Saturday, August 8, 2020

The links you’ve been longing for

At Medium, David Oderberg on the prophets Orwell, Huxley, and Bradbury.

3:16 interviews Thomist philosopher Gaven Kerr.

At Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Kerr reviews Timothy Pawl’s book In Defense of Extended Conciliar Christology.

Honest criticism or cancel culture?  At Persuasion, Jonathan Rauch on six signs that you’re dealing with the latter.  At The New York Times, Ross Douthat offers ten theses about cancel culture.

If aliens really exist, where the hell are they?  Michael Flynn surveys 34 possible answers.

Coleman Hughes on nonconformist economist Thomas Sowell, at City Journal.

At The Josias, James Berquist on the New Natural Law Theory as the source of Bostock’s error.

Sam Dresser on that time Carnap and Heidegger took a stroll together in Davos, at Aeon.

Stephen Barr reviews Kenneth Kemp’s The War That Never Was: Evolution and Christian Theology, at First Things.

Grant Geissman’s mammoth The History of EC Comics is coming soon from Taschen. 

At The Atlantic, John McWhorter on the dehumanizing condescension of White Fragility.  Matt Taibbi says it “may be the dumbest book ever written.”  Christopher Caldwell on “prophet of anti-racism” Ibram X. Kendi, at National Review.  At City Journal, Coleman Hughes says “anti-intellectualism” is more like it.

Short videos on topics in philosophy from Thinking Illustrated.

Apple TV offers a first look at its upcoming adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation.  The debut of Marvel’s Disney+ lineup has been delayed because of the pandemic.

The French translation of The Last Superstition is now available in a Kindle edition.

At New Discourses, James Lindsay on how to help people leave the woke cult.  Andrew Sullivan on the roots of wokeness.  At UnHerd, John Gray on its millenarian religious character.  Matt Taibbi says the left has now become what it sees in the right.  Sam Harris decries its “public hysteria and moral panic.”

Then there’s that other bit of public hysteria.  At The Times, Bernard-Henri Lévy says that the coronavirus has plunged the world into “psychotic delirium.”  Angelo Codevilla on the COVID coup, at The American Mind.  Michael Fumento notes ten things public health officials got wrong.  Alex Berenson on whether lockdowns work.

At 3:16, Richard Marshall interviews John Cottingham on Descartes and religion.

Eric Kaufmann on Britain’s Generation Z and conservatism, at UnHerd.

Agnes Callard on “publish or perish” in academic philosophy, at The Point.

Via YouTube, Jazziz magazine interviews jazz vocalist Carolyn Leonhart about her career, including her work with Steely Dan.  Ultimate Classic Rock on how Michael McDonald came to work with the Dan.  Paul Zollo on Walter Becker, at American Songwriter.

The latest controversy in academic philosophy: CounterPunch on “GenderGate.”  Alex Byrne comments.

Standardized Apologetics lists the top five must-read intermediate apologetics books.  Guess what’s at the number two spot.

New books for Thomists: Herbert McCabe: Recollecting a Fragmented Legacy by Franco Manni; Thomism and the Problem of Animal Suffering by B. Kyle Keltz; The Light That Binds: A Study in Thomas Aquinas's Metaphysics of Natural Law by Stephen Brock.

At RealClearDefense, Francis Sempa argues that China’s rise proves that MacArthur was right.

At The Josias, John Brungardt surveys the online debate over Catholic integralism.  Editiones Scholasticae recently published Integralism: A Manual of Political Philosophy by Thomas Crean and Alan Fimister.

Duke Today reports that studies of brain activity aren’t as useful as scientists thought.  Raymond Tallis on Patricia Smith Churchland’s Conscience, at Times Literary Supplement.

At Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Mary Katrina Krizan reviews Devin Henry’s book Aristotle on Matter, Form, and Moving Causes: The Hylomorphic Theory of Substantial Generation.

James Piereson on the conservatism of George Will, at The New Criterion.

Capturing Christianity recently hosted a debate between William Lane Craig and Graham Oppy on whether mathematics points to God.

What is It Like to Be a Philosopher? interviews Spencer Case about his time in the military, religion, conservatism, living under quarantine in Wuhan, and much else.

80 comments:

  1. Looks like the memelords are at it again:

    https://i.imgur.com/0uaDPBI.jpg

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    1. That's pretty funny, gotta admit. Who did it?

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    2. Obviously the meme artist is unaware that universalism saved Hume from hell.

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    3. This is way underrated. Deserves more comments.

      (I know, I know. I should've noticed it earlier too. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.)

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    4. https://i.imgur.com/0uaDPBI.jpg

      This, but unironically.

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    5. Good meme, but I think it's unfair to lump Scotus in with Ockham

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    6. @Tony

      I think it comes from this Facebook page:

      https://www.facebook.com/IdealPlatonicMemes/posts/123954918967888

      I also agree with it unironically, haha. (Would only point out that the date given for Aristotle should be a bit later, but that's about it.)

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  2. Then there’s that other bit of public hysteria. At The Times, Bernard-Henri Lévy says that the coronavirus has plunged the world into “psychotic delirium.”

    What would be a proportional emotional reaction to something that has become the #1 leading cause of death in the whole wide world within the span of a year, in your estimation, Dr. Feser?

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    1. What would be a proportional emotional reaction

      A reaction that was consistent with sober and dispassionate debate rather than the flinging of shrill epithets ("COVID denialism," "experiment in human sacrifice," etc.), one that respected the natural right to provide for oneself and one's family, one that respected the natural right to decide how to educate one's children, one that did not make arbitrary exceptions based on favoritism toward political allies and interests, one that respected subsidiarity by not insisting on one-size-fits-all solutions, one that was not prone to exaggeration about the risks to the majority of the population (i.e. those who aren't elderly or already suffering from serious ailments), one that respected the human need for stability and long-range planning and thus didn't constantly shift the goalposts or decide to reimpose lockdowns at will, etc. That sort of reaction.

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    2. Pretty sure that's still heart disease

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    3. What an ignorant load of bullshit, Ed.

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    4. Anonymous, wow I'm convinced by your arguments!

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    5. False claim--COVID is certainly not the
      "#1 leading cause of death in the whole wide world"

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    6. I have heard references of studies beginning to come out on Sweden's handling of the CCP virus, but as of yet have not found them online or in any other offering. If anyone comes across any such perhaps he or she could post them herein.

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    7. Abortion is the leading cause of death in the world, hands down.

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    8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. Well, there one or another link that have something to do with apologetics, so, what do you guys think of this line of argument? https://www.proginosko.com/2016/08/atheism-amoralism-and-arationalism/

    I do think Plantinga view of proper-function is a pretty inteligent view, so Naturalism denial of any type of objective norm or value seems to me pretty bad when the subject is epistemology(not to mention, you know, having no ethics).

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    1. What is funny is that right after posting this comment i decided to click first on the last link(Spencer Case interview). In, like, the middle of the interview Spencer mentions the work he did in his dissertation: a argument for moral realism that has a similar spirit to the one on the link i posted!

      Feels strange man.

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  4. Standardized Apologetics lists the top five must-read intermediate apologetics books. Guess what’s at the number two spot.

    Dr. Craig's books take #1 and #3 (co-authored with Dr. Moreland). Dr. Feser's Five Proofs is #2. I'm wondering why Dr. Feser's book is not available on Audible.com like the other two.

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  5. “Aquinas is almost synonymous with the ontological argument for the existence of God.“

    Just what the hell was tge 3:16 guy thinking there?!

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    1. LOL. Yeah that guy was raining down threes left and right then airballed the crap out of that one. He did excellent overall though. I don't follow any of this stuff in depth but Gaven Kerr is my favorite current philosopher. He's on lots of podcasts and youtube conversations.

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    2. Marshall rarely blunders like that, so I expect it was a typo or brainfart. He might have meant cosmological instead.

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  6. Great links, Ed. I'll had another recent book out:

    The One Creator God by Fr. Michael Dodds

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  7. RE: Intermediate Apologetics books

    I am not a William Lane Craig hater by any means, but am I alone in thinking it unfortunate that he is _the_ face of Christian apologetics. So many of his philosophical views are really quite dodgy: putting the Kalam forward as the primary argument for God's existence (and using dodgy arguments like Hilbert's Hotel and empirical scientific results to prop it up), championing the modal ontological argument, denying divine simplicity, borderline occasionalism on math, Molinism etc.

    Swinburne, also on the list, is another one with super-dodgy philosophical views.

    I do like both men's work on the resurrection a lot, but, to be honest, I question whether anyone encountering their philosophical work on its own would have any reason for changing their views on God or anything. Their work is all very interesting, certainly, but not terribly compelling, IMO.

    -----

    I will add though that is a very good sign that Ed's work is starting to make its way out there into the wider apologetics world. Though it is interesting that the Youtube host seems to present Ed's book as some sort of interesting supplement to Craigian apologetics, rather than what it is: the central tradition. Ya gotta start somewhere though, I guess.

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    1. Craig basically dedicated his life to philosophical apologetics. Probably he and Norman Geisler were two of the most popular Christian apologists 20 or so years ago. And they earned it by the numerous books and debates (especially Craig) they produced. Catholic apologetics, on the other hand, hasn't focused simply on philosophical concerns. Peter Kreeft, Trent Horn, Scott Hahn, etc, write books covering many topics other than philosophical apologetics. But there is more focus on that now now due to Dr. Feser, the Thomistic Institute, and to other Catholic philosophers actively engaging through books or as podcasts and youtube guests.

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    2. Craig is a debate machine, so I agree it's not much of a mystery why he has broken through into the public consciousness. But it's still somewhat unfortunate.

      It seems to me that Catholic apologetics has been focused to a large degree on Protestants rather than unbelievers, understandable given that the Anglosphere has long been largely Protestant up until recently.

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    3. A lot of the apologetics action is now on Youtube, with Capturing Christianity (Protestant), Pints with Aquinas and the Thomistic Institute (both Catholic) all doing good work. Ed has appeared on all of them, IIRC.

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    4. Good point about the Anglosphere. Also, Catholic apologists can say go read St Augustine, St Albert, St Boethius, St Bonaveture, St Thomas, the Church Fathers, St Anselm, the Scholastics, etc. Protestant philosophical apologetics is fairly new in comparison and so has to do most of the work itself rather than defering to any "tradition" of philosophical texts.

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    5. I suppose it comes down to the individual. I converted from atheism to theism at the age of 31 because of Richard Swinburne and his inductive probabilistic approach to arguing for the existence of God. I don't find deductive arguments from supposed "first principles" to be all that convincing

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    6. Adam Sharpe

      Some people are happy with uncertainty and so are you with your probabilities; our standard is demonstration.

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    7. Hi Ava,

      I am indeed happy with probability, as I think it's the best we can do. Unless one is absolutely certain in the truth of one's premises, probability enters into the evaluation of the conclusion regardless if the argument is inductive or deductive.

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    8. Sorry, I can not be a Christian based on probability.

      "
      Unless one is absolutely certain in the truth of one's premises..."

      Are you REALLY not certain that change occurs?

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    9. Being certain that change occurs isn't sufficient; you'd have to be certain of all the other premises as well, which requires certainty about their underlying metaphysical presuppositions, and so forth. And to be honest, even in the case of change, I'm not sure it is absolutely certain: it seems there's a non-zero probability that one could just be confused or mistaken about the meaning of the terms involved, for example.

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    10. To be fair, the type of argument you find compelling at first seems to be a personal thing. When i first saw the Kalam i thinked its premises where just obvious, the fact that a lot of people do not agree still amazes me, same thing to Dr. Craig arguments for the Ressurrection.

      I think part of what makes Craig popular, ignoring, his debates and chill personality, is that the man is pretty much a modern philosopher, he talks with the same language and has a lot of agreements with his oponents, so is arguments are more closer to how even the average atheist seem things. The classical tradition is way harder to understand, let alone to agree.

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    11. The problem is that there are always some people who will find what are ultimately pretty bad arguments compelling, at least at first.

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    12. Or maybe some people think that philosophers historically had a less-than-stellar track record when it comes to reasoning about how the world "must be" from first principles, and prefer a more modest evidential or "cumulative case" approach? I prefer arguments for God that can be defended without first needing to buy into (somewhat elaborate) metaphysical systems.

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    13. Adam Sharpe

      "I prefer arguments for God that can be defended without first needing to buy into (somewhat elaborate) metaphysical systems."

      This of yours is delusional.

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    14. Ava: Why? (Also, if you're going to bother posting and are interested in genuine discussion, I'd appreciate responses that are more than just rude one-liners.)

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    15. He seems like a troll, probably best to ignore him.

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    16. Adam

      I agree to discuss first principles and deduction with you if you want to.

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    17. I appreciate the offer, but I think I'll pass for now. I hadn't meant to get into a debate or anything like that. My only reason for commenting initially was to point out that there is more than one path to God, so to speak.

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    18. Hi Johnny,

      Thanks for the heads up. I'm new around here (though I've lurked for a couple years now) so I suppose I'll give people the benefit of the doubt :)

      Cheers,

      Adam

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    19. Adam, although I much prefer deductive approaches (which, by the way, you can accept even if you are less than certain of the premises - it's enough if you find premises to be very plausible), I agree that Swinburne's inductive case is very strong and is sometimes unfairly treated by classical theists.

      One need not agree with Swinburne's whole picture of God to appreciate his insights on the theoretical simplicity of theism; and his rigorous probabilistic arguments for God from order, consciousness and the interactions with matter, religious experience and more.

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    20. I'am much more on the deductive side too, but probabilistic arguments are really interesting yes, and they do work well with some people.

      Plantinga Reformed Epistemology is also very awesome, even if it hardly work as a argument to Theism.

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    21. One can use both deductive and inductive approaches to the question of God's existence, and enjoy the benefits of both. One can also enjoy the benefits of both probable and demonstrative arguments: an argument that starts with probable premises and reasons deductively from them is a good argument; that it arrives at conclusions that are only probable is not a defect as such, it only means that the conclusion is not proven demonstratively. And one can appreciate the deductive force of a proposed demonstration of the truth of God's existence even while admitting that, to you, the premises are still uncertainly true: you can say "I see some plausibility of the premises, but I am not confident that they are certainly true; but I accept that given the premises, the conclusion follows deductively." Thus for such a person, the proposed "demonstrative argument" winds up as a probable argument with the possibility of turning out to be a demonstrative argument, depending on whether he can eventually see that the premises are known and certain.

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    22. Hi Atno and Tony,

      I agree. I had mentioned that probability enters into the evaluation of the conclusion of deductive arguments. What I meant is that one's credence in the premises transfers to one's credence in the conclusion. A valid deductive argument with three independent premises, each of which I might be 90% confident in, will only give me a 72.9% (0.9^3) confidence in the conclusion (on the basis of that argument alone). The more premises one needs to accept (including background metaphysical principles and distinctions) the more my uncertainty compounds.

      But I value deductive arguments very much, I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. I think about it like a Bayesian: Deductive arguments alone don't *convince* some people (at least they don't convince me *on their own*) of the existence of God. But, deductive arguments get theism on the table as a serious possibility, i.e. they raise its prior probability to a non-negligible value. Then the inductive arguments confirm theism relative to atheism given the "evidence" (fine-tuning, regularity, argument from consciousness, from reason, mathematical elegance of laws of nature, religious experiences, etc.).

      That's how I think about it anyways.

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  8. Capturing Christianity recently hosted a debate between William Lane Craig and Graham Oppy on whether mathematics points to God.

    It'd be nice to see Feser and Craig on the same channel discussing their disagreements about math and other abstract objects.

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    1. I agree. I wonder if Feser would debate Craig.

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    2. I believe Dr. Craig does not debate other Christians, although it would be absoulutely fascinating to watch craig and feser discuss divine simplicity and realism.

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  9. I am looking forward to Feser tackling the Talmud and the Catholics' two rule:
    1) Do not harm them.
    2) Do not let them influence your culture or beliefs.

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  10. Is Dr. Feser currently writing a new book? What is it about and when will it be out?

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    1. I think his book on the soul is coming out next. Then a book on sexual morality and, after that, a book on why Catholicism is true.

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    2. Its dangerous to ask an author when he'll be finished writing his current book.


      But on the off chance Ed takes the plunge!

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  11. Interesting take on Aquinas's third way from Daniel Bonevac:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=186&v=x3xQwFIUJ80

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  12. I would recommend adding a link to William Lane Craig's recent conversation with atheist philosopher-in-training "CosmicSkeptic."

    It is a surprisingly good discussion, though somewhat amusing because Skeptic apparently thinks the way to avoid the conclusions of the Kalam is to adopt mereological nihilism. Ah yes, which shall I choose? Believing in the existence of God or denying the real existence of tables? Decisions, decisions...

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    1. On the whole, I think mereological nihilism is a pretty reasonable position given naturalism. Given 1) reductionism and 2) Occam's Razor, there's no reason to admit "tables" into your ontology, rather than "fermions and bosons arranged table-wise". Where the approach really falters, though, is in dealing with the mind, which (by categorizing a set of fermions and bosons as a "table") effectively grounds the existence of the table and other objects. Like in Ed's rug analogy, you can't use the mind to explain away the mind.

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    2. MN is reasonable when applied to artifacts, but when it is supposed to be adequate on human beings or biological organisms, it is no more reasonable than being truly skeptical about ones own existence. Which is just to say, it is stupid and must be avoided at all cost.

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    3. I like CosmicSkeptic. Shortly after the debate with Craig he made a video admitting that he previously misunderstood several aspects of the Kalam cosmological argument (although he didn't grant its soundness). Being able to admit when one is wrong is an admirable trait.

      What I like about mereological nihilism (and eliminative materialism for that matter) is they're probably the most *internally* coherent forms of naturalism (unlike other forms of "reductive" or "identity" or "emergent" materialisms that try to have it both ways). Although, I think both mereological nihilism and eliminative materialism are falsified by every moment of experience.

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  13. Ed -- I am hoping one day you will have time to respond to some of the critiques of classical theism advanced by Joe Schmid at Majesty of Reason. He makes some very cogent points, at least in my humble opinion. The classical theism podcast webpage (hosted by John DeRosa) posted a response to Schmid's initial article but it would be great to see how you would respond to some of his points. I think he's also working on publishing several articles that advance these critiques.

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    1. Gaven Kerr had a discussion with him.

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=a633NN2cMoE

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    2. Joe Schmid is writing 6 10,000 word papers repsonding to "Five Proofs". Joe's a smart guy so I'm sure he'll do a thorough job. It's a shame that Professor Feser is so busy that he wouldn't be able to respond for a while. However, I did read Joe's analysis of Aquinas' first way and I agreed with a lot of it (Joe actually defended the argument against a lot of criticisms). Yet he still rejected the argument based on the possibility of multiple unactualized actualizers and denying that an unactualized actualizer is Pure Act (I didn't find this part convincing). I wonder what Professor Feser would say in response.

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    3. So Joe Schmid is a Polytheist then?

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    4. Well, I'm not as sure of the Aristotelian proof as I am of the Leibnizian one (or the existentialist thomistic proof). I think the best argument for the First Cause's uniqueness is Avicenna's (Aquinas and others also defend it) which argues from the absurd bruteness that would result from two necessary natures necessarily conjoined to distinct attributes (to differentiate them). Don't think Schmid tackled this.

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    5. Schmid also had a discussion on Capturing Christianity: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rX6di0Au5Kg

      He does have some interesting points, it was a pretty good talk.

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  15. Ed, are you planning to tackle the arguments in the book 'The Unnecessary Science', an attack on natural law theory that includes some of your views?

    https://www.amazon.com/Unnecessary-Science-Critical-Analysis-Natural/dp/0993510264/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+unnecessary+science&qid=1597069550&sr=8-1

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  16. Dr Feser,

    Are you going to write a review on your discussion with Graham Oppy. I have listened to it numerous times now and it appears to me that Graham wants to posit Existential Inertia as a brute fact but doesn't want to take on the philosophical consequences that come with postulating brute facts. It seems every time you showed him that the conclusion was inevitable, that he would have to deny PNC at some point, he would change tact and try find another way of reaching his goal. While this is fine and philosophical discussions do normally proceed in this manner, by discursive thought, it just seemed that Graham was ultimately more committed to an a-priori idea then actually developing the argument and so the conversation devolved to the point where it felt like watching a man grab an electric fence at various locations thinking this time he's got the better of the situation. Amusing to watch at first but then you have to walk over sand say "its finished, just stop!"

    This is just my take on the conversation and I could be a million miles off but I was wondering if you have had time to think about it and give your own refection the discussion?

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  17. In a short time, I’ve become very impressed with Coleman Hughes. At the age of 24, he is well read and a very nuanced thinker. A breath of fresh air in a world of monomaniacs.

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  18. The article on the conservatism of George Will is worthwhile...to an extent. James Piereson successfully pokes some holes in Will's representation of conservatism, but he doesn't go far enough. The problem is that Will can only think back as far as Locke, and his conservatism is effectively classical liberalism. But true conservatism is deeper, and OLDER, than that, it is older than liberalism altogether. I discussed that in this post: http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2017/05/classical_liberalism_and_conse.html, wherein I show conservatism rooted in a natural law that precedes Locke's unfounded hypotheses about the social contract. That post was a follow-up to a much more principled definition of conservatism than anything Will can speak to as his "principled" conservatism, especially as Will explicitly rejects religion as any kind of a source of conservatism. But anyone with brains knows that IF THERE IS a God, what we owe to Him as our pious obedience flows downhill straight into filial piety and political piety - i.e. patriotism. Piety toward our nation and our polis (properly constrained by higher piety toward God) is not just an attitude, it is a virtue. And it need not be cashed out as feudal "king and..." whatever, if the polis is not a monarchy.

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  19. Michael Flynn on the Fermi Paradox? I can't wait to read the link. Flynn rulez! How do you not like a Catholic guy who writes plausibly hard science fiction that has freakin Krasnikov tubes in his Space Opera saga?

    Krasnikov Tubes Rule! They are way more awesome than Wormholes or Warp Drive!

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  20. Ed, to what extent would you credit the account in the American Mind article? It does feel very like a coup, but I'm more inclined to think it's a sort of inadvertent one than anything more conspiratorial. I'm English, and the crisis has been slightly less partisan here (though alas that's largely because both main parties seem to be toeing the line, at least for now).

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  21. Ed,
    Re your own article at The American Mind from July, on Plato's theories of democratic tyranny (or democracy leading to tyranny), what do you think of Plato's expectation that the tyrant who would emerge out of democratic decay would be 'a complete libertine who “combines the characteristics of drunkenness, lust, and madness,”' in light of historic examples such as Robespierre, Mao, and (I think?) Stalin, who were not themselves libertines and used their own ascetic character to their advantage?

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    1. I don't think Stalin could even remotely be considered to have arisen out of democratic decay. Robespierre didn't come to power because a formerly democratic regime went into decay, he came to power because a former monarchy was overthrown and there was a damn near anarchic vacuum of rule constituted by a cacophony of voices claiming rule. The 4 years preceding Robespierre's rise to the top were not "democratic decay". It was a "failed state" situation. Mao was pretty similar, in that the years before 1949 were a long-drawn civil war, and before that China was under the control of warlords and foreign powers, with only a very thin veneer of any democratically elected power.

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    2. 'a complete libertine who “combines the characteristics of drunkenness, lust, and madness,”'

      That wouldn't describe any current leaders, would it, with a name beginning with a T and ending with a rump?

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    3. Trump doesn't drink, will you ever educate yourself?

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  22. I just read "34 Solutions to the Paradox of Fermi" post. It's really good. Thanks for sharing all of this stuff.

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