Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Leiter side of OCD

A philosopher writes:

I hate calling attention to this creepazoid, but Leiter is at it again, and is attempting once again to smear W4. [“W4” being What’s Wrong with the World, the group blog to which I’m a contributor – EF]
I think it might be fun if you all decided to simply respond in kind. That is, ask your Atheist friends some questions and see whether Leiter's views fall within the "mainstream" of atheist philosophers. Maybe some questions like the following:

1) Did you think the collapse of the Soviet Union was unfortunate, politically and morally speaking?

2) Do you think that there is a noteworthy moral difference between heteronormative sexual morality and believing that homosexuals should be executed?

3) Do you believe there is a noteworthy moral difference between the Taliban and people who think it should be legal to voluntarily pray in public schools?

4) Do you think it is morally appropriate for a notable professional philosopher to personally attack graduate students and untenured faculty in a highly public and visible forum?

5) Do you think it is misogyny to acknowledge genetic differences between men and women?

6) Do you think it would have been a gross exaggeration to say that George W. Bush is a theocrat and/or a fascist who was planning to "imminently" reinstate the draft or "imminently" bomb Iran?

7) Do you think it would be a gross exaggeration to compare Bill O'Reilly with Joseph Goebbels?

8) Did the clips of Jeremiah Wright's sermons make you more favorably disposed towards Obama?

etc. etc. etc.

Good questions, though we loyal Leiter Reports readers already know the answers. But here’s another one for Big Bri himself: If W4 is so “marginal,” how come you simply can’t shut up about it?
Sounds like a nasty case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. The key thing is not to give in to the urges, though if history is any guide we’ll see another lapse within a day or two, followed by occasional spasms over the next few weeks and months. But don’t get discouraged, Brian. You can beat this thing. We’re all pulling for you!


  1. shouldn't an obsessive person use paper with lines?

  2. Dr. Feser. How is Aquinas's view of substantial form different from essence (as in essence and existence). I'm reading your book and they sound like the exact same thing.

  3. Dr Feser I hope this Leiter bloke doesn't know your home address, because he seems to talk about you a lot. If you have any reason to think that he does I suggest you purchase a decent firearm immediately.

  4. Dr. Feser is an intelligent Philosopher & a former Atheist. I guess Leiter feels threatened by both those brute facts. Just as some anti-Catholic Fundamentalists might feel equally threatened because Dr. Feser's buddy Dr. Beckwith is a former Evangelical turned Catholic.

  5. Just a guess, but there are likely more Catholics becoming non-denominational evangelicals than vice versa.

  6. Anon at 0855:

    Likely so in South America but not so much in North America and Europe, nor even so much in Africa. As far as I have read. But I might be wrong.

  7. >Just a guess, but there are likely more Catholics becoming non-denominational evangelicals than vice versa.

    I reply: That is true. It is a testament to what happens when you stop actually TEACHING the Catholic Faith & the Gospel of Jesus Christ & substitute "the Gospel of Isn't Nice to be Nice"?

    I grew up with that crap & it's a miracle I know anything about my faith today. Thank God for Catholic Apologists & Catholic Philosophers.

  8. Since Vatican II, who are the prominent Christian theologians, and what are they saying?

  9. Come on!!
    One of you chin scratchers have to be able to help me out here.

    What's the difference between essence and substantial form?


  10. Hello Alicia,

    Sorry for the delay, got a million things going on. "Essence" is used in different ways. Sometimes it does just mean the same as substantial form. But sometimes it is used to refer to the composite of the form and matter together, and it is this compound to which an "act of existence" must be added for a material substance to exist. (Thus, when essence and existence are distinguished in a material susbtance, it is this compound of substantial form and prime matter that is meant by "essence," not the form alone.)

  11. Thanks Dr. Feser for the reply.

    When refering to an entity like an angel that doesn't have matter but just form would we refer to their form as substantial form?
    And then in that case would essence and substantial form be identical? Since with angels there wouldn't be a composite of form and matter?

    Again, thanks for taking the time to respond.
    I really want to understand Aquinas, but sometimes I just find my head spinning when I read him.
    But I'm taking the approach of 'don't give up, keep at it and it will start to make sense'.... oh, and asking a professor who wrote a book on him doesn't hurt either :)

  12. Alicia: the answer to your questions is "yes". In spiritual beings, the essence equals the subsistent form alone.

  13. So just what is spirit as in spiritua; being.

  14. What new insights from modern neuroscience discoveries are theologians making w/r to the medieval notion of spirit mentioned in the last comment?

    Are atheists reevaluating their stances as well?

  15. How nice of Dan to hop on this thread with the template misunderstanding of A-T.
    how exactly does denying the existence of final causality help neuroscientists into being able to make sound conclusions from their work?

    It's the framework of the approach. At least A-T states that efficient causes (lost elasticity in arteries) is directed towards potential aneurisms.
    I mean in the materialistic view point you can never be too sure, Dan. Heck, that efficient cause might just be pointed at rainbow formation, jazz music, or meaningless ramblings of a poster on a comment section.

  16. What was all of that - Is this blog moderated? or maybe somehow limited to irrational comments?

  17. Occasional CommentatorFebruary 5, 2010 at 9:43 PM

    Come on, Dan, you're giving us internet pagans a bad name. Of course the latter half of what I's Brain wrote was irrational--that is precisely the point. If something like the Aristotleian notion of final causality does not exist, then the impossibilities mentioned above could conceivably come about. Furthermore, if...oh why the hell I am wasting my time writing this? It's clear you haven't the foggiest notion of what you're railing against. Happy fuming.

  18. Dan - you sound like a thomist.
    You say that mindless rambling is irrational.
    But that thoughtful and reasonable comments are rational.
    So, does that mean that comments that are full of thought and reason are directed at or pointed towards being rational?

    That there is an essence of rationality to the latter?
    Or that those types of thoughts have intentionality - that they can be about rational conclusions?

    You should almost be singing the praises to God for A-T with all of the support you're giving that approach.

  19. I read lots of blogs and articles including this one from time to time.

    I merely asked a few questions, but instead of thoughtful answers, my viewpoint is presumed, judged as bad, and then attacked. I looked at other comments here, and realize it is SOP.

    If you want to be heard by others in conversation, it is more important to answer their questions than to do personal attacks.

  20. It does appear that questions are not well received here.

  21. I have seen far less contentious sites from which to gain information in this area of philosophy and theism.

  22. Occasional CommentatorFebruary 6, 2010 at 7:44 AM

    Ok, Dan, I apologize for the contentious nature of my reply--but perhaps you should cut some of the other commenters some slack as well. What Ichabod's Cranium wrote about final causality was not "irrational" (your words); and it was certainly not in need of moderator removal. The question you posed:

    What new insights from modern neuroscience discoveries are theologians making w/r to the medieval notion of spirit mentioned in the last comment?

    Are atheists reevaluating their stances as well?

    Is not only completely off topic, I'm not even sure of what it's meant to be asking. The idea of "substantial form" (what I think you're getting at with "medieval notion of spirit") is not the same thing as the modern notion of "spirit". To we moderns, a spirit is an immaterial substance that inhabits and controls a material body--in the way, say, a driver operates a car. What is meant by the notion of "substantial form" is completely different and has already been hashed over in this very thread.

    Now what any of this has to do with neuroscience--which, by its very nature must limit itself to the efficient causes(neurons, electro-chemical stimulation, etc.) going on within the human brain--I wouldn't care to guess. A/T simply states that every being is a composite of form and matter. The electro-chemical reactions studied by neuroscience are to be understood as the material (matter) side of our immaterial (formal) thoughts.

    Again, Dan, apologies for my last comment. It was late and I was out of beer--a problem that has since been corrected.

  23. OC, I was thinking of what alicia and anonymous said about form and spirit, and was noting a big connection w/ Churchland's video http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=0D43FD1231528FF6

    And so I wonder if neuro is making great strides in understanding the mind/body issue, what are the churches and the theologians learning from all this?

  24. Dan just can't stop himself from being insultive.
    Then he recoils in shock when someone responds in a similar manner?
    You're comment and your restating of that comment is dripping with sarcasm (what are the churches learning from this - please, Dan).

    My advice will be more practical: get a spine.
    If you want to act like a jerk, be able to be treated like one. We're not your parents here. You act like a punk kid and then get all shook when you see that people call you on your ignorance and attitude. Maybe mom and dad are used to it "oh that's just our little danny".
    Not here, Dan.
    Get a spine. Toughen up a bit (a lot).

  25. Occasional CommentatorFebruary 6, 2010 at 9:11 AM

    And so I wonder if neuro is making great strides in understanding the mind/body issue, what are the churches and the theologians learning from all this?

    Gotcha. Well, not being religious myself, I wouldn't presume to know. But "theologian" does not necessarily equal "thomist": the protestantism of my youth was about as far from A/T philosophy as one can get. Just understand that for the thomist, there is no mind/body problem. Irreducibly mental phenomenon such as thoughts and desires are to be understood as the formal-cum-final cause of the material/efficient operations of the body. It's only when formal/final causes are abandoned that the mind/body problem becomes, well, a problem.

  26. Occasional CommentatorFebruary 6, 2010 at 9:33 AM

    Jeez Anon@8:48, you think that might be a little harsh? I originally mistook Dan's question about neuroscience as a sarcastic quip--after all, how often have such thinly veiled attacks been directed towards anyone who takes an anti-reductionist stance? But this was my error and I regret it. I think it was an honest question that, though it perhaps could have been phrased a little better, bore no malice.

    Calling him a "jerk" and a "punk kid" for asking a couple of questions seems a little extreme-- something more appropriate to a sports or videogame forum than a philosopher's blog.