Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dumsday and Vallicella on Neo-Scholastic Essays


At Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, philosopher Travis Dumsday kindly reviews my book Neo-Scholastic Essays.  From the review:

Edward Feser writes as an historically informed Thomist who is also thoroughly conversant with the analytic tradition…

[T]his volume nicely exhibits Feser's clear writing style and uncommonly strong facility with both the Scholastic and analytic traditions. Those of us attempting to integrate these traditions can profit from his example.

Summarizing and commenting on the contents of the book, Dumsday focuses on those essays concerned with topics in metaphysics, philosophy of nature, and natural theology.  When discussing my essay on Aristotelian and Newtonian accounts of motion, he summarizes one of the points I make as follows:

Aristotelian natural philosophy and Newtonian science are addressing different domains: the former seeks underlying causes and natures, while the latter seeks merely the accurate mathematical description of observed regularities. As such they cannot conflict.

Dumsday then goes on to comment:                                                

I would dispute that fifth point, at least when taken as a characterization of the aims of contemporary physicists. It smacks of the anti-realist perspective that remains far too prevalent in analytic philosophy of science; in fact physicists are typically after underlying causes and real natures, not merely mathematical description and accurate prediction. For better or worse, Scholastic philosophy of nature and the natural sciences constitute partially overlapping magisteria. (Elsewhere in this volume Feser seems to turn away from scientific anti-realism; see especially his approving comments concerning the work of Nancy Cartwright on 82, 191, and 328. There is a tension here. However, in Feser's most in-depth discussion of the disciplinary boundaries of physics (Scholastic Metaphysics 2014, 12-18) the tendency is again toward anti-realism, or at best a version of structural realism.)

A couple of remarks in response to this: First, where philosophy of physics is concerned, I wouldn’t call myself an anti-realist, certainly not as a way of characterizing my general position.  If one insists on a label, “a version of structural realism” (as Dumsday suggests in passing) would be a better one, though here too qualifications would be in order.  Anyway, I agree that “Scholastic philosophy of nature and the natural sciences constitute partially overlapping magisteria.” 

But second, I’m reluctant to endorse any single, across-the-board label, because the different areas of modern physics (not to mention modern science more generally) each raise difficult metaphysical issues of their own and to some extent need to be treated in a case-by-case way.  (The difficult issues arise, by the way, whether or not one is an Aristotelian.  Needless to say, modern science is, empirically, a great success story.  But metaphysically it is something of a mess.)  Anyway, this is a set of topics I will be saying much more about in the book on the philosophy of nature on which I am working.

Commenting on my essay “Natural Theology Must be Grounded in the Philosophy of Nature, Not in Natural Science,” which calls for a return to Aristotelian-Scholastic foundations in natural theology, Dumsday writes:

While I agree with Feser on the distinctive strengths of a natural theology rooted in Scholastic philosophy of nature, he is too hard on early modern mechanistic thought and its contemporary analogues. As Robert Boyle and others pointed out at the time, certain cosmological arguments can actually be run more simply on an ontology of corpuscularianism + extrinsic governing laws than on hylomorphism. (And contra Feser, these needn't be seen as leading no further than a desiccated deism -- there are potential routes to classical theism here.) Further, the early modern switch from an Aristotelian conception of time as merely the measure of motion to time as a real background condition provided fuel for new cosmological arguments unavailable to Scholastics (e.g., the argument that the persistence of the temporal stream itself requires an extrinsic sustaining cause). And the core Thomistic argument from the real distinction between essence and existence in finite substances can be run on any philosophy of nature. (Admittedly that last claim would require considerable elaboration, including development of the arguably un-Thomistic idea that the essence vs. existence distinction needn't be formulated in terms of potency vs. act.)

Dumsday makes three points here: first, the one about Boyle and cosmological arguments; second, the one about the persistence of the temporal stream as in need of a sustaining cause; and third, the one about the status of the real distinction between essence and existence on non-Aristotelian philosophies of nature.

I am dubious about the first and third points.  I’d need to see the specifics of a cosmological argument run on an ontology of “corpuscularianism + extrinsic governing laws,” and of an appeal to essence and existence which is not “formulated in terms of potency vs. act,” and Dumsday doesn’t offer examples (which is fair enough given that it’s a book review rather than a full-length treatment of the issue).  The essay of mine Dumsday is commenting on purports to show that the theory of act and potency is needed in any successful cosmological argument, so that without offering specifics, Dumsday’s remarks by themselves don’t really give a reason to think that I’m mistaken but only express the opinion that I am mistaken. 

The second point, about time, does offer a specific example, and a very interesting one.  However, I would say that an “argument that the persistence of the temporal stream itself requires an extrinsic sustaining cause” would, when fully spelled out, still require an appeal to the theory of act and potency, so that the example doesn’t really affect the main point of my essay.  Anyway, time is another subject which will be dealt with at length in the forthcoming philosophy of nature book.

Bill Vallicella also kindly calls attention to my book.  Commenting on my workload, Bill writes: “The phenomenal Edward Feser.  How does he do it?”  But Bill should know that the phenomenal Edward Feser is a mere appearance rather than a ding an sich, and that he “does” things only insofar as we bring to bear on our experience of him the category of causality.  What Bill should be asking is how the noumenal Edward Feser does it.  Unfortunately, as Kant showed, that question is unanswerable.

But seriously, ladies and germs, if you’re interested in further information about Neo-Scholastic Essays, the cover copy and table of contents can be found here.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

If physics is ultimately investigating the 'physical universe', then the question of what is a 'universe' simply is immediately the transition point into metaphysics. The 'scientific realist' will simply not get an answer he wants from someone who is committed to metaphysics because he wants his 'philosophy of science' prior to all metaphysics. Does 'philosophy of science' deserve real autonomy? Only as an orphan.

It seems justified then to make a kind of tentative 'anti-realist' case while one is building up a philosophy of nature with the eventual goal of a metaphysic: The principle being that a full house has no room for orphans. If there is a philosophy of nature truly in continuity with pre-modern thought, then there must be some suspicion cast upon 'techno-science' so that certain distinctions will become visible.

Anonymous said...

Any chance of collecting the many substantial articles on this blog into a (very large) book? The ones concerning Rosenberg and Krauss would be worth it in itself!

Brandon said...

I'm a bit puzzled about the Boyle cosmological point myself; Boyle has design arguments -- corpuscularianism with extrinsic governing laws almost cries out for them -- but I can't think of anything in Boyle that would fit the claim made here.

Daniel said...

I am still unconvinced that the use of the terms 'act' and 'potency' in essence/existence contexts are anything more than an equivocation, an importing of Aristotelian phraseology for illustrative or sales purposes. One can speak of 'Logical Potency' along with Scotus if one wants - that deter preserves the distinction.

The 'scientific realist' will simply not get an answer he wants from someone who is committed to metaphysics because he wants his 'philosophy of science' prior to all metaphysics. Does 'philosophy of science' deserve real autonomy? Only as an orphan.

Strictly speaking this need not be true. The 'scientific realist' is committed to the thesis that the natural sciences give us an accurate extra-mental account of the portions of reality they investigate and that the entities posited by these disciplines and in the course of these pursing these disciplines really exist - they can't be explained away as constructs or fictions. He or she need not pass comment on what other entities exist or the success of failure of natural theology. Indeed many of the arguments Ed, Oderberg and the New Essentialists offer for Powers and Dispositions hinges on the opponent's acceptance of at least a weakened form of scientific realism.

Does 'philosophy of science' deserve real autonomy? Only as an orphan.

I agree with this. Scientific Realism shouldn't be read this way though - it's more a branch of ontology i.e. the entities we need to exist in order to 'do' the natural sciences.

Philip Alawonde said...

"But seriously, ladies and germs..."

Is this a typr -- I mean the 'germs'?

Philip Alawonde said...

I meant, 'typo' for 'typr'.

Gottfried said...

Philip,

"Ladies and germs" is jocular variation of "ladies and gentleman" that seems to have originated with Milton Berle. Don't worry about not getting it, it's not very funny. ;P

Curio said...

Dumsday seems confused. Cartwright *is* an anti-realist with respect to laws. Just like Feser.

This is why we need scholastic philosophers to focus their attention on philosophy of science. So much confusion abounds.

The Frenchman said...

Hello, fellow Feser readers !


Just wondering whether or not Doc' Feser has written something about what is called the problem of "Divine Hiddenness".

That's really the very last faith-related issue i cannot find any... REALLY good, intellectually satisfying objection to.


I know i'm not writing about the same topic as most of you people do, and as i don't want to disturb the whole discussion here ; a simple 'yes' or 'no' with the title of one or two articles from Professor Feser will absolutely do it.


Thank you very much, have a nice day :-J

Daniel said...

@The Frenchman,

Yes, he mentions it in his 'Road From Atheism', though mainly to say that as an atheist he thought it was a good objection to theism if and only if there was no rational way of arguing for God's existence.

I will also add that the problem then is only a problem if one presupposes Christian ideas such as knowledge of God being necessary for salvation and our only having a finite time during which to acquire it.

George LeSauvage said...

@Daniel:

I am still unconvinced that the use of the terms 'act' and 'potency' in essence/existence contexts are anything more than an equivocation, an importing of Aristotelian phraseology for illustrative or sales purposes. One can speak of 'Logical Potency' along with Scotus if one wants - that deter preserves the distinction.

Since both the language of act/potency and that of essence and existence are themselves of Aristotelian provenance, I am not following you here. Would you expand on that?

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but your buddy Krauss didn't seem to get the memo to just shut up already. Here's some more fodder for you, a new piece by Krauss (if you can stand this guy any longer): http://thehumanist.com/magazine/november-december-2015/features/humanism-doubt-and-optimism

Daniel said...

@George,

The Existence Essence distinction derives from Ibn Sina's modal theory*, though is of course developed to far greater depth by Thomas. More 'pure breed' Aristotelians such as Ibn Rushd rejected it.

*Though Gerson argues that it actually originates with Plotinus himself.

pck said...

Daniel:
The 'scientific realist' is committed to the thesis that the natural sciences give us an accurate extra-mental account of the portions of reality they investigate and that the entities posited by these disciplines and in the course of these pursing these disciplines really exist - they can't be explained away as constructs or fictions.

The problem here is that the scientific realist is unable to explain what an assertion of the form "an entity E posited by a discipline X really exists" actually means ontologically. The "really" part is problematic. How could one confirm such an assertion? (Certainly not by experiment.) How and where would one apply it?

Let's look at an example. No physicist has ever had a direct experience of an electron. The concept of an electron is inspired, defined and vindicated by certain experimental methods and their results. Beyond that there are no further experiments or purely logical arguments which strengthen the case for "electrons really existing" in a metaphysical sense. "Really existing" as opposed to what? The criteria for electrons' existence are the predictive powers of theories within the discipline of physics. But what those theories predict are not metaphysical claims of existence but the results of certain experiments. If these work out as claimed by the theory, we say that the theory talks about real entities E. But this is a different use of "real" as compared to our use in contexts where direct experience of an E is possible. (It would be less confusing to say that a theory is correct than to say that what it talks about is real.)

Physical realism mistakenly models its use of "real" on the way we talk about the reality of objects of our experience ("there really is an apple on my desk, it's not a decoration made out of wax"). This is not the same use of "real" as it is applied to a successful theory's abstract entities. It is conceptually unsound to claim that "I really saw the voltmeter show N millivolts" and "there really are electrons" employ the same use of "really".

The problem is equally apparent in our talk of "models". A model airplane is a model of a real airplane. A model of an electron is a model of a real... what? It's not that we cannot say what "..." stands for yet, it's that we cannot conceive of how we could ever say that, no matter how much we found out about electrons. This is because our relation to electrons will always be of a different kind than our relation to airplanes. (One is tempted to use the term "indirect experience" here but that, while not exactly false, would again reinforce the unintelligible concept of a "thing-in-itself" at the electron's end of the relation.)

Because we have no way of directly experiencing electrons, our uses of "electron-model" must differ from "airplane-model". With airplanes we can have the real thing and its model in one common description/experience. With electrons no such thing is possible. An electron is its own model, where "model" merely signifies the notion of a potential lack of total congruence between predictions made by a theory and actual experimental results.

Thus the scientific realist's metaphysical employ of "real" is vacuous, as it fails to do more than its corresponding ordinary notion.

pck said...

"Because we have no way of directly experiencing electrons..."

Didn't follow my own advice here, scratch "directly".

George LeSauvage said...

This is OT, but I hope it will be permitted. I expect many have seen it, but just in case:

Scruton

(I hope the link works.)

Daniel said...

The problem here is that the scientific realist is unable to explain what an assertion of the form "an entity E posited by a discipline X really exists" actually means ontologically.

Well either this is a question about existential statements in general or the answer is fairly simple. For said entity to exist entails its being a substance and thus the bearer of casual powers.

How could one confirm such an assertion? (Certainly not by experiment.) How and where would one apply it?

By reasoning back from perceived effects to inferred causes. True we could and probably a lot of the times are mistaken in our inferences, but that need not worry the scientific realist since all they claim is that we could in principle be correct.

"Really existing" as opposed to what?

Being shorthand for constructions out of sense data, ways in which Kantian Transcendental Categories form the world, language games we play to elicit the appropriate reactions, et cetera et cetera.

But what those theories predict are not metaphysical claims of existence but the results of certain experiments.

Which, being metaphysical realists, we take as pertaining to the nature of real beings i.e. the interaction between substances.

But this is a different use of "real" as compared to our use in contexts where direct experience of an E is possible. (It would be less confusing to say that a theory is correct than to say that what it talks about is real.)

Physical realism mistakenly models its use of "real" on the way we talk about the reality of objects of our experience ("there really is an apple on my desk, it's not a decoration made out of wax"). This is not the same use of "real" as it is applied to a successful theory's abstract entities. It is conceptually unsound to claim that "I really saw the voltmeter show N millivolts" and "there really are electrons" employ the same use of "really".


Regarding the last sentence and the claim in general you would have to argue for it since it is precisely a denial of the metaphysical realism the scientific realist holds to be true. That we cannot in this state have direct phenomenal perception of electrons, spirits or God is nothing the metaphysical realist will care to deny, however, if the mark of concrete being is possession of casual powers there is no reason it should not be applied to both perceived and non-perceived entities. If on the other hand to be is to be the object of phenomenal experience as the Logical Positivists claim then you would be correct: statements about electrons are as empty of meaning as statements about God. However not being a phenomenalist constructivist or a Logical Positivist that need cut no ice with us.

This is because our relation to electrons will always be of a different kind than our relation to airplanes. (One is tempted to use the term "indirect experience" here but that, while not exactly false, would again reinforce the unintelligible concept of a "thing-in-itself" at the electron's end of the relation.)

Because we have no way of directly experiencing electrons, our uses of "electron-model" must differ from "airplane-model". With airplanes we can have the real thing and its model in one common description/experience. With electrons no such thing is possible


See the above point.

scbrownlhrm said...

Dr. Feser,

I agree with others here who expressed interest in 1) a digital version of this book, and 2) a book compilation of this blog's essays, again digital.....Kindle or something similar perhaps, as portability and "searchability" are of value.

pck said...

Daniel:
Daniel: Well either this is a question about existential statements in general or the answer is fairly simple. For said entity to exist entails its being a substance and thus the bearer of casual powers.

[...]

pck: How could one confirm such an assertion? [...]

Daniel: By reasoning back from perceived effects to inferred causes. True we could and probably a lot of the times are mistaken in our inferences, but that need not worry the scientific realist since all they claim is that we could in principle be correct.

[more references to causes being the mark of existence]


I'm not sure how anybody could doubt that scientific realism (SR) must involve an investigation of the different roles of existential statements. The whole point of SR is to assign a certain status to phrases such as "electrons really exist". We clearly do not use "exists", "existence", etc. in a uniform way and there are no uniform criteria by which we ascribe existence (not even if we restrict ourselves to scientific language: compare for example the existence of electrons to the existence of geometric properties or relations). But merely to look at causal powers is not enough to clarify the issue. When I say that "there is an apple on my desk", I am not referring to any causal powers the apple might have. Concepts of causality are explanatory schemes, not generators of ontologies. But the challenge of SR is to find a suitable ontology that justifies its metaphysical claims.

I agree it's not necessary to get everything in a theory perfectly right in order to be able to talk of existence, but that does not answer the challenge the scientific realist faces. The SR needs to show that his use of "exists" refers to more than "my theory works". SR makes a metaphysical claim not captured by any theory, no matter how successful it may be. Thus SR needs to make an additional argument that theoretical success in some way (which way?) gives us access to a reality which lies beyond - and is captured by - scientifc models. That is the whole point of SR. Merely focussing on the success of your theories makes you a scientist, not a philosopher of science.

pck: "Really existing" as opposed to what?

Daniel: Being shorthand for constructions out of sense data, ways in which Kantian Transcendental Categories form the world, language games we play to elicit the appropriate reactions, et cetera et cetera.


This is the only part of your reply that goes anywhere near an actual justification of SR. Unfortunately it is also the weakest bit by far, a hastily strung together bit of handwaving. The notion of sense data has been refuted and discarded so many times that merely mentioning it in passing does not constitute even a hint at an argument. The idea that we "construct" anything at all from our perceptions is also highly dubious and stands in need of elucidation. Kantian Categories come up in Kant in the context of judgement. To construct ontological claims from them takes extra work which you would have to provide or at least cite references to. (I grant that it is easy to agree with Kant's refutation of a particular brand of overly skeptical idealism. But it is much harder to justify SR's claim that our theoretical notions (for example electrons) are (parts of) the world that is "out there" as opposed to being tools for coping with the world. SR needs to show that our scientific notions are in some sense the only ones possible.) And finally, I have no idea what "language games we play to elicit the appropriate reactions" is supposed to explain or even refer to.

(continued)

pck said...

pck: Physical realism mistakenly models its use of "real" on the way we talk about the reality of objects of our experience ("there really is an apple on my desk, it's not a decoration made out of wax"). This is not the same use of "real" as it is applied to a successful theory's abstract entities. It is conceptually unsound to claim that "I really saw the voltmeter show N millivolts" and "there really are electrons" employ the same use of "really".

Daniel: Regarding the last sentence and the claim in general you would have to argue for it since it is precisely a denial of the metaphysical realism the scientific realist holds to be true.


First, trying to shift the burden of proof will not do anything to establish SR. And second, I did in fact argue for my point that there are different uses of "exist". That was what my comparison of airpane models and electron models was all about. A "model of an airplane" is (obviously) something quite distinct from a real airplane and we know in which relation the two stand: The model airplane is constructed with regard to the features of the real one. No such thing can (easily) be said about a "model of an electron" and a "real electron". Even just reading this already sounds strange. This is because it's unclear what "real" in "real electron" is supposed to refer to. For electrons, unlike for airplanes, the term "model" refers to the fact that our electron-theories may be incomplete in the sense that they may not always deliver correct predictions to our experiments. Of course one could say that there is an analogy to model airplanes in that model airplanes may not faithfully capture all the features of the real airplanes after which they are built. This is correct but does not make the ontological difference go away which lies in the fact that we can hold an airplane model right next to a real airplane and make a direct comparison. No comparable procedure is available for electrons. Your electron-model is your electron, epistemically speaking. But what this means ontologically is still to be clarified. And that is the (still unanswered) challenge the scientific realist faces.

Daniel: If on the other hand to be is to be the object of phenomenal experience as the Logical Positivists claim then you would be correct: statements about electrons are as empty of meaning as statements about God. However not being a phenomenalist constructivist or a Logical Positivist that need cut no ice with us.

Right, because not being a scientific realist does not automatically commit one to logical positivism or constructivism. But it does not follow that all statements about electrons are meaningless, even if one does commit to positivism or constructivism. After all, we manage to do quite a lot by using statements about electrons even though the philosophical questions of SR (and many other positions) have not received any definite answer. If we had to wait for philosophy to adjudicate questions about ontologies in order for science to progess we would have very little science, if any at all. Which does not mean that philosophy is useless or superfluous. (Just putting that in in case any Coyneian fanboys are reading this.)

Finally, comparing statements about the existence of electrons to statements about the existence of God is a categroy error (and pretty much the biggest one one can possibly make), since God (at least as conceived of by all of the world's major religions) is not an entity within nature like electrons are.

pck said...

pck: "Really existing" as opposed to what?

Daniel: Being shorthand for constructions out of sense data, ways in which Kantian Transcendental Categories form the world, language games we play to elicit the appropriate reactions, et cetera et cetera.

pck: This is the only part of your reply that goes anywhere near an actual justification of SR. [...]


I just realized that I misunderstood this part of your response and took it for advocacy when it was actually the opposite.

Thus the only part of my reply to your "Being shorthand for ..." which remains relevant is:

pck: But it is much harder to justify SR's claim that our theoretical notions (for example electrons) are (parts of) the world that is "out there" as opposed to being tools for coping with the world. SR needs to show that our scientific notions are in some sense the only ones possible.

The Frenchman said...

To Daniel,


Thank you very much for the answer, some interesting points made here !

Skeptical said...

Dr Feser

Is there any news about a potential due date for your work in the Philosophy of Nature? It is an area that is in most need of attention in modern Analytical Philosophy, and I eagerly await its release.

Timocrates said...

Corporealism has some very serious problems that are being overlooked.

Firstly, if corporeal bodies just are the principles of being and exhaust being, then bodies alone are being. But corporeal bodies are either all of them alike or different. If alike, then we have to do away with difference (and indeed change); if different, then we have to admit that there is more to nature than the corporeal as such (we have to admit quality); otherwise, every body is alike in kind (i.e. there could be only one kind of body). But this latter consequence contradicts the hypothesis.

We should not be distracted by appeals to minuteness. Moreover we should not be surprised that matter is so utterly mysterious - that is a strength and point made in Aristotelianism. Common experience tells us that we are often deceived exactly because the matter employed is not sufficient for a thing; hence, a projection might be mistaken for the reality. A Hollywood backdrop taken to be a real cityscape, for example. Matter is as it were once removed from us - things can appear to have the structure (form) of a thing but lack the necessary material principles or cause. It is an oddity of modernism that matter is taken to be as it were obvious. It is in fact anything but in a sense. The LHC is rather obvious proof that matter is most mysterious to us. If, however, we must know and understand absolutely the material nature and principles of things - if that principle is alone is the principle of knowledge of being, as in materialism it is and must be - then we do not in fact understanding anything material at all. A rather damning consequence for materialism and proof that its hypothesis is an empirical impossibility.

Anonymous said...

The subject of "Realism" is an interesting one. No one speaks for science, and so there are a significant number of scientists who question realism even within the realm of physics. Quantum mechanics has shown that there are no "hidden variables" or attributes that exist PRIOR to observation. Andrew Truscott at the Australian National University demonstrated that "Reality doesn't exist until it is observed" just this summer in Nature Physics.

"It proves that measurement is everything," Associate Professor Truscott said. "In some sense at the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it."

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/single-atom-experiment-gives-scientists-a-reality-check-20150603-ghfw59.html#ixzz3r1EVhGHE
Follow us: @smh on Twitter | sydneymorningherald on Facebook

I don't believe MY observations are creating the universe, and I sure don't believe anybody else's are. Only one other explanation for me.

Timocrates said...

Sorry, there are many typos and mistakes in my above post. Most of them not so problematic to prevent understanding but I see at least one that needs immediate correction:

"A rather damning consequence for materialism and proof that its hypothesis is an empirical impossibility."

Should read:

"...epistemological impossibility."

And that's what happens when I attempt to write before drinking enough coffee in the morning. My mind is working fine but insufficient caffeine to facilitate physical coordination/multitasking, especially accurately reproducing in type what I am actually thinking.

Anonymous said...

Guys, sorry for the off topic.

Did Anthony Kenny "destroy" Aquinas 5 Ways?
https://www.academia.edu/4152554/Thomas_Aquinas_Inadequate_Defense_of_the_First_Way_in_the_Summa_Theologica

And if so, why do we bother? Can someone elaborate on this?

Thanks

Inc said...

Whenever i hear "X person DESTROYS Y argument" on the internet, i automatically tend not to take the aforesaid X seriously and think chances are he's far from brilliant.

Profoundly biased then comes to mind.


Just my two cents on the issue ; i hope i'm not the only one.

Brandon said...

Kenny's criticisms involve some important errors in interpretation, although they served as a reasonably decent early attempt to work through the Five Ways with the tools of analytic philosophy (at least, the analytic philosophy of the late 1960s). And the scholarship (as well as analytic philosophy) has gone well beyond where Kenny was at the time. Taking it as the end of a discussion rather than a beginning is a serious mistake. (And in fairness, is not a mistake Kenny himself would likely make.)

Inc said...

Oh, no doubt Kenny's a smart philosopher.


However, i certainly doubt he ever used the childish word "destroy", in order to describe the result of a highly intellectual enterprise.

Now, it's under brackets.

So i assume Kenny didn't use that childish word himself, did he ?

I just seriously cannot imagine such a first rank philosopher, using such a paradoxically ridiculous term - indeed completely inappropriate in his case. Not even in my wildest dreams.


But anyways.

What errors have Prof. Kenny apparently made, exactly ?

Perhaps Professor Feser knows Kenny's thinking and could give it a try ? :)

Gottfried said...

Heh. It was a largely positive review by Anthony Kenny that led me to pick up The Last Superstition.

Scott said...

Inc:

Ed has addressed Kenny's arguments in Aquinas and in a few blog posts. If you search the blog for "Anthony Kenny" you should turn something up.

Brandon said...

Another good resource on one of the more obvious errors is Oderberg's "'Whatever is Changing is Being Changed by Something Else"': A Reappraisal of Premise One of the First Way", which is number 37 here.

Peter Smith said...

"Anonymous said...
Guys, sorry for the off topic.

Did Anthony Kenny "destroy" Aquinas 5 Ways?
"

Our favourite troll gives a convincing impersonation of a troll. That takes rare skill.

Inc said...

Oh so he already addressed them, nice, very nice.

Thank you.

Timocrates said...

From David S. Oderberg's "Whatever is Changing is Being Changed by Something Else":

"[Anthony] Kenny accuses Aquinas of numerous logical fallacies..."

If this is a true report of Kenny's The Five Ways, then there is simply no saving Anthony Kenny here. I mean we might as well take seriously the accusation of an obscure chef that a world famous colleague of his does not know how to cook. Of course no reasonable person could possibly take such an allegation seriously. If anything, I think it rather serves as evidence of rashness and depravity in modern Western philosophy.


https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7SKlRTfkUieN3dGVkhNTi1SQUU/view?pli=1

Timocrates said...

@ Inc

"Highly intellectual" deserves qualification. What is meant by this term in modern American scholarship is serious. And of course Kenny is serious. But are his accusations tenable? No. I did not like the young Chef Ramsays; however, I would never claim he didn't know how to cook.

In the Anglo world what we call 'scholarship' is subordinated to profit. Consequently, so is truth. But this is nothing new nor, indeed, unexpected.

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the Vicar said...

Hi Everyone

Sorry for changing the subject, but its only because I've been reading all your comments that its made me feel so completely uneducated. From a complete ignoramus, would you guys be so kind as to recommend a reading list of sorts from say, a good Introduction to Philosophy textbook to other books that would offer me a solid foundation on the related topics of that textbook. I'm sure even this question sounds ignorant because I know some of you may be wondering whether you should ask me whether I've heard of a bibliography or not, but as a complete beginner I'm looking for some guidance. I simply don't have the means or lifestyle to be able to study formally. But I can read and reading has taught me this much; you are what you read. Tx.

laubadetriste said...

Hi, the Vicar!

I would recommend avoiding textbooks, at least at the beginning. But there are some philosophy teachers around here who may be able to recommend some good ones. :) Meanwhile, let me steal from my own recent recommendations:

Generally, Bryan Magee's *The Great Philosophers* is a superlative overview of philosophy, because it is the record of a gifted amateur (in the etymological sense), talking with some of the best of contemporary philosophers, about most of the great philosophers. Hence it is passionate, and nontechnical without being unsophisticated, and addresses not just what the great philosophers were on about, but *why* they were on about it. (Leaving the *why* out being the soporific secret of most textbooks I have read.) The videos upon which the book was based are also on YouTube. And Magee's autobiography, *Confessions of a Philosopher*, is marvelous at showing the intimate involvement of philosophy in the life of a man who is aware, even before he becomes a man, and even before he reads any philosophy.

Bertrand Russell's *The Problems of Philosophy* is a perennial favorite, because of its beauty, clarity, and brevity. It is available for free online. How suggestive that a man so intimidatingly brilliant that even Virginia Woolf said she would like to ride around in his head for a few days could write something so simple!

Dr. Feser's work is the reason why we're all here. Really, do go back on the blog and read as much as you can about what he says. Or if you prefer something from a naturalist perspective, John Searle's *The Rediscovery of the Mind* is every bit as good as Dr. Feser said it is--perhaps even it is better! And it is short.

And I would be remiss if I did not encourage you to go back to the classics and read a lot of Plato, perhaps starting with the *Gorgias*, or the three works on the last days of Socrates (one of which directly addresses materialism). As Lewis said:

"There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about “isms” and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire."--Introduction to Athanasius’ *On The Incarnation*

"I'm sure even this question sounds ignorant..."

No, it doesn't. It sounds humble.

And if you *should* want bibliographies, then the ones in Roger Scruton's *Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey* are superlative (as is the book that contains them), and the ones at the London Philosophy Study Guide.

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's appropriate to ask Dr. Feser what books he assigns in his Intro to Philosophy classes and other Intro classes.