Sunday, June 24, 2018

Around the web


Stephen French reviews William Simpson, Robert Koons, and Nicholas Teh’s anthology Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science, at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

Sabine Hossenfelder’s Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray is reviewed in Nature.  Excerpt from the book at Scientific American.  An interview with Hossenfelder.


Galen Strawson on consciousness denial, at The New York Review of Books.  An exchange with Daniel Dennett follows.

Errol Morris contra Thomas Kuhn.  The Ashtray (Or the Man Who Denied Reality) is reviewed by Philip Kitcher at Los Angeles Review of Books.  An excerpt at Boston Review.


Interpreting quantum mechanics: Adam Becker’s What is Real? is reviewed by James Gleick at The New York Times.  Further commentary and links from Peter Woit at Not Even Wrong.

Jim Holt’s When Einstein Walked with Gödel is reviewed at The New York Times.  Interview with Holt at Medium.


Roger Scruton’s new book on conservatism is reviewed at National Review

Robert Lawrence Kuhn of Closer to Truth talks to philosopher Timothy Pawl about divine simplicity, the mind-body problem, the Bible, and Christian theology.

At Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Lloyd Gerson reviews Mor Segev’s Aristotle on Religion.

The Fifty-Fifty Martini is back, declares Punch.

Joseph Clifford Fenton’s What Is Sacred Theology? is the latest volume in Cluny Media’s Thomist Tradition book series.

The Stanford Prison Experiment was a sham, says Ben Blum at Medium.  

Ryan Wasserman’s Paradoxes of Time Travel is reviewed by John W. Carroll at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

Joseph Trabbic on Catholic doctrine on the confessional state, at Public Discourse

Philosopher Robert Pasnau is interviewed at 3:AM Magazine.

At The Catholic Thing, Casey Chalk on the “Protestantization” of Catholic apologetics.  

Just crazy enough to work:  Weezer covers Toto.  Variety gets Steve Lukather’s reaction.

Joseph Epstein on Tom Wolfe on pseudo-intellectualism, at The Weekly Standard.

The Chronicle of Higher Education investigates what goes on at Tucson’s Science of Consciousness conference.

Wesley Yang on Jordan Peterson in The Tablet.  Chris Kaczor on Peterson at Public Discourse.

Better late than never.  Diogenes Laertius’s Lives of the Eminent Philosophers is reviewed in The Washington Post.

At The Institute of Art and Ideas, philosopher Philip Kitcher on the pros and cons of pop science.

Santiago Ramos on Stephen Hawking and philosophy, at Commonweal.


The Thomistic Institute is bringing Aquinas to a campus near you.  The National Catholic Register reports.

86 comments:

  1. The “Protestantization” of Catholic apologetics is a great quick read. I highly encourage Catholics and Protestants alike to read it. I’ve always particularly thought about the issue of interpretation of scripture with regards to the Real Presence. To me, between John 6, the Last Supper accounts, and the letters of St. Paul, it is such an obvious biblical defense of the Real Presence. Of course, many Protestant pastors are much more well read Biblically than I am, and they have a counter argument for every verse. This can even be expanded into arguments over interpretations of the Early Church Fathers. I think that that much shows that whatever the Bible is, its content is NOT easily interpreted. Any reasonable exegetical debate with two opposing and open-minded sides is proof of such.

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  2. The Strawson Dennet piece is entertaining

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  3. Since we are talking about physics again I have to ask:


    Does classical theism make the First Law of Thermodynamics (energy can neither be created nor destroyed) metaphysically necessary?


    Because if energy could in fact naturally be created or destroyed in the sense that it is no longer there at all, this would be very similar to creatio ex nihilo and would thus present either an instance of God's extraordinary efficient action upon reality, or a brute fact, or somehow some things having the power to literally erase and create things out of nothing, which violates PPC. And we also have the fact that at least some classical theists hold that reality will in fact continue to exist forever, due to God's preserving power.

    Naturally, if reality will continue to exist forever without interruption, we would be faced with the question of why matter is corruptible --- the answer to which would be that corruption doesn't entail annihilation, but that the energy and matter are reformed into different forms and are thus conserved - which is the First Law.

    So, if there were systems that seemingly violated the First Law, such that we observed energy literally popping into existence and being annihilated spontaneously as well, how would classical theism as a framework be able to interpret that?

    Would it necessarily be explained by appealing to God's efficient causality, or is there an intermediary non-divine cause that could explain energy literally appearing out of nothing and being destroyed, such that it isn't God Himself acting upon these instances of creation and destruction, but rather some lower level cause that is itself somehow capable of creating and destroying matter, but without it being on the existential level of God's conservation of contingent beings?

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    1. "we observed energy literally popping into existence"

      Where or when do you actually see energy?
      Photons may be one form of energy one actually sees. But photons as they impinge on our retinas, we always interpret them as coming from a source--they are never interpreted as popping out of nothing.
      This should tell you that we and our physics never see "energy popping out of nothing".

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  4. Peterson defence articles and link? So the conservative descent into reactionary and the pseudo-alt-right is happening sooner than I thought.

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    1. Peterson isn't even much of conservative. He's a right wing liberal. But apparently even that is enough to give you lefties the vapours these days.

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    2. RE: Dennett and Strawson

      It's pretty clear that Dennett is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He has to, to make his crazy position seem eve remotely plausible.

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    3. So the fact that Peterson has collaborated with alt-right figures like Stefan Molyneux doesn't bother you at all?

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    4. Is that all you've got on him? Geez.

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    5. Really? That doesn't bother you? Oh right, I keep forgetting conservatives and the alt-right agree on the same ideals but conservatives merely dislike the label alt-right.

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    6. This is likely AKG. That's all he's got, and more of the same.

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    7. I knew it was him (in all probability) but couldn't remember his name. Thank goodness poisonous political discourse has largely left philosophy untouched. But then, if there is ever a faculty to dodge fallacious reasoning, it would be philosophy

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    8. Jordan Peterson is an old-school liberal, that dying breed that takes positions like "freedom of speech" seriously as a principle, instead of merely a temporary ploy until complete control is established, as we now know was the left's real objective. Stefan Molyneux is a libertarian. Both are smart, but neither is conservative, much less "alt-right".

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    9. You're kidding right? Molyneux believes in "race realism" and "race-IQ pseudo-science", frequently interviewing white supremacist, and saying stuff like this nonsense:

      "Screaming 'racism' at people because blacks are collectively less intelligent...is insane."

      "“...the Germans were in danger of being taken over by what they perceived as Jewish-led Communism. And Jewish-led Communism had wiped out tens of millions of white Christians in Russia and they were afraid of the same thing. And there was this wild overreaction and all this kind of stuff.”

      "“One of the biggest questions in America is ethnic crime rates...and y’know the [Asians] are the model minority…[while] the American blacks and blacks around the world have truly shockingly high levels of criminality and the general explanation is y’know slavery plus racism plus poverty, whatever it is which creates this unholy brew...but as far as I understand it there are significant contributions that your field can make to help people untangle [why] there are such differences in ethnic positive and negative behaviours in society...American blacks have roughly a standard IQ below whites... ”

      " “Apartheid wasn't an expression of racism but concern over the survival of the white population.”

      Hell he even thinks India and African countries were better under colonialism?

      And you really don't consider this man alt-right? That's insane. What's worse is that you called this vile guy "smart"? Really?

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    10. Textbook AKG. Why argue for controversial positions when you can just assume them as obvious from the start? To believe in racial differences in IQ is not just mistaken, but is pseudoscience. So there!

      Isn't it time to stop feeding tjis troll?

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    11. What does that have to do with the linked texts? Whatever Molyneux has said, what does that have to do with Peterson's positions as discussed in the linked pieces?

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    12. No idea if Molyneux is Alt.Right. From those quotes he's definitely a racist but as I have said elsewhere racists of a certain stripe find libertarianism appealing because it can be thought of in a Social Darwinist way ('the superior race shall out compete the others'). There's plenty of racists who aren't alt.right and plenty of alt.right persons who aren't racist (that doesn't make them good - anti-Islamic sentiment is more characteristic of the alt.right than outright racism).

      I tend to doubt Molyneux is that 'smart', gives the impression of being one of those statistician type political theorists. Then again some people think of science ghouls like Hawkins or Watson as 'smart', even if they admit them to be vile and utterly wrong (ditto for the Vienna Circle).

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    13. Spare me the whole "truth-seeking intellectual" act. If you really were interested in the "truth" you'd keep up to date with contemporary psychology, biology, anthropology, sociology, etc, and know this race/IQ junk is nonsense. Stop acting as if you defend controversial stuff for the "truth". It's glaringly obvious people like you only are interested in defending this race/IQ thing to prove the "inherent inferiority" of black/brown people to justify discriminatory policies against them or downplay ending racism.

      Also Peterson has collaborated with Molyneux and agreed with him on many points like race/IQ. That should tell you the kind of person he is.

      @OA police,

      The Alt-right are a inherently racist movement. Their basically fascist and neo-nazis. Every alt-right member is a racist no question. Name one member of the alt-right who is not racist.

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    14. I don't understand why it is racist to believe that different racial/ethnic groups have different intellectual abilities. Is it racist to think that the different groups have different attributes at all? They clearly have different physical characteristics. Why is it beyond the pale to also assert different mental characteristics?

      We also need to be very clear about what is meant by "inferior." If by inferior, one means less deserving of human dignity, then seeing any group of people as inferior would be contrary to the inherent dignity of all men as created in the image of God. If, however, one means inferior with respect to a certain physical/mental attribute, then I fail to see the issue. Southeast Asian populations are among the shortest in the world, and may be inferior at certain sports, such as basketball. Most races are inferior to Ethiopians at distance running. And so on.

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    15. Still, what does any of this have to do with Peterson's positions as discussed in the linked articles? "Jordan Peterson has collaborated with Molyneux" or "Jordan Peterson has said wrong thing X" have nothing to do with the articles. Neither would such claims suffice to prove him wrong on everything.

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    16. If you really were interested in the "truth" you'd keep up to date with contemporary psychology, biology, anthropology, sociology, etc,

      Hahahahaha. That's hilarious. This guy lampoons himself just by talking. Anyone interested in "the truth" has to keep up to date on a dozen different fields, in spite of the fact that probably 9/10ths of the output of those fields is bilge and in 50 years its own practitioners will call the old stuff from 2018 bilge. But hey, you have to keep up with the nonsense anyway or you don't care about truth.

      Seriously, people, don't feed the trolls.

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    17. You do realize the whole black/brown people are mentally inferior to whites was created and popularized in order to justify slavery, eugenics, and all sorts of discriminations against them. Just read Thomas Jefferson's account on in the "intellectual inferiority" of black people and what he uses it as a justification for. Just read the justifications for Apartheid. It's in the writings of Aristotle for God's sake. Don't pretend as if this "field" is non-racist or discriminatory. It inherently is. Tell me something. Why are you conservatives so eager to study this field of all the others.

      This does show the kind of person Peterson is and why he should be met with caution.

      @Tony

      I'm curious as you know how 9/10th's of the output of these fields are "bilge" given that we both you know you haven't seriously investigated them at all(nor will)or have the relevant expertise needed to judge them seriously. And no the "answer" "they contradict my conservative beliefs" is not a good response. Have some intellectual humility. And it's funny you accuse me of nonsense yet probably believe and follow this race/IQ junk among other pseudo-intellectual fields.

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    18. AKG, here's a book you might benefit from:

      https://www.amazon.com/Informal-Logical-Fallacies-Brief-Guide-ebook/dp/B009D0XG04/ref=mp_s_a_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1530318302&sr=8-9&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=fallacies&dpPl=1&dpID=41IXZO39w5L&ref=plSrch

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    19. nd it's funny you accuse me of nonsense yet probably believe and follow this race/IQ junk among other pseudo-intellectual fields.

      AKG, I don't follow the race-IQ stuff because 9/10 of it is bilge and worse, and I can't stand the pseudo-intellectual nonsense I have seen in the few times I dipped into articles on it. So, you're wrong right off the bat.

      9/10ths of the qualified psychologists (at least) consider Freud's so-called "science" not much better than ditch-water - even the psycho-analysts out there (not even close to a majority of psychologists) admit he had major problems. I am confident that in 50 to 100 years an equal number of scientists will look back on the psychology and sociology of today with barely veiled sneers. Indeed, I have heard medical doctors say almost the same thing about their own fields: "half of what we teach today will turn out to be wrong", and that it will be overturned by future science.

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    20. @Tony,

      In that case, I take back my accusation on the race/IQ thing. I apologize.

      As for the rest of your comment, I still think you're wrong. I mean this exactly what Alexander Rosenberg does with regards to believing science will explain everything eventually. "Science has explained a bunch of stuff in the past like biology". "Therefore in the future science will explain everything like consciousness". Seem like a leap of logic and it is a way for him to dismiss non-reductionist and non-materialistic philosophy of the mind without actually reading their work. The same applies to your argument. Also if "psychology and sociology" today are "bilge" for the most part where do you get your knowledge on sociological and psychological topics?

      Also nice to see Jeremy you went the cowards route, and just deleted my post without ever giving a proper response and just incoherent ranting under the guise "intellectual skepticism". I really backed you down into a corner didn't I? You're a grade A sophist.

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    21. You're a liar. You forgot the bit where you were harassing forum members through private messages, emails, and the like, not to mention you only post baiting, trolling rants. Literally you seem to be obsessed with this argument. Seek help.

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    22. Eh. Dennis had it coming as he's a white supremacist pet who has defended racial profiling. No regrets.

      As for you, you didn't respond to a single argument I made besides arrogantly asserting despite not being an expert in social sciences, your personal experience is enough to cast suspicion on certain fields and conclusions from the social sciences(AKA the ones which go against your personal) and instead you rely on right-wingers who have no understanding of these fields to talk about said fields. Your arrogance, pretentiousness, and sophistry is off the charts and nauseating. I'm curious as how you can be so intellectually dishonest.

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  5. I really like Peterson, but:

    1. He is philosophically naive. His pragmatic/Darwinian account of truth is really not much better than the postmodernists he criticized. After all, someone like Rorty could pretty easily incorporate Derrida into the American pragmatic tradition.

    2. Peterson's account of free speech is pretty inconsistent. Surely, if a person holds a position that is deeply repugnant to a lot of people, there are going to be social consequences to that. That's true even though the government in particular may not impose any consquences. You really do need a substantive account of what should and should not be excluded from the public square rather than warmed over Locke and Mill.

    I would love to see Prof. Feser give a friendly but informed critique to Peterson's take on both truth and to his classical liberal politics. Unfortunately, that would require watching all the many, many Peterson videos out there. While they are almost all interesting and worthwhile, Dr. Feser is busy enough.

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  6. I'd be interested to hear an Thomistic/Aristotelian rebuttal to gender theory. Especial with regard to the concept of essence or essentialism. It seems to be a term that biologists are being tared and feathers with as well. The way I understand it is that gender theorists claim that gender is unrelated to biological sex. While a biological essentialist would say the exact opposite. With my limited knowledge, it seems to me that I can characterize gender theory as existentialist (Satre and Simon de Beauvoirs) while essentialits would originate more from the Thomistic/Aristotelian side. But the biological essentialists would think of this in Darwinian terms, not in Thomistic/Aristotelian terms.

    Any book recommendations or links would be appreciated. It seems to me that the essentialist side of the argument has lost a lot of ground in modern society. Perhaps it is the same ground that natural law has lost?

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    1. Daniel, I think you are probably right that much of the ground "lost" is closely tied to the natural law issues. Which is to say: it's "lost" only in the sense that the contra positions now have more adherents, not that they successfully argued the issue and natural law lost the argument on logical and reasoned grounds. That hasn't happened.

      I would love to see a well-laid-out essentialist explanation of the two distinct sexes. "Gender" has now become a word in search of an agreed meaning, as it has been so undermined by being forced to fit 80 different meanings that it can no longer serve in rigorous arguments any more.

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    2. Start with John Finley:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gO0O7w5VBs

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    3. Ouch! Women are incomplete men! That wont fly. :) I'm glad Finley was able to categorically reject that notion.

      Unfortunately, it seems to me that because of that error, Aquinas wont be a trusted source when it comes to gender.

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    4. Though I suspect many Thomists take a different view, as I understand critiques of gender essentialism, there is nothing in them inherently incompatible with Aristotelian metaphysics, ethics, or anthropology (though there is certainly plenty in them incompatible with Aristotle's own claims about women). Anti-essentialism about gender comes in different varieties, and some are likely to strike most people, Aristotelian sympathizers or not, as implausible. But the basic claim is really pretty straightforward and has plenty of empirical evidence in its support. It is this: there are no psychological, personal, or behavioral traits essential to being a male rather than a female human being, or vice versa. That is, for any human being x, no such traits necessarily follow from x's being female or from x's being male; there may be some statistically significant, genetic or otherwise biologically influenced, tendencies for men to have certain traits (say, aggressiveness) or women to have certain traits (say, a nurturing disposition), but these are neither what Aristotelians think of as essential nor what they think of as 'proper accidents' to being a man or a woman. The empirical evidence for this is straightforward enough, because for every stereotypically gendered trait, there are many human beings of the relevant sex who do not show that trait (and in fact most such traits regarded as 'feminine' or 'masculine' have been, in some times and places among some groups, regarded as the opposite). Since people failing to display these traits are not otherwise dysfunctional, these traits cannot even be regarded as akin, to, say, bipedalism among human beings; they are, strictly, accidental properties with statistically significant distribution between biologically male and female human beings.

      Of course, many anti-essentialists about gender go further than that and regard most or all gendered traits not only as non-essential, but as due to environmental rather than genetic or otherwise innate causes. That's an empirical question, but it is, contrary to rhetoric on both sides, very difficult to adjudicate empirically (the same is true for virtually every psychological tendency that has been claimed to be innate, and the complications are due in part to the difficulty of empirically isolating environmental influences from innate factors and in part to conceptual problems about what it is to be innate and what, exactly, is being claimed to be innate).

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    5. But I think it's important to see that even thinkers firmly on the naturist side of these disputes are not usually gender essentialists, even if they are blamed or praised for so being, for the simple reason that they do not in fact claim that some significant range of psychological or behavioral traits in human beings follow from being a male or female in the way that, say, having two legs or being able to see colors or being able to learn a language follow from being a human being. Even evolutionary psychologists who argue that stereotypically gendered traits are statistically correlated with male and female biology because they were adaptive -- think of aggression in males and nurturing tendencies in females again -- do not usually hold a view that would rightly be understood as essentialist, even though many anti-essentialists would say otherwise because the essentialist issue is often conflated with the innate/environmental issue.

      If this all seems off-base, it's probably because the people you've read who most loudly sing the anti-essentialist tune are in fact anti-essentialists in general, and not simply anti-essentialists about gender-but-not-biological-sex. Of course, if you don't believe in essences, you won't believe that there are any essential properties or proper accidents to being male or female at all, let alone psychological or behavioral traits, and you won't believe that there are any essential properties or proper accidents to being human, either, or to being anything else. I can't defend that kind of anti-essentialism, because I think it only even begins to make sense at all from an anti-realist point of view, and I do not regard global anti-realism as a plausible view (though it's not quite crazy, it does have very weird implications).

      Many biologists, in fact, claim to be anti-essentialists about species, and about biological sex as well, because they take their science to be about statistical regularities and not about anything that has essences. Essentialism in biology is complicated, and while I think that sort of view ultimately doesn't make the best sense of biology, there are real puzzles that motivate it.

      In any case, I regard myself as an anti-essentialist about gender but an essentialist (an Aristotelian one) not only about biological species and human beings but about biological sex. I am much more willing than many feminists I know to countenance the possibility that certain gendered traits are innate in a statistically significant number of men and women, but I don't think that would amount to essentialism even if it's true, and I'm not persuaded that it is in any case. Certainly the pop science arguments in favor of it -- usually just appeals to statistically significant neurophysical differences between men and women -- do not tell in favor of innatism unless we make the absurd assumption that acquired psychological traits will not have any neurophysical basis (as if rejecting innatism required being a dualist of a sort that even Descartes was not). The same is true for evolutionary arguments; all that is required for the selection explanations to work is that men and women ended up having certain traits in statistically significant distributions, not that these traits are innate (another fallacy of pop science writing: it is entirely possible that most human beings in most times and places will acquire the same traits on the basis of experience and learning even if they are not innate).

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    6. If you want to read up on the empirical scientific work behind these debates, you might look at Pinker's The Blank Slate for the nativist case and Prinz's Beyond Human Nature - Prinz has a deeper knowledge of recent empirical work than any other critic of nativism I've encountered. A good discussion of essentialism in biology (though it does not discuss sex or gender) is Stephen Boulter's 'Can Evolutionary Biology Do Without Essentialism?' (he says no).

      For a defense of a very non-standard kind of gender essentialism from an Aristotelian (and feminist) point of view, see Charlotte Witt's "What is Gender Essentialism?" But note that Witt rejects the views that ordinarily get classed as gender essentialism; for her, as for most anti-essentialists about gender, gender is a social property, not a biological one (as sex is), and she does not regard genders as kinds with unchanging essences, but regards individuals as essentially gendered. In short, her view does not fit well into the usual framework of these debates.

      Finally, note that anti-essentialism about gender (but not about sex) is pretty plainly articulated in Plato, Republic V. Not just a crazy post-modern idea.

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    7. I just wanted to acknowledge your posts. I read through it twice. It appears that you are well informed on the subject. I'll take a look at some of the books you mentioned.

      My off the cuff musings are that maybe gender essentialism goes too far in assigning very rigid roles to men and women. Almost to the point where it seems like they are thinking of two different species of human being. But that is not the case.

      Having said that, speaking from a statistical perspective, it does seem like there is such a thing as gender roles that, in a general way, apply across the sexes. With outliers, here and there, but the outliers are generally a minority. And it is not clear to me that some of these outliers, like Transgender, are not suffering from mental illness. Perhaps you would agree given that you are an essentialist with regard to sex?

      I'm rambling here a bit, but gender differences do seem to come down to statistical ranges, for example, 60% of women tend to display trait x while only 40% of men display the same trait. That difference, with only a 20% gap, might suggest to many that there are different roles that men and women, if left to their own devices, would naturally sort themselves into. No need to talk about essential differences.

      And the added thought presents itself - can a society call itself healthy if it does not have some fairly well developed and clearly defined roles - roles that apply to both sexes, yes, but also roles that apply more specifically to one or the other? And that these differences, far from being a sign of exclusion and dominance, are two be celebrated?

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    8. 1. The sexes have somewhat different inherent teloses.
      2. Psychological traits overlap between the sexes, but, so far as we know, differ between the sexes only in how they are distributed statistically.
      3. On individual psychological traits (that we know of), there is a large overlap between the sexes.
      4. Once you combine all of the psychological traits, the sexes still overlap a little, but now differ much more than they overlap.
      5. It seems that the suite of psychological traits you tend to have is ordered towards successfully achieving the telos of your sex.
      6. The suite of psychological traits a member of each sex tends to inherit does seem to flow from the telos of their biological sex. But that suite of traits is not a property (proper accident) in the sense that Thomists mean. Nor are the individual traits themselves properties in this sense. Does anyone know how this kind of statistical tendency flowing from a telos would typically be characterized by a Thomist?

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    9. For a defense of a very non-standard kind of gender essentialism from an Aristotelian (and feminist) point of view, see Charlotte Witt's "What is Gender Essentialism?" But note that Witt rejects the views that ordinarily get classed as gender essentialism; for her, as for most anti-essentialists about gender, gender is a social property, not a biological one (as sex is),

      I haven't read Witt, so this is just a stab in the dark, but I suspect this sort of approach fits perfectly with what I meant by pointing out that "gender" as a term has been so damaged that it is no longer usable in rigorous discussions - there is no agreed meaning, and the claimed meaningS are so far apart that there is not enough common ground. In Witt's case, what would be the principle on which to stake the position that gender "is a social property" rather than a much less strident position like gender "has a social dimension"? Or that gender "has a biological dimension" that gets expressed variably in varying social environments? Is it pure personal preference to opt for the first account over the latter ones? In any case, it is unclear that we even need a special word for anything other than the biologically-driven differentiation - which would imply that creating a distance between "gender" and "biological sex" is just making up ideas for which there is no real referent.

      (I apply a similar complaint to the gender-madness-based meme of "assignment", as in "he was assigned 'male' at birth". On the one hand, the people who use this expression intend to mean - when asked -that an ACTUAL PERSON did the assigning by WRITING ON A FORM, "male", so that the expression has clear content. On the other hand, the emotional baggage they grant the expression is intended to convey the sense (not the idea) that the little guy only pees with a penis because the doctor wrote "male" down, and if the doctor had merely wrote "female" the kid would not pee through a penis, and if the parents had chosen to put him in pink dresses and given him dolls he would have figured out how to have a vagina instead.)

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    10. 5. It seems that the suite of psychological traits you tend to have is ordered towards successfully achieving the telos of your sex.

      While I like this position, I have reservations about how well it can be supported. Is it, rather, more like the fanciful and hopeful but largely sentimental hypotheses of evolutionary human behavior that cannot stand up to any kind of careful analysis?

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    11. Just saying... Check out St. Edith Stein's writings on women, equality, male and female dispositions etc

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    12. Do you have some links?

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  7. Also - to clarify - it seems that to many, being an essentialist is the same as being racist/sexist. It would be nice to hear a defense of essentialism from that perspective as well.

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  8. That was a pretty harsh review by steven French, can we expect a rejoinder?

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  9. Sabine Hossenfelder is not really an expert

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  10. Dr. Feser,

    What is your view on paraconsistent logic and/or dialethism?

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    1. I'm not dr. Feser, but

      Aristotle's own logic can be understood as paraconsistent.

      Dialetheism however is just insanity and confusion. It is worse than eliminativism, in fact.

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    2. Miguel, thanks for the reply. I'm interested in why you believe Dialetheism is "just insanity and confusion."

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  11. How is morality being absolute (rather than only objective) accounted for in Thomism, given that morality under such framework is contingent on empirical/material/biological data which is intrinsically changeable?

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    1. I take it you have never ever read anything on the topic from a Thomist perspective?

      Morality is objective (wrong is wrong), but that doesn't mean that specific situations and circumstance don't change culpability, the nature of the act qua the subject (i.e. killing isn't always murder) or how one should act in a very specific situation(i.e. prudence does not always dictate the same action in response to the same moral matter under very different situations).

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    2. Then what part is absolute (non-changeable) in Thomistic morality?

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    3. On what basis do you suggest that there is "absolute" morality in Thomism? Where are you getting this claim?

      That said, perhaps you are right. Maybe this directive is an absolute (of sorts): "rational created beings owe obedience and worship to the Creator". (This is, note, just a particularized result from the more general principle: all being tends to the final end of being insofar as their natures provide. Rational being tends to the end rationally, which entails obedience and worship.)

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    4. Understood, but then could this 'absolute part' of Thomistic morality entail something to be good/moral which we otherwise now consider to be intrinsically wrong or immoral (since it seemingly involves or depends on a particular configuration of creation)? In other words, how does this framework fair with the notion of 'possible worlds'?

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    5. "possible worlds" is not a well-defined concept, as we say in mathematics. To be more specific, the "possible" ranges back and forth through all sorts of different levels of logical, metaphysical, and physical possibility, without any rationale to afix it at one position.

      In any case, in all possible worlds worth considering, created beings are created by the Creator, and thus have the same relation as stated. Any so-called "possible world" in which that relation is not controlling is not "possible" in any sense worth considering, it is rather incoherence with enough lipstick to look ok from a distance, if you squint.

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    6. Given, for instance, that heterosexual sex is good, and homosexual sex is intrinsically wrong, because of some reason under Thomism, then could there be a possible world (in theory, or in practice like with, say, evolution) in which homosexual sex is considered otherwise provided that it fulfills the same reason the heterosexual sex fulfills in our current actual (configuration of the) world while heterosexual sex is intrinsically wrong provided that it doesn't?

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    7. Your questions derive from a mis-aligned view of the nature of the good and of moral action.

      Acts that are intrinsically disordered according to the natural law are always wrong for those things whose _nature_ specifies that the act is intrinsically disordered. Such prohibition does not apply to OTHER beings which have a DIFFERENT nature - and that's what the natural law implies. Acts which are disordered for humans may not be disordered for non-humans. Humans can't breathe water, but fish can.

      If God were to make some rational creature that reproduces not via sexual union, but non-sexually (such as through budding), then heterosexual acts would not conform to that being's nature. Nor would homosexual acts, for that matter. I am at a loss to imagine a kind of being whose nature, different from human nature, would provide that it reproduces through homosexual acts. But if there could be such non-human entities (which I don't assume are possible), then natural law would not prescribe heterosexual acts for those beings. It is the NATURE of a being that tells us what conforms to natural law for that kind of being.

      As long as we are talking about beings with human nature, there is no possible world in which homosexual acts are conformed to that nature.

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    8. Clear. I think we are getting to the core of the issue; you seem to hold that the human nature is unchangeable or absolute, can you please explain that belief or give reasons for it?

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    9. When was the last time humans stopped being humans?

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    10. Anon, your question requires two or three courses in basic philosophy / philosophy of nature. Maybe when Professor Feser comes out with a book on the philosophy of nature. For the moment, let it suffice that in the teaching of Plato and Aristotle, the "nature" of a thing is given by its form, the form is not material, and thus is incapable of change with respect to its kind. Asking what makes human nature unchangeable is similar to asking what makes triangularity unchangeable. Triangle-ness may be present in this object or not present in this object, but triangle-ness cannot morph into some other kind or type of -ness. Similarly, humans may cease to exist, and perhaps some other beings with some other nature may come to inhabit a similar ecological niche, but human-ness cannot become some other sort of thing.

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    11. Noted. To put it differently, provided that the human nature is the added ability to reason (compared with other animals), could there be a possibility, according to Thomistic or natural law morality, in which human nature is compatible with homosexual coupling (for example), where homosexual coupling is considered intrinsically good, provided that it might happen (say, with genetic engineering or trans-humanism tools or a "theoretical possible world") that such coupling results in baby production?

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    12. Yes. Makes one wonder under such framework what does make homosexuality intrinaically evil if it may happen that it may be yielding humam babies in some unforeseen future or given a plausible hypothetical scenario (like genetic engineering)

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  12. Dr. Feser,

    I would love to know if you have any rebuttals on Jay Dyer's charges against the Thomistic Divine Simplicity. He claimed that Absolute Divine Simplicity simply cannot be reconciled with the doctrine of the Trinity.

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    1. @Anonymous

      Do you have a link?

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    2. Philosopher Timothy Pawls admits that Divine Simplicity is weakened if one allows the Trinity.

      I am not a Christian but as a believer in Theism and Divine Simplicity, I hope my Christian Brethren who love philosophy can study rigorously how the doctrine of trinity developed historically and to consider a unitarian view of God. After all, attributed sayings of Jesus never have him teach the Trinity. Here is Bart Erhman explaining the history of it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLJZaPMoZG4

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    3. Ehrman is a total hack. He makes all sorts of unwarranted and unsupported assumptions about the gospels and the early Christian community. He has it in for orthodox Christianity based on his completely unjustifiable views of the New Testament. He is not reliable for anything. (Except opposition.)

      Anonymous, if you want to understand why Thomas argues for Divine simplicity as well as the Trinity, you have to wrap your mind around Aristotelian concepts of form and matter, substance and accident, being and potency; and around the Thomistic teaching in "On Being and Essence", as well as the Thomistic argument for God as Pure Act. I highly doubt that you are getting a fair view of these teachings from Jay Dyer, so look elsewhere - like Aristotle and St. Thomas, and their explainers like John of St. Thomas.

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    4. I wouldn't say Ehrman is a total hack. Because indeed he is a well respected scholar in his field of expertise and agrees with a fair share of its mainstream views. But I would in fact say that secular/liberal mainstream biblical studies are intellectually bankrupt... to an unbelievably extreme level.

      The problem with contemporary academic biblical studies is that they quite unashamedly beg the question in favour of naturalism. You see, it's not as if people have actually analysed the New Testament with an honest mind and reached the inescapable conclusion that Christianity is just so obviously the end result of a centuries-long telephone game that the only possible way you can still believe it is to consciously descend into a pathological case of cognitive dissonance, like so many of these so called scholars want to convince you of.

      On the contrary, what they do is simply to build upon the preconceptions and paradigms of nineteenth century German Protestant theologians, who, led by the usual modern philosophical errors, gave rise to their project of "demythologising" the Bible. So, in short, if Scripture affirms some miracle occurred, what these scholars do is nothing more and nothing less than to reject that claim right from the start. That's it. They of course do this with every supernatural event and as a consequence merely assume someone must have invented the respective stories. No wonder, then, you're left at the end with the unspeakably incoherent mess that happens to be the modern academic field of secular biblical studies.

      As it stands, it is nothing short of remarkable how when one starts from a classical philosophical framework (such as the one Prof. Feser so eloquently defends) and then reads the New Testament into its proper historical context, namely from the perspective of first century Jews from Palestine, literally every single detail agrees perfectly what Catholic Tradition has always maintained.

      For this purpose, I couldn't recommend Brant Pitre's work highly enough, and in particular his The Case for Jesus is especially relevant to this matter. There he shows convincingly that scriptural support for Jesus' claim of divinity is beyond overwhelming (which, by the way, remains true even if you only consider the Synoptic Gospels).

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    5. Because indeed he is a well respected scholar in his field of expertise and agrees with a fair share of its mainstream views. But I would in fact say that secular/liberal mainstream biblical studies are intellectually bankrupt... to an unbelievably extreme level.

      Like you, I believe that vast swathes of modern (and mainstream) biblical studies are bankrupt - but that this extends even to so-called "conservative" and "evangelical" scholarship, because they espouse much of the drivel of modern liberal scholars, without any intellectual reason for it. See arguments for same by Lydia McGrew, here:

      http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2017/09/flowchart_on_alleged_literary.html

      which is just one in a series of about 30 articles outlining unnecessary errors by so-called conservative scholars.

      From the dozen or so articles and video clips I have seen of Ehrman, he combines the intellectual bankruptcy of the vast majority of his "peers" in the mainstream modern biblical scholarship with a more-or-less intentional disregard for honest methods of dispute and debate: because he feels that people who hold that the gospels are straight-forward reporting of what people saw and heard are gravely wrong, he seems to be perfectly content with mis-stating their views or scoring emotionally driven "points" against their positions even when he ought to know that his points are unsupportable. So, yes, he is well within the mainstream of modern scholarship, because he buys into their errors wholesale. But he is a hack in using unreasonable debate tactics in support of those errors.

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  13. There is a beauty problem in physics? If she means a lack of chicks well maybe!
    Beauty is a human invention and not Gods.
    I see beauty as only accuracy in symmetry. So there is no beauty but only accuracy in Gods creation and then a great drift from it.
    Its impossible to know/agree on beauty unless its about conclusions in symmetry.
    Since physics must be about organization then it must include/be about symmetry. So accuracy. So beauty if the word must be used.

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    1. You sound pretty unstable yourself, tbh

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    2. I liked Ayn Rand even though there are a few difficulties with her philosophy --but not more or less than anyone else. On every philosopher there are good questions.

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    3. @Miguel My soul cannot tolerate preantichrists going around telling them weird modernist philosophical feces thereby leading the oblivious to an abattoir. What disgusting people. I am justified in showing no kindness or mercy to them because THEY WILL NEVER CHANGE and only an feeble-minded fool would think otherwise.

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    4. You strike me as the frequent 'angry traditionalist' type I have come across. Why are so many traditionalists so angry all the time?

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    6. @Miguel I realized I was being accusatory so I deleted the comment.

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  16. Re the new Book by Roger Scruton.
    Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Milton Friedman associated with or inspired by the Great Tradition - oh puleez!

    On the contrary they belong entirely within the "tradition" of the Hollow Men (and women) as described in the poem by T S Eliot. They also very squarely belong to and helped to consolidate the devastated culture described in his poem The Wasteland.

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  17. Can anyone explain what this means from the Notre Dame book review?

    "Once again structure makes an appearance, as Feser declares his allegiance to 'epistemic' structural realism, with the true nature of things remaining hidden behind what we can know. Leaving aside the worry that allowing room for these metaphysical speculations is indicative of just what's wrong with this version of structuralism (and Feser's rejection of the ontic version -- which he takes, rightly, to be a potential obstacle - can be contested, in the light of more recent developments), an obvious question can be asked -- why this kind of metaphysics and not some other? Or why any such extra metaphysics at all in this particular case, given that various accounts of how the impression of temporal passage can be reconciled with relativity theory are currently 'on the table'?"

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    1. Here's what I think,

      Here Steven French is discussing a point Dr.Feser made in his paper in the book, he says that as a philosophy of science, he accepts the sort of scientific realism called 'Epistemic' structural realism. very roughly it says that science doesn't reveal the complete nature of "things" , it doesn't reveal the knowledge of "objects" only of structures, in short. Structures are all we can scientifically know. knowing the rest requires further "metaphysical" inquiry.

      Now Steven French is a defender of rival version of Structural Realism called 'ontic' Structural realism, roughly the view that Structures are all that exist.

      He takes Feser to be saying that true metaphysics can't be directly read of our best scientific theories and his objection to this is that given such unresolved issued with such a view (questions like why this kind of metaphysics and not some other? Or why any such extra metaphysics at all in this particular case) This view is objectionable.

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    2. I was wondering myself.

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    3. Thanks, Red. That makes a lot of sense!

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  18. Hello Dr. Feser,

    I recently came across a philosopher's post that presents respectable criticisms of your Aristotelian Argument for God's Existence. I would humbly ask that you read the post and hopefully respond to it on your website here! The URL is below:

    naturalisticallyinclined.wordpress.com/2018/07/02/evaluating-the-aristotelian-argument-for-gods-existence-jh-sobel-sustaining-causes-and-pure-actuality/

    Thanks!

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    1. A quick look at the blog leads me to believe he misunderstands the doctrine of divine conservation, but I too would be interested in a response from Dr. Feser.

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  19. I think the Left can be thought of as socialist in terms of the actual meaning of the term. It was Marx that made the socialist agenda to be mainly to gain political power and only then to worry about other issues. But originally socialists were directed in the same way as the Democratic party is now in the USA. See Billington-- Fire in the Minds of Men.

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  20. Dr. Feser, posting via Disqus is much, MUCH easier. Have you considered making the change?

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  21. The Fifty-Fifty Martini is back, declares Punch

    50-50 ?! That *is* punch.

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  22. Nervous in SeattleJuly 5, 2018 at 2:22 AM

    Re Disqus - don’t do it ! Disqus is just another element of surveillance capitalism.

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