Monday, March 30, 2020

Franklin on Aristotelian realism and mathematics

At YouTube, mathematician and philosopher James Franklin, author of An Aristotelian Realist Philosophy of Mathematics, offers a brief introduction to the subject.  Also check out the website he and some others have devoted to Aristotelian realism, as well as Franklin’s personal website.

A public lecture on mathematics and ethics that Franklin is scheduled to give on April 2 will, in light of the COVID-19 situation, be pre-recorded and posted online.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Craig, conventionalism, and voluntarism

At his personal Facebook page and also at the Reasonable Faith Facebook page, William Lane Craig briefly comments on my First Things review of his book God Over All.  Bill says:

For our philosophically inclined readers who are interested in divine aseity and Platonism, here's a great little philosophical exercise: Where does this review by Ed Feser go wrong? (Hint: do I hold that mathematical truth is conventional? Why think I should?)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Aquinas anticipated everything

So notes a friend who sent me this image of the cover of a dissertation from the 1950s.  (No doubt the author was using the phrase in a different sense than has now become familiar.  Any guesses as to the true subject matter?)

Friday, March 20, 2020

Craig contra the truthmaker objection to presentism

Presentism holds that, in the temporal realm (that is to say, apart from eternal and aeviternal entities), only present objects and events exist.  Now, if statements about past events and objects are true, then there must be something that makes them true.  But in that case, the “truthmaker objection” to presentism holds, past objects and events must exist.  I’ve argued in previous posts that this objection is greatly overrated.  Indeed, for the reasons I gave there, I can’t myself fathom what all the fuss is about.  William Lane Craig seems to agree.  In his book God Over All (which I reviewed recently in First Things), he has occasion briefly to address the issue.  Craig writes:

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Coronavirus complications

For reasons most of which have to do directly or indirectly with the COVID-19 coronavirus situation, none of the remaining public lectures for the first half or so of the year that I had announced a couple of months ago will occur.  (There are still events planned for the latter half of the year, which I will announce closer to the time.)

Also, in light of the situation, my college, like many others, has abruptly transitioned to online teaching.  The resulting new workload promises to be as heavy as it was sudden and unexpected. 

I fully intend to keep this blog going to doomsday and beyond, but if things temporarily get a little slower here in the next couple of weeks as I adjust to this new reality, that is why!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Review of Craig’s God Over All

My review of William Lane Craig’s book God Over All: Divine Aseity and the Challenge of Platonism appears in the April 2020 issue of First Things.  You can read it online here.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

On-topic open thread (and a word on trolls)

Folks, please don’t post off-topic comments in the comboxes.  I will delete them, and any responses to them, as soon as I see them, and (since I don’t always see them immediately) sometimes that means that a long thread will develop that is destined to end up in the ether.  Remember, if your comment begins with something like “This is off topic, but…,” then it isn’t a comment you should be posting.  And remember too, there is always that remedy for concupiscence known as the open thread.  Here’s the latest.  This time, everything is on topic, from acid jazz to Thomas Szasz, from Family Guy to Strong AI, from the coronavirus to Miley Cyrus.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The other way to lose a war

Rod Dreher comments on the U.S. deal with the Taliban to withdraw, at long last, from Afghanistan.  He writes: “The Taliban whipped… the United States… We simply could not prevail.  The richest and most powerful nation in the world could not beat these SOBs.”  Well, that’s obviously not true in the usual sense of words like “whipped” and “beat.”  Suppose you effortlessly beat me to a bloody pulp and I fall to the ground, desperately panting for air and barely conscious.  You put your boot on my neck and demand that I cry “Uncle.”  I refuse, despite your repeated kicks to the gut, and after fifteen minutes or so of this you get bored and walk away.  It would be quite absurd if, wiping the blood off my face and pulling myself up to my wobbling knees, I proudly exclaim: “Did you see how I whipped that guy?”

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Agere sequitur esse and the First Way

Aquinas’s First Way is also known as the argument from motion to an Unmoved Mover.  The most natural way to read it is as an argument to the effect that things could not change at any given moment if there were no divine cause keeping the change going.  But some Thomists have read it instead as an argument to the effect that changing things could not even exist at any given moment if there were no divine cause keeping them in being.  That’s the reading I propose in my book Aquinas and my ACPQ article “Existential Inertia and the Five Ways,” and it’s a line of argument I develop and defend in greater depth in chapter 1 of Five Proofs of the Existence of God.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Morgan on Aristotle’s Revenge

At The Imaginative Conservative, Prof. Jason Morgan kindly reviews my book Aristotle’s Revenge.  From the review:

In 456 very well-written pages… (followed by a treasure trove of a bibliography), Dr. Feser shows in Aristotle’s Revenge that, point for point, Aristotle got science right, or as right as he could given the limitations in instrumentation and communication with other researchers during his time.  Scientists since the so-called Enlightenment have been trying to detach Aristotle’s greatest insight, the telos of things, from the world around them.  But the telos is the linchpin of the material world, so without it, everything, as is apparent from most philosophy lectures one attends nowadays, or nearly any philosophy book one reads, falls apart

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The socialist state as an occasionalist god

Hobbes famously characterized his Leviathan state as a mortal god.  Here’s another theological analogy, or set of analogies, which might illuminate the differences between kinds of political and economic orders – and in particular, the differences between socialism, libertarianism, and the middle ground natural law understanding of the state.

Recall that there are three general accounts of divine causality vis-à-vis the created order: occasionalism, mere conservationism, and concurrentism (to borrow Fred Freddoso’s classification).

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Sandstad and Jansen on Aristotle’s Revenge

At the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, philosophers Petter Sandstad and Ludger Jansen review my book Aristotle’s Revenge.  From the review:

Feser’s book adds to a growing body of literature on neo-Aristotelian approaches in metaphysics and the philosophy of science.  However, Feser stands out from other analytic neo-Aristotelians with his in-depth knowledge and discussion of 20th and 21st century neo-Thomistic literature, and one can learn a lot from reading this book

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Discussion with Graham Oppy

Earlier today on Cameron Bertuzzi’s Capturing Christianity program, I had a very pleasant and fruitful live exchange with Graham Oppy.  You can watch it on YouTube.  This is the second exchange Oppy and I have had on the show.  The first was last July, and you can still watch that on YouTube as well.  In that earlier exchange we discussed my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  The book comes up in the latest exchange as well, as does Oppy’s Religious Studies article “On stage one of Feser’s ‘Aristotelian proof.’”

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Review of Kerr

My review of Gaven Kerr’s excellent book Aquinas's Way to God: The Proof in De Ente et Essentia appears in the current issue of The Thomist (Vol. 83, No. 2).

Friday, January 31, 2020

Preternatural theology

Natural theology is traditionally distinguished from revealed theology.  Natural theology is concerned with knowledge about God’s existence and nature that is available to us via the use of our natural cognitive faculties, such as by way of philosophical arguments.  It does not require an appeal to any special divine revelation, whether embodied in scripture, the teachings of a prophet backed by miracles, or what have you.  There might happen to be teachings in some source of special divine revelation that overlap with the deliverances of natural theology, but what makes something a matter of natural theology is that it can at least in principle be known apart from that.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Adventures in the Old Atheism, Part IV: Marx

I have never been remotely attracted to Marxism.  Its economic reductionism, vision of human life as a struggle of antagonistic classes, hostility to the family, and the hermeneutics of suspicion enshrined in its theory of ideology, are all repulsive and inhuman.  Other elements, such as the theory of surplus value and prophecies about the withering away of the state and the idyll of life under communism, are sheer tosh.  These flaws are grave and real whatever one thinks about capitalism.  Indeed, opposition to Marxism is in my view a prerequisite to being a serious critic of capitalism, for Marxism contains none of the good that is in capitalism, much of the bad that is in it, and adds grave evils of its own to boot.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Aquinas 101

The Thomistic Institute has added to the great work it is already doing by introducing Aquinas 101, “a series of free video courses… that help you to engage life’s most urgent philosophical and theological questions with the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas.”  Here are four brief and lucid examples: Fr. Dominic Legge on the problem of evil, Fr. James Brent on the principle of non-contradiction, Fr. Thomas Joseph White on the abiding relevance of Aquinas, and Fr. Gregory Maria Pine on how to read the Summa Theologiae.  Check them out and enroll today!

Monday, January 20, 2020

Upcoming talks, etc.

On February 6 on Cameron Bertuzzi’s Capturing Christianity, Graham Oppy and I will resume the debate on the existence of God that we began last July.

On February 11, I will be giving a talk at Cornell University on the topic “What is Matter?”  The event is being hosted by the Thomistic Institute and will be at 6:30 pm in the Physical Science Building, Room 120.

On February 19, I will be giving a talk at UCLA on the same topic.  This event too is being hosted by the Thomistic Institute.  Keep an eye on the Thomistic Institute website for further details.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Johnson on Aristotle’s Revenge

At Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Monte Ransome Johnson reviews my book Aristotle’s Revenge.  Prof. Johnson is an Aristotle scholar and historian of philosophy, which is relevant to understanding his review.  He says some nice things about the book, singling out my discussion of Aristotle and computationalism as “interesting” and writing:

Feser's book could be useful to those interested in defending anti-reductionist positions in various disputes in philosophy of science… Feser's impressive grasp of this anti-reductionist literature makes him a formidable polemicist, able to sift the avalanche of philosophy of science literature and find the concepts he is looking for

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Scruton’s virtues

The Guardian reports that conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton has died.  I vividly recall the first time I became aware of Scruton.  I was an undergraduate philosophy major in the late 1980s, and a professor had posted on the bulletin board near his office an article about Scruton, on which he’d scrawled the words: “Mrs. Thatcher’s favorite philosopher.”  It was not intended as a compliment.  But since I was a conservative as well as an aspiring philosopher, it attracted rather than repelled me.  During the many hours I spent in bookstores in those days, seeing Scruton’s name on the spine of a book became a reason instantly to pull it off the shelf and take a look.  And actually reading Scruton soon gave reason to seek out everything else he’d written.  Which, as every Scruton admirer knows, could become a full time job.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Review of Swinburne

My review of Richard Swinburne’s recent book Are We Bodies or Souls? appears in the February 2020 issue of First Things.  You can read it online.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The rationalist/empiricist false choice

I’ve often argued that contemporary philosophers too often think only within the box of alternative positions inherited from their early modern forebears, neglecting or even being ignorant of the very different ways that pre-modern philosophers would carve up the conceptual territory.  One of the chief ways this is so has to do with the rationalist/empiricist dichotomy, as filtered through Kant.  It has hobbled clear thinking not only about epistemology, but also about metaphysics.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Links for a new year

Joseph Bessette on criminal sentencing laws and retributive justice, at Public Discourse.

The Catholic Thing on the late, great Michael Uhlmann.  Requiescat in pace, Mike.

At The Spectator, Roger Scruton looks back with gratitude at an annus horribilis.

Jez Rowden’s Steely Dan: Every Album, Every Song will be released next month.  Ultimate Classic Rock on the great Eagles/Steely Dan cross-reference.