Friday, March 9, 2018

The missing links


Feedspot has released its list of the Top 15 Christian Philosophy Blogs and Websites.  This blog is ranked at #1.  Thank you, Feedspot!

At Public Discourse, Fr. Nicanor Austriaco responds to Fr. Michael Chaberek’s book on Thomism and evolution.

At First Things, Matthew Rose on Christianity and the alt-right.

Philosophers Jonathan Ellis and Eric Schwitzgebel argue that philosophers are as prone to post-hoc rationalization as anyone else.

Bishop Robert Barron and William Lane Craig each comment on their recent exchange at Claremont McKenna College.  Brian Huffling of Southern Evangelical Seminary comments on Craig’s critique of divine simplicity

Also at Public Discourse, Matthew Franck reviews Ryan Anderson’s new book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.  Anderson offers a précis of the book.

The Times Literary Supplement on the religion of Isaac Newton.

Comics writer Mark Millar on why Marvel movies work and DC movies don’t.  Kevin Feige notes that, even if the deal with Fox goes through, not all of Marvel’s characters will have “come home” to the company.

At Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Jerry Walls reviews Adrian Reimers’ book Hell and the Mercy of God.

Philosopher Christopher Kaczor critiques a recent defense of abortion, at Public Discourse


In Los Angeles, the Thomistic Institute recently hosted a lecture by John Haldane on the theme “Darkness in the City of Angels: Evil as a Theme and Vice as a Fact.”  You can listen to it via Soundcloud.

Eyjólfur Emilsson’s new book on Plotinus is reviewed by Luc Brisson at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

Catholic University of America philosopher John Rist challenges Cardinal Cupich and judges Pope Francis to be “possibly the worst pope we have ever had.”  At First Things, Cardinal Müller on “paradigm shifts” and the development of doctrine.  At the Catholic Herald, Damian Thompson looks back on Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.

At the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective, philosopher Christopher Brown critiques scientism.

National Review really likes, doesn’t like, and sort of likes Black Panther.

Stephen L. Talbott on evolution and the purposes of life, at The New Atlantis.

Speaking of paradigm shifts: the Times Literary Supplement on Thomas Kuhn’s philosophy of science.

Alex Rosenberg is interviewed at What Is It Like to Be a Philosopher?

At The Catholic Thing, philosopher Michael Pakaluk on contraception and intrinsically evil acts.

89 comments:

  1. Congrats Feser!

    Also, oh man Huffling's article looks like a good read.

    On another note, is there a list of all the participants at the Claremont McKenna College symposium? There were a few people chatting there (in the audio files of the two talks) that I'd like to look more in to.

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    1. I would like to know this as well. There's no info online about who the other scholars are who attended and made comments.

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    2. This is by no means an exhaustive list -- there were, I think, 30+ participants -- but among those who made comments during the session you listened to (other than Barron, Craig, and me) were Joe Bessette, Ken Miller, and Stephen Davis of Claremont McKenna, Tim Finlay of Azusa Pacific, Michael Augros and Tom Kaiser of Thomas Aquinas College, Chris Kaczor of LMU, and Lee Cerling of USC. That's just off the top of my head, and there were others there who either did not comment much during the session or whose comments have slipped my mind at the moment.

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    3. As Ed mentioned, I was fortunate to be one of the participants in the symposium. I am an evangelical on doctrine, but in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition with regards to metaphysics. In the symposium, I agreed with Dr. Barron on divine simplicity. On that point, I argued that the Biblical texts were largely underdeterminative between the positions of Barron and Craig; I defended the notion that PART of the meaning of Exodus 3:14 is that God is BEING itself, as reflected in the Septuagint translation, which is picked up in Revelation 1. On atonement, I was far more in Dr. Craig's camp because Dr. Barron did not really like either the penal substitution or the satisfaction theory. It is my opinion that an atonement theory that does not incorporate one of these is a theory that pays insufficient attention to the gravity of sin.

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    4. Thank you for your comment Dr. Finlay. I need to go back through the audio of the talks, but I believe that you were one of the participants that I was interested in.

      You know, not to be creepy or anything *ahem*

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    5. Dr. Finlay - I'm surprised to hear you say that Bishop Barron doesn't really like the satisfaction theory of atonement. Maybe he doesn't like a particular version of it, but I've heard him passionately defend a standard version of it, e.g., here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43qbMJ2TG4E. Of course, Thomas Aquinas argues for a satisfaction theory, and the Catechism explicitly endorses the language of satisfaction (CCC 615-616).

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    6. I didn't notice Dr. Kaiser and Dr.Augros were at the symposium. So far, though, I've only listened to the section on the Divine simplicity. You have a lot of fans here at Thomas Aquinas College, Dr. Feser. We're very excited for your lecture.

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  2. 1)Since one of the topics here is Quantum Mechanics, what would a Thomist say about the weird phenomenon of quantum entanglement?

    Quantum entanglement is when two particles become connected such that if one were to observe or change on particle in any way, the other particle would instantly be affected in either the same or opposite way.

    Recent experiments have confirmed that even if faster-than-light travel were possible, it still wouldn't be enough to account for the communication that occurs in entanglement.


    In other words, quantum entanglement happens instantaneously .


    How would a Thomist analyse the possibility of instantenous interaction between things? And would the answer be similar to Thomist analysis of speed before the discovery of the absolute limit of the speed of light for things, when people thought speed can increase without bound?

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    1. Well, the speed of light changes so how sure are you that it is an absolute limit and in what way is it absolute? It was convenient for the speed of light to be constant except for the fact that it’s not. Secondly I have no idea how a Thomist would reply to quantum entanglement as you summarized, but I really don’t know how anyone else could except by discovering more scientific information or by just saying stuff happens or their is no explanation. However that doesn’t mean there is no explanation. To say merely oh there is no explanation would be akin to God of the gaps argument attacked vehemently by new atheists.

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  3. 2) Since philosophy of science is also a topic of this post, what do Thomists think of Bas van Fraassen and his constructive empiricism?


    It seems to dovetail quite nicely with the Thomistic emphasis on metaphysics being prior to and more fundamental than physics.


    But there are some Thomists out there who are scientific Realists rather than Constructive Empiricists, which seems to show that Thomists have a diversity of opinion when it comes to the philosophy of science.

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    1. Gil Sanders addresses entanglement in the linked article

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    2. I've read the part of the article where he addresses it, but it seems as if it doesn't explain entanglement, since entanglement seems to actually have direct causal efficacy by making another particle have an opposite property, rather than a Cambridge change of limiting the range of potentials that can be actualised.

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    3. Understanding quantum mechanics has some similarities to understanding classical Christian theology. The most important of these is to understand the indispensable role of analogy.
      In Christian theology if one doesn’t begin with the knowledge that the being of creation and the Being of God are analogically (not univocally) related, one runs smack into nonsense.
      In quantum mechanics, if one doesn’t begin with knowledge that the elementary particles of quantum mechanics are analogically (not univocally) related to real particles (like grains of salt), one runs smack into nonsense.
      Sokolowski describes the Christian distinction:
      “…We have to keep in mind the double correction operating in Christian analogy: we first have to adjust our human sense of reason to adapt it to the divine cosmic reason, and then we have to adjust this in turn to speak of the reason that could be apart from the world…the double adjustment is necessary, and it always has to kept alive as we use Christian words…”
      Robert Sokolowski, Christian Faith and Human Understanding, p. 64
      Heisenberg (the man most responsible for the development of quantum mechanics) describes the quantum distinction:
      “…Physicists who deal with the quantum theory are also compelled to use a language taken from ordinary life. We act as if there really were such a thing as an electric current, because, if we forbade all physicists to speak of electric current, they could no longer express their thoughts, they could no longer speak, they would be completely sterile. I consequently believe that it is necessary to take up certain a priori forms of classical language, even though their value has perhaps somewhat changed…”
      Werner Heisenberg, On Modern Physics, p.43
      And again:
      “…However, if one wishes to speak about the atomic particles themselves one must either use the mathematical scheme as the only supplement to natural language or one must combine it with a language that makes use of a modified logic or of no well-defined logic at all. In the experiments about atomic events we have to do with things and facts, with phenomena that are just as real as any phenomena in daily life [the experimental apparatus is real as is the click coming from the detector].But the atoms or the elementary particles themselves are not as real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts…”
      Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy, p.159
      All the seemingly nonsensical aspects of quantum mechanics go away if you first understand you’re not dealing with “elements of reality” when you speak of elementary particles. If you refuse to make the quantum distinction, then you can’t avoid nonsense.

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    4. See also CS Lewis on how the notion of scientific truth has become modified through the mystical sayings of quantum mechanics and general relativity--"the term "curvature of space" is meaningless on the face of it" in The Discarded Image (Epilogue)

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  4. The problem with Matthew Rose is that he doesn't know what he's talking about. There is definitely a portion of the alt right that is anti-Christian, particularly racialist thinkers influenced by Nietzsche. But people like Vox Day, Milo Yianoppolous, James Kalb, Peter Brimelow and Steve Sailer, who are arguably more important to the varied communities that comprise the alt right than the likes of Richard Spencer and Greg Johnson, are definitely not anti-Christian.

    The best guide to the many strains of the alt right remains that of Bokhari and Yiannopolos: http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/03/29/an-establishment-conservatives-guide-to-the-alt-right/
    (My main disagreement with this article is that the so called Neo-Reactionaries, like Peter Thiel, Nick Land and Curtis Yarvin, don't really spring from the Bay area Less Wrong/rationalist communities.)

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    1. @Thursday,


      Ruse may have wrongly criticised the alt-right by supposing that the entire movement is made up of neo-nazi pagans, but his criticisms of that particular strand of the alt-right is nevertheless spot on and points out the dangers of it leading people, especially younger Christians, astray.

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    2. That Christianity isn't compatible with Neo-Nazi paganism is bleeding obvious. But because it is so bleeding obvious, there wouldn't be much point in writing an article about it.

      There are a bunch of genteel mainstream conservative Christians who are deathly afraid of any not-so-genteel alternatives to their frankly rather loser-ish version of conservatism. (I mean, what exactly has mainstream conservatism ever conserved?) Hence, the conflation of alt right with Neo-Nazi paganism.

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    3. Thursday,

      Your list should get smaller. First of all, to say that Milo is not anti-Christian is technically true...but he runs around and lives a life that generally mocks Christian virtue, not to mention that fact that he's intellectually bankrupt (as we all found out from the leaked manuscript) so make of that what you will.

      Secondly, Vox Day, who has done some great apologetic work back in the day, has definitely taken a dark racialist turn as of late. He has consistently argued that whites and racial minorities are doomed to never get along. It is one thing to decry racial minority left-wing agitation but to write-off every single fellow minority citizen? I don't think that is a Christian political ideal. He also has winked at the violence of someone like Breivik (specifically comparing him to William Tell.)

      Those are two guys you do not want to defend.

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    4. Thinkers like James Kalb don't identify as alt-right and are not typically considered by others as part of the alt-right. While the 'alt-right' used to have broader connotations to refer to the non-mainstream secular right, it seems to me that over the past couple years or so, the alt-right has coalesced around the idea that race is the foundation of society.

      That Christianity isn't compatible with Neo-Nazi paganism is bleeding obvious. But because it is so bleeding obvious, there wouldn't be much point in writing an article about it.

      I would like to agree that it's obvious, I would have thought so myself. But reality suggests otherwise: there are a lot of Christians who are attracted to it nonetheless, and who either identify with the movement or want to ally with it. Even if they recognize that Neo-Nazi paganism is not compatible with Christianity, which at some level they must, they regard race as sufficiently important such that it trumps this incompatibility. And this will have an influence on them, whether or not they recognize it.

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    5. >Yiannopolos
      >Mainstream conservative

      Lol, no thanks.

      I don't have to be "alt right" to see that it's bleeding obvious that the "conservative movement" is a failure to Catholics and a joke. 8 years of Reagan with overwhelming numbers, still abortion. 4 years of Bush, with, for a time, overwhelming support, still abortion. Conservative "revolution" in the House and eventually the Senate, still abortion. 8 years of so-called evangelical Bush, still abortion. Plurality in the Supreme Court with a Chief Justice, *still* abortion. And it's painfully obvious that in 4 to 8 years, there's still going to be abortion. Let's wring our hands about stare decisis again when Ginsberg kicks the bucket in minutes. It was fun the last 6 times.

      From the very beginning conservatives bilked you on Catholic economic teaching and promised you social-cultural results that you never got. You are going to lose and lose and lose and lose and keep losing until the whole country are atheists and priests are forced into silence just some some idiot in a suit can pray and wave a flag around and arouse your feels every 4 years.

      The alt-right has *balls* and that's what people like about it. You mainstream conservatives have 3% higher retirement accounts than you otherwise might have had and an accomplishmentless pride into your moral rectitude. If you'd been willing to call the anti-Christian maneuvers of the last 40 years evil and fought to the death over those rather than the marginal tax rate and patting yourself on the back about the USSR's collapse that would have come anyway and your ridiculous foreign adventures that cost us with questionable national gain young conservatives wouldn't *rightly* think you spineless hypocrites.

      And stop falling for sophistry- Jesus Christ. We're on a top philosophy blog talking about how some boobs who people watch prance around YouTube are good for us. No, they're sophists just like everyone else in news-entertainment. "Our" sophists are still sophists. Read a book, renew your intellectual credentials, perhaps demand that the "Catholic" universities in this country (never mind the half dead often obese boomer priests) *actually be orthodox Catholic*, and stop waiting for TV and your indignity at the left to save you. The alt-right reads Spengler and Evola, and Evola and Spengler are wrong? At least they're reading. Mainstream conservatism barely advocates the reading of anything other than the latest Bill O'Reilly waste of time.

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    6. You can certainly criticize the morals of someone like Yiannopolos, but that is a totally different critique than the one Rose offered. And really mainstream Republicans are the party of John McCain and Newt Gingrich. Nuff said.

      As for Yiannopolos' being an intellectual lightweight, well, whatever. He's best regarded as a stand-up comedian, and I don't fault even the best comics for not being able to write serious works of political philosophy. He's very good at his job, which is mocking the left mercilessly.

      There are also all sorts of valid criticisms you might make of Vox Day, but, again, he clearly isn't anti-Christian and the criticisms that could be made aren't the criticisms Rose actually makes.

      James Kalb actually wrote for the original Alternative Right magazine edited by Richard Spencer. I doubt he'd want much to do with Spencer now, but there's really no point in denying he's part of the broad alt right.

      For all the valid criticisms you might make of all these fellows, their worth 10 times all the people who write for National Review and The Weekly Standard, and, heck, lets throw in Ross Douthat and David Brooks as well.

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    7. >John McCain
      >Newt Gingrich

      Oh, failure one and failure two? No thanks. I'm tired of prattling about the best way to let boomers and gen-xers keep their mcmansions and talking big talk about Christianity in the face of infinitely creeping secularism which is not reversing. Maybe if we get Bishop Barron in here to hug it out and tell everyone not to worry, we can face another generation of total loss and failure.

      >He's best regarded as a stand-up comedian.

      He's best regarded as a poof and a reprobate, and even he will tell you that. We can have Milo tell us about tradition and then have Trump tell us about marital integrity, how about it?

      >their worth 10 times all the people who write for National Review and The Weekly Standard,

      Yeah, because they're the new big make you still feel good lie on the new big make yourself still feel good platforms. They won't even have the power to keep the status quo intact never mind to make a decisive shift towards anything. Here's to another 40 Years of preserving the tradition just like we got with Reagan and Thatcher.

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    8. Thursday,

      We are going to have to agree to disagree -- I find lots of intellectual rigor and great writing in both National Review and The Weekly Standard. I also find it at First Things and in the work of Steve Sailer and James Kalb -- I'm ecumenical in where I read good conservative ideas.

      In the end it is about the ideas -- which is why I keep coming back to this blog and buying Ed's books!

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    9. James Kalb actually wrote for the original Alternative Right magazine edited by Richard Spencer. I doubt he'd want much to do with Spencer now, but there's really no point in denying he's part of the broad alt right.

      Yes, and he only lasted there a few months because it became too 'tribal'. (His words).

      At any rate, yes, like I said, the alt-right used to have somewhat broader connotations and to have been a bigger tent than it is now. Although even back then it seems to have had more of a secular focus.

      The point is that when people use the term 'alt-right', they very rarely have people like Kalb in mind. They are usually thinking guys like Spencer, Enoch, Johnson, Day.

      James Kalb's writings are certainly worth (at minimum) ten times whatever you find in NR and The Weekly Standard, I'll give you that.

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    10. Just to clarify. No one is defending the alt-right right? We all know they are essentialy neo-nazis, racist, xenophobes, etc.

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    11. AKG, at least use your username.

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    12. I'll go so far as to say that their attitude with respect to politics is far more attractive than mainstream so-called conservatism which is a joke and a lie. And an article from First Things hand-wringing about a political movement that actually reads difficult intellectual books is a joke when this is literally a publication that sold Catholicism down the neoconservative river in the eighties and nineties.

      I of course agree with the article's criticism in substance- and yes yes boohoo all those bad names and labels about boohoo all those bad men -but if that means agreeing with First Things or treacly fake mainstream conservatism, that's okay. I don't like losing just so that I won't be falsely accused of looking like the alt right.

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    13. What do you mean by "attractive"? The alt-right is fundamentally a bigoted movement. You do realize one of their dons Richard Spencer has done Nazi salutes, claimed slavery wasn't bad for African-Americans, and wants ethnic cleansing of African-Americans and Mexicans? What could be attractive about a Neo-Nazi movement?

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    14. I've read plenty of conservative economic books, but have never read any philosophical works defending conservatism. I've read Dr. Feser's posts about it here, but does anyone have some recommendations for decent political philosophy authors?

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    15. Thomas Sowell’s The Vision of the Anointed, though not a philosophical work so-called, in my opinion does a pretty fair job of laying out a philosophical grounding for conservatism. Most of Sowell’s political philosophy is introduced on the fly, whilst he engages his opponents’ doctrines, rather than being set out in a systematic way. In that respect it’s a bit like the epistles of Paul.

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    16. Thanks, Tom! I will read that. I have watched many of his short lectures and Q&As on YouTube.

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    17. Justin,

      One book I read recently that I would recommend is On Divorce by Louis de Bonald. (If you're not familiar with Bonald, he's considered one of the three founders of conservatism, along with Joseph de Maistre and Edmund Burke). In the book, he defends the importance of the family to the flourishing of society. More generally, he defends the concept of authority against the liberal notion of consent as the principle of legitimization of government.

      For some other possible titles, you might want to check out the list of books reviewed here:

      https://bonald.wordpress.com/book-reviews-politics/

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    18. Thank you, Ian!!!

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  5. As noted in the article, the argument that DC characters (except for Batman) are not cinematic would seem to be false. Superman II is still a fun movie (General Zod, in particular, seems to work very well on screen. He livens up the otherwise mediocre Man of Steel too.) and Wonder Woman is a solid film, if not quite the masterpiece it has been proclaimed to be.

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    1. Yes, DC has some good stand-alone films, but a cinematic universe is hard to build

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  6. Congratulations, Prof. Feser! Definitely my number 1 pick too.

    Although you should really think about setting up social network accounts. It’d surely help you promote your work and thus reach a potentially much larger following.

    We need to do all we can to spread the good news! (Figuratively and literally, if you know what I mean ;-)

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  7. The Gil Sanders article is epic!

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  8. Ed, why do they day you have 42 Twitter followers?

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  9. Can someone explain Huffling’s response to the Craig’s modal collapse argument?

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    1. It's time that Ed address it in a stand alone piece since it is the standard basic "do a Google search" objection to DS (and a lot of other crap for that matter.

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  10. I've heard that if you're going to get any book on Plotinus, Emilsson's is the One

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  11. How many hours a day do you read, Ed?

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  12. I dont understand people like Schwitzgebel or Rosenberg, and I can not understand how anyone could *possibly* hold their views. Atheism is much easier to rationally hold than eleminativism. Yet this people seem to do just fine, and actually succeed in swaying a lot of philosophers (not too many, though).

    This worries me, as per the principle of charity (and me being a massive conciliationist) when I read them I feel like I simply must have to miss some crucial point, as otherwise Id have to believe that these seemingly smart people are complete idiots, basically.
    But they are not complete idiots. So what could be the reason for their thinking? Well, maybe their intuitions are different than mine, or maybe they try to rationalize what they would want to be true.
    But how can I be sure that I am not the one with the false intuitions?

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    1. It IS idiotic. There's no charity that can make contradictory or self-refuting views reasonable to any extent. Why it sways some people I have no idea. But just remember it took anglo philosophers a few DECADES to realize logical positivism (for example) was a self-contradictory and absurd mess. To this day there are dialetheists. Some philosophers literally defend insanity because they find it interesting in some sense, think it will advance their careers, or just somehow think that they have to hold such crazy views as true. But their views are still crazy and idiotic nonetheless.

      No truth? A rejection of PNC? No qualia? There is no fact of the matter about what our words mean? Our thoughts are due only to salts and electricity and have nothing to do with propositional content? Fuck outta here.

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  13. Black Panther was *massively* overrated. Average story, and wasn't even much of a spectacle in terms of the action.

    Greg

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  14. Xmen vs Avengers!

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  15. CONGRATULATIONS DR. FESER!!!

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  16. evolution
    Well there's a can of worms. The scripture does say that God made both the sea and the earth productive of their respective life forms (terrestrial and marine). But then God is directly attributed to their production in all of their respective kinds. Now this can generate a problem: if God is perfect can he be responsible for the production of a radically imperfect and monstrous kind, as with evolution most certainly must occur? I think theistic evolutionists often overlook this significant question. I also think from an A-T perspective taking evolution for granted results necessarily in the obliteration of the reality of unnatural kinds and necessarily the notion of a natural kind. It would also make it impossible on a natural law basis the criminalize the deliberate engineering of monstrous or unnatural life forms, including tampering radically with hunan genetics. Now today this is a live possibility especially now that you have radical transhumanists who believe human beings are basically and radically defective, comparing us to a disease and a virus.

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    1. "Now this can generate a problem: if God is perfect can he be responsible for the production of a radically imperfect and monstrous kind, as with evolution most certainly must occur?"


      I doubt anyone would say that evolution generates radically imperfect kinds, otherwise that would introduce problems with regards how there can even be new species if their intermediaries are such a disaster?


      Rather, evolution is seen as a guiding process, and like other guiding processes (e.g. throwing a dart) it can miss pretty bad.


      To object that God's perfection wouldn't allow for there to be natural processes that can make such big mistakes is akin to saying that God wouldn't make natural processes that sometimes make imperfect diamonds and crystals, or creatures that can't throw darts perfectly.


      "It would also make it impossible on a natural law basis the criminalize the deliberate engineering of monstrous or unnatural life forms, including tampering radically with hunan genetics. "


      The key word there is deliberate . Human beings who intentionally want to produce defective chimaeras represent a different type of action compared to a natural process that firstly seeks to generate useful animals but in order to do so must make some mistakes and has lots of imperfections.

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  17. evolution
    Well there's a can of worms.


    Fr. Austriaco's response to Fr. Chaberek almost made me ill. There is just so much poorly said - on both sides - that I fear anyone who reads either work will come away understanding less of Thomistic thought than he had going into it, unless he is already at the point where he can correct both writers' errors.

    For example: Fr. A says "It is clear that Aquinas did not know that organisms evolved." Well, it might be true that Aquinas did not know that, but then neither does anyone else. In fact, not even modern neo-Darwinists believe that an organism evolves. They speak of populations which change over time, meaning not that the individual organism changes, but the group taken as a whole reflects different attributes in new individuals over time. Surely a biologist can avoid making silly mistakes like this.

    Next up, Fr. A poses - as a stumper for Fr. C, that what he is objecting to about lizard1 + lizard2 > snake is just as applicable to hydrogen and oxygen > water, (which has attributes neither component has). But surely anyone who reads Thomass and Aristotle would know that a cause by generation and a material cause are not causes in the same way, and that Fr. A's point, while significant to the overall understanding of organisms "evolving", is not qualified to stand in as "in just the same way." Ick.

    And then, after attesting to Thomas's belief that God did not (directly) make any new things after the 6th day, he says

    Second, we could forsake natural causality entirely and include the supernatural causality of God in our philosophical explanation of everyday chemical transformations.

    Did he not notice any tension in positing both theses? I guess not.

    I am confident that one of the problems with Chaberek's analysis is a rigid approach to the meaning of the term "theistic evolution" in which the term "evolution" is allowed to carry all the philosophical baggage that the Darwinists have attached to it, but ESPECIALLY that of doing away with "natural kinds" and "species" and therefore "substantial forms" as well. Of course any theory that does away with species and substantial forms is incompatible with Thomas. But OF COURSE theistic "evolution"ists don't universally just accept the Darwinists junking of substantial forms and species. One typical Thomistic "evolution"ist theory is that when accidental changes in a population present an animal that is suited (or nearly suited) to a different substantial form, God steps in directly and creates a new substantial form. God is the higher cause of what the lower causes do not have available to give the new entity.

    Chaberek's objections are, in some cases, nearly infantile (speaking from a Thomistic point of view), but shockingly, Austriaco's responses are not always much better. See Objection 3 and its response.

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    1. Are there Thomistic evolution theories that DON'T require divine intervention for new animal species to appear?

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    2. Joe, Fr. A refers to theories in which beings higher than the animals, but lesser than God, are the causes that provide the new actuality of new species: The "heavenly spheres" and angels, for 2 examples. No divine intervention needed.
      I suspect that Fr. A would also like to include "Nature" in the list, but I might have that wrong.

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    3. @Tony,


      Ah, okay. My mistake.


      What I essentially meant was:


      Are there Thomistic evolutionary theories that DON'T require angelic intervention for new animal species to appear?

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    4. Yes. In "the one and the many", Norris Clarke proposes that "adequate causality is already present in the cosmic system as a whole", that there would be sufficient potencies in the environment (the system as a whole) to lead to an evolution all the way up to higher cognitive animal life (human rationality, however, can't be explained like that since it entirely transcends the operations of matter). However, Clarke himself doesn't prefer this solution; he thinks it's not plausible to explain everything (including claims by Intelligent Design proponents), and he personally favors a model in which God is continually creating the world, so He may make specific alterations here and there (his account is a little more nuanced and sophisticated, like Rahner's).

      But he does provide the first option as a possibility. Which is, after all, what a naturalist who accepts PPC would probably accept anyway.

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    5. Actually, organisms DO adapt and 'evolve' if epigenetics, horizontal gene transfer and transposition are taken into account. There is something INTERNAL to life that causes adaptations, rather than ONLY random mutations being selected in a population etc. Darwin's model has been largely superseded by modern scientific discoveries.

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    6. With respect to Fr. Austriaco's response to Fr. Chaberek first objection, why can we simply say that the lizard is imparting to the snake what it has, insofar as the lizard's current genetic makeup (act) includes the potentiality of mutating or otherwise cause it to become a snake.

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  18. Adding to what Tony said. The substance of hydrogen and the substance of oxygen are different whereas two lizards share the same substance. The interaction of two same elements (same substance) forms a molecule not a compound, and as Fr. Edouard Hugon notes, "Similarly, water [H2O] has fixed and permanent properties that are not found in oxygen [O2] or hydrogen [H2] (Cosmology, pg. 171). This is a quite a difference.

    Also, a more general question is how do we define "species" or "substance" of animals? Fr. Austriaco said that a four legged reptile is a different substance than a reptile who lost its rear limbs due to a genetic mutation, which I take that to mean that they're now different "species." I'm not sure whether or not he meant that but it sure seems like it.

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    1. Jose, that is a very good question. It puzzles me that a Thomist would suggest that a genetic mutation would be sufficient to cause a new species, but maybe that's not what he means.

      In any case, I have long thought that mankind identifies too many "species", that things that are often referred to as different species are really different breeds or subspecies. For instance, Fr. A mentions (and refers to St. Thomas on this) horses and donkeys and mules as 3 species. But if a species is really different in substantial form, there is a plausible argument that a member of one species simply cannot mate with a member of a different to produce offspring, for the offspring's substantial form CANNOT come from either parent. People suppose that a mule being sterile "solves" this problem, but I am not confident that it serves as a philosophical solution. In my mind, it is at least as likely to be true that a mule is simply a defective instance of the species that encompasses BOTH horses and donkeys.

      An even larger problem is that of ligers and tigons - offspring of a lion and a tiger. For a long time people thought they were sterile, but there are known cases of ligers and tigons bearing offspring.

      A third example is that of wolves and dogs. We are pretty darn sure that domesticated dogs originated from wolves, and we know darn well that wolves and dogs can continue to interbreed and bear offspring that are not sterile.

      Even if one were to suppose that a mule is "just" a species degenerate from the species horse, so that the mule is considered to have no new actuality that horses have, but less in some departments, this too is problematic. For one, there is no clear way to determine that mules are LESS in every way they are different, and the evidence is that mules are preferred over horses for some traits. Secondly, when you find something that happens always or for the most part, you suspect the nature is responsible, but if mules are a degenerate species from horses, what would be the cause of the degenerate form being ALWAYS of the same type, and not falling into other types of sports and degeneracies?

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    2. Or maybe the solution is to develop Thomist thought further in this area? Genus, species, subspecies and so on. There are several areas of Thomist thought not even fully developed in light of modern observations, evidence from the scientific method (since sensory data is the beginning of epistemic knowledge in the Thomistic model).

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  19. I am confident that one of the problems with Chaberek's analysis is a rigid approach to the meaning of the term "theistic evolution" in which the term "evolution" is allowed to carry all the philosophical baggage that the Darwinists have attached to it, but ESPECIALLY that of doing away with "natural kinds" and "species" and therefore "substantial forms" as well.

    If evolution really did do away with biological species kinds it would not mean that each living substance has no substantial form (or no kind), only that it's substantial form is not shared by any other living being except perhaps a clone. We would *literally* multiple species beyond necessity.

    Now this can generate a problem: if God is perfect can he be responsible for the production of a radically imperfect and monstrous kind, as with evolution most certainly must occur? I think theistic evolutionists often overlook this significant question.

    No, we should get over the idea that there is something monstrous about the idea of evolution or nature in general. The wasp that parasites lots of caterpillars is a good wasp; the carbonized remains of the fawn add nutrients to the soil contributing to the flourishing of plants, thus making the creature's death a good.

    There is no monstrosity in an evolutionary account of nature that does not exist on a direct creationist one. That species themselves should go extinct is no additional tragedy or evil sic than individuals dying out.

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    1. OA Police,

      Perhaps I should not have put in the "and therefore" when I accuse Darwinists of doing away with "natural kinds" and "species" and therefore "substantial forms" as well. It is sufficient, for my point, that they have done away with acceptance of all three, and it is irrelevant that there COULD be a theory that denies species but allows substantial forms. In point of fact, Darwinists generally DO NOT accept substantial forms as part of reality. Most of them would put the concept in the same "quaint, old-fashioned, boneheadedly wrong" category as "species" and "natural kinds".

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  20. Latest post from Carrier, for anyone interested:

    https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/13865

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    1. I think Feser should actually give him a complete reply on why his objection is retarded; on how he is actually missing the point in premiss 41; on what Feser is actually saying, and what Aristotle's theory of forms actually is and what it implies.

      It shouldn't be too hard. Carrier's arguments are just stupid mistakes. He doesn't understand that Aristotle's position is simply that forms exist in things themselves -- as instantiated particulars of a certain common structure -- and in our minds as an abstraction which is universally applicable to the particular instantiations (which is how we can talk about and perceive specific things); therefore no platonic third realm of forms is necessary. Carrier also doesn't understand that even if we follow him and talk of forms existing only as potentials, potentials are still not nothing and have to be grounded in something -- and therefore in the Augustinian argument the potentialities would have to be grounded in an eternal mind if we accept that different forms would remain possible even if no instantiation of them existed, which is precisely what Feser is arguing in the whole chapter; and in the cosmological arguments, the forms would have to be found in the first cause/actualizer/unifier/explanans if it is explaining the existence of things.

      Of course Carrier won't admit to being wrong, but I still think Feser should just give one full rebutal and school him completely. He misses the point, so it shouldn't be hard to respond to him. Just fully expose his misunderstandings in such a way that he has nowhere to run -- shouldn't be hard; and if he wants to disagree, he may, but he can't claim to have "refuted" anything.

      Anyway, the hope is that these posts remain available for future reference, so people can see how badly Carrier misunderstands the arguments of natural theology.

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    2. At this stage he is just flat out lying to his readership. The comment on not writing about Aristotelian forms is ridiculous.

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    3. Personally, I think it's better to just ignore Carrier. He isn't that popular or influential--very few comments on his blog--and shouldn't be validated as a legitimate sparring partner.

      Remember, this is a guy who holds a fringe historical position (mythicism), against 99% percent of antiquity scholars. If he isn't taken seriously in his own field, why should his philosophical musings be taken seriously?

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    4. Carrier's one of those people that always has to get the last word in, and, on top of that, he'll always say his critics have just misunderstood him, can't read, and so forth. It really doesn't matter how thoroughly it is demonstrated that Carrier simply doesn't know what the hell he's talking about, because he'll always be willing to write another extremely long post light on substance but heavy on rhetoric, after which he'll claim victory.

      That kind of person really isn't worth debating and at some point you just have to draw a line where it's no longer worthwhile to keep engaging him.

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    5. I fully agree with Hayekian. Carrier's a pathological liar - not worth the time.

      That said: is there anyway to arrange a face-to-face debate between Carrier and some representatives of the Taliban on the mythical Jesus and Mohammed?

      I imagine it would be easier for him to travel to them...

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  21. Well, the gift that keeps on giving...

    https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/13865

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  22. @Jody
    Evolution must result in monstrous and unnatural forms, under the random/fluke variety of it. It is impossible that it doesn't.

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  23. @Ohpolice
    No, we should get over the idea that a rhinoceros's horn growing out of your ass is normal.

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    1. Timocrates, so once more just as on all the occasions you have went off on incoherent rants about the family and politics you prove yourself incapable of rationally justifying your claims.

      Sad
      Low Energy
      Rude American

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  24. Dear Richard Carrier Followers,
    He is being dishonest about the exchange he had. Find a reputable atheist scholar. Feser should refuse to engage directly at this point. It would be worth Feser doing something on moral culpability and narcissistic personality disorder maybe (as several people have brought up the delusional nature of it)? Personally I think they are culpable because they KNOW they are dishonest and immoral (on some level).

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  25. https://twitter.com/RichardCCarrier/status/972925524795256832

    Do you see what he is doing folks? He is simply parroting the valid critique Feser made of what he wrote. He is trying to score points by deceiving his readership who most likely haven't studied Plato's or Aristotle's metaphysics etc. Very dishonest, very underhand. To everyone here (and I am sure to many atheist philosophers who specialize in this area) can see his comments are ridiculous.

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    1. Feser tried responding again. He still doesn't get it; & embarrassingly continues to make arguments that have nothing to do with my critique of his book. And which demonstrate he is lazily not even reading what my actual arguments are. #Philosophy #Atheism

      He's such a pretentious little shitheel.

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  26. @John Mitchell
    That's right Carrier just double down because it will certainly work out THIS TIME!

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  27. @Ohpolice
    Do you want to explain to me what exactly my incoherent rants about family and politics has to do with the possibility of a rhinoceros's horn growing out of your ass in the context of a discussion about evolution?

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    1. All he did was make a version of Aristotle's function argument, you imbecile.

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    2. Gladly. It demonstrates that you are unable to support your own position with coherent rational argument. When faced with a concentrated challenge to your views or even a request to clarify them you show a tendency to slide into random pejorative and fulmination. Before I had thought this was due to dialogue (not just your own) getting heated on political topics, now I see that it is your general modus operandi meaning you are either incapable or unwilling of to defend your positions rationally.

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    3. It should also be noted that none of the points I gave were that esoteric or far removed from Thomism.

      The allegation that there is something so brutal and evil about evolution that God would not allow it has been a favorite atheist chestnut for over a century. The wasp example was Darwin's; that on Thomism and other forms of perfectionist value theory it follows that good wasp of such species is one that parasites many caterpillars parallels Ed's favorite discussion of the three-legged, tooth paste eating squirrel (we are talking of natural and not moral goodness here).

      The observation that, even if successful, evolutionary animadversions against species natural kinds would only imply that each individual animals (with the exception of clones) is an instance of unique natural kind derives from Brian Ellis Scientific Essentialism

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  28. Hayek and Ayn Rand were both psychopaths.

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    1. contrary to common believe psychopaths may live a reasonably normal life. Not so with narcissistic personality disorder!

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  29. Congratulations, Dr. Feser. I am currently reading "By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed" and "Five Proofs for the Existence of God" (simultaneously). I keep hoping you will come to University College Dublin so I can shake your hand!

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  30. From the alt-right piece:

    "The Church has become the number one enemy of Western Civilization"

    Well the Catholic Church certainly seems to be pro-Islam and pro-immigration. To allow many people in, without any concern for whether they share Western values, I think is certainly a destructive and irresponsible thing to do. Supposed "compassion" without common sense, isn't moral behaviour at all.


    Greg

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  31. Perhaps I have missed something, but I think that Fr. Nicanor Austriaco has not taken account of a particularly important text in St. Thomas. In his Summa Theologiae, Pars Prima, Q. 43, A. 2, he argues thus: "So a form which is in matter can only be the cause of another form that is in matter, according as composite is made by composite. Now God, though He is absolutely immaterial, can alone by His own power produce matter by creation: wherefore He alone can produce a form in matter, without the aid of any preceding material form. For this reason the angels cannot transform a body except by making use of something in the nature of a seed, as Augustine says (De Trin. iii, 19). Therefore as no pre-existing body has been formed whereby another body of the same species could be generated, the first human body was of necessity made immediately by God."

    Of course, one might disagree with Thomas. But this certainly presents a problem for the position of a so-called Thomistic theory of evolution, especially as it pertains to the emergence of genuinely distinct species from others. I think there are other issues with Dr. Austriaco's article, but the above text came to mind immediately.

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    1. I apologize for the typo. I should have said "Pars Prima, Q. 91" in the post above.

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