Saturday, February 20, 2016

Around the web


Busy, busy couple of weeks.  So, I’ll let others do the writing.  Here’s a large load of links:

David Oderberg on the current state of bioethics: Interview at BioEdge (reprinted at MercatorNet).

Neo-Aristotelian meta-metaphysician Tuomas Tahko is interviewed at 3:AM Magazine.   He also has recently published An Introduction to Metametaphysics

Michael Novak revisits the topic of Catholicism and social justice in a new book co-written with Paul Adams.  Interview at National Review Online, commentary at First Things, the Law and Liberty blog, and The Catholic Thing.

At The Imaginative Conservative, Bradley Birzer analyzes Hitchcock’s Vertigo.  (I offered my own analysis here some time back.)

Modern philosophers: Stephen Mumford and Rani Lill Anjum are here to tell you that “Causation is Not Your Enemy.”  Paper here, outline here.

Daniel Mahoney on political philosopher Pierre Manent, at City Journal

New books: Svein Anders Noer Lie, Philosophy of Nature: Rethinking naturalness; Ronald Baines and Richard Barcellos, Confessing the Impassible God; Glenn Siniscalchi, Retrieving Apologetics; Francis Beckwith, Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith.

And some old books: Henri Grenier’s Thomistic Philosophy manuals are back in print.

The Los Angeles Review of Books on the reissue of Roger Scruton’s Thinkers of the New Left.

William Carroll on mind, brain, and materialism, at First Things; and on science and theology, at Public Discourse.

What influence did H.L.A. Hart have on John Finnis’s “new natural law” theory?  Santiago Legarre investigates

At Just Thomism, James Chastek on James Ladyman and scientism

Scientific American asks: Is string theory science?   Quanta Magazine addresses the same question.

Fr. James Schall on the goodness of wrath and anger.

Eva Brann revisits Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind.

New Statesman on the first atheists.

Christopher Caldwell on Bradley Birzer on Russell Kirk, in The New York Times.

At Crisis, Fr. George Rutler on German episcopal condescension toward Africa

Somebody had to say it: The Daily Mail explains why Star Wars sucks

Defender of divine simplicity James Dolezal is all over YouTube

At Public Discourse, philosopher Rachel Lu on women in the military.

Christopher Malloy at Thomistica.net on “new natural law” theory and practical politics.

The Guardian asks: How close are we to creating real superpowers?  (By the way, since they had to go and use a picture of him: I have always hated the character Deadpool, and, from what I’ve seen of it, the new movie is vile.)

Via YouTube, John Haldane’s lecture on virtue, happiness, and the meaning of life.


At the Claremont Review of Books, Douglas Kries comments on J. Budziszewski’s Commentary on Thomas Aquinas’s Treatise on Law.

109 comments:

Thursday said...

So, someone who admits never watching more than 5 min of a Star Wars movie explains why they all suck. Riiiiiiiiiight.

Scott said...

The Anjum-Mumford paper (which is quite good) will be of particular interest to participants in the recent discussions here and on the Classical Theism forum about causation, necessity, and determinism.

Jon New said...

The day I accept Piers Morgan's view on anything, is the day evil pixies come and steal my frontal lobe.

Timocrates said...

"William Carroll on mind, brain, and materialism."

You have to admire the daring presumption of the modernists who have the uncanny ability to see what is actually really evidence of falsity in their thinking and elevating it rather to a veritable proof of their beliefs.

And alas! The neurosurgeon failed to think to take a picture of the thoughts of his patients so the whole world could thus see what a thought really looks like! He had empirical proof that a thought is a strictly material, sensible thing but forgot to record the evidence! How can a man who operates on brains be so clumsy?

Indeed, we are left marveling at why the surgeon - with his patient's mind wide open before his very eyes - felt the need to listen to the answers provided by his patients, when after all he had had direct access to the patients very thoughts themselves! He should have been perfectly situated to read their minds! Or perhaps the surgeon was being humble, indulging his patients by pretending to need to hear their responses to his questions? Did he have a smirk as they answered, seeing as he already knew their thoughts, they being laid bare before him?

iwpoe said...

What's wrong with Deadpool, Ed!?

Richard said...

Deadpool is about a pansexual merc going around doing revenge killings. Atavistic bordering on nihilistic would be a good description.

iwpoe said...

"Deadpool is about a pansexual merc going around doing revenge killings. Atavistic bordering on nihilistic would be a good description."

Well, that's what's morally wrong with him, but I don't generally require that my fictional characters be morally adequate. He is also insane after all.

Richard said...

You have a point, iwope.

daurio said...

I'm not a big fan of Star Wars, and I know that sometimes idiots can be right (even ultra-idiots), and I know it's Lent and all, but would I be asking too much to request that Piers Morgan's articles never be linked to from this site again?
The other articles look great though.

Edward Feser said...

Fair enough, guys. Next time I'll post an article by Star Wars explaining why Piers Morgan sucks.

Jimmy James said...

Is it coincidence that the blog mentions "vertigo" and the word "vertigo" comes up immediately in Carrol's article??? Hmmmmm

Ivan Knezović said...

Deadpool was fun. It was dumb, and by no means a work of art, but for the 21 year old myself it was entertaining.
Also professor Feser, I would recommend to you a novel which I'd very much like to hear your opinion about as you may have an interest in a, which I at least consider to be, the best Catholic novel of the 20th century, Book of the New Sun. And as it heavily deals with a thomistic order of the universe you might like it. Seeing as you posted a PKD article, you might have an interest in a metaphysical science fantasy novel.
Of course I also think Gene Wolfe is an author who doesn't nearly get the respect and recognition he deserves so I'm hoping to draw other people to him.

Jimmy James said...

I just finished a Gene Wolfe novel: "The Land Across". That's my 3rd Wolfe (Peace, HomeFires, and now TLA).

Good stuff.... way over my head though

Ivan Knezović said...

His recent work has been way too subtle so most of the novel is hidden in the subtext. He's generally cryptic, but in a different way.
I still haven't read Peace as the order got stuck and never arrived.
As his best I would recommend alongside Book of the New Sun, Fifth Head of Cerberus novellas and Island of Doctor Dead and Other Stories and Other Stories (intentional repetition in title).

Mr. Green said...

Timocrates: How can a man who operates on brains be so clumsy?

Touché.

We learn: Knausgaard witnessed first-hand the connection between electrical stimulation of parts of the brain and bodily movements.

I'm sure that electrically stimulating his backside would result in some bodily movement too, but does Knausgaard expect us to believe that his seat of thought is located in, er, his seat? (Mind you, I'm not saying it isn't, I'm just saying the evidence would be found elsewhere.)

iwpoe said...

Re the materialist:
Obviously, because of deeply held commitment, they will only accept total lack of visual connection with behavior as consistent with an immaterialist counter position. Assuming that he was being genuine about his previous thoughts on the mind being "abstract", I suspect he believed that if his beliefs were true, then he would open the skull up and nothing would be going on with the person. Something was going on, so immaterialism is untrue

daurio said...

@ Dr. Feser
"Fair enough, guys. Next time I'll post an article by Star Wars explaining why Piers Morgan sucks."

Now you're talking!

Thursday said...

Knausgaard is actually an interesting writer, and something of a conservative. But I'm afraid he's being led down the garden path here.

Anonymous said...

Deadpool was boring. Countless times I wondered whether I was supposed to find a certain line or scene funny. The New Yorker aptly described my matinee experience:

"Watching the film is like sitting at dinner with a teen-ager who believes that, if he swears long and loudly enough, he will shock the grownups into accepting him as one of their own."

Jeff S said...

Hey, Dr. Feser, I was wondering: how much time do you spend per day keeping up with articles and the like? Be it politics, philosophy, or pop culture. Do you tend to do it at home in your 'free time', or do you associate it more with work? And do you have some sort of media aggregator you check everything on through a funnel (FB, Twitter), or do you actually visit your favorite individual sites daily/weekly/monthly?

Bizarre question, I realize.

iwpoe said...

What's wrong with Deadpool, Ed!?

Shawn said...

So if William Carol is rejecting dualism, what exactly is he advocating in that article? Non-reductive physicalism? Seems odd for him to outright reject dualism.

Daniel said...

(Apologies for grumpiness fellows)

From the moment I read the flavour text from that Rachel Lu article I knew it would exemplify everything wrong with Aristotelian ethics; save for a conspicuous absence of appeals to the Common Good it did not disappoint.

(Aside from Meta-Ethical issues her conclusions are tenuous at any rate: if the point had been that demographically far less women are suited for combat roles - which needless to say have changed greatly over the last hundred years - than men and that the bar for the former should in no way be lower, then few unclouded by the narcotic fumes of contemporary feminism would disagree; however to jump from 'few can' to 'none should' appears spurious. If there's a cause objectively worth fighting for then those willing should do so.)

NL has in common with much of modern philosophy this undertone of rhetorical furry towards anything it suspects of not treating one's body as essential*. 'How dare you not 100% identify with your body; you don't love your body, you must be repressed and resentful [insert burrowed sub-Nietzschean pejoratives]' hur-de-hur-hur-hur are you the g-g-g-g-ghost in the machine?'. I'm not referring to any technical version to Substance Dualism here; it's a more insidious rhetorical quirk not relating to any one specific position (maybe it initially arose out of Anti-Substance Dualism virtue signalling though?)

Another thought: to what extent does the ‘polis’ making focus of Aristotle’s Ethics effect their application in the contemporary world. Unlike in his time there is no land which is not ‘claimed’ by someone or another (as in part of a nation). There is no way to step outside the polis so to speak.

*In fact the question of the body's centrality is different to that of a person's identification with it - the most extreme Cartesian can hold the body of paramount importance as an arbitrary Divine Gift.

Daniel said...

Cont.

A brief fisking will follow:

Virtually no one would argue that either men or women should be enslaved to their physiology. But should we see it as an awkward physiological accident that men have (larger) biceps, and women the power to bring forth new life? Surely it’s more reasonable to incorporate these features into a complete and fully humane understanding of manhood and womanhood, in a way that gives meaning and social purpose to both.

As was said these difference will always show in demographic tendencies. Attempts to forcibly squash them would be wrong but that alone is to argument for positively enforcing them.

Women have bodies of amazing power: Nothing can compare to holding a newborn and realizing with awe, “My body built that.” It’s a remarkable feat that men can never simulate.

This nicely encapsulates a whole host of worries over the value of maternal or paternal love (to love someone based on their blood and not on their personal virtue; I will not say it’s wrong but it’s uneasy). Some might say that entire point of Christianity is transcend all this and love others as if they were one’s own. Few manage it of course but that doesn’t stop it being an ideal goal.

Young men should view themselves as protectors, ready to do what is needed to prevent the wicked from victimizing the innocent.

All persons finding themselves in such a situation should do what is needed to prevent the wicked victimising the innocent. If the only two persons available are a fifteen-year old ballerina and an armed-to-the–teeth ex-military commando then it makes sense for that latter to lead the defence, but still the obligation falls to both of them.

That doesn’t mean she can’t also (if she wants) learn to write software, but it does mean that she should expect her contribution to society to take the form of giving life, not taking it.

So have we an implicature to the effect that the masculine contribution to society is taking life? If new life is worth bringing into the world in the first place the impulse towards should be cultivated by all.

What this means is that both boys and girls should be raised to embrace the unique potentialities of their bodies.

The ‘unique potentialities’ of their bodies tend to cluster around the reproductive functions, and as far as I know no-one here is making any move to forcible deprive people of them.

Daniel said...

*Should be*

'Attempts to forcibly squash them would be wrong but that alone is no argument for positively enforcing them'

Mr. Green said...

Shawn: So if William Carol is rejecting dualism, what exactly is he advocating in that article?

Hylomorphic sesquialism. Sometimes referred to as a sort of "dualism", but that can be misleading if it's interpreted to be like Cartesian dualsim. See, for example, "Was Aquinas a Dualist?", "Was Aquinas a Materialist?", "The Interaction Problem (part I)", or many others you can find on this site.

Step2 said...

Next time I'll post an article by Star Wars explaining why Piers Morgan sucks.

Maybe a video demonstrating how Piers took a wrong turn is sufficient. It is not like Coyne has been excoriated for critiquing books he admits to not reading.

Shawn said...

Could you provide a metaphor that can make this view more easily understandable? Thanks.

Daniel D. D. said...

Anonymous (2/20/16 at 18:55),

"Watching the film is like sitting at dinner with a teen-ager who believes that, if he swears long and loudly enough, he will shock the grownups into accepting him as one of their own."

A critique of Deadpool should then develop into a critique of Millennial humor?

Have you ever watched the kinds of cartoons and sitcoms children watch today? Things like Adventure Time or My Little Pony, which college aged men find entertaining :-(

Christi pax.

Daniel said...

No, if only because it's just another example of the Anti-Substance Dualism virtue signalling. The quickest way to differentiate the view in question is by pointing out how it rejects the body/mind binary of most modern dualism and instead appeals to the wider form/matter distinction, with the soul(at least in the case of rational annimals) being an unusual example of a subsistent form.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Feser,

Thanks for the note on Grenier's manuals being back in print.

Pardon what sounds like a commercial, but in case any other dirt poor students are looking for a more economical option than the current Amazon listings, TheMadPapist.com is currently listing them for $17.95/each.... Don't miss the coupon code too to save on the shipping cost.

—Larry

Taylor said...

I don't think that watching My Little Pony is a far-reaching phenomenon among college-aged males. It is a small group of men that are 'bronies.'

Adventure Time, yes (I admit, I did think it had elements of humour and fun when it first came out, but soon grew tired of it as the series continued). But, My Little Ponies, no...

Either way, I see little in comparison between either of those shows and Deadpool...

Daniel D. D. said...

Taylor,

I think sitcoms like ICarly and New Girl are just mildler versions of the same kind of Humor in Deadpool.

Christi pax.

Taylor said...

@Daniel D. D.

Perhaps you could elaborate? I don't doubt that you are on to something, that these forms of entertainment are only different in degrees, but I simply don't have the capacity to analyse it properly.

Also, if we are going here, what is the difference between these new sitcoms and toons and, say, the old Looney Toons and Tom and Jerry? If anything those were just as violent and senseless (and, quite frankly bizarre), if not more so, than Adventure Time, or the Amazing World of Gumball, or Chowder, or *insert name of preteen cartoon*.

Thanks,

Taylor

Anonymous said...

"only different in degrees"

I can't agree. I think a program (Deadpool) that features flippant graphic nudity and bodily dismemberment is, because of the mere presence of those things, different in kind from a program (iCarly) that does not.

Taylor said...

I suppose that would depend on how one analyses the function of the entertainment being compared, right?

One may be more vulgar, but what is the end of the vulgarity? And, how does this compare to the end of other milder forms of entertainment? The nudity and dismemberment are not there for the sake of nudity and dismemberment, but are meant to affect the audience in some way. Is this simply to get a reaction? To be over-the-top? To shock in a specific way?

Or is it meant to cause the audience to be self-reflective, think about issues of morality, etc.,

I would think that both the mild forms and more extreme forms would fit more firmly in the former.

But, I am waiting to see what Daniel D. D. says.

Daniel Carriere said...

Interesting to see this firm defense of divine simplicity by James Dolezal, a protestant.

Somewhat of a strong take down of Craig and other theistic personalists here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzSFFJ2QzqE&list=PLAWiXw_kBp-z_O1_fJnHcTUrPrx1NCYff&index=5

Billy said...

Deadpool's humor, although fell flat at times, is not really that different to less crude humor. I would say the humor falls flat at the times when it tries to rely on crudeness most of the time, and not having it as merely a part of the humor.

For example, when he is trying to fight Colossus, he punches him, breaking his hand, then punching with his other hand, breaking it, then his leg, breaking that as well. This kind of gag has existed for ages. Reminds me of this Monty Python sword fight where the guy is losing limbs, but just keeps fighting anyway. Clearly Monty Python did it better, but the gag is not really of a different kind and the humor still comes from the same reason.

The Masked Chicken said...

"Clearly Monty Python did it better, but the gag is not really of a different kind and the humor still comes from the same reason."

Oh, no, no, no...no.

Now, I haven't seen Deadpool (nor will I), but there are many examples of the, "stubborn fighter," script in cinematic humor history that can go from merely annoying to giggle-inducing,depending on circumstances (which play a large part in modifying the humor), but the Monty Python skit is in a class by itself, precisely because it is a surreal example of this type of script, whereas Deadpool is merely mundane. Harley Quinn would have been much funnier. The humor does not come from the same one reason. The Monty Python stubborn fighter script is complex humor, having many layers of humor which might be triggered; not so with Deadpool. I suppose the writers of Deadpool were going for black humor, but, at best, they seem to have only gotten to muddy humor and not true comic genius black humor.

The Chicken

James said...

Well, if you have not and will not see Deadpool, you may not be in the most appropriate position to conduct a comparative analysis of the humor employed therein.

Glenn said...

That someone has not watched and will not watch the movie, does not mean that he did not and cannot read the script.

Timotheos said...

"The Monty Python stubborn fighter script is complex humor, having many layers of humor which might be triggered."

I would like to add that the black knight scene is largely borrowing from medieval romances, such as in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, when the Green Knight gets his head cut off, and then proceeds to pick it up and walk away, preparing for next year when he will get his chance to strike Sir Gawain (it was part of the terms of the duel). Now while King Arthur's court does see this as a strange event, they all write it off as part of the magic of the Christmas season; with Christ's birth, life is in the air, so to speak.

This is hardly the only time when the movie borrows from medieval tropes; the whole white rabbit thing is borrowing the illuminated manuscripts, which are full of rabbits dressed up in armor and fighting battles and doing all sorts of crazy things.

Thus, I agree with the Masked Chicken that we need to separate this scene from the Deadpool version; while the MP scene might have loosely inspired the Deadpool one, MP is making this scene as part of its comedic tour of all things medieval romance, whereas the Deadpool one is just after the joke in insolation.

Billy said...

"Oh, no, no, no...no.

Both of them, as you point out, present the stubborn fighter gag. That is part of where the humor comes from each scene. One scene (the Monty Python one) just had other aspects that added to the humor of the scene.

"we need to separate this scene from the Deadpool version"

I never said they were the same scene, but they were the same joke.

Billy said...

If there can be metametaphysics, can there be metametametaphysics? Wouldn't it eventually fall to Phil. Of Language or something similar?

Timocrates said...

@ Billy,

"Reminds me of this Monty Python sword fight where the guy is losing limbs..."

Classic. I love how he keeps trying to fight even when he has no limbs left. That's the spirit!

But anywho, What are the French doing in England?

Timocrates said...

@ Timotheos,

"Now while King Arthur's court does see this as a strange event, they all write it off as part of the magic of the Christmas season..."

Naturally.

Jason said...

Busy, busy couple of weeks. So, I’ll let others do the writing.

Thank you Dr. Feser, even with a busy schedule you have time for this wonderful blog. Appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

"Fair enough, guys. Next time I'll post an article by Star Wars explaining why Piers Morgan sucks."

Or you could wait for the review of "Leo Tolstoy" by Warren Peace.

Daniel Carriere said...

David Oderberg seems pretty pessimistic about the ability of philosophy to drive culture change:

What I will say is that the future of bioethics is tied to the future of society (or societies). Don’t expect bioethicists to lead the way in restoring sanity to an otherwise insane society. In fact, don’t expect philosophers to do so.

The cultural forces at work are what drive future developments, and whilst it’s true that bioethics has been very much in the vanguard, it is not the driver. We need to look at the wider society: where is it going? What will it be like in, say, thirty years? Answer that question and you will have answered the question as to what bioethics will look like.



Cheers,
Daniel

Taylor Weaver said...

@Daniel, do you disagree with Oderberg's assessment?

I hope he is wrong. Well, especially about the future of bioethics. I did read an article last year that seemed to show some rumblings in Belgium about right-to-die stuff...

But, that seems to be a drop in the cultural bucket, so to speak.

Daniel D. D. said...

All things, that exist, are either created or uncreated. If, then, things are created, it follows that they are also wholly mutable. For things, whose existence originated in change, must also be subject to change, whether it be that they perish or that they become other than they are by act of will. But if things are uncreated they must in all consistency be also wholly immutable. For things which are opposed in the nature of their existence must also be opposed in the mode of their existence, that is to say, must have opposite properties: who, then, will refuse to grant that all existing things, not only such as come within the province of the senses, but even the very angels, are subject to change and transformation and movement of various kinds? For the things appertaining to the rational world, I mean angels and spirits and demons, are subject to changes of will, whether it is a progression or a retrogression in goodness, whether a struggle or a surrender; while the others suffer changes of generation and destruction, of increase and decrease, of quality and of movement in space. Things then that are mutable are also wholly created. But things that are created must be the work of some maker, and the maker cannot have been created. For if he had been created, he also must surely have been created by some one, and so on till we arrive at something uncreated. The Creator, then, being uncreated, is also wholly immutable. And what could this be other than Deity?

Is this the First Way?

Christi pax.

Greg said...

Philosophy basically never drives cultural change.

Timocrates said...

@ Greg,

"Philosophy basically never drives cultural change."

I don't believe this. In the East philosophy basically became religion many times and thus a font and molder of cultures. In the West, the schools definitely did and do drive cultural change, but this is derivative of philosophy at least in its broad sense. We distinguish today, of course, between philosophy and ideology; but ideology is basically just bad philosophy. And who surveying, say, the 20th century would deny that ideologies (sometimes quite violently) shaped or changed culture? Ultimately world-views need to be planted - whether in the schools or in the popular arts and in policies that reinforce, in the day-to-day living of societies, that overall world-view, however vague or malleable it may be. It might then, in turn, be more or less taken for granted or as default.

At the end of the day, people really do act in accordance with what they believe to be good (or best) and true.

John West said...

Hi guys,

I've just received the sad news that Scott died last Thursday, when an ulcer in his stomach burst. I'm told the crash team was there very quickly, but couldn't do anything to save him.

Scott had told me about a week ago that he wasn't feeling well. Then on Thursday morning that he was “in the hospital for some heart and liver stuff”.

I hope you'll all keep him and his family in your prayers.

Taylor Weaver said...

Scott?? As in Scott the guy who commented second on this combox and is a rather vibrant part of the commenting community here?

Oh Lord. Grace and mercy...

Anonymous said...

That man was such a light... R.I.P Scott, you will be sorely missed.

Glenn said...

I'm stunned. It's like losing a member of the family. Holy smokes. Amen to what Anonymous said.

Edward Feser said...

John, this is shocking and very sad news. Scott's contributions to this blog were invaluable and he'll be greatly missed. Like so many here I'll be praying for the repose of his soul and for his family.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy Scott was received in the Church before he died.

Anonymous said...

We should use Scott's death as a reminder to repent of our sins, because death is much closer than we expect...I think Scott would want us to do this.

Rest in Peace Scott.

Anonymous said...

Rest in Peace.

I don't remember ever commenting here, though I'm a long-time lurker and can't imagine this blog without Scott's distinctive avatar everywhere in the comment section.

Taylor Weaver said...

I have mostly been a lurker on here. But for the few years that I have been following Ed's blog, Scott was always one of the commenters that I greatly enjoyed reading. He took care to explain things well, had a vast and diverse knowledge, and was a genuinely nice and gracious man.

Thank Jesus for Scott. I pray his family is well.

iwpoe said...

@Greg
"Philosophy basically never drives cultural change."

Except that it is the intellectual core of all classical religion, and of all modern constitutions, and of Marxism, and a many academic departments, and of many ways of conceiving the scientific method...

What are you talking about?

Also much saddness re Scott.

iwpoe said...

Ed, perhaps a full formal blog entry noting his passing is appropriate?

Greg said...

Sad to see Scott go. He was a man of great intelligence, patience, and charity.

Greg said...

@ Timocrates and iwpoe

You're right. That was a careless and pessimistic remark.

That said, historical causation is tough. Most religions have some philosophical core, in some sense of that term. Was the rise and spread of Christianity driven by philosophy? Of Islam? Was the Protestant Reformation driven by philosophy? I imagine one is always going to be able to find some sense in which those questions can be answered affirmatively.

Greg said...

(Though, I suppose, Oderberg was not really casting doubt on the idea that philosophy can affect social change. He was just saying that one should not expect academic philosophers to succeed in changing what they set out to change. And that's obviously right, though not what I said. But it's all I'll affirm now.)

Dennis said...

I'm so upset to hear this, my goodness. I'm near tears. May God Bless his family. I'm going to cry.....John, I hope you're doing fine, because I'm not. He will be sorely missed.....

Daniel Carriere said...

This is very sad new for me. Along with every fantastic post from Ed, I could always expect a thoughtful response from Scott and very positive dialogue.

God bless you Scott. I will miss you. Pray for us, because I'm am very hopeful that you've skipped purgatory and have gone straight into the presence of God and are currently enjoying more happiness than I can possibly imagine.

Daniel

iwpoe said...

@ Greg

It depends both on what you mean by "driven" and by "philosophy". I would say that in many cases philosophy in some sense was necessary but not sufficient for change and other times you could imagine that the change would have happened in absence of a philosophical background, but it's hard to imagine the rout or that things would have happened just as well.

Also re Oderberg, yes, of course, but this is true even of someone like Caesar and Napoleon or of Buddha, Kennedy, and Luther. Moreover sometimes academic philosophers do makes something of the change they intended. Russell did. Rawles did (even outside philosophy). Kant did. Descartes did. Other times they make it late or posthumously- Nietzsche, Marx, Plotinus.

Daniel Carriere said...

The work of Ed, David, and other philosophers has certainly driven change in me, and I am part of culture. I believe there are many others who are being convinced as well. In the realm of bio-ethics, we seem to be losing many battles, and that may be why David is so pessimistic. But truth is truth. And I certainly hope that culture will turn around, or at least be reborn in some other part of the world.

Cheers,
Daniel

James said...

Oh, crap. Scott didn't really know me, but I was following his blog way back in the day (early 2000s). He's pretty much solely responsible for the eighteen-year-old-me getting over his petulant teenaged objectivism. I'm sure I would have shaken it eventually, but I doubt I would have developed an abiding interest in philosophy were it not for Scott.

It was an almost surreal bit of small worldedness to find him commenting at this blog, but I was always happy to read his contributions here (his old website long since having evaporated). Terrible news. I hope his family comes through all right.

Greg said...

@ iwpoe

It depends both on what you mean by "driven" and by "philosophy".

Agreed.

Moreover sometimes academic philosophers do makes something of the change they intended.

I think that's right, and Oderberg would allow for it. Philosophers can affect and have affected cultural change, but they can't expect to (even if they are in fact defending what is correct). One may make an argument that turns out to be very influential, but an argument that is just as strong might fail to influence many people's practice, because there are other cultural forces at work.

Anonymous said...

iwpoe said, "Ed, perhaps a full formal blog entry noting his passing is appropriate? "

And if that happens perhaps it would be appropriate to move John West's announcement of Scott's death and the responses to it from this thread over to that post.

Jason said...

The passing of Scott is indeed very sad. He was generous with his answers and an excellent commentator (learned a lot from him), he will surely be missed. My thoughts and prays for his family.

dguller said...

Scott was one of the most gracious and thoughtful commenters I have ever engaged with online. He had a largeness of heart and patience that was simply amazing, and he was tireless in his charitable clarifications over my many misunderstandings, for which I am deeply indebted. I am simply in shock that he is gone, and can only say that he will certainly be missed.

May he rest in peace.

Mr. Green said...

Sad news indeed about Scott (henceforthrightly known as "Scott the Great", or for short, "Great Scott"). I have to agree with all the comments; his posts were always worthwhile, and it won't be the same without him.

Rick Martin said...

Dr Feser-

I'm a long time reader of your blog, and I teach Catholic Theology at a high school in Raleigh, NC. Your books and posts have been of immense help to me for years now, and I've tried to introduce as many of my students to you as possible. I was just wondering if you've seen this video of Bill Nye discussing the value of philosophy, and if so, what your thoughts might be...I found it thoroughly entertaining.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROe28Ma_tYM

Gottfried said...

Very, very sorry to learn of the passing of Scott. His comments were a big part of what made this place so special.

May God comfort his family and friends.

Timocrates said...

@ Greg,

"Was the rise and spread of Christianity driven by philosophy? Of Islam? Was the Protestant Reformation driven by philosophy? I imagine one is always going to be able to find some sense in which those questions can be answered affirmatively."

Right, because man is philosophical by nature. To believe that to be driven by the love of God is good, right or best for man (whether as individuals or as a society) is a philosophical commitment in man and philosophically analyzable, for example. That a practical materialism is better or that out-and-out scientism is better or should take priority, etc., are obviously also philosophical commitments and likewise analyzable. This isn't to reduce, say, miracles or divine revelation to philosophy or even philosophizing anymore than to think that ordinary natural events are (themselves) philosophy. It's just that what drives man (qua rational) and societies always is an underlying, ultimately philosophical and philosophically analyzable presupposition or commitment. It has to do with what is good, right, true or best.

pck said...

I just learned about Scott's passing, very very sad news indeed. I completely agree with all previous commenters, his contributions were always a joy to read and I learned a lot from him.

Anonymous said...

I am a daily reader and rare contributor to this excellent blog. I am really saddened to hear about Scott's death. He was a powerful presence here and I expect will be sorely missed by everyone. I consistently found myself both sympathetic to his thoughtful responses and often edified by them. Great Scott indeed.

Brandon said...

I can't add anything to the other comments that have been made on Scott's death; he was indeed an excellent person of excellent mind, and in many ways the best of all of us who regularly comment here.

Given that he seemed to have developed a strong Marian devotion, I think I will be praying some of the indulgenced Marian prayers this week in his honor.

daurio said...

Scott was a brilliant contributor to this blog. I hoped someday to meet him in this life, I now hope to meet him in the next. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord.

Taylor Weaver said...

I remember that Scott recently mentioned that he had written a book. Does anyone know the name of it? Or have a link to it? I'd like to read it in his honor.

Brandon said...

The title is Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality: A Critique of Ayn Rand’s Epistemology. You can read it online here:

http://www.scholardarity.com/?p=1828 (click the link with the title of the book)

You can also buy it at Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/Objectivism-Corruption-Rationality-Critique-Epistemology/dp/0595267335

James said...

Yup. Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality:

http://www.amazon.com/Objectivism-Corruption-Rationality-Critique-Epistemology/dp/0595267335

It's (obviously) an extended argument against Randian Objectivism. His early online presence was devoted in large part to texts contra Rand. At that point he put forward absolute idealism in the style of Bradley as a viable philosophical outlook (with a particular fondness for Brand Blanshard).

You can find a PDF of his book very easily, but I won't link to it in case it's not legit. I *can* tell you that he used to make the book available free online.

Brandon said...

On James's point, I did notice a number of places the PDF was online that looked like they might have been done without permission; but I can personally vouch that the version at Scholardarity had Scott's permission; I knew the person who was organizing it at the time. (Alas, he too is gone; we all fade away too quickly.)

Conor said...

Consider me another member of this combox who benefited from Scott's posts. This is very, very sad news. Reading his exchanges with Dr. Feser and the regulars here greatly helped to clarify my own understanding of the topics discussed. And he was always gracious and patient with lesser minds such as myself.

Wasn't he going through RCIA? Does anyone know if he was a candidate or catechumen?

Either way, rest in peace, brother.

Daniel Carriere said...

The Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality books states he was convinced of Judaism at the time and a follower of Spinoza. But that was published in 2003. A great deal may have changed in that time.

I remember reading at some point that he was in RCIA. I wish we knew more about his conversion history.

Cheers,
Daniel

Step2 said...

Scott was also a musician in addition to his many other talents. His keen intellect, expansive knowledge, generous spirit and charming wit will be sorely missed.

Edward Feser said...

iwpoe wrote:

Ed, perhaps a full formal blog entry noting his passing is appropriate?

Yes, that is my thought too. Before doing so I would prefer to run it past his family, though, since I did not know Scott personally and would not want to post any mistaken information. I have tried to make contact indirectly, but since they are understandably busy with other things right now I will have to see if they are able to get back to me about the matter. So, we'll see.

Anonymous said...

Scott will be missed for Scott.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what Scott's philosophical reasons for opposing Rand are. There's an abundance of them. Yet from what I know of Rand, she was revolting against a decimation of human independence and the individual's basic authority from his senses and reason. She radically overblew it. But she was not wrong about her fear. If human authority can contradict our senses and reason, then we are subjects. We haven't independent authority. We can appeal to nothing of ourselves: "Admit one absurdity, and you have no grounds for denying all the rest that follow from it."

Scott shared a paper he wrote with me from when he was younger. It was a powerful refutation of Rand's failure to distinguish between perception and sensation. I suspect he did so because he thought I was fond of her philosophy. He was right. I benefitted greatly from his paper. I say this only because while Scott was right to oppose Rand's collapse of sense and reason, I don't want to see Rand being over demonized. She did great harm to philosophical truth but I believe she was honestly trying to vindicate something like common sense. She was not wrong in thinking that if a man gives up the evidence of his sense and reason, then he is a slave. Forsake those and you have no grounds for objection.

Timotheos said...

It's so sad to hear about Scott's passing; he was always such a patient and good commenter.

I've asked St. Catherine of Alexandria to pray for him, on top of Mary; it seemed fitting as she's the patroness of philosophers, and is usually depicted as a handmaiden to the Virgin. Certainly if ever there was a true philosopher (i.e. Lover of wisdom) it was Scott.

As far as whether he was a candidate or not, I remember somewhere on this blog he mentioned that he was raised a Presbyterian, which would mean that he was [probably] baptized, seeing as how they almost always practice infant baptism.

From there, as I understand it, he bacame an atheist by his college years, but was then weaned off of it to a sort of panentheism by reading Spinoza, Bland Brandshaw, Bradley, and other Rationalists/Idealists of that broad stripe.

From there, he moved towards a sort of Rationalist Judaism, probably through Spinoza, while gaining some Christian leanings (again, probably from Spinoza)

He then seems to have become a sort of "tweener", as he put it to me once, when he became convinced that Christ's resurrection from the dead was a historical fact. I presume he stopped short of the incarnation however, which would line up with a Jewish author who's work he pointed me to when we were discussing it once on this blog.

Finally, he actually decided to convert to Catholicism due to a discussion on this very blog; here's the link to the relevant post.

He talked to a priest later that same day, which is presumably when he started RCIA, or at least prepared then for when it started.

He posted in early February that he had started a Marian consecration in the Louis de Montfort sort of mold on the Classical Theism Forum, but that is pretty much the limit of my knowledge of the subject of his religious views.

All in all, he probably died a candidate, unless he was received into the church on his deathbed; someone with more knowledge about his death will have to answer that question.

Timotheos said...

Whoops, linked the wrong thing; here's the real link.

Anonymous said...

Christs resurrection from the dead an historical fact?
Laugh out loud.


rmatrgu said...

Anonymous (March 1, 2016 at 1:12 AM) said:
> "Christs [sic] resurrection from the dead an historical fact?
> Laugh out loud."

Anonymous trolls are so anonymously brave and transgressive, aren't they.

Anyway, with others I pray that Scott rests in peace.

- Roger

Chris said...

I am deeply saddened to hear of Scott's passing. This blog won't be the same without him.

Greg said...

@ Timotheos

Thanks for posting that. I remembered that he'd mentioned he was a candidate (and knew of his Marian devotion) but wasn't sure where.

scbrownlhrm said...


Absolutely speechless on seeing this news about Scott.

Speechless.

Others here have perfectly captured our common sense of things here:

[1] Conor: Consider me another member of this combox who benefited from Scott's posts. This is very, very sad news. Reading his exchanges with Dr. Feser and the regulars here greatly helped to clarify my own understanding of the topics discussed. And he was always gracious and patient with lesser minds such as myself.

[2] Daurio: Scott was a brilliant contributor to this blog. I hoped someday to meet him in this life, I now hope to meet him in the next. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord.

[3] Brandon: I can't add anything to the other comments that have been made on Scott's death; he was indeed an excellent person of excellent mind, and in many ways the best of all of us who regularly comment here.

[4] Gottfried: Very, very sorry to learn of the passing of Scott. His comments were a big part of what made this place so special.

[5] Dguller: Scott was one of the most gracious and thoughtful commenters I have ever engaged with online. He had a largeness of heart and patience that was simply amazing, and he was tireless in his charitable clarifications over my many misunderstandings, for which I am deeply indebted. I am simply in shock that he is gone, and can only say that he will certainly be missed. May he rest in peace.

[6] Step2: Scott was also a musician (linked in Step2’s comment) in addition to his many other talents. His keen intellect, expansive knowledge, generous spirit and charming wit will be sorely missed.

[7] Taylor Weaver: Scott? As in Scott the guy who commented second on this combox and is a rather vibrant part of the commenting community here? Oh Lord. Grace and mercy... I have mostly been a lurker on here. But for the few years that I have been following Ed's blog, Scott was always one of the commenters that I greatly enjoyed reading. He took care to explain things well, had a vast and diverse knowledge, and was a genuinely nice and gracious man. Thank Jesus for Scott. I pray his family is well.

____________________________


In this thread it seems that Scott’s last comment may have been this:

“The Anjum-Mumford paper (which is quite good) will be of particular interest to participants in the recent discussions here and on the Classical Theism forum about causation, necessity, and determinism.” February 20, 2016 at 11:57 AM

____________________________


Speechless. Love to you and to yours Scott.

Taylor said...

Thanks to the several posters who provided links to Scott's book.

Robert said...

Truly a saddening moment when I read the news of Scott's passing. I always looked forward to Scott chiming in with a concise rebuttal to an ignorant comment. Yet he was also incredibly patient with those showing a modicum of charity. I am much better off for having read his contributions to this post. Thank you Scott, R.I.P.

Justin said...

My condolences to Scott's family, and to Professor Feser and the regular posters here who knew him and interacted with him so often. As an outsider who has thoroughly benefited from this blog in particular, I always enjoyed reading Scott's posts and appreciated his kind and generous manner.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if he was a candidate or catechumen?

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/12/in-defence-of-scholasticism.html?showComment=1449500260773#c7191423528294057065

Tap said...

Brandon and James:

Scott had linked to his book here once, I can't remember the thread where he did, but I think the URL you gave was the same one he gave.

madswede said...

Scott's book: Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality

ccmnxc said...

Good grief, I don't believe it. I'm with Glenn on this one - it's like we lost one of the family. Definitely prayers for Scott and his family.

Thanks be to God for guys like him. He did his Marian consecration less than a month ago, which makes me hopefully optimistic that he gets a sneak peak at the answers to the questions we'll all continue to work out here. May he rest in peace.

Tony said...

Oof. This hurts.