreeing with each other.

But answer me, please, what does "mainstream" have to do with the truth of the matter (on any topic)? The truth of the matter isn't determined by democratic vote.

Or maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're saying.

ask-nostic said...

Hmmmm.. maybe there's a problem with my atomic particles as the unmoved Mover.

I'm not certain I necessarily agree with what you're all saying. But you might have a point there, Ben.


Reading over Feser's section of the book where he talks about a ball's gooeyness being actualized from something already actual (heat), opposed to that potential being able to actualize itself (because, as Feser says, if it could actualize its own potential it would have done it already... since it can't consciously deliberate on the decision), by my thinking that atomic particles (or sub atomic particles) are able to actualize their own potential it feels like I'm granting atomic/subatomic particles the conscious ability to deliberate on the decision ("actualize this potential in 5 minutes as opposed to doing it right now"). And that doesn't feel right to me.


okay.... so say anything at all (a tree, or whatever) currently has how it actually is. Now that anything has some potential that could possibly be actualized (a pile of wood chips). Is Feser saying that it's not necessarily an issue about how that potential (pile of wood chips) was actualized just simply that the potential couldn't will itself into being actualized?

BenYachov said...

@ask-nostic

Paps is a troll bro don't waste any time with him.


Anonymous said...

Rank sophist said:

"...Thomism is holistic. When an entity changes, you must consider it as an entity and not as an atomistic heap of particles."

John Burford said:

"Sure, in a superficial (but ultimately false) sense, a motionless cat can "actualize" its own "potential" to move. But on a smaller level, the neurons in the cat's legs are fired by other neurons, which are activated by the release of certain neurotransmitters, etc.

So in your pencil example, the molecules within the pencil are moving/degrading, and their potential for movement/degradation is being actualized by XYZ physical forces, etc.

It's easier to see the actualization of potentialities in such cases if you look at things on the micro level."
(end quote)

Aren't these contradictory? Under Thomism, who/which is right here?

rank sophist said...

Reading over Feser's section of the book where he talks about a ball's gooeyness being actualized from something already actual (heat), opposed to that potential being able to actualize itself (because, as Feser says, if it could actualize its own potential it would have done it already... since it can't consciously deliberate on the decision), by my thinking that atomic particles (or sub atomic particles) are able to actualize their own potential it feels like I'm granting atomic/subatomic particles the conscious ability to deliberate on the decision ("actualize this potential in 5 minutes as opposed to doing it right now"). And that doesn't feel right to me.

There's a reason. Particles are not self-movers--only animals and rational beings are, if I remember correctly. But that does not mean that every event must have an efficient cause at the very moment that it happens. If it is in the nature of an atom to decay, for example, then this decay is caused by the formal cause. The cause that actualized the formal cause--the cause that brought the atom into existence--, is the prior efficient cause in this series. Unlike in determinism, it is not necessary for Thomism that an event happen solely through efficient causation. The matter of the pencil degrades because the formal cause of the pencil, which has been imposed upon otherwise identity-free matter, tends toward (final cause) such degradation. Prof. Feser has referred to this as an effect emerging "spontaneously" from an entity. It is still a matter of act and potency, though: form is the act to the potency of matter.

rank sophist said...

I should add that this is, once again, because Thomism is holistic. In a way, the microscopic entities composing macroscopic entities don't exist in the strong sense. Microscopic entities are wholly defined by macroscopic entities and exist only "virtually" within them.

BenYachov said...

Happy New Year people!

Questioner said...

Hi.

I am reading TLS now and I have a question that bothers me.

According to Aristotle, a thing is composed of form and matter (hylemorphism) and the form can be considered as the essence of the thing. From this conception, a table contains the essence of "tableness". However, a table obviously does not always exist and in fact was created by human. Does this mean "tableness" is created by human?

If the answer is yes then I find it contradicts Aristotelian conception of causality which means that human needs to possess "tableness" to create a table. How does tableness is created by human?

rank sophist said...

Happy New Year, Ben.

Questioner,

According to Aristotle, a thing is composed of form and matter (hylemorphism) and the form can be considered as the essence of the thing. From this conception, a table contains the essence of "tableness". However, a table obviously does not always exist and in fact was created by human. Does this mean "tableness" is created by human?

If the answer is yes then I find it contradicts Aristotelian conception of causality which means that human needs to possess "tableness" to create a table. How does tableness is created by human?


You are actually correct. Tableness was created by humans. A table is an artifact rather than a proper substance, which means that it does not have a substantial form. This does not mean that it doesn't have a form, though, since it has an accidental form. This accidental form was created by the human intellect--which means that the effect (the table) pre-existing within its efficient cause (the human), just as Aristotle's causality requires. For a fuller view, read this article from Prof. Feser: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/07/atheistic-teleology.html

rank sophist said...

Missed something.

Anon at 8:50 PM,

Aren't these contradictory? Under Thomism, who/which is right here?

They are somewhat contradictory, but neither of us is technically wrong. John is using an example similar to those used by Prof. Feser in TLS and elsewhere, which uses reductionism to make a point. It can't be taken absolutely literally, though, because then you fall into all the related pitfalls of reductionism. In technical philosophical terms, the cat in John's example is a self-mover at the macroscopic level, because its animal soul (form/act) directs its matter (potency) toward this or that end. Further, the matter of the cat is itself macroscopic: bones, tissue and so forth. The microscopic particles being analyzed here are not the cat's matter, but are rather "virtual" existents within the substance. In the strict sense, they cannot be said to have any causal power over the cat or its matter: every firing neuron or shifting molecule is merely "along for the ride" within the matter as it is moved by the form. Studying these particles may improve our understanding of macroscopic phenomena, however, and their existence in no way undermines Thomistic holism. You just have to put them in their proper place--as elements of an irreducible whole, determined by that whole rather than vice versa.

This is all a bit hard to process for most of us (me included), since we were raised on bottom-up causality, determinism and reductionism; but it is true nonetheless. Reductionistic examples like John's are great for bridging the gap between the ancient and modern sensibilities.

Papalinton said...

ask-nostic
"But answer me, please, what does "mainstream" have to do with the truth of the matter (on any topic)? The truth of the matter isn't determined by democratic vote."

Please don't conflate 'mainstream' with 'consensus'. There is plenty of differing perspectives within mainstream philosophy that do not for one moment constitute consensus. And much of mainstream [for want of a better descriptor] philosophy seems as connected with Aristotelian and Platonic notions of philosophical thought today as in previous times. Indeed mainstream philosophy now no longer seeks to draw on past masters alone, but more importantly, seeks input from a significantly wider knowledge-base, particularly the new and highly promising fields as diverse as the neuro-sciences [neurobiology, neurophysiology, neuropsychology etc etc], to the range of social sciences [psychology, anthropology etc] than Aquinas was privy to. These new and emerging disciplines of scholarship and investigation are in great measure rewriting what it is to be human.

It is the Thomistic interpretation of Aristotelian philosophy that seems is not being engaged in the mainstream in as big a role in today's discourse as Dr Feser would wish it. This is partly due by virtue of its uniquely catholic theological origins, through Aquinas, and partly because philosophers see no need not defer to Aquinas should they wish to engage Aristotelian thought or Platonic ideas direct. It is not the nature of Thomist philosophy, based as it is on Aristotelian thought, rather it is the Catholic theological underpinnings, that provides little inspiration or motivation within the contemporary philosophical conversation. Catholic theology, as many philosophers realize and understand, is but one of an almost incalculable number of competing and differing and oftentimes exclusive, theological perspectives extant, both Christian and elsewhere.

So mainstream does not mean consensus. Rather, mainstream philosophy has largely moved past the P-A-T approach, just as much of contemporary philosophy equally has now moved on from regarding religion as a foundational source of deliberative knowledge going forward.

ask-nostic, I note in your question, 'The truth of the matter isn't determined by democratic vote.'
I suspect you have yet to apprise yourself of the determinations of the catholic magisterium. One could quibble on the notion of democratic, but of the pivotal role of the vote in the magisterium to determine the truth of a matter? No. Regardless of whether the vote be by a majority or unanimous. It is a known fact that the determination of matters of truth within the catholic church has always been a function of consensus/vote since the adoption of the Nicene Creed in 325CE.

I think the irony here is that atheism assuredly is not the last superstition, as Dr Feser imagines.

Eduardo said...

Ask-nostic

Do you noticed that Paps wrote a huge amount of stuff where the main drive was to attack religion, because you know, that is the meaning of life to this guy.

But notice just this one thing, he is saying that truth is decided by democratic vote! You know people don't care about this or that philosophy because of some reason .... So does that proof that this philosophy that people don't care is wrong.... NOPE. But Paps thnks it does and that is all our favorite Secular Humanist needs.

reighley said...

@BenYachov,

"Or is this simply due to the imprecise nature of our current understanding of Physics and hence we don't really know what "sufficient conditions" are?

The later."

Every time quantum effects come up as a counter example to causation I wonder whether the principle of causality requires that a cause be knowable and expressible by we humans.

For instance, if quantum mechanics were true we could still adopt Bhom's idea of a quantum potential and then a tunneling event could be ascribed a cause.

Yet, since the quantum potential is fundamentally invisible to us (or to any other being or instrument made of matter) we would not be able to compose an explanation for the tunneling that didn't involve begging the question as to what the quantum potential must have been. So though we would have efficient causes they would be useless for constructing logical arguments around.

The point being that, even though denial of causality might be regarded as anti-rational, in fact causation must be subject to some constraint stronger than "everything has one" in order to keep the world intelligible.

I was wondering if you had any thoughts on what that constraint might be?

Brian said...

I am re-reading The Last Superstition right now. Although I "see" the strength of philosophia perennis and the profound weaknesses of the modern alternatives, my "sight" is only indirect.

I still have a lot of difficulty understanding just what is meant by the metaphysical concepts the book discusses. I cannot help imagining all sorts of spooky things when I read about, say, essence or potency or substance. This is my confusion, I know, but as good as TLS is, it does not do much to help me. I guess I am just very high-maintenance.

Anonymous said...

Indeed mainstream philosophy now no longer seeks to draw on past masters alone, but more importantly, seeks input from a significantly wider knowledge-base, particularly the new and highly promising fields as diverse as the neuro-sciences [neurobiology, neurophysiology, neuropsychology etc etc], to the range of social sciences [psychology, anthropology etc] than Aquinas was privy to. These new and emerging disciplines of scholarship and investigation are in great measure rewriting what it is to be human.

Isn't this putting the cart before the horse? The sciences have grown out of philosophy. Philosophy isn't concerned with empirical matters but with what's prior to them, and it seems to me that you have assumed, in asserting that these disciplines are "rewriting what it is to be human", that what it is to be human is to be nothing more than a bunch of molecules.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this putting the cart before the horse? The sciences have grown out of philosophy. Philosophy isn't concerned with empirical matters but with what's prior to them, and it seems to me that you have assumed, in asserting that these disciplines are "rewriting what it is to be human", that what it is to be human is to be nothing more than a bunch of molecules.

They are not rewriting what it is to be human. That just nonsense. You are correct that such proclamations are based on some materialistic belief or another. All that the science have done is help us better predict and control - albeit imperfectly - the activities on the human body. One I suppose can also argue that to some extend they have also helped us better predict and control some aspects of human behavior but it [sciences] have done absolutely nothing in rewriting what it is to be human. The so-called rewriting, which is just a awful and inaccurate view of the world and humans (materialism) is a philosophical activity.