Thursday, July 7, 2016

I am overworked, therefore I link

Physicist Lee Smolin and philosopher Roberto Unger think that physics has gotten something really important really wrong.  NPR reports.

The relationship between Aristotelian hylemorphism and quantum mechanics is the subject of two among a number of recent papers by philosopher Robert Koons.

Hey, he said he would return.  At Real Clear Defense, Francis Sempa detects a revival of interest in General Douglas MacArthurThe New Criterion reviews Arthur Herman’s new book on MacArthur, while the Wall Street Journal and Weekly Standard discuss Walter Borneman’s new book.

Philosopher of perception Mohan Matthen is interviewed at 3:AM Magazine.

Roger Scruton’s Confessions of a Heretic is excerpted in the Independent and reviewed in the Times, The National, Standpoint, and in the Washington Free Beacon.  (Actually, that’s Sir Roger Scruton now.)

Rumors of the death of teleology have been greatly exaggerated. John Farrell reports, at Forbes.

A little late to the party, but… at Inference, George Scialabba reviews Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos.

Gene Callahan reviews Rodney Stark’s new book on anti-Catholic clichés, at The University Bookman.

The Oxford Philosopher talks to Stephen Boulter.

For director Brian de Palma, it all started with Hitchcock’s Vertigo (which recently overtook Citizen Kane as “best film ever,” or so the critics say).

At The Secular Outpost, Jeffery Jay Lowder criticizes Jerry Coyne’s criticisms of cosmological arguments.

Philosopher Raymond Tallis has a website.

Via YouTube, a lecture by Eleonore Stump on the problem of evil.

Philosopher Dale Tuggy interviews philosopher Timothy Pawl on the subject of Pawl’s new book on Christology (Part 1 and Part 2). 

Inverse asks: Was Philip K. Dick a bad writer?   He was certainly an oddball, as Alternet recounts.  Anyway, the Blade Runner sequel is on track.

One more Scruton item: On Brexit, in print and on video.


  1. For anyone else initially confused: the video lecture by Dr. Stump is introduced in Spanish, but her lecture itself is in English!

  2. From the first link:

    their [Smolin and Unger] most important consequence is that nothing, not even the laws of physics, live above time. The universe is time-bound and time-saturated. Thus, there is no eternal reality of perfect mathematical form. Even the laws of physics themselves must be subject to change

    Do they have any evidence to support this? It would be odd for two who attack other physicists for relying too much on a priori reasoning without empirical verification to try to argue that even the laws of physics change without any evidence that this has in fact happened. I haven't read their book, so I don't know, but it just seems like a weird proposal.

  3. You happen to like Wagner, Ed, or is the link more in support of Scruton?

  4. Lowder has long seemed to me one of the most serious, forthright, and charitable figures to hold forth on the philosophy of religion. I have been reading stuff written by him, or recommended by him, so far as I can recall for almost twenty years now; and my most prominent criticism is that his contributions tend too short, and too few.

    And Roger Scruton and George Scialabba! Why, Dr. Feser must have known I have a birthday this year. Apropos of nothing, my favorite cake is chocolate. Fudge frosting, not cream.

    (...whistles nonchalantly as he looks off into the middle distance and walks slowly away...)

  5. nlaubadetriste,

    In honor of the occasion, one chocolate cake with fudge frosting is on the way. And in honor of the scarcity of the occasion, an additional three should arrive shortly thereafter. (It may be that my reasoning involves an unwarranted leap; if so, enjoy 'em all anyway.)


  6. Question to any advanced thomists:

    1. Is there a difference between existence and subsistence? As I understand it, subsistence means independent reality (real being) as opposed to mental being. The basis of the real distinction between essence and existence is that one can know the essence of something without knowing wether or not it exists. Now, the most basic principle of reality is, at least according to existential thomists, existence. That means that everything exists. A concept in the mind still exists, just in the mind. Humaness still exists, just cognition ally/mentally while this or that human exists subsistently/mind-independently. Therefore there is a distinction between existence and subsistence. But how can we distinguish a beings essence from its existence if everything exists?Do thomists mean subsistence when they say existence is distinct from essence?

  7. Mihret, may I suggest you pose this question on the Thomism Discussion Group on Facebook. You'll get some great feedback there.

  8. More concisely, what is being (the thing that all things have in common)? Is it existence? If so, is existence the same thing as subsistence? If yes, then concepts are not beings since they don't subsist - and it would follow that concepts are not beings and are therefore nothing. If no, then all things, including concepts become existents (because being=existence), but what is existence if it's not subsistence. The conundrum for me is between the primacy of existence and the identification of existence with subsistence. In my mind, both seem correct, but if existence is primary, then all things exist, but if existence is subsistence then not all things exist?

  9. Regarding the first link, there was recently an experimental observation on the deformation of atomic nuclei that strongly supports Lee Smolin views that time is real (and time travel is not possible)

  10. Ed,

    What project currently has you over-worked? Or is it summer classes.

    Hope all is well.

  11. Scruton's great, but does anyone else think that, as he ages, he's getting to look and sound like the Sorting Hat?

    BTW, I don't expect Herman's book to amount to much (and the review doesn't make me think otherwise). His book on the Royal Navy was poor, especially nowadays. I am temperamentally reluctant to praise my own era, but the last 40 years really has been a golden age of naval history. And Herman seems to have missed it. He may still be right about Mac, though; the hardest of all famous generals to get a grip on.

  12. I recently resaw Citizen kane. It was terrible. Its not even a good movie and i predict no one will watch it twice or in the future.
    Who are these list masters??? Vertigo is a great movie but not that great. The people in thier numbers who watch these old movies are the right judges of quality. The people, after time has passed, are right about winners and losers in stories.

  13. I have a question, and maybe someone can help me out here. I've just been reading Cardinal Mercier's 'Origins of Contemporary Psychology' where he speaks about Locke, Berkeley and Hume and I come upon this passage:

    'Is idealism, thus understood, materialistic or
    spiritualistic ? It is neither the one nor the other,
    of necessity.
    In the case of Descartes, idealism is clearly
    spiritualistic; it was not materialistic with Locke,
    since he recognized two sources of cognitions,
    sensation and reflection, and mind. It was spiritualistic
    to excess with Berkeley. Lastly, it was
    by no means materialistic with Kant, since he
    inaugurated a reaction against the empiricism of
    Hume and defended the necessity and universality
    of principles, especially of the principle of causality,
    against the Scottish philosopher.'

    Now, I just find a passage like that confusing. I always thought idealism was contrasted with materialism. Anyone help me out here?

  14. Robert Byers,

    Picking the best movie ever is like trying to understand Kane's attachment to Rosebud. I do think Citizen Kane deserves to be near the summit, as does Vertigo. Contrary to your claim, I've watched Kane many times and I predict I'll watch it in the future. My personal picks might rather be Casablanca, Dr. Strangelove, Ben Hur or High Noon, though. Maybe even Days of Heaven or It's a Wonderful Life.

  15. Don Jindra.
    I recently watched the top 100 movies to see if there were great movies from the old days. I found some but few.
    You like Kane. I can't believe its popular anymore. I can't see why they like it. I think it will pass away.
    I do think great stories are only great by popular opinion after time has passed. Thus the term classics.
    There must be a neutral count somewhere of what old movies actually were watched by say video rents ot tv or something.

  16. Still hoping somebody answers my question above....

    Robert Byers,

    Kane was never 'popular' in the sense of 'Wizard of Oz' or 'Gone With the Wind', say. It's closer to an art film. Literary canons also tend to work like this where books like 'Finnegan's Wake' or Kafka's 'Metamorphosis' wind up on the lists. Most people don't read books like the ones I mentioned, preferring Tolkien or the latest bestseller. Similarly, nowadays when I mention a favorite classic of mine, I'll routinely hear that those movies are 'old' and it appears that they only want to watch something made in the last five years or so. Pet peeve of mine. Anyway, I'm a Welles fan and was awed by the beauty of Kane from the very first time I saw it.

  17. Dr Yogami. I saw Gone with the wind for the first time and it was horrible. What a surprise. Wizard was as its reputation for greatest said.
    I don't agree people will see OLD movies as not worthy. A great story is unique. Surely some old movies are great. Rather i think these lists with KANE?WIND teach kids that the old ones were no good. Poor sampling. They don't see the TRUE great ones.
    They should watch the ones with great repeat viewing bover the decades.
    Most recent movies are not great if any.
    I like Welles in Third man, a few more possibly but don't see Kane as worthy to be remembered. It was, I think, a old hype that built it up. Same with GONE. A great error.
    I do think, it must be true, great stories impress all generations. So public opinion matters.
    I think Wizard is still popular and still famous but I don't think Kane is. Stats anyone?

  18. Gone With the Wind was 'horrible'? What about Lawrence of Arabia, His Girl Friday, silent films such as Metropolis?

    It's pretty clear that you measure artistic greatness by popularity. I think this is a bit of a mistake. I don't think the average person is grabbing Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Dante, Milton's Paradise Lost, etc. I know people who groan at the very idea of having to watch or read a Shakespeare play. And then, as I mentioned, there's Kafka, James get the idea.

  19. DrYogami
    Arabia and friday are great and are well known to the public. The public votes yes. Not metro. That was terrible and foreign. and I'm sure the public rejects it. As you said its the artsy demographic that likes these movies.
    The same with books. Shakespeare does very well still with the public. In many forms. It wins.
    It must there are great stories and a final conclusion on who they are based on how many humans love them after time has passed.
    A real true score.
    I have super common taste. I always like the publics opinion, 20 years or so later after introduction to allow prejudices to pass,
    So I'm confident about winners.
    Its not up to personal opinion. its real accomplishment in creation of stories with mankind agreeing.

  20. DrYogami,

    ...I've just been reading Cardinal Mercier's 'Origins of Contemporary Psychology' where he speaks about Locke, Berkeley and Hume and I come upon this passage:

    'Is idealism, thus understood, materialistic or
    spiritualistic ? It is neither the one nor the other,
    of necessity...'

    Now, I just find a passage like that confusing. I always thought idealism was contrasted with materialism. Anyone help me out here?

    By 'idealism, thus understood' (emphasis added), Cardinal Mercier is referring to a metastasized idealism, i.e., an idealism which had become infected with materialism, and without having been completely stripped of its spiritualistic aspect.

    See the paragraphs immediately before and immediately after the passage quoted.

    See also p. vii of the Introduction (re Chapter II (which is the chapter in which the passage occurs)).

  21. In regards to modern science (the first link), it is of course not based on empirical data anymore. It was barely based on it in the first place. As I said in another place, had the early moderns known about the effects magnetism has on light, then Galileo's observations through his telescope would have been absolutely irrelevant for cosmology.

    Furthermore, we live in an age where government departments dictate what is and isn't science. If NASA said the moon were made out of cheese, then every federally funded and accredited university in the United States would say that and teach it, lest they be defunded and subjected to relentless lawsuits until shipwrecked. Personally, I think the DoD probably was and is the best source of funding for science research today, exactly because their goals, pursuits and problems are totally pragmatic and, consequently, they encourage radically original thinking to solve real world problems. That undergrads and other researchers in school have their ideas stolen then sold to private interest with the story that someone invented it in their basement or garage during their spare time is just yet another crime of the modern system we live in. The American taxpayer paid for the computer, the internet, GPS and God knows how many other technologies, yet they all seem to somehow end up being private property. But where are the royalties? Oh, wait, we are supposed to believe some teenager messing around in his dad's garage thought the whole thing up, or some such nonsense. October Skies and all that.