Monday, October 10, 2016

Goodbye SCP (Updated)

It has been two weeks or so since the controversy over Richard Swinburne and the Society of Christian Philosophers (SCP) erupted.  I’ve got nothing to add to what I and many others have already said, except this: I will not be renewing my membership in the SCP.  I quit.  Goodbye.  Other SCP members will have to make up their own minds about how best to react to the situation, but I would encourage them to leave as well.  In my judgment, the SCP no longer deserves the financial and moral support of Christian philosophers.

It seems clear to me both from the public debate on the controversy and from what I know from “behind the scenes” that neither the President of the SCP, Michael Rea, nor the Executive Director, Christina Van Dyke, has any intention of making any public statement either apologizing to Swinburne or in any other meaningful way addressing the concerns of Swinburne’s defenders.

Rea created this controversy when he issued his statement officially distancing the SCP from Swinburne’s talk defending traditional Christian sexual morality (a talk the organization had invited Swinburne to give and the content of which the conference organizers cannot have been surprised by).  As I argued in my original post on the controversy:

Given current cultural circumstances, Rea’s statement amounts to what philosophers call a Gricean implicature – it “sends a message,” as it were -- to the effect that the SCP agrees that views like Swinburne’s really are disreputable and deserving of special censure, something to be quarantined and set apart from the ideas and arguments that respectable philosophers, including Christian philosophers, should normally be discussing

The only thing that can cancel this implicature is an equally forceful and unambiguous statement from Rea apologizing for any disrespect shown to Swinburne and affirming that the SCP welcomes the contributions of philosophers who defend traditional Christian sexual morality no less than the contributions of those who are critical of it.

Yet not only have Rea and Van Dyke failed to cancel the implicature, they have reinforced the implicature.

First, as Lydia McGrew has pointed out, Van Dyke reinforced it in the very act of denying that any such implicature was intended.  In a Facebook remark on the controversy, Van Dyke claimed that “no one is trying to take free speech or the open expression of ideas away from anyone” but then immediately went on to assert that views like Swinburne’s “have caused incalculable harm to vast numbers of already disadvantaged people” and that “having someone in a position of power [like Swinburne] advocate that position furthers that harm.” 

Now, no one ever claimed in the first place that the SCP intends explicitly to forbid views like Swinburne’s from being expressed at its meetings.  That is a red herring.  What Swinburne’s defenders are concerned about is rather that the SCP leadership’s remarks provide aid and comfort to those who would like to shut down reasoned debate about traditional sexual morality via intimidation, by demonizing all those who uphold it as “bigots,” promoters of “hate,” etc.  (See my original post on the controversy for discussion of the nature and manifestations of this political tactic and its utter incompatibility with a genuinely philosophical approach to these matters.) 

When Van Dyke asserts matter-of-factly that the very expression of views like Swinburne’s “cause[s] incalculable harm to vast numbers of already disadvantaged people” etc., this quite obviously reinforces, rather than cancels, the message that views like Swinburne’s are especially disreputable, etc., and it thus discourages philosophers (especially young and untenured scholars) from even considering defending such views, lest they be lumped in with the “haters” and “bigots” and damage their careers.

Second, as I reported over a week ago, Van Dyke made a public show of support for Prof. Jason Stanley when he faced criticism for the juvenile, hateful, obscene and offensive remarks he made about Swinburne and his defenders.  Stanley, the reader will recall, had responded to Swinburne and his defenders with the words “F**k those a***oles,” labeled them “proponents of evil,” and compared them to Nazis and other mass murderers.  Clearly, for an SCP official to express support for such remarks once again reinforces the implicature to the effect that views like Swinburne’s are especially disreputable, not the sort of thing a respectable philosopher would defend, etc.

Third, Lydia McGrew has reported that Rea made a public show of support for Prof. Rebecca Kukla when she faced criticism for the juvenile, hateful, offensive, and even more obscene remarks she made about Swinburne and his defenders.  Kukla, the reader will recall, had said of Swinburne and his defenders: “Those douche tankards can suck my giant queer c**k.”

But for Swinburne… not a peep from Rea and Van Dyke.  The petition to these SCP leaders from their fellow Christian philosophers, respectfully asking for an apology to Swinburne?  No public response at all.

Even Jason Stanley has now publicly apologized to Swinburne for his remarks.  But from Michael Rea, silence.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that either the leaders of the SCP sympathize with those who would like to marginalize philosophers who defend traditional Christian sexual morality, or they do not sympathize with them, but nevertheless lack the courage to face the backlash they would get from these marginalizers if they publicly apologized to Swinburne. 

Either way, the message this sends to Christian philosophers who would defend traditional Christian sexual morality is this:  “We don’t have your back.  We prefer to acquiesce in the demonization you increasingly face from the wider culture.”

So, goodbye SCP.  You did much good at one time, but now it seems you are the latest confirmation of Neuhaus’s Law.

UPDATE: I have been an SCP member for years, and have assumed that I am currently a member since I am still receiving the society’s journal Faith and Philosophy.  (I had the latest issue here on my desk as I wrote the post.)  But Mike Rea informs me via email that according to his records I am in arrears with my dues.  So he does not consider me to be a member any longer anyway.  I have told Mike to feel free to correct things at his end and cancel my subscription.  It’s a good journal, but naturally I don’t expect them to keep sending it to me if I am no longer a dues-paying member.


  1. Your brave stand and leadership on this issue is greatly appreciated, Prof. Feser. Thank you!

    By the way, are you aware of any effort underway to create a new, 'orthodox' alternative to the SCP?

  2. I am not, but of course, there is always the American Catholic Philosophical Association and the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

  3. This is a brave stand that you are taking. I fully support this decision. I think this sets a great example of how Christians should be more assertive in arguing their case.

    Honesty I only discovered your blog and your writings only about a year ago, but you have changed the way I view the world with your work. It's important to have a philosopher like you arguing for conclusions that are perfectly defensible yet unpopular in current academia especially with topics of morality such as gay marriage. If you backed down and didn't argue for conclusions not part of the status quo, I would not have been changed by your writings.

    I only wrote this to show how important your impact has been. Keep fighting the good fight!!!

  4. Perhaps the American Catholic Philosophical Association (ACPA) and the Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS) should form another group together? Something along the lines of "The Society of Orthodox Christian Philosophers" (SOCP)...otherwise one fears that the ACPA and EPS will (respectively) become much too sectarian.

  5. Even Jason Stanley has now publicly apologized to Swinburne for his remarks.

    He does so even while claiming he wasn't talking about Swinburne.

    Yet his remarks include this:

    "This wildly understates my actual sentiments towards homophobic religious proponents of evil like Richard Swinburne, who use their status as professional philosophers to oppress others with less power."

    He's now crying anti-semitism. Whoo boy!

  6. Jason Stanley seems about as mentally stable as our host's old Pasadena colleague Hugs Schwyzer.

  7. Thursday,

    Stanley has offered an apology. Christian graciousness would dictate acceptance thereof.

    Think of it this way...even if you're technically correct that Stanley's apology is disingenuous, one need not pick it apart...there's such thing as quitting whilst you're ahead...and not becoming the bully yourself...

  8. Stanley has offered an apology. Christian graciousness would dictate acceptance thereof.

    Stanley offered a pseudo-apology that reeked of self-righteousness. Meanwhile, Rea and company stand by their moves.

    Ed's doing not just the right thing here, but the admirable thing. The bullies won't reverse or relent. He's standing up. May others do the same.

    Thank you, Ed, for your example here. May good things come of it.

  9. Control of the gate is a tactic liberal bullies have always found effective. It's how they keep genuinely religious young men out of the seminaries and replace them with social workers and political activists. With that in mind, is it not better to stay and make a fight of it?

  10. 'I will not be renewing my membership in the SCP. I quit. Goodbye.'


  11. Does anyone know the reaction of the membership of SCP to the current imbroglio? It might be too soon to tell, but I haven't seen a general response, only Rea's apology and those discussing his apology.

  12. Anon 11:47:

    The "apology" contains blatant falsehoods. I stand by what I've written.

  13. How is the SCP leadership installed? Are they elected or appointed? Is there any way to petition their replacement? Or is the SCP so saturated with folks like Stanley that there is no way to reform it from within?


  14. @ Ed,

    I guess the folk running the SCP are oblivious to the fact that any time any Christian church, group or organization starts to become transparently heterodox, they die the death. Membership and interest plummets; donations dry up. If SCP doesn't return to at least being open and accepting of more orthodox Cristian thought and belief, then it will inevitably fall into the dustbin of irrelevance.

    But then again, Progs in my opinion are almost willfully blind to history, believing they are on the march to the end of history.


  15. I think that it would be interesting to try and get a clear and exact picture of what these people view as substantive "harm"; and that in so doing, one might get a better idea of that they implicitly view as "good".

    And once you have a clear idea of what they think of as "good" and as morally obligatory, then you will have a pretty clear idea of what their actual anthropology and worldview is, and to what extent if any, it actually comports with anything like a traditional Christian view of man.


  16. Net time you see a picture of a kid with a cleft palate heading an appeal for donations, just remember that what he really needs is affirmations, not corrective work.

  17. I think that it would be interesting to try and get a clear and exact picture of what these people view as substantive "harm"

    Questioning or criticizing the sexuality of anyone who isn't a straight white male. Saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Using fossil fuels. Public and conspicuous display of crosses in a traditionally reverent manner, without irony.

    and that in so doing, one might get a better idea of that they implicitly view as "good".

    Sewing or painting rainbow flags onto various pieces of clothing or scenery. Denouncing Christian views on sexuality or male-female relations. 'Liking' facebook posts by people talking about their (quite possibly grafted on) queer cocks. Virtue signaling.

  18. Crude said...

    " ' I think that it would be interesting to try and get a clear and exact picture of what these people view as substantive "harm" '

    Questioning or criticizing the sexuality of anyone who isn't a straight white male. Saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Using fossil fuels. Public and conspicuous display of crosses in a traditionally reverent manner, without irony.

    ' and that in so doing, one might get a better idea of that they implicitly view as "good". '

    Sewing or painting rainbow flags onto various pieces of clothing or scenery. Denouncing Christian views on sexuality or male-female relations. 'Liking' facebook posts by people talking about their (quite possibly grafted on) queer cocks. Virtue signaling.

    October 11, 2016 at 9:21 AM"

    LOL. Right.

    But what does "harm" mean or imply substantively in their vocabulary? What "lack" or "deprivation" have they suffered, and how do we know that what has been withheld or foregone was an act to which they were entitled on some basis or another?

    What criteria, and as rooted in what objective state of affairs exactly, is conditioning here?

    It may be that they have no such theory, apart from the demand that a willing will be accommodated just because ... end of story. But why they should think that that makes for a persuasive case (and they probably don't) is anyone's guess.

    This obviously relates to the "new natural law" (seemingly near gibber-jabber to me) notion as well which has been loosed (apparently) from its biological moorings to float on a cloud of species flourishing - or something. I guess generalized needs or conditions are met and the proof of the duty is in the blossoming result ... or something like that. I still have to do more reading on it. Though, having years ago made a pretty thorough reading of the dismal Rawls, and seeing what appear to be similar shadows cast by the new natural law, I cannot say I relish the task.

  19. DNW,

    Okay, on a more serious note...

    It may be that they have no such theory, apart from the demand that a willing will be accommodated just because ... end of story. But why they should think that that makes for a persuasive case (and they probably don't) is anyone's guess.

    Well, I think there's a straightforward issue here.

    To give what you're asking - an explanation of harm, and goods, especially as it relates to these topics - is to open a conversation and to make an argument. All well and good if the view du jour is something other than what they hold to, precisely because it means that questioning, replying and arguing will naturally follow. When the view du jour is -theirs-, 'questioning', 'replying' and 'arguing' is a threat to be discouraged. Hence the SCP as it is.

    What's being done to Swinburne and company is (ha ha) perverse. But what's going to be more perverse is when eventually someone gives an argument in favor of the views Rea and company uphold - only to find himself under attack for implying the view in question needed a defense, or was anything short of obvious and certain from the start. As evidence for their wrongdoing, someone will point out - outside the realms of civilization - a *reply* and *criticism* this argument has provoked, encouraging dissent, which is a particularly toxic manifestation of hate.

    In other words, 'making a persuasive case' is something they reject the need to do at all.

  20. Well, when it gets down to really trading punches, or shots, perhaps they will understand why reason, and as deep as it can be taken, was once considered the arbiter to which rational men claiming to understand the difference between right and wrong were duty bound to submit their claims.

    I mean really, I know that little aging female who told Swinburne to suck her big queer ***k likes to post about her fight training; but does she really think that she can force her will on others in a morally unrestrained environment?

    Is she really up to the trading on the violence she intends to suggest?

    These people are deeply, profoundly, morally alien and other. I'm not sure that a presumption of fellow humanity - given their own philosophical anthropology [and nominalism] - can any longer be sustained with them; nor most importantly, that they have any belief that it themselves.

  21. I am quitting the SCP too.

  22. I don't know if Dr. Feser read or discussed this comment from Michael Rea on his Facebook page, so I thought I would post it here, just in case he or others had not seen it:

    Michael Rea: The following was posted on my FB wall by Eleonore Stump. I'm posting it here because I'm in agreement with what it says, but I cannot figure out how to make it publicly viewable: "I was not at Prof. Swinburne’s talk, and my knowledge of what he said is derived from the comments about it by others. But it is clear from those comments that he took a strong stand on a highly controversial topic, which is divisive even among Christians, and that he expressed his views in an inflammatory way, so that those who disagreed with him were hurt and angry and even some of those who agreed with him were dismayed.
    The Society of Christian Philosophers is not a church. It does not have a creed. Its only conditions on membership are self-assessment as a Christian and as a philosopher. But a number of the outraged comments after Prof. Swinburne’s talk attributed his views to Christians in general or to the Society of Christian Philosophers in particular.
    In these circumstances, it was incumbent on the President of the SCP, Mike Rea, to clarify the position of the SCP. He did not express any opinion on Prof. Swinburne’s conclusions or anything else about Prof. Swinburne’s talk. He expressed regret only over the pain Prof. Swinburne’s talk caused. And he reminded people that the SCP was conceived as an organization that would be inclusive of all those who consider themselves Christian. Since it is clear that anything said in the aftermath of Prof. Swinburne’s talk will itself be the subject of more controversy, I am grateful to Mike Rea for his courage in being willing to make the statement he did.
    As for Prof. Swinburne, I share with him a commitment to orthodox Christianity, and I admire greatly the luminous courage he has shown over the years on many occasions, even those occasions where I have disagreed strongly either with his views or his manner of expressing them."

  23. He did not express any opinion on Prof. Swinburne’s conclusions or anything else about Prof. Swinburne’s talk. He expressed regret only over the pain Prof. Swinburne’s talk caused. And he reminded people that the SCP was conceived as an organization that would be inclusive of all those who consider themselves Christian.

    This is a load. What Rea and crew did is something we have seen over, and over, and over again, and it's true to form from top to bottom.

    They keep falling back on the canard that, while they apologize for the 'pain' that Swinburne caused (simply by expressing views which some people said they found hurtful), they technically offered no opinion about Swinburne's conclusions. The game is that you're supposed to imagine that they're saying 'Swinburne's actual arguments aren't the problem, his opinions aren't the problem - those are all welcome. The issue is just related to some vague allegations of subjective pain'.

    And that's the key: imagination. They won't come out and actually defend Swinburne's act of criticism, the act of questioning the morality of whatever sexual habits or inclinations, or say that that issue is entirely open to question. They'll come right out and apologize for his remarks, they'll condemn the 'pain' he caused, which all comes down to hurt feelings. But whatever pain or frustration or implications of silencing that Christians feel? They're just supposed to assume and imagine that, despite all evidence to the contrary, they are - in the most technical sense - still welcomed.

    LGBT activists get direct apologies, promises, acts of contrition and virtue signaling, owing entirely to expressions of 'feeling pain'.

    Christians adhering to and arguing in favor of an entirely traditional, even mainstream view of sexual behavior also express their 'pain' and worries? They get explanations in terms of technicalities and word parsing. Which are supposed to fly even while we see who SCP leadership friends, supports, and hangs out with, big queer grafted-on cocks and all. Expecting more than that is treated as unreasonable and beyond the pale.

    Pretty fitting that the explanation they're giving is 'Look, the only requirement for SCP membership is being Christian in name only.' Thanks, that's being made obvious.


  24. So again, what exactly is the nature of the "pain" and "hurt" these others have suffered through Swinburne's expression of a reasoned opinion that they suffer from a disability?

    Can anyone say what it is they have lost that they were entitled to; and upon what the entitlement is based?

  25. One interesting point about the paper (I was there) is that Swinburne made comments on abortion, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, and male headship of families. As far as I can tell, the current scrap focuses on only one of those topics. Is that because of the undue societal influence of that particular topic?

  26. Good for you Ed! Much respect.

  27. Thanks for posting that, Bilbo.

    On behalf of the Society of Eleonore Stump, I would like to apologise for the hurt feelings that have been caused by Miss Stump's failure to draw the fine distinctions — and even a few coarse ones — that every philosopher ought. Even some who agree with her were surely dismayed at her categorising the comments made by certain people as "clear" when — by her own admission being uninformed about Prof. Swinburne's talk — she clearly has no basis whatsoever for judging whether or not the given comments were remotely accurate.

    Now, some of you may be wondering what entitles me to speak on behalf of the Society even though I am not Eleonore Stump, nor have I so much as ever been in the same room with her, but permit me to edify you by pointing out the Society is not a church, and therefore whatever I say goes.

    P.S. Please do note that this comment in no way expresses an opinion about the elderly Miss Stump's possible senility, and you should all feel free to applaud my courage in posting it.

  28. Bravo, Mr Green. Courageous and inclusive.

  29. DNW: So again, what exactly is the nature of the "pain" and "hurt" these others have suffered through Swinburne's expression of a reasoned opinion that they suffer from a disability?

    This can be shown most easily by example:

    1) Find a toddler who has said something stupid. Since toddlers are quite immature and uninformed about the world, you will frequently find them saying the darnedest things.
    2) Point out the toddler's foolishness.
    3) Observe the resulting temper tantrum.

    Of course, most toddlers are not only less mature and educated than the typical academic, but also less inflated with self-important pride, so many of them will laugh more than you at their own silliness, and you may have to go through a fair number before finding one who will take the bait. Nevertheless, you'll surely encounter one before too long, especially if you approach ones who are overdue for their afternoon nap.

  30. Reminds me of ...
    "John [was led] into a big room rather like a bathroom ... and there was a crowd of people there, drinking what looked like medicine and talking at the tops of their voices. They were all either young, or dressed up to look as if they were young. ...

    When Victoriana rose John at first thought that she was a schoolgirl: but after he had looked at her again he perceived that she was in fact about fifty. Before she began to sing she put on a dress which was a sort of exaggerated copy of Mr. Halfways’ robes, and a mask which was like the Steward’s mask except that the nose had been painted bright red and one of the eyes had been closed in a permanent wink.

    ‘Priceless!’ exclaimed one half of the Clevers, ‘too Puritanian.’

    ... Then Victoriana took a little toy harp and began. The noises of the toy harp were so strange that John could not think of them as music at all. ...

    ‘Priceless,’ said the Clevers.

    ‘I hope you liked it,’ said Gus to John.

    ‘Well,’ began John doubtfully ... but he got no further ... Victoriana had thrown her mask away and walked up to him and slapped him in the face twice, as hard as she could....

    ‘You may persecute me as much as you like,’ said Victoriana to John. ‘No doubt to see me thus with my back to the wall, wakes the hunting lust in you. You will always follow the cry of the majority. But I will fight to the end. So there,’ and she began to cry.

    ‘I am extremely sorry,’ said John. ‘But——’

    ‘And I know it was a good song,’ sobbed Victoriana, ‘because all great singers are persecuted in their lifetime—and I’m per-persecuted—and therefore I must be a great singer.’

    ‘She has you there,’ said the Clevers, as Victoriana left the laboratory...

  31. I would be much more interested in hearing what Dr. Feser has to say about Eleonore Stump's remarks.

  32. ... " Why don’t you sing, Glugly?’ [said Gus]

    Glugly instantly rose. She was very tall and as lean as a post: and her mouth was not quite straight in her face. When ... silence had been obtained, she began to make gestures. First of all she set her arms a-kimbo and cleverly turned her hands the wrong way so that it looked as if her wrists were sprained. Then she waddled to and fro with her toes pointing in. After that she twisted herself to make it look as if her hip bone was out of joint. Finally she made some grunts, and said: ‘Globol obol oogle ogle globol gloogle gloo,’ and ended by pursing up her lips and making a vulgar noise such as children make in their nurseries. Then she went back to her place and sat down.

    ‘Thank you very much,’ said John politely. But Glugly made no reply, for Glugly could not talk, owing to an accident in infancy.

    ‘I hoped you liked it,’ said young Halfways.

    ‘I didn’t understand her.’

    ‘Ah,’ said a woman in spectacles who seemed to be Glugly’s nurse or keeper, ‘that is because you are looking for beauty. You are still thinking of your Island. You have got to realize that satire is the moving force in modern music.’

    ‘It is the expression of a savage disillusionment,’ said someone else.

    ‘Reality has broken down,’ said a fat boy who had drunk a great deal of the medicine and was lying flat on his back, smiling happily.

    ‘Our art must be brutal,’ said Glugly’s nurse.

    ‘We lost our ideals when there was a war in this country,’ said a very young Clever, ‘they were ground out of us in the mud and the flood and the blood. That is why we have to be so stark and brutal.’

    ‘But, look here,’ cried John, ‘that war was years ago. It was your fathers who were in it: and they are all settled down and living ordinary lives.’

    ‘Puritanian! Bourgeois!’ cried the Clevers. Everyone seemed to have risen.

    ‘... someone had struck John on the head, and as he bowed under the blow someone else hit him from behind.

    ‘It was the mud and the blood,’ hissed the girls all round him.

    ‘Well,’ said John, ducking to avoid a retort that had been flung at him, ‘if you are really old enough to remember that war, why do you pretend to be so young?’

    ‘We are young,’ they howled; ‘we are the new movement; we are the revolt.’

    ‘Quite,’ said the rest in chorus.

    ‘We have got over humanitarianism,’ bellowed one of the bearded men, kicking John on the kneecap.

    ‘And prudery,’ said a thin little old maid trying to wrench his clothes off from the neck. And at the same moment six girls leaped at his face with their nails, and he was kicked in the back and the belly, and tripped up so that he fell on his face, and hit again as he rose, and all the glass in the world seemed breaking round his head as he fled for his life from the laboratory. And all the dogs of Eschropolis joined in the chase as he ran along the street, and all the people followed pelting him with ordure, and crying:

    ‘Puritanian! Bourgeois! Prurient!’

    When John could run no further he sat down. ... He was covered with filth and blood, and his breathing hurt him. ... As he was too tired to walk he sat still and thought for a while. ... [eventually] he rose very painfully to continue his journey, looking round for the West. ...

    Soon the sunset disappeared and the sky was clouded over and a cold rain began. ....

    CS Lewis, The Pilgrim's Regress

  33. Thank you, Professor Feser, for being a philosopher and a man of integrity, and a Christian worthy of the name. It is clear that the only ones not benefiting from the "inclusiveness" of the "PC thugs" are those who uphold traditional values. Socially engineered opinions despotically promulgated by the liberal elite are fast becoming the new "orthodoxy" of the homogeneous masses who rely on social media for information and affirmation (no matter how many selfies they may take and upload, they are mere faceless integers and ideological capital for the liberal oligarchy). I am grateful I decided not to enter the world of academia: even as an undergraduate student at UCLA's English Department nine years ago, I readily perceived what was to happen because of the High-School-clique dynamics of academic politics.

  34. With that in mind, is it not better to stay and make a fight of it

    That's a fair point. One could take the example of the EpiscoPresbyLutherans. There it is a history of the Left getting an increasing share in a diminishing market. But the problem is that holdouts can't hold out because in the end it's Order vs. Chaos and the sad truth is that the peeps aligned with chaos can afford to lose a thousand times in the attempts to undermine sound tradition and doctrine; they only need to win once.

    I can imagine some things are worth fighting for to the bitter end and whatever the cost. Quite frankly, it doesn't seem the SCP qualifies. Better to rebuild elsewhere, but of course that's a personal judgment call and I can't criticize anyone for choosing one or the other.

  35. Thank you, Dr. Feser! I hope your steps will inspire all true Christian philosophers to vacate the S-'C'-P. May a better Christian philosophical group come to fruition out of this one. I will no longer purchase books that financially support Rea.

  36. For those of you suggesting Ed should have stuck around to fight in the SCP, I think he indicates a good reason why that would be pointless with the Neuhaus' Law reference.

    Let this be a lesson: if you try to make your organization as inclusive as possible, it's a standing invitation the flood your organization with those who are as in-name-only as you can get. I remember a while back seeing records of a conversation on the American Scientific Affiliation (an organization of Christians who were scientists) mailing list, where one of the contributors became an outspoken atheist. At being informed he was going to be removed from the list and the organization, the most liberal members - surprise - objected strongly, insisting that the organization could only profit from a diversity of voices.

  37. Ed, thank you for taking a stand. This is well worth doing.

    I am on board with what Scott W and Crude have said about staying in the SCP versus leaving. I would also point out that if a group of philosophers start up a new entity that competes with SCP, the mere fact of starting a new organization will be beneficial. One of the most troubling problems for good young professionals who do not yet have solid careers is that they CAN'T GET solid positions while the perverts and other liberals have a lock on what is considered acceptable discussion. They can't publish papers and give presentations at conferences that discuss reality properly, if all the sponsoring entities ostentatiously view Swinburne's incredibly mild comments as beyond the pale. If they can't publish or speak truth because the perverts have locked out truth, they can't get the jobs that depend on that as one of the criteria of being a professional. We need many, many more new organizations giving an alternative: we need a medical organization that can stand up to the AMA and say "you're lying". We need a psychology organization that defines same sex inclinations as disordered and capable of being treated (and providing qualified psychologists to testify to lawmakers, to give the other side of the story, so the legislature cannot so easily make it illegal to treat SSA). We need need biology organizations who are capable of reminding people that the theory of evolution is a THEORY, and thus in principle falsifiable, etc. We need an association of Christian lawyers standing up to the American Bar Association and saying that certain lawyers are NOT competent to be judges. All of these kinds of entities, when they publish papers and hold conferences and create positions like committees and chairs, provide good men and women the official standing to be taken seriously in the venues where power is meted out in actual decisions, as well as just plain landing jobs.


  38. So what's the deal with "inclusiveness" as a moral or other value?

    As it mystifies me, perhaps someone else can explain it.

    And yes, to stipulate, I do understand the significance of differing angles of attack and interpretive frameworks in contributing to advances in intellectual understanding, and in inoculating against conceptual ossification; but, there seems to be something more, and more vaporous, to this business of "inclusion" than just that.

    Or maybe not.

  39. Re: inclusiveness

    It's a pretty simple formula.

    Step 1: "We should be open to the widest possible variety of views. Because only by diluting our organization so thoroughly can we possibly get in people who support our outlier views, which are contrary to the core message of this organization."

    Step 2: "Now that we're so inclusive, we have enough members who are on the same page and against the core message that we can change that core message."

    Step 3: "Inclusivity is now the core message. Specifically, inclusivity as defined by ourselves, which is no longer a broad ideal but now a specific openness to a designated list of ideas. Outside of which we have no patience for, as it would be in opposition to inclusiveness as we now define it."

    By the by, they don't just have the SCP in mind. THere's a bit more than that.


  40. Crude,

    Yeah, I see the program and agenda as laid out, and agree. The link is also alarming.

    What I would like to see, and it may not even exist, is a "moral" defense of a totalizing project of inclusion - based not on mere pragmatic intellectual diversity grounds, nor on the kind of subversive left-wing programmatic which assumes a framework in order to co-opt it; but, one offered up by secularists on a "moral" grounds or duties basis, however they construe "moral", "grounds", or "duties".

    And of course, the moment I finish typing this last sentence, I realize that I am implicitly asking the same class-membership and construction justification question I am always asking progressives about; and that they cannot offer a moral duty justification, because they cannot, or will not, offer an objective and convincing justification for their construction of moral community categories.

    I wonder if they really and fully appreciate what this means for them, if they "lose their grip on the hammer"?

  41. DNW

    Without "inclusiveness", they would never get their foot in the door. It's hard to start a new organization, business, or entity. Much easier to subvert an existing one with an established consumer base and infrastructure.

    They really don't espouse inclusiveness, and so would likely be hard pressed to defend it. Clearly they would rather not include Dr. Swinburne's views. Just as they don't really want diversity. Diversity means more work to defend ideas or products. The end goal isn't to better or improve anything, just as the parasite doesn't seek to enrich its host.

    The same has happened to countless organizations, and today it's happening all across the globe. It's a moral and intellectual meltdown.

  42. The posts's point about Meaning is important. Philosophers of all people should know that the literal words of a statement need not correspond to the meaning. And the meaning will differ among listeners. When an assistant professor reads Professor Rea's statement, he surely understands that it is a polite way of saying:

    "If you criticize homosexuality in a paper you submit to a journal I edit, I'm going to reject it, because I know how tough people like Jason Stanley and Rebecca Kukla are and I don't want to take the heat. Don't count on senior Christian scholars like me to defend you when you come up for tenure, either. We won't even defend important people like Swinburne, much less fools like you, unless you stick to esoteric issues that nonchristians don't care about."

  43. The sum total of words spent on this topic presents a good argument against either Christianity, U.S. Culture or Philosophy. Since the latter is self-defeating and the former too venerable an institution a certain conclusion suggests itself (America, you gave the world some of the greatest minds of the 20th century, but the whole Culture Wars thing has almost fatally distorted the question of God and existential meaning).

  44. "The sum total of words spent on this topic presents a good argument against either Christianity, U.S. Culture or Philosophy."

    Well, not really. The sum total of words spent on any topic in and of itself is not an argument for or against anything.

  45. Daniel,

    In Britain conservatives have more or less lost the culture wars and stopped fighting them - except if you count areas like immigration, multiculturalism, and crime. I'm not sure you can say our society and culture is healthier. I am sympathetic to the notion too much time in spent on this issue. But this is not the fault of conservatives alone, far from it. It is a flashpoint of a wider conflict. And I don't think that the social liberal and modernist position on this issue or the wider conflict is preferable. So what is to be done? Culture and ethics do matter, and are deeply connected to philosophy.

  46. @ Crude.

    Yes, thanks for pointing out that Wikileaks have confirmed that there is indeed a very real plot already underway and "almost ready" to initiate a "Catholic Spring" by some of the world's most powerful people. Electing HRC will lead to a war against the Catholic Church, at least in the USA. The person in question (John Podesta) is a huge player in the DNC. The DNC has been caught waging clandestine war on the Catholic Church. It's time to shame Catholics into finally leaving the DNC - you can't possibly be a Catholic and be a member of a party that is using its economic and social resources to "overthrow" Catholic doctrine and plot a "revolution" in the Church. The Democrats need to be annihilated for this.

    Whether or not she wins, once the election is over, we either have to begin a serious and scrutinizing purge in the Church or prepare for a total onslaught. Don't underestimate how serious these people are. They designed the "Springs" in the ME, for heaven's sake. They know what they are doing. The idea is to lead a revolt against the hierarchy at this point. I imagine they will inflate their ranks by propaganda aimed at nominal Catholics and also bring it plenty of paid fakes. No doubt some false-flag or overblown and exaggerated scandal will spark the controversy. Then comes the propaganda and shaming. Then comes "the protests." And then we all know what happens next: impossible demands and expectations made of authorities and warnings that any attempt to bring sanity or order back is an act of violence that will be responded in kind. That's the "Spring job."

    It's time to burn the Democrat Party to the ground forever, in my opinion.

  47. The problem is none of that matters, because the Republicans have gone mad.

  48. @Jeremy,

    But the question of God needs must proceed those of which moral system is correct as it's definitive to there being a moral system in the first place. Up until at least the 'fifties people (e.g. the French Existentialists, arguably Russell et cetera) at least had a vague understanding of the Nietzschean maxim that if God is dead then Good and Evil are empty words. Culture warring has helped permanently affix God to a certain kind of morality rather than the question of any morality at all.

  49. Daniel,

    Culture warring has helped permanently affix God to a certain kind of morality rather than the question of any morality at all.

    In America? It hasn't been on the radar until very recently; mere irreligion is a pretty recent phenomenon in the US, to say nothing of atheism.

    Beyond that: I think the blame lies not with the culture war, but attempts by people to supposedly 'bypass'/'defuse' it. It's generally not the culture warriors (much less the Christian culture warriors on the right) who argue that atheism and materialism means, inevitably, no good or evil at all. They highlight that, and they've highlighted it since irreligion and atheism became a hot topic. It's been the more milquetoasty, let's-all-get-along, find-common-ground Christians.

  50. So, Rea took the time to look up your membership status, and then sent an email saying you were behind on a payment? That's tantamount to a middle finger in your face. Yeah, I wouldn't be expecting any backing down from Rea about his comments regarding Swinburne. Rea clearly thinks he is right. It's amazing. I've read Swinburne's paper and watched the talk on YouTube ( ), and anyone who is "hurt and damaged" by that is going to have a hard time in this world. Rea seems somewhat defiant a toward the criticism he is receiving. [Sarcasm] One could say that his comments and his defiance are "hurtful and damaging" to traditional Christians. He just has no idea of the hurt he causes. [end sarcasm]

  51. I was only today allerted to this faux controversy by way of a David Warren (Essays in Idleness) posting and have not the time to wade through all of the comments, so forgive me if this has already been said:

    It seems suspicious that this has occurred just as we are finding out, via Wikileaks, of a planned Catholic intervention of some sort by the left, Hillary's staff discussing in emails about having infiltrated the church and trying to decide when to activate some kind of anticipated revolution from within that "backward" community.

  52. The plot was hatched prematurely and by necessity. It will be easily irradiated.

    Their talking points (a Democrat Party rat already appeared on FOX in regards to this issue) to foster their little "revolution" is to talk-up that, on sexual issues, most Catholics in the USA "say" they don't believe contraception is immoral, or that abortion is always wrong or illegitimate or don't believe it should be criminalized, etc. Standard fare. Of course, in reality, the context of these Catholics' thinking is whether or not Catholics or the Church can or should somehow impose these beliefs on non-Catholics or whether or not -and this is crucial- the State should impose such beliefs: not whether or not the Church has the right and duty to believe and preach these doctrines. So Democrats are deliberately perverting poll data in the USA on Catholics and taking them out of context to make it appear that Catholics themselves believe there needs to be a "change" in the Church.

    This tactic can easily be flipped back on them. Just poll Democrats on any number of issues and watch as the results don't line up with their platform on many of them. Then accuse the DNC of being hypocrites and failing to address the grievances of their membership, which is mighty undemocratic of them. Demand change. Then conduct more polls. Demand more change, etc. Put them on the defense on everything.

  53. Well done Ed. Glad to see you standing on some principles!

  54. Reading the works of some of the founding members of the SPC influenced my desire to get a graduate degree in Philosophy in the hopes of joining them on the front lines. Watching the hastening denigration of the Humanities over the past 15 years, and now seeing the contagion cross the blood-brain barrier into Christian philosophy makes me thankful my wife vetoed the decision. I would love to know Alvin Plantinga's thoughts on this debacle.

    My thoughts and prayer are with those of you who continue to fight the good fight. I hope there are still a few of you left when my oldest child enters University in three years.

  55. @ Timocrates: It's an interesting tactic, isn't it? It's an appeal to the layman that X percent that don't agree with X doctrine therefore the Church should seriously consider changing X doctrine to the "needs" (as if Catholic millennials want wi-fi in churches so they don't use up their data plan) of the people. It's democracy in a certain kind of government, in this case the RCC. This way actual government isn't telling the RCC what to do but it gives more momentum to the liberal Catholics by throwing around words like "backwards." It's part psychological part culture. By doing this those that want the RCC to change (the DNC, leftists) into a more "modern" church can throw up their hands and say that they didn't impose any change - it was democracy that did it. They don't after the Mormons because they aren't as a big of a threat as the RCC. This is why they aren't coming after the Amish or any liberal Protestant groups. They don't go after Islam because, for whatever bizarre reason, Islam is their BFF in terms of religious sects. If they can change the RCC they know they've officially "won."

  56. This site is a veritable basket of deplorably systematic thought. Positively medieval.

    Aristotle on trolls was excellent. But how would it have been developed in the 13th Century? "It would seem the troll adds wisdom to a discussion. For The Philosopher begins De Anima by presenting the false views of Greeks, before presenting the true account. Therefore it is helpful to add falsehoods and misunderstanding to a discussion."

    Or something like that.

  57. "almost ready" to initiate a "Catholic Spring" by some of the world's most powerful people.

    You've got to be kidding, right? I mean, after Cardinals Mahoney and Bernardin and McCarrick, and Archbishop Weakland, and now Cardinal Archbishop Cupich, (that's just in the US), Cardinal Kasper and Cardinal Bergoglio become Pope Francis over on the other side of the pond, WHAT MORE did they need to put a "spring" in movement?

  58. @ GoldRush,

    "If they can change the RCC they know they've officially 'won.'"

    I reply,

    "Some people are predicting that the Church is in for a rough time, and maybe it is. But the Church will survive because the Lord will make sure it survives. One of the greatest comeback lines in history was uttered two hundred years ago. As his armies were swallowing up the countries of Europe, French emperor Napoleon is reported to have said to Church officials, 'Je détruirai votre église' ('I will destroy your Church').' When informed of the emperor's words, Ercole Cardinal Consalvi, one of the great statesmen of the papal court, replied, 'He will never succeed. We have not managed to do it ourselves!'"


  59. Another "Catholic" in the Press - talking up his Catholic credentials, and again trying to dismiss the leak by arguing that:

    "The Trump campaign’s response to the leaks, however, did not appear to acknowledge that Halpin is himself Catholic, or that the majority of American Catholics lean progressive on many issues."

    Busted. Amazing how these God-forsaken "Democrats" and "Progressives" all repeat the exact same talking points! Will somebody in the "Democratic" Party with their own brain please stand up?

    For another Democrat "Catholic Spring" rat and proponent, see the FOX interview on the Kelly File, where the exact same argument is used to defend Democrat plotting against a religious institution:

    Gentlemen, this is simply proof of conspiracy by the Democ-rat party against the Church, pure and simple.

  60. Sorry, original article by John Halpin and source of the first quote is here:

  61. Also, now we know why Hillary chose "Catholic" Tim Kaine to be her VP/lap-dog. He is going to be the "model" American Catholic: a shell of a man who changes his opinions and correct them based on polls. I swear, if you put a poll in front of a "man" like Time Kaine that claimed 51% or more "Catholics" - along with most Americans in the USA believed that Elvis Presley founded the Catholic Church, he'd gleefully accept this revelation and claim it was even in the Credo all along.

  62. Kaine was a weasel as mayor of Richmond. Hasn't changed. (My wife says he looks like a "demented hobbit." Sackville-Baggins, no doubt.)

    "Catholics" like this were a factor in delaying my conversion. It seemed to me (then) that the RCC was just a few decades behind the Episcopalians, so I figured I'd go down with the ship I was already on. JPII and BXVI finally helped convince me.

  63. "Timocrates said...

    Also, now we know why Hillary chose "Catholic" Tim Kaine to be her VP/lap-dog. He is going to be the "model" American Catholic: a shell of a man who changes his opinions and correct them based on polls

    One of the sometimes inadvertently helpful or entertaining things antagonists of Feser's do, is to incompetently mock, in a way which eventually proves out as a positive for those more generally supportive of Feser's views.

    Awhile back, someone dropped in here and tossed a link mocking "real Catholics". I thought it was funny and took the bait. Otherwise I would not know to this day who the guy referenced was.

    Turned out that the ardent guy in the link, though a licentiate in theology and a pugnacious traditionalist rather than a philosopher, had quite a number of entertaining and valid points to make ... despite being pretty over-the-top sometimes.

    Since at the least he is not a mealy-mouthed equivocater ... people are provided the wherewithal to make up their own minds.

    This is the same guy so beloved of Shea, and seen debating with him.

    On sham Catholic organizations created for political ends ...

    No one here should assume that because I have dropped a link, that Feser has any connection with, sympathy for, or even any knowledge of Michael Voris.

  64. "Sackville-Baggins, no doubt."

    As we peer over the rim of Mount Doom, comments like these help make life better.


  65. Hi, Edward Feser! I cannot find online your article "Classical Natural Law Theory, Property Rights and Taxation", of which I'm much interested. I would like to see it in a more accessible way. His link which you put in "The Road From Libertarianism" is broken. Please, put him in your blog, in a pdf or something like. Thanks!

  66. Work hard, gents. Women want men. The Hapburgs controlled most of Europe and the New World. It's in your blood. Put the fictitious people in their sold out graves.

  67. Daniel,

    Good point, although in part that shows that it is impossible to truly dispense with morality, as C.S. Lewis pointed out. I think it is good to point out the lack of foundations for morality that many have today, and also, like Lewis again, that traditional morality in one variant or another, will tend to follow from any attempt to draw up an objective understanding of morality.

  68. Dr. Feser, could you have generalized hastily when you said you thought SCP no longer deserved financial support? Is the problem with the SCP or with only some executives in it who disagree with Prof. Swinburne's traditional position the morality of homosexual acts and who also owe him an apology for how they've treated him? I don't know much about what most Christians in the United Kingdom believe about homosexuality and the morality of homosexual acts. But it seems to me that, here in the United States, people with same-sex attractions have too, too much political power. I want to part of the intolerance some SCP executives have shown Prof. Swinburne. If those executives hold politically progressive beliefs, maybe they shouldn't expect SCP to adopt them, too? Something as controversial as the morality of homosexual act needs to be debated. But how much good will those debates do in an echo chamber?

    Years ago, I joined a philosophy club that met at a Unitarian Universalist church, During the meetings, everyone felt free to say what he believed. But no one dared to argue against anything that anyone else believed. Maybe many club members disagreed with what they heard there. But I thought the meetings were too much like group therapy sessions where everyone says, "I'm okay, you're okay. Let's celebrate our diversity." It even had plenty in common with Vatican-II-style religiously indifferent ecumenism.

  69. Tiimocretes: Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden got there a long time before Kaine. They convinced me that political success as a Catholic Democrat had come to mean selling your soul, and the progress of several young Catholic politicians has since convinced me that my hunch was right -- I live in Cincinnati, home of the Jim Obergefell SCOTUS case, so I know the bizarre facts of it, and who pushed it (hint: NOT the couple themselves but initially a Catholic editor at our local newspaper), and how our Catholic mayor declared our city's support for them and the others whose cases were combined with it. I was at the official sendoff (which, though official, was very very small... apparently the rest of the city didn't get the "we support them" message). Some of my favorite local politicians are old-time Democrats, they are viciously attacked for not falling in line on these issues.