Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Jerry-built atheism

David Bentley Hart’s recent book The Experience of God has been getting some attention.  The highly esteemed William Carroll has an article on it over at Public Discourse.  As I noted in a recent post, the highly self-esteemed Jerry Coyne has been commenting on Hart’s book too, and in the classic Coyne style: First trash the book, then promise someday actually to read it.  But it turns out that was the second post Coyne had written ridiculing Hart’s book; the first is here.  So, by my count that’s at least 5100 words so far criticizing a book Coyne admits he has not read.  Since it’s Jerry Coyne, you know another shoe is sure to drop.  And so it does, three paragraphs into the more recent post:

[I]t’s also fun (and marginally profitable) to read and refute the arguments of theologians, for it’s only there that one can truly see intelligence so blatantly coopted and corrupted to prove what one has decided is true beforehand. [Emphasis added]

Well, no, Jerry, not only there.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Estranged notions

Strange Notions is a website devoted to discussion between Catholics and atheists and operated by Brandon Vogt.  It’s a worthwhile enterprise.  When he was getting the website started, Brandon kindly invited me to contribute to it, and also asked if he could reprint old posts from my blog.  I told him I had no time to contribute new articles but that it was fine with me if he wanted to reprint older pieces as long as they were not edited without my permission.  I have not kept a close eye on the site, but it seems that quite a few old blog posts of mine have been reprinted.  I hope some of Brandon’s readers find them useful, but I have to say that a glance at the site’s comboxes makes me wonder whether allowing such reprints was after all a good idea.  Certainly it has a downside.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The pointlessness of Jerry Coyne

People have asked me to comment on the recent spat between Jerry Coyne and Ross Douthat.  As longtime readers of this blog know from bitter experience, there’s little point in engaging with Coyne on matters of philosophy and theology.  He is neither remotely well-informed, nor fair-minded, nor able to make basic distinctions or otherwise to reason with precision.  Nor, when such foibles are pointed out to him, does he show much interest in improving.  (Though on at least one occasion he did promise to try actually to learn something about a subject concerning which he had been bloviating.  But we’re still waiting for that well-informed epic takedown of Aquinas we thought we were going to get from him more than two years ago.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

DSPT colloquium 2014

The Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, CA will be hosting a colloquium on the theme “What Has Athens to Do with Jerusalem?  Dialogue between Philosophy and Theology in the 21st Century,” on July 16 - 20, 2014.  The plenary session presenters are Michael Dodds, OP, Edward Feser, Alfred Freddoso, John O’Callaghan, MichaƂ Paluch, OP, John Searle, Robert Sokolowski, and Linda Zagzebski.  More information here.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Oderberg reflects on Lowe

The following is a guest post by David S. Oderberg on the life, work, and legacy of the late E. Jonathan Lowe (pictured at left), who died on January 5.
E.J. Lowe (1950-2014)
My first intellectual encounter with Jonathan Lowe was around 1990 or 1991, while in the thick of my doctoral thesis. I was trying to defend a position in metaphysics that went against the majority view at the time, though a minority of significant philosophers agreed with it. The problem was one of finding some decent arguments in support of the minority view: merely citing a well-known adherent would not be enough.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Does existence exist?

Existence exists.

Ayn Rand

Existence does not exist.

Cardinal Cajetan

Both Rand’s statement and Cajetan’s sound very odd at first blush.  What does it mean to say that existence exists?  Isn’t that like saying that stoneness is a stone or humanness is a human being, neither of which is true?  On the other hand, what does it mean to say that existence does not exist?  Isn’t that like saying that there is nothing that exists, which is also manifestly false?  Yet how could both of these statements be false?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2014 Aquinas Workshop

Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY will be hosting the Fourth Annual Philosophy Workshop on the theme “Aquinas on God” from June 5-8, 2014.  The speakers will be James Brent, OP, William E. Carroll, Michael Dodds, OP, Edward Feser, Alfred Freddoso, Reinhard Huetter, Candace Vogler, and Thomas Joseph White, OP.  More information here and here.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

E. J. Lowe (1950 - 2014)

Philosopher E. J. Lowe has died.  A neo-Aristotelian of sorts, he was one of the most important metaphysicians in contemporary philosophy, and by all accounts a kind and decent man.  He left many important works, not only in metaphysics but in the philosophy of mind and on the philosophy of John Locke.  Some remarks from Tuomas Tahko here.  RIP.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Nagel on Nozick

Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia has recently been reissued with a new Foreword by Thomas Nagel.  You can read the Foreword via Google books.  In it Nagel describes the situation in moral and political philosophy in analytic philosophy circles in the late 1960s.  A group of thinkers that included Nozick, Nagel, and other notables such as John Rawls and Judith Jarvis Thomson, who participated in a discussion group called the Society for Ethical and Legal Philosophy (SELF), reacted against certain then common tendencies.  First, as Nagel writes, they rejected the logical positivists’ “general skepticism about value judgments, interpreted as essentially subjective expressions of feeling.”  Second, they rejected utilitarianism in favor of “principles that limit the means that may be used to promote even the best ends.”