Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The sordid topic of Coyne

I could not resist the paraphrase of Isabella Rossellini in Death Becomes Her. Beyond that, I’m not sure it’s worth saying more than I already have on the subject of Jerry Coyne’s unfortunate recent forays into theology. Vis-à-vis matters philosophical, Coyne speaks neither with knowledge nor, it seems, in good faith. But some of his critics speak with both. Check out this post by Brandon Watson and this post by James Chastek.


  1. This is a dumb question, but since I'm an amateur at best at philosophy: Cleanthes, clearly, is not advancing a thomist argument in the section discussed, right? It seems like something else.

    Another question for Brandon, if he's reading: I know you say that the bigger problem here is that Coyne doesn't even understand Hume. But does he seem to understand Aquinas in your view?

  2. I admit I had to buy Adler's book on "Aristotle For Everyone" to help me understand in a more dumbed down way the relationship between Form vs Matter and Actuality vs Potency.

    I don't think Coyne did even that. He like some of Dr. Feser's simple minded New Atheist critics (at least some of the ones I've read here)is merely recycling his old "one size fits all" anti-ID polemic.

    ID seems to be based on Machinist Philosophy & not Thomism.

  3. Anonymous,

    Not dumb questions at all; I think they lie at the heart of the matter.

    (1) You're quite right: Cleanthes is not advancing a Thomist argument. It was an argument that was popular among Newtonians when Hume was writing (Cleanthes's version is in some cases verbally similar to that of Colin Maclaurin, the major Newtonian at the University of Edinburgh when Hume was attending). The Newtonians, of course, were enthusaists for the design arguments, and this design argument is not a Thomistic argument, having no parallel in Thomas.

    (2) He doesn't understand Aquinas; he conflates Aquinas's arguments with completely different arguments (like Cleanthes's in Hume's dialogue) and is unaware of the fact that Aquinas actually gives arguments for the fact that the series of causes has to stop an uncaused cause rather than infinitely regressing. But I also think he was just using Aquinas as name to peg the argument on, rather than anything else.

  4. Cleanthes does advance a version of the Teleological argument, or Design so-called. Aquinas did offer a version of the T-Argument himself (#5 in 5 ways, I believe).

    Alas, Brandon (and Herr Feser) show that they have not mastered Hume (or Philo's) objections to the T-argument of Cleanthes, who likens the world to a machine, and the machine-maker must have a Mind, like a human, but far vaster. That in itself is merely analogy--akin to the Watchmaker (as Dennett pointed out in his DDI--Dennett is not one of my gurus--but quite astute on the shortcomings of Design) .

    The claim that "Design implies Mind" itself not really warranted--. Hume/Philo also questions the relevance of the machine-analogy itself (is organic life a clock-like machine? doubtful)--and points out the anthropomorphism.

    The point on the regression of Mind-creators does relate to first cause hype however. The problem of priority still applies to a supposed primum mobile, even if only Mind. Why is the Being who supposedly sets matter into motion outside of Time, and himself not subject to another cause? It's merely stipulated.

    Cleanthes accepts some eternal mind--then why not an infinite series of events (and Cleanthes does not at all address why/how matter appears ex nihilo--that will have to wait until Steve Hawking & Co).

    So Cleanthes's views represent the mythological assumptions made by theologians, about the equivalent of saying since the marbles roll, there must be a Marble Shooter (and that sort of marbles-causality was quite modified by Einstein and quantum physics). Plausible perhaps, but hardly necessary.

    So, however un-subtle Coyne may be, he was correct that Hume had effectively addressed many of the problems with the Design argument, as have others (Russell expands upon Hume's points via the 2nd law of thermodynamics---the Being must be fond of entropy, more or less).

  5. No, J, again you're speaking of things of which you have no knowledge. The fifth way is not a design argument; it's an argument about the preconditions for efficient causation. You are conflating two different meanings of 'final cause', the one common in the thirteenth century and the one that became common in the Renaissance with the revival of Epicureanism.

    Likewise, you have a superficial reading of Hume. The account of analogy in Treatise 1.3.12 prevents Hume from doing what you are saying he does: analogies cannot be refuted unless they can be reduced to an attempt to draw an analogy between nothing and something. Instead they can be weakened and strengthened without ever being refuted. And Hume can't dismiss an analogy as merely analogy because his entire project is built on analogy: he explicitly states this more than once in the Treatise. It's not surprising why: his account makes analogy a way in which we take diverse kinds of cases and subsume them under general laws, and subsumption of cases under ever more general laws is, for Hume, how we make progress in explanation. Because Hume approaches the question with a sophisticated account of how analogy works, his argument is sophisticated, and far more devastating to analogy-based design arguments than your absurd nonsense. If you'd like, I can provide precise textual references for every one of these facts about Hume; don't confuse your own muddled imaginings with Hume's sophisticated reasoning.

  6. J sez:
    Why is the Being who supposedly sets matter into motion outside of Time, and himself not subject to another cause? It's merely stipulated.

    As I've heard it, it is a conclusion, not a stipulation. To keep it short and within the parameters of the question, assume, secundum argumentum, that a First "Mover" has been established. And keep in mind that "motion" is any change from potential to actual. Now, the First Mover must be purely Actual. Otherwise, it would have a potency which could be moved to actuality. But nothing potential can move itself, since that which is potentially is not actually, and something which is not actually cannot act. (If'n it don't exist yet, it cain't do nuthin'.) Therefore, it would have to be moved by another. But then it would not be the First Mover, a contradiction. Modus tollens.

    Such a being, being pure Act - existence itself - must exist outside of space-time. Matter is itself the principle of change. Everything made of matter is changeable, and the measure of change is called "time." But a being which is pure Act does not change and must therefore be immaterial and not subject to time.
    + + +
    And Hawking did not establish how something could come from nothing. The vacuum is not nothing. It is a vacuum. A quantum state is not nothing. It is a quantum state.

  7. Wrong. Argument Five is a teleological argument--not exactly in the same form as what it is now, but certainly teleological (as in dealing with Final Cause, and design--)--the archer directs the arrow, yada yada. Even the papists grant that. A rather major oversight on your part.

    Your Ad Auctoritas are even more egregious than Herr Feser's--then you seem to think Hume was a believer, so sort of par for the course.

    Hume/Philo does not accept Cleanthes argument--he rejects the analogy as a whole, not to say the entire unsubstantiated, anthropomorphic premise that "Design implies Mind." Philo merely suggests the possibility (but not cogency) of Cleanthes's points. Philo/Hume objections are consistent with the rest of Hume's proto-positivistic points from the Enquiry (ie matters of fact, and relations of ideas). His brief discussion of analogy is not relevant (in fact, he was discussing analogy in terms of probability, not theology or metaphor).

  8. You know, usually Perezoso/J just manages to get people off topic with his insults and ranting. But man, is it fun to see this guy getting exposed, repeatedly, as not really having a clue of what he's babbling about.

    Thank you all! This is comedy gold.

  9. You're comedy gold, Anny the Baptist. Not to say a coward.

    And in fact, Brandon IS completely confused about Hume's DONR: for one, Philo spends paragraphs pointing out the absurdity of Cleanthe's Discovery Institute-like bogus analogy. He doesn't buy it--he offers a reductio like demolishing of it (ie accepts it for sake of argument, and then points out away).

    Hume's point on matters of fact, and relations of ideas are themselves contra-theology--as Carnap realized. You're just making sh*t up-.

    The Faithiests are under the gun-- hence, the predictable resentment, and xtian pep rally .

  10. We're under the gun alright! Coyne, Harris and the rest came out swinging against Francis Collins, out and out furious that a CHRISTIAN would be made head of the NIH. Wielding their collective might to try and block his appointment!

    How many senators did they get voting against him again? *lol*

    You're funny, J. Especially with regards to your knowledge of Hume. I'm half waiting for you to gripe about how his biggest mistake was when he accepted that job at Fox News.

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  12. You don't know jack about Hume--he insists on empirical knowledge (matters of fact), and logic/math (relations of ideas), for one. Not on theology, or metaphor, or ancient metaphysical speculations. Feser has attacked him at times (pretty good evidence Hume's no fundie, or religious at all, or even a metaphysicist. Hume opposed metaphysics).

    For that matter, Brandon merely cherry-picks from DONR. It's not about Cleanthes'--Cleanthes is a buffoon. Philo is the main figure of the Dialogue, and the rationalist. .

    Brandon's about like someone who views Iago as the hero of Othello, and quotes him at length, when in fact Othello's about.....Othello. Iago's just a villain. Cleanthes is the butt of Philo's jokes, though Hume is playing nicely (too nicely, said Dennett, and others

  13. J said: "You're comedy gold, Anny the Baptist. Not to say a coward."

    How is posting a comment under the name "Anonymous" any different--or more "cowardly"--than posting one under the nom de blog "J"? Is "J" your full name, sir? Are you like the artist (formerly known as) Prince, whose brilliance can be contained by no title or Christian name but only within the inscrutable squiggle of a solitary symbol? As you cruise philosophy and religious-based blogs, smiting the believers with your trade-marked blend of inept logic and ceaseless ad-hominem's, do you sport a bright red "J" emblazoned across your chest?

    Dr. Feser, I am a regular reader of your blog who purchased "The Last Superstition" and enjoyed it immensely. It did for me something that far too many books claim to do but never actually deliver--it challenged many of my core assumptions about the world gave me a new (or, perhaps I should say, Old) perspective on such questions as morality and the philosophy of mind. It literally changed the way I think. Upon my second read-through of the text, I began to visit this blog daily.

    In that time, I've watched "J" flail and sputter and generally make an ass of himself on a semi-monthly basis. His pattern is as follows: address the topic of the blog-post somewhat civilly, be countered by one of your other commentators, respond with an increasingly illogical and ill-tempered series of comments, and then finally descend into a red haze of invective and ad-hominen attacks. As I recall, he once even challenged another commentator to a boxing match! And his "Her Doktor" shtick is both stupid and incredibly vile.

    So please Dr. Feser, do this regular and somewhat comment-shy reader a favor: Ban this troll!

    P.S. To ward off charges of cowardice, I shall post this comment under 52.62% of my real name.

  14. >it challenged many of my core assumptions about the world gave me a new (or, perhaps I should say, Old) perspective on such questions as morality and the philosophy of mind. It literally changed the way I think.

    I reply: Amen to that! Bertram Russell said that there are three accounts that explain the origin of the Universe. First One “God caused it”. Second One “The Universe always Existed” and the Third One “The Universe came into Existence Without a Cause”. Until I read Dr. Feser’s book I always assumed both the Second One & the Third One implied Atheism & at best the Second One implied Pantheism. Now I see the Second One can lend itself to Theism just as forcefully. In fact if I believe Aristotle and Aquinas (& I do) and understanding the Five Ways much better than I did (I too had that neo-Paley understanding that “J” seems to filter threw his thought processes) and understanding the role of potency and actuality I now have trouble conceiving of the Second One as being in anyway compatible with Pantheism much less Atheism.

    God bless you Dr. Feser, you have greatly improved the way I intellectually think of God.

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  16. Your fee-wings hurt, Anny the stalker? Some of us don't attend sunday school.

    Step in a ring, coward. Capiche, puta? Legal proper, altar boy style if you like. You don't even know what this is about. Just another cowardly pseudo-xtian.

    I haven't lost any argument. The supposed Teleological argument is not necessarily true (it's an analogy of sorts--not supported by evidence). Theological arguments don't prove anything, at least not in the way dogmatists think they do (Carnap and Co, following Hume, said they were all meaningless).

    And any Designer designs plagues, quakes, nazis, stalinists, BushCo--rather good reason to question the hypothesis. Maybe you should read Voltaire's Candide before Doc Feser's Magnum Opus.

    I don't pretend to have mastered the scholastic phonebook--don't feel a need to. Look under "Flying Monks" for Aquinas, however. At times, St.Tom supposedly took a brief glide or two outside the convent. Halleloojah.

  17. Believe it or not, the above comment was actually posted by "J". It is not some clever attempt at satire on my part to mock, "style". Get some help, buddy--you need it.

  18. You need help "Anny." In fact, when Feser's subpoena'd by the LA DA for like his "alleged" neo-nazi connections, you'll probably need an attorney.

    AS I said, you don't understand the arguments, and are merely chiming in with the Dogma-cheks.

    Now, check out those links the Flying Saints! (which included Aquinas, ptolemaist--ie, he did not accept copernicus-- and also an astrologer! wow.)

  19. Copernicus was born over two hundred years AFTER Aquinas's death, and his astronomy was not wholly confirmed until optics had advanced enough to allow Bessel to view a stellar parallax in the mid-nineteenth century. You, sir, are a blithering idiot who is unworthy of any further response.

  20. Of course Hume lived in the 1700's & science wouldn't empirically prove helocentracism till the
    1900's when Foucault(a Catholic) used his pendulum to prove that fact.

    Thus using J's "reasoning" (so called) we can dismiss Hume's philosophy because he likely held some faulty understanding of science of his day that we know today is wrong.

    BTW the Ovum was't discovered till the 19th century either. Thus it is not logical to assume Hume believed in the theory of ovarium conception. Thus he held a faulty understanding of the facts of natural science & thus by J's "standard" his philosophy must be bunk. Just like Aquinas & Aristotle's metaphysical reasoning must be wrong because of their faulty natural science.

    Now I have two questions for J. What kind of drugs are you on & where can I score some?

  21. Flying Saints: Aquinas, and the Ontology of Christian Levitation. Feiser Von, Edvard.

    Por favor, Maestro Feser, a brief post on St. Tom's aviation skills.


  22. Thanks, Conor and BenYachov. J, usually your rants are just too off-the-wall to be offended by, but the sheer volume of them is getting annoying. I appreciate the fact that, in the past, you have reduced the number and vehemence of your comments when asked to do so. Please do so again. For everyone else, do keep in mind that if you choose to engage in an exchange with J, you should not be surprised by what you get in response.

  23. The catholic church did not even acknowledge Copernicus until what, the 18th century or so (though protestants also opposed Copernicus). The point is merely that Aquinas comes from a pre-copernican, pre-galillean, pre-newtonian age (a point Kant reminds us of as well). The discoveries of modern science do have a bearing--an important bearing--on philosophy, or what is taken to be philosophy (and it as philosophy Aquinas should be read--not theological dogma).

    Aquinas not only upheld astrology, ptolemy, and belief in the supernatural (witches, warlocks, ghosts, etc), he and his Dominican-gang supported inquisition-like measures (ie torture, burning at the stake, excommunication, etc). The papist miracle-business indeed exploited the poor and gullible (see Fatima for further examples).

    Google something like "Giordano Bruno's execution" for an example of how the Church formerly treated free-thinkers who dared to challenge the Angelic Doctor on the Five ways.

  24. You're off the wall, Frater Feser: quoting astrologers and soothsayers, when people used to mistake you for an analytical philosopher.

    Nada mas que Ad Auctoritas.

  25. >The point is merely that Aquinas comes from a pre-copernican, pre-galillean, pre-newtonian age (a point Kant reminds us of as well).

    I reply: Yet both Kant & Hume are from a pre-Darwinian, Pre-Einstein, Pre-Lamatrian(Fr. Lamatre was one of the discoverers of the Big Bang), Pre-Planck, Pre-Heisenberg age.

    As such they had primitive unscientific minds & thus we can dismiss their metaphysics on the same grounds.

    DUDE! You must be soooo high right now..........stop being a Playa hater & tell us who your dealer must be some premo s*** your smoking!

    Gotta score some!


  26. J, you've referred to Newton on this blog a number of times, correct? Now, would it be fair to say, "Ah, you can't take J seriously: he regularly references alchemists"? I hope you'd agree that it would of course be ridiculous, since you were referring to Newton's science. But isn't it then clear that it's ridiculous to associate Professor Feser with ancient and medieval science and politics when he's discussing ancient and medieval philosophy?

    And of course, science does inform philosophy (just as philosophy informs science), but it's not at all the case that if S's science is incorrect, S's philosophy is incorrect. You'd have to show -- preferably with an ***argument*** (which I only mention because of your obvious aversion to presenting arguments: ya know, with premises and conclusions and stuff) -- that S's specific philosophical conclusion rests on some specific false scientific premise(s). (Even then it still may be the case, of course, that the philosophic conclusion is true, but minimally you'd have provided an undercutting defeater for S's argument; in other words, you wouldn't have provided a rebutting defeater for the philosophic conclusion merely by demonstrating that it rests on false scientific premises -- something you seem constantly to miss).

    So, J (and I ask this with Professor Feser's admonition in mind): *do you have an actual ***argument*** to present on any of the points you've raised*, or will you continue merely to 'point out' such and such, with no more support than allusion (often, as Brandon has pointed out, with completely irrelevant, mistaken and sometimes incoherent allusions)and derision?

  27. Actually, BenY , Heisenberg did pretty much dismiss all metaphysics (including catholics, Inc, and Kant), except for the logical positivists. Someone might remind Feser of that.

    At least Kant understood Newton fairly well. (Aquinas was still wrestling with like Euclid--even his reading of Maestro Aristotle questionable).

  28. but it's not at all the case that if S's science is incorrect, S's philosophy is incorrect.

    It certainly is if S is making claims about physical reality, as Aquinas was (using the ancient billiard ball causality of Aristotelian physics).

    For that matter, according to more positivist-minded philosophers (from Hume to Carnap, Quine & Co), philosophers exist to help clarify scientific language and statements, and there is nothing known as metaphysics, per se. Knowledge relates to either Matters of fact (natural sciences), or relations of ideas (math/logic) as Hume claimed.

    For Quine--naturalist par exemple-- that's reduced pretty much to matters of fact. (actually I object to Quinean reductionism, but establishing sound arguments contra WVOQ's naturalism is another matter).

    And Coyne 's obviously in the naturalist tradition--it's not his burden to prove G*d exists or Soul or any religious metaphysics--it's the theists'.

  29. >or will you continue merely to 'point out' such and such, with no more support than allusion (often, as Brandon has pointed out, with completely irrelevant, mistaken and sometimes incoherent allusions)and derision?

    I reply: Looks like he will be doing that based on his latest response.

  30. Profesor Feser, you should to activate the "moderation" option for the comments.

    People who likes philosophy read your blog because your posts and some commenters of the posters are thoughful and instructive, regardless of whether one agree with them or not.

    But if you leave open the comments option, trolls and flamers will destroy the blog.

    Trolling and flaming is almost an online disease. It's good to know something about the psychology of these people:

    Your blog doesn't deserve to be undermined by trolls and their irrelevant polemics.

    It downgrades the quality of your blog.

    Just another anonymous....

  31. Many years ago I had a student who was notorious for pestering all the philosophy professors and talking their ears off, and yet never sticking to the point, never presenting a coherent chain of argument, constantly changing the subject abruptly and bringing in irrelevancies from way out in left field, etc. etc. Not a malicious kid -- even likable in a goofball sort of way -- but ultimately quite tiresome.

    Exasperated, I once asked him what the point of all his logorrhea was, since he obviously wasn't interested in a real discussion. He answered: "For me, philosophy is all about random thoughts." (As another professor summed him up, "That kid has a mess where a mind should be.")

    J... that wasn't you, was it? 'Cause it's deja vu all over again. (That's Yogi Berra I'm quoting, of course. And I'm sure you'll soon fill us all in on Berra's views on alchemy, metaphysics, Vichy France, etc.)

  32. "It certainly is if S is making claims about physical reality, as Aquinas was"

    J, let me ask you a simple logic 101 question to clarify the point I was making: Are there arguments with false premises and true conclusions? Of course there are. So, by showing that a philosophic argument contains a false scientific premise (and you haven't even done this much work yet: all you've done is claim that S's science in general was false), you haven't thereby shown that the philosophic conclusion it supports is false. Again, you'd have to provide an argument to show that it cannot be the case (or that it's probably not the case) that the scientific premise is false and the philosophic premise true (or, though this doesn't seem to be your way of approaching these issues, some independent argument against the philosophic conclusion) -- and this will require a lot more work than merely pointing out the fact that so and so's science was wrong, and thus concluding that his philosophy was wrong. You have to make the connection explicit with an argument, which, as I've said, you've consistently failed to provide (with respect to every issue I've seen you attempt to address).

  33. Hello Anonymous,

    J is the only real troll right now, he has responded well to my warnings in the past, and I'm giving him a chance now to respond well again. If he doesn't, I will follow your advice.

    Again, though, I don't see why people who find him annoying keep taking the bait. Most of his comments are responses to other people's responses to him. I prefer as far as possible that these things be allowed to take care of themselves -- as they mostly will if people are judicious about who they interact with and who they choose to ignore.

  34. "Again, though, I don't see why people who find him annoying keep taking the bait."

    Hello Ed,

    Perhaps your friend Bill Vallicella has shed some light on this phenomenon here. ;)

  35. Dr. Feser,

    It's clear J hasn't really read TLS. IMHO he is just offering the usual New Atheist drivel that might cheese off some of the ID neo-Paley crowd but is irrelavent to a Thomist proper.

    He reminds me of what you said about Dawkins' confusing physics with Metaphysics.

    Where is Jamie Lee to put Otto the Ape in his place when you need her?

    He's like the anti-Catholic fundamentalist I've argued with who insists the Catholic Church teaches "Salvation by your own works alone" even after I quoted session six Canon One which explicitly excomunicates persons who profess that. Why does he believe that? His latest issue of Chick comics says so.

    Why does J confuse Aristotle's metaphysics with his physics? My guess is Harris, Hitchens & Dick told him so.
    Either that or he is a former fan of the Rationalist response squad.

    I can't wait to see what nonsense he will post next.

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  37. You'll be laughing soon, fundies (uh, theology is NOT philosophy, lo siento. Even Kant said that--as have about all philosophers apres-Kant).

    Sammy Harris and gang got Herr Doktor Feser's number btw, and his little Intro to Vichy-Thomism schtick may be ending, pronto. Too bad you never quite made it to Verification 101 (even to criticize it)

    Now, back to those Flying Saints, miracles, Holy Maria, the sacred ritz, and a few Auto de Fe's. That's catholic "philosophy".

  38. And any Designer designs plagues, quakes, nazis, stalinists, BushCo--rather good reason to question the hypothesis.

    Still no clue as to what 'design' means. This is the 'draftsman at a drafting table' image. It is part and parcel of the fundamentalist mindset that science gave rise to.

  39. The confused student must be you, Feser.

    Coyne says teleological arguments are BS, and points out (correctly) that Hume and many others (ie Russell, and lately Dennett) have taken them apart. Yet you insist, contra-science, evolution, and really empiricism as a whole, that a monotheistic, judeo-christian God exists (itself not at all provable via empiricism or logic), and that He controls all of time and history, and approves of plagues, predators, natural disasters, etc. What a laugh--inferences and analogy are not valid argument. Then I doubt you've ever made it through the cliffsnotes of Candide, much less Hume's DONR.

    You're no philosopher, Ed. You're a rightwing salesman, now using ancient theological talking points to help sell your rightist, Roody Guiliani agenda.

  40. Hi Eric,

    Well, Bill went from fairly open comments to heavily moderated comments to no comments. And while I understand his reasons, I think many readers -- including me -- miss his comments section. I'd rather not follow that road, especially since there are anonymous commenters here who make a worthwhile contribution.

    The way I see it, trolls are just a fact of life here in the blogosphere. And in most cases, if you see one, the solution is just to ignore him and move on. Occasionally you might also want to clean up his messier droppings (i.e by deleting particularly obnoxious comments), but mostly they are few and far between and you can easily step around them.

    But if instead you stop and feed the troll, and keep doing so every time he wants you to, you shouldn't be surprised if he keeps coming back and making a mess of the place.

    My request to those frustrated with some particular commenter, then, is this: "Please don't feed the trolls." Do your part, I'll keep the electronic pooper-scooper handy on my end, and we'll see how it goes...

  41. Well, J certainly was polite enough to make the decision easy :-)

  42. I'd guess at one reason it's difficult to not respond to the troll: Because it's not uncommon for people to have problems understanding what Aquinas and Aristotle meant on teleology, God, etc. Most who have read up on the subject and cares about it will want to help clear up misconceptions, or at least engage serious questioning.

    Unfortunately, J/Perezoso doesn't care about that. More than once he's gotten backed into a corner and flat out admitted that, well, okay, maybe these arguments for God DO work but if they do it doesn't get you to Christianity! (Surprise! This is admitted by the proponents of these arguments.) He shows up because he feels he has to say something, ANYthing, because he associates God and theism with politics he hates, and therefore it's his relativistic duty to oppose. (Not to be intellectually effective, mind you. Just oppose.)

    Why do you think he resorts to insults, lies, even outright physical threats so quickly, so often (Boxing, lol)? Because it's not about the philosophy, the quality of arguments, or reason at all. It's about opposing, period.

    Anyway, it's Prof Feser's blog, he can keep around who he likes. But just to remind: Victor Reppert banned J/Perezoso from his blog. Reppert allows plenty of critics, even some aggressive critics, to his blog. Bill Valicella has marvelled at Reppert's restraint. It did not last with Perezoso, because it's very hard to ignore someone who will constantly whip out insults, lies, and easily corrected (that's part of the bait) inanities.

    Que sera, sera.

  43. OTOH maybe I'm wrong.

    Sounds like someone might have read TLS & is VERY threatened by it.

  44. Hey Eric re yr fave Logic 101 chestnuts. Maybe you recall that arguments depend on premises. What happens when you use a name, say, Thor, and then make an existence claim such that "Thor exists" as a premise (even before we get to a formal argument).

    Without actually proving that Thor--not the Thor-concept-- indeed exists in physical, observable reality (like say the Statue of Liberty exists, or Dick Cheney exists) that proposition is meaningless. It's unconfirmable. Not true. Yet that is what faithiests do everyday.

    You insist an unobservable, unverifiable Being exists (rather Thor like--"God" being a germanic word--not the same as "Deus"), and indeed predicate on said Being (He is good, monotheistic, all powerful, infinite, etc) without knowing anything at all about him. You confuse a metaphor with actual reality. Your God-idea (or Designer-idea) is not at all a God.

  45. Hi, Ed, I think the reason that people have a compulsion to respond to trolls is simply that people (honest people, anyway) have a desire for other people to know the truth.

    There's the worry that, if false information is left unaddressed, then passersby who might not know the subject matter well will be misled, and will conclude that the false claims were unanswered because they couldn't be answered.

    This isn't so problematic when the information you believe to be false is coming from someone who has an honest disagreement with you, and who argues in good faith. You know that it will take both of you some time and thought to work out your replies.

    But it's extremely obnoxious when you're dealing with a troll, who spews out lies and spurious claims faster than he can think. Even if his falsehoods are easy to rebut, it still takes more time and effort to do so than it takes him to generate them (which is to say, basically none). It's annoying to think that you're doing more work than some jerk who doesn't even care about the truth, just to clear the air.

    At this point, I think it's clear even to a layman observer on the specific topic at hand (which I am, to an extent) that J is way out of his depth, and that he has completely imploded and been reduced to sputtering rage. But it took a lot of work by several people to get him there.

  46. Unable to be confirmed != Untrue.

    Unable to be observed in physical reality != Non-existent. (Man, what science would be if THAT were the case. Not to mention the hilarious effect it would have on philosophy.)

    The qualities of God are not taken as axiomatic, they are argued for (and powerfully so). Indeed, if one is going to argue that evils in the world count as evidence against a quality (goodness, in this case), then the goods in the world become evidence for that quality.

  47. You're a Troll, clown.

    Roody Guiliani-ism is not philosophy, nor logic. Even if blessed by a few papists. Aquinas's dominican agit-prop is not philosophy. Nor is Garrigou-Lagrange's bizarre vichy scholasticism.

    You won't be teaching in public schools, soon, Edvard.

  48. Unable to be observed in physical reality != Non-existent.

    Actually observable-ness and testable-ness rather key to success in physical sciences. Sort of what researchers do everyday--not to say detectives.
    With Dominicans in the courtroom, who needs evidence rules however? Guilty for not taking the sacred ritz.

    Like Feser, you don't quite understand Evidentialism either. See Clifford's classic essay--though it might be too much for your sunday schooler brain.

  49. Sorry J. Unobservable in physical reality != Non-existent. That's why indirect inference is so key in many of the sciences (Dark energy? Dark matter? Common descent?) But if you allow indirect inference, guess what you're allowing? UH-OH.

    By the way, why not go off on your global warming rant again? I love that one!

  50. Ladies & Gentileman we give you J the Fundamentalist Atheist & like all fundies he has neither fun nor mental.

  51. Dark matter dude!

    In fact, the AGW issue is all about observable evidence and data, dimwit. Ive never claimed Gore was correct in all the details--they have yet to prove CO2 as the sole culprit. Then you don't know margin of error from those old metaphysics texts.

    You simply don't know what this is about. Theists and design quacks make the outrageous claims. Even if one disagrees with a Dawkins' style, he sticks to the facts.

  52. Yr lying again Benji--Im strongly agnostic--have not made a claim of atheism. But intelligent people certainly realize that Believers--whether judeo or xtian--have no compelling arguments for their monotheistic faith. Really no arguments at all, except via dogma.

    You sound like one of Feser's neo-con pals, maybe from Right Reason!. Good ju-xtian RealPolitik, from Fese-land.

  53. By the way, why not go off on your global warming rant again?

    Followed by:
    In fact, the AGW issue is all about observable evidence and data, dimwit.

    Heh, looks like he even takes requests!

  54. According to you, J, they have yet to prove there's even a warming trend! Bwahahaha.

    By the way, absolutely LOVE the royal "we". "We at contingencies." We? You and your freaking gato?

  55. Oh great, J is one of those wags who goes on about how he's not not NOT an atheist! He makes no positive claims! But man, does he know how God would act, or what God would do, or what evidence for God would look like, and.. etc, etc.

    What a surprise. It's yet another aspy case who got ahold of a keyboard. Now you know why the guy is able to visit blog after blog and reply to comments all day: He has no job. (His blog is amazing. The guy hates everyone. Democrats, republicans, environmentalists, religious. He even rags on materialists! But I love that royal We all the same.)

  56. Anon:
    What a surprise. It's yet another aspy case who got ahold of a keyboard.... His blog is amazing. The guy hates everyone.

    I just visited it, out of morbid curiosity. I think you're right about him having Asperger's or some other mental problem. Lots of long, bizarre, contradictory, often incoherent rants to himself.

    And if you descend into the comments, it becomes clear that he is seriously unbalanced mentally, as are most of his commenters (all three or so), and that he frequently talks with himself or uses his own comments to make really weird replies to other insane people on other blogs. A few characteristic examples:

    So, guys, I think there's a pretty good case for just not replying to J anymore. You're dealing with a man who has genuinely lost his mind here. It could well be Asperger's or dementia or something. In fact, I now think he may even be due some sympathy.

  57. The Waist High thing is the best yet.

    But oh well. Yeah, you're right Deuce.

  58. The Right-Reason neo-con sorts (Feser was the RR-jefe) are remarkably consistent in terms of avoiding any discussing of any topic which threatens their little quasi-catholic-royalist ideology (-- quasi-vichy) by throwing up any and all manner of deception, lies, and defamation. Sort of the Ad-Annie Coulter fallacy which Feser specializes in.

    You agree with Coyne that Hume effectively refuted the Design Argument and rational theology? Why you must be a troll! Fundamentalist Atheist! Out of your league! Irrationalist! Bull f-n sh*t. Not even worthy of frat-boy bs session, really.

    As he Stanford EOP indicates, "Hume never retreats from the view stated in the first Enquiry that God (i.e., the cause of the world) is “a Being, so remote and incomprehensible, who bears much less analogy to any other being in the universe than the sun to a waxen taper, and who discovers himself only by some faint traces or outlines, beyond which we have no authority to ascribe to him any attribute or perfection” (EU, 11.27/146)."""

    That's merely one of his skeptical points, and a rather tame point at that. In his essay concerning miracles in EU completely Hume rejects scriptural authority, and in effect denies the Resurrection.

    Alas, the RR/Feser crowd don't actually read Hume--that would be far too demanding; nor do they appear to read anyone not approved by the RR Ministry of Kultur, which appears to be synonymous with the Rooody Guiliani branch of the Dominican bros.

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  60. Woah now, J/8. Threatening people physically? You're taking all this too seriously. It's not like this is an 80s Music Blog that refused to link to your online diary.

    Bwahahaha. Alright, enough of this. Making fun of the mentally challenged just ain't right.

  61. My only unanswered question at this point is, what does Rudy Giuliani have to do with all of this?

  62. Enough of this crap. I've enabled comment moderation.

  63. Prof Feser,

    To get things more on proper track, let me ask you a different kind of question. Coyne makes much of the fact that he's not arguing against deism per se (in fact, I'm pretty sure he and Larry Krauss have ceded deism as consistent with scientific findings).

    Would you consider that to be a major concession? I mean, especially in light of TLS (and the arguments therein) purporting to prove a "basic" theism.

  64. How can God not be located in space?
    That is to say. why can't you concieve of the universe as Gods 'body', and God as the Soul of the world?




  66. Hello Crude,

    I don't know how major it is. Coyne seems to mean by it nothing more than "Sure, there might be a God, just like there might be ghosts or the Loch Ness monster."

    That's not giving even deism enough credit, but remember that, though all I defend in TLS is philosophical theism (rather than Christianity specifically), that's not the same as deism. Deism allows that, once created, the world can exist in principle apart from God; classical theism does not allow this. For classical theism -- and thus the view defended in TLS -- it is metaphysically impossible for the world to exist even for an instant apart from God's sustaining action. I doubt Coyne would concede that that's even possibly correct (though not because he understands it -- I doubt he even knows what the difference is between deism, classical theism, or any other view about God's nature).

  67. Hello Christopher,

    The short answer is that, as Pure Actuality, God cannot change and thus cannot be identified with the world (which changes); and given the doctrine of divine simplicity, He cannot have parts (so that it could not be said either that the world is a changing part of Him). See TLS, and the forthcoming Aquinas, for details.

  68. Dr Feser,

    You're right, that's one key distinction between deism and theism that I didn't appreciate enough.

    Though I think Coyne may be taking a stronger/stranger position than you think on deism. Quoting him: "Likewise, as I’ve said ad nauseum, not every form of faith is incompatible with science. In my New Republic article, I claim that pure deism (which accepts a hands-off God who doesn’t intrude into the workings of the Universe) is absolutely compatible with science. The problem is that hardly anybody is a pure deist." I don't think he would be able to seriously say that the existence of the Loch Ness monster, or ghosts, are 'absolutely compatible with science'.

    But that seems to commit him to a tremendously delicate position. If the existence of God is "absolutely compatible with science", then the only thing Coyne can be taking issue with is God's activity. But admitting that God's existence and reality is utterly science-compatible, but arguing that God can never interact with the world (Or worse, that God DID interact with the world [by creating it], but since then hasn't done anything) seems like one tremendously difficult stance to defend. That's close to arguing that, say.. believing the universe is a computer simulation is compatible with science, but the idea of a programmer interacting with the universe is not. It seems to me that, once you admit that the actual, real existence of the "supernatural" being in question is reasonable (or 'compatible with science', which for Coyne is the same thing), any arguments for asserting against its interaction in nature are on tremendously thin ice.

  69. OK, folks, here's the deal. I asked J to tone it down. Instead he took things up a notch. So, J, sorry, but you are no longer welcome to comment on this blog. Goodbye and good luck.

    I also ask that every other commenter refrain from commenting any further on J or his posts -- since he will no longer be able to reply to you, that's only fair.

    Earlier today I enabled comment moderation in order to deal with this problem. It now occurs to me that, since it is J in particular who is the problem, I will instead deal with it for now by simply deleting any further comments he tries to post. I will also delete any further comments made by others about him.

    And of course, I will re-enable comment moderation if that seems appropriate. In any event, I urge commenters not to bother replying to people who prove themselves to be trolls. I understand the desire to counter falsehoods, insults, bad arguments, etc., but (a) such responses will not benefit the trolls, who are impervious to reason, and (b) they are unlikely to benefit most other readers either, who can see a troll for what he is and who will just be annoyed at having to scroll through pointless exchanges.

    Thanks, and remember: Don't feed the trolls!

  70. Hey Doc, I just received an e-mail from Amazon about your book on Aquinas. So its officially out now?

    Also, I am taking a class on philosophy of mind and we are reading much of the contemporary literature which you talk about frequently. What exactly is in your philosophy of mind book? Is it a defense of a certain position or a brief overview of the subject itself? I ask because my professor has already essentially endorsed some sort of materialism, although I am sure it will be highly nuanced in order to avoid most of the common and, I think, air tight objections to it. We started with Descartes meditations and, as you say in TLS, our class has already allowed him to set the agenda for our further study. No Aristotle or Aquinas allowed. If they were, it seems like most of the work in philosophy of mind would have to backtrack several centuries.

    Edward the Lesser

  71. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  72. Hello Edward,

    Aquinas is out in the UK and will be released in the US in October. I'll be posting something about it within a few days.

    Re: my book Philosophy of Mind, you can find some info about it here:

  73. Dr Feser ,

    Have you convinced any of your colleagues at Pasadena City College yet with TLS. Do you get harassed because your a Christian philosopher? I ask this because at my my school the philosophy departments main aim is to destroy the students faith.


  74. Hi Christopher,

    My colleagues have all been delightful. Some of them are sympathetic to at least some of what is in TLS and some are totally unsympathetic, but no one has given me any hassle over it.

  75. Dr Feser,

    Do these colleagues of yours give good counter-arguments to your views? Do they give counter-arguments to the unchanged-changer argument? Are they materialists? Before writing the book, did u know all of their rebuttals in advance?


  76. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  77. "This super-mind also **happens** to be the character described in the Bible called Yahweh."

    It 'happens' to have these properties? Well, I suppose it's an internet law -- like Godwin's law or Poe's law -- that the number of web critics who aren't familiar with your work will outnumber the ones who are familiar with it by at least a factor of ten to one.

  78. Pay no mind to Unny-B. Not only is he showing up just to violate the comment rule, his grasp of philosophy is hilariously shallow. And what a surprise, another guy prone to crazy-rage meltdowns.

  79. "Pay no mind to Unny-B. Not only is he showing up just to violate the comment rule..."

    Ah, I apologize for responding to Unbeguiled if he has been banned.

  80. He hasn't (yet) been banned, Eric, but he did break the rule about no longer responding to the posts of a certain other commenter who has been banned. Which is why I've now deleted his comment.

  81. Such drama!

    I had not read beyond a certain link so did not know I was breaking any rules.


    Dr Feser:

    Have you ever written about the conundrums created by folks with ambiguous gender? I ask this because of the recent case of runner Caster Semenya.

    Caster Semenya likely has Androgen insensitivity syndrome. Such people are XY, have testicles, but also have a vagina and are usually raised with a female identity.

    What gender, according to you, could Caster Semenya legitimately marry?

  82. I will give minor indulgence to UNI-B's off topic question.

    >What gender, according to you, could Caster Semenya legitimately marry?

    I reply: Actually the Catholic Church has refused to marry persons of even Non-Ambiguous Gender whose genitals have been mutilated by accident or damaged by disease to the point where sexual intercourse is impossible.

    If you physically cannot have normal sexual intercourse before receiving the Sacrament of Marriage then that is a material impediment. This might have some baring not knowing the medical specifics(i.e. can Semenya have natural sex & which way can s/he sexually reproduce?).

    If you really are interested in this question & not just here to bust chops might I suggest that a canon Lawyer or a moral Theologian with some training in Natural Law can answer your inquiry regarding
    Caster Semenya then a philosopher.
    (unless Dr. Feser knows something & grants you an answer).

    OTOH I suspect you are fishing for an excuse to condemn Dr. Feser for not endorsing your liberal moral system(i.e. Homosexuality & Sexual Deviancy good! Sexual morality bad & advocated by very bad bigoted conservative!). But I'm willing to be proven if you act decent.

    One doesn't trust New Atheists these days & with good reason.

  83. BenYachov,

    People with androgen insensitivity syndrome have vaginas and can have sex.

    Whether sperm could be harvested from the testes for reproduction is something I don't know.

    I was just wondering how Dr. Feser's "metaphysics" applies in such cases concerning marriage. I have no interest in Canon Law, but thanks anyway.

  84. >People with androgen insensitivity syndrome have vaginas and can have sex.

    >Whether sperm could be harvested from the testes for reproduction is something I don't know.

    I reply: I'd say this information combined with the XY chromosomes one is forced to judge this person is classified as a deformed sexually impotent male. Thus according to current Canon Law could not be married in the Church.

    Also if you remember in the TLS Dr. Feser explicitly said that it is incorrect to say a Gay man may not marry. He may marry any woman who will have him. He can't marry another man.

    Since this person's gender is ambitious then there is no way to tell who they are eligible to marry.

    That's my take on it & that is my last word on the subject. Cheers UB.

  85. BenYachov,

    I said at the start that the person's gender was ambiguous.

    That is the point.

    I have no interest in cannon law or what is permitted by any particular religious institution, be it the Catholic Church or Church of Scientology.

    Rather, Dr. Feser makes a rather vigorous argument against same sex marriage by using natural law theory. I am curious how he would apply natural law in a case where nature produces a person with an ambiguous sex.

  86. >I have no interest in cannon law or what is permitted by any particular religious institution, be it the Catholic Church or Church of Scientology.

    I reply: Your disinterest is not logical considering Dr. Feser is Catholic, an Aristotlian & a Thomist. All of which are philosophical views championed by the Catholic Church & used to formulate Canon Law & the Catholic teaching on Moral Law.

    >Rather, Dr. Feser makes a rather vigorous argument against same sex marriage by using natural law theory.

    I reply: So you are assuming Canon Law is not based on Natural Law which the Church also accepts? You are assuming Dr. Feser has a different rational for his beliefs then the Religion he joined based on his adherance to Thomism Aristlianism?

    That's not a likely or productive approch.

    >I am curious how he would apply natural law in a case where nature produces a person with an ambiguous sex.

    I reply: It is reasonable to conclude he & the Church have similar thinking. At best he might have a different rational & yet come to the same conclutions as the Church.

    My likely speculations will have to suffice unless he decides to speak up himself.

  87. BenYachov:

    I'm sure you are correct. Dr. Feser's opinion could not possibly under any conceivable circumstances differ even slightly from Catholic dogma.

    (But if that is the case, are we correct to refer to Dr. Feser as a philosopher?)

    Regardless, I was hoping for an argument, not the regurgitation of barbaric dogma. Suffice it to say I'm curious.

    But of course for Catholics, curiosity is a vice. The worst vice of all.

  88. >(But if that is the case, are we correct to refer to Dr. Feser as a philosopher?)

    I reply: Of course since not every philosophical question has been answered or can be answered by the authority of the Church alone.

    >Regardless, I was hoping for an argument, not the regurgitation of barbaric dogma. Suffice it to say I'm curious.

    I reply: Well I've never been partial to the barbaric dogma of liberalism that there can never be any dogma. But what can you do?

    >But of course for Catholics, curiosity is a vice. The worst vice of all.

    I reply: Curiously I've never heard that claim made by any Catholic. Usually ex-Catholics or dogmatically critical non-Catholics whose curiosity never travels beyond the polemical.

  89. Search "vice of curiosity" on yahoo.
    So you've never read Aquinas? Curious indeed.

  90. Hello BenYachov,

    Experiencing deja vu yet?

    It was a tendency toward caricature, ignorance of the subject matter, ad hominem, and general bad faith that made J not worth responding to, and ultimately got him banned. If you're finding the same thing now with "UnBeguiled," you'll understand why (as I indicated in an earlier post a couple of months ago) I don't find him worth engaging.

    Remember, everyone: Don't feed the trolls!

  91. "It was a tendency toward caricature, ignorance of the subject matter, ad hominem, and general bad faith that made" me not worth engaging?

    Really? Go back and see who was name calling, using profanity, and not responding to the issue I raised.

    I'm still wondering why as your example of an essential series you provided an accidental series.

    It takes courage to admit when you are wrong.

  92. Clearly Unni-be falsely conflates the "vice of curiosity" spoken by Aquinas with some novel idea that curiosity in general is a vice?

    Which of course is refuted by the very explaination given by Aquinas.

    >Experiencing deja vu yet?

    I reply: Yeh I am. If memory serves as with J, Unni-b couldn't tell the difference between the Physics vs the Metaphysic of Aristole either & clearly he didn't
    understand the technical difference between an essencially ordered series vs an accidently ordered one.

    I understand the difference & I'm a total noob.

    He suckered me in by being polite but now I see it is nothing more than a fascade.

    Pitty, are their no Atheists of good will who post here? Or is it just trolls who read Stenger & Dawkins & never Nagil or Quinn?

    Sad really.

  93. "[T]he natural order does not exist confusedly and without rational arrangement, and human reason should be listened to concerning those things it treats of. But when it completely fails, then the matter should be referred to God. Therefore, since we have not yet completely lost the use of our minds, let us return to reason."
    -- Adelard of Bath, Quaestiones naturales