Monday, April 29, 2013

Discerning the thoughts and intents of Hart

David Bentley Hart’s recent reply to me (to which I responded here) was not his only rejoinder to his critics.  In the Letters section of the May issue of First Things, he makes a number of other remarks intended to clarify and defend what he said in his original article on natural law (which I had criticized here).  The section is behind a paywall, but I will quote what I think are the most significant comments.  Unfortunately, they do nothing to make Hart’s position more plausible, nor even much clearer.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Around the web

Metaphysician E. J. Lowe discusses ontology, physics, Locke, Aristotle, logic, laws of nature, potency and act, dualism, science fiction, and other matters in an interview at 3:AM Magazine

Over at The Montreal Review, Alex Sztuden responds to Leiter and Weisberg’s review of Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos.

Frank Beckwith replies to David Bentley Hart on natural law in The Catholic Thing.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sheer Hart attack

In a widely discussed piece in the March issue of First Things, theologian David Bentley Hart was highly critical of natural law theory.  I was in turn highly critical of his article in a response posted at First Things (and cross-posted here).  Hart replied to my criticisms in a follow-up article in the May issue of First Things.  I reply to Hart’s latest in an article just posted over at Public Discourse.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What is an ad hominem fallacy?

As students of logic know, not every appeal to authority is a fallacious appeal to authority.  A fallacy is committed only when the purported authority appealed to either does not in fact possess expertise on the subject at hand, or can reasonably be supposed to be less than objective.  Hence if you believed that PCs are better than Macs entirely on the say-so of either your technophobic orthodontist or the local PC dealer who has some overstock to get rid of, you would be committing a fallacy of appeal to authority -- in the first case because your orthodontist, smart guy though he is, presumably hasn’t much knowledge of computers, in the second case because while the salesman might have such knowledge, there is reasonable doubt about whether he is giving you an unbiased opinion.  But if you believed that PCs are better than Macs because your computer science professor told you so, there would be no fallacy, because he presumably both has expertise on the matter and lacks any special reason to push PCs on you.  (That doesn’t necessarily mean he’d be correct, of course; an argument can be mistaken even if it is non-fallacious.)

Similarly, not every ad hominem attack -- an attack “against the man” or person -- involves a fallacious ad hominem.  “Attacking the man” can be entirely legitimate and sometimes even called for, even in an argumentative context, when it is precisely the man himself who is the problem.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Craig on theistic personalism

Someone posted the following clip at YouTube, in which William Lane Craig is asked about me and about his view of the dispute between classical theism and theistic personalism:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Aristotle on Method and Metaphysics

I am pleased to announce that Aristotle on Method and Metaphysics, an anthology I have edited for Palgrave Macmillan’s Philosophers in Depth series, will be out this August. 

Aristotle on Method and Metaphysics is a collection of new and cutting-edge essays by prominent Aristotle scholars and Aristotelian philosophers on themes in ontology, causation, modality, essentialism, the metaphysics of life, natural theology, and scientific and philosophical methodology.  Though grounded in careful exegesis of Aristotle's writings, the volume aims to demonstrate the continuing relevance of Aristotelian ideas to contemporary philosophical debate.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Philosophy on radio

The other day I was interviewed by Frank Turek for his show CrossExamined.  The show will be broadcast tomorrow, Saturday April 6, at 10-11 am Eastern time.  The podcast is also available at the American Family Radio website.  Among the topics discussed is the argument from motion for an Unmoved Mover.  (Frank had to cut me off at one point because I couldn’t hear the bumper music that would have alerted me that it was time to shut up!)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Reply to Kozinski

I’ve been meaning to write up a response to Thaddeus Kozinski’s post at Ethika Politika criticizing my recent piece on David Bentley Hart’s views about natural law.  Brandon Watson has already pointed out some of the problems with Kozinski’s article, but it’s worth making a few remarks.  Kozinski is the author of the important recent book The Political Problem of Religious Pluralism, and I have enjoyed the articles of his that I’ve read over the years.  However, this latest piece seems to me to manifest some of the foibles of too much post-Scholastic theology -- in particular, a tendency to conflate a view’s no longer being current with its having been proved wrong; a failure to make crucial conceptual distinctions; and a tendency to caricature the views of writers of a Scholastic bent.