Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Morrissey on Scholastic Metaphysics

At Catholic World Report, Prof. Christopher Morrissey kindly reviews my book Scholastic Metaphysics.  From the review:

The great strength of Feser’s book is how well it exposes the shortcomings of the speculations of contemporary analytic philosophy about the fundamental structures of reality. The most recent efforts of such modern philosophical research, shows Feser, are remarkably inadequate for explaining many metaphysical puzzles raised by modern science. In order to properly understand the meaning of humanity’s latest and greatest discoveries, such as quantum field theory in modern physics, an adequate metaphysics is urgently required, now more than ever…

Feser has a notable flair for being both witty and engaging and for using entertaining and vivid examples. The book demands much from the reader’s intellectual abilities, but like reading St. Thomas Aquinas himself it is always rewarding and exhilarating. Page after page, insight after insight piles up—so many that if you have any philosophical curiosity at all, you simply cannot stop reading.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Science dorks

Suppose you’re trying to teach basic arithmetic to someone who has gotten it into his head that the whole subject is “unscientific,” on the grounds that it is non-empirical.  With apologies to the famous Mr. Parker (pictured at left), let’s call him “Peter.”  Peter’s obviously not too bright, but he thinks he is very bright since he has internet access and skims a lot of Wikipedia articles about science.  Indeed, he proudly calls himself a “science dork.”  Patiently, albeit through gritted teeth, you try to get him to see that two and two really do make four.  Imagine it goes like this:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Carroll on Scholastic Metaphysics

Edward Feser’s latest book gives readers who are familiar with analytic philosophy an excellent overview of scholastic metaphysics in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas…

Feser argues that Thomistic philosophy can expand and enrich today’s metaphysical reflection. His book is an effective challenge to anyone who would dismiss scholastic metaphysics as irrelevant.

Those familiar with Feser’s many books and lively blog will recognize his characteristic vigor and his wide-ranging reading of contemporary and medieval sources. This book is particularly aimed at those trained in the Anglo-American analytical tradition, repeatedly referencing contemporary debates in this tradition…

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

You’re not who you think you are

If I’m not me, who the hell am I?

Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in Total Recall

If you know the work of Philip K. Dick, then you know that one of its major themes is the relationship between memory and personal identity.  That is evident in many of the Dick stories made into movies, such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (which was adapted into Blade Runner, definitely the best of the Dick film adaptations); “Paycheck” (the inferior movie adaptation of which I blogged about recently); and A Scanner Darkly (the movie version of which is pretty good -- and which I’ve been meaning to blog about forever, though I won’t be doing so here). 

Then there are the short stories “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (the first part of which formed the basis of the original Total Recall and its pointless remake), and “Impostor” (the basis of a middling Gary Sinise movie).  These two stories nicely illustrate what is wrong with the “continuity of consciousness” philosophical theories of personal identity that trace to John Locke.  (Those who don’t already know these stories or movies should be warned that major spoilers follow.)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Around the web

Back from a very pleasant (but exhausting!) week in Princeton.  While I regroup, some reading to wind down the summer:

Andrew Fulford at The Calvinist International kindly reviews my book Scholastic Metaphysics.  Stephen Mumford tweets a kind word about the book.  Thanks, Stephen!

It’s bold.  It’s new.  It’s long overdue.  It’s The Classical Theism Project.  Check it.

At NDPR, Thomas Williams reviews Thomas Osborne’s new book Human Action in Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Haldane on Nagel and the Fifth Way

Next week I’ll be at the Thomistic Seminar organized by John Haldane.  Haldane’s article “Realism, Mind, and Evolution” appeared last year in the journal Philosophical InvestigationsThomas Nagel’s book Mind and Cosmos is among the topics dealt with in the article.  As Haldane notes, Nagel entertains the possibility of a “non-materialist naturalist” position which:

would explain the emergence of sentient and then of rational beings on the basis of developmental processes directed towards their production.  That is to say, it postulates principles of self-organization in matter which lead from the physico-chemical level to the emergence of living things, which then are further directed by some immanent laws towards the development of consciousness, and thereafter to reason for the sake of coming to recognize value and act in response to it, a state of affairs which is itself a value, the good of rational life. (p. 107)

As the phrases “directed towards” and “immanent laws” indicate, what Nagel is speculating about is a return to a broadly Aristotelian notion of natural teleology.