Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Talk amongst yourselves


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.

Previous open threads can be viewed here.

220 comments:

  1. How can we say that the Son is begotten of the Father in a way consistent with divine simplicity?

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    1. As I recall, Brian Davies book on Aquinas has a brief treatment of the doctrine of the Trinity and how it relates to Divine Simplicity.

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    2. Dear Sean,

      If I may: The three Persons are not parts of the one and undivided divine reality but rather three ways of how the divine reality is related to itself. They are three "self-presences". That the Son is begotten by the Father means that the self-presence of God that we call the "Son" is mediated by and presupposes the self-presence of God that we call the "Father". The "Holy Spirit" is also a self-presence of the divine reality (which is mediated by and presupposes the Father and the Son). The Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and Son as a divine person. Within faith, we trust that we participate in this love no matter what.

      See, for instance,this article:
      http://peter-knauer.de/TheologyandSp3.pdf

      Best wishes,
      Bob

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    3. Thanks for the replies Bob and anon.

      I think that both divine simplicity and the doctrine of the Trinity are true, though, how exactly to construe each and the relation they have with each other is something beyond that. I'll check out the link you give shortly, and also the reference from Daives when I start university in August.

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  2. Hey everyone, I thought Id just let you know that the first book in the Cambridge Elements in Philosophy of Religion has been published. Its by Graham Oppy on the topic of Atheism and Agnosticism.

    The pdf of the book is free to download until end of 2018.

    Id like to hear some of your opinions on the section in which Oppy gives a (due to the limits of the book) short and somewhat crude case for believing that naturalism is true, under point 3. "A Case for Preferring Atheism to Theism"

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    1. Hrm hrm, here the link that I forgot to add: https://www.cambridge.org/core/elements/atheism-and-agnosticism/C0D61CA2D386696A43294D440B7F9C11

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    2. Sturer,

      After reading it briefly, it is based on Oppy's claim that naturalism explains all data as well as theism does, but naturalism is simpler, so naturalism is to be preferred to theism. The problem with this is two fold. First, it is highly questionable whether naturalism explains or accounts for everything as well as theiam does. Second, it is questionable whether dualist theism is more complex than naturalism and it is outright false that such views like theistic immaterialism are more complex than naturalism...in fact they are simpler. So Oppy's argument, in my view, faces serious problems and a lack of consideration of all the relevant theistic points of view

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    3. It would be cool to see Dr. Feser interact with a highly intelligent atheist in the field like Oppy. I'm sure Oppy would take Feser's remarks much more seriously than Carrier.

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  3. Hi Ed, I believe you mentioned a while back that you believed that a philosophical proof of the existence of the immaterial human soul was possible. Do you have a book planned on the topic?

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    1. I belive he says he has. Also one on philosophy of nature and Catholicism. There's a fourth one he has planned, but I can't recall what it will be on.

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    2. Why a proof is necessary when it is merely a matter of definition?
      Soul = form of the body (or of person).
      As a form is necessarily immaterial and also exists (by definition), you have it.
      What is more, all souls, including animal and vegetable souls are immaterial.

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    3. Because that sort of immateriality is quite uninteresting. As you said, all souls would be immaterial; and in fact all forms are immaterial, including that of inanimate things.

      The immateriality of the human soul, however, is a deeper immateriality: it is the fact that it carries out operations which transcend matter, meaning the human soul is intrinsically immaterial and independent of the body. This proof is necessary, and is relevant, because it implies 1) some sort of survival after death, and 2) the special creation of human souls, since they are unlike other souls and transcend other forms in power.

      But yeah Ed is writing a book on the subject. He has written some articles on it too, like "Kripke, Ross and the Immaterial Aspects of Thought"

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  4. Thank you professor, for your article on the legitimacy of criticizing Popes and other prelates. It was well done and air tight.

    Please help people to understand how we got here. The history of the heresy of modernism and what it did to the Church. How Pope ST. Pius X condemned it in Pascendi. How it grew underground until it captured the hierarchy at the 2nd Vatican council and never looked back.

    Have you ever done an article on Fatima? The world is getting the punishments it was warned about, and it's not going to get better until we get the real Consecration of Russia that fulfills ALL of the requirements.

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    1. Didn't one of the Fatima seers herself claim that the Consecration was done correctly, and dismiss the idea that it "wasn't done right"?

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    2. I'm all for Fatima. I think we didn't pray as asked.

      As for the RadTrad nonsense. No thank you. Vat. II wasn't the issue, it was everything else, before, during and after. The zeitgeist was the problem, not the Holy Spirit working at the Council.

      Actually read the documents. They are very good.

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  5. Over on the classical theism board, some of us have been confronting what seems to be a certain slippage - maybe over the course of his career, maybe not - in Aristotle's treatment of essence, form, and substance. Anyone have thoughts to contribute?

    http://classicaltheism.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?id=1122

    and from #10 on this one:

    http://classicaltheism.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?id=1121&p=1

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  6. How do I know that potency is a real objective reality, rather than merely a subjective one? That is to say, how do I know that things really do have potencies instead of it just being something in my mind which assists me to understand change?

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    1. You know it by taking cognizance of the actualization of the potency. If the potency is just an idea of your mind then you couldn't have any cognizance of the actualization

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    2. Theophilius, thank you for taking the time to answer my question. One follow up question: what do you mean by the term “cognizance”?

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    3. @jason "intellectual perception", to be more precise I assume the meaning given by Dietrich Von Hildebrand: « From the start we must understand that taking cognizance in the widest sense is a unique contact with an object, a contact which only a spiritual person can accomplish and which is different from every real "becoming" on the part of the subject. Taking cognizance of something is essentially a "receiving." Every theory of knowledge which sees it as a spiritual "producing" of something misunderstands taking cognizance of something in its most essential nature. It belongs to the very meaning of taking cognizance that an object, such as it really is, is grasped by the person, becomes understood and known, that the object discloses itself and unfolds before our spiritual eyes.» (What is Philosophy, 1.2)

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    4. Feser addresses this, in part, by pointing out that the alternatives (there is no change/there is no permanence) cannot avoid performative self-contradictions. This leads to his argument:

      That change and permanence, multiplicity and unity, are all real features of the world cannot coherently be denied; but they can be real features of the world only if there is a distinction in things between what they are in act and what they are in potency; therefore there is a distinction to be made in things between what they are in act and what they are in potency.

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    5. Thank you Bill and Theophilius for your responses. Both responses were very much helpful in my understanding of the real distinction between act and potency as opposed to just a logical one.

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  7. Ghost of BuckleyJune 6, 2018 at 6:28 PM

    Hello Professor Feser,

    I believe I sent you an email a while back. According to a Thomist friend of mine, it is contrary to Natural Law to claim that "religious liberty is an inviolable human right derivative of human dignity" because it would "afford false religions a dignity of their own", an absurdity because "falsity has no existence of any kind." He therefore believes a la Thomas Pink, that the state does not have the power to suppress heresy with force, but the Church does. My problem with this is that it would logically lead to what is essentially a theocracy, which is contrary to the Catholic tradition of separation of church and state. What is your opinion on this? Do you believe that religious liberty is an inviolable human right, or that it is contrary to natural law? What is your reasoning for this?

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    1. Ghost of Buckley,

      The separation of Church and State is actually a liberal idea, not a Catholic one. The latter is far more complicated. Basically it's that Church and State are indepedent but very much intertwined realities in the ideal case (see St Louis IX's France), because the subject of both, man, has natural and supernatural ends. But since his natural ends are subordinate to his supernatural ones, the state ultimately comes under the direction of the Church where all matters of religion are concerned. In natural affairs, such how to best organise the structure of a city, the State must be left to its competency. Ditto Church matters.

      Unfortunately, that's all I have time for right now.

      For further reading, see: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com.au/2016/01/liberalism-and-islam.html

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14250c.htm

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    2. The separation of Church and State is actually a liberal idea, not a Catholic one.

      Quite right, the modern concept of the "separation of Church and state" is a novelty that quite opposed Catholic standards. On the other hand, the distinction of secular authority and ecclesiastical authority finds its ground (as revealed) in Christ saying "give unto Caesar what is Caesar's, give to God what is God's." Catholic Church always taught that the lines of authority are distinct but must cooperate together to rule men, who are the subjects of both authorities (and since both authorities come from God.)

      religious liberty is an inviolable human right derivative of human dignity"

      When that phrase is taken to mean what modern liberalism means by "inviolable human right", it is not valid. Moloch worshipers do NOT have the inviolable right to engage in child sacrifice.

      He therefore believes a la Thomas Pink, that the state does not have the power to suppress heresy with force, but the Church does.

      IIRC, Pink uses the same argument to claim that the state also cannot use force to suppress religious worship, but this is wrong. The state can (and is obliged to) suppress Moloch worship via child sacrifice, if someone attempts to so engage in that religious practice. Generally, Pink has it wrong: there are "secular" matters outside of the Church's purview, and there are ecclesiastical matters outside of the state's purview, and there are some matters in the middle that must be shared. Both (as Pope Leo says explicitly) are "supreme" in their own special areas. In addition, while the human being's final end is not in this life and therefore the state is not directly ordered to his final end, it is also true that God did not give the Church supervision over ALL aspects of man achieving his final end - she is a limited authority. As a result, the state is not properly subordinate to the Church as a whole, merely subordinate to the Church in those areas that belong specifically to the Church, and must respect the Church in those middle areas shared by both.

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    3. @Tony,

      What's interesting, however, is that even in the Middle Ages, the Church and State may have worked close but were never close to the point of there being an official state religion ala Church of England or Germany.

      One can argue that the very presence of a state church in Protestant countries is what set them up for secularism down the road in the first place.

      So there was never any intimate union between Church and State that resulted in a state sponsored church, even though the state and Church supported each other in a wide variety of other ways.

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    4. The oldest (radtrad) mistake in the book. As Maritain noted, they get the object confused with the subject. Falsehood has no rights, but this does not mean someone who follows and defends a false religion can be coerced, or that the reason they shouldn't be coerced would be merely prudential.

      The intrinsic dignity of the human person forces us to respect its autonomy especially in matters of religion, within due limits (of course human sacrifice cannot be tolerated, for instance). It has nothing to do with granting a positive right to a false religion; it's only a negative right of not being coerced in matters of religious conscience.

      And this is what the catechism teaches (go ahead, read the catechism entry about religious freedom, it is quite illuminating). It is not a right to error; it is a right against being coerced in matters of religion, within due limits.

      The teaching of religious liberty is stronger than the idea of religious toleration, as it is not founded merely on prudence, but on a natural right against coercion, that stems from the dignity of the human person. But it has nothing to do with a positive right to error, or with granting special dignity to falsehood, or anything like that. Just a negative right and the dignity of the human person and its autonomy.

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    5. To follow on what Miguel says: humans have a natural "right" (which ties to a duty) to seek truth, and to adhere to it to the extent found. But truth is a common good, not only in the sense that many can enjoy knowing the same truth at the same time, but also in the sense that men come to the truth via communicating with each other, so it belongs to man to express the truth that he has and to receive from others the truth that they have (this is part of why lying is intrinsically disordered). But because of sin and human defect, all men hold their truths in combination with some errors. While "error (itself) has no rights", the MAN who holds error also holds the right to communicate the truth that he holds. This means that he must be allowed to communicate his truth even with an admixture of error - except when that admixture of error is too damaging to the common good (such as when it upsets public order).

      There are (some) objective constraints implied by this: e.g. libel is actionable even if the libelous person DIDN'T actually know he was spouting errors, especially if he could have known and was responsible for finding out the facts, but even when he was not morally culpable in error.

      I disagree with Miguel in expressing the basis of the limit: I think it is ESSENTIALLY a prudential limit. Where the errors a man is spouting are minor and don't damage the public order significantly, the ill effects of suppressing his error exceed the ill effects of his error and the state should leave him alone. Where his communicating his errors does greater damage, enough so that he is upsetting public order severely, the ill effects of legally engaging in suppressing his "right" to communicate are superceded and the state may take a hand and act to supress his errors. This is not fundamentally different from "tolerating" his error when lesser and prudentially not tolerating it when greater; the rationale is different from that of the Church's pre-modern explanation, in respecting the natural right to communicate the truth that you hold. In other words, in saying that the natural right is subject to certain conditions, the Church is saying the "natural right" is not "inviolable" in the sense modern liberals use it, and the Church allows that there are both objective constraints (which the state can enforce) on that right (such as against lying) and prudential limits that entail weighing different goods and evils.

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    6. What's interesting, however, is that even in the Middle Ages, the Church and State may have worked close but were never close to the point of there being an official state religion ala Church of England or Germany.

      Joe, I am a little puzzled that you should say this. With Emperor Theodosius' Edict of Thessalonica (380), Christianity became the only allowed religion of the Empire. In large slices of medieval times, the entire social structure assumed that Christian princes would (a) obey the Pope, and (b) would uphold and enforce Christian requirements for the legal and social activities under them, including commanding the Christian form of worship. It is true that largely (though not uniformly) the popes did not attempt to exert formal rulership of the princes of Europe in the political order (as in a theocracy), but that didn't prevent the states from being officially Christian states. Also, I am pretty sure that the Papal State was an officially Catholic state until its demise with the Italian Revolution. I think it might be a bit of an anachronism to require a decree that says that "Catholicism is the official religion" when you have other things that clearly make it the only viable option.

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  8. One thing I’ve always liked about Aristotelian Holism is its applicability to a a wide range of phenomena. Furthermore, unlike atomism and monism which can be refuted with a single defeater, Holism does not fall if we find that a proposed substance turns out to be an aggregate and vice versa. I believe that consciousness (human or animal) serves to defeat both atomism and monism. The unity of consciousness defeats atomism while the discontinuity of multiple consciousnesses (unless someone denies other minds) defeats monism. In addition to explaining consciousness, I believe Holism explains “emergent” phenomena in subatomic particles such as protons, neutrons, and atomic nuclei, as well as atoms, molecules, and common sense substances like water, salt, and metal. Most of the “emergent” phenomena have to do with binding energies, waveforms, and bonding properties. For example, the mass of a proton is greater than the sum of the masses of three quarks, or the iron nuclei in a block of iron share electrons in a way that is very different from a single iron atom. However, I feel like I am having a difficult time tracking down “emergent” phenomena in plants. Obviously Aristotle believes plants to be individual substances with a vegetative soul. I know that growth, nutrition, and reproduction are commonly appealed to, but many scientists say that these properties merely supervene on the properties of the underlying biological materials. Are there any botanists our there who know of an up-to-date argument for “emergent” phenomena in plants?

    Greatly appreciated!

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  9. Excellent; thanks Ed!

    For those who know their Scripture and spiritual theology, can someone elaborate on why we seem to see, on the one hand, fairly clear commands in the Gospels and a number of traditions in spiritual theology telling us to pray for things with some reasonable expectation of getting them (e.g. food for a starving family, healing for a terminally ill loved one), and on the other, the fact that many of the specific (and seemingly good/reasonable) requests people have do not come to fruition?

    I understand that God in His Providence might decide some course of events aside from what we are asking for would be better, but why, then, the teaching and sentiment that we should also ask with the expectation of receiving? There seems to be a tension here that I'm having trouble unknotting.

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    2. a sketch of short answer could be: divine providence. All our prayers for the good will be answered but it is for divine providence to make sure that this good is fulfilled definitively. In this sense our prayer for the good might apparently not have an answer in our time but it is implicit in the same prayer which, at the end of time thanks to divine providence, will certainly be answered fully in the eternal.

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    3. For an extended discussion of this question, I would recommend the book "Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer" (title?) by C.S. Lewis.

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    4. Craig, thanks for the recommendation; I'll check it out.

      Theophilius, the problem I see with that solution is that many of our prayer requests are too specific or otherwise conditioned to actually be fulfilled in Providence. For example, if someone has a life-threatening illness, the intention is that they be healed from the illness and continue on with earthly life. Of course, there is a desire for their good and a desire to stay in communion with them, and those might be obtained once everything is said and done, but at that point, it seems pointless to ask for such specific things as their bodily healing if all we can actually hope for is some general providential good (and even then, salvation is not guaranteed). Why make specific petitions then (at least with any faith or hope that they will be answered)?

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    5. If prayers are invariably granted and people know it, then praying becomes a mechanism, rather like magic. Just incant some words and voila.
      It is, not perhaps in the essence of prayer but something very close to it that it be not invariably granted.

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    6. @ccmnxc I get your point, mine sketch isn't to be taken as a "solution". Mysteries have no solutions but only comprehension. True, prayers could be specific to a, let's say, "contingent good", but this "specification" doesn't change the nature of the pray namely: a link with God. In that sense in the in the same time of the act of praying the prayer is answered; even if that "time" is not chronological but eternal. So even if the one who pray doesn't have a cognizance of this truth della providence, this truth is what permit the reality of the prayer and consequentially the reality of all specific petitions. Now why, having a cognizance of the reality of the divine providence, we make specific petitions? Because we're babies, and babies talk to God specifically with prayers.

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  11. Hey, professor Feser. I recently bought and read your "Philosophy of Mind" and "The Last Superstition." Although you touch on it briefly in "The Last Superstition," I was wondering how the Aristotelian-Thomist would respond to radical skepticism, specifically with regard to the reliability of sense perception?

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    1. First, the claim to know that sense perceptions are unreliable isn’t in accord with radical skepticism. How does the skeptic know this? On what basis is that knowledge superior to the claim that sense perceptions are reliable? If the skeptic claims genuine knowledge, then his claim is self-refuting. If he is not, then it’s possible that genuine knowledge may be obtained.

      Second, a skeptic must depend upon the reliability of his senses to even make the argument. What is a “sense perception”? If we cannot know what the senses are, on what basis can any strong claim be made about them? A skeptic can make a claim that begins in the mind and proceeds to draw a conclusion about something outside the mind (sense perception). But since we cannot sense anything without involving the mind, how can we be certain that our arguments about sense perception are sound? Moreover, how do we draw conclusions about the world without making references to the world? I cannot say that Pepsi cannot taste like Coke unless I know what Pepsi tastes like. And if I have no knowledge whatsoever about “Pepsi,” I have no basis for making any claim about it.

      If you are nothing but mind, how can you make persuasive claims about the world without evaluating data about the world that comes to the mind via the senses? If your senses were not reliable, you could make no persuasive claim about the world. Since one must depend on sense perceptions in order to make claims about the world, the skeptical move is self-refuting.

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  12. Hey, professor Feser. In your book "The Las Superstition," you argue that radical skepticism, along with other "traditional" problems of philosophy, result from abandoning the A-T metaphysical framework. In TLS, you say that, according to the A-T tradition, knowledge consists of the same form existing in the mind of the knower and the object known. I was wondering how such an epistemological position skirts the problem of radical skepticism?

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    1. I would say that the first step would be to use the truths of mathematics and the good that it necessarily entails to as it were get in touch with the immaterial and outside of ones own mind.

      Then I would say that the matrix scenerio entails (implicitly) realsim and use that to work my way up into the reality of the external world.

      This is obviously just a sketched out line of reasoning.

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    2. Look at some of the original objections to Descartes' Meditations. One of the writers was a scholastic, if I recall correctly.

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    3. http://catholicapologetics.info/catholicteaching/philosophy/askeptic.htm

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  13. Ed, thanks for the open thread. Will somebody PLEASE help me understand prime matter? I've been looking all over the web for something about it. I found an analysis of Aquinas's position, but it was over my head.

    I get it that it is pure potency and about as close to nothing as one can get, but how does one argue to prove it?

    Thanks, in advance, for any assistance.

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    1. I'm no expert on prime matter, but my understanding is that it is more of a Hellenistic theory than something necessary to Scholastic metaphysics. I've seen some contemporary Thomists invoke "prime matter" as a possible explanation of quantum theory. Basically, it is irreducible and has EXTREMELY high potency (hence the seemingly erratic quantum wave fluctuations, particles popping "in and out of existence," etc). As matter becomes more and more complex, it loses more of its potency. I don't think prime matter can be called "pure potency" even in principle, because pure potency has no actuality in and of itself. It does not exist - much less in any material sense.

      Please correct me if I'm mistaken regarding any of this.

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    2. Probably depends on who you read, but the way Jeff Brower puts it, prime matter qua prime matter is indeed pure potency, which means it cannot exist of its own accord. This does not, however, preclude it from existing in substances because in a substance, it has a substantial form inhering in it, meaning it never exists as prime matter. Be wary of thinking of prime matter as a thing. Perhaps it might be more helpful to think of it as a second order of derived being, where substances exists as derived from the Divine esse at any and all times, and prime matter exists as derived from being a principle of a substance at any and all times.

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    3. Thanks, Cola, but that's not how Thomist writers describe it. According to Oderberg:

      "It is a pure passive potentiality, without any form whatsoever, nor subject to any privation..."

      He goes on to insist that prime matter is a necessary component in any analysis of substantial change.

      I can only grasp the peripherals of this. I need an expert in "Aquinas for Dummies" to explain of this to me.

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    4. This is very crude, but the basic structure of the primary argument for prime matter is:

      (1) Change requires the form/matter distinction.
      (2) There cannot be an infinite regress in material causes.

      From this, there must be a first material cause. There are only two possibilities here: either the first material cause is purely material (and thus purely potential) or not. Then to this is added:

      (3) The reasons for requiring the form/matter distinction in other cases of change would apply by analogy to the first material cause if it is not purely material (and thus purely potential).

      This gives you the entire function of prime matter, something known only indirectly by causal reasoning and analogy. Since arguments by analogy like this are rare in Aristotle, different kinds of Aristotelians have tended to take different positions on how to interpret it.

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    5. Thanks much, Brandon. That's clearer. I was about to ask another question about the pure potential, but I realized that you had answered it. Again, much appreciated.

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    6. Hi Bill, every reflection on the prime matter should always be accompanied by the correlative principle, that is to say the substantial form. Prime matter alone can't metaphysically exists.

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    7. Excellent paper here:

      https://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/actus%20and%20potentia.pdf

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    8. Yes, excellent paper. Thanks, Theophilius.

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  14. Laudator Temporis ActiJune 7, 2018 at 2:05 AM

    Dr Feser is right about the New Atheists and the philosophical nullity (to put it mildly) of some of their ideas. And I look back with shame on my own Dawkinsesque atheism. However, is the concept of infallibility any better than the worst of New Atheist ideas? I can see that infallibility is useful as a political tool, but I can't see that it's philosophically respectable. IMO, mathematics is the closest humans can come to infallibility (and even there more work is needed on proof). Theology is not remotely as syllogistically powerful as mathematics and doesn't behave like mathematics. Pythagoras' theorem is not disputed: the proof is solid as much to Christian mathematicians as to Islamic or atheist ones. But "theorems" like Papal infallibility, the Assumption of Mary, or the Infallible Magisterium are hugely disputed. And those who believe in the Infallible Magisterium do not agree on what it says: the Orthodox reject Catholic interpretations, and vice versa.

    Furthermore, it seems to me that philosophers like Dr Feser don't treat infallibility as they would if it were a sound philosophical concept. If one can prove the infallibility of the Church, then everything else follows: all infallible claims made by the Church are true and one can accept without further proof such things as the existence of God, the Virgin Birth and Resurrection, the Divine origins of the Church, and so on. But infallibility is little-discussed here. And how can one "prove" infallibility? One can't, except in mathematics. And mathematicians don't claim to be infallible, because they don't need to. They make "infallible" claims and no-one disputes them. Compare the numerous and contradictory "infallible" claims made by various religions and by various branches of individual religions. A vast gulf is fixed between mathematics and theology. And I see no way to bridge it.

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    1. Sorry for the off-topic question, but do I go right in thinking you are an agnostic?

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    2. I think infallibility is not a philosophical topic but a theological matter. It can not be proved. Dogma like Assumption of Mary are not matters admitting of proofs and not properly called theorems either.

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    3. Laudator Temporis ActiJune 8, 2018 at 1:41 AM

      It doesn't seem off-topic to me. I'm more atheist than agnostic. I loathe liberal Christianity and am attracted to traditionalist Catholicism, but I can't accept infallibility, among other things. Hence my question.

      Oh, and I should have noted: circle-squarers dispute what mathematicians say, but they are a lunatic fringe akin to flat-earthers or inventors of perpetual-motion engines.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squaring_the_circle

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    4. Laudator,

      Like Gyan noted the dogma of papal infallibility is "theological" rather than "philosophical", where I'm using "theological" to mean something that depends on a truth revealed by God and that could not be determined to be true without this revelation, and "philosohpical" to mean something that is either self-evidently true or that can be proved to be true from self-evident principles.

      Your example of mathematics would then be "philosophical" whereas the dogma of papal infallibility or say of the Trinity would be theological insofar as (the claim goes) these truths were either directly revealed by God or are able to be deduced from truths revealed by God.

      Now, to accept a theological truth like papal infallibility is simply a specific instance of the more general epistemelogical act by which one accepts EVERY revealed truth. And the argument for accepting ANY revealed truth is, as I see it, that if there is sufficient evidence for believing that a particular alleged revelation of truth has taken place (e.g., true miracles offered as proof of God's revelation. The Resurrection of Jesus for example.), then one should accept the truth of what has been revealed, not because one sees that the alleged truth must be true (like in philosophy/mathematics) but because one sees that one should beleive the one revealing. There is an element of trust/faith involved. One trusts God [or perhaps one could argue philosophically that it is impossible for God to lie and that therefore what He reveals MUST be true]. This is the distinction between strict "knowledge" (philosophy/mathematics) and "faith" (theology). It's not that faith is irrational, rather the only way faith can have any force is precisely by being rational insofar as what is believed is only believed because it is rational to trust the one revealing.

      So with papal infallibility the argument is basically this:
      (1) Miracles show that the Catholic Church teaches with the authority/approval of God.
      (2) One should therefore believe what the Catholic Church teaches.
      (3) The Catholic Church teaches that in particular circumstances the pope is infallible.
      (4) Therefore one ought to believe this.

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    5. LTA,

      If God said P, and God could neither deceive nor be deceived, then P would be infallible.

      Christianity adds to this the idea that God sometimes speaks to human beings through a human being. The Incarnation is the paradigm case, but revelation is a less perfect instance of this same idea. Given this, it would be very odd for any revealed religion not to have some version of an infallible statement or speaker.

      The proof for infallibility is therefore that it is a consequence of revelation, or at least what Christianity means by revelation, or to any speech act that can be taken as having divine approval. You could then raise the question why God would reveal anything or approve of any human speech act, but maybe the idea of a God who reveals or approves of human words makes sense enough to you already.

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    6. Laudator Temporis ActiJune 11, 2018 at 2:00 AM

      Thanks for replies. I think I understand the reasoning, but it doesn't seem valid to me. This reasoning, otoh, seems valid:

      * I trust the Church, therefore I believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

      But this doesn't:

      * I trust the Church and the Church claims to be infallible, therefore it is absolutely certain that Jesus from the dead.

      My problem is that some faith is required to believe in infallibility, so it doesn't rest on an infallible, objective chain of reasoning. And I don't understand why infallibility is not at the center of Catholic polemic. It is the strongest possible claim for a system of knowledge to make, but Catholics seem embarrassed by it.

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    7. You're getting the whole epistemology and justification claims wrong. Here is how one can justifiably accept something like infallibility:

      1- I believe God exists, because (cosmological argument, augustinian, souls, teleological, ontological, basically just insert your favorite theistic argument here)

      2- I believe Christianity is true because (makes more sense from theism, religious experience, arguments from miracles such as the resurrection, etc. insert Christian argument here)

      3- I believe Catholicism is true, because I believe 2 and I then believe that e.g. Catholicism is better supported by Christian history and tradition; makes more sense of Christian tradition; religious experience; miracles; makes more philosophical sense than, say, sola scriptura, etc., again insert argument for Catholicism here.

      4- I believe in papal infallibility because I believe 3, and papal infallibility follows from Catholicism. And then I therefore believe in whatever follows from 4.

      The whole structure is ultimately supported by reasons and rational argumentation. Of course one might doubt the specific reasons and arguments, but that's beside the point.

      Ultimately, that's what faith is: it is rational assent to theses that may not be *directly* demonstrated by reason, but are nevertheless *indirectly* supported by reason. In the religious context, it translates into belief in revelation: I may not be able to give a direct argument for papal infallibility, but I nevertheless have reasons to believe it is true, because I have reasons to believe it follows from positions I take to be true (and that are ultimately supported by reason).

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    8. The infallibility in question need not be an epistemic infallibility. Just like some theist who accepts the OA may know that if God is possible, then God exists (by the modal ontological argument), but nevertheless thinks it only probable that God is possible, they'll believe it is ultimately *probable* that God exists without doubting that the ontological argument logic is airtight. It depends on how one assesses the plausibility of the premises of each argument, but that doesn't change the infallibility.

      Likewise the infallibility of the Church can be like that. A believer may know that if Catholicism is true, then it is absolutely certain that Jesus rose from the dead. But I'd say the believer need not be epistemically absolutely certain that Catholicism is true in order to affirm the dogma of infallibility. I think this clears up some confusion.

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    9. Laudator Temporis ActiJune 13, 2018 at 1:40 AM

      Thanks, and you explain well. However, an Orthodox Christian would use the same reasoning and tell me, yes, the Church / Magisterium is infallible, but the Pope is not. A fundamentalist Protestant or Muslim would tell me that the Church is not infallible, but the Bible or Koran is. And so on. There are competing and contradictory claims of infallibility, so at most only one claim can be correct and all might be wrong. So obviously some element of corrupt will or diabolic interference or cultural influence or whatever comes into it. This doesn't happen with math.

      I'd say the believer need not be epistemically absolutely certain that Catholicism is true in order to affirm the dogma of infallibility.

      Affirm emotionally, yes, but affirm logically? How can one affirm the infallibility of an institution whose validity one is not completely certain of? And would you accept a Protestant or Muslim saying the same about their institutions or texts?

      Personally, I think the Catholic church has the strongest case for its claims to infallibility, but a) I'm not infallible; b) I'm not impartial; c) I think infallibility is a ridiculous concept. I don't deny that faith can be reasonable and based on evidence, but faith in infallibility is not proportionate to the strength of the evidence and is a step too far. And you yourself must say that Orthodox Christians, fundamentalist Protestants and Muslims take a "step too far" in reaching their conclusions. Just as they would say the same about you.

      The thing is, everyone involved is a fallible human being: you, me, the Pope, the Orthodox, the Protestants, the Muslims, and everyone else who takes a position either for or against some variety of infallibility or against the concept altogether. This is why Catholics _et al_ need the concept of "passive infallibility." In other words, God needs to intervene to guarantee that your belief in Papal Infallibility is correct. But the Orthodox would tell me that God hasn't intervened to guarantee that belief, only to guarantee your belief in the Infallibility of the Magisterium. And Muslims would say etc etc.

      It's a huge epistemological mess, replete with subjectivity and special pleading, which is why I conclude that the concept of infallibility is rotten at root. If you compare theology with math, there is none of this disagreement and contradiction. People from very different cultural and religious backgrounds do not disagree about fundamental claims in math. And that's why mathematicians don't need to claim infallibility.

      As I said: I'm attracted to traditionalist Catholicism and I like the idea of certain knowledge about important things. But I also like C.S. Lewis and he did not think that the Catholic case for Infallibility was secure. As an Ulster Protestant he obviously didn't come to the question with an objective mind, but there's another example of subjectivity.

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    10. You mention that the Orthodox have different claims of infallibility, and so do the muslims, etc. But so what? The word "infallibility" there doesn't relevantly change anything, because - and that's what you don't seem to understand - it has nothing to do with being epistemically absolutely certain of the truth of your beliefs.

      Orthodox, protestants and muslims simply have different truth claims from Catholics, as do atheists and buddhists. I don't think the Orthodox or even muslims take anything "a step too far" when they claim infallibility of a magisterium or of the Quran. I don't see why God wouldn't want to give us an infallible system in Revelation so that we can deductively weed out what is surely false, and what isn't, in His religion. In fact I think it's quite plausible that if God reveals Himself in religion, he'll provide a sure foundation for that religion to deductively prove the more important theses (dogmas) and refute the more pernicious mistakes. For Catholics, it's the magisterium, especially ex cathedra papal pronouncements. For the Muslim, it's the Quran.

      I just think Islam and the Quran are very likely false, and therefore I don't believe the Quran is real revelation from God. The problem is not with Islam claiming to have an infallible foundation to guide the faithful with the basics of their religion; the problem is just that I don't think Islam is true. By contrast, I think Catholicism is true, and as such I believe that the Catholic claims to infallibility are quite probable. So I think that what the pope teaches ex cathedra is probably true.

      Again, religious infallibility has nothing to do with demanding epistemic certainty from people. As I said, I believe Catholicism is *probably* true. And since I know that *if* Catholicism is true then papal ex cathedra pronouncements are infallible, then I believe that ex cathedra pronouncements are probably true. This doesn't mean I feed doubts to myself; it's just the description of my epistemic dispositions. I am quite certain that God exists. But when it comes to Christianity and Catholicism, I am less sure of them than I am of theism - but nevertheless I still think Christianity and Catholicism are very probable, so I believe.

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    11. Catholicism's claim to infallibility doesn't mean that every Catholic thinks Catholicism is true with the same certainty that they think 2 plus 2 equals 4. It simply means that *if* Catholicism is true, then some truths would necessarily follow as well (the Immaculate Conception, for instance). Your grounds for believing in the first part of the conditional can be probabilistic, and that doesn't mean you'll doubt the conditional.

      Again, think of the modal Ontological Argument. Most philosophers and logicians agree that if a Maximally Great Being is possible, then a Maximally Great Being exists, by S5 axiom. Usually, the only contentious premise is the first one: is a MGB possible? If a MGB is possible, then we infallibly know that a MGB actually exists. But is it possible? We can think the first premise is probably true, which would then imply that a MGB probably exists. And we don't have to take this to mean that we are unsure whether the S5 derivation from "possibly necessary" to "necessary" works; it can just mean we are not sure about the first premise!

      Likewise, the idea behind infallibility in Catholicism and other religions is just that. IF the religion is true, then XYZ are also true. IF the religion is true, then we must also believe XYZ. If we believe Catholicism is true, then we must believe the Immaculate Conception is true, because the Immaculate Conception *necessarily* follows from Catholicism. It does not mean that a believing Catholic thinks mathematics and religious dogma are on the same epistemic category.

      That being said, I don't see why one would object to infallibility. Perhaps one could argue that God wouldn't want to establish a sure foundation in religion? But as I said, I think it's just the opposite; I think it's quite plausible that, if God reveals Himself, He'll provide a sure foundation so that if a person believes in the religion, she'll also be able to know what necessarily follows from it and what doesn't. That the pope is a fallible human being doesn't mean that, qua pope, God can't preserve him from teaching error during ex cathedra pronouncements. At most, one could say that it is a little strange, but I don't think that is particularly problematic, especially if someone is convinced that Catholicism is true by e.g. miracles, experience or whatever.

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    12. Laudator Temporis ActiJune 16, 2018 at 1:50 AM

      Thanks again for answers. And for your patience.

      So I think that what the pope teaches ex cathedra is probably true.

      Surely if one accepts infallibility, one must believe that ex-cathedra teachings are certainly true? Otherwise they're not infallible.

      Again, religious infallibility has nothing to do with demanding epistemic certainty from people.

      Well, it's not about demanding epistemic certainty, it's about supplying it. In my understanding, the Church teaches that God guarantees the absolute truth of all ex-cathedra Papal statements and of teachings within the Magisterium. The Pope has active, divinely overseen Infallibility when speaking ex cathedra and the faithful have passive, divinely overseen Infallibility when accepting what the Pope says.

      As I said, I believe Catholicism is *probably* true.

      If you think that Catholicism is only "probably true", you're being heretical, aren't you? The Church has always taught that Catholicism is certainly true, founded by God's only begotten Son for the salvation of fallen humanity and guaranteed by God until the Second Coming.

      I am quite certain that God exists. But when it comes to Christianity and Catholicism, I am less sure of them than I am of theism - but nevertheless I still think Christianity and Catholicism are very probable, so I believe.

      This seems like heretical liberalism, by traditional standards. I agree with you that the existence of God must be more probable than the truth of Catholicism, but I'm not a traditionalist Catholic.

      Usually, the only contentious premise is the first one

      If there are any contentious or uncertain premises, the reasoning cannot be guaranteed and infallibility isn't proved.

      As to whether God would want His true religion to be infallible: it's possible to argue that He would want us to make a free choice and even to share in Jesus' doubt: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" He could also tailor the gift of belief to the individual and to different periods within the individual's life. I seem to remember in Evelyn Waugh's biography of Ronald Knox something about Knox ceasing to find prayer joyful (in the early days of his conversion he had been overwhelmed by joy), with the comment that God sometimes withdraws consolations from spiritually advanced individuals, as a way of testing and strengthening their faith.

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  15. Any articles where the below are being addressed?

    - the seemingly morally problematic passages of the OT where God seems to command humans to perform seemingly inherently evil acts (like commanding humans to kill babies, to marry whores or perform adultery etc) in light of the Natural Law

    - time (under the philosophy of nature)

    - act of creation (eternal creator creating ex nihilo and the createdness of creatures)

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    1. and

      - Demonic possession (Feser's take, as with the previous points)

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    2. I would also be interested in articles related to all that Anthony has brought up here, but I would like to especially second the request for clarification on the "seemingly morally problematic passages" of the Old Testament, such as 1 Samuel 15. How indeed does one reconcile the tension between:

      (1) Divine inspiration / inerrancy of Scripture
      (2) Scripture presenting God as commanding humans to kill infants (1 Samuel 15)
      (3) The direct killing of innocent humans by humans as intrinsically evil
      (4) The impossibility of God commanding us to sin
      (5) A rejection of theological voluntarism

      After all, it seems like you either have to dismiss the stories as not true (i.e., God didn't actually command that) which seems to contradict Church teaching on inspiration/inerrancy, or you have to say that deliberate killing of infants is not intrinsically wrong, or you have to say that God can command us to do things that are wrong, or you have to say that God's commanding of a thing is precisely what makes it good (voluntarism) such that killing of infants could be good, even virtuous, which is absurd.

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    3. Or you can perhaps say that there are actions that, although intrinsically immoral for humans, are not so for God. It's not voluntarism, just that God wouldn't *naturally* have moral obligations towards us (now maybe if God makes a promise to us then he'd have an obligation to keep it; but when it comes to killing or obliterating us, he is not under such an obligation as in fact we are entirely dependent on Him for any existence whatsoever). And that perhaps the OT passages are an example of a very, very rare occasion in which God used people as instruments of His will?

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    4. Thank you for that, Miguel. But surely an instrument is to be used in accordance with the nature of the instrument? With the result that instrumental action is evil if the act is contrary to the nature of the instrument? And since it is contrary to human nature to kill the innocent, it seems that it is evil for humans to kill the innocent even if the humans are being used instrumentally by God.

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  16. How far can we take the 4 causes?

    Imagine that if you put 3 apples together in a row on a table, and said the words "Burn!", they would all ignite on fire right after you said that. And also imagine that this only happens with 3 apples on the table, not when more or less apples are present, and they must be in a row and not in any other formation.

    One way to easily explain this would be to say that it is in the nature of 3 apples stacked in this way, in this number and formation to ignite upon hearing the verbal command to burn. This would be formal causality.

    But we all know that this clearly doesn't happen in reality. What this would mean under an A-T paradigm is that the apples in reality have a different nature from the apples in our imaginary scenario.

    In other words, apples that when alligned in a certain fashion ignite after a certain command aren't in fact apples as we know them in reality, but are pseudo-apples, or apple-like things that resemble our apples in every single way other than this small little difference - namely, they can ignite upon command.

    Now, if God were to create these pseudo-apples such that we could see how they ignite upon command when stacked 3-in-a-row, would the causal explanation of the ignition have to use a scientific-intermediary explanation (i.e. the pseudo-apples have special molecules that ignite upon the command), or can causality work even without a strictly scientific quantifiable intermediary (i.e. there is no measurable explanation of why they ignite, they do so spontaneously because of their very nature, there is no flammable molecule that allows them to burn or any such physical property)?

    If the latter, then this would mean that the simple formal nature of the apples (that they ignite upon command) is enough for a causal explanation of things, without having to have any additional physical property that allows them to ignite. This would mean the pseudo-apples are absolutely identical in physical make-up to real apples, with the only difference being that they ignite because it's in their nature to ignite, such that there is no additional physical component that allows them to ignite.

    Is this right? Can A-T accomodate such things where causality happens in physical things formally, but without any physical property that causes it?

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    1. The models of physics are an abstraction as Feser has often posted. Real things have both quantifiable and non-quantifiable aspects. Particular physical models need not even take into account all quantifiable
      aspects of a thing.
      So, there is no need for an imaginary apples. Real things around us have all the mysterious non-quantifiable aspects one wants. For instance, living things.

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    2. No, because it is the "nature" of this physical world we live in to only allow the phenomenon we are already familiar with or have yet to discover.

      The flaming apples would have to use physical laws that were always there but unknown, or be impossible. You almost proved it was impossible, but you didn't take the nature of the universe in which this all happens into account.

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    3. @Gyan,


      I agree that physical things have both quantifiable and non-quantitative aspects to them.

      But is it possible for there to be physical things with a formal causality that is completely unquantifiable - such as the burning apples that burn with no physical explanation of the burning, only the formal causal aspect which would be strictly non-quantifiable?

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    4. @Anon,


      It clearly doesn't seem impossible for there to be apples that ignite purely as a matter of formal cause, without any quantifiable explanation to it.

      At the very least, they could exist in a completely different universe, if they can't do so in ours.

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  17. Is there anyone here who has tackled on the essence/energies distinction of the Eastern Orthodox? Here's an article against Thomism:

    https://jaysanalysis.com/2016/10/19/augustine-aquinas-barlaam-palamas-the-root-of-western-theological-error/

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    1. I saw a nice essay on that years ago but could not track it down after I lost the link.

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    2. That's a shame!

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    3. English CatholicJune 9, 2018 at 6:18 AM

      William M Briggs (reactionary statistician) has some stuff on his blog. He mentions Palamas a lot. He's pretty scathing about the essence/energies distinction. I don't have a link, but if you want to search it's about 3-6 months old, IIRC.

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    4. English CatholicJune 9, 2018 at 6:21 AM

      Here's something to start with. It's a guest post; I actually don't know the author at all. Something to start with, anyway. Some people think this is a much bigger deal than the filioque.

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    5. @English Catholic
      I can't see the link you posted to the guest post, care to link it?

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    6. This is a new video that deals specifically with that issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d07mgLoOW8g

      Eastern "Orthodoxy" Exposed: Their Heretical Doctrine of God

      I strongly recommend it.

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    7. The Jay's Analysis post makes the usual EO mistake on this topic of not recognizing that Barlaam himself was anti-Thomistic and that Barlaam's account of most things is inconsistent with the dominant strands of Western theology. Any links between the two need to be established, not assumed. I am firmly in the camp of those who hold that Palamas and Aquinas are closer to each other than either is to Barlaam. Many of Palamas's own arguments are excellent by Thomistic standards -- my favorite is his argument that the distinction does not introduce composition (and thus does not violate divine simplicity), which uses exactly the same notion of composition that a Thomist would use. This is not to say that there aren't difficult issues and questions, but the oppositions tend to be exaggerated by people with a vested interest in insisting that there is nothing to be learned from the other side. It isn't helped by the constant oscillation between technical and colloquial senses of terms, which are common in the polemics on both sides. (For instance, always be wary of anyone talking about 'real distinction' without giving a precise definition appropriate to the topic; in virtually every account of distinction, there are distinctions that are really distinctions, and so "real" distinctions in the colloquial sense, that are not real distinctions in this or that technical sense. Almost all popular discussions of the essence/energies distinction that bring the phrase up make this mistake.)

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    8. Just curious, Brandon. How do you define real distinction and virtual distinction? It appears you're saying that the definitions change depending on the topic and if so, how would those terms be defined under various scenarios, especially with respect to the essence of God?

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    9. It's not that they change with topic so much as that they change from author to author -- there isn't really any agreed-upon definition of 'real distinction', beyond everyone agreeing that separability is a sufficient condition for it. The same is true for virtual distinction / distinctio rationis cum fundamento a parte rei. You'll sometimes notice this if you look at different authors discussing the same topic -- they will sometimes use exactly the same argument but classify the distinctions differently, because the two authors aren't using the terms synonymously. Personally, I try to avoid putting much weight behind the exact terms when it comes to distinctions; you always have to go back and look at what the argument itself was, anyway, so best to use that rather than set everyone up for confusion.

      But, in any case, the problem in the essence/energies case is different from this: on this topic people generally equivocate between merely colloquial uses of 'real' and whatever technical use is relevant, in just one big muddle.

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  18. Thanks Prof Feser!

    Longtime reader (since '08 when I was in college), first-time commenter. I am a medical student, and I came across an interesting but disturbing presentation on the metaphysics of pregnancy by a British philosopher, Elselijn Kingma. I need some help in clarifying my thinking on this topic.

    In it, she contrasts two metaphysical theories for the fetus and pregnancy: the intuitive "container" theory which states that the fetus is contained within the mother as a separate entity, and her novel insidious "part of a whole" theory which states the fetus, even if it is a separate human being, is still in some important way a part of the mother. Her novel theory is insidious for the obvious reason that, if more widely known, it would lend philosophical support to the obnoxious "my body, my choice" slogan.

    I think I understand the independent reasons for concluding that the fetus is a human being with a right to life, and as I said, the container theory for pregnancy is intuitive to me, but I can't articulate an argument for why it's true. In addition, I am having difficulty addressing her arguments/sketch for her novel theory, because it depends on the nature of human beings, and I'm fuzzy on that topic. In particular, she questions the (to her, assumed) premise that a human being cannot be a part of another human being.

    If Prof Feser and other commenters have thoughts or recommended resources (essays, books, podcasts) on this topic (pregnancy, nature of human beings), that would be much appreciated. I'm sorry if I missed that this was addressed in any recent work!

    Thanks!

    link to Kingma's talk: http://philosophyandmedicine.org/events/were-you-a-part-of-your-mother-the-metaphysics-of-pregnancy/

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    1. McG, wow, that's a long time before commenting. Very impressive restraint.

      I will try to give some ideas, maybe others can improve on them. First, from a purely biological standpoint: (a) the baby has a different genetic code; (b) the baby does not contribute to the mother's physical welfare in any sense (like a "part" or an organ should. Not a perfect argument, what about the appendix?) (c) The baby can be lost or removed (including by birth) without the mother suffering thereby, as she would suffer from the loss of an organ. (d) The baby doesn't come into physical existence without the introduction of foreign material, the mother cannot do it from her own resources. These are all marks and indicators of the metaphysical reality, which is that the baby is a different being.

      From a philosophical perspective, relying for the moment on A-T principles: a substance is a fundamental reality, by definition it cannot be a "part" of another substance. All true "parts" refer to the whole, no whole can be part of another whole. For living beings, the soul is the form of the being, and is the animating principle of the whole thing. It is impossible for a soul of Mary to be the animating principle of Mary's body, and of little Johnny's body as well. Only Johnny's soul can be the substantial form of Johnny's substantial being. There is no way to morph form and matter concepts to allow for one form to be the substantial form of two beings, or for one substantial being to be PART of another substantial being and then "break off". The substance ALWAYS retains the same fundamental identity that it has from its first moment of existence.

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    2. It is a long video. Could you summarize the argument as you understand it? To argue that a fetus is a part of its mother, it does not suffice to question the thesis that a human being cannot be part of another.

      Also, even if the fetus is a part of its mother, "my body, my choice" is not vindicated. It's true that one easy way to refute that thought is by pointing out that it's not your body. But that's not necessary. The standard argument against abortion is that the fetus is an innocent human being, and it is immoral to kill innocent human beings. If she is admitting that the fetus is a separate human being, then her theory does not touch the standard argument.

      (Her theory isn't exactly novel. One doesn't often find philosophers saying such things, but lots of non-philosophers will say, for instance, that the fetus is a parasite, or that it is a part of the mother until viability, or what have you.)

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    3. Her theory also sounds like it runs parallel with Judith Thompson's idiot violinist argument (you wake up tied by IV to a famous violinist, who will die if you pull out your IV feed to him). The "my body, my choice" theory fails easily when one considers what happens when you bring a baby home from the hospital: "It's my body, and I choose to get some sleep instead of staying up half the night feeding him and rocking him to sleep. It's his problem if he starves to death." No, parents don't get to ignore the needs of their kids just because they get to decide lots of decisions that happen with their own bodies. Criminal negligence laws are not slavery laws, and being a parent means having obligations that impinge on your body, so tough luck if you don't like it.

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    4. I agree with Tony and Greg but also wanted to bring another point up as well and it is that the teleology of a womb is to bring another life into existence and provide sustenance to it rather than the mother's life to existence or sustenance. That in itself refutes "my body my choice" theory.

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    5. While Kingma's proposal is certainly problematic (e.g., it does not adequately deal with the problem that it is supposed to solve, since a baby has to become a non-part at some point, and Kingma's account provides no way to identify when and why it does so), I would be cautious about thinking that the 'container model' is the only other option on the table.

      The most natural and commonsensical account would recognize that a child in the womb both is and is not a part of its mother, in different senses. (This is also, incidentally, the view clearly presupposed by the view of motherhood in major theological doctrines -- both the 'container model' and the 'part and whole' model are utterly inadequate for capturing the motherhood of the Virgin Mary or the sense in which the Church can be called a Mother.) The major difficulty is in specifying the senses, of course: the mother and child must be distinct substantially but united in a single whole in another sense, that has to be stronger than the sense in which an object is merely in a container or boundary.

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    6. If the embryo or fetus is part of a whole substance (mother), then it must either be a substantial part of the substance’s (mother’s) essence or it must be accidental to the substance’s essence. For example, the mother’s soul (or potential ability to live, sense, move, and reason) is a substantial part of the mother’s essence. The mother would not be human without this active power (even if all facets of the power are not currently actualized). Another substantial part would be the mother’s body. The mother can exist without a body (assuming the immortality of the soul), but corporeality is obviously an essential part of what it is to be human. That basically gives us three options for the embryo/fetus.

      1) The embryo/fetus is the substantial form of the mother.

      2) The embryo/fetus is the whole or part of the matter informed by the mother’s substantial form.

      3) The embryo/fetus is an accidental property of the mother.

      One is obviously false. If the embryo/fetus were the substantial form of the mother, abortion would be tantamount to annihilation of the mother (not just death).

      Two regarding the totality of the matter of the mother is also obviously false. Death or destruction of the embryo/fetus would be tantamount to death.

      Three is also obviously false as accidents must inhere in their substances, but the embryo can be conceived wholly apart from the mother. It would be strange to say that an embryo conceived in a Petri dish went from being a substance to an accident because of a mere relocation. Furthermore, accidents flow from their substances. If I have dark skin, it is an accident if it is caused by melanin which is produced in my body. If I rub shoe black all over my body, it’s not really an accidental property of me to be black. Rather, the shoe black and I are an aggregate of substances.

      So the only alternative (and the most popular one) is that the embryo is part of the mother’s body. But this does not work either for the same reasons listed in three. The embryo is simply not dependent on the mother for its existence in any substantial way. It is merely dependent in an accidental way. The obvious reasoning is that embryos are immediately viable for an indeterminate amount of time outside the uterus (in Petri dishes). Given our technological limitations, there is a brief window of about 18 weeks where an embryo cannot be kept alive outside a living woman, but I think it would be bizarre to suggest that the embryo goes from being a human to not being a human the minute he is implanted in the mother’s endometrial wall.

      Therefore, the embryo/fetus is obviously not part of the mother. The only other option is to say that the embryo is not a human organism at the point of conception. However, this is manifestly false as many embryology textbooks demonstrate. The only way to sidestep this reality is to define human organism in a way that would leave all of us susceptible to murder.

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    7. Thanks for the feedback!

      Addressing Greg's comment, I think I wasn’t clear in what I needed help with. Kingma explicitly states that she is not defending her “part-of-a-whole” model of the fetus. She states two things: 1) the intuitive “container” model has no apparent philosophical support, and 2) the ambiguity in the definition of an organism allows space for the part-of-a-whole model. Are ants the organism, or is the ant colony the organism? Can a human society or institution be an organism in some sense? Does the distinction have to do with immanent or transeunt causation?

      So, to make another attempt at what I need help with: what is the A-T perspective on the ontology of an organism? Any articles/books on this topic? It seemed in her presentation that any criteria used to define an organism were only true to a degree for the fetus.

      To address Tony's proposals for supporting the separateness of the fetus, the proposal that different genetic material is a distinguishing factor doesn’t work because there are people with chimeraism: parts of them have different genetic material, but they’re still one organism. This is even true in having material with both sexes (some parts are XY and other parts are XX or XO). We also can’t use the introduction of foreign material because we do that everyday with food. An opponent could counterclaim that the woman assimilated the sperm.

      However, I think Tony’s comment about organs contributing to the physical welfare to the mother is an important start for me. As a medical student, I can tell you with certainty that the appendix actually does have some function: it’s a training ground for the immune system during development in interacting with our “microbiome” (healthy bacteria) in our gut, and it’s reservoir for healthy bacteria to repopulate the gut after a bout of diarrhea or antibiotics. Folks who have had their appendix removed have harder time preventing reinfections of their gut (source: http://time.com/4631305/appendicitis-appendix-gut-bacteria/).

      On the other hand, the interaction between the baby and the mother is actually essential for the mother’s breast development to complete. Women who have never had children actually have immature mammary glands (source: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1179/002436309803889142). So is the baby actually an important part providing physical well-being to the mother or not?

      There is a problem with the flip side in claiming that a mother and fetus are one organism because they are intimately linked and are not totally autonomous. This side has to grapple with the problem presented by parabiosis. This is a procedure that links the circulatory systems of two animals, so that they now share the same blood. Those are clearly two organisms that have been surgically attached and now intimately share blood, analogous to what’s shared between mother and fetus. Have those two animals become one organism? Are Siamese twins two or one organism?

      Ultimately, I think having a solid A-T answer to “what is an organism?” will resolve many of these issues. I appreciate Brandon's and Scott's contributions to the discussion, but additional comments and resources are most welcome.

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  19. Thanks Prof

    On the Act potency distinction there is an philosophy of physics paper "taking Heisenberg's potentia seriously" out, its been accepted for publication and is also on the ARXIV pre-print site.

    The gist of the article is that if the distinction is real and space-time is an emergent feature of reality then the non locality of the ERP correlations can be explained in a sane way.

    Shout out to Dr Ian Thompson who I believe has been banging this particular drum for quite a while .

    Another interesting part of the paper is that it acknowledges that the block universe faces the same problems as Parminidies (which again I know Drs Feser and Thompson have been going on about for a while).

    On a slightly more personal note my wife and I are expecting, odds are with us as parents the kid is going to be a superposition of Godel, Von Neauman and Aquinas :)

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    1. ERP does not imply non locality. It shows either non-locality or non classical values. But since we know locality in other ways, so the last thing is the right one.

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    2. I mean to that the particle is in superposition states before it interacts. But once it interacts, the possible values collapse. If it would have had objective values before the collapse that would have implied non locality. But in fact it only had possible values. And it is not just observation but interaction that can cause collapse.

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    3. That's pretty much the gist of the article, I didn't explain it very well either (I blame the 101 things that run through your mind when you find out that fatherhood is just around the corner).

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    4. Now I see what you mean, that that article was using the distinction of Aristotle between potential and actual. Very nice.

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  20. Currently reading Real Essentialism—does anyone have a recommendation for a primer on modal logic/other topics the book covers? I’m getting the gist of it but I feel like I’m missing a lot of the finer points

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  21. I've been thinking a little bit lately of what it means to be a divine image bearer in the light of the fact that we cannot make univocal statements about God. My basic question that I haven't been able to answer is how are we supposed to imagine ourselves as a reflection of, or participant in the divine mystery when we cannot say that we are like God in any specific respect. We can't directly say that we are like Him the way that an image is like an object because God is not a proper object of comparison.

    I can't help but feel like I'm mired in some very basic confusions, so any thoughts would be helpful.

    -Matt

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    1. Thomas' explanation of course may be incomplete. I hold that it may well be that we should understand God in an analogical+univocal sense.

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    2. I'm not sure what you mean by a 'proper object of comparison' here; we can indeed say that we are like God in the way that an image is like an object, and indeed in specific ways (intellect, will, dominion, etc.). This is linked to the thesis that our terms are used of God and creatures analogically; one of Aquinas's standard images of a case in which analogical predication applies is when a term is applied both to a picture and to what it depicts.

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  22. I have a question. I know that Aquinas' argument from motion says that everything that changes, changes on account of something else changing it; and that in order to avoid an infinite regress, it has to terminate with a single, actual cause, and this is understood to mean God. And I know that this argument has two types of causal series; one being the accidental causal series, one stretching back through time, and the other being the essential cause (per se), that is concerned with causal series on the here and now (like a stone being pushed with a stick, which is being pushed by my hand, which is being put in motion by the muscles, which is being put in motion by motor neurons, etc.). What I don't understand is why can't a causal series per se terminate with something other than God? Why can't an essential cause terminate with something like matter or energy or just fundamental quarks sustaining it?
    I'm asking this because I don't completely understand Essential Causes; I'm much more used to understanding cause as being linear.

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    1. The cause of all other causes must itself be uncaused, non-contingent and immutable. More importantly the entity must be self necessary, unlike the alternative suggestions you offered. This is what is commonly meant by the monotheistic conception of the word 'god'.

      Now the line of argumentation is rather complex to arrive at what God is and that such a being would have intellect and will necessarily.

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    2. It can't terminate with something that's in motion or a composite of potency and act, because the question would invariably be "what caused *that thing* to move?" or "what is responsible for *that thing's* hylomorphic composition?"

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  23. Has anyone read some of the blog of The Thinker? He has posts on A-T Metaphysics and why he finds it doubtful. He has written a response to The Last Superstition on a chapter by chapter basis.

    http://www.atheismandthecity.com/

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    1. Yes, I've read his review. He woefully misunderstand's Feser's arguments. I'm just a beginner and even I can see how badly skewed his perception is.

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    2. Please elaborate if you can. I'd love to get other peoples opinions as well.

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    3. Well, I look at that site quite some time ago. I was curious whether an atheist would give Feser's book a fair shake. Instead, I was the one shaking my head again and again as I read his "review."

      I'd have to go back and do a lot of re-reading. Instead of doing so, just pick out an argument or two that he makes that's tripping you up. If I can, I'd be happy to offer what I know. If I can't, I'm certain others would be glad to chime in. Just pointing to a website with a ton of material and saying, "What's wrong with that?" won't get you far.

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    4. His blog is fairly big, so I suppose i'll have to do some poking around and pick out a few things. He might have more specific posts where he go against scholasticism in general.

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  24. I have a question related to the perverted faculties argument.

    I recently wrote a post responding to a National Catholic Reporter article that attacked the authority of humanae vitae. If you are interested, my post can be found here https://apologiaprofide.com/2018/05/30/fish-wrap-condoms-and-the-sense-of-the-faith/, though reading it is not at all necessary for dealing with my question.

    Much to my surprise, one of the authors of the NCR article responded to me, and though I did not deal with the natural law arguments in my post and he *barely* dealt with them in his article, he saw fit to bring one into his comment, stating, 'Please tell me how an infertile or postmenopausal couple is 'open to the transmission of life' any more (or less) than a homosexual couple is 'open to the transmission of life.' The concept is morally meaningless."

    I must confess, with due reverence to Pope Paul VI and the great gift he gave the Church in HV that the language of 'open to life' does not seem the most exact for expressing the core of the perverted faculties argument. Nevertheless, assuming that my interlocutor has the full weight of the argument in mind, I do actually find myself slightly troubled by his example in a way I would not be if he brought up a merely infertile couple or a couple having sex during a time other than their fertile period.

    In the case of an infertile couple, as you say in your article on the subject, the issue is one of defect, like a clubbed foot.

    The couple having sex during an infertile period is slightly different as the woman's sexual cycle is part of the "reloading" of her reproductive capacity and is still tied into the essential reproductive nature of sex.

    But menopause seems potentially different. Unlike the impotency that men often undergo as they age, menopause does not seem in any obvious way to be the result of a natural faculty degenerating. Rather, the end of a woman's lifetime fertility is built into her faculty. She has a limited number of eggs and a time when her body naturally goes through a hormonal process that shuts down her reproductive faculty in a way parallel to how adolescence started it up. Is there something I am missing here? If it is the case that the shutting down of a woman's reproductive faculty is natural in the same way as it's awakening was (and contrary to the way in which a man's 'shutting down' is the result of his faculties degeneration) why is post-menopausal sex licit? Is not the woman's remaining sexual appetite and psychological drive more like vestiges of a faculty that has completed its end and so come to rest, and how is this not therefore a violation of that faculty to have sex once it has reached that state of rest?

    Put another way, what seems to make post-menopausal sex different from infertile sex is that it is not a case where, were everything "in good working order" conception might occur. Rather, the menopausal "shutting down" of the woman's reproductive capacity is precisely part of the "good working order" of her sexual life.

    I do not bring this up (as my interlocutor did) as a reductio, because just in case it held that natural law arguments indicated that post-menopausal sex was illicit then my conclusion would be that post-menopausal sex was illicit, not that natural law arguments were wrong, but this doesn't seem correct. What am I missing?

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    1. f it is the case that the shutting down of a woman's reproductive faculty is natural in the same way as it's awakening was (and contrary to the way in which a man's 'shutting down' is the result of his faculties degeneration) why is post-menopausal sex licit?

      I have 3 ideas. First, on what basis do you consider that the man's loss of fertility is a "degeneration" different from the woman"s? It seems to me roughly similar, though the actual mechanics are of course different. Speaking generally, nature acts "always or for the most part" (from Aristotle), so where you see "for the most part" you tend to see nature. Men for the most part suffer a reduction in their fertility as they age, and it is usually gradual but quite clear for all that.

      Second, if the "always or for the most part" argument is denied: I would be cautious about supposing that what we see in our bodies as we age (both men and women) is "due to nature" simply, and not due to nature as affected by sin. We know that God's original design was for man to be immortal (yes, due to the grace of original justice, but that grace was in his original design). It is not clear that under original justice, a woman would have had about 30 to 35 years of fertility and that's it. If Adam and Eve lived their 900+ years as stated in Genesis, it is reasonably presumed that they went on having kids beyond age 50. We don't know with certainty what part of our current design is due to the defects of sin: is the appendix really a useless organ? Etc.

      What about using the counter-examples of Sarah and Elizabeth bearing children "in their old age"? In both cases, God overcame the limits (or defects) of aging and caused the women to be fertile. It is clear from the context of the passages given that the couples were continuing to have sex when the woman was infertile because post-menopausal, (otherwise God would have had to ALSO command both couples to resume sexual relations, which is not at all mentioned). In the case of Zachariah and Elizabeth, God didn't even presage Elizabeth's getting pregnant with a prophecy, so they had no clue beforehand that God had reversed her infertility. I think these stand as reductio instances against the thesis "post-menopausal sex is inherently closed to life." They stand to say "no, the couple in having sex must remain open to life even post-menopausal, if God should will that a child be conceived."

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    2. A last idea, which I am not sure works but I will offer. C.S. Lewis in "Out of the Silent Planet" (Mars) presents an alien race in which their nature and norm is to have sex only at the few times it is appropriate to conceive. Lewis puts into the character's mouth the thesis that each good thing has its season, and one of the proper aspects of this "all things in their due season" is the upright use of remembering the enjoyment of the proper use of sex at the proper times, not to have it recur forevermore. But Lewis is NOT claiming that this would apply directly to humans, whose sexual nature is different (for example, unlike certain animals, human women don't "come into heat" only once per year). So I offer a twist or variant on Lewis's idea: because humans are geared for sex such that both the unitive aspect and the procreative aspect are integral to the act, humans are geared to have sex for the period of marriage - which is for life. However, analogously to Lewis's "remembrance" period for the Mars race, in humans after menopause the sexual act is a way of recalling the good of the fertile period in a physically expressive manner - it is good precisely in view of the prior period in which it would have been fertile and procreative sex. It's the leading edge of a long past during which sex is procreative. But if you alter the sexual act post-menopausal (via condoms) so that it is positively closed to life, you alter the nature of the act itself so that it no longer has that connectedness to prior procreative sex. (A suggestiveness to this thesis is that the Church used to frown on the idea of post-menopausal widows re-marrying, as being somewhat in denial of the appropriate view of the right purpose of sex. I say this tentatively, though, because it is also true generally that during those former times the Church also did not explicitly refer to the unitive aspect of the marital sexual relationship, and was explicit almost exclusively about the procreative aspect as the proper good of conjugal union).

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    3. Quickly, There are three ends of marriage. Reproduction, mutual salvation, and avoidance of sin. Only one of these is hindered by infertility. The act is still lawful and useful for the remaining ends. A couple who is infertile in fact is not in lacking in intention or worthiness. If they are blessed with a child by divine intervention, quirk of nature or adoption, they are in the best estate to raise it.
      None of these things apply to unconventional unions.

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    4. Kevin:

      Recall that the operation of one's sexual organs has both a procreative and a unitive function.

      Recall also that the procreative function is not directed merely at generating a helpless illiterate baby. Humans are rational animals with culture and accumulated knowledge, able to exercise free will and to love. The actual formation of a mature human being is therefore much more than birthing the body and feeding it so that it grows adequately. Instead, raising humans is a thing best achieved in a family, in which the mother and father are foremost priorities; after that grandparents and siblings; after that aunts and uncles and cousins.

      Now the goal of the procreative function is to generate babies, and lots of them. The goal of the unitive function is to ensure that couples are life-bonded continuously over time so that their children and grandchildren reap the benefit of their parents' ongoing marital faithfulness, and their grandparents' and aunts' and uncles' as well.

      Now age makes pregnancies increasingly risky for mothers over time. So the procreative capability of the female "times out" precisely to maximize the odds that the children of that woman will be raised by their father AND their mother, not by a widower.

      The unitive aspect does NOT "time out," but the reason it does not "time out" is the same as the reason that the woman's ability to get pregnant DOES; namely, to maximize the odds that the children are raised by a father and mother, not by a divorced couple. And it applies to grandparents, too: The unitive aspect helps the father and mother can watch their OWN parents (and the kids, their grandparents) live the ends of their lives as faithfully-married couples, not as divorced couples.

      In short: The sex act is not about making an infant, full stop; the sex act is also about maximizing the probability that, forty years later, that infant (now grown), can bring his own kids to Grandma and Grandpa's house for Christmas dinner (and have it be one house, not two). And all of this is about what it takes to successfully form a fully-matured rational animal.

      You could even look at MORE holistically: Sex isn't merely about generating one baby; it's about the enlargement and flourishing of a family dynasty filled with fully-matured, stable, morally-well-formed humans.

      Now, why is it okay for a married couple, in which the woman is post-menopausal, to engage in coitus, but a perversion for two men, or a man and a dog, or a woman enamored of a sex doll or a chunk of the Berlin wall, to engage in various masturbatory acts (it isn't coitus) to achieve sexual pleasure?

      Well, what's the pleasure FOR, itself?

      The pleasure exists to encourage good sexual acts. Good sexual acts are those which are directed towards the birthing and nurturing and raising and moral formation of the people whose participation in the family will produce both individual and dynastic enlargement and flourishing.

      Achieving the pleasure through homosexual mutual masturbation is a way of getting the pleasure without doing the good thing the pleasure is meant to encourage. No child of that pairing is any more likely to have Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa's house, and find Grandma and Grandpa still happily married, as a result of that act. First, because there'd be no child. Second, because either Grandma or Grandpa wouldn't be in the picture. It'd be Grandma and Gladys, or maybe Grandpa and Gary, but not Grandma and Grandpa.

      So, if one is not to pervert the pleasure away from its goal, one must achieve that pleasure exclusively through the use of one's sexual faculties in accord with THEIR goals: A healthy family with lots of kids growing over time, with no divorces or unfaithfulness.

      Make sense?

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    5. Tony: The reason I think they might be different is that what happens with men seems to be something like, for example, the way in which sight deteriorates with age - it is simply a factor of the entropy that material beings experience. In contrast, there is something active that happens in a woman's body to shut down her reproductive capacity. I think, following R.C.'s suggestions regarding the growing dangers of pregnancy for women, we might see the shutting down that happens at menopause as being a kind of "natural surgery," like a built in hysterectomy, but that's just a hunch.

      The case of Sarah and Elizabeth is clear evidence that there is nothing evil about post-menopausal sex, but it doesn't really make the reasons immediately clear I don't think (so my interlocutor could simply say, "See, not reproductive sex *is* okay, and so contraception and gay sex are wonderful.") I do think it's a great sed contra though, and it may help clarify some things. Manualist Thomists generally teach that miracles cannot be contra naturam (that would be God performing evil). Even a post-menopausal woman has an obediential potency to become fertile again. A man wouldn't even have that, correct? It would be contra naturam and so strictly impossible, for God to miraculously make a man pregnant? So even if the faculty has come to "rest"(in a certain sense) the nature which gave rise to the faculty still has inherent in it the natural end of fertility such that the use of the faculty remains licit?

      I think your Lewis example is interesting and I will have to think more about it.

      R.C.: I think putting the reproductive aspect of the faculty into the wider context of family life is helpful, but I still want to think more about how to precisely express the difference between the continued unitive function of post-menopausal sex and the potential (or at least simulated) unitive function of homosexual sex.

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    6. Quite insightful there, R.C. My thought is similar. A related issue that has me stumped however is the Catholic Church's objection to male fertility testing (when the testing assumes self-stimulation). Could not one argue that the test is ordered towards procreation and that therefore the person is not per se intending sexual pleasure separate from procreation? Granted, that one particular act's proximate end is non-procreative, but why can't the act be justified in its larger context as ordered towards procreation? To make this work it seems the Church would have to argue that self-stimulation is intrinsically wrong. But I'm having a difficult time understanding why that would necessarily be the case.

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    7. Actually the terminology "open to life" is quite good. The reason being that the nature of the act is 'open' by means of the expression. The character/details of an action and the teleological significance of the action are not made redundant by some imperfection or impediment to the actualisation of the potential end to which an action is directed.

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  25. Hello Dr. Feser, and thank you for this thread. It seems like my question did not get posted, so let me try again.

    My question is about the knowledge argument for the real distinction between essence and existence. If I understand it correctly, if you can know what a being is without knowing weather it exists or not, then the being must be contingent. For instance, if I tell you what an unicorn is, that is, a horse with a horn on it's forehead, you couldn't possibly determine weather unicorns exist or not. Therefore, unicorns must be contingent (they need existence supplied from somewhere else).

    My question is about god: If I told you that there is a being that is all powerful, all knowing, and omnipresent, without conceiving weather the being exists or not, would this imply that god is also contingent? There does not seem to be a logical contradiction in conceiving this being without conceiving of it's existence.

    Or is a better definition of god the one that saint anselm said, namely, "A being that none greater can be imagined". In that case, it seems like existence would be a part of this definition, because if I am conceiving of this being without conceiving of it's necessary existence, then I could imagine an even greater and more perfect being, that is, the one that necessarily exists. So, a contradiction WOULD be involved if we did not conceive of this being's existence when we contemplated on it's essence.

    Does this argument imply that the concept of god must be exactly like the one that saint anselm said?, and if so, are there more concepts that are known that involve necessary existence, somehow, or is saint anselm's the only one?

    Or am I going too far in this analysis, and could the theist simply say that since the argument concludes that there must be a being in whom existence and essence are the same, then it matters not if we can't precisely state it's definition (due to our lack of knowledge, say), since the argument already proves that such a being must exist?

    Or, perhaps, could we say that god simply IS existence, in a certain way. I've read that god is not a being among others, but being itself. In that case, indeed, there would be no question that god must exist. And all the other attributes of god are just different ways of saying "These are really the attributes of pure existence itself"

    I really like the contingency argument, I hope that someone can guide me on this. Thank you again Dr. Feser and all the wonderful people who are reading this blog! :D

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    1. Knowledge of essence without knowledge of existence does not entail contingency. It merely shows ignorance on our part whether such a being exists. If God exists, He would be Pure Act. His essence would be to exist. That does not in itself mean that such a being exists. That's what Aquinas's arguments attempt to prove.

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  26. I once posted about Philosopher Rögnvaldur
    Ingthorsson's claim that act/potency distinction is false because unidirectional action do not exist.

    Like here. http://www.academia.edu/27840311/Powers_Based_causation_A_problem_with_the_Active_passive_distinction

    Frenchy from classical theism forum posted the material on some french thomistic forums, its an interesting discussion in which Ingthorsson himself takes part. Here is the link.

    http://www.thomas-aquin.net/PHPhorum/read.php?f=1&i=21084&t=21084

    Would be interesting to hear some thought on the topic.

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    1. Red,

      Understanding where Ingthorsson is wrong is an important part of understanding what Aristotle has to offer to any theory of causality.

      Here's his argument:

      Act-potency accounts of causality are non interactive
      All scientific accounts of causality are interactive.
      Therefore, Act-potency accounts of causality are not scientific.

      But "scientific" means what Aristotle would have called "natural science" or "physics", and within this domain all causality reduces to contact and therefore interaction. This is what nowadays is called "locality", and if anything, Aristotle is even more insistent on this than we are, since both Newton and QM allow for non-local action. And so the act-potency distinction in natural science (i.e. science) describes only interactive causes.

      But Aristotle was also convinced that he found a contradiction in all action being natural. Since he thought all natural causes were interactive, it followed that an an account of action could not be limited to the interactive. But the A-P distinction was his account of action.

      IOW, the both premises of Ingthorsson's argument are true, but the conclusion he needs to draw is that, in explaining actions as the A-P distinction does, it cannot be limited to explaining the interactive. If he dug around in the conclusion that he wants to draw, he'd end up in an infinite regress that would fail to explain anything and would leave him with no theoretical reason to look for causes in the first place.

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    2. Thanks,

      So what you're saying is that A-P is consistent with the particular interactive account of causality he offers? And secondly if we restrict A-P to only natural scientific , interactive realm then we get either infinite regress or brute fact?

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    3. Yes to both, though I'd prefer a stronger word than "consistent". Aristotle thinks he's proven from axioms that A-P among natural causes is always interactive. One application of this is his claim that everything in motion is moved by another, i.e. everything in nature that is moving is only a part of some larger interactive system.

      That stronger first claim affects the second one. Since Aristotle's theory of explanation reduces scientific claims to what is axiomatic and not what is brutish, if he reduced an explanation to mere facticity he wouldn't take the explanation to be scientific. So a scientific explanation could not reduce either to infinite regress or facticity. Since the structure of an infinite regress proof requires science in the stricter sense, if all you could get were facticity then you could not have a science proving infinite regress. On the other hand, if you had the factual explanation and the scientific one, you would take the factual one as a precursor to the other one.

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    4. Right right, and here is his paper in which his account is developed and defended in some detail. You might want to check it out.

      https://philpapers.org/archive/INGCPA.pdf

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    5. I started reading the paper but stopped after page 6 when he said he was giving a Naturalist account of causality. As soon as he does this he is no longer doing what he takes himself to be doing, i.e. critiquing Aristotle's theory of causality. Aristotle would have insisted just as strongly as RI that a Naturalist theory of causation must be thoroughly interactionist.

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    6. You mean the point he is making among these lines ?

      Secondly, I am not trying to work out............therefore I restrict the scope of my discussion of causality to production of natural effects by natural causes.

      And to repeat once again , problem with such naturalistic restriction would be accepting of brute facts?

      Also it seems his main problem with A-P ultimately is its supposed incompatibility with Newton's Laws. Which defenders of A-P has already addressed. Do you think his claims along this can stand independently of commitment to naturalism?.

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    7. That was the sort of passage I had in mind.

      Well, for Aristotle the problem with the naturalistic restriction was that it led to an infinite regress, and the problem with this is that it is an attempt to explain that cannot explain, like saying the stability of the earth arises from its resting on the back of a turtle. I suppose you could declare by fiat that the stability of the turtle was a "brute fact", but then why not just say the stability of the earth is such a fact and not bother with explanations at all?

      So sure, if you mean Naturalists all seem to want brute facts and I'm convinced both that the sort of brute facts they want don't exist and that Naturalism would be false even apart from this, then yes I think RI's naturalistic restriction is a problem,.

      To flesh out that last point, I've read Anscombe's account of brute facts and enjoyed it very much, and I also liked Geach's use of it in an argument for the falsity of Naturalism (cf. "What Do We Think With" from God and The Soul p. 32-39), but the use of brute facts to forestall theistic arguments is a different animal. Sure, any explanation takes truths as given and more or less basic, but the idea of theistic-argument forestalling brute facts demands that we take ourselves to utter a statement about which further insight is logically possible but about which further insight is logically impossible. For example, the definition of squaring or molting are not considered brute facts of squaring or molting, nor is any other axiom we take as self-evident, since a brute fact would have to be something neither definitional or axiomatic. At the same time, the statement articulating this sort of brute fact would have to admit of no logically possible further explanation. How this escapes contradiction is anyone's guess. Aristotle and STA certainly don't take God as a brute fact in this sense, but as one for whom existence is predicated per se, or as though part of a definition. God exists like triangles have three sides. One can argue this is wrong, but not that it is the same sort of brute fact as "the sum of all physical objects exists".

      Newton's third law is a statement that all causes are interactive, but this is exactly what one would expect in a book that is attempting to explain the principles of natural motions.

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    8. Thanks for all your input.

      Although right now his claims seem problematic but it seems he would have more to say on the topic.

      He provides detailed description of his project...

      https://rdingthorsson.wordpress.com/scientific-essentialism/project-description/

      Lets see what sort of work is done in future on this.

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  27. Is there a natural law argument for the indissolubility of marriage? Not simply the injustice of divorce, but specifically that a marriage isn't dissolved even when a legal divorce is obtained. Thanks!

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    1. As far as I'm aware, no there isn't.

      Recall that there are two kinds of marriage: natural and sacramental. Natural marriage is directed towards life long partnership, but it isn't per se indissoluble in the way sacramental marriage is (as with all grace, sacramental marriage builds on and perfects the natural goods of natural marriage). This is why the old Law could allow for divorce and why there the Pauline and Petrine privileges exist.

      Thus, there are natural law arguments for the wickedness of divorce, but not its indissolubility because natural marriages are not, in fact, metaphysically indissoluble.

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    2. Thanks,appreciate the response.

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    3. Neil,

      Indissoluble means more than one thing. A minimal sense would be that a relationship that is not expected to last for some term of years, like military service or school membership. All marriage seems indissoluble in this sense. A stronger meaning would be a relationship that has some relation to eternity, and marriage seems to have this through its foundation in eros.

      Marriage forms families and families are meant to hand on traditions, tie us to ancestors, and give us a sense of continuity with the future. This at least gives a very strong bias toward the sort of regularity that divorce and remarriage harms.

      In general we're too prone to focus on cases of scary abuse or monstrous treatment of spouses when we should focus on what would do the greatest good in the normal case. Taken in this way, I think it's relatively easy to establish the strong bias toward indissolubility, and this would have real teeth as a social policy.

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  28. Hello, people!

    I have a generic question: what is the positioning of Thomism (or even Aristotelism for that matter) in questions about the Quantum Mechanics and Einstein's Theories of Relativity?

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  29. Has anyone here read Quentin Meillassoux "After finitude"?
    I think he is the strongest critic of the argument from contingency and the PSR nowadays, and that proponents of these would definitely have to engage with Meillassoux

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  30. Has anyone listened to Peter Adamson's History of Philosophy podcast episode with Robert Pasnau discussing the change in understanding of substance from the Scholastics in to the early modern period? Here it is here

    At around 17:30 he begins explaining that Aquinas' view of substance means that a dead body is no longer a human substance, and that this causes trouble for explaining that Jesus' body was in the tomb for 3 days from which he was resurrected. How can he be resurrected in his body if what lays in the tomb is not human at all, under Aquinas' view.

    I wondered if anyone had any thoughts on this?

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    1. That is one of many examples why I have rejected the totality of Thomistic metaphysics and Sacramental theology. Both are antithetical to proper Christian metaphysics and theology. Read Plantinga and William Lane Craig and you will get back on track.

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    2. https://philpapers.org/rec/CROAON

      http://www.aquinasonline.com/Questions/spiritbod.html

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    3. I don't see the problem. The body just becomes an accidental unity of the various substances which, up until the point of death, existed virtually in that person's body. Thus, that unity, and the substances which comprise it, have the accident of having-been-part-of-Jesus'-body (at death). At the Resurrection, God can "ensoul" the matter just like he does at conception (just on a considerably larger scale).

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    4. and that this causes trouble for explaining that Jesus' body was in the tomb for 3 days from which he was resurrected. How can he be resurrected in his body if what lays in the tomb is not human at all,

      Well, it would help if Pasnou would actually state the theory, instead of mis-stating it. The A-T theory requires that when the human dies, the substantial form of "human" ceases to inform the body, so the stuff ceases to be "human body" and becomes other - as ccmnxc says, various substances, like carbon and water. Aquinas' view was that the substantial form, at initial existence, kind of takes over the force and virtue of all of the accidental forms that had previously been present under the prior substantial form, so that the new human being remains the same temperature as the matter had been, has the same place, has the same weight, etc. This applies also to the properties of the parts of the body that (taken on their own) would act as independent entities: water in the body acts much like water not in the body, calcium acts much like calcium not in the body, etc. But in the case of being part of the human body, they have these attributes not independently, but as "owned" by the substantial form, and thus organized by a telos larger than that of water or calcium proper.

      When the human dies, then, there is a change of substantial form, and the integrating form that unifies the parts ceases to be present. (Side note: Pasnau also mistakes whether that form can persist: in non-intellectual beings, it cannot, but with intellectual beings the form is no longer dependent on the body to persist.) The parts then have other substantial forms, such as that of water. The bits of water again keep the virtue of the accidental forms such as temperature, weight, etc that they had as parts of the body.

      The only difficult question is how the human substantial form can manage to supercede the substantial form of water, and yet leave intact the accidents and properties of water. I am not aware of Aquinas addressing this, other than to indicate that the water is "virtually" present in the human body. Maybe someone who is better read in Aquinas can extend this out.

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    5. Holy Saturday is not a problem for Aquinas's view, unless one means that it is a question that has to be answered (and which Aquinas does answer). The Divine Word isn't just united with the soul but with the body of Christ as well, and the body in the tomb continues to be that of the Divine Word, even if one regards this as a miraculous exception. Other cases are harder, IMO.

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    6. Brandon, do you mean that the Divine Word was united to the body during Holy Saturday, even though Jesus' human soul was not united with the body?

      I wouldn't think so: the Divine Word was united with the human form-and-matter at the moment of Jesus' conception. The form is the form of a human being, thus having being an intellectual being, and thus having an immaterial soul which can persist after death. The identity of the union was that of the Divine Person become incarnate, taking on human nature. So, i would think that at death, the soul ceases to be "present to" the body as the substantial form thereof, (as with all human death), but the identity of the soul remains that of Jesus Christ, the Divine Word become man, and thus the soul remains in union with the Divine Word. When the creed says that "he" descended to hell, it would seem to mean "he" in the sense of the Divine Word as united to human nature, in respect of the soul, and not of the body, since the body was in the tomb (wasn't it?).

      In all cases of human death, the corpse remains the "body of" that human being, in that the matter retains to some degree the organization of a human being, and moreover it remains the body of that person in that the soul remains in relation to that body, and the body remains (mostly, for some fairly short time) organized as if in relation to that soul. In the case of a person who dies and is miraculously restored to life, it is THAT BODY that receives back the soul, not some indeterminate matter. The same would have applied to Jesus. Why would the body of Jesus retain a connection to the Divine Word more so, and differently from, what happens in the case of every human who dies and their soul?

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    7. It is a heresy to hold that the Divine Word was only united to Christ's soul. (On Holy Saturday, Christ's soul was united to His body but only insofar as both were united to the Godhead.) Aquinas, in any case, is very explicit; see ST 3.50.

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    8. Huh, I never knew that. Thanks for the correction. I still don't understand part of Thomas's answer: in reply to 2nd obj., he says

      But it is due to the soul that the flesh is human even after the soul has been separated from it—namely, inasmuch as by God's ordinance there remains in the dead flesh a certain relation to the resurrection. And therefore the union of the Godhead with the flesh is not taken away.

      The first sentence is what I had expressed above (or tried to): in ordinary humans, the dead flesh retains a relationship to the soul in respect of a future in which the soul is restored to its proper status as the form of the body. The second sentence confuses me, is he implying that the "union" of the Godhead with the dead flesh is like to the "relationship" (in an ordinary human) of the soul to the dead flesh? That would seem odd, because we specifically deny the use of the word "union" applying to the soul and the dead flesh. Or is the first sentence merely an aside, not logically used in getting to his "therefore" of the last sentence? (Which would also be odd of the spare and formal Aquinas.)

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    9. He is saying, I think, that the relatedness to the resurrection is all that's required for the Word to be united to it as His own body -- and the soul is not needed as a mediating link for this (although it is still needed in the indirect way indicated by the first sentence).

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  31. Kevin, I don't think you got that quite right. As far as Catholic teaching goes, at least, natural marriage is indissoluble with respect to any natural means. The only thing that dissolves the bond (short of death, that is), is a supernatural intrusion, which is what the Petrine Privilege instantiates: if 2 non-Christians marry in a natural marriage, and one of them becomes a Catholic, and the other party will not live in peace with the now-Christian spouse, the Pope can allow the Catholic spouse to marry a Catholic, and that new sacramental bond dissolves the natural bond of the former marriage.

    Catholic teaching does not accept that there is any other means to dissolve the natural bond of marriage, and holds that Jesus' teaching in Mark 10:9 and Matthew 19:6 means that man-made divorce (whether through the state or otherwise) does not dissolve the bond.

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    1. Are you confusing the Pauline and Petrine privilege Tony?

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    2. Maybe. My memory cells get crossed on these, can't keep them straight. Does it matter?

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  32. I'm currently reading James Dolezal's God without Parts. His description of Form/Matter and Supposit/Nature looks from my vantage identical.

    What's the difference between these two composites?

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  33. English CatholicJune 9, 2018 at 6:15 AM

    Has anyone read Zippy Catholic's Usury FAQ?

    To my mind, he shows quite convincingly that taking interest -- any amount of interest -- on a full-recourse loan is always sinful. He undermines the usual arguments advanced in favour of the practice, showing their basis in nominalism, consequentialism or legal positivism. In fact, the Magisterium has specifically condemned many of the usual arguments (including the claim that 'moderate interest is ok', or 'loans used for productive purposes are ok').

    Finally, he shows the parallel between the apparent change in the doctrine on usury, and the attempts to change teaching today on divorce and contraception. The liberals haven't changed their tactics! Moral relativism in economics preceded moral relativism in the bedroom by several centuries.

    Very strongly recommended:

    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/usury-faq-or-money-on-the-pill/

    (Oh, and it's ok to borrow at usury -- just not to lend. So you're ok with your mortgage or credit card.)

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    1. He is a smart but somewhat erratic Catholic blogger. His arguments on usury are largely correct, as far as I can tell. He sometimes flubs just a bit in trying to explain "recourse" and the obligation to repay a loan, that isn't critical to his main points.

      He tends to go a bit overboard in seeing usury as fundamentally connected to the other prevalent sins of our age, like sexual sins, (does it really take usury to fuel concupiscence?) The secular world has been trying to argue against the immorality of usury since long, long before the modern era, before liberalism got started, so his "connection" to liberal tactics might be strained.

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    2. I think Anonymous' assessment is pretty much right, having read some stuff on usury from Zippy Catholic before, but I just want to add that the CDF's recent document Oeconomicae et pecunariae quaestiones condemns (excessively high interest rates as well as) "usurious activities" in §16. I'd have hoped for an elucidation of it in the context of modern banking, but it's very nice to see nonetheless.

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    3. Ok to borrow with usury? Isn't that encouraging the other party--the lender--to sin? Not a charitable act, to say the least of it.

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    4. I'm pretty sure it qualifies as material cooperation, which is permissible under double effect.

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  34. when veganism posts?

    and How does prof Feser study? Does he make summaries, flash cards ? He evidently knows very well his stuff, so how does he sudy?

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  35. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  36. Would definitive evidence of the supernatural: for example, the existence of physical objects without inertia provide grounds for (a) the existence of God, or (2) the disproof of naturalism?

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  37. Does Dr. Feser have any writings on the philosophical underpinnings of transubstantiation, how the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ resides in the Eucharist, from a Thomistic-scholastic explanation?

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  38. Check out this excellent video refuting the false position on God held by the Eastern "Orthodox":

    Eastern "Orthodoxy" Exposed: Their Heretical Doctrine Of God

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d07mgLoOW8g

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  39. Does anyone here know where I could find Dr. Feser's article 'The New Philistinism'?

    It was originally published at 'The American', but it appears to be no longer available.

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    1. http://www.aei.org/publication/the-new-philistinism/

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  40. Fellow Readers,

    Let's get Ed on the Joe Rogan Experience!

    Link to request him: https://joeroganpodcast.wordpress.com/guest-request/

    Justification:
    If you haven't yet caught any Joe Rogan's podcasts, I'd highly recommend them. He is great at having constructive conversations with guests, while still challenging them on points he disagrees with.

    I think Ed would be a great guest to have on, since Joe is an atheist who was raised Catholic and identifies as a liberal, but is interested in libertarian and conservative perspectives--and he'd probably be interested in Ed's work on phil of mind too. And Joe's podcast has a huge following, especially among secular young men, so it would help raise the profile of Ed's work and spread it to some people who would benefit from it.

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  41. Can someone help me to understand why there cannot be more than 1 simple 'being'.? I did not see how that followed from the explanations in the first 2 proofs Feser's 5 Proofs book. The argument as I understand it is basically that there cannot be multiple because they would have to have features that were different in order to distinguish them (because if A has f but B does not have f, then A must be simple + f, or something like that). What I don't understand is why the distinguishing feature can't simply be that A is not B? Like 2 identical triangles, they could be the same in every intrinsic respect, but yet maintain their individual identity. Or why couldn't there be 2 simple substances that were only alike in that they were not composed of parts, but that what they were made of was different? Like a proton and a neutron (pretending for a second that they were indivisible), Couldn't they both be simple and yet be plainly different in what they are?

    I guess what I'm trying to get at is why is there only one possible set of characteristics for a simple substance, and even if this is the case, how does that prove that there couldn't be another?

    Thanks in advance!

    -Matty

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    1. Hey Matty. I see what you're saying, tho I feel as if you're missing a key premiss here. It's not only that god 1 would have to have something different than god 2. It's also that god 1 would have to have something in COMMON with god 2 as well.

      So, imagine that god 1 is a being that has to exist, and god 2 is ALSO a being that has to exist. At least this they have to share in common; they're both gods, after all. If they did not have anything in common, whatever it was, we couldn't call them both gods.

      However, they would also have to have something different from each other, otherwise, we couldn't distinguish them. That's why at least one of them has to have a difference, whatever the difference may be. So, that other god would have to have parts. I myself don't necessarily buy divine simplicity, but this argument seems to be undefeatable if you do.

      However, to complicate the issue, aquinas says that prime matter and god are both simple, yet they still differ from each other. So you may want to read that.

      http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1003.htm#article8 Objection 3.

      I guess that I would reply something like, well, imagine the neutron and proton are both indivisible. One of them is red and another one of them is black. So, although they have no parts, they still differ. But, then, don't call them both "fundamental particles", they'd have to belong to different classes. However, I'd say that even in that case, if they're both indivisible, doesn't that make them similar, somehow? I'm not sure... a hard question!!... Can someone else make sense out of what aquinas is saying?

      I hope that that helps...

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    2. In virtue of what does A differ from B? If they have absolutely no parts, they can't have any specific differences such as different attributes, spatial location, etc. If A and B are entirely without parts, they just are simple existence. Sheer, simple existence. And how do you divide such a thing? They'd have nothing in virtue of which they could be one and not the other.

      Protons and neutrons are not absolutely simple. They differ in things such as location, which an accidental part; they also have different attributes (which is why we don't consider them the same species); they also have metaphysical parts like distinct essence and an act of existence. Likewise, two "identical triangles" would share the essence of triangularity, but differ in their material parts: this one is instantiated in this parcel of matter, this other one instantiated in this other one; they also have essence distinct from existence and so have metaphysical parts, etc.

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    3. Matty, I think you can see it with the "2 identical triangles". There can well be a THIS triangle that is identical in all features to a THAT triangle, in all aspects, except that THIS one inhabits X matter, and THAT one inhabits y matter. It's the matter that is critical. What you cannot have is two distinct forms of triangularity that are perfectly identical but distinct. Matter is a principle of individuation in things that have the same form: matter is what separates them, makes them distinct. So when you are talking of things that are not material beings to begin with, they have to be different in FORM in order to be distinct. But in the purely simple "being-that-is-fully-actual-without-potency", thee is no matter. It is an immaterial being. If there were two which were identical in each being a wholly simple "being-that-is-fully-actual-without-potency", there would be nothing that distinguishes them one from the other. There would be no difference. Neither a LOGICAL difference, nor a REAL difference, nothing different.

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    4. Merely saying A is not B is meaningless unless you tell us why A is not B. Otherwise, it's just a label you've affixed to the same thing. For example, if you said Ed Feser (A) is different from Ed Feser (B), I would ask what's different about them? You could say that A lives in Los Angeles while B lives in Chicago. In that case, A is comprised of a different portion of matter than B, and they occupy different spatial coordinates. But if you can point to nothing in their essences that differ, including their spatial coordinates, then you're really talking about the same person regardless the labels.

      That doesn't work with Pure Act. You cannot have Pure Act 1 (PA1) in Los Angeles and PA2 in Chicago for many reasons. An infinite being cannot be confined to spatial coordinates. If it could, it would not be PA. Moreover, the essence of PA cannot be multiplied because its essence is identical with its existence. Humanity can be multiplied because my substance is distinct from my essence which particularizes me within the humanity essence. Your substance is different than mine, and that's why you exist individually as well. But our substances cannot be communicated to others while humanity is. If you were particularized by humanity itself and not substance, there would be only one human---you. Since God's essence is that by which He is, it is impossible for Him to be multiplied.

      As Aquinas said, If there are two beings of which both are necessary beings, they must agree in the notion of the necessity of being. Hence, they must be distinguished by something added either to one of them only, or to both. This means that one or both of them must be composite. Now...no composite being is through itself a necessary being. It is iimpossible therefore that there be many beings of which each is a necessary being. Hence, neither can there by many gods.

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    5. Thanks for the replies everyone. I think I'm seeing it a bit more clearly, but I'll have to think on this more for sure.

      I have a bunch of follow-up questions, but I'll start with the first one that I had related to Miguel's comment. He wrote:

      “If they have absolutely no parts, they can't have any specific differences such as different attributes, spatial location, etc. If A and B are entirely without parts, they just are simple existence. Sheer, simple existence. And how do you divide such a thing? They'd have nothing in virtue of which they could be one and not the other.”


      I guess I’m having difficulty imagining anything as having no parts, as opposed to being an indivisible one. How can something be anything with zero parts making it up? I always took “not composed of parts” to mean that whatever God is, God is one ‘thing’ so that all attributes are really just names for God.

      Also, can someone explain further why something like spatial location would count as a part? How is my being in Connecticut as opposed to Delaware sufficient to show that I am composite? How does this relate to Cambridge properties? It seems to me like where you are located with respect to whatever else exists is not a feature of you.


      -Matty

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    6. Anonymous, the term "zero parts" is not synonymous with "no ingredients." You cannot bake a cake with no ingredients because a cake by definition has ingredients. When we say that God is simple or without parts, we are saying that there is no composition in God. All composites are logically posterior to their components. Hence, the components are more basic or fundamental than the composite. God cannot be a composite being because there is nothing more basic or fundamental than He.

      With respect to spatial location, God, by definition, has no passive potency and is immaterial. Since "space" is concomitant with matter, and since God transcends space, He cannot, by definition be a spatial being or confined to spatial coordinates. If He could be so confined, He would at least be an act/potency composite. Potency is not merely the capacity to change, but it is also the intrinsic reason for limited existence---the capacity limiting the possession or reception of a perfection. A spatial god would be a limited perfection and, hence, an act/potency composite.

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    7. Thanks Tony, let me see if I’m following correctly here. In order for there to be multiple of something there needs to be some difference between them. In order for there to be a difference between them, they must minimally either be made of distinct substances or of different form. But everything that is substantial, whether material or not, is necessarily composite and hence non-simple. So whatever is simple must not have a proper substance. Whatever would differentiate 2 simple ‘things’ would therefore have to be some difference in their form, but there can be no 2 different ‘forms of simplicity’ in keeping with your example regarding distinct forms of triangularity. Therefore, if there is something simple at all, there can only be one.

      Am I barking up the right tree? I’m pretty sure I’m confusing a few terms, but am I barking up the right tree?

      -Matty

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    8. Matty, yes.

      Just note that when you say "proper substance", you are referring the kinds of things that have "have" substantial being, like angels, and humans, and dogs, and trees, and suns. "Substance" is the first category of being, (Aristotelian technical term), in that all other sorts and types of "being" inhere in substances (such as quality, relation, time, action, passion - you can't have a free-floating "anger", it has to inhere in a human or animal). In this line-up, though God is OUTSIDE of all of the categories, even that of substance, because he transcends these concepts: he doesn't "have" being like all other substances, and he isn't even the sort of being in which other qualities can inhere as parts thereof. And

      they must minimally either be made of distinct substances or of different form.

      should be rendered, instead, as "must minimally be made of distinct matter or different in form. Not all substances are material - angels don't have matter at all. And precisely because of this, Aquinas says that EACH angel is different in form from every other angel, i.e. each angel is its own species all to itself: since they don't have matter to distinguish them, there could not be Angel A and Angel B with the same form.

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    9. Tony, can you go into more explanation of how, as you say, God is outside the category of substance but is a substance, in the sense in which you distinguish Him from "all other" substances? There are a good number of passages where Aquinas talks about God's substance, e.g. SCG II.8, where it is argued that God's power, potentia, is His substance, or II.12, where God's substance is not in a real relation to anything created, or a created intellect's being able to see the divine substance, etc. Is it just that we predicate "substance" analogically of God vs. of creatures?

      thanks

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    10. Right, all of those are being used analogously, because we don't (and can't) have adequate language to speak of God.

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    11. @Tony
      I think Aquinas, as I quoted above, said it best. One doesn't have to refer to substances to see how there cannot be two Pure Act beings. They cannot differ in how they are alike, so they must differ in some addition. In that case, the one with the addition is not simple. Pretty straightforward.

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  42. Years ago I came across a PDF of a Catholic philosopher who in part of the PDF book went through a history of philosophy/religion and pointed out where they got it wrong or where the thought split in the wrong direction.
    He covers Hinduism and the various religions/beliefs throughout China.

    I think it was by Jacques Maritain or Étienne Gilson but I’m not sure.

    Does this ring a bell for anyone? Does anyone know the name of the document/book I’m thinking of?

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    1. This is Maritain's Introduction to Philosophy--first chapter discusses non-Western philosophies.

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    2. it Might be Fr Frederick Coppleston S.J. I know that he wrote a history of philosophy series detailing where the moderns went wrong, but I can't remember him writing on eastern religions. That doesn't mean that he didn't do so.

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    3. It is Maritain's book on intro to philosophy. Thank you both for your help.

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  43. I think we can all agree that the world needs Ed to do his own podcast.

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  44. eternal generation is complimentary to divine simplicity

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  45. This question goes back to Ed's previous discussions of personal eschatology in Catholic/Thomistic perspective.

    If the soul cannot make any choices which affects his eternal destiny after death, what is the purpose of Purgatory?

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  46. I also found the references to substance in Aquinas to be hard to understand. But I more or less assumed like Tony that it because lack of proper language to be able to describe.

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  47. Hey guys, forgive my philosophical naïveté (I'm only beginning my BA now), but I've got a conundrum.

    If God is immutable, eternal, etc, it follows that his will does not change. Would it be that the universe is a sort of necessary being, since given what we know about God, he could not fail to have created it? And how, then, do we reconcile that with the contingency of the cosmos? Surely a necessary being can't also be contingent. I must be missing something.

    Thanks in advance!

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    1. Well, the standard reply, in my simplified version, would be that God's knowledge of what is to us future is necessarily correct. However, what we do in the future is NOT necessary; it is up to our choice. So it is contingent to us, and God knows it as our contingent choice, but the fact that He knows it perfectly right now IS necessarily true.

      It's sort of like this: Right now I am looking at a computer. So, trivially, it is necessarily true that I am looking at a computer. However, it is NOT necessary that I look at the computer.

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  48. I hope I'm not too late to the party, but I have a question which I'd like addressed by Professor Feser (or anyone else who can help).

    Feser does not use a linear sequence of causes in Proof 1 of his book, but rather a hierarchical sequence. This is all well and good, and I see that that is legitimate, but why not just use a linear sequence? Is it not impossible to "regress to infinity"? That is, can I not surmise that every effect has a cause, and, working back, get to a point where there must be an uncaused cause? If not, why not?

    Related to that, is anyone here familiar with RC Sproul's lecture on "Shoes"? This made a great deal of sense to me. If not, it's here: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/objections-answered/the-existence-of-shoes/
    (The talk afterwards, "Something is Eternal", is also relevant). Dr. Sproul seems to indicate that a linear series of causes is a cogent argument for the existence of shoes. (Or maybe I'm misunderstanding him; I'm no philosopher myself so I could be incorrect!)

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    1. Hi Joseph, I'd recommend taking a look at William Lane Craig's defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. I think it is relevant to your first question. I think it does a good job of showing that no sequence in time could regress infinitely; however, all this really proves is that there exists a T-0 somewhere in the finite past. Time itself must have been caused, and so causes still lie beyond that point in the realm of timelessness. Therefore, to get to an uncaused cause we find ourselves needing to look at hierarchical sequences regardless, so we may as well begin there as Feser does.

      -Matty

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  49. I offered to donate my copy of "By Man Shall His Blood be Shed" to the university library where I work. I thought law and social science students might value a rare defence of the death penalty. The law and social sciences librarian had a look at it and said he wasn't going to put it on the shelves, since he didn't think it would be borrowed. Although he did mention the condition as well-- it was quite dinner-stained.

    OK, that's not a question or anything, but I thought it might be worth saying.

    One thing I found interesting when I tried to talk or write about the book was the assumption, even amongst conservative Catholics, that we just "knew" capital punishment was wrong now...that it was some kind of moral intution which, once seen, couldn't be doubted. It doesn't seem to occur to them that the same might be said about abortion, contraception, etc. etc.

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  50. Why are conservative opposed to the idea of treating people regardless of race, religion, gender, etc equally and say only "radicals" advocate this, and why do they belittle the struggles of minorities, women, other religions etc, and expect them to be content with their oppression when they have no understanding of the struggles of said groups. Furthermore why do conservatives say the people mentioned above are playing 'identity politics' and the 'victims' yet every grievance against conservatives or white people are treated as proof of their "oppression"?

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    1. Because we really hate anyone who is not a white, Christian male, and we expect such people to respect our right to trample over them without any resistance.

      I hope that's the answer you were expecting, because it's the only one your question allowed for.

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    2. I know your answer is satire but we both know that no matter how much conservatives try to pretend otherwise, this is the truth isn't it?

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    3. I've gotta ask, since "we both know" the answer, and your initial question basically assumes that my satirical answer is true (even if not quite so hyperbolic), why bother coming here to ask the question in the first place?
      What does it gain? Who does it help? And who does it inform?

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    4. Wanted to confirm the moral depravity of conservatives for sure.

      But now in all seriousness. I've seen conservatives rallying to defend vile individuals like Charles Murray yet criticize and have harsh words for people like Colin Kaepernick or Cornel West. I wonder why that is.......

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    5. Why are conservative opposed to the idea of treating people regardless of race, religion, gender, etc equally

      Why aren't you opposed to stop beating your mother? Conservatives stand for treating the same things the same, and for treating unlike things unlike. I don't think even the most rabid liberal is opposed to the practice that doctors engage in every day in which they give women, and ONLY women, a vaginal exam, and that they never do so for a man. And other doctors give men, and ONLY men, a prostate exam; they never do so for a woman. But this means that they don't treat men and women the same. I suppose you will accuse doctors of "conservative", and "depraved" behavior.

      I've seen conservatives rallying to defend vile individuals like Charles Murray

      Specifics, specifics. "Rallying to defend vile individuals like Charles Murray" ... who the heck is Charles Murray, what does he do that is so vile, and which so-called "conservatives" are defending him? And are they defending his vile actions, or his right to personal liberties like the right to a trial before conviction? You throw generalities around as if ALL conservatives defend ALL of what Charles Murray (and his ilk) stands accused of, and that it is ALL depraved, and not just, say, erroneous.

      Wanted to confirm the moral depravity of conservatives

      Oh, yes? And you wanted conservatives to confirm it for you? Have you been smoking weed? It should go without saying that conservatives don't think being conservative is morally depraved. So your comments should have gone without saying, right? Put the shoe on the other foot: how many liberals have defended truly degenerate individuals like Hugh Hefner, a man who oppressed women for decades not only behind closed doors, but out in public, who pushed to make it public? Does the fact that some liberals are stupid enough to not get it about people like him not affect your sense of proportion?

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    6. If your doctor scenario is what you think I mean when I say treat people "equally" then you're the biggest idiot I'v ever seen bar none. You conservatives can't even comprehend the idea of not discriminating against/oppressing people unjustly due to race, gender, religion, immigration status, etc, can you?

      Don't pretend that you don't know who Charles Murray is. Feser lumped him in the same category as Socrates. Don't play dumb.

      Yeah, not playing the conservative game of whataboutism(not that I support Hefner mind you, he is vile as well. Also don't pretend to care about women as I'm sure you'll call Hefner vile but have no problem supporting Trump)

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  51. Professor Feser, I just got back from the Newburgh conference, which was great, and your name came up often. On the last night, especially, we discussed (for about four hours!) the best, the favorite, and the most under-rated rock bands. Found out a surprising percentage of Catholic philosophers really like Black Sabbath. Who would've thought?

    P.S. My favorites: The Violet Burning and King's X. Most under-rated: King's X.

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  52. @Craig Payne

    You write, "Found out a surprising percentage of Catholic philosophers really like Black Sabbath."

    Very sad. When I was a non-church-going kid, I recall Black Sabbath performing on TV. I was horrified at what I saw and what I was hearing. I couldn't switch the channels fast enough. I have rarely felt something so horribly unclean and evil. If these "Catholic" philosophers really like BS, that shows how decayed they are. It's no wonder people are disgusted by so-called churchgoers who "love God" but eat at the Devil's table.

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