Wednesday, January 31, 2018

David Foster Wallace on abstraction

In his book Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity (he had a way with titles), David Foster Wallace has some wise things to say about abstraction.  To orient ourselves, let’s start with the definition of “abstract” he quotes from the O.E.D.: “Withdrawn or separated from matter, from material embodiment, from practice, or from particular examples.  Opposed to concrete.”  So, for example, a billiard rack or a dinner bell is a concrete, particular material object.  Triangularity, by contrast, is a general pattern we mentally abstract or separate out from such objects and consider apart from their individualizing material features (being made of wood or steel, being brown or silver, weighing a certain amount, and so on).

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Coming to a campus near you

On Tuesday, February 6, I will be speaking at Brown University on the topic of capital punishment and natural law.  Prof. James Keating will respond.  The event is sponsored by the Thomistic Institute, and details are available at the Institute’s website and at Facebook.

On Saturday, March 17, I will be presenting a paper on the topic “Cooperation with Sins Against Prudence” at a conference on Cooperation with Evil at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.  The other conference speakers will be Steven Long, Msgr. Andrew McLean Cummings, Christopher Tollefsen, and Fr. Ezra Sullivan, OP.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Prof. Fastiggi’s pretzel logic

I’m going to take a break from the topic of the death penalty soon – I’m quite sick of it myself, believe you me – but the trouble is that critics of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed keep saying things that demand a response.  The latest example is Prof. Robert Fastiggi, who in a series of combox remarks has replied to my recent Catholic World Report article on capital punishment and the ordinary magisterium.  Once again, he ties himself in ever more convoluted logical knots trying to justify the unjustifiable, viz. the possibility of a reversal of 2000 years of clear and unbroken magisterial and scriptural teaching.  But the attempt is well worth calling attention to, because it shows just how far one has to go through the looking glass in order to try to avoid the implications of the evidence Joe Bessette and I have set out in our book.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The latest on Catholicism and capital punishment

Is there still anything left to say about the death penalty?  Yes, plenty.  In the debate generated by By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed, the focus has been on questions about the interpretation of various individual scriptural passages, and the level of authority of various papal statements considered in isolation.  But the critics have failed to consider the sheer cumulative force of two millennia of consistent ordinary magisterial teaching.  Some of them have also wrongly supposed that, even if capital punishment is legitimate under natural law, the higher demands of the Gospel might nevertheless rule it out absolutely.  In a new article at Catholic World Report, I show that the ordinary magisterium has taught infallibly that the death penalty is legitimate in principle even as a matter of specifically Christian morality.  No reversal is possible consistent with the indefectibility of the Church.  There’s a fair amount of new material in the article that goes beyond what Joe Bessette and I say in the book.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Barron and Craig in Claremont (Updated again)

Last night at Claremont McKenna College, Stephen Davis and I moderated an exchange between Bishop Robert Barron and William Lane Craig.  You can watch a video recording of the event at Bishop Barron’s Facebook page.  (It looks like you don’t need to be signed in in order to view it.)  Michael Uhlmann is the gentleman you'll see introducing the participants, and Joe Bessette and Brandon Vogt organized the whole thing. The event was sponsored by the Claremont Center for Reason, Religion, and Public Affairs, with the assistance of Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Prof. Craig’s Reasonable Faith.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Five Proofs on television and radio (Updated)

UPDATE 1/12: You can now watch the EWTN Live episode on YouTube or at the EWTN Live web page.

This Wednesday, January 10, I will be on EWTN Live with Fr. Mitch Pacwa to discuss Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  I will also be taping an episode of EWTN Bookmark for future airing. 

Also forthcoming is an interview about the book on Lauren Green’s Lighthouse Faith at Fox News Radio.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Reelin’ in the links

At Catholic World Report, my co-author Joseph Bessette on the death penalty, recent popes, and deterrence.

Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder announces her forthcoming book Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray.  She also has a blog.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The best New Atheist book?

The New Atheism, one hears from time to time (e.g. here, here, here, and here), is dead.  Maybe.  It depends on what you mean by “New Atheism.”  I would say that its key marks are three: first, an unreflective and dogmatic scientism; second, an extremely shallow understanding of religion; and third, an obnoxious, evangelical fervor.  The third probably has by now worn out its welcome.  Even many secular people are tired of hearing the ever more unhinged rants and calls to action of the likes of Richard Dawkins and P. Z. Myers, and appalled by the lemming-like behavior of the kind of people who show up at a Reason Rally or Jerry Coyne’s combox.  As a self-conscious movement the New Atheism might be a spent force.