Saturday, September 27, 2014

Thomas Aquinas, Henry Adams, Steve Martin

In his conceptual travelogue Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres -- first distributed privately in 1904, then published in 1913 -- historian Henry Adams devoted a chapter to Thomas Aquinas.  There are oversimplifications and mistakes in it of the sort one would expect from a non-philosopher interested in putting together a compelling narrative, but some interesting things too.  Adams rightly emphasizes how deep and consequential is the difference between Aquinas’s view that knowledge of God starts with sensory experience of the natural order, and the tendency of mystics and Cartesians to look instead within the human mind itself to begin the ascent to God.  And he rightly notes how important, and also contrary to other prominent theological tendencies, is Aquinas’s affirmation of the material world.  (This is a major theme in Denys Turner’s recent book on Aquinas, about which I’ve been meaning to blog.)  On the other hand, what Adams says about Aquinas and secondary causality is not only wrong but bizarre.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

DSPT Symposium

God, Reason and Reality is a new anthology edited by Anselm Ramelow.  In addition to Fr. Ramelow, the contributors include Robert Sokolowski, Robert Spaemann, Thomas Joseph White, Lawrence Dewan, Stamatios Gerogiorgakis, John F. X. Knasas, Paul Thom, Michael Dodds, William Wainwright, and Linda Zagzebski.  The table of contents and other information about the book can be found here.

The Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, CA will be hosting a symposium on the book on November 8, 2014.  The presenters will be Fr. Ramelow, Fr. Dodds, and me.  Further information can be found here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review of Jaworski

My review of William Jaworski’s Philosophy of Mind: A Comprehensive Introduction appears in the latest issue (Vol. 88, No. 3) of the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly.  You can find a preview of the review here, though unfortunately most of the article is behind a paywall.  (I also say a bit about Jaworski’s approach to hylemorphism, and related contemporary approaches, in Scholastic Metaphysics.  See especially pp. 187-89.)

Friday, September 19, 2014


The Catholic Church makes some bold claims about what can be known about God via unaided reason.  The First Vatican Council teaches:

The same Holy mother Church holds and teaches that God, the source and end of all things, can be known with certainty from the consideration of created things, by the natural power of human reason…

If anyone says that the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema.

In Humani Generis, Pope Pius XII reaffirmed this teaching and made clear what were in his view the specific philosophical means by which this natural knowledge of God could best be articulated, and which were most in line with Catholic doctrine:

[H]uman reason by its own natural force and light can arrive at a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God, Who by His providence watches over and governs the world…

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The straw man that will not die

What’s more tiresome than reading yet another brain-dead atheist attack on the “Everything has a cause” straw man?   Having to write up a response to yet another brain-dead atheist attack on the “Everything has a cause” straw man (as I did not too long ago).  It’s like being Sisyphus on a treadmill stuck in reverse.  It’s like that annoying Alanis Morissette song.  It’s like that annoying parody of the annoying Alanis Morissette song.  It’s like swimming through a sea of confusion, on a dead horse you’re flogging with a hoe in a tough row of run-on mixed metaphors.  ‘Til the clichés come home.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Try a damn link

Mike in/on motion: Michael Flynn is working through the Aristotelian argument from motion at The TOF Spot, with three installments so far (here, here, and here).  (Some bonus coolness: Mike Flynn covers from Analog.)

“New Atheist” writer Victor Stenger has died.  Jeffery Jay Lowder of The Secular Outpost recounts his disagreements with Stenger. 

What was the deal with H. P. Lovecraft?  John J. Miller investigates at The Claremont Review of Books.

At Philosophy in Review, Roger Pouivet (author of After Wittgenstein, St. Thomas) reviews Robert Pasnau’s Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671.  (You can find the current issue here and then scroll down to find a PDF of the review.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Symington on Scholastic Metaphysics

Edward Feser demonstrates a facility with both Scholastic and contemporary analytical concepts, and does much to span the divide…

The final chapter [is]… a nice example of the service that Feser renders to the task of enhancing points of commonality between scholastic and analytic thinkers.  In this chapter, Feser defends a realist form of essentialism as well as argues for a real distinction between essence and existence.  As is characteristic of the book as a whole, Feser brings in contemporary views in way that makes good use of, and is charitable to, contemporary developments in metaphysics…

In all, Feser's new book is a welcome addition for those interested in bringing the concepts, terminology and presuppositions between scholastic and contemporary analytic philosophers to commensuration. In fact, I would contend that Feser's book will constitute an important piece in its own right for guiding the research program for contemporary Thomistic metaphysicians into the future.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Marmodoro on PSR and PC

Philosopher Anna Marmodoro is an important contributor to the current debate within metaphysics over powers and dispositions, and editor of the recommended The Metaphysics of Powers.  Recently, at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, she reviewed Rafael Hüntelmann and Johannes Hattler’s anthology New Scholasticism Meets Analytic Philosophy, in which my paper “The Scholastic Principle of Causality and the Rationalist Principle of Sufficient Reason” appears.  What follows is a response to her remarks about the paper.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Olson contra classical theism

A reader asks me to comment on this blog post by Baptist theologian Prof. Roger Olson, which pits what Olson calls “intuitive” theology against “Scholastic” theology in general and classical theism in particular, with its key notions of divine simplicity, immutability, and impassibility.  Though one cannot expect more rigor from a blog post than the genre allows, Olson has presumably at least summarized what he takes to be the main considerations against classical theism.  And with all due respect to the professor, these considerations are about as weak as you’d expect an appeal to intuition to be.