Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Interview with the metaphysician

Recently I was interviewed by two different websites about Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction.  Both interviews have now been posted.  The first interview is at, where the interviewer was Joe Trabbic.  The second interview is at Strange Notions, where the interviewer was Brandon Vogt.  The websites’ respective audiences are very different, as were the questions, so there isn’t any significant overlap between the two interviews.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Augustine on the immateriality of the mind

In Book 10, Chapter 10 of On the Trinity, St. Augustine argues for the immateriality of the mind.  You can find an older translation of the work online, but I’ll quote the passages I want to discuss from the McKenna translation as edited by Gareth Matthews.  Here they are:

[E]very mind knows and is certain concerning itself.  For men have doubted whether the power to live, to remember, to understand, to will, to think, to know, and to judge is due to air, to fire, or to the brain, or to the blood, or to atoms… or whether the combining or the orderly arrangement of the flesh is capable of producing these effects; one has tried to maintain this opinion, another that opinion.

On the other hand who would doubt that he lives, remembers, understands, wills, thinks, knows, and judges?  For even if he doubts, he lives; if he doubts, he remembers why he doubts; if he doubts, he understands that he doubts; if he doubts, he wishes to be certain; if he doubts, he thinks; if he doubts, he knows that he does not know; if he doubts, he judges that he ought not to consent rashly.  Whoever then doubts about anything else ought never to doubt about all of these; for if they were not, he would be unable to doubt about anything at all

Saturday, November 15, 2014

DSPT symposium papers online (Updated)

Last week’s symposium at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley was on Fr. Anselm Ramelow’s anthology God, Reason and Reality.  Some of the papers from the symposium are now available online.  In my paper, “Remarks on God, Reason and Reality,” I comment on two essays in the anthology: Fr. Ramelow’s essay on God and miracles, and Fr. Michael Dodds’ essay on God and the nature of life.  Fr. Ramelow’s symposium paper is “Three Tensions Concerning Miracles: A Response to Edward Feser.”

UPDATE 11/16: Fr. Dodds' paper "The God of Life: Response to Edward Feser" has now been posted at the DSPT website.  Also, a YouTube video of all the talks and of the Q & A that followed has been posted.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

DSPT interviews (Updated)

Back from another very pleasant and profitable visit to the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley.  Many thanks to my hosts and to everyone who attended the symposium.  The DSPT has just posted video interviews of some of the participants in the July conference on philosophy and theology.  John Searle, Linda Zagzebski, John O’Callaghan, and I are the interviewees.  You can find them here at YouTube.

Update 11/14: The DSPT will be adding new video clips weekly to its YouTube playlist.  This week an interview with Fred Freddoso has been added.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Walking the web

Bishop Athanasius Schneider is interviewed about the recent Synod on the Family.  On the now notorious interim report: “This document will remain for the future generations and for the historians a black mark which has stained the honour of the Apostolic See.” (HT: Rorate Caeli and Fr. Z

Meanwhile, as Rusty Reno and Rod Dreher report, other Catholics evidently prefer the Zeitgeist to the Heilige Geist.

Scientia Salon on everything you know about Aristotle that isn’t so.  Choice line: “While [Bertrand] Russell castigates Aristotle for not counting his wives’ teeth, it does not appear to have occurred to Russell to verify his own statement by going to the bookshelf and reading what Aristotle actually wrote.”

At The New Republic, John Gray on the closed mind of Richard Dawkins.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Voluntarism and PSR

Aquinas holds that “will follows upon intellect” (Summa Theologiae I.19.1).  He means in part that anything with an intellect has a will as well, but also that intellect is metaphysically prior to will.  Will is the power to be drawn toward what the intellect apprehends to be good, or away from what it apprehends to be bad.  Intellect is “in the driver’s seat,” then.  This is a view known as intellectualism, and it is to be contrasted with voluntarism, which makes will prior to intellect, and is associated with Scotus and Ockham.  To oversimplify, you might say that for the intellectualist, we are essentially intellects which have wills, whereas the voluntarist tendency is to regard us as essentially wills which have intellects.