Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Review of Gray etc.

Readers of the Claremont Review of Books may want to look for my review of John Gray’s book The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths in the Spring 2014 issue.  At the moment the review is behind a pay wall, but subscribing will fix that problem.

On another matter, readers keep asking me how to get hold of Scholastic Metaphysics, which was released on April 1, somewhat ahead of schedule.  Apparently the book sold out very quickly because supply could not meet all the pre-orders and Amazon has been out of stock for some time.  I have been told that a new shipment arrived at the U.S. distributor’s warehouse a week or so ago and that the book should once again be available from Amazon this week.  So, sit tight, and many, many thanks for your patience and interest.

While you’re waiting, you could always pick up a copy of my book Locke, which, as I recently learned, Prof. Joseph Pappin III very kindly reviews in Vol. 22 of the journal Studies in Burke and His Time.  Readers wanting to understand how modern philosophy moved away from what once was the Aristotelian-Scholastic mainstream will find the book of interest.  From Pappin’s review:

Edward Feser’s Locke is not only an outstanding introduction to the full range of John Locke’s philosophy, it is also a penetrating interpretive work, presented with clarity and conciseness.  One of its strengths is stated by Feser in Chapter One: “Locke straddles the medieval and post-modern worlds, the age of faith and the age of skepticism and secularism.”  Feser’s book is in large part framed by this tension he finds in Locke’s corpus.

Locke is divided into six distinct chapters, with individual chapters of considerable length devoted to the Essay Concerning Human Understanding and another on the Second Treatise of Government.  Preceding these chapters is a sustained examination of the Aristotelian-Scholastic background to Locke’s thought while setting before the reader “The Lockean Project” … Feser justifies this approach “because,” as he declares, “nothing less would serve as an appropriate introduction to the intellectual background against which Locke was reacting”…

This reviewer highly recommends Feser’s tome as an ideal introduction… [and] successful interpretation of the strengths and inherent weaknesses of the “Lockean project.”


  1. I've posted part one of a review of Scholastic Metaphysics on The Smithy at lyfaber.blogspot.com. Part two will follow in a day or two.

    I am critical but not unreservedly so. I'll have more good to say in the second part.

  2. @Dr. Sullivan:

    You make some cogent scholarly points in your (somewhat) critical review, part I, of Dr. Feser's Scholastic Metaphysics.

    First, let me dispense with any pretensions to personal knowledge or expertise on this subject. I am a Protestant layman, until recently as unaware of the scholarly metaphysics of the great thinkers of the Church as one could possibly be; in a word, an "ignoramus" of the highest order. I have found Dr. Feser's works to be most welcome and very understandable pointers to these ideas. When one finds oneself in a desert, and encounters a small source of water, one does not quibble that it is not Perrier.

    Addressing your complaints (please keep in mind my total absence of scholarly qualifications):

    From my limited perspective, it appears that Dr. Feser's intended audience leans more toward my ignorant end of the knowledge spectrum rather than toward your erudite end.

    Your first complaint concerns the absence of any reference materials written in Latin. I will charitably presume that Dr. Feser (as a student of scholastic metaphysics) has at least some knowledge of Latin, and that he has also studied at least some works written in Latin; perhaps not. In any event, in a work intended for "empty vessels" (such as myself), it seems to me that there is no point in referencing works written in a different language (unless the assumption is that the reader is also conversant in that other language). If those referenced works were written entirely in Latin, they would be completely inaccessible to me, no matter how much I might wish to peruse them for comparison and in-depth insights. As a consequence, my assimilation of the ideas presented would be continually interrupted by tedious translations into English from the Latin. In short, those references would prove to be useless for further exploration in depth, although it might bolster Dr. Feser's bona fides among the cognoscenti. IMHO, that is NOT good pedagogical technique for an introductory textbook on any subject.

    Your subsequent complaint is that the book has a definite slant toward Thomism (rather than being balanced by reference to all of the major Scholastic thinkers). That I cannot fairly judge. However, that does not diminish the fact that at least I now have entrée to Scholastic thinking, from which I can pursue additional resources (such as your blog) to find out more. For me, the appetite grows with each delectable morsel from the bounteous table of Scholastic thought. Perhaps that was one of Dr. Feser's primary objectives in writing his book.

    You readily admit:

    "... I started with Aquinas, like everyone does and should, ...".


    "I haven't, of course, studied more than a fraction of what there is, because that would be impossible for any mortal. We have to pick and choose."


    I look forward to part II of your review, and will certainly try to understand more of your position based on your writings. Alas... so much to learn and so little time to devote to it at 66 years of age.

    I wish you continued success in all your endeavors to enlighten us.

    (BTW, if you do happen to read this: if you know Dr. Timothy Noone, please give him a warm "Hello!" We share a common interest in playing bluegrass harmonica.)

  3. Just a note on availability. I ordered my copy two weeks ago via Amazon UK and received it here in Britain from Germany within a week.

  4. Another note on availability. I ordered the book several weeks ago at Librarie Orientale in Beirut, the one down the street from the FedEx office on Sassine Square. They said it was unavailable. Will try again. Generally takes about three weeks for a special order to arrive here.

  5. Michael Sullivan said...

    I've posted part one of a review of Scholastic Metaphysics on The Smithy at lyfaber.blogspot.com. Part two will follow in a day or two.

    I am critical but not unreservedly so. I'll have more good to say in the second part."

    Left a couple of questions on your site.

    Re-reading them now, they seem a bit contentious. Weren't meant to be.

    But what specific relevance should Scotus have had for Feser's project of engaging contemporary philosophy with what he shorthands as the "A-T" tradition?

    What contribution has Scotus to make to the engagement of the Scholastic tradition with contemporary philosophy and its categories and logic?

  6. I ordered my copy of Scholastic Metaphysics from Amazon more than a month ago and it still hasn't arrived. However, my expected ship date was June 10th, so it's technically not late yet. My copy of Feser's Philosophy of Mind, which I ordered at the same time, arrived the very next day, so I can't complain.

  7. Yeah, well, I ordered mine from Amazon.ca on February 7, and it still hasn't arrived. So there!

  8. I ordered Scholastic Metaphysics from Book Depository UK last week and had it in two or three days.

  9. Wow, "Scholastic Metaphysics" sells out due to unexpected demand... not a bulletin one expects to read!

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