Monday, September 1, 2008

The Last Superstition

I am pleased to announce that my book The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism will be published this October by St. Augustine's Press. Information about the book can be found here. I am honored to learn that it will receive a starred review in the October issue of Booklist. From the advance reviews:

"Anyone who comes away from The Last Superstition thinking that potboiler atheism has anything to recommend it, or that belief in God is irrational, will not be convinced by anything... If Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens were at all interested in a serious rebuttal, they now have it." David Oderberg, Professor of Philosophy, University of Reading

"A thoughtful and theologically sophisticated sally into the ranks of the New Atheism. Feser has written a lively and well-informed polemic... serious and passionately engaged..." Roger Kimball, co-editor and publisher, The New Criterion

"Feser provides persuasive arguments that show that God is knowable and that what is knowable is larger than the set of that which is empirically detectable. This is a tour de force that should be in the library of every thinking citizen, believer or unbeliever." Francis J. Beckwith, Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, Baylor University

"Feser gives the 'New Atheists' a dose of their own polemical medicine, but with a difference: Unlike them, he knows what he is doing. This rollicking counter-attack is learned, carefully reasoned, and philosophically astute." J. Budziszewski, Departments of Government and Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin, author of What We Can't Not Know: A Guide


  1. Hi Dr.Feser,

    Congratulations for your blog. I knew about it reading the excelent blog of the "maverick philosopher". I have interest in philosophy and other topics (parapsychology, psychology, etc.).

    Regarding the "new atheism", I read the excellent book of Vox Day titled "The irrational atheist". A free online version of that book can be read at:

    I hope to read your book on atheism very soon.

    Also, I have interest in philosophy of mind. Some time ago, I thought that materialism was the answer because I believed that materialism was founded on neuroscience; but recently, I've read good dualist arguments that convince me that materialism is flawed. Some of the best articles I've read are the following (that includes a response from a materialist philosopher):

    Those articles are a must read!

    Other very good articles on dualism are written by philosopher and parapsychologist Titus Rivas:

    For me, dualists have logically refuted the best arguments of materialists. However, I think the positive evidence for dualism comes from the experimental parapsychology (specially the near of death studies). This is why materialist try to debunk these researches.

    Some good criticism of the materialist/skeptical propaganda against spirituality, parapsychology, alternative scientific research and dualism can be read at:

    By the way, and touching other topics, I'm familiar with Ludwig von Mises' praxeology and the approach of austrian economics. While I'm not an expert in economics, I think von Mises' economic view is very interesting, and I also think that his economic argument against socialism is very interesting.

    Mises should be read by most philosophers and social scientists.

    But the austrian economist that I admire more is Bohm-Bawerk: he destroyed Marx's theory of value before the communist euphoria took the world. And most marxists don't know him.

    Sorry if my english is flawed, my original language is spanish.

    Best regards!!!

  2. Sounds like the book I've been waiting for! Congratulations, Prof. Feser. Very much enjoyed your book on the philosophy of mind, and am sure I will enjoy your new one as well.

  3. Thank you ZC and John. I hope you enjoy the book.

    ZC, you might look at the work of the philosopher Stephen E. Braude, who is one of the few serious philosophers to write on parapsychology in a way that is both sympathetic and rigorous.

  4. Vox Day also wrote this:

    As for dualism... uh, right. Anyone who buys into pschic power is a kook. Psychic is simply a more technobabble name for magic, but unlike magic, it doesn't have the decency to even pretend to be internally consistant.

    You do realize that near death experiences aren't arguments in favor of dualism? The fact of the matter is that the brain is working for those to happen. If the brain dies, you don't get a NDE- you get a vegatable.

  5. Samuel,

    Dualism has no necessary connection whatsoever to "psychic powers" or to parapsychology -- certainly not in Plato, Aquinas, Descartes, or any other prominent historical or contemporary defender of dualism within philosophy, and certainly not in my own work either. I do not say that one couldn't make a case for such things -- hence the reading suggestion I made to ZC -- but my own favored arguments for dualism do not appeal to such considerations. See my book Philosophy of Mind, and much of the second half of The Last Superstition, for the sorts of arguments I would defend.

  6. I was refering to a statement the person made in the link.

    All arguments for dualism run into Occum's Razor. Tell me why your is any differant?

  7. Samuel,

    Well, no they don't, actually. Ockham's razor is relevant only to probabilistic hypotheses of a scientific or quasi-scientific sort that put forward a purported "best explanation" among various possible alternatives. But the main arguments for dualism are not like that. They are attempts at strict metaphysical demonstration, on which, given the premises, the conclusion follows necessarily. Dualism, so the arguments purport to show, is the only possible position. In this way the arguments are analagous to (though not exactly like) geometrical proofs. And as with purported geometrical proofs, the only way to refute them would be to show either that a premise is false or that the resaoning involved is not deductively valid. Considerations about greater simplicity, explanatory power, etc. are simply irrelevant. It's a different kind of reasoning altogether.

    Since the sorts of arguments I have in mind are too complicated to state in a comment to a blog post, and since I've written on them at length in both the books I mentioned, I'll simply direct you to those. For a brief introduction, see especially chapters 6 and 7 of Philosophy of Mind, which gives an overview of some key arguments that show (in my view) that it is in principle impossible to explain either our capacity for abstract thought, or intentionality in general, in purely materialistic terms.

  8. Very exciting to see a response to the "New Atheists" that is philosophically/theologically rigorous and serious. I look forward to reading the book! Congrats & best wishes. -Stephen

  9. Hi Dr.Feser,

    Thanks for the recommendation of Dr.Braude, I've read some of his books.

    Another two philosophers working in the philosophical implations of psi research are David Ray Griffin and Neal Grossman (in the past, William James, Curt Ducasse and C.D.Broad had interest in it too).

    On philosophy of mind, Griffin wrote a book titled "Unsnearling the world-knot", where he argues for an alternative to materialism and dualism (and give solid criticism to both positions). The book is available here:;;doc.view=print

    For the record, my point wasn't that dualism depended of psi research (in fact, current philosophers such as Dr.Feser, Dr.John Foster and David Lund don't support dualism based upon the existence of "psychic powers")

    My point was that some phenomena studied by psi research offers (if such phenomena are true) an empirical confirmation of dualism, because some of them (if they exist) can't be explained (only) in materialistic terms.

    I do believe that some cases of NDE's support dualism, and can't be explained by materialism:

    So, I do believe that empirical evidence for psi can be useful to philosophy of mind. For example, epiphenomenalism is refuted by psychokinesis (if the latter exist).

    Keep in mind that the above arguments are conditionals (if X, then Y).

    But as I accept some of the evidence for psi, I consider materialism refuted in empirical grounds alone. However, who doesn't accept that evidence or consider it insufficent, could read the philosophical arguments for dualism and against materialism given in the current dualist literature (e.g. the book of Dr.Feser).


  10. That the lack of something cannot be seen as contrasting with anything in particular should be obvious, but believers find that irritatingly hard to see. You may contrast a belief in the Bible with belief in any other collection of what is claimed to be final truths, and call those other variants atheism, but then the word a-theism loses meaning. Then superstition is contrasted with superstition.

    A true atheist would say that nothing is to be known but functioning methods, always replaceable by better functioning ones, that there is no elevated entity, no one that can be correct beyond the tried functionality of their suggested methods. Paraphrasing Heraclitus: “Listen not to Aristotle, Marx, Einstein, Hawkins or Jesus - only to what they say.”

    The problem with belief is that everything is done by humans with the purpose of bettering their situation, and one subjugating herself to authority must therefore be in expectance of favours, which practically means antagonism towards non-followers insofar as these can be feared usurping ones membership in the favour deserving group.

    And when favours are not forthcoming as proof of ones deservedness, or their eventual final deliverance for some reason can be doubted, contradistinctive punishment of the undeserving will most naturally be demanded. Whether the judicial powers then are all human, or are led by celestials, is then, to the victims and us atheists, a perfectly pointless question.

    To an atheist all people are factually atheists. The relevant difference therefore may be between those who claim that all relevance is either inherent in an expression, as usability, or else is representing a demand upon the reception of favours from someone with dominative powers, and those who can claim there is another option, or will refuse to take the point.

  11. I'm late to the game on The Last Supersition, but apparently I'm far from alone.

    The first chapter, "Bad Religion" is excellent, and could easily be expanded into an entire book. I have 90 notes from it. I don't agree with every single point, but what I disagree with is minor and consists only of a few points about terms.

    The main heavy metal show begins at "Consider a triangle" on page 32. In just three pages, I already see a solution to a problem I had with abstract objects, and the material is applicable to a lot more than what's stated.

    I realize now that much of the criticism of the book both on this blog and on Amazon is by people who have not even read the book or else only browsed the preview.

    Anyone who has a serious interest in philosophy of religion in general, or a specific interest in Thomism and the whole God debate *must* read this book to be fully informed. Certainly one of the clearest and most well-written treatises in the history of Thomism, with the unexpected bonus of an engaging fast-paced style.

    I had wondered whether the book could actually deliver the goods promised in the first chapter. As of the second chapter, there is no more question. To anyone who wants to keep up with the philosophical debate about God: get this book asap and read it carefully several times (at least).