Tuesday, February 12, 2013

New ACPQ article

My article “Kripke, Ross, and the Immaterial Aspects of Thought” appears in the latest issue of the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly.  Here is the abstract:

James Ross developed a simple and powerful argument for the immateriality of the intellect, an argument rooted in the Aristotelian-Scholastic tradition while drawing on ideas from analytic philosophers Saul Kripke, W. V. Quine, and Nelson Goodman.  This paper provides a detailed exposition and defense of the argument, filling out aspects that Ross left sketchy.  In particular, it elucidates the argument’s relationship to its Aristotelian-Scholastic and analytic antecedents, and to Kripke’s work especially; and it responds to objections or potential objections to be found in the work of contemporary writers like Peter Dillard, Robert Pasnau, Brian Leftow, and Paul Churchland.

The argument of Ross’s referred to is one he first put forward in his 1992 Journal of Philosophy article “Immaterial Aspects of Thought” and restated in his book Thought and World: The Hidden Necessities.  The ideas of Kripke in question are those put forward in his book Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language.  The objections from Dillard referred to are those he put forward in is recent ACPQ article “Two Unsuccessful Arguments for Immaterialism”; the relevant objection from Pasnau is the one developed in his Modern Schoolman article “Aquinas and the Content Fallacy”; the objection from Leftow can be found in his article “Soul, Mind, and Brain” in the Koons and Bealer anthology The Waning of Materialism; and the ideas of Churchland in question are those put forward in his recent book Plato’s Camera.

I’ve discussed Ross’s argument before -- in Philosophy of Mind, Aquinas, and in various blog posts -- but this latest article constitutes by far the most detailed exposition and defense of it that I (or, to my knowledge, anyone else) has given.  In addition to responding to the objections (or potential objections) presented by the authors cited, the article contains substantive discussions of the Scholastic distinction between concepts and phantasms, the distinction between formal signs and material signs, and some strengths and weaknesses of Kripke’s argument in WRPL.


  1. Any chance this article will be available online? I tried reading Ross's original article but found it tough going and rather vague.

  2. It seems like Boyden has completed an in-depth review of TLS...


  3. It seems Boyden is much concerned with Feser's incorrect politics. He accuses conservatives of being skeptical of elites whilst reflexively submissive to authority; evidently elevating elites then dismissing their authority is the liberal, and thereby correct, position.

  4. Boyden's review is a complete disaster.

  5. grodrigues, could you elaborate?

  6. @Bobcat:

    Second paragraph: "It is not until page 6 that Feser so much as waves his hand in the direction of an argument, when he recounts what he claims was his own voyage of philosophical discovery. He cites Frege as motivating his Platonism. This naturally makes me wonder what Feser thinks about Russell's paradox, and more importantly of course Gödel's theorem. But he never talks about such subjects, nor does he talk about subjects like the axiom of choice or Euclidean vs. non-Euclidean geometries. It makes it hard for me to take seriously his analogy between mathematical and philosophical knowledge when he seems to have such a poorly developed theory of mathematical knowledge."

    1. Prof. Feser a Platonist? I suggest the reviewer to read that paragraph again.

    2. Russell's paradox, Gödel's theorems, non-Euclidean geometries are irrelevant to the arguments or even to the point about the deductive nature of metaphysical proof that Prof. Feser makes. Irrelevant.

    3. "Such a poorly developed theory of mathematical knowledge"? Prof. Feser nowhere develops a "theory of mathematical knowledge" much less a poorly developed one. Once again, such a theory is simply irrelevant to the arguments.

    Third paragraph: "Feser draws a contrary conclusion, perhaps on the basis that knowledge of intrinsic matters is the only real knowledge or that all knowledge must trace back to knowledge of intrinsic matters."


    Fourth paragraph: "He also describes Richard Swinburne as someone who employs "the most rigorous of modern philosophical methods to the defense of religious belief." I am skeptical of this as a description of Plantinga (who also gets this praise), but applied to Swinburne, this can only be considered laughable."

    What is laughable is this joke of a review.

    Fifth paragraph: "Feser claims that to the naturalists, natural selection is a "pseudo-deity." I suppose it has features in common with how Feser takes God to be, in that it is knowable a priori."

    Double (possibly triple) facepalm.

    Sixth paragraph: " The naturalistic world view rejects ultimate authority. That's what it is to be a naturalist. Some, perhaps most, naturalists inconsistently treat naturalism itself as an ultimate authority, because people have trouble with the idea that there really is none. They deserve to be called superstitious, though the fact that naturalism is so purely negative, consisting of little more than the rejection of all ultimate authorities, makes taking it as an ultimate authority a less bad error than most other cases of belief in ultimate authority."

    Am I allowed to laugh out loud?

    Excuse me, but I do not have the patience to belabor the point.

  7. A person essentially help to make seriously posts I'd state. That is the first time I frequented your web page and thus far? I amazed with the analysis you made to create this actual put up extraordinary. Great activity!

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  8. So to be a naturalist is to believe there is no accountability for one's actions, unless you happen to go against someone stronger that wants you to bow down to him/her...

    Well fuck it, why care if Feser made a terrible book huh XD?

    Seriously, what the fuck kind of definition is this XD?

  9. Yo, Eduardo, take a chill pill man and be a rational animal. My mind is not a specialised porcelain bowl for feculent, irrational language.

  10. Kiel, aka pocelain bowl.

    Dunno if it was irrational.... Obviously random...XD.

    I was mocking the parts grodrigues cited of the review that was cited on the second post.

    The review seems to be rather negative, but completely clueless, at least that is what you get from reading grodrigues. But one part called my attention, the last quoted part puts forth some kind of a definition for naturalism talking abou ultimate authority, aka God I think.

    But here I was thinking, if there is no ultimate authority there is no ultimate judment, nothing to indicate ultimately what something is, either it be ethical, metaphysicl, scientific, religious, etc etc issue.

    So who cares if Feser wrote a bad book, at least the reviewer seems to think so, since his book is bad just errrr subjectively, so for some authorities it is a good book, and since no authority is ultimate, neither are their opinions.

    But I don't see how this definition makes sense in naturalism, given naturalism other definitions XD.

    So Mister toilet bowl, btw nice way to describe one XD. Do you know now see what I mean? Or do I have to take a chill pill? I take those everyday already hhhhahhaahahaha.

    Oh the part about inclining one's head towards other person, was just thinking sort of like Nietzche xD.

  11. Thanks for putting forward something more substantial. I enjoyed the above post more than your previous (verbally colourful, enthusiastic but wild and insubstantial) one above.

  12. "But here I was thinking, if there is no ultimate authority there is no ultimate judment, nothing to indicate ultimately what something is, either it be ethical, metaphysicl, scientific, religious, etc etc issue." This is what "got me"

    A Day to Remember

  13. Holy crap that Boyden review is hilarious. He couldn't have read more than five pages of the book before reviewing it, if even that. Seriously, how do you get through TLS, the entire point of which is to defend Aristotle and Thomas against the new atheists, and come away believing that Ed is a Platonist?

  14. Dr. Feser, I have recently finished reading Mortimer Adler's Ten Philosophical Mistakes and I found it great reading. It reminded me of your books Philosophy of Mind, Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide, and TLS, only you write so much clearer than Adler. I hope you could come up with another book in the future along the lines of 10 Philosophical Mistakes, as I know from reading your books that you use a much easier style of language than Adler, and that you do a much better work explaining the issues and philosophical mistakes many people make. Anyway, I hope you consider this project. God bless you and your work! - Mark

  15. How utter useless and pathetic: A 21 year old article arguing for the "Immateriality of thought" via philosophy. Why would anyone waste time with such an endeavor unless one is already committed to it's conclusion? Much has been learned via neurology and psychology within the last 21 years and it all points in the direction of purely and solely material explanations for all the functions of the brain, including, quite obviously, thought. If one wants to seriously consider suggesting that the basis for thought is immaterial at this point in time, they had better have loads of empirical evidence to back up such a claim.

  16. "Why would anyone waste time with such an endeavor unless one is already committed to it's conclusion."

    Lol look it's an ad hom.

  17. Obligatory link:


  18. Dear Sir,

    Do you plan to write some posts on Churchland's book Plato’s Camera?