Monday, October 1, 2018

Caught in the web


Many of you will have heard the awful news already.  Longtime blogger Zippy Catholic has died.

David Oderberg’s new book Opting Out: Conscience and Cooperation in a Pluralistic Society has just been published by the Institute of Economic Affairs.

At the Daily Intelligencer, the liberal Andrew Sullivan on the dangerously illiberal tendencies currently unfolding within the Democratic Party. 

At Five Books, Peter Hacker on the best books on Wittgenstein.

The Writing Cooperative on how Isaac Asimov wrote so much.  At The American Conservative, Bradley Birzer on Ray Bradbury’s politics.  Philip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle returns for a third season.

Brian Besong’s Manual Recovery Project aims to bring important Neo-Scholastic manuals of philosophy and theology back into print.  Ford and Kelly’s superb two-volume Contemporary Moral Theology is among the works now at last available again.

At Public Discourse, Thomas Pink argues in defense of Catholic integralism.

At Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Matthew Kostelecky reviews Michael Gorman’s book on Aquinas and the hypostatic union.

The Claremont Review of Books on René Girard.

Prof. John McAdams and academic freedom have prevailed in the courts over Marquette University.  National Review reports.

At Commentary, Gary Saul Morson on atheism and Bolshevik totalitarianism.

Seven things you might not know about F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, at FEE.

He replaced one-sided propaganda with… one-sided propaganda.  Slate on Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.

Philosophy and physics are in focus at the website A Pythagorean Universe.

Was John Rawls a socialist?  Jacobin investigates.

Barney Hoskyns’ new book Major Dudes: A Steely Dan Companion is reviewed at The Washington Post.  Guitarist Jay Graydon on his famous solo on “Peg.”

The Times Literary Supplement on J. L. Austin, philosopher of common sense.


Also at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Jennifer Frey reviews James Doyle’s new book on Elizabeth Anscombe.

If you’re into ontological investigations, you’ll like the blog Ontological Investigations.

Ars Technica, NPR, and The Daily Beast on the death of Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko.  Comics writer Chris Ryall reports on some words of wisdom from Ditko: “Anti-clarity… [is] anti-mind.”

The New Atlantis on Errol Morris on Thomas Kuhn.

Where else would we get blog post titles?  In defense of puns, at Quartz.

A rare 1990 audio interview with Robert Nozick has been posted at YouTube.


In the National Catholic Register, E. Christian Brugger on the limits of papal authority.  In First Things, Russell Hittinger on the Spirit of Vatican I.  Jonathan Last reports on the sorry state of the Catholic Church, at The Weekly Standard.

If you’ve only seen the Ant Man movies, you don’t know the whole story.  Polygon on the shocking truth about Marvel’s Hank Pym.

Jim Holt on the feud between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr., at Lapham’s Quarterly.

The Weekly Standard on John Coltrane and the end of jazz.

Carl Trueman on Aquinas among the Protestants, at Public Discourse.

Loome Theological Booksellers, possibly the oldest theological bookstore in the world, needs your help.

107 comments:

  1. Dr. Feser, I really enjoyed the Andrew Sullivan article. If I have the right guy, his Wikipedia page describes him as an Oakeshott-influenced conservative and a practicing Catholic. When you call him liberal, do you mean by traditional Catholic standards? Before I looked him up, I (perhaps falsely) assumed that you meant liberal by the standards of general American politics.

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    1. He may be conservative in many opinions, but he not only has same-sex attraction (which can be in any liberal or conservative), he identifies as "gay" and he supports gay marriage (so far as I can find). This is not conservative.

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    2. There are plenty of people we might consider "conservative" who are now in favor of same sex marriage. There are too many to name; David Brooks and Ted Olson come to mind.

      With Sullivan, he considers himself or at least considered himself a "conservative" at one point.

      I think what disqualifies him from this label currently is he enthusiastically supported Obama.

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  2. Many thanks for the Ontological Investigations link Ed! My blogging time is a bit tied up at present but in the spirit of jolly philosophical pugilism I'll be doing an entry on that greatest of scholastic philosophers, Duns Scotus, in the near future.

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  3. The Sullivan piece is naseauting. First because of the obvious point that it is simply untrue. He writes that in the America of the founders a person running for public office was not judged on their private life. That is manifestly untrue. And obviously so. 18th and 19th century American political publications clearly judge political candidates on the basis of their moral character. The entire case against Bill Clinton was on this basis.

    Then he goes on to say that gay people are "particularly sensitive to the dangers" of moral panics. Eh, has he been on Twitter? Has he checked in with the LGBT lobby on the Kavanaugh nomination? They're leading the charge on this because they're in bed with the abortionists.

    Sullivan is a deluded, irrelevant old fool. He is completely out of touch with contemporary politics. And he's not even a particularly good writer. Who are his readership these days? Irrelevant think tankers? Who knows?

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  4. Regarding the article on many worlds, it's worth noting that Hugh Everett - it's creator - neglected his personal health and died early because he believed in the bizarre theory of quantum suicide.

    The idea is that, because the many worlds interpretation is true, whenever we encounter a situation where we might die, reality splits and in one of the realities that branches off, we live. The idea, then, is that we never actually die.

    The only argument against this deranged theory is that dying is a progressive process and that, eventually, it converges to a probability of 100%. But that's obviously untrue. Scientifically, a human being could POSSIBLY live forever, it's just that the chances of it happening are insanely small. So Everett's interpretation of the theory is actually correct.

    It's just that the theory is ridiculously silly. But then, that is true of any of these idiotic theories that are clear violations of Ockham's razor and can never be proved or disproved based on the evidence. They are really no more robust than the statement: "Bigfoot exists and I will continue to believe that this is so unless you disprove to me that bigfoot exists".

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    1. Illusionist

      Everett was a fanatic atheist; this was the cause of his theory. The idea that the wave-function collapse occurred because of observation was anathema to him... so, he developed a theory where wave-function collapse had nothing to do with observation.

      Unfortunately, counter to his theory i.e. macro-world deterministic unobserved wave-function collapse, it has recently been determined that collapse is indeed due to observation.

      The MWI is not ruled out... just wave-function collapse without observation... this has huge implications for chaps like Krauss, Carroll, etc.... potentially even undermines Multi-verse (because Quantum Darwinism is consequently disproved).

      Though, I would be interested in the odds of living for ever... what are they?

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    2. Illusionist

      One thing though... in the MWI it is a certainty that in one of the Many Worlds Everett does live for ever... the reason is because the theory is completely deterministic, i.e. no quantum transition from micro to macro world...therefore ALL possibilities are achieved.

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    3. Philip Rand

      I'm sorry. I wasn't clear. The only argument against it *within Everett's bizarre theory*...

      Interesting that the splitting universe has now been disproved. I didn't think that was possible. Do you have a link?

      As for the probabilities, they're probably quite difficult to calculate. You'd have to calculate the probability of dying for a person aged X on every given day. The probability would have to be adjusted as the person aged. At some point you would not be able to use the mortality statistics anymore - i.e. once you got past the oldest living person. Then it would be a guessing game. But, of course, there is always a probability that the person lives another day.

      And yes, because we are dealing with an actual infinity - rather than a potential one - the outcome is always achieved. I call it 'cosmic cheating'.

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    4. This is the paper & experiment:

      https://journals.aps.org/pra/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevA.96.062316

      Multi-verse hasn't been disproved... it is just that it now has a major anomaly... since Quantum Darwinism is wrong...it means Universal Darwinism is wrong...

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    5. Hey,

      It's paywalled. Is there a summary or something somewhere? I.e. one that is longer and more detailed than the abstract, preferably with some contextualisation?

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    6. You may read the paper here:

      https://arxiv.org/pdf/1705.06574.pdf

      When a reference is made to Fisher information it means error created by observation. It is this observation that creates error and the local physics allowing them to measure the phenomenon; the observation also creates at the moment of measurement the local physics laws of the phenomenon; this means they can look into the past and see how a particular quantum state has evolved.

      This looking into the past of a quantum state was thought impossible.

      It is using Quantum Darwinism...

      In scientific papers... implications are never highlighted...

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    7. 'Quantum Darwinism' is a funny old phrase. Either it is an accurate analogy, in which case Darwinian evolutionary theory is an empty tautology. Or it is inaccurate analogy.

      I'm open to either.

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    8. Quantum Darwinism is the accurate descriptor. Eigen pointer-states, i.e. reality, compete and are naturally selected for by the environment.

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    9. If 'reality' competes, then what is the 'environment' that 'selects'?

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  5. Its interesting: The article on Rawls' reticence seems to illustrate what the author of the article on Integralism states in his conclusion:

    The state should be Catholic, or at least broadly Christian, not because the state is a believer to be saved as an individual is, but because political authority has been divinely established to confess public reason in the service of a genuinely common good. This is only possible if the state recognizes both the natural law and the transformation of law and public reason brought about by the raising of religion to a supernatural good. No genuinely non-Christian state can be relied upon to recognize either of these things. States that do not recognize them will become confessors of false belief opposed to Christianity, and their great power will turn from supporting Christianity to opposing or even repressing it, especially in relation to its moral teachings. As the rapid movement of many western states from genuine support to increasing enmity toward Christianity illustrates, there is no stable middle way.

    This just seems to be common sense and points to Rawls' naivety. As the author of that article states:

    Rawls hoped that his theory of justice could help negotiate social pluralism, which he understood as the tendency of different people to have different moral worldviews, and which he considered a basic fact of diverse, modern societies. For many socialists, socialism has not just been a theory of a just constitutional regime, but what Rawls called a “comprehensive doctrine”: a moral vision of social progress — humanity learning its upright walk. Rawls was never comfortable with socialism of this type, since it risked uniting the power of the state with a civil religion that could only ever be coercively imposed onto a pluralistic society.

    Followed by this last point:

    If Rawls’s reticence prevents ideology in the form of an overweening “comprehensive doctrine,” it preserves it in another form: the ideology of our own secular priests.

    God bless,
    Daniel

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  6. John Rawls's theory of "Justice as Fairness" is something everyone interested in economic justice should read and reflect on.

    I assume that some people who read this brilliant blog by my fellow believer in God, Ed Feser, have a conservative economic viewpoint. I am not a socialist per se but capitalism without checks is patently unfair.

    From Wikipedia: Rawls's argument for these principles of social justice uses a thought experiment called the "original position", in which people select what kind of society they would choose to live under if they did not know which social position they would personally occupy.

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    1. I prefer Alasdair MacIntyre's Tradition-Constituted Pluralism. I dislike Rawls' relativism.

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    2. The "conservative economic viewpoint" is at least deeply suspicious of capitalism if not downright opposed to it. So you don't need socialism to be against "capitalism without checks".

      What today passed for the "conservative economic viewpoint" has nothing conservative in it. It is actually the "neoliberal economic viewpoint".

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    3. Right, both the term "conservative" and the term "capitalist" are now used with so many variants, and with some variants very far afield of the original senses, that it is very nearly impossible to univocally speak of conservatism and capitalism, and if you try you are likely to be misunderstood.

      At root, conservatism isn't "capitalist" at all, it is an attitude that favors the traditional over change, unless the change is warranted not only on the basis of the greater good it stands for, but the greater good taking into account the damage to social norms and goods that rest on unchanged forms. Knee-jerk conservatism drops off the "unless" clause above. Capitalism under some forms is compatible with conservatism, but it is hardly tied to it as any sort of central component; and other forms of capitalism actively encourage change whether it is for good or evil, so is clearly NOT compatible with conservatism simply speaking.

      Virtually all "neoconservatives" are merely moderate liberals. Many other "conservatives" are also right-ward leaning liberals but don't realize it.

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    4. I hope to check out MacIntyre's approach.

      I am not sure what you mean by Rawls's relativism.

      I am not that well read on his theory but I see it as universal.

      And experiments done on people in various settings and in various countries have veerified John Rawls's theory.

      If people are told how would they want society to be if they don't know what life and what socioeconomic situation they will be born in, they participants invariably want a society with the safety nets in place, with opportunities in place for all, with a dignified economic situation for all.

      Here is a professor with expertise on Rawls that explains it....

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5A9o0fFBtVs

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    5. But what kind of satefy nets, and provided by whom? And if his theory is intended as normative, that it describes how some people would choose, isnt sufficent to verify his theory (unless you mean "given creedence by" when yoy said verify).

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    6. grateful to God

      If people are told how would they want society to be if they don't know what life and what socioeconomic situation they will be born in, they participants invariably want a society with the safety nets in place, with opportunities in place for all, with a dignified economic situation for all.

      Doesn't this perspective simply justify how they are manipulated to remain slaves?

      I mean, seriously … out of these two societies, which one would you wish to live in:

      1/ A society with good laws; and bad people.

      2/ A society with bad laws; and good people.

      Rawl's doesn't even consider that society can be made of good people... but good laws are NOT GOING TO MAKE SOCIETY JUST IF IT IS COMPRISED OF BAD PEOPLE.

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    7. Thanks for the link grateful. I am also no expert, but I've heard enough about Rawls to be deeply suspicious of his thinking. Especially how he frames his arguments - his starting presuppositions, so to speak.

      My first issue is that he takes pluralism to be an intractable part of life. There are multiple irreconcilable truths out there and there is no common set of truths that we can appeal to that will unite us all. For me, that is like giving up the battle before the battle even starts. He has essentially abdicated the search for truth or goodness with this premise and instead focuses on a vision of egalitarian liberalism that makes all such truth claims of secondary and personal or private importance.

      Second, in line with my first point, is that his arguments are based on what he takes as fundamental aspects of society, from his he explicitly excludes religion. I take this move to be a false one, and I would claim that religion is a fundamental aspect of our human condition. But I suspect that the reason why he makes this move is that he defines religion in a very narrow sense.

      Third - he gives the impression that he has achieved some ideology free starting point which is sufficiently broad enough to include all competing points of view within his umbrella. But in actual fact, his starting point makes many claims that are then used as measuring sticks to judge all other human behavior. He has written his ten commandments for this just society, and woe to you if you disagree with the prevailing consensus - whatever that may be.

      Lastly - to go back to my original point - he is a relativist. Truth or goodness is really not his aim. Its more of a method to allow people with very different conceptions of the good to coexist. That is my problem with social contract theory in the Hobbesian tradition. Its all about power and social control.

      Again, I am no expert on Rawls, and if I've got any of my points wrong, let me know where I've gone wrong. But that is where I'm at on his thinking at the moment.

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    8. Thanks for your comments. I don't know anything about his views on religion.

      I am only speaking to his theory for economic justice.

      Social control is greatly in play but the rich elites controlling the organs of control...our institutions, our media, etc...this is especially so in the US where a billionaire can dictate US policies by his massive donations to a winning candidate...case in point...Sheldon Adelson, the casino tycoon who has destroyed so many families by his business. It's all grotesque. I am not a Christian...I am a Muslim. But as especially as a believer in Jesus and his prophetic mission, I can see Jesus wanting to flip many financial tables and other elite tables in the US like he (peace be upon him) apparently did in the temple at Jerusalem.

      Back to Rawls...he does not give an impression...his theory of Justice has been carried out in experiments in different places around the world where people of various economic backgrounds are told to play this game where they have to say what do they want society to be like if they cannot predict in what socioeconomic status they will be born into...basically a thought experiment for the person of what he wants economic policy to be before he is born. And across all socioeconomic strata and across men and women, the people chose the type of economic situation that Rawls predicted. Rawls's theory is common sense, intellectual, moral, and empirical.

      I am not an expert on some philosophical ruminations that might occur when engaging in this theory.

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    9. are told to play this game where they have to say what do they want society to be like if they cannot predict in what socioeconomic status they will be born into

      With the hidden assumptions of this game being: (a) the "game masters" will ensure that the rules they pick will be enforced correctly on an ongoing basis, and will not be perverted by the game masters or anyone else... (b) that the RULES people decide they like are inherently compatible with the socioeconomic conditions they want to enjoy; (c) that we get to PICK what kind of social environment we will start out with instead of having to work with a whole host of pre-conditions (i.e. that we have a completely clean slate as our starting point). None of these are particularly viable in real life.

      People like to assume that PRE-SET rules and conditions that enforce equality on everyone will provide everyone with economically well-off living, but in real life this is not what happens. In real life forced equality on all fronts at all stages absolutely precludes the conditions in which some save up to strive for a better day tomorrow, and block the use of extraordinary ability to be applied to any narrow or local problems, meaning only large problems can ever be addressed.

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    10. Hi Grateful,

      I am only speaking to his theory for economic justice.

      I don't think you can speak of an economic theory of justice that does not also touch on all aspects of justice.
      It is not the system that produces a just economic situation - it is just and virtuous people who create just economic situations.

      Social control is greatly in play but the rich elites controlling the organs of control...our institutions, our media, etc...this is especially so in the US where a billionaire can dictate US policies by his massive donations to a winning candidate...case in point...Sheldon Adelson, the casino tycoon who has destroyed so many families by his business. It's all grotesque. I am not a Christian...I am a Muslim. But as especially as a believer in Jesus and his prophetic mission, I can see Jesus wanting to flip many financial tables and other elite tables in the US like he (peace be upon him) apparently did in the temple at Jerusalem.

      I agree with these sentiments, but I would suggest that the source of the problem is not so much the system but the moral failure of people managing the system, be they Sheldon Adelson, Barak Obama, or Joseph Stalin.

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    11. I have just been reading an article by Dr. Feser on the subject of Hayek's economic theory in relation to catholic moral teaching, and he summarizes Hayek's teachings in the following way:

      http://www.edwardfeser.com/unpublishedpapers/socialjustice.html

      Let us begin with Hayek’s critique of social justice. His arguments boil down to three, and they all presuppose that if there were any such thing as social justice, it would have to concern the distribution of wealth, income, and economic benefits in general.
      First, Hayek says that justice and injustice can only be attributes of the deliberate actions of individual human beings, and not of states of affairs; in particular, that a distribution of wealth fits a certain pattern is not the sort of thing that can of itself be either just or unjust.
      Second, he argues that since there can be no rules of individual action the following of which would guarantee that the distribution of wealth comes out a certain way, the notion of social justice would be unrealizable even if it were coherent.
      Third, he holds that given the absence of such rules of action, and given also the wide disagreement that is bound to exist in a pluralistic modern society over what criteria ought to determine how economic rewards get distributed, there is no principled way in which any ideal of social justice, even if it were coherent, could be implemented consistently with the rule of law, so that the push for social justice threatens us with totalitarianism.
      This is, of course, just an outline of Hayek’s overall case. When spelled out in detail, it constitutes a powerful challenge to a very common conception of social justice. Indeed, I have defended Hayek’s critique myself in print on several occasions, and as I have indicated, I am still convinced that Hayek is basically right where his targets are socialist and socialist-inspired approaches to social justice – such as the approaches associated with social democracy, egalitarian liberalism and the like – which manifest a fetish for equality per se and a tendency to favor what Robert Nozick called “patterned” conceptions of just distribution.


      Feser mentions egalitarian liberalism, such as what Rawls champions, as tending towards this totalitarianism. He then goes on to criticise Hayek from the perspective of Catholic Social teachings.

      One serious problem with Hayek’s position, however, considered as an attempt at a general critique of the idea of social justice, is that it simply isn’t true that all conceptions of social justice are concerned with equality, or with economic distribution fitting some pattern or other. In particular, the Catholic natural law conception does not have these concerns, as we will see. First, though, let us note some other difficulties Hayek’s account seems to exhibit from a natural law perspective.

      You should take a look at the article if you have time.

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    12. Hi Daniel,

      You are correct that it is people who choose to do bad behavior like Adelson, etc. However, I disagree that the system does not matter. It is the unfair electoral system we have where we let someone like Adelson have vastly more influence over a leader than someone who is not a casino owner. If people want to exert effort and help a candidate, that is fine but they have to then exert the time. There has to be a limit on how money someone can give. Otherwise, there is no longer a real democracy when a billionaire can give tens of millions of dollars like Adelson gave and I can only afford a thousand dollars. Thus, sadly, we no longer have a full democracy. It was never perfect and it can never be perfect but it is worse now, especially with the greater income gap. And also after the Citizens United case that allows corporations to fund candidates.

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    13. Daniel,

      I will try to take a look at that link above eventually but perhaps Rawls's theory and Hayek's do not necessarily conflict in all aspects. Of course, I may be wrong as I don't know what Hayek says other than that he has libertarian impulse I assume. I am also libertarian in many ways but I think that welfare for the rich in the way they can influence policy makers and the way they get subsidies and they get bailed out etc. is far worse than anything anyone can dislike about welfare for the truly poor.

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  7. Rawls' thought experiment makes a lot of sense...it is simple, elegant, and brings the humanity and justice out of us.

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    1. Grateful to God: Rawls' thought experiment makes a lot of sense...it is simple, elegant, and brings the humanity and justice out of us.

      Rawls's idea is too simple; its humanity and justice are parasitic upon divine and natural law.
      Like so many other proposed systems, it boils down to a kind of attempt to have Christianity without Christ. Unfortunately, Christianity – Christ = inanity.



      Cogniblog — Indeed, wisdom and intelligence are very different things. You can be too clever for your own good, but never too wise!

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    2. Mr. Green:

      Wisdom, faith, and truth are all core values, but they differ in that the first is internal, the second is internal-external, and the third is external.

      Truth is an external value. The truth is outside the mind of a person. An organization can say that they are in service to the truth, because that is an external value, just like an organization can be in favor of racism (another external value--but a bad one).

      Wisdom is internal. Wisdom is the truth that has been internalized. People get confused about internal values and so they often conflate wisdom with intelligence (which is the closest internal value to wisdom). They are inverses of each other. Wisdom is internalized truth and truth is externalized wisdom.

      Faith is an internal-external value. Faith therefore has one foot in truth and another in wisdom. Someone who is wise and knows the truth will be faithful to the truth and therefore can be said to have faith. Christians have faith because they have God's words (truth) and because they understand it and have reasons to justify it (wisdom).

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  8. But for those who like to use the advantages they were born with and to use those advantages by birth to multiply them to create unfair advantages to them and their social circle at the expense of society and thus at the expense of the less advantageous people, Rawls' brilliant theory will not be taken as serious as it should. For many people, out of greed that they don't realize they are inflicted with, like to somewhat hoard advantages to opportunities to themselves and their circle of relatives and friends.

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  9. The Weekly Standard is an awful publication to refer to.

    It is made up of people like William Kristol who helped create the second Iraq War which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the wounding of even more than those killed. It also led to deaths of I think over 4 thousand American soldiers and even more thousands who were wounded. The Iraq War occurred even though Iraq did not kill one American. And even though the UN experts said that their expert searching and their evidence does not show any WMDs. But those who like to manipulate govt for their own tribal fantasies such as those at The Weekly Standard helped create the second Iraq War. That has been an immense tragedy for so many families.

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    1. So because the editor of a magazine supported a war (also supported by the majority of the public at the time), linking to a piece on jazz is . . . no bueno? Well, that's certainly a take.

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  10. Interesting Five Books article on Wittgenstein. What are we to make of the author’s view that Chomskian linguistics is fundamentally wrong?

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  11. In my opinion E. Christian Brugger creates almost as much muddle as he does clarify things in his article in NCR. First, he treats authority over judgments as if it were the same as authority over doctrine, but they aren't: we are obliged to OBEY judgments but not obliged to consider them wise and prudent, whereas we are obliged to conform our minds to assent to teachings set out as irreformable. Juridical acts are different from teaching, and the authority with regard to them sits differently. The question that came in regarded authority to teach.

    A second point, minor but perhaps illustrative: he characterizes the pope's authority from Canon 331 as "full" meaning " popes exercise their authority freely, while the bishops of the world exercise theirs only in union with the pope". But this is not exactly correct. When a bishop exercises his office in a juridical matter that belongs specifically to the office of ordinary of a diocese, he can exercise it in a way that defies what the pope would have preferred. The pope may choose to overturn the decision, but UNLESS he does so explicitly, the bishop's decision is valid and rules the day. The bishop's office is characterized in the canon as "the proper, ordinary, and immediate power which bishops possess in the particular churches entrusted to their care." That "immediate" implies that they REALLY have the power, not just as appendages to the pope, but in their own right as successors of the Apostles. The apostle James did not exercise his office of bishop as a delegate from Peter. In fact, Brugger seems to confuse the direction of the reliance stated for "communion" in the canon:

    §2. In fulfilling the office of supreme pastor of the Church, the Roman Pontiff is always joined in communion with the other bishops and with the universal Church.

    It is not that the bishops office rests on communion with Peter, but that Peter exercises his office in communion with the bishops.

    Thankfully, Brugger's conclusion is mostly on target as far as the pope's authority to teach: it exists to protect and defend the deposit of faith, and to evangelize new peoples. He has no authority to pronounce new teachings not in that deposit.

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  13. I'm Canadian and never, never would, read Zinn's Peoples history. Yet its not a history but a attack on the motives and character of the Americans and all within the boundaries.
    He is Jewish and has no identity relationship with Yankke, Southern, other foreign identities from europe.
    Identity is always the agenda behind left wing "histories".
    Its one long rant of hostility against the best people in human history. Its sampling to give a false conclusion of people groups relative to others and to some high standard.
    Yes it would be used as a authority by modern liberal institutions and movements. It makes their case.
    History will never be history in America again until its taken from those with motives coming from desire to shape peoples conclusions about great things in human morality and actions and with a target at those they are accusing as the bad guys.
    Its evil this book is popular but its just that it is in the present division in America between real americans and the foreign identities living within the boundary.
    The review was not any better.
    A peoples history belongs to that people. Not people are do not see themselves as the same people.
    Hyphenated"Americans" should not write American history.
    Whether they get it right or not unless being clear about identity.

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  14. Carl Truman may fancifully hope that Protestant thinkers re-think their complete rejection of Thomas and imbibe at least the bits of Thomas that can re-connect them to the roots of their own Christian orthodoxy, such as the principles of trinitarian doctrines. I say, the more the merrier - yes, they should go ahead and take on Thomas where he can be reconciled with their protestant ideas. But Truman's hope is misplaced: he will find that those who reconsider Thomas with an open mind, and who follow where the truth leads... will with great frequency find themselves right back into the Catholicism they thought they had rejected way back when. Because thinking with Thomas is thinking with the Church, which is not separate from the Catholic Church.

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    1. Hi Tony,
      What points, or say two or three of then, do you have in mind in Aquinas that would lead someone to Catholicism. And what is the connection you see between them and Catholicism? Thanks, if you have time to answer.

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    2. Would you disagree with what Evangelical Thomist Norman Geisler wrote here? https://normangeisler.com/does-thomism-lead-to-roman-catholicism/

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    3. Sean.... There are no Aquinas points that would lead someone to Roman Catholicism... what leads one to Roman Catholicism are all the points made by Pope Innocent III...

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    4. Sean... what is difficult to fathom is the Hermeneutics or Roman Catholicism.

      This is critical as Hermeneutics forms a closed-casual loop:

      Hermeneutics -> Eschatology -> Ecclesiastics -> Hermeneutics

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    5. It would appear that the above relationship in Roman Catholicism is:

      Allegorical -> Amillennialism -> Church Hierarchy -> Allegorical

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    6. Matjaž, I completely disagree with what Norman Geisler wrote in that article. For example:

      But what we know of as “Roman” Catholicism today, with its belief in works being necessary for salvation, the veneration of and prayers to Mary, the worship of the consecrated host, buying indulgences, Purgatory,

      Right in that list he absolutely mis-represents Roman Catholicism, and does so quite gratuitously: nobody who is even HALF-decently read on the Catholic-Protestant debates thinks any more that Catholicism teaches that works are the root cause of salvation, or that Catholicism condones the sale of indulgences (it is a grave sin, for crying out loud).

      More importantly, he sets up a complete straw man argument in the whole structure of the article. Nobody is claiming that accepting a good bit of Thomism logically demands accepting Roman Catholicism without any room for any other result: for one thing, it kind of depends on WHICH bits and pieces of Thomism one rejects along with the other pieces one accepts - like (just to show an analogy), it kind of depends on which BIBLICAL passages one decides are "simple truth" (Geisler: "simply cannot compete with the simplicity of the evangelical Gospel: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved”) and which passages one insists on NOT taking as simple truth (e.g. "This is my body") but in creating some complicated escape explanation for.

      Saying (as he does) that "Not only is there no logical connection between Thomism and Catholicism" is kind of like saying "there is no logical connection between the Bible and Christianity, because there are people who like the Bible but reject Christianity. The argument is hogwash. He is using "logical connection" to mean (on the one hand) "one cannot definitively prove, from a certain portion of the basic theses of Thomism, the whole of Roman Catholicism", but at the same time he wants to pretend that the "no connection" can also be taken much more loosely as "there is no valid basis for non-Catholic Christians to imagine that accepting Thomas in some of his theses may have a rational relationship to whether you think Roman Catholicism is reasonable or Biblically sound. His proceding here is just full of these fallacies. In fact, one might well read it and say "methinks thou protesteth too much". He sounds like a man who is trying to convince himself of why he shouldn't have to accept Roman Catholicism: "Well, by golly, there are OTHER Thomists who aren't Catholic, so that's a good reason." No, it isn't, if they are just as unreasonable as Geisler exhibits in this article. If this illustrates how well he reads Thomas, no wonder he isn't Catholic!

      Ultimately, one would have to draw a line between SOME portion of Thomistic metaphysics and philosophy, and other parts, in order to reject Thomas's Catholic conclusions on many things. When one does so, one necessarily loses an easy claim to being "a Thomist" and falls instead to a "reader of Thomas".

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    7. The only foreseeable possibility that Thomism would lead to Roman Catholicism would be if Christ had said:

      If they hear not Moses and the prophets and Aristotle, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

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    8. Hold on Tony...

      Earlier you stated:
      ...thinking with Thomas is thinking with the Church, which is not separate from the Catholic Church.

      And now you are stating:

      Nobody is claiming that accepting a good bit of Thomism logically demands accepting Roman Catholicism

      It would appear from you previous statement that YOU ARE!!!!!

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    9. Phil, the best response is

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    10. Tony...

      Meister Eckhart:Is-ness is God

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    11. I’m not an expert, but just a few obseravtions. You claim that Geisler misrepresents the dispute, yet in the very same paragraph you yourself write that he said that Catholics believe works are the “root cause” of salvation. There is a difference between saying they are necessary for salvation (which is how he describes it) and saying they are the “root cause” of it. It seems that you are the one doing the misrepresenting here.

      Also, your last paragraph is somewhat bizarre. You seem to be implying that one has to agree with Thomas on every single issue of important to be a Thomist. And yet, Thomas himself didn’t agree on every single issue with Aristotle, and yet he is generally considered an Aristotelian.

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    12. Matjaž, Catholicism does not teach that works are necessary for salvation (baptized babies who then die go to heaven, without having produced "works") and Geisler's comment clearly claims that it does. It is absolutely untenable for a professional Christian theologian to not know this, and to mis-represent the Catholic Church on it when his own supposed expertise rests on being able to separate the philosophy of Catholic philosophers from their philosophy is even worse.

      It is true that I slid over to the terminology of "root cause of" rather than "are necessary for", and this might be construed as mis-representing him. I don't think it does in any important way, which is why I used it: either way, it isn't a Catholic teaching at all. Either way, it IS a failed mis-characterization (and long since rejected by responsible Protestants who bother to find out what the Catholic Church actually teaches) by which old-time Protestants unfairly swayed Catholics to become heretics.

      And I disagree with your second point. In order to be a Thomist, one has to agree with Thomas on all or nearly all of his central, core teachings, and thence necessarily agree with him on vastly many of the things that follow therefrom. Even more, one ought to think like a Thomist. (As an example: I once asked a Thomist about some disputed question, he gave me an answer that he thought was right, but could not recall that Thomas had ever addressed it (or anyone else) head on, so he was tentative about his position. Later I came across a passage in which Thomas does address the point, and not only was Thomas's conclusion the same as my interlocutor, but Thomas's rationale was the same, resting on a very fine and subtle distinction. THAT's "thinking like Thomas".) Geisler notes point after point after point in which he differs with Thomas, and in order to do so I offer that he must not "think like Thomas". Just as an example, in a very fundamental way Thomas rests very firmly indeed on the testimony of the Fathers as evidence of the teaching of the Apostles: the Tradition (with a capital T) that Catholics believe in, and believe as a matter of faith. All Protestants reject that reliance on Tradition, and its authority to interpret Scripture. It is impossible to think like Thomas about the very underpinnings of his works of theology, and reject the authority of Tradition. This is not a peripheral matter to Thomism.

      A good Thomist can think like Thomas and still also think Thomas got it wrong on a point here or there. Indeed, according to Pope Leo XIII, a good cleric (never mind "Thomist") willingly follows Thomas's method and principles, and accords Thomas the benefit of the doubt in those areas that seem to him difficult or dubious. It seems impossible for any Protestant to follow Thomas on a core element of his proceeding in theology on the testimony of the Fathers as decisive when there is ambiguity in the biblical text. To reject Thomas's position here is to reject Thomistic theology.

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    13. More importantly, though, I think that Geisler's underlying train of thought for the whole article is wrong. His train of thought is, essentially, that one can "be a Thomist" and not be a Catholic because you can't prove with mathematical rigor Catholicism from Thomism. But this is backwards or inside out. Thomas didn't set out to "prove Catholicism" in his theology. He set out to show what is true given certain starting points. Those starting points include the Bible, and other principles of theology. That you can't "prove Catholicism" from it is beside the point.

      In any case, it is enough so say that "if St. Thomas, given what he had to work with, was able to be right on all these many abstruse and difficult problems in philosophy and theology, and he was a Catholic through and through, it lends credible weight to Catholicism being true." One need not prove Catholicism from Thomism with mathematical rigor in order for the above statement to be reasonable. Geisler's thesis needs for the above statement to be not reasonable.

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    14. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. But if a clock is admittedly right 96% of the day, it is harder to argue that it is "broken" when its status on the other 4% is in dispute rather than by consensus wrong.

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    15. Tony

      You state:
      Catholicism does not teach that works are necessary for salvation (baptized babies who then die go to heaven, without having produced "works")

      A baptized baby is a work, i.e. you stated it yourself...for the child to go to heaven it must be baptized... this is a work.

      So, you are confirming salvation through works.

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    16. Hmm. I would make a stronger claim: IF one is committed to Thomas' foundational philosophical views, such as that man is a seamless unity of body and soul, along with his understanding that the truths of reason can never contradict the truths of the Christian faith, but perfectly cohere with them, even if the latter go considerably beyond the former, then one cannot follow these out consistently and remain non-Catholic. For instance, because man is a unity of body and soul, it follows that the Church Christ founded must be essentially visible, rather than merely immaterial. For just as we are essentially rather than accidentally corporeal, so too is the Church, which must have a material principle and is explicitly called a body by St Paul numerous times. It cannot be otherwise, as that would inconsistent with our philosophical knowledge. The point is strengthened especially given the revealed truth of the Incarnation. If Christ, who is true God and true Man, is forever Head of His Church, how can it be really only invisible as His Body? It's a schizophrenic position, aptly called 'ecclesial docetism.'

      Ultimately a Protestant is going to have to ignore certain doctrines and/or implication of Thomas' thought, in order to remain Protestant.

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    18. Tony

      Clocks age... and as they age (parts wear, etc) they do not keep time accurately, i.e. they lose information.

      So, as your 96% accurate clock ages; inevitably it will become a broken clock...

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    19. Tony

      Your clock analogy is good...

      What is particularly interesting is if one views this blog, i.e. posts, and topics... it is clear that Thomism is not thought of as broken...BUT, a case could be made using this blog that the Roman Catholic Church is broken... broken from within?

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    20. Oh for goodness sake! THE BABY does not have "good works" which he does. Yet he has salvation.

      Mr. Rand, if you will kindly refrain from commenting on my remarks, I will do the same for yours.

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    21. Greg Johnson

      You state:
      IF one is committed to Thomas foundational philosophical views, such as that man is a seamless unity of body and soul

      Then Thomism is not biblical.

      Biblically: Man is a whole of spirit, soul, and body

      So, it would appear it is the Thomist who is ignoring Biblical truths.

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    22. Tony...

      You stated that ONLY if the baby is baptised does the baby have salvation. If the baby is not baptised; no salvation (go back and read what you wrote).

      That is what you stated... and the baptism of an infant by a priest is a work done by the priest to affect the salvation of an individual.

      Civility requires me to interact with you, Tony.

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  15. Hi Ed,

    I am glad you found our Pythagorean Universe! :^)

    Your questions and comments would be highly appreciated.

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    1. This is my (strictly amateur) take on the essay by the Burovs.
      This is an interesting essay, which I would summarise as follows:
      The atheist's refuge in the multiverse theory, even when supplemented by the weak anthropic principle (WAP) and Darwinian natural selection, does not cover all the difficulties raised by a naturalistic account of the universe.
      The WAP explains why the universe which we happen to inhabit is so well adapted to the evolution of sentient creatures such as ourselves: any universe that is not so adapted could have no observers such as ourselves to observe it. However the anthropic adaptiveness of the universe goes far beyond what is necessary for evolutionary advantage. The consistency of the laws of nature extends far beyond the unaided anthropic scale to the extent of the limits of our instruments. But there is another point, and that is that the universe is such not only that it is governed by consistent natural laws that are conducive to the emergence of sentient life, but also that its laws are so (comparatively) simple that we can grasp them. The universe did not have to be understandable by us: there is no necessary read-off from the anthropic principle to the principle of "theoretizability" (which I shall call 'TP' for short). Indeed there is no guarantee that the conditions for the continued existence of the world will be fulfilled from one moment to the next. If the natural laws are based on pure chance, they may be such that some catastrophic collapse will inevitably occur, perhaps in the next millisecond.
      The only guarantee that this is not the case is that the world is the product of a Mind which (or who) has made it so that it is not the case. The evidence that there is such a Mind is inductively assured by the TP: the elegance, simplicity and transparency of the natural laws – an assurance that the WAP itself does not provide.
      I would like this theory to be true but I see some weaknesses in it.
      The elegance of a theorem is no guide as to its truth – or at least if it is, it has not been shown to be. Could it even be shown scientifically?
      Can we demonstrate that WAP and TP are independent of each other? Certes the TP presupposes the WAP. But can it be shown that the WAP does not necessarily require the TP? The Burovs argue that the theoretizability of the Universe is actually more extensive, by many orders of magnitude, than that which would be necessary were it simply part and parcel of the WAP: we continue to find regularity when we explore with instruments beyond the limits of the anthropic scale to the smallest and largest things that are humanly measurable. This however does not prove that the TP gives no evolutionary advantage, merely that the extent of the TP is excessive for any necessary evolutionary advantage. Even so, I do not see how that rules out pure chance.
      The argument for the origin of the universe as the product or creation of a Mind is based on the extreme improbability of such a universe arising by chance. However it must be said that extremely improbable does not mean impossible.
      Finally a disturbing feature of the Burovs' case is their espousing of non-empirical considerations. As example of which is this: "After two and a half millennia since its birth, fundamental science reached a grade of maturity allowing for a dual confirmation of its faith: the Pythagorean faith is confirmed as prophecy coming true and as a good tree that brings forth good fruit." This Pythagorean quasi-mysticism may be all well and good, but it does nothing at all to strengthen the argument put forward.
      What we have is essentially a variety of the Argument from Design. All in all it is an interesting thesis, but I don't see how it can be rescued from its inherent weaknesses.

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    2. The elegance of a theorem is no guide as to its truth – or at least if it is, it has not been shown to be. Could it even be shown scientifically?

      Good insight. I very strongly doubt that "elegance" in theorems can even be well defined.

      One problem with the "improbability" aspect of this universe being formed with constants amenable to intelligent life, as an argument against it, is that we do not have any clear notion of the number of other "universes" (given the multiverse theory) might be out there that would "justify" finding this "one in a kazillion". Another is that there is no definitive proof of exactly what conditions are necessary for living beings. Science fiction introduces us to all sorts of wild beings that are not usual, from entities on the surface of stars to those that run off direct adaption of nuclear energies in of radioactive elements, in incredibly cold environments (near absolute zero). And others that don't rely on "ordinary" matter at all, but can use energy itself and / or plasma. So it is fairly troublesome to prove rather than to assume just what conditions are necessary.

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    3. Jonathon

      You state:
      The elegance of a theorem is no guide as to its truth – or at least if it is, it has not been shown to be. Could it even be shown scientifically?

      Now, let's modify it to read:
      The elegance of the Bible is no guide as to its truth – or at least if it is, it has not been shown to be. Could it even be shown scientifically?
      Interestingly, the answer is: Yes

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    4. The WAP explains why the universe which we happen to inhabit is so well adapted to the evolution of sentient creatures such as ourselves: any universe that is not so adapted could have no observers such as ourselves to observe it.

      No it doesn't. If I were struck by lightening and survived, I wouldn't say to myself "well, if I didn't survive I wouldn't have known about it, so it's not surprising that I survived." I would demand a real explanation.

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    5. Tony

      If I may play devil's advocate here: One advantage of the multiverse theory for an atheist is that all possible universes are instantiated. Some 'possible universes' are of course very short lived and don't even get off the starting block. Of those that do, there are some that are amenable to conscious life, whether that life is of the anthropic variety or of some weird and wonderful 'sci-fi' variety. (Of course, to the inhabitants of such universes, we would be the 'sci-fi' beings.) We do not need to know what conditions exactly are necessary for the emergence of conscious life, and certainly we cannot prove them, but the anthropic principle explains why we live in a universe that happens, against all odds, to be human-friendly.

      Concerning the elegance of theories, you are right in drawing attention to the difficulties of defining elegance. The perceived elegance of theories may be relative to our ability to conceptualise them. If we were much more intelligent, perhaps theories of greater complexity would seem to us just as elegant as simpler ones. However remember that even now some of our theories make use of transcendental numbers which cannot be expressed by finite equations, and yet this is not necessarily seen as a refutation of elegance. But elegance is a question of aesthetics, a branch of philosophy where I know next to nothing, so I shall say no more.

      Now if we want to deny that all possible universes are instantiated (whether such instantiated universes be one or many) we are faced with the question – why this universe, or these and no others? Remember we are saying that there are possible universes that are not instantiated. Why not, given that they are possible? Who or what gets to decide, if ex-hypothesi we have ruled out God? These are questions that this devil's advocate cannot answer.

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    6. If I may play devil's advocate here: One advantage of the multiverse theory for an atheist is that all possible universes are instantiated.

      Jonathan, this is only ONE of the varieties of "multiverse" that are hypothesized. There are others that don't hypothesize this.

      In any case, "possible" as in "all possible worlds" is not well-defined here. See my comment here:

      https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/09/10th-anniversary-open-thread.html?showComment=1538091253123#c915694575834877910

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  16. Please donate to Loome Theological Bookstore. As a resident of Afton MN, not far from Stillwater on the St. Croix, I ask everyone to do what they can.

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  17. Too many commentators on this blog die. Maybe it's Isaiah 57:1-2 in action.

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    1. In Hebrew the verses say:

      The righteous are gathered in out of the way of evil

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    2. It is possible to read the verses as an allusion to the rapture.

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  18. I am sad that Zippy met an unfortunate accident. I feel for his family. Also it would have been fun to argue with him over religious liberty.

    I guess I am a partisan of Christopher Tollefsen & Miller? I don't trust the State as a conservative and I don't want the State to get it's grubby hands on the Church.

    I don't see a "Catholic" State as a good thing. Error has no rights but erroneous people do.

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  19. If we say that something has essential properties, does it mean that that thing must have an essence?

    I would think so --- but then, the God of Calvinism and Islam is on the one hand said to be a purely voluntaristic God who isn't constrained by Goodness or any essence, while on the other it's said He is essentially sovereign, essentially omnipotent, etc.

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  20. I don't see a "Catholic" State as a good thing. Error has no rights but erroneous people do.

    Well, for some 1500 years much of Europe, and effectively ALL of the Church, did think it was a good idea. Pius IX and Leo XIII thought it was a good idea, in pretty definitive terms.

    Perhaps what you mean is that the Catholicism of a "Catholic state" should not be maintained primarily through the mechanisms of the state rather than through the work of the Church. Or - recognizing modern situations, that highly pluralistic states should not be confessionally Catholic (which would thus limit some of the options of non-Catholics).

    Allow me to ask a question: if one could do so without enormous and gravely unjust disruptions, would it be better overall if most states mainly consisting of people of one religion only, with just a small smattering of others who were visitors, or resident aliens, etc? So that Catholics had several mainly Catholic states to choose from, and Lutherans had a few mainly Lutheran states to live in, and Baptists had a few mainly Baptists states to live in?

    I submit that it is necessarily the case that when one religion is vastly predominant in a country, (upwards of 95%, say), the government MUST act in such a way as to accommodate that religion more than it acts to accommodate the few others. To refuse to call that greater accommodation by something like a "recognition" of the main religion is perhaps more a semantic game than a proper political classification.

    Be that as it may, Thomas Pink is quite right in noting that the state itself as a creature, has an obligation to follow God's will for it and to fulfill its natural end. As a rational creature (though derivative) - rational because it consists of men acting with reason - it is proper to the state to worship God in the best manner that it can do so. When its people have Christian revelation, the state can worship God according to the Christian rite of worship given to us in the New Covenant.

    For the state to refuse to worship God according to that rite of worship is to turn its back on its known Creator, for the sake of mollifying a few people who don't like that.

    Conservative or not has nothing to do with it: We don't have to trust the state in order to expect the state to act on the knowledge of God that it has available to it through the right religion the vast majority of its members have.

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    1. "I submit that it is necessarily the case that when one religion is vastly predominant in a country, (upwards of 95%, say), the government MUST act in such a way as to accommodate that religion more than it acts to accommodate the few others."

      So, it should become a tyranny of the majority? If the majority religion recognises a tax on citizens who are not of said religion, does the government have an obligation to impose this tax? If they don't, they will be inadvertently accommodating the minority religions against the majority.

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    2. Tony

      You write:
      For the state to refuse to worship God according to that rite of worship is to turn its back on its known Creator, for the sake of mollifying a few people who don't like that.

      One day all that you have alluded to in your comments will come to be in the world.

      The preparation has begun. The Pope made a speech on May 21, 1995; within that speech was a slight comment at the end that might have been missed... however, it was the preparation for all that you are hoping for.

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    3. Tony...

      This is the sort of thing you have in mind, right?

      The Catholic Apostolic Roman religion shall continue to be the sole religion of the Republic of Ecuador, and... no other dissident form of worship or any society condemned by the Church shall at any time be allowed within the Republic of Ecuador.

      -Concordat between Pope Pius IX and the Republic of Ecuador September 26, 1862

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    4. @Tony

      >Perhaps what you mean is that the Catholicism of a "Catholic state" should not be maintained primarily through the mechanisms of the state rather than through the work of the Church.

      That is exactly what I mean.

      >Allow me to ask a question: if one could do so without enormous and gravely unjust disruptions, would it be better overall if most states mainly consisting of people of one religion only, with just a small smattering of others who were visitors, or resident aliens, etc? So that Catholics had several mainly Catholic states to choose from, and Lutherans had a few mainly Lutheran states to live in, and Baptists had a few mainly Baptists states to live in?

      That is an interesting idea but how would you pull it off? Also we Catholics have to try to convert others to the Truth. If a Catholic State puts the kibosh on proselytizing within it's boarders would not the Prots States have to do the same? Don't Lutherans in a Lutheran State have the right to the full truth? Hence my problem with the whole enterprise.

      >I submit that it is necessarily the case that when one religion is vastly predominant in a country, (upwards of 95%, say), the government MUST act in such a way as to accommodate that religion more than it acts to accommodate the few others.

      I can live with that but it's the State suppressing the activities of Missionaries that bugs me. I don't trust the State to do that. I would prefer to unleash Catholic Answers at them.

      >To refuse to call that greater accommodation by something like a "recognition" of the main religion is perhaps more a semantic game than a proper political classification.

      We agree.

      >Be that as it may, Thomas Pink is quite right in noting that the state itself as a creature, has an obligation to follow God's will for it and to fulfill its natural end. As a rational creature (though derivative) - rational because it consists of men acting with reason - it is proper to the state to worship God in the best manner that it can do so. When its people have Christian revelation, the state can worship God according to the Christian rite of worship given to us in the New Covenant.

      But what form must that take? I can imagine a 95% Catholic America whose laws reflect the sensibilities of the Majority but I would still hope the first amendment and sepration clause are intact.

      >For the state to refuse to worship God according to that rite of worship is to turn its back on its known Creator, for the sake of mollifying a few people who don't like that.

      But do I really need to repeal the first amendment and separation clause to do that in a hypothetical 95% Catholic America?

      >Conservative or not has nothing to do with it: We don't have to trust the state in order to expect the state to act on the knowledge of God that it has available to it through the right religion the vast majority of its members have.

      Agreed.

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    5. Son of Ya'Kov, thanks for some excellent comments and home truths.

      That is an interesting idea but how would you pull it off?

      I don't know for right now. I don't have a proposal.

      In 1946, the separation of of the Asian subcontinent into the two countries of India and Pakistan by religion tried to do it, but they did indeed have massive disruptions and injustices. Earlier in history, much of what had been the Holy Roman Empire managed to be effectively divided into states (or sub-states) that were mostly one form of Christianity, while their neighbors were another form. Admittedly, there were wars over this, but they were between states more than internal civil wars, and the primary divisions mostly occurred by reason of the top-down decisions of their princes. Mostly. I don't recommend this at this time.

      Also we Catholics have to try to convert others to the Truth. If a Catholic State puts the kibosh on proselytizing within it's boarders would not the Prots States have to do the same?

      I DO think there is a solution to this. First of all, recall the behavior of Christian missionaries when they were sent out to distant lands. More often than not, their initial attempt was to make contact with the reigning leader and make a case for Christianity, or at least to make a case for permitting the Christian missionaries to work in the region, to "set up shop".

      Secondly, remember too that Protestantism is a deformity of the true fullness of Christianity, which is found in Catholicism. As such, in principle Protestantism does not do well in a straight up fair comparison with Catholicism. As a historical matter, Protestantism initially had successes mostly where Catholicism had been badly deformed by degenerate practices, or where Protestant leaders used unjust and improper means of persuasion to get people confused about what the Church actually teaches. (Witness: the number of Protestants who STILL think that the Catholic Church worships Mary, or that the sale of indulgences is acceptable).

      Hence, as is conformable with Dignitatis Humanae, Catholic missionaries can quite happily be content with (a) allowing their efforts to take some time to go forward in a new culture (it doesn't have to get rolling today); and (b) allowing the naturally just and proper testimony of truth to support Catholic teaching, without unjust methods of persuasion (in addition to the support of miracles which God adds in his own Providence, but Dignitatis Humanae points out that God has not stinted in this respect). Thus Christian missionaries can accept a slow process of gaining acceptance for their proselytizing as being in accordance with the just demands of fair and honest persuasion, methods fitted to the proper human orientation to truth rightly embraced. Not all religions can claim the same.

      I think that the demands of religious liberty for Catholic missionaries moving into a non-Catholic country would be satisfied by the authorities demanding the Catholic missionaries submit to a series of examinations / tests / investigations by their leading lights in the local religion, i.e. in LIMITING the exposure to their "experts" and not to the general public, to allow God to make good on his power to enable the truth of His Light to shine forth. (Cf: Pharoah making Moses stack up against the priests of the Egyptian gods, with Moses coming out well on top. Same also with Isaiah and the priests of Baal.) And yes, a Catholic country should be willing to do the same in reverse to foreign missionaries of a different religion - for Catholicism will hold its own just fine in such a debate. Catholicism has nothing to fear from just and honorable means of persuasion in debate with others. And Catholic proselytizing can submit to a slow and orderly introduction to a culture, done with partial respect for that culture's existing norms (except, I guess for such horrific ones as the Aztec ritual mass murder).

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    6. So, it should become a tyranny of the majority? If the majority religion recognises a tax on citizens who are not of said religion, does the government have an obligation to impose this tax? If they don't, they will be inadvertently accommodating the minority religions against the majority.

      Billy, here is what I meant when I used "MUST" rather than "should". When 95% of the people are going to take Day X off for religious purposes as a holy day, and 1% are each going to take Day A, Day B, Day C, Day D, and Day E, the government may as well declare a national holiday for Day X, and there is no similar need for Days A through E. Even if it goes ahead and makes allowance for people who OTHERWISE would have to work on their holy day to take it as a special day of religious observance.

      Another (this actually used to happen in my hometown): On 6 days of the week, double-parking on a city street is illegal and will be ticketed. On Sunday morning, double parking is allowed within 2 blocks of the Catholic Church, which has insufficient local parking. The police even show up to help untie traffic. By and large the double parking doesn't block traffic significantly, because by and large the crowds are INSIDE the church and aren't being hampered by the limitation on lane space. The local Baptist church doesn't have much parking either, but there is no need to double-park because there aren't enough Baptists to clog the lanes. (Maybe in some southern town these roles are exactly reversed?)

      Both of these are reasonably understood as "accommodations" to the predominant religion simply because of its predominant status. But neither one is objectionable on "separation" or first amendment grounds.

      I am suggesting is that it is perfectly legitimate for a state to put these sorts of things into a formal, regularlized condition, so that the state treats the predominant religion as (at a minimum) the "first among equals" broadly across many spheres of activity.

      I recognize that this sort of thing would sit poorly as the operating standard in a federal regime in which the subsidiary states each had different predominant religions, or in which the population is highly pluralistic throughout. But remember that our First Amendment was perfectly well able to countenance that the individual states each had their own established religion when we started out in 1789. I am limiting the concept to a sovereign state that IS predominantly one religion.

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    7. Awesome replies there Tony. Well done.

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    8. Tony, thanks for the clarification. It seems to me that these cases are not specifically religious though.

      These could apply for days like New Year's Day and parking for sports certain sports events.

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  21. John Coltrane may have been the death of Jazz but if it was, than Jazz went out with a bang not a whimper.

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  22. Dr. Feser, is there a way to subscribe to your blog and receive emails when you post?

    Thanks,

    Austin

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  23. Philip Rand,

    Your comments are sometimes weird, which perhaps you can't do anything about. However, you also post way too many of them, and you can do something about that.

    So, kindly reduce the number of your comments, or I will have to stop approving them.

    Everyone else, please remember that if you want a troll to go away, you need to stop feeding him. Just STOP.

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    1. Prof Feser

      No wonder you placed this item on your blog:

      David Oderberg’s new book Opting Out: Conscience and Cooperation in a Pluralistic Society

      Delete
  24. Young Catholic ConvertOctober 8, 2018 at 12:40 PM

    Prof Feser, could you recommend any recent books that reflect your current views as a traditionalist conservative/limited government conservative? I'm more or less on board with Ben Shapiro, but still learning - especially with regard to natural law/rights and common good. And confused by how to make sense of conservatism with all the talk of integralism, socialism, post-trump conservative decline etc. Thank you

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  25. Hello Dr. Feser,
    I just read Brian Davies's book "Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil," and I was wondering if you can kindly make a post about the problem of evil considered from a Thomistic perspective? Would you say that given Davies' position, the entire business of looking for a morally sufficient reason is wrongheaded? Thank you very much.

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    1. I second this motion. God is ontologically good and or metaphysically good. But God is not morally good. Or more precisely God is not a moral agent. Or even more precisely then that God is not a moral agent or morally good in the unequivical way a morally good human being is as a moral agent.

      Solves the Problem of Evil for me.

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  26. I feel like I'm being slowly tortured and consumed and I don't know why. Currently the only explanation that makes sense to me is "the Lord's wrath." Please make it stop and give me peace.

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    1. Dear Cogniblog: If your last sentence is addressed to the rest of us, I do not think that we can directly "make it stop" or give you peace. Your peace lies in God. Remember always and repeat to yourself as necessary, "It is because of the Lord's mercy and lovingkindness that we are NOT consumed, because His tender compassions fail not" (Lamentations 3:22).

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    2. @Craig Payne, thank you for the kind comment. I don't understand why I have such severe anxiety and anguish right now. I pray but I am wondering whether the Lord is ignoring them. I am also struggling against same-sex attraction and afraid of how the Lord will respond to such a struggle.

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    3. Cogniblog

      It is not a theistic nor a Thomistic doctrine (for Grace is not an attribute of God in these theories)…

      God has responded to your struggle, is responding to your struggle and will respond to your struggle thus:

      God's Grace is always grater, and will always go farther than sin … but that’s not license.

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    4. Romans 8:13
      For if ye live after the flesh, (the things of this world is your concern, and you have no concept of eternity) ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live."

      Take God at His Word.

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  27. @ Philip,
    I understand what you mean by "if they hear not Moses and the prophets and Aristotle," however, philosophy as such seeks certain basic, fundamental and ultimately undeniable truths as a foundation upon which to base our thinking and beliefs that is in accordance with objective reality. We are naturally hardwired, so to speak, for the truth: no one seeks to be deceived or desires to be in error about the reality of things. Of course, this does not prevent people from holding to a kind of cognitive dissonance wherein they claim to believe one thing but in practice manifestly do not believe it "when it matters," e.g. when it would affect their personal well-being or jeopardize their lives. So, for example, a radical skeptic might think we live in some sort of Matrix but would rarely (if ever) would such a person walk in front of a speeding train or standing in front of one try to stop it through some fort of telekinesis.

    Furthermore, Philip, one should not underestimate the reality of sophistry. Ask any trial lawyer or judge why it is important to study something of philosophy and logic or rhetoric: quite frankly people will give the most obtuse and confusing arguments to save their skins or prevent justice. Similarly people will abuse even the Scriptures by twisting their meaning and interpretation or by providing specious arguments that a person untrained in critical thinking would have the greatest difficulty overcoming. Indeed, widespread doubt has been sown in the West for centuries using sophistic arguments to either internally divide Christians (I mean Christians dividing Christians) or by secularists employing arguments against faith.

    Admittedly Aristotle's philosophy ought to be treated as one philosophy produced by one culture in a certain cultural and historic context; however, that does not mean he and his followers and those who later adopted and adapted his philosophy (Christians such as Saint Thomas Aquinas) did not hit at certain truths that agree with and in a sense give literally independent reason to consider and even adopt the Christian religion and faith.

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    1. Timocrates

      You state:
      ...people will abuse even the Scriptures by twisting their meaning and interpretation or by providing specious arguments...

      What? Like this?

      "if they hear not Moses and the prophets and Aristotle,"

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    2. You can't appreciate that much of God's law in the Bible is also natural law? You can't appreciate that much of its morality is evident but that the weakness of our present state requires what we can know by reason to be right or wrong to be reaffirmed even with divine authority?

      Philip, if someone were to say to you geometry is one thing but Euclid is another and geometry should not be identified with Euclid, you'd be quite mistaken to think Euclid's maxims and principles of geometry were false simply because we know the name of the name who best formulated them. Moses and the prophets moral teaching and teaching generally overlaps with philosophy and philosophical learning; that doesn't make either false nor does it imply a multiplication or addition to the scripture. Of course we should hear Moses and prophets - but a Jewish person could charge you with contradiction by claiming that by heading Jesus you are going beyond the Scripture and commandments by asking the Jew to listen not only to Moses and the prophets but Jesus too.
      It's one thing if your just learning and are frustrated by Aristotle's enormous body of philosophical work; it's large, difficult and complicated. That doesn't mean its necessarily false or wholly false, however. But sometimes I think you are just being obtuse. Notice that in part thanks to my philosophical studying and work I was able to point out a contradiction in your own point; namely, that your interpretation of the scripture involves yourself opens yourself to the charge of contradiction as a Christian. Philosophy can assist us in not falling into such situations by training us to think critically and interpret carefully and wisely; it also helps us to reconcile seeming contradictions in the Scripture also.
      Philosophy can help us to show the rationality of the Christian faith and religion and help us to develop arguments in its defense (apologetics) and even possibly arguments to the existence of God for those who may doubt the historical reliability of Scripture or the reality of miracles.

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    3. Timocrates

      Philosophically speaking then what is the difference between:

      Timocrates:Philosophy can help us to show the rationality of the Christian faith and religion and help us to develop arguments in its defense (apologetics) and even possibly arguments to the existence of God for those who may doubt the historical reliability of Scripture or the reality of miracles.

      And:

      Apostle Paul: Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

      Philosophically, how are you going to reconcile this "seeming" contradiction in Scripture and Philosophy?

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    4. Philip, you can expose false philosophy through true philosophy. There are a whole series of books in the OT that urge believers to seek after wisdom; why would God do this if the pursuit of wisdom was necessarily a "vain deceit?" When the Greeks wanted to approach the Lord before His Passion, He said they should consider the natural world to understand His mystery and upcoming Passion: He did not quote the law or the prophets in their case. This is what Aristotle calls "natural philosophy," which, he says, "is a kind of wisdom." This accords well with the words of our Lord.

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    5. Timocrates

      When the Greeks wanted to approach the Lord before His Passion, He said they should consider the natural world to understand His mystery and upcoming Passion: He did not quote the law or the prophets in their case.

      Charitably, your interpretation of scripture is incorrect.

      Christ did not speak to the Greeks. He spoke to Philip & Andrew who asked Christ if He would speak to the Greeks. Christ declined.

      You can read what Christ said: John 12:23-32

      If your read the text you will find that Christ did not meet with the Greeks.

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    6. And if you read what I wrote, you would realize I never claimed He did.

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    7. OK...

      If that is the case...then you accept that your statement:

      you can expose false philosophy through true philosophy

      Is wrong.

      Delete
  28. I always think it is hilarious when I see the name “P. M. S. Hacker”, ever since I first saw it that way (cited in TLS, incidentally); so now it takes me a little bit to recognize another rendering such as “Peter Hacker”.

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  29. Tragic news about Zippy. One of the best of the modern Christian thinkers.

    I can only presume that the lack of condolences here implies few knew his work. I recommend devouring his blog - one of the best evisceration's of liberalism you'll find.

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