Thursday, June 14, 2018
The “interaction problem” is traditionally regarded as the main objection to Descartes’ brand of dualism. I’ve discussed it many times here at the blog, and of course it is addressed in my book Philosophy of Mind. The problem concerns how a res cogitans or “thinking substance” and a res extensa or “extended substance” can possibly have any causal influence on one another given the way Descartes characterizes them.
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
We’re due for another open thread, so here goes. That threadjacking comment of yours from two weeks ago that got deleted? Repost it here, where it will be welcome and on topic. ‘Cause whether its ontology or mixology, Ed Wood or the Form of the Good, Saul Bellow or Yello, everything’s on topic. As always, keep it classy and troll-free.
Monday, May 28, 2018
Comics, like science fiction, can be a great source for philosophical thought experiments. Recently I’ve been re-reading one of the classic Marvel storylines from the 1970s, the “Headmen saga” from The Defenders, by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema. Gerber, who was among the best writers ever to have worked in comics, famously specialized in absurdist satire, and this storyline is a prime example. More to the present point, it contains an interesting twist on a scenario familiar from discussions of the philosophical problem of personal identity.
Sunday, May 20, 2018
Fathers have the authority to teach and discipline their children, but this authority is not absolute. They may not teach their children to do evil, and they may not discipline them with unjust harshness. Everyone knows this, though everyone also knows that there are fathers who do in fact abuse their children or teach them to do evil. Everyone also knows that it is right for children under these unhappy circumstances to disobey and reprove their fathers, while still acknowledging their fathers’ authority in general and submitting to his lawful instructions.
Thursday, May 17, 2018
My article “Aquinas on the Human Soul” appears in the anthology The Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism, edited by Jonathan Loose, Angus Menuge, and J. P. Moreland and just published by Wiley-Blackwell. Lots of interesting stuff in this volume. The table of contents and other information are available here.
My article “Aquinas and the meaning of life” appears in the anthology The Meaning of Life and the Great Philosophers, edited by Stephen Leach and James Tartaglia and just published by Routledge. Lots of interesting stuff in this volume. The table of contents and other information are available here.
Thursday, May 10, 2018
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
At National Catholic Register, Clare Walker kindly reviews my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God. From the review:
Professor Edward Feser has a rare gift: the ability to make esoteric philosophical arguments accessible to lay readers. With charm and wit, Feser summarizes five arguments for the existence of God, based on Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas and Leibniz.
Friday, May 4, 2018
In 1949, in a festschrift devoted to Einstein, Kurt Gödel published a very short but profound paper titled “A Remark About the Relationship Between Relativity Theory and Idealistic Philosophy.” It has since become well-known as a defense of the possibility in principle of time travel in a relativistic universe. But in fact that is not exactly what Gödel was trying to show. He was trying to show instead that time is illusory. He was using Einstein to revive the timeless conception of reality defended historically by thinkers like Parmenides and McTaggart.
The recent exchange between Bishop Robert Barron and William Lane Craig was sponsored by the Claremont Center for Reason, Religion, and Public Affairs, with which I am associated. The Center’s website has just gone live, and will give you more information about the Center and its associated scholars and activities.
Saturday, April 28, 2018
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Last month I gave a talk on the theme “Cooperation with Sins against Prudence” at a conference on Cooperation with Evil at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. You can now listen to the talk at the Thomistic Institute’s Soundcloud page.
Prudence is the virtue by which we know the right ends to pursue and the right means by which to pursue them. Aquinas argued that sexual immorality tends more than other vices to erode prudence. The erosion of prudence, in turn, tends to undermine one’s general capacity for moral reasoning. Hence, when we facilitate the sexual sins of others, we tend thereby (whether we realize it or not) to promote their general moral corruption. In the talk, I develop and defend this theme and apply it to a critique of the views of Fr. Antonio Spadaro and Fr. James Martin.
Sunday, April 22, 2018
Friday, April 20, 2018
Just back from a very enjoyable visit to Southern Evangelical Seminary, where I gave a lecture last night on classical theism. Many thanks to the very kind folks at SES for their hospitality. And thanks also for what is probably the best T-shirt I’ve ever seen – SES’s Act and Potency T-shirt, emblazoned with an image of Aquinas together with the first of the Twenty-Four Thomistic Theses. You can pick one up via the SES store website, where I see they also have a matching Act and Potency coffee mug and Act and Potency poster. Amaze your friends, or at least baffle them!
Sunday, April 15, 2018
An accusation sometimes leveled by theistic personalists against the classical theism of thinkers like Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas is that their position makes God out to be “unemotional” or “unfeeling” and thus less than personal. Is the charge just? It is not, as I’ve argued many times. So, does God have emotions? It depends on what you mean. On the one hand, as Aquinas argues in Summa Contra Gentiles I.89, it is not correct to attribute to God what he calls “the passions of the appetites.” For passions involve changeability, and since God is purely actual and without passive potentiality, he cannot change. Hence it makes no sense to think of God becoming agitated or calming down, feeling a sudden pang of sadness or a surge of excitement, or undergoing any of the other shifts in affect that we often have in mind when we talk of the emotions. On the other hand, no sooner does Aquinas say this than he immediately goes on in SCG I.90-91 to argue that there is in God delight, joy, and love. And of course, delight, joy, and love are also among the things we have in mind when we talk of the emotions.
Friday, April 13, 2018
Just back from a very enjoyable speaking engagement at Baylor University. Here are the next few scheduled talks:
Thursday, April 5, 2018
At The American Conservative, Casey Chalk recounts some of the public controversies I’ve been party to over the last few years, and judges them a model of how academic debate ought to proceed. (David Bentley Hart drops by to comment in the TAC combox.) Meanwhile, at The University Bookman, Chalk kindly reviews Five Proofs of the Existence of God. From the review:
Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Five Books is a website devoted to in-depth interviews with leaders in a wide variety of fields – philosophy, politics, science, literature, and so forth – about five books in their fields that they would recommend. Recently I was interviewed for the site on the subject of five books on arguments for the existence of God. It’s a pretty long interview (and conversational in style insofar as it was conducted by telephone).
Friday, March 30, 2018
As Aquinas teaches, Christ did not die to save the fallen angels, because they cannot be saved. They cannot be saved because their wills are locked on to evil. It is impossible for them to repent. It is impossible for them to repent because they are incorporeal, and thus lack the bodily preconditions for the changeability of the will’s basic orientation toward either good or evil. An angel makes this basic choice once and for all upon its creation. It is because we are corporeal that Christ can save us. But he can do so only while we are still in the flesh. Upon death, the soul is divorced from the body and thus, like an angel, becomes locked on to a basic orientation toward either good or evil. If it is not saved before death, it cannot be saved. It’s game over. I explained the reasons for all this in a post on the metaphysics of damnation.
Friday, March 23, 2018
In a recent Catholic World Report article supplementing the argument of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed, I called attention to the consistent support for capital punishment to be found in the Doctors of the Church. (See the article for an explanation of the doctrinal significance of this consensus.) As I there noted, St. Robert Bellarmine is an especially important witness on this topic. For one thing, among all the Doctors, Bellarmine wrote the most systematically and at greatest length about how Christian principles apply within a modern political order, specifically. For another, he addressed the subject of capital punishment at some length, in chapters 13 and 21 of De Laicis, or the Treatise on Civil Government. What Bellarmine has to say strongly reinforces the judgment that the Church cannot reverse her traditional teaching that capital punishment is legitimate in principle (a judgment for which there is already conclusive independent evidence, as the writings referred to above show).