Monday, December 17, 2012

Claremont Christmas Reading

The Claremont Institute has posted its annual recommended Christmas reading list, to which I’ve contributed.  You can read my recommendations here.

On that subject, reader Will Knowland has made a list of books I’ve recommended over the years here on the blog and elsewhere.  As Will indicates, the list may not be complete, but perhaps some readers will find it useful.


  1. Here are some books I think are worth reading:

    1. Johannes Dormann: John Paul 2's Theological Journey to the Prayer Meeting at Assisi -- Somewhat overdone, but a long-needed critique of the late pope's eccentric theology.

    2. Modras Eckstein: The Rights of Spring -- I read this years ago and thought it was the best analysis of the causes of WWII. But it was so long ago I don't remember why I thought that.

    3. Ralph Martin: Will Many Be Saved? -- Good critique of Rahner, von Balthasar, et al.

    4. De Lubac: The Drama of Atheist Humanism. Got me interested in religion.

    5. Cassirer: An Essay of Man - Immense learning from a great thinker.

    6. Ratzinger: The Infancy Narratives - The pope shows himself more conservative than the liberals he associates with.

    7. Feser: Philosophy of Mind - my favorite book by EF.

    8. Keener: Act, Vol. 1 - the first of a four volume work on Acts. And the first volume is 1000 pages!

    9. Keener: Miracles - modern defense of miracles.

    10. Evans - Jesus and Archeology. Good introduction to some basic issues.

  2. I became interested in "classical" philosophy after reading Prof. Feser's TLS.

    Kreeft's books are great and very accessible, especially his "Socrates meets..." series.

    Also recommended are "Aristotle: A contemporary appreciation" by Henry B. Veatch and "An Introduction to Philosophy" by Maritain.

  3. I like Veatch's Rational Man.

    Kreeft should be read with caution. His book Ecumenical Jihad is nuts.

  4. I book defending the aristotelian thomistic aproach to ethics for free. The following is the page of philosopher Peter simpson.

  5. 1. Aquinas (Edward Feser)

    2. Jesus of Nazareth series (Joseph Ratzinger)

    3. The Eternal Father (Louis Bouyer)

    4. John Meyendorff (especially, Jesus and Mary Through the Centuries)

    5. Aiden Nichols (especially, Rome and the Eastern Churches)

    - Francis Gregory

    6. Jaroslav Pelikan

    7. Eyewitnesses of the Gospels (Richard Bauckham); I disagree with its identification of the writer of John's Gospel. The rest is excellent stuff.

    8. Stratford Caldecott

    9. The Lost History of Christianity (Philip Jenkins) - He and I differ confessionally, of course, and, therefore, will end with different conclusions in mind. Yet, this book really hits home the fact Christianity is not solely a Western religion but one for the world and expressible through a myriad of cultures. It really makes Christianity feel excitingly familiar and alien at the same time.

    I agree w/ Neil about Kreeft but a different reason. Don't get me wrong. He speaks well and writes some good spiritual reflections. However, his philosophy self-consciously is very much steeped in C.S. Lewis' theology. This is not a bad thing necessarily since Lewis has conveyed many ideas in Christianity, for whatever reason, more effectively than most. Still, Lewis and Kreeft are not very sophisticated in either philosophy or theology, historical or otherwise.

  6. Yeesh. The neo-Modernism is as thick a pea soup in this thread.

  7. @ Anonymous 11:13

    Lewis was more literary than philosophical or theological. But he was sophisticated. It's just that his philosophico-theological books are popular-level things.

  8. Anon 3:01,

    For whatever reason, that did not occur to me. But, of course, he was a professional philologist and a member of the Inklings.

    I hope I didn't come off as too anti-Lewis. I greatly enjoyed his Space Trilogy and 'Til We Have Faces.

    He was a good medievalist, too.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  9. For some reason, a cult of personality has grown up around Lewis, like Ayn Rand and JP2. He was a good writer and thinker, but Kreeft calls him "the greatest Christian apologist of the 20th century." You'd think the greatest apologist from Kreeft's perspective would be someone who encouraged people to join the Catholic Church and not embrace just "mere Christianity."

    Since Lewis knew the claims of the Catholic Church and rejected them, a Catholic would have to say that he was most likely not a Christian and is in the hot place.

    There were better protestant apologists such as Cornelius van Til and the (early) Gordon Clark.

  10. Kreeft always seems to me to be much, much too glib in the way he approaches just about everything. His book on Pascal's Pensees is pretty good, though.

    On Lewis and philosophy, it's worth pointing out that he trained in philosophy; the only reason he went into English Literature rather than Philosophy was that there weren't very many philosophy positions open and H. H. Price (well known to those familiar with mid-twentieth-century analytic philosophy) narrowly beat him out for the most promising one -- and English Literature was his other top subject.

    There are a number of things in Lewis's philosophical approach that differentiate him from the major philosophers of his day, of course, but they seem mostly arise from timing -- when Lewis, Price, Ryle, and others were in school, the major contemporary philosophical schools were still Absolute Idealists and Personal Idealists -- they weren't unchallenged by that point, since Russell and Moore and begun their reaction, but they were still ensconced in many of the most important faculty positions. (If you ever read Pilgrim's Regress, the philosophical portions are dominated largely, although not exclusively, by Idealists. And that's actually important for Lewis's own conversion: he was converted from atheism to his own particular form of British Idealism, then from British Idealism to Christianity.) So he went into another field when philosophy was undergoing a major transition, and that has an effect, of course, on how one approaches things.

  11. Anonymous,

    Kreeft's "Socrates meets..." series are amazing. I read the one with Hume. So interesting and funny at the same time.

  12. Owen Barfield - Saving the Appearances

    G.K. Chesterton - Heretics

    Mortimer Adler - How to Think About God

    David Bentley Hart - The Beauty of the Infinite

  13. You'd think the greatest apologist from Kreeft's perspective would be someone who encouraged people to join the Catholic Church and not embrace just "mere Christianity."

    Since Lewis knew the claims of the Catholic Church and rejected them, a Catholic would have to say that he was most likely not a Christian and is in the hot place.

    The kind of bald-faced ignorance and fundamentalism on display here almost make me sick to my stomach. I don't normally react that way even to the atheists' comments on this blog.

  14. On a more positive note, I would recommend David Bentley Hart's The Doors of the Sea. While The Beauty of the Infinite (which an Anon recommended above) is the more complete book, The Doors of the Sea is far more accessible to the continental philosophy uninitiated. It's also, in its own right, an excellent attack on theology that tries to rationalize evil. Hart focuses in on points that he made more broadly in the other book.

  15. Roger Scruton The Face of God (2012)

    Raymond Tallis Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity (2011)

  16. NewAPPSers respond to Feser on Nagel's critics here:

  17. Geee, all they talk about is the FUTURE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION!
    When Feser is talking about, a METAPHYSICAL REVOLUTION.

    u_u ... these people, they are like me... they are worthless thinkers who just stay inside their caves preying that the shadowns are just shadows. Is a terrible sight ladies and gentlemen, I must repent from my ignorance and do some philosophy of my own U_U

  18. Funny, in the site they say that the rejection of scholaticism IS the SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION.

    Awkward, I remember reading in a blog about History that Science and the Scientific revolution was slowly created through the ages as people started to make more questions and run research and studies in medieval times.

    Hmmmm if you were to deny scholaticism what would you end with for real?

  19. The kind of bald-faced ignorance and fundamentalism on display here almost make me sick to my stomach. I don't normally react that way even to the atheists' comments on this blog.

    I agree with David Bentley Hart that modern atheism--a reaction against atrocious theology of early modern Christianity--is more Christian than the alternative. The theology (you see it in Banez, Molina, Calvin and others) I'm talking about is a worship of pure power, and Hart correctly says that it's essentially Satanism.

  20. This is off topic, but I can't resist...

    Brian Leiter is defending a URI professor who has said, in the wake of Sandy Hill, that he wants Wayne LaPierre's "head on a stick," who has claimed that the NRA is a terrorist organization, and who has said that the NRA is responsible for the murder of children -- but this in no way means that the gentle professor has called for the murder of anyone! Well, I agree, but then, I've been consistent in cases like this, which is more than any honest person can say for Leiter...

  21. Nobody ever died from having his or her head stuck on the tip of a spike right ?

    o_o riiight?

  22. I think the revolution Feser is talking about is not necessarily naturalism to theism, but rather naturalism to some form of neo-Aristotelianism. Still, a movement is a movement.

  23. Indeed that is what he means.

  24. What is this new APPS blog? Some new group of naturalists or something pretending to have something interesting to say?

  25. "What is this new APPS blog? Some new group of naturalists or something pretending to have something interesting to say?"

    Let's be charitable guys. Though it does not seem to me that they really understand what Feser meant by the shift away from "material/efficient cause only" naturalism to something else. They don't seem to be all that familiar with Feser's stuff and the idea of "Aristotle's Revenge."

  26. I just read that on APPS (by poster named Eric) and it really says nothing of interest. It's just him and a collection of naturalists trying to deny that naturalism may be on the demise. Whether it is or it is not, is not the issue here. What is the issue here is that naturalism is intellectually bankrupt. They may have all the support they want by other mindless naturalistic drones but that doesn't make their beliefs true.

    In addition, their responses seem to completely miss the point. I don't even think they understand what Feser is saying or what Aristotelianism is about.

    A few days ago in fact, I objected to the same author (Eric) claiming that Aristotle was a naturalist. I tried to explain to him that it simply isn't the case and that he was in fact someone who believed in God. I gave him several arguments based on the metaphysics Aristotle was committed to and instead of thoughtfully addressing them or better yet, acknowledge that he was wrong (since Aristotle was no a naturalist) he continue to blindly hinge to his false claims.

    I have a hard time taking such people seriously.

  27. Strange.

    "Associate Professor of Philosophy, Pasadena City College"

    Um, you are an "instructor of philosophy"

    The term, 'professor' is reserved for the university.

    Don't look now Feser but your ego is showing.

  28. Strange.

    "Associate Professor of Philosophy, Pasadena City College"

    Um, you are an "instructor of philosophy"

    The term, 'professor' is reserved for the university.

    Hmm, that'll be news to the college administration, which awarded me the title a few years ago. News also to all the other folks at my college (and others) who have titles like "associate professor" and "professor." Next you'll tell me I don't really have tenure.

    What's really strange is how getting linked to by certain philosophy websites always seems to bring out one or two schmucks who want to get into a pissing match about credentials, egos, etc. -- rather than, y'know, discuss philosophy and such.

  29. Also strange how they're always "Anonymous."

  30. ... Instructor of Philosophy ...

  31. I checked PCC's website and EF is an "associate professor."

  32. Still.... The instructor of philosophy was terrible.

  33. Some anons are incredibly immature.

  34. 'You'd think the greatest apologist from Kreeft's perspective would be someone who encouraged people to join the Catholic Church and not embrace just "mere Christianity."

    Since Lewis knew the claims of the Catholic Church and rejected them, a Catholic would have to say that he was most likely not a Christian and is in the hot place.'

    Actually Kreeft is of the opinion, as am I, that Lewis's work has encouraged substantially more people to become Catholic than any other stripe of Christian. (See the pretty good interview here: )

  35. Here is a wonderful list of the best books of the last decade:

    1. Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity [Paperback]
    John W. Loftus [Amazon]
    A very thoughtful and strongly argued case against the christian construct that contemporary historical research is now inexorably unravelling.

    2. Arguing about Gods [Hardcover]
    Graham Oppy [Amazon]

    3. Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief [Paperback]
    Dale McGowan [Amazon]
    This book is a must for any parent.

    4. A Better Place: Essays on Desire Utilitarianism
    Alonzo Fyfe [Lulu or Amazon]
    I have yet to read this book and apparently his case is compelling. 'This is the cutting edge of moral theory'.

    5. The following, 'one of the best atheism books of the decade written by a Christian.
    The God Beyond Belief: In Defence of William Rowe's Evidential Argument from Evil (Studies in Philosophy and Religion) [Hardcover]
    Nick Trakakis [Amazon]
    Looking forward to reading it and it cost a lot of $ss.

    6. Atheism Advanced: Further Thoughts of a Freethinker
    David Eller [Amazon]
    One of the very best books that places religion in its proper social and cultural context out of which the christian mythos is derived.

    7. Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists
    Dan Barker [Amazon]
    An excellent book. Well worth the read. The author now doing great work as Co-founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation [FFRF].

    8. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person's Answer to Christian Fundamentalism
    David Mills {Amazon]
    Yet to complete, but an excellent primer for those who are willing to genuinely critique their religious posture.

    9 and 10 The Impossibility of God [Hardcover], and

    The Improbability of God [Hardcover]
    Michael Martin (Editor), Ricki Monnier (Editor) [Amazon]
    As Lukeprog notes: "Here you will find definitional disproofs, evil disproofs, single attribute disproofs, multiple attribute disproofs, and doctrinal disproofs. A welcome entry into a field of study normally dominated by theistic talk."

    Happy reading.

  36. Dude I find amazing how you tell people to read books you never read XD, and then you put Loftus as one of the best books of the decade.

    Wholly shit XD.

  37. Papalinton,

    Come on now. The trolling is pretty obvious here. Let atheists make themselves look silly. They certainly don't need a sock-puppet playing the role of "village atheist" to help them out.

  38. I find very funny that arguing about gods from Oppy, which seems to be a rather more hardcore book that analyse a series fo argument for G*d, you didn't say a word about it, must be due to the fact that you couldn't understand the critiques XD.

  39. That.... or he forgot to add; "Well, I really haven't read this one yet either. But the title sounds FASCINATING!"

  40. I read the beginning of William Rowe's Cosmological Argument, and I love how he states: "Aquinas mean that for something to go to an state A there must be something in that state A already" (not his words, but that is basically his interpretation of the argument)

    Now, I got so tired of listening to Feser speaking about potency and act XD that I quickly realized that Rowe's has got it wrong! The metaphysics I mean. Then he completes by saying that "This is the best interpretation for what Aquinas meant." That was it he never showed why, he just said this was the best interpretation.

    U_U I am starting to realize that only TRUE way to learn something done by humanity is begin from the beginning, so I am about to start learning from the Pre-Historics.

  41. Hahaha. 'Here's a list of the best books of the past decade according to my recommendations.' + 'Didn't read this one yet but...'

    Multiple incidents of plagiarism and being exposed as an ignoramus wasn't enough for him. I like how, now matter how deeply he digs the hole for himself, he always finds a way to dig it a little deeper with his next appearance.

    Ah well. That's my once every two weeks at most comment about him. Back to ignoring him, as he deserves. ;) I thought Ed banned him over his last masterstroke.

  42. Most likly he noticed that Oppy has a page on the Infidels site and went: "Oh boy I gotta include ONE of his books, this guy is awesome, he has this psychotic look in his eyes!"

    (Now with all seriousness Oppy has a crazy look man XD, but he seems like a nice guy to drink some boose with)

  43. Nah Feser will mostly like ERASE all these worthless comments XD.

  44. By the way old time reader of this Blog, Jime is apprently having a nice debate with Oppy XD about the Kalam and arguments someone ought to accept.

  45. Crude
    "Hahaha. 'Here's a list of the best books of the past decade according to my recommendations.' + 'Didn't read this one yet but...'"

    No Crude. This is my list. And there is no order of merit, just ten that I have acquired. I have read four [1, 6, 7 and 8] of the ten on my winter solstice list. [Of course you will probably not know that it is actually our Summer Solstice here is the southern hemisphere.] The remaining six are those that I am looking forward to read in the next couple months. That's all. No teleological mystery in there.

    Have a great festive season.

  46. Linton,

    You gave a recommended list of the 'top ten best books of the last decade'. And now, you admit you didn't read six of them, and may well not have finished the four completely.

    If you don't understand why this is hilarious, I can't help you. And I have plenty of friends in Australia - I'm well aware of the seasons.

    Let me remind you, Linton: the reason you plagiarize is because, when you actually try to communicate your own thoughts, the result is a mess. Hence gems like 'teleological mystery' in this context. ;)

  47. errr... he never said anything about order of merit. Second who cares if you will read them???

    You are telling people to read books based on your gut feeling! That is exactly what people are criticizing you for.

    The idea of the thread was about saying: "Hey I read these awesome books and I think they are worth the time". Not going like this:"Hey here it is a bunch of books with cool names that I haven't read but I think by the reviews you should read them!"

  48. I am not much of giving behaviorial advice and even less scolding, but if memory does not fail me the Papalinton Troll was explicitly banned from this blog by the host himself, so it seems to me a discourtesy to him to engage in dialog *here* with the Troll -- that the latter does not understand what banned means is understandable, but the others, that are grown ups, should know better.

    But this is just my opinion. Carry on, soldiers.

  49. 21st Century ScholasticDecember 23, 2012 at 7:59 AM


    >>>Has anyone read Alex Pruss' One Body?

    I'm reading it right now. I gave it to myself as a christmas present. :) So far it's very good.

  50. I think it could very well be that Crude and Papalinton are, in fact, the same person.

  51. I think it could very well be that Crude and Papalinton are, in fact, the same person.

    Hi Zach. ;)

    Anyway, you're right Grod - my bad. Even if the ban weren't in place, talking with the guy is a waste of time. For now I'll just do the usual job of pointing out Linton's plagiarism as yet more reason why to just ignore the guy's comments. Low-quality troll, ladies and gentlemen - your time is better spent elsewhere.

  52. People keep coming here from Victor Reppert's blog. It's kind of strange--even I fall into this category.

  53. Anything by Feser, Veatch, Maritain, or Gilson is worth very close reading, rereading, and notetaking.

    But don't forget about this old tome, especially you Thomists: Nature, Knowledge, and God by the late Brother Benignus, Professor of philosophy at Manhattan College. The best one-volume exposition of Thomism I've seen so far. Fast-paced as it is systematic. Think of Benignus as a tailgunner on the fighter plane Feser.

    Merry Christmas

  54. Merry christmas Machine.

    How is your research going?

  55. Eduardo,

    It's going great. Now synthesizing notes on Nielsen's 2nd edition Ethics Without God with notes from his Atheism and Philosophy. Almost half way through.

    It's amazing how the strongest arguments for atheism are absent from the more recent pro-atheism books, public statements, and online rantings.

    Just finished notes on Mackie's The Miracle of Theism, which is still (Unless Michael Martin's book surprises me) the best one-volume anti-theistic pro-atheism work to date. But Nielsen went far beyond him, and is the one to master. Only a dozen more books of his---and about 400+ of his journal articles, and I'll be done.


  56. Wow... so you mean Paps list is a bunch of crap???

    wow, not a surprise XD.

    Now just kidding, have no idea what the content of the books are except one of course.

    Amazing, so Mackie's is really that good huh? So I guess I can throw away the Cambridge Companion to Atheism XD.

    Never Heard of Nielsen though; which is not a surprise too.

  57. Eduardo,

    All those books will be covered, but they're not high on my list. Have to master all of Ed's works long before I get to any of those.

    I believe that in a few years, Nielsen's incoherence and moral criterion arguments, Feser's simultaneous causation argument, and the criterial argument are going to take center stage in the God debate.

    In other future news, neo-Thomistic metaphysics, once it's developed and digested a good bit further, is going to revolutionize both basic science and the philosophy of science. A good (and amazing) hint at some of this can be found at:

    Felice Navidad

  58. Man I wish I had went into philosophy before talking about Theology and related stuff.

    But nope, I entered the talk through Evilution! (Not that Evolution has any evil in itself, but the internet debates about it are as close to the edge of madness as you can possibly go) Which of course IS DA BEST place for you to discuss about G*d... not.

    The first atheist who pledged to be THAT DAMN good was Dicky Dawkins (Yeah he is a dick), and I was baffled that anyone could take the guy seriously, even more baffled that people followed the guy like some sort of Guru XD. I mean, all I met was not intelectuals but ideologues like so many crackheads that come around places like these; I learned in the debate Hate and Fear before Reason.

    Really my dearests, I am a lost mind, I am just not like the usual Trash Can material because of some miracle (Must be my weird love to against mainstream). Not saying that I am worthwhile or anything like that, which I doubt I am, but damn I feel sorry for me and the crackheads.

  59. Well nice Article Machine, hmm I wonder how the future will be for science.

  60. Machinephilosophy,

    Merry Christmas, and let me compliment you on your efforts. Damn impressive, really.

    Do you really think Kai Nielsen is the best of the lot? I'm reading through his book (Atheism and Philosohy), and I'm seeing problems popping up all over the place. I'm looking forward to seeing your treatment of his views, since you clearly have him in your sights.

  61. Crude,

    Certainly there are problems, especially with his argument about having an objective morality beyond sheer preference and consensus using his so-called method of wide reflective equilibrium. As far as I can see at this point, he's still just talking in circles here, playing a game of inferential musical chairs. His language-game rhetoric comes back to haunt him here.

    However, I actually agree with his argument for the necessity of an independent moral criterion for both calling a being God and calling God good. But this is no problem for a thoroughly rational theism, and to me fits the Thomist notion of natural reason quite well, as a core aspect of the image of God built into the very nature of mind and personhood, assuming I understand that correctly. I'm still processing the monumental Last Superstition book, so I haven't gotten to Ed's philosophy of mind treatise yet.

    But Nielsen's argument for the incoherence of the concept of God is formidable, and I don't see that any theist philosopher has even attempted to do justice to it, much less refute it. Bill Craig, who actually debated Nielsen, told me in a public facebook comment that he doesn't know of any refutation of it in existence.

    Maybe there's some book or journal article out there that has really taken this on, but even Mackie merely says that he doesn't see anything wrong with disembodied personhood and lets it go at that, not even addressing the issue about whether or not a being can be both transcendent and immananent.

    I don't think this affects ether Ed's argument or the criterial argument, since the notion of God in both cases is built up from strictly atheistic premises as a logical cul-de-sac. But Nielsen's argument still needs to be dealt with on its own merits, which are, at first sight anyway, quite powerful.

    And I don't see any theistic literature that even mentions, much less deals with, Nielsen's argument for a moral criterion that is necessarily independent of any notion of God. I believe that argument is invincible, although I think it clearly backfires into the criterial argument for God, and again doesn't affect Ed's dynamic-simultaneity argument at all. In fact, I think Nielsen's argument actually strengthens Ed's case, and helps to complete the architectonic for both of our arguments. Nielsen is still writing papers to this day. I just hope he stays healthy and mentally clear so I can get up to Calgary and talk to him about all these issues.

    Nielsen is arguably the greatest atheist thinker of all time, but he may end up being the greatest boon to theism since Aquinas. Time will tell.

    Merry Christmas

  62. Don't look now gentleman but Paps edited his post and now his list is A WONDERFUL LIST that Paps posted to himself.

    I am sorry Grodrigues but I just can't let go stuff like this XD.