Monday, July 20, 2020

Computer campus


As you know, academic life has largely gone online this year.  My own classes at Pasadena City College this fall will be entirely online.

The Thomistic Institute has also adapted to the circumstances with its series of online Quarantine Lectures.  I will be giving one of them this Thursday, July 23, on the topic “The Metaphysics of the Will.”  Details here.

13 comments:

  1. The Impoverished LastsJuly 20, 2020 at 12:06 PM

    What's your take on this response to the increase in case numbers? William M Briggs makes some pretty convincing points that these increases should actually be viewed as a good thing. Showing that the virulent nature of this virus is not as lethal as originally assumed. That virulence motivating some of the early decisions to close many things down and have people wear face masks.

    I want to be gracious... but the arguments given in favor of the face masks has me wondering "when will we ever take these off?". It leaves me a bit disconcerted, because if the argument is "So what if the fatality rate is not as intense as it was originally assumed... if we can prevent any death by wearing these then we should keep on wearing them."

    How does that same position not support the wearing of masks all of the time? How does that same position not completely remove receiving the Sacred Blood of Christ during Mass from this point going forward?

    I can't work it out in my head where there's a final sigh of relief, dropping of the mask, and drinking the Blood of Christ again.

    On that view: who can ever know for certain if one person's not wearing a mask (not keeping a 'healthy' distance) could possibly prove fatal in some indirect way. Virus passing from one person to the next healthy, to the next healthy, to the next healthy, until it finally comes and rests on one who lacks the immune response to surmount the viral insult.

    It's a disturbing thought and I can't see the end to what we've done to ourselves.

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    1. Dr. Feser, I know it's a bit of a sideline from your usual material, but I share these concerns and I'm sure The Impoverished Lasts and I are not the only two who would appreciate an analysis if you can spare the time.

      If I apply your line of reasoning on the moral permissibility of lockdown, it would seem to me that, all other things being equal, having one's face uncovered in the general case falls into category 3), actions that at most have a remote possibility of unintended death. If I know myself to be sick, we have a good case for category 2), actions which have a significant chance of causing unintended death, although even then it would seem to me that it depends on the dangers of the particular pathogen in question.

      Advocates for population-wide masking would seem to imply that all uncovered faces belong in category 2), and I don't see how their arguments would allow for unmasking even after our current crisis is past. My unease only increases because 1) no one is discussing an end date for these measures and 2) the element of moral panic corrodes the presumption of good will.

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    2. Tbh, it might be good if the West adopted the custom of wearing masks when sick. Asians have been doing it for a long time. In Japan, you're expected to wear a mask even if you have a small cold, because it is impolite to spread your virus around. If you're healthy, no mask required. But if you're sick, wear a mask. This isn't bad.

      As far as the pandemic goes, the need for masks is obvious at the moment. It should be relaxed once things actually get really in control. It might take a year from now. I'm not talking about lockdowns, just about wearing masks in public.

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  2. Will you be publishing a paper on the metaphysics of the will?

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  3. Dr. Feser, I thought I'd bring to your attention some newly developed critiques of your ideas. I wonder how you or other classical theists might respond to them. So far, this has been published (https://majestyofreason.wordpress.com/2020/03/14/a-plethora-of-prima-facie-problems-for-classical-theism/) along with a response (http://www.classicaltheism.com/plethora/) and a response to the response (https://majestyofreason.wordpress.com/2020/04/01/a-plethora-problems-reconsidered-discussing-classical-theism/).

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    1. People at Youtube channels like Capturing Christianity, Pints with Aquinas and Intellectual Conservatism have been doing a good job of swatting down these kinds of things. There are also some good discussions on this in the Thomism Discussion Group on FB.

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    2. The blogger isn't criticizing Feser's ideas so much as central components of classical theism that both Thomists and Scotists hold, such as divine simplicity.

      The author is claiming that since we have different true propositions p1, p2 etc. God cannot be utterly simple, since he must know that each of these propositions is true. And you can't say that p1 = p2 = God's thoughts, since p1 and p2 are different.

      Some options:

      One response is to say that there is a single divine thought: P, that includes all ps.

      Another response is to say that p1, p2 are only distinct in our own mental thoughts, but not in God's.

      Check out Bill Vallicella's blogpost, where he tackles a similar topic, and gives his thoughts:

      https://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2017/04/divine-simplicity-is-god-identical-to-his-thoughts.html

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  4. Was looking at taking an online course but you have to live in California. Bummer.

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  5. Disappointing. I saw the title and was hoping for another article on the computational theory of the mind.

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  6. Prof. Feser, I do hope your lecture on the will will address David Bentley Hart's arguments concerning the will in his universalism book in more detail. That was the philosophically most interesting and substantial part of Hart's book, though I would agree that ultimately his arguments have to fail.

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    1. You should buy Steven Jensen's book 'Sin'

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  7. I've been working through the Thomistic Institute's course Aquinas 101 for some months now, up to lesson 57 The Law in General, and I find it very good. They provide a short video introduction to the topic, then a podcast lecture (around an hour), often supplementary podcasts, and extracts from Aquinas' writings. Sad to say, after enjoying and thinking I understood all the spoken material, I can still struggle to follow the written argument.

    Anyway, I recommend the course.

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  8. Aquinas 101 is truly amazing. On top of all that work to explain the saint philosophy, the videos are being translated on diferent languages. I'am just waiting to the translation of my own language to be more complete to recomend it, very good stuff.

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