Friday, December 5, 2014

Working the net


The Daily Beast nominates Aristotle for a posthumous Nobel prize.  (Even Aristotle’s mistakes are interesting: Next time you see a European bison, you might not want to stand behind it.  Just in case.)

Physicist George Ellis, interviewed at Scientific American, criticizes Lawrence Krauss, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and scientism in general.  Some choice quotes: “[M]athematical equations only represent part of reality, and should not be confused with reality,” and “Physicists should pay attention to Aristotle’s four forms of causation.”

Richard Bastien kindly reviews my book Scholastic Metaphysics in Convivium Magazine.  From the review: “Feser’s refutation [of scientism]… alone makes the purchase of the book well worthwhile.”

At The Chronicle of Higher Education, philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel explains how David Chalmers’ book The Conscious Mind challenged his confidence in materialism, and scientist Andrew McAfee explains how Bjørn Lomborg’s book The Skeptical Environmentalist and the work of Julian Simon expose the ideological thinking underlying many environmentalist claims.

Mike Flynn calls attention to the new magazine Sci Phi Journal, which is devoted to science fiction and philosophy, naturally.  Here’s the website, and here’s the first issue.

While on the subject of science fiction: Jonathan Nolan is working on adapting Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series for HBO. 

Philosopher Anna Marmodoro is interviewed at 3:AM Magazine about Aristotle, causal powers, philosophy of perception, and the Incarnation.

On causal powers, laws of nature, and the medieval-to-modern transition: Eric Watkins’ anthology The Divine Order, the Human Order, and the Order of Nature: Historical Perspectives is reviewed at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.


I called attention recently to the DSPT’s video interviews with participants in its summer 2014 conference.  New interviews have since been added to the DSPT YouTube playlist, including clips with Fr. Thomas Joseph White, Msgr. Robert Sokolowski, Steven Long, and Matthew Levering.

The Thinker-Artist, Mark Anderson’s e-book of philosophical fiction, will be available for free at Amazon this Friday (today) and Saturday.

68 comments:

John West said...

“Feser’s refutation [of scientism]… alone makes the purchase of the book well worthwhile.”

Having just finished Scholastic Metaphysics, and (almost) an introductory metaphysics class, I would add that I think a lot of first and second year philosophy students taking metaphysics courses could benefit from it. I know the author intends a fairly narrow focus, but I found many concepts introduced in a far more easily understandable way than they were in class.

Greg said...

How is autonomy the centerpiece of O'Neill's defense of abortion if he opposes euthanasia and same-sex 'marriage'...?

Tom said...

An interesting article & video that approximates the A-T view of secondary qualities from Heather Logue. She mentions Descartes, but not Aristotle or the Scholastics directly, even though her view is much the same.

Tom said...

Also, (most of) the Convivium review is behind a payall.

grateful to God said...

Just read Ellis's interview.

Great interview. I hope all read it.

Thanks for sharing.

grateful to God said...

I hope to learn more about complexity. It is a little confusing for me.

Omer

Robert L. said...

Perhaps another thing to add to "Working the net" -- Stephen Hawking announced that artificial intelligence could mean the end of the human race."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/11268738/Artificial-intelligence-could-mean-end-of-human-race-says-Stephen-Hawking.html

John West said...

"Physicist George Ellis, interviewed at Scientific American, criticizes Lawrence Krauss, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and scientism in general. Some choice quotes: '[M]athematical equations only represent part of reality, and should not be confused with reality,' and 'Physicists should pay attention to Aristotle’s four forms of causation.'"

What would Plato, and the Pythagoreans think of Krauss and Tyson's hijacking of mathematics to make sloppy, fraudulent, unthinking, pseudo-scientific philosophical claims? I'm convinced that even if someone proved a God set, or something, Krauss would still reject it.

the intrepid page said...

I only want to say that Scholastic Metaphysics is everything I was hoping when I ordered it. As a person who favors the metaphysics of Duns Scotus, I thought your treatment of the disputes between Scotists and Thomists was completely fair, especially given the book's focus and length. Thank you for all the work that went into this excellent introduction- I will strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to get their feet wet in the pool of scholastic philosophy.

Irish Thomist said...

@Robert L.

All the things will cause the end of the human race according to Stephen. He said the same thing about the LHC a while back.

Doom!

Irish Thomist said...

@the intrepid page

Tell them that at the Smithy

Irish Thomist said...

@John West

This might be a little off topic but here we go. I'm sure there are plenty of things to question in Plato. I'm inclined towards a Platonic view of numbers myself but that is one of the few things I share in common with him.

John West said...

Irish Thomist,

I'm unsure "Working the Net" has a topic.

As for Plato, fair enough.

I understand why citing science's success is a poor argument for the view that the all existence is mathematically describable. I also think it's false to state that the universe is necessarily mathematically describable. My problem is that I see no reason to reject the view that all existence is mathematically describable out of hand (the aforementioned metaphysics class's professor is a set theoretic ersatzer realist, and influences me in this matter as well), if theism is true.

As for my offensive comments about Krauss, I watched his debates with Bill Craig a couple weeks ago. Enough said.

John West said...

It's probably old news now, but since I mentioned it: William Lane Craig vs. Lawrence Krauss

Daniel said...


@John West,

My problem is that I see no reason to reject the view that all existence is mathematically describable out of hand, if theism is true.

I don't one need do so either (unless one is implicitly presupposing a certain view of sets and numbers) though when it comes to applying this to the Deity the old Scholastic theory of Real, Formal and Logical Distinctions might come into play. We can 'count' the Divine Attributes by conceptually positing them as separate though in reality the number of the Divine Attributes is One (de re?).

My guess is that most theists who object to this consider the only Realist account of the mathematicals to be a kind of Quinean modern ‘Platonism'.

Anonymous said...

"...expose the ideological thinking underlying many environmentalist claims."

I.e. one set of ideologues expose the ideological thinking of some other ideologues. Anyone who thinks Lomborg is a simple objective seeker after truth might be interested in this bridge I own that links Manhattan to one of the other NYC boroughs. As for Simon, he won his spurs arguing with Erhlich, who didn't understand basic economics, but economists of Simon's stripe seem not to understand the limits of their own field.

What I've noticed about environmental debates is how people on both sides manage to obfuscate the issues by zeroing in on the unsupportable claims made by silly people on the other side.

Edward Feser said...

Anonymous wrote:

people on both sides... [zero] in on the unsupportable claims made by silly people on the other side.

In other words, I take it you essentially agree that Lomborg and Simon really do "expose the ideological thinking underlying many environmentalist claims" (not all, but many).

In which case you agree with the eight words of mine that you "zeroed in" on.

In which case, what exactly was the point of your little rant?

Jeremy Taylor said...

Ironically, I think it is a symptom of the spread of ideology today that you can't criticise the ideology of environmentalists without being anti-environmentalist.

John West,

I have a book by John Michell called How the World is Made . It focuses on a mathematical explanation of the cosmos, but it would annoy the heck out of Krauss because it is the mathematical explanations perspective of the Pythagoreans and not modern physicists that it makes use of.

You should remember, though, that for the Platonists and Pythagoreans there was a distinction between mathematical objects and ideal numbers. The former exist in the subtle or psychic realm, between the realm of Forms and our corporeal realm, as they have attributes of both.

Ideal numbers - most centrally the Dyad- however, are one way of describing the highest Forms. They are non-operational (you cannot add or divide the numbers of the Dyad). They are symbolic. A Platonist or Pythagorean wouldn't try to explain reality entirely with mathematical objects, understood by those which are a part of the subtle or psychic realms (which are those which worldly mathematics is most concerned with).

Jack Ferrara said...

@Ed Feser, @IrishThomist, @Scott
There's a debate between Arif Ahmed and Keith Ward that I think you guys might find fascinating and I'd certainly be interested in your perspective as a Thomist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QI9SK62BiG4 I say this because the way it's framed strikes me as a Empiricist v. Rationalist type argument (using those terms in the 18th century sense), but you all seem to have a mutually inclusive synthesis of both without the shortcomings of either. As I'm still a novice in Philosophy forgive me if this an obvious statement to make.

RM said...

Has anyone read much of/about Ellis? His book On the Moral Nature of the Universe looks interesting.

Hans Coessens said...

It's hip to be square!

Ricky said...

Dr. Feser,
have you seen William Briggs' posts on Aquinas?
If so, what are your thoughts?

Irish Thomist said...

@Ricky

This?

http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=9884

Irish Thomist said...

@Jack

What if both Empiricist and Rationalist are wrong in some sense? Is the debate not then between two positions we might not hold? Just wondering what the video contains, that's all.

Scott said...

@Ricky and Irish Thomist:

Probably this, but I'll leave that to Ricky to confirm or deny.

Jack Ferrara said...

@Irish Thomist,
They may very well be. It's an Oxford style debate between Ward and Ahmed, set up as theism v. atheism, and I'm wondering if indeed perhaps Thomism rejects both arguments being made.

Daniel Joachim said...

@Jack

I followed some lectures of Ward, and seem to remember him close to an idealist of some sort. Skilled lecturer, even though I did not agree with many of his viewpoints on pre-modernity As for the Ahmed style empiricism, it's just silly. So yes, you could be sure that Thomists would reject both those stances as moderate realists, being the middle way between the two of them. :)

John West said...

Daniel,

"My guess is that most theists who object to this consider the only Realist account of the mathematicals to be a kind of Quinean modern ‘Platonism'."

I suspect you're right. The only relevant objections of which I can think are really objections to Quine's naturalism - the "only" part of his indispensability argument's first premise, which seems blatantly scientistic.

John West said...

Jeremy Taylor,

Your point about the Pythagoreans and Ideal numbers is well taken. I'll order the book by John Michell.

Matt Sheean said...

Speaking of maths, is it faulty of me to think there's a kind of relation between the incompleteness theorem and the 2nd way? I can only claim to understand the theorem through illustrations of it, but it seems to me that there is some resemblance between "not provable within the system" and "not possibly the efficient cause of itself"? That's my odd, late night question for y'all professionals, anyways.

Jeremy Taylor said...

John West,

Well, Michell's book is an interesting application, but it is not a systematic exploration of the metaphysics behind the Platonic-Pythagorean use of numbers. Michell is a wonderful author. His essays, for example those in his Confessions of a Radical Traditionalist, are often a very good read. He managed to combine Platonism and Forteanism quite well. But he wasn't a philosopher per se. R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz was probably the twentieth century figure who has most explored this metaphysics though.

Cale B.T. said...

@RM

I own that Ellis book, but didn't find it to be as good as I thought it would be.

William M. Briggs said...

Irish Thomist,

I can't tell you what Feser thinks, but I'll let you know my opinion.

Briggs's walk through Contra Gentiles is an amateurish but at times interesting discussion. You'd be better off reading Feser's books. But if you're not going to do that, and many won't, it's at least a small alternative.

Like Briggs said at the beginning: "I am not the best man to do this, in the sense that many others know orders of magnitude more than I, but since knowledge of classical metaphysics is so lacking yet so necessary, anything I can offer will be at least somewhat helpful. Plus, I am convinced that after you go through even a few chapters, you'll be amazed if not convinced."

What amazes me is how many skeptics are sticking with the argument. We're 32 posts into this and people are still engaged.

It also helps to have people like Mike Flynn drop by regularly to keep us on the straight and narrow. You're welcome too, of course.

Jack Ferrara said...

@Daniel J

Good points but why would you say Ahmed's style of empiricism is silly? I only ask because every debate I've seen him in he seems to win. Not that I'm a good judge of that, I'm asking this honestly as a seeker of info.

Daniel Joachim said...

@Jack

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, but I tend to view all secular materialist non-realists, but still somehow humanist, as confused philosophers, obvious prey to the critique of Aristotle and John Gray alike.

Ahmed would certainly look skilled, as long as you don't unmask his disguised empiricist premises from the very beginning.

But as long as these are only popular debates, there will seldom be an opportunity to take one step back and investigate presumptions.

A short time ago I encountered the following claim in a debate: We're really all positivists, because we don't expect fairies and supernatural forces to interact with causal processes in our everyday life.

How's that for a bumper sticker, popular-level, nice-sounding fallacy?

Irish Thomist said...

@Ed

Is this a dead link (or is it just me)?
http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/powers-aristotle-and-the-incarnation/


@Scott

I am very sorry to go slightly off topic (and am not hiding the fact) but would you or anyone know of a book that compares Aquinas and the Muslim Mulla Sadra? I had a search and Ed has not mentioned him but it seems there is an overlap with the conclusions they arrived at philosophically on some matters (metaphysics for one - although not a perfect overlap).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulla_Sadra#Causation

I do not want to derail this thread so feel free to reply anywhere on my blog!

Irish Thomist said...

@Scott

The posts seem mostly a reposting of some of Thomas Aquinas' writings.

@William M. Briggs
What is your goal (both with the posts on Aquinas and in general)?

Jack Ferrara said...

@IrishThomist,
Did I answer your question thoroughly or did I word it confusingly? Just checking

@Daniel J.

Thanks again.

Brandon said...

IrishThomist,

I am very sorry to go slightly off topic (and am not hiding the fact) but would you or anyone know of a book that compares Aquinas and the Muslim Mulla Sadra?

As far as I know there are no books, but David Burrell has written some articles on the subject; and so also, from the Muslim side, Reza Rezazadeh.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Henry Corbin wrote a lot on Mulla Sadra, though I'm not sure how much he wrote about him in connection with Aquinas. I did a quick google search and found this, which discusses an aspect of Mulla Sadra's thought and includes (briefly) his Peripatetic influences.

http://philosophiaperennisetuniversalis.blogspot.nl/2013/01/mulla-sadra-on-human-soul-and-its.html

Daniel said...

@Irish Thomist,

I don't know of any full length work that contrasts Thomas and Sadra but for a good in-depth all-round work which contrasts that latter’s thought with that of more Aristotelian philosophers like Ibn Sina I would heartily recommend Christian Jamblet's The Act of Being: The Philosophy of Revelation in Mulla Sadra.

You might also be interested in Sabzawari, a pupil of Sadra's who endeavoured formalised his teacher's system and work out some of its subtleties in more a rigorous fashion. His central area of interest was the nature of Existence (wujud) and the Real Distintion. His Metaphysics but is unfortunately uber-expensive to obtain. There is though a great summary of his philosophical achievements in Toshihiko Izutsu's The Concept and Reality of Existence.

Irish Thomist said...

@Jack

Seems fine, thanks.

@Brandon, Daniel and Jeremy

Thank you!

Jack Ferrara said...

@Irish Thomist,
Glad to hear it, I've been known to ramble on and it makes perfect sense in my head but only in mine unfortunately. That being said any thoughts on said debate?

Anonymous said...

*** The painfully slow process of uncovering the child abuse that happened within the Catholic Church continues. The members of the church continue to try and protect the wrong people, at the expense of victims, their families and the American public. ***

The Archdiocese of Chicago has voluntarily released documents related to 36 Archdiocesan priests who have at least one substantiated allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor. These documents are in addition to those released in January on 30 other priests. This release, together with the January release, covers priests who have substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with minors identified on the Archdiocese's website as of November 2014. Documents pertaining to two priests, former Rev. Daniel J. McCormack and Rev. Edward J. Maloney, are not included, due to ongoing processes that do not permit release.

Inquiries may be directed to the Office of the Protection of Children and Youth, Archdiocese of Chicago, PO Box 1979, Chicago, IL 60690.

Irish Thomist said...

@Anonymous

Now THAT was off topic. Care to clarify???

The Scare-Crow said...

Facts?! Facts?! I don't see Facts all I see is Values!

John West said...

Anonymous writes, "*** The painfully slow process of uncovering the child abuse that happened within the Catholic Church continues. The members of the church continue to try and protect the wrong people, at the expense of victims, their families and the American public. ***" (my italics for emphasis)

Right, because everyone knows if you want to troll a blog of Catholics, just mention pedophilia. Never mind that you're as or more likely to have such trouble with your hockey coach.

How tiresome.

John West said...

[The above is the only time I'll respond to it.]

Timocrates said...

"Ellis: You cannot do physics or cosmology without an assumed philosophical basis."

Thank you! You can't say anything meaningful without an assumed philosophical basis - that's exactly what makes it meaningful. Scientists would not doubt the validity and necessity of philosophy if only they were treated to a crash, 101-course of the first principles.

Anonymous said...

I'm losing faith in the ability of reason to capture reality. What should I do?

Daniel Joachim said...

"I'm losing faith in the ability of reason to capture reality. What should I do?"

Pray.

On a more serious note. I find the books of Etienne Gilson on realism very helpful. (Methodological Realism and Thomist Realism)

From the foreword of Thomist Realism.

"The realist is a philosopher who does not forget that he is a man when beginning to philosophize. As a man, if he be sane, a philosopher has not the faintest shade of a doubt that he exists in a world of things existing in independence of his cognition; even more, the very data of that knowing tell him that knowing is of being and not of knowing; in turn, he knows all this, not because of some priviliged intuition into a supposedly substantive 'cogito', but because he, as a flesh and blood human being, could not judge otherwise if he tried, unless - and only unless, Gilson insisted - he deliberately isolated his mind from his body."

Daniel said...

With all due respect to Daniel J that quote typifies quite nicely nearly all that I loathe about Gilson and co. Effusive anti-intellectual sub-text, vague appeals to ridicule under the rubrics of common-sense and that self-consciously 'earthy' sub-sexual existential rhetoric they favoured.

As a man, if he be sane, a philosopher has not the faintest shade of a doubt that he exists in a world of things existing in independence of his cognition

So he, in other words, he must begin with value judgements and 'custom and habit' and appeal to indignation should he be ever asked to justify them?

…he knows all this, not because of some priviliged intuition into a supposedly substantive 'cogito'

Wow Anti-Cartesianism backed up with insinuations about 'intuition', the word doubtless intended to suggest some supposed infallible, non-empirical ‘mystical’ source of knowledge. No doubt had the writer slightly more knowledge of Anglo-American philosophy this would be accompanied by some handwringing and pontification about 'the ghost in the machine'. It's like Daniel Dennett!

as a flesh and blood human being, could not judge otherwise if he tried, unless - and only unless, Gilson insisted - he deliberately isolated his mind from his body."

Ohh cruel procrustean Dualism always trying to drag us away from our mother the earthy, sensual, ohh so earthy world of sense, the scene for our flesh and blood existence, our dreams and our hopes, our loves and sorrows and hates, our passions, sins and redemption. Stay close to the holy earth my brothers!

All it needs is further handwringing over ‘arid, sterile logician’s being; as opposed to earthy virile esse plus the obligatory rage and fulmination over those who committed the unspeakable, abominable crime of trying to derive existence from ‘mere concepts’ (which, ironically, repeats the very worst of the Cartesian ‘way of ideas’ since to confuse concept with essence is to commit a category mistake of the rankest kind - a concept is not an essence, it’s our knowing about an essence, the essence itself is mind-transcendent).

Glenn said...

...obligatory rage and fulmination...

Methinks someone may have forgotten to mention 'vituperation'.

Brandon said...

I'm losing faith in the ability of reason to capture reality. What should I do?

It's impossible to say for sure without knowing the circumstances, but when people have this problem, it seems usually to be due to too much thinking at a very abstract level. The human mind, like a musical instrument, starts mis-playing if put to hard use without proper maintenance. Thus, despite Daniel's criticism of the framing, the advice quoted by Daniel Joachim is probably along the right lines.

Daniel said...

A simpler way: 'the human mind's being incapable of capturing reality' is clearly intended to hold of necessity (in older terms 'synthetic a priori') for all human minds, which are themselves part of reality. So we must at least be capable of objective knowledge about some aspects of it. Thus a general formulation of the problem doesn't work in which case it is better to formulate it in regard to specific issues e.g. is there Causation and if so how do we perceive it?

John West said...

Anonymous,

Learning to isolate and focus on specifics, as well as fixing my sleep schedule, helped me through similar trouble recently.

John West said...

Matt Sheean,

I'm not sure about the Second Way. But Godel does seem to have thought his incompleteness theorem proves dualism. In Platonism and Anti-Platonism in Mathematics, Mark Balaguer writes:

What Godel thought is that immaterialism about the mind follows from his incompleteness theorem. The theorem tells us that for any consistent axiom system, there are propositions that are undecidable in that system. Godel claims, however, that, despite this, there are no mathematical propositions that are absolutely undecidable, that is, "undecidable, not just within some particular axiomatic system, but by any mathematical proof the human mind can conceive".[1] From this, together with the incompleteness theorem, it follows that the set of humanly provable mathematical propositions cannot be recursively axiomatized and, hence, that the human mind cannot be reduced to a Turing Machine. And Godel concludes from this that the human mind cannot be reduced to any sort of machine at all.

Balaguer, unsurprisingly, rejects dualism out of hand. It would, however, be interesting to hear what people more savvy than Balaguer in philosophy of mind have to say about it.

[1]Godel, K. (1951) "Some Basic Theorems on the Foundations of Mathematics and Their Implications".

Daniel Joachim said...

@Daniel

No disrespect taken. :)

In defense of Gilson, the quote is from the summarized foreword by Frederick D. Wilhelmsen, and was not intended as him making some stand-alone argument or slogan in itself. I wish to question you about some of your interesting remarks, but have too much of a workload over my head right now to find the references and articulation that you and a good discussion deserve.

Until then, an article or a link to some lengthy, substantial criticism of Gilson's style of realism would be interesting and appreciated. I'm always looking. :)

I think Ed himself hint towards at least some of your last issue being mostly an issue of wording. E.g. when he refers to Existensialism, in the words of Gilson, pretty much refers to the same thing as Feser and Oderberg's Essentialism. Of course, there could still be some real discrepancies here.

Matt Sheean said...

John West,

Yes! Actually, the very reason Goedel's theorem was in my thoughts had to do with reading Hofstadter's Goedel, Escher, Bach and the papers of J. R. Lucas (thanks to reading of them over at tofspot) on applications of the theorem for philosophy of mind (incidentally, is it just me, or does Hofstadter engage in a Dawkins-worthy mangling of Lucas' argument?).

Also, incidentally, I came across this whilst reading more about the matter of Goedel's theorem and mind. The author, whoever they are, makes (what I think is) a mistake, an annoying sort of mistake, when they write, "our thinking cannot be adequately represented by a computer or an axiomatic system." As if the trouble was representation! As you say, Goedel himself thought that immaterialism must follow, so it's not as if, as the author also suggests, some jerks came along later and abused the theorem to further their own philosophical interests. I suppose I shouldn't bother being upset much with something I randomly found on the internet, but I've been trying to sympathize with detractors of the immaterialist implications of the theorem. Alas, they always seem to me to misunderstand the arguments.

My thought about the second way was just that Goedel's theorem shows something about axiomatic systems that is similar to what 2nd way type arguments show for per se causal series. I am not really sure this is at all interesting, it just occurred to me.

Prince Randoms said...

Quite excited about Foundations getting a tv series. I like Krugmans quote about how he became an economist because it was the closest thing he could find to psycohistory

Scott said...

@Matt Sheean:

You might enjoy this 1990 paper by Lucas, part of which is a rejoinder to Hofstadter.

Scott said...

(That is, if you haven't already. I didn't visit TOFspot to see whether it was one of the Lucas papers available there.)

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the net. I wonder what Dr. Feser and the rest of you think of this:

http://www.businessinsider.com/groundbreaking-idea-of-lifes-origin-2014-12

Matt Sheean said...

@Scott,

Thanks, TOF did link to the site that had all of Lucas' Gödel papers, but I had not read the one to which you linked.

Daniel said...

@Daniel J,

Yes,my response was a little overly dramatic there I think.

I'm not against the central philosophical presumptions of Gilson's realism as much as he and his disciples’ histrionic rhetoric and tendency to scare-monger. I agree with him (and Reid for that matter) that we are warranted to assume a common-sense view of the world as given and only depart from it when subsequent reasons force us to do so - this should in no way be taken as license to villanise those thinkers who attempt to explore the mechanisms of cognition from within such as Bernard Lonergan or the Phenomenologists though.

About scare-mongering the Gilsonians had a tendency to imply that Thomas, as interpreted 'existentially', was the only viable option and any other metaphysical theory would fall prey to Kant at a time when Kantianism had been taken to pieces and had practically been abandoned as a positive system in mainstream philosophy. Even the early Russell had a more sensible take on Kant.

This was part of their larger aim of promoting Thomas as someone standing out against the previous metaphysical tradition, a lone ‘existentialist’ in a wilderness of ‘essentialism’. Aside from the blatant inaccuracies latent in such a view I find it very hard not to see it as a cynical attempt to highjack the then popular rhetoric of French Existentialism – Gilson’s claims that Kierkegaard and Sartre were still in a sense tainted with ‘essentialism’ does little to give the lie to this. Yet despite all the adoration of esse they, aside from some fruitful interpretations of On Being and Essence did very little hard philosophical graft elaborating on its nature and defending it against modern misinterpretations like the Fregean Existential Quantifier; I can’t imagine them ever turning out something like Barry Millers’ work on the subject for instance.

Ultimately that way of talking about existence as opposed to essence was part of a fad and has nothing to offer beyond what was already present in more traditional Thomism. I think his treatment of being as esse is actually less useful that considering being as essence, at least in the case of theory of knowledge; any philosophy that makes statements about the subject will tacitly treat the subject/mind itself as an objective identity, which is why Kantian attempts to separate ontology and epistemology are doomed (Ed touches on this re Kant somewhere I think, and the Austrian phenomenologist Adolf Reinarch wrote multiple essays detailing all the synthetic a priori presumptions in Hume's philosophy).

Irish Thomist said...

@Anonymous

Taking for granted you were not trolling maybe this may be of interest http://pmb.jhu.edu/whatismb.html

Anonymous said...

Thanks Irish Thomist. No troll, here.

Irish Thomist said...

@Anon

Ok. :)